Tag Archives: Brew Review

Northern Lights IPA – Brew Review

Happy Friday internet! A few hours separate you from 2 days of rest, relaxation, coke binges, whatever floats your boat. To kick off the weekend, enjoy today’s Brew Review: Star Hill Brewery’s Northern Lights IPA.

Northern Lights IPA 1

Star Hill Brewery was founded in Charlottesville, VA in 1999 and their beers can be found throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Southern states. Their Dark Starr Stout has won 6 awards, including 3 gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival. It’s like the Michael Phelps of beer, except with fewer Subway endorsement deals and bong hits.

Northern Lights IPA pours a orange-amber color with a tan head. The smell is a mixture of sweet malt, floral hops, and tangy citrus. Taste-wise, it has a decent amount of hop bitterness, a little citrus, and a malty finish. The beer smooth, crisp and refreshing.

Northern Lights 2

Should I Drink It?

Overall, Starr Hill’s Northern Lights is a decent IPA. I don’t know if it’s the number of robust beers I’ve been drinking lately, but this one was a little subdued for my taste. All the standard elements that make an IPA great were present and blended well together, but I wish it had just a little more “oomph”.

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Widmer Hefeweizen – Brew Review

Windmer Brothers Hefeweizen

It’s Memorial Day Weekend, a holiday that officially kicks off the summer season (sure you could argue that the solstice is the true beginning of summer, but that would make you a science nazi). This means it’s time for barbecues, pool parties, and some prime beer drinking. To kick off the festivities, I settled down with a Widmer Brothers Hefeweizen.

Widmer Brothers Brewing Company opened in 1984 in Portland, Oregon and today is one of the largest brewing companies in the US as part of the Craft Brew Alliance, Inc. The company is home to over 20 varieties of beer, and is committed to creating a great,  environmentally conscious brew.

Widmer Hefeweizen 2

The hefeweizen pours a cloudy golden orange with a minimal white head. The smell is very delicate; some mild doughy malt mixed with banana. It has a floral, malty flavor with some sweet banana and citrus notes in the finish. It is bright and bubbly, with very little bitterness.

Should I drink it?

This is a decent hefeweizen. It’s very refreshing for the summer; the sweet, bright beer is the perfect complement to a hot summer day. So go out and enjoy your long weekend, and don’t forget to thank a member of the Armed Forces for their service to the country.

Maybe even thank them with a beer.

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Sam Adams Cherry Wheat – Brew Review

Summer’s on its way, which means warmer weather, longer days, and the imminent threat of a cicada invasion. So to beat the heat and keep me company while I brainstorm ways to kill those fuckers (idea: cicada-sized shotgun), I sat down with a Sam Adams Cherry Wheat beer.

Sam Adams Cherry Wheat 3

Sam Adams Cherry Wheat is brewed by the Boston Beer Company of Boston, Massachusetts.  Founded in 1984, the company is one of the largest beer manufacturers in America, and their flagship Sam Adams Boston Lager was awarded the Grand Gold Medal in 2011 by Monde Selection. The Boston Beer Company is home to over 30 varieties of beer, and continues to push the boundaries of brewing by  creating exciting new flavors.

The Cherry Wheat pours a dark golden-yellow with a thin white head and some moderate lacing. It has a pronounced cherry smell, closer to a Cherry Coke than the real fruit, with subtle notes of yeast and wheat. The beer is sweet and malty, with plenty of cherry flavor and little to no hop bitterness. It is crisp and clean, with plenty of carbonation.

Sam Adams Cherry Wheat

Should I Drink It?

If you like your beer like you like your women (strong and bitter, with lots of head), than this isn’t the beer for you. It’s way more cherry than beer, closer to a Shirley Temple than a witbeir. However, if you like that sweet cherry taste, this will get you buzzed and no one will call you names because you ordered a dirty shirley at the bar.

The best part is you can break use the broken ends of the bottle to beat away the cicadas.

They’re coming.

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Sierra Nevada Pale Ale – Brew Review

We’re in the heart of  American Craft Beer Week, so I thought I should celebrate with the second best-selling craft beer in the US: Sierra Nevada Pale AleSierra Nevada Pale Ale 2

This beer is brewed by the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in Chico, California. Founded in 1979, it’s the 6th largest brewing company in the United States, and was named the “Green Business of the Year” in 2010 by the EPA for their sustainability practices. So if someone complains about you being too drunk at your sisters wedding, simply explain you are doing your part to save the environment, then take your face out of the uncut cake and return to your seat.

That’ll teach ’em.

IPAs vs. Pale Ales

I previously wrote about what makes an India Pale Ale (IPA), and considering that a Pale Ale is just the second two-thirds of that, the two should be fairly similar, right? Correct! Think of the difference between a Pale Ale and and IPA like the difference between a moped and a motorcycle: they have the same basic structure, but one is bolder, more extreme, some might say cooler (mopeds are pussy-magnets). Where a Pale Ale tends to be hoppy, IPAs (especially American IPAs) take that hoppy bitterness to the next level, creating a flavor explosion. But the good kind, not like Doritos Extreme.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale 1

The beer pours a clear orange color with a decent head that settles on the surface. There’s an earthy hop quality to the smell, with some floral and citrus notes.  The taste is tangy, with obvious hop bitterness melding with the more delicate bready and floral notes. It’s smooth with a medium body, and a lingering hop finish.

Should I Drink It?

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is one of the quintessential US beers, and a great example of a quality American Pale Ale. The flavor is distinct and memorable, without being jarring to your casual beer drinker. I would definitely recommend giving this one a try.

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Maximus – Brew Review

Laguintas Maximus 3

Nerd alert: I’m huge Roman history buff. I have a Julius Caesar quote tattooed on my side, and I routinely talk about the pitfalls of emperor Nero to men at bars who are trying to get in my pants. So before I begin with the beer Maximus, I felt it necessary to share that Maximus Decimus Meridius from the movie Gladiator is not based on a real Roman, although Marcus Aurelius (emperor Dumbledore) and Joaquin Phoenix were real people in history. There was a different Maximus, Fabius Maximus, who is most famous for the Fabian strategy, an evasive military tactic used for centuries, including by George Washington in the Revolutionary War.

Now you know how the guys at the bar feel. At least you haven’t spent $26 pumping drinks into me.

Which brings me to my beer of the day: Maximus Ale by Lagunitas Brewing Company. Located in Petaluma, California, Lagunitas is one of the fastest growing breweries in the US. Their Maximus Ale was originally introduced in 1996 as a jacked-up version of their flagship IPA, and the company warns that the beer’s so hoppy it could remove the enamel from your teeth.

Laguintas Maximus 2

goodbye pearly whites

Maximus pours a dark amber color with a frothy off-white head that fades away into a thin film. The smell is hoppy upfront, with some clean citrus and caramel malt notes. The bitterness from the hops is grassier in the taste, almost like pine, but well-balanced with the milder orange peel and sweet malt flavors. It’s smooth and creamy with just a little bit of carbonation, and less of an astringent, alcohol finish then I would expect from an 8.2% ABV beer.

Should I Drink It?

Laguintas 1

Maximus definitely lives up to its name; it’s got a lot of bold flavors that will hit your palate in ways most beers don’t. It’s pretty hoppy, but I don’t think it’ll destroy your tooth enamel, at least no more than Coke does. So if you like standard IPAs and aren’t afraid of a brew that packs a punch, you should take on this beer.

Or, if you want to approach it like Fabius Maximus, refuse to meet in a pitched battle and hope to wear it out in a war of attrition.

I’ll shut up now.

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Trippel Belgian Style Ale – Brew Review

New Belgium Trippel 1

The weekend is here and the weather is awful, which I am using as an excuse to watch Say Yes to the Dress and drink beer all day. First on the list: Tripple Belgian Style Ale by New Belgium Brewing. Located in Fort Collins, Colorado, the brewery was founded in 1991 and as of 2010 had grown to the 3rd largest craft brewery in America. Their most popular beer is the amber ale Fat Tire, but the company also brews 8 other beers year-round as well as a handful of seasonal and special varieties.

New Belgium Trippel 2

What is a Trippel?

A trippel (or tripel) stems from the Trappist beers of Europe. This type of beer uses up to 3 times (or triple) the amount of malt in a standard Trappist beer. This particular style uses coriander, a spice most commonly found in Asian food and Indian curries. Before you start worrying that this stuff tastes like the #9 special at Taste of Bombay, you should also know coriander is also used in several types of Belgian beer, including the very popular Blue Moon.

The beer is a clear golden color with a solid white head that dissipated quickly to a thin sheet. There is a definite coriander bump in the smell, along with some nice floral and yeast notes. The taste is sweet and spicy, with malts balanced out by the bite of the coriander and a little bitterness from the hops. It is crisp and pretty carbonated, with a touch of alcohol in the finish.

New Belgium Trippel 3

Should I Drink It?

This is the first Trippel I can remember tasting, so I can’t speak to whether it’s a good representation of the style. I will say that the coriander gives it a unique flavor that might be a little jarring to people only familiar with the standard American lagers, but if you’re not afraid to take a risk then go for it. The carbonation and spices make the beer refreshing without being forgettable.

Don’t forget, next week is American Craft Beer Week!

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Sol – Brew Review

It’s Cinco de Mayo (or as they say in Mexico, “El Cinco de Mayo”), a holiday that no one really understands but still use as an excuse to drink (just like St. Patrick’s Day or Christmas). So in honor of the fifth of May, I thought I’d sample a Mexican beer for today’s Brew Review. Corona is usually considered the official beer of chasing tequila shots while wearing a sombrero, but it was sold out when I went to the store so instead I went with Sol.

Viva Cerveza!

Sol beer was introduced in 1899 and is brewed by the Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma Brewery in Monterrey, Mexico. Owned by Heineken International, the company also brews Dos Equis, Tecate, and a handful of other beers. Sol is an American lager, a light and fizzy style that includes popular staples like Budweiser, PBR, and Coors.

Sol Cactus

The beer was a clear, warm yellow with an thin white head that bubbled off quickly.  The smell and taste were underwhelming; there was a grainy scent that showed up heavily in the taste as well, along with some sweetness and a corny finish (tastes like corn, not like the end of a rom-com). The aftertaste sticks around and is a bit metallic. After tasting it straight, I squeezed a lime wedge into the stuff, which made it brighter and more refreshing.

Sol Bottle

Should I drink it?

Sol is a decent beer for a day like Cinco de Mayo. If it’s hot outside and your chowing down on some spicy Mexican food, the crispness of a cold bottle with lime is a nice compliment. On its own, the beer is not that great; it is a little boring and the aftertaste is really strong without the lime to cut it. I wouldn’t recommend it, but it’s better than some other American lagers that I’ve tasted.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some nachos that aren’t going to eat themselves.

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Coors Light – Brew Review

Coors Light Thumb

Unless you are Mormon or have a deep-seated hatred for anything with Rocky Mountain iconography on it, you’ve probably at some point in your life had a Coors Light. It was the 2nd best selling beer in the US in 2012 and its parent company  Canadian Molson Coors Brewing Company is the 7th largest brewing company in the world. Started in 1873 by Adolph Coors and Jacob Schueler, the Coors Brewing Company was founded in Golden Colorado, in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, which gives the cans their classic imagery.

Taste the rockies

Taste the Rockies

Coors Light and it’s equivalents from Budweiser and Miller get a pretty bad rap in the beer world. Beer advocate has scathing reviews of the stuff including quotes like “This can barely be considered a beer” and “Lord how I wish there was a ZERO available here. Am I being too harsh? No, not at all. This is an AWFUL beer.” Its included on the website’s list of lowest rated beers, and is also on ratebeer.com’s worst beer list. Then why does it continue to be one of the best-selling beers in the country?

I was ready to find out.

Coors Light in Glass

To be honest I think I’ve only ever drank Coors Light from a can, so I was kind of surprised by the color. The beer is a translucent, pale yellow, closer the color of white wine than a beer. It was super fizzy, with a small white head that bubbled off very quickly.

So what’s so bad about the smell and the taste that makes beer snobs turn up their noses? Nothing.

Namely, the beer smells and tastes like nothing.

But you’ve had Coors Light before. You probably can imagine the taste right now. You know it has a taste right? Well, yeah, there is a grainy, malty smell and taste to the stuff, albeit watered down. This is what gives it that “beer” taste we’re all so familiar with. But that’s about all there is to it; there’s no complexity, no ‘oomph’ to the stuff. It is, one note, boring; the beer equivalent of Kristen Stewart’s acting.

Should I drink it?

When Coors Light is ice cold, it can be very refreshing. So if it’s 110 degrees outside and your looking to cool off, this is a perfectly acceptable beer to drink. But if you’re looking for something flavorful, a beer you can truly savor, you might want to try something else.

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Snake Dog IPA – Brew Review

Snake Dog IPA

Snake Dog IPA is one of several IPA’s brewed by Flying Dog Brewery. Originally started in Aspen, Colorado in 1990, all production was moved to Fredrick, Maryland back in 2008, which right down the road from where I live (so you can now stalk me. You’re welcome.). Flying Dog beers are pretty easy to point out for two reasons; the trippy label art done by Ralph Steadman (illustrator of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), and the make-your-grandma-faint names like “Doggie Style” and “Raging Bitch”. The brewery has some clout in the beer world as well, and their Doggie Style was named “Best Pale Ale in America” at the Great American Beer Festival in 1991.

What is an IPA?

Yes I have a framed photo of Michael Jordan. Space Jam changed my life.

Yes I have a framed photo of Michael Jordan. Don’t hate.

The IPA, or India Pale Ale, was first brewed during the British colonization of India. The beer sent to the troops would spoil (if you’ve ever had a skunked beer, that’s what they were dealing with), so brewers discovered by adding more hops and alcohol to the beer, both of which have preservative qualities, the stuff would last a lot longer.

In the US, breweries have taken the humble IPA to a new level, playing and adjusting the recipe to create stronger and hoppier concoctions.

Personally, I’ve never been a huge fan of IPAs or other Pale Ales, because the hops tend to make the stuff pretty bitter. Maybe its my delicate lady taste buds, or my weak female constitution, but they’re a little too strong for me.  However, as far as IPAs go, Snake Dog is a pretty good one.

Snake Dog IPA 2

The color was a bright  amber, with a minimal foamy white head. The smell is bright and fruity, ripe with citrus scents like tangerine and grapefruit, as well as hints of yeast. The taste is sweet and malty, with more citrus, as well as the traditional IPA hoppy bitterness. The ABV of this beer is pretty high (7.2%) so you do get a little bit of that alcohol flavor at the end, but the beer is dry, crisp and refreshing.

Should I Drink It?

The Snake Dog IPA is true to the American style of India Pale Ales and a good choice if you like this style of beer. If you have petite, estrogen-laden taste buds like me, you may want to stick with something a little less bitter.

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Brew Review – Shiner Hefeweizen

The weather finally warmed up here last week; mother nature completely forgot a little thing called “spring” and the temperatures went from the mid-50’s to high 80’s over a 3 day span. Seeing warm weather as an excuse to drink more beer, I stopped and picked up a variety 6-pack of Shiner Beer.  (Other things I use as an excuse to drink more beer include: when the weather cools down, when its raining, if I find loose change in the sofa, or if I have just finished a beer)

Shiner Beer is brewed at the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas. Their most popular beer is a bock that’s currently available in 42 states. The 6-pack included the Bock, along with a couple other great varieties, but I opted to try the hefeweizen.

Shiner Hefeweizen

Shiner Hefeweizen

What is a Hefeweizen?

A hefeweizen is a wheat beer, the “Hefe” part meaning “with yeast”. It is an unfiltered beer, so if it looks cloudy don’t throw it away (for the love of God, never throw away a beer. Unless it’s Natty Light).  The color is a perky orange, with a thick white head. The aroma is citrusy, with notes of lemon and orange that are also prevalent in the taste (I know this probably sounds redundant, as a lot of things taste like they smell, but beer can be a little trickier). It was smooth and light bodied, with a subtler flavor than other Hefeweizens I’ve tasted.

Shiner Hefeweizen full

Traditionally hefeweizens are served in a special glass that is curvier than Sofia Vergara, but you can drink it from a soup bowl for all I care. Personally, I chose my tall pint glass that I recently purchased at Epcot, where it cost me $11.50 for one beer. I figured I should get as much use out of it as possible at that price.

Should I drink it?

Shiner Hefeweizen is definitely worth a try. The flavor is lighter than most hefewizens, so if you’re not sure about this type of beer I’d say start with Shiner’s.

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