Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Samuel Smith's Organic Chocolate Stout

I saw Samuel Smith's Organic Chocolate Stout over at Total Wine a few days ago and had an argument with myself as to whether I'd ever tried it. I correctly convinced myself it must be a new beer for them, though I don't know much more than I've never had it. The label shows a branch and seeds from Theobroma cocao, the lovely tree we get cocoa and chocolate from. On the back, a little story to set your expectations. This beer is Soil Association Organic and USDA Organic, a topic I've been learning about.

Beautiful milky sweet aroma. Cocoa powder rushes into your nose. Light caramel and butterscotch too, a delicious smell. Chocolate flavors ride in on the creamiest, milkiest texture ever. Decadent! You will, however, notice right away that there is a decent amount of hoppy balance and this beer isn't overly sweet.

Caramel, hints of coffee, and a light roast with smoke. A little flat with a decent body, though I wouldn't have minded a few more bubbles and increased heftiness. A little alcohol dryness on the finish which surprised me a little considering the 5.0% mark in this beer. Very good. Check it out!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Cayman Jack Margarita

Not a beer today. Instead Cayman Jack Hand-Crafted Margarita Premium Malt Beverage. This is another oddity from the great Ed Roberts. According to the pounder can, this is "arguably the world's most refreshing Margarita". Made by American Vintage Beverage Co. in Rochester, LaCrosse or Memphis. I've had some kick ass Margaritas in my life, so let's check out this pre-made batch.

No Margarita glass that I could easily find, so I poured it into my Westie XII glass. Lime aroma, sugary. Smells like a Margarita. Limes taste fresh. Not overly sweet, at least in the beginning. Carbonation is prickly, not necessarily a real Margarita characteristic, but welcome nonetheless. A bit sugary after half the can, and the sweetness starts to build.

The 5.9% alcohol is noticeable but probably not enough to offer the kick of a real Margarita. Very nice for a mix. I'd consider it to avoid all the work in making fresh Margaritas, depending on who was coming over for a visit. Plus that douche at Publix today bought EVERY lime in the rack. Seriously, like 200 of them, as a guess. I bet his party kicks ass!

If you liked this review and you shop at Amazon, do me a favor and click one of the products below. Any purchase you make following that initial click helps me out as an affiliate.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Double-Wide India Pale Ale

When I was on vacation last month in Colorado, I spent a good part of my evenings sucking down Boulevard Brewery's Pale Ale and Single-Wide IPA. When I got back to Florida, I coincidentally entered into a beer trade with one of Boulevard's brewers, with this Double-Wide India Pale Ale coming my way as part of it. I decided to lead with the biggest beer, but to also include the notes and pictures I took for its little brothers below.

So Double-Wide is a trailer, but don't worry and "Relax, It's Twister Proof". The story on the back lets you know to expect hops on a level that will rip the roof off, plus some other insights. Beautiful color! Best By 10/15/13.

Soft fruity apricot and peach aroma with caramel and hoppy undertones. Rich, sweet caramel flavors come out swinging. Those are then balanced by some sharp and astringent lemony citrus bitterness. The 8.5% alcohol is a bit boozy midstream, but I like the way it brings out some honey and fruity sweetness.

The hoppy bitterness gradually grows with some citrus rinds very prominent. Carbonation is medium and the body is big and chewy, almost like a meal. Finish is dry. Enjoyable and flavorful and pretty potent. Grab a few!

Boulevard Pale Ale

Light hoppy spice with lemon astringency. Refreshing bitterness. Nice doughy balance with caramel. Dry at finish.

Boulevard Single-Wide IPA

Lemon and grapefruit rind bitterness meets some sweet orange and bread. Similar to the pale ale, just turned up on the hoppy bitterness. Nice flavors.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

B/A/Y/S Imperial Stout Ghost 003

Wife and kids to the beach? Sweet! I just opened Adroit-Theory's B/A/Y/S Imperial Stout Ghost 003. (B/A/Y/S stands for Black As Your Soul). This is the same beer as the one I reviewed last month, except that it is aged in Woodinville Whiskey Bourbon Barrels. You should totally go read about this brewery and their planned launch and some of the stories behind the beer over on that other review. I'm not going to rehash everything again today.

But as I mentioned, this is a bourbon barrel aged version of Ghost 002, which was brewed with chestnut staves, hazelnuts and cherries. Same awesome label art on the 375mL corked and caged bottle. The only distinguishing feature was the sticker over the cork identifying the beer inside. I got bottle 45 of 100. 

Excellent chocolate aroma with a light roast, cherry nuances and a huge whiff of whiskey. Sweet chocolate flavors are prominent in the beginning with some flavorful coffee coming through for support. Some spirited whiskey is noteworthy, adding a punch to the beer while knocking down some of the initial sweetness. A little in your face, but not hot. Silky smooth texture and feel in the mouth. 

Cherry and nutty nuances exist along with a bit of smokey, ashy flavor. Some dry woodiness stands out at the end. Nice beer. I like the aging addition to the base beer, though I feel it was a bit overwhelming by the end of the bottle. I've been know to trash bourbon barrel aged beers and opt for originals before, so if that's your style, you'll love this. And I did, just not as much as Ghost 002! Try it when you can. (June 2013, hopefully).

Monday, April 22, 2013

Pete Brown Tribute Ale

Today I decided to give this bomber of Bear Republic's Pete Brown Tribute Ale a try. This beer was brewed to honor Pete Brown, a beloved sales manager for the brewery. The label has a thumbnail of Pete and a few other banners to pay tribute. It notes his years of 1949-2002, has a giant "27" in a star (I couldn't find the meaning. Anyone?), and ends with an "In Loving Memory" streamer. On the side of the label are a few clues about what you should expect from this brown ale in addition to some of the philosophies of the brewery.

The aroma is rich and sweet and full of brown sugar and nuttiness. The sweet brown sugar continues in the flavor profile and is joined by some great chocolate flavors. Wow, this is a pretty hoppy beer too. I'm a little surprised just how hoppy. There is a nice light roast and the 6.3% alcohol adds a little zing, feeling more like an 8 or 9% beer.

Rich malty flavors have some complexities in the background. Vanilla nuances and hints of coffee and just a tad of burnt malt find their way in. Creamy texture, very smooth. Tasty and enjoyable in every way. I hope that someone brews a beer in my honor when I die! And if it's as good as this...

Saturday, April 20, 2013

By The Glass Show: Green Flash Brewing Spotlight

Thursday night's By The Glass Show featured San Diego's Green Flash Brewing Company. I was invited in studio to balance out the IPA appreciator to hater ratio, considering the reputation Green Flash has with the style and the tasting lineup. We were joined in studio by SE Regional Sales Representative Jeff Croy, who did a fantastic job answering questions and talking about his beers.

Green Flash is newly distributed to South Florida, within the past few months. I had previously traded for their beers or had a traveling coworker bring some back from business trips. So it's nice that I don't need to do that anymore. Before you ask, the Green Flash name has nothing to do with superheroes; rather, supposedly, there is a green flash from the sun just before it sets.

Jeff ran us through the history of the brewery and how the owners had their now-famous West Coast IPA reinvented with a new recipe back in 2002. One of my guest posters from a few years ago echoed Jeff's words in his own eloquent way. (You should totally read that post!) That restart and ten years of success have driven the brewery almost to capacity, to the point that Green Flash has announced that they will build a new brewery in Virginia Beach, to be completed around January, 2015.

Hold on. I forgot to tell you that I interrupted the show after just 3.5 minutes to get started drinking. After all, we had five beers to get through. We started with Saison Diego. Everyone loved the bouquet and high drinkability. Lemony, spicy ginger, low alcohol, tasty.

Our next beer, Hop Head Red IPA garnered some of the most interesting comments of the evening. From Jason's "looks like a pack of cigarettes was put out in a bucket of water" to Brett's "cat piss" aroma analysis, we were all set. Personally, I love the bitterness and malty caramel balance. Quite resinous as well. Jason concluded that Hop Head Red "takes you on an adventure" and he snagged one of the extra bottles of it on the way out! Jeff said it's a best seller in Florida.

Next up, West Coast IPA. I love the citrus and grapefruit flavors that this has. Bright, crisp, dry finish. Really great. No sooner than I wrote those notes down than Dave Adams, Green Flash's Tasting Room Manager, called in. We told him what we were drinking and he pretty much repeated everything I had written down, like he was reading my notes: "citrus, grapefruit, dry" Yep! Listen if you don't believe me.

But Dave had some other fun info and stories. He talked about some of their tasting room only beers and barrel aged beers. Silver Stout, their Double Stout aged in whisky barrels for 1.5 years? Mmmm. How about their Flanders style side project? Yeah, me too.

Brett wrapped up the interview and I cracked open the Imperial IPA. Hoppy, intense, yet with an awesome orange and malty balance. Creamy texture. But the anti-hop gang didn't agree. They were sports and tried it though. Jorge said, "this beer insists upon itself!" Very astute!

Finally, with a few minutes left in the show, we opened up some Double Stout Black Ale. Excellent roasty bitterness and good smoky flavors. Jorge loved this one, noting the molasses and chewy texture.

As usual, I had a great time. Love Green Flash Beers! I asked Jeff for something really interesting to end this story with. I noted that I thought their labels were extremely lackluster and boring. That's when Jeff said that each beer has art posters associated with them and that there are some new marketing people and initiatives in the works. He didn't promise anything but I'm hoping for some distinguished labels for these awesome beers!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Sculpin IPA -- Galileo's Bane Guest Post

You guys remember when Darren did that guest review of Dogfish's Palo Santo Marron, right? Well he's back to tell you about another classic beer. Check it out and then go check out his blog!

Ballast Point, Sculpin IPA 

It's a great story for a beer!  The overview for this IPA quickly caught my attention...talking about the homebrewing roots of Ballast Point, and how Sculpin India Pale Ale won Gold in 2010 at the World Beer Cup.  The story continues by talking about the fish, saying "the Sculpin fish has poisonous spikes on its fins that can give a strong sting.  Ironically, the meat from a Sculpin is considered some of the tastiest. Something that has a sting but tastes great, sounds like a Ballast Point India Pale Ale."  The story is quite intriguing and the graphics on this IPA support this well.  An angry (might say bitter) looking fish is swimming along the bottom of the sea.  Its golden and orange colors foretell what is to be found inside the bottle.

This beer pours with a nice golden color and slightly off white head.  I sensed citrus in the aroma, and some pine too (not the fruitiness described on their site, but that may just be me).  The taste is nice, with a full mouthfeel.  I sense a high quality malt base.  It's bitter, but well rounded.  It wasn't the hop bomb I'd expect from a west coast brewery. Seems well balanced.

At 7% ABV and 70 IBUs, this beer could almost qualify as an "Imperial IPA."  Drinking it, I thought it was.  Lots of flavor and a beer that you want to drink slowly to savor the experience.  The only disappointment I could identify was a fairly weak finish...and this isn't even a big deal.

Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits is out of San Diego, CA, and must have only recently begun to be distributed in Central Florida.  Starting out as homebrewing and then opening a brew shop, this company seems to exemplify the American Dream, and their website is worth checking out.

I decided to check out more about this sculpin fish (curiouser and curiouser).  I was a little disappointed to find the articles not boasting about the wonderful flavor of this fish.  Bitter poisonous exterior, wonderful flavor on the inside...sounded very nice.  Edible, correct.  A delicacy, maybe not so much.  But it does make for good marketing, and I'm not going to blame them a bit on that point.

Ballast point has another IPA in their school of beers (yes all fish themed), the Big Eye IPA.  It was actually a toss up for me between the two at the store.  Sculpin was more expensive (and they had a single on the shelf).  Both have 7% ABV, and Big Eye's IBUs calculate to 75.  I'll look forward to that one some day.

We can surely give a hand to Ballast Point for taking a seemingly boring fish (I know next to nothing about fish) and making it into a nice IPA.

Darren U, April 2013

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Juliet 2012

Today I checked out the second of the Vintage Ladies beers that Indy Marie sent me last month. Yep, after enjoying Goose Island's Lolita a few weeks ago, Juliet is having her day! The 650mL bottle presentation is simple, yet sexy and elegant, with a purple script written Juliet. (Yes, I know their website says it's bottled in 765mL bottles, and I've already requested the 115mL balance I was shorted. Seriously, I did, and I'll let you know if I get a reply.) [Update: I got a reply about a week later asking to prove I'm 21, which I did. LOL. That was over a week ago. I guess my request was difficult.]

[Update 2: I got my answer-->they recently upped the volume from 650 to 765 and my bottle didn't make the cut. However, I got a bunch of nonsense in the answer too. I mean, I never said anything about not liking the bigger packaging? And what do "teams" have to do with anything. Confusing. I also love that they apparently only have one customer as well (ask how I know if you must).

Goose Island: "First, I wanted to apologize if you were not a fan of our new 765ml teams. We recently decided to increase the bottle size from 650ml to 765ml. Our team is always looking for our customer’s feedback, so I will be sure to pass this over to our packaging team. Comments like these help us when moving forward."

OK, so the label lets you know that this is a Belgian Style Ale aged in wine barrels with blackberries and that it can develop for up to five years in the bottle. Mine has been developing over a year, bottled 01/26/12 1213. 

Very berry forward aroma, though it remains soft and not very powerful. Light vinegary tart scents keep teasing you, because you already know this is gonna BLAM the hell out of your taste buds!

Yep! Hello tart berries! And I love those berries. They remind me of picking blackberries in my grandparents' back yard as a kid. So yeah, this is tart. The vinegary, acidic, wine-like pop is really in your face. But you do get used to it, like the 62° water when swimming in May on the Jersey Shore.

Very juicy and flavorful. There are also some dry oaky characteristics that show through as well, especially toward the finish. I was seriously starting to doubt whether this was brewed with any Brett yeast. But about halfway through the bottle, after getting over that pungent tangy whipping on your palate, you will start to taste some funk. At first it's not that much but I'll be damned if by the end of the bottle this is quite the funk machine.

Very complex. Carbonation good. The 8.0% alcohol is well disguised with all that's going on; however, I do feel like you can taste/feel the buzz every time you think about the berries. It really brings them forward.  So that's about it. You better love you some sour beer to try this, but if you do, you will not be disappointed!

One more comment. I saved the yeast at the bottom for what I thought was gonna be one huge mega-titanic-sourball. Nope, just a little muddy, nothing more. 

Monday, April 15, 2013


I was randomly strolling past the Total Wine cooler and Dogfish Head's Sixty-One caught my eye. I picked up a bottle and saw it was bottled on 02/26/13 so I assumed it was something I just had missed, considering the six-week lag. Nope, the beer guy there told me it had arrived the day before and that he was excited to try it that evening.

Anyway, Sixty-One is "The continually-hopped India Pale Ale brewed with Syrah grape must." So basically their 60 Minute with a twist. The label is all purpley, like it was stained with grapes. This was a 12 ounce bottle, fortunately. If it were another wine-bottle experiment for $12 I'd have kept walking. I appreciate brewers that bottle their beers, even their cool and new ones, in 12's and skip the bomber price explosion.

Nice color, pinkish, light purple. I know it looks redish-orange in the photo, but that's the sun playing tricks on you. Grainy and very grapey aroma with tart and tannic scents all over the place. So you can definitely taste the awesome 60 Minute IPA from the start--citrus, pine, a little spicy with a nice sweet fruity balance. Now... the grapes are a major factor here, adding grape tannins, and other dark fruity nuances. Cherries, cranberries and flowers. The finish is dry and the 6.5% alcohol was buried in flavor.

First two sips, thought I wasn't going to like this at all. But it definitely grew on me, not to the point of love, but nice, flavorful and extremely unique. I prefer my 60 Minute any day, goes without saying, but I'd check this out again. Go for it!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

DAB Dortmunder Export

Another beer Ed Roberts pulled out of the back of his Ferrari. I don't ask where they come from, just quietly accept them. In this case I'm talking about DAB Dortmunder Export, a "premium draft-quality beer" brewed by Dortmunder Actien-Brauerei in Dortmund, Germany. Seit 1868. This one came in a 16.9 oz can, so the brewery did the logical thing and gave a written lesson on why cans are better.

Grainy and grassy aroma with a little hoppy spiciness. Rich grain and buttered bread flavors get you going, on the sweet end of things. Speaking of butter, that kind of describes the texture of the beer as well. There is some hoppy relief to the sweetness, though in the end it's just a tad too sweet. The finish leaves a funny aftertaste that is just a little off. Your 5% alcohol is not a factor.

Simple, refreshing enough, very forgettable and I probably would not buy it or look around for it.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

SweetWater Brewing Coming to South Florida: 420 Extra Pale Ale First

Atlanta's Sweetwater Brewing has been pushing their way through Florida over the past few years. The brewery added several new fermentation tanks last year, an expansion that will allow them to sell their beer throughout the state starting in May. Yep! SweetWater beer will be here in South Florida next month, starting with their 420 Extra Pale Ale on draft.

To generate some buzz, SweetWater sent me a handful of bottles of 420 along with their press release. If you don't see the info you're looking for, let me know and I'll give you their Communications Manager's contact info. So I guess those are the facts, so how about we have a little fun and talk about 420 Extra Pale Ale.

The label is nice, depicting some boaters in the background fishing and perhaps about to catch a really beautiful Rainbow Trout. You are reminded of the brewery motto, "Don't Float The Mainstream" as well, front and center. To the side, a story about what to expect and something about this beer being conceived in their bat cave on 4-20. Shhh. No one tell them it wasn't really a bat cave. Best if enjoyed by: 06/23/13.

Now, I've had this beer several times, just not sold locally. Heck, my sister even served it at her wedding reception last October in Atlanta. I had MANY! I might even be able to find a picture or two if you ask nicely. But this was great timing with 4-20 right in front of us.

Bready and doughy aroma with some pale malt and faint pine scents. The flavors are sweet and floral in the beginning, orange and honeysuckle come to mind. Some of the doughy bread from the aroma also sticks its nose in there too. Eventually you start to taste some lemony citrus and grassy bitterness, nothing over the top, yet those flavors do build.

Nice carbonation and quite refreshing, perfect for after that P90X Cardio crap I just put myself through. I could easily drink a bunch of these in a row, which, incidentally, I did last night. Next time will have to wait for the brewery to send some here in May. Oh, and Freddy, when you come down to Florida, let's go fishing. OK?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Idiot IPA

There's another new brewery distributing to South Florida. I recently grabbed an Idiot Imperial IPA brewed by Coronado Brewing Company in Coronado, California. This is a member of the brewery's Crown Series. On the front of the bottle, there is mermaid holding an enormous mug of beer. On the back, a story that explains the "Idiot" is like an opposite-day joke. "A stupid amount of hops" was used to brew this "highly intelligent brew". You get the idea. Not only are the jokes a little Stonesque but so is the bottle design, right down to the cadmium-containing, prop 65 knowing, colored painted bottle decorations.

Nice fruity aroma, apples and peaches, along with some floral and honey sweet scents. Sweet tropical flavors are highlighted by juicy mangoes and cantaloupes. There is a little pine and citrus answer but mostly just a persistent soft peppery bitterness.

Fresh baked bread and caramel swing in a little more sweetness before some pine and citrus peel flavors start to build up. Also toward the end, there is an oaky type flavor with some woody dryness. The 8.5% alcohol also adds a little bite and more dryness at the end.

Good carbonation. Body is pretty big. Very nice beer.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Shock Top Honeycrisp Apple Wheat

Shock Top Brewing in St. Louis just released another seasonal in their portfolio: Shock Top Honeycrisp Apple Wheat. This is a wheat beer brewed with apple cider and spices. Mohawk dude's head is an apple slice while the mohawk is made from stalks of grain.

Wheat, apples and spices on the aroma, pretty rich and powerful. Flavors are VERY apple cidery from the start, with a strong vinegar pop. The apples are dominant from the start but they seem either overripe or stewed or something, slightly artificial.

Tartness is nice, yet there is still a prevailing candy sweetness. Faint cinnamon and cloves are there, and a wheat texture adds some body. NOT very beer-like at all. More like a gluten inclusive cider. The cider that was added during brewing has full control over this beverage. Some of the 5.2% alcohol seemed to show through as well on a dry, sweet finish. That sweetness actually starts to build, so one was definitely enough. One dimensional on the apple cider aspect, but pretty decent.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Union Jack IPA

Before winter is totally gone and my vacation in Colorado is a distant memory, let me post a review I did one evening while I was relaxing after a hard day skiing. While I was there, I checked out Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA. Those beers are not distributed where I live in Florida, and the only other beer I tried from their brewery was the fabulous Sucaba, so let's just say my expectations were very high.

As you can see from the photo below, I was in dire need of this beer. Weather-beaten face, scraggly beard, ski hair, turtle neck... As my friend Barb Pernaris put it, that's "the look of having fun!" And she's right. On the label, there is a bear sparring with a mythical lion. Hmmm. Bottled 2/22/13. Consumed 3/22/13.

Very pleasant citrus and pine aroma. The flavors continue with citrus and pine and really showcase a nice lemony bitterness. Some tangerine tropical sweetness and bready malt flavors add the perfect amount of balance. The 7.5% alcohol was noticeable, especially with the dry finish. Oily, grassy, resinous, pungent. What more could you want from a beer? Great flavors, very tasty. Excellent all around!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Swing Session Saison

I recently grabbed a bottle of Victory Brewing's Swing Session Saison. This one was brewed at their Downingtown, PA location, but noticeably missing on the label was the phrase "our sole location", like this one. That brag was cool before success and expansion, I guess. The label is pretty plain, with just the name of the beer over an impressionistic background of oranges and lemons (I think). The side defines "swing" and ties it to the beer and style and what they were after when they crafted this brew.

Lemony aroma with a little zing, spicy coriander and orange peel. The lemon flavors were a bit sharper than I was anticipating but welcome and grow on you after a few sips. Yeasty and tangy from the beginning. There is also plenty of coriander to go around, start to finish. Swing has a light funkiness and has a thicker than expected texture despite maintaining a light-to medium body. Good carbonation, dry at the finish. The 4.5% alcohol was not a factor, easily a session beer. Refreshing. Check it out.