Otra Vez is a Gose-style ale brewed with cactus and grapefruit. I pity I found it late in the year, as this is the sort of beer I love in the heat of summer. Light, fairly heavily carbonated, and refreshing are the properties that come to mind. The nose is minimal and slightly sour. The middle is sharply tart and carbonated. The grapefruit comes strongly to the fore in the finish, along with undertones from the cactus. It’s not particularly complex, just a simple beer with a couple of notes at a time, but that shouldn’t be held against it, because what is here is lovely. The body is light to medium and the alcohol is an equally light 4.5% ABV. A fine treat, particularly for summer.
It’s that time of year again…Time for the pumpkin ales. This one is Ballast Point’s take on the theme with a Scottish ale with pumpkin. While the pumpkin is definitely the centerpiece, the malty Scottish ale backbone makes it a subtler pumpkin ale than many, which I find quite nice. The nose is toasty with a good bit of fresh pumpkin. The middle has pumpkin and toffee and a bit of nutmeg, and the finish is reminiscent of chewy pumpkin bread. The Scottish ale base is nicely complimented by the pumpkin and light spice, but never lost. Really well done. The body is medium to heavy and the alcohol is a mild 5.8% ABV.
Six Rights IPA is a double IPA from Sierra Nevada’s High Altitude series, designed to be balanced to deliver something everyone will enjoy. It is indeed beautifully balanced. Light citrus, tropical fruit and floral hops are on the nose, and the middle is heavy with pineapple, plum, bread, and orange, and pine and a bit of grapefruit coming forward in the finish. The balance of malt and hops is perhaps the most even and well executed as I’ve ever tasted in a double IPA. The body is heavy and the alcohol is a reasonable 8.0% ABV. Another outstanding beer from Sierra Nevada.
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.