Beers in Review: Conquest Brings It

A couple of beers from the darker side of the spectrum in today's BiR.

Leading off is Columbia, SC's own Conquest Brewing Company's Imperial Chocolate-Covered Cherry Porter. Now, this beer sounds like it could be a cloyingly sweet mess of a beer, but Conquest really made this work and delivered a terrific beer. The beer pours virtually pitch black and initially delivers a bit of an earthy note go along with a moderately sweet chocolate note. Now, I was impressed by the relative restraint of the sweetness in this beer--a sweet note is definitely significant, but is not even remotely close to overpowering, even despite the potentially sweet ingredients and a potential for some sweetness coming from the 9.2% ABV. There is just a hint of a cherry note; it was present, but I certainly could have used more, personally. There is a slight bite and maybe a hint of smokiness at the very end of the drinking experience and carrying over into the aftertaste. In addition, it gets a tad boozy as it warms. Really, not surprising given that alcohol level. But this is the best offering I've had from Conquest, and it's not even close.

Next up is a core beer from Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery in Farmville, NC, their Brown Ale. As expected, this beer has a powerful malt profile, using seven different malt varieties, but the strong hop additions (including Amarillo and Saaz hops) are unique to a brown ale. This Duck-Rabbit offering pours deep brown with cola highlights and has an ABV of 5.6%. I found the hops to push through a little bit with just a hint of hop bite, but the malt backbone and profile still manage to make a strong showing in this beer. It is a rich beer, with some chocolate notes. A caramel hint is also present among toasted malts and just a little bit of nuttiness. Duck-Rabbit deviates from the norm a little bit, but still puts out a very good brown ale.

Beers in Review: Heavy Hitters

I've got some big beers queued up for this review, so let's get started.

We start off with Thomas Creek Brewery and their Bourbon Barrel-Aged Quad, using Four Roses Bourbon barrels. This beer pours a deep brown and is quite hazy. The leading flavor is a whole lot of sugar, almost to the point of being sickly sweet, with notes of chocolate and dark fruits. Also, there was something in there I couldn't quite identify, flavor-wise, but it was almost making my lips pucker, as if there were some kind of sour or bitter note, but I detected neither. I would imagine such a note would speak loud and clear against the sweet notes, unless they were buried incredibly deep by that sweetness. Checking in at 10% ABV, the boozy note also pushes pretty hard. Despite those last couple of things, this was a damn tasty beer.

Next up is Sacred Heartier Double IPA from Columbia's own Conquest Brewing Company. Another big time beer, but it a totally different way from the Quad, obviously. The beer is a pretty orange color and quite clear. It is possible my palate was a bit skewed from the Quad, but this DIPA wasn't as sweet/boozy as I find most in the style to be. I was not bothered by this at all, as I enjoyed the solid hop presence that brought pine notes and a hint of citrus to the flavor profile. I haven't always been big on Conquest--I find them to be inconsistent, generally--but this was quite the hit for me. I just hope it's the same the next time I try it.

Finally, from Founders Brewing Company is the world-class Breakfast Stout. It's very nearly pitch black in color, with a mild boozy note (ABV 8+%) and some dark fruit. The Stout also brought a little bit of coffee and a slight-but-delightful chocolate brownie note that came through in the end of the drinking experience AND EVEN MORESO in the aftertaste. This beer has a considerable reputation, and it stood up to that reputation in my eyes.

So, this finally marks the end of all my beer reviews from the Craft and Draft Octoberfest party. I tried to save the best for last, but the truth is that virtually everything I had at this event was excellent. I look forward to this being an annual event curated by the great guys at C & D!


Sunday Funday on the Columbia Brew Bus (with a brand new brewery!)

So, as anyone who regularly reads this blog knows, Sunday is pretty regularly a blogging day for me. Needless to say, that didn't happen, as I participated in the Columbia Brew Bus's monthly Sunday Funday brewery tour. As an additional bonus, this was CBB's first tour to include the newly-opened Twisted Spur Brewery and Restaurant. More on them later. The tour started at 2pm with pick-up in downtown Columbia, providing transportation to Columbia's 3 commercial breweries--Conquest, River Rat, and Swamp Cabbage, before finishing up at Twisted Spur. At each location, we were provided with 4-4oz samples of each brewery's beer, along with the option to purchase additional pints and also beer to go (growlers or bottles) at cost. Per the guys running the tour, it seemed like this tour is targeted for about 4 hours total, but we blew well past that, not leaving Twisted Spur until 8pm. This was not a problem for me, but just be prepared for some extra time, especially if they continue to include a 4th touring location.

As I've had and written about the first three breweries in this blog previously, I will write about the breweries themselves while only mentioning highlights of the beers I had. This was my first time ever at Conquest and Swamp Cabbage, and my first time spending any meaningful time at River Rat. It was nice, in part, to finally learn where Conquest and Swamp Cabbage are located.

Our first stop was Conquest. They are located in an industrial building (all of these commercial breweries are located in industrial areas near the university's Williams-Brice Stadium) with a very nice bar area along with additional seating and space adjacent to their production area, as well as some outdoor space with picnic tables. The most notable of their four beers were the Coffee IPA, which I reviewed previously, and their Drinking Class Ale. This beer is in the style of an ESB (Extra Special Bitter), but uses some different ingredients for a very different taste. I can't describe it much, really (nice job from a beer blogger, right?), except to say it was very enjoyable but tasted unlike any ESB I've had before.

River Rat Brewery has a decent bar and sitting room, along with a decent amount of grassy outdoor space. They seem to be the most social of the commercial breweries--public areas away from the production space, frequent events like yesterday's charity cornhole tournament (though the other breweries are doing their share of events), and plenty of overall social space. The beer highlight was their collaboration with developing Greenville, SC brewery Birds Fly South, called Touch of Grey. This was listed as an Oatmeal IPA with citrusy notes, but the first thing I was getting was piney and dank hop notes. Now, make no mistake, the citrus was sneaky, always hanging around, but never quite the main feature of the flavor profile. It had very little bitterness, which was nice for a warm Columbia day.

The third brewery was Swamp Cabbage, which has a couple of small sitting areas featuring small bar, along with a very nice deck and open outdoor space beside the production area. A couple of the beers I had had before, of course, but their Peach Pale Ale was a new one for me. The peach flavor was present but generally pretty mild and the beer had a bit of a bitter finish. The SC Stout was also quite good, but the Peach Pale was a better match to the warm day.

Finally, we ended up at Twisted Spur for the final beer flights and some food. I just had an appetizer--chips with blue cheese, cheese sauce, bacon, and balsamic vinegar--and it was very good. In fact, our group of 20 ordered a considerable amount of the menu, and enjoyed most or all of it. Getting to the beers, first was their Southern Belle Blonde, which had a hint of white grape along with some mild crackery notes and a bit of a floral finish. Next was the Dead Head Red, a nicely balanced beer that is a little more hop-forward than most reds. It had mild malt and fruit notes with a decent bite. Third was their Hefeweisen, a very solid execution of the style, with notes of bananas, cloves and other spices along with maybe a hint of bread. Finally, we had the IPA, which hint several nice hop notes with very little bite. Overall, all of these beers were solid executions of their styles, and I look forward to seeing what else they can do as they get more comfortable with their venture (the space has only been open for a week).

With this, the Brew Bus returned us to our original location. Given the potential amount of beer that one can drink on these Brew Bus tours, I strongly urge consideration of a cab or Uber to and from the meet-up point. This was my first Columbia Brew Bus tour, and I would certainly be interested in doing one again in the future. Thanks, guys!

Beers in Review: With two holiday-appropriate beers

With St. Patrick's Day just passed, and the big festival held here in Columbia yesterday, some of today's beers are still themed to the holiday, including the longtime Irish standard.

Leading off with a beer released by the local Conquest Brewing in honor of the holiday and the annual festival held in Columbia. Ol' Ossifer is a very low ABV (just 3.7%, lower than Budweiser or Bud Light) amber ale obviously intended to be able to drink all day during the St. Pat's festival. It pours a gold to reddish color, and didn't have a lot of body for me, though I may have been influenced by past beers I drank that night. Interestingly, the first note was some hops, with included floral and piney notes for me. This eventually leads to grainy, biscuity notes towards the end, along with maybe something a little smoky, but I again wonder if my palate was influenced to misinterpret a toasty malt note or something.

Next up is the St. Patrick's Day standard: Guinness Draught Stout. Now, in line with our disclaimer, I must mention that this beer was provided at no cost as a result of one being poured in error at a local watering hole. At this point, the beer either would have been given away or dumped. So, that was a free beer for me. Guinness is a pretty straight-forward stout with pretty strong flavors. They include primarily roasted malt. I also got some hints of coffee, and some very feint chocolate notes. This beer came from a nitrogen tap, just like the Murphy's Stout from this week's video review, so the beer was very smooth and creamy when drinking.

Finally, one of Sierra Nevada's newest offerings: Otra Vez gose. Flavors include sweet grapefruit and pear, leading into an increased sourness and some mild, but not overpowering, saltiness. The sourness continues to linger, turning into a tingly feeling on the tongue that continues after drinking. Putting it all together, with the specific flavors and fairly mild saltiness, this gose almost plays like a grapefruit soda instead of a beer. It's a very different year-round offering from Sierra Nevada, but one that could do well as a summer beer.

Beers in Review: Plus a programming note for next week

Three very different beers to discuss today. Let's get to it.

Vienna Lagers are not necessarily the most diverse of beer styles, but Devils Backbone Brewing Company is delivering on the style in a big way, having won multiple awards over the last several years. Their Vienna Lager pours a deep gold, and doesn't have a whole lot of body. Mild grain notes are accompanied by a great malt sweetness and some toasted notes. As expected, it is also very crisp on the palate and in the finish.

Next up, we try the Medusa Stout from Columbia's own Conquest Brewing Company. Pouring pitch black and having a good amount of body, you find many of the typical stout notes present: mild amounts of chocolate, some roasted coffee, some dark maltiness. There was also some bitterness present, but that tended to dissipate as it warmed. It had a pretty clean finish, but a bit of a smoky aftertaste or breathiness after drinking.

Finally, Terrapin Beer Company's session IPA, RecreationAle (not a typo). It's a pale gold color, has a moderate amount of body, and I find the flavors to be largely pretty mild. Citrus hops and a good amount of hop bitterness lead the way in sipping this beer. There is a bit of a fruity bite later on, along with something grainy as well. As a Session IPA, it's a relatively low ABV beer that would be best enjoyed quite cold on a summer day.

So, St. Patrick's Day is a big deal here in Columbia, South Carolina. We have a festival that draws 40,000 or more downtown to enjoy a big street fair, including 4 big stages of music, a parade, kids' carnival, and more. In the spirit of St. Pat's, check out 4 different Irish beer reviews next week, from Monday the 13th through St. Patrick's Day on Thursday. At least one of these will be a video review. That will all start Monday!

Columbia Craft Beer Week, Day 5: Conquest Coffee IPA

We have another offering from Conquest Brewing Company, in the form of their Coffee IPA. It pours a gold-orange color--frankly, I expected something darker, considering this is a beer brewed with coffee. Aroma-wise, I was getting a lot of hops. Flavor-wise, I was pleased to find a much better balance. The coffee is certainly present, but not overpowering, and blends well with citrusy hop flavors. A hint of sweetness finishes off the sip.

Columbia Craft Beer Week, Day 2: Conquest Der Alte Fritz

We continue the reviews for Columbia Craft Beer Week with the one local brewery I have yet to mention in this blog: Conquest Brewing Company and what they call their "dark rye brown". Der Alte Fritz is probably my preferred choice from Conquest. It pours a solid brown and has a light-to-medium body. It's a pretty standard brown ale, with lots of malt flavor and and a mild amount of sweetness, but also featuring a hint of pepper and some other spiciness coming out of the rye. The malt elements tend to be much more prevalent than the rye components, but it makes for a tasty beer.