The Burrito Tribune

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randomness, truth, and burritos

Craft Beer: Avery Brewing, Ellie’s Brown Ale

elliebrown

I have to say I picked this brown ale for two main reasons.  One is that I had a family dog named Ellie (as in Ellie Mae from the Beverley Hill Billies, she was…sassy), and I love the chutzpah of Avery Brewing Co. advertising this as “lab tested” (see picture of can above).  I figured this beer was deserving of a little attention.

This is a pretty standard strength (5.5% ABV) brown ale brewed by Avery Brewing in Boulder, CO.  It’s named after their chocolate lab and brewed with fresh Rocky Mountain spring water.

Pouring the beer put a decent head on the glass.  It was a bit smaller than I would have expected from such a dark rich smelling beer, but it lingered for a good while after pouring.  The beer has a sweet scent, so sweet I’d go ahead and push past the molasses comparison and say it smells more like brown sugar.  The smell has a peppery-ness to it that wakes up the nose a little.  The smell also has a sour wetness to it that reminds me of cooked grape leaves or spinach.

The first taste of this beer is actually quite mellow.  This surprised me considering how dark it is.  The first taste is so mellow I almost qualified it as lacking.  That’s “almost”  until the follow-through hit me, and wow what a follow-through.  It is still not by any means a heavy beer, but it has a semi-sweet chocolaty-ness that really sets it off as a great brown ale.  As the beer hits you as you swallow you’re engulfed in the essence of malted barley and some very mild hops.  As the aftertaste rolls in you get the strong hints of molasses and high quality dark chocolate.

This beer is a very high quality drink, but as I work through it it seems to continue to be perplexing to my pallet.  It tastes like it should be a heavier beer, but it isn’t.  If it wasn’t for the chocolatey finish I’d rate it more as refreshing, but I can’t say I’d want to drink this on a hot summer day.  Maybe this would better be drank right now, at the very beginning of fall, where it isn’t too hot for a richer beer, but not so cold that you want a thick porter or stout.  I guess it fits that this beer comes from mountain-country.  I think you get more of that weather up there.

People who are looking for that overwhelmingly thick malty brown ale might be a little disappointed, but this a great brew unto itself.  It would also be an excellent beer to introduce some novice craft beer drinkers into darker beers without knocking their socks off.

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Craft Beer: Westbrook Brewing, White Thai

white thai

Unfortunately for some personal reasons I had to take a small break from trying new craft beers.  I had a head cold for a few days, and the medicine I took made everything taste/smell metallic.  I figured that would not be advantageous to providing quality taste-tests.  It finally wore off and I’m glad to be back to sampling another interesting beer I’ve found here in the Carolinas.

I’ve never heard of this brand or type of beer before.  It’s a “White Thai” beer from Westbrook brewing company in Mt. Pleasant, SC.  It boasts flavors inspired by Southeast Asian cuisine.  I’ve never thought of pairing beer with Asian flavorings before, so I’m excited to see what this is like.  For strength it comes in at a standard craft beer 5% ABV, and the brewers suggest drinking it at 45-50F in a tulip or wine glass.  Honestly, I wish I would read this stuff before I go and pour the glass for my picture, but whatever.

Pouring the beer gave me a big frothy head that lingered for a bit and has a good cling to the glass so far.  As the head fizzes away, the scent is truly enticing.  It’s slightly sweet and spicy.  It reminds me of some sort of sweet between a sugar cookie and  a ginger snap.  Behind that there is a cool refreshing scent like lemon zest.

The flavoring of this beer is very cool and mellow.  It doesn’t start off very strong, and almost doesn’t remind me of beer.  It has a light flavor that reminds me of flowers and iced tea.  It seems like it would be very refreshing on a hot day where I’ve already broken a sweat.  However sitting here at home in the comfort of air conditioning it feels like it could carry a little more body.  It’s hard to describe what’s there for the majority of the drink because it just doesn’t feel like there is a lot of presence to talk about.  At the very very…VERY end  you can get a solid hit of hops and ginger before it fades to nothing.

I would recommend this beer as a good starting beer for people new to beer in general.  It is very pleasantly flavored without tasting too “beery” and not resorting to grotesque amounts of fruit flavorings.  For me personally, as a regular craft beer drinker, it seems to lack a little bit of the weight and body I look for when I peruse the micro-brew selection at my regular liquor store.  I’m sure there will be people out there that would love this, but I just don’t think I’m one of them.

Filed under: Craft Beer, , , , , ,

Craft Beer: Anderson Valley, Spring Hornin’ IPA

spring hornin

I am slowly coming to terms that if I wish to continue trying out this pick-a-pack isle at my local liquor store, I better get used to sampling a lot of IPAs.  Can I ask for people’s opinion, are IPA’s just really big right now or does my stockperson have an unfair biased towards them?

Anyways, this IPA is looking rather interesting.  This is one of my first beers from California (specifically, Booneville), and the bottle alone has a different character to it than most beers I’ve tried so far.  It’s a 6.8% ABV Spring IPA.  It pours as a rich golden copper color and maintains a healthy froth of head for a good while after having been poured.

The scent coming off the beer as the head settles is very complex.  There are multiple sweet overtones that come out before the smell of malt and hops.  I get smells of honey, and  nutmeg, with just the barest hint of blueberry.  While the scent is dominantly sweet, it isn’t overwhelmingly sweet, and has a very balanced personality.

My first impressions of the taste fall right in line with the scent from pouring this beer.  It has a very complex and balanced flavor.  A perfect blend of the sweet malts and flavorings with the tart dry flavor of hops.  The sweetness still reminds me of honey and blueberries, but this definitely is not a blueberry ale.  Another fruit that comes to mind is a slice of cold fresh peach.  It has a body to it that reminds me of eating a handful of fresh juicy fruit.  It’s sweet and refreshing, but the flavors are not overwhelmingly distant from a good traditional beer.  The hops are definitely present, but they don’t really kick in until the last few drops are sliding down your throat.  At the very last instant they bloom for just a fraction of a second and cleanse the sweetness off of your palate.  It helps remind you that this is definitely an IPA.

This is a very drinkable beer, and at 6.8% ABV I would say be careful when you drink it.  If I had a cooler of this next to me at a camp out I could easily see all of them disappearing before I had planned.  It is that tasty.  I say this for two reasons, I don’t want a high-alcohol content to creep up on anybody, and it is certainly no fun when  you burn through all your beer at a camp-out before you’re ready.

One last comment, this beer is remarkably complex and flavorful, without being too intense.  It is great for both beginners of IPAs and beer in general.  Aficionados of craft beer and IPA’s will also find this to be a remarkably enjoyable beer to try.

Filed under: India Pale Ale, , , , , , ,

Craft Beer: Southern Tier, Warlock Imperial Stout

warlock

I am not normally the biggest fan of stout beer.  I made an example of IPA’s a while back about how IPA fans get acclimated and only like ridiculously hoppy IPA’s.  I could say something similar about most stout beers.  A lot of the stouts that have been recommended to me have been so thick and overwhelmingly rich, I felt like I should have given it a few smacks with a meat tenderizing mallet before trying to drink it down.

Despite this, I have been looking forward to trying Southern Tier’s Warlock Imperial stout all day long at work.  The Pumking Ale warmed me up to how amazing Southern Tier’s seasonal beers can be.  It’s also been so long since I’ve had a stout, that I’m actually ready for the experience of a richer sweeter beer such as this.

This Imperial Stout is brewed in Lakewood, NY at the Southern Tier brewery.  It still weirds me out that Southern Tier is based out of New York.  I would have expected it to be brewed in Georgia or something.  Anyways, like the Pumking, it’s 8.6% ABV, and it’s recommended that this Stout should be drank out of a goblet at 42 degrees F.  The bottle has a small laundry list of ingredients including: 2-row pale malt, carmel malt, black malt, munich malt, pureed pumpkin, magnum hops, and sterling hops.  Also at $8.49, it is not a beer you can cost-effectively indulge in beyond special occasions.  The strength means you can still get a good drink and share the bottle with three to four friends though.  Or, you can hog the bottle to yourself and be blazed for a good portion of the night.  As always, drink responsibly and don’t plan on driving after consuming this beer.

I didn’t have a true goblet, so I used one of my brandy snifters for this beer.  It’s working very well, especially because it concentrates the aroma of this stout very readily.  I can tell from the scent that this is a much sweeter beer than the Pumking ale.  It has a great natural pumpkin scent, but it reminds me more of pumpkin-pie ice cream as opposed to pure pumpkin pie.  There is a creamy vanilla undertone to the beer that pops out at you after the pumpkin hits.

On taking my first drink of this beer, I will say that I am tempted to remove my meat tenderizing comment from this article entirely.  This beer has a very strong rich flavor, but doesn’t carry the weight I most often associate with a stout.  While I wouldn’t recommend it as a beer to drink after a long hot sunny day, i would recommend it as a great Friday after work beer to relax and unwind with.  The entire flavor of this beer just immerses you like a warm sauna and helps float your problems away.  The first flavor that hits me in this beer is a strong bubbly presence of molasses and malt.  While strong it never gets too overwhelming.  Just when you think you’ve had enough of the molasses-y sweetness, it fades, only to be replaced with a nice sweet kick of pumpkin.  As with the smell, the pumpkin essence is a bit sweeter in this than Pumpking or some other pumpkin beers I’ve tried.  It makes me think of this as more of a dessert beer than anything else.  The pumpkin is also slightly more mellow than I expected, and adds to the relaxing atmosphere of this beer.

Because it’s a stout, i doubt I could drink more than this 22oz bottle at any given time.  Some of that is just personal preference, but you have to admit that as enjoyable as dark beers are, they are a bit more difficult to drink a lot of just because they are so rich.  I would still definitely recommend this beer for the experience of a great seasonal imperial stout.  It would also be great for first-timers to a stout or a seasonal flavored beer.  It captures all the great essences of these beers, without being too overwhelming.

 

Filed under: Craft Beer, , , , , , , ,

Craft beer: Terrapin Recreation Ale

Recreation ale

So I stared at another 22oz bomber for about 10 minutes debating whether I should review it yet.  This one was  Southern Tier Warlock Stout.  That might be waiting another day or two, I can’t drink two bottles of 8.6% ABV beer solo without feeling like my life is lacking in purpose.  I decided to take it down just a notch and sample a canned craft beer I picked up instead.

I’m sitting here looking at a can of Terrapin Recreation Ale.  This beer is brewed in Athens, GA and is 4.7 ABV.  It refers to itself as a “hopped up session ale”.  I’m not sure if this will put it into the hoppa IPA territory or not, but I’m excited to find out.  I really like how the can embraces the idea of outdoor living and activities.  In the lower corner of the label it says “pack out pack in”  meaning it expects you to take this with you on an adventure.  I’ve heard some great things about Terrapin beer and I’ve been looking forward to trying one.  I also love hiking and outdoorsy stuff, so I need to see if this truly passes muster as an outdoor beverage.

This ale definitely has a little bit of a pucker to its scent, reminiscent of a hoppy beer.  It has a citrusy scent like lemon zest, with a slight sweetness left over from the malt.

I will say that the beer tastes remarkably refreshing and it would definitely fit well on a hot summer day, or at the end of a long active day.  The first taste that hits is very cool and refreshing.  It reminds me of apple juice, but without all the sweetness that makes your mouth feel syrupy and dehydrated.  Maybe if someone cut apple juice with some seltzer water?  Or maybe a semi-sweet melon like honeydew would be another good example.  It starts off so smoothly it’s easy to take a good long pull out of the glass and satisfy your thirst.

This beer isn’t all sweet and innocent though.  As your drink finishes, and the majority of the beer gets swallowed down, the hops decide to come out and play.  It a presence of hops on par with some of your best IPA’s.  The hop flavor is so strong it’s almost peppery, but it’s a great experience and contrast compared to the smooth start.  The beer finishes with a long lingering flavor that is subtle and reminds me of drinking unsweet green tea.

As refreshing as this beer is, I’m not sure how much I’d drink in one sitting.  I think I’d likely only drink one or two before wanting to switch off to something else.  This doesn’t speak to the quality of the beer, it is remarkably well made and brewed with tremendous skill.  The flavoring is incredibly well balanced and worth experiencing.    The flavoring is just of an intense variety that makes it difficult for me to drink this continuously.

Filed under: Ale, , , , , , ,

Craft Beer: Southern Tier, Pumking Ale

pumking

So my local liquor store’s stock person is apparently new and lacking a little bit of understanding regarding the definition of “craft beer”.  Fortunately, immediately behind the “pick-a-pack” section is a giant wall of select craft beer in 22oz bombers.  These bottles tend to be a bit pricier than their 12 oz counterparts, and many of them aren’t even available in a six-pack/12oz.  I’m excited to start exploring them though, because their flavorings tend to also be a bit more adventurous!

Having a festive seasonal mood at the moment, I picked up a few choices from Southern Tier made especially for Fall.  This one I’m trying out today is called Imperial Pumking.  As with other Southern Tier brews, it is made in Lakewood, NY.  This bottle ran me $6.99 at the store, well above your standard rate for an equivalent six-pack (based on volume).  According to the bottle, it is ale brewed with pumpkins, two varieties of hops, and two types of malts.  It recommends serving in a goblet at 42 degrees F.  I’ve already failed on the goblet part (as you can see in the pic)  but I’m flying solo and not sharing tonight, so I’m not going to let that stop me.  I should warn people trying this beer about the alcohol content:  At 8.6% ABV it is probably a better idea to budget this out in a goblet with several friends.  Seeing as I’m at home and not driving, I’m going to take my chances for this review, and finish it while watching a bad action movie.

The ale pours as a strong copper color with a smaller bubbly head.  The scent of the beer reminds me of all the best parts of a great ale and a fresh baked pumpkin pie.  I can smell the sweetness of the malt, as well as the freshness of the pumpkin and hints of cinnamon and spices.  It honestly makes me want real pumpkin pie, and wonder why it isn’t served hot.  Don’t get me wrong, warm beer would be a terrible idea, but it just tastes that much like pumpkin pie.

I should point out that on a whole, I am not the biggest fan of flavored beers.  I like the intricacies of the different flavors you can find in a more normal brew.  I like being able to hunt for descriptions like the ones I have posted on this blog.  When I say that there’s a hint of lemongrass, I want the beer to still taste like beer, with that lemongrass as a hidden overtone that needs to be dug out and experienced.

With that being said, this is an absolutely stellar pumpkin ale.  The pumpkin is rich and sweet without tasting artificial.  It isn’t like that difference between fake banana candy and the flavor of a real banana (you know what I’m talking about).  This tastes like real pumpkin pie with all the spices and finish.  If I was a little crazier, I’d spray a “head” of whip cream on it.  While tasting like authentic pumpkin pie, it blends amazingly well with the ale base.  There are no conflict between the pumpkin and ale flavors.  You can tell that there is an ale beneath the pumpkin flavor, but it acts like a calm gentle stream pushing a boat of pumpkin pie flavor into your senses.  I’m used to a flavored beer having the malt or hops jump out and kick me in the teeth after the flavoring passes by.  The fact that this beer doesn’t do that has earned it a spot in my top-five flavored beers (I will provide a list at another time).  My only regret is that it’s a seasonal beer and I won’t be able to get my hands on it after Fall passes by.

I wish I could add more to this description, but this beer is exactly what it says on the tin.  It is an incredible pumpkin ale.  I’m also anxious to finish this review so I can enjoy the rest of it before it goes warm.  If anything else comes to mind after I finish I will update the post.

One last thing worth repeating before I go, this beer tastes so smooth and flavorful that it’s easy to forget it’s nearly 9% alcohol.  Share it with some friends or make sure you had a healthy dinner and aren’t going anywhere for a VERY long while while you enjoy it.  I’ve drank about two-thirds of the glass shown above during the review and can already feel that it hits harder than your standard beer.  Other than that, enjoy it before the season runs out!

Filed under: Ale, , , , , , , ,

Craft Beer: Dixie Brewing Co., Dixie Beer

dixie

This beer is without a doubt one of the more perplexing bottles I have ever picked.  To be honest, the bottle was so confounding that I wouldn’t have picked it up if there hadn’t been so few craft beer options at my local liquor store’s pick-a-pack shelf.  (A helpful guideline for pick-a-pack stock-persons, make that section at least 50% craft beers!  I feel like that’s the whole point. Beers like Bud Lite is prolific enough to not need to be sampled in a pick-a-pack.)  The label is incredibly old-timey and it gives no information with regards to what is in the bottle except “beer brewed with genuinely clear water”.  To be honest, I don’t think I have ever drank beer that hasn’t been made with clear water.  It seems like a rather low bar to advertise being overcome, in my opinion.

According to the fine print, this beer is 4.5% ABV and is brewed for Dixie brewing company in New Orleans, LA, by Joseph Huber brewing Co.  in Monroe, WI.  My understanding is that this is currently contracted out due to the damage caused to the original brewery by a hurricane passing through Louisiana.

The beer pours as a healthy golden color with a small head.  The head fizzled out a little quicker than I expected, but as I’ve said before, a frothy head isn’t the only measure of a great beer.

The smell is very unusual for a craft beer.  The two scents that it reminds me of are lemon rind and freshly cooked corn.  And yes, I sat here sniffing my glass for as long as you think I did while I tried to isolate those two scents.

First impressions on the taste of this beer is that is as complex and mysterious as the bottle’s label.  I got hit with this team of flavors that are going to take a while to sort out completely.  There is a very light tartness to this beer that reminds me of an aspect of sour mash whiskey.  It’s an overtone that lasts through the entire experience of the beer.  As the beer finishes, you get a bit of a smokey essence to keep things pleasantly complex.  The core flavor is very different.  It has a calm sweetness, like a neutrally flavored fruit.  It makes me think of cold cherries or grapes that aren’t too sweet, and aren’t to tart.

I am very glad I took a chance on this beer.  It is so complex I think I could sit here drinking a six-pack just exploring the flavor.  It is a very light refreshing flavor that would be great for sitting on a porch-swing or hammock on a hot day.  If I had to put a name to it it’d be an ale, but Dixie Brewing could help clarify for all of us.  Its flavor is light enough to be a little bit closer to your standard American beers than what you normally expect from the current craft beer market.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t an amazing beer to experience, just know it isn’t as rich and filling as a lot of the other beers out there.  If anybody from Dixie brewing ever sees this, I’d like to say that you are doing yourself a great disservice by using a label that doesn’t better explain what type of beer you’re selling.  I’m glad I tried this, but I almost didn’t because the label, while traditional, is too mysterious to compete with a lot of the other craft beers currently on the market.  For all I know, I might have been buying a milk stout!

If you find this beer I would definitely suggest you give it a try.  Sub it in for your mass-produced beer at a cook-out or camping trip and you won’t be disappointed.

Filed under: Craft Beer, , , , ,

Craft Beer: Thomas Creek Brewery, Trifecta IPA

trifecta

Wooo!  Yet another IPA for me to try from my liquor store’s pick-a-pack.

I guess this is my own fault really, I should pay more attention to the beer bottles I’m picking up when I shop.  This IPA does have my interest for the evening, as it is another somewhat local beer, brewed in Greenville South Carolina at the Thomas Creek Brewery.  At 6.9% ABV it’s a pretty stout IPA, and could potentially end your night a little early if you drink too many of them too quickly.

The beer pours out as a warm light amber color.  It has a small head that fizzed down reasonably quickly, releasing an amazing scent that was a cross between vanilla wafers and a sweet croissant.  There is also a warm overtone of nutmeg to this beer that has warmed me up to wanting to try yet another IPA.

My first taste of this beer was absolutely incredible.  It went down with a silky smoothness that I would never have expected from an IPA.  It starts off sweet, with a blend of gingerbread and molasses.  I would say it reminds me of a heavier  dark brown ale or a stout, but it lacks the weight/fill of some of those darker beers.  I wouldn’t go so far to say it’s light and refreshing, but it is pleasantly rich and full-bodied.

As you swallow the beer down the hops really take over and allow the beer to end on a very surprising up-note.  While the hops wash past, there is a scent that almost qualifies as sneaky.  I had to take several sips just to get an idea of what it reminded me of.  It reminds me of that cinnamon/pumpkin spice scent from when you’re baking christmas cookies/pies/etc.  It isn’t very distinguishable, but it’s present just enough to give you a nice warm feeling as you work through this beer.

As much as I love this beer, it worries me that this is a beer that could sneak up on you.  It’s so smooth and sweet that it’s hard to believe you’re drinking a beer that is almost 7% ABV.  From the starting-line, I’d say I’d be ready to drink three to four of these at a long event.  The problem with 7% ABV is that by number three or four…. the idea of drinks five and six might start to sound more appealing…

Regardless, this is a fantastic beer and I would highly recommend it for any craft beer drinker to try.  It’s also a great introduction to the complexities of flavor of a number of darker beers, without carrying all the weight of a darker beer.

 

 

Filed under: India Pale Ale, , , , , , ,

Craft beer: Spoetzel Brewery, White Wing

white wing

I haven’t had a beer like this in a good while.  Spoetzel Brewery in Shiner Texas has made a very interesting beer I’ve been wanting to try.  It’s a Belgian style white ale brewed with Coriander and orange peel, or so says the label.  I’ve really needed something different, especially considering all the IPAs I’ve sampled as of late.  I know I can’t blame the liquor store that much, but it does seem like an inordinate number of their beers are IPA’s.  Ah well…

This is a beautiful golden ale with a healthy bit of head on it from the pouring.  At 4.7% Abv it’s a pretty typical craft beer strength-wise.  Unfortunately I couldn’t find the 6-pack price when i was at the store, but at $1.99 the pick-a-pack price was on the inexpensive side.  If the 6-pack price is proportional, it is an absolute steal for the quality of the beer you are getting.  Go Texas!

Smelling it, you can definitely notice the Coriander over the smell of the wheat.  The orange peel is more subtle, but is there if you’re really looking for it.  I had to take several good sniffs to identify a peppery scent that was coming out of the glass.  It’s actually the hops, which slide up along side the coriander and wheat to liven up the experience of the beer’s aroma.

Tasting the beer, the orange peel makes its presence much more strongly known.  It reminds me of the wheat beers I’ve had at the bar that get served with a big slice of orange… except in this case you don’t need to pull out your paring knife and start chopping up the fruit.  Beyond the orange, the body of the beer has a crispness to it like fresh iceberg lettuce.  The beer isn’t very sweet, or very tart.  It is simple and has a smooth refreshing quality to it that makes it very drinkable.  I know I’ve used the iced tea metaphor before, but it really is one of the best ways to describe it.  It reminds me of the mellowness of iced tea being combined with the zest of a great glass of OJ in the morning.

Seeing this bottle, I really expected this beer to be heavy and thick, despite it being an ale.  I am so glad that I was mistaken.  It isn’t overly filling and is something I’d highly recommend for a cookout or other day-long event.  I doubt I could get tired of this beer quickly.

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