Browse Tag


Talk to the Haand

HaandBryggeriet “Norwegian Wood” (Norway) – Smoked ale with juniper. And it tastes like? Smoked ale with juniper. More the former than the latter. And, too, there’s oak aging. Which makes everything taste just a little butterscotched. It’s not overwhelming or actively unpleasant, but I’m yet to be convinced by (here comes a made-up-on-the-spot percentage that’s still not far off the mark) 99.9% of such brews. This has so many oak-masking and oak-integrating things going on that I’m inclined to nudge this up to the precipice of that .1% But I still think the beer would have been better without the wood. (2/11)

HaandBryggeriet Barrel-Aged Porter (Norway) – In this case, the porter is aged in aquiavit barrels. OK, so I like porter. I’m Norwegian, and am supposed to like aquiavit. I should like this, right? Well…I almost do, which is becoming my predictable reaction to this brewery’s work. The porter is of a surpassing quality, deep and rich, like a much-reduced broth for an excellent stew. But the barrel-smoke is very marked here, so much so that the final effect is more than of an actual smoke beer rather than a porter. The aquavit signature is mostly expressed as a trailing apostrophe of heated sweetness, although I think some of that sweetness is also the wood. Basically, if one absolutely insists on barrel-finished beer, this and others from this brewery are fine examples of the genre. But I’d still prefer the unwooded versions, were they to exist. (2/11)


Unibroue 2004 “La Fin du Monde” Ale (Québec) – Vintage (stamped on the back of the bottle) included because, obviously, this is not the current release. Cellared it myself, in fact. (Why? Curiosity.) A bottle tasted in 1999 showed little development but fair degradation, and that has continued. Acids have come to the fore, there’s a soapy detergent quality, and the dominant fruit quality is of slightly spoiled lemon. There’s still texture, spice (though less than there was), sweetness, and a long finish that’s the beer’s primary appeal at the moment. But if any of Unibroue’s brews are capable of aging – opinions differ – I’m more and more sure that this is not one of them. And just a warning: these things throw a dozen snow globes’ worth of swirly sediment, so they need a good long standup before pouring. (2/11)

Unibroue 2004 “Trois Pistoles” Ale (Québec) – Not the current release, and aged my me, myself, and I. Unlike the same year’s “La Fin du Monde”, this has seen some changes rather than just erosion, though I don’t know if the net effect is worth the time and energy expended. It’s darker and moodier than at release, though the flavor profile is more or less along the same molasses-meets-spice-barrel continuum. On the other hand, it’s both broader at the bottom and more angular up top, creating a palate impression more triangular than the roundness of its youth. Since I think that angularity is the first sign of degradation to come, I’m going to finish the rest (a might stash of two more bottles) over the next short while. (2/11)


Shipyard “Pugsley’s Signature Series” “Smashed Pumpkin” Ale (Maine) – Of the various seasonally-flavored ales, pumpkin-enhanced is the only one I’ll come back to year after year. I don’t really have an explanation, either, because frankly many of them aren’t very good. This is one of the major exceptions, though it’s a pretty thermonuclear expression thereof. It’s a beer the note for which SHOULD PROBABLY BE WRITTEN IN ALL CAPS. HUGE PUMPKIN, LAYER UPON LAYER OF SPICE, CHURNING ALE CRASHING AND PULLING LIKE RIPTIDE. In other words, it’s a big’un. (2/11)


Lindemans Gueuze Lambic “Cuvée René” (Belgium) – This is often praised as the “serious” lambic from a producer who purists believe has perverted the form. Well, it’s true that Lindemans makes what I’d call fruit beers rather than lambics, and while they’re more or less tasty enough as the former, they really don’t work as the latter. So here, we have a broad-swath attempt at the bite and aggression of the real thing. And? I don’t see it. The acidity seems fierce enough, but it fades in and out. The metal-jacketed fruit (a little cherry, a little plum) clenches and then releases, finishing slightly synthetic. It’s just…fine. OK. Decent. Not special, certainly not extraordinary. (2/11)

Thistle while you work

Belhaven “Twisted” Thistle India Pale Ale (Scotland) – To light bitterness is added weediness, and this is…not to my taste. I freely admit that I don’t get what they were trying to do here. More for others, I guess. (1/11)

Belhaven Wee Heavy (Scotland) – Lives up to its name. (2/11)


Berkshire Brewing Co. “Lost Sailor” India Pale Ale (Massachusetts) – Bitter and dry, though both qualities work here to push the beer defiantly into a winged but not extreme position on its stylistic scale. It’s good, but I don’t like it as much as their “Steel Rail” bottling, which is much more to my Belgian-adoring tastes. I think those who’ve been raised in the English ale tradition will like this more. (1/11)

Berkshire Brewing Co. “Berkshire Ale” Traditional Pale Ale (Massachusetts) – Pairing a fulsomeness with embittered bite, this is balanced and stylish. No bells, few whistles, just solid quality. (2/11)


Long Trail “Brewmaster Series” Imperial Red Ale “Centennial Red” (Vermont) – I don’t, as a rule, like red ale. I’m not sure why. This is as forceful an argument to the contrary as has passed my glottis, pairing the usual acidity with a throbbing, red-light-district fullness. Pretty impressive, I have to say. (12/10)

Boont cut

Anderson Valley Brewing Company “Boont” Amber Ale (Anderson Valley) – Somewhat fulsome, but also somewhat thin in the middle where it counts, and the only thing that’s never in question is that it’s bitter in a raw hazelnut sort of way. A good, not great, beer with character but without commensurate appeal, at least for me. The intrinsically embittered might find more here.(11/10)

Jubeale Hershaw

Deschutes “Jubeale” Winter Ale (Oregon) – Despite all the spices and stewish darkness, this is actually a lot more standard than the label and style promise. It’s not all that spicy, for one thing, and the flavor is primarily that of a dark, slightly bitter ale. It’s fine, but unimpressive. (11/10)

Aloha + New Hampshire???

White Birch “Aloha” Belgian Style Ale (New Hampshire) – Awful. Just awful. Not flawed, just as watery as any mass-market brew…except, of course, higher in alcohol. I’ve come to expect a lot more from this brewer. (11/10)