Category Archives: Beer

Clowning around

Yes folks. It’s time again for yet another beer review! I know you’re excited.

Today’s offering comes from our fine friends at Clown Shoes Brewery. Gregg Berman and his cohorts from Massachusetts have been in operation for less than 4 years, and it’s pretty astounding what they’ve accomplished in that amount of time. I reviewed their fantastic Brown Angel a while back, and now it’s time for the equally delightful Hoppy Feet 1.5, which was created as a sort of celebration of their first year of successful operation.

Clown Shoes Hoppy Feet 1-5

First, the nose. It’s definitely heavy in its sweetness, with a very healthy scent of caramel. It’s such a powerful scent, in fact, that I literally caught a whiff immediately after opening the bottle.

And now the main event. This is a “Double Black India Pale Ale”. Now, full disclosure…I LOOOOVE Black IPAs. They’re probably my favorite. So excuse my gushing, but this shiz is fantastic. Honestly, it’s tough for me to describe. The tastes are surprisingly hard to pin down. There’s a strong but delicate sweetness to it at the front, and it definitely finishes quite bitter. But in between all of that, there are a bunch of things going on that I can’t quite pinpoint. There are definitely some caramel notes. What is that spice? Coriander?! And a little bit of orange peel? And when I swish it around a little, I even get some hints of butter. Crazy.

All in all, I’m doing a terrible job of describing this spectacular beer. But just know that it’s spectacular. I think it’s the best Black IPA I’ve ever had. So if you ever run across any Clown Shoes products, do yourself a favor and grab several bottles. Your taste buds will thank you, I promise.

Until next time, kids.

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Beer, Part 5

Okay, okay. I know I’ve been woefully absent from this blog lately. There was a lot of traveling and a lot of wedding planning involved, so I’m choosing to feel justified in my abandonment.

I also know that it’s entirely past Craft Beer Week at this point, but my beer reviews during said week seemed to go over well, so I’m going right back to that wheelhouse with another stellar review.

This is Cascara Quad. It’s from the Lips of Faith series, courtesy of New Belgium Brewing (of Fat Tire fame, in case you’ve been living under a beerless rock for the last 10 years).

Lips of Faith Cascara

As you can tell from the name, it’s an quad ale in the trappist style, and at 10% ABV, it certainly packs a punch. I assumed this would be right up my alley, given the date and coffee cherries involved in the brewing process. I was rather giddy with anticipation over cracking this open. But all in all, I have to say, I’m a little underwhelmed.

The nose is unmistakably cherry. It overpowers everything else, which is not bad…it actually made me even more excited to guzzle/savor it. But the actual taste is a little unexciting. It’s not terrible. In fact, it’s pretty damn good. It’s just not spectacular. And after sampling some of the best that Dogfish Head, Rogue and Clown Shoes had to offer, it’s just not living up.

It has notes of cherry and date and even some tobacco in there, I think. Which is grand, and all. But the bitterness – trust me, I’m a big fan of bitter beers – is a little unsettling. Which definitely makes the aftertaste, well, a little gross.

To boil it all down, I just don’t think anything pops here. It’s a bit muddled. Besides the intense cherry nose, nothing really stands out. And I’m all for subtlety, but when an attempt at subtlety leads to something being less than spectacular, I’d say a mistake has been made.

Anyway, you can’t win ’em all. I promise I’ll be back next week with some more glorious beer reviews and probably some recipes too. Until then folks, Happy Friday. And Happy Birthday Mom!! 🙂

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Beer, Part 4

It’s beer time again, folks!! And I’ve decided to double down on the Dogfish. I wanted to highlight a beer from a different craft brewery every day this week, but Dogfish Head’s wares are just too tasty. And boy, did I find another absolutely splendid offering from them.

This, my friends, is Chateau Jiahu:

Chateau Jiahu

This is Dogfish Head’s attempt to recreate an ancient recipe from Northern China…from 9,000 years ago!! And if this recreation is any indication, those Northern Chinese folks were living in style.

First of all, the nose. It’s very light to the smell. Definitely some hints of honey and sake, and a bit of fruit that I can’t really place, which I’m assuming is the hawthorn fruit with which this was brewed. The scent is pleasant, sweet, and by no means overpowering.

But enough with the smell – let’s drink this shiz! This spectacular concoction tastes almost like a slightly sweet sparkling wine. It’s complex and yet very light on the tongue, starting off with a blast of intense flavor and some sweetness, which mellows out quickly into a much drier and yet fruitier taste. And like a good wine, it actually benefits from swishing it around in your mouth once in a while. I find that, most of the time, the flavors get all muddled when I do this, but this beer actually lends itself to it.

All in all, I think it’s fantastic. It’s sweet, but not too sweet, light, but not too light, and it takes like sparkling wine!! So that makes it a winner in my book.

And I just had another sip…damn, it’s really, really good! I’d say the Immort Ale scores a little higher, but this isn’t all that far behind. Again, I’m a big fan, but I suppose it’s no surprise, given how much I tend to love everything that Dogfish Head has to offer.

Until tomorrow folks – one day left in the craft beer extravaganza!

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Beer, Part 3

We’re three days into Craft Beer Week, and the celebration, so far, has been fantastic. So fantastic, in fact, that Craft Beer Week might just become…well, every week here in the Amateur Cocktailer household. There are just too many delicious brews to sample, dammit!

Anywho, today’s spotlight is on an absolutely spectacular offering from my favorite brewery in the whole wide world, Dogfish Head. I may be mildly to completely obsessed with their all of their beer, but in particular the Indian Brown Ale.

But I had no idea that this existed until recently, and I’m not sure I’ll ever be the same:

Immort Ale

I give you Immort Ale. Holy schnikeys. I’m not even sure what to say. This beer is so much more than a beer…it’s almost a piece of art, to go completely hyperbolic on you guys. But let me get my head on straight and try to break it down for you.

The scent is surprisingly light for a beer that is so completely complex in taste. It has an oaky, bourbony nose to it that is really pleasant and even subtle. And the color is lovely too – hell, it even looks like bourbon.

But the main event is obviously the taste. And goddamn, what a taste. It’s made with maple syrup, so there is definitely a healthy dose of maple there. The syrup also shows up in just how thick this beer is in texture. But the syrup doesn’t overpower anything. It allows for all of the completely wonderful notes to come out.

There’s vanilla and oak, maybe some cherry as well. And the first thing that really hits you is…leather?! And yet somehow that leathery flavor is fantastic. It’s the closest thing to bourbon I’ve ever had in a beer. And then, to top it all off, it goes through several stages of absolute heaven before it finishes incredibly cleanly. It’s amazing that, after all of these intense tastes, what you’re left with is basically come carbonation on your tongue. Everything kind of evaporates in this miraculous way. It’s remarkable. I’m not quite sure how they’ve pulled it all off.

It’s truly one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. So if you can find some in your area, do yourself a favor and pick some up. Oh, and watch it…it’s 11% ABV! So it’ll kick your ass.

Until tomorrow folks…hopefully I can find something that will somehow top this pinnacle. I remain doubtful but optimistic at the same time. Happy Wednesday!

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Beer, part 2!

Hello kids!

I’m back for another beer review in honor of Craft Beer Week. When I was in Atlanta last, I was lucky enough to stumble upon an absolutely amazing craft beer and wine shop, aptly named Hop City Beer and Wine. Seriously, if you’re ever in Hotlanta, you MUST check it out. (They also have a location in Birmingham, in case you ever find yourself in the neighborhood.)

The staff was incredibly knowledgeable and helpful, taking me from completely overwhelmed to pleasantly in awe after they walked me through the store. Thanks for being you, guys! I will sing your praises from now on.

Okay! Onto one of the beers I was lucky enough to procure at Hop City. I give you Clown Shoes Brown Angel.

Clown Shoes Brown Angel

The folks at Clown Shoes are very new to the game, relatively speaking. Hailing from Ipswich, MA, the brewery has been operating for less than 4 years. But judging by my first foray into their wares, I expect fantastic things on the horizon.

At first, I wasn’t quite sure about Brown Angel. I love love love brown ales, and given that this is labeled as a “Double Brown Ale”, I think I was expecting it to be a little more robust. As I delved in a little more, however, I realized the balanced nature of this beer is exactly what makes it so great.

Let’s start again with the nose, even though I kind of hate myself right now for being pretentious. When you take a nice, deep whiff of this, it’s a little sweet, but not too much, and the grain really comes through. It’s almost like a warm piece of delicious toast.

Amazingly enough, the scent of the beer translates directly to how it tastes. It’s kind of uncanny, really. All beers taste somewhat similar to what they taste like, of course. But the similarity between the nose and the taste in Brown Angel is pretty remarkable.

As I said, it’s surprisingly light for a double brown ale, but that is by no means a bad thing. It’s incredibly well balanced, has a subtle but present sweetness to the front, with hints of coffee and caramel, and it finishes just a little bitter. And I could live in the aftertaste for days.

So all in all, I’m really excited to have discovered Clown Shoes. Keep up the good work guys!! If Brown Angel is any indication, you’re doing spectacular work up there in MA.

Until tomorrow…for more beer!

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Beer, Part 1

For those of you who don’t know…it’s Craft Beer Week!! So the committee of one here at The Amateur Cocktailer is celebrating this momentous occasion by highlighting some particularly tasty beer offerings. Honestly, with the absolute explosion of the craft beer scene in the last decade, I could probably change the name of this blog to The Amateur Beer…Guy. But I enjoy cocktails too much to do away with them entirely. So we’re just gonna stick with this week. And I may just throw a beer cocktail in there for good measure.

Anywho, our first offering comes from the good people at Rogue, clearly one of the giants at the craft beer table.

This, my friends, is Hazelnut Brown Nectar.

Hazelnut Brown Ale

Thhis beer won Gold at the Great American Beer Fest in both 2011 AND 2012, as well of a handful of other awards, so it should come as no surprise that it’s delicious. But MAN, is it delicious. Holy crap, you guys.

Now, I’m no sommelier, but let’s pretend I am and start with the “nose”. This stuff just smells amazing. There’s just a subtle hint of hazelnut that comes through over the dark but mellow scent of a brown ale. And in this case, the nose really translates to what the beer actually tastes like. The folks at Rogue could have easily gone overboard with the hazelnut to make it stand out. But they really held it in check perfectly. It complements the ale so very well and makes for a simply spectacular concoction. I’ve never tasted anything quite like it, actually.

Perfectly well-balanced and entirely unique, I highly, highly recommend it. I’m not sure if I’d love it on a daily basis, but for a special occasion, it’s absolutely one of the best beers I’ve ever had. Go pick some up! It’s Craft Beer Week, after all. Celebrate in style!

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Brewing history

Something a little different here today at the ol’ blog. I recently picked up some of this tasty stuff at my local market.


New Albion Ale

To be honest, I only bought it because I was seduced by the packaging. I’m a slave to marketing, dammit!! I also like to try anything new that comes across my vision, but mostly, I’m a corporate puppet.

ANYwho…luckily for me, the guy who works at the local market is quite friendly and quite knowledgable about all things beer. He gave me a little history lesson on this particular concoction, and after a little more research, I realized that I am currently in possession of a really cool piece of microbrewing history.

The story goes like this. In 1976, in the beautiful hills of Sonoma, CA, Jack McAuliffe created what is widely considered to be the first modern microbrewery – New Albion Brewing Company. Here’s Jack, back in the day, in all his glory.

Jack McAuliffe

Sadly, Jack was way ahead of his time, and the New Albion Brewing Company brewed it’s final batch of delicious ale in November of 1982, and subsequently folded…but not before Jack could inspire a whole host of beer enthusiasts who carried on his legacy and created the craft beer sensation that we are lucky enough to witness today.

One of those enthusiasts was Jim Koch, founder of Samuel Adams, which I assume you’ve all heard of. Luckily for us, Jim decided it was about damn time to honor Jack’s work properly, and has re-released the New Albion Ale with Jack’s blessing. It’s the first time this beer has seen the light of day in 30 years! And I gotta say, it’s absolutely worth the wait. It’s pretty light – lighter than the average ale, I’d say – but totally delicious and has a great hint of citrus on the back end. I really really like it.

So kudos to Mr. Jack McAuliffe for his amazing vision and contribution to vastly improving our beer situation here in the US. And kudos as well to Mr. Jim Koch. I love that he still has such a passion for his craft after all these years. Here are these two awesome gents together!

Jack and Jim

Granted, Jack looks a little ornery in this photo, but we’ll forgive him. Go pick up some New Albion Ale today!

Until next time, folks.

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