Tuesday, August 8, 2017
DB collaborated with Golden Road on No Problemo, a Mexican take on a Schwarzbier. This doesn’t have the slight smoke I expect in a dark lager, but I actually like this more than most dark lagers, so that's not a complaint. It pours copper brown with average foam. Aroma is some caramel, some herbal tea, a little pepper. I get a little of the chocolate on the flavor. The pepper subtly kicks in on the finish and ends up being the thing I like best about this beer.
This one doesn’t really work as well for me, but if you like sweet, southern-style iced tea, you might enjoy this more than I did. Crystall Brett, a Belgian that Devil's Backbone brewed with Three Notch'd, reminds me of sweet tea more than anything else. It pours fairly clear dark orange with a little bit of head. The aroma is typical of a Brett beer. That mildly funky Brett thing is here on the aroma. But The taste is sweet, floral, herbal, and very much like orange pekoe tea with too much sweetener. More of an artificial sweetener than real sugar. This one isn't really my kind of thing but I can imagine that others would enjoy it very much.
Cross Eyed Stranger is a DIPA collaboration between Devil's Backbone and Ocelot. It’s big, it’s different, and I like that. But there is something here that doesn’t quite hit me right. It pours cloudy lemon yellow with average foam. The aroma is pine, salt, some of the malt is there, too. The flavor is strong on the front with the pine resin character coming through, but the finish is slightly minty and a little medicinal. It isn't bad, but it's not for me. The rest of the beers in this set were better.
DB and Breckenridge call Agave Double Pils an Imperial Pilsner. I don't know if I've ever used those two words in the same sentence. First, the negative... this beer is a little too sweet. But even through the sweetness, a fairly big ABV (7%) is the dominant note. The sweetness and the ABV make it almost impossible for me to search for and try to discern specifically pilsner qualities. But pilsners are usually too damn delicate for me anyway. Once I stopped trying to be a half-ass pilsner reviewer I ended up liking this beer. It pours fairly clear yellow with average head. The aroma is the sweetness from the agave and a fairly typical American lager, corn kind of quality. The flavor hits hard with the agave up front and then the alcohol is all over the finish. I don’t know that I would want this regularly, but this bottle made me happy.
Yakima Hop Fight is a DIPA collab, DB and Four Peaks. It's clear amber/orange with a brief head and a lot of carbonation. The aroma is sweet, primarily. Corn, some spice and sugar, a little bit of squash and other vegetable notes. Flavor is bitter and citrusy on the front of the tongue. The sweet maltiness from the aroma pops up again on the finish. This is a down the middle DIPA, but there is nothing wrong with a down the middle DIPA. I could drink this again.
Glitter Bomb is a sour that Devil's Backbone brewed with Ten Barrel. Pours a very light clear yellow with heavy carbonation and a little head. The aroma is grape musk and hops. The label doesn’t say it’s a brett beer but it reminds me a little bit of brett beers. The favor is piercing and tart. A little bit of the grape juice comes through. On occasion this wouldn’t be a bad summer beer.
Wednesday, August 2, 2017
There is a lot going on with this collab between Evil Twin and Westbrook, called Imperial Mexican Biscotti Cake Break Imperial Stout. With a name like that, you'd expect a lot to be going on. Some of it bordered on overload in the first few sips. but as it warms the different parts of the recipe distinguish themselves from the whole, and none of it really feels wasted. This stout pours black with a little tan colored foam. Rich roasted malt, typical of a big stout, is most of the aroma, but the cocoa and cinnamon is there, too. The aroma is an indication of the flavor initially, though the pepper comes through on the finish. As it warms the pepper moves to the front and the vanilla becomes a big, rich presence. I don’t get specific almonds, but there is kind of a general warm nuttiness throughout. This is an expensive stout and it’s not something I would want every day. But I liked all of it this first time around.
Lagunitas Dark Swan Sour Ale is dark purple while pouring. It looks almost black in the glass with little foam. The aroma is rich and tart. Dark berries, sugar, and lean hops in the background. The flavor is very sour and complex. Dark fruit like black cherries and blackberries are on the front of the tongue, with a finish that hints of lime and melon and onion. But this beer is rich without woody notes, no oak or vanilla or any of the things that would show up with a barrel aged beer... just dark, rich, strong, tanginess.
Bolshevik Bastard is a Russian Stout from Nickel Brook. This is a rich, dense, hearty stout. It pours black with practically no foam. Aroma is huge on bakers chocolate, with raisins, coffee, some nutty character, too. The finish is all about the chocolate and bitter roasted malt. No hint of the 8% ABV.
Doom is an oak barrel aged imperial IPA by Founders. And it's good beer, but a classic example of why it is hard to age an IPA in Bourbon barrels. You either lose the hop character, or the bourbon barrel does not have time to make an impression. With Doom, The barrel is all up in your face. The sacrifice is the hop character that typically defines an IPA.
Doom pours a bright hazy copper color with very little head. This beer smells sweet and malty, with some vanilla and some caramel. Oak is present on the aroma. The flavor is like a bourbon barrel-aged pale ale. It has enough malt to stand up to barrel aging, and conveys the typical bourbon notes competently. What I do not get here is any distinct hoppy quality. Maybe better tuned palates than mine can find the hops, but they're lost on me. Admittedly, it might be that this bottle is a little too old. But I cannot imagine the hops having been a distinct presence at all, based on what I have here. It is a fine beer. I recommend it to fans of pale ales aged in bourbon barrels. But billing this as an IPA does not make sense to me. Had they billed this as just a barrel aged ale I'd have sat here and enjoyed it, rather than trying to solve a taste puzzle while drinking it.
Southern Tier's 2X Unfiltered IPA Color is hazy, dark orange color with an average amount of foam. Aroma is lemons and grapefruit, some crackery malt, a little bit of spice. The flavor is pretty well-balanced. The malt is rich and slightly sweet up front, then the hops pop and tingle on the finish. Creamy mouthfeel. This is pretty good.
So, they re-released Zima. I only tasted this stuff once, back in the day. I couldn't remember really having any reaction to it at all. I was surprised at the nostalgic re-release, and kept thinking I ought to pick up a bottle just out of curiosity. So I finally did that. It's not bad. It pours like carbonated sugary soda. And it basically smells and tastes like grapefruit Sprite. It goes down like candy, and more than one bottle would have eventually become far too sweet for me. But, yeah... I enjoyed this glass of Zima. Maybe I'll have another one in 25 more years.
Thursday, July 27, 2017
All The Action is an imperial IPA from The Answer. I love it. The Answer never lets me down with these huge IPAs. This one is hazy, pale yellow with average foam. The aroma is dank, humongous citrus/grapefruit and lemon... some starch, some vanilla. The flavor is dense and musty top to bottom. Lemon candy, grapefruit, and a mouthfeel that is fizzy and thick at once. The Answer makes it harder and harder for those of us who live in rural areas to subsist on grocery store beer.
I don’t think the Answer can make a bad beer. To my taste, they particularly excel at big, juicy, dank imperial IPAs. This double-dry-hopped version of Extra Credit is extremely funky and dense. It pours like grapefruit or orange juice with a lot of white foam. The aroma is like walking into the hop cooler in a brewery. Heavy, pungent hop aroma that just stays in your nostrils. The flavor is the same. On the finish the hops and the malt blend into a rich and bitter punch that hits the spot with every sip. Damn good.
Rye Hard is a collaborative rye IPA from Brothers and Stone. It pours cloudy copper colored with average head and tenacious lace. The aroma is really nice. Rye, slightly sweet notes like brown sugar, and a hop character I associate with west coast and Stone. The flavor is thin up front but closes with that grassy hop character and a fairly smooth bit of rye. Pretty good.
Brothers and Trophy came together to brew Gosecolada, a tart summery beer that tastes even lighter than it’s 5% ABV implies. It’s pretty crushable. This beer pours very clear, light yellow with a fast fading head. The aroma is typical tart gose, citrus and salt, and some coconut. The flavor is the same, although the coconut isn’t as distinct. Very bright, tart citrus top to bottom. No complaints.
Brothers Good Adweiss is a hefeweizen that pours slightly hazy yellow with lots of foam. The aroma is spice, some cloves, some bananas, lemon and pepper. The flavor is dry and mildly sweet but not overly so. It closes with more of the spice and pepper. By the numbers but well done.
Brothers Astronaut Ice Cream is a stout with almonds and raspberries. I don’t pick up on the almonds, but the raspberries are a presence on the aroma and a little bit on the flavor too. It’s a good stout. It pours black with burgundy highlights, there isn’t much phone. The aroma is typical of a big Stout, coffee and dark bread notes, and some raspberry. The flavor is Rich and strong, dark burnt malt notes, some Licorice, and a little bit of the raspberry comes through on the flavor too. I enjoyed this.
I get the impression from some of the reviews that Strangeways Hinterlander, a wild ale/barley wine kind of hybrid thing, might be a love-it-or-hate-it kind of beer. Well, I love it. It is big, funky, weird, and aggressive, and it absolutely hits the spot. It pours a dark hazy brown with a little bit of head. The aroma is funky and sweet at once. Notes of red wine vinegar, brown sugar, apples, and malt. The flavor is smooth and boozy up front and then closes with this really crazy, almost sour twist that I cannot get enough of. This is a fantastic, odd, totally unique barleywine.
Rot In Hell is another oddball beer from Strangeways, and another one that I like a lot. This beer is billed as a pumpkin sour. It pours dark brown with an average, slightly tan colored head. The aroma is very strong, I could smell it as I was pouring it. Intensely sour. A red wine vinegar character with some slightly sweet malt and an indication of the hops. The flavor is piercingly sour up front. Very sour. And then the pumpkin hits mid-tongue, and it closes with a warm and slightly sugary malt. I really like this. It really is one of the best pumpkin beers I've ever tasted.
Chaos Mountain's Ultimate Warrior is a big double IPA. It pours hazy copper/orange with a little foam and average carbonation. The aroma is citrus, pine resin, some floral notes, some onion. The flavor is really big and bitter. It starts out bitter and then on the finish goes balls to the wall, finishing up with a hop overload that really announces it’s presence on the exhale. This isn’t balanced, it’s aimed directly at hopheads. This hophead thoroughly enjoyed it.
Richmond breweries are absolutely nailing this super juicy New England IPA style. Triple Crossing's Valhala is a great example. It pours very cloudy brownish yellow with a lot of head. The aroma is citrusy and sweet and dank all at once. The flavor starts out tangy and sweet, kind of a lemon meringue thing, before finishing up with a big, musky hop punch at the end. I could drink this everyday.
I really, really love Adroit Theory. I love the way they do these fearless, malty, huge beers, such as Black As Your Soul 4.0, a port barrel aged imperial stout. Only 2,000 bottles were released and I managed to get the 324th bottle. This stout pours black (as your soul) with a big, tan-brown head. The aroma is typical of a huge imperial stout. Bitterness from the roasted malt, burnt toast, chocolate, some of the port barrel. I get more of the port on the front of the tongue, and then again on the finish. Some floral/anise notes. Chewy mouthfeel. I don’t think I will ever get tired of aggressive, dense, ham-fisted barrel aged imperial stouts when they are done well. This one is done well. Every sip was on point.
It's hard for me to not compare Devil's Backbone Survivors, a double IPA, to 16 point double IPA (my favorite thing from Devil's Backbone). This beer is good, and it reminds me of 16 Point, but it's not as aggressive. It has the same malt backbone, but the hops are a little lighter, a little more tropical. It all amounts to a beer that’s more accessible, if arguably less memorable. Survivors pours clear yellow orange with average head. The aroma is tropical and somewhat dank, with some pine resin and citrus qualities. The flavor plays The malt up front and the hops hit hard on the back, but not quite as hard as they do on 16 Point. This is a really good beer. But if you have had 16 Point and you love it like I do, you’re probably not going to like this quite as much.
Eventide is a red IPA from Seven Arrows Brewing. It pours reddish brown with a fast fading head. The aroma is is herbal and slightly sweet. Some pine and citrus notes. The pine is stronger and more dominant in the flavor, but the herbal/tea quality is still there on the finish. This is pretty good.
When we visited Seven Arrows, our server asked what kind of beer I enjoy. I told her that I’m always seeking out weird beer ... strange hybrids, odd experiments, etc. She suggested I try Spirit Track, their abbey ale that’s aged in red wine barrels. After tasting it in my flight I decided to bring home a growler so I could spend some time getting to know this beer. Ultimately I don’t think this experiment quite works. But the adventurous spirit that inspires brewers to try things like this is exactly what I look for in a brewery (see my Strangeways reviews above). I’m officially a Seven Arrows fan just based on the guts it took to brew this weird-ass beer.
Spirit Track pours a crimson brown with almost no foam at all. The aroma is crazy. I don’t get the coriander on the nose, but the oranges and wine barrels combine with the malt into something like candied fruit, hardwood tree sap, and notes of strong cheese. The taste is even stranger. The candied cherry notes are on the front of the tongue, and after that I DO get the coriander and other spicy notes. The finish is like cheap liquor, and I mean that in the best possible way. Anyone who’s ever found something to like about a bottom-shelf "rock and rye" will get it. There’s a lot of WTF to smile about in this beer. This is the kind of audacious risk that is going to lead Seven Arrows to greatness.
Sunday, July 23, 2017
It's surprising how often I think about it, if I try to objectively consider the value of this memory. I'm 48 years old now. I've been through two divorces, several job loses, and the murder of my best friend. All of those are experiences that ought to be more formative, more empirically valuable, than my one clear memory from ninth grade. And yet, this one memory from my 14th year pops into my head frequently. Most recently, it overtook my thoughts during a six mile run that was part of the training for my third marathon.
This memory is 25 years old.
The memory is tactile, initially. The first clear part of the memory is the feeling of a sweatshirt against my chest. It may have been the first time I ever wore that sweatshirt. I remember that it was baggy, and it was warm, and I'd hoped that it might hide some of that fat rolls that I'd become very self conscious about during my 14th year. This was during my morning gym glass. My teacher was Mr. Allen, and I don't remember thinking that he was particularly cruel, nor particularly nice. I can remember thinking that he was there to fill a role, to do a job, and to kill the time on the clock between 9 AM and 10 AM.
I guess I apparently also remember that this memory occurred sometime between 9 AM and 10 AM.
I can remember that we 9th graders were ostensibly learning how to play volleyball. We were inside the gym at Alleghany County High School, and there were two volleyball nets set up, one on each half of the basketball court. I can remember that I was one of the students who was assigned to the first of the two half-court nets. The one closest to the locker rooms and the hallway. The hallway that lead to the classrooms, where it was easier and more likely for a pudgy 14 year old boy to slip anonymously into 25 to 30 other anonymous adolescent faces. I wanted to be in that hallway. I wanted to be in one of those classrooms. I wanted to be anywhere other than standing in line, waiting to take my turn to serve the volleyball over the net, waiting to be judged by Mr. Allen and by the other 14 year olds, and by 15 year old April Ellis.
April had been held back a year. She was practically an adult at the age of 15. She smoked, she had boobs, and she was easily the most mature and intimidating human being my 14 year old eyes had ever taken in from the side. April was seated on the bleachers, just behind the spot from which each ninth grader would eventually have to serve the volleyball. For some reason, April and her court of two or three adoring female minions were always excused from volleyball, and other activities. For some reason, April and her minions were always allowed to simply sit on the bleachers and observe the other students. And, when those students somehow fell within April's range of audible commentary, April and her court were allowed to assess each of us. It never occurred to 14 year old me that April was enjoying this privilege through the passive forbearance of teachers. April's position, as judge and qualifier, seemed to me to have been ordained by the universe itself.
I can remember standing in line, waiting my turn to serve the volleyball. I can remember trying to disappear into my baggy sweatshirt. The collar of it was rough against my bottom lip. I can remember the kid in front of me taking his turn, and I can remember walking the four or five steps to the spot where April would have the opportunity to judge my worth as a human being, and (please, God) hopefully dismiss me with ambivalence.
The best I could hope for was to be ignored. I prayed for that.
I walked the four or five steps to the spot where I was expected to serve the volleyball. And as it was tossed to me, I heard the giggling from April and her friends. And I heard April's cool, distinct, vaguely smokey voice.
"Oh, boy," she laughed, "where have you been all of my life?"
The ridiculous hubris of a 15 year old's sarcasm struck me, appropriately, as very silly. I turned around, looked her square in the eye, and silenced her with a brief but obvious rejoinder: "April, you're 15. Most people in this world own socks that are older than you."
Well, I'd like to say that is what happened. That's one of the possible come-backs that popped into my mind when my memory of April blind-sided me during my run the other day. But that isn't what actually happened.
Actually, before I could say a word to April, my real-life, super-athletic girlfriend (who was a couple of years older than me and who'd had boobs for longer than April) appeared out of no where and popped April in the jaw, shutting her up for the rest of the day.
No, that's not really what happened. And, believe you me, I've fantasied about exactly that. And the irony is, I actually do have that girlfriend now. She's really a couple of years older than me, so she's super-mature. And she's been an athlete all of her life. She finished her first marathon before I could even spell the word. But she wasn't there that day. She and I wouldn't meet for more than another twenty years.
What happened that day was, I quietly served the volleyball. And I can't remember if I served it with any competence or if I served it to the entirely wrong side of the gym. I served the ball, and I quietly, obediently absorbed April's dismissal of my entire existence. And I retreated to the other side ot he gym, and I waited to hopefully escape further criticism. Which I must have done, because I don't remember anything else from that day.
In fact, I don't remember anything else from ninth grade.
And I would like to say that this trivial, inconsequential memory faded into the ether, as all childish things do. But it didn't. I have thought about it constantly for the past 25 years. It pops into my head at the damnedest times... during job interviews, during birthday parties for my children ... even while training for my third marathon.
"Where have you been all of my life," she asked, her voice oozing with mockery.
I've been right here, April. Right where you left me. I'm absolutely certain that you have no memory of that day. I'm also absolutely certain that I'll never forget it. It may be the last thing I think about on my last day. Your impetuous, igornant 15 year old voice, defying me to prove my worth. Your 15 years, your nothingness. Your voice, your void, drawing me into your nothingness. Your pain, calling to my pain. Our shared emptiness.
This is the power of an unkind remark. This is the weight of cruelty. Even when it comes from the (presumably) shared suffering of another child, this is the power that simple spite has to negate another's entire life. After 35 years, it hasn't left my mind. It is my only distinct memory from ninth grade.
April, I realize, objectively, that you would not have been cruel to me if you hadn't learned cruelty from some barbaric circumstance. I don't think a 15 year old kid would set out to harm another person unless they had been taught to do so. So, although I am absolutely certain that you don't remember that remark, I forgive it. I forgive it almost every time it pops into my head. At least, I do so lately. Just as I hope you forgive the cruelty that I presume shaped your first 15 years.
"Where have you been all of my life?"
I'm right here, April. Here, and now. And I'll start over again tomorrow.
Monday, July 17, 2017
Venus Rising is an imperial IPA from Final Gravity. It pours slightly hazy, orange/yellow. Lots of foam. Aroma is lemons and buttered bread. The front of the tongue is mild, but the hops come in big and bright on the finish. More lemons and a little bit of garlic. Very good.
I really like Final Gravity's Doppler Effect imperial IPA. I love the contrast between the bready, slightly sweet malt on the aroma and the piercing, fruit/citrus hops all over the back end of the flavor. The beer pours slightly hazy yellow with average to light foam. the aroma has that buttery, malty quality, and it’s there on the flavor, too. But the finish is lemon and tropical fruit notes, melon and mango. Just a great balance that makes this a remarkable IPA.
Irish Goodbye is a very big version of a dry Irish stout from Final Gravity. It pours opaque dark brown with a slight, tan, creamy head, There is an aroma of licorice, espresso, and some herbal notes. The flavor is really smooth... I’d never have guessed this beer was a little more than 8% ABV. It hides the alcohol behind a ton of roasted malt flavor, and a little sweet coffee character. Creamy mouthfeel. This is the best dry Irish stout I’ve had in a really long time.
Mamaw's Mean Cobbler is a Belgian Tripel with peaches, spices, and other ancillary ingredients by Hardywood. I like this a lot more than their basic peach tripel. The added spices and sweetness make it a delicious dessert beer, as the name implies. It pours a creamy orange color with average foam. The aroma is sweet and fruity, with vanilla and cinnamon as strong presences. On the flavor I think I detect nutmeg, too, although that isn’t listed on the label. The rich lactose sugar and spices, peach flavor and malt are all tied together with a little hop kick at the end. The ABV is undetectable. I thoroughly enjoyed this.
Savor X is a collaborative Baltic Porter by Hardywood and New Belgium. It's rich and strong and has a notably hearty finish. This beer pours very dark brown with very little head. The aroma is malt, bakers chocolate and coffee liqueur. The flavor is a great mingling of that coffee/chocolate thing, but the coffee character dominates, especially on the finish. As strong as this is, I never got sick of it.
Berliner Weiss is becoming one of my favorite summertime brews. I enjoy it for it's easy-drinking low alcohol content and the sharp tartness that makes it such a distinct beer. Hardywood's Berliner Weiss is not a particularly inventive version of the style, it's a classic take, played right down the middle. And it's a huge success in that regard. This beer is hazy, pale yellow with a thin rim of foam. Lemon and salt are all over the aroma, with a little sweet, banana-like character in the background. The flavor is really tart front to back, and the finish is bright and clean. A perfect beverage for campfires, picnic tables, and fireflies.
Saturday, July 8, 2017
I love Stone's RuinTen, a gigantic and uncompromising IPA they bill as a "triple." I look forward to the annual release every summer. This year Stone dispensed with the regular recipe of RuinTen in favor of two alternative recipes.
First up is a double-dry hopped version of RuinTen, featuring Centennial and Citra hops. It was brewed for the Southern California area, which Stone calls home, but was available on tap from the Richmond brewery. I liked it when I tasted it there, and brought home a crowler. This is a super dank, meaner version of regular RuinTen. It pours hazy copper/orange with average head. The aroma is very big, bitter, aggressive, funky. A lot of pine/resin and strong, fat hops. The flavor is bitter as hell front to back, the bitterness changes and mellows some on the exhale but never backs off. RuinTen is already openly hostile. This is version is up another notch. Maybe a little of the complexity from the malt is sacrificed in the bargain, but it’s a great experiment.
For 2017, Stone also released an orange and vanilla variation of RuinTen. I missed it on tap in Richmond but found a double-deuce in a bottle shop. I like this variation, but it's the lesser of the two. The orange seems a little artificial, but it does stand up to the monstrous hop steamroller of the base beer. The vanilla comes through in the background, and it seems a little artificial too, but it ain’t bad. Most of it is an adjunct presence in the nose on the finish. I cannot say I didn't like it. I hope next year I’ll be able to get RuinTen in its original form. But this year, the diversions are not at all unpleasant.
Barrel aging and IPAs don’t usually work for me. Usually a barrel aged IPA loses it's hop character and mostly tastes like an oaked ale, or else the barrel doesn't penetrate the hop-wall at all. But XS, a gin barrel aged DIPA from Stone, totally works. I think the gin botanicals come through strong and mix well with the hops. It reminds me of Jindia, Stone's Gin IPA from earlier this year, but with distinctly woody, barrel notes that permeate the aroma and the flavor. This beer pours a clear orange color with a lot of foam, the aroma is gin and pine and some oaky vanilla. The flavor tastes strongly of the barrel and the hops, and the gin character is really nice here. I don’t even typically like gin itself, but I enjoy this. I’d have this again.
Unibroue Megadeth A Tout Le Monde Saison pours cloudy yellow with a lot of foam. The aroma is typical of a saison, there are some sweet fruit notes, cloves, spice, and a little citrus. The flavor is warm and rich and closes with a nice mixture of malty sweetness and mild hop punch. I was surprised at how good this beer tastes. I'd expected a beer brewed hastily for a band-marketing gimmick. Instead, this is actually one of the better saisons I've had.
Rodenbach's flagship sour brown pours cloudy brown/red. The brief head is gone in an instant. The aroma is tart and bright. Cherries, red wine vinegar, a little bit of brown sugar. Flavor starts out bittersweet and smooth, the sourness comes in on the back of the tongue. Rich on the finish. This beer might be a good introduction to the Flanders style, it kinda plays it right down the middle. The sourness is unmistakable but not overwhelming.
Beers like New Belgium's Dayblazer are the reason I’ve largely ignored session brews for ages. And, yeah, I admit, some of the session beer I’ve had lately has defied the rule... that rule being that session ales are bland, artificially sweet, and boring. But this one exemplifies that rule. It doesn’t taste bad or smell bad, it just doesn’t taste or smell like much of anything. It pours yellow with a little bit of foam. The aroma is the kind of thing I associate with American adjunct corn lagers. It smells a little too sweet and unappetizing. The flavor is watery, starchy, and saccharine. You may as well drink Coors or Budweiser as drink this. I'm not sure who New Belgium is targeting with this beer.
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
Further and Farther is a collaborative IPA by Hardywood and Right Proper. It pours very cloudy yellow with an average head. The aroma is super juicy. Tangerines, pineapple, mango, and a little bit of green pepper show up on the nose. The flavor opens juicy but then close very sharply bitter and dry. Almost acerbic in the finish, but not enough to amount to a bad brew. Very interesting experimental beer.
Tropication is among Hardywood’s better IPAs. It is not in the same league as the fantastic Empress Evelyn. But I think it’s stronger than Hoplar or the recent Quadrahop, and bigger tasting than Great Return. It pours hazy orange with a little foam. The aroma is big and juicy, the tropical fruit in the name and mentioned on the label comes through big on the nose. The flavor has some of the juice but closes drier and leaner than the aroma implies. I hope Hardywood keeps turning out IPAs like this.
Troegs First Cut IPA pours a clear, golden color with a fair amount of foam. The aroma is so mild that it’s hard to smell anything. At least it doesn’t stink, I guess. The flavor is mild, too. Mild to nonexistent, actually. I pick up a little bit on some hops in the close, but there’s just nothing much here to comment on. I guess at least it doesn’t taste bad.
I’ve never had a hibiscus beer that I like very much, and I didn’t expect to like Troegs Crimson Pistil Hibiscus IPA. But it actually ain’t bad. It pours orange in color with a bit of foam. The aroma is that perfumy, funeral home quality I’ve come to expect from hibiscus beer. There is a little bit of hops there but mostly it’s that waxy floral thing. The flavor is better than the aroma. It’s malty, the hops may have faded some in this bottle, but it really doesn’t taste bad. The hibiscus is in the background on the flavor in spite of it’s dominance of the aroma. It tastes alright.
This single foeder batch of Petrus Aged Pale Ale (from foeder 222), brewed for Trader Joe's, is a good beer. I don't think I like it quite as much as the version of the ale that Petrus releases on their own label, but it's still a very good wild/sour ale. The aroma is creamy and tart, some vanilla and lime, a little spice. I don't think it is as complex as I remember the regular version of this ale being, but it still smells great. Tastes great, too. It starts out slightly sweet before turning very strong and sour midtongue. Dry on the finish. I'd drink this again, and at Trader Joe's prices, I consider it a very good bargain.
Ommegang's Fruition is a decent wheat beer brewed with fruit. The fruit is there but it’s subtle, you can still taste the base beer and tell that it’s a pretty good wheat beer. It pours hazy yellow with a lot of foam. The aroma is the usual yeasty, banana type wheat beer thing. There is some presence of the mango and passion fruit adding a tangy quality to the smell. The fruit is on the flavor, too, in the finish, after a warm malt and some dry hop kick.
Friday, June 9, 2017
Are you a combination of adventurous and suicidal? Would you like to go for a hike without enjoying it? Do you like running but lament the low likelihood of a crippling injury on roads and tracks? Would you enjoy playing guessing games, like "Is It Venomous?" and like "What The Hell Is Bleeding Now?" If so, then trail running is the sport for you!"
Wednesday, June 7, 2017
Barrel Chest, my favorite Roanoke beer store, continues to step up as a favorite local brewery, too. What Barrel Chest seems to be doing well, what they do better than other regional breweries who have to brew bigger batches tailored to mainstream consumers, is brew beers that are closer to the most current trends in the industry and the interests of niche fans. Barrel Chest has brewed some super juicy IPAs, some tasty sours, and a couple of stouts that compare favorably to Hardywood's legendary offerings. But this is a review of something they brewed within a confining standard, and for a very good reason.
Over the past month, ten regional breweries have collaborated on a beer, the profits from which went to the Virginia chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Each brewery was tasked with brewing a Bière de Garde with rosehips (roses being symbolically significant to Cystic Fibrosis patients and the people who love them).
Barrel Chest's own version of this beer added raspberries and apricots and was finished with brettanomyces. Brett usually brings a funky sourness to those beers that feature it, resulting in a particular flavor and aroma that is among the most popular and most interesting trends in craft brewing these days. I enjoyed the Barrel Chest version of this beer, but I found that none of the additional flavors could stand up to the rosehips. Rosehips tend to dominate any beer they are added to, particularly on the aroma. Imagine a vase that has been used to store roses a number of times. Even after the last of the roses is long gone, if you raise that vase to your nose, it's still gonna smell like roses. That was the case with this beer's aroma, although the pugnacious quality of the brettanomyces was a subtle note in the background. I didn't pick up much of the apricot or raspberries on the aroma or on the flavor. This beer tastes like roses smell. And if you like roses, it might be something you'll enjoy. I thought it was interesting, but I mostly enjoyed the knowledge that my glass of beer was a small contribution to a good cause.
The Virginia chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation does good work for CF patients and their families. And I don't mean in an abstract way, I'm not talking about long term research or hypothetical goals. The CF Foundation gets life-prolonging medicine to people who otherwise would not have it. This Foundation gives people more time to fight, to the best of their ability, for their lives. This is an important cause, and one that I care about very much. If you would like to make a contribution, please click here and help patients and families who are struggling to live with a cruel disease. I promise you, by giving even a few dollars, you are making a real difference to real people in the here and now.
Anderson Valley's G&T Gose is another bright, tangy, slightly salty gose that will make a delicious summertime beer. It pours pale yellow with a lot of carbonation and average foam. The aroma is melon, cucumber, a little citrus. The flavor closes with a tangy, slightly salty bit of punch at the end. Really nice.
21st Amendment's Blah Blah Blah IPA is a very big IPA, but it’s well balanced. The malt notes and the hop are played equally big. I like it quite a bit. The beer pours cloudy orange with some quick-fading foam. The smell is really great. Gigantic piney hops and a rich, bready malt swirl together in a big presentation. The malt is on the front of the favor, but the finish is very strong and dank, with resin and oily hops in a clamorous finish. Big beer. Good beer.
Founder's Frootwood is a cherry ale aged in oak. It pours orange/brown with a little bit of foam. The smell is a combination of the cherry and oak, with some vanilla in the background. The flavor is smooth and sweet, honey and cherries dominate the mid-tongue, and then the oak comes through big on the finish. I wish Id bought more of this.
Elysian's Superfuzz Blood Orange Pale Ale is not bad but not really anything special. It pours cloudy orange with only a little foam. The orange on the aroma is there, and its pleasant. The malt isnt entirely obscured, either. The front of the tongue is warm and malty, but the orange and the hops are there on the finish. This is OK.
I expected a sweet dessert-type beer from Terrapin's Chubby Bunny, a S'mores flavored imperial milk stout. Instead, I got a strong, rich, aggressive stout that ain't tryin' to sweet-talk nobody. The sweetness is there but it's subtle. The chocolate is there but it is not overplayed. And, in terms of texture, the mouthfeel is dense and chewy. This stout pours black with a light tan head. The aroma is coffee and some sweet spice and chocolate, maybe a hint of graham cracker. The flavor is strongly roasted and closes with a lot of malt character and only a little sugar. I don’t know if a bunny is the right mascot for this beer. Maybe a mellow but fully capable bear would work better.