Commercially Available Beers

This section will be dedicated to reviews of commercially available beers. By that I mean a beer you can buy at Total Wine or your liquor store of choice. These include beers like Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, Goose Island, Boulder Brewing, Widmer Brothers, Alaskan, Deschutes, Odell Brewing; the list goes on and on! I will have another section devoted to trying as many draft or “on tap” beers as possible.

As you may know by now, I love ales. Any kind of ale really is fine by me. IPA’s, Pale Ales, Wheat Ales, Blonde Ales, Amber Ales, Red Ales, etc. But the whole point of these reviews was for me to branch out of my comfort zone and try as many new beers as possible. But I gotta take it one step at a time, right? I can’t just quit cold turkey. So ales may dominate my reviews at first, but I’ll get there.

So without further ado, I present my first review!

Just Peachy!

odell tree shaker IIPA

Odell Brewing Company
Tree Shaker Imperial IPA
IBUs: 48
ABV: 8.0%
Malts: N/A
Hops: N/A

Aroma – Definitely smelling strong peach notes, but my initial impression was a soft hoppy, almost grasslike smell. The grass smell is pleasant though and in no way overpowering. After a few strong whiffs there seems to be some faint floral notes, and maybe some raisin-y fig-y notes in there as well. Overall, though, peach notes dominate this aroma.

Flavor – The flavor certainly matches the nose, with strong, sweet peach flavors hitting the tongue first, followed by a kind of warmness that would be expected from an imperial IPA. A pleasant hoppy bitterness that follows helps balance out the sweetness of the peach. The floral flavors are definitely much stronger than their aromas, and were unexpected based on how light the floral smells were.

Overall – I was not terribly impressed with the beer the first few sips. The more I drank, though, the more I liked it and by the middle of the glass I was sold. It is certainly a sweeter IPA but the warmness of alcohol balances the sweetness nicely. It also has a nice body to it (at least I think… I’ve never really known what that means). A very solid, if a little sweet, Imperial IPA.

Aroma: 10 – The aroma left a little to be desired, and the peach flavor really dominated the entire aroma, with almost no hop aroma coming through except for the vague grassy smell.

Appearance: 3 – The look of the beer is great. It’s a beautiful golden colored beer with a head that sticks around and is crystal clear. Great looking IPA.

Flavor: 19 – If you like a noticeable peach flavor, as I do (peach green tea ftw), you will definitely enjoy this IPA. However, the sweetness can be a little overpowering to someone who does not like the peach flavor. But then again why buy a peach IIPA if you don’t like the peach taste!

Mouthfeel: 4 – This definitely leaves a sticky feeling in your mouth due to the sweetness, but for an IPA it had a decent mouthfeel to it.

Overall Impression: 9 – Overall, this beer is a winner. It’s bold, sweet, and full of personality. Full disclosure though, I’m an Odell fanboy, so I may be a little biased on this one. 

Overall Score: 90

5 Sips of Summer

sierra nevada crisp lager

Sierra Nevada
Summerfest Crisp Lager
ABV: 5.0%
Malts: 2-row Pale, Pilsner, Munich
Hops: Perle, Saaz, Spalter Select

Aroma- This aroma is great right off the bat. There’s a great malty sweetness with just a  hint of spicy, hoppy, and grassy aromas following the sweetness. The smell is not terribly complex, but it is exactly what I would expect from a lager. The smell is fresh, crisp, and sweet.

Flavor – The initial subtle sweetness of the malt sugars are perfectly balanced by the slight spicy and bitter hop flavors. The carbonation seems to accentuate the spiciness of the hops, and really brings out their flavor. Though there is some sweetness it is not overpowering, and this beer seems to be appropriately dry for a lager.

Overall – A great, crisp, session-able, lager that is refreshing in both aroma and taste. The dryness and hops are balanced by a subtle malt sweetness and refreshing carbonation. I don’t drink lagers often, but from now on when I think of an ideal lager, this beer will certainly come to mind. This beer just feels like summer in a bottle.

Aroma: 12 – Exactly what I expected from this beer. It was fresh, slightly spicy and just enough sweetness.

Appearance: 3 – It had a gorgeous pale golden color that was refreshing just to look at. It had a nice foamy head that stuck around for the whole beer.

Flavor: 19 – The flavor matched the aroma almost perfectly, with more of the spiciness becoming apparent in the flavor. A great, crisp lager with the right amount of sweetness.

Mouthfeel: 4 – The mouthfeel was good but even after letting the beer sit out for a bit the carbonation was still pretty strong. I’m not sure if all lagers are like this but it seemed very carbonated.

Overall: 10 – This lager is great. I would want this lager on a warm summer night playing cornhole with my friends watching a gorgeous sunset. It’s really a great, crisp summer beer.

Overall Score: 96

The Ides of Märzen

damm marzen

S. A. Damm
Daura Märzen Gluten-Free Lager
ABV: 7.2%
Malts: N/A

Aroma: The initial smell is a malty almost bread like smell which is ironic considering this is a gluten free beer, but I don’t think gluten contributes heavily to the smell of bread (don’t quote me on that though…) It smells like a sweet, buttery dinner roll. There’s a light, refreshing, almost spicy hop aroma that’s balanced by a vague banana note as the beer warms.

Flavor: I definitely taste biscuit-y, bread-y flavors that match the nose. There is a nice hoppy spiciness, which is complemented nicely by the subtle alcohol warmth. As I keep drinking I’m getting hints of fruit, maybe an apple and a little bit of banana. I didn’t know what to expect because I’d never had a Märzen before, but my overall impression is a flavorful beer.

Overall: This beer is a good, malty, biscuity with a nice robust feel to it. It’s not too heavy, and I can see this being dangerously session-able actually. The fruit profile that starts coming through at the end is a nice surprise not really suggested in the aroma fully. As the beer warms, the alcohol burn is a little strong considering it’s only a 7.2% beer though.

Aroma: 10 – I’m not really sure what to look for in a Märzen in terms of aroma, but this certainly had a strongly pleasant bread-y aroma that complimented the flavor of the beer.

Appearance: 3 – This beer was an amazing orange-y copper color that suggested some crystal or biscuit toasty malts. A great looking beer (The picture doesn’t do it justice). If I could give it a 4 I would.

Flavor: 17 – I was initially going to rank this a 15 in terms of flavor, but as I kept drinking it, the vague fruitiness complemented the bread-y sweetness really well and it was a nice round flavor. The alcohol warmth was a little intense though. More so than a 7.2% should be.

Mouthfeel: 4 – this leaves a very sticky spit in your mouth, but for a lager the mouthfeel was decent, and did not oppressively coat the inside of my mouth.

Overall: 8 – I’d give this beer a solid 8. It did what it did well, with just a few things off, mostly the unusual warmth of alcohol. Maybe it was just an off night for me who knows!

Overall Score: 84

Up on Meloncholy Hill

new belgium heavy melon

New Belgium
Heavy Melon Watermelon Lime Ale
IBUs: 14
ABV: 5%
Malts: Pale, Caramel 80
Hops: Nugget

Aroma: I was surprised with how not sweet the smell of this beer was. I was expecting the Watermelon and Lime gestapo to be busting down my olfactory door but not so. There was almost a bread-y character to the smell, but that’s about it. In terms of aroma this doesn’t have much going on.

Flavor: My first impression was a sweet malty flavor, vague hop spiciness and not much else. As the beer warmed a little I started to pick up hints of lime, but I couldn’t detect any watermelon. This beer had a great flavor, but I think I was expecting the watermelon and lime to pack more of a punch. They could have called it just any old pale ale and I wouldn’t have questioned it. There’s a slight hoppy grassy-ness on the aftertaste. It is also fairly dry which is refreshing.

Overall: Don’t get me wrong this is a good beer, but for something called “Heavy Melon” I was really expecting the watermelon and lime to be the stars of this beer. Adjunct beers always walk a fine line between not enough adjunct flavor and way too much of it. This one unfortunately falls in the former category, and tastes like any other pale ale.

Aroma: 8 – There wasn’t much to this aroma except for a vague sweet bread smell. There was one other element in there but I could not place what it was. It was almost a plastic-like smell that seemed to come and go.

Appearance: 3 – It looked great, and was crystal clear with a golden color to it. Head retention and lacing were minimal, but that is to be expected of this style

Flavor: 17 – It’s not that this beer didn’t taste great, because it did, it just wasn’t what I was expecting. If I were a big adjunct beer fan, I would be pretty disappointed with the lack of watermelon and lime presence in this beer. Still though, at face value it is a very tasty pale ale.

Mouthfeel: 4 – This beer was smooth and drinkable, and had a nice mouthfeel to it from drink to drink. It definitely left a little filmy aftertaste once the cup was empty though.

Overall: 7 – Overall it was a good, drinkable, and tasty pale ale. Nothing really became the star of this beer though, and it seemed like everything was fighting to be in the background.

Overall Score: 78

On the Precipice…

deschutes abyss 2015

Deschutes Brewery
“The Abyss” 12-month Barrel Aged Imperial Stout
IBUs: 86
ABV: 12.2%
Malts: Pale Malt, Black Malt, Chocolate Malt, Black Barley, Roasted Barley, Wheat
Hops: Millennium, Nugget, Styrian, German Northern Brewer

Aroma: Big vanilla notes right off the bat, along with a strong alcohol, bourbon smell. Under those is a rich chocolate aroma that smells like melted semi-sweet chocolate chunks. There’s a hint of tart, dark cherries which adds a hint of sourness. Low to no hop aroma. Incredibly complex and malty aroma that seems to change with each smell

Flavor: Initially there is a big chocolate, slightly roasted malt flavor. This is followed up immediately by bitter, vaguely fruity  notes. Intense alcohol warmth, about right for a 12.2% though. Big very viscous body. The oak notes are present. It tastes like an vanilla soaked dark chocolate covered cherry cordial.

Overall: This is an amazing beer. This is easily the best stout I’ve ever tasted and I think it’s actually the only oak aged anything I’ve ever had. Incredibly complex flavor and aroma, that just seems to change and develop with each sip. Very good beer.

Aroma: 12 – This aroma was so complex and so inviting that I could not stop breathing it in. I tried this beer with my friends and the entire time we drank it were shouting out new smells we were detecting. Great aroma.

Appearance: 3 – I had  never seen such a rich, creamy, tan head on a stout before. This beer was pitch black and almost completely opaque. For as intimidating as it looked it was very inviting to drink.

Flavor: 19.5 – The flavor of this beer was so complex it was hard to detect everything in it in one go. I would love to try this beer again after it had aged a decent amount and compare the two flavors and see what became more or less prominent. My only complaint was the oak notes, which dominated a little as the beer warmed.

Mouthfeel: 4 – The warmth of the beer was a little intense for just a 12.2% beer, which is still fairly high, but the smell and taste of alcohol was very present.

Overall: 10 – Seriously the best stout I’ve ever had. It was complex, rich, had a huge body, and was overall an amazing beer. 

Overall Score: 97