Archive for the ‘Beer Review’ Category

Not sure of what beers to pick up for your BBQ? Unsure of how to quench your palate on that hike far into the mountains? We’ve got you covered! Here you will find some of the latest beers from around the state to pick up in cans, bottles, or bombers to take home. Find these offerings at their respective breweries or fine beer sellers around the state!

THE BEER: Raspberry Dynamite

THE BREWERY: Steel Bender Brewing

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We do barrel-aged stout verticals properly. They have to pass a rigorous inspection.

We in the Brew Crew had so much fun doing our review of last year’s KBS from Founders Brewing that we decided to renew our fealty to the lord of bourbon, chocolate, and coffee with a four-year tasting, spanning 2015 to 2018 vintages of the stout much beloved of us in the Crew. Without further ado …

Solo: Here we go again.

Nomicon: (speaking to the microphone) Is this thing on, man?

Luke: Hey, Luke showed up to this one.

(Laughter ensues)

Nomicon: The last one (our somewhat recent Ska Face Barleywine review) wasn’t that incoherent.

Solo: No, we were fine. You were just wearing a winter scarf indoors with the heat on and then this delicious sandwich was born.

The sandwich in question is called the Jumanji, and consists of mayo and croutons among other ingredients. We always wonder where we left the Jumanji parked for some reason. But, I digress.

Nomicon: Fucking seasoned herb croutons, man! 

Solo: Well, yeah, it worked out.

Nomicon: I bought an extra package of seasoned herb croutons even though I have a package already. I don’t know why I keep ending up with more packages of croutons.

Solo: Do you want more?

Nomicon: No, I do not want more. I am set on croutons. Instead of rose petals I’m going to sprinkle croutons on my bed. You know girls like that type of thing.

Solo: Crouton bed?

Nomicon: Yeah, crouton bed. Bed of croutons. (After looking at something online) Whoahoahoa…

Solo: The Founders’ rum ham beer? (For those who did not see it, Founders’ April Fools day joke beers were Rum Ham IPA and Milk Steak Stout)

Nomicon: The Abyss rum barrel variant, ham.

Stout: It’s the new version of rum ham, what kind of rum ham is this? Abyss rum ham!

Nomicon: The rum ham stares into you.

Solo: It just needed a little more, uh … injection! Eeeeeeeeeeee. (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas reference to the adrenochrome) Dude, your head will swell up like a watermelon, you’re about to explode! And, you will sound like a raccoon!

At long last, we begin our KBS journey with the 2015 vintage:

Solo: Aroma of bourbon and soy sauce. Soy sauce ain’t bad at all.

Stout: Hint of dark chocolate.

Solo: It all sort of melts together. 

Luke: Yeah, it (individual components of the beer) doesn’t stick out. 

Solo: It definitely has that aged, tannic quality, kind of like the very end of a cabernet or something. 

Various tangential ramblings ensue wherein we discuss the finer points of Dark Lord Day and ponder feasting.

Nomicon: Yeah, I’ll wrap a turkey in bacon and you make the rum ham!

Solo: Deal!

Nomicon: Yeah, this is really rich.

Luke: It has held up pretty well.

Stout: Yeah, I’d say so, you can kind of taste it a little in the mouthfeel, where it is a little thinner. 

Solo: Yeah, it has mellowed. Just sort of …

Nomicon: Sessionable. 

Luke: We would call KBS sessionable. 

Nomicon: It has the flavor of the dark chocolate, but it doesn’t go down like dark chocolate. 

Solo: No, and it doesn’t attack the mid-palate like this beer did last year.

Luke: It hits you up front and then slowly fades back.

Stout: I think the most notable thing is how minimal the coffee is. 

Nomicon: Yeah, the coffee is not distinguishable. It’s a good oak finish, there’s a nice barrel finish.

Solo: You get that vanilla from the oak.

Stout: A little heat up front and then the oaky vanilla on the back. 

Solo: Just a nice, mild burn as it goes down. Last year this had a lot more of the barrel presence. This actually starts to remind me a bit more of the chocolate flavor in stouts from the Bruery, because they have that subtle warming chocolate presence to them, and that’s exactly what this in character reminds me of. 

Nomicon: There’s still the dark chocolate as it warms, but also kind of a cocoa (flavor). I wouldn’t say cocoa powder, but something kind of like that. I wish this was a little more coating because that mouthfeel is just a little thin, but that’s totally fine. I mean, the flavors are still on point. This year is definitely more chocolate forward.

Solo: At this point. 

Nomicon: The booze didn’t mellow at all.

Solo: No, it shouldn’t.

Nomicon: If anything I get more of the bourbon notes. That definitely pops through on the finish on the mid-palate. Kind of a bourbon explosion, along with the chocolate, and then the finish is all earthy with the oaky notes. The vanilla and everything like that kind of lingers around. I’d say it held up well though. 

On to the 2016 vintage!

Luke: This has a little more rich texture to the head, a little darker brown.

Nomicon: That smells hotter than the ’15 did.

Luke: I would even say spicier, but not really spicy per se. 

Solo: The weird thing is this one was just super mellow chocolate last year.

Nomicon: OK, so coffee is pulling forward.

Solo: This one is definitely changing, lots of chocolate and hot bourbon.

We then went off topic discussing some of the Prairie Bomb variants which are also among our favorite imperial stouts. 

Solo: This has a little bit of a smokiness to it almost, kind of like a scotch, just a hair. That might just be from the barrels.

Luke: It almost feels like it has a tiny bit of ancho chile around the end, but not that prominent. It has that little rounded flavor where it goes up in intensity at the end. 

Nomicon: So I’m getting more coffee out of this one than the last one, where the coffee was virtually nonexistent. It is definitely still there in this one, and this still has the same kind of effect that I got on the last one around mid-palate, where it bursts a bit of bourbon and then it is finishing with less oakiness, and I’m getting a bit more hotness on the finish. 

Luke: I’m getting less vanilla, like where you add vanilla to cocoa, and I’m getting more of a burn.

Solo: Which in this case is fantastic. 

Nomicon: Yeah, it’s hotter. It’s not like the last one where I got more earthy oak and vanilla notes and not as much bourbon. This one I definitely get more of the bourbon … Limes? Are those limes?

Solo: We have limes, do you want some limes with your KBS?

Luke: It’s a KBS libre! That should be their next April Fools Day beer.

Solo: Unleash the fucking fury!

Luke: Release the Kraken!

Solo: Somewhere E-Rock, his ears are burning…

Stout: The call of my people!

Nomicon: They need me! They need me!

Further rambling ensues including a retelling of the breaking of a fence, breakfast ribs, and Stout Challenge VII. We then went off into the main nerve of Fear and Loathing, as is proper, and according to our nature, and then finally returned to the delicious task at hand.

Luke: This felt like it was more cohesive, more whole. The ’15 felt like the flavors were more strung out.

Nomicon: This one’s more balanced than the last one. The other one was more chocolate forward. I’d say there were a couple of different layers of chocolate in there.

Luke: Definitely a little oxidation in the last one, but I don’t feel like there’s much of that in this one. 

Nomicon: And, that could’ve just been that specific bottle, too, but it wasn’t overwhelming by any means. 

Solo: No, just a hint. It was starting to oxidize more prominently, but didn’t do any real detriment. 

Luke: I definitely wasn’t licking wet cardboard with that one.

Solo: No wet cardboard, no bandaids, or other off flavors.

Luke: That was good, I like that. Two years then seems to be best (for aging).

What follows is some *unintelligible gibberish* and barnyard noises from all of us in a call and response, not unlike the howling of aeons between demons of a certain ilk which I will not utter here.

Solo: Old man yells at cloud.

Nomicon: OK, I almost just yanked myself back with my nose.

Solo: How many croutons did you have?

Nomicon: Four.

On to the 2017 vintage. The demonic gibberish which had subsided for a moment, suddenly returns and consumes us in a wave of anticipation of our dark and delicious third offering of the evening.

Nomicon: Yow, that smells fucking boozy.

More noises indicating something of approval commence.

Luke: It’s thicker. This one is chewier for sure.

Solo: This has that wonderful bitter chocolate that hits right before you get the barrel. 

Stout: It’s probably the most balanced one we’ve had so far.

Nomicon: So it’s not as hot as it warms up. It was hot in the nose and on the palate at first, but definitely calmed down, but still more chocolate forward. Actually, (it was) more chocolate forward than even the last one.

Luke: More chocolate forward than the ’16, I agree.

Nomicon: The ’16 was more coffee forward in character.

Luke: I would say there were more highs and lows in terms of mouthfeel in the ’16 than in the ’17.

Stout: As far as the heat goes, I’d say the heat is balanced.

Nomicon: I’d say that’s the one thing that’s been consistent as far as the aging and the qualities that you get from the barrel aging, I get booziness in all of them. 

Luke: Which is the booziest so far in your opinion?

Nomicon: I’d say the ’16 so far is the booziest. ’17 wasn’t quite to that level. It was still boozy, but I would still say that the ’16 was a little more boozy from an overall perspective, not just from alcohol warming or the like. Strictly from a standpoint of all of the qualities from barrel aging I get a lot of bourbon. I didn’t get as much of the oaky barrel flavors or vanilla. This one (the ’17) gives a lot more chocolate, so it is kind of like the ’16 was when we tasted it last year with it being so chocolate forward. 

Our conversation then turned to the finer points of Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels versus Snatch, which went on for some time.

Cheers to KBS for bringing us together, cheers to the memory of our fallen brother.

At long last, we persisted in our efforts and made it to the 2018 vintage to conclude our tasting. With our final glasses in hand, we raised one up to our dearly departed friend Justin Shearer and shared a moment of silence in his honor.

Solo: Too weird to live, too rare to die. 

More grunting of an excited nature ensues as we dipped our snouts into the dark mist of the aroma wafting off the surface of our goblets. 

Solo: (In a nod to this last season of Twin Peaks) Cooooo-feeeee?

Luke: Oh man, that’s sharp.

Nomicon: Rich as shit.

Stout: Jeebus.

Solo: Wow. 

Nomicon: Yeah, that’s a rich motherfucker.

Stout: My god.

Solo: Yep, this is what I expected.

Nomicon: It’s really rich, but that’s a lot of coffee actually, too. It’s got the most coffee out of the four.

Solo: The coffee seems to fade year by year. Last year’s when it was fresh had a lot of coffee, and after a year of sitting it just chilled out. But, this is probably the most balanced vintage I’ve had out of the five years I’ve tried fresh. Because the others have all been a little bit where one flavor is more forward than the others. In this case, it hits the nail on the fucking head. 

Luke: I was looking at these beers like, everyone has their flavor spikes, one had the spike in the front but the dip in the end, some had their spikes in the middle, this one is just …

Solo: Unctuous. 

Luke: Yeah, everything is just up, down, here, there, all over your palate.

Solo: This one is consistent, but it does undulate forward, a little bit in the middle, and it just hits right off the back.

Luke: Yeah, because you can taste very much the barrel aged and everything else.

Solo: You get your chocolate, you get your fucking coffee, your barrel, you get your stout. You can taste a little bit of the malted grains themselves in there, too.

Luke: It’s a full-flavored beer for sure. 

Solo: Might be a pain in the ass to brew, but damn it’s delicious.

Nomicon: We need to find a cave to age a stout in. 

Solo: You’re not wrong, we could make our own cave.

Nomicon: We could …

Solo: I have … land!

Laughter ensues followed by the sounds of the Bren Gun blasting at full volume in the background and drowning us all out as we were watching Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels at the time.

Luke: That should be the end of our tasting.

More laughter.

Nomicon: And, end scene.

Solo: That was the Bren Gun!

Stout: Aaaaaand we’re back!

Nomicon: Yep, that was the Bren Gun. The bourbon’s more forward on this one, too. It’s less mellow and more like you are drinking something that’s been sitting with bourbon. It’s been playing well, it’s been playing nice, but not that nice. 

Solo: It’s got that lovely little bit of almost caramel/crystal malt flavor from the bourbon that’s just beautifully cutting through the bitter chocolate, the somewhat astringent but not overly astringent black malts.

Nomicon: I think it’s got a little more roast and a little bit of other notes coming out. A little bit of leather coming out.

Solo: Hell bent for leather.

Luke: A little leather and tobacco.

Nomicon: Denim and leather!

Solo: Have we got a traffic warden?

We then rambled on the topic of upcoming metal shows including Goatwhore (May 11) concluding with the upcoming Converge appearance in our neck of the woods.

Nomicon: I am going to murder so many fucking people. 

Solo: That’s definitely going in the article.

Nomicon: I haven’t been to a Converge show in years and the last time I did I broke my fucking ribs at that show because someone fucking kicked me. I was still fucking jumping on stage. 

Solo: I think we finally got the KBS that we were told existed, the one that was hinted at, whispered about, the unicorn. This is all melded together wonderfully.

Luke: Ahab’s whale.

We then descended into a chaotic maelstrom of conversation, including our favorite Avery stouts, more metal, and so on and so forth. What did you expect? It’s us. Well, that about does it for this year’s mini KBS vertical and review. Our overall consensus is that you should go forth and procure the ’18 posthaste and enjoy the beastly stout in all of its burly glory, ere the coffee fades and the monster loses some of its rage. From all of us at Darkside we wish you eternal hails and good ales!

Skål!

— Franz Solo

Resinous hops abide behind the haze at Red Door

Posted: April 23, 2018 by Franz Solo in Beer Review
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Get thee to Red Door for a pint of New England IPA while it lasts!

Franz Solo checking in. I just happened to try the first new beer to come from Red Door’s new brewer Matt Meier (full feature on him is coming Tuesday, FYI) and I enjoyed it so thoroughly as to inspire a springtime outburst of my so called “Viking Poetry” or some such rubbish. What follows is my encounter with the simply-titled New England IPA (no sports affiliation of any kind, as I was happily informed) from Red Door, which checks in at over 100 IBU and in the 7-percent ABV echelon. 

As I began my lupulin escapades on Friday the 20th of April, after a brew day for Battle of the Beer Geeks at Tractor in the morning, I procured my first pint and dove headfirst into a veritable galaxy of hops. The aroma is of a melange consisting of tangerines, lemons, Spanish orange trees (reminding me of the gardens at the Alhambra), and ruby red grapefruit, melded with cannabis-like resins to finish it off. Sort of a lemon haze or orange kush comes to mind, if you catch my drift on the 1620, or was it 710 reversed? Never mind.

Grapefruit finishes off each draught, and the kind of pith that lingers with notes of tangerine rind. This has a lovely mouthfeel from start to finish, with a strong mellow front, a mid-palate that builds to the dry, wonderfully bitter finish. It’s the best of both worlds, where this deftly balances between a New Mexico-style hop bomb, and also a silky East Coast juice bomb. Lots of dank pine on the aroma swims around the edges with a strong kick of almost orange dreamsicle in the middle.

One can also take the New England IPA home and enjoy it outdoors on a pleasant spring afternoon.

This is my kind of beer in the hoppy vein, resins flowing from the fingertips, loads of West Coast gargle blaster hops straight outta … er… what day is this? Is this Saturday? Clearly my assignment had gotten the better of my attorney; he was off jabbering about reptiles as we were bumping old gangsta rap circa ‘92. The wave crested and flowed back for a moment. This beer, it rides like a smooth drag at high speed with the top down, just enjoying the open air and some damn fine scenery. The forest of citrus-themed hops was combined and blended, and then it went on a vision quest, and when it returned like in a haze we dazed in the hammock of early spring winds and the rain and my thoughts were given over to a long-desired wandering. Yes.

The finish is all grapefruit and cannabis resin, as dank and bitter as you demand, you who are bitter and you like it (we know who we are). Slight lemon notes as an ending here as well, much akin to the grapefruit beyond grapefruit onward to the edge of bitterness. The front end of this is a blast of juice, but the back two-thirds are an old-school swing for the fences explosion of hops. This reminds me of burly Two Hearted from Bell’s meets fresh-squeezed hop juice (if only that was a thing). In my opinion, this is the brunch of hop drinks suitable for a luxurious weekend out in a hammock, enjoying the twitter of spring birds and mild breezes. Much like our native spring, however, it will not last long, so grab a pint and breathe deeply while you enjoy this aromatic delight.

Skål!

— Franz Solo

Nom nom barleywine!

Thanks to our friends at Ska Brewing in Durango, we in the crew were delighted recipients of a bottle of their barrel-aged Ska Face Barleywine. A quorum of Stoutmeister, myself (Franz Solo), and Cryptogrind gathered to enjoy this lovely winter warmer.

Take note, Ska Face will be available today (Friday) from 5 to 8 p.m. at Sister as part of a tap takeover by the brewery. Also available are Sour Apple Gose, Pink Vapor Stew, True Blonde, and Bad Hop Contract.

To help everyone make up their minds as to whether or not to attend, we present our rambling discourse from Tuesday evening.

Crypt: I can smell the booze on this from here.

Solo: Holy hell! Bourbon!

Crypt: Bourbon, dried fruit, you get raisin right away.

Solo: Oh yeah, that tart, whiskey sour mash kind of flavor. It’s a little floral initially, too.

Crypt: Smells like corn!

(Laughter ensues.)

Stout: Korn!

Solo: Delicious creamed corn!

Crypt: Not the corn! Ah, Willie’s gonna have his legs broke!

(Further laughter ensues.)

Stout: That’s delicious.

Crypt: On a different level, layers of sweetness.

Solo: You get tart, and then sweet, and then earthy, and then yummy.

Crypt: So the booze I don’t get a lot on the palate, honestly. It’s not overly hot like it kind of smells like it should be. But, it’s pretty complex in the flavor, because there’s a ton of whiskey right up front, but it doesn’t burn. You get a ton of oak and sour whiskey comes through.

Solo: Vanilla is starting to come through a lot as well.

Crypt: There’s like five different kinds of sweetness there with a little bit of caramel, and it’s like if the huckleberries were too tart, you just dust them with confectioner’s sugar, that kind of thing.

Stout: It is not overly chewy, but I still like the mouthfeel.

Solo: Yeah, it fills the mouth, but it is not a single blast at any spot. Rather, it coats everything.

Stout: It does linger and in a good way; there’s not a bad aftertaste to this at all.

Crypt: It has this light toffee and caramel sweetness light coating that’s really nice.

Stout: It’s more the beer itself and not necessarily the barrel.

Solo: And, it just warms you so nicely. It gives me that little bit of chest burn like you get from a good whiskey or strong winter ale.

Crypt: What kind of yeast did they use in this? I’m getting different kind of fruity notes in the finish that are just really neat.

Stout: Well, it’s an English-style yeast that they use up there.

Crypt: It is pretty unique as far as the finish goes.

Solo: Yeah, it is kind of like the dried cherries that my dad has from his yard, but sweeter like they were injected with huckleberries.

Crypt: We should put that on a banana splice, er split.

(We proceed to discuss excellent sci-fi movies including Blade Runner 2049 and The Cell before returning to the task at hand.)

The bottle even came with this handy sheet of fun facts.

Stout: Thank you, Ska.

Solo: Yes, thank you, Ska. The beer smells sweeter than it actually tastes, likely from the slight tart sourness of the whiskey barrel that balances with what would be otherwise a very, very sweet beer.

Stout: Agreed.

Crypt: Purple monkey dishwasher.

Stout: Drink this while skiing Purgatory! This is very much a winter skiing beer.

Crypt: I’d wash it down with a tall, cool glass of hot dog. Wait …

(The late, great Harry Caray then enters discussion, as is typical of these gatherings, and we rambled a bit about the delicious brews and food available in Chicago.)

In conclusion, among barrel-aged barleywines this one is a strong and unique example of a tart and medium sweet, English-style winter warmer, with many distinct and delightful notes of vanilla, sour whiskey, and various dried fruits. The flavor and aroma linger with the best of ’em and the mouthfeel is excellent. We heartily recommend you seek this quintessential winter skiing/snowboarding beer.

Thanks, once again, to our friends at Ska Brewing for sending us a sample!

Skål!

— Solo, Stoutmeister, Cryptogrind

Stoutmeister gazes upon the glory of Bosque’s Rio Vallecitos. Or he’s reacting to Arizona’s football season already going down the drain, wondering if the hops can save him.

The advent of fall is near upon us, and the time of the harvest for all things green and good has begun in earnest. The season of the malt draws ever closer, but we are in the best days for some of the juiciest and most sought after IPAs in the land. For those of you who have not yet tried a “wet hopped” beer to date, and are of the IPA proclivity, then you are in for a treat over the coming weeks.

There are a number of different ways in which hops are added to our beers. Primarily you will have dry hop pellets as your main hop source in most beers, while occasionally, during harvest season in particular, you will have the opportunity to add fresh picked hops for an entirely distinct experience. Three breweries here in the Duke city currently have wet-hopped IPAs available, but they will assuredly not last very long in this land of hops and green chile.

Bosque has a good history with these types of IPAs, owing to the success of Acequia IPA at the Great American Beer Festival (three medals total, including a gold in 2015), and this year they have gone all out with a series of four wet-hopped IPAs slated to come out over the next few weeks. Rio Vallecitos DIPA is their first entry in the series and clocks in at a sessional 8.8-percent ABV and 95 IBUs. The aroma is of sweet lemon and caracara orange, with a hint of peppery thyme that is simply lovely. Flavor-wise, we begin with a clean, peppery bitter start, juicy citrus with a bit of melon, tangerine, and pine spice to finish.

Get it on tap, or get it to go!

La Cumbre has released a wet-hopped version of our beloved Elevated, which is available both on draft and in bombers. Wet Hopped Elevated clocks in at 7.2-percent ABV and 100-plus IBUs. This one is pure dank, like the cannabis cousin of the hop, which shares in the same harvest time. The aroma is pure weed, while the flavor matches the aroma perfectly with that sweet golden elixir and juicy cannabis with a clean sweet finish.

Quarter Celtic has also just entered the fray with a wet-hopped version of Clark containing barely two-day-old freshly harvested hops from Colorado. This hazy variant clocks in at an immensely quaffable 6-percent ABV and 60 IBUs, which is on the slightly sweeter side of the IPA style. The aroma is of orange and kush straight out of the mountains. Flavor-wise, this one goes all the way back with orange and lemon kush resins flying from the devil’s fingertips … er, something.

All that haze on the left is Fresh Hop Clark, while the original version is available for comparison.

Go forth and procure these quickly as they will be gone like the last days of summer in but an instant!

Skål!

— Franz Solo

Get your hands on TKO Triple IPA before it disappears from Boxing Bear!

Editor’s note: In honor of National IPA Day, we present a two-for-one IPA review from our resident chief hophead. Both beers are still on tap at the Bear, along with Tropic Thunder IPA, Eastern Standard IPA, and of course Uppercut IPA. — Stoutmeister

On a couple of recent forays to Boxing Bear, I had the pleasure of indulging in two of the full five IPAs they currently have on tap. TKO Triple IPA is their third-anniversary ale available on draft and in bombers, and this version of Bear Knuckle IPA is the 2017 IPA Challenge winner and has previously made the final four of the National IPA Challenge. What follows is my own take on both of these lovely offerings in the prime season of the great hop in our fair land.

TKO Triple IPA

A pure and solid knockout whether by hop blast, or by the subtle and somewhat insidious assault of strong malts of this 11’er most certainly live up to its name. We begin with an aroma of sweet orange, kush, pine, tropical fruits, and a hint of oak on the nose of this one with a small wash of warm honey malt alcohol. Sweet, slightly overripe mango, lemon, kush, and berry notes punctuate the flavor, with dry, semi-bitter grapefruit at the ultimate threshold between sips.

This is a summer sipper which to my palate will go down as one of the more memorable anniversary brews to grace my lips in some time. One could argue that we haven’t had a true triple IPA burst onto the scene in our town since the advent of the Nelsons at La Cumbre several years back.

This is a wholly different spectrum from your typical New Mexican-style IPA. Far more malt presence is here to balance with and accentuate the wonderful hops it possesses. Primarily, this is encompassed by American pale malts and some of the mid-range caramel malts which lend some sweet honey character, as though taken fresh from the hive and added to this creation. Citra, Ekuanot, and Mosaic, among others (just a wee few hop additions into well nigh bat country levels), provide quite the melange of delightful flavors and bitters as the case may be.

A deep golden ale which hearkens to the golden roof of the golden hall of Odin, and to the great golden horde of Smaug the Terrible, stolen from the people of Thorin Oakenshield, our senses are transported to the realm of imagination nigh paradise. Whether by fire pit or by hearth, TKO would well deserve a place in a good drinking horn, shared among the best of company with the metal turned as high as the sparks of the stars in the heavens above. Procure this gem of a beer as quick as you can, as it will probably not last long (at least if I have any say in the matter).

While I was enjoying TKO, I also happened to try a pint of this year’s Bear Knuckle IPA, which deserved some words of writ on its own merit.

Bear Knuckle IPA

Your two-time NM IPA Challenge winner.

This version begins with an absolute killer aroma, akin to cannabis, loads of golden resin, and skunk will clear your sinuses on the scent alone. There are hints of mango and a strong presence of orange in there as well, but mostly just the dankest, stickiest … er, beer! Right! On only a few occasions has a beer lived up to such a grandiose aroma (I could smell my pint at home, which was in the living room while I was across the room in the kitchen), and this is absolutely bonafide.

The recent NABA bronze-medal-winning batch of Uppercut IPA, to my mind, was part of the inspiration for this iteration of Bear Knuckle, namely loads and loads of Simcoe among other hops giving that skunk as none other. But, that is where Uppercut and Bear Knuckle diverge, as there are many folds of blanketed orange, tropical fruits, and blueberry hints enveloped in this light amber-colored ale. Quite a measure of sweet mango and caracara orange comes out as this hop lover’s delight warms, so do give it some chance to sit while you imbibe. Part of the surprise of this beer (how well the aroma and flavor match is one surprise) is just how well the malts hold up after such an assault from damn well plaid (faster than ludicrous speed) hopping. The finish tastes like grapefruit and golden resin, fit for a golden hall that leaves you like a good firery salsa, demanding more and more.

Procure these quickly my friends, ere the hops fade and the season of the malt draws nigh!

Skål!

— Franz Solo

A summer jaunt to Quarter Celtic

Posted: July 24, 2017 by Franz Solo in Beer Review
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Clark is back and juicier than ever.

Editor’s note: Somebody was supposed to finish his Hops Brewery article the other night. Instead, he ended up reviewing the beers he was drinking while not really working on that. I guess I’ll let it slide. — S

I suppose it was just to be, as I headed to Quarter Celtic on rumors of an even more “Juiced” version of Clark IPA, and happened upon a lovely Berliner Weiße as well.

Clark Juiced* IPA

Grapefruit and tangerine aroma with sweet orange. Wonderful full flavor elements of juicy Valencia orange, sweet lemon, and grapefruit pith. Hints of fresh pine from the hops takes my palate to the frosted forests of the northern realms, with a soundtrack of Wintersun and Wolfheart. This is an incredibly quaffable IPA of the eastern slant, with the local 505 high explosives of hops very much present to carry your palate beyond the bitter realms to the warm lands of the Desert Vipers and Dornish … er, Granada, Spain. The gardens of the Alhambra with oranges dripping from the trees, and rows of roses of every color and scent you could imagine. That is where I am transported to in this moment with this last pint of the dying day. Ride forth in numbers and storm the gates, er, doors and procure this gem of a beer before it fades like summer into autumn.

It’s a stoplight of deliciousness!

While you bathe your tastebuds and olfactory senses in the hops of the Clark, or perhaps before, try a lovely Berliner Weiße with classic flavorings and quaff your thirst in the heat of July. This traditional German-style sour of light alcohol, and thus immensely quaffable proportions, is just the ticket at the end of a good, honest day toiling in the sun. A cool, crisp concoction with two flavoring options (raspberry and woodruff) is sure to please your parched palate in these days of the unpredictable monsoon and spectacular sunsets. A quintessential post-yard-work beer, this Berliner Weiße finishes quite crisp on its own, clearing the throats of the dusty dryness of our desert home after a hard day in the sun. We have two distinct variations with the pair of flavor additions, so try one of each and discover what you like best.

There are more of these seasonal brews which beg trying, but the time of this day is spent, so I entreat you to go forth and enjoy what your heart desires of any of these, be it the Berliner, the Juiced* Clark, or another. May your beers ne’er empty, nor your mirth ever fade.

Until we meet again,

Skål!

— Franz Solo

El Jugo, a beer so good even Stoutmeister’s hop-fearing relatives were enjoying it!

As this is the season of the zenith in hop dominance in our fair land, Brandon and I, Franz Solo, took it upon ourselves to seek out new hops and new hopilizations. We boldly went … (cue Beastie Boys’ Sabotage while tooling along in a fire apple red Trans Am circa 1970 with T-Tops) to the edge of hops and back, and what follows is our tale — The Tale of Sir Hopsilot.

We began our quest in the fair lands of La Cumbre, where we found the juices flowing with the freshest of batches of El Jugo and the hop maidens well …

La Cumbre El Jugo

Franz Solo: Aroma of orange and citrus juice, with a hair of Simcoe. Tastes just like the name says, Jugo, juice. That makes me think about breakfast, and well, this is an excellent breakfast beer. Light mouthfeel and quite tart. Floral and refreshing. Name a common tropical or semi-tropical fruit and you could quite well make the argument for finding a little of this flavor, a little of that flavor, and so on and so forth. This isn’t quite one style nor another established style, we’ve gone out on our own, pure gonzo hops, er … maybe you could just shove me into … Madness. Well, crisp fresh as hell hop madness that is.

I dig it, not really New England not really NM, doing what it wants according to the whims of the great magnet.

These come in four packs, so I had a second chance, and third, and fourth to pontificate the luscious and well juicy …

Second go-round: Still juicy, sweet then tart as the name and label suggest. Even after a Stone Ruinten, I can still taste the layers of pithy citrus flesh hops of this magnificent fresh offering to the hop gods. Somewhere between the Elevated and the Dank and the Nelson twins (Father and Full) is where the theme of this beer lies. Fresh and filled with life like a summer morning, the color of the marigolds on my back patio, both French and African varieties transfigured from the apprehension of color into the sense of taste, with vigorous young and a lively passion. That is what this tastes like to me.

Brandon’s notes: El Good-o … er, El Jugo, is a beer that could convert my previous bias against this style. Pleasantly fragrant, citrus notes of lemon and a mild floral bouquet, not dank or pungent, but still lets you know it has hops. The palate is, as Franz said and the name implies, juicy. A fresh squeezed glass o’ goodness. Could be part of a balanced breakfast in my house. Drinks easily, light malt base makes for an easy drinking and surprisingly clean finishing beer for this variety of beer.

From the fair lands of La Cumbre we headed north to the mountains of old Santa Fe, where we found an IPA on the very peaks of old Baldy where the elk do dwell. Of the 7k, this is our summation.

Santa Fe 7k

Just looking at 7K you can almost smell that beautiful aroma through your screen.

Franz Solo: On to being so high right now … er, 7k to be precise. Sweet orange tangerine with some dank overtones, and undertones/throughtones/betweentones, and so on and so forth. A little berry and a hint of pine to finish the aroma and flavor both. Flavor is crisp and carries back with a hair of sweet orange grapefruit, mid to front, that permeates the onslaught. A bit of lemon or some sourish lemongrass punctuate this splendid new unique addition to the ranks of such venerated offerings as (in no particular order) La Cumbre’s Elevated, Tractor’s Almanac, and Marble’s IPA as year-round hop offerings readily accessible to us in the Duke City. Initial aroma is like a mango peach, second can in. There are some very nice cannabis-esque notes smack in the middle of this delight. Very bright beer that has an abundance of hop character, yet remains quite quaffable. This takes me back to the summertime in the mountains around Santa Fe, circa the early 2000s, quaffing some of those first groundbreaking IPAs after a hard day of work. Grab a sixer of this and climb up Mount Atalaya or Santa Fe Baldy and take some 7k even higher.

Brandon’s notes: Let’s get down to brass tacks — how much for all of the 7k available? Because I wish to drink it all. This has to win a special award just for its aromatics, because those slight lemongrass, pineapple, and floral notes are outstanding. The body is pure grapefruit, pineapple, and some mango punch as well. Finishes extra clean, crisp, and a subtle malt base gives a good backing. SFBC crafted an excellent IPA here.

From the mountains of old Santa Fe, our quest took us east to the haven of the Dogfish, where strange brewings are known to occur.

Dogfish Head Romantic Chemistry

Weird? Well, yeah, it’s a Dogfish Head beer.

Franz Solo: Like 60-minute with an apricot nose, peach, and just a hint of ginger. For a sessionable East Coast variant, this ain’t half bad. At least the fruit is not cloying, but I’d like a more prominent showing from some of my favorite things. Fond memories from childhood of my maternal grandfather’s apricot trees in the summer, when we’d run around in the sprinklers, which were fed off the well he dug himself in the North Valley. The mango does blend extremely well with the apricot, I must say, and the light kick of ginger finishes with a nice bright flourish. It’s no doubt the Burqueno in me wants to take this beer and increase basically every flavor present by a factor of three or more. Overall, an interesting and tasty experience.

From the Atlantic, we headed to the Pacific to find the great Gargoyle of Stone Brewing, legendary beast of the grand mosh pit of hops, to see what offering he had in store for us.

Stone Ruinten with Orange Peel and Vanilla Bean

Zing! Pow! Stone, you have done it again.

Franz Solo: Smells like a sweet, hoppy dreamsicle. Loads of slightly bitter orange rind gives way to the veritable mosh pit of good old bitter hops that are the signature of the behemoth, and are wrapped in sweet vanilla, which punctuates the afterburners. I do mean afterburners like the afterglow … er … a plethora of tangy citrus and pine woven in a tapestry of sweet black vanilla. As one who enjoyed first Stone IPA, then Ruination, and at last Ruinten in the early 2000s, this is somewhat of a curveball, which I’m entirely sure will be a delight to some and a dreadful letdown to others. When they added orange and vanilla they went full on Crime and Punishment status (some of my favorite spicy-as-hell ales, check the archives if you want a more detailed description of the experience of each) and, well, I definitely enjoy a dreamsicle, always have. As I delve deeper and slake my thirst on this scorcher of a day, ye olde mosh pit of hops starts to begin to resemble what I know lurks in these golden depths. The deception of this beer when cold and after a half hour or so quite amuses me, actually. We have our old friend in what at first taste is a nice, sweet vanilla-hopped ale, but what emerges is a delightful and brutal bitter twist, like showing up for a blues band and getting some full on black metal blasted in your face in hop form. I dig this spicy, almost peppery orange pine odd fellow. Now for the rub. I as a person love strange and bold variations on a theme. Now, would I take this over a straight on Ruinten? Well, depends on the day, really. Some will agree, some disagree, but hell, variety maketh life worth living, and I’m maybe a little inspired to make some damn crazy sounding and tasting beers of my own, drinking in the vein of this year’s locally available Ruinten. If you want something familiar, have a 505 staple local IPA. You want to buy the ticket, take the ride, and go on a taste adventure, then have at you!

Brandon’s notes: I’ve become acclimated to the past editions of Ruinten, so having a variant with orange peel and vanilla bean was slightly jarring. At first, the aroma is all zest, pine, and subtle grapefruit … not bad so far. But, upon the first few sips, I felt the need to punch drywall; all I got initially was heavy, bitter orange peel, some Northwestern earthy/pine notes, and a touch of lime zest as well. This has always been a beer that punches you hard with a ton of IBUs, but my initial impressions weren’t favorable. But, good things take time; as it opened up over about 10 to 15 minutes, the orange citrus and vanilla bean notes popped a lot more. At this point, you will get more of an orange soda/vanilla float with an overload of hops experience. Doesn’t sound good? It actually is. Just remember to let it open in your glass and you will have a solid triple IPA experience.

* * * * *

We returned, at long last, to our homeland, where we found the following challengers to the throne of pure hops, the very Graal of hops for us, as it were.

Current local offerings are as follows:

Challenge IPA 3, Bosque

Don’t Call it a Comeback IPA, Bosque

Bear Knuckle IPA, Boxing Bear

(Forthcoming) TKO Triple IPA, Boxing Bear

Lucha Lupulin IPA, Canteen

Juiced Gondola Party, Quarter Celtic

Project El CuCuy DIPA, The 377 Brewery

Up north in Santa Fe:

Gatekeeper IPA, Blue Corn

#19 IPA, Second Street

We suggest you go out and enjoy these listed, and all the rest of the advancing IPAs from the grand duel of the IPA Challenge, for this foul year of our dark lord, 2017, and dance with the fair green hop dragon!

I entreat you all to relish in this time of the great jousting of hop-laden warhorses and explore not only our fair New Mexico, but the hops of the great beyond. May your palates be never overcome with bitterness, and your hop aromas ever divine, for this is the season of the great Graal of the Lupulin, and we the Knights of the Venerated Hops. Drink well of the hop bombs, and I’ll see you all at the finals of this year’s New Mexico IPA Challenge!

Skål!

— Franz Solo

KBS 2017: All your coffees are belong to us

Posted: June 30, 2017 by Franz Solo in Beer Review
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Oh, wonderful darkness, we have been enjoying the hell out of you these last three glorious years.

Editor’s note: This little mini-tasting event that we had actually took place a while back. Somebody just didn’t get around to typing it up until now. Why run it? Because it’s Friday, and sometimes we just like sharing how much goofy stuff we get to do. Haven’t you always wondered what sort of rambling discussions we have about beer? Well, here you go. — Stoutmeister

We in the Crew recently had the opportunity to sample and review the ’17 version of the much-beloved-among-us KBS from Founders. What follows is our rather fun adventure into the darkest of stout depths in which we did a mini vertical tasting of the ’15, ’16, and ’17 iterations of KBS.

We began as you might, talking up the finer points of the new offerings from Isotopes Park, including a helmet filled with three full, glorious pounds of nachos and Philly cheesesteaks, courtesy of Filling Phillys, which I heartily recommend.

Solo: Alright, you do want three pounds of nachos and Philly cheese?

Brandon: I do want three pounds of nachos and Philly cheese!

Solo: And we’re back. 2017 KBS first impressions are coffee!

The chorus of our host Brandon and Stoutmeister agreed with this sentiment.

Solo: Huge coffee and then whiskey as f*ck.

Stoutmeister: Honestly, it’s gotta be a cold brew, it’s so intense.

Brandon: It’s a really concentrated and the coffee is intense and focused. Definitely roasty. The bitterness of the coffee almost makes the chocolate kind of just blend in, sort of a dark chocolate kind of a way.

Solo: Yeah, it’s kind of a mocha.

Stoutmeister: It’s a little drier. It’s not like some of those barrel-aged stouts that pick up so much of that vanilla character from the barrels and it becomes so sweet.

Solo: This is just straight, burly, coffee chocolate barrel.

Brandon: You get a little heat in the back from the whiskey there.

Stoutmeister: I will say that the coffee sticks around the longest. Even though you get that rush of the whiskey, it does smoothly fade out, but the coffee just remains. All of your coffees belong to us.

Solo: And, damn good coffee at that, nice earthy tones, none of the acidic nature of coffee, really.

Brandon: Not astringent.

Solo: Nope, clearly strong, but that’s a good, uh, whatever blend they used.

Stoutmeister: Give it a swish and smell the aroma.

Swishes commence all round.

Stoutmeister: That’s just lovely.

Solo: And, it just burns with a tad bit of whiskey at the end.

Brandon: I think more so than the last year’s that I’ve had this one’s a little more bourbon-barrel forward initially. I’d be curious to see what this tastes like aged, just because I think that would mellow out a little bit.

Stoutmeister: Yeah, it’s definitely going to be an interesting aged beer, need to procure more and find someplace to put it, outta room!

Solo: Well, actually, now that I’ve drank one of them, I might have room for one more! Although, I still have a large quantity of the last one, and then there’s my home-brew ESB and the Mead …

Brandon: Front is a little chocolate, and then there are slight, roasty notes in there with a little bit of toasted caramel in there, with dark roasted malts and a little bit of molasses in there at the front, but then it just gives way to all the coffee.

Solo: It’s not overly, but a slight bit of raisin or black currant near the back.

Stoutmeister: Yeah, it’s definitely more black currant.

Brandon: And, the coffee is just all over in there and matches with that oakiness.

Solo: Bathe me in dark oakiness.

Stoutmeister: We need to name a new beer that.

Solo and Brandon agree. Various nom nom nom noises ensue.

Solo: A little bit of caramel, toffee aroma notes come forward as it warms, just a hair, coming through the coffee.

Brandon: To quote Jason Mewes in the (movie) Zach and Miri Make a Porno, “That’s some damn fine coffee!”

Solo: The stout’s starting to come through just a little bit.

Brandon: Even for imperial standards I think this is one that works better a little warmer than average, maybe because it’s definitely more complex as it is warming here, and a small pour definitely helps.

Solo: For malts nothing in particular stands out. It’s a melange, but I’d expect no less from a well-crafted and blended coffee barrel-aged chocolate monstrosity. It really sticks to the tongue; sticky black bourbon of death.

Brandon: I think you could drink a four-pack of this.

Stoutmeister: I totally think you could, although the next day I’d be like (unintelligible wailing).

Brandon: It would be like that one day I decided to drink a KBS and then I had two Uncle Jacobs. (One of the very best from Avery Brewing for those uninitiated.)

Solo: The other night I had two Pivos, and then I had Frootwood, and then I had one of those Olde School barleywines from Dogfish Head, that was, I was coherent, I just had a mild headache but …

Rambling ensued.

Stoutmeister: Back to KBS.

Brandon: Yeah, this is freaking amazing as it warms, now I want some french toast. Every time I have KBS, I just want french toast.

Solo: Bring us chicken and waffles!

Rambling on the topic of Nexus Brewing and our obsession with their amazing chicken and waffles commenced, followed by us returning to the topic of the new food offerings at Isotopes Park, including the wondrous Orbit Dog in all of its artery-clogging glory, and then the baseball helmet filled with three pounds of nachos returned, and finally we were back on topic.

That is not the Eye of Sauron in our KBS. We swear.

Solo: Now, oddly enough, even though this is not CBS, it does have somewhat of that maple quality to it.

Brandon: I think what we are getting there is a lot of different composition that is creating like a more almost maple flavor. It’s not just a strictly maple flavor.

Solo: Nah, like a maple toffee coffee something.

Brandon: So, overall impressions of it?

Solo: Delicious.

Stoutmeister: Rather amazing, to be this good this fresh, that’s a rare thing these days where there are so many barrel-aged beers these days that really are made to be aged an extra year in the bottle.

Solo: And this was aged, perfectly.

Brandon: I’m picking up actually a little more chocolate as it goes on. Overall, I think it’s a little more coffee forward definitely than the past years, which is fine by me.

Solo: Not going to complain one iota.

Brandon: Oh no, twist my arm, it’s wonderful. The coffee just doesn’t completely overwhelm, but it kind of supports those other flavors, possibly even supporting the whole beer, but as it does warm you get more of the stout base which comes through, too.

Solo: I’ll go on a limb and agree with the brewer that brewed this beer who said well, you can age these things but this one’s meant to drink fresh, we’ve already aged it and it’s right where we want it to be. I will still age some but yeah I’ll drink this fresh any day of the week.

* * * * *

We then proceeded to break out bottles of the ’16 and ’15 KBS offerings, and our consensus was that the ’17 was more coffee forward, the ’16 was more chocolate forward, and the ’15 was very much barrel forward. We could all understand why people like one year better than another, owing to the prominence of one’s favorite aspect of the delightful amalgam of flavors which is KBS.

We of the Dark Side Brew Crew, being the coffee- and stout-fueled demons that we are, thoroughly enjoyed this year’s variation and are certainly pleased with how it turned out. It will be of some interest to see what next year’s batch has as far as prominence, and we await the offering with the hope that our supply from this and last year will last us long enough!

All hail KBS, mighty breakfast beer deserving of a full spread of candied bacon, fried chicken of the best quality, and some damn fine waffles. There is still an ample supply of both bombers and four packs here in the Duke City (well, we hope so) so grab em before we in the Crew consume them all. Thanks again to Founders for sending us a couple of these delights to sample and review, we heartily enjoyed every last drop and completely enjoyed this delicious review.

Until next time,

Skål!

— Franz Solo

A delicious crowler of liquid gold hops. The book in the background is also worth checking out, Albuquerque Beer, written by our own Stoutmeister.

As we watch the last embers of spring fade and the blazing heat of the summer solstice approach, three beer-related themes come to my mind. The season of hops approaches with our local NM IPA Challenge, but it is still a month away and there are some opportunities to sample some of what might grace our palates at that particular hop battle over the next few weeks.

Secondly, this is the season of what I have liked to call “yard work beer,” or hoppy but light pilsners, lagers, session IPAs of around 5-percent ABV or so, and simple light farmhouse saison ales.

Thirdly, it is the time of year that I bottle my annual batch of mead sourced from a local beekeeper, and ponder what I might do with this year’s batch. I heartily recommend an ice cold mead at the end of a day spent working in the yard with a few “yard work beers” to boot. I will be detailing more on the subject of mead in a later writ, as at present my focus is on the season of hops and a brew that has blasted my palate into nigh the oblivion next door.

We are blessed in New Mexico to have multiple “challenge caliber” IPA seasons, owing to the occurrences of the National IPA Challenge in the spring, the New Mexico IPA Challenge in the summer, and of course the Great American Beer Festival in the fall. As we in the 505 are known to be of some merit in the alchemy of hops, owing to the seemingly ever-growing list of awards and accolades from festivals for our local brewed IPAs, the competition at the local level is quite heated and we, the connoisseurs of hops, are glad beneficiaries.

It has been some time since I found a brew of singular merit and uniqueness possessing of the “wha-tang!” factor as far as hop presence, and felt like I needed to share my enjoyment of it with you, dear reader. I present Dragline IPA from Canteen Brewing.

This is not the first brewing of an IPA under this moniker as we had a version which appeared in May of last year, and my Untappd feed reminded me how much I enjoyed that particular iteration. The present vintage has ascended, in my opinion, to something greater still and I will henceforth describe for you what wonders I daresay it holds.

The initial aroma is of orange candy grapefruit, with a sweet pine finish almost minty and soft in character. We have the traditional dank hop character one would expect from a New Mexico IPA, but melded with layers of different and distinct, sometimes subtle citrus, mango, and peach. The mouthfeel is wonderfully full, yet balanced and with somewhat of a chewy character owing to a strong liquid gold-colored malt backbone pushing 8-percent ABV. The head is perfectly white, which contrasts well with the deep golden amber ocean enveloping a plethora of hops within.

Hops upon hops upon hops grace this glorious elixir!

Were I to classify this as a newer or older style of IPA, I would say that is is certainly both, taken to 11, and then given the best mixing and mastering job that any metal record has had. Wait, were we talking metal or beer? But, I digress. With stronger IPAs as well as with any barrel aged beer of merit, I will always delineate between the initial flavors which appear and those which rise to prominence as the beer warms over time. The best brews will stand up to this test and open up with some increased temperature, while any imperfections or imbalances will show their true colors in the same vein.

For the initial flavor impressions I get a blast of tart grapefruit, then pine, then a lemon-orange candy mid-palate, with a strong and crisp pine finish likely owing to the presence of African Queen hops as one of four in the brew. As it warms, I get a tad more sweet pine on the forefront, with a blood orange and grapefruit finish.

In short, I adore this brew, from fore hop to back hop to blue line hop to, er … let’s go Penguins! A splendid season it was for hockey, and thank the gods for hop bombs as we are in the dry season for sporting and other entertainment indoors, away from the delightful dry heat of summer in ‘Burque.

This beer makes me want to see Goatwhore again and mosh till the end of days, down another pint, and do it all over once more. I would also recommend an early morning or late evening hike in the mountains, or by the Rio Grande, or perhaps a jaunt into El Malpais, aka “Mordor” itself, appended by a quaffing of this delectable hop leviathan. But ,don’t take my word for it, go out and try a pint on its own or side-by-side with Exodus IPA or Flashback IPA, and see what you think.

Or, better yet, continue your hop-devastated palate destruction by trying the numerous other extreme hopped offerings around our fair abode, for there are many worth a draught or 11. Of note, I would recommend (in no particular order) Dragline and Exodus from Canteen, the Mother Road/Tractor Brewing collaboration DIPA, Challenge IPA 2.0 from Bosque, Uppercut IPA from Boxing Bear Brewing (this latest batch is Simcoe-tastic!), Flora Colossus DIPA from Flix Brewhouse, Project Dank (as always and NIPAC 2017 champion) from La Cumbre, and I’ve heard splendid things about this Mosaic IPA from Marble, but need to make my way over there stat!

So, go forth and enjoy the bounty of the summer of hops, and crack open a yard work brew or two while you’re at it. Until we meet again, keep the metal loud, the hops extreme, and the sun blazing. See you all at the 2017 IPA Challenge!

Skål!

— Franz Solo

This writ is dedicated in part to our recently fallen dear friend Justin Shearer who was a marvelous human being and fellow lover of metal and all things hopped to the extreme. Eternal Hails!