A farmhouse ale with a classic Dogfish Head twist. In this case, loads of spice. There isn’t much of a scent…What’s there is clean, and a bit yeasty. The middle is packed with orange and peach, and then the spices (this beer is brewed with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme) kick in, and they’re quite pronounced but not out of balance or overpowering. Finally, there’s more orange in the finish. This is a light, hoppy ale, and you can trust that Dogfish Head has made it as just as interesting and unique a take on the style as they always manage to do. It’s a good refreshing beer.
Stone’s Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale is a big, dark black ale. There’s a lot of complexity in the beer, and a lot of malt that’s balanced out by massive quantities of hops. The scent is cedar, and the middle has brown sugar and sweet orange balanced with bitter orange peel and pine, and the finish is more orange and pine. I had expected this to be a maltier beer, but it’s not only balanced by hops, it’s definitely more of a hoppy, bitter beer offset by the malt in the background. Definitely not a beer for those who don’t like some bitterness. I, however, love it. One of the best I’ve had in quite a while.
Black Raven is a Black IPA from North Carolina’s Olde Hickory Brewery. It pours pitch black, and the major notes are roasted malt and heavy hops. The nose is roasty, with some faint chocolate, but there’s no sweetness in this brew. The middle is bitter roasted pine and a bit of grapefruit rind. The bitterness concentrates in the finish, with some additional grapefruit notes on the side. You need to be a serious fan of bitter beer to get into this one. It could use a little more balance in my opinion, but it’s really unique and I’m enjoying it.
The Milk Stout from Left Hand Brewing Company is interesting in that it isn’t biased toward sweetness, as is typical with milk stouts, but instead it shows off huge amounts of coffee instead. The scent is that of fresh coffee beans, the middle is a silky smooth, fairly heavy body with the flavor of espresso, with a little milk and sugar in the background. The finish is sweet, fading back into a last bite of bitterness. This is a superb, complex, well-balanced beer.
I give it a 4.6 out of 5.
Bitter American is a seasonal pale ale from 21st Amendment Brewing, and the name pays homage to the typically bitter nature of a pale ale. However, I found this beer to be better balanced than a typical pale ale, particularly after it warms a bit. The nose has orange and lemon in it, and the middle has some of the traditional bitter piney hops, but balanced with an equal amount of malts that lend the flavor of sweet bread. The finish is sweet orange, and a bit of lingering pine. This isn’t a standard bitter pale ale, but a very nicely balanced beer. At only 4.4% ABV, it’s also light on the alcohol, making it a nice refreshing drink. This is a nice beer.
I give it a 3.8 out of 5.
As I work through my mixed-pack of Flying Dog brews, Tire Bite Golden Ale is up next on my list. I had to work quickly to get the pictures, because what little head it had was disappearing in a hurry. Honey in the nose, a bitter middle without any particularly signature hoppy flavors, other than maybe a bit of grapefruit rind. The finish is more of the same. I enjoy bitterness in beer, but the weak flavor is really letting this one down. Not one of my favorites.
I’m not much of a lager fan in general, but after a hot, hard afternoon of lawn mowing, a nice crisp craft lager does often hit the spot. Flying Dog Brewery’s Old Scratch Amber Lager claims to be a “malty, mellow” lager, but I found that it had a fairly substantially hoppy bite in the first few sips. You’ll never hear me complain about that, but if it might be a bit much for someone who doesn’t care for bitterness. As it warms, it does mellow out quite nicely, and the predominant flavor in the middle is honey with just a faint hint of bitterness left in the very last of the finish. This is a nice complex lager, and you should let it warm just a bit if you’re not a fan of bitterness.
Noble Rot is definitely unique. This wheat-based beer is “Saison-esque” according to Dogfish Head, and I can recognize the Saison roots, but the heavy grape infusion leaves it as close to a white wine as to an ale. I’m not really up on my white wines, but with my limited experience I’d call the flavor something like a riesling but heavier. The grapes are really the star of this beer. The Belgian yeast gives it that typically Belgian funky edge, and it starts out sweet and heavy, finishing tart. This is the beer to have when everybody else at the party is drinking Chardonnay.