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Draft Notes

One beer at a time…

Archive for the month “December, 2012”

Throwback Brewery Campfire Smoked Porter

A good friend of mine from the “live free or die” state recently brought me a bomber of Campfire Smoked Porter by a small brewery named Throwback Brewery. Throwback is located in North Hampton, NH and from what I see on their website, currently only distribute within the state. They pride themselves on using local ingredients and strive to eventually be 100% local all the way down to the malt as was done by many small breweries pre-prohibition (Hence the name Throwback).Throwback Campfire

I thought a porter would be a good follow-up to my last review on Sierra’s Narwhal Stout. What is the difference between a Porter and a stout you may be asking? Well, I was asking and it is actually a good question that does not seem to have one answer. Some say it is simply that a stout is a stronger version of a Porter. Others note the use of roasted barley in Stouts gives a more roasted taste. The problem is there are many exceptions to many rules, especially in today’s craft brewing scene. Not to mention variations of each like Baltic Porters and Milk Stouts.

Yeah, so I didn’t answer the question either. Moving on…

The Campfire Smoked Porter weighs in at 6.4% ABV and 48 IBUs. The” smoked” portion of this beer is created by smoking the malts of New Hampshire applewood. I don’t usually talk pairings, but the Throwback suggests barbecue or s’mores off a campfire. S’mores? Seriously? Well ok, I probably would try it if I was ever around a campfire.

Now down to business. After I let the bottle sit out for about 15-20 minutes to warm up, I pour from the 22oz bottle into my tulip glass. Appearance is a black body with a khaki head; a lot of head as seen in the picture. I actually poured two glasses thinking I made a bad pour the first time.

Throwback Campfire GlassThe aromas are smoke and well, that is really all I can detect.  I could actually smell the smokiness immediately after opening the bottle. This smells exactly like a German Rauchbier (maybe on the lighter side).

When I take my first sip, the smoke jumps out immediately, but not as overwhelming as I expected based on the aroma. I taste the bitterness of the hops coming through followed by a beautiful espresso finish. Little bit of that bitterness lingers. Exceptional balance for sure.

The mouth feel is that of a full-bodied beer with plenty of carbonation present. Stings the tongue a little at first and leaves a slightly syrupy layer in the mouth.

Overall I am a bit conflicted with this beer. I don’t like that flood of smoke in the aroma every time I stick my nose into the glass while taking a sip. However; the taste of smoke, hops, and coffee flavors are extremely well-balanced and have me going back for more. I am going to rate this 3.75 Mugs out of 5 on the Draft Notes scale. I recommend this beer as a “try it if you see it” if you like a little smoke in beers, if not it may not be your thing so step away unless feeling adventurous. I definitely will be requesting another Throwback beer from my NH connection on his next trip home.

To learn more about Throwback Brewery, check out their website at: http://throwbackbrewery.com/.  If you are interested in the porter vs stout conversation, here is one of the articles I read by the respected magazine Beer Connoisseur: http://www.beerconnoisseur.com/porter-versus-stout. Cheers!

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Sierra Nevada Narwhal Imperial Stout

Narwhal LabelMany craft beer drinkers credit Sierra Nevada as one of their “gateway” breweries introducing them to the tastes of craft beer and drawing them away from boring macro beers. I picked up the often available Pale Ale many years ago and continue to enjoy it to this date. Today I find myself far from the old pale ale holding a Narwhal Imperial Stout which is part of Sierra Nevada’s High Altitude Series (Hoptimum and Bigfoot also in this series). Narwhal (2012) was release in October and has been highly touted by many beer drinkers/reviewers. The beer weighs in at 10.2% ABV and 60 IBU using Magnum hops and about a half dozen malts (including 2 Row Pale and Roasted Barley). One item to note for those watching their figure, this beer has approximately 305 calories which is far from 150 or less in the average pilsner or lager. The (hopefully) awesomeness of this stout will be worth it though. Let us drink.

Appearance is black as tar with dark tan head which recedes within 30 seconds. Aromas I detect are sweet chocolate, slight coffee, and a touch of smoke. Aromas are all fairly mild, but blend quite well. Immediate tastes are roasted coffee and a little chocolate with the smoky roasted barley coming through. I detect the alcohol after a sting of bitterness leaves the tongue. There is a silky smooth mouth feel creating a medium body. Narwhal and GlassOverall, I would say they blend of roasted coffee, chocolate, and smoke come together quite well. It is interesting how the aroma leans towards the sweet chocolate (slight coffee) and then the taste is primarily coffee (slight chocolate). I think my favorite part of this beer is the silk like mouth feel. Probably not what the brewery would hope for as the highlight. The lingering alcohol taste is a bit much for my liking. I will rate this beer 4 Mugs out of 5 on the Draft Notes scale.

The Sierra Nevada website points out that this is a great beer to age, so I would be curious to try this after a year of two of aging to see how much of the alcohol dissipates. That would make me happy and push that rating up. Not sure I have the patience to wait though! Learn more about Sierra Nevada here: http://www.sierranevada.com/. Interested in Narwhals? Read more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narwhal. Rumor is they enjoy bacon.

21st Amendment Fireside Chat Winter Spiced Ale

One of my favorite things about winter is trying winter spiced ales (warmers) as the breweries can really get creative with the style. I have been looking forward to writing a review on one of my favorites from last year, 21st Amendment Fireside Chat Winter Spiced Ale. In my opinion, 21st Amendment has solid beers across the board minus the Watermelon Wheat (My wife loves it though, so it has an audience).  The brewpub was founded in 2000 and is located a couple of blocks from the Giant’s stadium in San Francisco. Besides the fantastic beer, 21st Amendment is known for their creative art design (and names) on the beer cans (Check them out here: http://21st-amendment.com/beer).Fireside Chat Can Fireside Chat is named after president FDR’s depression era radio addresses which, per the brewery website, “were like a kick in the butt and a hug at the same time”. This spiced English ale has an ABV of 7.9% and an IBU rating of 45. Seven malts, two hops, and a top fermenting ale yeast were combined for the base ale and spices (probably cloves, nutmeg, allspice, and other secret ingredients) were thrown in the mix to produce the final product. Time to taste…

Appearance is dark amber brown with about a half-inch of tan head. Aromas I pick up include nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves. Pretty much anything you could think of in mulling spices, but nothing too overwhelming.  The tastes I encounter are nutmeg, cloves, sweet malts, chocolate, and a bitter finish which definitely lingers until my next swill. The mouth feel is lighter than I expected, but still a slight syrupy coating. Not much carbonation to speak of. Overall, I enjoy this beer quite a bit and the find the balanceFireside Chat Glass between spices, malts, and bitterness to suit me quite well. I am going to rate 21st Amendment’s Fireside Chat 4 Mugs out of 5 on the Draft Notes Scale. One of my favorite winter spiced ales for sure, but probably not for everyone. So try it at a bar before you buy a 6 pack. I find that the number of ingredients in spiced ales can complicate the tastes and we all may pick up one spice (or malt) more than others. Therefore, I find it interesting to hear what others pick up or find to be the dominate taste/aroma.  If you happen to pick up a can or two, please comment with your opinions.

To learn more about 21st Amendment Brewery, check them out here: http://21st-amendment.com/.  Also, who is coming with me??? A winter warmer beer fest – http://www.ashevillebeerfest.com/  – a nice way to celebrate Australia Day on Jan 26th.

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