If you’ve been reading my blog you may have noticed a while ago I did a round up of Belgian IPAs. Unfortunately, Great Lakes had not released this one yet and I didn’t know they were going to. This one came out earlier this Summer as a seasonal release. Like most Belgian IPAs, the thing that makes it a Belgian IPA is the combination of flavors from using Belgian yeast with high alpha acid hops that have that bright hop bite characteristic of American IPAs. When I did the round up I noticed a lot of variation even just with those variables at play. You can still use different hops, you could add more or less. You might even use different malts that will add some variation to the flavor. I would say this one was the best I can remember trying. It tasted the most similar to the actual Belgian IPAs I tried, like Houblon Chouffe. The flavor starts to taste like a very nice Tripel, but midway through the flavor you start to notice a subtle, not overpowering, piney hop flavor. This is also a fairly big beer at 8.2% ABV, but tastes like a light summer lawnmower beer. I really liked this one a lot and would seek it out and have it again. Four out of five proper pints.
I read about Bone Dusters a few months ago and have been very anxious to find it and try it, so I was excited when I found it recently at Total Wine in McLean, VA. Apparently, one of the co-founders of an organization called “Paleo Quest” got the idea that it might be fun to combine science and beer by scouting for yeasts that might be found hanging out on fossils. He teamed up with one of the brewing scientists at Lost Rhino, Jasper Akerboom, to see what they could find that might work. They found a yeast on a 35 million year old whale fossil that happens to be related to a yeast that is commonly used in beer and wine, but was a little different. When I first heard of the project, I thought they were just going to use any old yeast they might find, but this was a lucky find indeed. Lost Rhino is pledging a portion of the proceeds from the beer to Paleo Quest’s research. On to the beer. When you pour the beer into the glass the first thing you notice is there is very little head. It wasn’t flat, but the head was just small. The beer smelled like cooking bread, maybe pumpernickel. When you taste it there is a very slight sourness, but the taste of bread is very pronounced. There are some hints of cherries and vanilla. The taste lingers in your mouth for quite a while, but doesn’t change much over time. Overall, it tastes like an Oktoberfest to me, rather than an Amber Ale, as it is labeled. It wasn’t my favorite beer in the end, I’m sad to say, but my hat is off to the creativity. I give the beer itself two out of five proper pints.
Although it’s not widely available in Virginia, Great Divide is one of my all time favorite breweries. I’ve been going to the brewery in Denver since the 1990’s. I can’t say I like every beer they make, but I do like a lot of them. This one was a solid Rye IPA. I’ve not yet done a survey of Rye IPAs to say whether it’s my favorite Rye IPA, but I’m pretty sure it would be up there. I actually haven’t seen a Rye IPA from Great Divide before. I know they had a Rye Lager called Hoss, but this may be the first Rye IPA they’ve done. Anyway, it pours a nice copper color with a medium white head. The aroma is of piney hops. The taste is a bite of both hops and a peppery spiciness from the rye, along with a pronounced caramel malt in the middle of the flavor wave. The finish is a slight citrus. It’s a fairly big beer at 8.3% ABV, but drinks really easily. I could see this going really well with pizza or a burger. I would probably aim to have it on a day that was warm, but not hot. I would call it a shoulder season beer. I give it four out of five proper pints.
Wow, more like wine than beer. It is a barleywine. It pours a deep orange with very little head. It smells like bananas, coconut and some cherries thrown in. There’s maybe a hint of toffee in there as well. A tad sweet for my taste, but not so much that it turned me off. The body is thick and tends toward being a little syrupy. You can and should drink this one slow. The flavor is like a twist of banana and coconut with some caramel, cherry and vanilla all mixed in. When I say it is like a twist, I mean to say there are alternating waves of banana and coconut. There is a strong coconut flavor in the finish. As it warms the banana and coconut flavors fade and are replaced with more caramel and strawberry or raspberry. This would probably go nicely with a dessert of creme brulee or a fruit tart. Barleywine is not my favorite style of beer, but this was a good one. I give it four out of five proper pints.
This hoppy bomb was inspired when the price of hops when up a few years ago. Instead of scaling back, 21st Amendment surged ahead. There are three kinds of hops in this one, Columbus, Centennial and Cascade. It pours a light golden color with a fluffy white head. It has a strong grapefruit aroma to it. The flavor is very hoppy, like a glass of grapefruit juice, yet it still has a balance to the flavor. It’s not as bitter as some other California IPAs. This is probably because the malt has some heft to it to get to 9.7% alcohol. For such a strong beer, it drinks really easily. It comes in a can too, so you could easily gulp this down on a hot day and be three sheets to the wind before you know it. I really liked this beer a lot. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it was my favorite IPA, but it’s well up there. It also tastes great with cheese or pizza. I give it four out of five proper pints.
I found this gem at one of my favorite beer hunting haunts, Norm’s Beer and Wine in Vienna, VA. Avery is one of the all time great breweries, especially when it comes to making tasty, big beers. This one is no doubt a large beer. The alcohol clocks in at 19.38%. As far at the style, I’m not sure there really is any such thing as a quintuple, but this is a quad on steroids. It pours a dark brown with little head. The aroma is of cherries and bourbon. The mouthfeel is slightly creamy and full. The flavor is a unique cacophony of bourbon, cherries, figs, vanilla and a little chocolate with a whopping shot of alcohol. You must enjoy this slowly. I don’t know if you can drink it quickly. It’s just so silky. Thankfully, it’s not too sweet, as beers this strong can sometimes be. I really like this one, but you might need to be in the mood for a big beer. I had it with some dark chocolate for dessert. I think that might be the ideal. I give it five out of five proper pints.
Sour Banshee is made by the more experimental branch of Blue Mountain called Blue Mountain Barrel House. They earlier had a Sour Devil, which was their Dark Hollow Imperial Stout made with wild yeast. Sour Banshee seems more like a dark ale made with wild yeast and aged in oak bourbon barrels. It pours a mahogany color with a light, fluffy white head. The aromas are of sour cherries, bourbon, and bread. The flavor has an interesting mix that hits in alternating waves of sour cherry and an oaky bourbony flavor. The sourness is not overwhelming, but if you don’t like sours, it might not be appealing. As it warms, it even gets a little more sour – a little more like granny smith apples. Still, the oak and bourbon flavors hang on as well. I liked this beer, but it wasn’t my favorite. I liked the Sour Devil better. I would give this one two and a half proper pints.
Brooklyn Brewery really has been one of my favorite breweries for a long time. I’ve had a soft spot for them since living in New York and regularly visiting the brewery. I even met Steve Hindy (one of the founders) once because I wrote a complaint e-mail when a t-shirt I ordered online took an excessive amount of time to get to my brother-in-law. Anyway, he turned a negative experience positive and I’ve liked them ever since. However, in some ways their beers are not at the cutting edge of a lot of the newer experimental things going on the in craft beer scene. I think Brooklyn Blast is a move toward trying to establish themselves as a serious IPA producer. Their standard East India Pale Ale is more of a British style IPA without the familiar bright hop bitterness of newer IPAs. I would say Blast really puts them on the map for IPAs. This one comes across with aromas of earth, orange and tropical fruit. The flavor comes in waves. The initial hit is an earthy hop bite. Then comes some apricot and mango. This is followed by a resiny hop bite. The hop bites are not super bitter, but in the medium range, I would say. The combination is unique. I have tasted other IPAs that have some characteristics of this one, but none I can think of that combines the flavors in quite the same way. It’s not my favorite IPA, but it is very good. I would give it four out of five proper pints.