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.
By Ballast Point Brewing Company of San Diego, Sculpin is one of the best West Coast IPAs out there. The head is sticky and hangs around, the nose is of grapefruit, honeysuckle and floral. The middle is sharply hoppy with clean pine fading to grapefruit, then to apricot and lemon in the end. Mango and peach are also advertised notes in this brew, but I’m not getting them, at least not in this bottle. No matter though…It’s excellent as is. One of my all time favorites for sure. The body is medium-ish, and the alcohol is a respectable but not overpowering 7.0% ABV.
Grainiac is another experiment from Stone’s Stochasticity Project line, and this time it’s a hopped-up malt bomb. The head is massive and silky and hangs around like you would expect from a root beer float. The nose has toast and granola and just a hint of lemon. The middle is full of sweet grain, and bitter hops. There’s sweet orange notes bitter pine, and a strong whole-wheat breadiness. More like dough than baked bread in flavor. The finish is sugary with a tiny herbal bitter bite right at the very end. The body is medium to heavy, and the alcohol is a fairly stout 8.5% ABV. The grains in this beer (barley, wheat, rye, triticale, millet and buckwheat) make it interesting, but Stone makes it special.
On the bottle, Le Freak is described as a “Belgian Imperial IPA.” The Green Flash website expands a bit, explaining that it’s a hybrid of a Belgian Tripel and an American Imperial IPA. Interesting. The head is beautiful. Big and velvety, and it lasts for minutes. The nose is distinctively Belgian, with loads of fruit. The hybrid nature comes through in the middle with something I might describe as a battle between the sweet and complex Belgian, which is definitely here in full force, and the strong bitter west-coast style IPA that Green Flash is known for, which is just as present. There are spices, cherry, plum, pine, orange and grapefruit all mingling and alternately coming to the fore. The finish has some bitter citrus rind from the IPA, but is more Belgian in character with marmalade and a bit of licorice. The body is quite full and heavy, and the alcohol is 9.2% ABV, about what you’d expect for this style of ale. It’s probably not the next big thing, but it’s a fun mix, certainly enjoyable if you like the component styles, and well executed.
Fans of Monty Python will recognize the source of this Medieval-style ale, brewed with, of course, elderberries. A word to the wise; Medieval beer is different. Very different from modern beer. I happen to be a fan, most, I think, are not. Hoppiness is very subdued (on non-existant) and in its place are all sorts of weird herbs and spices and flavors you might not generally associate with beer. Here, the nose isn’t terribly intense, but it does have light notes of bread, molassas, and smoked peat. The middle is spicy, with strong peppery heat and bitter herbs. There’s a sweetness at the end of the middle, where you can really taste the berries (elderberries, I presume, though never having had them on their own, I can’t swear it) and a dry, bitter bite at the finish. The pepper lingers all the way through. The body is medium to heavy, and the alcohol is a robust 10.3% ABV. It’s a strong ale, but I wouldn’t really call it an American Strong Ale, as there’s nothing in it that suggests it was fomulated after beer (hopped, by this time) made its way to these North American shores. In my opinion, this is a lovely formulation, and well executed. A fine brew.
This review is the second 9.3% ABV Stone offering in a row, and this is the Collective Distortion IPA, an Imperial IPA brewed with elderberries and coriander. It’s not just a touch of elderberries and coriander either, their presence is pronounced. The nose is heavily scented with elderberry and citrus. The coriander is a strong note in the middle along with honey and licorice, and the finish brings back the elderberry and heavy grapefruit. This is a sticky, full bodied, full flavor beer. The flavor is unique and strong and I like it, but i don’t love it.
Stone has branched into experimental territory with its Stochasticity Project, and today’s review is a Belgian Quad in the Trappist style brewed with triticale grain called Quadrotriticale. The triticale is a hybrid grain that is added to give the beer the softness of wheat, and the spice of rye. To my palate the result is more wheat than rye, but there is a bit of rye bite in there and it’s nice in any case. The nose has honey and Belgian yeast. The middle is sweet, buttery, bready, with wheat and a hint of rye. The finish is rich, sweet with brown sugar, and there is a touch of astringency from a note of licorice right at the tail. The body is medium to heavy, and the alcohol is a stout 9.3% ABV, but it’s nicely masked. I’d say this is another home run for the Stochasticity Project.
Sierra Nevada has expanded east, and to celebrate the opening of their new brewery in Mills River, NC, they released Rain Check Spiced Stout. Though released in summer and tasty any time of year, this has all the flavors of a classic winter treat with chocolate, ginger, cardamom and cinnamon coming through and just a hint of citrus. This is a sweet beer from start to finish, with the flavors transitioning from sweet and spicy in the middle to sugary at the end, with brown sugar and caramel notes, and a bit of root beer right at the end. It’s wonderful to see the success of a great brewery like Sierra Nevada lead to an expansion like this, and this was a great brew to celebrate the achievement.
First, a note on chipotle. For those who aren’t familiar, a chipotle is a jalapeño pepper that once ripe, has been dried and smoked. Clearly the right kind of delicious little treat to add to Stone’s Smoked Porter for a extra kick. Now, I’ve had chili beer before, but this is better. The nose is malty and smoky, quite similar to regular Smoked Porter, with just a slight hint of pepper. The middle is immediately spicy, with chili oil or wasabi in front of strong chocolate notes. The pepper fades through the finish and the sweet and smoky malt flavors, still strong on chocolate take back over, with a little coffee coming in at the end. The body is light to medium weight and the alcohol is a nice moderate 5.9% ABV. The spice is strong with this one, and you should really be a fan of a little heat to enjoy it. So, if you’re the kind of person who looks for the hot sauce with every meal, this is definitely the beer for you. Really well done.
Moylan’s Brewing Company of Novato, California is a specialist in big beers, be they Imperial IPAs, Scotch Ales, or Barleywine-style ales. (Among others.) However, they felt they hadn’t taken the Imperial IPA theme quite far enough, and perhaps to rectify that, a Quadruple IPA might be in order. Thus, we have Hop Craic, a American Quadruple IPA. This is a massive IPA in every measure. It’s got a heavy body, the alcohol is a stout 10.4% ABV, and the hop notes are huge and balanced with strong malt flavors. The nose is strongly orange citrus but with a bit of molasses in the background. The middle bursts with lemon and orange, followed by pine, but then transitions into a heavily malty finish with notes of toasted grain and packed with brown sugar and syrup. The end of the finish is burned toast and pine. It’s exceptionally well balanced for such a powerful beer, and I’m enjoying it immensely.