Friday, August 22, 2014

#260: 21st Amendment Brewery » Monk's Blood (Belgian Strong Ale)

21st Amendment Brewery » Monk's Blood (Belgian Strong Ale)
ABV: 8.3% | IBUs: 34 | Rating: 9.2

Time to talk about a couple 21st Amendment seasonals. This brewery consistently issues some of the best artwork in the industry - boxes & cans alike. Monk's Blood is no exception, with a detailed yarn of the founders as rebellious monks. Humorous and worth a read, but the beer itself is no joke (ouch...).

The real story finds Nico Freccia and Shaun O’Sullivan traveling to Belgium, inspired by monks hardy, fasting beers, resulting in a stellar brew packed with candi sugar, cinnamon, vanilla bean, and figs all aged in oak.

This hefty brew rolls out with a big, fruity Belgian noise. Notes of fig are present, but they're not particularly sticky. Earthy aromas sneak in as well beside sweet hay, dried fruit - especially cherries, and a hint of vanilla; all augmenting a lively brown body of beer with fluffy brown head perched on top.

Past the eyes and nose, this one is a real treat for the palate. Lively carbonation and a medium-light body leads this one easy down at first, followed by a wave of spices, oak, and sweet vanilla flavors.

Dynamic, complex, and aromatic in it's flavors, this strong Belgian-style has wispy flips of sweet candied sugar and fig harboring deeper tones of earth, mild booze, and wonderful blooming esters.

Overall, Monk's Blood is a damn good beer and fully recommended.

Monday, August 18, 2014

#259: Founders » Dissenter (IIPL)

Founders » Dissenter (Imperial India Pale Lager)
ABV: 8.7% | IBUs: 70 | Rating: 9.2

I found myself lucky enough to enjoy Founders' latest Backstage Series on draft and bottles within a weeks time. At first, I thought an IPL was a bit lackluster for the series, compared to some of the jaw dropping creativity in previous editions, but then seeing the word 'Imperial' and that Founders' hadn't released a lager in twelve years... I trust those Michigan folks with what they're doing. And rightfully so.

A highly alluring plume of huge aromatic hops is apparent event from a distance, emitting from a translucent golden body and fluffy, fading, lacy head.

Grapefruit, pith, and grass notes are abound in the nose with a touch of resin.

For the bottle, the flavor is tight and bitter, even venturing into mildly astringent with it's dry finish. The body is light and quite lager-like, sporting a mild mouthcoat for such robust hop-forwardness.

Ongoing swarms of yellow grapefruit and tons of rind flavors delightfully pummel the palate with the very slightest flip of sweetness on the finish, that's just faintly apparent in the nose as well, reminiscent of mild honey.

On draft, the nose is a blend of juicy citrus and herbal notes in the nose followed up all smooth, hoppy, and spicy. Prickly carbonation kicks off each sip, then settling in, and drying in the far finish.

An excellent, well-balanced and unique hop experience that's not too punch-in-the-face. Worth checking out on draft and bottles.

#258: Sierra Nevada Beer Camp » Yvan The Great (Russian River Collaboration)

Sierra Nevada / Russian River » Yvan The Great (Belgian-style Blonde)
ABV: 6.3% | IBUs: 50 | Rating: 8.8

This one one of the top 3 beers in the Beer Camp box I was pumped for. Our here on the East Coast and especially Upstate NY, bottles of Russian River are hard to come by, outside of Sierra Nevada's other collab, Brux.

A hybrid brew featuring Belgian yeast and plethora of hops, this pale Blonde has a clear, golden-straw body topped with fizzy, lacy head.

Belgian spice and yeast flavors swirl with notes of peach skin and lemongrass, all wrapped in quick, prickly carbonation ending in a semi-dry mouthcoat and finish.

Crisp citrus hops follow with distinct orange notes and slight tropical flavors. Yvan The Great (reference to Yvan De Baets, of Brasserie De la Senne) is beamingly bright and grows a bit grassy.

I was lucky enough to have this on draft and bottle and the experience was for all intents and purpose identical. While I was hoping for something a bit more groundbreaking and adventuresome from Russian River, this is still one of the standouts of the box so far. Nothing that I'll plead to go year-round, but worth checking out on several occasions.

Friday, August 15, 2014

#257: Sierra Nevada Beer Camp » Electric Ray (Ballast Point Collaboration)

Sierra Nevada / Ballast Point » Electric Ray (Imperial Pale Lager)
ABV: 8.5% | IBUs: 70 | Rating: 8.9

I have to admit that I am enjoying this Lagers rebirth - from the staggering number of brews Jack's Abby is slinging, on to Founder's latest Backstage Series release (coming soon...). When I heard that two hop-forward Western U.S. breweries were collaborating on an IPL jacked with Cascade, Zues, Nugget, and Northern Brewer hops, it peaked interest for sure.

Electric Ray serves up with a fluffy, ivory head crowning a deep amber body with hot fumes of piney, spicy hop aromas. Quickly taking the first sip, this collaboration is damn tasty.

Firm, growing hop presence starts off the ride with a rising heat in the finish. Big, bursting citrus flavors weave with inferred notes of chili spice, all supported by a healthy malt backbone. Strong grapefruit and floral flavors continue throughout, but are never overwhelming.

Hot-hop, med-high booze India-Pale that's well balanced and done right.

#256: Sierra Nevada Beer Camp » Torpedo Pils (Firestone Walker Collaboration)

Sierra Nevada / Firestone Walker » Torpedo Pils (Czech Pilsener)
ABV: 5.2% | IBUs: 45 | Rating: 8.5

Next up, Sierra Nevada fills their Hop Torpedo with New Zealand hops for a hop-forward take on the Pilsner style.

Torpedo Pils kicks off with a bright, Euro-hop nose. It sparkling aromas of kumquat and a soft, grassy or herbal note that I can't quite put my finger on. Alluring none the less. All these fuming up from a translucent straw body topped with a fading, fuzzy white head.

Onto the palate, it's a swirl of soft flavors and mildly lively carbonation. Tender balance of tropical New Zealand hop notes with a wonderful ride of light malt sweetness in a flip on the finish. There's dry, zesty lemon notes up front, with a mild, soothing finish.

Overall, a solid, understated brew.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

#255: Ithaca Beer Co » Hopfenstopfen (Dry-hopped German-style) & Intensify Forward Firepower (Rye IPA)

Early in the week I stopped into the Ithaca Beer taproom to drop off posters for an upcoming show and got delightfully delayed in my errands by two tasty new brews. Oh, and they have a taco truck out back now. Tacos & beer and wide open spaces. This place keeps getting better. No taco pic, sry.

Hopfenstopfen (Dry-hopped, German-style) ABV: 4.8% | Rating: 8.9
I think some of my favorite Ithaca Beer brews are their hybrid-styles. This deep, transparent golden straw-colored beer (tasting glass) is brewed only with German hops - and I believe abiding by German purity 4-ingredient law, but then bastardized by dry-hopping with an extensive amount of American hops.

The result is that crisp, bitter, deeply refreshing that is remarkably German, amped with an aroma and boldness that is deeply American-style - but also not overly hopped. A good use of Euro hop character and exactly the beer to finish off a long day and start an enjoyable, but productive evening.

Intensify Forward Firepower (Rye IPA) | ABV: 7.9% | Rating: 8.6
Running counterpoint to Hopfenstopfen, Intensify Forward Firepower (yay! more Star Wars references) is a big, bold, booze of a beer. Dry, scorched rye flavors kick things off with a coarse and chalky mouthfeel that hangs around. Thick and mildy hazy, this Rye packs a punch with distinct earthy, herbal notes and firey booze heat. Another solid, strong 5-Barrel from IBeer.

#254: Sierra Nevada Beer Camp » Myron's Walk (Allagash collaboration)

Sierra Nevada / Allagash Brewing » Myron's Walk (Belgian-Style Pale Ale)
ABV: 5.3% | IBU: 38 | Rating: 7.9/10

On to box break bottle #2, we make our way north with Allagash - of which we'd just enjoyed their White the night before during our bottle share (pics soon), thanks to friends who'd just returned from New England.

This particular collaboration is a low IBU Belgian-Style pale brewed with coriander. Out to the glass, it's a hazy straw body topped with a finger of fluffy white head. The nose is quite soft, with a hint of citrus, yeast, and grape skin. It's aromatically mild for any Belgian-style, especially anything marked Sierra Nevada.

The taste at first was a bit polarizing and it wasn't entirely clear the direction they were aiming for with this collaboration. The hop bitterness clashed just slightly with the coriander, diminished further by a slight copper taste. The finish, dry and mildly piney, but still retaining some metallic notes.

Myron's Walk improved further through the bottle/glass with soft citrus esters rising in tandem with pleasant Belgian yeast notes, subtle lemon pith and a touch of grass.

Overall, an OK beer that is just a little too much Sierra Nevada and not enough Allagash. I had high hopes for this one that fell short. If this one shows up on draft, I'll give it another try for sure and report back.