Port Brewing Mongo IPA

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This had all the makings of a great beer. A brewery I usually love (Port Brewing), a Double IPA with a medium color (HOP HEAD HEAVEN!!), attractive label (yes, I still pick out beers based on their labels), and I was using my awesome new pint glass from Mr. Derek Peplau (thanks again Derek!). The only problem was I decided to drink it at around 6pm and it had not yet entered the fridge. So I decided to cool it off until around 9pm, which only enhanced the level of my anticipation. It smelled like citrus hops on the pour, and the first sip was good… just not great. I tasted the hops but it seemed like a few of them were still in hiding. Surprisingly the taste seemed to disappear the moment I swallowed it, like the aftertaste went down the hatch with the rest of the beer. Don’t get me wrong- I happily sipped the beer over the course of 90 minutes and it was easy drinking, just not very memorable for me. Were my hopes too high at the outset? I’m not sure. I wish I could try this one on tap to see if I gave it a fair shake.

Taste: B

Drinkability: B+

Vitals: 8.5% ABV

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Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout

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Perhaps it’s the harshness of this winter we’ve experienced here in New England, but I’ve been trying a lot more stouts and porters this year than is my custom. Tonight’s selection, the Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout, continues that trend.

It pours a dark (but not pitch) brown, with a moderate head (though I was careful…had a few sloppy pours recently and waiting for a thick head to subside isn’t much fun). BIG coffee aromas present as you’d expect, but also chocolate, and banana. Light to moderate carbonation but a thinner mouth feel than I’d like in a coffee stout (or really a stout in general). That “chewiness” I expected for a beer that smells as big as this one just wasn’t there.

The taste is one of strong coffee, chocolate, raisins, toffee and banana. Both the smell and the taste actually reminded me of the chocolate-frosted banana bread my mom used to make (not a bad image to conjure!). There’s some bitterness to the finish, but not much. For an 8.8% ABV beer, it’s very easy-drinking, and belies the alcohol content. I really enjoyed this one, despite stouts not being my go-to variety. It’s slightly sweet where it would work as an after dinner beer, but could be enjoyed anytime really.

Stouts and porters have really begun to grow on me since we started CBS, and I’d say this is a great one to have in regular rotation. At $5.99 for the bomber, the price is right too.

Taste: B+
Drinkability: A-
Vitals: 8.8% ABV, served from a 22oz bottle at about 45F.

Yards Poor Richard’s Tavern Spruce

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Poor Richard’s Tavern Spruce from Yards Brewing Company in Philadelphia is part of their Ales of the Revolution series. Other beers in the series feature George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. The label on the beer says “Poor Richard’s Tavern Spruce is based on Franklin’s original recipe.” The beer is brewed with molasses and spruce tips and sprigs. I really liked the label art as well as the bottle cap on this beer as well.

The beer poured a very deep red, almost mahogany color with a solid one finger head. The smell is extremely unique. There is a heavy dose of spruce upfront followed up by some spices, mostly nutmeg and a little bit of cinnamon. At the back end of the aroma there is a heavy caramel/bready smell. Just like the aroma, the flavor has a good bit of spruce in it, I can also taste the molasses that they used in the brewing process. There is a slight hop kick, but very faint. Leaves a sticky/dry feeling in my mouth.

Overall, it is a pretty good beer. It is definitely a fall/winter beer and would pair very well with Thanksgiving dinner. Not something I would pick up all the time, but would drink it every now again. Now I just need to get my hands on the Washington and Jefferson beers!

Flavor: B/B+

Drinkability: B

ABV: 5.0%

Weihenstephan Korbinian Doppelbock

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The second selection from the Weihenstephaner variety pack my wife scooped up for me at her office Yankee Swap, this is one I’ve been eying suspiciously for awhile. I’ve had a few Bocks and Doppelbocks in my life, but none were really my cup of tea. Knowing how I feel about other offerings from the Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan, I should have tried this one a lot earlier.

It pours what I assumed at first was a dark but clear brown, but on holding it up to the light it’s actually a deep, deep red color. The brown bottle conceals this as well. I poured it carefully into the 0.5 L weizen glass, but you could get a decent foam if you wanted to. Smelled of malt, raisins, chocolate, and maybe plums. This wasn’t quite what I was expecting, so on to a taste.

It has just the right amount of carbonation and a medium to heavy mouthfeel. Not quite “chewy”, but nice and substantial. Lots of nice flavors in this Doppelbock including raisins, malts, chocolate, molasses, plums, banana, and spice. A little bit of an alcohol bite, but nothing to put you off. It’s a very drinkable beer, great for this time of year.

Taste: A-
Drinkability: A-
Vitals: 1 pint, 0.9 oz bottle at 7.4% ABV served at 48F.

Imperial IPA Tasting – 2/15/11

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We were able to get nearly all the Craft Beer Social contributors together in one place for an epic tasting. We tried six different imperial IPAs, including the very-hard-to-find-on-the-east-coast Pliny the Elder. It was a great night of hops, hops and more hops and we thank Matt for opening his Black Lab Bar for the evening. 

We chose what are arguably the best imperial IPAs we could get our hands on and added in a local favorite for good measure. We worked our way through the entire library with 2oz pours of each and then went back for more if necessary to round out our ratings. Each person was asked to rate each beer 1-6 and then we added the ratings of the eight people in attendance to come up with our collective ratings (lower score = better) for the six beers. All participants took notes and may share those in future posts. 

We all took notes on appearance, smell and taste. While there were some clear favorites, we had some interesting findings. On to the final results! 

1. Russian River Pliny the Elder – 15 total points (four 1st place votes)… No surprise here, although it’s interesting to note that it received 3rd and 4th place votes. Some folks clearly weren’t impressed. It poured a beautiful orange/gold, smelled fresh and flowery and tasted, well, great. Overheard during the tasting, “It appears to be delicious.”

2. Founders Double Trouble – 20 total points (one 1st place vote)… With three 2nd place and three 3rd place votes, this one was unanimously well liked. It pours slightly hazy and bit lighter than Pliny, smell floral with a hint of “bubble gum.” Overheard during the tasting “it smells like a hockey locker room.” 

3. Wachusett Larry – 22 total points (one 1st place vote)… Another solid, well-liked entrant. It poured a very similar color as the Pliny. The smell had hints of apple and orange and the taste was a bit lighter than the previous two, a fresh and delicious example of imperial IPA. Overheard during the tasting “I’d wear this as a perfume.” 

4. Great Divide Hercules – 33 total points (two 1st place votes)… With two last place votes, this was a polarizing beer. There was also a big drop off between the Larry and this one; it might have been personal preference. Unlike the first three, Hercules pours more of an amber and smells of malt and caramel. It’s actually a bit sweet with hints of mollases. The hops comes through with a pine taste, which is in direct contrast to the first three that were fruity and flowery. 

5. Dogfish Head 90 Minute – 38 total points (zero 1st place votes)… Poured a cloudy gold color, smelled of alcohol and chemicals and had hints of grass in the taste. Perhaps a bad bottle or two? We’ll need to give this another try. 

6. Avery Maharaja – 41 total points (zero 1st place votes)… This one poured a cloudy orange and smelled musty. The taste profile included malt and mollases. One person suggested it tasted “syrupy.” There was also a very distinct alcohol finish. We’ll need to give this one another try. 

It was a great evening. I wish we had Bell’s Hopslam and Heady Topper from The Alchemist to try alongside this group. Thanks to the gang for taking time out to get together for this and especially to Shannon who not only procured the Pliny, but also pulled together most of the other beers for this tasting. 

What do you think of our ratings? Would you put them in the same order or did we #%@$ something up? Let us know. We’re social! 

Stone Brewing’s Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale

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In the fall of 2007 I discovered a great local beer store called Julio’s Liquors. I hadn’t even dipped my toe into the craft beer world at the time, so Julio’s had more varieties of beer than I’d ever seen in my life. I found myself in the “big bottle” aisle where a certain label caught my attention. The name of the beer was Arrogant Bastard, and with my dad scheduled to visit soon I figured I should pick up a bottle if only to share a laugh over the name. 

Flash forward to my parents’ visit. My dad & I were downstairs watching a college football game when I pulled out the bottle and asked if he wanted to try it. He was game, so I opened it up. I remember noticing how dark the beer looked, but it was a dark copper color. Definitely nothing like the darkness of a stout. Dad & I took a sip at about the same time, and our immediate reaction was in stereo: “WHOA”. I didn’t have much basis for comparison at the time, but my immediate reaction was that this beer tasted like an extremely concentrated (and infinitely more delicious) version of Harpoon IPA. Obviously the similar flavor I was tasting was the hops, but I didn’t know it at the time. All I knew was I loved this beer and I wanted to drink more of it. I’ll always look back on that experience as the night I became a Hop Head.

Ever since then I’ve stuck with Stone as my favorite brewery. My only issue with the Arrogant Bastard was that it’s such a commitment to open the bottle. Given the alcohol content, it’s definitely a weekend beer. You can imagine how pleased I was to be crusing the Julio’s beer aisle one day and stumble upon Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale. It’s the same delicous, hoppy Arrogant Bastard with a hint of oak flavor coming through on the palate, and it comes in a 12-ounce bottle! Perfect for a week night, and it’s backed by the same malt base I crave to compliment the hops. Pair it with some salty crackers and pepper jack cheese and you’ll be in for a treat!

Oaked Arrogant Bastard is an American Strong Ale that checks in at 7.20% ABV. 

Drinkability: A

Taste: A