Beers in Review: A Red of a Different Color

Leading things off is Charleston’s Revelry Brewing Company and their American Amber Ale, which is simply called Red. Now, I’m presuming this is a Revelry limited release—the website doesn’t even acknowledge the beer’s existence, and the only web presence I could find of Red was through Untappd, the beer-logging app/website. Even there, there was no ABV or IBU data to be had, so let’s just forge ahead. The beer pours just like an Amber Ale: a clear orange-gold color, and it had a pretty heavy mouthfeel. The flavor profile was as expected, with malty caramel and dark sugar notes, and maybe even some dark chocolate, as well. I was not a fan of the finish. I found it surprisingly bitter, which is fairly out-of-style and put me off on the beer, a bit.

If you’ve read this blog with any regularity, you are well aware of my love for Highland Brewing Company. One of their newer year-round offerings is the sessionable Daycation IPA. Coming in at just 4.9% ABV and 40 IBU, Highland brought a varied malt profile, including rye and oats, to create a balanced, quaffable Session IPA. It pours a cloudy, golden straw color, and I felt floral notes were really at the forefront of the tasting experience. Other flavors included moderate citrus and mild spicy and herbal notes. The finish featured a slight hop bite, but was otherwise fairly clean.

Beers in Review: Holiday Rapid Fire

Christmas is fast-approaching, with the official start of Winter approaching even faster. With that in mind, I thought I’d throw down some quick thoughts on a handful of recent seasonal beers that I’ve had.

Highland Cold Mountain Spiced Ale-Highly enjoyable. As someone who does not necessarily care for many of this season’s beers, which can be overly sweet, I find Cold Mountain had a terrific balance of sweetness, spice, and other usual notes (like vanilla and dark fruits).

River Rat Winter Warmer-Not bad overall, though I felt like I was drinking the can a little bit in the one I had. Nice sweet and spice levels, though.

Abita Office Party-Abita’s limited-release Holiday Stout—they also have. Again, not bad overall (better than my River Rat experience). Quite mild overall. Not a lot of sweetness, and spices are present but not overpowering. That puts it right in my wheelhouse, hypothetically. It just needs…something…to be great.

I also had the Sweetwater Festive Ale, but that was a while ago, and it made so little impression that I can’t really recall anything, other than I wasn’t overly impressed. Take that for what you will.

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: Triple Play

With my seemingly endless blog posts about Wicked Weed and AB-InBev, I seem to have pushed nearly everything else aside. But now, the big news has passed, and we can start getting back to normal. My BiR list is so backed-up that today I will bring you not two, but THREE entries! Let's dive in!

First up is a collaboration between Charlotte's Unknown Brewing Company and Greenville, SC's Birds Fly South Ale Project. 10-Minute Vacation is a lager (4.3% ABV) flavored with Muscadine grapes and dry-hopped with Mosaic and Equinox hops. The pale yellow lager with a light-to-medium body brings a mild sweetness coming from the grapes that ramps up as the lager warms. The grapes and the sweetness from them really serve to smooth out a great deal of what would be pretty considerable grainy notes and hop bite. Both of these things do still exist, but are knocked down in intensity, with the grains being found earlier in the drinking experience, while the hop bite comes through at the very end.

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery is famous for its 60-, 90-, and 120-minute IPAs, and makes a number of other quality brews, but Raison D'Extra is something else. A ramped-up version of their Raison D'Etre Belgian-style Dark Ale, D'Extra comes in at a massive 16-18% ABV! I had the opportunity to try the 2014 version recently, and the booze notes, while present, are surprisingly downplayed in a mid-teens ABV beer. Pouring a cloudy icea tea color, D'Extra is dominated by raisins, cherries, plums, and other dark fruits. There is a fair amount of sweetness, along with some tobacco notes, and some other spiciness (perhaps cinnamon?). I got a small sample (4 oz.) of this beer, and it was really good, but I wouldn't want too much more than that sample glass. I could see it becoming overwhelming.

Finally, I went back to one of my old favorites, Highland Brewing Company, and St. Terese's Pale Ale. It pours a clear golden color, has a medium-to-heavy body, and comes in at 5.1% ABV. Lots of different hop flavor notes are present in this Pale Ale, including lots of citrus, some grassy or leafy notes, and a bit of pine. There is also a slight sweetness and some bready malt notes, along with the slightest hop bite. I found this to be a really enjoyable pale ale, as I've come to expect from Highland.

Video Review: Highland Mandarina IPA

I wanted to get one last post up before I head out on vacation. More on that both below AND in the video. But please check out this Mandarina IPA (which works out because it is, apparently, IPA Day) from Highland Brewing Company:


On Friday, I'm headed to the Jersey shore for a week, so posting will be minimal, as I won't have my laptop and WiFi may be sporadic. I will be checking out plenty of local/regional beers, including Cape May Brewing Company, and hope to make a video or two to accompany my drinking experiences. If WiFi permits, I will upload something to YouTube during the week. Otherwise, I'll have lots to talk about when I get back next weekend. Cheers, everybody! See ya when I see ya!

Beers in Review: Asheville-Best of Highland and Frog Level, plus Pour Taproom

Today will conclude the Asheville series with some of the highlights from Highland Brewing Company and Frog Level Brewing.

But before that, there was one other location I wanted to mention again, and that's Pour Taproom. Pour has two locations in the Carolinas and one in California, and they have a concept that I absolutely love. You are given a pint glass and an radio frequency tracker. You touch the tracker to the beer label above any of 30-40 accessable taps, then fill your pint glass with as much or as little beer as you like--the RF tracker tallies how many ounces you pulled. Once you're done drinking, you turn in the tracker which has kept track of ounces pulled of each beer AND the price PER OUNCE per beer, and you pay your bill. It's a fantastic concept, because you can just try a couple of ounces of beer for a dollar or less, or just pour a half of something high gravity/high alcohol without wasting beer. They had a good mix of beers too: locals, domestic crafts, import crafts, Belgians, ciders.

Now, onto Highland Brewing Company.


One highlight of this visit was their Warrior Series Mosiac Rye IPL, about which I did a video review already. We had an additional beer from the Warrior Series, the Tasgall II Scotch Ale, which was sweet and mildly boozy (checking in at 8% ABV). There were cherry and dark fruit notes and a slight boozy aftertaste. We also checked out their summer seasonal, the Early's Hoppy Ale, which had a slight graininess followed by nice tropical hop notes, along with some pine and maybe a hint of citrus. This was a really nice summer beer. I had also noticed that Highland was starting to join the wave of breweries that are canning instead of bottling beer. I don't know if that will be for certain releases, or if they are doing a wholesale transition.

Finally, on Monday, before heading home, I stopped at Frog Level. After grabbing a sampler of beers I had never had before (we only tend to get their top core beers here in Columbia), I took my tray outside and treated myself to this view:

A porch in the woods overlooking a stream. Absolutely beautiful.

Some notables from Frog Level included their summer seasonal, a Raspberry Shandy with mild berry and some grainy notes. I found it to be very smooth to drink and mild overall (to the point that I could have used a little more raspberry fruitiness, and I tend to not be a fruit beer guy). It's a very solid summer beer, though.

They also had a unique brown ale called Smokin' Joe Brown. I had had their Nutty Brunette, which I believe is also supposed to be a brown. Smokin' Joe sets itself apart with its cherry wood-smoked hops. A smoky and roasty note comes through in this beer, along a hint of cocoa and some nice malty sweetness.

Another beer I had never had before was their Shell Back IPA. It was a hazy orange color, with tons of citrusy notes, including orange and assorted citrus rinds. I found it to have a pretty juicy mouthfeel with a mild hop kick at the very end and in the aftertaste. With so much juicy citrus and so little hoppiness, it almost played like a wheat beer.

Some other beers I tried there included a chile beer called Cinco Ranas Picante made with local peppers, including Carolina reapers. I just can't get in to chile beers. I also had their Catcher In The Rye Red, which was fairly light with a nice malt-hop balance, and the Tadpole Porter, which was solid and tasty, but I didn't drink much of, for assorted reasons.

So, this concludes my "brief" rundown of my trip to Asheville, NC. To be honest, it probably could have been another couple of installments, but we'll move on to some non-Asheville beers later this week. Also, coming tomorrow (Monday) will be a video review from Paulaner Brauhaus, who have been making beer for roughly 500 years!

Beers in Review: Abita, Highland, Stone

There are some very interesting beers coming up on the blog this week, via both the written and visual mediums. Let's get to it!

A local watering hole I visited on Saturday looked to have an Abita Brewing Company tap takeover this past week. I don't know if that stemmed from Mardi Gras earlier in the month or what, but the Abita Amber was still on tap, so I decided that would be a good opener. Pretty straight forward with good flavor for an amber ale. I detected a bit of a grainy note early on, but this quickly resolved into maltiness. There were also some very mild sweet and caramel notes throughout. Pretty crisp and, again, fairly straight forward overall.

Next up is Highland Brewing Company's St. Terese's Pale Ale. It's a little milder, hop-wise, compared to their Kashmir and the seasonal Devil's Britches IPAs. Mild dank hops were present throughout when taking a sip. Eventually, the malts come forward a bit, and there are some fruity or sweet notes towards the end, making a decent balance as you take a sip. Maybe something grainy or toasty there, as well, but it's very faint.

The final beer for this entry is Xocoveza, originally another collaboration by Stone Brewing, along with their Homebrew Competition winner Chris Banker and Mexico's Cerveceria Insurgente in late 2014. Xocoveza (which is fun to say, but a pain to type) proved so popular that Stone brought it back late last year. It's popularity is well-founded--this was an incredibly complex beer. A Mocha Stout, I found Xocoveza on Nitrogen locally. The result was a beer that poured pitch black with a creamy head. The mix was beautiful. The aromas were incredibly powerful coming off of this stout: a bit of cocoa, lots of coffee, and the coffee note played heavily in the flavor, where it came off as a very dark roast, almost to the point of burnt bitterness. It toed this line very carefully, but was partially saved by quite sweet vanilla and especially chocolate notes. When combined with the super-fine foamy head caused by the Nitrogen, the end result was this almost drinking like a milkshake! Very tasty with tons of flavor.

Coming up in this week's video review: Westbrook's 5th Anniversary Stout! Coming early this week!

Beers in Review: Beers from New Belgium and Highland

Just a reviews of a couple of beers I ahd this week.

First off is New Belgium's Long Table. It has the standard farmhouse ale sweetness, but also features pretty prominent notes of toasted bread or grains. It makes for a bit of an interesting balance, as the grains kind of put me in a Pilsner state of mind. But that saison/farmhouse fruitiness is fairly prominent, and tends to hang around the palate quite a bit after the sip.

Highland Brewing Company is one of my favorite regional breweries. I could drink their Gaelic Ale forever and probably not get tired of it. Like the Long Table above, Highland's Lost Cove APA also evoked some Pilsner-like feelings. This beer had some mild hop bitterness, but nothing overpowering, along with a nice citrusy bite. (Undoubtedly caused by the hop strains used in this beer, the bitterness and citrus came out in two separate stages of the mouth experience.) The finish went Pilsnery (a word I just made up), with prominent crackery malt notes.