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Unibroue Trois Pistoles. Beer Makes Me Smarter.

College is a place for higher learning and expanding your perception of the world around you.  Young minds leave universities enlightened and ready to face the challenges of the 21st century.  Finals week, term papers, grad school, and community involvement all are synonymous with college.  However, so are beer bongs, beer pong, keg races and countless other max-quantity beer drinking activities one is exposed to while attending college.  This type of beer drinking behavior is not only irresponsible and dangerous, it does nothing to enlighten or expand your cognizance.

Beer makes you dumber.

On the other hand there is the craft beer market.  It is chalk-full of colorful, full-flavored, hard to pronounce brews from every single corner of the globe.  As one begins to appreciate craft beer they voluntarily begin to research and read and seek out beer information.  One will learn about chemistry, biology, history, culture, cooking, food pairing, and language as they delve deeper into the world of craft beer.  Imagine how enlightened a group of 21-year olds could be after taking a 16 week course on the history of Belgian beer or volunteering at a local brewpub.  Believe me, college ears perk up when a professor drops the “B word” in class.

Beer makes you smarter.

Sitting down to drink 750 ml of beer and never caring if you catch a buzz is what makes craft beer so great.  I preach over and over on Beer Epiphany how it’s all about the experience.  Researching a beer’s name or origin is part of the experience I love to bring to my readers with each and every review.

Trois Pistoles from Canadian brewery Unibroue had me scouring the internet looking up French definitions and the history of a 500 year old coin.  At first glance the label art is typical Unibroue “Gothic” art.  Trois Pistoles pictures a three towered brick building with a black Pegasus looming in the stormy sky above.  Further research led me to a little town called Trois Pistoles within the Bas-Saint-Laurent region of Quebec, Canada.  This town is supposedly named after a silver goblet worth three “pistole” coins.  I also came across a not so ominous photo of the town of Trois Pistoles with a familiar building looming over the Saint Laurence River.  Why is this beer named after this small village in Canada?  And why does it feature dark imagery of the Coiffure Notre Dame?  If a could read French I might be able to tell you more, but for now let’s just say that I’m smarter after trying to figure out whats going on  with Trois Pistoles/ label art.

REVIEW

Beer: Trois Pistoles

Brewer: Unibroue, Qubuec, Canada

Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

ABV: 9%

Serving: 750 ml bottle, Michelob snifter glass

Loosen the cage, pop the cork and what escapes into my Michelob Celebrate snifter glass is a wonderfully dark purple brew with just the slightest hints of red and brown.  The color reminds me of dark plum skin.  The head is medium-sized and off-white in color.  Lacing is nominal.

Up your nasal cavity comes lots of grape and dark fruit.  Trois Pistoles actually borders on smelling like wine or a strong grape juice.  Also in the aroma are earthy notes, alcohol, blueberry, and oak.  For 9% ABV Unibroue has created quite a refreshing aroma here.  It reminds me of a fresh fruit salad.

It’s time to stop wondering is this is actually a bottle of grape juice start tasting.  In the beginning there is a bite of alcohol, but that quickly blends into a medley of dark fruits, red grapes, berries, and wine.  At the back end of the swallow you might find some sweet chocolate, alcohol, and just the slightest bit of floral hop bitterness, but its hardly noticeable. Leaving Trois Pistoles sit in the glass awhile longer brings the alcohol to center stage, but it still retains it’s refreshing grape flavors.

The mouthfeel is medium, drying, and fairly alcoholic.  It wasn’t warming my throat or stomach, but the 9% ABV isn’t hibernating.  The finish is medium, dry, and only a tad bitter.  This beer is very drinkable for a bold style, although many Belgians are remarkably drinkable despite their complex flavors and high alcohol by volume.

Take you time, get out the snifter, and enjoy all 750 milliliters of Unibroue’s Trois Pistoles.  I wasn’t expecting so much grape flavor and aroma, but it fits nicely and makes this big beer quite refreshing.

Score: 83/100

Chance of Craft Beer Epiphany: 80%

With similarities to grape juice and red wine this beer might win over craft beer newbies and wine afficionados alike.  Although, being quite ill-versed in vino I am not at liberty to make comparisons beyond “grapes and wine.” There are no harsh hop aromas or spirit level alcohol to contend with here.  Trois Pistoles is a fruit Belgian Dark Ale that I wouldn’t hesitate serving to anyone looking to broaden their beer horizons.  I’d also like to hear what wine lovers would have to say about the grape characteristic imparted upon this brew.

LINKS

Unibroue

Beeradvocate

Ratebeer

BJCP: Belgian Strong Dark Ale Style Guidelines

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“You Can Have Any Beer You Want. As Long As Its A Corona”

I doubt anyone reading this has enjoyed craft beer for 100% of their beer-drinking life. Where did most of us begin? Macros. They are cheap, lack flavor, and are meant to be drank cold…very cold.

Eventhough we all have graduated on to bigger, better, and more expensive forms of malted grain there is still somethig alluring about the golden liquid that started it all. Plus, with a high majority of the human population still drinking solely from the big brewers there is attention to be paid.

My dirty little secret is Corona Extra with the obligatory lime bobbing around. It was the first beer to really capture my attention. The lime wedge added enough (artificial) flavor to keep me clammoring for more. I was used to forcing down kegged Keystone and the “Champagne of Beers” so this citrusy import had me hooked from the get-go.

Let’s be honest. Who hasn’t dreamt of starring in the real-life version of a Corona commercial. With their serene beaches and buckets of ice cold beer within arms reach it’s hard to ignore the imagery that is released as you pry off the cap and slip in the lime. It’s marketing at it’s best, but it speaks to the vacation-starvation in all of us. Even with bottles of Kentucky Breakfast Stout and Hopslam in my cellar nothing seemed to fit “enchilada night” quite like Corona Extra.

“La Cerveza Mas Fina” comes in a clear bottle primed for light degredation. It weighs in at 4.6% ABV and is brewed by Cerveceria Modelo of Mexico. It’s a pale golden yellow and witbout the lime gives off metallic and straw aromas. With the lime it has a lime and straw aroma. The flavor sans lime is metallic, watery, and adjuncty while the lime adds a pleasant citrus spark. Carbonation is lively and even more so with the lime’s acidity. Watery and crisp it refreshes on a hot day or a chilly enchilada themed evening.

Corona Extra is special not for it’s complex aroma or exclusivity, but for the special place it holds in my heart from a time when I’d never even heard of craft beer. In a way it was my first true “beer epiphany” by showing me that some beer could actually be enjoyed outside of a plastic funnel. Had I not enjoyed Corona so much you may not find me where I am today blogging about the wonderful world of craft beer.
In the words of Dom in “The Fast and the Furious,” “You can have any beer you like…as long as it’s a Corona.” Lucky for us there are many more choices.

Score: 50/100

Chance of Craft Beer Epiphany: 45%

This isn’t craft beer, and it isn’t flavorful, but it just might be enough to spark ones pursuit for other beer. Even with a cellar full of IPAs and Imperial Stouts there are some nights where I just feel like a Corona. We all have a dirty little secret and mine’s Corona.

Beer Run. Kentucky Breakfast Stout has arrived!

One Heck of A Beer Run!

After weeks of anticipation I was able to snag two bottles of Founder’s Kentucky Breakfast Stout from my local beer store. Also in this beer run I grabbed one bottle of 8 different Mikkeller Single Hop IPA’s and a bottle of Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel Peche Mortel. Reviews coming soon!

Reviews on deck:

Unibroue Trois Pistoles

Southern Tier Raspberry Porter

Michelob Wheat Beer Sample Pack

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. Don’t worry though, Beer Epiphany is coming back strong!

Hop Rainbow

Review: Sierra Nevada Kellerweis. Craft Beer Impulse Buy.

“I feel like a beer.” I utter these words many times a day. Most of the time it’s while I’m at work and therefore, completely unable to partake in my most passionate of pastimes. However, when I’m arriving home from work or on my way to a friends house I many times still “feel like a beer.” Now I am in the position to make a pit stop and pick up something to enjoy, which, 99 times out of 100 is something I’ve never tried before. I have a fridge and “cellar” full of barrel-aged brews, hop bombs, and session beers, but I can feel that this isn’t their time to shine. This is when I make a craft beer impulse buy. I have no reason to buy more beer. Except, well, to have more beer. Picking up a six pack on impulse allows me to enjoy a few without the pressure of taking detailed tasting notes.

One of my most recent craft beer impulse purchases was a six-pack of Sierra Nevada Kellerweis. This beer is brewed in the style of a hefeweizen and is one of Sierra Nevada’s year-round releases. It should be fairly easy to find sitting alongside their flagship Pale Ale on store shelves. According to the brewery Kellerweis is brewed using open fermention, and is one of the only American Hefeweizens brewed using this method. A little research on open fermentation reveals this is beneficial to the formation of esters within the finished product.  Kellerweis weighs in at just 4.8% ABV and 15 IBU.  These stats make for an excellent light, refreshing, session ale.

Beer: Kellerweis

Brewer: Sierra Nevada Brewing Company; Chico, CA

Style: Hefeweizen

ABV: 4.8%

IBU: 15

Malt: Two-row Pale, Wheat, Munich

Hops: Perle or Sterling, Bittering

REVIEW

Kellerweis pours a glowing cloudy yellow into my glass. It reminds me of when the sun is hidden behind a large cumulus cloud. The head is tall and white, but dissipates quickly leaving traces of sticky lace. The bottle suggest pouring 2/3 of the brew then giving a swirl to collect the yeast sediment and finishing the pour. The first 2/3 pours crystal clear, and the last 1/3 was cloudy as an Illinois Halloween.

The aroma is a pleasant bouquet of flowers, vanilla, wheat, yeast, orange, and some spice. Everything about the way this beer smells screams “refreshing”. A hot summer day would compliment this beer perfectly. Yes, I said the day would compliment the beer…not the other way around.

The flavor is mostly wheat, citrus, and vanilla. The back half has the tiniest bit of grassy bitterness, but it acts nicely as a balancing quality.

In the mouth it is very light and fairly watery as well. The carbonation is nothing but a tingle on the tongue and it goes down smoothe and refreshing. The wheat malt helps to really smooth this one out. At 4.8% ABV this is a session beer if I’ve ever seen one, and I hope to see myself putting away a few of these on a hot day this coming summer. That is of course, if I break down and purchase a beer twice so closely together.

Overall, it’s a strong interpretation of a hefeweizen, very drinkable, refreshing, and has enough balance to stay away from becoming too sweet.

SCORE: 75/100

Chance of Craft Beer Epiphany: 95%

Hefeweizens are the perfect style of beer to introduce a newbie to beer with flavor. Some of the key flavor and aroma compents are: clove, banana, citrus, wheat, and vanilla. These are all welcoming characteristics that would easily allow someone to get used to actual flavor.  I have a dear friend who always tries the latest brew I’m drinking, but most turn her palate off.  Sierra Nevada Kellerweis did the opposite.  It was actually her very own craft beer epiphany.  So, the next time someone is raving about Blue Moon or Golden Wheat kindly remind them they are still drinking a macro and give them a true hefeweizen.

LINKS

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Beeradvocate

Ratebeer

BJCP Style Sheet

Beernews.org Press Release

Did Someone Remember to Turn Off the Kiln? Rogue XS Russian Imperial Stout Review.

Think back to your family vacations as a child. Or even to the ones you take now with your spouse and children. Odds are you have heard the phrase “Did we remember to turn off/shut/unplug/lock insert object A?” This usually creates a frenzied mental checklist resulting in a half-hearted “Um, yeah. I think checked that before we left.” The vacation goes off without a hitch (haha, yeah I just assumed vacations go off without hitches…) and when you return your home has not been burglarized or burnt down. Lucky you!

So what in the heck does this have to do with my most recent beer indulgence, Rogue Ale’s XS Russian Imperial Stout? It seems that during the course of brewing the Lord of all dark beers someone took a vacay and left the kiln on whilst the Great Western, Harrington & Klages, Hugh Baird XLT-80, Black, Munich, Chocolate Malts and rolled oats were getting their warm air on. This stuff tastes burnt!

Now, I review each beer on it’s own merits. I’m not a style freak; As a matter of fact I encourage new styles and inventive interpretations of styles. However, when it comes to a big bad Russian Imperial I do expect a few things: Dark color, roasty aromas, and a delicate balance of powerful dark malt flavors.

Dark flavor. Check. Roasty, coffee aroma. Check. Flavor…um…we’ll get to that in the review.

I’m not sure what the “XS” stands for in the six Rogue brews that carry the moniker, but five of the six have the word “imperial” in the title. So, these are the biggest and baddest. The XS Russian Imperial Stout uses the aforementioned malts, Willamette, Cascade, and Chinook hops, two “secret ingredients” (I’m guessing one of these is the black stuff that gets stuck to the side of a way overcooked bag of popcorn), plus water and yeast.

BEER

Beer: XS Russian Imperial Stout

Brewer: Rogue Brewing, Oregon

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

ABV: 11%

IBU: 88

Serving: 7 oz. bottle, Snifter Glass

REVIEW

Rogue XS Russian Imperial Stout pours very black into my Michelob Celebrate snifter glass. It appears to be very thick and has a dark brown head that sits tight on top trapping the aroma. Even as you tip the glass no color comes through at the edges.

The aroma on this one consists of coffee, roasted malt, and a surprisingly large dose of hops. Also in the nose are chocolate, nuts, and alcohol. The high level of roast and hops is an odd combination that I’m enjoying quite a bit. I know that the IBUs of Imperial Stouts are high to help balance out the powerful malt character, but they’re rarely an active participant in aroma or flavor. These 88 IBUs are quite noticeable.

Up to this point things are going great. This is a supermodel of a beer and as aromatic as a stout can come. Once you take your first sip of this beer things take a drastic turn. At first it is a subtle balance of roasted malt and a teensy-weensy bit of hop. Then this sort of blackened popcorn flavor creeps in and takes hold of the profile. The flavor of Rogue XS Russian Imperial Stout is as bitter and burnt as they come. It is even reminiscent of charcoal. Wheres the chocolate? Wheres the coffee that tickled my nasal cavity? Swig after swig I gave this one another chance. “Let it warm up a bit” I pleaded to myself each time. It didn’t matter. The character becomes a tiny bit more balanced, but the dominating flavor here is burnt, hyper-roasted malt.

I was left smacking my lips in disgust as the long, bitter finish reminded me of the time I crunched a piece of popcorn that was entirely black. The thick body and low carbonation are standard Imperial Stout fare as is the warming from the 11% ABV.

So, Rogue Ales with their vast selection of brews, ultra-informative website, and good beer pedigree fall short here. XS Russian Imperial Stout feels like someone forgot to unplug the kiln before pulling out of their driveway for an 8-day vacation. $6 and 7 ounces later I’m left scratching my head as to what they were going for here. Perhaps this is exactly what they intended and my palate just isn’t tuned for this. To each their own, and I respect each and every beer that comes out of any brewery. Unfortunately, I can faithfully say that this is the last Rogue XS Russian Imperial Stout I will ever have.

SCORE: 43/100

**In order to better demonstrate how I feel a beer performs overall I have ditched the 5-category system for a single x/100 score. I was finding that many of my reviews were not being best represented by 5.0 scale. The new scale will allow me to rate the beer with a wider number range better showcasing my true feelings and not succumbing to mathemathical law.**

Chance of Craft Beer Epiphany: 25%

I’m in the minority of people when I say that I prefer many things on the dark side. Burnt popcorn? Fill me a bowl as long as they aren’t 100% burnt. Those extra crunchy french fries that got stuck in the oil for weeks and then escaped Nemo-style into my fry container? I’ll take a whole sack please. However, I find that the majority of people will quickly denounce all things burnt or over-cooked. So, it is with great confidence that I predict few people will be turned on to craft beer thanks to Rogue XS Russian Imperial Stout. The burnt, bitter qualities will send people running for their heavenly pale lagers. Give them a different Rogue and then see what they say.

LINKS

Beeradvocate

Ratebeer

Rogue Ales

Beer Drinker Down! Modern Warfare 2 and Beer Blogging Do Not Mix.

Modern Warfare 2 is an awesome, addicting, time-suck of a game.  You may have notice the frequency of my posts has been reduced as of late.  This is due to the awesomeness that is online multiplayer for Modern Warfare 2.  I could (and admittedly) have spent hours upon hours playing Modern Warfare 2 online for my Playstation 3.  I’m a big fan of “Domination” mode where you must capture and hold three flag locations.  If any of my devoted Beer Epiphany readers play Modern Warfare 2 for PS3 my screen name is SERmaniac.

So, just because I’ve been spending an unhealthy amount of time getting aced by 15-year-olds via multiplayer doesn’t mean I haven’t been drinking some brews as well.  Thanks to the native “Voice Memo” app for my iPhone I can keep track and take notes on all vanquished brews with ease.

Since I’m feeling quite under the weather today I’ll give you all a quick rundown of what I’ve had recently and what is on deck.

1) I’ve worked my way through 12 bottles of Michelob’s attempt at a Craft Wheat Beer Mixpack.  It’s got Shock Top, Hop Hound, Dunkelweiss, and Honey Wheat.  I’ll be doing those reviews in a 4-in-1 format.  There was one surprise of the bunch.  Can you guess which one it was?

2) I’ve always heard that most craft beer drinkers have one or two beers that they must keep on hand at all times.  Since I rarely have any given beer twice within 12 months I was having trouble wrapping my head around this notion.  I mean why have just one when there are so many to try?  Well, thanks to Duvel, the Belgian Strong Pale Ale, I now have a beer I feel I must have on hand at all times.  I’ve had three of the four bottles in my gift pack.  Look for a stellar review once I crack open the last stubby bottle of the devil of a Belgian.

3)  Bell’s Hopslam review is coming…just waiting for the right night to crack open my last bottle.

4) Some recent beers I’ve had and how I felt about them:

Wexford Irish Cream Ale: Closest thing to Guinness in terms of creaminess I’ve ever had.  Subtle flavors.  Great session beer.  It is the $6 beer+glass “Beer of the Month” for March at my local Irish Pub, Kellehers.

Lagunitas Hairy Eyeball: I don’t know if the name comes from this, but after I swallowed a mouthful of this stuff it felt like my mouth was covered in hair.  Creepy, but oh so unique.  I need to get my hands on a bottle and do a review of this.

Green Flash West Coast IPA: Hoppy goodness.

Left Hand 400 lb. Monkey IPA:  Didn’t seem to live up to the hype.

Rogue Santa’s Private Reserve:  Not an IPA, but you sure coulda fooled me.

Monks Cafe Flemish Sour Red Ale:  My first sour.  Wow, I liked it, but didn’t have a clue as to what I was tasting.  I’ll be trying more sours.

5) Upcoming full Beer Epiphany reviews:

-Great Divide Hecules DIPA

-Samuel Adam’s Nobel Pils

-Anchor Steam

-Southern Tier Raspberry Porter

-Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock

-Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast

So, I apologize for dropping off the face of the Earth the past seven days.  I’ll be getting some much needed rest and as soon as I am at 100% you can expect another full beer experience here at Beer Epiphany.

Garrulous.

***For some reason I thought this got published last week and it didn’t.  My Racer 5 review was written after I tried keeping these ideas in mind.***

Garrulous, a.k.a. chatty, wordy, redundant, blabbermouth, talkative.  I fear that here on Beer Epiphany I have begun to epitomize the definition of this word.  My posts have grown longer and more muddled with unimportant information.

For me, each beer is an experience.  I read reviews from all over, I visit the website, and I take my time as I drink the whole pint.  I created Beer Epiphany to share this experience with my fellow craft beer enthusiasts.  However, I feel that while I am chronicling my journey through 16 ounces of malted barley I begin to lose foucus.  A Google search this morning for “fuller’s ESB” revealed my 12 hour-old review cracking the top 10 Google Search results; If I am going to be having increased traffic to my blog then I must shape-up or ship-out.

So, as I close in on 1000 views I promise to my loyal and faithful readers that I will attempt to become more succinct with my thoughts.  And for any of you reading this in the morning I will share a brief philosophical exchange I had with a co-worker:

Me: Good Morning.

Co-Worker: What’s so “good” about it?

Me: I don’t know.  I guess we’re going to find out.

Cheers,

James

Bear Republic Racer 5 India Pale Ale. I’d like my Fruit Loops with some hops please!

IPA’s are the one style that despite being ubiquitous in the beer world I’m never sure what I’m going to get. Sure, I’m aided by the geographic origins of an English IPA or an American IPA and the specific characters that come with the territory. However, after having many of both styles I can assure you that all IPA’s do not gather nicely into two baskets. IPA’s are the golden child of the beer world. Try brewing a bad IPA and see how long you stay in business.

Case in point: Bear Republic Racer 5 India Pale Ale. After hearing many good things about this beer I picked up a bottle to celebrate Hoptopia’s January “I Believe In IPA” month. According to the website this beer is brewed with four American hop varieties, Chinook, Centennial, Cascade, and Columbus. It is brewed by Bear Republic Brewing Company and weighs in at 7% ABV and 75 IBU. Racer 5 is a decorated IPA having won medals from GABF four times over. Everything about this beer screams “West Coast IPA” from the brewery’s location in Healdsburg, Ca to the multiple west coast hop varieties. Let’s see what I got.

REVIEW

Racer 5 pours a bright copper/orange color right out of the big bomber bottle into my Dogfish Head Signature Glass. It’s 90% see-through, but not completely clear. A tall white head stands extremely firm atop this brew. The head is so firm that the last drop of beer actually sat on top of the foam and then ran off the side instead of sinking in. A swirl reveals this one has the legs of a dancer.

The aroma is very hoppy mixed with a malt cereal character. I’m getting a very strong cereal grain aroma. It’s very reminiscent of a sugared cereal such as Fruit Loops mixed with some hops. The hops are not as strong as expecting. They are fruity and citrus, but not”in your face hoppy”. I was expecting a stronger hop presence.

The flavor is quite bitter right up front. Still a strong cereal malt flavor, but not as much cereal as the aroma. The flavor is more of a earthy hop as compared to the citrus notes I go from the nose. There is a bready malt character here too. The aroma has you expecting big American style citrus and pine notes, but the flavor puts you on a flight back to England.

Lingering drying bitterness in the mouth. Racer 5 is medium bodied with a long, dry, bitter finish. As far as drinkability goes I wasn’t enthused with having an entire second half of my bomber bottle left. I would have been very content stopping after the first 12 ounces.

In a beer scene evolving to accommodate brewing creativity new styles are created every day. We must be patient and let some beers just be themselves. Bear Republic’s Racer 5 India Pale Ale isn’t genre-bending or style-crashing. It is neither American, English, or Imperial. It is, plain and simple, an India Pale Ale.

Appearance: 3.8/5

Aroma: 4.5/5

Flavor: 4.0/5

Mouthfeel: 3.5/5

Drinkability: 3.0/5

Overall: 3.76

Chance of Craft Beer Epiphany: 45%

Compare beer drinkers to a group of neighborhood kids. India Pale Ales aren’t the shiny new swing set that brings the neighbor kids over to play. They are more like Mom’s homemade cookies and lemonade that keep them coming back for more. Blue Moon and Sunset Wheat are the swing set, Racer 5 is the homemade pastry. It helps to have beers like the former to introduce people to “other beers.” Once they’re hooked have Mom bring out the Racer 5.

Racer 5 at Beeradvocate

Racer 5 at Ratebeer

Fuller’s ESB

With all of the good beer in the world it’s hard to walk into a beer store and walk out with exactly what you intended to buy.  Many times I end up spending double what I had originally planned.  There are seasonals which you can only buy three months of the year, there are limited releases which many stores only get a few cases of, and then there are the impulse buys.

I’m sure we all have certain beers in the back of our minds that aren’t any of the above mentioned.  These are beers that are always there, sitting faithfully on the edge of the shelf; begging to be purchased.  Many of these are world class examples of historic styles, but they aren’t eye catching.  No modern, edgy artwork.  No daring, avant garde beer names.  No “doubles” or “imperials” (unless its a real Russian Imperial Stout.)

These are THE STANDARDS.  When you think of a particular style there is always a beer that near-perfectly represents the style.  Pilsner, Pilsner Urquell. Doppelbock, Ayinger.  Weizenbock, Aventinus. Wheat, Schneider-Weisse.  Sure, modern Craft Breweries have created world-class examples themselves, but they will never lay claim to the original Bitter or Pilsener.  I for one am very guilty of skipping over the standards in favor of a more daring, style-busting craft beer.

Well, tonight I leave the Quad-IPAs and the Black wit biers (it will happen one day…somehow) to the masses.  Instead I will visit the standard for English bitters, hell, for all Bitters–Fuller’s ESB.

THE BEER

10 CAMRA awards and numerous other international beer competition wins leaves no doubt that Fuller’s Extra Special Bitter is the Bitter to end all Bitter beers.  Marketing speak from the Fuller’s website:

First brewed in 1971, ESB is unrivaled in flavor and balance. A robust 5.5% alcohol by volume in cask (5.9% alcohol by volume in bottles and kegs), it is brewed from Pale Ale and Crystal malts and from Target, Challenger, Northdown and Goldings hops.

Being an “extra special bitter” means higher alcohol, more hops, etc.  These are basically bigger, stronger English Ales.  It should be well balanced, but with more punch and flavor.  The bottle is classic in style; A far cry from the brazen artwork adorning new age craft breweries.  It features a blue and gold crest with large “ESB” lettering.  It’s pretty standard as far as English beers go, and this is exactly why it would be easy to overlook this unassuming bottle.  A few dollars at Friar Tuck later and I now will assimilte 16.9 oz. of the premier bitter into my system.

STATS

Beer: ESB

Brewer: Fuller Smith & Turner, London

ABV: 5.9%

Serving: 16.9 oz bottle pour, Samuel Smith pint glass

REVIEW

A big pour into my Samuel Smith pint glass reveals a vivid, clear copper brew with a tall, foamy, white head.  Spotty lacing persists throughout my enjoyable pint.

The nose is a complex mix of malt and hops.  I’m picking up on a lot of earthy hop aromas mixed with redolent noble hops.  Toasted malt is the other big part of the nose.  At first I was turned off by the haughty-taughty aroma, but the more I drink and smell the more I am falling in love with the perfect balance Fuller’s has achieved.

In the mouth we have toasty malt up front that leads into a marginally drying bitter finish.  Quite balanced!  Nothing is too pronounced here.  The key  is subtlety.  This may be an “extra special” version of a bitter, but Fuller’s ESB never loses it’s well-balanced character.  The earthy hops complement the sweet malt wonderfully.  The aroma almost would lead one to believe they were about to experience an underwhelming beer, but the balanced flavor quickly fixes that skewed perception.

A medium-light body fits the style well.  It slides smoothly over the tongue with little carbonation to interrupt the sensation.  Fuller’s ESB is highly drinkable.  At 5.9% it’s not exactly sessionable, but I certainly wouldn’t mind knocking back a few of these in an English pub atmosphere.

THE SCORE

Apearance: 4.0/5

Aroma: 4.5/5

Flavor: 4.8/5

Mouthfeel: 4.0/5

Drinkability: 4.2/5

Overall: 4.3/5

Chance of Craft Beer Epiphany: 65%

I’ll admit that I have been getting used to the citrus, pine, and other bold characteristics of emerging American craft breweries.  The subtleties offered up by Fuller’s Extra Special Bitter were the opposite of shocking-and I loved it!  However, with West Coast IPAs and American Pale Ales being shoved in every new craft beer drinker’s face the Bitters of England may be getting lost in the Yakima fog.  This beer surprised me thanks to it’s thankless balance and sophisticated palate.  Only a true craft beer prodigy would appreciate this one direct from a Keystone Light keg line, but they will be all the better for it.

LINKS

Fuller’s

Beeradvocate

Ratebeer

BJCP Style Guidelines Extra Special/Strong Bitter

Quick Review. Two Brothers Brewing Domaine DuPage.

Domaine DuPage pours a bright, clear, copper/red mix.  A medium sized head is present.

The aroma immediately reminds me of strawberry PEZ candy.  So, I guess it has hints of strawberry candy, but it’s a dead-ringer for PEZ.  This is quite fruity in the nose.

The flavor is surprisingly alcoholic and tart.  It is medicinal, but not in a bad way.  The malty, sugar, sweetness reminds me of rock candy.  Very sweet.  I’m also picking up on some cherry in the flavor.

The body is light and Domaine DuPage has a very refreshing finish.  It’s barely drying.

Overall: 3.6/5

***NOTE: Quick reviews are taken from notes that I take in situations that do not allow for the detailed inspection of a beer usually found here at Beer Epiphany. Most often this will include drinking at a pub or bar with friends where it would be impolite to focus all my attention on my beer.  Other quick reviews could be conducted from  beer flights or while attending beer fests (small servings).

Rest assured I plan to sit down with each and every one of these beers at a later time for a more in-depth review.  Also, just because my notes are less in-depth doesn’t make them any less accurate–just more brief.

Therefore, no CBE% or score breakdown will be presented for beers conducted in “quick review” form.  These will be reserved for more detailed reviews.