Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Urban Farm Fermentory Baby Jimmy

For this review, I'll be moving down the block to Urban Farm Fermentory. They're located just down the street from the producers of the previous two products I've reviewed. (Tandem Coffee Roasters & Rising Tide Brewery). Urban Farm makes many kombuchas, and I'm quite a fan of their ginger one. But I have their cask aged cider in front of me tonight.

It pours like a soda with a quickly rising fizz that sparkles so much that it could make you sneeze if you sip it too soon. But it settles quickly with no sort of 'head' like a beer. The Baby Jimmy's nose reminds me of a chardonnay because it consists of a crisp fruit and oak. Once on your tongue, the oak character becomes more of an oak-vanilla. This matches well to the apples chosen because it's tart, crisp, and slightly acidic like a fresh McIntosh apple. After swallowing a dry reminder of the oak is what's left in your mouth. The dryness and tartness harmonize well, and it's easy to drink unlike other things so dry.

Baby Jimmy is a sipping drink in my opinion, and I recommend pouring this in a wine glass or chalice instead of a pint glass to get a better sense of the smell. Urban Farm has done a fine job on it and I'm grading it a B (good) for bringing the sharply tart apple to the round and dry oak. If you enjoy a nice pinot gris or sauvignon blanc white wine, I'd seek this one out.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Tandem Coffee Roasters Lake House Blend

I've brought my focus upon the local coffee roasting scene for this review. Tandem Coffee is the newest coffee roaster in Portland, ME, being only 2 months old from when this review was written. Even though Tandem Coffee mostly sells single origin beans, I'm sipping their Lake House Blend this morning and here are my thoughts:

The first thing my nose detects is an earthly-nutty tone, which comes back later on the tongue, but not in a dark way at all. Once past the lips things are very smooth and velvety with no acidic notes at all. Instead almond nuts are accompanied with a fruity (almost "cherry") note, and a bit of honey-like sweetness. Their is a slight floral after-tone as well. I found some of this palate comes out more with cream, which I usually never add.

Please don't think Tandem Coffee's house blend is a flavored coffee at all. They're just showing what can be in a coffee bean without making it too dark! This makes the Lake House Blend a great choice for Tandem's staple house blend, because here in Portland there's a lot of coffee going around. In my book it's a solid B (good) and will be a choice of mine when I want to add a variety to my typical darker choices of beans. I'm sure many will make it their everyday choice.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Rising Tide Tempest

Beer and Coffee are Portland's biggest local drink interests, with brewers and roasters creating names that have traveled well beyond the Maine state. This review is about a porter that's from a correlation of Rising Tide Brewing Company, and Bard Coffee: The Tempest. Let's see what Rising Tide can do with a fine bean from Bard.

This beer poured impressively in my pint glass with a light foaming head, and a bit of carbonation seen on the walls. The aura given off of the head wasn't of brewed coffee, but of coffee beans. On the tongue the first thing noticed is the carbonation leaving a tingle of a texture, but the dark roast coffee comes right after and stays throughout the rest of the experience. Like the scent, it's more of beans but not a brewed coffee because this part is not bitter at all. Semi-sweet malts in a dark-chocolate way exist on the palate too, working their way through the initial coffee and carbonation elements after a few sips. It's mid-weight body makes the Tempest very easy to drink in comparison to other porters, even with the coffee and chocolate aspects.

The Tempest isn't the dark beer that will put hair on your chest, (despite the strong palate), because of how well the chords played by Rising Tide's Tempest play together. It's an A (excellent) in my book and will be a common choice of mine when I want something to sip at the end of the day. I hope it becomes a staple on the shelves of fine beer selections.

Friday, October 26, 2012

CiderMaker: Hard Apple Cider

Honey and apples both seem to have a taste that's exclusive to only a few natural things on earth. A sweetness that can't be found in any candy. Their's even an apple cultivar that has a title that connects the two as well: Honeycrisp. Tonight I'm sipping on a glass of CiderMaker: Hard Apple Cider which is a new release from Maine Mead Works. Apparently it's not a new concoction because it's been served under another's label only on tap. It'll be available on many shelves soon, and here's what you can expect.

The first sip I took of this was quite a surprise, because it's nothing like other hard ciders sold in a 6-pack. It's more like biting into a freshly picked apple. The scent on your nose is light but the happenings in the mouth can be described as zesty, crisp, and with apples of course. What makes this zesty and crisp is the sparkle it gives on your tongue in an almost citrus way without the bitterness. If it was only my tongue sensing this, I could mistake this as carbonated. The crispness matches well with the apple palate that leans towards the lighter kind without much bitter.

I don't believe I'd want to have this on tap because it would add bubbles and make it overly crisp. Brittle and dry perhaps? So shelves in Maine should be stocking half-gallon bottles of this cider, or you can go straight to Maine Mead Works and get a bottle that you can bring back to re-fill. An A (excellent) in my book for thinking outside of the bottles of other hard ciders. Sweet in that natural way.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Dobrá Tea Korean Nok Cha

Portland Maine is quite well known around town to be full of fine coffee with a roaster right in town and many coffee shops making Starbucks look mediocre. Dobrá Tea is one of only a few places in and around Portland specializing in tea, and thankfully because they're covering that base well. This is my first review of their products.

Dobrá Tea doesn't have any in-house blends of tea because they try hard to keep things to their origins. So for this post, I'll be reviewing their Korean Nok Cha. The first impression it gave me was green in an earthy way. After some further interpretation a round nutty taste is what I found to make the earthy hue. The body of this ties in with these tastes quite well, and can be described as whole, round and buttery. It's so noticeable it almost seems to be a taste, not just a texture.

Dobrá Tea's menu uses the adjective 'oceanic' to tie all these things together. This may not seem what a green-earthy-nutty tea may be, but this is an appropriate word for the taste given. Somehow it has a tone of the ocean if you were a mile or two from it. It could be because these leaves are grown on the coast. It is a solid B (good) in my book and I will certainly have it again.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Teavana Himalayan Majestic

This is a rather expensive tea compared to Teavana's other options, but this is due to it's exotic origins as labeled in it's title. I've often wondered what factors to the producing plants of many drinks in different locations define a region's trends? There will always be too many to bother trying to figure out, so let's just find out what Nepal's black tea is like.

What I thought of first once this tea passed my lips is Darjeeling because this is a full flavored and thin bodied tea, but not like a breakfast tea. (Oolong tea characteristics are usually similar as well). It's flavor is a light floralness but also a musky smoke. It doesn't taste roasted at all though, and makes me think of a an evening tea instead of a brisk morning choice. There is a slight bitterness to it that I enjoy, but this is an incredibly smooth tea too.

An interesting combination of flavors made me grade this a B (good) with little contemplation. I recommend this tea to anyone who enjoys green gunpowder teas because it has a similar relaxing frequency, and if you enjoy the gunpowder's effect, you'll enjoy this as well.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Maine Mead Works HoneyMaker Lavender Mead

Lavender and honey. Sounds like a relaxing and intuitive combination you'd find in an enchanted forest, doesn't it? You won't have to go that far for it though, because Maine Mead Works has a lavender flavored mead in their lineup. Is it worthy of accompanying you in your picnic-expedition to the tranquil forest grove though? Read on and find out.

Fair is a good word for this mead because it has a pleasantly light aroma and taste that's a bouquet. Lavender and the honey are apparent of course, but other things not in the title are appearing too. Light crisp fruits of different varieties (like pineapple) are everywhere but don't overpower the non-stereotypical lavender taste. I say non-stereotypical because the lavender has a "peppery" accent that isn't anything like perfume. The body to the mead isn't light though, it's actually well rounded.

It's not hard to drink at all, and I'm leaving Maine Mead Work's Lavender Mead with a A (excellent) because it's not one you just intuitively put down. You start with a few sips that give you the expected sweet and floral notes, but that penetrating and unexpected aspect that's somehow lavender requires your attention. A great way to end a meal.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Sebago Trekker Pale Ale

At the time of this review, the Trekker Pale Ale is the Sebago Brewing Company's newest release. It's a part of their single batch series and their fundraiser for the Trek Across Maine (an American Lung Association support). It was created at the event "Brewing for a Cause" where people who purchased tickets helped to create this concoction. Let's explore their experiment's taste:

If I had never seen the title of this defining it as a pale ale, I could have mistaken it for an IPA. It pours a creamy head that visualizes a pale ale (not as much lacing), but as soon as your other senses approach it things go the IPA way. You immediately smell hops on the more citrus side compared to Sebago's Frye's Leap IPA. There's also an interesting pine hue to the hops. If you're paying enough attention you can smell the caramel-malt going on behind the hops though. On your tongue you're brought back to the IPA effect of a tingling and citrusy-crisp hops, but the malt notes are a bit stronger. The body is on the rounder side and it ends with both aspects of IPA and pale ale once swallowed. A bitter kick and the malty dry.

This isn't just a classic pale ale, but an American pale ale due to the amount of hops used. I find it quite appropriate due to the title's cause and I will be supporting the event with this choice in my pint glass. It deserves the B (good) because of the tastes going on with some intensity but balance. I'd like to point out that the combination used makes this quite easy to drink as well. In addition to enjoying the taste, it feels good to "Drink for a Cause".

Saturday, June 2, 2012

J. Lohr Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon '10

My aunt just made a statement on Facebook: "Rainy days can be so Productive!" I'd like to point out that a rainy day is perfect for a cabernet with cheese and crackers. Rest is very productive for the future as well, so don't ever feel bad for enjoying such. So today I'm reviewing J. Lohr's Seven Oaks Cabernet on this rainy day.

The nose on this wine is a bouquet that's really hard to define the flowers on. The tannins are strong even after a good aeration, but you can tell dark fruits are going to be a big note in this experience. Once on your tongue things become more clear though. The fruits involved on the tastes are plum, dark unpitted cherries, and a certain aspect of blueberries. Being a Mainer I can't say this hue of the spectrum is exactly like the palate of a blueberry, because it doesn't have the exact sweetness signature in my state's fruit. It's really just the blue part of it. Besides fruits, there's also a velvety vanilla going on that compliments the body quite well. I'll end my tasting notes by saying the body is full but not 'round'. (Round being the feel of a sherry or stout beer.)

I'd make a different choice if I wanted the "dark side" (coffee or chocolate notes) of a cabernet, but J. Lohr Seven Oaks is a fine example of California cabernets and will be a frequent choice of mine when looking for the fruitier side of this grape. I'm giving it a B (good) because of this standard it set and because Seven Oaks is a fine choice for not just a rainy day, but any day.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

New Age White

Wow! I don't know about where you are or when you read this, but it's defiantly summer here. Hot, humid, and sunny. After a good workout and discovering I didn't have a sauvignon blanc, I had to go to the local wine shop. My taste buds simply wouldn't compromise for a belgain white beer or half & half (iced tea & lemonade). Note: What I chose is only 10% sauvignon blanc and was shuffled in with South American crisp whites. Read on and you'll see why Quintessential Wines New Age White goes there.

The nose smells strongly of a yellow fruit salad (pineapple, mango, lemon) with a secondary clover honey-like sweetness. It tingles with the sparkle once in your mouth, which works fantastically with the super sweet notes that reappear from the aroma. It is a little citrus dry once swallowed, but this doesn't make it harder to drink at all and just helps keep a balance with the sweetness. Not the same crisp as sauvignon blanc but it covered the base I needed.

I've heard of this wine being served as something like cocktails, and I can't wait to try after the glass I'm working on to review the bottle: Poured over ice with a touch of lime. I'll let readers review that for themselves and leave the New Age White with a B (good) because it's easy to enjoy and not too sugary sweet. Great choice for a party.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Chimay Grande Réserve

Tonight's luxurious taste is from Chimay, a brewery that's been around for quite some time in a monastery in Belgium. They make fine cheeses as well but only their blue labeled Grande Réserve sits in front of me, waiting to be tasted. I'm sure monks making beer and cheese do their best to make it taste great, so lets see what they think makes a beer desirable.

It has a very foamy head that'll leave you with a mustache if you don't give it some time to settle, and like many Belgium ales it has a lot of yeast. In addition to the wheat scent there's a combination of clove, pepper, and dark fruits. On the tongue the fruit becomes a little more along the lines of apples though. Sweetened malts are strong on the tongue and mostly overlap any taste of the yeast. You can taste the crisp and dry aspect of the yeast though. It finishes with a dry "bite" (like some wines) and caramelized overtone that relates to the fruits on the nose and malts tasted.

It isn't the smoothest Belgium ale I've had, or even one with exclusive tastes, but I am impressed by it. This is because the order of the classic tastes and balance of them makes for a very enjoyable experience. I'm ok with it not being smooth to swallow because I want to keep it in my mouth until it's warm, not chug it. A (excellent).

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Teavana Honeybush Vanilla

At the social tea parties I've been attending recently Teavana has been a very popular choice, and I noticed I haven't done any of their products in a long time! So tonight I've chosen to relax with and write about their Honeybush Vanilla herbal tea. I'd like to start by noting that my sense's attention was caught before water even touched the tea. It would make a fantastic potpourri.

Don't think the title labels the taste of this tea though because if you want a dessert level of sweetness you'll have to add some sweetener. The tea is actually quite malty and the vanilla isn't vanilla extract, but vanilla beans! This malty aspect has an overtone of walnuts and gives the body a round feel. There is a touch of sweetness to this tea in the taste of a clover honey. The sweetness and malty aspects are the same element in the taste, and the true vanilla is most sensed in the aura and aftertaste.

This is not what I would expect from a tea with such a name, but I doubt a honey and vanilla-extract tea would be best for a loose leaf tea. As a hot tea I'm grading it with C (decent), but cold brings out more of a balance with a stronger vanilla. And perhaps it could blend with others to taste as an A?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Katahdin Specialty Coffee Maine Whoopie Pie

It would be silly of someone to ask "where is this made?", even if it didn't say Maine. Katahdin and whoopie pie should give it away alone because one is a famous location in Maine, and the other is the official Maine treat! This morning I decided to sip Katahdin Specialty Coffee's Maine Whoopie Pie coffee because we just had a true nor'easter, another Maine trademark.

You can tell this isn't any typical coffee with just your nose. Something robust is happening, but not just a conventional coffee. Bringing this up to your lips fills you in on this secret: Chocolate, which is a major element in whoopie pies. There is some sweetener to this chocolate flavor, but not at the same level as many other flavored coffees. The coffee taste itself isn't a dark roast or some rare import, but probably Colombian. Balance in body and taste with little acidity. Good choice to match the chocolate.

This combo isn't your typical big-name chocolate flavored coffee because it's not sweet in the same sugary way either. This fit's Maine because Mainers are strong and sweet, but in an unorthodox way. I have to leave this with a C (decent) because it's a simple blend and if coffee is my focus of the morning I'd probably choose a bean with many more levels. (Like Katahdin's Baxter Blend). If it's an un-typical coffee occurrence, it could be best though. Example: with a desert or a coffee cake.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Bull Jagger Original No. 19 Baltic Porter

Bull Jagger has released their first opaque brew recently, the No. 19 Baltic Porter. It would seem like quite a jump in styles from their lager wouldn't it? Well I found out the process isn't as different as you would think, but I'm not writing about that. You can contact the brewer if you would like to know technical details of the process. I'm writing about the taste.

The first thing my tongue noticed is the sweetness of the malt, which a friend characterized as a "fruitiness". This is a good adjective for saying it has an upfront sweetness unlike like sugar. Don't think that there's any fruit notes on the palate though. The rest is quite perplexing but with some hard thought and slow sips (done with extreme enjoyment), I found wheat/yeast, rye, and barley which is a seasoning crisp for tastes. It works very well together. These notes of spice imperceptibly convey to the liquid body sensations of a citric dry that leaves a tingle. Despite all this extreme taste and an ABV of 8%, it's very smooth to drink.

This is not the type of beer you choose to compliment a robust beef stew, you choose your dinner recipe to compliment this beer. This is because it'll be the focus of your taste buds luxurious experience. Undoubtedly an A (excellent).

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Maine Mead Works HoneyMaker Dry Hopped Mead

Hops is an ingredient that I usually relate to beers, but tonight I have a wine-aisle product with it. I've done a few other Maine Mead Works meads before this, lavender and apple cyser, but I think this'll be quite a different experience than the others because of the hops. Read on to find out.

Putting my nose up to my glass reminds me that hops is actually a herb instead of a strong citrus (unlike an IPA's accent). Bringing this liquid past your lips brings the crisp hues to your tongue as well though. The body is round but I wouldn't say bold, and this works very interestingly with the zest. The taste of honey exists here too, but it's along the lines of clover instead of bee's. A subtle sweet that makes it quite easy to drink. Think of certain white wine's sweet.

I wish I had thought of honey and hops, because they match so well in an unexpected way. It's an A (excellent) in my book because of the equilibrium created. It doesn't have a huge variety of tastes, but there are many 'levels' of them. Adding something would throw it all off. Don't change the recipe Maine Mead Works.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Martinshof Zweigelt 2009

Weingut Martinshof is an Austrian winery that's hard for me to pronounce. Today my review is for their 2009 zweigelt grape that's been sitting on my wine rack for awhile but have yet to try. I found a local specialty shop has this particular bottle on sale, so I decided I'd taste it for the first time before going back to get more bottles. Read on to see if it would be a good deal:

The lighter and less opaque color of this wine corresponded with how it acted on my tongue. Cherry and raspberry are the main focus with this drink on the palate, and the nose embraces the fruity theme as well. There aren't any layers of flavors or overtones though, and you're left with a strong acidic ending. It's also quite fizzy for a red wine.

It is quite easy to drink and there aren't any unlikable notes, but I'm leaving it with a C (decent) because I wouldn't chose this bottle to enjoy as the focus of my taste bud treat. It does supplement a pot luck dinner or social event with many different taste buds because of how easy it is to drink. I'll be going back to pick up a few for this.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Bull Jagger Portland Lager

I was a bit confused when I first saw this bottle. A lager made in Portland, ME? After I had to looked into this, and I found out that this was from a new brewery called Bull Jagger. I must say I like their approach to keeping the classic micro-brewery standards but experimenting with brews that aren't just what everyone else has in their variety pack. Only one other brewer in Maine makes a lager.

Poured into the glass it looks like an ale instead of a lager because of the haziness. Once the head hits your lips you're reminded of it's category though, because it's on the fizzy side and the sweet aroma. I would almost say the combo of crisp and sweet is citrus, but it is undoubtedly not because these two elements are defined in their own separate ways. On the tongue the sweetness stays but malt, hops, and yeast come well ahead of it in potency. It's not an intense IPA or pale ale with these, but you can feel it on your tongue as well as taste it. The body is 'sparkling' too, but not to the extent of canned lagers though.

Bull Jagger will be coming out with another brew soon, that has quite a bit of my attention. Porter with rye. Even though it was not in bottling condition, I was quite impressed with the sample and can't wait to add it here with a review. Don't wait for this release to give them a try though! the Portland Lager is a step out of the box with the high standards of Maine brewing kept and I'm giving it a solid B (good).

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Katahdin Specialty Coffee Baxter Blend (New)

Katahdin Specialty Coffee just recently redesigned their labels and website to a style that fits the vibe of Mt. Katahdin's view. They've told me that they just recently upgraded the Baxter Blend as well! So as I enjoy a massive mug of it to compliment my morning, I'll share the tastes it gives and my thoughts. Before I even sip, I can smell they roasted it darker than before.

After passing my lips a few times I also discovered it's an easy bean to digest as well with less acidity. It is quite full bodied too. 'Hearty' is the ideal adjective for this aspect. On the tongue you can taste the nutty element described in the previous version's review but smoky has a much stronger aspect. It's not smoky like a Sumatra coffee bean (earthy-smoky), but a classic french roast instead. Despite this being the strongest taste it won't put hair on your chest because it's not robust in a blunt way with the smoke. It ends with a long and charming aftertaste restating the tastes.

Certainly an improvement from the previous Baxter Blend and I highly recommend to start your work day. This is because it won't hold you back from sipping and getting your caffeine fix, but you're not compromising the other way you enjoy a coffee: The taste. An unmistakable B (good).

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Blason de Bourgogne Montagny 1er Cru 2009

While browsing the wines at a place I visit often, someone who was taking notes on inventory was eager to point this wine out to me. A french wine from a region famous for the products of it's grapes. It was at a fine price and they had just received it, so I though it would be a good one to share my thoughts on.

It doesn't say on the front label, but this Blason is one of their chardonnays that's been oak aged. Don't assume it'll be like many other oak chardonnays because many things are going on. On the nose there's the pear and almonds like many chardonnays but the aura is also dry in a chalky way, not sharp or crisp. I think this works better for the many things happening on my tongue.

One of the first things I noticed about the palate is a crisp pear on the tip of my tongue that also has an acidity accompanying it. After a second you get a mineral note as well which is indistinguishable from the soft and round body. Last but not least you get a liquorice note on the aftertaste that appears once your tongue gets warm again. All these aspects last for awhile.

Wow, unique. I don't hesitate to give this an A (excellent), and I'll be keeping this one always available on my wine rack.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Bard Coffee Costa Rica Pepe Naranjo Honey-Processed Microlot

Stopping in at Bard Coffee I had planned on getting an americano because I like a robust cup of joe and I can't make americanos at home. But when I saw the description of this bean on the single origins menu, I had to try it because I've never had a honey-processed coffee bean. FYI: Most of the title is just describing the origin.

Now I knew I was in for something far from robust because of the honey and central american origins, but please don't think this is a silly artificially flavored coffee. The honey here isn't making a sugar sweet note actually but making the body round and working against the acidity. There is a slight honey taste as well. More noticeable on the palate is the clean Costa Rica bean though. Still strong in the coffee taste.

The taste followed through with the title in being your not so average cup-o-joe. It's not a bean I'd like to have a stash of at home all the time because I'm actually a fan of certain hues of coffee acid and smoky suggestions. I'ts a solid B (good) on my taste scale and I highly recommend to people who get stomach aches from coffee.