De Dolle Brouwers Stille Nacht Reserva

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Belgian beer aged in Bordeaux barrels for 25 months.  Do I have your attention?  Stille Nacht Reserva comes from the Belgian concoctory known as De Dolle – they serve up their holiday brew with a twist.  That twist is wine, oak, and 750mL of glory.  I want to try this beer so I’m just going to cut straight to it.  Time for them numbers…

Appearance:  A fake tan orange dominates the body of this beer and gives way to the smallest white head I’ve seen.  Zero lacing as I drank since the head vanished quicker than baseball players at a steroid convention.

IMG_3731Smell: Very vinous, caramel, wood, apples, sour butterscotch, dark cherry – overall, pretty complex on smell alone.  Many sours give you straight citrus and acidity, where this throws a curve with how sweet the aroma is mixed with a big wine like acidity.

Taste:  The first flavors I identified were sweet sugar, caramel, and grain, but then it tarts up nicely with freshly picked apples, grapes, and cherries.  The fruity characteristics have a wonderful lightness to them and completely balance out the sweeter tastes I detected initially.  After a few sips, this beer leans to being more tart than sweet; it also is hovering the line of wine v. beer for me.  The sweeter, grain, caramel tastes originally had me thinking barleywine, but the sour notes I’m finding are reminiscent to a fine bottle of vino – fruity, acidic, and tart.  This is one of the most complex beers I’ve had in some time and it delivers on so many angles.  Underneath the sweet and fruity notes I’m getting some tannins from the wood shooting off some bitterness and a warming alcohol kick and some typical rock-candy, Belgian yeast.  The finish is semi-dry and the booze found in here is present, but is so much like a nice red wine – warming, purposeful, and not overwhelming.

IMG_3734The more I think about this beer, the more amazed I am with how flawless this tastes.  There are so many variables that can go awry when crafting a beer like this – over carbed, under carbed, too much contact with the wood, temperature fluctuations when in the wood, time in the barrels… somehow, this liquid makes it out and everything is OK.  The carbonation is minimally present, but doesn’t detract from beer at all since it’s very liberal with the ABV, which clocks in at a grumbling 12%.  The mouthfeel is naturally a little thicker because of this, but the flavors in here are light enough so that it does not become a distraction.

Overall:  Decadent.  This beer isn’t for everybody as it’s something truly unique in an over saturated craft beer market.  When it comes to barrel aged Belgians, I can’t imagine that they get more complex than this.  I have to give it an A+ and a nod into the HOF.  Such a complex brew – it needs to be recognized.

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Fremont Brewing Company Cowiche Canyon

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Breweries in Washington have an incredible advantage when they craft a recipe:  access to fresh super-fresh-just-harvested hops.  The state is home to the famous Yakima Valley, the largest hop producing region in the United States.  With so many hops growing in their backyard, Fremont Brewing capitalizes off of their unique position to create an organic fresh hop pale ale called Cowiche Canyon right around harvest season.  Cowiche Canyon actually is an area within the Yakima Valley where, not surprisingly, Fremont gets their freshIMG_3719 cones from to create this beer.  Will this beer produce better results from pellets?  Time to run them numbers…

Appearance:  Cloudy orange with a tiny white head that left beautiful lacing as I drank.  The color on here is exactly what I like to see out of my IPAs, so hops hopes are high that this beer delivers on taste and aroma.

Smell:  I could smell this as soon as I opened the can.  This beer is ripping with a vibrant hop presence featuring lemon, citrus, grapefruit, and passion fruit.  This brew is on point with its aroma, time to dig in!

Taste:  Holy Cowiche!  This beer is a flavor bomb.  Those bright hops I got from the nose encompass the palate with everything from lemon, grapefruit, and lime to flavors that are oily, bitter, and dank.  This brew is a wonderful balance between those super fruity, juicy IPAs and the more traditional piney and bitter ones.  New school hopIMG_3713s meet old school east coast IPAs – accompanying the hops (which are the main attraction in the brew) is the most complementary grain profile I can remember from a Pale Ale.  It’s light enough not to overpower the cones, but rich enough to impart a lovely malt sweetness to help those hops along by not making them overly bitter.  I can’t stress how perfectly balanced Fremont crafted this beer.  The finish is dry and lingering hitting the sides of your tongue and the aftertaste is that of a fresh lemon spritz.  I am so digging this beer.

The carbonation on Cowiche Canyon was perfect and the mouthfeel was light, although it imparted flavors that you’d find in a medium bodied IPA.  The ABV is a standard 6% which keeps it simple; I appreciate Fremont taking a more traditional approach with the ABV in here and it works well with the beer.

Overall:  This is the best pale ale I’ve ever had.  I need to give it an A+ and a ticket into the hall of fame.  I cannot believe this beer doesn’t have more street cred among the beer nerds out there… I’m fine with that… more for the people who appreciate underrated beers.  They say fresh ingredients matter… you can’t refute that after having this brew.

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Pelican Brewing Mother of All Storms

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I got caught in a horrid rain storm in Maine one time.  My radio told me to expect hurricane like winds and rains, and if possible to pull over on the side of the road.  That same day, my then girlfriend (now wife) was supposed to visit me in while I was living there the summer of 2008.  I knew if I told her about the weather, she’d immediately freak out and could very likely blame me for such an atrocious trip up from Connecticut.  Luckily we all made it “home” safe… pretty anticlimactic story I  know.  Luckily this blog is about craft beer rather than the Screens Actor Guild.  While we were just a couple of fools in the rain, it could have been a much more serious situation… it could have been…….. the MOTHER OF ALL STORMS!!!  Although for that to happen, we would have needed some bourbon and barleywine.  Why?  Because that’s what the good people from Pelican Brewing out of Oregon do when they’re hit with some gales and droplets.  A barleywine aged in Bourbon barrels is the perfect shelter for the storm.  Let’s see if we can validate that… time to run them numbers…

IMG_3685Appearance:  Looks black on camera, but the edges are a deep mahogany.  Absolutely zero head on this brew even with a straight down the middle pour; it also left no lacing as I drank.

Smell:  Bourbon, wood, caramel, toffee, pecan, booze, butterscotch, and vanilla.  For being so bourbon and boozy, this beer smells pretty sweet.  I dig the flavors that are going on in here because I prefer these mellow, sweeter tones from the whiskeys I drink.

Taste:  Ok… so this is going to be a two part tasting notes of Dr. Jekyll (this beer straight from the fridge) and Mr. Hyde (as it warmed).  This is Jekyll:

Really sweet, and not so much in the butterscotch toffee range, but in the simple syrup, sugary range.  For a beer with such a big booze punch, it kind of falls flat in flavor.  Initially I get those hints of toffee, wood, and caramel, but very quickly they turn to straight sugar.  The finish of this brew is sugar galore, which leaves the palate disappointed – it kind of reminds me of crunching into the stick of a Fun Dip.  Flat towards the end with not a lot of interesting tones.  It was fairly complex to start, but just does not have enough staying power to keep those waves of flavor cresting repeatedly.

Mr. Hyde:

So as this beer warms, it starts to open up… really gets to know you.  Those sweet flavors I got from Jekyll are still there, but they begin to mingle more with the bourbon, the booze, the wood, and the caramel.  The super sugary finish I got from Jekyll begin to fade and it closes with more authIMG_3681ority than Mariano Rivera – sweetness, toffee, cookie, and boooooooooooze.  You can taste the 14% bite on the way down, as opposed to when this beer was a little too frigid, it was like I was drinking a 7% brown ale.  This beer with a few degrees on it changes it completely.  It just goes to show the nuances of craft beer – it can change quicker than than Superman in a phone booth with the slightest influences.

The body on Mother of All Storms was fairly thick, but didn’t taste so (if that makes sense).  The sugary liquid left a coating on the teeth and tongue, but went down easily with a buttery and velvety body.  As mentioned, this beer clocks in at a Charlie Sheen like 14% ABV and is perfect to nurse… it only gets better as it sits.  The carbonation was present, but was kind of like the noise generated from a high school football game… just barely there but enough to make the ambiance.

Overall:  I was so ready to give this beer a C+, but honesty, the Brits may be up to something drinking all their suds warm.  Hyde was so much better – a lot more cohesive than Jekyll.  This brew is still a tad sweet for my tastes, but it is a powerfully boozy barley wine, so it’s to be expected to some extent.  I wish it had a little more roastiness to balance out the sugar, but c’est la vie.  I enjoyed this brew and respect it for what it is.  With some degrees on it, I’ll give it a B+.  Wouldn’t mind hunkering down with this during a storm.

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Side Project / 2nd Shift Brewing P.A.R.K.A.S.

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Whenever I was assigned a group project in high school, college, or grad school, I was always the first student with their hand raised to ask the question, “Is it all right if I work by myself?”  I dreaded group work more than Superman dreaded Kyptonite, more than republicans dreading rational thought, and more than Hillary Clinton dreads incoming emails.  I never liked relying on somebody else unless because I always felt I’d be the one to elevate the other person… type A and arrogant, I know… but I hated it.  To put faith into somebody else when my name was attached to it was always a struggle for me, however for Corey King of Side Project Brewing, it’s no big thang.  He teamed up with 2nd Shift Brewing out of IMG_3652Missouri to craft a beer creatively named P.A.R.K.A.S. (puppies and rainbows kittens and shit).  That said, I wonder if my glass full of liquid is the pot of gold at then end of this bottle.  Time to run them numbers…

Appearance:  A cloudy golden color that gave off a white head.  The froth disappeared almost immediately and there was no lacing to be seen in the Charente stemware.  Really digging the color of the brew – perfectly authentic to a wood aged saison.

Smell:  White wine, granny smith apples, lemon, lime, oak, minerality, and lactic greek yogurt.  This smells more sour than I expected, but no complaints about that from me; it gives off a very similar scent to Casey Saison.  Can’t wait to dive into it!

Taste:  A luscious lactic sourness on first sip that immediately gave me memories of Lady in the Woods by Cisco.  It has that same Chobani yogurt tartness going on and tricks you into thinking the body is creamier than it is; tIMG_3663he lactic presence in here is prominent and stings the sides of the tongue.  Once the palate gets used to the sourness from the acidity, the brew opens up like presents under the tree.  The first flavor I identified once I became acclimated to the brew was the yeast in here.  It has a very typical Belgian saison taste and reminds me of what I tasted in the saison from Casey.  The yeast is much more prominent than I would have thought, but it brings some balance to the beer giving off some clove, banana, and rock candy equalizing the tartness… well at least it attempts to equalize the sour.  A light oak character is picked up on well after you swallow leaving a dry, tannic character that coaxes you back into the glass.

The dryness of the beer isn’t surprising since it’s a barrel aged sour, but for how light and delicate this tastes, an ABV of 6.2% may raise some eyebrows.  While it’s not over the top, its slightly above average for barrel aged saisons and goes completely undetected in the taste.  The mouthfeel is light to mediIMG_3653um bodied – the sweetness of the saison bumps it up a little but it sure is an easy drinker.  The carbonation is right in the wheelhouse of many saisons with fine, crisp bubbles.

Overall:  This is a very well conceived beer.  Cory King and the folks at 2nd Shift likely passed kindergarten with flying colors; you can tell they worked well with one another and were more than willing to listen and share ideas.  To quote the late Steve Jobs, “It just works.”  The balance between saison and sour is executed with precision in P.A.R.K.A.S. and I admire its simplicity.  No fruit, no double barreling, no spices… just a great wine aged farmhouse.  I have to give these two breweries an A.  The beer is really impressive and demonstrates teamwork better than the 2003 Ohio State football team.

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Tree House Brewing Good Morning

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I am not a morning person.  The sound of my alarm going off makes me want to jump from a sky scraper and slip into an eternal coma.  However, every weekday, I groggily make my way from the bed wiping the snot from my eyes and muscle my way into the bathroom, somehow finding the strength to pick up my toothbrush to get that morning breath out of my mouth.  Next is the face exfoliation and shower, which I tell myself will wake me up, but the warm water trickling down only makes me want to reach for my pillow for another eight hours.  Getting dressed is always a challenge, since at this point I find there no motivation to even use my legs, let alone to look proper for the day.  I find some clothes that aren’t wrinkled – if the colors match it’s a happenstancial bonus – and make my way downstairs.  I pretend to be excited to see my dog, start the Keurig machine, and begrudgingly take my keys and make it to the car.  The whole commute in I yearn for Saturday morning so I can finally sleep in and by the time I make it to my destination, I finally accept that life must go on.

IMG_3646Mornings are a struggle for me.  Good Morning can change all that.  A coffee stout brewed with the finest grain and freshly tapped maple syrup, it brings me back to the fun mornings in elementary school waking up early to watch Sonic the Hedgehog and Power Rangers.  Will this beer live up to my sentimental memories or be more disappointing than that sandbox, tree house, and finished basement my parents promised me when I was little?  Time to run them numbers!

Appearance:  Black with a cascading dark khaki head that quickly shrunk; no lacing as I drank.

Smell:  Big maple syrup notes… I got that as soon as I started pouring Good Morning into the matching teku.  I also got substantial coffee, roasted grain, chocolate, smoke, and fudge brownie.  This smells incredible… I can’t wait to dive in.

Taste:  That’s really, really nice.  There is a robustness to this brew fronted by charred grain and assertive coffee.  The maple syrup comes through nicely as it’s clearly identifiable and tastes like Grandma’s homemade pancakes early Sunday morning.  I get some nice dark chocolate that complements the bitterness of the grain and coffee while also adding to the body of the brew – it’s sticky, silky, and very rich.  Too much of this brew could probably give you gout.  I’m not sure if it’s the syrup or the coffee, but I’m also picking up on some vanilla sprinkled throughout the brew.  Everything melds so great together.  The flavors in here just work, and the name of this beer does a great job of describing it.  Imagine chocolate chip pancakes, with a sweet yet biscuity profile drizzled with authentic maple syrup straight from the sugar shack paired with your favorite cup of morning joe.  That’s this beer in a nutshell. 

IMG_3651As I continued to drink, Good Morning just kept getting gooder and gooder better and better.  I wasn’t wowed initially because I did detect a little chalkiness from the taste/texture, which I found off putting, however after a few sips into it, that vanished and more and more maple syrup came out.  I’m really surprised how prominent that flavor is within this beer.  The coffee and roasted grains are also stars of the show, but the maple syrup makes this beer elite.  The mouthfeel was nice and sticky and the carbonation was purposefully light, not to be a distraction.  The ABV on Good Morning was 8.4%, but I was able to taste the booze in here.  I actually thought it would be a bit bigger given the taste, but the alcohol flavor was far suppressed underneath all of the other notes in the brew.

Overall:  This beer is now ranked number one on Beer Advocate’s top 250 list.  Does it deserve this spot?  That’s really quite subjective, and I’m not sure the answer to that; what I can say is that this beer is an elite adjunct stout bursting with all the flavors you’d ever want in a stout.  This is the best non-barrel-aged stout I’ve had by a large margin as the syrup really puts it over the top.  I actually think if they put it in bourbon barrels, you wouldn’t be able to dissect all of the parts to it.  To cut to the chase, this beer gets an A+ and nod into the hall of fame.  A truly distinct beer with an amazing flavor profile.  I’m glad to have gotten my hands on this… it might even make me a morning person.

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Mikkeller Bourbon Barrel Aged Beer Geek Brunch Weasel

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What always makes things better?  Bourbon.  This American made elixir is fantastic on its own, but elevates other culinary goodies to a new level, most notably beer.  Mikkeller embraces the gift of bourbon and has allowed one of their better brews to rest in its barrel, Beer Geek Brunch Weasel.  This beer is packed with oats, coffee, charred grain, and of course, some of that vanillay, caramelly bourbon.  Enough said, let’s run them numbers!

IMG_3624Appearance:  Jet black, no head, no lacing as I drank, no more to say.

Smell:  Bourbon, molasses, chocolate, roasted grain, coffee, slight smoke, slightly tannic, and hints of vanilla.  This beer smells big, bold, and in your face – very much like the original version.

Taste:  Oh dear lord, this beer is insane.  On first taste there is so much going on: coffee, graham cracker, bourbon, roasted grain, vanilla… and those flavors are all identified individually, but also collaborate brilliantly with one another.  The depth of flavor in here is what makes this beer so great.  It starts off strong and finishes with the same tenaciousness.  The bourbon lingers from across the palate and its presence can be found from sip to swallow imparting whiskey flavors as well as cinnamon and vanilla.  The base of this beer is strong enough to hold up to the bourbon aging with a ton of coffee breaking through pairedIMG_3635 with grain that has a nice, deep toast to it.  The finish to this beer is ever so slightly bitter which can be attributed to the tannins in the wood or the bite of the coffee, either way it actually works with the other aggressive flavors in the brew.

The mouthfeel on BA Brunch was full bodied and silky smooth as if Mikkeller added tons of oats to the mash.  The carbonation was light as it should have been for an imperial stout and the ABV on this brew was 10.9%, which is actually the same as the non BA version.  You can taste a little more booze here, but it does not overshadow the flavors; with that said, it also is pretty drinkable for a BA stout.  I found my teku to be empty earlier than I wanted.

Overall:  This beer is awesome.  I loved the original beer, but the Bourbon aging process just elevates this to another level.  So many flavors, yet very cohesive at the same time gives this beer an A/A+.  The only think I would ask Mikkeller to improve upon is the finish, but that’d be really splitting hairs.  Enjoy this beer with a bourbon chaser.

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Casey Plum Fruit Stand

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It’s been documented… one of, if not my absolute favorite sour beer is Tilquin Quetsche, a Belgian gueuze aged on plums.  It is so tart and so easy drinking.  I’m hoping this fruited sour from Casey can compete on some level with Tilquin, but my expectations are tempered just because those are some high standards to compete with.  Let’s compare plums to plums and run them numbers…

Appearance:  Much different in color than Quetsche.  Quetsche had a purple hue and was quite murky, where clearly this does not have any depth of color.  However, Shiro plums have white-ish skins, so clearly they would not contribute to the color as opposed to the deep purple plums used by Tilquin.  It poured with a very small white head and had a murky, yellow/orange color that laced as I drank.

Smell:  Big mustiness from the oak – that’s the first thing that jumps out on aroma.  Wafts of lemon, lime, citrus, and tart plum all are in there as well, and it smells as if it is going to be quite sour.

Taste:  Giant sourness on first sip.  Really puckering, but I can’t say that was unexpected.  A ton of sour citrus is what this beer reminds me of – lemon, lime, passion fruit, and, though this wouldn’t jump out at me without reading the label, I get tart plum skin.  The sweetness in the flesh of the plum is absent to me and I’m just hit with a nice sour wave.  This beer is awesomely tart.  Like other Casey beers, most notably their saison, this beer has a minerally taste to it which coIMG_3621mplements the citrus in here and makes it quite refreshing.  This variant of their Fruit Stand serious finishes dry, but not toooooo dry – a good balance.  Other than sour, citrus, and minerals, nothing else is jumping out.

The combination of citrus and minerality paired with a light body make this beer incredibly drinkable.  Carbonation was present and I could feel it push out the last quarter inch of cork when opening this up.  The ABV matches the light body at only 5.5% which makes this beer perfect for a 90 degree day.

Overall:  A great beer yet again by Casey, and I will give this guy an A.  The sourness hits you on the first sip and does not fade off at all when drinking, however I would desire a bit more fruit flavors out of this brew.  All said and done, this is my second favorite plum sour.

UPDATE: So I only stole a little sample of this to review because I saved the rest to split with a friend.  When we split it and got to the yeast cake, we stopped pouring, however as our glasses neared the end there was a huge musty, moldy, dirty taste that must have came from the barrel.  It was pretty off putting and I have to downgrade this to a B overall.  First pour great, last pour crapy.

 

Sante Adairius Rustic Ales Fruit Punch 2

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Sante Adairius is making noise in the craft beer world and has for a little while now.  Tucked away about an hour and a half south of San Francisco, this brewery specializes in all styles of beer, but craft beer nerds go wild for their sour ales.  Fruit Punch 2 fits that mold for sure.  Brewed with Blackberries and Boysenberries, aged in oak casks, and bottled in limited quantities, I am very much looking forward to drink this guy today.  This is where I’d usually put the “run the numbers” part in my intro, but I was curious as to why this beer is just labeled 16e.

SARA makes many other beers that are also adorned with the 16e label, so I did a little digging to figure out why that’s the case.  16e is a category that the Beer Judge Certification Program broIMG_3596adly classifies as a “Belgian Specialty Ale” and rumor has it that whenever SARA concocted one of their non-regular sour ales that they entered in competitions, they always threw it in that category.  This just happens to be one of the recipes that they feel fits in the 16e category and because it’s not part of their regular line up, it’s one-offed into this bottle.  Now with that behind us, let’s run them numbers!

Appearance:  So pretty.  Lucius red lipstick in color which makes this beer very aptly named based on looks alone.  There was little to no head at all and also no lacing as I drank either.

Smell:  Sour notes, big raspberry, cherry, cinnamon, and mulled cider.  This smells incredible and much better than Rosé de Gambrinus and Cantillon Kriek combined.  So much fruit with a little lactic notes, this is going to be great.

Taste:  Big fruitiness up front with sour cherries, raspberries, and blackberries leading the way.  A nice amount of sourness is coming from the beer, but nothing like Valley of the Heart’s Delight – it’s nicely balanced between sour and a big fruit punch (pun intended).  I think I might have had a boysenberIMG_3594ry once in my life, and I would say that this beer seems like it fits the mold of that – I get a liiiiiiiiitle bit of sweetness and then the pucker from any picked berry.  A little musty as well, but I could be confusing that for oak.  Fruit punch is very fruit forward, but has a light crisp flavor than can lose its powerfulness after 5 or so sips.  It’s good, just wish it had more staying power.  The finish is tart and dry and I also get some pitted olive that I’ve found in several other sours.

The beer was super drinkable with a light body and active bubbles, a great pair to have together.  The ABV in Fruit Punch was much bigger that I was expecting at 7.4%, which is substantial for a sour.  There was zero hint of any booze in this beer, just a lot of fruit.

Overall:  I liked Fruit Punch 2, but for how hard this beer is to get and the diminishing flavor it had after a few sips, it doesn’t seem worth it to me to seek it out.  Yes, it was a great beer, but at the end of the day, it didn’t deliver as much flavor as Cantillon Kriek or other Allagash fruited sours (which are not easy to acquire, but easier than this brew).  However, the fact that this beer is in the conversation with the aforementioned breweries proves that it’s an A-/A beer.  This is one heck of a 16e.

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Evil Twin Imperial Biscotti Break

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Growing up (and even still to this day) my mother’s favorite dessert was a toasted biscotti with almonds and a chocolate coated bottom, along with a side of rich coffee.  As a kid, I hated biscottis because I couldn’t have coffee – to have one without the other is sacrilegious in my book, and now I realize the combination is more effective than Batman and Robin.  Evil Twin takes a page from my mother’s book to combine the flavors of coffee with rich roasted grain and added spices to create a very acclaimed stout in Imperial Biscotti Break.  Will it live up to the real thing?  Time for them numbers.

IMG_3585Appearance:  Jet black with zero head to speak of.  The brew came out of the bottle at a slow pace and you can tell this is going to be one thick beer.  No lacing as I drank.

Smell:  Heavy roasted grain, coffee, chocolate, hazelnuts, dark raisins, dates, and vanilla.  It also smells creamy, but I could be getting that from seeing how thick this brew poured.  Smells great.

Taste:  Roasted grain clings to your palate upon first sip, but is balanced out by so many flavors.  A lot of stouts can be overly charred with the grain dominating in the taste, but Evil Twin does a great job to incorporate sweet and bitter to make things a little more interesting.  After the big grain blast, I get notes of vanilla, marshmallow, and toasted nuts – all of these notes really help to compliment the the robust malt profile in here.  To round things out, there is some bitterness on the finish from the added coffee beans which not only helps the balance of the brew but also adds more depth and richness to the beer.  No one flavor jumps out to me and the more I drink the more balance this beer becomes to me.

IMG_3586Along the way in drinking this beer, brownie batter and chocolate make their way in during the mid palate, again complementing all the flavors found in here.  What also makes this beer harmonize is the body on it – I can say with certainty this is a heavy bodied beer.  It has a very silky texture and I wouldn’t be shocked if oats were thrown in during the mash.  The luscious mouthfeel pairs well with the low carbonation found in here.  Upon drinking this, I feel as if Evil Twin executed this beer flawlessly and it was made with a lot of thought.  The flavors work, the carbonation is great with a thick body, and the ABV in here is high, but cannot be detected; 11.5% can be tough to mask, but there is no heat coming from the liquid… amazing.

Overall:  This is one heck of an imperial stout and reminds me a bit of Beer Geek Brunch Weasel, only with less coffee.  That’s really not too surprising though as the head brewer at Evil Twin is actually the twin brother of Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, co-founder of Mikkeller.  All things considered I have to give this beer an A-/A.  The midpalate can be a bit much with its sweet flavors, but more so, serving this beer in a 22oz format makes it tough to finish in one sitting or by oneself.  Who needs coffee AND biscotti when you can find the flavors of both in one beverage.

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Fiddlehead Brewing Company Mastermind

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People say the Vermont beer scene is one of the best in the country.  Craft beer meccas like Hill Farmstead, The Alchemist, and Lawson’s are inhabit the green mountain state, in addition to nationally distributed breweries like Otter Creek, Long Trail, Harpoon, Magic Hat, etc…  Often forgotten about, Fiddlehead Brewing Company out of Shelburne, VT, is making waves in the craft beer realm by producing some incredible IPAs comparable to the ones being concocted by the meccas mentioned earlier.  Mastermind is a double IPA that’s a brewery only release and usually goes quick.  On a recent trip up to the “why does everything smell like cow manure” state, I was able to nab a four-pack and enjoy the contents from within.  Let’s run them numbers.

IMG_3573Appearance:  Murky golden brown with a white head that laced nice in the glass.  You can tell the yeast is alive on the pour alone and it looks like an inviting DIPA.

Smell:  Juicy hops, passion fruit, grapefruit, orange, and lime.  This smells like Omnipollo 42 tastes – there are so many similarities.  Very fruit forward with piney and resinous hops taking a backseat in the beer.

Taste:  Taste veers a little from what I got on the aroma; the main flavor I’m getting from this brew is faint anise.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this is a signature taste I get out of almost every Trillium IPA I’ve had and is also quite similar to Bissel Brother IPAs.  It’s spicy and almost has a charred rye taste to it.  I can’t really get past that one taste and the beer doesn’t quite open up to anything else.  It’s not too bitter, there aren’t a ton of tropical flavors, and maybe there’s a touch bit of pine at the finish; the main thing I’m hung up on is the anise.  This is actually the third time I’m having this beer – I had it a few days ago at the brewery and once about 6 months ago – both times I didn’t recognize this much anise and remember it being very tropical and balanced, so maybe with time this will round out?  I might have to follow up on this in a week or two.

IMG_3574As far as mouthfeel and carbonation go, both are fine.  Mouthfeel is thinish and the carbonation is more normal than the name Bill.  The ABV in Mastermind is at 8.1%, which frankly is much more than I would have guessed.  This goes down very easy and there is no hint of the ABV at all in the brew, so kudos for Fiddlehead on that.

Overall:  I like this beer and enjoy it, but I think I could find something on my shelf at home that I’d prefer more.  Given the rarity of this beer (AKA lack of accessibility) I have to give it a B.  However, when I had this a half a year ago, I gave it a 5 on Untappd, which I rarely do; this beer can definitely change with a little time (for the better of course).  The can date on the one I’m reviewing is 5 days ago, so it still may need some “aging”.  A good Vermont beer, but out of reach of Heady and Focal Banger.

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