Anderson Valley Brewing Company Huge Arker – Russian Imperial Stout at 13.5% ABV

Anderson Valley Brewing Company Huge Arker Russian Imperial Stout at 13.5% ABV ($21.84 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 650ml, no bottle date or best before)

Pours nearly solid black with only a hint of mahogany around the margins, one finger of beige head diminishing gradually to a thin skim, moderate patchy lacing. (4/5) Nose is bourbon, boozy dark fruit, candi sugar, vanilla, oak, faint dark chocolate. (9/10) Taste is strong sweet, mild bitter. (8/10) Medium to full body, low carbonation and slightly syrupy, warming mildly bitter finish. (4/5)

Well, it’s huge, I’ll give it that. But the hugeness derives from the aggressive alcohol burn and the strong, syrupy sweetness. I’m a bit surprised at the relative absence of stout character – yes, it’s dark, but the body actually tends to the light side, and there’s very little roast/coffee/chocolate character. What there is of that seems to be completely drowned out by the bourbon – and don’t get me wrong: I don’t mind bourbon, nor do I think this isn’t a good beer. It could just be a better one – especially for the truly ridiculous price. (16/20)

8/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams) Samuel Adams Winter Lager – Bock at 5.6% ABV

Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams) Samuel Adams Winter Lager Bock at 5.6% ABV ($2.50 at NLC Kelsey Drive, 355ml, best before 1-Mar-2015)

Pours medium amber with a short off-white head diminishing rapidly to nothing, no lacing. (3/5) Nose is muted: wheat, cinnamon, faith orange peel. (6/10) Taste is moderate sweet, moderate bitter, very mild sour. (6/10) Medium body, moderate carbonation, quick if not abrupt finish. (3/5)

Not a terrible mass-market winter lager, but not great either. There’s a very little warming going on, and the spices are kind of stale and wilted. It’s better than a standard adjunct lager, but it’s a long shot from the best Sam Adams I’ve ever had. It’s kind of like a craft…-ish beer for people who have never tried craft beer… and aren’t entirely sure they want to. (12/20)

6/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Brouwerij De Ranke Saison de Dottignies – Belgian Strong Pale Ale at 5.5% ABV

Brouwerij De Ranke Saison de Dottignies Belgian Strong Pale Ale at 5.5% ABV ($11.59 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 750ml, best before 19-Sep-2018)

Pours hazy pale to medium amber with a one finger of light beige head diminishing gradually to a thin cap, moderate lacing. (4/5) Nose is pithy citrus, yeast, cloves, barnyard funk, faint banana. (8/10) Taste is mild sweet, moderate bitter, mild funk. (8/10) Medium body, moderate carbonation, dry bitter funky finish. (4/5)

A pleasant, slightly funky dry saison. Fruit is muted and restrained, as is the sweetness. For the price, though, it could stand to be a bit more interesting – as it stands, it’s a decent beer at a premium price. I think it’s slightly better than the sum of its parts, though, so I’m bumping up the overall a bit. (18/20)

8.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Jennings (Marstons) Cocker Hoop – English Pale Ale at 4.2% ABV

Jennings (Marstons) Cocker Hoop English Pale Ale at 4.2% ABV ($4.00 at Dominion Stavanger, 500ml, best before 31-Jul-2015)

Pours clear pale amber with a one finger of white head diminishing rapidly to a thin skim, minimal patchy lacing. (3/5) Nose is biscuity pale malt, grassy hops, hint of fruit. (5/10) Taste is moderate sweet, moderate bitter. (6/10) Light body, medium to low carbonation, lingering bitter finish. (3/5)

Pretty similar to Marston’s EPA. Maybe a little more bitter, and I think it tastes a little better than it smells – which, to be honest, isn’t saying a heck of a lot. Nothing remarkable, easy drinking with a pleasant enough bitter finish. (10/20)

5.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Brakspear (Marstons) Brakspear Bitter – English Bitter at 3.4% ABV

Brakspear (Marstons) Brakspear Bitter English Bitter at 3.4% ABV ($4.00 at Dominion Stavanger, 500ml, best before 31-Jul-2015)

Pours clear pale amber with a one finger of light beige head diminishing gradually to a thin cap, moderate lacing. (4/5) Nose is caramel malt, earthy hops, maybe a little black tea. (5/10) Taste is mild sweet, moderate bitter. (6/10) Medium body, low carbonation, building bitter finish. (3/5)

Yet another variation on the Marston’s theme, another one that tastes marginally better than it smells. It’s not bad at all, but I can’t say I’d be inclined to make much effort to find another one. Glad that kills the six pack. (10/20)

5.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Banks’s (Marstons) Banks’s Bitter – English Bitter at 3.6% ABV

Banks’s (Marstons) Banks’s Bitter English Bitter at 3.6% ABV ($4.00 at Dominion Stavanger, 500ml, best before 31-Jul-2015)

Pours clear pale amber with a one finger of light beige head diminishing gradually to a thin skim, moderate lacing. (4/5) Nose is biscuity caramel malt, faint citrus, earthy hops. (5/10) Taste is moderate sweet, mild bitter. (5/10) Medium body tending to the watery, low carbonation, off-dry bitter finish. (3/5)

Pretty much a standard Marston’s bitter – think their EPA, except two shades darker in colour and flavour. The hops are a little more earthy than grassy, and the fruit is maybe a little more citrus than stone. Not a lot to really distinguish it beyond that, though – perhaps a marginally better drinker. (10/20)

5.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Marstons Marston’s EPA – English Pale Ale at 3.6% ABV

Marstons Marston’s EPA English Pale Ale at 3.6% ABV ($4.00 at Dominion Stavanger, 500ml, best before 31-Jul-2015)

Pours clear straw with a thin one finger of white head diminishing rapidly to a thin skim, no lacing. (3/5) Nose is biscuity pale malt, faint stone fruit, grassy hops. (5/10) Taste is moderate sweet, mild bitter. (5/10) Light body, low carbonation, off-dry building bitter finish. (3/5)

Well, if that’s the “Official beer of England”, you have my deepest sympathy. I guess it’s not bad, as such, but it’s little more than fizzy yellow water. Sessionable, sure, but so’s tap water. Fine as a thirst quencher, I guess, or if you’re the DD.(10/20)

5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales Calabaza Blanca – Witbier at 4.8% ABV

Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales Calabaza Blanca Witbier at 4.8% ABV (Via trade, 750ml, bottle date 21-Jan-2014)

Pours hazy pale straw with an explosive three fingers of rocky white head great retention, moderate lacing (4/5) Nose is Belgian funk, citrus peel, coriander, wheat, green apple. (9/10) Taste is moderate sweet, moderately strong tart. (9/10) Light body, prickly carbonation, dry tart finish. (4/5)

When I say “explosive” head, I mean it. Straight out of the cellar, no agitation at all, gently opened and immediately overflowed. Have a bucket ready. Sustained carbonation, tartness, and apple tones in the finish invite obvious cider comparisons. Unlike any witbier I’ve ever had: only the mildest of wheat flavour fades in comparison to the barnyard funk and green apple tartness. After struggling for a bit for comparisons, I’ll amend my comment: unlike pretty much any other beer I’ve ever had – though the De Ranke XX Bitter or Cuvée de Ranke might be close. If anything, it’s more like a light, sour saison. I’d like to vertical this new and following a year’s cellaring, to see how much of the funk and carbonation is due to ageing, and what it’s like new. Really good. (18/20)

9/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams) Samuel Adams Fat Jack – Spice/Herb/Vegetable at 8.5% ABV

Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams) Samuel Adams Fat Jack Spice/Herb/Vegetable at 8.5% ABV ($5.90 at NLC Kelsey Drive, 650ml, no bottle date or best before)

Pours deep amber with one fat finger of light beige head diminishing gradually to a thin cap, moderate lacing (4/5) Nose is nutmeg, pumpkin, toffee, maybe some dark fruit, just a hint of smoke. (7/10) Taste is moderately strong sweet, moderately strong bitter. (7/10) Full body, moderate to low carbonation, somewhat syrupy, mild bitter finish. (4/5)

A good way to do pumpkin – a winter warmer style that’s almost barleywine in nature. It’s quite sweet, and I’m not exactly sure why that doesn’t play out as cloying – I guess it’s the heavy spices, lots of pumpkin, and a distinct alcohol warming, built on a thick, syrupy caramel. Subtle? Nope. Does it work? Yep. In fact, given the high ABV, utter absence of hop character, and the explicit suggestion on the bottle, I think I might pick up one or two more for long-term cellaring. (14/20)

7.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Lagunitas Brewing Company Lagunitas Imperial Red Ale – American Amber / Red Ale at 7.8% ABV

Lagunitas Brewing Company Lagunitas Imperial Red Ale American Amber / Red Ale at 7.8% ABV ($8.90 at Star Liquor & Wine, 650ml, no bottle date or best before)

Pours deep amber with a red tinge, one fat finger off white head diminishing gradually to a thin cap, moderate to heavy lacing (4/5) Nose is pine resin and citrus, caramel malt. (7/10) Taste is moderate sweet, moderately strong bitter. (8/10) Medium body, moderate carbonation, mild bitter finish. (4/5)

Excellent amber ale – light enough to be session able, with a very well-integrated ABV that’s never intrusive, yet retaining enough body and hop presence to be interesting. A somewhat hop-forward interpretation of a traditionally malt-dominated style – I like it. (16/20)

8/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Beer Reviews