Buckshot Amber Ale

On a recent trip to North Carolina I was able to enjoy a handful of beers from Natty Greene’s Brewing Co., based in Greensboro.  I really liked almost all the beers I tried from this brewery, and I’m here to review my favorite of the ones I tried.  The south was a relative latecomer to the microbrew phenomenon, but now is starting to produce some very fine beers.  North Carolina in particular was ahead of the game, and I thoroughly enjoyed what I had from Natty Greene’s. Without further ado, my first review from the south is Buckshot Amber Ale.

What I really liked about Buckshot was how balanced it was.  As you’ve probably gathered from other reviews of brown and amber ales, I expect a lot from the styles.  I believe the perfect dark ale must have a distinct malt or nutty element while not being too heavy and still refreshing.  Buckshot fit these pretty well.  For starters, the beer is very refreshing.  It’s body is enough to satisfy a serious beer craving while not weighing you down or filling you up.  It’s incredibly easy to drink, which is aided by the smoothness of the flavor.  The malt is strong enough to let you know what you’re drinking and deliver in the hearty flavor category, but it’s in great balance with the body and mouthfeel to be very well-rounded.  The flavor doesn’t “wow” you with anything overpowering or shocking, but delivers what it should.  At the finish only a slight residue remains, but dissipates quickly to rid any possibility of getting stale, and the satisfying sip is complete.  The only drawback is that after a while the nutty flavor that was at one point subtle becomes more apparent and builds, which can then get a little old, but aside from this it’s just about a perfect brown ale for me.

Buckshot was the highlight of my Natty Greene’s experience, but the brewery has many other good beers; I particularly liked Guilford Golden Ale and Wildflower Witbier.  If you’re in North Carolina, look for this brewery.

Overall                 9/10
Color                    7
Thickness            7
Hops/Malt          7
ABV                       4.8%

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Bell’s Amber Ale

For a style in which beers can have varying amounts of malt and hops, shades of color, and thickness, Bell’s Amber Ale is a very solid representation of the style.  Hops and malt are balanced nicely and don’t produce too strong a flavor, which works hand-in-hand with the relatively light mouthfeel. Each sip begins with very light malt flavor and is refreshing.  Malt is the principal flavor, though it’s mild and yields only a slight sweetness.  The flavor is never overpowering and doesn’t fluctuate throughout the sip, but what makes this amber ale good is the balance of ingredients.  Because of it, each sip is smooth and yields a malt flavor that emerges just enough to notice.  Only in the middle of each sip does the hop element emerge to make itself known, and is so light it subsides before the finish. Though the hops are subtle, they lighten the flavor just a bit, which seems difficult due to the existing lightness.  After a while it can become a little filling, though it has nothing to do with the flavor, and a slight aftertaste can accumulate.  Bell’s Amber Ale is simple, but done well, and is a very good amber ale.  If you’re looking for a beer with richer flavor and a stronger malt element, you’ll want a brown ale, but this is perfect if you want a refreshing beer with a little extra flavor.

Overall                 8/10
Color                    6
Thickness            5
Hops/Malt          7
ABV                       5.8%

Lobster Ale

This weekend I was able to try Lobster Ale, which is a red ale from Belfast Bay Brewing Co. in Belfast, Maine.  I’ve seen this around in stores and I’ve always wanted to try it, so when I saw it on the menu at a local restaurant, it was finally time.  I’m usually equally suspicious and optimistic about red ales.  They can be lighter or darker in color; light or rich in composition; hoppy, malty or neither; and be either good or bad.  But I always have high hopes for them.  A good red ale is a good find.  One that is full of flavor, creamy but not too heavy, and satisfying with a unique taste can be very refreshing and hit the spot.  Unfortunately, I was let down again with Lobster Ale.

The first thing I noticed was that it was on the darker end of the spectrum for a red ale, bordering on brown in color.  It had an average thickness for a red ale, not too heavy and not too creamy.  The taste, though, was the issue for me.  The primary flavor that came through was caramel, but not in a savory way.  The other flavor that came through was slight fortified alcohol, the kind you get with a Port or Madeira wine.  Most beers that offer caramel notes are going to be stouts or cream ales, which typically have a slightly higher alcohol content, but you’re still not supposed to taste it.  It was an odd combination.  The brewer says there are fruit notes, which I didn’t get.  From this review you’d probably think I hated it, but I didn’t.  It was OK, just not what I would look for in a red ale.  I would say it is more like an amber ale with sweet tones, tasting on the stronger side.  If that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll enjoy it.  As for me, I’ll probably only order it again if I was tasting for it, but I don’t know how likely that will be.

Overall                 5/10
Color                    8
Thickness            5
Hops/Malt          7
ABV                       5.0%

"Good people drink good beer." - Hunter S. Thompson