Beer Review: The Alchemist’s Crusher

Name: Crusher
Brewing Company: The Alchemist
Location: Stowe, VT
Style: IPA – Imperial / Double
ABV: 8%
IBU: 110

From the back of the can:

Crusher is an American Double India Pale Ale that I started making years ago at the old pub. Hop heads were constantly asking for more hops. So in the words of Frank Zappa, “Did you say want some more? Well, here’s some more.”

While I enjoy Hops with the rest of them, I still try to maintain some semblance of balance and drinkability. This beer is oozing with hop flavor and aroma with a very dry finish. Enjoy responsibly, this one can sneak up on you.

Fans of small, independent breweries have known of the legendary Alchemist for years. It is basically the brewery that helped to give birth to the popular New England IPA style of beer. Brewer/owner John Kimmich’s most famous creation, Heady Topper, is one of those whale beers that every beer geek wants to try at least once and I was fortunate enough to share a can last Fourth of July with a friend. Fast forward a year and another friend happened to have just visited Vermont and he brought back some goodies from the Alchemist, including this Double IPA – Crusher.

You’ll notice there’s no glass of beer in the photo – the Alchemist recommends drinking most of their beers directly from the can, which I did with this beer. The 16oz can opens and out drifts an aroma of hops that is both different than other IPAs I’ve experienced, yet similar, but just more of it, if that makes sense.

I’ll admit I wasn’t sure what to expect, but that first sip is a bombastic assault of hops flavor. Crusher’s hop profile is a banging bouquet of deliciousness, one of the most perfectly citrusy hopped profiles I’ve ever had in a beer. I couldn’t believe what a cornucopia of flavors was in just a sip of the beer so, of course, I took another taste, though more than a sip. I let the beer sit in my mouth a bit to get the full flavor and my goodness does this beer do so many things perfectly well. I wanted to drink this one quickly because it was so delicious, but I didn’t want it to be gone quickly so I didn’t guzzle it.

Like a lot of DIPAs, this beer has a maltiness that balances out the hops very well. Fortunately, the bitterness of the hops is not the least bit cloying. Rather, the bitterness for me was absolutely perfect. To that point, I find it almost impossible to believe the IBU of this beer is 110, the highest IBU of any beer I’ve ever consumed and enjoyed. Perhaps the most standout element of this beer is how sweet it is compared to many other IPAs and DIPAs I’ve had. That is a virtue/feature and not a problem/bug.

What makes this such a wonderful beer is how elegant it is – sure there’s a lot going on in the hop profile, but beyond that, it is a fairly straight-forward DIPA but one crafted in an almost magical mix of water, hops, yeast, and malt.

Like the description above points out, while the name may be “Crusher” and the lovely taste may encourage you to drink a few pints of this beer in quick succession, the ABV of 8% will make you realize quite quickly that taking your time is more prudent. Especially because the beer is so damned delicious, you don’t want it to be gone too fast.

Although Heady Topper (which I had and loved) and Focal Banger (which I had and didn’t like as much) are the two beers the Alchemist is better known for producing, I thought Crusher was better than both and a nearly perfect beer in its own right. This is a beer that lives up to the hype surrounding the brewery and brewer who created the beer.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.75-star rating

Can Art courtesy of MyBeerBuzz and The Alchemist

Beer Review: Founders Brewing Dankwood

Name: Dankwood
Brewing Company: Founders Brewing Co. (Barrel Aged Series)
Location: Grand Rapids, MI
Style: Red Ale – Imperial/Double (Untappd) / Imperial Red IPA (Founders’ bottle)
ABV: 12.2%

Official Barrel Aged glass courtesy of Founders.

From Founders’ page for the beer:

What do you get when a big, bold imperial red IPA meets an oak bourbon barrel? A palate stunner that’ll send your senses spinning or, as we like to call it, Dankwood. Rich caramel notes emerge from the depths of the IPA, highlighting strong malt character while the bourbon barrel-aging develops the complexity. A dank, sticky and slightly sweet sipper, Dankwood is the perfect alchemy of wood and hops.

I’ve made it pretty clear that Founders is one of my favorite (easily top 5) nationally distributed craft breweries, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’m reviewing another beer from them. Last year, Founders kicked off a major brewing program, The Barrel Aged Series and included long-time favorites Kentucky Breakfast Stout and Backwoods Bastard (which I reviewed last year) and newer brews, like Doom (basically, Double Trouble barrel aged) and this one, Dankwood, which is basically ReDANKulous aged in barrels.

Popping open the beer and pouring it into the bottle a wonderful booziness from the bourbon wafts towards me. The beer initially seems a dark red, but as it settles into the glass, the color seems more caramelized. First sip is potent hops but smoothed out by the barrel aging.

There are a lot of powerful flavors swirling in the glass. Hops, bourbon, oak, with an ample malt backbone. Two out of four are standard for a big, bold IPA, with the malt more pronounced in some Red Ales. This is most definitely a beer you want to drink slowly in sips to enjoy the complexity of the hops interacting with the bourbon aging. As it warms, the maltiness is a bit more pronounced. Quite frankly, the beer becomes more of what it claims to be as it settles into the glass. Like many barrel aged beers, wafting in the aroma is nearly as pleasing as the taste itself.

This is the fourth offering I’ve had in the Barrel Aged series. KBS still reigns supreme and Backwoods Bastard is very close to that. As much as I enjoyed Doom, there were familiar elements in that beer from the hops. I don’t drink many Red Ales and have only had a couple of Red IPAs so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was very pleasantly surprised by how much the barrel aging rounded out the sharp hop profile and enhanced the malt backbone.

Many breweries are aging beers in used liquor barrels (Bourbon, Whisky, Rye, Rum, Wine, etc), regardless of the size of the brewery. Hell, a friend helped his friend brew a barrel aged stout with a home-brew kit. That said, the majority of breweries doing barrel aging are focusing on stouts, but Founders has shown how well barrel ageing can work on hop-forward ales like IPAs. The beer I’m really looking forward to is the barrel-aged Old Curmudgeon, AKA Curmudgeon’s Better Half.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.0-star rating.

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.