Peak Farm is an Imperial Pale Ale from Sycamore Brewing in Charlotte, NC. The nose is predominantly floral with some light fruity notes of apricot and mango. The middle has some citrus in the form of orange and lemon. The finish is citrusy and bitter, tempering as it warms. The body is heavy and the alcohol is a moderate 7.2% ABV. A nice double pale ale with nothing against it, but not particularly special.
I give it a 3.9 out of 5.
Founders, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, calls this Imperial Brown Ale “decadent” and that is the perfect way to describe this outstanding beer. The head is thick and creamy. The nose is roasty, with tons of chocolate and coffee. The middle is milky, smooth and sweet with mocha and espresso. The finish is bittering slightly, with the coffee and toasted grain coming to the fore. The body is medium to heavy, the alcohol is an imperial 9.0% ABV. This is the perfect coffee lover’s brew, and every bit as good as Founders’ classic Breakfast Stout.
I give it a 4.8 out of 5.
From Stone’s Stochasticity Project, HiFi+LoFi Mixtape is a blend of fresh strong ale with ale that’s been aged for three months in oak. According to Stone, this was a common practice when fresh stock ale was smoky and bitter, it would be mixed with ale that had aged and mellowed to make it more drinkable. I don’t know about the old stuff, but Stone’s version is definitely drinkable. The nosy is slightly yeasty with lemon, and maybe just a tiny hint of oak. The middle is deliciously full of flavor ranging from sweet apple to creamy butter, and bitter pine. The finish is bready and slightly sweet. The body is medium and the alcohol is stiff-ish, at 8.8% ABV. I love barrel aged ales, and this is no exception.
I give it a 4.4 out of 5.
For their 20th anniversary, Dogfish Head has released Higher Math, a golden ale brewed with chocolate and sour cherry juice that they call “birthday cake in liquid form.” Stylistically, it is an American Strong Ale that reminds me of what an Imperial Barleywine would be, if there were such a thing. It’s truly massive at 17% ABV, with a thick, heavy, sweet body that does in fact evoke the essence of birthday cake. The head is thin and dissipates quickly. The nose is of prunes and cherries. The body is thick and syrupy, with the cherries coming on strong, and semi-sweet chocolate rising to the fore in the finish. It is indeed like cake, but just coming off a bad cold, is it also unfortunately similar to the memories of Nyquil that are so fresh in my mind. Dogfish Head is known for oft-centered ales and crazy concoctions, and heaven knows I love them for it. But, this also means that for any given palate, some are going to be hits and some misses. For me, this one is a miss.
I give it a 2.8 out of 5.
An American Strong Ale, New York’s Southern Tier Brewing Company’s Gemini is a relatively unusual style. Very malt heavy, this blended concoction, derived from Southern Tier’s Hoppe and Unearthly brews is magnificent in its own right. The nose is heavy and sweet, with notes of licorice, honey, and wheat. The body is medium to heavy, and fairly balanced but tipping towards sweet with molasses, honey, vanilla and alcohol. The finish is more of the same, fading away, with a bit of orange rind coming to the fore. This is a big beer, at 9.0% ABV, and it shows. This is a high quality beer, but it is an alcohol delivery device above all.
I give it a 4.3 out of 5
American Beauty is an occasionally brewed Imperial Pale Ale from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. As with virtually all Dogfish Head recipes, this one comes with an off-centered twist, and in this case the ingredient is organic granola in homage to the Grateful Dead. The head is creamy. The nose is yeasty, with some caramel and a slight hint of orange. The middle is mostly balanced, with a bit more malt than hop. The flavors in the middle are caramel and orange, with a bit of rind and honey. There is some alcohol in the finish (and there should be, at 9.0% ABV) and a lingering sugar. The sugar right at the end is all that strikes me from the granola addition. It’s quite a nice beer, but not particularly special.
I give it a 4.0 out of 5.
Arrogant Bastard is a top-notch craft beer classic from Stone Brewing that I’ve avoiding reviewing, and for that matter drinking, solely based on how passionately I hate the name. Yes, I know it’s tongue in cheek and all in good fun, but it still makes me cringe. That said, it gets a 98 on BeerAdvocate from the brothers, and a 99 on RateBeer, so I really can’t ignore it any longer. It’s classified as an American Strong Ale, which in this incarnation means it’s a big, heavy, hop-bomb. The nose is actually pretty light, lighter than I expected for sure, primarily grassy with a bit of pine and some lemon. The middle is bitter, with dark roasted coffee, pine pitch, and grapefruit rind the major notes. The malt brings a bit of caramel sweetness towards the finish along with a bit of booze and more lemon. It’s got a fairly heavy body and lingers on the tongue for a bit. As a strong ale, I can envision it being more balanced, but that clearly wasn’t what they were going for here, and it’s without doubt exceptionally artfully crafted and executed. If you don’t enjoy hoppy, bitter beer this is certainly not the brew for you, but if do you enjoy the big west-coast hop bombs, this is an wonderful example of the pinnacle of the style and craft.
I give it a 4.7 out of 5.