Thursday, July 12, 2007

Beer O' The Moment - Boont Amber Ale

As many fans of this blog(ger) can attest, we have never been a huge fan of Ambers and Reds. (We went through a Killian's Irish Red Lager phase when we were young and indiscriminate, but we never really went back.) However, we have recently been privy to several outstanding Amber Ales. One of the better Amber ales we have come across is Boont Amber Ale, from the Anderson Valley Brewing Company in Booneville, California. We have been somewhat enamored with many of the California brews (Stone, Lagunitas, Mendocino, North Coast and even the oft-confused Anchor Steam and Sierra Nevada), and for some reason Anderson Valley hasn't quite gotten the distribution -- or at least the presence -- as the other Big Boys have had in the northeast.

We have enjoyed a fine, if fleeting, relationship so far with the Anderson Valley offerings, from the dry, definitive Boont ESB to the wildly popular, extraordinarily hoppy and only slightly overrated Hop Ottin' IPA. Due to our own personal demons (red devils perhaps), we had shied away from ruining our lucky streak by introducing our palate to an unpopular element. Yet what we found was one of the two or three best ambers we've ever had.

First, the look of the thing. Two words: gor-geous. Its a very hazy amber-red color. And though there is not much foamy head or lace as it goes down, the look of it is so rich and deep that none of that matters. The smell is fantastic, with the dry and biscuity malt blending perfectly with some secondary (but potent) flowery and sweet hops.

The flavor has to be recommended if for nothing more than its balance. The two elements hit two different parts of the tongue. The malt is dry and really not very bitter (my usual problem with ambers/reds). The hops (see above) are the perfect balance, giving a little punch to counter the dry malt. As it warms up, an unexpected smoky flavor shows up. Where the hell did that come from?

This is what an Amber should be. Much like their Boont ESB, this seems to define the style. Though it is an American Amber ale, it feels very British, very refined. It's thick, but not chewy.

Here's hoping more of Anderson Valley's beers start making their way to the Northeast and Great Lakes region. If this offering is any indication, the west coast might be on to something.

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