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Epic Brewing–Brainless On Peaches

This is a take on Epic’s normal Belgian-style Ale, Brainless, with peach purée added.  In addition, it’s aged in oak barrels that formerly held French Chardonnay wine.  Seems to be more of a hybrid beer as it’s brewed with champagne yeast, is aged in wine barrels, and is supposed to be a beer.  Let’s see.

For a beer, it brings little joy to my eyes.  It’s very pale in body, you can almost see through it despite a bit of chill haze early on.  Despite champagne yeast, almost no bubbles form even though there is a loud pop when you crack open the top.  Without bubbles, the head is mediocre at best and there isn’t any lacing.

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Even the scent is hybrid-like.  While I don’t know much about wine or champagne, this clearly has the nose of the two.  You can practically smell dry and tart.  In the background is the peach purée and it adds a refreshing lightness to the drink.  Larger whiffs will queue a little note of alcohol.

Following the smell, the taste is what you would expect.  There are hints of peach, but Earthy German noble hops, pale malt, candied sugar, bark, and white wine display more aggressiveness.  Peach, candied sugar, and alcohol grow as they reach the finish.

Very complex mouthfeel.  Sweet then tart then crisp and dry.  The 11.3% ABV brings some warmth to the swallow, with the champagne yeast providing a crisp, cleansing feel.  In seeming opposition to the high ABV, Brainless On Peaches is only light- to medium-bodied.

Epic brews a couple similar Brainless beers, one with cherries and another with raspberries.  I don’t expect this beer to score very high on the BeerAdvocate website I use due mostly to the look and mouthfeel, but I’d like to try both those other beers as this peach version was a good beer to sit back and relax with.  Sadly, it’s too wine- and champagne-like to score well on a beer site.

New Holland–Dragon’s Milk Reserve

There are a handful of different ‘Reserve’ beers carrying the Dragon’s Milk Reserve name.  There’s one with raspberry and lemon, one with vanilla chai, and others, but this is the Triple Mashed beer.  It’s an absolute monster with 17% ABV that really does a number on one’s palate.  According to the bottle, this beer pairs well with the stinkiest cheeses, the darkest chocolates, and a day off.  Roger that.

Pouring into a New Belgium tulip glass, the body is dark as night and fairly thick.  You should receive a spoon so you can spoon the beer into the glass.  For a short time, a head about a finger thick can be seen.  It’s a very light brown, but before you know it, the bubbles recede into a thin foamy film, mostly around the edge of the beer.  For a beer with such a high alcohol content, it’s surprising to see much of a head, and more surprising to see any lacing.  Also, you can see my dog, Monty, photobombing the picture.

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The nose is like you would expect from a dark beer with high alcohol that’s aged in barrels that formerly housed spirits.  There’s a strong roasty note, along with some earthy scent (oak from the barrels), and a punch of Bourbon.  Get too close or sniff too long, you’ll feel the burn in your nose.

Your first sip starts off innocently enough…a gentle chocolatey taste.  As the beer works it’s way black, a bit of coffee begins to emerge.  Finally, the Bourbon shows up in the swallow.  Not too bad you think.  You wait a second and the warming turns to full blown heat.  When the fire tapers, hints of licorice appear.

Dragon’s Milk Reserve is a syrupy feeling beer.  With all that malt that went into making a beer have 17% ABV, it’s fairly sweet and early on smooth and creamy are words that come to mind.  However, that’s simply to tease you because soon enough the Bourbon brings the heat and bitterness to combat that sweetness.  This beer is quite full-bodied and filling.  I don’t know that I would want a second bottle of this because I’m afraid of losing all feel in my mouth and I don’t want my teeth to disintegrate.

Through it all, it’s a really good beer with lots of flavor.  If you take your time to sip it, it goes down relatively easily.  Unlike the regular Dragon’s Milk that only rings in with 11% ABV, I can’t drink a handful of these in a night.  The alcohol and heat forces you to slow down, and enjoy/savor this beer.

Stone–Tangerine Express IPA

In the past, Stone has put out an Enjoy By… with tangerine and it’s amazing.  Hopefully this will be more of the same.  This is much lower in ABV, only 6.7%, and has tangerine in addition to puréed pineapple.  Sounds amazing, so let’s see.

For the most part, the appearance is standard issue.  A bit of chill haze while the beer is still cold gives the golden orange color a cloudy look.  As the beer warms it should be a bit clearer.  The head starts off a couple fingers thick, but lacks the long retention of most IPAs, the peaks and valleys in the bubbles, and the sticky lacking.

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This IPA smells like a basket of citrus fruits…grapefruit, tangerines, and pineapple.  It’s glorious.  Subtle hints of pine and crackers take care of the pale malt and handful of hops.

The taste has these same ingredients, only on a less aggressive scale than the scent.  However, these flavors do come alive near the finish, particularly those handful of hops.

With 75 IBUs, the bitter quality is pretty intense and that translates into the mouthfeel as well.  The finish is somewhat dry and the carbonation magnifies the bitterness.  It’s fairly light-bodied, while the bitterness really lingers.

This beer is definitely not the same beer as their Enjoy By…beer.  It’s a good drinking beer, especially on a warm day.

Elysian–Superfuzz Blood Orange Pale Ale

I’m not sure yet how I feel about the appearance of this beer.  It brings the classic pale ale look to the table with a golden copper color and a foamy bright white head.  There’s chill haze early on and initially it’s opaque.  My concern is the floaties in the beer.  Normally, this is yeast sediment and is part of the goodness.  However, in this case, it kind of resembles pulp from the blood oranges.  Continuing with the typical appearance, there’s a sticky lace around the top portion of the glass.

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Elysian used a few West Coast hops that provide a citric smell, but the addition of the blood orange really stands out in the nose.  Pale and Munich malts were used and you can pick up the pale variety pretty easily.

Superfuzz tastes like crackers and orange rind.  The cracker-like taste is the malt, while the orange rind is obviously from the added fruit.  As the beer warms a little, the citrus flavor from the West Coast hops begins to emerge and it marries well with the orange.

There’s dullness in the finish that confuses me a bit.  The beer starts off fairly smooth before the transition to bitter, but before the bitterness really takes over, that dullness hits and the mouthfeel simply ends, with only minor bitterness that barely lingers.  Also, you can pick up what I believe to be pulp, but it’s mostly non-descript and doesn’t affect the feel at all.

I don’t drink many pale ales these days due to the overwhelming inventory of IPAs in beer stores.  The smells, tastes, and mouthfeel sensations of a pale ale are typically muted compared to an IPA and that was the case with this beer.  That said, this was tasty, though the mouthfeel was a bit strange.

 

Midnight Sun Brewing–Monk’s Mistress

From the name of the brewery, you may guess this beer to be made from the land of the cold, and you’re right.  This beer is from Alaska.  Monk’s Mistress is supposed to seduce you from the first sip, but it had me right after I poured it.

A Belgian-style Special Dark Ale, the body is a dark brown mahogany that’s rich and cloudy enough to be totally opaque.  Three fingers of yellowish khaki bubbles make their way to the top and retain for several minutes.  When the head dies, a nice white lace stays behind.

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Its scent has to be what Heaven smells like.  A handful of malts give it a dark fruit smell while the Belgian yeast strain provides a brown sugar note.  Chocolate malts hide in the back, while the two British hops give an earthy, woody aroma.  This Mistress almost smells sweet.

The flavor…to die for.  A combination of ripe, dark fruits and a skosh of chocolate marry well with the sugar notes.  With the high level of alcohol (11.5%) and the earthy hops comes a bourbon-like taste in the finish.

Both hop varieties are low alpha acid hops primarily used for aroma, as such, there is almost no bitterness, just 13 IBUs.  However, this beer isn’t too sweet because of the alcohol cutting through the maltiness.  Very full-bodied, you can really drink this beer because it’s so smooth, despite the high alcohol content.

This is easily my favorite beer from this brewer.  Sadly, I had to order it online and have it shipped just to get it, but it was worth it.  Great tasting high alcohol Triple Ales are my thing.

Stone Brewing–Farking W00tStout

This strangely-named beer is a collaboration between Stone Brewing, Drew Curtis (of Fark.com), and Wil Wheaton (Wes Crusher in the newer Star Trek series and Gordie in Stand By Me).  The name is strange and I have no idea what it means, but it’s a 13% ABV imperial stout brewed with a weird collection of grains and aged in bourbon barrels.

I love it from the looks alone.  Slowly, the thick black beer comes out of the bottle.  About halfway through the pour, the head finally begins to form.  The small bubbles grow into a shade of light brown and as time goes by, the head looks like what you see on top of a cup of cocoa.  You can almost see how creamy this beer will feel.

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It smells like a campfire with all those roasty grains that make up the malt bill.  Brewed with pecans, there is an earthy nuttiness in the nose.  Just a hint of coffee and some alcohol esters come through as the beer warms.

Take a sip and a lot happens.  My taste buds are telling me there’s coffee, licorice, chocolate, nuts, and rye.  Near the finish, in a surprising twist, a dose of dark fruits present before the bourbon flavor ends the experience.

W00tStout is exceptionally smooth and creamy.  With all those different flavors, it’s very easy to sip (at 13% ABV, you need to sip rather than drink).  I believe I read it brings 65 IBUs to the table, but you won’t notice much bitterness.  It’s fruity and sweet before the heat from the alcohol and the spice from the rye start to take a toll.  This is beyond full-bodied.  The finish is sticky as there is a syrupy goodness that coats your tongue.

I’m beyond happy that I bought this beer, and happier still that I picked up an additional two bottles to age for a few years.  The best part is after my 15% discount, this yummy bottle of alcohol only ran me about $8.10 per bottle.  I can’t wait to try this after it’s been cellared for a while.

Weyerbacher-Cinnsanity

This beer is the result of Weyerbacher taking their English Barleywine called Insanity, and adding Cinnamon, and a few other tricks, to it.  Insanity is already at 11.1% ABV, but when they finished Cinnsanity, it broke the scale at 13.3%.

Cinnsanity will turn heads with it’s stunning looks.  A dark, mahogany brown colored body that you can’t begin to see through is just what the doctor ordered.  Just above that luscious liquid is a dirty yellow, cascading head that stands several fingers thick.  With that high ABV, the head doesn’t retain very well, but the beer is still fun to look at.

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Sadly, I’m not a huge fan of cinnamon in beer as most Brewers overdo the spice.  This beer is hugely spice forward and the cinnamon completely dominates the nose. Rumor has it that the bourbon barrel aging of Cinnsanity brings about notes of cherry and vanilla, but I’m hung up in the cinnamon.

Fortunately, the spice doesn’t overwhelm the taste buds.  It’s still the dominant flavor, but the hints of caramel and toffee from the malts keep it in check and the vanilla does show its teeth.  After a few sips I start to pick up something that sort of resembles cherry juice, but the alcohol creates some amazing heat in the swallow and my mouth started to go numb before I could clearly say it’s cherry.

Did I mention this beer brings the heat?  It starts off smooth and creamy, like a good English Barleywine will, and a bit sweet from all the malts.  However, the spice takes over immediately and as the beer moves past midsip, there’s an inferno taking place on the palate.  I’m starting to get tipsy now, so I wonder, did I tell you this makes your mouth hot and numb?

Cinnsanity is still a good beer as the cinnamon never totally crosses the line and the flavors all work fairly well together.  This beer is good for about five years of aging so I’m going to save one last bottle for 2022.

Bavik–Gouden Triple Ale

This is the last of the Bavik beers I received with the gift pack.  Their Triple, a 7.5% golden Ale…Gouden means golden in Dutch.

Not surprisingly, the body is golden in color.  There seems to be a slight bit of cloudiness in the beer, and because this beer goes through a secondary fermentation in the bottle, it should be a bit hazy.  Look quick, however, because the thin white head is gone before you know it.  Not sure what it is with beers from this Brewery, but the head never seems to stay around very long.

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While the scent is not aggressive in the least, I can pick up a couple things that go with the style.  There is a fruitiness from either pear and/or green apple and a peppery yeast strain.  That is par for the course, at least with Belgian triples.

Fortunately, the beer tastes like it should.  Like in the nose, you can taste a combination of tart fruits and the spicy yeast.  However, there is also a dark fruit flavor that is a bit unusual.  Hops finally make an appearance as you approach the swallow.

Bavik gave us some nice complexity with this beer as it goes from sweet to tart and spicy and back to sweet again.  Despite little in the way of head, there is a bite in the finish from the carbonation which intensifies the different sensations going on in the mouth.  And, the tartness and the carbonation help keep the beer feeling lighter than 7.5% ABV should feel.

Of the three beers I received in the gift pack, this is by far my favorite.  It’s very easy to drink, the addition of what gives it that final dark fruity taste is really nice.  The complex mouthfeel keeps your palate guessing.  And the ABV is appropriate.

Bavik–Petrus Dubbel Bruin Ale

Here’s another beer I received when I bought a gift pack containing a glass from the brewery.  This was voted as the best Abbey/Trappist Dark Ale in 2011.  Being a dubbel, it’s slightly higher in alcohol content than the brewery’s base beer and the word ‘bruin’ is little more than Dutch for brown.  When you see the picture, you’ll know why.

It pours a rich brown color and like their blonde beer, there are some floaties in it which I assume to be yeast.  The body is hazy enough that you can’t see through it, while up top is a typical dirty, off white head.  The head looks creamy enough, though it lacks retention.  A swirl breathes a short life back into the beer and leaves behind the spottiest of lacing.

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They nailed the scent, as caramel malts fill the nose.  Each sniff reminds you that dark soft drinks like Coke or Pepsi use caramel because this dubbel smells just like a Pepsi.  That said, there is also an earthy, flowery scent that I guess are the hops, though I don’t know which variety it is.  Regardless, the scent is just as it should be.

Honestly, it tastes just like a Pepsi as well.  Seriously, I’m not sure I could tell the difference between this and a soft drink.  I’m not picking up any alcohol or hops or yeast.  Possibly some Belgium candied sugar, maybe some brown sugar.  So yeah, it tastes like a Coke.

It’s very sweet…almost too sweet.  I don’t know how many of these I could drink before I grew tired of the sweetness.  It needs something to help cut through it.  The alcohol and hops aren’t up to the task.  There’s a syrupy feel to it and that sweetness lasts well into the finish.

If sweet beers are your thing, you’ll love this.  It’s a bit too sweet for me.  I wouldn’t consider it a bad beer, it’s just that I couldn’t take much more than one of these in a night.

Ballast Point–Victory At Sea

Victory At Sea comes in as my favorite style of beer–an imperial Porter.  Porters are generally sweeter than stouts and with this being an imperial version, the ABV is high at 10%.  What makes the beer really sing is the addition of vanilla and locally sourced, cold brewed coffee from San Diego.

Yes, the appearance is magnificent.  A dark, thick pour and that fascination that is a cascading head produces a body as dark as the night and a foamy head that contrasts nicely with dark khaki colored bubbles.  Retention is strong and the thick lacing left behind will require scrubbing.

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While the coffee dominates the nose, those with good olfactories will pick up hints of  caramel as well.  Honestly though, I can’t find the vanilla as the roastiness of the coffee gets top billing.

After a sip, you’ll pick up the vanilla taste, though again, the coffee plays the lead role.  I thought I might pick up some chocolate notes, but unless it’s of the bittersweet variety, it’s not there.  I have no idea what type of hops went into the brewing process.

Victory At Sea fools you with an extreme amount of smoothness up front, but then the bitterness takes over quickly.  Only the vanilla in the finish helps rein in the bitterness from the alcohol, the coffee, and the hops.  That said, it does register 60 IBUs even if it feels like more.  A bit of carbonation likely makes the finish more bitter and dryer than it probably is.  Full-bodied, it’s a small meal by itself.

This is a good beer, even if I find it a bit bitter for the style.  There is good flavor and I like the high level of alcohol.  The snack factor for this beer is a bit higher than I would have originall guessed so it would be a good idea to have a few chips or something else salty to snack on while drinking this beer.