Blue Moon Rounder Belgian-style Pale Ale

003Sampler packs are a great way to try out a variety of beer without having to fill up your fridge with beers that you may or may not like. Seasonal sampler packs are even better because they include beers that are made with seasonal ingredients. I’ve always been a fan of Blue Moon but have grown bored of it recently, but when I saw their Brewmaster’s Seasonal Sampler 12 pack with 5 different types in it, I had to get it. It includes 3 Blackberry Tart Ales, 3 Agave Nectar Ales, 2 Rounder Belgian-style Pale Ales, 2 Short Straw Red Ales, and 2 of their original Belgian White Belgian-style Wheat Ales.

The Rounder Belgian-style Pale Ale sounded really good so it was the first bottle that I opened up. The first thing that I noticed was that it had a nice dark amber color. While I was pouring it, I noticed it had a sweet and citrusy aroma. The taste opens up with a sweet caramel maltiness and finishes with a floral and citrus flavor that has a hint of hops. The beer itself is very smooth and medium bodied.

Rounder Belgian-style Pale Ale is brewed with hibiscus and orange peel along with Cascade hops and a variety of malts that include Pale, Imported Caramel, Imported Light Caramel, and White Wheat. This was a really nice change of pace from Blue Moon’s original Belgian White. If you can find a case of Rounder Belgian-style Pale Ale or the Brewmaster’s Seasonal Sampler, you should definitely pick it up. Cheers! 004


Rogue Hazelnut Spice Rum

002If you have read my blog before, you might have noticed that I am a fan of Rogue ales and I’ve written a couple posts about Rogue, one post on Rogue Morimoto Soba Ale and another on Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar. One day I was looking on the Rogue website and noticed that they also make spirits, so after I saw that, I was on a mission to get a bottle. Rogue makes a couple different varieties of whiskey, gin, and rum.

I read the descriptions of all the spirits they make and thought the Hazelnut Spice Rum and Oregon Single Malt Whiskey sounded the most interesting so I went to a store that is basically a Costco dedicated to alcohol, Total Wine & More. This store has any and every type and brand of alcohol that you could want. I decided to save the whiskey for a later date and opened up the Hazelnut Spice Rum.

According to their website, Rogue Hazelnut Spice Rum is made with 10 ingredients: 100% pure Hawaiian cane sugar, toasted Oregon hazelnuts, orange peel, vanilla bean, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, clove, Champagne yeast, and free range coastal water. When making their handcrafted rum, Rogue double distills each batch in order to extract and remove lower grade alcohols. They then use a charcoal filtering process similar to Jack Daniel’s. The rum is then mellowed in Oak barrels.

The nose of this rum has a unique toasted hazelnut aroma. The flavor starts off with sweet notes of brown sugar and opens up to a strong toasted hazelnut taste that is accompanied by hints of cinnamon and clove. It has a finish that almost resembles bourbon with notes of oak and vanilla. Overall, this is a good, complex, and unique bottle of rum. It’s not like Captain Morgan or your average spiced rum. If you’re looking to try something different, you should definitely pick up a bottle of Rogue Hazelnut Spice Rum, if you can find it.

Great Basin Ichthyosaur “Icky” IPA

001Icky IPA is one of my favorite beers for two reasons, one because I’m a big fan of India Pale Ales, and two, this beer is brewed right here in Reno, Nevada. It is brewed here in town by Great Basin Brewing Company. Icky is named after the ichthyosaur, which is Nevada’s official state fossil. Icky IPA has been a staple at Great Basin since they first opened in 1993 when it was their first “brewmaster’s special” and it remains their most popular beer today.

Icky has a nice golden color with a good thick head on it. It is everything you would expect in an IPA with its robust hop flavor. Icky is brewed with a generous amount of Cascade hops that give this beer great spicy, floral, and citrus-like flavors and aromas.

The Cascade hops used to make Icky are a popular choice among craft beer brewers because of their distinct aroma and flavor. They are a relatively newer variety of hops that was developed in 1971 by the U.S.D.A. at Oregon State University. Cascade hops are named after the Cascade mountain range that runs through Oregon and Washington.

Icky IPA is a flavorful beer that has a nice little kick to it with 6.4% ABV. Not only is this a great tasting beer, but it is made right here in Reno, Nevada, which makes it all that much better. And not only can you go down and get a pint at the brewery, but you can get it at a lot of local bars or you can pick up a six pack at the grocery store, so do yourself a favor and try an Icky. Cheers! 002

Mirassou Pinot Noir 2011

005With today being Easter, I decided to be classy and open up a bottle of wine. I had a bottle of Mirassou Pinot Noir 2011 lying around that I wanted to open and what better excuse than to pair it with the leg of lamb that I was having for Easter dinner. Pinot noir is a lighter-bodied, red wine that typically has a sweet fruit-forward character, such as raspberry, blackberry, and cherry, combined with earthy flavors and warm spice notes.

Mirassou Pinot Noir 2011, like all pinot noir wines, is made predominantly from pinot noir grapes. Pinot noir grapes are a difficult variety to cultivate and transform into wine but they are considered to produce some of the finest wines in the world. This type of grape originated in the Burgundy region of France, but is now grown around the world, such as Mirassou which is a California winery. The grapes that go into making this wine come from some of California’s most renowned regions, including Monterey County and Sonoma County.

Mirassou takes particular care in preserving the delicate flavors of the pinot noir grapes and harvests them in the cool of the evening and early morning hours before destemming them and cold soaking the grapes 24 hours. The grapes then go through a five-day fermentation in upright, rotary fermenters where the temperature doesn’t exceed 85 degrees F.

Mirassou Pinot Noir 2011 is a very good buy being a smooth and flavorful red wine that is also fairly inexpensive, at only about $10 a bottle. This pinot noir has flavors of cherry, strawberry, and raspberry balanced by notes of oak and vanilla. This wine has a really pleasant, delicate flavor that pairs nicely with a wide range of foods from lamb to poultry to chocolate desserts. Next time you’re looking for a good affordable bottle of wine, you should give Mirassou Pinot Noir 2011 a try. Cheers!

Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar

040After trying a Rogue Morimoto Soba Ale a few days ago, I’ve been on a mission to try more Rogue beers. The Hazelnut Brown Nectar is a beer that I remember really liking years ago so I wanted to give it another try and I’m glad I did. This is Rogue’s unique spin on a traditional European Brown Ale in which they add hazelnut extract to their brewing process.

Upon pouring it, I immediately noticed the dark reddish brown color and the nice tan head it had. After sipping it, I instantly remembered why I liked this beer so much, it starts off with a sweet and smooth hazelnut taste and has a nice malty finish. You get an almost dessert-like initial taste, but the flavor quickly evolves into a complex and flavorful brown ale. This malty brown ale is balanced nicely with a hint of Perle and Sterling hops.

Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar has won a staggering amount of awards starting in 1996 when it won gold in the All American Beer Festival and Wine Journal competition, to last year when it got gold in the 2012 World Beer Championships and Mondiale de la Biere. This Brown Ale is really impressive with such a unique and just simply awesome flavor. If you haven’t had a Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar, you are missing out and you should go pick one up right away. And even if you have tasted this awesome ale before, go out and try it again because it is better than you remember. Cheers!041

Rogue Morimoto Soba Ale

002Rogue is one of my favorite craft beer companies. They are known for making unique and flavorful ales. Rogue is a brewery in Newport, Oregon and has been making exceptional and distinctive beers since it first opened in 1988. For this brew, Rogue collaborated with world renowned Chef Masaharu Morimoto. Chef Morimoto is one of the stars from the TV series “Iron Chef” on the Food Network. Rogue teamed up with Chef Morimoto in 2003 to create their Morimoto Signature Series of Rogue Ales.

This particular ale is brewed with soba, which is also known as buckwheat. This is a unique ingredient for brewing beer, but soba is actually a longtime staple in Japanese cuisine. The roasted soba is complemented with cascade and perle hops, which create a nice balanced flavor.

This ale has a delicate and complex flavor. The roasted soba provides a sweet and somewhat nutty taste. The flavor of the cascade and perle hops comes through really nicely, almost like an IPA but not quite as pungent. This beer has the perfect balance between malty sweetness and hoppy bitterness. This ale has a very smooth finish.

I was really impressed with this Morimoto Soba Ale and apparently so are a lot of beer critics considering it won gold in the World Beer Cup in 2008 and also in the World Beer Championships in 2001 and 2005, and silver in the World Beer Championships from 2006 through 2010 and also in 2012, not to mention the numerous other awards it has won. If you have never tasted a Morimoto Soba Ale, you should definitely go out and pick one up.

Newcastle Winter IPA

001The sun is shining, the weather is getting warmer, and spring is just starting to arrive, but it’s definitely not too late to try Newcastle’s Winter IPA. I’ve always been a fan of Newcastle Brown Ale so when I saw this limited edition seasonal brew, especially an IPA made by Newcastle, I had to get it.

Right when I poured the bottle into a glass, I immediately noticed that this beer has a lighter color than the original Newcastle Brown Ale. The Winter IPA has an amber rust color to it. The Winter IPA has a very similar aroma to the Brown Ale. Upon first sipping it, I immediately tasted a malty sweetness that almost tastes like brown sugar. This beer has a nice floral hint to it. It has a very subtle hop flavor towards the finish, which tastes more herbal than hoppy. The malts come through much more than the hops. It has a nice almost creamy texture and a smooth finish.

For an IPA, it seems to be lacking on the hops but it is still a tasty beer. I think if it is going to be labeled as an IPA, it should definitely have more of a focus on incorporating more hop flavor into this brew. Overall, this was a good drinkable beer which tasted very similar to a Newcastle Brown Ale, with flavors of caramel and slight nuttiness. If you have every tried Newcastle Winter IPA, leave me a comment and let me know what you thought about it. Have a great St. Patty’s day weekend. Cheers!

Home Brewing Success

003My home brewing experiment started about two months ago after I got a True Brew home brewing kit and an ingredient kit to make an all malt brown ale. The process started about two months ago by boiling water and mixing in two types of malt extract and hops. After boiling the wort for about an hour, I transferred the mixture into a fermentation bucket. I let the wort cool down to about 75 degrees and then stirred in a packet of English beer yeast. Then the yeast went to work and turned the wort into beer. The beer fermented for about two weeks, then was ready to bottle.

When the beer was ready to bottle, I first mixed 5 ounces of priming sugar with one cup of water to make a sugar syrup and then mixed it in with the wort right before bottling. The sugar reactivates the yeast and makes the beer become carbonated while it conditions and ages in the bottles. I bottled my beer about three weeks ago, which means it’s now ready to drink.

This past Saturday I couldn’t wait any longer and brought a few of my home brewed beers to my buddy’s house to finally try it out. I was a little nervous before taking my first sip because I’ve heard a few stories where people’s home brews came out bad and tasted sour and funky. But I was pleasantly surprised with the first sip, it came out perfect.

The brown ale that I made tastes incredibly similar to Newcastle Brown Ale. This brown ale has a nice sweetness from the two types of malt extracts used to brew it. The UK First Gold hop pellets that I used added a mild hop taste to this beer, which when combined with the flavor of the malt extracts, creates a very smooth finish. It’s been a long process and I’ve had to be patient but it was well worth the wait. So if you’ve never had a good home brewed beer, to try one. And if you’re looking for a fun new hobby, try brewing your own. For more information on home brewing, beer, and other alcohol related topics, follow me on Twitter @VanceAlm. Cheers!

Samuel Adams Maple Pecan Porter and the original Boston Lager

001I’ve wrote about the Samuel Adams Spring Thaw variety pack for my past two posts and I’m going to do it one more time. I previously wrote about the Winter Lantern, Double Agent IPL, Irish Spring, and Alpine Spring. Tonight I am going to review the last two types in this variety pack, the Maple Pecan Porter and the original Boston Lager.

After pouring the Maple Pecan Porter, I immediately noticed the aroma of roasted coffee beans with a hint of vanilla. This beer was sweet on the nose and tasted even sweeter. The first thing I noticed was the flavor of the maple syrup used to brew this awesome dark porter. The blend of roasted malts used in this ale complement the sweetness of the maple syrup by giving it hints of coffee and chocolate flavors. This beer is 5.6% ABV but you can barely taste the alcohol because of the full-bodied flavors in this porter.

The last type of Samuel Adams from the Spring Thaw variety pack is the original Boston Lager. This is the flagship of the Samuel Adams brand and was the first beer they started producing. The nose of this beer is slightly fruity and citrusy do to the Noble hops used to brew this lager. Boston Lager has a caramel and slight citrus taste to it from the combination of two-row barley malts and Noble hops. This beer has great flavor and it’s no surprise that the original Boston Lager made Samuel Adams the big name company that they are today.

The Maple Pecan Porter and Boston Lager were both really good, as were all the selections in the Spring Thaw variety pack. I was really impressed with all of them. All of the varieties offered in this pack were unique and very flavorful. So if you like a choice of good flavorful beers, go out and pick up the Samuel Adams Spring Thaw variety pack. For more beer reviews and random drink related information, follow me on Twitter @VanceAlm. Cheers!004

Samuel Adams Irish Red and Alpine Spring

004Samuel Adams has combined six different types of their best winter and spring themed beers into the Spring Thaw variety pack, which includes Winter Lantern Belgian-style ale, Double Agent IPL, Maple Pecan Porter, Irish Red ale, Alpine Spring lager, and the original Boston Lager. I started talking about the Spring Thaw variety pack in my last blog a couple days ago when I reviewed the Winter Lantern Belgian-style ale and the Double Agent IPL. Both of those brews were surprisingly good and so were the two I tried tonight.

The first beer I sampled tonight was the Irish Red ale, which gets its name from the copper/red color it has. This red ale’s flavor is predominantly focused around the roasted caramel malts, which give it a malty sweetness. The Irish Red balances the malt flavors with 3 types of hops, East Kent Goldings, English Fuggles, and Hallertau Mittlefrueh. The combination of hops and caramel malts make for a very enjoyable red ale.

Next up was the Alpine Spring, which is an unfiltered lager that has a nice hazy golden color. This beer has a sweet and refreshing citrus taste to it. The flavor is very unique with its nice balance of crisp maltiness from the two-row pale malt blend and honey malt, combined with the smooth taste of Nobel Tettnang hops. This beer is a great combination of great flavor and smooth drinkability.

Overall, these were both really good beers but I’m really liking the Alpine Spring for its great unique flavor. The Spring Thaw variety pack is an awesome choice for anyone who wants to sample some great beers. I’m looking forward to trying the Maple Pecan Porter, but that will have to wait until next time. If you haven’t already picked up the Spring Thaw variety pack, go out and grab it while you still can because they’re only available until the end of March.