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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 Shmaltz Brewing Company, brewed in Saratoga Springs, NY, and Florida Beer Company.

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Florida Beer Co. Key West Southernmost WheatFlorida 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 Co. Hurricane Reef Pale AleFlorida 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 & Terrapin Beer Co Reunion Ale 2011

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 Hop Manna IPAShmaltz 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!