During my recent trip to Delaware, I was able to get my hands on some more brews from Troegs, a Hershey, PA-based brewery that doesn’t distribute to NC. I really liked their Perpetual IPA and loved Flying Mouflan, so I was excited to give their HopBack Amber a shot. It’s a traditional American amber brew but put through the hopback process with whole-flower hops.
Category Archives: amber
This is how my friend best put into words my general feelings from my first day (ever) in the state of Wisconsin and the city of Milwaukee. How is this applicable? My initial foray into Wisconsin beer (non-New Glarus) was a mixed bag. Two trips to local breweries mostly left me scratching my head.
At Milwaukee Brewing Company my flight of beers offered something unique – the first cream ale I could ever stand. Every other cream ale I’ve ever had has been too watery and devoid of taste (corn not bring an ideal taste from beer). But somehow, Outboard gets around that corn flavor, even though it is an ingredient. Perhaps it’s the 6.5 percent ABV that adds something extra? Or some Saaz hops in a traditional American beer? Either way, it actually had some kind of flavor and a light bitterness that I haven’t found elsewhere. To put it bluntly, it was the least cream ale of any cream ale I’ve had. Somehow, this brewery managed to make (to me) a perfect version of an otherwise mediocre beer style.
My other favorite from Milwaukee Brewing Company was their Polish Moon milk stout which isn’t the “winter warmer” it promises to be with a 4.5 percent ABV, but is nice and sweet, but the lactose is best overpowered by roasted intensity that adds a great amount of body and flavor to the beer.
Louie’s Demise, the brewery’s flagship beer, was a perfectly fine amber ale that didn’t really have anything that made it stand out, but was good and something I could drink a lot of in one sitting.
The second stop of day one brought us to Lakefront Brewery, where another flight offered quality across the board, but nothing that blew me away. I loved – in idea – the Wisconsinite hefeweizen, which is an all-locally sourced hefe. The flavor was pretty hum-ho and everything you’d expect with banana esters and a bready backbone. It was mostly the fact they’re able to get malt, hops and yeast locally, which is just a cool aspect of the beer.
Another “stand out” from Lakefront was their New Grist gluten-free beer. The only other gluten-free offering I’ve ever had was the Tweason’ale from Dogfish Head, and New Grist was a perfectly toned down version of that. While the base of both these beers is the same – sorghum – Dogfish’s addition of strawberry and honey gives Tweason’ale a easily recognizable flavor. New Grist tasted just like Tweason’ale, but without any additional flavoring. It was a bit sweet with a clean finish, but not much else. Granted, this is what I imagine you’d want from such a beer.
One other novelty from the trip was Comet Cafe‘s “Brunch Box,” which was neither brunch nor a box, but was had with breakfast. This drink consisted of amaretto, orange juice, generic Belgian white and topped with Guinness. The orange/amaretto/Guinness combination was very good and seemed to enhance the chocolatey-roasted flavor of the beer a bit. Try making yourself – highly recommended.
The temperature is over 100 here in NC and I’ve got three bottles of this winter warmer left. The beer laughs at the threat of heat. It might actually be better a little warm.
I’ve previously shared my adoration for Ithaca Beer, one of my favorites from back home in upstate New York. Their apricot wheat is a summertime gem, but a few months back I got my hands on their winter seasonal, Cold Front, just as it was going out of stock. It’s got a 84 on Beer Advocate.
The beer is categorized as a Belgian-amber, which may sound like an odd pairing but is incredibly accurate in how you might expect the beer to turn out. Cold Front mixes the pairing of Belgian candi sweetness with the refreshing aspects of an amber to pull off a hell of a one-two punch.
At about 7 percent ABV, this is a good winter warmer, but you’d never really know it. The alcohol isn’t pronounced in the flavor or smell. The grain bill includes Munich malt and British roasted barley, which says amber, but uses Belgian yeast to give it a wonderful banana ester smell. Eventually, that mixes in with the sweet candi sugar and then earthy fruit notes on the nose, like figs or dates or something that I never actually eat but works great in this fashion.
The taste is where it really shines, which includes the candi sugar and the fresh taste of what I thought of was like wort – a brewing term for unfermented liquid that becomes the beer (after the yeast eat the sugars and poop out the alcohol). All told, it’s just smooth as hell in taste and as it goes down. As far as bottled beers go, it tasted like it was off the tap.
Hit the jump for my “Rate That Beer” sheet.
Great Lakes Brewing recently arrived to the Triangle area, so having never had their beers before, I felt compelled to give them a shot over the past week. I picked up a bottle of each of their year-round brews that are now available around here: pale ale, IPA, porter and amber. Needless to say, they’re all good. I could easily drink any of them at any time, although the porter now has a special place in my heart.
Burning River Pale Ale – 90 on Beer Advocate
This is definitely hoppier than a normal American pale ale, which you can easily smell, along with some grapefruit. On the tongue, it’s got a little bitterness at the start, but an overall good balance. It almost feels like a subdued IPA.
Commodore Perry IPA – 88 on Beer Advocate
More or less the pale ale, but just slightly more hop-infused. The taste is much more bitter, but not anything that will kill tastebuds. However, one of these will be good enough, especially if you’re having other beers in one sitting.
Eliot Ness Amber Lager – 91 on Beer Advocate
The smell was really good – a sweet caramel, malty backbone. The taste was much the same. It was smooth and sweet, but in a rich kind of way, not sugary. It actually reminded me a bit of Saranac caramel porter.
Edmund Fitzgerald Porter – 95 on Beer Advocate
Smell was nothing but chocolate malt. So good. It was among the stronger chocolate smells I think I’ve ever had in non-chocolate beers. The taste was so, incredibly smooth with no ill effects on the finish. Usually with a porter you’d find some kind of roasted flavor, but not with this.
I thought it was good – a lighter version of Founder’s Harvest Ale even though it’s classified as an “amber.” It had a medium-key hop taste you might expect from a harvest-style beer and it was easy to drink. Not much else that was terribly special or I could remember, but that comparison was the best I thought of at the time.
Having now lived in North Carolina for over three years, I’ve worked hard to get to know the wonderful NC beer scene. In Durham alone, we have a handful of great breweries. Duck-Rabbit, based out of Asheville, is just one of the great breweries NC has to offer.
I, like many others, am a huge fan of their milk stout. It’s probably one of my favorite versions of that brew. I also like Duck-Rabbit’s brown ale. You really can’t go wrong. It had been a while since I last had some of their amber ale, which was a pleasant enough return. It currently sits as a B- on Beer Advocate.
Unlike the other two Duck-Rabbit beers I mentioned, this one isn’t terribly unique. It has a very similar taste to New Castle – a malty smell, easy mouthfeel and a caramel-like finish. It’s a kind of beer that I could drink a few of in a sitting and not think twice about it. However, it’s also something that after drinking those few, I’d want to drink something unique with more taste.
The amber ale is a perfectly fine beer, just nothing I’d go crazy about.