Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Sixpack of reviews, the first half being IPAs from The Veil Brewing Co. in Richmond.

A friend returned from Richmond with three IPA's from The Veil Brewing Co. for me to try, and this brewery officially has my attention. Hell, after thoroughly enjoying all three of these beers, I'd go so far as to say I'm a new fan.

Master Master Shredder Shredder is a doubly dry-hopped version of The Veil's flagship IPA, and it's delicious. This is a very bitter, aggressive IPA that is as big and bold as many double IPAs. I absolutely love it when a brewery's lower ABV, "single" IPAs are still hop-forward and defiant, and this one fits the bill. This is not a "session" beer. Not even close. This beer does not give a damn if you have delicate sensibilities. It pours a cloudy tan/yellow with a lot of foam. The aroma is bright citrus and hay and the flavor is dank and dry. There’s a little bit of alcohol vapor on the finish, which surprised me for a relatively low 5.5% ABV.

The first thing I noticed about The Veil's Step Dad Chaperone was it's qualities that are distinct from many double IPAs. The mosaic hops are a big presence, but they’re smooth and do not drown out the rich malt. There are mellow, caramel notes throughout, and a finish that's floral and tart. I would go out of my way to get this again, it's really good.

I enjoyed both of the previous IPAs from The Veil, but this one here ... this one is the prize winner. IdonteverwanttoBU pours cloudy, dark orange with average head. The aroma is super dank and juicy. It's big. It's one of those beers that invades your face. The nose fills with citrus, grassy hops, apples, some bready malt. The flavor is pungent, dank and rich, but the finish is bright. There is a little twist at the end that demands the next sip. This is the kind of beer that necessitated the invention of the growler.

Just a side-note... I got into craft beer five years ago or so. So far, in my brief history as a craft beer fan, 2016 has been the best year yet. There are so many good beers on the market right now, and the local and regional offerings are as good as anything available nationally. In Virginia alone, breweries like Apocalypse, Hardywood, South Street, Alewerks, and The Answer are turning out beers I'd serve to anyone. Now, add The Veil to that list of fine Old Dominion beer purveyors. Right now is an exciting time to be a fan of craft beer. And right here in Virginia is exactly where I want to be.

Of course, there are breweries in other states that know a thing or two about beer. Bell's, for instance. Their Oracle Double IPA doesn’t have quite the complexity or polish of some of the best extreme IPA’s... such as RuinTen or The Waldos... but I have to go to that level to find something with which I can compare this beer. I'm dumbfounded by how good this is. It pours hazy orange without much foam, the aroma is some sweet notes, honey and candied pineapple, and big, boozy, strong hops. The flavor is dense and strong and very bitter. Sledgehammer pine and citrus hops atop some caramel and a little vapor that belays the 10% ABV. Very heavy mouthfeel. I've been having to re-think my personal all-time top ten ever since Stone got serious about their malt game earlier this year. The Oracle is one more reason that my personal list of all time favorites is more unstable than ever.

Ballast Point's Homework releases are a series of beers that come with the recipe attached to the bottle, so you can attempt to reproduce the beer at home. The only question I have after drinking the robust porter is why anyone would bother ... this beer is affordable, highly drinkable, and has nothing in the negative column. Why go to the work of reproducing it when it's so easy to buy? This porter is strong and rich and it really pops, like Ballast Point's outstanding Black Marlin (a hoppy porter). Plus, it's cheap and available in my area in grocery stores. I have no complaints. Homework Series Robust Porter pours dark brown with average head, and the aroma has a lot going on. Coffee, caramel, chocolate, citrus hops, some spice. I picked up on all of that and some brown sugar in the flavor, too. I will buy this again.

I'd been worried that the buy-out was going to amount to a net-negative for Ballast Point's products. I'm starting to think I was wrong. This beer is everything I love about this brewery. I'll be grateful when Ballast Point has a local presence.

Victory's V12 is a Belgian quad, and this bottle is the second time I've tried it. The first time was four years ago, before I started this blog. The bottle I had for this review had been aged for one year. I saw when I looked back over my reviews at that I had enjoyed this beer the first time I had it. I liked it even more this time. It pours dark yellow with average head, and I see from my initial review that I thought it smelled and tasted boozy the first time around. Well, beer is music for your mouth... a song changes over time, both in the way it's performed and in the way it's heard, and during this particular sampling I found V12 to be a lot less boozy and a lot sweeter. I still enjoyed it quite a bit, though. The aroma packed a lot of spice in the background, and that's a presence on the flavor, too. There is that usual bananas-and-cloves Belgian quad thing going on, but there were also citrus, tea, and cake-like qualities that I picked up on this time. This is a fine beer, and might make a great dessert to share with a couple of friends.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Mixed six pack of reviews, heavy on Deschutes. Now that Deschutes is planning an east coast location in my part of Virginia, their brews are showing up locally. I was glad to get to try them.

Deschutes Fresh Squeezed is a fine IPA. It pours a bright, clear amber with very little foam. The aroma is strong citrus and floral hops and those are the primary notes on the flavor. Bright, crisp, plenty bitter for a single IPA. I will buy this again.

Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale a very clear but deep golden color with lots of foamy head. The aroma is a buttery, warm malt covered with some floral hop notes. The flavor is a smooth, mellow malt with a mildly hop finish. Nothing really distinct from other American pale ales, but among the tasty ones for sure.

Deschutes Pinedrops is a mild, unimposing IPA that probably pairs well with food and might be a good introduction to the style. It pours pale yellow with a lot of lingering foam. The aroma is lemons, grass, a little bit of sweet malt. The flavor is the same. It doesn't taste bad, but I won't have it again.

Deschutes Black Butte Porter is indistinct. I'd call it quiet, bordering on boring, and while it doesn’t taste bad, there isn’t much here to recommend. The beer is dark brown with a giant mound of foamy head that necessitates a very slow pour. The aroma is slightly bright coffee and mild caramel. There is a little hint of some kind of spice on the back of the tongue, too. Not bad, just nothing remotely special. I think a really well made porter is one of the best styles in all of craft beer. I'd hoped this would be one.

Stepping away from Deschutes, I also had two very good double IPA's this week. Troeg's Nimble Giant is one of them. This beer is very smooth and balanced double IPA. Pours hazy yellow with piles of lingering foam. The aroma is citrus, pineapple, popcorn, and that’s all on the tongue, too. The finish is at once a big hop wash and a strong, mellow malt backbone. Another fine beer from Troegs.

Great Lakes Lake Erie Monster is also a well balanced but complex imperial IPA It pours orange, cloudy, with average head and an aroma of caramel, booze, and big, dry, bitter hops. The flavor is sweet up front and then closes with a burst of hops and vapor on the back of the tongue. Sweet again on the drop. Really nice.

Mixed six pack of reviews, back to various breweries.

South Street's Tongue Dropper is kind of a sour/double IPA hybrid. It pours a hazy, dark orange with a thin head. The aroma is strong and kind of nasty. This beer smells like a gym sock full of dirty cat litter. The taste is better. Pine and citrus hops on the front of the tongue, followed by very mild sourness. A little dry bitterness on the exhale.

The best imperial stout I've had from Evil Twin is called Even More Jesus, which I love with all my heart. I can't resist comparing that brewery's other imperial stouts to that beer. Imperial Biscotti Break is sweeter and not as aggressive as EMJ, but it's delicious all the same. Previously I'd had the version of this beer that adds sour cherry. I like this one just as much, maybe more. This stout pours dark brown to black with a lot of tan colored head. The aroma is chocolate, nutty malt and spice, with a little bit of nutmeg and cinnamon type of character. The flavor is a strong, rich, creamy chocolate/coffee kind of thing with some kick in the finish.

Southern Tier's Salted Caramel Imperial Stout pours very dark brown with a brief, fleeting head. The aroma is delicious. It actually smells salty, although the caramel isn’t much of a presence. There is a lot of dark chocolate and coffee and something like marshmallow on the aroma. Thankfully the flavor isn’t too sweet at all. More of that salt and chocolate on the tongue, with a huge, roasty bitterness in the finish.

Clown Shoes Third Party Candidate is a hoppy lager. It's a decent, dry, bitter lager with a finish that combines a hoppy twist and a sweet malt. It pours clear, bright yellow with average head. The aroma is mild, but slightly sweet and fruity, a bit like a white wine. The flavor is like a lager up front, but closes dry and bitter. The slightly rich, sweet malt pervades.

Lagunitas Aunt Sally sour ale is one of the most accessible, instantly likable sours I’ve had. It’s mild, and may be too mild for fans of the style, but it was just right for me. The beer is cloudy orange/yellow with a ton of head, the aroma is tart and fruity, like granny smith apples and slightly under-ripe citrus. The flavor is a slightly sweet malt up front with a rush of the sour character and some bitter hoppy tingle at the end. I liked this.

Founders bills Redankulous as an Imperial Red IPA. It pours dark amber with a fair amount of head. The aroma hits on the malt. It is sweet and slightly spicy with lots of caramel character. The flavor reminds me at turns of a Scotch ale, an American Strong Ale, and an IPA. I thought it was almost like a hopped up version of Founders Dirty Bastard, with a hop punch in the finish rather than Dirty Bastard's smooth Scotch flood. The rich, whiskey-like malt is dominated, but not erased, by the big hop finish. Complex. Tasty. This is the kind of beer that grows on me and can eventually become a favorite. If Founders keeps it on the shelves, I'll buy it again. If not, I'll buy Dirty Bastard and be just as happy.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Mixed six pack, Evil Twin Brewing edition.

I think Evil Twin must have a corporate policy that three out of every four of their beers has to have an in-joke as a name. That's bound to be the case with Ryan And The Beaster Bunny, a saison that pours cloudy yellow with a lot of foam that fades to nothing quickly. The aroma is grassy hops, lemon, spice, egg malt, bread grains and cream. The flavor has those notes, with a dry, tight finish. Not bad.

Evil Twin's Wet Dream is a complex brown ale with a lot going on. I had it on tap, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Throughout the glass, new notes continued showing up on the nose and the tongue, and I never quite felt like I’d totally figured this beer out. It pours copper/brown with average head and average carbonation. The aroma combines honey, coffee, citrus, mint, a little bit of nutmeg... and the flavor is at turns sweet, rich, and sometimes bitter. A little bit of boozy vapor and coffee comes through in the finish. Really nice beer.

Retro IPA is mild, with a downplayed hop profile and not a lot to recommend it. But if you’re just getting interested in the style, or not a fan of huge hop-bombs, this might be for you. It pours a medium yellow with a fair amount of foam. The aroma is a mild cereal malt and a little bit of floral/grassy hops. The flavor is the same, with a slight lemon zest tone on the finish. Not awful. Not Evil Twin's best, either. Not by a long shot.

Even More Jesus is an imperial Russian stout, and I love it with all my heart. It is so good. It’s soooo good. And now that it’s out in sixteen ounce cans, EMJ is just about perfect. This imperial pours jet black from the can with a huge mountain of chocolate cream brown head. The aroma is very rich, strong, bitter baker’s chocolate and a little coffee. The flavor is huge on that rich, bitter, very strong roasted malt/chocolate thing. Relentlessly so. Coffee, a little herb kick, and a strong, bitter roasted finish. The big ABV is only a ghost on the aftertaste. Ranks with Ten Fidy and Undead Party Crasher and my other favorite imperial stouts. In four-packs of sixteen ounce cans, it's available in my area at a great price. I doubt I'll see a more attractive beer package this year.

Aun Mas A Jesus is, I suppose, an Evil Twin variant of Even More Jesus... but, if I'm honest, I have to admit that I don't know which recipe came first. This beer is not as good as Even More Jesus, but it is still outstanding. It pours completely black with no foam, and the aroma is bitter chocolate, chicory, coffee, burnt malts. The flavor is the same, but a little muted compared to EMJ. A little alcohol on the finish.

I Love You With My Stout is, for sure, an EMJ variant. It says so on the label. This one is leaner, with a lot more boozy/alcohol character and not as much complexity. ILYWMS pours black with average head, the aroma is anise, very bitter, burnt roasted malt, some alcohol. Malty up front on the tongue, but the finish has enough strong alcohol character to almost be medicinal, at least in comparison to the far better EMJ.

Monday, July 11, 2016


Stone's Citrusy Wit is is that rare Stone brew that I don’t enjoy at all. It pours cloudy, dark yellow with a lot of foam. The aroma is strong citrus, grapefruit and lemon, etc, with a little bit of banana/yeast Belgian quality. The flavor is dry, with heavy citrus zest notes that just don’t work for me. It’s artificial tasting, and the finish is just off.

Clown Shoes Rexx is an American Strong Ale aged in bourbon barrels. This beer is a dark, cloudy brown, lighter around the edges, with an average amount of creamy head. The bourbon barrel aging comes through strong on the aroma. Vanilla, some spice, apples, brown sugar, crackers, caramel... it smells really good. The flavor is rich and smooth and a little sweet. Really rich, bourbon/vanilla comes through strong on the finish. Dense, chewy mouthfeel. This is exactly my kind of thing. Strong, rich, uncompromising. It plays the bourbon barrel card all up in your face with no apologies.

Apocalypse Ale Works Heavy Red Horseman is a wee heavy style Scotish ale. It's not the best thing I’ve had from Apocalypse, but it isn’t horrible. It pours copper color with a quickly fading head. The aroma is caramel, walnuts, a little spice and ginger, and the flavor also has a molasses quality. Very malty, but mild. No, mild isn't really the word. Limp is the word. This beer is limp.

I should have tried Apocalypse Ale Work's Winter Snack Stout when it came out at the end of last year, but to be honest, I was turned off by the name. The word "snack" makes the beer sound like a crowd pleaser, something insubstantial. When I visited the taproom recently I saw that they still had some bombers, and the label says this beer comes in at 10.1% ABV rather than the 7.6% listed at RateBeer. I figured a ten-percenter could stand up to some aging, so I picked up a bottle. I'm glad I did. This beer tastes pretty darn good. It pours dark brown with average foam that fades eventually. The aroma is sweet, rich, slightly fruity and malty. Coffee and carrot cake qualities. The flavor delivers the rich oatmeal malt, chocolate, and sweet citrus. Chewy, substantial mouth-feel. I really liked this. I wish I’d tried it sooner so I could have picked up a few more bottles.

Godamighty, now, this is a beer. Avery Brewing never lets me down when it comes to these gigantic, barrel aged malt-monsters. Tweak is a barrel aged imperial stout that boasts a ridiculous ABV, north of 17.5%. This beer pours jet black with a quickly fading and very minimal head. The aroma is really big and rich. Coffee, chocolate, dark liquor, candied fruit, vanilla, creamy caramel, the kind of sweet/rich complexity I expected from the brewery behind the humongous Mephistopheles stout. Although the ABV here is slightly higher than Mephistopheles, alcohol is not an overpowering presence on the tongue. Yeah, it's there. You're gonna taste the alcohol at this level, and this beer is boozy, for sure. But coffee and a chocolate/caramel nut-cream sweet richness are the main notes on the tongue. Wow. I hope I can find a couple more bottles of this. Avery Brewingn consistently delivers. I wish everything in life were as reliable as this brewery.

Ninkasi's Vanilla Oatis stout is decent, if maybe a little underwhelming. Pours very dark brown, no real head. The aroma is bitter baker’s chocolate, but it’s very restrained. The flavor is restrained, too. I don’t pick up on the usual rich, cereal malt thing that I enjoy about oatmeal stouts. The front of the tongue is watery, but the finish is a little better. A little bitter, roasted malt, and just the slightest hint of vanilla show up on the back end.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Six more beer reviews.

I've liked the four varieties I've had of Samuel Adams Rebel IPA, including Cascade. Cascade hops aren't my favorite hops, but I do enjoy beers that feature them. This one pours dark amber with average head. The aroma is dank and floral, and the flavor is a somewhat muted version of the aroma. It’s a very slightly west coast version of Rebel. I always think that beers that feature Centennial hops arre both brighter and more dank, and have a bigger west coast punch. But this particular Cascade showcase ain't chopped liver.

Troegs Solid Sender Pale Ale is very light, lemony pale ale. It pours bright, clear yellow with a lot of head. The aroma is tart citrus and a little bit of pine/floral hop quality. Bright and citrus up front on the flavor, mildly bitter in the finish. This beer is OK.

Bells Oatsmobile Session Ale is decent, as session ales go. It pours cloudy orange without much foam. The aroma is mild but rich and slightly sweet. The flavor is the same, with a little hop twist at the end.

Blue Mountain's A Hopwork Orange pours orange with a lot of sudsy head. The flavor isn’t very strong. A little bit of grassy hops, a little bit of orange, nothing aggressive. The flavor isn’t strong, either, which surprised me. I’d almost expected an artificial, orange-candy kind of quality. Instead, this is a dry but mild, hoppy beer with a little bit of orange on the finish. This is pretty good.

New Holland's Pilgram's Dole is one of the smoothest, most easy drinking high-ABV barley wines I’ve ever had. And it's one of the very best beers I’ve had from New Holland. It pours brown with a very little bit of foam. The aroma is caramel, cereal malts, light peach notes, and some spice. The flavor is incredibly smooth. The bourbon barrel aging comes through bright and clear, adding vanilla to all of the character present on the aroma. The 12% ABV is an afterthought in the flavor. This thing could be a real trouble maker on tap.

Ninkasi Tricerahops Imperial IPA pours hazy orange, the brief head is gone very quickly. The aroma is really good. Citrus, specifically pineapple, mingle with a really rich smelling, buttery, sweet malt. The flavor is strong and complex. Rich malt, sweet candied fruit notes (but not too sweet), and then a big blast of hops on the finish. Tasty.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Six more beer reviews.

Dead Rise is a summer ale brewed by Flying Dog. It's spiced with Old Bay. I had no interest in trying this when I was accidentally served it by a waiter who misunderstood my order. I liked it enough that I finished it at the restaurant, and bought it again in a bottle to review. It is decent on tap but not as good from the bottle. It pours cloudy orange with a fair amount of foam, and the old bay is present on the aroma. I remember a fresh, lemony finish on the flavor on tap that isn’t really there fro the bottle. From the bottle the Old Bay is stronger, but really comes off as an indistinct pepper/spice quality.

The Truth is Flying Dog's imperial IPA. It pours very clear amber with average carbonation and lots of foam. The aroma is pungent, dank hops and rich notes like buttered popcorn. The flavor is very strong, dank, and bitter. Slightly warm malt up front, finishing with a huge, sticky rush of hops. A little alcohol vapor at the end. Delicious.

Total Domination is an IPA by Ninkasi Brewing. This beer is a cloudy orange without much head. The aroma is citrus, a little bit of popcorn, some floral notes. The flavor is a little too acerbic. Bitter, but in a vaguely metallic way. Got a little better as it warmed.

Stone's Mocha IPA isn’t the best thing I’ve had from Stone, but it’s OK. It pours very clear, dark orange. The foam is average. The aroma is caramel, sweet potatoes, honey, citrus. The flavor is rich and creamy and chocolaty up front, kinda like a Three Musketeers bar. The finish is slightly bitter hops with a little bit of bite.

Odis, by O'Connor Brewing is a dry Irish stout. It isn’t terrible. It’s OK. It pours chocolate brown, the average head leaves a lot of lace. The aroma is a little bit of spice, cloves, a caramel/chocolate malt in the background. The flavor is mild. A bit of coffee on the close. Watery mouthfeel. I’ve had far worse beer than this.

Left Hand Brewing Company's Sawtooth Nitro pours dark amber with little foam. The aroma is a very, very, very mild. I honestly can’t come up with anything to say about the aroma. The flavor is mild, too. Like a very heavily diluted English bitter. Creamy mouthfeel. Meh.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Here's six.

Troegs Jovial is a little bit plain for a dubbel, dubbels being my favorite Abbey style. This beer pours a medium brown with huge foam that leaves lots of lace. The aroma is apples, spices, caramel malt, and the usual yeasty Belgian thing. Those notes hit the front of the tongue, but the finish is pretty thin.

Troegs LaGrave pours very cloudy, peach/yellow with a lot of foam. This beer smells like a tripel ought to smell; pears, bananas, strong yeast, herbs, grass. The flavor is slightly boozy and smooth, but a little medicinal on the finish. Not my favorite Abbey tripel.

I don't know why Green Flash (a great brewery) brewed something as pointless as Sea To Sea Lager. This beer pours clear yellow, lots of foam, average carbonation. The aroma is mild cereal malt. The flavor is mild, clean, just an insinuation of hops on the finish. It doesn’t taste bad, but if it did taste bad, I guess at least it would taste like something.

Narragansett Lager Beer kinda sucks. On the up side, I guess it would keep you from dying of thirst for a few minutes, because basically, this is water. It doesn’t have a bad taste, or a bad aroma. It just doesn’t have any taste or aroma. It makes me realize I was probably too hard on that Green Flash lager above. This pours very bright yellow with a loud, crackly head and lots of carbonation. It doesn't smell like anything. It doesn't taste like anything. Literally. It smells and tastes like nothing.

Sho Nuff is a Belgian by Against The Grain Brewery. This beer is the weakest thing I’ve had from these guys. I've enjoyed their other beers, but this one is bland. It isn’t completely awful, but it really isn’t very good. It pours amber color with average head. The aroma is mild malt and vegetables. Cabbage or something. The flavor is watery and then up front and closes with another note of that vegetable thing. Peas or cabbage or whatever. Just, I mean ... damn. What is this?

Rapadou is an imperial Porter by Alewerks. It pours very dark brown without much foam. The unrefined Haitian sugar is strong on the presence, and has a caramel/molasses quality. It’s there on the flavor, too, along with really rich, dark malts. Pecan and brown sugar notes, a little bit of cloves. Really very good. Rich, full, complex. A big, rewarding beer. Thank you, Alewerks. Thank you.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Six reviews.

Avery's Twenty Third Anniversary Ale pours dark brown, not much foam. The aroma is kind of complex, sweet and tart at once. Roasted malt, some citrus, red wine vinegar, apples. It doesn’t taste as interesting or as strong as the aroma lead to me to expect. There’s a slightly warm malt up front and a slightly (very slightly) sour finish, but it is all very understated. My palate may just not be delicate enough to appreciate this.

Sixpoint's Puff is an unfiltered version of Resin, their already resiny double IPA. The beer is cloudy yellow-orange with not much foam. The aroma is grapefruit and floral hops, a big pine resin thing, too. The flavor is really bitter hops through and through, with a sticky, dense mouthfeel. Some hint of the ABV comes through on the finish. Aggressive. Dank. Tasty. My palate might not be tuned precise for delicate beers, but this kind of punch-in-the-face hits me just right.

Flying Dog's Tropical Bitch is sort of an IPA/Belgian hybrid. It pours a golden/orange color with about an average amount of foam. The aroma is like a Belgian, with bananas and yeasty esters, and a little bit of grapefruit. The fruity notes from the aroma aren’t very strong on the tongue. The finish is dry, and it isn’t bad, but it isn’t anything special.

Against The Grain's brown ale is called The Brown Note. It's medium brown with average head. The aroma is sweet malt, some caramel, some cocoa, a little bit of spice. The flavor is sweet but not overly sweet. Notes of candied nuts and a little coffee, and a slightly hoppy finish. I enjoyed this beer.

Fullsteam bills Cack-A-Lacky as a ginger pale ale. This beer is only slightly cloudy amber with average foam. I can pick up on the ginger in the aroma, but it isn’t overwhelming. I’d expected an artificial, maybe even overbearing ginger kind of thing, but it isn’t bad at all. Hell, it smells good. It doesn’t taste as good. The ginger dominates the flavor front to back, and especially gets too forward on the finish. The flavor surprised me, because it smells really good, but there's just too much ginger on the tongue. I won’t have it again.

Cockadoodle Brew is a coffee ale by Parkway Brewing. It pours bright orange, with average head and carbonation. The aroma is similar to a Belgian; slightly sweet, bananas and citrus. The flavor is pretty good. I can actually taste the coffee, which I didn’t really expect. The coffee notes give the beer a slightly nutty, rich quality. Not bad.