The second tasting of each month is a “wild card” tasting. A panelist volunteers to supply all the beer, and has free reign to determine the beers, a theme, or any other idea.
For the March wild card, Jon decided to supply an eclectic mix of beers, connected by an interesting theme: the other panelists had to rate the beers before learning what they were tasting. Welcome to The Basement Beer Tastings’ first semi-blind tasting.
(Panelists: Jon Graney, Mike Festi, Rick Czapla)
Samuel Adams Harvest Saison . . . 73 points
The panel found this Belgian style pale ale to have good aromas of spice and orange with overtones of caramel. Carbonation was lively with an appealing color than was slightly more amber than a typical saison. While the flavor didn’t “wow” the panelists, they found it solid and tasty, with notes of clove and slight hoppiness. On panelist noted a similarity to Hoegaarden white ale. Aftertaste was dry and hoppy with notes of grapefruit, though a bit metallic. It’s light body and good carbonation makes it very drinkable.
(Appearance 7, Smell 8, Taste 22.67, Aftertaste 14, Drinkability 21.67)
Night Shift Morph Rotating IPA . . . 72 points
Night Shift Brewing of Everett, Massachusetts offers a unique take on the American IPA. The recipe for its Morph Rotating IPA changes each time Night Shift brews it. The panel rated the Feb. 20, 2015 batch a mere seven days after canning. This fresh beer impressed most the panel with huge hops balanced with citrus overtones. As one panelist noted, “Welcome to Hoptown. Population? This beer.” The aroma begs you to drink it, and it’s light and tight carbonation is attractive as well. The notable hoppy aftertaste was smooth, but a bit grassy. The taste fades a bit the more you drink it, which affected overall drinkability to a degree.
(Appearance 7.67, Smell 9, Taste 21.67, Aftertaste 13.67, Drinkability 20.33)
Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier . . . 72 points
Hefeweissbier, or Hefeweizen, is a Bavarian unfiltered white beer, about as far from the Morph IPA as you can get. But, as you see, the panel enjoyed this smooth wheat beer nearly as much. Weihenstephaner traces its roots back to 768 and was licensed in 1040, which allows it to boast its claim of being the oldest brewery in the world. That much practice pays off, because the panel overall found the brew to be enjoyable. Pale in color and in an unremarkable bottle, the beer offered a citrusy, yeasty aroma. The beer was soft and velvety with hints of grapefruit and pear. While it was light and drinkable with a smooth, oaky aftertaste, the light body also caused the taste to fade a bit too quickly.
(Appearance 6.33, Smell 6.67, Taste 21.67, Aftertaste 13.33, Drinkability 23.67)
Stone Smoked Porter . . . 67 points
Luckily, the panel saved the Stone Brewing Company’s smoky concoction for last in the Wild Card tasting, because this beer had intense smokiness, like a campfire in a bottle. The light scent of smoke and coffee belies the intense flavor this porter dishes out. Pouring a deep reddish-black with a good head from a screen-printed bottle, the brew impressed. But “light smokiness” is an understatement on this beer. The panel noted that the charcoal bite and smoked intensity were prominent, but the panelists agreed they wanted to see a more balanced flavor. Drinkability was impacted as well, because the panel agreed that this is a one-and-done type beer…and one that would probably pair nicely with barbecue.
(Appearance 9.67, Smell 6, Taste 19, Aftertaste 16, Drinkability 16)
Long Trail Stand Out . . . 65 points
New this season from Long Trail is an American pale ale they call Stand Out. It has an inviting night sky label and a foamy, soapy head when poured. It also features light cloudiness, a pale orange-brown color, and an a hoppy nose. But while it’s light and drinkable, the taste falls flat fast. The panel noted a burst of citrus flavor on first taste, but it seemed to lose taste quickly, leaving a bland aftertaste. The panelists agreed that it wasn’t a bad beer, it just didn’t live up to its namesake. One panelist noted, “If I was in a bar, I’d be looking for something else for my next round…though I wouldn’t be against having another.”
(Appearance 6, Smell 7.67, Taste 18.67, Aftertaste 11.67, Drinkability 21)
Ballast Point Sculpin . . . 60 points
Jon chose this West Coast IPA for his Wild Card, because it has been receiving a good deal of hype in the trade news. Winning a gold medal in competition, Sculpin is hopped at five separate stages of brewing. It garnered attention, so the panel gave it a shot in semi-blind tasting. The panel enjoyed its slightly cloudy amber color and nice head. The aroma was faint with light hoppiness and definite orange notes. The orange overtones were pronounced further on first taste, with a slight hop bite. But the panel expected a deeper taste for an IPA. It seemed to get less enjoyable as the panel drank it, which put drinkability at average. One panelist noted that previous experience with the same beer was enjoyable, so while the overall score is average, it might still be worth trying.
(Appearance 8, Smell 5.67, Taste 18, Aftertaste 13, Drinkability 15.67)