Monday, July 24, 2017

Rhinegeist Brewery - Cincinnati

Entrance to the Rhinegeist Taproom
This past Saturday, my wife and I visited the Rhinegeist taproom in the Over the Rhine area of Cincinnati.

The taproom is located up four flights of stairs from the street.  The stairwell is very industrial looking, but is decorated with stickers from other breweries, many of which I'd never seen.

At the top of the final flight of stairs, you step through a doorway into the main taproom.  This is a massive room with high ceilings, huge ceiling fans, corn hole games, a gift shop, a couple of bars, lots of seating, and brewing equipment.

One thing the taproom does not have, however, is air conditioning.  On a hot day, depending on where you sit in proximity to those huge ceiling fans, the taproom can feel pretty toasty.  We were covered in sweat not too long after getting there.

At the main bar in the taproom, all of the Rhinegeist beers I could remember (as well as the various ciders) were on tap.  In addition to these, Rhinegeist offered several limited edition brews like a barrel aged Belgian Dubbel.  Each of the three bars in the building offered a slightly different set of brews, which encouraged moving around and checking them out.

The main taproom

One of the bars in the taproom

Brewing equipment in the taproom
At one corner of the taproom, you'll find a guarded door.  After showing your ID to the guard, you're allowed to walk up the flights of stairs to the Rhinegeist rooftop bar.  This area offers some amazing views of the surrounding area and a decent amount of seating.

The Rooftop Bar at Rhinegeist

View from the rooftop bar

Rhinegeist makes for an interesting visit.  I found it to be one of the more interesting taprooms I've visited, and one of the more interesting brewery visits.

If you find yourself in the Cincinnati area or if you're a big fan of their beer, you might find it worth the trip to visit.

If it's a hot day, though, make sure you dress in your coolest clothing.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

14th Annual Smokehouse Brewing Mini Real Ale Fest 2017

One of my favorite craft beer events in Columbus is Smokehouse Brewing's annual Mini Real Ale Fest, held at the brewpub in Grandview. There are always interesting beers at the event that you will never see elsewhere, along with the opportunity to speak with some of the best local brewmasters. While you're there, you can sample the Smokehouse food. Their smoked wings in particular impress me.

This year, the lineup of breweries and beers available for sample included:

  • Actual Brewing Double peppercorn and Ginger Eccentricity Saison: Brewmaster Chris was there to gauge reactions to his beer. Brewed with Sorachi Ace hops, it was really a delicious take on the Saison style. The Sorachi Ace hops added a nice citrus note. The peppercorns gave it some earthiness and spice, and the ginger gave it some zing. I'd definitely buy it if they put it on store shelves. 
  • Barley's Bourbon Barrel Aged Ulysses: The Ulysses red ale is one of brwemaster Angelo Signorino's best (though my favorites are his Infinity Grand Cru and Point of Origin Belgian style ales). Aged in a Kentucky oak barrel, the beer acquired some nice complexity and oaky notes.
  • Columbus Brewing Brioso Coffee Cream Ale:  This classic cream ale was infused with coffee and cacao nibs. Unfortunately I didn't get to taste it, but reactions I overheard were positive.
  • Common House Ales Pineapple Hoptopus; This hoppy pale wheat ale was infused with pineapple. As someone who's generally not a fan of hoppy or sour styles, I was actually impressed with how well the hops and pineapple balanced each other. The 70 IBUs of bitterness were offset well with the tangy pineapple flavor.
  • Four String Brewing Maple Syrup Motorbreath:  This maple syrup barrel aged Imperial Stout was one of my favorite beers in the lineup. The maple and barrel notes offset the bitterness of the Imperial Stout well, making the beer a bit sweet rather than bitter and harsh the way some Imperial Stouts can be. This is another I would buy if it were available around town.
  • Kindred Brewing Red: This imperial red ale was generously dosed with hops. I only tasted a sip of it. It was, as they said in the program for the event, "tolerable".
  • Land Grant Lychee Batch 300 IIPA: This lychee fruit infused Imperial IPA surprised me. The sweetness of the fruit offset the hoppiness of the beer well, resulting in a very drinkable IPA for someone who's not generally a fan of the style. This is another I would try again.
  • North High Brewing Bourbon Java Milk Stout: This milk stout was infused with coffee beans and peanut butter. While it was an enjoyable beer, the coffee flavor dominated to the point that I couldn't pick out any Bourbon or peanut butter notes. 
  • Seventh Son Hot Pepper Jam Strong Ale: This strong ale was infused with peaches and habanero peppers. I expected it to be a very spicy hot flavor, but it wasn't really. There was definitely a hot pepper taste and warmth, but no more so than a typical chicken wing. 
  • Sideswipe Brewing Fisticuffs IPA: This version of Sideswipe's popular IPA was dry-hopped with Mosaic, El Dorado, and Centennial hops. I didn't try it, but the person I was with is an IPA fan and really liked it.
  • Smokehouse Dreamsicle Leroy Neiman Painting: This Berliner Weisse with orange was quite different from the other offerings at the fest. The sour lemony Berliner Weisse flavor was complimented by the orange. It was a well-executed sour.
  • Weasel Boy Brewing Anastasia a la Mexico: This Russian Imperial Stout infused with cayenne pepper was one of the brews I didn't get to taste this year, so I can't comment on it except to say that it ran out before some of the others did.
  • Wolf's Ridge Tripel Whiskey: This Belgian Tripel was generously dosed with orange peel and chamomile, then aged for a year in a Watershed Bourbon Barrel. I love sweeter Tripels and Bourbon Barrel Aged beers, and this one hit a home run with me. I spent several of my tickets on samples of this one. Without question, if this was available on store shelves I would keep a six pack in my fridge at all times. A simply excellent brew.

While at the event, I had the opportunity to talk with other craft beer fans, as well as a couple of the brewmasters. Angelo Signorino of Barley's reminded me that next week is the entry deadline for their annual homebrew competition. I'm hoping to get two of my recent brews entered, and to attend the event on June 4.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Taxman Brewing's "Death and Taxes" Day - April 22, 2017

If you haven't heard of Taxman Brewing Company of Bargersville, Indiana, that's not surprising. You won't find their beers on shelves in Columbus stores (unfortunately). However, if you sign up for's service, they do periodically offer Taxman beers to Ohio residents. That's how I found out about Taxman.

Taxman's taproom
Taxman Brewing is located in Bargersville, a small Indiana town. They feature a number of Belgian inspired beers, including Qualified (a Belgian style Quadrupel), La Maison (a farmhouse ale), Deduction (an Abbey Dubbel), Exemption (a Tripel), and many others. They have a two-story taproom which serves their beer and a variety of really delicious food. If you are a fan of Belgian style beers, this is a pilgrimage you should consider making.

Taxman's Facility in Bargersville, Indiana
My wife and I chose last weekend to visit them somewhat randomly, only to discovery it was their anniversary celebration, an event they call "Death and Taxes Day".  The event is held annually the weekend after tax day in the US. It features a selection of Taxman's beer, beer from approximately 40 Indiana breweries, and a special release of their Evasion stout. Actually, it features a separate version of the stout for each hour of the celebration.

My sample (and my wife's) of Cocoa Vanilla Evasion - Delicious!
This year's Evasion samples included "regular" Evasion, a version with Vanilla beans, another with cocoa and vanilla beans, one with coffee, and one with blueberries. I tried two of them and enjoyed both.

The line at Taxman's sampling station
The event draws about 2,000 people to the brewery, which is a testament to the quality of the beer.

I left the event with a bottle of the special limited release beer, as well as a case of Qualified (which was selling for $5 per bomber).

I look forward to vising the brewery again in the future and sampling many more of their beers.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Brew Dog Columbus Brewery, Taproom, and Restaurant

The outside of the Brew Dog brewery and taproom
On Saturday, March 5, I had the opportunity to visit Brew Dog's new Columbus brewery, taproom, and restaurant.

The brewery is reportedly not yet operational, and all Brew Dog beers served there are being shipped in from the UK.

The restaurant kitchen and bar are open, however, and seem to be drawing a constant crowd. At the time we arrived, there was almost a two hour wait for a table. Fortunately, we were able to find a seat at the bar pretty soon after we got there. Others stood or sat at the tables outside.

As you walk into the building, you pass through a gift shop loaded with a variety of Brew Dog merchandise for purchase. This includes pins, patches, hoodies, shirts, hats, growlers, and more. Prices felt a little high to me, but the merchandise seemed of decent quality.

Just past the gift shop is a waiting area for the restaurant and taproom. The wall between the taproom and waiting area is delineated by tall racks filled with beer kegs.

Taproom waiting area

One wall of the taproom is made up of garage-style doors that can be opened in warmer months to provide fresh air. There is also a patio area outside those doors with outdoor seating featuring a view of the creek running past the property.

Inside the taproom you'll find booths, high tables, and a bar with a large number of taps. The bar features both Brew Dog's own beers and those of some area breweries like Jackie O's and Fat Heads.

The bar and tap list

During our visit, the beers on tap included:
  • Brew Dog's Dead Pony Club
  • Brew Dog's 5 a.m. Saint
  • Brew Dog's Punk IPA
  • Brew Dog's Jet Black Heart
  • Brew Dog's Elvis Juice
  • Brew Dog's Cocoa Psycho
  • Fat Head's Trail Head Pale Ale
  • Fat Head's Head Hunter IPA
  • Jackie O's Mystic Mama IPA
  • Rockmill Brewery's Le Cheval Saison
  • Seventh Son Oubliette
  • Three Floyds Gumball Head
  • Rhinegeist Truth
  • Oskar Blues Old Chub
  • Stone Brewing Pataskala Red X IPA
Draft prices ranged from $4.50 to $7.50 depending on the beer, with most at $5 or $6.

Brew Dog 5 a.m. Saint

I had the Cocoa Psycho to start. It is a very rich, decadent beer with lots of chocolate, coffee, and roasted grain flavors. For the second round, I had the 5 a.m. Saint after getting a small taste of it. The Saint had a nice mix of flavors and wasn't too hop forward, though I think I liked the small sample more than I liked the full glass for some reason.

Cocoa Psycho disappearing fast

It was interesting to see the plastic kegs from which the beer was served. These, I was told, are common in the UK where the beer was made. The beer is in a plastic bladder inside a clear plastic bottle. It's pumped out of there with CO2 pressure as it's served. The bartender told us that once the Columbus brewery is in operation, they'll be using the traditional metal kegs.

UK Style Plastic Beer Kegs
While I'm a big fan of James and Martin and the Brew Dogs TV show, I'm less a fan of their beers. That's mostly because they (like many craft brewers) lean toward making every style hop-forward to draw the attention of American IPA and Pale Ale fans. I tend to like their rarities and limited-edition beers more than their mainstay brews. For example, the Dogma beer was one that I loved (until they changed the recipe).

In addition to the seating, a small area is set aside with pool tables and 80's style arcade video game machines.

The brewery is pet friendly, and several people did bring their dogs with them.

The menu during our visit included the following items at prices listed (among others):

  • Meat and Cheese Plate ($12)
  • Butternut Squash Hummus 
  • Kingpin Carnitas Tacos
  • Hop Fries ($5)
  • Smokin' Hot Wings ($10)
  • Scotch Egg ($7) - sells out really fast
  • Hail Ceasar Salad ($6-$15)
  • Various other salads ($10-$15 depending on salad and options added)
  • Regular Joe Burger ($10)
  • Identity Crisis Burger ($10)
  • Popcorn flavored with three possible choices ($2)
  • Walleye ($15)
  • NY Strip ($20)
  • Smoked Mac 'n Cheese ($9) (with optional chorizo - $2)
  • Stone Baked Pizza with several topping options ($12 for 12-inch size)

I had the mac and cheese with the chorizo. The mac and cheese was creamy but fairly bland, but with the very spicy chorizo added (the bartender's recommendation) it was quite good. My wife tried the Butternut Squash and really liked it, though I thought it was much too sweet for my taste.

All in all, it was an enjoyable visit, though a bit crowded and loud for my taste.

The staff, in my experience, was incredibly friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable. At times (and despite their obviously working extremely hard) they were having trouble keeping up with demand for their time, but I never felt unreasonably neglected or ignore.

Bar and hard-working staff

If you're a fan of the brewery, the beers, and/or the TV show, it's worth taking a trip to see the place. Just be prepared for a crowd and be patient with the serving staff, who seemed in my experience to be working almost frantically to keep customers happy.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Fat Head's Sorceror (9/10)

As a home brewer, I can say with a degree of certainty that getting a Belgian-style beer right is a challenge.  You need the right mix of malts, the right sugars, the right yeast, and the right fermentation conditions.  Getting that beer to taste like something you might actually buy in a store that came from Belgium isn't simple.  It's taken me a while to get there in my own brewing activities.  That's one reason I can really appreciate the work that the good folks at Fat Head's have done in Sorceror.  This Belgian Strong Ale is undoubtedly one of the best brewed on this side of the Atlantic.  Best of all, it's an Ohio brew!

It pours a dark mahogany with thin white head that lingers a bit.

The aroma is sweet and malty, with hints of cloves and other spices. Some fruit can be detected as well.

The flavor starts mildly sweet, with cloves, Belgian spiciness, and dark fruit all playing a part.  Finish is mildly sweet and lingering.  It's a very tasty beer if you like Belgian style ales.

I'm giving it a 9 out of 10, but I'm not alone here.  Beer Advocate gives it an 85 out of 100.  Rate Beer gives it a 92 overall.

As far as I know, this beer is only available on draft, as is Fat Head's (also excellent) Belgian style Christmas beer Pimp My Sleigh.  If you see either of these on the menu, they're worth ordering.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron (9/10)

Dogfish Head consistently delivers unusual beers that tend to speak right to my tastebuds.  I love several of their Ancient Ales like Ta Henket and Chateau Jiahu.  I like Raison D'Etre and Festina Peche as well.  One of my favorites, though, has to be Palo Santo Marron.

The base beer might be nothing to speak about. It's a brown ale, rated at 50 IBUs, and 12% alcohol by volume.  What makes this beer special is that it's aged in Paraguayan Palo Santo wood vessels often used for wine.  The wood imparts an incredibly complex array of flavors into the beer that transform it from a standard brown ale into something much more.  Time in the barrel also mellows out the hops, making it seem much less hoppy than it might otherwise.

The beer pours a deep dark brown with thin tan head that doesn't stick around long thanks to the high alcohol content.

The aroma is complex, hinting at sweet malt and a wine-like flavor.

The flavor is bold from the start.  It opens with intense malt and wine-like elements, followed by some roasted grain and vanilla.  Despite being 50 IBUs, it's relatively sweet.  The mouth feel is substantial, like drinking a milkshake.  I also find that as much as I love drinking this beer, finishing more than one of them is difficult.  It seems to sit in my stomach for a while, as though my stomach is enjoying it and refusing to share it with the rest of me.

I'm not alone in my love for Palo Santo Marron.  Beer Advocate gives it a 93 or "outstanding" rating. Rate Beer gives it a 99 overall.   I give it a very solid 9 out of 10, and on a good day I'd be willing to nudge that all the way to a 10.

This is one of those beers I buy again and again, and like having in my refrigerator.

You can find Palo Santo Marron at most Columbus area retailers who carry Dogfish Head products.  I've seen it at large grocery chain stores, Whole Foods, The Andersons, Kenny Road Market, and other retailers.  The price the last time I bought a four-pack was around $15, so it's not a cheap beer but not the most expensive either.

Friday, August 26, 2016

De Struise Tsjeeses Belgian Christmas Ale (9/10)

Some of you are wondering "Why the heck is he reviewing a Christmas Ale in August?"  That's a fair question, with a simple answer, this Christmas Ale seems to be available year-round and it's one of my very favorite ones.

The image on the label, and the name of the beer itself, generates a certain amount of discussion. Some friends and family members find the image upsetting, seeing it as depicting a famous religious figure with a Santa Claus hat on his head.  Others say the image looks nothing like that religious figure and is probably just a picture of one of the brewers with a hat and sunglasses on him.  Whatever it is, it might lead you to take the beer less than seriously.  It might even convince you to pass it by on a store shelf.  That's fine with me, because it leaves more available for me to buy.

The label says "Tsjeeses is a jolly, blond winter ale with a fluffy white cap.  Its aroma is elegant with hints of fruit, spices, refreshing herbs, and noble hops. The taste is robust, very complex, and quite dry for its style.  This warming ale is our gift to you for the holidays. Enjoy!"

Tsjeeses pours a nice coppery brown with an extremely generous off-white head that lasts a while.

The aroma is sweet, hinting at dark fruit, caramel, spice, and a strong alcohol presence... all as the label suggests.

The flavor starts sweet, malty, and with definite dark fruit notes.  The warmer the beer gets, the more pronounced the sweetness and fruitiness.  The colder it is, the less sweet it is and the more the hops bitterness is noticeable.  Ideally, I like it the upper 40's and lower 50's Fahrenheit.  Your taste may vary. To me, this is pretty much everything a Belgian beer should taste like.

I typically see this at Whole Foods in Dublin, at The Andersons General Store in Dublin, and at Weiland's Gourmet Market.  Even at $6-9 a bottle, I'll tend to pick one up any time I see it, unless I know I have a couple at home.

Friday, August 19, 2016

De Halve Maan Straffe Hendrik Quad 2012 (10/10)

Warning: If you're not comfortable spending $25 or more for a large bottle of beer, you may want to stop reading right here.

De Halve Maan of Belgium produces Straffe Hendrik Quad, a true Belgian brewed Quadrupel which is barrel aged before bottling.

It pours a dark brown, bordering on mahogany, with thin beige head that lingers a while.

The aroma is sweet and malty, with notes of dark fruit and spice.

The flavor follows the aroma, with a well-balanced malty sweetness and dark fruit element.  Cherry and brown sugar also make an appearance.  Hops bitterness is detectable but by no means obvious. The finish is dry with some tannins in it.  It's a very smooth beer and easy to drink.  The 11% alcohol comes through as a warming note in the finish.  I can't do this beer justice in a verbal description except to say that it's absolutely delicious.

The Beer Advocate crowd rates it a 91 or outstanding.  RateBeer gives it a 99 overall.  I'm giving it a 10 out of 10.

There are very few beers I'm willing to pay $20 a bottle for, or more.  I've paid $27 a couple of times for this one at World of Beer, and I picked up a bottle at Savor Pint for $25 a few months ago.  Those are the only places in town I've seen it.  I wouldn't hesitate to buy it again.

Friday, August 12, 2016

J.W. Lees Harvest Ale 2013 (10/10)

In late January, I found myself at The Winking Lizard on Bethel with a good friend.  I wasn't finding too much on the draft menu that interested me, so I took a chance on a bottle of J.W. Lee's Harvest Ale from 2013.  I'd never had the beer before, so it was something of a crap shoot, but I knew at least that as an English beer it was unlikely to be over-hopped like most American ales tend to be.

The beer pours a cloudy brown with thin white head that leaves behind rings of white lacing that gradually reincorporate into the beer.

The aroma is one of spice and dark fruit.

The flavor, in a word, was outstanding.  It combined all the best elements of sweet malt, dark cherry, dark fruit, and a warming alcohol presence with mild bitterness.  It was a complex but extremely pleasing array of flavors.  Despite the price of the bottle, I ended up ordering a second.  It was that good.

Lest you should think I'm exaggerating here, consider that Beer Advocate rates JW Lees Harvest Ale a 100/100 or world-class beer.  Rate Beer gives it a 99/100 overall.

I've only seen this on the shelf at Kenny Road Market and in the Cellarville room at The Winking Lizard on Bethel Road.  You might find success elsewhere in town, but you might want to call first. Shelf price at Kenny Road Market when I last bought a bottle was $8.99.

Friday, August 5, 2016

New Holland Night Tripper (6/10)

New Holland's Night Tripper is an Imperial Stout.  Their web site says "An abundance of roasted malts and flaked barley create rich, roasty stout with deeply intense, lush flavors."  It's rated at 11.5% alcohol by volume and 45 IBUs, which is relatively low for a stout.

Night Tripper pours a clean dark brown with hints of mahogany. A thin tan head atop the beer lasts a while.

The aroma combines bourbon, alcohol, and malt.

The flavor starts sweet and malty, turns to bourbon, and finishes smoky and bitter... far more bitter than you'd expect for 45 IBUs.

It's an OK stout, but nothing I'm in a hurry to have again.  I'm giving it a 6 out of 10. RateBeer likes it much better than I do, giving it a 99 overall.  Beer Advocate also likes it much better, giving it a 90 overall.  They must see something in it that I don't... or maybe I was just having a bad day.

I tasted this at The Daily Growler in Upper Arlington back in 2014.  I haven't seen it locally in a while, but claims you may be able to find a bottle at Pace High Carryout for $8.99.  I'd check with them before making the trip unless you're heading there for another reason.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Kentucky Ales Old Fashioned Barrel Ale (6/10)

Generally speaking, I like Kentucky Ales' line of barrel aged beers.  They aren't anything exceptional, but they're solid beers with a good barrel-aged flavor to them and are easy to drink. They are also easy to find, being on most store shelves around town.  This makes them an easy go-to beer if I'm in a hurry to grab something.

Old Fashioned Barrel Ale attempts to replicate the experience of drinking the cocktail known as an Old Fashioned, combined with a barrel aged beer.

The beer pours a clear copper color, bordering on mahogany, with a thin beige head that doesn't last long.

The aroma is malty and oaky. There's a hint of fruit but this is mostly subdued.

The flavor starts malty, mildly sweet, and oaky.  A slight warming note is felt at the back of the throat. The cherries and orange peel mentioned on the label are detectable but only barely so.

I give the beer only a 6 out of 10.  Reviewers on Beer Advocate liked it quite a bit more, giving it an 85 out of 100 or "very good" rating.  RateBeer's reviewers were tougher on it, rating the beer only a 48 overall.

The beer can be found at many Columbus area retailers, including most large grocery chains.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Actual Brewing Temporal Abbey Ale (6/10)

Back in late March, I picked up a bottle of Actual Brewing's Temporal Abbey Ale.  This review is based on notes taken at the time I sampled it.

Temporal pours amber color with some orange to it. It has a creamy beige head that lasts a while.

The aroma is malty with a hint of sourness to it.

The flavor starts with malt and hops in balance and then the hops swells up slightly and a kind of sour funk appears. The finish is bitter and lingers a bit. On balance, it's not what I expect from an abbey ale so I can't say I'm overly fond of it.

As of this writing, there are only 3 reviews on Beer Advocate.  These score it at 3.79, 2.81, and 3.82 out of 5.  If you average those scores and convert them to a 10-point scale like the one I use, it works out to a 6.94.  So other reviewers seem to like Temporal a little more than I do, but not a lot.

I've seen this beer on a number of store shelves around town, most notably Kenny Road Market.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Actual Brewing Woodford Reserve Barrel Aged Red Ale (7/10)

Actual Brewing of Columbus has produced a number of very nice beers.  When I had the opportunity to sample their Woodford Reserve Barrel Aged Red Ale, I didn't hesitate.

Although I'm not a huge bourbon fan, I did learn (thanks to a sampler at The Winking Lizard a couple of years ago) that I do like Woodford Reserve's bourbon.  Since I also like several of Actual Brewing's beers and barrel-aged beers in general, it seemed like a match made in beer fanatic heaven.

The beer pours a medium brown with finger thick white head that lasts a little while, then leaves behind line like lacing as you can see in the photo.

The aroma is malty and oaky, hinting at the bourbon flavoring in the beer.

The flavor is roasted malt at the start, then the bourbon and oak flavors rise up, followed by hops bitterness.  It's pretty well-balanced, though a tad dry and hoppy for my taste.

I give the beer a 7 out of 10 overall, which means I like it but simply don't love it.  You'll have to go with my opinion on this, as there's nothing on Beer Advocate or Rate Beer for it as of this writing.

I haven't seen the beer anywhere other than The Daily Growler, and it's long been off the menu there.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Actual Brewing Saison Du Poincare (8/10)

Here's a pro tip for reading beer reviews on this blog. If the picture shows much less than a full glass, the odds are very good that I enjoyed the beer so much that I almost finished it before realizing I had a photo to accompany the review...

I sampled Actual Brewing's Saison du Poincare late in 2015 at their taproom near the Greater Columbus International Airport.  Sadly, it looks like this beer may no longer be available... so consider this review a recording for posterity as to how good it was.  (I'm basing this on the fact that it's not listed on their web site.)

Actual describes this as "a dark saison, brewed with everything we had left in the 'cabinet' at the end of the brewing season."  I think they're being a bit modest with that description.

Saison du Poincare pours a hazy amber with white head that lingers and leaves no lacing.

The aroma has the typical Saison funk to it with some fruity notes.  I get a bit of tartness as well.

The flavor starts with a mix of sweet malt, citrus, and Saison funk.  Hops bitterness is well balanced, which is what I look for in a Saison.

I'm giving it an 8 out of 10.  Untappd gives it a 3.63 out of 5.  Beer Advocate had no reviews until I added mine.  RateBeer doesn't even have the beer listed.

Barley's Peach Infused Point of Origin (8/10)

Every year, Barley's Ale House near the convention center prepares a batch of their Origins Game Fair inspired Belgian golden ale Point of Origin. 

Brewmaster Angelo Signorino does a great job with the beer, which sells well to the thirsty gamers in town for the convention. Today he did something a little different, tapping a cask of the beer infused with peaches.

This version of Point of Origin pours a slightly orange gold with creamy white head.

The aroma is a mix of peach, orange, combined with Belgian fruity and spicy notes.

The flavor begins with a nice slightly sweet malty note with Belgian fruit and spice elements. These give way to a mix of peach and orange rind, with a touch of hops bitterness. The orange rind and hops bitterness lingers in the finish.  As a cask conditioned ale, it's a bit smoother than the standard Point of Origin, while no less tasty.

The only place you'll find this is at the Barley's Ale House location on High Street across from the Greater Columbus Convention Center.  Price is $6.99 per pint, while it lasts.

I hope Angelo considers putting this one into regular rotation in his brewing schedule.  Really nice. I'm giving it an 8 out of 10, possibly a 9 if a second pint is in my future...

Friday, June 10, 2016

Actual Brewing Photon Light Lager (8/10)

Actual Brewing from here in Columbus is one of my favorite local breweries.  I like their approach to brewing, which is a combination of science and fun. They brew some good beers.

On a visit to their taproom in late 2015, I had the chance to try their Photon Light Lager, pictured at left.

Actual describes Photon by saying "This dazzling light lager has a dual nature:  a wave of golden flavor entangled with a quantum of noble hops. A challenge to brew, but a cinch to drink, this beer moves at precisely the speed of itself."

Photon pours a bright pale gold with a white head that lasts briefly. It leaves behind virtually no lacing.

The aroma is a balanced blend of hops and roasted malt.

The flavor is a clean balance of malt, hops, and a mild roasted malt.  Photon is very drinkable and a good example of the style.  The balance between malt and hops is excellent, with neither overpowering the other.  I detected no off flavors in it, either.  A really nice example of the style.

As you can see from the photo, I enjoyed it rather a lot before realizing I hadn't taken a photo yet to accompany this review.  I'm rating it a solid 8 out of 10.  I like the combination of noble hops and roasted malt, and the fact that it's easy to drink.  When I compare it to the "big names" that advertise during major sporting events on television, this is a much, much better beer.  It's the kind of brew I can imagine offering to friends and family who don't care for craft beer and having them love it.

RateBeer doesn't have enough ratings yet to give this an official number, but the existing ratings show in the 11 to 13 out of 20 range, or approximately 6 out of 10.  Beer Advocate had no ratings for the beer until I added mine.

Actual's products are available in their taproom near the airport and at a number of other locations around town.  If you like light beers, I would definitely recommend this one over any of the big-name macro brews.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Abita Strawberry Harvest Lager (6/10)

Abita Brewing of Louisiana makes Strawberry Harvest Lager.  They describe it as "a lager brewed with pilsner and wheat malts and Vanguard hops" with "Real Louisiana strawberry juice" added after filtration.

Strawberry Harvest pours a clear yellow with thin white head that doesn't last long. 

The aroma is very definitely strawberry with a hint of beer behind it. 

The flavor is a mix of strawberry, lager, and mild bitterness. The finish is kind of a mix of hops and green strawberries.

Rate Beer gives Abita Strawberry Harvest Lager a 25 overall.  Beer Advocate is kinder, giving it an 80.  I am somewhere in the middle, rating it a 6 out of 10.  I give it a 6 out of 10.

This beer is available at a number of Columbus retailers.

ABV: 4.2%
IBU: 13

Friday, May 27, 2016

Dogfish Head Oak-Aged Noble Rot (7/10)

Dogfish Head Oak-aged Noble Rot
Dogfish Head is one of my favorite breweries, but not because of their much-celebrated 90-minute and 120-minute IPAs.  I'm a fan because of their more "off-centered" fare, like Ta Henket, Raison D'Etre, Chateau Jiahu, Palo Santo Marron, and Noble Rot.  I'm also a fan of barrel-aged beers, so seeing a bottle of Oak-aged Noble Rot on the shelf meant that I needed to bring one home with me.

Oak-aged Noble Rot pours a very crystal clear golden yellow color with a white head that appears and disappears in an instant.

The aroma will remind you very much of a white white wine, which is due to the beer including juice from viognier grapes that have been infected with a fungus or "noble rot".  This fungus reduces the water content in the grapes while amping up their flavor and complexity.  Pinot gris must is also added to the brew.  When all this is combined with pils and wheat malts, the result is something like a pilsner mixed with a white wine.  Toss Noble Rot in with some oak, and the wine elements come out even more strongly.

The flavor starts with a strong oak hit.  This gives way briefly to the malt.  After the malt, the white wine flavors come through in force.  Probably because of the strong oak start, the grape element is much more like wine than it is in the "non-oaked" version of Noble Rot.  The kind of musty, funky elements of the wine grapes make appearances throughout the sip.

To be honest, although I like this beer, the version that's not oak-aged appeals to me more.  The oak in this is almost too much, and takes the beer much closer to a white wine.  This is not to say that I dislike the beer, just that I don't like it as well as regular Noble Rot.

Beer Advocate rates Oak-aged Noble Rot an 87/100.  Rate Beer gives it a 91 overall.  I think I'm in good company saying that I prefer the regular Noble Rot to the oak-aged version.  Beer Advocate's rating on the "regular" beer is 88-90 out of 100, versus 87 for the oak-aged version.  Rate Beer gives the regular Noble Rot a 92 overall, versus a 91 for the oak-aged version.

When I rated Noble Rot back in 2012, I gave it an 8 out of 10.  I intentionally didn't look at that rating until I had decided to give the Oak-aged Noble Rot a 7 out of 10.  Thankfully, I am consistent in my ratings.

When they are available, I see Dogfish rarities like this at most local craft beer retailers, including Giant Eagle, Kenny Road Market, The Andersons General Store, and others.  Being that it is a rarity, you may not find it unless you happen to be in the right shop at the right time.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Dogfish Head Beer to Drink Music To (4/10)

I'm a big fan of several Dogfish Head beers.  I love Ta Henket, Chateau Jiahu, Raison D'Etre, and Palo Santo Marron.  When I saw that Dogfish Head was doing a Belgian Tripel, I rushed out and grabbed a six-pack having never tried it.  I figured with Dogfish Head behind one of my favorite styles, it had to be good.

According to the label, Beer to Drink Music To is brewed with sweet orange peel, green cardamom, peppercorns, and vanilla.

The beer pours a hazy amber color.  It's a little darker than some of the true Belgian tripels, but I didn't hold that against it.  The head is thin and dissipates very fast.  The photo at the left is about three seconds after the pour and there's not much head left.

The aroma seems to mix vanilla and clove, which came across as medicinal the first few times I smelled it - which was definitely not appealing.

The flavor starts malty, mild, and somewhat dry.  After this initial somewhat non-descript hit, the beer turns bitter, with a mild burn.  The spices and orange peel seem to muddle together into something that seems a little pleasant at first, then begins to seem artificial, medicinal, or chemical-like.  More than anything, it's just bitter, as though it's trying to be a tripel for the IPA set.  It gets a little less bitter and more pleasant as it warms, but it's never the equal of tripels like Victory Golden Monkey, La Fin Du Monde, Tripel Karmeliet, and the like.

As much as it pains me to say this about a Dogfish Head beer, I really don't like it. I want to.  It's got the right pedigree and it's a favorite style, but this interpretation of it just turns me off.  Sadly, the best thing I can say about it is that the bottles will be valuable to me in my home brewing efforts and I'll probably get more of those than I did the beer.  Dogfish Head's bottles are nice and thick glass, and the labels remove without too much effort, to they're a good homebrew bottle.

I seem to be in the minority here.  Beer Advocate gives Beer to Drink Music To an 87 or "very good" rating.  Rate Beer gave it an 84 overall.  I'm giving it a 4 out of 10, which on my scale means I'd probably rather drink one of the macro brews.  I hate to be that harsh to a brewery I really like but this beer just does not do it for me.  Your mileage, of course, may vary.

I found the beer about a month ago at Giant Eagle in Hilliard.  It's taken me over a month to finish the six pack, and it doesn't seem to get better with age.

Friday, May 13, 2016

River Rat Hazelnut Brown Ale (8/10)

River Rat Brewery of Columbia, South Carolina, produces this Hazelnut Brown Ale.

Their web site describes the beer as "A traditional mild brown ale brewed with English malts, hops, and fresh Hazelnuts.  Malty and nutty with a mild hop presence makes this Brown Ale approachable for novice beer drinkers, but can satisfy those who like a malty dark ale."

While I bristle a bit at the "novice beer drinkers" label, that description certainly had my attention. (Just because I don't particularly like hop-forward styles doesn't make me a novice drinker any more than not eating hyper-atomic-hot buffalo wings makes someone a novice wing eater.)

Before I continue, it's important to note that as far as I know, this beer is not currently available in Columbus, Ohio.  It appears on this web site as a service to Columbus residents who find themselves in South Carolina or another place where it's available, and perhaps as an enticement to River Rat to consider expansion into Ohio.

The beer's aroma is a slightly nutty roasted malt bouquet.  It's very reminiscent of any English made brown ale you've ever tried, which is to say it does seem "approachable" by all craft beer fans.

The beer pours a nice medium brown with a head that disappears almost as quickly as it appears.  By the time I'd set the bottle down, the head was like you see in the picture - which is to say, gone.

The flavor of the beer is exceedingly well balanced between malt and hops.  You wouldn't call this a particularly malt-forward or hop-forward beer.  There is a strong roasted grain presence which brings to mind excellent brown ales from England.  The hazelnut flavor is present if you look for it, but doesn't dominate or overwhelm the beer's other flavors.  All things considered, this is an extremely well-done brown ale.  It's not trying to be an "Imperial" or "American" or hoppy ale, nor is it sweet and cloying.  It's a very easy-drinking beer.  If you could find this on Columbus shelves, I can imagine picking up a six-pack every so often to have around.

This being said, Beer Advocate reviewers have only provided three reviews for the beer as of this writing.  One gives it a 1.85 out of 5.  The others are approximately 3.5 and 4.5 out of 5.  I'm giving it an 8 out of 10 because I think it's a great example of the brown ale style and is competently brewed.

If you want to try this one for yourself, check or River Rat's web site to see where it may be found.