Bucking the Trend: Reviewing 3 of Buckbean Brewing’s Finest Beers

May 8, 2010

Clare Goggin

Canning gets a bit of a bad rap in the craft beer world. Why, just a month ago at a BrewYork meetup, homebrewer and beer wunderkind Peter Kennedy decried the “metallic” taste of Gubna Imperial IPA (I respectfully disagreed). And while Oskar Blues, Surly and Maui — not to mention New Belgium, who has started canning some of its top beers — have proved that quality sure can come in a cylinder tube, the overwhelming feeling persists. Not until canning becomes more of the norm de rigueur, and less of a sideshow oddity, will new breweries look into its possibilities.

Enter Buckbean Brewing. Opened in 2008 in Reno, Nev., by native Douglas Booth and brewmaster Daniel Kahn, Buckbean is one of the latest breweries to go all aluminum, all the time. They were kind enough to send us three of their flagship beers to review. And that we did.

Note: All beers were pint cans poured into a tulip glass and a globe glass.

#1: Black Noddy Lager – 5.2% ABV
Pours a very dark brown, perhaps a mahogany (it’s very important, and kind of a big deal). There is little head and very, very light lacing (this would be the case for all three beers, and we couldn’t help but wonder if the cross-most-of-the-country trip had something to do with it). There is a light licorice smell, rich in wheat, with perhaps a slight touch of allspice.

The flavor is smoky and burnt, alluding to its dark color. It is very malty, with a light hoppiness. There is also a hint of blackberries, mixing well with the spices, to produce a finish that is not overpowering, but not real assertive, either. The aftertaste is light and roasted, mild but pleasant.

SCORES: MadHops – 14/19; BeerGoggins – 14/20

#2: Tule Duck Red Ale – 6.2% ABV
Pours a dark amber with a tint of orange. A roasted-nut aroma wafts up, but it is difficult to tell exactly what kind of nut(s). Almonds, maybe? It smells sweet as well, with definite honey and possible citrus odors emanating from the glass.

Like the Black Noddy, this red ale is malty, but a tad hoppier. Again, there is a nutty bite, and it’s a tad sweet. There is a subtle, slightly bland finish, and no real aftertaste aside from the malt. While not the goose that laid the golden egg, this smooth duck is far from lame.

SCORES: MadHops – 13/19; BeerGoggins – 16/20

#3: Original Orange Blossom Ale – 5.8% ABV
Well, they certainly weren’t kidding about the name. Pours an extremely copper orange, almost cosmic-like. Very citrus-y smell (natch), with obvious orange overtones and perhaps something else – passion fruit, grapefruit, or some other type(s) of flowers that are hard to ascertain. There’s also a hint of wood, maybe cedar, and a slight spicy contingent. A little coriander, maybe? All in all, a very interesting aroma.

The mouthfeel is bubbly and acidic, blunt yet strangely robust. It is very malty with a very slight hoppy bite. The sweetness comes from honey, and maybe even caramel. The finish and aftertaste are not overbearing, as one might think given the ingredients, but rather mild and pleasant. From color and scent to taste and feel, it really is original.

SCORES: MadHops – 15/19; BeerGoggins – 16/20

After our first foray into Buckbean’s canned world, we came away respectful of the Reno brewery’s accomplishments. Nothing here made our jaw drop or fall to our knees and thank the God of Suds, but we think western Nevada is in fine hands. And while canning is supposed to offer some advantages over bottling, especially when it comes to shipping, we keep thinking the bouncing USPS trucks did nothing to save our carbonation. If we ever get to Reno we’ll be sure to visit Buckbean Brewing, saddle up to their bar, and get some canned beer straight from the best can there is — the keg.

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