Tag Archive: Road Trip Of Awesome


CIMG1986

Allagash: Curieux (USA: Abbey Tripel: 11% abv)

Visual: Ripe banana skin yellow and somewhat hazy. Loose slightly custard hued head with tight bubbled froth.

Nose: Banana. Slightly wheat. White grapes. Toffee. Nutmeg. Custard.

Body: Fruitcake and cherries. Vinous notes with grapes. Soft apricot, custard and wheat. Slight sourness. Toffee and smooth texture. Soft lemon. Banoffee in fact when you put some of the above together.

Finish: Soft feel. Toffee and grapes. Liquorice. Wheat. Shortbread and lemon meringue. Quite dry.

Conclusion: This is a real mix of styles. I mean I know it is a tripel, but there are such soft notes from the bourbon ageing, all smooth texture toffee and custard.  Then you have the vinous notes, grapes and fruitcake all that hint at a far darker beer than we have in front of us.  It settles down around wheat, apricot and banana flavours that tie it back to a more traditional Belgium style. Somehow it manages to weave all this together without feeling weird.

It’s got a lovely mix of flavours and is pleasantly soft on the tongue, never even hinting at its abv. The flavour of toffee and apricot just eases in as if seeping through your taste buds. It feels half cut by an aged strong English ale with all the heavier flavours, but never forgets that distinct Belgium funky feel, smoothed out though it is by the bourbon twist. While I was trying to work out what flaws it had Will commented that it needed something to surprise you in the finish and I would agree. The flavours are very similar throughout, tapering away rather than giving a resolution to your drink  Hardly the worst flaw in the world though, but it did help explain why, say, Not Just Another Wit, for all it’s difference in style, helped demonstrate what this needed to push it from very good to top notch.

Frankly considering the smoothness of the beer you could even argue it is less a bug and more a feature, but as the only element that stood out as weaker than the rest I thought it worth mentioning.  Overall it is a great beer with delicate dessert flavours and vinous backing.  It feels like they have smoothed off the peaks and troughs of the beer experience to create something that is always satisfying but without the quirks I find in my favourite beers.

It is a lovely little warming beer with great sweetness and lots of toffee to back an almost too polished beer. All smooth edges and well worth trying.

Background: Picked up during the road trip of awesome from the house of brews, this is a beer I’ve been looking for since I saw it in “100 Belgium beers to try before you die”. Aged in Jim Beam casks, and one of the brewers reputed for going Belgium style ales this should be something interesting. Shared with Will who assisted with tasting notes.

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Rogue: Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale (USA: Smoked Beer: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Hazy copper to cherry red. Half inch of large browned and sud leaving bubbles for a head.

Nose: Wood smoke. Cured meat platters. Ok, ok bacon. Fresh crisp white bread, which could be considered doughnut like. Cinnamon. Sweet and slightly cloying.

Body: Bitterness. Milky chocolate. Maple syrup. Smoked meats. Toffee. Thinner texture than expected. Sweat meats. Glacier cherries and fruitcake at the back. Gingerbread with honey touches.

Finish: Cigarette remains. Maple syrup. Smoked meat. Jam doughnuts. Sugar dusting. Milky chocolate and toffee. Small earthy hops touch.

Conclusion: What do you say to a beer like this. No really. It’s a bacon doughnut maple syrup ale (Which may or may not have voodoo). Even if the beer is bad, it’s good and even if it’s good it’s bad.  It’s just… The hell?

Ok, let’s start with the bad, a bit of sharpening the knives should clear the nerves and make this easier. 1) The beer is thinner than I would expect, the flavours are there but for the number of ingredients I expected them to come in with a little more weight. 2) For all the elements the smoke character is the main hit, everything else is just hung off it. Despite the madness involved at the base this is a simple smoked meat beer.

To give it fair dues, the texture feels thicker as the beer warms, it still has elements where it seems thin but not as often.

Anyway, that’s the bad bits out of the way, lets move onto the good. Holy shit this thing actually tastes of bacon, yes other smoked meats as well but distinctly bacon.  Oh and maple syrup as well. Yes, definite maple syrup.   Ok, the maple syrup is more occasional and can be sickly when it is there, but largely it covers the tongue on the finish to give nice feel to the whole thing.  So that’s two claimed elements ticked off. Doughnuts? Actually despite spending ages trying to find another term for it, yeah, kinda.  There a fresh baked crisp white bread element and a slight jam in the finish that does kind of give doughnut. Ergo, this is kind of awesome.

Ok. Now I’ve got both the knives and the geek joy out of my system so we can be a bit more analytical. Is this a good beer? Technically? No. The aroma is great, campfire wood smoke, cooked meat. All very scout camp but with less chance of getting molested. The main body though is a bit thin, the smoke dominates and the thinner body feels lacking under that.

The flavours are varied, but most come only occasionally. There is still a decent cured meat element to the end, and nice sweetness but beyond oddity I would be hard pressed to call it a well balanced beer.

This all does become a bit moot as well, it is a bloody meat doughnut syrup beer in a pink bottle, and despite it’s pretty damn big flaws I am still bouncing around the room going squee because of that. Because I am a geek. Make of that what you will.

So not a beer I can recommend, but let’s face you have made up your mind already. Either you want a good beer, and this isn’t it. Or you just feel like being silly in which case this review was superfluous. Either way, enjoy your beer.

Background:  The road trip of awesome is over, but It’s legacy remains. This was one of three beers I brought back with me from the USA.  I had heard of the beer while back but never thought id see it, and never heard of it reaching the UK. So when I saw it in the house of brews I just had to grab it. I may be easily influenced by weird things.

There were two questions that we got asked more than anything else during the road trip of awesome. They came up so often that I thought it was worth answering them as a public announcement. First the second most asked question.

You’re British beer fans? Don’t you drink your beer warm?

Contrary to popular belief. No. Lager in Britain is generally served in a similar manner to in America, chilled, and carbonated from a keg. The confusion comes with real ale which is stored in a cask, with yeast in the cask for secondary fermentation. This is not chilled down as with craft ale, nor is any carbonation added. The beer is usually served with hand pulls to draw the liquid through. Despite not being chilled down the casks are stored in a cool cellar resulting in a cool but not cold beer. This is usually the temperature I aim for with beers, though over the years I have broke my hatred of chilling beers down and will experiment with different temperatures to find the best for a new beer. So no the beer is not as cold as your usual craft ale in America, but it is far from warm.

And now the most asked question of the trip, coming in many different states and on many different occasions.

Are you guys in a band?

No. How the hell did this question come up so often? Maybe it was the range of cool hats we wore. In Memphis we could understand the question coming up but we got asked it darn near everywhere. Odd. Anyway that was a public service announcement. Hope you enjoy your beer!

Gordon Biersch: Marzen (USA: Oktoberfest Marzen: 5.7% ABV)

Visual: Amber gold. Thin dash of white bubbles and moderate carbonation.

Nose: Slightly lemon fresh. Occasional cooked chicken. Dry malt.

Body:  Caramelised sugar. Malt. Vanilla and toffee. Apricot. Cheesecake. Occasional cooked chicken.

Finish: Salted toffee cheesecake. Liquorice and dry malt. Honey.

Conclusion: I’ve been getting the oddest flavours from beer over this road trip. In this case a marzen that has salted cheesecake like touches. Not just cheesecake, salted cheesecake. Figure that one out if you can.

Some of you may already have read the main tasting notes and noticed the dreaded “Cooked chicken” element. It isn’t the greatest element, but I would say not to worry overly. While the flavour and aroma is present it is a very small element of the beer, worth noting but not worth writing the beer off for.  The malt sweetness and cheesecake elements are much more prevalent and make up the main character of the beer.

It may not be the most complex beer I’ve had on the trip, nor, despite the cheesecake, the most unusual.  It does however hold it’s own. It’s a solid marzen with a nice twist. I can’t say it is going to be a favourite beer, but there aren’t any major flaws.  The only problem is lack of ambition to reach past being a competent beer.  Still, has a very smooth texture and is very easy to drink. Hmm, maybe one flaw, the flavour doesn’t quite hold out to the end of the pint, the last third has some of the subtleties lost.

I do however have a feeling that this beer would complement an actually cheesecake well.  Maybe I’ll have to try that

 

..

 

..

 

I was right. It does. If you are going to have it, definitely get cheesecake to go with it.

Here’s to the end of the road trip, hope you enjoyed the reviews, I enjoyed the trip.

Background: The last beer of the road trip of awesome. Well kind of.  I brought three beers back so it’s not quite over yet. This was however the last reviewed beer while on the trip. Another of Michael Jackson list of 500 beers to try, and I was getting pretty happy at how many I had found on the trip. This was tried at one of the Gordon Biersch Brewpubs, this one in New Orleans. The barmaid was helpful and as I was experimenting with this and cheesecake she suggested some other of their beers that would go well with desserts. She even poured me a few samplers to try, which was much welcomed. I also got to talk with a few other customers who were asking what OG (Original Gravity) was, to which I attempted a (vaguely correct ) explanation about it being the amount of sugars in the original liquid pre fermentation. Technically it’s the density of the wort, but since the wort is pretty much based on the sugar content I figured it was close enough for a laymans explanation. Oh and I was slightly tipsy at the time, which may also have altered my choice on how technical to go on this. Also I think I may have damaged the camera at this point as I could not get it to focus properly half the time. Either that or I’m just rubbish with a camera.

Crescent City: Black Forest (USA: Dunkel: 7%ish?)

Visual: Black, half an inch of caramel sudden froth for a head. Body tinges red in the light.

Nose: Quite dry. Black cherry. Malt drinks and light cocoa dust.

Body: Black forest gateaux (no really). Light pineapple hops. Not the thickest body. Light toffee character. Chocolate cake sponge more heavily than most elements. Black cherry becomes more dominant over time.

Finish:Pineapple hops and black forest gateaux/Chocolate cake sponge. Lightly bitter, Charcoal touch. Cream.

Conclusion: You know, I was expecting Black Forest to be just a name, but noooo, it is in fact quite a serious flavour element. The beer isn’t that heavy and tends more towards the chocolate sponge than the sweeter elements of black forest gateaux, but it does have a nice mix of black cherry and restrained bitterness.

The flavour maybe could do with being a touch stronger, but most likely that would hurt the refreshing character by making it more sickly. It is also a minor point, as by the half way point the flavour level of the beer has picked up. It is only really the first third where it seems to suffer, and has a few notes between that and the half way point.

Very easy to drink, occasionally there was a charcoal touch to the finish which isn’t great, but despite that I could have a couple of these in the ever present USA sun. The tiniest of what seems to be American hop influence presence gives that fresh touch that keeps the beer from getting too dry.

So a beer with a few minor flaws, but generally a very nice beer. If I had more time in New Orleans then I would definitely have drunk it again.

Background: You may be wondering 7%ish abv? You are normally more precise than that. Well yes, but I cannot find the abv listed anywhere, either online or at the brew house. When I asked the bar staff they guessed 7%ish, so that’s the best I have for you. The brew house was one found in New Orleans, a city described as “amazing but it will steal your soul” which wasn’t too far wrong a descriptor. Crescent City is one of many places that brew on site,and seemed heavily Germany influenced in style and in their choice of beers.

America. Or more precisely the USA. Possibly the most wrongly maligned beer country in the mind of the general populace and one of the most sought after beer scenes by aficionados. The land where prohibition took place, and one of the largest craft beer scenes in the world. 50 states, each at least the size of Britain and with at least as much cultural variance between them as between Britain’s member countries. How do you even start talking about that?

Well first I’m going to pour a pint. Not because I want a pint. Ok, not just because I want a pint, but also it’s the first interesting difference. The USA pint is smaller. 568ml for UK compared to 473ml for USA.

Which explains why you lot in the USA are all lightweights who think you can drink more than you really can.

I jest.

Mostly.

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Boscos Famous Flaming Stone Beer (USA: Traditional Ale (Stone Beer): 4.8% ABV)

Visual: Light banana yellow to amber orange. Thin white dust of a head.

Nose: Light banana and vanilla.

Body: Wheat. Cloves. Overripe banana. Apricot and peach. Vanilla.

Finish: Banana. Slight chalkiness. Peach. Pineapple. Quite fresh and tart,

Conclusion: Very fresh this one, the flavours of banana and cloves call to the weissbier style but there is a lot of American fruit freshness to it. The apricot and peach flavours brighten up and complement the banana well giving a real fruity zing to it. There is a slightly chalky texture , especially in the finish. It isn’t my favourite element but it does give a dryness to balance the fruit and not let it get sickly.

A real easy drinking fruity beer, with a slightly syrupy sweetness at times. Maybe a touch too sweet, even with the chalk offset, but this was a beer that I  found a very welcome respite as I hid from the sun (hey, don’t judge, I’m an Englishman and a Yorkshire man, I distrust the sun).

Apart from the issue of the slight chalk to syrup balance it is a very nice beer. There is heaps of flavour, all delivered in such a way to give the impression of a tropical fruit filled cocktail delight. Either that or a tropical fruit smoothie that someone managed to turn into a beer.

A few minor flaws, but very tasty despite that.

Background: Well, that’s the first time Rate Beer let me down. Couldn’t find out the abv on this from the menu so looked it up on rate beer to find “abv -“. Bugger. Thankfully from beyond the grave Michael Jackson came to my aid. His book of 500 beers listed this beer and the abv of 4.8%. Warning, due to the great man having been dead a while, and that book being quite a few years old the info may be out of date. Better than a bloody dash though.  As you may have guessed this was drunk in Nashville during the road trip of awesome.  This beer has the pretty cool traditional German trick of heating up stones and putting them in the beer during brewing. Ah Germany, A mad beer inventor in it’s day and the USA has happily picked up that legacy and run with it.

Redhook: ESB (USA: ESB: 5.8% ABV)

Visual:  Clear gold. Thin dash of white head.

Nose: Malt. Toffee. Cinnamon. Barley fields. Smoke and dried apricot.

Body: Robust. Cherries and cinnamon. Apricots. Fruitcake. Liquorice touches but light. Black cherry yogurt.

Finish: Cherries and spice. Spiced rum. Light dry bitterness. Biscuits.

Conclusion: It’s odd to try a non real ale ESB. I’ve always viewed the texture brought from casks as an integral part of the style.  This on the other hand is a keg non real ale ESB. From America.  Huh.

So, here we go. The fruitcake flavour and cherries that is expected from the style cuts through cleanly. It actually comes through much clearer than most UK examples of the style. Not better, not worse, but clearer and sharper, with the hop bitterness in the finish being crisper.

It’s a fresh and bloody refreshing example of the style. I had to take care on drinking it to check my expectations at the door as it was obviously going to be very different to the UK style. I had to take care to try and review it as the beer it was not the beer I expected it to be.  It’s slightly biscuity, but again in a crisper fashion that usual. It’s a hot sun refresher of a beer, but with much more weight than that statement usually attaches to beer. In fact it is an impressive balance between authenticity and taking into account the insanely warm climate the beer will be drunk in.

So overall it is a good beer. Crisp, solid fruity flavours and refreshing. It isn’t the greatest, no one part stands out as exceptional, but there’s no real element I can complain about. A little spicy, a lot fruity and a few more usual flavour elements. Fresh, easy to drink and lots of nice weight. The only thing I really noticed against it was that due to having two pints I had the chance to find out it doesn’t session too well. Just have one and it will work well enough.

Background: Had a bit of a surprise with this one.  Turns out the pub was doing two pints for one on a Sunday morning. So before lunch I ended up with two pints of this. Well, it gave me a lot more experience to review. Also, possibly a reputation as an alcoholic.  Found in a pub in Nashville, one of the only ones that didn’t seem to have live music on.  Since this was one of Michael Jackson’s 500 recommended beers I thought I’d give it a try.  If you haven’t guessed this is another beer found during the road trip of awesome

Blackstone: St. Charles Porter (USA: Porter: 5.5% ABV)

Visual: Dark red brown. Medium yellowed toffee brown tight bubbled froth. Quite clean body.

Nose: Light roasted coffee beans and bitter chocolate.

Body: Large bitter chocolate and roasted hazelnuts. Hickory smoke. Slightly milky. Light hop character roughness. Slight toffee sweetness.

Finish: Milky chocolate. Dry and dusty initially rising into bitter coffee. Some dry roasted peanuts. Some black cherry in the background. Light vanilla toffee and a barbecue glaze are all elements that show up at times.

Conclusion: I do like a good porter, and hadn’t yet had one on the trip, so getting one this full of character was a boon. Initially it just let’s loose with the bitter chocolate and coffee over a smooth body. Impressive enough, but not out of the expected. Late body it brings in some toffee sweetness in a way that I would normally expect from barrel ageing, but this beer manages it without any of that being necessary.  What is unexpected is late in the finish where you get an almost barbecued meat affect, tangy and fresh over the bitter chocolate. You may not expect that to work well, but it is so lightly done that it just adds that bit to the character.

These extra touches really mark it out as something special, making it a meaty and sweet beer without needing actual bacon, or barrel ageing or anything but just good brewing. It is very easy to see how this beer won so many awards. Understated and yet with multi faceted sweetness it is balanced just right.

The usual stumbling blocks of many a bad porter is a too gassy nature, here that flaw is avoided entirely with a mostly smooth texture and just slightly roasted rough at times delivery that is perfect for flavour delivery. I take my hat off to this well crafted beer.

Background:  Drunk during the road trip of awesome, this one was one I was really looking forwards to as it is one of Michael Jackson’s recommended 500 beers. Until very recently it was only available on tap, and the recently bottling was very unlikely to reach England so I made sure to grab glass while I was nearby.  The bartender was friendly and I enjoyed some nice seafood while I was there. I also got to talk with another beer writer who was drinking next to me, which made for a nice day.

Asheville Brewing: Ashe Villain (USA: Black IPA: 6% ABV)

Visual: Deep brown black, slightly greyed dash of a head.

Nose: Passion fruit and dried apricot. Toffee mixed with fresh hoppiness. Malt chocolate drinks.

Body: Good bitterness and smooth textured. Slightly milky with lime and kiwi floating throughout. Lime jelly. Chocolate.

Finish: Hops. Kiwi fruit. Growling bitterness and grapefruit. Coffee beans.

Conclusion: The first black IPA I tried whilst in the USA and boy was It a stonker! The smoothness and thicker texture work great together, there is a real hop bitterness but it still feels smooth and easy drinking; A very hard combination to do, but one they manage here with seeming ease. The only other two examples I can think of that do similar is Bristol Beer Factory’s Indian Ink, and Brewdog’s now defunct Equity For Punks 2011.

The main body runs less tart than a lot of the examples of the style, with the fruit leaning more towards juicy kiwis than sharp grapefruit. Whilst I logically know there is no such thing as a session BIPA I would happily give it a go with this one with all the smoothness it brings to the flavours.

The usual coffee flavours are also quite restrained giving a good background for the beer to work from, it’s one that lets the flavours seep in rather than kick them out instantly. In fact with the mellow coffee and juicy kiwi it reminds me of some of the connoisseur coffee I’ve found in the coffee houses around Bath.

Nowhere near the harsh levels of, say Bashah, this plays in the same rarefied area as EFP 2012, but that softness of the fruit flavours makes it stand out as a beer on it’s own.  Seriously drinkable, and well worth having. With EFP2011 now gone I can’t compare the two, but from memory I would say it either matches or possibly surpasses that, making it one of the best Black IPAs I have had and the first beer on the road trip of awesome to get included in my “My favourite list” great work.

Background: Found during the road trip of awesome, at Asheville (shockingly). The company also seems to be called Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company, because they also do pizza. It’s all pretty straightforward.  I tried it at their Coxe avenue brew house and had a great time there, the bartender was funny, and offered a sample of a jalapeno infused golden ale (nice, but OUCH!), and was cool about the whole beer review thing. The customers were great as well and pointed me to a beer map of Asheville which came in very useful. Seriously I could do a full week at that place and not have tried half the different breweries beers.  Of all the Asheville breweries this was probably my favourite, and I was very disappointed I couldn’t get the crew to go there for pizza and beer as I would have loved to go back. If anyone from the place reads this, please find some way of getting your beers to England, I will buy and drink them I promise! Thanks to everyone for making me so welcome.

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