Friday, October 28, 2011

Sam Adams Latitude 48 IPA

As far as American brewing companies go, I think that Sam Adams is one of the better "big-name" breweries. I have liked almost all of the Sam Adams beers that I've tried, and their Latitude 48 IPA will be joining the list as "another good beer from Sam Adams."

As I have said recently, I've been drinking a lot of IPAs lately. I have been in a very "bitter beer" mood for the past month or two, and I like to think that at this point, I have a fairly wide and objective data set from which to pull information about the qualities of an IPA. Although most IPAs have relatively heavy overtones of citrus, Sam Adams Latitude 48 is seemingly more focused on the hops. The citrus taste is still there, as there are light hints of orange peel in the aftertaste, but the citrus taste is much less pronounced than in other beers of its type. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but I do really like the citrus flavor that usually accompanies IPAs, so its relative absence in this one was a little bit disappointing. 

Where Latitude 48 does not fall short, however, is in the hops. It has a somewhat light and malty taste on the nose, but ends with a strong and fairly bitter, hoppy finish. For those who do not like bitter beers, this one is probably not going to be your cup of tea, because it's pretty bitter. This is nothing unexpected from an IPA, but the lacking taste of the citrus leaves more room for the bitterness to show through. I enjoy beers with strong, bitter finishes, and although I do miss the citrus, the bitterness is very satisfying and leaves a relatively unique aftertaste (for an IPA) in its wake. 

Overall, I liked this one a good bit. Although I would have preferred a slightly heavier citrus flavor, the hoppy bitterness was still very pronounced and tasty. If you like IPAs or strong, bitter ales, this is definitely one to try out.

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: Wal-Mart [Columbia, SC]
Size: 12 fl. oz. [355 mL]
Price: $8.99 [6-pack]

Friday, October 21, 2011

Teavana Jasmine Dragon and Roobios Tropica Tea Blend

I have been sitting on this review for quite some time now. This past summer, I went on a weekend trip to Washington D.C. with some friends of mine. While we were there, we stopped by a rather large shopping mall, where I had the opportunity to visit a Teavana tea shop for the first time. My experience at Teavana was strange, to say the least. Teavana has an interesting sales hook in that the store offers about thirty different kinds of fresh, loose leaf tea in bins behind the counter, and the custom flavors and varieties that are offered by the company are achieved by simply mixing and matching the individual tea varieties. 

As I found out soon after deciding to visit the crowded shop, Teavana runs a pretty aggressive sales pitch routine on their customers. The second that I stepped in the door, a sales associate was offering me samples of some of Teavana's special blends and filling me in on what custom varieties were currently on offer. After finishing the samples offered at the door, I was whisked away by another employee to sample several more teas at another station. It was here that I tried the subject of today's review, and also where I made the mistake of simply stating, "This is really good. I think that I might get some of this one." Before I really realized what was happening, I had been escorted to the register and was standing face-to-face with a cashier who had already launched into a lengthy explanation of Teavana's convoluted pricing system and was preparing to fill a container with the tea. It became fairly apparent to me at this point that Teavana's prices are specifically designed to disorient the customer. 

The prices listed on the bins of tea in the store represented the price of two ounces of that particular tea. As I'm sure that you can imagine, trying to calculate how much half a pound of an uneven mixture of two separately and unconventionally priced teas will cost while standing in front of an anxiously waiting store employee is the mathematical equivalent of Olympic level gymnastics. Even with my five years of engineering education, I was at a loss to come up with an estimate, and after several moments of hopelessly trying to figure out how much money that I was going to be spending, I simply gave up and asked for a quarter pound of the tea. The tea ended up costing me $25, and although I was left feeling a bit unsettled by the confusing prices and the out-of-control nature of my visit, I am happy to say that the tea was worth every penny.

As pictured above, the tea is a combination of jasmine buds and a rooibos blend mixed with dried strawberries and other tropical fruits. The jasmine buds have an excellent flavor, and have a strong "jasmine" taste while still remaining mellow and crisp. Although I am not typically a huge fan of rooibos tea, I found the blend included in this mix to be quite pleasant. The tropical elements mixed into the rooibos give the tea a light, fruity taste, without making the tea taste sweet. The fruity undertones of the rooibos blend also help to mellow out some of the the strong, earthy overtones of a typical red tea. This works well with the mellow taste of the jasmine, and the flavors complement each other much better than I originally expected. 

Overall, this is a wonderful tea. Although my experience in purchasing it was a bit manipulative, I have to admit that it is very difficult to complain about the end result. $25 dollars may seem like a lot for a quarter of a pound of tea, but the estimated serving size of 1/4 lb. is about 25 cups, and $1 per cup really isn't that bad, especially for a tea of this quality. If there is a Teavana near you, I recommend checking out their selection, and I definitely recommend their jasmine dragon and rooios tropica blend as a good starting point.

But a word to the wise: If a Teavana sales associate asks you if you've ever shopped there before, just do yourself a favor and say yes.

Verdict: Highly Recommended

Purchased: Teavana [Washington D.C.]
Size: 1/4 lb. [Approximately 25 cups]
Price: $25.00 [Approximation]

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Red Rock Golden Ginger Ale

It is rather rare that I find a "true" ginger ale that I feel that I can recommend to everybody. There was a time when it was even difficult to find a ginger ale that actually tastes and bites like real ginger, particularly in the southeastern region of the United States. Luckily, this scarcity seems to be dwindling, and I have begun to see many more "natural" ginger ales on all sorts of store shelves. Unfortunately, this also means that it will grow harder and harder to easily discern the good from the bad, particularly considering that a previously untasted ginger ale tends to be a relatively high-risk purchase. Red Rock's ginger ale, I am happy to say, is one of the best ginger ales that I have had in quite some time, and I think that most individuals with even a moderate taste for ginger will definitely find something to like in this one.

Lauding itself as having "just the right bite," Red Rock is a sort of fusion between the more contemporary, sweet ginger ales that you would find in most gas stations and the more old fashioned, spicy concoctions that you might purchase at a general store or health foods market. The slogan is certainly a bold one, as different people like different levels of bite, but after having tried it, I think that Red Rock is right: this ginger ale really does have just the right amount of kick. The added sweetness of the drink helps to bring the typical sting of natural ginger ale down a notch, but not so much that it undermines the ginger's taste. The ginger is still at the forefront of the beverage's flavor, and it still maintains that sort of notorious, dry spiciness. However, the sugar makes the overall experience more palatable, as I did not find myself growing tired of the taste after a few drinks as I often do with other more "hardcore" ginger ales. Red Rock's ginger ale was strong without being too strong, and was easy to drink all the way to the bottom of the bottle.

All in all, this is a great ginger ale. I would probably even go so far as to rank this one as one of my "top three ginger ales," and I think that it is definitely worth a try, even if you don't like ginger. If you are on the fence about stronger ginger ales, I really do think that this is the one that will change your mind. If you already like stronger ginger ales, then you are almost certain to enjoy this one, but if you don't like ginger then...well, then you probably shouldn't be drinking ginger ale, anyway.

Verdict: Highly Recommended

Purchased: Jasmine Cafe [Columbia, SC]
Size: 12 fl. oz. [355 mL]
Price: $1.99 

Friday, October 14, 2011

I apologize for missing both of the reviews this week. I have had a lot of things going on as of late, and it was particularly difficult this week to work in time to sit down and write out the reviews.

I will be back next week, and I will be posting a video some time within the next few days that will hopefully explain some of the reasons for my inconsistent posting schedule over these past few months.

Again, I apologize, and I'd like to thank you in advance for your understanding, and be sure to check back next week for new content from Drinkable Review.

- Hayden

Friday, October 7, 2011

Ishii Japanese Green Tea IPA

I have had this beer sitting in my refrigerator for a long time (about two months now), and I am just now finally getting around to giving it a try. When I saw these sitting on the shelf at Total Wine, I ignored the high price tag and - knowing that this was one of those drinks that I just had to try, regardless of cost - quickly grabbed one off of the shelf. Given my initial excitement about the beer, I assumed that I would be drinking this one right away, but I suppose that it assumed more and more of a sort of "wait for a special occasion" status the longer that it sat in my refrigerator. However, I got tired of waiting for such a special occasion, and finally decided to just drink it last week.

The first thing that struck me as interesting about Ichii's green tea IPA was the amount of sediment that remained suspended in the glass after pouring. I have no aversion to a bit of sediment in my beer, but rarely does it remain dispersed throughout the liquid as it did in this case. The solid material did eventually settle out to the bottom of the glass, but it took quite some time to do so. This is not necessarily good or bad; I just thought that it was worth mentioning.

The taste of Ichii's green tea IPA is not unlike that of other IPAs that I have had recently. The green tea taste was certainly there, but it was fairly faint, and really didn't add a huge amount of flavor to the overall taste. It became more prominent as I drank more of the beer, as I knew what I was looking for by that point, but it was still pretty light and was largely masked by the flavors of the beer itself. Ultimately, it seems to me like what could have been a very unique and interesting flavor combination ended up being more of an underwhelming gimmick. The beer itself, though, was pretty tasty, and fell on the dry and bitter side that many IPAs usually tend towards.

Overall, I didn't think that Ichii's Japanese green tea IPA was as interesting as I had hoped that it would be. As an IPA, the beer was pretty good, although a little bit standard. However, the somewhat disappointing influence from the green tea makes me wonder if this is one to be recommended, or if it is best just to stick with other, regular IPAs that are a bit more reasonable in price.

Verdict: Worth a try

Purchased: Total Wine and More [Columbia, SC]
Size: 12 fl. oz. [355 mL]
Price: $3.99 [Per bottle]

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Tradition Oolong Tea

It has been a while since I have reviewed a tea, but I find it fitting that this one is yet another product from Tradition. I have yet to have a product from the company that I have not thoroughly enjoyed, and its oolong tea is no exception. 

Although oolong tea is not my favorite variety, I have always enjoyed partaking in it. I have very fond childhood memories of sharing warm pots of the stuff with my family during dinners out at some of our favorite Chinese eateries. The mildness of the flavor makes it a great tea to share with friends, as it is not likely to be offensive to anybody's taste buds. Tradition's oolong is a little bit more flavorful than other oolong teas that I have had in the past, but it still maintains the tranquil subtlety so characteristic of the tea. The flavor is very light and earthy, and the aroma does not linger long in the aftertaste, giving the tea a cleaner finish than other, similar types of tea. Unlike some of the stronger teas (i.e. black or green), oolong does not tend to dry out the mouth, making it easier to drink in larger servings.

Overall, I find that there is actually not much to say about Tradition's oolong tea. It is a pleasantly mild and benign tea that sits well on the palette and is likely to be enjoyed by most people with even a slight taste for hot tea. Although this one is somewhat unremarkable (as most milder teas often are), it is still a great example of the beverage, and is definitely worth the money. I am inclined to recommend some of Tradition's other teas over this one (such as their jasmine green or their barley tea), but if you are looking for something light and refreshing, or would just like to try something a little bit different from the usual norm, then this one is certainly worth checking out.

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: Asian Market [Columbia, SC]
Size: 20 bags per box
Price: $3.99