Monthly Archives: January 2013

Anderson Valley Boont Amber Ale

Beer: Boont Amber Ale
 Anderson Valley Brewing Company
Style: American Amber Ale
ABV: 5.8%


Serving Style: Bottle
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa




Sight: Slightly cloudy, bright copper body with a small head loafing at the rim.

Smell: This is quite un-smelly for a beer. There’s a generic sweet scent, and a trace of grain and caramel.

Flavor: That same generic sweetness persists, with little hop to amplify what little malt flavor there exists. This is really just a bottle of watery sweet malts.

Feel: Thin, watery body that has overdosed on carbonation.

Concluding Remark: Anderson Valley’s Boont Amber Ale is the least balanced Amber Ale I have had this month. It’s superb if you’re into the watery malt flavor thing. Where my hops at? PASS.

This beer has, in the past, received stellar ratings from other critics in the beeriverse. Perhaps the Anderson Valley was infertile this year? Maybe it is actually so well-balanced, that the flavors just cancel each other out, leaving consumers with a frothy body of nothingness? I just don’t have the answers to these difficult questions.

Overall, it’s still just kind of sweet and just kind of watery. Boont Amber is an acceptable beverage choice–I’m not disgusted by it. I am, however, spoiled by the great Amber Ales that do exist in this world…and this isn’t one of them.


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Triumph Brewing Amber Ale

Beer: Amber Ale
 Triumph Brewing Company
Style: American Amber Ale
ABV: 5.0%


Serving Style: Draft
Drinking Establishment: Triumph Brewing Company, Princeton, NJ
Primary Consumer: Kerensa




Sight: Clear dark amber body with a wispy white head.

Smell: The prominent aromas are a deep, sweet apple malt and a full citrus hop.

Flavor: Oddly, it tastes like a German lager, with that doughy malt flavor. There is a trace of hops that provide some semblance of the bitterness an Amber Ale should have. However, it’s just kind of bland.

Feel: Its thin body and full carbonation make the mouthfeel a bit off for the style.

Concluding Remark: Triumph Brewing’s Amber Ale slightly misses the mark for the style, but is nevertheless wholly drinkable. If you wind up traveling through Princeton, Philadelphia, or New Hope, you should absolutely stop at each city’s respective Triumph. However, just don’t order the Amber Ale (or the Holy Smoke–a bizarre smoked British cask ale). Do go for the Bengali Gold IPA, though!


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Rogue Captain Sig’s Northwestern Ale

Beer: Captain Sig’s Northwestern Ale
 Rogue Ales
Style: American Amber Ale
ABV: 6.0%


Serving Style: Bottle
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa




Sight: Murky, dark honey body with a thick, sticky head that stays buoyant until the last sip.

Smell: This is one fragrant ale. Its complex smell is of sweet, coppery metal aromas with notes of apple cider, caramel candy, and herbal hops.

Flavor: There is an initial buttery sweetness that quickly breaks out into an all out hop fest. The malt character manifests in the form of over buttered white toast, while the hops are mostly herbal, with a thyme and pine taste. The lingering flavor is a peppery spice.

Feel: Medium, creamy body with some carbonation.

Concluding Remark: Captain Sig’s Northwestern Ale is an homage to the history of the northwestern Amber Ale (the style originated in Oregon), as well as Deadliest Catch‘s Captain Sig Hansen. Personally, I’ve never seen the show, but I guess that means something to someone. For a beer associated with the term “deadliest,” this Northwestern Ale is pretty tame. While overall a solid ale, the flavors could have been more amplified. Taking inspiration from the Wikipedia article on Sig Hansen, I suggest that Rogue develop a new recipe that emulates Hansen’s “Norwegian Fisherman’s Diet.” I mean, who wouldn’t want to drink a Coffee-Chocolate-Ciggarette Ale? I think that would do The Captain and his deadly lifestyle justice.


Categories: Amber Ale | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Tröegs HopBack Amber Ale

Beer: HopBack Amber Ale
 Tröegs Brewing Company
Style: American Amber Ale
ABV: 6.0%


Serving Style: Bottle
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa




Sight: Whatever the Pantone # is for the quintessential amber color, this beer is it. There’s a tiny nothingness of a head.

Smell: Wow, this is a juicy, fragrant beer. The aroma is heavy on the hops, which are of the pine and citrus variety.

Flavor: While not as not as satisfyingly juicy as it smells, the hop flavor is super piney with a dose of lemon zest. Although it’s not particularly balanced, the hop flavor is crisp and refreshing like a spring morning.

Feel: Medium body, with medium carbonation.

Concluding Remark: Another solid Amber Ale brought to us from Tröegs. It is lacking a full malt sweetness that would balance the piney hop flavor and add some depth to the beer, but all in all, HopBack is quite a delicious and hopalicious ale. Um…it’s bringing hoppy back? I’m already envisioning a Lonely Island parody of Brining Sexy Back as Andy Samberg prances in a field of hops. Speaking of delicious…


Categories: Amber Ale | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Ashland Amber

Beer: Ashland Amber
 CalderaBrewing Company
Style: American Amber Ale
ABV: 5.6%


Serving Style: Can
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa




Sight: Sight hazy amber, almost pink body with a small creamy head.

Smell: It has a huge nose, with equal parts pine hops, grapefruit hops, sweet candy sour apple hops, and a metallic note.

Flavor: This tastes like dessert IPA. There’s a sweet briochey malt flavor that is matched with an overpowering foresty hop flavor. Yeah…it tastes like eating pastries while walking through the dense Black Forest. Also, there’s a refreshing, minty-menthol cooling factor at the end.

Feel: Medium, slick body with some carbonation.

Concluding Remark: Caldera Brewing, out of Ashland, Oregon, produces one fine Amber Ale. All in all, it’s quite balanced while still packing tons of surprising flavors, and the cooling effect at the end is unexpected but awesome. It’s not a hop explosion like some Ambers, but if you like your ales on the slightly sweeter side and can stand some bitterness, definitely give the Ashland Amber a try. I haven’t had anything quite like it, and that makes this Amber even sweeter.

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The Amber Ale is, well, an Amber Ale

Happy New Year, fellow beer drinkers! theyearinbeer has completed its first year in beer, and with a whopping 260 reviews (TWO HUNDRED AND SIXTY REVIEWS!), we consider it a rather successful year at that. At our first Beer Tasting Extravaganza, we renewed our vows, consecrated our undying pledge, to drink beer for another year. Yeah, we pretty much regret choosing the cute and rhyme-y name “the year in beer,” as it really should be, more accurately, “all of the years in beer.” Oh well. Semantics! MOVING ON.

We ended 2012 by drinking some of the most flavorful beers (for better or for worse), including an assortment of flavored pumpkin ales and spiced holiday ales. Well, it’s time to get back to basics and drink some solid beers that stand on their own without the addition of froofy fruits and spices.

At the beginning of any new year, once the hangover has subsided, we search for a restored balance in our lives as we move forward through time (which is now infinity without an impending End of the World situation). So, like everyone else, theyearinbeer is seeking out the more balanced AND delicious beers on our planet, starting with the AMBER ALE.

Replace those Miller Lites with a pile of Imperial Russian Stouts and that’s my zen.

What’s in a Name: The Amber Ale

Going on name alone, we can’t say that the Amber Ale sounds particularly interesting. I mean, aren’t most beers amber in color? How many times this year have we used “amber” to describe the color of beer in our reviews? (Hint: I don’t feel like counting but I can assure you it’s way too many times. There aren’t many synonyms for amber on Regardless. The Amber Ale can range from tasting like watery piss to sublime bliss (groan). Hopefully we’ll be stumbling upon more of the latter than the former this month.

So! The Amber Ale. Let’s talk about it. The major beer sites refer to Ambers as “a beer without definition” and “a catch all for any beer less than a dark ale in color.” Well, there you have it, the Amber Ale is in fact named for its color. What a simple, unsatisfying answer to that mystifying puzzle.


Most Ambers lie just west of the malt-hop state line, but can range from having a buttery, caramel malt profile to a smacks-you-in-the-face hops character. In summary, you can pretty much expect anything from an Amber.

Amber Ale: A Short History

While brewers today might be pumping out widely differing Amber Ales, with such discrepancies in taste that the style is largely undefinable, it will forever have a defined role in American craft beer history. Along with the Brown Ale, the Amber Ale was one of the first styles brewed during the early rumblings of the American craft beer movement on the West Coast. They are so embedded in this history, that they are often described as “West Coast Ales” due to their early popularity in California, Oregon, and Washington. In fact, Oregon’s Full Sail  released the first American Amber ale in 1989. It was Fat Tire, however, who put the Amber on the map and whose beer inspired other craft brewers to start brewing up this amber-hued beverage.

The early west coast brewers.

Like many things American, the Amber Ale has its roots in old world Europe. And like a majority of American beers, the Amber is an ancestor of English ales, and specifically, the English Pale Ale–a toned down Indian Pale Ale. These spunky West Coast brewers set out looking to find a middle ground between the subdued Pale and the bitter IPA. The result was a balanced ale with a lovely golden-reddish hue: THE AMBER ALE, a true American beer. Instead of marketing up some flashy name for this new beer (the route breweries would take now) early craft brewers wanted to provide new beer consumers with a simple, straightforward name for a beer slightly more complex than those they were used to drinking.

What to Expect

Sight: So get this, the Amber Ale is amber. If it were only that simple. It will actually range from a red-golden body to a deep red. Whoa.

Smell: The aroma should be pretty delicious, with a mixture of sweet caramel and fruity-piney hops.

Taste: As mentioned, the Amber Ale should exude a sublime balance. However, in reality, an Amber can fall pretty much anywhere on that malt-hop spectrum. Crystal malts are often used for Ambers, which produce a sweet, toffee flavor. The amount and type of hops will vary greatly from Amber to Amber, so expect anything from a slightly lingering bitter note to a pine tree flavor in your beer. And at an average 5-6% ABV, these balanced beers are pretty easy to put down.

Feel: Expect a medium body with medium carbonation. There shouldn’t be too much variation here, at least.

Amber Ales, we know you’re overshadowed by sexy beers like the ‘Smoked Black IPA’ or  the ‘Sour Green Apple Saison,’ but fear not. We’re going to drink as many of you as possible and get your boring-ass name out there! This should not be a divisive style, so don’t hesitate to try some this month on tap if you fear the overly sweet or the overly hoppy. The Amber Ale should please just about anyone, as long as its well-executed. Stay tuned for OH HEY THIS IS GREAT recommendations and OH GOD DO NOT CONSUME THIS recommendations.

Hopefully we’ll be avoiding bad amber beer like the kind that turned Buffy the Vampire Slayer and coeds into raging neanderthals in episode 4×05.

We’re on a quest to find the most balanced beer of all time that will become a lifer in our refridgerator. And the hunt starts….NOW!

Categories: Amber Ale | Leave a comment

TYIB Beer Tasting Extravaganza #1

To commemorate our one year of beer anniversary, TYIB held its very first–and very not last–beer tasting at Bar Great Harry. In order to delve into a discussion on the the stylistic nuances of beer, we reviewed two beers of three different styles. In a fight to the death type of situation, the reviewers pitted beer against beer, searching for the ultimate champion of the style.

that's right.

that’s right.

For this tasting, we explored the Black IPA, the Russian Imperial Stout, and the IPA. And the hangover (for some). The contenders were…

Yakima Glory, Victory Brewing Co.
There Will Be Black, Brooklyn Brewery
Titan IPA, Great Divide Brewing Co.
Hoppagedon, Napa Smith Brewery
Old Rasputin, North Coast Brewing Co.
Imperial Russian Stout, Stone Brewing Co.

cheers, all!

cheers, all!

The following reviews reflect the group’s opinions of each beer.

The Black IPAs

For our exploration of the Black IPA–a maltier sibling of the IPA–we reviewed Victory’s Yakima Glory and Brooklyn Brewery’s There Will Be Black, part of their Brewmaster’s series. Yakima Glory is named as such for the hops grown in the Yakima Valley in Pennsylvania.


Yakima Glory, Victory Brewing Co., 8.7% ABV


Sight: Dark brown, burnt amber body.

Smell: Sweet chocolate and caramel aromas are quickly balanced by a hoppy citrusy smell.

Taste: Like its smell, there is an initial sweet, malty flavor that is almost immediately overpowered by a hop attack. The last note is a piney, earthy flavor.

Overall: For the most part, the reviewers took a liking to Yakima Glory. One reviewer said it was “good for a cold winter night,” while another called it “fierce.” Fellow beer enthusiast Amanda noted that it while it fell short of what she would expect of a Black IPA, it was redeemably well-balanced.

 beeruse-copy (average score= 3.375)

There Will Be Black, Brooklyn Brewery, 7.5%


Sight: Deep purple-y black body. Much darker than the Yakima.

Smell: The dominant aromas are chocolate, coffee, cherry, and dirt.

Taste: Some reviewers commented that There Will Be Black has a considerably weaker flavor than the Yakima Glory. One reviewer said it tasted like cold carbonated coffee. Other flavors include cherry, bark, and maple. We all agreed that it tasted like a Decello milk chocolate covered cherry…you know, the cheap kind.

Overall: While Yakima Glory’s take on a Black IPA was that of balance, Brooklyn Brewery focused on infusing as much rich, malty flavors into their Black IPA as possible. While not a fan favorite, reviewers were intrigued by the fruity, smokey flavors of There Will Be Black.

 (average score= 3)


After much discussion, the group named Victory’s Yakima Glory the clear winner of this round. However, we did agree that Brooklyn’s There Will Be Black is a better example of the Black IPA. For an everyday drinking beer, we recommend picking up a six-pack of the deliciously balanced (and alcoholic) Yakima. If you’re looking to further your understanding of the Black IPA, give Brooklyn’s a try.



For our exploration of the IPA, we selected the only two IPAs on tap: Napa Smith’s Hopageddon (a double IPA) and Great Divide’s Titan Indian Pale Ale.


Titan IPA, Great Divide, 7.1% ABV


Sight: Clear chestnut/amber/golden body.

Smell: Some of the more creative descriptions of the evening were written about the smell of this beer. These include “grandma’s hard candy that falls out of your mouth” and “pizza dough cough drops.”

Taste: Again, there were some interesting adjectives associated with the flavor of this beer. Most agreed that it tastes like flavors found in a bar and a barn: there is a bit of a liquor, apple schnapps flavor with a grassy, hay taste.  One reviewer described the flavor like that of a starchy potato chip.

Overall: Titan is a complex, multi-faceted beer that reviewer Amanda called the “sexually ambiguous store clerk”  as well as a “golden mystery.” This IPA has an unusual fruity starch flavor that is certainly worth trying once. And probably only once.

beeruse-copy (average score= 3.66)

Hopageddon, Napa Smith, 9.2%


Sight: Cloudy dark golden body that looks like apple cider.

Smell: It smells like a breakfast of apple juice, cinnamon toast, and a fruity cereal.

Taste: Like it smells, this beer tastes like eating an overripe apple. There’s an lingering sweetness that balances the intense flowery hop flavor. Someone said it tasted like a cider with some hops.

Overall: For a double IPA dubbed Hopageddon, the group agreed that it was a dud. None of us were blown away by any sort of hops explosion that could usher in a new world. Napa Smith has here an odd double IPA that’s quite creamy for its style. Most reviewers appreciated the uniqueness of the beer, while others were simply confused and didn’t enjoy it (well, maybe just its high ABV).

beeruse-copy (average score= 3.5)


Both of the IPAs we reviewed were IPAs found off of the beaten path. Great Divide’s Titan is unique for an IPA and Napa Smith’s is the least hoppy and most fruity Double IPA of all time. While reviewers thought both were interesting enough, Titan IPA ends up living up to its name and comes out with the highest score in battle.


The Russian Imperial Stouts

For our exploration of the Russian Imperial Stout–a historic style emerging in the 18th century–we reviewed two of the best: North Coast’s iconic Old Rasputin and Stone’s Imperial Russian Stout.


Old Rasputin, North Coast Brewing, 9.0% ABV


Sight: Dark brown body with a small, creamy head that leaves a thick lacing as it travels down the glass.

Smell: Strong aromas of coffee, dark chocolate, and malts.

Taste: Reviewer Erica said it tastes like an espresso milkshake. Others described it as a german chocolate cake and a creamy chocolately dessert.

Overall: Surprisingly fluffy and airy, Old Rasputin was described as, pardon our French, “creamy as fuck.” Reviewer Amanda called it a “smooth journey through seduction” and that it was a “lovable” beer. Yeah, Rasputin, you creamy mystic you.

 (average score= 4)

Russian Imperial Stout, Stone Brewing, 10.5% ABV


Sight: It looks like oil, with a pitch black body and no head.

Smell: Reviewer Suzy said that it smelled like “a shot I would be uncomfortable taking.” That shot must be Jameson, because others described the smell as such. There is also a woody and chocolately aroma.

Taste: We agreed that Stone’s Stout tastes a helluva lot better than it smells. The dominant flavors are fresh coffee, mocha, and dark chocolate, with a faint cherry note.

Overall: By this point in the night, there was more yelling of adjectives and less taking of notes However, we did manage to get our hands on one reviewer’s notes that summed up this beer by saying that it was “powerful, complex, and commands respect.” Thanks, Amanda, for your expert documentation skills!

 (average score= 4.08)


This final face off was the most hotly debated of the night (hello, the scores were 4 and 4.08). For readers at home, Amanda came up with this analogy on the fly: Old Rasputin is the lovely wife, with its creaminess, soothing quality, and warmth, and Stone’s Imperial is the gorgeous mistress, with it’s silky, dark, and intoxicating nature  (literally…at 10%, this was the most alcoholic of the evening). So, what do you want? The lovely wife or the gorgeous mistress? Either way, you win. These two are are both spectacular Russian Imperials–debatably the best of the style. The end of the night was a bit hazy after drinking all of these high ABV ales, but if I correctly recall, Old Rasputin, our lovely wife, was the overall winner for its exceptional creaminess.

beer makes us smile. the end.

beer makes us smile. the end.

Concluding Remarks: So, beer is awesome. After a night of smelling, moderate-to-heavy drinking, and discussing these beers, I think all participants walked away with a renewed love of all things malts and hops. We would like to thank everyone who came out and made this event possible, as well as Bar Great Harry for pouring us a gazillion beers. Stay tuned for more tastings and events in the future!

Categories: India Pale Ale, Stout | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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