Lagunitas Brewing—Night Time

A relative newcomer to the state of Indiana, Lagunitas has sending us good beers for a couple, maybe three years now.  I grabbed this bottle because I saw who the brewer was and it was a beer I hadn’t yet had.  It was only when I got home and read up on Night Time that I realized this beer was a black ale, a style I haven’t come to grips with quite yet.  So, let’s see how it goes.

It’s a nice looking beer with a beautiful pour.  The body is extremely dark.  Pretty much entirely black with no light even around the edges.  A cascading effect from bottom to top creates a creamy looking tan head.  The creamy look really does it for me.  The head has decent retention and as it falls leaves a nice lacing on the glass.


The smell gives me hope.  What I don’t like about the style is to me, a dark beer should smell roasty, with some chocolate and coffee scents, and bittersweet.  Not bitter, but bittersweet.  I don’t care for the sometimes floral, citrusy scent that many black ales bring.  Dark beer shouldn’t smell like Hawaii.  This beer walks the line.  While there’s a distinct citric smell, I’m also picking up some charred notes in the background.  The more the beer warms in the glass, the more prevalent the roasty scent becomes.

Night Time tastes the same way.  There’s a battle between the lemony citrus and the roasty dark grains.  The lemon turns to grapefruit, while burnt chocolate comes from the ashes of those roasty grains.  It’s possibly an acquired taste, but it’s something I can work with.

Very complex mouthfeel.  Tart bitterness mixes with roasted, charred bitterness.  It’s a strange sensation as the citrus bitterness gives way to the roasty bitterness as the beer works its way across the tongue.  Same goes for the way the beer transitions from smooth creaminess to the bite of carbonation.  Night Time’s stats show 8.2% ABV and 71 IBUs, an IBU figure suggesting a bitter beer.  But despite the bitter from the grapefruit and the dark grains, there’s enough malt so the overall bitterness only feels moderate instead of palate-destroying.  Just above medium in body, this won’t fill you up too much.

If more beers of this style tasted like this, I could probably find myself drinking more of them.  All the different flavors and sensations played off each other creating a good drinking experience.


Elysian Brewing—Dark O’ The Moon

I forgot I had this beer until rummaging through my beer closet the other night.  A pumpkin stout, my favorite, from one of the best breweries I’ve run across over the last year or so (they only recently came to Indiana).

I love the appearance.  A really dark, black body with some viscosity.  Solid black with a creamy tan head.  I haven’t found many beers with such a creamy looking head.  Already I’m thinking of how smooth and creamy this beer must feel.  The beautiful head retains well and leaves a creamy lacing behind.  Top notch look.


One thing that concerns me about some of the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasonal beers is a heavy hand with spices.  Soon after pouring this beer, I could already smell the cinnamon from a couple feet away.  Aside from that, the nose picks up a pleasant mixture of warm bread and chocolate.  A half dozen malts were used so the chocolate and bread shouldn’t come as a surprise.  I think I’m picking up some caramel as well, though that could be the cinnamon.

While the cinnamon is very noticeable, bittersweet chocolate also presents.  There’s has to be some caramel of some sort because there’s is a cola-like taste in every sip.  A little coffee and some smoke round out the taste.

It is a smooth beer, it’s not as creamy as I expected.  A gentle bite of carbonation lightens the feel and takes away from the creaminess.  Some spiciness and bitterness, along with a touch of sweetness, last from first sip through the finish.  Hops don’t seem to have a part in this play.

At only 7.5% ABV, you can drink a lot of Dark O’ The Night and not wake up naked in your neighbor’s yard.  It goes down easy and has a nice taste to it.  I would be happy to brink another bomber of this.

Taxman Brewing—Royalty

This is a retired beer from one of my two favorite Indiana brewers, Taxman Brewing.  A Biere de Champagne Ale, it uses champagne yeast to crank up the alcohol content to 11%.

Despite using champagne yeast in the brewing process, there isn’t much carbonation  showing in the appearance.  The beer is a dull golden color, but the huge head I was expecting never happened.  A very thin layer of tiny, bright white bubbles is all you get…and don’t expect the head to stay around because it doesn’t retain well.  A swirl or two brings the head to life, but it never lasts long and doesn’t provide much in the way of lacing.  Very disappointing look for Royalty.


While the appearance is lacking, to say the least, the smell is amazing.  Grape must and green apple give an almost sweet scent.  I’m picking up a bit of vanilla as well.  The scent alone makes my mouth water.

I’ve taken several sips now I still cannot pinpoint what I’m tasting.  The taste is pleasant enough, but for the life of me, I have no idea what I’m tasting…the closest I can come is green apple.  Earthy European hops are there and the peppery yeast.

There’s a muted sweetness that makes the beer tasty and the ripened fruit continues the sweet train.  Spiciness from the yeast keeps the sweetness from going overboard and there’s a crispness that helps define the different sensations.  Royalty has a champagne-like dryness to the finish and the crisp finish makes the feel much lighter than 11% ABV would indicate.

Despite not being able to tell exactly what I was tasting, this is a nice tasting beer with its high ABV well-hidden.  It’s fairly easy to drink and the sweetness keeps the snack factor at a low level.  The beer made an awful first impression with its dreadful appearance, but the taste and mouthfeel more than made up for it.

The Lost Abbey—Serpent’s Stout

This beer from The Lost Abbey, an imperial stout, is in reference to the first bad guy ever…the Serpent from the Garden of Eden.  According to the bottle, anyone who tastes this will fall victim to the evil incarnate.  Shouldn’t have much of an effect on me since I as born that way.

An exceptionally dark and thick pour fills my tulip glass.  Crazy thick viscosity and a complete lack of lightness.  Slowly and up from the depths, tiny brown bubbles start climbing through the thick beer, ultimately becoming a very thick, light brown head capping the dark beer.  I had time to take a picture, walk upstairs, listen to my son tell me a story about Star Wars, and open this website before the beer started to fall. Eventually, the head turns into a tiny island with a bunch of lacing on the glass.


My olfactories pick up chocolate and a bit of coffee wafting up from the glass, with a wee bit of vanilla.  To get a beer this dark, you need lots of roasted grains and my nose is now full of that very thing…hops are an afterthought.  11% ABV gives off a boozy note.

Serpent’s Stout tastes exactly like the smell indicates it should.  Chocolate makes a first impression while caramel begins the segue from beginning to the roasted coffee finish.

My initial thought was how creamy and smooth the beer felt.  The milky chocolate making me think maybe lactose was used in the brewing process.  Then the roasted malts imparted a very strong bitter feel that puckered my lips and caused me to consider the hops before realizing it was probably the bitterness from the dark roasted coffee.  The bitterness gradually grows and intensifies the tasting experience.  It’s a very heavy beer and extremely filling.

The Lost Abbey brewed a strong, in-your-face beer that’s very tasty and filling.  A strong offering.

Taxman Brewing—Tax Holiday

Taxman brewing, a relatively new, semi-local brewery is becoming one of my favorites.  Many of their beers come with accountancy names like Deduction, Frozen Assets, and Exemption, just to name a few.  As a CPA, I appreciate this.  Also, they brew strong, flavorful beers with a nod to Belgian styles.  Tax Holiday is a winter beer with chocolate rye malt, herbal hops, honey from Martinsville, IN and 10% ABV.

The beer pours a dark brown color with a thick foamy head.  The body appears to be somewhat clear initially, though when all is said and done, it’s actually quite cloudy.  The tan head forms very slowly, like it has a purpose.  It retains well, several minutes, before leaving spotty lace marks showing you where it’s been.


The chocolate rye malt and spicy hops shine through in the nose.  A bit of caramel malt also seems to be present as the scent reminds me of a soft drink.  The honey provides subtle scents, though it becomes more aggressive after a swirl of the tulip glass.

The honey and spicy malt give a strong punch of flavor with each sip.  Taxman’s website and bottle both suggest the honey provides a hit of molasses and they are right on the money with that assessment.  I’ve not heard of chocolate rye malt, but you clearly pick up both flavors.  There’s a lot happening to the tastes buds.  Though a full list of spices and other ingredients aren’t listed that I could find, the beer exhibits similar notes to other winter beers like ginger and cinnamon.

Tax Holiday is a sweet beer that’s well-tempered with the spicy notes of the malt and yeast, which I assume to be of the spicy Belgian variety.  Bitterness only appears near the finish, which is slightly dry and lingers.  Despite the high alcohol content, the beer has just medium to heavy body.  It may be a bit heavy on the Christmas spices, but I seem to think that of most Holiday beers.

Like many other selections from Taxman, I enjoyed this beer.  It packs a lot of flavor and high alcohol into an easy to drink, desserty beer.  The fact that it’s from the Hoosier State is an added plus.

New Glarus Brewing—Serendipity

Webster defines serendipity as a phenomenon of finding something valuable when that’s not what you were looking for.  In the case of New Glarus Brewing, that’s exactly what happened.  A drought hit Wisconsin and their cherry crop sucked.  New Glarus uses cherries in many of their beers.  With a bad cherry crop, the brewers set out looking for apples.  The apple crop didn’t fare much better.  Enter cranberries…and you have this ‘beer…’ a concoction of apples, cherries, and cranberries.

Like with a previous beer from New Glarus, I struggle to refer to this as a beer.  It looks like wine and smells like a wine cooler.  The color is a burgundy red like red wine.  Initially it produces a bright white head, with short to medium retention.  A swirl brings the head back to life, this time with a tan-ish looking head that turns pink-ish right before your eyes.


Serendipity almost smells sweet.  The fruity scents are strong with cranberries being the dominant scent.  Again, it reminds me of a wine cooler, only ‘sweeter.’

A quick sip reveals those three fruits very well accounted for.  Broken record here—it tastes like a wine cooler.

Each sip puckers my lips.  Very sweet before quickly turning tart.  Fortunately, it never crosses the tart bridge and stops just short of sour.  It’s a constant battle between sweet and tart, with tart usually finishing on top.  No malt or hop presence. It feels like a sweet wine cooler mixed with a tart wine.  At only 4% ABV, it’s very fresh and light.

This is an acquired taste.  I’m ok with sweet beers, so I can handle this but it’s not for everyone.  Still, not sure this I saw a beer.

Yazoo Brewing—Sue

Yazoo Brewing is a Nashville brewer that gives us this lady, an imperial smoked porter.  I have no idea what the name is derived from and a quick internet search provided nothing other than the beer contains 9% ABV and scares the palate with 93 IBUs.

Sue pours a reddish black color that’s a bit on the thin side for an Imperial version of anything.  The head consists of very small, very light brown bubbles giving it a creamy appearance.  It’s a thin head, less than half a finger thick, and doesn’t retain very well, nor create much in the way of lacing.


Sue smells like she just fell into a fire pit.  While not overpowering, the smoky scent dominates.  The barley was smoked with cherry-wood and while you won’t notice any cherry hints you will clearly pick up the subtle smoke note.  I don’t know what malts were used, but I’m picking up some caramel and even a little vanilla as well.

OMG…the taste.  Yazoo gave this beer amazing flavor.  The first thing that jumped out was the caramel.  Next was the faintest taste of roasty coffee.  However, where this beer outclasses others was a fruity flavor, that has notes of cherry.  Really great combination and they all work so well together.

This is much sweeter than I would have guessed it to be and creamy up front.  The caramel and fruity flavors giving the sweetness with the smoke for balance make this very easy to drink.  Full bodied.  Little bitterness despite the high IBU number.  Dry smoky finish.

Thank you Yazoo for a great tasting, easy drinking, high ABV beer.  Really good stuff.

Stone Brewing—Vertical Epic 02.02.02

Stone is one of the great brewers in not only the US, but in all the world.  Back at the start of the new millennium, they came up with an idea for a new series of beers to be released every 13 months and 1 day.  The first was released on 02/02/2002.  The second was released on 03/03/2003 and so on and so forth, culminating with a final release on 12/12/2012.  All that said, this particular bottle is part of Stone’s Encore series where they bring back previously retired beers.  This bottle was actually bottled in 2016, though it’s the recipe from which the 2002 bottles were based upon.

When breweries release a new version of a vintage beer, some drinkers like me will buy a couple bottles-one to drink fresh and another to age.  When these drinkers have several vintages, they will do a vertical tasting, having one beer from each year to see how the beer has aged.  This is the beer that started it all for Stone.

Stone refers to the style of this beer as a Belgian Strong Ale, while the yahoos as BeerAdvocate call it a witbier.  The alcohol content of 7.5% puts it a bit high for a wit and a bit low for a strong ale, so I remain confused as to what this beer really is.

Based on looks, it seems to be a wit.  It’s golden color and extreme head suggest it’s a wit, as does the yeast that’s still floating around in the body.  The head is huge and never fully dissipates, leaving a huge mess of sticky lacing all over the snifter.

Ignore the kitty in the picture, that’s my buddy Belgium trying to sneak a whiff of what I’m drinking tonight.


It smells strongly of a witbier as well.  Like all good German wheat beers, the unmistakable scent of bubblegum and bananas is everpresent.  Stone has clearly mislabled this beer on their website.  The bottle suggests this Ale was brewed with orange peel and spices and while I don’t doubt that, the gum and banana strangles everything else.

You will pick up the orange peel with the first drink.  In addition, it actually tastes like a strong ale, so again with the confusion.  Spices like cloves and coriander mix really well with the orange, the yeast, and various phenols.

Swirl the beer around in your mouth and witness and explosion of sensations.  Sweetness from the orange, spicy pepper from the yeast, bitterness from the rind  and hops; though it’s somewhat creamy at the same time.  Medium in body with a gentle bitterness that lingers beyond the swallow.

Stone would not have brought this back if the beer sucked and in this case, it certainly doesn’t.  It’s easy to drink and full of flavor.  I can’t wait to see what other beers are part of the Encore Series.

Ommegang Brewing—20th Anniversary Ale

You know a beer is special when the brewery picks it to represent their 20th anniversary and the bottle comes in it’s own container.  This beer is a barrel-aged beer that’s been soaking in the remnants of bourbon.

It gives a rich looking pour.  Dark mahogany in color and cloudy, the body resembles a river after a storm…mysterious.  The head is an attractive shade of brown and has medium retention, leaving a small spotty lace.


Your nose picks up the oaky bourbon immediately and you question whether you filled the snifter with the wrong stuff.  Scents of toffee and caramel develop to help tame the boozy alcohol before vanilla finally starts to present.  A variety of malts were used in this creation versus only a couple hop varieties and it shows in the smell.

The malts dominate the taste as well.  Roasted grains and a bit of chocolate showcase first before caramel and toffee show up.  All the while, that leathery bourbon flavor is doing its thing.  The barrel aging gives a punch with each sip.

The mouthfeel is a journey; there’s lots of stuff happening.  This anniversary Ale is very smooth and creamy early on.  It’s a bit sweet and chocolaty.  That initial impression gives you a false sense of security because lurking is that punch of alcohol.  While the beer feels heavy, it’s so creamy and lacks much carbonation that it does give a loose feel.  The finish is on the dry side and with 11.5% ABV, the heat lingers.

Overall, it’s a good choice for an anniversary beer, really good for a 20th.  If you’re a spirit drinker, you’ll enjoy this beer.  Each sip is a two step process.  Enjoy the creaminess and sweet flavors; then hold on for that blast of bourbon.

Dogfish Head Brewing—Oak Aged Siracusa Nera

I have no idea what the name of the beer means, it’s just another strange one in a long list of them from Dogfish Head.  Regardless, this is an oak aged stout with some sort of wine (Syrah maybe?).  Should be roasty and fruity.

It’s an attractive beer with a fairly thick pour and a dark black body.  The wine imparts a reddish color around the edges when held up to a light.  The head is gorgeous.  Tan in color, it’s several fingers thick to start before ending in a tiny film on top of the dark beer.  Tiny foamy bubbles stick to the glass as the head falls.


A lot goes on in the nose.  It’s full of roasty things like coffee, but the fruity wine notes pretty much dominate.  Only when the beer warms a bit does the earthy, vanilla note from the oak begin to present.  Hops are a no-show.

The taste is strange and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t work for me.  A battle between fruity wine flavors and decadent chocolate and coffee wages.  Generally that kind of fight works, but here it just doesn’t and I’m in retreat mode.

The bitterness from the roasty coffee kills the mouthfeel.  The tartness from the wine doesn’t marry well with the bitterness from the coffe and it creates an awful feeling beer.  This is bordering on being a drain pour.

This beer looks beautiful and it brings 10% ABV to the party.  However, bitterness crashes the party and makes this almost undrinkable.  The flavor and mouthfeel are lacking too much and my love-hate relationship with Dogfish Head continues.