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Draft Notes

One beer at a time…

Boatswain Chocolate Stout

This is only my 30th review on Draft Notes, but the one review which gets the most views is Boatswain Double IPA Twin Screw Steamer. So, not Bells Hopslam or a Cigar City beer, Boatswain! Ok, to clue in those who are unaware, Boatswain beers are brewed by Minhas Brewery in Wisconsin and sold at Trader Joes for $1.99 for a 22oz bottle. Basically this is the beer counterpart of their famous “Two Buck Chuck” wine. Like I was when I first tried the double IPA, people are curious. Therefore, today I will be reviewing Boatswain Chocolate Stout.Boatswain Choc Stout Label

This Chocolate Stout weighs in at 5.4% ABV and 66 IBUs. The label states they use cocoa powder in the brewing process which is fairly common, but for the calorie counters out there, you should know that powder have a fairly high fat content compared to those using syrups or cocoa nibs.

I am going to be tasting this beer in a standard beer mug, poured from the 22oz bottle.

Boatswain Choc Stout w GlassAppearance is midnight black with a British khaki head.

Aromas are chocolate and roasted barley. Not much else and those present are fairly light.

Tastes like those aromas with the chocolate dominating and that roasted barley peeking in. I also pick up some coffee as dull bitterness rolls of the tongue.

Mouth feel is slightly chalky, medium body, and a moderate amount of carbonation.

Overall this beer is easy drinking and if I take the price tag in account, not a bad buy. It just doesn’t have a whole lot of anything that sticks out. Nothing bad, nothing great, needs more flavor. I will rate Boatswain Chocolate Stout 2.75 mugs out of 5 on the Draft Notes Scale. Boatswain Choc Stout Head

Give it a try, but I suggest paying a couple of dollars more for something like Young’s Double Chocolate Stout ($4.99 17oz) or Rogue Chocolate Stout ($6.99 22oz).

If you are interested in the cocoa type discussion (Powder, Nibs, Syrup,or bar), I thought this was a pretty good article and probably helpful for home brewers: http://allaboutbeer.com/learn-beer/home-brewing/recipes/2010/01/brewing-with-cocoa/

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DC Brau – On The Wings of Armageddon

The Craft Brewers Conference is in full effect here in Washington DC with more tap take overs and beer releases than I have ever seen in this town. In response to CBC 2013, I decided to take a look at a local DC beer which caused a little stir last week leading into the conference: DC Brau’s On the Wings of Armageddon (OTWOA).

This is not a new beer as it was first released in February 2012 as we rode the ride to the Mayan’s end of the world prediction. The splash was made by the first release in cans of a beer that has been difficult to find on tap, even in the DC metro.

OTWOA is an imperial IPA (9.2% ABV) brewed with Pale malt, Cara-60, CaraPils and Malted wheat along with Falconer’s Flight Hops. Falconer’s are an interesting story itself. As stated on the DC Brau website:

Falconer’s Flight™ is an exclusive proprietary “hop blend” created by Hopunion LLC to honor and support the legacy of Northwest brewing legend, Glen Hay Falconer. For more information on the Glen Hay Falconer Foundation, visit www.glenfalconerfoundation.org, or for more information on Hopunion LLC, visit www.hopunion.com.

DC Brau OTWOA 6I purchased my six-pack (12oz cans) on the release day at the brewery for $17.99. Not too bad for a sought after Imperial IPA after paying $23.00 for Bells Hopslam a few months back. Not cheap though! There were only 250 cases made and it sold out quickly.

Before I move on to the actual tasting and review, I think it would be criminal of me not to take notice of the sweet art work on the can. Check it out in the pictures… not bad!

So now I can pour the can into my favorite tulip glass and check it out.

Appearance is a cloudy copper with snow-white head.

Aromas I pick up are floral, citrus and pineapple. Though I would say this is very fruity, I can definitely pick up those bready malts.DC Brau OTWOA glass

Tastes are pine, grapefruit, caramel, earthy, boozy, lingering bitter taste over takes my entire mouth. Almost paralyzing the taste buds as I wait for my next sip.

Mouth Feel contains a medium amount of carbonation. It is a bit chewy and I would still consider it of medium body.

Overall this big IPA packs that expected hop punch. They did a great job of balancing it out with the malts; however, this is definitely in that “palate wrecker” category.  The bitterness at the end completely takes over your taste buds. DC Brau has combined the look, smell, and impact I look for in an imperial IPA. I will rate On the Wings of Armageddon 4.5 Mugs out 5 on the Draft Notes Scale. Hop heads should line up for this beer, other should approach with caution.

A video of the original release at a popular DC beer spot named Church key: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6ftN_r6sQQ

Learn more about DC Brau here: www.dcbrau.com

Devils Backbone Schwartz Bier

This week I would like to do my first review of a black lager which is one of my favorite styles due to the high amount of flavor in such a smooth, sessionable beer. The particular beer I chose is by Devils Backbone and appropriately named Schwartz Bier (Black beer).

This is my second review of a DB beer with Azrael, their Strong Belgian Ale, being one of my first posts.  As discussed in the prior post, this is a fast rising award-winning brewery out of Roseland, Virginia. Schwartz Bier won Bronze in the World Beer Cup in 2010 and has racked up a few Virginia craft beer awards.

This beer clocks in at 4.9% ABV. As you can see in the pictures, my review was done from a 12 oz bottle poured into a mug.DB Schwartz - Glass

Appearance is midnight black with a small amount of khaki colored head.

Aromas I detect are roast notes, chocolate, and molasses. Nothing really jumping out, but that is to be expected with this style.

Tastes are roasted malt/barley, a little espresso, caramel, molasses, and a bitterness which hits at the end as the beer clears off the tongue.

With such a dark beer it is natural to anticipate a heavy mouth feel, but this style is far from it. Schwartz Bier has a light body and is clean and crisp. Almost dries out the mouth after the bitterness fades. Medium to low amount of carbonation.

Overall I find this to be very representative of the black lager style:  Plenty of roasted flavors, bittersweet, and quite refreshing. I can’t find too much negative about this beer and it is nothing but satisfying, so I will rate Devil’s Backbone Schwartz Bier 4.5 Mugs on the Draft Notes Scale. DB Schwartz - Label

This style is a definitely a nice break from traditional winter beers I have been drinking over the last few months such as stouts, strong ales, and warmers.

Don’t get Devil’s Backbone in your neighborhood? Some popular Black Lagers you could look for are Kostritzer (one of the oldest and original producers in Germany), Sam Adams Black Lager, and Full Sail Session Black Lager.  I had a great one in Charleston, SC last month by Westbrook called Dark Helmut if you are lucky enough to live in that area (or visit).

Devils Backbone: http://www.dbbrewingcompany.com

Heavy Seas Small Craft Warning Uber Pils

I decided to head up highway 95 for this week’s beer, Heavy Seas Small Craft Warning Uber Pils. This is an imperial pilsner brewed in Baltimore, MD by a brewery who has had a few identity issues over the years.

Per the breweries website, they were founded in 1994 as Clipper City Brewing Company. In 1997 they absorbed Oxford Brewing Company and then added the new Heavy Seas brand in 2003. Not until recently, in 2010, did they merge all the products under the single brand of Heavy Seas brand. Heavy Seas maintains 3 series of beers under the names Clipper Fleet, the Pyrate Fleet, and the Mutiny Fleet.Small Craft Warning Label

Now in saying all this, the address on the labels small print still says Clipper City Brewing and they have not done a great job identifying which “fleet” the Uber Pils belongs to on either the website or bottle. The identity crisis continues.

Small Craft Warning contains 7.0%ABV and 35 IBUs. The make-up of this beer includes a whopping 6 types of hops: Warrior, Palisade, French Strisselspalt, Saaz, Simcoe, and Cascade.  Additionally, they have included 2-row, Munich, and Caramalt malts.

The serving I will review will be a 12 oz bottle poured into a pilsner glass.

Small Craft Warning GlassAppearance is a brilliant orange with minimal head. Recedes quickly leaving minimal to no lacing.

Aromas are Spicy hops, apricot, and honey.

Tastes are heavy in earthy flavors and toast, malt forward with a spicy hop flavor following through. Well balanced, but nothing really jumping out at me. After taste is a bit funky.

Mouth feel: Perfect carbonation for my taste, fairly light body and very clean.

Overall this is a nice pilsner with a bit of kick. All around a solid beer with nothing much to say negative; however, nothing is really jumping out at me to set it apart from others. A very safe pilsner that would keep most beer drinkers satisfied. If you are big on spicy hops, this beer may stand out a little more to you. I will rate Small Craft Warning Uber Pils 3 Mugs out of 5 on the Draft Notes Scale.

Learn more about Clipper City, err… Oxford, err…. Heavy Seas at http://www.hsbeer.com/.

Cigar City White Oak Aged Jai Alai IPA

This week I am returning to my collection of Cigar City beers (Tampa, Florida) which I purchased online and wanted to review while they are fresh. Last week I reviewed the Maduro Brown Ale and based on the hype of this brewery I was not completely thrilled. I am excited to see what I have in the White Oak Aged Jai Alai India Pale Ale. I quite enjoyed the regular Jai Alai IPA (sorry no review on that one), so I am definitely curious to taste this oak aged version.Oak Jai Alai Label

As a somewhat educational note, the term Jai Alai refers to what was known as the “Merry Game” or “World’s Fastest Game” which was once very popular in the Tampa area. This sport of Spanish origination is a mix of lacrosse and racquetball/squash (well, that is how I would describe it). Four players are on an indoor court about the size of basketball court with a wall at the end and sling a ball back and forth at very high speeds against a wall with a basket type sling (think lacrosse but shorter and deeper).

Now back to business with a quick look the specs on this beer.  Weighing in at 7.5% ABV and 70 IBU, White Oak Aged Jai Alai is part of the Cigar City’s year round selection. My serving will be from a 12 oz bottle poured into a tulip glass.Oak Jai Alai Glass

The appearance is a cloudy copper with a thin layer of head which sticks around for a couple of minutes.

Aromas are dominated by oak with a sprinkling of pine, vanilla, and raw sugar.

Tastes I pick up are the expected oak followed by vanilla, citrus, pine, and some bitterness followed up with more of the oak.

Mouth feel is very smooth with a medium body and a satisfying amount of carbonation. Very nice.

Overall, this is an outstanding beer which reminds me of a hopped up version of Innis & Gunn Original. The oak aromas and flavors are strong, but it is needed to keep up with the hops.  Aromas are very enticing and complex. The mouth feel is so smooth and with perfect carbonation. I will rate the Jai Alai White Oak 4.5 Mugs out of 5 on the Draft Notes scale.

This beer shows me why Cigar City has received such praise and I feel that this particular beer will appeal to most beer drinkers. Additionally I see this as one of those beers with the potential to convert white wine lovers with the oak/chardonnay type flavors giving them something familiar while introducing to hops. I believe I may have mentioned this with Innis & Gunn too.

Learn more about Cigar City here: http://www.cigarcitybrewing.com/ and if my awesome description has enticed you into a Jai Alai career: http://www.dania-jai-alai.com/.

Cigar City Brewery Maduro Brown

Cigar City Maduro Brown

I recently saw that RateBeer posted their Top 100 Brewery list and the number 4 position was held by Cigar City Brewing. I had heard a lot about this brewery out of Tampa, Florida, but did not realize it held such clout in the industry. Unfortunately, Cigar City beers are not distributed in the DC Metro area (and from what I can tell, many places outside Florida). After being bombarded with emails from Let’s Pour, an online beer sales site, I decided to hand over my savings and order a selection of Cigar City beers (10 for $40 after a $10 off and free shipping). The beer I am going to review today is the Maduro Brown, one of their year round selections.Maduro Can

Maduro Brown is an English style Brown Ale which contains 5.5% alcohol and 25 IBUs.  The brewery website notes that the ABV is a little higher than most English Brown’s and they have also added oat flakes to give it more of a silky body. The addition of oats is most often seen in stouts, so I am very curious to see how it impacts the brown ale. I just can’t imagine a beer like Newcastle Brown having the silky feel of a stout.

The serving I have is a 12 oz can, which I will pour into a mug.Maduro Glass

Appearance is a hazy brown (surprise!) with fairly minimal head which recedes almost immediately.

Aromas I pick up are chocolate, brown sugar, and caramel.

I taste a fair share of cocoa, toffee, caramel, and a touch of coffee (maybe just the slight bitterness).

Mouth feel is the interesting part of this beer. It is definitely silky as expected due to the oats, but nothing like a thick silky stout. It is a watery silk if that makes any sense with a bit of a chalky finish. This leaves me a little confused about my feelings for this beer.

Overall I am not highly impressed, but I think it is an interesting take on the English Brown style which must of us a most familiar with due to Newcastle Brown. It is easy drinking and plenty of flavor, but I am just not too impressed with the use of oats giving it a feel that just did not sit well with me. I will rate Cigar City’s Maduro Brown 3.5 Mugs out of 5 on the Draft Notes Scale.

I plan on reviewing at least one more of the Cigar City selection with hopes I can see more of why this brewery is held in such high regard. I did try their “Hotter Than Helles” which was an amazing Helles Lager, a style I usually avoid.

To learn more about Cigar City, check out their website here: http://www.cigarcitybrewing.com/. See the entire RateBeer Top 100 here: http://www.ratebeer.com/RateBeerBest/bestbrewers_012013x.asp.

Sixpoint Brewery – The Crisp

The Super Bowl is upon us, so I have decided to take a look at a sessionable beer perfect for the game day celebrations. The beer of the hour is The Crisp; a Pilsner by Sixpoint Brewery. Sixpoint is a craft brewer from Brooklyn, New York who prides themselves on stepping outside the box on traditional styles.Sixpoint Can

The brewery website offers an interesting narrative on the name Sixpoint. Sixpoint has been synonymous with brewing since the 1300’s when it was often seen on barrels of beer and eventually became the official insignia of the European Brewers Guild in the 1500s. Folk law says that the six points of a star represent the six critical elements of the brewing craft: grain, water, hops, yeast, malt, and the brewer.

The Crisp is brewed with Noble hops and weighs in at 5.4% ABV and 42 IBUs. I do not see any detail on whether this is a Bohemian (generally Saaz hops) or German (generally Hallertau hops). Beer Advocate classifies it as German, where Rate beer lists as Bohemian.  Based on the breweries tendencies, maybe it is a combo.Sixpoint Glass

I am consuming a 16oz can poured into a pilsner glass. The beer pours a straw color with a think Ivory head which is in no hurry to dissipate.

Aromas are floral, bready, banana, and citrus. All fairly light as the head seals them in.

Tastes I detect are herbal hops, biscuits, and caramel. There is definitely a bitter aspect to this beer which leads into the crisp, dry, and clean finish.

Mouth feel is light with plenty of carbonation, although the carbonation is not overwhelming. Slightly syrupy for a second, then dries right out.

Overall, despite the out of the box angle taken on many of their beers, this pilsner is pretty true to the style.  My palate is not experienced enough to take on the Bohemia verse German question, but it is experienced enough to say this is a nice beer with generally good malt to hop balance. Maybe a little hoppier than most pilsners, but I prefer hopped up beers so it works well for me. I will rate The Crisp 4 Mugs out of 5 on the Draft Notes scale. It is all I would like in a sessionable pilsner to go along with an extended drinking session during Super Bowl Sunday or and other sporting event.

Learn more about Sixpoint Brewery here: http://sixpoint.com/ and more detail about the significance of the name Sixpoint here: http://sixpoint.com/about/logo. Cheers!

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