Shipyard Prelude – A Winter Warmer Dressed Up as a Barleywine

 

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On my continued quest to find delicious, seasonally appropriate beer I sampled Shipyard’s Prelude Winter Warmer. This is an ale aged in bourbon barrels, which sounds wonderful.

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The beer poured a dark cooper brown with a big head that quickly settled down and left some beautiful lacing. First sip was not at all what I was expecting – instead of complex aged ale I got a sweet, heavy beer, closer to the taste and feel of a barleywine. The predominant taste was dried fruit – raisins and prunes. The beer was overwhelmingly sweet. I could see liking this if the sweet fruitiness was tempered by a stronger malty or nutty flavor. I didn’t love this beer, but if you like barleywine I would check this out. 

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Vitals:  Poured from a 22oz bottle into a tulip pint straight out of the fridge. 6.4% ABV

Taste:  B- This was a very raisiny beer, something I’d not experienced before. If you love raisins or barleywine give this a shot. 

Drinkability: C I couldn’t get through more than half a glass. This is a thick, heavy beer. I think I would have liked it a lot as part of a flight, but a whole glass was too much for me. 

Packaging: A- Typical Shipyard. Tons of good info including malt, hops and yeast types.

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Gritty McDuff’s Christmas Ale

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I found this holdover from the holidays in the back of the fridge and decided to give it another try. My first taste was a few weeks back and it didn’t blow me away, so I wasn’t in a rush to post about it. I’m a big fan of Gritty’s Black Fly Stout, so I decided to give this a try. 

This beer isn’t a spice bomb like other holiday ales, but it does have a fruity flavor I can’t quite place. It’s a bit tart, almost like cherries, but the malts do a good job of holding it in check. It’s smell is a bit off, but the color is beautiful. Overall, this is a good beer, just not my cup of tea (so to speak). 

Taste: B- …Fruity and bready, with a hint of hops. 

Drinkability: B …A little boozy. 

Packaging: C …Nice throwback label design, but no info about what’s in the bottle. 

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You are a mean one, old tom.

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I’ll admit bias to Maine Brewing Company’s offerings right off the bat. They have so many things that I appreciate in a brewery. They are small and local, they care about the big picture, and they make really good beer.

Mean Old Tom is their winter season release, a stout aged on vanilla beans. I don’t know how many of the bottles made it’s way to MA this year, It’s first year here, but I doubt many are left on the shelves.

The beer pours with a thick coco colored head, that settles as you drink it. The beer smells and tastes of coffee. Thick rich coffee, unfortunately there is not more vanilla on the nose or in the beer. If they had left it off the lable, I’d not have even thought about it.

Very enjoyable,it didnt’ blow my mind like I was hoping. At 6.99 a bottle for a bottle smaller than a bomber, your expectations are a little higher, and you might not make this a go to beer. I’d have no reservatons bringing it to a swap.

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Taste – B+ Thick, dark with a sweet coffee backbone.
Drinkability – B Pretty drinkable for the stout style, but one is enough.
Vital Stats – Bottle conditioned, 6.5% ABV, American Stout served in my CBS pint.

 

 

Can from Maine, Baxter’s Stowaway I.P.A

This thursday beer is brought to you by Maine’s own Baxter Brewing’s Stowaway I.P.A. I’m a little surprised that this really good beer has yet to be reviewed by the crew here, it’s right up their ally. It’s a local, hoppy, uniquely packaged beer, with plenty to say about it. 

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Acording to beer news.org the lewiston Maine based Baxter is poised to break New Belgium’s initial year distribution record, on tract to produce 5k barrels since it’s January debut. All while just scratching the surface of New England distribution. It’s available in MA, but I have a hard time finding it outside of the greater Boston area. Which means I made a special trip to pick this up, and so should you. 

Now on to the tasting notes. I poured the can into a glass, as recomended by @baxterbrewing. It pours with a pillowy white head, which has laced my glass from top to bottom. The initial pour was at colder than optimal temp, but as it warmed the earthy slightly piny aroma came on strong. It’s not a sweet or tropical hop smell like you’d get from a west coast ipa, it’s a punched up English ipa made with more floral American hops. Hoppy but not overly bitter, tasting balanced, finishing dry but not biting. If you like beers like Green monster IPA, Dale’s pale ale you’d like this. I’d go as far as saying it’s the best IPA I’ve had in a can. Speaking of cans this one is cool looking, Black with a Jolly Rodger, and a cool orange tab.

Taste: A-. As said above, this is my favorite IPA in a can. 

Drinkability: B+. For it’s abv, it really drinkable, I can see having a few in the cooler at the beach, or BBQ, and thinking nothing of having a few.This isn’t a knock, just I can’t imagine wanting to drink more than one of these in one sitting. It’s meant to be savored. 

Vitals: Poured from a can 50F into my DFH pint glass. 6.9% ABV 69 IBU’s 

 

 

Sebago Brewing Company’s Full Throttle Double I.P.A.

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“You hold in your hand a bomb.  An explosion of flavor awaits you in this very bottle.  Big juicy American hops burst from this unfiltered deep amber ale.  Dominated by Cascade, Centennial, Chinook and Simcoe hops, our double IPA has been dry-hopped for over a month.  Sit back, pop the cap, and drop the hammer!”

I like a good preamble to my experience with a new beer, and this is exactly what I get on the label to Sebago Brewing Company‘s Full Throttle Double I.P.A. brewed up in Gorham, Maine.  These guys obviously enjoyed making it, and that comes through in little touches like that on the label.  I’m not looking for the label equivalent of an Ingmar Bergman film on my craft beer (so, be warned, Dark Horse Brewing Company).  Moreover, I see Sebago have just opened a brew pub up in Portland, so I think I’ll be paying it a visit when I’m up to see our friends who live in Gorham (or maybe even the brewery itself).

But enough about my summer travel plans.  You probably both want to know how this beer looks, smells, and tastes.  Well, I’ll tell you.  

It pours a lovely caramel amber color with nice lacing on the glass but not a lot of head sticks around after the initial pour.  The last few beers I’ve tried haven’t exactly been projecting in the power zone so-to-speak when it comes to smell, but thankfully this number from Sebago bucks that trend.  Lots of promise on the nose of this beer, a big, bold blast of dark fruit, caramel, bread and malts.

The taste is big as well, though not that much carbonation.  It’s a bit on the sweeter side, with good malt character to balance the hops, but there’s a bitter hop bite at the finish and a warming effect from the high ABV.  Dark fruit, bready yeast, caramel, molasses, malts, and pine, but no citrus to speak of that I could detect.  NOTE:  I consulted the reviews at BA, and several people mentioned citrus notes (some even prominently).  I personally didn’t see it.  I picked up much more dark-skinned fruit, caramel and molasses.  Also, I’m thinking at this point I’d do well to get some sort of tutorial on the different types of malts; I’m not really being very specific I realize, but I just don’t know enough yet to discern one malt from another.  I recognize my limitations.

Anyway, big beer, lots of flavors going on, but sessionability suffers from the sweetness and ABV.  This would make an excellent after dinner beer, and as always, is best when shared with a friend.  Which reminds me, it’s high time we had another CBS get-together.  Time to get working on that.  

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Vitals:  Poured from a bomber at about 49F into that there pint glass.  9.10% ABV and 85 IBU.

Taste:  A-  Big taste, though a little sweeter than some may prefer.  Still, a wonderful beer.  Congratulations to the (local) folks at Sebago.  You aced this one.

Drinkability:  B-  I think this is one best shared at this size.  It’s 9.1%, so proceed with caution.  Depends on your mood and what you’re pairing it with, I suppose.  Tonight though, I say thank you, Jim Storer for the bottle stoppers!

 

Maine Beer Company Zoe

I needed to give this one a try after reading Derek's post on the same the other night. My first try of MBC's Peeper was not as positive as Derek's, but I wanted to like it. I figured Zoe might be more my speed after reading Derek's review. 

After a bad pour (check out the pics), I was underwhelmed by the nose. It was really hard to get much. I took a quick sip and BOOM.. it was too cold. I let it warm a few degrees and went in for take two. 

It pours a deep amber with a nice head that clings to the side of the glass as it slowly recedes. The smell is very subtle, so subtle that a few degrees made all the difference for me. It's not a hop bomb as Derek points out, but it smells almost like a pine forest after a rainstorm. If that sounds like a crock of shit, close your eyes and give it a try. It's there. 

While it's not heavy on the hops, it is a potpourri of malts. It's really smooth and balanced, with the hops keeping the malt in check. It's by no means a strong beer, but it's not thin either. If you like Anderson Valley Boont Amber, but wish it had a little more hops, you'll enjoy this beer. Derek mentioned Troegs Nugget Nectar… I don't think that's fair. NN is a hop bomb that'll rip your tongue out. This is a much more subtle brew. 

If you've never tried Zoe, you owe it to yourself to seek it out. Just make sure it's not too cold when you serve it. 

Vital Stats: Poured from a 22oz bottle into my trusty pint glass. Served at approximately 50F. 7.2% ABV. 
Taste: B+. I'm creating a new category for beers like this… it's a Gateway Craft Beer. I'll serve this to guests that don't typically drink craft beer. 
Drinkability: A-. This is actually a lot more drinkable than the ABV suggests. Enjoy!

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Maine Brewing Company’s Zoe

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Over the past few months I’ve become a very big fan of Maine Brewing Company‘s Peeper Ale.  Introduced to me initially by Chad Northrup, it’s going to be a go-to (when I can get it) this summer.  But this review is not about that beer.  I only share it as a pre-amble to how I found Zoe.

Maine Brewing Company’s beers don’t attract much attention to themselves on the shelves.  

They’re all in unremarkable brown bottles with pulpy white labels which look like they’ve been made out of 100% post-consumer L.L. Bean catalogues.  The printing on said labels is almost entirely (or in the case of Zoe, completely) monochromatic with minimalist (and I mean minimalist) graphics.  To wit:  the labels of the two MBC beers I’ve tried feature a smiley face (not surrounded by a circle, mind you; that’d be showy) and a jazzercizing stick figure.  If you didn’t know to look for them you’d probably walk right on by.

But that would be a mistake.

As a Peeper devotee, when I spotted their Zoe amber ale on the shelf, my first (and as it turns out, correct) instinct was:  *yoink!*

Now, if you are only a fan of extreme beers which kick down your door with 463 IBU’s, punch you in the face and leave your palette a scorched wasteland which you can brag to your friends the next day about surviving, then you will likely not appreciate what MBC is doing here.  

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Zoe pours a rich reddish-brown color with a frothy head which over the course of enjoying it, stuck to the sides of the glass looking like dishwashing soap rather than the delicate lacing you often see.  The smell was hoppy with pine and grass notes poking through.  Not overpowering, but fresh and inviting.

The taste is reasonably balanced by malt, but hops definitely are in the driver seat here with a hoppy bitterness which runs the length of each sip.  The initial mouth-feel is slightly oily (but not in a bad way), followed by piney resin, and a hint of caramel (which I had to hunt for a little).  The individual flavor notes are there, but they’re subtle.  A slight warming effect from the alcohol at the finish.  This bottle was lot 042811, so it doesn’t get much fresher than this.  

Vitals: Poured from 1 pint .9 fl oz bottle into a pint glass.  7.2% ABV.

Taste:  A-  Really nice hoppy beer, balanced by just enough malts with a few interesting flavor notes to discover.  I’ve seen it compared to Troeg’s Nugget Nectar, and I’d say this one might be better.  I think a side-by-side may have to happen with the CBS crew.

Drinkability:  B.  If enjoyed between 45-50 F, it’d hover closer to a B+.  I let what didn’t fit into the glass warm above 50, and I didn’t enjoy it as much as the bitterness became more pronounced.  This beer doesn’t betray too much of the 7.2% ABV, so watch your step, but I could’ve gone for another one when this was done.