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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.