Posts Tagged ‘ale’

This years Adventures in Food special Christmas beer comes from the Belgium brewery De Dolle and is called Stille Nacht. Apparently Christmas fire sales do not apply only to holiday decorations, apparel, and other Christmas themed items normally found in department stores. I walked into Binny’s to pick up some good wine for my holiday party and found their entire display of Christmas themes beers on sale on an end cap display. I had recently read about Stille Nacht as a faux holy grail to beer lovers around the world and felt that I was never going to get a better price.

Stille Nacht pours a beautiful cloudy, tangerine orange. This is another one of those impossible beers to pour and the head far outweighs the liquid and quickly fills your glass. What I did love, though, was that the head resembled fluffy mounds of snow. I’ve attached a movie below to show the sheer amount of carbonation that lifts from the glass after pouring only 6 ounces into a pint glass. The head is snowy white, but sticky and does not disappear for some time. I  wound up drinking several mouth fulls of head before I ever got to the beer itself. The aroma bursts of sweet malts with bananas, cloves, and tangerines. The first sip immediate burst of sweet malty goodness with a tinge of heavy orange syrup. The spice notes quickly take over and tantalize different parts of your palette until finally a taste of banana takes over before beginning to fade from existence. This is not a gulping beer, in fact, I’m embarrassed that I even poured this into a pint glass at all. This would be a fine sipper drunk straight from the bottle or poured into a snifter.

I want you to know that words cannot accurately describe everything that is going on with this beer. De Dolle clearly has an understanding of what it takes to make a good beer and this is near perfection. I have no complaints, nor any critiques. Any mistake in pouring to create too much head is my own fault. If this beer cheated on me with my best friend at our wedding, I would probably still take it back. It’s that good. However, perfection comes with a pricetag that many might be scared of. You can purchase a 12oz bottle of Stille Nacht only around the Christmas season for around $6 ($4 if you wait for the fire sale). The 12% ABV is prevalent while drinking this beer, but by no means is it overwhelming. I can tell you that you will feel it by the end of your bottle. You probably shouldn’t plan to drink more than two of these in one sitting. Stille Nacht is a perfect beer in my world and should be heralded and replicated year round. It receives the highest rating in my book.

Grade: A+

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Why the nutcracker? I get the ballet thing and why it’s part of Christmas. I understand sugar plum fairies dancing in your head and dancing on stage, but why the nutcracker? Why do they sell through thousands of wide mouth, bearded, sometimes hand painted novelties? Do people actually use these to crack nuts or are they strictly decorative? I remember when I was a kid, I tried every year to cracked walnuts and almonds and whatever else comes in those variety packs without ever getting the tasty morsel within. Regardless of my relatively unhappy childhood experiences, I still appreciate a holiday beer during the Christmas season and I loved the idea of a Christmas themed Boulevard offering.

Nutcracker Ale pours a beautiful auburn/toffee color. I was able to get a fair amount of sticky head formed at the top of my glass which dissipated slowly and left a lacy mess on the sides of the glass. The nose of this beer reminds me strongly of a pale ale, but there is certainly some toasted notes and a bit of spice. Given this is holiday themed beer, this doesn’t surprise me. The taste matches the nose. I taste a bit of ginger alongside the toasted malt and a bit of nutmeg in the background. There is certainly a hoppy pale ale flavor going on too. I can feel my chest warming as I drunk my way towards the bottom of my glass.

I really like this beer and would gladly add this to my winter arsenal of favorites. There has been very little Boulevard beers that I haven’t liked and think this may be my favorite brewery. You can find this is the Boulevard variety pack or pick up a six pack for around $9. The 5.9% ABV is not too intense which I quite appreciated given the strong beers I’ve tasted in the past weeks. Nutcracker ale is something I would happily drink year round and recommend highly you get out and try some.

Grade: A-

Don’t be afraid Sam Winter Lager haters, there is something different about this (and last years) Winter Lager. I typically like the seasonal beers put out by Sam Adams. I reviewed earlier in year the Summer Ale as well as Latitude 48, and the East West Kolsch. However, I had always avoided the Sam Winter Lager mostly because there are so many winter beers that I typically don’t like, that I didn’t want to take a risk. Winter Lager has disappointed me in the past and I’ve run from it in past holiday seasons. However, when a free one is placed in front of you by a kind bartender, you can’t turn it down.

Winter Lager pours a humble brown with a gold tinge to it. The head arrived two fingers tall, but quickly subsided, leaving a small amount of lacing around the glass. Like many winter beers, there was a traditional spice aroma lifting from the glass accompanied by a mild malt flavor. My first sip was pretty bland, but the flavors eventually collided together and I understand what they were trying to get at. Although ginger is the prevalent spice taste, I believe there are elements of nutmeg or perhaps allspice that linger in the background to remind you that this is not a simple beer. Winter Lager has a mild bitterness that is similar to orange peel and contains a pleasant malt flavor. Simply, there is nothing overwhelming about this beer, yet at the same time, there is nothing underwhelming about it either.

I’m from New England and I love Sam Adams. I’m still questioning their status as a microbrew given their mass distribution and seemingly endless production of barrels, but I can get past that because this is yet another example of the kind of high quality beers that they put out year after year in mass quantity at an affordable price. This beer can be found everywhere in New England and most regional areas. I’ve found it at many of the liquor stores, supermarkets, and yes, even drug stores here in the Chicagoland area. You can pick up a 12 pack of Winter Lager for around $15 or a six pack for around $9. You can also find this buried inside the winter variety back alongside the Boston Lager, Sam Adams Light, and another seasonal beer. This is a solid offering from a solid brewery that serves as a pleasant post Thanksgiving, pre-Christmas lager.

Grade: B

Half off all draught microbrews at redFlame Pizzeria in beautiful Lincoln Park, IL gave me an opportunity to try Lagunitas A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’. There was a host of other breweries on the menu ranging from the well known (Dogfish Head) to the local (Goose Island), but I wanted to give Sumpin’ a try mostly because it gave me an opportunity to be completely lame and mention to the waitress “Can I get a little sumpin sumpin.” White men around the world are all slowly shaking their heads in shame.

Sumpin’ is a beautiful reddish orange color and is described as an American wheat ale. I know those of you who have tried Sumpin’ are thinking that this is an IPA and I did at first as well due to the weight, feel, and taste. But Lagunitas has a trick up their sleeve which makes this an incredibly unique and tasty beer. There was a nice frothy head on my draft and it was bursting with grapefruit aromas. The taste maintains the flavors of the aroma with subtle hints of grapefruit and the bitterness of the peel. It finishes clean and makes for a very easy drinking beer.

Sumpin’ is a beer that I would gladly throw into my summertime and fall rotation regardless of the $11 per six pack price tag. The 7.3% ABV packs a nice punch as well, making this is a better value, similar to other beers at this price point. According to the Lagunitas website, you can now find this year round, so ensure that you’re favorite distributor has this on its shelves or can get it for you. I couldn’t imagine drinking this beer out of a bottle and I would highly recommend it be poured into a proper pilsner  glass with a narrow mouth to capture the aromas. Do yourself a favor and go get yourself a little sumpin’ sumpin’. You’ll be glad you did.

Grade: A-

I love this bottle. What could be better than a bulldog in a tuxedo wearing a monocle toasting with a fine porter. Overall, I’m pretty disappointed with Boulevard’s packaging for the majority of their beers, but somebody in the marketing department was a thinker when they came up with this one.

Like a classic, this porter does not disappoint in revealing a thick sticky mass of tan head. An incorrect pour would have yielded a glass full, but unlike Guinness, this dissipated faster. The aroma was filled with sweet malts.  I detected also chocolate and roasted nuts, but the aroma was otherwise muted. My first taste reminded me of every other porter I’ve had in the past, but I appreciated the sweet caramel notes that played well with the malt. Bully has a decent mouth feel, not too heavy, not too thin, but it does go down silky smooth and leaves a wonderful aftertaste.

Bully! is a rock solid effort from a rock solid brewery. I would gladly begin to buy this by the case and fill my refrigerator with it.

Grade: B

I may get fire bombed for this, but I find the French to be the epitome of civilization. I say this, of course, as a generalization because 1) I come from a French background, 2) I know there are counter culture within the French culture that play against this, and 3) the French are generally portrayed as nasty, nasty people. But when I first tasted Domaine DuPage French Style Country Ale, I couldn’t help but be transported to the French countryside where the elderly are respected, the villagers are cordial to each other, and there isn’t a need for anything fussy.

Domaine DuPage pours a deep orange-red, almost the color of a perfect sunset. There was very little carbonation rising from the glass resulting in very little foam. The aroma indicated a fresh, clean taste, with very little overwhelming hop or fruit flavor. My first taste was mystical as described above, but it was the middle of the glass that helped me to see what this ale really was all about. If you think about the French countryside and the life of its inhabitants, you have to first block out all of your misconceptions of the French and everything you have ever heard about Parisians (they are what give the French a bad name). French country life is a humble life, simple, but full of life and daily appreciation for seeing the sun every morning. This ale captures that by putting its floral hop flavors out in front and backing this up with the taste of fresh baked bread and orchard fruits such as apple and pear. While none of these may rise to the top at any given time, they work together in harmony to create a pleasant embrace.

This particular beer may be brewed and bottle in Midwestern USA, but it captures perfectly the essence of what I only imagine is French countryside life. It’s like seeing an old friend after so many years and picking up right where you left off or like spending an entire day taking a stroll through the fields and rolling hills without a care in the world as to who may be calling your cell phone or what’s the latest gossip. This is a simple beer that has the power to remind all of us what we’re missing when life gets a little bit too much.

Domaine DuPage is an easy drinking beer that does not take it’s toll given the moderate 5.4% ABV. A six pack will run you around $9 and I do hope Two Brothers get more distribution so other parts of the country can experience their superb quality beers. As everyday drinking beers goes, this is a wonderful beer that I highly recommend.

Grade: A

Before I started writing Microbrew Mondays, I was in love with all IPA style beers. The bitterness, the aftertaste, it all seemed like a beer revolution to me. Needless to say, when I first had Latitude 48 IPA from Sam Adams, I was in beer heaven. The first time I ever tried this beer with on a tour of the Sam Adams brewery tour. Latitude was still in its testing phase and our tour guide poured heavy sample glasses closer to 8oz probably because ours was a smaller group. I enjoyed this one so much that I stole my friends glass as well – more like traded him my next sample – whatever that might have been. Fast forward three years, a bottle of Latitude 48 was left at my house following a party and I thought now would be a good time to revisit an old friend.

Latitude 48 pours a deep copper color with a fare amount of dirty white foam. This was an easy beer to pour due to a smaller amount of carbonation that is pretty typical in most Sam Adams beers. The head immediately bursts of hoppy flavor indicating a potent IPA. My first sip was like going home. Sam Adams uses three different hops from three different countries whose regions all lie on the 48 latitude line. My first taste made a liar of my nose. There was not an overwhelming hop flavor making me question this as a traditional IPA. However, the definitive hop flavor, mild sweetness, the characteristic bitter finish, and the 60 IBU does place this in the range for American style IPA beers. The mouth feel is a little thin and I wish there was something just a little heavier given the rich color.

This is another fine example of the kind of microbrew that Sam Adams puts out year after year. Latitude 48 has only been mass produced and distributed for two years, so don’t be too surprised if you haven’t come across it. Latitude 48 is available year round in six packs for around $8 or for $13 for a 12 pack. The 6% ABV is on par than some other American IPA style beers available. Overall I find this to be a well crafted beer that has significant potential to be a fine everyday beer.

Grade: B-