Thursday, July 27, 2017

A megaset of beers from Virginia breweries.

All The Action is an imperial IPA from The Answer. I love it. The Answer never lets me down with these huge IPAs. This one is hazy, pale yellow with average foam. The aroma is dank, humongous citrus/grapefruit and lemon... some starch, some vanilla. The flavor is dense and musty top to bottom. Lemon candy, grapefruit, and a mouthfeel that is fizzy and thick at once. The Answer makes it harder and harder for those of us who live in rural areas to subsist on grocery store beer.

I don’t think the Answer can make a bad beer. To my taste, they particularly excel at big, juicy, dank imperial IPAs. This double-dry-hopped version of Extra Credit is extremely funky and dense. It pours like grapefruit or orange juice with a lot of white foam. The aroma is like walking into the hop cooler in a brewery. Heavy, pungent hop aroma that just stays in your nostrils. The flavor is the same. On the finish the hops and the malt blend into a rich and bitter punch that hits the spot with every sip. Damn good.

Rye Hard is a collaborative rye IPA from Brothers and Stone. It pours cloudy copper colored with average head and tenacious lace. The aroma is really nice. Rye, slightly sweet notes like brown sugar, and a hop character I associate with west coast and Stone. The flavor is thin up front but closes with that grassy hop character and a fairly smooth bit of rye. Pretty good.

Brothers and Trophy came together to brew Gosecolada, a tart summery beer that tastes even lighter than it’s 5% ABV implies. It’s pretty crushable. This beer pours very clear, light yellow with a fast fading head. The aroma is typical tart gose, citrus and salt, and some coconut. The flavor is the same, although the coconut isn’t as distinct. Very bright, tart citrus top to bottom. No complaints.

Brothers Good Adweiss is a hefeweizen that pours slightly hazy yellow with lots of foam. The aroma is spice, some cloves, some bananas, lemon and pepper. The flavor is dry and mildly sweet but not overly so. It closes with more of the spice and pepper. By the numbers but well done.

Brothers Astronaut Ice Cream is a stout with almonds and raspberries. I don’t pick up on the almonds, but the raspberries are a presence on the aroma and a little bit on the flavor too. It’s a good stout. It pours black with burgundy highlights, there isn’t much phone. The aroma is typical of a big Stout, coffee and dark bread notes, and some raspberry. The flavor is Rich and strong, dark burnt malt notes, some Licorice, and a little bit of the raspberry comes through on the flavor too. I enjoyed this.

I get the impression from some of the reviews that Strangeways Hinterlander, a wild ale/barley wine kind of hybrid thing, might be a love-it-or-hate-it kind of beer. Well, I love it. It is big, funky, weird, and aggressive, and it absolutely hits the spot. It pours a dark hazy brown with a little bit of head. The aroma is funky and sweet at once. Notes of red wine vinegar, brown sugar, apples, and malt. The flavor is smooth and boozy up front and then closes with this really crazy, almost sour twist that I cannot get enough of. This is a fantastic, odd, totally unique barleywine.

Rot In Hell is another oddball beer from Strangeways, and another one that I like a lot. This beer is billed as a pumpkin sour. It pours dark brown with an average, slightly tan colored head. The aroma is very strong, I could smell it as I was pouring it. Intensely sour. A red wine vinegar character with some slightly sweet malt and an indication of the hops. The flavor is piercingly sour up front. Very sour. And then the pumpkin hits mid-tongue, and it closes with a warm and slightly sugary malt. I really like this. It really is one of the best pumpkin beers I've ever tasted.

Chaos Mountain's Ultimate Warrior is a big double IPA. It pours hazy copper/orange with a little foam and average carbonation. The aroma is citrus, pine resin, some floral notes, some onion. The flavor is really big and bitter. It starts out bitter and then on the finish goes balls to the wall, finishing up with a hop overload that really announces it’s presence on the exhale. This isn’t balanced, it’s aimed directly at hopheads. This hophead thoroughly enjoyed it.

Richmond breweries are absolutely nailing this super juicy New England IPA style. Triple Crossing's Valhala is a great example. It pours very cloudy brownish yellow with a lot of head. The aroma is citrusy and sweet and dank all at once. The flavor starts out tangy and sweet, kind of a lemon meringue thing, before finishing up with a big, musky hop punch at the end. I could drink this everyday.

I really, really love Adroit Theory. I love the way they do these fearless, malty, huge beers, such as Black As Your Soul 4.0, a port barrel aged imperial stout. Only 2,000 bottles were released and I managed to get the 324th bottle. This stout pours black (as your soul) with a big, tan-brown head. The aroma is typical of a huge imperial stout. Bitterness from the roasted malt, burnt toast, chocolate, some of the port barrel. I get more of the port on the front of the tongue, and then again on the finish. Some floral/anise notes. Chewy mouthfeel. I don’t think I will ever get tired of aggressive, dense, ham-fisted barrel aged imperial stouts when they are done well. This one is done well. Every sip was on point.

It's hard for me to not compare Devil's Backbone Survivors, a double IPA, to 16 point double IPA (my favorite thing from Devil's Backbone). This beer is good, and it reminds me of 16 Point, but it's not as aggressive. It has the same malt backbone, but the hops are a little lighter, a little more tropical. It all amounts to a beer that’s more accessible, if arguably less memorable. Survivors pours clear yellow orange with average head. The aroma is tropical and somewhat dank, with some pine resin and citrus qualities. The flavor plays The malt up front and the hops hit hard on the back, but not quite as hard as they do on 16 Point. This is a really good beer. But if you have had 16 Point and you love it like I do, you’re probably not going to like this quite as much.

Eventide is a red IPA from Seven Arrows Brewing. It pours reddish brown with a fast fading head. The aroma is is herbal and slightly sweet. Some pine and citrus notes. The pine is stronger and more dominant in the flavor, but the herbal/tea quality is still there on the finish. This is pretty good.

When we visited Seven Arrows, our server asked what kind of beer I enjoy. I told her that I’m always seeking out weird beer ... strange hybrids, odd experiments, etc. She suggested I try Spirit Track, their abbey ale that’s aged in red wine barrels. After tasting it in my flight I decided to bring home a growler so I could spend some time getting to know this beer. Ultimately I don’t think this experiment quite works. But the adventurous spirit that inspires brewers to try things like this is exactly what I look for in a brewery (see my Strangeways reviews above). I’m officially a Seven Arrows fan just based on the guts it took to brew this weird-ass beer.

Spirit Track pours a crimson brown with almost no foam at all. The aroma is crazy. I don’t get the coriander on the nose, but the oranges and wine barrels combine with the malt into something like candied fruit, hardwood tree sap, and notes of strong cheese. The taste is even stranger. The candied cherry notes are on the front of the tongue, and after that I DO get the coriander and other spicy notes. The finish is like cheap liquor, and I mean that in the best possible way. Anyone who’s ever found something to like about a bottom-shelf "rock and rye" will get it. There’s a lot of WTF to smile about in this beer. This is the kind of audacious risk that is going to lead Seven Arrows to greatness.

Monday, July 17, 2017

This mixed six is half Hardywood, half Final Gravity.

Venus Rising is an imperial IPA from Final Gravity. It pours slightly hazy, orange/yellow. Lots of foam. Aroma is lemons and buttered bread. The front of the tongue is mild, but the hops come in big and bright on the finish. More lemons and a little bit of garlic. Very good.

I really like Final Gravity's Doppler Effect imperial IPA. I love the contrast between the bready, slightly sweet malt on the aroma and the piercing, fruit/citrus hops all over the back end of the flavor. The beer pours slightly hazy yellow with average to light foam. the aroma has that buttery, malty quality, and it’s there on the flavor, too. But the finish is lemon and tropical fruit notes, melon and mango. Just a great balance that makes this a remarkable IPA.

Irish Goodbye is a very big version of a dry Irish stout from Final Gravity. It pours opaque dark brown with a slight, tan, creamy head, There is an aroma of licorice, espresso, and some herbal notes. The flavor is really smooth... I’d never have guessed this beer was a little more than 8% ABV. It hides the alcohol behind a ton of roasted malt flavor, and a little sweet coffee character. Creamy mouthfeel. This is the best dry Irish stout I’ve had in a really long time.

Mamaw's Mean Cobbler is a Belgian Tripel with peaches, spices, and other ancillary ingredients by Hardywood. I like this a lot more than their basic peach tripel. The added spices and sweetness make it a delicious dessert beer, as the name implies. It pours a creamy orange color with average foam. The aroma is sweet and fruity, with vanilla and cinnamon as strong presences. On the flavor I think I detect nutmeg, too, although that isn’t listed on the label. The rich lactose sugar and spices, peach flavor and malt are all tied together with a little hop kick at the end. The ABV is undetectable. I thoroughly enjoyed this.

Savor X is a collaborative Baltic Porter by Hardywood and New Belgium. It's rich and strong and has a notably hearty finish. This beer pours very dark brown with very little head. The aroma is malt, bakers chocolate and coffee liqueur. The flavor is a great mingling of that coffee/chocolate thing, but the coffee character dominates, especially on the finish. As strong as this is, I never got sick of it.

Berliner Weiss is becoming one of my favorite summertime brews. I enjoy it for it's easy-drinking low alcohol content and the sharp tartness that makes it such a distinct beer. Hardywood's Berliner Weiss is not a particularly inventive version of the style, it's a classic take, played right down the middle. And it's a huge success in that regard. This beer is hazy, pale yellow with a thin rim of foam. Lemon and salt are all over the aroma, with a little sweet, banana-like character in the background. The flavor is really tart front to back, and the finish is bright and clean. A perfect beverage for campfires, picnic tables, and fireflies.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Three from Stone and three from elsewhere.

I love Stone's RuinTen, a gigantic and uncompromising IPA they bill as a "triple." I look forward to the annual release every summer. This year Stone dispensed with the regular recipe of RuinTen in favor of two alternative recipes.

First up is a double-dry hopped version of RuinTen, featuring Centennial and Citra hops. It was brewed for the Southern California area, which Stone calls home, but was available on tap from the Richmond brewery. I liked it when I tasted it there, and brought home a crowler. This is a super dank, meaner version of regular RuinTen. It pours hazy copper/orange with average head. The aroma is very big, bitter, aggressive, funky. A lot of pine/resin and strong, fat hops. The flavor is bitter as hell front to back, the bitterness changes and mellows some on the exhale but never backs off. RuinTen is already openly hostile. This is version is up another notch. Maybe a little of the complexity from the malt is sacrificed in the bargain, but it’s a great experiment.

For 2017, Stone also released an orange and vanilla variation of RuinTen. I missed it on tap in Richmond but found a double-deuce in a bottle shop. I like this variation, but it's the lesser of the two. The orange seems a little artificial, but it does stand up to the monstrous hop steamroller of the base beer. The vanilla comes through in the background, and it seems a little artificial too, but it ain’t bad. Most of it is an adjunct presence in the nose on the finish. I cannot say I didn't like it. I hope next year I’ll be able to get RuinTen in its original form. But this year, the diversions are not at all unpleasant.

Barrel aging and IPAs don’t usually work for me. Usually a barrel aged IPA loses it's hop character and mostly tastes like an oaked ale, or else the barrel doesn't penetrate the hop-wall at all. But XS, a gin barrel aged DIPA from Stone, totally works. I think the gin botanicals come through strong and mix well with the hops. It reminds me of Jindia, Stone's Gin IPA from earlier this year, but with distinctly woody, barrel notes that permeate the aroma and the flavor. This beer pours a clear orange color with a lot of foam, the aroma is gin and pine and some oaky vanilla. The flavor tastes strongly of the barrel and the hops, and the gin character is really nice here. I don’t even typically like gin itself, but I enjoy this. I’d have this again.

Unibroue Megadeth A Tout Le Monde Saison pours cloudy yellow with a lot of foam. The aroma is typical of a saison, there are some sweet fruit notes, cloves, spice, and a little citrus. The flavor is warm and rich and closes with a nice mixture of malty sweetness and mild hop punch. I was surprised at how good this beer tastes. I'd expected a beer brewed hastily for a band-marketing gimmick. Instead, this is actually one of the better saisons I've had.

Rodenbach's flagship sour brown pours cloudy brown/red. The brief head is gone in an instant. The aroma is tart and bright. Cherries, red wine vinegar, a little bit of brown sugar. Flavor starts out bittersweet and smooth, the sourness comes in on the back of the tongue. Rich on the finish. This beer might be a good introduction to the Flanders style, it kinda plays it right down the middle. The sourness is unmistakable but not overwhelming.

Beers like New Belgium's Dayblazer are the reason I’ve largely ignored session brews for ages. And, yeah, I admit, some of the session beer I’ve had lately has defied the rule... that rule being that session ales are bland, artificially sweet, and boring. But this one exemplifies that rule. It doesn’t taste bad or smell bad, it just doesn’t taste or smell like much of anything. It pours yellow with a little bit of foam. The aroma is the kind of thing I associate with American adjunct corn lagers. It smells a little too sweet and unappetizing. The flavor is watery, starchy, and saccharine. You may as well drink Coors or Budweiser as drink this. I'm not sure who New Belgium is targeting with this beer.