This is a bit of a special review for me. Specifically, it’s the 400th beer review I’ve done for OpenCraftBeer.com over the last 7 or so years. I had a couple of goals when I started reviewing beers for the site. The first was simply that I wanted something that would motivate me to continually keep looking for new beers to try and enjoy, expanding my horizons and my taste buds instead of lazily falling back on the same few known quantities. Inside of the broader goal, I also had a more specific goal, which was to try to review as many beers as I could get my hands on from one of my favorite breweries, Delaware’s Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. To that end, it’s a fitting bit of fate that my 400th review also happens to be my 40th Dogfish Head beer review.
Ok, time for the review. SeaQuench Ale is a session sour from Dogfish Head, designed to be tart and brewed with lime peel, black limes and sea salt. Sours ale are particularly strongly flavored style, and an issue I often have have which session-weight beers is that they have a tendency to end up as a weak imitation of the style. This is not the case with this beer, as the flavor is full and bright. You can smell the citrus and the salt on the nose, and the middle is bursting with lime, and plenty of that beautiful Belgian sour bite. There’s a good bit of carbonation, but not too much, and as you fade to the finish, the saltiness comes back into the fore. The body is light to medium, and the alcohol is a pleasantly light 4.9% ABV. The final word on this one is that it’s a tasty, well-executed beer that I would happily drink year round.
I give it a 4.6 out of 5.
Brewed with a 25% malted rye based, Columbus hops for citrusy notes, and Belgian yeast, Riverbank Rye-It from the Deep River Brewing Company promised to be interesting. The nose is very muted, with a tiny hint of fruit that I’d attribute to the yeast, and some light citrus. In the middle, the rye comes forward but the strongest flavor is grapefruit, and a bit of caramel. Not much changes for the finish, as the same notes hang around until the end. It’s nice, but uninspiring. The body is medium and the alcohol is a moderate 5.2% ABV.
I give it a 3.3 out of 5.
It’s that time of year again…Time for the pumpkin ales. This one is Ballast Point’s take on the theme with a Scottish ale with pumpkin. While the pumpkin is definitely the centerpiece, the malty Scottish ale backbone makes it a subtler pumpkin ale than many, which I find quite nice. The nose is toasty with a good bit of fresh pumpkin. The middle has pumpkin and toffee and a bit of nutmeg, and the finish is reminiscent of chewy pumpkin bread. The Scottish ale base is nicely complimented by the pumpkin and light spice, but never lost. Really well done. The body is medium to heavy and the alcohol is a mild 5.8% ABV.
I give it a 4.6 out of 5.
Six Rights IPA is a double IPA from Sierra Nevada’s High Altitude series, designed to be balanced to deliver something everyone will enjoy. It is indeed beautifully balanced. Light citrus, tropical fruit and floral hops are on the nose, and the middle is heavy with pineapple, plum, bread, and orange, and pine and a bit of grapefruit coming forward in the finish. The balance of malt and hops is perhaps the most even and well executed as I’ve ever tasted in a double IPA. The body is heavy and the alcohol is a reasonable 8.0% ABV. Another outstanding beer from Sierra Nevada.
I give it a 4.7 out of 5.
Par 4 is Noda Brewing Company’s low alcohol session IPA. The head is creamy and light, and the nose is very nice, with scents of grapefruit and lemon. The middle however, really lets it down for me. It is more flavorful than the average session IPA, (which is one of the drawbacks of the style, to me) but it’s very one-dimensional with powerful shot of bitter lemon and little else. This ale is brewed with oats, and a bit of that soft oaty goodness comes forward in the finish as the bitterness fades fades, and a hint of grapefruit comes through. The body is medium and the alcohol is 4.0% ABV, which is perfect for a session beer. I love NoDa, but for me, this was not one of their best, though I don’t have a lot of love for session IPAs as a style in any case, so it may be as much me as the beer.
I give it a 3.2 out of 5.
“Inspired by the flavors of Southeast Asian cuisine” is what South Carolina’s Westbrook Brewing Co. says about White Thai, a wheat based ale with lemongrass and ginger instead of the traditional witbier’s coriander and orange peel. It’s a mild drinking ale, as appropriate for a wheat ale, with lemongrass and a bit of yeast in the nose, some orange and ginger in the middle, and a hint of pepper in the finish. There’s a slight buttery undertone, but overall the character is relatively light and summery. The body is medium, and the alcohol is a reasonably low 5% ABV.
I give it a 3.5 out of 5.
From Sierra Nevada’s High Altitude series, Chocolate Chili Stout is exactly what it sounds like. The nose is roasty with cocoa and a hint of coffee. The middle is rich and exceptionally dry, with cocoa powder, light molasses, and starchy tannin. The finish is malty and woody, and a bit of heat from the chilies. The body is medium, and the alcoholic is an Imperial-ish 8.2% ABV. I have to admit that I’m slightly disappointed that there isn’t more heat from the chilies, but it is there, and it lingers and grows after the finish, and that aside, this is a really excellent beer, and everything that is here is fantastic. Top notch brew.
I give it a 4.7 out of 5.
Recreation Ale is Terrapin’s session IPA. Session IPAs, for those new to the term, are designed to be drunk in greater quantities than a traditional IPA, so are lighter in body and bitterness, and have a lower alcohol content than a traditional IPA. The nose is lemony and malty, the middle is more lemon and some very light pine, and the malt comes back forward in the finish with a touch of honey flavor over just a hint of piney bitterness. The body is light to medium and the alcohol is a nice light 4.7% ABV. This is a nice, if undifferentiated session IPA.
I give it a 3.8 out of 5.
Hop ‘Em High is an American Double IPA from the Lonerider Brewing Co. of Raleigh, NC. The nose is caramelly and floral. The middle has sweet grapefruit and orange, a hint of pine and citrus rind. The finish fades to brown sugar and plums with just a hint of pine remaining. The body is full, and the alcohol is a reasonable 8.5% ABV, though this drinks like a bigger beer. This is a solid, nice American DIPA.
I give it a 4.3 out of 5.
Continuing with beers from right here in Charlotte, Fake Plastic Trees is a hoppy wheat ale (think wheat IPA) from our friends at Birdsong Brewing Co. To start, the head is heavy and creamy, as befits a wheat ale, and the unfiltered golden hue is hazy. The nose has orange, lemon, and lemongrass scents. The middle is hop-forward with an American IPA profile (lemon and hint of pine) but served on a bed of wheat toast. This fades to bit more lemon and some grapefruit in the finish with the wheat continuing to balance things out and soften on the tongue. The body is medium and the alcohol is moderate at 6.4% ABV. This is a fun mash-up between a wheat ale and an IPA that will probably be best enjoyed by IPA fans.
I give it a 4.2 out of 5.