Archive for December, 2010

Beer Review: Ommegang Belgian-Style Pale Ale (BPA)

I was pleased to get a three pack of large beers from Ommegang this Christmas, and I hope to review each one, starting with this “Limited Edition,” Belgian-Style Pale Ale (BPA).

I had just finished a long car trip when I tried this bad boy, so I hoped for something thirst-quenching, but substantial. This sucker really fit the bill. It’s a departure from the regular style of Ommegang beers: strictly authentic, bottle fermented ales. While I haven’t seen many real Belgian beers with the moniker “Pale Ale,” this brew pays homage to Belgian tradition while incorporating a heaping helping of American flavor; this kind of ingenuity is exactly what I love about Brewery Ommegang. I never thought I would ever say this about an Ommegang beer before, but at 6.2% ABV, this could easily be a great session beer.

ABV: 6.2%

Nice gold label on this 750mL bottle. A big yellow “O” is the backdrop for for the white letters “BPA.” When I poured the thing, it looked exactly like the damn picture on the bottle: a thick, tall, white head is persistent through the duration of the drinking experience. The beer is a beautiful translucent copper, uncharacteristic of anything I’ve seen in a bottle-fermented beer, lighter and more yellow than its brother, the Rare Vos.

Citrus and a beautiful bouquet of hops on the nose. There is other great stuff going on here too, but I have a cold and I can’t pinpoint what it is.

The 5 different hops in this brew are really noticeable. It’s not just bitter, but also complex. Citrus and honey in the forefront.

Almost over-carbonated, but I think I still dig it. Maybe that’s why the head is so dang persistent.

This is what Sierra Nevada Pale Ale should be. Complex, drinkable, with a beefy sediment at the end that tastes like a delicious hoppy baguette. If only I could drink this stuff on a Sierra Nevada budget…

According to the Ommegang website, if this beer does well in bars around Chicago, they are thinking of making it a permanent fixture in their lineup. If they price this lower and put it in 6-packs (instead of their usual 4-packs), I think they could make a move into the mainstream market.

Reviewed by Scott Drenkard

Categories: American Beer, Pale Ales

Bourbon Review: Baker’s

Baker’s 7 Year Bourbon:
Distiller: Jim Beam
Spirit: Small Batch Bourbon
Price: $44.95
ABV: 53.5%

Up front is a strong, hot and spicy caramel aroma that clears the path for a slight finish of vanilla and musk.

Once again strong caramel notes are present and are equally matched by notes of toasted nuts. There is a slight tobacco flavor in the background that add a nice depth to the bourbon. I am drinking this in late December, but this is certainly a bourbon that can be enjoyed year round even though there is something very “cold weather” about the palate.

Very well balanced, medium, smooth, sweet finish with a slight spice near the end which hits your throat, opening up the flavor for one last note of spicy caramel.

This makes a tremendous Old Fashion, Manhattan, and I can only fantasize about using it in my mint juleps on a sweltering Virginia summer afternoon. This is not so expensive that I feel guilty about using it in a cocktail; it’s delicious with a splash of water, and frankly I prefer it that way; but if you want a great cocktail, this mixes very well.

While I love the liquid inside – I do not care for the label. It’s got a good mix of old and new style lettering and style. However, it is either too busy, or not busy enough; it looks like they wanted to do a collage of images, letterings, etc, which would have been fine if they made a real collage with lots of images. Instead, they use about 5 or 6 seemingly random styles mashed together which ultimately produce an incoherent and amateur label.

This is one of my favorite bourbons. It isn’t too strong, but doesn’t take the back seat either. It’s incredibly diverse as a cocktail ingredient, and on it’s own, it is some of the finer bourbon that has ever passed through these lips. Also, this is not a seasonal bourbon. What I mean is that there are some bourbons which I really only enjoy when it’s cold (Booker’s), or when it’s hot (Maker’s Mark); Baker’s maintains its autumn flavors, but I can enjoy this any time of the year. Whether it’s a warm summer night when I get nostalgic about the crisp fall air, or a crisp autumn afternoon with orange and red falling leaves, I will reach for this bottle time and time again.

Reviewed by Richard Borean

Gin Review: Ransom

December 18, 2010 1 comment

Ransom Old Tom Gin:
Distiller: Ransom Spirits
Spirit: Barrel-aged Old Tom Gin
Price:  $37.00
ABV: 44%

It’s bold complexity of the malty grains, citrus, juniper, coriander, and cardamom combined to create one of, if not the most interesting gin nose I’ve ever experienced.

My first sip yielded an obvious kick of malty deliciousness and a spicy finish accompanied by a large grin. Upon further sipping, I noticed notes of orange, citrus, other fruits, and even tobacco (which, I assume, came from the barrel aging). It is sweeter than a London Dry: that, along with its spiciness, almost make this gin similar to a scotch or bourbon. Many reviews mentioned that this is a whiskey drinker’s gin, and I could not agree more. I am currently sipping it straight, no rocks, no vermouth, no tonic: nothing. It’s delicious.

Stay tuned for my post about holiday cocktails where I will discuss some classic cocktails for the cold weather holidays.

The folks at Ransom distillery created a handsome bottling for this gin. The lettering and border around the label give it a pre-prohibition era appeal, yet there is also a touch of modern style. As always, if the manufacturer manages to properly mix the old style with the new, they get two thumbs up from me, and Ransom has certainly just that. This bottle looks great on my shelf, and will complement any home bar.

Several things came to mind while drinking this gin. Firstly, gin is strangely complex, and although it certainly tastes like gin, there is a distinct similarity to bourbon as well; this is vastly different from any other gin I have ever had. The most common gin today is the London Dry, but I sense that American gin companies might prove themselves as game-changers quite soon, and we might see a resurgence of classic style Old Tom Gins as well as new breeds of aromatic gins à la Bluecoat Gin. Finally, this is absolutely, and immediately one of my favorite spirits. It is unlike anything else on my bar, and the quality of this gin sets the standard to which all other Old Tom gins should aspire. Ransom Old Tom Gin will be a permanent member of my home bar; the flavor is incredibly diverse — I can imagine substituting this in a cocktail recipes calling for bourbons, scotches, or even tequilas (Old Tom gin margaritas, anyone?!).

Reviewed by Richard Borean

Categories: American Spirits, Gin, Reviews

Gin Review: Bluecoat

Bluecoat American Dry Gin:

Distiller: Philadelphia Distilling
Spirit: American Dry Gin
Price: $26.95
ABV: 47%

Intense notes of juniper and bitter orange. Lighter notes of citrus, coriander, and a slew of other things my palate did not recognize. I have had quite a few gins in my time, but this is something truly different (and refreshingly so).

Oh, boy! Does have full force punch, or what?! The intense orange note smacks you in the mouth, but is equally matched my the sublime juniper finish. Behind these two flavors lies an incredibly complex array of notes ranging from cardamom and coriander to citrus. Despite the intense flavor, this gin is remarkably well balanced.

The Martini.
After a straight sip of this potent potable, I new I had to try it in a martini. I brought out my Martini & Rossi dry vermouth, fresh pimento stuffed olives, and a cocktail glass, and proceeded to prepare for myself a 4-to-1 martini with 2 olives. And what can I say? It was one of the best martinis I have ever had the pleasure of drinking. The vermouth and olives never overpowered the flavor of the gin, and the taste was simply divine.

(Note: does very well with both a lemon twist or an olive)

Classic. This bottle is both elegant and rustic. It’s imperfect symmetry and hand-blown appearance connote images of colonial America. Meanwhile, it’s exotic blue glass politely requests a showcase spot on your bar. The perfect mix of antique and contemporary.

This is now one of my favorite gins. If you are looking for an intense gin that offer something quite different compared to the typical gin flavors, you owe it to yourself to try Bluecoat out. It works incredibly well in cocktails, but would also do well over some ice with a lemon or lime. In short: if you like gin, pick this bottle up for that special occasion when your regular, go-to gin isn’t going to cut it, and you want something a little special and somewhat different with a strong citrus palate.


Reviewed by Richard Borean