Sunday, May 28, 2017

A mixed-six set of reviews focused on beer from West Virginia. There is a wide range of beer being brewed across the state line. This set contains three of the ones I've really enjoyed... and three I could do without.

Mountain State Brewing's Almost Heaven Amber Ale pours caramel color with billowing head. The aroma is malty and somewhat sweet. But the flavor is way off from the aroma and from what is typical of amber ales. This batch might be infected. It is mild at the front but closes with a vinegary, sour bitterness that reminds me of the smell of dirty socks. If this is how this beer is supposed to taste, then it definitely isn’t for me.

Big Timber's flagship porter is a lighter porter, but a pretty good one, with a fairly hearty flavor. It pours coffee brown with a little bit of head. The aroma is coffee, caramel, a little bit of vanilla. The flavor is big on the sweet stuff, the caramel and some chocolate come through, and the finish is rich. I like this quite a lot.

Big Timber isn’t trying to remake the style with their flagship IPA. The can boasts three words, "Familiar, fresh, piney." The beer is, indeed, all three of those things, and not one of those is a bad thing. This beer pours slightly cloudy yellow with a huge head that fades quickly. The aroma is piney, indeed. A big, floral hop quality is the defining nose character. The flavor is bright and clean and crisp, with a little citrus and garlic on the finish. Respectable beer.

Bridge Brew Works Humulus Lupulus IPA was trouble from the get-go. I opened the aluminum pint bottle and it foamed over more than any beer I have ever opened. I ended up losing about half of the pint. What was left poured hazy yellow with (big surprise) extreme carbonation and foam. The aroma was acerbic, lemony, and bright. The flavor wasn’t very good. Sort of minty up front with a medicinal close. Chalky, mostly mouth wash and aspirin. A little bit of grapefruit and lemon grass weren’t enough to make up for the other qualities. No.

Alright, I’ve now had two beers from this Bridge Brew Works, both in aluminum bottles, both stored in the same way as every other beer I drink, both opened as carefully as any other beer ... and both of them gushing out of the top like volcanoes. Thankfully I opened Momma Rye IPA over the sink, so I was spared the mess. But even after letting it sit for several minutes it still poured mostly foam. This problem is enough to put me off of the brewery for good. There is no sense buying a pint of beer and losing half of it in a mess, then having to stare at ridiculous foam while it dissipates over a long while. Once I was able to taste this beer it was nothing special. The aroma had only a mild, very slight rye in the background, and the flavor was muted and boring. Bridgeworks, you have a problem in your packaging. I won’t be buying any more of your products.

I recently sampled Greenbrier Valley Brewing's Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout at the West Virginia Craft Brew Festival. I liked it enough to make a trip to the brewery to get a growler filled. I have never had a bad beer from this brewery, and this one proves that they can do big, aggressive brews as competently as their paler ales. This stout may be little hot, yes. And just a little thin, but that's all I can come up with when I search for any negatives. It pours dark brown to black with crimson highlights and minimal foam. The aroma is is heavy on the barrel, but some of the malt comes through. The flavor has a big finish, with a nice blend of chocolate/anise notes and a big closing hit of the bourbon barrel. I’ll have this again. I might even drive back to Lewisburg specifically toward that end.

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