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Beer, It Makes Hanes a Jolly Good Fellow

As Hanes began managerial responsibilities for a beer department during November 2008 it stands to reason that he would take copious tasting notes on beer. And, duh, he has, even though he no longer has those responsibilities. Even though it takes time away from getting drunk on wine, it’s fun so far. Hanes will here post his tasting notes on beers as they get funneled down the old gullet. In fairness, please note that Hanes has a sweet tooth when it comes to beer and is not a huge “hophead.” So, this may effect his assessment even as objectivity is always a goal.

The review information is provided in the this format:
Brewery Name
Brand Name
Beer Type (per BeerAdvocate)
Place of Origin
Alcohol Percentage
Bottle Size, Format
Price Hanes Paid
Tasting Note
Hanes Rating (5 being the highest)

Chugged in September 2017

Toppling Goliath Brewing Co.
Sosus Double India Pale Ale
American Double/Imperial IPA
Iowa
8.0%
22oz, Single
$14.99
Nice frothy two finger high head with a dimpled surface of an eggshell white hue, retention is above average as any larger bubbles settle into the mass, the lacing is extremely thick and looks glued to the glass sides, almost no movement. Shiny yellow gold to orange rust colored liquid, no real visible haze, coated wall-to-wall in a sheet of fast rising bubbles. Pretzel dough, salt and freshly mown grass infuse the nose first, sour white grapefruit accents frame the pineapple, papaya, nectarine fruit scents, on the whole has a dry texture which stymies its lift, pine cone, decomposing forest floor matter provide dankness before it all cascades away. Full-bodied, on the heavy side and super creamy, enough so that it counterbalances the biting hoppiness. The carbonation diffuses the flavors some. More concentration and sweetness here in the pineapple, mango, peach fruit, buttressed by the buttered biscuit element. Much more zesty bite in the orange to white grapefruit citrus than juice. Loses a good bit of the dankness here, cleaner grassiness. Has a tight weave to it which might benefit from relaxing and letting it all flow more.
4 out of 5

AleSmith Brewing Company
San Diego Pale Ale .394 (San Diego-Style Pale Ale)
American Pale Ale
California
6.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$14.99
Two fingers of light tan to off white foam, airy enough to swiftly dimple yet retention is excellent once it closes in on the liquid surface, the lacing is initially broad, lacks stickiness so the sheets easily fall prey to gravity. The liquid is a dark coppery orange with a mild haziness, the carbonation bubbles are super tiny but active, few beads. Tart and penetrating nose of crackers, salt and pepper, fresh leafy green matter, no softening elements such as pine or citrus, unvarnished, the malts stick to the shadows and do not offer any distinct aromas, overall persistence is average. Medium-bodied, fluffs up immediately as the carbonation pushes it out towards the cheeks. However, it’s too dry to really be soft and the overall discernible bitterness does not make for a satiny smooth ride. Here tangerine, blood orange citrus and a tiny bit of pine do freshen the mouth entry, the pineapple, nectarine, peach fruit yet struggles to find a clear voice, not that juicy. More cracker and biscuit, not that much salving maltiness. The alcohol level is low and entirely unobtrusive. Some metallic, minerally residue at the end. Drinkability is fine but hard to imagine having more than two in a row.
3 out of 5

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Chugged in August 2017

Tyranena Brewing Company
Headless Man Amber Alt
Altbier
Wisconsin
5.25%
12oz, 6-Pack
$8.69
Modest finger’s worth of light tan foam, even surface, below average retention, meager lacing. The liquid is bright and shiny in spite of a slight silty film, brown in hue with an orange tint, only a few random sluggish bubbles visible. Sweet grains, cocoa, malt and a cleansing mineral water and earthiness to it, interesting blend of apricot, apple, plum to cherry fruit scents, moderate staying power. Light to medium-bodied, tight carbonated tingle, here the mineral water aspect stronger although that cocoa, caramel malt makes a good showing through the mouth entry. Bready, if not doughy, as it unfolds with a light nuttiness and peach, apricot, yellow apple fruit. Perks up some through the finish and certainly not overly sweet, just too demure for its own good.
3 out of 5

Three Floyds Brewing Company
LazerSnake India Pale Ale
American IPA
Indiana
7.0%
22oz, Single
$9.99
Head crests a little more than one finger, eggshell white to light tan in color, fairly even surface, the lacing initially forms larger splotches but there isn’t much stickiness. Very hazy liquid, deep orange rust color, not many visible Heavy malt on the nose, molasses, caramel, vanilla custard with spiced oranges, tar, floral but not especially piney or leafy, concentrated and syrupy pineapple, mango to nectarine fruit scents, no real dankness and most marked by layered thickness. In the mouth it’s full-bodied with just enough carbonated fluffiness to relieve some weight. Broadly bitter, nothing close to puckering. The thick molasses, caramel, challah bread to cocoa powder aspects lean things towards sweetness and the pineapple, papaya, apricot, mango fruit continues the trend. Floral with savory herbs before segueing to pink grapefruit, tangerine, orange citrus. Orange creamsicle flavors. Dry without astringency. The easy drinking quality in tension with the sheer density on display, the latter a brewery hallmark.
4 out of 5

O’so Brewing Co.
The Big O
American Blonde Ale
Wisconsin
4.6%
12oz, 6-Pack
$8.79
Very thin dusting of bright white foam which disappears quickly, no lacing at all. Semi-hazy golden liquid, slow moving beads of larger bubbles, what color is there washes out at the edges. Sweet nose of honey, cereal, corn and mild pepper to clove spice, lemon peel and apple to apricot pit fruit, ends with a metallic earthiness. Medium-bodied plus, kind of thick in the middle without much activity created by the lazy carbonation. Not as sweet here, as much wheat as sweeter grains and the lemon to orange citrus lends both sourness and dryness. Feels malted without over vanilla or cocoa type flavors. Lower level of corn like flavoring. Vague apple, pear, peach flavors of minimal depth. Nothing wrong with it but does not separate itself from the pack.
3 out of 5

Three Floyds Brewing Company
Gorch Fock German Style Helles Lager
Münich Helles Lager
Indiana
5.2%
22oz, Single
$12.99
Close to two fingers high head of dense white foam that craters in spots as it starts to dissipate, the lacing forms broad solid sheets before steadily sliding down into the glass. Somewhat clear in spite of the gauziness to the liquid, loosely aggregated medium sized bubbles steadily regenerate, quite pretty overall. Nose of corn syrup, honey, caramel and flowers, challah bread and a light peppery quality, the apple, peach fruit scents are faint and for the most part not especially missed. Medium-bodied, light on the palate with a gentle fluffiness. More of that corn, dough and sweet grains with soft orange like citrus tones, flowers and chamomile. Minimal grassiness without much bitterness. Malty finish with slightly more apricot, peach, apple fruit than found in the nose. Smooth while maintaining presence.
3 out of 5

Evil Czech Brewery
Static Chipmunk DIPA
American Double/Imperial IPA
Indiana
7.9%
16oz, 4-Pack
$16.99
Huge three finger head from a normal pour, airy enough to normalize at an acceptable level, craters as it does, the lacing is wispy but has tenacious stick. Fully cloudy and opaque liquid, deep orange that fades to a more yellow hue nearer the rims, very hard to visibly discern carbonation. Clean nose of orange, tangerine citrus, freshly cut grass, white pepper, rose petals and pine cones, just picked apricot, peach, melon fruit scents, light cocoa accents, gently malted, has a steady, focused lift that helps it not outlast its stay. Medium-bodied, not dry but has great palate traction as well as flow. The carbonation is soft without being wimpy, massaging presence. Flowery with minimally sour white grapefruit to tangerine citrus and sticky pine notes. The apricot, cherry, to kiwi fruit familiar but offbeat as well. Moderate doughiness balanced by quinine accents. Handles its ABV extremely well and is as smooth as the category allows. Great overall integration.
5 out of 5

New Glarus Brewing Company
Totally Naked
American Pale Lager
Wisconsin
4.25%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.69
Modest one finger head, bone white, doesn’t look airy but retention is poor, the few visible streaks tend to be thick yet slide away rapidly. Bright golden colored liquid with only a few randomly dispersed bubbles to be seen. Soft, plush nose of white bread, corn, flowers and a mutter of minerals or quinine, in the same vein the apricot, peach fruit scents are unobtrusively present. Light to medium-bodied, the carbonation is slight, however, it manages to retain adequate freshness if sweet overall. Corn syrup, flowers, leesy yeast, caramel and now and then close to bubblegum. Not many grassy nor earthy qualities and the more you sip the more monochrome it becomes. Apple, pear, apricot come off as freshly picked and friendly. Way easy drinking but perhaps too sweet to drink many in one sitting.
3 out of 5

Three Floyds Brewing Company
Deesko! Berliner Style Weisse Beer
Berliner Weissbier
Indiana
6.5%
22oz, Single
$10.99
The head crests past a finger but dissolves extremely quickly to zero surface coverage, lacing nonexistent. Hazy golden color with a strong storm of bubbles throughout, curious given the lack of surface foam. Crisp nose of tart lemon zest, cut grass and saline, wheat and mixed grains, periodic notes of bubblegum, becomes more floral as it warms and you’re able to tease out more apricot, green apple to pineapple scents. Medium-bodied, balances volume and weight with freshness and bite to positive results. Sweet yeast to baking dough, bubblegum and a hint of banana, peppery spice and then an herbaceous finish. All that visible carbonation barely produces a tickle in the mouth. Lemon and white grapefruit citrus ensures a pleasing sourness throughout. Finishes clean enough, has the tact to know when to end. In the end it’s pretty normal.
3 out of 5

Dark City Brewing Co.
Charrette Belgian-Style Rye IPA
Belgian IPA
New Jersey
7.3%
16oz, 4-Pack
$13.99
The light tan head is very active and loose, crests about two fingers and sizzles down quickly from there, the lacing is extremely wispy with barely any stickiness. Cloudy orange rust hued liquid, fades to a yellowish cast at the rims and surface, just a few visible bubbles which move sluggishly. The nose has plenty of banana, bubblegum and whipped cream notes, spiced orange peel, minimal apple, pear fruit scents, needs to warm some before the rye becomes clearly apparent. Full-bodied, the carbonation is as soft as the visual inspection suggests, little movement in the mouth. More peppery here with good rye bite and a mineral water underpinning. Some cracker and bread crust, noticeable drop in citrus presence. The fruit closer to apricot, peach pit than apple. The bubblegum most present retronasally at the end. Modicum of dank herbaceous notes through the finish too. Tastes like a stylistic mash-up which is kind of what it is. Wears you out some drinking it, hardly to imagine putting back two 16 oz. cans in one sitting.
3 out of 5

Tröegs Brewing Company
Nimble Giant Double India Pale Ale
American Double/Imperial IPA
Pennsylvania
9.0%
16oz, 4-Pack
$11.99
Average pour yields a huge froth, head close to half the glass and very slow to fade, even surface, cream white color, once there’s room inside the glass the lacing is thin and elongated. The nice has a consistent coppery orange color with a very mild haze to it, the bubbles are extra tiny and widely dispersed. Well-stuffed and juicy nose of mango, papaya, pineapple to nectarine fruit scents, sticky pine sap, honey, wet herbal matter and a smattering of pink grapefruit and cocoa-led malts, really too big to provide meaningful scent clarity. Full-bodied, viscous and heavy on the palate, for all the ripeness present in the peach, apricot, mango, pineapple flavors there’s a subtle dryness to the texture as well. This helps freshen things and provide greater length in the tangerine, pink grapefruit citrus. Neither the pine nor the pepperiness obtrusive. The carbonation is more fluff than prickle. For all of its weight it comes off as restrained which is perhaps not in its favor. That said, pleasingly easy to drink and for the ABV you could probably throw back three before noticing the buzz.
4 out of 5

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Chugged in July 2017

Two Roads Brewing Company
Two Juicy New England Style IPA
American Double/Imperial IPA
Connecticut
8.2%
16oz, 4-Pack
$13.99
Solid finger’s worth of bleached white foam, loose and airy with low retention, the lacing is splotchy and not sticky enough to form longer streaks. Gauzy yellow liquid, too diffuse to darken into orange hues, random bubbles visible, no beads. The nose is light and breezy with a clear focus on orange, white grapefruit to lemon citrus, at times seems as smoky as herbaceous, the floral element lowkey, as is most everything except that citrus, at the last second sneaks in some peach and apricot pit fruit scents. Light-bodied with a slight tingle, prickle during the mouth entry. The bitterness to astringency is high for its weight and there’s minimal traction. The texture is reminiscent of Orangina. Certainly the flavor is with the orange, tangerine to grapefruit emphasis. The fruit moves into pineapple, papaya territory with the same peach base, however, there’s not a “wet” feel to it, beer’s name notwithstanding. Pine, pressed rose petals with a metallic edge, again, everything stays demure. Not as herbaceous here. Trails off at the end but this could be filed under “cleanliness.” Good drinkability for the ABV.
3 out of 5

AleSmith Brewing Company
Logical Choice 3X India Pale Ale (Collaboration With Pizza Port Brewing Company)
American Double/Imperial IPA
California
10.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$15.99
Nice two finger head, even surfaced and fairly airy and loose, just off-white in color, retention a bit below average, the lacing comes in random splotches without much stick, slide easily downward. Clear deep golden colored liquid, crystal clear, beads of miniscule bubbles sway inside the glass. The nose has a light dankness, as if for counterpoint to the sweet pink grapefruit, tangerine citrus and mango, guava, nectarine fruit scents, piney, vague breadiness, no rough edges to it and pungent enough to linger for some time. Medium-bodied and closer to light, gentle carbonation, in spite of both of these factors there is a textural sappiness. The tingle builds as pepperiness and pine take hold, notes of quinine and Serrano ham. Gluey grapefruit, lime, tangelo citrus present throughout. Sweeter fruit here, green melon, pear, apricot and mango. Very well balanced and manages to do a lot with a compact array of components, as if pared away inessentials and this was what was left. Drinkability is very high for the ABV. Kudos for not trying too hard chasing forced complexity.
5 out of 5

Jersey Girl Brewing Co.
Sun Kissed Citra India Pale Ale
American IPA
New Jersey
5.5%
16oz, 4-Pack
$8.99
Semi-aggressive pour yields less than a finger worth of dimpled off white foam, below average retention, the lacing likewise loose and not that sticky. Very cloudy liquid of a basic orange cast which fades to a broad yellow aura, almost looks like you squeezed orange and white grapefruit juice together, not visible carbonation. The nose is well malted, soft with tangerine citrus, apricot, peach to yellow apple fruit scents with relaxed pine and cracked pepper in reserve, only a glimmer of dankness at the end. Full-bodied, the low level of carbonation does little to lift it off the palate as it spreads itself generously across. The fluffiness holds the sweetness of the tangerine, lime citrus and also allows some honeyed bread notes to accrue. That said, not overly sweet and dries up adequately by the finish. The apricot, peach, melon fruit less forceful here while lasting through the finish. Seems crafted to blend the parts rather than let them solo and has a high degree of drinkability. You might get bored with it if still in analytical mode on the second or third can but if you were at the beach you could put back a few.
4 out of 5

AleSmith Brewing Company
Double IPA
American IPA
California
8.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$16.99
Touch under two fingers of eggshell white foam, nice even surface with very good retention, sinewy spider web of lacing with moderate stickiness. Bronze to copper color, clear and bright, a few loose streams of lazy bubbles, attractive depth of hue. Heavy duty stickiness in the nose, pine, resin, wet pink and white grapefruit pith, leafy buds, peach, nectarine to papaya fruit scents with minimal dankness until the final dissolve, unabashedly displays power without ostentation. Full-bodied, sets its skeleton broadly so the flesh is not overly compact and there is a mild creaminess from the carbonation. Increases the level of fresh grassiness and pine to pepper, the bitterness is proportionate to the cocoa malts and smattering of honey. Tangerine to white grapefruit here, gives up sweetness before turning tart. Not a hop bomb by any stretch and given its aggressiveness finds a balance. Attractive fullness in the nectarine, pineapple, apricot to melon fruit flavors, sappy traction extends presence. Not the typical over the top style which may disappoint some. Plus drinkability if you have tolerance for dryness.
4 out of 5

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Chugged in June 2017

Cascade Brewing Co.
Sang Noir (Northwest Style Sour Ale) (Ale Aged In Bourbon And Wine Barrels With Cherries) (2015 Project)
American Wild Ale
Oregon
9.9%
25.4oz, Single
$25.99
The pour barely kicks up enough dusting to cover the surface, quickly evaporates without leaving any lacing behind. The liquid is a brownish red hue which yellows at the rims, the bubbles are extremely fine and almost rise in sheets. Very balanced nose with a hint of oak toast and caramel, the cherry scents resonate for some time without it ever seeming like a one trick pony, lemony, mildly doughy, underlying kick from an earth to vinegar element, very nice in how it harmonizes diverse elements to the point you prefer to enjoy them as one than parse out. Medium-bodied, soft pétillance, sour right from the first sip and here there’s a more feral edge to it, yeast, animal fur and quinine. The cherries hit you most upfront then knit back in whereas it’s the opposite for the oak with a lot of cream and vanillin accents at the end, particularly after it’s warmed some. Mixes in white grape to white raisin as well as fig. Resonates for a long time after the swallow. Good to see a beer that can use oak but dial it back so it’s not clumsily overt. A glass or two is all you need and best consumed in quiet over a period of time.
5 out of 5

Firestone Walker Brewing Company
Helldorado (2016) (Barrel-Aged Blonde Barley Wine Ale)
American Barleywine
California
11.8%
22oz, Single
$15.99
Aggressive pour produces a thin dusting across the surface, while it does not last long there is a sizzle at the edges, no lacing as in zero lacing. Reddish orange rust hued liquid, deepened by a pervasive silt throughout, meager amount of visible bubbles and tiny at that. Mellow oak of vanilla, caramel, butterscotch, coconut, manages the booziness well, challah bread, grilled nuts with an interesting fruit profile of green apple, pear and green grape scents, tactfully does not overstay its welcome. In the mouth it’s full-bodied if not heavy, the lack of carbonation allows the overall sweetness to accrue as well as the booziness to steep. On the whole it’s clean with the barrel treatment dominant, vanilla, milk chocolate, coconut custard and caramel. At times minty to floral, the citrus tastes like those orange jellied candy wedges. The weight does relent a bit through the finish which helps flavor clarity. Blends in peach, apricot, pineapple, golden raisin to the apple, pear fruit base. Does a good job of letting the blonde ale profile fight through the oakiness. Lots of personality, however, it is in many respects monochrome and a bomber is pushing the limit of what one person may want to consume of it.
4 out of 5

Devils Backbone Brewing Company
Eight Point IPA
American IPA
Virginia
6.2%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.29
Solid finger head with adequate retention, even surface, cream white color, the lacing is thick and splotchy. Dark metallic orange colored liquid, fully transparent, active and quite huge bubbles, looks like someone is blowing through it. Arch and aggressive nose, very grainy with pine, quinine, earth and leafy matter, very raw with no softness, hard to register anything beyond very basic white pit fruit scents. Full-bodied, dry and sticky texture which tends to interrupt flow through the mouth. Mouth entry allows for some caramel and orange citrus pulp but after that it’s back to the unprocessed grains, metal shavings, minerally earth and green matter. The astringency and bitterness get tiring after awhile and here too the lack of peach, apricot to apple fruit lessens enjoyability. Touch of malted milk balls to Ovaltine powder. The carbonation gives it a steady churn but its presence is not close to what you’d think it would be based on visual inspection. Seems like a polarizing offering, gonna love it or hate it type. It’s a pass here.
2 out of 5

Manayunk Brewing Company
Wet Dreamin’ (Wet Hopped India Pale Ale)
American IPA
Pennsylvania
5.4%
16oz, 4-Pack
$9.49
Two finger head, just off white, lots of dimpling with average retention, the lacing tends to form sheet which slowly slide down into the glass. There’s cloudiness throughout the glass, deepens the yellow-orange hue, nothing unique about the level of visible carbonation. The nose has a pleasant airiness which downplays the sweetness of the tangerine, honey and pine sap notes, the florality never quite fully catches, the leafiness is clean and not dank, more potting soil than damp earth, peach and apple fruit, its simplicity is its strength. Medium-bodied, creamy in texture and on the sweet side, towards the end your mouth starts to pucker but not because of a distinct bitterness. Big jolt of caramel here to anchor the tangerine to mandarin orange citrus. Subdued pine and flowers, some accents of crackers and tar. The leafiness more dank here but still generally clean and fresh. The carbonation is unobtrusive with a steady fluffiness. As in the nose there’s not a lot of distinct fruit, more a general mix of white pit fruit and apples. On the whole it’s easy drinking and keeps you interested too.
4 out of 5

Corsendonk, Brouwerij
Christmas Ale
Belgian Strong Dark Ale
Belgium
8.5%
25.4oz, Single
$8.99
Need to be careful as a slow pour gets you three plus fingers of head, solid tan hue, looks very airy and whipped up , delicate as it pops and sizzles down to the surface, the lacing weak and without much stick. Yellowish brown liquid of above average clarity, hyper-aggressive and speedy bubbles throughout. Cola bean, vanilla bean and milk chocolate give the nose a breezy sweetness, the nutmeg, ginger styled spice shows restraint, light allusions to golden raisin and fig bolster the Italian plum and cherry notes. Medium-bodied and manages to put on weight and finish on the heavier side. More cocoa powder, molasses, ginger snap and candied orange peel, licorice and cola, at times recalls Dr. Pepper soda. Black raisin, fig to date, cherry and blackberry, more concentration than sugariness. Retronasally you get more clove and dark country bread plus witch hazel. There’s a very subtle roast which helps to dry out the finish. Carbonation is unremarkable. Don’t get overt alcohol presence. In the final analysis something seems to be missing, no definitive punctuation.
3 out of 5

Three Floyds Brewing Company
Blot Out The Sun Imperial Stout
American Double/Imperial Stout
Indiana
10.4%
22oz, Single
$17.99
The head slowly builds to around a finger, more brown than dark tan, even surface with good density, wide streaks that cling to the glass. The liquid is as can be expected impenetrable pure black, can’t even really see any bubbles break the surface. Heavy roast to the nose, coffee and mesquite grill smoke, then smells like German chocolate cake served with vanilla ice cream, pine and citrus puncture the sweetness, ends with an herbaceous snap, no distinct fruit scents. Full-bodied, tangy mouth entry with active, prickly carbonation. The hoppy bite here upfront then fades in favor of caramel, butterscotch, creamed coffee, black licorice and cola bean. Scone and pie crust up next with pecan to hazelnut notes. Some plum to prune and date flavors, overall it is not as sweet as expected. The booziness hollows out the finish some and adds some burn as it goes down the chute. Muscularity keeps it bound up at times rather than flowing. That said, displays energy and punch and just off center enough to hold your interest. A bomber is the right size for one person’s consumption.
4 out of 5

Tuckahoe Brewing Company
Dennis Creek Pale Ale
American Pale Ale
New Jersey
6.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.99
Normal pour into a pint glass yields 2/3 full of foam, eggshell white, takes some time to get below three fingers, retention is great, delicately whipped up, the lacing in turn has good thickness. The liquid is a deep golden to bronze color and there’s a very fine silt throughout, despite this you can see a big storm of bubbles swiftly rising upwards. The nose is extremely floral with orange blossom notes, caramel to maple syrup sweetens it up further, at times thick apricot to peach scents, concentrated and paste-like, all this countered by a stiff spine of raw grains and something like rye alongside black peppercorn, pleasing contrast. Medium-bodied with a thickening foaminess, not so much scrubbing. Spicy with pepper verging on curry powder, the orange to lemon citrus smoothes into a nice puckering sensation. More metallic than herbaceous, the hops are well integrated. Palate not as sweet as nose suggests, the apricot and peach tangled up with nectarine and some pineapple. Overall it manages to weave together some disparate elements and an interesting quaff that can still just be chugged.
5 out of 5

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Chugged in May 2017

Telegraph Brewing Company
IPA (Cascade, Centennial, Ctz & Meridian Hops)
American IPA
California
6.6%
16oz, 4-Pack
$12.99
Large three finger plus head, almost foams out of the glass, craters more than dimples but there’s excellent retention and a minute or so later it is still at two fingers, eggshell off-white color, have to wait some time for the head to subside to even gauge the lacing which turns out to be large splotches. Bright rust orange colored liquid, transparent, most curiously there’s only a few random bubbles on view. Sweet, viscous nose of molasses, caramelized brown sugar and spiced oranges, there’s forest floor matter and wet dankness underneath, the mango, apricot to peach fruit can get lost in it all, longlasting pungency. Full-bodied, thick and slow moving, the carbonation is like a marshmallow pressed against your tongue. More piney and citrusy here, tangerine to lime more than grapefruit. More graininess than breadiness, the maltiness comes off as dry if not powdery. The peach, nectarine, apricot fruit taut and fares better here but still no major factor. While not excessively bitter there is a lot of pucker, likely due to the herbaceousness. Clings to the pores at the end and with its heaviness could tire you out after one or two.
3 out of 5

Clipper City Brewing Company
Heavy Seas Partner Ships Rye Wit (Collaboration With Terrapin Beer Co.)
Witbier
Maryland
6.0%
22oz, Single
$7.99
Pours a big foamy head of nearly three fingers, bright white and evenly surfaced, leaves a steady surface coating behind, the lacing in turn is noticeably thick, forms a broad sheet before eventually breaking up into streaks. Coppery gold colored liquid, more yellowish at the edges, very active swirl of bubbles throughout, no beads. The rye spiciness is not that evident in the nose, creamily textured with orange creamsicle notes, rose water, apricot, peach to white grape fruit, light clove accent, a little densely woven to reveal broader nuance. Medium-bodied, the carbonation has a thickish churn to it which feels like it leans into you as much as scrubs. Much more rye bite here, peppery and the clove displays greater staying power. The sour vinous quality persists throughout. More dead yeast cells than breadiness. The orange to lemon citrus spreads out through the finish. Pear, apple here as much as apricot. While it is enjoyable enough it can easily be filed under “beers that try to do too much.” Happy to have tried it but would not seek out again.
3 out of 5

Jersey Girl Brewing Co.
Rake Breaker India Pale Ale
American IPA
New Jersey
6.5%
16oz, 4-Pack
$10.99
Finger plus of off-white foam, good density with some surface dimpling, the lacing tends to be thin but sticks well. Hazy and dark orange amber color that nudges past translucency into opacity, close to zero visible bubbles. The nose has a little bit of quinine to metallic edge, indistinct maltiness, major component is robust mango, papaya, pineapple to peach fruit scents, this overshadows any florality as well as pine, more brawn than finesse or clarity. Full-bodied, fat and fluffy, expands across the palate. The carbonation is slight and again more softening than prickling. More herbaceous here and that metallic touch makes it seem slightly unclean. Same cascading wave of papaya, mango, peach, apricot fruit verging on dried fruit concentration and sweetness. Pine stronger and now and then honeyed. The citrus could enunciate more clearly, tends mostly to pink grapefruit. Does turn somewhat bitter at the end but this style of IPA is for those with a sweet tooth. Its heaviness suggests it might be difficult to consume more than a couple in a sitting before feeling full.
3 out of 5

Magnify Brewing
Low Visibility Pale Ale
American Pale Ale
New Jersey
4.8%
16oz, 4-Pack
$11.99
Full two finger pure white head, dimpled surface and a swift, airy dissolve to a steadier surface dusting, the lacing formed by broad splotches with moderate stickiness. Cloudy yellow gold liquid, dense enough to hold the light and glow some, after the pour hardly any visible carbonation. Crisp and zesty nose of hay, wild grasses, salt and pepper, lemon to grapefruit citrus, has a mild touch of cocoa but that’s it for “soft” elements, demure melon, peach to pear scents, even as it warms remains brisk and with no wasted motion. In the mouth it’s full-bodied and carries more heft than expected. Dry but not unforgivingly so, leaves a tacky residue along the rear palate and throat. Lemon and here more sour orange citrus, hoppy in a leafy manner but not wet herbal matter. Black tea leaf, tar vie for dominance with the pepper and country style bread crusts. Hints more at pineapple than delivers, staying in the apple, pear to peach range, albeit dry as noted. In a weird way the malts seem more prominent retronasally. Definitely a more structured and serious pale ale than many. Don’t know I’d want more than two in a sitting though.
4 out of 5

Manayunk Brewing Company
Dreamin’ Double India Pale Ale
American Double/Imperial IPA
Pennsylvania
8.5%
16oz, 4-Pack
$9.79
Finger’s worth of bleached white foam formed from tiny bubbles which dimple as the head quickly evaporates, in turn the lacing comes in thick streaks but it doesn’t stick very well. While transparent there is a mild haze to the gold to light orange rust colored liquid, here the bubbles are larger and spread widely rather than beaded. Given the bracing grassiness and graininess in the nose there is also ample mango, papaya to pineapple fruit scents, some pine sap and pepper as well, angular nostril feel and it never fully settles in. Full-bodied, even as it starts to push into the palate its arch dryness numbs so you can’t feel all the weight. The carbonation lends a steady prickle which reminds you something is in your mouth. Very hoppy and herbaceous, all unprocessed grains and again with the pepperiness. Very quiet caramel and malted milk balls and here the fruit stays more in the peach to apricot range without achieving tropical tang. It is so dry through the finish that it almost burns. You better like your DIPA on the bitter side because you will have “bitter beer face.” As you’d expect, the finish is on the short side.
3 out of 5

Carton Brewing Company
IDIPA India Pale Ale
American IPA
New Jersey
7.0%
16oz, 4-Pack
$13.99
Modest finger worth of a head, cream white with light dimpling across the surface, retention is below average and the lacing presents a surprising lack of stickiness. Filmy deep orange colored liquid, closer to transparent than opaque, barely any bubbles visible. The nose is powerful and aggressive with sour orange to grapefruit citrus, pine cones, pepper, salted pretzels and plenty of green leafy matter, the melon, apricot, pineapple fruit oddly lacks staying power, leaving it spicy and earthy rather than fruity. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied with nice firm compactness, not parching but definitely dry. Pineapple, mango, nectarine to peach fruit, concentration no juice. The peppery, spicy edge dominates and what carbonation is there tends to jab and prickle rather than gently churn. Minimal florality but there’s a fair amount of breadiness and biscuit notes. The citrus comes across as mixed and indistinct and a minor bit player. The earthiness and leafiness relentless in being the final word in the conversation. Not easy drinking but has personality and makes you take it on its terms.
3 out of 5

Cape May Brewing Company
India Pale Ale
American IPA
New Jersey
6.3%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Extremely loose and airy head, barely a finger high and falling, spider webs have more density, off white coloration, no retention, the lacing looks like an afterthought. Fully cloudy and opaque liquid, chunky, looks like a catfish might be swimming through it, brownish amber, what bubbles are visible have good activity. Dense nose of pine sap, candied oranges, metallic earth, not much fresh leafiness, the apricot, apple fruit inexpressive, caramelized brown sugar and dinner rolls insufficient in sweetening it up, not simple but too reluctant to converse. In the mouth it’s full-bodied and sluggish as well, carbonation a minor factor. The citrus falls flat, little zest. More doughy, biscuity here. Sour leafiness and a metallic pucker interrupt the flow. It’s drinkable from an ABV perspective, while none of the flavors make you go “ahh.” Apple, pear, peach, none of them seems distinguished and of clarity. Drying finish, no one element seems exaggerated. Does not cohere in a choral lift, does not provide an element which would qualify as a “guilty pleasure.”
3 out of 5

Carton Brewing Company
HopPun Hoppy Pale Ale
American Pale Ale
New Jersey
5.3%
16oz, 4-Pack
$11.99
Gets close to two fingers of deep tan, orange tinged foam, airy with lots of sizzle and a dimpled surface, poor retention but lots of isolated wisps for lacing. Clear bronze colored liquid, fully transparent, prodigious amount of fat but not lazy bubbles pushing upwards. The nose has some biscuit to bread crust roughness, black tea leaf and tarry earth, firmness to the apricot, peach scents like a skin too hard to break, softly floral, more push in the lemon, lacks the gregarious roundness and openness for a mainstream pale ale. Full-bodied, the big visual carbonation does not translate into More bitter with sour orange, lemon leading the way and a wet leafiness and tar and almost asphalt tones. Not finding much caramel or honey accents, yet never feels painfully dry. The fruit feels stunted and not completely expressive. It’s an odd beer because one sip gives you hope for an enjoyable quaff, then a minute later it clenches up and there's nothing there. It’s a pleasing tease but you know from the start that the payoff won’t be there in the end. Few would regret buying it the first time, curious how many make a second or third purchase.
3 out of 5

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Chugged in April 2017

Magnify Brewing
Vine Shine India Pale Ale
American IPA
New Jersey
6.5%
16oz, 4-Pack
$12.99
Good two finger plus head with attractive density, even surface, just off white color, once there’s room for lacing it sticks in big scattered splotches. The liquid has a full golden color, neither particularly dull nor shiny, steady amount of larger random bubbles throughout, no beads. At first the nose is almost all florality then it moderates into wet herbaceous notes, dried pine sap, salt and pepper, and bread crust, needs to warm some to maximize the presence of the pineapple, guava, peach fruit scents as well as develop more lasting cocoa accents. Full-bodied, while sufficiently dry it has a creamy texture which helps spread it cheek to cheek. More pronounced tangerine to pink grapefruit citrus, still piney, peppery with a floral undertone. Less bready, biscuity and the grassiness has more bite, that said, does not come across as a bitter styled IPA. The pineapple, peach, apricot fruit flavors consistent, not overly sweet. Carbonation gives it consistent tickle more than prickle. On the whole has restraint and balance without giving up personality. Lower ABV contributes to higher drinkability.
4 out of 5

Cape May Brewing Company
Coastal Evacuation Double India Pale Ale
American Double/Imperial IPA
New Jersey
8.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.29
Little less than a finger if loose bleach white foam, minimal retention with a swiftly dimpled surface, the lacing is spotty without much stick. The liquid is a cloudily opaque yellow-orange hue, large amount of bubbles inside make you wonder why the head is so weak. The nose has a pleasing breeziness to it with a floral mist, tangerine zest, dried pineapple and apricot pits, some biscuit and pine sap, not dank but does have a tarry, earthy side that grows as it warms. Full-bodied, lively carbonation, here the spiciness and green leafiness is on better display, gives it some punch. With the floral and sweet citrus more in the background it’s dry on the whole without leaving tacky residue behind. Sticks to basic peach, apricot fruit, no sweeter tropical notes. There is some of that scone or biscuit towards the finish but more muted than in the nose. The alcohol burn can distract but not a flaw, it’s more “boozy” in terms of catching a quick buzz. Perhaps too much unfocused power to call it balanced but its high energy level makes a positive impression. Could throw back a couple in one sitting, not many more.
4 out of 5

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Chugged in March 2017

Stone Brewing Company
20th Anniversary Encore Series 2.02.02 Vertical Epic (Ale Brewed With Orange Peel & Spices)
Witbier
California
7.5%
22oz, Single
$7.99
Crests at about one finger of pure white foam, dimples as the larger bubbles explode, retention is below average, not longlasting, the lacing likewise meager and wispy. Clear deep golden colored liquid with a good deal of widely dispersed bubbles which remain active long after the initial pour. The nose is on the aggressive side, penetrating with peppercorn, wheat and clove digging right in there, the yeast feels spent and not especially fresh and doughy, more so grassy and lemony in a biting fashion, however there is bubblegum and banana, not a lot of general fruitiness. Medium-bodied, somewhat hard-edged here too, all angles and not much smooth flow. Yeast, lees, bubblegum and then pepper, saline and sourdough bread to unprocessed grains. Here too there’s minimal fruit, some peach, apricot echoes at best. Clove, coriander and sour lemons. It’s not volatile because it feels so tightly wound. The carbonation is strong and churns as it progresses through the palate. Bitter at the end so there’s no real “ahh” moment of relaxation with it and lacks the complexity to keep your attention fixed.
2 out of 5

Three Floyds Brewing Company
Blood Of The Sunsets India Pale Ale
American IPA
Indiana
7.2%
22oz, Single
$8.99
Pours a big two finger head of orange tinged tan lacing, whipped up and airy with so-so retention, lots of surface dimpling, very skimpy lacing. Cloudy orange-brown liquid, sort of like rusty water, healthy amount of large bubbles strewn about, no tight beads, can’t see clearly through it. Thick dankness to the nose, wet leafy herbaceousness and cut summer grass, pine sap, pulped blood oranges and grapefruits and a whole lot of caramel, cocoa and toffee accents, at times even yeasty to doughy, sort of clumsy like it has not adjusted to an adolescent growth spurt. Full-bodied with a heaviness on the palate, conversely the carbonation does try hard to scrub and create tingle. Keen emphasis on grapefruit and orange citrus, similar to the nose. Here it’s cleaner with a fresher grassy bite and less dankness. Pine, cola bean with a mentholated finish. The fruit is basically apricot, peach to pineapple, tropical on the sour side. The cocoa and caramel consistent without being as dominant as in the nose. Dry ending, helps accentuate the tartness and thus the grassiness and citrus. Good beer, flirts with it but not over the top, not stupendous.
3 out of 5

AleSmith Brewing Company
My Bloody Valentine Ale
American Amber/Red Ale
California
6.66%
22oz, Single
$5.99
Healthy finger plus head of deep tan hue, even surface with credible density and retention, nice spider web of thin lacing across any open glass. The liquid is a dark mahogany red closer to brown than orange, fine clarity but dark enough you don’t easily see through it, only a few visible bubbles. Graham cracker, honey, pie crust and chocolate notes give the nose immediate appeal, conversely there’s a firm underpinning of dank leafy hops and pine sap to give it erectness, likewise has an earthiness which matches up well with the apricot paste to dried pineapple fruit scents. Full-bodied, has a creamy mouth feel to it that eventually leads to more prickle at the end. Piney and close to minty at times, not much lemon citrus but plenty of cocoa, toffee, hard coffee candy and that honey dappled pie crust. Here the hoppiness has more precision but less staying power, its razor edge exhausts itself quickly. More minerally than earthy, cleaner than the nose suggests. No real fruitiness. What nags at you is that no one element seems to excel and when taken all together as a whole it’s nothing more than competent. Content to drink more but would not seek it out again.
3 out of 5

Highland Brewing Company
The Kinsman Project: Black Mocha Stout (Infused With Vanilla Beans, Chipotle Peppers, Cinnamon Sticks And Cacao Nibs)
American Stout
North Carolina
5.6%
22oz, Single
$5.75
Even a fairly aggressive pour barely yields a full surface coating, light tan in hue, while the lacing is wispy it does manage to form long, unbroken rivulets. Pitch black liquid, a few bubbles visible near the yellow tinted surface. Very milky nose, lactose driven with vanilla bean, muted cocoa and a vague coffee roast, has a metallic edge, not much breadth nor staying power so hard to stay with it. Medium-bodied and closer to light than full, here it’s first and foremost about the peppers, very spicy and hot. Takes awhile to register the cinnamon amidst the heat but it’s there. The vanilla bean and cacao seem faded or at least not up to the task of facing off against the peppers. However, you do get a pleasing chocolaty as well as minty resonance at the end. Has a mineral water sort of base to it, fresh and vaguely stony or metallic. The carbonation holds steady and has enough scrubbing ability to relieve some heat. An admirable try but in the end not that interesting and too dominated by the chipotle peppers.
3 out of 5

Weyerbacher Brewing Company
Quad (Belgian-Style Quadrupel Ale)
Quadrupel (Quad)
Pennsylvania
11.8%
12oz, 4-Pack
$10.99
Pours a thin light tan head, maybe a quarter inch, not much retention but doesn’t disappear immediately either, the lacing is close to nonexistent. The liquid is a filmy amber red to brown color, you can easily see particles floating as well as widely dispersed lazy bubbles, no real sediment at the bottle bottom though. When first opened the nose explodes with banana then settles into cola bean, molasses, yeast and pie crust flakes as well as green grapes, figs and dates, there’s a vinous to boozy quality but no heat, overall it’s actually fairly compact and concise. Medium-bodied, here too there’s no extra words and has a pleasing directness. Not much carbonation yet on the dry side for the type. Not to say there’s no persistence in the cherry, fig, golden raisin, banana fruit nor any lack of honey to molasses. Just not excessive. The yeastiness appears mostly at the end and then retronasally. The alcohol is more warm than burning. You could argue it might benefit from more flavor intensity but it seems intentionally crafted for drinkability.
3 out of 5

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Chugged in February 2017

Pisgah Brewing Company
Chocolatized (Imperial Stout Flavored With Cocoa Nibs) (Winter 2016)
American Stout
North Carolina
11.2%
22oz, Single
$10.99
Around a finger of dense, dark brown foam, random mix of bubble sizes, retention is good but not incredible, the lacing is a razor thin sheet spread broadly. While the liquid is jet black it leaves you with the impression of cleanliness and that it would be transparent rather than murky if a lighter shade, you can see tiny bubbles break on the surface. The nose has a good deal of roast to it without seeming bitter, chocolate of course plus vanilla fudge, caramel and a hint of mint, not yeasty, very clean, if anything more earthy than sweet, measured dissolve, not short but not striving to be washed out of your nostrils. Medium-bodied, the carbonation fluffs up the mouth entry some but then turns successively drier as it moves across the palate. More bittersweet nature than roast to the chocolate, not puckering nor creamy, squarely in the middle. Hides the alcohol well. A few notes of quinine or mineral water. Here you get scone to pie crust accents but again not any real doughy, yeasty qualities. As it warms you notice an increasing amount of grill smoke and burnt meat fat through the finish. Sneaky complexity masked by high level of drinkability.
5 out of 5

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Chugged in January 2017

Stillwater Artisanal Ales/Brouwerij Hof Ten Dormaal
Arcana (Farmhouse Stout Aged In Red Wine Barrels)
Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Maryland
6.5%
12.7oz, Single
$4.99
Crests about a finger of dark tan foam, even surface but leaving a sizzling patch at the pour point, poor retention and and minimal cling to the lacing. The liquid is a dark black and hard to tell the relative cleanliness of it, no too much residue left in the bottle, you can see extremely minuscule bubbles break on the surface. The nose is very heavy on the roasted coffee and bitter dark chocolate, the red wine comes through clearly and adds a vinous edge, a few notes of scone or croissant, the fruit is muted and mainly cherry to cranberry scents, seems to have settled down, has staying power despite lacking breadth of aroma. Medium-bodied, creamy mouth entry quickly switches gear to sour pucker as that vinous nature takes hold. Yeast, lees, wet oak and then comes that coffee roast and chocolate. The carbonation adds a steady churn and likely helps to reduce the sourness, lifting it off the tongue. Now and then tries to act like a stout but can’t get its ducks in a row. Golden raisin and fig join the cherry fruit. There is a chocolate to cola bean echo retronasally. Basically it’s an admirable attempt but does not hit the bullseye.
3 out of 5

Almanac Beer Co.
Saison de Brettaville (Brettanomyces Ale Aged In White Wine Barrels)
Saison/Farmhouse Ale
California
7.2%
12.68oz
Single
$11.99
Pure white head, smooth surface with minimal density and hence little retention, the lacing starts out well but has zero stickiness and is gone quickly. The liquid is a mildly hazy golden hue with a very large amount of bubbles, the veritable storm in a glass. Forceful nose of orange zest, flowers, crackers, pine and then a dank herbaceousness, even tarry, not getting much vinous accent, on the whole it’s clean in spite of that wet leafiness. Medium-bodied, bitter and dry, based on what it looks like the carbonation is mellow and more creamy than prickly. More white to pink grapefruit here than orange citrus, thus a bit tarter. Overall, the mouth feel is soft and expansive. Whisper of that tarriness and pine and violets but much lower herbaceousness. Conversely, more clarity to the apricot, apple, peach to papaya fruit. Some yeast and cracker but not really “doughy” in a substantial manner. The wine barrel treatment helps frame the mouth entry. Leaves you wishing it would pause and sink into the palate more to maximize flavor intensity and enjoyment.
3 out of 5

New Glarus Brewing Company
Raspberry Tart (Wisconsin Ale Brewed With Raspberries)
Fruit/Vegetable Beer
Wisconsin
4.0%
25.4oz, Single
$10.59
Minuscule head, about half a finger, reddish tan in hue, openly knit and swiftly gone, close to no lacing. Cloudy liquid, ruby red color, browns some before a touch orange at the surface, hyperactive bubbles, large and eager to break the surface. The nose is all honeyed pie crust and molasses and raspberry compote, slight vinegary bite to it, some orange zest, not complex but that was not expected, just pure “truth in advertising” appeal. Full-bodied and feels heavy at times. The carbonation is adequate, not weak but perhaps would need to be extra strong to push through to when you swallow. Cinnamon, nutmeg and honey, more lemon here than orange. The raspberry is sweet and sour, closer to strawberry than blackberry in nature. Graham cracker pie crust and hint of cola, dries towards the finish and again with a vinous bite. Shows restraint while also meeting every promise it makes. Not much more to say as the flavors are few and concentrated. And they sure are good.
4 out of 5

Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co.
Récolte Du Bois (Ale Aged 9 Months In Cabernet Wine Barrels)
American Wild Ale
California
6.2%
16.9oz, Single
$16.99
Highly agitated head, mostly larger bubbles with no real retention, like soufflé about to fall, down to the surface swiftly, no lacing to speak of. The liquid is a light amber orange hue, on the whole clear, can’t imagine more bubbles crammed inside a glass, looks like someone put an air hose into it. The nose is musty like stale attic air, cardboard (not the corked kind of smell), mutter of earth and wet wood, close to no fruit nor citrus presence, inert. Medium-bodied, here the oak offers both toast and vanillin creaminess and throws off the, whole mouth entry, lurches. Some apricot to plum/prune flavors, orange marmalade, no conviction to them. Has an odd syrupy texture, more so because it’s not like it is gluing any flavor to your palate. The carbonation is high and there tends to be more random big “pops” than a steady prickle. The sourness gets lost in the staleness. Did not come close to finishing the bottle.
1 out of 5

Almanac Beer Co.
Citra Sour (Sour Blonde Ale Aged In Wine Barrels & Dry Hopped With Citra)
American Wild Ale
California
7.0%
12.68oz, Single
$10.99
Bone white head, close to two fingers, very light and airy with wispy lacing at most. Bright golden hued liquid with a burnished shine to it, the bubbles are both widely dispersed and quite active, regenerate constantly. Grassy and leafy nose with a pronounced burst of lemon to pink grapefruit citrus, light peatiness, vinous unto vinegar, mango, star fruit and passion fruit scents, more impressive for how it slices into the nostrils than for breadth of aromas. Medium-bodied, all those bubbles turn into a pleasantly prickly carbonation, fits the sour oak and wet leafiness well. The passion fruit, pineapple, melon flavors dominate here, pushing the citrus back a notch. The more you sip the more it leaves a dry, tacky residue in the mouth. Vague yeasty breadiness and scone notes not really able to soften it much, not that this would be desirable. Lasts well after you swallow, plenty of retronasal resonance. You could call it a bit of a one trick pony but it is a helluva trick and as sessionable as a beer of this nature can get, would have put down a second or maybe third bottle had they been on hand.
5 out of 5

AleSmith Brewing Company
Evil Dead Red Ale
American Amber/Red Ale
California
6.66%
22oz, Single
$5.99
Finger plus deep head, decent density with a few puddles of larger bubbles, dark tan in hue, retention is above average, dimples as it dissolves, the lacing more splotches than extended streaks. The liquid is a somewhat filmy orange-brown color, touch more reddish from a distance, few visible bubbles, those more spread out than in beads. Were it not for the toastiness to it the nose would come off like German chocolate cake, lots of cocoa and caramel and molasses with a hint of coconut, does have its herbaceous side as well and a good amount of pine, low level of fruit scents, mainly pineapple to papaya. Medium-bodied, fluffy and heavily carbonated mouth entry, this recedes quickly enough. More balance between the leafy hops and the bread, caramel, honey to cola bean elements, the bitterness helps reduce the overall sweetness. That said, does finish on the short side as it dries out prematurely, roast and bitter oiliness left behind. As in the nose there’s not a strong fruit presence, pineapple, green apple, apricot pit. Not a bad beer by any stretch yet it lacks “fun factor” and does not seem to excel at any one thing.
3 out of 5

Kuhnhenn Brewing Company
Dark Heathen Triple Bock Lager (2011)
Doppelbock
Michigan
12.5%
12oz, Single
$8.99
Very modest dusting across the surface of a yellowish tan hue, gone swiftly, the lacing is wispy and scattered. The liquid is a murky dark brown with an orange tint around the edges, fully opaque with a greater quantity of visible bubbles than expected, albeit moving lazily. The nose is rife with raisins, dates and milk chocolate, has a breadiness which verges on pastry, starts to develop a burnt smokiness as it warms. Full-bodied if hollow in the mid-palate, the sweetness seems to have receded which provides more space for the tart cidery, vinous notes. The chocolate, butterscotch going strong, black licorice, cola bean and candied ginger abound. The cherry, green apple, yellow raisin, fig fruit flavors steady enough but lack intensity. The carbonation does an okay job of showing up given the thickness of the liquid. Boozy but without burn. Doughy, bready through the attack, gone by the finish. Biggest flaw may be that it does not build to a meaningful crescendo, starts off well then meanders. Maybe was more powerful in its youth.
3 out of 5

Three Floyds Brewing Company
Hopped In Half Pilsner
Czech Pilsener
Indiana
5.3%
22oz, Single
$8.99
Thin bright white head dusts the surface, meager lacing. Shiny gold color with a semi-metallic sheen, large amount of bubbles throughout but no beads, spotless and transparent. The nose is clean with a focus on orange citrus, unprocessed grains, hay, pine and a touch of quinine, peach pit and apple accents, sticks around pretty well given its on the whole tactful presentation. Medium-bodied and perhaps fuller than many for the style, creates pleasing downwards pressure. More citrusy here with lemon joining the orange, sweetening aspect. Hint of corn syrup. The grains get to breadiness but not in an overtly yeasty manner, retains a crisp mouth feel. Carbonation is a light too fine but brings consistent prickle and tingle. Any fruit mainly apple, apricot, maybe melon, nothing close to tropical. Would benefit from a drier finish, instead the general sweetness accrues. Easy to drink and you could easily finish a bomber without really noticing. Not a beer going for “wow” factor but not quite traditionally fashioned either, a good twist on the theme.
4 out of 5

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Chugged in November 2016

Pisgah Brewing Company
Cosmos Belgian-Style Baltic Porter (Winter 2016)
Belgian Strong Dark Ale
North Carolina
8.2%
22oz, Single
$9.49
Pours an extremely thin head which struggles to cover the surface and then quickly does not, small random splotches for lacing with no stickiness. The liquid is black in spite of being obviously squeaky clean and unblemished, you do get the transparency along the more orange colored rims, hardly any visible bubbles. The nose has a medicinal, witch hazel quality to match the heavy coffee roast element, chocolaty, cherry syrup, sweet enough that the yeasts get a bit cloaked, more nutty by turns, after a little warming the banana notes gain strength, overall kind of like a German chocolate cake. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied with most of its heft expended through the attack, fizzles out by the end. That said, plenty of intensity to the mocha, cola bean, vanilla to café au lait flavors, has more fizziness than expected, prevents a full-on creaminess, Plum, cherry to raisin fruit, more concentrated and sugary than juicy. Starts to get some ginger, cinnamon spice going but something like quinine balances it out. Overall, tastes like a baked good, you want it with dessert. High drinkability.
4 out of 5

Wicked Weed Brewing
Marina (American Sour Ale Fermented With Peaches And Apricots)
American Wild Ale
North Carolina
6.5%
16.9oz, Single
$14.49
Pours a big two plus finger head of airy foam that evaporates as quickly as it appeared, tilting the glass will produce a thin layer of lacing but this too does not last, everything is bleached white while present. Hard to imagine more visible bubbles inside the glass, it’s a maelstrom in there wall-to-wall, the liquid is a semi-pale golden color, bright and crystal clear (except for all the bubbles). The nose is tart and piercing, plenty of green apple, pear and sour white citrus, quite vinous with sour oaky bite rather than vanillin sweetness, dried hay and straw, honeyed, really too sour for any of the apricot, peach fruit to create a lasting presence. Light-bodied, has very good lift in the mouth due both to the general sourness as well as the consistent carbonated froth. With this lighter body the oak takes on even more presence and comes close to dominance. More “pit fruit” character to the peach, apricot than fleshy pulp, has the usual green apple, grape as well and infrequent hints at underripe pineapple. Stony and perhaps subtly bretty, has a clean funkiness desirable in the style. Fresh finish, palate activated for more. Could stand to have more depth and resonance in the primary flavors rather than depend on zippy mouth feel to impress.
3 out of 5

Smog City Brewing Company
California Love Imperial Red Ale (Brewed With Orange Peel, Grapes & Oak)
American Amber/Red Ale
California
8.5%
16.9oz, Single
$8.49
Finger worth of heavily dimpled dark tan foam, big quantity of larger bubbles, average retention, the lacing able to form both broad and long streaks. The liquid is a clear reddish brown, touch too dark to appreciate the transparency, few visible bubbles. You get a great deal of cocoa, malt to the nose, caramelized brown sugar, charred oak and then it veers into a dank herbaceousness, the orange peel appears with some clarity yet there’s not many distinct fruit scents, seems reliant on making a big impression via oak and malts. Full-bodied, gluey in texture yet also dry enough to shorten the finish appreciably. Weak carbonation, contributes to slow pacing. Sugary sweet due to an array of molasses, oak and chocolate flavors, in the end though the sour pucker wins out. The hops not as overtly green as in the nose yet a major hue on the palette. Vanillin accents at the end, the citrus remains muted. There’s a lot going on but it seems crammed together with the intent of making a big impression. Lost my interest by the end of the bottle.
3 out of 5

Mission Brewery
Hard Root Beer (Specialty Malt Beverage)
Herbed/Spiced Beer
California
7.5%
12oz, Single
$1.99
Not any head but can’t say it was expected, there is a gigantic amount of surface sizzle during the pour though. Cloudy dark brown liquid with a yellow tint at the edges, the bubbles are fine yet visibly active throughout the haze. The nose is spicy with a definite root beer smell, spearmint and at times evokes ginger, very light vanillin undercurrent, gently medicinal yet with a strong scrubbing, cleansing sensation in the nostrils. Full-bodied, the carbonation lends tickle during the mouth entry but has little staying power. More basic root beer base, here there’s more vanillin influence and the mintiness more like anisette. Has a grassiness to it which is hard to figure, not sure what it was supposed to add. The alcohol does make the finish slightly rough. But the lingering tingle is not altogether unpleasant. Not great, not horrible, if one were really in the mood for alcoholic root beer this would fit the bill but not something this imbiber will revisit.
2 out of 5

Wychwood
GingerBeard (Fiery English Beer With Added Ginger)
Herbed/Spiced Beer
England
4.2%
16.9oz, Single
$4.29
Modest half finger head of just off-white foam, for what’s there it has good retention, the lacing though is wispy and ends up more like dots. The liquid is pure and transparent, a washed out rust orange hue, more red than yellow, the bubbles are few and widely dispersed. There’s a little soft maltiness to the nose but, of course, it’s a ginger fest, raw dough to freshly cooked bread and molasses, maybe some apple fruit but it sticks closely to ginger, ginger and more ginger. Full-bodied and arguably heavier than expected, the carbonation seems light through the attack but by the time you swallow it’s foaming up inside your mouth. More grain to cereal here than bread, cocoa lurks in the background, molasses, orange peel, maybe nutty at turns. The ginger brings a pleasing heat, not overboard. Given its weight and the punch of the ginger the finish is short. Could use an element designed to sweeten the end and reduce the sting. Otherwise, it’s inoffensive and a notch above simple.
3 out of 5

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Chugged in October 2016

Stone Brewing Company
Mocha IPA (A Style-Defying Double India Pale Ale With Cacao And Coffee)
American Double/Imperial IPA
California
9.0%
12oz, Single
$2.49
Somewhat modest one finger head of tan foam, mixed bubble sizes and irregular surface, the lacing forms broad splotches but oddly lacks the stickiness expected. Deep amber red colored liquid, close to a metallic glow, serious amount of particulate floating throughout, only a few bubbles visible. The nose is forceful and comes as advertised with loads of chocolate, malted milk balls, coffee and then dark wet hops, pulped grapefruits, pine and an unexpected burst of something like cayenne pepper, any fruit scents remain in the background. Full-bodied with an extremely creamy mouth feel, the carbonation is all fluff and no bite. Oodles of chocolate, marshmallow and caramel, initially lower in terms of any roast or coffee. Pushes the hoppy bite to the mid-palate if not further, pine, grapefruit, pepper but not overly grassy. Very spicy. Here the pineapple, peach, nectarine fruit gets more assertive. When that fades, then you receive that coffee roast lingering after you swallow. Really saturates your taste buds and persist for some time. Manages its ABV well and does not tire you out drinking it, still two bottles would likely be the most to manage in one sitting.
5 out of 5

Davidson Brothers Brewing Company
BRN Brown Ale
English Brown Ale
New York
4.3%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.89
Close to two fingers of tan foam, nicely even surface, dimples such as it sizzles off, retention is okay, the lacing is full before falling down the glass sides. Somewhat filmy brown to orange hued liquid, you can see a lot of bubbles break the surface, nothing special visually. The nose shows considerable malt, cocoa, nuts and caramel, as much minerals to rust as smoke, fig to plum fruit, pleasantly innocuous. Light to medium-bodied, medium grade carbonation. Here the metallic, earthy side comes out and nudges the sweetness to the side. This not to diminish the persistence of the caramel, cola bean, milk chocolate to danish flakes and candied nuts. Less fruit, raisin and fig but lacking in concentration. The mouth feel is smooth enough but it leaves you wishing the core flavors were more robust. And that it did not leave that metallic bitterness behind at the end.
2 out of 5

Prairie Artisan Ales
Bomb! (Imperial Stout Aged On Coffee, Cacoa Nibs, Vanilla Beans, And Chili Peppers)
American Double/Imperial Stout
Oklahoma
13.0%
12oz, Single
$8.49
Moderate one finger head which steadily simmers down, dark tan or light brown, take your pick, very even surface, the lacing slides around the glass in broad sheets, eventually spilling downwards. Black liquid yet not so opaque that you can’t see the bubble beads, no color tint at the edges. Spicy nose with the chili pepper making the initial splash, at times almost green and leafy with a wet fur edge, oily tar, the chocolate seems dense enough as to be inert, burnt coffee, close to zero fruit scent presence, quite interesting yet not immediately pleasurable. Full-bodied, viscously thick and layered, here the sweetness of the chocolate and vanilla is on full display, all confectionery goodness. The chili spice there but more proportionate, bringing heat for balance. Coconut, cafe con leche and a hint of witch hazel. Not much movement from the carbonation, just a tickle under the tongue. The pepperiness lingers the most through the finish. Avoids both excess booziness and needless showiness, for its scale and level of richness displays good agility. One bottle is the perfect size for a single sitting.
5 out of 5

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Chugged in September 2016

21st Amendment Brewery
Marooned On Hog Island (Stout Brewed With Hog Island Sweetwater Oyster Shells)
English Stout
California
7.9%
12oz, 4-Pack
$12.99
Just about a finger of brown foam, irregular surface, simmers down to a consistent surface coating, lacing forms broad streaks without much stick. The liquid is black at its core and more a dark brown near the surface and edges, you can spy the active tiny bubbles as they break the surface. There’s a clean, scrubbing sensation in the nose, not overly dependent on the chocolate albeit credible amount of that as well as creamed coffee and caramel accents, solid chicory as well, the oyster shells do indeed add saline, seashore sort of nuances, just a hint of cherry fruit, the components don’t leap out at you, best enjoyed as a harmonized whole. Medium-bodied, the dryness reduces its palate presence. More roast and coffee, little cocoa or chocolate, more straight up malty. The salty sea breeze and salt water aspect retains force here. More grassy and metallic, thankfully the carbonation brings a fluffy lift which limits such elements. No real fruit presence. Nothing here rides to the rescue of a cavalry of sweetness. As such, it really only delivers on half of the equation. And would like more body. Still, not a bad offering by any stretch.
2 out of 5

Logsdon Farmhouse Ales
Szech ’n Brett (Organic Farmhouse Ale With Spice)
Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Oregon
6.5%
25.4oz, Single
$12.99
Very foamy, even a slow and measured pout gets you close to three fingers of bleached white microfoam, fairly even surface, retention is just below average but the head never fully dissipates, the lacing is more veins than streaks. Very cloudy yellow colored liquid, sort of like rust water, translucent to opaque, large quantity of tiny pinprick bubbles throughout. Penetrating power to the nose, sour and close to vinegary, lots of pepper, citrus peel, dried flower petals and cereal grains to dead yeast cells, the fruit mainly pear, yellow apple to apricot, more clean and medicinal than funky, nicely cleansing. In the mouth it’s full-bodied, a touch heavier than expected based on the nose, earthier here but still clean on the whole. The pepper to cardamom, fennel, anise spice most evident at the end and as residue. Tangerine, lemon citrus both sweet and sour. Yeasty but nothing close to finished dough or bread. Plenty of sweetness to be found in the pear, melon, apple flavors, moments of star fruit. The carbonation is more a bass rumble than treble prickle. Extends well through the finish given its heft while also not leaving any undesirable residue behind.
4 out of 5

Stella Artois Brewery
Stella Artois
Euro Pale Lager
Belgium
5.0%
11.2oz, 6-Pack
$7.99
Fluffy head of close to two fingers, bright white, too whipped up to possess strong retention, the lacing is fairly broad though and clings well. The liquid is a pale yellow hue, not quite watery but close, broadly set fat bubbles lazily drift upwards. There’s a sweet grain to corn syrup nature to the nose, moderate leafiness and equal notes of bubblegum and iron flecks, intimation of apple or pear fruit, nothing flawed nor offputting about it, basically smells like beer when you first learned what beer smelled like. Medium-boded, dry without losing fullness, floral hops and a gentle herbal side. Some peppery spice but on the whole it’s sweet even if without much distinct fruit flavor, perhaps banana to apple. The carbonation has sufficient activity and churn to keep it moving so the sweetness does not become boring. Leaves behind a residue of corn meal and cereal grains along with a metallic tang. More enjoyable very well chilled than as it gets closer to room temperature.
2 out of 5

Captain Lawrence Brewing Company
Frost Monster Imperial Stout
American Double/Imperial Stout
New York
12.0%
12oz, 4-Pack
$11.99
Thick head, close to three fingers, very dense with an even surface, about as dark brown as you are going to get, the lacing stretches out into long streaks with good stick. Fully opaque black liquid, nothing gets through it, can see the tiniest micro beads of bubbles just below the surface. The nose overflows with chocolate, cocoa and a strong roasty quality, not quite bitter enough for coffee notes, leans more towards toffee and milk but in no way “soft,” some cherry or plum fruit scents, a bit of campfire wood smoke, dense enough to be compact yet not evanescent. Full-bodied, you’d be tempted to call it heavy were it not for the dryness which helps to relieve weight. The carbonation also has the power to lift it off the palate. There is some booziness here and in the mouth more bitter coffee notes and wood smoke. The licorice, milk, butterscotch and chocolate notes can’t quite smooth it out but maybe better for it as it might become too simple. The roast lingers well and overall it seems like it would benefit from medium to longer term aging. Given its headiness, not sure you’d want more than a couple in one sitting.
4 out of 5

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Chugged in August 2016

Erie Brewing Company
Derailed Ale Black Cherry Cream Ale (Beer With Added Natural Flavor)
Cream Ale
Pennsylvania
5.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$7.99
Thin head, clean white, enough larger bubbles to hurt retention, a good swirl creates thick splotches but they lack the stickiness to last. Coppery orange colored liquid with a good amount of particulate floating around inside, only a few lazy bubbles visible within. The nose first impresses with the cherry but there’s also a sizable percentage of cereal, baking dough, doses of lemon zest, honey then iron and earth, almost savory like balsamic vinegar. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied and loses lots of presence past the mid-palate. Carbonation is negligible. The cherry and vanilla cream pairs well but lacks intensity. That burst of lemon helps keep it lively. At times it tastes like black cherry soda, nothing in the flavor profile to suggest beer. Does have that grain and cereal component and moments of flower water. Not that sweet, albeit at times you wish it were so. Overall, it’s easy to sip and nothing really strikes you as an overt flaw. But, again, were the flavors more concentrated it might hold your attention longer.
3 out of 5

Mother Earth Brew Co.
Cali Creamin’ Vanilla Cream Ale (Ale With Natural Flavor Added)
Cream Ale
California
5.2%
12oz, Single
$1.99
Two fingers of bright white and frothy foam, moderate density and retention, dimples as it dissolves, the lacing comes as sheets with no real stickiness. The liquid is a solid orange amber color, somewhat darker than expected, not many bubbles and they tend to be quite tiny, clear and without and filminess. There is a grainy, just starting cook breadiness to the nose and certainly no lack of vanilla and whipped cream scents, hint of orange creamsicle, honey and at times cinnamon, overall innocuous and thankfully not cloyingly sweet. Medium-bodied, shows likewise restraint in the mouth with malty smoothness and yet enough stiffness so that it doesn’t lazily cling to your pores. In fact at times it almost develops a bitter pucker but then that vanilla fudge and corn syrup notes salve all wounds. The carbonation is weak and could stand to get ratcheted up. They tweaked the basic recipe enough to give it freshness but perhaps in the process gave away too much of the richness and sweetness which the hallmark and differentiating factor for this category of beer. Still could be sessioned easily enough.
2 out of 5

Green Man Brewing Co.
La Mas Negra Imperial Black Ale (With Cocoa Nibs, Cinnamon & Peppers) (International Series)
American Black Ale
North Carolina
8.9%
25.4oz, Single
$14.25
Modest head, under one finger but very thick, just watching the pour it looks like motor oil, the foam is some of the darkest brown you’ll ever see, the lacing likewise is wispy and lacks stick. As noted the liquid is jet black, close to buffed to a shine onyx, so opaque you cannot see a single bubble. Pungent lifting waft of cocoa, creamed coffee, milk chocolate, lactose, sneakily spicy and somewhat indistinct, fresh leafy underpinning, the chocolate just overwhelms all else. Full-bodied, creamy and expansive, covers the full palate. The carbonation has both more life and length than expected. Here the hot pepper spice takes on the leading role, not searingly hot, more so adds flavor. The chocolate to cocoa more woven into the whole here, sweet yet with a roasty touch too. More grainy than bready. The herbal qualities more subdued. The cinnamon and any other baking spices most present as echoes through the finish. No fruit flavors I can find. Pleasing smoky residue at the end too. Pulls off intensity without seemingly trying hard, plus deserves kudos for having balance at this level of density. It’s rare you can drink a full 750 ML of a beer like this as quickly as this went down.
5 out of 5

Wicked Weed Brewing
Puzzle Pieces Select Barrel Sour Ale (Canvas Series)
American Wild Ale
North Carolina
6.7%
16.9oz, Single
$13.75
Very openly knit bright white head, big pour that disappears immediately and leaves barely a dusting across the surface, no lacing. No visible sediment but it’s filmy nonetheless, the liquid a flat yellow to orange rust water color, solid storm of muscular bubbles scattered throughout, looks somewhat dilute. The nose has the de rigueur sourness and barrel treatment is quite evident, heavily yeasty in a sur lie manner, pineapple, papaya and star fruit scents, tart mixed white citrus, undercurrent of herbal leafiness, light pepperiness, at times smells like it might referment in your glass. Medium-bodied, initially sweeter than expected with more round juiciness to the grapefruit, blood orange citrus as well as pineapple, green apple, star fruit flavors. Very prickly carbonation has it churning up the tongue. The oak makes a big power move through the mid-palate with butterscotch, toffee flavors adding more sweetness and also sticking out awkwardly as well. The yeastiness consistently palpable and can now and then give it a more bready character. It often feels disjointed but also has sufficient ebullience to win you over in the end.
3 out of 5

Stillwater Artisanal Ales
O Trabalho (Amazon Inspired Wild Ale) (Collaboration With Morada Cia Etílica)
American Wild Ale
Maryland
5.5%
22oz, Single
$10.99
Finger worth of light tan foam, uneven surface without much retention, no density, splotchy lacing at best with moderate stickiness. Clear, the liquid has a mahogany red color, both shiny and dark, the bubbles are quite large but few and tend to aggressively dart to the surface, attractive enough. High toned nose of rubbing alcohol, pressed flowers, carob, hay, tree bark and old pulped lemons, the matted grasses tend to cover up any pit fruit to apple scents, finishes with coffee grounds and dead yeast, odd bedfellows all around. Light to medium-bodied, tart and seemingly acidic, throws its shoulder into you, then more softening carob, creamed coffee and bread, peppery with iron flecks, comes off as randomly organized but to be fair that’s why they call it a “wild ale.” Peach, apple, cherry fruit take a stab at filling it out, not much citrus. The carbonation is just about where it needs to be. Mineral water to wet stone inflected finish, lacking in flavor and persistence. Certainly there is a lot going on but makes you think do we sometimes label something as complex when it really lacks coordination?
2 out of 5

Pisgah Brewing Company
Red Devil Cherry-Raspberry Belgian Ale
Fruit/Vegetable Beer
North Carolina
8.0%
22oz, Single
$10.75
Large three finger head, pink tinged white, quite loose and evaporates rapidly, you can hear the bubbles sizzle, any lacing is a sheet which glides back into the glass after any swirling. Muscularly active and large bubbles visible everywhere in the glass, rose colored pink to orange, clear on the whole but not that shiny. There is a metallic, earthy quality to the nose which sometimes evokes tar or sun drenched apartment building rooftops, not funky but not something you encounter often, makes it hard for the cherry and raspberry to compete although they are fresh and juicy, honey mixed with sage and marjoram, just seems to be lacking in direction. Medium-bodied, softer mouth feel, the carbonation is steady, not fluffy nor prickly. The raspberry pie flavors segue to more strawberry and green apple than cherry, in any event they all have that Jolly Rancher sort of concentrated sugariness and less natural flow. Beet sugar, orange blossom, rose water and honey. But again that burnt rubber tire to tar aspect won’t shake loose. Bready towards the finish, pie crust. Needs harmony and to focus more on expression of the fruit.
2 out of 5

Triple C Brewing Co.
Chocolate Covered Pretzel Stout (Stout Brewed With Cacao Nibs And Aged In Bourbon Barrels)
American Double/Imperial Stout
North Carolina
9.2%
22oz, Single
$15.99
Offers up between two to three fingers of very loose and agitated foam, hard pressed to find a larger quantity of such huge bubbles going off like fireworks across the surface, airy with poor retention, the lacing shimmers like chain mail then is gone. The liquid is an opaque black, considerable amount of bubble activity visible at the surface line, the color maybe shifts some to darkest brown. The nose is sweet, emphasizing milk chocolate, lactose, coconut flakes and caramel, stops just short of confectionery, maybe a smidgeon of licorice, the roast is mild, soft breadiness, no real discernible fruit, easygoing and without alcoholic burn. Medium to full-bodied, slimmer than expected yet not lacking in intensity of chocolate, mocha, caramel flavors. Probably power of suggestion as much as reality regarding any savory salt or pretzel accents, hardly noticeable anyway. More roast here which makes the finish clenched. The carbonation does not do much for the mouth feel, more so makes you burp. Moderate plum to cherry fruit flavors, some anise or flowers. Would benefit from rounder contours and more soaking into the palate. Nice enough without being especially memorable.
3 out of 5

Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project
Surette Provision Saison (Artisan Ale Aged In Oak Barrels) (2014 Batch 16)
Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Colorado
6.2%
12.7oz, Single
$10.49
Solid finger of bright white foam, mottled surface, close to no retention, gone like the devil himself was chasing it, no lacing either. Inside the glass it is virtually wall-to-wall carbonation, fat bubbles that break aggressively across the surface, the liquid has a metallic rust orange sheen to it, fine particulate floats throughout. When you first pop it open the nose hits you with something like a burst of hops, thought it was an imperial IPA, then the sour oak takes hold as well as yeast, balsamic vinegar with a woodsy funkiness, smells like it might give you hay fever and/or start refermenting in your glass, no distinct fruit presence. Full-bodied, has more heft than you usually find in this category, would attribute that to the oak, which itself makes its presence clear and unmistakable. Starts off sour and then turns more neutral, lots of herbal, forest floor, earthy funk with a metallic note as well as sage. The yeastiness is more spent and dried in feel than fluffy and fresh. Lemon to grapefruit citrus, again not much fruit, to its credit avoids volatility and finishes strong and smoother than expected. The carbonation is appropriate to the weight and not a distraction. Knits it together well, perhaps to the point it loses some sense of complexity.
4 out of 5

Wicked Weed Brewing and Jester King Brewery
The Parking Lot Grissette (Tart Farmhouse Ale Dry-Hopped With Mandarin Bavaria And Huell Melon)
Saison/Farmhouse Ale
North Carolina
5.2%
16.9oz, Single
$9.25
The head quickly crests close to two fingers and just as rapidly dissolves, just off-white in color, wispy lacing with little stickiness. Bright and clear coppery orange liquid, very fine bubbles yet consistently active, pretty and sparkles in the glass. Light and penetrating nose which focuses mainly on tangerine, lemon citrus, sour and close to dank hops, vinegar, cloves, the melon comes though infrequently and then tentatively, more consistent tart apple to pear notes, starts off much better than ends. In the mouth it is lighter bodied yet sour and acidic enough that it avoids evanescence. More vinous to vinegar notes, verging on rubbing alcohol with a light grade volatility throughout. The sour orange remains dominant and brings a meadow grassiness as well, twigs and underbrush. Soda bread and dried scone bits subtly present, again not much by way of fruit, mostly underripe apple or pear. The carbonation is pretty strong and some sips push it up to the mouth roof. Fades too quickly through the finish leaves a textural echo more than flavor. Got bored with it fairly quickly.
3 out of 5

Dieu du Ciel, Brasserie
Aphrodite (Stout Brewed With Cocoa And Vanilla)
American Stout
Canada
6.5%
11.5oz, Single
$5.99
Healthy two finger head of incredibly dark brown hue, sizzles into a mottled surface, the lacing is thicker and stronger than might have been expected. Onyx black liquid, fully impenetrable and opaque, looks more clean than cloudy, tiny glimpse of a few bubbles as the break the surface. Densely packed nose of milk chocolate, cocoa and toffee yet manages a semidry texture in the nostrils, grainy with a light roast which gets smoothed out by lactose notes, scents linger nicely. Full-bodied and also nimble, for all of its weight it is not difficult to swallow and look forward to the next sip. More roast and graininess here, touch of mineral water as well. While concentrated, the chocolate, coffee, toffee, glazed nut, licorice flavors are not overly sweet and mostly cleaned up by the finish where the roast leaves instead a bit of charcoal or tar. Not getting much fruit flavor, mixed blacks at very best. Likewise, the vanilla seems lost in the mix. The mouth feel is steady and drinkability good, however, there’s something missing that can’t quite be fingered. Very good but short of excellent.
4 out of 5

Highland Brewing Company
Tasgall II Scotch Ale (Warrior Series)
Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy
North Carolina
8.0%
12oz, 4-Pack
$10.29
Close to two fingers of light brown foam, even surface punctuated by pools of larger bubbles, very good retention, likewise the lacing forms extended streaks and sticks well. Duskily opaque brown murk of liquid, lightens into orange tones at the glass edges, plenty of loosely aggregated bubbles within, moving slowly. The nose is crisper and more brisk than anticipated, quinine and mineral water intermixed with caramel, dark chocolate and coconut shavings, light fig to date fruit with candied orange peel nuances, smoke to charcoal the final addition. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied, the carbonation is strong and certainly fluffs it up during the attack. Sweeter here with more nuttiness as well as molasses to honey. However, that smoky, metallic edge has it reverse course as it progresses through the mouth. Raw grains, caramel, at times something close to root beer or anise. Less fruity, barely any fig, grape or raisin notes. Dryness at the end shortens the finish. While it could stand a little more intensity it is pleasing for its balance and drinkability.
3 out of 5

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Chugged in July 2016

Modern Times Beer
Fruitlands Sour Cherry Gose
Gose
California
4.8%
22oz, Single
$9.99
Meager dusting across the surface for a head, swiftly evaporates to nothing, while it was there bright white hue, the lacing in turn is close to nonexistent. Pinkish red colored liquid, sparkling clear with a near metallic sheen, looks like a glass of rosé, the bubbles some good activity but they are few and far between. The nose is almost entirely cherries, no lies told on the label, some lemon and pie crust flakes, supporting mineral to crushed stone dust notes, sort of monochrome but, hey, I like cherries. Medium-bodied, taut prickle from the carbonation frames the mouth entry and lessens the deep sweetness of the cherries, close to maraschino cherry in flavor, although there are moments of “sour.” Then there is the strong salty, saline quality sort of comes out of left field. Palpable honey dappled pie dough and crust, freshly baked. The lemony accents help keep it fresh and lively. As in the nose it lacks complexity yet there’s no doubting the persistence of the cherry flavor. On the whole, though, it does not last that long through the finish. A lighter styled “dessert beer”?
3 out of 5

Ponysaurus Brewing Co.
Bière de Garde
Bière de Garde
North Carolina
6.3%
16oz, 4-Pack
$10.99
Weak head, maybe a third of a finger and it dissipates swiftly leaving the surface naked, no lacing whatsoever. The liquid is a coppery orange, crystal clear with full transparency, the few visible bubbles scattered throughout, pleasing shine to it. The nose has a smooth malt base to it which is not excessively sweet, a touch grapey with fruitcake notes, some clove to nutmeg, more lemony as you continue to sip, mildly floral, overall it comes off as more neutral than yeasty. Medium-bodied with good firmness which keeps the texture consistent start to finish, attractive level of dryness contributes to a fresh appeal, hints at grassiness more than delivers. That said, there is a light earthiness and metallic aspect which stunts the sweeter spiciness. Carbonation is average, nothing to remark upon. More lemon to sour orange citrus, the fruit a cleaner blend of white grape, apricot, apple and fig. More bready than yeasty, spicy rye pokes through. Perhaps becomes mustier as it warms, the good kind of outdoorsy funk. Leaves you happy with the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.
4 out of 5

AleSmith Brewing Company
Nut Brown English-Style Ale
English Brown Ale
California
5.0%
22oz, Single
$5.99
Modest finger plus head of deep tan color, slightly irregular surface throughout, okay retention, has long, skinny streaks of lacing. Clear, if not quite transparent, brown hue with a yellow cast, you barely see the bubbles until the spread out before breaking the surface. Melted milk chocolate pours into your nostrils, caramel and coconut too, hazelnut, cola, raisin to fig fruit, seems like it might get bready but really the chocolate dominates so much that it probably never had a chance. Medium-bodied and closer to light than heavy, surprising given the richness of the nose, strong carbonation helps it lift off the palate. Nicely done that as fresh as it seems overall, the determinant factor remains the malty caramel, chocolate, toffee flavors. As it progresses in the mouth there is a mineral water component and very light charcoal to tar element which boosts the freshness further, almost salty too. The fruit stays in the fig, golden raisin to grape range, nothing sweeter or more concentrated. Any nuttiness most present retronasally at the end. For this imbiber this is a difficult category to make a favorable impression and this manages to hit most of the right notes.
4 out of 5

New Glarus Brewing Company
Dancing Man Wheat
Hefeweizen
Wisconsin
7.2%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.69
Pours a huge head of 3-4 fingers depth, eggshell white with a smooth surface and admirable density, retention is very good, the lacing forms broad sheets which cover the glass side but lacks stick and slides off downwards. Shiny yellow to orange hued liquid, faint haze, the bubbles are dispersed and quite large in size. Unassumingly pungent nose of clove, ginger, banana, bubblegum and white pepper, leesy with a nice bracing blow of grass and wheat chaff, needs to warm to get additional cherry and apricot fruit scents. Medium-bodied with a clingy texture which increases its mouth presence, the carbonation starts off more prickly yet turns softer by the finish. Spicier here, more peppercorns and cumin like spice to match the clove. The banana and bubblegum step back so it’s fresher and not as sweet as expected. This impression aided by notes of tar and charcoal, not quite bitter but more on the “earthy” spectrum. Lightly herbaceous at the end, not getting a particularly strong wheat infusion. It’s not “textbook” but clearly respects, if not reveres, the beer category and puts a personal twist to it. Well-integrated and the constituent parts work in concert.
5 out of 5

Olde Hickory Brewery
Lindley Park Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout (Stout Brewed With Honey, Raspberries Added)
American Double/Imperial Stout
North Carolina
10.0%
22oz, Single
$12.99
An aggressive pour yields close to a finger of extremely dark brown foam, the surface scattered with larger bubbles, retention is adequate for what’s there, the lacing is thin and wispy. The liquid is jet black, completely impenetrable, looks clean and has some shine to it, impossible to see any bubbles. The nose is akin to getting slugged in the jaw, leaps right at you with crushed raspberries, coconut, butterscotch, graham cracker, coffee ice cream, the honey seems folded into the rest, as it settles in you get more roast as well as grassiness, keeps the booziness in check, likely deserves to get closer to room temperature to really let the aromas release. Full-bodied, were it not for the steady prickle provided by the carbonation it would flatten the palate. The cereal grains and breadiness show stronger here, as does spiced orange peel and coffee to mocha roast. The butterscotch knits in well and the honey enunciates more clearly, particularly through the finish. Same raspberry fruit with cherry accents. Some mesquite qualities but the oak barrel is well integrated and not insipidly dominating. The finish is quite extended but not clumsily so. If you like big, flavored stouts this is an impressive choice.
5 out of 5

Pisgah Brewing Company
Solstice Belgian-Style Tripel (2015)
Tripel
North Carolina
9.5%
25.4oz, Single
$10.99
Super airy head with no density at all, crests at two to three fingers and then sizzles off faster than Carl Lewis to a light, spotty surface dusting, the lacing broadens well but has close to zero stickiness. Deep worn gold color, the bubbles form a veritable maelstrom inside the glass, looks like a raging blizzard, mild haziness prevents full transparency. The nose quietly explodes into a full perfume of white grape, pear, apple, apricot fruit, white pepper, Saltine crackers, dried yeast to pie crust, coriander spice, when it sweetens it’s mostly as bubblegum and fruitcake. Full-bodied with a satiny texture which well disguises its actual heft, the carbonation also helps relieve weight without allowing it to get fluffily soft. More banana, fig here to go along with the pear, apple, grape to strawberry fruit. Likewise, clove equal to the pepperiness. It’s fresh enough that the yeastiness is not a real major factor. There is a booziness to it which helps warm the belly and in no way distracts from being able to enjoy the flavors. Lemony finish with a hint of basil. For the category this is eminently smooth and drinkable.
5 out of 5

King Harbor Brewing Company
The Quest w/Rakau (Single Hop Pale Ale Series)
American Pale Ale
California
5.9%
22oz, Single
$7.99
Just past a finger of white foam, bright with a dimpled, pocked surface, the retention is decent, maintains full surface coverage, the lacing breaks up easily leaving random splotches here and there. Pale metallic orange hue, close to fully transparent, the bubbles are widely spread and tiny but display good activity. The nose offers a clean shot of lemon, grapefruit citrus to start things off on a fresh note, switches gears into cocoa powder, caramel and dank forest floor matter, bitter black tea leaves, close to vegetal, the apricot, peach, pear fruit scents reduced to an almost dried fruit concentration, more pungent than delicate. Full-bodied, close to downright heavy on the palate. The carbonation seems to make the texture even rougher than smoother. The dank herbaceousness persists here and it develops a metallic bitterness as well, pine tar and coal. The citrus here mostly sour orange to lemon. Not a lot of fruit flavor, pineapple, peach and some apricot, perhaps faded. Even the caramel and melted chocolate lacks oomph. The finish just does not taste clean. An interesting experiment but perhaps best left at that.
2 out of 5

Brooklyn Brewery
Lager
American Amber/Red Lager
New York
5.2%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.49
Modest finger deep head, light tan in color, even surface with less than average retention, the lacing fares somewhat better, thick streaks of good length. The liquid is a pale amber red to orange hue, has pleasing shine and limpid clarity, plenty of larger bubbles visible, no beads. There’s a metallic, earth bitterness to the nose which sort of cancels out a lot of the caramel, bread and sweeter grains, soft notes of white pit fruit, there’s a residual funkiness left in your nostrils. Medium-bodied, the carbonation is strong enough to fluff it up and increase palate coverage, subtly drying mouth feel. The grains are more bitter here and bolster that earth, metal edge, turns grassy at the end with a hint of corn. The caramel, bread and raw dough help but it’s not an especially flavorful beer, vague white citrus and those pit fruits. It’s not that the beer is “tentative” or such but little here is stating its case clearly and directly. This taster lost interest about halfway through the pint, albeit it is in no way a flawed beer.
2 out of 5

New Glarus Brewing Company
Coffee Stout (Stout Brewed With Coffee)
American Stout
Wisconsin
5.75%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.49
Pours a very large head, close to three fingers, deep tan to lighter brown , good density as well as retention, likewise has pleasing breadth and length in the lacing, very sticky. The liquid has a filminess which serves as opacity, not the pitch black night many stouts can be, hint of yellow at the edges where you can see a swirl of pinprick bubbles sizzle upwards. Very steady but not insufferably thick nose of cocoa powder, caramel, American roast coffee and charcoal to campfire accents, there’s also a strong lactose to vanilla edge, light plum and dark fruits, nothing comes close to the general roast for effect. Remarkably lighter bodied, results in a fluid mouth feel and soft, fresh finish. The carbonation provides a consistent caress rather than prickle. The chocolate, whipped cream and coffee are all sweet in a powdery fashion, flavorful without overindulgence. As in the nose, minimal fruit presence. Slightly grainy at the end, not quite bready nor yeasty. Freshness and drinkability among its strongest attributes although this is not to say it is a weakling.
4 out of 5

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Chugged in June 2016

Dieu du Ciel, Brasserie
Rigor Mortis Abt (Abbey-Style Brown Ale)
Quadrupel (Quad)
Canada
10.5%
11.5oz, Single
$5.99
Thinnish head, just under half a finger, dark tan to light brown in hue, even surface, retention is adequate but just that, minimal stickiness to the lacing. The liquid is a deep brown color, darkened further yet by the vast amount of floaties in the glass, more yellowish rims, only a few scattered bubbles are visible. The nose is very boozy, close to rubbing alcohol in intensity, peaty with coffee, mocha, caramel notes which somehow do little to sweeten things up, a salty edge tends to cancel out a lot of the fig, raisin, plum, cherry fruit scents, wet herbaceousness its final calling card. Full-bodied, somewhat flatfooted due to the lackluster carbonation. Coconut, licorice, orange peel, some vague yeastiness. Again, the booziness distracts and unbalances. Charcoal, earth and charred driftwood take ground in the mid-palate. The cherry, plum, golden raisin, fig is not that sugary and competes halfheartedly. It tends to peter out before what you’d expect to be the finish. All this is not to say it’s a poor quality beer, more so that one expects better harmonization which would equate to a smoother, lengthier experience. Needs to be served with something which would account for its deficiencies.
3 out of 5

Coney Island Brewing Company
Overpass IPA
American IPA
New York
6.2%
12oz, 6-Pack
$8.99
Two fingers of eggshell white with a substantial larger bubbles at the pour point, dimpled surface, given its general airiness the retention is pretty good, the lacing is wispy. Cloudy liquid, deep golden color which inches towards more burnt orange hues, more random fat bubbles than consistent beads. Molasses and honey help to anchor the nose in place, otherwise it’s grassiness, grapefruit pith and a little pine, lurches back in the other direction with cocoa notes and maltiness which mutes rather than supports the pineapple, peach, apricot fruit scents. Full-bodied and sluggish, glues itself to the palate, the carbonation is capable of naught but a slow pressing against the tongue, lends minimal freshness. The oily texture favors the cocoa powder, caramel albeit this gets attenuated here too. The citrus pith, pepper and pine bring enough bitterness to stiffen the finish. Not much going on by way of fruit flavors. Hay, iron flecks and soap water round out the finish. Not much going on in its favor, leaves you hoping a lack of freshness is the reason it is so unappealing.
2 out of 5

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Higher Math (20th Anniversary Beer) (A Golden Ale Brewed With Chocolate & Sour Cherry Juice)
American Strong Ale
Delaware
17.0%
12oz, Single
$10.99
Pours a meager head, little more than a thin coating across the surface, granted what is there lasts well enough, unsurprisingly no lacing present. The liquid is a murky orange-reddish to brown hue, filled throughout with chunky particles, only near the glass itself can you make out the fat, lazy bubbles inside, does glow well in the light. The nose is pure rich sweetness, bursting with raisin, date, plum and cherry scents, gingerbread, caramelized brown sugar, molasses and French toast, lighter nuttiness, pine sap, packs a big boozy punch, smells like you ordered it at the local bakery. In the mouth it is full-bodied with a thick, gobby mouth feel, accentuated by sluggish carbonation. Maraschino cherry, date, fig, golden raisin immediately ratchet up the sweetness. Slight roasty character to the cocoa, coffee element which has it somewhat undercut the concentration of the molasses, caramel. Once that battle is decided, you get a hoppy, piney burst, the bitterness of which adds to the lack of smoothness and balance created by the booziness. Is it over the top? Duh, of course. It’s basically an intentional exaggeration, however, if you would prefer beer to Cognac with your cigar you are set here.
3 out of 5

Great Lakes Brewing Company
Turntable Pils (A Czech-Style Pilsner)
Czech Pilsener
Ohio
5.3%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Solid finger plus of basic white foam, good density helps retention, moderate dimpling over time, the lacing is thin but shows good length. The liquid is a bright yellow gold, has a sort of metallic sheen to it, good amount of tiny bubbles spread widely throughout. The nose is grassy, full of cracker and grains with a certain pepperiness, bracing tautness, sour lemon peel accents, not overpowering yet easily makes a clear statement, nothing muddled about it. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied and perhaps broader than expected as much sinks into the palate as scrubs refreshingly. Unprocessed grains, hay and dried grass keep it dry, touch of quinine to support that lemon peel. Light corn notes. The carbonation level is good, arguably could be higher but suits the overall direct and succinct demeanor. The malts are indistinct but help smooth out the finish. Here you get a glimmer of apricot, peach, apple fruit flavoring with a vague floral afterimage. Possesses no overt flaws but does not rank well in drinkability, which is arguably an important factor for this type of beer.
3 out of 5

Three Floyds Brewing Company
Gumballhead Wheat Beer
American Pale Wheat Ale
Indiana
5.6%
12oz
6-Pack
$12.99
Just past a finger of pure white foam, even surface except at the pour point, very good retention, the laces forms broad streaks yet they lack longlasting stick. Darkish golden amber colored liquid, silty floaties throughout adds to the haze, the bubbles are fat and randomly spread throughout. Soft wheatiness to the nose, more direct via orange peel, peppercorns, pine and apple, pear, pineapple fruit that edges towards but does not cross over to tropicality, has some underlying yeasty notes, at the end there’s more woodsy pile of cut wood or forest trail sort of not dirtiness but just not clean, overall displays good staying power in the nostrils. Medium-bodied, dry yet the general fluffy and soft mouth feel allows it to not seem parching. Again, dominated by citrus, a blend of lemon, tangerine and hint of grapefruit. Piney and peppery, retains that dead yeast cell sort of thing. The pineapple, green apple fruit leads the way, not sweet enough for mango but there’s a touch of apricot perhaps. The wheat is subdued and on the whole the bitterness is slight. The carbonation is active without being distracting. Leaves a dry residue behind. Quite drinkable, switches gears sufficiently sip to sip that you do not bore quickly of it.
4 out of 5

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Chugged in May 2016

Cantillon, Brasserie
Saint Lamvinus (Merlot Grapes And Lambic)
Lambic-Fruit
Belgium
5.0%
25.4oz, Single
$19.99
Finger worth of loose, airy foam that has meager retention, barely leaves a surface coating behind, zero lacing as well. Opaquely cloudy liquid of a watermelon pink coloration, faded rose hued rims. Ripe, fruity nose of raspberry, strawberry with notes of lemon, clean and without the sour blast that such beers possess and knock you back on your heels, hovers steadily in the nostrils. Light-bodied, the initial sweetness frames things pleasantly before developing a broadening sourness across the palate. Same soft cherry, raspberry, strawberry fruit array, nibbles at you as well via accents of green apple. Has a minerally, metallic bite at the end, dry yeastiness. It is remarkable most for its smoothness and relatively high drinkability.
4 out of 5

Menduiña
Maria Soliña Smoked Brown Lager
Rauchbier
Spain
7.0%
11.2oz, Single
$3.49
Finger plus head depth, tan color and even surface, poor retention, there’s little lacing but that is there is thick. Impenetrably cloudy liquid, an orange-brown which fades towards yellow rust at the edges, barely any visible bubbles. The smokiness in the nose is compact while strong, has a tarry, earthy side to it, orange peel, apricot pits, good amount of raw grains, the metallic element grows over time, has a cleaner dissolve than lingering pungency. Medium-bodied, soft carbonation leads to a soaking into the palate as much as creating a lasting mouth perfume. The smokiness is not really that dominant, however, there’s not much else to challenge it. Iron, tar, charcoal, damp earth likeliest candidates. Solid amount of orange peel and peach, apricot fruit. There’s something tentative about it, like it holds back when it could be going more full throttle.
3 out of 5

Cantillon, Brasserie
Kriek 100% Lambic Bio
Lambic-Fruit
Belgium
5.0%
25.4oz, Single
$16.49
The head crests near two fingers of pink white foam, for as swiftly as it goes up, it goes down, although it does leave a respectable surface dusting, the lacing is like a breaking wave, a solid sheet crushed into disintegration. The liquid is rose petal to watermelon pink in color, there is a vast swirl of superfine bubbles inside, holds light warmly. There’s a broad flatness to the nose, like an open handed smack, sour lemons and cherries, taut underlying minerality, the yeastiness is tight and focused, great overall economy of effort. Medium-bodied, pleasingly deep initial foaminess helps prime the mouth for both the sourness and the sweetness of the cherry fruit. Which itself is the usual center of attention without ever seeming so. Vinous bite, yeast, mineral water, lemon, cedar, tea leaf, nothing that distinct leaps out at you in support of the cherries yet at the same time it does not feel like a one trick pony. Pushes hard to accelerate across the finish line.
4 out of 5

Cantillon, Brasserie
Cuvée Saint-Gilloise
Gueuze
Belgium
5.0%
25.4oz, Single
$18.79
Solidly constructed two finger head with a great deal of activity at the pour point, light tan color, retains a thick surface coating for some time, the lacing starts off thickly and gently glides off. Looks like a bright ball of fiery orange in the glass, more of a reddish tint than yellow, too opaque to see many bubbles. The nose steadily builds to a crescendo of orange to lemon citrus, sour oak vinosity, white grape, apricot and apple fruit, earthy with notes of dried garden herbs, cedar, possesses a sense of ripeness more than sweetness. Medium-bodied, the steadiness and richness of the carbonation spreads the liquid cheek to cheek. Quite lemony and also with more pronounced hoppy bite, grassiness. The peach, apricot, pear fruit flavors fill themselves out nicely. Over time the citrus palette works in additional white grapefruit and blood orange nuances. Stony more than minerally. Very well balanced and integrated, not overly sour. Shows much room for improvement via aging.
5 out of 5

Cantillon, Brasserie
Gueuze 100% Lambic Bio
Gueuze
Belgium
5.0%
25.4oz, Single
$18.79
The head crests near two fingers of dense off-white to light tan color, nice retention, keeps a thick surface layer. Deeply bronzed liquid, sunset orange, fully opaque, there’s quite a bit of active bubbles yet they are not always easily visible. The nose punches real hard and drives into the nostrils, smells mainly of yeast, pulped oranges and tangerines, cardamom, sage to white pepper with touches of pineapple, kumquat and star fruit, warming up does little to smooth it out. Medium-bodied, the carbonation lends strong prickle which even further accentuates the formidable sourness. Cavalcade of tart grapefruit, orange, lemon citrus, so stinging that the flavors become hard to separate. Yeast, wheat germ, barley easy to peg, the fruit flavors here too muddled by the sourness, mostly pineapple, nectarine, green apple with a few red cherry notes. Monolithic in scale and assured in the message it wants to send.
4 out of 5

Naparbier
Hop Doom Imperial India Pale Ale
American Double/Imperial IPA
Spain
11.5%
11.2oz, Single
$5.79
Moderate one finger head with poor retention, deep tan color, the lacing starts off thickly but then disintegrates and slides easily off the glass. Extremely dark liquid, amber orange, almost the color of ripe peaches, close to zero visible carbonation. The nose is thick and pungent, sappy pineapple, peach, guava scents, pink grapefruit, cocoa and caramel, there is a pronounced leafy green funk underneath the sweeter elements. Full-bodied, sticky and gluey texture inhibits flow and the lack of carbonation does not alleviate. Ultra-sweet with juicy tangelo, pink grapefruit citrus, pine, floral dew. The mango, papaya, peach, apricot fruit approaches dried fruit concentration and sugariness. The chocolate, cocoa, caramel maltiness is formidable in its own right. Overall, it’s a bit too over the top yet it may rank higher if you have a sugar habit.
3 out of 5

Omnipollo
Nebuchadnezzar Imperial India Pale Ale
American Double/Imperial IPA
Sweden
8.5%
11.2oz, Single
$7.29
Finger plus of orange tinted cream white foam, even surface with credible retention, decent strength in the lacing, random and irregular splotches rather than continuous streaks. Close to amber but more so dense orange-yellow hued liquid, translucent but easy enough to see the fine bubbles within. Thick pine sap in the nose, mint, tangerine, caramel, butterscotch, lots of raw doughiness, solid tropicality via pineapple, guava, mango scents, the textural stickiness in the nostrils does give it a cloying sweetness. Medium-bodied and actually lighter of touch than expected based on the nose. The carbonation is big and round and helps it fill the mouth. More dank and leafy here, piles on the pine, earth and tar too. The pink grapefruit, tangerine is more thick and sticky than sweet. The apricot, peach, pineapple, mango fruit combines with cocoa, caramel to support the mid-palate before dryness takes over. That said, a floral lift bring prettiness to the finish. [Brewed at Brouwerij De Proef, Belgium]
4 out of 5

Omnipollo
Zodiak India Pale Ale
American IPA
Sweden
6.2%
11.2oz, Single
$6.39
Just over a finger of cream white foam, fairly even surface and good head retention, the lacing is formed of irregular splotches, alternately wide or thin. Cloudy, deep golden hued liquid, difficult to see any bubbles but it holds light well within. Crisp nose, quite citrusy with white grapefruit to lemon, the fruit expression is dry, mainly pineapple, nectarine, kumquat, plenty of dried pine sap and tar, even the green leafy matter is dry, lack floral delicacy but does have a malt backbone, albeit not very sweet. Medium-bodied, broad and fluffy, the carbonation has strength but does not scrub the palate. The dryness extends through the white citrus, pepper, pine and lemongrass flavors. Likewise, the apricot, pineapple, nectarine fruit parched if not lacking in flavor. Tea leaf, violets, comes with a vague earthiness even as it loses a substantial amount of the grassiness here. Were one not to mind a very dry mouth texture, it is smooth and easy drinking. [Brewed at Brouwerij De Proef, Belgium]
4 out of 5

Charm City Meadworks
Basil Lemongrass (Barrel Aged Draft Mead)
Mead
Maryland
6.9%
12oz, 4-Pack
$11.99
Not sure what kind of head it’s supposed to have but this covers the surface during the pour and swiftly thereafter is entirely gone, no lacing at all. Pale enough to barely have color, more like very attractive water, you can see a loose array of bubbles, more than you’d expect from the head. The lemongrass is clearly the featured element of the nose but there’s also ginger, tangerine citrus, and a light brush of dried honey, the leafy greenness is fresh and lingers the most too. Medium-bodied, there’s an initial carbonated prickle when it first touches the tongue but that’s it. Tastes like liquid Thai food, all lemongrass, basil, lemon and ginger, dry and at times might even pass for an alcoholic ginger ale. Offers more by way of inner mouth perfume and lift and than persistent palate flavors. Bonus points for not being heavy on the palate. It is refreshing but also gets somewhat boring over time so best suited as meal accompaniment or for outdoors pounding when it’s really hot.
3 out of 5

New Glarus Brewing Company
Wisconsin Belgian Red Style (Wisconsin Ale Brewed With Cherries)
Fruit/Vegetable Beer
Wisconsin
4.0%
25.4oz, Single
$10.39
An aggressive pour yields a decent finger worth of reddish tan foam, for the beer type the retention is actually admirable, the lacing wispy to nonexistent. Cherry red wood colored liquid, as close to brown as orange, starts off with a sizable amount of bubbles which stop streaming after a few minutes, has a clean glow to it. Pure cherry pie nose, equally sweet and sour albeit the level of concentration makes the former linger longer, pie crust flakes, vanilla, touch of orange reduction, has a more vinous texture if allowed to warm some. Medium to full-bodied, here too the carbonation starts off well put seems to lack the strength to persist. The oak more prominent, brings added sourness rather than creamy sweetness. The cherries are fresh and lively even if you would be hard pressed for greater flavor concentration and ripeness. The dough and brown sugar accents ensure it keeps feeling like pie. The touch of orange citrus aligns with the sour dimension to bring greater balance. This is a beer which needs simply to be taken at face value for what it is. If you can do that, and like cherries, it is pretty rocking.
5 out of 5

Wicked Weed Brewing
Bedeviled Golden Belgian-Style Ale
Belgian Strong Pale Ale
North Carolina
9.0%
11.2oz, 4-Pack
$11.25
Two to three fingers of nicely dense white foam, even surface, very good retention, the lacing is more or less unremarkable, a few streaks here and there but nothing visually distinctive. The liquid is gauzy from very fine particulate matter floating about, multiple tight beads give it visual activity and feed the surface foam, basic golden color. The nose has a pleasing compactness to it, pepper and unprocessed grains before softening slightly into banana, clove and leesy notes, cane sugar, orange peel, apricot to peach fills it our further, what it may sacrifice in richness and sweetness it makes up for via good posture and directness. Medium-bodied, same general approach in the mouth as it is dry from the first sip and offers a slight vinous grip. The carbonation is inconsistent but more prickly than soft when present. The tartness adds green apple, pineapple accents to the base of peach, cherry, banana fruit. The clove, ginger here trumps the white peppercorns. More cotton candy and violets than pure sugar. There’s a clean earthiness to the finish, only a minor metallic ring. Were it not for the higher alcohol content it drinks smoothly enough to session a few.
3 out of 5

Cantillon, Brasserie
Vigneronne (Lambic Beer Brewed With Italian Muscat Grapes, Aged In Oak Barrels)
Lambic-Fruit
Belgium
5.0%
25.4oz, Single
$23.99
Thin coating across the surface of pure white foam, just about settles in as it evaporates, the lacing forms very broad and deep patches which disappear from the glass sides as much as slide down below. A horde of active bubbles appear throughout the darker coppery gold color, more orange hue than yellow, adequate clarity, neither really hazy nor transparently clean. Freshly mown lawn grass, green straw, wheat chaff, chamomile and wet cellar dirt and stone mark the nose at first, strong sour vinous quality as well, quieter apricot pits and green melon rinds, the yeastiness flits in and out due to its sour profile, overall smells like a lot of stuff you’d be allergic to in springtime. Medium-bodied, the sourness sets it like stone in the mouth the carbonation at best provides tiny pinpricks on the tongue. The Muscat comes through clearly, puckering vinous nature, and the oak brings a tart toastiness which evokes more dill than any caramel or sweeter oak flavoring. Violets, hay, straw, pulped and dried oranges, chamomile, sea weed, flavors veer all over. It is not all that dry, yet it grips as if desiccating the palate. Also cleaner than expected without much mustiness. Lengthens as it warms, however, flavors stay consistent. (Bottled November 23, 2012)
4 out of 5

Pisgah Brewing Company
Double IPA (Tenth Anniversary)
American Double/Imperial IPA
North Carolina
8.1%
22oz, Single
$10.49
Loosely put together head, gets close to two fingers, the high amount of larger bubbles finds it popping at a swift clip, very mottled cream white surface, the lacing is light, abbreviated streaks randomly arrayed. The liquid is a very deep metallic orange, coppery, there’s a light haziness to it and a scattering of lazy bubbles, no beads. There’s a good dose of caramel, cocoa maltiness to the nose, thick pine sap and glazed orange peel, there is some stank to the earth and herbal matter, enough so to dampen the sweetness of the pineapple, mango, nectarine, papaya fruit scents, overall it’s a big musky cloud where the individual components converge more than not. Full-bodied, surprisingly high amount of frothy carbonation which helps restrain its natural inclination towards stickiness. Caramel, maple syrup, scone to biscuit breadiness, the relatively tame grapefruit, tangerine citrus makes the sweetness more solid than liquid which in turn differentiates it from the bitter grassiness, tea leaves, tar and black earth flavors. The peach, nectarine, pineapple fruit lacks clarity and gets lost some. A lot going on, could have benefitted from dialing back on trying to touch all the bases.
3 out of 5

Wicked Weed Brewing
Napoleon Complex Hoppy Pale Ale
American Pale Ale
North Carolina
5.2%
11.2oz, 6-Pack
$12.25
Pours a massive three to four finger head, pure white, good density given its size, moderate surface dimpling, once there’s room to accommodate it, the lacing forms broad splotches rather than thin streaks. The liquid is a clear darker golden hue, consistent throughout with good shine, the few bubbles visible rise with some speed. The nose is super clean and fresh, a freshly cut bouquet of flowers, orange zest, then comes some earthy notes as well as rye to pumpernickel bread, dried pine sap and a light pepperiness show as well, takes some warming for the apricot, mango, pineapple and peach fruit scents to truly enunciate, very pretty lift. Medium-bodied, it’s dry enough to grip the palate well and extend presence. The carbonation starts off fluffier but not sufficient to lift and prevent the gluey sensations. Despite the dryness of the texture the flavors are ripe and juicy, all pink grapefruit and tangerine citrus alongside pineapple, papaya, nectarine, apricot fruit. More bready than overtly malty, helps maintain the cleanliness. Does not present the level of florality found in the nose. None of the caramel, butterscotch stuff, seems crafted for session consumption.
4 out of 5

Nebraska Brewing Company
Brunette Nut Brown Ale
English Brown Ale
Nebraska
4.7%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Close to three fingers of deep tan foam, good density and very slow to dissolve, the lacing forms one big ring around the glass. Reddish brown mahogany hued liquid, good many particles floating throughout adding to general translucency, barely any visible bubbles. The nose is almost fully malts, loaded with cocoa, cola bean, vanilla, caramel and challah bread, has a glazed nuts quality as well, maybe apricot or fig fruit, nothing really hoppy nor anything inclined to bringing an erect posture to it, at the same time it’s clean and not cloying. Medium-bodied, has a creamy texture and softly persistent carbonation. Again, no doubt it’s the nuts, bread, caramel, chocolate and cocoa which rule the roost. But there is a lingering shadow of grassy hops as well as a welcome metallic touch. The finish is drier and has a leesy yeastiness to it. Overall, has a polished smoothness and good drinkability. This is just a style of beer which is not only out of vogue but probably never really had many fans in the US to begin with. It’s not like people who drink Newcastle are often looking to explore the style. Nothing against Newcastle, of course.
3 out of 5

Old Dominion Brewing Co.
Cherry Blossom Lager (Lager With Cherries & Natural Flavor)
Fruit/Vegetable Beer
Delaware
5.2%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.19
Very loose head, even though it starts off around two fingers in a matter of seconds it has dissipated down to the surface, plain white coloration, close to zero lacing and that’s being generous. Dark orange hued liquid, consistent throughout, closer to red than yellow, clear, there’s only a few bubbles which are distributed haphazardly. The nose is 100% cherry pie, like nothing else has room, honey, flaky dough, rose petals and cherries, cherries, cherries. Medium-bodied, the carbonation seems okay for what it going on which is, duh, basically chugging a jar of maraschino cherries. Has the doughy flakiness and honey plus that rich florality. And you might pose an argument for orange peel or chocolate. No hops, nothing here comes close to “biting.” It’s smooth and consistent and deserves note for very good drinkability. But this is basically a cherry beer and you really, really, really have to love cherries. For this imbiber, this is best utilized as a dessert beer where you believe cherry flavor is welcome.
3 out of 5

Modern Times Beer
Mega Fortunate Islands Hoppy-Tropical Double IPA (Special Release)
American Double/Imperial IPA
California
8.0%
22oz, Single
$9.99
Easily whipped up head, crests close to three fingers, lots of larger bubbles, plain white hue, the lacing is fairly broad with half sticking and the other half sliding down the glass sides. The liquid has a metallic orange rust color to it, it’s not quite squeaky clean, there’s superfine particles inside, the few bubbles visible move at a slow, measured pace towards the surface. The nose is very juicy, spotlighting pink grapefruit, tangerine citrus, pineapple, mango, papaya to kiwi fruit and pine sap, there’s also a touch of hard caramel candy, the wet leafy dankness no match for the exuberance of all the sweeter elements. Full-bodied, the sweetness brings with it a certain juicy wetness, however, overall it presents more of a chalky dryness on the tongue. More tart bite in the pineapple, nectarine, papaya fruit here, albeit more by way of caramel, cocoa and butterscotch. The pink grapefruit citrus more bitter and lacks staying power. Rose petals, pine sap, crackers and a vague pepperiness add dimension. The carbonation is slightly weak if expected to carry the general thickness. The herbaceousness active most as an aftertaste. You might need a sweet tooth to really dig this one.
4 out of 5

Pisgah Brewing Company
98.1 The River India Pale Ale
American IPA
North Carolina
6.9%
22oz, Single
$10.49
Crests past two fingers of pure white foam, multitude of bubble sizes creates an irregular surface, very good retention, the lacing is comprised of long, thin streaks which likewise cling tenaciously. Fairly dark gold to orange color, mild cloudiness to it but no visual sign of particles, no hue loss at the rims or glass bottom, few visible bubbles. Smells spicy and earthy, dank in a dry manner not so much wet and herbal, orange citrus with a hint of grapefruit, dark bread, not a strong fruit presence, white pit fruit and some apple. In the mouth it’s full-bodied, even dryer than the nose suggests, starts parching the mouth from the first sip. Peppery, minerally, toasty bread crusts, after some time you can discern cocoa and Ovaltine powder. The citrus stays quiet, however, more willingness to speak in the pineapple, peach, papaya fruit. Still, minimal juiciness and lots of sourness. The carbonation starts off with prickle but flattens in creaminess before you swallow. This one is mostly clean with an intentional dry dankness and a very erect posture in the mouth, freshness over sweetness.
3 out of 5

Sly Fox Brewing Company
Helles Golden Lager
Münich Helles Lager
Pennsylvania
4.9%
12oz, 6-Pack
$8.29
Bright white head which crests around one finger, very airy with no density so it sizzles off quickly, the lacing likewise is weak and wispy. Pure golden colored liquid, squeaky clean and transparent, the bubbles are numerous yet spread widely so that no beads get formed. Sweet nose of corn syrup, flowers, freshly pulped lemons, does have an earthy to metallic side as well, the fruitiness is consistent if not showy, apple, pear to apricot, has a sweet graininess as well. Medium-bodied, more of the same in the mouth as it stays user friendly throughout. The carbonation is active and lends prickle and helps to accentuate some of that metallic earthiness as well as a dry spiciness. Turns on the sweetness through the mid-palate with the citrus, honey and bread expanding. As it finishes you get more herbaceous and flowery notes which assists in creating mouth perfume and a clean denouement. It is balanced and does not indulge in exaggerating any of the constitutive elements. Refreshing rather than evanescent, could put down 2-3 in a sitting no problem.
4 out of 5

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Chugged in April 2016

Against The Grain Brewery
Rico Sauvin Double India Pale Ale (Brewed With Nelson Sauvin Hops)
American Double/Imperial IPA
Kentucky
8.2%
22oz, Single
$15.99
Yields around a finger of clear white foam, even surface excepting the pour point, good retention given the lower level it started at, the lacing is irregular, thick or thin in varying spots yet clings very well. The large amount of sediment floating in the liquid impairs the ability to see through it as well as darkens the yellow color into a deeper orange cast, the bubbles are widely dispersed if large and active. There’s an inert firmness to the nose, pursed lips, slowly you tease out some herbaceous funk, candied orange peel, rose petals and meager apricot to peach fruit, undercurrent of cocoa powder, in the end it is all subsumed under the funk and tarry earth elements. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied with the same taciturn solidity, even as the carbonation lends a steady prickle. Molasses, caramel make a brief showing then segues to orange to white grapefruit citrus and some old pine cones. Lightly bready, especially after a few more sips with the dryness kicking in, more yeasty on the back end. Peach, apricot, apple, white grape fruit with minimal sweetness. Cleaner here but no less herbaceous. There’s something admirable about its clarity of purpose but there’s not a lot of visceral pleasure to be had.
3 out of 5

Traquair House Brewery
Traquair Jacobite (Ale Flavored With Coriander)
Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy
Scotland
8.0%
11.2oz, Single
$5.99
Average pour barely yields a head, momentary surface coating that is comprised of larger bubbles and dissolves rapidly, as would be expected, zero lacing too. Completely opaque liquid with a brown to yellowish hue, looks like a glass of mud, every now and then you can see a big, fat bubble break the surface. The nose slowly unfolds to produce fig, prune, date fruit notes, nuts, caramel and toffee with lower dark chocolate, more medicinal than driven by baking spices, doesn’t really develop a roasty side until allowed to warm a good bit. The fuller body along with minimal carbonation makes it feel chubby in the mouth, sort of sluggish like awakening from a nap. Certainly on the sweeter side, here the lead element is the chocolate, caramel and molasses with a lesser role for the date, fig, raisin fruit. Nutty here too, the coriander is not that clearly evident. More licorice and vanilla to cola present, uncooked oatmeal. Whisper of peaty booziness at the end but overall it’s smooth and balanced. Ends with more chocolate and a fruit cake sweetness and texture. More flavorful when warmer but has higher drinkability while chilled.
4 out of 5

3 Stars Brewing Company
Citra Lemon Saison (Ale Brewed With Lemon Peel)
Saison/Farmhouse Ale
District of Columbia
5.2%
16oz, 4-Pack
$8.99
Easily exceeds two fingers of just off-white and airy foam, starting cratering immediately into peaks and valleys, not much in terms of lacing but what is there sticks decently. The liquid is a deep golden to amber color, of good clarity and most noted by the considerable quantity of tiny bubbles rising throughout the glass, consistent in strength over time. Very floral nose with supporting pepperiness, lemon peel to lemongrass notes, offers guava, mango, apricot fruit scents, coriander, the yeast comes off as dried and inactive rather than damp and doughy, no real enduring funkiness. Light-bodied, that same violets to lilacs led florality opposed here by a metallic earthiness and lighter leafy side. The lemon is duller here, same for the pepperiness, however, the yeastiness elevates and there’s a cola bean to ginger spice thing going on. The carbonation has some prickle to it. More basic apricot, apple, peach fruit here, loses some of its tropical feel as found in the nose. Tactful, if not muted, presentation overall, nothing to complain about, nothing to get all worked up for.
3 out of 5

Duyck, Brasserie
Jenlain Blonde
Bière de Garde
France
7.5%
25.4oz, Single
$7.29
The pour barely creates a thin surface dusting, you can not only see but hear it sizzle off rapidly, no lacing of note. Filmy orange to yellow hued liquid with an enormous quantity of very large bubbles, they almost seem to crowd each other out, translucent with no way to see through it. The nose is bready with a slightly metallic to sweaty edge, challah, honey, orange peel, the fruit is straightforward apple, pear, apricot to white grape, at times there’s notes of room temperature butter. Full-bodied, it’s gluey in texture and all those visible bubbles do not add up to much active carbonation. Faded flowers, dough to sweeter baked breads, the honey is close to oppressive. More spiced orange peel, lemons and cola bean notes, maybe coriander or ginger. Same array of apple, pear, peach and maybe melon fruit. On the back end comes a mild pepperiness as well as that metallic touch. Otherwise, not much for balance and the treacly sweetness and density gets to be a bit much. Extremely bready finish. It’s not that such a beer does not have its place but this one wore me out.
2 out of 5

Hoppin’ Frog Brewery
Gangster Frog I.P.A.
American IPA
Ohio
7.5%
22oz, Single
$9.75
Two to three fingers of frothy head, full range of bubble sizes makes for a mottled surface, light tan color, looks like an Orange Julius, despite airiness the retention is pretty good, the lacing is less streaks than random big splotches. Full-on cloudy murkiness to the liquid, orange amber hue, you can see the particulate floating throughout, difficult to see any bubbles. Sweet nose which aims at providing pine sap, orange reduction, honey, molasses and ripe peach, pineapple, mango fruit scents, all laid over a solid herbaceous dankness, the pepperiness and breadiness are not weak but do get pushed to the side. Full-bodied, the carbonation makes an effort but not really able to match the density of the raw material. Sweet here too, pink grapefruit and tangerine citrus, mocha powder, caramel, molasses, however, there is sufficient dryness to keep some semblance of balance. Apricot, nectarine, cantaloupe, pineapple, mango fruit without real tart bite. The herbaceousness provides most of that, nowhere near as dank as the nose. If you prefer pinpoint precision in an IPA this is not likely for you. A bomber is a good size for single consumption, would weigh you down after that.
4 out of 5

Kiuchi Brewery
Hitachino Nest Weizen
Hefeweizen
Japan
5.0%
11.2oz, Single
$4.99
The loose airiness of the head results in a swift evaporation from the just under one finger level, pure white and spotless, the lacing starts off broadly but lacks meaningful stickiness. Transparent liquid with a fine gauziness, faded yellow gold hue, the bubbles are widely dispersed and show good vigor in flowing upwards. The nose has a confectionery element to it, flower petals, bubblegum, yeast and raw pie dough, honey, banana and clove, the wheat does not enunciate all that clearly, ends with a burst of pepperiness. Medium to full-bodied, more the former but it tends to drag itself slothfully across the palate which adds volume. The carbonation does a good job of starting off prickly and then ending on a creamier note. Here too you get a mix of sweets and bitters, same bubblegum, honey, yeast, whipped cream to banana split flavors and then same cracked wheat, pepper, clove and herbaceous grasses. The fruit seems to alternate, at some moments peach or apricot, others cherry to berry. Has more of a funky aftertaste than clean freshness. Interesting for its slightly off-kilter character but nothing you’d pound all night.
3 out of 5

Wicked Weed Brewing
Pernicious India Pale Ale
American IPA
North Carolina
7.3%
11.2oz, 4-Pack
$9.25
Crests over two fingers of bone white foam of above average density, more like a couple of valleys than a truly dimpled surface, the lacing is wispy, however, there’s a lot of it around the glass sides. The liquid is more gauzy than cloudy, an extremely fine silt mixed throughout, very few visible bubbles. The nose has uncommon directness and force, not crude but it will have its say, laying on sour bread crusts, kosher salt, pine tar, fresh and dank herbal matter, some soapiness with sufficient tart white grapefruit to overshadow the pineapple, papaya, star fruit scents, sinewy extension in the nostrils. Medium-bodied, bitter attack with full bore leafiness and pepper, burnt bread notes. Noticeably oily mouth texture, slows down forward movement. Extracts all the bitterness possible from the white grapefruit and marshals the pine, coal tar, charcoal and peppercorn in support. The general dryness accentuated by the pinpoint prickle of the carbonation. The earthy funk seems reluctant to make sufficient room for the nectarine, pineapple, peach, papaya fruit, which perhaps as a result is devoid of tropical lushness. There’s a considerate sternness to it, like a dominatrix trying to make a first timer into a steady customer.
4 out of 5

Southern Pines Brewing Company
Moore IPA
American IPA
North Carolina
7.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.99
Thin bone white coating for a head, poor retention, the lacing is thin and long and does not fare much better in terms of stickiness. Strong filminess to the liquid, dull yellowish hue, there’s a great many bubbles inside, they move so slowly though you might think they were floaties instead. Nicely airy nose, from the first sniff you know they didn’t make this for dramatic effect, orange to tangerine citrus, some pepper and dark bread crusts, lowkey pine, the fruit scents as much apple or pear as apricot to peach, it’s just naturally pretty in an Ivory Soap girl kind of way. Light-bodied, the carbonation may be too strong for the overall heft, mineral water, orange peel, pine and a meadowy florality ensure it stays openly knit and accessible. There is a more grassy bite on the finish and this at times prematurely halts the flow of the peach, apricot, melon fruit. At no time do you sense the malts seeking the spotlight, however, there is a steady undercurrent of cocoa and malted milk balls, nothing quite as overt as butterscotch, etc. It’s tactful but not boring, probably sessionable even at a relatively higher ABV.
4 out of 5

Three Floyds Brewing Company
Lord Rear Admiral Extra Special Bitter Ale
Extra Special/Strong Bitter (ESB)
Indiana
6.4%
22oz, Single
$9.99
Tops off around two fingers of tan foam, mostly even surface, sizzles off at a slow and steady pace, the stickiness of the lacing is below average. Murky brownish-red to orange colored liquid, can’t see any particulate so not sure where the film is coming from, makes it hard to see what seems to be a bunch of active tiny bubbles. Molasses, caramelized brown sugar and cigar leaf and ash in the nose, a whole lot of doughy breadiness as well, the malts have a burnt quality, bittersweet dark chocolate, orange marmalade, mild dried fruit nature to the peach, apricot scents, overall it’s “big” in the sense of affectionate steamroller. Full-bodied, same basic approach in the mouth with the benefit of aggressive carbonation to relieve some of the sweetness. That said, the honey, molasses, caramel, pine sap and brioche styled breadiness rule this tribe. The very thickness of the liquid makes pounding it unlikely and in the same vein muffles the hops. Apricot, pear, mango fruit with, once more, a more dried fruit than fresh juice nature. It’s pretty much a meal unto itself and perhaps best utilized as a post-dinner/dessert relaxer.
4 out of 5

Foothills Brewing
Jade IPA
American IPA
North Carolina
7.4%
12oz, 6-Pack
$13.75
Agitated two finger head with a substantial amount of larger bubbles dimpling the surface, close to pure white, while the lacing is wispy but sticks tenaciously. Slight filminess to the yellow-orange hue, falls short of copper, very few bubbles visible. The nose leaps out of the glass at you with tangerine, orange, lime citrus, rose water, pumpernickel bread, kosher salt, keenly edged pineapple, papaya, nectarine passion fruit scents, the earthy and leafy notes are extremely clean. Medium-bodied, the carbonation provides a consistent prickle and brings needed dryness to balance out that bodacious tangerine, lime, pink grapefruit citrus and sweeter pine and floral notes. Caramel and peppercorn both take hold in the mid-palate, again, the lemongrass-led leafiness is fresh and biting. The dark breadiness and saline nuances help anchor the finish and extend palate presence. Papaya, pineapple, mango, nectarine fruit steady and create a nice retronasal lift. The malts support without trying to take a leading role. If you like a good amount of textural tingle to your IPA this will hit the right notes for you.
5 out of 5

Driftwood Brewery
Fat Tug IPA
American IPA
Canada
7.0%
22oz, Single
$8.75
A standard pour action yields half a pint glass of foam, gigantic head, soufflé styled airiness, eggshell white hue, hilly surface, retention is excellent, once there’s any head space for lacing to appear it forms randomly spread out dots rather than streaks, like tiny clouds on a sun streaked day. Fully hazy liquid, opaque with an orange base that fades to yellow near the glass bottom or surface, close to no visible bubbles. The nose has a relaxed fullness to it, heavy on the malts with cocoa, milk balls, scone to breakfast danish flake breadiness, even the pine seems friendly, a little more tingle from the mixed white citrus, the fruit slightly reduced to an apricot or peach paste, sugary pineapple, the herbaceous element seems more clean than dank. Full-bodied, creamy and pushes out against either cheek, here the carbonation is a soft, steady pressure. Some molasses and caramel mixed in with the chocolate malt base, the breadiness a greater factor here. Develops more sour orange to tangerine than grapefruit citrus, the pine paired with greater earthiness. Again, though, the beer is clean and never approaches astringent dryness. Apricot, peach, cantaloupe, pear fruit of understated length. Deserves merit for drinkability as well as not showing off.
4 out of 5

Modern Times Beer
City Of The Sun
American IPA
California
7.6%
16oz, Single
$2.79
Frothy and openly knit head, maybe a finger’s height, off-white with average retention, the surface dimples quite a bit, the lacing is broad but slides slowly down the glass, not much stick. Transparent and shiny orange amber color, almost metallic in look, there’s a superfine silt throughout, the bubbles are larger and interspersed widely. The nose is very floral and citrusy at first before settling into more resonant pretzel dough, salt and pepper, and wet earthy funk, finishes with cocoa, malt and hard toffee candy notes. Medium to full-bodied, tends to sag in the mouth, this in spite of highly prickly and scrubbing carbonation. The pink grapefruit, orange to lemon citrus more vibrant and sappy like juice drying between your fingers. The pepperiness met by dried pine sap, damp leafy matter, not afraid to bring the funk. The fruit comes off as pureed together, a blend of papaya, nectarine, pineapple, peach and apple, not quite so biting as to earn the “tropical” designation. As in the nose the malts tend to be most present at the end as a tentative salve to the wound. Its high level of dryness tends to adhere it to the tongue, reducing a sense of palate flow. Nice enough, not sure worth revisiting.
3 out of 5

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Chugged in March 2016

Wicked Weed Brewing
Oblivion (Sour Red Ale Aged In Wine Barrels With Blackberries And Dates)
American Wild Ale
North Carolina
8.7%
16.9oz, Single
$14.99
Little under two fingers of airy foam, deep tan color, sizzles down to the surface at a rapid clip, the lacing is more like random splotches than streaks, fare better in lasting than the head per se. Clear brown liquid with an orange cast, the bubbles are tiny and widely spread but show good activity. The nose betrays a seriously sour vinous quality, close to vinegar, needs the vanilla, caramel, coconut, toasted wood notes for counterbalance, you get the blackberries more than the dates, tart white citrus, sour lactic accents too, the main elements are so intense that it verges on caricatural and there’s no room for subtle nuance. Medium-bodied, here too it goes for the “this one goes to 11” approach and the sourness is unrelenting. Funky underbrush and more tart lemon citrus, the so-so carbonation cannot prevent it from squeezing the tongue. The blackberry met by cherry but, again, little by way of dried fruits. The bite from the barrel puts it over the top, roasty as even the butterscotch, caramel notes struggle to seem sweet. Leaves a leafy aftertaste behind. Kind of suspect the barrel treatment through the balance off.
3 out of 5

Smuttynose Brewing Company
Durty Mud Season Hoppy Brown Ale
American Brown Ale
New Hampshire
8.4%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Two fingers of light brown foam lift upwards into an even surface, good density helps retention, likewise it displays noticeably thick and long lacing. The liquid is opaque and a deep brown, can’t say it’s cloudy per se but it also isn’t clear, a few scattered tiny bubbles can be seen within. At first the nose is like someone smushed a chocolate cake in your face, lots of roast and charred coffee too, over time you normalize into pine sap, orange zest and wet leafy matter, any fruit comes off as muddled, a mix of cherry, apricot or apple fruit, overall has broad pungency. Medium to full-bodied with a creamy mouth feel, all that chocolaty and caramelly goodness meets with even bigger pine and citrus here, a real nice mano-a-mano event. The coffee aspect evokes an acidic nature and naturally segues into earthiness. Hoppy sting at the finish. Here the slight cola, licorice character tilts the fruit towards darker cherry, berry. Sweet and bitter tango really well and makes for a very smooth drinking experience. Has some alcoholic kick but not so as to detract from flavor intensity or focus.
5 out of 5

Captain Lawrence Brewing Company
Hopsomniac IPA (India Pale Ale Brewed With Coffee)
American IPA
New York
7.6%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.99
Solid two fingers of cream white foam, large amount of bigger bubbles interspersed across the surface, retention is slightly below average, albeit the lacing forms nicely thick streaks which stick well. Dark and super hazy liquid, the particulate is extremely fine and clouds the whole glass, brownish orange hue, not many bubbles visible. The nose is heavily influenced by roasted coffee, lots of toast and some cocoa accents, some clean piney hops and fresh leafiness, however, it is marked by an absence of much beyond the coffee, no fruit or even citrus really. Medium-bodied, creamy with a fluffy carbonation, not very different on the palate with the coffee hogging the whole stage. Pine, light grapefruit, peach or apricot pits, a fistful of unprocessed grains. Never sweet and conversely the mouth doesn’t get too dry or tacky. Were this a wine, the middle would be what’s called “hollow.” Even the coffee flavors have mostly disappeared by the finish. Nothing which compels you to consider revisiting it.
2 out of 5

Big Muddy Brewing
Vanilla Stout (Stout Brewed With Natural Flavor)
Milk/Sweet Stout
Illinois
6.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.99
Pours a solid two finger head of light tan foam, on the denser side although larger bubbles pop like fireworks across the surface, only a few streaks of lacing, thick at first but minimal stick. Brownish liquid with a hint of orange, would be clear were it not for the large amount of particulate floating around inside, the carbonation is tiny and not strong enough to form beads. The nose is surprisingly quiet but there’s big time vanilla on display, milder roasted cocoa, actually seems to have a hoppier spine than over-reliance on malty sweetness, nutty in a creamy way, not a lot of staying power. Full-bodied, fleshy and carbonated to a state of soft creaminess, basically this comes off like a root beer float. Vanilla, cola bean, hazelnut, still lurking in the background is a piney hoppiness. It’s smooth and glides through the palate, its main drawback is how the flavors peter out before the finish. No strength in the lactose, milky element, which is kind of key for a milk stout. Any roast is short-lived at best. This could easily be a perfectly reasonable summertime stout, supported by its confectionery, soft drink sweetness.
2 out of 5

Wicked Weed Brewing
Black Angel (Black Sour Ale Aged On Tart Cherries In Bourbon Barrels)
American Wild Ale
North Carolina
7.2%
16.9oz
Single, $14.49
Little over a finger of loose and large bubbled brown foam, very dimpled surface, the retention is not great but likely better than expected and for the type of beer, the lacing is weak. The liquid is a fully opaque brown color that is closer to black than to any orange or yellow, every once in awhile you can see a bubble or two inside the glass. The barrels are evident in the nose, plenty of butterscotch, caramel and milk chocolate, cinnamon and nutmeg too, the cherry comes through cleanly and more to the red than black end of the spectrum, maybe some raspberry, vinous unto vinegary at times. Medium-bodied, the sourness gives it life in place of carbonation, the latter lackluster. While tart, the cherry fruit is sweet enough to have a maraschino cherry feel, concentrated. More boozy here with a roasted edge to that butterscotch and caramel, toasted coconut flakes too. Yeasty and peppery, the acids dry out the finish leading to a decent sized pucker, pleasingly volatile. Deserves credit for the sheer depth and intensity of the primary flavors but comes up short when it comes to complex breadth. Good to sip with dessert or cheeses.
3 out of 5

Avery Brewing Company
Liliko‘i Kepolo (Belgian-Style White Ale Brewed With Spices & Passion Fruit Added)
Witbier
Colorado
5.4%
12oz, 4-Pack
$11.99
Thin dusting of pure white foam across the surface with close to no retention, in turn the lacing is string thin and hardly sticks. The liquid is a murky and fully opaque yellow color with some orange at the core, hard to see any bubbles through the fog. The passion fruit comprises most of the nose, makes it difficult to register any else, that noted there’s glimmers of white grapefruit, unprocessed grains, and a touch of clove, can’t vouch for anything beyond that. Full-bodied and sappy, like fruit puree was poured into the glass. Negligible carbonation albeit some lift at the end. The passion fruit, star fruit and papaya flavors are as sweet as sour, no real tropical zing, almost evokes prunes at times. The clove is weaker here, more peppery, some breadiness and cocoa like maltiness. The white grapefruit to lemon citrus more shadowy, not a strong presence. The passion fruit is tasty for sure but it tastes more like an alcoholic fruit drink than an adulterated beer. Which is not a bad thing if one wants to drink an alcoholic fruit drink.
3 out of 5

Boulevard Brewing Co./Cigar City Brewing
Collaboration No. 5 Tropical Pale Ale (Smokestack Series) (Malt Beverage Brewed With Natural Flavors)
American Pale Ale
Missouri
7.2%
12oz, Single
$3.19
Modest finger’s worth of evenly surfaced off-white foam, while not deep takes its time to dissipate, does not leave a lot of lacing behind yet thick clumps do form here and there. The liquid is not cloudy per se but the large amount of particulate floating inside definitely obscures vision, deep burnt orange color that verges on reddish tones at times, the bubbles form active beads throughout. The nose is relaxed and gregarious, no greenness nor real bite to it, honey, ripe oranges and pink grapefruits, even the pineapple scents are sweet, these along with peach, kumquat, kiwi scents, not getting a great deal of passion fruit, very mild touch of raw pie dough at the end. Medium-bodied, softly cascades over the palate, the carbonation tickles and massages things into the tongue. More of a white citrus, grapefruit to lemon, thing which tartens it up. Mango, peach, pineapple and at moments banana, the fruit blended into a choral whole, the honey recedes here in favor of pine and some pepperiness. The dough to yeast element continues to keep things mellow and smooth. Leaves a metallic residue behind. Leaves you feeling it was capable of more than what was delivered.
3 out of 5

Smog City Brewing Company
Sabre-Toothed Squirrel American Amber Ale
American Amber/Red Ale
California
7.0%
16.9oz, Single
$5.49
Offers a finger’s worth of looser, larger bubbles for a head, tan color, tends to form separate islands before dissolving, the lacing is just about nonexistent. Clean reddish brown hued liquid, only a few randomly arrayed bubbles visible, nice shine to it. Nutty, caramel and molasses dominated nose, strong pine sap element, apricot paste and dried pineapple, behind all this lurks some wimpy dank hops, the white citrus comes off as muted. Medium-bodied, the carbonation is weak which leaves it flatfooted on the palate, sort of plops in there without doing much. Breadier here, nuts less prominent, but no lack of caramel, toffee going on. The fruit component is muddied, sometimes peach or apricot, sometimes apple or pear, no tropical bite. As it spends time on the tongue you get more pine and orange citrus yet neither achieves prominence. Hard to tell if it smoothes out through the finish or just fades off but there’s no cloying sweetness left so default is clean enough. Nothing here suggests a beer which merits revisiting.
2 out of 5

Founders Brewing Company
Azacca India Pale Ale
American IPA
Michigan
7.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.39
Finger worth of just off-white foam, wavy surface, the lacing forms sheets which glide slowly away, given where it starts the retention is plus level. Light gauzy quality to the liquid due to a fine silt present throughout, the orange color closer to brown at the core and yellow along the rims, the bubbles tend to aggregate along the glass sides. Nice thrust and penetration to the nose, led by a green herbaceousness, black pepper, flowers, mineral water and, if it can be called such, a fresh dankness, odd in that it does not seem devoid of fruit scents but it is very hard to parse anything out specifically, tends to tighten up as it dissolves. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied, dry and tacky yet possessed of a certain grinding fluidity. Sour orange to lemon citrus brightens it and joins with a light honeyed touch to temper the excesses of the leafy greenness. Dried yeast, lees to pine resin anchor it firmly. Again, hard to find specificity in the fruit, apricot or apple or pear. There’s a muscularity to the carbonation, contributes to its blunt feel. It feels like it turns its head so you kiss its cheek instead of its lips.
3 out of 5

21st Amendment Brewery
Toaster Pastry India Style Red Ale
American Amber/Red Ale
California
7.6%
16oz, Single
$3.99
Massive head, easy three fingers plus, tan color, the surface pocked by craters, retention is excellent, the lacing has average thickness and could stick better. The liquid is an orange-brown hue, dark and translucent without getting filmy, hard to see the bubbles but they are there and show activity. The nose starts off with a piney, floral freshness yet is truly anchored in orange reduction, honey, caramel and pie crust flakes, the peach, nectarine, pineapple fruit scents muted, more earthy than herbaceous, a few accents of tar of cigarette ash, lacks staying power in the nostrils. Full-bodied, flattens on the tongue, the carbonation not doing much to provide lift although there is a fizziness through the finish. The pine sap, orange juice, and floral musk add to the gluey texture. The biscuit, dough element gives it additional volume and leaves one unsure if it adds to sweetness or savoriness. Molasses and caramel are there without dominance. If you allow yourself to be suggestible you may get the advertised strawberry flavors but mostly it’s peach, yellow apple, apricot and an intimation of pineapple. There’s a lot of flavor packed in there, however, its sheer density and weight diminish the drinkability.
3 out of 5

New Paltz Brewing Company
Rauchbier
Rauchbier
New York
5.1%
22oz, Single
$9.99
Sizzles as it foams up close to three fingers of very airy, agitated off-white foam, reduces down to a solid surface coating yet with close to zero lacing, no stickiness at all. Bright orange rust to copper color, spotless and shiny, filled with hyperactive bubbles from side to side. The nose is pungently smoky, not in acrid “something is burning” manner but more like a slow roast plus it pulls back enough to display peach, apricot, apple fruit scents and crackers, baked pie dough, a few tar notes, smells as pure and clean as it looks. Medium-bodied, not soft but all that carbonation gives it a creaminess which helps contrast the more focused and direct smokiness. The latter is on the sweet side and has more of a delicate lift than brute power. Here too the fruitiness shines through, plenty of apricot, apple, white grape flavor. Grains and breadiness in support, you get charcoal, tar and quinine at the end, especially retronasally. While it strikes one as sweeter than the norm for the beer category, all together comes off as balanced and integrated, high level of drinkability for a smoked beer.
5 out of 5

Old Dominion Brewing Co.
Double D Double IPA
American Double/Imperial IPA
Delaware
9.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.19
Finger plus of creamy off-white color, mixed bubble set with divots across the surface, retention is just above average, the lacing is broad and sticks well if not exceptionally. Clean, clear coppery color with widely dispersed bubbles of larger size, shines well in the glass. Fresh, if at times hollow, nose of wet leafy matter, dried pine sap, tarry earth, black tea, mandarin oranges and jasmine, the pineapple, apple, pear to apricot fruit guileless and of few words. Light to medium-bodied with a creamy texture which helps it flow with relative ease, the carbonation more of a subtle churn than prickle. Does not really emphasize any specific element, seems intent on blending it all into a whole. Orange and minor pink grapefruit, flowers, pine breeze and mineral water, stays fresh rather than indulge in anything beyond a patina of breadiness, caramel and brown sugar, not dry yet nowhere near “sweet” either. The peach, apricot, apple fruit clean and not tropical. There is a bitter and unbalanced quality to the finish which stands out because of how integrated and unassuming it was beforehand. You’d run out of conversation halfway through dinner if sat next to it.
3 out of 5

Sly Fox Brewing Company
Odyssey Imperial IPA
American Double/Imperial IPA
Pennsylvania
8.4%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.49
Generous two finger head, frothy with a great many larger bubbles creating an uneven surface, the lacing is wispy but is spread all around the glass. The liquid is a darker amber orange, this aided by the large amount of particulate floating about, strong quantity of smaller bubbles aggressively pushing upwards. The nose at first features a peppery salinity as well as freshly mown grass, however, it moves over to honey, grapefruit reduction and danker tar, muddy earth and black tea leaf notes, a bit too tightly wound to offer anything but minimal pineapple, papaya, star fruit scents. Full-bodied, dry with a good deal of extract which glues it to the palate. Honey, molasses and caramel exert themselves to bring sweetness to the proceedings, cocoa and orange extract too. More of a core here to the apricot, nectarine, pineapple fruit. Very piney and peppery, with its high level of bitter herbaceousness it is likely trying to compensate for the malts. Anyway, for all that is going on it finishes on the short side, the carbonation having fluffed up the start but not able to assist by the end. It’s a solid, not spectacular, brew that goes for the sledgehammer approach.
3 out of 5

Hop Concept, The
Hull Melon & Blanc India Pale Ale
American IPA
California
8.0%
22oz, Single
$7.99
Healthy two finger plus head, mottled and uneven surface, almost cratered from the froth, eggshell white coloration, the lacing is thin but quite long and unbroken. The liquid has a light haze to it, some sediment there, a coppery orange color, the visible bubbles are fat and set widely throughout the glass. The nose features wet herbaceous matter, pulped blood oranges and white grapefruits, peppercorns, black tar, the melon peeks through softly and you mostly get pineapple, papaya, peach fruit scents, dissolves to leave a piney residue behind in the nostrils. Medium-bodied, creamy body and would feel more so were it not for the arch dryness and bitter bite it presents. More pine, black tea leaf and pepper here, tangy herbaceousness and earthiness, the fruit falls off in the mouth, starts off with melon and then barely supplements that with pear, apple, peach. Never develops a softer side, no real florality nor sweeter citrusy aspects. It does deserve credit for the clarity of its message, decisively crafted. Yet, does wear you down by the end of the bomber.
3 out of 5

Keegan Ales
Bourbon Aged Mother’s Milk (Milk Stout Aged In Bourbon Barrels) (Collaboration With Widow Jane Distillery)
Milk/Sweet Stout
New York
25.4oz, Single
$17.29
The pour barely creates a head at all, thin surface dusting of tan coloration, zero lacing. The liquid oddly shows a lot of bubbles clinging to the glass sides and rising bubbles near the surface, otherwise it’s a murky, sort of unfiltered black rather than brown, yellowish rims. Medium-bodied, very flat mouth feel, inert and dull. The flavors are mainly cocoa, milk chocolate and a hint of butterscotch, really not getting much bourbon barrel influence at all. Milky and bready like a scone, more of a charcoal char than pungent smokiness. Turns nutty through the finish. In terms of texture the carbonation is close to nonexistent, the feel is smooth in general and only slightly woody. The finish is truncated and weak. Does not give you much to write about.
2 out of 5

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Chugged in February 2016

Free Will Brewing Company
Key Lime Sour (Lambic-Inspired Ale With Key Limes Added) (2015)
Lambic-Fruit
Pennsylvania
4.9%
16.9oz, Single
$10.99
Meager half a finger head that disappears rapidly, bone white when it’s there, close to no lacing. Crystal clear yellow gold color, bright and shiny with broadly dispersed and tiny bubbles. The nose has a keen edge to it and the vast majority of the experience is of super sour limes to the point where you wonder if you are sniffing straight up lime juice, there is a volatile aspect to it, perhaps at times you might get a light yeastiness or vanilla, beeswax, smells like it could easily referment. In the mouth it’s light-bodied, crisp and direct, the carbonation has a tight prickle to it and helps to accentuate the arch sourness, which really needs no assistance. Yeast, lees, raw pie dough and vanilla and maybe cinnamon. At times you get cola bean which gives it a soft drink demeanor. Sweaty funkiness attempts to assert itself but must yield to the broad scope of the lime citrus. Definitely a one trick pony and while it seems like an admirable experiment it fatigues your palate quickly.
2 out of 5

Three Floyds Brewing Company
Space Station Middle Finger American Pale Ale
American Pale Ale
Indiana
6.0%
22oz, Single
$9.99
The pour easily yields two plus fingers of agitated eggshell white foam, the surface is punctuated by islands of larger bubbles, retention is strong and the lacing broad and sticks for some time. The liquid is a hazy amber orange, more translucent than near to opaque, a few super-miniscule bubbles are visible. The nose has a concentrated, if not reduced, feel to it, dank herbal funk, corn syrup, caramel, butterscotch, tangerines, tar resin, peppercorns, maybe some light breadiness by way of pastry or scone, not getting any specific, distinct fruit scents, overall it has a steamrolling effect in the nostrils and has presence after the scents have mostly vacated. In the mouth it’s full-bodied, carrying more of that monolithic approach, the carbonation is arguably weak, adds more smooth creaminess than anything else. Most prevalent factor remains the wet forest floor like leafy qualities, tar, earth and pine sap, just tastes vegetal. More mixed citrus here and slightly more delineated white pit fruit. Floral with more of a tea leaf than potpourri character. The butterscotch drops back a notch. A little too “big” for casual pounding but could anyone really expect that here?
3 out of 5

Three Floyds Brewing Company
Alpha Klaus Christmas Porter
American Porter
Indiana
6.0%
22oz, Single
$9.99
Generous three finger head, very dark brown in color with a high number of larger bubbles which continuously pop across the surface, the retention is quite respectable and the lacing forms wide and lengthy splotches with serious stickiness. Maybe a hint of brown in the otherwise black and opaque liquid, near the glass sides you see active tiny bubbles rise upwards. Dark chocolate and a heavy roast dominate the nose, vanilla, coconut flakes, Brazil nuts, some campfire smoke which complements the wet wood and grass notes, curious amount of white grape and peach among the plum, cherry fruit scents, ends with something along the lines of cayenne pepper. In the mouth it is medium-bodied with carbonation that is more creamy than prickly, the roast and toast set the tone early and evoke bitter chocolate, coffee and wood ember notes. There is a cola bean and vanilla element, close to licorice, gets more piney as it finishes. At the same time the herbal qualities linger most at the end, having it veer oddly into bitter territory. Any fruit flavors are dark in taste and otherwise indistinct. Again, there is a hot pepper spiciness going on. Beguiling and not over the top so it remains both complex and drinkable.
5 out of 5

Central Waters Brewing Co.
HHG APA (Americana Pale Ale)
American Pale Ale
Wisconsin
5.3%
22oz, Single
$5.69
Finger plus of bright white foam, full mix of bubble sizes with an irregular surface, the lacing is a little wispy but evenly spread across the glass. Hazy orange copper color that fades to yellow at the rims, normal amount of visible bubbles. The nose features sweet citrus, tangerine to pink grapefruit, just baked pie dough, slight herbal funk, pine, the fruit appears to have faded away at this juncture so it is likely not as freshly juicy as right out of the gate. Medium-bodied, the carbonation helps it spread wide during the mouth entry and as this trails off so does a lot of the flavor. That said, it was likely intended to have a more mineral water, earth and grassy bite than to be a fruit bomb. Mango, peach, apricot echoes through the finish, the orange citrus not as prominent as the nose suggests. Juniper, thyme and then something closer to oregano, offers more by way of garden herbs and baking spices. Any breadiness resides in the background, actually might want of deeper maltiness. Clean and of good plus drinkability and generally affable demeanor.
3 out of 5

Union Craft Brewing
Balt Altbier
Altbier
Maryland
5.6%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.99
Unremarkable head, a little under a finger of light tan foam which sizzles off at a rapid clip, the lacing has close to no stickiness. The liquid is a mildly gauzy brown that gets closer to yellow than orange, credibly strong number of bubbles dispersed throughout. The nose has a briskly stiffening amount of bread and yeast, peppery too with more herbaceousness than expected as well, cola, milk chocolate and grilled nut accents bring needed smoothness, apricot, peach and pear fruit in moderation, not dominated by its sweeter elements, tactful staying power in the nostrils, not overpowering in any manner. Medium-bodied, much more going on in the mouth in terms of cocoa, mocha, toffee with a roasted edge as well. Mineral water, quinine and sour breads bring it back towards balance and becomes increasingly grassy and tarry towards the end, almost mushroomy. The carbonation is not strong but lends a consistent prickle. Less fruit presence here, vague apricot or cherry. Sure, it’s a little muddled and might lack fresh directness but it has sufficient flavor and softness to make it a non-critical pleasure choice.
4 out of 5

Rock Art Brewery
Limited Access Double IPA
American Double/Imperial IPA
Vermont
7.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.49
Basic finger deep head, just off-white, mix of bubble sizes but retains density and retention, the lacing is more rounder and random splotches than longer streaks. Unusual amount of sediment and outright chunks floating throughout the liquid, causes the orange-yellow liquid to become fully opaque, in spite of this you can easily see the activity in the carbonation bubbles. Large-scaled nose, on the sweeter side with pink grapefruit, tangelo citrus, pine sap and wet tea leaves, the fruit too is expressive, pineapple, nectarine, mango and apricot, nothing especially leafy nor grassy about it, not inclined to slash about. Full-bodied, on the clingy, sappy side, glues itself to your cheeks. The carbonated prickle helps create a sense of motion. Fruit forward with emphasized apricot, peach, papaya, guava flavors, minimal tartness. In turn the pink grapefruit citrus sweet if not outright sugary. Pine, cocoa, challah bread and nougat keep the sweetness on parade. At the last second it does come up with a bitter twist so the finish is semi-clean. Has good drinkability and just needs to have a more open knit to approach a more superlative status.
4 out of 5

Ecliptic Brewing
Spica Pilsner
Keller Bier/Zwickel Bier
Oregon
5.5%
22oz, Single
$5.99
Gives up a lively, two finger plus head of decently dense white foam, surface becomes mottled as it dissolves, the lacing is wispy at best, however, general retention is good. Clear golden yellow color to the liquid, bright with a random smattering of bubbles. The nose offers up sweet grains and more sourdough style bread notes, saline and sweeter white citrus pulp, the green grassiness balanced out by corn syrup like accents, really seems to strive to find a counterpart for each specific element. In the mouth it is medium-bodied with a big initial bite, salty and leafy and bitter grains, leaves a dry residue on the mouth roof. After a few sips you start to tease out sweeter, smoother malts and a mild floral lift. There’s not much fruit but what’s there is apricot, peach, golden apple. Finishes with increasing intensity to the bitterness and a salt and pepper flourish. The herbaceousness is also pronounced and really needs those malts to work overtime to keep the palate from getting bruised. It is deceptive in its scale, much bigger and more intense than at first glance. Quite enjoyable, albeit one glass is more than enough.
4 out of 5

Wicked Weed Brewing
Amorous (Massively Dry-Hopped American Sour Ale)
American Wild Ale
North Carolina
7.0%
16.9oz, Single
$13.99
Yields little more than thin dusting of foam across the surface, snow white, any lacing is super-thin and snakes around the glass. The liquid is a clear coppery orange with a curiously large number of widely dispersed bubbles throughout, pretty in spite of the lack of head. Strong pungency to the nose, vinous in nature, the sourness clearly its calling card, evoking white grape, cherry, cranberry scents and lemon, there is a fresh (not dank) funkiness to it of manure, tilled earth, wet fallen leaves, and a lesser degree of tar and matchstick. Medium-bodied, the carbonation gives it a big frothiness upon mouth entry and lifts it sufficiently off the palate so that the sourness does not become overbearing. Lemon and some lime citrus is extremely tart, here you get pineapple, kiwi and green apple alongside the cherry fruit flavors. Cleaner here with less merde and more hay, wheat germ, and fallen tree wood, loses a lot of the “sous bois” qualities of the nose. Some toasty and yeasty notes, particularly as it finishes. Texturally, the sourness numbs your tongue so that by the time you are close to finishing the bottle you feel like you are registering fewer nuances. Needs to be sipped slowly over time or served with food to keep it fresh on the palate.
4 out of 5

21st Amendment Brewery
Fireside Chat Winter Spiced Ale (Ale With Spices Added)
Winter Warmer
California
7.9%
12oz, Single
$1.69
Produces a finger of dark tan foam, fairly even surface with bigger bubbles aggregated around the point of pour, moderate retention, the lacing is slightly weak. The liquid is a fairly clear deep brown hue, fades to a yellowish cast at the edges, plenty of active bubbles visible. The nose serves up caramel, cocoa, mocha, cinnamon and nutmeg, the abiding chocolaty qualities have a good roast to them, mix of apricot, cherry, apple fruit, hint of coal or earthy ash but pretty much sticks to the sweet side of things. Light-bodied, starts off with broader palate coverage and then all but totally fades away by the finish. Before that occurs one may discern stronger coffee and roast notes here, bittersweet dark chocolate, toffee, cola bean and pie crust notes. The flavors lack the intensity to create enduring sweetness. The carbonation adds prickle but it comes off as hardening rather than refreshing. There’s no great flaws on display, however, overall it lacks depth in all the areas which might have it excel.
2 out of 5

New Glarus Brewing Company
Serendipity (Happy Accident Fruit Ale) (Ale Brewed With Cherries, Apples, Cranberries)
Fruit/Vegetable Beer
Wisconsin
4.0%
25.4oz, Single
$10.49
Pours a nice big two finger plus head of dark tan color, good density with a swirl of bigger bubbles at the point of pour, retention is decent, the lacing is meager but what’s there is thick and sticks okay. Cherry wood colored liquid, clear if dark, high sheen to it, hardly any visible bubbles. The nose is pure pie, all cherry, apricot, apple scents with honey glazed crust and a strong accompanying floral mist, at times there is a vinous astringency, however the concentration of the sweet fruit wins out. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied with more foaming action and persistent carbonation than expected. Mixes in orange zest and cinnamon to nutmeg to that base of cherry, cranberry, apple flavors, the fruit ripe yet with snap and zestiness. The yeastiness remains but less of the honeyed aspect. This is just pure refreshment, if you find the fruit flavors agreeable, at 4% you can down a 750ML bottle in record time. Nothing more to say, it’s not a brew for analysis but for simple enjoyment.
5 out of 5

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Chugged in January 2016

Three Floyds Brewing Company
Broo Doo Harvest Ale
American IPA
Indiana
7.0%
22oz, Single
$9.99
Modest finger deep head, the bubbles are large and loose so there is swift evaporation, just off-white color, the lacing is fat yet without strong stickiness. Warmly opaque liquid, full orange color that is not quite amber, plenty of yellow around the rims and glass bottom, sizable amount of larger bubbles spread throughout. Wet pine needles, on the dank side, lots of herbal and earthy matter, some cocoa and caramel but a surprising lack of citrus scents as well as muddled pineapple, peach, mango fruit, as a result hits your nostrils like a blunt object. Full-bodied, the carbonation gives it some lift and separation during the mouth entry but it quickly becomes like getting stuck in a beanbag chair. Honey, molasses and caramel add flavor more than actual sweetness. The orange, pink grapefruit citrus gains breadth in the mid-palate and helps the pineapple, apricot, peach fruit get some spring in its step. The grassiness and toasted bread crusts lends bite and a slightly more erect posture at the end, peppery too. Still, more resinous than drying or bitter with a malty, buttery blanket to tuck you in. The heaviness fatigues the palate.
3 out of 5

Pisgah Brewing Company
Rouge (Bottle Conditioned Sour Brown Ale Aged In Oak Casks With Cherries Added)
American Wild Ale
North Carolina
9.1%
25.4oz, Single
$19.99
An average pour yields a big two to three finger head, very airy and light so it dissipates with quickness and a crackle, no stick to the lacing. Cloudy reddish brown hued liquid, plenty of visible bubbles rising swiftly towards the surface. The nose loaded with those sour cherries, the oak comes through as well, has an edgily vinous volatility to it, has a grassy as well as mildly metallic side to it, does not evolve much as it warms but does gain in intensity. Medium-bodied, fluffs up from the carbonation during the mouth entry, however, its acidic sourness trumps this without breaking a sweat. Grapey unto vinegar, the alcohol is perceptible and contributes to its “wildness.” The oak has minimal creaminess, more along the lines of American oak dill flavoring. Might be a little caramel or toffee under all those cherries but that’s just a guess. Monomaniacal, this is one relentless brew which just about has to be washed out of your mouth in order to stop tasting it. Lovers of sour beers should seek it out, the outsized cherry flavor makes it somewhat accessible to a newbie.
5 out of 5

Switchback Brewing Co.
Bohemian Pilsner
German Pilsener
Vermont
5.2%
22oz, Single
$5.29
The head crests around two fingers, populated by a great many larger bubbles, creating a mottled surface, bleached white color, not a lot of lacing but what is there sticks decently enough. Basic pure golden color to the liquid, summery haze to it, widely dispersed bubbles, no beads. While the nose has a peppery and saline aspect, its best attribute is its sweetness with biscuit and croissant flakes, honey and corn syrup, undercurrent of peach or apricot white pit fruit, dissolves with a floral lift and overall freshness. Medium-bodied, has some crispness but is mostly on the round and softer side, fills the mouth rather than prickles it. More of that syrupy sweetness and sweet graininess, does not quite coalesce into baked goods here. Fruity, hint of mineral water and retains some of the pepperiness. The carbonation is soft and creates added mouth expansion. Has no overt flaws and while somewhat heavier than expected stays clean enough. Good drinkability and had no problem putting back a bomber in no time.
3 out of 5

Three Floyds Brewing Company
War Mullet Double India Pale Ale
American Double/Imperial IPA
Indiana
8.1%
22oz, Single
$11.99
Yields a finger’s worth of off white foam, fairly dense and the retention in notable, the lacing is on the wispy side though. The liquid is fully opaque and murky, can’t really see any sediment in the dark orange color, yellows some along the rims, a few trace bubbles are visible. Heavy and close to reduced nose, orange marmalade, pine sap, honey, molasses, apricot paste, possesses an equally strong herbaceous, dank funk, peppery, like a blow to the back of the head. Full-bodied, resinous mouth feel with low carbonation which is more fluffy than anything. Here that herbaceous stank beats the orange, pink grapefruit citrus to the punch, albeit not to diminish the strength of the latter. The pineapple, peach, mango fruit sloth-like in its progression through the palate. More breadiness here to pair with those honeyed notes. The piney and floral elements relieve some weight as it finishes. The overall flavor profile is there and one has to assume it was not positioned as a “refreshing” style of DIPA, however, this is a bomber to share as finishing a pint becomes wearisome.
3 out of 5

Atlas Brew Works
Rowdy (Hop-Forward Rye Ale)
Rye Beer
District of Columbia
6.2%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.99
Solid two finger head of dense foam with a large aggregation of bigger bubbles at the point of pour, eggshell white in color, leaves a continuous ring around the glass as the head recedes, like a ring of bath water. The liquid is murkily opaque with copious amounts of particulate floating inside, mostly brown with a fade to orange near the rims and glass bottom, hard to gauge amount and activity of the bubbles. The nose features spicy rye and burnt bread crusts, a touch of metal before softened by carob, cocoa and caramel notes, surprisingly sweet as it warms, slice of white grapefruit but not getting discernible fruit presence. Medium-bodied, the carbonation gives it a thick churning sensation, doesn’t scrub enough to prevent a drying layer from forming on the tongue. Here too it is the spicy rye which dominates, grainy the whole way through. The cocoa and caramel puts up a struggle to match the spiciness. The grapefruit notes here joined by pine cone and brown dirt type of earth. While it has roast in its profile, lots of malty residue at the end. This brew offers sufficient complexity without letting its reach exceed its grasp and does wisely in sticking to the promised script.
4 out of 5

Heritage Brewing Co.
Kings Mountain Oak Aged Scot-American Ale (2014)
Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy
Virginia
11.0%
25.4oz, Single
$21.99
Very weird experience, bottle standing up in fridge for months, opened it and foam started pouring out and continued until a third of the 750ML bottle was spilled out. I guess this brewery does not cheap out on carbonation. Anyway, what I was able to coax into a glass had a two plus finger head, smooth surface, dark tan coloration, no lacing streaks, just a wave of foam on the glass that slides down slowly into the murk below. And the liquid is muddy brown mess, fully opaque and tinged with yellow, you expect to see a catfish swimming inside, when you do make out the bubbles it is a hyperactive blizzard so no wonder it spilled out. The nose is all German chocolate cake and cola soda, vanilla, caramel, butterscotch, baking spices, not boozy but the oak comes through loud and clear, fig and date fruit scents, orange peel, not very nuanced. Full-bodied, in the mouth the carbonation is a steady tickle without the power to freshen. Vanilla, carob, clove, molasses, toffee and honey roasted nuts. Here the booziness is undeniable. Cherry, date, fig, plum, at times tastes like a cherry Coke. Offers a trace of wet leafiness and earth through the finish. Needs more clarity among the constitutive elements to merit a higher rating.
3 out of 5

Keegan Ales
Old Capital Golden Ale
American Blonde Ale
New York
4.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.49
Meager head, barely coats the surface before disappearing, bright white, the lacing in turn tries to grip the glass but swiftly fades into oblivion. Light orange rust water hued liquid, soft gauzy quality, a few lazy bubbles scattered here and there. There’s a slightly crispy cracker to biscuit breadiness to the nose, molasses and honey, powdered orange soft drink notes, corn, has a wet graininess to it, fecund, displays a metallic ring before it all fades which mars any unadorned prettiness. Medium-bodied, has a round and generally soft mouth feel, the carbonation is neither fluffy nor crisp, sort of flat-footed. Corn, sweet grains and more molasses, the nondescript sweetness sort of takes the leading role in wallpapering over the blankness. Never coalesces into a real breadiness, however how generally malty it is. Apple, pear, apricot fruit which requires a little effort to enjoy. There’s some funky residue at the end which is hard to pin down exactly. Smooth enough to drink at a steady pace were there no expectations of greater complexity to the experience.
2 out of 5

Deep River Brewing Co.
Mango Tango Foxtrot India Pale Ale
American IPA
North Carolina
5.7%
16oz, 4-Pack
$9.99
A simple pour yields a huge head that basically fills half the pint glass, delicately whipped up microfoam, pure white, lingers for some time, the lacing is formed of tiny random splotches, few streaks. The liquid is a bright coppery color with (no surprise) a blizzard of bubbles throughout, clean and transparent until you get to the bottom of the can and the floaties get into your glass. The nose is piney and filled with dried mown grass, peppery, thick country bread crusts, overall it’s shy and retiring, the mango is most noticeable because it says “mango” on the label, you smell as much basic apricot and peach scents, pleasant enough, not much there to assess. In the mouth it’s light to medium-bodied with a nice prickle from that tightly woven carbonation. More fruit forward here although nowhere near sweet, mango, apricot, apple and pear, broader orange citrus presence too. It’s grassy without a real bite, peppery and bready, minimal flowers or pine. Drying through the finish, contributes to its self-effacement. Leaves you wishing there was more oomph in the fruit flavor department.
3 out of 5

New Glarus Brewing Company
Fat Squirrel Ale
English Brown Ale
Wisconsin
5.8%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.49
Pours a frothy two finger head with good density and retention, light tan color, the lacing forms broad sheets which slowly break into thinner streaks. The liquid is spotlessly clear and an attractive orange tinged brown color, the bubbles are numerous but so microscopic that it’s easy to think they are not even there. The nose loads up on sweetness without getting confectionary, scone, buttermilk biscuits, caramel, toffee, vanilla bean, cola bean, moderate amount of orange peel and glazed nuts in support, there’s also something which evokes minerally, peaty stiffening in the nostrils, deceptively complex. Medium-bodied with a lighter touch through the finish, the carbonation provides an initial sparkle and scrubbing but fades away by the mid-palate. Slightly less sweet here but no lack of cocoa, cola, vanilla and brown sugar, the nuttiness lacks a consistent presence. That mineral to quinine thing helps freshen it up. The hops come across more texturally in terms of drying bite than via overt flavors. Some fig, raisin to cherry, apricot fruit, however, not a major factor. Quite smooth and gets high grades for drinkability.
5 out of 5

Flying Fish Brewing Company
Exit 4 American Trippel
Tripel
New Jersey
9.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.99
Finger plus of sleek, pure white microfoam which breaks down into larger bubbles as it dissolves, stays steady once it gets down the surface, the lacing is a bunch of random short splotches. Yellow verges on light orange hued liquid, darkened by a fine particulate throughout, the carbonation is not much in terms of quantity but moves actively. The nose has textural thrust into the nostrils but is kind of shy in terms of scent expressivity, orange peel, bubblegum, tree bark, damp brush fire, sweat, floral paste, apricot, white grape, cherry, has a good array of fruit scents, the booziness is evident just sniffing it. Full-bodied, however, drier than one might be used to for this style of beer and thus it does not soak into the palate as aggressively. Yeast, bubblegum, flower water, clove and white pepper, figs and golden raisins, the citrus is restrained here. The carbonation could stand to be a bit higher. A forest floor funkiness lurks throughout, not all sweetness and sunshine, sour twist at the end where the hops get assertive. There’s something about that feels “incomplete” and it leaves you suspecting this shows best at the dinner table.
3 out of 5

Carton Brewing Company
Boat Beer Session Ale
American Pale Ale
New Jersey
4.2%
16oz, 4-Pack
$9.99
Basic finger’s worth of bright white foam, airy and openly knit so the retention is below average but pretty while it’s there, the lacing is slight and tends to slowly slide off. The liquid has that soft haze like drowsily staring at the sun, yellow rust hue, the bubbles are on the larger side and very broadly arrayed, no beads. Lots of snap in the angular nose, grapefruit pith, sea salt, sourdough bread crusts, pine cone and apricot pits, dry sort of florality, not dank or very leafy yet likewise outside of some cocoa powder not overtly malty either, it has a very breezy feel and just drifts off nonchalantly. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied and its dryness verges on arch but in the final analysis has it just briskly erect. Carbonation is strong, not pushy. You get a fuller range of orange and lemon to white grapefruit citrus here, none of that sugary approach to this element though. Mild apple, apricot, white grape fruit. Stiffened further by unmown green grass and as much pepper as salt accents. That cocoa here gives it an Ovaltine finish that is more textural than flavorful. More personality than you normally get out of a self-described “session ale.”
4 out of 5

Sly Fox Brewing Company
2015 Christmas Ale (Ale With Ginger, Cinnamon, Allspice, Nutmeg & Cloves)
Winter Warmer
Pennsylvania
5.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Two fingers of frothy foam, really whipped up with full mix of bubble sizes and a cratered surface, minimal stick to the lacing. The liquid is red cherry wood color, crystal clear and shiny, the bubbles are very tiny but spread out wall to wall. The nose comes off as on the thin side, all the spices listed are accurate plus cola, orange peel, golden raisin and fig notes, disappears just as you are starting to get into it. Light-bodied, basically a replica of the experience in the nose, starts with a mix of baking spice while here you get a light breadiness and molasses, toffee to cola. The carbonation is not strong but seems so given relative lack of richness to the liquid. Fewer notes of dried fruit and no fresher fruit nor citrus to act as supplement, maybe apple or cherry. Not bitter, not too dry, the mouth feel is innocuous. It’s just the lack of flavor which is troublesome. You have to assume that the brewmaster intended this as some kind of counter-position to “overdone” versions of the category. Just too boring to want to revisit ever.
2 out of 5

Devils Backbone Brewing Company
Trail Angel Weiss (Bavarian Style Weiss)
Hefeweizen
Virginia
4.7%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.99
Miniscule head, barely coats the surface before sizzling off, lacing is close to nonexistent. The liquid is on the whole clear, mild gauziness, a deep yellow hue and there are a large amount of bigger bubbles swirling about. Yeasty nose with notes of bubblegum, banana and clove spice, brioche and lavender, the wheat aspect is present, however, appears secondary in focus and lacks breadth, overall more pretty than substantial and that’s okay. Medium-bodied, tight prickle, the carbonation assists in reducing the sweetness to a non-cloying level. Yeast, lees, banana and bubblegum, ever so slightly less on the clove and nutmeg spice side, the blanks filled in by spiced orange peel and rose petals. Demure apricot, peach flavors, maybe some red apple or melon. Clean, no offputting metallic or earthy flavors. If anything, you might want a little more personality out of it, more richness in some of the key elements. Otherwise, drinks smoothly and pleasant enough.
3 out of 5

DC Brau Brewing
Brau Pils
German Pilsener
District of Columbia
4.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.99
Standard head, pure white, slightly dimpled surface, around a finger deep, sizzles off at steady pace, the lacing spreads decently at first but then just slides back down into the glass. The liquid itself is a pale metallic yellow hue, softly hazy so as to hold light inside of it, there are few bubbles to be seen yet they move energetically. Has good stiffness and posture in the nostrils, white citrus, salt and pepper, perhaps more leafy or earthy than expected, more grains and grasses than finished breads, minimal if any fruit scent presence, does not overdo any sour or spice, allows you to relax as you sniff. Light-bodied, it comes off as dry and somewhat acidic so here too it stands straight up. The carbonation is a low and steady prickle, keeps it active. More cracker and burnt pizza crusts than bread, here you get a bit more malty softness over time. Grassy with peppery support, less saline. Again, no fruit to speak of but the white citrus is noticeable and consistent. It’s clean without feeling stripped of personality and has good tart punctuation at the end and solid drinkability.
4 out of 5

Beltway Brewing Co.
Hansel Sour IPA
American IPA
Virginia
7.0%
16oz
4-Pack, $11.99
Attractively straightforward head, finger high, clean white, even surface, retention is so-so, the lacing is thin and barely sticks. Mild gauziness to the liquid but otherwise clear and there’s decent shine to the orange amber hue, more yellow nearing the rims, minimal visual carbonation. The nose is sour and close at times to volatile, grapefruit citrus, quinine, papaya, pineapple, star fruit scents, some ash and charred wood accents, ends with a woodsy to peaty funk, whatever it is that is there loiters for some time. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied and equally tart and sour, you pucker from mouth entry to finish from the acidic feel. This all but strips the juiciness out of the white grapefruit, lemon citrus. The pineapple, green apple, papaya, nectarine fruit fares somewhat better but just somewhat. Tar, bark, black tea leaf, never musty something about just does not seem all that clean. Can’t really tease out a clear message from the hops nor from the malts, and that is an unusual predicament. I really like the can design.
2 out of 5

BraufactuM – Die Internationale Brau-Manufacturen GmbH
Roog Rauchweizen
Rauchbier
Germany
6.6%
22oz, Single
$5.99
Solid two finger head of brown foam, fairly even surface in spite of mix of bubble sizes, reduces evenly and slowly, the lacing is thin and long with normal staying power. The liquid is brown with an orange rust tint, quite cloudy with a fine sediment throughout, the visible bubbles are fat and move incredibly swiftly up to the surface. The nose starts off with caramel, butterscotch and German chocolate cake notes, metallic and dried meat accents usher in the peaty smokiness which remains more subdued than aggressive, maybe some date or fig lurking in the background along with dough and banana. In the mouth it is medium-bodied and the carbonation delivers on the visuals, all hyperactive thrashing and snap, crackle, pop. The wheat manages to enunciate a bit more here but still subordinate to the caramel, honey roasted nuts, toffee and clove. With repeated sips the smokiness accrues in your mouth pores, however, can’t call it a major factor. Not as much fruit presence and the esters seem more knit into the whole. There is a puckering sensation at the end and the finish is truncated. Satisfactory, not exemplary.
3 out of 5

Burley Oak Brewing Company
Sorry Chicky (Dry-Hopped Sour Ale)
Berliner Weissbier
Maryland
4.4%
12oz, 6-Pack
$17.99
Offers a finger of loosely knit foam, bright pure white, actually has better retention than first visual impression, the lacing is a little skimpy and thin. The liquid is so filmy and translucent that you can’t really pin it down as a washed out yellow or orange, more like an indistinct glow per se, only able to see a few random bubbles. The nose betrays the beer’s eventual sourness, biting grapefruit to lemon pith, sourdough, witch hazel, metal shavings and pineapple, guava fruit, at times there is a strong leesy quality but it does not stick around. Medium-bodied, feels like it has close to zero carbonation, scrapes across the palate. No doubt this is über-sour, big pucker factor which favors that grapefruit, lemon citrus and pineapple, papaya, green apple, green grape fruit flavors. More of that rubbing alcohol, witch hazel stuff, not unstable or funky but comes off as medicinal. The hops are on the wet, dank side of things but actually clean in doing so, that’s the interesting thing here how it represents itself as “cleanly funky.” More towards grains than lees here, yet nowhere near bready. Won’t be for everyone but if you can wrap your head and palate around it, pretty satisfying experience.
4 out of 5

Bison Brewing
Organic Kermit The Hop Double Simcoe IPA
American Double/Imperial IPA
California
8.5%
22oz, Single
$10.99
Pours a massive head, easy three fingers of semi-dense foam, flat white hue, even the larger fat bubbles linger across the surface, the lacing forms an intricate web along the glass walls, will need to be washed out. The liquid has a soft haze to it, orange to yellow in color like lightly rusty water, virtually no visible bubbles after the pour settles. Initial damp earth, fallen tree leaf funk to the nose before a prettier floral breeze comes along, honey, orange zest, cocoa and peach, nectarine fruit scents, tends to stick more to the nostrils than lift as a result you don’t get as much scent separation as possible. Light to medium-bodied, smooth but just as much it trails off at the end. The malts are front-loaded with cocoa, Ovaltine type accents and a soft doughiness. Then comes a fresher tangerine, mandarin orange citrus as well as light floral nature. The peach, apricot, pear fruit likewise more light of touch than flavorful. The carbonation has a lowkey steadiness to it, the mouth feel is dry and slightly chalky. Did not make a positive first impression but by the time the bomber was gone had grown on me a good bit.
3 out of 5

Founders Brewing Company
Redankulous Imperial Red India Pale Ale (2015)
American Double/Imperial IPA
Michigan
9.5%
25.4oz, Single
$11.99
Pours a really deep head, around three fingers of tan foam with a reddish tint, full mix of bubble sizes but this does not affect retention, which is quite good, does not leave much room for lacing but that too is thick and semi-permanent on the glass sides. The liquid is a clear mahogany red that leans more to brown than orange, only a few bubbles scattered here or there, handsome looking. In the nose there is an initial waft of wet herbaceous matter funk which yields to milk chocolate, caramel, soda bread to biscuit, and nuts, if there was a stronger pine element in its youth, it is mostly gone by now, you do get a decent amount of pineapple, nectarine fruit though. In the mouth it is full-bodied and broad, really fills it up cheek to cheek. The carbonation gives it a dense fluffiness, not really lifting nor scrubbing. Maltiness pervades here too, chocolate, butterscotch, caramel, lots of sweet breadiness as well. Conversely, the piney, tarry, spicy and grassy hops step up their game, just not as much. More grapefruit and more resonant pineapple, papaya, nectarine fruit, albeit not so sweet. The “dank” lingers most on the finish, bitter resonance. You definitely feel the booziness.
4 out of 5

Three Floyds Brewing Company
Munsterfest
Märzen/Oktoberfest
Indiana
6.0%
22oz, Single
$11.99
Big fizz on the pour, crests close to three fingers then is like gone in a second to a clean surface, as one would thus expect, completely zero lacing too. Pronounced darkness to the amber orange to reddish brown liquid color, softly translucent, considerable amount of fat bubbles scattered throughout. Sugary nose of vanilla, molasses, baking spices, cola and soda bread, soft yeasty banana or bubblegum notes as well, curious absence of fruit scents, in fact it all suddenly goes to zero on you. Light to medium-bodied, not flat but the carbonation just has it at a simmer. Breadier here with quinine, mineral water and charcoal accents, a bit earthy. Fig and raisin make a showing, cherry to peach in smaller doses. The yeastiness seems more knit in, flavors less distinct. Brown sugar, molasses and cola but nowhere as near as sweet as the nose suggests. Polished mouth feel, however, it comes off overall as more or less evanescent. Have to wonder if 4-5 months post bottling puts it into an old age home, which would not be an ideal result.
3 out of 5

Speakeasy Ales & Lagers
Metropolis Lager
American Pale Lager
California
5.3%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.99
Couple fingers of bubbly froth for a head, dissipates with ease due in large part to larger bubble sizes, white in color, the lacing has minimal stickiness and just falls back into said froth. The liquid has a soft gauzy quality, bright amber orange with active bubble beads. Crisp nose, salty and peppery both, dark bread crust notes, dry hop herbaceousness and a hint of dried citrus peels, you can tease out more maltiness over time, what is has is the good kind of dank. Medium-bodied, the carbonation has it foaming up in the mouth from the second it hits the tongue, too dry for creaminess but not really prickly either. More distinct orange citrus here, evokes tea leaf flavors. Bitter hops, green leafiness, unprocessed dark grains and asphalt, road dirt. Not to say the beer is unclean, more rugged in an old fashioned sort of way. Light white pit fruit nuances towards the finish, where it does unclench enough so that the palate can relax. Can’t call it an easy drinker, a bit more challenging than what might be expected of a lager.
3 out of 5

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Chugged in December 2015

Three Floyds Brewing Company
Dreadnaught Imperial IPA
American Double/Imperial IPA
Indiana
9.5%
22oz, Single
$11.99
Pours a huge head, super airy and frothy with a highly cratered surface, tannish color with a light orange tint, the lacing forms very long streaks that stick powerfully. The liquid is a mildly hazy dark orange color which is full to the rims, minimal visible bubbles. The nose is stuffed with sweet citrus — tangerine, orange, pink grapefruit and then loads of cocoa, malted milk balls, toffee and scone, bitter tea leaf, tar, the pineapple, guava, nectarine fruit scents are think without becoming monotonous. In the mouth it’s full-bodied, heavy enough that the creaminess doesn’t smooth out the mouth feel. Spicy with peppercorn and pine notes, here that muscular grapefruit, tangerine citrus sweetness acts as a calming agent. The florality itself seems mostly citrus blossom. Some cocoa and sweet grains to breakfast breads type of appeal. Not very herbaceous nor grassy at all. The carbonation lends a consistent fine prickle. Ends with full flavor vibrancy and a gentle landing.
4 out of 5

Tyranena Brewing Company
Bitter Woman IPA
American IPAv Wisconsin
5.75%
12oz, 6-Pack
$8.69
Moderate head, a touch past one finger, off-white to eggshell colored, even surface, the lacing is more broad sheets than streaks, pretty good stickiness. Deep golden to close to amber colored liquid, noticeable swirl of tiny bubbles, virtually wall-to-wall. Intense nose of saline, green herbaceousness, pretzel dough, tar, earth, touch of pine sap, minimal fruit presence, some apricot or peach pits. Medium-bodied, creamy texture in spite of its overall hard nosed nature and general dryness. Tar, black tea leaf, dried oranges, there’s more pep in the pine sap but this is indeed one bitter beer. If allowed to warm there is some roundness in the peach, pineapple fruit. For as bitter as it is, does display nice balance and does not overplay its hand.
4 out of 5

New Glarus Brewing Company
Moon Man No Coast Pale Ale
American Pale Ale
Wisconsin
5.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.49
Light frothy off-white head, one finger that dissolves swiftly forming surface dimples, thin yet long lacing streaks. Bright metallic orange hued liquid, you can see one or two isolated bubbles slowly meander upwards. The nose is pretty sour with sour orange to lemon peel, sour baked dough and a dry leafiness, takes some warming to release the apricot, pear fruit scents, light saltiness, the overall perfume has a steady lift. Light to medium-bodied, lively carbonation gives it a pleasing prickle, skips across the palate. Energetic citrus zest, all lemon, orange and tangerine supplemented by a demure floral musk. Minor bread to yeast tones, subdued maltiness too, echoes of cocoa or mocha at the end. Through the mid-palate the apricot, peach fruit grows exponentially, achieves close to fruit cobbler sweetness. Attractively put together and rates high for sessionability.v 4 out of 5

Three Floyds Brewing Company
Alpha King Pale Ale
American Pale Ale
Indiana
6.66%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.99
Close to two fingers of light tan foam, some islands of bigger bubbles across an otherwise flat surface, the broad lacing streaks slowly slide off, not great stickiness. Gauzy amber-brown color, on the darker side of the spectrum, a few randomly arrayed lazy bubbles. Soft nose of pine needles, wet flowers, tangerines and blood oranges, caramel, honey and ripe peach, apricot, mango fruit scents, steady power. Full-bodied, creamy with a bitter grassy, peppery tang in spite of its general sweetness. Thick apricot, nectarine, peach, pineapple fruit with equally dense pink grapefruit, tangerine citrus. The carbonation is strong, whips up a creamy froth more than a sharper prickle. Pine, tea leaf, some light breadiness. Hoppy but smooth enough to keep it in a “pale ale” rather than IPA category. The flavor sticks with you long after you swallow.
5 out of 5

New Glarus Brewing Company
Two Women Lager
German Pilsener
Wisconsin
5.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.49
Close to a two finger deep head, dense and creamy with an off-white to paler tan color, the lacing is initially thick but glides off at a steady pace. The liquid is a brownish-amber color with a yellow tinge, presents a big storm of tiny bubbles, rainstorm thick. The nose evinces many contrasts, sweet caramel malts next to rye, pumpernickel styled sour breads, a short lemon zestiness, likewise brief salty touch, good overall density in the nostrils, not much fruit scent presence. Full-bodied, creamy and smooth with an extended finish. Here you get a lot of sweeter apricot, pear, peach fruit and some cocoa. The breadiness has toast more so than yeast. Ends with a swipe of lemony flavoring. Starts out pretty regular “lager” like but gains in more subtle complexity over time and is much fuller bodied than expected.
4 out of 5

Three Floyds Brewing Company
Robert The Bruce Scottish Style Ale
Scottish Ale
Indiana
6.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.99
Couple fingers of brownish to tan foam, fairly frothy which slightly reduces retention, thinnish wispy lacing, however, it does stick around decently. Opaquely cloudy liquid, brownish with brighter orange rims, not much in terms of visible carbonation. Strong, boozy nose of caramel, malts, butterscotch, cola, the light fig to plum fruit scents overcome by a peppery, grainy spine, perhaps not as overpoweringly sweet as many in the style. Medium-bodied, presents a strong churn to the carbonation alongside a drying breadiness. Cola, caramel, molasses, scone, orange peel, and range of plum to peach fruit flavors comprise most of the experience. Dry ending without losing flavor intensity, has some alcoholic heft which suggests it is best consumed with food.
3 out of 5

New Glarus Brewing Company
Thumbprint Scream IIPA
American Double/Imperial IPA
Wisconsin
9.0%
12oz, 4-Pack
$10.39
Two finger head, light tan in color, moderate retention, even surface, thick lacing streaks. The liquid has a dull orange-amber color, active and widely dispersed bubbles without beads, brighter hues at the rims and edges. The nose is loaded with pink grapefruit, tangerine citrus, pine sap, more floral as it warms, pinch of cocoa, borderline tropical array of pineapple, nectarine, peach scents. Full-bodied, slightly heavy, the carbonation is strong and overall texture noticeably creamy. Again, it is heavy on the tangerine, grapefruit citrus, filling in the blanks with pine, cocoa, on the sweeter side even as it does present some herbaceous bite. Expands into accents of licorice, sweet tea leaf, pretzel dough and salt. Given its sweetness not imbalanced, more so crafted for accessibility and pleasure, drinks easily for its fuller body.
4 out of 5

Gigantic Brewing Company
Saboteur Baltic Porter
Baltic Porter
Oregon
8.0%
22oz, Single
$9.99
Yields a fairly massive 3-4 finger head of loose, airy foam, a decidedly dark brown hue, considerable dimpling across the surface, below average retention but good stick to the thinnish lacing streaks. Fully opaque black liquid, you see a few bubbles stick to the glass inside but that’s it, no real hue variation at the rims, does not appear to have any sediment or such. The nose is mildly roasted, more so driven by sweeter dark chocolate, carob and toffee notes, solid milkiness as well, there is a charcoal and doused campfire wood aspect too, not much going on by way of fruit nor citrus, just keeps the chocolate coming. Medium-bodied but the lack of active carbonation gives it a leaden mouth feel. Milkier here but not as sweet as the nose might suggest, however, not roasty either, just dry. Cocoa, chocolate, challah bread, cola, that charcoal to tar persists, also has a semi-oily texture in spite of the dryness. Hint of black raisin or grape fruit flavor. The depth of the chocolate and lactose fill out the finish to replace any missing complexity and, honestly, inch it out in the direction of stout beer. Nice enough, might prove a better experience on tap.
3 out of 5

3 Sheeps Brewing Co.
Hello, My Name Is Joe Imperial Black Wheat Coffee Ale
American Dark Wheat Ale
Wisconsin
8.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.39
Finger plus of tan foam, lightly dimpled surface which reduces to a steady surface dusting, the sheets of lacing slide gently off the glass. Powerful coffee roast to the nose, burnt cocoa, almost oily in nostril texture, the wheat actually comes through clearly, light shudder of plum or cherry fruit, not a great deal of nuanced complexity but admirable sustained thrust. Medium-bodied, roasty and toasty with a lean profile, not many excess notes. You receive less wheat presence here, the bitterness makes the finish short and brings out sour white citrus and tar notes. While muted, broader mix of apricot, grape to cherry fruit. While monochrome it is enjoyable and not so oppressively single-minded that you can’t have a few in one sitting.
3 out of 5

Perennial Artisan Ales
Pineapple Kumquat Berliner Weisse (Ale Fermented With Pineapples And Kumquats)
Berliner Weissbier
Missouri
4.2%
25.4oz, Single
$14.99
Light and frothy head with zero density, crests at two fingers and is gone in two seconds, bleached white, could not be brighter, no stickiness at all to the lacing. Bright metallic yellow hued liquid, gossamer haze to it, the amount of hyperactive bubbles is impressive. Piercing nose of sour tropical fruit, a bit too mixed to identify pineapple or kumquat, sour oranges, lots of yeast but not in a creamy, leesy fashion, iron flecks and mineral water, beeswax, really too laser-like to get a broader array of scents going, even as it approaches room temperature. Light-bodied, the heavy carbonation though gives it palate volume. Puckeringly sour and dry enough that overall it recalls a non-dosage Champagne. Here there is definitely more clarity to the kumquat and to a lesser extent pineapple fruit, minor green apple or passion fruit too. Minerally and chalky, the dryness may negatively impact the ability of the yeastiness to adhere to the palate. The citrus less overt, at moments evokes a lemon sponge cake. If you are up for its level of aggressiveness it is pretty well balanced and crisply refreshing, can say how the sourness might turn some off.
4 out of 5

Lakefront Brewery, Inc.
Fixed Gear American Red IPA
American Amber/Red Ale
Wisconsin
6.8%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Pours a healthy three finger head of deep tan foam, nice density with cratering at the pour point, ends up in a hilly surface with a few big splotches for lacing, no true streaks. The liquid is a deep reddish orange with a fair amount of floaties darkening it further, minimal clarity, only a few bubbles visible here or there. Caramel infused nose with copious amounts of bread and biscuit, roasty with orange peel, pine sap and sun warmed tar notes, the tropical pineapple, guava fruit seems more sluggish than juicily flowing, overall staying power is good. Medium-bodied, the low carbonation leaves it flat-footed emphasizing thickness over expression of flavor. Dry and herbaceous with a peppery streak, not much sweetness in the orange to lemon citrus nor the apricot, pineapple, green apple fruit. Cocoa powder and nuttiness joins the breadiness, the caramel or butterscotch element loses grip. Leaves a roasty sort of taste and residue behind. Does not have a clipped finish but does not seem long either, more evidence of a compact presentation. While sampled well within its drinking window, this strikes one as a brew best sampled super-fresh.
3 out of 5

Forgotten Boardwalk Brewing Co.
Funnel Cake (Ale Brewed With Lactose & Vanilla Beans)
Cream Ale
New Jersey
5.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$8.99
Nearly a finger of bright white foam, sizzles down rapidly to the surface, any lacing slides slowly off the glass sides. Bright yellow hay color to the liquid, shiny in spite of the fine particulate floating within, few bubble beads but they are nicely active. The nose is pitch perfect sweet, totally evokes a summer stroll on the boardwalk, all whipped cream, vanilla bean, licorice and cotton candy, fried zeppole, moderate amount of apple, pear fruit, this is not a style of beer which lends itself to complexity, more so to simple satisfaction. Light to medium-bodied, presents a freshening note of quinine and lemon before segueing to vanilla, cola, unbaked pie dough. The carbonation seems on the high side, perhaps to lift the sweetness off the tongue. Apple, peach, pear fruit an embellishment at best. There is also a corn syrup sort of sweetness, as if something added as intentional sweetener. While you might think that the sweetness would help it hold on this is one which actually shows best when as fresh as possible. A very good brew that should be consumed intelligently in the right context.
4 out of 5

Burial Beer Co.
Scythe Rye India Pale Ale
American IPA
North Carolina
7.0%
16oz, 4-Pack
$12.49
Basic head close to two fingers, tan color and a dense, even surface, stays thick for a good while, the lacing has good stick, randomly spread, few longer streaks. Dark colored liquid, all orange, brown and red, clear with hardly any visible bubbles, the color is very attractive. Aggressive nose featuring sweet tangerine, blood orange citrus in the lead, pine sap, black tea leaf, wet herbal matter, pineapple rinds and apple cores, the rye comes through with good clarity, caramel and cocoa last longer to soften the dissolve, has sufficient punch that the sappy texture doesn’t get to be too much. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied, smooth and creamy so that the bitterness is more momentary than sustained. The tangerine, white grapefruit citrus more sour here and knit into the whole, the pine element grows. The fruit remains in the background and while tropical the beer is too dry to let it shine. Spicy rye and even darker pumpernickel like bread notes. The carbonation at once capable at adding to the creaminess and tickling your tonsils. There’s a roasty feel to the caramel, brown sugar, not burnt but close. For all of its energy it does not wear you down which is a rare bonus.
5 out of 5

Bruery, The
Jardinier Belgian-Style Pale Ale
Belgian Pale Ale
California
4.9%
25.4oz
Single, $7.99
Easy three fingers plus on the pour, bleached white, although it is clearly airy and mostly microfoam it holds on well enough, the lacing is naught but a wisp here or there. Hazy bright yellow liquid with a raging maelstrom of bubbles throughout, holds light inside the glass well. The nose is focused and taut, lemon peel, chamomile, lemongrass, sour dark breads, the apricot to peach, white pit fruit scents are subtle yet consistent, straw, wet cement, overall has a vinous character but seems like age has diminished its general intensity. Medium-bodied, appears that it would be creamy in texture were it not so bone dry that that carbonation instead is more crackle and pop. Dried, pulped lemons, hibiscus, green apple, pear to apricot fruit. If there’s such a thing as “clean earthiness” this has it. Yeasty but nowhere near bready or anything already baked. Vague nuance of clove. It carries itself gracefully so unsure if that is simply how it was meant to express itself or if time has diminished its expressivity. More of a summertime quaffer and likely best with food too.
3 out of 5

Switchback Brewing Co.
Märzen Fest Bier
Märzen/Oktoberfest
Vermont
5.2%
22oz, Single
$5.29
Presents two fingers of light tan foam, looks dense enough but nothing special about the retention, ends up in a very uneven surface, the lacing however does have credible stickiness. Clean reddish-brown cast to the liquid, perfectly clear and unblemished, close to no visible carbonation, pretty though. The nose offers metallic notes, raw bread dough, the caramel is steady if low-grade, same can be said for the plum, raisin, apricot fruit scents, seems to present more of an herbaceous edge than might be expected in this beer category although the honey and molasses accents have the final say. Medium-bodied, on the angular and tangy side, any carbonation is prickly. It feels like the grip of the sweetness is tenuous, the caramel and such never gains momentum. That same metallic, herbal stuff continues, sour orange citrus and more raw dough and water crackers. Similarly, there is a paucity of fruit flavor which kind of empties out the finish. Drinkable in large part due to its moderate weight and lack of flavor intensity. But getting through a bomber alone was an exercise in “it’s paid for so…”
2 out of 5

Lost Rhino Brewing Company
Face Plant IPA
American IPA
Virginia
6.2%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.99
Gives up around a finger of just off-white foam of below average density and retention, the lacing streaks are thin but stick well enough. Dark orange hued liquid with a a thin particulate hanging through the liquid, only a few bubbles appear here or there, quite large though. The nose makes a big initial splash with flowers, honey and tangerine zest, underneath this is a wet herbaceous funk like a bag of damp leaves, good apricot, peach and pineapple fruit presence, then goes back to notes of tar and campfire ash. Full-bodied, on the heavy and sluggish side of things, the carbonation lacks energy which has to be a factor here. Bitter with a metallic, earthy profile that pushes the pineapple, peach, apple fruit flavors into the background. More pine than flowers here, peppery, the citrus makes a pleasing showing through the finish, orange to lemon accents. It does not leave you with much to say about it, which can be good or bad. Not flawed, fairly integrated, nothing exciting, just… basic. So, you could drink a few in a sitting but you may just as well lose interest before doing so.
2 out of 5

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Chugged in November 2015

3 Stars Brewing Company
Peppercorn Saison (Ale Brewed With Spices)
Saison/Farmhouse Ale
District of Columbia
6.5%
25.4oz, Single
$10.99
Pours a solid two fingers deep head, eggshell white in color, smaller microfoam creates an even surface although probably contributes to below average retention, the lacing forms wide streaks but they lack stickiness. The liquid is a darkish golden color that at some angles takes on an brownish red cast, few beads but plenty of large bubbles which move with muscular authority, mild cloudiness throughout. The nose has a sweet honey to corn syrup quality, chamomile and lavender, no lack of yeastiness yet not sure how the peppercorn presence is supposed to register because it isn’t, ends with bubblegum and dried peach and apricot scents, fills the nostrils softly, does not have a real penetrating punch. Full-bodied, soft and close to clingy, the carbonation gives it even more fluffiness. Yeast, uncooked pie dough and that bubblegum comes on first, some marjoram and fennel like spices but again minimal pepperiness. Here you get more spiced orange and tangerine citrus. The fruit remains basic — apricot, yellow apple, peach and moments of mango. Leaves you wishing it was drier so you could feel the skeleton more. Very drinkable and without much aftertaste.
3 out of 5

Founders Brewing Company
Mosaic Promise (A Single Hop Ale)
American IPA
Michigan
5.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Yields a finger of frothy, uneven bright white foam, craters as much as dimples, sticks around for a good long while, the lacing forms long, irregular snakes. Bright golden hued liquid, extremely clear and shiny, the bubbles spread out like snowflakes on a windless night. The nose is light and airy emphasizing floral perfume, orange zest and honey, then metallic and earthy accompanied by mocha notes and wet leafiness, even as the nose seems “dry” the tropical pineapple, papaya fruit comes through. Medium-bodied, the carbonation fluffs it up and softens the otherwise very dry palate. Tangerine, lemon citrus buoy the apricot, nectarine, pineapple fruit flavors and tighten the mouth entry. The green herbaceousness is ever present without being overbearing. That mocha, cocoa maltiness smoothes out the finish nicely aided by buttered biscuit accents. Less floral here in the mouth as the citrus does the bulk of the work. It has the focus one would could clearly associate with a single hop IPA so plenty of truth in advertising. Easy to put down a few in a row as long as one prefers a drier brew.
5 out of 5

Burley Oak Brewing Company
Secret Sauce Double IPA
American Double/Imperial IPA
Maryland
7.7%
12oz, 6-Pack
$15.99
The head reaches about a finger, whipped up and loose so the retention is average to below, the lacing has decent stick, big splotches randomized across the glass. The liquid is extremely cloudy and filled with particulate, almost looks like a solid block, reddish amber in color, more yellow at outer edges, very difficult to gauge visual carbonation. The nose is thick and immobile, you can barely sense it move in your nostrils, wet hops, pulped white grapefruit, paste-like apricot to peach fruit scents, powdered cocoa, hard caramel candy, it is not lacking in breadth but its density makes it too hard to parse out. Full-bodied, just as thick and heavy in the mouth, any carbonation not match for its sheer weight. The malt is prominent, brown sugar, caramel, biscuit, scone and general breadiness. Muted tangerine, pink grapefruit citrus wafts in and out. Heavy apricot, peach, nectarine citrus starts off well but peters out near the end. Not sure if it is trying to do too much or get all experimental but this one falls short of the mark even if there’s no real flaws per se.
3 out of 5

Wicked Weed Brewing
Freak Of Nature (A Double India Pale Ale)
American Double/Imperial IPA
North Carolina
8.5%
16.9oz, Single
$5.29
Big airy head which crests above two fingers, kind of eggshell white, its whipped up nature diminishes retention, lacing seems on the wispy side as well. Dark golden hue to the liquid, verges on a coppery orange, clear with a hint of gauziness, only a few bubbles visible, slow and sluggish. Erect nose of bread crusts, black pepper, pine and tangerine to blood orange scents, tar resin and damp earth, mango, apricot, nectarine and kiwi fruit element strong yet somehow still manages to not seem juicily ripe. Full-bodied, lots of dry extract and it sticks tenaciously to the tongue and palate. Slightly more floral, the cocoa and mocha accents come through, the oily bitterness does not take full command. More tar, ash, resin and a healthy dose of tangerine and lemon citrus, almost minty at times. The carbonation seems a bit light for its overall weight. What is nice is its freshness in spite of its thicker mouth feel. There’s nothing “obvious” about it yet it hits the standard notes, hard to deliver this kind of layered presentation without appearing to have tried to do so. Good drinkability for the ABV. Would happily imbibe again.
4 out of 5

Two Roads Brewing Company
Roadsmary’s Baby (Ale Brewed With Pumpkin And Spices, Aged In Rum Barrels With Vanilla Beans)
Pumpkin Ale
Connecticut
6.8%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.99
Modest half finger head of creamy white foam, no real retention and down to the surface in no time, in the same vein the lacing slides off the glass as if greased. Dark amber to brown colored liquid which is deepened by a large amount of tiny “floatie” particulate, not many bubbles but they are active, despite the sediment there is an active brightness to it. Cinnamon, clove and vanilla bean sweeten up the nose even as there is a mild coffee like roast to it, hoppy and in some ways the pumpkin comes off as a minor factor, overall has a linear punch more than round generosity. In the mouth it’s light-bodied with prickly carbonation and a lean, not meager, character. The nutmeg, clove, cinnamon spice focused and the vanilla to cocoa element likewise direct. Brings more lemon to sour orange citrus here. More nutty than doughy, nothing evokes pie. The pumpkin remains at a low level, you taste it but lacks staying power. Clean, fresh finish. Unless one is mistaken, this aims at a sessionable, food friendly version that wants to be a “beer” before being considered a “pumpkin beer.” If this is so, it succeeds.
3 out of 5

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Chugged in October 2015

Two Roads Brewing Company
Worker’s Comp Saison
Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Connecticut
4.8%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.99
Thin head, less than a finger, airy, bright white color, weak retention, sizzles off quickly, close to no stickiness in the lacing as well. There’s a very mild gauzy quality to the liquid which turns not impair its transparency but does add to a warm glow, a washed out orange rust water hue, large number of bigger bubbles fill the glass from side to side. The nose begins with a swipe of hard sourdough pretzels, salt, white pepper, and clove, pulped and dried lemons, has a lot of punch to it, might be easy to miss the apricot fruit and floral underpinnings, baseball card bubblegum, really nice staying power in the nostrils. Medium-bodied, it is dry and highly carbonated which gives it presence and length. Plenty of clove, nutmeg, pepper and more sour rye breadiness with an element of damp metallic earth and charred campfire wood. The florality here does a good job of filling out the mid-palate. however, the white pit fruit does not click, at times you get more banana. The citrus seems to take a step back in favor of more autumnal leafiness. The dryness keeps the finish restrained and succinct, tingly. Styled for the dinner table, not out to create a fireworks show in your mouth.
4 out of 5

Pigeonnelle, Brasserie de La
Loirette 5.5
Witbier
France
5.5%
25.4oz, Single
$9.99
Pours a very large head, fills close to half the glass, you can hear it sizzle off from a distance, as if the glass was a frying pan, so hard to gauge retention since this is so weird, slightly off white color, close to zero lacing. More filmy than cloudy, translucent rather than muddied by sediment, the liquid is almost wall-to-wall hyperactive bubbles, a veritable storm, light orange rust water to yellow in hue. The nose is fairly bold, spotlights crackers, pretzels, salt, country bread and pulped lemons, has a floral dimension as well but does not consistently shine, cardamom, a few used peach pits, overall what it smells like is a walk in the fall countryside. Full-bodied, its dryness counters the creaminess the carbonation naturally strives for. Bolder lemon citrus here and the clove and anise spice comes into sharper focus. Caraway and cardamom still in support. You get a fuller sense of the peach and apricot fruit once it warms. The salty edge takes on a more metallic character here. There is a strong aftertaste of earth, metal and leafiness. Most intriguing in that it presents the components subtly while as a whole it is more of a “one big statement” kind of beer. Interesting and worth seeking out.
4 out of 5

Elysian Brewing Company
The Immortal IPA
American IPA
Washington
6.3%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.99
Just over a finger of pure white foam, mix of bubble sizes creates a mottled surface, even as it craters the retention is excellent, the lacing streaks are thin and widely dispersed but also stick strongly and refuse to budge. Cloudy liquid with a sizable amount of floaties inside, coppery orange hued core with a fade to yellow further out, very few bubbles visible, The nose is very pretty with clear emphasis on a breezy florality, then tangerine to lime citrus, minor touches of cocoa, pine and peach fruit, there is a green, leafy funk underneath accompanied by notes of wet iron shavings. Light to medium-bodied, here the florality retains dominance but does get challenged by ruby grapefruit pith and pine. Past the mouth entry cocoa, toffee and peach, apricot, golden raisin fruit push it forward most. The carbonation has a soft if steady churn and some prickle at the end. Does a good job of alternating between sweetness and bitterness, keeps you interested in taking the next sip. Finishes clean enough with flavor persistence. Its treading the middle road will likely mildly turn off IPA fans who prefer beers nearer the opposing poles.
4 out of 5

Defiant Brewing Company
Muddy Creek Amber Lager
American Amber/Red Lager
New York
5.6%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Thin half a finger head of light tan hue, very airy and sizzles down to the surface in little time, wispy lacing, close to nonexistent. The liquid is quite clear and spotless, a handsome amber red to mahogany brown, the bubbles are loose, no beads, but large and active. Sweet nose of cocoa, molasses, roasted nuts, offset slightly by citrus and pine notes, peach and yellow apple fruit scents, does not seem to be striving for complexity but rather agreeability, narrowly avoids getting funky as it warms. Medium-bodied, the lack of carbonation makes it feel flat and sluggish. Here a metallic bitterness does pervade, leeches sweetness from the caramel, molasses, scone and pie crust base. On the fruity side with apricot, peach, pear flavors. The pine appears but the citrus takes a few steps back into the shadows. Finishes with a roasty, nutty nature. It’s serviceable but that’s about it, too heavy to session and lacks freshness. Yet, by the same token, not overtly flawed.
2 out of 5

Big Muddy Brewing
Galaxy IPA
American IPA
Illinois
7.5%
16oz, 4-Pack
$8.99
Basic head of about a finger’s depth, deep cream colored and not especially dense and below average retention, the lacing fares a little better, widely dispersed and splotchy. The liquid is a crystal clear coppery orange hue, fully transparent, random lazy bubbles here and there. The nose has a taut, wiry feel, all raw grains, pepper and dried green material like an autumn leaf pile, burnt matchstick, minor notes of orange or white grapefruit, hard to tease out any real fruit presence, pungent with good scrubbing action. In the mouth it is medium-bodied and quite dry, to the point of adhering to the palate. Peppery with a saline quality, hop oils and pine resin. Cocoa powder helps it even itself out and when it starts to warm you get more tangerine citrus and a pinch of apricot, peach fruit that suggests it could have taken a tropical fruit turn. The carbonation is steady, always there but unobtrusive. Biscuity finish as if it was buttered and the butter dried on it. It almost takes awhile to acclimate as it does not offer the sweetness one finds more often than not in this beer category. Not really a session beer but you can throw back a few before wearing down.
4 out of 5

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Chugged in September 2015

Flying Fish Brewing Company
Exit 1 Bayshore Oyster Stout (Beer Brewed With Oysters)
Foreign/Export Stout
New Jersey
7.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.99
Pours a solid finger plus head of a quite dark brown color, even surface, retention is not that great though and the lacing, while broad, tends more to slide down than stick. The liquid is a fully opaque brownish black, suggests clarity rather than sediment, just about impossible to gauge the visible carbonation level. The nose is sweet, delivering chocolate, licorice, milk and hard butterscotch candy notes, nutty and not overly toasted, doused campfire smoke, nothing acrid or burnt about it, satisfying if simple. Full-bodied, lacks carbonation which gives it a sort of sluggishness yet there’s no denying the sheer depth of flavor. Loaded with chocolate, caramel, heavy cream and licorice, here you get some cherry to blackberry styled fruit as well. That seashore brine quality is not overpowering and more or less stands in for a hops based spine. In spite of the sweetness of the flavors the texture is dry, particularly the finish, which in turn teases out coffee grind nuances. Overall it has deceptive breadth and you find a lot of easy comfort in the flavors, high level of drinkability.
4 out of 5

Forgotten Boardwalk Brewing Co.
1916 Shore Shiver India Pale Ale
American IPA
New Jersey
6.9%
12oz, 6-Pack
$8.99
Healthy two finger head of off white dense foam, even surface with excellent retention, the lacing stretches into long streaks and sticks well enough. The liquid is a cloudy and opaque yellow to brown color maybe than amber, looks to have some particulate silt inside, only a few bubbles visible but they are super large. The nose is compact and deftly integrated, smooth orange to lemon citrus, crisp graininess, dried pine sap, black tea leaf, subdued apricot and peach fruit scents, floral finish with a seashore saltiness as well. In the mouth it’s full-bodied and tends more towards heavy than refreshing, however, does not have the sappy, sticky sweetness which would make it a chore to sip. Tangerine, pink grapefruit and lemon citrus frame the mouth entry and take their time making room for pine, potpourri and leafy green matter. The malts are large and in charge, both vanilla and cocoa accents waft in and out and at times it is almost doughy. The carbonation has some bite but does not last deep into the sip. Not excessively splashy which can impair a positive impression given the quantity of entrants in the beer type. That said, it both impresses from the start and grows on you as you sip.
4 out of 5

New Glarus Brewing Company
Spotted Cow Ale
Cream Ale
Wisconsin
4.8%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Solid finger’s worth of bright white foam, even surface, tiny and tightly woven bubbles, retention is okay at best, the lacing is stronger than expected with thick streaks and good staying power. The liquid is mildly gauzy, golden color that is closely to orange than dilute, loosely arrayed large bubbles are active. The creamy vanilla and cola bean scents present in the nose without dominance, pastry flakes and cereal, cherry to banana fruit scents, the graininess firms up and stiffens the dissolve in the nostrils, overall just smells kind of like “old school” beer. Medium-bodied, not soft but you feel all the round contours and the creaminess is both textural and in flavor. Whipped cream, vanilla and yeast to baking dough, tastes like Dr. Brown’s cream soda. As in the nose, the grain and bread stiffen by the finish and lend punctuation. Retains the cherry, banana, white grape fruitiness. Every now and then you find a metallic, spring water note. The carbonation broadens the palate coverage more than prickles. Even as the sweetness lingers it feels balanced. Comes off as highly sessionable and easy to drink, well done.
5 out of 5

Free Will Brewing Company
The Kragle IPA
American IPA
Pennsylvania
6.6%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.99
Less than a finger of bright white foam for a head, tight weave, nothing really remarkable, the retention is alright, the lacing is wispy and does not do much to enhance visual appeal. Shiny if dilute golden hued liquid, very few visible bubbles, here too eminently average looking. The nose displays a high degree of focus and intention, everything seems to come at you on a laser beam, pine sap, white grapefruit pith, metal shavings, wet tea leaf, there is a dry, tacky feel to the pineapple, papaya, peach fruit scents and it definitely scrubs your nostrils without over-reliance on bitterness to do so. Medium-bodied, dry and sticky mouth feel, glues itself to the palate even as the carbonation gives it its all to lift and release. Loads on all that grapefruit, pine, pumpernickel bread and salt lick. Not especially floral and the malted milk ball nuance waits until the very last moment to lend sweetening softness. The nectarine, peach, pineapple fruit tends to be shouted over by the aggressive herbaceousness. It’s easy to find fault in the lack of malty counterbalance but at the same time the purity of expression is noteworthy. Leaves your palate vibrating like ears after a loud rock show.
4 out of 5

Rinn Duin Brewing
St. John’s Irish Red
Irish Red Ale
New Jersey
4.9%
12oz, Single
$2.09
Crests at about a finger of off-white to tan foam, smooth surface with adequate retention at best, the lacing looks like metal mail armor in how it moves and shimmers but no stick to it. Murkily impenetrable brown hued liquid, like a muddy river, switches to a bright yellow at the surface and rims, even as opaque as it is you can see steady bubble streams close to the glass sides. Roasty, toasty nose of cocoa, hard caramel candy, cola bean, vanilla and at times coffee, the fruit scents too are sweet all grape, plum and cherry, there is a breadiness as well which stiffens its posture but even just sniffing this it is clear this is a sweeter beer aimed at easy drinking. Medium-bodied but loses considerable weight as it progresses through the mouth. The carbonation has a tight weave yet cannot direct things decisively. Bready, buttery with a cola to root beer appeal, chocolate, vanilla and butterscotch too, however, drier finish than expected, welcome. Nuttiness accrues with repeated sips. Plum, maraschino cherry, red grape fruit, no earthiness but perhaps mineral water. While no trendsetter it goes down easily and hard to imagine anyone getting pissed off for having consumed it.
3 out of 5

Keegan Ales
Bine Climber Session IPA
American IPA
New York
4.7%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.99
Big fluffy head, pure bleached white, more airy than dense with a dimpled surface, the lacing is frothy but has close to no stickiness. Light golden color to the liquid, would be transparent were it not for the fine silt which fills the glass, no real bubble beads but the few visible bubbles show good activity. The nose is somewhat mute, pretzel dough, salt, dried pine sap and white citrus, gains florality as it warms, not much fruit and avoids excess leafy greenness, not much length, you need repeated quick sniffs to assess it. Light-bodied, here the carbonation is assertive and keeps it churning on the tongue. More clean and zesty than flavorful, mineral water, bread crust, saline, white grapefruit pith, the malts seem to add more textural smoothness than sweetening, heavy on the grains even if they are more “choral” than distinct. Pale apricot, apple, peach fruit. It adroitly leverages bitterness into extended palate presence rather than for attention getting. It is a well-crafted beer, just a bit too bland for sessioning, that is, you’d get bored after just a couple.
3 out of 5

Defiant Brewing Company
Weapons Grade Double India Pale Ale
American Double/Imperial IPA
New York
9.0%
12oz, 4-Pack
$8.99
Moderate head, around a finger of deep tan, mostly even surfaced with a few islands of larger bubbles, the lacing forms broad sheets but lacks stickiness. The liquid is a dark orange amber color with more yellow and brown than red, most striking is the absolutely huge amount of sediment thrown, makes you want to strain it into another glass, fully opaque and murky. At first the nose commanded by thick caramel and toffee nuances, sweet mixed citrus and then pineapple, peach, papaya fruit, plenty of pine sap as well as wet leafy matter, gluey nostril presence and not much subtlety on display. Full-bodied and sluggish, weighs heavily on the palate. The bitterness races to the front and create herbaceous bite prior to that caramel, butterscotch love fest. There’s something vaguely unclean about it, metallic and earthy. Carbonation level comes off as slightly below average and a non-factor. Loads on that pine resin and cone element. The blood orange and white grapefruit noticeable, however, the fruit becomes a muddle of inarticulate tropical flavors. Astringent finish with the booziness quite evident, texture way outlasts the flavors.
2 out of 5

Big Muddy Brewing
Blueberry Blonde (Ale Brewed With Natural Blueberry Flavor)
Fruit/Vegetable Beer
Illinois
6.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Loose, pure white head, the pour yields over a finger but the retention is poor and there’s not much lacing as well. Light haze to the yellow-orange liquid, good amount of fat, lazy bubbles visible. The blueberry presence is dominant in the nose, followed on by molasses and orange blossom notes, tea leaf and perhaps some scone accents, dissolves nicely without excess pungency. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied with light carbonation and a great deal more sweetness to the blueberry fruit, close to preserves. More of that honey to molasses aspect and even the orange citrus feels more concentrated and juice like. As it finishes gets close to milk chocolate with a mild doughiness and could pass for a slice of pie. Nothing added to the mix for contrast or balance, can’t mistake it for anything but an homage to the flavor of blueberries. So, err, make sure you like blueberries before making a purchase.
3 out of 5

Flying Dog Brewery
Bloodline (Ale Brewed With Blood Orange Puree And Natural Flavorings)
American IPA
Colorado
7.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.99
Pours a large head, takes up close to a third of the pint glass, off-white to very light tan in color, thick microfoam with credible retention, given this the lacing curiously lacks stickiness and breadth. The liquid is an orange bronze hue, clean and spotless with close to a maelstrom of bubbles rising in sheets. The blood orange comes through clearly in the nose, however, it remains a decided second fiddle to the general maltiness as well as the leafy hops, bready with close to a nuttiness about it, peppercorns, pine and not much fruit of note. Medium-bodied, the carbonation is tight and punches more than creates creaminess. The earthiness has a metallic edge while the leafy herbaceousness is prominent through the attack. The orange citrus element has retronasal presence, lingering perfume after you swallow. Bread, caramel, toffee not able to balance out the underlying bitterness. Tends to glue itself to the palate rather than flow. Smattering of peach or apricot fruit. Seems like this deserves to be served on the colder side to both make more refreshing and mask the relative shortcomings.
2 out of 5

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Chugged in August 2015

Flying Dog Brewery
Raging Bitch Belgian Style IPA
Belgian IPA
Colorado
8.3%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Yields about a finger’s worth of tan to off-white foam, while not an especially deep head, what is there sticks around, the lacing forms broad irregular splotches which languidly slide down the glass. Coppery reddish brown hued liquid, not really clear nor really hazy, large amount of highly active bubbles rushing upwards, manages good brightness given the general darkness of color. The nose is on the sweeter side with caramel, toffee, vanilla fudge and pie dough notes, there is a leafiness there too which freshens up the apricot, apple to cherry scents, finishes with clove spice and pepper, lot going on and not always marching to the same beat. Full-bodied, clingy to almost syrupy mouth texture, feels heavy on the palate. Spicier here with clove, pine and mineral water accents accompanied by a broader mixed citrus presence. The carbonation is energetic enough to shave off some of the sugariness of the peach, apricot, pineapple fruit, a needed effect. Dry enough that the majority of the caramel, vanilla, cola bean notes recede. The flavors sort of halt suddenly at the end, made more obvious by their boisterous nature as it first enters the mouth.
3 out of 5

Stieglbrauerei zu Salzburg GmbH
Stiegl Radler Grapefruit (Beer With Fruit Soda)
Fruit/Vegetable Beer
Austria
3.2%
11.2oz, Single
$1.69
Pour a large white head, frothy and uneven, close to three fingers on the pour, poor retention as the head dissolves at a swift pace, the lacing looks decent at first but likewise does not stick around. Cloudy liquid, has a sort of washed out golden hue as if you tried to stare at the sun through it, few and random bubbles wander inside the glass. Brisk nose of grapefruit, fresh and in no way overly sweet, almost like citrus blossom, there is just maybe an undercurrent of wheat or some grains but basically all you get is pure grapefruit scents. Medium-bodied, the carbonation is low but it really does not have to do much work anyway since here too it’s totally fresh grapefruit which brings enough pucker to keep it active. Floral with a modicum of apricot or peach flavors and something akin to tonic water or baking soda. There may be a tendency to consider this a gimmicky beer but it is really straightforwardly classy and transcends the hot summer day categorization.
4 out of 5

Van Steenberge, Brouwerij
Gulden Draak 9000
Quadrupel (Quad)
Belgium
10.7%
25.4oz, Single
$13.99
Gives up a finger plus of foamy larger bubbles, this creates more airiness than retention, no lack of big, splotchy lacing. The liquid is a bright coppery hue, more yellow at the rims, cloudy and opaque, easy to miss the sheets of microscopic bubbles within. The nose is lively yet not all that thick, conjures up caramel, honey, milk chocolate, golden raisin to date fruit supplemented by cherry, apricot scents, finishes with a strong graininess and biscuit notes. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied, on the dry side for the beer type, the carbonation is steady and obvious. Leans more here on scone, bread and some yeast, follows that with root beer, cocoa, caramel and butter nuances. Curious low level of fruit, mainly apricot, peach, cherry and a mutter of fig. Spiced orange peel and quinine linger lastly at the end. Interesting beer, not exactly what was expected.
4 out of 5

Pietra, Brasserie
Colomba
Witbier
France
5.0%
25.4oz, Single
$7.99
Aggressive pour yields a little under a finger’s worth of pure white foam, even surface, slight retention, the lacing is likewise meager. The liquid is clear and a bright, almost metallic yellow gold color, the carbonation is active, tends to run in sheets, tiny bubbles closely spaced, looks youthful. The nose is a little on the musty side, caraway, lemon drops, ginger root, drying out to unused bread dough, the fruit is mainly crisp apple and pear, white grape, lingers longer than one might expect and becomes fresher as it does so. Medium-bodied, not as carbonated as visually suggested yet has a semi-creamy mouth feel. Basically, the first impression it makes it ginger ale, tastes like a glass of ginger ale. Neutral breadiness to water cracker notes, the lemon expands into orange citrus, albeit this not altogether sweet nor sour. Light aspect of herbal matter to fallen tree wood but can’t say it is really funky, maybe some quinine. Comes off as intentionally trying to hold the middle ground and not show too much personality in any one direction. In the final analysis can’t shake that sense of ginger ale, making the experience off-kilter.
3 out of 5

Uinta Brewing Company
Crooked Line Cahoots II Saison (Ale Brewed With Grapefruit Peel, Orange Peel, Seeds Of Paradise, & Coriander)
Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Utah
6.0%
25.4oz, Single
$12.99
Pours a big head, easy over three fingers on the pour, very whipped up and airy so it starts to crater easily, you just watch the bubbles pop all across the surface, off-white to light tan in color, lacing has a little more stick than you’d expect from the lack of retention. The liquid itself is a deep orange color with more yellow rims, faintly cloudy, astounding amount of visible carbonation, almost wall-to-wall bubbles. The nose displays a lot of orange, lemon citrus, lighter pink grapefruit touches, yeast, rose petals, coriander and some clove spice, golden apple, apricot, pear fruit with supporting fig notes, develops a more vinous edge as it warms, offers a broad enough array of sweeter scents to mask the underlying forest floor component. Medium-bodied, fluffy and effervescent in the mouth, well-carbonated. The texture is fairly dry which stands in contrast to the coriander, cumin spice and juicy orange citrus. Nicely floral and the yeast, lees element grows in stature here. No unduly fruity, solid fig, golden raisin, apple, apricot flavors. Has a metallic side which plays up the herbaceous, earthy nuances. It cleans up well through the finish, not much residue, which may strike some as lack of length. Seems crafted for warm weather outdoors consumption.
3 out of 5

Telegraph Brewing Company
Reserve Wheat Ale (Ale Brewed With Lemon Verbena) (Batch No. 136)
Berliner Weissbier
California
5.0%
25.4oz, Single
$12.99
Gives you an easy two fingers on the pout but the head is so loose and openly knit that you can watch it sizzle down to nothing in a few seconds, slightly cream white color, hardly any lacing to speak of. Translucent haze in the glass, copper orange hued liquid, more bright yellow at the rims, any bubbles are widely dispersed and on the sluggish side. The nose is crisp but not piercing, clear emphasis on the lemon citrus and leafy green matter, the wheat is on the unprocessed side, more grain than bread, while there is a minerally or quinine element it remains clean and not intentionally “dirty,” light clove as in uncooked or unused, the fruit scents are mainly green apple, pear and peach pit, texturally it is soaks in unevenly which actually helps you notice it more. In the mouth it’s light-bodied, more tart than overtly sour, with a puckering acidic character. The carbonation provides a light prickle at best, mild fizziness through the finish. Here the metallic earthiness is more assertive and puts tang in the lemon to lighter orange citrus flavoring. The raw grains are hard to parse out, same for the pre-powdered spices. While you get the same green apple, apricot to peach pit/skin fruit there’s something which reaches for tropical, like star fruit or persimmon. Its unwillingness to go full bore in any one regard both its strength and weakness.
4 out of 5

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Chugged in July 2015

Maine Beer Company
Another One India Pale Ale
American IPA
Maine
7.0%
16.9oz, Single
$5.99
Two plus fingers of bleached white foam, very delicately constructed and airy, uneven surface and no more than average retention, the lacing forms wide, mottled streaks which stick well before dissolving in place. Brightly yellow colored liquid, transparent, lots of active bubbles but dispersed and not in beads. The nose displays a genteel directness, focused tangerine, lemon, white grapefruit citrus neither sweet nor sour, lowkey florality yields to more peppery, biscuity, and piney notes, not especially leafy but hops dominated, the apricot, pineapple, mango fruit scents have tang and assist the general oily texture in your nostrils. Medium-bodied, remarkable smoothness given its overall dryness. Loaded with orange, tangerine and lemon citrus zest. Here the floral side spreads out further, at times comes close to being minty in addition to the piney qualities. White pepper, ginger and clove bring dimension, there’s really no overtly “sweet” element to be found. The carbonation is fine and pinpoint yet no wimp. Shows balance in a graceful, Fred Astaire like manner. Refreshing for how it does not seek to impress you with all kinds of fireworks.
5 out of 5

Maine Beer Company
A Tiny Beautiful Something
American Pale Ale
Maine
5.5%
16.9oz, Single
$5.99
Pours a huge head, fills close to a third of a pint glass, eggshell white with a very mottled surface, wispy and airy, the lacing slowly slides down the glass at a pace which might as well be stickiness. Cloudy golden liquid that just nudges up against a deeper orange hue, fully opaque, makes it hard to see the tiny yet active bubbles. The nose has a clear focus on crisp citrus notes, tangerine, lemon and a little white grapefruit, peppery with a bread crust and biscuit element, not that sweet, some caramel, more by way of wet, leafy herbaceous matter, the peach, apricot, pineapple fruit fresh and cheery. Medium-bodied, steady churn to the carbonation lends firmness. Dry in texture, more tacky than wetter sticky. The florality and seed oil more upfront, pairs well with the orange and lemon citrus, this latter not too sour. Straight up peach, apricot, nectarine fruit, falls short of tropical. Subdued breadiness, but indistinct spiciness gives it lift. Light touch of witch hazel or rubbing alcohol. Blends it all together into a seamless whole yet also allows for you to analyze it if so chosen. Gentle persistence at the end.
4 out of 5

Baladin, Birrificio
Super Baladin
Belgian Strong Pale Ale
Italy
8.1%
8.45oz, Single
$6.49
Wispy head at best, a momentary coating across the surface, minimal stickiness to the lacing as well. The liquid is fully opaque and murky, at its core it’s a reddish brown, nearer the surface an orange to yellow hue, hard to peep any carbonation bubbles. The nose is somewhat simple, raisin bread, clove, banana, German chocolate cake and plum, cherry, apple fruit, more lees and yeast than finished breadiness, nothing actively opposes the sweeter elements, smelling it feels like walking through quicksand. Full-bodied, very low carbonation, here too it layers itself like wet cement. Toffee, butterscotch, dark chocolate, maple syrup, hint of orange peel. Nutty like walnuts or nuts you’d use in baking. Scone, black bread, tries to get sour but stays sweet. Glances of bubblegum and banana, the more you sip the boozier it seems. Clove, cinnamon spice mostly upfront, then gets leafy in the manner of wet forest floor matter, “sous bois.” The flavors have initial intensity but not much staying power and given its palate heaviness it becomes somewhat of a chore to finish.
3 out of 5

Terrapin Beer Company
Monster Beer Tour Hop Selection IPA (2015) (Ella Hops)
American Double/Imperial IPA
Georgia
8.6%
12oz, 4-Pack
$13.99
Over a finger of white foam, high number of larger bubbles creates an uneven surface and retention is so-so, the lacing is not that thick but sticks well, broad streaks. The liquid is a filmy honey orange to yellow with an ability to hold light inside the glass, random fat bubbles are visible. The nose is thick and viscous with a steamroller like appeal, molasses, caramel, brown sugar and candied orange peel, the fruit inclines toward tropical, guava, pineapple, papaya and then apricot paste, plenty of pine sap and sweeter grains and dark breads, mild pepperiness, very little subtle going on. Full-bodied, just as sticky and gluey here too, the ability to register bitterness helps break it up some. Chocolate, cocoa, caramel, butterscotch, honey, pink grapefruit to tangelo citrus, the pine is a formidable component. There is some herbaceous bite but not in a cleansing manner. The carbonation has some muscle, which helps. The spicy breadiness at times evokes whiskey barrels. A floral lift lightens the heaviness of the papaya, nectarine, peach, pineapple fruit. Nevertheless, it still has a slow, plodding pace through the mouth. Would be difficult to drink more than one bottle in a sitting.
3 out of 5

Bruery, The
Or Xata (Blonde Ale Brewed With Rice With Cinnamon And Vanilla Beans Added) (2015 Edition)
American Blonde Ale
California
7.2%
25.4oz, Single
$12.99
A strong pour gets you about two fingers of cream white foam, the agitation yields bigger bubbles which settle down to the surface rapidly, mottled surface coating, the lacing shows surprising stickiness, big and random splotches all over the place, looks like a Rorschach test. The liquid is a light amber color, very clean and bright, no beads but plenty of dispersed bubbles throughout. The nose is downright confectionary with rice pudding, cinnamon, vanilla bean, whipped cream, lemon sorbet, banana, golden raisin, and glazed nuts, close to exactly as one might imagine it based off the label, behind the sweetness is a medicinal witch hazel sort of thing but never gets astringent. In the mouth it’s really has a lighter body but the relentlessly gregarious sweetness creates a sticky sensation and makes it feel deceptively heavier. At first comes across as a cream ale mated with a cream soda, maybe in a ménage à trois with a root beer. Vanilla, cinnamon, black licorice, molasses, heavy cream to condensed milk, challah bread, rice pudding, very closely replicates the nose. The carbonation is mild and perhaps not really noticed until you just about swallow. Not for everyday drinking but if you are in the mood for something sweet you could polish a few pints off extremely quickly.
5 out of 5

Free Will Brewing Company
COB Coffee Oatmeal Brown (Ale With Coffee Added)
American Brown Ale
Pennsylvania
8.3%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.99
Yields about a half finger of light tan foam, nothing special about the retention level, the lacing lacks stickiness, broad sheets slipping down the glass. The looks clear and yet is more opaque than transparent, the hue is mainly brown with a brightening orange tint, bubbles are visually present but scattered. The nose gushes coffee but it is lightly roasted, freshly ground and sweet, like café con leche, plenty of caramel and milk chocolate notes, scone and breakfast cakes, certainly oatmeal, hint of bitterness to balance out the raisin and fig fruit notes, does an excellent job of presenting persistent pungency without becoming a chore. Medium-bodied, right off the bat you notice the difference in weight and mouth feel from what you normally get with these flavors. The carbonation is moderate, you get more fluffy than crisp textures. Here the bitter coffee bite punches through just a little more forcefully, needed as the molasses, caramel, cocoa sweetness runs with abandon. Grilled nuts pair nicely with challah bread and that same scone aspect. Orange peel, cherry, apricot and golden raisin fruit play together. Under all this is a subtle leafy and metallic earthy nuance. The sweetness masks the ABV well but you do feel the buzz if you pop open a second one. Seamless pleasure.
5 out of 5

Mayflower Brewing Company
Summer Rye Ale
Rye Beer
Massachusetts
3.8%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Bleached white, uneven surface with many larger bubbles forming random peaks, crests a little over one finger, holds on well enough, the lacing forms as a thin, broad sheet which easily slides back down into the liquid below. The liquid itself is as pale as imaginable, looks like yellow tap water, mild translucency, one big storm of large bubbles rise swiftly upwards. The nose comes across as somewhat “skeletal” as in gaunt and not much happening, floral with chamomile and citrus blossom notes, unprocessed grains, chief most rye, black peppercorns, metallic accents, any fruit to be had mainly green grapes, apples and apricot pits, has sufficient weight to persist in the nostrils. Light-bodied, the lack of flavor is evident from the start making it feel even more dilute. Iron flecks, lemon peels, water crackers, pepper, used tea bags, here does not have the level of florality found in the nose. The carbonation is muscular and round in character, not so much tingly or scrubbing. Muddled white pit fruits and apples. Almost has to have a clean finish as there’s not enough there to make a mess with.
2 out of 5

Binding-Brauerei AG
Schöfferhofer Grapefruit (Unfiltered Hefeweizen Beer With Grapefruit Flavoring)
Hefeweizen
Germany
2.5%
11.2oz, 6-Pack
$9.75
Crests near one finger of pure white foam, even surface, minimal retention, the lacing is wispy and likewise does not last very long. As expected, the liquid is super cloudy, a dark yellow to light orange in hue, a few lazy bubbles can be seen here and there, does a good job of capturing light inside it. Pure grapefruit nose, dripping juicy sweetness to the left and right, maybe a few yeast or lees like notes, leads you to believe there’s some spicy or earthy elements crushed below all the citrus, has very nice life and lingers well. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied, has the extra zip in the carbonation to keep its legs moving on the treadmill and keep the overall experience fresh. While the dominant flavor is sweeter pink grapefruit there are also moments of more tart white grapefruit to lemon going on, especially right after you swallow. Likewise, possesses a honeyed edge which ratchets the sweetness right back up. Sure, it’s a one trick pony but it makes no claims to anything otherwise. The low alcohol makes it more sessionable but even on the hottest days you’d be tired with it after two or three, tops.
3 out of 5

Two Roads Brewing Company
Ol’ Factory Pils (Dry Hopped Pilsner)
German Pilsener
Connecticut
5.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Bright white head, about a finger deep, uneven surface, credible retention, while the lacing is not super-strong per se, it is more than one might expect for a pilsner. Soft cloudy glow to the liquid, deep yellow color, the bubbles are large and aggregated loosely into beads, fills the glass well. Plenty of brawn to the nose, lemon and orange citrus, dried cut lawn grass, unprocessed grains to hard French bread crusts, momentary peppery kick, has a sort of “clean funkiness” to it, apricot and peach fruit scents demurely wait until the end to speak out, its pungency and lift are pluses. Full-bodied, it has more clingy sappiness than expected and really grips the palate. This even as it impresses right out of the gate as a very dry beer. Don’t think the dryness equates to no flavor as the apricot, peach, apple fruit elevates and adds in honey and softer breadiness. Lemony with mineral and leafy notes, the malts come across as adding more textural give than pronounced flavoring. The spiciness is more than pepper, perhaps a subdued bay leaf or tarragon. The carbonation is okay, able to relieve some palate weight but not enough to make it a really thirst slaking experience. Stays active.
4 out of 5

Brùton, Birrificio
Lilith Italian Pale Ale
American Pale Ale
Italy
5.5%
25.4oz, Single
$13.99
Pours a healthy two finger head of tan foam, generally even surface with some divots, dense, simmers down at a slow and steady pace, the lacing is mainly broad sheets with minimal stickiness. Clear and bright liquid, orange to brown in color, hyperactive maelstrom of bubbles zip about inside, visually inviting, does get cloudier with the final pours of the bottle. The nose has an erect bearing in the nostrils even as it mostly lays down the caramel, molasses sweetness, challah bread, golden raisin, date and apricot fruit, whisper of ripe oranges, good overall freshness, not much by way of any bittering hops until it starts to warm close to room temperature. Full-bodied, the mouth feel is on the creamy side with a bit of sour punctuation in the mid-palate. Upfront you get molasses, brown sugar, caramel yet not that sweet, candied orange peels, a few accents of bread and pie crust. Apricot, apple, pear, white grape fruit which bring with it cinnamon stick flavors. Carbonation comes off as on the sluggish side. Earthiness funk accelerates through the end and grows in stature near bottom of bottle. Its vision statement needs some reworking.
3 out of 5

Maine Beer Company
Beer II (Hop Program)
American IPA
Maine
4.7%
16.9oz, Single
$5.99
Produces a big head, easily over two fingers, however, it is quite delicate and airy and thus disintegrates rather easily to leave a mottled coating across the surface, bright white and the lacing forms thick random splotches. Gauzy yellow gold colored liquid that flirts with a deepening into metallic orange hues, the bubbles are good sized and active but do not form tight beads. The nose is close to explosive upon the pour, very floral and dominated by orange blossom and peel notes, just newly ripened apricot, peach, pineapple fruit scents also come across as delicate, under all this is a distinct herbaceous and earthy foundation, peppery and hard to discern any strong malt presence. Medium-bodied, it has an oily texture which creates an impression of weight and body but really it just makes things sticky. Lemon pledge, pepper, tarry earth, tree leaves and a minor note of pine incline it towards a dry character, if not quite austere. This dryness saps the life out of what might otherwise be tropical fruit flavors, pineapple, mango, papaya, apricot. Maybe it is because the primary flavors have receded, but the finish is fresh and the overall bitterness is moderate. Falls into a “tweener” no man’s land.
3 out of 5

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Chugged in June 2015

Bucket Brewery, The
Pawtucket Pail Ale
American Pale Ale
Rhode Island
5.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.99
Pours a minimal head, covers the surface and that’s about it, gone before you note it, lacing is equally a non-factor. Murky amber brown colored liquid with a slight reddish tint, barely any visible carbonation, has a pleasing glow inside the glass. Sweet nose of molasses, caramel, glazed nuts and just starting to bake bread dough, mixes in cherry with peach, pear fruit scents, there is a musty sort of funk lurking on the sidelines, lacks hoppy spine, even for an APA. Medium-bodied, exerts what weight it has down into the tongue, this helped by the mediocre carbonation. A little more stiffening freshness here, not herbal nor piney but not full on reclining either. Depends a lot on the malty goodness of the caramel, butterscotch, vanilla bean and cola flavors. This element is strong enough to stifle a significant portion of the peach, apricot, cherry, red apple fruit flavors. Not complex but deserves some kudos for smoothness. One could make an argument for it being more of an amber/red ale than pale ale.
3 out of 5

Foolproof Brewing Company
Backyahd India Pale Ale
American IPA
Rhode Island
6.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Finger deep head, mottled with lots of surface sizzle as the bubbles pop rapidly, just off white, not many streaks but the lacing which is there is thick and sticks. Mild gauziness to the amber orange color, few visible bubbles, not especially active. Metal, iodine, peach pits, pulped lemons and pizza crust make up most of the nose, you have to consciously agitate and swirl the liquid to create enough aroma to register the parts. Medium-bodied, minimal grip, the carbonation is moderate at best and does not help to increase palate presence. Leafy with tree bark, metal, mineral aspects, not bitter in a puckering way, more like dry and slowly paced. Dried pine sap, pepper, sour grapefruit, not getting much fruit, at best a mix of white pit fruit and pineapple. The malt seems to wait until the finish to make an attempt to smooth things out, cocoa and butterscotch flavors without a lot of sweetness. Sampled at differing temperatures without much flavor or textural difference. Acceptable, certainly its shortcomings could be masked by consuming with flavorful food.
2 out of 5

Three Floyds Brewing Company
Yum Yum American Session Ale
American Pale Ale
Indiana
5.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Big, frothy head, two plus fingers, off white in color, delicate foam with a hilly surface, leaves close to no lacing behind, glides off. Cloudy yellow to orange hued liquid, easily translucent although there’s no problem seeing the numerous fat bubbles rising inside the glass. Soft, juicy and full nose, loaded with sweet orange, grapefruit citrus, then apricot, peach and nectarine fruit, after that you register lighter pine sap, pepper and freshly baked biscuits, hints at some funkier earthiness but more or less decides to stick with the moist fruit and citrus. Full-bodied, creamy mouth feel even with a strong veer to dryness at the end. The metallic earth, grass more pronounced here and the scone, malted milk ball and pine sap only partially able to soften the contours. The sweetness remains in the orange, tangerine citrus, however, it lacks staying power. Same for that apple, apricot, pineapple fruit albeit more bite here. The carbonation offers slow, steady churn, insufficient to scrub palate. Best taken as a whole rather than parsed out plus shows better when colder. Then it is a more than just a simple quaffer.
3 out of 5

Radeberger Exportbierbrauerei
Radeberger Pilsner
German Pilsener
Germany
4.8%
11.2oz, 6-Pack
$8.49
Pours a fluffy two finger head, bleached white, airy with a great deal of larger bubbles, wispy lacing at best, does display nice level of head retention. Bright golden hued liquid, good color depth, fair amount of larger, muscular bubbles loosely arrayed. Heavy on the raw grains in the nose, not that sweet, maybe a touch of honey, this outweighed by pepperiness and Ovaltine notes, mild burst of sour white citrus, minimal fruit presence, stays long in the nostrils. Medium-bodied, more sturdy than heavy, not quite as carbonated as visually suggested. Here the cocoa, malt pushes to the fore some, balances out the herbaceous side of things, which is akin to cut grass or dried straw. The citrus coalesces into lemon to white grapefruit, if muted. Again, just about no fruit flavor. Texturally it does have palate grip and you feel it adhere to the tongue, dry but not dusty. As in the nose it has good length and no wimp by any stretch. When you just sit back to analyze it the bitterness could throw it off balance. But can easily see it smoothing out with food. Probably more than pleasing enough after mowing the lawn or such.
3 out of 5

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Chugged in May 2015

Captain Lawrence Brewing Company
Palate Shifter Imperial IPA (Captain’s Reserve)
American Double/Imperial IPA
New York
9.0%
12oz, 4-Pack
$9.69
Finger plus of fluffy just off-white color, slight orange tint to it, nicely contoured surface, excellent retention and thick, splotchy lacing that barely moves. The liquid is a cloudy if effulgent yellow to orange mass, not real beads but plenty of fat bubbles which rise powerfully towards the surface. Very piney and resinous nose, bodacious white grapefruit presence, brisk pineapple, nectarine, papaya, green apple fruit scents, peppery and leafy, caramel and a little butterscotch appears just before the final dissolve, strong and filling presence in your nostrils. Full-bodied, lots of grip and sticks to your palate authoritatively. The carbonation is powerful and curiously at times gives it a soft drink feel. More sourness in the white grapefruit as well as bite in the herbaceousness. The pepperiness and pine resin weave back into the whole. The tartness extends through the pineapple, papaya, nectarine, apricot, star fruit flavors. Notes of quinine at the end, not a lot of maltiness in terms of specific flavors. Lots of staying power, gets dry in texture at the end but one you will have to wash out of your mouth.
4 out of 5

De Molen, Brouwerij
Hel & Verdoemenis
Russian Imperial Stout
Netherlands
10.0%
11.2oz, Single
$9.99
Meager dusting of tan brown foam across the surface, barely stretches across and gone quickly after the pour, barely any lacing. The liquid passes dark brown into black, slight tint of yellow at rims and glass bottom, some particulate visible floating about, any bubbles are highly random. Strong roast to the nose, coffee and dark chocolate interlaced with licorice, caramel and milk notes, displays a noticeable herbaceous character, a touch stiff and unyielding, you get more by way of dried meat than any sweeter fruit accents. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied and heavier on the bottom, pushes down into the tongue. Too dry to really develop a creamy feel and that roast inclines it more towards bitter than sweet. Coffee, grilled nuts, chocolate, licorice and some granola, oatmeal. Here there might be plum, date or raisin flavorings. The herbal side is less overt, yet there is a burnt ashen thing going down. Due to the lack of sweetness it lacks length at the finish and develops a thinner weight. So, in the end, it’s kinda more flash than substance even if by no stretch a bad beer.
3 out of 5

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Chugged in April 2015

Defiant Brewing Company
Medusa India Pale Ale
American IPA
New York
6.8%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Fluffy head, mottled surface, pure white, sizzles down to the surface quickly, leaving more islands than a consistent coating, the lacing is thick in parts but mostly thinner streaks. The liquid is closer to amber orange than pure yellow gold, there’s some very fine particulate matter floating when you inspect closely, not many bubbles but they are fat and move vigorously. There’s a sour funkiness to the nose, metallic and herbaceous as in forest floor matter not fresh leafiness, sour mixed citrus tones, not getting much fruit, a bit flat and lacking in thrust for the type of beer, ends with some tea leaf and floral notes but never activates fully. In the mouth it’s full-bodied, round and soft, the creamy texture could be replaced by keener bite for freshness. More bready here with slightly livelier hops and snap. Peach, apricot, apple fruit, less of a citrus presence. Malty sweetness throughout, however, not in the form of distinct flavors. On the whole it just seems muddled and lacking in punctuation at the finish. Its monochrome nature would be more acceptable were it more refreshing for hot summer days and such.
2 out of 5

Commons Brewery, The
Urban Farmhouse
Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Oregon
5.3%
25.4oz, Single
$10.99
Fluffy two finger head, bleached white with a fairly tight weave and even surface, the retention is good and any lacing forms a solid sheet which glides slowly down the glass side. The liquid is a straight-up golden straw color, not too pale, achieves a measure of translucency, it’s hard to imagine a larger maelstrom of bubbles swirling inside a glass. Good stiffness to the nose, raw grains, hay, sour lemon zest, peppery with a mild floral undercurrent, clove, clean sort of earthiness, light tones of apple, pear and melon fruit, opens broadly without losing heft in the nostrils. Medium-bodied, dry in texture with a good amount of creaminess from all that carbonation. From the first sip strikes you as fresh and clean, no one element so deep as to dominate the whole. Pepper, clove, coriander, grapefruit to lemon citrus, cut flowers, the yeastiness is demure as is the earthiness. Mixed grains, the pear, apple, apricot fruit steps it up to offer a sweet core to the whole presentation. When this really crests it highlights bubblegum accents. Ends with a spicy tingle. One could see it being described as one dimensional, however, it is likely a stylistic choice to go for simplicity and freshness over a fireworks show.
4 out of 5

St. Bernardus NV, Brouwerij
Abt 12
Quadrupel (Quad)
Belgium
10.0%
25.4oz, Single
$9.99
Crests close to a finger, nice frothy head which settles into an even coating across the surface, tan in color, the lacing acts like a coat of mail and just shimmers down the glass sides. Cloudy amber to light brown colored liquid, more yellow near the surface, very difficult to visually inspect the carbonation level. The nose has a regal compactness to it, molasses, rum raisin ice cream, spiced oranges, cola, clove and bubblegum, green apple, apricot and red cherry fruit interwoven, there is also an element of cigar ash and earthiness, definitely does not overplay sweetness. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied and, again, more dense than fluid and expansive. This said allowing for the big foaminess and softly round carbonated mouth feel. Caramel, bubblegum, banana, clove, anise and a slight pie crust doughiness. The cherry, blackberry, plum fruit takes on a darker complexion here without undue sugariness, hint of fig or date. Mild metallic to earthy qualities, mostly as residue. Given its subtlety, few flavors leap out at you to jot down, what you are most struck by is its balance for the category and its confident persistence without raising its voice. You notice it without it having to work hard for you to do so.
5 out of 5

Ballast Point Brewing Company
Habanero Sculpin (India Pale Ale With Habanero Peppers Added)
American IPA
California
7.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$14.99
Finger plus head, fairly openly knit with a mottled surface, light tan color, the lacing is a wispy netting but does cover a good bit of territory. Coppery colored liquid, on the reddish side, darkened by the fine silt floating within, translucent, the bubbles more dispersed than in strong beads. The nose is sort of muted because the habanero has more directness than breadth, you have to concentrate to get any pine, grapefruit notes or even the, I guess, apricot to peach fruit scents, just not much to parse. Medium-bodied, carbonation is average to below. Still, has a semi-creamy texture which is needed because basically all you taste is habanero and more habanero. Now, to its credit, this is a very pure and clean expression of the flavor. But you have to use your imagination to get at any fruit, citrus or basic hoppy flavors. I want to reiterate that this is a fresh and cleanly direct drinking experience. But it is pure habanero and packs the heat you’d expect as such. Take it at face value, make your own call, just have a glass of water at your side.
3 out of 5

Great Lakes Brewing Company
Chillwave Double IPA
American Double/Imperial IPA
Ohio
9.4%
12oz, 4-Pack
$9.99
Good frothy finger high head, mixed bubble sizes makes for uneven surface, light tan color, excellent retention, the lacing is very thick and covers wide swaths of the glass side. The liquid is as close to red as orange, very deep and glowing, at first you could miss seeing the tiny bubbles meandering within, very pretty to look at. Thick, clingy nose of molasses, pine sap, pink grapefruit pulp, it’s more spicy and smoky than herbaceous, pineapple, mango, nectarine, apricot fruit scents, more chocolate and malt appears as it warms, ends with even more smokiness like meat fat on a grill. Full-bodied, beef jerky, iron and slightly soapy, sticky in a dry residue fashion. Plenty of pine and grapefruit, tangerine citrus, here you get a bit more herbal stiffening but not enough to inch into “refreshing” territory. Cocoa, caramel, molasses sweeten the finish. The carbonation seems to be at an average plus level but the beer is so dense you need even more. Cherry, pineapple, nectarine, peach, mango fruit, in keeping with the whole more heavy than juicy and flowing. It’s a good enough brew but not sure I’d want more than one in a sitting.
4 out of 5

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Chugged in March 2015

Ballast Point Brewing Company
Grapefruit Sculpin (India Pale Ale With Natural Grapefruit Flavors)
American IPA
California
7.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$14.99
Half a finger of eggshell white foam, good amount of larger bubbles spread across the surface, below average retention, the lacing is broad but not especially thick. Unblemished, bright liquid of a coppery orange color, the random bubbles are fat and avoid beading. In the nose the citrus has more focus than raw sweetness, pink grapefruit supported by solid tangerine notes, floral with saline and pretzel accents, pineapple, nectarine and peach fruit scents likewise more apt to jab than give you a hug. Full-bodied, more dense than heavy, might benefit from more powerful carbonation. Still manages good crispness and the herbaceousness, pine sap and general savoriness give it more spine. For an element which is ever-present, the grapefruit shows restraint in that it willingly shares the stage. The finish displays the underlying caramel and toffee sweetness, particularly when it warms some. Apricot, peach, pineapple fruit there, again not a fruit-driven experience. As one might expect, and want, the grapefruit outlasts all else. Good drinkability, doesn’t wear you down.
4 out of 5

Spencer Brewery, The
Trappist Ale
Belgian Pale Ale
Massachusetts
6.5%
11.2oz, 4-Pack
$17.99
Decent initial head, very loose and wispy, settles down to a loosely arrayed islands of bubbles, tannish hue with an orange tint, for lacing you get minimal splotches with not too much stick. Very cloudy, bottle stood up for days and carefully poured still yields a great deal of particulate in the liquid, warm red glow at the core but mostly a bright orange, color of pink grapefruit pulp, nothing remarkable about the visible carbonation. The nose offers biscuit crumbs, pepper, meadow grasses and earth, clove spice, the orange to lemon citrus pierces the nostrils well and allows for more flow in the attenuated apricot, apple fruit, definitely more lingering banana notes. Full-bodied, in large part due to the fluffy expansion coming from the carbonation. Lees, whipped cream, clove and caraway seed, dried honey, less peppery here. The citrus is indistinct in terms of flavors but a large presence nonetheless. Overall, the profile is too dry for you to get a lot of banana or bubblegum but they are there. Apricot, pear, green melon fruit of moderate ambition. The finish is tactful even as that active carbonation extends the mouth feel. Pleasant to sip.
4 out of 5

De Molen, Brouwerij
Tsarina Esra Imperial Porter
Baltic Porter
Netherlands
11.0%
11.2oz, Single
$9.99
Pours a moderate head, under a finger, mostly larger bubbles which sizzle off quickly, there is some lacing but it’s extremely thin lines with not great stickiness. The liquid is a murky brown, fully opaque, develops a yellow tint at the rims and surface, you can see a few strands of bubbles within but you are more likely to spy particulate floating about. The nose is at once compact and expressive, German chocolate cake, licorice, vanilla cake icing, toffee, kind of too sweet for real smokiness to show, curious lack of fruit scents, quiet raisin and prune at best, lingers with minimal effort. Full-bodied, layers creamily on the tongue, however, here you get something like bitter chicory which brightens the attack. Low carbonation, more fluffy than refreshing. Licorice, pine sap, crème brûlée, molten chocolate, roasted chestnuts and scone flavors keep the sweetness on parade, one could argue there is an uptick in the plum, prune, raisin, cherry fruit. The finish is somewhat flat-footed, yet no faulting the intensity of the flavors it chooses to spotlight. Does a reasonably good job of masking the alcohol.
4 out of 5

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Chugged in February 2015

Founders Brewing Company
Dark Penance Imperial Black India Pale Ale
American Black Ale
Michigan
8.9%
12oz, 4-Pack
$11.99
The head is about a half finger but it looks super dense and mainly mid-sized bubbles which lends visual texture without sacrificing retention, the lacing is a bit wispy but spreads over a wide area of the available glass sides. The liquid is not quite opaque and up close you really see how clear it is, basic brown color, no bubbles to be seen except a few here and there near the surface, actually looks like a “tweener.” In the nose the roast comes through like a bell, coffee and mocha, behind that is caramel, butterscotch and coconut, at turns gets close to being peaty, mild apricot and cherry fruit scents, with all of that maltiness the burst of herbaceousness is a jolting reminder that technically it is an IPA. Medium-bodied, lacking in the carbonation department which saps some of the life which would truly make this a superlative beer. Dark chocolate, coffee beans, toasted coconut shake hands with pine sap, leafy matter, and white grapefruit zest. While bitter you easily adjust to it. Nothing about this is shy nor retiring, it is not an easy sipper. For as much zigging and zagging as you get, it still manages to hold it together. Vibrant, good naturedly argumentative.
4 out of 5

Victory Brewing Company
DirtWolf Double IPA
American Double/Imperial IPA
Pennsylvania
8.7%
12oz, 4-Pack
$8.99
Strong pour yields about a finger’s worth of cream white foam, more or less even surface, a few larger bubbles, has good retention of what’s there, the lacing is more like a thin, consistent webbing than thicker streaks. Coppery colored liquid, neither shiny nor dull, somewhat translucent as well, very few visible bubbles. The nose has a good amount going on, lots of pine and grapefruit, tangerine citrus, peppery, leafy without seeming green, the fruit is tropical pineapple, nectarine, mango with apricot, more edgy than wet and juicy, for the punch it packs it also possesses a sinewy, punctuated dissolve. Full-bodied, sappy and heavy in mouth feel. here too leans on the pine, citrus and herbal matter for the cornerstone of flavor. Not that floral but has a patina of malt sweetness and brioche style breadiness. Mango, papaya, pineapple, nectarine, apricot fruit bright and succinct at once. A touch boozy but no heat in the throat. The stickiness prevents it from being a thirst slaker but that is clearly not the intent. Big, bold and proud of it.
5 out of 5

High Point Brewing Company
Ramstein Blonde Hefe-Weizen
Hefeweizen
New Jersey
5.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Pours a big, aggressive head, easily two fingers and comes close to pouring over, looks whipped up and delicate, off-white cream color, hard to judge the lacing since there’s not much surface space left to stick to. Fuzzy and opaque dark gold to orange hued liquid, maelstrom of bubbles inside, you definitely see where the head came from. The nose clearly offers up yeast, raw dough, banana and even bubblegum before stiffens into pepperiness and cloves, earthy in a clean manner, doesn’t express much fruit, you get more by way of white grapefruit. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied but very firm, the carbonation gives it more slow churn than prickle. On the dry side, can’t accuse it of excess sweetness. But, again, the banana and yeast is a clear element. Almost minerally at times, the wheat seems unprocessed and closer to an unpicked state. More apricot and peach present here, cherry even. The clove and nutmeg notes do not bring much sweetness. Too dense to be refreshing about it has character and is likely best suited as meal accompaniment than consumed on its own.
4 out of 5

Lagunitas Brewing Company
DayTime (A Fractional IPA)
American IPA
California
4.65%
12oz, 6-Pack
$8.99
Modest half finger head, pure white, full mix of bubble sizes, the lacing is fairly thick and splotchy and sticks quite nicely. The liquid is a simple pale yellow color, mild gauziness to it, there are not many bubble beads but the few are highly active. While the nose does offer a good amount of sweeter grapefruit citrus, cocoa powder and florality, it comes across as mainly raw grains, green grass and salt, not much of a fruit presence at all. Light-bodied, bitter enough that you notice it from the instant it hits the tongue and reverbs through the finish even though there’s not much there. Herbaceous, soapy and flat in feel once you acclimate to the bitterness. Retains that veneer of cocoa maltiness, florality dips but maybe some pine to pick up the slack. Again, hardly any fruit, some apricot or peach. In turn the grapefruit, orange citrus drier than might be preferred. It is easy to drink in terms of not being “difficult” so it is indeed sessionable. However, the lack of flavor depth does not entice one into sessioning it, as it were.
2 out of 5

Otter Creek Brewing/Wolaver’s
Brewmaster Mike’s Citra Mantra India-Style Pils Lager
American Pale Lager
Vermont
5.75%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Dense head of about a finger’s height, pale white, smooth surface, mostly uniform foam, the lacing is thin, however, produces many streaks and they all stick with determination. Light filminess to the golden hued light, translucent and difficult to see through, only a few bubbles but they are fat. Very pure and fresh nose, abounds with a cornucopia of tart citrus, leafy herbal matter and toasted bread crust, some peppery notes as well, the white pit fruit and pineapple scents are plush and do what the can to soften the contours, overall has a high energy profile. Medium-bodied, somewhat creamy texture at first then it becomes successively drier although stops short of bitter. The bite in the pineapple, papaya, nectarine fruit trumps any juicier apricot or peach. The floral element more pronounced here, the citrus seems to settle on a mix of pink and white grapefruit. The graininess and herbaceousness stiffen the mouth feel after the attack and the mild maltiness appears mostly after the show has ended. To its credit, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts and it’s best to just enjoy it than parse it.
5 out of 5

Smuttynose Brewing Company
Zinneke Belgian Style Stout (Big Beer Series)
Belgian Strong Dark Ale
New Hampshire
8.7%
22oz, Single
$6.99
Pours a thin dusting across the surface, almost not sure if it’s there, same situation with the lacing, more or less nonexistent. The liquid is a pure brown color, fairly clear and transparent, curiously there’s a decent amount of beads with tiny, active bubbles. The nose mixes roast and sweetness, cocoa and coffee beans then cola and vanilla, some banana notes in there and has an herbaceous side as well. Medium-bodied, the carbonation has prickle during the mouth entry and then trails off. Vanilla, chocolate, cherry fruit makes it seem like a soft drink. Has that dough and banana element here too. The roast is mostly present as an aftertaste. Pleasant enough, not too sweet, overall though it comes off as flat-footed and one-dimensional.
3 out of 5

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Chugged in January 2015

Smuttynose Brewing Company
Bouncy House IPA
American IPA
New Hampshire
4.3%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Finger plus head of eggshell white, fairly loose foam with average retention, the lacing is more splotches than streaks but sticks decently. The liquid is a gauzy yellow with a slight orange tinge, like rusty pipe water, not that many bubbles but they are fat and active. Lean, piercing nose of rock salt, pretzel dough, sour white grapefruit pith and green, leafy hops, any fruit is biting pineapple and star fruit, few moments of softer juiciness, to its credit given the lack of breadth it is pungent and longlasting. Light-bodied, the carbonation is too strong for the body and it basically feels like drinking strongly carbonated mineral water. Bitter hops, cut grass, lemon and grapefruit citrus, quinine, even as it dries out the mouth it creates a tacky residue in its wake. Loses even that tropical fruit appeal, husks of apple, pineapple, nectarine, peach at best. Not malty, has moments of uncooked dough left to dry out. To be fair, it does have a certain refreshing quality and it is not so bitter as to be offputting. So, if you like the general flavor profile and mouth feel it is quaffable.
2 out of 5

Southern Tier Brewing Company
Imperial Rum Barrel Aged Pumking (Ale Brewed With Pumpkins)
Pumpkin Ale
New York
10.7%
22oz, Single
$14.99
Even an active pour barely yields enough head to cover the surface, this dissipates swiftly, close to zero lacing as well. The liquid is extremely clear and transparent, a sort of washed out orange color, barely any bubbles visible. The nose is primarily comprised of caramel popcorn, bushels of baking spices, cocoa powder, and caramelized brown sugar, oddly close to absent are the pumpkin notes, the rum cask treatment is noticeable but gets muted by the overaggressive spices. Medium-bodied, flat mouth presence with minimal carbonation, that is being kind. Lots of flavor, vanilla, caramel, butterscotch, ginger, cinnamon, cocoa, pie crust. Here the booziness from the barrels is more evident and there’s actual real rum flavor. The pumpkin still never manages to get revved up and there’s no fruit flavors. Overall, it is not that sweet nor sugary. Again, the flavors which are present are resonant but not a great deal of complexity on display. Lacks liveliness.
2 out of 5

De Molen, Brouwerij
Bloed, Zweet & Tranen
Smoked Beer
Netherlands
8.2%
11.2oz, Single
$6.49
Pours a healthy two finger head of dark tan foam, delicate in appearance, almost all microfoam with a mottled surface. The liquid is a rich brown hue, opaque although you can see a great deal of hyperactive tiny bubbles rushing towards the surface. The nose is as advertised, huge smokiness, peaty with a saline quality as well as gaminess, old school plastic band-aids, there are some chocolaty notes, all of the above wipes out any fruit which might be there, general pungency lasts for some time. Medium-bodied, creamier texture than expected, the smokiness prevents excess sweetness from building and also aids in gluing it to your palate. Charred campfire wood, grill fat, tar, more peat than straight-up earthiness. The carbonation is as strong as the visuals suggest, this helping to relieve some monotony. More chocolate, caramel coming though here. Perhaps moments of plum and, oddly, apricot. Releases well and does not force itself on you, for its category not heavy handed. Given its relative intensity and higher alcohol, this is one I could drink more than one in a single sitting.
5 out of 5

De Dolle Brouwers, Brouwerij
Oerbier
Belgian Strong Dark Ale
Belgium
9.0%
11.2oz, Single
$9.29
Pours a healthy two finger head, dark tan in hue, the large percentage of bigger bubbles creates a mottled surface, thick globs of lacing left behind. Deep brown colored liquid, cleaner than expected but too dark for transparency, basically wall-to-wall active bubbles too thick to form single beads. The nose definitely betrays a sour, grapey side, clears a path for the thicker, sweeter milk chocolate, scone, molasses and plum, cherry to raisin, prune fruit scents, there is a palpable “sour bois” funk to it, bark, leaves and black tea leaves as well as a modicum of grapefruit pith, truly needs to get close to room temperature to really open up and shine. Full-bodied, needs all that carbonation to prevent it from congealing although, truthfully, it is more pinpoint prickles than foaminess. Minerals, damp earth and sour grapefruit have the speed to get in there before the chocolate, sweet baking spices, yeast and baking dough, root beer and cola bean notes. As a result, the moments of sweetness are deep but not long lived. Same blend of cherry, raisin, date fruit, more concentrated than sweet. Finishes on a metallic note. Sometimes it is annoying when a beer zigs and zags on you, here it just makes you like it more.
5 out of 5

Boulevard Brewing Co.
80-Acre Hoppy Wheat Beer
American Pale Wheat Ale
Missouri
5.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Pure white head, crests around half a finger and quickly sizzles off to a light surface dusting, while wispy what lacing there is sticks quite well to the glass sides. The liquid is cloudy but does not display any floating particulate, widespread and super-active bubbles fill the glass, overall a light orange to yellow color. The nose shows off the wheat proudly but it’s mainly an explosion of grapefruit and orange citrus, not overly hoppy, there is a bubblegum to pie dough element, at the same time there’s a burst of black pepper and green tea, strong presence without being overpowering. Medium-bodied, sour from all that muscular citrus, the powerful carbonation both brings prickle and limits the soaking in of the pucker factor. Floral with that same bubblegum aspect, delivers more peach, apricot, cherry fruit flavors here. Notes of clove and lesser pepper. Not that dry but closer to that end of the spectrum even as you never feel the flavors are truncated as a result. Maybe a too clingy for full-on refreshment but its liveliness is very attractive and it is easy to keep on sipping. Pulls it off well.
4 out of 5

Cape May Brewing Company
Sawyer’s Swap Barley Wine Ale
American Barleywine
New Jersey
9.6%
12oz, Single
$1.99
Gives less than a half finger head, tan foam but no retention, leaves a thin dusting across the surface, can’t call it powerful but there’s actually more lacing than expected. Noticeably clear brown-orange hued liquid, actually a beautiful color, close to zero visible bubbles. Caramel, honey, scones and caramelized brown sugar make the first impression in the nose, dried cherries and golden raisins, old school country style bread, the kind of rip off in chunks, light wood smoke, remarkable for its freshness and ease in flowing forward through your nostrils. Full-bodied, here it has enough density that just maybe it loses that effortless grace. Peat, smoke, spent yeast, cola bean, caraway, by now the herbal qualities may have seen their best days. Tar, graphite, campfire embers, as it warms the inner mouth pungency grows. The carbonation could stand to have more kick but this is a minor quibble. Cherry, golden raisin, date and fig, this all manages to step lively. Booziness held in check throughout, tingly finish without any well intentioned lurching forward. This could prove versatile at the dinner table.
5 out of 5

Long Trail Brewing Company
Limbo IPA
American IPA
Vermont
7.6%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Little over a finger of eggshell white foam, mostly even surface with a couple of islands of larger bubbles, leaves behind long, thin streaks of sticky lacing, Cloudy orange rust to yellow hued liquid, fully opaque with a large amount of muscular bubbles swirling upwards. Wisely starts off with sweeter orange, tangerine citrus which sets you at ease before leafy herbal matter, pretzel dough, pepper, pine cones and iron flecks exercise themselves, the pineapple, nectarine, passion fruit has bite but too little juice to really soak into the nostrils. Medium-bodied, the carbonation tends to firm it up more than lift. The grapefruit, lemon, sour orange citrus really revs it up as does the pine. More muted floral aspect softens the contours, biscuit actually sweetens it. Maybe at times a sprinkle of cocoa and then caramel. Sticks to the palate pretty well. Still, dryness of finish truncates the peach, nectarine, pineapple fruit, no one is gonna confuse this with Lagunitas. Not really that herbaceous but it is soapy at moments. Whatever flaws it may have, it handles itself confidently and doesn’t push the envelope too far and thus you could easily not notice putting back 3-4 of them in an evening.
4 out of 5

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Chugged in December 2014

Dieu du Ciel, Brasserie
Dernière Volonté (Belgian Style India Pale Ale)
Belgian IPA
Canada
7.0%
11.5oz, Single
$4.99
Modest head of about a finger’s depth, close to bone white, tightly woven but not especially longlasting, the lacing comes in broad streaks and sticks well. Light orange to yellow colored liquid, looks a touch a dilute, good deal of active bubbles within as well as a very fine particulate which lends it a semi-translucency. There is a raw graininess to the nose as well as peppery nature which keeps it on edge, however, plenty of pine, sweet citrus and floral notes for prettiness, cardamom and chamomile, peach and yellow fruit, fresh with good clarity to the parts. Medium-bodied, dry and zesty entry into the mouth, very floral and the spiciness more pronounced here, cumin, ginger and something close to tarragon, not sweeter spiciness. More orange to lemon citrus than grapefruit. The pine seems more knit in here. The carbonation is tight and not too aggressive. The apricot, peach, pear fruit light of touch without ever disappearing. Essence of violets left behind at the end, expansive floral lift continues. Too rich to be delicate but it is intelligently put together and subtly holds your attention.
4 out of 5

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Chugged in November 2014

Angel City Brewery
Dark Rye Lager (Aged 3 Months In Bourbon Barrels) (2014)
Rye Beer
California
8.7%
22oz, Single
$11.49
Pours a huge, half the glass, head so be careful, deep tan in color and mainly medium to large bubbles, dimpled surface, once some glass surface becomes available the lacing is thick and quite sticky. The liquid is a dark and murky brown color, lightens into a gauzy orange around the glass bottom and rims, strong visible beads of bubbles. The bourbon plays by far the major role in the nose, vanilla, butterscotch, caramel, root beer, not quite smoky though, poached peach and apple fruit scents, there is a sort of hot car seat plastic thing going on, semi-volatile. Full-bodied, the carbonation adds more creaminess than freshness. That cream soda to root beer aspect continues, again smoother barrel flavors like vanilla, caramel, not toasty. The rye is most present retronasally in fume form. Apricot, apple, pear fruit not as concentrated as in the nose and tends to trail off by the end. For all the overt presence of the bourbon barrels, in the end it has a sour profile. Coming across as faded and muted even at this young stage, being a 2014 bottling. No flaws, but needs more verve and energy.
2 out of 5

Grand Canyon Brewing Company, The
Sunset Amber Ale
American Amber/Red Ale
Arizona
5.4%
12oz, 6-Pack
$8.99
Yields a very meager head, barely coats the surface, no surprise that it doesn’t leave much lacing behind. The liquid is certainly a dark amber color, more towards red than orange, clear on the whole but up close you can see a fair amount of particulate floating about, no visible bubbles. The nose is all malted milk balls, chocolate and scone and pastry flakes, more of a metallic presence than fruity, something like corn syrup in there too. Medium-bodied, kind of sluggish with low carbonation and a general flat feel. The high level of sweetness also adds to the sappy texture. Cocoa, chocolate, toffee, there is a burnt edge as well, like bitter chocolate or roasted coffee. More of that breadiness, nutty as well, roasted and dappled in honey. Again, curious about the lack of fruit, some peach or apricot notes at best. The metallic, earthy stuff drops a notch or two here. Its blockish finish prevents a refreshing appeal. It’s basically alright, that’s kinda it.
2 out of 5

Olde Hickory Brewery
Imperial Stout (Ale Brewed With Honey) (2014)
American Double/Imperial Stout
North Carolina
10.0%
22oz, Single
$12.99
Aggressive pour yields about half a finger of extremely dark brown foam, simmers down to the surface at a quick pace, no lacing to speak of. The liquid is as black as coal, completely impenetrable with no trace of any orange nor yellow tint, if there’s any bubbles you ain’t seeing them. Thick roast to the nose, bitter dark chocolate, molasses more than honey, candied orange peels, lighter black licorice, rum raisin ice cream, plum fruit, overall not quite as explosive as expected, tends to peter out more swiftly than would be preferred. Full-bodied but here too it shies off at the end, curious given the boldness of the flavors. Coffee, dark chocolate roast combines with scone breadiness, star anise, coconut flakes and crème brûlée flavors, the bitterness gets more extreme during the finish, not an excessively sweet beer. The honey has a clearer presence here. The plum to cherry fruit takes a step back out of the limelight. Perhaps even takes on a tarry, ashy aspect over time. Hard to say there’s much carbonation but it is not entirely flat per se. There’s little doubt it is going for the “steamroller” effect but does not have the density nor sweetness to really achieve it. Maybe a better brew for “failing” in this regard.
4 out of 5

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Chugged in October 2014

Goose Island Beer Company
Pepe Nero Belgian-Style Farmhouse Ale (Belgian Style Farmhouse Ale Brewed With Peppercorns) (2013)
Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Illinois
6.4%
12oz, Single
$3.49
Solid finger plus of tan microfoam, miniscule bubbles forming a very even surface, the lacing is a broad sheet, no streaks, head lasts well enough before becoming a thin coating across the surface. The liquid is a deep brown with yellowish rims, lots of particulate floating inside, still you can see the fat bubbles with ease. The nose is sweet, highlighting cola, cocoa, malted milk balls, vanilla and green apple to peach and cherry fruit scents, perhaps bready but not very yeasty and no citrus nor herbal/earthy notes. Full-bodied and lays thickly on the tongue, the carbonation adds initial prickle and then little much thereafter. Equally sweet here with chocolate, caramel, cola flavors, kind of like drinking an alcoholic Dr. Pepper. The fruit here more cherry to red berry in nature. Maybe, just maybe a little minerally earthiness at the end where it is also on the dry side. This beer provides pleasure, it simply leaves you a bit confused as to what its goal is.
3 out of 5

Drake’s Brewing Company
Drakonic Imperial Stout
Russian Imperial Stout
California
8.75%
22oz, Single
$6.99
Aggressive pour yields over two fingers of loose foam, mostly large bigger bubbles, very uneven surface, very dark brown in hue, the lacing is wide and sticky. The liquid is pure black with minimal hint of any color around the rims, close to impossible to discern any bubbles. The nose stuffed with black licorice, milk chocolate, vanilla bean, caramel, candied nuts and lactose, not much roast at all, the cherry to plum fruit also has a little green apple in it. Full-bodied and thick, here it does have a roasty quality which helps to alleviate some weight. Flowers, licorice, nuts, baking dough, cocoa, and café au lait flavors make an agreeable entry, however, there is a drying bitterness by the finish. The plum, cherry, apricot, fig fruit loses sweetness as it progresses. The carbonation has its moments but needs more consistency to keep it buoyant sip to sip. All of the basic elements are covered, you simply wish there was more resonance in the sweetness so you could sink into it and enjoy. More credible than spectacular.
3 out of 5

Grand Canyon Brewing Company, The
Black Iron India Pale Ale
American IPA
Arizona
7.2%
12oz, 6-Pack
$8.99
Thin head, almost gone before it’s there, the lacing is more like a ring around a bathtub than separate streaks. Deep orange colored liquid with some discernible particulate and few bubbles, good brightness. Sweetly pungent nose, heavy on the floral musk, honey and orange marmalade, pine sap, poached peach to apricot scents, some pineapple too, peppery then it gets barnyardy like a bushel of hay left out in the weather to do whatever. Medium-bodied, soft and limp, no zip at all, carbonation on the low side. Tangerine, blood orange, and some pink grapefruit, has a soft drink character. Floral air freshener, cocoa, caramelized brown sugar, coconut custard, pine, like walking through a department store perfume department. Peach, nectarine, pineapple, guava, ripe but lacks tropical zest. Wish it possessed some more herbal hoppy qualities to heighten liveliness. No pedigree, clearly going for uber-friendliness at the cost of distinct elements. If that is indeed the case, at least it likely has succeeded.
2 out of 5

Off Color Brewing
Troublesome (Wheat Beer Brewed With Coriander)
Gose
Illinois
4.3%
12oz, 6-Pack
$18.99
Very thin bone white head, covers the surface before a swift dissolve to just an accumulation along the glass sides, no real lacing either. Metallic yellow color, has good shine to compensate for overall paleness, not any bubbles but what’s there are large and active. The nose is on the flat side, yeast, iron flecks, wet straw, brown dirt, the mixed white citrus struggles to maintain presence, minimal peach, apricot fruit scents, funky on the whole albeit more sugary as it warms. Medium-bodied, heavily carbonated with an active churn in the mouth. Corn syrup kind of sweetness, dough, honey and lemondrops, can’t say it is easy to discern any coriander although there is an undistinguished cooking spice thing there. Peach, yellow apple to cherry flavors. The wheat is clearer, here comes off more as bread than uncooked dough. Semi-tart ending tries to play up earthiness but, again, more metallic than the former. For its weight can be refreshing and strikes one as a dinner table beer more than a quaffer on its own.
3 out of 5

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Chugged in September 2014

The Portsmouth Brewery
Killer B Ale
Braggot
New Hampshire
9.8%
22oz, Single
$10.00
Decent head which crests over a finger, mostly larger bubbles so doesn’t persist that long, pleasingly orangish tan color, the lacing forms thick streaks, however, these too aren’t long for this world. Rich amber red color, bright shine to it, lots of large and swiftly moving bubbles. Big, brash nose of honey, candied orange peel, cocoa and caramel, sweet is what it does best, lighter dough to processed grains presence, apple, pear, peach to fig fruit scents, textural thickness has it glued to your nostrils for some time. Full-bodied, the carbonation is working overtime but not going to match the layered power and heaviness it presents. More mineral to metallic notes as well as grass and bread crust, still it remains all about the honey. The orange citrus expands into white grapefruit. The caramel verges onto butterscotch syrup and vanilla pudding. There is a burnt touch, like caramelized brown sugar. The fruit lacks clarity, lump of peach, apricot and fig. At the very end you get a fizzy tickle. Does come off as boozy, you feel the alcohol. A very sweet in style beer that likely is best utilized as a dessert beverage or to counter a very spicy and heavy main course dish.
4 out of 5

De Dolle Brouwers, Brouwerij
Arabier
Belgian Strong Pale Ale
Belgium
8.0%
11.2oz, Single
$9.29
Normal pour fills 2/3 of the glass with a dense white foam, even surface, close to zero lacing, retention is very good though. Cloudy liquid with a healthy amount of particulate, golden orange in color, could be rust water, huge amount of visible bubbles, wall-to-wall activity. The nose has a rough texture to it, wheat and grains, earth and peppercorns before slightly softening into banana, white grape and apricot pits, not that sweet and the clove to nutmeg spice could show more oomph, stays within itself well. In the mouth it’s full-bodied and tends to be bottom heavy, the carbonation is indeed strong so it makes you imagine what the feel would be like without it. Much more floral here with lemon accents, the clove stronger as well. For all the sweetness in the pear, yellow apple, apricot to banana fruit, dryness takes over past the mid-palate. Hay, quinine, spent lees, iron flecks, sort of heads in many directions at once. Astringent ending but can’t call it herbaceous nor really green in any manner. Seems to unclench some as it warms so may be one to linger over rather than quaff with abandon.
3 out of 5

Maine Beer Company
Weez
American Black Ale
Maine
7.2%
16.9oz, Single
$5.99
Huge, frothy head, easy three fingers, very dark brown with an unusual amount of larger bubbles present, lots of craters across the surface, excellent retention, the lacing likewise thick and chunky and not easily washed away. The liquid is a pure black, while opaque in no way cloudy, can’t discern any visible bubbles. Early appearance in the nose of white grapefruit and orange citrus, this succumbs to cocoa, coffee roast notes, pleasingly strong floral component too, something medicinal, like witch hazel, the plum, cherry fruit scents a touch muted, never turns all that complex but what is there lingers powerfully. Medium-bodied, the creamy mouthfeel helps to delay the arrival of the roastiness and dark chocolate, moments of chicory like bitterness. In the end the citrus adds more sweetness than tartness, still not getting much more than a vestige of mixed black fruits. Carbonation assists in breaking up its inclinations towards heaviness. Pine resin, tar and campfire smoke contribute to the inner mouth perfume through the finish. Thankfully not over roasted so ends up with a clean ending rather than too astringent or bitter.
4 out of 5

Great Divide Brewing Company
20th Anniversary Belgian-Style Ale (Ale Brewed With Grape Juice)
Belgian Strong Pale Ale
Colorado
8.2%
22oz, Single
$8.99
Wispy head, barely covers the surface before even that thin layer of white is gone, lacing close to nonexistent and no stick. Filmy light yellow hued liquid, holds the light and glows warmly, just transparent enough to see the fat bubbles rise inside the glass. The nose leans on clove to nutmeg spice, lemon pulp, yeast and apple, pear and, of course, white grape fruit scents, comes across as gregariously sugary with bubblegum notes and not much to provide counterbalance. In the mouth it is medium-bodied with active carbonation which ultimately proves more distracting than refreshing, albeit this trails off at the end. The coriander to clove spice sweet, fewer yeasty qualities here as the lemon to sour orange citrus plays a bigger role and the vinous qualities come to the fore and accentuate the white grape, pear, green apple flavors. You get a bit more banana as it warms. Yeast to raw pie dough, not much in terms of finished or baked bread or even rougher grains. Does produce a certain bitterness at the end, however, this itself just contributes to its herky-jerky presentation. If you enjoy the primary flavors here, they are deep and longlasting.
3 out of 5

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Chugged in August 2014

DuClaw Brewing Company
Sweet Baby Jesus! Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter
American Porter
Maryland
6.5%
12oz, Single
$1.89
Thinnish half finger head, doesn’t stick around long, a dusting across the surface, the lacing slides off in slippery sheets. Opaque dark brown liquid, turns to a rust orange near the surface which allows you to see how much chunky particulate there is inside, a few beads of bubbles visible. The nose is almost entirely peanut butter, some chocolate powder, has some roast but basically you might as well open a jar of Skippy and put your nose in it. Light to medium-bodied, carbonated attack prevents it from soaking into the mouth, weak finish. Here the peanut butter is just as strong, chocolate and maybe it is psychological but there’s also grape jelly. Burnt roastiness, lactose and challah bread along with sweeter nuts. Actually wish it was sweeter so it would have a clearer purpose when consumed. Lacks smooth flow and tends to gum up from front palate to rear. One trick pony that is fun once and that’s about it.
2 out of 5

New Jersey Beer Company
Garden State Stout (Stout Brewed With Chocolate And Raisins)
American Stout
New Jersey
6.6%
12oz, Single
$2.19
Pours a meager head, barely covers the surface before disappearing entirely, not much lacing either. Straight up black and opaque liquid, thin stripe of yellow at the rims and surface. The nose is sweet, spotlights chocolate, milk, maple syrup and licorice, the raisins do come through, however, just as much fig or date too, has a bready dimension yet no real drier, stiffening element. Medium-bodied, lack of carbonation gives it a semi-flat mouth feel and increases heaviness. Stronger roast here, brings out coffee, tree bark and tar notes and gives the chocolate a bitterness. Caramel, toffee and milk predominate, some black tea leaf and that tarry, earthy stuff. Really, the fruit presence is minimal at best. Lots of residual smokiness as it finishes. While the primary flavors would indicate a sweeter beer it actually comes off on the dry side. Flavor intensity trails off at the end. Easy to drink and neutral enough in many respects to pair well across the board with a variety of foods. Wish it had more liveliness.
2 out of 5

Hofbräuhaus München
Hefe Weizen
Hefeweizen
Germany
5.1%
11.2oz, 6-Pack
$7.99
Light pure white head, sizzles down to an even surface swiftly, the lacing is somewhat chunky which makes its presence better known as it does not cling much. The liquid is a hazy yellow gold color, not many big bubbles but they are large, overall looks the part. Banana, bubblegum, cherries and strawberries in the nose alongside hay and wheat, slight metallic undertones, spicy but the white citrus a touch mute, it has a thick texture and really fills your nostrils. Full-bodied and on the heavy side in the mouth too, sweet enough to enhance its clinginess. Clove, yeast and quinine tease out more white grapefruit but also likely diminish the apricot, cherry fruit. The banana and bubblegum tamer as well, the bitterness of the metallic earth and matted grass matter take ground. Carbonation is so-so, not sufficient to break up its solidity. Expectations were for a more refreshing experience. Seems muddled about what it truly wants to express. Yet, drinkable in its own right.
3 out of 5

Maine Beer Company
Zoe
American Amber/Red Ale
Maine
7.2%
16.9oz, Single
$5.99
Very foamy pour, fills up nearly half the pint glass, despite fragile, airy quality retains well and hovers over a finger for some time, light tan color, virtually no larger bubbles on the surface, the lacing is weak, a few splotches here and there at best. The liquid is clear and transparent, a very dark reddish brown, looks like the color of library furniture, sedate and serious, almost zero bubbles visible. The nose is expressive with grapefruit, pine leading into malted milk balls, chocolate, coffee and caramelized brown sugar, then veers back to earthy hops and leafy matter, apple and pear skin all you get for fruit, keenly penetrating and erect posture in the nostrils. Full-bodied for the character, has decent enough carbonation yet still sits like a bowling ball on the tongue. Leads with biting white grapefruit zest and green grass notes before the more roasty coffee, mocha steps up. Pine and flowers pull it away from malty sweetness and here there’s greater depth of apricot, peach and pear fruit. Some breadiness and a hint of summer corn but not strong enough to counteract the overall bitterness. Overall, appears to choose power and simplicity over subtlety, no complaints here.
5 out of 5

Allagash Brewing Company
Saison Belgian Style Ale
Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Maine
6.1%
12oz, 4-Pack
$10.99
Bright white head, around half a finger and it sizzles off quickly, lacks density, no stick in the lacing but there are broad sheets which slide down the glass sides. Light yellowish liquid, slightly washed out but it has good shine, lots of active bubbles fill the glass, snow globe level fullness. While the nose has some brine and pickled aspects, opens into softer floral notes with sour white citrus and clove, coriander citrus, there is bubblegum but it never quite enunciates strongly, the peach, apricot and curiously pineapple fruit scents crushed into the whole, ends with a yeast, dough elevation. Medium-bodied, the carbonation lives up to its visual impression and churns through the mouth, especially creamy attack. The tangerine, white grapefruit citrus plays a big role. Fewer flowers, more grains and metal shavings, these push back the banana, bubblegum and lees aspects to the end. In the end it is bit too tough minded and lacking in flow, however, the basic elements are there and the funk seems to be managed for maximal approachability by the widest group of imbibers.
3 out of 5

Paulaner Brauerei GmbH & Co. KG
Hefe-Weizen Natural Wheat
Hefeweizen
Germany
5.5%
11.2oz, 6-Pack
$8.99
Close to two fingers of head, comprised mostly of microscopic bubbles, moderate retention, close to pure white in color, no lacing to speak of. Soft reddish tint to the orange-yellow base to the liquid, vague hazy quality, strong presence of fat, active bubbles, sits solidly in the glass. The nose explodes with banana and bubblegum notes, clove and star anise spice, lower peppery bite, hint of quinine and saline, curiously the wheat seems submerged, the mixed orange to lemon citrus lingers almost as long as the bubblegum. Medium-bodied, the creamy attack leads to a sterner, leaner mouth presence, the carbonation is front loaded and then dries out across the palate. The bubblegum, banana big time here too, blends into apricot, yellow apple notes. Clove, coriander breaks the surface and then gets shadowed by white grapefruit sourness. Squares itself up and strides from the mid-palate to the finish with determination. Nothing wimpy here, even with that bubblegum sweetness. Spice nips at your heels. This is easygoing and approachable and likely more to please crowds than an individual beer geek.
4 out of 5

Modern Times Beer
Fortunate Islands Hoppy-Tropical Wheat
American Pale Wheat Ale
California
5.0%
16oz, Single
$2.69
Finger plus of just off white foam, mottled surface, dissolves fairly swiftly thus revealing its airy structure, hardly any stickiness to the lacing hence not much lacing. Thin orange color, the liquid is very bright and shiny just not much depth of hue, some fade to yellow around the edges, minimal visible bubbles. Very pleasing and clean nose, youthfully fresh pineapple, guava, nectarine fruit, blood orange citrus, pretzel dough, wheat germ, grassy but never too biting, the malts do not coalesce into distinct scents but lend textural softness, lingers well without seeming forced. Light to medium-bodied, smooth mouth feel although the carbonation at times seems too aggressive for the overall weight. The graininess is present while the herbaceous element recedes. The sour orange to grapefruit citrus steps up its game, big player. There’s flavor but not sugary sweetness in the pineapple, apple, nectarine, papaya fruit, allows for a more sour finish. Delivers some floral retronasal lift. Earthy residue on the tongue, not unclean but has been out in the fields all day. Interesting, drinkable, not something I’d seek out multiple times but happy if it crossed my path.
4 out of 5

Maine Beer Company
Lunch India Pale Ale
American IPA
Maine
7.0%
16.9oz, Single
$5.99
Big frothy head, easily three fingers with a very slow dissolve, uneven surface, cream white not bright, the lacing is thinner than you’d think, average stickiness at best, very light gauziness to the orange bronze liquid, consistent coloration throughout, few visible bubbles, maybe they all rushed to the top during the pour. The nose is thick which marginally hampers freshness, plenty of pine, herbal matter, the white grapefruit adds to overall punch, same for the white pepper element, the cocoa and malt cloaked, thickly layered nectarine, pineapple, guava, peach fruit scents, not going for finesse but comes off as a gentle steamroller. Full-bodied, tangy and biting, even the carbonation has a chip on its shoulder, steady push towards the throat. More tangerine and orange mixed into the grapefruit. The floral element softens a few rough spots. Earthy and close to minerally or metallic. The fruit pulls back, apricot, peach pit and some pineapple, green apple. As in the nose the malts wait until the 11th hour to arrive. Piney qualities add to bitterness. This is no messing around, no smiling, just business, type of beer.
5 out of 5

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Chugged in July 2014

Drake’s Brewing Company
1500 Dry-Hopped Pale Ale
American Pale Ale
California
5.5%
12oz, Single
$1.79
Pours a solid two finger head of eggshell white foam, plenty of larger bubbles and not densely constructed thus retention is so-so, you can fairly broad sheets across the glass sides but lacks stickiness to form meaningful lacing. Cloudy rust orange colored liquid, dense looking, the bubbles are widely dispersed. Decent stiffness to the nose, cocoa powder, grains, grapefruit pith, light grassiness and arguably on the hoppy side for an APA (but this no real surprise), the apricot to nectarine fruit scents are muted, wet resiny presence in the nostrils. Full-bodied, sticky and piney with a good bit of earthy, metallic notes. Bigger citrus, orange, tangerine, lemon, grapefruit. Feels somewhat fizzy, carbonation too aggressive for moderate overall flavor intensity. The cocoa, powdered chocolate steady accompaniment. The nectarine, pineapple, apricot fruit weaves around aimlessly. Pretzel dough, salt, quinine, puckering finish. What is interesting is that with all of the above it actually coheres well and has slurpability. Given its heaviness the younger you consume it the more likely you will pound more and get fatigued less.
3 out of 5

Upright Brewing Company
Four
Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Oregon
4.5%
25.4oz
Single, $10.99
Very frothy, you get a little spillage simply from popping it open, pours a three plus finger head of delicate, airy bleached white foam, doesn’t have the skeleton to last very long, evaporates down to the surface with a few random splotches to create an impression of lacing. Warm golden color, on the gauzy side, the bubbles are random but fat and active. Pleasingly straightforward and fresh nose focused on grapefruit and orange citrus, apple, pear fruit, trim and focused so that any breadiness or coriander type spice remains a minor influence, has a meadowy freshness rather than leafy herbaceousness. Medium-bodied, has some palate traction but likewise fresh here as well with lavender, ginger, coriander, tea leaf, and wildflowers more than pepper or sweet yeastiness. Lemon, grapefruit citrus again a factor. The fruit flickers in and out, skin and seeds like apple and pear, some underripe apricot. The carbonation is average to plus, however, the mouth feel remains “hard” and somewhat chewy. A model of restraint while being accessible and easy to quaff. Happy to have tried it.
4 out of 5

Mystery Brewing Company
Beatrix Spring Saison
Saison/Farmhouse Ale
North Carolina
6.9%
22oz, Single
$7.99
Thin head, wispy larger white bubbles which evaporate at a rapid pace, the lacing fares somewhat better, few streaks but they are thick. The liquid has a worn gold hue, captures and holds light well, dullish, plenty of big, lazy bubbles which rise at an amazingly slow pace. The nose conjures up hibiscus, apricot and peach fuzz, apple skin, sweet grains, orange peel and caraway seeds, very mild estery notes, overall lacks expressivity. Full-bodied, soft and expands steadily in the mouth, you feel it from cheek to cheek. Here you get a pleasant metallic accent and earthiness to balance out the sweetness of the peach, apple, apricot, banana fruit. Spicier too, pepper and tarragon. The citrus element struggles some but stays present. Likewise, the florality gets lost in the overall thickness of the brew. Allowing for this, there is solid depth of flavor and persistence, plus it veers away from getting bitter while at the same time not overplaying the sweetness. Thinking this would show best with some heavier fare at the dinner table than consumed on its own.
3 out of 5

Monkish Brewing Company
Anomaly Belgian-Style Strong Dark Ale
Belgian Strong Dark Ale
California
8.5%
25.4oz, Single
$11.39
Pours a healthy two to three finger head, deep tan color, dense microfoam with an even surface, adequate stick to what lacing is there, nice retention. The liquid is mostly opaque, a murky brownish core which fades to a mix of muddy yellows and oranges around the rims, not much visible by way of carbonation. The nose is quite sweet, developing strong currents of milk chocolate, molasses, licorice, custard and ginger spice, verges on prune, plenty of dark fruit scents, layers itself well without ever fatiguing your nostrils. In the mouth, however, it is a little heavy and the carbonation is somewhat weak and unable to create meaningful lift off the palate. That said, the flavors are vivid and sure to please any sweet tooth, anise, cinnamon, chocolate, coconut, brown sugar, honey, some graininess along the lines of honeyed bread. Plum to prune, cherry, apricot fruit dominates. Mild char to it relieves some sugariness. Strikes me as an “nightcap” sort of beer, relaxing after dinner. Not sure I’d want to put down more than a couple of glasses. But what you do drink would please for sure.
4 out of 5

Berkshire Brewing Company
Brewer’s Series Black India Pale Ale
American Black Ale
Massachusetts
5.0%
22oz, Single
$6.99
Finger plus of deep brown foam, full mix of bubble sizes with an uneven surface, good plus retention, the lacing is thick and covers a good portion of the available space. The liquid is not especially dense but does reach opacity and full blackness, there’s a broad orange glow at the glass bottom and rims, could pass for a stout. Big time malty roast to the nose, mocha and cocoa and coffee, powerful white grapefruit presence as well, herbaceous with accents of pine sap, not a lot of fruit going on, leans heavily on the citrus. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied, the carbonation does not make it soft yet does create a steady prickly churn. Chicory, coffee, bitter dark chocolate push the white grapefruit back a notch, the herbal qualities hold off mostly until the end. Muted cherry, apricot, apple fruit. Bitter finish, however, retains most of its basic flavor profile. Ultimately, the roast doesn’t allow for much complexity.
3 out of 5

Triple C Brewing Co.
3C India Pale Ale
American IPA
North Carolina
6.2%
22oz, Single
$6.99
Thin pure white head, very even, hardly any larger bubbles, not much stickiness to the lacing, forms a wide sheet which slides down the glass side. The liquid is very cloudy, dark orange at the core and more yellow further out, even with the murkiness there’s a great deal of bubbles rising up. The nose is taut and piercing, very herbaceous and earthy, metallic notes, dried dark bread crusts, curious that it delivers more cocoa and dark chocolate than citrus accents, mild pine, hard to pick out much by way of fruit scents, kind of jabs at you. In the mouth not much changes, full-bodied and sort of foamy in texture with same emphasis on earth, metal, forest floor matter. The white grapefruit finds itself, muttering of dried flowers, still very little fruit, peach and apricot pit. Sour on the whole, not sure where balancing sweetness is supposed to come from, that cocoa and hard caramel isn’t doing it. Its weight is what carries it through the finish rather than breadth of flavors. A candidate for dinner table drinking rather than relaxing sipping on its own.
3 out of 5

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Chugged in June 2014

Nantahala Brewing Company
Noon Day India Pale Ale
American IPA
North Carolina
6.0%
22oz, Single
$7.49
A passive pour still yields close to half a glass full of eggshell to cream white foam, very airy and light but the retention is pretty admirable and the lacing is thick and gluey as well. There’s a filmy dullness to the liquid, more darker orange than red or brown, curious lack of visible bubbles given the size of the head, basic. The nose has a herbal, earthy base but it’s mainly grapefruit, pine, flowers and peach, apricot, gets a lot maltier as it warms. Full-bodied, soft mouth feel from the carbonation, lessens the innate bitterness of the mouth entry. More earthy and loamy than herbaceous, any of this short lived due to the strength of the mocha, cocoa notes. Decent amount of sweetness in the tangerine, mandarin orange, white grapefruit citrus, a big overall factor. Texture turns syrupy after repeated sips, honeyed too. Pepper, scone and bread crusts, does not indulge in over sweetness nor “bigger is better” bombast. The pineapple, apricot, yellow apple fruit stays present and consistent. It’s easy to see how some could find this “boring” but it’s really just keeping it simple for simplicity’s sake. Too thick to be sessionable, otherwise you could pound these back with ease.
4 out of 5

El Segundo Brewing Company
Two 5 Left Double IPA
American Double/Imperial IPA
California
8.2%
22oz, Single
$8.99
Whipped up head with a majority of larger bubbles which hurts overall retention, crests over two fingers, darker eggshell white, the lacing has adequate stickiness, nothing special. The liquid itself is on the darker side, an orangish brown more than red, fades to yellow at the rims, the bubbles are tiny and widely dispersed but display very good activity. At once the nose has clarity among the elements and one big thick whomp upside your head, loaded with pine sap, white grapefruit pulp, tar, pepper and melted caramel, the fruit is sweetly tropical like ripe mango and papaya, not so much tarter pineapple, sticks to your nostril hairs like glue and lingers for a considerable amount of time. Full-bodied to the point of immobility, even the soft and fluffy carbonation barely gets it moving. So it does offer a somewhat monolithic experience. As one would expect, you get a lot more bitterness on the palate, tauter pine and grassy notes. Mixes some lemon and blood orange into the white grapefruit. The caramel to butterscotch is there but woven in. Absence of fruit is curious, what’s there is mostly peach, nectarine, papaya and, here, pineapple. Dusting of cocoa powder. A lot going on, and in a confined space, but you have to give it credit, it pulls it all together somehow.
4 out of 5

Logsdon Farmhouse Ales
Seizoen Organic Farmhouse Ale
Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Oregon
7.5%
25.4oz, Single
$11.99
Big three finger head, agitated and whipped up, very airy, bleached white, nice retention, good amount of thick splotches of lacing as well. Not a lot of shine, has more of a worn gold hue, dense presence in the glass, hardly any bubbles visible, wonder where that big head came from. Steady and strong nose of tangerine, orange citrus, cinnamon, chamomile, white pepper, lots of earthiness and herbaceous qualities underneath, when warming the peach, apricot, yellow apple fruit comes through more clearly, good clarity for all of its richness. Full-bodied, dense and foamy in texture. Peppery, has a “green” edge to it with a metallic touch. White grapefruit, sour oranges, the citrus pairs with the aforementioned to cut through the fluff and refresh. Coriander, clove, and some cinnamon. The fruit more green apple, pear and apricot pit, not as sweet as the nose suggests. Any banana or bubblegum seems to appear mostly retronasally. Admire how it is not wimpy and overzealous in trying to please. The florality is an escalating component as it approaches finish. Not that yeasty, maybe some toastiness. Overall, not that sweet but it never seems arch. Comes across as crafted in a very “traditional” style, like great-grandpa would approve.
5 out of 5

Drake’s Brewing Company
Denogginizer Imperial IPA
American Double/Imperial IPA
California
9.75%
22oz, Single
$6.99
Nice frothy head, crests around two fingers, darker eggshell white hue, fair amount of larger bubbles but retention is good, the lacing is very splotchy but this too sticks. Cloudy liquid, sort of deep orange-brown at the core, more yellow further out, the bubbles are scattered, large and slow, not the most visually appealing beer. Thick, sweet nose of oak barrels, caramel, vanilla, cocoa, booze and peach to apricot paste, kind of over the top, the herbaceousness of the hops diminished as a result, the pine tar and coal notes actually bring freshness, has prolonged staying power basically because it has clogged up your nostrils. Full-bodied, feels more right-sized here though, its heaviness distributed across the palate. Pink grapefruit, tangerine pulp blends into concentrated pineapple, guava, apricot fruit. The carbonation brings a welcome prickle, favoring the pine, grass and earth for a moment. Then it’s back to the cocoa, mocha, vanilla, butterscotch and molasses flavors. While it deserves points for a fair amount of flavor intensity, its ability to fatigue the palate, well, fatigues the palate. Wish it moved with more effortless grace.
3 out of 5

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Chugged in May 2014

Ithaca Beer Company
Flower Power IPA
American IPA
New York
7.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.99
Hits you with one to two fingers of bone white foam, fairly dense weave but there are some bigger bubbles, the lacing forms very long streaks, however, not the stickiest. Cloudy yellow to light orange hued liquid, lots of “floaties” inside, fully opaque, you can only see a few lazily scattered bubbles but unlikely there’s many more you can’t discern. The nose is on the aggressive side, herbaceous and piney, dried grapefruit pith, metallic earth, burnt bread crusts and while the florality and peach, apricot fruit are no pushovers, they don’t have the raw power to show decisively, overall its muscular texture lengthens presence more than gluey richness. In the mouth it has a similar feel, close to full-bodied, focused on grip over layering. As you get pineapple, papaya mixed into the apricot and apple, more nervosity, same for the white grapefruit, blood orange citrus, comes into its own. Still, little ignoring the grassiness and earthiness, on the bitter side of the ledger. Pine, dash here and there of cocoa or mocha. Seems to want to offer fewer elements and intensify what is there. Carbonation is sneakily strong, enlivens the finish. While not an easygoing rendition of the category, by the same token not overly challenging to the point of conceding the victory.
4 out of 5

NoDa Brewing Company
Jam Session Pale Ale
American Pale Ale
North Carolina
5.1%
16oz, 4-Pack
$8.99
Moderate head, under a finger of off-white color, full mix of bubble sizes, below average retention, not much lacing either, more random than a direct result of glass swirling. The liquid is a mildly bronzed orange with more red than yellow mixed in, good clarity yet without many bubbles to see. The nose has a powerful floral lift, honeyed with sweet orange, tangerine citrus, just lacks the herbaceous bite to come off as an IPA, there’s a malty caramel streak in there too but sort of lost in the shuffle, peach and pineapple fruit scents, overall pungency is impressive. Full-bodied, ever so slightly heavy and slow to move. The level of carbonation is acceptable, not obtrusive. However, probably could help make it a little easier to pound were it stronger. More noticeable malts here, cocoa, mocha and toffee frame the attack, arguably even before the tangelo and lime citrus pounce. Likewise, more grass, black tea leaf, and pine, albeit these smooth out by the finish. Clean, with a certain metallic edge to it. More gusto to it than many in its category, the kind of beer you may think is just alright at first but then you notice you put down 3-4 of them without blinking. Wins you over slowly but surely.
4 out of 5

Deschutes Brewery
Fresh Squeezed IPA
American IPA
Oregon
6.4%
12oz, Single
$2.49
Crests around two fingers worth of cream white head, islands of bigger bubbles mixed around an even foam base, thick and splotchy lacing which clings nicely. Cloudy coppery red-orange colored liquid, its semi-opacity makes it difficult to see many bubbles, overall bright in a metallic way. Sweetly juicy and dense nose comprised of pink grapefruit and tangerine citrus and pineapple, mango, nectarine, peach fruit, the pine is ultra-sappy as well, strong cocoa powder presence too, there seems to be a herbal bite under all the sweetness but who can really tell. Medium-bodied, a soft and frothy attack turns drier by the finish as the carbonation fades and here the herbaceousness comes out stronger. Chocolate, coconut, vanilla notes blend into that flavorful base of pine, grapefruit and nectarine, papaya, pineapple, kiwi fruit, more confectionary here, pronounced maltiness. If there’s one area it comes up short it would be in thirst quenching refreshment, too gluey and heavy for that. That said, kudos for the powerful length of the primary flavors without it seeming tiringly redundant. Three bottles might be the most I could throw back in a sitting.
4 out of 5

Andean Brewing Company
Kuka Banana Nut Brown Ale (Ale Brewed With Maca Root, Real Bananas, Natural Banana Flavor Added)
English Brown Ale
New York
5.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.99
Yields a finger’s worth of deep tan foam, mostly dense, tiny bubbles with an even surface, slightly poor retention, the lacing is a thin sheet which gently slides down the glass in one piece. The liquid is a semi-murky yellowish brown, at times you might mistake the particulate for the fat bubbles which are scattered throughout. The nose could not possibly smell more like banana bread to Entenmann’s banana crumb loaf, loaded with chocolate and caramel accents, glazed nuts, then a dollop of plum to maraschino cherry fruit, dense nostril presence and quite long as well. Full-bodied, thankfully those big bubbles translate into active carbonation which relieves excess weight during the mouth entry. That said, sweetness rules with banana, banana, banana and chocolate, caramel, vanilla bean, and a roasted quality which is reminiscent of coffee beans. The fruit flavors less distinct and receded here. There’s also something vegetal going on, but in a fresh “garden” vegetables way, not a flaw per se and a minor element. As one would expect, a beer to be consumed with certain expectations and used for clear purposes, not a “just pop a frosty” option. Taken at face value, it delivers what it promises.
4 out of 5

Yards Brewing Company
Thomas Jefferson’s Tavern Ale
English Strong Ale
Pennsylvania
8.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Pleasing finger of eggshell white foam, adequate retention, the lacing sticks for a brief while, more breadth than length to the streaks. Bright zinc orange colored liquid, quite a few visible bubbles and they are super-fat, transparent and clean throughout. There’s a well-cooked bread crust stiffness to the nose, however, at the same time sweet grapefruit to orange citrus, honey and ripe apricot, peach notes, then more peppery, grainy bite, definitely has an earthy funk to it as well, a forest floor covered with pine needles and fallen leaves and branches. Full-bodied, sweet and sticky attack even though the carbonation does punch as hard as possible to get things stirred up. Actually turns appreciably drier through the mid-palate, earthy and herbal. The return of banana and bubblegum seems close to Belgian, loses most of the honey as well as the juiciness in the apricot, peach, apple fruit. The citrus in turn comes off as more sour. The textural fullness extends the finish when most of the primary flavors have begun to trail off. Due to its palate weight can’t say it is sessionable or the like. But it has this unique, just off-center character which ultimately keeps you sipping again and again.
4 out of 5

Two Roads Brewing Company
Rye 95 Rye Tripel Blonde Ale (Seasonal Collection)
Tripel
Connecticut
9.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$12.49
Offers close to two fingers of a clean white, densely woven head, even surface, retention is a little below average, the lacing is okay, forms wide, long strips but they then slowly slide down into oblivion. Serious amount of particulate floating inside the glass, otherwise it would be especially bright, only a random bubble scattered here or there. Very fruity nose of poached peaches and apricots, bananas, ripe melon, green grapes, sugary pink grapefruit, for the density in the fruit almost seems “airy” per se, cardamom and fennel, not really getting any rye derived spiciness and close to no bread nor yeast components, citrus lasts the longest. Medium-bodied, no excessive palate weight but manages to fluff up and press outwards to either cheek. Clove, ginger and cumin spice are upfront, no real bite to it though. The apricot, banana, grape, cherry fruit dials it back half a notch. Mixes in some sour notes in the mandarin orange and pink grapefruit citrus. Light pepperiness now and then. Overall clean but with some metallic earthiness. It’s a very likable beer, yet it arguably is throwing a few too many ingredients into the pot.
3 out of 5

Boulevard Brewing Co.
Grainstorm Black Rye India Pale Ale (No. 17 in the Smokestack Series)
American Black Ale
Missouri
7.7%
25.4oz, Single
$9.99
Be careful with the pour or it will fill half the glass, otherwise it’s a few fingers of light tan, very uniform microfoam, looks like it was intentionally whipped up, very good retention, the lacing is pretty much a solid sheet down the glass side, rarely breaks into streaks. The liquid is a kind of muddy brown like pond water, semi-opaque, displays a yellow cast near the surface, through it all you can easily see the hyperactive bubbles bursting upwards. The nose is all but totally grapefruit citrus, the rye is consistent but not showy, well cooked country bread notes, light pepper spice, same for the nectarine to peach fruit scents, very smooth and focused, all about that citrus. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied and the carbonation really gets it churning, overaggressive. When it does settle into the palate, the grapefruit leads again however the raw graininess is assertive. Some cocoa, the roast is not high-toned, more baked, bready. Pine adds to overall bitterness rather than sweetness, the fruit also tart, a mix of pineapple, nectarine and apple more than peach or apricot. Not trying to hard, that said, the finish while clean could use more flavor, quibbling. Hard not to consume happily.
4 out of 5

Three Heads Brewing
Bromigo Smoked Maple Amber Ale (Malt Beverage Brewed With Maple Syrup)
American Amber/Red Ale
New York
7.0%
22oz, Single
$9.99
Plainspoken head, about a finger in height, deep tan, mostly uniform surface, average retention, same for the lacing, broad strokes, sticks for a bit and then slides into oblivion. The light filminess helps it catch light inside the glass, as brown as red in the amber color, fades to a metallic yellow at the edges, a few bubbles to be seen here and there. The nose has a liquid smoke additive aspect to it, softened some by the maple notes, bready, touch of apricot to red cherry fruit, the cocoa and powdered chocolate linger longest, has a mild forest earthiness, nothing major, overall comes across as muddled. Full-bodied, not a great amount of carbonation, fluffs up the attack then falls flat. The smokiness tends to cover most all else, surviving best is the maple and the semi-poached apricot, peach, plum fruit flavors. No real hoppiness. Even the cocoa, chocolate maltiness is truncated. Except for a metallic earthiness there’s not much left by the finish. Except for that peaty smokiness. Plenty of that to had, however, it gets boring after awhile.
2 out of 5

Clown Shoes
Hoppy Feet (Black India Pale Ale)
American Black Ale
Massachusetts
7.0%
12oz
4-Pack, $8.99
Crests around two fingers of deep tan foam, uneven surface, islands of larger bubbles form, slow dissolve, the lacing is very wide and covers half the area above the surface line, notable. Predictably black liquid, impenetrable but not like a slab of onyx, same fade to a yellow tint near the surface, able to see some very tiny bubbles breaking the surface too. While the nose offers a zesty orange citrus spritz as well as damp earthiness, the cocoa, coffee bean, vanilla to toffee rule things, after that nutty and bready, any foundational grassiness cloaked, stays dry on the whole, tends to hover more than lift and dissipate. Full-bodied, layers nimbly on the tongue, even greater emphasis here on chocolate, cocoa, mocha with coffee and vanilla notes, all feels “powdered” and not sticky sweet. Able to show more greenness which helps it be fresher, seems to fit with the roast well, even touch of chicory at times. More lactose than spice. Minimal fruit, hard to tease out distinct flavors. The orange to grapefruit citrus rises through the finish. Nice how the palate weight remains after the flavors release. It’s very well made but not something many could pound all night.
4 out of 5

Clown Shoes
Tramp Stamp Belgian-Style India Pale Ale
Belgian IPA
Massachusetts
7.0%
12oz, Single
$2.99
Fluffy head, dimples deeply in a few spots, pretty much bone white, tight weave overall with good retention, the lacing comes in thick stripes, tends to move like flexible metal mesh. Bright, vibrant orange colored liquid, inclines more to red-brown than yellow, very clear and crisp looking, you see a fat bubble here or there. From a distance the nose is powerfully floral yet as you get closer more dominance in the well cooked bread dough, herbaceousness, sharper spices and pepper, moderate pine sap and likewise the peach, nectarine scents are quiet, takes a little opening up but there is a decent bubblegum component. Medium-bodied plus, foams up some in the mouth, carbonation big rather than prickly. As a result, it sits there and slowly percolates rather than flows. Spicy attack, ginger, cardamom, caraway then spiced orange peel, not getting a consistent yeast presence. Here too the peach, apricot, pear, apple flavors have minimal thrust, ending up in a drier texture. The bitterness not fully to be pinned on the herbaceousness, more like sour grains. Pine more present, the bubblegum to banana notes mostly retronasal than perceived as flavor. It’s actually pretty good and can easily be understood as a smashup of two styles.
4 out of 5

NoDa Brewing Company
Hop, Drop ’n Roll India Pale Ale
American IPA
North Carolina
7.2%
16oz, 4-Pack
$12.99
Modest off-white head, somewhere around a finger’s worth, dissolves away fairly swiftly, the lacing too is spotty with slightly under average stickiness. The liquid is gauzy if not close to cloudy, arguably as close to a reddish amber as true orange hue, there’s a few lazy bubbles visible, tend to be on the fat side. Robust nose filled with pink grapefruit, tangerine citrus, ripe apricot, peach, pineapple fruit, honey, chocolate powder, the pine sap is sticky and glues the freshly mown grass to your nostrils, hot tar, black pepper, metal shavings, its pungency is not all sweetness. Full-bodied and a touch heavy, the carbonation makes a decent stab at getting things swirling but it has its work cut out for it. Very piney and herbaceous, that tarry earthiness adds to its bite. The grapefruit and orange citrus here tends more towards bitterness. Still, no lack of cocoa malts, honey and caramel flavors. Tropical nature to the fruit, pineapple, guava, papaya in addition to the peach, apricot base. Serious amount of dry residue left during the finish, tends to dampen the exuberance of the sweeter elements. Overall, it smells and tastes wonderful, perhaps would benefit from adding greater cleansing freshness to the mouth feel.
5 out of 5

Coronado Brewing Company
Jurata Baltic Porter (Collaboration With Cigar City Brewing Company)
Baltic Porter
California
8.0%
22oz, Single
$8.99
Pours a fairly substantial head, cresting over three fingers, modest tan color, openly knit with a preponderance of larger bubbles and mottled surface, above average stick to the lacing, only a few streaks but they are thick. Toss up if the liquid is dark brown or black in color, when it turns to a deep orange at the glass bottom you can tell how naturally clear it is, scattered tiny bubbles with good plus activity. For all of the cocoa and mocha toast in the nose, as much as anything it smells like a root beer float with vanilla ice cream, you also get coconut flakes, cashews, plum to dark cherry fruit, and finally a pleasing hoppy kick, does not have the overall weight nor thickness one might expect. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied and closer to light than full. The carbonation gives it a steady prickle, higher degree of roast favors coffee and bitter dark chocolate notes. As well as playing up tar to asphalt nuances. Without the soft mouth texture or sweet chocolate, caramel it basically comes across as a straight up rendition rather than “something special.” The nuttiness builds with time but hard to find meaningful fruit flavors. Leaves a longlasting perfume behind. Pleasing, just expected more.
3 out of 5

Yard Owl Craft Brewery
Farm House Ale
American Blonde Ale
New York
6.5%
22oz, Single
$8.49
Fairly aggressive pour barely gets you a finger of bleached white foam, this rapidly dissipates to a thin, spotty dusting across the surface, the lacing has some moderate stickiness, forms thicker streaks which themselves then slide down the glass. The liquid is a washed out zinc orange color, transparent with a slight gauziness, good amount of bubbles visible, fat and very active. The nose has an unassuming richness to it, quite fruity with apricot, peach, pear, banana scents accompanied by cinnamon, nutmeg spice and vanilla bean, gains some shape via lemon zest, metallic earth and pepper accents, even a little herbal grassiness, good staying power as well. Medium-bodied, strong carbonation gets it churning right off the bat, almost hyperactive. Still, plays up that sweetness in the apricot, peach, yellow apple, cherry fruit, not as much banana. Floral more than spicy here, the earthiness more evident when first pouted and well chilled. The lemon citrus component helps it keep freshness when it otherwise seems to get lazy and sluggish. And that carbonation certainly extends the finish, without undue sweet residue. Simple as in not overtly complicated, not a bad thing. Made for a sunny day and a hearty lunch. And then a nap.
4 out of 5

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Chugged in April 2014

Yard Owl Craft Brewery
Fire Pit Golden Ale
American Pale Ale
New York
6.0%
22oz, Single
$8.49
You get just past a finger of bone white foam, not very dense but does manage to hold on for a good long time all the way across the surface, the lacing has minor stickiness and slides slowly down the glass in sheets. Cloudy golden colored liquid, very full in the glass and bright, only randomly scattered large bubbles for any visual sign of carbonation, no noticeable particulate, just gauziness. The nose is soft and enveloping with flowers, chamomile, clove spice, white grapefruit pulp, mild stiffening via pepper and salt notes, more well cooked bread crust than grassiness, gentle notes of banana, apricot and peach, overall subdued but not because it has nothing to say. In the mouth it’s full-bodied, again quite soft, and creates a pressure out towards the cheeks. On the sweet side and the carbonation not really active enough to stem this. Not that it needs stemming, has sufficient spiciness and more hops and earth presence here. Less of the esters and leesy stuff, sweetness seems to come a lot from grains than malts, not getting any cocoa, vanilla type stuff. Same basic apricot, peach, golden apple, pear fruit, loses most of the banana. Pleasing, perhaps more of a cooler weather beer, appears made more in European than American style. Nothing dramatic about it but solid.
3 out of 5

DuClaw Brewing Company
Cocoa Fuego (Stout Brewed With Chocolate & Chipotle Peppers)
American Stout
Maryland
7.5%
12oz, Single
$2.29
Strong pour gets you around a finger of deep tan foam, airy and loose, bubbles off swiftly, any lacing slides off the glass rapidly as well. Dark brown liquid but not of that onyx-like impenetrability, more vaguely cloudy, this noticeable most at the surface where it takes on a yellowish tint and you can see some loosely aggregated bubbles break the surface. The nose seems artificial like vanilla liquid drops or cake icing, powdered chocolate, something like maple syrup, not that roasty and the chili pepper element comes and goes, beyond that a light touch of plum fruit, just not a lot going on here and what is there is bottom heavy and lacks lift and separation. Light to medium-bodied, flat mouth feel from the low grade carbonation. Vanilla and chocolate, lesser toffee and sweetened coffee. Can’t say it is dry but any true sweetness gets steamrolled by the hot pepper which wins, places and shows. After a few sips there’s not much registering beyond spiciness. The flatness does not help. Does taste more roasted than the nose would suggest. Displays length on the finish almost by default because the spice heat lingers so much. Not especially enjoyable, you kind of really need to be in the mood for it beforehand.
2 out of 5

Maine Beer Company
King Titus
American Porter
Maine
7.5%
16.9oz, Single
$8.99
Pours a huge head, almost half the glass, very slow to sizzle off, fairly dense even with a good mix of differing bubble sizes, the lacing forms a broad intricate spider webbing across the glass sides. The liquid is a fully opaque dark brown to black, barest hint of orange at the glass bottom, looks as much a stout as anything. The nose is dry and very roasty, malty with powerful presence in the dark chocolate, coffee bean, coconut flakes department all the while staying nicely balanced, adds complexity via white grapefruit zest, roasted nuts, tar, charcoal and campfire smoke, as pleasing for not pushing the envelope too far as for what it does offer. Light to medium-bodied, smooth but has grip and traction and in no way evanescent nor wimpy. More milk to lactose, vanilla bean here to pair with the chocolate and coffee, restrained sweetness. That curious grapefruit bursts through here too, retronasally floral, makes you think there’s some sneaky hops lurking about. Not as earthy here, some of that coal tar stuff but that’s it. Carbonation level is active, yet lets the primary flavors soak in and lengthen. Clean finish. The paucity of fruit flavors is odd, minor cherry to dark berry at best. Extremely well done.
5 out of 5

Bruery, The
Sour In The Rye (Sour Rye Ale Aged In Oak Barrels) (2014 Edition)
American Wild Ale
California
7.6%
25.4oz, Single
$19.99
Very frothy head, crests around one finger, almost entirely extra large bubbles so it’s gone like that, no meaningful lacing to speak of. Strong glow to the liquid, really captures light inside the glass, gauzy rust orange to yellow in color, filled with very fine, microscopic bubbles. The nose is laser like in its precision, tart lemon to orange citrus, moss, forest floor matter, white pepper, caraway seeds, mostly green apple and pear fruit, a little peach pit, needs to warm to get the most out of the rye but even then not getting much oak element, glimmer of caramel, its muscular nature keeps it loitering for some time. Medium-bodied, the sourness and overall bite activates the palate right off while here the oak brings some textural creaminess in addition to vanilla and butter notes. Even dill weed, as created by some American oak barrels. There is a certain volatility to it, like an anxious finger tapping. Again, loads of sour grapefruit, lemon, orange citrus. Rye bite, sourdough bread, dried yeast, nothing “doughy” or uncooked. Close to peaty at times, definitely earthy and evokes the “sous bois” character. Carbonation is delicate, does not distract from intentional sourness. Green apple, pear, cherry, apricot fruit, more snap and crackle than juiciness. Linear and angular finish, no soaking into the palate, zips across the tongue. Refreshingly easy to drink.
5 out of 5

FiftyFifty Brewing Company
Eclipse Imperial Stout (Stout Brewed With Honey) (Aged In Oak Barrels) (Blue Wax = Old Fitzgerald Barrel)
American Double/Imperial Stout
California
9.5%
22oz, Single
$30.99
Big pour gets you maybe half a finger of dark brown foam, not dense enough to last long, the larger bubbles cling to the glass walls, the lacing comes as big splotches, random and irregular, below average stickiness. Black liquid, not even worth commenting on, just black. Steady steamroller of a nose, for all its might not showy, thickly layered coconut custard, vanilla fudge, milk chocolate, caramel, toffee, not really boozy nor toasty, more like being in a cake eating contest, fig, date, apricot fruit, overall more smooth than complex, wears its weight well enough. Full-bodied, the carbonation adds sufficient fluffiness to puff up the attack and relieve some palate weight. A touch drier here than expected in terms of texture. More oak grained booziness but zero burn. Molasses, caramel, butterscotch, mix of both milk and dark chocolates, vanilla and coconut. After that is some tarry earth and breadiness, lifts when the floral aspect demurely asserts itself. Cherry, plum fruit equally mixed with apricot, banana, date fruit. Given its weight, releases well at the end and without truncating the finish. Leverages all it has, no desperation to impress, once more just lacks the subtleties to intrigue.
4 out of 5

Mission Brewery
Dark Seas Russian Imperial Stout
Russian Imperial Stout
California
8.8%
12oz, Single
$2.99
Pours only a thin head but it does cover the surface, extremely dark brown colored bubbles, sizzles off swiftly, there’s a few lacing streaks of credible width, probably better than expected based on the head. The liquid is pure black, completely opaque, no way to even see if there’s any bubbles inside. The nose is a close to symmetrical split between bitter dark chocolate and coffee beans, good thrust as well in the raisin to plum fruit scents, touch of mint and vanilla bean, the roast is not overpowering which allows the strength of the sweet dessert like qualities to linger. Full-bodied, leverages its dryness to good effect, keeping it clean and well-paced. You do also get more roast here as a result, puts an aggressive charge into the coffee, chocolate, toffee, coconut flake flavors. The cherry, plum, fig fruit recedes some here, same for the flowers, mint and licorice. No citrus presence but there is a breadiness. Minimal burn from the alcohol, however, you feel the buzzing right off. Carbonation is average, takes awhile to even remember to gauge it. Long finish without going overboard trying to make an impression. Pretty good stuff.
4 out of 5

Rushing Duck Brewing Company
Ded Moroz Russian Imperial Stout (Winter 2013-2014)
American Double/Imperial Stout
New York
11.2%
25.4oz, Single
$10.99
Pours a miniscule dark brown head, just covers the surface and then fizzles out, in turn there’s very little lacing to be had, more like a thin, broad sheet that slides off the glass at a steady pace. The liquid is the obligatory impenetrable black, can’t see any color at all, no orange nor yellow tint, oddly when you tilt the glass you can see a muscular rush of bubbles just below the surface (so, where’s the head). The nose is comprised of thick, dense milk chocolate, café au lait, caramel and toasted coconut, after that in distant second place comes plum to prune and cherry scents, challah bread, flowers and licorice, minimal counterbalancing hops presence. Full-bodied and leaden, not much carbonation, maybe enough to convince it to move a couple inches left on the couch. Same simplified array of chocolate, vanilla, caramel, coffee with a slight uptick in general toastiness. You have to swallow real hard to get it moving fast enough to go down the chute. Some orange zest mixed into the muted flowers, more like uncooked dough here than bread per se. Hey, the flavors hit the sweet spot for this type of beer but it needs a kick in the ass, to show some life. Otherwise it gets tiring to drink.
3 out of 5

Amarcord Birra Artigianale Italiana
AMA Bionda (Ale Brewed With Honey)
Belgian Pale Ale
Italy
6.0%
25.4oz, Single
$9.99
Pours a huge head, easily half the glass, whipped up and airy, off-white in hue, below average stickiness results in only wispy lacing. Gauzy deep yellow colored liquid, consistent throughout, only a few fat and lazy bubbles visible. The nose has a clear honeyed to corn syrup sweetness, sweet grains too, white grape to peach fruit scents, chamomile, its relative lack of complexity does bring cleanliness to the table. Medium-bodied, the carbonation is not that strong, a creamy attack changes to faint prickling sensation by the finish. Again, more grain and sweeter bread dough than hops, it’s going to bite you. Slowly you can discern lemon peel, clove, cinnamon stick, nothing here which is overtly malty either. The apricot, peach, pear fruit is fairly solid from start to end. Inoffensive, appears content to just play it safe.
3 out of 5

Sloop Brewing LLC
The Red C (A Red India Pale Ale)
American Amber/Red Ale
New York
6.7%
22oz, Single
$7.39
Finger plus of larger bubbles, close to no denser foam, eggshell white in color, thins out swiftly, the lacing looks like a spider’s web which slowly dissolves in the wind, no consistent streaks. Reddish brown liquid with a more bronzed amber orange than bright tint, looks “unfiltered” and verges on cloudy, there are some tiny yet active bubbles in there breaking a sweat to get to the surface. Pure pink grapefruit and tangerine citrus rise decisively in the nose, quietly mixes in flowers and yellow apple, apricot, pear fruit but it curiously stays on point, citrus and more citrus, no real herbaceous bite, likewise, no real malty cream, while monochrome its utter freshness is very appealing. Medium-bodied, broad palate coverage with the sort of creaminess which is not soft so much as yielding, it caresses the mouth’s contours but stays nimble. Touch more cocoa and pine here, the grapefruit citrus moderates into apricot, peach, kiwi fruit flavors. The carbonation is good plus, a complementary aspect. Maple sugar candy, molasses more than honey or pine, as stated before it consistently chooses cleanliness over reaching for complexity and potential jumble. Yet, in no way simple, just ups the drinkability.
4 out of 5

Three Heads Brewing
The Kind India Pale Ale
American IPA
New York
6.8%
12oz, Single
$3.59
Fairly thin head, no more than half a finger which does not have much retention, in turn the lacing is weak with minimal stick. Filmy liquid, translucent, traps light inside to create a glow to the base yellow color, touch deeper orange at the core, you can see a tiny bit of bubbles, no noticeable particulate inside. The nose is kind of arch, bitter and grassy, very hops dominated, pepper, sour bread crust, dried grapefruit rinds, conjures up sufficient honey, pine sap and caramel to take a lot of sting out of it, more grainy than fruity, moderate dash of apricot, peach, pear fruit, on the whole it covers what it needs to, could be cleaner/fresher as well as separate out the scents better. Full-bodied, getting on heavy, the carbonation has a grinding, slow churn and it basically clings to the mouth pores rather than scrub. More sweetness here in the pineapple, peach, nectarine fruit as well as grapefruit, orange citrus. However, its dry mouth feel is complete. Plenty of grassy hops, the pepper, oil, and bread crust keep the malt, cocoa submerged. It is not unbalanced, simply too dense to refresh. Has flavor, not hot, and what’s there finishes long. No real complaints, maybe gets lost in the pack.
3 out of 5

Moa Brewing Company, The
Imperial Stout (Stout Aged In Pinot Noir Barrels)
Russian Imperial Stout
New Zealand
10.2%
12.7oz, Single
$6.99
Yields two fingers of dark brown foam, dense on the whole but there’s larger bubbles interspersed here and there, retention is very nice, even surface, the lacing is more large splotches than streaks. Clean black liquid, buffed to a high shine, you can just make out a few steady streams of bubbles against the glass sides, no hint of orange nor yellow at rims, glass bottom. The nose is slightly muted, has a slight vinous quality but mainly it casually delivers milk chocolate, anise, vanilla bean and plum to black cherry fruit, no real hops presence, however, does not over depend on sweetness for effect, as it warms you get campfire smokiness. Medium-bodied, very smooth with velvety carbonation, zero prickle. Loads its weight and flavors upfront and glides from there. Here the oaky toast and smoke more pronounced, notes of grilled meats, earth and that same campfire thing. Restraint shown in the milk chocolate, vanilla, caramel and café au lait flavors. On the dry side, stays balanced and more clean than puckering. Any fruit is cherry, black raisin, fig, minimal lingering sweetness. Clay, iron and damp earth stick around most through the finish. Here the Pinot Noir influence not so much.
3 out of 5

Smuttynose Brewing Company
Noonan Black IPA
American Black Ale
New Hampshire
5.7%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.49
Pours a big, frothy brown head, close to three fingers as it crests, full-on mix of bubble sizes, from huge to tiny, dimpled all over, the lacing is thin but forms broad sheets which cover close to half the available glass space. Black liquid yet has a shiny brightness to it, this in spite of the chunky floaties inside the glass, hard to visually gauge the carbonation, shifts to a yellow hue along the rims. The nose is sweetly roasty, oodles of chocolate, coffee, hard toffee with even more malt after that, it’s hoppy in a mellow fashion, more cleansing than herbaceous, subtle floral lift, not much fruit but maybe a little earthiness. Full-bodied, thicker and denser than expected, the carbonation is slow to unwind but it does not feel flatfooted. Here too there’s a strong emphasis on roast although it does adroitly avoid bitterness. Coffee beans, cocoa, mocha more than milkiness, although there’s moments of root beer and vanilla. Mutter of quinine. The mouth feel is grippy and dry, more pine and cut grass than flowers or citrus. Again, hard to discern clear fruit presence, more apricot, maybe cherry. Because it starts with such intent and energy, it’s hard for it not to finish likewise. Sticks to the basics, does them well enough.
3 out of 5

Bell’s Brewery, Inc.
Smitten Golden Rye Ale
Rye Beer
Michigan
6.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.79
Pure white foam head, tightly woven microfoam, semi-aggressive pour yields a little over a finger, retention is okay, the lacing streaks are meager but long, average stick. Filmy golden colored liquid, lots of fine particulate floating throughout, semi-opaque as a result, few visible bubbles. Very grainy nose featuring spicy rye notes, black pepper, orange and grapefruit rinds, once you get past the initial burst there’s underlying sweetness found in honey notes and peach, apricot fruit accents, light touch of mineral water and cigar ash before it floats off. Medium-bodied, the carbonation charges right out of the gate, gets things churning. On the dry side even as the rye is not over the top, hoppy with no lack of leafiness even if it’s the grains which take precedence. Stronger citrus presence here, lemon to orange. As in the nose, the apricot, peach, yellow apple fruit holds off before showing. The finish is filled with earthy, metallic notes, creates added bitterness. That said, balanced on the whole, drinking well chilled helps. You can tell it is well crafted, however, it also has a sort of lowbrow “throwback” feel and taste to it.
3 out of 5

Prairie Artisan Ales
Prairie Ale (A Belgian-Style Saison Ale)
Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Oklahoma
7.0%
25.4oz, Single
$13.49
Wispy bleached white head of extremely airy foam, amazing for how swiftly it evaporates down to the surface, looks like a video game, no lacing at all. Light, shiny golden straw color, easy to see through, full throughout with huge bubbles which steadily move with authority, a proverbial maelstrom in the glass. The nose suavely unfolds pressed flowers, clove spice, sour orange to grapefruit citrus, has a vinous quality to it, it’s too wiry and focused for the banana to bubblegum aspect to shine, same for any sweeter element, be it the apple, pear or the meadow breeze, the yeastiness is like just about to baked bread, not like dessert “baked goods.” Full-bodied, has a heavier which impairs it getting out of the gate, carbonation injects some fuel into this. White grape, pear, apple, apricot fruit lean and mean, bursts through and picks up speed from the pepper, clove, and metallic earth components. Noticeable for its freshness and cleanliness, once it breaks past the mid-palate it develops a lighter feel which makes it food friendly. Minimal banana and ester presence. Very interesting, obvious it belongs in this category but it doesn’t play to the crowd, quietly classy and willing to accept your lack of appreciation.
4 out of 5

Maine Beer Company
Red Wheelbarrow
American Amber/Red Ale
Maine
7.0%
16.9oz, Single
$9.49
Pours a deep, dense head of minimally three fingers, very even surface, light brown in hue, very impressive looking, slides immediately down the side of the tilted glass, only a rare streak of lacing to be found, the overall retention is excellent. Filmy amber red in color with a healthy glow, you have to get really close to see the active bubbles within, overall the color may be closer to brown than orange, on the dark side. The nose mixes cocoa. floral water, orange peels, baking spice and a stiffening amount of bright hops and hard crust baguette, while there’s little that is bitter it never feels too sweet, the peach, apricot, red cherry, pear fruit scents are much more complementary than the star of the show. Medium-bodied, creamy mouth feel with close to zero softness, has an understated muscularity. Not a lot of roast, dryness comes from the grassiness, dark chocolate powder, bread grains and bare touch of black pepper. Caramel, spiced oranges, chamomile, basil and oregano, the breadiness is not sweet but is a steadying cornerstone. Peach, apricot, nectarine fruit with a touch of pineapple. It has a slimmed down fluidity which you don’t find often these days in this beer category. Goes on and on at the end, entirely unforced.
5 out of 5

Central Waters Brewing Co.
Glacial Trail India Pale Ale
American IPA
Wisconsin
5.5%
12oz, Single
$2.39
Pours an adequate finger’s worth of clean white foam, a lot of larger bubbles, retention is weak, the lacing fares better, broad streaks, not thick depth-wise but do stain the glass sides for some time. Bright coppery orange hued liquid, easily transparent, holds hue intensity through rims and glass bottom, any visible bubbles are super-tiny. The nose focuses on bitterness, unprocessed grains, grapefruit pith, pepper, green leafy matter and tarry earth and ash, not that much pine, even less by way of pineapple, peach, apricot fruit scents, has very good punching power but relatively weak richness of scents hampers length. Medium-bodied, the carbonation is strong and creates a “waves crashing on the beach” effect, never quite allows you to relax. Mild uptick in flowers, pine and malt, arguably the same for the peach, apricot, yellow apple fruit flavors. Salt and pepper, pretzel dough, sour breads, fairly bitter but not as much as the nose might suggest. Light cocoa and caramel soften the finish a little. Not watery, no overt flaws, just simple and kind of caught in the middle without a clear idea of what it wants to be.
3 out of 5

Firestone Walker Brewing Company
Union Jack IPA
American IPA
California
7.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$12.89
Fluffy white head, crests about one finger, good amount of larger bubbles, probably hampers retention, the lacing in turn is more frothy than sticky and sticks in gobs more than sustained streaks. The liquid is more of a bright sunset orange than gold, very good depth as well as brilliance, only a few bubbles visible. The nose is pure and focused, leans on a clean floral dimension, grapefruit and lemon pith, white pepper, there’s solid cocoa and chocolate grounding the nectarine, apricot, pineapple, star fruit scents, refrains from indulging in sweetness, more about punching through. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied, has a firm feel and the carbonation has a steady prickle more than creaminess. Sweeter here as caramel joins the chocolaty maltiness, at the same time slightly more juiciness in the white to pink grapefruit, tangerine citrus. The fruit has a tropical profile, just not the slutty juiciness often associated with pineapple, papaya, guava to nectarine fruit. The pine notes as much cone as outright sap, restrained. All this said, it does crackle with a quiet energy, can play up bitterness while not seeming herbaceous or puckering. Styled for thoughtful enjoyment and grows on you with each sip.
5 out of 5

Midnight Sun Brewing Company
Moscow Russian Imperial Stout (Ale Brewed With Rye)
Russian Imperial Stout
Alaska
11.0%
22oz, Single
$14.99
At first pour the head is thin but then it just slowly escalates close to three fingers in the glass so watch out when you pour, dense, looks like a dark brown murky pond, the lacing is thin and long yet sticks very well. The liquid is the predictable blackest of black, no discernible color and no visible bubbles. The nose is heavy and sluggish, big emphasis on that rye as well as dark chocolate, coffee, milk and toffee crisp, semi-muted plum, fig, date, raisin fruit scents, its relative lack of roastiness allows a floral dimension to bloom, orange zest too, not that complex. Full-bodied, super-creamy texture, however, the booziness adds bite and unsettles overall smoothness. Rum raisin ice cream, chocolate, coffee, the alcohol brings out butterscotch, caramel tones. More roast here, perhaps the rye factors in although on the taste scale it is not dominant. Tar, earth, asphalt as well as dampened campfire smokiness. Light ginger spice and orange citrus, as in the nose it’s all about the rich maltiness. The carbonation has minimal prickle, just helps build that creamy texture. Lingers very nicely, turning pleasingly bitter at the end rather than reaching for maximal sweetness. Drinkable, powerful, just too monochrome to be a benchmark beer.
4 out of 5

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Chugged in March 2014

Clown Shoes
Vampire Slayer Imperial American Stout (Second Anniversary Ale)
American Double/Imperial Stout
Massachusetts
10.0%
22oz, Single
$9.99
While the pour yields over three fingers of foam, it is almost all big, delicate bubbles which are able to sustain longer than you’d think, surface looks like the top of a milkshake, the glass sides are all but fully covered in lacing, as if spray painted. Completely black liquid, no sign of any other color, no way you can see any bubbles, solid. The nose slowly builds, not aiming to knock you out with one blow, milk chocolate toffee, vanilla layers itself like a thick cake, plum, black cherry fruit, hazelnuts and Brazil nuts, there’s a grainy bite and a sweet smokiness too, does kind of lurch as it dissolves but the alcohol isn’t vicious, just clumsy. Full-bodied, dense and making it slow to react. The plum, cherry fruit sweeter here, like a fruit cake. Not to downplay the milk chocolate, coconut, caramel, oatmeal notes. The carbonation starts to lend it creaminess then oddly stops. Very light citrus and flower accents, has a tea leaf to tobacco leaf smokiness. Its weakest point might be its lack of flow and thirst quenching capability, both of which seem within its reach. Enjoy how the sweetness trails off through the finish, making it fresher and potentially more food friendly.
4 out of 5

Slumbrew (Somerville Brewing Company)
Porter Square Porter (Porter Brewed With Cocoa Powder With Cacao Nibs Added)
American Porter
Massachusetts
6.5%
12oz, 4-Pack
$7.49
A big pour will get you just about two fingers of deep brown foam, so-so density, dimples and bubbles off at a good pace, looks whipped up, the lacing is more splotches than streaks. The liquid is black and opaque, more like filmy, cloudy than block of onyx, browner rims and you can see about as much carbonation as could be expected given the circumstances. The nose has a soft roastiness but more so like firm chocolate, mocha to vanilla fudge notes, the cherry, blackberry fruit wafts in and out, croissants or other flaky dough stuff, baking spices, sweet nuts, just easygoing and unassuming, you’d be relieved to be seated next to it at a dinner among strangers. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied, firm and possessed of a moderate creaminess. The roast elevates a notch, coffee to bitter dark chocolate. Still, caramel, vanilla bean soften the edges. Muted dark fruits, sweet doughiness, hazelnut, has it but minimizes the metallic, mineral water dimension. Has fullness through the finish which many beers in this category lack. No complaints, your verdict will depend on whether you are looking for reasons to like it or dismiss it.
4 out of 5

Speakeasy Ales & Lagers
Prohibition Ale
American Amber/Red Ale
California
6.1%
12oz, Single
$2.39
Nice, big fluffy head, over two fingers of deep tan foam, mottled surface, good portion of larger bubbles, the lacking streaks are thick and stick strongly. The liquid is a noticeably dark amber, red base which leans more towards a bright brown than orange, very clear but as “opaque” as this style of beer can get, hardly any bubbles visible at all. Chocolate and caramel get the nose started, like a German chocolate cake, stiffens with grains, quinine and pine sap, with a brush of white grapefruit you’d almost start thinking it is a weird sort of IPA, the golden raisin, peach, yellow apple, fig fruit subdued, ends with a sort of dampened campfire smokiness. Medium-bodied, creamy attack, plush and soft, not much prickle in the carbonation. Lots of coconut oil, cocoa and cola bean through the attack but not that sweet. Something like sweet cigar wrapper next to the metallic earth, fallen wood and hops, the white grapefruit and orange citrus comes and goes but bites when it is there. As in the nose, the peach, apricot, raisin fruit waits until the end to begin to strut. Displays good personality and switches things up frequently enough to keep you interested.
4 out of 5

Bolero Snort Brewery
Blackhorn American Black Lager
American Black Ale
New Jersey
6.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.99
Normal pour yields a massive head which fills close to half the glass, looks like a root beer float, airy and whipped up, forms a huge crater in the middle, dark tan to brown in hue, when there is room for lacing it’s thin yet has pretty much has to be washed out of the glass. Black liquid, fully opaque, aura of orange rust around the edges and glass bottom, darker than expected. The nose is mostly roast and toast, black chocolate and coffee, raw grains and country style bread, moderate mixed citrus and dark fruits, while there’s a good amount of underlying sweetness the roast makes it difficult to register most anything else. Full-bodied, heavy and on the creamy side, the carbonation gives it a gently churned feel. Chocolate, coffee, caramel, roast, roast and roast. Which, oddly, does not make it that bitter, suggesting the base material is sweet. Grain, mineral water, muted florality. No real fruit presence, more citrus. Hard to deny it’s a one trick pony (and in some ways closer to a Schwarzbier than anything else), but if you like that pony it’s easy to drink and does not leave any unsettling aftertaste.
4 out of 5

Cigar City Brewing
Hopped On The High Seas (Dry Hopped With Hop #529) (Caribbean-Style IPA)
American IPA
Florida
7.2%
12oz, Single
$2.99
Pours an unassuming half finger of pure white foam, even surface, fairly dense weave, good retention given it doesn’t start from much, the lacing has super stickiness, forms solid rings around the glass sides. Mild filminess to the deep golden hue, the bubbles are tiny but fill the glass from side to side, only the merest yellowing at the rims, looks like it wants to be taken seriously. While the nose has a sweeter base in orange and grapefruit citrus, it leaps at you with leafy herbaceous matter, pepper and biscuit, some black tea leaf, it’s fruity with peach, apricot, pineapple notes but never seems sweet nor juicy, minerally, what it may lack in complexity it more than makes up for with raw power. In the mouth it’s full-bodied, quite dry with a tacky, sticky mouth feel. The pink and white grapefruit, blood orange citrus more zest than pulp, any pine sap or florality no match for the peppery to minerally bite and crisp leafy earthiness, some tar or charcoal accents mixed in. The papaya, pineapple, nectarine fruit fights like the dickens but does not reach the finish line, adding to its overall bitterness. The carbonation is taut and keeps the rhythm up tempo. Not particularly longlasting at the end, can’t call it a casual sipper but clean and direct enough to serve well as a food beer. (Can)
3 out of 5

Flying Fish Brewing Company
Exit 16 Wild Rice Double IPA
American Double/Imperial IPA
New Jersey
8.2%
12oz, 6-Pack
$13.99
You get a finger of bone white foam, the head has a fairly dense weave but has so-so retention, the lacing comes in broad sheets which slowly slide down the glass side. Clean, pure golden color, not especially vivid but bright and shiny, the bubbles are fat and dispersed, slowly rising to the surface. Powerful nose that explodes out of the glass with a sweet mélange of tangelo and pink grapefruit citrus, very floral, pine sap and honey, underneath is the stiffening presence of pretzel dough and salt, somewhat chocolaty, the nectarine, peach, pineapple, papaya fruit persists quite well, gregariously rich. Full-bodied, thick and close to fluffy, pushes across the palate like a rug unfolding. The carbonation has some punch yet no way can it clean up the underlying sweetness of all that grapefruit, tangerine, lime citrus as well as peach, apricot, mango, pineapple fruit. No noticeable herbaceous edge, perhaps a slight minerality and it may be that the rice contributes to a drier finish and overall smoothness. Alcohol managed well. Not particularly complex nor challenging, however, if you enjoy a sweeter and softer style of IPA then this is pretty much a slam dunk.
5 out of 5

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Chugged in February 2014

Deschutes Brewery
Class Of ’88 Imperial Smoked Porter (Collaboration With Great Lakes Brewing Company)
American Porter
Oregon
9.1%
22oz, Single
$8.99
Does not pour much of a head, an aggressive pour down the middle yields a half finger of more larger bubbles then woven foam, dark tan in color, bubbles off rapidly, the lacing is likewise close to nonexistent. The liquid is clean and surprisingly transparent, only a few visible bubbles, the hue changes to a more orange to yellow cast near the surface and rims. In the nose the smokiness is very direct and upfront, close to Rauchbier quality, but overlaid with caramel, butterscotch, molasses notes as well as chocolate, oats, charred game and peaty earth accents, perhaps some plum but not especially fruity, overall its presence is light of touch and tends more to lift and drift off and settle in. Light-bodied, the smokiness and general fire camp roast seems to mask the other elements rather than support them. Chocolate, vanilla bean, toffee and a light breadiness but one would be hard pressed to call it sweet. The shyly efficient carbonation does not give it pep, the mouth feel is smooth if unmemorable. Smattering of banana among the plum, cherry fruit base. You can’t call it understated due to the smokiness, so conversely it leaves you wished it had more desire to rock out with gusto.
3 out of 5

Firestone Walker Brewing Company
Firestone Walker’s Double DBA (Barrel-Aged Imperial Special Bitter 2013) (Proprietors Reserve Series No. 002)
English Barleywine
California
12.0%
22oz, Single
$15.99
Barely pours a head at all, even with a heartily aggressive pour. A few bubbles aggregate again the glass walls, no real appreciable lacing either. There’s a strong, bright glow to the orange to light brown hued liquid, needed given the high level of particulate floating about inside (bottle stood up for weeks), plenty of widely dispersed bubbles as well, looks like a lot of activity in the glass. The nose is balanced and does not betray excessive alcohol presence, a good underlying roastiness stiffens its nostril presence so it’s not overly sugary, still no lack of molasses, caramelized brown sugar, butterscotch, at the same time you get green apple, fig, golden raisin, spiced orange peel and a heavy floral musk, you get more lightly metallic earthiness at it warms, easy as she goes. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied and likewise smooth and flows effortlessly, not looking to make a huge display of itself. More leafy herbal qualities here, bready like challah bread or breakfast rolls. Fruitier with apricot, peach, cherry mixed in with the fig, raisin, date base. Chocolate truffle, toffee, butterscotch, cream soda give it the desired appeal, no sugar bomb. The carbonation could be considered mildly on the high side for the style, not obvious but rock steady and adds to its overall freshness. More for those who want a food friendly version of the style than an experience unto itself.
5 out of 5

Williamsburg Alewerks
Washington’s Porter
American Porter
Virginia
6.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$8.99
Peaks around one finger’s worth of deep brown foam, many larger bubbles, disappears very quickly with only a thin ring around the edges, the lacing is equally thin to nonexistent. The liquid is a fully opaque brownish to black color, once in awhile you’ll see a tiny bubble break the surface, barely any sign of an orange or yellow tint. The nose lays it all on the table immediately, fully loaded with malty chocolate, coffee ice cream, vanilla, marshmallow, caramel scents, challah bread too, there’s good roastiness to it too but not really texturally sharpening the sweetness, no citrus, no earthy qualities, it’s a one trick pony but it nails that trick. Medium-bodied, surprisingly focused and dry in texture, the carbonation is strong and full of pinpricks across the palate. At times you do get a light minerally aspect along with mixed sweet grains. Besides that it’s back to the cocoa, coffee, cola, vanilla bean, whipped cream and so on. Monochrome yet has very good length, the flavors persist for some time. It does not overreach, does not good unduly sweet, it’s just a friendly, malt driven porter, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
4 out of 5

Anchorage Brewing Company
Bitter Monk Belgian Style Double IPA With Brettanomyces (Ale Aged In French Oak Chardonnay Barrels)
Belgian IPA
Alaska
9.0%
25.4oz, Single
$16.99
Pours a big, three plus finger head of loosely knit foam, bleached white, its airy nature causes it to sizzle off at a steady pace, at the same time the lacing is wispy and even fluffy but that lasts a good long time. The gauziness to the liquid teases out some deepening orange hues to the base yellow, not many bubbles, somewhat flat visual appearance. The nose has a fresh directness to it, white grapefruit energizing pear, apple, and peach fruit scents, only lightly herbal, salt and pepper, dried bread crust, has a sourness to it and cleaner than expected, zips in and zips out. Medium-bodied, the carbonation never quite catches so it stays soft and does not percolate as it might otherwise. Cinnamon, nutmeg sprinkled on top of pear, apricot, peach, pineapple fruit. The white grapefruit, lemon citrus by far the most aggressive element, and here the grassiness turned up a notch, contributes to its overall sourness. Floral, notes of quinine and saline. Becomes more dry through the finish, has earthiness but, again, of a clean nature, no real funk. Glides well and there’s no rough spots at all. About as quaffable as one might expect from such a brew.
4 out of 5

Port Brewing Company
Mongo India Pale Ale
American Double/Imperial IPA
California
8.5%
22oz, Single
$6.49
Pours a solid finger plus head of rich foam, light tan in color, forms some big surface craters as it starts to evaporate, the lacing streaks are noticeably thick but could stand to stick a little longer, takes some time for the surface to lose its final coating. Bright metallic orange hued liquid, close to rust, huge amount of equally large bubbles bursting upwards throughout the glass, inclines more towards a reddish tint than yellow. Aims for a real classic nose, pine, green grass, herbs, orange to grapefruit citrus, the peach, apricot, pineapple fruit scents are there but it is not anywhere near going for sweet, salt and saline notes, the malts seem to smoothen more texturally than provide a real olfactory presence, it’s all tightly woven together, no movement wasted. Full-bodied, while the attack is very creamy the experience is not of softness, a pervading dryness is there, you keep licking your lips to remoisten them. Light honey and the pine as much sap as needle or cone, mildly sweetens the pink grapefruit, tangerine citrus. Moments of florality but nothing near the strength of the oily herbaceousness, skanky even, in a good way. Malts subdued here too, some caramel and malted milk balls. The carbonation is broad and energetic, no pinpoint finesse. A little too rich overall to be sessionable, however, what you do throw back will be enjoyed.
4 out of 5

Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project
Jack d’Or Saison Americaine
Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Massachusetts
6.5%
22oz, Single
$8.69
About a half finger of bright white foam for a head, mixed bubble sizes, doesn’t seem like it wants to stick around much, the lacing is sort of wispy and itself only sticks around long enough to be polite. Bright yellow liquid, shiny, vague orange tinting, not many visible bubbles, despite the shine sort of lifeless. The nose produces the expected notes of banana and bubblegum but then it veers into another realm with tar, black earth, tea leaf, farmland funk, more peppery than floral, pulped oranges, not much fruit, mainly white pit fruit, this puts the “farm” in farmhouse. Full-bodied, muscular and not willingly mobile, same sourness from muddy earth, metal, fallen leaves, quinine, dried pine sap. The citrus recedes and the fruit still refuses to step into the breach. Banana, leesy yeasts and flower water try to pretty it up but nothing is shaking off the funk. Which, in the end, is not a bad thing because it gives it a veneer of authenticity. Carbonation is nothing special, enough to give it a swirling effect. Hard not to characterize this as a “food beer” where when paired correctly any perception of lack will be filled by the dish. But not a casual sipper.
3 out of 5

Maine Beer Company
MO
American Pale Ale
Maine
6.0%
16.9oz, Single
$6.99
Pours a large frothy head cresting around three fingers of eggshell white foam, very whipped up and airy, lots of dimpling across the surface, the retention is so-so, the lacing is comprised of a few razor thin but very long streaks. The liquid is a pleasing light orange with a mild metallic sheen, quite clear and pretty, slight yellowing at the rims, plenty of fat bubbles, no beads, all randomly dispersed. The nose has a certain purity to it, milled grains, sour mixed white citrus, spoonful of honey, pine cone, not very sappy, minimal herbaceousness, soft cocoa maltiness, needs to warm to really release the peach, yellow apple, apricot fruit scents. Full-bodied, in fact a little too broad shouldered as it tends to progress slowly through the palate. Here it’s much more floral and the white to pink grapefruit and orange citrus a bigger overall element. The fluffy carbonation helps relieve some weight and create lift and mouth perfume. The sweetness of the apricot, peach, pear fruit takes hold with force. Some peppery notes but the graininess lost a bit. Otherwise, does a good job of masking the total sweetness and making it a blended experience versus bunch of soloists jockeying for position.
4 out of 5

Anchorage Brewing Company
Galaxy White IPA Bottled With Brett (Ale Brewed With Spices And Fruit Fermented in French Oak Wine Tanks)
Belgian IPA
Alaska
7.0%
25.4oz, Single
$13.99
Thin bone white head, mostly loose and bubbles off swiftly, very bright and seems to reflect light nicely, the lacing is the sort which initially forms a very thin yet broad sheet but has little stick and as a whole it just glides down the glass sides. Cloudy yet bright canary yellow colored liquid, very difficult to see any bubbles inside the glass, warm luminescence to it. The nose most prominently hits you with tart white grapefruit notes, lots of salty accents and burnt dark bread crusts, more finished bread than yeasts, quite grassy, there’s something like an herb infused olive oil thing going on too, maybe pineapple or nectarine but you would be hard pressed to call the scents fruity. Medium-bodied, the carbonation swells immediately through the attack which gives it a creamier mouth feel, needed for when that lemon and white grapefruit citrus slash on through. Pepper and salt, green grass, clove and coriander, all contribute to a bright, tangy experience. Here the peach, apricot, nectarine and persimmon fruit is sweeter and more longlasting. There is a certain vinous quality, not sure I’d call it out and out bretty, likewise the yeasts are tame and not particularly softening. Fresh finish, given the elements it throws at you remains very good on the drinkability scale.
4 out of 5

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Chugged in January 2014

Williamsburg Alewerks
Tavern Ale
American Brown Ale
Virginia
6.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$8.99
Gives you a little under a finger’s worth of mostly larger bubbles so there’s not much of a tight weave to the head and it dissolves off quickly, light tan in color, the lacing shows some initial stickiness but then slides downward without much fight or gumption. The liquid is fairly filmy and opaque, brown color base but with a great deal of orange tint, you don’t see many bubbles floating inside. Heavy malted and sweet nose, bursting with milk chocolate, butterscotch, root beer, vanilla and even coconut notes, challah bread and honey covered nuts, when warmer delivers more plum and cherry fruit scents, really nothing there for counter weight but it’s agreeable enough to not matter. Medium-bodied, has a bit more zip and punch than expected, decent prickle from the carbonation. More dough, bread notes here which suck up some of the sweetness. Not to say it lacks from chocolate, caramel, toffee and vanilla goodness. Still, tastes as much like soda as it does beer. Which is not necessarily a bad thing but you kind of have to be prepared for it. Cherry, golden raisin, fig fruit flavors. Nutty finish. Pleasurable.
4 out of 5

Williamsburg Alewerks
Wheat Ale
American Pale Wheat Ale
Virginia
5.6%
12oz, 6-Pack
$8.99
Little over a finger of cream white foam, lots of medium sized bubbles give it both an uneven surface and a looser weave, still retention is credible and the lacing streaks thick and longlasting. The liquid is mildly fuzzy, a deep orange to yellow color, slightly like freshly rusty water, very few bubbles visible. Sweet grains, caramel and a shovel full of pink grapefruit, lemon and tangerine citrus in the nose, peach, nectarine and lesser pineapple fruit, veers off with some peppery notes and dark country style bread but overall stays juicy and sweet. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied, starts off grassy and biting but the overt sweetness of all that pink grapefruit, lemon, lime, orange citrus pretty much crushes anything in its path. As when sniffing it, the citrus plays up the peach, apricot, nectarine to pineapple fruit and here draws out added cocoa powder and pine elements. The carbonation is average to below so, however, it just seems to have a naturally creamy mouth feel. Not really getting the wheat, nor any strong bread, grain presence. Some spiciness and a fistful of minerally earth. But really it comes across as a simple, sweet, citrus bomb. Easy to drink for sure, likely get bored with it after a second bottle.
3 out of 5

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Piercing Pils (A Czech-Style Pilsner Brewed With Pear Juice, Pear Tea And Saaz Hops)
Czech Pilsener
Delaware
6.0%
12oz, 4-Pack
$10.99
Crests above two fingers then settles into a nice moderately thick level, good foam density, some surface dimpling, off white to eggshell color, the lacing is wispy but sticks with strength. Mild filminess to the yellow gold colored liquid, light orange tint at the glass edges, the bubbles are few but fat and move at a decent clip, looks richer than your standard pilsner. The pear fruit comes through very clearly on the nose, trace amount of florality would seem sweet were it not for the sale and pepper, dark bread and black tea leaf notes, clean kind of herbaceousness, ends with an allusion to mixed white citrus and metal shavings, not tightly woven as a fabric but nice enough to sniff. Full-bodied, would suspect the juice gives it extra heft, pulls down into the palate, the carbonation is not weak per se but in no position to do much about anything. The pear there yet gets sucked back into the whole by its overall sourness and that earthy, metallic bite. Spicy, especially peppery, herbal but not “green,” tree bark and less breadiness and citrus than might be desired. It does stay as lively as possible through the finish, dry while not excessively so. Some floral lift at the very end. An experiment worth putting into action.
3 out of 5

Honsebrouck, Brouwerij van
Kasteel Winter
Belgian Strong Dark Ale
Belgium
11.0%
25.4oz, Single
$10.49
Not much of a head, enough to cover the surface and then simmer off, a lot of larger bubbles contributes, the lacing is lackluster as well. The liquid is a predictable murky brown with a yellow outside ring, running counter to the visual impression it’s like the whole glass is filled with a swarm of tiny bubbles, overall close to fully opaque. The nose lays on some serious roastiness with coffee bean, caramel, crème brûlée notes, candied nuts, mocha powder, peach, cherry and plum fruit, lower level of baking spices, it has a dry kind of feel to it which keeps the sweetness in check, no overt hoppiness but again it does have a sort of stiff posture which hops can provide. In the mouth it’s fairly full-bodied, smooth for its weight and here too it starts sweetly and ends drily. The roast and toast extravaganza continues, crazy nuttiness, all this coffee, then butterscotch, toffee, chocolate dust and vanilla bean. Light bread and scone notes before something akin to tobacco ash and open fire cinders. More herbaceous and leafy if never outright hoppy. The carbonation is moderate but shows up when it’s needed most. Very flavorful and vivid, a total cold winter night in front of a roaring fire sort of quaff.
4 our of 5

Williamsburg Alewerks
Chesapeake Pale Ale
American Pale Ale
Virginia
5.7%
12oz, 6-Pack
$8.99
Modest head, under a finger, just off-white, moderate pour yields a good amount of larger bubbles, likely contributes to rapid dissolve, the lacing is a touch wispy but does cling nicely. The liquid is a semi-cloudy metallic yellow to ochre, very few bubbles and the filminess makes them hard to see anyway. The nose has a pleasing stiffness to it, dried orange peels, salt, pretzel dough, good mix of grass and flowers, as it warms it delivers more peach, apricot, yellow apple fruit scents, average length. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied, low on the carbonation yet leaves a certain dryness behind. This hinders the flow of that apricot, pineapple, peach fruit, blunted sweetness and tartness. Very earthy to downright dirty, not in a bad way but clearly it is not going for maximal smoothness. Saline and grassy elements trump the orange, grapefruit citrus, even as the latter has kick and tries to lend sweetness. Chooses to get sticky on the palate rather than refresh and cleanse. Maybe the hops are too aggressive for an easy drinking APA, or there’s too little counterbalancing malts. Not bad really but nor is it memorable.
3 out of 5

Neshaminy Creek Brewing
County Line IPA
American IPA
Pennsylvania
6.6%
22oz, Single
$3.99
Barely a finger’s worth of wispy white foam, with lots of larger bubbles it dissolves rapidly to a thin surface coating, the lacing fares a little better with long, sticky streaks all along the glass sides. The liquid is shiny and fully transparent, an attenuated orange to then yellow color, only a few random bubbles visible. Very floral nose, violets and lilacs, orange blossom, gentle apricot to peach, apple fruit notes, segues to cut grass, salt, pepper and hard bread crust, there’s some funk in the hops yet it also has a cleansing purity to it, not much to be found by way of really sweet maltiness. Full-bodied, thick enough to be sluggish, not a lot of carbonation. The tangerine, orange to white grapefruit citrus a larger factor here, just outpoints the metallic earthy and herbaceous qualities, which themselves are formidable. The fruit lacks sweetness but there’s bite in the pineapple, papaya, nectarine, peach flavors. More grainy than processed bread, touch of peppercorns and pine cones. By the end unwinds enough that the floral dimension gets assertive. If you like your IPA’s on the bitter side while still mostly balanced, this should be in your wheelhouse. Wisely keeps it simple when it could get overcomplicated.
3 out of 5

AleSmith Brewing Company
YuleSmith Winter Holiday Ale
American Amber/Red Ale
California
8.5%
22oz, Single
$8.99
Rich, creamy head, close to three fingers, tan in color with an orange tint, for as fluffy as it is has wonderful retention and the lacing is strong too, long, thick streaks form every time the glass is turned. Dark, if clear, amber red color, kind of has a metallic sheen to it, not quite beads but lots of large, healthy bubbles swirling upwards inside the glass. Excellent balance between malts and hops in the nose, cocoa, hard coffee candy and malted milk balls interplay with sweet pink grapefruit, pine sap, lemongrass and a pinch of white pepper, basic apricot, peach to pineapple fruit yet restrained, as it gets warmer the damp herbal matter element becomes more pronounced. Full-bodied, the buoyant carbonation frames the attack and makes it less blockish and more apt to settle gently on the tongue. While the texture is dry and after 4-5 sips you start to feel a tacky residue building up, the flavors are all ripe sweetness, especially that pink grapefruit to tangelo citrus. Floral, piney, sweet and sour enough to play up papaya and pineapple over the apricot and peach. Some biscuit notes among the caramel and molasses, as in the nose saves the more bitter or leafy herbaceousness for last. Given the multitude of things going on, stays balanced and integrated and, even better, highly drinkable.
5 out of 5

Southern Tier Brewing Company
2XMas (Ale Brewed With Figs, Orange Peels, And Spices)
Herbed/Spiced Beer
New York
8.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.49
Two fingers of dark yet oddly glowing tan foam, looks backlit or something, full mix of bubble sizes and pretty good retention for the category, same could be said for the lacing, sticks well. Crystal clear liquid, deep coppery brown, inclines more towards red than orange, not that many bubbles but they rise with swift insistence, pretty enough overall. The nose is all cardamom, anise, pine sap, clove and cinnamon, huge cleansing lift in the nostrils, milk chocolate and orange peels, not getting the figs nor other fruit here, basically smells like the bowls of seeds and stuff at the entrance to an Indian restaurant. Medium-bodied, tightly woven carbonation, erect posture, on the dry side given the constituent elements. Ginger, cardamom, clove, cinnamon, cola, chocolate, light caramel. Again, has a sort of mentholated cleansing feel, fresh and tingly. Still not getting much fig or other dried fruits, some light apple or peach maybe. Soft undercurrent of blanched nuts. Easy to see how the intensity of the spices could polarize, love it or hate it. Finding it food friendly and lack of sweetness adds to versatility. Could not do more than a couple in a sitting but they would be enjoyable start to finish.
5 out of 5

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Chugged in December 2013

Tröegs Brewing Company
The Mad Elf Ale (Ale Brewed With Honey And Cherries)
Belgian Strong Dark Ale
Pennsylvania
11.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$14.99
The head is on the thin side, a semi-deep tan color, not very dense and evaporates swiftly, average lacing without much stick. The liquid is an attractive coppery red with a dark orange tint, large amount of super tiny bubbles swirl about inside, excellent clarity does not weaken the richness of hue, handsome. The nose is full but not soft, filled with sweet honey, molasses, baking spices , candied orange peel and a mix of cola and chocolate, the cherries come through clearly, consistent and unambiguous, no secrets hidden. Full-bodied, Walks at a good pacing, not brisk, but on no leisurely stroll either, the carbonation fluffs it up when needed. The citrus is mixed but helps temper the honey, caramel, chocolate stuff. The cherry fruit base pulled in opposing directions by plum and strawberry flavors. Cola, maybe licorice, there is a sweet smokiness to it as well. Not really as well spiced as one might hope for a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, maybe more like a Winter Warmer. The length is so-so. In a fun and convivial environment you could easily through 3-4 of these back in spite of the ABV, alone at home, one, maybe two. There’s no intellectual hook.
4 out of 5

Het Anker, Brouwerij
Gouden Carolus Noël
Belgian Strong Dark Ale
Belgium
10.5%
25.4oz, Single
$9.99
Mild dusting of a head across the surface, dark tan brown, swiftly pulls back to the glass sides, the lacing streaks are quite thin but have some stick to them. Murky dark brown colored liquid with more of a yellow tint than anything else, not a lot of visible effervescence, nothing truly remarkable about how it looks. The nose offers licorice, cola, orange spice, lightly roasted chocolate, fig, date, banana and hint of green apple, pleasing for how it does not overdo the sweetness and stays openly knit and airy, finishes with lingering nutmeg, cinnamon and splash of witch hazel. Medium-bodied, for its relative sweetness and mouth grip it has decent fluidity. Carbonation is light but generally up to the task. Initially tastes like a root beer float. Vanilla, malted milk balls, ginger, licorice, orange citrus, Brazil nuts and butterscotch predominate. The fruit has a darker complexion here with prune and cherry trumping the date and fig, not really showing a lot of esters nor breadiness. Likewise, no boozy “heat” on display although you can feel it once a good portion of the bottle is gone. Gains peppery bite as it warms. Fashions a dry, punctuated finish which helps it marshal an argument for being a good food beer and not just an after dinner sipper.
4 out of 5

Port Brewing Company
High Tide Fresh Hop India Pale Ale
American IPA
California
6.5%
22oz, Single
$5.99
Produces a big, fluffy head upon the pour, loads of whipped up larger bubbles with multiple peaks and valleys, slightly off-white color, the thick streaks of lacing stick powerfully and overall retention is very good. The liquid is a pale yellowish gold, clear but not quite watery, not many bubbles but what’s there are big and fat and move upwards with determination. Muscular nose features a dash of salt and pepper, pretzel dough, leafy green matter, black tea leaves, more earthy than sweet, the orange citrus and white pit fruits pushed into the background, gets more metallic and arch as it warms albeit not offputtingly so. Full-bodied, the carbonation is perhaps too gentle to relieve some of the bitterness from the palate, very hoppy with an excess of grassiness, earth, quinine, and pepper notes. Weight sort of prevents it from staying “refreshing,” however, there’s briskness in the tangerine, white grapefruit citrus and arguably more pineapple, green apple, nectarine, peach fruit. Dry finish with white pepper, iron flecks and backroads brown dirt. Its relative lack of smoothness and sweetness makes it more of a food beer than a casual sipper on its own.
3 out of 5

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Chugged in November 2013

Southern Tier Brewing Company
Warlock (Blackwater Series) (Imperial Stout Brewed With Pumpkins And Natural Flavor)
American Double/Imperial Stout
New York
8.6%
22oz, Single
$8.99
Pours a very large head, very airy and comprised of larger bubbles, appears to have minimal density to it, basic tan color, not that dark, uneven surface, while the lacing streaks are thin they are numerous. Close to opaque but not quite, the color is a deep chocolate brown, the orange tint evident at the outer reaches, hard to see any bubbles at all, looks like a “tweener” would not guess stout per se. Oodles of ginger snaps, cinnamon, honey, pumpkin and milk chocolate to the nose, minimal roast or toast, all sunny sweetness, mild pie dough to yeast accents, extremely pungent and longlasting, like standing next to an exhaust pipe. Medium-bodied, lighter than might be expected, creamy texture even with average carbonation at best. On the sweet side, the pumpkin and accompanying baking spices are dominant and are smeared in vanilla frosting. Cola accents, sometimes tastes like RC cola. More roast here, teases out mild coffee to dark chocolate. Turns hollow at the finish, loses its initial intensity. At the same time becomes more like a “normal” stout. Needs an extra gear to really impress.
3 out of 5

Williamsburg Alewerks
Redmarker Ale
American Amber/Red Ale
Virginia
6.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$8.99
An aggressive pour yields a little around two fingers of off white foam, mostly larger bubbles and it dissolves down to the surface swiftly to leave a spotty covering across the surface, about average stick to the lacing, thin streaks here and there. Reddish brown liquid, more of a metallic orange at the glass bottom and rims, clear and easy to see through, few visible bubbles. The nose offers malt, mocha, hard caramel, scones and pie crust, boozy vanillin notes, mix of red cherry to apricot fruit, turns to mixed unprocessed grains after awhile, lacks some in the length department. Medium-bodied, likewise on the stern side in the mouth not clenched per se but not flowing openly. Dry in texture even without much carbonation and prickle, stunts the flavors a bit. Cocoa, cola, smidge of black licorice to go with the pie crust, challah bread, and pastry dough. Has a mineral water component as well. There’s no real flaws here it is simply hard to warm to, doesn’t offer depth or richness in any one area. Drinkable but you’d likely lose interest halfway through the second bottle.
3 out of 5

Williamsburg Alewerks
Drake Tail India Pale Ale
American IPA
Virginia
7.3%
12oz, 6-Pack
$8.99
Little over a finger of eggshell white to light tan foam, lots of different bubble sizes with a mottled surface, adequate retention, the lacing comes in very broad sheets but then slowly slides down the glass sides. Cloudy coppery orange hued liquid, more gauzy than transparent, widely dispersed fat and sluggish bubbles throughout, has visual “density” to it. Sweet, approachable nose of tangerine, pink grapefruit citrus, cocoa led maltiness, supplemented by less aggressive pine sap and white pepper notes, comes with a credible amount of apricot and peach fruit scents too, it needs to warm up some to release the underlying herbaceous hoppiness. Medium-bodied, somewhat low carbonation gives it a firm mouth feel rather than creamy, however, this is some prickle going on. The white pit fruit has a dried fruit kind of sweetness, same for the pineapple flavors. Semi-tart feel to the orange, tangerine to white grapefruit citrus. Some breadiness and grassy bite, not simple even as it displays its constituent parts clearly. Malty finish softens its contours, very likable and easygoing.
4 out of 5

Atlantic Brewing Company
New Guy IPA
American IPA
Maine
6.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
The head crests a little over a finger, off-white, some dimpling but evaporates too swiftly for you to really notice it, the lacing is thin yet does hold onto form broad sheets. The liquid is a rust orange, strong swirling storm of tiny bubbles within, at times they look like a fine sediment, overall looks slightly watery. While the nose has a malty foundation and cocoa, vanilla powder notes, there’s pronounced sourdough bread, quinine, sour lemon peels, iron flecks and lawn grass which stiffens it in your nostrils and closes it down some, not much fruit or other sweeter elements to balance these out. Full-bodied and on the heavy side, curiously based on visual inspection the carbonation is weak hence it doesn’t dance much on the palate. That same metallic bitterness persists here, amplified to distraction. To be fair, the cocoa and caramel also increases and you get a mix of indistinguishable white pit fruit. The citrus is a muddle of white grapefruit and lemon. Leafy without being harshly “green.” The overall dryness leaves your tongue desiccated by the end. Nothing really pleasant enough about it to entice you into finishing the bottle.
2 out of 5

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
American Beauty (An Imperial Pale Ale Brewed With Granola & All-American Hops)
American Pale Ale
Delaware
9.0%
25.4oz, Single
$12.49
Pours a really big head but it’s mostly air, the larger bubbles pop and sizzle down rapidly although it is fun to watch, eggshell white to light tan, not a lot of stick to the lacing, tends to slide down the glass sides. Light gauziness to the coppery orange color, closer to a reddish brown than yellow, the bubbles are few but they are fat and move with some speed. The nose is diffuse and easygoing, a gregariously sloppy array of sweet grains, orange pulp, honey, hay, white pepper, good amount of apricot to peach fruit, finishes more soft and estery than hoppy, slight vinous quality. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied and consistent filling cheek to cheek, not soft per se yet not biting nor unduly bitter. The honey to yogurt aspects lead alongside orange and grapefruit citrus, again the apricot, peach to yellow apple fruit plays a sizable role. Malty and the granola is evident with each sip, sweet grains give it an even consistency start to finish. More floral through the finish, some pine sap too, the sweeter side of hops. The carbonation is on the creamy side and helps it ooze over the tongue. There’s nothing you can say it nails 100% and, as before, it’s not a beer of pinpoint precision. But it is extremely satisfying and something to just kick back and enjoy.
4 out of 5

Southern Tier Brewing Company
2XRye Double Rye Ale
Rye Beer
New York
8.1%
12oz
6-Pack, $10.49
Little under two fingers of tan foam, islands of larger bubbles break up an otherwise even surface, peters out to a thick accretion along the glass edges, the lacing is broad and gluey, in some spots covers everything from liquid surface to top rims. Very clear, to the point of almost diminishing its color, coppery orange to lighter red, more orange to yellow at rims and glass bottom, sluggish bubbles. Straightforward nose, crisp and openly knit, sweet orange to pink grapefruit zest, the rye comes through easily, however, it still has a somewhat creamy texture in the nostrils, mixed sweet grains, light pepperiness, strong underlying maltiness, ripe peach to nectarine fruit scents, maybe banana as well, just hangs pregnantly like a rain cloud. In the mouth it is medium-bodied, soft and fluid but not creamy, the rye has an edge and that peppery quality is spotlighted. Grapefruit, lemon citrus, pine, wildflowers and a flourish of milk chocolate and caramel as it goes down the chute. The carbonation is not steady, more an irregular pulse but on the whole keeps the beer inclined towards dryness. Leaves a metallic earthiness behind as residue. Good drinkability and could see putting back 2-3 of these in a sitting, which is likely on the high end for this type of beer per se.
3 out of 5

Southern Tier Brewing Company
2X Stout Double Milk Stout
Milk/Sweet Stout
New York
7.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Finger plus of uneven, frothy foam, lots of larger bubbles to mottle the surface but good head retention and covers the surface for some time, the lacing is thin on the whole but sticks well. Very dark brown colored liquid, not quite black, opaque nonetheless, no filminess, you don’t seem the bubbles until they break the yellow tinted surface. Forceful but not heavy nose driven by chocolate powder, mocha and just a strong general maltiness, blends in anise, vanilla and a little whiskey like booziness, vague plum fruit, the breadiness is akin to scones or raw oatmeal, not devoid of hops but no single descriptor jumps out at you about this part. Medium-bodied, neither too dry nor too sweet, just full of malty goodness, chocolate, caramel, cocoa, vanilla, licorice, brown sugar, needs to warm up to get any coffee grounds. It isn’t that milky though. The carbonation is tight so it isn’t too fluffy and it is about as crisp as you’d want without it getting too dry. Here the hops lend a mild bitter touch at the end with citrus and a hint of pine more than grassiness, maybe even peppery. The thing is, it’s subtle in all the good ways, making it an enjoyably sessionable beer rather than lunging for the “wow” factor.
5 out of 5

Smuttynose Brewing Company
Rhye IPA (Big Beer Series)
Rye Beer
New Hampshire
6.8%
22oz, Single
$5.99
Nice big head of around three fingers, very even surface even with a full spectrum of bubble sizes, dark eggshell white in color, nice retention plus the lacing is quite thick and sticks like glue. The liquid itself is a paler orange to yellow gold, has a sort of metallic sheen to it, fully transparent and shiny with extra tiny bubbles rising quickly within. The nose comes on first with tangy white grapefruit to mandarin orange notes, followed closely by dried grass and hay and then veers into cocoa powder and flowers, minimal breadiness but what’s there is country style, very light pineapple, peach to nectarine fruit scents. Medium-bodied, the carbonation seems creamier through the mouth entry but afterwards tends to prickle in support of the bitter herbaceousness and hoppiness. Peppery with some saltiness too, any pine or flowers come across as dried in nature. That said, there’s juice in the sour orange to lemon citrus. The rye clearer here and helps fill the blank spaces left by the spotty mixed white fruit component. Minor maltiness peeks out by the end, cocoa and caramel. No alcoholic heat but it is fairly intensely bitter which can create a similar impression. Just seems attenuated and lacking in volume and palate weight, especially at the end.
3 out of 5

Yards Brewing Company
Cape of Good Hope Epic Ale
American Double/Imperial IPA
Pennsylvania
8.1%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.99
Pours a generous close to three finger head of airy, loose cream white foam, mottled surface, decent enough retention, looks like a fallen soufflé, the lacing is thick in some spots and has excellent stickiness. A light cloudiness deepens the yellow to orange rust hue, translucent, not many visible bubbles, kind of interesting looking. The nose offers salted pretzels and a rich grapefruit, orange citrus component, this aided by pine sap, cocoa and dewy flowers, as the apricot, peach fruit gets in the act, so does a stiffening herbaceous streak, comes out with a nice spectrum of scents. Full-bodied, at times thick unto heavy, the carbonation makes a good effort of it but lacks the strength to whip things up. Definitely on the sweet side with pine, pink grapefruit, tangerine, lilacs, coriander, cumin spice and something close to eucalyptus. The peach, apricot, pineapple fruit has a semi dried fruit nature. All this noted, the finish dries out big time and while it is not as herbaceous here, it does have a little zip to it. Quite malty as well, no lack of cocoa and caramel. Brash, has an infectious smile but won’t make immediate friends with everyone. And it’s probably alright with that.
4 out of 5

Victory Brewing Company
Red Thunder (Malt Beverage Aged In Wine Barrels)
Baltic Porter
Pennsylvania
8.5%
25.4oz, Single
$8.99
Mediocre head of about half a finger, lots of larger bubbles which diminish its staying power and it’s all quickly gone, lacing likewise on the weak side. Clean black liquid of full opacity, no real orange or yellow tints, just some brown around the edges, no real way to visually gauge the carbonation. Malty nose with cocoa, mocha, coconut, butterscotch and vanilla bean, maybe a hint of sour red wine but no real “vinous” presence, at the same time no real hoppy bite either, dries out the longer it lingers in the nostrils, seems like a straight up porter. Medium-bodied, slightly creamy during the attack then gets quite dry and close to dusty in texture. Chocolate, vanilla, caramel, a light dose of black licorice and coconut as well as scone bread. The carbonation is weak and it moves at a sluggish pace. Glimmer of cherry to plum fruit, not a lot of lactose or milky qualities. While it’s posture is nice, still wish it moved more gracefully. Still not sure what the wine barrels contribute, except some sour notes through the finish. By no means a bad beer, just unsure of what makes it “unusual” versus a basic rendition of a traditional style.
3 out of 5

John Crabbie & Co.
Crabbie’s Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer (Malt Beverage With Natural Flavors And Caramel Color Added)
Herbed/Spiced Beer
Scotland
4.8%
11.2oz, Single
$2.75
Thin bleached white head which kind of seems more like agitation from the pour than a full-on foamy head, dissolves rapidly, the lacing is at first thicker than expected but slides down the glass smoothly. Crystal clear pale orange colored liquid, the bubbles are widely dispersed but of good size and active, very shiny overall. The nose is smooth and pure ginger but at the same time not overbearing, has a breezy airiness to it, some orange citrus too, floral with powdered sugar but basically it’s ginger. Light-bodied and spicier here, has tangy bite to it, quite refreshing. In this vein has more tingle than actual flavor intensity, wisely chooses to keep the ginger cruising steadily rather than making a gargantuan statement. Same orange citrus thing, maybe some anise too or cane sugar. Way too easy to drink, particularly when well chilled. Can see this going with a variety of spicy cuisine. Or a box if ginger snaps. Likable.
4 out of 5

Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams)
Dark Depths Baltic IPA
Baltic Porter
Massachusetts
7.6%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Moderate depth to the creamy finger plus head, deep tan color with very good retention, same thing with the lacing, broad streaks which stick around for some time. The liquid is a murky muddy brown with orange rust tones and it lightens around the edges, tiny bubbles form active beads. The nose is sweetly roasted featuring chocolate, caramel, butterscotch and licorice, some plum, black grape and cherry fruit scents, not devoid of hoppiness but not that green, some straw or hay, floral but wish it had more leafiness, ends with an uptick in smoky tar, alcohol is present. Full-bodied and somewhat foursquare in the mouth with less carbonation than needed for its density. Again plays up the cocoa, mocha, caramel, cola and creamed coffee aspects, here balanced out by a metallic earthiness. More breadiness and yeast, mild dose of esters. The florality gets muted, same for the dark fruits albeit there’s some prune in there. Opens and unclenches a touch through the finish as orange citrus and hops cleanse some. It is boozy but not unbalanced, little about it conveys a sense of an IPA, but drinkable for sure.
3 out of 5

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Chugged in October 2013

Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams)
Grumpy Monk Belgian IPA
Belgian IPA
Massachusetts
6.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
About a finger’s worth of fairly dense foam, good retention with only moderate dimpling, the lacing is pretty thick as well if of average stickiness. Deep bronzed color, as close to light brown as orange, huge amount of particulate floating throughout the liquid, the bubble beads are few but when present they are active, looks on the “serious” side on the whole. Grainy and herbaceous nose, to the point it cloaks the sweet spices, yeast and fruitiness, minor white citrus tones, as it warms turns more floral and allows for notes of banana and cherry. Medium-bodied, it is on the dry side which takes a good bit of fluffiness out of the otherwise soft carbonation. Peppery, cut grass, dried pine sap, more dried flowers than yeast, has a vinous quality from white grape accents, supplemented by cherry and apricot fruit, the banana remains muted. Manages to cling to your mouth pores well through the finish, extending its presence. There’s nothing actively wrong with this beer but little exciting about it and it does not possess an easy, seamless flow which would make it a candidate for simple pleasurable drinking.
2 out of 5

Stevens Point Brewery
Whole Hog Limited Edition Pumpkin Ale (Ale Brewed With Pumpkin And Spices)
Pumpkin Ale
Wisconsin
7.5%
12oz, 4-Pack
$7.99
Close to a finger of deep tan, not dense nor airy, just a scattershot of larger bubbles, boils down to the surface at a steady clip, the lacing is not that sticky but certainly better than most in the category. Not cloudy but darn close to opaque liquid, sunset red up close, more a mix of browns and oranges further away, few bubbles visible. The nose is clean and direct, cinnamon to clove spice, orange peel, the pumpkin is ripe but not sweet, light breadiness without it being pie-like, touch of cocoa powder too, nothing here overdone or unnecessarily flamboyant. Medium-bodied, has enough prickle from the carbonation to keep the sweetness in check, even has a sort of tart, metallic edge at times. Otherwise, straight up fresh pumpkin with cinnamon, nutmeg spice, chocolate and vanilla accents. Less citrus here, mostly orange, some lemon. Stays balanced and the flavors cruise at a steady altitude, you don’t get worn out by it. Finishes cleanly yet with bite. Easy to like and, again, doesn’t try too hard, always a plus in my book.
4 out of 5

Southern Tier Brewing Company
Crème Brûlée (Blackwater Series) (A Stout Brewed With Vanilla Beans)
American Double/Imperial Stout
New York
9.5%
22oz, Single
$8.99
Pours a bold and close to four finger head of dark foam, airy but not wispy, has better retention than you’d think, only minor surface dimpling, the lacing is thin and haphazardly spread across the glass sides. Clean liquid if predictably opaque, like buffed onyx, tiny hint of orange at the rims. The nose is like having a German chocolate cake smashed into your face, coconut, caramel, butterscotch, chocolate, only a slight roasted edge, some candied oranges, this has a “take no prisoners” approach. Full-bodied, same story in the mouth, unbearably sweet like a hose force feeding you toffee, caramel and butterscotch. This almost makes it hard to register the vanilla and chocolate. The carbonation is super soft and adds to the fluffy character. Heavy on the Maraschino cherries and again candied oranges. Does an odd bitter twist at the end. Can’t fault it for intensity of flavor but it was a concerted effort to finish the bomber.
3 out of 5

Sixpoint Brewery
Resin
American Double/Imperial IPA
New York
9.1%
12oz, 4-Pack
$9.99
Almost two fingers of fairly dense foam, lots of mixed sized bubbles which tends to dimple the surface, keeps a nicely thick coating across the surface for some time and the strings of lacing, while thin, stick like glue. Very gauzy haze to the otherwise borderline luminescent orange to yellow color, opaque with a very fine particulate visible, similarly the carbonation is active but so tiny you have to peer way up close to see it. The nose plays it straight up, maybe somewhat high toned, slaps on the pink grapefruit to tangerine citrus, pine sap, bread crust, saline, pressed dried flowers, cocoa and a wedge of apricot and peach fruit, leaves a drying sensation in your nostrils, kind of a masculine showoff. Full-bodied, thick and layered even as the dryness sucks all the moisture out of your mouth. The carbonation gives it a creamy texture but it is hard to register this. The grapefruit, lime, orange citrus has flavor but not so much sweetness, lacks length. So, it’s the pine, salt, cut grass, pepper led spice and pumpernickel type bread which gets out to play. Teeters on the edge of too dry and bitter but manages to stay relatively balanced. Masks alcohol decently. Not sure I could drink more than two in a sitting, the second would be a slow affair.
3 out of 5

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Chugged in September 2013

Southern Tier Brewing Company
Plum Noir (Blackwater Series) (Imperial Porter Brewed With Italian Plums)
American Porter
New York
8.0%
22oz, Single
$8.99
The pour yields only a thin coating across the surface, barely half a finger and soon to dissipate, wispiest lacing imaginable. The liquid is opaque but remains mostly in the dark brown area rather than black, allowing for a yellow tint at the rims, the bubbles are tiny and appear to be widely dispersed. In the nose the plum comes through clearly but stays lowkey and out of the spotlight, as a result it’s the basic cocoa, chocolate, coffee and cola bean leading the way, scone and croissant flakes, beyond this is a light leafy and metallic touch which gives it some spine, overall not a heavy presence with nice liveliness. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied, the carbonation is light but what’s there is crisp, not much fluffy about it. The plum stays at about the same level here, recognizable yet not dominant. The cola, chocolate and vanilla upfront, not sweet enough for more caramel like notes. A touch bready but not doughy nor yeasty. Noticeably drier through the finish. The earthy, metallic aspect is pleasurable and also adds punctuation at the end. Overall, too simple to hold your interest past a few sips while still nothing stopping you from throwing it back uncritically.
3 out of 5

Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams)
Latitude 48 IPA
American IPA
Massachusetts
6.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Close to two fingers of fairly dense foam, eggshell white, some dimpling going on, retention level is good, likewise the lacing comes in thick sheets with admirable stickiness. Bronzed orange liquid, closer to brown than yellow, good clarity with tight, active beads of tiny bubbles. Expressive nose, floral with heavy sweet citrus dew, pine sap and peach to apricot fruit, also hits you with some toasty, bready notes and roasted cocoa, at times close to coffee, more of a puncher than a finesse boxer. Medium-bodied, there is a bitter bite but this is quickly overcome by the fluffy carbonation and general creamy mouth feel. Emphasis remains on the orange, pink grapefruit citrus, flowers and pine. While it lacks a keen edge, there is some pineapple, mango in there with the peach, apricot base. The roast maybe higher here, dries out the finish with mocha, cocoa and bread crust. Not getting much caramel or butterscotch, more metallic or earthy accents. Pretty consistent profile nose to palate, not sure of freshness of bottle, may have had a fresher, more brisk demeanor in its youth. But pleasing enough in a basic sense and decently sessionable.
3 out of 5

Maine Beer Company
Mean Old Tom (Stout Aged On Natural Vanilla Beans)
American Stout
Maine
6.5%
16.9oz, Single
$6.99
Froths up past three fingers of loose foam, mostly larger bubbles, lots of dimpling, very dark brown coloration, the lacing is wispy but has stickiness to spare. Pitch black liquid, perhaps a touch flat and not a lot of shine, you can see little pin pricks of carbonation as the bubbles reach the surface, otherwise opaque. While there’s a good deal of roast to the nose it is not overdone and allows the chocolate, vanilla and licorice to sweeten things up, date and fig fruit, dose of candied nuts, lasts well without losing its relaxed feel. Medium-bodied plus, has a pleasingly dry texture without sacrificing flavor. Cocoa, milk chocolate, coffee more than vanilla. Carbonation keeps it refreshing not fluffy and soft. There’s plum, cherry and light fig going on. At times there is some booziness, odd given its relatively light ABV for the type. Comes up with a bit of mineral and earth for depth. Fashioned in a classic style, has length and cleanliness. Leaves you without much to say, preferable to just enjoy it.
4 out of 5

Southern Tier Brewing Company
Imperial Compass (Bottle Conditioned Sparkling Ale Brewed With Rose Hips & Citrusy Hops)
American Pale Ale
New York
9.0%
22oz, Single
$6.99
Pours a couple fingers of bleached white foam, very whipped up and airy, no density at all albeit retention level is good, even dissolve. Any lacing slides off the glass as if greased. The liquid is the color of goldenrod, while faint and transparent it has a certain luminescence to it too, there’s a faintly visible particulate floating about, the bubbles are active but widely dispersed, no beads. Salt, grains and grasses frame the core of lemon to lesser white grapefruit citrus in the nose, built for focused penetration, a slice more than a punch, its herbaceousness makes it a bit tough to get at the apricot, apple fruit scents and naked dough notes. It’s close to full-bodied, the carbonation somehow manages to be thick and clingy, helps it press into all your mouth pores. Lots of lemon and then some orange and lime mixed in, all of it sour and bracing. The greenness and pepper and salt stuff too keeps you puckering. More like pretzel dough or rye here than sweeter breads. Something like the bowl of seeds and spices by the door of an Indian restaurant, the kind you are supposed to slowly chew on. Lots of dry extract as it finishes. Peach, apricot, green apple, pear, all with more crackle and snap than juicy wetness. Not the easiest to drink.
3 out of 5

Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams)
Whitewater IPA (Wheat Ale Brewed With Apricots & Spices)
American IPA
Massachusetts
5.8%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Pours a big, frothy head up to three fingers, dense but dimples, just off-white color, good stick to the lacing, the retention is above average. Cloudy yellow to orange rust hued liquid with a huge amount of particulate floating about, cloudy but you think it would be clear otherwise. Crisp, hoppy profile to the nose, malty too but it is the grains which rule and create a cutting quality to it, peppery as well with some salinity, the apricot only comes through haphazardly, overall more aggression than complexity. Medium-bodied, has sufficient creaminess in the mouth to take out some of the bite. And the apricot is a much larger presence here. Pepper, pumpernickel bread, pretzel dough, salt, has a noticeable leafy herbaceousness too. Hard to tell if the grapefruit citrus sweetens or adds tartness. Faint hint of cumin or coriander but, again, more salty and peppery than anything. At the very end, more retronasally, gives you banana and bubblegum notes. More malty with cocoa at the end too. Its interesting and a beer worth trying but in the end doesn’t cohere with a single minded nature.
3 out of 5

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Chugged in August 2013

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Positive Contact (Ale Brewed With Apple Cider And Spices, A Positive Combination Of Fuji Cider, Slow Roasted Farro, A Bit Of Cayenne And Fresh Cilantro)
Witbier
Delaware
9.0%
25.4oz. Single
$12.49
Pours a big, airy head, well over three fingers, bleached white, dissolves at a speedy clip, very little stickiness so not much lacing appearing. Transparent with a dilute yellow to orange coloration, quite a few fat and lazy bubbles rising within, looks as much as a cider as a beer. The nose is both crisp and sweet, the apples come through as well as cinnamon spice, there is a leafy spiciness but not sure I’d peg it as cilantro, some orange zest and peach to apricot fruit too, yeast and pie dough, no hops of note, has very good staying power which is pleasing in place of the missing complexity. Full-bodied, super creamy and coats the entire mouth. The carbonation is all fluffiness, no cleansing aspect. The apples supported by banana, peach, pear and that same cinnamon, nutmeg spice. The cayenne comes through as an afterthought, muted. Even the flavors are sweet the texture gets dry by the finish so any yeastiness becomes truncated. More enjoyable colder, not that it gets flabby as it warms but the components start to blur. No problem throwing it back but leaves you with little desire for a second or third glass.
3 out of 5

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Rhizing Bines (Life And Limb) (An India Pale Ale Brewed With Bravo And #644 Hops)
American Double/Imperial IPA
Delaware
8.0%
25.4oz, Single
$12.49
Finger plus of foam, frothy and dimpled, all kinds of bubble sizes yet dense overall, creamy white in color, excellent retention, the lacing is thick and covers the glass sides in sheets which pretty much refuse to budge. Faint dullness to the yellow to orange rust colored liquid, there’s some fine particulate floating about inside which may explain this, the bubbles are few and far between and tiny enough to perhaps miss, that said it does capture light within it well so there’s a warm glow. Thick and heavy nose dripping with pine sap, orange and grapefruit juice, molasses and caramelized brown sugar, peach, apricot to pineapple fruit and a substantial floral dimension, for interplay there’s a touch of pepper and lemongrass, clings more than extends. In the mouth it is full-bodied, sappy, viscous and resinous. Pine, molasses, caramel hard candy and challah bread combine with the more sweet than sour pink grapefruit, tangerine citrus for a friendly mouth entry. The carbonation tends to fluff and soften which takes some of the kick out of the pineapple, papaya, nectarine, peach fruit. Grassy but not green, the maltiness lacks clear character but anchors it in an undifferentiated, homogeneous fashion. Easy to drink even as it makes you think it is more complicated than it really is, this being part of the genius of Dogfish Head.
4 out of 5

Blue Mountain Barrel House
Local Species (Ale Aged In Bourbon Barrels)
Belgian Strong Pale Ale
Virginia
6.6%
25.4oz, Single
$11.00
Pours a humongous three finger head of eggshell white to tan foam, dense with an undulating surface, excellent retention given how whipped up it is, the lacing is on the wispy side but sticks tenaciously. Translucently clear, like vellum, coppery base that turns equally brown and orange, very few bubbles to be seen. The nose has a fresh if not quite clean profile, stone, poor dirt, pepper and dried grapefruit pulps and grains, the hoppiness sneaks up on you then, wham!, the apple, pear, peach fruit is direct and underripe like you wish you left them on the counter for just another day or two, no meaningful trace of bourbon barrel aging. Medium-bodied, smooth with a pleasingly creamy texture, even the underlying sourness can’t interfere. That said, the cherry, apricot, red apple, pear, peach fruit sunny and tart in just the right way. There’s an earthy, leafy element but not thick enough to be like “sous bois” or deep forest in character. Mostly orange citrus with a hint of lemon. Clean yeastiness, some banana, spicy without any one spice leaping to the fore. Harmonized and very drinkable, probably one of those beers best not categorized, just enjoyed.
4 out of 5

Olde Hickory Brewery
Daniel Boone (Ale Aged In Oak Bourbon Barrels)
American Brown Ale
North Carolina
8.5%
22oz, Single
$7.29
Extremely wispy and airy head, almost entirely very large bubbles with so-so retention at best, general tan color, given this there’s a little more stick to the lacing than expected if not anything spectacular. The liquid is murky, like a still stream, all browns and oranges and yellows, you can kind of see through it but there’s hardly any visible carbonation. The nose is oak influence to the exclusion of most else, coconut custard, butterscotch, vanilla, toffee, creamed coffee and then heavyset prune, date, raisin, dried apricot fruit scents, cinnamon and nutmeg too, a trace of yeasts or unbaked bread dough, has a vinous quality as well, not especially balanced. Medium-bodied, has weight but not proportionately distributed density hence it trails off some at the end. Here there’s a nice nuttiness and more breadiness which zaps some of the undue sweetness out of the caramel, butterscotch, toffee, coconut, crème brûlée flavors. The low carbonation makes it sluggish. The peach, apricot catches up some to the date, fig, prune base. It has flavor, not intensity and after half a glass it’s too monochrome to hold your interest.
2 out of 5

Cricket Hill Brewing Co.
Reserve Ale Imperial Porter
American Porter
New Jersey
22oz, Single
$12.99
Thin head, mostly larger bubbles which pop quickly enough, very dark brown in hue, minimal lacing and what’s there has no real stickiness. The liquid is black but you also notice its clarity, that is, it’s spotless and while opaque it doesn’t look “heavy,” you can see tiny bubbles within, tinge of yellow at the rims. The nose has a solid roast to it, coffee and dark chocolate, also boozy with caramel, butterscotch and vanilla notes, plum and cherry fruit, what perhaps characterizes it as a porter rather than stout would be a lack of “heaviness” in the nostrils, more open and airy. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied, the carbonation is light but what’s there is prickly. Even boozier here, doesn’t say barrel aged on the label but would not be surprised. Caramel, coconut oil, butterscotch, vanilla fudge, chocolate, coffee, the whole nine yards. The roast and toast higher here which lessens the presence of any dark fruits, although you primarily get dates and figs. Some graininess and unprocessed cereals but stops short of any hoppy leafiness. Gets heavier and sweeter as it warms. Not going to get kudos for drinkability but the flavors are vivid and longlasting.
3 out of 5

Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams)
Tasman Red IPA
American IPA
Massachusetts
6.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Yields close to two fingers of tan foam, dense yet dimples quickly and then dissipates before holding a nice coating across the surface, still mostly smaller bubbles, the lacing has very good stick and forms broad strokes across the glass sides. The liquid has a rusty red to brown hue, more yellow-orange at the bottom and rims, bright and clear, the bubbles are very widely dispersed and move slowly. Big malty nose of caramel, toffee and butterscotch as well as honey and pine sap moving onto dates, figs and dried apricots, there’s some roast under it all but hard to find a strong hops presence. Full-bodied with a softer, creamy texture even as the carbonation brings a pleasing prickle to it. More bread and scone like notes here, minerally and earthy but no ignoring the caramel, toffee, cocoa and molasses. Has enough leafiness here to create added IPA feel. Still, malts rule the roost and the only real bite is a dry residue long after you swallow. Interesting and flavorful, however, I get kind of fatigued by sipping it.
3 out of 5

Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams)
Third Voyage Double IPA
American Double/Imperial IPA
Massachusetts
8.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Finger plus of cream white with a reddish tint, mostly dense foam yet with a couple of islands of larger bubbles, not much dimpling and the retention is very good, not a great deal of lacing but what’s there has good width and sticks nicely. Dark amber to red rust colored liquid, closer to brown than yellow, no real beads just widely dispersed lazy bubbles floating about. The most pronounced element of the nose is its sheer thickness, fills the nostrils completely, composed of pine sap, white grapefruit pulp, peaches and nectarines, vanilla bean, sweet grains, molasses and honey, there’s not much “bite” to it and it clings more than lifts. In the mouth it’s full-bodied and sappy here too, carbonation gives it the old college try and does succeed in part to lend freshness. That said, the molasses, caramel, brown sugar, candied oranges, pine sap and cocoa powder keep it very much on the sweet side of things. Has some hoppy, leafy kick but nothing powerful enough to dictate terms. Clean, no earthy nor minerally notes, some breadiness or dough notes. Lasts well, holds heft and flavor. Not sure exactly what makes this a DIPA except it says so on the label.
3 out of 5

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Chugged in July 2013

Dark Horse Brewing Company
Fore Smoked Stout
Smoked Beer
Michigan
7.0%
12oz, 4-Pack
$9.99
Demure head, little less than a full finger and fizzes off rapidly, dark brown in color, minimal stickiness in the wispy lacing. The liquid is unsurprisingly black and opaque, lightens up just enough near the surface to see active carbonation and a mild orange tint. The nose is not vastly smoky, more a solid toastiness and roasted nuts and cocoa powder, very chocolaty, no real fruit presence nor citrus, minor notes of mineral water, cereal grains and granola, not overblown but steady and longlasting. Full-bodied, the carbonation brings a light prickle but not much overall activity or freshness. Instead, you get a lot more roast although I’d still call it chocolate and cocoa than coffee related and it only gets smoky when close to room temperature. Grains, tar, black tea, iron flecks, not much going on which is overtly sweet. More earthy with campfire ember accents. Here there’s some apricot, cherry to lower plum fruit flavors. In its favor it is smooth without excessive creaminess, drinks well but not ingratiatingly so. Marked most by its unremarkableness, no flaws, not quite generic, just a beer. Sometimes that is enough.
3 out of 5

Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery, The
Rabid Duck Russian Imperial Stout
Russian Imperial Stout
North Carolina
10.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$14.99
Pours a nice full, two finger plus head of dark brown color, uneven surface but not really dimpled, good retention and never quite evaporates down to the surface, the lacing initially forms broad sheets but only average stick. The liquid is a standard black or just maybe the darkest brown imaginable, close to impossible to gauge the carbonation level visually. The nose is overloaded by toasted dark chocolate and mocha powder, supported by licorice, vanilla bean, café au lait and challah bread notes, good amount of mixed apricot, cherry, plum fruit, ends via a suggestion of leafy sous bois and earthiness. Full-bodied yet creamy enough that the weight melts off quickly. The carbonation is appropriate for a beer of its size and it doesn’t feel heavy. The chocolate once more dominates the rest. However, the almonds, coffee, vanilla, mint and cola bean ain’t shabby. No alcoholic burn and the roast and toast isn’t as potent as in the nose. Possesses good flow and the finish is tactfully succinct, which may not be desired by all. Here the plum, cherry, blackberry fruit tends to hang off to the side, not overly sweet. High level of drinkability, not going for the jugular in the “wow” department.
4 out of 5

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Sixty-One (India Pale Ale Brewed With Syrah Grape Must)
American IPA
Delaware
6.5%
12oz, Single
$3.49
Odd pinkish white head, mostly loose larger bubbles which crest around one finger and rapidly decline from there, the lacing is smooth sheets with close to zero stickiness. The liquid looks like cranberry juice diluted with water, bright but lacking in intensity, very active bubbles, rising rapidly to the surface. The nose is sour, cranberry, cherry, red grape fruit, pulped oranges, minerals, cracked pepper, comes across more as wine than beer. Light-bodied, the carbonation tries very hard to create presence and does add crispness. However, it still seems dilute and lacking in heft. Here you do get more leafy qualities and grain to well baked country bread. The quinine to mineral persists. Hard to discern any clear malty flavors, more of a textural contribution. Citrus peel, same array of cherry, raspberry, strawberry type fruits. Some dried pine sap and pressed flowers as an aftertaste. Monochrome and not really all that interesting. You easily get tired of sipping it, albeit it is not flawed in the strong sense.
2 out of 5

Boulevard Brewing Co.
Long Strange Tripel Belgian-Style Ale (Smokestack Series)
Tripel
Missouri
9.0%
12oz, 4-Pack
$11.99
Big, very delicate head, close to four fingers of off-white foam, so interwoven you hesitate to call them discrete bubbles, some dimpling before is slowly settles back down into more of a gentle wave, pleasing amount of stickiness in the lacing, broad streaks too. The liquid has a hazy golden yellow to apricot orange color, fierce amount of bubbles but dispersed and not in tight beads, seems to be some very fine particulate throughout. The nose starts off with a peppery burst before cinnamon, clove and allspice begin the sweetening, culminating in banana, peach, apricot, white grape and spiced orange peels, over time you also get toasted bread crust, pretzels with a white vinegar edge. In the mouth it’s full-bodied and thick, the carbonation creates a rich creaminess rather than refreshing briskness. Here the sour orange to white grapefruit citrus leads the pack leading into salt and pepper, clove, chamomile and bitter grasses, the latter welcome as a foil to the at times dried fruit sweetness in the apricot, apple, peach, pear, pineapple fruit, fairly tropical. On the clean side and not blatantly yeasty, its sourness keeps the palate tightening. The banana and bubblegum make a minor appearance at the end, retronasally and stronger as the beer warms. Great drinkability, no overt sense of its higher ABV.
5 out of 5

Epic Brewing Company
Smoked & Oaked Belgian-Style Ale Exponential Series Release #17 (Barrel Aged)
Belgian Strong Dark Ale
Utah
10.6%
22oz, Single
$11.99
Moderate finger’s worth of humble light tan foam, mix of small to medium sized bubbles, not much retention, this lacing is close to nonexistent, it’s there for a second but no stickiness whatsoever. Very mild film to the muddy to clay brown and orange color, looks like the water after some catfish hunting, few bubbles visible but the beads are active and tight. The nose is right out of the play book, dripping with coconut, butterscotch, caramel, crème brûlée and a sweet smokiness, light banana and then apricot, peach cobbler, for the ABV avoids undue alcoholic heat. Full-bodied, the attack has a tingly carbonation but it does not last consistently through the mid-palate and finish. By no means is it lifeless but there is nothing refreshing nor lively about it. The cola, butterscotch, caramel, coconut to dried beef jerky, peat and smoky camp fire just anchors it deeper, no joyous dancing. Very smoky in a sweet vein, again the apricot, peach, cherry fruit is all concentrated like a dessert. There is a metallic and earthy element which becomes more evident through the finish. This beer has character and personality but not a balanced harmony.
3 out of 5

Yeastie Boys
Rex Attitude
Smoked Beer
New Zealand
7.0%
11.2oz, Single
$6.99
Even a cautious pour yields half a glass worth of dense bone white foam which is reluctant to fizzle off, not much lacing, the head just arcs as you tilt the glass and slides back into itself. Faded gold to straw in color, you can see through it but likewise it’s hazy plus there is a veritable storm of bubbles filling the glass. The nose is pure peat and damp campfire smoke, invasive presence in the nostrils, if you get quiet and concentrate there’s actually a good bit of apricot and peach fruit in there, otherwise salt, cured bacon and leafy underbrush and twigs, not especially diverse but, hey, it was not meant to be. Light-bodied, very creamy mouth texture, surprised by the lightness as many smoked beers aim at more heft on the palate. Not so surprised by the creaminess based on the visual carbonation, more soft than bright and refreshing. The smoke is less intense here but lasts longer as it adheres itself to your mouth pores. That fruitiness persists and you might also get a floral musk peeking out now and then. The peat takes on a sweeter character here, still gamey, ashen and earthy with a metallic edge. If you want to register the complaint it’s monochrome, fine, but it’s not coming across as unbalanced. It’s a slow sipper, duh, like a dram of Scotch, just need to pour it out in small increments so it doesn’t get warm.
4 out of 5

Dark Horse Brewing Company
Tres Blueberry Stout
American Stout
Michigan
7.5%
12oz, 4-Pack
$9.99
Crests near a finger of very dark brown foam, mix of bubble sizes, no dimpling just evaporation due to the surface, thin streaks of lacing but these do stick decently. The liquid is a full brownish black with some particulate visible, more than any bubbles, maybe some faint orange tint around the rims. The aromas do evoke ripe unpicked blueberries rather than juicy juice, good bit of roast to the cocoa, dark chocolate scents, vanilla, toffee and some heavy cream, not getting much other fruit or citrus, likely cloaked by the blueberries, has nice purity and thankfully is not really all that aggressive. Medium-bodied, light carbonation but this doesn’t seem to effect the freshness and the light fluffiness allows it to soak in but not get clingy. The blueberry flavor displays restraint and lends as much sour kick as sweetness, if you are looking for blueberry syrup you will be disappointed. Sneaks in some softer coffee notes alongside the chocolate, mocha, at the same time the roast is stronger than in the nose. Not much flavor hop-wise but texturally they may help stiffen it up some. About as “sessionable” as these type of beers get and not gimmicky.
3 out of 5

DC Brau Brewing
Penn Quarter Porter
American Porter
District of Columbia
5.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$12.99
About a finger plus of dark brown foam, mostly dense and tiny bubbles and quick to dissipate evenly across the surface, the lacing actually has better stickiness than expected, thin but wide splotches. The liquid is just about black or at least the darkest shade of brown, impenetrable like a stout, hard to gauge the bubble activity within the glass. Rich and densely packed nose of dark chocolate, coffee, malt and caramel, black cherry and plum fruit scents, touch of bracing quinine and iron flecks, clean on the whole, sufficient roast that it doesn’t seem overly sweet, again very good fullness and length. In the mouth it is full-bodied as well with an overall dry texture. This accentuates the earthiness which at times has a volcanic soil aspect, metallic. Here too it seems herbaceous but not necessarily in a hoppy manner. The chocolate, mocha, coffee has a good toast to it, not as dominant. Hits you with a burst of something like Cherry Coke. The carbonation is not obtrusive while churning at a steady rate. Vague praline like nuttiness. Presents moderate complexity while taking pains to cover all the basics of the type. Decent drinkability too. Nothing to quibble over.
4 out of 5

Pisgah Brewing Company
Vortex II Russian Imperial Stout
Russian Imperial Stout
North Carolina
11.2%
22oz, Single
$11.49
Pours a thin but consistent head, maybe half a finger tops and that disappears swiftly, actually leaves behind more lacing than you’d expect, broad streaks which then slide off the glass. Following the script the liquid is blacker than coal, fully opaque and only near the surface can you discern the active bubbles, mild orange aura to it too. The nose is like getting smacked in the face with a German chocolate cake and then doused in coffee, caramel, butterscotch, and sweet nuts, some black licorice too and definitely on the boozy side of things, any cherry or plum fruit scents buried under the chocolate, the herbal hops must themselves be strong to be as noticeable as they are. Full-bodied, it would be suffocating were it not for the aggressive carbonation which pulls off quite the feat in lifting it and creating a sense of motion. More licorice, toffee, butterscotch, molasses, coconut, dark chocolate and Brazil nuts, its sweetness masks a lot of the underlying textural dryness. It does get clingy and sticks to the mouth pores, this in spite of the overall smokiness which is massive. The fruit remains mainly plum and cherry but also some date and fig too, not really prune. Packs some wallop and you feel the alcohol halfway through the bomber, more balanced when well chilled than closer to room temperature. Relentless.
5 out of 5

Boulevard Brewing Co.
Single-Wide IPA
American IPA
Missouri
5.7%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Pours a dense two fingers of light tan to eggshell white foam, all microfoam, starts to dimple almost immediately, the lacing is mostly broad sheets and it tends to slide down the glass sides with ease. Dark coppery orange colored liquid with a few random beads of big, fat bubbles, yellower along the rims. The nose has burnt pizza crust, lemon and white grapefruit zest, salt and pepper, pine cone, malted milk balls, peach to apricot fruit, while it has power it has more restraint as if it strives to be a literal textbook exemplar of an American IPA. Light to medium-bodied, the carbonation pushes it up towards the roof of your mouth which relieves a good deal of bitterness from the grassy hops, pine and general leafiness. More floral here and the white grapefruit is drier and more pith. Yeast and lees, doughy in that dry way. The peach, apricot jazzed up by pineapple, nectarine and mango nuances. The maltiness woven into the whole, doesn’t really stick out on its own. Stays well carbonated through the finish, smooth while desiring your attention. Again, going for the “classic” character and more or less succeeds.
4 out of 5

Finch’s Beer Co.
Fascist Pig Ale
American Amber/Red Ale
Illinois
8.0%
16oz, 4-Pack Can
$11.99
Not much of a head, comes up with a thin layer across the surface which disappears on the quick side, what is there is on the light tannish side, likewise you get minimal lacing, if that. The liquid definitely has the amber red glow going on, more sunset orange at the glass bottom and rims, not many bubbles are visible, no surprise given the head. The nose is big and pungent, emphasizing cocoa and mocha, quite malty, sweet grapefruit, sour grains like rye bread or pumpernickel, molasses, pine sap, peach and apricot jam, the scents themselves seem like they should be sweet but there remains a textural dryness inside the nostrils, excellent staying power. In the mouth it is full-bodied, has a lightly prickly carbonation which haunts the background, otherwise marked mostly by an overall astringent bitterness which keeps it vertical and erect in posture. The maltiness still big time, cocoa and chocolate powder, yet sourness in the grapefruit and tangerine citrus stops it from getting too sweet. The fruit flavors are tropical but softer like guava or mango rather than pineapple, closer to apricot. Some peat and earth notes and you can feel the booziness both in the flavors and texture as well as literally. Grainy but not grassy, hops do catch up and take a leading role through the finish. Good stuff, not a beer to have on its own, needs like a brisket or very flavorful, dense dish to pair with. Even then one and likely done.
4 out of 5

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Chugged in June 2013

Atwater Block Brewery
Decadent Dark Chocolate Ale (Malt Beverage Brewed With Chocolate)
American Stout
Michigan
5.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Mild head, maybe half a finger of deep tan which is gone lickety-split, not much stick in the lacing which is more of a thin, slippery sheet than anything else. While the liquid is pure black it doesn’t seem “impenetrably dense” for effect’s sake, thin aura of yellow around the rims, there you can see a blip of carbonation. The nose is extremely creamy, maple syrup, molten milk chocolate, caramel, coffee ice cream, malted milk balls, light cherry fruit, not overtly sugary nor is it lacking posture, simply a one trick pony. It’s light to medium-bodied in the mouth and drier than expected based on the nose, tighter punch to the carbonation too. The chocolate, cocoa, coffee, malt flavors are all there, however, they lack resonance and depth. More grains and oats and a dried to blanched nuttiness as well. Here there’s some herbal hoppy kick. Any fruit gets cloaked by the roast, minor cherry, plum at best. Tacky character, dries onto your tongue. Plenty of retronasal cocoa powder. Unfortunately it is sort of lifeless and turns watery at the end. Ehh, what can you do.
2 out of 5

Asheville Brewing Company
Shiva India Pale Ale
American IPA
North Carolina
6.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.99
Pours a clean white head of two fingers, mixes in enough larger bubbles that it craters and dissolves off fairly swiftly, very airy, the lacing is wispy but does circle around most of the glass. Fairly deep golden to amber colored liquid, very slight gauziness to it, few beads but what bubbles are there remain big and slow to move. Lots of pine in the nose, more grassy than floral, dry pith character to the white grapefruit, orange citrus, salt, pretzel dough, a touch of quinine or iron flecks too, hint of apricot or pear fruit but really there’s few scents which suggest sweetness or sugariness but it does have a muscular freshness to it. Medium-bodied, dry yet that carbonation gives it a decently creamy texture. Dry enough still that the pine gets reined in, more thrust in that sour white citrus. Keeps that metallic edge, more unprocessed, raw grains than dough or bread. Black tea or tar accents. Here there is a tiny bit of mocha or cocoa as a malty calling card. The apricot, peach, apple fruit lacks heft. Not overly smooth nor fluid, have to assume this is the intention so it’s a matter of whether you like this style of drier IPA or not. Not finding it especially refreshing.
2 out of 5

Lost Rhino Brewing Company
Pretty In Pink Saison (Ale With Pomegranate Juice Added)
Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Virginia
5.8%
22oz, Single
$9.50
Pours a big three plus finger head of extremely delicate microfoam, even surface, decent enough retention, for lacing gives you a few thick streaks but not a lot overall. Very murky liquid, like a churning muddy stream, definitely has a pinkish cast to it which throws off analyzing the base color, hard to see any bubbles inside. The nose presents a gently soft array of yeast, banana bread, lemongrass, wheat germ, clove, white grapefruit pulp and sour cherry and pomegranate fruit, able to stay full while using that sourness to penetrate and freshen. Full-bodied with a mostly creamy texture, you don’t really feel the carbonation in an active sense but there is always an underlying dryness and mild tingle. The fruit isn’t quite all that pomegranate dominated, you get cherry, cranberry and raspberry notes too. Some tart pucker but more sweet overall. The clove, ginger spice stays in the middle ground, the white grapefruit to orange citrus veers more to sour. There’s a dried straw to hay herbaceousness to it, nothing green. The yeast stays yeast, not bread nor baked goods. Given its weight stays refreshing, smooth and quaffable.
4 out of 5

Green Man Brewing Co.
Porter
American Porter
North Carolina
6.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.99
Thin head, crests around one finger’s worth, deep tan in color, disappears very quickly, mostly tinier bubbles, doesn’t really have lacing per se as a razor residue after you tilt the glass. The liquid is an impenetrable black with a yellow aura around it, upon very close inspection there’s a few bubble beads visible. The nose is filled with brazil nuts, cashews, vanilla, caramel and brown sugar, cherry and red berry fruit, while sweet and roasty also has that telltale “organic” metallic, mineral water touch to it, no overt signs of hops, however, the overall feel has a refreshing stiffness to it, not soft and flabby. Light to medium-bodied, the carbonation has decent activity and that mineral water aspect gives it cleanliness. The cocoa, chocolate, vanilla, cola, coffee bean, nut flavors have cut, not overly roasted nor burnt. The black fruits more muted here, particularly as it becomes successively drier from mid-palate through the finish. Here you do get a grassy twinge at the end too. Seems calculated to appeal to those with a sweet tooth while also remaining food friendly and trim, light of step. A good summertime option for those who like Porters.
4 out of 5

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Chugged in May 2013

Highland Brewing Company
Imperial Kashmir IPA
American Double/Imperial IPA
North Carolina
10.2%
22oz, Single
$9.29
A good amount of larger to moderately sized bubbles gives the head an irregular surface, little under two fingers high, clean white in color, thick sheets of lacing with excellent stickiness. Mild orange amber in color, not really golden, not especially clear and curious absence of any visible bubbles. The nose is extremely sweet with coconut custard, juicy pink grapefruit, molasses, flowers and apricot, peach fruit, balances this out with pepper and cut grass notes and lighter metallic earthiness, strong nostril presence with lots of length and staying power. Full-bodied, creamier and more carbonated than expected based on visual inspection, almost heavy at times. Here too it emphasizes its sweetness with pink and white grapefruit, mandarin orange citrus and pine sap in addition to pineapple, nectarine, apricot fruit. The florality gets lost in the mix. Maple syrup, molasses and brown sugar keep the love fest going but, at the same time, there a hardness to the finish, pepper, baked bread crusts, meadow grasses to green straw. It is boozy for sure and its syrupy texture keeps it adhered to your mouth pores long after you have swallowed it down. Likely over the top for many but if you enjoy the full metal jacket approach now and then this may be up your alley.
5 out of 5

DC Brau Brewing
The Corruption
American IPA
District of Columbia
6.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$12.99
Pours two fingers of deep off-white to tan foam, on the delicate side and dimples a fair bit, few larger bubbles, retention is decent and it holds onto a solid coating across the surface for some time, the lacing has plenty of stick and the streaks are wide. The liquid is a bright amber red to sunset burnt orange, however it is dimmed some by the large amount of sediment floating about, strong storm of tiny bubbles swirling about. The nose is crisp and lively, the white grapefruit, salt and pepper, green grass, lower presence of dried flowers and pineapple to peach fruit, has dark bread crust and scone notes but only a touch of malty cocoa powder, focused on doing a few things well. Full-bodied, for all of its dryness the carbonation gives it a mostly creamy mouth feel and texture. Again leads with sour tangerine, white grapefruit citrus, here you get more pine and there’s slightly more juice to the pineapple, nectarine, apricot, apple fruit. The leafy herbaceousness remains a cornerstone and that peppery kick contributes to its erect carriage. Minor breadiness but has a burnt edge, like well done pizza crust or something. A little malt sweetness at the end, more an afterthought than anything. Aggressive, not pushy.
4 out of 5

Perennial Artisan Ales
Hommel Bier
Belgian Pale Ale
Missouri
5.9%
25.4oz, Single
$12.00
You get a rich, frothy head of two fingers, somewhat airy so it starts dimpling right off and retention is average to average plus, off-white in color, randomly assigns big splotches of lacing to the glass, not consistent around the sides. The liquid is a coppery orange, more red tint than yellow, loads of effervescence, a cloud of hyperactive tiny bubbles churning inside. The nose has a decided leafy, earthy quality to it, metallic and with notes of cracked black pepper and sourdough bread crusts, there is a softer side featuring banana, flowers and peach pits, not getting much citrus, earthiness builds and gets close to asphalt or tar at times. Medium-bodied and firm, the carbonation is lower than would be expected based on visual inspection and it is dry and slowly paced from mouth entry through finish. Produces that metal, mineral to earth side in spades, the herbaceousness is not green and biting, more like fallen leaves, twigs and bark. Increase in sour oranges, decrease in flowers and pepper. The banana, bubblegum persists, low level of apricot, apple, peach fruit. Baking soda, bread crusts and toasted dough, not sweetly yeasty. The dryness impedes length of flavors, accentuates its bitterness. Refreshing in its own way, not really a personally favored style.
3 out of 5

Baltimore Washington Beer Works
Tell Tale Heart Ale
American IPA
Maryland
7.3%
12oz, Single
$2.25
Solid finger plus of clean white foam, dense and not delicate in appearance, no dimpling but not the best retention ever, the lacing takes the form of sheets which slowly roll down the glass sides. While clear there does seem to be an extremely fine particulate inside the liquid, the bubbles are sparse and loosely aggregated, if that word is even applicable, close to coppery red but really more orange to yellow away from the core of the glass, pretty in a simple fashion. The nose is noticeably sweet and leans heavily on pink to white grapefruit, tangerine citrus, close to the exclusion of all else, flowers, peach, pear, apricot fruit, could be considered herbaceous but the lack of bitterness does not support, albeit has a nice cleansing sensation in your nostrils. Medium-bodied, taut with some push from the active carbonation, while there’s still all that grapefruit, orange citrus and white pit fruit, the grassiness, pepper and toasted baguette help tilt things back towards the center. Conversely, caramel, molasses, pine and coconut bring it back to the sweeter end of the spectrum. Dry yet with minimal bitter bite, curious to know what the IBUs are. Its friendliness wins you over, why not enjoy rather than parse and quibble?
4 out of 5

Captain Lawrence Brewing Company
Captain’s Kölsch
Kölsch
New York
5.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$7.99
Light and airy head of a bit over one finger, bone white, mainly small to medium sized bubbles, dissolves away swiftly to a patchy surface coating, no real lacing to speak of. Perfectly clear liquid, bright yellow, consistently hued throughout, loosely strewn bubbles of good fatness slowly bubble upwards. The nose is full of hard country bread crust, salted pretzels, quinine, minerals and cut grass but on the other hand, banana, bubblegum and sour orange to lemon citrus, honey, nothing floral nor broadly fruity about it, ends on a pepper and salt note. It’s medium-bodied with a creamy entry which slowly stiffens into a firmer presentation of bread, grains, corn muffins and biscuits and more of that mineral water, saline stuff. More floral and added peach, apricot fruit, the syrupy texture helps the sweetness persist. Maybe a pinch of cocoa. It’s satisfying more in a warm your belly way than refresh you after mowing the lawn way. As with many, seems like it wants to please too many disparate expectations and thus suffers from lack of clear purpose. But no problem throwing back a couple.
3 out of 5

NoDa Brewing Company
Pacific Reign Imperial IPA (Ale Brewed With Honey)
American Double/Imperial IPA
North Carolina
9.8%
22oz, Single
$8.00
Almost foamed out the top of the bottle once opened from a gentle standing position, initial pour filled over half the glass with foam. After it calms down there’s still a two to three finger head, all delicate, lacy of an off-white, eggshell color, more canyons than craters or dimples, curiously once there’s room the sheets of lacing slide easily down the glass sides. The liquid is a gauzy zinc orange to yellow hue, full opaque to the point where you can’t see the bubbles which must be there based on the head, holds the light well. The nose smells fairly straight up, the honey presence is faint and it’s comprised mainly of pine, flowers, wheat germ, coal tar, peach, apricot, pineapple fruit scents and salt, more crisp and herbaceous than malty, sweet, good fullness as well as staying power. Full-bodied, lots of fizz and swirling action, needed as the base material has a thick, syrupy feel. Pine, tangerine, pink grapefruit rule, the flowers lower but the honey maybe a touch more noticeable, almost more like maple syrup. Yeast, bread and unprocessed grains, never quite gets leafy but has bite. Again, hard to find a clearly consistent malt presence. Think this might have been caught at a time when the sweetness faded a little, overall seems balanced enough but there’s no one element which jumps out to grab your attention.
4 out of 5

Great Lakes Brewing Company
Rye Of The Tiger IPA (Rye India Pale Ale)
Rye Beer
Ohio
7.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.99
Pours a modest half finger of foam, tiny bubbles with a very even surface, moderate retention, the lacing comes in sheets sliding down the glass sides, little stickiness. The liquid has some glow to it, a light and transparent coppery orange, more yellow further out and at the glass bottom, lots of carbonated activity within. Lots of citrus on the nose, orange, tangerine, lemon, tends to sweeten it up, honey and flowers, more doughy than cooked bready, the rye not as powerful as expected, mildly peppery, noticeable cocoa and malt presence. Medium-bodied, has a kind of fluffy mouth feel, you can tell the bubbles visible in the glass work overtime in the mouth. Has more rye and sour grain bitterness here even as that tangerine, pink grapefruit citrus inclines it towards sweetness. Pine, flowers and then black tea to tar and charcoal notes, in between you get some apricot, peach, yellow apple fruit. The roast can be aggressive at times but not out of control. Very good but not great, needs more consistent presentation throughout and a higher degree of drinkability. But this is mostly quibbles.
3 out of 5

Stoudt’s Brewing Company
Double IPA
American Double/Imperial IPA
Pennsylvania
9.43%
12oz, 6-Pack
$12.99
Close to two fingers of eggshell white foam, dense but some much larger bubbles at the point of pour, dimples more like deep valleys, settling into a fairly thick mist across the surface, the lacing is haphazard but clings well where it is. Rich golden orange hued liquid with a more yellowish aura, not hazy but does have a mild translucency, good amount of super tiny bubbles streaming upwards but you have to get close to see them. The nose has some salted pretzel and grains before yielding to tar, black earth, tangerine to mandarin orange citrus, pine pitch, mild flowers and peach, apricot fruit, seems to want to push deeply into the nostrils but not so as to disturb anyone. In the mouth it’s full-bodied with some prickle but a generally creamy mouthfeel, noticeably sweet with powerful pink grapefruit, tangelo, mandarin orange citrus as well as bread dough, pine, wheat germ and lemongrass. The carbonation keeps fluffing the pillow. The fruit is also sweetly tropical with pineapple, mango, nectarine, white peach flavors. Not much hoppy bite given it’s a DIPA and all, the malty smoothness blossoms through the finish. Yeah, maybe a touch warm but not getting any real alcoholic heat. Sweetness salves all wounds.
4 out of 5

NoDa Brewing Company
Top Shelf Series: Imperial Coco Loco Porter (Brewed With Cacao Nibs And Coconut)
American Porter
North Carolina
9.7%
22oz, Single
$11.00
Pours a frothy, close to two finger head of deep tan color, mostly a tight weave of small bubbly foam with some dimpling, excellent retention and loads of stickiness to the wide streaks of lacing. The liquid itself is a murky brown to black, opaque, lots of little chunks floating about, most of them presumably coconut flakes, switches to a more yellow tint around the rims. The nose has a palpable roasted nature, coffee, chocolate, cocoa and, duh, coconut, touch of vanilla and molasses as well, has a dry grainy side too, at moments something like white grapefruit to orange pith, not quite leafy but does have the texture of an herbaceous penetration into the nostrils. Full-bodied, thick and kind of heavy, anchors itself to the tongue rather than flow through the mouth. The roast and toast even higher here, more bitter than sweet, little sweetness left in the coconut. Coffee, cocoa, mocha, and caramelized brown sugar. Allowing for this, does have a creamy mouthfeel and a soft carbonation. Touch of black licorice and orange spice, banana, peach, apricot fruit. The hops are there while woven into the total fabric. Energetic for the sake of being energetic through the finish, admire its moxie but sacrifices some balance.
4 out of 5

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Chugged in April 2013

Uinta Brewing Company
Crooked Line Sea Legs Baltic Porter (Wood Barrel Aged)
Baltic Porter
Utah
8.0%
25.4oz, Single
$14.99
Be careful as it pours a gargantuan head, easily fills half a pint glass with creamy dark brown foam, even mix of larger and denser tiny bubbles, fair amount of dimpling give how airy it is inside, better than average retention, same for the lacing, good thickness to the streaks and sticks well. The liquid is more black than brown, opaque enough to be a stout and with little hint of any orange or any true color. The nose has a natural feeling fullness to it but in no way heavy, the milk chocolate, cocoa powder and vanilla remains semi-sweet at most, Brazil nuts and cashews, some peaty smokiness but stays pure, keeps the toast on the down low, passing waft of flowers, any fruit scents stay muted, develops a sort of mineral water tang to keep the nostrils fresh. Medium-bodied, compact and polished, impeccable balance and completely devoid of ostentation. Chocolate, caramel, toffee and a hint of toasted coconut and scone, just the right amount of booziness from the wood. Again, has a peat, grass, earth side, here you get some cherry, apricot and peach fruit, more snap than sugar. Soft, refreshing and ultimately about as well-mannered as any guest you’d invite to your table.
5 out of 5

Boulevard Brewing Co.
Dark Truth Stout (Smokestack Series)
American Double/Imperial Stout
Missouri
9.7%
12oz, 4-Pack
$11.49
Pours a nice two finger head of dense, dark brown microfoam, even surface with minimal dimpling, retention is above average, leaves quite thick streaks of lacing behind as well. Obligatory pitch black liquid, opaque yet near the surface you can just make out a strong presence of bubble beads, little to no hue change to orange or yellow. Powerful nose of bitter dark chocolate, roasted coffee, caramel, flowers, licorice and plum to cherry fruit, there’s cereal grains and oats in there plus some pine sap and more leafy herbaceousness, has a good deal of discernible hops for the category and in no way overly sweet. Full-bodied, while generally creamy in texture it is on the dry side and can stiffen up on you. Again lots of chocolate, here the licorice to anise almost outmatches the coffee, molasses, caramel, certainly plays into enlivening the flowers and white citrus. Fewer grains but more pine and garden herb notes. At times smoky, does a great job of shifting on you so you can’t really peg it down. Takes awhile for you to more consistently register the plum, date, golden raisin, cherry fruit. Long lasting without being pushy, you taste it some time after you have swallowed. An achievement of complexity without excessive makeup.
5 out of 5

Triple C Brewing Co.
Up All Night Breakfast Porter (Porter Brewed With Honey & With Coffee Added) (Winter 2012)
American Porter
North Carolina
10.0%
22oz, Single
$14.49
Average finger or so head, very little retention to the dark brown foam, ends up pooling around the edges, the lacing is haphazard and not sticky at all. Jet black liquid, fully opaque, no sign of sediment, thin line of orange at the glass bottom. The nose comprised mostly of carob, roasted coffee, molten caramel and then licorice, good base of oats and sweeter grains, not getting much honey here, more smokiness than milkiness, quick burst of green hops at the end along with white citrus zest, can’t quite discern any clear fruit scents. Medium-bodied, a little lighter than expected, has enjoyable flow but the close to zero carbonation does not pep it up much. Sure, there’s lots of coffee roast, dark chocolate and mocha, not sweet enough for a lot of caramel or vanilla cream but there. Licorice, orange peel, cola, oats, scone, flowers but still no honey. The lactose shows at the finish, particularly as it warms. Handles its ABV very well and even has a high refreshing quotient, just not sure what unique signature it offers which warrants the stiff price of entry.
4 out of 5

Yeastie Boys
Pot Kettle Black
American Black Ale
New Zealand
6.0%
11.2oz, Single
$7.49
Damn near foams out of the glass with an average pour, gives you about a finger of LIQUID below the head, excellent retention not helping matters, it’s a very deep brown color, quite airy with hardly any larger bubbles, lots of cratering as it does finally dissolve, the lacing is thick and above average. The liquid likewise is a dark brown, clean but mostly opaque, with a brightening orange cast at the glass bottom. Heavy roast to the nose, coffee beans, dark chocolate, baguette, hard toffee, at times leafy with pungent white citrus and also pine sap notes, too much toast for much fruit to come through, lots of kick and energy. Medium-bodied, dry with an almost dusty texture to it. The carbonation acts like sandpaper gently scrubbing the tongue, doesn’t really provide lift. The coffee roast knit back into a larger and milkier chocolate base, more caramel than toffee. The white grapefruit citrus remains comfortably in second place. Pine, licorice and some cherry pit next, the more you sip the hoppier it seems. Might actually benefit from additional smokiness. Does not strive for crazy complexity, chooses an interesting array of flavors and keeps the recipe simple.
4 out of 5

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Chugged in March 2013

Uinta Brewing Company
Crooked Line Tilted Smile Imperial Pilsner
American Double/Imperial Pilsner
Utah
9.0%
25.4oz, Single
$8.99
Pours a big frothy two plus finger head of eggshell white, mainly dense microfoam but some larger bubbles interspersed here and there, adequate plus retention, the lacing is actually much stronger than you’d expect and the residue all but fully coats the inside walls of the glass. The liquid is a dull rust water orange, light in hue and more pale yellow at the rims and glass bottom, the widely dispersed tiny bubbles are active as they rise. The nose is quite fruity with pear, yellow apple, fig and peach notes, some pepper and then salted pretzels, more straight up malt than associated scents like chocolate, not herbaceous but has a stiff spine, some cornmeal but the good kind. Full-bodied, almost heavy for its type with an unusual emphasis on sweet citrus, a blend of lemon, grapefruit and orange, very dominant. Leafier here, the hops come through in a drying sense, helps balance out that citrus as well as the apricot, pear, mango, cantaloupe fruit. At times close to honeyed. The carbonation stays on the fluffy side and spreads it like glue across the palate. Buttered biscuits and some sweet corn but nothing in the area of adjunct land. This is a definite “take” on the style and not a classic rendition, as such more likely to polarize. But, in the end, it’s fun taken on its own terms and just thrown back in that spirit.
4 out of 5

Dark Horse Brewing Company
Scotty Karate Scotch Ale
Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy
Michigan
9.75%
12oz, 4-Pack
$9.99
A strong pour gets you enough agitation to cover the surface, deep brown, fades swiftly to a gathering around the rims, close to zero lacing. The liquid is a murky orange rust to reddish brown mud, lots of particulate floating around, barely lightens to yellow at the outer reaches. The nose evokes a bakery full of German chocolate cake, caramel covered pastries and butterscotch, nice for the amplitude of the scents without heavy clinging in the nostrils, spreads further into hazelnut coffee, cola and some poached apricot fruit, not that alcoholic, minimal hops presence. Medium to full-bodied, slight fizz during the mouth entry but the carbonation overall is lacking. Smokier here with tar, sauna stone and scorched camp fire earth notes, delays the entrance of the chocolate, toffee, butterscotch and honey, more yeast and bread dough. Past the mid-palate dries out, this before the apricot, peach, golden raisin and orange citrus really take hold. As in the nose hides its ABV well. Could use something to stiffen it and create more energy in lieu of carbonation. Otherwise, it comes across as a traditional rendition of the style.
4 out of 5

Ken Schmidt/Iron Fist/Stone Brewing Company
Mint Chocolate Imperial Stout
American Double/Imperial Stout
California
9.6%
12oz, Single
$3.99
An aggressive pour yields a slow building finger plus of super dark brown foam, mix of all bubble sizes, the larger ones contribute to above average dimpling, the retention is fairly good and, although thin, there’s more lacing than one might normally expect from the beer type. Jet black liquid, fully impenetrable, very smooth in appearance though, as if highly polished stone. The nose is as advertised, bodacious mint and milk chocolate, smells straight out of a candy shop, if you focus hard you might also get orange peel, black tea leaf and some scone notes but this is mainly supposition. The palate is slightly more developed, full-bodied, the carbonation is a little lower than it needs to be to keep the pacing brisk. Oats, granola cereal, coffee bean, orange citrus and vanillin drift in and out, has more general stiffness, this evidenced by more bitter dark chocolate than milk chocolate presence. The mint remains close to overpowering, especially retronasally. Overall, has good balance and handles the ABV fine. If you really like mint chocolate you will really like this beer. I really like mint chocolate.
4 out of 5

Boulevard Brewing Co.
Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale (Smokestack Series)
Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Missouri
8.0%
12oz, 4-Pack
$10.69
Pours a huge head at first, easily four fingers, extremely delicate, almost no bubbles per se save a few fat ones around the point of pour, bone white, looks like a soufflé as it settles, wispy yet sticky streaks of lacing. Hazy golden colored liquid, the lightness of the particulate hides it well, filled with active streams of bubbles. The nose is gently forceful, nutmeg, clove, caraway seed and lemon peel, taut yeastiness, softer pinch of bubblegum, as the spice normalizes you perceive more apricot, peach, yellow apple fruit, the banana stays further in the background, longlasting presence but even better stays fresh. Medium-bodied, tighter and more focused than expected from looking at all those bubbles, the carbonation is active but not frothy. Mixes in some sour white grapefruit and orange to the lemon base, refreshingly citrusy. The yeasts again are not doughy nor too soft and it is not on the funky side of the spectrum. Clove, nutmeg but also basil and oregano, not herbaceous as in grassy but herbal as in garden herbs. Blends in pineapple and mango with the peach, apricot, pear base. As it warms takes on a more honeyed dimension. Dryness ensures erect bearing through the finish. Very thoughtfully put together while not over-intellectualized.
5 out of 5

Southern Tier Brewing Company
Phin & Matt’s Extraordinary Ale
American Pale Ale
New York
5.7%
12oz, 6-Pack
$8.99
Average finger’s worth of just off-white foam, full mix of bubble sizes, lots of dimpling but decent retention, the lacing is thin but spreads into broad sheets and sticks nicely. Bright yellowish gold color with a touch of zinc or rust to deepen it, crystal clear with only a few random bubbles visible, looks kinda adjuncty. The nose is grainy with a strong pepper component, also offers pizza crusts, cornmeal and some orange to lemon citrus to sweeten it up, same for the vague apricot, peach fruit accents, becomes leafier and greener as it warms. Medium-bodied, has some prickle to it and seemingly intentional bitter bite, on the hoppy side for an APA. Then it has the resinous feel without the pine flavor. More of the pepper, rye to pumpernickel bread, mineral water and with larger presence of savory garden herbs than flowers. The tartness suggests a space reserved for grapefruit citrus and more tropical like pineapple, nectarine, papaya fruit but the chair left empty. Its overall dryness tends to distract, not that it lacks flow but you start getting bitter beer face.
2 out of 5

Captain Lawrence Brewing Company
Liquid Gold (Belgian Style Ale Brewed With Spice)
Belgian Pale Ale
New York
6.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$8.49
Pours a fairly thin head of bone white, mostly tiny bubbles which dissolve off swiftly, the lacing likewise close to nonexistent. The liquid is a shimmeringly bright yellow, fully transparent, only a few bubble beads but these are highly active. Very expressive nose of banana, strawberry, apple fruit, clove and cinnamon, bubblegum and all kinds of general yeastiness, undercurrent of powdered milk chocolate, here too it is pure and unblemished, preferring a spring to its step than grounding itself firmly. Light to medium-bodied, fluid with a sort of metallic ring to it at first which makes the attack somewhat bitter. The carbonation churns steadily and agitates more than let’s the underlying creaminess take hold. White pepper and lemon peel beat the clove, nutmeg, allspice to the punch. Eventually turns more resinous in feel which brings out more yellow apple, peach, banana, melon fruit. That cocoa maltiness persists. A lot going on retronasally. Lower yeast presence, more unbaked dough than bread or scone, etc. and certainly outpaced by the grassy nip. Overall, it’s pleasing to quaff, guileless and simple to the verge of innocence. You’d lose interest after a couple of dates.
3 out of 5

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
75 Minute IPA (A Bottle Conditioned India Pale Ale With Maple Syrup)
American IPA
Delaware
7.5%
25.4oz, Single
$8.99
Whipped up white head of mostly larger bubbles, dimples if not craters, the lacing is a little less sticky than expected, overall the retention is decent. Cloudy bright orange to yellow hued liquid, no bubbles visible. The nose is soft and actually unassuming, emphasizes sweet orange, grapefruit citrus, maple of course, pine sap and cocoa, smells like a bowl of fresh fruit with melon, grape, peach and apple scents, fresh and floral with nary a trace of bitterness and no booziness either. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied with a light fluffiness from the broad spreading carbonation. Has a drying texture underneath which sucks out the excess sweetness from the pink grapefruit, tangerine, lime citrus and peach, apricot, pineapple fruit. Here too leans on more agreeable pine, flowers and malted milk balls than hoppy bite, this causing the effect of a more easy drinking style but leaves you wanting in the complexity department. Sweet orange pekoe tea. The maple is there yet not really a major factor, could just as easily be called honey or caramelized brown sugar, just a thread in the weave. At times could be a sweetened oatmeal breakfast with a slice of grapefruit on the side. While quite nice, not something you’d especially remember even if you’d be happy if someone handed you a glass of it.
3 out of 5

Captain Lawrence Brewing Company
Freshchester Pale Ale
American Pale Ale
New York
5.6%
12oz, 6-Pack
$8.49
You get a decent finger plus off-white foam, lots of larger bubbles forming islands across the surface, retention is a little below average, the lacing accords itself better, nice thick streaks encircle the glass and they pretty much stay there. The liquid is a spotless and transparent coppery orange, more reddish at its core and yellow around the rims, few but very strong bubble beads, high level of activity. Quite hoppy nose with spotlight on orange to grapefruit citrus, black pepper, green straw, peat and earth, coal tar and baked country bread, the fruit is mostly pineapple, nectarine but held in check, same for any cocoa or malty notes. Medium-bodied, amply prickle and activity from the carbonation, has a slight gluey texture otherwise, sticks to the palate. The pink grapefruit, tangerine citrus sweeter here, elevates with it the milk chocolate. Still, the peach, pineapple, green apple fruit struggles some to enunciate. Becomes more floral and less peppery the more you sip it and it warms. It’s an even draw on yeasts versus cooked bread accents. The herbal bite lessened although there’s more than enough bitterness at the end. Well thought out and as fun as it is interesting to dissect.
5 out of 5

Bruery, The
5 Golden Rings (Belgian-Style Golden Ale Brewed With Pineapple Juice And Spices)
Belgian Strong Pale Ale
California
11.5%
25.4oz, Single
$12.99
A very aggressive pour yields two plus fingers of mostly larger bubbles which has it simmering down to the surface at an accelerated pace, just off-white and not quite tan in color, has a few decent sheets as you turn the glass but none of the lacing truly sticks. Slight gauziness to the liquid with a very fine sediment floating about, looks like slightly rusty orange to yellow water, only a few fat and lazy bubbles to be seen. The nose is yeasty and clearly on the sour side with obvious pineapple backed up by cherry, white grape fruit and clove to caraway seed spice, tart lemons, witch hazel, white pepper, damp earthiness and ending with a rose petal led floral lift. Just about medium-bodied with an initially fluffy carbonation which tones down swiftly as it passes through the mid-palate. Comes off as almost acidic, has plenty of grip and the pineapple and lemon team up for a mouth puckering tang. Wild yeasts, coriander and cumin spices, and pepper keeps it percolating. Not at all boozy, perhaps all that sourness masks this some. While amped out and stylized, does not push the envelope too far. Could easily pair this with the holiday ham and such.
4 out of 5

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Chugged in February 2013

Blue Mountain Barrel House
Dark Hollow (Imperial Stout Aged In Oak Bourbon Barrels)
American Double/Imperial Stout
Virginia
10.0%
25.4oz, Single
$12.59
Average pour yields a thinnish half finger of deep brown foam, loose with an uneven surface and somewhat poor retention, the lacing comes in a razor thin yet very wide sheet down the glass side. While the liquid is standard issue black near the top it turns to a more yellowish hue and you can see some bubbles dispersed throughout. The nose has a gentle persistence, more smooth and creamy than roasted, caramel, butterscotch, vanilla fudge more than the chocolate, gains tone from licorice and flowers, adding in some rum cake, scone and plums but without any booziness, good balance. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied and surprisingly graceful and fluid, glides right along. The carbonation is tight but unobtrusive, stops it from getting glued to the tongue. Here there’s more roast, focus on toasted coconut, café au lait, dark chocolate and then caramel and molasses. Again you get licorice and perhaps cola bean, at times you’d say it’s minty. Plum, blueberry fruit, touch of fig, a pleasing interplay of sweet and sour. Overall, this is very toned down for the style and within its idiom borderline sessionable.
4 out of 5

Southern Tier Brewing Company
Choklat Imperial Stout (Blackwater Series) (A Stout Brewed With Chocolate)
American Double/Imperial Stout
New York
10.0%
22oz, Single
$8.99
Aggressive pour yields a thin head of very dark brown, that’s gone quickly too, any lacing is incidental to tilting the glass side to side. De rigueur impenetrably black liquid, razor thin touch of orange rust to the edges, impossible to gauge carbonation visually. The nose is pure chocolate through and through, like chocolate cut with chocolate and a dash of chocolate on top, after that you might discern malted milk balls, vanilla, banana and a smidgeon of black licorice but really this is one repeat bass note of thudding chocolate. Full-bodied, layers itself on the palate until you have to make a concerted effort to move your tongue, creamy and soft, however, the carbonation actually manages to give it a needed nudge forward now and then. Not sure where it comes from but there’s a vanilla, caramel whiskey oak barrel thing going on. Minor plum and blackberry fruit accents. Not much roast nor clearly present hops. Yet, it is not without a bitter, more dark chocolate aspect. No alcoholic burn. This is about as close to pure chocolate flavored a beer can get retaining a soul and without it becoming a laboratory malt beverage.
4 out of 5

Catawba Valley Brewing Co.
Firewater India Pale Ale
American IPA
North Carolina
6.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Pure white foam, mostly miniscule foam that evaporates as if it was hollow, dissolves down to a thin broken surface coating, the lacing forms a solid sheet down the glass sides, almost coats any free space. Deep golden hued liquid, touch of zinc orange, it slightly hazy but up close it’s not like the liquid is full of particulate, more like it’s filled with tiny bubbles in suspended animation with only a few random larger bubbles showing any movement. Simple nose, even on the clean side, displays hard crusted baguette, grapefruit and more earth than grass, light minerality, not much fruit but minor floral notes, on the soft side, easygoing. Medium-bodied, its general creaminess adds weight. Carbonation comes across as low. Lacking in bite but the herbaceousness does accrue by the end. No sweet citrus, rather on the malty side. Again, has a metallic, minerally side. Bready finish with some honey. Agreeable if dull and without distinct personality, could stand to possess a cleaner, more succinct finish.
2 out of 5

Highland Brewing Company
Devil’s Britches India Pale Ale
American IPA
North Carolina
6.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.89
Hits you with two fingers of highly whipped up and loose foam, quite delicate and dimples easily, sort of eggshell white in hue, leaves a lot of thinner yet sticky streaks of lacing. Bright amber red in color, immaculately transparent with a few scattered beads of active bubbles. The nose is peppery with a saline quality too, dried grapefruit and orange pith, rye, pine tar, gets more floral as it warms, same for the cocoa powder and apricot to peach fruit scents, complexity sort of sneaks up on you. Medium-bodied, tight weave to the carbonation, lively with erect posture. On the dry side yet there’s tang in the orange, grapefruit citrus and great support from the pine, pepper, black tea leaves, forest scrub accents. Has moderate malt backbone, mostly powdered chocolate, not that sweet, more texturally softening. Really grips the palate, sticky and resinous, even factoring in that carbonation. The fruit is mainly apricot, pineapple and peach with a hint of red cherry. Long aftertaste, hoppy bite refuses to let go. Pushes the hoppiness card but doesn’t overplay its hand, nicely balanced.
4 out of 5

Coronado Brewing Company
Blue Bridge Coffee Stout (Ale Brewed With Coffee)
American Stout
California
5.4%
22oz, Single
$6.89
Pours a solid three fingers of very dark brown foam, while frothy with many larger bubbles the retention is credible and long lasting, the lacing comes in fairly thick streaks but this tends to slide away swiftly. At first glance the liquid seems black but it is likely the darkest shade of brown possible, completely opaque, no visible bubbles, no hint of other coloration at the rims. The nose is quite roasty with a heavy emphasis on the coffee, quite milky too, black fruits and raisins, oatmeal and other sweeter baking grains, splash of mineral water, overall it’s not that sugary but likewise it does not have a noticeable hoppy charge to it either. Full-bodied, dense and reluctant to move freely, it has a strong drying effect on the mouth, to the point where it impairs the flavors. Coffee, powdered dark chocolate and a hint of molasses yet no core of sweetness, the plum, cherry fruit diminished and no citric nor floral element. The minor doughy breadiness helps. Carbonation is low but not absent. Some chicory notes at the end. Smooth but the dustiness adds to its lack of flow and slightly dilute ending. Not horrible but nothing I would purchase a second time.
2 out of 5

Musketiers, Brouwerij de
Troubadour Westkust Black Imperial IPA
American Black Ale
Belgium
9.2%
25.4oz, Single
$13.59
An average pour easily fills half the glass with tan foam, mostly smaller bubbles but not a dense microfoam, excellent retention and as it slowly dissolves starts to dimple and take on a more delicate wispiness, once it leaves enough room to assess things, thin but ultra-sticky lacing is revealed, random broad blotches across the insides of the glass. Extremely murky brown liquid with a yellow tinged glow to it, too opaque to see if there’s any bubbles around. The nose has an explosive quality to it, a hand grenade of cocoa, coffee, rye bread, burnt caramel, dried cherries and raisins, pine needles and charcoal, softens some into oats and other cereal grains, what’s interesting is how it lacks ostentation and no one element shouts above the others, hard to achieve this kind of integration at its size and volume. It’s medium-bodied and has an overall dryness which lessens its weight, much more roast here and crisp snap. Bitter dark chocolate, coffee bean, leafy herbaceousness and cracked pepper, only after some time will it let out the sweeter caramel to butterscotch notes. Some cherry and dark berry but the fruit is light and close to zero citrus presence. The carbonation has some gears in reserve and keeps it kicking forward. At the end you get a good dose of black licorice and sour breadiness. Both texturally as it vibrates and in terms of flavor intensity, long finish. Intelligently impressive.
5 out of 5

Epic Brewing Company
Big Bad Baptist Imperial Stout Exponential Series Release #7 (Stout With Cocoa Nibs And Coffee Added And Aged In Whiskey Barrels)
American Double/Imperial Stout
Utah
11.0%
22oz, Single
$11.69
Slow building head crests at around a finger of dark brown, equal mix of larger bubbles and dense foam, excellent retention which sort of means the lacing gets crowded out, what’s there is isolated chunks which themselves stick well. The liquid as expected is pure black, barely a hint of yellow or orange anywhere, as a result impossible to gauge the carbonation/bubbles visually. The nose is indeed boozy yet also delivers a vast array of sweet scents such as licorice, coconut oil, mocha, café au lait, vanillin oak and a good deal of plum and black cherry fruit scents, produces green apple and floral nuances as well, actually not as punishingly long as it might be and presents itself as gracefully as can be. Full-bodied, average to slightly below average carbonation, not inert but moves like a freighter among ice floes. Loaded with milk chocolate, caramel, butterscotch, coffee ice cream, anise and coconut, it’s like cramming a German chocolate cake down your throat. Not as much black fruit here but also more hoppy bite, on a few sips you sense a latent grassiness struggling to be heard. The orange citrus candied and close to syrupy. Finishes with notes of macadamia and pecan nuts. Lack of carbonation shortens finish but maybe it’s for the best as less monolithic as a result. Excellent beer which just needs some more gym time to loose the flab and tighten up its game.
5 out of 5

Samuel Smith Old Brewery (Tadcaster)
Yorkshire Stingo (Ale Aged In Ale Casks Matured For Over A Year)
English Strong Ale
England
9.0%
18.7oz, Single
$11.99
Be careful with the pour or you will get half a glass of frothy, loosely knit foam, mostly medium to large bubbles which is sort of unusual for its size, retention is excellent and it simmers down at a slow pace, as a result, though, the lacing is close to nonexistent, first because there’s no space, second because the head is glued together so tightly. The liquid is a cloudy copper red, hard to see any bubbles, captures light well, particularly as it takes on a more orange rust to clay cast near the glass sides. The nose is infused with vanillin oak and toffee, molasses notes, pralines and figs, just short of dates, fruitcake, lightly boozy, not overly roasted and actually comes out on the demure side, not short but compact. In the mouth it’s close to full-bodied and super creamy in texture, rises to coat every pore in your mouth. That noted, not too carbonated and there’s ample opportunity for the vanilla, caramel, caramelized brown sugar and maple syrup to settle in. Not that sweet, indeed, finishes on the dry side. Stays in the range of fig, golden raisin, dried apples with a hint of orange peel. No perceptible alcoholic heat. Tactful without impairing your ability to simply enjoy it.
4 out of 5

Uinta Brewing Company
Bristlecone Brown Ale
English Brown Ale
Utah
4.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Pours a half finger of off-white foam, mostly a weave of tiny bubbles, disappears quickly, the lacing is razor thin but does stick well enough. The liquid is crystal clear and there’s a fair amount of active bubble beads visible, light amber brown in color, consistent throughout and above average brightness. The nose is a split between carob, caramel, pie crust flakes, nuts and cherry pits and then quinine water, minerals, earth and a splash of herbal greenness, not really emphasizing overall sweetness. Medium-bodied, the carbonation is not high but very steady and stays with you from first to last sip. As a result, has a streamlined presentation which here too is on the dry side. The butterscotch, chocolate and toffee flavors front loaded and airy, again no real sweet grip. Bready and at times close to yeasty were it not also infused with that metallic bitterness. The fruit is muted and citrus more or less absent. That bite keeps you awake and receptive yet you keep wishing there was more length in the primary flavors. Stylistically correct and has good drinkability, won’t get you bloated, likely improves when consumed with food.
3 out of 5

Anchor Brewing Company
Our Special Ale 2012 (Anchor Christmas Ale)
Winter Warmer
California
5.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.99
Pours a solid froth of smaller bubbles with a couple of islands of larger bubbles, crests at less than a finger, decent enough retention, the lacing comes in random streaks and fares better in terms of sticking around. The dark brown hued liquid shows its transparency up close, pure and clean, fades to a yellowish orange at the rims and glass bottom. The nose is based in caramel, cola, chocolate, cinnamon stick and orange spice, there’s a presence of plum and candied cherry scents, it’s not over-spiced and displays a natural restraint, no real hoppiness but perhaps a metallic note before it all dissolves. Medium-bodied, there’s a steady carbonated fizz through the mouth entry which lessens the overall sweetness. More emphasis here on milk chocolate, cola and vanilla, the spices come across as caraway or anise more than holiday dessert baking spices. Light orange citrus, here the black fruits take a step back. In its place are some soda bread and scone nuances. Turns very dry through the finish, losing a good bit of its flavor. Overall, seems regal like fallen nobility, wants more to command than ingratiate.
3 out of 5

Keegan Ales
Joe Mama’s Milk (Milk Stout With Coffee Added)
American Double/Imperial Stout
New York
8.0%
12oz
4-Pack, $10.99
Aggressive pour barely yields a thin coating across the surface, dark brown and quick to dissolve, the lacing is wispy but does stick very well. The liquid is an extremely dark brown to black color, possesses a light orange tint around the rims. The nose subtly builds into a crescendo of coffee, cocoa and general toastiness, light dark fruits mixed into the above average hoppiness, never gets as milky as you think it might, stays streamlined and focused, more roast than sweetness which helps it penetrate deeper. Medium-bodied, nowhere near heavy, here the carbonation puts some spring in its step. Not sugary sweet, undercurrent of butterscotch and molasses while the emphasis remains on roasted coffee, dark chocolate and vanilla bean. You get some mixed white citrus, more than any herbal leafiness or earthiness. Seems to go much more for drinkability than overt complexity and, if so, succeeds. Mild cherry to even apricot fruit. Dryness welcome and keeps it refreshing. Quite enjoyable and free of the bombast one finds often with brews like this.
4 out of 5

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Chugged in January 2013

Uncommon Brewers
Baltic Porter (Ale Brewed With Licorice And Star Anise)
Baltic Porter
California
7.8%
16oz, 4-Pack
$12.99
The pour yields close to two fingers of active foam, plenty of larger bubbles and snap, crackle and pop across the whole surface, very dark brown color, given that fizziness not surprising head retention is average at best. The liquid is equally dark and opaque, stays more in the brown than black range, this supported by the orange aura around the outside, appears clean and unblemished, hard to discern any bubbles present. The nose loaded with roasted coffee, mocha and chocolate notes then moves from toast into sweeter caramel, licorice, banana bread and lower levels of peach, apricot fruit and orange zest, not that complex but highly pungent and lingering. Medium-bodied, creamy in texture with a fair degree of booziness to it, evokes something close to vanillin oak, coconut and butterscotch. Piles on the roasted chocolate, coffee and the licorice a major factor too, almost minty at times, pinch of nutmeg. The carbonation is on the low side and tends to accentuate that creaminess. After awhile, hard to really register much past the chocolate element, minimal cherry and peach fruit flavors as well as little hoppiness. If you like roast and can see past the booziness it’s easy enough to pound down.
4 out of 5

Goose Island Beer Company
Christmas Ale (2012)
American Brown Ale
Illinois
7.3%
12oz, 4-Pack
$5.99
You get a solid finger’s worth of tan foam, mostly miniscule bubbles with an island of larger ones at the pour spot, dissipates a bit quicker than preferred, the lacing is a broad thin sheet which, in turn, clings very nicely. The base liquid is clear, however, there is a huge amount of sediment floating about creating an overall opaque appearance, red brick to orange clay in color, can’t see any bubbles with all that muck. The nose is rum cake to fruit cake, baking spices, sweet vanilla and caramel, surprisingly boozy and alcoholic, has more subtly present orange citrus, bread crust and burning caramelized brown sugar notes, the fruit muted. Full-bodied, on the heavy side even if generally creamy in texture, just feels like it’s running with ankle weights on. More dry than sweet, the grittiness of the sediment an obvious factor in impeding flow. The carbonation is mild but sufficient. Piles on the chocolate, caramel, butterscotch and ginger, clove spice with pine sap and orange citrus, here the hops get more assertive. Not that yeasty nor bready, the fruit is kind of cherry to mixed berry, the sort of thing you’d find in a chocolate and fruit dessert. Not as boozy as the nose but you do perceive some heat and imbalance. Despite the above it’s really a pretty good brew – three previous bottles consumed before this write-up were better suggesting earlier consumption for optimal pleasure (sediment too a concern).
3 out of 5

Brooklyn Brewery
Brooklyn Black Ops (2012) (Stout Aged In Bourbon Barrels)
Russian Imperial Stout
New York
10.5%
25.4oz, Single
$19.99
You should pour carefully or half the glass will get filled with dark brown microfoam, very whipped up and almost delicate, no dimpling, close to zero lacing, slides right off the glass sides. The liquid is, naturally enough, jet black and seems clear, no visible bubbles, touch of orange at the rims. The nose features roasted cocoa, caramel, coffee and anise, close to too muscular for the flowers and tangerine to shine, low level of plum and fig fruit scents, no discernible hops presence, really not that boozy at all. Full-bodied, dry yet creamy in texture, here you get more butterscotch, caramel, coconut and vanilla bean from the barrel treatment. Also still loaded with cocoa, mocha with more cola to black licorice than coffee accents. Too dry for the cherry, plum and raisin fruit to spread. The carbonation is arguably too fine for the overall body weight. Has good integration and balance yet not so much richness of flavor and flow. 3 out of 5

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Chugged in December 2012

Stone Brewing Company
12.12.12 Vertical Epic (Ale Brewed With Spices)
Belgian Strong Dark Ale
California
9.0%
22oz, Single
$7.49
Pours a thick two to three finger head of mostly medium to larger bubble sizes, moderate dimpling, very dark brown in color, excellent retention with wispy but tenacious lacing. The liquid itself is pure coal black and entirely opaque, can’t see a single bubble in it. The nose is like walking into a bakery, rich chocolate, mocha and coffee, ginger, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg spices, vanilla and cola, fruity in a fruitcake way like raisins, dates and nuts, some sweet breadiness too, pine and sour orange notes scurry about in the background, more hops in there than you’d think at first, especially as it warms. Full-bodied, the creamy texture helps it coat the palate as that cavalcade of baking spices dance about to create a wonderful inner mouth perfume. The chocolate could not get richer if it tried, you might as well cram a German chocolate cake down your throat. The coffee tartness provides some balance, luckily the yeastiness more drying than softening. Given its density, kudos for the carbonation even reaching the discernible stage. Mint, anise and lilacs add a touch of makeup. The prune to plum, golden raisin, fig, cherry fruit never gets too sweet and actually stays in the shadows. This beer tastes like December during the holidays.
5 out of 5

Caledonian Brewery Company Limited, The
Newcastle Winter IPA
English India Pale Ale (IPA)
England
5.2%
12oz, 6-Pack
$7.99
Pours a solid two finger head of just off-white, quite frothy and whipped up, at least half filled with larger bubbles which causes a good deal of dimpling, while thin the lacing streaks do stick well. Completely transparent shiny copper orange in color, more yellow than any deeper red or brown, only a few fat and lazy bubbles to be witnessed. Pretzel dough, saline, pepper and metallic shavings most apparent in the nose, more earthy than hoppy, close to devoid of herbaceous bite, eases into softer caramel and toffee notes, some apricot or cherry but no real deep fruit nor citrus presence, decent penetrating power but more sour than crisp so doesn’t too much once deep in there. Medium-bodied, creamier in texture than expected, the carbonation creates a fluffy sensation. Here that butterscotch, toffee stuff gets closer to the lead, even as the metallic earthiness does not really abate much. At times it seems more bready or biscuity but not consistently so. Again, no grassiness nor any of the other descriptors common to the American IPA, keeps up with the salt and pepper combo as well as some light asparagus or Brussels sprouts for contrast. Soaks into the palate well. Suspect this would be more enjoyable with food than casually sipped on its own.
2 out of 5

Keegan Ales
Mother’s Milk
Milk/Sweet Stout
New York
4.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.99
The pour crests at about a finger’s worth of rich dark foam, subsides swiftly down to a consistent surface coating then finally pulls away to the glass sides, the lacing is wispy and without stickiness. The liquid is a super-clean opaque black, hints of brown to yellow at the glass bottom and rims, no visible bubbles. The nose consists mostly of roasted cocoa, sweet baked bread, anise, caramel and cola bean, trace of plum, actually comes off angular and dry so that any milkiness seems lost in the shuffle, not overly roasted but lifts well. Medium-bodied while on the firm and muscular side, not softly textured. The carbonation is light, however, it does last fully through each sip. Again, not that milky per se more crisper cocoa, mocha to coffee notes along with cola, orange peel, molasses crisp and pine. Given the higher level of roast, harder to discern clearly the hoppy bite but one suspects it is higher than usual for the category. Mix of black fruits sweeten the mid-palate. Overall, falls on the dry side so there’s no real naturally sweet length. Fairly sessionable and neutral enough to be versatile at the dinner table. Probably would benefit from slightly more sweetness and general liveliness.
3 out of 5

Weyerbacher Brewing Company
Winter Ale
Winter Warmer
Pennsylvania
5.6%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Close to no head, just a think layer of light brownish tan across the surface, swiftly gone, virtually zero lacing as well. The liquid is murky enough to achieve opacity, otherwise some brightness to the reddish brown color, some lighter orange tones further out, only the merest trace of bubbles. The nose emphasizes soft sweetness in the form of caramel, molasses, brown sugar, roasted nuts and soda bread, some carob and cinnamon like spices too, no real fruit or citrus presence, you get more oats and general grains as it warms. In the mouth it’s full-bodied, somewhat bottom heavy, paucity of carbonation does not help this situation, just sort of lays there until it suddenly loses weight through the finish, ends short. More bitter dark chocolate and cocoa here, hints at a sort of burnt quality. There are softening vanilla, hazelnut, caramel, toffee, nutmeg, creamed coffee and some cola bean notes as well as that soft baked dessert goods quality. Given the general sweetness of the flavors curious how texturally dry it is. Nothing which meaningfully bespeaks the presence of hops. Flavorful, can’t say there’s anything wrong with it per se but you forget you’re even holding a half full glass, not a good sign.
2 out of 5

Oskar Blues Grill & Brewery
Deviant Dale’s India Pale Ale
American IPA
Colorado
8.0%
16oz, 4-Pack
$13.99
Close to three fingers of deep eggshell white foam, good mix of bubble sizes with moderate dimpling and extremely strong head retention, the lacing in turn impressive with broad, ultra-sticky streaks covering the glass sides. The liquid is a cloudy coppery red color which takes on a more orange to yellow haze further from the glass center, while opaque still hard to see any bubbles within. The scents positively leap out of the glass into your nose from a good ten inches away with outsized white grapefruit, lemon orange citrus, pine sap, cocoa powder and then tropical pineapple, papaya to nectarine, peach fruit, noticeable grass and pepper kick to it as well, softens into honey and molasses, not an incredibly complex experience but plenty of intensity and verve. Full-bodied, the carbonation is soft and downy which creates more sticky, clingy texture as well as length rather than cleansing freshness. The chocolate, cocoa and vanilla maltiness more pronounced, piles more sweetness onto the pine, honey, caramel, sweet tea and at times cola bean accents. Curiously the grapefruit, lemon citrus pulls back into the whole here albeit no wallflower. Same for the peach, apricot, nectarine, pineapple fruit, especially as it takes on a metallic, quinine like edge through the finish. Hides the alcoholic heat well, This is a “big boy” and arguably a double IPA in character.
4 out of 5

Duvel Moortgat NV, Brouwerij
Tripel Hop (2012 Selection)
Belgian IPA
Belgium
9.5%
25.4oz, Single
$17.99
Solid finger’s worth of bone white, like newly fallen now, all whipped up microfoam, minor dimpling, above average retention, leaves a full surface coating for some time, no real sticky streaks for lacing more like a broad thin sheet which covers the glass side as it slides back into the froth. Cloudy yet bright yellow liquid, close to fully opaque, given this you can easily see the maelstrom of tiny but active bubbles throughout. The nose is very fresh, like a spring day after hours of cleaning, rife with citrus spritz, lemon, mandarin orange, grapefruit and then pine sap, leafy forest matter, has a burst of white pepper which cuts short the apricot, peach fruit scents, light banana too as well as bubblegum, ends with expanding floral breeze albeit that cleanliness really makes it hard for things to cement in your nostrils. Medium-bodied, on the drier side, the carbonation is extremely steady yet with a more gentle touch, helps create an expansive mouth presence. Here you get a greater amount of clove, ginger spices, they do remain secondary to the pepper. The herbal matter isn’t arch nor bitter, actually pairs well with the grapefruit, orange citrus. As with the spices the apricot, peach, pear, pineapple fruit fares better here and there’s a few moments of almost outright sweetness. The yeasty, bready moments support this. Quite drinkable and sneakily complex, rewarding more for enjoyment than analysis.
4 out of 5

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Chugged in November 2012

Keegan Ales
Hurricane Kitty
American IPA
New York
6.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.99
Thinnish off-white head with an even surface which dissolves off at a steady clip leaving a ring around the outsides, the lacing forms thin sheets which slide down the glass, not much stickiness. Pretty reddish amber color, spotless and shiny, glass filled well with a storm of loose bubbles, more of a yellow tint at the surface and glass bottom. There’s plenty of crisp snap to the nose, black pepper, salt, pretzel dough, a fern like leafiness, metallic earth, dried orange pulp, no strong presence in white pit fruit, pine nor flowers, consistent cleansing scrubbing sensation without arch bite. Full-bodied, tart with plenty of prickle, the carbonation lends a sandpapery texture which combines with the wet hop feel, all moist leaves, damp earth, wet stones and pine cone to give it big bite. The white grapefruit to sour orange comes through clearly. Any fruit stays in the shadows. Yet, you get a touch more caramel, cocoa and honey to at least attempt to soften the finish. Leaves an oily residue behind on the tongue. No meaningful alcoholic burn. It’s definitely for “hop heads” while not necessarily for the those who also want a lot of sweetness in an IPA.
3 out of 5

Sixpoint Brewery
Brownstone
American Brown Ale
New York
6.0%
16oz, 4-Pack
$9.99
Average finger’s worth of tan foam, moderate dimpling across the surface, disappears steadily but final retention near the surface is very good, not much lacing to speak of. Hazy brown liquid with a strong orange influence, almost looks like rusty water, very active carbonation throughout. The nose does a good job of creating an even spit between sweeter chocolate, toffee crunch, cola bean notes and an earthier, grassier hop presence, almost metallic or minerally at times, nothing here has too much cutting punch to it while also stays firm, maybe could soak in a bit more for added length. Medium-bodied, comes on quickly with carbonated churn in the mouth which likely keeps it drying than otherwise might be. So-so richness to the cocoa, malt, caramel, coffee bean flavors, not a lot of roast but there is decent yeastiness in a dry powder form. Less earthy and minerally here, about same level of herbaceousness with a run up in pine and grapefruit pith. No real fruit flavors. Curiously, sweeter colder than as it warms. Extends the finish well without sacrificing freshness, the bitterness could be ratcheted back.
3 out of 5

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Chugged in October 2012

Sierra Nevada
Estate Homegrown Ale (2012)
American IPA
California
6.7%
25.4oz, Single
$8.99
Simple pour yields three plus fingers of orange creamsicle off-white foam, good density, no real dimpling, extremely slow to dissolve, great retention, curiously the lacing is not as sticky as expected, a few decent streaks here and there. Bright orange rust look to the liquid, tends more towards yellow than red or brown, scattered languid bubbles float randomly, zero haze. Pine, orange and grapefruit quietly materialize in the nose, tight spine of malt, nothing here pushes deeply into sweet territory, salt, hard sourdough and fresh leafy greenness are stronger calling cards, a touch too dense to lift or create a wafting perfume, so clean that there’s barely any bitterness in there either. Full-bodied, close to thick if not heavy, can’t fault the carbonation which is okay in its own right, creamy start before bitterness spreads here. The grapefruit, pine, charcoal and pepper are dry even as the hops keep that moister leafiness. Through the finish a smattering of cocoa, malt and hard caramel attempt a sweetening flourish. Have to admire how it sets a goal and then goes for it, even if in the end it lacks any one very strong characteristic on which to hang its hat. Can get through back the whole 750ml but doesn’t leave you craving more.
4 out of 5

Firestone Walker Brewing Company
Firestone Walker’s Wookey Jack Black Rye IPA (Proprietors Reserve Series)
American Black Ale
California
8.3%
22oz, Single
$6.99
Even a slow, measured pour yields half a glass full of deep tan foam, decent density with an island of bigger bubbles remaining at the pour point, retention is very high, to the point it annoys as you can’t get at the liquid to sip it, the lacing is haphazard but what’s there is thick splotches. Dark, opaque brown hued liquid, slice of zinc orange at the glass bottom, few if any bubbles visible inside the glass. The rye is indeed present in the nose, however, on the whole it is sweet in a clean manner, pine, grapefruit, caramel, chocolate, scone crumbs wrapped around a core of apricot, peach, pineapple scents, fresh hops give it penetrating punch without unnecessary bite, admirable for its sinewy linger which never seems forced. Medium-bodied, the carbonation creates a tight weave but its active and keeps things bubbling along. Some rye, pumpernickel notes yet not very bready, once more relies on grapefruit, orange citrus, pine and flowers for most of its initial effect. Chocolate, molasses, anise only bring mild softness, instead it wants to stay erect as the leafy herbaceousness dries out the mid-palate. The roast mostly present as aftertaste. That pineapple, nectarine, apricot to papaya fruit drier here and thus further into the background. Taste-wise not boozy but there is a certain headiness to it. It crackles with the kind of energy and verve which makes you want to gulp as much as sip.
5 out of 5

Belfast Bay Brewing Company
McGovern’s Oatmeal Stout
Oatmeal Stout
Maine
5.1%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.99
Yields over two fingers of super-dark brown foam, very airy and loose, fizzing off at a quick pace, plenty of dimpling along the way to a thin surface coating left behind, minimal lacing to be had. The liquid itself is jet black with the vaguest hint of orange at the rims. The nose feels firm and in no way soft, focuses on dark chocolate, coffee, scone, anise seed, no truly sugary component involved, the oats dried rather than cooked or even cookie status, it’s sufficiently densely packed that even the roast doesn’t lift much, mild hoppiness comes through at warmer temperatures. Medium-bodied, noticeably dry and chewy, again the oats and grains seem uncooked and dusty even, comes across as semi-bitter, heavy on the roasted coffee, bittersweet chocolate, cocoa and then black licorice and dried orange peels. Hard to truly peg the hops for the pucker factor near the end, maybe yes, maybe no. Carbonation seems low given the density of the material. With each additional sip you can’t help but wish it were a little sweeter with more length. No fruit nor something like caramel, vanilla. In the end, feels “traditional” but not so much a fun style of stout to kick back with and spend an evening.
3 out of 5

Southern Tier Brewing Company
Oat Imperial Oatmeal Stout (Blackwater Series)
American Double/Imperial Stout
New York
10.8%
22oz, Single
$8.99
Dense finger plus of dark brown foam, mix of differing bubble sizes, dissolves down at a moderately steady pace leaving a solid surface coating behind, skimpy lacing looks like miniature iron mail, no stickiness. The liquid is the expected jet black color, impossible to tell if there are bubbles inside or not, hint of orange at the outermost edges. The nose is all chocolate, toffee, butterscotch and coffee ice cream, probably more flowers than oats although there is a granola, breakfast cereal element going on, might be some plum or cherry fruit there but that chocolate is overwhelming. Full-bodied, lands on the palate with a thud like an anvil. Eventually the carbonation lifts it to create space to move a little, but not much. Blend of both dark and milk chocolate, heavy duty licorice in the mix, vanilla bean, flowers, pine, mint, caramel, molasses and hazelnut coffee too. Once more the oats seem relegated to the background. Gets hoppier retronasally yet without any real sting. Can appear a bit boozy at times. That noted, props for the vividness of the flavors and for all of its flash doesn╒t wear you down trying to consume it. Hard to think of what food you╒d pair it with, though.
4 out of 5

Terrapin Beer Company
Side Project Volume 17: Samurai Krunkles (Ale Brewed With Ginger With Green Tea Added)
American IPA
Georgia
7.1%
22oz, Single
$8.49
Gives off a solid finger of just of-white foam, mostly loose smaller bubbles with an island of larger ones at the spot of pour, not much retention and the lacing is wispy and random. Hazy deep yellow to zinc orange hued liquid, very consistently colored throughout, holds light well which lends it a warm glow. The ginger is clearly there in the nose and the green tea also comes through credibly, pine and tangerine too along with biscuit and some powdered malt like Ovaltine, the apricot, peach, pineapple scents tend towards fruit cocktail type concentration. Full-bodied and somewhat slow to change direction, moves like it just woke up from a nap. More dough, bread, yeast stuff going on, at the same time more peppery and herbaceous tang, pine and orange, grapefruit citrus. The cocoa and chocolate more bitter than malty sweet. Here the ginger and green tea subsumed back into the whole, the latter more present as it warms. The carbonation is adequate, nothing remarkable pro or con. Wish it stuck to its guns and really let the green tea through more convincingly. Still, as is it’s curious and familiar at once and not bad by any stretch.
3 out of 5

Defiant Brewing Company
Belgian Style Tripel Ale
Tripel
New York
9.0%
25.4oz, Single
$7.99
Thin, initially fluffy head of white tiny bubbles, the final thin surface coating continually renewed, the lacing forms a solid sheet on the glass side but no stickiness, just slides down into the liquid. Pleasing light haze to the bright yellow hued liquid, warm sort of opacity, strong beads of thicker bubbles percolate throughout. The nose has an unassuming sturdiness, tightly weaves together the tart orange citrus, yeast, clove, honey, floral water, peach to apricot to fig fruit, too clean for real earthiness, pinch of white pepper, for all its freshness has a syrupy texture in your nostrils, decent lift for its heft. Medium-bodied, somewhat hyper carbonation, nowhere near excessively foamy but makes it harder for the flavors to settle in. Clove, nutmeg, cardamom, then a blast of lemon, blood orange and grapefruit, great cut without being too dry nor puckering. The yeastiness is fresh and fuels a country bread to baguette character. Yes, there is a bit of banana and bubblegum there but really there’s a lot more basic apricot, peach, pineapple, green apple fruit. Honey much lower, much higher florality. Gives you the textbook array of the style while maintaining a clean profile which increases drinkability. A good food beer.
5 out of 5

Sixpoint Brewery
Bengali Tiger
American IPA
New York
6.4%
16oz, 4-Pack (Can)
$9.99
Easily pours three fingers of loosely knit orange cream colored foam, turns lacy and dimpled as it dissolves, very delicate, only a few random splotches for lacing. The liquid is a base orange bronze color of light haziness, more yellow than brown or red for secondary tint, close to no visible bubbles, what is there is miniscule. The nose is straight down the middle classic IPA featuring grapefruit, tangerine citrus, pine sap, flowers, baguette to biscuit breadiness, slightly more pepper bite than chocolate softness, the fruit scents range from peach and apricot to mango and pineapple, overall pulls back from punching too hard. Medium-bodied with a softish style carbonation, this helps it sink in and cling as it also tends to the drier end of the spectrum, becoming more bitter near the finish as well, before that has a certain oiliness to it. Metallic earthiness with more tart zest in the white grapefruit to mandarin orange citrus, here clove and cumin spice take precedence over any bread, yeast or florality. The pine element fights hard for space, though. While tropical per se, the lack of juiciness in the papaya, mango, pineapple, nectarine fruit flavors has the fruit downplayed across the board. Nicely balanced and not trying to make some bold statement, content to humbly stay within the parameters of the category. If you like drier beers, even close to sessionable.
4 out of 5

Clipper City Brewing Company
Heavy Seas Mutiny Fleet Land Ho! (Black Pilsner Style Lager) (Collaboration With Devils Backbone Brewing Company)
Schwarzbier
Maryland
5.25%
22oz, Single
$5.99
Normal pour fills a third of a pint glass with dark brown microfoam, no larger bubbles at all, burns off swiftly with minor dimpling, like delicate whipped head of a latté, very little lacing and no stick to what’s there. The liquid is a spotless deep brown, not quite black, strong orange to yellow tint at the top and bottom of the glass, not really seeing many bubbles. Malty, roasty nose of caramel, mocha, molasses, caramelized brown sugar and raisin, cherry fruit, presents a peppery side too, as it warms there’s a leafiness too but nothing which really bespeaks a strong hops presence. Medium-bodied, the carbonation is stronger than expected after visual inspection, however, the mouth feel remains on the creamy side. Same high level of toast and roast, more like coffee and cocoa powder than sweeter caramel. Some vanilla bean or cola perhaps. At the same time lemon to sour orange citrus asserts itself and the leaf, grass element bolder as well. The texture is dry and the fruit more of a demure cherry, apple, golden raisin, fig. Leaves a lot of that malty roast behind as a residue. Not a lot of personality yet nothing which perturbs. Can’t say it leaves you yearning for more.
3 out of 5

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Chugged in September 2012

Goose Island Beer Company
Matilda Belgian Style Ale (Pale Ale Fermented With Brettanomyces) (2012)
Belgian Strong Pale Ale
Illinois
7.0%
22oz, Single
$9.99
Hyper fizzy head on about a finger, off-white with an orange tint, all tiny bubbles which boil off at a sprint, retains a decent surface covering, the lacing at first leaves wide splotches but they don’t really stick much. Gauzy orange rust color, closer to yellow than to brown or red, strong whirlwind of loose bubbles zip about within, holds the light well within it, stays bright. This is a yeast dominated nose with banana, bubblegum, clove and sweet unbaked pie dough, also has a large black pepper component, truly not that funky, the peach, pear, fig scents clean and fresh, touch of coal tar or black tea leaf, ends with spiced orange peel notes. Full-bodied, at once bottom heavy and soaking into the palate while the churning carbonation lifts it into a decent perfume. Has a salty, saline quality to go with the pepper and clove, here more like a mix of fennel and Darjeeling tea. The orange, lemon, grapefruit citrus plays a major role, more sweet than sour. Supplements the apricot, pear, fit, banana fruit and sweetens further. The dough has a mildly more baked quality, not raw dough. Creamy texture extends finish and keeps it clinging to the mouth pores. Does a very admirable job of providing subtle complexity which would not turn off the neophyte while impressing the experienced.
4 out of 5

Terrapin Beer Company
Pumpkinfest (Oktoberfest Beer Brewed With Pumpkin And Spices)
Fruit/Vegetable Beer
Georgia
6.1%
12oz, 4-Pack
$9.99
You get a finger’s worth of fizzy foam which dissolves down at a steady clip, mostly smaller bubbles, dark off-white color, the lacing is wispy to close to nonexistent. Very clear and bright brownish amber hued liquid, becomes more zinc orange towards the outer reaches with a final shift into yellow, hardly any visible carbonation. Big clove and nutmeg in the nose, vanilla and cocoa along with, of course, pumpkin, pie crust to scone for breadiness, mild yeastiness, has a liqueur like quality even as at times there’s a short burst of grass and pepper. Medium-bodied, has a hard mouth feel, lacks graceful movement and flow. The carbonation is light, what’s there has a tight prickle. Dry on the whole, the ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon has a spicy cumin edge too. Cocoa powder more than honey, brown sugar or caramel, in keeping with dryness. Whisper of peach, apricot fruit, any sweetness more derived from that pie dough, baked goods component. Loses any hoppy bite here but does have a mineral water feel which aids a fresher finish. Not sure it finds a clear direction and then takes it but pleasant enough, if quaffed uncritically.
3 out of 5

Southern Tier Brewing Company
Harvest Ale
Extra Special/Strong Bitter (ESB)
New York
6.7%
12oz, 6-Pack
$8.99
Very loose foam, rises quickly to around a finger and falls back just the same, very little retention, off-white color, close to no lacing as well. The liquid is crystal clear and sparkles like freshly cleaned glass, for as fast as the head rises, close to zero visible bubbles inside the glass, light amber orange in hue. The nose features orange peel, ginger root, scones and baked bread, hoppy in an herbaceous way, not much sweetness here, black tea leaves, more metallic than earthy. Light to medium-bodied, the carbonation is average at best, while clean there’s little life and spring to its step. Malty with cocoa, coffee bean, toffee accents, the orange to lemon citrus noticeable, more pine here as well as peach, apricot, cherry fruit. About half and half grains versus full-on bread, lacks honey or bread glaze. Finishes with an increase in florality and blanched nuttiness, that metallic edge about as close to bitter as it gets. Flat mouth presence contributes to its inability to interest you. Still, no real annoying flaws just the absence of any superlative element.
3 out of 5

Sierra Nevada
2012 Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale
American Brown Ale
California
5.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$8.99
Creates a frothy two finger head on the pour, quite airy and thus dissolves down swiftly, deep tan in color, the lacing appears sticky at first but only a few streaks persist. Very clear brown hued liquid with a metallic orange tint, some yellowing around the edges, the bubbles are so tiny at first you hardly see how many there are. While the nose has a crisp mocha to cocoa toast to it along with coffee notes, behind that is sweeter caramel, nougat, glazed nuts and honey, gains stiffness from surprisingly strong lemon zest, cut grass and dried flowers, not much fruit, more of a slugger than a glider. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied with a good deal of fizzy carbonation to assist in relieving its weight. More of the nuts, roasted coffee, cocoa and general toastiness, here with more pumpernickel to sourdough bread notes. The roast tends to keep the sweetness in check, allowing for some toffee and butterscotch. The hops have a bitter oiliness to them which is actually for the better as they create a herbal pucker at the end and continue the drying sensations so the mouth feel is not overly creamy. Well-balanced and sessionable, its lack of decisive direction may be offputting to some. Should prove a versatile food beer.
4 out of 5

Goose Island Beer Company
Harvest Ale
Extra Special/Strong Bitter (ESB)
Illinois
5.6%
12oz, 6-Pack
$8.99
Close to two fingers of loose, frothy foam, mild dimpling as it settles down, strong retention across the surface, the lacing is not very broad, however, displays good stickiness. Clear copper brown in color with a few trace bubbles lazily rising, more of a yellow cast around the rims. In the nose you get pretzel dough, salt and miscellaneous bread crust then honey, cocoa malts, peach pits and lemon rinds, oddly neither sweet nor grassy, like it doesn’t want to commit to a specific direction, slightly better than average staying power. Medium-bodied, its firmness creates additional palate presence. Malts, cocoa, caramel, honey yet not that sweet, the carbonation is subtle but effective, scrubs the tongue well. The lemon citrus brings out more earthiness and likely more pit aspect to the apricot, peach, apple, fig fruit. The well baked bread never a major factor, just one of many drying elements. Leaves you wishing it showed more exuberant personality, not that it’s playing it safely but you just sense it could have been more complex with some effort.
3 out of 5

Sierra Nevada (In Collaboration With Russian River Brewing Company)
Brux Domesticated Wild Ale (Belgian-Style Ale Refermented In The Bottle With Brettanomyces Bruxellensis)
American Wild Ale
California
8.3%
25.4oz, Single
$14.99
Hard to say it even has a head, all loose bubbles which evaporate even during the pour leaving nothing across the surface nor any lacing. That said, the carbonation could not be more aggressive visually, a maelstrom inside the glass, the liquid a light amber to rusty yellow color, clear and without any haze. The nose comes across as reluctant to share, starts to unfold and then pulls back, you kind of get half-offered yeast, matted field grasses, dried orange peels, uncracked peppercorns, dried apples and peaches, dried honey, are you getting it seems dried yet, truly not that funky and, as a result, maybe not as lengthy as it might be otherwise. Full-bodied, the high level of carbonation evident with each sip, churns inside the mouth, no settling down. Allowing for this, the sourness comes through crystal clear, some barnyard funk to animal fur accents. Lots of lemon, orange, grapefruit citrus but the texture dries it out even as there is indeed underlying juiciness. Attenuated apple, pear, peach fruit, the pepper and cut grass to hay fare better. What it lacks is decisiveness, decide who you want to be and go for it. Instead you get a dialed back version of a distinct personality.
3 out of 5

Allentown Brew Works
Fegley’s BrewWorks Hop’solutely Triple India Pale Ale
American Double/Imperial IPA
Pennsylvania
11.5%
12oz, 4-Pack
$9.99
Finger plus of just off-white foam, mostly tightly woven smaller bubbles, even surface, adequate retention, lacing weaker than expected. The liquid is a glowing rust orange, very clear and more yellow at the glass bottom and rims, only a few widely dispersed bubbles visible. The nose is very thick and arguably stickier than the lacing, really grips your nostril hairs with poached peach, pineapple, guava scents, tangerine reduction, pine sap, chocolate, offers white pepper and a smidgeon of peat and grassiness but nothing near full-on herbaceousness. Full-bodied, steady initial foaming action on the mouth entry, subsides swiftly as the tangy booziness takes over. Again, sticky and gluey in texture, nothing nimble about it. Dense pink grapefruit and tangerine citrus, tropical feel to the fruit, more guava, papaya, pineapple than peach or apricot. Mixes in cocoa, malt, honey and molasses along with that pine sap. Sweet all the way through, any pepper, grass mutters at best. Really comes across as extracted for effect, no natural flow to it. That said, if you have a fondness for sweetness you can add a few points to the final tally. Is there a category for dessert beer caliber India Pale Ales?
3 out of 5

Uinta Brewing Company
Crooked Line Detour Double India Pale Ale
American Double/Imperial IPA
Utah
9.5%
25.4oz, Single
$8.49
Whipped up head with more craters than dimples, easily over three fingers during the initial pour, loosely knit enough to settle down into an even thick coating across the surface, the lacing is ultra-sticky and remains in full sheets rather than thinner streaks. The liquid is a noticeably dark copper to amber color, stays transparent this notwithstanding, only the tiniest smattering of bubbles visible. The nose is thick and pungent, even if not the longest lasting, coconut custard, pine sap, candied orange peels, floral musk as well as sharper peppery and grassy notes, curiously the apricot, peach, pineapple fruit seems to get lost in the mix while in no way weak, ends with an earthy and close to peaty flourish. Full-bodied, verges on a foamy attack, only the herbal bite and overall bitterness slices away the foam to prevent suffocation by down pillow. The pepperiness takes it up a notch, more pith in the lemon to grapefruit citrus. By the mid-palate vanilla, coconut and caramel accents salve some wounds. Gets a little creamier as it opens into the apricot, peach, nectarine, fig fruits. Not very biscuity, some darker grains present. Mouth texture is sticky and resinous. Not aggressive per se, however, nothing to just pop and pour without some prep work first.
3 out of 5

Weyerbacher Brewing Company
Imperial Pumpkin Ale (Ale Brewed With Pumpkin And Spices (Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cardamom, Cloves)) Pumpkin Ale
Pennsylvania
8.0%
12oz, 4-Pack
$10.49
Light half a finger head of tan color which evaporates down very quickly to an almost foamless surface, likewise the lacing is nonexistent. Copper orange colored liquid, a few trace bubbles zip about, yellows around the rims, pleasing overall clarity. Given the richness of its pungency the nose has a stiff texture and feel, plenty of pumpkin there, more so cinnamon, clove spice and something reminiscent of cola, also some lemon citrus and well baked pie crust notes, rises deep into your nostrils and stays there for some time. Medium-bodied, equally firm feel here in the mouth, the carbonation more muscular than expected based on visual inspection. Mixes some milk chocolate into those baking spices, sort of softens things a touch. The pumpkin is strong without being really sweet. Biscuit, scone with a moment of cornbread, here there’s a stronger honeyed aspect. The floral dimension expands through the finish, extending things further. The level of spicing is pretty outrageous so if you want lowkey or demure, this is not for you. Otherwise, get ready for a spice fest.
5 out of 5

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Chugged in August 2012

Southern Tier Brewing Company
Imperial Pumking (Ale Brewed With Pumpkins)
Pumpkin Ale
New York
8.6%
22oz, Single
$7.99
An aggressive pour gets you a bit over a finger’s worth of off-white foam, does has a soft orange tint to it, majority smaller, finer bubbles which evaporate swiftly, lacing has minimal stickiness as well. While light and transparent, the liquid still has a bronzed metallic orange cast to it, yellows some around the rims, multiple swiftly paced beads of bubbles, good overall shine. The nose is extremely smooth and moves as if there simply couldn’t be a bump in the road, molasses, cinnamon, glazed piecrust, whipped cream, even some chocolate and nuttiness, the sweet spices here mask some of the pumpkin foundation, hint of fig or apricot fruit, strong lift without drawing attention. Medium-bodied, the carbonation is on the thin side and could arguably provide more structure. That said, has an overall dry texture even as the constituent parts are all sweet as hell. The pumpkin stronger while still paling before the clove, cinnamon spice, brown sugar, orange marmalade, crust flakes and more whipped cream and caramel. At times it seems to almost have a floral perfume. There is a loss of grip through the finish. If you want sweetness without undue heaviness, check it out.
4 out of 5

Long Trail Brewing Company
Brewmaster Series Imperial Pumpkin (Ale Brewed With Pumpkin & Spices)
Pumpkin Ale
Vermont
8.0%
22oz, Single
$4.99
Head crests at over a finger of dark tan, orange tinged foam, good mix of different bubble sizes, dissolves to a basic coating, lacing takes the form of not so sticky sheets. Bronze to red rust colored liquid, mostly translucent with a fair amount of visible bubbles, turns a bright yellow around the rims. The amount of pumpkin in the nose is above average, however, it is really the brown sugar, maple syrup which dominates, followed on by cocoa powder, nutmeg, candied orange peel, has a certain toasty feel to it, has an herbal underpinning to the spiciness, carries itself proudly. Medium-bodied, has a softer and creamier mouth entry which then stiffens as the carbonation sets, creates a tighter weave. The pumpkin flavor melds with mocha, coffee, whipped cream, cinnamon and nutmeg along with an orange zest infusion. Seems indecisive in terms of wanting to be structured or sweet and fruity, would probably benefit from just going for it full throttle on the pumpkin. Mouth perfume too heavy to lift much. It’s actually a quite pleasing brew, only needs to have more fun to excel.
4 out of 5

Rogue Ales Brewery
Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale (Brewed With Natural Flavors)
Smoked Beer
Oregon
5.6%
25.4oz, Single
$12.99
Average pour yields close to a half a glass of foam, settle initially around two fingers, bigger bubbles give it airiness which gets it to then settle around a finger plus before resuming dissolve down to the surface and just a few islands of foam left, creates close to no lacing. Cloudy bronzed colored liquid, like is was tanning with Bain de Soleil on, fades to yellow at the rims, bubbles close to visibly absent. The nose has a rubber scent, like a new car mat or something, then maple and cinnamon, caraway seeds, spiced oranges, pancake batter, very light hint of bacon fat or sweet smokiness, no noticeable fruit presence, trails off quickly without much length. Medium-bodied, lack of carbonation helps it seem heavier and thicker on the tongue. More baked ham and pork than true bacon, the molasses and maple obvious. Orange rind, baking spices, pecans, minor pine and floral accents. The smokiness lacks concentration and thus it’s missing lift. Likewise, kind of expected it to be sweeter with more depth to the maple flavoring. Not horrible but uninspired and uninspiring.
2 out of 5

Goose Island Beer Company
Honker’s Ale
English Bitter
Illinois
4.3%
12oz, 6-Pack
$8.99
Light tan head, crests at close to three fingers, very delicate microfoam which dissolves down at a steady pace stopping short of the surface to leave a solid coating, albeit with minimal lacing surrounding it. Gauzy orange-amber colored liquid, fades to yellow around the edges, not a lot of visible carbonation. The nose has a good deal of biscuit but more so sweeter caramel, butterscotch, candied oranges and lighter nutmeg centered spice, peach to dried apple fruit, there’s some hoppy zing present but it does not last as you really draw the scents in and breathe out. Medium-bodied, foams up too much during the mouth entry but then settles back to release substantial chocolate, caramel, toffee flavors alongside juicy orange, tangerine citrus. The peach, apricot, apple fruit keeps the mouth feel soft and round. Harder to find any meaningful hops presence here than in the nose, however, dries a touch as it ends, never quite cloyingly sweet. Lacks good posture, slouches throughout.
3 out of 5

Goose Island Beer Company
India Pale Ale
English India Pale Ale (IPA)
Illinois
5.9%
12oz, 6-Pack
$8.99
Yields two plus fingers of frothy, loose eggshell white foam, its delicacy causes it to crater, more like form long valleys, nice retention once it gets down to a surface coating, the lacing is thin but wide and sticks extremely well. Light amber color consistent and bright, mild yellowing around the edges, not a whole lot of bubbles but what’s there keeps coming, manages to catch your eye. Yeasty and honeyed in the nose while concurrently maintaining a bitters to peat and green hops edge, peppercorns, tangerine rind, as it warms more caramel and apricot to nectarine fruit scents appear, full presence and good lasting power. Medium to full-bodied, creamy mouth feel that has it both coating the palate and pushing outwards towards the cheeks. Perhaps slightly over-carbonated but depends on what texture you desire. Some mineral water, quinine, bitters through the attack then it’s warm biscuits, honey, caramel, orange to tangerine pulp, wet flower petals and even some mint leaf. Full peach, apricot, pear, green melon fruit. No matter how you slice it, not very herbaceous, not very toasty, not very spicy, neither sweet nor dry. As if insidiously crafted to appeal yet defy description of why it’s appealing.
4 out of 5

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Chugged in July 2012

Uinta Brewing Company
Crooked Line Cockeyed Cooper (Bourbon Barrel Barley Wine Ale)
American Barleywine
Utah
11.1%
25.4oz, Single
$11.49
You get a decent tan colored head, just over a finger’s worth of mixed bubble sizes, retention is above average, the lacing is a thin but full sheet which sticks to the glass sides. The liquid is a lightly filmy copper brown, touch of yellow at the edges, curious lack of visible bubbles. Broad nose, really fills out, very sweet with ginger, nutmeg, vanillin oak, butterscotch, molasses, there’s some charcoal to peat like notes in there, green apple, pear, fig and white grape scents in there, more rye or buckwheat than loaf of bread type stuff, at times smells like a baseball rosin bag, turns more roasted than hoppy at the end. Full-bodied, does a good job of being dry in texture while sweeter in flavors, the oak treatment obvious throughout. Vanilla, chocolate, caramel, brown sugar and flan flavors predominate, yet there’s also a bitterness which comes through bringing nuts, smoked grill fat, cigar leaf, citrus peel and wheat germ to the fore. The fruit diminished and receded back. The carbonation bigger than was suggested visually but nothing more than a basic simmer. Stays on an even keel through the finish, no great change. It’s a big boy that seems to want to correct you if you make what it considers a misinterpretation of itself.
3 out of 5

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Urkontinent (Ale Brewed With Wattle Seed, Amaranth, Rooibos, Myrica Gale And Honey)
Dubbel
Delaware
8.0%
25.4oz, Single
$13.99
Made a loud hissing noise during the pour, yields close to two fingers of very lacy and loose foam which disappears swiftly to leave virtually nothing left across the surface, the lacing is close to nonexistent. The liquid is a deep mahogany brown, it depends on the angle but more yellow tinted than orange, clear, not many bubbles visible. The nose offers a broad array of sweets, including cola, root beer, molasses, brown sugar, café au lait, chocolate and hazelnut, has a roasted quality but smooth texture, does produce some mild hops as well as raw bread grains, given the scents it presents has erect posture if not stiffness. Medium-bodied, curious for how dry it is during the mouth entry, some pucker, the carbonation has a tight weave, doesn’t last long but tingles a good bit at first. Similar profile of cocoa, cola, ginger, molasses and Indian spices, flaky dough, orange spice, sweeter nuts, witch hazel. Not much distinct fruit present, the citrus or most hop signifiers too muted. It has an admirable steadiness to it, above average complexity but no showiness, just keeps teasing you to figure it out. This all in good fun, the beer has plenty to enjoy on the surface, no thought needed.
4 out of 5

Bruery, The
White Oak (50% Ale, 50% Ale Aged in Bourbon Barrels)
Wheatwine
California
11.5%
25.4oz, Single
$17.79
Barely energetic pour fills half the glass with wispy off-white foam, luckily it is so airy and whipped up that it dissipates quickly to a thin if consistent surface coating, as might be expected not much stick in the lacing, what might be there. Super-cloudy orange which lightens at the outer edges, even given its opacity you can see a maelstrom of bubbles whipping around inside the glass, has a relaxed feel about it. The nose displays an initial burst of wheat and then lemongrass, follows up with honey, vanilla bean, caramel, grape skins and some coal and earth, gives up a bushel of peach, apricot, pear fruit scents with a little mixed sweet citrus on top, overall most notable for its restraint even as it openly offers the benefits of the barrel aging. Full-bodied, sweet yet with a sour side as well. Here banana and bubblegum comes through along with wheatgerm, mild sous bois and then that honey and lees. The orange peel is clearer, hint of a poached fruit character to the peach, apricot, pear, pineapple and apple fruit. It is damn foamy, the increasing dryness through the finish helps temper this. Interesting for how you sense its complexity but can’t quite tease them apart. The oak influence is moderate and not dominant. Creaminess helps it hug the palate and last longer.
4 out of 5

Goose Island Beer Company
Nut Brown Ale
American Brown Ale
Illinois
5.3%
12oz, 6-Pack
$8.99
Finger plus head of airy, evenly surfaced foam which dissipates very quickly, like nothing left at all, the lacing is wispy at best and likewise there and gone. Clear brown colored liquid, soft orange tint and then yellow further towards the rims, good amount of active tiny bubbles which are widely dispersed. Extremely sweet nose of caramel, chocolate, toffee and creamed coffee, notes of candied nuts, there are some cereal grains and scone in there but nothing offered which could stiffen the feel and counterbalance the sugary aspects. Medium-bodied, the carbonation is finely grained so to speak but does stir things about the mouth. Here you get more bread, yeast, nuts and anise to temper the excesses of the chocolate, caramel, coffee. Hint of orange peel, does not produce any metallic nor roasted notes nor anything remotely herbaceous. While the mouthfeel is soft there is a general cleanliness to it, minimal residue at the end. In many regards simple, but better put as pure of purpose. Nothing more needs be said.
4 out of 5

Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project
Baby Tree
Quadrupel (Quad)
Massachusetts
9.0%
22oz, Single
$7.99
Pours a light half finger coating across the surface of a dark tan color, mostly mid-sized bubbles, average retention, nothing unique either way, the lacing is basically a thin solid sheet which glides down the glass sides. The liquid is a dusky brown base, shifts into orange and yellow hues nearer the glass sides, actually notable for the lack of chunks floating about and general cleanliness, not many bubbles visible but when you swirl the glass it foams up again rapidly. The nose is dry and lean but not lacking, grass, yeast and packed dirt appear first, yielding to honey, brown sugar, maple syrup and orange peel, even as apricot, fig, date fruit appears never seems sweet, not getting a lot of spice scents, stays properly mannered and focused. Medium-bodied, very creamy and gently carbonated mouth texture which helps in distracting from the dryness, mouth almost gets parched as the glass gets drained. Again, not for any lack of chocolate, molasses, maple syrup, toffee or licorice flavors, even some coffee hard candy notes in there. Touch of ginger, the citrus element diminished. Fig, golden raisin, yellow apple, apricot fruit stays measured. Minimal traces of clove or banana, some yeastiness. Smooth, wears its alcohol level well, nothing to complain about.
3 out of 5

Uinta Brewing Company
Crooked Line Labyrinth Black Ale (Ale Brewed With Licorice Sticks And Aged In Oak Barrels)
American Double/Imperial Stout
Utah
13.2%
25.4oz, Single
$11.49
Moderately aggressive pour fills half the glass with outrageously dark brown foam, tightly woven and dense, not much dimpling but there’s random explosions of larger bubbles which act like fireworks on the surface, very nice stick to the lacing, broad streaks which eventually settle back downwards. The liquid is black as night, fully impenetrable, not a hint of color anywhere, the only sign of bubbles was as the pour resolved itself. The nose is rife with coconut custard, German chocolate cake, black licorice, caramel and orange zest, fistful of grainy hop bite, peach, apricot and cherry cobbler accents, pushes the limit of desirable sweetness, toasty bread notes help relieve its density. Full-bodied, starts to foam towards the roof of your mouth, even the carbonation scaled to make an impression, give it credit for helping manage the sweetness. Less noticeable licorice here, more toffee, caramel, butterscotch, vanilla bean and coconut oil. Were it not for an herbal sting at the finish it would be all but completely a “dessert beer.” Floral dew and pine sap bring the malts and hops further into accord. The fruit flavors more mixed than distinct. Over time starts to suggest barbecue grill smoke. The generally creamy mouth feel persists completely start to end, again, fights hard to ensure nothing distracts you from it. Hard not to respect its powerful statement, just be careful in choosing when to open it, by no means a casual quaffer.
5 out of 5

White Birch Brewing
Hop Session Ale
American Amber/Red Ale
New Hampshire
5.1%
22oz, Single
$7.99
Moderate pour yields a half glass full of an off-white head, virtually all dense foam with a slowly dimpling surface, the foam oddly pulls away from the glass sides as it dissolves even as the overall retention is excellent, the lacing is thin but super-sticky. Light orange copper highlights to the golden hued base, thick cloud of bubbles rise steadily, definitely hazy and mostly opaque, noticeably unfiltered. Firm nose of black pepper, pretzel dough, coriander and cumin spices, dried orange peels, trace earthiness, mild apricot to peach fuzz, burnt mocha powder, at times something like tobacco ash, excellent complexity without striving too hard, holds its fullness for an extended period of time, deepens as it warms. Full-bodied, has some give but not close to soft in texture, the carbonation provides a steady churn but nowhere near the high level you’d expect from the way it virtually foams over the glass. Has a sort of Belgian feel to it with clove, coriander, cinnamon spice flowing through, strong dose of salt and pepper. Not much citrus but decent amount of apricot, yellow apple, peach fruit. Baked sourdough and some rye as well. Herbaceous finish without too much bitter bite. Agreeably challenging even as the texture dries and gets semi-gritty.
4 out of 5

Wachusett Brewing Company
Black Shack Porter
American Porter
Massachusetts
5.3%
12oz, 6-Pack
$8.99
Close to two fingers of very loose and airy microfoam, surface loses its evenness as it dissolves, not a lot of retention, the lacing wispy and randomly spread out. Light brown color with a strong orange to yellow cast around the rims and glass bottom, transparent for its type with a fair amount of visible bubbles. Cocoa, cola bean, butterscotch, brown sugar sweeten up the nose somewhat but more toasty than sugary, bready with a metallic ring to it, hoppiness puts some spring in it yet without many distinct qualities. Light-bodied, perhaps on the dilute side, lacks enough flavor vibrancy to make up for the lack of palate heft. Coffee, mocha, cocoa and malt powder more roasted than anything else. Spring water, quinine and a certain stoniness to it, no real suggestion of fruit or citrus. Does keep that cola thing. The carbonation is hard-edged and churns more than smoothes. Not a lot left through the finish, dry and dusty in texture, simple in character.
2 out of 5

The Portsmouth Brewery
Oatmeal Stout
Oatmeal Stout
New Hampshire
6.0%
22oz, Single
$5.95
Two fingers of rich, dense foam, very dark tan with an island of larger bubbles at the spot of pour, retention is average, the lacing forms wide sheets which slowly snake down the glass side, leaves a few splotches behind. The liquid is extremely dark brown falling short of black, displays an orange tint at the glass bottom, sufficiently opaque to mask most bubbles within. The nose is super-heavy on the sweet roast, loaded with chocolate, toffee, coffee and a pinch of ginger, a burst of white grapefruit comes through clearly, the oats make it drier than sweeter, that said the grains smooth and there’s not a real hops presence here, lifts into a broad musk. Full-bodied, not that heavy, creamy carbonation helps it slowly move through the mouth. For its weight has good freshness and a svelte middle, in addition to the grapefruit you get pine and flowers, hops showing more get up and go here. Sneaks in cherry and peach fruit accents before building up mocha, cocoa, toffee and caramel, the oats likely add as much gluey texture as real flavor. Roasty residue extends the finish well. Good stuff, particularly if you are not looking for sweetness overload.
5 out of 5

The Portsmouth Brewery
Murphy’s Law Red Ale
Irish Red Ale
New Hampshire
5.5%
22oz, Single
$5.95
You get about a finger of light eggshell white foam, island of larger bubbles in the middle, fades away at a steady clip, a few splotches of lacing but that’s it. Coppery orange brown color of average clarity, turns a yellow hue around the rims, broadly scattered large bubbles, nothing close to beads. Molasses, milk chocolate, honey and sweet bread dough fill the nose, some cola and then pine sap, not a great deal of hoppiness happening here, conversely truly not as sweet as the various elements make it sound, has pretty good length. Medium-bodied, creamy mouth feel with a lot of carbonation which tends to diffuse the flavors and contributes to a drying finish, where a metallic side comes through. Otherwise, it’s a basic array of cocoa, caramel, malt, butterscotch and toffee with a touch of café au lait. The grains are sweet with a light toasted quality, again the hops remain in the background. Moment of peach or apricot pit or fig. Whisper of earthiness and matted straw. Overall, on the sweetish side for its type but friendly enough.
3 out of 5

Offshore Ale Company
American IPA
Massachusetts
6.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.65
Thin head, barely half a finger of orange tinted eggshell tan color, the lacing has decent thickness but close to no stickiness. Cloudy yellow-orange liquid, opaque and holds light easily, hard to see any bubbles floating inside. The nose full of grains, wheat and sourdough, pepper, earth and grass, spoonful of molasses yet not a lot of pine, citrus or pit fruit, small dose of cocoa, kind of tough and gritty and without a sustained sweet component. Medium-bodied, the carbonation grinds things in place, not much spreading out. Cocoa, mocha, orange peel, pine and nectarine to pineapple fruit give it a nicely typical IPA profile, at the same time it stays within itself, no distracting burn. Credible malt presence, brings more sweetness than any citrus or flowers. Compact ending without seeming short. Lack of flash might tempt you to underrate it.
4 out of 5

Offshore Ale Company
East Chop Lighthouse Ale
American Blonde Ale
Massachusetts
4.2%
22oz, Single
$3.99
Thin, if consistent, layer of bleached white foam across the surface, not one to linger very long, any lacing slides down the glass like greased lightening. Luminescently pale yellow color, healthy amount of loosely assembled bubbles floating about, fully transparent. High-toned nose of herbal matter, quinine, corn husks, sea salts, pressed flowers and squeezed lemons, more cleansing than refreshing, goes lightly on any fruit element, by the same token only a dusting of malt powder to smooth it out texturally as well as provide any sweetness, bracing like an after shave. Medium-bodied, sharp carbonation and a dry mouth feel gives a wiry muscularity, hard to find a beer of this relative lighter weight feels this firm. Tin, stones and streamwater combine with bitter grasses and country style bread to create as much chewiness as possible. Layer on sour white grapefruit accents and peach pit and apple skin and it keeps sandpapering away at your tongue. There’s a soft malty residue at the end, never becomes unattractively tart. Not afraid to show personality and keeps its reach within its grasp.
3 out of 5

Ska Brewing Company
Mexican Logger (Mexican Style Lager)
American Pale Lager
Colorado
4.2%
12oz, 6-Pack Can
$10.79
Close to two fingers of very loose and dimpled bright white foam, sizzles down to the surface in no time, the lacing forms thicker stripes and sticks better than expected. Simple golden hued liquid, a few lazy bubbles drift here and there. Sweet and full nose of corn syrup, malt, cocoa, honey, peach fuzz and a brief shot of grassy hops, not that interesting yet plenty of richness in what’s there. Medium-bodied, some carbonation tickle while overall heavy and clings to the palate. More sweetness via honey, corn, molasses and malted milk balls, peach to apricot fruit and a splash of mixed citrus. Simple bread grains and oats, little about it seems hoppy. Mild metallic ring near the finish. Certainly not offensive, just leaves you with very little to say about it. So, that’s all there is to say.
2 out of 5

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Chugged in June 2012

Founders Brewing Company
All Day IPA Session Ale
American IPA
Michigan
4.7%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.39
Adequate finger high head of loose off-white bubbles, not quite foam per se, clears off swiftly to a ring around the edges, the lacing is super-thin but does form decently wide streaks before evaporating. Yellow gold colored liquid with a soft orange cast, only a few fat bubbles visible, scattered about, looks “basic” and unassuming. Piney nose with raw grains, grass, yeast and grapefruit rinds, more floral than fruity, more wheat as it warms, overall has a fresh, taut character, good balance and no burn. Medium-bodied, tight and slightly overly aggressive carbonation, keeps it scrubbing into the tongue which favors bitterness over sweetness. Pepper and herbaceous green grass, grains, pine, black tea leaf, the blood orange and grapefruit pith drying. Thin dusting of cocoa and allusion to anise, malts not contributing much to the final equation. Seems to pull back on just about every ingredient, wants a close race among them all, as a result more calculatedly balanced than integrated. You lose interest after the second bottle.
3 out of 5

21st Amendment Brewery
Hell Or High Watermelon (Wheat Beer Fermented With Watermelon Concentrate, With Added Watermelon Juice)
Fruit/Vegetable Beer
California
4.9%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.39
A little less than a finger’s worth of gossamer white bubbles, not quite foam, dissipates to basically nothing across the surface, no lacing either. Hazy deep yellow colored liquid, holds light inside well, few bubbles, loosely aggregated, nothing leaps out at you visually. The nose is soft and gentle, wheat cereal, biscuit and, duh, sweet watermelon scents, you get lemon juice as well, ends with an earthy and herbal muskiness which is actually welcome for how it broadens the texture and creates contrast against the fruit. Medium-bodied with fluffy carbonation, has some residual prickle through the finish. The watermelon flavoring is not excessively strong, kind of floats through the mouth. There’s a metallic undercurrent more than wheat or bread, although there’s an adequate amount of the latter. Sour lemon to orange citrus brings added refreshing qualities. At times you might find a spoonful of molasses. Nothing here really distinguishes it but it’s unflawed, not entirely without appeal.
2 out of 5

Bear Republic/Fat Head’s/Stone Brewing Company
TBA 2012 (Ale Brewed With Brown Sugar & Molasses)
American Brown Ale
California
7.1%
12oz, Single
$3.59
Big, third of the glass worth, head of nothing but huge delicate bubbles which pop and dissolve at an extremely rapid rate, virtually nothing left within seconds, the lacing is slight and with minimal stickiness. Cloudy brown liquid with a red cast, turns to a bright yellow around the rims, active bubbles if widely spread and without beads, looks like dirty catch basin water. The nose evenly split between pine, orange citrus, grass, flowers and then that molasses to honey and coffee, the peach and apricot fruit comes down in the middle, while the scents last long they come off as on the sluggish side. Medium-bodied and heavy, the carbonation lacking and it tends to press down into the palate without much movement, some scrubbing sensations. The malt, cocoa, coffee and molasses lead the way here, as it progresses the hoppy citrus and pine and meadow grasses pick up. Steady enough peach, yellow apple, apricot, pear fruit, there if undistinguished. Touch of Brazil nuts and glazed sandwich rolls. Its density makes biggest impression, not really that much flavor complexity. Nothing to entice you beyond the first bottle.
3 out of 5

Caldera Brewing Company
IPA
American IPA
Oregon
6.1%
12oz, 6-Pack
$13.59
Creamy two finger plus head, off-white with a mostly uniform surface, slight dimpling, nice retention, almost no larger bubbles, the lacing is wispy yet clings well. Coppery colored liquid, as close to brown as orange, clean and transparent, the bubbles are extremely miniscule and loosely arrayed. Straightforward nose of pine, grapefruit citrus, flowers and cocoa, sizable chunk of peach, apricot, guava fruit scents, very persistent and large in scale with no heat nor burn, just real easy to sniff. Medium-bodied with a touch more foaminess than one might prefer, does give it a pleasingly soft texture. As in the nose keeps it simple with pink grapefruit, tangerine citrus, pine, lemongrass and flowers. Not as sweet as the scents suggest, has a dry tacky feel. The cocoa and malt provide pockets of relief and rest. The pineapple, apricot, nectarine, papaya fruit somewhat demure but finish well. On the whole balanced while favoring the hops and tart aspects. No problem putting down two to three in a row, good sessionability for the ABV.
4 out of 5

Lees & Co. (Brewers) Ltd, J.W.
2007 Harvest Ale Limited Edition (Matured in Lagavulin Whiskey Casks)
English Barleywine
England
11.5%
9oz, Single
$8.99
Serious amount of sediment, like where’s the cheesecloth? Otherwise, bright and clear amber orange coloration with a reddish cast, close to total absence of any head or lacing, even a vigorous swirl gets you nothing, no bubbles visible, looks dead in terms of carbonation. The nose is highly aggressive and gets right in there, beef jerky, leather, pork rinds, candied orange peels, vanilla pudding, very heady and boozy, poached apricots and peaches, honey and licorice, deserves to be allowed to come close to room temperature to truly strut its stuff. Medium-bodied, while heavy in some respects not leaden and certainly moves agilely while it stays aligned with its overall goals. The gamey, leathery qualities persist, it’s like having a smokehouse in your mouth, is this liquid pork? The dried fruit quality peach, apricot, nectarine, apple fruit thick and viscous start to finish. Here the caramel, vanilla, butterscotch, cola bean oak dominant, particularly as it warms. This is a beer meant to be slowly sipped in front of a roaring fire with a cigar in hand. Smoky with its own tobacco and ash qualities. Has to be taken at face value, there’s no great beers, just great bottles of beers. Psyche.
4 out of 5

Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery, The
Hoppy Bunny ABA
American Black Ale
North Carolina
7.3%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Easily over two fingers of dark brown foam, good mixture of bubble sizes which causes some dimpling, takes some time sizzling down to the surface, solid ring of lacing around most of the glass, tenacious grip. The liquid is black and opaque but not quite so dense that you can’t see the tiny bubbles rise, thin ring of orange at the glass bottom. Real roasty, toasty nose of cocoa powder, ground coffee, vanilla bean, oats and unprocessed grains, the interplay between malts and the hoppier pine, white citrus notes quite pleasing, really stiffens in your nostrils without seeming heavy, very longlasting. Medium-bodied plus, carbonation at first gives it a fluffy mouth feel, however, overall dryness wins out. Licorice, more of that mocha to cocoa powder and roasted coffee, nutty at turns. The orange to grapefruit citrus has a harder time finding its voice here. More floral than grassy, hops add more texture than flavor. Minor notes of peach, cherry, black grape fruit. Smoky like a wood grill. There’s a lot of energy here which may now and then mask some of its complexity. Real intense, need a glass of water to rinse the flavors out.
5 out of 5

Uinta Brewing Company
Hyve Honey Ale (Ale Brewed With Honey)
American Blonde Ale
Utah
4.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Pours close to two fingers of eggshell white microfoam, dissolves rapidly without much dimpling, leaves a thin coating of islands across the surface, curiously the thin lacing sticks in complete sheets down the glass sides and refuses to budge. The liquid is a light coppery orange color, very clear with loosely scattered if active tiny bubbles, very little change around the rims and glass bottom, maybe slight yellowing. The nose is salty and pretzel-like more than honeyed, wheat germ and cut grass, whisper of pressed flowers and orange rind, pinch of cocoa powder, the peach, apricot fruit silently nods when it meets your eye. Medium-bodied, for as dry as it is the carbonation gives it a soft and fluffy mouth feel. The honey a notch higher here, no more, sweetens the lemon to orange citrus and bolsters the yellow apple, peach, apricot fruit, at least through the mid-palate. More wheat and unprocessed grains than green hoppiness. Retains that element of salt with some white pepper too. Balanced with no one part sticking out above the rest, not going to break any new territory but super easy to throw back.
3 out of 5

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Chugged in May 2012

Green Flash Brewing Company
Palate Wrecker Hamilton’s Ale
American Double/Imperial IPA
California
9.5%
12oz, 4-Pack
$14.89
Foams up over three fingers of off-white, delicate with a few deep dimples, retains well at about a finger, the lacing doesn’t stick as you think it might, you get a few, albeit thick, streaks here or there. Murky to opaque orange rust colored liquid, more red than yellow tint, very few visible bubbles. The nose is classic, lots of orange to grapefruit citrus, pine, honeyed bread, flowers, pepper and milk chocolate, fills out with resonant pineapple, peach, nectarine fruit scents, thick and syrupy nostril texture, too dense to really lift much. Full-bodied, the carbonation relatively light for the heaviness you get here too, glues itself to your mouth pores as well. Pine sap, cocoa, orange and both white and pink grapefruit pith, the bitterness creates the initial impression of dryness, however, it stays juicy through the flowers and pineapple, mango, nectarine, apricot fruit. The pepper and earth components extend the finish, lots of reverb, even more prickle than expected with the so-so carbonation. Isn’t breaking new flavor territory but amplifies everything while staying well balanced. That honey sneaks out onto stage through the finish, brings some caramel and molasses along. Impressive.
5 out of 5

Highland Brewing Company
Razor Wit Belgian Style White Ale
Witbier
North Carolina
4.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.79
Finger plus of pure white foam, delicate and dimples easily, dimples quickly and then forms a thin layer across the surface, minimal lacing. Big storm of bubbles inside the glass, no beads, not quite transparent with a certain dullness to the light orange hued liquid, even with slight yellowing at the edge of the glass presents a consistent depth of hue. The nose is easygoing yet pungent, coriander, caraway, juniper, pepper and tea leaves, strong orange and lemon pith but not so floral, the wheat light as well, a glance of peach, apricot pit. Medium-bodied, were it not for its dryness it would seem really fluffy, heavily carbonated. There is a bitter, if not metallic, touch to it, here the wheat and graininess very apparent. The orange, tangerine citrus steady and the coriander and other spices not looking to hog the spotlight. Any yeastiness does little to soften the texture. A moment or two of cocoa along with that tea leaf and apricot, pear fruit. Lingers well, no wimp by any stretch. Too slowly paced and bottom heavy to refresh fully but you respect the depth of the few well chosen flavors.
3 out of 5

NoDa Brewing Company
10 Blocks South
American Pale Ale
North Carolina
5.5%
64oz, Growler
$12.00
Pours a big three plus finger head of eggshell white, very airy and whipped up, dimples some as it dissolves off, good mixture of small and moderate bubble sizes, lacing sticks in thicker streaks, retention overall is very good. Very clear brownish amber colored liquid, metallic orange rims, on the whole darker than one might expect. The nose spreads out casually, emphasizes tangerine, orange, pink grapefruit citrus while not getting that sweet, touch of honeyed bread, more fresh flowers and cocoa and then ripe peach, apricot fruit, strong grassy and piney hops for spine while staying mellow. Close to full-bodied, fluffy without being too soft, here the hops really cut right into the middle of things, herbaceous and almost close to tree bark and earth. The cocoa to mocha percolates underneath the tangerine, orange citrus, the latter sweet but not sugary. Steady peach, apple, apricot fruit supports well. The carbonation is maybe a bit heavy handed, could pull back some. More dough and pastry flakes than bread or pretzel dough. Light saltiness. Bright finish that extends things nicely. Pushing from APA into IPA territory but stays within bounds. Has personality.
4 out of 5

NoDa Brewing Company
Ramble On Red
American Amber/Red Ale
North Carolina
5.2%
64oz, Growler
$12.00
A little under one finger of off-white to tan foam, steady dissolve down to a thin dusting across the surface, the lacing is likewise thin and slides down with ease. Bright metallic amber color with about equal orange to brown tints, hint of yellow at the glass bottom, quite clear, shiny and transparent, very few bubbles visible. While caramel and molasses come through in the nose, it remains primarily driven by dried grass, wheat germ, pepper, pretzel dough notes, touch of white grapefruit pith, no discernible fruit presence but some lactose to help it become creamier in feel as it warms up. Full-bodied, round but not soft in texture, the carbonation is way higher than the head and visible bubbles would suggest, lots of prickle. Here too the herbaceous qualities, salt and pepper, country style bread crust and lemon to grapefruit bite dominates. Conversely, the caramel, butterscotch, chocolate, cola bean accents steady throughout. Light apricot, apple, peach nuances. On the whole, probably just more sweet than dry, with a wiry tautness. Wears its complexity well and stays balanced, stays drinkable a few pints in.
5 out of 5

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Chugged in April 2012

Cigar City Brewing
Maduro Brown Ale
English Brown Ale
Florida
5.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$8.99
Light tan head, a little over one finger, very fine foam and easy to dissolve, the lacing has zero stickiness, slides right down the glass sides. Mostly transparent cocoa brown color, reddish tint that becomes orange at the glass bottom, loosely aggregated but stormy bubbles, very tiny bubbles. Chocolate and mocha fill the nose, rich plum to cherry fruit too, molasses crisp, cola, orange blossom, not much here you could peg as true hoppiness, that said, not too heavy nor sweet, steady in its good natured monochrome nature. Light-bodied, the carbonation is on the fine side but incredibly steady, providing freshening lift. The cocoa, mocha accents dry and have some dark chocolate bitterness, hint of coffee as well. The dryness becomes very apparent by the end, here this does create space for some grassiness. The orange citrus finds some lemon accompaniment as well as pressed flowers. High degree of activity in the mouth, might be tiresome were it not for the consistency of its primary flavors.
3 out of 5

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Noble Rot (Ale Brewed With Grape Must And With Grape Must Added)
Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Delaware
9.0%
25.4oz, Single
$11.39
Bleached white head, very airy and delicate, starts out over three fingers when you pour put resolves down quickly with lots of dimpling across the surface, not a large amount of lacing but what’s there is very sticky and longlasting. The liquid is a pale yellow to orange hue, shiny and fully transparent with a few bubble beads which sustain themselves well. The nose is sour and freshly penetrating, the wine component comes through clearly, boosting the florality as well as peach, apple, apricot, pear fruit, light banana, the citrus is a mix of lemon and white grapefruit, there’s a solid amount of ginger, coriander like spices, more leesy than yeasty, displays good lift given its relative heaviness in your nostrils. Medium-bodied, even sourer here with the addition of a strong grassiness alongside the elevating mixed citrus and unprocessed wheat and grains. You can make a better argument for yeastiness in the mouth, softens things a touch and supports the length of the apricot, peach, pineapple, green apple fruit. The baking spices take a step or two back from center stage. As it warms more of the pils qualities come out. The carbonation level is about where it should be, perhaps a little light. The funkiness is not dominant and, accounting for the overall sourness, the total experience is pretty clean. Good retronasal action after you swallow, extends presence.
3 out of 5

Southern Tier Brewing Company
Porter
American Porter
New York
5.8%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.29
Weak head, maybe half a finger tops of light brown foam, no real lacing to speak of. Immaculate and unblemished black liquid, the rims form a broad orange circle with yellow at the furthermost parts, transparent thereabouts. The nose presents an attractive spine of hops, herbal matter and pressed flowers before yielding the floor to café au lait, milk chocolate, scones, orange peel and cola notes, so much roast and toast, maybe an undercurrent of dark fruits, steady presence and without rough patches. Medium-bodied, the carbonation is soft and downy which adds to the smooth, creamy texture, effortlessly fills in every crevice of your palate. Sweet yet not sugary, hard to imagine more malty roast, all chocolate, cocoa, mocha, coffee, nuts and breakfast baked goods. The orange citrus, pine and pinch of pepper add moderate contrast. Plum and black cherry fruit make a swift appearance. There’s not a lot of nuance nor subtlety here but there’s consistency and richness in spades. Waves of it, in fact.
3 out of 5

Port City Brewing Company
Essential Pale Ale
American Pale Ale
Virginia
5.5%
12oz
6-Pack
$11.79
Finger’s worth of close to pure white loose foam, starts to disintegrate swiftly to barely cover the surface, likewise the lacing is thin and easily slides off the glass. Light and transparent orange to yellow in color, few bubbles visible but what’s there are large, clean and clear but not much to look at. The nose is super-sweet with oodles of apricot and peach fruit, milk chocolate and malty caramel, some grass, wheat germ, pepper and lemon zest, perhaps some charcoal, a bit boozy like rum, neither bready nor flowery. Medium-bodied, soft and creamy mouth feel with fluffed up carbonation which extends the sensations from your tongue to the roof, here the orange to lemon citrus matches the sweetness of that apricot, peach, yellow apple fruit. The cocoa stiffer, brings out some coffee and country bread notes, light burnt toast. More of that mineral to charcoal aspect, seems incongruent with the whole. Firms up as it warms so serving temperature may play a role in how you enjoy it. That said, remains very much on the sweet end of the spectrum.
3 out of 5

Hoegaarden, Brouwerij van
Wit Blanche (Wheat Beer Brewed With Spices)
Witbier
Belgium
4.9%
11.2oz, 6-Pack
$10.29
Pure white head, barely reaches half a finger even with an aggressive pour, sizzles down to nothing quickly, no lacing, looks like a tight array of ball bearings sliding down the glass side. While the liquid is the palest of yellows, its glow and ability to hold light inside amplifies its presence, reaches a gauzy opacity, haphazard large bubbles whiz upwards. The wheat is gentle in the nose, a drying supplement to the base of orange and lemon citrus, caraway, coriander, cinnamon and dried yeasts and baking dough, apricots and pears underneath, bare whiff of banana without impairing cleanliness, subtly steady length. Medium-bodied, semi-sluggish and apt to just plop down on the tongue, even allowing for a slight prickle from the carbonation. The anise, coriander, cumin spice supplemented by vanilla bean, these elements contribute to a sweetness throughout that lemon, orange citrus. Peach and apricot pulp, maybe melon or apple too. A few bubblegum notes. Wheat and grains appear about midway to dry out the palate. Keeps a steady message without too many moving parts, user friendly and not out to overtly challenge anyone.
3 out of 5

Uinta Brewing Company
Baba Black Lager
Euro Dark Lager
Utah
4.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Close to two fingers of dark tan foam, presents a few islands of larger bubbles which dissipate back into an even surface, the retention is very good and the lacing shows above average stickiness. While pure black in color, not fully opaque, the liquid has great clarity despite the hue, a metallic orange cast shows up at the glass bottom. The nose gives up lots of roast, chocolate powder, café au lait as well as a nice spine of herbal matter, no real fruitiness, same for broad hop based scents, there is some country style bread, barley and oats, leans heavily on malts for effect. Medium-bodied, acts like it is trying to develop some bitterness, light grassiness and pine then yields to all that roast and toast, coffee beans, dark chocolate, malted milk balls and sweet bread dough. Comes up with some dried orange peel and licorice notes, adds welcome variety. The carbonation is unobtrusive yet present. Maybe some dark fruits at the end. It’s competent and consistent, pleases you for how it maintains a high energy level from first to last sip.
4 out of 5

Sierra Nevada
2012 Ruthless Rye IPA
American IPA
California
6.6%
12oz, 6-Pack
$8.99
You get a little over a finger’s worth of very even foam, dense with a few islands of larger bubbles, wispy lacing without much stick, retention is average and unremarkable. Deep bronze hued liquid, clear with an orange to yellow tint at the glass bottom, the bubbles are tiny and spread wide, shines brightly. The rye gives the nose a pleasing rugged to raw feel, scrubs deeply, fairly herbal with grapefruit pith and unprocessed grains, rock salt, you only get the powdered chocolate as it warms, any flowers or fruit muted. Medium-bodied, muscular in feel, flexes more than flows, the carbonation isn’t aggressive nor creamy, just nudges things now and then. The orange, tangerine to pink grapefruit citrus starts out sweet and then yields to the herbaceousness, pine cone and rye. The peach, apricot, pineapple fruit speaks more clearly here. Light toastiness but not doughy nor bready per se. Hard to find a distinct flavor profile to the malts, at most basic milk chocolate. Solidly constructed yet unremarkable, which is not really a slam at all.
3 out of 5

Green Flash Brewing Company
Rayon Vert Belgian-Style Pale Ale
Belgian Pale Ale
California
7.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.99
Big head that initially fills a quarter of the glass, very fine and delicate foam of eggshell white, much better retention than expected albeit with minimal stickiness to the lacing. Cloudy liquid with a strong orange rust metallic coloration, perhaps a light brown tint while more yellow at the rims, loosely assembled but large bubbles rise swiftly throughout. Yeast, flowers, orange peel, wheat germ, apples and pears comprise most of the nose, some earthiness but not really as funky as one might expect, good density but lacks staying power. Full-bodied, here in the mouth it’s creamy and bottom heavy, sinks deeply into the palate. Develops a peppery kick as well as added grassiness, supports the tartness of the orange, lemon citrus and clove. Vague minerally aspect but, again, clean on the whole. Dry, the pear, peach, apple fruit feels cellar dried, most of the sweet juiciness gone. Manages to not appear overtly hoppy nor malty, minimal breadiness or doughiness. The citrus outlasts the rest. More interesting than pleasurable, little is casual about it.
3 out of 5

21st Amendment Brewery
Brew Free! Or Die IPA
American IPA
California
7.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.49
Close to three fingers of highly whipped up cream to off-white hued foam, hardly anything but micro sized bubbles, slight dimpling but retention is good enough that it dissolves evenly, the lacing is thin yet highly sticky and pretty much there until you wipe it out. Orange rust colored liquid, more red than yellow, consistent throughout, only a few lazy bubbles to be seen. The nose is full of coconut custard, vanilla, molasses, challah bread, tangerine citrus, pine and tropical pineapple, guava, mango and nectarine fruit, the malts help smooth out what would otherwise be a fairly raw, burning presence, quite strong overall and persistent. Full-bodied, the carbonation tends towards soft and foamy thus there’s not much cleansing feel going on. Sinks in and on the heavy side. The fruit and citrus presents a sour, tart character, more white grapefruit to mandarin orange here with that pineapple, guava, green apple and peach creating pucker. The malts create a chocolate and caramel background alongside the honey and molasses. The pine sap is evident, the floral side lacks spaces to create airy perfume. Some peppery qualities. Feels oily in texture. Certainly intense, likely a love it or hate it sort of experience.
3 out of 5

NoDa Brewing Company
Midnight Madness (Cascadian Dark Ale)
American Black Ale
North Carolina
6.75%
64oz, Growler
$13.00
Solid finger plus of light tan foam, good mixture of all bubble sizes and excellent retention, barely moves even as a few dimples form, the lacing forms broad streaks which then slowly slide downwards in a solid sheet. Opaque, more blackish than pure black, you get a good bit of dark brown and some orange at the glass bottom and rims, overall fresh in appearance. The nose first hits you with mocha, cocoa notes with a finely burnt character before sea salt, peat, wet meadow herbal matter, the hops determined to spread widely, hence the orange citrus, white pit fruit never enunciates that clearly, some pine, anise and camphor, lots of cleansing, scrubbing action. Medium-bodied, the carbonation is not quite fluffy but does expand from cheek to cheek. The bitterness of the herbaceous hops clear right from the start and that burnt, charred aspect noticeable. Dark chocolate, coffee and hard caramel candy barely sweeten things despite big presence. Pine, blood orange, some flowers but close to no fruit of note. The mouth feel is clean and it creates a strong lifting perfume. Good vibrating finish, keeps tingling. Dryness perhaps makes it more of a meal accompaniment than session beer.
3 out of 5

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Chugged in March 2012

Native Brewing Company
Native Lager
Light Lager
Florida
12oz
6-Pack, $8.99
Thick creamy head, close to bleached white, the microfoam dissolves quickly to a thin surface layer, not much lacing but enough that you can say it’s there. Bright orange to golden color, very clean and clear, so many bubbles it looks like a snow storm. Very sweet nose of sugar cane, honey, corn syrup, quite peppery too with a dried herbaceousness as well, solid lemon zest, surprisingly ripe peach and apricot fruit scents, overall sweet and agreeably simple. Light to medium-bodied, fluffed up from the downy soft carbonation, more adjunct like flavors of corn syrup, meal, honey, sweet spices like nutmeg or coriander. The white pepper element lower here while the grassiness makes for a drying finish. The apricot, peach, yellow apple fruit steady throughout. It is really unremarkable yet at the end of the day it still brings a smile to your face. Makes you not want to analyze it much.
3 out of 5

Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams)
Alpine Spring (A Bright Citrusy Unfiltered Lager)
Keller Bier/Zwickel Bier
Massachusetts
5.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.69
Bone white head of whipped up froth, crackles with popping bubbles and dissipates quickly down to a surface coating, thin, if any, lacing left behind. Pale metallic orange in hue, slightly yellow at the rims, a few very scattered bubbles randomly arrayed. The nose is not soft per se, however, it does recline into your nostrils with non-aggressive warm bread, flowers, honey and peach pit scents, picks it up some via herbaceous and salty notes, some dried white citrus pith too, strikes a nice balance between accommodating and interesting. Medium-bodied, the carbonation lends it added creaminess, gently fills the mouth. Here the citrus and peach, apple, apricot fruit sweeter, especially as it warms. The honey to brown sugar element fits in just fine here, although tends to cover up the floral side some. The salt and pepper, dried grass and mineral notes dry it out as it gets nearer the finish. Again, neither hops nor malts predominate, any bitterness simply brings needed freshness vis-à-vis the underlying sweetness. Maintains its grip long after you swallow, while easy to drink could as easily be underestimated.
4 out of 5

Mikkeller
Beer Hop Breakfast (Oatmeal Stout Brewed With Coffee)
American Stout
Denmark
7.5%
16.9oz, Single
$11.49
Thick two finger head of super dark brown, surface filled with larger bubbles which contributes to a steady dissolve, you can watch it disappear, the lacing has moderate strength but not so much density. The liquid is fully black, however, you see some tiny bubbles rising inside and the outer rims and surface take on a yellow hue, looks sturdy. The nose offers palpable coffee roast along with powdered chocolate and cocoa, big burst of pink grapefruit and pine betrays the hops presence, in some ways the green herbal nature becomes dominant, minor notes of plum or cherry fruit, doesn’t come across as sweet as expected. Medium-bodied, what’s there feels heavy on the tongue, here the roast more pronounced and bitter, coffee grounds, dark chocolate, mocha, tar, tobacco resin with toasted bread more than softer yeast accents. The pine, grapefruit and leaf to grass hops bust right up the middle, minimal sweetness found on the tongue too. The carbonation is subtly refreshing more than a definite presence. No real fruit presence, the finish becomes more astringent to bitter. Tastes clearly like a fusion of two different beers. More curious than pleasurable.
3 out of 5

Avery Brewing Company
Out Of Bounds Stout
Irish Dry Stout
Colorado
6.3%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.79
Almost two fingers of dark brown foam, highly dimpled surface, looks like someone just whipped it with an egg beater, decent retention given the large amount of larger bubbles, the lacing is not thick but stays present in wide sticky sheets on the glass sides. The liquid is close to black but you come down deciding it’s really just very dark brown, touch of orange at the glass bottom. Loads of roast to the nose, still it’s the green, herbaceous hoppiness which is most evident, this over coffee, cocoa and malted milk ball accents, pronounced floral side too, the burnt qualities make it difficult to discern much fruit, its general dryness makes an impression just smelling it. Full-bodied, close to heavy but more so just dense for the sake of being dense, nothing gained texturally from it. Here the dryness takes some sting out of the roastiness, palate already deadened some. Dark roast coffee beans, cocoa to pine, dried flowers, earth and tar bring big pucker factor. The carbonation does not distinguish itself, however, doesn’t really seem undercarbonated either. OK, a pinch of cherry to red plum fruit. Could give you a little more to love here but no doubting its strong personality.
3 out of 5

Matt Brewing Company (Saranac)
Irish Red Ale
Irish Red Ale
New York
4.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$7.99
Moderate one finger plus head of light tan coloration, evaporates too quickly to really dimple, mostly smaller bubbles, the lacing appears a thin sheet which drifts quickly down the side of the glass. Copperish color to the liquid, very clear with a horde of loose bubbles rising inside, more bright orange around the rims. Pralines, candied nuts, brown sugar, molasses, kind of grapey with date, fig, banana aspects, does have a bit more grains and hoppiness than expected, gives it better posture in the nostrils. Light-bodied, would likely feel flat were it not for the quite aggressive carbonation which keeps it sloshing around the mouth. Here you get a light metallic aspect along with quinine and more indistinct herbaceousness. Not as sweet as the nose would suggest, however, you do get caramel, cane sugar, molasses, bubblegum notes along with Challah bread. The fig, apple, pear fruit basic enough, supplemented by some orange peel. The nuttiness helps flesh out the finish. All in all, not bad for what it is but not something I’d seek out per se.
2 out of 5

Full Sail Brewing Company
Amber Ale
American Amber/Red Ale
Oregon
5.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.29
The moderate head crests a little below a finger’s worth of eggshell white foam, dissipates in a big rush down to a thin layer across the surface, what meager lacing there is sticks adequately. The liquid is more brown than copper, likewise more red than orange, very clear and transparent, extremely few bubbles visible. The nose conveys sweetness via caramel, milk chocolate, pecans and yeast, comes up with a little citrus and herbal hops but remains tame overall, when the floral notes appear they support the sweeter profile, difficult to name any particular fruit aspect. Medium-bodied, the carbonation is on the low side causing it to feel semi-flat on the palate. Drier here with grass, pine, white pepper and sea salt nuances, at the same time there’s nuts, graham cracker, caramel and chocolate to bring it back to the middle. Which is where it resides, pleasurable but playing it safe. Fruitier through the finish with apple, peach and apricot notes. Hard to really fault it but, at the same time, doesn’t get you too excited to pop open another.
3 out of 5

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Chugged in February 2012

Anderson Valley Brewing Company
Boont ESB (Extra Special Beer)
Extra Special/Strong Bitter (ESB)
California
6.8%
12oz, 6-Pack
$13.49
Creamy microfoam head of eggshell white, doesn’t dimple as much as form rolling hills across the surface, excellent retention with thick and sticky lacing as well. The liquid is hazy and opaque, a glowing orange to yellow color, a few trace loose bubbles discernible within. The nose features honey, bread, cocoa dust, malts with some peat moss, dried lemons, coal tar, matted meadow grasses, some peach to apricot fruit, it’s not really that funky but by the same token the word “clean” does not leap into your mind either. Full-bodied, creamy attack which segues into a bitter finish with a light metal to iodine ring to it. All the apricot, peach, yellow apple, pear fruit as well as white grapefruit to lemon citrus feels pressed, ripe but all the juice forced out. Honey, maple syrup and cocoa fill in some blank spots, buttered biscuit more burnt than undercooked. The carbonation is perhaps too fluffed up to keep the whole clear and linear. It’s interesting at times but not the sort of brew you really want to invest a lot of time or gullet space to.
2 out of 5

NoDa Brewing Company
Coco Loco Porter (Brewed With Toasted Organic Coconut)
American Porter
North Carolina
6.3%
64oz, Growler
$13.50
Dimpled head of a little over a finger, peppered with larger bubbles which create the uneven surface, however retention is very good and the lacing forms an intricate and full weave around the glass sides. Black and fully opaque liquid, some yellow to a dilute orange at the glass bottom and rims, populated with a horde of microcosmic bubbles loosely floating upwards. Very steady roast to the nose without pushing into acrid or bitter territory, dark chocolate powder, coffee, peanut brittle, the coconut almost gets lost in the shuffle, the hops punch throw decisively, pretzel dough, salt, grasses and more sour grain notes, appears to want correct posture and plenty of zip in your nostrils over sweetly soaking in. Medium-bodied, the carbonation is energetic yet fine, lends creaminess to the overall texture. Dark chocolate, cocoa, vanilla powder and butterscotch come to the fore before any coconut, here the roast is dialed back, cutting down on coffee accents. Some raw, uncooked nuttiness. You get mixed dark fruits in trade off for the citric element. The hops less obtrusive here and just add pep and lift to the finish as well as inner mouth perfume. While dry, keeps you sipping.
4 out of 5

The Alchemist/Ninkasi/Stone Brewing Company
More Brown Than Black IPA
American Black Ale
California
7.4%
12oz, Single
$3.29
Nicely whipped up head, crests near two fingers, plenty of larger bubbles forming islands here and there, pretty deep tan color, good retention, lacing is wispier than expected and doesn’t stick much. Murky brown color with a yellow tinge, huge amount of floating particles inside, saved lots of money on filters. The nose filled with pine sap, sour oranges, flowers and pineapple, nectarine, green apple, peach fruit, maybe you get discern some cocoa, mocha or coconut but it’s close to seeming 100% hops, doesn’t last especially long. Full-bodied, bitter and resinous, glues itself to your palate and starts scrubbing away. The coconut, caramel, butterscotch and chocolate comes through clearly here. Still, the pine and herbs bring pucker, joined in this by tart grapefruit to orange citrus. The pineapple, papaya, nectarine fruit sour too and not very flavorful. The carbonation gets aggressive and contributes to its lack of overall balance and rougher texture. The heat is evident, were it not for the sweetness of that caramel and coconut oil you might need a throat lozenge for relief. No doubt it accomplishes its intent.
3 out of 5

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Chugged in January 2012

Highland Brewing Company
Thunderstruck Coffee Porter
American Porter
North Carolina
5.8%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.29
Presents two fingers of dark brown foam, islands of larger bubbles create an uneven surface, not the longest retention so it smoothes out as it settles, while thin the lacing sticks for an extended period. Spotless black liquid, now and then you see a few tiny bubbles make a run for the surface, very thin orange band around the glass bottom. The coffee roast in the nose is thick but not heavy and, actually, not as overly dominant as expected, chicory, lemon peel, bitter dark chocolate and a few coconut flakes slip in, some mint or other herbs, dry nostril texture with no real fruitiness, penetrates like an arrow. Medium-bodied, unyielding at moments, yet releases enough to flow forward. As before, the coffee roast is not bitter nor aggressive if omnipresent. Any nuttiness equally met by lemon to grapefruit citrus accents, especially as aided by mineral water flavoring. Sweeter grains and blanched nuts center it. The carbonation has a light fluffing sensation, peters out by the finish. Its lack of ostentation a big plus. Still, for its complete lack of flaws does not particularly compel you to have another.
3 out of 5

21st Amendment Brewery
Back In Black Black IPA (American IPA Brewed With Rich Dark Malts)
American Black Ale
California
6.8%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.49
Yields a big three finger head of deep tan color, quite airy, little dimpling, almost entirely microbubbles, the lacing is noticeably thick and sticks excellently. Not quite fully black liquid, more like brackish, muddy water, lots of brown with some yellow touches, plenty of floaties inside too. The nose has a gentle roast to it, coffee, cocoa, mocha and malted milk balls, brings some raisin to plum fruit too, nice floral dew, macadamia nuts, dried orange peel, requires concentration to register its complexity but it is there for the taking. Medium-bodied, at times a touch too foamy but calms down quickly, this added creamy texture helps reign in the hoppiness albeit it by no stretch gets close to greenness or bitter puckering. More dark chocolate and coffee bean than sweeter caramel or toffee, some milkiness though. The nuttiness higher here, that macadamia plus pecan and Brazil nuts. Conversely the citrus recedes yet you get more pine. Not sweet enough for raisin, stays in the plum, peach, cherry and apple range. Clings to your mouth pores, borderline oily. A very interesting as well as chuggable beer that is not worth getting pedantic about in terms of general categorization.
5 out of 5

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Ta Henket (Beer Brewed With Za’atar, Doum Fruit, And Chamomile)
American Pale Wheat Ale
Delaware
4.5%
25.4oz, Single
$13.99
Pours a monumental head that fills half the glass with wispy of-white foam, not much retention, dissolves without dimpling, the microbubbles all knit together, average lacing, not a lot but what’s there sticks in wide splotches. Copper orange to yellow in color, decent clarity, hue depth also adequate, like zero bubbles to be seen, kinda just looks like “beer.” The nose is quiet to subtle, brown bread crust, pretzel dough, salt and pepper, orange to lemon reduction, peach, apricot, pear and melon fruit scents, the chamomile comes through clearly, honey and then some cloves but really no one element leaps out at you here. Medium-bodied, more savory than sweet, carbonation is low but still more than you’d expect from visual inspection, salt, pepper, sage, rosemary, metallic flecks and a light pinch of clove and cumin. The chamomile more muted here, however, the orange, lemon, white grapefruit citrus lasts fully throughout. As in the nose, mildly surprising strength in the apricot, peach, apple, melon fruit, nothing too sweet but ripe and consistent. The herbaceous element rises as it warms. As with many one-off beers from this producer it very credibly feels as if it was made according to some exacting ancient recipe. Naturally, this can be a good or a bad thing.
3 out of 5

Rogue Ales Brewery
American Amber Ale
American Amber/Red Ale
Oregon
5.6%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.99
Nice, full two finger head of orange-tinted tan, almost all microfoam with an even surface and delicate to the touch, the lacing is not overpowering but where it sticks it sticks in thick streaks. The liquid is a cloudy, glowing, opaque amber red, every bit true to the category, equal parts brown and orange rust, hordes of loose bubbles scattered throughout. The nose seems to take pains to play down the malt side of the equation, all pine, peat, salt and pepper, unprocessed grains and dry earth before allowing room for any butterscotch, caramel hard candy or cocoa accents, does not display discernible fruit nor citrus notes, lasts well without being showy. Medium-bodied, outsized carbonation fluffs it up big time in the mouth, at times you feel like its gonna escape your pursed lips. While there is an underlying astringency, here you get a lot more caramel, toffee, creamed coffee as well as cocoa roast. The grains turn towards country style bread and biscuits, less herbal. Here you get a splash of grapefruit and sour orange alongside the more saline aspect. Stains the palate deeply, you can taste it fully long after you’ve swallowed. Well-crafted and unique in subtle ways.
4 out of 5

Butte Creek Brewing Company
Organic Porter
American Porter
California
6.1%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.49
Thin head of basic tannish brown, dissipates swiftly down to the barest surface coating, the lacing slides fully off the glass sides back into the abyss below. Clear liquid, mainly brown yet with a strong reddish cast, you get a hint of metallic orange at the glass bottom, widely dispersed storm of tiny bubbles easily visible. The nose is fairly demure, has a clean roastiness to it, dark chocolate, mocha, coffee beans, more grapefruit than other citrus, cherry and blackberry fruit, some mineral water, keeps hinting at deeper complexity but then not delivering. Medium-bodied, the active carbonation takes its feet moving and creates counterpoint to the underlying creaminess. Basic profile of chocolate, cocoa, coffee, caramel, condensed milk and cola, not truly that roasty nor toasty, while not that sweet either. Here more orange citrus evident, teams up decently with bitter herbs and bread grains, nothing overtly grassy. Some earth, metal, sparkling water aspects. It’s extremely safe and by-the-book character at once it’s strength and weakness. Very good drinkability.
3 out of 5

Full Sail Brewing Company
Session Black Lager
Schwarzbier
Oregon
5.4%
11oz, Single
$1.59
Around a finger of deep tan foam, lots of larger bubbles interspersed creating a dimpled surface, not much retention and dissolves to the surface quickly, any lacing evanescent as well. Rich brown to orange in color while remaining fully transparent, shines vividly in the glass. The nose is not really that smoky and puts the spotlight on caramel, honey dolloped breads, brown sugar, cola bean and a touch of café au lait, minor element of grains and yeast, the plum to black cherry fruit has some prune in it, average length and staying power. Medium-bodied, the carbonation is not that big, however, it does steadily churn across the tongue and relieves some sweetness. That said, the smokiness here too is a barbecue grill nature and plays to the molasses, caramel, brown sugar, grilled nuts, cola and mocha chocolate. More breakfast danish sort of breadiness than dinner breads or pretzels, no pronounced hops presence. The fruits more a mix than distinct flavors, dark berries and cherries. In the end it’s the carbonation which saves it and allows it to be “sessionable.” Could put back 2-3 before getting bored.
3 out of 5

Uinta Brewing Company
Hop Notch IPA
American IPA
Utah
7.3%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.29
Sort of thinnish head, around a finger’s worth of just off-white foam, moderately tight weave helps retention until there’s just a few islands left, the lacing is wispy but sticks alright. Exquisitely clear copper orange colored liquid, glistens in the glass, virtually no bubbles visible though. Playfully scented nose of hothouse flowers, pine sap, pink grapefruit to tangerine citrus and an erect spine of herbal hops and pepper, the apricot, peach, pineapple fruit more muted, in the end more sweet than bitter but not lacking in the latter, quietly worms its way into your nostrils like it owns the deed. Medium-bodied, places the bitterness and leafy hoppiness upfront for an initial puckering effect, then allows the general creamy mouth texture to take over, orange pekoe tea, licorice, pine, sourdough bread segue to fuller pineapple, mango, peach, apricot fruit. Pink and white grapefruit, tangerine, mandarin orange, citrus soup in your mouth. Carbonation has a keen prickle to it but neither broad nor especially long lived. Very clean finish, refreshing and tingly. Could drink a lot of these ice cold.
5 out of 5

Butte Creek Brewing Company
Organic Pale Ale
American Pale Ale
California
5.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.49
Pours a large three finger plus head of extremely delicate off-white foam, craters more than dimples, you can feel the bubbles pop against your lips, while thin and wispy the lacing sticks very well. While clear enough, the orange to yellow liquid has a metallic sheen and traps light within to glow, given the immensity of the head few bubbles visible within. Bitter nose focusing on pretzel dough, salt and pepper, green grasses, sour lemons, earth and a metallic minerality, light cocoa powder presence otherwise malts pretty subdued, same thing for any mixed white pit fruit scents, lasts decently but stays monochrome. Full-bodied, dense with the sort of carbonation which pushes against your cheeks rather than scrub clean. More baked bread and grains than raw dough, not as tart as the nose might suggest, some residual sweetness in the grapefruit, lemon citrus as well as peach, apricot, apple fruit. Still, retains that metallic aspect which in turn elevates earthiness and pepperiness. More leafy than grassy here. Some pine cone, not sweet. Gets tiring to drink after awhile, not good for the category.
3 out pf 5

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Chugged in December 2011

Natty Greene’s Pub & Brewing Co.
Red Nose Winter Ale
Winter Warmer
North Carolina
6.8%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.29
Close to two fingers of deep tan foam, dense with good retention and some dimpling, mainly smaller bubbles, while not a lot of stickiness to the lacing it does take a good while to slide down the glass side in a solid sheet. Very deep reddish brown clay in color, some yellowing around the rims, mostly opaque, a few beads of tiny, widely spread bubbles visible. Nose highly spiced, full of cinnamon, clove, anise, juniper as well as mocha, milk chocolate, toffee, strong mixed citrus presence, some cherry, plum, apricot fruit, overall dry in texture, almost dusty. Full-bodied, again spicy with that juniper, coriander and licorice it almost seems like gin at first, then you got a healthy dose of chocolate, cola, clove, nutmeg, caramel and toffee which both sweetens and normalizes it. Lots of carbonation with a fine prickle rather than creaminess. Strong orange citrus infusion. Moderate peach, red cherry, pear, apple fruit. Comes close to trying to do too much but manages to get it all cohering in the end. Fun and can appeal to a variety of personal tastes.
4 out of 5

Lost Coast Brewery & Cafe
Winterbraun
English Brown Ale
California
6.8%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.49
Big three finger plus head of dark tan, fairly whipped up and airy yet has decent retention, the lacing is thick yet slides down the glass sides swiftly leaving a streak here or there. Dark brown colored liquid with a yellow tint, fairly transparent, sedate and inviting presence in the glass. The nose has lots of scone, biscuit and flaky dough in addition to cocoa, mocha and caramel, with all this yet manages to stay firm and dry, the plum, cherry scents have a dried fruit character with raisins and dates mixed in, light leafy, herbal matter too which helps give it character and balance. Medium-bodied, lots of carbonation and churn in the mouth, given this still glues itself to the palate. Loaded with chocolate, cocoa flavors, very dominant, the caramel and toffee a clear second. The breakfast breads and doughiness counterbalanced by orange zest and tea leaves. Pinch of cinnamon powder. As in the nose the components suggest sweetness more than the whole delivers, not necessarily a bad thing and makes for improved drinkability. Roastiness present throughout but restrained. Not much not to like here.
5 out of 5

Anderson Valley Brewing Company
Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale (Ale Brewed With Natural Flavor)
Winter Warmer
California
6.9%
12oz, 6-Pack
$13.49
Little over a finger’s worth of eggshell white to brown foam, fairly dense with decent retention, the few larger bubbles scattered, not much lacing, more of a thin sheet which slides effortlessly down the glass sides. Filmy liquid, lots of aggressive bubbles floating throughout, orange base with brown mixed in, more yellow around the edges, captures light to create a healthy glow. There’s vanilla, clove and caramel in the nose but a lot of the time the peat moss, grains and wet iron notes rise above, light smattering of peach to apricot fruit scents, more textural fullness than aromatics. Full-bodied, sufficient carbonation to create a slow lift, not leaden. Not especially sweet but there’s date, clove, fruitcake to caramel elements, some orange peel and peach, pear too. More scone or biscuit than bread or dough, Not as herbaceous here as in the nose yet the earthy, metallic nuance persists. Root beer and vanilla appear as it warms. Rich finish, no loss of body, maybe contributes to a general sense of booziness albeit without any burn. Strikes you as a food beer, needs accompaniment. Not something you’d want more than a couple of in a single sitting.
3 out of 5

Smuttynose Brewing Company
Homunculus (A Belgian Style Golden Ale) (Big Beer Series)
Belgian IPA
New Hampshire
9.9%
22oz, Single
$6.59
Pleasantly frothy head of about a half finger, eggshell white, not much retention but the lacing has a good deal of stickiness. Remarkably clean and transparent liquid, shows a semi-metallic orange coloration, only a few random bubbles meandering about within. The nose has a slight grainy to rye quality, boozy too, flowers, vanilla bean, spiced orange peel, more raw pie dough than yeast, maple syrup, peach and apricot then pineapple fruit scents, that booziness helps it last. Full-bodied, the carbonation is present throughout but not sufficient to impact the general creamy mouthfeel, just brings a percolation under the surface. Richer and close to poached feel in the apricot, peach, nectarine, pineapple, guava fruit. This aided by juicy pink grapefruit, tangelo citrus notes. Crusty pie flakes and dough, cinnamon and nutmeg, no real “sharp” spiciness, maybe a pinch of pepper. Light pine to green herbal matter nuances but not incredibly hoppy, too heavy and sappy to pierce the palate. Vividly flavorful, not that complex, the booziness present in the mouth too. Quite fun to drink yet hard to imagine drinking a lot of it.
4 out of 5

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Chugged in November 2011

Stillwater Artisanal Ales/Mikkeller
Two Gypsies Our Side
Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Maryland
7.5%
25.4oz, Single
$12.69
Pours with a head that fills half the glass, very delicate froth of just off-white color, too fine to really dimple, surface looks more like sand dunes, minimal stickiness to the lacing. The liquid is translucent and close to opaque, heavy yellow to orange rust water hue, lots of active bubbles moving about within. The nose comes across as drying, lemongrass, straw, white grapefruit pith, black tea leaves, leesy yeasts, pressed flowers, snap peas, crisp apple, peach, pear skin scents, touch of banana alongside mocha powder, retains focus and sense of purpose well. Medium-bodied, high prickle factor from the carbonation breaks up the muscularity of the brew, still it flexes more than moves. Sweeter tangerine, grapefruit, lemon citrus here, leads the way for basil, pepper and pine sap accents. A bit too tangy for the chamomile-led florality to really soak in, however, the peach, apricot, nectarine, apple fruit able to maintain a steady presence. While leafy on the whole, nicely balanced by softer bread and pastry flake notes. Understated complexity, as if you’ll find in it what you individually seek.
5 out of 5

Dugges Ale & Porterbryggeri AB
1/2 Idjit! Imperial Porter
English Porter
Sweden
7.0%
16.9oz, Single
$7.79
Super aggressive barely yields a head, thin layer of large dark brown bubbles, no foam, gone in a nanosecond, same can be said for the more or less nonexistent lacing too. The liquid is dark brown to black with a serious amount of big, chunky floaties inside, touch of yellow around the rims. The nose comes off as quite dry and dusty even, cocoa, mocha, coffee grounds, anise, dried flowers, challah bread, sour lemon peel and fig, peach fruit with a metallic edge. Medium-bodied, flat mouth presence with little carbonation or real energy to it. While the roast is very evident, there’s sufficient vanilla and butterscotch to sweeten up the dark chocolate powder and cocoa, albeit that coffee element pulls it back towards bitterness. That black licorice, anise and floral thing persists, were it deeper it could really turn the tide for this brew. There’s a freshly herbaceous pucker through the back half which relieves some monotony. This aided by a certain salinity to brininess. Interesting even if you can’t say it’s all that satisfying.
2 out of 5

Butte Creek Brewing Company
Organic Pilsner
German Pilsener
California
4.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.49
Thin head, barely more than a covering layer of bleached white, hard to call it foam, the lacing is thin and slides swiftly down the glass sides. Pale glowing yellow colored liquid consistent throughout, very few and widely scattered loose bubbles. Sweet nose of honey, biscuit, buttered scone, cocoa powder, almonds, floral water, lemon juice, then peach and apricot fruit, has a hoppy herbal side but it never rises above accompaniment element. Full-bodied and much foamier than expected from its visual appearance, fills the mouth close to completely and close to heavy for its type. Caramel, honey, butterscotch, biscuit, croissant, corn syrup and lemon peel. Garden herbs, wildflowers, wheat germ, saline, and a light quinine touch. Green and red apple, pear, peach fruit full with both juice and snap. Can’t quite say it is refreshing, easier to aver that this beer makes it hard to kick back and relax.
2 out of 5

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Chugged in October 2011

Otter Creek Brewing/Wolaver’s
Oktoberfest
American Amber/Red Ale
Vermont
4.8%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.29
Finger plus of darker tan foam with an orange cast, good mix of bubble sizes which likely contributes to the so-so retention, not much lacing there, a few wisps here and there. The liquid displays a pretty orange rust to zinc color, captures light well and glows warmly, minimal visible bubbles, if any. The nose has a taut, erect presence with saline, pretzel dough, biscuit, green grass, rye, and cracked black pepper, mutter of flowers but very little fruit, peach and apple, and only slightly more lemony citrus, penetrating power and length best attributes. Medium-bodied, lots of prickle and tight carbonation, surprising given how little was visible. Oily, if dry, mouth feel, clings to your pores. The salt and pepper and hoppy herbaceousness streak to the forefront, more pretzel, pumpernickel and sourdough bread notes. The malts smooth out the finish but flavor-wise there’s no real distinctly sweet malty flavors. As it warms you get more orange and lemon pith. This in turn brings out some minerals and metals. At first makes you curious, after awhile it just starts to tire you out.
2 out of 5

Butte Creek Brewing Company
Organic India Pale Ale
American IPA
California
6.4%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.49
Big foamy head, easily over two fingers, airy and delicate yet with excellent retention, almost so whipped up as to not look like distinct bubbles, the lacing has more moderate stickiness but what’s there clings. Filmy dark orange colored liquid, mostly consistent with a slight yellowing at the rims, lazy fat bubbles spread widely rather than in beads. The nose has a clear cocoa, chocolate touch which pairs with the pink grapefruit, tangerine citrus and flowers for an easy to access experience, goes light on the grass or any biting hoppy elements, splash of pine, very pungent during the pour, in the glass it could use more length. Full-bodied, the carbonation keeps it aggressively swirling around the mouth, probably relieves some of what remains formidable sweetness, especially candied grapefruit, tangerine, orange citrus. The cocoa powder still present if quieter here, instead you get a lot more herbal bitterness and unprocessed grains and a touch of earthiness. Solid core of peach, apricot, pear, red apple fruit. While the flavors are sweet, the tacky residue it leaves on your tongue makes for a drier finish. Friendly in style, refrains from seriously challenging you.
3 out of 5

Paulaner Brauerei GmbH & Co. KG
Oktoberfest-Märzen
Märzen/Oktoberfest
Germany
5.8%
11.2oz, 6-Pack
$11.69
Light tan to eggshell white colored head, crests at about a half a finger, minimal retention and evaporates down to the surface quickly, little stickiness to the lacing as well. Clear amber orange to brown in color, lightens to a yellowish orange at the glass bottom, only a trace of bubbles visible. While there’s a decent core of malted milk balls, caramel and molasses to the nose there’s also a surprising amount of herbaceous notes and raw grains, at times gives it as much of a pretzel dough as bread character, offers more lemon zest than mix of peach, apple, pear fruit scents. Medium-bodied, zesty and refreshing mouth feel with that herbal side paired with pepper and flowers, the lemon contributes to forestalling the arrival of the caramel, molasses, honey aspects. White raisin and fig supplement the peach, apple fruit here and helps sweeten the back half. Carbonation is somewhat weak, more tiny prickle than a real contributing presence. Still, overall its freshness is appealing and it hits the “sweet spot” frequently enough to stay balanced and approachable.
3 out of 5

Cigar City Brewing
Jai Alai India Pale Ale
American IPA
Florida
7.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.49
About a finger’s worth of off-white foam, not especially frothy and the retention is average at best, the lacing comes in solid sheets but little stickiness. Murky orange-amber in color with more of a brown than red cast, solid glow throughout, not too many bubbles visible. Sweetly hoppy nose of pink grapefruit, tangerine citrus, pineapple, nectarine, apple fruit and flowers, does show a piney resinous to cut grass and herbaceous side, peppery too, powerful lift and staying power. Full-bodied and close to thick, coats the palate and heavy on the tongue. The carbonation has more fluff than prickle but not that strong in either sense. Dry on the whole, the orange, lemon, grapefruit citrus dominant yet without sweetness. More biscuit, bread here with a touch of honey. The florality very pretty and spreads through the finish. More bite than juice in the peach, apricot, nectarine fruit, falls short of tropical. Very consistent presentation and very good balance, perhaps not that complex but easy to enjoy and doesn’t unnecessarily seek to push the envelope.
4 out of 5

New Belgium Brewing Inc.
Hoptober Golden Ale
American Blonde Ale
Colorado
6.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.29
You get two fingers of pure white foam, loose and delicate, heavily dimpled surface with islands of larger bubbles, lots of stickiness leaves serious lacing residue behind. The liquid is not cloudy but it’s not crystal clear either, golden yellow with a vague hint of orange, random super-tiny bubbles float within. The nose first hits you with pepper, green grasses and grains as well as white grapefruit to lemon zest, slightly warmer there’s richer apricot, peach fruit and flower accents, ends with an earthy, metallic ring, aggressively jabs you. Medium to full-bodied, given its generally creamy mouth texture it is surprising how bitter it can seem at times, the hops are green and verging on mean. The pepper, saline, quinine and just plain poor dirt at once lends it punch and dries things out some. The white citrus adds more scrubbing sensations. Hidden off to the side are the peach, apricot, pear fruit as well as floral dew. It’s on the aggressive side, that creaminess really saves it from becoming overbearing. Could put down a couple in a row but that’s it.
3 out of 5

Uinta Brewing Company
Punk’n
Pumpkin Ale
Utah
4.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.29
Mildly whipped up one finger head of mixed bubble sizes, fades away quickly to leave a thin coating across the surface, the lacing is wispy and not longlasting either. The liquid presents a pretty orange bronze color with a brown tint, moderate transparency and only a few visible bubble beads. The nose features much more spice than outright pumpkin, loads of cinnamon and ginger scents as well as flowers and lemon peel, has a brisk and penetrating feel to it, cleansing presence in your nostrils. Medium-bodied with a fizzy, if clipped, carbonation which stirs things up during the mouth entry. Here the pumpkin comes through much clearer along with a vanilla to whipped cream aspect. This not to diminish the sharp spices, no denying them from start to aftertaste. The white citrus larger while there’s also bread crust and straw notes, more “hoppier” than “hoppy” per se. Well-integrated and thirst quenching, delivers the flavors you expect without overdoing it.
4 out of 5

Natty Greene’s Pub & Brewing Co.
Buckshot Amber Ale
American Amber/Red Ale
North Carolina
4.9%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.29
Thin head of dark cream white, lots of larger bubbles help it dissolve down to the surface quickly, any lacing slides down the glass sides rapidly enough too. Very clean and transparent amber red color, lightly hued, only a few random bubbles scattered here and there. Sweet nose of caramel, toffee, chocolate and croissant to pastry dough flakes, does manage to mix in some bitter hops notes, green and leafy, light black tea accents, little really discernible fruit or citrus elements. Medium-bodied, foamy and on the creamy side in terms of mouth feel, here you do get peach/apricot and lemon peel along with the cut grass and mineral to metal fleck flavorings. In the end, though, it still comes back to the malty caramel and toffee stuff. Some pucker on the finish. Credible enough but not likely something I’d actively seek out. Suspect it tastes better on draft than in the bottle as here.
2 out of 5

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Chugged in September 2011

Erdinger Weissbräu
Oktoberfest
Hefeweizen
Germany
5.7%
11.2oz, 6-Pack
$12.49
Huge frothy three finger head, close to bone white, while delicate has very good retention and staying power, close to no lacing though. Mild haze to the bright golden color, slight zinc tint, plenty of thick bubble beads visible and pretty damn transparent when factoring for that haze. Sweet nose of honey coated oats, orange glaze, molasses and challah bread, solid contribution by apricot, peach, yellow apple fruit too, pretty floral dew notes, more yeast than real baked bread, attractively open and appealing. Full-bodied with broad, fluffy carbonation which creates more volume in the mouth. The softness allows it to soak into your mouth pores while it still has a relatively clean finish. Lots of fruit here, a range of apricot, pear, apple, peach and a hint of banana, sweetens further with orange pulp flavors. The wheat seems incidental to the whole. More caramel and toffee than hoppiness, suggestion of clove or other sweet spices. Sufficiently dry finish to avoid sugary residue. Quite fun to drink but not necessarily a complex, cerebral brew.
4 out of 5

Stone Brewing Company
Belgo Anise Imperial Russian Stout (Ale Brewed With Anise, Oak Chips & Belgian Yeast) (2011 “Odd Year” Release)
Russian Imperial Stout
California
10.5%
22oz, Single
$6.49
Just under two fingers of deep chocolate brown colored head, the foam displays decent retention, more stick found in the lacing, splotches all over the glass sides. The liquid is the obligatory starless night black, fully opaque, barest hint of orange rust hue at the glass bottom. The nose is milky with hot chocolate, licorice, anise, toffee and scone crumb notes, even with its dense presence in your nostrils there is some white citrus and pepper lift, quiet undercurrent of herbal matter too, nice persistence. Full-bodied, can’t quite call it creamy in feel because it’s so layered and heavy, but has more contour than bite. The anise is, of course, pronounced and here seems to alternate between supplementary spearmint or ginger nuances. Cola, milk chocolate, coconut slide onto the stage. Sweet lemon extract. Moderate doughiness or breadiness. The carbonation gives it a good try but it’s up against a lot here, tickles best as it finishes. Not an especially complex brew but one which will satisfy if you find the primary flavoring agreeable. If not, won’t be of much interest.
3 out of 5

Avery Brewing Company
Joe’s Premium American Pilsner
American Pale Lager
Colorado
4.7%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.99
Thin but creamy bone white head of moderate staying power, a minute or so later dissolves off to a dusting across the surface, the lacing forms a solid sheet at first but it too doesn’t stick around long. Mild cloudiness to the otherwise brightly glowing yellow hued liquid, scattered tiny bubbles throughout. The nose has a sharp profile to it, salt and pepper along with sour lemons and a pinch of dried lawn grass, more earth than dough or bread, barest hint of apricot but no real fruit presence nor is there anything you’d really call sweet per se, deepens into the nostrils well. Medium-bodied, highly carbonated but tightens up into little pinpricks as it progresses through the palate. Grains, grass, earth, minerals and iron flecks predominate, more biting and bitter than fresh, although does invigorate. White grapefruit joins the lemon citrus and a slight uptick in the apricot, peach, red apple fruit department. Some sourdough to rye bread notes. Hard to discern a meaningful sweet malt presence. Certainly very active and energetic, however, not a beer you can easily relax with.
3 out of 5

Brooklyn Brewery
Pennant Ale ’55
English Pale Ale
New York
5.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.29
Moderate one finger head of darker cream white with less than average retention, the lacing forms a thin sheet down the glass sides that slowly slides into oblivion. The liquid is a slightly murky, muddy orange hue, as close to brown as to red, some loose bubbles trying to form beads here and there. There’s some roast in the nose alongside the caramel, honeyed nuts and hard butterscotch candy scents, does have a greener, more herbal side as well with some mixed white citrus spritz, apricot and apple fruit, muscular and lasts for some time. Medium-bodied, the carbonation wants to make it fluffy but it is pretty damn dense, not a beer which just glides down the chute. On the sweet side, the caramel, scone, soda bread pairs well with the peach, apricot, yellow apple fruit. Some lemon peel but nothing sour nor biting. Again, presents a grassy undercurrent but by no means a focal point, brings some bitterness to the finish. Suggestive of complexity while remaining safely accessible, I can see this as an “adventuresome” beer to some. Otherwise, would drink it if handed one but unlikely to seek out for further purchase.
3 out of 5

Avery Brewing Company
Avery Anniversary Eighteen (Dry-Hopped Rye Saison)
Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Colorado
8.12%
22oz, Single
$7.99
Semi-aggressive pour gets you past three fingers of highly whipped and frothy eggshell white to light tan hued foam, solid retention down at around a half finger, the lacing forms broad streaks and sticks like glue. Coppery brown colored liquid, clean without blemishes, soft translucency prevents full clarity, hue consistent throughout. The nose first hits you with dry grains, rye and hay notes but there’s definitely a caramel, flowers and yeast component along with banana, peach compote and dried orange peels and black tea, tries to reassert a pepper and sea salt edge but to only middling effect. Full-bodied, the carbonation deserves kudos for adding to a somewhat energetic pacing, however, there’s lots of grip, especially in the sour pucker department. Rye and pumpernickel bread predominate, more crusty than soft insides. This plays up the pepper and green grass elements although the hoppiness never goes for the jugular. Apple, apricot, pear fruit more lean than softer banana. Lemon and orange and dried wildflowers contribute to erect posture. Really stays in the middle without taking unnecessary chances, touches of bubblegum and banana yet doesn’t go out on a limb to highlight the individuality of its elements. Has all the familiarity you crave with a slight swerve to make you think you’re in uncharted territory. Plays it safer than it should.
3 out of 5

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Chugged in August 2011

Southern Tier Brewing Company
Jahva Imperial Coffee Stout (Stout Brewed With Coffee)
American Double/Imperial Stout
New York
10.6%
22oz, Single
$8.39
Aggressive pour easily gets you three plus fingers of head, creamy with moderate density, tickles your lips as it steadily dissolves down, a few islands of larger bubbles, thin web of very sticky lacing. Pure black liquid, clean but no real visual hook, full opacity. Not that roasty in the nose but shovels of cocoa and mocha powder, more like an infused coffee than pure java, then licorice and honey, maybe some wood or cigarette ash, grilled nuts, has a good core of peach, apricot, cherry and blackberry fruit, surprisingly on the whiter fruit end of the spectrum. Full-bodied but does have smoothness and flow while shedding heaviness moving forward. More like café con leche than American coffee, nuts, anise, flowers, cane sugar, coconut and chocolate powder. There’s some hoppy bite but nothing beyond merely adding posture. Given the types of flavors present, it finishes remarkably dry. Clings to the mouth pores if a tenaciously tacky manner. There’s a nice breadth of flavors but they never take on a distinct personality nor get right up after you. As a result, it seems more like a fun wine to chug than be challenged by. The lack of alcoholic burn is appreciated.
4 out of 5

Anderson Valley Brewing Company
Summer Solstice (Ale With Natural Flavor Added)
Cream Ale
California
5.6%
12oz, 6-Pack (Can)
$12.49
Half finger of eggshell cream white color, densely solid with an very even surface, settles down to a thin surface coating, the lacing comes as a thin sheet down the glass sides, slips downward with ease. Glowing filminess to the amber to zinc orange liquid, easily opaque, very consistent from top to bottom. The nose does have a strong herbaceousness to it but quickly settles down into more vanilla cream, fudge, orange citrus and toffee to chocolate notes, pepperiness and rye bread notes bloom as it warms, the peach and apricot fruit scents more dense than expressive. Medium to full-bodied, the creamy mouth texture adds volume if not weight per se. Easy to identify the vanilla, butterscotch, honey elements but it’s the pepper, garden herbs, tea leaf and country style bread which gives it complexity. The orange creamsicle pairs well with pine notes. The carbonation is active but in a more fluffy than tightly woven manner. What deserves credit most here is how it remains true to its category but doesn’t settle for “simple” and leaves it open for the imbiber to just groove on the creamy sweetness or follow the more unique elements.
4 out of 5

Saint Somewhere Brewing Company
Saison Athene (2010) (Bottle conditioned Saison brewed with chamomile, fresh rosemary and black pepper)
Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Florida
7.5%
25.4oz
Single
$12.99
Good white froth through the pour but no real head per se as its gone immediately after the pouring stops, zero lacing as a result. Gauzy orange rust to yellow coloration, curiously there’s lots of bubble beads of larger sized bubbles but still no head, moderate opacity. The nose offers up a lot of tangerine, mandarin orange citrus along with rosemary, as much lavender as chamomile, very brisk overall with emphasizes green apple, pear and peach pit fruit scents, kind of too clean to really have an earthy, herbaceous side, good length. Medium-bodied, very tangy and at times close to bitter, the carbonation here weirdly “hard” and adds to chewy mouth feel. More peppery but nothing is going to come close to the primacy of the rosemary. The orange, tangerine citrus juicy and sweet before adding to the sour pucker at the end. The yeast not able to soften things much. Green apple, cherry, apricot fruit plus, a solid blend of disparate fruit flavors. Some black tea leaf notes. Too tightly wound for the chamomile to create a floral lift. This one has character in spades but it’s not that much of an easy drinker and it’s good to know that going in.
3 out of 5

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Chugged in July 2011

Sprecher Brewing Company
Kriek Lambic (Ale With Door County Cherry Juice)
Lambic-Fruit
Wisconsin
5.0%
12oz, Single
$3.69
You get a thin coating of white to pink foam when pouring but after that it’s all gone except for what continues to break the surface from the general carbonation, no lacing. Bright red color, like a lollipop, lots of debris floating around inside, the bubbles are spread fairly widely and slightly sluggish. The sour cherry fruit comes through clearly in the nose, some green apple too, lemon juice, some yeasty breadiness, earthiness but no discernible spice. Full-bodied, the cherry juice adds weight and volume, arguably could use more aggressive carbonation to increase its ability to refresh. Once again, the cherry most dominant factor by a country mile, alternately sour or sweet. Lemon, apple and some leafy to twiggy notes bring some liveliness. The yeast is raw and more dough than anything baked. Moderate pucker at the finish but not that strong. No noticeable change when warmer. Nice enough but nothing to go hillbilly nuts over.
3 out of 5

Grupo Modelo S.A. de C.V.
Negra Modelo
Münich Dunkel Lager
Mexico
5.4%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.69
Thin, less than half finger, head of loose larger bubbles, wastes little time all but totally evaporating, insufficient foam to leave much lacing behind, no stickiness. Deep brown hued liquid, however, crystal clear and transparent, mixes in light orange rust to yellow nearer the glass bottom. The nose is gentle and engaging, featuring caramel, toffee and corn syrup notes, honey and challah bread, brush of orange citrus and white pit fruit, low but noticeable toastiness, the hops kick it in a little late but stiffen the texture before it all dissolves. Medium-bodied, the carbonation a bit excessive for the level of body and flavor but does help on the refreshing scale. More of an orange to lime citrus presence as well as flowers and scrub grass, still there’s little debating that the caramel, malt, butterscotch and danish flakes remain in the driver’s seat. Any nuttiness weaves in and out, inconsistent. Apple, grape and apricot fruit flavors stay in the background. By the finish the carbonation weakens enough to create a smoother mouth feel. Earns its place as one of the more credible Mexican beers generally available.
3 out of 5

Southern Tier Brewing Company
Imperial Gemini (50% Unfiltered Hoppe, 50% Unearthly) (Blended Unfiltered Ale)
American Double/Imperial IPA
New York
10.5%
22oz, Single
$7.99
Huge frothy three finger head of off-white to slightly tan foam, miniscule bubbles of delicacy which create hills and vales more than dimples, forms broad sheets against the glass walls which slowly cascade downwards, very nice retention. The liquid is a murky chrome orange, just too dark to see more than shadows through it, pales to a more yellow hue at the glass bottom, minimal visible bubbles. The nose is like getting hit in the face with a coconut custard pie, however, no mention of oak use on the bottle, honey and caramel, has nectarine, papaya, pineapple, guava dried fruit and pink grapefruit reduction, some lemongrass, while it is big in scale for sure, thankfully avoids heaviness. Full-bodied, fluffier than might be expected from visual inspection, foams up in the mouth forestalling the herbaceous bite, pine and earthiness. The coconut custard recedes a few inches but this territory then occupied by butterscotch and caramel. Here the fruit moderates into guava, mango, peach and apricot with less tang while the tangelo, pink grapefruit citrus itself shows more bite and less overt sweetness. Sappy texture through the finish, stains your mouth pores. A big boy that makes its impression but not something you want to pound all night long.
4 out of 5

Brùton, Birrificio
Stoner Italian Special Blonde Beer
Belgian Strong Pale Ale
Italy
7.5%
25.4oz, Single
$15.99
Close to two fingers of slightly off-white microfoam, cluster of slightly larger bubbles aggregate at the spot of the pour, gentle stickiness in the wispy streaks of lacing. The liquid is actually a bright lighter gold hue but it is darkened substantially by the vast amount of particulate floating around, can’t really see through it. Given the yeasty, leesy elements in the nose it remains appealingly fresh and endowed with ripe apricot, peach, pear fruit, juicy orange citrus and pressed flowers, also produces wheat germ, pretzel dough and sea salt notes, never showy but always persistent, has a long presence. Medium-bodied, soft and creamy mouth entry with gradual stiffening as the carbonation starts to slowly scrub your palate. Honey and maple syrup accents pair with that peach, apricot, cantaloupe fruit to make it sweet overall, the orange to lemon citrus has a sherbet character. No lack of wheat, rye, multigrain breads, though. Sprinkles in salt and pepper while also possessing a light mineral water quality. Strikes you as happy with itself and wanting to make you smile too.
5 out of 5

Firestone Walker Brewing Company
Firestone Walker’s Reserve Porter (Proprietors Reserve Series)
American Porter
California
5.8%
22oz, Single
$5.49
A good pour has it crest at close to two fingers of loose, mostly smaller bubbles, whittles itself down rapidly to a fairly solid, steady tan to light brown surface coating, the lacing is quite credible, not thick but gonna need to be washed out of the glass. The reddish-brown liquid is of moderate clarity and neither close to transparency nor opacity, gives up a washed out orange to faint yellow hue around the rims. The nose has a pleasingly clean purity about it, malt cocoa, baker’s dough, anise and walnuts, maybe a hint of florality and glimmer of grapefruit, even without an obvious hops presence comes across as balanced overall. Medium-bodied with restrained yet ever-present carbonation, no bumps in the road, “tactful” comes to mind. There’s a lot more cocoa, mocha, dark chocolate here with toasted coconut to coffee accents. Blends in anise, rosemary spice, orange peel and a murmur of peach, apple, apricot fruit. More leafy, as in moist and fresh, than outright herbaceous, the hops component contributes to overall pacing and then lift at the end. Nothing to remark upon does not necessarily mean unremarkable.
4 out of 5

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
World Wide Stout (A Very Dark Beer Brewed With A Ridiculous Amount Of Barley)
American Double/Imperial Stout
Delaware
18.0%
12oz, Single
$8.99
Yields finger’s worth of deep tan foam, I’ve yet to hear as loud of a head as this, thunderous bubble popping, sizzles down to the surface with swift ease, a middle island refreshes regularly with new foam, no stick at all to what would otherwise be called lacing. Pure black liquid, immaculately clean and shiny, almost shockingly so, thin layer of metallic orange at the glass bottom. More char than roast to the nose, kind of like being in a smokehouse, then licorice, mint, the pine, flowers and grapefruit make this a hophead’s sort of stout, has a full-on mix of plum, cherry, grape, pineapple, peach fruit scents, the full spectrum. Full-bodied, low in carbonation yet smooth enough for good flow. The smoky roast in complete control and the barley sets a sweet foundation for the ensuing licorice, anise, orange marmalade, pine, carob, nuts and molasses. The grassy tingle and herbaceous bite has the power to break through the sweetness, especially at the end. An intentionally extreme beer, I’d use it solely as a dessert beer if purchased again.
4 out of 5

River Horse Brewing Company
Hop-A-Lot-Amus Unfiltered Double India Pale Ale
American Double/Imperial IPA
New Jersey
8.5%
12oz, 4-Pack
$9.99
Three fingers of orange-tinged tan dense foam, mottled surface but no real dimpling, very good retention, curiously most of the lacing slides off, the wisps left pretty much dry where they are. They say unfiltered and they mean it, dense with floaties, brownish amber red in hue, mild softening to orange at the glass bottom. Sweetly hoppy nose emphasizing pink grapefruit, lime, tangerine citrus, pine resin, floral sap and semi-tropical pineapple, nectarine, mango, peach fruit, noticeable cocoa aspect, pinch of pepper, not that herbal, overall stays on the soft side. Close to full-bodied, here the bitter grassiness comes back with a vengeance, easily pushes back the grapefruit, orange citrus a notch or two as well as tarts up the pine element, the flowers pushed even further towards the rear. Conversely, you do get some chocolate, cocoa and caramel to sweeten the pot. Leaves your throat tingling at the end, some burn. Lots of intense flavor but in need of tighter synthesis.
3 out of 5

Ithaca Beer Company
Apricot Wheat (Wheat Ale Brewed With Natural Apricot Flavor)
Fruit/Vegetable Beer
New York
4.9%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Bleached white head of large bubbles which are gone seconds after the pour, no lacing at all. Huge amount of bubble beads inside the murky dark golden to amber colored liquid, close to fully translucent. Strong apricot on the nose with peach and yellow apple too, soft lemon juice accents, the wheat component is relaxed and hard to individuate, slightly honeyed, maybe the graininess comes out more as it warms. Medium-bodied, smooth and close to soft, only the carbonation adds a steady tickle. Not overly sweet but, again, the apricot is by far the dominant aspect, as supported by pear and peach along with juicy orange and lemon citrus. Moderate dosage of wheat, rye and some biscuit. Dries up sufficiently by the end to achieve balance, this without impinging on the friendliness of the fruitiness. If you want an apricot beer, this should be on the short list.
3 out of 5

Victory Brewing Company
Summer Love Ale
American Blonde Ale
Pennsylvania
5.2%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.49
Little less than a finger of clean white foam, mostly smaller to medium sized bubbles, above average retention for what head is there, in turn the lacing is wispy but lingers in thin lines across the glass sides. Bright golden colored liquid with loose bubbles percolating throughout, light metallic reflective sheen, no real hue change at the rims or glass bottom. The nose is full of pepper, rye, pumpernickel and then dried flowers, dried oranges, lemongrass and a forgiving overall herbal bite, hints of apricot or peach fruit, while there’s no clear malty sweet element it doesn’t seem one-sided. Medium-bodied, the carbonation has some serious churn to it and gives it more energy than creaminess. Lots of green matter, earth and twigs/bark while remaining quaffable and never bitter. Pepper and some cumin to coriander, the flowers and mixed white citrus too dry to soak in. Pear, peach, apricot fruit more skin and pit than juice. Unprocessed grains and wheat germ around. When it’s ice cold it is thirst slaking and has the scrubbing power to remind you it’s there with each sip.
3 out of 5

Natty Greene’s Pub & Brewing Co.
Wildflower Witbier (White Beer Spiced With Coriander, Chamomile And Sweet Orange Peel)
Witbier
North Carolina
4.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.29
Little past a finger’s worth of bleached white foam, dissolves down into scattered islands and a thick accumulation against the glass, when swirled you get a full sheet of lacing along the glass but it’s greased and slides down the sides with ease. The liquid’s filminess helps the sandy yellow color glow, hard to see but there’s a few beads of tiny bubbles there. Innocently fresh nose of just cut flowers, baking spices, orange and lemon peel and raw pie dough, just exactly as advertised, pear, apple, apricot scents crunchy without seeming underripe, full lift. Medium-bodied, lots of foaminess yet the carbonation has a firm wiry quality too, definitely creates erect posture during the mouth entry. The coriander, ginger, caraway spice persists whereas the flowers can’t quite compete and falls back. The orange, lemon citrus struggles moderately too as well. The dough more bready here than pie or pastry like. The fruit too mixed to parse out. Mineral water notes through the finish. Because of its texture it likely would seem more complex to many than it is in terms of flavor and overall balance.
3 out of 5

Ballast Point Brewing Company
Sea Monster Imperial Stout
American Double/Imperial Stout
California
10.0%
22oz, Single
$9.69
Gives you a solid finger of brown foam, very even with pimples of larger bubbles scattered here and there, settles evenly too with no dimpling, the lacing is thin but possesses highly credible stickiness and ads visual appeal. Fully opaque black liquid with barely a touch or orange at the glass bottom, not much more can be said. The nose is rich and powerful while unassuming and quite content to let you come to it than assault you, cocoa, mocha, licorice, Brazil nuts, vanilla powder, orange zest, oat cereal and granola, some cherry, plum to black grape fruit, not getting any real booziness here, sinks in without a thud. Full-bodied, likewise here it is clear it could make more of an “impression” than it does, the coffee, dark chocolate, vanilla bean brown sugar, licorice never that sweet while the hops bring pine, orange citrus and a non-bitter herbal component. The same cherry, plum, currant fruit evident and maybe a touch bolder. The carbonation is not absent but is no doubt simmering very slowly on the back burner. Those hops give it spring through the finish. Again, it is not too sweet but, by the same token, it would be difficult to call it a dry stout. You can call it highly enjoyable though.
5 out of 5

Victory Brewing Company
St. Boisterous Hellerbock
Maibock/Helles Bock
Pennsylvania
7.4%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.99
The head crests over a finger of some of the loosest foam possible, big bubbles pop and evaporate swiftly, the foam barely coats the surface, zero lacing. No beads, just random huge bubbles, has a clean light golden color of a slight metallic cast. The nose is based in pretzel dough, black pepper, orange marmalade, peach, apricot, green apple fruit scents and caramel, noticeably sweet overall with a moderate hoppiness at most, produces cereal and granola notes as it opens, quite full nostril presence. Full-bodied, its plushness and generally weak carbonation undermines the pepper, grass and straw but it is not wimpy, simply sweeter than may be desired. Displays orange, tangerine to almost pink grapefruit pulp citrus. Layers on the apricot, peach, nectarine, pineapple, sugary and close to dried fruit in nature. Still, feels obligated to add a bitter twist to the end, this in spite of a syrupy mouth texture. Overall, feels and tastes like a “normal” everyday lager sent to finishing school and made from higher quality ingredients.
3 out of 5

Pangaea Brewing Company (Brewed At Sand Creek Brewing Company)
Liljas Hop Nest Monster Extra Pale India Pale Ale
American IPA
Wisconsin
7.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$8.99
Two plus finger of bone white head, thick coating of delicate microfoam with excellent retention, more cratering than dimpling, sticky lacing stains the glass walls almost completely. Somewhat dark golden color that flirts with amber, no visible bubbles but there are some floaties in there. Broadly arrayed nose, curious lactic notes alongside an otherwise conservative orange, lemon citrus, pine cone, dried flowers base and a smattering of apricot, peach, yellow apple scents, small amount of brown sugar and caramel makes for a soft landing. Medium-bodied, the gentle and mostly fluffy carbonation acts as a counterbalance to grass, hay, herb elements. Touch of pepperiness enlivens the middle while the apricot, peach, pear, apple fruit swell to fill in most blanks. Dries through the finish. No one element leaps out at you but it coheres as a basic “fastball down the middle” IPA that is drinkable, if not memorable.
3 out of 5

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Chugged in June 2011

Mexicana S.A. de C.V., Cerveceria
Mexicali Special Dark Beer
Münich Dunkel Lager
Mexico
5.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.49
Gives up two fingers of eggshell off-white color, densely woven foam although fairly poor retention, does however settle down in a steady surface coating, the lacing appears in the form of a thin complete sheet sliding down the glass wall. The liquid is a clear brown amber, not quite dark enough for mahogany, much more orange around the rims and glass bottom, loose scattering of bubbles random throughout. Malty nose of milk chocolate, caramel, butterscotch and coffee ice cream, displays nuttiness and sweet grains as well, while there is a sizable portion of hops and earth it has been more or less “defanged” and serves merely as counterpoint to the sugary malts. Medium-bodied, very soft in mouth feel and texture with a round foaminess than only gently prickles now and then. Has a mineral water freshness to temper the sweet inclinations of the caramel, toffee, chocolate flavors. Touch of orange citrus here as well as florality, likewise room made for subtle apple, pear, red cherry fruit. Again, more grains or granola than grasses, hardly anything “bitter” about it. Ends cleanly and without dulcet residue. Credible as a “sessionable” brew and can see putting a few down accompanied by spicier Mexican or other similar fare.
3 out of 5

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Robert Johnson’s Hellhound On My Ale (Ale Brewed With Lemons)
American Double/Imperial IPA
Delaware
10.0%
25.4oz, Single
$12.99
Very foamy, a pour down the middle of the glass yields an initial four fingers of tan to eggshell white, considerable amount of medium to larger bubbles which keep it loose and add to dimpling, retention is good given this, the lacing is not only sticky but thick and pushes piles from the glass. The liquid is an burnished orange chrome to zinc metallic color, some tiny floaties in there. The nose steadily builds in presence, mixing mocha and cocoa notes with a base of sweet tangerine, pink grapefruit citrus, pine and rose petals, its grassy bite cancels out some of the sugariness in the apricot, peach, apple fruit, develops some peat and earth nuances, not simply dependent on sweetness for effect. Medium-bodied, here the foaminess attempts to soften the brunt and create a more creamy texture but only partially succeeds, the bitterness of the grass and herbs the largest factor plus the alcohol brings some burn here. The citrus more lemon, white grapefruit, sour orange in the mouth, sticky and drying. The florality cloaked some, the cocoa to milk chocolate and caramel notes pick up some of the slack. Conversely to the nose, the ripeness of the apricot, peach, nectarine, pineapple fruit brings sweetness. Any pine dry and tacky, maybe a pinch of pepper. After awhile the bitterness wears you out and draws your attention from the array of flavors.
3 out of 5

Southern Tier Brewing Company
Iniquity Imperial Black Ale
American Black Ale
New York
9.0%
22oz, Single
$7.39
Two finger plus head of churned up, larger bubble infused dark brown foam, more hills and valleys than dimpling, the lacking streaks are thin but numerous and cling very well. The liquid is black but without the über-density of so many, allows you to get a sense for its innate clarity, this more so as there’s a wide burnt amber coloration at the glass bottom, quite attractive overall. Thick, close to dewy nose of warm milk chocolate, caramel, butterscotch, licorice, candied orange peels, cashews, all this tends to cloak the plum, cherry, apple fruit, too soft to be really roasty, the florality the most pronounced signature of any hops, nothing close to herbaceousness. Full-bodied, the carbonation builds quickly, possesses a tight enough weave to keep the mouth feel firm. Layers of chocolate, coffee, caramel, butterscotch, for all of its sweetness stays in balance, especially with a mineral water, earth element in play. More green grass and a touch of pine here, the orange citrus met equally by white grapefruit. Has a tingle to it but has a “wet” and clingy feel and does not ever take on a powdery texture. To me, drinks like a chocolate infused porter but, hey, I am unsure if anyone knows what an “American Black Ale” is supposed to taste like. Just tastes good tonight.
5 out of 5

Sprecher Brewing Company
Black IPA
American Black Ale
Wisconsin
22oz, Single
$5.89
Be careful when you pour or you’ll get half a glass full of deep brown foam, airy enough to resolve downwards rapidly, loose tiny bubbles popping across the surface, the lacing forms fairly thick streaks and possess excellent stickiness. As one might imagine from the label, the liquid is jet black, vague orange glow at the glass bottom. The nose has a good amount of roast without being annoying or pushing bitter, almonds, cocoa, dark chocolate, cafe au lait, these tend to outlast the pine sap, orange peel as well as green apple, pear, peach scents, no meaningful herbaceous bite, not sure based on the nose that you’d peg this as an IPA, black or otherwise. Medium-bodied, finishes with good lift and release, however, in general it is wiry and firm with no fat on its bones. The roast is smooth with mocha, cocoa, dark chocolate, falling short of coffee and with no real sweeter aspect such as caramel. The orange citrus stronger with a hint of lemon or white grapefruit. The carbonation brings more fluff than necessary, odd given the overall taut feel and could just as well be more tightly knit. Metallic, minerally ring to it, still clean and does not seem interested in delving deeper in earthy, grassy territory. The same white fruit array of pear, apple, peach, apricot appears near the finish line. Very good, if not especially memorable, could throw back a few particularly if ice cold.
3 out of 5

Alpine Beer Company
Captain Stout
American Stout
California
6.0%
22oz, Single
$5.99
Large and bubbly head, easy three fingers during the pour, large concentration of big bubbles in the middle simmers down to a more consistent surface which retains at the one finger level, dark brown in hue, the lacing is thin yet clings impressively to the glass. The liquid is fully black, skips brown and goes straight to orange for a thin stripe at the glass bottom. The nose is noticeably dry and somewhat sour as well, oats, grains, breads, sour milk mixed in with dark chocolate, cocoa and coffee grinds, more herbaceous than nutty, the fruit is muted but what’s there is sweeter than the rest of the scents, nectarine, peach, melon, the roast outlasts all else. Medium-bodied, if flatfooted, picks a spot and just sits there. The carbonation is too weak to add liveliness. Same emphasis on coffee, cocoa, mocha with heavy roast leading to dry mouth feel. Here orange citrus sweetens the pot some, even as the apple, peach, white grape fruit struggles to find a place, not the usual darker fruit profile. The nuttiness comes through more, the bready, yeasty notes less so. Keeps its weight throughout and never gets undesirably bitter. Leaves you wishing there was more breadth of flavor as well as sweetness, drinkable but not remarkable.
3 out of 5

Cucapá Brewing Company
Chupacabras
English Pale Ale
Mexico
5.8%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.49
Around a finger’s worth of orange tinted tan foam, more uneven surface than dimpled, mix of bubble sizes, adequate retention and nothing more, the lacing does stick excellently though. The liquid is a mix of brown and orange hues, perhaps too dark for pure amber, mildly more yellow around the rims, not much visible carbonation. Grainy, hoppy nose that is decidedly on the bitter side of things, the grapefruit to orange citrus sour and dry, even the flowers seem arch, the apple, pear, peach fruit scents fill out as it warms while retaining cut and penetrating power, cocoa and vanilla powder maltiness rounds things out somewhat, sniff when you want a challenge back at you. Full-bodied, on the heavy and leaden side, the carbonation is soft and full bringing a creamy mouth feel to match up against the general bitter bite. Sort of boozy feel and bourbon like flavors, the peat moss to crabgrass keeps it green and mean, lots of salinity and minerality too. The orange citrus tart and more pith than pulp. Comes across as well-malted, however, the caramel, chocolate, cocoa flavors are hard pressed to speak clearly but do feed into that hard alcohol profile. Interesting and not sure it easily fits into any recognized style.
3 out of 5

Great Lakes Brewing Company
Holy Moses White Ale (White Ale With Spices And Chamomile)
Witbier
Ohio
5.4
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Presents two fingers of bleached white microfoam, light and airy, delicate dimpling effect as it dissolves, decent retention and the lacing too sticks around a touch longer than expected. Pale yet bright straw yellow colored liquid, considerable amount of bubbles whirling around as well as fine particulate matter, certainly plays the part visually. Unusually thick and dewy nose, lemon to orange juice and reduction, coriander and cinnamon spice, croissant dough and fresh yeast, lemongrass and violets, apricot, peach and some banana fruit, the chamomile semi-muted. Medium-bodied plus, feels fluffy and very expansive, the carbonation helping it fill the mouth entirely. The clove, coriander, cumin to black pepper spice gives it verve and here the lemon, orange citrus drier and with more zing. There is a bitterness in the grassy element, more pronounced as it warms. Yeast, pie dough, honey comes through, finishes sweeter with elevating apricot, peach, apple fruit. The flavors are deep if not especially complex, what makes the beer is the alternation of textures, very tactilely engaging.
4 out of 5

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Chugged in May 2011

Ballast Point Brewing Company
Sculpin India Pale Ale
American IPA
California
7.0%
22oz, Single
$9.69
Average pour gets it foaming up close to half the pint glass, settles for a bit in the three finger range and then down from there, slightly off white, hard to imagine more whipped up froth and airiness, very good retention as well as gluey stickiness to the thick lacing streaks. Deep golden hue to the liquid, slightly metallic looking, consistent throughout, curiously for all the foam virtually no visible bubbles. Sour, zesty orange and grapefruit citrus sets the tone early in the nose, pepper and salt, fresh green grass, pine cone, pressed rose petals, wild yeasts, way in the back row you may find a few chocolate and coffee notes. Full-bodied, here the huge foaminess brings a creamy texture to balance against the bitter invasiveness of the hops. Grains, grasses, snap peas, pepper, coarse country breads, pine, coal tar, no doubt your tongue tingles and feels alive. The sour grapefruit, orange citrus leaves some room for the apricot, peach fruit to vaguely soften things. As in the nose, the cocoa, malt and coffee accents are super-subtle, more present at warmer temps. Given its high energy level is not over the top and pretty close to true stylistic form. Hard not to feel refreshed after a few sips, doesn’t need to be mixed with Red Bull.
4 out of 5

Karl Strauss Brewing Company
Parrot In A Palm Tree Holiday Baltic Porter (Malt Beverage Aged In Port Wine Barrels)
Baltic Porter
California
8.5%
22oz, Single
$9.99
Finger and a half of large bubble dominated head, steadily settles down to a consistent surface coating, solidly brown in hue, the lacing is not particularly thick but what’s there has decent stickiness. Mildly murky yellow brown colored liquid, up close more transparent than expected, not to call it transparent per se, orange rust at the glass bottom, a few bubbles laze about here and there. Malted milk balls, coffee ice cream, nuts and pie crust flakes make up a good portion of the nose, the date, black and golden raisin, fig, apricot fruit a consistent presence, some orange zest and juice, gossamer pepperiness, on the whole not as boozy as might be expected and more intelligently integrated rather than showy. Medium-bodied, the carbonation can kick up some dust and keeps things rolling at a fast clip from the tip of your tongue down past your tonsils. Flowers, pine and green apple flavors tease out drier malt and cocoa powder, not that sugary sweet. This not to underestimate the coconut, butterscotch, molasses and candied nuts. Smooths out appreciably through the finish bringing more peach, cherry, raisin and fig to the fore, mix of red and white fruits. The orange citrus a light touch at most. Hard to derive clear hop flavors but its general erectness and drier nature suggests their presence. More vinous than woody, no real char or oak toast. Hard for a beer with this much going on to seem close to subtle but pulls it off. High drinkability given its inherent nature.
5 out of 5

New Holland Brewing Company
Beerhive Tripel (Ale Brewed With Honey & Ginger) (2010)
Tripel
Michigan
8.47%
22oz, Single
$8.59
Crests above three fingers of looser microfoam settles down to a steady half finger of orange tinged off-white color, the lacing starts to move swiftly down the glass sides than suddenly seizes up and sticks. Light gauziness to the glowing amber color, sunset reds and oranges, very fine and tiny bubbles. While the nose is sweet it is in no way heavy and maintains admirable clarity among its elements, the honey does not seek too much terrain, likewise the ginger is fresh and clean like at a sushi bar, has a lingering pepperiness as well, then milk chocolate, sweet lees, apricot, peach and nectarine fruit scents, as much peat as flowers, longlasting presence. Medium-bodied, again fresher and more nimble than might be expected, the carbonation light on its feet and greases forward momentum. Hard to make a case for it as a classic “tripel” but taken on its own merits, there’s a lot to like in the ginger, pepper, salt spices and honey, molasses and chocolate, once more, without it being a sugar fest. The orange, tangerine infusion comes at the right time and supports the honey while brings a touch more sourness. Coats the palate well by the finish, as a result the peat and dirt elements soak in. This tastes like a luckily executed experiment, to be thought of as “extra-category” and, if so, not that hard to find a good few reasons to like it.
4 out of 5

Grand Teton Brewing Company
Pursuit Of Hoppiness Imperial Red Ale
American Amber/Red Ale
Idaho
8.5%
25.4oz, Single
$12.99
Finger plus of orange tinged tan foam, even with a good amount of larger bubbles achieves a thickness and solid retention, slow dissolve without much dimpling, likewise excellent stick to the lacing residue, glass needs to be washed to get it out. Fully opaque without seeming filmy, rich glow in the redwood to mahogany, amber doesn’t really do it justice, virtually no fade at the rims or glass bottom. The nose is packed with scents without getting heavy or inert, super-ripe tangerine to grapefruit citrus and molten milk chocolate leads the bunch, fresh honey, butterscotch, cooling multigrain bread, cashews and Brazil nuts, flowers, has lemongrass, forest floor earth and lichen like growth to bring things into balance, very light pepperiness, remains highly accessible without sacrificing complexity for those seeking it. Full-bodied, the creamy mouth entry shifts into a drier, more tingly feel as the hops assert themselves and the carbonation uses its tight weave to drum out a steady beat against your tongue. Orange, tangerine, pink grapefruit citrus mainly sweet but definitely has a sour edge as well. The milk chocolate remains the primary malt flavor, butterscotch and coconut flakes next, doesn’t push things too far. Ample peach, apricot, pear, yellow apple fruit with a nod towards pineapple and guava. Some pine and flowers, less earthy here but perhaps more minerally. Ridiculously easy to drink. (Bottled on 12/7/10.)
5 out of 5

Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma S.A. de C.V., Cerveceria
Bohemia Clásica
German Pilsener
Mexico
5.3%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.19
Little over a finger of pure, blinding white foam, lacks density and with a good portion of larger bubbles resolves down to the surface rapidly, you get a little residual concentration along the glass sides, the lacing is minimal but not nonexistent. Golden colored liquid of credible depth and solid throughout, even darker when peering down into the glass, the small bubbles well dispersed. Straw, sweet grains and corn make up a good portion of the nose, however, it’s not simple nor obvious, has a fine quality which slowly draws out pepper, orange peel as well as peach, apple, pear scents, not that sweet while also avoiding any bitter greenness. Light-bodied with a steady, refreshing carbonation which scrubs the palate. The orange, lemon citrus plays to this nicely, as does the pepper to light clove spice and pressed flowers. Shade of natural country bread but not yeasty, more crunchy in feel. The apricot, peach, apple fruit close to evanescent. Maybe, just maybe, a dollop of honey. Again, more humbly constructed than simple, just a beer trying to be a beer.
4 out of 5

Terrapin Beer Company
Side Project Volume 14: Tomfoolery Black Saison Ale
Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Georgia
7.3%
22oz
Single
$7.99
Pours a large three finger plus head of whipped up brown foam, while airy and loose has decent retention, evaporates evenly if without much lacing. The liquid is indeed black as advertised, turns to a dark brown at the glass bottom with a thin stripe of orange. Malty nose doesn’t evoke saison much, milk chocolate, caramel, coconut, Brazil nuts, cloves, cola, sweetly smoky, quiet insertion of orange zest, vague pie crust dough, hard to figure the hops, there is a stiffening feel in the nostrils before the scents all gone but no clear presence. Medium-bodied, however, sluggish enough to slow to crawl after it first touches the tongue. More roast here via coffee bean, darker chocolate and hint of chicory, the carbonation is tight and helps as it can. Sweeter caramel, clove, nuts and orange pulp fill the center but it is drier here than in the nose. Fig, date to apricot, pear, cherry fruit a minor presence. Peppery at times, some dried straw or grass, again few distinct footprints of hops but generally stronger presence through the finish. There’s a fair amount of going on here but it lacks a guiding principle to forge a choral voice.
3 out of 5

Goose Island Beer Company
Pere Jacques Belgian Style Ale (2010)
Dubbel
Illinois
8.0%
22oz, Single
$9.49
Couple fingers’ worth of frothy deep tan foam, dimples a lot due to the presence of many larger bubbles, nothing special about the retention, lacing comes in wide sheets but too slick to stick. Light redwood reddish brown in color, good brightness given the depth of hue, loosely organized but active bubbles percolate throughout, clear until you start pouring the bottom of the bottle. Hard to imagine the being sweeter, loaded with caramel, chocolate, toffee, brown sugar, molasses, prune, fig, plum, cherry and apricot fruit, orange marmalade, bubblegum, candied nuts, on the hops side has pine and flowers, nothing too biting. Full-bodied and on the heavy side, the carbonation has the texture of cotton candy, more gluey than lifting. In spite of this there’s more room for more focused clove, ginger and pepper spice, quinine and earth. This forestalls the eventual onslaught of caramel, toffee, molasses, maple syrup, chocolate and so on, the orange to lemon citrus retains that syrupy and candied character. More yeastiness here with that bubblegum to banana touch. Plum, fig, date, cherry, apricot, peach flavors, nice mix of darker and lighter fruits. Booziness elevates as it warms, more rum notes and feels like it goes to your head faster. One glass is really all you need.
3 out of 5

Cucapá Brewing Company
Honey (Malt Beverage Brewed With Honey)
American Blonde Ale
Mexico
4.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.49
Finger’s worth of tan to eggshell white foam, a lot of larger bubbles which hampers retention, thin and wispy lacing doesn’t gain much traction either. Orange colored liquid with more of a brown influence than red, subtle yellowing around the rims, not hazy but there is a translucent semi-opacity, no beads but plenty of loose bubbles floating around inside. The nose is fresh with a firm and steady lift, the honey is gentle and not a huge presence, you almost get more chocolate and caramel, mixes in lemon drop candy and pressed flowers, some breadiness, apricot and yellow apple fruit, more sweet grains than grasses and little bitterness. Medium-bodied, the honey steps to the fore here, especially as supported by lemon and orange citrus. Glazed brown bread, more cocoa than chocolate, clear expression of butterscotch and caramel. The carbonation is above average with distracting. The peach, apricot, apple fruit peters out by the finish where it’s more minerally and close to earthy. Still, no green or herbal qualities. Good balance, never gets too sweet as to lose its more refreshing qualities. Nothing remarkable but quite drinkable, could throw a few down in a sitting.
3 out of 5

AleSmith Brewing Company
Anvil Ale ESB
Extra Special/Strong Bitter (ESB)
California
5.5%
22oz, Single
$6.49
Yields about a finger of deep tan foam, high percentage of larger bubbles results in a swift dissipation to scattered islands across the surface, the lacing too slick and crystalline to cling to the glass walls. Deep bronzed color reddish-brown until a bright orange develops at the glass bottom, trim with a mild translucent blurring, rivulets of tiny active bubbles along the insides. The nose barely betrays any bitterness, a novice would be confused by the category name, all softer malts and caramel, butterscotch, heavy cream, milk chocolate, buttermilk biscuits and nuts, nearer to room temperature you get peat and earth accents and a lifting florality. Medium-bodied, the carbonation works hard to prevent things from congealing and, for the most part, succeeds. That said, it is not a thirst quenching, refreshing quaff. The sweetness of the caramel, chocolate, butterscotch joined here by fig, raisin, cherry, apricot fruit flavors. The nuttiness likewise has more of a candied than roasted nature. The floral notes swell in the middle then segue into mineral water, earth, grass. Still, no sense waiting on any bitterness as it’s not really coming. As a quality beer it’s tasty enough, does wear you down some through the second pint. Not sure it’s a “classic” ESB.
3 out of 5

Port Brewing Company
Panzer Imperial Pilsner
American Double/Imperial Pilsner
California
9.5%
22oz, Single
$8.99
Totally out of control head easily fills half the glass with an average pour, just off-white with a loose construction, you really feel it pop against your lips as you sip, more hills and vales than dimpling, lacing all but completely slides down the glass sides. Lightly filmy yellow to orange colored liquid, achieves a full translucent depth, few bubbles visible but they are large and move slowly. The nose retains that pretzel dough, crusty quality with salt and pepper notes, however, more raw herbaceous bite than might be expected, peat and earth, then dried orange and lemon peels, briefly passing peach and apple scents, stiff and penetrating, allows few moments to relax. Full-bodied with a plush and creamy mouth feel, the carbonation is sneaky in how it covers ground cheek to cheek to add further fluff. At first much sweeter than the nose might suggest, grapefruit and orange as much pulp as zest. Aided and abetted by pine sap then appears milk chocolate and some pressed flowers. Apple, peach, apricot fruit competent, still, gets successively drier towards the finish. Offers less yeast, dough, bread than in the nose, maybe it’s the dryness. Keeps the hoppy bite while avoiding bitterness. Just leaves you feeling it’s more of a DIPA than anything else. That said, it’s fun albeit more “interesting” than mindlessly enjoyable.
4 out of 5

Clipper City Brewing Company
Heavy Seas Mutiny Fleet Imperial Aarsh Red Ale
Irish Red Ale
Maryland
7.0%
22oz, Single
$7.99
Thin head, less than a finger of deep tan foam, mixture of bubble sizes, dissipates with ease, the lacing is wispy, however, sticks in fairly wide streaks. Deep amber red color with a mild metallic orange tinge at the glass, a few meandering bubbles as well as tiny particulate matter. While the nose has a hoppy spine of grass, herbs and pepper, it mostly expresses chocolate, cake crumbs, carob, caramel and grilled nuts, soft touch of fig, cherry, blackberry fruit scents, not especially citrusy nor flowery. Full-bodied, the carbonation may be too fine to do more than lift it just off the tongue. Tends to layer itself on the palate, does have a slight mineral water aspect to balance out the caramel, butterscotch, milk chocolate and coffee candy aspects, never gets excessively sweet although you’re unlikely to call it dry too. Here you get a clearer expression of white grapefruit to orange citrus. Challah bread, scone and lower nuttiness, any toast or roast kept well in check. Fig, apricot, peach, cherry fruit, not as dark as delivered in the nose. Keeps that peppery bite, especially at the end. For its weight has good drinkability, maybe suffers from not taking more chances at forging a distinctive personality.
3 out of 5

Goose Island Beer Company
Sofie Belgian Style Ale (2010)
Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Illinois
6.5%
22oz, Single
$9.49
Even a careful pour yields near three fingers of loose and delicate bone white foam, looks like whipped egg whites, dimples a lot as it rapidly dissolves down to the surface, minimal stickiness to the lacing. Bright golden hued liquid with decent clarity, what is does have is a veritable maelstrom of bubbles swirling inside, light enough that there’s no discernible loss at the glass bottom or rims. The nose is a tightly woven series of jabs, mostly white grapefruit and mandarin orange, apple, pear and peach scents with an emphasis on skin, flower blossoms and golden honey, moments of clove and pepper, yeast and perhaps a slight briny influence along with moss and other forest floor matter. Medium-bodied, the carbonation is too foamy at first but does subside some with time, also churns things sufficiently to dampen overall sourness. Lemon, white grapefruit, mineola oranges a fine pair for the clove, coriander, cumin spices. The yeast and bread neither too dry nor sweet, helps anchor the whole in the center. Were there more tang and sugar there might be a tropical character to the apple, nectarine, apricot, pear, red cherry fruit. The grassiness keeps it on the lowdown, tickles the tonsils without looking to get up in your face. Factoring for the carbonation, it’s really not that sweet and the high degree of citrus keeps it on the refreshing side of things, good drinkability.
5 out of 5

Otter Creek Brewing/Wolaver’s
Alta Gracia Coffee Porter (Ale Brewed With Coffee And Vanilla Beans)
American Porter
Vermont
5.7%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.29
Rich, creamy two finger head of brown foam, mainly a weave of microbubbles, about average retention, leaves thick lacing streaks which might need to be washed out to disappear. The liquid on the whole is black with a slash of reddish orange at the glass bottom. The coffee is obvious from the first sniff, more of a roasted bean quality with a light bitterness, only a splash of milk, cream or vanilla, same for caramel, butterscotch and grilled nuts, strong undercurrent of green grasses, while obviously focused on the coffee does not come across as unbalanced or unnecessarily aggressive. Medium to full-bodied, the dry mouth texture helps it stay refreshing and actually speeds it up rather than slow it down as it moves through the palate. The dark roasted coffee bean element decisive with an oily character and smoky perfume. The vanilla bean lacks the power to sweeten the pot, stays in the background with the honey and caramel. The carbonation does not seem weak yet just manages a steady lowkey prickle. No distinct fruit nor citrus flavors although there’s a sense of the latter. Same hoppy green notes with maybe a smidgeon of pine. Offers a mineral water note to cleanse the finish. High quality coffee intensity here.
5 out of 5

Porterhouse Brewing Co., The
Wrasslers XXXX Full Stout
Irish Dry Stout
Ireland
5.7%
11.2oz, Single
$4.69
A strong pour gets you over two fingers of whipped up and semi-delicate larger bubbles, very dark tan to lighter brown in hue, leaves an intricate web of thin lacing behind around the entire glass sides. Pure black liquid throughout, up against the glass you can see tiny bubbles rising swiftly. The nose not quite roasty but heavy on the malts with coffee, dark chocolate and mocha components, supplemented by caramel, leesy yeast, sour milk and a bit of peat and earth, some undistinguished black fruits, not much lift but what is there lasts pretty well. Medium-bodied with a hard steel posture, stays rigid for no apparent reason. Dry with a creamy mouthfeel from the carbonation until the “bitter end.” Burnt cocoa, powdered dark chocolate lead with a slight sweetening effect from the honey, toffee and prune, plum to cherry fruit. Momentary glance of sour grapefruit to orange citrus. Hay, straw, grass make an appearance. Relentlessly dry and bitter, keeps kicking long after you’re down and stopped fighting back. Even if exaggerated, stays true to the category but hard to imagine putting yourself through more than one in a sitting. The Ireland Irish must be gluttons for punishment if they can drink this in meaningful quantities.
3 out of 5

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Chugged in April 2011

Sprecher Brewing Company
Brewmaster’s Premium Reserve Pipers Scotch-Style Ale
Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy
Wisconsin
8.27%
16oz, 4-Pack
$9.99
Little over a finger’s worth of tan to camel hair colored foam, poor retention with it swiftly fizzing down to not even a full surface covering, in turn the lacing is close to nonexistent. Dark reddish copper color with more brown than orange, no filminess but slight translucency, a few random bubble beads to be seen. The nose has a very smoky nature with peat moss, tar, metallic earth and mineral water notes, behind this wall you get caramel, vanilla, banana and butterscotch, some apple and pear fruit, the rambunctiousness of the smoke keeps it in the forefront. Full-bodied, the carbonation is average and there’s not a strong sense of movement, however, it never feels really “heavy.” This may be attributed in part to that smokiness, has a sweeter complexion with honey, mesquite, caramel notes. The peat qualities more part of the whole here, not as acrid. Still has a metallic rust ring to it, enough so to challenge the banana, peach, apricot, fig fruit flavors. Smattering of mixed citrus zest. Mouth feel gets drier as it finishes. This is a very interesting beer with some unique qualities, would show best with a cigar or a hearty meal like beef brisket.
4 out of 5

Great Divide Brewing Company
17th Anniversary Wood Aged Double IPA (Pale Ale Aged On Oak Chips)
American Double/Imperial IPA
Colorado
10.0%
22oz, Single
$9.39
Pours a lush two to three finger head of dense foam, orange-tan in color, admirable retention, the head is solidly woven enough that the lacing is wispy at best. Copper hued liquid, the red embellished by orange and then brown and yellow tints, clear with a surprising lack of visible bubbles given the volume of the head. Distinct vanillin butterscotch and caramel scents to the nose, touch of bourbon, the energetic herbal matter outlasts the sweeter grapefruit, tangerine notes, mixes in standard pine as well as a patina of chocolate dust. Full-bodied, dense with a slowly churning sort of carbonation. Sweetly glazed bread with honey, ginger and coriander. Then comes the vanilla, caramel, cocoa oak explosion, this cloaks most else. That said, decent amount of peach, apricot fruit to buttress the pink grapefruit citrus. The herbaceousness recedes a bit here and mixes into a leavening earthiness to tame the bitterness factor. Its weight and sticky palate grip makes it such that refreshing of thirst quenching are not phrases likely to come to mind. The malts play an increasing role in smoothing out the mouth feel both towards the finish and as it warms. Steroidal but not misshapen.
4 out of 5

Alpine Beer Company
Duet IPA
American IPA
California
7.0%
22oz, Single
$5.99
With a solid pour you get about a finger of just off white foam, majority medium to larger bubbles with below average retention, runs down to the surface quickly, the lacing sticks in random splotches more than streaks. The liquid has a zinc orange metallic look to it, much closer to yellow than any red, no cloudiness, a few trace bubbles here or there, consistent down to the glass bottom. Hop-driven nose of pretzel dough, salt, pine cone, herbaceous matter and earth, gets right up in there and starts scrubbing, plenty of brawn in the grapefruit to blood orange scents too, not a lot of fruit, mixed white pit fruit, thin dusting of cocoa powder accounts for the presence of malts. Close to full-bodied with a noticeably firm mouth feel, the carbonation has the grit of semi-fine sandpaper, persistent from mouth entry through finish. The tangy white grapefruit, orange, lemon citrus zings your tongue alongside the pine, iron flecks, pepper and salt bits. Were the total experience more “wet” the peach, nectarine, apple fruit might appear more tropical. Cocoa, mocha accents dry themselves, offers some yeast to multigrain bread dough. About as “chewy” as a regular IPA can get, not really an easy sipper but deserves attention for achieving personality.
3 out of 5

AleSmith Brewing Company
X Extra Pale Ale
American Pale Ale
California
5.0%
22oz, Single
$6.49
Huge frothy head, easily over three fingers, close to bone white, completely delicate and airy microfoam, decent retention notwithstanding with moderate dimpling, the lacing tends to glide off the glass walls rather than stick. Pale golden liquid, faint hint of pumpkin orange, loads of tiny bubbles rise throughout, average clarity. Bodacious tangerine, white grapefruit citrus swells in the nose, lighter pine and flower petals nothing close to that citrus, murmurs of pie dough, clove and then apricot, peach, pear fruit, the malts must be most evident via textural smoothness than scents, the hops here nowhere near bitter bite. Medium-bodied, a touch foamy during the mouth entry, small surprise given the visual bubbling and head. The citrus no less dominant here, however, more focused and sour, white grapefruit to lemon. Along with this comes more pine, coal tar, mineral water and grass accents. Conversely, the florality less pronounced yet this helped by broader peach, apricot, nectarine fruit. Displays enough yeast, dough onto just baked bread notes to soak up some sourness. Some salt to saline nuances through the drying finish. Briskly refreshing, very good liveliness, drinks better with a solid chill on it.
5 out of 5

Green Flash Brewing Company/Pizza Port Carlsbad/Stone Brewing Company
Highway 78 Scotch Ale
Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy
California
8.8%
12oz, Single
$3.99
Thinnish head which peaks at less than a finger of off-white, tan foam then disappears swiftly, no lacing but does caterpillar walk down the glass sides in sheets. The liquid is not as cloudy as you’d think at first glance, just dark and devoid of most glow, the brown, orange color takes on a nondescript hardwood look, lightens into copperish hues at the glass bottom. The nose is oddly of few words, starts off with molasses, maple syrup, brown sugar, baker’s chocolate before veering of into prune, raisin, cherry, apricot fruit, some floral dew and orange reduction, neither boozy nor showing taut hoppy accents, maybe some forest brush smoke, not a lot going on here. Medium-bodied, the foaminess crests early through the attack and lends an appearance of weight that may not be there. Caramel and butterscotch take the leading role from the chocolate powder, molasses, coffee and vanilla beans still there’s a tacky quality to the mouthfeel, gets your mind thinking dry regardless of sugar content. Orange and tangerine citrus, pine, pressed flowers, adopts a more typical “Stone” sweeter hoppy profile, no meaningful bite. Scone, cereal, challah bread help fill the blank spots. This is an OK beer that, given its pedigree, should be better. (Bottled at Stone)
3 out of 5

Victory Brewing Company
Headwaters Pale Ale
American Pale Ale
Pennsylvania
5.1%
12oz
6-Pack, $11.49
Straightforward finger of off-white foam, nothing unique about its retention, the lacing holds on in spots, transparent and spotless liquid of a red-tinged orange color, metallic sheen, very few bubbles to be seen, if any. During the pour a bodacious amount of pink grapefruit, orange citrus bursts forth, lively bitter hops keep you on your toes, some pine tar and earth, baguettes, salt and pepper, a pinch of bittersweet chocolate powder but not that malty, conversely the hops never use this opportunity to go for the jugular, quiet confidence leads to extended nostril presence and overall balance. Light to medium-bodied, the carbonation is made of tiny, scrubbing motions with little foam. Strong mineral water, quinine, metallic character which gives it a raw and rugged freshness. Sourdough and wheat bread notes, salted pretzel dough, dried lemon and white grapefruit pulp, green lawn grass, some pine. Carob and mocha but no real sweetness in any of the usual malt-derived flavors. Florality spreads enough to allow it to avoid astringency. The hoppiness suggests pineapple, nectarine or papaya but, again, lacks the sweetness to deliver on this. More interesting warmer, more satisfying colder. A tactful, almost patrician, quaff.
4 out of 5

Stoudt’s Brewing Company
Fat Dog Imperial Oatmeal Stout
American Double/Imperial Stout
Pennsylvania
9.0%
12oz
6-Pack, $16.99
Finger plus of moderately dense dark tan foam, a few islands of much larger bubbles here and there, average plus retention, good thick streaks of lacing as well. Black liquid, certainly opaque, does offer up a dark brown to orange at the very bottom of the glass. Richly layered nose of chocolate, cocoa, café au lait, cinnamon spiced oatmeal, maraschino cherries and blackberries, brush of pine cone, the hops bring more stiffness than scents into your nostrils, pleasingly unforced length. Full-bodied, while massively scaled manages to avoid heaviness and any leaden qualities. Even with a bitter quality to the dark chocolate and mocha crisp component, still sweet with flowers, orange juice, cinnamon, cherry, blackberry to blueberry fruit, dab of raisin and molasses too. Carbonation keeps plugging away, credit due for insistence. The oatmeal flavor is distinct and at times sort of brings a nuttiness to the show. Some tar and asphalt notes in there at the end. Dry and crisp finish, the roast and the orange citrus arguably last the longest. Given its overall makeup and character, stays damn drinkable.
4 out of 5

Grupo Modelo S.A. de C.V.
Victoria
Vienna Lager
Mexico
4.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.29
Aggressive pour only gets you about half a finger of mixed bubble size head, pure white, lacks meaningful retention as well as lacing. The liquid is a blend of browns and yellows based in orange, has a metallic sheen which brightens it some, clear on the whole, a few lazy bubbles meandering here and there. Basic nose of grains, wheat, straw and then banana and corn, mild presence of flowers and peach, apple fruit, nothing really stands out from the pack, while uninteresting equally inoffensive. Medium-bodied, for its overall weight comes across as dense and unyielding, were it not for the charge put into it by the carbonation you might not feel it move. The initial sweetness provided by the banana, yeast, clove, flowers and corn fades in the face of wheat germ, rye and dried brown straw. Lowgrade mixed white citrus and stone fruits. More dirt than earthiness, increasingly metallic through the finish. Not much more to say, lacks the native complexity to elicit further prose.
2 out of 5

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery/Victory Brewing Company/Stone Brewing Company
Saison du BUFF (Ale Brewed With Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme)
Saison/Farmhouse Ale
California
6.8%
12oz, Single
$3.99
Pours a huge frothy head of close to four fingers at first, could not be a more bleached white if it tried, as pure as freshly fallen snow, the surface has the consistency of whipped egg whites, decent retention closer to the surface, minimal lacing. Faintly glowing yellow color, consistent throughout, sort of pilsner-esque in hue, numerous highly active bubble beads fills the glass as well. The nose is texturally dry, at times almost makes you want to sneeze, pepper, raw grains, grass, bitter grapefruit to mandarin orange pith, after some acclimation displays pleasingly broad florality, fresh and just ripened apricot, peach, apple fruit scents, overall could stand a little more bottom. Medium-bodied, as might be expected the foaminess is noticeable, carbonation brings creaminess to an otherwise bitter, more high-toned experience. The white pepper persists and here the parsley, sage, et. al. more pronounced, you suspect that the apricot, peach, nectarine fruit has receded some, taking sweetness with it. The white grapefruit, orange, lemon citrus stays sour. Sourdough bread and maybe a shot of rye. Not a lot of “give” here outside of the carbonated fluff, perhaps waited too long to open it. (Bottled at Dogfish Head)
3 out of 5

Schloss Eggenberg, Brauerei
Samichlaus Classic
Doppelbock
Austria
14.0%
11.2oz, Single
$5.49
Extremely loosely knit and delicate head, gets close to two fingers during the pour but dissipates explosively, gone rapidly into a thin layer across the surface, as one would expect the lacing is likewise haphazard and short-lived. Quite clear amber red in color, light enough that you get yellow aside the orange hues at the glass bottom and rims, a few lazy bubbles visible here and there. The nose is incredibly sweet and fruity, oodles of raisin, fig, date, prune along with plum, cherry scents, no lack of ginger, cinnamon spice, syrupy canned orange slices, lilac air spray, molasses and honey, milk chocolate, lighter raw cookie dough, nothing distinctly opposes the sweetness yet does not seem out of balance. Medium-bodied, hard to believe that it’s actually sweeter and more syrupy here in the mouth. This even with fairly sharp-edged carbonation and a peppery kick. Molasses, maple syrup, honey coat the tongue, then chocolate, ginger, juicily sour orange to lemon citrus help it retain a credible energy level. The cherry, apricot, fig, golden raisin, banana fruit thus avoids a darker fruit complexion while staying concentrated and sugary. More scone, croissant, pastry flakiness here. Not sure how they categorize this as a “Doppelbock,” it’s much more intense than most. No alcoholic burn and, again, stays balanced, absolutely a “dessert beer” and understandable why it’s released during the winter. (Bottled in 2009)
4 out of 5

Otter Creek Brewing/Wolaver’s
Alpine Black IPA
American Black Ale
Vermont
6.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.29
Big, close to three finger head, rich mix of varied bubble sizes, even dissolve without much dimpling, dark tan in color, lacing more along the lines of broad splotches than streaks, very good stick, barely moves long after the head settles. Liquid color certainly lives up to its billing, black and opaque, even if not “dense” in appearance, thin orange rust influence at the glass bottom. The nose is a pleasing mélange of malts and hops with cocoa powder, mocha, ginger snaps, walnuts and then tangerine zest, green hay and grass, wildflowers and a glance of apricot, red apple, cherry fruit scents, good stiffness and length. Medium-bodied, too tightly woven to be heavier, plus the carbonation has a steady, lifting quality which prevents too much soaking in. More overt roast here, at once plays up its overall bitterness while emphasizing mocha, cocoa, molasses, dark chocolate. That tangerine to white grapefruit element keeps the energy high while adding a bit of needed sweetness. Pepper and clove spice keep it lively, the herbaceousness stays in check. Not as floral here, however, the apricot, peach, apple fruit a tick higher. Dry finish with good grip and palate coverage. Excellent example of a category growing in popularity.
5 out of 5

Mad River Brewing Company
John Barleycorn Barleywine Ale (2008)
American Barleywine
California
9.1%
12oz, 6-Pack
$15.79
Deep tan head of nicely dense foam, however, you can see the bubbles pop, moves like a barrel of worms until there’s nothing left across the surface, lacing is negligible. Full on chunks floating throughout the yellow-brown liquid, vague amber darkening at the core, muddy waters. Shows a few bourbon like notes alongside the chocolate, butterscotch, banana, fig, some corn and sweeter grains, mild orange reduction, scone to soda bread, has an unfortunate lack of explosiveness and weight, kind of folds in on itself. In the mouth it’s close to full-bodied, durable carbonation helps it expand across the palate decently. More fig, yellow raisin, date and then cherry, banana, blackberry notes, still not quite sweet. Brown sugar, maple syrup and chocolate likewise clearly present yet without much soothing ability. Orange reduction with an infusion of more sour white grapefruit. Nuts and rum cake, carrot cake. Metallic undercurrent along with a light pepperiness. Not sure if this bottle has faded some but it just comes across as lacking in self-assurance and richness of expression. So, physically drinkable without making you want to drink it.
2 out of 5

Coronado Brewing Company
Orange Avenue Wit (Wheat Beer Brewed With Spices)
Witbier
California
5.2%
12oz, 6-Pack
$13.69
Bleached white head of close to two fingers, delicate and close to wispy, dissolves rapidly down to the surface, forms a thin sheet along the glass walls, almost reminds you of chain mail armor, credible stickiness given its thinness. Dark yellow to a shade before orange in the glass, would likely be clearer were it not for the spice particulate floating around, plenty of bubbles, larger and with good vigor. The nose on the whole is quiet so it does not take much for the orange zest to take a leading position, there’s a sweet spice presence as well as a pinch of pepper however both fade into the fabric, the wheat notes stick in your mind via power of suggestion, turns more floral as it warms, decent peach to apricot fruit as well, the malts likewise folded into the whole. Medium-bodied, the carbonation gives it good posture and increases overall mouth presence, Firmness tends to carry it beyond simple quaffing wit, this may be for the better or worse depending on your expectations. The orange infusion does well in not overplaying its hand, same for the coriander, anise seed type spices. The honey too brings needed sweetness but within a thought out framework. The malts tastes like malt as in malted milk balls. More quinine than wheat, grain or yeast flavors, not herbaceously bitter. Ultimately, not intellectually interesting, however, no problem throwing a few back if ice cold on a hot summery day.
3 out of 5

LoneRider Brewing Company
Peacemaker Pale Ale
American Pale Ale
North Carolina
5.7%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.29
About a finger’s worth of creamy tan foam, pools of larger bubbles spread throughout, the lacing sticks well at first and then peels off the glass sides, retention could be a touch stronger. Gently hazy orange copper color, seems to want to get to a redder hue but instead veers off into lighter yellow, few bubbles visible. Considerable cocoa and chocolate dust in the nose, supports the sweetness in the orange, tangerine citrus as well as peach, nectarine fruit, otherwise dominated by keen herbaceousness, pine cone, peat, forest underbrush, drives into your nostrils like it’s trying to kick down a door or something. Medium-bodied, somewhat calmer here but still flexing its muscles and trying to put its “six-pack” on display for all to see. This impedes a more fluid flow, enters the mouth and then gets stuck during the mid-palate. The mixed white to pink grapefruit, orange citrus clearly the major force, have to credit its inherent sweetness for its ability to stand up to the archly bitter and herbaceous hops, hard to believe this falls under the “APA” category. Pine, white pepper, black tea, twigs and tree bark support the general direction. The carbonation is strong and adds prickle without diminishing the overall density. On that score, weight outlasts most of the flavors, perhaps due to the paucity of apricot, peach fruit. In any event, tiresome halfway through the first bottle, not something I’d want to “session.”
2 out of 5

Deschutes Brewery
Mirror Pond Pale Ale
American Pale Ale
Oregon
5.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Two fingers of straight ahead, basic off-white to tan foam, loosely constructed and infused throughout with larger bubbles, simmers down evenly, you get a sheeting effect on the glass sides at first that just keeps gliding rather than break into stickier streaks. Somewhat cloudy reddish orange hued liquid, consistent throughout with hardly any color loss at the rims, a few strands of bubbles here and there. Settles into your nostrils snugly and confidently, no great fanfare just multigrain bread, biscuit, tea leaf, green grass and pressed flowers, lowkey milk chocolate to toffee accents, a brush of apple, peach, pear fruit and then a splash of orange peel, fits together nicely as a whole with no one element dominating. Medium-bodied, similar user-friendly and balanced, knit-together presentation, little bit of pepper and maybe ginger spice or soy, then wet green hops and earth. The more you sip the more the bread, biscuit asserts itself, more dough than raw grains. It’s smooth enough already that it does not need the malts to do too much work in this department, hence the chocolate, vanilla and peanut brittle mostly under the radar. Nothing unusual about the carbonation, brings some fluff as much as churn. Mixed white fruits, moderately surprising you don’t get more citrus but nothing unsettling. Maybe a tick more bitter at the end than needed, otherwise delivers a compact, clear message of a brew which can be consumed in good amounts.
4 out of 5

Napa Smith Brewery
Organic IPA
American IPA
California
7.1%
12oz, 4-Pack
$9.69
Gives you two fingers of creamy off-white foam, above average density as well as credible retention, a few larger bubbles interspersed through the froth, slides down the glass sides surprisingly easily, no much lacing left behind. Some cloudiness deepens the otherwise bright, glowing orange zinc to copper color, mild fade to a yellow-orange mix at the glass bottom. In the nose, once you get past the rich honey, caramel, butterscotch and sweet orange to tangerine citrus, it’s all grainy hops, green grass stony dirt, oddly not a lot of fruit, just a simple presentation of apricot, peach notes. Close to full-bodied, foamy but not soft, the carbonation shows both energy and persistence. Skips a lot of the sweetness here to get to the earth with tar, coal and pepper elements, bitter herbaceousness just about seals the deal. It’s likely the latter which makes the tangerine to pink grapefruit so sour. Some pine tar but no real florality and, again, the peach, apricot, apple fruit slight. Dried, unprocessed grains abound. Little room to move given to the honey, cocoa, carob and what is granted comes way after the bitterness has cemented itself. Appears consciously stylistic, one might say it’s no surprise that “Napa” is on the label.
3 out of 5

Napa Smith Brewery
Lost Dog Red Ale
American Amber/Red Lager
California
7.2%
12oz, 4-Pack
$9.29
Around a finger if eggshell white foam, flat and consistent surface, a few larger bubbles here or there, simmers down to the surface steadily but in no rush, thin and wispy lacing splatters the glass sides randomly. The liquid is a foggy blend of equal parts brown, red and orange, sort of like clay silt, dark enough to fend off any hue difference at the rims and such. Sweet nose emphasizing molasses, caramelized brown sugar, pine, taffy, violets and a moderate amount of apple, pear, peach fruit, the hops add a stiffening to its posture in the nostrils but few distinctly bitter scents, ends with some soda bread to scone accents. Full-bodied, as the carbonation strives to achieve a fine edge, it comes across as heavy, if not at times leaden. Floral breeze, light orange zest and mocha to cocoa lend a layer of foundation, yet this doesn’t quite create the overall sweet impression made by the nose. Conversely, though, it’s not like the hops make any big charge into the mouth, this beer stays squarely in the middle middle ground of things. Pine, freshly baked white bread, tonic water and minerals arguably lend the biggest charge through the finish. If you don’t mind chewing some, you could put a few down in a sitting, otherwise a fairly enjoyable one-and-done scenario.
3 out of 5

Guinness Ltd.
Smithwick’s
Irish Red Ale
Ireland
4.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.29
Loose and delicate head, even if it tops out over three fingers, eggshell white, mainly microfoam with a hilly surface, decent retention given its delicacy, thick streaks of lacing, albeit razor thin. Trim amber color with a redwood brown influence, pleasingly aggressive bubbles streams, orange tint grows around outer edges. Mildly burnt character to the nose, like sugar left too long on the stove, malty with toffee, chocolate powder, carob, roasted chestnuts, has its loamy/earthy side as well, pinch of pepper, touch of unprocessed grains but little outright bread or dough, can appear herbaceous at moments, especially when warmer. Medium-bodied, foamy with a level of carbonation arguably above what the body should have to support. Smooth like fine sandpaper, you feel some grit and then it immediately releases. The sweetness seems frontloaded, cocoa and carob, cola, licorice, honey and orange peel before a momentary flutter of apple, pear, cherry fruit, then more biting grass and straw notes, semi-caked in dirt. Still, the carbonation ensures a creamier finish. Good pub beer style, likely better on tap.
3 out of 5

Deschutes Brewery
Hop Henge Experimental IPA
American Double/Imperial IPA
Oregon
9.0%
22oz, Single
$8.99
Huge, highly agitated and delicate head, mostly larger bubbles with noticeable thin skins as it were, retention is okay given this observation, the lacing is more like big splotches here and there than streaks. Crystal clear light amber to redwood color, hue drops off enough at the rims to evoke more of a metallic rust orange, only a few bubbles floating around. While the nose does present a pinch of white pepper as well as moss, tar and something like volcanic ash, truly it’s about being as sweet as possible, caramel, butterscotch, milk chocolate team up with orange and grapefruit pulp to fill up your nostrils, the apricot, peach, pear fruit verges on syrupy with a touch of honey, given all this curious lack of staying power. Full-bodied with a sticky, clingy mouth feel, as if it wants to glue itself to your mouth pores. The carbonation is weak, if remaining at a consistent low drone. More bread, pie crust accents here, some custard as well in addition to the base of butterscotch, caramel, coconut and molasses. The tangerine, pink grapefruit citrus wet, juicy and equally sticky itself. Touch of golden raisin and fig to the pear, peach, yellow apple, mango fruit, lacks the tang to get more tropical. The pine element is mostly resin and sap. Its density starts to fatigue the palate once you’re halfway through the bomber. Tempted to say it’s one for the real hopheads among us but the sweetness factor flies in the face of such a statement.
3 out of 5

Stillwater Artisanal Ales
Existent
Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Maryland
7.4%
25.4oz, Single
$12.69
Pours maybe half a finger of the loosest foam you could imagine, the bubbles are large and impossibly thin, wispy lacing, if truly any. Very dark brown to black colored liquid, doesn’t seem to possess any cloudiness, hint of orange or yellow around the rims and glass bottom. The nose has a grassy to herbaceous core but really is driven by cocoa powder, malt, powdered dark chocolate, all dry and dusty, slowly blends in orange peels, licorice and scone, maybe a brush of raw nuts, any fruit indistinct, same for florality. Medium-bodied, the weak carbonation makes it feel more stern and unyielding, pours itself into the mouth sort of like wet concrete. Very dry with the same bittersweet dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee bean fueled attack, about the only thing “wet” might be the grapefruit to orange citrus, even as sour as it is. Earthy enough with peat moss, lichen, fallen forest floor matter component, yet this too can’t avoid the dryness of the high grade roast and toast. Minimal bread or yeast accents. Perhaps a slight uptick in fruit, this cherry, apricot, red grape in nature. It’s as if it does not lack length per se, more so it just stops. Leaves you with this nagging feeling like you are missing its intended message.
3 out of 5

Mother Earth Brewing
Silent Night Imperial Stout (Ale Aged In Oak Bourbon Barrels)
American Double/Imperial Stout
North Carolina
9.0%
25.4oz, Single
$19.69
An aggressive pour will yield two plus fingers of loose froth, mostly larger bubbles with not much power of retention, pops and fizzes down to a solid surface coating which does retain, the lacing is thick and goopy, almost sloppy. Follows the script completely, perfectly black liquid with nary a trace of orange nor yellow to be found. The nose is a cavalcade of coconut custard, vanilla pudding, butterscotch, rum raisin with white grape, peach, cherry fruit and then a slight uptick of toastiness as the hops and grassiness exert themselves mildly, conjures up an alright spritz of orange, the oak treatment very clear yet not boozy, this in its favor. Full-bodied to the point where you begin to question it as a carbonated beverage, like where’s the bubbles and fizz. Still, sharper profile here with added emphasis on the orange, grapefruit citrus verging on lime, grains and more rustic breadiness. Cocoa powder, vanilla extract, hard butterscotch candy, caramel eventually gains traction. Funny, has a relatively lowish alcohol percentage for its type yet sneaks up on you, buzz develops swiftly. Grape, plum, cherry fruit not sweet enough to challenge the overall roast factor which ends up favoring coffee grind notes. If it could maintain more weight and sheer forward momentum through the finish might approach “behemoth” territory. As is, struggles to keep itself balanced and with clarity of message. That said, if you want some stout fireworks you should be pleased. Price is ouchy, though.
4 out of 5

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Chugged in March 2011

Laverstoke Park Farm
Organic Real Ale
English Pale Ale
England
5.0%
16.9oz, Single
$6.99
Pours a huge, loose head which comes close to filling half the glass, delicate in a pastry dough sort of way, you’re almost afraid to touch it, dissipates more around the glass sides than the center, bone white with close to zero lacing. Fuzzy orange color, a bit like zinc or rust water, not hard to see through, fair amount of loose bubbles floating around, more yellow around the rims. The nose brings a whiff of honey and fresh pine sap but it’s more centered around raw grains, bitters and straw/hay, old dried up orange and grapefruit rinds, manages some apricot and peach to lessen the brunt before disappearing. Medium to full-bodied, the carbonation seems to spread it more widely across the palate than lift or agitate. More lemon to citrus bite, conversely more honey and pungent floral elements. The malts give it some cocoa powder and caramel, however, these are ground into a more homogeneous texture than distinct flavors. The dough has a semi-baked quality, this brought out more by salinity, pepper and forest floor scrub and earthiness. With each sip your mouth becomes drier and drier. Peach, apple, pear fruit feel cellar dried and aged. It grows on you some and shows better as it warms, easy to see this performing better with food than on its own.
3 out of 5

Great Divide Brewing Company
Grand Cru Belgian Style Dark Ale
Belgian Strong Dark Ale
Colorado
11.0%
22oz, Single
$8.49
Produces close to three fingers of whipped up dark tan foam, lots of larger bubbles, however, has decent retention and sufficient stick to the lacing to be worthy of the name. Mostly clear liquid of deep mahogany red and brown hues, maybe a growing orange stripe at the glass bottom and rims. The nose is virtually all sweetness, dripping maraschino cherries, prunes, figs, grapes, raspberries and then cinnamon, clove, orange pulp, cola, milk chocolate, scone and danish flakes, finally a bit of earthiness and forest scrub yet nothing unduly herbaceous or even funky, be this in the good or bad way. Full-bodied, foamy carbonation gregarious if sloppy. Same full-bore level of sweetness here with honey, maple syrup, toffee, butterscotch, chocolate all in the mix. Mildly fresher array of fruit with white grape, pear, peach and apple equal to any prune, date, fig, cherry aspects. The cola, licorice, kinda Dr. Pepper thing keeps on truckin’ and the cinnamon to coriander spice fits in just fine. The overall “wet” mouth feel keeps the orange to tangerine citrus juicy and more pulp than peel. Minimal hoppy bite and, again, no herbaceousness. Not very yeasty nor bready, at most displays a light nuttiness. Sweetness wear you down some, alcohol sneaks up on your buzz-wise but not burn.
3 out of 5

Highland Brewing Company
Little Hump Spring Ale
American Pale Ale
North Carolina
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.89
Bone white foam, touch over one finger, very fine microfoam, too much so to even dimple, dissolves steadily to a respectable surface coating, the lacing forms as a thin sheet which gently breaks apart as gravity pulls it downwards. The liquid is a base yellow with a soft metallic orange edge, full transparency, only a few scattered bubbles to be viewed, slow moving at that. The nose has a cleansing, high-toned feel focusing on tangerine, mandarin orange, white grapefruit citrus and pretzel dough with a good dose of white pepper, granola and fresh grain cereal, at times it really does come across as pilsner-like, given its erect and lean nature there’s ample sweet apricot, peach, nectarine fruit scents. Medium-bodied, sort of a stern mouth feel, not “serious” per se but built like an old school, traditional beer that is cleansing and mouth-watering while also strong enough to stand up to all kinds of food. The carbonation has a tight weave and it’s damn dry from start to finish. Salt and pepper, pretzel dough to rye, quinine, dried lawn grass, all these tend to outscore the peach, apricot, apple fruit, even pushing the grapefruit, blood orange citrus back some. All that scrubbing leaves the palate alive and pulsating at the end, however, maybe fatigued as well. It brings the word ╥honest╙ to mind. Not sure I could drink more than two bottles in a sitting, though.
3 out of 5

Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams)
Irish Red
Irish Red Ale
Massachusetts
5.8%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.29
Nicely whipped up and frothy light tan head, crests around two fingers, decent staying power in spite of its general delicacy, in turn has a credible amount of lacing sticking around. Brown to red amber in color, darker than most while also unblemished with transparency and clarity, decent activity in the bubbles. The nose is very malty and smooth with caramel, toffee, milk chocolate, brown sugar and ripe cherry, plum and apricot fruit scents, has some peat, tar and earth elements as well, light grass presence but hops not factoring in here. Full-bodied, well-carbonated and close to fluffy through the attack, immediately covers the mouth from cheek-to-cheek. Lays on that molasses, brown sugar, maple, caramel, however, a brush of pine, orange citrus, raw grains, and straw helps dry it out as it moves forward. Retains that mix of cherry, berry to peach, apricot fruit. One of those beers that’s hard not to like when it’s in your glass and going down the gullet but unlikely to make you want to pull the trigger on a future purchase.
3 out of 5

Stone Brewing Company
Old Guardian BELGO Barley Wine Style Ale (2011 Odd Year Release)
American Barleywine
California
12.0%
22oz, Single
$6.99
Two plus fingers of tan-orange foam, moderate density, mixes in some larger bubbles without much dimpling, forms a good layer across the surface which lingers well, the lacing forms solid sheets which slowly glide downwards without much residue. Cloudy amber red with more brown in the center and brighter orange at the glass bottom, a few scattered bubbles visible, deeply hued for sure. There’s a burnt edge to the nose which highlights the smokiness as well as caramelized sugars, candied orange peels, pine sap, equally concentrated and close to dried fruit apricot, peach, pineapple, cherry with fresh ginger slices to boot, avoids extremes of both hoppiness and maltiness ending up in a muddle in the middle. Full-bodied, thick and bottom heavy, this in spite of super-creamy carbonation. The ginger, coriander, clove spice pairs with orange peel, caramel, toffee, pine, too boozy and rough and tumble for the florality to show a lot. Curiously, any yeast or dough notes seem to get stamped out, never mind anything remotely tasting like barley. It carries the signature “Stone” profile but little grace and balance. The finish is at once very sugary and astringent.
2 out of 5

Moylan’s Brewery
Dragoons Dry Irish Stout
Irish Dry Stout
California
5.0%
22oz, Single
$5.19
Large three plus finger head of loose, larger foam, heavily whipped, dark tan to outright brown in color, the lacing is haphazard but sticks fully where it lands. Just about pure black liquid, no color to be hither or yon, appears trim and clean. Taut and wiry nose, hits you with it, but it is indeed a punch, cocoa to malted milk balls, lighter caramel, orange peels, the hops have a subtle aggressiveness and pine and grass appear in uncommon percentage, plum, black grape, cherry fruit scents thick enough to anchor things, doe snot appear fashioned to gently soak in, no love handles. Full-bodied with a muscular enough structure to keep things limber and nimble with the added weight. Cocoa, dark chocolate nibs, coffee, hard toffee, the orange citrus a very dry zest, leads swiftly into pine sap and tea leaf accents. The carbonation has a finely granular character while still bringing a fair degree of fluff. Smokiness builds sip after sip, with it a semi-bitter nuttiness. Lots of elements, not so much harmony. As a result, does not deliver high scores on general drinkability.
3 out of 5

LoneRider Brewing Company
Shotgun Betty Hefeweizen
Hefeweizen
North Carolina
5.8%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.29
Close to two fingers of bleached white froth, mostly loosely knit microfoam which would dimple more if it wasn’t evaporating so solidly across the surface anyway, the lacing comes in the form of thin sheets rather than streaks, here there’s credible stickiness. Mildly hazy, not cloudy, yellow-orange hued liquid, mostly transparent, touch too dilute to really diminish much at the rims or glass bottom, has a decent glow to it. The nose brings strong clove, cinnamon spice as well as banana and honey aspects, spiced orange peels, ripened unto syrupy peach, apricot, pear, grape fruit scents, little pepperiness but nothing distinctly “wheaty” about it, too sweet overall for that. Full-bodied, here in the mouth there’s more corn and meal than dry, bitter wheat or unprocessed grains. The sweet honey, banana and clove notes only really challenged by the effervescent carbonation, which itself could show more restraint. Undercurrent of mineral water below the juicy peach, apricot, pear, pineapple, white grape fruit. The orange to lemon citrus has less focus than in the nose. Odd tacky residue left on the tongue, stays drying after the flavors long gone.
2 out of 5

Lost Coast Brewery & Cafe
Alleycat Amber Ale
American Amber/Red Ale
California
5.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.49
Gives you a half finger of off-white foam, mix of multiple bubble sizes creates a dimpling effect right from the start, not much retention so enjoy this while you can, thin surface coating fares better, the lacing too delicate to stick much. Faintest gauzy quality in the reddish amber liquid, true to the category, remains mostly transparent, yellows out at the glass bottom. Malty nose of cocoa, chocolate powder, brown sugar and hard toffee candy, the orange to tangerine citrus more sweet than sour, very lightly roasted nuts, has spine without the hops getting all herbaceous on you, curious lack of distinct fruit scents. Medium-bodied, the carbonation puts a big charge into it, close to a whirlpool effect, definitely keeps it scrubbing along the mouth walls and tongue. Here too favors the malts, if by a closer margin, the cocoa and brown sugar not that sugary and knit into the green grass to straw and orange, lemon led citrus. Hard to say the florality ever gets it in gear. More nutty with an echo of tarry earth through the end. Makes an earnest attempt at fashioning a distinct personality but two or more missteps scotch the deal. In the end, you search unsuccessfully for an underlying guiding principle.
3 out of 5

Clipper City Brewing Company
Heavy Seas Black Cannon Black IPA
American Black Ale
Maryland
7.25%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.99
Bit over half a finger of tan foam, the base of denser bubbles undone by larger bubbles which dissolve things down to thin surface coating at best, the lacing sticks around better albeit you will not need to wash it off the glass. Impenetrable black liquid, a deep metallic orange accumulates at the glass bottom for color. The nose is hoppy and herbaceous enough to earn the title of “IPA,” pine and grapefruit to tangerine citrus shine through clearly, mixed flowers as well if to a lower degree, the roast is high-toned and focused, expresses itself as coffee bean and cocoa, nothing soft, as a result its briskness close to its finest attribute. Medium-bodied with good activity in the carbonation, the tingle helps to play up the hoppy bite and grass to lemon, white grapefruit citrus. Much higher roast here with big time coffee, dark chocolate and mocha flavors, nothing shy nor that sweet about it. So, it covers the hops and malts both, if blending them into a flatter whole. The peach, apple fruit shows a more tropical pineapple, nectarine stripe. Too aggressive to put down more than a couple in a row.
3 out of 5

Craggie Brewing Company
Dubbelicious Belgian Style “Double” Ale
Dubbel
North Carolina
6.5%
16oz, Single
$5.99
Very thin head, practically gone before its there, light tan in hue. Lightly filmy liquid, the metallic orange base favors yellow over brown by a hair, the minuscule bubbles more dispersed than in beads. At first the nose suggests earth, peat, wood ash and tar before settling into only semi-sweet banana, bubblegum, spiced oranges, biscuit and corn meal, the apple, pear, white grape scents in turn not overdone, overall marked most by gentle weight and persistent outwards expansive pressure. Medium-bodied, the carbonation has a slow, steady churn to it which slackens the pacing and at times makes it feel heavier. Drier than expected, with more tangy bite as well, pleasing emphasis on lemon, orange and a touch of white grapefruit citrus. Here the malts rise a notch, offering mocha to cocoa dust. The yeastiness seems kind of regal, a tough sort of breadiness, not going to pretty itself up with too much honey or banana notes. Some granola or cereal in there. Same pear, apple, peach, grape fruit flavors, pleasant enough but tending to veer away during the mid-palate. Not a lot of “give” here, stylistically appears best suited for the dinner table than casual sipping.
3 out of 5

Anchor Brewing Company
Porter
American Porter
California
5.6%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.49
Gargantuan head, even with a measured pour, easily fills a third of the glass with densely packed microfoam, more peaks and valleys than dimpling, benchmark retention, shit ain’t going nowhere. the lacing produces broad, sticky streaks here and little of effect there. Pretty much jet black to onyx colored liquid, sliver of dark zinc orange at the bottom, The nose is much more sour and penetrating than many of its ilk, as if it wants to show sour milk next to the powdered cocoa and caramel. slight pickled quality to it, the more you sniff it the more you realize that it has a lean, semi-defiant attitude that almost wants to play down any roast to toast as well as plum, cherry, apricot scents and leave it all to the standoffish malts to win the day. In the mouth the sourness doesn’t try to hide, lemon and orange front and center, herbal streak there too. Hard breakfast pastry character to it, not soft like a croissant but not entirely charmless either. Loads of cocoa powder and coffee, heavy duty, coats the peach, apple, pear fruit close to fully. Has a distinct personality, something I’m willing to accept readily, still not a beer that seems interesting in crafting a fully enjoyable experience.
3 out of 5

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Chugged in February 2011

Tröegs Brewing Company
Nugget Nectar Imperial Amber
American Amber/Red Ale
Pennsylvania
7.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.99
Large, close to three finger head, mostly tan to eggshell white froth and medium-sized bubbles, above average retention, the lacing breaks into thin streaks and splotches but stays put thereafter. Spotless metallic zinc to copper color, as orange as red, multiple beads of active bubbles stream upwards. Sweet honey, pine, rose petals and then pineapple, nectarine, peach fruit blossom into the nose, the more bitter herbaceousness does not swing the pendulum too far in the other direction, the tangerine and grapefruit notes stick in the middle ground, slight cocoa to mocha powder maltiness before it all dissolves, does an excellent job of expressing hoppiness without any burn. Medium-bodied, semi-creamy texture with gently massaging carbonation, freshening lift too. Here the more tart tangelo, pink grapefruit fully equal to the pineapple, apricot, peach, apple fruit. At the same time the dusty cocoa, chocolate adds to its general dryness and erect posture. This not to ignore the quiet presence of cane sugar, molasses and caramel. Pine and tea leaves come through at the end, not especially spicy. Has the I.B.U.’s to satisfy the hophead while staying accessible to the layperson.
5 out of 5

Clipper City Brewing Company
Heavy Seas Mutiny Fleet 2010 Hang Ten Weizen Doppelbock
Weizenbock
Maryland
10.0%
22oz, Single
$5.99
Two fingers of tan foam, loosely constructed with a dimpling surface, popping bubbles across the surface until close to gone, not much lacing but what’s there is thick and sticks nicely. Semi-cloudy burnt orange-brown color, lazy larger bubbles, yellows some at the glass bottom. Smells at first like banana purée, pink bubblegum too, candied apple, pear and apricot, cinnamon, honey topped wheat bread, however, not that grainy, orange juice, sugary without much counter-balance, just enough lift to escape being tiresome. Full-bodied, dry attack with active carbonation, slowly unveils the banana, bubblegum, maple syrup, toffee and milk chocolate. Apricot, cherry, peach fruit ripe but not sugary per se. Breakfast breads, cinnamon and ginger spice. More oats and rye than wheat. Hard to find the hops and determine what they are supposed to add. Likely best poured as a “dessert beer.”
3 out of 5

Clipper City Brewing Company
Heavy Seas Below Decks Barley Wine Style Ale (2009)
English Barleywine
Maryland
10.0%
12oz, 4-Pack
$8.99
A little less than a full finger of light tan foam, smaller bubbles on the whole, lacing forms broad sheets yet with little stickiness. Clean liquid, if as much dark brown as any red or orange amber, multiple beads of strong tiny bubbles. The nose is sweet even for the category, molasses, caramel, maple syrup, butterscotch, milk chocolate, spiced orange reduction, it’s boozy but not overpoweringly so, peach, apricot and pear close to a dried fruit character, the barley, oats and sweeter grains almost an afterthought. Full-bodied, all credit to the carbonation for trying but not quite tough enough to take the chunkiness out of the whole, has a leaden feel. Still, no lack of cocoa, chocolate, caramel, toffee and maple with a fruitcake to challah bread element as well. Here, a light hoppy bitterness comes through, a welcome addition. Brings sour orange with some lemon. The spiciness is there but without clearly distinct flavors. Wears you down by the end of the glass.
3 out of 5

AS Tartu Õlletehas
Viru
American Adjunct Lager
Estonia
5.0%
10oz, Single
$2.49
Close to two finger head of bone white and delicate microfoam, hard to even see the contour of most of the bubbles, retention is slight at best, simmers down swiftly, lacing fares about the same, some immediate stick then gone. Clear golden straw color to the liquid, pale yet attractive, only sparse bubbles visible, not much difference towards the rims. Noticeably sweet nose of corn syrup, honey, cane sugar and potato bread, waft of orange citrus, rice and mixed grain, no real herbaceous character, highly innocuous. Medium-bodied, good solid bottom keeps it anchored in the palate, remains on the sweet side here too with that corn and other adjuncts, honey and caramel, the orange citrus pulp and sweet, notes of standard peach and apricot fruit. Moderate hay, meadow grasses, once more avoids any really herbal bite or overall bitterness. The carbonation is light but tight enough to help it finish with elevating dryness. Nothing really noteworthy, does have high drinkability and general smoothness.
3 out of 5

Great Lakes Brewing Company
Conway’s Irish Ale
Irish Red Ale
Ohio
6.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.29
Little below a finger’s worth of light tan foam, full mix of bubble sizes and types, settles down into a decent layer across the surface, the lacing starts off in thin sheets before breaking into thinner sheets sliding down the glass. Immaculate red amber color that captures light very well, brightening as a result, the bubbles appear haphazardly, you can see some big ones glued to the glass bottom. The nose has a big malty profile emphasizing cocoa, toffee, scone and danish, more breakfast flakes than lunch bread, mix of pepper and pine, at best get generalized white citrus, the peach, apple, pear fruit scents hover in the background. Full-bodied with somewhat sloppy carbonation, foams through the mouth like a gregarious fat guy. There’s a tart to outright sour element here which tempers any excesses in the foundational sweetness. More grain bread in play here, some rye too. Still, honey, caramel, chocolate and brown sugar discerned. Orange and lesser pink grapefruit take the baton without a hitch. Apricot, nectarine, peach fruit with a little pineapple for good measure. Finishing with even more chocolate on the scene. While very good not sure how many I could drink in one sitting.
4 out of 5

Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery, The
Wee Heavy Scotch Style Ale
Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy
North Carolina
8.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$13.89
Finger plus head of creamy foam, full tan color with a light orange tint, dissolves until it reaches a steady thick coating across the surface, no lack of sticky grip to the sheets of lacing. Deep amber color, about equally red and orange, utmost clarity to the liquid, good scattering of bubbles throughout, brighter zinc orange at the glass bottom. Fairly boozy nose, leans on caramel, honey, brown sugar and candied orange peels for effect, mild dried fruit concentration to the peach, apricot, apple fruit scents, almond with a hint of cashew, over time a herbaceousness grows to the fore with supporting earthiness. Medium-bodied, the high activity of the carbonation increases its mouth presence, muscular. The sweetness of the caramel, molasses, cocoa and butterscotch packed into the mouth entry, dries out into semi-sour orange and white grapefruit citrus as well as a pinch of pepper. The apricot, peach, nectarine, apple fruit comes with notes of golden raisin and fig too. Peat, hay and charcoal dry it out a touch more. It wears its complexity with ease and comes close to convincing you it’s not even that complex. For its burly demeanor, good drinkability. Needs a heaping of beef brisket and potatoes.
5 out of 5

Lagunitas Brewing Company
Imperial Stout
Russian Imperial Stout
California
9.6%
22oz, Single
$4.79
Finger plus of very dark brown foam, somewhat loose with more than a few islands of larger bubbles frothing up and popping away under the surface, lacing much slicker than expected, barely registers on the way down the glass sides. The liquid isn’t really black, more like the darkest possible brown this side of black, razor thin aura of orange at the glass bottom. The nose is all about rich, milky chocolate, cocoa, vanilla fudge and caramel with a candied orange infusion, no substantial roast nor toast, just sweetness which also infects/infuses any hoppy pine, herb nuances, blindfolded you would think you were in a Hershey’s factory. Full-bodied, softly contoured and expansive in the mouth, close to sloppy bear hug status. Cola, licorice and a lighter orange reduction swirled into the milk chocolate and caramel foundation. Carbonation is average to slightly below. Follows the nose with a good punch of pine and green matter, the hops sinewy and active under all the malts. That said, this is definitely a stout built for visceral pleasure above striving for either complexity or sheer brute power. Earns its place at that table, simplicity is not always an insult.
5 out of 5

Green Man Ales and Brewery
Stout
English Stout
North Carolina
6.5%
64oz, Growler
$12.99
Pours a very thin tan head which displays minimal retention, close to gone before it’s even there, the lacing is equally wispy but does manage a little staying power. Black liquid with a dark brown tint at glass bottom with a slight stripe of orange, zero filminess. Dry, close to dusty, nose of bittersweet chocolate, cocoa powder, anise seed, orange to lemon peel, touch of mineral water, well-baked country bread, no clearly discernible fruit scents. Medium-bodied, does a credible job of planting itself on the tongue in spite of its overall high degree of dryness which would otherwise deaden the palate to it. The carbonation flips things periodically, more of a factor than expected visually. Dark bitter chocolate, cocoa and mocha powdery and eventually yield to burnt coffee notes. Orange mist with some floral underpinning, less of the breadiness than in the nose, curious that. Black grape to cherry the most you get for fruit. Roast really expands through the finish, dampens most sweet aspects. Not exactly sure what the brewery considers to be the separation point between a porter and a stout.
3 out of 5

Stillwater Artisanal Ales
Import Series Vol. 2: A Saison Darkly (Dark Ale Brewed With Spices)
Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Maryland
8.0%
12oz, Single
$5.99
A moderately aggressive pour fills half the glass with extremely delicate tan brown microfoam, so gossamer it’s hard to say it has a steady dissolve. a little more lacing than you’d think given the character of the head. Dark brown colored liquid with a fair degree of murkiness to it, yellow aura, given its darkness the bubbles must be brawny and active because they are clearly visible. The nose displays a thickly constructed cocoa toast, very chocolaty, blending in orange peel, ginger spice, creamed coffee and lighter mintiness, the black cherry, blackberry, apricot fruit scents are nothing spectacular, however, there most of the time. Medium-bodied, the carbonation is tight and active from the first sip, brings a lot of energy to the show. Brings on all that cocoa, mocha, chocolate, more toast than roast so less coffee. Has a more sour side here, tart grasses as well as more biting orange, lemon citrus. Less baking spices, here more stuff like sage, basil or thyme, almost oily. Its dryness helps separate and highlight the various components. Parts fit together well, understated complexity. Just pour it way before you want to drink it.
4 out of 5

Alaskan Brewing Company
Smoked Porter (2010)
American Porter
Alaska
6.5%
22oz, Single
$6.29
Full finger’s worth of deep brown head, some froth but lots of much larger bubbles as well, about average retention, the lacing much more impressive with broad, sticky streaks that just don’t go away. Black liquid, still also comes across as very clean and without any haze at all, you gets some metallic reddish-orange at the glass bottom and rims. “Smoked” is absolutely truth-in-advertising, the smoke is deep, broad and energetic, brings out a woodsy side as well as dried herbs, coffee bean, cocoa, anise, there’s some caramel in there but sweetness is not a main goal here, more orange zest than any cherry or berry fruit, as you adjust the smoke seems to even bring out meat fat or beef jerky notes. Medium-bodied with a super-firm mouth presence, glues itself in place. This achieved even as the carbonation brings muscular kick and scrubbing action. The smoke doesn’t have the same complexity here, the trade-off might be that the tongue can register the sweetness in the plum, cherry flavors. Coffee bean, mocha powder, bittersweet nibs, some vanilla bean too. Its earthy side comes out more here, herbal matter helps add to overall balance, mineral water too. As you’d expect, the smoke still outlasts the other flavors.
4 out of 5

Tibet Lhasa Brewery Ltd
Lhasa Beer
Euro Pale Lager
China
4.6%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.29
Thin, bleached white head, solid right after the pour yet disintegrates with ease to just a few bubbles along the glass walls, the lacing seems greased with PAM spray. Light golden hue to the liquid, fades to a yellow with ease, derives presence from a slight gauzy quality, random, widely dispersed bubbles here and there. The nose is mainly sweet cornbread, malt, flowers and molasses, modicum of apricot, apple and pear scents, while there’s an element of souring milk, nothing very green or herbaceous to be found. Medium-bodied, bottom heavy and sinks into the palate even if imbued with a fair amount of fattish carbonation. More corn, straw, hay and lesser amount of dough. Mixes in a pinch of salt and pepper, helps keep it try and cancel out most of the unnecessary honey or molasses notes. Again, more floral than grassy but the latter catches up here. Something akin to ginger sprinkled on the meager apricot, peach, yellow apple fruit. No big flaws but it is what it is.
2 out of 5

Lagunitas Brewing Company
IPA
American IPA
California
6.2%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.49
Finger plus of creamy off-white foam, dimples across the surface but has the density to retain its presence nicely, same can be said for the thin but steady lacing streaks. Copper orange color with a metallic sheen, about as red as yellow in tint, tiny bubbles drift around here and there, highly transparent. Clean, brisk hoppy nose of tangerine, pink grapefruit zest, pine sap, damp brown earth and sour grasses, honey, lavender and a dab of chocolate not going to take the edge off, however, it’s on the sweet side anyway, has apricot, peach, nectarine fruit but doesn’t get tropical. Medium-bodied, has an undeniable firmness about it, the carbonation is thick and pops of languidly yet there to the very end. Offers as much mineral water and tonic water as it does lemon, grapefruit, mandarin orange citrus, stays dry, even in the face of the extract of the primary material. The pineapple, nectarine, papaya, peach fruit dry, short of concentrated. Glimmer of cocoa or coffee bean, otherwise little malt presence. The pine and flowers curiously seem short-lived too. It’s almost like a sharpened knife blade but without any food on it, having not cut into anything yet. The thought keeps nagging at you that it’s, umm, just a little boring.
3 out of 5

Shenzhen Kingway Brewery Co., Ltd
Kingway
Euro Pale Lager
China
4.5%
11.2oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Highly whipped up head crests at about two plus fingers of pure white foam, looks like the top of a freshly made milkshake, as loose as cotton candy and dissolves about as fast, nothing there a good 30 seconds after the pour, the lacing seems scattershot at best, splotchy. Pale, somewhat washed out yellow color, crystal clear, horde of loosely assembled huge bubbles, nothing like beads. Sort of angular presence in the nose, impelled by green grass, straw, pretzel dough, salt, cornstarch, the grape to yellow apple fruit scents sweet without needing much maltiness, more floral as it warms. Light-bodied, not quite watery but evanescent is one way of putting it. Salt and pepper and quinine make you most aware of its presence, stale pretzels, hay, lemon water, while not bitter you can’t really say it’s sweet either. Corn syrup. Not a lot of fruit, malt or even hops, it’s pretty much a generic beer like what you’d find in the can labeled “Beer” in Repo Man. Works if you are broke and in college.
2 out of 5

Stillwater Artisanal Ales
Autumnal
Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Maryland
7.2%
25.4oz, Single
$13.99
Gives you a solid, close to two fingers of light tan foam, while almost exclusively tiny bubbles does dissolve quickly, for lacing presents an unbroken sheet down the glass walls, like armor mail, finally breaks into non-sticky rivulets. The nose is earthy unto a bit dirty, peat moss, tree bark, mixed grains, the orange citrus has a powdery, candied character, freshly picked and then cellar dried aspect to the apple, pear, peach scents, more weightless concentration than sugariness, light honeyed glaze and cocoa powder lend the needed sweetness, ends with elevating herbaceousness and pepperiness, especially if allowed to warm some. Close to full-bodied, fuzzy carbonation gives it a looser mouth feel. More upfront chocolate and mocha pretties up the mouth entry with a concomitant emphasis on dried apple, apricot, peach, pear fruit, touch of banana as well. More toast than roast, some coffee notes. The orange to lemon citrus a presence throughout while not looking to solo, brings sourness at moments. The earthiness less arch and more floral than green here. The spices don’t achieve clarity, except maybe for the white pepper. Studies a lot to make up for lack of innate ability.
3 out of 5

Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams) & Weihenstephan
2010 Infinium Ale
Bière de Champagne/Bière Brut
Massachusetts
10.3%
25.4oz, Single
$20.99
Very large frothy, crests at over three fingers of bone white foam, hordes of micro-bubbles, craters as much as dimples, powerful sheets of lacing which slide downwards at a languorous pace. Brownish orange color, at times suggests red or yellow, seems to change a lot given the viewing angle, consistent in the steady flow of tight bubble beads throughout. The sour, vinous aspect to the nose frames the whole while making adequate room for butterscotch, caramel sweetness and a blend of white grapefruit and blood orange citrus, more outright herbaceous than hoppy, buttered croissant flakes, strong apricot, peach and yellow apple fruit presence, at times peppery, overall truly needs what sourness it can muster or would smell way too sweetly. Full-bodied, in spite of the constant gentle churn from the carbonation tends to recline across the palate rather than move. Lots of white grape flavor, at once welcomes and pushes aside the peach, apricot, apple, banana fruit flavors. The honey, ginger, butterscotch, toffee accents weight it down further. Reduced and heavy, the sourness in the mandarin orange, lemon citrus can╒t bring life. Barley, lentil, and sage lend some breadth. The doughiness mostly unbaked and raw. Lingering tacky sweetness through the finish, could use added freshness and lift. Much credit granted for uniqueness, leaves you with the impression that this is a beer best served super-fresh, like growler fresh. (Served in a Riedel Vinum Bordeaux stem just because)
3 out of 5

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Chugged in January 2011

Sierra Nevada
Hoptimum Whole-Cone Imperial IPA (2011)
American Double/Imperial IPA
California
10.4%
24oz, Single
$8.59
Even a careful pour might fill half your glass with whipped up foam, creamy eggshell white, excellent retention, takes a good long time for the larger bubbles to initiate dimpling, at the same time, once the head recedes the lacing is glued to the glass sides. Light orange amber colored liquid, sparkle and transparency, yellows some around the rims, only a few, scattered bubbles to be seen. Sweet hop notes rule the nose, sweet pink grapefruit, tangelo, lime citrus, pine sap, then pineapple, papaya, nectarine, apricot fruit scents, likewise has a solid amount of milk chocolate and licorice too, the grassiness displays energy while quite willing to step aside in favor of the sweeter aspects. Medium-bodied, not quite creamy in texture but does have softer give when not expected. Caramel and chocolate take some sting out of pine, lemongrass, green hay hop notes, Odd in that the flavors are sweet, the texture dry and at times biting. More tang in the pink to white grapefruit citrus, lemon too. Pine, black tea, sage and marjoram spice keep you back on your heels. The carbonation possesses enough fluff factor to tame the rougher edges of the pineapple, papaya, guava, nectarine fruit. There just might be a little too much going on here, hard to relax when it’s in your mouth.
4 out of 5

Olde Hickory Brewery
The Event Horizon 2010 (Aged In Oak Bourbon Barrels)
American Double/Imperial Stout
North Carolina
8.5%
22oz, Single
$11.99
Center pour gets you three fingers of extremely dark brown foam, the top comprised of larger, thin-skinned bubbles, hence dissolves at a swift pace, does leave thick, messy slabs of lacing behind and the final layer across the surface has staying power. About the blackest pour you will ever see shoot out of a beer bottle, this said when logically black is just black and does not admit of gradients. Naturally, fully opaque. The nose is like a chocolate factory on fire, all roasted and toasted cocoa, mocha, caramel, coffee ice cream, butterscotch and even a suggestion of chicory, all this with a good dose of pine and orange zest blended in, the booziness gives the fruit scents a plum, raisin, cherry cast, dessert-like, otherwise too monolithic for much else to enunciate clearly. Full-bodied for sure, dry and powdery in texture, you can feel it cake up on the tongue, the oak wood evident in many different manners. So much chocolate and cocoa that it’s kind of embarrassing to mention other components, the caramel, butterscotch and honey a distant second. Rum raisin, alcohol drenched poached plum, cherry to pear fruit. Lower pine here, more dried herbal and grass matter, tree bark. The grill smoke adds a helpful sour dimension. Underneath the intentional “black star” density is a fairly complex beer trying to get out. If it had more flow and “give” it would be highly notable within its category.
4 out of 5

Bruery, The
3 French Hens (75% Belgian Dark Ale, 25% Ale Aged In French Oak Barrels)
Belgian Strong Dark Ale
California
10.0%
25.4oz, Single
$12.89
Wispy head full of delicate deep brown bubbles, strong pour gets you close to three fingers at first, quickly whittles itself down to a thin coating across the surface, the lacing is thin depth-wise but sure coats the glass sides well. Clear mahogany brown color with a vibrantly bright orange tint, sparkly glass presence, compensates decently for the lack of head retention. Smoky sweet nose of caramelized brown sugar, molasses, graham cracker, rum, vanilla, bread pudding, the yellow raisin, fig, peach, apricot, nectarine fruit scents mix sweetness with more bite, the orange peel accents favor the latter, booziness enlarges its presence and length while, thankfully, avoiding any burning sensations. Medium-bodied with a grapey vinous texture as well as flavoring. The carbonation manages an aggressive churn through the attack plus, then trails off. The sourness bolstered by red cherry, raspberry fruit, the golden raisin and fig take a step back. Some banana, more baked into bread than raw fruit. Never gets green, some tea leaf and orange pith, the oak toast here edges out any more acrid smokiness. Funny how sweet you think it is at first only to slowly relent and change your mind with each next sip.
3 out of 5

Anderson Valley Brewing Company
Imperial IPA
American Double/Imperial IPA
California
8.7%
12oz, 4-Pack
$11.79
Strong pour only gets you less than a finger of albeit dense cream white foam, nothing unusual about the lacing, what you’d expect from the category. Soft gauziness to the otherwise luminescent zinc orange color, not much hue change throughout. The nose first goes heavy on caramel, nougat and toffee, makes even the orange citrus syrupy, stocky pine sap to boot, the florality gets submerged some, light fruit paste quality to the apricot, peach and pineapple scents. Medium to full-bodied with a sappy carbonation which adds minor churn at best, the palate easily replicates the nose with chocolate, caramel, toffee and butterscotch by far the major flavors. Slightly more edge in the tangerine, white grapefruit citrus. The stickiness undermines any clarity among the pine, flowers, cashew nut and forest scrub elements. Pineapple, papaya, nectarine, apricot fruit sweet yet somehow not sugary, no easy flow, too gluey. Tasty for sure but it just bogs down in itself and lacks for almost any refreshing qualities.
2 out of 5

Left Hand Brewing Company
Oxymoron (A Teutonic India Pale Ale) (The Midnight Project Brew III – 2010) (Collaboration with Terrapin)
American Double/Imperial Pilsner
Colorado
7.2%
22oz, Single
$7.79
Frothy eggshell white head, close to a finger in depth with above average retention, extremely strong lacing, thick brush strokes. Bright glow to the reddish orange liquid, soft cloudiness but, on the whole, easy enough to see through, few scattered bubbles visible. Sweet orange and grapefruit citrus bubble through the nose, equally matched by pepper and a saline touch, lots of pretzel dough and rye bread, overall pungency and thickness in your nostrils helps the peach, apricot, apple, pear scents last, the hops bring out more green herbaceousness than may be preferred. Medium-bodied, tight carbonation scrubs as well as impels things forward. Dry with more bitterness than astringency, the rye, pumpernickel and salt give it energy but precludes much softness of texture. The orange, white grapefruit, lemon citrus keeps its juiciness start to finish, welcome presence. Pine resin, cut grass, tar and the generalized hoppy greenness play a large role. The peach, apple, apricot fruit average in length and depth. Okay beer, maybe trying too hard.
3 out of 5

Smuttynose Brewing Company
S’muttonator Double Bock (Big Beer Series)
Doppelbock
New Hampshire
8.5%
22oz, Single
$6.49
Finger’s worth of loosely woven light tan foam, moderate retention, minimal lacing at best. Amber red color with a mixed reddish orange hue at the glass bottom, the liquid is clear and transparent, perhaps in large part due to standing up the bottle for some time, you can see a good quarter inch of sediment in the bottle bottom. The nose has both alcoholic fumes and a syrupy, clingy texture to it, raw brown sugar, molasses, maple syrup and dark chocolate, maraschino cherries to plum, rum raisin, baker’s dough, sufficient pine and flower accents to signal the hops in the background, same for the spiced orange peel. Medium-bodied, the carbonation moves from active to sluggish with no clear pattern. The sweetness is concentrated in molasses, cane sugar and cocoa. The raisin, plum, cherry, apricot fruit seems front-loaded and releases into tart white grapefruit, mandarin orange citrus during the mid-palate. The dough more fully baked here, pie crust and muffin. Pine, grass gains clarity of voice here. Fluid progression through the mouth, the alcohol more heady than burning. Seems like a beer best had with dessert, something like flan or pudding.
3 out of 5

Great Divide Brewing Company
Hibernation Ale (English Style Old Ale)
Old Ale
Colorado
8.7%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.69
Presents two fingers of reddish tan foam, decent density with smaller, tighter bubbles, mild dimpling with good retention at the half finger point, thick streaks of lacing. Dark red-brown color, closer to redwood than mahogany, more translucent than opaque, clearer and brighter orange at the glass bottom. The nose emphasizes cocoa and mocha powder, dusty texture, dried oats, scones, Brazil nuts, concentrated cherry to plum fruit scents, as it warms the orange citrus spreads out, overall more of a gentle toast than deep roast, the hops linger in the background. Medium-bodied, the carbonation is in overdrive from the start, this churning helps to mask a lot of the underlying dryness. Again with the powdery cocoa, mocha, coffee, even the caramel seems this way. Well-baked pastry dough to scone, muffin flavors, well beyond yeasty. Mixed nuts, orange peel, here a little pine sap gets into the mix. The plum, cherry, blackberry fruit gets pushed off to near the finish. At the end gets more earthy with fallen wood notes, nothing close to herbaceous. Extra bonus points for the dryness, not taking the easy overly sweet route.
4 out of 5

Bootlegger’s Brewery
Black Phoenix Chipotle Coffee Stout (Ale Brewed With Coffee & Chipotle Peppers)
Chile Beer
California
6.7%
22oz, Single
$6.29
Vigorous pour gets you two plus fingers of creamy dark brown foam, all micro-bubbles with a uniformly flat surface, you can see hundreds of bubbles popping at once as it simmers down to the surface with ease, the foam glides down the glass sides in solid sheets, no lacing. As expected, the liquid is pure jet black without a trace of color, appears to have no haziness. Wastes no time unleashing the chipotle peppers, albeit the heavily roasted coffee beans, dark chocolate and cocoa, follows up with lactose, cumin and coriander spice, over time the pepper recedes in favor of earth, muddy straw and cigar ash. Medium-bodied, firm and muscular, the weak carbonation would surprise if you only viewed the glass after the pour and not minutes later when there is absolutely no bubbles to found anywhere. As a result, the heat and spice are able to soak in and maintain as consistent a presence as the bitter dark chocolate, coffee and milk cream. Except for the burn there’s no real roughness, smooth enough overall texture. Oatmeal, corn bread, biscuit breadiness is doughy and not that sweet. Momentary touch of orange peel. Any greenness is akin to tea leaves or tobacco wrappers. Not particularly complex but does show determination in getting its few words across.
3 out of 5

Terrapin Beer Company
Moo-Hoo Chocolate Milk Stout 2010 (Malt Beverage Brewed With Natural Flavors)
Milk/Sweet Stout
Georgia
6.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.29
Two fingers loose and agitated super-dark brown foam, almost all larger bubbles with minimal retention, lacing slightly weak as well, not much stickiness. Jet black and as shiny as polished onyx. Softly expansive nose of chocolate pudding, carob and cocoa and unvarnished milk, notch down you get coffee ice cream, butterscotch and apricot, yellow apple fruit with a spritz of orange, mild wet flower petals, some fizzy mineral water, the lack of a distinct hops presence makes it sort of a one trick pony. Medium-bodied, very fluid and slick, glides over the tongue and down the chute with ease. Milk chocolate, lactose, vanilla bean, caramel, all not overly sweet and close to devoid of roast or toast. Oats, licorice, then something like rosemary in place of hoppy herbaceousness. Carbonation keeps moving, no let up even if little effect. The mineral water just metallic enough to scrub up the finish a bit. Very agreeable sipper.
4 out of 5

AleSmith Brewing Company
Old Numbskull Barley Wine Ale
American Barleywine
California
11.0%
25.4oz, Single
$11.99
An average pour yields a super-sized, frothy head of reddish tan delicate, large bubbles which dimples down to the surface, while wispy the lacing pretty much there for good. Vibrant sunset red color, all burnt and aglow, the orange influence helps maintain transparency and brightness, only few scattered micro-bubbles to be seen. Tangerine, grapefruit initiates its presence in your nose, the pine, vanilla cream, coal tar, moss and lichens, toffee hit you scattershot, takes awhile to sort it all out, the breadiness is sweet and close to fruitcake, however, the nectarine, apricot, pineapple scents not aggressive, overall the hops clearly in control and, while messy, the good kind of messy. Medium-bodied and lighter of touch than expected, the carbonation flips the flavors like flapjacks in your mouth. Here you feel the alcohol and there’s a whiskey, vanilla, oak barrel aspect upfront. The tangerine, pink grapefruit, blood orange citrus remains a major factor. Pine sap, floral dew, orange pekoe tea, moves into plusher golden raisin, fig to apricot, nectarine, mango, pineapple fruit. With some warming you get additional caramel, honey coating. Overall sweet and not that dry while at the same time not uncritically relying on sugar to impress. Hard to fully accept it within its typed idiom.
4 out of 5

Stone Brewing Company
Lukcy Basartd Ale (A Slef Trbitue To 13 Yaers Of Arognace)
American Strong Ale
California
8.5%
22oz, Single
$6.99
Huge three finger head of whipped up reddish-tan foam, larger bubbles in the center of the pour, slowly starts to dimple, lacing curiously lacks the expected stickiness. Gauzy burnt red color with equal brown and orange tints, for its darkness holds light inside well. In the nose there’s a big initial splash of juicy pink grapefruit and tangerine which yields to dried pine sap, freshly mown grass and tea leaves, mixes in a touch of carob but the edgy pineapple, papaya, nectarine, apricot fruit scents don’t allow for much softening effects, light resinous texture. Close to full-bodied, the hyperactivity of the carbonation both lifts it up off the tongue and scrubs the palate repeatedly. Very bitter, however, more of a knit together whole here with the pine, tea leaf, cedar, cigar ash, tree bark and leaf elements one big punch. As a result, the still ripe grapefruit, orange citrus recedes fairly far into the background. Even the nectarine, apricot, pineapple, green apple fruit woven tightly into the fabric. At the end, as the carbonation fades, it gums up some, decreasing drinkability. Definitely tastes like a Stone product but, perhaps, its reach exceeds its grasp.
3 out of 5

Bell’s Brewery, Inc.
Hell Hath No Fury Ale (American Dubbel Dark Ale)
Belgian Strong Dark Ale
Michigan
7.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$15.99
Nicely full two finger head of dark brown foam, a more aggressive pour creates larger bubbles and hurts retention, lacing streaks possess admirable thickness. Pure black liquid, darker than most imperial stouts, maybe a glint of brunt orange. Big, sassy nose of cinnamon stick, ginger, anise, milk chocolate, caramel and graham crackers, then loamy with fresh, soft forest floor matter and a saline edge, due to the latter smoky rather than roasty, overall good punch into your nostrils and then longlasting presence. Medium-bodied, more muscular than heavy, sinewy forward progress from sip to swallow. While generally dry, the robust chocolate, cocoa, coffee aspects heard loud and clearly. Licorice, toffee, cinnamon and spiced orange peel come next. You’d think that dryness would create more room for the herbal matter and earth but it sort of recedes here, more mineral water and dried straw instead. Yeasty but not bready, shy murmur of apricot, peach, apple fruit. Carbonation plays it lowkey, there when you look for it. Smooth finish leads easily to subsequent sips.
5 out of 5

Hair Of The Dog Brewing Company
Adam Hearty Old World Ale (Batch Number 78)
Old Ale
Oregon
10.0%
12oz, Single
$5.19
Thin head yet a solid layer of densely woven foam across the entire surface, below average lacing but some there. Murky black colored liquid, yellow around rims and glass bottom more than yellow. Huge charred, smoky nose full of ash, black soot, burnt kindling wood, peat moss, diesel fuel, Chinese black tea, bitter dark chocolate, caramel, candied cherries and rum soaked plums, spiced orange peel, comes after you like there’s a million dollar bounty on your head. Full-bodied, lots of grip, not sticky but it soaks into every pore it can find in your mouth, dark chocolate, mocha, caramel, brown sugar, grill smoke and molasses baked ham. Grape, cherry, apricot, plum fruit, all over the map, sweet and close to dried fruit concentration. The carbonation brings a softer fluffiness, however, overall a minor factor. Resinous leafiness, tree bark, more black tea, the sweetness registering here tempers the edge of the smokiness. Plays good cop and bad cop all rolled up into one, stings the palate then salves the wound. Main flavors last forever.
5 out of 5

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Chugged in December 2010

Ska Brewing Company
Ten Pin Porter!
American Porter
Colorado
5.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.99
Slowly foams up to a finger of dark tan brown, many larger bubbles brings it right back down to the surface, credible lacing but nothing that unique. As black as any stout, meager hint of orange at the outer rims, completely opaque. Very dry and malty nose full of cocoa and mocha powder, ground coffee, oats, dried molasses, brown sugar, floral like orange, other citrus blossoms, the hops more of a blunt punch that crisp penetrating presence. Medium-bodied, the carbonation too hyper for the overall mouth weight and feel, churns things too much, keeps it dry too, flavors don’t have much chance to soak in. No denying the coffee, dark chocolate, mocha dust component, some licorice, molasses and graham cracker but not much else. Smoky to the point of closing in on ashen, cigarette or wood ash. Orange peel, quinine, mineral water tighten the weave further. Cloves and cinnamon stick. Too muscular and “in your face” pour moi but well enough crafted and can see other folks liking it.
3 out of 5

Cucapá Brewing Company
Obscura
American Brown Ale
Mexico
4.8%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.99
The head crests close to two fingers, however, loose enough to dissipate with haste, deep tan in color, thin sheets fall down the glass walls rather than more sticky lacing. Cloudy brown liquid, has enough orange tint give it a rust water look, through it all a steady stream of bubbles remains visible. Curious sour edge to the nose, close to vinous, metal to mineral water, cocoa and chocolate powder dry, cinnamon, mixed grains and granola, cherry, red grape to apple fruit scents, it’s not lean overall but chooses to express itself with few words. Medium-bodied, sourness the major factor here too, the carbonation needs to chill some, keeps its weight even as flavors fade. Emphasis on grape, apple, cherry, cranberry fruit, less earth to metal, softened by the chocolate powder. Sour oranges there too, just hard to avoid sourness. Barley and lentils, not close to herbaceous. This is certainly a unique take on the style, happy to have tried a bottle but no need to seek out more.
2 out of 5

AleSmith Brewing Company
Wee Heavy Scotch Style Ale
Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy
California
10.0%
25.4oz, Single
$11.49
Finger plus of moderate tan color, frothy with many scattered bubbles throughout, causing some hills and vales, simmers down to the surface with only few, if thick streaks of lacing. The liquid is about the darkest brown possible, but not black, deep amber glow hums at the glass bottom. Gargantuan malty nose of molasses, maple syrup, butterscotch, vanilla fudge, creamed coffee with cherry, plum, fig, golden raisin fruit scents, spiced oatmeal, hops close to absent, any peat or earth a cursory embellishment, just lays on the sweetness. Full-bodied, possesses a high roast which is not exactly typical for a wee heavy, at times drinks as much like an imperial stout. That noted, has a deeper sourness to the cherry, raspberry, apple fruit, lessening the raisin, fig, date accents. More orange peel here, brightens the chocolate, molasses, toffee flavors. Presents an appreciated sort of booziness, this spreads across the palate due to the fluffy foam of carbonation. Vanillin flavors rise through the finish, The earth, peat moss, forest scrub murmurs but never clearly enunciates. The sheer verve of the flavors outstrips its flaws, in the end appears to be seeking “imperial wee heavy” status.
4 out of 5

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery/Victory Brewing Company/Stone Brewing Company
Saison du BUFF (Ale Brewed With Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme)
Saison/Farmhouse Ale
California
6.8%
12oz, Single
$3.99
About a finger’s worth of pure white foam, short-lived and settles into a thin surface coating, no real lacing left behind. The liquid is a pale metallic gold yellow, lots of tiny floaties easily visible, enough loosely scattered bubbles to keep them moving about. The nose is light and almost spritzy with emphasis on florality, white grapefruit to lemon zest and pepper, at this juncture the parsley comes through the most of the herbs, what apricot, peach or pear fruit scents present stay on the demure side, its breezy demeanor really wins you over. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied with tight bursts of carbonation which brings added freshness to the texture. The grapefruit, lemon, orange citrus has a fine touch and sparkles well. Pine and white pepper blend into the noticeable four mentioned herbs, through the mid-palate turns towards lightly baked bread, yeast and honey. The hops too start to bring a subtly growing grassy bitterness. More grip here by far when compared to the nose, hugs the tongue closely, this even as the bodacious citrus tries to create more perfume. Extremely drinkable. (Bottled at Victory)
5 out of 5

Sprecher Brewing Company
Brewmaster’s Premium Reserve Russian Imperial Stout
Russian Imperial Stout
Wisconsin
7.9%
33.8oz, Single
$15.69
Standard pour creates two fingers plus of deep brown foam, high quantity of larger bubbles present which hampers retention, the lacing forms a solid sheet down the glass sides before eventually breaking off into streaks. Pure, opaque black liquid top to bottom side to side. The nose slowly builds into a crescendo of coconut, bittersweet chocolate, butterscotch, licorice and black grape, cherry, plum, apricot fruit, splashes some challah bread, baking dough as well as a touch of orange marmalade, while not distinct bit-by-bit, the hops help maintain erect posture in your nostrils. Full-bodied, stern and steely mouth presence like the beam skeleton of a building just under construction. Not a sweeter sort of RIS, offers as much dry oats, grains and straw as chocolate, coffee, caramel or butterscotch. Comes across as a “sturdy” or “rugged” sort of beer, licorice, pine, menthol and then the cherry, blackberry fruit not that pretty, more so chewy. The carbonation, to its credit, softens the mouth feel and helps thing saturate the palate. Given lack of sweetness, the char is also subdued. Develops an earthy, sour twist at the very end. Smooth and sessionable over remarkable.
4 out of 5

Kern River Brewing Company
Class V Stout
American Double/Imperial Stout
California
8.5%
22oz, Single
$5.39
Two fingers of deep brown foam easily achieved, appears denser than it must be because it does evaporate swiftly, albeit with a considerable amount of lacing left behind. While the liquid is pure black you sense that it’s very clear with no haze to it, meager suggestion of orange at the very glass bottom. The nose is close to downright slutty, piling on the coffee roast, semi-sweet dark chocolate, caramel, butterscotch, pecan, Cool Whip as well as raisin, fig, cherry, apricot fruit, in turn brings yeast, mineral water, pine tar, white pepper and a good shock of herbaceousness. Full-bodied, very creamy and smooth in texture but not necessarily soft, displays good posture and some bite. Layers of chocolate, caramel, fudge, cappuccino while remaining towards the dry side, oatmeal, grains and that minerally touch all present. Lighter presence to the cherry, fig, raisin, plum fruit but consistent. The carbonation adds some fluff and certainly is responsible for a lot of the creaminess. More nut oil than primary nuttiness. The oatmeal, granola aspects dry but not hard. The pepperiness lower here. The coffee turns more bitter through the finish, nice pucker factor. Unassuming complexity, each individual flavor is deep and resonant and plays well with others.
5 out of 5

Stone Brewing Company
10.10.10 Vertical Epic (Ale Brewed With Muscat, Gewürztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc Grapes And Chamomile)
Belgian Strong Pale Ale
California
9.5%
22oz, Single
$8.49
Weak half finger head, loose and watery, bleached white in color, gone swiftly with minuscule lacing left behind. Clear golden colored liquid with a coppery tinge, very few, if any, bubbles visible. Sour, vinous nose of white grape, pear, apple, apricot fruit, close to high quality vinegar at moments, gives you sharper baking spices, tart lemon to blood orange citrus and angular yeastiness, not much “soft” going on, but wait for the pepper and grass to catch on, not especially longlasting but does cleanse your nostrils well. Medium-bodied, the carbonation is not light per se, just tight and angry. However, this isn’t enough to fight off the heaviness, tends to lack movement if not insanely full-bodied. Floral with more of that grape, pear, green apple, apricot, peach fruit, skin and pit accents. Peppery with unprocessed grains more than green grass, something like chicory. Clove and mint. Puckering lemon, white grapefruit, tangerine citrus. Not as estery as one might expect. More yeast than even raw dough. The sourness is not so much of an issue as is the way it fatigues the palate. A bomber is too much for a single sitting.
3 out of 5

Nectar Ales
Humboldt Brown (Ale Brewed With Hemp)
American Brown Ale
California
5.7%
12oz, Single
$1.69
Two fingers of nicely frothy deep tan foam, mostly larger bubbles yet has decent retention, more sheets of lacing than streaks, you can see it slowly slide uniformly downwards. Light gauziness deepens the otherwise clear reddish brown colored liquid, takes on a zinc orange cast at the rims and glass bottom, pleasing to look at. The nose has a casual softness to it, mocha, cocoa, molasses and cinnamon, ginger spice, spiced orange peel, then a moss, herbal element which one assumes is hemp derived, abbreviated burst of apricot and peach scents, there’s a mineral water to tonic water component which lends additional stiffness to its posture. Medium-bodied, chocolate, caramel and butterscotch first into the pool, albeit not in a very sweet manner, more cinnamon and nutmeg, more like a cake than pie, perhaps due to the quiet peach, apple, apricot fruit. Raw Brazil nuts. The lemon, orange citrus dryish and more pulp than peel. Same minerally, earthy “organic” character to it, brings freshness but not flavor. The carbonation is not that big but arguably higher than needed given the lightness of the flavors. Smooth texture and easy to quaff, but where’s the beef?
3 out of 5

Anchor Brewing Company
Our Special Ale 2010 (Anchor Christmas Ale)
Winter Warmer
California
5.5%
12oz
6-Pack, $13.69
Huge head, average pour fills half the glass with a heavy whipped up froth, brown in color, craters more than dimples, leaves broad streaks of thick lacing. No haze but still a noticeably dark brown color, the reddish tint does not strengthen until the rims, burnt orange mixed in there too. Firm presence in your nostrils, milk chocolate, molasses, gingerbread, clove and cinnamon sticks, for all of that doesn’t come across as too sweet, drying hoppiness makes the bread crust, yeast elements drier, the relative lack of fig, apricot, pear, apple scents contributes to overall dryness. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied, the carbonation foamy and too dominant a force for the flavors to overcome. Ginger, clove spice the second biggest force, then a sour lemon dimension. Almost a note of quinine. As in the nose, noticeable lack of apple, apricot, fig, date fruit. The cocoa and mocha powdery and dusty. Increasing sourness through the finish. Has purpose and attitude, I guess you just have to like what the final product was intended to be.
3 out of 5

Telegraph Brewing Company
Oatmeal Stout (Batch No. 58)
Oatmeal Stout
California
6.6%
25.4oz, Single
$8.99
Average pour will fill half the glass with foam so watch out. The basic head is two to three fingers of extremely airy and loose foam, dimples only insofar as it is not evaporating fast enough to create a level surface, solid dark tan color, have to give the lacing above average stickiness. Immaculately unblemished and pure black core, while opaque there it’s cleanliness allows for some clarity at the mahogany red to orange glass bottom, looks like it was filtered a dozen times or something. This is a winey, grapey quality right off in the nose, close to floral at times, lifts decisively and with determination, if only to get pulled back down into a blend of mocha, cocoa, semi-sweet chocolate with coconut flakes, scone and oatmeal raisin cookies, the plum, grape, cherry a steady role player, roasty and toasty at might even suggest meatier sweetbreads at times. Medium-bodied, handles its weight well by turning denser, the muscularity concentrates the caramel, dark chocolate, toffee, licorice flavors, by not stretch a sweet beer, roasted coffee and grill smoke obvious throughout. The pastry dough, challah bread element and sweet glaze keep it playing the middle of the spectrum. Vague orange citrus at best, whisper of pine sap, same for a subterranean grassiness. Dried oats, like you’d scoop out of a burlap bag. Chiseled is one way of putting it, not a plush, sloppy bearhug of an oatmeal stout. Can see this being a good food beer.
4 out of 5

Mission Brewery
Hefeweizen
Hefeweizen
California
5.3%
22oz, Single
$5.39
Finger plus of off-white microfoam, the bubbles seethe like a can of worms, dissipates down to the surface with the pedal to the metal, lacing slides down the glass sides as if greased. Slight gauziness to the metallic orange to yellow color, steady dispersion of bubbles, visually pretty much plays the part. White grape, peach and pear fruit in the nose, sour orange and lemon citrus pulp, pretzel dough, wheat germ, white vinegar, small dollop of honey, hard to find any meaningful malt presence. Medium-bodied, on the lighter side but does sink into the tongue decently enough. Sourness elevates here with a leading lady in the mandarin orange, white grapefruit and lemon citrus. Clove, coriander spice with a metallic touch, raw dough and yeast as well. The grape, apricot, peach, pear fruit stronger than in many peers, manages to sweeten the finish a notch. The carbonation is hard core and for the better as it manages to paper over a few flaws. The funny thing is that it keeps teasing you into wanting to like it but then drops the ball.
2 out of 5

Alpine Beer Company
McIlhenney’s Irish Red
Irish Red Ale
California
6.0%
22oz, Single
$5.99
Light head, crests at maybe half a finger, between cream white and the lightest tan, a lot of larger bubbles with not so much foam, lacing about as non-existent as can be and have still momentarily been there. Lighter amber red color with orange rims and glass bottom, damn close to fully transparent, widespread bubbles quickly kick upwards. The nose is fairly airy and light with a soft malty, caramel, molasses, honey, cocoa and pie flake core, not that sweet but sweet enough red cherry, grape, apricot, apple, pear fruit scents to outweigh the grass, hay component, citrus stays in the background, the stuff is there to be more appealing, however, simply isn’t clearly keen on taking many steps to please. Medium-bodied and on the soft side, an amiable jiggle and “more to love” going on, still the carbonation tries to add more precision and leanness, if ultimately failing. Good deal of cocoa, milk chocolate powder with caramel mixed in, powdery texture yet sweet. The lemon, orange citrus is tart and lacks the zest to persist to the end. Bready, more towards rye or maybe pumpernickel than whiter dough. Faint metallic earthy ring. Tenuous apricot, peach, nectarine, apple fruit. Not flawed, in the end commits the cardinal sin of just being boring.
3 out of 5

New Belgium Brewing Inc.
2º Below Winter Ale
Extra Special/Strong Bitter (ESB)
Colorado
6.6%
22oz
6-Pack, $10.29
Finger plus of heavily whipped up and dimpled foam, cream white in color, almost all medium to larger bubbles, wispy traces of lacing streaks here and there. Transparent, completely see-through liquid of yellow gold to flat amber hue, close to complete absence of bubbles within. Bakery-like nose of honey, brown sugar, pastry flakes, nutmeg and cinnamon, orange extract, even something like cola, some yeast but no funk, the yellow apple, pear, peach, white grape fruit fit into the whole unassumingly, suggestion of bitter grasses before finally dissolving. Medium-bodied, most of the weight front-loaded, there’s sweet granola, cereal, bread grains plus the honey and molasses, cinnamon and nutmeg. The orange citrus slightly candied without being a big factor. The carbonation too fine, foams to no specific purpose. Solid core of peach, pear, apple fruit, maybe seems fruity because there’s nothing especially “bitter” about this beer. The finish isn’t weak per se, more like the flavors and textures just lose whatever unifying force they had at the start. Nothing wrong with its drinkability if you want to pound uninteresting beer.
2 out of 5

AleSmith Brewing Company
Decadence 2010 Anniversary Ale (English Style Old Ale)
Old Ale
California
11.0%
25.4oz, Single
$11.99
Aggressive pour into the center of the glass yields maybe half a finger of deep brown head, large amount of bigger bubbles, vacates the premises like the cops are banging on the front door, wispy lacing at best with average staying power. Super-cloudy, muddy looking liquid, dark mahogany with more of a redwood look at the glass bottom, fully opaque. Ultra-sweet and heavy nose of coconut custard, butterscotch, maple syrup, cola, nutmeg and cinnamon, needs to warm some before you get banana, plum, fruitcake, poached apricot scents, presents an orange reduction too, submerged but discernible are some herbaceous, grassy notes, clings to your nostrils like a barnacle. Full-bodied, very expansive, covers the palate cheek to cheek, on the heavy side, might benefit from more spring to its step. The custard, coconut, caramel, bittersweet chocolate, butterscotch, whipped cream flavors pair up with more banana, cherry, apricot, peach, pineapple, date fruit flavors to ratchet up the sweetness factor, luckily it avoids becoming cloying. The orange to lemon citrus forges a credible presence and helps provide spine. Which is needed since the carbonation is close to non-existent. The grassy, earthy notes hold off until the very end but are there if you are willing to wait. Ponderous beer, even for the general category.
3 out of 5

Bell’s Brewery, Inc.
Christmas Ale
Scottish Ale
Michigan
5.4%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.99
Light head, finger of light tan to eggshell white, lots of larger bubbles which dissipate at a rapid clip, doesn’t come up with much lacing. Gauzy orange rust in color with a burnt red dirt edge, slight loss of depth at the rims, loosely arranged bubbles spread throughout the glass. Clean evanescence to the nose, dried grass and straw, peat moss, pepper and sage, mild caramel and chocolate accents, as it warms you get more apricot, peach, yellow apple scents as well as scone, soda bread and honey. Medium-bodied, here the carbonation too active, prevents many of the flavors from finding a center and then soaking in. Noticeably dry, leads once more with a grassy earthiness, followed on by dry grapefruit, orange pith. The yellow apple, pear, apricot fruit tenuous, in turn not enough honey, toffee to elevate overall sweetness and bolster the fruit. Smidge of pepper and other bitter herbs, leading into a sour finish. Not horrible, but doesn’t make you especially want another bottle.
3 out of 5

Victory Brewing Company
Yakima Glory Ale
Black IPA/Cascadian Dark Ale
Pennsylvania
8.7%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.99
Close to two fingers of very dark tan to brown dense foam, very good retention, dimples slightly but holds at a finger for a long time, virtually no larger bubbles, curiously then the lacing not so sticky. Deep mahogany brown to amber color, transparent for all the richness of hue, hyperactive fine bubbles rise throughout, very pretty. Molasses crisp, maple syrup, bittersweet chocolate and a bodacious amount of sweet tangerine, tangelo citrus, dried pine tar, the nectarine, pineapple, apricot fruit slowly run down by earthiness, sage, peppercorns, moss and lichens, deserves props for having a lot going on yet coming across more as an integrated whole than bunch of parts. Full-bodied, the carbonation maintains a fineness in spite of strong activity, adds a fresh, cleansing feel. Quite hoppy, green grass, pepper, pine, however, the floral side smothered some by the dark chocolate, caramel, toffee, molasses. The tangerine, orange, grapefruit citrus plenty zesty, less purely juicy than in the nose. Garden herbs, cereal grains, tea leaves. Bitter without being tiresomely so, the malts massage the pain out well.
5 out of 5

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Chugged in November 2010

Stillwater Artisanal Ales
Cellar Door
Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Maryland
6.6%
25.4oz, Single
$12.69
Extremely delicate and openly knit head, crests at about two fingers of bleached white but dissolves faster than Carl Lewis running the 100 meters, has some lacing but this is fairly momentary too. Light yellowish color with some orange to it, looks kinda like an adjunct lager, strong beads visible within, clean hued consistently. White pepper, clove, coriander filled nose with an abundance of orange peel and blossom, a whole lot of poached apricot going on, supplemented by ripe peach, green melon and pear scents, baking glaze and pie flakes, right amount of yeastiness with mustiness, the florality remains subordinate to the spice, lavender and lilacs, more stickiness in the nostrils than lift, full and extended presence. Full-bodied, here in the mouth the carbonation able to relieve some unnecessary weight and bring tingle to the tongue. Drier feel brings the apricot back to earth, woven into the nectarine, pineapple, peach, yellow apple fruit, juicy but not possessed of tropical bite. Pepper, marjoram, sage, bay leaves there as well as something close to wasabi. The tangerine, tangelo citrus lively but dry. Too clean for substantial earthiness or yeastiness to accumulate. Cherry and a brush of honey reverberate through the finish. Can’t exactly relax while sipping it, conversely not sweating you either.
5 out of 5

Terrapin Beer Company
So Fresh & So Green, Green (Fresh Hop Beer)
American IPA
Georgia
6.6%
22oz, Single
$7.99
Easily yields two fingers of fine, airy foam, light tan in color, delicate when against your lips, slight dimpling, steady evaporation, the lacing sticks in thin sheets rather than streaks. Clear amber color to the liquid, mix of brown, red and orange with a metallic rust cast, clear and transparent with almost no bubbles to be seen. The nose delivers as advertised, both fresh and green, so youthful in the glass you want to card it, sparkling orange, lime, grapefruit citrus, just mown bermuda grass, pine sap, garden flowers and dried honey. Has a pie crust to scone side as well, not yeasty. The carbonation shows verve and a tight weave, sets a brisk pace for the flavors. Peppery and close to salty too, brings a mineral water to quinine bite. “Just picked” quality to the peach, nectarine, apricot, red apple, melon fruit, good presence throughout but too young for the sugars to have concentrated. There’s not a lot of complexity here, however, the freshness makes it a very versatile food beer, can see this going with a wide range of dishes.
4 out of 5

Van Eecke N.V., Brouwerij
Poperings Hommel Ale
Belgian IPA
Belgium
7.5%
25.4oz, Single
$9.59
Frothy off-white head is semi-loose with a fair bit of larger bubbles, quickly brings it down from over two fingers to a thin coating across the surface, the lacing is wispy but there. Light orange to yellow color, hazy with close to full opacity, a few beads here and there visible. Earthy, peaty, tarry nose with lichens, tree bark, black tea leaves, brown rice before slowly switching gears into lemon, orange pith, biscuit, white pepper and a small core of apricot, white peach, yellow apple, white grape fruit scents, lasts well. Full-bodied, the carbonation is gentle and pushes things out towards your cheeks. Clove, pepper, yeast and country style multi-grain bread trump the damp earth, forest floor matter components, still the grapefruit, orange citrus more dry pith than zest or juice. The apricot, peach, apple fruit not that sweet, spiked by cinnamon notes. Then maybe witch hazel and banana as it warms. Never fully loses the earthy, wet grass dimension but doesn’t seem unclean.
3 out of 5

Port Brewing Company
Wipeout India Pale Ale
American IPA
California
7.0%
22oz, Single
$4.29
Dense microfoam starting off close to three fingers high, dimples as it dissolves with close to zero “bubbles” appearing, just off-white in color, plenty of lacing splotches left behind. Softly filmy burnt orange to zinc colored liquid, soft yellowing at the rims and glass bottom. Sweet, hoppy nose built mainly on pink grapefruit and tangelo citrus, pine and honey, no curveballs thrown here, pepper spice and lemongrass, muffin dough, slight suggestion of powdered malt chocolate mix, the graininess not sharp while still a big part of things. Medium-bodied, in the mouth it’s dryness and clinginess together elevate the bitterness factor. The grapefruit, tangerine and lime citrus remains sweet but leaves a dry pith residue behind. Pepper, green straw and hay, basil, pine and some general tree leafiness. The malts come off as blended into the whole rather than distinct elements, you really have to use your imagination to get any chocolate or caramel notes. Carbonation level is very good, allows soaking in but does eventually battle that clinginess through the rear palate. Starts to inch into DIPA territory but stays within its category parameters. Well done, especially for hopheads with a sweet tooth.
4 out of 5

Great Divide Brewing Company
Fresh Hop Pale Ale
American Pale Ale
Colorado
6.1%
22oz, Single
$8.49
Average pour gets you close to three fingers of creamy eggshell white, starts to dimple and turn wispy immediately, then holds on nicely once it’s down to a thin coating across the surface, the lacing has super stickiness, you’d need to sponge it off. Solid light amber to orange rust color, above average brightness and clarity, minor yellowing at the glass bottom. The nose has some weight to it but, predictably enough, openly weaved with an airy freshness to the wet herbal, vegetal scents, the orange to grapefruit citrus might be the second strongest component, however, still mellow, the pine relaxed too, mild earthiness, no distinct malt scents, you almost make up the cocoa dust out of your imagination. Medium-bodied, fine prickle to the carbonation, makes for an active mouth presence, close to conjuring up mineral water feel and flavor. Pleasant orange, lemon, lime citrus, nothing unduly sweet as regards the peach, red apple, pear, pineapple fruit. More breadth to the cocoa, mocha powder but, again, not more sweetness. Conversely, the hops are green and moist and pungent but not bitter in any meaningful way. Pepper, flowers, pine, earth all artfully arrayed throughout the palate. Classy, but its private school pedigree gives it an air of remove.
3 out of 5

Port Brewing Company
Anniversary Ale (4th Anniversary)
American Double/Imperial IPA
California
10.0%
22oz, Single
$6.49
Wispy finger of a head, light tan, mostly larger, quick to pop, bubbles, delicate in appearance, very little grip to the lacing. Full-on cloudiness and opacity, pumpkin orange, little but more of banana skin yellow further out, any light that punctuates the surface gets trapped well. The nose comes across as chunky, “nimble” not the word gliding off your tongue, apricot, peach, pineapple, apple scents with a dried fruit edge, tangerine, tangelo, pink grapefruit notes as sweet as sour, pine sap, floral musk, the malts are cast in a supplementary role, mocha and hard toffee, by the same token close to absence of herbal, grassy bite. Full-bodied, layered on the tongue, choose to go for maximal sappiness over brisker pacing. Glazed aspect to the grapefruit, orange, lemon citrus. Carbonation has a tighter weave but little staying power. Sugary apricot, peach, nectarine, guava fruit flavors. Pine, flowers, tea leaves all sappy, has the texture of a skin moisturizer. White pepper, clove spice clumsy like a dull butcher’s blade. The creaminess through the finish helps extend the whole. Some breadiness, whole wheat and sourdough. This is one relentless beer, however, subtle nuances ain’t on the menu. Just trying too hard.
3 out of 5

Hair Of The Dog Brewing Company
Blue Dot Double India Pale Ale (Summer 2010)
American Double/Imperial IPA
Oregon
7.0%
22oz, Single
$7.79
Curious lack of a head at all, even with a vigorous pour, wispy white bubbles here and there, close to zero lacing too. Super-murky, like it was muddy and then ran through a sieve, a mix of red to orange clay in the deeply translucent core, no change in hue at the rims, just lighter. Wet, concentrated nose of fresh hops, earthy funk, tar, black tea leaves, a carton of sour pink grapefruit juice, dried pine sap, the hops pungent but without a keen edge, the malts bring caramel, cocoa powder, butterscotch, blends in some pumpernickel bread and mixed grains, peppery as well. Full-bodied and heavy, like a bowling ball crashing through a window. Tangy but sweet on the whole, the pulpy juice of the pink to white grapefruit and orange juice impossible to deny, Caramel, toffee and warmed milk chocolate come next, albeit briefly as the pine tar and lemongrass, pepper, peat moss and rye to pumpernickel bread come through. Oddly, never gets really herbaceousness in a puckering way. The apricot, nectarine, pineapple, guava fruit less of a presence than might be expected. Stays fat and wide in the mouth through a prolonged finish. If you like ’em big…
3 out of 5

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Namaste (Beer Brewed With Coriander, Orange, And Lemongrass)
Witbier
Delaware
5.0%
25.4oz, Single
$8.59
Close to a finger of bone white head, sort of dilute foam, no density with many larger bubbles, as a result, very little retention, lacing fares better, not many streaks but the ones there stick around. Pale golden orange color, however, has a nice luminescence to it which fills the glass, on the whole transparent but with a serious gauziness. Fresh and open nose, full but not close to heavy, the orange peel matches up with the coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon spice, maybe even a touch salty at times, the lemongrass stays in the background, nothing herbaceous going on here, by the same token the cocoa nibs about all you get for malts, as advertised citrus and spices 99% of what you find in your nostrils. Medium-bodied, foams up a good deal to increase palate coverage, little room for lift. More all of this heft, mouth feel is smooth and there’s no roughness nor bitterness to be found. Orange, lemon, traces of white grapefruit citrus abound. Coriander, cumin, clove and ginger spice more sweet than zesty, hence the smoothness. You get more yeasty, leesy accents here, suggestion of banana too. The peach, apricot, yellow apple fruit simply stated. Easy to drink, if there’s any nuisance it’s the carbonation.
3 out of 5

Emelisse, Bierbrouwerij
Emelisse Imperial Russian Stout
Rusian Imperial Stout
Holland/Netherlands
11.0%
10.14oz, Single
$5.69
Manages a half finger of ultra-dark brown, mix of smaller bubble sizes, okay retention given where it started from, not a great deal of lacing. Black throughout, nary a trace of color. Thick dark chocolate, caramel, toffee and chocolate cake icing grace the nose, boozy rum notes, walnuts, raisin, plum and blackberry fruit scents, spiced oranges, moderate amount of oats and wheat flakes, the roast is not over the top allowing the sweetness to carry the load. Full-bodied, dense and close to immobile, the carbonation soft and works hard to little effect. Much toastier and roastier here, brings coffee, bittersweet dark chocolate, carob and elevated white grapefruit citrus. The mouth texture is dry given its weight and the sort of flavors it offers. More rum to bourbon flavors, you know this is 11.0% alcohol from the first sip. Coconut, walnuts to pecans, more caramel as it warms. The hops add an unusually high herbaceousness to the proceedings, Given its density and relative lack of fluidity its length seems natural and unforced and it doesn’t seem insufferably heavy. The booziness the biggest distraction.
4 out of 5

Boulder Beer Company
Hazed & Infused (Dry-Hopped Ale)
American Pale Ale
Colorado
4.85%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.49
Simply arrayed head of creamy off-white, mostly medium-sized bubbles with average retention, not much stickiness to the lacing. Dark amber color with a strong brown influence to the red base, only really orange along the rims, fairly clear and transparent given the depth of hue, more loose bubbles floating around than beads. Smooth nose, big malt presence with cocoa, carob, toffee and peanut butter, meager display of tangerine zest, little more pine, even more flower petals, gives you one solid burst of peach, apricot fruit scents, again, very fluid presence. Light to medium-bodied, here it is also demure and at times almost shy. Very active tight prickle to the carbonation, keeps the mouth scrubbed clean. This heightens the tangerine, orange, lime citrus. Earthy, plays well with the pine and tamer herbaceous elements. Honey replaces a lot of the cocoa, caramel flavors, malts and hops well-balanced against each other. Nothing “remarkable” about it, this seems intended as it eschews fireworks for solid craftsmanship.
4 out of 5

Thornbridge Hall Country House Brewing Company
Saint Petersburg Russian Imperial Stout
Russian Imperial Stout
England
7.7%
16.9oz, Single
$8.99
Close to three fingers of dark brown head, the foundation is dense foam but the surface is a web of delicate medium-sized bubbles perpetually popping, decent cling to the wispy lacing. If you peer at it intently and for some time you’ll see that the liquid is the darkest brown achievable before becoming black, thin aura of orange around the edges. Goes very heavy on the chocolate in the nose, mix of dark and light, with coconut and caramel notes evokes German chocolate cake, scone and oatmeal with raisin, plum and green apple fruit, the hops most evident in helping stiffen the nostril feel more than provide aromas. Full-bodied, dense foaminess starts off through the soft attack before subsiding into a smoother, deeper progression forward. Cocoa, coffee candy, baking dark chocolate nibs rule as expected, the grilled nuts, warm pie crust, croissant flakes. Here you get some mixed orange to lemon citrus, perhaps even a sprig of pine, that’s it for hops. The thing it does best is give you a concentrated burst of all the chocolate paraphernalia without ever seeming to go overboard, balanced and lowkey to the final sip. Even accounting for the ABV, dangerously sessionable.
5 out of 5

Mission Brewery
Shipwrecked Double IPA
American Double/Imperial IPA
California
9.25%
22oz, Single
$7.99
Big, two plus finger head of dense foam with a top layer of larger bubbles, eggshell white to slightly tanner, above average retention with many thin, wispy streaks of lacing. Deep orange rust color with more of a reddish inflection than brown or yellow, brighter, lighter orange at the glass bottom. The nose is dominated by ultra-sweet tangerine, pink grapefruit, lime citrus, fresh and juicy, piles on with honey, molasses and caramel tones, wet pine sap, the apricot, peach, pineapple fruit scents generous as well, hints at a bitter herbaceousness underneath but this component all but fully submerged in the sweetness, likewise the florality too delicate to spread widely. Full-bodied, more of a balanced presentation in the mouth as the hops can truly work on a tongue and fully bring a dry peppery, grassy bite into the mix. Before it does so, however, lots of space granted to the honey, molasses. caramel and chocolate and the ever-bodacious pink grapefruit, tangelo, lime citrus juice. The pine has more snap to it, the florality still too timid. The carbonation is credible but largely ineffective against the gluey mouth feel. A thicker, sweeter style of DIPA.
4 out of 5

Great Divide Brewing Company
Claymore Scotch Ale
Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy
Colorado
7.7%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.49
Finger’s worth of rich brown color, full range of bubble sizes with poor retention, lacing fares just slightly better, The liquid is a very deep brown but does avoid blackness, fully opaque, you get some amber red to orange tint around the rims. The nose is not especially heavy but it sure is sweet, loaded with molasses, butterscotch, maple syrup, caramel, cola bean and milk chocolate, as well as plum, black cherry fruit, brings a hoppy greenness and peppery kick too, scone and oatmeal accents, firms up appreciably before evaporating in your nostrils. Full-bodied, more broad than deep, skips nimbly across the tongue, the carbonation has a fine tightness to it. Still packed with molasses, maple syrup, chocolate and toffee but not as dulcet as in the nose, the cherry, blackberry, apricot fruit ripe with a fresh feel. Oats, multi-grain bread flavors dry it out a touch, minimal greenness or real bitter bite, however, the hop presence is clear. Grill smoke, perhaps even meaty at times. Good contrast of elements, drinkability is very good for the beer category.
4 out of 5

Cazeau, Brasserie de
Tournay Black Belgian Stout
Foreign/Export Stout
Belgium
7.6%
11.2%, Single
$5.69
Mammoth head, even a slow and steady pour fills two-thirds of the glass with tan airy microfoam, craters in the middle as it starts to slowly evaporate, the lacing is more like thin sheets and in turn stick well. Completely black liquid, thin sliver of orange at the bottom of the glass. Direct nose, almost tame, of dark chocolate, freshly ground coffee, malted milk balls, grape, cherry and plum fruit scents, has some hoppy kick but no distinguished individual scents. Medium-bodied, starts out creamy but dries up as it progresses, losing its softer texture. Carob, chocolate, coffee, butterscotch and a decent nuttiness set the table. Fresh grain brown bread, the kind of eat in chunks rather than slices. Slides you a slice or two of orange citrus. The carbonation has a tighter weave and more punch than expected given the delicacy of the head. Not much hops presence. It’s credible but nothing special.
3 out of 5

Korenaar, Brouwerij De Dochter van de
Courage (Special Limited Release Winter Ale 2009)
Belgian Strong Dark Ale
Belgium
8.0%
11.2oz, Single
$5.69
Weak head, barely musters enough tan foam to cover the surface, same thing if you give the glass a solid swirl, very little lacing. Lighter reddish brown colored liquid, noticeable cleanliness and transparency, yellows around the rims and glass bottom, a few beads of smaller bubbles spread throughout. The nose tends to wander all over the place without an organizing principle, caramel and toffee arguably appear first, red cherry, golden raisin, date and apricot fruit, some slightly burnt cocoa powder, earth, two day old scones, dried meadow grasses, anise seed, close to zero citrus or flowers, the hoppiness muted, can’t muster much punch. Medium-bodied, foams up quite a bit, texture is kind of like the consistency of cheap shaving cream. Some banana mixed into the butterscotch, marshmallow, caramel flavors, still remains on the dry side, not a beer for those with a sweet tooth. Grape, cherry, apricot fruit with a smoky bitter chocolate topping. The earth, tree bark and leaves, grasses deaden the mid-palate. Dried orange peels and white grapefruit pith do make a cameo here. It may be the case that this beer was not meant to last a year but it’s doubtfully so. In any event, it is flat-footed with no special element to catch your fancy.
2 out of 5

Botteresse de Sur-les-Bois, Brasserie la
La Botteresse Noire
Belgian Strong Dark Ale
Belgium
10.5%
11.2oz, Single
$5.69
Frothy head, close to two fingers, dark tan, mostly tiny bubbles with strong retention and easily renewed with a swirl of the glass, about average stickiness to the lacing. Rich mahogany brown color, minor dropoff to yellow and a little orange around the rims, as dark as it is you can see the “floaties” drifting inside the liquid. The nose is close to voluptuous, sour cherry blends with prune, raisin and fig notes, spreads milk chocolate, coffee ice cream, caramel and butterscotch in a thick coat, the orange to tangerine scents favor tartness, the spiciness restrained, however, fights against the natural inclination towards sweetness, finishes noticeably clean and close to refreshing. Medium-bodied, sets itself squarely in your mouth. The carbonation comes on strong at first but does recede well, letting the flavors show better. Cola, anise, orange pekoe tea, caramel, butterscotch, the coffee and brown sugar add a toasty quality. Fresh apple, pear, cherry fruit mixed with fig, golden raisin, date. You get more straight out herbaceousness here than garden herbs per se. As it warms, the latent sourness comes out, particularly through the finish. Nice sense of pacing and change through the imbibing act.
5 out of 5

Straffe Hendrik/De Halve Maan, Brouwerij
Brugse Zot Dubbel
Dubbel
Belgium
7.5%
11.2%, Single
$3.89
Close to two fingers of dense dark tan foam, you’ll get a swell of larger bubbles at the spot where you pour, a little above average retention, just about the same can be said for the thin streaks of lacing. Cloudy muddy brown liquid, more yellow accents to it than orange, clearer at the rims. Spicy, peppery nose, coriander, more than enough to offset the toffee, caramel, milk chocolate component, raisin and fig scents fresh, no over-concentration, a splash of rum, earthy with a leesy edge. Medium-bodied, displays good balance, the carbonation has the right level of churn to keep things lowkey. As in the nose, drier than expected with the earth, grass, peat, charcoal flavors mingling with the rich milk chocolate, butterscotch, caramel flavors. Cherry and apple accompany the raisin, fig here. Less arch spiciness than in the nose. But, conversely more resonant orange citrus. Warming brings coffee, yeast, brazil nut notes. Again, balanced, the parts fit well together, just kinda not so interesting.
3 out of 5

Het Alternatief, Brouwerij
Ambetanterik
Belgian Strong Dark Ale
Belgium
11.0%
11.2oz, Single
$5.69
Fluffed up and dimpled deep tan head, foams to about three fingers but the bubbles look like a firecrackers going off across the surface and before you know it there’s naught but a thin coating across the surface then that even pools into distinct islands, nothing really of note regarding the lacing. Likewise, nothing unusual about the brown mud in your glass, reddish clay tinge, more of a metallic yellow at the rims, lots of bubbles visible against the glass sides. The nose comes across as semi-clenched, still you get a tight little burst of white grape, green apple, peach and date prior to cocoa nibs, chocolate and cloves, there enduring sourness hard to put on the fruit per se, seems to come from the grass, lemon to grapefruit citrus and metallic notes. Medium-bodied, given human physiology and not psychology, much more sour here, close to puckeringly so. The blueberry, cherry, apple, grape, pear fruit seems like it was beaten to the point of confessing crimes it never committed. The white grapefruit citrus comes across as overripe and all pith. Dry to the point that you only register the carbonation because it’s a bunch of pinpricks. Chocolate and caramel whisper then a barnyardy funk of earth, merde and sweat ensues. Full and maintains palate weight completely to the end. Really hard to get past the pervasive sourness.
2 out of 5

Great Divide Brewing Company
Smoked Baltic Porter
Baltic Porter
Colorado
6.2%
22oz, Single
$8.49
Couple fingers of light brown foam, most of which are big bubbles eager to pop their way into oblivion, very good stick to the lacing and more retention than expected once the head gets down to the surface. The liquid pushes into black territory with a very dark brown circle around the outer edges. The nose is almost entirely coffee and dark chocolate, however, neither is especially potent, whiffs of oatmeal, golden raisin to fig fruit, very light orange citrus but a more pronounced metallic ring to it. Medium-bodied, the smokiness here is not sweet, more like wood smoke, kindling ash and charcoal. Over time you get more coffee grinds, bitter dark chocolate, hard caramel candy but never sweetens much. The carbonation is round and full, at time fluffy, a bit more of a presence than desirable. The fig, raisin, apricot, apple fruit sit in the corner most of the time. Overall, it’s dry but not finding many distinct hoppy flavors. Oatmeal, scone and some straw accents. Has a mineral water character to it, yet, not as metallic as suggested in the nose. Trails off during the finish, would likely be more noticeable were there more flavor intensity at the start.
2 out of 5

Smuttynose Brewing Company
Really Old Brown Dog Ale (Big Beer Series)
Old Ale
New Hampshire
10.0
22oz, Single
$6.49
Watch the pour or you will get close to four fingers of light tan foam, mostly loose smaller bubbles but has a couple of “lilypads” of larger bubbles, adequate retention given where it starts from, the lacing “sticks around” well and lasts much longer than you’d expect at first. Foggy brown-red colored liquid, cloudily opaque with no bubbles to be seen, the rims and glass bottom shift between orange and yellow. Extremely thick and dense nose of molasses, maple syrup, caramel, toffee, milk chocolate covered raisins, dates, figs, prunes, honey dolloped scones, there is absolutely nothing about the nose that is not in your face sweet, chocolate dipped cherry, apricot, pineapple fruit, can’t really expect more concentrated orange reduction than here, defies anything to get in the way of its avalanche of sugar. Full-bodied, at first the tiny bubbled foaminess of the attack thinks you might get something different here but all that molasses maple syrup, toffee, chocolate takes over your mouth like it owns the deed. Date, raisin, prune, fig fruit, you name it, buttressed by apricot, pear, peach, green melon, yellow apple, pineapple flavors, The carbonation is not weak per se but nowhere near being able to handle the weight and momentum of the primary material. Basically, if hops were involved in the creation of this brew, damned if I noticed. Egregiously smooth and satiny mouth feel, creamy. All I can say is that you will do this beer a disservice if you don’t spark a cigar with a wet maduro leaf around it as accompaniment.
5 out of 5

Mother Earth Brewing
Tripel Overhead (Belgian Style Tripel Ale)
Tripel
North Carolina
9.0%
12oz, 4-Pack
$12.99
Even with a center pour not much of a head, thin coating of cream white with no real staying power nor lacing. Very dark rusty orange color, moderate haze, would consider it transparent on the whole, widely dispersed very tiny bubbles within. Thick and super-sweet nose, built on banana cream pie, molasses, brown sugar and poached peach, apricot fruit, orange reduction, comes up with a solid pinch of white pepper for contrast, mossy earthiness as well, as it warms finds a more balanced presentation. Full-bodied, round and creamy mouth texture gently pushes outwards against your cheeks while softly soaking into the palate. The butterscotch, caramel, maple syrup flavors dominate the attack, slowly ceding ground to the concentrated tangerine, lemon citrus and close to dried fruit apricot, pear, peach, yellow apple fruit. Not as much banana or clove as one might expect, bit players. The pepperiness gone here but the earth, moss, dried tree leaves remain. Hard to call it “hoppy” but for the style credible hop showing. The carbonation works hard to add pacing. It’s a “one and done” for the night beer, still, that one bottle will be a vivid treat.
4 out of 5

Darwin Brewery Ltd
Original Flag Porter
English Porter
England
5.0%
11.2oz, 4-Pack
$12.99
Head gets to near two fingers of deep tan foam, mostly larger bubbles with a steady dissolve, more stick to the fat lacing than thus expected. Very dark brown liquid yet not quite black, you get a wide band of orange at the glass’s bottom. The nose at first makes you think it will be softer and sweeter than it finally ends up, wiry length to the rum raisin to coffee ice cream, molasses crisp and caramel popcorn, more concentration than sugar to the fig, black grape, blackberry fruit scents, more pastry flakes than bread, still touch of wheaties or bran cereal. Medium-bodied, muscular mouth presence with tight carbonation which nevertheless guides the whole from start through the finish. Goes low on the roast and toast, more scone, buttered biscuit, granola with distinct hoppy pep. If anything, there is a semi-burnt edge which plays off the sweetness of the caramel, coffee, chocolate powder, peanut brittle notes. The date, golden raisin, fig joins fresher cherry, apricot flavors. Dry, malty finish, flavors knit together and lift off the palate. Maddeningly easy to take sip after sip. That is, if you treat it is an English porter and not to be understood in the American idiom.
5 out of 5

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Chugged in October 2010

Botteresse de Sur-les-Bois, Brasserie la
La Botteresse Brune
Belgian Strong Dark Ale
Belgium
10.0%
11.2oz, Single
$5.69
An aggressive pour gets you two solid fingers of dark brown microfoam, the surface very active, a sheet of popping bubbles, then gone, a few splotches of lacing here and there. Thick muddy brown liquid with a lot more yellow tint than orange, completely opaque, doesn’t show any sedimentary chunk. Banana cream pie in the nose, ginger root, cinnamon and cumin spice, more peppery as it warms, spiced orange peel and orange pekoe tea, the milk chocolate and caramel notes get a little lost, fig, date, plum, black cherry fruit scents, excellent resonance and length. Medium-bodied, has a good deal of firmness, however, the carbonation keeps gently churning away and contributes to a pretty inner mouth perfume. Caramel, toffee, chocolate stronger here, pairs well with the ginger, anise, clove spice. The cherry, blackberry, fig, black raisin fruit sweet, stopping short of sugary. The orange, tangerine citrus brings a sour twist. Mossy earth weaves in and out. There’s a lot going on here, more of a rollercoaster ride than well-oiled orchestra. Rollercoasters can be fun.
5 out of 5

Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery, The
Märzen (Fest Lager)
Märzen/Oktoberfest
North Carolina
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.99
Finger plus of loose tan foam which disappears quickly, thin lacing without much stickiness. Autumnal red color deepened by some brown hues while more zinc orange at the rims, unblemished transparency, not many visible bubbles. Caramel, butterscotch, maple syrup soften and sweeten the nose, cherry, peach, dried apple fruit notes with freshly baked loaves of white bread with toasty crust, some granola as well, orange marmalade, kind of smells like breakfast. Medium-bodied, foams up during the mouth entry, surprises you given the absence of visible carbonation. Sweet with that toffee, butterscotch, maple syrup, milk chocolate stuff and juicy peach, apricot, cherry, red apple fruit. More scone, granola, and danish flakes than bready here, cleans up and dries out near the finish, able to refresh some as well as satisfy the sweet tooth. Still, don’t think I could put down more than two of these in a row in a single sitting.
4 out of 5

Hoevebrouwers, De
Toria Tripel
Tripel
Belgium
8.5%
11.2oz, Single
$5.69
Two fingers of dense, mostly microfoam with more undulating hills than dimples, cream white, above average retention with strong, thick streaks of lacing. Worn copper color with an orange rust tinge, steady bubble beads easily visible. Smells like this morning’s tangerine, orange rinds with peat moss, black tea, damp forest scrub, the banana led esters are weak with the apricot, peach fruit and cinnamon spice barely registering more deeply, has weight in your nostrils but not that much more. Full-bodied, creamy on the whole, however, it is noticeably more dry than sweet, particularly as the grass, hay, bitter tea leaf notes make themselves at home. More roundness to the orange citrus here, maybe some florality as well. The apricot, peach, apple fruit loaded into the attack, thinning out thereafter. Odd in that there’s little offered at the extremes of maltiness as well as hoppiness. Not sure what the intended message was here but it is muddled for sure.
2 out of 5

Sprecher Brewing Company
Hefe Weiss Wheat Ale
Hefeweizen
Wisconsin
4.2%
16oz, 4-Pack
$9.49
Thick pour, fills half the glass before settling down to about two fingers of bone white, wispy, delicate foam, given the looseness of the foam, the lacing displays very nice stickiness. Unblemished, clear golden straw color, turns to a noticeably bright yellow around the rims and glass bottom, given the head almost zero visible bubbles. Remarkably soft nose with minimal wheat or grain presence, banana, bubblegum, clove and cinnamon, ripe apricot and peach fruit scents, raw baking dough, lemon juice, more width than length. Full-bodied, creamy mouthfeel with minimal carbonation, swiftly sinks into your palate. Ginger, cinnamon, clove and flowers team up with the same banana, peach, apricot, pear fruit to keep this one friendly beer. A touch more wheat, hay presence here, aided by more sourness in the lemon, orange citrus. Develops a light minerally edge as it finishes. Extremely easy to drink, however, comes off as simpler than it might otherwise be.
3 out of 5

Wells & Young’s Brewing Company Ltd
Wells Banana Bread Beer (Beer Brewed With Bananas)
Fruit/Vegetable Beer
England
5.2%
11.2oz, 4-Pack
$9.59
Around a finger’s worth of slightly off-white head, comprised mainly of larger bubbles which means little retention, lackluster lacing as well. Super-clear copper orange color with a darkening reddish aspect, a few lazy bubbles here and there within. Banana goes through loud and clear in the nose, however, fresh and light, not in any estery fashion, cinnamon and vanilla too, sponge cake, lighter granola, lemon yogurt, perhaps a hint of cherry as well. Light-bodied, light enough that the active carbonation prevents a lot of the flavor from soaking in. The banana, fig, pear fruit attenuated, the same for the bread to cake aspect. The lemon and vanilla fold into each other, the spiciness and nuttiness takes a couple of steps back. Without more richness of flavor, the carbonation keeps plowing ahead, detracts from mouth feel. Otherwise, inoffensive and innocuous.
2 out of 5

Stillwater Artisanal Ales
Stateside Saison
Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Maryland
6.8%
25.4oz, Single
$12.69
Even a gentle pour is going to get you between three and four finger’s worth of light, airy bone white head, the delineation of the bubbles is such that you watch each one pop as the foam disappears, zip for lacing. Fully clear orange rust to zinc color, pales to a yellow tinge around the rims, there’s a wealth of bubbles but no beads at all, more like softly falling snow. But going up. Silky smooth nostril presence, fits like a $1,000 suit, which in some ways may not be for the best, as it makes it harder to grab the scents and identify them. In any event, there’s suave orange, tangerine, lemon citrus spray, a biscuit and scone breadiness, well blended banana, pineapple, peach, nectarine, yellow apple, cherry fruit scents, no clearly dominant force, no real chocolate but the coriander, cumin spice sweet enough to cover, clean with nary a trace of funk. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied and the carbonation foams up quickly, certainly contributes to additional perfume, yet forestalls your ability to really get into the flavors. That said, über-friendly orange, lemon, pink grapefruit citrus as well as apple, pear, peach, apricot, cantaloupe fruit. Anise, mint, chamomile more prevalent here. The yeasty notes soften as well as add cling factor. If you can acclimate to the level of carbonation you’ll find that it is a fairly dry beer with good outline and length. Ambitious beer.
5 out of 5

Lagunitas Brewing Company
A Little Sumpin’ Wild Ale (Fermented With The Westmalle Yeast Strain)
Belgian Strong Pale Ale
California
8.85%
22oz, Single
$4.69
Large, frothy head, over two fingers of just off-white, its delicacy shows as it dimples heavily across the surface, the lacing streaks are thin but will stay there until the glass is washed. Transparent, faint metallic glow to the yellowish-orange color, pumpkin-esque, maybe a subtle brown patina. Typical Lagunitas nose of super-sweet tangelo, pink grapefruit, lime citrus supported capably by pine sap, rose petals, basil leaves and nectarine, pineapple, papaya, peach and litchi fruit, block of milk chocolate, the herbaceousness has more of a savory then green nature. Medium-bodied, the carbonation gives if a fluffy, downy soft mouth entry as well as relieves what might be more fat than the beer can nimbly handle. Mint, basil, sage intertwine here with the orange, grapefruit citrus to temper the latter’s sweetness. Not that this is a “dry” brew texturally, the hops have bounce but no real bite, lets the cocoa and mocha malts, brown sugar glaze and pine oil the joints. The apricot, papaya, peach, pineapple, green apple fruit can let you both enjoy a soaking effect as well as keep it jogging briskly. Bit of biscuit to scone but nowhere near yeasty. Just makes you think of sunshine.
5 out of 5

Weyerbacher Brewing Company
Harvest Ale (Brewed With Fresh Hops Harvested From Our Own Local Hops Farm)
American IPA
Pennsylvania
6.2%
12oz, 4-Pack
$9.99
Two finger of cream white foam, orange to tan tinge, full mix of bubble sizes, retention is good but doesn’t last forever, noticeably thick lacing streaks with vast stickiness. Faint gauziness to the otherwise transparent copper orange color, more sunset red than orange, pretty glow. The bitter, grassy hops make their splash first in the nose, gets this out of the way in favor of sweet tangerine, pink grapefruit citrus, pine, wet and smoky earth, black and red pepper, the malt presence is dry and mostly cocoa powder and raw honey splashed baking dough. Medium-bodied, the carbonation is like a flurry of jabs, makes you have to concentrate hard at first. The malt has the same dryness with a more burnt quality, mocha and caramel with a hint of anise. Apple, peach, pear fruit not particularly resonant, more sour orange, grapefruit citrus present. Grass, tree leaves, moss and lichens, retains a damp earthiness. Adds more of that peppery spice. Extremely drying, your tongue is practically begging for water at the end. This even as it never seems excessively hoppy.
3 out of 5

Emelisse, Bierbrouwerij
Emelisse Espresso-Stout
Foreign/Export Stout
Holland/Netherlands
10.0%
10.14oz, Single
$5.69
Big, billowing head of over two fingers, looks kinda like the top of a chocolate milkshake, all whipped up forth, very dark brown, about average grip to the lacing. Full-on black liquid, as opaque as opaque gets. In the nose you actually receive more caramel, toffee and warm dark chocolate before the dark roast coffee burst, this more sweet than bitter, not overly toasty with buttermilk, white bread dough, softest whisper of orange peel, no flowers or grassy accents, the hops likely stiffen nostril presence over providing distinct scents. Medium-bodied, possesses the sort of dryness which shaves off weight rather than sap flavor intensity. The roast again is dark but not vicious or deep, easily admits of a creamy texture without much bitterness. As much milk as dark chocolate, caramel and coconut shavings a minor touch. Pecan to chestnut notes, dried orange peel. Nothing remarkable about the carbonation, even if this is technically a remark. Oats and wheat bread crust, hops play it lowkey. Plenty of coffee flavor through the finish, good length, if you are looking for a blockbuster here you will be disappointed.
4 out of 5

Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery, The
Duck-Rabbator Lager Dopplebock
Doppelbock
North Carolina
8.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.99
Close to three fingers of dark tan head, a lot of larger bubbles interspersed throughout, pops and sizzles down to the surface at a steady gait, the lacing slides down the glass side in solid sheets. Very dark brown in color with a mild orange tint, no murkiness at all, just darkness, a pleasing package visually. There’s enough roast to the nose to evoke coffee, dark baker’s chocolate and a pinch of chicory, softened by butterscotch, rum raisin and date to fig fruit notes, very light banana too, the hops more like straw or hay than anything fresh and green, muscular tenacity in your nostrils. Full-bodied, dry and crisp mouth entry, the carbonation well-defined and brisk. Sip by sip you get more chocolate, butterscotch, nougat, molasses and coffee hard candy. The raisin, fig, date, maraschino cherry flavors not overly sweet and strongest past the mid-palate. More of foresty, mossy sort of herbaceousness here, wetter and livelier. Minimal citrus or spice, sticks to the core message. Richness without heaviness.
5 out of 5

Měšťanský Pivovar Havlíčkův Brod, A.S.
Rebel
Czech Pilsener
Czech Republic
4.4%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.49
Finger and a half of cream white foam, the bubbles explode at such a fast rate you think Willy Wonka is behind it all, gone done to the surface like that, no lacing left behind. Light orange liquid, not pale, transparent with very mild visual distortion, a few scattered bubbles here and there. The nose has a nice liveliness to it, lots of all kinds of bread, like one big marble loaf in your nostrils, sweet golden honey accents, general maltiness then more salt ’n’ pepper than herbaceousness, tame mixed white fruits, it seems like it aims to mix things together like a stew than let the elements stand apart. Medium-bodied, strong through the attack before relaxing and just letting it flow, unfold as it wants. Honey, molasses and caramel very obvious while displaying restraint when needed. The breadiness is more doughy than yeasty and had the crust cut off. A few corn notes. The carbonation somewhat lowgrade, not a deciding factor. More floral than fruity or citrusy. Hops bring tingle to the finish so it does end on an up note.
3 out of 5

Great Divide Brewing Company
Rumble (Oak Aged India Pale Ale)
American IPA
Colorado
7.1%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.49
Two plus finger head of mixed bubble sizes, much larger in the middle, fairly airy but resists swift dissolution, light tan to eggshell white, the little lacing it has it thin but sticks well. Very clear amber orange color, gentle yellowing at the rims and glass bottom, very few bubbles to be seen. Serene, relaxed nose, the orange, grapefruit citrus was already juicy and soft before being joined by cream oak notes, finds amble room for traditional pine, flower and then caramel and vanilla, minor biscuit to granola notes but not very bready. Medium-bodied, smooth with the right amount of hop-driven sourness, scores nicely in the balance department. Vanilla, butterscotch, caramel signal the oak’s presence, more so than it being that malty, Sweet pink grapefruit, tangelo citrus never gets too dulcet. Apricot, peach, mango, pineapple fruit approachable, some bite too. Some pepper and straw/hay at the end. No one element is exemplary or captivating but, in total, just a pleasing quaff.
4 out of 5

Emelisse, Bierbrouwerij
Emelisse Double IPA
American Double/Imperial IPA
Holland/Netherlands
11.0%
10.14oz, Single
$5.69
Not much more than a finger’s worth of head but what’s there is dense with very good retention, dark tan color, average stick to the lacing. Impenetrably opaque brown to orange murk, like a muddy creek with lots of clay in the soil composition, this said, you can find some bubbles floating upwards in there. The nose goes super-heavy on the malts, caramel, toffee, chocolate ice cream, fruitcake, raisin bread, creamed coffee, then comes the hops with pine sap, peat moss, coal tar, all of this edgy in stark contrast to the malts, somewhere along the way the fruit, flowers and citrus must have been lost. Full-bodied, sappy to the point of getting heavy and losing forward progression. Here, the bitterness of the hops leaps out first, no doubting it’s a DIPA on that score. Of course, this is not to diminish the power of the malty caramel, chocolate, coffee flavors as well as the sweet breadiness. Maybe you get some apricot or peach here but not much. The pine manages to tease out some orange zest. Its weight never releases and it gets kind of tough to drink, luckily it’s not even a 12oz bottle. Reach exceeds its grasp.
3 out of 5

Bell’s Brewery, Inc.
Oarsman Ale
American Pale Wheat Ale
Michigan
4.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.99
Bleached white head, delicate and airy foam, as it dissolves you think you’re watching a film on fast forward, some dimpling and the lacing stays around much longer than expected at first. Extremely pale yellow color, if with a slight luminescence, the haze prevents crystal clear transparency, big stream of bubbles more or less right in the middle of the normal pint glass. Lemongrass, wheat, sage, pepper, pretzel dough, mandarin orange zest, green apple and apricot to peach pit fruit scents, light yeasty funk. Light-bodied plus, the carbonation has enough toughness and tight weave to keep what weight is there present through to the end. Very citrusy, tart lemon, orange burst. Yeast, sourdough, the wheat tastes grainy and unprocessed. Close to no fruit, some sour apple, pear and apricot. In the back half, though, there’s a glancing brush of honey and caramel. Have to say it has a lively, crackling presence in the mouth, no way you are not noticing it there. Low ABV helps but overall bitterness makes this a two bottle tops in a sitting beer pour moi.
3 out of 5

Abita Brewing Company
Pecan Harvest Ale (Ale Brewed With Louisiana Pecans)
American Brown Ale
Louisiana
5.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.69
Solid two fingers of cream white foam, good density, mainly micro-bubbles with a few just “small” bubbles here and there, retention is above average, thin lacing at best. Light amber to copper orange in color, good consistency throughout until some more yellow at the edges, transparent, no meaningfully visible bubbles. The nose offers a coating of molasses glaze to the base of roasted pecans, nothing very pushy or dominating here, not bready more like scones or hard biscuits, more pepper spice than and flowers or other softer element, maybe caramel, it’s a toss-up but, overall, probably more malty than hoppy. Medium-bodied, sets itself in the mouth firmly, carbonation has strength but rarely exercises it. Sweeter in the mouth was upfront caramel, toffee, maple syrup notes, maybe even orange peel. The pecan component is middling, never absent but no star of the show either. Less general roastiness than expected. Oil, stream water, grass than something like banana and bubblegum, little by way of apricot, peach fruit. No glaring defects nor anything to piss you off, just not much going down.
2 out of 5

Terrapin Beer Company
Side Project Volume 12: Hopzilla Double India Pale Ale
American Double/Imperial IPA
Georgia
10.8%
22oz, Single
$8.59
You get a solid finger and a half of pure white foam, lots of mixed bubble sizes, likely contributes to the lack of head retention, curiously, little stick to the lacing as well. Deep haze to the light orange to yellow color, almost witbier in look, good amount of lazy bubbles float slowly within. Builds steadily at a moderate gait in the nose, white pepper and green grass make a brief obligatory show, then bow out in favor of concentrated apricot, peach, pear fruit scents, floral musk, and slabs of tangelo and pink grapefruit citrus, so strong is the former that the not insignificant pine, cinnamon and caramel accents shunted to the side. Full-bodied, seems like it was created to cannonball into your mouth with authority. Fluffy and soft carbonation has it spreading near and far, an interesting tactile counterpoint to the highly concentrated apricot, peach paste, supplemented by pineapple, guava, kumquat fruit of equal density. The pink grapefruit, tangerine citrus sweet yet so layered, there’s not much zest. Has as much pine tar on it as George Brett’s bat. Rouses up a shout of white pepper and grass but this is mostly for show. This is a DIPA for those with a serious sweet tooth.
4 out of 5

Fuller’s (Fuller Smith & Turner PLC, Griffin Brewery)
Fuller’s 1845
English Strong Ale
England
6.3%
16.9oz, Single
$5.09
Gives you a solid two finger head of deep tan color, mostly tighter foam with a few islands of bigger bubbles here and there, good retention and the lacing, while not that sticky, does slide slowly in sheets down the glass. Bronzed orange to brown color, good clarity without sacrificing depth of hue, only a few tiny bubble beads which come and go. Boozy nose, vanillin whiskey notes, butterscotch and freshly whipped butter, stronger hoppy grain and hay notes, date, dried pineapple and apricot fruit, the maltiness has more edge than you might expect, lots of push, even if in the face of a lack of scent diversity. Medium-bodied, the carbonation is tightly woven and contributes to a firmer mouth feel. Still has that whiskey barrel touch, just without any vanillin creaminess. Fig, date, raisin flavors, simply without deep sweetness, the same for the candied red cherry and more basic apricot fruit. The orange citrus joined by tarter white grapefruit and a little lemon. Smoky, burnt kindling ash accents. The general bitterness more in place here, pushes the molasses and maple syrup off to the side but not off the map. Kind of an “intellectual challenge” sort of brew, not so much immediate, visceral pleasure but each sip keeps you focused on it.
3 out of 5

Inselkammer (Brau Von Aying/Ayinger Brewery), Privatbrauerei Franz
Oktober Fest-Märzen
Märzen/Oktoberfest
Germany
5.8%
16.9oz, Single
$3.69
Pours a big three finger plus head yet so loosely knit and comprised of huge bubbles that it is gone almost before you can try to measure it, zero lacing as well. Bright orange amber color with a metallic cast, clear and transparent, abundant streams of bubbles visible, especially after first poured. Sweet, bready, malty nose full of molasses, honey, caramel, fruit cake, golden raisin, date, apple fruit, orange glaze, with some milk chocolate for good measure, a dried graininess appears as you acclimate to it. Lighter-bodied with plenty of fizzy carbonation to keep it swirling actively from start to finish. Its inherent sweetness helps it gain some traction, Honey, sweet butter, maple syrup, orange peel, root beer and chocolate bits pretty up things first. Challah bread, croissant flakes and buttermilk up next. Keeps that golden raisin, date aspect but blends in fresher apple, pear, apricot flavors too. As with the nose, it is not like there’s no hops at all, they just seem to fill in cracks rather than stand center stage. This is about the perfect bottle size for the flavors, any more and it would get tedious.
4 out of 5

Greene King/Morland Brewery
Abbot Ale
English Pale Ale
England
5.0%
16.9oz, 4-Pack
$11.49
Half finger of cream to eggshell white color, mostly dense foam with a few larger bubbles here and there, retention not an issue since not much to start from, no stick to the lacing, however, it does slide down in an extremely solid sheet. Creamy nose feel with a sour, lactose edge, banana pudding and milk, green apples and pears, hard toffee candies, somewhat floral yet you can’t really say there’s any hop-driven bite, the malt seems to win by default, smattering of mixed spices, stutters too much. Medium-bodied, for all the fluff and creaminess cannot achieve deeper mouth presence, carrot and celery notes there as much as toffee, butterscotch or cocoa. The hops are weak and cannot come close to lending spine to the whole. Little bit of citrus, the carbonation is soft and kind of a wuss. You get a very clear message which makes you think it is as it should be. Allowing for this, not this imbiber’s cup of tea and pretty damn glad the glass is close to empty.
2 out of 5

Victory Brewing Company
Festbier
Märzen/Oktoberfest
Pennsylvania
5.6%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.49
Finger of deep tan foam with a mild orange tint, loose and bubbly, weak retention but does a solid dusting across the surface, the lacing slides easily down the glass sides. Noticeably clear amber copper, mixes in browns, red and oranges, transparent, few bubbles visible inside. Lots of cereal, granola, biscuit and grains in the nose, quinine or mineral water too, pepper spice, takes awhile for a caramel or toffee scents to get going, walnuts, limited but steady orange citrus, no real distinct fruit component. Medium-bodied, there’s a strong, wiry carbonation to it which keeps it moving at a brisk pace. Not that sweet, seems closer to the “traditional” Märzen recipe with grain, pumpernickel bread, corn husk, walnuts and chestnuts, white pepper. As in the nose, subdued orange citrus as well as peach, pear, yellow apple fruit. Thin patina of milk chocolate and caramel. Overall, it’s a nice little brew but not really that interesting.
3 out of 5

Highland Brewing Company
Brandon’s Kölsch Style Ale (Highland Cup 2010)
Kölsch
North Carolina
5.5%
22oz, Single
$4.39
Light bone white head, really too thin to call it a “head” per se, gone almost before it’s poured, no lacing. Faint haze deepens the orange to worn gold color, very consistently hued throughout, no visible bubbles. The nose features air dried harvest apples, peaches, a splash of sour lemon and orange zest, sweet grains, then a pleasing floral breeze, no one element stands out above the rest, a nicely integrated presentation. Medium-bodied, given how it looks the carbonation chugs along nicely. Perhaps on the sweeter side of the style, juicy orange to lemon citrus, honeyed white bread, the apple, pear, grape, peach, banana fruit once more have that sweet, getting shriveled “stored in the cold basement for a couple of months” feel. Touch of malted milk balls, however, you don’t get powerful caramel-like stuff, just a smooth, calming influence. Nothing herbaceous nor biting, no bumps in the road. Dry finish, maybe could use a little more punctuation. Glass gets empty real quick like.
4 out of 5

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Bitches Brew (Ale Brewed With Honey And Gesho)
Russian Imperial Stout
Delaware
9.0%
25.4oz, Single
$10.99
Finger plus of very dark brown foam, full mix of bubble sizes but does have adequate retention, minor stick to the lacing. Pitch black liquid, full opacity with nary a trace of color. Thick roast to a nose that is otherwise motor oil thick, dark chocolate, chicory, vanilla powder, café au lait, little bit more orange marmalade than pine or flowers, eventually run down by maraschino cherry and raspberry jam fruit accents, eventually becomes so dense you can’t parse much more out. Full-bodied, the carbonation has fluff factor and adds to the overall creamy mouth feel. Coffee, dark chocolate, vanilla, honey and caramel vivid but actually not that sweet. Comes off more as slow roasted than crisp and toasty. The florality struggles to be heard. Hint of clove, cinnamon stick spice. More brioche than bread or yeast. Loses some palate weight at the end but there’s sufficient retronasal action to keep it alive. Impressively scaled, curiously could stand to be sweeter.
4 out of 5

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Chugged in September 2010

Bruery, The
Mischief (Belgian-Style Ale Golden & Hoppy)
Belgian Strong Pale Ale
California
8.5%
25.4oz, Single
$11.79
Finger of bone white foam, mix of many bubble sizes, enough fluff that the retention is decent, forms sheets of lacing which slowly slide down the glass side. Light orange to deeper yellow in hue, not especially hazy but not transparent either, dispersed if steady bubbles. The nose has a certain tightness to it, led by wet grass, pepper, unsweetened multi-grain bread and a shock of sour white grapefruit pith, blends in whole cloves and green apple to pear fruit scents, again there’s not a lot of give and what is there evacuates in a straight line. Medium-bodied, the carbonation also has a tight weave to it, hints at foaming up but then pulls back. More than in the nose the orange marmalade to white grapefruit citrus is in clear control, tart, sour and bitter, omnipresent. Momentary brush of banana before meager pear, apple, pineapple fruit come on. Pine resin, coal tar and damp hay anchor it further onto the tongue. Hard to find any clear malt elements, perhaps some chocolate near the finish. A very muscular beer which makes you break a sweat with each sip.
3 out of 5

Terrapin Beer Company
Reunion ’10 (A Beer For Hope) Belgian Style Scotch Ale
Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy
Georgia
8.5%
22oz, Single
$8.59
You get a little more than a finger’s worth of very loose, bigger bubbles for a head, poor retention, just about nada for lacing too. Deep amber to brown color, dark enough that it pushes transparency to the edge, clean though with no haze, more coppery orange at the rims. Heavy duty esters in the nose, banana, bubblegum, vanilla fudge, barely makes room to accommodate the molasses, brown sugar, butterscotch notes, not to forget the fig, date, golden raisin, dried apricot fruit scents, makes you think it’s a one trick pony until the bitter hoppy burst before it finally evaporates. Full-bodied, real heavy, doesn’t anchor itself on the palate as much as sink to the bottom of the sea. More banana, fruitcake, maple syrup, molasses, caramelized brown sugar, milk chocolate, you name it. Were it not so heavy you might consider the texture to be creamy, certainly the weak carbonation would not stand in the way of such a judgment. Offers a dose of floral dew and orange juice, the hops have less maneuvering room here than in the nose. It’s truly an enjoyable beer but no easy quaff and arguably best understood as a “dessert beer” to give it the best chance to shine.
3 out of 5

Samuel Smith Old Brewery (Tadcaster)
Samuel Smith’s Organically Produced Ale (Organic Best Ale)
English Pale Ale
England
5.0%
12oz, 4-Pack
$10.79
Finger plus of white foam with just a light eggshell tint, slightly below average retention, does settle into a decent blanket across the surface, slippery lacing. Fully clear, yet with a haze, light catching a glance of the sun on a summery day, pumpkin orange with some yellowing near the rims, hardly any visible carbonation. There’s a thickness to the nose which belies its fresh lift, the sour orange to grapefruit citrus creates a full zest in your nostrils, more yeast than bread, plain yogurt, uncooked oatmeal, maltiness appears more textural than presence of specific scents, dollop of dried honey, green apple and pear, sneaky and hard to describe complexity. Medium-bodied, much more firm than heavy, sets itself authoritatively in your mouth. Lots of mandarin orange, grapefruit, lemon citrus, pulp richness and neither sweet nor sour. More yeast and yogurt with more multi-grain bread with some honey mixed in. Same late harvest apple, pear, peach character, ripe without too much juiciness. Momentary shadow of flowers and hops stiffens the finish and brings punctuation. While pleasing to just throw back not a simple sipper either.
5 out of 5

Hacker-Pschorr Bräu GmBH
Original Oktoberfest
Märzen/Oktoberfest
Germany
5.8%
11.2oz, 6-Pack
$12.49
Little over a finger of cream white foam, more froth than density, gone quickly with close to nothing left across the surface, lacing slides off the glass sides as if greased. Remarkably clear, as if buffed into a high polish, the color of an older copper penny, more zinc at the glass bottom, there’s a few loosely gathered bubbles inside. Dry, crisp nose of clove, ginger root, rye bread, barley, dried orange peels, offers more green leafiness than malty sweetness, pinch of apricot, apple, peach fruit, extremely understated and saying that may be an understatement. Light to medium-bodied, equally dry here with an energetic spring to its step, bready with baking spices, just not indulgently sweet. Orange and lemon citrus close to giving a mineral water feel, metallic at times. The carbonation has a good, tighter weave, keeps it off the tongue. Honey and molasses accents help it a good deal, substitute for clear malt flavors. Light apple, apricot, red cherry fruit. A very refreshing beer that, if you don’t mind some sourness, is easily poundable.
4 out of 5

Korenaar, Brouwerij De Dochter van de
Finesse (All Malt 3-Cereal Triple)
Tripel
Belgium
8.5%
22.4oz, Single
$14.99
Solid finger of off-white foam, moderate density helps it dissipate at a steady, slower rate, the lacing accumulates more in splotches than streaks. Bright carrot orange color, very slight turn to brassy yellow, opaque and captures light inside fully, the loose bubbles kind of remind you of a snow globe. There’s a corn flake, shredded wheat aspect to the nose at first, then takes a big turn toward peat moss, tar, wet brown earth and clay, thin peppery zip, none of this to ignore the attractive mango, peach, apricot, melon fruit scents as well as chocolate coated caramel, repeated sniffs once more bring the metallic rust and earthiness to the fore. Full-bodied, not so much dense as stuffed with fluffy carbonation, like a down pillow. Here you get a big round spoonful of orange marmalade and pink grapefruit juice in front of honey, cane sugar and hard caramel candy. The apricot, peach, nectarine fruit keeps an element of mango and papaya nearby. You still are served some metallic shavings, dirt splattered stones and dried field grasses but nowhere near as hoppy or earthy as the nose. There’s a regal bearing here, refuses to simply sweeten itself as to ingratiate. Which heightens drinkability. You can drink it quickly, that is if you can stop simply sniffing it.
5 out of 5

Sprecher Brewing Company
Black Bavarian Style Lager
Schwarzbier
Wisconsin
6.0%
16oz, 4-Pack
$9.49
You get three fingers of dark tan foam with a center glass pour, moderate density with nice retention, leaves a few thick streaks of lacing. Pure black liquid, a thin aura of orange at the rims and glass bottom. Good deal of smokiness to the nose, sharp but not acrid, furnishes coffee, dark chocolate, mocha, coconut flakes first, slowly blends in licorice, white grape, apple, pear fruit and a glance of burnt grill fat, basic country style white bread, brazil nuts, subtle length. Full-bodied, foams up during the mouth entry but recedes swiftly enough to let its full weight soak in. Pleasing bitterness, the hoppy grassiness and grains play well with the resonant smokiness, more of that mocha and cocoa dust, coffee bean, grilled nuts and vanilla powder, mouth palate coverage. The pork rind and meat fat persists, a nice bonus. Sufficient sweetness to boost drinkability, the fruit more muted and indistinguishable here, close to no citrus presence. Hard to get the residue out of your mouth, takes more than a glass of water.
5 out of 5

Coronado Brewing Company
Idiot IPA
American Double/Imperial IPA
California
8.0%
22oz, Single
$7.99
Big two plus finger head of eggshell white foam, loose and highly whipped up, delicate to the touch, nothing unusual about the lacing, average stickiness. Fully translucent and about as close to opacity as a copper orange to amber beer can be, minor fade to yellow at the rims, rests deeply in the glass. Given the strength of the hops in the nose, doff of the cap to the malts for producing as much caramel and butterscotch as is there because after that it’s an avalanche of white pepper, freshly mown green grass, pine, coal tar, buttered biscuits, rosemary and sage, the grapefruit, orange citrus about equally sour and sweet, presents as much pineapple and papaya fruit as apricot or peach, its brute force keeps it driving into your nostrils even after most of the scents have evaporated. Full-bodied, the creamy mouth texture helps to take some sting out of the hops, still, big time bite in the grains, grasses and bitter herbs, close to medicinal or witch hazel at times. Broad sweep of pink and white grapefruit, orange citrus, here tartness wins out. Chocolate, caramel surfaces here and there. The carbonation strikes a good balance between fluffy softness and more forward moving churn. Ends with a pumpernickel, rye breadiness. Hops in da house.
5 out of 5

Musketiers, Brouwerij de
Troubadour Magma Belgian Triple IPA
Belgian IPA
Belgium
9.0%
11.2oz, Single
$5.69
Three fingers of creamy orange to tan foam, airy and prone to dimpling, steady dissolve, average stickiness to the lacing. Super cloudy and opaque liquid, however, the red tinged pumpkin orange has serious glow, fills the glass with color, lots of tiny bubble beads visible as well. Sweet tangerine, pink grapefruit citrus explodes in the nose, adds juiciness to the apricot, peach, nectarine, mango fruit scents, brawny peppery component, the pine adds edginess, hard to distinguish clear malt scents but something is softening the harder edges here. Medium-bodied, heavily whipped up carbonation yet fine enough that it does not prevent the weight from getting things sinking into the palate. The pepper and crisp spice pairs up with herbal bite to set the tone early, forestalls the appearance of the tangerine, grapefruit citrus, no small feat. Drier fruit profile, more nectarine, pineapple, papaya than riper apricot or peach, tangy. More dead yeast cells than breadiness, offers a charcoal dustiness too. Near the end releases a swipe of maple syrup and molasses. High marks for drinkability given the ABV. Active, not hyperactive, mouth presence.
5 out of 5

Epic Brewing Company
Mayhem
American Strong Ale
New Zealand
6.2%
16.9oz, Single
$9.99
Close to two fingers of eggshell cream white, credible blend of smaller and larger bubbles, nothing special about its retention, skimps on the lacing. Transparent, clear brown to clay red influenced orange base, consistent hue throughout, only a few bubbles to be found. Grassy, herbaceous hops take over the nose quickly, with white pepper, pine needles and saline notes, rings metallic now and then too, the toffee, caramel maltiness weaves in and out, no steady presence, tart orange to white grapefruit citrus shaves off the sweetness of the apple, peach, apricot fruit, this latter a decidedly bit player. Ends like someone crammed a handful of lichens and moss in your nostrils. Full-bodied, the carbonation broad, churns to fill your mouth as much as possible. Dry mouth feel, hops run the show but avoids herbaceousness per se, more raw grains, meadow scrub and tree bark with that same peppercorn and saltlick touch. Minor peach, red apple, pear fruit, the orange to lemon citrus drops back as well. In turn, maybe an uptick in florality. Cocoa and hard caramel candy helps to add diversity. Sheer density and forward momentum has it making a visceral impression but, flavorwise, lacks nuance.
3 out of 5

Hook Norton Brewery Co. Ltd.
Hooky Bitter
English Bitter
England
3.6%
16.9oz, Single
$5.69
Close to two fingers of mostly huge bubbles causing it to disappear quickly, off-white in color, for as quickly as the head is gone leaves decent lacing residue. Mild haze to the base orange color, suggests as much brown as yellow, fairly consistent throughout with a scattering of loose bubbles. The nose is biscuity with a fistful of grains, dried flowers, corn husks, barley, dried orange peels, dead yeast cells, cellar stored apples and peaches, nothing distinctly malty but, by the same token, doesn’t come across as devoid of malts. Light-bodied, consistent throughout so you don’t sense any dropping off. Barley, wheat germ, corn, sorghum, and yeast, does a nice of job of alternating between bitter and sweet, the very active carbonation moderates between them. Caramel and maple syrup smooth some rough patches, still has a leafy finish. The lemon, orange citrus dry and focus things further. Ends with a kind of peppery kick. The only thing that lowers drinkability is the dryness.
3 out of 5

Gaverhopke, Brouwerij ’t
Extra
Belgian Strong Dark Ale
Belgium
12.0%
11.2oz, Single
$9.59
Good half finger of light tan foam, but gone as rapidly as the tide going out to sea, a little more lacing than expected but no stick. Light reddish brown color, while mostly opaque no real murkiness, more orange to yellow further towards the rims, shows active, tiny bubbles. The nose does a worthy job of blending peat moss and pepper with coriander, sage, never herbaceous but gets earthy with tree bark and tea leaf nuances, orange peels, minimal fruit, perhaps fig, raisin or green apple, pure and without much softer yeastiness. Medium-bodied, the carbonation fluffs up big time through the mouth entry, you might reflexively clamp your mouth shut. The malts and molasses short-lived, hands off to orange/lemon citrus, charcoal, peat and tea leaves soon thereafter. You get elevated apple, pear, peach, cherry fruit along with the fig and golden raisin. Still, dry overall with grain, wheat, corn husk accents. Broad shouldered but kinda runs out of flavor by the end. More sweetness might have helped.
3 out of 5

Anchor Brewing Company
Liberty Ale
American Pale Ale
California
6.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.49
Big, creamy off-white head, easily three fingers to start before slowing dissolving off, moderate dimpling and credible amount of lacing streaks left behind. Gentle gauziness to the zinc orange color, fades to a dark yellow at the rims, transparent enough to see the scattered bubbles rising. Apricot and peach fruit scents strong with sourdough bread, pepper and green grasses to give it erectness in the nostrils, the orange citrus downplayed some, the malts stay off to the side, same for the pinch of honey, except for the fruitiness appears to prefer getting dirty in the earth. Medium-bodied with attractive firmness, so much so that it can afford to be slightly over-carbonated with no ill effects. The bitterness clearer here, gives you a strong twist with lemon to grapefruit pith, grass and leafy forest scrub, pepper, even the pine notes seem sour. The floral element naught but a flourish to the apricot, peach pit flavors. There might even be some estery notes underneath there somewhere. Even nearing room temperature does not sweeten appreciably. Well-crafted, likely more as a “food beer” than for casual chugging.
3 out of 5

Weyerbacher Brewing Company
Fifteen Smoked Imperial Stout
American Double/Imperial Stout
Pennsylvania
10.8%
12oz, 4-Pack
$16.99
Finger of very dark brown foam, loose and half much larger bubbles, the lacing not sticky and slides down the glass in sheets, average retention. As expected, pure black liquid, as in #000000. Raw smokiness to the nose, kindling wood, pork rinds and burnt bacon, dark chocolate and coffee grounds, mildly spicy, thin floral layer helps tease out peach, apricot, melon fruit scents, unprocessed grains more than bread, little by way of citrus or flowers, as if cut from stone no softness, just unbridled power. Full-bodied, while the carbonation comes across as too fine for the job, the overall mouth feel is satiny and fluid. The smokiness remains by far the dominant factor, close to tarry with lots of char. Grill smoke with meat fat, dark roasted coffee and toasted coconut. Hard to find a truly sweet component, paucity of cherry, apricot fruit in addition to orange, grapefruit citrus. Pine tar might be as good as it gets. Hides the alcohol level well. Solidly crafted, crackles with energy, hard to wash the flavor residue out of your mouth.
5 out of 5

Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery, The
Barleywine Ale
English Barleywine
North Carolina
11.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.99
Thin head, covers the surface, just, eggshell white, some larger bubbles form an island to the side, zero lacing. Murky liquid, mix of muddy brown to orange rust to sand yellow, completely opaque, no clear sign of any floating matter inside. Richly layered nose of fruitcake, rum raisin ice cream, walnuts, fig, golden raisin, apricot, peach and pineapple, slides in white and pink grapefruit, mandarin orange before the honey and molasses sweetness catches, cuts a sharp enough profile that you can only rarely catch scents of chocolate or cocoa. Full-bodied, drier than expected, however, this doesn’t impede its ability to cover the whole palate. Pine and orange, lemon, grapefruit citrus appear first, certainly has the hops to challenge the malts. Maple syrup, brown sugar are moderate and, while boozy, there’s little burn. The fruit fresher here, less raisin, fig and more peach, apricot, pear, red cherry. Lowkey nuttiness and breadiness, just parts of a whole. You sense that the carbonation is trying hard but still unable to break up the density. Keeps your mind engaged but a bit tiring to drink.
3 out of 5

Brouwkot, Brouwerij ’t
Netebuk
Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Belgium
6.5%
25.4oz, Single
$16.49
Finger plus of bleached white foam, fairly loose, minuscule bubbles, dissolves swiftly without much dimpling, lacing slides off the glass like it was greased. Light orange to more yellow gold in color, faint gauziness with a few scattered bubbles within, holds light well. The nose has a pleasing creamy texture to it, punctuated by white grapefruit, tangerine citrus zest, round apricot and peach fruit scents, honey, fresh pastry dough, white pepper and ginger balance each other out, interestingly neither particularly malty nor hoppy, mild cocoa as well as straw/hay, overall just relaxing and soft with no one element dominating. Full-bodied, the carbonation active enough that you can’t call it “soft,” however, it spreads fully across the palate, no pore untouched. The sweetness of the apricot, pear, peach, red apple, white grape fruit offset a touch by the tang of the white grapefruit citrus. More raw dough and yeast than cooked bread, its dryness also checks the honey, sweet baking spices and roasted candied nuts. Full weight through the finish with flavor to spare and some prickle. If it makes sense, there’s complexity in its simplicity which, to me, is the best attribute of this beer style.
5 out of 5

Avery Brewing Company
Avery Anniversary Lager Seventeen (Dry-Hopped Black Lager)
Schwarzbier
Colorado
8.69
22oz, Single
$8.99
Close to three fingers of dense dark brown foam, very even surface with excellent retention, if you wait long enough you’ll witness strong, sticky lacing. The nose offers moderate smokiness, much more by way of sweet milk chocolate, molasses, butterscotch, close to German chocolate cake, nutty as well, waft of orange citrus, pine, hoppiness accelerates as it warms, just a glance of plum or cherry fruit scents, overall much sweeter than might be expected. Full-bodied, the carbonation is average, which in the context here is not sufficient to keep things moving at a brisk pace. More of the caramel, chocolate, mocha, coffee, coconut flavors, if it is smoky it is like if you left a chocolate croissant too long in the oven, no real “edge” to it. The hops recede back some here, pine shows most because it’s sappy and sweet. Some challah bread and baking yeast stuff. No truly distinguishable fruit. Plenty of vibrant flavor, just seems more like a jacked up porter.
4 out of 5

Hof Ten Dormaal, Brouwerij
Blond
Belgian Pale Ale
Belgium
8.0%
12.7oz, Single
$5.69
Huge bone white head, easily half the glass at first, sticks over the rims and looks like a puffed pastry, for its fineness good retention, if you can wait for it to dissolve there’s plenty of lacing. Cloudy pumpkin yellow in color, certainly opaque with some glow, you can see a maelstrom of tiny bubble beads inside. Clove and sweet ginger in the nose, estery banana and bubblegum accents, pear, green apple, apricot fruit ripe but not juicy, nice firmness, good dose of pepperiness and grassiness, sorghum, perfectly full nostril presence, yet balanced and not heavy. Full-bodied, close to creamy in feel despite the swirling carbonation, attractive counterpoint. Pepper, clove, ginger, saltlick, the sweetness comes from the bananas, pink grapefruit to orange citrus and finally the apricot, pear, green melon, peach fruit. Mouth feel dries as it moves forward, brings the dried straw, earth to the fore, almost evoking a bitter twist. Changes a good deal as it warms, arguably better colder. For a beer of its heft goes down easily.
5 out of 5

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Chugged in August 2010

Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery, The
Schwarzbier
North Carolina
5.8%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.99
Solid two fingers of dark brown foam, somewhat delicate as it dissolves down swiftly to a full layer across the surface, not much lacing left behind. Very, very dark brown but not quite black colored liquid, turns to a zinc orange around the rims where it displays much clarity. The nose comes across as much roasty/toasty than smoky, freshly ground dark roast coffee, bittersweet dark chocolate, crème brûlée, chicory, all accompanied by red grape, plum, cherry fruit scents and then a brush of oats and whole grain bread, suggestion of orange peel, however, remains firmly malty. Medium-bodied, same general impression in the mouth of more basic roast than smoke, the chocolate, cocoa, coffee, caramel flavors dry and about 2/3 bitter, 1/3 sweet. Given the dry mouth feel, the plum, cherry, blackberry fruit flavors have less of an impact here. The carbonation is moderately high and stirs things up consistently. More sweet grains than dough or bread, staves off some bitterness. Not a lot of refreshing lift but keeps plowing straight ahead, no questioning the length of the finish. Wish it had more of a smoky edge, however, it is absolutely a pleasurable beer to quaff with very good drinkability for the type.
4 out of 5

Bruery, The
Trade Winds Tripel (Belgian-Style Ale Brewed With Rice And Thai Basil)
Tripel
California
8.1%
25.4oz, Single
$7.99
You need a super-controlled pour or 2/3 of the glass will get filled with ultra-fine foam that takes close to forever to dissipate down towards the surface, truly hard to imagine it more delicate without blowing away in a soft breeze, pure white, some stick to the lacing, more blotches than streaks. Very soft haze to the zinc orange color, more yellow than copper or red, transparent but not perfectly clear. The nose has a tight core of orange, lemon citrus all spiced up by ginger, coriander scents as well as basil, lemongrass herbs and such, the maltiness shifts around in the shadows but is there to lend smoothness to the texture, some almond sliver like nuttiness, has lift and enough “off center” feel to keep you intrigued. Medium-bodied plus, the carbonation soft and fluffy and spreads it all around the mouth, gently works the flavors into your mouth pores. Coriander, ginger root, turmeric and then sweet and sour blood orange, lemon citrus, has more of a grassy streak than garden herbs, albeit the basil easy to discern, Apricot, peach, pear, cantaloupe fruit accessible, ripe without being too juicy. Slight metallic ring to it as well but not sour nor offputting. Familiar yet unique, a highly desirable trait in high end craft beers.
5 out of 5

Stone Brewing Company
14th Anniversary Emperial IPA (June 2010)
English India Pale Ale (IPA)
California
8.9%
22oz, Single
$7.49
You get a finger plus of bleached white form, somewhat of a loose weave, average retention at best, oddly the same can be said for the lacing. Super-cloudy liquid, more of a dark yellow than orange, big, dispersed bubbles float upwards, could easily pass for a hazier witbier, where’s the orange slice? The answer is, in the nose where orange, lemon, grapefruit citrus predominates, the honey and pine needles about cancel each other out, more grass and fallen wood than flowers, burst of pepperiness, in the end buffered by generous peach, apricot, yellow apple fruit, increasingly so as it warms. Full-bodied, more integrated in the mouth, parts on the same page. The pine and tangerine, blood orange, pink grapefruit citrus brings out more sage, basil, white pepper notes while the fruit develops as much pineapple, papaya as apricot, peach, albeit not in a sugary sense. Interpolates a pinch of cocoa but the malts move when commanded by the hops. On the whole dry but not bitter, softens when you need it to. Keeps fullness and palate weight through the end. The first half glass or more has you intrigued but by the end of the bomber, the law of diminishing returns seems to be kicking in...
3 out of 5

Lost Coast Brewery & Cafe
8 Ball Stout
American Stout
California
6.3%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.79
Two fingers of rich brown color with a full range of bubble sizes and a slow dimpling down to a solid blanket across the surface, gives you some short but fat lacing streaks too. Full-on black liquid with a thin band of orange-yellow around the rims. More toast than roast in the nose, carob, mocha, milk chocolate chips, cookie batter, licorice before a brush of minerally earthiness, the hops present a pinch of pine sap and mixed white citrus, nothing major, fruit scents close to nonexistent. Medium-bodied, muscular and sets itself firmly in the mouth, the carbonation fine but persistent, keeps things on the straight and narrow from start to finish. More of a roast here, blending in coffee and dark chocolate with carob and molasses. Floral dimension spreads wider. This may spark the plum, cherry fruit some. More tar than mineral inside the sprinkle of earthiness. I don’t have a problem with its moderate body per se, would like more flavors intensity at the end, though.
3 out of 5

Atwater Block Brewery
Cherry Stout (Malt Beverage Brewed With Cherry Concentrate)
American Stout
Michigan
6.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.49
Dense two finger head of dark brown, even with some larger bubbles has good retention as well as above average lacing for the category. Pure black liquid, no haziness, a touch of orange peeks out at the bottom of the glass. The cherry loud and clear in the nose, supplemented ably by roasty cocoa, mocha and coffee bean shades, quality orange citrus presence too, more flaky pie crust and pastry than biscuit or bread, has an overall dry textural feel in the nostrils which helps it stiffen and linger more. Full-bodied without getting ponderous, the carbonation feels comprised of tiny pinpricks but there’s a lot of them and they work overtime. The cherry has a red fruit, sour quality with traces of raspberry tagging along behind. Dark chocolate, caramel and coffee thicker and more bittersweet here, no real dulcet moments. More of that tart orange to lemon citrus with a mineral water component. A little more bready than pastry-like, maybe part of the dry mouth feel. Appears to have been constructed to highlight the fruit flavors, along the way sacrificing chewiness for a more brisk character. Not especially nuanced but no problem throwing one back quickly.
3 out of 5

Kuhnhenn Brewing Company
Raspberry Eisbock (2007)
Eisbock
Michigan
13.5%
6.32oz, Single
No real head, more like lacing across the surface, even a big swirl hardly gets anything going, no true lacing along glass sides. Orange-brown muddy river inside the glass, fully opaque yellowed rims, curiously you can see the carbonation steadily rises to the surface where it breaks into nothing. The nose is heady stuff, a dessert of raspberry preserves, melted dark chocolate, caramel, orange infusion, coconut flakes, texturally full and expansive while actually nowhere sweet enough to annoy, mild whiskey notes but no burn. Medium-bodied, the carbonation works hard to lift the flavors off the tongue while here adds an underlying sourness which restrains more of the sugary side. The raspberry fresh and natural with supplementary sour cherry accents. The German chocolate cake element marches on, caramel and coconut with a cream cheese brush as well. A touch grainy as it warms. The orange, lemon citrus brings bite to the finish, helps refresh palate for the next sip. More muscular than many Belgian Framboise lambics, which boosts drinkability. A beer worth seeking out.
5 out of 5

Great Divide Brewing Company
16th Anniversary Wood Aged Double IPA (Pale Ale Aged On Oak Chips)
American Double/Imperial IPA
Colorado
10.0%
22oz, Single
$9.99
Couple fingers’ worth of light tan foam, the surface is mostly larger and delicate bubbles yet underneath appears denser, steadily settles down, lots of wispy lacing streaks all over the place. The liquid is a very clear coppery orange, enough red in there to deepen things before a more metallic orange rims. Molasses crisp, dark chocolate powder, hard caramel candy leads in the nose, the wood aspect doesn’t add unnecessary booziness, strong mélange of orange citrus with floral dew, raisin bread to English muffin breadiness, the hoppiness is unexpectedly demure, some peat and earth but all user-friendly, the peach, apricot, nectarine, mango fruit elevates as it warms. Full-bodied, canny enough to ensure there’s a spine of grassy, herbal hops but, really, lacks the cutting verve of many aggressive DIPA’s. Pink, white grapefruit, orange, lemon citrus imbues minor sour swipe while also helping it grip the palate. Caramel, brown sugar, bitter dark chocolate, keeps things in balance, especially with the boozy woodiness. In the end, though, the sweetness does gain the advantage and keep it on the “easy to access” side of things. Not a lot of challenging complexity but, hey, nothing makes you want to stop taking another sip.
4 out of 5

Contreras, Brouwerij
Valeir Extra
Belgian IPA
Belgium
6.5%
11.2oz, Single
$5.69
Heavily whipped up and foamy head of close to two fingers, mostly larger bubbles which burst on the way down to a big island resting against the side of the glass, just off-white with more lots of splotches of foam residue than streaks of lacing. While fully opaque does capture enough light to highlight the yellow hay to paler orange hues, not that hazy but can’t see any bubbles anyway. The nose first hits you with corn, grains and pressed lemon rinds, some orange pekoe tea and clove, light mutter of apricot, peach, apple fruit, no distinct malty accents, conversely no real hoppy bite either, sheer fullness in the nostrils its best attribute. Full-bodied, the heavy carbonation gives it a soft, expansive mouth feel, initial impression is of sweeter orange, tangerine citrus alongside honey, oatmeal, corn, basil and sweet tea. No herbaceousness but there is a drying graininess. Maybe, just maybe, some cocoa powder to speak for the malts. Inoffensive, slides down the throat with ease, simply lacks a distinct personality.
3 out of 5

Bavik, Brouwerij
Petrus Speciale Ale
Belgian Pale Ale
Belgium
5.5%
11.2oz, Single
$3.89
Thin tan hued head comprised mainly of larger bubbles, little retention, same can be said for any lacing. Bright bronze colored liquid, more of a metallic yellow, rust tint around the rims, average clarity. Malty chocolate and cocoa get up into your nose, some toffee, coffee beans then a turn towards peat, charcoal, cigarette ash rather than any grassiness, brush of orange peel along the mix of apricot, golden raisin, apple, pear fruit scents, pleasing enough to sniff even if it doesn’t take any definitive direction. Light-bodied, spreads itself like a thin blanket over the tongue, pervasive presence without the excess weight. Dry texture, the carbonation is average. More grain, bread notes here, the yeastiness is dry as well, deli rye or pumpernickel bread. The citrus more lemon than orange and pith with little juice. Better job representing the apricot, yellow apple, pear fruit, suggests honey more than delivers it. Retains traces of ashiness but it may just be the overall texture. Semi-watery finish, not a bad quaff but, err, nothing “speciale” here.
2 out of 5

Mother Earth Brewing
Dark Cloud Münich Style Dunkel Lager
Münich Dunkel Lager
North Carolina
5.1%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.99
Solid two fingers of cream tan to eggshell white, airy but doesn’t dimple much, retention is decent just a steady, even dissipation, the lacing steals the show with nice thick streaks clinging tenaciously. Bronzed orange to redwood in color, its clarity is obvious, however, its darkness of hue prevents transparency from any distance, slightly more orange at the glass bottom. The nose unfolds layers of sweet maltiness, caramel, butterscotch, molasses and chocolate fudge, blends in some orange reduction, cherry syrup and brandy-like notes, still you do get a little graininess, if nothing overtly hoppy. Full-bodied without heaviness, inches forward at a slow, steady gait. Drier here than the nose might suggest, that said, definitely leads with molasses, caramel, chocolate and vanilla, maybe even a little licorice before getting to the more natural orange zest. Bready like raisin bread, mild wheat accents. The carbonation is about average and unobtrusive, While dry, doesn’t detract from a softer touch on the tongue. While may lack complexity for some, better thought of as a beer crafted for simple enjoyment. And does very well for itself as such.
4 out of 5

Brouwkot, Brouwerij ’t
Manten
Belgian Pale Ale
Belgium
6.0%
25.4oz, Single
$16.49
A center pour gets you a half finger of pure white foam, not inclined to stay until the end of the party, visually interesting in how it pools in the middle rather than break into islands, the lacing is light but in keeping with the type. Bright orange color mostly masks the tiny floaties throughout the liquid, holds that zinc tint well and avoids yellowing out around the rims, can’t see a damn thing through it. Sweet clove, coriander spices in the nose, soft leesy notes, more so floral with milk chocolate, honey and then apricot, honeydew, pear, peach fruit scents, really not over the top sweet-wise but, conversely, doesn’t show any peppery or grassy elements for harmonious balance. Light-bodied but there’s major fluff factor to the carbonation which not only gets it pushing up towards your mouth’s roof but kinda trying to escape the mouth per se too. More emphasis on the purity of the fruit here, apricot, peach, pear, yellow apple, white grape make for a nice center to the beer. In fact, almost takes on a more vinous character, the orange juice fits this but the golden honey and molasses would have to represent an overoaked Chardonnay or something. There is that certain lichen, damp meadow earth thing but it’s gossamer thin. Basically, this is “fruit bomb” styled beer that can please lots of peeps but will likely be found lacking by those seeking more nuanced complexity.
3 out of 5

Weyerbacher Brewing Company
Slam Dunkel
Weizenbock
Pennsylvania
7.0%
12oz, 4-Pack
$9.99
Crests at about a finger’s worth of brown foam, mostly larger bubbles which causes some dimpling before pooling off into islands, unremarkable lacing but there for a bit. Dense, murky liquid with a brown base and both red and orange tints, like potting soil and clay clumped together, the fact that you can even see the active bubbles inside is impressive on their behalf. Caramel, toffee and dark chocolate arrive first in the nose, banana split with vanilla and butterscotch on top, fruitcake, ginger and clove, concentrated apricot, peach fruit, for all of this has tact and restraint and doesn’t just dump it all in your nostrils at once. Full-bodied, kind of heavy and leaden, the carbonation has too much fineness to gets those legs pumping and things moving forward. Here there’s a slight metallic, mineral water touch which, along with peat and forest floor scrub, able to match up better against the sweetness. The orange citrus as sour as sweet, nod towards white grapefruit too. The banana, chocolate, caramel, ginger all there, but more compact. Could use more florality to buttress the apricot, pear, peach fruit. Satisfying in its own way but the sheer palate heaviness wears on you after awhile.
3 out of 5

Mother Earth Brewing
Weeping Willow Wit
Witbier
North Carolina
5.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.99
Thin bone white head, very loose and dissolves into tiny islands quickly, the lacing is likewise wispy but there. Light yellow to pale orange in hue, soft gauziness prevents full transparency, a few lazy bubbles float here and there, given its overall paleness has nice shine. Big spice box of a nose with coriander, ginger, cinnamon shoveled in next to a healthy helping of sweet orange and lemon zest, wheat germ next with a touch of granola and dry oatmeal, stays on the sweet side of things, avoiding any sharper hoppiness. Medium-bodied, well-carbonated and creating a cloud of inner mouth perfume no problem at all. Same game plan as the nose, release the sweet spices, sweet orange to lemon citrus and dewy florality and watch it go. Honey coated oats, banana and bubblegum, light on the wheat. Poached to dried fruit apricot and peach fruit. Comes across as more of a light dessert beer, maybe even a fruit/vegetable beer. If you have a sweet tooth nothing here to dislike.
3 out of 5

Silly S.A., Brasserie de
La Divine Belgian Double Blond Ale
Belgian Strong Pale Ale
Belgium
7.5%
11.2oz, Single
$4.29
Very thin, if truly any, head, more like a coat of white primer across the surface after some swirling and agitation, in keeping no lacing to speak of. Plenty of haze in the liquid but kind of sunshiny in its own way, really holds the light in there, sort of just ripe pumpkin yellow-orange hue, the translucency masks a lot of color definition. Wheat, wheat and more wheat permeates the nose, like a box of Wheaties, then honey dappled orange pulp, basic floral arrangement scents, at times close to graham crackers, drier malts, the peach, apricot, red apple fruit negligible, has a very pleasing lift and country airiness about it. Medium-bodied, the soft fluffiness of the carbonation helps fill the spaces between your tongue and your mouth roof. The wheat, sweet grain, even corn, flavors persist, light clove spice but no pepper or biting spice. Light banana and bubblegum join with the peach, apricot, watermelon fruit, nothing near undue sweetness. The malts seem to lend more textural smoothness and satiny feel than flavors. The hops quite tamed on the whole, the end sum being a beer which has good weight, ground coverage and a deep, if narrow, band of flavor. Would happily drink it again but would be hard pressed to seek it out.
3 out of 5

Terrapin Beer Company
Side Project Volume 11: Boom Shakalager (Bavarian Style Imperial Lager)
Märzen/Oktoberfest
Georgia
9.0%
22oz, Single
$8.59
Strong two+ finger head of light tan to eggshell white foam, high degree of larger bubbles reduces retention, settles down to the surface quickly, the lacing does have adequate stick, though. Deep copper penny appearance, very good clarity with as much brown as red in the core and more a pure orange rust around the rims. Pronounced sweetness to the nose, plums to prunes, molasses and caramel, candied oranges, milk chocolate, allowing for this there is a solid spine of hops with both floral and herbaceous aspects, segues from baking spices to a pepperiness before it dissolves, never quite achieves liftoff. Full-bodied, tries real hard to spread itself cheek to cheek and then up and down, the carbonation strong enough to help ground coverage but not strong enough to add any refreshing qualities. Cane sugar, maple syrup, toffee, orange reduction, not as sweet here as in the nose although sweetness in the nose is technically a category mistake. Glazed white bread or potato bread more than graininess, still not quite flaky dessert crust. The fruit more red cherry, golden raisin, apricot and peach, no full-on dried fruit dominance. Pine, flower petals and hay to wild meadow grasses display hops, slight bitterness and mild astringency at the end but not really metallic as far as I can ascertain. Adequate degree of flavor intensity but no real complexity nor sense of twists and turns as it progresses. Which, arguably, for the price you should get.
3 out of 5

Clipper City Brewing Company
Heavy Seas Mutiny Fleet Smoke On The Water Smoked Porter
Smoked Beer
Maryland
8.0%
22oz, Single
$5.49
Big two to three finger head on average pour, deep tan in hue yet airy and light, keeps an even surface with no dimpling, lacing shows highly credible stickiness. Jet black color, looks like most imperial stouts. The nose is almost all milk to dark chocolate with coffee ice cream and licorice, so much malt you just start wondering where the smoke is, touch of pork rinds and oats, no significant hops presence, comes across like a chocolaty porter more than a smoked beer. Medium-bodied, firm presence in the mouth if perhaps kinda immobile, albeit without the massiveness. Chocolate, cocoa, mocha in spades, light coffee roast. Sliver of grapefruit citrus helps stiffen things. No real fruit, maybe apricot or peach pit. Carbonation is smooth bubbles up now and then, not a major factor. Candy character doesn’t bring out much earth, tobacco or herbal qualities. Maybe some brazil nuts or cashews. Biggest issue is that it’s just monochrome with no sense of development or subtler nuances. But tastes good.
3 out of 5

Hair Of The Dog Brewing Company
Fred From The Wood (2009)
American Barleywine
Oregon
10.0%
12oz, Single
$6.99
Thin cream white head which disappears about as soon as it arrives, you also get a razor thin stripe of lacing in a few spots. Thick brown-orange creek mud inside the clear, strong effervescence visible, brighter zinc orange around the rims. Big, dewy nose bursting with caramel, molasses, honey, vanilla fudge and a big spoonful of orange marmalade, ginger and cinnamon spice, dates and maraschino cherries, there’s something like a bitter rye edge more than grassiness, for all of its sweetness has excellent posture in your nostrils. Full-bodied, sappy clinginess adds to the weight. There’s tang from the mandarin orange, pink grapefruit citrus but overmatched by the dark chocolate, caramel, butterscotch, molasses, honey and pine sap. A sip or two reminiscent of Cherry Coke. Well layered apricot, nectarine, guava, fig, date and golden raisin. Some orange pekoe tea leaf notes too. The carbonation isn’t light per se but fluffy in texture and not changing the creaminess. Ends with rising bread yeast, introducing some movement. Vivid flavors, would be better if it dialed it back a notch.
4 out of 5

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery/Victory Brewing Company/Stone Brewing Company
Saison du BUFF (Ale Brewed With Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme)
Saison/Farmhouse Ale
California
6.8%
12oz, Single
$4.99
Finger plus of frothy white, mixture of all bubble sizes, loose enough to dissipate quickly, little, if any, lacing. Hazy light gold to darker yellow in color, although not the clearest liquid lots of bubbles floating upwards within. Orange blossom and cinnamon catch first in the nose but it’s just a second before the noted herbs take over, white grapefruit too, yeasty but not soft nor leesy, witch-hazel, nothing here overly malty, leafiness predominates, extremely long presence with a full, pungent lift. Medium-bodied, nicely balance with same amount of fullness from start to finish. The herbs once more dominate and there is a clear, strong note of basil as well. Nothing crazy about the carbonation level but it does add to the total cleanliness factor. The tangerine to pink and white grapefruit lend a sweet and sour juiciness. Slight yeast to baker’s dough element. Much more savory ending and aftertaste, good deal of retronasal activity. Hard to imagine an oddball one-off succeeding much better than this.
5 out of 5

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
My Antonia Pilsner (A Continually-Hopped Imperial Pils)
American Double/Imperial Pilsner
Delaware
7.5%
25.4oz, Single
$7.99
Pour gently or you’ll get a third of the glass filled with delicate, openly knit pure white head, for as soapy as the foam is, good retention with lacing which looks like fake snowflakes dotting the glass sides. Bright orange color, deep enough to have a light bronzed look, transparent with widely spread, if fast moving, bubbles within. Noticeably sweet nose emphasizing tangerine and pink grapefruit citrus, buttressed by peach, apricot fruit, pine cone and fresh rose petals, hardly any bready or doughy notes, slightly more wheat or simple grain, if you think about it being labeled a pilsner you can kind of see it but if someone just handed you a glass of it, pilsner would unlikely be the guess. Medium-bodied, the carbonation is light with a slow churn which keeps the liquid sticky and pressing down on the palate. More general maltiness here, same for pretzel dough and wheat. Yet, still insufficient to match up with all that sweet orange, tangerine, pink grapefruit citrus as well as golden honey notes. Robust apricot, peach, nectarine fruit with a slice of pineapple. Big florality, pretty and matches the creaminess of the overall mouth feel. Heaviness detracts from refreshing factor, however, no denying the vivacious richness of the base flavors.
4 out of 5

Deschutes Brewery
Obsidian Stout
American Stout
Oregon
6.4%
12oz
6-Pack, $8.99
A normal pour just about fills half the glass with extremely whipped up and delicate dark tan foam, eventually settles into two fingers’ worth of craters and valleys, at this level it shows excellent retention and the stickiness of the lacing is unquestionably intense. Pure black liquid, however, looks entirely unblemished and possessed of a sleek shininess. The nose has a pleasingly subdued roastiness to it, slowly unfolds oatmeal, cherry to black grape fruit scents, German chocolate cake, coconut flakes and mixed nuts, more grains than coffee, caramel elevates through the end, balanced and simply presented. Medium-bodied, same general demeanor here, sticks to representing the category rather than reaching for greater heights. Burnt cocoa powder, dark chocolate, grilled nuts and sweet cherry, blackberry, plum fruit lend familiarity. The carbonation has a slow muscular churn to it, helps to get the hoppiness up into the air, bringing snappiness to the proceedings. Not that rich nor sappy but the flavors continue on for some time after you swallow. If you are looking for a basic stout that isn’t too creamy, here it is.
5 out of 5

Great Divide Brewing Company
Hades Belgian Style Ale
Belgian Strong Pale Ale
Colorado
7.8%
12oz
6-Pack, $12.99
Thinnish head of about a finger or so, pure white without much retention, fluffy, no lacing either. Light metallic glow to the mild orange to yellow color, clear with scattered minuscule bubbles here and there. Yeasty, herbaceous nose with an ashen, stony stripe, not bitter but stiff nostril presence, pepper, cumin, coriander spice, acts like it’s going to hit you with the banana then swerves into green apple, pear and sour lemons, abundance of wheat germ, straw and hay, earthy enough that there’s minimal lift. Light to medium-bodied, the carbonation adds a soft, round texture to the mouth, helpful given the general tartness of the flavors, peppery, dried yeast cells, raw wheat and unprocessed grains, the lemon to grapefruit citrus dried out and evanescent. Not much more can be said for the peach, apricot, pear, red apple fruit in spite of the downy carbonation. Clove and coriander as well as some crushed flowers do pretty up the finish. No glaring flaws, just kinda boring.
2 out of 5

Hoppin’ Frog Brewery
Hoppin’ To Heaven IPA
American IPA
Ohio
6.8%
22oz
Single, $12.49
Nice two fingers of tan microfoam, delicate in appearance, like a flaky croissant, looks full until you poke that first whole in the crust, that said, pretty good retention and more sheets down the glass sides than lacing per se. Pumpkin orange color, pleasing shine with a slight fade to yellow at the rims, mildest of haze to it, few visible bubbles. Odd for an IPA, leads with accents of cocoa and mocha powder before busting out the tangerine, pink grapefruit citrus, pine and guava, pineapple, nectarine, persimmon fruit scents, waft of pepper and dried herbs, light earthiness and peat moss, admirably stays on the middle path, neither too hoppy nor malty. Full-bodied, you always know it’s there without undue weight, never tiresome. Sweet tangerine, lime, grapefruit citrus cushions the pine and grassiness. Cocoa, milk chocolate, caramel do not sweeten the pot too much. The carbonation has above average activity which tends to shorten the staying power of the apricot, peach, nectarine, mango, green apple fruit, likewise its potential for more tropical bite. Floral dimension more a palate residue than main presence. Smooth without rough edges, easy to drink and welcome as an IPA not trying to be a DIPA. Which happens less and less.
5 out of 5

Clipper City Brewing Company
Heavy Seas Summer Ale
American Blonde Ale
Maryland
4.3%
12oz
6-Pack, $10.49
Little over a finger of bone white foam, loose enough to disappear swiftly, thin surface coating lasts a bit longer, the lacing isn’t thick but does have decent stick. Perfectly clear and transparent liquid, yellow hue shows more brightness than richness, not dark enough to have much color variation throughout. Bready nose with more toastiness than yeastiness, pinch of both pepper and salt, sour orange peel, more raw grains, minute trace of malts and marginally more peach, apricot, red apple fruit scents, overall cleanliness and good posture best attributes. Medium-bodied, the carbonation seems to whip things up into the air and lessen palate presence. Sweeter here than in the nose, more peach, apricot, pear fruit and fructose sort of notes. Also a dollop of honey and more juice in the orange citrus. Less spiciness, the bready qualities consistent without asking for attention. Comes across as a slightly higher end “working in the yard on the weekend” simple quaffer. not a bad thing but nothing worth the extra coinage either.
2 out of 5

Green Flash Brewing Company
Hop Head Red Ale (Amarillo Dry Hopped)
American Amber/Red Ale
California
6.4%
12oz
6-Pack, $13.99
Big, whipped up head passing two fingers, mixture of all bubble sizes, craters as much as dimples, basic tan to eggshell white color, better retention than you’d think given the larger bubbles, plenty of small splashes of lacing here and there. Nicely rich amber color, fully opaque, slightly more orange at the rims, tiny beads here and there, looks like there could be a catfish living in there. The nose has a welcome relaxed quality about it, semi-laconic unfolding of malts, caramel and milk chocolate segueing into pine, sweet and sour grapefruit to orange citrus, spring blossoms and a croissant, danish flakiness, the green nature of the hops bristles without lunging for your jugular. Medium-bodied, the carbonation adds a slow churn that allows for both palate pressure and measured pacing forward. This is a dry and hoppy beer, no doubt, simply not out to bludgeon you with the fact, gets grassy and piney while always leaving room for chocolate, toffee, bread and caramel. Orange to white grapefruit citrus is tight and lean, neither decisively sweet nor sour. The apricot, peach, nectarine, pineapple, green apple fruit ekes out a marginal presence, not a focal point. it’s not keenly balanced but better for it, particularly with the general lack of pushiness. A hop head beer that you don’t have to be a hop head to enjoy.
5 out of 5

Founders Brewing Company
Devil Dancer Triple IPA
American Double/Imperial IPA
Michigan
12.0%
12oz
4-Pack, $21.99
Finger plus of deep tan foam with an orange tint, pretty good density but has a lot of larger bubbles which hampers retention, slow and steady dissolve the lacing more thick streaks than “lace” per se. Burnt reddish orange color, close to brick-like, clear and close to full transparency, close to zero bubbles visible inside the glass (as opposed to outside the glass). Drives into your nose like a pick, even the ample honey, caramel and pine sap can’t lessen the brunt of the highly herbaceous hoppiness and sour white to pink grapefruit, close to having a salty saline quality, the pineapple, nectarine, mango, papaya, kiwi fruit scents leaden and gluey, leaves you suspecting that there’s more complexity under the massive density but you’re not getting much of it. Full-bodied is putting it “lightly,” hard to imagine an IPA more densely packed, little sense of movement, impressive if tiring. Pink grapefruit, tangerine, mandarin orange all juicy if not quite vivid. The nectarine, guava, mango, pineapple, apricot fruit steamrolled by the bitterness of the hops, so hard to focus on anything but those hops. Still, there’s some molasses and brown sugar as well as pine, can’t say it’s that floral, would require airiness for that. I respect pushing the envelope but this is too over the top and just very hard to enjoy in its immediacy in your mouth.
3 out of 5

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Chugged in July 2010

North Coast Brewing Company
Old Stock Ale (2009)
Old Ale
California
11.5%
12oz
4-Pack, $11.99
Finger’s worth of deep tan foam, moderate sized bubbles, quick to evacuate and simmer down to the surface, equally weak retention to what lacing does appear. Thick, close to viscous appearance, like orange clay mud in a glass, the brackish look gives way to some yellow at the outermost edges. Smells almost like a bakery or candy store, avalanche of caramel, toffee, butterscotch, milk chocolate, molasses, pralines, cinnamon, bourbon before prune, date, fig and dried peach scents ensue with a slice of raisin bread too, nothing hoppy or even really funky. Full-bodied with surprisingly good fluidity given the voluptuousness of the nose, the carbonation tightly woven yet not smothered in this environment. Here there’s a peat moss, charcoal ash and unprocessed grains element to balance, at least in part, the molasses, honey, butterscotch, milk chocolate, vanilla fudge and date, fig, raisin fruit. Plus there’s a nice glancing blow of orange, lemon citrus to lend zest. Creates more inner mouth perfume than you’d expect too. No session beer but great to finish off the evening with.
5 out of 5

Mother Earth Brewing
Sisters of The Moon India Pale Ale
American IPA
North Carolina
6.9%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.99
Just below a finger’s worth of just off-white foam, minimal retention, ends up with a few lilypads of large bubbles here and there, adequate stickiness to the lacing. Gauzy bright orange with a yellow edge to it,, as opaque as it gets for this sort of coloration, healthy glow. Softly agreeable nose, leans on sweet tangerine, pink grapefruit citrus, pine sap, milk chocolate, chocolate taffy, spiced oatmeal, the apricot, peach, pear fruit has suggestions of both pineapple and banana, honeyed bread, the hops avoid bitterness or bite at seemingly any cost. Medium-bodied, in spite of the lack of head the carbonation keeps a steady churn inside your mouth, luckily it has a dry enough texture to help it anchor well against the tongue. Pineapple, papaya, peach, apricot fruit keep it sweet with some tang, pine, flowers. The milk chocolate, mocha, malt nuances have a dry, dusty effect but keep it sweet just the same. Every once in awhile you got a note of bubblegum. Juicy and sweet tangerine, orange, pink grapefruit citrus. Can’t say that it’s complex and unlikely to please most ardent “hop heads” but it is friendly and with high drinkability.
4 out of 5

Ballast Point Brewing Company
Calico Amber Ale
American Amber/Red Ale
California
5.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$12.49
Foams up very strongly with an average down the center pour, easily half the glass, settles down to about two fingers of a very delicate, fine tannish head, dimples appreciably, some larger bubbles coming out as a result, below average stickiness to the lacing. Deep amber to coppery orange-red, mild haze but still easy to see through it, metallic cast, just about exactly as you’d expect the liquid to look. Malty nose with ample milk chocolate, malted milk balls, caramel and fresh butter accents, this not to ignore the also powerful pine and pin to white grapefruit citrus, no lack of spine here, not quite floral but good amount of peach, nectarine, apricot fruit scents, ends with a bitter grass and wet kindling wood embers. Medium-bodied, hoppier here with the emphasis on the pine, fresh grass, white grapefruit and blood orange flavors, biscuits, the floral notes succeed better towards the end. Leaves your mouth dry with a tacky residue before half the glass is empty, the caramel, toffee, cocoa powder breaks a sweat to keep what little ground it gains, wish there were a little more sweetness for balance. Instead, you get heavy carbonation in an attempt to provide relief for the tongue. Less out to impress, more solid delivery would seal the deal.
4 out of 5

Smuttynose Brewing Company
Gravitation (A Belgian Style Quadrupel Ale) (Big Beer Series)
Quadrupel (Quad)
New Hampshire
12.0%
22oz, Single
$6.49
Thin and very temporary layer of brown foam across the surface, ends up with an aggregation of large bubbles huddled against the glass sides, zero lacing. Amberish orange with as much brown to it as red, mild gauziness, the rims turn a glowing yellow. The nose is the joining of two opposite poles, on one side banana, molasses, butterscotch, caramel and fig, golden raisin, red apple, peach, red cherry fruit scents, then peat moss, black pepper, rye, dried straw and bitter coffee grounds, not much “lift” into your nostrils but does have good length. Medium and close to full-bodied, has the sweetness and clingy qualities, just not the ability to sink deeply into your mouth pores. Molasses, brown sugar, caramel, milk chocolate distinct without getting too sweet, lemon and orange peel and apricot, peach, golden raisin, fig and date flavors likewise full yet not sugary. Ginger, cumin spices, tar, forest underbrush dry things out more, one might suggest that the weak carbonation hurts the sweetness, doesn’t get the sugar zipping about. The thing is, it comes across as noncommittal, like it wants to go in a direction more decisively but then relents. Nothing horrible but there needs to be more flavor intensity as well as thrust through the finish.
3 out of 5

Coronado Brewing Company
Mermaid’s Red Ale
American Amber/Red Ale
California
5.7%
12oz, 6-Pack
$13.69
Solid pour gets you about two fingers of dense light tan foam with a slight dimpling across the surface, retention is about average hence starts to crater as it resolves down to the liquid surface, lacing broad and lends visual appeal. Rich amber red color with as much brown as orange to it, more transparent than translucent, few scattered bubbles visible. The nose starts off like it’s gonna get all hoppy on you then veers into milk chocolate, butterscotch and generalized malts with a raisin bread, orange peel and Brazil nut stripe, can conjure up mixed floral bursts when so inclined, does have an herbal dimension with a very low undercurrent of pine, any fruit sticks to basic apricot, peach, apple scents, nothing unique here but well packaged. Medium to full-bodied, the fluff factor of the carbonation favors the latter. The chocolate, toffee, butterscotch nuances persist but truly are not all that sweet. Probably more sweetness in the tangerine, grapefruit citrus. More of a slow, subtle roast than toast, again something like raisin bread to whole wheat. Dry, erect bearing through the finish. Nothing dumbed down here, strikes you as a “food beer” which may not shine best on its own.
3 out of 5

Coronado Brewing Company
Islander IPA
American IPA
California
7.0%
12oz, 6-Pack
$14.89
Good fluffy two finger’s worth of cream white foam, larger bubbles so it steadily settles down to a layer across the surface, wide lacing streaks with above average persistence. Filmy orange color, inclining more to yellow than red, you have to get pretty much eyeball to glass to see any carbonation. While the glass is still inches away from your nose you can smell the tangerine and pink grapefruit citrus, the pine and honey brushed challah bread sweet as well, full-on ripeness in the apricot, peach, mango, pineapple scents, ginger root, few notes of bitterness and certainly no real herbaceousness, the malts oddly don’t seem to develop a distinct personality. Full-bodied, here there’s an edge, tempted to call it more acidic than herbaceous even though the dried meadow grasses and pine have bite. The juiciness of the tangerine, pink grapefruit, white grapefruit tempered by a welcome sour streak, not as one-dimensional as the nose. The breadiness “browner” as in rye or wheat bread. As with the former, more cut to the jib of the pineapple, papaya, nectarine, peach fruit, especially as it warms. The maltiness seems generic and without much character. All this said, it’s not a loser and can be chugged easily if ice cold. Even better if it’s free.
3 out of 5

Two Brothers Brewing Company
Dog Days Dortmunder Style Lager Beer
Dortmunder/Export Lager
Illinois
5.1%
12oz, 6-Pack
$13.19
Very light head, hardly any foam, what’s there is clear white, nada lacing. The slight gauze doesn’t effect the overall transparency, straw yellow color, not that vivid, very few and randomly scattered bubbles, has the appearance of a beer gone flat. Pretzel dough, wheat bread in the nose, the peppery bite and hops give it lots of verve, softened by a light florality, the malts lack distinguishing qualities, some milk chocolate and hard butterscotch candy, solid apricot, peach scents without seeming fruity, overall well-integrated and easy to kick back and sniff. Medium-bodied, carbonation gives it a steady churn without getting in the way of smoother drinkability. The malted milk balls and chocolate ease the mouth entry, then orange to lemon citrus perks things up, greener straw and hay notes. Brings on some ginger, coriander notes too. Quieter tone to the pear, peach, apricot fruit, however, consistently there. Slight turn to bitterness through the finish, keeps it lively. Solid, crafted to be so rather than spectacular, a rarer and rarer thing. Could easily put a few down in one sitting.
4 out of 5

Nectar Ales
Black Xantus Imperial Stout Special Limited Release
Russian Imperial Stout
California
11.0%
22oz, Single
$15.99
Aggressive pour yields virtually no head at all, swirl all you want, you’re not getting any form or lacing. While jet black, clear enough to see a solid burnt orange tinge at the rims and glass bottom, nice of it to allow for some color. Smooth coffee, chocolate fudge, almost German chocolate cake, in the nose, not quite doughy nor bready, biscuity, if anything, the roast noticeably subdued, pleasing wafts of citrus zest, more anise than licorice, good mixture of sweet apricot, plum, cherry, black grape scents, the hops remain in the background. Medium to full-bodied, extremely well-polished and fluid, deftly utilizes its weight to carry the flavors. Hoppy with a pleasing biscuity, piney touch to the attack before cocoa, mocha, dark chocolate, caramel and coconut take the stage, comes close to evoking bourbon barrels. Shows Brazil nut, cashew aspect, stays toasty versus roasty. The carbonation has a slow churn, turns over at a slow rate. The flavor intensity remains complete through the finish. Dee-licious.
5 out of 5

Williams Brothers Brewing Company
Scottish Midnight Sun Dark Porter Ale
English Porter
Scotland
5.6%
16.9oz, Single
$4.19
Thin half finger of brown foam which doesn’t stick around for long, leaves random islands across the surface, given this, more stickiness in the lacing than expected. Blackish-brown in color, opaque but not in a monolithic manner, light glimmer of burnt orange around the rims. Firm, well-packed nose of cocoa, dry dark chocolate, carob and a strong does of ginger, coriander spices, even a pinch of cayenne, the roast not acrid nor coffee-like, more like slowly roasted grains, has no distinct fruit nor citrus scents, long, if unobtrusive, presence in your nostrils. Medium-bodied, muscular presence, not immobile but you have to exercise those throat muscles to prod it down. The Indian cuisine like spices of ginger, cumin, anise and curry clear enough that they push most else to the side. This also hardens the contours of the cocoa, carob flavors. The carbonation moderate at best but does fit the general tone nicely. Odd that, again, virtually no fruit, citrus or other vaguely “sweet” flavors. This is a very intelligent and well-crafted beer, however, one that should be used in select circumstances, preferably with food.
4 out of 5

Long Trail Brewing Company
Brewmaster Series Coffee Stout (Malt Beverage Fermented With Coffee)
American Double/Imperial Stout
Vermont
8.0%
22oz, Single
$4.99
Very aggressive pour yields barley a half finger of tan foam and better peep it quickly before it’s all gone, close to zero lacing as well. 99% black liquid, here and there you might catch a hint of brown. Curious estery notes of bubblegum and banana in the nose then, naturally, coffee, dark chocolate and carob, albeit not excessively roasted, makes room for plum, black grape scents, behind this lurks a hoppy graininess and then raw nuttiness, fairly straightforward were it not for that initial element. Medium-bodied and sheds weight as it progresses forward. Solid roast sans the flesh, more like American roast coffee with cocoa and bittersweet chocolate, lacks any sweetening caramel or toffee, maybe powdered milk. The plum, cherry, grape fruit at times displays a dried fruit concentration just, again, not the sweetness per se. The nuttiness comes and goes. The carbonation could stand to be more active but no weakling either. Nothing here sour nor bitter, a sign that it is more about a lack of flaws than presence of positives. Can’t really say what the hops add. Good quaffability and smoothly fluid enough that you don’t want to look too hard for things to criticize.
3 out of 5

Sierra Nevada
Southern Hemisphere Harvest Fresh Hop Ale 3rd Release (2010)
American IPA
California
6.7%
25.4oz, Single
$5.49
Average pour comes close to filling half the glass with light tan foam, whipped up appearance, mostly larger sized bubbles, quite slow to dissolve, the frothiness of the lacing gives it unusual thickness. Slight cloudiness to the amber red color, more pumpkin orange at the glass bottom, holds light well to increase presence. Very piney nose with flowers and orange zest in support, you suspect that it could be more herbaceous than it is, takes a softer approach with peach, apricot, golden apple fruit and a dusting of cocoa powder, curiously lacking for breadth of scents, sticks to focusing on the basics. Medium-bodied, sufficiently foamy to increase mouth presence, both weight and momentum persist through the finish, no prob. More carob and cocoa here yet the bitterness factor raised even more, green grass, hay and pine give it a real charge. The citrus more orange to white grapefruit, tart. Most of the florality appears to be lost in the mix. Average dose of apricot, peach, nectarine, pineapple fruit, not juicy enough to get tropical yet not absent either. It’s inoffensively drinkable and priced about right. But the 2009 version was better.
3 out of 5

Founders Brewing Company
2009 Nemesis (Maple Bourbon Barrel Aged Wheat Wine)
Wheatwine
Michigan
12.0%
12oz, 4-Pack
$19.99
Somewhat surprising lack of head, barely gets to a half finger of cream white, weak retention and the lacing almost seems to be left behind by mistake. Fuzzy, cloudy glass of pumpkin orange liquid, shitload of sediment and junk floating about, no bubbles, honestly almost looks like a semi-frozen slushie, intriguing, if not attractive, all the way around. The nose if a full frontal assault of coconut custard, scotch whiskey, fresh maple syrup, vanilla bean, chocolate saltwater taffy, it’s got it all, a short burst of peach and apricot fruit, nothing even remotely hoppy provided here, it’s a steamroller of not only sweetness but sheer heaviness as well. Full-bodied, built as if it wants to foam out of your mouth, not that carbonation is too high, although it is super-fluffy, it just refuses to consider there’s a part of your mouth it is not in. Vanilla, coconut, maple, caramel, toffee, butterscotch, exhausts the whole list. Boozy and close to “heady,” but it is able to spread its ample girth out horizontally so you don’t feel like you just took a 2x4 to the head. Green apple, pear and melon fruit meld with the guava, pineapple, poached peach flavors. No distinguishable hop presence. You have to give it credit for its monological tenacity but you could waterboard someone or make them drink 2-3 bottles of this. Said as a Founders slut. Enough already with the “this one goes to eleven...” mentality.
4 out of 5

Avery Brewing Company
Samael’s Oak-Aged Ale (Ale Flavored With Oak Chips)
English Barleywine
Colorad
o 15.82%
12oz, 6-Pack
$59.99
Active pour gets you close to three fingers of light tan foam, mostly medium-sized bubbles so there’s retention in a steady dissolving fashion, the lacing is incredibly thick, more a sheer wall than streaks. Dense cloudiness to the reddish brown mud coloration, you might have to want to find a more orange to yellow hue around the rims, close to nada bubbles visible. The nose makes you think Willy Wonka is in the house, vanilla fudge, caramel, milk chocolate, butterscotch, coconut, licorice, nuts, the pear, peach, yellow apple, cherry scents close to dried fruit in nature, somehow manages to develop and erect posture in the complete absence of hops or anything which might keep its knuckles off the ground. Full-bodied, the carbonation is close to zip, this said, it does have more fluidity than expected and is just shifty enough that you can ignore how boozy or hot it is. Sweet plum, cherry, apricot, pear fruit, when paired with all that vanilla, caramel, butterscotch it kinda becomes hard to take it seriously as a “nuanced” beer. Kind of defies you to find a hoppy spine. Homogeneous enough that you have to say, if you have a cigar and the time to smoke it, do so ’cause it may be your last chance. Still, you cannot deny how it massages your primary pleasure nodes.
4 out of 5

Russian River Brewing Company
Temptation (Blonde Ale Aged Oak Barrels)
American Wild Ale
California
7.25%
25.4oz, Single
$19.99
Healthy two finger head of bleached bone white, tiny microfoam throughout, credible retention and more thicker streaks of lacing than expected. Metallic orange rust color, also clearer than expected, strong bubble storm inside the glass, few actual beads. Raw yeasts and super-sour white grapefruit to lemon citrus set the tone in the nose, matted wet straw, old kindling wood ashes, charcoal, then angular green apple, green grape and pear scents, white pepper and caraway seeds, Full-bodied, in large part due to the carbonation foam which feels like someone emptied a fire extinguisher in your mouth, expands to near dripping out of your mouth. Sour, yet would be much more so were it not for that carbonation, keen edge to the lemon, white grapefruit citrus. However, here more vanillin oak comes through to at least momentarily soften things. Does not have the funk of the nose but no sense trying to avoid the earthen straw, mud and animal hide notes. Boozy, even with the relatively low alcohol percentage, pear, pineapple, white grape, apple citrus, were it a wine it would likely need malolactic fermentation. Violets, anise and more caraway, at times recalls dried Indian spices. Its tight grip on your palate extends the finish texturally way past the flavors. Interesting but I’ll be the first to admit that wild ales are not my faves. (Batch 004X2)
4 out of 5

Deschutes Brewery
The Abyss 2009 Reserve (Stout Brewed With Licorice And Molasses With 33% Aged In Oak And Oak Bourbon Barrels)
American Double/Imperial Stout
Oregon
11.0%
22oz, Single
$10.99
Two plus fingers of dark brown head, despite the mixture of all bubble sizes, excellent retention and you barely see movement across the surface, yet it eventually settles closer to the surface a few minutes later, leaves a hodgepodge of lacing streaks like paint splattered against a wall. True to the category, pure black liquid, nothing more to say. Punishingly thick nose of black licorice, dark chocolate, toffee, coconut oil, vanilla bean, plum, prune, black cherry, sweet tea leaves, those fake candy orange peel gel candies, overall the roast is tamed to allow perfect balance in your nostrils and reduce the “flash” factor. Full-bodied, but some sips come across as medium-bodied which is an achievement in itself, given the “bigger and bigger” mentality today. Espresso bean, dark chocolate, vanilla extract, caramel, maple syrup and coconut establish the oak presence, sweet while also toasty, covers the full territory from tongue saturation to inner mouth perfume. The licorice starts to come on along with orange reduction and floral musk. There’s an underlying graininess as well as suggestion of cayenne. I don’t know jack about rumors regarding this 2009 version but this is benchmark brew.
5 out of 5

Boulevard Brewing Co.
Seeyoulater Doppelbock (Aged On Cedar) (No. 10 In The Smokestack Series)
Doppelbock
Missouri
8.5%
25.4oz, Single
$8.75
Close to two fingers of deep tan foam, mostly tiny foam and you can see the bubbles pop swiftly across the surface until it’s all gone in a flash, the lacing slides down the glass sides as well. Foggy amber red color, holds the light inside very well, diminishes to a basic orange along the rims. Golden honey, molasses, cane sugar, orange blossom make for an inviting nose, the cedar more of a steady undercurrent than large presence, close to dried fruit nature to the peach, apricot scents, despite all this not cloyingly sweet overall, it starts to dry out in your nostrils, even if without clearly distinguishing hoppy elements. Full-bodied, at first tastes a little like a root beer float, vanilla and brown sugar. The carbonation has a nicely tight weave to it which keeps the tempo up and reduces some of the sweetness in the caramel and toffee flavors. The apricot, pear, peach, banana fruit has richness without seeking attention. Gains chocolate and coffee ice cream nuances over time. Moments of multi-grain bread. No real hop bite, citrus is demure while grass or pine absent. It is difficult to peg clearly but there is good structure behind the sweetness, not a simple beer by any stretch. For its weight maintains credible drinkability.
5 out of 5

Pisgah Brewing Company
LEAF Amber (Spring 2010)
American Amber/Red Ale
North Carolina
22oz
Single
$4.99
Finger plus or tan brown head, complete mixture of bubble sizes, nice cascade across the surface, thick lacing streaks and above average retention. Pleasing amber orange color with some darkening redness, on the cloudy side. Molasses and brown sugar notes give the nose a friendly demeanor, followed on by malty chocolate and then pumpernickel bread and a light pepperiness, never gets citrusy nor grassy, however, you can feel the hops stiffen its presence, smattering of apricot, white grape and peach fruit scents. Medium-bodied, the carbonation is on the fluffy side and keeps things softly expanding outwards. The chocolate, caramel, toffee flavors proportionate to the whole, more loaded into the mouth entry than finish. At the end there’s more of a mineral water, rye, lemon peel array, drier and more briskly refreshing. Pinch of dried flowers as well. That carbonation keeps it reverberating on the tongue after the liquid is all down the chute. Could use a little more richness, however, devoid of any glaring flaws and the nose is very enjoyable.
4 out of 5

Coors Brewing Company
Blue Moon Honey Moon Summer Ale (Ale Brewed With Orange Peel & With Honey Added)
American Pale Wheat Ale
Colorado
5.6%
12oz, 6-Pack
$8.99
Close to two fingers of pure white microfoam, rapid dissolve down to the surface with only trace lacing left behind. Basic yellow-orange color, quite clear with minimal scattered bubbles visible within. The nose is based mainly on grains, wheat, rye, with rice and corn too, the honey makes itself quietly present, same for the orange citrus, neither would seem a focal point where they not mentioned on the label, light brush of apricot fruit too. Medium-bodied, fairly smooth even as the carbonation’s activity increases mouth presence. The honey here tempers any herbaceous or grassy elements. The citrus remains lowkey, more “blossom” than pulp or juice. Nothing notable about the malts, again, the graininess adds punctuation without much personality. Innocuous, easy to see why a casual drinker might order a bottle.
2 out of 5

Unibroue
Quelque Chose (50% Dark Ale, 50% Brown Ale Brewed With Cherries)
Fruit/Vegetable Beer
Canada
8.0%
25.4oz, Single
$13.89
A steady, aggressive pour into the middle of the glass yields zero head, just a few bubbles along the rims, forget lacing. Redwood stain in color, mixes brown, red and orange tints together, faint gauziness otherwise transparent, holds light inside the glass well. The nose is like a jar of maraschino cherries, mixing in cinnamon and clove spice, orange reduction, brown sugar and then a musky leafiness, cedar and incense come through as well, sticks to a narrow band of scents. Full-bodied, close to no discernible carbonation, just a little prickle during the mouth entry. The candied cherry aspect far and away most dominant, suggestions of raspberry, red apple as well. The cinnamon, clove, anise spice sweet on the whole but not without some kick as well, reminiscent of fruitcake. The orange to lemon citrus concentrated and sweet, like a soft drink. Strives to offer sour counterpoint but this can’t gain traction. Lingers in the mouth for an incredibly long time, glued onto your palate. Not something you’d want to drink on a regular basis but if you are in the mood for this sort of beer it will deliver.
4 out of 5

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Chugged in June 2010

Victory Brewing Company
Helios Ale
Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Pennsylvania
7.5%
22oz, Single
$4.99
Pours a large 3+ finger head of pure white foam, while mostly smaller bubbles, loose with a very whipped up and dimpled appearance, good retention at about a finger’s worth, lacing only somewhat sticky. Murky yellow straw color, strong effulgence, a few beads visible here and there. Rye, wheat bread and white grapefruit to lemon citrus bloom biggest in the nose, soft and generously spread throughout clove and pepper spice, noticeable presence in the apricot, peach, pear scents, the slightest hint of cocoa beans. Close to full-bodied, the carbonation has an aggressive, if fluffy, churn. Friendly orange, white grapefruit citrus and that apricot, peach, persimmon fruit make for a sweet mouth entry, you get the mocha before the wheat, rye, pumpernickel bread. Some moderate grassiness. Not simple per se, but goes for approachability over complexity.
4 out of 5

Southern Tier Brewing Company
India Pale Ale
American IPA
New York
6.9%
12oz, 6-Pack
$8.49
Around a finger of off-white foam, mostly medium-sized bubbles with average retention and some trace lacing. Light amber touch to the base golden yellow color, close to zero visible bubbles. Straightforward, no nonsense nose of pine, cut lawn grass, tangerine citrus and some peppery bite, small amount of nectarine, peach fruit scents, comes up with softening chocolate, cocoa notes before dissolving, nothing here really sweet in nature. Medium-bodied, solid weight throughout, the carbonation level fits the body well while an elevation in the mocha, chocolate, coffee gives it much more balance and breadth. The pine is sweeter, more pink grapefruit than orange citrus, the herbaceousness toned down. The pepperiness as well more lowkey, ends in a caramelly finish. In the mouth it is likely softer than most hopheads would want, but does go down easy.
4 out of 5

Southern Tier Brewing Company
Hop Sun Summer Wheat Beer
American Pale Wheat Ale
New York
4.9%
12oz, 6-Pack
$8.49
Close to a finger of bone white, loose foam, dissolves down quickly to the surface, not much retention nor lacing. Fully transparent, bright piss yellow, large amount of widely dispersed bubbles visible. Bracingly bitter nose, full of wheat, lemongrass, pepper, some rye notes as well, not biscuity though, drop of apricot pit, the mixed citrus accents get stronger as it warms. Medium-bodied, the carbonation tight and active, almost pushes it through the mouth, This lifts the sourness upwards, plenty of pucker in the grassiness, lemon and white grapefruit citrus, the pepper, straw, hay, wheat add to the scrubbing sensations. It’s close to when you swallow before the malty creaminess appears. Hard to discern distinct fruit flavors. Lots of focus and verve, not that complex, so-so drinkability.
3 out of 5

Southern Tier Brewing Company
2XIPA
American Double/Imperial IPA
New York
8.2%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Hits you with a solid two finger head of cream white, extremely loosely knit and dimpled surface, not much stick to the lacing. Rich golden color, transparent with a faint gauziness, not much going on bubble-wise. Pine and pungent pink grapefruit, tangerine citrus drive the nose, as floral as herbaceous, spreads broadly rather than penetrate, any pepperiness ably met by peach, nectarine scents, overall comes across as too subdued for a DIPA. Medium-bodied, a little more verve here and willingness to “get after it.” Flowery, the sweet tangerine, pink grapefruit, lime citrus teases out more apricot, peach, pear than in the nose. In spite of this sweetness, and lower grassiness, the carbonation strongly swirls, enough to power it at least through the mid-palate. Manages to turn texturally drier at the finish while also piling on coconut and pine sweetness. Totally inoffensive, yet, just a quaffer.
3 out of 5

Samuel Smith Old Brewery (Tadcaster)
Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout
Russian Imperial Stout
England
7.0%
18.7oz, Single
$2.99
Need to pour carefully or you’ll end fill half the glass with deep tan foam, good mixture of bubble sizes, uneven surface, dissolves noticeably slow with an unusually large amount of thick lacing. Dark brown color, closer to mahogany than black, clear liquid, not going for the easy “totally opaque” out. Big time banana, bubblegum in the nose, sweet without needing much from the caramel, café au lait, raisin bread, bread pudding or plum to cherry fruit scents, very low on the roast, quite unusual and unexpected, satisfying at face value. Full-bodied, fairly smooth and fluid without too much weight. Much more roast here in the coffee, dark chocolate, this along with a mineral water aspect gives it cut and definition. Still, no lack of coconut, banana, toffee to join the plum, apricot, cherry flavors. The carbonation not light, more subtle, if no less effective. As it warms you get more pork rinds and bacon notes through the finish. Familiar but individual enough to stand itself off to the side of the pack.
5 out of 5

Clipper City Brewing Company
Heavy Seas Mutiny Fleet 2010 Letter Of Marque Rye Porter
American Porter
Maryland
7.8%
22oz, Single
$5.99
Over two fingers of eggshell white, mostly denser foam with larger bubbles here and there, very good retention with some dimpling, high degree of lacing stickiness too. Deep brown color with sufficient amber orange tinge to avoid complete opacity, handsome appearance. The nose is not overly aggressive but still gets on you quickly featuring roasted coffee, mocha, malt as well as rye and pumpernickel bread, seems to consciously avoid sweetness, offers more by way of white grapefruit citrus and pine, grassy matter. Medium-bodied, the carbonation has a tight weave, good punch, that said, after the initial impression it starts to press down on the tongue, losing mobility. Heavier on the roast, close to bitter, espresso bean, cocoa bean, dark chocolate, no caramel or similar sweet elements. The white grapefruit, pine fits the roast well, thankfully the grassiness lowered some. Hard to pick out any fruit flavors. Drier at the finish, crafted to make an impression, succeeds at that, not sure it is more than a curiosity in the end, though.
4 out of 5

Butternuts Beer And Ale
Snapperhead IPA
American IPA
New York
6.8%
12oz, 6-Pack
$8.99
Super-huge, frothy head covers 2/3 of the glass depth, bone white, very airy yet excellent retention, takes forever to get close to just a finger of head, deep lacing as well. Bright yellow gold color, lager-like, maelstrom of bubbles crashing around inside. Doughy, bready nose, more spice and grass, orange peel than anything malty despite the can description of “All Malt,” dry cocoa powder at best, same for the apricot or peach pit nuances, some saline notes. Medium-bodied, not as bitter as the nose has you expecting, although dry. More cocoa, mocha here, the bread more wheat to pumpernickel. Lots of spice and sour grassiness, lemon to orange pith. No fruit and nothing noticeably sweet, could use such for the sake of balance. A weird beer that you can’t really get a handle on.
2 out of 5

Oskar Blues Grill & Brewery
Gubna Imperial IPA
American Double/Imperial IPA
Colorado
10.0%
12oz, 4-Pack
$15.99
Thin cream white head, barely gets to half a finger, not much retention either, lacing slightly above average. Very cloudy with a warm glow, offers a light orange to yellow hue, even with strong translucency you can see many active bubble beads. No lack of grapefruit, orange citrus in the nose, however, most marked by peat moss and lichen sort of scrub notes, charcoal ash and then scone to biscuit breadiness, followed on by golden raisin, peach, apricot scents, pine and honey, sweetens as it warms. Medium-bodied, the carbonation comes off a bit too “fluffy” as if masking the lack of natural heft. Loses a lot of the herbal dimension here, milk chocolate and vanilla pair up with the tangerine, pink grapefruit citrus for a sherbet like mix. Biscuit to corn bread more than “bready” per se. Pine tar like the resin on a baseball bat. Lacks substantive hop bite but avoids slouching. Interesting to try but doesn’t make you yearn for more, methinks its reach exceeds its grasp.
3 out of 5

Great Divide Brewing Company
Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout (Stout Aged On Oak Chips With Cocoa Nibs And Spice Added)
American Double/Imperial Stout
Colorado
9.5%
22oz, Single
$9.99
Surprisingly big head of close to finger’s worth of dark brown foam, mix of all bubble sizes, not much lacing but good head retention in general. Pure black liquid, if black could be blacker, this would be it. In the nose the sweetness of the milk chocolate triumphs over the otherwise formidable roast, coffee beans, grilled nuts, toffee, comes on with oatmeal, wheat and raw grains, more hoppy kick apparent as it warms, little to no presence of fruit or citrus, seems to want to make sure they were not kidding with the word “chocolate” on the label. Full-bodied, here you find that missing kick, a first tastes like chili pepper infused chocolate. Sweetens some as you acclimate, but not much, more cocoa to mocha than chocolate, dusty texture. Roasty coffee takes down any caramel or toffee notes. Carbonation is demure, not absent but there are periods of inactivity. Maybe, just maybe, some orange peel otherwise, again, no fruit nor citrus. The hops add more punctuation than narrative and, really, with all that spiciness it is very hard to gauge the hop nuances, your mouth is kinda, err, on fire. Very pleasing to try and has personality, one bottle is more than enough pour moi.
4 out of 5

Dark Horse Brewing Company
Plead The 5th Imperial Stout
Russian Imperial Stout
Michigan
12.0%
12oz, 4-Pack
$11.99
Light head, half finger of exceedingly dark brown foam, mostly larger bubbles which impairs retention, credible stickiness to the lacing. Jet black, zero color, only thing visible are a few floating particles within. The roast hits the right balance in the nose, more texturally stiffening than scented, you get sweet chocolate, coconut, light caramel as well as rich plum, golden raisin and cherry fruit scents, flaky pie crust, vanillin oak booziness, anise seed, orange citrus zest, overall soft and well harmonized. Full-bodied, yet smooth with nice fluidity, honestly, here the relatively weak carbonation helps to keep the pace going rather than fluff things up. Dark chocolate, cocoa, mocha and caramel, not so much coffee or real roast. Plum, cherry, raisin, fig, apricot fruit lends sweetness and concentration. The coconut, vanilla fudge, honey glazed dough and croissant flakes likewise. Hard to say both what the hops contribute and what they were meant to contribute. Still, awfully seductive as a pure “guilty pleasure” play.
5 out of 5

Russian River Brewing Company
Supplication (Ale Aged In Oak Barrels With Cherries Added)
American Wild Ale
California
7.0%
12.68oz, Single
$11.99
About half a finger of light tan to off-white foam spreads across the surface, of a fairly loose knit, all tiny bubbles, goes quickly but easily regained with a swirl or two, average lacing. The liquid is noticeably clear, an orange tinged brown, some loss of hue around the rims, plenty of active bubbles visible within. The sour cherry scents explode in your nostrils, evoke cranberry and pomegranate as well, sour lemons but golden honey too, horsehide, lees, drying chunks of rye bread and oats, rosemary and other garden herbs, with all of the barnyard floor and animality, the pureness of the cherry outlasts all the rest. Medium-bodied with a very strong foaminess, this almost necessary to help you palate acclimate to the unrelenting sourness of the cherry fruit. Yeast, lees, tar and a Sherry-like nuttiness fill in many of the open spaces. Very dry, one of the drier beers consumed in memory. As mouth yields to it, more raspberry, nectarine and lemon zest flavors appear. Hard to track any change as it warms, so pervasive is the sourness. A great “experience” brew but not one I’m jonesing to try again any time soon.
4 out of 5

Hair of The Dog Brewing Company
Fred Golden Special Ale (Batch Number 78)
American Barleywine
Oregon
10.0%
12oz, Single
$4.99
Even if you’re careful you are liable to get close to a half glass full of foam, very dense with the tiniest bubbles imaginable, the foam covers the entire inside of the glass so no “lacing” per se. Cloudy reddish orange color, opaque but not so as to not capture light within it, very active bubble beads within. The nose has a sunshiny honeyed quality to it, sweet tangerine and pink grapefruit trump the oats and granola, the latter sweet too, banana, nectarine and apricot fruit, caramel, malted milk balls, the citrus most obvious throughout. Full-bodied and creamy, full but soft mouth presence. The tangerine, lime, pink grapefruit big and bold here too, more honey, molasses, milk chocolate and caramel to increase the sweetness factor. Touch of vanillin tinged booziness, rye and oats without getting too grainy. Fruit cocktail nature to the nectarine, peach, apricot, pear, cherry fruit, straight out of the can. The carbonation accommodates the creaminess, more of a real slow churn than anything else. This does not strike me a “categorizable” beer, more an experimental hybrid. However you take it, it’s sure yummy.
5 out of 5

New Holland Brewing Company
El Mole Ocho (The High Gravity Series) (2010)
Herbed/Spiced Beer
Michigan
8.0%
22oz, Single
$8.99
Close to a half finger of dark tan color, the bubbles don’t seem that loosely knit but the head’s gone in a few seconds, there is a little stickiness to the lacing though. Curiously, while the liquid is actually fairly clear, the grimy reddish-brown color more reminiscent of clay-based mud, more zinc orange hues brighten the rims. Huge jelly roll of milk chocolate, caramel and toffee dominates the nose, that said, cumin, paprika spices present along with a tiny pinch of cayenne pepper, these elements occluded by bodacious prune, plum, black grape, raisin, black cherry fruit scents, if you have the patience you might be able to get some charcoal dust and peat moss, overall the nose gets the “truth in advertising” award vis-à-vis the label. Full-bodied and close to heavy, the sheer mass of it pushes the carbonation off the tongue and outwards towards your cheeks. Oodles and oodles of chocolate, accompanied by butterscotch and caramel, could be sold in the candy aisle as much as the beer aisle. The “Mexican spiciness” gets sort of lost in the shuffle here, if anything more heat than flavor. Focus teases out orange citrus, granola and scone notes. This is a very enjoyable “sipper” that does not deviate much from the script, arguably for the best.
4 out of 5

Stoudt’s Brewing Company
Pils (German-Style Pilsener)
German Pilsener
Pennsylvania
5.4%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.49
Large, frothy head, bleached white, mostly big, loosely knit bubbles, leaves a good deal of delicate lacing behind, moderate retention overall. Clear orange color, deeper in hue than expected with only slight yellowing at the outer reaches, transparent, few visible bubbles, certainly no beads. Hyper-crisp nose of rye, dark bread, quinine, lemon peel, celery, pepper, very little soft or giving, minimal apricot, peach, apple fruit scent presence. Full-bodied, even kind of heavy for its type, the carbonation churns steadily, if not for this it might paste itself to your tongue. All the tonic water, quinine, lemon peel, sourdough bread, pepper here too, crisp but not exactly refreshing as the weight is too much and there’s no real lift off the palate. Pear, apple, peach fruit doled out meagerly. Pretzel salt and bitters finish things up. Stylistically, this does ape the German approach, however, it lacks the finesse and drinkability to be considered top notch.
3 out of 5

Pisgah Brewing Company
Summer Blonde Ale (AKA Endless Summer Ale)
American Blonde Ale
North Carolina
22oz, Single
$4.99
Bone white head of loose bubbles, slight dimpling as dissolves down from a finger plus to the surface, given the rate of dissipation leaves very credible lacing behind. Crystal clear pale metallic yellow colored liquid, very few bubbles visible within. Pretzel dough, pumpernickel, almost a country style baguette feel to the nose, dried orange peels, white pepper, really rises up into your nostrils, palpable cleansing effect, the herbaceousness all but cancels out any honey, apricot to apple fruit and slight maltiness. Medium-bodied, crisp and dry with the overall mouth weight more impressive than flavor array. This indeed at times “Kölsch-like” and focuses on an array of grain breads, lemon and orange peel, bitter grassiness, pepper and parched brown earth. The carbonation has a keen edge and keeps things fairly turbulent. Tart apple, pear, apricot fruit at best. Hard to peg anything deeply “malty” going on. Have to admit, the dryness does keep you licking your lips and hoping the next sip might slake your thirst.
3 out of 5

Full Sail Brewing Company
Black Gold Imperial Stout (Bourbon Barrel Aged Brewmaster Reserve 2009)
Russian Imperial Stout
Oregon
10.5%
22oz, Single
$9.99
Close to zero head, thin layer of deep brown foam gone in a second, with some remainder around the rims, minimal lacing. The usual pitch black liquid, no variance throughout nor hint at color. Punishing nose of dark roasted coffee, toasted coconut, bitter dark chocolate, hard caramel candy, quite boozy to the point of smokiness and pork rinds, the plum, cherry fruit close to prune and raisin, the oak stiffens its posture enough that hops really aren’t needed nor that noticeable. Full-bodied, sort of glues itself to your palate, not only heavy but immobile. Replicates the bourbon vanilla, caramel, coconut oil, chocolate, charred wood, butterscotch stuff, overwrought to the point of sacrificing some balance. Unprocessed grains, hay and some mixed citrus zest suggest the hops are doing something underneath it all. More fig, date here, the plum, cherry flavors have a concentrated stewed quality. This is relentless beer here, zero subtlety or nuance, just wants to give you the big smackdown. And you get it.
4 out of 5

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Chugged in May 2010

Lagunitas Brewing Company
Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale
American Strong Ale
California
9.75%
12oz
6-Pack, $10.49
Moderate aggression gets you a finger of eggshell white form, fairly dense and frothy, what’s there possesses decent retention, multiple patches of lacing scattered across the glass insides. Clear bronzed orange color, red rust tinge, loose, widely spread bubble beads. The nose is locked and loaded to please, juicy pink grapefruit, tangerine and lime citrus, honey, fully ripened peach, apricot, nectarine, pineapple scents, mere brush of caramel, light sweet spiciness, under it all an herbaceous earthiness and mutter of charcoal ash. Full-bodied, that earthiness and tar adds some needed rigidity, the carbonation helps as well by tightening up its game and percolating without fluffiness. At the same time, doesn’t lose any of that sweetly ripened pink grapefruit, tangelo citrus nor bountiful peach, apricot, nectarine, pineapple, mango flavors. Here more cocoa and mocha than caramel, drier and powdery. Not suave per se, but manages to work the room completely and then exeunt without anyone noticing but everyone wants to say goodnight before leaving themselves. Having a six-pack on hand is a dangerous thing.
5 out of 5

Highland Brewing Company
Oatmeal Porter
American Porter
North Carolina
5.8%
12oz, 6-Pack
$10.59
Pours a big three finger plus head without much effort, mostly fine microfoam with just about average retention, light tan coloration, excellent stickiness to the lacing, coats the sides of the glass. Not quite black just the deepest brown possible to cross into full opacity, glimmer of orange at the rims, muddied appearance overall. Molasses, caramelized brown sugar and honey take the lead in the nose over the ground coffee, dark chocolate elements, the oatmeal is very dry and does not spread broadly, unprocessed grains, orange peel, it’s actually more rough and tumble than expected, not necessarily for the worse. Full-bodied, steely and close to immobile, the carbonation tentative like it’s on a work release program. Coffee, milk and dark chocolate, mocha, black licorice, oatmeal and a touch of rye. Red grape, cherry, apricot fruit with a stripe of orange citrus lend moderate sweetness. Floral hops breeze by close to the finish. Does smooth out at the end, however, this is no casual sipper and you have to focus to get the last few sips out of the glass.
3 out of 5

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Immort Ale
American Strong Ale
Delaware
11.0%
12oz, 4-Pack
$15.99
Strong pour gets you a finger’s worth of light tan head, mix of bubble sizes, average retention at best, same for the lacing. Reddish mahogany color, murkily opaque but plenty of visible bubble beads, mild brightening to zinc orange at the outermost limits. The nose is like it’s been deep smoked for a day or two, charcoal, peat moss, wood kindling ash, vanillin whiskey, cane sugar, if it was meat it would slide right off the bone, the peach, apricot and any other fruit lost in the mix, same for any citrus, you could stuff a pinch of lichens up your nose and it might not differ too much. Full-bodied, thickly layered, not sloth-like, however, nowhere near nimble. The tar, charcoal, peat, damp black earth components overwhelming here, it’s like being passed through a filter. That said, honey, molasses, caramel not shy about taking the stage either. Let’s call them the “earthy” qualities, whatever they are, they chain up the apricot, cherry, banana fruit flavors although these are in no way evanescent. Not much breadiness nor yeastiness, brush of orange peel. Basically, it’s like standing next to a road crew laying new tar in August.
4 out of 5

Deschutes Brewery
Black Butte Porter
American Porter
Oregon
5.2%
12oz, 6-Pack
$8.99
Two fingers of tan foam, islands of larger bubbles speed up the dissolving, very good stick to the lacing. Pure black color, as if it’s an imperial stout or something, you see some bubble beads rising along the glass sides, completely opaque, duh. The nose wisely chooses steady penetration rather than brute force, roasted coffee and bittersweet dark chocolate, blanched nuts, tar and earth, celery root, close to herbaceous at times, very little discernible fruit or citrus scents, maybe a drop of anise. Full-bodied, muscular and layered, more interested in posing fully flexed than displaying any fluid movement. The coffee roast, carob, dark chocolate still going on, maybe maple syrup or corn syrup. Here you get an interesting mineral water aspect which dries things out and focuses the aforementioned flavors, the mouth feel has some turbulence. Red apple, cherry, apricot fruit breaks the surface now and then. Muttered suggestion of orange peel. In the end, this is very craftily put together and while it does not always viscerally please it does continuously draw in your intellect.
4 out of 5

Boulevard Brewing Co.
Rye-On-Rye (33% Ale, 67% Ale Aged In Rye Whiskey Barrels) (No. 13 in the Smokestack Series)
Doppelbock
Missouri
8.5%
25.4oz, Single
$8.75
Careful when pouring or you’ll get a head of three plus fingers, loosely knit tan brown color, medium-sized bubbles, looks very frothy, average stickiness to the lacing takes some time to settle close to the surface. Very hazy orange-brown color, like muddy water, fully opaque, no change in hue further from the core. In the nose the oak comes through loud and clear, vanilla, buttered toast and caramel, definitely on the boozy side, banana and bubblegum as well as poached apricot and peach scents, the rye component softer than expected, lowering the overall breadiness, as it warms more mixed citrus comes out. Full-bodied and a real mouth filler, the carbonation ensures every pore covered cheek to cheek. Sweet without turning dulcet, caramel, butterscotch, vanilla fudge and carob, the raw whiskey flavors doesn’t choose sides, dry in that heady, boozy fashion. The rye much stronger here, cuts the sweetness and lends a bitter burst. The orange citrus juicy and sweet, same for the concentrated apricot, peach, cherry, banana fruit flavors. Earthy in a fecund, herbaceous manner. This is a road grader of a beer so be forewarned.
5 out of 5

North Coast Brewing Company
Old Rasputin XI Russian Imperial Stout (Stout Aged In Bourbon Barrels)
Russian Imperial Stout
California
11.2%
16.9oz, Single
$19.99
No doubting the fluff factor here, moderate pour gets you an easy three fingers of dark brown, dense foam, topped off with a crown of larger, dimpling bubbles, takes awhile for things to recede and even see the lacing. Oh yeah, it’s black, not a trace of color in the liquid. Coconut suntan lotion, dark roasted coffee beans, bitter dark chocolate, vanilla bean and a crystal clear burst of whiskey in the nose, plum, black cherry, date, fig fruit, alcohol soaked orange peels, makes no bones about wanting to steamroll your nostrils and not look back. Medium-bodied plus, actually a little less dense than expected. This gives more flow to the coconut, vanilla, butterscotch, coffee, as roasty as sweet and barely leaves space for any of the rye, pumpernickel bread, green hay elements to breathe. The carbonation comes across as pretty strong at first but gets sucked into the black hole of the flavors. Apple, grape, cherry, pear takes a serious back seat to the rest. Absolutely nothing subtle here, if you don’t like the message in the first few seconds the rest won’t change your mind.
4 out of 5

Korenaar, Brouwerij De Dochter van de
Noblesse
Belgian Pale Ale
Belgium
5.5%
11.2oz, Single
$5.29
Thin bleached white head which evaporates quickly, credible lacing. Clear copper gold color, light enough to appear consistent core outwards, not a great deal of visible carbonation. The nose exhibits peat moss, forest scrub, rye and wheat notes, peppery spiciness, softens as it warms into peach, apricot, pear fruit scents, dried flowers, can’t say, though, that it softens much. Full-bodied, dry with tight carbonation which keeps the overall mouth feel semi-pinched. More peat moss, charcoal, ash accents with grass, celery and bell pepper too. Almost total absence of citrus, the apricot, peach, apple fruit weaker here. Clove spice joins the pepperiness. Country style rye bread, no sweeter doughiness. Chewed up bubblegum notes appear at the end. Disjointed enough to tire you out halfway through the glass, more workout than pleasure.
2 out of 5

Rogue Ales Brewery
XS Imperial Red Ale
American Amber/Red Ale
Oregon
9.0%
7oz, Single
$4.99
Gives you a finger’s worth of reddish brown foam, moderate density, yet, only average retention and little stick to the lacing. Cherry red wood coloration, just dark enough to get to opacity, more rust orange further out from the center. Caramel, butterscotch and coffee ice cream race out in front of the hops in the nose but the green grasses, orange rinds, pine needles run the former down quickly enough, the apricot, peach scents have a weak grip, peppery dissolve with elevating bitter white grapefruit citrus. Medium-bodied, the carbonation churns up the mouth entry to make it seem a touch bigger. More or less the same here except that the spicy pepper, pine and earthiness more pronounced, very herbaceous which ratchets up the sourness of the grapefruit, lemon, orange citrus. As your mouth acclimates to being scrubbed raw you can discern more toffee, caramel, honey maltiness, still, delivered in a roasted fashion. Apricot, apple, peach fruit nowhere near ripe but you can say it marks out a clear place. Provides enough of the raw material but somehow it does not coalesce into a greater whole. Becomes tiring to drink after awhile.
2 out of 5

Clipper City Brewing Company
Heavy Seas Red Sky At Night Saison Ale
Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Maryland
7.5%
12oz
6-Pack, $11.99
Hits you with a half finger of bone white head which is short-lived, settles into a few scattered islands across the surface, curiously more stickiness to the lacing then first expected. Visually as much dilute orange as stronger yellow, excellent clarity and, in spite of the weak hue, has a glow which pleases the eye. The nose has an outdoorsy, natural character, you almost expect to drink it on an actual farm, big time clove, cinnamon, spiced orange and something like mulled cider, country style rye breadiness, the apple, pear, apricot fruit stays within itself even though the spiciness wants to tease out more tropical fruit nuances, waft of banana. Full-bodied for the style, hugs the curves of your mouth. Strikes a good balance between sweet and spicy, all that clove, coriander, ginger sweeps through, lees and raw bread dough, white pepper, then white grape, banana, peach, pear, cherry, apricot fruit. The carbonation perhaps adds too much fluff factor. The lemon, orange citrus a steadying influence throughout. Finish is sort of short but mouth perfume full enough to compensate. Nicely drinkable.
4 out of 5

Saint Louis Brewery/Schlafly Tap Room
Schlafly Dry Hopped APA
American Pale Ale
Missouri
5.9%
12oz, 6-Pack
$8.99
Big fluffy head, off-white, loosely knit with a surface of exploding bubbles, steady dissolve, lacing slides steadily down the glass sides. The hazy orange color has as much red as yellow in it, translucent and close to opaque, average vibrancy. The nose offers sweet tangerine, tangelo citrus, pungent florality, these really dominate the rest, golden honey, green hay, pepper, earthy, leesy yeast, the hops leave very little space for maltiness to develop. Medium-bodied, good firmness and mouth presence, the carbonation adds percolation, doesn’t distract. Tangerine, orange, white grapefruit drier here, still in the driver’s seat. Leafy hops verge on bitter at times, rye bread, flowers join in. Hint of caramel. Apricot, pineapple, nectarine fruit carves out a moderate presence. It’s well-crafted, however, arguably exceeds its categorization, should be more relaxed and fluid.
3 out of 5

Pisgah Brewing Company
American Style Pale Ale
American Pale Ale
North Carolina
5.5%
22oz, Single
$4.99
Finger plus of larger bubbles, delicate, eggshell white, razor thin streaks of lacing, decent retention given the larger size of the bubbles. Opaquely cloudy burnt orange color, slight yellowing at the outer edges, looks dense. The nose has a muted character, pine, tree leaves, straw, white grapefruit peels, peat moss, very light glance of toffee and potato bread, comes across as somewhat “closed” in wine terms. Full-bodied, not bottom heavy, heavy from top to bottom. The carbonation doesn’t overtly appear active but elicits a few burps with ease. Orange, lemon citrus, forest floor matter and earth, slight metallic ring. Doughy, country style bread aspect. Apricot and peach pit, some pear as well. Very little sweetness, the malts don’t coalesce into a recognizable whole, cocoa and mocha there most. Flat-footed finish, plays it close to its vest when it needs something sparkly to catch your eye.
3 out of 5

Kuhnhenn Brewing Company
Grand Cru (10 Year Anniversary)
Belgian Strong Pale Ale
Michigan
9.3%
12oz, Single
Thinnish cream white head even when poured with moderate aggression, the lacing streaks are wide but glide down swiftly. Effulgent pumpkin orange color, the deeper core hints at brown, the outer edges yellow. There’s a certain fluffy frothiness to the texture of the nose, plays up clove, cinnamon, spiced oranges, honey, croissant flakes and then apricot, banana, green apple, cantaloupe fruit scents, follows on with a good deal of pepperiness and touch of peat moss, complex without being pushy. Medium-bodied, firm in spite of constantly swirling carbonation, feels substantial. The volume quieter here with the pepper up in front of the clove, ginger, cinnamon spice. Not that sweet, has a dried fruit character to the apricot, peach, pear, banana flavors, just about the same with the orange, tangerine citrus, perhaps a tad juicier. Pinch of honey. Not unyielding per se, kinda austere. It’s “manly” like drinking a single malt scotch, just where’s the cigar?
3 out of 5

Kuhnhenn Brewing Company
Fourth Dementia (Olde Ale 2009)
Old Ale
Michigan
12.5%
12oz, Single
You get a good two fingers at first of light tan, creamy foam, mostly microfoam with a pile here or there of larger bubbles, above average retention with a brush of lacing here or there. Unusual clarity for the category with a deep cherry red veneer, only a very slight fade to more base orange around the rims, highly attractive. The nose unfolds at a languorous pace, layers of candied nuts, caramel, toffee, brown sugar, baker’s chocolate as well as prune, black raisin, cherry, apricot fruit, elusive smokiness and mossy notes, displays a great deal of power without clumsiness. Full-bodied and then some, covers every mouth pore like rubber glue. Given its texture and overall sweetness, does stay notably fresh and in movement. Avalanche of caramel, toffee, crème brûlée, butterscotch, chocolate, brown sugar, you name it. Maraschino cherry, poached apricot, golden raisin, prune, fig fruit. Candied tangerine citrus adds more sweet and sour. Carbonation behaves like a lava lamp. An edge of peat moss, charcoal, tar pulls it back from the precipice of oversweetness. Even as it warms keeps its balance, although you do suspect you could light the surface with a match. No port handy, drink this beer.
5 out of 5

Highland Brewing Company
Kashmir IPA
American IPA
North Carolina
5.6%
12oz
6-Pack, $10.59
Close to two fingers of fluffy cream white foam, preponderance of larger bubbles has it quickly dimpling towards the surface, leaves a good deal of lacing behind. Hazy chrome orange in appearance, traps the light inside nicely, lighter yellow towards the rims. The nose leans on orange, tangerine citrus, coriander, white pepper before allowing for scone, honeyed bread notes, general maltiness more than distinct scents, maybe cocoa, apricot and peach scents demure, more of a slugger than a puncher. Medium-bodied, the carbonation is very active, stirring things up throughout. Here the clove, coriander spice really takes hold. This pairs well with the orange, white grapefruit citrus, the latter not sweet. No lack of green grass, leafy characteristics. Spicier towards the end, as in peppery bite. An energetic little cuss but could use more balance and smoothness.
3 out of 5

Baltika (Baltic Beverages Holding), Pivzavod
Baltika #6 Porter
Baltic Porter
Russia
7.0%
16.9oz, Single
$1.89
Even an innocent, safe pour gets you close to three fingers of light tan head, loose and easily dissolved, close to zero lacing. Just to that side of opacity, black trumps brown in the final round, quite clean appearance, ring of dark mahogany and orange around the rims. The nose is sort of annoyingly light but comes up with milk chocolate, coffee candy, golden raisin, apricot, pear scents, unusually lacking in darker fruit, very little roast to it, brush of ginger spice, the hoppiness stiffens things before its final dissolve. Light-bodied, comes across as somewhat watery for a porter, the lack of body here does bring the roast to the fore as it is needed to buttress the cocoa, chocolate, caramel shades. In the same vein, lemon to orange citrus comes forth, accompanied by a brown sugar dusting. The grains, oats and breadiness swell slightly in the middle. Raisin, date, cherry, apricot, a good mix of flavors but needs more richness. All in all, it’s a chuggable summertime porter that luckily enough is priced right for its station.
2 out of 5

Weyerbacher Brewing Company
Tiny Belgian-Style Imperial Stout
Belgian Strong Dark Ale
Pennsylvania
11.8%
25.4oz, Single
$8.29
Average pour yields three plus fingers of hyper-active foam. The bubbles pop at a highly accelerated rate and then, boom, it’s down to the surface, while it was there the foam has a dark tan color, no real lacing to speak of. The nose is a slow, steady unfolding of licorice, prune, plum, cherry fruit with a deep dark chocolate, roasted coffee, caramel character, more raw grain than bread, orange zest and flowers, would absolutely have more impact were it not for all but conscious desire to seem monolithic and simple. Full-bodied, Spreads broadly so as to saturate every mouth pore, filling it in with caramel, butterscotch, vanilla, cocoa and coconut. The orange, lemon citrus brings some tang but not that much liveliness. More roast and coffee here, dries out the finish a wee bit. Likewise, more graininess and hops present to add more bitterness. Remains dense through the finish, you basically chew it as much as sip it.
4 out of 5

Boulevard Brewing Co.
Double-Wide India Pale Ale (No. 2 in the Smokestack Series)
American IPA
Missouri
8.5%
25.4oz, Single
$8.75
Whatever you do, the beer wants to foam. The slowest, most careful pour still yields three plus fingers of eggshell white microfoam, could not have a more frenzied, whipped up froth if it tried, curiously it slides effortlessly down the glass sides with minimal lacing. Cloudy copperish red-orange, you can just see through it, your fingers are shadow puppets on the other side of the glass, lightens around the rims. The nose can jab you but isn’t out to score points, the first sign that this is a beer content to just be an “American IPA” and not a wannabe DIPA. Scents of tangerine, lime, pink grapefruit mesh with pineapple, papaya, peach, apricot fruit, more floral than piney but in any case appears fresh and ruddy cheeked the first concern, vague dusting of cocoa powder, just hits you with the categorical basics with dignity and reserve. Medium-bodied, same demeanor as in the nose, maybe the carbonation adds a little too much fluff. Otherwise, very balanced with an emphasis on that tangelo, pink grapefruit citrus as well as pine and then caramel, butterscotch and honey. Never too sweet, just lively, there’s a pleasing herbaceous nip to it. Calms down as it gets near the finish line with elevating carob, chocolate notes. Manages both a clean and lingering finish. Drank the 750ml is about 20 minutes.
5 out of 5

Pausa Café, Birrificio
Tosta (Ale Brewed With Cacao Beans)
English Barleywine
Italy
12.5%
11.2oz, Single
$8.99
Even if you jetstream the pour into the glass you barely get more than backsplash for a head, the lacing just what’s leftover from that. Cloudy brown-orange mud in appearance, there’s a good deal of sediment so don’t try to get your whole 11.2 ounces’ worth, as opaque as non-black beer can get. Soft, gently unfolding nose of sweet cinnamon and ginger, yeast and raw pie dough, almonds, cherry and blackberry fruit, even after letting it warm some you barely get the cocoa or coffee notes, maybe there’s more there and it’s just too understated. Full-bodied, here the cocoa, coffee is sweet with a light roast and much more evident. The baking spices and yeastiness perdures, Modicum of orange peel, almonds and brazil nuts, the fruit shows cherry, apricot but really just a pureed mix. The carbonation at times feels nonexistent. Doesn’t possess the sugary sweetness of many in the “barleywine” style and likely better for it. Doesn’t cause any pain to drink but the price is pretty painful for what you get.
3 out of 5

Mikkeller
Beer Geek Breakfast (Oatmeal Stout Brewed With Coffee)
American Double/Imperial Stout
Denmark
7.5%
16.9oz, Single
$12.99
Two seconds into the pour, literally 90% of the glass is filled with foam. Wait a minute, come back and try again. Glass still half full of dark brown, dense foam. Just leave the glass on the counter, forget about it and eventually it recedes close to the surface, the glass sides about half coated in thick lacing. Pure black liquid, just as the kids like it today. The nose is the quintessential “fist in the velvet glove,” a haymaker of dark chocolate powder, cocoa, roasted coffee beans, chicory, black licorice, never too sweet as the oatmeal and general hoppiness, does not lack a bitter aspect to cancel out excess sugariness. In the mouth it is full-bodied and tilts further towards the bitter, tart side of things. The roast in the coffee more obvious, espresso-like, the chicory and roasted grains get your mouth puckering big time. The dark chocolate, carob, brown sugar more makeup than substance. Carbonation is low but steady at its chosen level, does not feel sluggish on the palate. Suggestion of lemon peel and flowers near the finish. Not getting a lot of fruit here, cherry, black grape, apricot at best. What there is, is roast and more roast. If it were a wine Robert Parker would give it 95 points.
4 out of 5

Oskar Blues Grill & Brewery
Ten Fidy
Russian Imperial Stout
Colorado
9.5%
12oz, 4-Pack
$12.99
Thin but closely woven head of dark brown, modest retention and lacing. True to form, presents an impenetrably black liquid, a starless night in your glass. Heavy nose that texturally pushes outwards to gain as much ground as possible, licorice, white cake mix, toffee, baker’s chocolate, café au lait, not overpoweringly sweet nor sugary, as much white grape and apricot fruit as cherry or plum scents, vanillin booziness, brazil nuts, there’s plenty of different scents in there but they don’t quite cohere into a choral whole. Full-bodied, dense and slooooow moving, oily texture. Coconut, butterscotch, caramel, coffee, carob and chocolate covered raisins, darker complexion to the fruit here, cherry and blackberry with only a brush of apricot. The carbonation itself is slow if steady, more like a drip from a leaky faucet than a steady stream. More roast to it when warmer but, conversely, sheds some weight. More intensity of flavor and it’s a right up with the best.
4 out of 5

Great Divide Brewing Company
Wild Raspberry Ale (Ale Fermented With Raspberries)
Fruit/Vegetable Beer
Colorado
5.6%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.99
Finger’s worth of large bubbles, more off-white than tan in hue, OK retention given the bubble size, no real lacing. While the liquid seems an auburn orange, you can’t help but sense a pinkish red, the power of suggestion from the raspberries, semi-murky translucency. Fresh raspberry filled nose, yet without a great deal of sweetness, supplemented lightly by orange peel and cocoa, quiet push of unprocessed grains and straw, overall very subdued. Medium-bodied, more bottom heavy than expected, little sense of progression or movement. Carbonation churns up the mouth entry but gone soon thereafter. Raspberries clearly present throughout, subtler shades of strawberry and apple. Here lemon and orange infused mineral water the second place finisher. Any cocoa or chocolate lessened, perhaps uptick in sweeter bread notes. Indistinct hoppiness, more nibble than bite but never fully absent. Holds back too much, needs to make a clearer statement.
3 out of 5

BrewDog Ltd
Paradox Isle of Arran (Batch 016)
American Double/Imperial Stout
Scotland
10.0%
11.2oz, Single
$8.99
Close to no head at all, just some very large bubbles which would occur if almost any liquid were poured forcefully into a glass, gone quickly with no lacing. Black core but not so opaque as to not allow a metallic orange shine around the rims and glass bottom, liquid appears to be very clear. While well-stuffed with scents, the nose overall is demure and close to subtle, offering milk chocolate, coconut oil, vanilla fudge and toffee first with an underpinning of plum, blueberry fruit, sourdough bread and more sweet grains than hoppy kick, very little alcohol presence. Medium-bodied, the carbonation adds a tight churn to it which helps keep it active and dissipates some of the alcohol further. Chocolate darker here, caramel, toffee and more coffee bean than vanilla, sweetly bitter. Grainier, oats, rye and pumpernickel. Lowgrade cherry, blackberry, apricot fruit. Sweet nuttiness adds another layer of flavor. Steady in the array of flavors it offers, not incredibly broad but there until the end. Puts on more mouth weight as it warms.
4 out of 5

Lagunitas Brewing Company
Wilco Tango Foxtrot
American Strong Ale
California
7.83%
22oz, Single
$4.99
Finger plus of tan foam, lacks the density for lengthy retention, the medium and large sized bubbles have it cratering soon after the pour, patches of lacing here or there, like splattered on the glass walls. Hazy brownish amber, not red enough for mahogany, translucent but not opaque, some dilution around the rims. Sweet, not sugary, nose of candied orange peel, rose hips, toffee, molasses, coconut, as it warms it sharpens and you get white grapefruit, nectarine, papaya, pineapple fruit, fairly “tropical,” hops dominate without bitterness, herbaceousness. Full-bodied, the carbonation comes close to causing discharge when you start sipping. Here more chocolate, vanilla, toffee and coffee ice cream upfront. As it hits your throat the hops switch things up, pine, flowers, mixed sour citrus and pumpernickel bread. Touch more restraint in the peach, apricot, pineapple, mango fruit, flavorful but not out to smack you down. The molasses and honey return to saturate the finish, coconut oil too. More of a rollercoaster ride than balanced, integrated sipper.
4 out of 5

Great Divide Brewing Company
Hoss Rye Lager
Märzen/Oktoberfest
Colorado
6.2%
12oz, 6-Pack
$11.49
Nice creamy head of close to two fingers, orange tinted off-white color, close to the froth of an orange julius, average retention, covers the surface for some time, a few streaks of lacing here and there. Deep and vibrant metallic red to coppery orange colored liquid, clear with excellent reflective brilliance, quite pretty. Pastry flakes, milk chocolate, honey coated orange citrus, more of a warm butter than toast covering, the rye waits until the penultimate moment to move forward into the spotlight. Medium-bodied, however, lounges squarely on the palate and unpacks a picnic basket of caramel, milk chocolate, molasses, honey, graham cracker, croissant and ripened sweet oranges. The carbonation is like tiny explosions, precise and prickly yet with no staying power. As a flavor the rye has a clear delivery but doesn’t add much texturally, the hoppy side of the equation slacking. The sweetness never comes close to cloying and for a more or less one-sided beer it’s, err, decently balanced. Drinkability highest when coldest.
4 out of 5

Kuhnhenn Brewing Company
Imperial Crème Brûlée Java Stout (December 2009)
American Double/Imperial Stout
Michigan
8.0%
12oz, Single
Close to no head with an aggressive pour, thin islets of brown microfoam, no lacing. You guessed it, liquid as black as the ace of spades, as impenetrable as a nun’s knickers. Cappuccino, freshly whipped cream, vanilla extract, milk chocolate powder give the nose a soft, enveloping appeal, cherry syrup, brown sugar, this noted it does have an unprocessed graininess to it which approximates hop bite, fills your nostrils and stays there for some time. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied with an acidic punch which jolts you and momentarily forestalls the arrival of the cappuccino, vanilla pudding, whipped cream, graham cracker pie crust, cinnamon powder, licorice and baker’s chocolate. As it warms the bitter roast of the coffee becomes more noticeable. There’s also more of a perfumed lift than downwards pressure on the palate. Tart cherry pie wafts through the finish. Within its general category it achieves a distinct personality, which is a rarer accolade then previously.
5 out of 5

Dark Horse Brewing Company
Reserve Special Black Bier Ale
American Strong Ale
Michigan
7.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Pours with a slight head of dark brown which tends to then congregate around the glass walls, minimal lacing. Typical jet black liquid, fully opaque and impenetrable without a hint of color. The nose is all about heavily roasted coffee, chicory, malt, hard caramel candy, charcoal ash and tar, soy, at times it seems like citric or floral notes trying to get out but kept locked in the trunk, absolutely takes pains to make you notice it, might be able to benefit from some hoppy balance. Medium-bodied, the carbonation causes an intense swirling sensation through the mouth entry, quite dry and semi-rough in texture. The roast far and away the dominant factor, coffee, dark chocolate, chicory, bitters, soy, less earthy and perhaps more leafy with a hoppy bite. The white grapefruit displays spunk and maybe there’s licorice as well. That said, the roast lingers much longer than any other component.
4 out of 5

Kuhnhenn Brewing Company
Bourbon Barrel Barley Wine (2009)
English Barleywine
Michigan
14.5%
12oz, Single
Pouring heartily right into the center of the glass yields close to zero head, hence can’t be any lacing either, right? Murky copper orange to brown hued liquid, more orange and general glow further near the rims, remains translucent not opaque. The nose betrays the bourbon immediately but thankfully not the alcoholic burn, vanilla, butterscotch, dutch chocolate, caramel leap to the fore, behind these come candied orange peel, cake batter, ginger and a blend of banana, peach and maraschino cherry fruit scents, underneath lies a subtle lactose funkiness. Full-bodied without seeming heavy, the density comes mostly from the strong bourbon character as well as, here, the alcoholic burn. Vanilla, butterscotch, caramel comes with a little licorice, ginger root. Clamps down a little too hard to give free berth to the orange peel, apricot, peach, cherry, banana fruit, ends on a drying note. The carbonation is somewhat inactive but what’s there is fluffy like a cotton ball. For its type, good drinkability but I would still characterize it as along the lines of a “dessert beer.”
4 out of 5

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Chugged in April 2010

Wild Goose Brewery, LLC
Oatmeal Stout
Oatmeal Stout
Maryland
5.9%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
The head gets up over two fingers of loose foam, dimples and evaporates swiftly, light brown in color with not much lacing. Deep brown in color, not impenetrably opaque, even offers a dark orange around the rims where there’s plenty of clarity evident. Friendly, almost unassuming nose of dark chocolate, coffee ice cream, oatmeal, caramel and then a slight elevation in the roast, notes of plum and black cherry too, nothing bitter nor especially hoppy. Medium-bodied, sweet in terms of the chocolate, coffee, butterscotch but the final texture, especially after you swallow, is dry. Oatmeal is clear, however, not that bready nor doughy. The carbonation actually might be a little too strong for its general heft, looses grip on your palate by the end. Again, has a simple presentation of cherry, dark berry fruit as well as a splash of orange zest. No guile, light enough to increase drinkability and nothing glaringly stands out as a negative.
3 out of 5

Peak Organic Brewing Company, LLC
Peak Organic IPA
American IPA
Maine
7.1%
12oz, 6-Pack
$9.99
Nicely fluffed and loosely knit head of bleach white color, crests close to a finger, decent retention as well as broad streaks of lacing. Light orange rust to yellow color, mild haziness helps it achieve more presence in the glass, otherwise transparent. The nose has a brisk, no-nonsense demeanor built on white grapefruit, mandarin orange citrus, cut grass, white pepper, pine sap, the peach, apricot fruit overshadowed, aided by only a light brush of caramel or toffee. Medium-bodied, the carbonation has a very expansive presence, almost like the fluoride foam the dentist gives you at a cleaning. However, the overall bitterness cannot be denied, highly herbaceous and peppery with sour white grapefruit pith. Conversely, more honey present and the peach, nectarine, apricot get some breathing space at the end. If you like “IPA burn” you’ll have no problem with this one, the brewery name sounds like the product of too many focus groups and marketing gurus.
3 out of 5

New Holland Brewing Company
Night Tripper Imperial Stout
American Double/Imperial Stout
Michigan
10.8%
22oz, Single
$7.99
Thin head of about a half finger, even with an aggressive pour, gone in an instant, does manage to leave a very thin sheet of lacing down the glass sides for a moment. There’s close to a sour edge to the nose at first, briny with sea salts, this activates the dark roast in the coffee, cocoa scents, anise seed as well as more tart red cherry, raspberry fruit scents than would be expected, lemon peels and unprocessed grains contribute to the erect bearing. Full-bodied, really firm in the mouth, in a somewhat contentious manner. The cocoa, mocha powder and vanilla bean blast right through, any caramel or butterscotch not softening things much. Lots of roast to it, gets leafy at times, without forming too distinct flavors the hops get up in there and help steer the wheel. Pepper spice and dill crop up at moments. There’s some edge to the carbonation but not that lasting. As it ends the roast becomes even more dominant. Leaves you with the impression that this is a very “stylistic” imperial stout and the producer has no problem polarizing those who try it.
3 out of 5

Big Rock Chop & Brewhouse
2009 Bourbon Barrel Aged Flying Buffalo Imperial Stout
Russian Imperial Stout
Michigan
12.5%
12oz, Single
$7.00
Thin layer of very dark brown across the surface, hard to call it a “head” per se, gone in a flash, minimal lacing. Pure black, like a chunk of onyx or maybe someone painted the insides of the glass black. Smells like a glass of whiskey, bit-by-bit each successive sniff teases out licorice, caramel and vanilla and chocolate taffy, caramelized brown sugar, plum but not prune notes, not afraid to show its power, even warmer not that complex but what’s there has clarity of purpose in spades. In the mouth it’s even more bourbon like, adds in some burn but doesn’t induce the hiccups. Layers of toasty vanilla, the chocolate, caramel, butterscotch, licorice close behind. Carbonation is negligible, slathers itself like sauce on the tongue. Mixed dark fruits followed on by a curious splash of white grapefruit. Offers some sweet bready accents as well, like challah. “Subtle” is the last word that would pop into your mind drinking this behemoth. Very happy to have a pint’s worth, after that, well, it’s a sign of alcoholism.
4 out of 5

Tyranena Brewing Company
Paradise By The Dashboard Lights Doubly Blessed Cherry Porter (Malt Beverage Brewed With Cherry Puree)
American Porter
Wisconsin
7.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$8.99
Aggressive pour yields finger plus of light brown microfoam, dissolves away at a rapid pace, very light lacing left behind. Black colored liquid, maybe a momentary suggestion of orange at the outermost edges. Coffee grounds, cocoa powder, dark chocolate all appear in the nose with a serious roasted quality, challah bread, pinch of chicory, any cherry scents are as vague as can be, credible staying power, lasts about as long as you’d want to keep smelling it. Medium-bodied, extremely dry and powdery on the tongue. Again, coffee, dark bittersweet chocolate, cocoa and chicory most present. Close to zero sign of cherry fruit. The carbonation appears to be trying, not so much succeeding. Moderate breadiness, glimmer of a hoppy kick at the end. More or less drinks light a straight-up porter. Competent, but nothing noteworthy about it.
3 out of 5

Rogue Ales Brewery
XS Russian Imperial Stout
Russian Imperial Stout
Oregon
11.0%
7oz, Single
$4.69
One of those “be careful how you pour” beers as half the glass fills up with brown foam if you’re not careful, extremely fine foam, whipped worse than a mule, too fine to even dimple, above average stickiness to the lacing. The liquid is completely black with nothing more to be said about it. While the nose has a taut muscularity to it, at the same time it’s fairly inexpressive, light and hoppy with citrus and grain notes before the dark chocolate, caramel, creamed coffee ensue, plum and cherry fruit quickly breeze by, could argue that the mixed white citrus accents last longer, more pretzel dough than flaky pastry dough. Full-bodied with a soft, enveloping mouth feel, gently rubs its way into most of your mouth pores. Not to detract from the roast in the coffee, mocha flavors as well as the hoppiness. Dry, fluffed out carbonation too weak to lift things up off the tongue. Fistful of chicory, the white grapefruit pith has more oomph. Despite its body it does not warmly hug you like the best Russian Imperial Stouts do. Quiet mutterings of cherry, berry fruit, shut up by the graininess. Certainly trying to put an individualistic stamp on the style, yet, there is something to be said for truth in advertising.
3 out of 5

Pisgah Brewing Company
Baptista
Belgian Strong Pale Ale
North Carolina
11.5%
25.4oz, Single
$15.99
Two fingers of bone white, super-delicate foam, as active as a beehive, causing it to disintegrate swiftly, a few fluffy streaks of lacing left behind. Translucent, semi-hazy liquid, mostly a copper orange which fades to a metallic yellow at the rims, few visible bubbles. Fruit-driven nose of concentrated, dried fruit in style apricot, pear, peach, nectarine, banana fruit with sweet cinnamon and clove spice, orange marmalade, honey and cane sugar, pastry dough, wisely eschews weight for lift in your nostrils. Medium-bodied yet with great traction across the palate, never heavy but has an insistent medium-firm grip. Broad fruit spectrum of pineapple, papaya, banana, nectarine, melon, apricot, pear, all with a caramelized brown sugar, honey and cotton candy coating. The cinnamon, nutmeg spice as well as spiced orange keep the overall feel light and bouncy. Even with its admirable grip, the carbonation whipped up sufficiently to create a musk, if not perfume, in the mouth. There’s a kind of sugary innocence about the brew, however, the sweetness does begin to tire you out after some time.
4 out of 5

Kuhnhenn Brewing Company
Olde Brune Sour Cherry Beer (2010)
Flanders Oud Bruin
Michigan
12oz, Single
Poured right down into the center of the glass from six inches above and still no head, no lacing either. Deep muddy brown colored liquid, like you’d expect to find catfish swimming around the bottom of the glass, sort of yellows around the rims, curiously lots of visible bubbles inside yet no head. Sour pie of wild cherries, not the type of sweeter cherries you get in the store, you even get the flakes of hard crust, baking spices and a light blood orange infusion, before it’s gone you get a damp kind of forest floor vegetation, that said, it’s all about the cherries. Very full-bodied, dense and muscular mouth presence, the carbonation adds a tight tickle to stir the pot ever so slowly. Comes close to identically replicating the nose, those sour cherries have a golden honey dappled flakiness, haphazard flourishes of vanilla bean, ginger and chamomile. Here you get more white grapefruit than orange, takes the pucker factor to “eleven.” Not as earthy or green as in the nose. Most effective when warmed up some, gains staying power in both the nose and palate. Admirable clarity of purpose here.
5 out of 5

Redwood Lodge (Redwood Brewing Company)
American Rye
Michigan
22oz, Single
$6.10
Huge, frothy head of larger sized bubbles, looks more like the top of a milkshake than a beer, lots of dimpling, the tan color seems reddish, not much lacing. The liquid itself has a deep auburn hue, the brown base showing strong autumnal red and orange shades, mild haziness but not that opaque. Strong maltiness to the nose, cocoa, molasses, maple syrup then a wicked burst of pepper, cumin, paprika spice along with pumpernickel and rye bread, true to the label, the apricot, pear scents have nice thickness, not displaying much citrus or flowers. Full-bodied, the carbonation gets it swirling in the mouth, yet, in no way fluffy more like a squall. Dry attack brings all that spiciness and sour bread and grain to the fore, here you do get a full-on burst of sour white grapefruit and orange citrus. Pine oil comes through as well, slowly that maple syrup, molasses, honey aspect gains more ground so that by the finish you are left with a softer, sweeter reverb. At the same time the pear, apricot, peach fruit rises above a whisper. For textural purposes wish the carbonation would calm down but the end result might be too sweet if it did.
4 out of 5

Bell’s Brewery, Inc.
Batch 9,000 Ale (Malt Beverage Brewed With Molasses And Brewer’s Licorice)
American Strong Ale
Michigan
12.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$17.99
Close to a finger of dense, if active, foam of a dark brown hue, mixed bubble sizes contribute to lack of retention and thin sheets of lacing. Not quite black, just the darkest shade of brown possible, completely opaque, touch lighter around the rims but just a touch. Extremely thick nose yet avoids being too heavy, just piles molasses, honey, heavy cream and licorice in there as advertised, the plum, black cherry, black grape scents absolutely come with prune, date accompaniment, candied orange peels, raisin bread, cola nuts, not smoky but there’s a “bakery air” element to it. Full-bodied and treats your tongue like a piece of veal to be tenderized. Malts, molasses, brown sugar, honey, butterscotch, chocolate slather the mouth pores, booziness accentuates this further. Hyper-concentrated plum, cherry, blackberry, apricot fruit with even more of the prune, raisin, date flavoring. That you can even notice the carbonation is a testament to its stubborn tenacity. The licorice most prominent as an aftertaste, sweetens the finish even further. One bottle is more than enough, would be interesting to try and pound a second.
5 out of 5

Weyerbacher Brewing Company
Fireside Ale (Dark Ale With A Touch Of Smokiness)
Smoked Beer
Pennsylvania
7.5%
12oz, 6-Pack
$13.59
Nicely whipped light tan foamy head, crests at close to two fingers, loosely knit and settles into a credible layer across the surface, the lacing in turn forms a broad coating down the inside of the glasses with above average stickiness. Clean, light brown color with a lot more orange tint to it than red, fair degree of transparency, simple attractiveness. In the nose the smokiness is apparent yet in no way overbearing, if anything deferential to the molasses, brown sugar, caramel scents, seamlessly blends in scone, flowers, spiced plum and a salt, soy burst, overall relaxed and not out to overcomplicate things. Medium-bodied, a little tighter here, in a good way, focuses the smoke, caramel, molasses flavors and does bring out some grilled meat or barbeque notes. Carbonation is coiled as well, helps push the pacing forward. More scone and sweeter bread elements here, nothing bitter nor biting about it. Loses most of the fruit and flower nuances, as a result never too sweet while certainly not too dry. Hops must be doing something behind the scenes. Sessionable easy drinker.
4 out of 5

Tröegs Brewing Company
Java Head (Stout Brewed With Coffee Beans)
Oatmeal Stout
Pennsylvania
7.5%
22oz, Single
$5.99
Huge, frothy head, deep tan in color with a great deal of larger, more delicate bubbles which helps it dissolve at a steady pace, almost milkshake like in appearance, rings of sticky lacing cling behind. Typical pitch black liquid, does offer a hint of orange coloration at the outermost edges. Very user friendly nose of cocoa powder, chocolate covered raisins, toffee, plum and cherry fruit, oatmeal and cinnamon, the roast to the coffee really not that high, brush of floral notes but the hops presence is negligible. Full-bodied, creamy but not necessarily soft, more as if the carbonation whipped like fresh cream. Stronger roast here, dries out the overall mouth texture. Coffee, vanilla powder, cocoa powder, butterscotch, mixed nuts, lower level of cherry, raisin, fig, apricot fruit. Pinch of baking spices but insufficient to sweeten things much. Could use a little more length at the end.
3 out of 5

Big Rock Chop & Brewhouse
2010 Wheat Wine
American Pale Wheat Ale
Michigan
13.0%
12oz, Single
$7.00
Half a finger of off-white, creamy foam with above average retention, nice thickness to the lacing as well. Translucent amber orange color with a streak of deepening red, doesn’t betray much cloudiness nor is there much sediment in the bottle, warm appearance. Sweet and malty nose, at times almost smells like a wee heavy, candied tangerines, caramel, butterscotch, raisin bread, rye bread, as much florality as anything wheat-related, nothing bitter nor sour to be found, dense enough to stick around for some time. Full-bodied, just as dense here albeit manages to achieve a “jogging pace” forward through the palate. Tangerine, pink grapefruit citrus fleshy and snuggles up to the brown sugar, molasses, caramel, milk chocolate flavors. Even less bread, wheat or other grain flavors here. After awhile, you just have to treat it as a “beer” and take it on its own terms rather than see it in light of what’s on the label. Allowing for this, not a bad brew at all and definitely a winner for those with a sweet tooth.
4 out of 5

Avery Brewing Company
Maharaja Imperial India Pale Ale
American Double/Imperial IPA
Colorado
10.41%
22oz, Single
$7.99
Pours a huge, whipped up head of three plus fingers, cream white, very fine microfoam which dimples here and there, curiously the lacing slides effortlessly down the glass insides without much stickiness. Bright amber orange color with a bit of red mixed in, noticeably clear, to the point you can spot just about every tiny bubble rising within. Boisterous nose of pine sap, tangerine and grapefruit juice, garden herbs, honey, malted milk balls and croissant flakes, the peach, apricot, yellow apple scents almost get shunted to the side and have a dried fruit character to boot. Medium-bodied, however, the “fluff factor” from the swirling carbonation increases palate coverage and makes the mouth on the whole feel fuller. The tangerine, mineola orange, pink grapefruit fruit fest continues here. A veritable pine forest in there too. Never gets bitter but the fruit takes on a more tropical tang with pineapple, papaya seated besides the apricot and peach. White pepper, clove and ginger root there in shadowy form. Strong malty side, yet total sweetness tempered by grassy hops. Lacks fully adroit integration, too much of a showoff, but drinking it is not a chore.
4 out of 5

Terrapin Beer Company
Hopsecutioner India Pale Ale
American IPA
Georgia
7.3%
12oz
6-Pack, $9.99
You get a finger of eggshell white foam, mostly dense with some larger bubbles interspersed, not deep enough to dimple, weak lacing. Light coppery orange color, transparent with a slight yellowing around the rims. There’s a charcoal filter, metallic touch to the nose, not quite earthy, more leafy than citric, the green apple, pear, apricot scents attenuated, not sour or bitter but you struggle to find any sweeter element to provide balance in your nostrils. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied, average carbonation and weight, pine and white grapefruit, orange citrus sweetens things some but the malts remain shadowy at best. A pinch of white pepper apparent. Meager apricot, peach, apple fruit. The grassiness and hoppy bite by far the strongest element, does stop short of reaching mouth puckering proportions. Still, dry and not especially lengthy through the finish. Basically, it’s OK.
3 out of 5

Stone Brewing Company
Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale (Ale Aged With American Oak Wood Chips)
American Strong Ale
California
7.2%
12oz
6-Pack, $18.89
Two fingers easy of light tan colored foam, islands of larger bubbles, however, displays very good retention and density, thick brushes of lacing. Light cloud to the redwood colored liquid, near to opaque, more of a zinc orange further out. There’s a flatness to the nose, not necessarily a lack of scents per se, just a certain lack of vigor in the vanilla, chocolate base as well as the creamy whiskey notes and golden raisin, red cherry, apricot scents, this leaves extra room for the hops, grains and grasses to assert themselves whereas otherwise they would come off as more contained. Medium-bodied, whipped up and foamy in the mouth to no obvious specific end, More oomph in the caramel, vanilla fudge, mocha flavors, some sweet cedar as well. Same goes for a mild elevation in the nectarine, apricot, pineapple, peach fruit but, truly, not much. Some orange to lemon citrus yet surprisingly light. Seems to depend more on brute power than offering a richer array of flavors. Telltale astringency through the finish puts out any final thought of flavors reverberating.
3 out of 5

Big Rock Chop & Brewhouse
2010 XX IPA
American Double/Imperial IPA
Michigan
ABV Unknown
12oz, Sing