Winter, like every other time of the year, is perfect for beer. Besides beer being a certified health food, it’s a great complementary beverage for many hearty cold weather dishes. While some may prefer a good stiff whiskey concoction during the depths of our frozen hell, I find beer can be just as refreshing and quite a bit smoother to boot.
Back in the summer, I took a gander at Leinenkugel. This time around, I decided to review some imports. How did I choose these beers? Hell if I know. Basically, I went to a liquor store and bought some random beers that looked cool and had foreign-looking squiggles on them. Let’s see if these waaaaay out-of-town brews are actually drinkable.
Innis & Gunn
The I&G is an English Ale with a handsome translucent amber coloration. It had a thin head that left no lacing. The scent was a little skunky with an undercurrent of wood chips. There was definitely a weird combination of things going on in the aroma.
Once you get to the taste, you’ll forget all about the skunkiness. There was a strong ale flavor with faint hints of caramel. The finish was almost like a good single malt scotch. Turns out the beer is aged in oak barrels. That process gives Innis & Gunn a very unique edge. I’ve never tasted a beer quite like this before.
I was sorta surprised by just how polarizing this beer was when I drank it with some of my homies. For instance, my father thought it was quite good. On the other hand one buddy of mine, who is a knowledgeable beer fan, said it tasted like dirt. I think because this is such a different type of brew, with a fairly complex mix of flavors, that a lot of people can have really different reactions to it.
In any case, I liked this ale a lot. A savory drink for sure and definitely worth the three dollar and change price tag.
Up next was a German lager. Moosbacher poured out with a pale amber color and a very thin head. The foam quickly dissipated, leaving minimal lacing. The aroma was hoppy, but fairly subtle. The taste was smooth, with a wheat-ish flavor. It had a relatively short finish with a nearly nonexistent bite.
To be honest, I found this almost too polite. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the beer. But there was nothing terribly distinguished about it either. I realize that Moosbacher is supposed to be an easy-going beer. The thing is, a drinker can easily get a reasonable facsimile of this brew. A domestic lager would be less expensive than the $2.99 pint bottle I bought. More importantly, the domestic would probably present the same basic experience as the Moosbacher.
One thing I really dug? The flip top bottle was pretty cool. It gave the beer an ol’-skool charm. It wasn’t enough to win me over, but it did catch my eye enough to convince me to buy it in the first place. Maybe Moosbacher knows what they’re doing when it comes to presenting their product to the public.
Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout
After the Moosbacher came a dark English stout. Like darker than a ditch-digger’s ass levels of dark. Like Guinness on horse steroids kind of dark. Like Biblical blotting out the sun type of dark. Rad.
Topping off the black on black booze was a thin creamy head that left behind some lacing. More impressive was the aroma. I caught a very potent coffee scent with some chocolatey notes in there as well. There was some really subtle carrot cake notes going on too, which was unexpected to say the least. Pretty complex stuff to be sure. This beer had me all kinds of twisted up, but in a good way.
As for the taste, there was a lot to like with the Samuel Smith. Not surprisingly, the smokey oats dominated this brew. The malty coffee aftertaste was strong, but not obnoxious at all. This is going to sound a little strange, but I almost got a gourmet frozen coffee vibe, which was pretty cool.
I really dug this beer. I’m not a coffee drinker, but the Oatmeal Stout’s java feel was neat as hell. It’s not a pounding beer at all, but then again, it’s not designed for that. Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout was made for a more drawn-out enjoyment.
In fact, I’d say this is the best stout I’ve ever had.
Deal with that, Guinness.
Schneider Aventinus Weizen Eisbock
I’ve never had an eisbock before, so this was a new sort of brew for me.
The Aventinus poured out dark, with some rosey pigmentation around the edges. It was a syrupy pour as well, almost like a thin cough medicine. The beige head was thick and foamy, but went away quick. I didn’t see much lacing. The aroma was malty, but with more than a few fruit notes in there as well. It was hard to nail down exactly what’s happening with the aroma on this eisbock.
The flavor was a really odd mix. There was a full banana presence up front, with hints of cinnamon too. It was a little bitter at the end, with a touch of coffee. It’s not something I was entirely used to, but it was not unpleasant either. The Aventinus is a beer that grows on you as you drink it. Maybe because three quarters of the way through it, you’re three quarters loaded.
This is a very full bodied beer. At 12% alcohol, this isn’t a beer for the dieters. At 12% alcohol, this could be dangerous if you think you’re just gonna pound a sixer and roll like it’s nothing. At 12% alcohol, the Aventinus also kicks major ass. What we have on our hands is a rich brew that you can happily take for a leisurely stroll down Tipsy-n-Chuckling Lane and easily meander straight on through to Shitfaced Boulevard and then finally end up on BangingLastCallBroads Street in no time flat.
Newcastle Brown Ale
Surprise surprise; ’twas a British brown ale I was a-drinkin’. I had seen this beer at bars and restaurants quite often but never got around to trying it. I figured this was a good time to take this import for spin.
Funny thing is that the Ale was brown like a soda–not beerish at all–with a lot of bubbles hanging around in the brew. The clear glass bottle gave it a definite Coca-Cola vibe. Unlike a soft drink the Newcastle poured like a beer and left a thick head. After a quick dissolve, the foam hung around the edge of the glass for a while.
The aroma was faintly hoppy. Maybe there was some malted notes going on here; I couldn’t quite tell. As far as the taste, I caught some oats up front and a slight metallic after-taste. Not horrible, but at the same time not terribly exciting.
The Newcastle Brown Ale is not a bad beer. If you found this on tap at a bar, you could do a lot worse than this. If you had to have an import, this wouldn’t kill you. On the other hand, unless this is your beer there’s not much going on with this one. The Ale is a nice slam-it-down beer, with a little British character thrown in to the mix, but not so fantastic that you absolutely must try it.
Here we have a German Oktoberfest brew with a pale opaque bronze color and a very thin head. If you were looking for some lacing, this had very little. The aroma was quite hoppy. I couldn’t pick up much else besides the hops.
The taste was metallic; we’re talking a full-on aluminum start. The finish was skunky. It was a sturdy brew for sure, but with nothing else going on to mitigate the tinny flavor, I found it pretty mediocre.
The one good factor with the Weihenstephaner Festbier is the pleasantly high inebriation quotient. I only had one of these things, but I was a little wobbly just the same. A few of these would get the average drinker drunk with relative ease.
Whether it was via dumb luck or divine intervention, my brainless grabbing of random beers turned up more winners than losers. Each batch of suds had it’s own unique character. No brew tasted like the other, which is always cool. Moreover, all these imports did exactly what a beer is supposed to do, which is to get the drinker intoxicated.
The real question isn’t whether these beers can get a person drunk. It’s how enjoyable the beer makes the ride to inebriation. Here’s where we can make some definite conclusions.
Of the beers I sampled, only the Festbier was actually unpleasant to taste. The metallic flavor was disappointing, even as the beer was getting me tipsy. If you drank two of these, you would stop noticing the taste by about the end of the second bottle. But fighting through that first one isn’t for novice beer aficionados. Or maybe only amateur drinkers should be forced to drink this stuff as they don’t know any better. Whatever the case, I advise you to be careful with the Festbier.
The Newcastle Ale and the Moosbacher Lager were both decent. But there was nothing in these two drinks that grabbed your attention. As a person who normally likes lagers, the Moosbacher just felt very ho-hum to me. When it came to the Ale, the soda feel got in my head a little. You could easily slam this beer while hanging out with friends, but that’s pretty much it.
Moving on to the Eisbock, this was a little unusual for me as I had never had this kind of beer before. I’d gladly have another. The Aventinus is full-bodied and uncompromising. It aims to fuck your shit up and does just that with extreme prejudice, while at the same time giving you some different flavors and textures to boot. It’s not for everyone, but it’s definitely worth a try.
I was mightily impressed with the Innis & Gunn as well. The combination of a complex beginning taste with the scotch ending was pretty awesome. I suppose you can get the same thing from a boilermaker, but the transition between the two flavors was seamless. We got a real winner on our hands with the I & G.
For my tastes, the best of this very divergent bunch was the Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout. This is gonna sound like heresy to some people, but Samuel Smith out-Guinnessed Guinness. Don’t get it twisted; Guinness is damn good. But the Oatmeal Stout was just better. It had a more complex flavor, a richer aroma and was smoother than Guinness. If you like stouts, this is a must-try brew. If you just like beer in general, this English offering creates a very cool vibe. It can be a fine complimentary piece for a hearty dinner or drank all by itself. You really can’t go wrong with the Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout.