Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Here's six with an emphasis on Sierra Nevada.

Sidecar is an Orange Pale Ale from Sierra Nevada. The orange is very subtle, which is good. Orange is one of those flavors that can ruin a beer if the brewer gets heavy handed with it. This beer pours clear orange/yellow, about the color of SNPA, with a lot of foam and carbonation. The aroma is where the orange comes through strongest, coasting atop something very similar to the wonderful blend of malt and hops that characterizes SNPA. The flavor brings the orange to the background in favor of buttery malt and the expected west coat hop thing. I won’t need to have this again, but I liked this bottle.

Another example of Sierra Nevada doing the fruit thing right. The peach isn’t a forward presence in Peach IPA, thankfully. The peach flavor just adds a slight, mellow sweetness to the aroma and taste. This is still an IPA. It pours dark golden in color with average to more-than-average foam. The aroma is slightly fruity, but mostly about a classic SN hop profile. The peach is a little stronger on the flavor but still not dominant. This is a legit IPA that closes with a hint of sugary, mild peach sweetness. I cringe a little bit when I see peaches mentioned on a beer label, but this is better than I thought it would be.

Sierra Nevada's German Style IPA isn’t bad at all, but I think it plays the German yeast card pretty heavily to the exclusion of much IPA quality. Had they called this a hoppy kolsch I'd probably be on board to a greater degree. This beer pours slightly cloudy yellow with average head. The aroma is like a kolsch, or maybe even like a witbier. There are honey notes, maybe berries and bread, kind of a dessert thing. The flavor has that, too... reminds me a little bit of berry cobbler. There is some hop tingle in the finish, but more akin to classic SNPA than any of the brewery’s IPAs. I guess this is alright.

By the way, I'm digging the slightly retro look of the labels in the current Sierra Nevada IPA mixed twelve. I got that box mostly looking forward to this Black IPA, because I really loved Sierra Nevada's Blindfold Black IPA a few years ago. This beer is good, but not as good as Blindfold. It pours very dark brown with a lot of foam. The aroma is really nice. It combines a pine hop profile with a rich, dark, pumpernickel type of malt character. The flavor is good, too, and has that same dark bread and tingly hops blend, but it closes slightly thin. I remember loving Blindfold for it’s strong, persistent finish. I don’t think I quite pick up on that kind of distinguishing character here.

I swore off lambic five years ago after tasting some variations on the style by the commonly found Lindemans brewery and finding them to be really disgusting. But since then my taste has changed and I’ve come to love sour and tart beers. A member of the staff at a Blacksburg beer store suggested I try Oude Geuze Boon after I told him that I’ve come to love La Folie and some other sours. This is a lambic made without fruit at all, and the Gueuze style, to my understanding, is traditionally a blend of two concurrent vintages. This beer pours cloudy yellow with average head. The aroma is great. Like a sour it has a really nice complexity, with tones of sweet citrus, such as pineapple, blending with funky, cheesy notes. The flavor brings all of the stuff on the nose straight to the tongue, although I found the finish to be a little too subdued. It closes rather quietly, and while each last sip invites the first, I’d have enjoyed a little more clamor. Still, when each sip is as good as the previous, it’s silly to complain.

Hanssens Oude Gueuze ppours slightly hazy golden yellow with no head and basically no carbonation. Other reviews mention average carbonation, so I wonder if my bottle just was not properly sealed. The aroma is tart and funky, reminding me of kombucha, sour apples, some hints of the aging. The flavor is very good in spite of this bottle being mostly flat. It is very sour and strong, with pear and citrus and lemon qualities, and the close is bright and pungent. I liked this.

OK, so that's two lambic reviews, both of them positive, in a week's time. Hell, the second one was flat and I still liked it. This is a style I need to rethink.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Here's six more beer reviews.

SeaQuench Ale is a Kolsch/Gose/Berlinerweiss hybrid by Dogfish Head. It's pretty low ABV and it's also pretty damn good. I was surprised at how much I like it. It pours slightly cloudy brownish yellow with an average amount of foam. The aroma is citrusy and salty and has a little malt in the background. The flavor is tart upfront... heck, it’s actually sour. The lime and sea salt are there, but so is the malt, and the sour quality doesn’t taste synthetic or entirely contrived by ancillary ingredients. It’s a real sour, and it’s really good, and I will buy it again.

Fearless Fifty Saison is a Trader Joe’s exclusive, brewed by Green Flash to mark the grocery store’s fiftieth anniversary. It’s pretty good, as saisons go, although the style isn’t my favorite. It pours clear yellow, there is a huge amount of foam, and the carbonation is extreme, too. The aroma is typical of a saison. Citrus, bananas, pears and peaches, all that usual sweet and yeasty stuff. The flavor is sweet and mellow and closes with crackery malt. Not bad.

I don’t know anything about Track Town USA, but I do know that Ninkasi's Beer Run is a tasty IPA, and probably the best thing I’ve had from Ninkasi. This beer is the official beer of Track Town USA. OK, whatever. I'm a runner, I read a lot of stuff aimed at runners, and I don't know about Track Town. I assume it's regional and only noteworthy in the pacific northwest, where Ninkasi is located. Whatever. My bottle was probably a little too old. In spite of that, or maybe even because of that, it was dank, strong, bitter, and really tasty. It poured a cloudy orange with average head. The aroma was lemons, buttery bread, and something that reminded me of slightly under-ripe berries. Tangy, with a lot of bite. The flavor was smoother than the aroma implied, and far maltier, but still had strong, up-front hoppiness. The finish had citrus vapor and a little bit of dank punch. This was a darn good bottle of beer.

I looked for the Chocolate and Coffee variation of Blue Mountain's Dark Hollow at beer stores in Charlottesville and Roanoke and couldn’t find it. Then it turned up at a Kroger grocery store, right next to a bunch of six-packs of the formerly elusive HopSlam. It’s really an odd time to be a craft beer fan, but hey, I'll take it. This beer pours black with very little foam. The aroma is just baker’s chocolate, dark and rich and sweet and bitter. The flavor is huge dark chocolate too, I don’t pick up on the coffee. The finish has a really nice, roasty, slightly hoppy twist. It’s delicious.

Stone brews Megawheat Double IPA as a collaboration with Marble and Odell. This beer doesn’t have the sweet, buttery, or rich notes I’d expect from a wheat beer, but it’s a tasty IPA all the same. It pours clear, golden in color with a lot of fast-fading head and a small amount of splotchy foam. The aroma is dry and floral, mildly fruity, and clean. The aroma is bright and bitter and crisp. The wheat comes through a bit in the finish but this is very much a classic Stone double IPA, and it focus on bright, angry hops. It is good. I like it.

Stone's Tangerine Express IPA is a bright and light IPA with a lot of citrus on the aroma and a typically big Stone Brewery west coast hophead flavor. The body is a clear yellow, the head is about average, and so is the carbonation. The aroma is another example of Stone doing secondary ingredients just right. This isn’t too different from Stone’s flagship IPA, plus a little bit of sweet and tangy orange zest or tangerine mixed in. The flavor does not hit you over the head with the citrus. It’s there, but it’s a minor quality. For the most part, this thing drinks like a classic Stone IPA. Which is to say it is not hard to finish at all.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Blacksburg Classic 10 Mile Race, Blacksburg, VA, February 12, 2017 ... (Time: 1:49:52)

Not every race can be a PR. Some races have to be disasters. This race was the down side of the scale. This race was a disaster ... both for me and for Lucky, too, and we both look forward to moving on from it and hopefully doing better next time.

Not that we're blameless as per our bad results.

Lucky and I had a delicious, big, carb-load lunch on the day before this race. We decided that we would probably both like to have some sushi for dinner later that night. So we went to a super-market in our area that happens to make and sell fantastic sushi. Where we made our mistake was in riding around and running errands for several hours after we picked up the sushi. By the time we got home, the sushi was... well, warm. It didn't even smell very appetizing. But I insisted, because I wanted it to be true, that unless sushi stinks, it is fine to eat.

Given the next day's issues, I may have been entirely wrong.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Two from Triple Crossing, two from The Veil, and two from Stone.

Clever Girl, by Triple Crossing, is a really nice, bright, lemony IPA. Pours coudy yellow with average head and carbonation. The aroma is slightly sweet with lemon and orange overtones. That’s also the flavor, and the finish is clean and crisp. This would be a wonderful warm weather beer.

Like Falcon Smash, this imperial version of Triple Crossing's IPA is sweet without ever getting too sweet. And it has a punch from the ABV that is really nice. Double Falcon is hazy orange, not a ton of foam, average carbonation. The aroma is citrus, a little hint of white wine, a bit of pepper in there, too. The flavor is huge up front, grapefruit, a little vegetable quality, some crackery malt. The finish hints at sourdough and delivers some vapor from the big ABV. This is excellent.

Fake People Imperial IPA pours the color of grapefruit juice, cloudy, with very little foam. The aroma is funky and strong. Citrus, vinegar, strong fresh-cut grass notes. The flavor is also funky and dank, but well balanced. Hoppy, bitter notes up front are followed by a malty wash in the finish. Not a lot of indication of the big ABV. This is a rich and bitter beer, and typical of The Veil’s aggressive, delicious IPAs.

Fake Love, another of The Veil's fine imperial IPAs, pours lemon/orange, cloudy, with a lot of foam. Sweet, citrusy aroma. Clementines, lemongrass, some spice, some starch, but mostly dank/tart. Delicious flavor, grapefruit and other fruit, a little bit of melon. Buttery, bready malt in the background. Very, very good.

I guess Stone's Ripper Pale Ale is OK. It’s somewhere between a pale ale and an IPA, with an aroma that kind of evokes Arrogant Bastard. But it doesn’t really hit any of the spots that any of those beers might hit. It pours copper brown with a fair amount of foam. The aroma is like a strong ale, Arrogant Bastard and the like. A combination of hops and caramel and citrus, some apples, some spice. That’s the flavor, too. The finish is a little malty. It’s not bad. I don’t really want it again.

I guess Stone's Coffee Milk Stout, with Peppermint and Chocolate Mint, is decent. It isn’t something I’d want again, but I finished this bottle. It pours dark brown and has a good bit of foam. The aroma is heavy on the mint. The sweet malt, lactic acid, and chocolate are there, but the mint is atop it all. The mouthfeel is creamy and smooth and the flavor is rich and sweet. Chocolate and mint are just about all there is to taste, but it doesn’t taste bad. Like a chocolate peppermint patty in a glass.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

I got six for ya. You want six? Because I got six for ya. Here's six.

Stone's Enjoy By 2-14-17, with coffee and chocolate, doesn’t really work. Certainly not in comparison to Stone’s regular Enjoy By releases. This beer pours cloudy orange and the second pour from the 22 oz bottle was particularly clumpy, as an unfiltered beer can tend to be. The aroma is like a Stone IPA, strong hops, bitter and almost astringent pine and floral notes dominate the nose. The flavor is bold, bitter, and strong. I do pick up on the chocolate in the finish, and I suppose the coffee, too, but it all conflicts with the normally refreshing citrus punch of regulation Enjoy By. I don’t know why Stone keeps monkeying with a good thing, not one of the Enjoy By variants they’ve released in the past year can compare to the straight stuff.

Hardywood bills Virginia Blackberry as a summer beer, but I think I think that anyone who enjoys it would enjoy it year round. It pours light copper color with a little bit of foam. The aroma is slightly tart and sweet, the blackberries are there, but Belgian ale qualities, like bananas and squash, are also a presence. The flavor is where the blackberries really move forward, all over the front of the tongue and the finish. But the Belgian esters and mild malt aren’t entirely suffocated. This isn’t a style I seek out, but it is pretty good.

The Answer's Piece Of The Action is a mosaic hopped beer with all the usual lemony mosaic notes, a clean finish, and a light body. The beer pours yellow with a whole lot of foam. The aroma is fantastic. I let the foam clear for a minute and could smell it from across the table. I couldn’t wait to taste it. The lemon, citrus, and hay on the aroma are strong on the flavor. The finish is dry and bright, with a little bit of vapor. One more damn fine beer from The Answer.

I'll say it again... now is the time to be a fan of Virginia craft beer. There are so many good Virginia breweries right now that it's just hard to comprehend it. In Richmond alone there's Hardywood, The Veil, and The Answer (any one of which is a candidate for any number of superlatives.) Then there's Apocalypse in Lynchburg, South Street in Charlottesville, Parkway in the Roanoke-Salem area... Virginia craft brew fans are dealing with an embarrassment of riches these days.

I had New Belgium's Bretta IPA on tap at the brewery in Asheville last October. I liked it a lot. This review is for the bottled version, which I don’t like as much. It’s still very good, but with New Belgium, more than any other brewery I can think of, there seems to be a lot of difference between the keg and the bottle. This bottle poured clear yellow with a lot of carbonation and an absurd amount of foam. It took forever to pour this. The aroma is funky and weird and really nice. The fruity character is an undercurrent behind the unique, weird stuff. The aroma reminds me of lemons, musty leaves, spices, sweat, and steamed vegetables. The flavor doesn’t seem to quite deliver on the aroma’s complexity. It’s bitter and strong, aggressive, definitely hop forward. I like that, but I remember being surprised by this beer at the brewery. In the bottle it’s still very good, just not quite what I remembered.

Ten Fidy is already one of the best imperial stouts around, and this barrel aged version actually takes it up another tick by adding to an already complex beer. I got to taste this at the brewery last fall. Later I had it on tap at Barrel Chest. On tap, this is as good as the style gets. From the can it is still very good, but seems just a little hotter and not quite as well matured. It pours black with a trace of cherry/tan head. The aroma is all of the usual Ten Fidy stuff, bitter roasted malt and coffee and a little bit of cherries, but the bourbon barrel aging adds vanilla and some undeniable kick. The flavor is not as well balanced as the aroma, at least from the can. The bourbon is a little dominant, and the aforementioned heat unavoidable. It tastes and feels like the 13 percenter that it is. But I cannot fault a beer for packing a punch, especially when it delivers as deliciously as this does. Barrel Aged Ten Fidy deserves to take its place with KBS and Bourbon County as one of the highly sought-after American craft stouts.

I didn’t expect to enjoy the Cinnamon-Raisin version of Ballast Point's Commodore Stout very much, but it’s really pretty OK. The cinnamon and raisin addition is there, but it isn’t too much, it doesn’t dominate the flavor. This beer pours dark brown to black with average head. The aroma is like regular Commodore, there’s a coffee and roasted malt character with some of the cinnamon present in the nose. It’s there mid-tongue, too, but the beer still finishes with the fairly strong roasted malt character that makes the original stout pretty good. I didn’t mind this at all.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Here's six more.

I won't always buy Stone's high end beers. It's hard to make myself pay big bucks when Stone's affordable flagship brews are damn near perfect. But I did buy this bottle of 2016 Southern Charred Double Bastard. OK. So, I didn't think the Templeton Rye Barrel Aged version of Double Bastard was particularly better than regulation Double Bastard. But this... this is really something noteworthy. This beer looks like Double Bastard on the pour, it's dark caramel brown with little head. The aroma is just gorgeous. It smells like Double Bastard, but has huge, warm, buttery, bourbon character. Vanilla, spice ...rich and woody and strong. The flavor is bigger and bolder still. It's complex and rich and absolutely delicious. Nutty, toasted, with burnt sugar and earthy, ochre notes. The finish is spacious and warm, and the big blast of the ABV hits the nose like a ghost train. This is a beer to save for special occasions, or to make any occasion special.

I actually like this new version of New Belgium's Ranger IPA quite a bit, mostly for the warm and mildly funky aroma. Voodoo Ranger pours a clear yellow/orange with some tenacious foam. The aroma is really nice. Slightly tropical, kinda funky, some grassy notes... it all blends together well in the nose. The flavor ain’t bad, either. It’s mild up front but closes with a little bit of bitter kick. A little understated but not tame. Pretty good, I’d have it again.

I guess New Belgium's Citradelic Exotic Lime Ale is somewhere between a gose and a light pale ale, but it doesn’t seem to have enough of any kind of character to appeal to anyone. And what citrus/lime quality there is here smells and tastes synthetic. It pours light yellow with lots of head and carbonation. The aroma is mild, and the lime notes are sedated. The flavor is also sedate, mild, muted, bland, and artificial. It isn’t awful, but it isn’t something I care to have again.

I think Red Chair Northwwest Pale Ale is the best thing I’ve had from Deschutes. It’s really pretty tasty. It pours orange/red with average head, lace, and carbonation. The aroma is incredibly well balanced. Rich, hoppy, just a little bit sweet, with a hint of apple and spice notes. The flavor is is balanced, too... the malt is warm and rich and the hops kick in on the finish without stealing the show. This is somewhere between an American strong ale and a pale ale, and flirts with both styles in a tasty and unique way.

Deschutes Obsidian Stout is a fine, classic take on the American style stout. It pours dark brown to black with copper highlights and little foam. The aroma is coffee and a bit of citrus and charcoal. The flavor is all about the roasted malt. Not a bit sweet, not off balance, just a dark, rich, roasted malt character that is delicious to the last drop. A fine stout.

Clown Shoes Clemtine Witbier is a decent wheat beer with a sweet, polished, citrus character. Pours fairly clear yellow with a good bit of foam. The aroma is lemon, orange zest, sweet and fruity wheat beer notes. The flavor is the same, swinging to the sweet side. But not enough to get cloying. I wouldn’t want this every day, but it ain’t bad.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Six. And I'm drinking a little less as of late, so they'll be coming less frequently. I think the extra carbs were slowing me down, so I'm mixing it up a bit. Anyway...

Sierra Nevada's Maple Scotch is a Scotch style beer with maple added, as the name implies. It is decent, and it really is a scotch ale. I had expected something heavy on maple, sweeter, closer to an autumn, marzen/pumpkin kind of thing. But this ale is legitimately scotchy, and the maple is a secondary presence. It pours amber colored with average head. The aroma is scotchy and malty, and so is the flavor. A bit of hops and some mild maple duke it out for dominance of the finish. I grew to like this more over the course of the glass. If you were to offer me another glass of this, I would not punch you in the throat.

Sierra Nevada's annual winter mixed twelver always has something in it that I'm not that interest in trying. This year it was the Single Hop cascade IPA. Well, what the hell do I know. This cascader is delicious, light, and zesty. It would be supremely slamable in warmer weather. This beer pours clean and clear orange/yellow with a head that fades quickly. The aroma and flavor are both all about the hops. Fruity, citrusy, with lemon and tangerine and still plenty of noticeable malt. Reminds me more of Sierra Nevada’s classic pale ale than anything else, with a clean cascade hop finish. That’s not at all a bad thing.

This year's Sierra Nevada Beer Camp release is alright, but can’t compare to the Hoppy Lager from a few years back. I keep hoping that the next Beer Camp offering is gonna be as good as that beer was, and Golden IPA ain't all that. It is pretty good, but it's nothing that's gonna suck your panties up into your buttcrack. This IPA pours golden in color (duh) with average foam, average carbonation. The aroma is pretty good. A little bit of lemony, tangerine fructose thing. The malt is a bit pedestrian, and the overall flavor is dominated by that sweetness,but not in an awful way. This beer might grow on me if I gave it another chance, but I’m moving on.

Then again, Tropical Torpedo is further proof that I should only reluctantly doubt Sierra Nevada. This isn’t quite what I expected. I expected a slightly sweet version of Torpedo, and wondered how that would work with Torpedo’s aggressive hop profile. To my palate, Sierra Nevada has tuned down Torpedo’s drive to make room for a little sugar, and it all works pretty well. The beer pours clear orange color with a little bit of foam. The aroma is grassy and slightly dank, like Torpedo, but with pineapple-tangerine style sweetness. The flavor brings that stuff forward. But the classic Torpedo bitterness is there, albeit in a slightly downscaled form, on the finish. I liked this bottle from the first sip to the last.

Sleigh'r is a dark double seasonal ale by Ninkasi. It's OK, I suppose. I didn't spit it out and curse and shake my spindly fist at heaven while I was drinking it, so there's that. But this beer really isn’t anything special, and it’s probably the least of the Ninkasi beers I’ve had so far. It’s just boring. It pours amber/brown with average carbonation and foam. The aroma is slightly sweet and malty. The flavor is also slightly malty, slightly sweet... just slight in general. The one and only unforgivable sin is to be boring. This beer is unforgivably sinful.

Victory's Tart Ten is one very well balanced sour. to be honest, at this point in the history of my palate, balance isn’t what I’m looking for in sours. I’ve been enjoying the style more and more, and the more aggressive sours are really winning me over. This one is rich, smooth, and only slightly sour, and it’s probably a good way to introduce the sour beer concept to people who like malty, rich beer. This pours light brown with a little bit of foam. The aroma is something like tart apples and some sweet spices... cinnamon, nutmeg, etc. Up front the flavor is a little tart, with the warm, rich malt in the background. Over the course of the bottle, as it warms, the malt moves forward and the sourness fades and seems to eventually dissolve entirely. The ABV is so hidden in the flavor that you could end up in a little trouble over the course of a seven-fifty. I’d hoped for something with some sour contrivance, and instead I got a beer that seems to be crafted with some delicacy. I would probably love Tart Ten in a few years when my relationship with sours isn’t a novelty. The shame is, I’ll likely never drink it again.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Sandman Extreme Half Marathon, Wytheville, VA, January 14, 2017 ... (Time: 1:54:14)

OK, first some numbers. This was my 26th race, my fifth half marathon, and my second time competing in this specific event. This race has the word "extreme" in the name because it is a race up a mountain, and back down again, and then back up a steady gain into the town of Wytheville. All in all it's about 1,700 feet of gain over the course of 13.1 miles. That felt like a hell of a lot of climbing last year. It felt like a hell of a lot of climbing this year, too.

But, at the risk of coming off cocky, it also felt a lot easier this year. There were a number of differences between this year's Sandman Extreme and last year's. For one thing, last year's event was my first half marathon ever. I just didn't know the distance very well last year. This year I've completed a full marathon and a 25K mountain trail race, and I've run more than 13.1 miles more times than I can remember. I know what a half feels like in my bones. It ain't that bad.

Another difference is that this year I never had to slow to a walk even once over the course of the race. Last year I was slowing to a walk over and over again over the course of the first five miles, up Sand Mountain. I was able to stay steady and consistent this year, and I ran the whole thing. I didn't "blaze" the race (blaze being a relative term), but I did stay consistent, and managed an average 8:40 mile. I'm absolutely OK with that, given all of the climbing.

I finished ninth overall. I was the sixth male finisher, and I was first in my 40-49 year old male group. And I was more than three minutes faster than last year's time. That counts for something.

Lucky was gonna run this race with me, but over the course of the last month she aggravated an old knee injury and acquired a new injury to the back of one of her perfect, gorgeous ankles. (It's as much of a shame aesthetically as it is athletically.) So it didn't make sense for her to run today. Instead, she volunteered to be my one-woman mobile support team. She met me along the route with fresh supplies of water, ibuprofen, there may have been a banana in there as well. Because of her assistance I never had to stop at any of the relief stations. I was able to keep relentlessly moving forward, up the mountain, down it again, and back into town. Lucky also gave me another of her patented, magical leg-rubs last night. I don't know what she does, all I know is, since she came into my life, I'm a better runner than ever.

She says that it's because I'm actually getting better on my own. I say it's because the enthusiastic support of a good woman can move mountains. Either way, we seem to make a pretty good team. I have absolutely no idea what I'd do without her.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Starting 2017 with a set of six focused on Oskar Blues.

Oskar Blues Priscilla Wheat Ale is watery and too sweet. It pours pale yellow with a lot of foam. The aroma is like a muted version of any wheat beer; bananas, some citrus, some sweetness, mild vanilla. The flavor is OK on the front of the tongue, but it turns to water immediately and closes with a muted meh kind of nothingness. It doesn’t taste bad. I guess at least there’s that.

Oskar Blues calls Beerito a Mexican lager. It isn’t completely horrible. It pours darker than I’d expected it to, kind of an amber brown. The aroma has a little bit of hoppiness and some mild honey notes. The flavor is very restrained. Mild, slightly malty, with a tiny bit of hoppy twist at the end. Sure, OK, whatever.

Passion Fruit Pinner is billed by Oskar Blues as a "throwback IPA." It's OK. It would be a decent lawnmower beer. Pours only slightly cloudy orange, lots of foam, lots of carbonation. The aroma is fruit and hay and some pine hop character. The flavor brings a not unpleasant wash of tropical fruit, grassy hops, and just a tiny bit of bite. As session beers go, I’ve had worse.

Oskar Blues Hotbox is a coffee porter. And it is a tasty, slightly sweet, rich, coffee-drenched porter that I thoroughly enjoyed. It pours dark brown with a tan head. The aroma is a lot like any good porter... malty with slight notes of molasses and sugar. The flavor is ok up front, but the close is what really sells it. A giant wash of rich, slightly sweet coffee on the finish makes this thing really stand out.

Death by Coconut is a coconut flavored porter from Oskar Blues. It pours medium brown and thin, like iced coffee. Aroma is coconut, caramel, chocolate and coffee. The flavor is a coffee Porter malt thing up front, but the toasted coconut is huge on the finish. ABV is no presence at all. Pretty tasty stuff.

There was a lot of novelty in this can of Barrel Aged Chubna. It’s a blend of Oskar Blues Gubna Imperial IPA and Old Chub Scotch Ale, aged in Buffalo Trace Bourbon Barrels, and it was the first beer I’ve had in Oskar Blues new Stovepipe cans. It pours dark copper/orange color with average head. The aroma and the flavor both remind me very much of the barrel aged version of Arrogant Bastard, and from me that is a real compliment. It’s smokey, slightly sweet, with some strong scotch and molasses qualities, but there is serious hops fireworks going on here, too. The finish is a malt bomb in the best way, and the bourbon barrel comes through from top to bottom. Very good beer.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Here are my last six beer reviews of 2016.

This bottle of Brothers Craft Brewing's Verdure was a gift from a friend who participates in various projects with the brewery. This beer might not be available to the general public, there was no UPC symbol on the label and I couldn't find any reviews at ratebeer.com. It is possible that I am enjoying something exclusive with both of the first two reviews in this batch. I didn't think to ask... sometimes, the best thing to say is simply thank you.

Anyway. Brothers Craft Brewing’s Passion Fruit Vurdure is a Berliner Weissbier. It has a very low ABV (less than 4%) and a tangy character that I found very versatile. I sipped some while cooking dinner the other night and paired the rest with my lean beef and vegetables. I thought it was delicious. This beer pours bright yellow with very little foam and a lot of carbonation. The aroma is tart and bright, the passion fruit doesn’t dominate the sourness of the beer’s aroma, but it is there. The flavor is sour enough to pack a little punch, but it finishes clean and bright and doesn’t blind the palate at all. What a wonderful dinner beer.

I’m far from an expert on Berliner Weisse, but the ones I’ve had are turning me into a fan. I can’t taste a tremendous amount of difference between the passion fruit and pineapple variants of Brother’s Verdure, but I’ve enjoyed them both quite a bit. Like the passion fruit version, I found that this one paired well with lean meat and vegetables, and was delicious to sip on it’s own while I was cooking. Like the passion fruit version, this one is tart and bright. The fruity notes are clearly there, but the difference between the variants is a little lost on me. All I know is that this beer pours bright yellow with average head, smells slightly tart, tastes more than slightly tart, and goes down really easy. I’d drink this again in a heartbeat, and I'd buy it in six-packs very happily.

Barn Dog, a porter by Wyndrige Farm, really isn’t a bad beer. It pours chocolate brown, there isn’t much head, and the truth is, it doesn’t smell very good. There is a muted, plastic quality to the aroma that covers the mild chocolate and vanilla notes with something that just ain’t right. But the flavor is a big improvement. The vanilla comes through on the front and the finish is a combined mix of chocolate, coffee, and a little bit of hops. After that slightly bad smell, the slightly good flavor is a nice surprise. Plus, there is a dog wearing a monocle on the label. That's gotta be worth something.

I hate to use a word like "lush" in a beer review, but "lush" is exactly the right word for Old Hickory's Lindley Park Barrel Aged Imperial Stout. It pours dark brown without much foam, and the aroma is chocolate and vanilla from the barrel aging, plus a hint of the raspberries. The flavor adds coffee to that mix. The raspberries come through on the finish and don’t dominate the flavor, they just add an indulgent quality after all of the character from the malt and the barrel. This is the kind of beer that closes a meal in style, but it was also fine by itself.

This is the first chance I’ve had to try Bell’s Black Note Imperial Stout, and I think this beer deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the hard to find, crazy expensive stuff. It’s that good. Black Note pours black with crimson highlights and basically no head at all (11.5% ABV). The aroma is huge baker’s chocolate and vanilla. Big, rich, a lot of punch, just a tremendous smelling beer. The flavor is delicious. That chocolate and vanilla are right there, and the bourbon barrel comes through strong on the finish. Coffee and toffee notes, and roasted nuts are also a presence. This is fantastic beer.

I shared my last beer of the year with Lucky. Like me, she's enjoyed all of Hardywood's Gingerbread Stout variants this year. And, like me, she was anxious to try this one. We agreed that we haven't had a variation of Hardywood's GBS stout that was anything less than outstanding. And Rum Barrel Aged GBS is one more home run, just as I expected. This version isn't significantly different from the other variations, I'm not sure that the rum barrel aging was able to distinctly and clearly distinguish itself from the already pronounced ginger and spice tones of regular GBS. But it's still damn fine beer, no matter how it's been aged. This one pours dark brown to black with average but brief head (as do the others). The aroma, like other versions of GBS, is sweet, spicy and rich. So is the flavor. There may be a little more sweetness and a little more Caribbean spice going on here, as compared to the bourbon barrel aged and coffee blended varieties. But it isn't enough to significantly change the character of an already fantastic stout. I have absolutely no complaints. Hardywood, I don't know if you are capable of a misstep.