Beer Review: Sixpoint Brownstone Ale

Brooklyn could use more breweries like Sixpoint. They’re local, they’re experimental, and they’re good. I like them for what they represent around here, but to be honest I don’t always like their beers. Sweet Action is pretty good, but too malty and indelicate for my tastebuds. Bengali Tiger is way too muddy and overwhelming both in malt and hop character. Its the beer equivalent of turning your clock radio up so loud that you can no longer make out the music. On the other hand, there are the one-offs and the limited releases. For whatever reason, I’ve enjoyed these immensely more than the standard fare. Maybe its a matter of freshness?

It was pretty dark in the restaurant, but you wouldn’t be able to see through this beer anyway.

I got my first taste of one of these local draught-only brews on a recent trip into DUMBO to check out Jack the Horse Tavern, an establishment whose name I’ve grown uncomfortable saying aloud. Regardless, they had awesome burgers and a pretty nice beer selection including Brownstone, Sixpoint’s take on a classic American Brown Ale.

Color: As you might expect, a deep rich brown. Nearly opaque with a thin tan head.

Aroma: Piney, citrusy Amercian hops. I’m guessing they used some Chinook.

Taste: Nutty and chocolatey, finishing with a bit of dank pine. A really light body and delicate malt character throughout. Malt bitterness was low, but detectable. Nothing overwhelming, a really solid example of this style.

Completely Scientific Rating: 90

For those of you accustomed to some of the more over-the-top offerings from this brewery, I’d suggest checking this one out for a nice change of pace.

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Beer Review: Stoudt’s Gold Lager

Stoudt's Gold Lager

We played trivial pursuit while we drank. It is best to test one’s knowledge throughout all stages of inebriation.

The more I brew and drink beer, the harder it is to impress me. I’m not talking about beer snobbery (although I’ve been known to suffer from it occasionally), I’m talking about technical skillEvery home brewer knows that some styles are more “forgiving” than others in terms of off-flavors. Don’t get me wrong, I love a palate-wrecking quadruple IPA as much as the next guy, but what’s much more rare and exciting for me is finding a super clean, fresh, well-handled Kolsch or Bohemian Pilsner. Those styles don’t hide flaws, and you have to be pretty damn good to pull them off well.

I encountered one really good example of this kind of skill at a recent trip to Breukelen Bier Merchants in Williamsburg: a German Helles called Stoudt’s Gold Lager.

Color: Like the name suggests, this beer is  supremely clear, bright gold in color.

Aroma: The aroma is minimal,  a bit spicy from the hops.

Taste: A really nice rush of noble hop bitterness up front, but nothing too overwhelming. The finish is very smooth, with subtle graininess. This beer has none of the overwhelming hop character that many domestic craft lagers have, and it works because it’s such a squeaky clean beer. As a lowly home brewer, it makes me jealous.

Completely Scientific Rating: 93

When you look up “drinkability” in the dictionary, there should just be a picture of this beer. You should also throw the dictionary away, because no self-respecting dictionary should contain that word.

Book Recommendation: Brew Like a Monk

Brew Like a Monk

I’ll admit it: when I first started drinking beer (at the completely legal age of 21, of course) I didn’t like belgian beer. Having grown up on your typical american light lagers, I had no palate for the intense banana, clove, fig, and dark-sugar flavors typically found in belgian beers. As I began to get into craft beer, and especially now that I’ve gotten into homebrewing, I’ve started really appreciating the deep complexity and uniqueness of these styles. I’d now rank a Golden Strong or a Tripel among my favorite styles.

In this book, Stan Hieronymus lays out the current landscape of Trappist (monk-brewed belgian) beers. He discusses the history of the monasteries that still brew beer to support their charitable activities, as well as the movement in America to reincarnate some of these belgian styles. At the end of the book are lists of “recipes” (mostly just guidelines on how to clone some famous commercial Trappist and Abbey beers) as well as looks at fermentation profiles and water chemistry of traditional belgian brewing.

This is a truly refreshing read if you’re used to more traditional textbook-like homebrewing how-to books, and it’ll leave you with a sense for how to approach these styles in the future.