Thursday, May 26, 2016

Six more, and back to the regular, truly mixed format.

Samuel Adams Grapefruit Rebel IPA is the best Samuel Adams IPA I’ve had, and I actually do like Samuel Adams more than not. This beer pours a hazy yellow, the head is average and it hangs around for a while. The aroma is grapefruit, and the flavor is grapefruit, too. Which is good, if you like grapefruit, and I do. The finish of the flavor is bitter and bright.

I had a growler full of Founders Sumatra Mountain Brown Ale, a coffee-infused beer, and I loved it. It pours dark brown, the head fades from average to short fairly quickly. The aroma is really wonderful. Chocolate and caramel, walnuts, espresso, some spice. The flavor is even better. Really rich, really smooth. A great coffee character, with more of those notes from the aroma. Warm, rich, slightly sweet, just delicious. This is fantastic beer.

Heavy Seas TropiCannon IPA is pretty awful. It tastes like every imaginable artificial citrus candy has been combined into one over-the-top, overdone mess. It pours orange with average head and carbonation. The aroma is like Halls vitamin C drops. The flavor is the same, only more synthetic and less appetizing. The finish is particularly bad, like cough medicine and grapefruit juice mixed with a little bit of grain alcohol. We ha dinner at Heavy Seas Taphouse in DC earlier this month... I got a flight and then just started ordering pints, and I cannot remember everything I tried. But every one of them, literally every single beer I tasted, was better than this.

Champion's Black Me Stout tastes great. It pours black with very little head. The aroma is coffee, anise, rich malt. The flavor is the same. Slightly thin mouthfeel, with a little bit of hops kicking in on the finish, but that heavily roasted malt dominates everything. And it's just fine.

Founders Mosaic Promise IPA is a simple but really tasty beer with incredible balance. It pours cloudy, pale orange with a fair amount of foam. The aroma is all kinds of citrus. Lemon, grapefruit, etc. The flavor is all of that hop action atop a really smooth, rich, mellow malt. Plenty of both. Really tasty stuff.

Flying Dog's barley wine, called Horn Dog, pours a deep, copper brown with very little foam. The aroma is lots of sweet stuff; honey, vanilla, molasses, pecans. The flavor is really rich and sweet. All of the sweet notes from the aroma are right up front, and then there’s a tingle from the hops at the end. One of the better Flying Dog beers I’ve had.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

This is a mixed (sort of) six pack of beer reviews, the Sierra Nevada 2016 Beer Camp edition. Each of these beers is brewed as a colaboration between Sierra Nevada and a number of other breweries. The breweries are identified on each label, and it's too convoluted to list them all here. It really seems more like an advertising thing than anything else (When five or six breweries "collaborate" on a beer, a couple of them cannot have done anything more than agree with the others.)

Anyway, I picked these up in a twelve-pack with two of each of the six beers. In this set of reviews I start with my favorite and list them in order, finishing with the one I liked the least.

Stout Of The Union is a stout that pours black with a thin, brief head. The aroma is like strong, black coffee and chicory and very darkly roasted malt. The flavor is the aroma, squared. Very bitter, black malt character, very strong coffee notes... it’s all about the roast. The hops are there on the finish, but this beer isn’t about hops. This is a really tasty stout.

Moxee-Moron is labeled as an "imperial session IPA." It's more like a regular IPA in terms of ABV (7.5%) and IBUs (70), and I guess the point of the branding is to poke fun at the over-use of certain words in the craft industry. This beer pours clear, bright orange with average foam and carbonation. The aroma is dominated by a sweet, citrus quality. The flavor is stronger, dryer, and far more bitter than the aroma indicates. There’s a blast of alcohol vapor in the finish. This is a serious beer, more imperial than session in my opinion, and I like it a lot.

I really didn’t know what to expect from West Latitude Session Rye. This beer combines one of my favorite words you can put on a beer label (rye) with the absolute worst word you can put on a beer label (session). It pours a cloudy, caramel brown with a tremendous amount of head. The aroma is very mild, but there are some notes of grassy hops, rye, and spice. The flavor is really understated, but it isn’t bad. It isn’t quite enough, but it’s hard to complain. I does taste good. There is some rye, a little bit of cinnamon and a mild hop tingle at the end. I think this is actually the most I’ve ever enjoyed a beer with the "s" word in the name.

Sweet Sunny South is a saison that pours cloudy orange with average carbonation and head. The aroma is yeasty and malty, with lemon and citrus qualities. The flavor is tangy and sweet, with tangerine and floral notes. I'm not a huge fan of the style, but this one has a little more citrus bite than other saisons. It's not bad.

Family Values Imperial Brown Ale was the biggest disappointment of this set for me, mostly because I've had some damn good brown ales lately and wanted this to be one more. But this beer is nothing special. Family Values pours dark brown with basically no head, and the aroma is sweet and rich. Notes of caramel and almonds and a little nutmeg. The flavor is really sweet. It’s too sweet for me. Honey and caramel notes are strong, and a molasses quality that hides any cocoa presence. The finish is very sugary. The 8.5% ABV is buried under all the sweetness.

Pat-Rye-Ot is a pale ale, and it's boring as hell. This beer pours cloudy yellow with a lot of head. Enough head to be annoying, it took too long to get the bottle poured. The aroma is more or less like a mild IPA. A little bit of floral hop quality, but not much to speak of. The flavor is dry and a little astringent. There’s just nothing going on here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Here are six more reviews.

Greenbrier Brewery's Wild Trail Pale Ale is a surprising, tasty pale ale with more hop punch than many examples of the style. It pours a dark, cloudy yellow with average head and carbonation. The aroma is buttery malt, a little bit of honey, and strong, grassy hops. The flavor starts out a little thin but closes with a lot of kick. By the end of the glass I was really enjoying this beer. But this isn't a mislabeled IPA, this is a true pale ale. It's just a pale ale that ain't scared of hops.

Greenbrier's Mothman Black IPA pours dark brown with an extreme amount of head. I had to tip up the can three times to finally get it all poured through the foam, which I found slightly annoying. Granted, that might be on me. Anyway, I liked Mothman, once I was able to sip it through the suds. The aroma is bitter malt, charcoal, some citrus. The flavor is milder than the aroma implies, but it’s still good. Pine and burnt malt on the finish. This won't replace Wookey Jack as my go-to black IPA of choice. But if you were to offer me another can of this, I'd be obliged.

One more pretty damn good beer from Greenbrier. Devil Anse IPA pours cloudy yellow, average foam. The aroma is sweet citrus, tangerines and floral hops. The sweetness disappears in the flavor, there’s just a very clean, bitter hop burn and a mellow malt. I liked this. This brewery, just across the state line, is now my closest indie brewery (ever since the devil bought Devil's Backbone*). I'll proudly give Greenbrier my business when I see their products on shelves. I hope they can work out the P's and Q's of distribution in Virginia.

Goodwood is the current name of the former Bluegrass Brewing Company in Louisville, Kentucky. Judging by the name of the brewery, and by the branding on their labels, they're all about wood aging. I love wood aged beer, so I was happy to try a couple of Goodwood's brews. First up was Louisville Lager, their lager aged on ash. I guess it's not horrible, but I won’t be having it again. It pours bright yellow, lots of foam. The aroma is cereal malt, corn, a little hint of the wood aging (Drink a Coors and lick a baseball bat and you can probably replicate this experience). The flavor adds tiny hint of citrus hop on the thin, watery finish. Meh.

Next up is Goodwood's Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout. Bourbon barrel aging is my favorite thing; you could age a cat turd on oak and I'd be willing to give it a try. And that cat turd would probably be about as interesting as this particular stout. This beer pours dark brown with a small, brief head. The aroma has something that’s not quite right, like boiled carrots or something. There is also a little bit of dark malt and coffee, but mostly that odd vegetable thing (Has Goodwood figured out a way to malt carrots?) The taste is slightly better, I suppose, if only because you can hold your nose and drink it. There is a little bitter chocolate, but no indication of oak aging. The mouthfeel is very thin. I will not buy this again. I will not buy Goodwood beer in general again. Based on the two bottles reviewed here, I'm just kinda embarrassed for the brewery. Trader Joe's sells much better beer than this, and for a hell of a lot less money. Jeez.

Charlottesville, Virginia's South Street Brewery is a solid brewery. Their taphouse in C'ville is a good place to go for a pretty good meal and some decent suds. South Street's Hop Grove is a dry, strong imperial IPA with a musky, slightly dank citrus character. It pours slightly cloudy orange with a thin head. The aroma is pine, reefer, and grapefruit. The character hits with some juicy notes on the finish, and a blast of alcohol at the exhale. Big beer. I like it.

*If I'm honest, I never liked Devil's Backbone very much, and I'm pretty indifferent about the AB-InBev acquisition. Devil's Backbone only ever brewed one beer that impressed me, and it's not a year-round offering. So, who cares.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Six-pack of reviews.

Iron Maiden was my favorite band when I was fourteen years old. Thirty-four years later I still love the band. I was reluctant to try the The Trooper, Robinsons Brewery's English bitter ale named for one of the band's best songs. I figured it was a gimmicky marketing scheme to help move a likely-mediocre beer. Now that I've tried it, I think I was about right. The Trooper pours amber/orange with average carbonation and foam. The aroma is typical of a mild English bitter, notes of green onion and some citrus. Very mild malt, slightly sulfuric aftertaste, a hint of lemon. It’s not terrible, but it's boring.

DuClaw's Hop Continuum No. 3 is a pretty bad imperial IPA. It’s cloudy orange, there isn’t a lot of head but there is a lot of lace. The aroma is muted, there just isn’t much going on. The flavor is like aspirin. Acidic. Dry. It just doesn’t taste good, and didn’t grow on me at all by the end of the glass.

DuClaw's Neon Gypsy IPA is ... I mean, I don’t know. It’s not terrible, I guess. Cloudy orange, lots of foam. Pine aroma, with a slightly sweet quality. The flavor is medicinal, like the DuClaw IPA reviewed above. There’s a slight citrus quality in the background, but not enough to really do anything. I finished the bottle. I was glad to be done with it.

Devil's Milk is a barley wine by DuClaw. It is cloudy, dark yellow, and has a ton of head. The aroma is vanilla, almonds, honey, liquor. The flavor adds some spice and a fizzy mouthfeel. This is a pretty good barley wine.

Uinta's Hop Nosh IPA is a little more complex than I’d have expected. I enjoyed it. It pours dark orange in color, there’s a lot of foamy head. The aroma is sweet citrus, like tangerines. Then the sweetness is understated in the flavor, and there’s a decent little bitter bite going on. Nice.

Uinta Pale Ale is apparently markted as Cutthroat Pale Ale in some areas. Whatever the name, it just isn’t anything special, This pale ale pours clear amber in color, the head fades quickly. The aroma is slight, but there is some cereal malt quality and a little yeast. The flavor is thin, dull, and watery. Beers like this make me appreciate what a friend we have in Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Six more, if you want 'em.

Maine Beer Company's Mean Old Tom is not a strikingly different stout, but it's a good one. This beer pours dark brown to black with thin, lacy head. The aroma is coffee and deeply roasted malt. Strong coffee on the flavor. If the vanilla is there at all, it’s subtle. It isn’t sweet, but it is rich and tasty. Creamy mouthfeel.

Great Lakes Chillwave Double IPA is sweet and very citrus-tasting. It's also beautiful looking. It pours a very bright, clear amber with a lot of foam. The aroma is tangerines, cereal, honey, some alcohol. The flavor is juicy and bright. A lot of floral and candied citrus, sharp and bitter finish, and a hint of the 9+ ABV.

Against The Grain Brewery's 35K Stout is a rich, sweet stout that works great as a dessert beer. It's dark brown, there isn’t a lot of foam. The aroma is like a chocolate candy sampler box. Caramel, chocolate, cream, walnuts, and other sweet notes. The flavor is as sweet as beer can get without being too sweet for my palate. All of that chocolate and candied character is present atop a rich, smooth, delicious malt. I like this beer very much. Maybe my taste in sweet beer is changing, I'm enjoying the sweeter ones a lot more these days than I used to.

Lower De Boom is a very strong barley wine by 21st Amendment. It's sold in eight ounce cans, which feels about right for something that drinks more like booze than beer. Lower De Boom pours a dark amber/copper color with foam that fades to nothing quickly. The aroma is sweet and strong. Honey and molasses on the nose and on the tongue. The flavor is very boozy and warm. The finish is a smooth, smokey, and sweet, with cloves and a little bit of pepper.

O'Connor's Heavy Footer is a double IPA. This beer pours cloudy orange with lots of foam that hangs around. The aroma is musty with citrus and floral qualities. Not a lot on the front of the tongue, but the finish is dry and somewhat dense, with some sweet malt. Not bad.

Abita's Shotgun Double IPA is cloudy orange, with average carbonation and a good bit of head. It smells a little better than it tastes, but it doesn’t taste bad. The aroma is juicy and bright, I picked up on pineapples and something floral. The pineapple isn’t really there in the taste. The finish is a little like corn, but not really in a bad way.

Monday, May 2, 2016

A set of six beer reviews.

Weyerbacher's Blasphemy is a barrel aged quad. It's kind of heavy handed, it plays all it’s cards right up front. People who don’t love bourbon barrel aging might get tired of it before the bottle is empty, but I’m a sucker for oak. This beer pours medium brown with average head and carbonation. The aroma is vanilla, bananas, liquor, warm malt, and, of course, oak. That’s the flavor, too. Nothing subtle and not really complex. Having said that, I enjoyed every predictable drop.

I'm not nuts about kolsch style beer, but Great Lakes Lawn Seat Kolsch is alright. It's bright, clear yellow with a fair amount of foamy head and carbonation. The aroma is grassy hops, and malt that has popcorn/cereal qualities. The flavor is rich and malty. Thin, crisp mouth-feel. Not bad.

Hardywood turns out great malt-forward beers... their barley wines, quads and stouts are damn near perfect, and I don’t know another brewery that consistently nails barrel aging as well as Hardywood does. I’ve enjoyed their IPAs, too, but they don’t knock my socks off the way their malty beers do. Hoplar IPA is an example of a fine Hardywood IPA that only suffers from comparison to the brewery’s maltier lineup. This beer pours copper color with an average head. Citrus and floral hops on the nose (and all over the tongue, too) are backed up by a slightly buttery malt. It tastes good and is entirely enjoyable, and it’s a huge testament to Hardywood that that’s not enough for me anymore. But there is nothing wrong with this beer.

OK, let me make sure I get the numbers right. This porter is Stone's observation of their twentieth anniversary by re-brewing the porter they first brewed to mark their sixth anniversary. Got it? Good. Because, great God, this thing is a beast. This and the recent re-release of the Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout really take Stone’s malt game to a new level. This beer pours jet back with little head, and the aroma is very strong, bitter malt and more very strong, bitter malt. The flavor adds a little bit of dark chocolate and boozy notes, but this thing never gets sweet and never even implies sweetness. Just sledgehammer roasted malt character that never wears out or backs down. I love Stone for stuff like this.

I wanted to like Fullsteam's Coffee Is For Closers porter as soon as I noted its name, which is a reference to one of my favorite movies. Thankfully, there is more to like about this beer than than David Mamet trivia. Coffee Is For Closers pours dark black, the foam fades to a thin lace. The aroma is strong coffee, a little bit of chocolate, and a warm malt. The flavor is sweet and rich. The strong coffee finish is really nice. Mouthfeel is a little thin but that doesn’t detract from my enjoyment at all.

After I had my first bottle of Lagunitas 2016 Waldos, I sat there on the couch contemplating the empty bottle and thinking that maybe I'd just had the best beer I've ever had in my life. Several days, and several bottles later, and it's just undeniable. This particular batch of this particular beer has probably displaced Stone's RuinTen as my favorite beer ever, if only because it's every bit as good as RuinTen and is available in twelve ounce bottles (RuinTen is only available in 22 ounce bottles on an unofficial annual basis). For me to describe a beer as a RuinTen clone is something I mean as a huge, huge compliment. But this beer is arguably better. It actually ups the ABV to 11.5% without sacrificing drinkability and without drifting into the 120 Minute novelty-beer kind of category. The 2016 version of Waldos is a hop steamroller, and it's a beer I will spend the rest of this spring trying to buy up on the east coast.

Waldos pours a very hazy golden color. The head fades to a reluctant rim ring. The aroma is warm, citrus hops and strong, boozy malt. Like a good rye whiskey, this beer unapologetically invades your nose. The flavor is a combination of grapefruit juice, booze, beer, and thick, dank, oily hop aggression. On the exhale there is this burst of ABV vapor that seems like it ought to be something you can actually see. But it isn't medicinal. It isn't overdone, and it never gets old. I'd have gladly opened the next bottle after finishing any one of these, but I'm trying to ration them out. I don't know how much of this I'll be able to find.

Lagunitas 2016 Waldos is something special. It's the best beer I've had in at least three years, and it isn't one I'm going to forget. It might be the best thing I've ever tasted.