Beer Review: Slack Tide Brewing Company’s Avalon Amber

Name: Avalon Amber
Brewing Company: Slack Tide Brewing Co
Location: Clermont, NJ
Style: Red Ale – American Amber / Red
ABV: 5.7%

“An on-point interpretation of the classic style, worthy of its Great American Beer Festival Bronze Medal.”

From Slack Tide Brewing’s “Rotating beers” list :

Winner of a Bronze medal at the 2018 GABF. This seasonal offering features 6 malts and is modestly hopped to create an easy drinking ale. It’s the perfect beer to unwind with after a long summer day.

Slack Tide Brewing Company is one of a handful of breweries near Cape May, NJ, one of the most popular beach vacation destinations in NJ and the North East. Over the past few years, several breweries have cropped up in that area. In 2015, Slack Tide became the second independent brewery to be established in Cape May County, joining Cape May Brewing Company in the region. My parents have been going to Cape May every year for vacation as long as I can recall and often when they do, they’ll bring me back beer from one of the local breweries. This year’s beer was Slack Tide’s Avalon Amber since I wanted to try a new-to-me Red Ale, a relatively ignored style nowadays.

Amber Ales/Red Ales were an early staple of independent/craft brewing. The style offers the relatively quick brew-to-serve timeframe of an ale, along with a malty and sweet flavor profile to truly be set apart from the fizzy, less flavorful American Adjunct Lagers, while offering a less bitter alternative to a IPA.  Red Ales are not quite as hoppy as a Pale Ale or IPA, nor quite as dark as a Brown Ale. The Red Ale straddles an interesting flavor profile line between those styles. So how does the Great American Beer Festival Medal winner from Slack Tide Brewing Company work for yours truly?

When I open the can and pour the beer, I was a little surprised by the low level of foam and pop. Fully in the glass, Avalon Amber looks pretty enticing and darker than what I’d expect. At least compared to its cousin the Red Ale, although Slack Tide categorizes this as a “Red Ale” on their website and an “Amber Ale” on the can.

Aroma is a little bready and a little malty. That first sip follows suit. Hints of caramel, malt, and maybe even a little toffee play together for a nice, drinkable beer. From the sweetness and the color, I wonder if there’s any molasses in this beer. The straight-forward nature of the style belies the complexity Slack Tide has crafted into this Ale. Like I said, caramel and malt are the most prominent flavor elements, which gives this relatively session-able ale a welcome sweetness. There are enough hops to be present and give the beer a slight hint of bitterness on the finish.

Avalon Amber is the kind of beer that you hand a person who is accustomed to the big American Adjunct Lagers, a beer that subtly and with great flavor shows that beer is more than just mass-produced fizzy yellow liquid. This beer pairs really nicely with any kind of meal, complements just about all kinds of food, and is flavorful enough to enjoy on its own.

My only slight issue with the beer is something I hinted at in the beginning of this review – the carbonation is relatively low. There’s no date on the can, so I don’t know how old it was before I opened it. The flavor was still there, but I would like to taste the beer with less age than I perceive there to be in the can pictured above to get the full body, look, and I would guess, fresher flavors.

Bottom line, a tasty ale that does what the style should do – sweet, malty, and a bit of hops.

Paint the Town Red (Level 9)

Get out there and raise a ruckus with your favorite Amber or Red Ale. That is 45 different beers with the style American Amber / Red Ale, American Amber / Red Lager, Irish Red Ale, Imperial / Double Red Ale, Red Ale – Other or IPA – Red.

Recommended, link to Untappd 3.75-bottle cap rating.

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.