Dundee Kolsch Ale

Dundee’s Kolsch Ale

A new season (Fall), and a new crop of sampler 12’ers hit the shelves. Though i’m behind in posting but not in writing, so you may not see this until Winter, sorries all around for that. This sampler is from Dundee, AKA the first iteration of craftiness from Genesee Brewery (the second iteration is the Genesee Brew House line). And the first out of the box is the kolsh, or rather the “kolsch-style”.

Not sure why the cartoon character for this brew is a dog delivering a sandwich, but maybe there’s something about a kolsch ale that i don’t know about. Actually, there’s everything about kolsch that i don’t know about. Have seen some popping up on store shelves, along with the recent trend of crafty pils beers, but i really know nothing about kolsch beer.

What i can tell you about this one, is that it’s a light gold color and smells pretty beery. Malts are fully in evidence at the taste trial, it’s a sweet beer on the spectrum of sweet/sour, and hopped normally, which is light for me, since i’m still on the IPA bender.

The only info, whatsoever, on the label is the phrase “clean and crisp”. I could see that, when compared to Dundee’s Honey Brown. This is “clean”, i will give it that. But it’s pretty sweet to be called “crisp”. I mean, the only way a sweet taste is ever truly crisp is when you mix in peppermint oil.

Has a guttural taste, some flavors sink right down your back soft palate, which is how German beer gets its hooks into you, but this brew does not have the real German square bite. Almost tastes as if there’s wheat mixed with the barley. Not a bad beer, not my preference, but i’ve had worse… and recently.

Not sure what kolsch is, so can’t really tell you what a good kolsch needs to buff up its self-esteem, but this isn’t bad beer. A little sweet for me, so i’ll call it 5.8, which includes a half-point bump for only being $9 for a twelver. If being sweet is a trait of kolsch beers, then i prolly won’t like them. But if it’s just a kolsch sweetened for an American audience, then the rating should likely be cropped a couple points.

Someday i might survey some kolsch beers and know more, then might revisit this review with more insight. Until then, 5.8

Dundee Pale Bock Lager

Dundee’s Pale Bock Lager

The fourth type from this sampler 12’er, the Pale Bock Lager. Yes it has a cartoon character, a dancing goat in his town suit who is so dancy that he’s spilling his beer. And there’s a catchphrase: “Big and Malty” and that wouldn’t be a bad idea for one’s tombstone, in case you were in the market for an epitaph.

But i do have a wonder about the beer’s name. Shouldn’t it be Pale Lager Bock, as in a bock beer made from lager leftovers? Well, then again, the rest of this 12-pack makes me wonder if this is actually a bock beer at all, or if they’re just trading on the word since Dundee = Genesee and Genny’s best effort is their annual bock?

But “pale” is right, this is far paler than any bock should be, and the taste is much lighter than a bock ought to be. But it’s nice. As usual for Dundee, it’s sweet, but that’s one thing that’s at home in a bock, so in this beer the sweetness is somewhat forgiven, where with the others of the Dundee flock it’s ugh.

It calls itself big on the malt side of things, and well, that’s a relative thing. The pale ale and IPA really lacked any trustworthy malt taste, so the mere fact that this one has a beer body makes it big. It’s like saying your hog farm is the best one in Fallujah. In some cases, “only” can also mean “best”.

I wish it were more sour, like a bock should be, but it is what it is. And what is it? A good beer for drinking on its own, this and the Pale Ale are the good ones out of the sampler. As a bock, this is not pedigreed, so really don’t know if i can rate this alongside other real bock beers. If so, it would score pretty low.

But as a beer that just happens to have the b-word, word along with “lager” and “pale”, this is not too shabbed. An odd topsy-turvy case, where if this turned out to be real bock beer, then the rating would go down. Considered as a lager, it fares much better: a 5.9 (brought down by the sweetness).

Red Hook Long Hammer IPA

Red Hook Long Hammer IPA
Red Hook’s Long Hammer IPA

A dry-hopped IPA from the Westernlands, says so right on the bottle, where it also says that they make this stuff in Memphis Tennessee, which is not even on the West Coast of the Mississippi River. At any rate, they also make it (or have it made for them) in Washington State and Portland Oregon, so that’s more towards the West Coast.

“Dry hopped” means they use hops when making the wort, but then use dry hops after it’s finished brewing to get some fresh vegetable influences in there. Not certain, but i suspect that’s what people mean when they say “West Coast style IPA.”

The color on this one is quite pale, the effervescence light, the aroma in and out of the bottle is like the label says: piney and citrusy. 6.2% alk completes the particulars, now how does it taste? Pretty light, that’s how. The beer body is not very aggressive in the whole taste, it’s barely there behind two hop flavors: the sharp pine late-taste and tongue-tip bitter orange.

Not a terrible beer at all, but it seems like what Red Hook is trying to do… someone else figured it out better since then. I prefer heavy body, and a sweeter body brings out weird fruits from the hops. This one doesn’t have enough body to begin, let alone be sweet. On the other side of the equation, the hops are strong but without a body to cradle them, they’re just out there, bittering in the wind.

Tasty but there are betterments to be had at this price point. Rating 5.4 for being hoppy but not show-stoppy.

Goose Island Goose IPA

Goose Island Goose IPA
Goose Island’s Goose IPA

This Goosey stuff is one of the false-crafts. Bought out by a gigantic brewery years ago, to give the Gigantor Commercial Brewing Factory a toe-hold in the “craft space”. In this case, Gigantor Brewing means Molson/Coors, and i don’t even think they’re American-owned anymore. I know the other Gigantor Brewing Conglomerate (aka Bud) is owned by a group of suits from somewhere in Europe.

So normally i don’t buy Goose Island or Blue Moon, because they’re not really craft beers anymore. But there was a good deal on a build-your-own-sixer at, of all places, a drug store, and it was a good opportunity to flesh out my experience with some hoppy beers, in single bottles where i would never buy a full sixer.

Thus, a Goose IPA in my glass. Solid and decent, that’s about it. Hoppy, yes, but not ambitiously so. Beer body is pleasant, but nobody’s going out on a limb here, that’s just the way it is with International Corporate Brewing. In the particulars, this is 5.9% alk and packs 55 IBU’s, and they boast that they have an enslav– err, an ‘exclusive’ hop farm all their own.

It’s good beer, no denying that, but i don’t see any reason to buy more of it at “craft” premium prices, when it’s a false-craft with a recipe which seems to be dumbed-down so it could be pumped out with reasonable consistency in Illinois, Baldwinsville NY, and Fort Collins in Colorado.

There is another side to this coin, however. We’re seeing some real craft beers being released where the quality is likely high, but the lack of an “economy of scale” means the price is sky-high. Like, luxury-goods high. There are a few beers i’d love to try, but just can’t pay $25 for a 12-pack. Others, where i simply can’t pay $17 for a sixer. So Big Corp Brewing has an upside: distribution is cheap and large batches lower the production costs.

Don’t know what Goose Island’s IPA tasted like before the buy-out, but right now it’s nothing to write home about, wherever home is for them anymore. Nothing wrong with this beer, it just doesn’t do anything remarkable. Rating, 5.0

Trouble ‘Round Midnight Belgian White Ale

Trouble's 'Round Midnight Belgian White wheat ale
Trouble’s ‘Round Midnight Belgian White wheat ale

Another bit of Trouble, the mystery brewery without even a website mentioned on the package or cans. All we can tell is that this is a “Belgian White” at 5.4% alk and a “Belgian style wheat ale”. Had my first wheat beer in the 1980s and have tried a few more over the years, as a category they’re nice but i never got wowed enough to stick with ’em.

This one is hopped a bit more strongly than others, and it’s a classic white ale in color and effervescent behavior. The taste is not too bad, as normal for me with wheat beers, just not a freak for them. Admit that this one is good for its species, but can only give it a 5.6 because it’s not my bag.

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 IPA

Genesee Brew House’s IPA

The makers of Genny and Genny Cream Ale, Genny Light and Genny Ice. Yes, there’s craft beer and there’s crap beer. But Genny has branched out, 20 years ago creating the JW Dundee line of niche brews, and now the ever craftier Genesee Brew House line. And it’s priced accordingly. The question is, if it’s prettier now, or just a pig with redder lips?

Their IPA entry lands just where you’d think it will. Nothing to complain about, the body is good and the hoppy side is competent. This could be the baseline IPA for judging all IPAs. Won’t make you sing, but you’d say out loud “hey that’s pretty good.” $9 for a sixer is pricing it, uhh, optimistically. It’s not on a par with many other IPAs on the shelves at a similar price, but if you can find it for a buck a bottle, that’s worth trying out.

Smack in the middle at a rating of 5.0, this really is the baseline of the new crafty crop of IPAs. Balanced, competent, more a product of workmanship than craftsmanship, but find it on sale and it’s worth drinking.

Don’t want to disparage the new GBH line, their Double Bock is great and they’ve got a new Scotch Ale which i’m itching to try. Like i said, there’s nothing wrong with the IPA here, just nothing outstanding.

Saranac Gen4 IPA

Saranac’s Gen4 IPA

Another one from Saranac, yep you can tell i got one of those sampler 12ers. The Gen4 label purports to represent 4 generations of brewing in this family-owned brewery in Utica, NY. But, as anyone local can tell you, most of those years since 1888 were spent brewing absolute swill under the dreaded names Utica Club and FX Matt. God those were terrible beers, but terribly cheap.

The one redeeming quality of FX Matt beer was that it came in a “beer ball” which is a plastic sphere about 3 gallons capacity, so you could get a lot of beer, cheap, without laying down a deposit on a keg and tap. Naturally, when emptied, the beer ball provided minutes of drunken entertainment being kicked around the yard. Until some fool inevitably put his foot right through it, and stumbled around with a beer ball on his foot, which was guaranteed to make the rest of the party fall over laughing so hard.

Now to the future, which is already here, and the FX Matt brewery is restyled as Saranac. Goodbye to the swill, but goodbye also to the infamous $7 case of 24. Saranac beers are pricier, not outrageous, but not cheap. The quality you’re paying for is clearly in evidence with the recipes they’ve been putting out. This entry in the IPA rodeo is truly a pale ale, cloudy and yellow like it ought to be. Label calls it “hop forward”, which it is clearly not, when compared to its recent peers. The hops are citrusy but understated, and the label’s mention of “tropical” is also baffling. Nothing here tastes like a mango.

The beer side of the equation is not as flimsy as the Matt Brewery was known for, but it’s not as stocky as some other IPAs out lately. Notably, Saranac’s own “American Pale Ale” has less hop and more body, and because of that it really beats this Gen4 IPA up. Don’t get me wrong, an IPA is supposed to be thin beer, it’s just that the real-beer taste of their APA was such a pleasant surprise.

This one does have a good balance of sour and sweet, but as usual at Saranac the alk % is not listed. Strike that, turns out they put the alk% in tiny print next to the gov’t warning, and i did not find it on this bottle before getting my deposit back, but this is a “session” IPA, so it’s about four and a half. On the whole, i like the true-to-form IPA body, the cloudiness of the beer gives it authenticity, and the flavor is fine. In the middle of the pack it goes, rating a 5.5 for round appeal without standing out in the crowd.

Southern Tier 2X IPA

Southern Tier’s 2X IPA

Billed on the bottle as using 4 types of hops and 3 kinds of malts, and in teeny tiny print, a warning of sorts: this IPA is packing a sweltering 8.2% alcohol. That must be the 2X they’re talking about, because the taste is neither extremely hoppy nor whole-beer malty. Good balance of sweet and pointy hops, even if the latter is not really sharply hopped, is it a little pointy. Can taste the alk underneath the beer, not as dire as some malt liquors on the market, but certainly there.

So with this alk it’s not a great hot-day refreshment, but not bad for a cooler Spring evening when there’s nothing attractive to drive to. Sedate hops, not bright and burning, a slight citrusy hint but more like pine than lemon. OK as a beer, but no reason to buy this as long as Smuttynose is still making Finestkind. My rating of 5.6 takes into account the lower hops and higher brainwreck potential.