Seth Levy

Seth Levy

Northeastern Lagers

This summer, we're exploring lagers – mellow, easy-drinking beers that are perfect for summer. We've tasted lagers from Maine, and  New England, and now we're broadening scope to lagers from the entire northeast. Lagers are ideal beers for summer for several reasons. First, they tend to be quite low in alcohol (5 percent seems to be the average). Second, through hopped lagers are becoming more common, the style as a whole is typically only moderately bitter. This moderate bitterness prevents palate fatigue, and ensures that lagers pair with a wide variety of different foods. Finally, lagers are light-bodied, with few residual sugars, so they are relatively “thin” and easy to drink.

 

Switchback Citra Pils Keller Bier

Format Sampled: Stubby 12oz. capped bottle
ABV: 5.1% ABV
Available: Purchased at Whole Foods
Tasting Notes: Pours a cloudy yellow with a nice white head. Aroma has citrus zest, clove, and the toasted smell of yeast. The initial flavor is like a hazy, grown-up orange soda! The orange-zest flavor of the citra hops plays amazingly well with the hints of clove, and nutty yeasty flavors. Over the sweetly simple malt base, the combination of flavors is so refreshing that it's hard to imagine it's beer at all. The aftertaste combines subtle piney bitterness with a lingering citrus hit, leading naturally to another sip. What a refreshing beer!

 

Von Trapp Pilsner

Format Sampled:12 oz. capped bottle
ABV: 5.4% ABV
Available: Purchased at Whole Foods
Tasting Notes: Pours a bright, clear yellow with a puffy white head. Aroma is clean and fresh, slightly sour and floral. The initial sip carries the brisk, spicy flavor of noble hops. It's the subdued, slightly skunked flavor that foretells a great lager experience! In this case, the hoppy foreshadowing does not lie. This pleasingly bitter note continues as the flavor profile develops, setting off the savory malt character and keeping things complex and refreshing. The body is quite light, and the aftertaste is simple, clipped and bitter. Overall, the flavor profile is remarkably simple, well-structured, and elegant. A true old-school lager!

 

Sixpoint Brewery The Crisp


Format Sampled: 12 oz. skinny can
ABV: 5.4% ABV
Available: Purchased at Whole Foods
Tasting Notes: Pours a glassy gold with a big stack of white foam. Aroma is fresh with apricot and spring flowers. The initial flavor is just as bright as the aroma. There's the subtle, citrus sweetness of dried apricot, offset by a slightly more bitter citrus flavor, perhaps grapefruit pith? The malt flavor is ephemeral and mild, a nice biscuit-like crunch to balance the fruity, floral character at the opening. The body is very light, slick and fluid. The supreme balance between floral, bitter and sweet, combined with the light body make this a supremely-slam-able beverage.

 

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The Lager Binge Continues

We've been on a lager binge for the past few weeks, a bender I hope to continue well into the summer. It's easy to adopt a “go-with-the-flow” attitude with lagers. These beers are created by a lazy yeast that live on the bottom of the beer as it ferments. After a slow fermentation, lagers are stored in a cold room for an extended period ('lager' means storeroom or cellar in German) so this lazy yeast can finish its work. The long wait is worth it if you prefer a beer with a mellow, understated flavor profile. Lagers aren't spectacular beers, but their understated simplicity makes them ideal for the summer season. Hot weather can mean drinking in quantity, and the low ABVs many lagers exhibit permit drinkers to remain vertical during an extended sipping session. The lower levels of hops typically used in lagers prevent palate fatigue, and don't clash with the hot, spicy foods typically consumed during the summer. Is the lager the ideal summer beer? I don't know, loyal reader, but I'm committed to finding out.

 

Moat Mountain Czechmate Czech Pilsner

Format Sampled:16 oz can

ABV: 4.9%

Availability: Purchased at Rosemont Market and Bakery.
Tasting Notes: Pours a crystal clear pale yellow with a rapidly dissipating white head. Aroma has apple blossom, and faint sweetness. The initial flavor is nicely balanced. There's a sour-citrus nip of some  hop blossom, subtle, playful, but still punchy. There's a pleasant malt middle that's introduced by the hops, sweet like a bed of fresh straw, and crisp like a fall apple. After the malt dissipates, there's a refreshing snap of acidity – zing! The body is moderate, and the aftertaste is clean, clipped and pleasant. Perhaps a 16 oz can is too small?

 

Jacks Abbey Craft Lager

Format Sampled: 16 oz can

ABV: 5.2%

Availability: Purchased at Joe’s Super Variety
Tasting Notes: Pours a clear pale gold with an enduring, though thin, white head. Aroma has delicate floral notes, and a distinct white grape character. The initial sip is so smooth and unctuous, I'm concerned this beer will drink itself. The predominate flavor is a mellow malty sweetness. It's sweeter than a cracker, and approaches fresh cornbread – sweet, but in a “grainy” way. The hops are quite faint, and take some swirling and warming to reveal themselves as mildly herbal and lemony. The body is on the upper end of moderate, lending a warming, substantial feeling to this beer. The aftertaste is slightly thicker and sweeter than I prefer, but overall, this is a very quenching, classic lager.

 

Two Roads Ol'Factory Pils

Format Sampled: 12 oz can

ABV: 5.0%

Availability: Purchased at Joe’s Super Variety
Tasting Notes: Pours a clear, greenish yellow and raises a thin, rocky white head. The aroma is slightly sour and lemon-like, with a faint piney undertone. The initial flavor is bright and snappy, combining a refreshingly sour flavor with subtle hops. It's as if this beer had been dusted with lemon zest! Under the citrus, there's a little explosion of hop bitterness, redolent of pine. The malt is understated, lending some substance to the overall flavor without adding sweetness. The body is light, thin and fluid – lending this a dangerous score on the “chug-ability” index. The aftertaste is faintly, lingeringly bitter. I crave a salty pretzel with the Ol' Factory, just to make me thirstier!

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More Maine Lagers to Beat the Summer Heat

'Tis the season when the sun rises early, and emboldens our neighbors to begin such silent, meditative tasks as lawn-mowing, scrap-metal tossing and competitive yelling, bright and early! Why not escape the stress of 5 a.m. yard maintenance with a trip to the beach? But first, perhaps a brisk, 15 MPH drive, amid hordes of reflex-impaired tourists, piloting whale-sized RV's. You know what? Let's turn on the A/C, pull a beach towel over our heads, and wait for the first frost. In the meantime, we'll continue tasting some lagers from Maine — ideal beers to beat the heat, humidity, and frustration of the summer.

 

Boothbay Craft Brewery 27 Lager

Format Sampled: 16 oz. can
Availability: Purchased at Old Port Spirits and Cigars

ABV: 5.7%

Tasting Notes: Pours a glowing reddish amber with a thin tan head. Aroma is sweet and coppery, with some apple-cider character. The first sip is nutty, with rich hazelnut, and savory, mealy chestnut. The nuttiness is cut with restrained hops, which provide a faint bitterness, and a similarly faint citrus/herbal flavor. The malty character, evident in the initial nutty flavors, continues, imparting flavors of fresh-baked bread and ground buckwheat. The aftertaste is spare and sweet. The body is rather thick overall, and the character a little sweet for my taste, but this is an excellent lager for those who don't like bitter, hop-forward beers.

 

Banded Horn Lumaire Lager

Format Sampled: 16 oz. can

Availability: Purchased at Bow Street Beverage

ABV: 5.5%

Tasting Notes: Pours a cloudy greenish-gold, with a huge, lofty head of white foam. Lemondrop and pine hop aromas boil from the glass. Initial flavor features the sharp, mouthwatering citrus flavors of the hops. It's just bitter enough to define its own sweetness in contrast — like those little gummy orange wedges dipped in a sour, sugary coating. The malt is lightly sweet, perfectly suspending the citrus swirl of bitter hops, that deepen and feature piney, dank, herbal notes. The body is quite light and the flavor, though distinctive, isn't overbearing. It's like the best parts of drinking an IPA and a lager, together!

 

Banded Horn Wicked Bueno

Format Sampled: 16 oz. can

Availability: Purchased at Bow Street Beverage

ABV: 4.3%

Tasting Notes: Pours a crystal clear pale gold with a thin white head. The aroma has a high, lonely note of faintly herbal hops, and a distant sourness. Initial flavor is super-duper clean! There's a hint of hop flavor, present mainly as a slight bitterness, and some subtle citrus character. That's it. No funk, no floral, and no "tropical hop aromatics," just a quick hit of bitter! The malt flavor unspools more slowly, showcasing a simple sweetness, and the smooth taste of cornmeal. Maybe it's tacky to praise an adjunct flavor that mars many a macro-brew, but the explicit call-out of this old-school macro-lager flavor reads more like a classy tip-of-the-hat in the bueno!

 

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Quench Thirst With These Three Cool Brews

We're right in the middle of those few stifling weeks where we forget ourselves and wonder how it got so gosh-darn hot. But don't fear the heat! In just a few short months, the snow will return and we'll think upon these days with fondness, pausing every so often to blow our noses. But while it's here, summer heat calls for a simple beer, low in alcohol, with moderate flavor impact and a light body. Summer beers need to soothe our hot tongue and re-hydrate us. Few styles of beer fit the bill better than lagers. They're restrained, elegant beers that ferment slowly. These mild beers are often light in color, lower in alcohol, and not heavily hopped. This week, we'll sample a round of lagers from Maine. Raise your glass for summer!

Foundation Brewing Company Riverton Flyer

Format Sampled: 16 oz. can

ABV: 5.5%

Availability: Purchased at Rosemont Market and Bakery

Tasting Notes: Pours a pale gold, with a roiling white head. Aroma is fresh and mild, with notes of apple blossom and dry malt. The initial flavor is a study in restraint. There's a floral, slightly spicy European hop flavor which leads seamlessly into a gently toasted malt center. The malt is cracker-crisp, mildly sweet, and very light. A pop of bitterness illuminates the malt, an artful demonstration of the carefully selected hops. The body is light and quenching, and the flavor is just complex to keep it interesting, but not so complicated that it requires any real concentration to enjoy. This a crisp, zesty, refreshing lager!

 

Bunker Brewing Company Cypher
Format Sampled: 12 oz. can

ABV: 6.4%

Availability: Purchased at Rosemont Market and Bakery

Tasting Notes: Pours a light copper and raises a compact, white head. The aroma features pine, citrus, zest and a sea-breeze freshness. The first sip offers a bright zing of hops, restrained, but pointed in their bitter, herbaceous quality. There's more citrus peel, and a deeper, stickier bitterness — redolent of pine sap and wet basil. The bitterness subsides rapidly, leaving behind a clean, mild aftertaste. The malt is so subtle and restrained! The body is quite light, rendering this beer a tremendous combination of zingy, flavorful, and refreshing. It's so bitter, in fact, that it's nearly not a lager in the traditional sense at all. Discard tradition, though, and buy this beer!

 

Dirigo Lager

Format Sampled: 16 oz. can

ABV: 4.7%

Availability: Purchased at Rosemont Market and Bakery

Tasting Notes: Pours a pale gold with a thin eggshell-white head. Aroma has a toasted bread aroma, with a hint of apple. Initial flavor is pure, clean old-school lager. There's a sweet, crisp malt, augmented with an undertone of slightly sweet corn-meal mush. The hops are also old-school, with barely perceptible noble hop flavor contributing a faintly bitter, herbal edge. Everything about this “leading lager” is subtle, and understated. The body is light, but the result is “easy to drink” rather than “crush-able.” The aftertaste is faintly sweet, leading to another sip, and another, ad infinitum.

 

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The Beers of Summer

As I type, it's almost 90 degrees. When my editor requested some summer beer reviews for this column, I nearly wept with joy. Don't get me wrong, loyal reader, I love a good chewy stout when the weather is hot, but nothing drives me to drink like warm weather. This week, I'm going to be sampling some “summer beers.” I'm approaching this from a selfish perspective. I'm not going to drink anything that says, “Summer Ale” on the label. No,  I'm going to review the beers I'm finding most refreshing right now, without regard for any particular label, ingredient or style. The only limitations I'm placing on my reviews this week will be that my summer beers must be in 16 oz cans, and must be from Maine. Cheers to summer, loyal readers!

Mast Landing Saccarappa India Pale Ale
Availability: Purchased at Bow Street Beverage
Format Sampled: 16 oz can

ABV: 7.0%

Tasting Notes: Pours a cloudy, glowing gold with a thin, white head. Aroma packs a powerful wallop of grapefruit, lemon and pine. The initial flavor swirls with the citrus character of delicious hops, oily with orange peel, grapefruit rind and lemon meringue. Surprisingly, there is very little bitterness – an almost disconcerting absence given the flagrant hop character. The smooth opening makes this beer dangerously easy to drink! There is a delayed bitterness, a sort of depth charge of hop bite, but it's suspended in a lovely miasma of tender, cracker-crisp malt flavor. The body is smooth and moderate, and the aftertaste is clean, bitter and totally satisfying.

 

Mason's Hipster Apocalypse
Availability: Purchased at Bow Street Beverage
Format Sampled:16 oz can

ABV: 5.7%

Tasting Notes: Pours a sparkling dark yellow with a dense white head. The aroma has pineapple, passionflower, citrus and  pine needle. The initial flavor has a juicy abundance of hoppy citrus. There's some fresh orange slice, zesty lemon peel, and the tannin flavor of sour grapefruit. Underneath, there's the artfully bitter scrape of the hop flower itself. The hop character is profound, but without overbearing bitterness. The malt is delicately sweet and unobtrusive, letting the flowery, citrus/pine character of the hops lead. The body is light, fluid, easy to drink and the aftertaste has all the refined herb character of the initial flavor, with a slightly more profound bitterness to encourage another sip. A masterpiece.

 

Rising Tide Maine Island Trail Pale Ale

Availability: Purchased at Trader Joe’s
Format Sampled:16 oz can

ABV: 4.3%

Tasting Notes: Pours a clear yellow with loads of white foam. The aroma is bright with citrus and herbal hops. The initial taste is mouthwatering with piney, herbal hops. The initial bitterness is brief and tantalizing and evolves into juicy citrus, and mellow, sweet malt. The hop flavors dominate MITA but are ably supported by a firm bass-line of dry, toasty malt. The aftertaste is vibrant with bitter hop resins, clean, bitter and eminently refreshing.

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What's Red, Flemish, and Sour?

This spring, we've taken a virtual trip to Belgium. It's been a terrific journey featuring unusual adjuncts (like coriander!), brain-blistering levels of alcohol, and startling realizations. For example, who knew tripel was so light, and so easy to drink? I'm wrapping up our springtime Belgian ramble by sampling an unusual style called Flanders Red Ale. This uncommon style of beer features modest alcohol content (5-6 percent), strong sourness, and pronounced fruit character. This unique blend of flavors is the result of a unique mixture of yeasts and a strain of bacteria called Lactobacillus.

 

Duchesse de Bourgogne

Format Sampled: 11.2 fl oz. capped bottle

ABV: 6%
Availability: Purchased at Old Port Spirits and Cigars
Tasting Notes: Pours a rusty brown with a white head. Aroma is a mixture of cherries, balsamic vinegar, and wet wood, and the combined effect is funkier than a James Brown 8-track! The first sip burst with damp, fresh fruit. Sour cherries, bruised and juicy, crush against my palate. I can almost feel the flesh of a fresh, warm plum before the juicy flavor floods my tongue. The fruit is set off by a tart, restrained acidity. Far from the funky vinegar blast of the aroma, this is a pleasant tartness, just potent enough to temper the fruit. Underneath the fruits, there's a lovely barrel character — with wet oak, cherry pits, and the subtle must of a dark, mysterious cellar. Some cocoa rounds out the base for a drinking experience that melds sweet, sour and savory with precision and flare!

 

Cuvee des Jacobins Rouge
Format Sampled: 11.2 fl oz. capped bottle

ABV: 5.5%
Availability: Purchased at Old Port Spirits and Cigars

Tasting Notes: Pours a rusty brown with a short-lived tan head. Aroma has fresh cider, cherry, and some barnyard funk. The initial sip is so powerfully tart that I feel my entire face collapsing cartoonishly into a pucker! The sourness subsides reluctantly, revealing notes of dark cherry, dried plum and some citrus. Long after the initial sour blast, there's a subtle base of something dark, and slightly sweet. Blackstrap molasses, perhaps? It's subtle, but lends some balance to the overwhelmingly tart flavor. This would be a tremendous palate cleanser, or an aperitif!

 

Monks Cafe Flemish Sour Ale

Format Sampled: 12 fl oz. capped bottle

ABV: 5.5%
Availability: Purchased at Old Port Spirits and Cigars

Tasting Notes: Opening the bottle results in a gargantuan, sour shower, covering my face, arm and keyboard in beer. Thankfully, there is enough left to review! It pours a dark reddish brown, with an enduring tan head. The aroma (now saturating my office) is of cherries and molasses. The initial flavor is moderately sour, with a dense undertone of stewed fruit. There's black cherry, dried apple and a faint melon flavor. A pensive flavor underlies the fruit — oak, caramel and sherry add a dark, mysterious note to the experience. Of the three, this is the most balanced sour — not too tart, and not too sweet. A good introduction to the style!

 

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Belgian Whites: The Most Drinkable Beer Ever?

This season, we're taking a tour of Belgian beers. Last week, we sipped several Belgian stouts, so it's only natural that we explore the lighter side of Belgian beers: white or “Wit” beers. These lighter beers, which go by a variety of names, have a few characteristics in common. Most of them are brewed with a higher percentage of wheat malt, and many feature adjuncts like coriander, citrus peels and other spices. Not surprisingly, these adjuncts show up in the aroma of white beers. White beers are typically cloudy, from suspended yeast, and it is this yeast that is responsible for a large part of the distinctive aroma of white beer – particularly the clove and banana aspects. Cheers!

Dogfish Head Namaste White

Format sampled: 12 oz capped Bottle

ABV: 4.8%

Availability: Purchased at Whole Foods

Tasting Notes: Pours a slightly cloudy light yellow, with a huge bone-white head. Aroma has lemongrass, clove, and a peppery sharpness. Initial flavor opens with a broad, sweet wheat character – like a sweet bread, fresh out of the oven. It's a mild, bread sweetness, and it's quickly supplanted by some sharp spices. There are hints of clove, ginger, lemongrass and white pepper – all closer to “mellow and warming” than “sharp and spicy.” The body is slightly thicker and stickier than your average summer beer – and the viscosity serves to hold the more complex flavors on your palate a little longer. The aftertaste has sweet wheat, sour citrus, and spicy clove – just enough to encourage another sip!

Blue Moon Belgian White

Format sampled: 12 oz capped Bottle

ABV: 5.4%

Availability: Purchased at Cumberland Farms

Tasting Notes: Pours a light amber with a thin scrim of white head. Aroma has a faint sweetness and a mild menthol spice. The initial flavor is pleasantly piquant with notes of clove, nutmeg, and cinnamon. The spices are subtle and fade quickly, leaving a huge swath of sweetly inoffensive malt in their wake. Sure, it's one-dimensional and lacks the deeper complexity of some more “authentic” beers, but it hearkens to all the flavors that make a white beer unique. It's quenching, distinctive and relatively well-balanced. Putting aside all my macro-brew averse snobbery, I'd drink this more regularly than “once in a blue moon.”

 

Allagash White

Format sampled: 12 oz capped Bottle

ABV: 5.1%

Availability: Purchased at Whole Foods

Tasting Notes: Pours a very pale gold with a dense pillow of pure white head. Aroma fumes with clove, banana, and lemon. The first sip is simultaneously creamy and refreshing, rich enough to approach a glass of skim milk, but light and fluid on the tongue. There's fresh lemon zest, and a zippy hint of coriander, cinnamon, and the menthol zing of dried clove.  It's all soaring above a savory malt base that's profoundly wheat-like. It's not the cracker crispness of an English malt, it's the rich “pasta water” taste of wheat malt. The aftertaste emphasizes lemon, clove, and spice, naturally leading to another sip. Incredibly refreshing!

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Taking a darker turn with Belgian stouts

We've spent the last few weeks sampling Belgian Abbey Ales, a family of beers traditionally brewed by Trappist monasteries. We've sipped single, dubbel, tripel and quadrupel. Yum! Now our exploration of Belgian styles is taking a darker turn: to stout! The stout most of us are familiar with is an Irish dry stout — like Guinness. Belgian stouts couldn't be more different! They typically have almost double the alcohol content (7-8% rather than 3-4%), smaller quantities of hops, and sweeter, fruitier aromas from the unique strains of yeast and higher fermentation temperatures. Without further adieu, let's explore the darker side of Belgium!

 

Allagash Black
Format Sampled: 12 oz. capped bottle
ABV: 7.5%
Availability: Purchased at 7-11

Tasting Notes: Pours a deep maroon, with a thin, light-brown head. Aroma has banana, clove, cocoa and coffee. The initial flavor prickles with bitter coffee grounds, cocoa nibs and forceful carbonation. There's some softness also — a rounded, gentle sweetness tempers the initial bitter flavor. It's a mellow, honeyed warmth, with a sliver of milk chocolate. The aftertaste is tremendous — more layered and complex than the initial flavor. The bitter cocoa blends with the spicy character of the yeast to produce a combination that's both bitter and sweet, drying and quenching. The body is moderate. It's a bit thick for casual consumption, but I imagine it would compliment a burger well.

 

MIKKELLER Black Hole
Format Sampled: 13.7 oz. capped bottle
ABV: 12.1%
Availability: Purchased at RSVP

Tasting Notes: Pours a deep, brownish black, with a thin brown head. Aroma has maraschino cherry, brandy, chocolate liqueur, and nose-clearing alcohol. The initial flavor is like the event horizon of a black hole spreading across my palate, drawing me deeper. Tasting consultant Chelsea says, “Black Hole? Jesus. More like black out and bury me in a hole.” There's a bracing espresso bitterness, refined and slightly sweet, like the crema on top of a ristretto shot of lightly roasted coffee. Soaring notes of fruit esters, plum brandy, kirsch, and pear float above the notes of cocoa and chocolate. The aftertaste has refined liquor, gourmet chocolate, and single-origin coffee. This is a treat to enjoy in moderation during the contemplation of particle physics.

 

De La Senne Stouterik
Format Sampled: 11.2 oz. capped bottle

ABV: 4.5%

Availability: Purchased at RSVP

Tasting Notes: Pours a jet black with a gargantuan puff of tan head. Aroma is fresh, with a piquant lactic acidity. Initial flavor is delectably dry, shot through with notes of bitter cocoa powder, and a faintly sweet undertone of prune. It's as if someone added a dusting of fine cocoa to a dry Irish stout. It's rich without sweetness, complex without confusion, and sweet without stickiness. The Stouterik stands in contrast to the much heavier stouts I sampled earlier.

 

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Quadrupel it!

This season, we're sipping beers of Belgian origin. We've slurped singels, drunk dubbels, and tanked tripels. We're moving on to the logical conclusion of this advancing series, loyal reader: drinking 200 proof grain alcohol from an enormous bucket! I jest. We'll actually be trying the strongest of the so-called “Abbey Ales.” These beers are known as a quadrupels, or quads, if you're a serious beer geek that would rather use your oxygen for alcohol metabolism, rather than pesky additional syllables. Typically exceeding 10% alcohol by volume, quads feature spicy, fruity flavors, and dense concentrated bodies. These beers pair well with strong, funky cheese, preserved meat, and long, philosophical conversations. Cheers!

 

La Trappe Quadrupel Trappist Ale
Format Sampled: 11.2 oz. capped bottle

Availability: Provided by Artisanal Imports, Inc.

ABV: 10%

Tasting Notes: Pours a sparkling copper with a dense layer of off-white head. Aroma is strong, with pear, prune and toffee. The initial flavor is dense, concentrated and fruity. It's the distilled flavor of candied apples, plums and cherries, plus a handful of fruitcakes. The sweetness is so profound that it nearly burns, and it's offset by a pleasantly tart acidity. There's a creamy aspect, like a cream sherry. As the solution warms, my palate has the spins, and the fruit flavor evolves to include quince paste and licorice, plus the fruity flavor of the alcohol itself. The aftertaste is sweet and lingering, emphasizing apple, berries and pear.

 

St. Bernardus Abt 12
Format Sampled: 750 ml corked bottle

Availability: Purchased at Rosemont Market and Bakery

ABV: 10%

Tasting Notes: Pours a glowing garnet with a rich, light brown head. Aroma is rich, multi-layered with fresh cider, cold-brew coffee and spices. The initial flavor is similarly rich and complex. There's a rich, mulled opening — reminiscent of spiced cider, made darker with a hint of cold coffee. The richness shifts, and there's dark fruit — spiced plum, dried apples and clove and a bit of aged port. The aftertaste is spicy and rotund, with big, glowing hints of fruit flitting in and out, and whiffs of clove, coriander and cinnamon adding complexity. This is a supremely well-balanced quad — both opulent and subtle, carefully planned and wonderfully liberating.

 

Triporteur Full Moon 12

Format Sampled: 11.2 oz capped bottle

Availability: Purchased at 7-11

ABV: 10.2%

Tasting Notes: Pours a bright amber, with a thin layer of off-white head. Aroma is bright with candy apples, candy syrup and spices. Initial flavor is dense and syrupy. Apple butter, dark corn syrup, brown sugar and a sharp snap of pure rock candy issue a challenge to my tongue: “How many kinds of sweetness can you endure?” Under all the sugar, there's plenty of plush fruit — sugared plums, peaches, dried cherry and quince form a compact base. There's a bite amid the fruit, a hot, alcoholic jab that hits me in the gut, reminding me of the strength.

 

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Belgian Tripels: Part Deux

This Spring, we're tasting styles of beers from Belgium. Last week, we sipped some tripels straight from Belgium. The dry, refreshing character of these beers, the ambitious alcohol content (often 9% or more), and the surprisingly light body all conspire to make tripel a tremendous style for cold, wet weather. To really enjoy a tripel, you need to embrace one of the more fussy aspects of Belgian beer: specific glassware. Many Belgian brewers recommend a specific glass for their particular beers — but if you're like me, the idea of maintaining a library of specific glasses isn't sustainable. If you don't have a Belgian chalice-style glass, a white-wine glass is a solid second best. The narrow neck serves to concentrate the delicate aromas of the triple and provides enough room for the flavorful head to accumulate.

 

Tripel Karmeliet

Format Sampled: 11.2 oz. capped bottle

ABV: 8.4%

Availability: Provided by Artisanal Imports, Inc
Tasting Notes: Pours a pale straw, with a huge puff of white head. Aroma is fresh and sour, lemony, with notes of fresh pepper. Initial flavor is smooth, almost creamy on the tongue, with lemon meringue, and a rich, dairy-like sweetness. The sweet character fades, and I'm left with a peppery astringency, and dry, spicy cloves. The aftertaste builds in complexity, mixing spice, lemon, and sweet cream. I wouldn't hesitate to pair this with lemon cookies, sherbet, or any other sweet lemony dessert.

 

St. Feuillien Triple

Format Sampled: 11.2 oz. capped bottle

ABV: 8.5%

Availability: Provided by Artisanal Imports, Inc
Tasting Notes: Pours a cloudy yellow with a huge white head. Aroma has clove, tangerine, banana and clover honey. The initial flavor is bright, with a gentle prickle of lemony acidity. Immediately after the bright lemon flavor, things get malty. There's a lightly toasted biscuit flavor, slightly dry, musty and wonderfully complex. The wheat is augmented with subtle spice — coriander, clove, and nutmeg. The spice is gentle, but it builds a welcome pause into what is otherwise a surprisingly dry and quenching beer. The body is so light and dry, the flavor so interesting, the alcohol so insidious — it's a sneaky one!

 

La Trappe Tripel

Format Sampled: 750 ml capped bottle

ABV: 8.0%

Availability: Provided by Artisanal Imports, Inc
Tasting Notes: Pours a pale gold with a dense white head. The aroma is vibrant with green apple, yellow raisin, golden tobacco and dried clove. The initial flavor is surprisingly tart, with notes of green apple, fresh cider, and bitter hops. After the slightly tart opening, there's a sweet, creamy flavor, approaching fresh whipped cream. The creamy sweetness is so brief that I can describe the La Trappe as dry overall. The finish carries notes of sour apple, pungent clove and flashes of burnt sugar. The body is light and fluid and supremely drinkable.

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