Dear Boulder Beer Company,
Why must all of your beers but hopped within an inch of sanity? I think you have a problem, you've stuff an ungodly amount of hops into your Never Summer Ale. This beer, as you know, is your Christmas seasonal and it tastes like a liquified 2x4... I'm affraid this condition has gotten so bad that you're unable to recognize malts or other flavors that beer drinkers might appreciate. I hope you see the error of your ways and learn to use hops responsibly, for the sake of those who love you.
Extra Special Bitter is a style of beer that I don't particularly care for. In most cases, it seems like the ESB label is a license for brewers to pack a ton of bitter hops into a darker beer without bothering with any of the things that make an IPA tolerable. There's usually no citrusy sweet crispness, just dry hops and hearty grains. The ESBs that I do like tend to be those that back a little mildly toasted malt into the mix. Anything you can do to tone down the hops is greatly appreciated. I'm torn on where exactly New Belgium's 2° Below falls...
It's hard to believe this is the first Odell I've reviewed on this site... Odell is a brewery I really enjoy, I've had their Wheat, Scotch Ale and regular Pale Ale. I've enjoyed everything I've had from Odell so I had high expectations for the Isolation Ale. In the interest of full disclosure I should point out that I had a couple of these last year and I remember liking them quite a bit. This year was no different, I like the Isolation... but for reasons other than what I expected.
Breckenridge's Christmas Ale has been one of my favorites for the past couple of years. There is plenty to love about this beer, the packaging has a great retro style, it smells and tastes like roasted nuts and caramel, and at 7.4% ABV it'll keep you warmer than most of the winter seasonals on the market. This beer pours a gorgeous rich copper color and develops a a head that is prone to lacing. Breckenridge's Christmas Ale has a mild aroma that is rather complex given it's subdued fragrance. You'll notice this beer smells a bit like a pack of roasted nuts, the kind with a thin layer of caramelized sugar on them. The flavor follows the aroma quite closely, but ends up being sweeter... which just seems fitting for a Christmas ale.
I like Beglian Dubbels, Tripels and Quadrupels. These beers rank pretty high on my scale of favorite beers. Strong ales with sour yeast flavors are truly a work of art. I've been waiting anxiously to try New Belgium's Abbey Ale for quite some time. I finally got around to picking up a bottle of this Dubbel style and I was a bit surprised with what was inside... My first impression of New Belgium's Abbey Ale was that it was more spicy than I liked and it didn't mask it's 7% ABV well enough to be a smooth drinking beer. These aren't show stopping flaws, but they prevent this beer from being a great Dubbel.
The Kaiser has a lot going for it. Not the least of which is its reference to the turn of the century German monarchy. The label is thoroughly Germanic and even has a picture of Wilhelm II donning his favorite Pickelhaube. This beer speaks to me on levels that I'm uncomfortable discussing in public... and yet, I can't quite come to terms with the actual beer inside the bottle. First impressions mean a lot, even when it comes to drinking a specialty beer. The Kaiser does just about everything right, it's got a killer bottle, mouth watering appearance and aroma... but it ends up being all for naught. Well, that may be a little melodramatic, but you get the idea. There's some deceptively awesome packaging here and I really want to like this beer but the flavor falls short. Actually, it falls too far... as in, it's too strong, too alcoholic and too sugary sweet.
Here's a beer that'll warm you up a cold winter's night. Avery's Out of Bounds Stout is an incredibly dark beer that tastes like an even darker beer. There isn't anything terribly extreme about this beer, especially considering that it comes from Avery. Avery is most well known for their bigger beers and hop bombs. At 5.1% the Out of Bounds won't single handedly get anyone ripped... but it does have a strong bitter finish that tastes a vaguely like the hops in Avery's Maharaja. The combination of flavors in this beer taste a little like a Rauchbier but without quite as much smoke of course. There's plenty of roasted malt flavor in the Out of Bounds but there's also a hint of smokiness, not too strong or too obvious but it's definitely there.
New Belgium's Frambozen is quite a bit different than I'd expected. I've drank enough fruit flavored beer that I've come to expect certain things from them. Namely, fruitiness... now, of course you'd expect a peach beer to taste a bit peachy right? Sure. What ends up happening more of time is it'll be more peachy and less like beer. There seems to be very fine line between balance and overbearing when it comes to fruit beers. New Belgium managed to get this beer just right. It's a Raspberry Brown Ale that isn't overly fruity or too mellow.
Left Hand's Haystack Wheat is an undeniably delicious beer. When I first saw/heard of the Haystack Wheat I sort of wrote it off as being a plain American style Wheat beer even though it's marketed as a Hefeweizen. The term Hefeweizen is attached to many beers which really don't have a whole lot in common with this traditional German style. My expectations of the Haystack Wheat were pretty low, I was honestly expecting a standard Wheat beer... nothing fancy. I don't think it really helps that Left Hand left the name "Hefeweizen" off the bottle. In many ways, this is my biggest complaint with this beer. The label has Left Hand's signature faux-Native American angular design with a picture of haystacks and goats on it. Printed toward the bottom of the label is "Haystack Wheat" followed by "Bottle Conditioned Wheat Beer" and that's pretty much it.
I'd heard a lot of good things about New Belgium's Hoptober Golden Ale. I was a little hesitant to pick this beer up because of how it has been compared to Pale Ales. I'm very particular about the kind of strong hop flavors I like and considering how this beer is New Belgium's Oktoberfest seasonal I couldn't help but think of a hoppy Amber or Märzen. Neither of those options sounded particularly appealing but I decided to pick up a bottle of Hoptober before I completely convinced myself that I wouldn't like it. So, for starters, this beer isn't a traditional fall seasonal style. It's really more of a summer or spring Pale Ale. New Belgium calls this a Golden Ale which puts it into the Blonde style. The Hoptober's appearance is rather light, you could even go so far as to call it pale... The aroma is very hoppy, it has that tell tale grassy citrus flavor which pushes this beer closer to Pale Ale territory. After taking the first sip of the Hoptober I'm convinced, there really isn't anything Autumn about this beer...