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As the waitress approached I contemplated a large fresh glass of the finest on-tap-offering of the house. After she slid through the ho hum stuff I waited for something interesting. I almost missed “Sam Adams” in the screed of watery near beer names. “Oh, which Sam is it?” A blank look came back. “Just regular Sam, you know.” Well, I didn’t know, and plainly she didn’t either because what was regular to her might have been very unregular to me. As I pressed her on the matter she recalled that it was the regular “Summer Sam” as contrasted by the regular everyday Sam by which I further pursued and found to be as I expected the lager. As she did indeed have the lager on tap I gave her the order and felt glad to escape with at least something dependable. Nevertheless I ruminated on this branding of Sam, sort of the Scotch tape syndrome (Scotch makes lots of things sticky but we all know it means cellophane tape)

By chance, as the season of summer wrapped up and the guests and rentals went home I was offered some beer remnants of a bit of a last get together at the theatre for staff and actors. There was Sam Adams it was declared. Well sure enough along with a few heineken cans (bad idea for them)was a collection of Sam. However, it was Sam Adams Boston Stock Ale. Now that was a pleasant surprise!

As usual, Boston Beer Co. has a first rate stock ale, robust, smooth less hoppy than other ales but with a suitable dryness. Well done. I would take it everyday over their trademark lager as a standard drink.

You know the Sam Adams label is dependable in that whatever the variety it is on is truly brewed at the high end of that particular recipe. Count on it, Scotch Ale – perfect (and lamented that it seems to have faded from the scene) Stout, fine, lager indeed. And now yesterday as I scrambled to fill the void left in the fridge with the end of the huge stock of Pabst cans, I grabbed a six of Octoberfest on a last minute impulse. I generally will steer away from Octoberfest brew for some reason, but here again the Sam label came through. The drink gave me a complex taste of fall, some heaviness and sweetness, multiple flavors that stay with you in the mouth. Another one is almost automatic – the desire to get that roundness of taste swimming along on the palate. Just as fall caries a hint of the coming winter so the octoberfest carried a hint of the Winter Lager that will be coming along soon enough!
HaveAnother

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btl_DBThe summer has been a wash out. Today with the rain pounding down and a damp chill descending on the house I thought about the whimsical 4 pack of Sam Adams Imperial Series Double Bock lager I purchased the other day while stocking up on my summer volume beer, Pabst. (See other posts for the story)
I packed some venison sausage, whole grain macaroni and a fresh egg from under one of our hens into a bowl, popped the mix into the microwave and grabbed a Double Bock from the fridge. As the turntable hummed around, I drew in a long sip of the mahogany lager. Wow! this beer is ultimately smooth! On the label Jim Koch tells us that this “lager reveals a deep mahogany color and velvety smooth flavor.” Well I wouldn’t use the words velvet but I get the image. This double bock is silky smooth. 9.5% ABV is hidden inside this superb brew. Not a hint of harshness; the malt is huge. Drink this for dessert period.
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With the Sam Adams Imperial Series and Harpoon’s Leviathan we have a bundle of the finest kind right here. More to come, Sam has an Imperial Stout, also.
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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.
HaveAnother

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Summer has arrived finally. The warm, somewhat humid, sunny day brought me to the beer store or, more correctly for the Live Free or Die state, the regular old grocery store, Hannaford. I rolled past the cooler windows looking for the just right brew for this bright summer day. I slid past all the IPA’s: Harpoon, Smuttynose, Red Hook, etc. I even passed up the thin little slot where the Harpoon Leviathan brew Imperial IPA sat. I went past the Guinness Extra Stout and even past the Sam Adams summer ales – summer this, summer that – wimp beer I say.

Pabst-1I know what was really on my mind – summer quantity – the volume pack – in cans – cold – budget priced, but… had to have the taste that came through in an ice cold can. Well it could have been Bud, which certainly fits that bill pretty much, except my summer brew secret is Pabst Blue Ribbon!

I’m not going to tell you that I would pour it into a pint glass and watch the head form, or remark on the grand color, or describe the array of tastes it releases. No, it is a thirst quencher first and foremost. It is crisp and clean, a touch of hops, a dry after taste but nothing to write home about. Pabst is durable and, unlike Bud, the last ounce in a slightly warmed up can doesn’t get skunked. None of that bad Bud aftertaste from the dregs.

One might wonder where Pabst has been over the years. They proudly write of the America’s Best award from 1893 on the cans. However as the Best Big Brewery they garnered awards in 2006 and 2007. Pabst serves as the brewery behind many old brands including Ballantine, Schlitz, Shaeffer, Olympia, Blatz and on and on.ourPortfolio-1

HaveAnother
Pabst six

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If “Hiking the Appalachian Trail” is the new way of saying “I am having an affair with a hottie from Argentina“, after today stepping up to the bar and saying “I’ll have a Guinness” might pique the interest of some adventurous bar patrons and possibly give you a story to tell for years to come…

*** WARNING!!!  VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED ***

 

HaveAnother

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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!

HaveAnother

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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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Luckily, as the cold rain set in yesterday, I had just restocked the fridge with  my  Beer of the Month Club   allotment. This is a grand club, beats Book of The Month all hollow, no long term storage problem and renewable adventures to boot. I had puttered inside the house all day, slipping out into the driveway every so often scoping out whether the weather would break enough to get some outside work done. To no avail, alas, so as evening settled I reached for an adventure in a bottle. There was  Lion Stout cooling its heels alongside three other offerings. 

IMG_3241As soon as the cap came off, an intense dark chocolate, fudge, mocoa aroma spilled into the room. I do not usually lead with my nose on such things but this filled the air. Then the pivotal sip and multiple tastes of darkness and stoutness swam in my mouth. The 8%ABV tingled around the edges just enough to give fair warning. This stout reminds me of a slightly weaker cousin of Southern Tier Chocolate Sout. Definitely a tasty brew that brings more flavor out as it warms in the glass.

This noble brew came from Sri Lanka no less, a product of the colonial days and concocted by a Britisher to satisfy the home boys who were managing the Empire. Their web site is under construction so it is unclear if this brew is available in the US. Regardless, it is a quality chocolate-like stout, on the sweet side, smooth,with undertones of the alcohol just enough to enhance the taste. Not bad at all but if I had a choice I’d take the Southern Tier relative, Imperial Chocolate Stout, to satisfy that type of chocolate and stout craving.

Oh, by the way, I caught, on what remains of Lion Beer website, that they manage Carlsberg! On of my earlier beer experiences as noted in another post.

Post Script: Lion Brewery Beers are carried by Elite Brands in Michigan, a distributor of tons of beer and wine from all over. Check it out.

HaveAnother

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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.

HaveAnother

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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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