February/March 2011
Flagship Beers and Specials

Beers that rock and beers to stock,
beers with taste and beers drunk in haste,
beers from a box and drunk with a fox,
beers we like without our socks.

Flagship Beers with name recognition and a reputation that prevails across the country are usually the sorts of beers that us beer geeks ignore. However, many Flagship Beers provide the bread and butter for the more experimental and high maintenance craft beers of our talented brewing artisans. So drink ye of the Flagships, as we are always happy to find them at airports, in the dive bar or sports bars and at weddings, and know that you are supporting the craft beer revolution and the gifted brewers that bring us this incredible better-beer renaissance.

The Blue Monk, the newly opened and much celebrated Belgian Beer bar in the Elmwood district of Buffalo, was the setting for this Beer Beacon tasting. As the beers flowed, it snowed and snowed. We could hardly decide on just one of the 30 delicious, mostly Belgian and Belgian style draft beers on the chalkboard. The gastro-pub offers beer-inspired Belgian and American style fare with frites, mussels, entrees, a duck Reuben sandwich, blue cheese meat balls, gourmet burgers and a daily mac and cheese special that is an excellent base for a night of beer tasting.

The Beer Beacon Tasters were all eager participants in showing their support for this Flagship Beer tasting. Crashing the event, The Lupulin Lush, was a stellar addition, nearly knocking Mensa Drop Out
off the top of the alternate list.

Wishing you all a Hoppy Valentines Day and a Beery Exciting March Madness. Big hearts go out to all the breweries that have sent in samples for this Flagship tasting. We really enjoyed tasting the beers that have made you famous and appreciate all you've done for our craft beervana adventure.

Next: United Kingdom Beers and American Brewed British and U.K. Style Beers

The Place:
The Blu Monk
Buffalo, NY

Guest Tasters:
The Magistrate, Hop Jack, Vinny, Evill, Swoop Jones, Mensa Drop Out, Lupulin Lush

The Method:
Tasters are served each beer, with only the information of the style the brewery is emulating, when there is a style. The beer name and brewery are revealed to the tasters as each next blind round is served.

The Beers:

Riverwest Stein Beer, Amber Ale, Lakefront Brewery
1872 North Commerce Street, Milwaukee, WI

Hop Jack noted the malty caramel taste that was nicely balanced. Both Swoop Jones and Mensa Drop Out liked the toasted caramel body with a wheat berry finish. Vinny tasted some maple in the body and found the beer pleasantly drinkable. Evill declared it a good pretzel chaser. The Beer Diva recommends bratwurst and sauerkraut with this crisp refreshing beer.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager, Boston Brewing Co.
One Design Center, Suite 850, Boston, MA

pint glass

Mensa Drop Out commented on the Saaz hop and straw aroma that was clean and fresh. Swoop Jones and Hop Jack thought it was very good example of the style. "Absolutely no flaws," noted the Magistrate. Vinny thought it was the perfect summer beer and Evill agreed this was the ideal Beer Garden nudge for your flavor-timid friends. A sure hit at a Super Bowl party or March Madness play-offs.

Full Sail Amber Ale, Full Sail Brewing Co.
506 Columbia Street, Hood River, OR

The Magistrate described this reddish amber beer as malty, with a caramel nose, a medium body with some nice hop character. SwoopJones found the light brown sugar nose, the soft caramel body and British hop and hard water finish likeable, "not at all offensive". Vinny liked the light fruity nose, but said the taste was a bit sweet with a bready, slightly hopped cardboard taste. Ambers are a favorite style of Mensa Drop Out, but he thought this one was a bit pedestrian in flavor. Evill said it reminded him of something a British cabbie would drink after a long day. The Beer Diva remembered that this was the first craft beer bottled in Oregon and strongly supports this employee-owned brewery.

Saranac Pale Ale, Matts Brewing Co.
811 Edward Street Utica, NY

Vinny noted the subtle fruity aroma, the caramel and hops in the body and said it was refreshing. Evill commented on the bit of bitterness in an English style pale ale with a semi-sweet dry finish. With hops in the nose and a nice balance, Hop Jack agreed, it was definitely pleasant. The Magistrate found it mildly sweet and grainy with hops that lingered nicely. The Lupulin Lush said it had a nice mouth feel with resiny hops and a fruity malt taste with a musky finish.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
1075 East 20th Street, Chico, CA

The Magistrate called it the Pale Ale Brother of the last one. Hop Jack found the hop aroma faintly citrusy and the flavor profile slightly fruity and mildly spicy. Vinny liked the smooth, lightly earthy hopped and warm malt taste. Mensa Drop Out declared it a "speed walker pace beer", a beer for in between moods. As with many beer enthusiasts weaned on this icon of the craft beer movement, the Beer Diva has fond memories and is always satisfied by the taste of this familiar pale ale.

Steelhead Extra Pale Ale, Mad River Brewing Co.
101 Taylor Way, Blue Lake, CA

The Beer Diva woke right up to the familiar South Buffalo smell of Honey Nut Cheerios. Lupulin Lush agreed it was cereal, more Kix Berry-like with a white grape, sweet and tart taste. Vinny liked the mildly fruity nose and sweet bready body with a pleasant quantity of hops - "a quality pale ale". SwoopJones noted the sweet floral hops and clean, fresh taste. Mensa Drop Out found the mouth feel light and creamy smooth with a mild hop bitterness. Evill declared it a session beer for the back yard that would go well with grilled chicken or fish.

Ubu Ale, Lake Placid brewing Co.
813 Main Street, Lake Placid, NY

Presented to us as an American version of a Strong Ale, Vinny commented on the deep ruby red hue, the molasses and dates aroma and sugary, alcohol body with flavor profile of smoky malts, prunes and hops. The Magistrate found the malty and caramel molasses taste finished dry and had many of the characteristics of a Strong Ale, but didn't think it was heavy enough. Lupulin Lush described the nose as sweet chocolate with a roasty mouth feel and a dry resiny hoppy finish. Mensa got musical, noting a sweet malt and licorice prologue, molasses and coffee chords with anise notes; overall a complex piece with an almost overwhelming bitter finish. The Beer Diva is craving a Clark's Roast Beef Sandwich to go with this robust beer.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
1075 East 20th Street, Chico, CA

Hop Jack noted the creamy head and roasted malt nose supplemented with light hops. Mensa Drop Out thought it was light and palatable, and while maybe not true to the English style, one person's flaws are another's endearing qualities and he found this beer quite enjoyable. SwoopJones said it reminded him of Pepsi, thirst quenching and smooth without being too sweet. Lupulin Lush commented on the faint citrus hops and roasty palate and decent hop bill. Neither the Magistrate nor the Beer Diva is a huge porter fan. However, the chocolate toasted aroma, and smooth, not too sweet, roasted barley flavor was delightful - truly their kind of porter.

HI.P.A., Magic Hat Brewing Co.
5 Bartlett Bay Road, South Burlington, VT

The Beer Diva commented on the fresh hop aroma and taste that hits the spot. Teasingly, Evill said, "it sucks". When she offered to drink his, Evill replied, "over my dead hands". He described the beer as a "bitter hemp bite with a fruity grapefruit tingle". Vinny said the big piney hop nose, malt and sugars did a hops dance on pine needles and pineapples. SwoopJones liked the sweet floral tangerine aroma and piney sticky hops flavor. Hop Jack loved the hops to malt to hop transition, but thought it finished a bit abruptly. Mensa Drop Out declared it the "Telemundo of IPAs".

Torpedo Extra Pale Ale, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
1075 East 20th Street, Chico, CA

The Magistrate commented on the nice full head and strong hoppy resiny nose that lingered beautifully. SwoopJones noted the floral sweet tangerine or nectarine aroma and boldly bitter hop flavor. Evill described the beer as "hop bitterness that paves your tongue with a slight bitter silkiness". Luplin Lush thought the aroma was musky, with a sweet flash in the palate and then a bitter hop finish; overall quite delicious and interesting. Hop Jack enjoyed the clean fresh taste with a colossal dose of hops. Mensa Drop Out suggested it would match well with Curried Chicken.

India Pale Ale, Avery Brewing Co.
5763 Arapahoe Avenue # East, Boulder, CO

The Magistrate started with "Hop Hop Hop" and the Beer Diva responded with "Hopheads Pop". Evill went with "Big Hops on Top" only to be outdone by Hop Jack who called it the "Hop Kahuna". SwoopJones described the aroma as grapefruit and the flavor as crushed peanut shells with a bitter hop finish. Vinny noted the sweet citrus fruit nose and piney orange hoppy body with a rich profile of malt and hops in the finish. The Lupulin Lush greedily gulped the citrusy hop and fruit complexity with a beautiful floral ending.

2X India Pale Ale, Southern Tier Brewing Co.
2072 Stoneman Circle, Lakewood, NY

Evill described this one as a juicy citrus floral bouquet of happiness. Vinny commented on the piney nose with a big hop blast of citrus pine flavor with a furious finish. Mensa Drop Out noticed orange and grapefruit with hints of heat, and a complex flavor that was smooth like butter and bananas. Hop Jack was impressed (and that's not easy). The Magistrate noticed the hoppy bitterness hung in there without being overbearing. Lupulin Lush said the sweetness was addictive, like popping candy hops. A perfect Valentines Day present, commented the Beer Diva.

Samuel Adams Scotch Ale, Boston Brewing Co.
One Design Center, Suite 850, Boston, MA

"Yahoo, that is Sweeet!" declared the Beer Diva. Mensa Drop Out noted the brown sugar and toasted smoky bacon notes that were syrupy on the tongue. SwoopJones described it as grape jammy sweetness with a hint of smoke. Vinny commented on the big smoky whiskey nose that was a bit hard to swallow and suggested we waterproof our boots with it. Hop Jack said "no hops, that's for sure". The Magistrate thought it was over-smoked with a malty boozy flavor that finished astringently.

Samuel Adams Longshot Honey B's Lavender Ale, Boston Brewing Co.
One Design Center, Suite 850, Boston, MA

Vinny described it as an herbal nose with a lemon tart and honey body with a ginger vanilla finish. Lupulin Lush agreed it was a "good sick beer" like Ricola herbal cough drops and made a great palate cleanser. Evill liked the way it danced down your throat and suggested it might cure a cold. The Magistrate thought it was truly unique with a delicate yarrow and honey flavor. SwoopJones really enjoyed the complexity and Mensa Drop Out agreed calling it a chimera in which the flavors changed from jasmine, lemon and lavender to juniper and then all knotted together in a perfect ending.

Samuel Adams Longshot Friar Hop Ale, Boston Brewing Co.
One Design Center, Suite 850, Boston, MA

The Magistrate commented on the beautiful Belgian nose and sweet tart and hoppy body with a dry finish. SwoopJones really liked it, noting the coconut flavor and nice hop bitterness and fruity Belgian yeastiness. The Mensa Drop out dubbed it a "Quentin Tarentino beer" with dramatic overtones that would be a good "dusk til dawn beer". Vinny described the musty, malty aroma, the honey and hops tart funkiness taste and extremely dry finish. Not a huge Belgian fan, Hop Jack said, "Why would you want to wreck my IPA with banana clove and yeasty taste?" "A stellar combination of my two favorite beer styles," the Beer Diva responded. Oh la la lala lalalah!"

Samuel Adams Longshot Blackened Hops, Boston Brewing Co.
One Design Center, Suite 850, Boston, MA

Lupulin Lush noted cedar and chocolate in the aroma and a baker's chocolate and hops flavor that finished smooth and hoppy. Vinny liked the toasted malts with a fruity nose and solid body of hops and molasses and named it "Operation Black Hops". The Magistrate commented on the malty nose and robust hops flavor and smooth lingering hops ending. Hop Jack was also impressed with the big citrus and piney hops and subtle, roasted malt and chocolate body that were wonderfully balanced. Mensa Drop Out suggested we pair it with Gucci Date cookies.

Kellerweis, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
1075 East 20th Street, Chico, CA

We thought we were finished with the tasting and then questioned the faithful steward: "I thought there were seventeen beers?" "Ahhh," he replied, "That's right, I was saving the hefeweizen for the Weiss Frau." Vinny described the spritzy, cardamom nose with a body of light clove and bubblegum that is both clean and refreshing. Evill commented on the brilliant citrus and on-point floral hop character that outshines most American hefeweizens. SwoopJones found the tasty, lemony, wheat and light banana flavor very drinkable. The Beer Diva was transported back to Hefe Heaven and was thrilled to find an American open-fermented hefewizen in a bottle that satisfied her lust for German beers.


--- by The Beer Diva, Beer Beacon columnist

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