If you're thinking of joining a beer of the month club you've found the right place. Each month we review a beer of the month club shipment to give you an idea of what you really get. This month Gourmet Monthly Clubs sends us Shmaltz Brewing Company, brewed in Saratoga Springs, NY, and Florida Beer Company.
Florida Beer Company Key West Southernmost Wheat
Appearance: As a Belgian-style Wheat beer should, Southernmost Wheat pours a super hazy, light straw color with a big, white head on top. This one fades quickly which, while not perfect, is not that irregular either.
Smell: There’s a lot going on here! The most obvious is the wheat malt, which lends a dry, spicy smell, and the Belgian yeast which adds to the spicy smell and also gives a bit of what almost smells like banana. Then you pick up the spices they brewed this beer with, the orange peel and, the unusal ingredient that puts this over the top...Key lime.
Taste: Right up front, this beer is a tasty Belgian-style wheat ale. Dry, a little chalky from the wheat, and the crisp, refreshing body one expects. In the second half of the swallow is where it gets interesting! The orange peel and key lime they added combine to give a great citrus taste, with the orange more prevalent and first and the lime more prevalent in the finish. Would we have ever thought to add the key lime? No. Does it work? Yes, especially if you’re living in the hot, muggy climes of Florida!
Florida Beer Company Hurricane Reef Pale Ale
Appearance: As opposed to the Belgian-style wheat, the Reef Pale Ale pours a barely hazy orange...we know orange is a weird color for a beer, but it’s pretty orange. It looks like beer, definitely, but it’s quite orange and has a thin white head that sits on top, receding quickly.
Smell: There’s definitely hops in this brew! They smell pretty dank, rather than citrusy as you’d expect from the Cascades use in this beer. Perhaps the sweeter malt that accompanies it is weighing these expected notes down a bit?
Taste: Mildly bitter hops cut through right at the beginning of the beer along with a carbonation that is strong on the front and back of the tongue, but not the middle. As you swallow, bitterness coats your mouth but is quickly swept away by sweeter malts and and orangey taste, only to finish with a pleasant bitterness on the back of your tongue.
Shmaltz Brewing Company / Terrapin Beer Company Reunion Ale 2011
Every year a different version of Reunion Ale is brewed to in memory of Virginia MacLean, who passed away from Multiple Myeloma in 2007. This series of beers raises money for The Institute for Myeloma and Bone Cancer Research.
Appearance: This Reunion Ale pours about as dark as beer can get before it’s actually just black. A head the color of coffee with a lot of cream blows up on top and settles into a craggy, creamy froth on top.
Smell: OK, there’s a ton going on here! This beer is brewed with cocoa nibs, vanilla and chili peppers. The nibs are especially apparent in the aroma and you can definitely smell a bit of heat from the chilies. The good news is that the vanilla appears to have been used with expert restraint, important as vanilla can very easily overwhelm a beer. Instead, it serves to enhance the cocoa. On top of all of this, you get the roasty malt character indicative of a porter...it sure smells like it’s going to taste good!
Taste: This is one smooth beer! The carbonation is extremely low, which works perfectly for what they seem to have been shooting for. Again, the vanilla is used with amazing restraint, really enhancing and smoothing the cocoa. The peppers don’t give the heat that we expected from the smell, which is great. All the ingredients play together really well, giving the brew a sweet, chocolaty flavor that would make for a great accompaniment to dessert! Rich and creamy, this is an awesome beer to end the night with.
Shmaltz Brewing Company Hop Manna IPA
Appearance: Hop Manna pours a slightly hazy (perhaps from so much hops?) deep amber with almost reddish tones. The head is large, off-white and not going anywhere!
Smell: Made with seven hop varietals and dry hopped with Centennial and Cascade? We believe it after smelling this! A floral, citrusy hoppiness jumps out at you right away as you pour the beer...you don’t even have to try to smell it, the smell will find you! The tasting notes from Gourmet Monthly Clubs say you’ll smell cantaloupe and you know what? They’re right! Crazy sauce! Anyway, it smells great!
Taste: This is one of those hoppy beers that doesn’t have a dominating bitterness. The hops are used more for balance and flavor than a tongue-numbing bittering agent and we’re just fine with that! A mild bitterness balances full, clean malt while the hop flavor takes center stage. You remember that cantaloupe in the nose? Well it’s back! That is definitely the most surprising flavor to us! There’s also the more expected resiny hops and orangey citrus hop flavors, but the melon is really what throws us...and keeps us coming back! This is a tasty brew though for sure!
If you're thinking of joining a beer of the month club you've found the right place. Each month we review a beer of the month club shipment to give you an idea of what you really get. This month Gourmet Monthly Clubs sends us Four+ Brewing Company, an offshoot of Salt Lake City, UT brewery Uinta Brewing Company, Fordham Brewing Company from Virginia and American Honor Brewing Company from Pennsylvania.
Four+ Brewing Company Sum’r Organic Summer Ale
Appearance: This Sum’r Organic Summer Ale pours with a HUGE white head that stays fluffy for-seemingly-ever! Rather than settling away to nothing, it just thickens into what we can only describe as a meringue...beer meringue, yum! The beer itself is almost an afterthought after this impressive display, a hazy, light straw that looks perfect for a hot summer day.
Smell: The brew smells light. A bit of yeast hits your nose with some fruitiness and, after that, you get a bit of grass clipping-like hops and some lemon...this brew just smells like summer!
Taste: This is a good beer for an extremely muggy day! It starts out with a crisp, but not overdone, hope bite. For people scared of hops, it’s not too much, but it will serve to satisfy the hop lover of your friends. It’s really dry and has a strong carbonation which suits this style well. Finally, for those of you who often add fruit to your summer beer, no need here! They’ve used a proprietary Japanese hop that imparts a bit of lemon aroma and taste. Perfect detail for this beer!
American Honor Brewing Company Declaration Ale
Appearance: Declaration Ale pours a clear, rich amber. As opposed to the Four+ Sum’r, Declaration Ale pours with very little head and what’s there disappears exceedingly quickly.
Smell: Without a strong head, this beer doesn’t give off a lot of smell, but the first thing you’ll notice is distinctly American hops. It’s not too strong, but they’re there and they’re citrusy. Other than that, you get just the lightest whiff of clean malt.
Taste: This brew tastes much more bitter than the 28 IBUs it’s labelled as having. It starts out bitter and a little thin, but then the malt comes through. The finish is a lot more full as some of the malt sweetens, firming up the flavor and balancing the hops. The malt is well showcased for a pale ale like this, more in the English style than the American style. Overall this is a tasty brew that you’ll be happy to try!
Four+ Brewing Company Wyld Organic Extra Pale Ale
Appearance: Tonight has been an exercise in variability! The first beer had a monster head, the second beer had no head and now the third has a very normal, very white head. It’s a hazy, golden brew and, when you put the beer and head together, looks very appealing!
Smell: Wyld Extra Pale Ale is made with Simcoe and Amarillo hops, the latter being known for it’s tropical fruit aroma, and damn can you smell it!
Taste: Wow, this is tasty! We could drink this all day out at a barbecue and, at 4.5% abv, it wouldn’t knock us out either! It’s dry throughout with a nice, crisp hop bitterness up front. In the finish you get the tropical fruit from the hops with one of the cleanest finishes we’ve ever tasted. This would go great with a cheeseburger as the carbonation and crispness would cut right through the creamy cheese and grease of the burger. We’ll be on the lookout for this one.
Fordham Brewing Company Tavern Ale
Appearance: This is the darkest beer we’ve seen tonight as it pours a hazy, dark amber...almost brown. The head is a light tan, about a finger and a half thick and creamy looking!
Smell: It’s also the biggest beer we’ve seen all night, and you can smell it! One whiff and you’re met with sweet malt and a touch of dank hops on the back.
Taste: The taste is just as you’d expect from the smell. Sweet malt meets a balancing hop bitterness with gentle carbonation that brings the beer alive but doesn’t overpower anything. The hops stick around a bit longer than the malt, meaning the finish and aftertaste is a bit bitter. Think of this as an end of summer brew, when you’re not sure if the night will be cold.
If you're thinking of joining a beer of the month club you've found the right place. Each month we review a beer of the month club shipment to give you an idea of what you really get. This month Gourmet Monthly Clubs sends us Lake Placid Craft Brewing from Utica, NY and Choc Beer Company from Krebs, OK.
Choc Beer Company 1919 American Wheat Ale
Appearance: The 1919 American Wheat pours a barely hazy light straw color. The head is bright white and, while it puffs up immediately, it falls fairly quickly. This is a trait more common in American wheat beers than compared the styles it descends from, German hefeweizens.
Smell: This brew smells quite clean, with just a hint of wheaty, dry spiciness that, again, is usually found in the traditional variation of this beer. American wheats, like this one, are known to be a cleaner, less yeasty beer and this one certainly lives up to that!
Taste: While it lacks the banana and clove so expected from the yeast of a German wheat beer, the flavor of the wheat is really showcased here! It gives the beer a dry, almost chalky (but in a good way) flavor. The wheat is a little spicy and extremely refreshing. This beer would be great on a 90⁰F+ day at a cookout.
Lake Placid Hefeweizen Wheat Ale
Appearance: A cloudy, deep golden beer fills the pint glass as we pour this one. We have to be careful as a big, white head forms on top and threatens to spill over if we’re not careful.
Smell: Smelling the Lake Placid Hefeweizen after the Choc American Wheat is a perfect lesson in the difference between a German hefeweizen and an American wheat ale! This one has a ton of clove in the nose with a healthy dose of banana, all from the yeast. It still has the dry, chalky aroma from the wheat, but some strong notes that really liven up the beer from the fermentation process!
Taste: While this beer has a big aroma, the flavor is mainly upfront. On the front of the tongue the yeast and wheat flavors carry over from the smell. But as you swallow, it all drops right off. The mid-palette is there as well, giving this beer a lot of flavor while preventing palette fatigue. Is this the most complex brew we’ve ever had? No. Is it a strong example of an American-brewed German hefeweizen, perfect for a hot day? You better believe it! Not everything has to be a huge, barrel aged beer and this one is a great example of a well brewed, traditional style that satisfies.
Choc Beer Company Limited Edition Summer Belgian-style Blonde Ale
Appearance: As we would expect, this beer pours a bright, mostly clear golden color until the yeast sediment (optional to pour) comes out at the end of the pour, which turns the whole beer a darker, murkier, hazier dark tan. A white head appears briefly on top but quickly recedes. Not usual for Belgian-style brews but not a big deal for flavor.
Smell: As opposed to the German wheat beer style, while these two look the same this is a Belgian-style beer and therefore lends a lot more bubblegum type aroma and spice from the yeast. There’s also less of a wheaty, chalky aroma. While the two look similar, they smell VERY different.
Taste: The first this you notice is that this beer is a bit sweet than the two wheat beers we just had. Again, the yeast is the predominant flavor, but it’s not the clove/banana thing that you get. Bubblegum, just as in the aroma, is right up front as a flavor. Not in a bad, weird way but in a way that makes sense for a Belgian-style beer. So far this beer of the month club shipment has been a great showcase for slight variations in yeast with a similar malt base. Totally interesting if you want to learn about how beer is made and where the differences come from!
Lake Placid Ubu Ale
Appearance: And now for something TOTALLY different, the Lake Placid Ubu Ale is a dark English Strong Ale. About as different from Belgian and German wheat beers as you can get! This one pours dark, we’re talking dark, dark brown, with tinges of red around the edges when held up to the light...but when on the table, it just looks black!
Smell: When you smell the Ubu Ale, you realize these English ales are fairly mild in the aroma department. The main thing you get is a bit of dark fruit, with a little bit of caramel sweetness. But that’s if you look really hard. The smell on this is pretty light.
Taste: While the smell is light, the taste is most definitely not! This one clocks in at 7% abv, and you can taste a bit of that alcohol! Also, that dark fruit you swelled? It really comes through in a prune-like sweet taste. In typical English fashion, the hops are quite subdued, leaving the malt as the predominant taste in this one. It’s pleasant, but strong. Definitely an end-of-a-night type of beer. Enjoy!