A few weeks ago I reviewed SweetWater’s seasonal Whiplash White IPA, and today I’m having their year-round American IPA. It’s unfiltered, so in the glass it’s a beautiful cloudy copper with a nice tight dense foam head. The nose is bursting with grapefruit and pine and promises of hops to come. The middle is packed with flavor, hoppy, but the bitterness balanced with sweetness. To that effect, all the grapefruit notes are here, sugary sweet grapefruit juice balanced by bitter rind. The malt is mellowed by the use of some wheat, so this is really definitely a hop-forward beer. In the finish the are orange, a little pine, some distant spice and brown sugar, drying out right at the very end.The body is prototypically medium and the alcohol level is moderate at 6.3% ABV. Overall, a really nice IPA.
I give it a 4.5 out of 5.
Oregon is known as a bustling hub of craft brewing, and tonight’s review is from Hood River in that fine state. Full Sail Brewing Company’s Amber Ale is a relatively ancient brew in the craft beer world, having been introduced in 1989 as the first Amber Ale in all of Oregon, and they’ve been brewing and bottling it ever since. Over the years it has one 14 gold medals and for good reason. It’s malty, slightly sweet, and quite delicious. The nose is grassy and has a lot of toasted grain. The middle is sweet with some sugary orange citrus, caramel, and some slight chocolaty undertones. The finish is a bit spicy with cinnamon and pepper and slightly metallic. The body is medium weight and the alcohol level is a moderate 6.0% ABV. All around a very nice ale.
I give it a 4.5 out of 5.
While Green Flash is known for their big hoppy ales, that doesn’t mean that they can’t do a top notch job with a big malty barleywine as well. I’m trying the 2013 vintage today, and there’s nothing crazy here, just all of the characteristics of a reference barleywine, with perhaps some influence from a Belgian Strong Ale. They claim that there is an “enormous charge of Pacific Northwest hops” that give it hoppy citrus characteristics throughout, but I’m simply not finding that to be true of the 2013, though it may have been true of earlier vintages, or it may just be that my bottle has been around long enough that the hop notes have started to break down, which happens after a few months. That said, what’s left is a great malty brew. The nose is rich and warm with brown sugar, raisins and figs. The middle is heavy and sticky and bursting with dark fruit, raisins, plums, figs, grapes, some caramel, and a mild heat from the alcohol as well. The finish is sugary and syrupy, with some slight toast and very faint hints of sweet citrus (orange and grapefruit) in the background, but not enough to take the focus off the heavy malt backbone. The body is heavy, and this is quite a big beer at 10.9% ABV which shows through in the middle, but not at all unpleasantly. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to be wowed by this beer, but I’m thoroughly impressed.
I give it a 4.6 out of 5.
Pinstripe is a Red Ale from Ska Brewing of Durango, Colorado. The coloration is a medium copper and the nose is toasty. There’s very little bitterness here, and in the middle I get caramel and quite a bit of fruit in the form of peach and apricot. The finish is grainy and slightly metallic with just a little lemon. There’s not anything particular special about this beer, but it is a great example of the style and would be a wonderful post-lawn mowing beer.
I give it a 3.7 out of 5.
Maximus by Lagunitas is, as they say, “a bigger, badder version of our favorite style.” That means a super-hoppy IPA, and it’s really more of an Imperial IPA. It’s west-coast-ish, but there isn’t a ton of pine…Just a bit in the finish. The head is sticky and heavy, and dissipates moderately quickly. The nose has grapefruit and honeysuckle. The middle has big sweet grapefruit and orange notes, fighting some bitter burnt toast and herbs. The finish has the aforementioned bit of pine and more sweet orange. The sweet and bitter notes in this beer aren’t so much balanced as they are both simply strongly present. The flavors are all fine and nice, but the strength of the different flavors, and their lack of cohesion means that this isn’t going to be a session beer. Not that the the alcohol level (8.2% ABV) would allow it to be a session beer in any case. I like it, but I don’t love it.
I give it 3.9 out of 5.
A new law on the table for review in the Florida state Senate, backed by the lobbying power of the big national distributors would force craft brewery, if they wish to sell their own bottled or canned beer in their taprooms, to first sell it to a distributor and then buy it back at a 30% to 40% markup. This is not capitalism, it’s protectionism at it’s worst, and it’s bad for craft beer, and bad for us consumers.
Read the full story here on Reuters.
I don’t know what it is about Founders, but this Michigan brewery knows how to do big heavy beers like few others. Today I’m having an Imperial Stout, which is one of their specialty beers, with availability from January through March. Which, again, makes this a winter seasonal. It’s brewed with ten different varieties of malted barley for a rich, complex flavor. It pours a dark inky black-brown. The nose has chocolate and unique woodiness that reminds me of the smoke from a mesquite fire, and a bit of hickory and toast. The head is thick and the texture of light whipped cream. The middle explodes with different flavors including chocolate, molasses, brown sugar, raisins, and coffee. The finish settles down and is sweet, heavy, and milky with a little well-balanced maple syrup and coffee lingering on the back of the tongue right at the end. The body on this beer is well and truly heavy. This is a stout’s stout. The alcohol is high at 10.5% ABV, but very well hidden. This is one of the finest example of a stout that I’ve had.
I give it a 4.7 out of 5.