Monthly Archives: March 2017

Boulevard Brewing–Imperial Stout

This is the 2015 vintage which is a tart cherry stout.  Each year this beer is made with a slight variation to the recipe.  It’s part of their Smokestack series.  The Smokestack series is just a set of big, bold, complex beers.

It pours a very dark black, with some ruby red notes from the real cherries, no fake fruit juice here.  There’s an amazing amount of carbonation and you notice it from the loud pop when you uncage and pop the cork.  The head is extremely large and retains very well.  Khaki in color, the head stays with you for the duration, always a creamy look atop the beer.  Very light lacing.

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The cherry scent hits you the moment the cork is unleashed.  However, as the beer warms, that dominant cherry scent is replaced with chocolate covered cherries.  Dumping your nose into the snifter, huge scents of chocolate almost overwhelm while the cherry plays a supporting role.

Taste follows the lead of the smell.  Big roasted notes of chocolate combined with tart sweet cherries.  Opposite the smell, the cherries dominate the taste while the chocolate takes a back seat.  Even with 11% ABV, the alcohol is never noticed.

Big complexity in the feel.  Sweet early on before the tartness from the fruit comes in at midsip.  Lactic souring produces the strange sweet-sour feeling.  The two polar opposites balance each other giving a drinkable beer.  Despite the pop of the cork and the huge head, there is little carbonated feel.  Full bodied.

The tart cherries concerned me as I’m not fond of lambics or krieks or sour beers.  However, tart is slightly different feel and it works in this beer.  Incredibly, you never realize this beer registers such high alcohol.

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Taxman Brewing–Qualified

Qualified is Taxman’s take on a Belgian quad.  That means dark colors, fruits and malts, and fairly high alcohol.

I expected an almost black pour, but it’s more of a ruddy brown.  Once the glass is fullish, it darkens and the picture makes it appear much darker than it is.  A nice collection of yellowish khaki bubbles sits atop the beer, but retention is moderate at best and lacing is sparse.

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Qualified is very fruit forward.  The figs and raisins dominate.  It’s supposed to be brewed with ‘Belgian specialty malts’ but mostly the dark fruits are front and center.  When the beer warms a bit, some notes of alcohol start to evolve, but again, it’s a fruit forward beer.

The fruit forwardness carries over to the taste.  It really tastes more like a thin wine or even a wine cooler more than it does a beer.  It’s certainly not a bad taste, just fruitier than most beers of the style.  I pick up just the faintest hits of the malts and there may be some candied sugar in there as well.  Tastes like caramel malt in the finish.

I don’t recall many quads or any other beers for that matter, that bring 9.5% ABV to the game yet have such a thin and light bodied feel.  You’d never guess this to be a quad by the taste or feel.  There’s no hop bitterness and if anything, this beer probably crosses the line of acceptable sweetness.  It starts off sweet, it stays sweet, and it ends sweet.  That said, it’s not syrupy because it’s too thin for that.

Not the best representation of the style.  It tastes and feels more like a fruit beer than a sipper from Belgium.  I don’t dislike the beer, it’s just not at all what I expected and really shouldn’t be called a quad.

Victory Brewing–Golden Monkey

Over the past 4-6 weeks, I’ve tried a handful of different takes on a Belgian style Tripel.  There are lots of similarities between the beers, but the difference in quality comes down to the details; which brewery puts out a beer that’s a little rough around the edges and which doesn’t.

The Belgian brewers usually have an advantage in terms of experience as some have been brewing beer for centuries.  They strive for balance.  Americans, well, we try to kick up everything a few notches. Let’s see how Victory does.

Golden Monkey could pass for a Belgian in terms of appearance.  It leaves the bottle with a dull, milky golden color.  It’s not quite as clear as I’d expect, but no points off for that.  I actually prefer a little body.  The beer screams carbonation with a massive head that retains very well.  It’s frothy and with an aggressive pour can easily find the table as the glass isn’t always enough to contain it.  Golden Monkey leaves behind what is initially a thick, sticky lace but when all is said and done the lacing is little more that spots on the glass.

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Victory has nailed the smell also.  Truck loads of lemon, green apple, green grape, and white pepper fill the air.  The choice of a Belgian yeast strain is obvious, and they seemed to have used a good one because the pepper doesn’t dominate like in crappy renditions of the style.

The taste is to die for.  It mimics the nose and all the flavors work in harmony instead of against each other.  As the beer warms, notes of onion or cut hay mix with the ingredients mentioned above.

Whereas many American takes on the style give your palate a lashing with too much pepper spice feel, Victory gives just the right amount, like some of the Trappist beers.  Despite 9.5% ABV, the beer is light bodied and crisp.  The high alcohol barely shows itself and only deep in the finish.  Any bitterness from the alcohol or hops is reined in by just enough sweetness and tartness for a beautiful balance.

In a blind taste test, I’d be hard pressed to guess this wasn’t from a foreign brewer.  It’s got agressive flavors, but they work well together.  It’s extremely drinkable despite the high ABV.  Victory nailed this one and at only about $12 for a sixer, it’s a helluva value.

Sierra Nevada–German Style IPA

I’m not sure what to make of an IPA made with German hops and a German Kolsch yeast that’s brewed by an American beer place.  It’s more of a hybrid than anything as it uses Ale yeast but is Fermented like a lager.  The Kolsch style originated in Cologne, Germany.  Cologne = Kolsch

The pour is very golden in color, a little lighter shade than some of the other darker IPAs.  It produces a pretty stellar head that’s bright white, with a very thick, foamy body.  Crazy lacing stays behind as the head slowly recedes.

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It smells different than most IPAs because it’s not dominated by hop scents, but rather the unusual (for an IPA) malts and yeast used.  Instead of floral and citrus notes, it’s bready and cracker-like, though there is a lazy lemon peel smell hanging around.  The scents are extremely muted as opposed to a kick in the face like American IPAs.

The taste follows the nose; lots of crackery malt and yeast notes. I think I’m picking up something salty, though it’s probably the gentle German hops giving off a bit of spice.  Like many lagers, nothing is overpowering, everything plays nicely with everything else (but again, this is supposed to be an Ale).

Very refreshing mouthfeel.  It doesn’t seem overly carbonated, but it’s crisp.  Faintly gentle and creamy on the front end before a crisp and bitter finish, with the bitter lingering.  Light to medium bodied, closer to light.  The 6.1% ABV never even registers meaning you can pound these on a warm day.

I don’t care much for the style, but this is such a hybrid that all the strangeness works making it very drinkable.