Archive for the ‘ Beer Review ’ Category

Merry Christmas from An Amateur Beer Enthusiast!

It is Christmas once again, and everyone knows what that means!

Christmas is a time for time for great food, quality time with family and friends, a few presents, and of course some well crafted beer.

This Christmas has been a bit strange in terms of my beer selection. Typically I stock up on every winter seasonal possible since many of my favorite beers are winter seasonals. This year, however, I have decided to try to some new year round craft beers in order to replace the void I have with my inability to get Thirsty Dog Brewing Company’s 12 Dogs of Christmas Ale and Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Christmas Ale (2 of the best winter seasonals from Northeast Ohio). My first series of beers comes from a fun Colorado Brewery known as Oskar Blues.

What makes Oskar Blues special in the world of craft beer is that they were the first craft brewery to can their beer. Originally Oskar Blues beer was available on a draught only basis at the Oskar Blue Grill and Brew in Lyons, Colorado. In November 2002, brewery founder Dale Katechis  launched a campaign titled “Canned Beer Apocalypse” with the canning of Oskar Blues flagship beer Dale’s Pale Ale.

At the beginning, Oskar Blues could only seal one can at a time. Now Oskar Blues offer 6 beer varieties available in cans as well as several draught only beers available at multiple Oskar Blues locations throughout Colorado.

I sampled all 6 Oskar Blues canned offerings and I must say I am very impressed. For many craft beer enthusiasts the can is a symbol of the bland tasting macro produced beers. Oskar Blues on the other hand has put some of the best beer I have ever tasted into convenience of a can.

The debate between whether beer should be canned or bottled has always raged amongst craft beer fans. The perception among many is that bottled beer is superior to canned beer. This is not necessarily true, as Oskar Blues decision to can their beer was intentional.

Canned beer actually has several benefits. Cans keep beer safe from light and oxygen, provide easier portability than bottles for both outdoor events and commercial transportation. According to Oskar Blues website, 35% of the weight of a bottled beer is the bottle itself.

Cans also protect beer from potential breakage that is very common with the transportation of glass bottles. Working in beer distribution, I have witnessed first hand the horrors of broken glass and the mess that comes when bottled beers break.

And most importantly, you cannot hang beer bottles on your Christmas tree.

I know. What an awesome picture.

Here is a brief summary of Oskar Blues “Canned Beer Apocalypse” lineup:

Dale’s Pale Ale ( American Pale Ale, 6.5% Abv, 65 IBUs): This is Oskar Blues flagship beer. It has received several accolades, including a Gold Medal from the 2010 World Beer Championships and recognition in the New York Times as one of the best American Pale Ales. Overall this beer is a great session beer that is a light amber/copper in color, and has a slight sweetness and a solid hop finish.

Mama’s Little Yella Pils (Czech Pilsner, 5.3%Abv, 35 IBUs): Mama’s Little Yella Pils is what a pilsner should be. Want something light, easy to drink and full of flavor. Well put down that Miller Lite champ and treat yourself to this beer.

Old Chub (Scottish Ale/ Wee Heavy, 8% Abv): When I drank this beer, I was slightly reminded of 12 Dogs of Christmas. While Old Chub is not as sweet, it has a semi-sweet/smokey flavor that makes this beer very warming for the cold winter months. I will certainly be buying this again during the winter season.

Gordon Ale ( Imperial Red/Double IPA, 8.7% Abv, 6o IBUs): Named after Colorado craft brewer Gordon Knight, this beer falls into the categories of IPAs I like. I tend to gravitate toward IPAs that can couple strong hop bitterness with a full body and enough malt to prevent the beer from tasting to dry. Gordon Ale is an interesting take in the world of IPAs.

Ten Fidy (Imperial Stout, 10.5% Abv, 98 IBUs): Next to Old Chub, Ten Fidy is probably my favorite beer from Oskar Blues. This beer is rich in flavor and has a deep black color that always makes me smile when I pour it into a glass. Ten Fidy has the strong chocolate/toffee flavors that do well to balance out the hop taste.

Gubna (Imperial IPA, 10% Abv, 100 IBUs): Oskar Blues calls this a hop grenade in a can. This is definitely true, as Gubna is a complex IPA. Gubna pours an orangish color that has a slight haze to it. The flavor is strong throughout the beer, but does well to not be offensive.

So there you have it. These are the beers that I have been drinking as I prepared for the Christmas season. They are all delicious and it is impressive when a craft brewery has a lineup of beers that exudes this much quality. While Ten Fidy, and Gubna are only available in expensive four packs, I will not think twice about purchasing beer from Oskar Blues in the future.

Merry Christmas readers! Drink and be merry!


An Amateur Beer Review-Part I

Thanks to a suggestion by my friend Jonathan Lim (if you write the 100th. comment he will get you free netflix…so comment), I have decided to do a series of posts explaining the process of how to review a beer.

Reviewing any beer is an art form. It may seem easy to the naked eye, but the truth is that reviewing a beer takes plenty of practice, patience, and focus. Many beers have subtle qualities that make it very easy to get confused during a review. I feel as though I have only built a comfort level on my ability to review a beer well within the past month (This blog started in Feb. 2010…so yeah, it takes a lot of practice).

With that being said, I want to remind everyone that these segments will be a crash course in beer reviewing. While I have built a solid knowledge base for beer, there are still many things that I have to learn.

To keep this easy, An Amateur Beer Review will be split into the following three parts:

1) How to review a beer.

2)What not to do during a beer review

3)A walk-through beer review with Stoudt’s Brewing Company’s Oktoberfest.

I hope An Amateur Beer Review serves to be a helpful segment. I will do my best to include mistakes that I have made in the past as well as suggestions that will help you get started as a beer reviewer.

Your Amateur Beer Enthusiast working on a review of He’Brew Genesis Ale. Check out the review for an example beer review.

1)How to review a beer:

When I became interested in beer reviewing, I used Beer Advocate as my guide. Beer Advocate is a great way to start building a foundation for beer. Not only do they break down how to taste a beer, they also provide in-depth information on reviewing a beer, beer styles, and history about beer. I also feel that Beer Advocate is a welcoming resource to those who are a bit intimidated by beer experts.

Another great place for beer education is Great Brewers. I recently discovered this resource and it has proven to help my beer writing. In terms of beer education, Great Brewers gets a little more detailed and dives into the science behind beer. For reviewing, Great Brewers gives you examples on what qualities to look for in a beer and words to describe a beer. This proves to be immensely helpful, as writing about beer as a beginner is very challenging.

Alright. Enough introduction. Here are the five areas you want to explore during a beer review:

Appearance: How does the beer look? Is the color gold, straw, tan, amber, copper, brown, black, orange, ruby? Can you see the carbonation in the beer or does it look think and viscous (this means syrupy)? Does the beer have a large amount of foam that dissipates quickly or lingers for some time? Does foam stick to the sides after dissipating? What is the head’s (interchangeable with foam) color?

Smell:While this number is disputed, smell accounts for about 80%-95% of how a drinker will perceive the taste. When you go to smell a beer, give it a few quick sniffs. Then swirl it in you glass to bring out the aromas. What do you smell? Does the malt used have nutty, bready, toasted, roasted, caramel, coffee, chocolate, toffee, or biscuity qualities? Are the hops giving off citrus, pine, earthy, floral, grassy, perfumy, or spiced aromas. Can you pick up fruit hints in the flavor? Can you smell certain spices or a yeast smell? Continue to smell your beer throughout the drinking session to see if any aromas come out as the beer warms?

Taste: It is important to note there is a right way to taste a beer. Take a sip and let the beer sit on you palate for a bit. Swirl it in your glass and taste again. Also note how the beer tastes as it warms since many flavors tend to be masked when beer is served a very cold temperatures. When it comes to taste, a good tip of advice is that the words you used to describe the smell will probably be the words you use to describe the flavor. Is the flavor subdued, bold, intense, inoffensive, overwhelming, hearty, robust? Does the beer have a dry, fruity, clean, spicy, acidic, bitter, or wet finish? Do certain flavors appear in the front, end, or sides of the sip?

Mouthfeel: One of the toughest things to do as a new beer reviewer is to not clump mouthfeel and taste together. How does the beer feel when it sits on your palate? It is thick and viscous, or is it liquidy and wet? Is the mouthfeel tingly, creamy, warming, oily, smooth? Does the beer have a large amount of carbonation or is the carbonation more moderate? Is the carbonation pleasant and bubbly, or prickly and sharp?

Drink: This is where you make a conclusion about the beer. How was the overall consumption of the beer? Would you drink another? You should also make remarks here about other beers that are similar and how well the beer fits into its style.

Well there you have it! I will make a page for this section just so people can reference it in the future.

Please comment if you have any questions about how to review a beer. I would be happy answer any questions people have.

Stay tuned for An Amateur Beer Review Part II where I will lay out what not to do when reviewing a beer.

Beer and Religion: A good combination

On Saturday the Jewish day of repentance, Yom Kippur, ended at sundown. So in celebration of the completion to this holy day I decided that I would drink a kosher beer.

He’Brew Genesis Ale from Shmatlz Brewing Company is the flagship of the He’Brew line of beers that provides beer choices for those looking to consume something kosher. He’Brew Genesis Ale in particular is certified by Kosher Supervision of America.

A beer that is Rabbi-approved? Holy it may be, is it actually any good?

Well the picture says it all.

After drinking this beer its kosher identity made sense.  He’Brew Genesis Ale is a solid brown ale that does not overwhelm in any way. The aroma, taste, and mouthfeel all have moderate qualities that make this beer easy to drink. The flavors in this beer give it just enough to avoid being too bland. This beer will both satisfy those looking to be kosher and those looking for a refreshing brown ale.

Drinking He’Brew Genesis Ale reminded me that connection between beer and religion is not something new. In fact, monasteries were (and many still are) known for brewing beer. Indigo Imp’s Candi Man is a Belgian Style Double Ale that pays homage to the Monastic breweries of the Middle Ages. I had that beer earlier this year at a local beer tasting. While I enjoyed Genesis Ale more than Candi Man, it is cool to see that there are even beer styles that are rooted in religion.

There is also a Pittsburgh brewpub called Church Brew Works that operates out of the now defunct (but restored) St. John the Baptist parish. I reviewed their Pious Monk Dunkel last May and remember it having the same inoffensive qualities as He’Brew Genesis Ale.

You can learn more about He’Brew Genesis Ale on my Examiner page. The article is located here. It is a little more detailed and will give you a better idea about how this beer tastes.

Thoughts? Questions? Comments?

McNulty’s Bier Markt and Some Updates.

Yesterday I decided that I need to get out into the Cleveland beer scene a bit more. So I took a visit to McNulty’s Bier Markt in the historic Ohio City neighborhood.

Bier Markt is a pretty awesome place. This Belgian beer bar has a ton of beer choices (just look at the sign in the picture…99 is a lot). Whether you are looking for craft beer, import beer, specialty beers, or just a simple Pabst Blue Ribbon, you will be able to find it at Bier Markt.

It even has food until 2 AM. Nice.

During my trip to Bier Markt I had Dogfish Head‘s Punkin Ale (I love that beer!) and Duvel Green. I talked a bit about Punkin Ale yesterday, but Duvel Green was a new experience for me. I have had Belgian witbiers before, but have never sampled a Belgian pale ale. Most of all, God knows I would not visit a Belgian beer bar without drinking something Belgian.

Duvel Green was a solid session beer. It has a solid wheat texture coupled with a moderate hop finish. This beer is not bland, yet it does not overwhelm in any way. Overall not a bad choice if you want a Belgian style beer. Go to my Cleveland Craft Beer Examiner Page for more on Duvel Green.

In other news, your Amateur Beer Enthusiast is planning on doing a “How-to-Review A Beer” post (Thank Jonathan Lim for this one). I am pretty excited/anxious to write this post. I feel like I have come a long way in terms of my beer knowledge, but I want to make sure I review the beer that I choose the right way.

So what beer will I review for my “How-to” post? I am glad you asked.

I chose Oktoberfest from Stoudts Brewery in Adamstown, PA. I feel pretty good about the Oktoberfest/Marzen style since I have recently written about 3 very different Oktoberfest brews. You can check them out on my Examiner page.

Photo Credit: Stoudt’s Brewery

There is one more update before I sign off. Stay posted to both An Amateur Beer Enthusiast and my Examiner page for a very special Yom Kippur article. In honor of the Jewish day of repentance, which ends tomorrow night, I am going to drink Genesis Ale form Shmaltz Brewing Company’s He’Brew brand. This special beer will come to my taste buds all the way from San Francisco, CA.

Photo Credit: Shmaltz Brewing Company

That is all I have for you guys today. Enjoy the weekend and drink something special!

Blackstone Restaurant & Brewery-Nashville, TN

So my fellow blogger and friend Jonathan S. Lim (aka Slim) recently wrote about his experience at the Blackstone Restaurant & Brewery in Nashville, TN. While Slim is not as intense about beer as I am, his blog about this brewpub is well done. Slim definitely shares my affinity for craft beer and has a sincere appreciation for good food and good beer.

Photo Credit: Jonathan S. Lim

While at Blackstone, Slim decided to go ahead an try the sampler. Now I have heard from some resources, such as Beer Advocate, that tasting samples of beer is not the best way to review a beer. While I do not entirely disagree with this notion, I think that Beer Advocate is a little extreme in their view of a sampler. You can review beers based on a sampler, but it is imperative that you drink each beer in the right order.

During any drinking session, whether you are taking notes on your beer or not, you should drink the beers with the lowest alcohol content/bitterness first. That way you will be able to taste each beer properly without having flavors (typically hop flavors) from previous beers being mixed in.

That aside, Slim did take a moment to discuss which beers were his favorite.

Photo Credit: Blackstone Brewing Blog

From his sampler, Slim enjoyed Blackstone’s Hefeweizen the best. I am a big fan of Hefeweizen, as Whippet Wheat from Thirsty Dog Brewing Company in Akron, Ohio is one of my favorite Hefeweizen’s available.

Slim also enjoyed the Chaser Pale, which is Blackstone’s German Kolsch, and Maris Otter, which an English Barely Wine from Blackstone. I do not have much experience with Kolsch or Barely Wines, so I cannot speak too much about these styles. I will say however that Slim have a similar taste in beer, so if you agree with most of my reviews than it is safe to say you will enjoy Slim’s beer suggestions.

Yet again, Blackstone Restaurant & Brewery will be added to my list of brewpubs that I need to visit. If you are ever in the Nashville area I encourage you to visit here. Slim’s advice is pretty sound, as he highly recommends Blackstone Restaurant & Brewery.

365 Days…365 Beers

My former college professor recently shared with me a unique blog that you should definitely check out. Drew Nelson of Pittsburgh is taking on a daunting task with his Wordpress blog 365 Days…365 Beers.

Photo Credit: Pop City Media

The title says it all. Nelson is drinking and reviewing a new beer for each day of the year. This project started back in November 2009 when Nelson and his girlfriend discovered the six-pack shop 3 Sons Dogs and Suds in Wexford, PA. This shop offers mixed six-packs (which I would love to have closer to me in Ohio) so you can try a selection of beers without having to spend too much.

As Nelson tried more beers, he began researching their beer selection on Beer Advocate (great resource for all you beer questions) and the idea just melded together.

Nelson has since been buying most of his beer from Estate Wine and Beer in Boardman, Ohio. In an article from Pop City Media, Nelson said, “[Estate Wine and Beer] is the number one rated store in the world according to He has 800 different beers out there. I make a trip once a month to stock up.”

800 different beers….Nice! I know where I am going to stock up.

Anways take a look at Nelson’s blog. While the beers on his list are all considered high quality, his reviews focus less on technicality and more on a general description of the beer. Overall, Nelson’s blog does well to connect amateur beer drinkers to the world of craft beer.

So grab one of Nelson’s beer suggestions and drink up! I am sure with 365 choices you will surely find one that tickles your fancy.

Heavy Seas Loose Cannon American Hop ^ 3

For quite some time I have been trying to get people to do guest reviews for my blog with the hopes that An Amateur Beer Enthusiast could become more than just my perspective of beer. So Thanasis Tsiris, famed author of the blog Thanasis Tsiris, has put together what I think is a pretty nice beer review. Here is Thanasis’s review of Heavy Seas Loose Cannon American Hop ^ 3 from Clipper City Brewing Company in Baltimore, Maryland.

Heavy Seas Loose Cannon American Hop ^ 3 by Thanasis Tsiris

I was recently slogging my way through a round of Tiger Woods golf on the Wii when I remembered that I had promised my good friend James Jennings (coincidentally enough also the author of this blog) that I would write a guest beer review for him. Luckily I had just purchased a variety 6-pack from Slippery Rock’s best beer place, Coney Island. After my fourth bogey in a row I took a break from looking at my +8 score to pop the top off a Heavy Seas Loose Cannon American Hop3 Ale. Now it should be noted that, for you loyal readers of this blog, James is a stickler for taking notes while he drinks the beers he reviews. Not me. I was too busy with video game sports to be bothered. I finished my beer and the round of golf at +11.

 Moral of the story?

 At 7.0% abv, Loose Cannon did not help me play video game golf.

 But it sure was a delicious beer. Anyone reading this that knows me may find it ironic that I’m writing a piece about a good beer. Those same people have likely seen me with a camo can of Busch Light in my hands, or worse. (I once drank a beer that was simply entitled “Beer Ice.” True story.)

 But I digress.

 When I find a good beer that I like I usually like it a lot. Loose Cannon is one of those cases. Brewed by Heavy Seas, a branch of Baltimore’s Clipper City Brewing Co., Loose Cannon is a quality beer that is both easily drinkable yet hearty enough to make memorable. It’s rich amber color distinctly reminded me of Yuengling, yet the taste was altogether different. Heavy Seas describes it as having a “rich citrus hop aroma.” Well, considering the label on the bottle has “Hop3 Ale” printed on it, I’d say the website understates the hop level a bit. Don’t let this deter you; Loose Cannon is really wonderful for anyone that likes some hops in their beer. It is a great IPA and I highly recommend trying it if you can get your hands on a bottle.  Heavy Seas also offers a wide variety of other brews that I’m eager to get my hands on. I hesitate to compare the taste of Loose Cannon to anything else I’ve had before because I like it so much that I just want people to try it on their own without any preconceived notions. Give it a shot.

 Plus it has a pirate on the bottle. Who doesn’t love pirates? (The Johnny Depp kind, not the angry “we’ll blow you up with a rocket launcher” kind.)

Photo Credit: It’s The Beer Talking

There you have it! The first guest review for this site gone and done. I hoped you enjoyed it. I think I am going to review Loose Cannon for my Cleveland Craft Beer page at The Examiner. Thanks again Thanasis.