Dogfish Head Brewing—90 Minute IPA

Dogfish Head Brewing.  I don’t know where to start.  One of the most well-known breweries in the States.  They make a lot of strange beers and are their owner is one of the recent pioneers pushing craft brewing forward.  I don’t always care for their beers.  In general, I find them a bit overrated.  And I certainly hate paying for them; they are usually the priciest beers at the beer store.  However, this is one of their beers that likely is on the Mt. Rushmore of IPAs.  I willingly pay for the premium that has been placed on this beer.

90 Minute IPA has a body to die for.  A yellowish, ambery orange color that is a tad cloudy, even after the chill haze has worn off.  The head is typical of the style, lots of bubbles early on give it the thickness of a plus size model.  Retention is strong and lacing is sticky.

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Your nose will pick up a picture perfect scent of a west coast IPA, even though this beer is from the right coast.  Scents of pine and citrus, it smells like it’s supposed to.  However, this beer has a good malty scent to it as well, to provide some balance to the onslaught of bitterness that should be coming.

Oh God, the taste.  Faintly piney, with lots of citrus fruits.  Orange and its peel.  A bit of grapefruit.  And some other fruit I can’t pinpoint.  Yet in the background is that crackery malt flavor.  A great combination.

This beer is really an Imperial or Double IPA.  It throws 9% ABV and a palate destroying 90 IBUs at you.  That said, the bitterness is very well reigned in and balance is top notch.  It’s still a very bitter beer, but enough malt is used to prevent burning from the bitter and the alcohol.  Slightly sweet for an instant, the bitterness builds and lingers in the finish.  But again, it’s very balanced.  Full-bodied.

This is truly one of the world’s great IPAs, probably one of the great beers in general, regardless of style.  As I mentioned, I find Dogfish Head’s beers to be slightly overrated and expensive, but this one really hits the mark.

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Left Hand Brewing—Wake Up Dead Nitro

Left Hand makes two versions of several of their beers.  They make normal carbonated versions, like the version of Wake Up Dead I had six years ago and they make nitro versions.  Nitrogen instead of carbonation supposedly makes the beers smoother and creamier, ridding the beers of the bite that carbonated beers sometimes are known for.  Generally, I don’t care for nitro beers, however, I was only moderately impressed with their carbonated Wake Up Dead.  Let’s see how this nitro version goes down.

The exceptionally dark appearance is pretty stellar in both versions.  Both are ridiculously dark.  On the SRM color scale, this is off the charts black…literally.  Anything with a score above 40 is virtually void of light.  This beer measures 55.  A big difference is the amazingly creamy head.  With the most aggressive pour I could manage, there wasn’t a single bubble at first.  Then the nitro started doing its thing and slowly but surely, the cascading effect took place.  If you look closely at the picture below, you can see the head is in the middle of forming.  It takes a couple minutes, but when finally formed, the head is khaki in color and looks like it came out of a root beer bottle.

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Supposedly nitrogen affects the scent as well as the mouthfeel.  The smells did seem a bit subtle versus what I remember.  This smells mostly of malts, which isn’t surprising considering the beer was brewed with 7 components in the grain bill.  They also used two hops, but you’d never know as this is very malt forward.  The scent is roasty with a hint of vanilla, chocolate, and licorice.

Roasty flavors abound in the taste also.  Coffee, chocolate, vanilla, and some booze finish the flavor profile.  Like the smell, the nitrogen mutes the aggressiveness of the flavors, not really a good thing.

Nitrogen gives beer a watered down feel, again, not a good thing.  The mouthfeel is a bit loose and lacks the punch of carbonation.  With all that malt and 10.2% ABV, it should feel heavier than it does, but this is only barely medium-bodied.  Regardless, it’s beyond smooth and creamy.  Some of that is due to the flaked oats used, but is mostly the nitrogen.  Bitterness is from the roasted grains and high ABV, but only comes on in the finish.

It’s an ok beer.  I like the smoothness and the high alcohol content.  The mouthfeel is still weird to me.  I enjoy rich, creamy stouts, but this is too creamy.  It should be more drinkable, but I have a hard time getting past the watery feel.  This came as a 4-pack so maybe it’ll grow on me.

 

Boulevard Brewing—Bourbon Barrel Quad

It’s a great looking pour. Immediately you see a murky brown beer and think of how rich it’s going to taste. Not exceptionally dark, just a full brown, but it’s so hazy you know it’s full of flavor. The head is a couple fingers thick. It’s a dingy, dirty white shade with great retention. It’s thick and leaves a medium lace behind.

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Even the smell has complexity with a layers of earthy grains, vanilla and cherries. The scents aren’t extremely strong, just enough to let you know they’re there. After those smells disperse, you’re left with a boozy alcohol note.

I’d put the taste of this against anything from Belgium. The cherries are prevalent, but they’re more of the sweet variety than tart or sour. The vanilla adds another level of sweetness. All along it’s got an earthy quality from the hops and barrels. And, with crazy high ABV, it’s got some alcohol to taste as you begin the finish.

Very prickly tongue with all the carbonation. But that helps out later. It’s got sweetness, only a mild tartness feel, just enough to tease the taste buds. Not much hoppiness, but the high ABV provides balance. Full bodied, though just barely, due to that carbonation. Very dry finish with a lingering burn from the alcohol heat.

Overall, this was a treat. An American Belgian that tastes like a Belgian. No major faults, not even any minors faults for that matter, just nit picks that don’t amount to much. Easy to drink in general, but especially for a quad. Very happy with this purchase.

Oskar Blues Brewery—Old Chub Scotch Ale

A Scotch Ale is a beer heavy on malted barley.  It boils for an extra longish amount of time to develop some caramelized flavors which generally provide some added sweetness.

With a heavy hand of malt, the beers are typically dark in color, as is this version.  Not the darkest brown you can imagine, but plenty dark.  Zero clarity, this body is mysterious and murky.  A nice beige head presents with only a moderate pour and those bubbles keep you company for a while.  As the beer falls with each sip, the thick lacing grows.

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I can’t describe it, but it smells like Scotland should smell.  Think of an earthy peat scent and add subtle notes of roasted coffee and a splash of chocolate.  Scotch ales have a very unique nose and this beer smells as it should.

There’s a heavy bread-like taste from the different grains used in the malt bill.  Subtle hints of chocolate, coffee, and booze.  A kiss of rye in the background.

At only 8% alcohol and malty, Old Chub is smooth and sweet before the spicy rye starts to come on.  Bitterness is slight at best, only measuring 30 IBUs.  Not overly complex, but it’s not supposed to be.  Medium bodied, it won’t fill you up til you’ve had a few.

With a welcome sweetness and moderate levels of alcohol, Old Chub is easy to drink and pretty tasty.  It tastes like a dumbed down barleywine, and that’s a good thing as drinkability is king.

Brooklyn Brewing—Black Chocolate Stout (2017)

I find the beers from Brooklyn Brewery to be hit or miss for my personal tastes.  There isn’t much middle ground, I seem to really like them or not care for them at all.  This one…a definite must have in my book.

They nailed the appearance.  Dark black and thick.  It oozes out of the bottle and then performs magic.  There is nothing resembling a head and a second later it starts to build from the bottom up.  It’s a glorious sight.  Three or four fingers thick and light brown in color.  The head retains for minutes and when it’s called it a day, a sticky khaki-colored lace stains the glass.

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Chocolate greeted my nose as soon as I started pouring this beer.  This type of beer, a Russian Imperial Stout, is all about the malt and Brooklyn hasn’t disappointed, using no less than 6 different malts.  The result is a combination of scents including chocolate, caramel, vanilla, leather, and some smoke.  Two different hops were used, but no one cares…this is a malt forward beer.

It’s hard to tell if you’re drinking a beer or sipping on melted chocolate.  An explosion of chocolate, caramel, booze, and mint takes place with each sip.  As the beer warms and your palate loses sensitivity due to the 10% ABV, roasty coffee notes emerge.

Initially, the creaminess of this beer is dreamy.  So smooth, it’s like hot chocolate.  As the beer works its way back, some bitterness and heat build for balance against the up front sweetness.  Really wish I had some chocolate pie to go along with this.

Despite the highish alcohol content, Black Chocolate Stout is fairly easy to drink given that creamy feel.  It’s got a nice balance between sweet, bitter, and warmth to always keep the palate from getting bored and worn out.  Really a great beer.

 

Victory Brewing—Java Cask

Another beer here from my new favorite Pennsylvania brewer.  This is a coffee stout aged in bourbon barrels.  This is one of my favorite things in the world.

Just look at it.  With the exception of some reddish hues, the beer is completely devoid of light.  A midnight sky.  And look at the head.  It’s tall, dark, and handsome.  Light fluffy bubbles, long lasting, and they leave a sticky lace on the inside of the glass.

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The combination of coffee, vanilla, and bourbon work wonderfully together to create incredible scents.  No single ingredient dominates the nose as all are subtle and are happy to act in unison.  The brewer’s website suggests West Coast hops were used, but any citrus scents are pushed to the back by this mostly malt beer.

Despite the subtlety in the nose, the coffee, vanilla, and bourbon provide a punch to the gut when you take the first sip.  And you will need to sip this because if you don’t, the 14.3% ABV will soon cause impairment.  Each different ingredient is overly aggressive within the taste as it’s quite the flavor bomb.  Again, the hops are an afterthought.

Where to begin to describe the mouthfeel of this animal?  Due to additions of chocolate and caramel malt, as well as the vanilla notes, Java Cask starts off relatively sweet.  But sooner rather than later the bitterness from the coffee and the earthiness of the bourbon barrels begin to develop and remove any memories of sweet.  As the beer warms, a creaminess emerges and helps temper the heat of the bourbon and the high alcohol content.  That said, you can only mask 14.3% ABV so much and after a few ounces, the heat builds into lingering warmth that never really goes away.

Clearly a night cap, you’ll want to savor this beer and drink it slowly, and do it out of a tulip or a snifter type glass so the wonderful scents don’t waft away.  This would be an amazing dessert beer and it probably goes well with chocolate dessert dishes.  Or do what I’m doing and enjoy a couple bottles in a chilly night.

Sixpoint Brewing—3 Beans

Here we have a lone wolf beer.  A bourbon barrel aged Porter.  Normally, bourbon barrel aged beers will be stouts, but in this case, Sixpoint has opted for the sweeter Porter styled beer.  The name of the beer comes from a trilogy of additions.  First is a coffee bean; second is a cacao bean; and finally, actual coffee is infused into the beer.

The beer’s body is as dark as I can remember a porter being.  Looks like a stout with its midnight black color.  The head is a finger thick and two toned in color.  Initially it forms of brown bubbles but as the head recedes, it lightens to an almost white color against the dark body.  A swirl brings back the darker color, rinse and repeat.  A thin lace is all that remains in the empty glass.

I have no picture of the bottle because this was my first use of my new growler, more on that in a future post.

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You can almost smell the sweetness from the chocolate malt and cacao beans that were used.  The scent reminds me of chocolate cake that’s just been released from the oven.  Hints of both the coffee bean and the infusion of coffee are subtle.

In addition to chocolate, I’m getting some caramel taste as well.  Has some similar characteristics of a dark soft drink.  As the beer works it’s way back, vanilla begins to emerge before oak and booze gently appear in the finish.

Sixpoint created a nice balance of sweet and bitter with their choice of 3 beans.  The different malts give off plenty of sweetness, while the coffee and oak barrels provide a lingering bitterness.  Being a porter, it’s a bit more medium-bodied than a stout, but is still fairly weighty on the palate, though it remains relatively smooth and creamy.

3 Beans is highly drinkable and the 10+% ABV is well-hidden.  It’s not a perfect beer, but I struggle to find much I’d change.

 

Evil Twin Brewing—I Love You With My Stout

Evil Twin is a gypsy brewer with original ties to Denmark.  A gypsy brewer does little or no brewing at their own facility, instead relying on the facilities and brewing equipment of other brewers, who either have open space or equipment down time.  Evil Twin brews at about ten different spots in the US and makes too many different beers to count.  Generally, the beers have unorthodox names, just like this one.  I wish I could tell you the origins of this beer, but I have no idea.  Other names include Ryan and the Gosling, Barrel Aged Jesus, Even More Denmark, and Spicy Nachos.  I can’t even begin to know how these names come about, but it would seem strong beer was involved.

This beer is dark as a moonless, overcast night and fairly thick.  The head begins with few dark bubbles rising from the murkiness below before more and more bubbles make it and lighten the head to a khaki color.  Really thick head, sudsy, foamy, bubbly that retains for minutes.  Crazy thick lacing.

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While there is a hint of chocolate in the nose, the overwhelming scent is that of burnt coffee in all its acridness.  As the beer warms, the two scents combine into a pleasant flavored coffee smell.  As you can see from the bottom of the bottle, the ABV is strong at 12% and it’s not well hidden as a boozy note comes wafting up from the glass to let you know this is a bruiser.

The taste brings more of the same with a heavy dose of chocolate syrup mixed into a cup of coffee and a splash of bourbon on top for good measure.  There is no mention of the beer being barrel-aged, but it sure tastes like it.  That taste is well and good, but it finishes with nothing but alcohol…and wow, is it strong.  Almost too strong for me.

I Love You With My Stout is exceptionally smooth and creamy on the front end.  Instead of coffee with chocolate added, it feels more like chocolate with coffee added.  However, the intensity of 12% ABV builds and the beer warms the throat with its full-bodied fury.  This is a beer to sip, not drink.  Drinkability suffers when the wrath of the alcohol is unleashed in the finish.

While I enjoy coffee in beer, I am not a coffee drinker.  This beer approaches the limit for me.  Chocolate is the saving grace, as is the initial creamy mouthfeel.

AleSmith Brewing—Hall of Fame .394

Baseball fans will appreciate this homage to San Diego Padres’ icon, Tony Gwynn, and his career best batting average of .394.  This is the imperial version of the regular .394 Pale Ale and is referred to as an Imperial San Diego Pale Ale.  Being that San Diego is a West Coast City, this beer promises an intense citrusy scent and taste.

It is brilliant to look at.  A light golden yellow color with an amazingly bright white head.  The head, too, is a stunner.  Pillowy, foamy, sudsy, all those adjectives fit.  Retains well and leaves behind a thick lacing.

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The smell makes me think of an accident with a truck full of citrus fruit running into a truck full of pine…with the contents of the two trucks mixing together on the highway.  The best part, some of the citrus is pineapple.  A faint crackery note lies in the background.

Following the lead of the scent is the taste.  Lots of citrus fruits and Christmas trees combine for a pale ale party.

Somewhere in the list of ingredients is something that provides a much needed sweetness, possibly pineapple.  This sweetness makes this 9.0% ABV beer highly drinkable by really tempering the bitterness of the left coast hops.  Medium bodied, there’s is a sweet, citrusy finish that really hits the spot.

Alesmith is a brewery I don’t get to enjoy much of because they don’t seem to distribute all the way in the Midwest.  I believe I’ve only had one other beer from them and like this beer, that previous beer was incredible.  Hoping to try more of their offerings in the future.  This Hall of Fame beer had great flavor and was very drinkable despite high ABV.  Good stuff in my book.

Paulaner Brauerei—Salvator

Being that it was recently October, I picked up a few German offerings from various brewers to support the Oktoberfest celebrations taking place.  Paulaner Salvator is a relic from a really old German brewery that has maintained the same recipe for 375 years, only making a few refinements along the way.  Bocks are strongish German beers, and Doppelbocks (double bocks) are even strongerish.

The body of the beer is somewhat murky and a chestnut color.  No clarifying this thing.  The head forms beautifully, but lacks retention, quickly dropping from a finger thick to little more than an dingy white film of tiny bubbles.  No indication of lacing.

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Doppelbocks tend to be malt-forward beers and this beer is no exception.  A nose of caramel and chocolate hits my sweet spot.  My nose also picks up the faintest bit of vanilla.

Salvator tastes like Halloween.  Flavors of caramel, chocolate, leather, and a skosh of alcohol tease my taste buds.  Only a wee hit of hops present to help offer some balance.

At 7.9% ABV, the malty beer is full-bodied, but still very drinkable and smooth.  There’s plenty of sweetness, though the hops and alcohol bring balance and complexity to the finish.

Great flavor, sufficient alcohol, and superior smoothness and drinkability are the reasons Salvator has been made the same way for almost 400 years.  Even now, it’s a pleasure to drink.