To drink or wait?

So I did manage to come across one bottle of Canadian Breakfast Stout.  Thankfully, I only ended up paying retail for it, instead of those who sought it out and managed to pay close to $100 for it.  Now that I have this rare bottle, when should I actually consume it?  Typically on Fridays I’ll have a bigger bottle to celebrate the close of a week.  Therefore, should I drink it this week or do I wait?  But, if I wait, how long should I wait?

I figured the best way to make my decision was to see what everyone else was doing.  Now my last poll was more or less a bust, but if you have one of these bottles, how long are you waiting to consume it?  I’m basically just interested in seeing what everyone else is doing.




Avery Brewing Company – The Reverend

I manage to sometimes pick up a few bottles a week for this blog and, of course, my own enjoyment.  Unfortunately, that also means I always have new things to add into my selection.  This also results in somethings getting pushed back in the line of getting reviewed or even tasted.  Of course, some of them I just eventually end up drinking without reviewing, but I always find it harder to do it with the bigger bottles.  This is one of those bottles.  I seem to remember picking this one up sometime before the summer; however, I never got around to drinking it until this past weekend.  Ultimately I had to get around to it, I just finally decided to not drink some others newer bottles I was really craving and pick this one up instead.

Now that sounds like I didn’t really want to consume this one; however, quite the contrary, there were just others I had been dying to try even more.  There are a few reasons why I wanted to have the others first.  One, I have had quite a few things by Avery, and I have a few more limited edition bottles I wanted to try first.  Second, this is a quadrupel ale, and that is definitely not my favorite type of beer.  Third, it has 10% Abv, and I play hockey every friday night.  Therefore, it would be the only thing I would be drinking that night.  Well, at least until after hockey.

I picked this one up a few months back when I had just recently enjoyed my first bottle of Collaboration not Litigation.  I really liked that beer, and I wanted to check out another interesting product of theirs.  I’m actually pretty sure I purchased this without even checking what type of beer it contained.  Talk about an impulse buy!  Having also enjoyed a few other Avery products, I was really excited to try this one out.  Hopefully it doesn’t disappoint.

The Reverend pours out a reddish brown hue.  The clarity on it is a little hazy, but not terribly hazy overall.  It does produce some very light head; however, there really isn’t much accumulation to speak of.  It’s mostly lacking in the head. It’s a very heavy beer overall.  There is some white lacing that results, but once again, it really isn’t all that significant.  The look is very much like the other quads I’ve had in the past.

The smell that comes through the most is some really dark rich fruits.  It has almost a very boozy cherry scent to it.  There seems to be a little hint of grapefruit in there as well.  The smell is certainly sweet.  It smells like it could have some caramel or molasses in it as well.  There really isn’t much in the way of hops here at all, but you can pull out some of the malts.  One of the most overwhelming characteristics is the booze.  For some reason, that is always the smell that comes out with most of the quads I’ve had.

The dark rich cherry taste definitely comes out at the onset of the taste.  These combine with some deep rich malts as well.  The sweetness immediately follows the fruits.  It definitely tastes closer to the rich sweetness of molasses rather than caramel.  It is a little sweet for me; however, I wouldn’t be surprised if some people really like this aspect to it.  Finally, it leads into a really strong boozy finish.  As I continue to find with quads, the booze is almost overwhelming.  It definitely lingers long into the aftertaste.  This is one of those types of beers that won’t let you forget that you are drinking alcohol.

The mouthfeel here has a slight syrup quality that I find a little off-putting.  I think it could be due to the molasses, or the fact that it is so high in alcoholic content, but it really makes it slightly thick.  Another thing that makes it seems a little syrupy is the light carbonation involved.  A high amount of carbonation would help take away from the overall syrup feel.  Finally, the really boozy quality that leads into the aftertaste creates a slight issue.  I want to sit down, most the time, and enjoy a few beers.  This one doesn’t allow it.  It has such a heavy quality that you really can’t have a lot more than just this bottle.

I really like Avery, and I think I wanted to like this one more than I actually did.  There are a few others in the series Avery makes called the “Holy Trinity of Ales”.  I have a feeling I would have enjoyed the other two in the trinity more than this one.  Either way, this is a good beer if you love this style.  I, on the other hand, would much rather stick to the porters, ipas, and tripels I know I love.

Teacher Grade: C+

Craft Brew in the Steel City

Over the weekend I had the pleasure of taking a three day weekend trip out to Pittsburgh.  While there we visited with some old friends, ate some amazing food, and enjoyed some really good brews.  Having not really been around Pittsburgh too much, I didn’t realize just how much good beer was around the city.  However, I was very pleasantly surprised to find that Pittsburgh not only has a good amount of craft beer brought in from other cities, but they also have quite a bit of craft beer that can be found brewed right there in the city.

The first night there our friends took us out to a place called Mad Mex.  First of all, the food here was great.  The burrito I had was the size of the plate and had some really great flavor to it.  The atmosphere there was rather hipster.  Although a bit loud, it was definitely different than your typical Mexican place.  Walking in, I was thinking I would have to resort to a margarita.  Most Mexican food places I have been too haven’t had the greatest selection in beer.  This place, however, was definitely different.  Having to wait a little for a table, I walked up and got an up close look at the beer selection.

They had an extremely wide selection of standard, seasonal, and even a few hard to find brews.  I was surprised to see that they had Dogfish Head Life and Limb on tap.  Sitting down, it actually was a challenge to figure out what my first brew would be.  I ultimately decided to go with the Avery Kaiser Imperial Oktoberfest.  Having never had this one before, and hearing rave reviews, I really wanted to try this one anyway.  Having finished most of it before the food showed up, I decided to go with something I have waiting to be consumed at home: Blue Point – Toxic Sludge Black IPA.  This was a great brew too, although, I may have committed a slight flaw in trying to consume this with Mexican food.

On the way home, I requested that we stop at D’s SixPax and Dogz.  Having been to Pitt once before, I knew this place had create your own six packs that I could take back to my friends’ place and even take a few home for reviews.  Since I’m saving most of them for reviews, my selection will remain a mystery.  I did however consume one beer from there while in Pitt.  It was the Dark Horse Brewing Co. – Crooked Tree IPA.  A pretty good IPA if I do say so myself.  It was quite hoppy overall.  D’s is a great place to go though for food or a walk out six pack.  They have a beer cave where lots of bottles are kept cold, and they have a back room for stored warm stuff.  If you’re eating in, you can just head to the beer cave, grab a cold one, and drink it with your meal.

Sunday we managed to get into a random bar to watch some football.  Although I was expecting to be consuming a more standard beer here, they once again surprised me with some interesting selections.  The first one that jumped out at me was the Southern Tier – Pumking.  Although I wasn’t in the mood for this one, I was surprised to see it available in a random establishment.  Here I managed to have a few local beers I had never seen before.  First I had an East End – Big Hop.  It had some really bitter qualities that our one friend had trouble getting through.  I personally loved it.  After that I had a Full Pint – White Lightning as well.  This one was a Belgian in the vein of a Blue Moon.  Although having far more flavor than your typical Blue Moon, it still had a lot of lemon citrus qualities.  I didn’t have one of these types of beers all summer long, so it was slightly off-putting.  I still thought both were great local beer though.

Later that night, we went to a location I had really wanted to head to: The Church Brew Works.  I had been told about this place during my last visit, and I knew I really wanted to get here this time.  The Brew Works is actually a brewery that has taken over an old Catholic church building.  They have kept a lot of the look of the church, but there are tanks and other beer equipment all around.  I decided to get the sampler to get a full taste of the entire spectrum of what they have to offer.  The sampler came with 4 of their standard beers, and 4 of their specials or seasonal beers.  The 8 beers total were the Celestial Gold Pilsner, Pipe Organ Pale Ale, Pious Monk Dunkel, Oatmeal Stout, Alter Red Rye, Oktoberfest, Four Grains Harvest Ale, and Hoptoberfest.  Although I took notes on all of the beers, I’ll stick to my favorites.  The Oatmeal stout was a really good beer that had a lot of rich roasted flavor to it.  There was also a really smokey quality as well.  Secondly, I really liked the Hoptoberfest.  It is essentially the Oktoberfest with the addition of hops; however, it is a really nice fresh take on a seasonal brew that everyone seems to make.  Overall, I liked almost all of the beers.  I’m really not a pilsner fan, so I didn’t really like that one.  However, they even got my wife to like a beer, and that is hard to do.  She managed to finish most of my little Oktoberfest flute.

Overall, it was a great trip to Pitt for multiple reasons.  I had a great time with good friends, and I managed to have a lot of new and interesting brews.  If you’re in Pitt, take a hard look at what is available, and let me know of a good place to visit. I think you might be surprised how even a random establishment can have good beer.  Next time I hope to visit either East End or Full Pint brewery.

Harviestoun Brewery – Old Engine Oil

There had to have been a time when most avid beer drinkers went from feeling comfortable drinking just any type of beer to seeking out new and exciting beers.  For me, it happened about a year into living in DC.  At first, I knew I didn’t like to drink any of the really big commercial beers (Miller, Bud, Coors…etc), but I was alright with consuming things that were still pretty easy to find and not all that unique.  One day, I happened into a store about a block from Union Station called Schneider’s.  Although more of a wine store, they have a fairly diverse supply of beer in the back.  While there, I perused the various bottles.  I specifically remember being surprised by all of these large bottles with actual good beer in them.  I had always assumed that anything larger than a 120z bottle was for hobos to carry around in paper bags.  Anyway, thus began my interest in trying new and exciting beers.  I still remember my first purchase at that store.  I bought Rogue Shakespeare Stout and this little bottle of Old Engine Oil.  I thought it was an awesome name for a beer.  I went back for it a few times because I liked it a lot, but I had basically forgotten about it till I saw it in a different store a few weeks ago.  I had to get it!  Now that I have tasted so many other beers, would I still like it as much as I had in the past?

Harviestoun has been around since 1985; however, they have seen a few different owners over the years.  Produced in Scotland, they managed to produce for over twenty years before being purchased by Caledonian Brewery.  Then, only a few years later, Caledonian was purchased by Scottish & Newcastle.  Interestingly, they didn’t want to keep the Harviestoun name brand.  Therefore, they once again became independent again.  I know the first few bottles of this were consumed before they were sold back and forth a few times, so I’m really hoping the product hasn’t suffered at all in the end.

As with a lot of the beers I have been having lately, this one poured out a very dark black color.  Once again, with beer this dark, you can’t really distinguish any other color other than black.  There was a pretty large amount of brown head that developed on top of the beer.  With movement in the beer, you can visibly see the carbonation moving throughout the beer, which is despite the very dark color.  Swirling the glass results in really heavy thick lacing that continues to last.  The glass was pretty much covered, even after the final sip, in a rather substantial amount of lacing.

The smell was shockingly crisp and clean despite the dark nature of the color.  I figured the dark color would mean only thick rich coffee scents would emerge; however, this has a much more crisp nature to the scent.  There is definitely still some very clear coffee scents present in here.  Additionally, there are nice sweet caramel scents that give a little more character to the coffee smells.  Added in there are some of the expected roasted malty scents that typically accompany these darker beers.  Hops didn’t seem to be a big contributor here; however, I feel like I am pulling a slight hoppiness out of the nose.  However, I will always rely far more on my taste buds than my nostrils to figure this one out.

The taste starts with a really clean woody malt flavor.  You can tell that this is a deep rich beer even without the coffee kick at the beginning.  There is a nice little mixture of chocolate and sweet caramel that follows the crisp clean start.  This a very nice lead into the roasted coffee flavor that follows.  The sweetness almost helps the consumer get a little nice break before the coffee comes in.  Think of it as coffee with sugar and cream.  It helps take the edge off.  The coffee flavor that comes in isn’t overwhelming.  It could be due to the sweet lead in; however, it has a really nice balance.  There is a slight sour hit at the end that I think comes from some slight hops inclusion.

The mouthfeel here has a pleasant amount of carbonation.  It doesn’t tend to be too high or low.  It kind of dissipates quickly in the glass, but on a fresh pour, it has some a lot of good carbonation.  The flavors are all well-balanced and smooth throughout.  There is a slightly syrupy quality, but it isn’t too syrupy or sweet.  Also, the well blended flavors assist in creating a good aftertaste as well.

In the end, I think my memory of this one may have been slightly more than what I got out of the beer, but it is still a great beer.  Even though I built this up in my mind, I don’t want to take away from the fact that this is still a great beer.  I will most likely get another one of these bottles in the future.  If you’re interested in something fun and delicious, then make sure to check this one out.

Teacher Grade: A-

Stone Brewing Company – 15th Anniversary Black IPA

I kicked off the other week by posting a special release from Stone Brewing Company.  There I let my readers know I had two more bottles of special releases to get through from Stone.  While I like to let my beers sit around for a while before I try them out, I was encouraged by a good friend to get to this one sooner rather than later.  Therefore, I figured it had better be consumed sometime over the weekend.  I try to not open a 750 ml bottle during the week.  It seems more like a weekend treat for me.

As I said last time, Stone is one of those companies that is making huge waves in the world of craft brewing.  Despite still being able to be called a craft brew, they definitely are one of the much bigger names that dominates the scene.  15 years of experience can only help you up your game.  These guys have been releasing an anniversary ale every year for the past 15 years.  The first few years they simply released an imperial ipa for the celebration; however, as the years went on, they began to branch out into different types of brews.

This year they have brewed a Black IPA for the occasion.  Black IPA’s have really started to come into their own lately.  The place where I work has replaced the 21st Amendment IPA with their black IPA.  Maybe that doesn’t seem all that abnormal, but it isn’t really a beer place.  Their other offerings are Schlitz, High Life, Miller Lite, and Brooklyn Pilsner and Brown.  Personally, I really like the concept of the black IPA.  It essentially combines the deep, rich, malty qualities of darker beers with the hoppiness of IPA’s.  As a lover of both hops and dark beers, it seems like a perfect combination for me.

The pour on this one is an extremely dark rich black color.  It definitely has a stout or porter consistency to it for sure, or perhaps it just reminds me of that.  There is a nice build up of frothy brown head that develops on the top of the beer.  It has some really nice layering to it.  It’s very creamy in appearance.  The lacing is very nice and plentiful on the sides of the glass.  Swirling the glass results in a very nice reoccurrence of the head.  There is some really visible carbonation in the beer despite it being so dark.

The smell is a really interesting blend of both the hops and coffee. I don’t think I was expecting to pull a whole lot of coffee notes out of this one; however, the coffee is certainly present on the nose.  The hoppy floral notes are pretty obvious as well.  Aside from both coffee and hops, there is almost a slightly pepper smell that comes out on this as well.  I’m interested to see how that comes out in the taste.  Additionally, there are some slight citrus notes that most likely also result from the hops.

The taste was not only really good, but also nicely surprising.  Now, I haven’t had a whole lot of black ipas, and it’s been a little while anyway.  So, I kinda forgot what I was in store for.  The onset is really crisp and clean.  There are some nice deep rich malts.  Both the hops and coffee stay out of the start of the flavor.  The hops come in quickly and have a very straight ipa feel.  After the hops comes the surprising part.  The coffee comes in heavy and hard.  The hops, however, don’t disappear.  It becomes a really interesting and delicious blend of both hops and coffee.  The coffee flavor has a very earthy and woody feel to it.  Also, there is a lingering heavy roasted flavor that lasts into the aftertaste.

The mouthfeel here has a really nice blend of the carbonation throughout the beer.  Even though coffee and hops don’t sound like the most normal of combinations, it works together extremely well.  None of the flavors manage to throw off the balance at all.  It has an interesting ability to be both crisp and hearty at the same time.  Additionally, the aftertaste, doesn’t leave any foul taste.

In the end, I guess I wasn’t sure what to expect from this bottle.  I have really been enjoying a lot of different things coming out of Stone as of late.  This one is probably on top of that pile.  I may be ready to crown this beer my favorite of this year; however, I’ll hold off for a few more months.  Thankfully, I know where to buy another bottle.

Teacher Grade: A+

Mastodon – Hunter

In college I really started to get into the hardcore and metal genre.  Freshman year I managed to attend at least two to three shows a week. Going to college in the middle of Pennsylvania, we would see stuff in the immediate area, Philly, Wilkes-Barre, and even head down to VA for a big festival.  Since college I haven’t invested as much effort into the genre.  I still go through a phase where I’ll listen to a lot of heavy stuff, but a lot of it is listening to the old favorite bands and not looking into new stuff.  Mastodon is most definitely one of those old favorites, and probably, the only band I would still pay to listen to in this genre.

Mastodon formed in 1999, and released their first full-length, Remission, in 2002. Historically they love the concept album.  They are definitely the type of guys who fit in just fine creating their own Lord of the Ring or Game of Thrones.  Remission’s overarching concept was fire, Leviathan was loosely based on Moby Dick, Blood Mountain was a journey up the mountain to retrieve a crystal skull, and Crack the Sky is just insane.  According to the band, Crack the Sky is about art aesthetics of Tsarist Russia, asteral travel, out-of-body experiences, and Stephen Hawking’s theories on worm holes.  I am beginning to understand why Crack the Sky is the only album I didn’t care for.

Hunter takes the listener on a slightly different journey.  This is the first time the band has no concept for this album.  Although they do still write material about fantasy, it doesn’t really follow any larger plot.  It also is the first time they have used a different artist for their album artwork.  Finally, it is also the first time they have used the same producer as Maroon 5.  I’m sorry but that is not very metal at all.

Producer aside, half of this record is still extremely hard-hitting and intense.  Unfortunately, I can only say mostly though.  First the good!  The first two songs on the album are two of my favorite.  “Black Tongue” has some really fun guitar riffs and some nice intricate drum work.  The vocals come in very powerful and a little more harmonic than some of Mastodon’s past records. I’m a little nervous about the singing.  Even though they have done singing before, it continues to seem more and more cleaned up.  I saw them on Letterman the other night, and it really didn’t sound all that good.  The recording however is excellent. Additionally, the subject matter is still fun and epic as well.  The first line goes, “I burned out my eyes / I cut off my tongue…” Even without the concept, they are still writing interesting lyrics that suggest a story line.

“Curl of the Burl” is the first major single off the album.  This was the one I saw performed on Letterman.  The singing here is even cleaner, which was what made it sound not great on TV.  The music is slightly less interesting.  I can’t help but think they are trying to continue to go a little more mainstream with their sound.  Even though I do like this song, there just isn’t anything really crazy interesting that jumps out at you.  There are a few guitar solos here and there, but they don’t really stand out to me.  It is however still a catchy song that I enjoy.

A few other songs I like on the album are “Blasteroid”, “All the Heavy Lifting”, and “Octopus has no Friends”.  “Blasteroid” has some really nice intricate dueling guitars to start off the song, which lead into this very fast paced and wild song.  It’s really one of the few songs they end up screaming on as well.  “All the Heavy Lifting” once again has the feel of story telling.  It has a similar quality to “Curl of the Burl”; however, it is a driving heavy song.  The chorus, “Just close your eyes / and pretend that everything’s fine / just close your eyes / I’ll tell you when”, is sung out in a very epic way.  I would really like to see some crazy fantasy video for this one.  “Octopus has no Friends” is slightly more intricate in the guitar work.  However, the vocals come in very processed and almost machine like.  It’s a fun song that sounds really busy because the guitars are crazy in the background.

There are however a few duds on this album.  I wish I didn’t have to say that; however, after a week of listening to this record, I have to admit that there are songs I just skip.  I have a feeling that these could be excused in a concept album; however, it almost seems like the guys needed to take a break instead.  In a concept album, these songs could have been some reflective part in the story.  Instead, they come across as a little lackluster.

The song that I almost immediately skip every time is “Creature Lives”.  The intro is an instant turn off.  It comes in with some rather 80’s electronic sounds and evil laughter.  Once again, I might be able to excuse this if it were some concept album that had some strange Tron like theme; however, it almost makes it seem like there is no purpose in it.  The 80’s feel and laughter completely fade before the music comes in very slowly.  Then it almost breaks into a Black Sabbath type of song. I actually like the song, and it does take the band in a completely different direction, but I forget the goodness behind the corny laughter.

A few other songs that seem really slow and uncharacteristic are “The Sparrow” and “The Hunter”.  Although they are fine on their own, they seem to do very little to add to the feel of the record.  “The Sparrow” is an interesting song, but I can almost treat it as background music.  It starts very slowly and builds but to an impressive guitar solo in the middle before it calms back down; however, it just doesn’t back the punch that Mastodon of the past.  “The Hunter” intros slowly as well.  For me, I think this one may be the most frustrating of all.  It stays really low tempo throughout the entire song.  I know the album and song are related to one of the band member’s relatives that died while hunting; however, as a person disconnected from that, it just leaves me wishing the band had done more.  As with the last one, this features a really good guitar solo in the middle of the song, but that is the most interesting part of the whole song.

All in all, I don’t think this is a bad album, but, having really expressed my feelings in this review, I find that I don’t like it as much as I thought I did.  There are definitely a few songs on here that are great, but there is enough on here that makes me wish for the Mastodon of the past.  If you want to hear Mastodon at its best check out Leviathan and Blood Mountain because, in the end, this album is just alright for me.

Teacher Grader: C+

Just to warn you, this video is quasi not safe for work.

Hitachino Nest – Espresso Stout

Some beers you walk into the store looking for.  Some beers you walk in and buy because you’ve had them before.  Then there are some beers that just pop out at you rather unexpectedly.  As I said in a previous review, I was searching out the Dogfish Head Punkin here in DC, and I managed to find it one Friday.  Of course, I have a tough time not looking around while I’m in the store; however, I did manage to keep it to one bottle.  This little bottle was actually sitting behind a much larger bottle of something else.  I kind of saw half the word espresso behind the other bottle and thought I knew what I saw.  Moving the other bottle, I was right about the type of beer, but I had no idea who the brewer was.  However, I was automatically hooked.  Even the guy at the counter commented that he didn’t know they had this one.

There were a few things that jumped out at me right away.  First of all, this one is a stout, but not only is it a stout, but it outright says it’s an espresso stout.  I love coffee; therefore, I was hoping for something that would be overwhelming with coffee.  Secondly, looking at the bottle, I wanted to know a little more about where this was from.  Right on the back it says imported from Japan.  I didn’t even look back.  Those two facts had me heading for the counter.

Looking a little more into the brewery.  You can actually trace this brewery all the way back to 1823.   Back then it was actually only a producer of sake.  It stayed that way for many years; however, in 1996 these guys decided to branch out into the world of beer.  Over the years, these guys have managed to win many awards and, not only gain popularity in Japan, but all over the world.

This beer pours out a very dark black color.  I don’t even think I can call it brown.  The rich brown head that develops on top isn’t very plentiful, but it gives the beer a literal espresso look as well.  The bottle does state that this is a Japanese dark ale brewed with coffee beans.  I don’t know what people in Japan consider a dark beer, but I consider it a very dark beer.  Swirling the glass does result in some slight lacing; however, it is only slight and really doesn’t last.

The most noticeable smell is the overwhelming scent of coffee that comes off this one.  Of course I find this exciting.  I bought this in the hope of some big coffee flavors.  There is also some very clear roasted quality that comes through in the smell as well. The chocolate notes are definitely noticeable right along with all of the coffee.  Other than those two expected smells, I also pull out some very light sweet smells like caramel.  These smells do not dominate, but can definitely be found in the scent.  There really seems to be no hops at all hidden in here.  Ultimately, I don’t think they even had much of a thought to mess around with some hops.

The flavors start with some very nice rich malt flavors.  There is some really smokey wood quality here as well.  The roasted flavoring hits you before the really deep coffee notes do.  From there, there is some nice sweet caramel and chocolate notes that enter.  I really like how they almost have their own separate spot in the flavor profile before getting overwhelmed with coffee.  It really helps to give a nice mellow sweetness to the middle of the flavor.  The finish is huge blast of espresso coffee.  With a lot of stouts, I expect it to be more mellow coffee flavors; however, this one definitely backs up the espresso part of its name.  The espresso rocks your taste buds and lasts long into the aftertaste.  If you love coffee, which I do, you’ll really love how this one finishes.

The mouthfeel here is slightly more typical for the stout genre.  The carbonation is a good amount.  Stouts don’t really overwhelm the drinker, and this one gives you a slight blast of carbonation, but mellows quickly.  There is almost a syrup quality at the end, but don’t take that in a bad way.  It isn’t sticky or undesirable.  As I said, the coffee extends well into the aftertaste, but it isn’t terrible.  Coffee drinkers are used to having those flavors last slightly longer.

I was really happy with this find.  It gave me everything that I wanted it to.  The coffee is not only there, but it is dominant.  However, this isn’t a coffee bomb.  There are other flavors in there that give a nice flavor profile.  The depth of this one really creates a very enjoyable sipping beer.  If you happen to see this one in the store, definitely pick it up!

Teacher Grade: A+