All posts by Jon Graney

Co-founder of The Basement Beer Tastings.

Tasting Notes – Impromptu Tasting

Members of the panel had not met for a couple of weeks, so two days prior to the Feb. 13 tasting, a few panelists convened to sharpen their palettes with a selection of three beers. The results were as varied and ranging as the selections themselves.
(Panelists: Mike Festi, Jon Graney, Amy Graney)

Tasting Notes

Samuel Adams Cherry Chocolate Bock . . . 76 points
With the chocolate beers tasting mere days away, the panel sampled this seasonal bock from Sam Adams. The beer had a pleasing deep red appearance reminiscent of a cherry cola, and had a pleasant scent of cherry, cocoa and vanilla. On taste, the panel found a strong cherry taste and buttery caramel that trailed off a little too early. However, the tasters noted a light chocolate aftertaste and excellent drinkability.
(Appearance 7, Smell 7.67, Taste 22.67, Aftertaste 14.67, Drinkability 23.67)

Back East Ale . . . 59 points
This flagship amber ale from Back East Brewing had notable fruity aroma, with notes of citrus and melon and a hoppy overtone. Despite its hoppiness, the panel found it light and refreshing. But ultimately the panel found the flavor somewhat neutral. The panel was split on drinkability, with some noting a bitter aftertaste while others enjoyed its light body.
(Appearance 6.67, Smell 6.33, Taste 17, Aftertaste 12.33, Drinkability 17)

Long Trail Brush & Barrel Series Imperial Stout . . . 56 points
Crack open this limited imperial stout from Long Trail, and one thing will hit you hard: smoke. The panel admired the extra-dark color and lacy head of this imperial. Aromas of campfire smokiness and earthy vegetation were pronounced, yet dampened by somewhat antiseptic and yeasty notes. On taste, the panel found the smokiness and malt to be a bit overpowering, and not as balanced as expected. The aftertaste was exceptionally dry, and drinkability only average. The panel agreed that while it was a decent offering, it didn’t stand out as an artisan brew.
(Appearance 7, Smell 3.67, Taste 16, Aftertaste 13, Drinkability 16.67)

Continue reading Tasting Notes – Impromptu Tasting

Chocolate Beers Tasting Lineup

For its Valentine’s Day-eve tasting, the Basement Beer Tastings panel will explore the expanding offerings of “chocolate beers.”

It’s shaping up to be an exciting review, with seven beers announced (so far), and at least six panelists — the largest to date.

Slated Offerings (subject to change)
72 Imperial Chocolate Cream Stout (Breckenridge Brewery)
Big Lushous Raspberry Chocolate Stout (Founders Brewing Co.)
Black Chocolate Stout (Brooklyn Brewery)
Black Forest Imperial Cherry Chocolate Porter (Harpoon Brewery)
Chocolate Stout (Harpoon Brewery)
Chocolate Truffle Stout (Thomas Hooker Brewing Co.)
Double Chocolate Stout (Young’s & Co.’s Brewery)
…and perhaps more.

It should make for an exciting tasting, sure to bring out the chocoholic in anyone.  Stay tuned for more. Cheers!

Tasting Notes – “Home of the Hall” Wild Card


For his Wild Card tasting, Jan. 23, panelist Mike Festi chose a theme of “Home of the Hall” beers — a selection of offerings from Brewery Ommegang of Cooperstown, N.Y.

When your brewery is located in the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, you’d may as well swing for the fences. But, as our panelists learned, when you swing for home runs, sometimes you also strike out.
Panelists: Jon Graney, Mike Festi, Rick Czapla, Bob Bowden, Amy Graney

Tasting Notes

Ommegang Rare Vos . . . 71 points
All five of the tasted Ommegang beers featured corks instead of bottle caps. And popping the cork on this bottle-conditioned, Belgian-style amber ale revealed big carbonation. This impressed some of the panel, but others found it too “fizzy.” The citrus notes of grapefruit were pleasing, but the aftertaste was a bit acidic. However, it was a fun and interesting beer, albeit a one-and-done type of brew…not an all-night drinker.
(Appearance 7.5, Smell 6.5, Taste 22, Aftertaste, 12.75, Drinkability 21.75)

Ommegang Tripel Perfection . . . 69 points
Our panelists found this cloudy Belgian ale to be a nearly identical experience to the Rare Vos, with the same champagne-like carbonation. Overtones of licorice were pronounced, with some of the panel finding it made the taste too sharp. But the ale left a smooth, pleasant aftertaste and a desire to drink more.
(Appearance 5.75, Smell 6.5, Taste 21, Aftertaste, 14.25, Drinkability 21.75)

Ommegang Three Philosophers . . . 60 points
What’s the difference between a “quadrupel” and a “tripel?” Not much. Double, triple and quadruple are loosely-used terms to generally describe the alcohol strength of the ale. Quadruple is mostly reserved for ales with 10% or higher ABV, though this one clocked in at 9.7%. So don’t bother worrying if an ale is a triple or a quadruple; go by taste. And this one was interesting, with a strong taste of caramel and butterscotch, with light notes of cherry. Some of the panelists, including Amy who joined the panel for two of the beers, found the maltiness too sweet. The consensus was that while it was decent, you could only enjoy one glass before tiring of it.
(Appearance 7.4, Smell 7, Taste 18, Aftertaste, 12.4, Drinkability 15.8)

Ommegang Upside Brown . . . 53 points
This limited edition — and pricey — brown ale was easily the most divisive among the panel, but one thing is clear. Ommegang boldy swung for the fences on this “farmhouse” ale. It’s thick. It’s smoky. It has sediment in it that neither floats nor sinks. It even has pineapple in it. You’re either going to love this beer or despise it. Amy again joined the panel for this beer, and that proved to be a saving grace, because two panelists liked it, and three tanked it. The consensus was that it’s musty, cheesy, sour, moldy, funky and stale. (Even Ommegang admits it has a “farmyard funk” to it.) But while most the panel disliked it intensely, the other two panelist found the oaky, smoky, musky taste a rich, bold and well-balanced experience. Unlike the other offerings, this one’s gold label is printed right on the bottle. The verdict? It’s a unique brew you may love, but if you buy one and hate it…don’t say we didn’t warn you.
(Appearance 8, Smell 5.8, Taste 14.2, Aftertaste, 11.2, Drinkability 14.2)

Ommegang Hennepin . . . 43 points
In general, the panelists found Ommegang’s offerings to be generally well-crafted and of good quality. The Hennepin saison was the exception. Our panel had a hard time finding good things to say about this pale ale. Saison, French for “season,” is a general term for refreshing pale ales — sometimes with the addition of spices — and a high yeast character. This one fit the bill, but it had a drab pale yellow color, and a faint aroma of ginger and citrus. It’s brewed with coriander, ginger and orange peel, but upon tasting, the panelists found it displeasing, leading one panelist to liken it to smoked meat. Ginger overtones were notable, but overwhelmed with yeast, leaving a metallic aftertaste, flat and unsatisfying. While the panel unanimously panned it, one panelist went so far as to sum up, “Not great…let’s move on.”
(Appearance 5.25, Smell 5.25, Taste 11.5, Aftertaste, 11, Drinkability 10.25)

Continue reading Tasting Notes – “Home of the Hall” Wild Card

Tasting Notes – Winter Beers, Continued

When the panel held its January theme tasting — Winter Beers — one planned beer was left out.  One panelist grabbed the wrong beer by mistake, leaving his planned entry, Samuel Adams Winter Lager, at home.

So when the panel convened for its January Wild Card, they first rounded out the Winter Beers theme with a supplemental entry.
Panelists: Jon Graney, Mike Festi, Rick Czapla, Bob Bowden

Tasting Notes

Samuel Adams Winter Lager . . . 60 points
The panel was initially impressed by this seasonal Bock-style lager brewed with orange peel, ginger and cinnamon. It poured beautifully with a rich, red amber hue, excellent clarity, and a proud head. Its aroma was pleasing with hints of citrus. But as it hit the tongues of the panel, the sweet syrupy taste was a little overwhelming. Moreover, while it had overtones of citrus, the taste flattened quickly. The consensus was that, once finished, they would return to the bar and ask, “What else have you got?”
(Appearance 8.25, Smell 6.75, Taste 17, Aftertaste 11.25, Drinkability 16.75)

Continue reading Tasting Notes – Winter Beers, Continued

Tasting Notes – Winter Beers


The panel, for its January theme Basement Beer Tasting, tackled six winter seasonals. Caramel and smoke dominate taste among brews released for winter — with one notable exception.
Panelists: Jon Graney, Mike Festi, Rick Czapla, Bob Bowden

Tasting Notes

rating_excellentCaptain Lawrence Frost Monster . . . 83 points
This imperial stout from Elmsford, NY, boasts a ton of malt and a whopping 12% ABV. The panel thought it was a spectacular brew, with a gorgeous appearance and a sweet, smooth, smoky taste. But the consensus was also this was a one-and-done “showcase” beer  — a beer you could use to impress friends; not a beer you could drink all night. The label itself is worth a trip to the package store.
Appearance 9.75, Smell 7.75, Taste 26, Aftertaste 18.25, Drinkability 20.75

Brooklyn Winter Ale . . . 79 points
Another New York offering, this time a Scottish ale. This underrated beer impressed the panel with a light, toasty caramel taste and outstanding drinkability. Its aroma was light, being malty and not hoppy. But the panelists agreed this was a winter beer that could be enjoyed, one after another.
Appearance 8.75, Smell 5, Taste 24, Aftertaste 16, Drinkability 25

Traveler Jolly Shandy . . . 76 points
The Traveler Beer Co. is headquartered in Vermont, but contract brews through a famous company in Boston. This identity crisis extends also to its Jolly Shandy. The panel loved this wheat ale, but agreed that this should be offered as a summer beer — not in the dead of winter. The juicy, fizzy ale is a refreshing blend of orange and pomegranate, and with a low 4.4% ABV, it’s a drinker.
Appearance 7, Smell 6.75, Taste 23.25, Aftertaste 15.75, Drinkability 23

Berkshire Brewing Co. Cabin Fever Ale . . . 73 points
This English pale ale was rich with caramel and smoky taste. But the panel was divided on whether they would want to drink it all night long. Some found the aftertaste bitter, while others judged it as light and rich with caramel. But overall, Cabin Fever was judged to be a smooth and enjoyable winter seasonal.
Appearance 8.5, Smell 5.5, Taste 22.25, Aftertaste 15, Drinkability 21

Anchor Winter Wheat . . . 68 points
Wheat beers are traditionally light, so when the panel poured this black brew into a glass, appearance marks shot through the roof. But the overwhelming sweet taste of malt and wheat took over. The panel noted bread-like toasty, chocolaty and slightly smoky taste. Anchor Brewing released this as a new beer in 2014, and while it certainly wasn’t bad, it needs taming.
Appearance 7.75, Smell 6, Taste 19.25, Aftertaste 15, Drinkability 20.25

Harpoon UFO Gingerland . . . 61 points
The panelists approached this unfiltered wheat beer with intrigue, but quickly found that it was a rare swing-and-a-miss from Harpoon Brewery. While it definitely had strong gingerbread overtones, the panel felt that it needed a sweetener to balance the ginger bite. It certainly wasn’t offensive, but it’s a beer you’ll get sick of before you even finish the bottle. This was another new offering for 2014, so perhaps Harpoon can tame it for next year…or shelf it.
Appearance 6.5, Smell 7.25, Taste 15.75, Aftertaste 13, Drinkability 18

Continue reading Tasting Notes – Winter Beers

Tasting Notes – Pilot Tasting

The first Basement Beer Tasting was held on Nov. 21, 2014, and provided the inspiration for the continuing series. Because the structure hadn’t been fully developed, this tasting included a random mix of what was in the fridge.
Panelists: Jon Graney, Mike Festi, Rick Czapla

Tasting Notes

Shipyard Export Ale . . . 53 points
This American blonde ale was a decent, middle-of-the-road brew. While it failed to stand out to the panelists, it received average or slightly above average points in every category. Panelists noted that it had a heavy caramel and malt taste that was reminiscent of a higher-end Yuengling Lager.
Appearance 5.5, Smell 5.5, Taste 17.5, Aftertaste 8, Drinkability 16.5

Berkshire Brewing Company Oktoberfest Lager . . . 48 points
This Marzen-style lager looked good on pour, and had a decent taste to it, but the panelists found its aftertaste disappointing. It invoked notes of sweet honey and citrus, but its heaviness and lackluster finish left the panelists saying, “I couldn’t drink a lot of this.” Appearance 7.5, Smell 7, Taste 15, Aftertaste 7.5, Drinkability 11

Harpoon Pumpkin Cider . . . 68 points
Shifting gears, the panelists decided to try a spiced cider offering from Harpoon Brewery. The appearance, smell and taste were very pleasing, though the panel noted that it was lacking a notable pumpkin flavor — instead showcasing strong tastes of apples and grapes. The aftertaste was a bit flat, but ultimately strongly drinkable.
Appearance 7.5, Smell 8.5, Taste 20.5, Aftertaste 11.5, Drinkability 20

Yuengling Traditional Lager . . . 52 points
Since the Shipyard Export reminded the panelists of Yuengling, they decided to compare it to Yuengling. The results? Remarkably similar marks, across the board. The smell was a bit better than Shipyard, with nearly identical taste and easy drinkability.
Appearance 6, Smell 5, Taste 14.5, Aftertaste 6.5, Drinkability 20

Welcome to The Basement Beer Tastings

Plato is credited with saying, “He was a wise man who invented beer.”

Some say the quote is erroneous, and that Plato never said it.  But if so, whoever made that all up and attributed it to Plato was a genius.

And that kind of genius is what we plan to celebrate.

Welcome to The Basement Beer Tastings. Here you’ll find insightful reviews of beers, tasted and discussed by a panel of gentlemen and ladies with diverse palettes.

We plan to bring you amazing reviews of our beers in biweekly beer tastings.

Theme Tastings
The first tastings of each month are “theme” tastings. All the beers sampled — typically four to six — will be of a certain theme. Each panelist contributes one of the beers in the theme.

Wild Card Tastings
The second tasting of the month is a “wild card” tasting. One panelist will be responsible for bringing all the beers. And while the panelist may come up with their own theme, they don’t need to. Wild card selections will be a surprise to the other panelists.

Scoring is on a 100-point scale, with Taste and Drinkability each comprising 30 points. Aftertaste is scored on a 20-point scale. And Appearance and Smell (judged first) are each scored on 10 points.

The scores are subjective. Even the scoring category meanings are up to interpretation by the panelists.

In the end, the scores are aggregated, discussed by the panel, and a final score is announced.

Enjoy the site, and enjoy our new journey…because we certainly plan to. Cheers.