Beer Review: Evil Twin Brewing’s B is for BLUEBERRY

Name: B is for Blueberry
Brewing Company: Evil Twin Brewing
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Style: Sour – Gose
ABV: 4.5%

From the beer can’s label:

Let’s face it, we all like to put labels on things. It just makes us feel more comfortable. What assumptions have people made about you based on your race, gender, the way you dress, or even the beer you drink. We did in fact label this beer for your convenience. It has a fresh tartness, a twist of salt and balanced blueberry fruitiness – apparently a complete reflection of your personality. We hope you like what this label says about you?

Evil Twin Brewing has made a name for itself without having a brewery. Odd, right? Well, like Bolero Snort, whose BOVB I reviewed recently, Evil Twin is a gypsy brewery. In other words, they contract brew at brewing facilities around the nation. Although Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø’s brewery is based out of Denmark, since 2010 Jeppe has earned a great reputation for sought-after beers. This one is fairly new and part of a series of Gose ales featuring a fruit infusion. The first was “A is for Apricot.”

On to B is for Blueberry

I didn’t know what beer this was at first. Meaning, my wife occasionally gets me a mixed six pack from Wegman’s, pours the beer for me and has me guess what the beer is. The first, most noticeable element of the beer is that purplish-blueish color. Admittedly, the picture above is not the best beer picture I’ve taken.

After a whiff, I thought it might be a fruit beer, a Gose, or a Berliner Weisse as the aroma gave off hints of fruit and tart. First sip is the tartness of blueberry and a bit of saltiness. My wife picked a good one, I thought. I liked what was in the glass quite a bit.

“Is this a Gose?” I asked my wife. “Gozer the Gozerian?” she joked. She then showed me the can and confirmed my guess. As I continued enjoying the beer, the tartness of the blueberries coupled with their underlying sweetness and the salt all Gose beers have made for quite a drinkable beer. Drinkable, right? Well, by that I mean everything in the flavor profile made me want to keep drinking because of how thirst quenching the beer is.

The evening I was enjoying the beer was one of the rare warm spring days we’ve had this year. As such, the beer hit the spot perfectly. I think Goses make for great warm weather brews (a favorite is Victory’s Kirsch Gose) and B is for Blueberry most amply fits that bill. I can see enjoying this on a warm summer day; after mowing the lawn, doing some yard work, just relaxing in the hammock reading a good book, or poolside (my favorite spot to enjoy beer).

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Jeppe is the “Evil Twin” of Mikkel, who started Mikkeller Brewing in 2016, this feature at NY Times on the brothers in March 2018 is quite fascinating.

Image courtesy of MyBeerBuzz

Beer Review: Industrial Arts Brewing’s TOOLS of the TRADE

Name: Tools of the Trade
Brewing Company: Industrial Arts Brewing Company
Location: Garnerville, NY
Style: Pale Ale – American
ABV: 4.9%

From the beers page of Industrial Arts Web site:

Snappy pink grapefruit, fresh and bright. Very highly drinkable.

While Industrial Arts Brewing may be fairly new, they opened about two years ago, brewmaster / owner Jeff O’Neill is far from new to the craft beer / brewing industry. The Flower Power IPA he created for Ithaca Brewing Company is renowned (listed  on VinePair as one of the 25 most important beers in American Craft beer history) and stints at Peekskill Brewing have given Industrial Arts an immediate cache within the craft beer community. After having two of their beers, it seems those expectations are well-founded. I enjoyed Metric, Industrial Art’s interpretation of a Pilsner last year, but this review focuses on Industrial Art’s delicious American Pale Ale – Tools of the Trade, also their flagship beer.

Crack of the can, pour of the beer and my glass is filled with a yellow-orange beer that looks slightly lighter (or even clearer) than I’d expect a Pale Ale to look, especially one labeled as an XPA. Inhaling the beer, I sensed hops with a piney and slightly bitter citrus profile. I was reminded a bit of the Sierra Nevada’s iconic Pale Ale (the #1 beer on that list I linked in the previous paragraph).

First sip is a really nice blast of hops and a good balance of citrus notes that match the aroma with a enough of malt  backbone to hold it all together. Again, similar to Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale. That’s a compliment for those keeping track at home of the tasting notes. What makes this beer stand above Sierra; however, is the more prominent citrus characteristics. Some sweetness of grapefruit, maybe? A little bit of lemon, too, maybe. Whatever citrus fruits were evoked by the hops, they were very pleasing to my palate.

As I continued to enjoy the beer, that citrus/hop profile grew stronger and more pronounced. The (there’s the dreaded word again) mouthfeel was a little creamy at first. Tools of the Trade is a beer that you want to enjoy quickly, from the first sip to the sadness that the bottom of a beer glass / can / bottle once filled with delicious liquid always symbolizes.

Tools of the Trade is an immensely refreshing beer, a pleasant, yet subtle bite from the hops, a citrus flavor that encourages you to not let the beer sit undrunk for too long. I’ve mentioned my dislike for grapefruit in the past, so I’m slightly surprised at how pleasing the citrusy/hop profile of this beer is for my palate given that grapefruit is called out in the brewery’s description of the beer.

If I’m being even more honest, a year ago, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed this beer. Only over say, the last six months, have I come to enjoy and appreciate hop-forward beers like Pale Ales and IPAs. What makes Tools of the Trade stand out so strongly is the pure elegance of the beer – standard ingredients with a focus on a honed, high-quality process to produce a remarkably well-balanced and delicious beer you’d like to have in your refrigerator in constant rotation.

Last week, I wasn’t sure what beer I would be picking up at the store, there wasn’t a new major release that was grabbing my attention. Then I listened to the third anniversary episode of the great Steal This Beer podcast and Jeff O’Neil (dubbed Chief by hosts Augie Carton and John Holl) was a guest. Luckily, my local beer stop had some of this beer in their fridge and here we are.

Strong Recommendation, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Beer Review: Unibroue’s A TOUT le MONDE

Name: À Tout le Monde
Brewing Company: Unibroue
Location: Chambly, QC Canada
Style: Saison / Farmhouse Ale
ABV: 4.5%

From Unibroue’s Landing Page for the beer:

À TOUT LE MONDE Ale honors the mutual passions and friendship of Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine and Unibroue’s Brewmaster Jerry Vietz.

It is brewed as a tribute to all the friends of hard rock music and Belgian style ales in Quebec and throughout the world. Heavy metal has played a very influential role in the history of Quebec’s musical development and Quebec city has the reputation of being one of the metal music capitals of the world. It is a closely-knit culture characterised by very passionate and devoted fans, much like that of Unibroue’s refermented ales.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that when Dave and Jerry’s paths recently crossed, their mutual passions for both arts would spark a desire for a Megadeth beer brewed by Unibroue.

And so À TOUT LE MONDE Ale was born, inspired by the most popular hard rock song to feature a chorus sung entirely in French, and whose video is in the Music Hall of Fame of Quebec’s most popular TV music show. The beer is a refreshing and artisanal Belgian Style Dry Hopped Saison and the label appropriately and prominently features a symbol that is synonymous to Megadeth, their well-known mascot Vic Rattlehead.

With my piece a couple of weeks ago on Saisons, I thought it was about time I reviewed a beer in that classic style. Sure, I reviewed a “Sour – Famhouse IPA” but I wanted to focus on a straight-up Saison. As often is the case when I want to try a single beer, my local Wegman’s came through for me in their make your own six pack deal.

As a fan of both 1980s heavy metal and quality beer I’d been wanting to try this beer for a while, though when I first learned Megadeth was going to be brewing a beer in partnership with Unibroue, I wouldn’t have expected it to be a saison. I love when my expectations are shattered for the good.

Fact: Megadeth’s Rust in Peace is an absolutely perfect album and one of the 5 or 10 greatest metal albums all time. If you don’t agree you are wrong.

Unibroue is out of Canada, I’ve had a few of their beers and enjoyed them, so I was hoping this would deliver the goods and it certainly did. As you can see in the picture above, the beer pours a light, bright bubbly yellow out of the glass.

The first taste is a nice “wow” of refreshment. I can imagine if I was toiling out in my yard on a warm spring day and had a sip of this I would be even more pleased. After all, the Farmhouse Ale was crafted specifically as refreshment for field/farm workers.

There are some fruity, citrusy notes that complement the characteristic Belgian yeast so well. I got a little bit of banana in there, too. This isn’t an overpowering fruit like a lambic or even a banana-heavy Hefeweizen, but rather a beer that is a harmonious and a very well-crafted . There’s a subtle pop of hops at the end, but it makes for a very well balanced finish with an IBU rating of 22.

As I’ve said in talking about Pilsners, Saisons are similarly one of the world-classic styles of ales. They don’t get quite the attention as say, IPAs or barrel-aged stouts, but damn when you have one made exceptionally well from the style’s standard ingredients and brewing methods, you can have an elegantly crafted ale that is sure to please. With À Tout le Monde, Unibroue’s brewmaster Jerry Vietz has created a genuinely delicious ale in a traditional style. It isn’t something I would have expected to enjoy as much as I did, but there you have it, shattered expectations. Then again, with my growing leanings to the Belgian style of beers, coupled with how well this beer is crafted, hindsight would would easily point to my enjoyment of this beer.

I’m going to have to hunt this one down to get a four pack or two because my brother-in-law (the biggest Megadeth fan I know) is already fuming at me because I didn’t share this with him. You may be hearing a tiny violin playing as you read those words.

This beer was kind of a big deal when it was first released in 2016, with a website dedicated to the beer:  http://www.megadethbeer.com.

The name of the beer is a song title from Youthanaisa, Megadeth’s 1995 album but I prefer the 2007 re-recording with Christina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil slightly retitled as À Tout le Monde (Set Me Free) which appeared on the United Abominations album, also a very good album. I’ve embedded the YouTube Video embedded at the very end of the post for your listening/viewing pleasure.

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Trip to the Farm (Level 6)

You have a keen taste for this Belgian masterpiece. Did you know the Saison style beer was invented by Belgian farms, brewed in the Winter and served the Spring/Summer to all their workers? Well now you do! That’s 30 different Saisons.

Beer Review: Cape May Brewing’s Coastal Evacuation

Name: Coastal Evacuation
Brewing Company: Cape May Brewing Company
Location: Cape May, NJ
Style: IPA – Imperial / Double
ABV: 8.0%

I usually try to go with on of my Garden State Brewfest glasses for NJ beers, but went with my alma mater this time.

From Cape May Brewing’s Web site:

“Coastal Evacuation:” a phrase common at the Jersey Shore. Hurricane season hits hard, and we’re hitting back with a Double IPA with copious amounts of centennial hops, able to withstand the storm. It’s time to evacuate – are you prepared?

Cape May Brewing has been brewing and selling beer since the brewer officially opened 2011. Cape May Brewing is (I think) the second largest craft brewery in New Jersey (Flying Fish being the largest) and offers the largest varieties of beers in New Jersey in its tasting room. Their beers are highly respected in the State of New Jersey, some  sought after, and some have won awards – Topsail, (a barrel-aged sour) was named best beer of 2017 by Beer Connoisseur Magazine.

I had their Honey Porter last year, which was pretty good and I’d been eager to try more of their portfolio especially as I’ve come to appreciate hoppier beers/IPAs and the majority of what they brews lean heavily towards the IPA side of the shelf. One of their flagship / most well-received brews is Coastal Evacuation. Unfortunately, Cape May Brewing doesn’t distribute up to Somerset County, but fortunately, my dad and I recently did a bottle share and one Coastal Evacuation was one of the beers I received.

The first thing I noticed when pouring the beer was the color. It wasn’t as bright or golden as I expected from a Double IPA and the bubbles floating in the beer looked almost like particulates. I was a little nervous, but I shouldn’t have been.

My first impression/first sip of the beer was an assertive yet pleasing hop presence. Knowing the beer is a double IPA (80 IBU) set my expectations for a big hop bit and I got it, but I wasn’t bludgeoned with the hop bitterness. The second prominent flavor component is the citrus profile imparted by the generous centennial hops in the beer. The two flavor components blend quite nicely for a beer with a great taste.

Coastal Evacuation is a very drinkable IPA, the hop/sweet/citrus flavor profile is remarkably well-balanced given the  alcohol level and the high IBU. In other words, this beer is a fine example of a Double IPA and I can definitely understand why so many people enjoy the beer.

Overall, this was an enjoyable beer that went down with the complex hop/citrus flavors one should expect from a Double IPA. Coastal Evacuation is another beer helping to put the Garden State on the Craft Beer map of America.

The label looks great here, but it looks even better on the beer with some foil/shiny highlights

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

I Believe in IPA (Level 18)

We believe in IPA and you should too. You certainly have a taste for the hops! That’s 90 different IPAs.

 

Beer Review: Cigar City Brewing’s Maduro Brown

Name: Maduro Brown Ale
Brewing Company: Cigar City Brewing
Location: Tampa, FL
Style: Brown Ale – English
ABV: 5.5%

From Cigar City Brewing’s Landing Page for the beer:

Maduro is a Northern English-style Brown Ale with some American affectations. Maduro is higher in alcohol than the common English Brown Ale and features flaked oats in the malt bill which imparts a silky body and works to mesh the roasted, toasted and chocolate components together in Maduro’s complex malt profile. The end result is a remarkably full-flavored yet approachable Brown Ale that pairs well with mild to medium cigars.

Cigar City Brewing is one of the largest and more respected breweries out of the Southern United States. Their Jai Lai IPA is well-regarded and their Imperial Stout – Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout is such a big deal the brewery throws a huge party to celebrate its release, which happens to be the only place you can get the beer. While those two brews may get the flash, Maduro Brown is a tasty take on a classic style that deserves equal attention.

Brown ales are far from the sexiest style of beer on taps and shelves, but like Pilsners, the style – when done well like Maduro Brown – is the kind of “standard style” that many beer geeks and hop heads enjoy. I include myself.

In a shocking turn of events, the beer pours a deep brown out of the can. Almost a milk-chocolatey brown.

The smooth, easy drinking feel of the beer hit me first. Like the description suggests, there are very pleasing elements of chocolate and toffee sweetness. Chocolate is pretty common, especially in stouts, but what separates this brown ale is the lighter body and lowered roast components of the beer.

What makes this beer so good is just how elegant it is…it isn’t fancy, but it is quite delicious. Sure Cigar City makes some complex beers, but making a Brown Ale one of their flagship beers is a nice touch as the beer is very approachable, would likely pair well with many meals, or would be a great beer to enjoy on its own.

Like Happy Hour which I reviewed last week, Maduro Brown is a beer that is well balanced and deftly straddles the line between being a beer seasoned beer consumers can enjoy and a beer that is approachable for folks who don’t typically go for craft beer. This would be a great beer to bring to a party of a mixed crowd, in other words.

This beer proves that Brown Ales are good, far from boring, flavorful, and well worth trying.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Beer Review: Peak Organic Happy Hour Pilsner

Name: Happy Hour
Brewing Company: Peak Organic Brewing Company
Location: Portland, ME
Style: Pilsner – German
ABV: 4.7%

#ProperGlassware

From the Peak Organic’s Landing Page for the beer:

Happy Hour is a masterfully designed pilsner. Built to be crisp, clean and crushable. This beer is easygoing and pairs well with everything, including another beer! With this new pilsner, it’s always Happy Hour.

Over the last year or so, I’ve come to  appreciate the elegance of a well-crafted Pilsner. The style has drawn some bad rap because of mass-produced tasteless light/Lite beers. If you hear from brewers or some folks deeply entrenched in the beer community; however, great Pilsners are held in very high regard.

Peak Organic is based out of Maine and they don’t yet distribute into NJ. I had a couple of their beers (including a fantastic Pilsner) at the Philadelphia Bacon and Beer Festival last year, so when I saw a can of their beer in Wegman’s for a Mixed Six Pack, I knew I had to grab it.

I am glad I did. On the other hand, I’m a little frustrated, because (as I just said) Peak isn’t yet distributed into NJ.

Out of the can, the beer pours a bright golden yellow. If I’m going to be honest, then the aroma doesn’t stand out too much. I mean, it smells like a beer should smell and that just makes me want to drink it.

This is one of the lighter Pilsners I’ve had, but that doesn’t detract from the taste at all. If anything, this beer is full of flavor and wonderfully refreshing. Like the best Pilsners, the malt and hop blend nicely to give the beer a really consistent taste. The first sip is a pop of flavor that, when cold, is extremely refreshing. As the can says, this is a crushable beer, one you can throw back to refresh your thirst with a really straightforward taste with superb, clean finish. This is a beer you’re going to want to finish while cold.

If you want to think of it one way, Happy Hour from Peak Organic is almost an entry-level craft beer. Folks who are usually wary of craft beer because they associate “craft beer” with hopped up IPAs or boozy stouts should give this one a try. Especially given the name, this is a beer that is one you’d bring to a party to share with anybody and everybody. Full of enough taste to please craft beer drinkers, and approachable enough not to deter non-craft drinkers, Peak Organic’s Happy Hour is a winner regardless of how you cut it. As the old adage goes, this beer does exactly what it says on the can!

Peak Organic, as the name implies, uses organic ingredients in the beer and based on Happy Hour and the tastings I had of their other two beers, that freshness really shows. I just hope these fine folks are able to fully distribute into New Jersey.

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-star rating.

Beer Review: Epic Brewing’s Son of a Baptist

Name: Son of a Baptist
Brewing Company: Epic Brewing Company
Location: Salt Lake City, UT and Denver, CO
Style: Stout – Imperial/Double
ABV: 8%

From the beer’s description on Epic Brewing Company’s landing page for the beer:

Son of a Baptist is an 8% ABV imperial stout. It is not barrel aged like its father, Big Bad Baptist; instead its flavor profile was designed to highlight the complex and often unique flavors of small batch coffees. Instead of sourcing a coffee that would play well in a beer we sought out creative and innovative roasters, then asked them which beans they’re passionate about. Each resulting release of Son of a Baptist is widely different depending on the coffee selected. Some are fruity and sweet with notes of jam and chocolate, others are rich and earthy with a big roasted finish. Each limited release will return to the Roaster’s home market where the beer and the coffee can be sampled side by side.

Stouts, truly my favorite style of beer. Add coffee to the beer in the appropriate amount, and I like the beer even more since coffee is probably the beverage I drink at least as much as or more than beer. Coffee may be the most prevalent adjunct flavor element in stouts and given that large swath of coffee stouts on the market, they vary in quality. For some of those coffee stouts, the coffee overpowers the beer. In other coffee stouts, the coffee is barely noticeable. With Epic’s Son of a Baptist, harmony is achieved.

As the beer pours from the can into the glass, I realize this is one of the blackest beers I’ve ever had. A combination of the roasted malts and coffee add to this, I suspect, but the aroma hints at coffee rather than blasting your senses with the coffee.

That first sip sets the tone for the delicious 12 oz that will be consumed. The standard stout flavors of roasted malt, a bit of hops are prevalent but the coffee slides in to give a wonderful, balanced flavor. There’s an added layer of sweetness not all coffee stouts exhibit. I do tend to put a little more sugar in my coffee so I’m accustomed to sweetened coffee. Whatever the fine folks at Epic did with the coffee matches just about perfectly with the level of sweetness I try to achieve every morning in my own mug of coffee.

For a non-barrel-aged stout, Son of a Baptist packs a decent punch at 8%. The closest comparison I can think of is Founders’ vaunted Breakfast Stout, a beer I love and get quite regularly. Son of a Baptist compares extremely favorably against Founders’ brew, so I’d highly recommend seeking out Son of a Baptist.

One of my co-workers was talking about this beer for the last few days before I picked up the six pack at my favorite beer shop. In other words, he convinced me to give this one a try and I’m very happy I did.

The particular six pack I purchased used beans from Novo Coffee. There are about at least another dozen variants to Son of a Baptist with beans from other local roasters so I may have to give each of those a try.

The “Baptist” line of stouts from Epic is very well regarded. In addition to the Son of a Baptist, there’s the Big Bad Baptist, which is aged in whiskey barrels as well as Triple Barrel Big Bad Baptist with coconut aged in rum and whisky barrels.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.5-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Heavy Weight (Level 53)

You like it thick and dark. Your beer! What did you think we were talking about? That’s 265 different beers with the style of Porter or Stout.

2X (Level 26)

When a single isn’t enough, make it a double. Doubling the hops and malts in a recipe results in a higher ABV and can pack quite a boozey punch. That’s 130 different beers with the style that contains Imperial / Double in its style name.