Hammerhead, Funky Jewbelation, & Noel

I’ve been away from this blog for awhile, but I’ve been busy tasting different beers. Mac’s brewing is still on hiatus (looking to start brewing in a couple of weeks – when it finally cools down for good), so here are three beer reviews to enlighten you.

Hammerhead – Barrel Roll No 4: Hanger 24 Brewing, Redlands, California. 12.4% ABV.
This is a complex barley wine style ale brewed by Hanger 24 in Redlands, Southern California. It is aged in rye whiskey and bourbon barrels. It pours dark amber and fairly opaque, with a slight white head that fades rapidly. The aroma is sweet malt and vanilla (especially vanilla). The flavor is sweet – vanilla, toffee and bourbon – followed by a nice bitterness in the aftertaste.

This barley wine has a thick and viscous mouth feel with low carbonation. The wonderful bourbon/oak vanilla flavor lingers long after swallowing. Hanger 24 recommends serving this beer at 52° F. I observed the flavor to intensify as it warmed up (as is the case with most “big” beers), and the bourbon barrel aging became much more evident.

This ale is all about the bourbon barrel. It is excellent, a real “go to” barley wine, second only to Sucaba (Firestone Walker),but unfortunately it is no longer available. Too bad, because it’s really good. Wow!!

If you can find it somewhere (that’s doubtful), it comes in 750 ML bottles. I bought a bottle at Total Wine in April or May (2013) and drank it on 09/08/2013. Pour it carefully – there is a lot of sediment. Also, it’s 12.4% ABV, so go easy and (if you are going to drink a whole bottle), plan on staying home and taking the afternoon off, because you WILL be ruined.

Funky Jewbelation: Schmaltz Brewing Company, Saratoga Springs, New York. 9.4% ABV.
This is a combination of Schmaltz ales and lagers aged in bourbon barrels and rye whiskey barrels. This is not your typical bourbon barrel aged beer, however. It pours black with a dark tan head that remains for quite awhile. The aroma is tart fruit and sweet chocolate. The flavor is sweet in the front of the mouth, then followed by a nice tart, fruity flavor.

Wow, what an unusual flavor! There is no apparent whiskey barrel flavor – it’s all about TART. This is very flavorful when ice cold, but is definitely a sipping beer. As it warms, the whiskey barrel comes sneaking through in the aftertaste. It’s not strong or overwhelming, but subdued and in the background (careful or you might miss it). The tartness is still the primary flavor, but it does recede somewhat. Also, as it warms, the whiskey becomes subtly noticeable in the aroma.

This beer comes in a 22 oz. bomber. I bought it at Total Wine for $11.99 a week ago. It is still widely available. Beware – if you drink it on an empty stomach, it will put the hurt on you (9.4%). Very good/unusual beer and I highly recommend it.

Noel: Affligem Brewing, Belgium. 9.0% ABV
Noel is a Christmas ale (a “winter warmer”), a triple brewed with spices. It pours a deep amber with a creamy light colored head that lingers for some time. The aroma is sweet (Belgian candy sugar) and fruity (apples and raisins). It is well carbonated (it’s a bottle conditioned Belgian ale, and high carbonation is to be expected).

The flavor is sweet and complex, but not overwhelming. The spices are more noticeable in the immediate aftertaste. This is smooth in the mouth with medium body. It doesn’t have the typical Belgian flavor, but it’s a triple, so you can expect more than just the signature sweet Belgian yeast taste.

This is a good Christmas beer, in fact, it’s a good beer, period. However, it’s not the best triple I’ve tasted, and at $9.99 per 750 ML bottle (Total Wine), it’s unlikely that I will buy another one this holiday season. I would recommend it (please note the previous caveat) to anyone who likes Belgian style or Christmas/winter warmer ales. It is a little too sweet to consume the entire 750 ML bottle at one sitting, but overall, it’s a good beer.

So, here you have Mac’s opinion on three good beers. None of them is cheap, but please remember, life is too short to drink crappy beer. Cheers.