Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

So it’s winter time.  Christmas cookies, fire, turkey, snow, Santa, family, beer, and celebration.  Celebration is one good beer, but I think it’s about 5 months too early.  I like the idea of a winter seasonal that doesn’t have spices, but this brew is hoppy!  Is that a good thing.. well yeah, but I like me a hearty winter beer, something that will put me in hibernation until March – a stout or porter will do the trick, so that’s why I was a little thrown off by Celebration Ale.  It’s not as dark or roasty as I was expecting, but it is as good as an IPA can get.

The brew poured a with a nice amber hue and left behind a cream colored head that had some pretty good retention and left a lace behind that was prettier that Gram’s Christmas doyley.  Celebration reeked of hops and some light pine (which may be the connection to Christmas… Christmas Tree… Celebration Ale… winter time… it’s a stretch).  The beer was not translucent which was nice to see out of a clean tasting IPA.  Taste didn’t differ much from the smell… strong hops dominate the flavor and a tingle of sweetness is left on the tongue.  Overall, a very good beer, but I may buy some now and crack them open in 5 months when it’s IPA time.  Celebration is a nice break from the traditional winter beer and is definitely worth trying.  For all you hop heads out there, this is your winter brew.  Overall: B+, with point deductions for a lack of a winter feel.  Pick up a 12er of this.

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Southern Tier Pumking

Any beer calling itself the “King” of anything should be looked at with a keen eye.  The “king” of beers is one of the worst ones on the market, and the king of pumpkin beers follows suite.  Some times being the king doesn’t work out so well.  (How’s Gaddafi doing?)
Let’s make this short and sweet.  The beer poured a light golden brown into my glass with an off-white head that went away within seconds.  The smell of the beer was that of pumpkin and butter-cream.  I did not get a lot, or any really, cinnamon, spice, or nutmeg — just pumpkin.  I went in for the first taste, and really did not like it.  It was a true pumpkin ale, in the most literal sense.  Some of the spices came out, but nothing sweet to really override the pumpkin taste.  It was very bitter with the pumpkin being the star of the show; it didn’t taste like pumpkin pie or pumpkin bread, it tasted like carving a pumpkin.  The malt also made an appearance as well with the bitterness of the hops and pumpkin, but it was such a weird combination.  Most significantly, the beer did not taste like beer.  I know Southern Tier pushes the boundaries, but this was too much for me.  The drinkability of the brew was wretched.  I tried to like it, Southern Tier usually makes really good brew, but I just dreaded coming back to it.  After pouring 14 ounces in my pint glass, the final 8 met the drain.  Overall, I give the beer an D- because it really is one of the only pumpkin ales that truly tastes like pumpkin, but on the other hand, why would anyone want to drink pumpkin juice?  It would however make a pretty good Yankee Candle scent.  Avoid this one.

Rogue Somer Orange Honey Ale

Rogue (adj): no longer obedient, belonging, or accepted and hence not controllable or answerable; deviating, renegade; also see Sarah Palin.  
For a craft brewery to adopt the name “Rogue” they better deliver; especially if they’re based in Oregon.  I must say I am partial to Rogue beers, and the name often matches the brews they put out: Brutal Bitter, Chipotle Ale, Dead Guy Ale, John John Ale (cask fermented), Shakespeare Stout… the list goes on and on.  Just by reading them, you get a feel that they’re not your typical craft, and they don’t like to play nice.  The artwork and craftsmanship they put into their beer is certainly seen… literally – their labels are the best of any brewery and the ingredients they put into their brews makes me
think of them as the Dogfish of the west coast… very experimental and quality assurance is their cornerstone.
I have had a lot of Rogue, and liked just about every brew (besides Hazelnut Brown Nectar), and to be honest, this wasn’t my first time having Somer Orange Honey Ale.  I had their summer seasonal once before (in December ironically) and remember liking it quite a bit, however I wanted to experience the brew in the appropriate climate.

After admiring the artistry of the label and the the quality of ingredients put into the beer, I wanted to see what was in it.  Past Rogue’s that I’ve had were full with sediment hiding on the bottom waiting to trickle down the bottle neck ready to invade your pint glass.  The way I framed that sentence makes one think that perhaps this isn’t the best thing, however beer with a little sediment in the bottle is sort of like shopping at Ocean State Job Lot.  You’re really nervous, and at times fearful, about what’s inside and the product you will find, but every time you leave you’re satisfied and surprised with what you get (99 cents for 4 AA batteries!)  For the most part, the sediment in beers doesn’t get me nervous, however when I turned the beer upside down and held it to the light, the brew went from increasingly cloudy to chunky.
As you can see (look towards the bottle neck on the last picture), there were chucks of sediment that were not dissolving into the beer, which can be a little off putting.  Again, I’m typically not one to care about this, especially if this was a hearty porter or stout, but with a summer brew (correction, somer brew), I want it to be crisp and drinkable, with no chewing involved.  Regardless, I poured this guy in the glass and started the process.

The head was very white, with little retention and little lacing and the beer itself was cloudy (to be expected after looking at the bottle).  At first smell I got a lot of citrus, orange, and spice – you can certainly smell the coriander.  As I drank, I stuck my nose in again and got a really pungent smell.  You know when you go swimming and water gets up your nose and it burns for a few seconds?… well that sensation is sort of what the beer smelled like half way through drinking it.  It became much more citrus-ie as and part of the burning nose smell could be because of the carbonation of the beer, which I felt was pretty heavy.
One thing that was not at all heavy about the beer was its taste.  Typically, whenever I had Rogue, I often ignored the brewer’s suggestion of what food to pair it with because the bottle of beer itself would be my meal.  The Somer Orange was entirely different from what I was used to because it wasn’t at all filling and I got through the bomber pretty quickly, however unlike other lighter summer (somer) beers, this did not deliver so much with the flavor.  Nothing really stood out as I was drinking it; you got a little of the citrus and the bitterness of the hops, but with all that sediment floating around I was expecting more taste.  I looked hard for the honey, but I couldn’t find it at all, and it wasn’t all that sweet either.  Compared to a Blue Moon or Shock Top, this beer tasted more organic – the orange tasted more natural, and like I said, it did not overwhelm the brew at all, unlike the former two beers mentioned.

As a summer (somer) brew, there are better ones out there.  Other summer (somer) brews will also leave your wallet a little bit heavier (Rogue’s go for about $6.00 per bottle or roughly 27 cents per ounce).  All things considered, this beer is a good summer (somer) ale: light, carbonated, and drinkable, however I also would like to have something a little more flavorful, and at 5.2%ABV, something with a little more kick too.  I would give this beer a B- because of the price v. satisfaction ratio and also because Rogue strays away from from its definition with this one.

Geary’s Summer Ale

Going into my senior year of college, I had a summer internship in Portland.  I really enjoyed the city because it had a very unique vibe to it – “keep your wallet in your front pocket” met quaint seaport city.  Rummaging through the Old Port and seeing a lot of… interesting… characters was always and adventure, but I was fascinated with all the brew pubs habituating the city.  Because of the blue collar and gritty charm of Portland, many beers from Maine have a very soft spot in my heart, but have sometimes disappointed.
When looking at all of the options at the package store a, “Made in Maine” label peeking out the top of a six pack caught my eye.  I’ve never heard of Geary’s like I had with other big names such as Peak, Sea Dog, Gritty’s, Sebago, Shipyard, and other breweries from the vacation state, but I took a flyer.  Not having high expectations (I mean really, what kind of idiot spells Gary, ‘Geary’… it’s like Jeff with a ‘G’ [sorry Geoff]), I poured the brew into a fitting Bar Harbor Brewing pint glass.  
Head retention was pretty good, a nice off white color with fantastic hints of lemon grass, light hops, and citrus notes.  I was very pleasantly surprised with the color and, what I consider a very nice head for a lighter, refreshing summer beer, but (as you can see) no lacing with this guy.
Appearance to taste was a nice transition.  I was immediately hit with those lemony-citrus notes right off the bat, providing a nice bitter taste without being overpowering like and IPA could be.  There was no real after taste to the brew, and after the first wave of light lemon, there wasn’t much.  I wasn’t quite sure if this was a good thing or a bad thing though. As the beer was slowly flowing out of the glass and into my stomach, I found the lightness of it was a very awesome thing.  I felt that I could drink these easily (stay thirsty my friends…), but in a very un-Bud Light fashion this beer was flavorful!  
A perfect perfect beer for the beach, or a summer graduation party to get your crazy Uncle Mike drunk.  It’s also nice to pick up something most of those beach goers and guests at your BBQ never drank, but will be sure to love at first sip – spread the Maine craft love around.  If you’re looking for something summer-ie with a little more punch and a bit bolder flavor, go with an IPA, but this small brewery from Maine delivered a perfect summer beer, as marketed.  A-