Beer Review: Blue Moon Grand Cru Limited Edition 2009 8.2% ABV

Originally handwritten on January 5, 2010 with a Pilot VPen F point with light blue ink in a Writer’s Bloc small notebook with dotted lines.

Blue Moon (owned by Miller, though Beer Advocate categorizes this as owned by Coors) is one of the beers I order when out and about. More and more restaurants and bars are carrying this even if their average brew is your Coors or Budweiser-type of beer. Of the Blue Moon varieties out there, I think Full Moon is my favorite. Tonight’s review is on the limited edition Grand Cru 2009.

This poured a hazy, light yellow-orange. Very light head with light lacing. Nose was a typical witbier with bouquet of yeast, citrus, and a little spice. I could taste the orange with faint spice. What makes this stand out head and shoulders above the typical Blue Moon fare was the very definite alcohol bite, as evidenced by the 8.2% ABV. Any warmth I got from this was without a doubt from the alcohol. This might put off a lot of drinkers, but not me. There was a bit of a bitter aftertaste but fortunately it dissolved quickly into the typical witbier I so like.

Beer advocate reviewers gave it a B- (worthy). I’m going to give it an A- or 4.25 mugs.

Beer Review: Bell’s Third Coast Ale 10.2% ABV

Originally handwritten January 3, 2010 with my beautiful yellow Pilot Vanishing Point F nib with Diamine Majestic Blue ink.

Coming back to Bell’s Brewery, this time I tried their seasonal (November to April) brew, Third Coast Ale.

This beer pours a cloudy reddish brown color. I am a big fan of unfiltered beers, so I’m already anticipating that I’ll like this beer. There was a thin head but there was decent lacing down the glass as I drank it. There are flecks of sediment suspended throughout.

The nose is a little sweet. There’s a thick mouthfeel to this beer, and I get a strong hoppy/bitter character to it, but it recedes quickly. It doesn’t have the strong alcohol taste as DFH World Wide Stout or Fort (does anything?), but there’s a definite warmth here.

Beer Advocate reviewers gave this an A- (very good). I found this beer quite tasty and would love to drink more of it in the future. Bell’s consistently makes good beer. I’m giving it an A or 4.5 mugs.

Beer Review: Rogue Chocolate Stout 6.0% ABV

Originally handwritten January 2, 2010

Rogue is another of my favorite breweries. This time I gave their Chocolate Stout a try.

This beer pours thick and dark with a brown head that retains some bubbles and lacing. Something that is fun about developing a stout palate is whenever I pour one, it’s always very pretty to watch.

This is a strong tasting beer. I don’t detect any chocolate (boo), but neither do I taste coffee, which is always a danger with stouts. While the beer tastes good, it does have a strong aftertaste that will take some getting used to.

Beer Advocate reviewers give this an A (outstanding), while the brothers give it an A+ (world class). For now, I’m giving it a B+ or 4 mugs. I will likely try this beer again as my palate develops.

Beer Review: Bell’s Sparkling Ale 8.2% ABV

Originally handwritten on December 24, 2009

Coming back to one of my favorite breweries, Bell’s released a Sparkling Ale (no link at the Bells website, unfortunately) this fall. The staff at the Manassas Total Wine gave it a good recommendation.

The ale poured a very clear light golden-orange color. It was effervescent with a bit of a hominy smell. It had a slightly bitter aftertaste, so likely too much hops for my liking. I ended up drinking the whole six pack over a period of a few weeks and I’m not sure how I feel about it. It is a drinkable beer but the hominy smell may be putting me off too much to truly enjoy it.

Beer Advocate reviewers give this a B+ (very good) rating. I am going to give it a B- or 3.5 mugs.

Beer Review: Ommegang Witte 5.1% ABV

Originally handwritten on December 22, 2009

Ommegang is one of my favorite breweries. No surprise there as their specialty is the belgian-style beer. My favorite of the brew is again, no surprise, their Witte ale, though I’ve enjoyed all their year-round brews and would love to try as many of their seasonals as possible, especially the Chocolate Indulgence.

The Witte beer pours a standard cloudy, pale yellow characteristic of witbiers. It has a lot of carbonation with a slight citrus, classic wheat bouquet. The taste is light, crisp, and very refreshing. I tried this beer originally at a beer festival held at the Maryland Zoo in 2009 and fell in love with it. I have bought it several times since then and will continue to as long as they produce it!

Beer Advocate reviewers rate this B+ (very good) overall, whereas the brothers rate it as a B-. I’m giving it a higher rating of an A or 4.5 mugs.

Beer Review: Unibroue Blanche de Chambly 5% ABV

Originally written on December 8, 2009.

Canada’s Unibroue always has interesting sounding beers every time I see the label in the stores. I have three to review, one of which is Blanche de Chambly, categorized as a white ale, so odds are I’m going to like it!

The beer poured a pale, golden yellow, fairly clear. It had a clean finish, nice carbonation, with a bit of tartness so it reminded me a little of a cider but without the sweetness that comes with most ciders. While I didn’t find the taste unique, it is quenching, satisfying, and I would happily drink again (have one in the fridge now as I write this).

Beer Advocate reviewers give this a B+, and the Brothers agree, rating it a B+, as well. I will also give it a B+ or 4 mugs.

Beer Review: Dogfish Head Fort 18% ABV

Originally written on November 22, 2009 with an updated tasting on January 6, 2010.

My first impression of Dogfish Head’s Fort was similar to the same brewery’s World Wide Stout the second time around—a serious alcohol bite. And at 18% ABV, that’s no joke. This beer poured an amber orange, slightly cloudy color. DFH says they brewed this as a Belgian ale base with a ton of raspberries. They aren’t kidding. This is one of the few beers that I can smell and detect something other than beer. It smelled like delicious raspberries.

The first taste is of unsweet raspberries followed by the alcohol burn that travels to the tummy. The taste reminds me of a modified Mind Eraser shot we used to drink that replaced the Kahlua with Chambord. Halfway through my bottle of this (I was an idiot and didn’t think 18% was that much and in size like a wine bottle, that’s quite a buzz), my husband returned from running errands and brought me home a banana split Blizzard from Dairy Queen. Serendipity! Drinking Fort with something sweet cut back the alcohol burn quite a bit and brought more sweetness to the raspberries.

For my second tasting earlier this week, we were at Dogfish Head Alehouse in Chantilly VA where they had it on tap. The bartender poured the beer into a snifter glass. It looked much redder and less cloudy here.The first taste was sweeter than I remembered, which actually makes this beer even more dangerous than I originally thought. With such a fruity, wine-cooler look and sweet taste, it’s easy to forget that this is not a beer for wimps. You need a designated driver for this one! After two Forts, I was glad I had my husband to drive me home. Despite it being quite cold outside, the Fort kept me mighty warm all night.

All in all, I find this a dramatic, beautiful, interesting beer. Dogfish Head suggests that this is a good beer to lay down, and as such I have a bottle in the fridge for any sort of Fort emergencies, and one in reserve. Beer Advocate reviewers give this a B, the Brothers give it a B+. I love fruity, Belgian, high alcohol beers so this is an A+ or 5 mugs.

Beer Review: Bell’s Cherry Stout 7.0% ABV

Written originally by hand on November 21, 2009.

Here’s another from Bell’s Brewery, but quite a departure from the Winter White Ale! This poured a very dark blood red brown color, nearly red black. I could detect a cherry aroma, which in most beers I’m not very good detecting anything much beyond “yep, that’s beer.”

My first taste was very tart and sour–I liked this! It had a very faint coffee finish (not to my liking, unsurprisingly), but it didn’t render the beer undrinkable for me. There was a significant aftertaste but it wasn’t unpleasant. Other reviewers detected chocolate, but I didn’t, unfortunately. However, this is a flavorful, hearty stout I’ll drink again.

Beer Advocate reviewers gave this a B (good). I’m giving it the same or 3.75 mugs.

Beer Review: Brouwerij Huyghe Floris Wit-Blanche 5% ABV

Written originally by hand on November 21, 2009, using my Pilot Lucina medium nib fountain pen in Doane Paper utility notebook

Floris Wit-Blanche from Brouwerij Huyghe comes with a pretty label. It has a light yellow color similar to Hoegaarden. This is an unfiltered beer with visible yeast floating throughout. I didn’t read the bottle that said to pour carefully, but in general, I like to pour my unfiltered beers as they are as I like them precisely for their cloudy appearance. However, I mention the visible yeast so it doesn’t alarm anyone when trying this beer: the floaters are intentional!

Taste was similar to Hoegaarden, with notes of citrus and spices. It wasn’t very carbonated, head wasn’t remarkable, and there wasn’t really any lacing on my glass. I don’t know how these contribute to a beer other than appearance, but I am including it.

I found this beer to be delicious, light, and refreshing, with no trace of bitterness or alcohol–just smooth and tasty. I would love to drink this beer again. I haven’t found it again on repeat trips to Total Wine, but I look for it each time I shop.

Beer Advocate reviewers rated this at B (good). I’m rating it a little higher at an A- or 4.25 mugs.

Beer Review: Bell’s Winter White Ale 5.0% ABV

Written originally by hand on November 21, 2009, using my Pilot Lucina medium nib fountain pen in Doane Paper utility notebook.

Bell’s Brewery makes a lot of beers that I find quite tasty. Their seasonal Winter White Ale would be at the top of this list. After I originally wrote this review, A friend mentioned he liked this at a beer dinner that I was unable to attend last December, so I picked up a six pack for him as well as for myself on one of my last trips to Total Wine. I would buy this beer every time I went beer shopping, so good thing for my pocketbook this is a seasonal.

This is an unfiltered witbier. It poured a light golden yellow color with a moderate head for this type of beer and very light lacing. Bell’s created this using a blend of hefeweizen and belgian-style yeasts. The ale had a light citrus and spice flavor typical of witbiers/hefeweizens with a bit of a hoppy taste, but still leaving a crisp clean finish. I liked its carbonation and felt like it left my palate cleansed, thus consider this a very refreshing beer that I would enjoy year round. A good beer to drink when tired and thirsty!

Beer Advocate reviewers give this a B (good) rating. I’m giving it an A+ or 5 mugs. I would love to hoard bottles of this beer and call them my preciouses.

Beer Review: Magic Hat Circus Boy Hefeweizen 4.4% ABV

Originally handwritten on November 8, 2009

I do like the beers I’ve tried from Magic Hat, including Circus Boy. This beer poured a golden yellow color. There wasn’t much of a head and I didn’t notice very much lacing. Despite it being categorized as an unfiltered American wheat beer, it wasn’t very cloudy. This is cosmetic though, so I try not to hold it against the beer.

The taste was crisp, clean, light, slightly citrusy, with very little aftertaste. I would drink this beer again.

Beer Advocate reviewers rate this as a B- (worthy), while the BA Bros. rate it at A- (excellent). I’m giving it a B+ or 4 mugs.

Beer Reviews

I love beer. I love pens. I love paper. In an effort to combine all three with the idea to (a) improve my beer palate, (b) try out my many beautiful fountain pens and inks, (c) and make use of my lovely papers, I decided to make notes on the beers I try. I buy most of these at Total Wine & More because I can buy the beers in single bottles, which is the best way to sample beers: no worries if I don’t like it. It’s a lot easier to pour half a beer down the drain than have five beers left in my fridge waiting for the perfect guest to arrive who might like it enough to finish the pack.

A warning though: I don’t have a very sophisticated palate and don’t always know how to describe what I taste. I hope that by taking notes I can improve this. When possible, I will link to Beer Advocate where people much more experienced and sophisticated offer their reviews. I refer to this site a lot as it is helps me to read what other people detect in the taste so I can try to find that particular flavor in what I’m drinking too.

As far as my tastes go, I like most wit biers, hefeweizens/unfiltered wheats, belgians (including lambics), milk/chocolate stouts. I don’t like hoppy beers, hence most IPAs leave me cold. I don’t like coffee, which makes developing my stout/porter palate difficult, though I’ve found many recently that I really enjoy. Beers I like in no particular order: Shiner Bock, Newcastle, Kirin, Taj Mahal, Shenandoah Brewing Company’s Chocolate Donut Stout and Stonyman Oatmeal Stout, Hoegaarden, Dogfish Head Fort and World Wide Stout. Craft breweries that I like a lot are Dogfish Head (non-IPA beers, of course), Bells, Magic Hat, Rogue, New Holland, and Ommegang.

My husband I recently went to make our own brews. He had done this before and made a vanilla porter that was well liked by a lot of our friends. Our current beer that’s fermenting is a modified monster Belgian brown that we’ll be calling Vorpal Bunny. In the process of trying to make a beer we’d both like (he likes stouts, I like wheats; he likes coffee, I like fruity/sweet/higher alcohol), we added some more hops to the batch on the advice of the brew master on site at Shenandoah Brewing Company. We’ll be bottling this up later in January 2010.

In general, I’m only going to post reviews of beers I like for now. As I’ve said, my palate isn’t very developed and I don’t think it is fair to give an unfavorable review of a beer when I don’t know much about beers to begin with. I’m sticking with the idea that I know what I like and that’s what I want to focus my reviews on.

I love recommendations so please feel free to comment on my reviews to suggest beers for me to search out!

I will also share what pen and paper I used when I jotted down my original notes.

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