Genesee Brew House Altbier

Genesee Brew House’s Altbier

Genesee is notoriously tight with info on the labels or cartons, with the exception of these GBH brews, all labeled “pilot batch” and all bearing the signature of a fellow named Dean Jones. And here’s the latest entry: altbier. Apparently it’s German for “old beer”, not as in this beer needs a walker and somewhere to dump its colostomy bag, but old as in this is the way they used to make beer.

Begs the question: why did they stop making beer this way? But let’s not get too deep over a Genny product. Label calls it Dusseldorf Style, and that’s a place in Germany so we’re on the right track. And the blurb on the label’s neck says this is copper colored, and i’ll toss in a nod there, it’s not an ale and not quite dark enough to be in porterland.

Claims to use Munich malt and Hallertrau Noble hops, and these are all German place names, so in theory this should taste just like fine German beer, right? Well, no. But it’s nice and close, for an American beer anyway. It hasn’t got that back-throat tang that real German beers getcha with, and at 5.5% alk this isn’t going to waste you like, ahem, a real German beer might.

So it doesn’t have that tang, but it has a nip of bite, a nod towards Germany from little ole New York, the malt body and hops are balanced quite well, although still a little too sweet for my tastebuddoes, but nearly all Genny beers have that fault, so no big deal here.

What this beer does have is a refreshing gulpability, i could easily see this as a great way to wash down some dumplings which were birthed wet on top of a kettle of boiling sauerkraut and knockwurst. Note the date this is posted, the recipe mentioned above just so happens to be a traditional German New Years Day dinner. Crazy coincidence, since i wrote this review in October, and now i have to make it tomorrow!

So count me as a fan, all of the GBH line are head-n-shoulders above Genny’s Dundee line, and this one is just as nice. Really don’t have any altbier peers to rate this against, so let’s consider it a generic “crafty beer” and rate from there. The color and weight are good, the taste is not hoppily refreshing but maltily refreshing, that’s not a word, but it is now. Slap a 7.7 rating on it’s ass and send it to the kitchen for another platter of wursts.

Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA

Flying Dog’s Snake Dog IPA

A hissy bark? A whiny slither? What sound does the snakedog make? I think the Flying Dog brewers just tried to come up with the weirdest things from the bottom edge of their minds, just to see what illustration Ralph Steadman would come up with. And this one’s a doozy, comes with a poem too, best not repeated here where there might be kids reading.

The beer itself? An IPA of serious weight at 7.1% alk, color on the dark side of golden and the aroma of wheaty fruits. A sip tells it true: the malts are heavy here, and now i know why they smelled a little wheaty. This IPA lets the malts slide through the jungle of hops, by keeping the hops on the low side of face-punching.

Hops are still there of course, this being a real IPA, and they’re fully functional even if light: a bit of fruitiness but less sharp than citrus, bitter without being too piney, this is more of a spice bitter than an ascorbic bitter. But they’re lighter than many IPA’s and this lets a very full malt taste out of the cage.

Sweet, bright, grainy, with that unfruity bitter. An interesting brew fo shoo, dogg. Bought the full sixer of this for the Steadman art, think i may want to collect ’em all, but not sure if i’ll buy this beer again. The sturdy beer body is nice, but i do prefer something a little wilder on the hop side of the equation. A steady 7.1 rating here, up for competent brewing but down for the lower hops.

Dundee Pale Ale

Dundee’s Pale Ale

As with most Dundee beers, this one has a cartoon character. In this case it’s a buttoned-down British frog holding a pint. Of course it’s a frog so it naturally looks drunk, but we don’t know how strong this pint is. No info on the Dundee bottles, other than the peppy caption “Enjoyably Hoppy”. And these are twist-off bottles, so combine that with TLI, and you get a feel for the level of hands-on brewmastering involved. But carry on,

The color is medium gold, or two shades lower, and a really refreshing smell to this one. The hops are giving it up for free here, a nasal snorfle rakes in some citrus, some pine and even some pepper. Notable and thus noting it here, since that level of aroma is unexpected from Dundee.

And the tasting goes just as well. The tag “enjoyably hoppy” is fully justified. Ohhh, yep i’m a dolt, now i get it: it’s a frog because it’s “hoppy”. OK, back to our regularly scheduled beer review…

The taste is not as hoppy as the smell, but a good beer body comes through all the more past the tamed hops. But what it is, a medium-hopped ale, is fine. The same knock here as with Dundee’s kolsch: this is sweet for a hopped beer. I seen that before, from more crafty brewers, and it generally counts against them. Here, when we expected mediocrity and instead find suitability, it’s a big plus.

Still too sweet for me to drink all the time, but this shows that Dundee has some understanding of hops. Applause for that, and a nudge in case they stumble over this note: cut half of the sweetness and you’ve got a pretty good beer. Spike it with more carbonation after that, and you’ve got a damned good beer.

So this is a pale ale that knows it better not call itself “India” and it’s fairly cheap. Good hop, good beer, make it less sweet and it’d rate higher, but for now it’s ranked a workmanlike 7.6 rating.

Rohrbach Highland Lager

Rohrbach's Highland Lager
Rohrbach’s Highland Lager

Only info on the can, as usual with Rohrbach, is “crisp German style amber lager” but at least that’s 100% accurate. Nice amber color, a bit on the sweet side in the taste, and it is frankly as crisp as an autumn sunset. Alk content can’t be too high, since i had three of the customary pint cans in a row and this did not slosh my nosh.

Taste is great, this is a fine lager for relaxing, hearty malt flavor and it does have that German twang to it, though of course it does not have that German bite to it, but it also does not have that German whap to your head either. As with most Rohrbach beers, this is competent and experience shows in the result. Also, this is the last Rohrbach beer to review for me. They have a Vanilla Porter which i was not wowed by, good beer but not a strong vanilla taste. And they have a Blueberry something-or-other, which i will not touch with a ten foot pole, not even a borrowed 10-foot pole.

I prefer lagers a little less sweet than this, so a 7.0 rating seems appropriate to my tastes, lowered for the sweet and uppered for the color and weight.

Great Lakes Commodore Perry IPA

Great Lakes Commodore Perry IPA

Damn those pesky torpedoes! The real Commodore Perry was full speed ahead about beating the English Navy and now let’s see what Great Lakes Brewing has tagged as his 21st Century legacy… ahh, an IPA, an English-origin beer. As the label says, how ironic.

Color is light golden, not much bubbling going on, and the aroma out of the glass seems hoppy, a bit, but also meaty, as in real meat. And the taste bears this out: it tastes like there’s roast beef in my beer. At 7.7% alk and 70 IBU’s, this ought to be a serious experience, but i just can’t get over the eau de au jus in this beer. Not kidding, tastes like someone let their grill drippings into a batch of beer.

The hops are not overpowering, because the beer body comes through quite well in this, and it’s a nice flavor of malts. There’s a little wheaty taste but mostly some mid-toast barley and a hint of corn even. With the overall meaty taste, i would almost expect some potato flavors in here to make it a balanced meal.

The hops are not as fierce as 70 IBU’s would make you think, but fully evident. More to the pine side of the cone than the fruit side, a hint of tongue-numbing attests to evergreen influence, and the more sips i get, the more the hops take over from the beer body. But there it is all the way through: that taste of beef. You know when you fry burgers in a skillet and each burger gets those gray beads of fat built up around the edge? Eat one of those, and that’s what the meatish taste is, in this here IPA.

Pretty odd to find burger lard in an IPA, but it’s not the terrible thing that you might imagine. The beer body is barleybread, and a touch of beef fat actually goes hand-in-glove with it. If you try this IPA, might wish to have a packet of ketchup at hand to make the flavor complete. Maybe some dill relish. Oh wait, i know what this taste is: Yorkshire pudding but with a barley dough instead of wheat dough.

So what have we learned? About Commodore Perry, next to nothing. But about the beer which culturally appropriates his name? When you have some friends over and do some BBQ’ing, this would be an excellent beer to provide. The aftertaste of Cmdr Perry IPA will make your burgers taste like a star spangled success, no matter how bad a grillmaster you may be.

Very interesting beer, and an IPA rating has to take into account the body, the hops and the balance. Balance is good here, hops are comfortable, and the malt body is solid enough to support everything else. Don’t think i would buy this for Beer Appreciation Night, but for a picnic? Hell yeah! Rating is a casual 7.3 for good balance but unexpected extra tastes.

Ballast Point Big Eye IPA

Ballast Point Big Eye IPA

Just as CB CraftBrewers had the whole monkey-themed lineup of beers, Ballast Point out in San Diego has all the fishes. Mostly ugly fish too, but this one isn’t as horrifying as the rest. Looks like some kind of tuna, but its eye is not really all that big. BP “Sculpin” IPA came highly recommended, but as with Lagunitas beers, also from California, the BP’s are fairly pricey. Luckily, found this Big Eye and the Sculpin in a pick-a-six rack, so can try ’em without investing a lot.

This 7.0% alk IPA is a healthful dark gold, and has that sewer-water attribute with thirty thousand little bits o’ grit suspended in liquid, but by now we realize that this is a great omen presaging a great IPA. Unfiltered means untamed taste. In this one, however, there is so much litter that it’s piling up on the seafloor in my pint glass as i write. Presume that the Big Eye needs a layer of sediment to support it’s primary prey, the hopworm.

Not much info on the label at all, so have to go on taste alone with this fish. Nasal appreciation is lively, with tart-fruits and florals, and strangley, a hint of provolone. Hey, who knows? At an early age i learned that a chunk of Cheez Wiz on a hook works just as fine as any worm. Carbonation is pretty low on this one, a small amout of CO2 bite but nearly no head nor effervescing.

The taste is sweet, hops lower than the smell would advertise, and the floaty specks do tell the story right: the full flavor of beer swims here. Those hops which do come forward are the jaunty kind, more plum than grapefruit, if this was a cherry it would be the pie kind, not the snacking kind. Yum, with the Big Eye not trying to hop your schnozz off, the fuller malt flavor is free to bring out the blossom notes of hi-hopping. Almost a perfumy taste in there.

I like the taste, even though this is not what i look for in an IPA. I look for an astringtent that would pucker a lizard, but that’s not what this Charlie Tuna is about. This is a neat package of beer+hops, self-contained and not referrent to anyone else. Getting toward a tangerine taste. But the sediment did pile up and the final gulp was rather chewy.

Not too bad, glad i tried one bottle and glad i didn’t have to shell out 16 clams for a full sixer. If you try it, drink fast or swirl now and then, lest the last swig be oatmeal. Rating 7.6 for the sedate hopping, up for the solid beer body, down for the pricing.

Uinta Dubhe Imperial Black IPA

Uinta’s Dubhe Imperial Black IPA

Not sure whats up with Uinta. Not only is the brewery’s name unsuited for human tongues, but this beer is called “Dubhe” and i think you need your tongue cut into three forks in order to pronounce that correctly. The label is pretty, though, a starswept Utah twilight skyline, complete with buttes and mesas and other easy-to-pronounce things.

This sucker has a big wide label, like their Hop Nosh i tried, and just like the Hop Nosh, there’s very little information on it. Lots of slogans and back-pats, but only one useful nugget: this Imperial Black IPA has a striking 9.2% alcohol content, which must just drive the Mormons out there to fits. Oh, and it’s made with hemp too. Wow, these people are just asking for a fight in Utah!

And, now the mystery of the non-carbonated Hop Nosh is solved. I didn’t just get a defective bottle of the Nosh, apprently Uinta Brewing just doesn’t believe in carbonation. What do they do with it? I know my chems and my bios, and so i know that when yeast make alcohol, they fart out carbon dioxide. So where did it go? At 9.2% alk, there was certainly a lot of yeast farting going on, in and around this beer. What happened to it?

On the good side, whereas the uncarbonated Hop Nosh was nasty, this is a pretty delicious beer so i don’t mind that it’s flatter than an Olympic gymnast. Don’t know what makes it “Imperial”, other than if an emperor says he’s wearing clothes, then his beer is fizzy too. The color here is almost stout, but brown where stout would be blacker, and still as opaque. Smell is very nice, hoppy and mealy and would probably work fine for killing wasp nests.

And it tastes like stout too, only a tad hoppier than most stouts. Very heavy carmelized mouthful, an insistent urge to chew once or twice before swallowing, it’s got that pumpernickel taste. I know what’s going on here. Uinta made a stout, then figgered out that America is nutzy for IPA’s. So they popped a few extra hop cones in there, and Voila! Now it’s an IPA! Uhh, errrrm… we meant “black IPA”. No, we meant Imperial Black IPA, yeah, that’s what we made. Yupsiree. We meant to do that.

So this is not an IPA. The label is a lie, which the Mormons out there will also take umbrage at. This is a stout with 1.3 times as much hops as in a stout. But i can’t really compare this to other IPA’s then, now can i? For stouts, the standard is Guinness. Against that field of competitors, Dubhe I.B.IPA fares decently. Sweeter, but it’s made for Americans so we’ll let that pass. More hops, and it turns out that’s not a bad thing for a stout.

As it happens, i like stouts. If i didn’t, then i’d be royally pissed off that they call this an IPA. Imperially pissed off, in fact. But as it stands, rating this as a stout and not an IPA (where it would score poorly), this odd contraption gets a 7.7. More carbonation might have lifted it a couple tenths, but it’s OK as it is. Just, don’t look at the label and think you’re getting an IPA.

Davidson Brothers IPA

Davidson Brothers IPA

Not much info on the bottle, might have been more on the carton, but i got this one off a pick-a-six rack. All it says is that this stuff is “brick kettle brewed since 1996”. First of all, a happy 25th to the Davidson brothers next year, and second of all, is there really such a thing as a kettle made out of bricks? Also says “Original Recipe”, 12 oz, and it’s from Glens Falls in NY, and i may be wrong, but that might be the real town that was the inspiration for Bedford Falls in “It’s A Wonderful Life”. Or maybe it was Seneca Falls? I forget.

But on to the beer: a nice smell out of the bottle, pleasing orangey color, the same as many of my fave hoppy beers, so they didn’t skimp on the malts at the Davidson house. Sure enough, when i got my tongue wrapped around this, or vice versa, it’s making me happy because there’s a heartier beer body than many other IPA’s. No idea how strong it is, and that’s kinda a relief: what you don’t know, you can’t fear. Or maybe vice versa, sometimes.

Hmmm, the balance is a tiny bit off, but in the opposite way of most IPA’s. Here, the body is a little more assertive than usual, but no offense to the hops in this one, they are very large themselves. As a whole package, i think we have a winner here. No idea if it took them all 20 years to get it right or if it was hi-qual right from the first brick kettle-full, but today, this is a very good IPA.

Yeah, after more sips i stand by the assertion above: this is a small deviation from a perfect balance of beer/hops but in a good direction, for my tastes at least. Citrus hop flavors, the meaty beer leads them into a berry flavor. At the back of the mouth the taste is roasty and toasty, which most IPA’s, even good ones, tend to drown out with massive hopping. There is a little bitter taste which is not hops, must be from the grain, and that’s a distraction.

The texture and flavor are great, solid body and steady hopping which could go a touch higher, overall a competent IPA but not award winning. Rating this at 7.5 for the good body, subtractions for the extraneous bitter and missing balance.

Keegan Bine Climber IPA

Keegan Bine Climber IPA
Keegan’s Bine Climber IPA

Don’t know what a bine climber is, but a busy little can here with plenty of info, and we like that. Geek humor is always great too, and according to the label i am holding 3.02 x 10^-3 barrels of IPA. To the math-fearers, that’s .00302 of a barrel, and to the truly thick, that’s 12 fluid ounces. A can of beer. Don’t worry, just drink it.

They list out the malts used (2Row, Pilsener, Munich and wheat), and the hops (Columbus, Citra, Falconer’s Flight, and Cascade). IBU’s are at a healthy 44. Also has a SRM number, which is a mystery to me but this IPA has 3.9 of those, whatever they are. The one piece of info missing on the can is one of the crits: the alk content! But since this is a “session” IPA we can infer that it’s at 4.5% or so.

Actually, now that i think about it, a bine climber might be a hop plant. Not sure, but there’s a maybe there. Anyway, the color is roundabout gold-ish, with plenty of floaty specks in there, which is usually a great sign for an IPA. The aroma is plenty hoppy, pine and sharp fruity, with a hint of schnozzberries.

Now down to it: the drinking of the drink. Catches in my throat a little bit, this one wears its 44 IBU’s well, and it had better because the malts are clearly overshadowed here. According to Keegan, there’s some wheat in here, but i can’t pick it out. The hops are hard and heavy, and i like this blend’s taste. It’s got my fave, Cascade, and truthfully here, this is one of the hoppiest IPA’s i’ve ever had. This one gives Hop Stoopid and Hop Hunter a run for their money.

Being “session” and thus low-ish alcohol, this would be an ‘easy drinking’ beer if it wasn’t hopped to the gills. I can declare it a good Summer beer, with the tart and foresty hops leaving your mouth dry and salivatey, this would be refreshing on the back deck on an 85º evening. But i can’t imagine drinking more than 2 or 3 of these in a row, the hopsy-turvy attitude would get absurd fast.

So if you buy this, prepare to share. As the glass went lower, and my mouth grew accustomed to the full-on hopslaught, the malts, the beer’s body, started to peek out from under the gtreen curtain. I can at last tell that there’s wheat in here, and the pils, and the other grainy tastes must be the other 2 malts, which i know nothing about. For that matter, i’d never heard of Falconer’s Flight hops, but there it is on the can.

The beer body is light, and the hops are all erect, so this one doesn’t have great balance. If you’re on The Quest for Hoppier-Than-Thou, then you owe yourself a tonguewash with this IPA. They really do hop the hell out of it. Other than that notable, there’s not much to shout about. I’ll rate it 7.0 for the hop madness, without that it’d be 5-something.

Victory Hop Devil IPA

Victory Hop Devil IPA
Victory’s Hop Devil IPA

The devil on the label doesn’t look all that menacing, but then again this is a Pennsylvania beer and there’s no reason to go scaring the Amish neighbors needlessly. Not a very pale ale, in fact orangey and well on the way to amber. Light head, good bubblys streaming upwards, and a decent piney noseful of aroma. But the proof is in the taste, and this 6.7% alk IPA is crammed with hops and then finished with hops and let the devil take the hindmost.

No IBU number on the bottle, but wow is this little green demon hoppy. The color suggests that the beer body should be solid, but i really can’t tell much about it, under the shadow of an Erebus of Hops. A fairly strong beer, but should be refreshing enough for a weekend on the shores of a burning lake, even if that weekend lasts a thousand years.

Hats off to Victory Brewing, they’ve entered a fast horse in the Hoppier Than Thou Steeplechase. A heavy beer, which i like for the weight even though i can’t really get much of a taste of the malt side of the equation. So not a Summer drink, but at least they didn’t whimp out. If you’re going to call it Hop Devil, then you better make damned sure you get that side of the equation right.

Lacks the balance that makes my favorite IPA’s excel, but they did what the label says they tried to do. Wow, that’s some hops there, Mr. Scratch. Without that balance the rating will suffer, but if you’re a fan of that Steeplechase, then try this one out. My call is a rating of 7.3 because i like the mouthweight and i do, in fact, love all that hoppiness.