I have had this beer before and I know it’s really good to the point that for some reason I haven’t reviewed it before. It is a limited release, so grab it while you can. I really think this may be one of the best beers ever made. It pours a dark brown with a medium off white head. The aroma is a little bitter chocolate and a slight peaty, smokiness with a little piney hops in there. The flavor is along similar lines. Very balanced. Not at all sweet. The chocolate seems to have a slight bitterness to it, but the oak also gives it a burnt wood or peat flavor a little like Scotch. It also has a mild, but noticeable hoppiness to it. I had it with tacos and it overpowered them a little. I could see this more with steak or burgers. This is literally one of my most favorite beers. I give it five out of five proper pints.
I was on the hunt for some new beers to review and went to Grateful Red in Clarendon. The salesperson recommended this one and since I usually like anything from Southern Tier, I didn’t hesitate. Apparently what they do is take one kind of malt and one kind of hops in making the beer. They use a different combination each year. This one uses mosaic hops and special pale malt. Mosaic is a relatively new strain of hops based on simcoe. It has lots of mango, citrus and pine flavor to it and a sharp bite to boot. The beer poured a copper color with a thick off-white head. The aroma was, not surprisingly strong hints of pine and citrus. I can’t say I detected mango, but it may have been there. The malt to hop balance leaned a little to the hoppy side. It tasted like a hoppy pale ale. I had it in the backyard while playing with the dog and having some chips on nice sunny day with a light breeze. This beer was a perfect accompaniment to that. I give it four out of five proper pints.
Hardywood is a brewery in Richmond, VA and I like to support the local breweries when I can. I saw that Trader Joe’s has been carrying several of the Hardywood beers in bombers and noticed this one a few times. I wasn’t quick to pick it up because I was a little uncertain about. Finally my wife called from the nearest Trader Joe’s and asked if I wanted her to pick one up for me. I said “sure.” The reason I was uncertain about it, turns out to have been its best feature. This is a double IPA aged with toasted sticks from a fallen tulip poplar, which is a native Virginia tree. This one pours a mahogany color with a large off white head. The aroma is piney hops. The flavor has a distinct woodiness to it, obviously from the poplar. It also has a slight piney hop bite and a little toasted malt flavor. There were also notes of vanilla and bourbon. The high 8.5% ABV was nicely hidden by the combination of flavors. The wood and pine flavors really combine nicely. I like this beer a lot. I give it five out of five proper pints.
Otter Creek is a brewery I have had beers from a few times in the past and been disappointed. In particular, I don’t care much for their pumpkin ale. However, this one was a different story. I was inspired to brew my own orange wheat beer and wanted to try something like that and see what it would be like. I went to my favorite local beer store, Grateful Red, and the salesperson recommended this one as being along those lines, though not precisely an orange wheat. I tried it while grilling some chicken on one of a few spotty nice days in April in the D.C. area. I have to say I was impressed. I haven’t noticed White IPAs before this year, but I really like the style. It is an especially refreshing beer on a warm day. A White IPA is like a witbier with added hops. I haven’t had many of them, but this one seemed like a good representative. This also had the added wrinkle of orange slices added to it. The beer poured a hazy straw color with hints of orange in it. It had a nice thick white head. The aroma was of light citrus and hops. The flavor was a hint of the banana esters from the Belgian yeast with distinct citrus notes and a little hop bite, but not overpowering. There was also a slight orange peel note in the aftertaste. It was nicely carbonated as well, really rounding out the profile of a refreshing backyard beer for a warm Spring afternoon. I give this one four out of five proper pints.
Stone how do I love thee, let me count the ways…Arrogant Bastard, Double Bastard, IPA, Ruin Ten IPA, Levitation Ale, Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale, you get the idea. Stone is one of my benchmark breweries. I expected this one to knock it out of the park, but it missed by a little. It pours a dark brown with a small off-white head. It looks thick, like motor oil. The aroma is a little coffee and a little roasted malt with a hint of alcohol. It is 10.5% ABV, after all. The body is medium to thick and it does have a little bit of an oily mouthfeel. However, I would have to say the flavor was a little bit of a let down. It was a little less rich and complex than I expected. Definitely some coffee and some roasted malt, with a little smokiness. Don’t mistake me, this is a good beer, but we are talking about Stone. I expect nothing less than the best. I would go with three out of five proper pints for this one, I’m afraid. It’s good, but not great.