Archive for the ‘Ale’ Category

Ah! A cold Pabst can to finish as le Grand Boucle draws to a close in Paris. It has been a long three weeks of the world’s longest and toughest bicycle race. Pabst was my mainstay with a few Harpoon and Smuttynose IPAs thrown in.

Today I discovered an exceptional brew, Lobster Ale by Belfast Maine Brewery. This red ale was served up on tap at the local Lobster Trap Restaurant on West Side Road in North Conway. This ale had deep taste with a gentle hop zing, smooth on the way down, easy aftertaste. A classy surprise.
When I read the fine print on the brewery’s website it turns out that it is brewed now by Shipyard in Portland which was at one time partly owned by Miller. The original owners bought back from Miller that share and now continue as an independent. That is a twist I wasn’t expecting.
The Lobster Ale is still first rate and it has a cousin, McGovern Oatmeal Stout, which may be worth investigating.

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Grey Lady Ale by Cisco Brewers in Nantucket MA pours a pale cloudy, yellow/grey and finishes in the glass with a thin head.  The aroma is thickGreyLady and yeasty, almost like sniffing a waterlogged loaf of Wonder Bread, with the distinct smell of banana.

The first sip starts smooth but has minimal effervescence and is quickly bogged down in the middle of your mouth feeling more like a thin fruit smoothie than a beer.  From that point forward I struggled to choke the beer down.  Grey Lady Ale is thick and creamy.  In my opinion even an American version of a Belgian Wit Ale should be relatively light and refreshing, only slightly creamy, with a crisp finish.

In full disclosure I must admit that I don’t like bananas.  In fact if they became extinct tomorrow I would not mourn the loss of diversity in the fruit world.  Likewise I would not be sad if Grey Lady Ale suffered the same apocalyptic demise.  Others may feel differently, but please keep your bananas away from my beer!


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Brown Shugga’ Sweet Release is listed on the Lagunitas Brewing Company’s website with an approximate release date of October 2009.  So how BrownShuggadid we get a bottle in July?  We could say “Ancient Chinese secret” or “Membership has its privileges” but honestly it was dumb luck for us and that is GOLD FOR YOU!!!

The first thing I noticed after popping the cap was the deliciously sweet and woody molasses/caramel aroma.  Pouring this brew into a pint glass only enhanced that aroma and made my mouth water.  The ale maintained a great head (see image to the left).  The sweet aroma is tempered by a hoppy bitter flavor that gives this ale a  gentle grittiness that is appealing to the nose and puts your other senses on high alert. 

The firs taste of this beer does not disappoint.  Sweet molasses and the woody hops blend perfectly and do not conflict or separate in your mouth.  The lingering aftertaste of brown sugar and caramel sticks to the roof of your mouth long after the glass is empty and with an ABV of 9.5% you will be reaching for a second bottle before you even finish the first.

This beer is definitely worth it!


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This past weekend a wedding happened in the family. All was perfect: the conversation, the reconnecting to seldom seen relatives, the accommodations, the food, and the drink. Well, the beer was fine and there was plenty and there were a few varieties. Nothing more could be asked for… except… what if the beer guys created the beer list for the wedding?!

Now a wedding brings all ages together; it brings all tastes together. There are always surprises, folks from far away, different cultures, different languages, heritage, traditions. And that was just what made this wedding great. So what would the beer list be?

Must have an American light, maybe Coors – a crisp clean drink. The quintessential pedestrian brew, Budweiser. Corona for those favoring south of the border? Maybe Dos Equis too. Heineken, no one in western Europe would fault that pick (remember this is a wedding not a bachelor party). Now, specialty brews – for the smart set – the young professionals – should have micro brew status but be familiar (this is not a beer tasting – beer complements the evening not commands it). New England should be featured, especially for those from afar who are sight-seeing in the area. Harpoon or Smuttynose IPA, there! two NE states and lots of character.  Samuel Adams Boston Ale… yes, good pick and a Long Trail Ale, there is Vermont, maybe Tuckermans, that is a well known landmark but a quiet brew fresh from the White Mountains. Now the old timers need attention, well certainly the IPA should fit but how about a stout…

An American stout, Sierra Nevada? if we can find a supply, Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout? but a New England stout??? Ah, two birds with one beer, 6288 Stout from Tuckermans. A great label, a solid regional brew, a reasonable stout and of course the title refers to the altitude of Mount Washington, site of the worst weather in North America.

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This brings me to the second half of the title, Harpoon. I have mentioned Harpoon IPA in other posts, “the standard setter for IPA’s” I said. What we have in Harpoon’s IPA is a brew for the long haul. We don’t buy it in four-packs; we purchase 12 bottle boxes which disappear from the fridge at an alarming rate. This is a substantially different drink than the Lion. It is steady, refreshing, and holds its attraction over time, day after day.

LabelHarpoon wasn’t always that way. When I first tasted the original Harpoon Ale I was sadly disappointed. Maybe it was the earliest days of Sam Adams and Geary’s Ale, before the craft brewing renewal caught fire. I found the brew unimaginative. after a few attempts to come to grips with Harpoon I gave up and stayed away for some time.

Eventually though with a revamped label and an IPA to offer I gave the brewery another chance. I have never looked back. They found the key to an ultra-fine brew. As Alex says in his comment to my Leviathan post where I say that Harpoon IPA is the standard setter,  “Could not agree more. It may even be the standard setter for beer in general.”

ipa_b_g_200x367(1)The real dividing line of beer is the brew that becomes a standard drink vs. the brew that is a novelty, a “seasonal”, an occasional, a “yeah, that wasn’t bad!” Harpoon IPA is the standard, much like Sam Adams is a standard. Lion Imperial is an occasional.

I popped a twelve pack of Harpoon IPA into the fridge recently and have reached in nightly with delight and poured a glass full. Ah, after a day of work, the hops bring out the crisp flavor with a fullness, a drinkability, a refreshing zing. Ah!


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SmuttyIPASmuttynose IPA has character… its own character. The bitters come with the first sip from the glass and grow in your mouth. This is the taste of my youth in mega dose. After a mouthful has drifted down into the internal plumbing the taste in the mouth holds the hops, a dryness that begs for another draught of the good stuff. Take a long pull and enjoy the rush of flavor, then the astringent aftertaste.

This IPA is akin to  Extra Special Bitters. A much more hoppy ale than Harpoon’s, which is pretty much the standard in our minds for regular IPA. I qualify with “regular” because the Big Brews/Imperials have some real rocket fuel versions that fit in another class.

Smuttynose Brewery is one of a dozen or so New Hampshire craft breweries (excluding of course the mega brewery Budweiser in Merrimack). It takes its name from an island off the NH/Maine coast about ten nautical miles from Portsmouth. This is the ale of the oldtime longliners in their schooners off the Isles of Shoals. It is the ale of the lobsterman among the rocky shoreline coves. It is the brew of the dorymen bent to the oars with a load of cod. It is the “finestkind”, “ayuh”, “fawe shuah”.

Excuse me while I fill up the glass with another. One is never enough of this class act brew.


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GORDONYES, YES, YES!  Not only have I been on a canned beer kick I am focusing on Oskar Blues Brewery LLC brews!!! And I make NO APOLOGIES!!!  Today I pulled the tab on a GORDON. Ale.  GORDON. Ale is brewed in honor of Gordon Knight, on the back of the can is printed “If you knew Gordon Knight, this ale needs no explanation.  If you didn’t, we’re sorry.” for the full story on Gordon knight click HERE.

I never had the pleasure of knowing Gordon BUT if this brew captures even 10% of his character then I would have been humbled to sit on the front porch on a late spring evening and crack open a deliciously cold brew with him.  I imagine a man full of life, humble but not soft spoken, a man who does not have opinions but PASSIONS!

Oskar Blues Brewery LLC has made a fine ale in the name of GORDON.  This brew is a deliciously crisp red/amber color with an aroma of fresh cut flowers and grass.  This ale strikes the perfect balance between “Bitter Hoppiness” and “Creamy Smooth”.  My only compaint (and believe me it is a small one) would be tha the color is just a little to “crystal clear” for a beer with so much flavor and body!  This beer goes down almost too easily!  Better buy  two or even three 4-packs.

When it comes to bright, amber ales, GORDON. is one ale that truly passes muster.  I think I have found a new “Old Favorite”.  Drink half a can and I am sure you will agree!


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