16 Mile Brewing Company is a small Delaware brewery in Georgetown, not far from Milton or Rehoboth Beach. 16 Mile has a small lineup and is currently packaging their beers in 22oz aluminum bottles. I nearly overlooked these beers when I was at the liquor store because the design is so slick they blended right in with the Bud, Bud Light and Michelob bottles surrounding them. I knew absolutely nothing about this brewery or their beer, I figured I'd pick up a couple bottles and try it out. What's the worst that could happen?
I'm not sure what to make of BrewDog's 5 a.m. Saint... For starters, I'm pretty sure I've already had at least three different Amber style beers from BrewDog. Plenty of breweries do a Stout, Coffee Stout, Imperial Stout and maybe even another variation on the same style, but I've never heard of anyone making as many different Ambers as BrewDog. Secondly, I don't get the label. I can't tell if it's tongue-in-cheek or if BrewDog stole the marketing copy from a bottle of Arrogant Bastard. "You probably don't know much about beer." "You don't understand beer." Those are the first two lines on the back of the bottle... "lowest common denominator beer" is mentioned a couple paragraphs later. The name's meaning eludes me as well. Maybe this whole beer is just over my head.
Most of the time, the beers I review for this site are ones which I've never had before. Usually they're new releases or something I just never got around to drinking before. Today I grabbed a bottle of Alaskan Amber out of the fridge. This is a beer I've had once before. It was about six months ago when I was in Las Vegas. Alaskan doesn't distribute back home and it was a lot more difficult than I was expecting to craft beer in Vegas. If you want a shot of Jäger or a 64oz Bud Light there are literally a million places that will oblige, craft beer was another story though. The first place I found on The Strip that served craft beer had Alaskan Amber on tap so I jumped at the chance to try it. It may have been the heat or the craft beer drought but, at that time, the Alaskan Amber was my new favorite beer.
BrewDog's popularity seems to be increasing just as fast as the alcohol percentage in its extreme beers. The rarity of their beers certainly helps. I finally spotted a bottle of BrewDog a couple weeks ago in a bargain big of all places. This bottle of The Physics is an an Amber ale that some claim is more of an ESB. I'm deferring to the brewer on this one and calling it an Amber since that's what they put on the label. Anyway, I decide to pull this beer out of the fridge tonight and see just how laid back this "laid back amber beer" really is.
Boulevard's Amber Ale is nearly upon us! Well, nearly upon the good people of Omaha and Lincoln at least. The rest of us will have to be content with finding bottles of Amber packed into samplers for the time being. The official launch of Boulevard's amber is next week and they were nice enough to throw a couple bottles my way on the eve of Memorial Day Weekend. This is a beer I've had before, on a number of occasions... I may have had this beer more before it was officially released than Tank 7... which was on tap at some places for several months before the bottles hit shelves. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I like what Boulevard has done with their Amber Ale.
Boulevard Amber, the beer no one was begging Boulevard to make, is nearing completion and slated to hit store shelves around mid-June. Boulevard will be sneaking this beer into 12 pack samplers at first and release dedicated six packs later on. There doesn't seem to be much fanfare around this beer, I can only assume that's because it's an Amber. That's right, it seems Boulevard has made just about every interesting style of beer already so in an effort to round out their portfolio they're releasing an Amber. But seriously, it's an under appreciated style I enjoy more than I like to admit, so I'm genuinely excited for this beer.
The Christmas seasonals are starting to hit the shelves so I thought it was the perfect time to pick up a bottle of Redhook's Late Harvest Autumn Ale. As the name would imply, this is Redhook's fall seasonal. This beer is not a Märzen like most Oktoberfest seasonal beer, this is much more of an Amber. The Late Harvest does have a number of Märzen characteristics, which makes it an interesting Amber. Make no mistake about it this is definitely an Amber. The first thing you'll notice when you take a sip of the Late Harvest is the hops. The hop flavor is a bit different than the dry, spicy Amber flavor you'd expect. The Late Harvest has a much more grassy flavor like you'd expect in a Pale Ale. What sets the Late Harvest apart from other (early harvest?) Amber beers is the rich, warm malt flavor. The malt really takes the edge off of the hops and balances the beer out nicely.
This is a good example of an Amber beer done right. Black Dog Ale is the kind of beer that makes you wish you had a bowl of pretzels to go with it. I must admit that I was a little hesitant to pick up a bottle of the Black Dog Ale, for some reason I was convinced that Spanish Peaks is just a microbrew front for a larger multinational beer concern. I'm not sure why, but something about their packaging and their website just seems to say, "I'm really a wholey owned Budweiser subsidiary and drinking this beer acknowledges compliance with everything that is wrong with the state of beer in the world today." I don't have any hard evidence to back this up, other than the curious case of where Spanish Peaks Brewery is actually located... You see, on the bottle it proudly states they were founded in Bozeman, Montana. Fine, I've never had a beer from Montana... that sounds kinda exotic I guess. When you flip this bottle over and check out the fine print it says it's brewed in Wisconsin. Well, that's not too far from Montana I guess. Further investigation online indicates that their headquarters is in California. Uh, what?
Breckridge's Avalanche Ale is a good beer, but it's boring... Unless this is the first Amber style beer you've ever had you'll know exactly what to expect when you take a drink. This beer is reddish-brown in color with a thin white head that hangs around until the glass is empty. The body is a little less red in color and a bit cloudier than I was expecting. None of this really all that important, if the beer looks awesome and tastes like crap then know one will care... The Avalanche Ale has a pretty pleasant flavor. It's pretty mild all around. Lightly hopped, generously malted, and just a little dry on the tongue. Just about what you'd expect from a proper Amber style beer. There's nothing wrong with that, or this beer... but that's all there is. The Avalanche Ale seems to just stop short of being exciting. If there were something a little more to this beer it'd stand out a bit more from the pack. As it stands now, the Avalanche is good but not great...
I had high expectations for Ommegang's Rare Vos. All I've ever heard about this brewery is that they produce stellar beers that are true to the Belgian originals. So when I picked up this bottle of Rare Vos I was expecting it to be the next best thing to setting foot in Brussels. Perhaps I was setting this beer up for failure, I mean, it'd have to be really good to live up to my expectations. But, that's how the stage was set - with me expecting a perfect beer as I popped the cork on this bottle and poured it into my tulip glass. I do have to say, my first impressions weren't so great. For starters, I couldn't get a read on this beer's aroma. It had a special sort of spiciness that I couldn't identify. Not that that was a bad thing, I enjoy a good challenge... the problem was what I didn't smell at all. Where was the sour, where was the corriander, the citrus and all those other telltale aromas that define a Belgian beer? I couldn't find them and considered it 'strike one' for the Rare Vos.