Balanced Beer Ratings

Flavorful beers declined in the U.S. after World War II. The Haffenreffer brewery closed in 1965, and with it went Pickwick Ale, perhaps the last of the tasty American beers. Miller Lite was introduced in 1973, and it soon became the leader of the ongoing attack on beer with taste. Not only were more light beers introduced, but mainstream beers were dumbed down to compete.

The turnaround was started by companies such as Redhook Ale Brewery in 1981, and the Boston Beer Company in 1984 (Samuel Adams Beer, now called Boston Lager). Since then, an explosion of craft breweries has tickled the palettes of beer lovers across the country.

Once again, flavorful beers are coming under attack, from a different quarter. The attackers are IPAs and other over-hopped brews. The export style of pale ale, which has become known as India pale ale, was developed in England around 1840. It needed extra preservatives to keep from spoiling before it reached the customers. Hops are the natural preservative, along with alcohol. IPAs are intentionally unbalanced — lots of back-of-the-mouth bitter taste.

Go into any bar offering beers with flavor, and you are likely to find the majority of beers on tap to be IPAs. Bars often cannot keep a balanced, flavorful beer on tap, because the keg is likely to spoil before it is sold. If they pretend to offer a brown ale, it is often Guinness, which has great mouth feel, but little flavor. A city may offer exceptions, such as The Haven in Jamaica Plain (Boston), a Scottish gastropub, but not so much in the burbs.

Expand your horizons, and seek out some of the better brews on this page. If you complain, your pub may at least start carrying some in bottles. (Or you can self-quarantine in style!) Most of the brews listed here are brown ales, bocks, stouts, porters, Oktoberfests and Belgian-styles.

I mostly enjoy beer (or wine) with dinner, instead of a drink at some other time. My strong preference in beer is for a balanced flavor, with taste in equal amounts from the front to the back of the mouth. The more taste, the better, but milder tasting beers can be good, too. I consider any 3-star brew acceptable in a pinch; I do without when faced with a lesser brew.

"..."    Quotes are by the vendor, from the label or web.
%    Percent Alcohol by Volume (ABV).
IBU    International Bitterness Units, the bitter chemicals measured in the brew. The perception of IBU will be masked by by other strong flavors, so IBU is a better indicator for the drinker of a pale ale. This hot topic is discussed in many places on the web, such as
SRM    Standard Reference Method for measuring color intensity, from 0 to 40. See for full details.
OG    Original gravity, the amount of dissolved sugars in the wort, just before the yeast is added. More sugar, more alcohol in the beer. An OG of 1.052 means the wort is 5.2% denser than water. See

Unless otherwise noted, I obtained the beer in my favorite format (after draft), the 12 oz bottle. For ratings in the pipeline, see the Beer Ratings Queue.

Date N Rating Title & Summary
Jan 2021 3.0 ★★★☆☆ Trader Jose Dark, brewed by Artesanas De Malta Y Cebada, Mexico, Trader Joes, 11.2 oz, 5.3%.

Jun 2017:Nice brown ale [for which I did not record the brewer]. This beer is on my TJ buy list.

Jan 2021:Not having had this for a while, I snagged a single at TJs to test again. I did not chill it, just pulled it out of the cool basement. I did not like it!

This turns out to be a lager, not an ale. Maybe I mistreated it by not chilling, maybe my tastes changed, maybe the beer was old (lagers may not like that — bottle undated), maybe the brewer or the recipe changed. I am removing it from my TJ buy list and downgrading from VG+ all the way to Good.

Jan 2021 5.0 ★★★★★ Framinghammer, Baltic Porter, Jacks Abby, Framingham MA, unfiltered & unpasteurized, OG 23.5, 10%, 45 IBU, 16 oz can, canned 11 23 20.

"A lengthy conditioning period creates a silky smooth chocolaty mouthfeel enhanced by the use of oats and brown sugar. Noticeable sweetness gets balanced by roasted malt and hop bitterness. At 10% alcohol by volume, this beer is sure to keep you warm on a cold winter night."

A fabulous balanced porter: sweet, black, burnt & bitter, without any aspect dominating. I could not bear to toss the last of the 16 oz can, which was definitely too big. Yum.

Dec 2020 3.5 ★★★+ Copper Legend, Octoberfest, Jack's Abby, Framingham MA, 5.7%, 22 IBU.

Oct 2019: Jack's Abby mostly brews IPAs, sometimes masquerading under other names. Copper Legend is a delightful exception, balanced, medium-flavored, copper colored, and available around October.

Dec 2020: Not as appreciative this year, I would only buy Copper Legend again as a last resort. I'm lowering the rating from VG to Good+.

Dec 2020 4.5 ★★★★+ Optimator, doppelbock, Spaten-Brau, Munich Germany, 06.2021 (presumaby a best-by date), 7.6% (according to Beeradvocate).

Alex gave me one of these to try. This double bock is apparently available year round, and he picked it up at Wegmans. It's perfectly balanced and highly drinkable, not heavy. I'll give it a VG+ for now, and consider an upgrade.

Nov 2020 4.0 ★★★★ Winter Ride, double bock, Josephsbrau Brewing Co (Trader Joes), San Jose CA, 7.5%, 28 IBU.

"Dark Roasted Caramel Munich Malts." Apparently, the Josephsbrau craft brewer folded, but they have now started commisioning beers with another brewer. This brew does not measure up to the old Winter Brew, rated Excellent on this page. I'm rating the new incarnation barely VG, even though the specs (and likely the recipe) are the same. The brewer does make a difference.

This beer, with an elevated hop finish, was just not exciting. Maybe that's as it was before, but now the malts fell short. Or maybe my taste is changing. I have five more bottles to change my mind.

Nov 2020 5.0 ★★★★★ Dark Intrigue, malt beverage aged in bourbon barrels (barleywine), Victory Brewing Co, Downington PA, bottled 9 Nov 2011,

Victor says this is Storm King (which I have yet to taste), with special aging. Splendid!

Nov 2020 4.5 ★★★★+ Backwoods Bastard, ale aged in oak bourbon barrels, Founders Brewing Co, Grand Rapids MI, 50 IBU, 10.2%.

Victor says the basis of the beer is Dirty Bastard. The bourbon flavor is an additional, balanced dimension. The hops were not apparent in this bottle from about 2014. It would probably be Excellent, if fresher; VG+

Nov 2020 4.5 ★★★★+ Big Black Voodo Daddy, stout, Voodoo Brewing Co, Meadville PA, 25 degrees OG, 4 degrees plato FG, 65 IBU, 12.5%.

"A Dark Horse and one of the Biggest Baddest Stouts around. This is an old recipe that I called Ecliptical Stout at Jackson Brewing ... This is one beer that I have been saving to make again since then, about 12 years ago." [Matt]

Beer Advocate says this is a seasonal brew, and has these notes: "This Is our Imperial Stout that we age in conditioning tanks with oak staves. This adds a classic character of old world aging with out the Bourbon tones. This black ale is about 12% alc. and very rich in roasted and chocolate malt tones. Velvety smooth and able to be aged for years." No ratings at Beer Advocate go back farther than 2018. This 25-oz bottle was from 2014 or earlier, VG+.

Nov 2020 4.0 ★★★★ Oak Horizontal, malt beverage aged in bourbon barrels (barleywine), 750ml, bottled Dec 20, 2012, Victory Brewing Co, Downington PA, 9.5%.

Unfortunately, I was not able to record all the details of the many fine brews Victor brought out that weekend. This one was VG.

Nov 2020 3.0 ★★★☆☆ Fruet, ale aged in bourbon barrels, Famille Rue The Bruery, Orange County CA, 25.4 oz, 15.5%.

"Anno 2012 Anniversary. This sturdy beer marks our fourth year... Bottle number 00854. Fruet will age gracefully for decades when cellared properly. Best stored and cellared around 55°F (13°C) in a dark place. Ideal serving serving temperature is 60°F. Please pour carefully, leaving the yeast sediment behind in the bottle. Best served in a tulip or wine glass."

Unfortunately, after all the care and pride the Bruery took in this beer, it was a disappointment; I'll rate it Good. It was too sweet, without much else to balance the flavor.

Nov 2020 5.0 ★★★★★ Bourbon County, Goose Island, Chicago.

Jan 2019: The original Bourbon barrel aged stout, my son Alex bought a large bottle of the 2013 edition (14.9%) for $7 in Jan 2014, when his wife Colleen went into labor with their first, Sam. Almost syrupy, full flavor, fruity finish, eventually bitter. He shared it with me for Sam's 5th birthday. Special, indeed.

Oct 2020: Victor brought out a 12 oz bottle of the 2014 edition (13.8%) to share. This was also sweet and thick, but not spectacular, VG+. Victor says this brew is supposed to reach its peak at five years; we had it at six. He stopped collecting about five years ago; even with my help, it may be many years before he gets through his collection.

Oct 2020 5.0 ★★★★★ Dirty Bastard, scotch style ale, Founders Brewing Co, Grand Rapids MI, 50 IBU, 8.5%.

"So good it's almost wrong. Dark ruby in color and brewed seven varieties of imported malts. Complex in finish, with hints of smoke and peat, paired with a malty richness and a right hook of hop power to give it the bad attitude that a beer named Dirty Bastard has to live up to. Ain't for the wee lads."

Feb 2020: After this one departed at family dinner, I was able to get a couple more in a mixed 3x2 at Wegmans. This medium-sweet, full-flavored, full-mouth brew has a lingering sour taste. My litmus paper gave an inconclusive reading. VG+

Oct 2020: After being mostly shut in for a week, I went to Costco and snagged a meatloaf and mashed. Dirty Bastard was great with this meal! Instead of overpowering, the hops complemented the comfort food. Raising the rating.

Also, I'm coming to recognize that the mixed six case at Wegmans may be filled with older beers. This six, bottled on 08.19.20, had no hint of sour.

Oct 2020 4.5 ★★★★+ Oktoberfest, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co, Chico CA & Mills River NC, bottled 08/20/20, 6.0%.

"Our Festbier is a refreshing ode to beer's biggest party. Toasty malts and German hops yield notes of fresh bread and floral, fruity character for a balanced, crisp lager that makes any moment festive."

At last, a wonderfully accurate label description: Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest is medium flavored and VG+.

Oct 2020 4.0 ★★★★ Steinbier, Marzen-style lager, Night Shift Brewing, Everett MA, 16 oz can, canned 08/17/20, 5.8%.

"Steinbier celebrates classic German festbiers. We brew it exclusively with German malts and hops, and then lager it in tanks for six weeks per German tradition. It sips full-bodied and clean, with hearty flavors of fresh bread and a refreshing nip of hops. Your treat in a stein every time - prost!"

A tad richer than many Oktoberfest-style beers, Steinbier is medium flavored and well balanced with the mentioned nip of hops: VG.

Oct 2020 3.5 ★★★+ Switchback Ale, Unfiltered - Naturally Conditioned, Switchback Brewing Co, Burlington VT, bottled on 6.22.2020, 5%.

"Switchback Ale was developed as a flavor concept, not adhering to any style guidelines. This reddish-amber, hard to describe beer is full of flavor yet always invites one to have another. This unique combination has made Switchback Ale a Vermont favorite."

Medium, balanced flavor with a hop finish. I liked it, but looking forward, I would buy a six of 'Gansett ahead of Switchback — might be worth a head-to-head test. Good+.

Sep 2020 4.0 ★★★★ Arrogant Bastard Ale, American strong ale, Arrogant Consortia, Escondido CA & Richmond VA, 16 oz can, 7.2%.

Arrogant Bastard Ale is not as splendid as I recalled. This time, it started mellow, grew stronger mid-mouth, and finished bitter — arrogantly over-hopped. I'd rate this VG+, if it came in 12-oz bottles, far and away my favorite non-draft format. The last two ounces went down the drain; I'd had plenty.

Beer Advocate still has the ballyhoo I remember from the 22 oz bottle I had years ago:

At Arrogant Bastard Brewing Co., we believe that pandering to the lowest common denominator represents the height of tyranny — a virtual form of keeping the consumer barefoot and stupid. Brought forth upon an unsuspecting public in 1997, Arrogant Bastard Ale openly challenged the tyrannical overlords who were brazenly attempting to keep Americans chained in the shackles of poor taste. As the progenitor of its style, Arrogant Bastard Ale has reveled in its unprecedented and uncompromising celebration of intensity. There have been many nods to Arrogant Bastard Ale...even outright attempts to copy it...but only one can ever embody the true nature of Liquid Arrogance!"

This online letter, dated September 30, 2019 is worth a read; among other things, it clarifies that Stone Brewing developed and controls the Arrogant Bastard line. Stone seems to have split its offerings (perhaps in the year since that letter) into those labeled Stone and those labeled Arrogant Consortia. The label on the tall can shown with that letter and on the Arrogant Consortia site shows the bold slogan,"YOU'RE NOT WORTHY."

Wegmans charged me $12 for six talls of "Stone Arrogan," a fair price, although I remember the shelf said $9. The redesigned label removes all the ballyhoo, except "DRINK FRESH NUMBSKULL." Maybe they knuckled under to the Portman Group.

Sep 2020 3.5 ★★★+ Benediktiner Festbier, brewed in Lich Germany for Benediktiner Weissbrau GMBH, 24 oz can, dated 2020-05-06i, ABV not listed.

Mild, subtle flavor with a hop finish, good+. Beer Advocate says it is 5.8% ABV.

Sep 2020 5.0 ★★★★★ Moscow, Midnight Sun Brewing Co, Anchorage AK, 11%, 45 IBU, 22 oz bottle. Russian Imperial Stout, ale brewed with Rye.

"First brewed as part of our 2011 World Tour series, Moscow is a heavy, opaque black liquid that pours softly and soulfully into your snifter. A high percentage of spicy rye and roasted malts create a dense, chewy yet elegant winter wonderland of flavors."

Victor brought this out to share, age uncertain. It's a full flavored well balanced, slightly sweet brew with a forceful mid-mouth and a semi-tart finish. The 45 IBU were not in evidence, so the brew had soured over time. No complaints, this brew was excellent.

Sep 2020 4.5 ★★★★+ Monster Ale, Brooklyn Brewery, Utica NY, 10.1%. Barley wine style.

Victor says this brew was named after the brewery cat, who died in 2012 — this was the last year they made this brew. Medium flavor, not hoppy. He said it has mellowed out nicely; he was really enjoying it. VG+

Sep 2020 4.5 ★★★★+ Naked Lunch in a Copenhagen Heavenly Resto, imperial stout, Evil Twin Brewing, product of Holland, 10%, 11.2 oz.

Victor brought this brew and several others out to share. It's full-flavored, not hoppy, lightly sweet; my enjoyment increased as I sipped, VG+.

Victor recommends this article for the scoop on the Bjergso twins and Evil Twin Brewing.

Sep 2020 4.5 ★★★★+ Bourbon Barrel Barleywine 2012, Central Waters Brewing Co, Amherst WI, 11.5%.

Sweet, good but not overpowering bourbon flavor, not hoppy. VG+.

Aug 2020 4.0 ★★★★ Dragon's Milk, bourbon barrel-aged stout, New Holland Brewing Co, Holland, Grand Rapids & Saugatuck MI, 11%, 30 IBU.

Mar 2020: This was available for $5 a bottle at Whole Foods, but I balked at the price; maybe later. New Holland brews beers that go up to 17% ABV.

Aug 2020: Medium flavor and smooth. The bourbon flavor dominates, to the point of overpowering other flavors — especially the IBU 30 hops, which were not evident. This beer is out of balance, but not in the typical IPA fashion. While I like this beer, I'm rating it only VG, partly because of the high price. Check this list for quite a few bourbon brews that score higher on flavor and/or price.

Alex & I went exploring near his new home, wandered into the Sharon Market. It turns out to be a good beer store. (They probably had wine, but tunnel vision took over.) On the recommendation of Alex and the clearly knowledgable owner, I went for the 4-pack, about $17 — a minor celebration.

Aug 2020 5.0 ★★★★★ Old Brown Dog, American brown ale, Smuttynose Brewing Company, Hampton NH, 6.5%, bottled on 05/09/19.

Old Brown Dog is the brown ale against which all other brown ales should be judged. If you think Budweiser or Coors is decent beer, try an Old Brown Dog and get some real flavor. You may prefer other beers in general or at times, but Old Brown Dog is a great balanced beer. It's not sweet. "Make mine a Smutty!"

Unfortunately, making a great beer in the IPA era is no guarantee of success. Smuttynose was foreclosed and then sold twice. My local pub could not get Smuttynose from his distributor, although it was still in stores. I hope they pull through. Fortunately, I have a few more in the basement. Their web site now shows only cans; they may be the way of the future, but I prefer bottles.

Jan 2020 update: I had an OBD with a Trader Joes Greek Spanakopita and rate it at least VG+.

Mar 2020 update: Had another, smooth front to back of mouth, 10-month old bottle, upgrading to excellent.

Aug 2020 update: Surprising thing, I split a 'Gansett with pizza and it was great. Split an OBD next, not so good. I'm not changing the rating, but I won't be having it with pizza.

Aug 2020 4.0 ★★★★ Narragansett Lager, RI, 5%.

In the summer, I often pick up a six of 'Gansett at Trader Joes. It's light with real flavor. says: Made on Honor for five generations, The Famous Narragansett Lager has been one of the greats since 1890. Pre-Prohibition era drinkers toasted 'Gansett, Dr. Suess illustrated 'Gansett, the Sox scored with 'Gansett, and Captain Quint crushed 'Gansett. Today, the highest rated, heritage American lager (according to Beer Advocate) is brewed to be clean, crisp, refreshing and perfectly balanced. "Hi Neighbor! Have a 'Gansett!"

This year, I declared a temporary summer on a decent day in April. This beer is indeed balanced with real, but mild flavor, a little gassy as milder beers often are. I confess, I am also nostalgic for the old Ted Williams era. Better than acceptable, though not exceptional, this beer remains on my TJ buy list. VG

Aug 2020 update: Surprising thing, I split a 'Gansett with pizza and it was great. Split an OBD next, not so good.

Aug 2020 4.0 ★★★★ Von Trapp Oktoberfest, Stowe VT, 5.6%, 35 IBU.

"A true full-bodied Oktoberfest lager dark in color withb a fine caramel finish." A tasty Oktoberfest dominated by a strong hop finish. While out of balance, it's still very good.

Aug 2020 4.0 ★★★★ Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale, Boulevard Brewing Co, Kansas City MO, 8%, 38 IBU.

Nov 2018: Light and fruity, more like a Belgian ale, VG. Bottle $4 at Whole Foods.

Aug 2020: Sustained hop finish. Bottle $2 in a $12 mixed six at Wegmans.

Aug 2020 4.0 ★★★★ Double Bag, Long Trail, 7.2%.

Years ago, I liked Double Bag, buying it then as a second or third best to Sam Adams Double Bock. No more. I think they added hops, knocking the brew out of balance, and I have stopped buying Double Bag.

Aug 2020: The mixed six case at Wegmans offered up a Double Bag. Elizabeth and I agreed it rates four stars. It has a slightly gassy start, a slight hoppy finish, a medium, balanced mid-taste, and a light amber color. I'm raising the rating from Good+ to just barely VG. I conclude that it does not age well.

Aug 2020 3.5 ★★★+ Carlsburg Elephant, Fredericks, Denmark, 11.2 oz, 7.2%.

Dec 2019: Light and apparently unfiltered, this beer slipped right down with an omelet and my homemade rye toast. VG [received in a Yankee swap]

Aug 2020: This brew was not quite as impressive with dinner tonight, a burger, chicken sausage, corn, and grilled veg. I'm lowering the rating to Good+, because I would avoid buying it in a store. I concede that this relatively pale beer may have gone off, since last December.

Aug 2020 5.0 ★★★★★ Double Townie, Barrel House Z, 95 Woodrock Rd, Weymouth MA, 32 oz growler can, 10%.

This was a great, dark, balanced, full-flavored brew. It was sweet, but I forgot to record how sweet; sorry.

Alex brought this out to share with Colleen and me at an outdoor celebration of Karen's 65th. (No way she would go for such a brew.)

Jul 2020 5.0 ★★★★★ Plead the 5th, Imperial Stout, Dark Horse Brewing Co, Marshall MI, 11.0%

Thick and rich, a superb dessert stout. [From Victor's collection.]

Jul 2020 5.0 ★★★★★- Earl, Coffee Imperial Stout, Hill Farmstead Brewery, Greensboro Bend VT, 500ml (16.9 oz), 7.2%.

"Ingredients: pale, caramel and chocolate malt; roasted barley; coffee; hops; ale yeast; and our well water." It's thicker and sweeter than Avena Obscura, which we had two nights earlier.

This full-flavored, balanced brew was great with pulled pork and slaw. I drank most of it, which Victor had opened for me. Then I turned the bottle around to see what it was. Oops, coffee; I do love coffee, but it does not love me; decaf coffee in the morning can keep me awake at night. The taste is superb, but I tacked on a minus for the coffee. I did not get to sleep until 4 am, but it may have been worth it.

[From Victor's collection.]

Jul 2020 5.0 ★★★★★ Fayson Maple Imperial Stout, rum barrel aged, Lawson's Finest Liquids, Warren VT, 375ml (12.7 oz), bottled January 2016, 11%.

"Brewed with loads of roasted and black malts, & over two gallons of VT maple syrup per barrel, this beauty was carefully aged in oak barrels that previously held a 20-year old Carribbean rum. This rich and complex beer will mature for many months. Made for sub-zero nights & pairing with decadent desserts. Straight from the Green Mountains to your head."

Excellent, full-flavored, thick and rich. [From Victor's collection.]

Jul 2020 4.5 ★★★★+ Avena Obscura, Black Flannel Brewing Co, Essex VT, 16 oz can, 20 IBU, 15 OG, 50 SRM, 5.6%.

"Packed with flaked oats and carefully selected roasted malts. Notes of dark chocolate, toasted walnuts, and cream. Full-bodied, finishing with rich maltiness. Pairs with: ale-braised mussels, rabbit tourtierre, aged cheddar, creme brulee. ... Drink fresh."

Highly drinkable and not sweet, this beer has a balanced subtle variety of flavors.

Jun 2020 5.0 ★★★★★ Weyerbacher Merry Monks, Belgian-style tripel, Weyerbacher Brewing Co, Easton PA, 9.3%.

Feb 2020: Out of the box, this is a decent tripel, with an intrusive hop finish. However, I paired it with a Trader Joes Butter Chicken entree (their best, although sometimes short on chicken), and it rose to VG+. The mild to medium heat of the sauce cut the hops and brought up the sweet and fruitiness. Brews of this nature can be superb with Indian food. I won't upgrade to excellent, but I gave it some thought.

Jun 2020: The last time I had a Golden Monkey, I was a little disappointed. To check this out, I opened a Merry Monks and a Golden Monkey, with some Sukhi's Chicken Tikka Masala from Costco. The Merry Monks has a robust flavor that I particularly like; I am raising it to excellent. However, Karen said it's too hoppy and tastes like grape juice; she did not like it.

Jun 2020 4.5 ★★★★+ Victory Golden Monkey, Belgian-style tripel ale with added spices, Victory Brewing Co, Downington PA, 9.5%.

Mar 2020: "Mystical flavors to enlighten you. Nose is loaded with Belgian yeast character of banana and clove with an equally fruity body balanced with with a light, earthy hop character. Savor notes of orange and spice followed by a dry finish." We had this excellent bottled brew with Indian food in Birmingham, a splendid combination.

Jun 2020: The last time I had a Golden Monkey, I was a little disappointed. To check this out, I opened a Merry Monks and a Golden Monkey, with some Sukhi's Chicken Tikka Masala from Costco. The flavor of the Golden Monkey is milder, with a slightly gassy effect. The added spices are neat. I am lowering this to the low end of VG+. Karen likes it.

Jun 2020 5.0 ★★★★★ The Seven Isles, port barrel aged stout, Trillium Brewing Co, Fort Point, Fenway & Canton Ma, 25.4 oz bottle, 14.4%.

Thick and rich with port flavors. Excellent. Alex brought this out for a late birthday celebration. Yum.

Jun 2020 5.0 ★★★★★ Lucious, British imperial stout, John Kimmich, The Alchemist, Stowe VT, pint can, 9.2%.

Thick and rich with a slight sour finish - — did not bother me — Victor said the sour might be because the beer is getting old. Full, balanced flavor, excellent.

Victor brought out this and two other brews for us to share, for my birthday dinner in Barre: grilled chicken, no-mayo potato salad, homemade noknead bread, and Argentine chimmichurri.

Jun 2020 5.0 ★★★★★ Old Stock Ale 2012, North Coast Brewing Co, Fort Bragg CA, 11.7%.

Victor says this beer can age forever. It's sweet, but not syrupy, full flavor, well balanced. It was excellent with our carrot cake dessert.

Victor brought out this and two other brews for my birthday dinner in Barre.

Jun 2020 5.0 ★★★★★ Sucaba Vintage No 005, barrel aged barley wine, Firestone Walker Brewing Co, Paso Robles & Buellton CA, 22 oz bottle, 13.3%, OG 36.6 Plato, 42 IBU, cases 3500, FG 3.8 P, 45 SRM (dark ruby).

Excellent, but after getting all the particulars, I forgot to record the taste. As I recall, thick and full-flavored.

Victor brought out this and two other brews for my birthday dinner in Barre.

Jun 2020 5.0 ★★★★★ Everett, robust American ale, Hill Farmstead Brewery, Greensboro Bend VT, 7.2%.

Apr 2019: Pale, caramel and chocolate malt, roasted barley, hops, ale, yeast, and well water. Excellent.

Jun 2020: huge, balanced flavor, thick, strong coffee flavor (from the malt, no coffee). Superb.

May 2020 3.5 ★★★+ Samuel Adams Boston Lager, The Boston Beer Company, Cincinnati OH, Breinigsville PA & Boston MA, 5%.

Sam is acceptable, especially on draft. This is the beer that turned the whole industry around, truly great in its day. However, it's medium-flavored and a little off-balance; there are many better brews now.

3.5 ★★★+ Yuengling Traditional Lager, Original Amber Beer, DG Yuengling & Son, Pottsville PA, 4.5%.

Yuengling is acceptable, especially on draft. My wife, who will drink few of my beers, and seldom any beer, occasionally drinks Yuengling. I prefer Yuengling to Sam Adams Boston Lager.

Apr 2020 3.5 ★★★+ Stockyard Oatmeal Stout, Josephsbrau (Trader Joes), 5.2%.

May 2019: Full flavored, not sweet, dark, balanced with slight hop overtone. "A deliciously creamy Stout in the Irish tradition — with it's rich tan head intact, this deep and dark-colored beer has all the aroma and flavor of chocolate, roasted oats and coffee — all derived from the specialty malts used in the Brewing process." VG.

Apr 2020: Bought a bottle and split it with our friend Elizabeth. The base taste, to me, is burnt. Elizabeth said it was acidic, but I did not get that. I think she liked it better than me. I disliked it while preparing corn on the cob, salad, sweet potatoes, and grilling marinated chicken tenders, but it was decent with dinner. It's moderately balanced, but there are so many better beers out there that I do not plan to buy it again. Downgraded to Good+.

Apr 2020 3.5 ★★★+ Boatswain Chocolate Stout, stout brewed with cocoa powder, 12 oz can, Rhinelander Brewing Co, Monroe WI, 5.4%.

After the Stockyard, we moved on to this brew, also from Trader Joes.. It is milder, mostly balanced, but a little gassy, with an interesting chocolate flavor. OK, but also not on my buy list.

Mar 2020 4.5 ★★★★+ Brown Shugga, Sweet Release, Lagunitas Brewing Co, Petaluma CA, 10%, 51.1 IBU, OG 1.100.

Malt, brown sugar, hops, yeast and water. "We believe this Special Ale is Something Unique. Feeding Brown Cane Sugar to otherwise Cultured Brewery Yeast is a'kin to feeding Raw Shark to your Gerbil. It is unlikely to ever occur in nature without Human Intervention. And it looks weird besides. But it has happened and now it is too late."

Jan 2020: Full flavored, with dominant hops (back-mouth), some mid-mouth, not much front-mouth. At Wegmans in Oct 2019, I liked a small taste of this beer and fell for a six. (And I've been thru Petaluma on a great vacation.) Based on my first whole bottle at home, I rated it ★★★+. The 4-star rating is based on the fourth bottle, which I had with a large salad topped with tuna salad and capers, plus toast.

Mar 2020 update: I opened the fifth bottle around 6, expecting dinner soon. It was full-flavor and full-mouth, not small at the start as previously claimed. I had trouble holding back before dinner at 7, helping Karen prepare a cauliflower cottage pie. It was superb with the hearty dinner as well; the hop-finish was just right. Tempered by previous lower ratings, I'm holding back to VG+ for my new rating. This is a swell beer for an IPA drinker who wants to upgrade.

Highly unusual for me, I opened a second beer, as the Brown Shugga disappeared mid-dinner. The Smuttynose Robust Porter (reviewed on this page) was consistently VG+, though quite different from Brown Shugga.

Mar 2020 4.0 ★★★★ Brown Ale, Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn NY, 5.6%, best by 07/20.

"This is the original American Brown Ale. A blend of six malts takes center stage, following brown ale's British roots to give the beer its deep russet-brown color and hints of cocoa, coffee and toasted caramel. ... perfect with any red meat, roasted poultry, barbecue, though it it's a favorite on its own."

A full-mouth, medium-flavored beer, VG. Karen asked if she would like this beer. "Probably not, but it's milder than usual." ... "I could drink this if I had to (three stars)." We had it with scrambled eggs mixed with black beans, red pepper, scallions and tomato; served with a mild salsa, Food Should Taste Good multi-grain ships and cucumber slices.

Mar 2020 4.0 ★★★★ Maudite, Belgian style double ale brewed with spices. Unibroue, Chambly, Quebec, 8%, 22 IBU, SRM 18 (brown).

Sommalier Selection: bottle refermented Belgian style ale. I have fond memories of Maudite on several occasions, but I did not record a rating in 2018.

Mar 2020 update: I tried it again before dinner and during Karen's orange (sesame ginger) chicken with rice and salad. I'm sticking with the VG rating. It's balanced, but did not greatly impress tonight. Perhaps another time.

Mar 2020 4.5 ★★★★+ La Fin du Monde, Belgian style triple ale brewed with spices, Unibroue, Chambly, Quebec, 9%, 19 IBU, SRM 5.5 (gold).

Sommalier Selection: bottle refermented Belgian style ale.

A full-mouth, balanced, medium-flavored brew, as expected for a tripel. Across the board, Unibroue brews top-quality balanced beers. They sell six varieties in a boxed-six in the winter, and I just broke into my box from this year. VG+, previously misrated Good in 2018.

Mar 2020 3.0 ★★★☆☆ Pig's Ear Brown Ale, Woodstock Inn Brewery, North Woodstock NH, 4.3%, canned on 12/10/19.

"If it looks like a pig and squeals like a pig, double check before pouring it into a glass. If you're lucky, it's our smooth, nutty, roasted Brown Ale. If not, well..."

Maybe I got the pig. Medium taste, a little thin and gassy in the front and middle of the mouth. Better than Ellie's Brown, but I think I'd rather have a Sam Lager; to me that means I should retest Sam.

Mar 2020 4.5 ★★★★+ Old Chub Scotch Ale, Oskar Blues Brewery, Longmont CO, 8.0%, canned on 12/13/19.

"It's like sputnik, a virtual planetoid." Old Chub has balanced, full flavor, with a slightly sour aftertaste that is not noticeable with food. VG+

Mar 2020 3.0 ★★★☆☆ Ellie's Brown, American brown ale, Avery Brewing Co, Boulder CO, 5.5%, canned on 12/20/19.

"Brewed with Rocky Mountan water, malted barley, hops & yeast." The picture of a dog on the can could be Ellie. "Loyal | Friendly | Mellow"

This unbalanced brew has a tiny start and mid-mouth, medium-strong at the back of the mouth, with a disappointing aftertaste. It comes across as gassy. I did drink it, so it rates good. Actually, I'm dumping the last ounce.

Mar 2020 5.0 ★★★★★ Mission St. Brown Ale, Steinhaus Brewing [Trader Joes], CA, 5.7%, best by 06/07/17.

"Mission Street resides at the intersection of quality and value, a place we have called home for more than 40 years. Our award-winning beer is crafted in small batches using only the finest all-natural hops and malted barley, resulting in a classic brown ale with remarkable flavor and freshness."

When I pulled the Ommegang out of my liquor box, I discovered this 22 oz bottle. Over the years, I've had maybe eight bottles from Trader Joes for $1.99, a fine value. Most of the other Mission St offerings were presented in 6-packs, which I would rather have, but this brew is special enough to buy the big one. I have not seen it in years. All the Steinhaus brews were apparently brewed under contract at other breweries, and have been discontinued, including Fat Weasel, which I also enjoyed. Sad.

Tonight, I had the final Brown Ale with ginger-marinated flank steak, fine egg noodles with butter, and a salad. Yum. The beer was as good as it gets, even being three years old: a slight sweet start, full-mouth flavor, and a hop finish. The bottle foamed over when I opened it. A nostalgic excellent.

Mar 2020 4.5 ★★★★+ Ommegang Abbey Ale Dubbel, Ommegang [Duvel], Cooperstown NY, 8.2%, 20 IBU, 18.2 OG.

"Brewed with orange peel, grains of paradise, coriander, licorice root, anise. Pour slowly so as to not disturb the yeast sediment, but with enough vigor to create a luxurious head and release the rich bouquet." Ths is the beer that made the brewery, formerly called Abbey Ale without the Dubbel. The price has gone up substantially over the years, especially since Duvel bought the brewery.

This updated review is based on an undated 750 ml bottle that I aged in the basement for a couple of years. We had it with burgers and various side dishes, which concealed the depth of flavor that emerged after the meal. It is well-balanced, with an edgy, substantial, full-mouth flavor that lingers. The flavors are not my favorite, but they are spectacular.

Mar 2020 4.0 ★★★★ Brown Ale, Good People Brewing Co, Birmingham AL.

A very good brew, but with an end taste I would describe as sharp. Thinking back, perhaps it needs a bolder malt. At the counter of a restaurant near the Birmingham regional bridge tournament, it was a pleasure to pluck this drinkable can from a lineup of Bud Light and equivalents, IPAs, etc.

Feb 2020 4.0 ★★★★ Ipswich Oatmeal Stout, Ipswich Ale Brewery, Ipswich MA.

We had a 3-way stout challenge at Monday night family dinner. This brew finished last, although we agreed we would be pleased to have it again. We should have opened this can first, instead of last. Even better, lay out three glasses each.

This brew seemed somewhat gassy, with little sweetness, and a distinct hop finish. I'm giving it a provisional VG rating, but I need to test it again, without such fierce competition.

Feb 2020 5.0 ★★★★★ Dynasty, imperial stout, Night Shift Brewing, Everett MA, pint can, 9.4%

This medium sweet brew has full-mouth flavor, and a distinct hop finish. Excellent.

We had a 3-way stout challenge at Monday night family dinner. Alex rated this a close second to Bennington. "Canned 12/09/19."

Feb 2020 5.0 ★★★★★ Bennington, oatmeal stout, Night Shift Brewing, Everett MA, pint can, 7.3%

This slightly syrupy brew has an explosion of chocolate, full-mouth flavor, and a distinct hop finish. It's outstanding, but not for everyday drinking.

We had a 3-way stout challenge at Monday night family dinner. Alex rated this best, calling it a dessert stout. "Oatmeal stout with dutch-processed cocoa & maple syrup, canned 11/05/19."

Feb 2020 3.5 ★★★+ Boddingtons Pub Ale, AB InBev UK Limited, Luton, England, pint can with pub insert, 4.7% (per Beeradvocate).

"Since 1778 when it was first brewed at the Strangeways brewery in Manchester, Boddingtons has been renowned as a unique, pale gold ale. After pouring, the beer cascades slowly in the glass to give Boddingtons its distinctive creamy head and smooth body."

This beer has mild but real flavor, with a hop uptick at the finish and mouth-feel reminiscent of Guinness. I have enjoyed Boddingtons for a couple of decades, ever since I first had it on tap, at the then-top-rated London restaurant for fish and chips. OOPS, it's AB InBev; well, I like it anyhow. Good+. When I get some Narragansett, I'm going to put them head to head, as it were.

Feb 2020 5.0 ★★★★★ Bourbon Barrel Quad, barrel-aged ale, Boulevard Brewing Co, Kansas City MO, 11.2%, 26 IBU.

This brew has huge full-mouth flavor. It's sweet, but not overly so; nicely balanced with the hops. The bourbon barrel flavor prominently overlays all; some might say, too prominently. I had it with a salad, finishing with some 100-day Gouda and and Merlot Bellavitano cheese — stretching that alcohol over an hour or more.

From a mixed 3x2 at Wegmans. I have another! This is similar to Sixth Glass, aged in bourbon barrels, with 1% higher ABV and 4 higher IBU, so buy according to your bourbon preference. Both are excellent.

Feb 2020 3.0 ★★★☆☆ Lagerbier, Bissell Bros Brewing Co, Portland ME, 5.3%.

Mild flavor builds front to back, with a substantial hop finish (for a mild beer). Good.

This is one of four cans that Alex and Collen brought over to family dinner, after a weekend exploring Portland breweries with friends.

Feb 2020 4.0 ★★★★ Tripel, Brewery Extrava, Portland ME, 9.5%, SRM 7.

"Gold in color, briliant clarity with a rocky head. Lovely bouquet with significant spiciness, fruity esters and soft alcohol. ... Moderately bitter with a superdry finish, this tripel is surprisingly drinkable." This is an accurate description of this medium-flavored, full-mouth, balanced brew. (They need to edit the redundancy on the can.) VG.

This is one of four cans that Alex and Collen brought over to family dinner, after a weekend exploring Portland breweries with friends.

Feb 2020 2.0 ★★☆☆☆ Chai Mead, Wassail, DBA Maine Mead Works, Portland ME, 6.7%.

Immediate sweetness impact, with tea and spices. Ingredients are water, honey, organic assam black tea, spices, two chemicals, but no hops. Interesting to taste, but it's basically a sugar soda with alcohol, a refermentation preventer, and a preservative. Fair.

This is one of four cans that Alex and Collen brought over to family dinner, after a weekend exploring Portland breweries with friends.

Years ago, Pepsi ran some blind taste tests against Coke, and won. Coca-Cola's response was "New Coke," preferred by over 200,000 testers. Customer outcry was huge. It turns out that Pepsi and new Coke were sweeter than Coca-Cola classic. This turns out to easily win a taste test, but lose hands down in larger quantity. I can see how Chai Mead could have tested well among many other brews. (Of course, sugary drinks are known to be a major cause of obesity — probably beer, too.)

Feb 2020 2.5 ★★+ Nocturna, bourbon barrel aged stout with vanilla, Allagash Brewing Co, Portland ME, 9.9%.

Formerly called Bourbon Barrel Black, this brew explodes with a sweet chocolate flavor, which is the combination of significant hop bitterness, a sweet brew, and way too much vanilla. Interesting, but the malt was obscured; it's like an alcoholic soda. Alex remembered it being better on tap.

This is one of four cans that Alex and Collen brought over to family dinner, after a weekend exploring Portland breweries with friends. (See comments for Chai Mead.)

Feb 2020 4.0 ★★★★ Harpoon Winter Warmer, Harpoon Brewery, Boston MA & Windsor VT, 5.9%.

On draft at Horse Thieves Tavern in Dedham MA, this beer was balanced, medium smooth, definitely better than Sam Adams Winter Warmer. Of course, for similar beers, the one on tap is likely to win. I had it with a [lamb] shepherd's pie, VG.

Feb 2020 4.5 ★★★★+ Southern Tier 2Xstout, double milk stout, Southern Tier Brewing Co, Lakewood NY, 7.5%.

Solid flavor with a pronounced hop finish. With the grandkids over to dinner, I waited and had this with some Kirkland (Costco) PB pretzels. While eating them, front of mouth was lacking, but I recall some sweetness before startng to snack — likely masked by the snack (molasses in the PB). I'm stretching a little to VG+, as I would be pleased to do this again.

Included in a mixed six of bottles from Wegmans.

Feb 2020 4.0 ★★★★ Founders Porter, Founders Brewing Co, Grand Rapids MI, 6.5%, 45 IBU.

"Dark, rich & sexy". "Pours silky black with a creamy tan head. The nose is sweet with strong chocolate and caramel malt presence. No absence of hops gives Founders' robust porter the full flavor you deserve and expect. Cozy like velvet, it's a lover, not a fighter."

Included in a mixed six of bottles from Wegmans. "Bottled on 12/12/19," consumed 2/13 with PB pretzel nuggets.

This is an odd brew. It has a full head and full-mouth flavor, with some sweetness, but not balanced. The predominant flavor differs from typical hops, near the back of the mouth, but not all the way back where hop bitterness usually appears. I stuck a litmus strip in the glass, and it showed 5.5 (lowest reading on my guide), and well below 5.8, the next color. This is an acidic (sour) brew that cancels the hop bitterness. Beer Advocate rates it 95 (world class), where nobody mentions "sour" or "acid, so maybe I have it wrong. I would try this again some time and am rating it VG, but only for occasional consumption.

Feb 2020 1.0 ☆☆☆☆ Genesee Oktoberfest, Genesee Brewing Co [North American Breweries], Rochester NY.

The pronounced, unpalatable, metallic taste suggested this beer might be unsafe to drink. Poor. (Without the metal, it might have been good, relatively balanced.)

Included in a mixed six of cans from Wegmans. Tested with my wife and friend as part of a 3-beer Oktoberfest Challenge on Feb 11.

2020-02-11 Pete to

... This is a heads-up that I am about to rate one of your beers one star out of five. If you send me a brief reply, I'll post it with my rating.

The beer in question is an Oktoberfest that I bought within the month as part of a mixed six at Wegmans. It has a distinct, unpleasant metallic taste, confirmed by two others who tried it. The bottom of the can is stamped "J119 1307:57". Painted on, is 90905B1BE.

2020-02-12 to Pete:

Thanks for contacting us. That Oktoberfest is past its recommended shelf life of 140 days from production, and Wegmans should not have had it available for purchase.

Please let me know where the Wegmans is located, so we can ask the wholesaler to remove any remaining past-code beer.

If you’d like reimbursement for the Oktoberfest you purchased, ....

2012-02-12 Pete

Wegmans, University Ave, Westwood, one can in a mixed six that I selected to try.

If the markings encode a date, it is not obvious to me, and with hundreds of beers, I don't see why it would be to them, either. Furthermore, I would expect any beer to be drinkable to six months or more. In other words, an Oktoberfest should be fine less than 110 days past the end of October, even if brewed in early August.

2020-02-12 to Pete:

The wholesaler is supposed to assist in rotating stock and removing past code product from accounts. They are familiar with the codes and shelf life. Recommended shelf life is just that- recommended. How the beer is handled after leaving the brewery can also affect the flavor adversely.

Also, only two of our beers (not in the Genesee family) have a recommended shelf life of 180 days. The rest are 140 days or 120 days.

Yes, handling counts. I transport my own beer promptly to my basement (cool to cold year round) or refrigerator. However, I do keep some for quite a while, and this is the only time I have had this problem. I understand that lagers may not keep well. Well, they should print an expiration date on the can, not some obscure code.

I also prefer bottled beer: a can might itself be a source of impurities. Cans are coated inside; in the past, coatings contained BPA. If the coating fails, you can get aluminum, also not great for you, in the beer. Detritus on the can lid can also be an issue.

Feb 2020 2.5 ★★+ Shiner Oktoberfest, Marzen-style beer, Spoetzl Brewery, Shiner TX, 5.7%.

Tested with a light sandwich, this beer was gassy and unbalanced, with a hop finish. Upon contemplation, there were other mild flavors.

Included in a mixed six of cans from Wegmans. Tested with my wife and friend as part of a 3-beer Oktoberfest Challenge on Feb 11. We had it with Asian chicken rollups and Kirkland brocolli cheddar soup with lots of added broccoli. This beer was more tolerable after the relatively strong soup. Fair+.

Feb 2020 3.5 ★★★+ Samuel Adams Octoberfest, lager, The Boston Beer Company, Cincinnati OH, Breinigsville PA & Boston MA, 5.3%, 16 IBU.

"Rich & balanced, traditional Marzen". "Malt brings so much to a great beer. That's why we developed a unique malt blend to provide a robust color and smooth rich flavor. Like you, we look forward to this tradition every year."

Included in a mixed six of cans from Wegmans. Tested with my wife and friend as part of a 3-beer Oktoberfest Challenge on Feb 11. We had it with Asian chicken rollups and Kirkland brocolli cheddar soup with lots of added broccoli. With medium, balanced flavor, this drinkable beer was the clear winner of the challenge, but I've had better. Good+.

Feb 2020 3.5 ★★★+ Samuel Adams Winter Lager, bock lager, The Boston Beer Company, Cincinnati OH, Breinigsville PA & Boston MA, 5.6%, 22 IBU.

"No matter what or how you celebrate, Winter Lager's rich malt notes and accents of cinnamon, ginger and orange peel are perfect for any festivity." This well-balanced, full-mouth beer has medium flavor, of which the spices are a significant feature, almost VG. I had it with a light dinner of eggs scrambled with broccolli and cheddar, a piece of rye toast, and a small salad.

Included in a mixed six of cans from Wegmans.

Feb 2020 4.0 ★★★★ Over the Moon Milk Stout, Open Gate Brewery [Guinness], Baltimore MD.

"Luxuriously smooth and sweet with creamy with notes of chocolate and coffee. Made at our Open Gate Brewery in Baltimore, where we combine 250+ years of Guinness brewing experience in Ireland with American beer creativity." Slightly sweet, medium flavor in the full mouth, with a hop up-tick at the end. VG.

Included in a mixed six of cans from Wegmans.

Jan 2020 3.5 ★★★+ Zero Gravity Extra Stout, Zero Gravity Craft Brewery, Burlington VT, 5.9%.

"A black Irish ale with aromas of chocolate and coffee followed by the rich flavors of roasted barley, with a dry finish." I agree with the dry finish. It's prominent mid-mouth; perhaps that's the claimed chocolate and coffee. Not much else there. (I have not had a 'Gansett since last summer, but I might prefer one to this Extra Stout.) I started the beer after tonight's bridge game, then broke out some Coupole Vermont goat cheese and crackers. Before I finished writing, all was gone. Let's call it Good+.

A reviewer on Beer Advocate seems to have nailled it: Palate is unfortunately just really empty. Exceptionally wet with only a faint hint of roast and char on the mid palate. Very wet and watery mouthfeel and quite gaseous too. There's just not a lot going on here, if it is just still drinkable.

Jan 2020 2.0 ★★☆☆☆ Old Rasputin, Russian imperial stout, North Coast Brewing Co, Fort Bragg CA, 9%.

"Brewed in the tradition of the 18th century English brewers who supplied the Tussian courrt of Catherine the Great. Old Rasputin develops a cult following wherever it goes. It's a rich, intense brew with big complex flavors & a warming finish."

Not a warming finish, a huge hop finish. I really disliked it. After a few tries while cooking burgers for family dinner, I gave it to my son, who appreciates the hops (as do Beer Advocate reviewers, who rate it World Class). I broke out a Troegenator — yum!

Jan 2020 5.0 ★★★★★ Shed Mountain Ale, rugged mountain ale, Shed Brewery [Otter Creek Brewing], Middlebury VT, 7.4%, 35 IBU.

This beer has been a staple for me; the only question was, VG+ or excellent? Well I had it with another TJ Butter Chicken dinner, and while I forgot to write it up, I recollect it was excellent: balanced with a slightly sweet start and a slight hop finish. I'll just have to test it some more — four bottles in the basement!

Jan 2020 4.0 ★★★★ Mayflower Oatmeal Stout, Mayflower Brewing Co, Plymouth MA, pint can, 5.4%.

While making dinner, this stout was full-flavored and balanced, starting with some sweetness, and finishing slightly sour in the back of the mouth. Sour is not something I usually appreciate in beer, but it was interesting here. I enjoyed the brew with a Trader Joes Butter Chicken entree (think tikka masala) and oven-roasted haricot vert. The spice killed off the sour, which came back with the final ounce or two when the enteee was done. VG (close to +).

Roasted Haricot Vert: 1 1/2 to 2 lb Trader Joes frozen French green beans (or regular GB), EVOO, salt and pepper. Put beans into a microwave-safe pot (I use the larger Corningware French White round covered pot). Drizzle with EVOO, salt & pepper. Microwave on high for 8 to 10 minutes, broken into three intervals. (Baking or grilling veggies without softening in the microwave takes too long, and does not improve the results.) At each interval, mix the beans by grasping the pot with mitts and moving the pot aggressively in a vertical circle for a minute or so. (I have big hands; stirring is a logical alternative.) Let sit for a few minutes, if some beans are not thawed. Spread the beans evenly onto a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes at about 400 degrees F, turning the beans over about three times. (In good weather, put the beans into a grill pan on a hot (max) gas grill, and cook in essentially the same manner.) They are done when they are caramelized, browned or slightly charred to taste.

Jan 2020 2.5 ★★+ Magic Hat #9,

"#9 is a sorta dry, crisp, refreshing ale whose mysterious and unusual palate will swirl across your tongue with subtle notes of fruit and a floral hop bitterness." In times gone by, the label said apricots. This is another beer that my wife and I used to like. I had it with pecan crusted tilapia from Wegmans, sweet potato and salad. #9 did not please; I got a light fruity hop bitterness with little else. Perhaps it was the bleu salad dressing, but I do not plan to try #9 again.

Included in a mixed six of bottles from Wegmans.

Jan 2020 4.5 ★★★★+ Harpoon Octoberfest, Harpoon Brewery, Boston MA & Windsor VT, 5.3%, 32 IBU.

"Our take on the classic Marzen is a full-bodied, festive tribute to fall." Well-balanced and medium-flavored, I had it with some Kirkland broccolli cheddar soup (augmented with frozen broccoli) and a numperpickle bagel, VG+.

Included in a mixed six of bottles from Wegmans.

Jan 2020 4.0 ★★★★ Shipyard Nightwind, winter ale, Shipyard Brewing Co, South Burlington VT, 5.8%.

Light sweet start, balanced medium flavor, spicy finish, VG. I shared this with a friend, and my half disappeared way too soon. We had it with the first burgers of the year (sesame roll and 1/2 lb Angus from Wegmans counter, thick slice of Cabot 3-year block cheddar from Costco [best all-around cheese in USA]) and grilled haricot vert (see Mayflower Oatmeal Stout).

Included in a mixed six of bottles from Wegmans.

Jan 2020 5.0 ★★★★★ Troegenator, doublebock beer, Troegs Brewing Co, Hershey PA, 8.2%, 25 IBU, bronze color.

Troegenator is one of my favorite beers; I usually have some in the house. It's sweet but not syrupy, full-flavored, and balanced — excellent. "Monks had fasting figured out. No food? No problem. Just drink a Double Bock. Thick and chewy with intense notes of caramel, chocolate and dried stone fruit, 'Nator (as we call him) serves as a tribute to this liquid bread style."

Jan 2020 5.0 ★★★★★ George, American Brown Ale, Hill Farmstead Brewery, Greensboro Bend VT, 5.8%.

Starting with medium sweetness and finishing with hop bitterness, this is one splendid brown ale.

Jan 2020 4.5 ★★★★+ Samuel Adams Cream Stout, The Boston Beer Company, Cincinnati OH, Breinigsville PA & Boston MA, 4.9%, 29 IBU.

Full-flavored without being heavy, chocolaty but only slightly sweet, balanced but with a hop finish, I have enjoyed this beer over the years. VG+

Jan 2020 5.0 ★★★★★ Fayson Maple Imperial Stout, Lawson's Finest Liquids, Waitsfield VT. 10.1% alc.

"Rich and complex beer perfect for sipping or pairing with chocolate or dessert." Dark, thick, sweet, with a huge flavor: excellent for a treat. Victor brought this beer to a family pizza party, a pairing that worked unexpectedly well — the beer was better than the pizza.

Dec 2019 4.0 ★★★★ Brewers Bridge Saison Ale, 11.2 oz, 6.1% alc.

Overflowing head, medium balanced flavor, with rye, barley and oats, apparently unfiltered. Collaboration of Brasserie Dupont and Allagash Brewing, brewed in Tourpes, Belgium. VG [received in a Yankee swap]

Dec 2019 3.0 ★★★☆☆ Cusqueña Golden Lager, Lima, Peru, 11.2 oz, 4.8% alc.

A lager with modest flavor, I had it with a dinner of eggs, and it was fine. [received in a Yankee swap]

Nov 2019 3.0 ★★★☆☆ Fat Tire Amber Ale, New Belgium Brewing Co, Fort Collins CO, 5.2%, 22 IBU.

My original notes say, wonderful malty flavor. However, I could not wait for the most recent six to be gone, so I could fill the space in my box with something better. (It is possible I kept it too long.)

Oct 2019 5.0 ★★★★★ The Sixth Glass, quadrupel ale, Boulevard Brewing Co, Kansas City MO, 10.5%, 22 IBU.

Great, but up to $4 a bottle. I am hoarding my ninth bottle (a single and then two fours) in the basement.

Oct 2019 4.0 ★★★★ Old Monk 10000 Super Beer, Mohan Nagar brewer, India, 8%.

Blonde, fruity, a little sweet, very good with spicy Indian food. I had this at the recommendation of the owner of Chapatay, an excellent Indian restaurant, while at the Charlotte NC regional bridge tournament.

Oct 2019 4.5 ★★★★+ Michigan Maple Jesus, Imperial Stout, Eviltwin Brewing, 12%.

Sweet and rich, aged in Maple syrup bourbon barrel, this beer was given to me by my son-in-law, Victor, the beer collector. Sadly, I forgot to record a rating, but I'm sure I liked it much. Victor says the Eviltwin brewery is now defunct, and the brewer (Jeppe) is now in Brooklyn.

Oct 2019 5.0 ★★★★★ 2017 Bravo, barrel-aged imperial brown ale, Firestone (Firestone Walker), 13.2%, 28 IBU, 28 SRM (brown sugar).

Chocolaty and rich, this imperial brown ale is aged in retired American oak bourbon barrels.

Oct 2019 5.0 ★★★★★ Grande Reserve 17, dark ale on lees, Unibroue, Chambly, Quebec, 10%, 750 ml.

Ale brewed with spices, aged with French oak, and with natural flavors added. Bottled in 2011. First brewed in 2007 to celebrate the brewery's 17th anniversary. Bottle refermented dark ale, brewed once a year. A special event from one of my favorite breweries. Excellent.

Sep 2019 4.5 ★★★★+ 90/~ Wee Heavy, Rich Scottish Ale, Belhaven Brewery, Dunbar Scotland, 7.4%.

"A classic Scotch Ale, showcasing the wonderful malted barley native to East Lothian. A rich, dense complex beer, with notes of dried fruit and candied peel. It's like Christmas cake in a glass". I had this 90-Shilling ale on tap at The Haven in Jamaica Plain. It's smooth, sweet, excellent, but has no noticeable hops.

Sep 2019 4.0 ★★★★ Bold Coast Pemaquid Ale, Sheepscot Valley Brewing Co, ME, 5.2%.

On tap at the Harborside Tavern, Boothbay Harbor, this brew was billed as a full-bodied Scottish ale with a hoppy finish. My take, a brown ale with a hoppy finish, not sweet or heavy. VG

Sep 2019 5.0 ★★★★★ Trappistes Rochefort 10 Belgian Ale, Brasserie Rochefort, 11.2 oz bottle, 11.3%.

This full bodied Belgian quad was $8 with a very good dinner at Drouthy Bear in Camden ME. Excellent.

Wikipedia says: Around fifteen monks currently live at Rochefort Abbey. The water for the beer is drawn from a well inside the monastery walls. Rochefort uses Pilsener and Munich-type malts, and Hallertau and Golding hops.

Jun 2019 4.0 ★★★★ Crunch, Shovel Town Brewery, North Easton MA, 7.7%.

Coffee peanut butter stout, strong, rich, some sweet. Official partner of the Brockton Rox baseball team. I liked it on tap at a Rox game, but failed to record my rating, so this is a guess. I'll update at my next game.

Jun 2019 4.0 ★★★★ Von Trapp Dunkel, Munich Dunkel lager, Stowe VT, 5.7%, 22 IBU.

"Full malt flavor, notes of chocolate." Definitely a lager, hops mildly dominant, not sweet or heavy. 2019-10-18 tasting at Wegmans; not clear from notes if I bought a bottle, so this rating is suspect. I'll give it another try.

Apr 2019 4.5 ★★★★+ Maduro Brown Ale, Cigar City Brewing, Tampa FL, 5.5%, 20 IBU.

"Named after a dark cigar wrapper, Maduro Brown Ale boasts notes of semi-sweet chocolate, toffee and hints of fresh coffee. Complex and full bodied, our malt-forward ale is brewed with flaked oats to add depth of character. Drink fresh - do not age." VG+

Apr 2019 4.0 ★★★★ Cows Out Milk Stout, Stone Cow Brewery, Barre MA, 5.8%.

Rich flavor, hops aftertaste. VG

Aug 2018 4.5 ★★★★+ Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, Alltechs, Lexington KY, 8.2%.

"Ale aged in oak bourbon barrels." Clear, beautiful gold, subtle flavors including bourbon. Our friend Elizabeth and I tried this out of a mixed six from Wegmans in Mar 2018. She liked it. It was only OK for me, until I had a bite of toast between salad and beer - then I got the subtle flavor and sweetness. Definitely get this on draft, as I did at 753 South in Rozzie. It was excellent in it's own small snifter. I recall having it on draft in KY or TN.

Jan 2019 5.0 ★★★★★ Winter Brew Dark Double Bock Lager, Josephsbrau (Trader Joes), 7.5%, 28 IBU.

Inspired by the beers Bavarian monks brewed to lift their spirits during the long fasts of Lent. Unfortunately, the last time I was at Trader Joes huge Foxboro store, they had no Josephsbrau brews at all. Before I go again, I'll call the store and check on the beer.

Dec 2018 3.0 ★★★☆☆ Vienna Style Lager, Devil's Backbone Brewing Co, 5.2%.

Dark amber, good.

Dec 2018 3.0 ★★★☆☆ Best Brown Ale, American brown ale, Bell's Brewery, Comstock, MI, 5.8%, shelf life 6 months.

"A smooth, toasty brown ale brewed with American hops. Best enjoyed with the changing of the seasons." Pint can $3 at Whole Foods. OK, but not balanced. Too much rear of mouth (hops), not enough front.

Dec 2018 5.0 ★★★★★ Palo Santo Marron, wood-aged brown ale, Dogfish Head, 12%.

"Aged in handmade Palo Santo tanks, this unfiltered, unfettered brown ale is an unprecedented blend of roasty, vanilla & caramel complexities." Bottle $4 at Whole Foods. Rich, almost syrupy, excellent.

Dec 2018 4.0 ★★★★ Midas Touch Ancient Ale, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton DE, 9%.

"Somewhere between wine and mead, our original Ancient Ale is made with ingredients found in a 2700-year-old drinking vessels in the tomb of King Midas - barley, honey, white muscat grapes and saffron." Recommended by NY Times readers. Bottle $4 at Whole Foods. VG, but not that distinctive, kind of like a Tripel.

Nov 2018 4.0 ★★★★ Curieux, Belgian style golden ale aged in bourbon barrels, blended back with Tripel, Allagash, Portland ME, 11%.

Bottle $5 at Whole Foods. Light like Tripel, but with stronger oaky notes. VG and very strong.

Nov 2018 XX Chocolate Maple Porter, Stone Corral Brewery, Richmond VT, 16 oz can, 7.8%.

Sorry, I recorded this brew when Victor gave it to me, but I forgot to record a rating. I know I did like it.

Oct 2018 2.5 ★★+ Harvest Vermont Maple Brown, Long Trail, 4.4%.

Just OK, with a smallish start and a slightly sour finish. I think I gave away some of this six, which I bought at a last stop when leaving Vermont. I suppose this could have been year-old beer, but it completed my disillusionment with Long Trail brews.

Oct 2018 Sierra Nevada 2018 Octoberfest, brewed in collaboration with Weihenstephan, the world's oldest brewery, 6%.

Sorry, I forgot to rate this, too. My only excuse is that I had not yet formalized a plan for this page.

Sep 2018 4.0 ★★★★ Broegel Bock Beer Original Dark Lager, product of Belgium, 11.2 oz, 5%.

From my first trip to ALDI, when we were sharing an AirBNB at the World Bridge Series, this six was a month past its best by date. "Dating back to the 14th century, Bock beer and the capricorn goat are a symbol of good times to come. Broegel Bock captures the spirit of the original German brew masters with Munich and Amber malts, German hallertau hops, and a dose of Czech saaz hops." VG, dark, fruity, not heavy.

Aug 2018 4.0 ★★★★ Murphy's Imported Draft Style Stout, Murphy's Brewery, Cork, Ireland (Heineken UK Ltd).

Only pure pale malt, chocolate malt, roasted barley and hops. I find Murphy's to be far superior to Guinness. My first appreciation of Murphy's was on draft, with excellent BBQ in the summer of 2009. We had taken the Metro to Bethesda from the North American Bridge Championships in Washington, DC. It's also good in the draft-style can.

Aug 2018 4.0 ★★★★ Gerry Dog Stout, Big Elm Brewing, Sheffield MA, 6.5%.

Very good, rich.

Aug 2018 4.5 ★★★★+ Weyerbacher Belgian-style Imperial Stout, Weyerbacher Brewing Co, Easton PA, 11.8%.

VG+, very rich.

Aug 2018 5.0 ★★★★★ Blue Point Winter Ale, Blue Point Brewing Co, Patchogue NY & Merrimack NH, 7.7%.

Hearty, robust amber ale. Excellent

Aug 2018 4.5 ★★★★+ Smuttynose Robust Porter, 6.2%.

Very tasty, a fairly heavy porter, not burnt/sooty as some porters. VG+

Jul 2018 5.0 ★★★★★ Drafty Kilt, Monday Night Brewing, Atlanta GA, 7.2%.

"Full-bodied Scottish brewed smokey sweet malt with a hint of bitterness." I had this in Gibney's Pub in Atlanta. Excellent!

Jun 2018 3.0 ★★★☆☆ Alternate Dimension, altbier ale, Trader Joes 5.6%, 28 IBU.

"Using a special at yeast to create a special flavor experience from the Altstadt (old city) in Dusseldorf, where this style originated, ... is a dark, light-bodied, top-fermented beer that is completely brewed, yet easy to drink." This is an over-hopped brown ale, overpowering the malt. OK.

Jun 2018 5.0 ★★★★★ Spring Prost, maibock style lager, Josephsbrau (Trader Joes), 7.3%, 26 IBU.

Prost means "cheers" in German. "Our maibock style lager is brewed just like the celebratory beer traditionally served at the May festivals: rich and malty, with slightly spicy notes." Well-balanced, malty, full mouth taste, but not heavy. Great. This beer is on my TJ buy list.

Apr 2018 2.0 ★★☆☆☆ Drookit Scotch Ale, Berkshire Brewing Co, South Deerfield MA, 7.9%.

"Sweet and malty with a hearty finish, this beer is perfectly suited for any time of year. A handful of peat-kilned malt lends a slight smoky flavor..." I had high hopes for this selection in a mixed six from Wegmans, but Drookit had a sour, smoky finish, and I did not like it.

Apr 2018 4.0 ★★★★ Wee Heavy Champ, Scotch Ale, Magic Hat Brewing Co, So Burlington VT, 8.0%.

"Rich malt notes of caramel, chocolate and wheat ripple on the surface, ... just a touch of hop bitterness." Very rich malt, peaty, a touch sour, VG.

Apr 2018 4.5 ★★★★+ Three Philosophers, Ommegang [Duvel], Cooperstown NY, 9.7%.

"98% quadrupel ale, 2% ale with cherries added. Pour slowly so as to not disturb the yeast sediment, but with enough vigor to create a luxurious head and release the rich bouquet." VG+

Apr 2018 4.0 ★★★★ Rare Vos, Ommegang [Duvel], Cooperstown NY, 6.5%.

"Ale brewed with spices: sweet orange peel, grains of paradise, coriander." VG, as always.

Apr 2018 3.0 ★★★☆☆ Hennapin Saison Ale, Ommegang [Duvel], Cooperstown NY, 7.7%.

"Rustic farmhouse ale with spicy ginger notes, champagne-like effervescence and a bright golden hue; pour slowly so as to not disturb the yeast sediment, but with enough vigor to create a luxurious head and release the rich bouquet." Champagne notes. Victor says this is what workers drank in the fields, usually 2% then. Good.

Apr 2018 5.0 ★★★★★ Metaphysical Gravity, imperial oatmeal stout, Good Measure Brewing Co, Northfield VT, 12%.

This OUTSTANDING new brew was aged in maple syrup bourbon barrels. The brewer deemed it not quite matured enough for sale when we were there. The wonderful, full taste rolled from front to back of the mouth.

Victor, his father Victor and I, visited Good Measure when my daughter Morgan went into the hospital to deliver their son Mateo. I have never tasted a better brew. We could not get back to buy some, and we don't know if they ever made more than the one batch.

Apr 2018 4.0 ★★★★ Nitro Milk Stout, in the black can. Left Hand Brewing Co., Longmont CO, 6%.

Smooth, like a Guinness with flavor. Pour hard. Often available in stores and on my travels. VG

Feb 2018 4.0 ★★★★ Blanche de Chambly, Unibroue, Chambly, Quebec, 5%, 10 IBU, SRM 4 (medium yellow).

Belgian style white ale brewed with coriander and orange peel. Quite light, fruity, highly drinkable.

Sommalier Selection: bottle refermented Belgian style ale.

Feb 2018 3.0 ★★★☆☆ Ephemere, Unibroue, Chambly, Quebec, 5.5%, 10 IBU, SRM 4 (medium yellow).

Belgian style fruit flavored wheat ale brewed with apple juice, coriander, orange peel and with added natural flavor. OK, subtle flavor overlaid with fruit.

Sommalier Selection: bottle refermented Belgian style ale.

Feb 2018 4.0 ★★★★ Don de Dieu, Unibroue, Chambly, Quebec, 9%, 10.5 IBU, SRM 5 (gold).

Belgian style triple wheat ale brewed with spices. Tasty, light, good head.

Sommalier Selection: bottle refermented Belgian style ale.

Feb 2018 5.0 ★★★★★ Trois Pistoles, Unibroue, Chambly, Quebec, 9%, 15.5 IBU, SRM 32.2 (very deep brown).

Belgian style dark ale brewed with spices. This 'three steeples' brew is great!

Sommalier Selection: bottle refermented Belgian style ale.

Sep 2017 5.0 ★★★★★ Harpoon Frost Hammer, Harpoon Brewery, Boston MA & Windsor VT, doppelbock, 10.7%.

"This is one mighty, malty beer." 100 barrel series. Excellent!

Aug 2017 4.0 ★★★★ Founders Doom, imperial IPA, Founders Brewing Co, Grand Rapids & Detroit MI, 12.4%

Aged in bourbon barrels, lots of great flavors, quite hoppy, VG. Only produced for a while in 2017, so far. I picked it up in Victor's store, the Craft Beer Cellar, in Waterbury VT, when he was still in the business.

Aug 2017 4.0 ★★★★ Allagash Tripel, Allagash Brewing Co, Portland ME, 9%.

Light and a little hoppy, VG.

Jun 2017 4.0 ★★★★ Oktoberfest, Josephsbrau (Trader Joes), 5.3%.

Very good.

Jun 2017 3.0 ★★★☆☆ Winter Ale, Wachusett Brewing Co, Westminster MA, 6.1%.

Good. [I may have been harder on beers back then.]

Jun 2017 3.0 ★★★☆☆ KBC Porter, Kernersville Brewing Co, NC, 5.7%

OK. On the KBC site, this brew has apparently been superseded by the quite different Hey Porter.

Jun 2017 3.0 ★★★☆☆ Bohemian Style Lager, Josephsbrau (Trader Joes), 5%, 18 IBU.

Reminds me of Sam Adams Boston Lager, good.

Jun 2017 3.5 ★★★+ Hefeweisen, Josephsbrau (Trader Joes), 5.2%, 12 IBU.

Fruity, tasty, summery.

Jun 2017 4.0 ★★★★ Heller Bock, Josephsbrau (Trader Joes), 7%, 22 IBU.

Very good. This beer is on my TJ buy list.

Jun 2017 3.5 ★★★+ Summer Brew, Kolsch style ale, Josephsbrau (Trader Joes), 4.8%, 25 IBU.


Ratings from Memory and General Principles
5.0 ★★★★★ Samuel Adams Double Bock, The Boston Beer Company, Cincinnati OH, Breinigsville PA & Boston MA, 9.5%.

Alas, all I have is memories of this wonderful beer. Double Bock is not listed on the Sam Adams web site, although Beeradvocate says it is available in winter. They used to sell it by the case, at a normal beer price. Maybe a decade ago, you could sometimes find it by the expensive four-pack. This is the only beer I remember buying by the case for personal consumption, and I still use my last case box to hold the beers I buy singly or by the six.

4.5 ★★★★+ Hampshire Special Ale, English strong ale, Geary Brewing Co, Portland ME, 7%, 48 IBU.

HSA has been a favorite for years, when I get to Maine. Unfortunately, that is not often, since my Dad sold his house on Islesboro. I seldom find it elsewhere, although New Hampshire might work. "Incorporated in 1983, Geary Brewing is New England's First Craft Brewery in the post prohibition era and holds federal craft brewing license #13."

2.5 ★★+ Guinness Extra Stout, Guinness Ltd, Ireland, 5.6%.

Guinness has rare mouth feel and small taste, quite special for some folks. For example, my mother-in-law loathed beer, but enjoyed Guinness.

If I never saw another Guinness it would be too soon. That's because unenlightened bar managers often think Guinness satisfies the need for a brown ale, and they do not consider the fine alternatives. I absolutely refuse to consume Guinness.

Challenge: Try as many of these beers as you can. Let me know if I should give any of them a re-try, or provide other comments, to pete dot 3nt at gmail dot com. Thanks!

Ideas © 2020 Pete Matthews Jr.