Beer Review: Notch Brewing’s Tenner

Name: Tenner
Brewing Company: Notch Brewing
Location: Brighton, Boston, MA | Salem, MA
Style: Pilsner – Czech / Czech Pale Lager
ABV: 4%

The best Pilsner I’ve ever had, the best Lager I’ve ever had. Perfect.

Notch_TennerDraft

Notch Brewing says this about Tenner Pilsner:

Why Desítka (or “Tenner”)? It is the density of the beer previous to fermentation (10 degrees Plato), and that yields a 4% ABV beer. Too much info, I know. But it is session beer. A SESSION PILSNER. They really do exist, in spite of what the beer expert tells you.

Also, this humble beer challenges notions that a lower ABV lager is simple in character or easy to produce. It is quite the opposite. A triple decoction of Czech floor malted barley takes 11 hours in the brewhouse, and a long cold fermentation and lagering time takes another 7 weeks (while it also naturally carbonates). This yields a delicate beer with a depth of character that begs you for one more, but it never fatigues the palate and always excites it.

Notch Brewing is widely regarded as one of the best brewers of Czech and German Lagers in the country. In fact, Notch Brewing was just awarded Best Brewery Award (2022) by Boston Magazine. When I had a little bit of time after a long conference and day from NJ to Boston, I thought to myself, “Hey, why not visit Notch?” So I did.

Strolling into the bierhall, I had some tough choices to make because I wanted to try just about every beer on their taplist. I settled on this beer, Tenner as my first beer. I later had Tmavy (Czech Dark Lager) and Notch’s Altbier, both of which were superb. But this review post is about Tenner.

The pour….is perfection in a mug. Look at that picture above, just a beautiful beer with a thick head atop a bright yellow-gold beer. Tenner was poured just as you’d expect in Plzeň (Pilsen to us Americans) in the Czech Republic, the country that consumes the most beer per capita and where Pilsner was born. Tenner more than looks the part

The aroma is inviting, but honestly, it smells like beer. Perhaps the most fresh and vibrant beer that passed under my nose…as if every other Pilsner or Pale Lager seeks to evoke this aroma.

First sip is pure heaven. I get a little bit of foam in that first sip, but the beer itself is everything I could hope to have in a Pilsner beer. The beer is quite soft and pillowy, pure delight. The malts of the beer are evoking sweet bread and sweet grains. There’s a slight fruity sweetness from the malt, too, which is very welcome. Many Pilsners have a sweet element, but here in Tenner that sweetness is perfectly dialed in and balances with the slight bitterness from the hops. The finish on this beer is maybe the best finish of any lager I’ve ever had.

Notch_TennerCan

I decided to bring a four pack of Tenner home with me. There was no real noticeable difference in quality between the beer poured on draft and the beer out of my can into my Defend Pilsner mug. Well, the feel of the beer might have been slightly different because of the Czech faucet Notch employs at the brewery for their pours, but the flavor and taste – are of the same exemplary quality.

While this beer style is considered a Pilsner by many, the Czechs call it simply a “Pale Lager.” Frankly, whatever the label, the quality is delicious perfection. As of this post, I’ve had a meager 128 different pilsners since joining untappd in 2014. Not as many as some, but quite a lot more Pilsners than the most of my friends in my “beer circles.” In other words, I’ve had my fair share of Pilsners and feel comfortable to judge the quality of the style. Which all leads to my final statement on Tenner: without hesitation, I can say this is the best Pilsner (or Pale Lager as our friends in the Czech Republic and Notch might say), I’ve ever had the pleasure of drinking.

Recommended, link to 5 bottle cap untappd rating check in. | Can at home.

Notch_TennerDraft

Draught Diversions: December 2021 Six Pack

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and non-review posts here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

sixpack-2021-dec

The final Six Pack of 2021 is upon us. Well, I use “us” since it is actually incumbent upon me for sharing this six pack with my millions (insert Rock voice) and millions of readers. No IPA this month and fir the first time in a while, this six pack does not feature a beer from Icarus. What this six pack does feature: two Barleywines, a Porter, a Brown Ale, Belgian Quadrupel, and an Imperial Stout. Some familiar breweries, and a couple of breweries make a return appearance after a rather lengthy absence. I’ll likely be posting my favorite beers of the year later in the week

Without further adieu, here is the December 2021 Six Pack…

Parent Trap (Ashton Brewing Company) | Porter – Other | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

ashtonparenttrap

Ashton keeps churning out good beers and this one surprised me the most. I’ve become very cautious/hesitant when it comes to beers with Peanut Butter/PB flavoring, it can often come across like bad/stale peanut butter. Not this one, a great blend of chocolate and peanut butter which makes for nice post-dinner beer. I understand now why cans of this beer sold out so quickly at the brewery.

Third Coast Ale (Bell’s Brewery) | Barleywine – American | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

bellsthirdcoast

It’s been a while since Bell’s made an appearance here at the Tap Takeover, but I’ve been enjoying some of their core beers the last year or two. I hadn’t had their Barleywine prior to this, but that may change. I liked it quite a bit. It isn’t as hop forward, as say the iconic Bigfoot from Sierra Nevada, but the toffee element is more prominent. I’d love to try a barrel-aged version of this beer.

Outen the Light (Bonesaw Brewing Co) | Barleywine – American | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

bonesawouten

I’ve had a few beers from Bonesaw and enjoyed them so I figured I’d try this big Barleywine. This might be the booziest barleywine I’ve ever had. Hell, at 15.3%, it is one of the highest ABV beers I’ve had period. There’s a ton of barrel on the beer, almost too much for me, in fact. Almost. I enjoyed it, there’s a nice hit of sweet caramel as well as dried figgy/cherry/stone fruits. Even though it was only a 500ml bottle and I was drinking it rather slowly, I still felt a little woozy about halfway through finishing the beer. Again, 15.3%.

Tenth (Kane Brewing Company) | Stout – Imperial/Double | 5 Bottle Caps on untappd

kane_tenth-1

I’ve had just over 50 beers from Kane. I’ve had over 150 Imperial Stouts (including “Coffee,” “Milk,” “Russian,” and “Oatmeal” varieties) and I’d guess at least half to two thirds of those were barrel aged. Tenth is both the best beer I’ve had from Kane and my favorite Barrel-Aged Stout I’ve ever had. This is an absolutely flawless beer.

Three Philosophers Double Chocolate (Brewery Ommegang) | Belgian Quadrupel | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

ommegang3phildoubchoc

Brewery Ommegang has all but made their “Three Philosophers” Belgian Quadrupel-Kriek blend a brand with multiple variants over the years. I’ve had the original and thoroughly enjoyed it and now I’ve had this version of the beer. While it is indeed heavy on the chocolate (the “Double” in the name gives it away), for me, it wasn’t overpowering. I let the beer warm up a bit and the potent chocolate elements took a slight step-back to the main flavors of the beer.

Grandma Cookie (Lone Eagle Brewing) | Brown Ale – Belgian | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

loneeaglegrandma

When Lone Eagle makes a good beer, it turns out to be a great beer. This is the third time I’ve brought a growler of their beer to Christmas Eve and it was a hit as it was in past years. This beer is one of the better “new to me” Christmas themed beers I’ve had. Brewed with raisins, oatmeal, and cinnamon, the beer (as the name implies) evokes a delicious baked cookie you’d leave for Santa Claus. I had a feeling I’d like it, but I was surprised at just how much I did like it. I’ve had over 50 beers from Lone Eagle over the years and this one is one of their best, I hope they brew it again for the Christmas 2022 season or even can it, because I will be sure to grab some of it.

Good beers, indeed. Only one real dud this past month, Frosted Sugar Cookie from Southern Tier Brewing Company. I’ve enjoyed many of their beers over the years, but not this one. It tasted full of artificial sweetener.

Beer Review: Sierra Nevada’s Barrel-Aged Narwhal

Name: Barrel-Aged Narwhal
Brewing Company: Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
Location: Chico, CA
Style: Stout – American Imperial/Double
ABV: 11.9%

An outstanding base stout aged in Kentucky Bourbon Barrels makes for a perfect beer.

From Sierra Nevada’s page for the beer:

Deep in our barrel room, out of light’s reach, our legendary Narwhal Imperial Stout rests in bourbon barrels for nearly a year. After aging, it emerges anew: rich with notes of oak, vanilla and coconut layered onto the Stout’s malt flavors of dark chocolate and espresso. Enjoy this beast of a beer.

This is a beer I’ve been hunting down for quite some time, basically since I knew it existed, because the annual big stout from Sierra Nevada is one of my top 10 beers of all time. Sometimes, the timing of things lead to serendipitous posts like this one: 2020 is Sierra Nevada’s 40th Anniversary, Sierra Nevada recently made this beer a year-round offering, and this beer is my 50th unique Sierra Nevada beer checked into untappd, so how could I *not* review this beer?

As much as I was looking forward to this beer for years, I’ve also come to realize not all barrel-aged beers are blended/created equal. Additionally, I hadn’t had anything barrel-aged from Sierra Nevada. In short, I was worried that anticipation would lead to disappointment

It did not.

This beer pours motor-oil black, with a khaki/heavily creamed coffee head. As for the body of the beer, I’d even say there’s something about this beer that’s so black, it’s like how much more black could this beer be? And the answer is none. None more black.

The aroma is largely from the bourbon barrels, but I do detect the hoppy/malty aromas I would typically associate with the non-Barrel Aged Narwhal. I thought to myself, “I’ve got a good feeling about this.”

That first sip is everything I hoped it would be. The barrel elements are very prominent and assertive, but far from everything this beer is. The base beer doesn’t typically have an overbearing carbonation and the carbonation is even less present on Barrel Aged Narwhal. In addition to the barrel character, the beer is largely the character I’d come to expect from the base Narwhal stout – big malt imparting sweetness, prominent hops imparting a bitter bite with subtle vanilla hints for a warm, balanced, grin-inducing finish that lingers wonderfully.

The flavor elements imparted by the Kentucky Bourbon Barrels **perfectly** enhance and complement the flavor elements of the base beer – the hops which can be relatively aggressive on a fresh in-year* bottle, are tamed and smoothed by the beer having been aged in the barrel. The hops are definitely present, but the lingering bitterness is softened. The barrel aging also complements the sweetness from the malt with hints of vanilla, oak, and maybe coconut.

* By “in-year” bottle I mean drinking a 2019 vintage of the beer in 2019, as opposed to a bottle that has sat for months to a year. I’ve had a couple bottles of Narwhal that were aged 2 and 3 years.

Something that makes this beer such a fun beer to enjoy is that the base beer Narwhal is fairly readily available for comparison. I’ve had Bourbon County Stout from AB InBev Chicago (A.K.A. Goos Island) but there’s no base beer available, same goes for So Happens Its Tuesday from the Bruery or even Parabola from Firestone Walker. In other words, you have a pretty good idea that you’re starting with in this beer.

I’ve always loved the label and font Sierra Nevada used for the beer for Narwhal, I was unhappy with the change they made in 2017 so I was pleased to see the same font treatment from the old label of the non-barrel aged version reappear on this canned version (and box of the 4-pack). I was especially pleased to see this beer go from the 22oz bomber to 16oz cans, a much easier single-sitting consumption.

Barrel-Aged Narwhal is an outstanding, world-class barrel-aged stout that I’d stand up against any other barrel-aged stout I’ve had or that is available. Given that price point, you will not find a better beer of this style (Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout, or even Imperial Stout) for this price point.

For further reading, there’s a great post on Sierra Nevada’s Blog about their barrel-aging program.

Highly, highly recommended, link to 5 bottle-cap Untappd check in.

Beer Review: Founders Backwoods Bastard (2016)

Name: Backwoods Bastard
Brewing Company: Founders Brewing
Location: Grand Rapids, MI
Style: Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy
ABV: 11.2% (2016, but it ranges from year to year)

From the beer’s description on Founders’ Web site:

Expect lovely, warm smells of single malt scotch, oaky bourbon barrels, smoke, sweet caramel and roasted malts, a bit of earthy spice and a scintilla of dark fruit. It’s a kick-back sipper made to excite the palate.

Scotch Ales are one of the beer styles less consumed than say, an IPA or a Stout. The style has been around since the 19th Century and is known for being malty, dark brownish in color, with a sweet almost caramel-like flavor profile. It is also a style that I’ve come to really enjoy over the past year or so as I’ve had a small handful of well-made beers in this style.

One of Founders’ year-round styles is their Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale. The style has proven popular enough that Founders puts the beer out in 12-packs of cans. What they’ve done here with Backwoods Bastard is, in a word, sublime. Taking that already malty beer and aging in bourbon barrels weaves a magical spell over a beer that has an existing taste profile that is quite tasty and well regarded. As much as stouts benefit from the barrel aging (see Founders Kentucky Breakfast stout), the Scotch style ale may benefit even more as the profile of a Scotch ale may be more complementary to the refinement in bourbon barrels.

This was, I think, the second major Barrel Aged release from Founders when it was first released in 2007. They have since implemented a year-long “Barrel Series” of 6 beers which began in early 2017 with Frootwood (a Cherry/Fruit beer aged in barrels that at one time held both maple syrup and bourbon). When it releases in November 2017, the four packs of Backwood Bastard will be joined by a 22oz bomb.

Beer connoisseurs talk about the “nose” of the beer, which is basically the aroma. I can’t recall having a beer with such a wonderful nose to the point where I’d almost want to bask in the aroma and not drink the beer. That may be a bit of a stretch, but breathing in the complex aroma, a blend of caramel and bourbon, produced by Backwoods Bastard is a sensual experience that hints at the deliciousness of the beer itself. For as much attention as Founders receives for Kentucky Breakfast Stout (and it is well-deserved attention), Backwoods Bastard is a beer equal in complexity and taste.

I split a four pack with a friend/co-worker as we were both unsure what to expect from the beer. After consuming both bottles (a few months apart), this beer is quite firmly in my top 10 of all time. I had one in November shortly after getting the beer and I let the other one sit until April of this past year, which I think made the beer even better. When I get the four pack in November, I think I’ll let one of the beers age for at least a year to see how that changes the taste. In November, I’ll be getting at least a four-pack of my own.

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 5-star rating.