Tasting Notes

The following reviews appeared in the December 2016 issue of F. Paul Pacult’s Spirit Journal.
© F. Paul Pacult

ratings

Recent Beer & Ale Reviews

emperor-nortonEmperor Norton Dry-Hopped Belgian-Style Ale Brewed with Apricots
(USA) 9% abv, $9.99/22 oz.
Alabaster foam is thick and creamy atop the misty amber-colored ale. Opening whiffs discover notably clean, fresh, fruity/dried apricot aromas that have a touch of spiciness (bay leaf) that works well with the fruit; second passes pick up subtle notes of yeast, malt, white rice. Entry owns a silky, creamy texture that blankets the palate along with savory, bone-dry flavors of malt, brewer’s yeast, dough; midpalate echoes the entry, adding a nuance of bitterness that accentuates the malt more than the apricot, which by this points has faded completely. Finishes medium long, intensely hoppy, so dry as to be nearly astringent. I think this ale works well as the apricot element complements the malt and hops to pitch-perfect degree.
Spirit Journal December 2016:
redstars-5Highest Recommendation

 Evil Twin Brewing Brett Yeast Helles Sour Lager
(USA) 5.5% abv, $9.99/22 oz.
This Evil Twin was brewed in Mount Pleasant, SC by Westbrook Brewing. Hazy, golden wheat field color supports an off-white head of tightly packed bubbles. First whiffs are treated to intensely yeasty, sourdough, early day bakery notes that are fresh, crisp, compelling, and citrus fruit; more air contact doesn’t alter the primary aromatics that continue to be lemon, brewer’s yeast, tart, and crackling fresh – I really like this razor-edged bouquet. Entry features desert dry hops, dried flowers, and wheat snack cracker as the fruitiness/citrusy aspect fades into the background; midpalate is tongue-on-stone dry, deeply hoppy, refreshing, brittle, and crisp right through to the finish.
Spirit Journal December 2016:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

Evil Twin Brewing Glazed Doughnut Break Imperial Porter
(USA) 11.5% abv, $17.49/22 oz.
This Evil Twin was brewed in Mount Pleasant, SC by Westbrook Brewing. No head to speak of; espresso coffee color is opaque. I smell deeply roasted malt, coffee bean, dark chocolate and cocoa more than I do glazed doughnut; it’s in the second round of sniffing that the doughnut aspect makes an appearance along with elements of soy sauce and cacao. Entry is mouthfilling, toasty, intensely beany, and speaks of dark-roasted malt in its dryness more than anything resembling doughnut; midpalate offers a touch of doughnut-like flavor but the dark-roasted malt is the dominant feature. Finishes short, gently sweet, almost fudge-like, nutty. I didn’t love it, but there’s enough porter quality here for a recommendation. Its biggest asset is the creaminess of the texture.
Spirit Journal December 2016:
redstars3Recommended
 

Evil Twin Brewing Liquid Double Fudge Imperial Stout
(USA) 12% abv, $11.99/22 oz.
Brewed in Stratford, CT. The brown colored, large-beaded foam rests atop the opaque jet-black color. First sniffs encounter rich, dark-roasted malt aromas that are simultaneously nutty and cereally; second nosing passes reveal cocoa bean, black coffee scents that are more subtle than pronounced. Entry is richly textured, more bittersweet than flat-out sweet, beany, malty, fudge-like to a lesser degree than the maltiness; midpalate features trace flavors of chocolate malt, molasses, brown sugar, soy sauce. Aftertaste is long, bittersweet, creamy in the throat.
Spirit Journal December 2016:
redstars3Recommended
 

Evil Twin Femme Fatale Sudachi IPA
(USA) 6% abv, $12.99/22 oz.
Brewed in Mount Pleasant, SC by Westbrook Brewing. Serious, billowy head of pearl-colored foam sits atop a hazy pear-colored beer. Initial sniffs pick up luscious and evolved notes of fragrant hops, carnations, unbuttered popcorn, and dried fruits; secondary inhalations following more aeration find that all the opening aromas are still abundant, even a touch deeper, and inviting. Entry is pleasingly astringent, crisp, deeply grainy/malty, and even a little herbal; midpalate largely stays the course plotted in the entry with the snack cracker now dominating. Finish is brief, nutty, desert dry. I thought this IPA diminished a bit in the midpalate and certainly by the aftertaste.
Spirit Journal December 2016:
redstars3Recommended
  

Evil Twin Brewing Mosaic Single Hop Imperial IPA American Wheat Lager
(USA) 8% abv, $11.99/22 oz.
Brewed in Mount Pleasant, SC by Westbrook Brewing. Light sand-colored, sturdy foam head; foggy amber color. I like the opening aroma of nuts, grain kernel, and dried vegetation; second passes build only a little on top of the first impressions, mostly in the grain kernel element as I find that this bouquet has a short shelf life. Entry is properly dry and hoppy but there’s a lack of grip and body here that I don’t find fulfilling; midpalate, like the entry, comes off as being hollow in the core and overly bitter without having the substance to support it.
Spirit Journal December 2016:
redstars-2Not Recommended 

Evil Twin Brewing Ryan and the Gosling All Brett Pale Ale Malt Beverage Brewed with Citrus Peel/Citrus Juice Added
(USA) 4% abv, $12.99/22 oz.
Brewed in Mount Pleasant, SC by Westbrook Brewing. High level of tan effervescence; very tight bubbles sit atop a pretty topaz/honey colored beverage. In the first sniffs, I definitely get the citrus peel aspect that co-exists with a low-range graininess that’s barely perceptible; after more air contact, the citrus/lemon fragrance takes charge of the bouquet and doesn’t relinquish its command. Entry is almost but not quite sour, dry, thinly textured and that’s the point where I start to question the quality; midpalate tastes like steamed white rice with lemon peel but there’s hardly any substance here on which to grip. The taste isn’t horrible as much as it is simple, vapid, and lacking in charm. Just doesn’t work.
Spirit Journal December 2016:
redstars-2Not Recommended

 Sapporo Premium Beer
(Canada) 4.9% abv, $3.99 /22 oz.
Originally brewed in Japan, this lager is now produced in Canada, at least for North America. Cushiony, eggshell white, sudsy head sits atop a fiendishly effervescent golden lager; flawless purity. This pale lager style beer’s opening nose offers a stone dry, clean, flowery fragrance that’s clearly impacted by hops and malted grains; second inhalations after more aeration don’t break any new ground, except to add a touch of citrus zest, which adds to this lager’s crisp bouquet. Entry highlights the desert dry graininess as the floral hops recede, allowing the grains to dominate; midpalate is razor-crisp, clean, bubbly, and like unsalted snack crackers. Allowing for the overall impression of vacancy in its core, there is no denying the crackling thirst quenching attribute of this simple lightweight lager. It’s a Saturday afternoon at-the-game lager that is appropriate in that type of undemanding setting. As an everyday beer, though, it’s not for me due entirely to the hollow nucleus.
Spirit Journal December 2016:
redstars-2Not Recommended 

Sapporo Premium Black Beer
(Canada) 4.3% abv, $3.99/22 oz.
Medium full, tan-colored head; nearly opaque espresso coffee brown color. Big aromas of malt, roasted grain, cocoa bean, and milk chocolate abound in this generous opening aroma after the pour; subsequent inhalations after more air contact find that the roasted grain and beaniness grow in density and depth, making for pleasant sniffing. Entry is cocoa-like, nicely malty in a medium range, and toasty; midpalate is where the flavor profile thins a little but still offers enough substance to keep one’s interest piqued. Finishes malty, bitter, smoky.
Spirit Journal December 2016:
redstars3Recommended
  

Singlecut Billy Full-Stack IIPA
(USA) 8.6% abv, $8.99/16.9 oz.
Murky gold/amber color is marred by chunks of black sediment – this beer clearly has a problem. The unpleasant appearance is offset by a ripe, delightfully hoppy/flowery opening aroma that’s zesty and fruity (berries) – go figure; secondary whiffs detect more in the way of fruit, mostly pears, nectarines. Entry makes an attempt at being classical IPA-style but I find the overbearing nature of the hops to be off-putting; midpalate tries a recovery and for that I give it a second star but the overall in-mouth impression is one of tedious over-hopping and therefore a lack of harmony. And what in the hell are those black chunks?
Spirit Journal December 2016:
redstars-2Not Recommended 

Singlecut Softly Spoken Magic Spells IIPA
(USA) 8.6% abv, $8.99/16.9 oz.
This appearance is fine as a slightly hazy honey gold color is free of sediment; head is short-lived and thin. I like the richness of the hops and maltiness in the initial sniffs after the pour; secondary inhalations locate a trace of parsley fragrance as well as a touch of dried apricot – I like this bouquet. Entry offers a sturdy structure that supports the bone dry hoppiness and maltiness; midpalate remains solid in texture while featuring notes of brown rice and malted milk ball. Aftertaste stays firm, is medium long, and highlights the maltiness in particular.
Spirit Journal December 2016:
redstars3Recommended
 

SOB Stout
(USA) 6.9% abv, $11.99/22 oz.
Black as night core color; opaque; foamy head that lasts surprisingly long. The richness of the dark roasted malt is inviting, deeply bean-like, coffee-like, and bitter; second nosing passes detect toasted nuts and pumpernickel bread that add to the overall bouquet enjoyment. Entry is nicely succulent, slightly sweet, but also bitter and tangy as the malt leads the flavor parade; midpalate is sophisticated, delightfully roasted and almost BBQ sauce-like. Aftertaste highlights the depth of the roasted malt bitterness.
Spirit Journal December 2016:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

Valencia Gold Golden Ale Brewed with Valencia Oranges & Orange Blossom Honey
(USA) 8.5% abv, $9.99/22 oz.
Nice looking golden wheat field color, topped by an ivory-colored head of tight-beaded foam. First aromas are soft in intensity, mildly malty and doughy, with edges of yeast and orange peel; second inhalations after more air contact don’t find much more than was detected in the opening round of sniffing. Entry is delightfully frothy in the mouth, with hints of juiciness that merges well with the maltiness of the ale; midpalate maintains the high degree of frothiness as well as the charming delicacy of the orange flavor. Finishes round in texture, supple, only slightly juicy, and keenly malty. What I admire about this ale is that the orange component is merely a nuance and not the whole story. Plus the succulence of the malt and the creaminess of the texture make for enjoyable drinking. Nicely done.
Spirit Journal December 2016:
redstars4Highly Recommended  

smith-brewerySpirit Journal Brewery Focus: SAMUEL SMITH’S THE OLD BREWERY, TADCASTER, YORKSHIRE, ENGLAND: Founded in 1758, Samuel Smith’s is Yorkshire’s oldest brewery. Nothing in the brewing process is hurried; no corners are cut. They still utilize the original 85-foot deep well dug 250 years ago. The brewery maintains its own cooper to keep their oak casks in top shape. Most of Samuel Smith’s ales and stouts are still fermented in vessels made of huge slabs of slate, which adds to the richness of Samuel Smith’s ales. Hometown deliveries are done by horse-drawn wagon. It just simply doesn’t get better and then there are the SS beers. While writing The Beer Essentials in the mid-1990s, I evaluated along with hundreds of other beers from around the world the entire Samuel Smith’s line, with nearly all of them rating four and five stars. So, after the passage of more than twenty years (most Samuel Smith reviews were from 1991, 1994 and 1995), how have the core Samuel Smith’s beers fared? Let’s find out.

smiths-oatmeal-stoutSamuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout
(England) 5% abv, $4.99/18.7 oz.
Huge head is beige and pillowy, stacked atop a near-opaque mahogany brown color. Smells upfront of unflavored and unsweetened oatmeal, dry breakfast cereal, and yet there’re also hints of dried orchard fruits and steamed brown rice; secondary inhalations detect suddenly sweeter traces of soy, caramel, chocolate covered malted milk ball candies. Entry is intensely coffee-like, bittersweet, grain kernel-like, cereal-like, Cocoa Puffs-like, and generous in creamy texture; midpalate echoes all the entry impressions, adding flavor waves of nougat and chocolate fudge that last deep into the creamy finish. State-of-the-art oatmeal stout, a comfort that everyone who enjoys beer should have.
Spirit Journal December 2016:
redstars-5Highest Recommendation

smiths-imperial-stoutSamuel Smith’s Imperial Stout
(England) 7% abv, $4.99/18.7 oz.
The wet sand-colored head is remarkably dense and layered as it lies atop the opaque dark brown body. Earthy aromas of damp barley, brewer’s yeast, dark bread/pumpernickel rise from the glass in assertive waves; more aeration brings the doughiness to the forefront as the aromatic profile turns bitter, dry, and intensely grain-like. Entry is bitter, toasted, stunningly creamy in texture, nutty, cocoa-like, and even a little coffee bean-like; midpalate is long, bitter, roasted but not smoky, charred, succulent, fathomless. Aftertaste is as vivid as the midpalate and endlessly creamy and smooth. Easily deserves another rating star.
Spirit Journal December 2016:
redstars-5Highest Recommendation 

Samuel Smith’s Taddy Porter
(England) 5% abv, $4.99/18.7 oz.
Thundercloud head that’s billowy and root beer brown; the voluminous head remains intact for an extended period. Smells enticingly sweet/sour, malty as malted milk balls, intensely yeasty, doughy and dark bread-like in the first inhalations; with a touch more air contact, the aroma becomes more sap-like, honeyed, rich, and nutty – this is a serious ale bouquet that’s luxurious and nutbread-like. Entry is deeply malty, dry, properly bitter and nutty; midpalate is toasty, roasted, but neither smoky nor charred, and features a high degree of barley intensity and natural dryness. Concludes deep, rich, toasted, satisfying.
Spirit Journal December 2016:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale
(England) 5% abv, $4.99/18.7 oz.
Foamy, beige head that’s long lasting and downy; lovely chestnut brown color. The opening aroma is so deeply bread-like that it’s hard to put the pint glass down – it’s like walking into a bakery when the bakers are pulling dark bread out of the oven; secondary whiffs pick up additional fragrances, most importantly roasted malt, but also chocolate dipped banana, dark fudge, sour yeast, nutmeg, cinnamon. Entry is plush in texture, round and supple, a bit lighter in the taste than the bouquet implies, delightfully acidic and therefore clean; midpalate stage is where the taste profile shows its best side as flavors of malt, toasted dark bread, clove and nutmeg, and steamed brown rice mingle to create a solid, sturdy unified taste that overlaps far into the refreshingly bitter aftertaste.
Spirit Journal December 2016:
redstars4Highly Recommended  

smiths-ipaSamuel Smith’s India Pale Ale
(England) 5% abv, $4.99/18.7 oz.
Buff-colored foam is longer lasting and thicker than I had remembered; body is a lovely tawny/sorrel tone. First whiffs are blown away by the depth of the yeasty, doughy, dark bread/Pumpernickel aromas that are bitter and dry, but with a nut shell aspect that accentuates the bitterness; second stage inhalations detect a larger presence of flowery hops than in the opening sniffs, making the latter whiffs damn-near profound in their layering. Entry is stunningly creamy in texture, round and smooth at the flavor edges, composed, grainy/bready, yeasty and hoppy – a perfect IPA; midpalate maintains the high standard of flavor presence and texture initiated in the entry as the taste profile goes nutty, nougat-like, more doughy than minerally, toasty but not smoky, and just plain luscious. Finishes on high notes of cashew-like nuttiness, malt, and dough, with a supporting taste of yeast. An IPA clinic.
Spirit Journal December 2016:
redstars-5Highest Recommendation 

Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome Ale 2016-2017
(England) 6% abv, $4.99/18.7 oz.
thick, creamy, sand-colored head maintains its foaminess for quite a long period; the ale itself is a pretty oloroso sherry-like bronze/cinnamon color. The aroma right after the pour is slightly closed off, offering up fragile nuances of brewer’s yeast, cookie dough, and malt; later inhalations after more aeration develop a bigger, more assertive maltiness, which is faintly sweet and ripe. Entry features soft, pillowy flavors of toasted malt, marbled bread, and flowery hops; midpalate comes off biscuity, wafer-like, snack cracker-like, slightly caramelized, more bitter than sweet. Concludes medium long, pleasantly malty.
Spirit Journal December 2016:
redstars4Highly Recommended  

Samuel Smith’s Yorkshire Stingo Tadcaster Bottle Conditioned Ale
(England) 7.6% abv, $12.99/18.7 oz.
Stingo is a touch higher in abv than other Samuel Smith ales and is matured in oak ale casks for just over one year. A mass of khaki-colored foam erupts in the glass after the pour, lying atop the copper-colored ale. Wow, there’s a rush of woodsy, rustic aromas that remind me of beans, cocoa and/or coffee, for instance in the initial whiffs then following more air contact the fragrance turns intensely malty, Cocoa Puffs cereal-like, doughy, with flashes of fig and date aromas. Entry is round, powerful without being aggressive, tart, mildly resin/sappy from the oak, but fresh and vividly flavored; midpalate is malty, a bit piney, roasted breakfast cereal-like, spice cookie-like as that slight elevation in abv peeks through especially in the piquant finish.
Spirit Journal December 2016:
redstars4Highly Recommended  

Samuel Smith’s Organic Lager Beer
(England) 5% abv, $4.99/18.7 oz.
Eggshell colored foam is fast to rise and just as fast to dissipate; beautiful color is old gold/marigold. What’s so clearly apparent in the first whiffs are the pronounced notes of sourdough, lemon zest, brewer’s yeast, and cookie dough; later inhalations serve to reinforce the first findings, adding lemongrass and dried flowers. Entry is round, full for a lager, loaded with sourdough and yeast elements that are desert dry, but supple in texture; midpalate is bubbly, dry as a bone, deeply yeasty and flowery (hops). Aftertaste is medium long, biscuity, crisp and dry. Lovely warm weather drinking enjoyment.
Spirit Journal December 2016:
redstars4Highly Recommended  

Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout
(England) 5% abv, $4.99/18.7 oz.
The cocoa-colored body is topped by a sand-colored head that billows up after the pour then quickly deflates. First sniffs can’t help but be influenced totally by the dark chocolate sweetness that’s milky and assertive; later inhalations after more air contact discover aromas of fudge, dark caramel, cacao, candy bar. Entry is smooth as silk, rich, bright with chocolate flavor but not to the point where you can’t taste the barley base; midpalate highlights the chocolate milk featured flavor as well as the buttery feel of it. Finishes mildly chocolatey and slightly more bitter than the midpalate. Absolutely lovely.
Spirit Journal December 2016:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

smiths-organic-pale-aleSamuel Smith’s Organic Pale Ale
(England) 5% abv, $4.99/18.7 oz.
Cumulus clouds of beige foam rest atop the deeply bubbly auburn color; this is one of the prettiest ales in the world for the depth of the foam and the richness of the color. Initial sniffs pick up yeasty, bready aromas that are bitter, dry, defined and assertive all the way through the first nosing round; after more air contact, the aroma switches into a mellow, profound bouquet that is fully integrated, now more sour than bitter and dazzlingly fragrant and grainy/yeasty. Entry features a multilayered flavor of dryness, deep maltiness, dry soil, minerals that are all wrapped in a luxurious texture that coats the palate in rich creaminess; midpalate mirrors the spectacular entry to a tee, leading to a hearty but elegant finish that showcases the minerally, soil-like, elemental quality of this great ale. If we bestowed six rating stars, this organic pale ale would get one. Textbook brewing.
Spirit Journal December 2016:
redstars-5Highest Recommendation 

Samuel Smith’s Organic Cider
(England) 5% abv, $5.49/18.7 oz.
Pretty jonquil/deep straw color shines brightly beneath the examination lamp; flawless purity; medium-size bubbles coat the glass wall. Offers focused tart apple and apple peel aromas in the opening aromatics that are pleasantly dry and pulpy; second nosing passes after another few minutes of air contact find nuances of apple seed, tart juice, malic acid. Entry is very effervescent, juicy, carefree; the midpalate flavor profile stays the course of a breezy style of cider that’s charmingly juicy and delicate, pulpy and ripe. Closes out fast, juicy, lean, and a little austere.
Spirit Journal December 2016:
redstars3Recommended
 

smith-barrelsEditor’s note: These fruit-flavored ales were brewed at Melbourn Bros. brewery in Stamford, Lincolnshire then blended and bottled at Samuel Smith’s Brewery in North Yorkshire. They have not been reviewed previously in the Spirit Journal. To be clear, I’ve not been a huge fan of fruit-flavored beers, except for Belgian Fruit Lambics. But since this is Samuel Smith, let’s see what we’ve got.

Samuel Smith’s Organic Apricot Ale
(England) 5.1% abv, $5.99/18.7 oz.
Foam is eggshell in color and billowy; the golden wheat field color is hazy, possibly a reaction from the overnight refrigeration. In the opening whiffs I do not come across any obvious apricot fragrance, but there is a fully loaded hoppiness that makes for pleasing sniffing; the later inhalations following more aeration do find a clear-cut apricot nectar presence that’s properly ripe and true to the fruit. Entry is more sour than I anticipated and is thereby highly attractive to me since I generally prefer sour to sweet; midpalate holds the key to the final rating as the apricot turns more subtle at this point allowing for a mild rush of maltiness, bakery shop yeastiness, and hops to round out the taste profile in style and understatement. Aftertaste is brief, tart, crisp, cleansing. Recommendable to be sure, but not stupendously delicious.
Spirit Journal December 2016:
redstars3Recommended
 

Samuel Smith’s Organic Strawberry Ale
(England) 5.1% abv, $5.99/18.7 oz.
Active head builds into a big, but short-lived head with the pour and is beige colored; the color of the beer itself is an amber/rose shade, with haze from the overnight chilling. There is no mistaking the strawberry presence here right off the crack of the bat and that fragrance is more juicy than meaty and seed-like and, further, more like fresh berry than preserves; secondary intakes discover that the strawberry thrust calms down, leaving behind a gentle, slightly under-ripe fruitiness that shows delicate support from hops and malt. Entry is decidedly sour and under-ripe, fresh and acidic, sour and almost bitter and it’s these attributes that make the first sips so satisfying; midpalate is cleansing, refreshing, charmingly tart and fruity, as the strawberry sourness mingles nicely with the yeastiness and maltiness – this is seriously refreshing. Finishes briefly, sour, crisp. While the strawberry dominates throughout, the ale aspect is never under total eclipse status.
Spirit Journal December 2016:
redstars4Highly Recommended  

smiths-organic-dherry-aleSamuel Smith’s Organic Cherry Ale
(England) 5.1% abv, $5.99/18.7 oz.
The deep cherry red color of the ale is topped by a thin layer of coral-pink foam. Wow, the black cherry fragrance is immediately recognized as is a solid, but sour yeastiness that balances well with the ripe cherry perfume; second passes find the cherry scent turning more acidic and sour as it turns away from juiciness and goes more towards pulp. Entry is deliciously sour, tart, fruity, and juicy; midpalate features more of the creamy texture that’s due to the malt more than the fruit but the cherry fruit never loses touch with the flavor base and I find this midpalate about as tasty as fruit ale can get. Concludes longer than the other fruit ales, highlighting the juiciness of the sour cherry. If not the finest non-Belgian fruit beer I’ve tasted, damn close.
Spirit Journal December 2016:
redstars-5Highest Recommendation

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