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I love this label.

Not long ago I was driving Cari to the airport in Raleigh, NC and while passing through Hillsborough we decided to kill some time by going to a co-op market I had seen along the way. The Weaver Street Market is worthy of an article all it own, so I’ll reserve that for the spring and go back when their patio is open. After a brief tour we found ourselves in a brightly lit and magnificently stocked beer aisle. To my delight there was a nice selection of 750ml bottles including some of my favorite Belgians and Belgian style ales.

After five minutes Cari was staring at me impatiently and I had to make a decision. My eye was caught by a bright blue and gold label and I had made up my mind. My pick was an ale by Brewery Ommegang in upstate New York. They have been brewing only Belgian style ales since opening in 1997. As I found out, they’ve developed quit a recipe and expertise in their 13 years of brewing.

I think what first drew me to the Hennepin was the label, as I don’t often go for saisons. The contemporary design juxtaposed against the boast of Belgian providence and the words “BOTTLE CONDITIONED” said to me that this bottle is making a bold statement, and I like that. I initially intended to let the brew age in my closet for six months or so, but after less than four weeks I cracked it open. While it was still winter, I decided to put their claim, “Hennepin is the perfect ale for all seasons” to the test.

Review

After my initial pour which produced a solid head, I was overtaken by the color which is vibrant and golden not unlike the label. The ale developed a good head and lots of bubbles. In fact the beer was surprisingly carbonated, which I think suits such a bright summery ale. The first sip gave me a mouthful of bubbly head, which tastes bright, wheaty, and slightly of citrus.

The nose is a touch astringent and reminds me of spring flowers and verbena in a wet burlap sack… in a good way. Saisons can often have a surprising nose, something about the spices and aromatics being welled up by the high carbonation make for quite an experience. In this case it did a wonderful job of setting the tone for the overall tasting.

Initially my first full sip past the head was light and a touch buttery. Hennepin is quite hoppy and floral but less so than an IPA or Triple Ale.  Its only a touch bitter at the end. Notes of wild flower honey, ginger, and coriander were a nice surprise. The ginger really helps it live up the the “for all seasons” claim on their site. The finish is very crisp and clean with notes of citrus and flowers. The after taste is barely perceptible, and pleasant.

The Rating: Highly Recommended

A layer of foam hangs pleasantly around the glass as the ale recedes, as if to say good choice. Overall I loved this ale. I had it with some wheat crackers and Dubliner from Kerry Gold, some walnuts, and some toast points with honey.

Some parings:

  • Dubliner irish chedar from Kerry Gold or even better a Keswick Cheddar
  • Crusty bread with honey and sea salt
  • Coriander crusted tuna, cooked rare
  • Arugula
  • Frites with a lemon aioli

For more great beer reviews visit our friend’s blog, A Beer For Everyone.

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Whiskey, whether Bourbon or otherwise, is generally the favorite spirit here at the Garlic Press. The word “whiskey ” comes from an English approximation of the Gaelic uisce beatha, itself a translation of the Latin aqua vitae, or “water of life.” As an ingredient or beverage this spirit certainly lives up to the name. In fact, as of 1964 whiskey is the official spirit of the United States, in honor of its importance culturally and as a trade good in the development of the nation. Steeped in history and full of flavor, it should come as no surprise that we are among the devotees of this spirit. As such, we hold this complex drink to very high standards.

This month we have decided, after a friend’s recommendation, to review Bulleit Bourbon. The Kentucky native is unique among whiskies, weighing in at 30% rye – the highest by far of any non-rye whiskey. This results in a sweet, nutty, and complex flavor. Bulleit is aged  for a minimum of six years in the traditional white oak barrels.

Review

The bottle is an absolute classic, with a shape inspired by antique medicine bottles. The raised lettering in the glass and cork stopper give Bulleit the look of a much more expensive bourbon (Think 1792 Reserve.) The label is inspired in a similar fashion and applied diagonally, giving the aesthetic character of a true small batch whiskey.

Tasting notes begin with honey and herbs and a mild spice note. As it rolls across the palate the careful taster will pick up oats and sweetness, not unlike corn. The finish is long and warm but without the fire typical of Jim Beam products.

On the nose, Bulleit is equally complex floral, earthy, sweet, and has in its background a slight cinnamon aroma. The smell should be pleasant even to those that may cringe in the face of Irish water.

The Bottom Line

Overall, for $23 – $32 dollars Bulleit Bourbon is a great choice, especially in states where it is closer to $23. Look for this whiskey in PA or MD to really impress your friends on the cheap. The attractive bottle makes Bulleit more than appropriate as a gift, especially for friends in their mid twenties.  At $23 for 750ml of 90 proof deliciousness you can drink yourself clever without so much as ice or a glass to pour it into.

  • For bonus points marinade a filet in a mix of Bulleit, honey mustard, garlic and rosemary.