Posts Tagged ‘stout’

As a general rule, I really dislike stout winter beers. Last year, I reviewed Magic Hat’s Howl and it reminded me yet again why I shy away from this winter dominating style. There is always too much malt, too much chocolate, or too much coffee flavors that I always feel like I’m eating dessert.

I love dessert. But I don’t want it bottled.

But that was last year and given that the world may be ending in a few short weeks, I thought I might as well give another stout an honest shot. I found a 6 pack of Two Brothers Northwind inside their variety pack sold at Cosco. I cracked open my first one later in the week and had an epiphany.

I really hope the world doesn’t end.

Two Brother Northwind pours coal black and forms a cola like head on top. I’ve seen dirty white head before, but Northwind seems to extract color from the beer to color its foam.  Northwind poured very thin, almost watery. There was very little carbonation. Like other stouts, the aroma bursts of chocolate, coffee, and sweet malts. Already there was nothing that would indicate this was going to go any different than the stouts of the past.

I also want to take a side bar and get you on my side. Think about it. This potentially was going to be the last black beer I would ever try before the apocalypse and the watery appearance and familiar overwhelming chocolate/coffee aroma just made me sad.

I took a deep breath and sighed before taking my first sip. Yes, I’m not being melodramatic here. I actually sighed aloud. But something was different this time. Something was…good. Northwind tasted almost creamy and melted over my taste buds filling my palette with sweet malt and roasted mocha flavors. But this time, neither of these flavors overwhelmed the others. They worked together in a wonderful harmony.

This is without a doubt the best stout I have ever had.

Two Brothers North Wind can be found in 6 packs for around $9 in only in the winter months between November and February. Northwind is listed as a 9% ABV beer, but it did not feel nearly that heavy. Two Brothers is located in northern Illinois and currently distributes only to Ohio, New York, Minnesota, and Illinois only. This is the fourth Two Brothers beer I’ve reviewed and I have yet to find something about this microbrewery that I generally dislike. Northwind is another fine example of the high quality brews they continue to put out.

Grade: A

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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 know it’s Wednesday, but this one was too good to wait for an entire year to review and this is only available for a limited time at Trader Joe’s. I picked up a bottle of Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale 2011 a couple weeks ago, threw it in the refrigerator and actually forgot about it. It hit me only yesterday that I still had it and it was the end of a really crappy day. There really didn’t seem to be a better time.

Vintage Ale pours a beautiful abyss-like black. The bottom of my glass glowed a eerie ruby-purple color that remained until the last drop. The nose immediately bursts of coffee and malt, but there is a hint of sarsaparilla hidden somewhere in the back behind these big flavors. Like a Guinness, the head forms quickly and in force. There is an art to pouring the perfect pint and this one will challenge the eager drinkers to slow down and enjoy the process. The colder the beer, the more the head will form, so if your pulling this fresh from the refrigerator, let it sit on the counter for ten minutes or so. This will improve the flavor as well. It’s hard to describe the taste of this Vintage Ale. If coffee is a dominant flavor and had an alcoholic love child with the recessive root beer, this ale may be the result. Perhaps this description sounds weird, perhaps even nasty, but Vintage Ale works and does so quite well. While the malt and coffee flavors immediately emerge on the palette, there is a tang that develops and lingers on the tongue playfully. I have noted in the past my distaste for dark beers, but perhaps this brewed in the Belgian tradition is generally more appealing to my taste buds and allowed me to appreciate the depth of this beer.

I really like this beer. In fact, after I finished this bottle, I convinced my wife to drive me to Trader Joe’s to buy three more bottles (at 9% ABV, please do not think of driving yourself). The back of the bottle provides the connoisseur advice that while the Vintage Ale is great to drink now, the flavor will develop over the next 5 years. I’m hoping that I can make one of those three bottles last until at least 2015. Whenever I open the other three, I’ll be sure to post an update. At $5 for a 750ml bottle, I think this is an outstanding deal for a fine dark ale. I think this would make an excellent change of pace to your holiday party or dinner. If you so happen to have a Trader Joe’s near you that sells libations, you may want to consider stopping by to pick up their Vintage Ale.

Grade: A-

I should have known better, but I went against my better judgement and picked up a six pack of Magic Hat’s winter seasonal beer Howl. In the past, black beers and I have not always gotten along, but in the spirit of trying new things and experiencing seasonal ales as they come out, I figured Howl was worth a try.

The pour revealed a black beer with little head that disperses quickly. The aroma immediately burst of mocha and malt, two overpowering flavors that I try to stay way from in my beers. The taste immediately hits you with a sweet malt flavor accompanied by some kind of toasted note. Howl finishes clean and leaves very little taste lingering in the mouth. What I’m missing is any kind of hop flavor which I am incredibly disappointed in.

Howl comes in a 6 pack or as part of the Magic Hat seasonal pack. At around $8 a six pack, it’s a good buy and should be around well through the winter. I haven’t always been a big fan of Magic Hat in the past and now I’m finding less and less to like about their beers. As a rule, I tend to stay away from black beers, but I wanted to give this one a chance nevertheless. I’m disappointed mostly in the lack of any unique flavor profile or really anything that separates Howl from any middle of the road black IPA.

Grade: C-

The first time I ever tried Hobgoblin was in 2004 at the House of Brews on 46th St in New York City. I remember really liking it at the time enough to order 3 pints to compliment the bar food. Fast forward 7 years to me looking for a new microbrew to try when I came across Wychwood Brewery’s Hobgoblin again this past week and decided to give it another try.

This is a ruby red-brown ale in the best English style. It’s dark malty flavor comes through first, but this is mellowed the colder you drink it. The pour reveals a thick head that subsides quickly. I found the aroma slightly overpoweringly malty, but I think I’m a little more sensitive to this than others.

Overall I enjoyed this ale. It’s 4.5% ABV is a little low for my liking and I would treat this as a stout or something to enjoy after dinner. I think the flavor falls a little flat in comparison to other brown ales I’ve enjoyed. At around $8 per six pack or $3.50 for a 22oz bottle, this is a reasonably priced import and something you may want to check out for something different.

Grade: C+