Sunday, March 30, 2008

Mayflower Porter

I saw this at the local bar, its tap handle mingling with other more established brands, hiding the youth of the Mayflower brewery (it started distributing earlier this year) and this particular style.  My pint came with the thinnest amount of fizz on top of a rich, opaque chocolate beer.

A mild coffee and more pronounced toffee aroma arose from its thick body.  Its mouthfeel is as one would expect of a porter of its appearance, filling my mouth with sweet and roasty tastes.

Surprisingly, this porter goes down easy and light.  My mouth wanted more after my first sip, and I feel I could have obliged it a few more pints quite easily.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Miller High Life

To celebrate the first forty games of this year's NCAA tournament, I decided to indulge in a forty ounce bottle of Miller High Life.  The bottle fits nicely in the hand, although the famous cowgirl sitting on the moon was absent from the label.

I opened the top and was hit with a very grainy smell.  The beer poured without much head, and what little foam there was quickly evaporated.  Tiny bubbles rose through the clear, sickly yellow liquid.

The beer has an almost cloyingly sweet taste, although not as sweet as some other macrobrews.  There was absolute no hint of hops, fruity esters, or flavors other than lightly toasted bread.  I usually don't drink beer cold, but I did with this one; I'm not sure I could have lost any taste or aromas.  The mouthfeel was the same as distilled water.

I've often gone to Miller High Life when quantity of beer was more imperative than quality, although the price is slightly higher than Schlitz Ice, Black Label, or other non-BMC macrobrews.  Although not the finest beer in the world, the "Champagne of Beers" comes through once again as a solid macrobrew.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Foster's Lager

Got an oilcan of this to drink while watching some Thursday afternoon March Madness action.  Instead of chugging this like I'm prone to do, I decided to do a proper tasting.

I poured the golden, almost pee-like beer into a glass, and it hissed with a few fingers worth of foam.  After it subsided, leaving nice lace fingers on the glass, I stuck my nose in and took a whiff.  A maize aroma filled my nostrils; it was sweet enough to send my pancreas scrambling to produce insulin.

My palate's first impression is "flat", followed by "sweet".  A dish of bitterness slipped in the middle of the sip, but otherwise the beer was as easy to drink as a not-so-fizzy soda.  There's a distinct mild taste: is it pilsner malt, or is it corn?

While Foster's lacks the depth of a solid lager, and its mouthfeel is very close to water, it is very easy to quaff in large quantities.  The price is the big stumbling block; add $1 to the price of an oilcan and one can buy any of a long list of quality beers.  Given that opportunity cost, it's hard to recommend Foster's over either a fine lager or a cheaper macrobrew.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Green Guinness

To celebrate St. Patrick's Day I enjoyed a few cans of Guinness.  But this didn't seem Irish enough.  Many drink green beer.  Why not try to make a green Guinness?

I knew the odds were against me.  The beer's dark, almost black color would overwhelm any addition of food coloring.

I tried anyway, first pouring the Guinness Draught into a glass, adding green food coloring on top, and stirring.  The beer took on a greenish tint over the blackness, but this aurora beerialis soon subsided.  The foam, however, maintained a fresh green color.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence Stout

After warming up with a Guinness or three, I felt that this thick stout from Ommegang came out in a sensory explosion of taste and flavor.  A pleasant dark aroma entered the air on the pour, and swirling the stout released a bitter but pleasing aroma, about two parts Belgian chocolate to one part dark roasted coffee, with a slightly astringent alcohol smell coupled with sweet fruity esters.

I lifted the glass to the light, and admired its color, about two shades lighter than jet black.  The legs from my swirl stuck to the sides of the glass like sandbars in a sea of crystal.

I expected a very bitter experience, given the Belgian chocolate powder used in generous quantities, but instead received something a little more creamy and smooth than I expected.  Yes, the chocolate and dark malt flavors were at the forefront, but there were subtle hints of cherry and vanilla dancing to and fro, thanks to Ommegang's use of a Belgian yeast.  The beer stuck to my teeth and had a good solid depth.

The Chocolate Indulgence's higher-than-average alcohol content is masked by a rich flavor and good mouthfeel.  From the pop of the cork to the last drop, Ommegang comes through with another fine Belgian-style brew.

7% ABV.

Guinness Draught

Seeing as it is St. Patrick's Day, I figured I'd pop open a few cans of Guinness Draught to celebrate.

The pint can opened with a hiss, spilling some contents down its side.  I poured to fill a pint glass to the three-quarter mark, and the tan foam appeared to flow downward into the jet black beer below.  After a few minutes the thick head subsided, and I filled the glass to the top.

I stuck my nose a little too close to the glass, and came up with a touch of foam on my nose and a faint scent of roasted malt and, more faint, coffee.  The beer felt like water in my mouth, with not much body to it.  I tasted the roasted barley, again ever so faint, and not much else.  As I downed the pint some moments were distinctly bitter, but most of the time flavor felt like it was being diluted with water and washed away.

The lack of body makes Guinness a great session beer.  I know I had two more pints after the first.  However, I'm of the school of thought that a good stout shouldn't be a candidate to be shotgunned or funneled, and I'd be perfectly happy doing either with Guinness Draught.

4.2% ABV.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Harpoon 100 Barrel Series: #21 - Weizenbock

Given the quality of Harpoon's other beers, I opened this 22 oz. bomber of Weizenbock with high expectations.  Todd Charbonneau, the head brewer at Harpoon's Boston facility, crafts a very drinkable beer, but not a perfect one.

My senses were aroused at the sight of a finger's worth of foam and a smooth caramel aroma.  It appeared surprisingly clear for a wheat beer, chestnut in color.

The flavor was bit disappointing.  Caramel and banana overpowered the other flavors I expected; I detected only a slight amount of clove, and the spice and other fruit tastes I expected were overwhelmed .  Its medium body was weaker than I expected, although the finish was clean and smooth.

Overall, the beer was good, but not as malty as I expected, and with a much stronger banana presence than could have been intended.

7.8% ABV; Hersbrucker hops.

Sam Adams Cream Stout

Shifting my pour from a 45 degree angle to a vertical stream, this stout produced a rich, thick, tan head, and the bubbles appeared to shift down through the foam to where they came.  I waited a few minutes for the head to subside, trying to peer through the very opaque seal brown beer below.  The aroma from swirling shifted from chocolate to frothy coffee and back again, with a little hint of cream.

This cream stout's roasted grain character comes through strongly, with the slightest amount of hop bitterness along for the ride.  A slight hint of cherries hides behind the roasted grain, which also tempers a mild sweetness within its medium body and carbonation.

Overall, this stout's dark appearance hides a pearl of creamy, fruity sweetness.

4.9% ABV; East Kent Goldings and English Fuggles hops; two-row pale, roasted, chocolate and caramel 60 malt; malted wheat; unmalted barley.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Oskar Blues Old Chub Scottish Style Ale

Oskar Blues sticks by distributing its tasty beers in cans.  Besides the hilarity of a fine microbrew in a not-so-fine macrobrew's home, the can keeps light and oxygen out better than a bottle at a fraction of the weight.

I opened a can after dark fell on a melting layer of fresh snow outside, the hiss of the released gas trumpeting the arrival of a malty, caramel aroma.  A clear, solid brown when poured in a glass, the beer released a small tan head that quickly dissipated.   A quick snort before sipping evoked chocolate-covered raisins.

The beer was full of smooth, malty flavor, and its mouthfeel grew more robust as the slight amount of carbonation fizzed.  It wasn't as dark as other Scottish ales I've had, and certainly didn't taste like the high-alcohol beer that it is.  The finish was appropriately dry, with a mild bitter hop taste lingering in the back of my mouth.

8% ABV; caramel, chocolate, and smoked malts.

Ice cream coffee

What's the easiest way to get your daily fix of fat, sugar, and caffeine?

1-2 heaping spoonfuls of ice cream
1 cup of coffee

Mix.  Enjoy.  Note: adjust ice cream amount and flavor to taste.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Montreal French Fries - West Bridgewater MA

I met a guy from Quebec last year who introduced me to the concept of poutine.  Pronounced "pooht-sin", the dish is made of French fries topped with cheese curds and covered with a thin dark gravy.  Several variations exist, using marinara sauce, hamburger, bacon, and countless other toppings.

I've had many variations on French fries.  Cheese fries, chili fries, chili cheese fries.  All were heavy; some made me heavy.  The idea of fresh fries with light curds and thin gravy seemed palatable a lot easier to eat in quantity.

The recently opened Montreal French Fries cuts their fries onsite, prepares their gravy in the Quebec tradition, and sources fresh curds a hundred pounds at a time.  Soon after their grand opening I visited and order a poutine.  It was brought to my table by the owner a few minutes later, fries, gravy and curds together in an aluminum bowl.  Fresh-from-the-fryer fries below and hot gravy above, the curds had no choice but to melt ever so slightly.  Biting through the curds, only slightly firmer than brie and milder than mozzarella, elicited a squeak, the hallmark of freshness.  Despite being vegetarian, the gravy had enough umami to warrant topping a hamburger (they do offer a poutine deluxe, with ground beef and fried onions) and the fries sopped up all the flavor while remaining crisp.

The restaurants other offerings are good, but expensive.  The poutine is reasonably priced.  For $5.95 you can either save half of the poutine to be enjoyed cold later, or eat the entire serving and enjoy a postprandial nap, Montreal-style.

757 W. Center St., West Bridgewater MA

Gordon and MacPhail Speymalt from Macallan Distillery 1972

Serendipity manifests itself in our lives in, by defintion, unexpected ways. Serendipity led me to the finest scotch I've ever had.

A rep from Gordon & MacPhail was visiting the local wine store as I entered to look at a bottle of Sam Adams Utopia 2007. I crooked my head and asked what was going on, and was welcomed to a whisky tasting by the rep and the store owner.

Gordon & MacPhail have been selling whisky in Scotland for over a hundred years, and have recently begun to expand their operations in the U.S. They purchase whisky from distilleries, cask it to their own specifications, and age it on their own schedule to their level of excellence.

The rep tipped a bottle of their Speymalt from Macallan into a glass. I swirled it and watched the legs cling to the sides and fall, releasing the pleasant scent of oranges, spices, and vanilla. A few drops of spring water were added, lightening the golden color a shade. Now I picked up a soft leather essence.

The whisky had a sharp bite on the tip of my tongue, and coated the rest of my mouth smoothly and quickly. The piquant prick mellowed into the orange scent from earlier, with lemon tones, before rolling away into a slightly charred oak flavor. My palate was left clean and ready for another sip. The dearth of fusel alcohols in favor of a variety of blossoming flavors display the maturity of a generation-old scotch.

86 proof; Speyside, single-malt; 34 years.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Sam Adams Double Bock

I opened this on a sunny, chilly afternoon.  Its low carbonation made for a head-free pour, and the beer was a nice burgundy color, flashing ruby red depending on how the light hit the glass.  Its sweet malt aroma showed no signs of burnt malt and was reminiscent of prunes or of fountain Dr. Pepper.
Sam Adams brags that half a pound of malt goes into each bottle, and one taste shows the claim is true.  The first sip was mildly sweet, with a warm alcohol taste rolling over the tongue, finishing with a small amount of German noble hops.  A nice medium mouthfeel and a feeling of caramel around the cheeks complete this dopplebock experience.

8.8% ABV; Tettnang Tettnanger and Tettnanger-Hallertauer hops; two-row pale and caramel 60 malt.