Sunday, March 10, 2013

New Holland Cabin Fever Brown Ale

Nestled on scenic Lake Macatawa in western Michigan, the sleepy town of Holland was best known for its tulip festival up until 1997.

It was then that two men set out to build their own brewery from the ground up. After considerable effort and steady growth, New Holland Brewing Co. has become a rousing success. Its winter seasonal, Cabin Fever Brown Ale, is exactly what you would imagine: the perfect fireside companion on a frosty winter evening.

Cabin Fever pours a dark chestnut hue in the glass with a moderate ivory head. The aromas of freshly roasted coffee, baker’s chocolate and toffee are tantalizing and inviting. It has medium heavy body with a rich mouthfeel that is coating without being sticky. Flavors of burnt caramel, figs and toasted almonds complement the mocha backbone.

Dark fruit and raisin notes lead into a dry, satisfying finish that lingers on the palate for a good while.

With the wrath of winter upon us, Cabin Fever keeps the chill of the season at bay. Clocking in at 6 percent alcohol by volume, it’s hearty enough to warm the soul but not too harsh. It’s a good match with beef stew, roasted duck or French onion soup.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Lexington Brewing Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale

Dating back to the late 1700s, Kentucky's reputation as the producer of the finest bourbon is unquestioned. In fact, Kentucky gives birth to roughly 98% of all bourbon worldwide. However, its brewing history languished until 1999, when the Lexington Brewing Company was ressurected from the ashes. Their flagship offering is their Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, which is aged in freshly used bourbon barrels for 6 months.
Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale pours golden honey color with a small off-white head. Aromas of bourbon, vanilla, demerara sugar and oak are released through the beer's mild effervescence. It is fairly light in body and mouthfeel, which prevents its sweetness from becoming cloying. The initial heat from the alcohol is soon replaced with flavors of raisins, cream, dried citrus and caramel, which are balanced out by its whiskey-infused backbone. The beer has a moderately long finish with its vanilla flavors and lingering booziness keeping you warm. Unlike most barrel-aged brews, it is light on the palate and is a perfect after dinner sipper by the fireplace. The alcohol by volume clocks in at a bold 8.19%, so proceed with caution. Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale is available in 4-packs and retails for around $11.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fat Head's Head Hunter IPA

Located in North Olmstead, Ohio, Fat Head’s Brewery has gained a cult following since opening in 2009 as a brewpub.

Its flagship brew is the award-winning Head Hunter IPA, which took a silver medal at the 2010 Great American Beer Festival and was named a “Top 25 Beer in the World” by Draft Magazine in 2009.
Success has come so quickly to Fat Head’s that the company recently opened up a separate brewery to meet the demand. The increased production has allowed it to finally begin limited distribution to central Ohio.

Head Hunter pours a slightly cloudy orange with moderate carbonation and a medium white head. Aromas of spruce, mango and fresh-squeezed citrus juice intertwine majestically.

The flavor leans toward citrus with notes of tangelo and white grapefruit with a good dollop of pine and caramel. The herbaceous hop flavors provide Head Hunter with a long-lasting finish that is dry, yet thirst-quenching. It is a perfect match for curried shrimp or grilled jerk chicken.

Head Hunter retails for $9.99 for a 4-pack and is distributed locally by Cavalier Distributing.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Ballast Point Sculpin IPA

Best known for surfing and sunshine, San Diego has the reputation as the "India Pale Ale Capital of the USA." Ballast Point Brewing Company certainly reinforces that moniker by offering a wide array of hop-centric ales. Starting as a tiny brewery in the back of a homebrew supply shop, Ballast Point has grown steadily since their meager beginnings. Their most popular offering among hopheads is the Sculpin IPA, which won a gold medal at the 2010 World Beer Cup.

Sculpin pours a dark straw in color with crackling effervescence. Fairly light-bodied for the style, Sculpin possesses tropical fruit aromas of mango and papaya. Flavors of peach, apricot and lemon linger on the long, hoppy finish. It would be a perfect match for blue cheese stuffed dates wrapped in bacon. A new arrival to the central Ohio market, the Sculpin IPA currently available in 22oz bottles and retails for around nine dollars.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Yuengling Lager

After many years of being the next-door neighbor that would perpetually not share its goods, D.G. Yuengling & Son beer is now available in the great state of Ohio. The beer was so highly coveted, many Ohioans crossed the state line in hopes of stocking up on Yuengling’s flagship brew, the Traditional Lager.

Yuengling is the United States oldest brewery, dating its roots to 1829. Proudly family-owned since its humble beginnings, Yuengling has carved out a niche with beer nerds and hipsters alike. As the “Pride of Pottsville,” the company has expanded production to three different brewery locations in order to meet the demand of thirsty drinkers.

The Traditional Lager pours a clear amber color with a moderate off-white head and high carbonation.

Aromas are of sweet toasted bread and yeast. It has pronounced flavors of caramel, fresh-cut grass and pine. The finish is medium length with just enough flavor and effervescence to keep things interesting and balanced.

Is Yuengling a great beer? In a word, no. But if you are stuck in a rut and want to break ties with run-of-the-mill macro-brewed beers, Yuengling is a great alternative to common watery swill. It is a great match for typical tailgate cuisine such as cheeseburgers and smoked sausage and will keep your thirst at bay on crisp autumn evenings. It retails for $5.89 a six pack and $10.49 for half of a case.

Stone 15th Anniversary Ale

As one of the most respected craft breweries around, Stone Brewing Co. could easily coast on its reputation alone.

Instead, it is constantly creating new beers and expanding drinkers’ palates from coast to coast.

Stone was founded in San Diego by two friends who took a beer-appreciation class together in college. Steve Wagner and Greg Koch finally realized their dream when the brewery’s doors opened in 1996. The rest is craft-brewing history. To celebrate its 15th anniversary, Stone has released “Escondidian Imperial Black IPA” to great anticipation and excitement.

Black IPA, also referred to a Cascadian Dark Ale, is a relatively new style of beer. Essentially, it combines the hoppiness of IPAs with the maltiness of porters or stouts. The Stone offering pours a rich black color with a soft tan head. Aromas of coffee, cocoa, caramel and pine intertwine effortlessly on the palate.

The predominant flavors are mocha, toffee, black licorice, citrus and vanilla – quite a combination. The silky, coating mouthfeel and liberal additions of American hops provide for a long, satisfying finish. It is a delicious balance of bitterness, sweetness and creaminess that is absolutely tantalizing.

Clocking in at a jaw-dropping 10.8 percent alcohol by volume, this brew is a seriously potent potable, so proceed with caution. If you wish to pair it with food, try it either with barbecued brisket, chorizo chili or even tiramisu. It is available in 22 ounce bottles and retails for $7.99.

Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA

Starting out in 1995 as the smallest commercial brewery in the country in sleepy Rehoboth Beach, Del., Dogfish Head is an unlikely success story. Thanks to founder Sam Calagione’s tireless promotion and his dream of creating “off-centered ales for off-centered people,” Dogfish Head now is widely regarded as one of the top craft-breweries in the United States. Calagione has written multiple books on beer, appeared in two documentary films about beer and developed and starred in the “Brew Masters” series on the Discovery Channel. The most-popular Dogfish Head offering is the 90 Minute India Pale Ale.

It pours a clear vermillion in color with a moderate off-white head. Aromas are of ruby-red grapefruit, caramel, spruce and wildflowers. The flavor is a confluence of notes of pineapple, toffee, raisin and blood orange that elegantly marries bitter and sweet. Medium-bodied, 90 Minute is neither cloying nor overpowering on the complex, lengthy finish. Hops are continually added to the beer while it is brewing, which allows for a finished product that is balanced without any harsh bitterness.

Though it drinks with such ease, I offer this piece of advice: This is an extreme beer. Be careful. At 9 percent alcohol by volume, 90 Minute is more of a sipper than a quaffer. To fully appreciate the aromatic notes, it is best enjoyed out of a snifter glass or a wine glass. Dogfish’s 90 Minute is a wonderful match for pulled pork, blue cheese or even a slice of pumpkin pie. It is available in 4-packs that sell for about $11.