Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale
Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale

The label calls it a classic, and there you have it. It’s become almost pedestrian, as Sam Adams Boston Lager. SN has trotted out variations of this brew, catering to the recent hop madness of the USA, but this one is still a masterpiece of the craft beer movement. Light body, a touch darker than pale, a well-planned beer recipe executed with time-worn expertise, and they obey the Rheinheitsgebot even though they don’t have to.

Taste is medium in body, medium in alk at 5.6%, and hops well in attendance but not sphinct-puckeringly powerful. The single species of hops, Cascade, gives you fruits and the sweetness of the medium body makes those fruit notes into actual undertones. You can’t do that without knowing what the heck you’re doing, and by now SN does know. Rated at 9.0 because there are other exquisite strokes of luck from other breweries, but if my ratings were based on consistant quality barrel after barrel for 35 years, then naturally this one would be a 10.

Smuttynose Robust Porter

Smuttynose's Robust Porter
Smuttynose’s Robust Porter

Jumpin’ Jiminy, that’s a beer which commands your attention. Almost syrupy pouring out of the bottle, and they call it a porter but it walks like a stout and talks like a stout. And it sure tastes like a stout. Can’t see light through the glass and the head is creamy like Guinness, but the head is not as persistent as a real stout. This one, i wish i had poured a pint at room temperature, that opportunity now lost, but i bet it would stand up to being drankened [sic] like in a real pub.

Taste, at refrigerator temperature, is indeed “robust” like drinking a hunk of pumpernickel bread. It has that true porter quirk of making your mouth water as you drink it, with an almost salty element. The rest of the taste is woody and hints at dark rich soil freshly turned. At 6.2% alk it’s not a small beer, burly but not swarthy, if it was a woman it’d be 5’11”, 140 pounds with big tits. And actually, there she is on the label. Not a Summer drink by any means, but paired with a meaty stew on a December evening, this beer would constitute half the meal.

I can rate it at 7.8 for purity of vision and strong execution on the brewery’s side, and i think i know a place where you can make your own sixer of craft beers for $11 where they carry all the Smuttys. I want to try this one unrefrigerated.

Smuttynose Shoals Pale Ale

Smuttynose's Shoals Pale Ale
Smuttynose’s Shoals Pale Ale

My third Slutty, erm, make that Smutty. This Pale Ale rated on the bottle as 5.3% alk, but noted next to the sell-by date, not on the label, so we can infer that different batches of the Shoals Pale Ale come out at different proofs. Not really very pale at all, rather dark in fact, but a curvy body and good hopped flavor. At 5.3% it won’t run you aground, but the weight is a bit too heavy to make it as a Summer beer.

Has good character, and i submit that this is what the whole craft beer movement is all about. You can really taste the grits and groats of the malt grains, the toasted sugars lingering on the sides of the tongue while the hops season the back of your mouth and top of your throat. You know how sometimes people refer to beer as “liquid bread”? This is what they mean.

I don’t like the name, i mean, shoals are something we all know should be avoided. But i do like the beer, much more than their Brown Dog Ale. This one is balanced in notes, and has me noddin me noggin with each sip. After the Brown Dog, i was wondering if Smuttynose’s success with Finestkind was just a one-hitter, but this ale reaffirms that they didn’t just get lucky with their IPA.

8.0 for this quaff but i deducted 0.5 for the bad name. Naw, just kidding, but really d00ds: change the name. This has got nothing to do with shoals. Will try to remember to find a sixer of this again later, when things turn cooler and the body craves heavier things inside and out, maybe round about late October.

Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale

Smuttynose's Old Brown Dog Ale
Smuttynose’s Old Brown Dog Ale

After the resounding success of their Finestkind IPA, thought well of trying out some other Sluttys, errr, Smuttys, i mean. A sampler 12 came with 3 Finestkinds, which i already know will be treasured. Now it’s time to test out the others, and first up is the Old Brown Dog Ale. Clocked at 6.5% alk, and on the bottle a fine rendering of Olive, who is an actual old brown dog.

Wonder if she’s got that common problem of her species: constantly being jumped over by quick red foxes? In the pic, the label is loose on the corners, and that’s a common theme with Smuttynose beers, but the outside is not as important as the insides.

The ale is brownish, not as dark as, say, Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale, with a medium body and sweetness i did not expect. More likely, i’ve been in hopland too long and forgot what a real brown ale tastes like! A good dog, rates a 6.3 in my mouth. Won’t grab a frisbee in midair, but hasn’t got fleas either.

Narragansett Lager

Narragansett's Lager
Narragansett’s Lager

Hi neighbor!

A newcomer to this area in NY, although apparently something of a staple on the New England seaboard. And the reason it’s popping up in NY: now the stuff is being brewed by the Genesee Brewery in Western NY and exported to its natural habitat, the docks of Rhode Island. And not a moment too soon, in my opinion.

The well-priced 30-packs are $19 ($18 on sale), at least close to the source, and for that money it’s a fine beer for sitting around watching the Olympics. $4 more than the same pack of a Genny product, but that extra 13 cents per beer makes a world of difference. Narragansett is drinkable on its own, whereas Genny beer and Genny Cream Ale are not. With the Gennies, you have to get a companion six of a dark beer to mix some flavor into each pintly pour.

The alk percent is not listed on the packaging, but this is obviously made for a long day fishing, and does not trash your noggin even after a few pints. The particular can pictured above is actually one of their “throwback” series, and is the beercan seen in the 1976 movie Jaws. They needed a bigger boat, but the beer was just fine for hunting the great white.

Their preferred nickname is “Gansett” and the website is that plus dotcom, since they don’t trust people to remember if there’s two R’s or one. I say WTF, since they’re counting on people to remember a double T at the end. Goofy. My nickname for this decent lager is “Nargy”, though when in a mood for a flourish i might call them Narglebargles.

It’s trash beer, i’m not going to lie about this, but it’s a drinkable trash beer… in fact the only trash beer which is drinkable on its own, without needing to be jumped up by adding a few oz of black+tan. As trash, it’s only going to rate a 4.1 here, but if you’re baking clams for fifty people and need a couple hundred beers, this beer won’t embarrass you.

Founders All Day IPA

Founders All-Day IPA

Now that’s a tasty brew. Well-priced at $19 for a 15-pack, quite heavy when it comes to the hops, and not much beer body to talk about, but this IPA has a job to do and it’s great for what it is. They call it All Day because you can supposedly drink it all day long without crashing the boat onto the rocks. At a reasonable 4.7% alk, a few won’t trash you out when it’s time to pack up the reels and the rods and stow the Evinrude under the tarp.

Great camping beer, which is what it’s designed for. High hop flavor (42 IBU’s) means that you’d be reluctant to pound these down willy-nilly anyway, but when you get out onto the pond or finish the burgs and dogs and tater salad and are letting the fire die down, this is a fine beer to kick back with. And the low alk means you can still fight off that bear with a stick, or dodge that flying carp before it tail-slaps you across the mug.

I like the hoppiness, but can’t drink these one after the other because of the very tart hops. But when i want a pop on my tongue after a few lagers, this is a great way to spice up the flavor. Like it, will buy more at this price-point, and rate it a 6.8 for being a working dog, not a show dog. Good boy, who’s a good dog? You are! Now go fetch me a Founders, atta boy.

Samuel Adams Rebel IPA

Sam Adams Rebel IPA

Label says it’s “Brewed for the revolution” and i’m not sure which revolution that is because this IPA is not lighting any fires. Middling hops, and they only earn a “B” on the report card for beer body. They might think it’s revolutionary to pack an IPA at 6.5% alcohol, but they should talk to the Makumba.

This IPA, also billed as “west coast style,” is middle of the pack, not inspiring anything more rebellious than calling in sick the next day because of the hangover. Certainly not a terrible beer, but there’s hoppier out there, and better bodies for sale in the IPA kingdom. Rates a 5.5 here, including a now-standard minus-1 for the lingering horror of Sam Adams’s Grapefruit IPA, which will forevermore cloud my opinion of all Sam Adams beers.

Apologize for the grapefruit, or wither, Sam.

Genesee Brew House Scotch Ale

Genesee Brew House's Scotch Ale
Genesee Brew House’s Scotch Ale

Mighty nice. Then again, i knew i’d like this because it’s a Scotch Ale and i like Scotch Ales so that takes quite a bit of the surprise out of it. But as Scotch ales go, this one has somewhat less character than the one from also-local Rohrbach Brewing, but the “crafty” arm of Genny is still young. The label calls this the “pilot batch” so let’s allow them some time to refine and define.

But true to its caste, this is a hearty slightly rye-ish beer with the body a buxom Scottish tavernwench ought to have, and if it wasn’t beer i’d pinch its ass as it walked by just to see if it dropped its tray or if it’s used to having its ass pinched, in which case it’d just slap me on the return trip when the tray is empty.

Wet and lush taste, heavy malts and a slight sour on the backend. I was looking forward to trying this ale, and it fulfilled my expectations. If they release a “non-pilot” version i’ll try it again, but as it stands right now today, this sixer (6×12 = 72 oz) is the same price as a fourer (4×16 = 64 oz) of Rohrbach’s Scotch Ale, so i’d have to go with eight fewer fluid ounces of a better beer.

Today, this Scotch ale gets a 7.2 from my barbarian tongue.

CB Makumba Double IPA

CB's Makumba Double IPA
CB’s Makumba Double IPA

OK, now it’s the big boy. To tell the truth, this Makumba has been sitten in me fridgen for over a month before trying it. The reason: hard to find a bit of time when a 9.5% alcohol beer is appropriate. Really, try to think of one. Oktoberfest is in Autumn, but this is an IPA. St Patrick’s Day would work for a 9.5 but you’re pretty much locked into Guiness, Harp, and Bass that weekend.

Not a first-date beer unless you date a certain kind, not a game-potatoing beer unless your side is losing badly in the first period, and that much alk would make a really hot day even sweatier. Finally found a time, an excuse to get this out of the refrigerator, and it is quite something.

Not only a cloudy ale, but literally dirty. There are hundreds of tiny things floating around in there, some not so tiny, and they don’t settle to the bottom nor float; they just hang there in mid-beer. The aroma is the closest to creamsicle of any beer i’ve had, rushingly citrus and meaty enough to be food instead of drink.

Zoomingly hopped flavor, no mention of IBU’s on the label, drat, after i just found out what an IBU is! By taste, i’d call it about 60-65 IBU’s. Drinking it is indeed more akin to chewing, since this beer’s body is actually visible. Envision the midpoint between a Highland Silverback and King Kong, then enlarge that specimen a little more. This is one big monkey.

Hops are so heavy that you’re getting nut and root flavors, which makes me wonder what an accomplishment it would be for some brewer to take this exact same beer and age it in a 200-liter oak barrel for two weeks before shooing it out the door? If the hops and hi-alk are already producing esters, why not let that run a little wild? After all, this is the golden age for buying oak barrels in the USofA. So many small distilleries are opening up that it’s easy to lose count. Here’s the rub: the legal definition of “bourbon” means the liquor needs to be aged in “new oak” so every shipment of bourbon creates a barrel without a home. There are now thousands of them on the market now, really cheap.

Well, that’s just one of the possibilities of what Makumba might become, someday. Today, it’s a whomping bad-ass of a beer, frightening in alk and with alpha hoppys, a beer that you have to plan a couple days around. The taste might get it into the nines, but that 9.5% alk limits the uses of the beer. Final rating, a still-good 7.9.

[an hour later] As vindication for that review, i can’t finish that second Makumba. The first 1 and 1/2 Makumbas just wiped me out. G’night.

Samuel Adams Grapefruit IPA

Sam Adams Grapefruit IPA, a canful of tragedy
Sam Adams Grapefruit IPA, a canful of tragedy

Oh for fuck’s sake. Honestly, who would ruin a good beer by putting fruit in it? This is America, and there’s a damn good reason why sangria is NOT our national drink. Sam Adams is trying to be edgy and cool, hey i can tolerate that from Sam after years of being the best alternative to Bud-Coors-Miller. But really, this one is a complete fucking mistake. They call this round of newer beers the “Rebel” line of IPAs. I say we quash this particular rebellion with mass executions and burn every structure in their dishonest grapefruit homeland. Sow salt in their furrows, and forced sterilization for the few children who remain in scorched Grapefruit Land.

Suspected i would not like this, but was forced to get three cans of it just so i could sample 3 other new IPAs. What a total fucking waste of aluminum this is. Alk level is 6.3% and it’s got 52 IBUs but who f’ing cares? If i wanted a wine cooler, then that’s what i’d’a bought.

Rating: 0.1, because there was once a Belgian beer i tried in the 1980s which was so terrible the memory haunts me still, as i expect the memory of Sam Adams Crapfruit IPA will haunt me well into the 2040s. No really, 30 years later and i still avoid Belgian beers.

From now on, i’ll never buy another Sam Adams beer, and will give bad reviews to the remaining IPAs in that “Rebel Pack”. Have 2 more cans of this and what should i do with them? Sure as hell can’t drink them. What a waste of money. Should i pour them down the sink or give them to someone i hate? Do i even hate anyone that much? Don’t think i do.

Before i buy any other Sam Adams beer ever again in my lifetime, they have to stop selling this Crapfruit IPA. Not only that, but Sam Adams must publicly apologize for making it. Short of this, goodbye forever to Sam Adams. Until then, i hope they go out of business and someone smears a grapefruit on the tombstone.

Fuck you, Sam.