Looking at a couple FoCo seasonals

Okay, I have to be straight. For the past couple posts, I’ve had what looks like a plan for my episodes, with “good next-step beers,” and “beers that challenge me.” But really, I have a whole refrigerator full of random beers.  I’ve just been thinking of creative ways to drink them, review them and get rid of them. I’d like to say that I’ve changed my ways, but I just can’t do it yet. The good news is, I can see the light. Just one more beer I want to review that’s been in my fridge for more than a month. That being said, my next two beers aren’t ones I’m trying to get rid of; I’ve just had them for far too long to not give them any love.

I reviewed a couple of seasonals over the past week that I absolutely loved. Yes, we’re kind of in that funky time where it’s still technically winter, but it was 50 degrees this afternoon and spring isn’t that far away, even though it’s almost a month from now and it might snow in a few days. Whatever. I tried Odell’s Mountain Standard Double Black IPA —  which is around from November to April, apparently — and New Belgium’s spring seasonal Dig, which just came out. Seems like perfect timing to me. 

Mountain Standard Double Black IPA

I love this beer with a fiery passion. Odell said they wanted something warm and roasty for the season, and they delivered with a well-hopped, elegantly-malted 9.5% ABV cocktail. Another plus: all of the beer’s hops come from Colorado growers. Check out their description here or watch this short, nifty video here.

The beer pours almost completely black, with a hot chocolate-brown head that doesn’t fade. The lacings on the side of the glass are interesting, too, since they really seem to stick.  You get a lot of hops on the nose, with a little bit of chocolately sweetness. All of that comes out in the taste as well, which is more flavorful than bitter. It feels like the hops and malts are battling each other for top taste, but the result is a complex and flowing feel. The bitterness and alcohol content don’t come out until the very end, and by that point all it does is warm you up.

I give it a 94 out of 100. The only thing I would say is that I would’ve like a little more boldness from the hops, but that’s just personal preference.

New Belgium Dig Seasonal Pale Ale

Okay, so I’ve only had three real posts and I’ve reviewed four New Belgium beers, but 1. Like I said before, I’m pretty much reviewing whatever was in my fridge pre-beer blog, which happens to have a lot of New Belgium beers, and 2. I like New Belgium, and people have been anticipating their spring seasonal since last year’s Mighty Arrow.  I promise I won’t look at a New Belgium beer in the next post.

Dig pleasantly met my expectations when I reviewed it a few days ago, which means that it definitely didn’t let me down, but it didn’t surprise me either.

The crisp amber color, thick egg white head and hoppy, fruity smell all put Dig into the “acceptable” category for me right away. All of those marks were signs of a quality beer. The label promises a cornucopia of fruity tastes (just read the description here), and I definitely got that in the taste, but I don’t think they followed through on their word. Let me be clear, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I could taste a little bit of the mango and a good bit of the lemony, grapefruity citrus, but it tasted nothing like a fruit beer. It was light, smooth and slightly sweet: perfect for spring.

The biggest issue I had, however, was how the beer finished. It didn’t. It hits you right up front with sweet, complex, refreshing flavors and drops into an abyss at the end. I guess you could say that it lends itself to the beer’s drinkability and freshness, but I’m not buying it. Still, I’ll go ahead and say I like it better than Snow Day, and I’d be more than willing to pick this out at a bar. I give it an 89 out of 100.

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Broadening my beer horizons

Hello, everybody! This week I decided to take a page out of my own book and try a couple of beers that I thought would challenge me. I’d like to think that I’ve transcended the boundaries of “taste” and “preference,” in the beer world, but it only took a couple of minutes for me to find a couple beers that would throw me off of my high horse of beer snobbery and onto my ass. It was surprising at times, and a little painful in others, but I think I came out enlightened.

So here goes. My two choices of the week:

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1. Left Hand Brewing Company’s Fade to Black.

Fade to Black is part of Left Hand’s fantastic collections of beers, but it stands out in that it’s part of an annual series. This year’s version is a “Pepper Porter,” which follows up “Foreign Export Stout” and a “Smoked Baltic Porter.” Left Hand’s website says it reminds them of “Robert DeNiro sitting in your darkened parlour near the fire in his Louis Cyphre persona smoking a Tuscan cigar.” Pretty sweet.

So what’s the problem? I’m…not really a fan of porters. Coffee and “burnt” tastes in my beer are kind of a turnoff for me. So that flavor, mixed with pepper? Sounds like vom in a bottle. Yum!

Well, it turns out it doesn’t taste like vom in a bottle — actually, it was pretty tasty — but I would still never order it. It pours chalkboard black with a thick mocha head and has a pleasant sweet, peppery smell (apparently from dried fruit and… peppers). The taste is pretty smooth, which was great. But as the name promised, there’s a good heaping of black pepper taste that doesn’t go away ever. Now that I think about it, it’d probably make a good marinade beer. Still, I’d never drink it for fun. I give it an 88 out of 100, because it has good flavors and balance, I just don’t really like it.

2. New Belgium Cocoa Mole Ale with cocoa and spices

This beer was an impulse buy from a trip to Sam’s Club a couple of weeks ago, and it ended up tasting shockingly delicious. I mean, come on. Cocoa mole beer? If you aren’t gagging a little bit right now, you’re either a “cocoa mole” fan or don’t have taste buds and wish you felt any mouth sensation other than “hot” or “cold.”

That was what my first thought was. But after tasting it, I’ve realized my error judgment. It’s a sweet, spicy swath of tastiness. Granted, I feel like it will instantly ruin whatever food you might be eating with it, but with the amount of flavor it has, it might as well be a meal in itself.

The beer pours dark, dark brown with a cola-colored head that fades in seconds. It has a scary-high ABV of 9%, so one glass of this is equal to about two Bud Lights. It smells like cinnamon and bittersweet chocolate, which kind of reminds me of Mexican hot chocolate. When you first sip it, the smell mimics the taste, with a sweet, chocolaty smoothness up front from the beer’s caramel and chocolate malts.

But as the beer sits in your mouth, you get a slow buildup of ancho chile spice that doesn’t go away. In this respect it’s a lot like the Fade to Black, but this is a fresher, smoother, sweeter pepper flavor that I enjoy keeping around. Ever had mango salsa? Different taste, but the same idea. Also, it masks its alcohol content incredibly well, which is a mixed blessing. Over, I give it a 92 out of 100. My only criticism is that it could have benefited from a richer malt profile.

Back to basics

Before I dive into reviewing more exciting, exotic beers, I think it’d be best to start with a couple of hometown favorites of mine. When I started reviewing beers, I just kind of dove in face first, buying random beers from random breweries with wild reckless abandon. And there was nothing wrong with that! But sooner or later I realized that I’d neglected the beers I actually drink — the ones that, up to this point, I’d kind of taken for granted.

So going back to my roots, I’ve decided to pick up a couple of my favorites from New Belgium: Sunshine Wheat and 1554 Enlightened Black Ale. The two are wildly different beers in color and taste, but what’s wild is that they’re both what I consider “stepping stone” beers.

Sunshine Wheat, the light, fruity, drink-any-time-of-day beer, is perfect for people just getting into beer. With its light fluffy head and crystal clear chardonnay-yellow complexion, it looks just like bottled sunshine. Even if you think it tastes like armpits (it doesn’t), it’ll at least look nice in your hand. The taste is pretty light and fresh as well, with the carbonation and sweet citrus riding the beer down your throat. Sunshine Wheat is one of those beers that might make you a beer drinker without you even knowing it. Sneaky sneaky.

In the next step up, 1554 will hold your hand and guide you gently into the world of darker beers. Unlike Sunshine, 1554 is black as sin, with a thick frothy head that resembles hot cocoa. Also cool, if you hold it up to a light, you’ll notice that it looks like a rich, raspberry red. The smell is slightly roasty and sweet, like burnt marshmallows, but it isn’t in-your-face. What makes it a stepping-stone, however, is the taste. It can hit kind of hard with spicy rye malt flavor at first, but it’s mellow sailing all the way down. A milk chocolate taste moves in slowly and lingers after you finish. It’s not thick or incredibly complex (I kind of wish it was), but that makes it all the more drinkable.

They’re both great. I reviewed them on BeerAdvocate (check my twitter), but my personal ratings would be 89 and 91, respectively.

On another note, please let me know if you have any suggestions for the blog! More updates to come.

 

Hello, everyone!

Greetings! Here’s my first attempt at a blog for all of my beer or brewing-related adventures. Over time, I hope to make the blog look nicer and more “user-friendly.” But for right now, this’ll have to do.

I’m hoping this becomes a spot for people to follow me through my journey through all things beer, whether it beer a review, an update on my brewing or just random tidbits I pick up along the way.

I’m new to the blogosphere, so any advice or ideas on where I should go with this would be very much appreciated!