ABV 4.0-4.9

Mt. Carmel Summer Wheat Ale

Beer No. 29 – Mt. Carmel Summer Wheat Ale

Pubs around town have been adding this to the rotating tap. Not a bad call.

STYLE: American Pale Wheat Ale

ABV: 4.8%

LOOK: Dusty yellow, orange stripes, sturdy head.

NOSE: Flat haystack, barny, dash of lemon.

MOUTH: You could, if you were inclined, say it lacks complexity. You could also say it’s just straightforward. Straw, orange and lemon peel, peppery, unsalted crackers. I’m craving a bit more carbonation, though there’s no denying the finish is soft, clean, and soft again. There are far too many foam-forward heads out there that bitterly overwhelm the pull. Not here. This one, it’s pillowy, like nighttime sheep, and it lulls the goodness home. Would perhaps make a good counterpoint pairing to a robust spinach and artichoke dip, heavy on the chokes.

Beeradvocate Rating: 85

Hayward Abbey Rating: 82

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Dundee Honey Brown

Beer No. 20 – Dundee Honey Brown

This was the “craft” beer we served when I worked at Shenaniganz 10+ years ago. Bud Light, Miller Lite, Killian’s Red, and Honey Brown, we could proudly pour a fishbowl if you were feeling adventurous on a Friday night in the burbs. The truth is, it isn’t that bad. There’s some stigma, yeah, and it’s an early adopter of the add-flavors-instead-of-develop-them crew, but you can drink it easily and it could find a decent home in one of those beer cocktails I’ve been hearing so much about.

STYLE: American Amber / Red Lager

ABV: 4.5%

LOOK: Metallic orange and light bodied. The label, it boasts “brewed with honey” … you could expect a little more heft.

NOSE: Gummy bears, candied nuts, honeycomb, challah.

MOUTH: Honey Nut Cheerios and soft sweetness that zips in but lands with a whimper. Lacking depth, it’s served best, I think, in that awkward transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas, lingering sweetness from sweet potato pie but lacking robust winter spices to warm the room.

Beeradvocate Rating: 72

Hayward Abbey Rating: 76

Breckenridge Vanilla Porter

Beer No. 8 – Breckenridge Vanilla Porter

STYLE: American Porter

ABV: 4.7%

LOOK: I was justifiably worried when the short head dissolved to nothing within seconds. Runny, really, though the color is nice. Roasted coffee on top and lighter down the glass.

NOSE: Coffee, vanilla, malty, dark cherries.

MOUTH: Cloying vanilla, faint grapes and cherries, dry but subtle tobacco finish. There seems to be a hokey trend among larger “craft” breweries of adding flavors instead of developing them, and that’s a problem if you ask me. “Brewed with real vanilla beans” is supposed to be a selling point. Maybe it is in some circles. But to me this watery mouthful tastes like a flat vanilla soda begging for some body.

Beeradvocate Rating: 80

Hayward Abbey Rating: 75