Top Ten Beers
Our current top ten beers. This list gets updated weekly, so make sure to check back!
Baltic Porter Review
Dark as an empty movie theater, this porter sports a nose of Raisinets and buttered popcorn. On the palate, it turns into fresh figs with walnuts and dried blueberries. The finish turns up the dark malts with espresso, dark chocolate and licorice. The hops give a hint of rich earth to the whole affair. A rich and smooth brew that feels effortless on the palate. Superb.
Export Stout Review
Just as dark and scented as a freshly pulled espresso. A full bodied stout with rich milk chocolate on the palate . Strands of smoky molasses and saltwater taffy develop on the mid-palate The finish turns veers to charcoal and coffee beans and ends with a nice clean bit of malted barley.
Last St. Paddy’s Day, I implored you to forgo Guinness and other mass-produced Irish imports for local brews that pack more freshness and flavor. One year on, my opinion hasn’t changed, and our local beer scene continues to improve and evolve. My first choice, in fact, on everyone’s favorite drinking holiday would surely be Victory’s Donnybrook Stout.
Donnybrook, however, like many other Irish-style stouts, is one of those creamy, distinctive beers that is only available on nitro tap (meaning that nitrogen is used instead of carbon dioxide in the carbonation process). Because nitrogen is largely insoluble in liquid, beers made in this method tend to have a deceptively thick mouthfeel and offer that distinctive cascade up the glass after being poured.
Guinness, of course, as well as several other internationally-known nitrogenated beers, has long made its signature stout available in a can with a widget at the bottom that approximates the effect of the nitro tap. For those of us who want to enjoy these wonderful beers at home, these macro-brewer widget cans have been our only option.
Until Left Hand Brewing Company’s Milk Stout Nitro, that is. These guys, see, have somehow figured out how to bottle nitrogenated beer. With no widget. Once opening the bottle, you just turn it completely upside down (over a glass!) and let it vigorously and completely pour out. If done correctly, a classic nitro cascade with be only moments away… as will the taste of a freaking delicious stout. This baby is fresh, and smooth, and chocolatey. Bottom line, this is gulping beer.
I must, of course, point out that Left Hand is not a local brewery (it’s in Denver, CO). It is, however, an American brewery, much closer to Philly than Dublin, and heck, they’re even calling this beer “America’s Stout”. Bold words? Not behind this deliciousness.
American IPA Review
Toast and lemon curd on the nose, with a whiff of lavender and blood orange. Those aromas follow through on the palate, along with butterscotch and tree fruits. Flavors develop into the juiciness of ripe pears and melon. Sweetness rises on the finish along with apple flavors and freshly ground spices.
Imperial IPA Review
Vibrant hop aromas push into an ozone-like freshness along with a bit of green grass. On the palate, flavors of grapefruit and melon predominate with floral notes and toasted malts in the background. On the finish, notes of pine forest and tropical fruits come forward. Good carbonation and a mid-weight body offer a creamy yet crisp finish to this wonderful beer.
An Imperial IPA Review
Impressive aromatics of citrus, highly vinous aromatics of grapefruit, lemon rind and caramel. On the palate, the complex fruit flavors continue. Rich and dry, with mango, citrus, peaches, and pineapple all playing a part in the swirl of flavors in this extraordinary beer. A layer of malt and pine resin turn into perfume underneath the fruit flavors.
Under the finish of juicy richness comes a deep hoppy bitterness that twirls into caramelized grapefruit in the finish. This is one of the most rare of beers: big but balanced, highly hopped but delicate. A new classic.
The more I taste beers from Canada’s rising micro brews the greater my respect. They embrace the quality of North American grains and hops, and at the same time executing old school brewing styles. It’s a winning combination they share with some New England brewers, but few others. La Fin Du Monde -the end of the world- is a great place to start.
A tone-perfect Trapist Tripel, is rich in ester scents, ranging from Bartlett pear to nectarine. Fermentation flavors of clove and spicy ginger are prominent, along with a refreshing top note of grapefruit oil and fresh baked bread.
Despite is august-sounding name, Thornbridge is a relatively new British brewery (it was founded in 20005). Their beers tend to hew close to classic styles, but cleaner and fresher. This India Pale Ale is a very good example of their tailored style.
Fresh apple and toast aromas are intertwined with a touch of freshly mown field. On the palate, the beer turn floral with hops and richer in malt. The low alcohol and tight carbonation keeps the brew classy and in control. Grapefruit and lemon oil on the finish with just a bit of rosemary-like bitterness on the finish. A wonderful brew that just may be the best session brew ever.
Compared to other American sour beers, Consecration is great. However, if judged against an Oud Bruin or another classic style of Flemish sour, Consecration is a middling affair with an astronomical price tag.
Would it be fair to judge Cali’s Russian River Brewing Company on the same metric as breweries with yeast cultures older than our country’s constitution? I don’t think so, especially since most Americans won’t have access to those quixotic Flemish brews. Their first experience of the style will probably be this bottle, and I don’t want to dissuade a single soul from the experience.
The aroma has an element of almond and black cherry along with the impressive lactic sourness. A whiff of cinnamon and star anise round out the scent quite well. On the palate, the sour is balanced by a medium body and then the fun really starts. The sweat and leather of brett, the spice of oak, the bite of lactic, and the richness of fruit all come together into a clean and bright and complex brew.
It’s hard to not be intrigued by Rogue’s Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale. This is a beer that’s based on a doughnut flavor. It’s brewed with actual bacon, as well as pure maple syrup, and sold in a ludicrous pink bottle. Though clearly a novelty to some extent, any beer lover would be hard-pressed not to have it on their to-do list.
But is it any good?
After trying it, I’m still not 100% sure. It did feature one of the more intense, intoxicating aromas I’ve ever experienced from a beer. As it sat on the table, over a foot away, I was enveloped in a cloud of fresh maple syrup, intense and satisfying. It was everything I could do to not run for the pancake mix. Sweet, rich notes of maple took the lead on the palate as well, followed by a quick burst of pork fat, and that’s when it got a little weird. And smoky. (The beer’s made with cherrywood, beechwood and hickory-smoked malts.) Of course bacon and smoke go hand in hand, but this smoke was different than smoked meat; it was more like a charcoal pit – initially pleasant, but eventually bitter and overwhelming.
In the end, the Bacon Maple Ale was about what I expected. Interesting to try, fun but odd, and not something to drink a lot of. I’d recommend grabbing a 750ml bottle and a few friends and giving it a run. Don’t forget the pancakes.