Beer Review: Modern Times’s Black House

Name: Black House
Brewing Company: Modern Times Brewing
Location: San Diego, CA
Style: Stout – Coffee
ABV: 5.8%

One of the best coffee stouts you’ll have. Period.

One of the most perfect of pours I’ve ever poured.

From Modern Times’s page for the beer:

It’s so great that you like coffee. I just love that about you. Speaking of which, you’re holding an oatmeal coffee stout positively redolent with coffee aroma and flavor. It kind of tastes like a chocolate-covered espresso bean, only drier and more like beer. Nifty fact: we’re one of the only breweries in the world to roast our own coffee, which allows us to be extremely persnickety about which beans we buy and how we roast them. Taste the persnicketiness!

Coffee and beer, a liquid amalgamation that brings together two of the most popular beverages in the world. Modern Times is one of the more well-regarded San Diego area breweries and they’ve recently begun distributing their beer into NJ. This entry into New Jersey features their core line up: a Pale Wheat Ale (Fortunate Islands) a New England IPA (Orderville), a Gose (Fruitlands Passion Fruit), a straight-forward/West Coast IPA (City of the Sun), and this wonderful Coffee Stout, Black House. In other words, a good sampling of styles. I’d been in the mood for a stout that wasn’t too high in ABV, so I grabbed a four pack as soon as I saw the liquor store on my way home from work had it in stock.

As a person could likely infer from a coffee stout named Black House, the beer pours a very dark black. Given the relatively sessionable ABV of 5.8%, the beer pours from the can into the glass thicker than I’d expect. I don’t always manage to pull off a good head on my pours, but the head on this one is damned near perfect. Fluffy, almost like a whipped batch of malted chocolate milk. The beer was canned late January and I had it almost exactly two months after the canning date so the beer was relatively fresh, at least by stout standards.

The beer smells delicious. Hints of coffee, with a bit of sweetness, and some roast. I think to myself, “I’m going to like this beer.”

That internal thought was correct….

That first sip is just what I’d hope – a near perfect blending of coffee and stout flavors. Like the best beers, the first sip just encourages you to drink more.

As I continue to enjoy the beer, I notice the wonderful sweet coffee flavors on the backend of the beer. I generally drink my morning coffee a little on the sweet side, so the level of sweetness in the coffee portion of the show perfectly evokes my ideal cup of coffee. The coffee flavor is omnipresent, pleasant, and not overpowering.

Another great element of the beer is the lack of bitterness on the finish. Some coffee stouts I’ve had, and the ones I tend not to like, have a bitter, almost burnt coffee taste on the finish. That burnt bitterness is like a badly written ending to a novel or television finale you may have otherwise enjoyed, it makes what came before almost irrelevant. Thankfully for my tastes, that burnt bitterness is not present in Black House. In fact, the opposite is true. The delicious taste makes me want to have more.

Black House is one of the best coffee stouts I’ve ever had. I think I’ll have to give some of Modern Times’s other offerings a try.

Recommended link to Untappd 4.25-Bottle Cap rating.

Beer Review: Bruery Terreux’s Beret

Name: Beret
Brewing Company: Breuery Terreux
Location: Orange County, CA
Style: Sour – Ale
ABV: 9%

From Breury Terreux’s landing page for the beer:

Beret is as artistic as those who wear its namesake cap. Our brewers developed a silky, full-bodied wheat ale which we began fermenting with a Belgian-style witbier yeast strain. To finish the fermentation, we added our collection of barnyard bacteria, intended to slowly sour the ale, bringing out a slight funk and refreshing piquancy. Finally, a small dose of pureed raspberries were added for just a hint of fruity tannins, putting the berry in Beret.

I’ve had a few of the big beers from The Bruery, but before enjoying Beret, I think I only had a taste of Bruery Terreux beer at a beer festival. As their twitter profile inidicates, Bruery Terreux is “The sour & wild side of Famille Rue. Crafting wildly traditional bière alongside The Bruery.” After enjoying Beret, I will be having more of their beers. As I’ve come to enjoy sour beers more and more, I wanted to try one of these big sour beers from California. The range of styles within Sour beers is quite wide and Bruery Terreux seem to brew them all. In the end, I was drawn to Beret were the approachable price of about $15 (some of their 750ml beers range well above $20) and the fruited flavor of raspberry.

The beer pours a cloudy/hazy yellowish-pink. It looks a bit like a fruited hefeweizen/witbier to me, which I suppose makes sense since the beer began as a wheat ale. It has that spongy aroma most Goses do for me. I’m not sure why I use the word spongy, but that imagery pops up in my head. I like Goses so on the whole, and Berliner Weisses as well, so I like where this beer is going on looks and aroma alone.

That first taste is slightly sweet with lots of that spongy sour-tartness. There’s a lot of funkiness, too, the flavor moves around a bit from sweet to tart, but settles down once the raspberry joins in the flavor party. I had this beer on ice to get it cold, which turned out to be too cold. The complexities of the flavor from the chemistry that happens with the ingredients from the wheat to the yeast to the raspberry become more prominent as the beer warmed up.

For my palette’s sensibilities, I would have enjoyed the beer a little bit more if the raspberry was a more assertive and pronounced. A little more sweetness would have been welcome. I wonder how the same beer would taste with a slightly sweeter fruit like peach.

On the whole, Beret is a fairly approachable sour ale – it would be a good beer for people unsure of whether they enjoy sours to try. That, coupled with the lower price point compared to many offerings from The Breury or Bruery Terreaux, makes Beret one to potentially share with a friend who is curious about sour beers.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Pucker Up (Level 11)

Right about now you’re feeling your face tighten and your taste buds explode. The full pucker is quickly setting in and you can’t get enough. This is the wonder of the sour. That’s 55 different Sour Beers.

Hopped Down (Level 67)

One cannot live on dank hops alone. Tone down the bitterness and enjoy some smooth flavor. That’s 335 different beers with an IBU of 20 or below.

 

Beer Review: North Coast Brewing’s Old Rasputin

Name: Old Rasputin
Brewing Company: North Coast Brewing Co.
Location: Fort Bragg, CA
Style: Russian Imperial Stout
ABV: 9%

From North Coast Brewing’s page for Old Rasputin:

Produced in the tradition of 18th Century English brewers who supplied the court of Russia’s Catherine the Great, Old Rasputin seems to develop a cult following wherever it goes. It’s a rich, intense brew with big complex flavors and a warming finish.

The Old Rasputin brand image is a drawing of Rasputin with a phrase in Russian encircling it — A sincere friend is not born instantly.

The Russian Imperial Stout is perhaps the biggest, boldest of all stouts. In most cases, it is the stout with the most pronounced hop presence. As the name implies, this style received the name because they were first brewed for Emperor Peter the Great of Russia. (or Catherine the Great?) Regardless, North Coast’s take on the style aptly named Old Rasputin is probably the most iconic and widely known American interpretation of the style.

I’ve had a few Russian Imperial Stouts (I even reviewed one from Carton) but generally, the barrel-aged versions are the ones I’ve enjoyed the most. For the longest time, the hop assertiveness wasn’t for me. Since I started enjoying more hop-forward beers I wanted to give one a try, one that wasn’t barrel aged so why not go for the granddaddy or “ded” of the style?

The most noticeable element, initially, is how dark this beer is. I’ve had PLENTY of stouts, over 200, and Old Rasputin is one of the darkest stouts I’ve ever poured. This beer has presence, especially with that old Russian mystic staring at you from the bottle. The most pronounced element of the beer’s aroma was the roasted malts, I think. Atop the beer is a thick, fluffy head that looks like a frothy cappuccino head.

That aroma is a pretty good indicator of what to expect with the beer. There’s a lot of bittersweet in the beer, maybe some chocolate hints and maybe even some toffee. I’ve seen some comments / reviews of the beer that mention hints of cherry, but I didn’t get that at all. Most of these flavors come from the malts but the hops aren’t going to let you forget about them.

The hops have a big bite, but not unpleasant for me. The roasted malt brings most of the flavor in the beer and their potential sweetness is balanced out the hop presence. While this is a big, flavorful beer and the hops are assertive, I would have guessed the IBU lower than 75 IBU. In many ways, this almost a chewable beer for how thick and robust it is.

I had a bottle of Old Rasputin many years ago, long before being on untappd, so I can’t remember exactly how the beer worked for me. Now? Seems like it should be an annual acquisition as nights get cooler and the big bastard of a beer will help warm the soul.

Unsurprisingly, North Coast brews a barrel-aged version of the beer that I may have to try. As it stands, Old Rasputin is rightfully an iconic beer of the style. With that in mind, I’m going to go ahead and tag this beer as an American Craft Beer Classic.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

For a great history of Old Rasputin, check out Jeff Alworth’s piece on All About Beer.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Imperial Czar (Level 5)

Originally created and brewed for Russian Emperor Peter the Great, the Russian Imperial Stout has a history as rich as it’s roasty, hoppy flavor. That’s 25 different beers with the style of Russian Imperial Stout!

2X (Level 31)

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 155 different beers with the style that contains Imperial / Double in its style name.

 

Beer Review: Belching Beaver’s Peanut Butter Milk Stout

Name: Peanut Butter Milk Stout
Brewing Company: Belching Beaver Brewing Company
Location: San Diego, CA
Style: Stout – Milk / Sweet
ABV: 5.3%

Not one of my best beer photos, the bar was fairly dark.

From Belching Beaver’s beer page:

America’s Favorite Peanut Butter Milk Stout: this silky-smooth beer put us on the map. Troy came up with the idea of combining Peanut Butter with our Beaver’s Milk Stout and he nailed it. Don’t let the dark color fool you, this beer is delightfully easy to drink with cascading aromas of roasted peanuts, dark chocolate and coffee. We appreciate your continued support for helping make this style our #1 seller.

On business trips, you get the opportunity to try beers that may not be available in distribution in your area. When I was in Las Vegas last week, I saw a beer from Belching Beaver and that alone made me want to try it. Seeing that it was a Milk Stout sealed the deal.

The beer pours extremely dark from the can like you’d expect from a stout, but it is not heavy like many stouts. The peanut butter aroma is definitely present, but it isn’t the defining characteristic of the beer. Sipping it proves out that aroma, the sweetness of the lactose sugars (which give the beer its milk stout moniker) really balance the peanut flavors and swirl together with a little bit of coffee and a little bit more of chocolate. Not enough chocolate to give it a full Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup flavor, which is a good thing.

I like Milk Stouts, but I get a little wary for beers that have peanut butter. Some are too overpowering, with the peanut butter dominating every other flavor component. In any beer, it is the sum of the parts, the combination of flavor components that produce the whole, or gestalt, of the beer. Belching Beaver has achieved a delicious gestalt of flavors in their Peanut Butter Milk Stout: greater than the sum of its parts. For all the flavors in this beer, it is really easy drinking, super smooth, and goes down too quickly. With some of those other overpowering beers that use peanut butter in their beer, some may have been good, but I always though, “just one for the night” because of how overpowering the peanut butter was. That’s not the case for me with Belching Beaver’s Peanut Butter Milk Stout, I’d be happy to drink a couple back-to-back.

Where an intriguing label and name drew me in, the perfect balance of flavors kept me wanting more. As of the writing of this review, Belching Beaver doesn’t distribute into NJ because if they did, this would be a beer in my regular rotation.

As I said briefly on my check in untappd, this is the best Peanut Butter beer I’ve had.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer: Heavy Weight (Level 57)

Heavy Weight (Level 57)

You like it thick and dark. Your beer! What did you think we were talking about? That’s 285 different beers with the style of Porter or Stout.

 

Beer Review: Ballast Point’s Victory at Sea

Name: Victory at Sea
Brewing Company: Ballast Point Brewing Co.
Location: San Diego, California
Style: Imperial Porter with Coffee and Vanilla
ABV: 10%

From the beer’s description on Ballast Point Brewing Company’s Web site:

A big porter crafted to weather any storm.

Our Ballast Point Victory at Sea Imperial Porter is a bold, smooth brew with just the right amount of sweetness. We infused this robust porter with vanilla and San Diego’s own Caffe Calabria coffee beans. The subtle roasted notes and minimal acidity of the cold brewed coffee, balances perfectly with the sweet caramel undertones of the malt, creating a winning combination for your palate.

Ballast Point is one of the largest craft brewers in California, although no longer “independent” since the brewery was acquired by Constellation Brands (who also own Modela Negro, Corona, Funky Buddha in beer and Modavi wine and Svedka Vodka, among others) in 2015. Regardless of that, Ballast Point has been crafting popular and acclaimed beers since 1996. I’ve had a handful of their brews and liked about half of what I’ve had (especially their California Kölsch and Piper Down Scotch Ale) but of everything Ballast Point brews, this beer appeals to me the most.

Porters are one of my favorite styles and I’d wanted to give this well-regarded interpretation of the style a try for a while. I has a little hesitant to commit to full six pack at the price point, but fortunately, my favorite bottle shop (Gary’s in Hillsborough, NJ) sells some single bottles which is how I procured this one. Like most porters, this one pours a deep black and tops off with a slightly tan head. As a dark beer lover, it looks appealing and the aromas of coffee and vanilla are really inviting. The first taste gives off strong vanilla and coffee flavors with ample sweetness. The beer is relatively full bodied and definitely full of flavor. The flavor that lingers the most; however, is the vanilla. Even more than the coffee.

I’ve come to realize that vanilla, for all the suggestions and metaphors for vanilla being plain and boring, is a tough flavor component to pull off successfully. Especially in beer. I’ve had quite a few vanilla porters and stouts and more than one has given a really strong unpleasant aftertaste with few exhibiting a perfectly balanced vanilla component of the beer. Here with Victory at Sea, for my tastebuds, it is a nearly perfect execution of the vanilla. There’s only a slight lingering aftertaste from the vanilla, but the pleasant taste up front far outweighs the lingering at the end and kept my rating at a 4-bottle-cap review for untappd.

The ABV of 10% in this one isn’t too pronounced in the flavor profile. Then again, I took my time drinking the beer as a “dessert” so the alcohol didn’t affect me too much. However, that relatively high ABV should be taken into consideration if you’re having more than one or two of these dark, delicious beers.

At one point in Ballast Point’s brewing history, this beer was available only as a 22oz bomb and on draft, but a year or two ago, the beer became available in 6 packs.. It has since become an extremely popular seasonal favorite and I can see why. There are a few variants, including a barrel aged variant to help celebrate Victory at Sea Day making this an “Event Beer” for Ballast Point and folks who enjoy the beer around the country

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer

Heavy Weight (Level 49)

You like it thick and dark. Your beer! What did you think we were talking about? That’s 245 different beers with the style of Porter or Stout.

Sky’s the Limit (Level 18)

You don’t always intend to go for beers with a double digit ABV, but when you do, you make it count! Cheers to you, but be careful, 10% and up can really pack a punch. That’s 90 different beers with an ABV of 10% and up.

Victory at Sea (Special/One Time Badge)

Prepare the ballast and hoist the sails. You’ve made a date with darkness, so you’re in for a decadent journey through notes of vanilla, roasted cold-brew coffee, and caramel. A bold and rewarding choice you’ve earned the “Victory at Sea Day” badge for your treasure chest!

Beer Review: 21st Amendment’s Fireside Chat

Name: Fireside Chat
Brewing Company: 21st Amendment Brewery
Location: San Francisco, CA
Style: Winter Ale
ABV: 7.9%

From the beer’s description on 21st Amendment’s Web site:

Like FDR’s Depression-era radio addresses, which were like a kick in the butt and a hug at the same time, our Fireside Chat is a subtle twist on the traditional seasonal brew. We begin with a rich, dark, English-style ale and then we improvise with spices until we know we have a beer worth sharing with the nation.

Fireside Chat is our early winter seasonal brew available from October through December in six pack cans and on draft. Brewed like a classic, warming Strong Ale but with a subtle blend of hand-selected spices for just the right festive flair.

I may have had a thing or two to say about Christmas / Winter beers. I’ve also mentioned the great “Craft Your Own 6 Pack” offering at Wegmans supermarkets. Conveniently, there’s a Wegman’s only a few miles from my house. So when I visited a couple of weeks ago in the hopes of grabbing six new beers to try, my goal was to find a few Winter/Christmas beers. Unfortunately, there weren’t many on the shelves of single brews I hadn’t had previously. The exception was this Winter Ale from ’s 21st Amendment in San Francisco, California.

Most Winter Ales are spiced up versions of Brown Ales and that’s pretty much what 21st Amendment has done with Fireside Chat. But that simplicity is what makes the beer such a nice drinking beer.

The beer pours a deep mahogany brown and is topped with a nice frothy head. A little spiciness wafts from the beer, giving a slight hint of what to expect, but nothing too overpowering. The first sip is full of comforting spices and malt. The more I kept drinking the beer, the more I was reminded of Christmas Cookies with all the spices working together.

It wasn’t until after I had the beer I realized exactly what Christmas Cookie the beer reminded me of: Pfeffernüsse, a German spice cookie popular at Christmas. My wife made some homemade Pfeffernüsse that were delicious and had a similar flavor profile to the Fireside Chat. I only added one can of the beer into my Craft-your-own, but this is a winter ale I can see myself picking up again. Well, considering the 7.9% ABV I’m not sure I’d throw back more than 2 or 3 in one sitting despite the relatively high alcohol level not making itself felt.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t remark on the packaging of the beer. Since the beer’s name is an homage to president FDR, the former president appears on the can in a lovely wrap-around image that covers the whole can.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Badge Earned with this Beer:
Winter Wonderland (Level 10)

It’s cold outside – warm up with Winter beers.

Beer Review: Stone Xocoveza

Name: Xocoveza
Brewing Company: Stone Brewing Company
Location: Escondido, CA
Style: Imperial Milk Stout
ABV: 8.1%

From the beer’s description on Stone Brewing’s Web site:

There’s nothing like making a beer so beloved that people feel compelled to campaign for its return. So, in the spirit of the holiday season, we are very pleased to give our fans the number one item on their wish lists. As illustrated by the avalanche of social media requests, that is Stone Xocoveza, an insanely delicious take on Mexican hot chocolate brewed with cocoa, coffee, pasilla peppers, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. First brewed in 2014 with San Diego homebrewer Chris Banker after his recipe won our annual homebrew competition, this imperial stout is layered with smooth roastiness, semisweet chocolate and a touch of spice. Thanks entirely to you, this creamy, mocha stout has gone from initially being a one-time offering to a yearly tradition. Happy holidays from all of us to all of you…and feel free to continue enjoying it long into the spring and summer, as this gem will age beautifully and is definitely not exclusive to the winter season!

Quick Take: A brewery known for hopped up ales brewing a stout warrants notice. When the beer is this delicious, well, it warrants more than just “notice.”

One of the giants in American Craft Brewing is Stone Brewing. If Sierra Nevada is the top of California Craft beer, then Stone is a pretty close second in terms of longevity, quality, and influence. Opened in 1996, the brewery is known for a range of hopped up IPAs and Arrogant Bastard, a beer strong enough to form its own “brewery within a brewery” known shockingly as “Arrogant Brewing.”

I’ve come to realize beers with more of a West Coast hop profile don’t always go well with my taste buds. I’m not going to rattle off the big name West Coast breweries who brew renowned beers that don’t work for me. That’s not what the Tap Takeover is about, in fact, the opposite of that. I’ve had a few from Stone and enjoyed the ones that fall in my style wheelhouse (a regular Milk Stout, Witbier, and Saison) so I was anxious to give Xocoveza a try. I like milk stouts, but that West Coast hope profile gave me a pause. On the other hand, the profile and ingredients were a very close match for the wonderful Mexican Morning Stout from Conclave Brewing. How could I not try this beer?

Once the glass is full, nothing appears to hint at the complex flavors. It looks like a beautiful, black stout. The head is a little off-white, with maybe a little bit of red giving it a color that’s slightly different from most stouts and the hint of, maybe, something special.

The aroma, though, the aroma gives the hints of the flavors to expect. Chocolate, cinnamon, coffee, even vanilla come through in a perfect balance of flavors. The lactose, which is what makes this a milk stout, adds a creaminess that helps to balance the spice from the cinnamon and later, the pepper. The end is when the peppers come through and combined with the cinnamon that still lingers, gives a nice tingly taste along the palette and even down in the belly as the beer settles.

Like many stouts, especially the higher ABV stouts, this one benefits from sitting in the glass and warming to room temperature. The tingling from the pepper and cinnamon are even more pronounced at this point and flavors explode together with more strength

Xocoveza is an outstanding, potent stout that is perfect for the cold months considering the spices infused in the beer. After homebrewer Chris Banker won the Stone competition in 2014, this beer became a seasonal release for Stone. Since I tried it this year, it will be a seasonal must buy for me.

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-star rating.

A final aside, this was the first beer I had whose bottle was graced with the Independent Craft Beer Logo (below).

Beer Review: The Bruery Autumn Maple

Name: Autumn Maple
Brewing Company: The Bruery
Location: Placentia, CA
Style: Belgian Brown / Pumpkin/Yam Beer
ABV: 10%

From the beer’s description on The Bruery’s site:

Brewed with 15 lbs. of yams per barrel (in other words, a lot of yams!), this autumn seasonal is a different take on the “pumpkin” beer style. Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, vanilla, maple syrup, and fermentation with our traditional Belgian yeast strain, make this bold and spicy beer perfect for a cold autumn evening.

We have also created bourbon barrel-aged, barrel-fermented, and darker variations of Autumn Maple.

A shift to a California brewery this time around, The Bruery. A brewery known for big, bold, flavorful brews distributed in what seems to only be 750mL bottles and draft. I’ve never seen any of their beers in 12 oz bottles here in New Jersey. I’ve seen many of their bomber bottles and have had two of their “Days of Christmas” series and loved both. I recently received a promotion at work and my wife, knowing what kinds of beers I enjoy, picked me up a bottle of this in congratulations. The timing was also perfect as I was approaching unique check-in #1,000 on untappd. I figured this beer would be a perfect celebration of both of those things and I was correct in that assumption. As you can see by the screen-grab to the right, Autumn Maple was my 1,000th unique beer on untappd.

As the name of this beer indicates, Autumn Maple is an annual Fall / Autumn release. It pours very brown and a little bit cloudy, not the brownish-orange-amber of many fall beers like Oktoberfests or Pumpkin beers. The first thing that struck me with this beer was the Belgian yeast, it came through in the aroma along with the spices associated with pumpkin beers (cinnamon and nutmeg in particular) even if this isn’t really a pumpkin beer. The longer I breathed in the aroma, the more I could smell the spices and knew this could be a really tasty beer.  That aroma did not lead me astray.

The presence of the Belgian yeast is up front in the taste, too. A quite potent presence at that. But then the spices come through and there’s a nice intermingling of the cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla with that yeast strain that is quite interesting. I don’t quite get the taste of the yams (despite 15 pounds of them) as much as the spices, but they give the beer an added earthiness and weight. Even when I have candied yams or sweet potatoes they act more as a delivery mechanism for the other flavors.

The beer is a big one, not just in the size of the bottle, but ABV at 10%. I wound up enjoying this one gradually and I slowed down even more once I realized how much more flavorful the beer was once it had the chance to air out, warm up, and have more open space for the flavor components to play together. Those spices played even more with the yeasts to make this a very, very tasty beer. For an unfiltered beer, there wasn’t really much sediment at the bottom of the glass, good or bad.

The label says this is a “Belgian Brown Ale” but the beer sites consider it a Pumpkin/Yam/Vegetable beer. I don’t care how Autumn Maple is categorized, because quite frankly, I found it to be a unique, delicious beer. Definitely an out-of-the-box take on the traditional fall Pumpkin beer, I can see myself returning to this beer every Autumn.

It was an early September evening when I enjoyed this beer, a cool evening that felt more like Autumn than late summer. This is a beer to drink alone while you are engrossed in a great, enjoyable book for a couple of hours (as I was) or one to share with a friend or family member over a hearty, Autumn meal or as a desert beer following that same hearty meal.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-star rating.

Draught Diversions: Sierra Nevada Beer Camp 2017 The Overseas Six

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and posts that don’t just focus on one beer here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

This is the second of two posts focusing on Sierra Nevada’s annual collaboration beer project, Beer Camp. Today, I’m going to finish off my thoughts on the 2017 Beer Camp variety pack with the collaborations between Sierra Nevada and breweries from Overseas. Like last week’s post featuring collaborations with US breweries, I’ll go from the one I enjoyed the least and finish it off with the one I enjoyed the most.

White IPA with Yuzu – A collaboration with Kiuchi Brewery (Ibaraki, Japan)

I think my stance on IPAs is clear at this point… so I was pleasantly surprised by this White IPA. I enjoyed it, but it didn’t wow me like any of the other brews in this entire 12 pack. The White IPA was tasty and really low in bitterness  for an IPA (only 20 IBU) while the hop profile definitely imparted what it should for an IPA. The Japanese brewer, Kiuchi, brews a fairly well recognized Witbier (Hitachino Nest White Ale) which seems to be their contribution to this brew and provides a nice balance to the IPA profile complemented by the addition of the citrusy yuzu fruit. This was an interesting beer, but unfortunately, not as good as the other brews from overseas.

Campout Porter – A collaboration with Garage Project (Wellington, New Zealand)

Porter is one of my go-to styles of beer, especially in cooler weather, so I was looking forward to this one. I liked it, but as with some porters, there was a bit too much roastiness or smokiness in this beer. I expect that strong presence of smoke/roast in porters, but it is the quality in porters I like the least. The vanilla and honey were subtle, but I think their sweetness calmed the smokiness.

With Campout as the name of the porter, the smoke and roast elements were not a surprise. This was not a bad porter in any way, a very good one in fact. Just a little more smokey/roasty than I typically like in my porters but by no means is this a dud. I’d drink it again were it made available outside the 12-pack.

Hoppy Belgian Style Golden Ale (Brewed with Lemon Peel) – A ollaboration with Duvel Moortgat (Puurs, Belgium)

I’ve come to enjoy Belgian beers and beers brewed in the Belgian style/with Belgian yeast quite a bit as of late. Duvel is one of the more respected and well-known Belgian breweries in the world, so this one was right up my alley. A really nice balance of hops and Belgian yeast make this a beer I could have in constant rotation in my refrigerator. Don’t let that statement or the golden color fool you, this is no lightweight beer. At 8% it does have a kick that will catch up with you but is right in the sweet spot for hop profile.

Atlantic Style Vintage Ale – A collaboration with Fuller’s Brewery (London, UK)

Fullers is one of the big boys of British brewing, their ESB is the equivalent of an institution. The ESB stands for “Extra Special Bitter” so with that in mind, I was a bit cautious about this beer. I was expecting something bitter, but I was pleasantly surprised by the beer that poured out of the bottle. Barely any bitterness, but I expect that’s due to the plums added to the brewing mix.

This was a very complex beer that worked really well for my tastebuds. I’d love to have another bottle or three of it. A beer that exemplifies what one should expect in a mix pack of collaboration beers.

Thai-Style Iced Tea Ale – A collaboration with Mikkeler Brewery (Copenhagen, Denmark)

I had no idea what to expect with this beer. An American and Danish brewery collaborating on an Asian inspired beer? I was completely taken aback by this brew, there’s such a wonderful sweetness throughout that isn’t cloying nor does the sweetness overpower the profile. Rather, is still noticeable and pleasing. Additional tasty flavor components are citrus as well as the dark tea infused throughout.

This would make for a fantastic annual summer seasonal beer. Such a unique and different beer that really exemplifies experimental beer at its best – smart flavor enhancements without throwing in different flavor additives just to be crazy or experimental. I’m writing about it a couple of weeks after drinking the beer and I really would like to have another one.

Dunkle Weisse – A collaboration with Ayinger Brewery (Bavaria, Germany)

Of all the beers in this variety pack, the Dunkelweizen was the beer I was most anticipating and the beer I drank first. I love the German beers and German-inspired styles, but unfortunately for me, there just aren’t that many Dunkelweizens on beer shelves or on tap in bars. A shame because the style is quite complex and works in both summer, due to its similarity to Hefeweizens, and fall because of the darker color. This collaboration between Germany’s Ayinger and Sierra Nevada is a wonderful, perfect interpretation of the style. The yeast Ayinger uses is on full display in this beer that, coupled with the clovey and banana-y/bready hints, gave me everything I hoped it would give me when I popped the cap and poured it into my glass.

If you like Dunkelweizen, or haven’t tried the style and enjoy Hefeweizens, chances are you’d really enjoy this beer. I would buy this one by the caseload were it to become available by itself. This was one of the best Dunkelweizens I’ve ever had. I think the one I had that was better came from Erdinger, a German brewery known primarily for their wheat beers.

To sum up the Sierra Nevada 2017 Beer Camp Across the World variety pack, a very good mix of brews. I have to give the Overseas half the edge in terms of overall quality and consistency largely because I poured out one of the Stateside collaborations. There was a better balanced mix on the Overseas collaborations, even the one I liked the least from Overseas was drinkable.

On the whole, the Stateside Six had a more noticeable hop profile, while the Overseas Six seemed to have a greater range of flavor profiles.

My favorite from the Overseas (as the list above indicates) is the Dunkle Weisse collaboration with Ayinger, but the best beer overall was the New England IPA collaboration between Sierra Nevada and Treehouse.

If you have the opportunity and the 12-pack is still available in your local beer merchant, it is well worth your beer buying dollar to pick up this pack.

Draught Diversions: Sierra Nevada Beer Camp 2017 Six from the States

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and non-review posts here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

This is the first of two posts focusing on Sierra Nevada’s annual collaboration beer project, Beer Camp. I had couple from last year’s mix pack, but this is the first year I picked up the whole 12 pack. For 2017, the fine brewers at Sierra Nevada invited breweries from around the world to collaborate and as such, this year’s variety pack features 12 different brews, six collaborations with US breweries, 6 collaborations with oversees breweries, three of which (all from the US) are 16oz cans.

Today, I’m going to give my thoughts about the six collaboration beers between Sierra Nevada and breweries from the United States. I’ll go from the one I enjoyed the least and finish it off with the one I enjoyed the most.

West Coast DIPA – A collaboration with Boneyard Beer (Bend, OR)

As I’ve said a few times, IPAs are not my preferred style of beer. On occasion, I will find one that is to my liking but as a style IPAs are unavoidable since they are so popular. If I don’t enjoy a “single” IPA, chances are I won’t enjoy a Double IPA and that is the case with this beer. Everything I don’t like about IPAs, especially Double IPAs are highlighted in this beer. The hop presences is funky, piney and extremely overpowering. The bitterness exemplified by IPA/DIPA is on full display in this pint. I like there to be a little more of a malt profile, but this one had none of that, or at best, was overpowered out by the drowning hop presence. This was a rare case of me actually pouring out a beer I paid for, I couldn’t finish this one as it hit every wrong button in my palate. That said, if you love DIPA as a style, chances are you’ll love this one. This one was in a 16 oz can.

Barleywine style Ale – A collaboration with Avery Brewing (Boulder, CO)

I haven’t had too many Barleywines, not out of dislike, more out of just not gravitating towards them. If I’m going to be honest, they are often at a price tag of $15 for a four pack and I’m hesitant to spend that much on four beers I may not like, which is why I’ll order them if I’m at a bar with a good beer menu. This one was pretty good.

Most Barleywines have a big hop hit and this one was no exception at 90 IBU. The IBU was a bit much for my palate. I think I prefer the “English” style of Barleywines, which tend to have a lower hop presence and are usually a bit sweeter with the malt overtaking the hop presence. This one tasted like a variant on Sierra’s popular Bigfoot Barleywine, which is essentially what this brew is. In other words, if you like Bigfoot, you’ll probably like this one.

Ginger Lager – A collaboration with Surly Brewing (Minneapolis, MN)

This was an interesting beer and not like many I’ve had before. This one, as I said on untappd, has “all the ginger,” which given the title, is no surprise. The description indicates there’s cayenne pepper added, too, but all I tasted was ginger. I was surprised how much I enjoyed this one since ginger is a flavor I only really enjoy in Asian food. This is the kind of beer one would expect in a variety of experimental beers, not exactly to my taste, but an interesting beer altogether. This was one of the other 16 oz cans.

Dry-Hopped Berliner-Style Weisse – A collaboration with Saint Arnold Brewing Company (Houston, TX)

Berliner Weisse is a style I’ve really come to enjoy over the past couple of years and this sour-wheat beer is a really good example of the style. It isn’t too overpowering on the sour end of things and is a little more tart than sour. This beer hit all the right notes associated with the style, though I would have like to taste a bit more fruit in the beer. I could see myself going back to this one again.

Now, for my two favorites of the Stateside Collaborations

Raspberry Sundae – A collaboration with The Bruery (Placentia, CA)

Again, the name implies it all – Raspberry Sundae. This is a perfect dessert beer or one for the middle of a warm day. The raspberry flavor isn’t overpowering, for me at least, and blends well with the chocolate for an extremely pleasant and tasty beer. Per the description linked above, lactose is also added which enhances the flavor even more. I think I enjoy sweeter beers more than most, so this beer worked really well for my palate.

The beer pours golden-red and the aroma, coupled with the taste, give a nice evocation of what you get at your ice cream parlor when you order a raspberry sundae while still retaining the flavor profile of a delicious beer. I’ve had a couple of the Christmas offerings in The Bruery’s ongoing/annual 12 Beers of Christmas and they were both delicious. I was looking forward to this beer because of that and I was not disappointed in the least. I’d definitely buy this one if it became available in 4 packs, 22oz bombs, or somehow on its own.

East Meets West IPA – A collaboration with Treehouse Brewing Company (Charlton & Monson, MA)

This beer surprised me the most. First and foremost I never thought I’d enjoy an IPA more than four other styles, especially when one of those styles is a wheat-based beer. Second, I was so disappointed by the other Stateside IPA I was even more hesitant to give this beer from a 16oz can a full pour.

After thoroughly enjoying this beer, I think I came to the conclusion that I prefer East Coast / New England style IPAs over their West Coast cousins. The hop profile of many West Coast beers, especially the IPAs, just don’t register positively in my palate.

But this beer, with its citrusy and sweet profile complementing the hops was delightful. It poured a bright and inviting orange-yellow almost like orange juice, as I’ve seen quite a few of the New England IPAs on untappd. The aroma is fairly hop-forward, but that first sip just sets the taste buds crazy begging for another sip. And another.

This is, what I believe many craft beer, especially those who favor IPAs. would call a juice bomb. I’m glad this one came in a 16oz can and would buy this one over and over again, it was a delicious surprise that stands out as my favorite of the Stateside Beer Camp collaborations.

I’m going to have to hunt down some IPAs from the fine folks at Treehouse.