Beer reviews and ratings from the good folks at the Philly Beer School. The following are reviews of the top craft brews from their beer classes and brewing programs.
Baltic Porter Review
Dark as an empty movie theater, this porter sports a nose of Raisinets and buttered popcorn. On the palate, it turns into fresh figs with walnuts and dried blueberries. The finish turns up the dark malts with espresso, dark chocolate and licorice. The hops give a hint of rich earth to the whole affair. A rich and smooth brew that feels effortless on the palate. Superb.
Export Stout Review
Just as dark and scented as a freshly pulled espresso. A full bodied stout with rich milk chocolate on the palate . Strands of smoky molasses and saltwater taffy develop on the mid-palate The finish turns veers to charcoal and coffee beans and ends with a nice clean bit of malted barley.
Last St. Paddy’s Day, I implored you to forgo Guinness and other mass-produced Irish imports for local brews that pack more freshness and flavor. One year on, my opinion hasn’t changed, and our local beer scene continues to improve and evolve. My first choice, in fact, on everyone’s favorite drinking holiday would surely be Victory’s Donnybrook Stout.
Donnybrook, however, like many other Irish-style stouts, is one of those creamy, distinctive beers that is only available on nitro tap (meaning that nitrogen is used instead of carbon dioxide in the carbonation process). Because nitrogen is largely insoluble in liquid, beers made in this method tend to have a deceptively thick mouthfeel and offer that distinctive cascade up the glass after being poured.
Guinness, of course, as well as several other internationally-known nitrogenated beers, has long made its signature stout available in a can with a widget at the bottom that approximates the effect of the nitro tap. For those of us who want to enjoy these wonderful beers at home, these macro-brewer widget cans have been our only option.
Until Left Hand Brewing Company’s Milk Stout Nitro, that is. These guys, see, have somehow figured out how to bottle nitrogenated beer. With no widget. Once opening the bottle, you just turn it completely upside down (over a glass!) and let it vigorously and completely pour out. If done correctly, a classic nitro cascade with be only moments away… as will the taste of a freaking delicious stout. This baby is fresh, and smooth, and chocolatey. Bottom line, this is gulping beer.
I must, of course, point out that Left Hand is not a local brewery (it’s in Denver, CO). It is, however, an American brewery, much closer to Philly than Dublin, and heck, they’re even calling this beer “America’s Stout”. Bold words? Not behind this deliciousness.
American IPA Review
Toast and lemon curd on the nose, with a whiff of lavender and blood orange. Those aromas follow through on the palate, along with butterscotch and tree fruits. Flavors develop into the juiciness of ripe pears and melon. Sweetness rises on the finish along with apple flavors and freshly ground spices.
Imperial IPA Review
Vibrant hop aromas push into an ozone-like freshness along with a bit of green grass. On the palate, flavors of grapefruit and melon predominate with floral notes and toasted malts in the background. On the finish, notes of pine forest and tropical fruits come forward. Good carbonation and a mid-weight body offer a creamy yet crisp finish to this wonderful beer.
An Imperial IPA Review
Impressive aromatics of citrus, highly vinous aromatics of grapefruit, lemon rind and caramel. On the palate, the complex fruit flavors continue. Rich and dry, with mango, citrus, peaches, and pineapple all playing a part in the swirl of flavors in this extraordinary beer. A layer of malt and pine resin turn into perfume underneath the fruit flavors.
Under the finish of juicy richness comes a deep hoppy bitterness that twirls into caramelized grapefruit in the finish. This is one of the most rare of beers: big but balanced, highly hopped but delicate. A new classic.
The more I taste beers from Canada’s rising micro brews the greater my respect. They embrace the quality of North American grains and hops, and at the same time executing old school brewing styles. It’s a winning combination they share with some New England brewers, but few others. La Fin Du Monde -the end of the world- is a great place to start.
A tone-perfect Trapist Tripel, is rich in ester scents, ranging from Bartlett pear to nectarine. Fermentation flavors of clove and spicy ginger are prominent, along with a refreshing top note of grapefruit oil and fresh baked bread.
Despite is august-sounding name, Thornbridge is a relatively new British brewery (it was founded in 20005). Their beers tend to hew close to classic styles, but cleaner and fresher. This India Pale Ale is a very good example of their tailored style.
Fresh apple and toast aromas are intertwined with a touch of freshly mown field. On the palate, the beer turn floral with hops and richer in malt. The low alcohol and tight carbonation keeps the brew classy and in control. Grapefruit and lemon oil on the finish with just a bit of rosemary-like bitterness on the finish. A wonderful brew that just may be the best session brew ever.