Beer Profile: Southern Tier’s Manhattan Ale

Profiled by Ken Carman

 I had to write this after I got home, had supper and did several other things, so apologies in advance for anything I missed. The delay immediately caused one snafu: I had thought it was named “Martini,” but with a little research I am sure it was Manhattan Ale. Which makes more sense: only because Martini made no sense at all. Manhattan? Well, the ingredients are similar, but not the same by any means. No problem with that: whatever it takes to make a great quaff. This is what they did and beyond.
 It looks like 10W-40 in a glass: sure as hell doesn’t taste like it. No head, slight carbonation at best: it doesn’t need either. The abv and bourbon barrelling probably took care of that.
 If you’re looking for a high grav sipper with lots of flavor, this is it. Closing in on almost but not quite light brown, this dirty amber brew has great clarity. Nirvana for a high gravity lover. No head: with the barreling, the gravity, the surface tension due to that gravity, I wasn’t expecting much. Light carbonation: doesn’t need much. Heavy carbonation would ruin the experience.
 The aroma is like the flavor: light rum barreling, way in the background caramel, extremely light hopping: so light it’s hard to discern. Perhaps just a hint of herbal, but not enough to label. The flavor follows aroma plus MA finishes confusing. Slight dry and slight sweet at each sip it is complex and exciting, yet demands you do so slowly: which is good because this could really kick you into Never Neverland. Came in an 8oz glass: praise the beer gods because it was my one drink before I popped over the hill to home.
 No Munich, maybe a hint of Maris Otter and caramel malt(s), otherwise this is pure pale and a hell of a lot of it. Hint sweet. The bourbon barrel is more evident in flavor than aroma, but that’s not all that hefty either. It’s a supporting actor to the star of the “heft:” malt. Any malt not pale stays mostly off stage. Maybe a hint of pilsner? Aftertaste/finish is, of course, sweet malt, and a hint of bourbon. The cherry, orange peel and coriander are way off stage. They just provide a great background. Coriander close to absent.
 If I had to blindly guess the style: American Strong Ale. If not that: Barleywine: a bit more Brit than American due to low hopping. But I lean more towards a barreled American Strong. (I found out after I typed most of the review I was right.)
 Mouthfeel is full, malty, vinous; like a glass of hefty wort. The alcohol is obviously high but not hot, not intrusive: it lingers like a maid or butler off to the side or to the back of the stage while the basic malt is in the spot light. (At 14.1 that’s brew TALENT!) Hint of caramel at best. I’m wonder if the mash stuck on this one it’s so malty.
 Thanks to Matt and Screamen Eagle for this delightful quaff. I’ve had a lot of great beers at this 50 tap Inlet brew mecca, but this may qualify as one of the best. The highest rating I’ve EVER given a beer, and I’m a somewhat high grav pro having run a high grav mostly competition for 5 years and a beer tasting focusing in on high grav since 2006. BTW, I probably will NEVER give a 5, just like giving a 50 in a competition may never happen. To get there I need to die and go to the perfect afterlife!
 This brew is exquisite.

 90 at Rate Beer, 70 for style. 4.04 out of 5 at Beer Advocate. 3.88 at Untappd. American Strong Ale. 14.1abv. Here is what ST says about it…

 Introducing Manhattan Ale, inspired by the ever timeless cocktail. We brew this ale with cherry juice, orange peel and coriander then age it to perfection in bourbon barrels. It’s a midtown metamorphosis that harmoniously brings our two passions to life in one glass.



Welcome to the PGA beer rating system: one beer “Don’t bother.” Two: Eh, if someone gives it to you, drink. Three: very good, go ahead and seek it out, but be aware there is at least one problem. Four: seek it out. Five: pretty much “perfecto.”


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A Beer Judge’s Diary: How I Studied for 6 Months, Drove 600 Miles and STILL Botched the Exam

  I asked to wait for this to be published until after I got the results because I didn’t want there to be even the slightest chance I’d influence scoring. I want to thank the graders. They have a tough job and I, unintentionally, may have made it tougher. (See my grader comments at the end of the column.) I got a 72. Considering my experience I am by no means proud of that, but I do think they did well.
 Do I have a problem with writing about moments in my life that some may think I should be embarrassed about? Apparently, in this case at least, not. And hopefully this might help those who haven’t taken it yet understand more about the tasting portion of the test.

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 This is partially a story of a beer judge sleuth trying to figure out what went wrong. Kudos to my personal Holmes who outsmarted her not as clever as Sherlock husband. Millie set me on the right path: as always. (Sometimes? Maybe? Or “maybe” I should stop digging a hole for myself and get on with the story?)
  I’m BJCP legacy Certified, but I have never been happy with my tasting score. Both times I took it I focused way too much on defects so my final score was in the 60s. On the written exam I did better, obviously.
 When I came home from the Adirondacks in November I found out I had a chance to retake in December, so every day I studied the 2015 Guidelines and judged beer at home. I did this for many reasons. Without the Guidelines my memory is what it is. It’s always been weird what sticks in my head and what doesn’t. And because my writing sucks I wanted to work on that. My elementary teachers passed me because they could see how hard I was trying. I have Gene Wilder’s Blazing Saddles writing hand. Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: How I Studied for 6 Months, Drove 600 Miles and STILL Botched the Exam”

A Beer Judge’s Diary: What Do We Mean by “Clean?”

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 I’ve seen the word used so many times in judging. I thought I knew what it means and that includes what, to me, is only one contradiction. I had thought “clean” meant no fermentation by products that stand out and interfere with the malt, the hops and whatever else defines a style that has no yeast funk. The contradiction? Well, it’s the Germans who, as the cliché’ goes, must have everything precise, exact, just so. OK, I know that’s stereotyping but I’m only mentioning the perception, I have known plenty of Germans who are definitely not that way.
 To be clean and be German in this sense seems to be defined as no fruity, funky, significant DMS or buttery/diacetyl-like esters. Unfortunately that often doesn’t seem to be include a light sulfur-sense to some Germans, which I find their much treasured lager yeast sometimes provides. Not all the time, but a lot.
 OK, I admit: like some are sensitive to butter maybe I’m sensitive to sulfur? Possibly because a little butter bothers me not, but I REALLY dislike sulfur? Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: What Do We Mean by “Clean?””