Sunday, January 31, 2016

Agave IPA with Grapefruit

Victory Brewing recently released their first Blackboard Series beer: Agave IPA with Grapefruit. The series will celebrate "adventurous variations of beer." I'm pretty sure you can at least figure out what the idea behind this brew is, am I right? If not, the blackboard theme of the label will help you out. 7.0% alcohol. Release No. 01. Year 2016. Enjoy By 22 MAY 2016.

Sweet orange and agave aroma, nice but not very strong. Sweet agave flavors come first, maybe followed by a little fruitiness. That sweetness is instantly met by a sharp bitter grapefruit streak! That huge citric component really dominates the rest of the experience.

Alcohol accentuates that bitter bite, especially at the finish, on the "a little too much" end of the spectrum. I found myself reminiscing about the sweet agave and orange flavors from the beginning. Not a favorite but interesting and different and a solid beer to check out for yourself.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Shiner Birthday Beer 107: Hoppy Pilsner

I recently saw Shiner's 107th Birthday beer on the shelves of the local liquor store. This year they brewed a German-style pilsner with a hoppy twist. The story on the back tells you that and sets your expectations, finishing with the German phrase "alles Gute zum Geburtstag," translated Happy Birthday! 5.0% alcohol. 30 IBU.

Crackers with lemon and lightly grassy aroma. More crackers with a gentle malty sweet flavor to start. A definite grassy, flowery, lemony bitter hoppy answer follows. And while that stretch of adjectives might think you're in for a bitter monster, I'd personally say the beer barely met the qualifications to name the beer Hoppy Pilsner. The finish seemed a little off, maybe a hint of wet cardboard. Overall was OK. Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Azacca India Pale Ale

Founders Brewing recently released their first seasonal of 2016, Azacca IPA, named after the experimental hop variety named for the Haitian god of agriculture. The label art (which is super cool) in fact symbolizes Azacca watching over a field where beer ingredients are grown.

A story on the back label sets your expectations, finishing with "Your taste buds will worship this Heavenly, hopped delight." Bottled 12/14/15. 7.0% alcohol. 70 IBUs.

Beautiful fruity mango and orange aroma. Love it! Very fruity, full of sweet tropical mangos, melons and oranges. A zesty citrus and spicy sharp nips follow. Some pine bitterness as well. Definitely a hoppy and bitter winner, though a sweet malty caramel background does tame that.

Dry at the finish with a light alcohol flavor. Very appealing. Great fruity flavors. I'm pretty sure this hop variety has a big future!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Smistletoe 2015

I was on the fence several weeks ago about forgetting about #BomberBoycott and purchasing a $12 bottle of Smuttynose Smistletoe brewed in the Biere de Garde style. Twitter buddy Norm told me it's one of the brewery's best, so going back to buy it was definitely a possibility. Also, you guys are geniuses, so I probably don't need to mention the play on words with the beer name and Mistletoe, #AmIRight?

Anyway, a few days after Christmas, the liquor store discounted the few remaining bottles to $6 no-brainers. 2015 Smistletoe comes in a white painted bomber, very cool and festive, with silver and gold lettering. The back of the bottle is basically an invitation to stop by the brewery.

Nothing really sets you up for the style of beer you are drinking, though they definitely tell you your beer is brewed with sweet cherries, black currants and plums, then aged on lightly toasted American Oak. 8.5% alcohol.

Not much aroma, light fruitiness and a touch of yeast, at best. Subtle fruit flavors to start as well, not tart, just a hint of sweetness. Cherries are noticeable first, then the currants with a distinct flavor.

A little warmth does this beer justice for sure. A few cranbe(e)rry and floral notes start to show through. Some spice and interesting tanginess hit your palate. Lightly yeasty yet very tame. Oak? Well I don't taste any of that. And I'll be damned if that 8.5% alcohol isn't MIA!

Flavors are very nice and tingle the senses, especially a little warmer. Made me make out with my wife with pretend mistletoe! (Yeah I know, how gross!) If you see a bottle, check it out! Or next year, if you have to wait!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Blackberry Barley Wine Ale

Today I'm checking out New Belgium Brewing's first venture into brewing a Barleywine, at least one they put out for sale. That would be their Lips of Faith Series Blackberry Barley Wine Ale, an English-style Barleywine brewed with blackberries.

I was going to say the purple jacket/scarf combination on the label was a leisure suit, but the story to the side explains this is a silk ascot you should be wearing while sipping this beer. The art on the back shows a comfy chair to sit and relax in front of the blazing fireplace. Perhaps, The Ladies' Man might come to mind. 10% alcohol. "Delicious Now, Differently Delicious Later"

Pinkish-red in color. Fruity aroma, definitely berries but kind of weak and a little disappointing. The flavors, however, are in stark contrast! Tons of toffee, super sweet and a syrupy consistency. Sugary and maybe a hint of tartness, with lots of simple red wine character (not tannic at all).

Oak, a little vanilla. Fruity and very much full of berries, mostly at the finish. Alcohol is not hot and almost hidden. Unfortunately, despite many good flavors, the beer gets killed by its ridiculous sweetness. I didn't finish the bottle, not even close.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Lee Hill Vol 6: Wild Christmas Ale

Upslope Brewing's newest Lee Hill Series experiment is a barrel-aged version of their Christmas Ale. Wild Christmas Ale isn't just wild because of its 10-month barrel aging in Leopold Brothers Rye Whiskey barrels. The brewery also tossed in their house Brettanomyces to "make this brew funkier than your Grandma's Christmas sweater."

Giant 19.2 oz can full of information including ingredients. A few stories on the label explain this beer, set your expectations, and tell you more about their Lee Hill Series. 9.2% alcohol. 11 IBU. Canned on 10/21/15.

Tons of cherry and candy sweetness in my nose right when I cracked open the can. Also very spicy and full of whiskey and rye. Nothing really sour in the aroma though. HOWEVER, there is absolutely zero doubt they added in a healthy culture of Brett into this beer! I made that sour face big time! Several times!

In conjunction with the sour-forwardness, tons of tart cherries and sweet malty caramel come through. Cherry has a cola and semi-cough syrup character, not to the point of being off-putting. Belgian character. Candi sugar sweetness. Spicy and woody.

The alcohol definitely kicks in, especially at the finish and especially after drinking a handful of sips. A little heat in the throat but not an issue. You'll likely get used to the sourness a little but it doesn't just become forgettable. Sweet and sour, good flavors, grew on me though I'd still say half the can is all I wanted and you should definitely share the big can.

Not quite as Wild as the Christmas my uncle got into a fist fight with his brother, breaking his hand and forcing a withdrawal from the skiing vacation. Not as Wild as the Christmas my sister and I did take down practice in the front yard of Miami home, sparking a security inquiry. Yet you will definitely feel the wild cultures in this beer throughout! Check it out!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Beer Camp Tropical IPA

Each Spring, Sierra Nevada takes their favorite Beer Camp collaboration beer and features it as a new Spring Seasonal. This year, they delivered Beer Camp Tropical IPA, an "equatorial IPA" using hops that deliver mango, papaya and other island flavors. I grabbed a 12 pack based solely on Sierra Nevada's reputation for delivering awesome beers, especially hoppy ones! 6.7% alcohol. PKGD 12/22/15

Spectacular aroma, full of mangoes and pineapples and bursting with juiciness. More of the same with the flavors. Tons of pineapple and mango and orange throughout. Sweet and tangy, great combination making my taste buds beg for more.

Some bitter pine flavors and spiciness show up toward the finish and really bring this home. A little alcohol dryness at the finish rounds out the profile. Terrific all around, which certainly doesn't surprise me! Check it out!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Calling IPA

A month or so ago, my wife and I went to a beer pairing dinner featuring the beers of Duvel (including Boulevard and Ommegang) paired with the food of Chef Rafael Velasquez. The event took place in Wynwood in an outdoor event space during Art Basel. Let's just say the art people were out and things were hectic, especially after a lot had been cancelled or postponed from days earlier with brutal amounts of rain.

The Duvel part of the night was awesome! We were greeted with a beer by Duvel's Florida Brewery Rep John Oteri. John also did a great job presenting the beers and brewery throughout the evening. And while there was some good food to go with the awesome beer, I decided to pass on writing a recap about it (I actually did write it but felt was unfairly asshole-ish, so didn't bother publishing.) Between the super-late start, pop-up restaurant conditions (no kitchen, difficult communications, wind and weather), late attendee arrivals, things could have gone better.

So I decided instead to write a review of an awesome beer I had that evening, include a few pictures from that night too, and combine the two experiences. And John was right that night! Boulevard Brewing's The Calling Imperial IPA is MONEY!

I found the perfect reason to grab a 4-pack of The Calling a few days ago. Friends of my wife were stopping by for dinner, visiting from Colombia, and we decided on an impromptu beer tasting too. Funny, the last time I saw this couple, we were being run off a desolate dark road in Colombia by a jeep full of soldiers with more automatic weapons than teeth! Fun memories!

Out of 5 superb beers, including The Calling, Ommegang Witte, Founders Breakfast Stout, Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Tropical IPA and Cigar City Invasion Pale Ale, The Calling was the favorite of 3/4 of the adults, while Witte won 1/4 of the first place votes. All were enjoyed though! (And I was also able to pawn that extra six pack of Nitro IPA off on them on the way out the door!)

Before that tasting, I hid one bottle of The Calling for the aforementioned review, which took place a little while ago. The label has a nice design, the beer name in blocked and shaded lettering, each looking like a mini sketch. Best By 04/09/16 A story on the back label sets your expectations, 8.5% alcohol. A member of Boulevard's Smokestack Series.

So I poured the bottle into my Smokestack Series glass! Fantastic aroma, very juicy and full of peaches and tropic fruit scents. Flavors follow. Awesome peaches and tangerines and pineapples, nicely sweet.

A lightly spicy pop with a hint of alcohol knocks that sweetness down along with some pine bitterness. In the end, the bitterness pleasantly wins. A little alcohol kick and dry finish lead to a lingering fruitiness left on the palate. Yum. Basically... MONEY!

This is what showing up on time in Miami looks like!

This Carrot Dish was one of the best all night!

Monday, January 11, 2016


Apparently around four years ago, I first tried Alpine Beer Company's Duet IPA at a Coffee District bottle share. Well, it's now available locally in South Florida and I decided to give it a try this afternoon. The bomber label has a church pictured on the front. I was expecting some kind of explanation about that with their story on the side, but nope.

The "Duet" is the use of Amarillo and Simcoe hops during the brewing process, of course "in harmony," to create a beer that is "immensely drinkable, amazingly nimble on its feet." 7% alcohol. Best By 07APR16.

Fruity tangerines and lots of flowers in the aroma, very pleasant. Super tropical fruity flavors to start. Absolutely delicious pineapples and tangerines, super fresh and bursting juiciness. Hoppy with light pine, citrus, floral flavors.

A little spicy, crisp, sharp, great carbonation. Bitter but definitely balanced for the style, just perfect. Great lingering fruit and spiciness left after each sip. Definitely my favorite of the three awesome Alpine beers I tried over the past few weeks. Love it! Check it out!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Briney Melon Gose

After enjoying Anderson Valley Brewing's The Kimmie, The Yink, and the Holy GOSE Ale and their Blood Orange Gose Orange Ale, I couldn't resist grabbing a bomber of their Briney Melon Gose. The cap reminds you that they are a Solar Powered Brewery and under the cap was a slang lesson: "chucklehead" = idiot. The label depicts their well-known bear with antlers mascot sipping water from a stream. A story on the side sets your expectations. 4.2% alcohol.

Nicely tart aroma with subtle watermelon. Tart and tangy flavors to start, not puckering. Lemon, strong saltiness. Again very subtle, but gentle waves of watermelon add nice flavor and fruity sweetness and an excellent contrast. Carbonation good. Fun and interesting. Another winner.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Boo Koo India Pale Ale

I had a sampler at Brass Tap a few months ago that included Mother Earth's Boo Koo India Pale Ale. Since my first impressions were very good, I decided to check it out again when I saw a can at my local liquor store yesterday. Obviously a play on the French word beaucoup, the story on the back of the can lets you know why this is "bookoo enough. Just don't call it too bookoo!"

The art on the can is pretty fun. It looks like there is an emergency military drop of crates of this beer. Helicopters are dropping parachutes to the desperate hands of Boo Koo's fans. 6.5% alcohol. Genesis Date 11/05/15

Smells great, full of both citrus and tropical fruit. Great hoppy bitterness right from the start. Grapefruit and tangerine citrus dominate with some spicy, piney bitterness also showing, especially at the finish and lingering into the aftertaste. Some sweet orange and hints of pineapple add some balance. Excellent! Very flavorful and enjoyable.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Upslope Oatmeal Stout

Today I'm checking out Upslope Brewing's Oatmeal Stout. Canned at 5.0% alcohol. Yes, by volume!

Nice chocolaty, cocoa powder aroma with just a hint of coffee. Chocolate flavors come first, delivered on a super creamy and smooth wave of awesomeness. Light roast, coffee, maybe a hint of prunes, faint char. Not sweet, not bitter. Simple, nice flavors! Check it out!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Otra Vez Gose-Style Ale

For me, Sierra Nevada Brewing is one of the best breweries around! I can't wait to check out their new brewery in Mills River, NC. And while I think that they are the BEST with their IPAs, they certainly do everything well. So for sure I had to check out their latest newbie, Otra Vez Gose-Style Ale.

The story on the back label lets you know that Otra Vez is a twist on a gose, using prickly pear cactus and grapefruit to complement the traditional flavors. 4.5% alcohol. PKGD 11/25/15.

Tangy, lemony, grapefruity aroma, sharp, full of salinity. I love it! Flavors are similar. Sweet and tangy, citrus, fruity. A little sharp at the beginning of each sip but relatively tame. Lemon and grapefruit zing and an interesting sweetness come in every sip. Guessing that sweetness comes from the cactus.

After the prickly beginning, the flavors and texture smooth out to a full-flavored finish. Salty throughout as well. My wife hated even the aroma, so keep in mind that beer drinkers that don't appreciate the tangy, sour-ish styles may not be too happy! But I say to check it out!!