Say what you want about Samuel Adams beers -- and it’s not hard to find brew fanatics who don’t have the highest opinion of the lagers and other popular varieties made by the American-owned brewery -- they are the most prominent company here attempting to get beer to be taken serious by the masses. (“Take pride in your beer” is one of their slogans.) That’s not always easy in the land of the watery pilsner and the less-filling light-beer 12-pack. But Sam Adams keeps pressing the idea, most recently with its new Barrel Room Collection, which features a number of 25.4 fluid ounce bottles, showcasing barrel-aged beers. The New World is smooth, creamy and yeasty (10% ABV). It’s a “Tripel,” which connotes a strong pale ale in the Belgian style. Despite the barrel-aging, the strength and the suggestion from Sam Adams that this is “funky,” I don’t think that fans of Chimay or Dogfish Head will find it terribly challenging.
The Thirteenth Hour Ale is perhaps a little closer to funky. It’s a dark, chocolatey ale, but not so heavy. Still there’s a kind of roasted concentrated gravy flavor to it, which is something you’ll either dig or find to be a little over-oaked and sun-dried. This one reminded me a little of sherry. It may be that it’s a beer meant for cooler weather.
Look for a Stony Brook Red, inspired by Belgian Reds and Flemish Oud Bruins. Samuel Adams is also introducing an American kriek, characterized by cherries and malt.
I’m slightly obsessed with Newcastle -- or Newcastle upon Tyne, as it’s called. Newcastle, as you probably know, is a city in northern England. People from Newcastle (and the general region) are known as Geordies. (The dialect of English of the region is also called Geordie.) Part of my obsession stems from my fondness for three things from there. The heavy metal band Venom was from there. And the British folk-rock band Lindisfarne were from there as well. Of course, Newcastle Brown Ale is from there, too. And Newcastle Brown Ale has launched a slightly less fancy new brew (Newcastle is supposed to be a no-nonsense place), but one that as charming as the barrel-aged stuff from Sam Adams. Summer beers are trend that seems to have taken off in the brew world in recent years. It’s a good trend, in my book, as summertime generally sees a surge in beer drinking. And most of us like something lighter and crisper for our backyard cookouts.
Newcastle’s limited edition Summer Ale is bright and hoppy, but the malt adds a chocolatey touch that one doesn’t expect from a beer as light as this.
One has to admire the press release from brand director Charles van Es, who says “Summer Ale is a refreshing, delicious beer meant to be enjoyed in the summer, when it’s hot outside. We hope you buy a lot of it.”