Ballast Point “Sculpin IPA”

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This pours an amazing gold color with a thin head and a lacing that stuck to the outside of the glass.  The smell – wow.  I prefer the really strong grapefruit scent of the Ithaca Flower Power but the Sculpin is more balanced with a stronger hops aroma and flavor.  These two beers (this and the Flower Power) that we’re sampling back to back are, without question, among the top three IPA’s that I’ve ever had – Dogfish Head 90 Minute being the 3rd of greatness.  I love the lingering bitterness on the pallet left behind by the hops.

If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.  It’s very choice.

Flavor: A-  Drinkability: A-

Vital stats: ABV 7.0% IBU 70

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Ithaca Flower Power

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Another tag team review from the Solar/Storer team. 

I'm not a hop head like some of the group, but this beer is pretty awesome.  Jim poured a 12oz bottle between the rest of us.  It's a nice golden color but fairly murky.  The color combined with the thin lacing doesn't make the best looking beer in my opinion (if you can see light through it, it's not dark enough).  Then you smell it.  ("Just when I think you can't do anything dumber, you go ahead and do something like this…. and COMPLETELY redeem yourself")  The smell of this beer is just wonderful.  Citrus, pine, apricot, and enough hops to satisfy Sam Calagione and give a trademark smirk.  The beer is very well balanced between the sweetness of the citrus and the bitterness of the hops.  I'm a fan, and this beer might even give the Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA a run for the money.  

Flavor: A-  
Drinkability: A-

I love this beer. Psyched to give Matt his first taste. The nose for me, as strange as it sounds, is hockey locker room (in the very best way). It stinks. Sure there's pine and citrus in there too, but the hockey locker room… look for it. The taste is sweet grapefruit with a bit of honey and a nice subtle malt backbone. Slight metallic finish, but you get that with a hop bomb like this. Did I mention I love this beer?

Flavor: B+  
Drinkability: B+
Vital Stats: 12 oz bottle. Served at ~40F. 7.5% ABV. 75 IBUs. 

High & Mighty Two-Headed Beast

I picked this one up last week and figured I’d give it a try. It’s billed as a “luscious chocolate stout”, so yeah, I’ll like that. Matt’s over so we’re gonna tag team this review. 

It pours a deep auburn color with a nice head that hangs around a leaves a nice lace on the glass. IMHO it goes downhill from there. The immediate smell is bitter, more coffee than cocoa. Maybe even burnt toast. The taste is very thin, not stout-like in the least. I don’t know what to make of this beer, so I’m throwing it over to Matt [shaking head].

Anyone that knows me is aware of my bias for small, New England brewers. When Jim pulled this out of his fridge I was psyched. I think his exact comment was, “I haven’t had this yet but I think you’ll love it”. Man, don’t judge a book by it’s cover. If I had to describe this beer it certainly would not include the words “luscious”, “chocolate”, or even “stout” – all words High & Mighty use to describe this beer. I wanted to like this beer. I wanted to compare a beer that could give the dark beer I just reviewed, Wachusetts Milk Stout, [future link here] a run for the money. 

The best I can describe this beer is to liken it to the watered-down remains of yesterday’s crappy coffee sitting in that Friendly’s coffee pot. Seriously, it’s that bad. Watery. Bland. No sign of chocolate. I’m curious to read what Jim is writing about this disappointing beer. On a side note, it’s definitely guilt tripping him into breaking out something uber-special.  

Taste (Jim): D+ (it actually has a sour component that just made me wince). 
Drinkability (Jim): D
Taste (Matt): C-
Drinkability(Matt): C-
Vitals: 4.5% ABV

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Wachusett “Milk Stout” (@WachusettBrew)

I hadn’t heard of this one before and had to grab it as soon as I saw it.  Apparently I was sleeping in for it’s September launch.  Wachusett makes some great beers (Country & Winter Ales? Yes please.) and I love sweet stouts.  For me, an awesome beer is full bodied with a nice balance of sweetness and a dry bitterness.  At 5.8% ABV it’s not quite a light beer but it’s certainly on the lighter end for it’s “weight class”.  My horrible pour, pictured below, aside, it’s a nice, dark color with a deep, khaki color head.  Large aroma and flavors of chocolate with a nice bit of roasted coffee.  This is a great beer between BBC’s Coffeehouse Porter and Young’s Double Chocolate Stout.  If you like Rogue’s Chocolate Stout then you’ll love this beer.  Flavor: A  Drinkability B+/A- ABV 5.8%

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St. Bernardus Pater 6

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This is my first Belgian of the year. Mike S. recommended this one and as luck would have it, I was able to enjoy this one with him. Maybe he’ll share his tasting notes in the comments.

Pours a little hazy with a nice head that hangs around for a bit. Funky sourdough in the nose.. very complex.

First tastes confirms the bread component. Smooth with very little hops. Creamy. An easy, enjoyable beer to drink. All in all a great way to start my journey in Belgian beers.

Taste: B+
Drinkability: B
Vitals: 12oz bottle, served at ~40F. 6.7 ABV.

Pretty Things Jack D’or

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I've been avoiding this bottle in my fridge for the last couple of months. I've been on a stout kick with the snow and winter weather and a "saison americain" just didn't seem like the right beer for the times. But every time I opened the fridge it looked at me and said "I'm not getting any younger in here."* Well, I finally relented and am glad I did. 

It poured a bright, beautiful pale yellow color with a thick, billowing head. It's amazingly clear – so clear I think I could read a book through it! Perhaps I'm being overly dramatic since I've been looking at a lot of dark, murky beers lately. The head stuck around for a while, forming some nice lace on the glass. I'd give the appearance an A+. 

It smells great! Flowers and citrus really coming through. The first taste makes sense after the nose, nice hops backbone and subtle malt. A little funky finish (in a good way), with a hint of honey. I will make a habit of keeping a couple of these on hand at all times. Jack D'or is a good choice when you want to break out a craft beer for a friend that's just getting into it. 

Taste: B+ (maybe it's the season talking here?)
Drinkability: A- (I like a little funk in the trunk and this one delivers, but it might not be for everyone). 
Vitals: 22oz bomber, served at ~40F. 6.4% ABV. 45 IBUs.
*April 2010 stamped on the bottle

Green Flash Brewing Co.’s West Coast IPA

Just admit it: you West Coasters think you’re smarter than the rest of the world, don’t you? You had to develop your own offense for football because the conventional one wasn’t good enough for you; you constantly tout Silicon Valley as the center of the tech universe (possibly the entire universe); and now you’ve decided that a conventional beer bottle just isn’t worthy of your standards. My last trip to my favorite beer store led me to the Green Flash Brewing section, and look what I found:

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I’ve loved Green Flash’s West Coast IPA for a long time. It’s an American style IPA, 7.3% alcohol with a crisp hop bite that lives up to its 95 IBU rating. The thing I like best about it is the fullness of the body. Sometimes you pour a strong IPA and it’s so light that you know your excitement at the point the hops hit your tongue will be negated by the lackluster finish. That is most certainly NOT the case with this beer. It’s got the staying power of some of the double IPA’s I enjoy, minus the extreme alcohol levels. Pure delicious hop bliss. I’ll be buying a 6-pack of this one the next time I head to Julio’s Liquors

As for that new bottle shape: Green Flash, in my opinion you’ve earned the right to distinguish yourself.  

Taste: A

Drinkability: A

Vitals: ABV: 7.3%, 95 IBUS