Life and Limb Rhizing Bines from @SierraNevada and @dogfishbeer

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I’ve had good luck with beers from both Sierra Nevada and DogFish Head, but I’ve never had one of their collaborations. When I read about this release, I was eager to try it. It’s a double IPA and I’m a big fan. It’s using some expiermental hops, something as a homebrewer always piques my interest. You never know which HBC will become the next Amarillo or Simcoe.

The beer is sold in 750ml bottles, in the new Dogfish head bottles. I have to admit I’m not impressed with custom bottle molds, this one pours kinda funny, and looks strange too. However the label has a real nice look to it.

The beer glugs from the bottle, raising a foamy head, typical for a hoppy ale. The beer is not bottle conditioned and pours crystal clear and golden. There isn’t a citrus note from the it’s much more woody, floral, and earthy. It’s not your typical west coast ipa, citrus and pine, and I’m kind of disappointed. The body is fine, not overly thick, not syrupy, but the hop flavors I can’t get beyond. I taste mellon, and woody, and theres a faint soapy taste. I even dumped part of a glass, and washed my glass to ensure I didn’t have some sort of residue in my glass tainting the beer. Alas it was just the flavor. 

Vital Stats: Served at 45F in a willi beecher. 8% ABV.

Taste: B- Atypical for a west coast ipa, plenty hoppy, just not the right kind.

Drinkability B+: Subltle for 8%, not hot or too thick.

Packaging: A-. Some info, hop variety, bottled on date, and nice technique info (continuous hopping and torpedo). Missing IBU, and it’s got the funky bottle, that maybe I’m the only one who doesn’t like.  

Value: B. It’s a solid beer, some hop flavors don’t agree with some people, this is one of those beers for me.  

 

 

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More from the west coast, Drakes Denogginizer Dipa.

The saying goes, when in Rome, well, when on the west coast, buy hoppy ales.

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 So that is what I did. I picked this up along with a few others to bring back. I’ve heard good things about Drakes 1500 and Alpha session, so when I spotted this double ipa, I had to pick it up. With a name like Denogginizer, you get a good idea what the beer is going to about. This isn’t a delecate balanced ale, it’s bitter, piney, floral, and resinous. Golden orange in color with a tight head, and medium body, this beer is definately a sipper. 

 

Vitals: Served at 45F in a Willi Becher. 9.75% ABV 90 IBU. Organic, estate grown hops.

Taste: B. Simple, very bitter, medium bodied, not fruity, very piney.

Drinkability: B. This is not going to be followed up by another.

Packaging: A-. The label has everything you are looking for, with one minor exception, no bottled, packaged, fresh by date. The details about hop variety (simcoe, colombus, amarillo, cascade), and grains are apreciated, as are abv and ibu. 

Value: b. Under 7 for a bomber, and unavailable outside of CA.   

 

 

Stone Brewing Company’s Enjoy By 12/21/12 Imperial IPA

I had originally tried this beer at Thanksgiving along with 2 other titans of the IPA world:  The Alchemist’s Heady Topper and Lawson’s Finest Liquids’ Hopzilla.  A veritable Monsters of Hops broke out in my in-laws’ kitchen that Thursday.

 

The Hopzilla had a much fuller malt character making it more balanced.  The Heady Topper, canned the previous day, was its usual fresh, sticky hop-bomb self.  The Enjoy By fit very nicely between the two, featuring a more grassy profile than the others, but the freshness was unmistakable.  Right up there with the day-old Heady Topper which is a feat considering this beer was probably brewered a month earlier and 3000 miles away.

 

Tonight I’m trying it a full three weeks later, mere days from the latest date it’s intended (at least for marketing purposes) to be enjoyed.

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This is a beer you smell the moment you open the bottle.  Bright, floral, grassy hop aromas fill the air right away.  You can’t ignore it. 

 

Enjoy By pours a beautiful straw color, very clear and with little carbonation visible (more on that in a minute).  I wish I’d paid closer attention when I opened the young bottle to see if the carbonation was any different with that one.  A thick, foamy head was easily achieved and the foam clung to the glass creating a lacy histogram of my pauses in sipping to type this review.

 

There’s nice prickly carbonation when you take a sip which didn’t match up with the few bubbles I saw.  Crisp and inviting without much in the way of sugary malts.  The malts that there are to balance it come at the very back end but do nice work to hold off-putting bitterness more or less at bay.  Fresh hops pretty much the whole way through each sip with grapefruit, orange, and grassy hops dominating.  A slight bitterness to the finish and some warming but that’s mostly well-masked.  Mouthfeel is on the light end of medium and slightly oily.  You feel like it’s really coating your tongue.

 

Is it the beer I’d want to see out the planet earth and my own existence with?  Not quite.  It could do with a slightly less bitter finish (at times there was a chalkiness to it which I’m not a huge fan of).  But that is a very minor quibble with this exceptional beer.  It mops the floor with 98% of this very fashionable beer sub-genre.

 

My apotheosis Imperial IPA would probably be Heady Topper or perhaps Lagunitas Sucks.  But this is a damn good beer.  A damn good beer.

 

It is bested by only a handful of other imperial IPA’s I’ve tried in my apparently soon-to-be-ending life, and that’s saying something.  Hats off to Stone.

 

Vitals:  9.4% ABV, poured at about 50F into a glass from the 22 oz bottle.

 

Taste:  A-  The care put into this beer is evident.  A few minor adjustments I’d make personally, but this is a special imperial IPA.  Well done, Stone.

 

Drinkability:   C+  It’s a big beer ABV-wise.  Best shared (as I’m sure you’ve heard us say many times on this blog), but you won’t mind doing so because there’s plenty to talk about with this one.

 

Packaging:  A  You pretty much know what to expect from Stone; they have their brand and they’re sticking to it.  The Gargoyle makes his appearance, and as usual, they ace the written portion of the label test.  In the world of craft-beer label text, I’d say 1 and 1A are Stone and Lagunitas.  Stone is long-form (almost to a fault) and Lagunitas is short-form with a sense of humor I love.  Stone :  blogs :: Lagunitas : Twitter if that makes sense.

 

Value:  Something supremely limited (until/if the Mayans are proven wrong) like this is hard to put a value on.  I’ll give it an A- because this is a good beer, and I need to make a few extra deposits in the karma bank just in case we are indeed slouching towards Ragnarök.

 

On a final note, I applaud Stone for making the effort to keep freshness a priority (a concept Sam Adams pioneered, but Stone has taken to a whole new level, giving their beer a few short weeks of shelf life).  I’m sure you could enjoy Enjoy By beyond the date associated with each batch, but it’s the principal of what they’re doing that I applaud.  This can’t be easy for a brewery with national distribution.

 

Have you tried Enjoy By?  If so, let us know the date and batch.  3 weeks on, it’s definitely not as bright and fresh as a few days after release.

Review: Ballast Point @BPBrewing Dorado Double IPA

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San Diego’s Ballast Point Brewing produces one of the proverbial best IPAs out there, their Sculpin IPA.  I’ve had in it large and small bottles and on draft on the West Coast and it’s fortunately a staple in most craft beer stores locally in Massachusetts.  It’s in my top five IPAs and I recommend it all the time. Recently I had the opportunity to grab a bottle of their DIPA, Dorado, and have been saving it for a review.  

Dorado smells of a rich blend of pine and grapefruit and pours a deep clear orange color. Very little head faded away quickly leaving light lacing.  I’m also a fan of a heavy pour to evoke flavors and smells, and the grapefuit citrus smell did not disappoint.  On the taste buds this is no doubt a hop bomb – any subtle malt flavor gets overwhelmed with a tsunami of hops.  The label says “Mash hopping, kettle hopping & dry hopping” – not sure the IBUs on this one but it has to be fairly high.  I am a fan of big hops with malt holding back back just from the edge and this delivers exactly that.  I have had the bottle for a couple months, and even though the “enjoy by” date stands at 7/31/13 I hope to get the chance to try some fresh.  Interesting that there no mention of the beer on the company website – looks like this is part of their “Robust Series” that they rarely bottle.  

In the description on the bottle it says, “Hopheads rejoice!” – and rejoice we shall.  

Vital Stats:  Served at 45F in a small tulip (glass is from Russian River – I figure West Coast nod was appropriate).  10% ABV.

Taste: A-.  Hops, hops and more hops – probably as bitter as I would go.  Nice cirtus/pine combo for a classic DIPA.

Drinkability: B.  ABV is up there, not the most sessionable of DIPAs (I know that’s a non sequitor but there are some I could drink all day).

Packaging: B+.  I love Ballast Point’s artwork – the Dorado is another name for the dolphinfish and they kept this as a nice complement to their other beers donning aquatic names.    

Value: C.  $9.99 for a growler is pretty high. Same store on occasion has Heady Topper for $5 a can, making this look way too expensive even though it seems to be rare in New England.

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Craft Beer Threesome! Sierra Nevada Narwhal #stoutday

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When I mentioned I had a bottle of Sierra Nevada Narwhal to review for #stoutday, Chad and Matt quickly suggested we do a 3-in-1 review. So get your heads out of the gutter. This review is strictly PG. 

I’ll offer my pics/insights and then pass the baton to Chad. Matt will wrap up the post and hopefully this post hits before the end of the day. 

This beer wasn’t even on my radar until my local beer guy pointed it out and suggested I give it a try. Who am I to say no? 

It pours a deep, dark black. I was able to coax a nice, tight head in the pour and it lingers nicely, leaving nice lacing on the glass. 

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It honestly doesn’t give me a lot in the bouquet. Very slight coffee, a little bit of charcoal, but not a whole lot, so we’re going straight to the taste. 

Nice carbonation, tight flavor profile, but a bit underwhelming. It doesn’t have the depth I’ve come to expect in big imperial stout (ahem, Founders Breakfast Stout). There’s some coffee and bitter chocolate in there, but there’s not the richness or smooth finish I like in this type of beer. It’s actually a little bitter on the finish, but not in a good way. 

I really wanted to like this beer and while it’s not bad, there better examples of the style readily available (Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, Oskar Blues Ten Fidy, FBS). 

Vitals: Served at 45F in my trusty tulip. I let it warm a bit before doing my review. 10.2% ABV.

Taste: B-. Not memorable. 

Drinkability: C+. Too hot to drink more than one. 

Packaging: C. Basic info, but not keeping pace with the market. 

Value: B+. $10 for a 4-pack. Reasonable if you enjoy it. 

p.s. I dug out an FBS to see how it compared to Narwhal and it wasn’t even close. The FBS is a different beast altogether, justifying it’s spot in the Craft Beer Social Hall of Fame. Now I will go take a nap and give Chad the floor….

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When Jim asked me to be part of this Sierra Nevada Narwhal review I thought to myself “Good heavens, man! I already wrote one review this year! Do I look like some sort of machine to you??.” Fortunately I was able to summon the stamina to give this one a go, all in the spirit of National Stout Day.

I purchased this beer with high hopes. The description on the label appealed to all the things I love about a delicious imperial stout: the roasty malt flavors, hints of coffee, the cocoa and richness. I actually found myself hoping for a spontaneous snowstorm when I cracked this one open (sort of like the Coors Light commercials**, only this time with good beer).
** p.s. anyone who can accurately interpret what the hell that commercial has to do with beer wins a lifetime membership to Craft Beer Social, free of charge.
I took this Narwhal out of my beer fridge and set it on the counter for a while while I fiddled with my camera taking photos. Stout aficionados will tell you it pays to let an imperial warm up a bit, since too much coldness can prevent you from experiencing the more subtle flavors. I thought I was doing everything right. The pour was silky smooth darkness with barely a hint of foam. The aroma was exactly what I’d hoped for: roasty deliciousness with the hint of coffee bean. I even bought a deep dark chocolate bar to go with it, hoping it would coax out even more of the flavors on my palate.
Founders Breakfast Stout – was this going to be your new competitor?! My hopes were high. I tipped it back for that first sip, shunning the chocolate bar so as not to be corrupted in any way. And then…
Booze. That was the first word that came into my mind. This one weighs in at 10.2% ABV, and I could taste every single one of those percentage points. Founders Breakfast Stout & Great Divide Oak Aged Imperial Yeti wrap me up in their delicious flavors to the point where I almost forget I’m drinking a relatively high alcohol craft beer. I’m sorry Sierra Nevada, but this was not the same experience. I could sip this one and appreciate what they were trying to accomplish with it, but the alcohol overwhelmed my enjoyment. I can’t see myself buying this one again.
Vitals: 10.2% ABV, served at around 50 degrees in my favorite “Look at me, I’m a sophisticated stout drinker” glass.
Taste: C+ It tasted like rich, boozy adult beverage. I did get a hint of bitter coffee, but it wasn’t enough for me to put this in the class of other great imperial stouts.
Drinkability: C I won’t say the “b–zy” word again because I’ve already beaten it into the ground. I can’t imagine drinking more than one of these in a session.
Value: Let’s see… paying $10+ for a 4-pack of a beer I wasn’t that fond of after 2 sips? Not what I’d consider “high value”.
Label Design: A I actually thought they nailed the label design for this type of beer. It’s too bad I’d want the beer itself to go down with the ship that mutant unicorn whale is apparently crushing.
Ok, so Chad’s not buying this one again. What about Matt? 
After seeing that both Jim and Chad were going to review Sierra Nevada’s Narwhal, I decided to grab a bottle and give it a go myself. It has been a while since I have had a beer from Sierra, but their small bottle offerings typically do not disappoint. The beer poured very dark, mostly black with some brown highlights on top with a small tan colored head on top.

The aroma has lots of roasted malt, some cocoa, dark chocolate, and a little bit of espresso. There is a hint of pine and grapefruit right at the end. The flavor profile is quite similar to the aroma with more roasty malt, almost charred, with some dark chocolate and licorice. I picked up a little bit of mint in the middle as well.

Vitals: 10.2% abv poured into a tulip glass after sitting out a few minutes. Consumed over the course of 45 minutes.

Taste: B, A solid stout with most of the characteristics I am looking for in the style

Drinkability: B+, not a beer I am going to drink a lot of, but found this 12oz bottle pretty easy to drink and tasted none of the 10.2% abv.

Value: A-, Picked up a single bottle for $2.99 which was not marked up from the 4 pack for $12. A pretty good deal for a beer this big.

Label Design: A-, Yes, it still sort of looks like every other Sierra Nevada bottle, but I am digging the black label and the narwhal image.

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So there you have it. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. While it sounds like Matt is in love and I wouldn’t kick Narwhal out of bed, Chad’s not so sure… he’s looking for another lover. I hope you enjoy our first “threesome” here at Craft Beer Social. 🙂 

 

Wormtown Brewery’s Hopulence DIPA

I’d heard great things about Wormtown from our fellow CBS contributor Chad, so when I spotted one of their offerings on the shelf at Redstone, I grabbed it.  Bonus that it was a Double IPA and I could review it for IPA Day!  I also picked up a bottle of the highly-regarded Be Hoppy IPA, but as that’s already been reviewed, I’m trying this one tonight.  Again, local beer, I want to like this…here goes.

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Pours a very nice copper color with a nice foamy head that hangs around and laces nicely on the glass.  Not an overpowering nose but I picked up mostly tropical fruit notes.  None of the heady notes you find in some beers of this style.

On the first sip you’re hit with a ton of VERY citrusy hops.  The nose belies what lies beneath.  I was actually taken aback by how ‘tart’ this beer is.  Almost lip-puckeringly so.  Slightly more carbonated than I’d prefer and a fair degree of bitterness at the end which isn’t really my thing.  The hop flavor lingers at the back of your palate. 

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Overall, a good double IPA, but given how many superb takes on this style we’ve tried, this one doesn’t quite stack up given some of the other options out there.  But as Wormtown is a local brewery, I am looking forward to trying more of their product and perhaps make a trip to the brew pub in the near future.

Vitals: Served in a tulip glass at 45F. 8.5% ABV, 120 IBU’s and you’ll taste every one of them.

Taste: B. A nice DIPA, but at the end of the day, a little too bitter at the finish for my liking.  Not enough malt to balance out the hops. 

Drinkability: C.  This is really subjective, but given the ABV and the bitterness, I don’t see wanting more than one glass of this in a sitting.  This is a bottle to share with a friend in my view. 

Packaging: B. Informative label, but a little ho-hum otherwise. 

Value:  I’ll have to back-fill this one.

 

Nøgne Ø Two Captains Imperial IPA

I’ve already reviewed several Norwegian beers here over the last six months, and on the whole I’ve found them to be a really refreshing take on all the respective styles.  Label design is always interesting and informative, and I really hope they are able to make some in-roads here in the United States.  With IPA Day approaching, I was hoping to find one I hadn’t yet reviewed, and Redstone came through for me by stocking Two Captains Imperial IPA by Nøgne Ø.

The beer pours a very nice cloudy orange with fluffy head and light lacing on the glass.  The nose is very inviting and I’m guessing based on the malt sweetness and caramel notes amidst the pine I get when sticking my nose in the glass that this isn’t going to be a garden variety Imperial. 

Taste delivers what the nose promises.  It’s hoppy for sure, but not a palate-thrashing take on the style.  Two Captains has a medium body and a slightly chewy mouthfeel which you don’t get in most IPA’s.  Carbonation is relatively light which adds to the more mellow character of the beer. 

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Some hints of caramel sweetness to balance off the citrusy hops which are there in abundance.  I’m not able to pick out as many oddball fruits as some reviewers, but I got grapefruit, orange, and apricot.  Biscuity malts also help in the balancing act.  A relatively dry, pleasantly bitter finish with some warming effect from the 8.5 ABV.  It’s not unpleasant, but makes you appreciate how well some DIPA’s of similar ABV content (e.g. Heady Topper) mask the alcohol.

Overall, another very enjoyable and unique take on a style by the Norwegians.  I have really grown to be a fan of these Scandinavian breweries.  Jim’s traveled there recently and might want to add his two øre on what he tried in Scandinavia in its fresher state, but count me as a fan of these Norwegian breweries.  This one is worth picking up to shake things up a bit and is a great intro to beers from this part of Europe.

Vitals: Served at 48F into my CBS pint glass (thanks Shannon!). 8.5% ABV.  100 IBU’s. 

Taste: B+/A-. If you’re not as patient with more subtle beers and just want hops to the EXXTREME, you might rate this lower.  It flirts with A- for me. 

Drinkability: B-. A pretty smooth-drinking beer, but it also packs the typical double IPA punch.   

Packaging: A-. Nice design, good info on the beer itself though I’d have like to know more about the origin of the name.

Value: C. Not cheap, but not something you’d want to drink all the time anyway.