In honor of One Year…

Perm’s Brew Picks’ one-year anniversary came and went last week, but appropriately enough, we were out of town on a (partially) beer-related field trip.

That’s right, kids, it’s time to report back on the

Fourth Annual Dillwyn Beer Festivus!

After last year’s deluge of brews, we decided to rein in a bit and tone the selections back to a manageable number, and also broke the tastings into two sessions. Here are Perm’s notes:

PRE-SESSION (aka Lunch)

French Broad Altbier (growler) 4.2 (A-)
Appearance: 4.5 Aroma: 4 Taste: 4 Palate/Feel: 4.5 Overall drinkability: 4.5

This one is very nice!! The appearance is caramel bronze, a bit reddish, with a nice thin head.
The aroma is smoky, with notes of caramel, mild hops, and black pepper. The taste is nicely herbal, sweet (not too sweet!) and smoky. On the palate, VERY smooth with a pleasant crispness.
Overall, this is truly excellent. Perfect with an array of foods (had ours with venison and chicken soft tacos) but this one also would be great for easy-sipping summer evenings.
I’m not terribly familiar with the altbier style, but if they’re all as good as this beer then I need to investigate much more thoroughly!

SESSION ONE

Legend Hefeweizen 3.25 (C+)
Appearance: Cloudy tan-yellow, with a poofy white head. 3.5
Aroma: Pretty standard — banana, clove, cane sugar. 3.5
Taste: banana, clove, with a bit of sulfur and sweetness and something that is almost (for lack of a better word) fishy. James River water? 3
Palate: not bad, but a bit thin on the finish. 3
Overall: Not the best Legend brew, nor the best weizen, but it’s really not bad. When I returned to it later in the evening, I had a more favorable impression of it. 3.5

Samuel Smith’s Organic Ale 3.4 (B-)
I’m hoping that perhaps the bottle was a bit old. All in all, I was disappointed from a brewery I usually adore.
Appearance: golden-red, a bubbly head. Pretty. 4
Aroma: Basic. Malt and faint weak hops. The malt predominates. 3
Taste: Bitter and hoppy, but VERY subtle about those things. Minerally, with a slight pumpkin-spice thing. All in all, it tastes like malt extract to me! 3.5
Palate: sharp, spritzy, with a sweet finish. 3
Overall: It’s not bad at all — just rather boring, lacking a kick or some flair. Would be a good session-with-food beer when you want the food to be the star. 3

St. Cecilia Sir Charles IPA
See Sara’s star review of this one in the previous entry. All in all, I’m quite pleased with how it turned out. When next I brew an IPA, I’m going to tweak the recipe to allow for a bit more hop presence. I might even try a mild dry-hopping just for fun…who knows?

Highland St. Teresa Pale Ale 4 (B+)

Appearance: 4 Aroma: 4 Taste: 3.7 Palate: 4 Overall: 4
A great session beer, and a great American Pale Ale, from a great brewery.
The aroma is invitingly full of hops and toast. Lots of hops (without being West-Coast overdone) on the tongue, with a snappy palate on the finish. It might be slightly on the thin side, but it truly is excellent. Try it with good fresh Indian curry dishes and you’ll be glad you did.

Black Toad Dark Ale 4.1 (A-)
No expectations whatsoever going into this one…Black Toad is an unknown brewery to me!
Appearance: Dr. Pepper. Cherry Coke. 3.5
Aroma: A smorgasbord! Chocolate, malt, chestnuts, hazelnuts, Cocoa Puffs 4
Taste: Smoky and deep. Not as rich as the nose, but quite nice! 4.5
Palate: Silky and chewy 4
Overall: Very nice, very drinkable. I’m impressed with these Illini. 4

Kennebunkport Porter 4.25 (A-)
What a nice porter from an unheard of (to me) brewery in Maine (one of my favorite microbrewery states!).
Appearance: Almost pitch, at least in a basement lounge under fluorescent lamps. A slight scarlet red keeping the colour interesting. 4.5
Aroma: Amazingly exceptional — coffee, hazelnut, Frangelico. 5
Taste: Rich! Almost keeps pace with the nose. Nutty, Frangelico-like; sweetish, dark cherry, a good hop twist, and a bit of Worcestershire near the end. 4
Palate: The weakest link. Almost oily. 3.5
Overall: I give this one high marks for being unexpected. I’m not sure if I’d ever be up for having more than one at a time, but it’s creatively great! Bravo. 4

SESSION TWO


Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier
4.25 (A-)
Appearance: 4 Aroma: 4 Taste: 4.5 Palate: 4 Overall:4.5

God, I love this beer. There’s a reason I based my first hefeweizen homebrew off of a clone recipe of this one. I can’t say it’s the greatest hefeweizen I’ve had, but it’s a perennial winner in the all-around category for me.

The usual cloves and bananas are present, for sure, but its solid taste and well-balanced craftbeership must be given full marks for steady quality.

Sehr gut.

St. Cecilia Silvius Leopold (hefe) Weiss
So it’s definitely not up to the Weihenstephaner as far as I’m concerned, but I’m pleased. Although I do have to say, it was somewhat miraculous that the two pint bottles that I took along for the tasting were perfectly carbonated. The first three I had upon returning home had not yet spritzed up!

St. Sylvestre 3 Monts Biere de Garde 4.65 (A+)
I have found a new favorite Biere de Garde, for sure!

Appearance: yellow with a white head. When I say yellow, I mean Miller-Lite-yellow. Mountain Dew yellow. Chamomile beer, really. 4
Aroma: Grass, hay, yeast (Flemish yeast! ahhhh), hops. Wonderful without overpowering 4.5
Taste: Spring water, clover, hay, candi sugar-sweetness, pears, boxwoods. Delectably intoxicating to the tastebuds. 5
Palate: Spritzy with a sour finish, leaving you craving for more. 5
Overall: A truly excellent craft farmhouse ale. 4.5

I’ve about decided to stop trying American craft “Farmhouse ales” because they simply can’t compete with the real thing (exception: Hennepin and anything out of Quebec). This would be amazing with French cooking — rabbit, quail, coq au vin, anything you’d serve with Champagne. I can’t wait to buy a case and stick it in my cellar!

Big Boss Bad Penny Brown Ale 3.85 (B+)

Finally, a decent brew from Big Boss. I know it was largely only a name-change situation, but it seems to me that quality suffered QUITE a bit when Edenton Street became Big Boss. I long for the days of Horniblow’s Ale. Sigh. This one, however, ain’t half bad!

Appearance: like coffee with a head 4
Aroma: Coffee, nuts, dark chocolate, chicory 3.5
Taste: Coffee, toffee 4
Palate: Very smooth! Bravo! 4
Overall: A bit watery on the end (what I call the “American curse”), much like a cold Irish Coffee — rather dark for a brown ale, almost a light porter. Nice work, really. 3.5

Petrus Gouden Tripel 4.65 (A+)
A nice subdued label with a jolly monastic and a slogan that says, “The key to Heaven.” It was absolutely incredibly delicious.

Appearance: Gold in liquid form. A lovely Belgian head. 5
Aroma: Graham crackers, straw, apples, bananas 4.5
Taste: Citrus tartness. Solid and excellent. Leaves me craving more. 4.5
Palate: Refreshing. Quenching. Alcohol content is WELL hidden. 5
Overall: What can I say? Wonderful. Great with lemon coconut macaroons. Great with anything at anytime (not really, but I find this stuff incredibly satisfying.) 4.5

Unibroue Maudite 4.65 (A+)
Unibroue consistently brews a high-quality product. And by high, I mean Himalayan. Maudite for me is no exception, possibly even my current favourite of their year-round offerings.

Appearance: A cloudy copper-red. 4
Aroma: A bouquet of sugar, cloves, and dark cherries. 4.5
Taste: Wheat, perhaps something akin to a faint peanut brittle…I can’t resist simply calling it, “ambrosia.” 5
Palate: spritzy and quenching. As the Unibroue people describe it themselves, a cognac-like finish. 5
Overall: What a brew! This one is great all by itself. Also try it with hearty foods that otherwise might get the chianti or merlot treatments: pasta, tomato-based dishes, red meat (beef stew!), or artisanal pizza. A clear winner all-around. 4.5

Lagunitas Lucky 13 4 (B+)
Interestingly good. (Or goodly interesting?)
Appearance: Like a dark bourbon with head 4
Aroma: Hops (Cascade? Mt. Hood?), bitter tobacco 4
Taste: Earthy! hops, leather, tobacco, strong alcohol notes — almost whisky-like. 4
Palate: Nice and spritzy. 4
Overall: Don’t know if I’d commit to buying a 4-or 6-pack of this, but I would definitely revisit it, given the opportunity. Nice. 4

Stone Smoked Porter 3.3 (B-)
As Stone is as of yet unavailable in my state (NC), I must continue to seek it out when visiting friends abroad (VA). As this particular offering I found to be averagish-good, I’m not sorely lamenting its absence at my LBS…yet it was still worth trying to be sure.
Appearance: Coca-cola, pure and simple 3.5
Aroma: Weak smoke permeates all else. 3
Taste: Smoky porter! An American take on an English style mixed with Rauchbier. 3.5
Palate: Average 3
Overall, it’s a one-trick pony, not especially smoky (but then again I love Rauchbier). 3

I kinda dig it — one caveat, though, if you’re not into the smoky beer thing, don’t bother with this one!

New Holland “The Poet” Oatmeal Stout 4.4 (A)
This was the surprise of the night for me — VERY well brewed! This one inspires me to seek out New Holland more thoroughly.
Appearance: Black, black, black. Imposing in the glass. 4
Aroma: Oatmeal, for sure. Sweet and malty with a fine balance between the two. 4.5
Taste: Nice! Chocolate predominates, with a nice slight-hop presence. I take another sip. And another… 4.5
Palate: Smooth and spritzy, just the way I like it. 4.5
Overall: This is an excellent stout! Bravo, good friends at New Holland. Here’s one to revisit time and again. I’d love this with vanilla ice cream, or scallops for that matter. Or with my favorite movie. 4.5

Duck-Rabbit Barleywine
4.75 (A+)
Of course Barleywine belongs at the end of a progressive tasting, due to its strong and heady nature. But, that’s a shame in some ways, because if the tasting waxes long, you just won’t have the patience or the palate to truly appreciate the work of art that a fine barleywine can be. And the Duck-Rabbit is high art, for sure.
This one is a real treat. The Duck-Rabbit folks consistently brew top-of-the-line products. I can only surmise that living and working in Farmville, NC inspires the brewers to spend long, long hours at their work indoors (where it is presumably air conditioned and has more interesting landscapes..).
Appearance: Russet-copper color. Mahogany, really. And as one would expect, no appreciable head to speak of. 4.5
Aroma: A real treasure-trove here: leather, tobacco, hops, cloves, allspice, and even a hint of oregano. 5
Taste: Banana, clove, caramel, allspice, grapes, brown sugar, and hops. Oy vey pass me another snifter! 5
Palate: A dry and warming finish. 4
Overall: Well-rounded for sure. This is one to cellar in bulk! 4.5

Drinking this makes me long for winter — seated in front of a roaring fire with my D-R Barleywine in one hand and a nice cavendish pipe in the other. Wearing a wool waistcoat, to be sure.

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