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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Some More Favoirtes

Most craft beer enthusiasts have a favorite place to find a good selection of craft beers. As I believe I've mentioned before, C's Farms in Oswego, NY is one of our go-to places for good beer. It is typical of many such stores - a somewhat unassuming edifice tucked away so that if you didn't know where it was, you'd have a tough time finding it. Many of these places were craft beer early adopters - seeing the potential where others saw mere fad. For a while these were the only places to really find a variety of craft beers, not just those produced by the larger craft breweries (think Sam Adams, 
C's Farm Market in Oswego, NY
 Sierra Nevada, etc.) which had the clout to get their products into some of the major chain grocery stores.
                                                                                      Wegman's, a Northeast icon, was one of the few early chain grocery stores to jump on the craft beer train. By instituting the "pick 6" concept whereby consumers could create their own mixed six packs, Wegman's gave the curious and those new to the growing variety of styles available in the craft beer world an opportunity to try assorted brands and styles without investing in a six-pack of something they may not care for. While other chains have begun to institute their own "pick 6"  and have expanded their craft beer choices, few have invested as heavily in craft beer as Wegman's. We were in Springfield, VA recently and there is a nearby Wegman's with an enormous craft beer section. It actually dwarfs the mega-brew section.

One of the joys of craft beer is fun some of these brewers have with naming their beers. In a previous post I made a list of some of my favorite names. Wandering around Wegman's I shot a few that stood out and looped them together in the GIF below.

Just a quick look at a few of the fun craft beer
names I found at a Virginia Wegman's.

In a World Bereft of Gluten...

I had a scare recently. I was experiencing some unpleasant stomach issues that looked suspiciously like some sort of food allergy. I decided to eliminate gluten since I have a sister who suffers from Celiac's Disease - an intolerance to gluten. The symptoms cleared up so I feared the worst - no more gluten, meaning no more beer! I could live with gluten free bread and pizza dough and many of the gluten-free snack are really quite good. But my beloved craft beer? Nooooooo! 

Luckily the results of a blood test showed no food allergies. Meanwhile, we had run out and Glutenberg IPA, and Omission IPA. Much to my surprise both of these beers turned out to be terrific beers in their own right. Had I not known they were gluten-free I never would have guessed it. I did try Glutenberg Red Ale as well and wasn't really a fan. After all, a red ale depends heavily on malt for its flavor and Glutenberg brews entirely without any gluten-containing ingredients (as opposed to Omission which brews its beers with barley then removes the gluten, and comes with a warning that they can't guarantee there is zero gluten). The Red Ale just had some off, vegetable-ish flavors. Having said that, it was at least drinkable.
purchased a bunch of gluten-free items. Among these were a couple of gluten-free beers:

Both IPAs were as good or better than many full-gluten IPAs. Both are strongly hop-forward - as a good IPA should be - with a solid West Coast vibe, yet each have enough of a malt presence to give them a nice medium-bodied mouthfeel. Truth is, when I feared I was doomed to a life without gluten I was thrilled to find these two beers. Sort of made life worth living again. They are both beers I would enjoy regardless of my gluten tolerance level.


This month we went with another grab bag bunch of beers where we all just brought something that sounded interesting and we had yet to review. 


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: Amber Ale; BREWER: New Belgium, Colorado, Ashville, SC; ABV: 5.2%; IBUs: 22; MALTS: Pale, C80, Munich, Victory; HOPS: Willamete, Goldings, Nugget

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Named in honor of our co-founder's bike trip through Europe, Fat Tire Amber Ale marks a turning point in the young electrical engineer's home brewing. Belgian beers use a far broader palette of ingredients (fruits, spices, esoteric yeast strains) than German or English styles."

COLOR: Copper/Amber

POUR: Decent head

AROMA: Clove/bread Belgium vibe

BODY: Thin

TASTE: Tends toward sweet with hints of clove, bread, perhaps melon

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS; Leave it on the shelf

COMMENTS: "Tastes like 22 IBUs - not much of a hop presence; Good starter beer perhaps; Good if you don't want much in the way of hops; New Belgium makes some great beers - love Ranger, Rampant and Citradelic - but I just have never cared for this one; Yeah, and for a long time this was the only New Belgium beer that you could get almost anywhere; I know it's their flagship beer, but I much prefer some of their others; Sort of reminds me of Magic Hat #9 - you find it everywhere, but it's only a so-so beer."


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: American Pale Ale; BREWER: Lagunitas, Petaluma, CA; ABV: 5.5%; IBUs: 45

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Tropically hoppy. Light, yet full-bodied. Bright and citrusy. Word."

COLOR: Pale yellow

POUR: Bit better than Decent Head

AROMA: Big citrusy hop aroma right off the bat

BODY: Light

TASTE: Citrus, grapefruit, tropical fruit, bright zesty fruit bitterness with pine


COMMENTS: "Taste follows the nose with big citrus-hop punch; Wow the aroma is powerful and awesome - big citrus and pine punch when you open it; Light tasting, not a big malt presence - so there's not a real balanced flavor here, the hops dominate; Aromatic; Good lawnmower beer; Real refreshing beer."


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: West Coast India Pale Ale; BREWER: Almanac Beer Co., San Francisco, CA; ABV: 6.5%; MALT: Pale Malt, Maris Otter and Flaked Oats; HOPS: Citra, Mosaic, Simcoe, Hallertau Blanc and El  Dorado.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "This West Coast IPA features an explosive aroma of citrus, toropical fruit and dankness from a blend of ...hops. Intensely hoppy without overt bitterness, a light malt backbone balances this IPA, giving it a clean finish and making it a beer to be enjoyed again and again. Inspired by San Francisco but brewed to be enjoyed everywhere."

COLOR: Unfiltered wheat/straw

POUR: Near Decent head


BODY: Medium

TASTE: Up toward the bitter end of the spectrum with notes of citrus, lemon, grapefruit, pine, tropical fruit.


COMMENTS: "A little more depth and fuller bodied than 12th of Never; The taste is so much better than the aroma, which is a bit pungent; I don't really taste the malt that you might expect from a 6.5% ABV; A nice blend; I like it when there is a blend of hop varieties as opposed to the single hop approach that's become popular lately; It's another bright citrusy IPA for a hot summer day, I just do like a little more malt backbone to balance the hops."


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: India Pale Ale; BREWER: Revolution Brewing, Chicago, IL; ABV: 6.5%; IBUs: 70; HOPS: Blend of 4 hop varieties

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "An American hop assault for all the ambivalent warriors who get the girl in the end. 'Look, I ain't in this for your revolution, and I'm not in it for you, Princess.' this iconic ale features a blend of four hop varieties which creates a crisp bitterness and imparts massive floral and citrus aromas."

COLOR: New-penny copper

POUR: Somewhat better than Decent Head

AROMA: Big hoppy pine aroma - oh, so good!

BODY: Between Medium and Full

TASTE: Nicely sharply bitter, spicy, pine, grapefruit, citrus leads the way with a strong malt counter-melody giving it a pleasing complexity.


COMMENTS: "A little bit of a spicy taste up front; Complex flavor; Delicious; I always look forward to drinking this, and sharing it with friends; Thank you Carissa; Hop-forward bitterness right in the wheelhouse of what an IPA should be; Love this beer; Little bit of sweetness in there to kind of fill things out."


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: Wet hopped India Pale Ale; BREWER: Stone City Ales, Kingston, Ontario, Canada; ABV: 6.4%; IBUs: 65

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Made exclusively using Ontario grown / processed ingredients."

COLOR: Unfiltered Amber

POUR: Better than Decent Head

AROMA: Grass, fresh pine and malt

BODY: Between Medium and Full

TASTE: Nice bitter hoppiness with solid nutty, malty underpinning and hints of caramel and toffee


COMMENTS: "Really nice beer; Creamy and smooth; We've become a little gun shy with Canadian beers (think Alexander Keith IPA) - this renews my faith; Could drink this until you can't move; Delicious; Definite malt presence with a real nice nutty taste; Even better on tap; Wonderful blend of hops and malt."


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: American IPA; BREWER: Foley Brothers Brewing, Brendan, VT; ABV: 6.9%; HOPS: Citra, Centennial

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "India Pale Ale brewed with Citra and Centennial Hops."

COLOR: Semi-filtered wheat

POUR: Near Guinness-class head

AROMA: Did not detect a strong aroma, but hints of citrus

BODY: Near full bodied

TASTE: Nicely bitter with citrus, grapefruit, pine, tropical fruits and biscuit


COMMENTS: "Nicely bitter; Foley brothers - the next best thing to a religious experience; If I were to chew on a piece of cedar, that's the back taste I get; Nice full-bodied beer; You get a bit of an alcohol burn with this."


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: Double IPA; BREWER: Burlington Beer Co., Williston, VT; ABV: 8%

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS:"Our Double IPA has a radiant straw orange glow with which we immerse massive quantities of hops per gallon for a bold, yet complex hop flavor."

COLOR: Beautiful straw orange

POUR: Near Guinness class head

AROMA: Subtle malty aroma, but not a big nose

BODY: Between Medium and Full

TASTE: Pretty big alcohol presence with a nice balance of malt and hop - bit of pineapple and pine with caramel malt

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS; Just shy of  Can't Get Enough!

COMMENTS: "Nicely blended hop and malt; Malt presence on the tail end; No spiciness here; Big malt kick on the end; Bitter; Doesn't taste as strong as it is; No, but you can definitely taste the alcohol; Good beer."


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: Imperial India Pale Ale; BREWER: Good Nature Farm Brewery; ABV: 8.5%; IBUs: 70

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Our Imperial IPA was originally brewed to celebrate our 2nd Anniversary in 2014. We were so taken with her, we decided to keep her on as one of our first bottled beers. A complex IPA that delivers on many levels. The simplicity of the grain bill allows the hops to really shine. Tropical fruits and lemon on the nose with a spicy finish that tickles your taste buds."

COLOR: Honey / wheat

POUR: Near Guinness class head

AROMA: Piney

BODY: Between Medium and Full

TASTE: Big citrus hop taste with pine resin, touch of lemon and tropical fruits backed up with a kind of butterscotch malt underlying it all.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS; Pretty close to Can't Get Enough

COMMENTS: "Delicious; More on the nose than on the tongue; Sneaky alcohol - will probably knock you on your ass; Annie is not an orphan - she's a sweetheart - the best Good Nature beer in my opinion; Malty backbone with a nice hop blend; At the brewery it seemed more piney - better after being in the growler for a week."


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: Double IPA; BREWER: War Horse Brewing Company, Geneva, NY (Seneca Lake - part of Three Brother Wineries & Estates); ABV: 9%; IBUs; 100; HOPS; Cascade, Chinook, Centennial.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Resiny and Smooth. Maybe a little too smooth."

COLOR: Between golden and amber

POUR: Near Guinness Class

AROMA: Hay, grass

BODY: Full

TASTE: Pine, grapefruit, citrus, solid alcohol burn with a cold-brewed coffee taste underneath

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS; Pretty close to Can't Get Enough

COMMENTS: "Great early mouth-feel; Big; Tasty; Helmet beer; Could sit there and drink this 'til you pass out; Really nice flavor; Impressed - from a winery?; A really big thank-you to Judy and Tom (my sister and brother-in-law who returned from a Seneca Lake winery tour with this growler for me)."


Another terrific bunch of beers overall. In the end we had three clustered at the solid "Can't Get Enough!" rating followed by three more that came in just below that top rank. Then we had two at the "I Could Drink This!" mark, making them decent if not knock-your-socks-off beers. Here's what we thought in a nutshell:

1. Anti-Hero IPA - Revolution Brewing - A terrific IPA that was a unanimous "Can't Get Enough!" Exactly what you look for in an IPA.

2. 100 Pounder Wet Hop IPA - Stone City Ales - It's great to see our Northern neighbors get into the craft beer act. More and more we've been seeing some really good Canadian IPAs and this one may be the best we've had yet. 

3. Citrennial - Foley Brothers Brewing - Great blend of Citra and Centennial hops make this an excellent American IPA. 

4. 5. and 6. - Pretty much a dead heat between The Big Broadcast  from War Horse, Annie from Good Nature, and It's Complicated Being a Wizard from Burlington Beer Company. All three are double (Imperial) IPAs and range from 8% to 9% ABV. All were delicious.

7. San Francisco IPA - Almanac Brewing - A nice, brightly citrus IPA lacking a bit in complexity but a good boat beer.

8. 12th of Never Ale - Lagunitas - Ditto with this one. The aroma is terrific, redolent of grapefruit and pine, and the taste is light and tropical without much of a malt presence. Bright, easy-drinker, at 5.5% it comes in a bit high to qualify as a session IPA - but it's close.

9. Fat Tire Amber Ale - New Belgium - This didn't fare well with us, but we seem to be in the minority judging by it's popularity and ready availability. We're big fans of many of New Belgium's beers, but this isn't one of them.

Next up we check out some authentic Texas beers.


The BOTB Guys

Monday, October 24, 2016

American Pale Ales

"They are pale lager beers vaguely of the pilsener style but lighter in body, notably lacking in hop character, and generally bland in palate. They do not all taste exactly the same but the differences between them are often of minor consequence."  -British beer writer Michael Jackson on American beers pre-Craft Beer Revolution.

That was the state of beer no so long ago in the US. And a sad state it was. Most small, independent breweries had been steamrolled by the mega-breweries. The few indie breweries that remained, in order to stay afloat, had to follow the mega-brew lead with bland lagers soon to be followed by that bane of real-beer lovers' existence: Light (Lite) Beer!

Full Boar Brewery-
North Syracuse, NY

I think about that whenever I see one of those "best beer in every state" articles that pop up on-line and in beer magazines. Such an article would have been unthinkable in the bad old days before the Craft Beer Revolution. Yet now, pretty much every state has so many terrific craft breweries that picking the best beer (or for that matter, the best IPA, or Stout or Belgian, or Wheat) is nearly impossible because there are so many good beers out there. Just take a look at the beer menu below. This is from a relatively small brewery in Northern New York. Check out the array of beers they brew. Yet, unless you visit Tupper Lake, it's unlikely you'll have an opportunity to try any since they don't bottle. And there are hundreds of small breweries such as this around the country. One of the things I always check when my wife and I travel is local breweries. The quality of beer can vary greatly as well as the styles and the vibe of the place. Some tend to specialize in, say, British style beer, or Belgian or Sours, or big hoppy beers. Some try to run the gamut of styles from light lagers to big Imperial Stouts and IPAs. Many serve "guest beers" - craft beers brewed by other breweries which may serve to fill in the gap in the styles that they themselves don't provide. Some serve food, some don't. But the atmosphere is generally convivial and they are populated with like-minded craft beer fans who often are quick to share their opinions on their favorite brews. Consider the fact that not so long ago there were no such places. Sad.

Raquette River Brewing, Tupper Lake, NY

While in Old Forge recently, I picked up a mixed-12 by Adirondack Brewing called Hop Project. It contained: Double IPA, Iroquois Pale Ale, Dirty Blonde, and New York Common. As I've mentioned before, I'm often leery about mixed 12's. Very often you end up with a couple of "meh" beers. But I liked the name so I took the plunge. I was not disappointed. Their Double IPA is a hop-head's dream. Big, hoppy, delicious. Their Iroquois Pale Ale is right there as well with plenty of Chinook, Cascade, Centennial Columbus and Falconer's Flight hops in there to give it a great hoppy/citrus punch.  Dirty turned out to be a terrific pale ale that would have fared well this month had it been in competition. The fourth beer, New York Common, I was concerned about since it is a lager. It derives it's name from the fact that it is brewed with all New York State grown hops and malt. I found it to be surprisingly hoppy for a lager with a much fuller body and complex taste than your typical lager. So, in the end, no losers here. This is a mixed-12 I hope makes it out of the mountains!

'Nuff Said

Still love the back of the Arrogant Bastard Ale bombers. It so perfectly encapsulates the essence of the Craft Beer Revolution. I love it that Stone has started selling it in 6-pack 16 ounce cans now. And at a really reasonable price. I keep coming back to it.


Pale Ales are really the style of beer that jump-started the Craft Beer Revolution. Think Sierra-Nevada Pale Ale or Samuel Adams Boston Ale or Saranac Pale Ale. While the roots of craft beer extend back into the '70's with New Albion Brewing Company and Anchor Brewing, it wasn't until the mid '80's that craft brewing really took off. Much of that has to do with the fact that the most popular craft beers early on were Pale Ales. Pale Ales made for a nice transition into the world of beer beyond the mega-brews Americans were stuck with for so long. They broadly retained the general taste profile of the lagers but with enhanced hop presence as well as fuller bodies and richer malt backbones. Okay, so they were far superior to our mega-brews, but not so far out as to alienate the uninitiated. This month we return to that style that was a tasty gateway into the world of craft beer. 


THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Switchback Brewing, Burlington, VT; STYLE: Pale Ale; ABV: 4.8%; IBUs: 47; HOPS: Centennial, Chinook, Cascade

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Our Extra Pale Ale (XPA) is a hop-forward pale ale that employs an abundant use of whole cone hops. We have balanced the amazing bouquet and flavors that whole cone hops possess with a subdued malt character, creating a crisp refreshing beer."

COLOR: Unfiltered raw honey

POUR: Near Decent Head

AROMA: We didn't note a big nose, some grassy, hay aromas

BODY: Medium

TASTE: Leans toward bitter, a bit beyond Balanced, with a nutty base and hints of citrus hops 

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Between "I Could Drink This" and "Can't Get Enough!"

COMMENTS: "Sparkly (not quite effervescent) mouthfeel; Great tasting pale; Very tasty for a 4.8%; They have no trouble making a good beer; Nice, crisp beer; Summer beer - too bad it's not in cans - but I do like the stubbies; You could drink a bucket-load of these; Nice aftertaste - it lingers; You do get more of a hoppy presence than you might expect from a Pale; Some tastes of grapefruit, bit of pine - subtle."


THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Ballast Point Brewing, San Diego, CA; STYLE: American Pale Ale; ABV: 5.5%; IBUs: 50; MALT: Caramel; HOPS: New hop varieties

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Our Grunion Pale Ale wasn't born on a beach, but in a backyard. Originating from an employee-only home brew contest, this award-winning hoppy pale ale is named after the tiny local fish known for late night frolics on shore. A pair of new hop varieties lend strong yet balanced summer melon aromas and herbal flavors, while a soft caramel malt sweetness holds it all together."

COLOR: Unfiltered light golden

POUR: Bit beyond Decent white head with nice lacing

AROMA: A sort of musty/dank aroma

BODY: Medium

TASTE: Well toward the bitter end of the spectrum, with big tropical fruit flavors dominant


COMMENTS: "Unique, distinctive taste; Tanin flavor; El Dorado hops?; I really like this - I'll pick up some of this; I like the taste much better than the aroma; Not sure why tropical fruit aroma doesn't come through, but it's there in the flavor in spades; Really nice; Delicious - unanimously."


THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Flying Dog Brewery, Frederick, MD; STYLE: American Pale Ale; ABV: 5.5%; IBUs: 35; MALTS: 120 L Crystal; HOPS: Northern Brewer, Cascade, Simcoe, Citra

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS:  "The alpha of the pack, Doggie Style complements a wide range of foods. Flavor notes: grassy, citrus and slight perfume hop aromas with subtle sweet malt body."

COLOR: Golden

POUR: Better than decent head with solid staying power

AROMA: Grassy, hay, floral

BODY: Medium

TASTE: Toward the bitter side of balanced with a nice bitter finish and malty, bready notes.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Very near "Can't Get Enough!"

COMMENTS: "Easy drinking; No lingering after-taste; Very tasty; Delicious; Quite balanced; A nice, very drinkable pale ale.Well balanced, what you'd expect of an American Pale Ale; Nice bit of hoppiness with a good malt backing."


THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Evil Twin Brewing, Stratford, CT; STYLE: ABV: 5.5%; IBUs: 60

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Perhaps you heard of a worldwide beer-movement that tributes favorite hipster neighbourhoods across the globe. If you feel excluded because you're hip but your city is not, this cutting-edge, 'hip without border' pale ale is an homage to you - the global hipster. Cheers!"

COLOR: Unfiltered buckwheat honey

POUR: Between Decent and Guinness Class head - pretty impressive thick, off-white head

AROMA: Sweet grass, but not a real powerful aroma

BODY: A bit beyond Medium

TASTE: Leans toward the bitter end, beyond balanced

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Pretty close to "Can't Get Enough!"

COMMENTS: "Nice opening taste; Nice beer; I could drink this all day long; Again - aroma belies the taste - not much aroma, but a big taste; Tastes almost like an IPA; I  could drink a lot of these; Nice bitter after-taste; Sweet in the middle - but resolves into a bitter finish."

THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Idletyme Brewing, Stowe, VT; STYLE: American Pale Ale; ABV: 5.5%

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "This classic style is dry-hopped with pungent US varieties, wonderful aromas in the nose, medium bitterness."

COLOR: Unfiltered golden

POUR: Bit better than a Decent Head

AROMA: Floral hoppy

BODY: Medium

TASTE: Moderately bitter with hints of clove, banana, toffee; malt forward followed by nice citrus hop bite


COMMENTS: "A very hoppy APA - almost and IPA; Bites your tongue a bit; Fills the mouth - excites the mouth; British vibe to it with the clove / banana opening; Malty; This is absolutely delicious; Actually it's a pretty balanced Pale Ale if you ask me."


THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Middle Ages Brewing Company, Syracuse, NY; STYLE: Pale Ale; ABV: 5.80%; MALT: wheat malt, flaked oats; HOPS:  Calypso, El Dorado, Centennial.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "This pale ale is brewed with loads of wheat malt and flaked oats to give it a full body that showcases the Calypso, El Dorado and Centennial Hops. Added citrus further brightens the beer and a nice dry finnish makes it extremely drinkable."

COLOR: Unfiltered clover honey

POUR: Bit beyond Decent head with plenty of white lacing

AROMA: Spicy scent

BODY: Bit shy of Medium

TASTE: Between balanced and bitter

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Just shy of "Can't Get Enough!"

COMMENTS: "They've had 21 years to get it right, and they did; Really nice beer; Very drinkable; Smooth; Pleasant, from a brewery that never disappoints, once again they have brewed a beer that fills the mouth and is oh, so delicious; Really nice easy-drinker with a terrific citrus bite; That spicy aroma is really nice, and the taste is very bright and citrusy."


THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Funky Bow Brewing & Beer Co., Lyman, ME; STYLE: American Pale Ale; ABV: 5.5%; HOPS: Cascade

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Smooth and drinkable! Nice flavorful light malts allow the summer and Cascade hops to shine through. With hints of sweet orange and coriander, this pale is unique as it is smooth."

COLOR: Golden

POUR: Decent white head with nice lacing

AROMA: Grassy, earthy

BODY: Medium

TASTE: Touch of cloves, bit of pine with a little grass and bready malt underneath it all

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Just shy of "Can't Get Enough!"

COMMENTS: "A really nice beer; Almost an IPA; Delicious Pale Ale; Fills the tongue; The last in a series of delicious beers - very impressed with this Pale Ale offering; It hits all the notes you want in an APA; Not over-the-top, but a pleasing hop presence."


So who wins in this epic battle of American Pale Ales? Besides us, your ever humble reviewers, that is. Well, once again, we really didn't have a loser in the bunch. It's kind of like going to one of those "make your own 6-pack" sections that stores like Wegman's have made popular. When the Great Craft Beer Revolution began getting real traction because people began realizing how much better real ale was than mega-brewed lager, I, like many others, would go to those racks and pick up a 6-pack of wildly differing styles, just to try them. But now, older and wiser in the ways of beer that we are, we know what we like and we cherry-pick the styles that we know we will enjoy. So it is with our reviews. You'll not find Blue Moon or Shock Top because they are neither real craft beers, nor beers we care to spend our precious beer money on. We are also unlikely to delve into the world of Kolsh styles or Gose Beers or Sours because we have now tried them and know these are just not our style of choice (not going to do hard soft drinks either - sorry, but that's not beer).  So truly, the styles we choose are those that we enjoy - IPAs (and anything with IPA in its name), DIPAs, Pale Ales, Porters, Stouts, British Ales. Hell, anything Stone brews (I had their Wussie Pilsner, and it wasn't bad). But we're not going to do Mega-brews and rarely will we entertain a lager. We are ale guys. My point being that there's a reason you won't find too many truly negative reviews here - although they do occur - we know what we like and there are so many new and wonderful variations of those styles that we can't see drinking "meh" beer (and especially not meh-ga brews). It also wouldn't be fair to aficionados of, say, sours for us to express our opinions on that style since it just isn't something we care for.
Anyhow... here's how the Battle fell out once the smoke cleared.

1. Grunion Pale Ale - Despite the fact that Ballast Point got bought out by A-B, they still seem to be producing some really fine beers. Sculpin has been a favorite for some time, but their whole Pale Ale series - Grunion, Big Eye, Sculpin are terrific beers and hopefully the money grubbers at A-B don't stick their noses into the brewing process.

2. Zog's Pale Ale - Real nice, wonderfully hopped pale ale from a relatively small Vermont brewery. Nicely complex flavor.

3. Hipster APA - We really liked this tasty pale ale from Evil Twin Brewing. One of several we had that could have passed for an IPA.

4. Finally Legal - Will this 21 Anniversary brew ever make it outside the brewery? Hard to tell. Their terrific Late Knight Imperial IPA started out like this but became so popular they began bottling it.  A very nice, drinkable beer.

5. G-String Pale Ale - Maine is becoming a realy player in the craft beer world. Once noted mostly for British inspired breweries like Full Sail, more and more Maine breweries are making a mark out there. G-String is another of those near IPA level Pale Ales. A really nice beer.

6. Doggie Style Pale Ale - Flying Dog's flagsship beer, this remains a benchmark for what you expect from a good American IPA.

7. Switchback Extra Pale Ale - Though it fell a little short compared to the other beers, it really is a very good beer. Tasty, balanced, drinkable and at 4.8% a great beer for a long day of festivities.

Next Month: Another Wild Card Month - Bring a beer we haven't reviewed

The BOTB Guys

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Wild Card Month

This month we at BOTB decided to throw caution to the wind and bring a favorite (or interesting) beer that we had not yet reviewed. Amazingly they were all IPAs or DIPAs. What a strange coincidence. We ended up with some pretty terrific beers - some new and some old favorites that somehow had slipped through the cracks of our crack team of reviewers. We'll get to the reviews in a bit. But first...


Congratulations to Auburn, NY's Prison City Pub and Brewery. Their Mass Riot IPA was named the best IPA in the country by Paste Magazine, an online culture and entertainment emag. Let me repeat that - best in the COUNTRY! It competed in a field of 247 IPAs in a blind taste test. Take a look HERE to view all of the beers in the competition. It's pretty impressive. They also took a silver medal at The Great American Beer Festival for their Belgian Pale Ale earlier this year. 
Unfortunately, it is difficult to find their beer outside of the Auburn area. Hopefully that will change soon. 
In the meantime - send us some beer!


The Beer Facts: STYLE: IPA; BREWER: Breckenridge Brewing, Littleton, CO; ABV: 6.3%; IBUs: 66; MALT: Full Pint

What the Brewer Says: "Finding the right balance of aroma, hoppiness, and fullness of flavor is a mountain worth climbing. that's what we've done with Breck IPA. Scrutiny of ingredients and experimentation with process resulted in this yin and yang - distinctively pleasant floral aroma with crisp hop flavor that's mellowed by Full Pint malt, a relatively new and unique malt variety. Drink up. Breck IPA is available all year long!"

Color: Unfiltered golden

Pour: Decent head

Aroma: Floral hoppy nose

Body: Bit beyond Medium

Taste: Hop bitterness at the front, caramel, fennel grass

Overall Impression: Just shy of "Can't Get Enough!"

Comments: "Solid malt backbone; Good mouthfeel; Not a bad beer; A really nice beer if you ask me; I'm a fan; Complex beer, more so than you would expect from a 6.3%; A decent IPA, might not be my go-to, but I wouldn't turn it down."


The Beer Facts: BREWER: Left Hand Brewing, Longmont, CO; STYLE: American IPA; ABV: 7.1%; IBU's: 75; MALT: 2-row, Rye, Wheat, Caramunich III, Acidulated, Carafoam; HOPS: Jarrylo, Cascade, Comet

What the Brewer Says: "A hoppy attitude and a mouthful of dynamic flavors give this IPA a big personality. Assertive, fruit-forward hops with aromas of orange blossom and pineapple mingle with flavors of wet pine and sweet malt with a dry finish."

Color: Unfiltered Golden

Pour: Fairly decent off-white head with nice lacing

Aroma: Yeasty, sweet

Body: A bit beyond medium

Taste: Somewhat sweet for an IPA with deep caramel/malt overtones. Some citrus  bitterness comes through

Overall Impression: I Could Drink This!

Comments: "Heavier, yeasty British taste, No grapefruit taste that I could detect; A sweety; It works; Different hops at work here, kind of earthy taste going on; I prefer a drier finish myself; A little bit of pine there, though surprisingly malty sweet."


The Beer Facts: BREWER: Empire Brewing, Syracuse, NY; STYLE: American IPA; ABV: 6.5%; IBUs: 49; HOPS: Falconer's flight, Mosaic

What the Brewer Says: "Slo Mo' is a true American IPA brewed with a blend of Falconer's Flight and Mosaic Hops to convey bright tropical citrus notes for a crisp dry finish."

Color: Unfiltered wildflower honey golden

Pour: Pretty decent head with nice lacing

Aroma: Grassy, earthy, spicy

Body: Medium

Taste: Hints of Caramel/toffee, orange peel with a pleasing spiciness

Overall Impression: Between "I Could Drink This!" and "Can't Get Enough!"

Comments: "An adequate beer, in my opinion; Solid beer; This is one of the best beers I've had of theirs; Unique; I like it; Flavor of some of their other beers, I'm just not a fan; It's just unique enough so that I like it; Seems to lack the bitterness you look for in an IPA at first, but then it comes through with a smooth aftertaste; They only seem to be bottling this, White Aphro, a Stout, an Amber and a Light, I think. But they've got a ton of beers at their brewery; My favorite is their Liv and Let Rye."


The Beer Facts: BREWER: Bear Republic Brewing Co., Sonoma County, CA; STYLE: American IPA; ABV: 7.5%; IBUs: 75; MALTS: Malted Barley, Wheat, Crystal Malt; HOPS: Columbus, Cascade.

What the Brewer Says: "This hoppy IPA is a full bodied beer brewed with malted barley, wheat, and crystal malts. The malt base is designed to highlight the unique floral qualities Columbus and Cascade hops from the Pacific Northwest. Racer 5 is one of America's most medal winning IPAs. there's a trophy in every glass."

Color: Hazy golden

Pour: Somewhat better than Decent head, off-white.

Aroma: Grassy, some hints of pine

Body: Between Medium and Full

Taste: Complex, full-flavored with solid malt, hints of coffee, piney, grapefruit, solidly West Coast IPA

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough!

Comments: "This is their iconic beer; Freaking-A good beer!; Clean aroma; They've never had a reason to change this beer; I can't believe we haven't reviewed this until now; Smooth, balanced; Terrific beer; Tried and true, it's what I expect from an IPA; Generally always in my fridge; It's got that nice citrus/pine you expect with a good solid malt base; Great beer!"


The Beer Facts: BREWER: Middle Ages Brewing Company, Syracuse, NY; STYLE: Double IPA; ABV: 8.10%; MALT: British Pale, Pilsner; HOPS: Citra, Amarillo, Cascade, Chinook

What the Brewer Says: "This beer has a very light body but is loaded with citrus hop flavor."

Color: Crisp Golden

Pour: Between Decent and Guinness Class off-white head - nice lacing with staying power

Aroma: Piney, citrus, herbal

Body: Between Medium and Full

Taste: Citrus, pine, with bit of banana/clove British vibe one expects from Middle Ages, but not overpowering, creating a nice blend of Brit/US IPA taste.

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough

Comments: "Nicely balanced for a double; Sneaky good, but dangerous because it's so smooth; Really hoppy with a strong British malt backbone; A nice fusion of West Coast American and British IPAs; Clean; Goes down like a session - should come with a warning label; Their ImPaled Ale is more a classic British IPA than American, this is a delicious melding of the two; I like the way Middle Ages expands their inventory of beers to include a variety of styles while staying true to their roots; Terrific beer, I'm so glad to see it bottled now."


The Beer Facts: BREWER: Ithaca Beer Company, Ithaca, NY; STYLE: Double IPA; ABV: 8.5%; MALT: 2-Row, Caravienne; HOPS: Citra, Columbus, Simcoe, Centennial, Cascade, Mosaic, Amarillo

What the Brewer Says: "Piney at the nose, Creeker is by no means an ordinary double IPA. Creeker is all hops with little malt body. Enjoy the intense citrus flavor with tropical notes, floral aroma and full body mouthfeel."

Color: Unfiltered wheat

Pour: Decent white foamy head

Aroma: Floral with bit of mustiness, peppery spice and pine

Body: Fairly full-bodied

Taste: Citrus, piney resin, not much malt but hints of toffee/caramel, nice grapefruit tang, good alcohol warmth without overpowering.

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough!

Comments: "Heaven in a bottle!; An excellent beer; Well blended; What you'd expect from Ithaca Beer; Don't need a paddle with this Creeker; Can definitely tell it's a higher alcohol; Terrific aftertaste; Real nice East Coast IPA - big on the floral and citrus flavors; Orgasmic experience!"


The Beer Facts: BREWER: Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown, NY; STYLE: Double IPA; ABV: 8.8%; IBUs: 83; MALTS: Pilsner, Munich20; HOPS: Columbus, Cascade, Centennial, Mosaic, Calypso, Mandarina Bavaria; YEAST: American Ale

What the Brewer Says: "Double IPA is a style we were excited to brew - it's a further exploration beyond the Belgian styles we are known for historically. Nirvana received such a great reaction, of course we wanted to see if we could take that to another level."

Color: Hazy wheat

Pour: Big Guinness Class head, thick and white.

Aroma: Spicy, fruity with some pine resin.

Body: Full

Taste: Big, hoppy, citrus taste redolent of grapefruit and tropical fruits

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough!

Comments: "Nice beer - a real sipper; I could drink that beer, alright; Not a Belgian at all; I would not have pegged this as an Ommegang beer, totally out of character from what you would expect; You can't beat Ommegang if you're a fan of Belgian style beers, and now they've made a delicious American style IPA, good for them; This beats out Nirvana, and I love Nirvana!; Ommegang has garnered quite a reputation nationally, you go to any self-respecting craft beer store and you're bound to find Ommegang; I really like this beer!'


It was a tough call. To be honest the last four - Racer 5, Late Knight, Creeker and Great Beyond all scored unconditional "Can't Get Enough!" Racer 5 is the only straight up IPA of the four with the lowest ABV (7.5%,, not exactly session level)  so that might be a choice if you're going to have more than one.

Of the remaining three, they ranked as follows:

5. Breck IPA - Nearly scored a "Can't Get Enough!" Very good IPA.

6. Slo Mo' IPA - Some of us really liked this Empire Brewing IPA, others were underwhelmed. 

7.  Extrovert IPA - We felt this was certainly a drinkable IPA, but not one we would seek out - a bit sweeter and maltier than the others.

Next Month - American Pale Ales


The BOTB Guys