Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Little Sumpin' Sumpin' Ale

Today’s review is of my very favorite beer of the moment, Lagunitas Brewing Company’s “A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale.”

7.5% ABV

This is the beer that I tried once, fell in love with upon the first taste, and then bought more of the next day, only to return to 909 Saloon where it was first introduced to me by Anna of their awesome bar crew, to indulge more. 

This is wonderful stuff, described well by Lagunitas:

Sneaky Smooth with a Touch of What We Call Wheatly-esque-ish-ness. Crispy Wheat and Pale Malt flavors with a Big Round & Juicy Hop Finish.

At home, I served Little Sumpin’ Sumpin from the bottle into a frosty mug where it poured beautifully with a hue just a tinge darker than apricot.  It maintained a thin frothy head. 

This ale smells akin to its Indian Pale Ale cousins, with an aroma steeped in hops.  The fundamental taste is the same with massive, piney hops throughout. 

What sets Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ apart from others in its class is the refreshing citrus characteristic that so perfectly compliments the spiciness of the hops.  This is a superbly refreshing brew, with a candy-sweet taste tempered by earthy flavors. 

The only thing that keeps this ale from being a perfect session beer is its relatively high alcohol content by volume, at a robust 7.5%.  It does not drink as strong as the alcohol content may suggest.  When icy cold, Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ is easy to finish, and each empty glass leaves its lucky owner quickly wanting more; you may see how the alcohol content’s manifestation may rear its head.

On taste and aroma, Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ may be difficult to beat.  This is a beer for a hops-enthusiast.  Yet, its flavor spectrum is sufficiently diverse that even IPA-naysayers will likely find it enjoyable. 

As the temperatures outside begin to climb, I highly recommend Lagunitas’ Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale as the heat-beating brew to which to turn. 

In July, Lagunitas promises the delivery of the Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Wild Ale, which they describe as

Lots of Malted Wheat for a Curious Malt Complexity & and Fermented with Our Belgian Yeast strain leaving it Huge in Flavor and Satisfaction.

…With an even greater alcohol content at a face-smacking 8.7% ABV.  Definitely a seasonal that I am anticipating greatly; until then, I will happily enjoy its sibling, the Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale. 

On the great appeal of its taste, I rate this beer a nine out of ten, and urge all readers to give it a try.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Jefferson's Reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout

Today’s review is of a delectable Imperial Stout that I have now enjoyed on three occasions, the Jefferson’s Reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout.

Image, courtesy of Natuba (
Brewed by the Blue Grass Brewing Co., Louisville, KY; 8.5% ABV

The Blue Grass Brewing Co. offers a variety of beers, one of which is their seasonal bourbon barrel. 

All three of my experiences with the Jefferson’s Reserve have occurred at Fredericksburg, Virginia’s Park Lane Tavern.  Two of the tastings were excellent, and one was simply good.  I can not pinpoint the reason why the second tasting was not as exceptional as the first and third.

During all three occasions, the stout was poured from tap in to a snifter.

I enjoy most deep, big-bodied beers.  I usually prefer varieties that are hops-rich in nature, and the Jefferson Bourbon Barrel is certainly not that; it is, however, deep and big-bodied.

I first sampled this beer before ordering, and noted that it was a “smack in the face,” a “direct hit,” with a “violent smell.”  To me, these are all great qualities.  During my first full tasting, all of these qualities persisted and I greatly enjoyed this Blue Grass Brewing Co. offering. 

During the second experience, all of these qualities were much more subdued.  I noted this to my trusted bartender and, upon his sampling, he agreed.

However, during a third flirtation with the Jefferson’s Reserve stout, all of those same characteristics from the first tasting were again present.  In fact, it was during this most recent sampling that the bourbon most directly exhibited itself, and in a highly satisfying fashion. 

This is a very good Imperial Stout.  It may not be as heavy (in texture) as some may desire from a dark beer, but its complexity and richness more than compensate.  This is a beer that one more “experiences” than tastes.  Perhaps this would not be the beer of choice to recommend to those more accustomed to lighter brews, but to those desiring a beer to sip and savor, this is one that I would surely suggest. 

And savoring is the method of choice with the Jefferson Bourbon Barrel.  It may be a bit much, both in richness and alcohol volume, to serve as a session beer.  However, it is a near perfect brew to partner with, say, good conversation. 

Out of ten, I would rate Blue Grass Brewing Co.’s Jefferson Bourbon Barrel an eight.  I recommend locating a tavern that offers it on tap, making a friend amongst the bar staff or a like-minded beer advocate, and enjoying it while engaging in friendly craft beer conversation. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Xingu Black Beer

Today’s review is of a sweet dark lager, Brazil’s Xingu Black Beer.


Brewed by Cervejaria Sul Brasileira in Brazil, 4.70% ABV

The Xingu website indicates that the beer is derived from “old recipes on Indian beer,” and gets its name from a river with the same, in the Amazon rain forest. 

This Dark Beer has been sampled twice, both times at the always enjoyable Park Lane Tavern in Fredericksburg, Virginia; the first was upon recommendation from the trusted bar staff.  During each occasion, the lager was served in a glass, from a bottle.

As can be expected from its name, Xingu poured dark brown. It maintained a slightly sticky head, and produced a fruit-filled aroma. 

My overwhelming reaction, during both tasting occasions, has been to Xingu’s sweetness.  I describe it as tasting “like dessert.”  I detected hints of chocolate and, while tasty, the flavor may be excessively sugary for some palates.

Xingu also suffered from a lack of depth.  For being a dark brew, more was expected of its layers.  Instead, with Xingu, what you initially taste is, pretty much, what you get.  Its simplicity may also be its value (to some), but I’d prefer a bit more complexity.   

While I enjoyed the overall taste of the beer and especially appreciated its refreshing quality on a warm day, I note that it may be too “candy-ish” to serve as a session beer.  My suggestion is to enjoy Xingu outdoors, maybe best while barbecuing.  Other brews may be served throughout the day, and save the Black Beer for after dinner. 

On a scale of 1 to 10, I rate Xingu a six, with a recommendation to certainly give one a try; with the caveat that one may be enough.