Palo Santo Marron – Dogfish Head

Palo Santo Marron – Dogfish Head

Palo Santo Marron is an American Brown Ale from Dogfish Head, weighing in right at 12% ABV (which happens to also be Ohio’s maximum ABV cap). Unfiltered and aged in handmade Palo Santo wood vessels that lend a vanilla flavor to the ale itself, it’s a wonderfully complex aged ale. A backbone of caramel malt lends flavor and strength to this beer, making a wonderfully rich and layered beer. Also tastes somewhat of raisins.

Rating: 80

Amber Ale – Dark Horse Brewing

Amber Ale – Dark Horse Brewing

Amber Ale from Dark Horse Brewing out of Michigan is an American Amber weighing in at 5.5% ABV. It’s a pretty decent beer, but doesn’t taste like a normal amber beer should. Somewhat toasted malt flavors lurk in the background, and there’s no hops to speak of. Spicy like a Witbier – definitely would classify this more as a red Wit, because we have black IPAs. Definitely touches of banana esters and isn’t carbonated very well. Overall – would drink again, but wouldn’t seek this out either.

Rating: 75

High Country Ale – Blowing Rock Brewing

High Country Ale – Blowing Rock Brewing

High Country Ale is a somewhat decent American Pale Ale (APA). Weighing in at 5.4% ABV, it tastes much like an American Adjunct Lager-Ale. That being said – it’s decent, if overly heavy on the biscuity malt flavors that still manage to be corn-like and light-tasting. Mainly malt-based, with almost no hops to speak of. Easy-drinking, but almost devoid of any other flavors besides the biscuity malt that’s light on the palate.

Rating: 68

2009 Pumpkin Beers

2009 Pumpkin Beers

All of these pumpkin beers got released in August 2009. A bit too early for pumpkin, but well-loved by those that wanted to get a early start on the season. Out of all of these options seen here, New Holland’s Ichabod was probably the best pumpkin beer.

2012 Hoptimum – Sierra Nevada

2012 Hoptimum – Sierra Nevada

Hoptimum is a double IPA at 10.4% ABV that’s bordering on “extreme”, especially when you consider that it’s a whole-cone hopped beer. Hopped, dry-hopped, AND torpedoed for an ultra-intense hop explosion. Not for the faint of heart, utilizing new hop varieties for a spectrum of flavors throughout every drink. Notes of melon, rose, lilac, cedar, mango, papaya, resin, and a spicy finish. Boozy but in a good way – it hits at the end of the hop cavalcade, leaving a mouth-puckering spicy finish that isn’t very sticky. Well balanced, as the brewers at Sierra Nevada always attempt to do with their beers. Malt is lurking beneath the hop-festival that was expected and delivered on.

Rating: 95

2008 Chocolate Bock – Samuel Adams

2008 Chocolate Bock – Samuel Adams

Presented with a lovely pewter label on a bomber (and retailing at $14.99 a bomber, this was the perfect beer for the holidays). Produced in 2008, but I cellared the bottle until 2010 and served it at Thanksgiving. It was a big hit – subtle and mellow, with rich chocolate flavor and other flavor notes from its special brewing process, which paired well with turkey and pumpkin pie. This beer was aged on a bed of cocoa nibs from Felchlin – Grand Cru Savage from Bolivia. The nibs imparted notes of honey, vanilla, and dried fruit to the malt backbone of Chocolate Bock. Despite being aged for 2 years, the beer held up very well, even with a low ABV. It transformed into a wonderfully decadent and complex beer that finished smooth (without any bittering).
I only wish that I had bought more of this vintage. The “new” Chocolate Bock that got introduced in 2009-10 changed the formula, going from a premium beer to a mass-produced beer that could be put into the variety packs and six-packs at a reduced cost. I’d still prefer the premium cost of the 2008 Chocolate Bock over the more recent version. If Samuel Adams decides to produce another premium version of this beer, then pick it up immediately.

Rating: 92

Foreign Extra Stout – Guinness

Foreign Extra Stout – Guinness

Originally released to foreign countries (ie: not the US or the UK), Foreign Extra Stout from Guinness was well known to international travelers. I was able to enjoy a variant of this beer on a beach in Bermuda, but it was finally introduced (as a different recipe) to America in 2010. This recipe far surpasses the original variant that I sampled (which as it turns out is because the Bahamanian version’s brewed in the Bahamas itself). After its introduction in 2010, it’s been generally available year-round (but may not be always available in your market). 7.5% ABV and it packs more flavor in than normal “Guinness” does. It’s a Foreign Extra Stout, not an Irish Dry Stout (as Guinness Draught is). Some hops flavor, plenty of punch, chocolate-caramel-coffee flavors, and isn’t boozy. Finishes clean. Overall, an excellent beer and one you should probably consider as being way better than you’d think it is.

Overall: 95

Storm King – Victory Brewing Co

Storm King – Victory Brewing Co

Storm King is an American double stout that might strike some as being more of a black DIPA. Definitely a stout for the hop-heads. Made exclusively with grain – doesn’t have coffee or chocolate flavors. Heavily carbonated, bitterly hoppy, but finishes clean. Worth searching out if you’re not a fan of stouts that overly rely on coffee or chocolate notes (despite its reliance on hops here).

Rating: 88

The Poet – New Holland Brewing Company

The Poet – New Holland Brewing Company

Sampled in 2009 – Year-round oatmeal stout brewed by New Holland (Michigan) at only 5.2% ABV. Full bodied, but not creamy. Balanced roasted malt flavors with touches of coffee, oatmeal, and chocolate. Silky smooth mouthfeel and highly drinkable. Slightly dry due to the oatmeal, but slightly bittered by the hops to remind you to slow down and enjoy this excellent stout instead of chugging it like it was water.

Rating: 90

O’Hara’s Irish Stout – Carlow Brewing Company

O’Hara’s Irish Stout – Carlow Brewing Company

Sampled in 2009 – 4.3% ABV doesn’t mean tasteless. Roast malt flavors combined with Fuggle hops give this a dry mouthfeel, which is desirable for a dry Irish stout. Coffee, mocha, and peat flavors commingle to create that ‘stout’ flavour, while still managing to be full-bodied. Completely black and opaque when poured, with a espresso colored head that dissipates pretty fast. Low carbonation help prop the drinkability up, along with a slight creaminess as the beer warms. Overall – I probably prefer this to Guinness if I’m not going for a creamy beer.

Rating: 82