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Beer Review #169 Hoptical Illusion

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I am a marketers dream. Give me some catchy and I’m bound to try it out at some point. When I saw Hoptical Illusion from Blue Point Brewing Company of Patchogue, New York, I had to get it. Seriously, how can you not buy a beer named Hoptical Illusion. Damn you marketing.

This IPA pours a nice golden orange color and it is perfectly clear. A white head accompanies the beer. The nose has slight bits of citrus hops along with a very slight hint of malt. There really isn’t a lot else to be found in nose. I looked for more and even let the beer warm, but no other odors ever made an appearance.

A decent malt backbone started off my first taste. The hops quickly kick in and contribute some grapefruit and pine flavors. The hops are pretty strong and really do “kick.” However, the hops are not crisp and just sit on your taste buds for a long time. I generally like my hops to be in and out and only leave a light aftertaste. These hops hang around a bit too long for my liking.

This IPA comes in at 6.8%, which fits nicely into the style guidelines. This is a pretty solid IPA but nothing sets it apart from similar IPAs. The craft beer market is full of solid IPAs and this one gets a bit lost with the others. The name really makes this beer seem more than what it is. I didn’t dislike the beer by any stretch, but I wouldn’t seek it out again as it didn’t leave a lasting impression on me. (more…)

Beer Review #167 Lagunitas Maximus

This will be my first review of a Lagunitas Brewing Company beer on this site. I have enjoyed a few of their beers over the years but sadly this is the first time I’ll be writing about one of them Lagunitas Brewing Company is located in Petaluma, California which is about an hour north for San Fransisco. Those Californian’s are known for their love of hops and Lagunitas Maximus officially comes in as a double IPA. I’ve had good and bad experiences with double IPAs in the past, so this was more of in impulse buy than anything.

Maximus pours a nice burnt orange color with a slight bit of haze in the glass. There is a fluffy white head protecting the liquid underneath. The nose isn’t as loaded with hops as I expected. There are surely there, but other odors come out as well. I found the nose to be very candy-like and sweet. The grapefruit hops helped balance out the sweetness in the smell, but it was still pretty evident. I also got a little heat, which is to be excepted for an 8.2% beer.

On my first taste I was pleasantly surprised that there was a forward flavor. Before I got to the hops or any real body, there was a good amount of sweetness. The hops then build in, but do so nicely. They don’t bite, but build. The hops I found to be slightly grass and piney. They didn’t have a strong flavor in any direction, but seemed to be a bit more subdued for a beer like this. The heat in the nose could be found on the back-end of this one.

I found myself liking this double IPA. The hops are very smooth and don’t “rip your face off.” My only problem is that it gets a little to boozy for me as it warms but I guess that is going to happen in a high alcohol beer. (more…)

Beer Review #162 Snow Day Winter Ale

Almost a year ago I reviewed New Belgium Brewing Company’s 2 Below Ale. I remember liking it but I didn’t think it fit the winter beer idea very well. I was excited to hear that they had a new winter ale this year that was on the “darker and richer” side of the flavor spectrum.The story of this beer comes from a snowstorm a few years ago that shut down Fort Colins, Colorado for several days. And really, who doesn’t love a snowday? I think I appreciate them more now as an adult than I did when I was a kid.

On my first pour of the glass I got a beer that looked exactly like what I had imagined. It was a deep dark brown with a slightly off-white head. I  have no idea if it was clear or not because of the darkness. The nose was pretty hoppy, considering I was expecting on the richer end. I really didn’t get a lot of malt but rather lots of grapefruit hops.

The taste was a mix of rich malt and cutting hops. I found the malt to have a good amount of caramel that also featured some tones of chocolate. Most of the sweetness was then cut by the hops. The hops gave a crisp and spicy feel to the beer that I rather enjoyed.

This beer was a nice balance of malt and hops. I would of liked for it to be a bit more malt forward, but what can you do. This is more in line what I was thinking for a winter beer than their previous winter seasonal. I know there were some who were big fans of 2 Below, but New Belgium offers a number of beers that are pretty close to 2 Below, so it isn’t really necessary. This beer isn’t on the “go out and buy now” list for me, but I would pick it up again if I was out and saw it. (more…)

Beer Review #160 Raging Bitch

Since I moved back east nearly two years ago I have become well reacquainted with the Flying Dog Brewery of Fredrick, Maryland. I have always enjoyed their beer and most recently enjoyed their Secret Stash Harvest Ale. Today’s beer has reached almost mythical status in the beer community. They had a naming dispute with Michigan because,

the name “Raging Bitch” and accompanying label imagery and text by renowned artist Ralph Steadman – endangered public safety and was harmful to any adult who might read the beer’s name on a restaurant menu.

You can read the whole thing here, but if you want the short version of it, they won claiming that their First Amendment rights were violated. Aside from the name, this is a damn good beer.

Raging Bitch pours a nice orange amber color with a fluffy white head. This beer is labeled as a “Belgian-style India Pale Ale” and rocks in at 60 IBUs and 8.3% ABV. The 60 IBUs and IPA classification make their presence known right way. This beer has nice grapefruit hops on the nose. There is some heat as well along with the Belgian spices. The hops really take front and center for this beer in the smell category.

On my first taste I was expected some major hops and I was right. The hops really kick in on the ending and wash out anything else that was there. Just before the hops crash in the Belgian spices kick in and add a nice pre-show to the hops. I honestly didn’t get a lot in the way of malt for this beer. The showcase is the spices and hops.

I really liked this one. I have been on a small IPA kick recently and the Belgian aspect to this IPA added some nice complexity and variation. If you haven’t gotten this one yet, try it out. (more…)

Beer Review #153 Secret Stash Harvest Ale

Flying Dog Brewery of Fredrick, Maryland has been putting out a ton of beer recently. Two weeks ago I reviewed their Dogtoberfest, their take on an Oktoberfest style beer. I have yet another fall beer to review from Flying Dog. This beer is pretty special in the sense that Flying Dog uses a lot of local and unique ingredients in the making of this beer that “celebrate the season.” The bottle only indicates that this ale is “brewed with honey and spices,” but that’s not the whole story. This beer also has sweet corn, potatoes, green peppercorns, and grains of paradise in it as well. It sounds more like an ingredient list for a meal than a beer.

Secret Stash Harvest Ale pours a nice golden orange color and comes with a fluffy white head. The nose is really interesting as it changes as the beer sits for a bit. I first got some grapefruit, but not hops grapefruit. Some distant spice characteristics then came in but I couldn’t put my finger on the exact spice (probably peppercorn though). Finally some fresh honey entered the picture. All of these odors really mixed well together to create something that I haven’t smelled before.

On my first taste the hops were again not present, but the honey really hits. It is a light flavor, but once you notice it, you cannot stop noticing it. The spices then come in and judging from my notes, I thought it resembled nutmeg.This beer has a Belgian quality to it.

This ale comes in at 5.5% and it is something that I have never tasted before. I think it’s a pretty decent beer with lots of things going on. The spices really start kicking in as you get further into the drink, but not in a bad way. If you want to try something totally different, give this one a shot. (more…)