4.7% ABV-33 IBU
Vintage Ale 2009
8.5% ABV-38 IBU
First off, you may be wondering why I don’t have real pictures for these. In case you haven’t read already, my phone was stolen in Cambodia and I lost a lot of information, including these pictures. However, I’m no longer focusing on that. So, moving on…my friends and I went to this bar/restaurant in lower Harlem called Bierkraft. I’ll write more about it when I get a chance to explore it thoroughly, but it seemed nice enough when we went that night. It may have been a little pricey, but I liked the general atmosphere and the wait-staff seemed very knowledgable. I ordered a bottle of Fuller’s Vintage Ale because I had never had it before ,and I’ve always been curious. I’ve had London Pride several times, and while it’s good, it’s nothing to write home about. London Pride’s a solid British beer with a lot of body, but has very little in the way of unique flavor. Anyway, I received my glass and took a sip. I thought…”Hmm…this is alright, but it’s not great. It’s certainly not worth the 14 dollars that I paid for it, and it doesn’t really taste like it has an 8.5 percent alcohol content. It basically…you know, sort of tastes like London Pride.” And that’s when the waiter walked back over. He apologized and told me that he had noticed they had sent me a regular London Pride (not the Vintage Ale), and he was perturbed. He let me keep the beer for free, and brought me the Vintage Ale. It suddenly became very obvious how he could tell. The London Pride came in a Shaker Glass by itself, while the Vintage Ale came in a Tulip Glass with the bottle and the box. I thought, “Awesome, now a chance to compare”. And boy…it is a huge difference. Where London Pride tastes good and hearty, Vintage Ale is bold, boozy, and almost Belgian. My friends who tasted the Vintage also admired it greatly. It’s got a lot of character, and doesn’t taste anything like Fuller’s usual fair. Both beers pour a reddish brown, but Vintage Ale is almost a deep amber, with a “fuller” head. On tasting, Vintage has a lot going on, with hints of deep wood, toffee, butterscotch, and even some light citrus hops. I really enjoyed the simplicity of London Pride, but the complexities of the Vintage Ale won out. I would thoroughly recommend the pair to anyone adventurous enough to take them on. If you’ve had a Fuller’s London Pride before, but were less than impressed, definitely try the Vintage. It’s one of the best British beers I’ve ever had. And if you haven’t had a London Pride before, try one. It’s a standard of British Brewing, like Newcastle and Boddington’s. And if you hate them both, you can always blame me. I’m willing to take on that responsibility.
In Conclusion: Both worth trying, though I really like the Vintage Ale. Try it if you get the opportunity, regardless of price. It’s a great beer that must be experienced, especially by those who love strong English ales.
Food Pairings (London Pride): Chewy, hearty meats. Game Meats, Meatloaf, and Chutney.
Food Pairings (Vintage Ale): Really fatty and savory meats. Grilled Lamb, Kidney, and Liver.
“That’s the problem with drinking, I thought, as I poured myself a drink. If something bad happens you drink in an attempt to forget; if something good happens you drink in order to celebrate; and if nothing happens you drink to make something happen.”
Type: 12 oz Bottle
5.4% ABV-23 IBU
Oh man…Kona. I love Kona brewing company. Well, I love them now, having been to Kona, HI and experienced the wonder that is their brewery and brewpub. Based on Longboard (their most readily available brew), I don’t think I would have even liked them. It’s not that Longboard is a terrible beer, it’s just very bland. But anyway, let’s talk about this Porter. I think the Coffee Porter may be the only widely available example of what Kona does so well at their brewery. They take local ingredients from Hawaii and use them to create one of a kind beers, whether that’s a yeast strain that only grows in lava fields or an imperial stoudt drowned in dark malts and kona coffee. This porter shows off a little of that artistic flair. The beer pours a purplish brown with a light brown head. It’s got full notes of chocolate, toffee, prunes, a little hops, and a lot of malt, but it’s especially dominated by that fresh Kona coffee taste. If you’re a stout or porter drinker who really likes coffee, this is a great option for the price (about 10 dollars a six pack). It’s not a perfect porter by any means, but if you haven’t tried Kona, this is a good introduction. However, they still have way better options available at the Brewery in Hawaii, and I wonder why they don’t release some of those on special occasions. It would expand their consumer base, and promote the true quality and depth of the brewery. For now, this is the best we’ve got.
In Conclusion: A great introduction to what Kona has to offer. Not the best porter in America, but pretty unique. If you’re a coffee drinker who dabbles in darker beers, this might be a nice introduction to the Porter style.
Food Pairing: Cheesecake, Creme Brulee, Fruit Tarts, and Strawberries with cream. Anything fruity, creamy, and sweet.
“Bart, a woman is like beer. They look good, they smell good, and you’d step over your own mother just to get one!”
Type: 25 oz Bottle
9% ABV-0 IBU
When I spotted this beer at Trader Joe’s, I had a minor brain spasm, “A 9% Belgian Dark Ale on Lees. That sounds like an Unibroue. It can’t be Unibroue. It’s 5 dollars. What’s that say on the back? Wait…It IS an Unibroue.” Apparently Trader Joe’s does this every year. But I should start by saying, I’m not sure it’s really quite as good as a regular Unibroue. While it was certainly made by Unibroue at their brewery, you get the feeling their heart wasn’t entirely in it. It’s not quite as refined as their other beers. Then again, it’s much cheaper. 5 dollars, for a 25 oz bottle of 9 percent Belgian dark ale? That’s kind of ridiculous. It’s almost half the price of La Fin Du Mone, Don De Dieu, or any of the regular Unibroues. And the taste isn’t bad, it’s actually very good. Deep malt, with belgian yeasts, hints of dark fruit and caramel. It pours a dark brown with a thick head. It’s just a little thin at the end. It’s the difference between a 12 year and 18 year old scotch. This beer is still really good, by any standard of craft brewing, but when you’ve tasted the perfection that is Unibroue’s line of Canadian Belgians, I just don’t think this quite makes the cut. All that being said, they have a different beer every year, so it’s always worth trying. And for this price, I’d say it’s worth having around as a drinking beer whenever a friend comes to visit.
In Conclusion: I would thoroughly recommend this beer. I think Trader Joe’s and Unibroue have done a wonderful thing here. They’ve made a classy real Belgian that’s affordable and accessible. I only wish it wasn’t just a holiday treat.
Food Pairing: Baked Ham, Roasted Duck, or Quail, with grilled or baked vegetables.
On a side note, I wonder if this is what Ommegang’s Game of Thrones beers (read more in separate article) are going to be like? I’d be ok with that.
“Beer was not made to be moralized about, but to be drunk.”
– Theodore Maynard
Type: 12 oz Bottle
9.6% ABV-1000 IBU
I’ve been writing about too many imperial IPAs. I may have said this before. I’m a hop-head. I’ve confessed. Now indulge me. I was out one night in late October and I stumbled upon this novelty. I thought to myself, “1000 IBUs? How can anything be that bitter?” Well, I have the answer…it can’t. Like many triple IPAs, there’s a point of hop concentration where the tongue can’t absorb any more resin. The beer can contain as many hops as the brewer wants to put in, but it doesn’t really matter after about 100 IBUs (please write in if you feel differently). However, I do find that occasionally there are wonderful flavors in these IPAs from the beta resins at these high levels. But let’s get back to the story. I wanted this beer. I had to at least TRY it, even though it was really expensive (I’ll get back to that later). Mikkeller, a small gypsy brewery, has become one of the most renowned breweries in Europe for a reason, and they specialize in oddities like this. I’m a huge IPA fan (not to overstate the obvious), and this was one novelty I couldn’t avoid. Turns out, this beer is surprisingly drinkable. It’s light, hoppy, and actually, very good. It pours a golden orange, with a medium head. My friend told me it would annihilate my taste buds, but it didn’t. Sure, you can taste big citrus and piney hops, but it levels out and turns into a delectable treat, offering a smooth golden after taste. This isn’t the best imperial IPA of all time, but with what Mikkeller did to this crazy experiment, it amazes me to say it might be in the top 5. With Mikkeller’s odd history of unique brews, maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. HOWEVER…and that’s a big however…the fantasy ends there. The beer costs between thirteen and sixteen dollars for a 12 oz. That’s absurd. I don’t care if there’s a little hop dragon breathing liquid resin into my beer, it isn’t worth that price. 1000 IBUs nearly fails in price, but redeems itself for being a singularity…an anomaly…. The Great White Buffalo. And for that, it might be worth trying, at any price.
In Conclusion: A great novelty beer. If you have the money and the idea entices you, I’d say try it, but know that it’s going to be a one and off because of the price tag.
Food Pairing: Spicy and savory foods with cream. Falafel and Fajitas would be great.
“This is grain, which any fool can eat, but for which the Lord intended a more divine means of consumption…Beer.”
-Friar Tuck, Robin Hood-Prince of Thieves
Type: 12oz Bottle
9% ABV-10.5 IBU
Don De Dieu was “commissioned by the King of France to pursue, by the way of the great Canadian waterway, the exploration of this vast and inhospitable land called America”, or says Unibroue. With this beer, Unibroue could easily continue to explore and expand their share of the North American beer market. While La Fin Du Monde is probably their best known ale, Unibroue’s Don De Dieu and Trois Pistoles come in as close seconds. Unibroue have proven themselves consistent beyond belief, and this beer provides another Canadian treat for Belgian fans across America. It pours a golden pale amber. Despite being darker then you might expect for a pale ale, the creamy yeasts dominate the darker flavors. It’s slightly acidic, but the finish is so clean you won’t remember it. A very drinkable strong ale, thought you might want to take it slow with this one, because after two or three you’ll be gone. Four packs are 10 to 15 dollars. That’s not bad considering the outstanding quality and consistency of the brew. Unibroue is definitely one of the best breweries in North America, and after you have a Don De Dieu, I think you’ll agee.
In Conclusion: A great beer for a decent price, for all occasions when a Belgian Strong Ale is appropriate. A lighter, hoppier alternative to heavier creamier Dark Ales, Tripels, and Quads.
Food Pairing: All kinds of savory poultry. Quail, Duck, and Roasted Chicken. A great beer for large holiday feasts with friends and family.
“I drink to make other people interesting.”
-George Jean Nathan
8.5% ABV-50 IBU
First off, if you don’t like Scotch style ales, you won’t like this. And if you haven’t tried a Founders before, this isn’t a good place to start. This beer is pretty readily available now, and I don’t think it really represents the style or Founder’s. It’s not a terrible beer, it just has some odd notes in the bitterness which usually balance out in a traditional Scotch ale. There are some wonderful citrus hops, especially orange, and spice notes of chesnut and hazelnut. The beer pours a little cloudy, a deep red with brown amber edges. It’s got a smooth start, and a bitter finish, but it’s missing something in the middle. It’s missing real passion. One friend, who had never had a Scotch ale before, said, “This beer tastes like blood.” I’m not sure what she meant by that, but I don’t think it was good. BUT, if you love Scotch ales, this is a fanastic deal for about 12 or 13 dollars a six pack. It’s a great beer for those who want a bitter, hoppy, strong Scotch that’s drinkable and affordable. I’m just not that into this.
Conclusion: Great price, but only for those who love Scotch ales. I don’t think this is Founder’s best work. It needs to be more balanced.
Food Pairing: Corned Beef or Pastrami, Kidneys, and Haggis (obviously).
“What event is more awfully important to an English colony than the erection of its first brewhouse?”
-Reverend Sidney Smith
9.1% ABV-103 IBU
Pours a hazy golden orange, with a light amber tint, like a sunset in the forest. The aromas are lemon, orange peel, and peach. I expected strong hops, but the taste is surprisingly smooth, making this an easily drinkable IPA. It’s also a pretty good price, at ten dollars for a four pack of 12 ounces. I’d put it on par with Dogfish Head 90 minute, as a solid example of the American IPA. If you like Sixpoint’s Bengali Tiger, this is the next step up. I have to say though, that in some ways, the hops are stronger in Bengali. Don’t be fooled though, this is still an imperial IPA, just without the bitter punch. I love Sixpoint for maintaining the complexity and strength of the best. This is the perfect IPA for people looking for complex hop taste, without the extreme bitterness associated with imperials. The smooth creamy flavor takes over after the complex bitterness, and on multiple sips, the hops are just a joyous after thought. I think Sixpoint should make more doubles out of their normal beers (especially a double wit based on the Crisp).
In Conclusion: For people who are looking for a complex IPA, without the extreme bitterness. Wonderful light lemon notes, very drinkable.
Food Pairing: Hearty and Spicy foods, especially Spicy Indian, Mackeral, and Chorizo.
“Whiskey and Beer are a man’s worst enemies… but the man that runs away from his enemies is a coward!”
– Zeca Pagodinho
Magic Hat makes a series of IPAs and Pale-ales, many of which are quite good. Sadly, Blind Faith isn’t one of them. The brew pours a hazy dark copper. It has a decent malt base. On tasting, there are immediate notes of stone fruit and creamy fat, but even those feel thin, and any detectable hops are lightly laced into the end. When the hops finally come on, they evoke a hint of citrus bitterness, but don’t feel specific. Each sip I had tasted different than the one before. The aromas don’t particularly evoke an IPA, and it certainly doesn’t taste like one. The hops don’t feel nearly powerful enough. For example, I think #9 has more hops than this, and that’s a slightly pale ale. Blind Faith tastes more like a malty pale ale, than a proper British IPA. I was very disappointed with this beer. In the past, Magic Hat has fostered a balance of hops and malts, creating some really interesting and unique brews. Blind Faith just doesn’t add up. The beer provides a deep syrupy malt, with a hint of hops, and very little to get excited about. For 10-12 dollars a six pack, it’s a pretty good deal, but the beer is lacking, so ‘ll give it a B for price.
In Conclusion: A decent beer, but not a very good IPA. I wouldn’t recommend this unless you’re devoted to Magic Hat.
Food Pairing: Roasted garlic, mushrooms, and potatoes. Slow-roasted meats.
“You sit back in the darkness, nursing your beer, breathing in that ineffable aroma of the old-time saloon: dark wood, spilled beer, good cigars, and ancient whiskey – the sacred incense of the drinking man”
Ommegang does a great job of duplicating Belgian recipes for an American audience, and their Dubbel does not disappoint. Abbey was Ommegang’s first beer, and I can’t think of a better way to start off a Belgian style brewery. After 15 years on the market, Abbey Ale is still one of the standards for American Belgians and an original take on Trappist Dubbels, without ever straying too far from tradition. The brew pours a cloudy dark amber (almost caramel), but has a small head for such a distinct Dubbel. When the bubbles and yeast hit your tongue, the aromas are rich and complex, complimented by the creamy yeasts. The roasted malts dominate the initial flavoring with a hint of dark candied sugar. As the beer swooshes around the palate, the sugars expand, providing notes of prune, peach, orange, raisin, and anise. You can taste the beauty and fullness of the belgian yeasts, and yet the whole experience still feels light and refreshing. The beer actually finishes quite dry, making it very drinkable. There’s still not quite enough yeast for me, possibly because I’m so into classic Belgian Dubbels. Also, I would have preferred the ending to be a little less dry. Many people will give this beer a solid A, or even an A+. However, despite it’s incredible flavor profile, I still feel like something’s missing (probably the yeast). A Belgian Dubbel should feel fuller, and not so syrupy. This beer, at times, tastes more like a dark Tripel. I also feel like this would have been better in the 750ml bottle. The 12oz just doesn’t give it enough room. But, at 10-12 dollars a four pack (or 7 for a 750 ml), there aren’t any Belgians that can compete. Therefore, Abbey Ale definitely deserves an A+ for price.
In Conclusion: A great take on a traditional Dubbel, and a perfect beer for Belgian lovers on a budget. This is an awesome brew to introduce anyone to the Trappist style. However, the beer can be a bit too sweet out of the 12 oz bottle.
Food Pairing: Large italian dishes, and any meats cooked with a lot of spice and flavor. Abbey Ale can also be used as a marinade for mushrooms, onions, or chicken (much like a Cabernet).
“All right, brain, I don’t like you and you don’t like me – so let’s just do this and I’ll get back to killing you with beer.”
One of the best Barley-Wines in America, Blithering Idiot showcases the two things which Weyerbacher does best: high alcohol content and smooth drinkability. Idiot pours a dark brownish red and the head is fluffy, but thin. As it hits the glass, the brew exposes the scents of plums, figs, and honey. If you’ve never had a Barley-wine (or Barley-Wine Style Ale), the first sip can be shocking. It’s got a big kick of alcohol, which thankfully emerges from a smooth creamy sweetness. Slight citrus hops sustain throughout, as the beer manages to balance the alcohol of the dark fruits with full bodied notes of coffee, caramel, walnuts, and molasses. You can definitely taste the influence of sweeter Barley-wines, but Weyerbacher has found a way of grounding this ale in a dense bouquet. Blithering Idiot is a solidly priced Barley-Wine, at around 12 dollars a four pack. I’d give that an A-. There are comparable Barley-Wines on the market, but Blithering Idiot is definitely one of the stand outs due to its mosaic of dark undertones. My only complaint is that, if it’s not aged long enough, the alcohol can overwhelm the subtle intricacies. For a first time Barley-Wine drinker, this might be a big step. However, for those who fiend for the sweet warmth that comes from a night of sipping yeast by a fire, look no farther than this strong, hearty, excellent American ale.
In Conclusion: Blithering Idiot is very drinkable for a beer which harkens back to the flavors of an English Barley-Wine, and it’s great for aging. The longer you age it, the more vibrant the notes of the hops, fruits, and nuts will become (Weyerbacher says the best by date is 5 years after bottling, so they aren’t goofing around).
Food Pairing: Roasted meats, bacon, and bleu cheese. Anything you would pair with figs, dates, and raisins, you can pair with this.
“Quaintest thoughts, queerest fancies come to life and fade away. What care I how time advances; I am drinking ale today.”
-Edgar Allen Poe