Thursday, October 05, 2006

Brewery Review: Long Trail

This being my maiden voyage, I would love to critique a brewery as a whole. I don't know if it will work or not, but let's face it: I've been drinking.

To me, breweries are like movie directors. I know that makes precious little sense, but let me explain. As an avid filmgoer, I can usually predict the quality of a given film by recognition of the director's name. Not only can I figure out how high the quality will be, but I can also determine certain characteristics of the film. When I see a Coen Brothers film, I know there will be erudite (or at least region-specific) text and a lot of nice visuals. When I hear that Martin Scorsese has directed a new picture, I expect lots of hard-boiled dialogue and a smooth cinematographical style. Kevin Smith will pander to the lowest common denominator. Milos Foreman will make an epic life story. Spike Lee will take himself too seriously and have a stupid jazz score ruining any dialogue he's written. Michael Mann will make everything dark blue. Paul Thomas Anderson will copy Scorsese. Robert Altman will have 15 characters all talking over each other at the same time. Does any of this make any sense?

Of course not. But my points still remain. Like movie directors, you can tell a lot about a beer -- even before trying it -- by the brewery it comes from. Stone is going to be harsh. Middle Ages will all have English styles. Ommegang will trigger the gag reflex (due to strength, not taste). And today, I would like to create a brief exploration of one minor microbrew: Long Trail.

Long Trail is a brewery out of Bridgewater Corners, VT, which makes a competent, inexpensive collection of seasonal brews. They are neither elite, nor swill-peddlers. It is a fine, starter beer for those of refined and pedestrian tastes. Long Trail currently has an autumn/winter twelve-pack, with four brews: Long Trail IPA (India Pale Ale), Long Trail Hibernator, Long Trail Ale & "Hit the Trail" Ale. There are three bottles of each. This 12-pack will likely cost you about $12.99 per. But let's quickly explore each one for characteristics... (I will refer to my notes)

Long Trail IPA
: Good frothy head...dark blonde color. Surprisingly sturdy hop aroma, but with a bit of maltiness thrown in as well. Very balanced hop/malt ratio... Not hoppy enough to be considered a true IPA. Very much a standard ale with a tiny little bit of extra hops...Light bodied, pleasant enough. Nice aftertaste. Definitely don't have to choke it down. Could drink several of these in a row...Should be considered a regular pale at best.

Long Trail Hibernator
: Has a dark red hue with very little head to speak of. Has a spicy, malty scent. Flavor is heavy malt, with a honey-ish touch. Very mild, much more so than most winter ales....Surprisingly nice aftertaste...As it warms up it becomes a little more cozy. Nice mild maltiness with a slight honey kick to it.

Long Trail Ale
: Nice amber color, with a thick and bubbly white head. Clear and bubbly. Small shoots of bubbles head upward toward the surface...Pleasant malty aroma...I probably wouldn't be able to pick it out of a line up, but it's got the goods. Good flavor, even if not unique. Nice at a somewhat warmed-up temp. A little bubbly on the tongue, but smooth. This is a surprisingly solid ale...Very easy to drink. It's a good beer to have between stronger ones.

Hit the Trail Ale
: An opaque reddish brown color...Nice head. Has a sweet, malty scent to it...Sweeter than most browns. Has a pleasant, malty flavor; you can tell it's there, but it's not overbearing. The malt is overpowering, but lingers on the aftertaste. A little lighter than I expected, but that fits this beer. You don't have to choke it down... Don't know if I would drink a full sixer of this particular beer, but makes a nice change-of-pace brew in the Long Trail 12-pack.

So what can you expect from Long Trail?:

Reddish or at least darkish golden color. A decent amount of head (as if there is such thing as enough). Malty flavor. Underwhelming hops. Probably a certain sweetness, or at least sweeter than most. A light, drinkable beer. Inexpensive, but not low-grade. I would say that it's a good beer to bring if you don't want to spend a lot, but want to bring a good, solid beer to the party.

Feel free to add your twelve ounces...


bojangles said...

Our 12 oz:
Stone is harsh, but in a good way.
Middle Ages always has that telltale taste of Ringwood (English) yeast, but we love it. We find Ommegang to be quite smooth, other than the Abbey Style Ale, and maybe Three Philosophers. It is strong, though. Some need to work on their appreciatin of strong Belgians, Imperial Stouts and Barley Wines. We have never loved Long Trail. Probably like their altbier, Double Bag, best. Maybe because it is stronges. Totally agree with your final assesment of them.

Bill said...

Agreed. I don't love Long Trail either. Although I think you could do a lot worse. If I were a burgeoning beer snob, it would be a good place to start since it's cheap and it's good, and it's not too strong in any particular way. It's one step up from the Bud/Miller/Coors stuff. Maybe a step and a half.