During my last beer run, I decided to expand my horizons to get some imports from countries that I’ve never tried before. Tonight’s selection is a Euro Strong Lager from Russia. I think I’ve read about this beer in one of my beer books, but I don’t remember much. Let’s get to it.
Style: Euro Strong Lager
Trivia: According to the brewery website, “The first bottling of the Baltika #9 Strong took place as far back as 1998. Beer lovers immediately appreciated the novelty. In 2005 the brand cardinally changed its exterior and a little later Baltika Breweries started filling it into a convenient PET package that quickly became popular with consumers. At the same time the ‘Devyatka’ (meaning ‘Nine’) popular name became the official name and is now used on the label. The taste of the strong Baltika beer was recognized not only by Russian citizens. The brand is successfully exported to almost 40 countries around the world, including Germany, Ireland, France, the USA, and even such exotic countries as Mexico, Mongolia and South Korea. One should also note the social role of the beer at the time. Many strong drink consumers switched to Baltika Nine with the alcohol content below 8%. The strength is achieved by natural fermentation only, according to a unique recipe developed by Baltika specialists.”
Random: I used to see this beer on the shelves a lot and now it’s harder to find. My guess is because craft beer is taking over the shelf space.
This beer poured with about a quarter of a finger of white head that dissipated almost instantly. It left no lacing on the glass. The body was a clear, straw yellow with soda-like carbonation. The nose was subtle, with barley and yellow corn. It also had a touch of metal. I was surprised that there wasn’t booze apparent on the nose. The taste had sweetness from the corn and the barley. What was surprising was that there was some grassy hop character, albeit muted. I picked up a butter flavor, which I didn’t love, but didn’t make the beer undrinkable. It’s also one of the few beers that I’ve had that I could place the DMS note. The alcohol was prevalent on this and warmed the back of the throat. The body was on the thicker side with high carbonation. The finish was quick with sweet corn. A 16 ounce bottle of this was $2.10 ($.13 per ounce). This is a style that I think is generally boring, and I had no problem drinking it, but I don’t feel the need to revisit it.
Untappd Rating: 3.0/5.0
Tonight’s selection is the last one from the mixed-twelve pack of Ciderboys cider. I find that peach flavored things (beer or cider) tend to either be great or terrible, and there is very little middle ground. This cider is no exception…
Trivia: According to the brewery website, “Thirst quenching apple and ripe, fuzzy peach. The ice chill of the bottle smiles at the heat of the day. Thirst quenching apple and ripe, fuzzy peach collide in a fantasy blend. Crank up the piano keys. Dance if you want to. When summer breezes soar under the light of a crescent moon, this is your party.”
Random: This is available March 1st through August 31st.
This cider poured with a one finger, pure white head. It went away slowly and left no lacing on the glass. The body was a warm, orange color with light carbonation visible. The nose was filled with lots of artificial peach flavoring. It overwhelmed any other flavor in the nose. The taste had a touch more balance, but not much. It started with the same peach flavoring that had a certain aspect of sweetener. Then, it went into carbonated apple juice that was also incredibly sweet. The body was on the thicker side with light carbonation. It had a long, sickeningly sweet finish with the same peach flavoring. A bottle of this was $1.50 ($.12 per ounce), which isn’t a bad price, if this was drinkable. Conceptually, a peach/apple cider sounded great. But, the execution on this cider was lacking. This is a cider that I would avoid, even if you really enjoy peach flavored things.
Untappd Rating: 2.0/5.0
This is a leftover from a mixed-cider pack that Val wanted. She’s liked a few of the selections from Ciderboys, so I get to open the remnants and review them. I have one left in the cider fridge to get to.
Trivia: According to the brewery website, “Traditional hard apple cider. Everything changes when you bite into a bottle of First Press Traditional Hard Apple Cider. Eyes of friends sparkle. Passion overflows with perhaps the best thing on earth, the anticipation of sweet, crisp and tart. Taste hard cider fireworks. Revel in its energy. Grin to the skies. Save an extra for yourself.”
Random: This cider is available all year-long.
This cider poured with a one finger, pure-white head. It dissipated slowly and left some lacing on the glass, along with a thick crown. The body was a clear, golden-orange with lots of carbonation visible. The nose had a lot of sweet apples, almost like Martinelli’s sparkling apple cider. It also had some honey. The taste was full of very sweet apple juice and honey. Again, it reminded me of the same sparkling apple cider that was in the nose. In terms of flavor, that was it. There wasn’t much depth or complication. After a few sips though, the sweetness became cloying for me. It had a thick body for the ABV and a lot of carbonation. The finish was lengthy with sweet apple juice. A single was $1.50 ($.12 per ounce), which is one of the cheaper ciders that I’ve seen lately. This cider was fine and drinkable (although it did become cloying at the end), but it was incredibly boring. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone looking for an exciting cider or something that it going to bring something unique to the table.
Untappd Rating: 2.5/5.0
Tonight’s selection is the last beer that I picked up from Maine. It came highly recommended from one of the staff members there, and after drinking it, I’m not entirely sure as to why. But, I’m always into trying something new and unique, so let’s pop the cork on this one.
Style: Lambic – Fruit
Trivia: According to the importer’s website, “Strawberries announce themselves in the nose where they mingle with aromas of earth, sharp cheddar cheese, vanilla, yogurt, and a Riesling-like petrol note.”
Random: I keep all of my bottle caps and corks. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with them, but I guess I’ll either figure it out or toss them.
The cork was very tight in the bottle, but there was almost no pop when it came out. It poured with absolutely no head on top of a golden-yellow body that was quite cloudy. There was also no carbonation visible. The nose had very little in the way of strawberries or earth, or vanilla. Instead, I just get intense sourness that had white grapes. The taste had a bit more depth, but was again, intensely sour, to the point of being off-putting. It had some vanilla and some oak as well, but the sourness overwhelmed everything. It also had a white vinegar characteristic too. The body was light and there was no carbonation on the beer, which didn’t work for me either. The finish was thankfully quick and again sour. A bottle of this was expensive at $12, which came to $1 per ounce. This beer had a lot going on and it was definitely interesting, but I don’t think I’ll be having it again.
Untappd Rating: 3.0/5.0
It’s been slightly over a year since I’ve had a beer from Finch’s. I wasn’t aware that they had any sort of barrel aging program, so this was a must-try for me.
Style: American Amber/Red Ale
Trivia: This is the bourbon barrel aged version of Fascist Pig Ale which I reviewed over two years ago. Unfortunately, the Finch’s website has no information about this beer.
Random: Finch’s has really cute tote bags. Now that I’ve said that, Val will want to get one.
This beer poured with a one finger, thick, ecru-colored head that dissipated slowly. It left some lacing on the glass. There was also a small crown left on top. The body was very cloudy, to the point of being murky and a reddish-mud color. As soon as the can opened, I was hit with strong bourbon notes. Once I let it sit for a few minutes, I also picked up, vanilla, wood char and molasses. There was some slightly burnt brown sugar as well. The taste was not surprisingly, bourbon dominant. After I got past that, there was also vanilla, toasted oak and then sweetness from the molasses. It also had a caramel note at the end. The flavor was intense at first, and the alcohol provided a slight burn at the back of the throat. This is the one area that I think the beer could have used some improvement in, because it shouldn’t have been so boozy feeling at 8%. It had a thick, chewy body with high carbonation. The finish was lengthy with lots of bourbon and sweetness from the molasses. A tallboy can was $4.60 ($.28 per ounce), which is a bit on the expensive side. Despite that, I found it to be quite good (I’m also a huge fan of bourbon, so if that’s not a flavor you like, you won’t like this beer) and better than the original version.
Untappd Rating: 4.0/5.0
It seems like 2015 was the year of the sour. Every blog I read and every podcast I listened to talked about them. This year seems to be much of the same. Boulevard released this sour as part of their “Smokestack Series” and I hadn’t read any reviews of the beer – good or bad.
Style: American Wild Ale
Trivia: According to the brewery website, “Deriving its name from Edgar Allan Poe’s classic tale of madness and murder, our newest Smokestack Series release takes a predictably lighthearted approach to the subject of sourness. The subtle acidity of Tell-Tale Tart is answered by a soft, biscuity malt character, making this a sour ale that suggests, rather than announcing its tartness. Beginning with a bracing sharpness at first sip, the ale mellows on the palate to a smooth and faintly lingering finish.”
Random: Before everyone gives me grief about drinking this after the best by date of 1/29/16, keep in mind that I actually had it on 1/6/16 and just preschedule my posts.
This beer poured with a one finger, cream-colored head that dissipated instantly and left no lacing on the glass. It didn’t even leave a crown. The body was slightly cloudy and mahogany in color with light carbonation visible. The nose had tart cherry up front and then I got notes that reminded me of vanilla and oak, although there is no indication that this beer had any contact with a barrel. The taste started with light tartness, much like the description above, it was more subtle than I expected. The tartness had some dark cherries and I couldn’t get past this lightly toasted wood, which could have been imparted by the malt. There was a pinch of leather flavor too. Vanilla was there with some biscuit too. I just couldn’t believe how subtly tart it was, and honestly, I wasn’t a fan. It had a thin body with soda-like carbonation that was a bit too much for my liking. It had a swift finish with tart cherries. A bottle of this was on the pricier side, at $2.75 ($.22 per ounce). The beer was drinkable, but I thought it was just alright, but may be a good selection for those just getting into sours. I will give the website credit for having an incredibly accurate description of the beer.
Untappd Rating: 3.0/5.0
When I popped this beer open, Val said that she was disappointed with the brewery when we visited, and I have to agree. Although it’s not a production brewery anymore, the interior is a lot of picnic tables and nondescript, without any charm. It didn’t make me want to go back, to say the least. Despite that, Val picked up this beer for me to try and I hadn’t heard of it until she brought it home.
Trivia: According to the brewery website, “Brooklyn Insulated Dark Lager is your protection against biting wind and soggy weather. German Munich, roasted Carafa, and Pilsner malts create a nimble, racy body, while a helping of American black barley adds just a hint of roast coffee. A light dry hopping of American and German hops pitter-patters across the nose and dives into the dry, warming finish. Try it with dark breads, hearty meats, and sturdy cheddars. If you still feel the chill, just add another layer and enjoy your insulation.”
Random: This is a seasonal beer that is available from November through March.
The beer poured with a one finger, tan head. It went away quickly, but left a small amount of lacing on the glass. The body was a dark brown that was almost black. Because of the color, I couldn’t see any carbonation. The nose had notes of strong, roasty, black coffee. Ash was there as well, with some smoke. It also had brown bread. The taste surprised me because I got some hop character that was moderately bitter. It then went into the same roasty coffee note with toffee and bready malt. The body was a bit too thin for me with carbonation that needed to be dialed up. The finish was quick with roasty coffee. A single of this will set you back $1.67 ($.14 per ounce). Despite the relatively cheap price, this beer was only alright to me. It was too thin and needed more flavor and smoke.
Untappd Rating: 3.0/5.0