Shipyard Prelude Special Ale

Shipyard Prelude Special AleBeer No. 66 – Shipyard Prelude Special Ale

There’s no way it’s just 6.7% ABV. I won’t believe it.

Here’s a simple rule, for Winter Warmers, Doubles, Imperials and other Strong Ales: Beer shouldn’t sear your nostrils or your mouth. What’s really at fault here are my expectations and the thought that here’s supposed to be a warming booziness. Instead for some reason it’s cold. Real cold that shoots straight from the glass up the nose and doesn’t improve with the first or second sip.

Toffee, pomegranate juice and rubbing alcohol mix awkwardly in a fine mahogany glaze.

It’s Chimay Première without the distribution or the flavor.

Beeradvocate Rating: 85

ratebeer Rating: 73

Hayward Abbey Rating: 72

Moat Mountain Oktoberfest Lager

Moat Mountain Oktoberfest LagerBeer No. 65 – Moat Mountain Oktoberfest Lager

It smells like breakfast, just not like any you’ve ever had. Wheaties in shallow pool of subdued grape juice, finished Tyler Florence style with a drizzle of hazelnut oil.

Yes, it is unusual to be drinking this style so early in the year. So yes, it is a holdover from the Fall. And yes, there is a good reason. A reason so good it deserves more time than I have at the moment, so no, I won’t be explaining it just yet.

But let’s do talk about the beer. I opine regularly (some would say too regularly and others would say “opine, more like whine you fucking baby”) about balance, and my perceived perception that some beer or another doesn’t have it. That’s not an issue here. It’s delicate, just sweet, lightly spiced and almost chewy. What’s most prominent is the breadiness, generic on its own but for the Disaronno like touch.

I like all these things as much as the next man. The dilemma of course is that I want to sip, yet feel compelled to gulp. And that’s not really how I want to enjoy my beer. A bit more heft – weight balance rather than flavor balance – would make this something really special.

Beeradvocate Rating: 86*

ratebeer Rating: Not yet available

Hayward Abbey Rating: 88

*Based on 25 ratings.

Bell’s Smitten Golden Rye Ale

Bell's Smitten Golden Rye AleBeer No. 64 – Bell’s Smitten Golden Rye Ale

It starts, as it usually doesn’t, with something special. What the hell are these little pollen dusts doing in my glass, and why are they turning me on? Am I drinking beer today or chicken stock from a Michelin starred kitchen?

These Rye Beers have put me on full tilt. Like Emmy Rossum, I can’t stop thinking about them.

So I let this brew with the IPA nose sit for a few weeks before granting myself the privilege of tasting it. The moment had to be right, as it is now. A near Spring day, momma bear and little b napping, and little ol’ me with nothing to do except relax with a pint that smells like cantaloupe, coriander and pine.

It’s not my favorite in this style, no. But it is a decent effort, highlighted by a refreshing weight. It’s rare to find a cool-your-mouth brew with enough body that you have to be reminded to swallow. Maybe I’m overreacting to last night. Or maybe not. I think it really does have that balance.

When the lips meet the glass there’s also rye bread (more obviously than with others in this style), bitter honey, dried leaves and mostly there roundness that’s sullied only by the absence of a citrus, ideally tangerine, note.

Beeradvocate Rating: 85

ratebeer Rating: 87

Hayward Abbey Rating: 85

Southern Tier Eurotrash Pilz

Southern Tier Eurotrash PilzBeer No. 63 – Southern Tier Eurotrash Pilz

Got a sixer on a friend’s recommendation, and I couldn’t be more conflicted. Everyone other one has been highly drinkable or borderline poor. The diehards will say you can’t get a good pils here, that the only place it’s good enough and fresh enough is Eastern Europe. I won’t concede that they’re right, even if this is a pint in their favor.

STYLE: Czech Pilsner

ABV: 5.2%

LOOK: Clear gold, easily one of the most transparent beverages I’ve ever seen. I wasn’t able to generate a head, but it was interesting to see bubbles cling to the outside rather than rush up the middle, tornado style.

NOSE: Pizza dough, buttered corn stalks, unpopped popcorn.

MOUTH: Daring to be unimaginative. Canned vegetables, mostly corn water, which speaks more to the lack of freshness than the taste. I feel like I just drank a single blade of grass. It’s difficult to drink slowly, so thin and light. The style, I know. But there has to be more to do it for me. A little white pepper on the finish helps.

Beeradvocate Rating: 79

ratebeer Rating: 48

Hayward Abbey Rating: 77

Weyerbacher Last Chance IPA

Weyerbacher Last Chance IPABeer No. 62 – Weyerbacher Last Chance IPA

STYLE: American IPA

ABV: 5.9%

LOOK: Sudsy copper and gelatinous. Not more than a bubble or two of carbonation and no head to speak of.

NOSE: An English IPA vibe. Much less American than expected. Some floral, piney hops are there, mostly overshadowed by leather and pavement if that makes sense.

MOUTH: Harsh. Astringent. And a too-long finish for what it is. Pulling myself together – petals, soap bar, one-way road, grapefruit rind.

Beeradvocate Rating: 80

ratebeer Rating: 78

Hayward Abbey Rating: 76

Delirium Nocturnum

Delirium NocturnumBeer No. 61 – Delirium Nocturnum

Bougie thing to quaff this bougie beer from my bougie pink elephant. But I do love the glass, and the beer, it ain’t bad either, even if it is a mood brew.

STYLE: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

ABV: 8.5%

LOOK: Dark mirror. The only light in the house that’s on is the one in the dining room, that and my laptop. There’s a nice reflection from my most-stolen-in-America tulip, with credit to this dark, dark brew. Beachy thin head with a light caramel tinge. Subtle carbonation.

NOSE: Roasted raisins, molasses, sugar cookies, apple cider vinegar.

MOUTH: A recent trip to Napa clued me in to a wine secret. That some of the better wines are better enjoyed after opening up in a decanter – for up to 24 hours. I’ve done the hour-before-guests come thing, but a day, that seemed overkill. Until I tried it. It’s the same principle for some of the better Belgians, including this one. Honey, malted chocolates, plums, dried cranberries. There’s more here, obviously, but that’s not the point. Somewhere the sweet yeasts are hiding, maybe with the tucked-away ABV, and notwithstanding the complex flavor profile and top-class warming mouth, I need a touch more tartness for balance.

Beeradvocate Rating: 89

ratebeer Rating: 94

Hayward Abbey Rating: 92

Rhinelander Boatswain Chocolate Stout

Rhinelander Boatswain Chocolate StoutBeer No. 60 – Rhinelander Boatswain Chocolate Stout

Always suspicious of BWBs. No, not BBWs, even if there is reason to be. BWBs – “brewed with” beers. The fruity, barely beer category is littered with these obvious offerings. And somewhere lurking behind there always seems to be some brew conglomerate doing it and doing it poorly. I’ve never heard of Rhinelander (or Minhas or whatever it used to be and can’t be bothered to explain on its website) but my local Trader Joe’s is full of em. But this isn’t so obvious, or poorly done.

STYLE: American Stout

ABV: 5.4%

LOOK: We’re not breaking any ground here. Dark but not oily with a brown-butter head.

NOSE: That delicate balance of sweet and bitter and tang. Chocolate cake, vanilla, subtle orange, medium roast coffee.

MOUTH: If it’s possible, almost too easy drinking. I want and indeed need a little bitter bite, preferably at the middle of the end. Just-warm coffee, wisp of smoke, chocolate. Not a game-changer, just solid. 

Beeradvocate Rating: 76

ratebeer Rating: 58

Hayward Abbey Rating: 82