Tasting Notes with Jim Beauregard: Jim looks back at his favorite beers of 2017

By JIM BEAUREGARD December 19. 2017 6:03PM

For the last two columns of this year, I want to take a few moments to recap some of the good stuff.

This week we’ll revisit some of the best beer that has been presented here this year, next week a few of the best wines. They are not in any particular order, just consider them all very good.

Let’s get right down to business:

Sierra Nevada 2017 Beer Camp Golden IPA: Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, Chico, Calif.; 50 IBUs, 6.5% ABV.

You can always count on Sierra Nevada to produce a flavorful and well-made beer, whatever its particular incarnation might be. This time we have a beer with wheat at its base. It has a large head, yellow-gold beer, low malt and high hops with a nose that bursts forth with citrus, lemon, lime, some geranium notes and a bit of pine. It is dry, with good bitterness and acidity, medium alcohol that is also well-integrated, medium body and medium-plus flavor intensity that reflects the nose. I’ll end this note with a confession: I am not typically a wheat beer fan, but this is one that I would buy without hesitation.

Allagash Tripel Ale: Allagash Brewing Company, Portland Maine; 9.0% alcohol by volume (750 mL bottle, $8.99 at Market Basket).

Traditionally, Belgian Tripels have huge heads, and this one is no exception: When you pour, the head takes up at least a third of the glass, and is slightly off-white in color. The beer is gold/amber with relatively low malt and fairly high hops, the nose sending forth citrus, lemon, herbs and spices. On the palate it is dry, consistent with the style, of medium bitterness and acidity, medium-plus alcohol, which may place it a little out of balance initially. Medium body, with a silky texture and medium-plus flavor intensity which includes hops and malt, the former dominating and reflecting the nose along with some caramel flavors from the malt. Medium-long finish. The recommended serving temperature is 40 to 50 degrees.

La Fin du Monde: Unibroue, Chambly, Quebec. 9% abv, IBU 19.

Huge, creamy off-white head that lasts right through to the end. Cloudy gold-amber beer, cloudy due to the bottle re-fermentation. The nose has some hints of malt, relatively stronger in hops, with both fruit and spice aromas. The beer itself is dry, with medium bitterness, medium acidity and medium carbonation. The alcohol is medium plus but is very well integrated into the blend. It is medium bodied with a silky texture and medium – plus flavor intensity that includes citrus, lemon, orange blossom and spice. The spice is relatively mild, it’s mostly a fruit forward profile, very flavorful. Medium – plus length finish that holds the flavors right through to the end. Very good.

Samuel Adams Oktoberfest: Marzen style beer. Boston Brewing Co. 5.3% ABV, 16 IBUs.

Glowing amber color with a just off-white head. The nose is clearly malty though with a hint of hops. The palate is well-balanced and well integrated, reflecting the Tettnang Tettnanger and Hallertau Mittelfrüh noble hops, the flavors include grain, caramel, and just a very slight citrus note in the background. The finish is long and pleasant. This one is also available in cans and if you are having an Oktoberfest party, you will want to invite this one.

Peak Brewing Company Espresso Amber: Certified USDA organic, ale with organic coffee. Peak Brewing Co., Portland, Maine. 22 IBUs, 6.8% ABV.

So, we are looking at a deep amber-colored ale, in the IPA ballpark, maybe a double IPA, a light tan head, diminishing over time, creamy but with bubbles popping out here and there. The first thing you notice on the nose is that it shouts espresso, and if you are coffee lover you’ll find that a very pleasing note.

If your taste doesn’t extend to very dark Italian coffees, or, if you prefer hoppy beers, stop now and look elsewhere. If, however, this is right up your alley, you will not be disappointed, and, if you give the nose a minute or so to open up, you will also find the malt flavors behind it, which range from bread to toast, along with some roasted notes, all blending in a very nice combination.

This is a dry beer, palate, with medium bitterness and acidity, well-balanced alcohol and medium body, with medium texture but a flavor profile that is remarkably intense, carrying the espresso right through to the finish. Not quite as insistently, but definitely there, is lots of flavor from the Munich malt. This is a beer that holds the flavors, as well as the intensity, right through a very long finish. It will stay with you long after you swallow. You can pair this with anything that has coffee flavors in it like coffee cakes for dessert. Delicious.

Orval Trappist Ale: Brasserie D’Orval, Belgium. 6.9% ABV. Yes, we shall end on a Belgian note. Orval is becoming more readily available in New Hampshire and this is a very good thing.

It is a classic Belgian ale, in the tripel ballpark, with a huge just ever so slightly off-white head over a deep golden ale, very rich gold hue. The nose carries aromas of both hops and malt, as well as some good fruit notes.

If you give the head a couple of minutes to die down before you take a sip, you’ll be greeted with a fairly bitter and acidic beer that makes your mouth water, with well-integrated alcohol medium body and flavor that packs a punch, including lemon, lemongrass, just a hint of lime, I think there’s a hint of geranium in there somewhere too, as well as some herbal notes to the back of your mouth, and along the way to the finish, hints of pine, as well as some burnt and nutty notes. In other words, lots and lots going on, and well worth the price of admission.

Contact wine, beer and obsessive list compiler Jim Beauregard at tastingnotesnh@aol.com


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