Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sixer... four Stones and a couple of Hardywoods.

Sweet, merciful crap. Bigger Longer Uncut, the Scotch barrel aged version of Stone's Double Bastard, is monstrous. This is the kind of beverage I refer to as "stunt beer." Like Dogfish Head's 120 Minute IPA and Rogue's Beard Beer, this is a beer that, while carefully and artfully crafted, seems designed to raise eyebrows. That isn't to say that DB:BLU is a bad beer, but it's definitely a one-and-done. I am glad I tasted it. I'm glad I had a 32 ounce crowler of it, so I could get it out of my system. And I will never have it again.

DB:BLU pours looking very much like Double Bastard, dark copper color with a little bit of tan (tanner than usual?) foam. But even while pouring it, the senses are assaulted by the peat/Scotch character. You smell it across the table, you could probably smell it across the room. It invades the nose, it rests on the back of the throat, it damn near makes the eyes water. This is like the devil is wearing a kilt and rubbing his devilhood on your nose and laughing with a maniacal Scottish brogue. As a bone-deep Catholic, I felt the need to cross myself while pouring this beer.

Once I actually raised the glass to the nose the peat/smoke/Scotch became even more pronounced. But I could detect a little bit of my familiar and beloved Double Bastard maltiness in the background. Apple and dark bread and caramel and onion, it’s all there, it’s just that the Scot has it’s foot on the Bastard’s throat. By the finish, the flavor loses damn near every bit of the classic, gorgeous Double Bastard quality as the barrel forces it's big, fuzzy, peaty, plaid presence into your mouth. (Is that an indelicate metaphor? Yes, it is. It's supposed to be. This is an indelicate beer. It has big, rough hands and it grabs you and it doesn't treat you with much respect.)

All in all, this is the strongest of the barrel aged Double Bastard variations I have had, but not my favorite. The Templeton Rye version of Double Bastard was better than this, and the bourbon barrel aged "charred" version was a complex and beautiful poem in comparison. In those versions, the barrel aging danced with Double Bastard... kissed it, you might say, and not just on the cheek. Those two previous barrel-aged versions of Double Bastard were showcases for whiskey barrel aging. This one? This one turns DB into a welcome mat for a massive Scotch overload. I’m glad I tasted it. I’ve been dying to taste it since it was announced. And I will never have it again. I’m rating it high based on the unique and singular experience of drinking it. But make no mistake, "singular" is not necessarily a synonym for "pleasurable." This beer is mean, loud, and vulgar as all fuck. In a way, I love it. In another way, I think I need to spend a week in a safe-home.

I like Delicious, which is one of Stone’s more sedate IPAs. I like this double version even more, mostly because it’s the kind of big and aggressive IPA I expect from Stone. This is neither as dry, nor as forward, as Ruination (or it’s variations). Nor is it as juicy and earthy as Enjoy By. But it’s a damn good IPA, and I’d make it a second-string regular if Stone decided to offer it in bottles. Doublicious pours clear golden with a little less foam and carbonation than average. The aroma is citrus, leaning toward the sweetness of something like tangerine, without drowning out the malt. The flavor plays the warm malt up front but closes with a wash of piney, dry, hoppy bitterness. And that ABV, nearly 10%, winks on the exhale. I would absolutely not object to another glass of this.

Give Me IPA or Give Me Death is sort of a companion piece to Give Me Stout Or Give Me Death. Both of them are Stone beers brewed with raspberries and blackberries at the Virginia brewery. This beer is a little better than the stout, Like the stout, this thing doesn’t play the berry card in a distinct way. It’s more of a typical Stone IPA. But IPAs are Stone’s thing, and this one is a fairly typical Stone IPA. It pours dark copper colored with a fair amount of foam and smells like floral and grassy hops with some malt and a hint of the berries. The flavor is a typical, big, bitter blast of hops, but the raspberries are there on the finish in a small, faint, slight, flirtatious way. I won’t go out of my way to get this again, but I enjoyed it.

If Stone’s goal is consistency, then they’ve hit the mark with the Richmond brewery's version of their flagship IPA. I don’t notice much difference at all between this and the classic San Diego release. It may be a little clearer orange/yellow, but that may be my eyes playing tricks on me. There is still not much foam and light carbonation, and the aroma is still grassy and citrus, with lemon or orange zest atop a mild malt. The flavor is still strong, bright, bitter, and the finish still combines the slightly sweet malt with a blast of those pine and floral hops. Well done.

Empress Evelyn is an imperial version of Hardywood’s Evelyn Session IPA, and it is the brewery’s first truly great IPA. I would love to see it become a regular release, or at least a seasonal beer. As of now it’s a very limited release from the pilot taproom in Charlottesville. But you can get it at the Richmond brewery. That's where I had my growler filled, and I only wish now that I could have gotten a couple of crowlers as well. (Hint, hint, Hardywood.) Empress Evelyn pours clear, bright yellow with average head and a fair amount of carbonation. The aroma is citrus, wet grass, a little butter, and dank and funky notes. The flavor is all of that with a nice malt backbone. Dank is the keyword, here. Genuinely dank and aggressive, like the best examples of the style. This is not an extremely original beer, if you have had big IPAs from the likes of Stone and Green Flash, you know what to expect. The joy is that this beer truly delivers that. It is wonderful to see Hardywood do something genuinely big that doesn’t involve barrels, roasted malt, and spices.

Quadrahop Imperial IPA is a typical Hardywood IPA. Not bad at all, in fact it’s perfectly good. But it just falls short of the kind of greatness Hardywood routinely pulls off with their malty beers and barrel aged concoctions. This beer pours slightly pale orange/yellow with a fair amount of head. The aroma is buttered popcorn, some lemony hops and something like green vegetables... Brussels sprouts, maybe. The flavor is mild up front and then closes with this very piercing, almost whiny, astringent hop quality. The finish is all in the nose. These four hops don’t play together particularly well, and the beer actually smells better than it tastes. Empress Evelyn Imperial IPA from the Hardywood’s Charlottesville taproom is the first genuinely great Hardywood IPA that I’ve had. This one? Well, like I said, it’s not bad. But this brewery is capable of art, and Empress Evelyn proves that they aren’t limited to stouts and barrels. Bottle the Empress and let this recipe fade into distant memory. You’re better than this, Hardywood.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Three Fast 5Ks

My last three races were my 28th, 29th, and 30th races overall. (My complete race roster is here.) And all three of them were 5Ks, short and speedy races that are typically not my specialty. I'm pretty good at longer races, and the half-marathon is my favorite distance to race. I've never been particularly fast, but I can stay on my feet and maintain a decent pace for a long time (even impromptu). I still run 5Ks because they are so accessible and they can be a lot of fun. I've never finished them particularly well, and generally concentrate on the longer runs. Regardless, something happened over the course of my last three 5Ks, something I'd never have expected. I actually ran all three of them fairly well.
Special Review: New Belgium's La Folie Flanders Style Sour Brown Ale, 2017 Vintage

Between special releases, seasonal favorites, and pilot batches from favorite breweries, 2017 is shaping up to be a delicious year in craft brewing. I suppose there are quite a few upcoming beers I should be excited about, but there aren't any that I anticipated as much as the 2017 release of New Belgium's La Folie. This sour brown ale was the first sour I ever tasted several years ago, and that bottle of the 2012 release mostly left me confused and at a loss. After the confluence of milder tart styles (gose and the like) acclimated my palate to sour beer, I tried La Folie again last year. I could not get over the difference between the first tasting experience and the second. The 2016 release of La Folie was one of the most complex and rewarding experiences I have had as a craft beer fan. It was a beer that entirely changed my perspective, and I've sought out new sours ever since.

La Folie's 2017 release finally showed up in my area last week. It's been out for a little less than a month. Like every previous batch, the 2017 release is a blend of sours aged one to three years in wine foeders. The process of selection and blending is one of the most meticulous creative processes in craft beer.

As before, the 2017 release of La Folie pours dark brown with a little foam. The aroma is strong and piercing, and is noticeable from the pour. The tart apple notes are off the charts, combining Granny Smith apples, apple cider, and vinegar all at once. The background of the aroma brings some sweet malt, caramel, brown sugar, all kinds of richness. But this time around La Folie seems particularly piercing, right from the first smell.

The flavor, which left me absolutely floored with it's complexity last year, seems a little leaner this time around. I don't get as much on the front end. If I strain for it I still pick up a bit of the crackery malt and nuttiness, but the barrel character doesn't seem like a big presence this year. The finish is unapologetically sour, with cherries and citrus qualities, but I just don't get the oak and the dark bread tones I expected. This year's La Folie doesn't seem to have as much to say.

It's still delicious, to be sure. It's still complex. But not quite as complex as it seemed last year. I have a second bottle of the '17 vintage, and I may age it for a while. Let it evolve a bit. They say that a sour, like a wine, is slightly different from one day to the next, and that what you get if you pour a bottle today might be substantially different from what you pick up on if you wait a day. The challenge with La Folie is making myself do the waiting. Even when it's slightly less than I expected, the experience of drinking a bottle of La Folie is still more than most beers can bring to the table.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

This set of six is all sours. The Sour Six. Sounds like a western.

Never Sufficient by The Veil is a Grodziskie/Gose/Lichtenhainer hybrid with cherries. Combining the styles is supposed to add up to smokey, salty, and sour. I don't get a lot of smokey quality, but the other notes are strong and tasty. Never Sufficient pours appropriately cherry red/pink with a trace of foam. The aroma is really complex and really nice. Cherries, cheese, tart and briney notes, and a little bit of warm, mild malt in the background. The flavor is all about the tart and piercing quality, with berries and salt up front in a big way. The fizzy finish has something like buttered popcorn in the background. Another outstanding mouth-twister from The Veil.

Brooklyn's Bel Air Sour is not bad, but on the light side of sour. Definitely more like a gose than a big Flanders brown or red. This thing pours slightly cloudy yellow with average foam. The aroma is so mild I can’t think of much to report on. A little bit of tart, lemony stuff and a hint of the malt. The flavor is one note, but it’s not a bad thing. Just a little burst of lemony, tangy tartness and then nothing else. Nothing at all on the finish. I’d probably not drink this again.

Avery's Raspberry Sour isn’t a bad beer, either. It’s actually better than I’d expected it to be, given that I found it at Sam’s Club for a fairly low price. But it’s definitely a stepping stone kind of beer. More aggressive than the light, crisp tartness of a goze or Berliner Weiss, but without the strong, intense, multi-faceted bombast of a Flanders style sour brown ale. This beer pours brown with reddish highlights and a decent amount of crackly foam. The aroma is heavy on the raspberries, but some oak is on the nose, too. The flavor is woody and dense up front, and closes with a blast of the raspberries and oak again, before a mildly malty exhale. I could do without the raspberry notes, I have to wonder if the raspberry flavoring is added to punch up an otherwise slightly muted sour brown. But, overall, it certainly isn’t bad beer.

There have been a few sours I have hated, and others I've thought were damn near perfect. Boulevard's Love Child No. 7 Sour Ale isn’t damn near perfect, but it is damn near pretty damn good. It pours very clear copper/orange with a head that fades to a stubborn ring. The aroma is nice, apple cider and vinegar and a little red wine, but it’s understated. The flavor is also nice, although it starts out very much on the mild side and saves all of it’s cards to play at the end. In the finish I pick up on big red-wine vinegar, olives, lime and oak and smoke. I guess saving all your big notes for the finish is okay when they’re this big. Boulevard has a decent little winner, here. It’s pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty .... pretty good.

I like this sour a whole lot. Duchesse De Bourgogne pours dark brown with a huge, foamy head. The aroma is mingled tart and sweet notes, sour cherry, dark wine, apple butter, oak and some spice. The flavor is rich and complex, in fact it’s one of the most complex tasting sours I’ve had. The front of the tongue is where the tart/sour notes hit, along with some of the oak, and then the rich and sweet notes come through bigtime on the finish. There’s brown sugar, cranberries, walnuts, a little bit of red wine vinegar, all kinds of stuff going on. I could have this regularly.

Given the quality and intensity of Rodenbach's Grand Cru Sour, especially with regard to the comparatively low price, I’m inclined to rate it among the best of the style that I’ve had. It’s just outstanding. This beer pours dark, clean copper brown with an average head. The aroma is yeasty and strong, fruit notes, tart apple cider, hints of the oak come through, too. Very big on the tongue from front to back. The oak is the dominant quality throughout, with a pungent, vinegar tone in the finish. This is an aggressive sour, one to save for after you’re acclimated to the style. But for sour fans, this is a must-drink.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Six more, some current and some from the backlog. As is often the case, I'm obliged to my buddy Adam for giving me a bunch of these to taste. He's never once led me wrong.

The Answer's Alternative Hops pours pale yellow with an average amount of carbonation and foam. The aroma is really great. Strong citrus, pineapple, and piercingly strong, dank, slightly sweet pine notes. The flavor is great, too. Just like the flavor, citrus and pine, with a dry but lingering finish. Sticky mouthfeel. This is an example of what The Answer does exceedingly well.

The Answer nails it again with this collaboration with Final Gravity. Final Answer pours slightly foggy yellow with average foam and carbonation. The aroma is Lemon, grapefruit, slightly musky character, vinegar and sweat in the background. The flavor is mildly malty up front, but on the swallow there is a lot of candied citrus and a bright, dry finish. Doesn’t play the juiciness card overtly, finishes clean and polished. Very well done, as I’ve come to expect from The Answer.

Soaring Ridge's Virginia Creeper Pale Ale is a simple pale ale, but it isn’t a bad one, and has a little more character than run of the mill lawnmower pale ales. Virginia Creeper pours slightly hazy golden with unremarkable foam and carbonation. The aroma is malty and somewhat dense. Some floral hops show up, along with something like coffee or chicory. The flavor is rich up front, then dry and crisp on the finish, with a little bit of kick. I’d gladly have another.

Avery's Raja Imperial IPA is a fine double, but I had Avery’s Maharaja first, and I can’t help but think of this as sort of a session version of that delicious, gigantic IPA. As of right now I have rated more than a thousand beers at, and Maharaja is my No. 21 of all time. That's a big, memorable beer. There's no way to drink a beer named after that one without comparing them.

Raja pours cloudy yellow with average head and light carbonation. Like Maharaja, the aroma is maltier than I expect from a double IPA. But it’s a delicious aroma, with fruit and citrus tanginess behind the buttery richness. The flavor is rich and smooth and tasty, with the juicy IPA qualities working with, rather than drowning, the smooth malt. This beer doesn’t benefit from the branding, which forces Avery fans to compare it to the far superior Maharaja. But it stands on it’s own, and it’s a fine beer. I rated this beer a 4 out of 5 at It's a serious statement about the superiority of Maharaja that I consider this a less-than.

I've been up front that one component of my reviews is price. I don't give a fat godamn how tasty a beer is. If the price is high enough to make it cost prohibitive, my review will not be glowing. Maharaja is a beer that I consider to be very expensive. It is also remarkable enough to be worth the occasional purchase. Raja is not as expensive as Maharaja, and it's very good, but still a step down. All of this is appropriate and none of it is a negative. It's also ultimately an underwhelming experience, and I blame Avery's marketing people for the marginalization.

Jackie O's Oro Negro is a delicious imperial stout with huge, rich, malty character and really nice secondary notes in the finish. It pours dark brown to black with very little foam. The aroma is big, strong, bitterly roasted malt with a little bit of the pepper and cinnamon present, too. The flavor is rich and strong and malty, too, and the walnuts cocoa come through in the finish. What a great stout.

Sanctuary is a Double IPA from Triple Crossing's big Lockout Series. It pours very cloudy orange with a head that quickly fades to a rim ring. The aroma is super juicy, I could smell gigantic citrus aroma while I was pouring the can. The nose has bright grapefruit and lemon, some vanilla, and some starchiness. The flavor is more to the dry side, but it isn’t remotely subtle. That lemon/citrus thing is really strong mid-tongue before acerbic dryness hits on the back, followed by a little shot of alcohol vapor. A lot of these cloudy, citrusy, nearly boozy IPAs do play from the same bag of tricks, but I’m nowhere near tired of it. This beer is a another take on a familiar song, but, damn, the pitch is perfect.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Here's six of 'em.

Because of the juniper and strong gin-influenced flavor, to me Stone's Jindia Pale Ale is closer to an American Strong Ale, like Arrogant Bastard, than the usual Stone heavily hopped double IPAs. It pours clear orange to copper brown with thin foam. The aroma is where the lemon shows up, along with the botanicals and hints of spice, liquor and some of the malt. Juniper and the big gin character dominate the flavor, and the finish has a strong kick to it. I grew to like this over the course of a six-pack, although I didn’t really know what to make of that first bottle.

Stone's Vanilla Bean Porter is OK. I don't think it's substantially different from the Smoked Porter With Vanilla Bean from a few years ago. This tastes as smoky as I remember that porter tasting, and the vanilla is slight here, as it was with that porter. It pours dark brown with average head. The aroma is more like coffee than vanilla. They could have called this a coffee porter and I'd have had a better idea what to expect. The flavor is slightly smoky, slightly strong, and the finish hints at vanilla and a little bit of hops. I won't go out of my way to have this again, but there isn't anything wrong with it.

After all this time, Hardywood has finally released a flagship IPA. VIPA, or Virgindia Pale Ale, is among the best of the Hardywood standard fare that you might find in a grocery store. It pours golden yellow with average foam. The aroma is lemony and sweet. The malt is bigger on the tongue than it is in many IPAs, but it’s a delicious, buttery malt. The hops are grassy and bright and come through in the finish. Really nice.

I liked the Mango variation of Hardywood's VIPA at the Charlottesville tap room, so I brought home a growler pour. The growler may not have sealed properly, because at home the beer seems a little flat, and it just wasn’t as good as I remember it being at the bar. It still pours bright, clear yellow in color with average head. The aroma is somewhat like the sweet, citrusy smell of original VIPA, but with the addition of mango notes. The mango adds to the flavor, but hides the nice, buttery malt backbone I enjoy on regular VIPA. And the finish is slightly synthetic. I’m glad I tried this but I’ll stick to Great Return and regular VIPA when choosing an IPA from Hardywood.

Maybe it should have been a tip-off that Uinta didn't bother coming up with a unique name for this Barrel Aged Stout. And there is absolutely nothing unique about it. I’m not even sure who this would appeal to. It’s just a very middle of the road stout with no real indication of barrel aging. It pours dark brown with a little bit of foam. The aroma is mild. Damn near undetectable. There just isn’t anything there, you have to practically suck it up your nose to get any aroma of malt or any other character. The flavor is as meh as the aroma. I don’t taste the bourbon barrel, I don’t taste any secondary notes, no coffee, no licorice, no tobacco, no spice, no molasses, no chocolate, no vanilla... none of the things I have come to expect in bourbon barrel aged stouts. It doesn’t taste bad, but, hell, clean water doesn't taste bad. This is as nominal as stout gets.

This right here? This is the winner in the bunch. I think that Fortification, a barrel aged barley wine by Parkway, is fantastic. It's right up there with For Lovers Only stout as one of the best things I’ve had from Parkway. Fortification pours very dark copper color with a quick fading bit of foam. The aroma is great. On the nose it’s all sweet stuff, like vanilla and milk chocolate and honey and toasted coconut. Not complex, totally to the sweet side, but just a wonderful bouquet. The flavor is strong and rich and dense. The sweet stuff on the aroma is there, but it’s in the background. What’s up front is the whiskey and oak from the barrel aging, and the 12.5 ABV is not remotely apologetic about it’s presence. This beer manhandles the palate, but I ain’t complaining.

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.