I’ve long been a fan of Dogfish Head’s Saison-ish Noble Rot. Take it and age it in oak? I’m definitely down. It’s based on the saison farmhouse style, and then infused with grape must before finally being aged in oak for nearly a year. I originally compared Noble Rot to white wine, but once you age it in oak, it’s an order of magnitude closer. The nose is grape and a bit of yeast, the middle has grass and vanilla and is slightly tart, the finish is woody with vanilla and butter. The body is medium, the alcohol is big for a saison, little for a white wine at 9.0% ABV.
I give it a 4.3 out of 5.
Grapefruit Sculpin is a variation on Ballast Point’s sublime Sculpin IPA, with the grapefruit turned up a notch or ten. The grapefruit is definitely the signature note here, and while not overpowering, is in evidence throughout. The nose has the essence of grapefruit oils, along with some lemon and floral notes. The middle has tart and sweet grapefruit, fading to bitter rind and a hint of pine in the finish. Every bit as good as the original Sculpin, and because I personally love grapefruit, I might even like this one better. The body is medium and the alcohol is a nice 7.0% ABV.
I give it a 4.9 out of 5.
A summer release I’m just getting around to reviewing is Triple C Brewing’s Golden Girl Blonde Ale, brewed with a local roaster’s coffee blend and tart cherries. The result is light, refreshing, and utterly delicious. The nose is light and malty, and has an unexpected hint of sour yeast and a bit of cherry. The middle is malty blonde ale base with strong but not overpowering tart cherries, and just a hint of coffee for balance that builds just a bit in the finish. Ultimately this is a cherry blonde ale, but the coffee is wonderful addition that gives it extra complexity in the finish, but not enough to give it any bitterness. I honestly didn’t know what to expect with this beer, but even had I had high expectations, this might have exceeded them. A wonderful new brew that’ll I’ll definitely be looking for again next summer. The body is medium to heavy, and the alcohol is a light, summery 4.5% ABV.
I give it a 4.7 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.
We have another Dogfish Head brew on offer this weekend, and this time it’s Kvasir, from their line of Ancient Ales, beer brewed with ingredients and processes that go back to the earliest days of brewing. Kvasir is a re-creation of an early Scandinavian beer-like beverage and the flavors are provided by ingredients including lingonberry, cranberry, honey, birch syrup, and herbs. This is a wheat beer, so the malt influence is mild and gives the ale a grainy backbone. You smell the berries in the nose along with a strong dose of funky Belgian-esque yeast. The cranberries really come through in the middle with some bright, tart fruit. The finish is really well balanced between some lingering sugar from the honey and syrup and bitter herbs. The body is medium to heavy and the alcohol (10% ABV) is well hidden by the bold flavors here. The fruit is so forward that you almost forget you’re drinking an alcoholic beverage. The target audience for this beer is, I’d say, those who enjoy the Belgian fruit-based beers like Gueuzes, or lambics in general. This is an excellent execution on an old-world, pre-hop style beer.
I give it a 4.6 out of 5.
Positive Contact is another of Dogfish Head’s occasional musically inspired collaborations, this one with Dan the Automator of Deltron 3030. It’s a hybrid wheat ale and cider with spices that aren’t typical with either, such as cayenne pepper and fresh cilantro. With that variety of inputs, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect but the result is excellent. All the components show well, and none are overpowering. The nose is distinctly Belgian yeast, with some apple notes in there. The middle is bready with quite pronounced wheat characteristics that are balanced by strong apple flavors that are moderately, but not excessively sweet, and also not quite as complex as they might be. The wheat comes back powerfully to give it a drying finish, and this is where the spices start to come though as well, adding peppery and herbal notes before fading back to apple. This reminds me most of a pre-hop spice beer, and is refreshingly unusual. It’s a medium bodied beer, and pretty big on the alcohol at 9.0% ABV, but you’d never know it because it hides it well. My bottom line is that this is an excellent off-centered ale.
I give it 4.5 out of 5.
I’ve previously reviewed Unibroue’s Apple variant of Éphémère, but tonight’s bottle is brewed with Black Current juice, Coriander, and orange peel. The result is a fruity beer that’s delightfully unsweet. The frothy champaign-ish head gives it a fizzy, carbonated texture, and there’s not much of a nose. The middle is spicy and heavily current flavored, but there’s an unusual lack of sugar that pegs the profile of this beer solidly in the “spiced ale” camp. It’s a medium bodied ale, and quite dry. The finish rounds out with some notes of plum, but again, without sweetness. Éphémère Cassis is a very unusual and enchanting brew.
I give it a 4.5 out of 5.
Éphémère Apple is a white ale brewed with apple must, curacao peels, and coriander from my favorite brewers in Quebec. The first thing that strikes me is that it isn’t sweet. This is not a cider-y apple beer, or a dessert-wine-like fruit beer. There’s definitely some strong apple flavors, but none of the sugars to speak of. The first flavors on my tongue are apple peel and coriander, and there’s some strengthening citrus notes towards the finish from the curacao. There’s an malt backbone throughout that’s understated as wheat usually is. This is a really nice, different fruit beer. Well worth a try if you enjoy Belgian lambics, or other fruit-based beer.
I give it a 4.6 out of 5.