Quick Hits: Summer ‘08.1

Just some quick notes on beverages that I have come across during this early part of summer.

Mirassou Pinot Noir
I know this is for the most part a beer blog and I don’t know much about wine, but I had to make note of it. Me and my fiancé split a bottle of this with some grilled steak and summer squash. Nice and velvety body with lots of dark fruit sweetness, but it still managed to finish on the dry side of things. Not very acidic at all, so it’s a very approachable noir. I suppose if you prefer a more biting and peppery red this won’t be for you. If, however, you are looking for an affordable red that’s bright with fruit seek out the Mirassou. Neither of us remember buying it so it must have been a leftover from one of our gatherings. Regardless of origins it was a great pinot noir we’ll be seeking out again.

Nøgne Ø Saison
Late one night whilst playing some Ratchet & Clank on PS2 I needed something to take the edge of and keep me from yelling at the TV so I broke this out. Nice rich body with plenty of Belgian yeast tang. It had big floral notes that made me think of jasmine tea. Good stuff, but seemed a bit robust and citrusy for a saison. Maybe I was just wanting something a bit more subtle. Nonetheless, I did like it and will be picking up another bottle at some point to do a proper review. This is the second brew I’ve had from Nøgne Ø and I’m glad I stumbled upon this Norwegian upstart brewery.

Sebago Boathouse Brown
I haven’t had Sebago since last summer’s BeerAdvocate American Beer Fest and we’ll just my memory of it is hazy non-existent beyond really liking their stylized logo. I was up in Maine for a birthday shindig at a little place called Holly’s Own Deli & Wine Bar and they happened to have Boathouse Brown on tap. Good medium body, slightly cloudy brown color. It was a bit sweeter brown than one might be used to if you are a Newcastle drinker, but it’s still balanced with a little bit of bitterness. There were some notes of what I could only call graham crackers in there that had me back for seconds. I enjoyed it a lot and so it looks like I’ll be forced to find some here in Boston. You should look for some near you if you are in New England. And if you find yourself in Auburn, ME head over to Holly’s; the food is tasty and the staff is very friendly.

Weyerbacher Alpha and Muse
Had these from growlers at a Jack-n-Jill baby shower back in my hometown in Jersey and I’m not sure what to make of either of these. Maybe it was the 2 or 3 cans of Yuengling I’d already knocked back during two embarrassing quoit (for the uninitiated it’s pronounced: kw-ATE) matches, but neither Alpha nor Muse struck me as being as appealing as I’ve found most Weyerbacher brews. Alpha is a one time only release that’s a Belgian Pale Ale hopped with with Amarillo and Cascade. It just tasted odd. The aggressive American hops and the richness of Belgian yeast was a taste combination that I just couldn’t get my mind around. I kept wanting to seperate them so that I could have an IPA or a Belgian Ale, not both at the same time. Muse is Weyerbacher’s farmhouse ale and I definitely thought it was more enjoyable than the Alpha. Still, like the Nøgne Ø Saison, it seemed a bit on the citrusy side. Maybe I’m wrong on what to expect from the style. [I’ve got some other saisons sitting at home wait for an appropriate time to crack them open and do some side by side comparing.] In the end neither beer was bad, but I was glad there was 4 of us splitting the growlers. Meh. It won’t keep me from going back to Weyerbacher.

Norwegian Take On English Brown Ale [Bombers Away! #3]

Nøgne Ø Brown Ale (4.5% ABV bottle)- English Brown Ale- Nøgne Ø-det kompromissløse bryggeri, NOR
Grade: A- BREW OF THE BLOG!

     Poured from a bomber into Siamsa Pub pint glass. [Truth be told this is more like a mini-bomber given it’s 50cl/16.9 oz size, but who’s counting.]

     Way darker brown than your average brown ale; almost black really. A half inch tan head from initial pour thins to barely a covering. Add to that fairly large bubbles from the carbonation and at first glance you could mistake this for a glass of Coke. There’s a nice earthy aroma with a hint of cocoa to it. It’s so enticing it makes up for the general cola appearance which may dissuade some folk. The overall body is a bit on the thin side and the carbonation is somewhat sharp, but neither of these factors are enough to really diminish the experience. The taste is full of gorgeous malt offering up bittersweet chocolate and some nice roasty, nutty notes. There is only a hint of hop bitterness at the end that cuts the sweet malt from getting to be too much.

     Nøgne Ø has kept things interesting yet simple with their English Brown Ale. There are a lot more flavors going on in here than what you tend to expect from a brown ale, but at the same time they are very controlled and never come over the top. This beer helps to dispel the idea that to be flavorful or complex a beer needs to be a double this, imperial that, or an alcohol bomb. At 4.5% ABV it’s ridiculously tasty and drinkable for the long haul; exactly what a session beer should be. A great little beer that is not trying to be in your face in any respect, but it should be in your fridge and preferably in your belly. Highly recommended as it is my current favorite go-to beer.

     If you are looking for it in Boston I’ve been getting my supply from Federal Wine & Spirits down on State Street, caddy-corner to the T stop. I love this tiny little place. It’s best known for its wine cellar and ridiculous array of scotch, but it also has a small yet fantastic selection of beers. Even though their website doesn’t mention beer they’ve got special/seasonal releases, big bottles, craft sixers, and some harder to get imports. Best of all their prices tend to be just a bit cheaper than most other downtown liquor stores.

Cheers! –John