Tag Archives: Beer Review

Beer Review: 21st Amendment’s Fireside Chat

Saturday, I picked up a six-pack of 21st Amendment Brewery’s Fireside Chat.


Beer Packaging:

The beer’s packaging explains Fireside Chat’s name thusly: “Like FDR’s radio addresses, which were a kick in the butt and a hug at the same time, our winter spiced ale is a subtle twist on tradition.”

Kicking someone in the butt while hugging them doesn’t seem like a subtle twist on either butt-kicking or hugging. That’s like being at your daughter’s wedding, pulling a .38 on her instead of walking her down the aisle, and saying, “Just adding my own little flair, honey!”

But the packaging’s cool artwork distracts me from my pedantry:


It depicts FDR hanging out fireside, except FDR isn’t giving an inspiring radio address. He’s getting drunk, smoking, and talking to an elf, who’s jammed all the way to the right of the frame as he tries to shrink away from drunken smokestack FDR.

Beer Style:

Writing on the can advertises this beer as a Winter Spiced Ale; a subtitle adds that it is an Ale with Spices Added, which brings up the question of what about the words Spiced Ale needed clarification.

BeerAdvocate meanwhile classifies Fireside Chat as a Winter Warmer, which are “malty sweet offerings [that] tend to be a favorite winter seasonal.” Spiced Winter Warmers, like Fireside Chat, blend “robust ales with mixed spices.” This is called the wassail tradition.

Interestingly, the word wassail derives from an early English toast. You’d hand someone a hearty drink and wassail them, wishing them good health. I’ve never been to England, but if handing someone a liver-corroding calorie bomb and wishing them good health is common practice, then someone who goes two-thirds of a beer review without talking about the specific beer he’s reviewing would fit right in.

The Specific Beer He’s Reviewing:

Fireside Chat’s full, spicy body would make it a great companion to a fire or to a holiday dinner where you want to get drunk and annoy your relatives. It’s malty, but the spices brighten it well. The beer’s 7.9% ABV is well hidden—it doesn’t disintegrate into gin-tasting foulness at the end of a swig. Fireside Chat leaves your tongue tasting spice, your body feeling warm, and your head a little buzzed, which in my opinion covers all the duties of a winter beer.

I was too lazy to build a fire and had no one to chat to, so instead I watched my college football team lose while drinking Fireside Chat. That last part was very enjoyable. Wassail!

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Beer Review: Founders All Day IPA


Beer Style: Made by Founders Brewing, All Day IPA is a session beer. “Session” drinking essentially means drinking for a long time without getting blitzed—or as I call it, “having a DAY.” BeerAdvocate posits that session drinking started during World War I, when British shell-production workers had government-mandated windows during which they could drink. The munitions makers wanted to be able to drink for a few hours without returning to work falling-down drunk. (You can also accomplish this goal by quitting your job, but the wartime Brits were too patriotic for that.)

To the end of producing tasty but session-able beers, brewers try to make their session offerings tasty with a low alcohol by volume (ABV).


Beer Packaging: The centerpiece of All Day IPA’s label is a wood-paneled station wagon toting a red canoe, because nothing caps off a day of binge drinking like hopping in your 1979 Ford Country Squire and driving it into the river.

The Beer: All Day IPA is well named. This would be my beer of choice if I ever needed to drink IPAs for some 24-hour hops-endurance challenge. (I’d name the event 24 Heures du Hops.) At 4.7% ABV, All Day IPA has only slightly more alcohol than a light beer, but it easily out-flavors any light beer I’ve ever had (as well as many craft beers). You can drink a bunch of these without feeling bogged down, so Founders Brewing fulfilled the session part.

As for the IPA part: This beer wouldn’t be as satisfying with a meal or as a single-drink experience as something like Dogfish Head’s 60 Minute IPA or Bell’s Two Hearted Ale. However, it still tastes great—its sharp-but-light bitterness is like a lead guitar with just the right amount of distortion. And a few All Day IPAs won’t make you bloat up or want to fall asleep like heavier IPAs might. The makers of this this brew set out with a clear goal and nailed it.


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Beer Review: Flying Dog’s Mint Chocolate Stout

Tonight, I picked up a six pack of Flying Dog’s Mint Chocolate Stout.


Beer Packaging: Ralph Steadman—an artist best known for his collaborations with Hunter S. Thompson—illustrates Flying Dog’s packaging, and it always comes out looking pretty crazy. This particular box features disembodied wings, floating eyeballs, and what looks like a pint glass vomiting up beer. LET’S PARTY.

Beer Style: Per Flying Dog’s website, “Mint Chocolate Stout is a dessert beer you can have more than one of.” Which tempts me to drink 15 immediately after dinner, then explain to my horrified girlfriend, “No, dear, the website said this was OK.”

The Brewery: Flying Dog is based in Frederick, Maryland, and they really like giving tours. When you get to the place, the staff intercepts you at the door and asks if you want to take a tour. Decline, and they’ll make you take a mini-tour anyway; for instance, to get your growler filled, you first go to the bar, drink free samples, say things like, “Gosh, that’s good,” (because anything else would be gauche), and then must go to a separate cash register in a gift-shop area to pay for your growler. Finally, you can return to the bar and have your growler filled. Note that the mini-tour doesn’t unlock full Flying Dog privileges: You can’t buy six packs there unless you take the full tour—though you can drive to the gas station down the street and buy all the Flying Dog six packs you want.

I’m guessing all this has to do with brewery regulations. For instance, Maryland’s 2013 Senate Bill 32 decides how much beer production breweries can sell on-site. Since politicians wrote it, the bill is roughly 700 words instead of these four: “Sell all you want.” The bill, like Flying Dog, apparently wants people to take tours, and incentives brewers to give them in exchange for higher sales limits.

Mint Chocolate Stout in One Text: “Got Flying Dog’s Mint Chocolate Stout. Completely changed my outlook on that brewery.”

Mint Chocolate Stout, Elaborated: Before trying this beer, I viewed visits to Flying Dog more as an excuse to drive through Maryland for an afternoon than as a dedicated beer run—I liked their stuff, but not enough to make a huge effort to get it. Their Mint Chocolate Stout changed that, though: Its body is pleasantly sturdy, and its flavor is more well balanced than any “gimmick” beer I’ve ever had. Often, beers with a nontraditional flavor—mint in this case—either go too hard on the extra flavor, which would’ve made Mint Chocolate Stout taste like mouthwash, or go too soft, which leaves you chasing the flavor. But with this beer, Flying Dog hits a perfect balance between those two extremes. It’s a shame they don’t brew it year-round, because I’d go through a mini-tour any day to buy the stuff.

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Beer Review: Natty Greene’s Old Town Brown Ale

Tonight, I picked up a six pack of Natty Greene’s Old Town Brown Ale.


Beer Packaging: This beer’s box is a typographical adventure. Random words appear in italics, while the normal words are styled to look like they’re either from the 1800’s or yelling at the reader. “NORTH CAROLINA CRAFTED” proudly arcs across the top, and text in the bottom-right corner advises drinkers to “Taste the South.” The italicized the makes one wonder which South this beer tastes like. Could it be:

  • The Antebellum South? Probably not—nobody likes the Antebellum South.
  • The Deep South? Nah, North Carolina doesn’t count as deep.
  • The South during Reconstruction? Possibly—the guy on the box looks perturbed, as if his house was destroyed in the Civil War and it’s taking just forever for the damn Yankees to rebuild it.

But despite its ambiguity, Taste the South is a fine enough slogan, and I’m guessing TASTE DIXIE wouldn’t have polled quite as well.

Beer Style: Despite its American stylings, Old Town Brown is actually an English Brown Ale. I attempted to research English Brown Ales by visiting Total Wine’s page on the beer style, but the first sentence begins, “English Brown Ales originated as bottled versions of Milds,” at which point I became confused and disoriented by the Brit-speak and gave up.

The Brewery: Natty Greene’s Brewing Company is named after Nathanael Greene, the guy on the box. He was a general during the Revolutionary War who, according to GeorgiaEncyclopedia.org, removed the occupying Brits from the South. Greene’s forces were outnumbered, so he used quick strikes and aggravating strategic retreats to wear down the huge but lumbering British army. All of this means my Reconstruction South packaging theory doesn’t hold, but at least the brewery picked a badass namesake.

Old Town Brown in One Text: “Natty Greene’s sounds like a dangerous Natural Light derivation, but it ain’t bad.”

Old Town Brown, Elaborated: Brown ales are one of my favorite beers, and this one is pretty solid. It’s not very unique or piercing in any one way, but when it comes to brown ales, that’s OK. It delivers a decent amount of flavor for being only 4.7% ABV. However, make sure to let this beer rest on the middle and back of your tongue briefly, or else you’ll just get a weird, weak alcohol taste. A fun side note: If you’re looking to have a hell of a night, this beer is pretty nice before or after a glass of bourbon. Old Town Brown is “AVAILABLE year-round,” according to the packaging, so give it a shot sometime.

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Beer Review: Penn Quarter Porter

Tonight, I picked up a six pack of DC Brau’s Penn Quarter Porter.


Beer Packaging: Each Penn Quarter Porter can features a prominent stovepipe hat stamped with the DC Brau logo. On the other side of the can is a box labeled PENN QUARTER FACTS. (Every bit of text on Penn Quarter Porter cans is in all caps.) The fact box shouts: “PENN QUARTER IS MOST FAMOUS FOR FORD’S THEATRE, WHERE PRESIDENT ABRAHAM LINCOLN WAS ASSASSINATED, AND HIS HAT AND COAT CAN STILL BE SEEN TO THIS DAY.” It’s educational, but a bit morbid. I wonder if a beer called Dallas Doppelbock would feature DALLAS FACTS trumpeting the details of JFK’s assassination.

Beer Style: Penn Quarter Porter is a ROBUST PORTER, according to the packaging. It’s supposed to be on the line between a stout and a porter. Stouts are typically the heaviest of beers, while porters are the next level down, so if you’ve ever played a MechWarrior game, you can think of a Penn Quarter Porter as a mix between a 100-ton Assault Mech (stout) and a 75-ton Heavy Mech (porter). And if you haven’t played any MechWarrior, you should drink a dozen Penn Quarter Porters and try to forget about your wasted life.

The Brewery: DC Brau is located in Washington DC, just barely over the border from Bladensburg, Maryland. For their name’s sake, DC Brau’s location is fortunate: “Maryland Brau” has absolutely no charm at all, while “Bladensburg Brau” sounds like a medieval German torture device.

The brewery is fun to visit; the part open to the public is essentially a big warehouse, with a bearded, cargo-shorted doorman and a helpful cashier/guide in the entry room. Behind that lies a much larger space bustling with brewers and canning machinery. You can sample four beers for free; however, you can’t drink any more than that on DC Brau’s premises. They sell growlers and six packs, which you can purchase and then scurry off to drink in private. The brewery also provides free pretzels, of which my girlfriend somehow pirated 10 bags during our last visit.

Penn Quarter Porter in One Text: “The problem with having Penn Quarter Porters in the fridge is that you always want another Penn Quarter Porter.”

Penn Quarter Porter, Elaborated: Penn Quarter Porter is indeed a stoutish porter, as the ROBUST PORTER description suggests. Despite its bluster, Penn Quarter Porter’s relatively low ABV of 5.5% and just-medium body keep the beer from being a sluggishness-inducer, which is good, because its stouty, chocolate-coffee flavor will make you want more than one. This is the only beer so far to earn a nickname from my beer-drinking circle: “PQP.” It’s fitting that PQP sounds like a street drug, because Penn Quarter Porter is kind of addictive, in that it’s a beer I have a very hard time not buying when I see it on a shelf. Try it yourself, and maybe I’ll see you one day in PQP Anonymous.

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Beer Review: Storm King Imperial Stout

Today, I picked up four bottles of Storm King Imperial Stout.


Beer Packaging: The packaging features some kind of creature. I’m pretty stupid and on my first look noticed only the top part of the creature, so I spent a good 20 minutes trying to figure out if it was a kingly pinniped or an agitated owl. Then I realized that the crescent “under” the creature is actually its lower beak, and determined that it must be an kingly, agitated owl.

Each bottle’s label contains some classic beer purple prose: “The thundering, hoppy appeal of Storm King subsides into the mellow subtleties of roasted malt, exhibiting an espresso-like depth of character in its finish.” I never thought of espressos as having depth of character—I always assumed they were just CAFFEINE CAFFEINE CAFFEINE—but who am I to argue with such proselytizing?

Beer Style: Storm King is an American imperial stout. Generally, when it comes to beer, “imperial” translates to “be careful or these will get you hammered.” American imperial stouts are typically quite strong: According to BeerAdvocate, their “alcohol ranges vary, but tend to be quite big, and bigger than traditional Russian Imperial Stouts.” Suck it, Putin.

The Brewery: Storm King comes from Victory Brewing Company, a confidently named outfit based in Downington, Pennsylvania. If the brewing thing ever falls through, these guys could probably get a job naming other people’s beers: St. Victorious Doppelbock, St. Boisterous Hellerbock, and Red Thunder join Storm King on Victory’s roster of beers with badass names.

Storm King in One Text: “I bought an imperial stout and got some kind of IPA-stout thing.”

Storm King, Elaborated: Storm King is very hoppy for a stout, and to me tastes halfway like an IPA (India Pale Ale, a beer known for its hoppy bitterness). But with its 9.1% ABV and stoutish body, Storm King backs up the imperial stout label well enough. If one day you’re craving both an IPA and a stout, you could either A.) buy both and try to figure out how to hide your out-of-control alcohol consumption from your loved ones later, or B.) buy Storm King. Choice A will keep you busier, but B is plenty satisfying.

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Beer Review: People’s Porter

Tonight, I picked up a six pack of People’s Porter.

people's porter

Beer Packaging: The case and bottle labels are dominated by the guy you see there. I’m sure he’s a parody of, or a tribute to, some political figure, but I’m too ignorant to get the reference, so to me he looks like a post-apocalyptic Boy Scout troop leader. Not necessarily a guy I’d want a beer from, but after the apocalypse, I’d probably take a drink from anyone.

A side note: I was too bashful to do it at first, but after two People’s Porters, I loosened up, refilled my glass, and mimicked the troop leader’s raise-glass-and-stare-proudly action. My beer immediately tripled its head and almost foamed over, and I felt like an alcoholic. Not advised.

Beer Style: People’s Porter is an English porter. According to BeerAdvocate, the Brits originated porters as “a blend of three different styles: an old ale (stale or soured), a new ale (brown or pale ale) and a weak one (mild ale).” To me, that sounds like you’d just end up with an incredibly average, middle-aged beer—perhaps one with a receding hairline and a worrisome 401k—but the process worked for some reason. Porters are good.

The Brewery: People’s Porter is a product of Foothills Brewing. They’re based in North Carolina, which is close enough to my dear Virginia that I won’t hold their inspirational-corporate-fusion website against them. Though it’s readable and functional, it looks like the lovechild of a motivational poster and a Buffalo Wild Wings menu.

People’s Porter in One Text: “It’s really light and drinkable. This stuff could get me in trouble.”

People’s Porter, Elaborated: It is really light and drinkable, with a plucky ABV of 5.8%. It’s much more poundable than most other porters I’ve had (or the majority of other craft beers I’ve tasted, for that matter). A friend of mine drank six in two hours, which likely wasn’t good for him, but it’s at least a testament to the beer’s lightness. But it still tastes like a porter, and a solid one at that. Recommended.

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