There are several reasons why I should love this beer. I love Weizenbocks, they might be my favorite style of beer. I like putting tea in my beer (although I don't like tea on its own, I always find myself adding it to homebrews). I'm also left handed, so I kind of have to like this beer, right? I've heard some really mixed reviews on this TNT Weizenbock from Left Hand so I figured I'd pick up a bottle and spend a few minutes giving it my undivided attention. As I've gotten more adventurous with my drinking I've noticed that the Left Hand beers I had enjoyed previously just weren't holding up to the competition. With TNT Left Hand has gotten more adventurous with their beers, so I'm anxious to see if this is some kind of turning point for a brewery I'd love to see succeed as a first class craft brewer.
Left Hand released Fade to Black in the late fall of 2009 to rave reviews. I was a little ambivalent toward this beer at first because, well, it was Stout season and I'd already had my fill... I'd gotten an early start and ended up burning out on dark beer much earlier than I would have liked. As the calendar rolled over to 2010 I realized I'd still not had this beer and it seemed like it might be too late to pick any up. As luck would have it, I found several six packs at a local hole in the wall liquor store along with some other old seasonal releases. Now that my affinity for Stouts is back, I thought I'd give this beer a long overdue review.
This isn't my first 400 Pound Monkey and it probably won't be my last. I first sampled this beer during a Left Hand Beer School event a little over a month ago. The brewer introduced it as a true English style India Pale Ale. He wanted to make it clear that this beer shouldn't be written off as another American IPA, this beer was made with English ingredients following an English recipe. After having my first sip I could tell this beer was quite different from the IPAs I was used to.
The St. Vrain Tripel is one of Left Hand's bomber sized specialty beer that seems to be a little harder to track down in my neck of the woods. I was finally able to get my hands on a bottle last week and have eagerly awaited its opening. After throwing the football around on a nice early spring Sunday afternoon, I figured this is as good a time as any to crack open the St. Vrain. What awaited was a golden bodied Tripel that smelled a little like funky oranges and begged to be consumed.
Rye beers are more popular than ever. It seems like most breweries use malted rye in at least one of their beers. I tend to glance over most ryes I see on the beer list because a good deal of them are Rye IPAs, not the kind of beer I'd choose to showcase my rye malt. This bottle from Left Hand is a Rye Bock, a Bavarian style Bock that's been brewed with malted rye instead of barley. There's nothing off the wall about this beer but it still stands out in a crowd. What makes Left Hand's Rye Bock remarkable is it's quality and flavor.
Left Hand's Milk Stout is a creamy textured, creamy flavored chocolaty Milk Stout. At 5.2% alcohol this is a beer you could drink a six pack of over the course of a cold winter's night without being sidelined the next morning. A very manageable ABV isn't this beer's selling point though, this is a great mellow stout with a fantastic flavor profile. The Milk Stout has a really mellow aroma, like chocolate milk with a hint of roasted barley. The appearance of this beer is fairly pedestrian as well, it's pitch black with a very thin tan colored head. It's easy to be underwhelmed when you have your first Left Hand Milk Stout.
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.
Left Hand's Sawtooth Ale is a beer I'd seen at the liquor store a couple of times but I'd never thought to pick any up because Sawtooth Ale isn't a terribly descriptive name and the packaging makes virtually no mention of the style. I tend not to bother with beers which are stylistically unidentifiable after you take a good look at the packaging... just as a matter of principle. Anyways, after reading the fine print on the bottom of the six pack box, it turns out the Sawtooth Ale is a English style Bitter. Bitters aren't the style of beer I'd normally seek out in early June, but since it was rainy and a bit cold I figured it might warm things up a bit. This bitter hit the spot, it was really well balanced and easy to drink. It was creamy and smooth, but perhaps too smooth. It came off a bit watery, this was quite noticeable once I got past the halfway point. Nevertheless, the Sawtooth Ale was pretty good. It was a pleasant drink. It was sweet, bready and a bit hoppy. If only they could get that wateriness taken care of...