Saturday, April 22, 2017

Six beer reviews, with an emphasis on Brothers Craft Brewing and their collaborators.

Citra Spective Sour IPA is a collaboration between Brothers and NoDA. It is pale, slightly cloudy yellow with a thin head. The aroma is lemons, tangerine, some vegetable notes. I like the flavor, it is strongly sour mid-tongue but there is a little malt character on the finish that reminds me of popcorn. Good beer.

Brothers worked with Ocelot to make Us And Them, an IPA. I’d look for a reason to give this beer a positive review just because of the Pink Floyd themed name and label. Thankfully, I didn’t have to look far. This is a dry, tight IPA that hits the right notes. It pours cloudy yellow with a gigantic head. The aroma is grapefruit, pine resin, garlic. The flavor is mellow at first but closes with a bitter kick. Overall, well balance and tasty.

Night Cap is a porter brewed by Brothers and Crooked Run. This beer pours dark brown with average suds. The aroma is subtle, malty, and slightly sweet. Some dark bread, a little bit of cherry. I like that the cherry doesn’t dominate the flavor, it’s there on the finish and not an overplayed card. This is pretty good.

Of the four beers in this set so far, this one is definitely the winner. (Spoiler alert: it's also the best thing in this whole set of six.) Coconut Shy is a Brothers stout with coconut, and it's really good. It pours black with tan/orange foam and highlights. The aroma is great. The coconut is strong but it isn’t too much. It blends with the malty, chocolaty stout very well. The flavor is a little bit like drinking a Mounds bar. Coconut and dark chocolate and a little coffee. When it comes to sweet stouts, it seems like I either don't like them at all or like them a whole lot. I like this a whole lot.

Brothers Drunken Mornings is an imperial stout. It isn’t bad, but it's really hot. This stout pours dark brown to black with little foam. The aroma is oak barrel in a big, unmistakable quality. The flavor is boozy. Boozy may be understating it. I’ve had booze that wasn’t this boozy. It’s good, don’t get me wrong. Obviously a lot of work went into this thing, and the craft shows. But at more than 12% ABV, it might not hurt to let this one mellow for a fair bit.

Soft Serv is an imperial porter from South Street. It pours chocolate brown with average head. The aroma is rich porter malt character, and some chocolate, but I pick up on more of other notes, like vanilla and some caramel and coffee. The flavor is the same as the aroma, but more so. It’s fairly big and aggressive, and not as overly sweet as I’d worried that it might be.

Six beer reviews.

Southern Tier's 2XSmash Double IPA pours clear orange with a lot of carbonation and foam. The aroma is spicy, bright citrus. I don’t pick up on much, malt-wise, in the aroma. The malt is very subtle on the flavor. This thing is all about the mosaic hop load that dominates the tongue front to back. Slightly dank, bitter, with pine and floral character, pepper and garlic notes, and a slightly oily mouthfeel. Pretty good.

Nu Skool, an IPA by Southern Tier, is a dry, resinous IPA that’s brewed in the west coast style. It doesn’t really add much to the approach, but it’s a faithful rendition. It pours bright, clear yellow with average foam and carbonation. The aroma is strong on the mosiac hops, with pepper and pine character and a little malt sweetness in the background. The flavor is hops up front and then bigger hops on the finish. Pepper, pine and floral notes, and a little bit of burn. It’s fine.

Southern Tier's Raspberry Wheat Beer is a light, slightly malty beer with subtle hops and raspberries that would probably be tasty after a hot day in the summer. Pours purple/pink with a little bit of foam and carbonation. The aroma is yeasty, malty wheat beer with the raspberries in the background. The taste is the same.

Sixth Circle is an IPA/sour hybrid brewed as a collaboration between Parkway Brewing and Devil's Backbone. I like this quite a lot, it’s among the best things I’ve had from Devil’s Backbone. It pours bright, clear amber color with an average to slight amount of foam. Average carbonation. The aroma is funkier than I’d expected. A little salty and sweaty and tangy, reminds me of a gose. The is piercingly tart up front and on the swallow, lemons and sour grapes show up, then floral hops on the finish. I liked this so much when I sampled it in a flight at the brewery that I bought a growler and got a fill right then and there.

Elysian Brewing's Immortal IPA is deep golden in color with a lot of foam that hangs around for a long time. The aroma is mild but there is some bitter hop character and a little bit of autumn squash and mustiness. The flavor is mild malt and then a very average wash of west coast hops. This isn’t bad.

Split Shot is a coffee/milk stout by Elysian Brewing. This would be a damn good dessert/after dinner beer. It pours dark chocolate brown with a little bit of foam. While pouring it the aroma is noticeably sweet, like chocolate milk. The flavor is sweet up front, the chocolate milk quality is still there, but then the coffee hits big on the finish.

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Osprey 10K was held at Smith Mountain Lake State Park in Huddleston on  April 8, 2017.  It was my thirty-second race since June of 2015. I'm not sure where it falls with regard to how many 10K races I have run, and I'm just too lazy to count. I haven't run very many of 10K's, I'm sure of that, in spite of the fact that I usually run them fairly well. A 10K is a tough distance ... you have to run hard to be able to compete, but it's difficult to really run hard for 6.2 miles. About six miles is what I run for my daily workout, and I typically run that distance in 50 or 52 minutes. But I knew that in order to finish well at this race, I'd need to run a little faster than that. I went into the race well rested, well fueled, and ready to run. It actually went pretty well.

I managed to finish third place overall, with a final time just under 47 minutes. I feel certain right now that that's just about as fast as I will ever run a 10K. I got close to the front early and managed to stay right behind the leader until the half way mark. Half way through the race, a better runner got around me and I dropped back to third place. But I was able to hold on to third and I finished generally satisfied with my time and my performance.

I'm not sure yet what my May race is going to be. Right now I'm primarily concerned with the marathon I have registered for in June. I'm trying to train for that race, with the modest goal of finishing in anything less than four hours. My May race will ultimately just be another training run toward the June marathon.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Six more, like before.

I love that each installment of Stone's Enjoy By Imperial IPA is usually a little different from the previous one. I thought that the Christmas 2015 release was the best one I've had yet, with a little more juicy punch than the beer sometimes features. But each release of regular Enjoy By (as opposed to some of the variants with ancillary ingredients) has been good. This first offering of Enjoy By (4-20-17) from the relatively new Stone facility in Richmond is another tasty one, as expected. I am indebted to my friend Adam for bringing me a crowler to sample, as is often the case. This iteration of Enjoy By pours bright orange/yellow with a fair amount of foam. The aroma is the usual bitter, citrus hop punch with explicitly lemon and tangerine notes. The flavor is bitter up front and closes with a great combination of that lemon from the aroma with a hint of sweet malt. It amounts to kind of a lemon meringue finish after a big, imperial IPA hop front end. As expected, this round of regulation Enjoy By is delicious, and shows no change my palate can discern from the San Diego brewery versions. You're nailing it here, Stone. Stay away from the chocolate and coffee and tangerine variants and keep turning this thing out.

Stone's Richmond staff collaborated with Richmond's upstart Triple Crossing for Fulton Rising, a New England IPA so-named for the fact that Stone and Triple Crossing are both in the Fulton section of Richmond. As Triple Crossing is doing the release, I expected this beer to be typical of their IPAs. And it is, and that's a damn good thing. Fulton Rising looks like a New England IPA, cloudy orange with average head and lace. The aroma is big and juicy, tangerine and lemon and peaches, lots of fruity notes all mingling together. On the tongue, it is juicy up front, too, and then closes lean and bitter. I’d stop short of calling the finish dry, but it is crisper and cleaner than some NEIPAs. Maybe Stone contributed the elements that amount to that subtle quality on the back end? I’d love to see Stone themselves turn out a few beers like this rather than their usual big, biting west coast thing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, either... but this combo certainly works well.

The Mango Grapefruit version of Waxing Poetic, Triple Crossing's Berliner Weisse, is just delicious. It's the kind of low ABV beer (4%) that I could drink all summer long. Mango Grapefruit Waxing Poetic pours cloudy yellow with a little bit of foam. The aroma is tangy tropical fruit juice, mango and grapefruit in concert with yeasty, banana type notes. The flavor is tart, tart, tart, top to bottom. I don’t notice the mango as much on the tongue, but the grapefruit is bright and refreshing ad juicy. Just wonderful tasting beer.

New Belgium's Voodoo Ranger 8 Hop Pale Ale is one of New Belgium’s better grocery store beers. Often it seems like New Belgium doesn't take their second string very seriously, at least not when compared to beers like the Lips Of Faith series. But this one, like VooDoo Ranger IPA, is tasty. It pours bright yellow with average carbonation and foam. The aroma is hoppy and comparable to other industry standard pale ales, like SNPA. The flavor is hoppy, too, but not clearly into IPA category. The malt is there, and obvious. It isn’t drowned out by the big hops, but it has to compete with it. The finish is slightly sweet. I can see me buying this again.

Whizbang is a hoppy blonde ale from New Belgium, and it isn't a show stopper. But it ain't bad. This beer pours clear, light orange with average head and a lot of carbonation. The aroma is like other hoppy pale ales, a little bit of bitter, floral hop blends well with a smooth malt. The taste is very mild up front but on the finish the hop/floral combo from the aroma comes back a little stronger. I can't bitch about it, but probably won't have it again.

I'll say up front that I'm not in love with Rogue. I know they have their fans, but I typically haven't been one of them. I think Rogue is average at best. But this beer is above average. 7 Hop is a dense, brawling IPA that approaches beers like Palate Wrecker and RuinTen in terms of dankness, huge mouthfeel, and curb-stomping aroma. I’m amazed that the ABV is relatively low, given this beer’s forwardness. It pours dark, clear orange with thin foam. The aroma is pugnacious. The deeply bitter hop profile does not drown out the heaps of malt on the smell. The flavor is a giant blast of that aroma for the tongue, and the finish is very heavy and aggressive. This is a lot of hoppy anger to pack into a bottle with less than 8% ABV. Rogue has done something surprising here. 7 Hop a fine beer by any metric.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Mixed six, totally random, with no common thread.

Lagunitas Citrusinensis is a pale ale brewed with blood orange juice concentrate. My bottle of this was probably a little too old to be ideal, but I still thought it tasted good. It poured bright orange with average head. The aroma is sweet, tangy blood oranges up front, but a warm wheat malt is still there in the background. The flavor is mostly about the sweet citrus. It’s very sweet, but not bad at all. The finish is mild and malty, and if the hop character isn’t as lively as it might have been, it’s probably because I let this bottle sit a little too long. I’d like to have this again fresh.

Stone Stochasticity Project Quadrotriticale is a nice quad, it is rich and warm and strong, and finishes with some distinctly Stone hop qualities. It pours dark amber brown with little head. The aroma is cherries, cloves, bananas, black walnuts... lots of desert like qualities. The flavor is rich and smooth upfront, with some herbal tea character and all of those flavors from the aroma. It blends with molasses and a little caramel, and it closes with west coast/floral hoppiness. I’d almost describe this as a naked version of Vertical Epic.

Sweetwater's Dank Tank Pulled Pork Porter is a porter with smoked bacon flavoring added. I know, right? But, it's better than I thought it would be. I tried it mostly out of curiosity, expecting a novelty beer. But it’s actually pretty good, even if it is odd. It pours very dark brown with a lot of foam. The aroma is a rich, smoky malt with some spicy notes, black pepper and a little bit of hoppy tingle. The flavor is very much a standard smoked porter up front, but on the swallow there definitely is a bacony, tangy barbecued pork quality. A little sweet spice, some coffee, a hint of honey and salt, and big smokiness on the finish.

This is the most I have enjoyed an IPA from Parkway. I think that some of their malty beers (For Lovers Only Imperial Stout and Fortification Barley Wine) are fantastic, but I’ve previously only thought that Parkway’s IPAs were OK at best. Save The Galaxy IPA is more than OK. It’s a damn good beer. It pours bright yellow/orange with a decent amount of foam. The aroma is a bit dank with a sort of piercing citrus quality. The flavor is just great. Especially on the finish, where a warm malt blends with a very bright, very dry, clean, aggressive hoppiness. I like this very much.

I like South Street's American strong ale, Satan's Pony. And I like this barrel aged imperial version very, very much. I think it might be the best thing I’ve had from the brewery. This beer pours copper brown with average foam. The aroma is all barrel; sweet and rich and very smooth. A ton of vanilla, a little bit of spice, some orange peel in there, all of it blending with the malt. Really nice. The flavor is as good as the aroma. While it tilts heavily to the sweet side, it's so smooth and so complex that it never gets old. All that vanilla and malt from the nose mixes with caramel, maple, a little hint of the orange and maybe some cranberry. Oh, yeah, and some boozy character to make that barrel aging worth the time and expense. It was worth my expense, too. I will buy this again.

10 Barrel's Joe IPA is a serviceable IPA, and I can’t complain about it. It pours hazy yellow with average but tenacious foam. The aroma is fairly standard IPA, a little on the dank side, with some lemon and wild onion notes. The flavor is bright up front and closes with a fairly straightforward hop load. Not bad at all. You could knock down three or four of these over the course of a movie without ever getting tired of it.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Six more sours.

Petrus Oud Bruin is very well balanced sour, complex and fruity, that gets better as it warms. This beer pours dark amber with little foam. The aroma is warm malt, apples, bread, candied fruit... a lot of winter kitchen notes on the nose. I didn’t like the flavor quite as much as the aroma, but it isn’t like I had to fight to finish the bottle. This beer slips the mild sourness in at the front, with some caramel and fruit mid-tongue, and finishes with some malt punch. I enjoyed this and wouldn’t mind another glass.

First things first, Petrus Pale Ale smells wonderful. It pours cloudy, dark yellow with a little bit of foam. The aroma is a song. It blends sour and rich and mellow tones beautifully. There is lime and cream and red wine vinegar and some spice, and I just sat and smelled it for a little bit before I ever sipped it. The flavor is really good, too. It starts out with the mellow character, borderline sweet and sugary, and then on the back of the tongue the sourness is high and tight. Just delicious. Far better than I had expected. I have no idea why I assumed this would be a middle of the road sour. I was wrong. It’s one of the clearest and best examples of a non-Flanders sour that I have enjoyed so far.

Monk's Cafe Flemish Red is a delicious, complex blended sour. It pours dark brown with average foam. The aroma is tart, rich, and malty. Dark fruit notes and a tangy punch blend together really well in the aroma. The flavor is great, the sourness hits on the front of the tongue, and the finish is great combination of warm, sweet malt and pungent tartness. Apple, red wine, and brown sugar are woven throughout the end of the sip. Just really tasty.

Roy Pitz Sour Hound is an OK little sour, although maybe a bit thin, and the finish leaves me a little on the "meh" side. It pours the orange/brown color of strong pekoe tea. Not much carbonation or foam. The aroma is slightly tangy, some apple cider, vinegar, a little hint of something like fig. The beer is clean and tart up front, and the finish is sour but evaporates very quickly. It seems to be on the verge of secondary notes when, poof, it’s just done. Not a particularly memorable beer. Not awful, but not special in any way.

Blue Mountain Barrel House's Sour Geist is not a bad beer, but I was a little tired of it by the time I finished the bottle. It pours hazy orange/yellow with slight to average foam. The aroma is lemony and a little funky. A lot of these sours have a quality about them that I think of as "sweaty," and this is one of them. The flavor starts out bright and very tart, but on the finish it just fades to kind of a muted malt-bomb. Each sip was a little less enjoyable than the previous one.

New Belgium's Clutch is a sour stout and it's the weakest of the New Belgium Lips Of Faith sour beers I’ve tasted. It just doesn’t work. It pours dark brown with very little head. The aroma is mild. There is a little bit of mild cherry and oak, and some coffee, but all of it is subtle. The taste ... well, there’s just no way around it. This beer doesn’t taste good. The front of the tongue is muted and dense, the flavor closes with a little bit of that cherry or berry sourness, but there is also an artificial, plastic kind of character throughout the whole sip. The taste reminded me of how band-aids smell. And not in a good way. No thank you. New Belgium’s Lips Of Faith sours are among my favorite examples of the style, usually. This is a rare exception. This beer is kinda crap.