Monday, December 30, 2013

Beer Review: Candy Cane Cthulhu

Reviewing the Candy Cane Cthulhu from the Goose Island Beer Company out of Chicago, Illinois.

Score: 97

Tap pour served in a snifter glass and enjoyed on 12/23/13. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Dark soda color, with a tiny ring around the glass of head. Nice oily lacing, but no head. The oily lacing tints the side of the glass a slight brownish hue, but less so than Bourbon County Brand Stout does. 4.25/5

Smell: Smells a lot like regular Cthulhu, with less vanilla plus a peppermint aroma that is not "smack you in the face intense" like many other mint-infused stouts are. Particularly as it warms up, this beer smells like thin mint Girl Scout cookies laced with caramel-forward bourbon. The peppermint character grows as the beer warms up, but it never overwhelms. A little oak is present too. Really nice nose here. 4.5/5

Taste: The caramel-forward bourbon flavor hits first, followed by fudgey chocolate, a little bit of vanilla and a hint of oak towards the finish. The peppermint acts a nice backbone, adding a light coolness to the flavor profile. The mint character of the Candy Cane Cthulhu is different from past years' releases of a bourbon barrel aged peppermint stout by the Goose Island Clybourn brewpub in that the peppermint presence here is more consistent on the palate. In previous releases it was more "popping" on the tongue like brief pop rock explosions of peppermint flavor with no lasting power. Even though this beer is infused with candy canes (i.e. pure sugar), it comes off less sweet than regular Cthulhu for whatever reason. The minty flavor lingers nicely, along with notes of caramel and a hint of chocolate too. All of the complexities here are masterfully integrated. What a tasty holiday treat! 4.75/5

Mouthfeel: Just shy of full bodied, spot on carbonation. Very sticky mouthfeel with a sweet leaning profile that does not cloy. Has a lovely slightly cooling mouthfeel from the mint. 4.75/5

Overall: Another home run bourbon barrel aged candy cane-infused stout from the Goose Island Clybourn brewpub (they do one annually as part of a Christmas time toy drive), and an interesting twist for the better on a beer I love. The mint character on this brew is not overpowering, a flaw that many "mint stouts" suffer from. This beer was well worth the toy donations it took to help get it tapped, and I wish that this was something the brewpub would do more than once a year. Maybe next year they will finally do Candy Cane Bourbon County Brand Stout?

Cost: $7 for a 5 oz pour.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Beer Review: Isabelle Proximus

Reviewing the infamous Isabelle Proximus. This Lost Abbey release is a collaboration blend of barrel aged beers made by The Lost Abbey, Russian River Brewing Company, Avery Brewing Company, the Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and Allagash Brewing Company. Thank you Paul for sharing this marvelous treat.

Score: 97

2008 vintage bottle. Served in a Cantillon stemmed balloon glass and enjoyed on 11/16/13. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Pours a nice orange-yellow color with just under a finger of head that settles to a foggy cap atop the brew. Good lacing, great retention. 4.75/5

Smell: Oak/wood, dank lemon, hint of mildew mustiness, and then comes the peach. The nose starts out a little funky and then the fruit comes out to make a nice, balanced medley. 4.75/5

Taste: Wet wood, peach, and a musty funk that is not overpowering. Lemon backbone. The fruit character is not fresh, but it is kind of "dank" and quite interesting. I remember a more robust/fresh peach flavor and less funk when I had this a year or so ago, but it is still drinking marvelously. 4.75/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, spot on carbonation. Excellent tartness with a light sweetness and pleasant funk to help balance out the sourness. Not as dry or sour as Deviation. Really lovely mouthfeel. 5/5

Overall: It was a nice treat to get to revisit this beer as my appreciation for sours has grown and Izzy has further developed in the bottle. Memory is not the best point of relativity considering that tastes develop and details fade as time passes, but I recall liking this fresher. Nonetheless, this is still one of the finest examples of just how good an American-made wild ale can be, and it completely stacks up against some of the more renown and respected Belgian sours out there.

Cost: $30 for a 750 ml bottle (good luck finding it at that price these days).

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Beer Review: Deviation (Bottleworks IX)

Reviewing Deviation (Bottleworks IX) from Russian River Brewing Company out of Santa Rosa, California. Major thanks to Ben for sending me this rare treat!

Score: 99

Bottle is from the spring of 2008. Served in a Cantillon stemmed balloon glass and enjoyed on 11/16/13. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Pours a cloudy amber color with yellowish hue highlights towards the edge of the body. Pours two to three fingers of white head that settle to a nice layer coating the top of the beer. Splotchy lacing, below average retention. 4/5

Smell: Oak, Brett, lemon, and then Bretty funky. The Brett qualities act like a book end on the nose. The funkiness is shockingly pleasant for a five year old beer, and not medicinal or crazy weird or present to the degree of being an "acquired pleasure" like a funky cheese would be. 5/5

Taste: Sour lemon, then wood and a light, familiar mustiness. Has a hint of mildew that adds a little something extra, without making the beer taste "off" or overly funky, like the magnum of 2004 Drie Fonteinen Oude Gueuze that we drank on my birthday this year. Light vanilla notes and a dash of vinegar too. Lingering lemon and wood in the finish. Has a nice level of tartness without being bracingly sour a la aged Beatification. Not nearly as complex as Mimosa, Izzy or CCK, but (1) is that really a fair comparison, and (2) Deviation nonetheless delivers big on taste and drinkability. 5/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-plus bodied with more carbonation that expected, though it does not come across as being "over carbonated." Feels quite "full bodied" for an American wild ale. Nice tartness, dry finish. 5/5

Overall: I have heard from numerous people that this beer is "over the hill", but be they wrong or this bottle ideally stored, this brew was magnificent. Even side-by-side with Mimosa, Cable Car Kriek and Izzy, this beer stacked up nicely. I wish I could obtain another that tasted exactly like this with relative ease. Drink 'em if you got 'em.

Cost: $20 for a 750 ml bottle (but good luck finding one at that price nowadays).

Monday, December 23, 2013

Beer Review: Cable Car Kriek (Test Batch Bottle)

Reviewing a bottle of the test batch for Cable Car Kriek from The Lost Abbey out of San Marcos, California. Major thanks to Paul and Jonathan for sharing this rare treat with me!

Score: 100

The only thing I know about the bottling date of this beer is that it predates the 2011 release of Cable Car Kriek. My buddy got a Cable Car Kriek label sticker, which he put on the otherwise unmarked bottle. Served in a Cantillon stemmed balloon glass and enjoyed on 11/16/13. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Pours a finger-plus of white frothy head. Color is a murky red-orange color with a bit of yellow-orange fade towards the edges of the body when held up to light. Excellent lacing and retention. 5/5

Smell: Cherry, then dank cinnamon, funk, wood, dank spice, fig, raisin, wood and lemon. Hint of tobacco and vanilla. Lots of unexpected cinnamon present in the nose, which is ridiculously complex and perfectly balanced between all the elements present. Just enough funk is present to give it an added dimension of complexity without detracting at all from the appeal of the other aromatics. 5/5

Taste: Tart cherry hits first, then cinnamon, spice, vanilla and wood. Musty funk on the midpalate, oddly reminisce of that Cantillon house character with a little bit of age. Vanilla and cherrywood finish, light lemon backbone. Dark cherry notes and a little bit of cocoa-like flavor come through too as the beer warms up. The cherry flavor persists throughout, and lingers nicely in the finish. I love how well the vanilla flavor plays with sour characters without being medicinal or coming across as being out of place. All the flavors here are so perfectly integrated. There is so much going on, and it all works. The cinnamon character is a nice unique twist, though it is less prominent on the palate than it was in the nose. 5/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, spot on carbonation (rare for a Lost Abbey beer). Great mix of sweet and sour, with a dry finish. 5/5

Overall: One of the best beers I have ever had the pleasure to consume. It is complex, robust in flavor, tart, balanced and insanely drinkable. There is a reason this is one of the most sought after beers out there. I would not say it is worth the $600-800 it commands on the secondary market, but I enjoyed it more than M, which costs much more to acquire. My only quip here is that someone stole the bottle from Paul later in the evening. Seek this one out with confidence.

Cost: $50 for a 750 ml bottle (good luck finding it that for that price nowadays).

Friday, December 20, 2013

Beer Review: Pappy Van Winkle Black Magick

Reviewing the Pappy Van Winkle Black Magick from Voodoo Brewing Company out of Meadville, Pennsylvania.

Score: 100

Bottle is dated 01/18/13. There were allegedly 522 of these made, but I am clearly drinking out of bottle #527. Served in a Goose Island Black Friday Bourbon County Brand Stout snifter and enjoyed on 12/05/13.

Appearance: Pours the same inky black color as the Buffalo Trace and Laird's Apple Brandy versions with a thin layer of cinnamon head that settles to a thick ring around the glass. Excellent lacing, amazing retention. The cling factor on this beer noticeably trumps the Buffalo Trace and Laird's Apple Brandy version. 5/5

Smell: Unlike the Buffalo Trace and Laird's Apple Brandy versions, the vanilla and chocolate aromatics do not "explode" out of the bottle as soon as it is opened. They are still there in good force, but they come across as denser, and richer here. Ample cocoa/dark chocolate gives the nose a nice anchor to the sweeter characters. The vanilla comes across a little more restrained here than it did in the Buffalo Trace version.The mix of chocolate and vanilla in the nose is reminisce of how the vanilla bean Taza chocolate wheel smells, for those that have had the pleasure (those that have not are highly encouraged to buy some). Behind the chocolate and vanilla notes are a lovely mix of fig, raisin and other dried dark fruits, a dash of cinnamon, a hint of spent coffee grounds and nice undertones of caramel, toffee and brown sugar. There is an oakiness to the nose too, but in substantially lesser quantum than it was in the Buffalo Trace version. The nose is rounded out by fudge brownie notes towards the end of the whiff. I like the change of pace through restraint here compared to the Buffalo Trace and Laird's Apple Brandy versions, and the complexities meld wonderfully. 5/5

Taste: Wow! The taste here is surprisingly different from the Buffalo Trace version! My first sip is like biting into a vanilla cake with notes of raisin and marshmallow, with a chocolatey caramel finish. Virtually no oak charactery here. Distinctly bourbon-flavored undertones, as compared to the more deconstructed, but well married, brown sugar, oak and dark fruit characters of the Buffalo Trace version. This beer has a smooth backbone comprised of milk chocolate, bakers chocolate dark chocolate and molasses, but it is much less sweet than you would think given the flavors overlaying. The dried dark fruit character comes across nicely, without imparting a lasting sweetness. There is a little tobacco and a faint hint of coffee towards the finish too. The chocolate notes add a nice counterbalancing bitterness to the sweeter characteristics of this beer. The chocolatey-caramel finish is long-lasting. No real "fudge" on the palate, but who cares? This beer is damn delicious. 5/5

Mouthfeel: Full bodied, with the perfect amount of (i.e., not that much, but just enough) carbonation. The flavors here coat and cling to the palate, layering nicely with a long finish. Well balanced and creamy, with a sweetness level falling somewhere between the Buffalo Trace and Laird's Apple Brandy versions. Has a nice dryness to it as well. The mouthfeel here is awesome. 5/5

Overall: I thought the Buffalo Trade and Laird's Apple Brandy versions of this beer were excellent, but this one is truly king of the variant trio. Epic notes of creamy, cake and marshmallow-like vanilla, dense chocolate morsels and raisin sweetness marry perfectly to create one of the greatest drinking experiences I have had in a long while. This beer is just as good as Bourbon County Rare was when it was fresher. It is on par with (and less sweet than) Bourbon (and Brandy, while we're at it) Vanilla Barrel Aged Dark Lord. This is one of those can't miss, must seek out bottles.

Cost: $10 for a 12 oz bottle.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Beer Review: Laird's Apple Brandy Black Magick

Reviewing the Laird's Apple Brandy Black Magick from Voodoo Brewing Company out of Meadville, Pennsylvania.

Score: 96

Bottle is dated 01/18/13, #003 out of 174. Served in a Goose Island Black Friday Bourbon County Brand Stout snifter and enjoyed on 12/04/13.

Appearance: Pours a deep, inky black color, similar to the Buffalo Trace version, with a half finger of coffee colored brown head that settles to a thick ring around the glass and wispy island of head floating in the center of that ring. This beer has noticeably less head off the pour than the Buffalo Trace version did. Good lacing, similar to the Buffalo Trace version, but less clingy retention than the Buffalo Trace version. 4.5/5

Smell: Just like the Buffalo Trace version, the minute the cap is removed, huge chocolatey aromatics explode out of the bottle. Big notes of fudgey brownies and vanilla are apparent immediately. Also present in this bold nose are toffee, caramel, sweet dark fruits, cocoa and brown sugar. Light syrupy undertones too, which grow in intensity as the beer warms up. The nose is decadent, enticingly sweet like an epic barrel aged barleywine. There is also a light leather and faint smokey quality present in the background, hiding amongst the sweeter characteristics. The nose of this beer is different from the Buffalo Trace version in its subtler complexities, but overall similar in its more forward/bolder characteristics. 4.5/5

Taste: Here is where this beer differs most substantially from the Buffalo Trace version. The Laird's Apple Brandy aging has resulted in a sweeter, less dry beer with less oak/vanilla and more of everything else. Up front is a sweeter, almost candied, dark fruit and raisin flavor than the Buffalo Trace version, followed by caramel, toffee, cocoa, vanilla and a light apple/fruity flavor as well. There is no real "oakiness" here as there was with the Buffalo Trace version. My favorite part about the flavor, which most distinguishes it from the Buffalo Trace version other than the subtle fruitiness, is a light leather/tobacco flavor and very subtle smokey character that is present towards the finish that brings to mind Hair of the Dog's Adam (and, by association, Matt). Like the nose, there is a syrupy backbone, but the syrup flavor is more prominent on the palate than it was aromatically in the nose, which was more brown sugar-like. The finish is long, just like the Buffalo Trace version, with  a light apple/fruitness, cocoa, vanilla and toffee. Just like the Buffalo Trace version, despite being a hefty 13.5% ABV, this beer is dangerously devoid of alcohol heat, though, as it warms up, there is a very faint warmth to the finish. Superbly integrated in its complexities, this beer is one to revel as you sip. 4.75/5

Mouthfeel: Full bodied, with a low level of carbonation that is good for the style and flavor profile. Sweeter than the Buffalo Trace version, but still balanced and easy-to-drink without any layering sweetness. Oily mouthfeel. 4.5/5

Overall: Rich, bold, complex and dangerously drinkable! I preferred the Buffalo Trace version (I liked the bitterness), but this one was quite excellent as well. Black Magick was a delicious beer to begin with, but these new barrel aged variants have taken this beer to a whole new level. Seek them out with confidence!

Cost: $10 for a 12 oz bottle.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Beer Review: Buffalo Trace Black Magick

Reviewing the Buffalo Trace Black Magick from Voodoo Brewing Company out of Meadville, Pennsylvania.

Score: 98

Bottle is dated 01/18/13, #391 out of 552. Served in a Goose Island Black Friday Bourbon County Brand Stout snifter and enjoyed on 12/03/13.

Appearance: Pours a deep, inky black color with two fingers of dark cinnamon head that settles to a thin coating. Good lacing, good retention. 4.5/5

Smell: From the moment the cap is removed, huge aromas of milk chocolate, pancake batter, vanilla cinnamon roll frosting and dark chocolate explode out of the bottle. The dark chocolate notes are reminisce of a very high percentage cacao bar that has a slight fruity note to it. Behind that is a very light alcohol heat, brownies, bittersweet chocolate morsels, a little raisin and brown sugary bourbon notes too. Oak and a touch of char rounds out the end of the whiff. The aroma here is quite robust. As the beer warms up, a light hop character comes through, in addition to a little tobacco and a dash of anise. This is a complex chocolate bomb on the nose, with a delightful injection of vanilla and brown sugar. 4.75/5

Taste: A nice sweet dark fruit flavor, surprisingly, hits the tongue first -- fig and raisin -- with a little brown sugar flavor too. Then notes of bitter chocolate, milk chocolate and oaky vanilla take over. There is a delicious, slightly fruity, high cacao percentage-like dark chocolate backbone to this beer, and a fudgey finish. Milk chocolate, oaky vanilla, bitter dark chocolate and faint bourbon meld on the tongue seamlessly. This beer has a long finish of fudge, oak and the high cacao, slightly fruity dark chocolate flavor. As it warms up, caramel undertones on the back half come out, in addition to a light, complementary anise character and a hint of tobacco. The rich desserty vanilla notes from the nose are dialed back in the taste, and the oak is more prominent. Almost a year old, there is virtually no alcohol heat or flavor on this 13.5% bad boy. 5/5

Mouthfeel: Just shy of full bodied, with a low level of carbonation that is good for the style and flavor profile. Nice bitter-leaning bittersweet balance on the palate. Has a nice oiliness upfront that dries out nicely on the finish. All of this lends to a good drinkability and desire to quaff more. 4.5/5

Overall: A bold, flavorful beer for a cold winter night, this epic 13.5% stout has superb balance, marvelous flavor integration, and is a chocolate lovers dream. It's dangerously drinkable, so sip with caution.

Cost: $8 for a 12 oz bottle.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Beer Review: Prairie Noir (2012 vintage)

Reviewing the Prairie Noir from Prairie Artisan Ales out of Krebs, Oklahoma.

Score: 95

2012 vintage caged and corked bottle served in a Bourbon County Brand Stout Black Friday snifter and enjoyed on 12/10/13.

Appearance: Pours a black coffee color, with highlights of brown at the edges of the body, with a half finger of khaki head that settles to a thin layer that coats the top of the glass. Very good lacing, excellent retention with a slow cascading quality. 5/5

Smell: Roasted oats, caramel malt, coffee grounds, a little brown sugar. Nice light roast backbone. Milk chocolate too. Just a kiss of vanilla, and a very faint bourbon character. A little oak as well. As the beer warms up, a light cereal grain aroma comes out of the woodwork. 4.5/5

Taste: Oats, vanilla extract, oak woodiness upfront, and bitter coffee throughout. Dark and bitter milk chocolate. A lot more wood character than in the nose, but it marries nicely with the dry finish and bitter character. Hint of brown sugar, dried dark fruit and whiskey towards the finish too, with a light burnt quality. Very bitter leaning, with a few mellow sweet notes overlaying. Quite excellent, and not a hint of booziness. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, minimal carbonation. Thinner than expected for an oatmeal stout. Bitter, lightly roast and dry. Love the bitterness and dryness here. 4.25/5

Overall: An excellent, bitter-forward barrel aged stout with subtle barrel characters than compliment, rather than overpower, the base beer. This was a nice change of pace from the usually sweet barrel aged stout. I will be seeking out another bottle or two when the 2013 vintage releases.

Cost: $15 for a 750 ml bottle.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Beer Review: Proprietor’s Bourbon County Brand Stout (Coconut, 2013 Vintage)

Reviewing the Proprietor’s Bourbon County Brand Stout (Coconut, 2013 Vintage) from the Goose Island Beer Co. out of Chicago, Illinois. This Chicagoland-only Bourbon County Brand Stout variant is aged Templeton Rye whiskey barrels with massive amounts of toasted coconut toasted added to the barrels. The 2013 release of Proprietor’s Bourbon County Brand Stout is the first release of an annual series of Chicago-only Bourbon County Brand Stout variants according to Goose Island:

Proprietor’s Bourbon County Brand Stout is meant to show our immense gratitude to our neighbors here in Chicago – the loyal and adventurous fans whose support helped bring Bourbon County Brand Stout to towering new heights. Each year this release will differ from the previous year; a special variant created for Chicago and unique to the year it was released. 
Score: 100

2013 vintage bottle served in a Bourbon County Brand Stout snifter and enjoyed on 11/29/13.

Appearance: Pours the traditional inky black Bourbon Count Brand Stout color with minimal khaki head, but this variant also comes with splotches of coconut oil and tiny coconut flakes floating on top. While the lacing and retention of the head are minimal, the beer leaves nice oily legs behind and the coconut oil and coconut residuals stick to the sides of the glass. 5/5

Smell: Huge, bold notes of coconut and milk chocolate. Vanilla too. Light brown sugar and whiskey character. Rich and dessert-y nose; these qualities are perfectly integrated. 5/5

Taste: Like the nose, the taste is big, bold, dessert-y and marvelously integrated! Toasted coconut, vanilla, macaroons, brown sugar/molasses, and a nice whiskey finish with a very faint spice note on the midpalate. While not the most complex beer in the Bourbon County portfolio, this one delivers big on the taste and possesses a nice, rich sweetness without being as sweet as regular Bourbon County Brand Stout. Fans of coconut flavors will absolutely adore this creamy coconut-vanilla bomb! There is a hint of alcohol heat, but nothing like you would normally expect from a 14+% ABV beer. 5/5

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with spot on low carbonation, unlike the 2013 vintage of regular Bourbon County Brand Stout, which I found to be uncharacteristically "thin" by Bourbon County standards (particular when compared side-by-side with the 2011 vintage). Viscous, creamy mouthfeel. Sweet, but without a layering sweetness that cloys or overwhelms the palate. 5/5

Overall: Not just another home run Bourbon County Brand Stout variant for Goose Island; the 2013 release of Proprietor’s Bourbon County Brand Stout might be their best Bourbon County variant yet! Huge notes of toasted coconut and creamy vanilla, with whiskey undertones, this one drinks akin to how Vanilla Bourbon County Brand Stout is currently drinking plus a huge dose of fresh, toasted coconut. While this beer is not the most complex in Goose Island's lineup of Bourbon County Brand Stout variants, it is surely one of the tastiest. Seek out with confidence!

Cost: $24.99 for a 22 oz (bomber) bottle, though I have seen prices range from $19.99 to $39.99 around town.
Proprietor’s Bourbon County Brand Stout is meant to show our immense gratitude to our neighbors here in Chicago – the loyal and adventurous fans whose support helped bring Bourbon County Brand Stout to towering new heights. Each year this release will differ from the previous year; a special variant created for Chicago and unique to the year it was released. Whether your first sip is today or was from that first batch in 1992, thank you for lifting us up on your big shoulders and joining us every year to celebrate the original bourbon barrel aged stout.
Recipe Information:
Style: Stout Aged in Rye Whiskey Barrels with Toasted Coconut
Alcohol by Volume: 13.9%
International Bitterness Units: 60
Color: Midnight
Hops: Willamette
Malt: 2-Row, Munich, Chocolate, Caramel, Roast Barley,
Debittered Black

Serving Suggestions:
Preferred Glass: Snifter
Cellaring Notes: Develops in the bottle up to 5 years - See more at: http://www.gooseisland.com/pages/proprietor_s_bcs/367.php#sthash.QpMfylzT.dpuf

Monday, December 9, 2013

Beer Review: Bourbon Barrel Aged Kona Coffee Macadamia Coconut Porter

BEER REVIEW #500!

Reviewing the Bourbon Barrel Aged Kona Coffee Macadamia Coconut Porter, a collaboration between San Diego area homebrewer Ken Schmidt, Stone Brewing Company and Maui Brewing Company. The name of the beer is pretty evocative of what it is.

Score: 91
Summer 2011 vintage caged and corked bottle, one of 672 produced. Served in a stemmed taster glass and enjoyed on 11/07/13 at the Chicago Craft Beer Lover's event hosted at The Beer Temple. Huge shout out and thanks to beeradvocate user Chi81 for bringing this surprise treat, one that I have long wanted to try and since given up on ever ticking. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Pours a soda color with minimal head off the pour that totally settles. Oily legs, but poor lacing/retention. 3.5/5

Smell: Roast, coconut, cocoa, light oak and light molasses. A dash of fruity oxidation, which melds nicely with the other complexities of the nose. No single character, not even the coconut, takes the center stage here; all are well balanced in proportion to each other. 4.25/5

Taste: The toasted coconut flavor is not nearly as prominent as I expected it to be, but still there to a nice degree. Also present is a mix of chocolate, brown sugar and light oak. Really nice integration of the components, but the flavor is not very bold. Traditional bourbon flavor featured in bourbon barrel aged stouts/porters is virtually non-existent. Coconut flavor grows a little bit when I let the beer sit and warm in the glass. 4/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied. Slick mouthfeel. Good balance, with a light sweetness. 4.25/5

Overall: A lot more subtle in flavor and delicate than anticipated. I enjoyed this, but imagine it has faded over the past two-plus years.

Cost: $25 for a 500 ml bottle.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Beer Review: Cherry Rye Bourbon County Brand Stout (aged one year)

Reviewing Cherry Rye Bourbon County Brand Stout from Goose Island Beer Company out of Chicago, Illinois. This variation on Bourbon County Brandy Stout is aged in rye whiskey barrels with cherries added.

Score: 90

Bottle 11/11/12. Served in a stemmed Cantillon taster flute and enjoyed on 11/10/13. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Pours a dark soda syrup color with a thin coating of brownish head that quickly dissipates to a ring around the glass. Poor lacing and retention, but good oily legs. Par for the course. 4/5

Smell: Mostly molasses-like sweetness and a dash of cinnamon, with minimal barrel character other than light notes of oak. There's a little bit of chocolate and cherry too, but the cherry is quite muted. Fresh, the cherry was not very prominent either. The nose has a light booziness to it, more so than the regular 2012 vintage Bourbon County Brand Stout release did, but its not "fusel." 4/5

Taste: More cherry flavor is present on the palate than it was in the nose, gradually growing towards the finish, but there is never a lot of cherry flavor present. Rather, the amount of cherry present from the time this beer first hits the tongue to the finish increases from "a hint" to merely "some." Molasses and chocolate notes here too. Surprisingly not complex for having Bourbon County Brand Stout as its base. A little rye spice kick on the finish. Molasses lingers in the finish. Warming heat, but not boozy. Average integration of flavor here, but hardly seamless. 4/5

Mouthfeel: Full bodied, low carbonation. Syrupy mouthfeel. Sweet, but less sweet than regular Bourbon County Brand Stout is. 4/5

Overall: While certainly not a bad beer, this is easily one of the most overrated high profile stouts out there, and the weakest beer in the Bourbon County Brand Stout variant portfolio. Unlike Bramble, which started out medicinal and overly sweet, this beer did not mellow out and morph into a seemlessly integrated and jammy cornucopia of contrasting characteristics with age. Additionally, for a beer called "Cherry Rye", the cherry character was lacking.

Cost: $19.99 for a 22 oz (bomber) bottle.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Beer Review: Double Dose IPA

Reviewing the Double Dose IPA, a collaboration between Vermont breweries Lawson's Finest Liquids and Otter Creek Brewing.

Score: 93

Bottle 09/20/13. Served in a Doom faux-teku and enjoyed on 10/08/13.

Appearance: Pours a lovely orange color with a finger-plus of seafoamy cream-colored head that slowly settles to a thick ring around the glass and wispy coating. Awesome lacing, unreal retention. The residual head sticks to the side of the glass like white on rice. 5/5

Smell: Fresh and juicy citrus! Grapefruit, orange, pineapple and a hint of lemon zest too. Mild, but noticeably present, earthy green, slightly dank hops aroma. A little maltiness towards the end of the whiff. The nose is big on the juiciness. 4.5/5

Taste: Although a juicy tropical citrus flavors hit the tongue first, a strong, bitter pine flavor quickly creeps up and takes over, lingering in the finish. Bitter orange rind is the primary citrus character, but there's some pineapple juice juiciness present too. Tastes a lot hoppier/pine-ier and less juicy than the nose led on. Big, juicy malt backbone, overlaid with a bigger hops and citrus character. 4.25

Mouthfeel: Medium light bodied, good carbonation for the style and profile. Has a slightly biting bitterness that lingers and layers on the front half of the tongue. Very dry on the finish. High level of bitterness impedes the drinkability some. 4.25/5

Overall: Reminds me a lot of an Alpine IPA. Fans of bitter, west coast style IPA's will love this one. I enjoyed this one thoroughly, but would be hesitant to purchase more at a cost of $5 per bottle.

Cost: $20 for a four pack.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Beer Review: Doubly Down 'N Even Dirtier (2013 vintage release, fresh)

Reviewing the Doubly Down 'N Even Dirtier from Tyranena Brewing Company out of Lake Mills, Wisconsin. This beer is a double stout brewed with cocoa nibs and aged in bourbon barrels with cocoa nibs and vanilla beans. I have only previously had this beer aged (the 2010 release, I believe), never fresh. Time to give this a review!

Score: 93

October 2013 vintage screw cap bottle. Served in a Perennial taster tulip and enjoyed on 10/05/13.

Appearance: Pours an inky black color with a finger of khaki head that settles to a thick ring around the glass. Awesome lacing and excellent retention. 4.75/5

Smell: Chocolate brownies, molasses and vanilla with subtle, but present notes of bourbon and oak. Dark chocolate too. Really excellent, complex chocolate notes present here. Smells like an excellent chocolate cake dessert. 4.75/5

Taste: Bourbon flavor is much more prominent on the palate, but it's not "in your face bourbon" like many other barrel aged stouts. Right behind the bourbon come the stout qualities. Milk chocolate, oak and a much more subtler vanilla character than the nose led on. Finishes with just a little bourbon warmth on the tongue, but this beer is not boozy. Finishes with a little roast and bittersweet cacao flavor. Has a slight sweetness upfront, but a nice bitter-leaning bittersweet flavor profile overall. Has a light yeast-spice character too that comes out a little more as it layers. More oak comes through at room temperature too. 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Thin bodied, low carbonation. The base beer was not the most viscous brew, but the barrel aging process noticeably thinned this one out. 3/5

Overall: Looks great, smells wonderful, tastes very good, but the mouthfeel and layering oakiness knocks this beer down a peg. I love how the barrel character does not overwhelm the base, and this is very easy drinking beer at 7.5% ABV. I also love the 12 oz serving size. Give this beer more body and Tyranena would have another true home run on their hands on par with or in excess of Who's Your Daddy. Seek this out if you have the chance, though I would not recommend aging it based on my less-than-impressed experience with the 2010 vintage and the fact that this is a screw cap bottle.

Cost: $8.99 for a four pack.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Beer Review: SurlyFest

Reviewing the SurlyFest from Surly Brewing Company, out of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. This beer, one of the few Surly beers that I have not previously gotten around too, is a dry hopped rye lager; Surly's take on the Oktoberfest style.

Score: 89

September 2013 release. 16 oz can served in a Goose Island Chicago flag snifter and enjoyed on 10/03/13. Thank you for the can Brandon!

Appearance: Pours a caramel bourbon color that is clean in appearance, but not quite transparent, with a thin layer of head that quickly settles to a pencil thin ring around the glass. Good lacing, average retention. 3.75/5

Smell: Hops, spice (presumably the rye), caramel malt, grains and distinctive Oktoberfest-like lager yeast. Faint alcohol esters too. 4/5

Taste: For a Surly beer with a hoppy nose, the taste is pretty hop-devoid. Malt sweetness upfront, followed by whole/creamy grain flavor and a light spice character. Clean finish with a little residual malt flavor. There is only a minimal amount of that distinctive "yeah, you're drinking a lager, wanna fight about it?" yeast flavor that you get in other Oktoberfest brews, and it does not layer or linger which I really enjoy about this brew. 4/5

Mouthfeel: Thin bodied, but not watery. Good carbonation level. Very oily. Starts out with a light spice kick, but as the beer layers the rye/spice gains a more life on the front-sides of the tongue. 4/5

Overall: A very solid beer, and nice twist on the Oktoberfest style. I like the rye character here, and although I would have enjoyed more hops in the taste, I do like that the lager flavors I am not personally partial to are dialed down here. Definitely a beer I would drink again, but this is not one I would seek out specially.

Cost: $8.99 for a 4 pack of 16 oz cans.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Beer Review: R&D Very Sour Blackberry

Reviewing the R&D Very Sour Blackberry from New Glarus Brewing Company out of New Glarus, Wisconsin.

Score: 100

Bottled August 2013. Served in a Perennial snifter and enjoyed on 08/23/13 while traveling on the Metra. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Pours a gorgeous dark murky purple-ish blackberry puree color with three fingers of light purple/pink colored foamy/soda froth head that settles to a thin layer of fizzy head that coats the brew. Good lacing and retention. Excellent color. 5/5

Smell: Huge, bold notes of fresh blackberries and dark berry jam. Very fresh and jammy, with a hint of lemony lacto and a dash of raisin. The nose is almost exclusively blackberry, but the blackberry dimension is so damn appetizing. 5/5

Taste: Not very complex, but darn delicious! Tart and fresh blackberry flavor hits the front of the tongue, but subsides to more of a jammy-sweet blackberry fruit flavor towards the finish. Not very acidic overall. Finishes with a briefly lingering tart berry-fruit flavor on back center of tongue and a little earthy lacto and straw hay residual character on the front of the tongue. The blackberry flavor here is ineffably delicious, and the 500 ml of liquid bliss contained in this bottled disappeared all too quickly. 5/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, good carbonation level for the flavor profile and mouthfeel, dry finish. Very tart upfront, but not cringingly sour because the tartness smoothes out and subsides to jammy sweetness towards the finish. Foams up on the palate if you swish, which increases the dryness of the finish. 5/5

Overall: This beer is the blackberry sour king. It is easy drinking and requires no stretch of the imagination to love unless you despise blackberries, in which case more for me! Dan Carey recommended sitting on this beer for a few months, allowing for the secondary fermentation to take. Honestly, though, this beer is drinking perfectly right now so why wait. This is New Glarus' best beer to date. Prost!

Cost: $8 for a 500 ml bottle.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Beer Review: Crianza Helena

Reviewing Crianza Helena from Brasserie Cantillon out of Belgium.

Score: 99

Bottle is dated October 23, 2008. Served in a Goose Island taster glass and enjoyed on 08/25/13. Thank you Paul for sharing this treat! Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Orange body with a murky yellow-orange layer on top and bottom; has a nice color fade. Pours less than a finger of head that settles to a thin, whispy coating. Average lacing and retention. 4/5

Smell: Huge notes of lemon zest, orange citrus, straw, and just a hint of earthy musty funk. Really excellent balance between these qualities. 5/5

Taste: Very tart, not overy funky. Orange and lemon citrus plus oak, followed by earthy/musty/bretty flavor in the finish. A little vinegar too (but it is very understated here). Light grain flavor. There is a delicate and complex balance between the citrus, tart and funk characters here. A light cognac finish comes through as it warms up. 5/5

Mouthfeel: Light bodied, spot on low carbonation for the delicateness of the flavor. Has a zest tartness, that is juicy and savory. Really lovely mouthfeel. Has a lively electricity on gums. 5/5

Overall: This beer has a lovely tart citrus character with just a little bit of funk for complexity. Reminds me of a "softer" tasting, more complexly flavored Drie Fonteinene Oude Gueuze Vintage 2008. This one is not overrated in the least. Seek out with confidence!

Cost: Approximately 40 euro for 750 ml.

Class Of '88 Imperial Smoked Porter

Reviewing the Class Of '88 Imperial Smoked Porter from Deschutes Brewery out of Bend, Oregon.

Score: 90

2013 vintage bottle served in a Doom glass and enjoyed on 06/12/13.

Appearance: Pours a dark soda color with nice ruby tones and a thin layer of off-white/tan head. Good lacing and retention. 4/5

Smell: Sweet chocolate, hint of smoke, caramel and brown sugar. A little roast. Real nice mix, not intense. The chocolate stands out most. Touch of "fizzy cola" in nose too as it hits room temp. 4/5

Taste: More roast and smoke in nose, which hits you up front, but it is not "smoke intense" (especially not side by side with La Muerta). Then comes the chocolate, fizzy caramel and brown sugar flavors. A little hoppiness mixed in well in the finish. Nothing overly complex or earth shattering, but really appealing and nice. 4/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-minus bodied, medium-light bodied. Dry finish. Par for the course for a porter. 3.75/5

Overall: A really nice roasty porter with a light smokiness and lots of chocolate. Definitely one I would order again if I saw it. Thanks for the chance to tick Mike.

Cost: $7.99 for a 22 oz (bomber) bottle.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Beer Review: Kentucky Brunch Brand Stout (2013 release)

Reviewing the highly sought after Kentucky Brunch Brand Stout (KBBS) from my friends at the Toppling Goliath Brewery out of Decorah, Iowa. This beer is billed as a "beer aged in whiskey barrels with coffee" on the label.

Score: 100

2013 vintage bottle served in a Upland snifter and enjoyed on 09/22/13.

Appearance: Slick and shiny motor oil black in color. Pours a thin layer of dark khaki head that settles to a thick ring around the glass. Excellent lacing, amazing retention. The lacing slowly cascades back in to the glass like a viscous oil. 5/5

Smell: Like Morning Delight, the nose is bold and well integrated. Notes of maple/molasses syrup, bourbon, coffee and vanilla. Smells a lot like Bliss, the bourbon aged maple syrup, blended with coffee. Light notes of chocolate chip cookies. A dash of doughy cake batter too. Smells like Morning Delight plus vanilla, but with dialed down chocolate notes. As the beer warms up, the maple/molasses syrup-like aroma becomes more prominent. 5/5

Taste: Sweet maple and molasses flavor upfront, then vanilla. Roasty coffee flavors and faint, but detectable, chocolate on the back half. Underlying coffee backbone really helps balance the upfront sweetness. No booziness, but there is a little alcohol warming effect on the palate as the beer warms up. The vanilla and maple/molasses syrup flavors shine through more as this beer warms up too. This is truly delectable. 5/5

Mouthfeel: Fully bodied, spot on carbonation. Creamy, oily mouthfeel. Shares the same umami character I got from Morning Delight (no soy sauce flavor). Balanced, though sweet leaning. Has a nice bitterness to the finish that imparts easy drinkability to cut through what would otherwise be a layering sweetness. 5/5

Overall: I am not sure if this is a barrel aged version of Morning Delight, but it shares many of the same characteristics. Both this and Morning Delight are incredible, but I thought that KBBS was the superior brew of the two. The vanilla notes from the barrel aging here are lovely. This beer is, for all intents and purposes, perfect. Among the many stouts I have consumed, there are only a couple out there that I would rather have if forced to choose. With luck, Toppling Goliath will rebrew this and our paths will cross again one day. If not, I am truly glad to have had the opportunity to tick this. Even at its hefty cost, I recommend seeking out a bottle; this is probably going to be the best beer released in 2013.

Cost: $12 for a 12 oz bottle.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Beer Review: Morning Delight (2013 release)

Reviewing the highly sought after Morning Delight from my friends at the Toppling Goliath Brewery out of Decorah, Iowa. This mega-delicious imperial stout drinks like an imperial Canadian Breakfast Stout, and its bottle release quickly put Toppling Goliath on the radar for those who had not yet heard of them. I have had this brew a few times prior, but I felt it was time to finally write this one up now that I had a bottle of my own to sit back and enjoy

Score: 99

2013 vintage bottle served in a Toppling Goliath snifter and enjoyed on 08/31/13 while on vacation in the Wisconsin Dells for Labor Day weekend.

Appearance: Pours an inky black color with a thin later of khaki head that settles to a thin ring around the glass. Below average lacing, but excellent retention. Very nice looking stout. 4.5/5

Smell: Bold notes of roasted coffee, chocolate chip pancakes and maple syrup! This smells like a hearty breakfast in a bottle. Love the interplay of the sweetness from the maple character and the roastiness of the coffee.  I could smell this beer allllllllllll dayyyyyyy longgggggg. 5/5

Taste: Taste is less coffee forward, but still pretty roasty. Excellent bittersweet balance here between the chocolate flavors, maple and coffee characters. Tastes exactly like it smells, but with less coffee and more chocolate pancake flavor. The flavors linger long on the palate, with residual maple and coffee. No alcohol booziness whatsoever; are we sure this is even 6% let alone 12%?!? Not too sweet at all, which aids the drinkability wonderfully. The maple flavor layers quite nicely as well. 5/5

Mouthfeel: Not quit full bodied, low carbonation. Super slick, oily mouthfeel with a slight umami feeling at room temperature (but no soy sauce flavor). Nice bittersweet balance leaning towards slightly sweet. 4.75/5

Overall: This beer is fresh CBS on steroids; it smells and tastes wonderful. I have to give a big shout out to my friend Matt for insisting that I check out this then-unknown brewery at the Great Taste of the Midwest in 2012, as Toppling Goliath consistently produces some of my favorite stouts and IPA's (my two favorite styles). Morning Delight is one of my all time favorite beers, and probably the best non-barrel aged stout out there. I think just a touch more body is all the more I could ask for, but this beer is by no means thin bodied like Last Snow. Seek out a bottle. You will not be disappointed. Cheers!

Cost: $10 for a 12 oz bottle.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Beer Review: Prairie Bomb! (Batch 1)

Reviewing the Prairie Bomb! from Prairie Artisan Ales out of Krebs, Oklahoma. This beer is an imperial stout with coffee, cacao nibs, vanilla beans, and chili peppers added.

Score: 96

Spring 2013 vintage bottle (gold wax, batch 1) served in an Upland snifter glass and enjoyed on 08/24/13 to celebrate the end of this year's wedding season.

Appearance: Ink black in color. No light penetrates through when held up to light. Pours just under a finger of brownish tan head that settles to a thin coating layer. Excellent lacing and retention. 4.75/5

Smell: Tons of roast and coffee. Then chocolate and doughy vanilla cake batter. Subtle notes of peppers, but the pepper character is not very prominent at all. Really lovely integration of the coffee/chocolate/vanilla characters here. Smells like an awesome cake batter mixed with roasted coffee. 4.75/5

Taste: Bitter, roasty coffee hit the tongue first, then cacao, tongue-pricking peppers and a hint of vanilla, followed by residual chocolate bitterness, a little roast and residual peppery liveliness. The flavor is not cake-like at all, and the degrees of chocolate, coffee, vanilla and pepper are in different proportion than in the nose. The peppers are substantially more prominent, and the vanilla is really dialed down. There is also less roasty coffee on the palate than I expected given how forward this character was in the nose. There is a little vegetal pepper flavor in the finish at first, but this disappears as the beer warms up and breathes. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Full bodied, low carbonation. Has a nice pepper spiciness without being a mouth/throat burner; even Scott Nicholas could handle this one (hi Scott). Well balanced between the bitter/sweet/spicy, lending itself to a high degree of drinkability here. 4.5/5

Overall: An excellent brew from an up-and-coming craft brewery located in a state you would not a expect a beer of this quality to originate from. I love how the nose and taste feature the same qualities, but each is different and enticing in their own way. Highly recommend this one.

Cost: $7.99 for a 12 oz bottle.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Beer Review: Barrel-Aged Rise

Reviewing the Barrel-Aged Rise from Revolution Brewing Company out of Chicago, Illinois.

Score: 87

Tap pour served in a 5 oz taster glass. Enjoyed on 08/21/13.

Appearance: Slick black color, shiny. Served with virtually no head save for a mechanical pencil thin, tan colored ring around the glass. Poor lacing and retention. My friend's full pour in 10 oz snifter did not feature better lacing. 3.5/5

Smell: Heavy on the sweet barrel and caramel-bourbon character. Faint notes of piney hops, cocoa and vanilla. Residual mintiness and oak too. Mostly just bourbon barrel on the nose. 3.75/5

Taste: Sweet, but not cloying, barrel flavors take the center stage on the palate. Smooth bourbon, caramel, vanilla and some roast/oak too. The barrel flavors dominate the finish and linger. Complementary, but not prominent or dominant, mint flavor without the menthol coldness on the midpalate. Virtually no hops here, which probably is for the better. As the beer warms up, the finish gets much more complex. I get added notes of chocolate, cherry and a little tobacco flavor in the finish. The long-lasting, lingering flavors here mingle and integrate pleasantly on the tongue. 4/5

Mouthfeel: Thin bodied, minimal carbonation. Has a watery-slickness to it. Sweet, but not cloying. 3/5

Overall: Although this is an above average beer with good flavor, it is very nondescript for a Rev Brew's barrel aged project. I enjoyed this brew more as it warmed up and had a chance to breath. Barrel-Aged Rise shares many of the bourbon-forward flavor qualities that most of Rev Brew's Woodford Reserve-aged dark beers have, and I doubt that I would be able to pick this out blind from say Mean Gene. Rev Brew has pretty much mastered getting bourbon-forward flavors into their beers through barrel aging without picking up any harsh booziness in the process; I just wish they would start using better quality barrels and experimenting a bit more.

Cost: $5 for a 5 oz taster, $8 for a 10 oz snifter.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Beer Review: Leopold Bros Peach Whiskey Barrel-Aged Surette Reserva

Reviewing the Leopold Bros Peach Whiskey Barrel-Aged Surette Reserva from the Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project out of Denver, Colorado.

Score: 96

April 30, 2013 vintage bottle served in a Only Void snifter and enjoyed on 08/22/13.

Appearance: Pours a lovely orange color honey color with less than a finger of white head that settles to a nice layer atop the glass. Spectacular lacing and retention. A wall of froth sticks to the side of the glass like a suction cup. 4.75/5

Smell: Juicy peaches, vanilla-y oak and hay/straw, rounded out by a dash of lacto and young, musty funk. The funk is very very subtle, and acts as a nice, soft accent to the aroma. The citrus juiciness is quite enticing, and practically triggers a salivating response. Notes of lemon zest too. 4.75/5

Taste: Really lovely and flavorful tart and juicy citrus upfront rounded out by barrel character and subtle funk. The lemon zest is more pronounced on the palate than it was in the nose. The peach/lemon combo hits you nice on the front of the tongue with a tartness that is lively, but not pucker-inducing. Then hay/straw on the midpalate, followed by oak and earthy lacto/brett in the finish. Has a nice lemony-peach brett flavored linger that is not intense, but sticks around nicely. The lingering flavor reminds me of a much more subtle and less tart, peach-infused L'Brett D'or. I really like how flavorful and juicy this brew is without being overly "intense" or wrecking the palate with harsh or extreme flavors. The complexities here are masterfully integrated, and the light funky character works well. 4.75/5

Mouthfeel: Light-medium bodied, low carbonation. Has a little zesty kick for being a saison, but it is not remotely pucker-inducingly tart. Juicy mouthfeel. This drinks like a delicious, fermented lemonade. 4/5

Overall: Another knock out sour from Crooked Stave, who is absolutely on fire right now. I enjoyed the base beer thoroughly, but this barrel treatment is a truly remarkable improvement. Seek this one out while you still can.

Cost: $10 for a 375 ml bottle.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Beer Review: Closer Encounter

Reviewing the Closer Encounter from Pipeworks Brewing Company out of Chicago, Illinois. The bottle bills itself as a "hopped up imperial stout."

Score: 94

Batch "190-1." I have no clue how a beer can be batch 190-1. Either you are batch 190, or you are batch 191. Served in a Perennial snifter and enjoyed on 08/20/13.

Appearance: Dark chocolate color in appearance. Pours less than half a finger of khaki head that settles to a ring around the glass. Poor lacing, average retention. 3.75/5

Smell: The aromatics are of a black ale done extremely well. Milk chocolate covered pineapples, piney hops, a little muddles citrus and pretzel-like doughiness. Notes of cake batter too. The hops come through very clean on the nose, and are not dirty/earthy/spicy/floral/oniony at all. This a really lovely smelling beer. 4.5/5

Taste: Bitter bakers chocolate and cocoa followed by bitter piney hops. Juicy pineapple and nondescript and muted tropical citrus backbone with a little maltiness too. Unsalted pretzel flavor in the finish too. Really unique tasting, and I love the bready flavors here. No booziness. This brew hides the double digit ABV very well, though a little palate warmth occurs around room temperature. Really nice mix of stout and clean IPA flavors here. 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-plus bodied, low carbonation. Very creamy. Bitter on the palate with a little backbone sweetness for counterbalance and added drinkability. 4.25/5

Overall: Shockingly excellent. Not because of who makes it (Pipeworks makes some great beers), but because of the style. Few black IPA/hoppy stouts are this good. Cheers to another excellent brew in Pipeworks' portfolio!

Cost: $11.99 for a 22 oz (bomber) bottle.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Beer Review: Aww Jeah

Reviewing the Aww Jeah from Short's Brewing Company out of Bellaire, Michigan.

Score: 90

Bottle code "1193C21658." Served in a generic snifter glass and enjoyed on 08/19/13.

Appearance: Pours an orange copper with a half finger of off-white head that settles to a thin ring around the glass. Good lacing and retention. 4/5

Smell: Caramel malt, honey and fruity/grassy hops. A little spiciness too. As it warms, some tropical citrus comes through, but it is not juicy-fresh. 4/5

Taste: Bready malt, caramel malt, grapefruit, and floral hop flavor. Bitter grassiness towards the finish with a residual bitterness that lingers nicely. The hoppiness has a little dirty spiciness to it too, but this character is not very prominent. As this beer warms and layers, it becomes palate wreckingly bitter/hoppy. 4/5

Mouthfeel: Very light in body for an imperial IPA, low carbonation. The bitterness really sits and layers on the tongue, slightly singeing while the brew sits on the palate. 4/5

Overall: A total hop bomb palate killer. Nothing special, but well done. Cheers.

Cost: $15 for a six pack.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Beer Review: Unplugged Bourbon Barrel Bock

Reviewing the Unplugged Bourbon Barrel Bock from New Glarus Brewing out of New Glarus, Wisconsin. I was lucky enough to win this 2007 release, a New Glarus tick I long ago gave up on, in a raffle recently.

Score: 88

June 2007 vintage bottle served in a Perennial snifter/tulip hybrid glass and enjoyed on 08/15/13.

Appearance: Pours a clean, but translucent copper color that is free of floaties or haze. Has a wisp of head off the pour that totally settles, resulting in a liquor-like appearance. Minimal head or retention. 3.25/5

Smell: Primarily vanilla and caramel in the nose. There's a little bit of oak and even less dark fruit too, but it is really just malty/sweet vanilla and caramel interacting pleasantly here. Unknown ABV, but not a whiff of booze. 4/5

Taste: Taste follows the nose, but with a little fizziness in the finish. Caramel upfront, followed by vanilla. Mild cherry and tobacco flavors in the finish. Dark fruit undertones. The flavor components here meld almost seamlessly. Some sherry-like fruitiness comes through towards the finish as this beer warms up. No negative oxidization character is present, which is surprisingly given the age of this brew. This bottle was clearly stored well. 4/5

Mouthfeel: On the lighter side of medium bodied with very very low carbonation. This beer is not flat, though it is closer to undercarbonated than appropriately carbonated. That said, there is a little fizzy life in the finish that I did not expected given its headless, non-effervescent appearance. Malty sweet, but not cloying. 3.75/5

Overall: Acquiring older bottles often scares me due to the unknown factor and exponential importance of proper storage over time. I was surprised how well this beer was holding up given how over-the-hill the Unplugged Iced Barleywine was. While this beer is nothing overly complex, unique or epic in flavor, it is easy drinking and quite smooth. The sweetness here does not layer on the palate in a way that inhibits drinkability, and there is no booziness to speak of whatsoever. I am certainly glad to have finally ticked this one, but it is a not a must-try brew.

Cost: $5 for a 12 oz bottle. If you manage to find one these days, I doubt it will be that cheap.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Beer Review: Flying Jenny Extra Pale Ale

Reviewing the Flying Jenny Extra Pale Ale from Grey Sail Brewing Of Rhode Island out of Westerly, Rhode Island. Major thanks to Michael Y. for the hookup!

Score: 89

Unknown vintage can served in a Goose Island Chicago flag snifter and enjoyed on 08/01/13.

Appearance: Body is a nice dull orange color with a golden tint. Quite murky. Pours two fingers of frothy off-white head that settles to a thin layer with a nice lacing on the side of the glass. Excellent lacing, very good retention. 4.25/5

Smell: Cereal grain, dull orange citrus, grapefruit and mild piney hops. The grain aroma is more forward than I would like in a pale ale, but it is not offensive in the least -- just unexpected and not traditional for the style. A little floral-ness too. Very light on the nose. 3.5/5

Taste: The grain character here is substantially more mellow on the palate than the nose led on, and it is mostly contained towards the finish. Starts off with a nice bitter hop bite that is a little piney, a little grassy, but more “non-descriptly hoppy” bitter than either. Then orange rind and grapefruit. A light amount of grainy malt in the finish for balance, with a lingering bitterness. Quite refreshing, yet surprisingly bitter for a pale ale -- I guess that is why this one is an "extra" pale ale... 4/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, maybe a little lighter than that. Feels a little spritzier on the palate than most pale ales, but in a good way here as this helps the bitter hoppiness pop on the palate. Dry finish. 4/5

Overall: Had low expectations for this given the grain-forward nose, but the flavor is where it counts most and this one delivers. Appetizingly bitter and flavorful for the style, even though it is not complex. Give this "something different" brew a whirl if you get the chance.

Cost: $9.49 for a six pack of 12 oz cans.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Beer Review: Society & Solitude #5

Reviewing the Society & Solitude #5 from the Hill Farmstead Brewery out of Greensboro Bend, Vermont.

Score: 92

Two-and-a-half week old growler that was brought to me courtesy of a good friend, and kept ice cold the whole time. Served in a Perennial tulip/snifter hybrid glass and enjoyed on 08/11/13.

Appearance: Pours a translucent golden straw color with two fingers of frothy white head that settles to a wispy coating outlined by a thick ring of head around the edges of the glass. Very good lacing, good retention. 4.25/5

Smell: Earthy spiced hops, orange peels, spruce, pineapple, grapefruit and a hint of white wine. As the beer warms, the earthy spiciness falls off and the tropical juiciness comes through more in the nose. 4.25/5

Taste: Quite bitter, less juicy-sweet than I would have guessed on the nose. Bitter pineapple/grapefruit and "hoppy white grape" up front, with orange rind and woody/piney hops on the finish. Spicy caramel malt backbone, has just a dash of onion-iness that complements the spice. The bitterness and earthiness linger, but do not "layer" such that they get overly intense. 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied, medium-light carbonation gives good life to the bitterness of the brew. Oily mouthfeel. 4.25/5

Overall: A well-rounded, nicely crafted imperial IPA with a good malt backbone, a pleasing bitterness level and easy drinkability, but it is not up to par with some of Hill Farmstead's better hoppy beers such as Society & Solitude #4, Abner, Ephraim or Double Citra. This brew is definitely worth seeking out, but it is not one of the "can't miss" beers in their portfolio.

Cost: $10 for a 750 ml growler fill.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Ber Review: Scratch Beer #98: Triple Mango IPA

Reviewing the Scratch Beer #98: Triple Mango IPA from Tröegs Brewing Company out of Hershey, Pennsylvania. Yes, they have stuff other than chocolate there.

Score: 93

July 2013 vintage bottle served in a Perennial snifter and enjoyed on 08/06/13.

Appearance: Clearly unfiltered. Pours a pulpy, hazy mango color with a darker center. Pours about a finger of orangish-white head that settles to a ring around the glass. Good lacing, good retention. 4/5

Smell: Huge notes of mango and pineapple, some peach and resinous hops as well. A little pine and floral character too. Very juicy smelling. 4.25/5

Taste: Bitter mangoes, pineapple, orange rind and piney hops. Has a nice bitter bite to it upfront that mellows out, but lingers towards the finish. This brew has a juicy tropical citrus backbone with a little sweetness that imparts a little balance, but this is a very bitter-leaning IPA with less tropical citrus sweetness than a lot of juicy IPA have. The bitterness layers nicely on the center of the tongue. No booziness to speak of; you would never guess the ABV was in the double digits. 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-full bodied, low carbonation. This is one of the more viscous IPA that I have had to date. Bitterness lays on the tongue nicely. 4.5/5

Overall: Quite an excellent IPA. Very bitter for the amount of tropical citrus present. I think it drinks nice and easy, though only those who love the taste of bitter hops are likely to concur. Either way, you would never guess the ABV.

Cost: $55 for a case of 24 bottles (or just under $14 a six pack).

Friday, October 25, 2013

Beer Review: Arcadia Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout

Reviewing the Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout from Arcadia Brewing Company out of Battle Creek, Michigan.

Score: 45

Bottled 10/08/12. Served in a Perennial and enjoyed during the All-Star Game on 07/16/13.

Appearance: Pours an inky black color with a wisp of head that quickly settles to a pencil-thin ring around the glass. No lacing or retention -- not even oily legs. Flat in appearance. 2/5

Smell: Sweet bourbon with modest alcohol esters primarily, followed by milk chocolate. Vanilla and molasses. Raisin too. 3.5/5

Taste: Sweet raisin, sweet molasses/brown sugar and bourbon. Touch of roast. Finishes with a light sweet vanilla and prune flavor. A little boozy, but not any more so than the nose led on. I do not feel that the flavors meld well. Has an odd tanginess in the finish with a dash of licorice. Not a fan of how the flavors mix here, and the finish leaves a bad taste in my mouth. 2/5

Mouthfeel: Thin bodied, no carbonation. Watery with a little residual stickiness on the palate. Way too thin bodied. This is far from the world's sweetest brew, but the beer has no body to back up the sweetness. 1/5

Overall: Did not enjoy this beer one bit. It was thin-bodied, flat, sweet and the flavors did not integrate well. Certainly not worth the price tag. Skip this one.

Cost: $8.99 for a 12 oz bottle.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Beer Review: Kopi Luwak Speedway Stout

Reviewing the Kopi Luwak Speedway Stout from AleSmith Brewing Company out of San Diego, California.

Score: 99

January 2013 vintage bottle served in a Perennial and enjoyed during the All-Star Game on 07/16/13.

Appearance: Pours an inky black color with two fingers of dark khaki head that settles to a thin layer atop the glass. This beer has the best lacing and craziest cling/retention of any stout I have ever seen. A thick layer of frothy head sticks to the side of the glass for well beyond two minutes (at which point I stopped counting). This is a truly gorgeous stout. 5/5

Smell: Tons of delicious-smelling roasted coffee notes upfront. Then milk chocolate, molasses, and cocoa. Hint of vanilla a la Stone's Vanilla Porter too. There's also a faint whiff of dark fruit detectable when it gets on the warmer side. 5/5

Taste: Super smooth coffee and roastiness. Absolutely no acidity in tandem with the bitterness. Minimal bitterness off the coffee flavor, which is to be expected from the use of Kopi coffee. Milk chocolate, bakers chocolate and a faint dark fruit character a la Kuhnhenn American Imperial Stout or the original batch of De Struise Black Albert. No vanilla. Finishes with a mildly bitter, raw dark chocolate flavor and a faint hint of coffee. Truly delectable; quite balanced. 5/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-plus bodied, spot on carbonation. Super creamy, slightly dry on the finish. The bitterness quality is really excellent here -- it is not acidic at all, and very smooth and lingering. It pairs perfectly with the chocolate notes on the palate. 4.75/5

Overall: This beer is beyond ridiculous. It is the best non-barrel aged coffee stout that I have had to date, and easily one of the best stouts I have ever had (and I drink quite a lot of stouts). Smooth, flavorful and perfectly balanced, there is little more you could ask for here. This beer is infinitely better than its barrel aged counterpart, and it is arguably AleSmith's best beer (the Vietnamese coffee version is almost as good, and I have not had the vanilla coconut version yet). I sincerely hope that AleSmith bottles this again. If so, I will be buying by the case next time around.

Cost: $18 for a 750 ml bottle.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Beer Review: Overrated! West Coast Style IPA

Reviewing the Overrated! West Coast IPA from Surly Brewing Company out of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. This West Coast style single IPA is a new release from one of the Midwest's master of hops. I've had this a few times since grabbing some courtesy of Brandon at Dark Lord Day, figured I should finally get around to reviewing one since I am on my last can.

Score: 93

Canned on 04/19/13. Served in a Goose Island Chicago flag snifter and enjoyed on 05/16/13.

Appearance: Pours a clean/transparent light amber-orange color with a half finger of head off the pour. Good lacing, poor retention. 4/5

Smell: Dank, resinous hops and tropcal citrus. Sticky pine sap, grapefruit, pineapple, and grassy hops. 4.25/5

Taste: Bitter citrus rind, sappy/piney hops and sweet tropical citrus. Nice sweet malt backbone that is not very pronounced, but adds a good balance to the hops. The hop flavor is there, but it is not quite "in your face" palate wrecking intense like Abrasive Ale. The bitterness and lingering hop flavor are spot on for what I love in my IPA. 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Light-plus bodied, excellent carbonation. Oily mouthfeel, slightly dry finish. 4.25

Overall: Better than Furious, but a slight notch below Wet. Surly has another winner on their hands. Hopefully this will become a Surly staple.

Cost: $9.99 for a four pack of 16 oz cans.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Beer Review: 120 Minute IPA (fresh)

Reviewing the infamous 120 Minute IPA from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery out of Milton, Delaware. This double IPA clocks in at a whopping 18% ABV.

Score: 90

Bottled on 02/15/13. Served in a snifter glass and enjoyed on 05/15/13.

Appearance: Pours a clean looking caramel color with a thin layer of off-white head atop the glass that settles to ring around the glass. Average lacing, above average retention -- shocking for the ABV. Basically, this looks like you'd expect an IPA to look like. 4/5

Smell: Boozy caramel and surprisingly subtle piney hops. Sweet citrus, cheap waffle syrup (you know, the kind at a Comfort Suite's continental breakfast) and wood chips, a little earthiness too. Smells quite malty. 4/5

Taste: Tastes like an aged Behemoth with more alcohol warmth on the palate. Syrupy caramel malt, boozy malt, a dash of vanilla. There's citrus, earthy hops and a lingering orange and syrup flavor in the finish. Despite the booziness, it does not taste like it is much more than a 10% ABV beer -- certainly not as boozy as you would expect of a beer that has a higher ABV than a bottle of DeKuyper Sour Apple Pucker schnapps. 4/5

Mouthfeel: Full bodied, low carbonation. This beer is surprisingly viscous and syrupy! Has a nice malty sweet character with a dash of bitterness from the hops. Dry finish. 4/5

Overall: Definitely overpriced what it ultimately delivers, but pretty tasty nonetheless. I can't imagine this beer is cheap to brew given the gravity. Although 120 Minute IPA is not quite as good as other malt-bomb high ABV imperial IPAs that blend the line between American barleywine and imperial IPA like Double Crooked Tree or Maharaja, I found that I liked this beer essentially as much as a two or three year old Behemoth.

Cost: $9.99 for a 12 oz bottle.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Beer Review: Royal Impy Stout (2013 vintage)

Reviewing the Royal Impy Stout from the Portsmouth Brewery out of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. This beer replaces Kate The Great in the brewery's current lineup as a new winter stout that was released during Portsmouth Beer Week 2013. This beer is different from Kate, but is the name an allusion?

Score: 94

2013 vintage bottle served in a Doom teku-like glass and enjoyed on 06/27/13. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Pours a chocolately brown color with no head. No lacing or retention to speak of. 3.5/5

Smell: Milk chocolate, dark chocolate and roast. Hint of fig. tons and tons of chocolate. 4.25

Taste: Nice mix of silky/creamy chocolate notes - cacao, dark chocolate and milk chocolate. Less roast on the palate than in the nose. Touch of boozy warmth in finish, but no boozy flavor. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Just shy of full bodied, low carbonation. Silky smooth mouthfeel. Quite dry on the finish. Nice bittersweet flavor balance, with more sweetness upfront and more bitterness towards the finish. 4.5/5

Overall: Delicious and well worth the retail cost. It is better than aged Kate The Great, but not quite as good as I recall Kate being fresh. Although not the most complex stout, this brew delivers in what dimensions its offers. I wish this were more readily accessible.

Cost: $8 for a 300 ml "stenie bottle."

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Beer Review: Nooner Batch 2

Reviewing the highly sought after Nooner Batch 2 from Cycle Brewing/Peg's Cantina & Brewpub out of Gulfport, Florida. This beer is the vanilla version of their G.O.O.D. RareR D.O.S. (a rum-aged imperial stout).

Score: 95

03/08/13 vintage growler (batch 2) served in a Perennial snifter and enjoyed on 03/18/13 and again 07/20/13. Review is from iPhone notes

Appearance: Pours a coffee color  with a thin layer of khaki colored head that settles to a ring around the glass. Poor lacing, average retention 3.5/5

Smell: Vanilla rum cake, oak, chocolate and fudge. Hint of pineapple too. 4.5/5

Taste: Oak, rum and heavy on the desserty vanilla. A little boozy. As bitter cocoa and vanilla finish. Underlying vanilla cake flavor throughout. Yum! 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-plus bodied, low carbonation. Bittersweet balance, dry finish. 4.5/5

Overall: Really excellent desserty vanilla stout that is not cloying. Wish I had more.

Cost: $20 for a 500 ml growler.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Beer Review: Saint Lamvinus (2011 vintage)

Reviewing Saint Lamvinus from Brasserie Cantillon out of Belgium. This is one of Cantillon's more heralded seasonal fruited lambic releases.

Score: 96

Bottled 10/18/11. Served in a Goose Island Chicago flag snifter and enjoyed on 03/04/13. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Pours a rose color with just under a finger of pink-white (faintly pink) head that totally settles. No lacing or retention, but gorgeous color. 4.25/5

Smell: Funky sweet-but-tart red grape is apparent off the pour. Has plum notes akin Slivovitz without the harsh booziness. Strawy grass, vinegar and a little lemon. Some raspberry towards back of nose as it warms up. Classic "Cantillon dust" too. Tangy acidicty apparent on nose. 4.5/5

Taste: Super tart red grape, raspberry, and sour dark berry flavor. Oak, zesty citrus and a little funky grassiness. There is a prevalent underlying funkiness that grows as the beer warms. That traditional "dusty" Cantillon flavor that is in nearly all of their sours is present too. Some lacto too. This bottle was a little heavier on the lacto character than others I have had, imparting some greek yogurt flavor. Maybe this is storage related? Has a sharp acidity in conjunction with the tartness, but not in a bad way. The acidity really complements the tartness well and gives the beer a little extra bite that dries out the gums. The finish is tart berry/red grape followed by residual lacto funk once the berry flavors fades. Nice and boldly flavorful. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Not quite medium bodied with a low level of carbonation. Has a high level of acidity and tartness. Imparts a dry, but not chalky finish. Finishes like consuming a less tart warhead candy. 5/5

Overall: Delectably sour. This is one of Cantillon's better beers. It is as good as Blaeber (although not as good as Fou Foune or Lou Pepe Kriek/Framboise in my opinion), but a fraction as "rare." Seek this one out with confidence. Wine connoisseurs should appreciate this one.

Cost: $35 for a 750 ml bottle.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Beer Review: Georgia Gene

Reviewing the Georgia Gene from Revolution Brewing Company out of Chicago, Illinois.

Score: 93

Tap pour on release day served in a taster glass and enjoyed on 10/09/13. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: This beer looks like all of Revolution's barrel aged stouts/porters. Shiny, inky black in color served with a ring around the glass of khaki head. Solid lacing/average retention. 4/5

Smell: Oak, brown sugar, bourbon and cacao/chocolate. No distinct peach but something not traditional in a stout is present here that I cannot put my finger on; it is probably muted peach. 4/5

Taste: Vanilla, oak and bourbon upfront followed by delicious peach, bitter chocolate and a light vanilla flavor in the finish. Nice bittersweet balance here, with the sweet barrel characters hitting upfront and then mellowing out quickly. A little alcohol sting on the sides of the tongue. The base beer characteristics are surprisingly bold and not overwhelmed by the barrel treatment, which is a nice departure from the sweet Woodford-forward barrel projects that Revolution has been churning out lately. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, low carbonation. Creamy and slick mouthfeel. Good balance. 4.25/5

Overall: I wish I had time to stay for a full snifter pour. This is Revolution's best new barrel aged project in recent memory. I love that it has a nice bitterness in the finish for balance, and that it is not as bourbon-forward as their other recent releases. Prost!

Cost: $7 for a 9 oz snifter pour.

Beer Review: Boring

Reviewing Boring from the Goose Island Beer Company out of Chicago, Illinois. From what I gather, this beer is a blend of "unintentionally infected" Juliet and Madame Rose.

Score: 93

Tap pour served in a plastic glass and enjoyed on 05/19/13. We got to sample this one while staying after the event to help clean up and move stuff around. Review is from iPhone notes at Goose Island's summer block party.

Appearance: Pours a dark amber color, surprisingly clean in appearance but not transparent. Served with a thin layer of off-white head that settles to a wispy coating. There is not much to say about lacing and retention when your pour is served in a plastic cup... 4/5

Smell: Raspberry, blackberry, grape, lacto, vinegar and a little malt. Nice fruited medley. 4.25/5

Taste: Sweeter than tart with a nice vinegar presence. Same fruit as the nose, though the blackberry is the dominant fruit. Mild spice character and a little oak too. 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Light-plus bodied, good carbonation for the profile. Sweeter than tart. 4/5

Overall: Not as good as Scarlett or Laura (come on Goose Island, bottle them!), but it is better than Lolita and Juliet in my opinion. Was quite glad to have the chance to tick this one!

Cost: Free! (well, I did have to pay for a ticket to get in...)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Beer Review: MILF

Reviewing MILF from Mother's Brewing Company out of Springfield, Missouri. Brewed with cocoa nibs and raisins, this imperial stout is aged in rum, sherry, bourbon, brandy and whiskey barrels and then blended.

Score: 91

March 2013 vintage bottle. Served in a Dark Lord snifter and enjoyed on 10/10/13.

Appearance: Pours a shiny black color with a thin layer of dark khaki head that settles to a thin ring around the glass. Below average lacing, average retention. 3.5/5

Smell: Raisins, chocolate, rum, sherry and oak. Very faint notes of bourbon. The rum is the most prominent barrel character followed by the oak. Vanilla notes too. 4/5

Taste: Cold, this beer is rough around the edges, oak forward and tannic. However, as it warms up, the complexities present integrate and marry nicely. Raisin, dark fruit, rum, caramel, bourbon, oaky vanilla and a smooth booziness throughout. This beer's alcohol presence is not hidden, but it is not cringingly boozy or fusel. Cocoa flavor in the finish. On the colder side, the sherry presence is a bit sharp, but it mellows out into a nice complementary complexity as the beer warms up, reminding me a bit of Utopias. There are a lot of flavors to appreciate here courtesy of the multi-barrel aging, and they really work well together once the beer warms up. Has a lingering sweetness, but the sweetness does not layer and overwhelm. 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-plus bodied, low carbonation. Oily mouthfeel. Sweet on the palate, slightly dry on the finish. 4/5

Overall: Tasty and complex, but the nose is not quite as well integrated as the taste and the mouthfeel could be a little bolder. Not quite the game changer "unknown stout" I was expecting a la my first encounter with Barrel Aged Abraxas at FOBAB last year, but still a good beer. Serve this one on the warmer side.

Cost: $10 for a four pack.