Category Archives: American Pale Ale

Maine Mo

rating_excellent81 points

By now, you’ve heard us rave about Maine Beer Company. Frankly, at this point we’re hoping to find a sub-par brew among their offerings, just to prove that they’re capable of making a mistake.

So when we tasted their Mo pale ale, and our panelists started using words like “light” and comparing it to Maine’s heavy-hitter, Lunch, we thought we had found a crack in Maine’s rock-solid foundation.

mainemoBut much to our delight — and to the benefit of the beer-drinking public — Maine Beer Company once again delivered on its credo, “Do What’s Right,” with a solid brew.

The appearance of the beer is textbook Maine Beer Company — cloudy and golden with a light head.

Our panel liked the smell, likening it to its cousin, Lunch. It’s hard not to, because Mo has a lot in common with Lunch. They both share similar malts and Simcoe hops.

As a result, Mo has a light scent of pine and citrus — lighter than Lunch, but a little more pronounced on the hops.

Taste is where Mo tries to make its own mark. After all, this is an American pale ale, where Lunch is an India pale ale.

Still, our panel couldn’t help but compare it to Lunch, judging Mo lighter and with less of a buttery mouthfeel. Citrus and hops dominate the taste, though “dominate” may be a bit strong a word in this case.

Aftertaste was rated decent, but not overwhelming. As an APA, it’s meant to finish dry and clean — which it did.  It also had light floral overtones and a somewhat metallic character.

Drinkability was solid. Our panel had no qualms about finishing their glass and seeking a refill. “Balanced” was mentioned more than once.

There is only one drawback to this beer — while it’s attractive, it lives in the shadow of its supermodel cousin, Lunch.

And perhaps that is the crack in Maine Beer’s foundation. When you produce superstar beers like Lunch and Dinner, even excellent brews like Mo are destined to be overshadowed by their superstar cousins.

But when your motto is “Do What’s Right,” that’s a pretty nice problem to have.

(Appearance 8., Smell 8.67, Taste 23.67, Aftertaste 15.67, Drinkability 24.5)

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Tree House Lights On

rating_good65 points

Growing up, I was always envious of a kid with a tree house.  It was a place of one’s own to get away from annoying siblings and nagging parents.  It was a place to freely use profanity and talk about mature topics.   Yes, in my young mind, a tree house was a symbol of independence.

Maybe the founders of Tree House Brewery had similar ideas in mind when they named their company.  To be honest, I know very little about the brewery except for it’s location on a farm in Monson, Massachusetts, and the rumors of the delicious offerings they’ve brewed.

Tree House Lights OnTree House’s Lights On was  actually a donation to our June tasting.  A relative of mine passed it along after a visit to the brewery with the instructions to “taste this for your website.”  Obviously, the panel was more than happy to oblige.

Tree House describes Lights On as having “a fresh and distinctive flavor profile.”  Papaya, guava, and mango are supposedly the flavors making up that profile.  These three fruits aren’t normally equated with beer, so our collective curiosity began to grow upon  hearing the description.

Lights On appeared light and cloudy in our tasting glasses with a bubbly white head.  Hops seemed to dominate the aroma, but panelists also noticed pine and grapefruit.  While the majority of the panel enjoyed the scent, one panelist felt the hops were too overpowering.

The hops continued in the flavor of the beer, a flavor that was described as “pine tree bitterness.”  There were some hints of citrus in the taste, but the panel wasn’t able to find the notes of papaya, guava, or mango.

Don’t get us wrong,  Lights On has a decent flavor.  The problem was that we were looking forward to experiencing the fruits touted in the description.  When those flavors didn’t show up, it left us a little disappointed.

Aftertaste was where things started to really go wrong for the beer.  Best summed up by one panelist as a “hot mess”, the aftertaste melds earthy and metallic flavors into an unwelcome bitterness.

While one member of the panel did appreciate the strong finish Lights On presented, the rest felt that the aftertaste made this beer a one-and-done.

In summation, if you’re looking for a hop forward American pale ale with strong, earthy overtones, Tree House’s Lights On just may be the brew for you.

And, if you’re looking for a place to freely use profanity and talk about mature topics, might I suggest hosting your own beer tasting.  Perhaps even in a tree house.

(Appearance 7.2, Smell 8.2, Taste 20.8, Aftertaste 11.4, Drinkability 17.)

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Two Roads Conntucky Lightnin’

rating_fair59 points

We believe it was the poet Robert Frost who once wrote,

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one that got me as far away
from this beer as possible!”

Okay, we may have taken some liberties with Mr. Frost’s poem, but no worse than Two Roads did in proclaiming its Conntucky Lightnin’ as having “aged in bourbon barrels” with “notes of whiskey.”

In fact, our panelists agreed that the Two Words that best describe this Two Roads offering are “false advertising.”

conntuckyLet’s start with what’s good about this beer.

[Crickets chirping]

All kidding aside…the beer has an attractive appearance. Our panelists enjoyed the cork-topped bottle, the label adorned with a map of Connecticut, and a slightly cloudy, deep caramel color on pour.

Intrigued? So were we. But prepare to be let down.

Throughout the rest of the ratings, the panel discovered that things were either not present as advertised, or just…plain…bad.

Conntucky Lightnin’ had very little aroma. Some panelists found hints of smoke and caramel, and others found it “smelled like beer.”

What didn’t it smell like? Bourbon.

The panelists almost universally panned the taste of this brew. Most simply said they were let down by it. Panelists’ notes ranged from ” nothing more than a malty beer,” to “hints of woody smoke,”  to “tastes like cheese mixed with a slightly worse cheese.”

What wasn’t noted in the taste? Bourbon.

By now, you’re probably noticing a pattern here. So you may assume that bourbon was nowhere to be found in the aftertaste of Conntucky Lightnin’.

Surprise! Bourbon was finally noted in the aftertaste…albeit light…and by only one of the panelists. Maybe “Surprise!” was a little too strong a reaction.

Actually, “strong reaction” is probably a better term for the aftertaste of this brew. One panelist angrily barked, “Where’s the bourbon?!”

Another noted a very unpleasant “yeasty cheesy funk” that immediately stopped him from drinking any more.

Similar reactions across the panel lowered drinkability scores. Most found disappointment in the lack of bourbon character in a $20 bottle of beer marketed as and touted for its bourbon barrel aging.

One panelist was so turned off by the beer, he jokingly proclaimed, “If I was stranded on a desert island and this bottle of beer washed ashore, I’d smash the bottle and slit my neck with it.”

We’re obviously not serious and don’t recommend such drastic actions. And while one of our panelists enjoyed it enough to rate it in the low 80s, the rest of the panel was thoroughly disappointed in a lackluster brew marketed as a top-shelf, barrel-aged release.

To evoke Mr. Frost in closing, if you’re looking down the Two Roads offerings, you may want to consider Conntucky Lightnin’ the road not taken.

Editor’s Note: We recognize that our review of Conntucky Lightnin’ is somewhat critical. While we stand by our review, we decided to cellar a bottle for one year to see if time can tame this beer. Look for our review of our cellar-aged bottle in June 2016.

(Appearance 8.5, Smell 5.33, Taste 16.33, Aftertaste 11.5, Drinkability 17.67)

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Goose Island Summer Ale

rating_good60 points

Goose Island Summer Ale is the type of craft-style beer you’d expect a giant like Anheuser-Busch to pump out — okay, but unremarkable.

And after a quick Wikipedia search informed us that AB InBev did indeed purchase Goose Island Brewery in 2011…well, now it all makes sense.

gooseislandsummerThis summer session ale came to us by way of our panelist Rick, who thoroughly enjoyed it. Rick is a fan of big, bold, brash punch-you-in-the-face hoppy concoctions. And that’s what this beer has going for it. That, and a cool label. But it takes more than that to impress The Basement Beer Tastings panelists.

It’s not that Goose Island Summer Ale is a bad beer. The panel still rated it “Good.” It’s just that it’s underdeveloped, and the hop character is over-the-top for what should be a summer drinker.

This American pale ale pours a golden caramel color with steady carbonation and a low head that hangs out for the afternoon and laces the glass along the way.

The aroma is a clean mix of Amarillo hops, which are known for their orange aroma. Orange is faint, but detectable. Most our panelists noted the “piney” hop scent.

Tasting this beer, however, is akin to unwrapping a beautifully-decorated Christmas present only to find a pair of dress socks.

While the beer didn’t taste like a pair of dress socks, most the panel agreed that the hop-forward taste was too bitter and without any of the complexity hinted at by the citrus tones in the aroma. Panelist Rick maintained his love of the beer throughout his rating, however admitted that it’s “not a session drinker,” regardless the bottle itself describes it as a “endlessly refreshing session ale.”

The stinging bitterness of the hops were reminiscent of rye IPAs, and the beer has a mild sudsy mouthfeel.

Aftertaste was mostly hops with some citrus notes, and some panelists enjoyed it more than the initial taste. A bitter sting lingers on the tongue for a while after tasting.

The bitterness and lack of complexity led most of the panel to score drinkability only average. One panelist said that you could probably drink another, but then paused, and added, “Why bother?”

Goose Island Summer Ale is what you have come to expect from Anheuser-Busch InBev — it won’t leave you dumping it down the sink, but it won’t have you jumping for another one.

(Appearance 7.83, Smell 8.17, Taste 17.33, Aftertaste 12.33, Drinkability 14.67)

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