Local 2 is Brooklyn Brewery’s New York twist of a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, one of my favorite styles. They’ve added local raw wildflower honey to the Belgian yeast and dark sugar to give it its signature flavor. The nose has brown sugar and dark fruits such as raisins and figs. The honey is strong in the middle with plums and a bit of grape, with hints of cocoa, caramel, banana, and spices in the finish. The body is medium and the alcohol is high at 9.0% ABV, but well hidden, only adding a slight warming right at the end. This is a well executed beer, and a very nice example of the style. Another hit from Brooklyn.
Whiplash is a spring winter* seasonal from SweetWater Brewing Company in Georgia that starts with a Belgian White Ale using Belgian yeast and wheat, then adds oats to further smooth out the malt flavor and loads of American hops to create a unique twist on an IPA. The nose is grassy, with a little bit of lemon. The middle has a generic citrus flavor that leans toward grapefruit and some sweetness from the oats. The finish has a good bit of orange, some pine, and is slightly metallic right at the end. The body is medium, with a nice weight added by the oats, and the alcohol is moderate at 6.2% ABV. This is a fun combination of a couple of really tasty styles, and I’m enjoying it quite a bit.
I give it a 4.4 out of 5.
* I was informed via Twitter by the fine folks from SweetWater that this is actually a winter, not spring seasonal. I thought I was done with the winter seasonals. I was wrong. Again.
A slam it’s called, and a slam it is. Stone Brewing Co. from San Diego, California is the brainchild behind the Stochasticity Project and its inaugural beer, Grapefruit Slam IPA, and that isn’t terribly surprising because this beer is crazy. Stone’s known for their bitter west coast style IPAs, sometimes taken to extremes in beers like Ruination, and one thing west-coast style IPAs are known for is a large helping of grapefruit flavors. So, the fine folks at Stone though something along these lines: “Hey, what would happen if we took a big west-coast IPA, and added about a trillion metric tons of grapefruit zest to it?” The answer, as you might suspect, is Grapefruit Slam IPA. They don’t specify exactly how much grapefruit zest they add…Just that it’s a lot. The bottle is non-specific in its note that added is “an immense dosing of grapefruit peel.” Now on to the specifics. The coloration is a bright golden amber, slightly cloudy. The head is dense and sticky. The nose smells like a bag of grapefruits dragged through pine resin. The middle is bitter, the grapefruit rinds ensure that, but this is not a one note beer. All the typical imperial west-coast IPA flavors are here. Not only the bitterness of the rind, but tons of sweet grapefruit sugars reminding me of a Texas ruby red, as well as a bit of pine that’s fairly muted, not by its absence but by the sheer volume of the other flavors at play here. The pine comes more to the fore in a very dry finish, along with plenty of additional grapefruit rind and some warming alcohol. The body is medium-heavy and the alcohol is a big but manageable 8.2% ABV. If you’re not a fan of bitter IPAs, you’re not going to like this beer, I can promise you. I, however, do, and I have a particularly fondness for grapefruit, and I think that it’s absolutely fantastic. Crazy, perhaps, and out of mainstream for certain, but wonderful.
So I lied. Or was at least mistaken. I said last week that my review of Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome Ale was going to be the last winter seasonal review of the year, but now I’ve found a can of 21st Amendment Brewery’s winter seasonal, Sneak Attack hiding in my fridge. I guess that’s exactly what I should expect of a beer named Sneak Attack. Sneak Attack is a Saison, which is a really nice style to welcome in the spring, so it’s probably fortuitous that it gets to be my actual last winter seasonal review of the year. As you can see from the picture it pours with a massive head of light meringue-like white foam that sticks around for a bit, but will disappear after a few minutes. The nose is scented with herbs, grass, and yeast. The middle is tart, with herbs again, as well as lemon. The finish is dry and woody with a bit of lemon zest. The body is medium weight, and the alcohol is a reasonable 6.2% ABV. At any time of year this is a nice solid Saison.
With Daylight Savings Time in effect, and spring officially only a few days away now, it’s time to review the last of the winter seasonals. The year, honor of the final winter seasonal review goes to Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome Ale. This winter warmer is a malty brown ale with a nose containing toasted grain, a bit of toffee, and some slight orange, and floral notes. The middle has some apple and grape, lemon zest, and well roasted grain. The finish is the same, with a good bit of toffee coming back as it warms. Nothing spectacular here, but a fine beer with which to wish winter a fond farewell for another year.
An American Strong Ale, New York’s Southern Tier Brewing Company’s Gemini is a relatively unusual style. Very malt heavy, this blended concoction, derived from Southern Tier’s Hoppe and Unearthly brews is magnificent in its own right. The nose is heavy and sweet, with notes of licorice, honey, and wheat. The body is medium to heavy, and fairly balanced but tipping towards sweet with molasses, honey, vanilla and alcohol. The finish is more of the same, fading away, with a bit of orange rind coming to the fore. This is a big beer, at 9.0% ABV, and it shows. This is a high quality beer, but it is an alcohol delivery device above all.
We are coming to the last few winter seasonals for the year, and today we have Piercing Pils from Dogfish Head. Now, a Pilsner is a bit of an unusual choice for a winter seasonal, and Pilsner isn’t one of my favorite styles in any case, but I’m keeping an open mind. Dogfish Head calls this both a Perry-Pils hybrid, and a Czech-style Pilsner, and to those ends it has been brewed with pear juice, White Pear Tea, and spice Saaz hops. The result is delicious. The head is long lasting and creamy. The nose is light and smells faintly of apple, pear, and ground wheat. The middle is superbly balanced between sweet pears and bitter herbs, both of which fade into a toasty finish that also adds a bit of lemon. The body is light and crisp, and the alcohol is a moderate 6.0% ABV. This is a really fantastic beer, and I’d be happy to drink quite a lot of it. Pity it’s a seasonal.
Argh! Pirate beer is back on the menu! Today’s offering is from the pirate themed Heavy Seas label produced by the Clipper City Brewing Company of Maryland and it is a big malty English Imperial Stout called Peg Leg. My first impressions: When poured, it looks like an Imperial Stout with opaque dark chocolate coloration and a thin creamy tan head. It smells like an Imperial Stout, with a lot of chocolate and some roasting coffee. Finally, it tastes like an Imperial Stout, with more chocolate and coffee, a bit of roasty grain, some spice and prune in the finish, and a nice medium weight body. The alcohol is muted but present at 8.0% ABV. There’s nothing particularly special about this brew, but it’s an excellent example of the style. I for one would be happy to drink it again, and not just because it’s a pirate beer.