Beers in Review: Going Back to Christmas!

Let's see how my writing is after all this time...

Nothing like doing a Christmas beer in May, right? In December, I got to check out the 2017 version of Mad Elf from Troegs Independent Brewing, but my parents were also kind enough to grab me a bottle of their barrel-fermented, bottle-conditioned variant, Wild Elf. Pouring a highly carbonated reddish-amber, cherries are the big player in the Elf beers, as I got both the cherries as well as some cranberries. There is also a significant funky note in the beer. The beer is 11% ABV, but the booziness is hidden by the fruit tartness. Honestly, I feel like I probably liked the straight-up Mad Elf better, but I highly appreciated having an opportunity to check out the variant. Thanks for both, Mom and Dad!

Finally moving on from Christmas, I jump to a similarly-styled beer called Pleroma from Sweden's Omnipollo Beer. Officially an American Wild Ale, Omnipollo calls Pleroma a "raspberry creme brulee sour ale with lactose sugar, raspberries, and vanilla". A hazy, ruddy pink-red color that checks in at 6% ABV, I got lots of tart raspberries and some red wine notes. The beer is zesty and effervescent, but it goes away quickly.

Finally, let me write about the beer I just had. Edmund's Oast Brewing Company looks to be fairly new to Charleston, SC, and very recently made their way to Columbia. Hush That Fuss is their American Pale Ale. I found it to be surprisingly pale in color and while playing like a session pale (5.5% ABV), I found this beer very different from just about any pale ale of any style. It has a wheat component to it (I'm not entirely sure it works) along with some citrus notes, most notably orange. Mildly hoppy overall, I feel like I need to track down another one of these to really get a good feel for it.

Beers in Review: With a Special Brown Ale

Before we get to the brown ale mentioned above, we turn to Baltimore's Duclaw Brewing Company and Fast, Faster and Disaster. A limited release IPA at 6.5% ABV and 62 IBU, I found this yellow-gold beer to be fairly light in both flavor and body. Almost playing like a sessionable IPA, though the alcohol level doesn't support that. Flavors found include assorted citrus notes (mostly orange and a bit of lemon), as well as passion fruit and maybe a bit of pine. Disaster has a moderate hop bite and a fairly clean finish. I found this to be a fairly straight-forward IPA.

Next up, I checked out this beer on Beer Advocate, and saw this beer rated just average (less than 3.5 out of 5). Now, of course a review website is FAR from scientific, and perhaps BA needs to revise their ratings descriptors, as a mere 0.51 score difference could mean the difference between an "okay" and an "exceptional" beer. There may also be some bias in that score, as many craft beer nerds tend to not think highly of brown ales, red ales, and similar styles. I mention all this because I think this may have been the best brown ale I've ever had. I can't speak much to the beer's color beyond "dark brown"--the local watering hole where I had this beer was pretty dimly lit. It checks in at 5.7% ABV, 32 IBU, and I found it to be REALLY tasty! There are plenty of caramel malt and burnt or toasted malt notes along with dark sugars and toffee, some grassy hemp notes and maybe some nuttiness, as well. I found it to be smooth and sweet, but not so high a sweetness that I couldn't enjoy 2 or 3 of these in a sitting.

Beers in Review: A Pair of New England IPAs

The first BiR of 2018 brings a brand new brewery to the site. Green Bench Brewing Company prides themselves on being the first microbrewery in St. Petersburg, Florida. Turbid is their New England IPA series in which they rotate hop and yeast varieties with each batch. This one in particular was Turbid 6, which checked in at 6.5% ABV and used Galaxy, Simcoe, and Azacca hops. It pours a solid gold color, and mine wasn't hazy, which is unusual for the NE IPA style. Flavor-wise, I found it to be very balanced, with a fair amount of malt combined with a juicy mouthfeel and flavor notes, notes which also included a hint of pine and a very mild bitterness. This beer also brings a medium-full body. While I've certainly developed an appreciation for the typical IPA over the years, I'm not really a hop bomb lover. I tend to prefer some of the IPA variants (American IPAs, English IPAs, New England) to the straight up IPA style. As a result, I found this beer to be quite enjoyable.

Next up is Lancaster, SC's Benford Brewing Company and Mama's Mango Milkshake. Also a New England IPA, this one brewed with mango. Coming in at 8% ABV, it plays pretty much as you would expect for style, including the hazy copper/burnt orange color with plenty of particulate in the glass. I don't have a great sense of smell, but the namesake mango was prevalent in the aroma, which also included a bit of orange, as well. Flavor notes included the expected mango, along with overall tropical greens, and maybe a bit of pine (though, that may have just been some of my interpretation of the greens). I was expecting a bit of a sweeter beer, but the low sweetness didn't bother me, personally. It's quite hoppy and brings a lot of hop bite that hangs around the back of the throat. The flavors and clean and intense, which tends to make it a little more of a sipper than a full-throated drinker.

Beers in Review: A Collaboration and a Blend

Without a doubt, regardless of the style, if I see a brand-new/never-before-seen brewery cross my local beer aisles, I am undoubtedly going to pounce on that beer. Collaborations are likely the easiest way to find such breweries, and Collaboration 7: Oak-Aged Lager is no exception. While Boulevard Brewing Company frequently shows up in my area, my only exposure to Creature Comforts Brewing Company was, I believe, from one of Sierra Nevada's Beer Camp series beers. Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company? Never seen 'em. This collaboration checks in at 6% ABV and 16 IBU with a fairly light body, and is a hazy orange lager that tends to come out pretty fruity. In addition to many wine notes, especially the white wine side of the spectrum via Riesling grape juice, the flavor profile includes some citrus notes that bring a little bit of tartness to the lager. I also found some grain and corn notes in there, as well. The three breweries put a good amount of complexity into what is typically a fairly simple style. A very dynamic lager.

Next is a blending of words and beers from Rogue Ales. Hazelutely Choctabulous combines Rogue's Hazelnut Brown Nectar and Chocolate Stout. The result is very dark brown to near-black stout that is 5.7% ABV and 51 IBU. Both beers play well with each other but also shine through in the flavor profile, which primarily features the two key players: nuttiness and chocolate. It's plenty tasty, though nowhere near as sweet as I expected, given the brewery's comparing of the beer to a "chocolate candy bar". Still, a really neat and excellent offering.

Beers in Review: Westbrook Pair

In today's review, we check out a pair from Mt. Pleasant, SC's excellent Westbrook Brewing Company.

Each Spring, Westbrook releases what is arguably their most popular and hard-to-get beer. To me, this falls under what I call the "bucket list" category, the best of the best of craft beer that can be somewhat difficult to damn near impossible to acquire. Westbrook's Mexican Cake Imperial Stout does have a May release window, but it goes fast, and rarely can be found too far past that release point. Fortunately, the fine folks at the Craft and Draft shop here in Columbia are totally awesome, and saved a kega for a brewery head-to-head event a couple of months ago. Cake was originally brewed for Westbrook's 1st Anniversary, and it gets aged on cocoa nibs, vanilla beans, cinnamon, and habanero peppers. The stout comes in at a powerful 10.5% ABV and is quite smooth-drinking. Drinking this beer, I got notes of semi-sweet to unsweetened chocolate--it's likely a good amount of sweetness was coming from the booze level--with a mild kick from the peppers, though I'm glad they don't take over the beer like peppers tend to do. There were also some slight hints of dark fruit and berries to me, but that could also be just my interpretation of the boozy sweetness. I had already scratched this particular beer off my personal bucket list a couple of years back, but social media was my friend in discovering C&D's spare keg of this, and I couldn't say no to a second try.

Citrus Redacted appears to be a modern version of a previous collaboration beer from Westbrook and a local bottle shop. Redacted is an Imperial IPA, 8.5% ABV, that plays a little bit like the recent New England IPAs. Redacted is a moderately hazy gold color with plenty of observable particulate matter in the glass. It bears a delightful and potent orange aroma, and the flavors of EVERY PART of a piece of citrus fruit came through: fleshy fruit (which was most prevalent) along with the rind and even the connective strands in between the fruit slices. Again, orange was most notable of the citrus present, though I also detected some grapefruit in there, as well. The beer overall was not too bitter, despite the presence of rind flavor notes. I found this to be a delightful IPA.

Beers in Review: Let's Get Back To It

Leading off Beers in Review is an offering from Goose Island Beer Company's Cooper Project, their experimental bourbon barrel-aging series which had 3 offerings in 2017. Cooper Project #2 is listed as a blonde Doppelbock; this was discovered later during beer research, and explained the relatively light golden color that I was not expecting during the actual drinking experience, when it was merely described as a Doppelbock. While this beer had some nice notes, most notably some vanilla and caramel, I found the bourbon barrel characteristics to be too much for my enjoyment. I got a good amount of oak and plenty of boozy heat (9.2% ABV) that just took me out of the beer too much. Frankly, I don't drink many of the bourbon barrel beers, so I expect I would enjoy this more if I were more used to the experience.

Next is a tropical IPA from North Carolina's Catawba Brewing Company. Friki Tiki comes in at 6.5% ABV and 60 IBU, and will vary from batch-to-batch as they use a different tropical fruit and supporting hop bill. As an example, the Friki batch I tasted was a Pineapple IPA, while it is now listed on the Catawba site as a Guava IPA. The beer pours a hazy gold color, and as I tend to find in these tropical fruit-based beers, there was a whole lot going on in the mouthfeel. Fruity juiciness leads the way, but I also found a freshness working its way into the mouthfeel, supported by the pineapple fronds that I found in the flavor profile. Additional flavors included pineapple and plenty of other tropical fruits, along with a bit of orangy citrus. A moderate hop bite was also present within the beer, but it didn't overwhelm the other excellent flavors.

Beers in Review: Beers From Long Ago...

First up in today's BiR is Slow Your Roll from Bronx Brewery in New York City, of course. Slow Your Roll is a session IPA, just 4.6% ABV and fairly light in body and flavor intensity. The beer pours a lemon yellow color and is completely hazy. Citrus hop notes are the most prominent flavors present, along with tropical fruit and tropical greens and leaves. I also felt like I was getting a little bit of funkiness, but that may have been coming from the tropical sources.

Next is River Rat Brewery's offering created for August's Solar Eclipse, Moonraker. Coming in at 6% ABV and pouring a bold gold color, Moonraker is an India Pale Lager (IPL), a hybrid of the lager and IPA styles. To me, this hybrid style was interpreted as a sort of two-step beer. In the front half, I picked up the hoppy notes. This included citrus, especially candied orange, and perhaps a little bit of pine hoppiness. The back half of this beer brought more lager characteristics. There was a caramelly sweetness along with some cereal notes and a malty finish.

Finally, just my second-ever offering from Legal Remedy Brewing Company, the first being their excellent World Court Mocha Blonde Stout. Gorilla Law is a cherry Hefeweizen, and it looks like it may have been specially-produced for the brewery's 3rd birthday. The beer pours reddish copper, and measures at 5.8% ABV. I found it almost played like a farmhouse ale. There were mild cherry notes--far less than I expected--along with a little bit of a white wine taste and feel. There was a little bit of funkiness in there, as well, that really brought that farmhouse feel. Gorilla Law had a fairly light body, and I found it to be pretty refreshing. This beer maybe wasn't quite on style, but it was enjoyable.

Beers in Review: Jersey Drinking

The latter entry in today's BiR includes beers I drank while on vacation and will feature a preview of a brewery I will be reviewing soon as an entry in the Brewery Review (now called "BrewVue") series. But first, a seasonal from one of the craft beer giants.

My dad, a big Sierra Nevada Brewing Company fan overall, has been going crazy about Summerfest Czech-style lager. Right on the borderline of sessionable at 5% ABV, Summerfest pours a clear pale gold color. The malty sweetness, courtesy of Munich malts, blends with plenty of prominent grain notes to resolve into something like sweet corn. There is a slight bitterness (not a surprise at just 28 IBU) at the end of the drinking experience that leads into the aftertaste, which is the only possible indication of the presence of hops. Otherwise, this beer is simply as advertised: light body with a crisp mouthfeel and finish. An excellent selection for warm summer days.

Next, we turn once again to the Jersey shore, and 7 Mile Brewery, whose full review will be coming...next week? Maybe?

Red, White, and Bru is a cherry-flavored Saison/farmhouse ale that is a summer release (presumably around the Fourth of July, based on its ABV number-play of 7.417%). I really feel like the fruit helps make this Saison more palatable to the more mainstream beer drinkers, as I had this separate from my family's brewery visit, but one of my relatives had this at the brewery and really enjoyed it. Red, White, and Bru pours a hazy gold color. It's light in body and mouthfeel, though I didn't necessarily find it refreshing. Despite helping the flavor, the fruit does serve as a second fiddle to a fairly strong funky note that then leads into a very mild sourness towards the end of the drinking experience. The beer's not really sweet, but I think the cherries bring a level of familiarity that make this a pretty accessible offering (and one of many excellent beers overall) from 7 Mile Brewery.

Video Review: Sierra Nevada Beer Camp, Part 5

This week, I will wrap up the final 4 beers from Sierra Nevada Brewing Company's Beer Camp Across the World collaboration pack. Today, I check out collaborations with Duvel in Belgium and Surly Brewing Company in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Also, I'm pretty rusty at these reviews!

Beers in Review: Clearing the Slate (plus Programming Notes)

I'm clearing out the Notes app of all of my beers to be reviewed, so let's get to it!

Leading off is Unknown Brewing Company's latest in their traditional not-quite-anniversary releases, 3.5ish, celebrating 3 1/2 years of beer-making by Unknown. This time around, the Charlotte-based brewers made what is called a "gueze-inspired lambic". This beer comes in at 6.1% ABV, and pours a slightly hazy golden color. While the flavor profile is generally mild in potency, it leads with considerable pungent notes, including a whole lot of funk and perhaps some leather and even a bit of B.O. (yes...THAT B.O.). Other notes include a little bit of salt (expected for the style) and a moderate lemony sweetness that sits towards the back of the drinking experience. These Unknown "anniversary" beers are always a little bit out there, and this one is no different.

Immediately after the 3.5ish, I had 'Round the Riverbend from The Hourglass Brewery in Longwood, Florida. Riverbend was what was referred to as a "mixed-fermentation rye saison", and had enough similarities to the 3.5ish that I feel that something resembling palate fatigue may have affected my overall interpretation of this beer. This beer pours a crystal-clear straw gold, and like the 3.5ish is quite funky and pungent, also bringing tobacco and a musty note to the beer. Some hints of pepper and fruit (cherry or sour cherry?) are also present. I found this beer to be a bit overwhelming, but I am completely willing to chalk it up to the back-to-back drinking experiences.

For something completely different, we turn to Asheville's Highland Brewing Company and their limited release Hawaiian Lounge Juice Extra IPA. Highland was aiming for an IPA that was "deceptively drinkable" despite being 8% ABV. They did this by overloading it with tropical qualities, even to the point that I was picking up citrus rind and fruit leaves or greens in the aroma. These all carried through into the flavor profile and combined with the tropical hops to generate a moderate bite. The flavor profile also features plenty of fruits, including pineapple, mango, passion fruit, and even some sweet or candied orange. The tropicality extends into a juicy mouthfeel, as well.

Closing out this edition of BiR are two Hefeweizens.

Lonerider Brewery in Raleigh, NC seems to come and go from the Columbia, SC market, but I always find them to be a solid contribution when they're here. Their award-winning Shotgun Betty does an excellent of nailing the textbook modern Hefeweizen style. It brings a bit of banana, plenty of clove (along with lighter amounts of other spices like All Spice), and plenty of grain with a fairly light body. The bubblegum sweetness is also very much present but not overpowering with this beer. The review shows it: there's not a lot of flourish to Shotgun Betty, frankly, but there are few American offerings that better exemplify the style.

Finally, we turn to Charlotte's Olde Mecklenburg Brewery and their Hornet's Nest Hefeweizen. As expected, Hornet's Nest pours a completely cloudy straw color. The flavor profile leads with bubble gum and clove which are supported by banana, black pepper, and a few other spices. Just like Betty above, OMB nails the standard Hefe flavor notes, though I felt like I also detected a small amount of malty sweetness in their offering. Hornet's Nest also tends to be a bit more powerful, with bolder flavors (especially for the style) and a fairly heavy body. Still a really good Hefeweizen, though.

As a programming note, I leave for vacation on Friday, so posting will be minimal/sporadic. I'm heading to the Jersey shore again, and there are a couple of new breweries to check out. So, I'll have plenty of content for when I return Labor Day Weekend, and if WiFi allows, I might try to livestream something from a brewery or two. No promises on that last part, though. The best way to keep up with what's going on will be through the PRB Twitter and PRB Instagram accounts.

Thanks, everyone, and see you next week!

Beers in Review: PRB Goes Hypocrite???

So, needless to say, I spent a lot of time back in May talking about Wicked Weed Brewing and their assimilation by A-B InBev. Based on my comments, posts, and whatnot, one might think I was against this whole merger thing. And they'd be right! That said, I picked up a couple of bottles of Wicked Weed beers shortly after the merger. Because hypocrisy is how I roll! Really, though, I figured it was best to pick up a few bottles that I knew were made pre-merger, before the whole thing goes to crap. So, let's get to it!

Leading off is Napoleon Complex Hoppy Pale Ale (which, if considered broadly, is a very interesting name for a beer now). It's fairly sessionable at 5% ABV, and brings a nice balance to the table. Pouring a clear pale yellow to straw color, Napoleon's plenty of floral and aromatic hop notes, along with some mild pine. Reflecting the balance, malt notes are also present, with perhaps just a hint of caramel. There is also possibly a bit of citrus present, which may be pushing through more via a slightly juicy mouthfeel.

Next up is Pernicious, Wicked Weed's year-round IPA. Coming in at 7.3% ABV, Pernicious pours a hazy pale gold color. Leading the flavor profile are tropical fruits like mango and papaya. I also detected a small amount of grapefruit in there, as well. The back end has more resinous pine notes. Wicked Weed doesn't list IBU numbers on their website, but there was just a very mild amount of bitterness--typically I expect more bitterness from these flagship-type IPAs, but I'm not complaining. I also noted a highly carbonated and frothy mouthfeel in this particular bottle. Overall, Pernicious continues to be an excellent IPA. I hope it maintains that high level in the future.

Video Review: Sierra Nevada Beer Camp, Part 4

I'll be honest, guys--sometimes I live up to the "Pourly Reviewed" moniker. This is one of those times.

In today's video, I check out 2 more entries from Sierra Nevada's Beer Camp Across the World series. This pair of beers features collaborations with Houston's St. Arnold Brewing Company and Japan's Kiuchi Brewery!

Beers in Review: Catch-up

One Asheville-based brewery that always ends up flying below my personal beer radar is Hi-Wire Brewing. Typically, they don't end up being my first choice, which was my own personal mistake until the Craft and Draft birthday event, when I led off my afternoon of drinking with Hi-Wire's Citra-Hopped Gose. The ABV falls in line with most goses and sours at 4.2%, and it pours a fairly clear golden yellow color. As would be expected by the hop varietal used in dry-hopping, along with the style, citrus fruits lead the way in the flavor profile. Lemon and lime are the primary fruits, along with perhaps a hint of grapefruit. I was also getting a decent amount of what I thought was grassy or grainy notes. This gose is separated from most others in that there is almost zero sweetness and a very slight amount of saltiness. I found it to be a decent enough gose, but I would have liked to have seen SOME flavor aspect be bolder and move to the front, whether that means an increase in citrus flavors, or more saltiness, among other options. Still, an overall mild option isn't a terrible starter for an extended drinking session.

Next up is the Lime-a-Peno Blonde Ale from local brewer Swamp Cabbage Brewing Company. I got this despite my general distaste for pepper beers--there have been very few that I have legitimately liked. Still, I'm willing to give them continual chances, especially pepper beers from different breweries. Brewed with jalapenos AND lime (in case the name wasn't obvious), this 5% ABV Blonde brought a fairly clear pale yellow hue. I found plenty of green jalapeno in the aroma, and it followed into the flavor with plenty of pepper and other vegetal notes. Despite the peppers used, there was very little spiciness to the beer, which to me was surprising but not unwelcome (I find many pepper beers will overdo the spicy angle). A mild amount of citrus sweetness rounds out the flavor profile. I said I'm typically not a fan of pepper beers. I probably wouldn't call myself a fan of this one, either, but it's probably the closest I've been to legitimately enjoying such a style. So, a net win in my book for Swamp Cabbage.

Video Review: A Local Hop Bomb?

In today's video review, I check out a Red IPA from the local Swamp Cabbage Brewing Company. Check out my thoughts:

 

Also, stay tuned to www.twitter.com/pourlyreviewed THIS SATURDAY AFTERNOON for live updates from the Craft and Draft 3rd Birthday Party! The fun starts at noon, Eastern time! I'll have a full video recap after the event! (Also, come find me if you actually are in Columbia!)