Tröegs Nugget Nectar

Beer: Nugget Nectar
Brewery: 
Tröegs Brewing Company
Style: Imperial Amber Ale
ABV: 7.5%

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

——–

OVERALL RATING:

BEERUSEBEERUSEBEERUSEBEERUSEBEERUSE

Sight: Crystal clear amber body with a small white head that quickly dissipates.

Smell: This might be the best smelling beer of all time, if you enjoy the smell of sweet, pungent, juicy, piney hops.

Flavor: I’ve started plenty of these “flavor” sections with “if only it tasted as good as it smelled” or “well, this tastes NOTHING like it smells.” This won’t be one of those reviews (except for the fact that I technically did start with those statements). Indeed, this beer tastes like a big serving of sweet, pungent, juicy, piney hops. As insanely hoppy as this beer is, it is almost equally balanced with a caramel sweetness. There is nothing else on the planet like this beer.

Feel: Medium body with moderate carbonation.

Concluding Remark: Depending on your level of beer geek, you might be aware that Tröegs’ Nugget Nectar has a cult following. You, like myself, might be the high superior wizard of that cult. If so, there’s no need to keep reading; you already know of the magical powers that this beers possesses. And by magical powers, I mean the power of tasting like rainbows, world peace, and waterfalls. If you are not yet acquainted with the holiness of Nugget Nectar, ignore every recommendation I have ever written in CAPITALS on this site. What I’m about to say is the only truth that matters: Tröegs, a microbrewery out of Hershey, Pennsylvania, makes the best beer in the United States (well, the best beer that is readily available on the East Coast in the early winter months).

praising the lord of Nugget.

Nugget Nectar, regardless of how long it sits on your bedroom floor as you painfully wait to review it, tastes like the moment its  hops and barley were first plucked from their hallowed grounds–fresh and heavenly. When people ask, “if you could only drink one beer for the rest of your life, what would it be,” I answer Nugget Nectar nine times out of ten.*

*If it happens to be a hot day, sometimes I get nostalgic for drinking fresh pilsners in snowy Prague and might say Pilsner Urquell. Or, if it happens to be Oktoberfest season, I might answer Hofbrau’s Oktoberfest. Or, if I’m craving something dark and sweet at that moment…NO, I will still pick Nugget Nectar. Clearly, the only things that trumps Nugget are nostalgic travel memories.

ANYWAYS. I don’t know what else I can say about the world’s most perfect beer, other than that it is the world’s most perfect beer. It is the world’s most perfect beer.

the most beautiful sight in all of the land.

The key ingredients to perfection, in you case you haven’t read it in a Buzzfeed list or in Lifestyle yoga mat tips for the freelancer biannual zine, are: Pilsner malts, Vienna malts, Munich malts, Nugget hops, Warrior hops, Tomahawk hops, Simcoe hops, and Palisade hops.

You’ll be able to find Nugget Nectar in stores for the next few weeks, so get it while supplies last (they usually do not). Even better, try to find it on tap. I had the incredible fortune of finding it at a new pizza place in DC last year, and I pretty much had a flavorgasm while eating dinner with my father. Awkward.

malthop

We started  this two-month journey through the world of Amber (and Red) Ales with Tröegs’ HopBack Amber Ale, and we end with Tröegs’ Nugget Nectar, which Tröegs says is the HopBack “intensified…to create an explosive hop experience.” Well done, Tröegs. Take a nearly perfect beer and make it unquestionably perfect; most would settle on just great enough.  Dareisay that Tröegs might have cornered the market on the Amber Ale. And I’m fine with that.

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

Terrapin Big Hoppy Monster

Beer: Big Hoppy Monster
Brewery:
 Terrapin Beer Company
Style: Imperial Red Ale
ABV: 9.1%

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

——–

OVERALL RATING:

BEERUSEBEERUSEBEERUSE

Sight: Opaque, muddy brown body with a tiny, frothy head.

Smell: This is one of those beers that you can smell across a room. Despite its label, this Red Ale smells alarmingly akin to a Belgian Dubbel Ale, with its sugary, syrupy aroma with dried and rotting fruits of the raisin, prune, and fig variety. There is also a hint of port and caramelized caramel. So, what I’m saying is that this beer smells sweet.

Flavor: Well, this isn’t any Red Ale I recognize. Instead, it tastes like some sort of Porter-Belgian hybrid. The prominent flavors are bakers chocolate, burnt coffee, caramel, and figs. There is a bite from the high ABV and a subdued hop flavor–shocking, given it’s name (Big Hoppy Monster).

Feel: Medium, oily  body with moderate carbonation.

Concluding Remark: This 2 variations (Red and Amber) on 1 style (Amber) in 2 months (January & February) deal should end with an alcoholic bang. Terrapin’s Big Hoppy Monster, an oak-aged Imperial Red Ale, certainly fits that bill at 9.1% ABV. However, a Red Ale–a balanced ale that leans slightly in the hops direction–this is not. Perhaps Terrapin mislabeled this bottle? Instead of a bright, well-hopped ale, Big HOPPY Monster instead tastes like a highly alcoholic glass of dirt. The bakers chocolate paired with burnt coffee and whatever hops Terrapin used translates to the flavor of earth. Not EARTHY flavor, but literally, the taste of soil. It must be noted, though, that the OAK-AGED Big Hoppy Monster is different than the regular Big Hoppy Monster. An ale that is oak-aged will be sweeter and syrupy-er than it would be no-oak. I’d like to think that the Big Hoppy Monster actually tastes like a Red Ale.

At 9.1%, this beer has the highest ABV of the month. For that, I will forgive Terrapin for not serving a classical Red Ale. There is no such thing as a 9.1% classical Red Ale. While I’m missing the ‘Hoppy’ in Big Hoppy Monster, Terrapin delivers on the ‘Big’ and ‘Monster’ in Big Hoppy Monster. Despite the high ABV, it’s highly drinkable. However,  if you do find yourself with a bottle of this in hand, please remember that it is not characteristic of a Red Ale.

Stay tuned…we will be reviewing the BEST AMBER ALE AND BEER OF ALL TIME this weekend and announcing next month’s style on Monday!

malthop

Categories: Amber Ale, Red Ale | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Flying Fish Red Fish

Beer: Red Fish
Brewery:
 Flying Fish Brewing Company
Style: American Red Ale
ABV: 7.0%

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

——–

OVERALL RATING:

BEERUSEBEERUSEBEERUSEbeeruse-copy

Sight: Deep copper body with a huge foamy beige head. Like the Shark Attack, Red Fish is brimming with yeast particulates. Ick. It looks like there’s a gang of hyperactive plankton in there.

Smell: The nose on this ale is impressively complex. Like My Bloody Valentine, there are wafts of juicy, citrus hops followed by a sweet milk chocolate malt aroma.

Flavor: This is one snappy fish. There is an overpowering bitterness from a grapefruit flavor that is only somewhat balanced by a burnt, bakers chocolate taste from the malts. As I keep drinking it, this bizarre grapefruit chocolate combination starts to make sense.

Feel: Medium body with intense carbonation.

Concluding Remark: Shark Attack, Red Fish…what is it about Red Ales that screams “I’M A SEA CREATURE”?  I’m comfortable letting that provocative question disappear into the deep blue sea. Though, the more I drink Red Fish, the more it begins to taste like a bitter, salty gulp of ocean water. Flying Fish douses their Red Ale with three types of hops:  Chinook, Columbus, and Cascade. The Cascade provides that grapefruit citrus flavor, while the salty, earthy  taste is attributed to the Chinook and Columbus hops. All in all, this is not for those who fear a turbulent tsunami of bitter hops. An intense ale, East Coast Flying Fish from New Jersey does a decent West Coast-style Red Ale. Bravo, dudes.

malthop

Categories: Amber Ale, Red Ale | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Port Brewing Shark Attack

Beer: Shark Attack
Brewery:
 Port Brewing Brewing Company
Style: Imperial Red Ale
ABV: 9.0%

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

——–

OVERALL RATING:

BEERUSEBEERUSEBEERUSE

Sight: This is as murky as that pond you feared swimming in when you were a kid. It has a mahogany body with a huge sculptural head that leaves a thick lacing as it goes down the glass. An unsettling amount of yeast particulates hang in suspension.

Smell: The aroma is defined by the overwhelming smell of rubbing alcohol and bottom shelf liquor.

Flavor: Thankfully, the taste isn’t as off putting as its torturous smell. The flavors are an astringent bitterness from the hops. Hmm, that’s about it.

Feel: Medium body with tons of carbonation and a slight burning feeling from the high ABV.

Concluding Remark: Well, Port Brewing promises a “lethal amount of hops” that are still supposedly balanced by a “boat load of crystal malt.” The former is certainly true, though the latter…not so much. Eh. Overall, Port Brewing’s Shark Attack is more like a flounder bite. I’m pretty ambivalent about this beer.

malthop

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

AleSmith My Bloody Valentine Ale

Beer: My Bloody Valentine Ale
Brewery:
 AleSmith Brewing Company
Style: American Amber Ale
ABV: 6.66%

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

——–

OVERALL RATING:

BEERUSEBEERUSEBEERUSEBEERUSEbeeruse-copy

Sight: Crimson, dried blood colored body with a huge sticky, foaming head.

Smell: This smells like hops incarnate. I would even go as far to say that this is one of the most aromatic and floral smelling beers ever. If you continue to sniff at it–and you might even if you’re not a weirdo beer smeller like me–you will start getting wafts of milk chocolate of the Russell Stover variety. Smarmy doily box included.

Flavor: The smell sets you up to think that you’re about to taste one of the hoppiest beers of all time. Sadly for some and a wave of relief for others, you’re in for a surprise. The initial flavor is a sugary caramel taste. Just as you become accustomed to that pleasant flavor, there is a sharp floral hop taste that beats that sugar flavor to a bloody pulp. At that very moment, a cheap Valentine’s Day chocolate flavor kicks in until a final wave of  bitter hops dropkicks you in the throat . The chocolate and hops flavors bicker for awhile, each trying to have the final word, um, taste. In the end, just like a breakup and the end of the good beer, there is no winner. Instead, all that you’re left with is the memory of what was and you’re stuck trying to make sense of the last six months, I mean, six minutes.  There is no resolve because there is nothing to hold on to…just a feeling, uh, I mean, taste.

Feel: Smooth, full body with moderate carbonation.

Concluding Remark: My Bloody Valentine is the wondrous San Diego-based AleSmith’s seasonal beer. Apparently this is a cousin of their  Evil Dead Red Ale. Could this brewery be anymore amazemo? If My Bloody Valentine tastes like hops + chocolate, I’m morbidly curious what  _____ + hops equals Evil Dead Red.

Let me just say, this 6.66% ale is phenomenal. This is the first time I’ve tried an ale this hoppy that also has a striking chocolate flavor. While My Blood Valentine has the hop profile of an Amber/Red Ale, as you keep drinking it, it begins to acquire caramel, raspberry, and cherry flavors. I do believe that this is one of the more unique beers I have tried.

My Bloody Valentine Ale is axing its way into my heart.

Regardless of its overall bizarreness, this is one hella good beer; there are no two ways around that. It’s a one way ticket in the “hell yes” direction. Sadly, those on the East Coast won’t be able to find this beer–I purchased it during a recent stint on the West Coast. HOWEVER. I have one more bottle, and in the spirit of My Blood Valentine’s Day, I am willing to share it. Inquire within. Especially if you are Kevin Shields. Extra especially if you are Kevin Shields ca. 1990.

ks, b mine, pls.

ks, b mine, pls.

Just like when we all queued  up the Dark Side of the Moon to the Wizard of Oz in college, if you drink My Bloody Valentine to Loveless from start to end, you will reach a slightly euphoric state. So, this Valentine’s Day, instead of looking for a valentine at your local bar at 11:58pm, pick up My Bloody Valentine and listen to My Bloody Valentine. And if that’s not possible because you don’t live in California and your Loveless CD is scratched beyond all repair just like your last relationship, just drink a beer. The end. Happy bloody Valentine’s Day.
Categories: Amber Ale, Red Ale | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Lavery Brewing Imperial Red Ale

Beer: Imperial Red Ale
Brewery:
 Lavery Brewing Company
Style: American Amber Ale
ABV: 8.2%

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

——–

OVERALL RATING:

BEERUSEBEERUSEBEERUSEbeer 75

Sight: Putting the red in red ale, the body is an opaque deep garnet with a silky beige head.

Smell: I literally had to snort this beer to pick up any scent (it’s not gross or weird I swear). After doing so, I can assuredly say that there’s a metallic scent that blankets the grassy, slightly medicinal hop and sweet french toast malt aromas. Darn you, lingering metallic scent!

Flavor: The hops manifest in the form of a feeling (a very sharp feeling) instead of developing a distinguishable flavor. The malts are immediately tamed by this sharp feeling, but are rather complex if you can get past the bitterness. It begins to taste like root beer doused with herbal hops. There’s an unexpected–and welcomed–bark-like taste with that minty, cooling feeling of a root or birch beer.

Feel: Medium body with an alarming amount of carbonation. Eek, the back of my throat! It tickles!

Concluding Remark: So this is when I announce that I am going to quickly transition to Red Ales for the last two weeks of this chilly month. This mid-month shake-up was inspired by the dearth of Amber Ale options in the NY/NJ area, as well as the observation that the term ‘Red Ale’ seems to be interchangeable with ‘Amber Ale.’ Trust me, I don’t like it either. Lavery Brewing Company from Erie, PA provides us with the perfect moniker-challeneged beer to get the last half of this month started. Their Imperial Red Ale, a self-proclaimed Amber Ale, certainly has some Amber characteristics. Which is it, Lavery, an Amber or a Red? And I guess more importantly, what IS a Red Ale and how does it differ from an Amber?

[Oh and to make style matters even more confusing, Lavery also calls the Imperial Red Ale–or IRA –an “Irish Red” ale (har, har), which is neither an Amber Ale or a Red Ale. OY!]

After extensive consultation with the beer-gods-that-be, a Red Ale is redder than an Amber Ale. ENLIGHTENMENT ATTAINED! The additional redness is achieved by using different grains. However, it would seem, begrudgingly, that even the Beer Judge Certification Program (or BJCP) definition of Amber Ale and Red Ale are synonymous.

one of the many beer-gods-that-be.

one of the many beer-gods-that-be.

And of course, what we have here is an IMPERIAL Red/Amber Ale. Beer-gods-that-be proclaim that an Imperial Red/Amber should be able to fight an Imperial IPA head-to-head in the hops category and outperforms the IPA in the malt category. So how does Lavery’s Imperial Red Ae measure up? As this sits, it begins to taste more like birch beer in a really surprising and delicious way. Oh, and at 8.2%, the alcohol is nearly undetectable. If you’re looking for a hoppy ale that is slightly different than those to which you’re accustomed, I definitely recommend checking out Lavery’s IRA ASAP.

For the record, there is nothing Irish about this ale despite its acronym. An Irish Red Ale is generally lightly hopped with a sweet and dry roasted malt flavor. To their credit, they do call it an “Irish beer gone incognito.”

OH STYLES YOU SO CRAZY. So, uh, with that….welcome to the rest of February, or RED ALE HALF MONTH.

malthop

Categories: Amber Ale, Red Ale | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Big Muddy Brewing Saluki Dunkeldog

Beer: Saluki Dunkeldog Dark Amber Beer
Brewery:
 Big Muddy Brewing
Style: American Amber Ale
ABV: 5.4%

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

——–

OVERALL RATING:

BEERUSEBEERUSEbeeruse-copy

Sight: Murky, dark amber body with a thick beige head that maintains its buoyancy.

Smell: Well, this doesn’t smell like any beer I’ve smelled before. There’s a very unique malt character that I can’t quite recognize. It reeks of liquor, gasoline, rotten fruit, and salt. And it makes my nose itch. Ugh, I really don’t want to try this…

Flavor: Thankfully it’s not as awful as it smells. It has smoked meat and pumpernickel bread flavors. Actually, it kind of tastes like dumping a German dinner in a blender and serving it as a smoothie.

Feel: Thin with soft carbonation. It feels…fluffy…if you can try to imagine what that would feel like.

Concluding Remark: Next up is another hybrid Amber. Big Muddy Brewing attempts to serve us an Amber Ale-German Dunkel fusion. What SHOULD that translate into? My guess would be a heavy-ish, dark wheat beer with a bright hop flavor to balance the intense wheat taste. Instead, Saluki Dunkeldog is composed of barley and dark wheat flavors that are interspersed with a burnt caramel taste. After TRYING to finish this odd 750 ml, all I’m left with is a big muddy malt mess on my tongue. It’s certainly not undrinkable, but it is downright bizarre and I can’t imagine too many of my friends enjoying this. At the end of the bottle, it’s just kind of salty and weird. PASS.

I always hate giving a somewhat scathing review of a beer from a brewery that produces some actual great beers. So, while I recommend never ever taking home a Saluki Dunkeldog, you CAN go ahead and purchase their Big Muddy Monster. It’s probably the best Brown Ale/IPA fusion (if not one of the only) and an homage to a cryptid.

malthop

Categories: Amber Ale | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Flying Fish ESB Amber Ale

Beer: ESB Amber Ale
Brewery:
 Flying Fish Brewing Company
Style: American Amber Ale
ABV: 5.5%

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

——–

OVERALL RATING:

BEERUSEBEERUSEBEERUSE

Sight: Clear honey colored body with inch of a head that fizzles down to nothingness.

Smell: After dipping my nose into the glass, I’m reminded of nights drinking in German beer gardens. There is an initial Bavarian pretzel smell, which is quickly overpowered by a slightly sweet, astringent smell. No bueno. Tempting fate, I went in for one last sniff, and the lasting memory is rotting apple. For the chemists out there, this aroma is caused by acetaldehyde–a chemical produced during the yeast to booze conversion.

Flavor: My hopes of drinking a Bavarian pretzel were smashed upon first sip. Instead, the muddied flavors in this beer are corn, white toast, syrupy caramel, and pinch of grapefruit hops. If there wasn’t that a brightness from the citrus flavor, this beer would’ve been an incredible let down.

Feel: Thinnish body with moderate carbonation.

Concluding Remark: Well, to start, this beer isn’t a straight Amber Ale as its name implies. ESB Amber? Is that a thing? Should it be a thing? Well, it’s a thing (apparently). ESB–or Extra Special Bitter–is a slightly more alcoholic English-style pale ale. Despite it’s misleading name, ESBs are actually quite balanced…not so much bitter. As Amber Ales also usually strive for balance, this beer should be doubly balanced.

And the result of this hybrid? Well, it doesn’t taste like an Amber. Absent are the robust hops flavors, which are replaced with a pretty boring, generic English malt taste. This ale is mostly ESB, with little Amber representation. While wholly drinkable, there’s a whole lot of false advertising going on here.

For the record, Flying Fish describes this as a “classic British extra special bitter made fresh with an American slant.” I really don’t buy the American slant, but this is a decent American interpretation of a British classic. And, for another record, this is not an Amber Ale.

malthop

Categories: Amber Ale | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Crazy Mountain Amber Ale

Beer: Amber Ale
Brewery:
 Crazy Mountain Brewing Company
Style: American Amber Ale
ABV: 5.25%

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Serving Style: Can
Drinking Establishment: Broomfield, Colorado
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

——–

OVERALL RATING:

BEERUSEBEERUSEBEERUSEBEERUSE

Sight: Clear dark amber body with a thick, bubbly golden meringue-like head.

Smell: It smells like being surrounded by a forest of conifers. According to a Colorado resident, it is reminiscent of an autumn day in Vail.

Flavor: The first sip is almost off-puttingly bitter. However, it quickly mellows out to a super balanced sweet caramel and bright grapefruit taste. While that combination might sound atrocious, it’s actually quite delicious.

Feel: It’s a little thin, a little oily, and wildly carbonated.

Concluding Remark: Crazy Mountain Brewing Company produces a slew of beers in the beautiful Vail Valley, Colorado. While New Belgium’s Fat Tire Amber Ale is largely modeled after European precedents, Crazy Mountain’s Amber is an homage to the fresh ingredients of the region. Brewed in a high altitude with fresh mountain water, Crazy Mountain uses tons of West Coast hops–the ever so floral and citrusy Cascade and the ever so less interesting Centennial. The result is a crisp, refreshing Amber Ale. However, this beer is not for the hop-faint of heart. It’s bold, flavorful, and tastes like what I imagine a hike through the Vail Valley would taste like if you could taste a hike.

malthop

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

New Belgium Fat Tire

Beer: Fat Tire Amber Ale
Brewery:
 New Belgium Brewing Company
Style: American Amber Ale
ABV: 5.2%

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Serving Style: Bottle
Drinking Establishment: Broomfield, Colorado
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

——–

OVERALL RATING:

BEERUSEBEERUSEBEERUSEbeeruse-copy

Sight: Crystal clear golden body with a frothy white head.

Smell: Sweet, apple-cinnamon aroma with a slightly metallic smell.

Flavor: Bread and toast malt flavor that is subtly balanced with some mellow hops.

Feel: Thin, creamy body with intense carbonation.

Concluding Remark: New Belgium Brewing Company produced the first Fat Tire Amber Ale over 20 years ago. Known for their European-style beers, New Belgium has here a pleasantly balanced Amber Ale. Missing are the in-your-face hop flavors that dominate many beers of this style. Instead, Fat Tire tastes like a German lager crossed with an English Brown Ale. This comes as no shock, as the main malt is the Munich malt (star of the German lager) and the hops are those often used in English-style ales (Williamette, Golding, and Target). The result is a well-balanced Amber Ale that lacks the dynamism of its tastier peers, but is nevertheless a solid ale for any evening.

malthop
Categories: Amber Ale | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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