Beer of the Week: Red Seal Ale

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Unrepentant beer drinkers, rejoice! Each week, Clean Plate Charlie will

select one craft or import beer and give you the lowdown on it: How

does it taste? What should you drink it with? Where can you find it?

But mostly, it's all about the love of the brew. If you have a beer

you'd like featured in Beer of the Week, let us know via a comment.

It's been a while since Beer of the Week last ran, dear friends of the brew. But we're bringing it back, and with gusto. This week's beer is one I've fallen in love with in recent months: Red Seal Ale. It's a big, malty amber that drinks like a dry red, with a bit of aggressive hopping thrown in for good mix. And it's from North Coast Brewing, that Mendocino, California, outfit responsible for notable labels like Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout and Acme Brand California IPA. I enjoy a lot of North Coast's output, but Red Seal is my favorite.

What makes Red Seal so fantastic is its drinkability. With a big backbone of caramel malt, this beer's got a body that could stop traffic. The garnet liquid houses waves of vanilla, scotch, toffee, and pine. Did I mention it's big? At 5.5 percent ABV, this is a session beer that will quickly tip you over if you put a few down. You'll actually feel that alcohol as it goes down with a zing of warmth -- not something you'd expect from a beer under 10 percent. That's because, while the malt is extreme, this beer has the dry, crisp finish of a pilsner. The sweetness won't linger on your tongue. Rather, it seems to almost evaporate off the palate.

And the hops, oh the hops! Although Red Seal certainly won't give IPAs a run for their money in terms of bitterness, it has just the right balance of floral and heady, sweet and dry, bitter and bold hops. You smell them first and taste them right after, a long, lingering aroma that flies into your sinuses and grabs hold.

So where to get this brew? Brother Tuckers in Pompano serves it by the bottle, and it's sometimes on draft as well. But you'll also find this award-winning brew (it's got almost as many medals as Michael Phelps) at ABC Fine Wine & Spirits and Total Wine. Pick up a six-pack, pop one open, and enjoy.

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