Beer Review: BEE-R from Five Boroughs Brewing Co & All-Wise Meadery

Name: BEE-R
Brewing Company: Five Boroughs Brewing Co. / All-Wise Meadery
Location: Brooklyn, NY / Brooklyn, NY
Style: Lager – Helles
ABV: 5%

A complex and flavorful beer that showcases local innovation from two fine Brooklyn purveyors of adult beverages. 

From the untappd page for the beer:

This Honey Lager is our third collab with the cool cats over at All-Wise Meadery in Brooklyn. Brewed with delectable orange blossom honey, BEE-R is sessionable, smooth, and slightly sweet, powered by New York State malts and hops.

As close as I live to NYC, I haven’t had very many beers from the growing number of breweries in New York City’s five boroughs. I’ve been participating in a semi-monthly bottle share with some colleagues/friends from work and friends who once worked with all of us. On a recent bottle share, we did a Secret Santa and this was one of a handful of beers I received. To say this beer, a collaboration between a NYC brewery (Five Boroughs Brewing) and a NYC meadery (All-Wise Meadery) was a pleasant surprise is an understatement.

That’s how I received the beer. On to the beer itself…

The beer pours a beautiful golden-yellow from the 16oz can into the glass. It isn’t very clear but it isn’t also very hazy so I’m not sure how filtered the beer is. Regardless, it looks great. Aroma has a little bit of the honey, but nothing out of the ordinary….it smells like beer.

The first sip brings a smile to my lips…in a time of year when darker, heavier beers, are the norm, it is very refreshing to have such a full-flavored less-heavy* lager in my glass. I’ve only had a few different meads, not that this is mead…but I’ve had plenty of lagers and stylistically, this fits the bill very nicely. I get the crispiness of the lager, plus some bready characteristics typically associated with Lagers, Helles Lagers specifically. Underneath it all and completing the pleasant finish of the beer is sweetness from the honey.

*Blatantly avoiding the word “light” since that word brings so many negative connotations to Lager.

BEE-R has one of the most important qualities any beer needs to have – drinkability. An overused term, but a term that most definitely applies to this beer. There’s such an easy-going flavor profile to the beer, it is elegant and refreshing at the same time. Every time I put the glass down, I didn’t want to wait too long to pick it up and consume more because BEE-R is, to put it simply – a very tasty beer.

As a beer on its own merits – BEE-R is a standout. As a collaboration between a NY brewery and a NY Meadery that showcases NY ingredients, it is a home run.

I like the relatively simplistic label and the clever name, too. One of those obvious names that seems like somebody should have used it already for a beer that features honey as a prominent adjunct.

Highly recommended, link to 4 bottle-cap Untappd check in.

Beer Review: Bolero Snort French Toast Bergen County Bull Stout

Name: French Toast Bergen County Bull Stout
Brewing Company: Bolero Snort Brewery
Location: Ridgefield Park, NJ
Style: Stout – Pastry
ABV: 10.3%

A delicious “pastry” stout with several adjuncts that strikes a perfect balance between those various elements.

From Bolero Snort’s Bergen County Bull Stout 2019 page:

🍁 🥞 French Toast Bergen County Bull Stout 🥞🍁 a brand new variant for 2019 Barrel Aged Imperial Stout with Maple, Cinnamon, Cocoa and Madagascar Vanilla 🤤.

Bolero Snort has been a NJ mainstay for a about a half-dozen years now, they’ve garnered a following and reputation without having a home base, they’ve been a contract brewery since their inception. That all should be changing by the end of 2019 as their brewery/taproom (which will be the 12th largest in the State) finally opens. Over the years, they’ve been releasing a big stout around Thanksgiving, which they call Bergen County Bull Stout. Anytime a bovinely inspired pun can be inserted, it will happen. Furthering the pun, so to speak, the initials of that beer are BCBS, four letters which should ring a bell for beer people.  As for the beer itself, the base of Bergen County Bull Stout is a barrel-aged imperial stout and each year, the Bolero boys brew a couple of different varieties. This year’s new variant is French Toast, which contains maple syrup and cinnamon as the prominent adjuncts with additional flavors of cocoa, Madagascar Vanilla, and lactose.

This was a very limited release as is the full complement of Bergen County Bull Stout variants, so I was happy to get a bottle since most stores were permitting only one bottle per customer. The bottle sports a nice label, cool font for the beer name, with the newly fashioned and stylized “BS” logo (as seen to the right) front and center. One last note on the packaging, I really appreciate that this is a 500ml bottle as opposed to what was once a standard, the 750ml bottle. 500ml is slightly more than a pint and is just enough for one person to consume on their own.

The beer pours almost obsidian and the aroma coming from the beer has my mouth watering. I get the full flavor-smell of French Toast – cinnamon, maple, and even that pleasant eggy-bread aroma. My only concern before taking the first sip is that it might be too sweet.

This is a complex beer…I need to put that up front as if that wasn’t obvious. The eggy-bread aroma of French Toast is present in the taste with the bourbon hints from the barrel making their way through everything. I also tasted ample amounts of cinnamon and maple syrup, too. The beer is most definitely a stout, the adjuncts don’t diminish the stout elements of the beer at all. The vanilla is a little toned down, which is welcome because especially Madagascar Vanilla can overpower other flavors to a negative degree. Here in the French Toast variant of Bergen County Bull Stout, the Madagascar Vanilla complements the cinnamon and maple and sits very nicely with the overall “French Toast” profile on the finish of the beer.

This beer is full-flavored, full bodied and boozy. As I said, the character of the bourbon barrel seeps through the whole of the beer, it isn’t intrusive but rather complements all the other additives Bob Olson and crew have thrown in the mix for this beer. Earlier I said I was concerned that the beer might be too sweet. Well, the beer is most definitely sweet but not to a cloying degree.

Pastry Stout (or dessert stout) has emerged as a distinct style over the past few years and this beer definitely falls into that category. I’ve had a few other beers that emulate breakfast meals like pancakes and bacon, but the French Toast variant of Bergen County Bull Stout is probably my favorite and most balanced I’ve had along these lines. A beer that has the flavor components of that rich, dessert-like breakfast while still retaining the stout qualities that give the beer it’s primary character.

The full “range” of Bergen County Stouts released in 2019. Image courtesy of Bolero Snort’s Web site

I’ve been really enjoying Bolero Snort’s output over the past year or two. For my birthday my wife took me to a beer pairing dinner at a local restaurant which was great experience – delicious food and tasty beer with an excellent host/ambassador in Adrian from Bolero Snort. Say one thing about Bolero Snort, they’ve never shied away from the flavor adjuncts and this beer is proof that their skills are well up to their ambition. This beer is probably the best I’ve had from them. As their motto says, that is No BS, just ragin’ good beer.

Highly recommended, link to 4.5 bottle-cap Untappd check in.

Beer Review: Guinness Open Gate Brewery’s Barrel Aged Stock Ale

Name: Barrel Aged Stock Ale
Brewing Company: Guinness Open Gate Brewery
Location: Halethorpe, MD
Style: Old Ale
ABV: 10%

A rich, boozy ale that brings together many flavor components in delicious way.

From the untappd page for the beer:

Fulsome, high gravity stout aged in bourbon barrels for several months. Then brewed a take on a barleywine style, with plenty of hops, and barrel aged it for a few weeks to mellow it out. This is a blend of these two separate beers.

Guinness is one of the largest breweries in the world, but their new(ish) Open Gate Brewery in Maryland is cranking out more than just the stouts you’d expect from the company that produces the world’s best selling stout. From what I’ve gathered, they are slowly releasing beers into distribution, last year it was a stout aged in Bulleit Bourbon Barrels and this year/this beer is similar in that it was aged in Bulleit Bourbon barrels.

Since the ginormous beverage conglomerate Diageo owns both Guinness and Bulleit, why not put that corporate synergy to use? That synergy produced their latest barrel aged project: an Old Ale, itself a style that isn’t too common here in the States. The style is often characterized by high alcohol, sweet molasses like flavor elements, and improvement with age – especially aging in barrels. This particular “Stock Ale” is a blend of stout and barleywine. I’ve had only a few beers that would be considered Old Ales and enjoy it so as soon as I saw this beer existed and was available near me, I had to get at least a bottle of it.

The label has the iconic harp from Guinness, with the distinctive orange banner seen on bottles of Bulleit Bourbon – corporate synergy! Opening the bottle and pouring the beer into the glass, a very pleasing smell hit my nose. Once in the glass, the beer is mahogany/reddish brown with a light khaki, light malted milk head. The aroma of the bourbon is very strong, along with an underlying sweetness. Again, this is not something I’d expect from Guinness having consumed hundreds of pints and bottles of their stout over the years.

The taste of the beer leads with bourbon, but then the elements of the stout and barleywine come into play. There’s minimal roast from the stout, a slight kiss of hops you’d expect from an American barleywine, too. What I was hoping to get in the full flavor profile soon arrived – a bite at the end. Maybe the most widely known Old Ales being Founder’s Curmudgeon and North Coast’s Old Stock, which are a big beers and they aren’t even barrel-aged. There’s a strong and pleasant earthiness to the style (at least from what I remember in Curmudgeon) that is toned down in Guinness’s Stock Ale compared to those other two beers. I got a little bit of the barrel notes on the finish, too.

I took my time with this beer given its relatively high ABV , I wanted to experience the flavors awaken as the beer warmed to room temperature and I’m glad I took that approach. The bourbon continued to be ever-present, but the other flavors became more prominent. More of the malt that characterizes the stout portion of the beer, but the hops were still dialed down a bit. Not a bad thing.

I’m glad one of my local bottle shops was selling single bottles of this beer, the price point was a little high for me to go for a full four pack of an untested beer. That said, I could definitely see myself having another bottle of this beer maybe after a year of letting it age even more than the component beers that comprise the stock ale aged. This beer proves Corporate Synergy isn’t always such a bad thing.

Highly recommended, link to 4.25 bottle-cap Untappd check in.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Stock Up on Stock Ale

Just as Guiness blends years of Irish brewing with American creativity at is Open Gate Brewery, this limited time Guinness Stock Ale Aged in Bulleit Bourbon Barrels blends a Guinness Barleywine with an Imperial Stout for a luxuriant beer.

 

Beer Review: Broken Goblet’s All Goblets Have Spirits

Name: All Goblets Have Spirits
Brewing Company: Broken Goblet Brewing Company
Location: Bensalem Township, PA
Style: Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy
ABV: 10.3%

A malty, flavorful beer whose strong maple syrup presence is wonderfully balanced.

The floaties are slices of apples, a nice touch from the fine folks of Broken Goblet.

From Broken Goblet’s landing page for the beer:

Scotch Ale with maple syrup and gala apples.

Scotch Ales are not the most prevalent style of beer in the American beer landscape. Sure a decent number of breweries have at last one in their portfolio, but they aren’t the juicy hop bombs which often comprise at least half to two thirds of a bar or taproom’s beer list.  The style is very malty, often sweet, and can be in the 7 to 10 ABV% range. They are somewhere on the Barleywine and Imperial Stout spectrum of ales, minus the hoppiness. Scotch Ales lend themselves to some flavor adjuncts or barrel aging, too. In the case of Broken Goblet’s All Goblets Have Spirits, their Scotch ale is brewed with Maple Syrup and Gala Apples. If that doesn’t say fall beer, I don’t know what does.

As has become tradition around my birthday in November, my wife takes me and a few people on a tour of multiple breweries. This year’s tour featured breweries along the Bucks County Ale Trail, which is pretty convenient since I’m about a half hour from the PA border and included a stop at Broken Goblet. I usually don’t go for the prevalent styles on these brewery visits, styles like IPAs and Stouts, so seeing this beer up on the menu board for the day was very pleasing as I enjoy a good Scotch Ale.

However, I wasn’t prepared for what this beer turned out to be.

I was confused when the beer was handed to me, little objects were floating in the beer. The aroma; however, was delicious. A glorious smell with hints of maple that I could have spent an hour breathing in. I realized those little objects were slivers of apple, which per the above description, are part of the brewing process along with maple syrup. I wasn’t initially aware that the apples and maple syrup were used in the brewing process, the menu board doesn’t indicate that to be the case. It was an extremely pleasant surprise, I must admit.

It is really difficult to get past the potency of the maple in this beer, but that isn’t a bad thing. I still get the malts that gives the Scotch Ale it’s primary flavors, however. I’ve had a few beers that used maple syrup as part of the brewing process, some have been good, a few have turned sour (CBS), but in almost all of them the maple is omnipresent and a fine complement to the beer itself. There’s a strong hint of caramel to this beer, along with perhaps toffee too. I’m reminded of Sierra Nevada’s Maple Scotch Ale, but a little boozier. I don’t know if I’d get the apple flavor as much as I would if there weren’t pieces of apples floating at the top of the beer.  I really liked the touch of the apples in the beer. This from a guy who doesn’t appreciate an orange being added to my glass of Hefeweizen or Witbier.

All Goblets Have Spirits is a very interesting, fun beer. The crispness of the apples likely helps to balance the very potent sweetness from the maple syrup and caramelly malts for the beer. This is a beer to enjoy on a cold fall or winter night by the fire. A beer to consider and enjoy while perhaps watching a movie or curling up with a great immersive novel.

We visited five breweries (and had dinner at a favorate restaurant with a fantastic tap list) that day and All Goblets Have Spirits was, unquestionably my favorite beer of the day. It is the kind of beer to experience. It was also pleased to run into the guys behind Breweries in PA during our visit. We chatted only briefly, I think they were partaking in a tour of the Bucks County Ale Trail, too.

Summing it up, Broken Goblet is a fun brewery and All Goblets Have Spirits is a very good beer.

Highly recommended, link to 4.25 bottle-cap Untappd check in.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Wee Bit of the Scotch (Level 4)

Whether it’s a Scotch Ale, Scottish Ale, or a traditional Wee Heavy, don your kilt and prepare yourself for a wee bit of Scotch.

Beer Review: Mast Landing’s Gunner’s Daughter

Name: Gunner’s Daughter
Brewing Company: Mast Landing Brewing Company
Location: Westbrook, ME
Style: Stout – Milk / Sweet | Peanut Butter Milk Stout
ABV: 5.5%

An impressive beer that is immensely flavorful yet sessionable at the same time. An upper echelon Milk Stout.

From Mast Landing’s Beer List:

Our beautifully aromatic and balanced milk stout with delicious notes of peanut butter, coffee, and dark chocolate.

Stout Day is one of those “holidays” to arise in recent years as the internet has looked to celebrate everything. Well, for many beer drinkers, it is just another excuse to have a beer, in this case a stout. For me, I try to have a different stout every first Thursday in November (a.k.a. Stout Day), like this fantastic Milk Stout from Maine’s Mast Landing.

This beer is Mast Landing’s most popular beer and something of a flagship beer and once I tasted it, I could completely understand why the beer is their top beer on untappd and Beer Advocate.

As one would expect, the beer pours out of the 16oz can very dark. It has a perfect khaki, heavily creamed coffee head. This looks like a perfect stout to me. What is unexpected is the aroma. There’s a roasted peanut / peanut butter aroma that encourages that first sip. I asked my wife, who does not like beer, to give it a whiff and she remarked that it smelled less like beer than she would have expected.

The aroma is about 60% of what makes up the taste for a person and that is very true with this beer. It has the main malt/sweet flavors a Milk Stout typically shows, but then hints of peanut butter/roasted peanut show up to the flavor party. Rounding the full profile of the beer are more subtle hints of chocolate. I wouldn’t go so far as to say this beer tastes like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, but more importantly, the beer evokes that flavor. In my humble opinion, that flavor evocation is a more subtle and nuanced approach to crafting a beer and the skill of the people creating the beer. That nuanced craft skill are on full display in Gunner’s Daughter.

I don’t know if the fine folks at Mast Landing added peanut butter, coffee, and chocolate to the beer for those flavors or if the complex flavors arose from the nuanced blend of malts. I’ve had a decent share of beers with peanut butter used in the brewing process or even peanut butter powder, some of those beers range from an overpowering unpleasant peanut butter bomb to artificial, powdery false flavor. Gunner’s Daughter is nowhere on that unpleasant spectrum, the beer is delicious worth a slow sip of enjoyment. Despite the sessionable, low ABV of 5.5% this beer is exploding with delicious flavors.

I also really like the can label/art on this beer. Gold and black play off of each other really nicely and are even similar to the colors of the beer itself.

Gunner’s Daughter is one of the best Milk Stouts I’ve ever had and will likely land a slot on my “favorite new-to-me” beers of 2019.

Highly recommended, link to 4.5 bottle-cap Untappd check in.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Stout Day 2019

This day is all about the Stout. First brewed in the 1700’s, this style of beer brings us bold and malty flavors, and is well worth the celebration! Thanks for raising a pint of your favorite stout on International Stout Day!

 

Beer Review: Great Divide’s Mexican Chocolate Yeti

Name: Mexican Chocolate Yet
Brewing Company: Great Divide Brewing Brewing
Location: Denver, CO
Style: Stout – American Imperial / Double
ABV: 9.5%

A huge stout that is a near perfect blend of sweet and spicy. An ideal dessert stout to enjoy on a cold night.

From the side of the Great Divde’s Landing page for the beer:

A very special, and very limited, entry in our venerable Yeti Series, Mexican Chocolate Yeti is a sensory delight. We’ve added a variety of spices, vanilla and coffee to Yeti Imperial Stout to create our version of a traditional champurrado drink. Spiced chocolate drinks have been part of Aztec and Mayan cuisine and culture for centuries, but they have yet to be paired with a Yeti! 9.5% ABV.

Great Divide is one of the big, reputable breweries based in Colorado. Founded in 1994, the brewery Brian Dunn started has won several awards for their beer, including their iconic Imperial Stout, Yeti. Over the years, Great Divide has brewed several variants of the Yeti, including this spicy, sweet Mexican Chocolate version.

Great Divide distributes mainly in cans, so for this specialty stout, they packaged it in a “Stovepipe” can of 19.2 oz.  I like this size and prefer it to the once ubiquitous 22oz bombers that seem to have slipped out brewer’s fancy, the 19.2oz is just enough of a beer to enjoy by oneself. As for the liquid in this particular can, I’ve had the flagship Yeti a couple of times, the first time I thought it was just OK, but when I was on a business trip in Denver, Colorado and attending a networking event at Great Divide’s Barrel Bar and I had Yeti again, I liked it much more. So, when this specific variant was announced, combined with the fact that I like the spicy/chocolatey stouts, I knew I had to get it.

After the pop of the can, I pour the beer into the glass and it is a very deep black, just like an Imperial Stout should pour. Some pleasant aromas arise from the glass, a little bit of maybe cinnamon, definitely some chocolate and vanilla. Smells to me like this will make a fine dessert beer.

I’m hit with delicious stout flavors, but then the adjuncts take over. This is a feature, not a bug. The aroma, unsurprisingly, pointed the way to a degree. I get strong flavors of chocolate, more than the vanilla nose led me to believe. Again, not a bad thing, but the vanilla is there and in just the appropriate dose for me. Vanilla can often be overused in beers, particularly big stouts, but not here.

Mexican Chocolate Yeti finishes with a little bit of coffee and some of that spice I caught on the aroma. I’m guessing some cinnamon, definitely. Not sure what else, but probably some kind of pepper. What surprises me is a few flavor bursts of something fruity. Not sure what, maybe a slight hit of cherry? Maybe citrus? Whatever that fruit is, it blends extremely well with all the other flavors. …and of course the beer tastes better as it warms in the glass, allowing the flavors to really breathe, but that should be taken for granted by now for dark beers of a high ABV.

Great Divide’s Mexican Chocolate Yeti is more than full flavored stout, it is a beer to savor and experience. If you like Stone’s Xocoveza stout as much as I do, you’ll likely enjoy this one. It also reminded me a little of a local favorite, Conclave Brewing’s Mexican Morning Stout. Believe in the Yeti, especially this incarnation

Highly recommended, link to 4.25 bottle-cap Untappd check

Beer Review: Just Wing It from Icarus Brewing and Heavy Reel Brewing

Name: Just Wing It
Brewing Company: Icarus Brewing / Heavy Reel Brewing
Location: Lakewood, NJ / Seaside Heights, NJ
Style: Stout – Milk / Sweet
ABV: 6.6%

A perfectly rendered stout that exhibits delicious qualities of both a Milk Stout and a Coffee Stout.

From the side of the can:

Just Wing It is brewed in collaboration with Heavy Reel Brewing. Jam packed with four different roasting malts and a huge addition of lactose and oats. Post fermentation aged on Chocolate and Coffee. The Coffee is from Happy Mug Roasters and Vanilla Bean.

It has been nearly 8 months since I reviewed a stout and with the weather getting cooler, now is a perfect time to take a look at a great NJ Stout. Some folks even call the colder months “Stout Season” since stouts just feel like cold weather beer with more roasted flavors and the darkness of the beer. This preamble leads to Just Wing It, which is a collaboration between two Jersey Shore breweries, Icarus Brewing out of Lakewood and Heavy Reel out of Seaside, NJ.

Let’s get the ball rolling…or the can opening, so to speak.

The crack of the can pops and I get a little bit of coffee aroma mixed in with the smell I’d typically expect a sweet stout to produce. This is a pleasantly dark beer, with a malted milk/khaki colored head. In other words, exactly how a stout should look. Having sampled a decent amount of beer from Icarus over the last couple of years, I’m even more hopeful this will be a good one.

That first sip…it hits just about every button I want a Milk Stout to hit. The milk sugar sweetness is very present, but not to an overpowering degree. That sweetness form the lactose enhances the already sweet malts of the beer. As the beer finishes its journey through my palate, I get a very welcome burst of coffee flavor. I also taste more sweetness, likely from the chocolate which raises its proverbial hand in class to let me know it is present in the overall taste profile of the beer.

The beer has mild carbonation, and that khaki head dissipates fairly quickly. It is a smooth, delicious, flavorful stout that exhibits all the optimal qualities of both a coffee and a milk stout. A beer worth seeking out and a stout that illustrates the great quality of beer loyal customers of Icarus Brewing have come to expect.

Locally, I’d compare this beer very favorably to three NJ Milk Stouts: River Horse Oatmeal Milk Stout, Conclave’s Espresso Milk Stout, and Twin Elephant’s Diamonds & Pearls. For a national comparison, I’d stack Icarus & Heavy Reel’s take on the style next to Left Hand’s well known Milk Stout and Firestone Walker’s outstanding Mocha Merlin. Long story short, Just Wing It could sit comfortably on any shelf with any of those beers.

Highly recommended, link to 4.25 bottle-cap Untappd check in.

Another point of recommendation – the four pack barely lasted a week in my fridge before all the empties made it to the recycling bin.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

So Udderly Sweet (Level 8)

Wouldn’t it be nice if milk stouts came directly from beer producing cows? While this unfortunately isn’t the case (yet) they do have a full body and sweetness due to a larger amount of lactose and sugars.