Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Local Maker Stands Tall in Taste Testing

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Local Maker Stands Tall in Taste Testing

Article excerpt

Byline: Ed Stansel & Roger Bull

It was a tasting meant to round up what's been a very good year in the world of beer. A bit of chocolate, a few other local offerings and finished off by a very special beer: Samuel Adams Utopias.

And it was all consumed by the official Amber Waves tasting panel (motto: Casual reading for you, a way of life for us.)

First, there's chocolate ...

The Samuel Smith's Organic Chocolate Stout was everyone's top pick. One whiff and you know you're dealing with chocolate. But there's a nice stout beneath the rich cocoa, and it comes through. Bittersweet chocolate notes linger after the swallow. It would go great with a rich, chocolatey dessert. But it's plenty good for just sipping by itself.

We also tried the Terrapin Moo-Hoo Chocolate Milk Stout, a seasonal brewed in Athens, Ga., with cacao nibs and shells. It's lighter-bodied than the Samuel Smith, but it has a nice milk chocolate aroma and flavor, sweet with a little bitterness and roast kicking in at the end.

Then there was another Terrapin beer we were looking forward to trying, the Side Project Liquid Bliss. It's a porter brewed with peanut butter and chocolate, with 100 pounds of green boiled peanuts - shell and all - added at the end of fermentation. But our tasters were disappointed. The aroma and flavor of boiled peanuts was hard to get past, and neither the chocolate nor peanut butter was noticeable.

We will confess to starting off the session with Slammin' Sam, a beer that recently debuted at World Golf Village and other golf destinations. We didn't have much expectation for what is billed as a premium lager. And those expectations were met: Almost no flavor at all other than a bit of corny sweetness and a light graininess. It might be a decent golf beer, assuming you're really there to play golf.

We also tried two beers from Pinglehead Brewing Co., the brewing operation of Brewer's Pizza in Orange Park.

Ambitious Monk Belgian Style Tripel is Pinglehead's first bottled beer - just 500 were hand-bottled and went on sale last week. The taste is there, spicy and fruity with a smooth alcohol warming. But our bottle could have used more carbonation to help cut the sweetness and give it the big, rocky head we expect in a tripel. We've had it before on tap at Brewer's and didn't have that problem.

Head East Breakfast Ale, on the other hand, is outrageously good. It's a big, rich and complex beer made with locally roasted coffee from Bold Bean, along with vanilla beans, cinnamon, nutmeg and oatmeal. The spices are evident, particularly the nutmeg, though the coffee is fairly hidden. An excellent beer, often available on tap at Brewer's. At 9.3 percent alcohol, though, you'll want to be careful.

On to the Utopias.

Technically, it's a beer. …

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