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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 Sprecher Brewing Company from Milwaukee, and Sea Dog Brewing Company from Portland, ME.

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Sea Dog Hazelnut PorterSea Dog Riverdriver Hazelnut Porter

Appearance: As a good porter should, Riverdriver pours a dark brown that, when held up to the light, has just a few touches of crimson on the edges. A creamy, hazelnut colored head pops up on top and sticks around at a few fingers high for quite some time.

Smell: While the hazelnut is there, we expected it to be more overwhelming and were pleasantly surprised! A bit of chocolate and roasted malt comes through and we find that there may just be a bit more to this than the hazelnut.

Taste: This is quite a creamy and smooth beer, as we like our porters to be. There’s a bit of a prickle of carbonation on the tongue, but it’s light. The hazelnut is here strongly but also not at the same time. The flavors meld fairly well with the porter and it’s tough to tell where the hazelnut ends and the porter begins. The beer itself is fairly unsweet and finishes dry. To be honest, we’d like to taste this one without the hazelnut but we also don’t like hazelnut coffee so that may just be a personal taste thing. If you like hazelnut coffee, you’ve got to try this one!

Sea Dog IPASea Dog Old East India India Pale Ale

Appearance: Sea Dog’s IPA pours a clear rich, golden color with an eggshell white head that forms than recedes to nothing from two fingers within a minute or two.

Smell: The aroma lacks the hops that one often expects in an American IPA, but there is some clean malt aroma. Nothing smells bad, there’s just not much to it. This is much more of an English-style IPA.

Taste: There’s a crisp bitterness up front and that’s definitely the dominant flavor. The malt we smelled is there and definitely makes an impression, but is not quite enough to balance the bitterness. There’s little hop flavor, though, making it a bit of a one-dimensional bitter IPA. It’s quite fine and we wouldn’t turn one down, but we probably wouldn’t seek this one out either.

Sprecher Special Amber LagerSprecher Special Amber Vienna Lager

Appearance: The Special Amber Lager pours a slight hazy...well...amber. A small white head forms on top and recedes within seconds. This beer looks like a tasty lager!

Smell: The smell is a bit of caramel-like malt but not much else. A good lager is supposed to smell clean, and this one does as it’s told. As it warms you can start to smell the American Cascade hops coming out juuuuuuuust a bit. It’s not strong, but it’s there!

Taste: This is an example of a malt-based beer that isn’t sweet. It’s definitely sweet-ish, but the grain flavor is there without being cloying. It’s crisp and easy to drink. This would be a great beer for an early Autumn or late Spring day. As a note, the Vienna Lager style was made popular in the United States by Samuel Adams, as their Boston Lager is this same style. The two are quite different ends of the spectrum, though. This one is significantly less hoppy both in the nose and flavor than Sam Adams, but there’s more malt flavor to this one...it’s probably a bit more to the original style. Definitely a tasty lager, which Sprecher is known for!

Sprecher Bavarian Black LagerSprecher Black Bavarian Lager

Appearance: Otherwise known as a German Schwarzbier (or Black Beer), this one pours just as the name sounds, dark! A minimal coffee-color head forms on top and recedes quickly, just like with the Special Amber Lager. If you look close with some light, you’ll see tinges of red...but it’s mostly just black! At 5.86% abv this brew proves that dark does not equal strong, though.

Smell: Oh wow, there’s a lot going on with this one! The first thing we notice is very dark, bitter chocolate. That’s followed by some breadier, maltier notes similar to a rich pumpernickel almost. It’s all wrapped up by some fresh roasted coffee. This one is almost a porter, just fermented with a cleaner, lager yeast. It smells great, we can’t wait to dive in!

Taste: And it tastes as good as it smells! The bitter chocolate smell is a bit sweeter than the aroma thanks to the malt. The breadiness is still there as well. It’s like a bready, delicious dark chocolate milkshake flavor, but in a beer. There’s a little bit of almost dried dark fruit at the end of the taste. Somewhere in there that coffee smell comes out in the flavor now and again, but it’s just an afterthought, really. This is by far our favorite of the batch and proves how diverse lagers can be. We’d love a six-pack of this on a cold winter night with a hearty meal, or it might go well with cigars.

This month Gourmet Monthly Clubs sends us beer from Lucky Bucket and Michigan brewery. There were a couple of surprises this month, notably the Michigan Porter.

Join this beer of the month club or compare other beer of the month clubs. Join this beer of the month club or compare other beer of the month clubs.

Lucky Bucket IPA

Up front there’s clear notes of pine with just a touch of citrus  in the aroma. As I took my first sip those same flavors followed through though I was slightly surprised by a malt sweetness to the beer. It’s just a touch sweeter than I’d personally prefer, though many prefer this. This is fairly aggressively hopped and there’s a nice pine resin flavor that caries through. This is definitely a west coast style IPA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lucky Bucket Lager

I’ve been on a bit of a lager kick lately so I had high hopes for this beer. Calling a beer a lager is so vague that I often really don’t know what to expect. There’s a really nice slightly fruity flavor to this beer (note, I didn’t say it tasted like a fruit beer, just has fruity notes, didn’t want to scare any of you). The beer has been dry hopped with Cascade, Centennial and Amarillo hops which give it an awesome aroma. I would definitely buy this beer if I saw it in the stores. It’s just a nice tasty lager, and that’s a good thing.

 

 

 

Michigan Brewing Peninsula Porter

This beer pours a rich dark brown color with a light tan head. There’s notes of coffee, dried fruit and chocolate in the nose. While I’m not a stickler for style by any means if you handed me this beer and asked me what it was I would have said milk stout. There’s a distinct lactose flavor to this beer which is really nice. There’s deep chocolate and coffee notes with a touch of dates to the finish. This beer caught me totally of guard but in a great way.

 

 

 

 

 

Michigan Brewing Nut Brown Ale

The problem with reviewing beer is that personal taste plays an inherent role in the comments. I’m going to preface this with the fact that I don’t love brown ales. I don’t dislike them, but I just like other styles more, it’s pretty rare that I buy a brown ale. This beer nice, slightly sweet, and has some nice malt notes with touches of brown sugar. There’s a slight nuttiness to the beer, though not as much as I would have liked. Overall the beer is alright, it just didn’t wow me.

 

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 Dominion Brewing Company from Delaware and Pennsylvania Brewing Company...from Pennsylvania (obvious, huh?).

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Pennsylvania Brewing Company MarzenPennsylvania Brewing Company Marzen

Appearance: This Marzen pours a crystal clear dark amber to almost brown color. The taupe head maxes out at about 2.5 inches tall with a rough pour, but quickly settles. It seems a bit dark for a Marzen, to be honest...but that’s not a bad thing.

Smell: As a Marzen should, this brew has a clean aroma and just a faint sweet malt scent. It’s a lager meant to be drank in mass quantities, so it should be fairly easy going.

Taste: Just like the smell, it’s a bit sweet on the tongue and there’s virtually no hop bitterness. We wish this one had finished just a tad dryer, as the sweetness makes it a bit thick and hard to drink a lot. It’s tasty enough, but there are others in this style we’d prefer.

Pennsylvania Brewing Company Penn WeizenPennsylvania Brewing Company Penn Weizen

Appearance: As a traditional German Hefeweizen, Penn Weizen looks just like it should! It pours a hazy golden straw with a huge white head. It’s on the dark end of the spectrum for this style, but that could be because we stirred up the yeast a little bit before pouring.

Smell: Yum! This smells like some of the best German Hefeweizens we’ve had. Banana and clove, with this one being heavier on the banana, predominate. In the background there is some wheaty, bready malt. This is a style we often overlook and we’re really excited to drink this one.

Taste: Yup, there it is! That great wheat malt flavor we love in beers like this, it finishes dry and almost chalky...but in a good way. The banana in the nose really lends a bit of complexity. This beer is refreshing enough for summer, but malty enough to hold up in winter. Check it out for sure, this is a winner.

Dominion Brewing Company Hop Mountain Pale AleDominion Hop Mountain Pale Ale

Appearance: Hop Mountain is a clear amber with slightly orange tones to it. A dark cream colored, dense head forms on top. After smelling this beer, you get the feeling that the foam is almost green from all the hops.

Smell: Whoa, this is like sticking your nose into a bag of hops! Seriously. A bag of hops. For real. That’s all you can smell. Dank hops.

Taste: And this beer tastes just like it smells. It’s not super bitter, but rather well balanced...we don’t mean it’s not bitter, it’s just not enamel dissolvingly bitter. After the bitterness, though, there’s a ton of hop flavor. Dank, piney flavor stays with this one throughout your entire drinking experience. It’s like drinking a bag of hops. Yum!



Dominion Brewing Company Oak Barrel StoutDominion Brewing Company Oak Barrel Stout

Appearance: Suuuuuuuuuper black, Oak Barrel Stout doesn’t even allow a little bit of light to come through at the edges. A light brown, coffee with 5 creams, head fluffs up to a height of about 3 inches before it recedes to just wisps a minute later.

Smell: Dark, bittersweet chocolate is the first thing that comes out, and you can tell it’s enhanced by the vanilla they use in the brew process.

Taste: It’s actually a lot lighter on the tongue than you’d expect from a beer this dark. Fairly dry, you get a bit of cocoa with the vanilla just there enough to make it more chocolaty. This may be the first beer with vanilla in it that we’ve had where the vanilla didn’t totally dominate the brew. This is definitely one to check out if you can. A delicious stout with an interesting take that makes it a unique version of the style.