US Beer Review: Samuel Adams’ Whitewater IPA

Samuel Adams Whitewater IPAThis is my last American craft ale review for a month as in a few days I’ll be swapping the US beer scene for a short hiatus to Cornwall and Kent for a brief return to the UK world of ale. No doubt I’ll also be swapping the heat of the Pennsylvanian summer for the milder Cornish climate, but it’s a chance to crack open some awesome English beer. Cornish beer video review to come next month!

My last offering for a short while then is from a brewery for which I have reviewed before: the famous (Stateside at least) Samuel Adams Boston Beer Company. It’ll be July 4th soon, the US Independence Day celebration  where folks usually pack their time with water pursuits, parades, food and fireworks.  So with that holiday spirit I picked the Samuel Adams Whitewater IPA.

It claims to be flavoursomely wheat-brewed with spices and apricots. Let’s see if it’s a real cracker or whether it’s something this Brit ends up wanting to ceremoniously chuck into the river in the spirit of a certain Tea Party from Adams’ home town…

First whiff delivers very hoppy notes. It pours with a nice pure white creamy lacing and a head that sticks around. It’s a light amber colour and doesn’t appear to be too gassy. So far, so good.

The citrusy tartness hits your taste buds straight away. I got strong, sharp notes of grapefruit, orange, pine and lime. But it’s the distinct hoppy flavour that clings to your palate long after first sup. It’s very crisp, clean and tart although I can’t detect much of the apricot or the spices that the label promises.

Verdict: A decent IPA with a lot of kick. It’s quite a feisty brew in the hoppy American IPA tradition. It will pair well with any barbecuing (err, sorry, I mean “grilling”) over the July 4th holiday and has a perfect summery taste. The US hits a winner with this one. It’s not one I’d dump out at all. In fact, at only 5.8 % ABV I can safely handle another bottle to sit down and watch the fireworks with. Happy Fourth! See you in Cornwall soon.

US Beer Review: Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale

Dogfish Head Indian Brown AleI don’t think I’ve ever opened a beer, taken the first sup and literally not been able to stop drinking because it’s THAT good. Introducing and welcoming the Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale with open arms.

OK, time to calm down and mention a few fun facts about Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. It opened a brew-pub in Delaware in 1995, and was so creative and popular that one year later they were bottling and distributing its brews to other cities far and wide. Now it boasts a 100,000 square foot converted cannery as its brew HQ.  In other words, they are good at what they do.

If you want to learn more about the brewery I recommend reading Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione’s book on its establishment, Brewing up a Business.

Back to the brew. Did I mention it’s THAT good? It pours a gorgeous dark red brown with a dark cream head that does not vanish. Strangely it has absolutely no nose to speak of. So with added curiosity I took my first sup. In under a second my taste buds were walloped with huge flavour. Chocolate, coffee, caramel and floaty, distinctive hop top-notes. It is loaded with lingering maltiness too. The bonus is that it’s not overly carbonated. Very drinkable. Very smooth. And beware, at 7.2 % ABV it’s very seductive.

Verdict: I could have downed this delightful thing in five seconds.  The flavour is nothing short of awesome. It’s the best of three worlds: American Brown Ale, India Pale Ale and Scotch Ales. It’s genius. Newcastle Brown – eat your heart out!

US beer review: Duck-Rabbit Brown Ale

Hearing the word Farmville I immediately I think of the social farming simulation game by Zynga, which is hugely popular on Facebook. But, it’s also the name of a little-known town of some 4,600 folks in North Carolina and it boasts a small microbrewery still in its infancy, which specializes in flavoursome, dark beers. Farmville is my kind of town.

The brewers at Farmville’s The Duck -Rabbit Craft Brewery claim to be so happy that they dance and sing to the yeast as it ferments (!). Yes, really. They also only brew in small batches.

The Duck-Rabbit Brown Ale pours with a gorgeous, cloudy dark amber hue. There’s very little head and no lacing. The hoppy aroma hits you in the nose straight away. First quaff is predominantly woody in flavour, which slowly imparts to a very floral, citrusy, hoppy lingering taste on the palate as you drink on. This should come as no surprise as it’s brewed with Saaz hops for a flowery taste and Amarillo hops contribute the citrus notes. It’s very mildly carbonated which doesn’t distract from the flavour.  It also boasts seven varieties of malts.

Verdict: Not bad. Typically American brown ales are more citrusy than their English counterparts so be prepared for that and take it in your stride. There’s no ABV listed on the bottle but I’m hazarding a guess at an average 4% so you can enjoy a couple of bottles of this little gem over a ploughman’s lunch. Now, pass me the pickle…

Beer Review: Arrogant Bastard

Anything that goes by the name of “Arrogant Bastard Ale” just begs to be sampled. I was also spurred on by reading multiple reviews on this one that said things like  “best beer I know” and “pure liquid arrogance”.

California’s Stone Brewing Co. has a whole family of “Bastards” including Lucky Bastard Ale and Double Bastard Ale. I’m drawn to an ale with  strong character and taste so I was hoping the Arrogant Bastard Ale lived up to its name and challenged my taste buds.

It pours with a subtle dark, heavy caramel hue. There’s a beige head that lingers and plenty of lacing on the glass. The hops and grapefruit smack you in the nose at first sniff. It’s a syrupy,  bitter flow of caramel, citrus and even piney flavours that attack your tastebuds on this one. The bitter hoppiness lingers at the back of your throat long after that first quaff.

Verdict: You’ll leave the fizzy, cheap yellow stuff alone after you’ve taken this one down. You’ll go back for more. But at 7.2% ABV please take it slowly or it’ll knock you onto the beer garden floor.

Suzanna Lee is The Guest Ale‘s US beer specialist. Based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Suzanna is an Englishwoman abroad who loves the smell of hops.

Video: American Beer Special from New York

The American craft beer scene is on fire right now, with great beer coming out of many a state. I recently spent the weekend visiting my US-based sister and The Guest Ale contributor, Suzanna Lee-Kendall to check out some of New York’s famous craft beer venues and beers available on Main Street stores. This video features the wonderful craft ale houses Blind Tiger of Greenwich Village and Midtown’s Pony Bar. We also check out great craft ales from Smuttynose, Six Point and Brooklyn Brewery.

Unfortunately, a lot of footage was wasted due to the noisy and dark of the New York bars. Here are the best bits and don’t forget to check out our American Craft Ales section.

Stateside View: Nosferatu by Great Lakes Brewing

The American brewing scene is in rude health. So The Guest Ale has drafted in an English expat to cast her expert eye on the latest trends. In the fourth of her posts, all the way from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Suzanna Lee-Kendall reviews Nosferatu by Great Lakes Brewing.

Anyone familiar with the 1922 German Expressionist horror film “Nosferatu” will have lost some sleep trying to get the chilling image of the vampire Count shakily emerging from that trap door out of their heads. There is such an intense glare in his eyes coupled with those nasty pointed teeth that is utterly haunting. And so, as Halloween season is in full swing here in the States, imagine my curiosity when I found a seasonal bottled beer named “Nosferatu” at my local beer shop in Pennsylvania…

Well, it’s a hand-crafted stock ale produced by The Great Lakes Brewing Company based in Cleveland, Ohio.  It boasts a 23-year history of striving to produce fine, high-quality, hand-crafted beers using better raw materials such as malts in the European tradition rather than corn and rice.

The name “Nosferatu” was purposely chosen as this is Great Lakes’ seasonal “beer with the bite”. It is an imperial red ale and it pours with a beautiful rusty hue, albeit the head sticks around for a little longer than I would have liked. It has an almost sickly sweet aroma which is notably strong. The first swig is a punch in the mouth of citrusy flavour, which leaves a strong hoppy aftertaste that is not altogether unpleasant.

In fact, the flavour was so interesting and intense I was eager to continue quaffing. The bitterness comes from the

Simcoe hop, a non-traditional bittering hop. The citrus taste comes from the Cascade hop, which imparts a definitive grapefruit flavour to the ale.

At 8% ABV, it’s quite a high-spirited little devil. The brewery suggests it be paired with soft cheeses and I couldn’t agree more. If I’d been back home in Kent, I’d be half way to the nearest Waitrose by now  for a decent sized hunk of French Brie to compliment and offset  the extra “hoppiness” it possesses.

In short, it’s a delightfully wicked little brew, if you allow yourself to be charmed by an ale with a bit of a kick to it. Enjoy!