Tag Archives: Sam Adams

Beer Review: Samuel Adams Third Voyage

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For a long time, I had a love/hate relationship with IPAs. They were too bitter, too strong tasting, too hoppy. Now I feel like I could go the rest of my life never drinking anything else. So when I saw a new Sam Adams Double IPA, (Third Voyage) I ran and grabbed my specially designed, high tech Sam Adams guzzlin’ glass and filled it to the brim with hoppy.

And I’m underwhelmed. I’m never happy with an ordinary IPA. I want to be sandblasted with flavor. I want to have trouble finishing the whole glass because the flavor is punching me in the uvula with a ferocity that could only be equaled by Jake LaMotta roid ragin’. I want my taste buds to be knocked out so hard that the only thing they’ll be able to handle is watered down PBR.

The problem with Third Voyage is that it’s too….nice. There’s no bold flavor at the front and there’s no bold flavor at the back. It’s smooth, almost downright mellow and it’s ticking me off. It hits all the right notes, but not with the right intensity. It has a sharp bark, but no bite. It has that bitter finisher, but not that throat puckering grab that some IPAs have.

It’s a perfectly good Double IPA, sweet and grapey and strong, but it’s just not the IPA for me. I recommend it if you’re not into ultra-hoppy IPAs like Harpoon’s Rye Ipa.

I give it half a hop and a skip.

-D-

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Brewing an Education: Stouts and Porters (Guinness and Sam Adams)

Part of my goals for next year is to try and become more educated, to develop a better palate and learn to discern flavors and textures and sensations with more adept discernment. I am, of course, talking about drinking more beer. But I want to do it smartly. Last year, I drank a lot of pumpkin beers and IPAs and random brews from random breweries with no attempt to learn about the histories behind the styles or even about how each style should taste. 

After all, a Belgian shouldn’t taste like an IPA, nor a stout like a lager, but should a porter taste like a stout? I’m not even sure what half the words I used in the last sentence even mean, much less what they should taste like or the subtle variations between those tastes.

So, I’ve decided to spend the year moving slowly, carefully, through the many different styles of beers. No more bouncing willy-nilly through bizarrely branded concoctions designed to cash in on the latest seasonal craze. No, I will pick something and stick to it. I will learn what I like and don’t like. I will learn about the history and the behind-the-scenes stories for the brews. I will learn the vocabulary and might actually learn something along the way instead of just getting plastered and rambling about goblins and pumpkin ales for three paragraphs.

For January (and I’m starting early here), we’re going over stouts and porters.

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I decided to pick to varieties of stout that are, in all probability, not going to be knock-outs. I wanted simple staples, beers that exhibited the basic qualities of the genre without going overboard or in new directions. I went with the Samuel Adams “Cream Stout”, one of their seasonal beers and the Guinness “Draught”.

Now, a stout is going to be a few things. It’s going to be dark, with a head that’s either a dark brown or tan color. Guinness, of course, cheats by using those nifty little nitrogen doodads in their cans to give the foam that characteristic light, creamy color. Out of the bottle, the foam is lighter, but nowhere near that gorgeous contrasting color one sees on the tap or out the can.

A stout is also heavily flavored by toasted malts or barley, rather than hops, like an IPA. Many people describe stouts of having a very strong coffee or chocolate flavor which is why stouts are often flavored with coffee or chocolate. If you’ve had a coffee beer (like the Sam Adams Black and Brew), you’ve most likely had a stout flavored with coffee grounds.

I have to say, that while I wasn’t impressed with either stout, I did enjoy the flavor of the Sam Adams a lot more. The Guinness Draught is a weaker, less flavorful affair. The finishing notes are more reminiscent of black tea than, say, coffee, though the coffee notes are still there. But it just feels insubstantial. It has a more, and I hate to say this about a Guinness, watery mouthfeel.

For me, I order a Guinness when I’m both hungry and I want a beer. It fills you up on both accounts, but, in this case, the Guinness Draught fails on both accounts. It has a slightly sour tang to it, and I’m more reminded of the flavors of unsweetened, iced tea than anything. I’m left craving more body, more flavor, more everything.

The Sam Adams Cream Stout, while not their best beer, is better than the Draught. It is more complex and more mellow. It still still has the bitter, toasted flavors of a stout, but it is mild. While I do not taste the sweetness that was supposed to be a marker of traditional cream stouts, it is a milder stout than I’ve had in the past.

I would recommend it over the Draught. It tastes more strongly of those dark, heavy coffee notes that a good stout is supposed to have and lacks that metallic, sour tang of the Guinness Draught.

Using these two beers as a baseline (a very low baseline in the case of the Draught), I’ll move deeper into the world of craft beers and, hopefully, better styles of stouts, including the Imperial Russian Stouts and Oatmeal Stouts. And there’ll be history along the way!

-D-

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Beer Review: Harpoon’s Leviathan Imperial IPA

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There are two big breweries based in Boston proper; Samuel Adams and Harpoon. The Sam Adam brewery is only for small batches and experimental brews, while the Harpoon brewery is in full production.

I’ve taken tours of both facilities and while I was initially a bigger fan of the Sam Adams tour, I’ve started to lean more toward Harpoon. Their tasting portion is much more extensive; you have fifteen minutes to try any of the 7 or so beers they have on tap, as opposed to the three beers that Sam Adams gives you.

This is how I first came across the Leviathan Imperial IPA, in room surrounded by Harpoon merchandise and the Harpoon staff after imbibing six or seven tiny glasses of beer. I loved it.

But I decided to subject it to a more objective judgement. I bought a four-pack of them and poured them into my Harpoon-brand tulip glass. It smells intensely like an IPA; that hoppy, sweet smell that you either love or hate. The first sip and your taste buds are taking a brutal bitter beating. The Leviathan Imperial IPA is one of the more complex and well-rounded IPAs I’ve ever had. A lot of IPAs can leave you gagging on that signature bitterness long after you’ve finished the beer.

This one cuts it short, most likely through wizard magic, and the aftertaste is surprisingly minimal considering the hearty strength of the initial flavor. Out of the many IPA’s I’ve had over the last few years, this is one of the best, even though I still can’t claim to be an expert. It has a color that would put an amber ale to shame. Its flavor is complex and layered without being overpowering. And it packs a punch with the alcohol.

In short, if you can get it, you should.

I give it Two Bakers Chocolates and One Cup of My Coffee.

-D-

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Beer Review: Dogfish Head Red & White

Beer recommended by Stan Stolowski 

I’ve decided I really like these aged beers. They have more complex flavors and those flavors are far more appealing. For example, I’ve had cherry flavored beers before and I’ve also had Sam Adam’s American Kriek, which is a brew aged with Hungarian cherries and barrels and other things.

Cherry flavored beers taste like someone dropped a jar of maraschino cherries into a vat of some lightweight pale ale. It’s like an alcoholic’s version of cherry cola. Bleh. The American Kriek, however, is imbued with the flavor of cherries. It’s not overpowering, but it’s definitely there. It has an underlying layer of good things.

Dogfish Head’s Red & White is similarly complex. There’s not just one, overriding flavor. It, in fact, has three discrete tastes. It starts off Belgian, which is fine.  It doesn’t have that hard, thick flavor of a stout. It’s lighter, with more of punch to it than your average Belgian ale.

Next comes a sweetness and the taste of oranges. At first I was worried I was afflicted with a brain tumor and was suffering from low-grade gustatory hallucinations, but it turns out that it’s supposed to taste like oranges. Citrus is not a bad follow-up to Belgian.

And lastly, it ends on a bitter, crisp note,  which is great because I don’t think I’d want this to finish with an overwhelming flavor of oranges or Belgians.

It’s this kind of complexity, the three flavors so separate from one another, that gives aged beers their appeal. The only problem is that it’s twelve bucks per (giant) bottle of the stuff. Otherwise, I recommend the Red & White for anyone who wants something more interesting than your average Belgian, but not as daunting as last week’s Bourbon Stout.

So…an A. Yeah.

Dylan Charles

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