We’ve had a bit of a cold snap here, with lows dipping into the high 20s for the first time this fall. That makes for a lovely excuse to break out a bottle of Xocoveza, a winter-spiced mocha stout from Stone. Being based in San Diego, I’m not sure what Stone actually knows about winter, but they sure do know their way around a winter brew. This particularly recipe includes cocoa, coffee, peppers, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix all that up in a beer, and what comes out is liquid deliciousness. The cinnamon, nutmeg, and cocoa are strongly present in the nose. The head is creamy and hangs around for quite awhile. The middle is pure mocha, milky with notes of chocolate and coffee throughout. The peppers are very understated and there is just a tiny hint of a spicy bit in the finish, muted by vanilla. The body is medium and the alcohol is a relatively strong 8.1% ABV. A fabulously flavorful and wonderfully executed beer that might be my new point of reference for a winter stout.
I give it a 4.8 out of 5.
So it’s November, and Bière de Provence is a summer saison. Sue me. I try every Dogfish Head beer I can find, and this is when I happened to find this one, and I won’t pass up the opportunity to try it, whatever the season. This is a Belgian Saison, and the tagline is that it is brewed with lavender, marjoram, and bay leaves. The lavender is immediately apparent in the nose, which is predominately floral with a bit of fruity Belgian yeast adding some banana esters. The middle explodes with pepper, herbal notes and sweet malty undertones. The finish is yeasty, fruity and mellow. The body is medium and the for a summer saison the alcohol is a beastly 8.3% ABV, A delicious beer and a fine saison that I wish I’d discovered earlier.
I give it a 4.4 out of 5.
The Boston Beer Company has been expanding its Rebel IPA line of hoppy west coast style IPAs, and the latest addition is this grapefruit infused version. While I love the concept, this one doesn’t quite hit home for me. There’s definitely grapefruit in the form of citrus oils in the nose. The middle is more grapefruit rind giving it a characteristic bitterness. Hops come to the fore in the finish, floral and piney. All the right ingredients are here for a a smash hit, but to me, it turned out a bit one-dimensional, and weakly, not authoritatively so. The grapefruit was mainly there to add bitterness, which it does well, but there’s so much more to extracted if one were to reach a bit deeper. The body is medium, and the alcohol is an agreeable 6.3% ABV. I really like the original Rebel IPA, and the concept here is great, but in execution, it could have been so much more than it is.
I give it a 3.2 out of 5.
Brewery Ommegang is a fantastic craft beer producer out of Cooperstown, NY, which, of course, is also known for being the home of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. I usually associate Ommegang with their myriad wonderful Belgian styles, but this beer is a straight-up Imperial IPA. The nose is doughy, with loads of orange and lemon. The middle is predominantly bitter with orange peel and pine resin with sweet and sour citrus coming back in the finish to balance out the bitterness a bit. The body is heavy, and the alcohol is an imperial but not unreasonable 8.8% ABV. The is an excellent exection of the style, and in my opinion will appeal most to those who tend towards the west-coast style IPAs with their overstated bitterness. An outstanding beer.
I give it a 4.7 out of 5.
Otra Vez is a Gose-style ale brewed with cactus and grapefruit. I pity I found it late in the year, as this is the sort of beer I love in the heat of summer. Light, fairly heavily carbonated, and refreshing are the properties that come to mind. The nose is minimal and slightly sour. The middle is sharply tart and carbonated. The grapefruit comes strongly to the fore in the finish, along with undertones from the cactus. It’s not particularly complex, just a simple beer with a couple of notes at a time, but that shouldn’t be held against it, because what is here is lovely. The body is light to medium and the alcohol is an equally light 4.5% ABV. A fine treat, particularly for summer.
I give it a 4.1 out of 5.
Fresh, delicious liquid pumpkin pie in a can. What better way to start November? Charlotte’s NoDa Brewing Company is the company behind this seasonal pumpkin ale, called Gordgeous. The nose is sweet and bready, the middle bursting with pumpkin, brown sugar and fall spices. In the finish, the spiciness fades and the brown sugar comes back into the fore. The body is medium and the alcohol is a pleasant 6.4% ABV. This is a really nice pumpkin ale on the pie end of the spectrum, if that’s what your taste tends to, and I really love it.
I give it a 4.5 out of 5.