Beer Review: Franziskaner Weissbier Hefe-Weissbier

Franziskaner Weissbier Hefe-Weissbier might be my favorite beer of all time. It has such a pleasant, summery smell to it that reminds me of summer. It’s a fantastic Hefeweizen, has that subtle lemon taste without being too acidic, plus a sweetness that hints at banana. It really is a delight, though the flavors never verge too far into the overly-sweet candy territory that some beers get into. I don’t generally buy this kind of beer for myself, but was lucky enough to have my father-in-law pick some up on a recent visit. I’ve been rationing them out so I can enjoy them over the maximum amount of time. I’ve also had Franziskaner Weissbier Hefe-Weissbier at a local restaurant in a town called Cornwall by the name of Painter’s Tavern. If you’re in town, I highly recommend, having a nice meal and enjoying one of my favorite beers.

Beer Review: Samuel Adams American Originals

I’m become a fan of Samuel Adams. I never had anything against the brand of beer by any means, but they’ve really been winning me over with their sampler packs. This time around, I purchased the American Originals pack which seems to be a winter-themed set that includes Boston Lager, Scotch Ale, Irish Red, Revolutionary Rye Ale, Noble Pils and White Ale. The great thing about 12-packs with six different kinds of beer is that, if you wind up hating one or two, it’s not that big of a deal. I didn’t quite hate any of these beers, but there was one that I don’t ever want to drink again. I’ll start off with the basic Sam Adams brew Boston Lager. I don’t think I’m a big fan of lagers. They’re alright, have a bit of bitterness to them, but nothing too strong. I guess there’s just not enough there for me to either be offended by or really dig into. I don’t think I’ve ever ordered a Boston Lager out in a restaurant for that very reason.On the other hand, I have bought Sam Adams’ seasonal, though awkwardly named Noble Pils while out and about (actually at the wonderful Billie Joe’s Ribworks) after first having it in a multipack around Thanksgiving that I only reviewed a few beers from, including the White Ale which I still dig. Anyway, I was looking forward to the Noble Pils this time around and had even thought about picking up a 6- or 12-pack of them between first and second tastes. It’s got a tang mixed with a bitterness and some sweetness that I really enjoy. The first time around I didn’t think I’d dig this one, fearing it would be too bitter, but really, really liked it. I’d be in favor of Noble Pils sticking around for a while. I was most excited to try the Revolutionary Rye Ale because it just sounded interesting and unique. I had no idea what a Rye Ale was supposed to taste like, but it seemed like something that might be new and different, especially since it’s based on an old recipe.It’s got a mild flavor with a bit of a bitter ending, but not too bitter. Seems to have a thickness to it when drinking it from a bottle. I don’t know what I was expecting from a Rye Ale, but this isn’t really it. The label says it’s got “light pine and citrus notes” but I don’t know if I’m tasting those. I can smell the citrus when I gave it a pre-drink sniff, but am only feeling a very basic, not very pronounced tingle on my tongue from it. Reminds me of another beer I’ve had recently that I can’t quite place. Maybe the Magic Hat Encore? After sitting out for a while, the citrus notes became a lot more prominent. I still have no idea what pine in beer is supposed to taste like though.I saved the Irish Red for last because I’m pretty sure I’ve had it before and I’m a fan of other Irish reds like Killian’s or Smithwick’s. The Sam Adams version holds up pretty well against those big names in the game, but if I’m out in a bar or restaurant, I’m far more likely to get one of the other two more famous versions. It’s basically the same as trying another dry stout and digging it, but when you go out and want to drink one, you’re probably going to get a Guinness. I’m really glad I saved the Irish Red for last because it was either that or the Scotch Ale and I really didn’t like that one, so I was able to end on a good note instead of a smokey one. It wasn’t nearly as bad as Magic Hat’s Howl, which I wound up throwing away I disliked it so much, but I am just not a fan of these smoke-flavored beers. I just don’t get why that’s a flavor you want to drink. I basically chugged both of these beers just to be done with them. I’m hoping this type of beer soon finds itself out of the mix in future samplers.

Beer Review: Blue Moon Brewmaster’s Spring Sampler

I don’t think I’ve ever tasted a more unified sample pack than Blue Moon’s Brewmaster’s Spring Sampler. The 12 pack is split up into three beers Blue Moon, Pale Moon and Blue Moon Spring Blonde Wheat Ale and it really tasted like three variations on a theme, which is by no means a bad thing. I’m a huge fan of regular Blue Moon, it and Coors Light are my most-ordered beers when I’m out and about, so I’m always a fan of that one. I’m not generally a fan of pale ales, but Pale Moon offers a combination of that style of beer along with some Belgian flava which makes it, basically, a slightly more bitter version of the regular Blue Moon. It’s not revolutionary by any means, but if you’re looking for a slightly more bitter Belgian white or a much less bitter pale ale, then this is the beer for you. I don’t know if I’d buy this one out and about, but I would at least think about it. Again, it’s like regular Blue Moon but with a few other notes in it. It says it’s brewed with lemon and orange which is interesting, but I think at the end of the day, I’d just as soon has a regular BM. While I appreciate Blue Moon offering a few other flavors for different tastes, for my money it’s going to be hard to beat the original.

Beer Review: Magic Hat Winterland Sampler

It’s beer time again! This time around, I gave Magic Hat’s Winterland sampler pack a try. I’ve tried a lot of their beers, including last year’s winter pack which was called Feast of Fools, but I think this might have been my least favorite of the bunch. That doesn’t mean I hated this pack, in fact, I liked two out of the four beers, don’t have much to say about the third and completely hated the fourth. As always, I love Magic Hat’s #9 and won’t be reviewing it again (if you’re interested, check out the above link). In addition to the numerical wheat beer, this pack also included new installments in the IPA on Tour and Odd Notion series and I’m pretty sure there was a change to Howl.

Kicking things off, I actually found the IPA on Tour (dubbed Encore) to be one of the most interesting beers I’ve tried in a long time. Usually I’m not a fan of the bitterness that usually comes along with an IPA, but this one had something very different that distracted be: grapefruit. I thought I might have just been making that up in my head, but then I looked at the label which confirmed the use of the citrus fruit in the beverage. I’m not a huge grapefruit fan, but I thought it really worked well with all the other flavors at play. It’s a very prominent and specific flavor that might not be great for everyone, but I enjoyed it. I’d definitely try this one on tap just to see how it plays fresh. The Winter ’10 entry in the Odd Notion series was a pretty big disappointment because it had no discernible taste. I thought I might have gotten a bum beer because I swished it around my mouth and was left with just a tingle on my tongue and no actual flavor. It’s not bitter at all, maybe a little sweet? I know I’m drinking something because it’s wet, but it’s more of a feeling than a taste. Maybe I need to drink it from a glass? Maybe there’s some citrus to it? But if so, very very little. I poured the second one into a glass and got pretty much the same experience. Not bad, but fairly unremarkable. It’s too bad because the one in this summer’s sampler was one of my favorites and I even dug last year’s Winter version. Too bad this season’s just fell flat. Woof. Howl was a real dog for me. Pretty undrinkable actually. I drank the first one and had to throw the other two out because I don’t wish them on my enemies (plus, I don’t invite my enemies over to the house). I don’t know if my tastes are changing or if Magic Hat mixes things up from year to year. When I reviewed last year’s winter pack, I noted that the Howl was thick like a Guinness, but this time around, the Howl has a smokey flavor to it that I’m not a fan of. One time, my buddy Ben bought me a beer I can’t recall the name of that was noted as having a smokey taste. It was like drinking liquid smoke. Like last year’s version, I wouldn’t buy this out and about. It’s pretty bad, just not my kind of beer at all.

Beer Review: Newcastle Brown Ale

I’ll be completely honest, I bought the Newcastle Brown Ale on accident, thinking it was Honey Brown. Apparently I was looking at the sale price more than the actual name of the beer. Anyway, I think this was my first experience with this beer which is imported from England (according to that yellow label on the bottle). It’s not a bad beer, but I don’t think I’ll be jumping back into this particular pool for a while.

This is a funny beer. The initial taste, right when it hits my tongue, is pretty mild, but then I’m struck by a bitter almost metallic taste. But then there’s a bit of sweetness to the aftertaste. It’s a hard flavor to pin down, but I’m not in the beer drinking game to enjoy a beer AFTER I drink it. In the end none of the flavors are particularly interesting, so I don’t think I’ll be coming back.

It’s funny because the label on the back says that it’s a smooth beer that’s “full of flavor.” I completely disagree on the smoothness factor, but I guess it’s full of lots of kinds of flavors, though none that I’m particularly interested in returning to. Just like the bottle says it truly is a “one and only.”

On the plus side, in addition to coming in smaller bottles that actually fit in my refrigerator standing up, I’m pretty sure these 12 ouncers have a higher than normal alcohol content because I get a surprising buzz off of just one. So, it’s got that going for it.

Thanksgiving Leftover Beer Reviews: Sam Adams & Michelob

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, one of the best things about having a party is spending the next week or so drinking all the leftover beer. For Thanksgiving we had both sets of parents along with my buddy Rickey in the house so we had plenty to drink between my getting a Sam Adams Winter sampler pack, my dad picking up a case of Winter Lager and Rickey bringing some Michelob Shock Top and Leinenkugel. I wasn’t able to take notes on each and every beer, but there were four that I did, so here goes.

Samuel Adams White Ale says it’s an American version of a Belgian white ale, which is a beer I tend to like. It also says it has spices, but I’m not quite sure what they are. There’s no bitterness, a little citrus flavor and definitely some sweetness. Goes down smooth. It’s pretty good and I’d actually buy one out and about, though I wouldn’t mind if it had a little bit more of a flavor kick to it. Kind of comes off as a slight variation on Blue Moon as is.

No one else really seemed interested in the Sam Adams Chocolate Bock from the sampler pack (which I recommend on the whole) but me which was fine by me. It had a thickness similar to a Guinness, but with a much more chocolaty flavor. I’m not generally a fan of thicker beers, but I actually really enjoyed this one. I think the chocolate flavor takes some of the shock out of the bitterness the usually comes with this kind of beer. I’m not much of a chocolate fan, but this is another one I would try out at a bar if it was on tap, though I don’t know if I’ll ever see it.

We had more of the Winter Lager left over than anything else because it was the back-up beer that my dad bought which we broke out the day after Thanksgiving while watching football and once again it was pretty great. Has a tiny bit of bitterness to it with a more bitter aftertaste, but it fades fast leaving a tingle on my tongue. This might be one of the more interesting beers I’ve had in a while as it’s got a spice to it as well as a hint of chocolate/sweetness. I think this was my favorite of the bunch and will probably pick up more of it during the season.

Michelob’s Shock Top is one of the best Michelob beers I’ve ever had. I’m a huge fan of this Blue Moon-like beer that actually has more of an orange flavor than that other beer (which I’m also a fan of). Shock Top has become a pretty big staple when it comes to my friends and hanging out which is aces in my book because it’s not too expensive and tastes great. I hope Michelob can make more fun beers like this instead of the junky beers in the sampler pack I had a few weeks ago.

Beer Review: Michelob Gold Medal Fall Sampler Pack

Hey, happy Thanksgiving! If you’re like me you’ll be celebrating with friends and family, watching football and having a good time this Turkey Day. And what better way to do so than with a sampler pack. Well, it might be too late to offer up this advice, but if you’re looking for some really distinct and solid flavors, you might want to look elsewhere than the Michelob Gold Medal Fall Sampler pack. This wasn’t necessarily a bad group of beer, but overall I was struck by how all four beers lack boldness. None of them have much of an aftertaste or a very solid pre-taste. Since I wasn’t gulping these down, I noticed they tasted a little better the more they sat out, but that could have just been a figment of my imagination.

First off, we’ve got the Amber Bock which claims to have a “rich, nutty aroma” and caramel flavors but I didn’t get much of that. Really, the taste is so slight that it’s like you’re just getting a sense of the flavors as they fade away. Not bad, but not spectacular.

Up next we’ve got the Marzen Oktoberfest Style Beer which was probably the boldest flavor in the pack, but still not all that interesting. I guess I don’t really know what an Oktoberfest beer is supposed to take like because I tend to drink Hefeweizen when I’m actually at an Oktoberfest. It’s hard to judge a Marzen because I don’t think I’ve ever had one before. I do like it, though I’m not sure if I would think to buy one out at a bar or restaurant. The flavor’s smooth, leaves a little tingle on my tongue and actually seems to get better with every sip.

The Original Lager was another entry in the “eh” category. I wonder if my tastes are changing to extremes of the beer world. I can get down with a Coors or Bud Light when the mood strikes me and then with some much stronger flavors, but it feels like the middle of that spectrum is losing my interest. The Original Lager starts off like pretty much every other lager I’ve head, but developed a sweetness after a few sips. Again, this one didn’t make much of an impact and I wouldn’t think to buy this again or order one while out at a bar or restaurant.

Finally, we end the pack with the Honey Lager which I was looking forward to most because it seemed like it was right up my alley. Instead, the honey flavor didn’t really come through for me. This one also seemed to develop over time, but not enough to make a lasting impression on me.

Overall, I got the impression that this box was put together to try to get regular beer drinkers drinking some different kinds of beers, but without getting too far into the flavors an alienating some folks, which is really too bad because I enjoyed the hell out of Michelob’s summer sampler pack from the summer before last and missed it this season. Heck, these are the guys that make Shock Top which is one of the better new mass produced beers on the market. Hopefully they’ll get their act together next season. Today we’ll be enjoying (I hope) the Sam Adams Winter Classics box along with some others imported from Ohio and possibly New Hampshire thanks to our visiting parents. Happy Thanksgiving, drink up!

Beer Review: Tremont Mr. Oktoberfest Seasonal Ale

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A few weeks back my folks visited. My dad and I went to the store and we picked up some beers. Usually I’d get a fall sampler pack, but they were curiously lacking at the store that weekend. Instead, Dad suggested we try something new and we settled on Tremont Mr. Oktoberfest Seasonal Ale. I’d seen Tremont beer at the store, but never tried one before, so this was an interesting experience, especially when we cracked the beers open and they had a surprising flavor. I was expecting a lager, but it turned out to be more of a stout. On first taste, I wasn’t really that into it as it had a bitterness to it, but then a sweetness snuck up that had a kind of chocolate. Over the next few weeks, I grew to really dig the beer and enjoyed slowly finishing the pack off. So, if you’re looking for a chocolaty version of Guinness this fall, give Tremont’s Mr. Oktoberfest Seasonal Ale a whirl. Also, I dig the old timey baseball player on the bottle!

Beer Review: Magic Hat Summer Scene

I actually had these beers a few weeks back by now, but I took notes while drinking (always a fun endeavor), so here’s what I thought of the Magic Hat Summer Scene collection. I just went to the grocery store today and it looks like they might have moved on to their next sampler, but you might be able to find this one in stores still. First off, I still like the ubiquitous Magic Hat sampler pack inclusion of #9, check out that review here in my review of last year’s Feast of Fools pack. Overall, I really dug this collection of beers, especially the entry in the Odd Notion series, this time dubbed Summer ’10. It reminds me of a really good Hefeweizen, starting off sweet, then getting a little bitter, but finishing sweet. You get a bit of an aftertaste that some folks might not like, but I found it to be the most enjoyable of the bunch. The label says it’s got some ginger in it which I can definitely taste, but it’s not overwhelming like ginger can be. I could definitely see myself ordering one of these while out at a bar or even getting a 6 pack, though the season for them seems to be over unfortunately.

Next up we’ve got the Wacko Summer Seasonal which they called “A crisp summer ale.” It’s not bad, but also not too remarkable. I’m not sure if I’d call it crisp, but it is definitely smooth. Without much of a taste or aftertaste to speak about this beer is just kind of there. You can tell you’re drinking beer because it feels like beer, but it just doesn’t taste like much. I wouldn’t order this one by itself, but it actually acted as a kind of palette cleanser between the others, so it worked out for the purposes of this review.

Finally, I’m finishing up with the IPA on Tour entry Blind Faith. I used to really dislike IPAs for their intensely bitter taste, but much like the general taste of beer grew on me after moving out to New York where liquor is far too expensive for a lowly intern or research assistant, I’m really starting to enjoy them. I discovered that earlier this summer when I tasted Sam Adams’ Latitude 48 (which came in a pack I should definitely review) and found myself enjoying it. There’s something about the bitter bite that I’m growing to enjoy and that’s what I liked about Blind Faith. It has a hell of a bite because it’s an IPA, but doesn’t taste as caustic as some of its ilk do. There’s something about the bitter finish that makes me want to take another sip. I also like how it lingers on my tongue.

So, there you have it. Though the Wacko didn’t do much for me, I feel like I got my money’s worth with this sampler pack and I always like to try new things, so I’m excited to try out the fall’s new sampler and seeing how it compare’s to Summer’s! What summer beers have you guys been enjoying this season?

Beer Review: Harpoon’s UFO Raspberry Hefeweizen

I was first introduced to Harpoon’s UFO (that stands for UnFiltered Offering) Raspberry Hefeweizen by my in-laws a few years back. I don’t think I’d ever had a beer quite that fruity before. I’d had sweet hefeweizens before, but those usually top out with, at the most, a mild orange taste. But this raspberry flavored beer is seriously sweet, leaning more into boozey cider territory in my personal opinion. Luckily, it’s also pretty light, so you don’t feel stuffed after drinking a few. Being a little bit more expensive, I don’t usually pick up this beer, but I grabbed a 6-pack before Christmas and was saving this one for a special occasion (ie, this review). For what it’s worth, the regular UFO Hefeweizen is also really good and not nearly as sweet as this one.

Also, boiling brats in Raspberry Hefeweizen before grilling them adds a whole lot of awesome flavor that you should try out at least once. So, if you’re a fan of sweet beers, give this one a try if you can find it, though I think it might be more resigned to the east coast. Good luck and happy drinking!