Beer Review: AleSmith’s Speedway Stout

Name: Speedway Stout

Brewing Company: Alesmith Brewing Company)
Location: San Diego, CA
Style: Stout – American Imperial/Double
ABV: 12%

From AleSmith’s page for the beer:

Speedway Stout’s ominous, pitch-black appearance has become a hallmark of this modern-day classic. Chocolate and roasted malts dominate the flavor, supported by notes of dark fruit, toffee, and caramel. A healthy dose of locally-roasted coffee from Ryan Bros. Coffee, Inc. added to each batch brings out the beer’s dark chocolate flavors and enhances its drinkability. Despite its intensity, Speedway Stout’s fine carbonation and creamy mouthfeel make it very smooth and surprisingly easy to drink. This beer ages very well and will continue to mature for many years to come.

AleSmith is one of the great California craft breweries, having established itself as a presence in San Diego over twenty years ago in 1995. Their beers have won acclaim and loyal fans from their IPAs, their San Diego Pale Ale .394 (named in honor of Tony Gwynn) and this, perhaps their most popular beer with over 100,000 check-ins in untappd. I’ve wanted to try it (or one of its variants) for a while and I’m pleased I finally did.

I’ve seen the beer in large bottles and pint cans, with the pint cans sold singly for about $7, which may be pricey for a single pint in a liquor store but compared to a pint in a bar, it is a bargain. Be that as it may, I popped open the can and out came a thick black beer that was quite dark. As the head formed, there was a little bit of a deep brown at the top and in the foam – the color was reminiscent of a lightly creamed coffee. In other words, this looked like my kind of stout. With an aroma of coffee coming from the glass along with the roasted malts, I barely sat down before taking the first sip.

Whoa-Damn!

This beer is a flavor assault, in a good way. The the typical stout-like flavors are present: roasted malts, extra hops since this an imperial stout and an ample amount of coffee. Usually stouts this high in alcohol with this complex of a flavor profile are barrel-aged. The brewmaster(s) at AleSmith coaxes plenty of flavor without the addition of the stout having aged in barrels and that is quite impressive. While the hops are definitely present as I said, they were just one component of the flavor profile and not overly dominant like I’ve had in some other stouts from West Coast breweries.

As much as the flavor profile is potent and delicious, one thing that is deceiving is the ABV. While you do get some of the alcohol and slight booziness, I would never guess this beer is 12% ABV.

After some friends and coworkers talked up this beer, I had fairly high hopes for it. I was a little cautious because some the hops can be far too dominant on some of these stouts, but that was far from the case with Speedway Stout.

Highly recommended. Now I just need to try some of the variants.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer: Heavy Weight (Level 58)

Heavy Weight (Level 58)

You like it thick and dark. Your beer! What did you think we were talking about? That’s 290 different beers with the style of Porter or Stout.

2X (Level 29)

When a single isn’t enough, make it a double. Doubling the hops and malts in a recipe results in a higher ABV and can pack quite a boozey punch. That’s 145 different beers with the style that contains Imperial / Double in its style name.

 

 

Beer Review: Bell’s Amber Ale

Name: Amber Ale
Brewing Company: Bell’s Brewery
Location: Comstock, MI
Style: Red Ale – American Amber / Red
Style: 5.8%

From the beer’s description on Bell’s Brewery landing page for the beer:

The beer that helped build our brewery; Bell’s Amber Ale features both toasted and sweet caramel notes from carefully selected malts, balanced with herbal and citrus hop aromas. Capped by a clean bitterness, it’s incredibly versatile with food, but very tasty on its own.

Bell’s Brewery, Michigan’s largest independent Craft Brewery, has finally arrived in New Jersey and many of the State’s residents (including myself) are quite excited. Their Two Hearted IPA, which I tried and loved earlier in the year, is rightfully one of the most renowned IPAs in the country. I reviewed Oberon Ale last year, so I decided to celebrate Bell’s arrival with a second review of one of their beers and went with the beer they peg as their foundational ale Amber Ale

Amber Ales are one of those staple styles that don’t get much attention especially compared the hottest DDH IPA or Barrel Aged Stout, but seem to be part of almost every brewery’s profile. Hell, two of the most widely available craft beers in the country are New Belgium’s Fat Tire (Amber Ale) and Yuengling’s Lager (an Amber Lager). Often not quite as hoppy as an IPA, but with a similar, though less aggressive hop profile, Amber Ales are good everyday ales and perfect starter, approachable or “entry” ales for folks looking for more flavorful than the  “Adjunct Lagers” produced by Big Beer. Bell’s Amber Ale fits that bill perfectly.

Not too much of a distinctive aroma rises from the beer poured into the glass. The color is indeed Amber and if I were to guess what the beer is without knowing, I’d probably guess one of the two beers I mentioned in the first paragraph – Yuengling Lager or New Belgium Fat Tire.

The beer tastes…really good. There’s nothing flashy about the beer, but that’s fine. There are pleasing hop notes with a very nice level of maltiness to give the beer some substance. Between the roast and the malt, there’s a bit of caramel to the taste, too. The ale is very drinkable, relatively thirst-quenching and just overall, what you’d want in a flavorful beer.

I had a second bottle a couple of nights later and I liked it even more. I’ll admit that I was anxious to try a beer from Bell’s I hadn’t previously tasted and probably didn’t let the six pack sit in the fridge long enough. The beer is approachable enough that it will complement most meals and not overpower what you’re eating the way big, roasty stout might or a hoppy double IPA could. For me, this is a great beer to have with your pizza and for me that means having the beer available in my fridge very regularly since I have pizza every Friday night.

If you want to bring something to a party where many people with mixed tastes will be attending, Bell’s Amber Ale would be perfect – an ale that strikes a great balance for those who are wary of “Craft Beer” and those like myself who appreciate flavorful Craft beer from Independent Breweries.

Recommended, link to Untappd 3.75-star rating.

Beer Review: Founders Brewing Dankwood

Name: Dankwood
Brewing Company: Founders Brewing Co. (Barrel Aged Series)
Location: Grand Rapids, MI
Style: Red Ale – Imperial/Double (Untappd) / Imperial Red IPA (Founders’ bottle)
ABV: 12.2%

Official Barrel Aged glass courtesy of Founders.

From Founders’ page for the beer:

What do you get when a big, bold imperial red IPA meets an oak bourbon barrel? A palate stunner that’ll send your senses spinning or, as we like to call it, Dankwood. Rich caramel notes emerge from the depths of the IPA, highlighting strong malt character while the bourbon barrel-aging develops the complexity. A dank, sticky and slightly sweet sipper, Dankwood is the perfect alchemy of wood and hops.

I’ve made it pretty clear that Founders is one of my favorite (easily top 5) nationally distributed craft breweries, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’m reviewing another beer from them. Last year, Founders kicked off a major brewing program, The Barrel Aged Series and included long-time favorites Kentucky Breakfast Stout and Backwoods Bastard (which I reviewed last year) and newer brews, like Doom (basically, Double Trouble barrel aged) and this one, Dankwood, which is basically ReDANKulous aged in barrels.

Popping open the beer and pouring it into the bottle a wonderful booziness from the bourbon wafts towards me. The beer initially seems a dark red, but as it settles into the glass, the color seems more caramelized. First sip is potent hops but smoothed out by the barrel aging.

There are a lot of powerful flavors swirling in the glass. Hops, bourbon, oak, with an ample malt backbone. Two out of four are standard for a big, bold IPA, with the malt more pronounced in some Red Ales. This is most definitely a beer you want to drink slowly in sips to enjoy the complexity of the hops interacting with the bourbon aging. As it warms, the maltiness is a bit more pronounced. Quite frankly, the beer becomes more of what it claims to be as it settles into the glass. Like many barrel aged beers, wafting in the aroma is nearly as pleasing as the taste itself.

This is the fourth offering I’ve had in the Barrel Aged series. KBS still reigns supreme and Backwoods Bastard is very close to that. As much as I enjoyed Doom, there were familiar elements in that beer from the hops. I don’t drink many Red Ales and have only had a couple of Red IPAs so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was very pleasantly surprised by how much the barrel aging rounded out the sharp hop profile and enhanced the malt backbone.

Many breweries are aging beers in used liquor barrels (Bourbon, Whisky, Rye, Rum, Wine, etc), regardless of the size of the brewery. Hell, a friend helped his friend brew a barrel aged stout with a home-brew kit. That said, the majority of breweries doing barrel aging are focusing on stouts, but Founders has shown how well barrel ageing can work on hop-forward ales like IPAs. The beer I’m really looking forward to is the barrel-aged Old Curmudgeon, AKA Curmudgeon’s Better Half.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.0-star rating.

Beer Review: Belching Beaver’s Peanut Butter Milk Stout

Name: Peanut Butter Milk Stout
Brewing Company: Belching Beaver Brewing Company
Location: San Diego, CA
Style: Stout – Milk / Sweet
ABV: 5.3%

Not one of my best beer photos, the bar was fairly dark.

From Belching Beaver’s beer page:

America’s Favorite Peanut Butter Milk Stout: this silky-smooth beer put us on the map. Troy came up with the idea of combining Peanut Butter with our Beaver’s Milk Stout and he nailed it. Don’t let the dark color fool you, this beer is delightfully easy to drink with cascading aromas of roasted peanuts, dark chocolate and coffee. We appreciate your continued support for helping make this style our #1 seller.

On business trips, you get the opportunity to try beers that may not be available in distribution in your area. When I was in Las Vegas last week, I saw a beer from Belching Beaver and that alone made me want to try it. Seeing that it was a Milk Stout sealed the deal.

The beer pours extremely dark from the can like you’d expect from a stout, but it is not heavy like many stouts. The peanut butter aroma is definitely present, but it isn’t the defining characteristic of the beer. Sipping it proves out that aroma, the sweetness of the lactose sugars (which give the beer its milk stout moniker) really balance the peanut flavors and swirl together with a little bit of coffee and a little bit more of chocolate. Not enough chocolate to give it a full Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup flavor, which is a good thing.

I like Milk Stouts, but I get a little wary for beers that have peanut butter. Some are too overpowering, with the peanut butter dominating every other flavor component. In any beer, it is the sum of the parts, the combination of flavor components that produce the whole, or gestalt, of the beer. Belching Beaver has achieved a delicious gestalt of flavors in their Peanut Butter Milk Stout: greater than the sum of its parts. For all the flavors in this beer, it is really easy drinking, super smooth, and goes down too quickly. With some of those other overpowering beers that use peanut butter in their beer, some may have been good, but I always though, “just one for the night” because of how overpowering the peanut butter was. That’s not the case for me with Belching Beaver’s Peanut Butter Milk Stout, I’d be happy to drink a couple back-to-back.

Where an intriguing label and name drew me in, the perfect balance of flavors kept me wanting more. As of the writing of this review, Belching Beaver doesn’t distribute into NJ because if they did, this would be a beer in my regular rotation.

As I said briefly on my check in untappd, this is the best Peanut Butter beer I’ve had.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer: Heavy Weight (Level 57)

Heavy Weight (Level 57)

You like it thick and dark. Your beer! What did you think we were talking about? That’s 285 different beers with the style of Porter or Stout.

 

Beer Review: Demented Brewing’s Silent IPA

Name: Silent
Brewing Company: Demented Brewing Company
Location: Middlesex, NJ
Style: IPA – American
ABV: 6.3%

From Demented Brewing’s beer page:

Named after a volcano in New Zealand, this beer packs an eruption of flavors without melting your palate. Expect fresh crushed citrus and tropical fruit in the nose, with no bitterness on the finish.

Here we are a year later with coming full circle back to Demented Brewing for a beer review a year after the first “pour” from The Tap Takeover. Now that I’ve come to enjoy IPAs, I wanted to dive into more brews from Demented Brewing, since some of their more highly regarded brews are their IPAs. My wife and I were having dinner with friends and family at a BYOB place before a concert, so I stopped in at Demented which is very close to my brother-in-law’s house. Their flagship IPA, Dementia is an IPA I liked before I really started to enjoy IPAs and Gallows Hill is a nice New England style IPA. But what about Silent? Well, read on.

I gave this a quick sampling before having the growler filled up and I knew it would be right up my alley from that little sip. Once I poured the beer out of the growler into the cup a couple of hours later, I could tell this was a juicy beer despite the dim light of the noodle house where I consumed the beer. It poured thick and hazy and I was excited to take that first sip.

A quick whiff of the aroma of the beer is hoppy and a little citrusy, but altogether inviting especially coupled with the look of the beer. Hops are strong, and citrusy hops at that. I wasn’t sure which hops were used in this beer when I was drinking the beer, but I guessed by the fact that the beer’s name is a nod to a volcano in New Zealand, a hop from New Zealand was used. After checking Demented Brewing’s Instagram just before posting this review, I learned that Silent is a single hop beer and yup, it is Motueka, one of the more citrusy hops from New Zealand.

Although I do appreciate beers with blend of hops, single-hopped IPAs (like Bell’s delicious Two Hearted Ale which is hopped only with Centennial Hops) really allows the single hop to shine. Here with Silent, the single hop of Motueka shines in all its citrusy glory. The short of all that is this: Silent is a juicy IPA that should please folks who like their IPAs on the hazy/juicy side of life.

Here’s a testament to how good this beer is, between three people the growler was finished in less than a half hour; and one of those consuming the beer isn’t even a fan of IPAs. Granted, I probably downed half of the growler myself, but still, the other two people sharing the growler were eager to have their cups refilled. The beer was delicious and wonderfully complemented the gigantic bowl of pork ramen I enjoyed for dinner.

Sorry demon cyclops, that’s MY growler of Silent. You can’t have any of it.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

I Believe in IPA (Level 21)

We believe in IPA and you should too. You certainly have a taste for the hops! That’s 105 different IPAs.

 

Beer Review: New Phone Who Dis? | Evil Genius Beer

Name: New Phone Who Dis?
Brewing Company: Evil Genius Beer Company
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Style: Porter – Other
ABV: 6%

From Evil Genius’s beer page:

CARAMEL MACCHIATO PORTER
Your favorite espresso beverage has now become your favorite adult beverage! Brewed with American barley, caramel and chocolate malt, and a touch of dark wheat. Gently hopped with American and German hops, and then infused with caramel and locally roasted La Colombe coffee. Full-bodied, smooth and robust, with notes of sweet caramel, mocha, and chocolate.

Evil Genius is one of a plethora of fine breweries out of the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania region. Although some may know the brewery from the uniquely named brews, the beers I’ve had have been quite good. After all, the beer names can draw the attention, but the flavor and taste keep you drinking.

As I poured the black beer into my glass, I caught sweet aromas of caramel. Evil Genius calls this a “Caramel Macchiato Porter” and it smells just like that. First sip is a big hit of that caramel, but enough of the porter characteristics are present, too.

This beer is extremely sweet as the caramel is the most prominent flavor component with very little of the coffee flavors coming through initially. After the first few sips of the beer, as the beer warmed to room temperature, the caramel power settled down. Although still definitely present, coffee flavors started to rise. It was then that the porter characteristics of the beer also began to assert themselves, with a slightly roasted finish flavoring the backend of the beer.

I can get why the sweetness of the caramel and cocoa in this beer might be too cloying for some. If you don’t like caramel, obviously stay away from the beer. For my tastes; however, the caramel notes were just enough. If you like dark beers like porters and stouts that include coffee in the brewing process or evoke the taste and feel of coffee, you’d probably like this one.

More caramel than coffee, but definitely a uniquely flavored porter, New Phone Who Dis? is a tasty dessert beer that won’t knock you over the head too strongly with the sweetness. For me, one was enough at the time I drank it, but I would return to this beer after a slice of rich chocolate cake to polish off the evening. This beer is continuing proof that Evil Genius’s experimentationial brews live up to their wacky names, which is a nice thing indeed.

Recommended, link to Untappd 3.75-star rating, a beer I liked enough to try and buy again. I can see myself enjoying this one more on a second try at a later date, too.

Beer Review: Trooper Hallowed by Robinsons Brewery

Name: Trooper Hallowed
Brewing Company: Robinsons Brewery (Iron Maiden Beer)
Location: Stockport, Greater Manchester, England
Style: Belgian Dubbel
ABV: 6%

In the background: Enhanced/Remastered Number of the Beast CD (2002) opened to the lyrics of Hallowed be thy Name.

From Robinsons’ Landing Page for the beer:

Crystal Rye gives HALLOWED a blood red hue and a smooth dry finish. The Belgian style yeast we have used in this brew along with Noble hops combine to deliver a complex palate of subtle banana and a sweet plum finish.

A real ale enthusiast, band vocalist Bruce Dickinson has helped develop a beer with a true depth of character. Visit www.ironmaidenbeer.com & discover the latest news updates, HALLOWED stockists & much more.

I am a big Iron Maiden fan, they are one of my two or three favorites bands. A few years back, Robinsons Brewery (which began brewing in 1838) started brewing beers inspired by the band, the first of which was an ESB, simply titled Trooper. When I realized they brewed a Belgian Dubbel, I knew I had to find it and try it.

When I popped open the beer, the liquid that emerged was a deep amber/red which is what I’d expect from a Dubbel. The aroma is typical of the Belgian (style) yeast used in the brew process, too. Those two characteristics had me hopeful (especially since I didn’t care too much for the the original Trooper ale). First sip, and I thought, could this be some kind of error? But yes, this was a Belgian Dubbel from a British brewery. Not something I’d typically expect. Or rather, my knowledge of British/UK breweries is somewhat limited.

The sweetness and spice from the yeast creates such a wonderful flavor in the beer, it was hard to just sip it despite the fact that I only had one bottle of the beer. The typical plum/stone-fruit sweetness evoked by the Belgian-style yeast was present along with hints of banana. I don’t know what exactly other than tastiness. Sometimes the pure well-crafted nature of the beer shines through in the look and taste of the beer, this is definitely the case for Trooper Hallowed.

By the end, I realized the sands of time were running low. I took a look through the glass at the remainder of the beer. Could it be there was some sort of error? Was it really the end of the beer? Sadly, it was. But with other beers in the Trooper line of brews from Robinsons, I’m hopeful the others are closer in quality to Trooper Hallowed than the original Trooper beer. Unfortunately, the Red n’ Black porter is out of production.

The name of the beer is an homage to Hallowed be thy Name, one of the more popular (especially in concert) songs from Maiden’s landmark album The Number of the Beast, their third studio album and first to feature legendary, iconic lead singer Bruce Dickinson. Fans of the band may have noticed some lyrical homages in my review.

There’s a website dedicated to Robinson’s Iron Maiden/Trooper line of beer http://www.ironmaidenbeer.com.

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

From the IronMaidenBeer.com web site: HALLOWED’s innovative bottle label pays tribute to Belgian beer, presenting IRON MAIDEN’s iconic mascot EDDIE, robed in traditional monk’s clothing: a nod to the Trappist monastic brewing tradition in Belgium.

 

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Dubbel, Tripel and Quad Oh My! (Level 7)

Dubbel, Tripel, or Quad, you can’t go wrong with these amazing feats of Belgian style brewing. Whether you’re looking for something light and golden or dark and boozy, one of these will do the trick!

Tower of Beer (Level 2)

While a pint traditional English ale will always remain a staple, the craft beer scene in England, much like the rest of the world, has continued to grow at a rapid rate!