Saturday, December 28, 2013

Unibroue Don de Dieu

This is the last of a "varietal" four-pack of Unibroue that I purchased. The brewery describes this beer as a Triple Wheat Ale which is something that I am unfamiliar with. Styles are often important for consumer recognition when in reality there are no limits or boundaries. This is a great reason why visiting company websites or following up with a little research is good knowledge to have before enjoying a new beer.

Alcohol Content: 9
IBU: 10
Malts: ?
Hops: ?

Price: $12/ four-pack
Medium: Tulip (white wine glass will suffice)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Drop-In Sunshine and Hoppiness

I got a chance to try Sunshine and Hoppiness about 6 weeks ago at a small brewer's festival before sampling it again while dropping in to the new brewery in Middlebury, VT. I believe this Belgian-style pale ale is one of the first if not the first beer to be released. Regardless, the staff there said it was definitely a great seller. This belgian-style ale is straightforward, palatable, and an overall great experience.

Alcohol Content:

Price: $5/ "Squealer" (32oz growler) +deposit
Medium: Sampled at the brewery and in 16oz glass on day 2

Aroma: A distinguishably tart, fruity ester underlies spicy phenols, both of which are yeast derived. I don't recall the intensity of the yeast-derived character as being strong at the brewery (in the smaller sample), but the growler I brought home showed more interesting signs of a Weizen-like strain. I was getting all sorts of spicy phenols, clove, even some banana and bubblegum. A bouquet of floral hops mingle with the esters and phenols. Subtle malt sweetness of warm bread and/ or biscuits supports.
Appearance: A rocky white foam persists with effervescent carbonation after sitting in the growler for 2 days unopened. Lacing is wet. A brilliant (superb clarity) golden amber color is perceived in the pint glass while the same beer looks more yellow or pale in the smaller sample glass. My guess is this beer was filtered.
Flavor: Malts are biscuity/ bready and are cleaned up by a smooth, floral hop bitterness. I found the bitterness to be quite appropriate for the style and compatible with the yeast-derived flavors: spicy phenols, clove, and to a lesser degree banana, bubblegum. Finish is crisp, in part from the bitterness but also a moderately dry finish from fermentation. Yeast character remains a dominant role well into the aftertaste, of which I started to pick up more on the clove, banana, and hints of bubblegum. These are not typical of Belgian ales.
Mouthfeel: Despite the effervescent bubbling and great clarity, the beer did not retain its carbonation as well in the growler. The bubbles were also large and fell out of solution quickly as the beer warmed. This makes the beer seem more watery, flat, and throws off the balance of the beer by allowing more malt character (I write comparatively to the fresh sample at the brewery).
Overall Impression: The yeast character strangely resembled a German Weizen strain but Belgian-style beers are also fairly new for me. Even after just 2 days in a growler it is remarkable how a beer's character is affected, namely balance. The mouthfeel changes the most and gives insights into completely new perceptions of malts, hops, water profile, etc. This is something to be wary of when holding on to growlers after purchasing. There wasn't much of a "pop" to it when I opened, indicative of poor sealing as well.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Otter Creek Hop Session Ale

The newest offering from Otter Creek, Hop Session, was released earlier in the summer and was just bottled for the first time a couple of weeks ago. The name represents exactly what it is, a sessionable beer that is relatively low in alcohol, bitterness, and body but retains all the big hop character you might expect from a West coast pale ale or American IPA.

Alcohol Content: 4.25%
Hops: Apollo, Chinook, Centennial, Cascade, Citra

Price: $9/ 6-pack
Medium: Pint glass

Aroma: "Wet" vegetal hops similar to floral aromas after a heavy rainfall. Can also be described as slightly grassy - I related this to my backyard hops that give a similar freshness before harvest. Citra hops lend pineapple aromas while cascade adds grapefruit - sort of "muddied" with all the different hops. Malts lend a light sweetness with a touch of toasted bread. This is a great example of a beer with lots of floral hop character but remains delicate.
Appearance: Deep golden in color and very hazy. High turbidity is most likely due to dry hopping or late kettle additions. Head formation is pure white with great retention. Carbonation is not visible in the body but is clearly represented in the bubbly head and helps bring out hop aromas. Lacing is dense and is clearly marked with rings around the glass measured by each sip. Beautiful.
Flavor: Just as the aroma suggests, it starts out with a smooth and delicate malty sweetness that transforms into a prominent floral hop character of various fruits and citrus. The flavors blend together through each stage of the tasting, making it more difficult to pick out individual hops. Some grassiness which can be appropriate in light amounts and is definable by dry-hopping rates. Sweetness is cleaned up in the finish by hop flavors and bitterness. Fermentation is clean and allows the focus to be on the fruitiness in the hops. Reminds me of fresh backyard hops like in the aroma. A touch of caramel sweetness becomes more apparent in subsequent tastes.
Mouthfeel: Crisp, refreshing, not too bitter, and relatively light in body. Alcohol undoubtedly plays a huge role in the balance of final beer; this one remains carefully hop focused and I did not pick up on any alcohol presence. Bittering from hops could be cleaner.
Overall Impression: Very appropriate for a "session beer". I could easily drink multiple Hop Sessions in one evening without feeling harsh affects of high alcohols or wearing down my palate. The hop sensations remained the same during my second glass while the lower bitterness and lighter body allowed for easy-drinking. I'm excited to see what other breweries are doing to achieve similar results in bigger flavored beers without all the excise alcohol that was becoming a tradition in the American crafted IPA.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Unibroue Trois Pistoles

Another award-winner beer from an award winning brewery. Trois Pistoles is an abbey-style dark strong ale. My studies for the BJCP did not particularly cover this beer style but what I do know is its Belgian influence. Abbey ale yeast or Belgian yeast provides much of the character and complexity in this high gravity beer. Enjoy!

Alcohol Content: 9%
IBU: 15.5
Malts: ?
Hops: ?

Price: $12/ four-pack
Medium: Wine glass/ goblet

Aroma: Dark, ripe winterfruits, plums, tart cherries. Strong esters balances with spicy phenols from Belgian yeast strain I presume. An unusual lemon background. It hosts a distinct house-like character from Unibroue – perhaps the same yeast for many of their beers. Sweet, vinous or rum-like aroma presents itself nicely in this high gravity dark ale. Hints of roast and brown sugar. Malty, with little to no hop presence.

Appearance: Deep reddish brown with moderate haze. Approaches a porter color but not quite as dark. 32 SRM according to the brewer’s website. Glass selection will play an important role in this beer’s presentation. Beige, tan-colored head with great retention and an effervescent carbonation. Ale on lees - therefore yeast sediment in the bottle.
Flavor: Moderately tart fruity esters and malts combines to form a complex character largely influenced by the yeast. Some spicy phenols or house yeast character from Unibroue. Hints of roast in the finish and rum-like or port wine alcohol. Rum character could be from brown sugar additions, which may also be described as molasses. Possibly some fusel alcohols noted in flavor and mouthfeel. Finishes moderately crisp and dry with a pleasant aftertaste of residual sweetness.
Mouthfeel: Warm alcohol notes, possibly some fusel alcohols but nothing solventy or “hot”. Moderate body, deceivingly lighter than the color of the beer suggests. This is intensified by high carbonation that scrubs the palate and prevents any cloying sweetness from lingering. Pleasant and spicy, from yeast and spice additions. Strong but smooth.
Overall Impression: Although the beer finishes rather crisp and dry, it’s mouthwatering sweetness in the aftertaste is a great example of an aperitif to a meal. In other words this is a great pre-dinner beer as it gets the palate ready for a savory dinner. Can be aged for up to 8 years if you have the willpower and right cellar conditions. Pairing suggestions can be found on the company's website which I highly recommend visiting for the cool stories/ legends about the beers history behind the name. Like any beer though, research should be done before indulging for the best experience and serving suggestions.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Unibroue Maudite

The brewery describes Maudite as a strong amber-red ale which may be synonymous with a Belgian strong dark ale. This is another Unibroue example that is re-fermented on lees in the bottle. It is possible to age this beer for up to 8 years partially because the yeast in the bottle will aid in reducing oxidation, or the staling of beer.

Alcohol Content: 8%
IBU: 22

Price: $12/ 4-pack 12oz bottles
Medium: Snifter/ wine glass will suffice

Aroma: Tart cherry and oranges appear first, with a somewhat sharp or acidic character. Coriander lends more spice notes while yeast-derived phenols provide clove. Spice additions are unusual for this style but add complexity in the case. Malt/ bread/ caramel sweetness prevails over a delicate floral hop nose. No diacetyl. Raisins, prunes, other dark winter fruits describe malt sweetness and fruity esters from fermentation.
Appearance: Moderately hazy amber to reddish-brown color supports a dense, rocky, beige foam. Great retention. Carbonation is effervescent - lots of tiny bubbles flow consistently up the rounded glass for several minutes in a slow fashion.
Flavor: Richly malty characterized by bread crusts, cherries, and raisins. Dark fruit character reminiscent of highly kilned specialty malts and/or Munich malt. Pleasant caramel sweetness lingers into the aftertaste. Light hop bitterness but still manages to finish crisp by finishing dry. Well attenuated? Phenols from yeast lends a clove-like spiciness. Coriander perhaps too much for the style. Very complex. Balance is towards the malt sweetness despite finishing crisp and dry. Also noted lemon citrus in the aftertaste which I may be getting from the acidic nature.
Mouthfeel: Medium-light body for such a big beer. Very palatable with no harsh or solventy alcohols. Smooth for an 8%ABV beer. Carbonation is moderately high and lends to the perceived light body. Otherwise may come across as much fuller. Acidity could be confused with spicy character.
Overall Impression: Very different than previous examples of Belgian strong dark ales that I've tasted in that it finishes with less malt sweetness and seems very light for the style. Coriander and clove lend complexity but are unusual - actually reminds me a bit like a strong, dark Witbier (oxymoron) which is quite unusal. Re-fermentation in the bottle is traditional however. Aging for up to 8 years should yield a madera or port-like quality. Pair with washed rind cheeses or funky cheeses.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Drop-In Heart of Lothian

During my first visit to Drop-In Brewing Company a couple of weeks ago, I was stoked to come across this beer as it follows the traditionally Scottish-brewed 90 Shilling ale. The style is not typically found commercially, with the best example I know of being Odell 90 Shilling out of Colorado. I remember the first time I ordered the 90 Shilling from Odell Brewery and still covet it to this day while in search of comparable offerings.

Alcohol Content:

Price: $5/ "Squealer" (32oz growler) +deposit
Medium: Sampled at the brewery and in 16oz glass

Aroma: Very malty and sweet with warm alcohol notes playing a contributing role to the pleasant malt character. The nose suggests an overly sweet beer already, but that is to be decided by taste. Moderately-light roast and dark chocolate notes offers complexity without "muddying" the beer. In other words the aromas are still quite distinguishable despite lots of malt character. Hops are absent or in large part undetectable.
Appearance: Mocha head, of which I poured with disturbance to allow excessive foaming. I usually do this with growlers I bring home and store in the fridge before opening. Retention was minimal despite the large head pour. Color is of very dark ruby/ brown, approaching black. Has a beautiful presentation in the small sample glass from the brewery but it not nearly as clear in the pint glass.
Flavor: Chocolate, roast, deep melanoidins, and dried fruit character are all prominent, with perhaps a touch of black patent malt coming across in the finish as well. Although very malty and sweet, the finish is met with bitterness I perceive as coming from both hops and malts. Also a bit dry which aids in cleaning up sweetness that may otherwise become cloying. Molasses, caramel, and toffee can all be used to describe the malts as well (I found this in subsequent sips). Hops for light bittering only and add no particular flavors or aromas.
Mouthfeel: Very full bodied with an almost cloying sweetness but this is cleaned up by the semi-dry finish. I curiously took a hydrometer reading from a sample and found the final gravity to be around 1.012, which suggests good fermentation for the style (I let it warm up and degas to take a better reading). This may have something to do with a semi-dry finish despite all the malty sweetness perceived on the front end of the palate. Alcohol lends warmth with a spice character that strangely reminds me of nutmeg and ginger. Possibly a light astringency from dark malts. Carbonation was low due to storage and leaking of CO2 in the squealer. Low creaminess lends a stout-like character.
Overall Impression: Balance was thrown off from the low carbonation. I recall the experience being better when sampled fresh from the brewery. (Looking back at my notes it was two days later that I sampled it again from the growler I brought home). This is a very bold beer in terms of malt character without too much alcohol to be considered big or un-sessionable. I am excited to try more from the brewery as it is not far from work!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Unibroue Blanche de Chambly

After a long break from the blogging experience, I return with a unique offering of a traditional Belgian-style White (or Witbier) from one of Canada's finest breweries, Unibroue. Brewed in Quebec and imported by Unibrew USA, which I was surprised to read Shelburne, VT. It's the first bottle-refermented white beer in North America.

Alcohol Content: 5%
IBU: ? (low)
Malts: Presumably Pilsner, Wheat
Hops: ?

Price: $12/ 4-pack 12 oz bottles
Medium: Flute glass

Aroma: Spicy phenols are very prominent, with clove being the most obvious and hints of vanilla in the background. Floral, perfume-like hop aroma is low and aids in complexity. Coriander spice notes are moderately less assertive compared to yeast-derived phenols. Bready yeast character and honey-like sweetness provides balance to the tart fruitiness of curucao oranges. Lemon zest also very prominent, perhaps derived from a large proportion of wheat (malted, flaked, or unmalted).
Appearance: Pale golden with moderate haze as to be expected from large proportions of wheat. Fluffy, mousse-like white head forms instantly and remains throughout the session (great retention and belgian lace). Re-fermented in bottle, so yeast was decanted when pouring into a glass to preserve its elegant appearance. Carbonation is champaign-like, effervescent with fine bubbles continuing to stream for several minutes.
Flavor: Only hints of honey-like sweetness in the beginning, morphing into a yeasty or bready character about mid-palate. Then the bouquet of flavors really shine. Tart lemon-zest and orange citrus is complemented by spicy phenols (mostly clove). Floral, perfume-like hop character lingers and possibly contributes spicy notes (if one can differentiate this from the yeast-phenols). Vanilla is subtle. Wheat provides a light flavor contribution. Balance is towards the tart-like citrus and bready yeast character. Bitterness is very low.
Mouthfeel: Very light body, perhaps too light even for this "champaign of beer" style. Carbonation is explosive and lends a tingling sensation. Subtle warming effect possibly from phenols (think pepper) as opposed to alcohol, which remains only at 5%. Very dry palate and finishes short.
Overall Impression: A very refreshing and light beer that is intended to be enjoyed fresh. However, Unibroue suggests aging up to 2 years if you wish to. Could use a touch more body despite its refreshing nature. The bottle-refermentation/ conditioning process could have lead to a higher than intended carbonation and thinner body - aiding in really drying out the beer. This beer characterizes a Belgian yeast strain and possibly a short lactic fermentation period which would promote the acidic character (unlikely). A great example of the style.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Drop In Brewing Shooting Star

In becoming lackluster keeping up with the blog, I decided to stop by Drop In Brewing Company after work last week to refill a couple squeelers I previously purchased. After tasting six samples on draught I decided to go with Shooting Star, an English-style special bitter brewed as a test batch by students of the American Brewer's Guild. A simple beer, this English bitter does not leave much room for error and when done right, it can be quite satisfying and sessionable.

Alcohol Content: 3.9%
IBU: ?
Malts: 2-Row, Crystal
Hops: Liberty, Tettnang

Price: $5/ "squeeler" refill (32 oz); $7/ growler refill (64 oz)
Medium: English pint glass

Aroma: Delicate floral hop nose and toasty malt sweetness with background notes of caramel. No signs of alcohol. Slightly fruity esters, of which are appropriate. A great example of the "Burton snatch" - this beer is high in sulfur and leaves a minerally character in the water profile. I wouldn't be surprised if large amounts of calcium sulfate were added to Middlebury's relatively soft water. No diacetyl.
Appearance: Great clarity - filtered as part of the students practice using filtration equipment. Light amber to copper in color or slightly red. White-ish head and decent retention. Low caronation.
Flavor: Lends a delicate malty start with caramel sweetness and lightly toasted bread. Hops balanced nicely with the delicate maltyness, lending a floral and spicy character. Hops also linger on the side of freshly cut grass. Hop bitterness is moderately strong but remains in check by the malts. Finish is semi-dry, whereby the mineral content becomes more noticeable and suggests high sulfates. Aftertaste is where the "Burton snatch" is perceived again by pushing the aromatics back out through the nose. Some earthy characteristics parallel the sulfur notes in the aftertaste
Mouthfeel: Medium to medium-light in body conjured by a faint carbonation. Sulfury. Bitter but also fairly balanced. No alcohols or warming effect. Low carbonation offers a wateriness to the body, providing little viscosity and allowing for an easy-drinking experience. Hoppy mouthfeel, but not like the dank resinous hops you may find in an IPA.
Overall Impression: Drinkability is critical for this style and I think Shooting Star is a good fit for this component. I thought it was reminiscent of the beers I may find in London, but then again I've never been to London. That said, it fits well with the few canned examples I've tasted that are true to the style. It's very straightforward and a great beer to learn how to brew. Can easily be enjoyed in various settings from a nice sunny day to pairing with a hearty meal on a cold winter's night.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Magic Hat Heart of Darkness

I stopped by the "Artifactory" (Magic Hat) today after work to see what was brewing. I haven't kept up with any of their seasonal beers lately as my interests have turned to newer breweries' creations. It has also been a while since my last post so I decided to give Heart of Darkness a try - A dark stout balanced with English hops for a dark, winter night. Their website describes the yeast as an English-style ale yeast, which I believe is Ringwood like most of their other beers.

Alcohol Content: 5.7%
IBU: 30
Malts: 2-Row Pale, Crystal, Roasted Barley, Chocolate, Munich
Hops: Apollo, Goldings

Price: ~$15/ Variety pack

Aroma: Smooth, bittersweet chocolate mingles with touches of roasted barley. Alcohol adds spice and complexity, with a faint ester of winter-fruit. Hops add light floral notes but are mostly masked by the fermentation and malt backbone. Chocolate comes back around with subtle warmth - this is the most noticeable probably for new tasters.
Appearance: Jet black, or as they say inky black. Even under bright lighting I can hardly pick out any other colors such as deep reds typically present to some degree in stouts (more so for porters). An SRM (Standard Reference Method) of 80 units is a lab technique to describe this as a very dark stout - other examples may fall in the 40's range. A thick frothy brown head develops and remains afloat for quite some time.
Flavor: Letting the beer warm for a few minutes to pick out aromas and flavors, my senses were quickly turned to the bittersweet notes of chocolate malt, crystal, and Munich. A moderate level of caramel sweetness is perceived at the front end of the palate but comes back around even stronger in the finish, leaving residual sweetness in the aftertaste. Combined with roast and more chocolate notes, the beer finishes with a touch of alcohol spice. Hops contribute to the perceived floral spiciness. I picked up on grainy notes after drinking about half of the glass. Yeast character provides some fruity background notes of fig.
Mouthfeel: Moderately heavy body with a silky texture.Warmth in the finish and aftertaste from the alcohol. Considerable degree of astringency, giving that puckering effect in aftertaste. Despite the astringency, it starts out smooth and is pretty easy-drinking. Some residual sweetness and slightly tannic (think wine). A better description for the overall mouthfeel is that it leaves a dry, coffee-like finish from roasted grains. Strongly brewed coffee is a great example of the astringent bite.
Overall Impression: I was surprised to come across such a degree of astringency. A little is okay but this was a just too much for me. Depending on what type of chocolate malt they used, perhaps a paler malt and revising the roasted barley would aid in contributing a more pleasant aftertaste. Yeast adds another layer of flavor that complements the bittersweet chocolate. This is one of three stouts currently available from the brewery this winter.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Fiddlehead Black IPA

Fiddlehead's latest beers include an Irish Red (brewed with a local competition winner from the Green Mountain Mashers homebrew club) and a Black IPA. I already missed out on the Irish Red due to short availability but I was able to pick up a growler of the Black IPA still on tap at the brewery. I will also mention that the Brewery is having an anniversary party on December 29th from 8pm - midnight @ the Brewery. It's 25$/ ticket and they are selling fast. I look forward to attending in a couple of weeks.

Alcohol Content: 6.8%
IBU: 60
Malts: ?, Weyermann Sinamar mainly for color
Hops: Topaz (Australia), Stella (Australia),

Price: 7$/ growler + 3$ deposit
Medium: Pint glass

Aroma: Tropical citrusy hops lending grapefruit and kiwi notes. This is complemented by a pleasant soft graininess with hints of cocoa sweetness. Otherwise a clean malt backbone for such a dark beer. Fermentation mildly fruity and blends with the aggressive hop aromas. Similar components to their flagship IPA in terms of the 'house' character.
Appearance: A tan head forms with great retention. Alcohol provides legs in the foam when swirling - typical for higher alcohol beverages and unusual for a beer of about 7%. Color nears jet black with some dark ruby notes under good lighting. Otherwise opaque.
Flavor: Pleasant malt sweetness reminiscent of toast and cocoa. Hop flavors roll over the tongue with pronounced tropical citrus. Bitterness is moderately high and favored over the malt bill; however, a touch of cocoa sweetness remains in the aftertaste. Remarkably similar 'house' character in relation to their flagship IPA. My guess is similar water adjustments plays in with the same yeast strain. Dries out in the finish with a touch of spice from alcohol. Unique australian hop varieties reminds me of some of the beers Sean Lawson is currently working with (Lawson's Finest Liquids).
Mouthfeel: Interesting water profile accentuates the hop bitterness and helps dry the palate while leaving lingering hop flavors and subtle malty notes. Hop resins coat the mouth. Possibly some hop polyphenols also playing with the overall character of the mouthfeel, perceived on the back roof of the mouth. Medium body and slight alcohol warmth. Moderate carbonation.
Overall Impression: I thoroughly enjoyed the uniqueness of Fiddlehead's black IPA and flagship IPA. They have similar characteristics in terms of hop character, mouthfeel, and drinkability. The black IPA is a little more bitter but also balanced out by slightly sweeter malts.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Foley Brothers Ginger Wheat

Foley Brothers brewery out of Brandon, VT debuted their Ginger Wheat along with a brown ale over Thanksgiving weekend. Vermont grown hops, wheat, and ginger were all used in the process. Although I sampled it at the brewery's grand opening, I bought both to bring home and review for a later time. I've been meaning to open this one before it ages for too long.

Alcohol Content: 6.3%
IBU: ?
Malts: ?
Hops: ?

Price: ?
Medium: Pint glass

Aroma: Ginger is very forward and wants to come out of the beer as I pour into a glass. Base malts come across as grainy and mildly sweet. Some spiciness may come from both alcohol and hops, but I also find the hops to be more floral while the alcohol provides warmth and spice. Slight banana character suggests isoamyl acetate from yeast/ fermentation. This is partially covered up by the ginger. Also somewhat tart or lemon-like citrus, which some describe is a malted wheat character so it could be power of suggestion that implanted this thought.
Appearance: Presents a dense haze typical of wheat beers, especially for traditionally unfiltered versions. A nice goldenrod color with a head of white foam forms - decent retention. Moderately high carbonation is visible in the body. Some sediment in the bottom of the bottle.
Flavor: Soft graininess on the front end of the palate with a pleasant sweetness. Ginger combines with an assertive bitterness to overtake the malt flavors. This is where I also started to pick up on more of the banana notes that continue into the aftertaste. Banana (isoamyl acetate), and high carbonation clashes a bit with the ginger character. Hops come across as floral. Fruity esters from fermentation linger on perfume-like. Some alcohol spice in the finish. Balanced more towards bitterness, with ginger being the showcase ingredient.
Mouthfeel: Medium-light body partially due to high carbonation that helps lift the overall experience - increased carbonic acid also makes the beer feel more acidic than it probably is (all beer is acidic to some degree). Bitterness is relatively high. Some drying in the aftertaste, although the malts leave some residual sweetness as well.
Overall Impression: An obvious approach to pairing this beer would be sushi, as the intense ginger is known to cleanse the palate between sushi dishes. After talking to Patrick Foley, one of the brewers, I was informed that they may go with a different approach to labeling the beer/ changing the name. They are still early in the business and have much to explore and I look forward to keeping up with their new beers.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Magic Hat Feast of Fools

One of three Stouts currently available during the winter season, Feast of Fools features a limited batch of raspberry-infused stout (in this case raspberry extract). The other two winter varieties are Heart of Darkness (available in variety packs) and their "artifactory" series Maple Chocolate Stout. I was able to pick up a wax-dipped 22oz bottle of Feast of Fools to bring home for the snowy evening.

Alcohol Content: 5.3%
IBU: 28
Malts: 2-Row Pale, Cara, Munich, Chocolate, Roasted Barley
Hops: Columbus

Price: 8$/ Holiday wax-dipped bomber
Medium: Pint glass

Aroma: Intensely fruity, borderline perfume-like esters form from the combination of an english ale yeast and raspberry extract. The raspberry aromas are supported by cocoa and roast. A highly sweet malty nose suggests an overly sweet, "syrupy" beer. No hop aroma.
Appearance: 22 oz bomber perfectly dipped in dark red wax with a little gift card attached to the neck of the bottle for the holiday season. Poured a thick mocha head with good retention. Mostly black with some ruby red highlights in bright lighting.
Flavor: Sweet, malty, and syrupy as the nose suggests. Raspberry plays a major role mid-palate and becomes the showcase into the aftertaste. Malts provide extra sweetness to play with the raspberry extract. Roast is light for the style, with more emphasis on the cocoa notes from presumably from chocolate malt. No hop flavors, some bitterness.
Mouthfeel: Bitterness is moderately low in comparison to a heavy malt body. Cloyingly sweet on the tongue and sides of the mouth (syrupy). Carbonation moderately high to help alleviate the heavy body (to some degree). Some creaminess is good. Some alcohol warmth. Served at about 55F.
Overall Impression: A good beer in many regards; On the other hand, perhaps a little too much carbonation was dialed in to compensate for the overly sweet, heavy body. Raspberry extract provides more of a perfume-like quality that disagrees with my palate and nose. 22oz is a lot to handle and one pint was more than enough to sip on for the evening. An obvious pairing would be dark fruit desserts or chocolate cake.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Zero Gravity Smokey the Beer

Destiny came up with a great name for a German-style smoked beer, or "Rauchbier", with Smokey the Beer. It's brewed to tradition with beechwood smoked malt from Weyermann malting in Bamberg, Germany (also the birthplace of the style). This is only my second attempt at a smoked beer because the style deters me; however, I am a student of beer now so I have to try everything and especially everything from American Flatbread/ Zero Gravity. The style grows on the palate so give it a chance.

Alcohol Content:
Malts: Rauchmalt amongst others

Price: $3/ half; $5/ full
Medium: Small cylinder glass/ juice glass

Aroma: Malts give notes of cherry and melanoidin sweetness reminiscent of German Munich malt. I pick up cedar or similar wood elements amongst the smoke. Smoke is not anything like a campfire you normally associate with pleasant smoke character. Its entirely different and quite distinct. I liken it to wet forest smells of wood in combination with lighter smoke. Hops are not present. Yeast character is also muted.
Appearance: Great clarity or brilliant as brewers say. Malts provide a light reddish-amber color and a big off-white head. Good retention. The smaller serving type perhaps adds to the lighter color gradient whereas a pint glass may provide medium for more amber colors. No sign of strong carbonation in the body of the glass.
Flavor: I noted woody characteristics with the malts and some other undefined sweetness until the smoke hits about mid palate and aggressively takes over the previous. This last long into the aftertaste and is quite stronger than my nose prepared me for in the aroma. Smoked malt being the showcase of the beer, I felt the yeast contributed no major flavor contribution and allowed the malt bill to shine. No hop presence besides contributing bitterness. I found a touch of roast in the finish just to balance the smoke (or perhaps a toasted malt character is better defined assuming no roasted barley was used).
Mouthfeel: Relatively lighter in body than I expected and is quite drinkable. Alcohol is subdued or masked within the smoked malt. Other malts driving the beer are able to hold up to smoke and provide a pleasant sweetness to the mouthfeel. Not too dry in the finish. No lingering harshness, just the taste. In other words it finished cleaner than I expected. 
Overall Impression: Very big in flavor, but not too heavy. The only other example I tried using smoked malt was a homebrewed version and they both turned out pretty good, or at least accurate to style. I still don't enjoy the style thus far but I can better identify with those who may typically enjoy this beer. I would match this beer up against very strong/ flavorful foods such as marinated dark meats. It could easily impart smoked character to an otherwise unsmoked meat while providing sweetness with the fats.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Otter Creek Oktoberfest

A bavarian autumn classic beer style formerly known as Marzen, this example of Oktoberfest is true to style and is becoming one of my favorites. I had the honors of talking to the brewer who formulated the recipe at Otter Creek. His previous work experience was at Ramstein Brewery in New Jersey, which specializes in lagers. I have also been told that this is the first year that a traditional German lager yeast strain was used. I enjoy one every day after work, and I know you should too.

Alcohol Content: 4.8%
IBU: 32
Malts: 2-Row, Munich, Caramel 60, Pilsner, Vienna
Hops: Apollo, Hallertau

Price: $3.50/ 12oz; 4.50/ 16oz; 5.00/ 20oz @ the brewery taproom
Medium: 16oz draught - pint glass

Aroma: Munich, caramel, and Vienna malts all attribute to a pleasantly sweet graininess similar to warm toast or bread. I almost thought it was due to yeast character but the malts provide great depth characteristic of the toasted malts. I found this batch to have a little bit of diacetyl in both aroma and flavor. After waiting a week for the new keg to come on tap, I was transformed. Hop character is mildly light and spicy or noble. I'm unsure of sulfur notes but there is definitely something to the water profile or yeast that is picked up in the aroma, taste, and mouthfeel.
Appearance: Thick, frothy off-white head piled up about 1-inch high and spilling over the rim before serving. Deep golden amber hue. Layers of foam are easily observable as they linger with each gulp of beer.
Flavor: Malty but not necessarily as sweet as the nose suggest. This confirms the maltiness of the beer and determines the main body and focus of the style. Toasted malt, notes of biscuit, and good attenuation keeps the sweetness down while having a big flavor impact. Hop flavors are spicy while the bitterness is assertive and plays with the malt character. Finish is crisp and semi-dry and the aftertaste remains malty but not sweet. Diacetyl is confirmed amongst several employees from the brewery.
Mouthfeel: Smooth, medium body, and fully fermented/ good attenuation without a cloying finish. Malt is the focus in both flavor and body while bitterness provides the support. 32 IBU is a bit high for the style, which is relatively noticeable to traditional Oktoberfest, however the extra bitterness is clean and complementing.
Overall Impression: Delicious, crisp, refreshing, and sessionable. I sampled it with beer pretzels made fresh from the brewery. Salt in the pretzel pairs well with the malts in the beer and makes for a fuller experience. Considered the perfect brew for an autumn evening. Enjoy with traditional German foods for an easy pairing, or go for something spicy and fulfilling like mexican food.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Foley Brothers Brown Ale

Last weekend was the grand opening of a new local nano-brewery, or as some like to call "garage breweries", of Foley Brothers out of Brandon, VT. After meeting Patrick Foley at the Otter Creek Oktoberfest I was excited to hear news of their work-in-planning: A Blichmann Top-Tier setup in which they brew 6 barrels of beer/ week. They also bottle with the Blichmann beer gun and use oxy caps to reduce oxygen pickup. Talk about real homebrewing gone pro! I bought both of their current beers in 22oz bombers, a brown ale and ginger wheat beer.

Alcohol Content: 7.2%
IBU: ?
Malts: ?
Hops: Locally grown

Price: Don't remember
Medium: Pint glass

Aroma: Great depth/ layers of aromas consisting of sweet molasses, brown sugar, maple syrup/ sap, fig, light pomegranate, malts, and fusel alcohols. Hop profile is surprisingly very low - I expected a little more for a brown ale whereas this example is more of a strong ale with little hop character. Alcohol is heavy, contributing notes of spice and warmth. Fusel alcohols come across as bubblegum (varies by palate but think Long Trail double bag/ triple bag to get an idea of similar alcohol flavors from yeast). Maple is more upfront as the beer warms.
Appearance: Very dark brown and great clarity for an unfiltered beer. Showcases a ruby highlight and a tan head with great retention. Steady bubbling stems from the bottom of the glass (nucleation sites) and is consistent throughout the session. 
Flavor: Fig/ winterfruit, cherry, and/or pomegranate as described by fermentation character (fruity esters) and malt bill. Malts provide body with some sweetness as expected from the aroma. This is partly due to an assertive bitterness and alcohol spice that quickly takes control over the malts. A strong molasses and maple syrup flavor turns into a dry finish. Aftertaste remains dry with a lingering maple flavor. No flavors from hops as far as I can tell. Hint of coffee in the background but this is quite faint and my guess is from the dark specialty grains used to also color the beer.
Mouthfeel: Moderately bodied, the maple syrup providing more alcohol from conversion of sugars (fermentation) which lends a nice note of flavor but also thinning the body/ reducing an overly sweet or cloying beer. Lots of spice and heat from alcohol. Fusel alcohols. Moderately high carbonation. Light astringency in the aftertaste. Could be a little cleaner in hop bitterness
Overall Impression: This is a slow-sipping beer, and 22oz is all you should need for a relaxing evening. Definitely out of style for an American brown ale but style names are more for consumers than anything else. I would put this into the strong ale category with all of the alcohol and fruity ester notes. It actually reminds me of a blend between the Shed Mountain ale and Long Trail Double/ Triple Bag. Lots of character and a great "homebrewed" beer. Congrats on their grand opening - also look for their Ginger Wheat ale. Keep on brewing Foley Brothers!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Zero Gravity Black Cat Porter

Part two of my side-by-side comparison of beers at American Flatbread last weekend consisted of the Black Cat Porter and the Aztec Porter (cask). My original thought was to try the same beer both on cask and on draught, which they frequently showcase. Unfortunately they did not have the Aztec porter on draught also so I went with a similar beer (at least in base style) for this taste test.

Alcohol Content: 5.1%

Price: $3/ half; $5/ full
Medium: Small cylinder glass/ juice glass

Aroma: Rich, smooth, malty with some dried fruit character attributable to yeast. Similar to that of a traditional english ale yeast (if that is what was used here). Light roast on the nose that is complimented by chocolate, coffee, and a touch of smoke. Perhaps the smoked character playing in with the roasted malts. Black patent? A rich, toasty malt supports the roasted grain characteristics.
Appearance: Dark/ jet black but good clarity under direct lighting. Large bubbles quickly form at the surface and form a rocky brownish head. Great retention. Some dark ruby colors in bright light but not as much as the Aztec porter, which was a little lighter in comparison.
Flavor: Dark malts dominate the flavor profile with notes of chocolate, coffee, and a good amount of roast - more roast than the aroma suggests. The driving force behind these specialty grain flavors is a nice toasted malt quality that provides sweetness. Finish is met with a touch of smoke or burnt toast flavor. Moderate amount of yeast character I believe derived from an English strain but I could be mistaken. I'm also wondering if any brown malt was used to help provide sweetness like a traditional English-style porter. Hops contribute to low bitterness but no considerable flavors.
Mouthfeel: An assertive, edgy, or lightly burnt (but not acrid) malt quality shines in the finish and aftertaste. May also be described as a light astringency but appropriate. Bitterness from hops is light, although the perceived bitterness is moderately high from the roasted grain finish. Fairly light on the palate for a beer with big character. Carbonation is moderately low. 
Overall Impression: When switching between beers, I was very fond of this beers ability to match up to the Aztec porter and vice versa. They really complemented each other and could have perhaps been blended to reduce some of the heat in the aftertaste. The Chipotle pepper notes from the Aztec porter were not fully quelled by taking a taste of the Black Cat porter and ended up being a delicious combination of flavors.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Zero Gravity Aztec Porter

After taking a break from beer writing, I decided to stop back into American Flatbread today to see what they had on cask. They typically have a cask version of the same beer served on draught but unfortunately that wasn't the case today. Otherwise it is a great way to seek out nuances in two serving mediums from the same batch of beer. The Aztec Porter was on cask today, brewed with cocoa nibs and Chipotle peppers for an intense porter character with a little kick! Sampled side by side with their Black Cat Porter.

Alcohol Content:

Price: $3/ half; $5/ full
Medium: Small cylinder glass or juice glass

Aroma: No defined hop character. Malty, a little sweet, and definitely signs of roast, cocoa, and peppers. It actually feels warm on the nose, but not in the same way you may find in high alcohol beverages. Some dried fruity ester reminiscent of cranberries. I wonder if an english ale yeast was used for this beer or a similar strain - I find English strains of yeast to have this fruity note, which may differ from other peoples palates.
Appearance: In comparison to the Black Cat porter, it is slightly lighter with a more translucent display of dark reds approaching an overall black appearance. Carbonation falls out of solution more quickly with cask servings. I was able to watch the bartender pour a dense, creamy head of which she let settle out before topping me off with a little more beer (but still leaving a pleasant head). Retention is low.
Flavor: A rich, toasty malt complexity is strong in the beginning and taken over by a light, smooth bitterness and finally the roast, cocoa, and Chipotle peppers. Reminds me of Aztec dark chocolate but in beer form. Some roast lingers more towards a pleasant "burnt" taste (if there is such a thing). Coffee, chocolate, and a bit of roast in the finish but the peppers prevails long into the aftertaste. Some yeast character I describe as a light cranberry note or similar fruity ester, although I am starting to realize my palate as confusing this with roasted barley or possibly a combination of roast and yeast character. No defined hop character.
Mouthfeel: Slick texture and very smooth. Some people describe it as being a little watery or flat when served from a cask but the warmer temperature and lower carbonation really brings out the smoothness in this porter. There is considerable heat from the Chipotle peppers and only gets stronger in the aftertaste. No sign of alcohol.
Overall Impression: Nicely balanced and easy drinking if you like a little heat in your cooking. Intensity increases with each sip despite a little malt sweetness in the front to give you a short break from the heat of the peppers. Simply delicious with chocolate chip cookies!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Fiddlehead Helles

I stopped by the brewery tasting room last friday to sample their new beer on tap. After talking to the brewer and server in the tasting room, they informed me that every other friday the Brewery will be releasing a new batch of beer for samples, growlers, and growlettes. I made an impulse decision to buy a growler of their new Munich Helles to bring back for more sampling. I have also sort of taken it upon myself to try and sample every new batch of beer they release bi-weekly.

Alcohol Content: 4.7%
IBU: 17
Malts: Pilsner, Carahell
Hops: Hallertau

Price: $13/ Growler + deopsit; $10/ growler
Medium: Poured into a pint glass (sampled after second day of growler pour)

Aroma: Distinct hop aroma with pungent floral and spicy noble hop notes. I described it as a much stronger hop presence than typical for the style, but this is very pleasing and does not detract from the style. As the beer warms, I easily picked up on an off-flavor (aroma) which I had a hard time distinguishing between acetaldehyde and DMS (Dimethylsulfide). The acetaldehyde is characteristic of a green apple aroma (think bud light), whereas the DMS contributed notes of creamed corn (think genesee). Perhaps it needed a longer fermentation - or left on the yeast before transferring to secondary. I was told it was sitting in a secondary a week prior. Pilsner malt dominates the backbone and maintains the body of the beer.
Appearance: Fairly clear, definitely lager-like in character. Condensation forms around the glass quickly but when wiped down the clarity is greatly improved. Low visible carbonation; however, a rocky white head forms and is slow is disperse back in the beer. Great lacing and a brilliant golden color - appropriate for the style. I will also mention the sound of carbonation releasing when I popped the cap of the growler at day two - meaning a good seal/ tightly capped at the brewery.
Flavor: My first impression was a cross between a cream ale and a lager, and this is due to the off-flavors that come across as green apple and/ or creamed corn. Assuming a lager strain was used, this beer could be cleaner in character and style. DMS comes across as canned/ creamed corn just like the aroma. Hop bitterness is slightly stronger for style and hop flavors are also quite big (and pleasant). Slightly spicy and noble hop character is definite. Floral notes are also big. Pilsner malt character lingers a little but is mostly cleaned up by the bitterness and carbonation.
Mouthfeel: I noted a chalky mouthfeel but I'm unsure of the brewing water mineral content. Moderately high carbonation kept well after a day of being poured from the brewery into a growler. Dries out only a little in the aftertaste but I found this to be form the water profile/ mineral content as well as bitterness. Crisp and refreshing when served very chilled. More off-flavors and aromas are distinguishable in warmer serving temps.
Overall Impression: I have to say the small sample I was served at the brewery tasted much better than the growler I brought home, the reason being because it was served very chilled whereas the growler was allowed to warm and I picked up on various aromas (and taste) that can be described as off-flavors. Since its a lager, the cold serving temp made for a deliciously crisp experience. That being said, it is up to the consumer to make sure the beer is served in an appropriate manner, a facet breweries deal with on an everyday basis for beers that leave their warehouse.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Wolaver's Pupmkin Ale

Otter Creek recently ran out of their last batch of the Wolaver's Pumpkin Ale, and consumers are eagerly awaiting the next batch to come on tap as this fall's seasonal beer. It is still available at grocery and liquor stores, so apparently the brewery sent most of their batch out of their warehouse... Anyway, the beer combines a variety of spices with a delicate pumpkin aroma and flavor. The pumpkins are organic and are grown by a local farmer.

Alcohol Content: 
Adjuncts: Will Stevens, VT Organic Pumpkins, Ginger Powder, Nutmeg, Clove, Cinnamon

Price: $9/ 6-pack
Medium: Pint Glass

Aroma: An interesting ginger root (or in this case ginger powder) creeps through the other aromas with a distinct freshness. Spices dominate the restrained pumpkin character. Clove, nutmeg, and cinnamon all remind me of spice additions in pumpkin sweets such as pie, bread, desserts, etc. This creates a warming sensation. Some graininess provides body and sweetness but spices are the showcase in this example. Hops cannot be determined.
Appearance: Slight haze with an amber/ orange color. Caramel malts probably provide the deep color while most would suggest the pumpkins are the sole reason. I know this example is unfiltered but turbidity is not very high. A creamy tan head presents a nice finish for this festive beer. Great retention and solid lacing.
Flavor: Malts are very sweet and provide depth of body for the big spice additions. Spices are still favored, just as in the aroma before sipping. Ginger remains on the palate long into the aftertaste and gives an extra kick to the pumpkin spices. Clove also shines through the predominately malty sweetness. Hops do not contribute flavor, or at least unidentifiable within the grand mix of sweet and spice. Finish remains dry, suggesting a highly attenuative yeast strain/ low residual sweetness from the malts. Only a light pumpkin flavor compared to the depth of all the 
Mouthfeel: Bitterness is refreshing for the style and potentially aids in the crisp, dry finish. Moderate to light body with a sweet malty start that is cleaned up as it move across the palate. In other words the beer starts out sweet, with a supporting body but then finishes light and refreshing. Spices add to the mouthfeel and provide the warmth in this beer (as opposed to the alcohol warmth often perceived). Not cloying. Carbonation is moderately high.
Overall Impression: Ginger is very noticeable and provides a unique twist on the beer. I couldn't put a description to this taste at first but after giving it some thought, (and peeking at the ingredients) it clicked! I think this differentiates it from other pumpkin beers. Cinnamon perhaps adds a little heat in aftertaste - I enjoyed this aspect a lot. After trying various pumpkin beers, Shipyard is still one of the best on the market; However, ff I had to choose Vermont's best offering it would surely be Wolaver's.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Fiddlehead Oktoberfest

I meant to pick up a growler on the way home from work last friday but I arrived while they were still kegging the new bi-weekly brew. I was excited to get a growlette today (32oz grolwer) to sample at home and to compare to Otter Creek's Oktoberfest . For research I would have loved to see this batch ready at SIPtemberfest, since there were lots of other breweries with their own examples of the style (of which I tried them all of course). Next week's batch is a Black IPA.

Alcohol Content: 5.6%
Malts: Munich, Vienna, Caramel/ Crystal, ?
Hops: Tettnang

Price: $6/ Growlette, $10/ Growler (+ $3 deposit)
Medium: Pint glass

Aroma: Malty and toasted with a considerable caramel sweetness. Hops are spicy, floral and lend good support for a malt-accented beer. My first impression hinted at subtle alcohol warmth and spiciness but I could be confusing this with hops.
Appearance: Fairly good clarity that will definitely improve with more aging. Color is quite accurate for the style - amber lager. Under bright light I get some deeper golds which may become even more brilliant with more age. Tan-ish brown head with good retention. Carbonation is moderately visible in the body of the beer.
Flavor: Malts really shine from the start through the finish and are matched by a spicy hop character that plays into the balancing act. I think the bitterness helps clean up some of the sweetness inherent in crystal malts and allows more of the maltiness come through without cloying the palate. The sweetness lingered on a buttery or toffee-like character, not to be confused with diacetyl. I believed there to be some fermentation character but was not quite sure of this until I got a few different opinions. We all agreed a little age would probably benefit the beer.
Mouthfeel: A soothing alcohol warmth and hop bitterness left a good first impression while my senses quickly turned to the beers maltiness with subsequent tastes. Sweet but not cloying. Carbonation is moderate. Sampled very cold at the brewery and warmed in the growlette for my own enjoyment at home.
Overall Impression: For a style that remains malt focused, I enjoyed the relatively higher bitterness and hop character that matches the strength in maltiness/ sweetness. Otter Creek Oktoberfest also exemplifies a higher IBU and hop character, both of which bringing a little more balance to the beer. It's a pretty straightforward beer that offers an easy approach for long drinking sessions.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Zero Gravity Ale-Communication

I was fortunate enough to celebrate national IPA day with a few fellow homebrewers at American Flatbread. The first beer I sipped on was their best-selling T.L.A IPA followed by the Ale-communication, an Imperial/ Double IPA. The description on the menu stated 5 varietal hops including Nugget and Galena in the dry hop. Dank, resiny, and delicious was the resulting impression.

Alcohol Content: 6.9%
IBU: ?
Malts: ?
Hops: Nugget, Galena, ?

Price: $3/half; $5/ full
Medium: Snifter/ small tulip glass

Aroma: Pleasant, sweet caramel malt backbone supports the resiny, floral nature of this hoppy IPA. Not necessarily any strong citrus character that people often associate with IPA's. Somewhat fruity but more likely derived from the malts and yeast. Certainly hop bombed.
Appearance: Moderately high carbonation appears as a dense white foam develops with thick lacing. Deep amber hue with moderate turbidity - neither clear nor hazy. Great head retention.
Flavor: Resiny, floral, and moderately spicy hop character practically from start to finish. Although malt sweetness is present, I overlooked it the first taste and had to pick up on it the second time around. Residual maltiness does last into the aftertaste while supporting the body for a high alcohol IPA. Notes of biscuit, cereal/ bread-like maltiness remains shadowed underneath the big hop character in the aftertaste. Some fruitiness but generally a clean fermentation - perhaps malts add some of the fruit notes as well as caramel sweetness. Alcohol plays with the hop bitterness and the perceived hop character as being spicy.
Mouthfeel: Alcohol moves across with deep warming sensations while the full malt body satiates the palate. The serving temperature was perfect for brining out hop character in the aroma and flavor. Some drying in the finish and aftertaste but maltiness reduces this perception. Moderately high carbonation helps move the beer but there is still considerable viscosity for this full-bodied IPA.
Overall Impression: The biscuity character reminds me of an English IPA while the big hop character, bitterness, and alcohol distinguishes it as an imperial IPA. As the session progressed I found it to actually finish with a bit of cloying sweetness to the malts. This is typically due to unfermentable malt sugars. Although its not a flaw, this just means I probably wouldn't want to session a whole night of the Ale-communication. A great beer to have with pizza topped with crushed red peppers to provide even more heat for the beer pairing.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Norwich Inn 90 Shilling

I went to Colorado for a week with Kristine and was able to catch the craft beer scene there (Kristine was very supportive of my interest during our vacation - thanks love). Anyway, I came back with such an appreciation for Odell's 90 Shilling and haven't had a beer to compare the style. Therefore, my impression of the Norwich Inn's 90 Shilling is little lackluster in matching up against Odell's, but its still a good choice from the brewery. This was the last beer in the flight and bar far the heaviest or fullest bodied and flavored.

They have a variety of sized glasses and prices ranging from $3/ half up to $6 for any premium beverage. Small samples are available for individual purchase or a flight of 5.

Aroma: Malts are the showcase here, with complex notes of caramel, dried fruit, melanoidins, and a hint of chocolate. Hops and alcohol are very restrained. Has that "house" character I would describe as being somewhat earthy - potentially the way the yeast and hops interact.
Appearance: Bubbles cling to nucleation sites on the inside of the glass, which is an indication of a dirty or dusty glass. An off-white head develops quickly in the small sample glass and is decanted off before serving. The beer shows a modest amount of turbidity with a dark brown and garnet color.
Flavor: Malty start, very similar to the aromas with even more sweetness. The yeast lends a fruity "house" characteristic that plays well with the array of malts. Bitterness is quite smooth but does not hold up well against the malt sweetness. I believe I sense a touch of hop flavors but this is debatable. Malts can also be described as lending notes of winter fruits. I find pomegranate-like flavors from the yeast.
Mouthfeel: Fullest body with moderate carbonation. Lots of creaminess, especially as the beer warms. I'm not sure if this is because the carbonation starts to fall out of solution or another means. This example dries out in the aftertaste. I mentioned in another Norwich Inn post I was a little hungover and my palate was taking a lot of wear that day. Although flavors are still quite detectable, there was a big difference in mouthfeel as my palate felt very dry.
Overall Impression: The style is supposed to be very drinkable, or as I like to say approachable. Drinkability is too much of a Bud light marketing scheme. This beer is very full bodied and full flavored, the exact opposite of Bud light, yet at the same time very approachable. However, the Norwich Inn's version doesn't quite live up to Odell's 90 Shilling, which I must say is at the top of my list.