Zoe (Maine Beer Company) Style: Imperial/Double Red/Amber Ale or India Red Ale 7% ABV
Nugget Nectar (Troegs Brewing Company) Style: Imperial/Double Red/Amber Ale or India Red Ale 7.5% ABV
So I’ve decided to do a side by side comparison of these two great hoppy amber ales/India Red Ales/ Whatever you want to call them… Zoe is a personal favorite in my book, and possibly my favorite beer of all time , and Nugget Nectar is a darling of the craft beer world, and as of last night (when I first tried it) a very good beer in my book. I’ll be serving them side-by-side and I and a collection of friends will be tasting them and declaring which is our favorite… Let the comparison begin.
Zoe is the darker beer with a far more complex malt bill, while Nugget Nectar uses the Troeg base of Pilsner malt alongside Vienna and Munich malts, making it light but sweet and flavorful.
From my none-expert panel the decision was interesting. Most said that Zoe was a better beer, but there were still quite a few that liked Nugget Nectar more, and many noted that both were tasty beers. The overall (though not unanimous) decision was that Zoe is the more complex and tasty beer, while Nugget Nectar is the more sessionable beer that could be knocked back all night.
For me personally, the decision was hard, even with my bias to Zoe. Zoe definitely has more of a malt character, and was showing a lot of chocolate malts to my palate, while Nugget Nectar was showing more of a fruity hop character, which is interesting since Nugget Nectar’s hop character is usually more pine-forward… In fact, an adamant none-beer drinker in my tasting group noted that Nugget Nectar was fruitier, which is interesting, and I suspect has to do with both beer’s lingering in the mouth and affecting the palate. Unfortunately, I also suspect that my bottle of Zoe is a little old, as I am not getting the juicy hop smell from it that I remember. At the same time, though, my nose is a little clogged, and others have said it has a very hoppy smell, so perhaps it is just me. The bottle is from 12/31/12 so it is two months old, but overall it is still delicious.
In conclusion, these are two amazing and tasty beers, and the general public seems to agree. While most people in my tasting group picked Zoe, I feel like the worldwide jury could swing either way. These beers are both excellent and everyone should try them both, if only because they are delicious. Personally, I still like Zoe a little more because it shows some delicious malty character, but not everyone is as taken by malts and hops and I understand that. Try it for yourself and let me know what you think!