Sunday, January 3, 2010

Beer Swap: Part 2

I hope everyone had a happy New Year. Mine was good. McPaddy and his wife threw on a great spread with much food and booze.

Over the past few days I've taken some time to sample more of the beer from my Christmas Beer Swap. Figured I'd continue to share my opinion with you and see if anyone else has anything to share about these particular beers.

Here is a quick recap of that which has been sampled already. If you don't agree with me on something let me know, because I can be fairly blunt. I know what tastes good and I know when someone is trying to pawn of shit by riding a reputable name. Which leads me into my first review from last week. Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale was nothing but hops water with red food coloring. Despise this obvious fact, it seems to be in everyone's list as one of the top Winter/Chrsitmas beers (blunt enough for you?). Clipper City Brewing Winter Storm "Cetegory 5 Ale", being an Imperial ESB, was an attempt to be a little different from most of the other winter brews out there. I appreciate the effort, but don't think they quite succeeded. I think this beer could be much better if they really put some effort into it. It was good enough for me to call it a typical seasonal beer. Sitting at the top of my seasonal list, I reviewed the Anderson Valley Winter Solistice. I was thoroughly impressed. Expecting another dark chololately beer with tons of hops, like most other christmas beers, this was deep and rich but well balanced. I love the proprietary blend of holiday spices, the balance between the hops and malts, and the smooth caramel finish.

This time around I've got three new beers to review.

The first beer isn't exactly a seasonal beer, but that's one of the great things about beer swaps, the unexpected. The beer was a Strawberry Wheat Beer by Lancaster Brewing Company. The only wheat beer in the case, I wasn't expecting great things when I popped open the bottle. Perhaps it was the description on the beer label that said "Wheat Beer with Strawberry Flavor Added". That's right. They brewed a wheat beer and then added strawberry flavoring to it after the fact. Truth be told, it wasn't terrible tasting, but it was kind of bland and weak in flavor. This wasn't a surprise, since wheat beers typically are more mild in taste, with the true nuances coming out usually in citrus or banana flavors. But this isn't one of those beers. It's perfectly drinkable and the strawberry flavor they added was just enough to give it a light fruity sweetness (perhaps too tart). But I don't think I'll be buying anymore of it.

Magic Hat Howl. Eh...It didn't exactly live up to my expectations for something from Magic Hat. As expected it had the aroma and flavor of roasted and chacolate malts. It isn't an ale, like most winter beers, but a dark german lager (schwarzbier). So it's a heavy beer but lighter in flavor. I think the hops pairing was off on this one. For the style of beer, I think their choice of hops is too overpowering. Not that it had too much hops. On the contrary, it had about the amount of hops I typically like in a dark seasonal brew. However, The hops they choose masked the true flavor of the beer itself. M. Randolph might be able to provide more insite into this since he is the most qualified.

Lastly is Erie Brewing's 'Ol Red Cease and Desist. I'm not entirely sure if I like this one or not yet. I hate to give a review prematurely, but I just can't get my mouth wrapped around this one. Yes I've set myself up perfectly for your homo-erotic comments. That's OK. If you're commenting it at least means somebody out there is reading this crap. Back to the beer. At over 10% ABV it definetly fits in with the spirit of a winter beer. It's a nice deep DEEP red scottish ale, though some years the bottle apparently says "wee heavy" instead. Same thing (prepared for the backlash). It has some of the standard characteristics a would assume with this type of beer. A mouth full of caramel malt on the front end with some fruitiness as well. But something just seemed off. I can't tell if it was the bitterness. In my quest to get a grasp of it I research a little to see what other people thought. One person on beeradvocate might of touched on it when he said the beer was "considerably metallic, like licking stainless steel." I'm not sure if I'd go that far. But there definitely seems to be something there. I'll guess I'll just have to suck it up and crack open the other two bottles at some point to delve deeper into the mystery of 'Ol Red. I'll try to give a followup when I do my next round of reviews.

All-in-all the Anderson Valley is still at the top of my list.

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