Hoppin’ Frog’s Hop Dam Triple IPA

frog

Welcome to The Daily Beard, everyone! As the polar vortexes swarm the country, staying warm becomes an important part of one’s day. And, there’s only so many layers we can wear before we turn into a collective group of Randy from A Christmas Story. Luckily, we can fall back on beer to wrap a toasty liquid blanket around our shoulders. And today’s beer does that job like a pro. It’s Hoppin’ Frog’s Hop Dam, a massive Triple IPA with an IBU as “High”. Further research reveals it has over 50% more hops than their double IPA – 168 IBU’s – so I’m just gonna guestimate and say something around 200 IBU’s. Basically, this just means this beer is so hoppy, the bitterness should come to life and beat you senseless (hopefully it is a delicious beatdown). Let’s go find out!

Pouring this beer unleashes a cloud of hop pungency that fills the nose from the first moment. Huge notes of fresh pine surge up, mingling with grass clippings and other vegetation, creating a super-hoppy bouquet that shines with juicy freshness. Extra bitterness arrives in the form of grapefruit peel, as well as hints of passion fruit and mangoes, alongside an underlying funkiness of earth – bringing that damp, prickly pine bloom. In addition to the hops, there are some malt vibes that swirl amongst the pine. Sweet, caramel malts add a touch of bread, while a drier, crackery malt flavor adds a touch of crispness that supports the floral spiciness of the hops. It’s a full-bodied aroma that delivers all of its complexity at once. Visually, it pours a deep amber-orange with a fluffy white head that bubbles away somewhat quickly.

The first drink reveals the true nature of the hops, even more than was evident in the aroma. Massive, mouth-filling bitterness arrives on a tide of freshness. Earthy funkiness shows up first, consisting of sharp pine, notes of juniper, and fresh cut vegetation – like the smell of chewed up forest floor. Hints of grapefruit peel and passion fruit arrive at the back of the tongue, adding a touch of sweetness in addition to a massive bitter boost. The same notes of pine and juniper return with a brighter vibe, leaving the damp funk behind. Underneath the hop flavors, a noticeable edge of alcohol rises up, revealing its 10% ABV before slipping back under. Near the end of each drink, mellow malts emerge – both bready malts with caramel sweetness, and dry, crackery malts. They subdue to the hops for the majority of the time, but every now and then you’ll notice a taste of bread crust or caramel sweetness. The aftertaste is a super-bitter cracker vibe, with the bitterness clinging to the tongue long after all other flavors have faded away. Despite all that, the bitterness wasn’t “striking”. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll feel the IBU power, but the bitterness remains enjoyably drinkable, not harsh and unpleasant.

This beer is quite an experience. Huge amounts of hops create an atomic pine tree on the tongue, with small hints of malts and bitter fruits adding flavor notes and complexity. The rest of the beer is pine, with some piney hops, and a dash of hoppy bitterness..and pine. Alcohol oomph brings the warmth, and the entire collection of flavors fills the mouth and hangs out on the tongue long after you’ve finished drinking. It’s a bit pricey, but definitely worth it for a limited release beer.

I recommend this beer during a chilly evening, perhaps when you’ve been drinking nothing but stouts for the past month, and you want some brightness to help you shake off those winter blues. Hoppin’ Frog’s Hop Dam Triple IPA earns itself a pine-scented A-.

Grading

Taste: 9/10

Looks: 9/10

Price: 8/10

Drinkability: 10/10

Lasting Strength: 10/10

Overall: 9.2/10 A-

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Birra Del Borgo & Brasserie Cantillon Duchessic Ale

duchessic

Happy Humpday everyone, and welcome to the Daily Beard! Today, I’ve got a rather specialized beer for you drinking pleasure (or possibly your displeasure). It’s Duchessic Ale, a blend of Birra Del Borgo’s Duchess and Brasserie Cantillon’s Lambic (Duchess + Lambic = Duchessic), and it makes for a wild beer. It’s definitely not for everyone, but who knows, perhaps this review will interest you enough to take a leap of faith. Let’s do it!

I’ll start things off with a word of warning. When I opened the bottle, some kind of thermonuclear reaction occurred and a geyser of foam erupted from the opening. I’m sad to say, some beer was lost, but with some quick thinking and a bit of divine intervention, I was able to catch most of it in a glass. The upside to this slight tragedy is that while the foam was detonating, it filled the air with a remarkable aroma. Huge tart notes of lemon juice, pineapple juice, and pre-ripe yellow apples filled my nose, super-heavy on the acidic sourness. Beneath that, an earthy funk leapt up from the sides and flooded into the void left behind as the tart notes dispersed. A lot of people refer to this aroma as a barnyard funk, and that’s a great way to describe it – a bit like old, damp straw with a mild tang that clings to your nostrils. It’s not unpleasant, but it’s definitely specific and has a good chance in turning people away even before they drink. Completing the aroma, a layer of mildly earthy malts arrive with a splash of yeasty spices – both subdued, but still packing that same tang of ripeness that the rest of the aroma brings. Visually, it pours a moderately cloudy gold with an absolutely massive and fluffy white head. I had to transfer some foam to another glass just so I could find some beer to drink.

On the tongue, the sourness of the aroma is enormously magnified. It’s a tartness that clings to the tongue for several seconds before suddenly vanishing. Quite a few flavors arrive at once, but with a bit of time I was able to pick out sour citrus fruits, fermented barnyard funkiness, a touch of malts, and fresh apple peels. This beer gets all up in your business fast, which is ok, because it’s definitely tasty – if you like that big tart punch. Basically, if you’re a fan of sours, you’d probably like this. But, if you’re a fan of lambics, a fan of saisons, or both, you may also like this. The two styles are recognizable with each drink. There’s the bright, fruity tartness of a lambic, and a mildly spiced, “straw and grass clippings” earthiness of a saison, waltzing across the tongue without stepping on each other’s toes. The aftertaste is almost nonexistent – a slight tang at the back of the tongue with perhaps a touch of apple peel, but this beer jumps in and out ninja-fast.

Duchessic is not a beer for everyone. Fans of sours, and die-hard lovers of lambics and saisons will probably find the most enjoyment from this, but then again I have little experience in sours, and I found it quite enjoyable. Beside that, it’s tart brightness was ultra-refreshing, which is always nice. The blending of sour fruit and mildly spiced farm funk not only worked well with each other, but both represented styles of beer were front and center at the same time. It’s ABV is moderate, so you won’t need to worry about falling asleep before finishing, which is good because a slow drink will allow you to experience every layer of flavor. At around $10 for a normal bottle, it’s pricey, but if you’re looking for something unique and strangely delicious, give it a shot. You’ve probably spent $10 on worse things.

I recommend this for people wanting an eye-opening beer experience or, if you’re a sour lover, a slow drink over a lazy afternoon. So go ahead and give Duchessic a shot. Who knows, you may love it. This crazy drink earns an A-.

Grading

Taste: 9.5/10

Looks: 10/10

Price: 7.5/10

Drinkability: 10/10

Lasting Strength: 9/10

Overall: 9.2/10 A-

Weyerbacher’s Blithering Idiot Barley Wine

blithering

Welcome back to the Daily Beard, everyone. If you’re like me, you’ve got an uber case of the Tuesday Doldrums – a malady almost as horrible as the Monday Blues. But fear not everyone, I’ve got just the thing to lift our spirits. It’s Weyerbacher’s Blithering Idiot Barley Wine – a beer full of potency and flavor, with enough kick to make us forget how young the week is. And so, without further delay, take a seat and relax. It’s beer time.

Pouring this beer reveals a rich aroma full of warmth. Huge caramel and rich bread malts arrive first, wrapping around the nose like a malty blanket. Completely absent are even the faintest traces of hops, resting on the bready power of the malts to carry this beer to the promised land. Next up, gradually strengthening hints of burnt caramel mingles with brown sugar to create a layer of sweetness that hugs the malts and fills the nose. On the tail end of these sugar notes, a presence of butterscotch and toffee add a mellow richness that compliments the sweet vibes like a long lost twin. Throughout each breath, there’s a constant touch of alcohol strength – a slightly boozy raw quality that makes you aware of the 11.1% ABV even before you start drinking. Near the end of each breath, and after you let the beer sit for a few moments, a mild touch of fruit appears, consisting mainly of figs and raisins, but with a touch of apple here and there. The fruits aren’t huge – existing only as a vaporous trace aroma – but it’s enough to create more complexity in a way that makes the overall aroma quite lovely. Visually, it pours a fairly clear nut brown, deep and full-bodied throughout underneath a fluffy, slow-fading head of light khaki.

On the tongue, the malts show up first once more – arriving with caramel and bread that fills the mouth. The alcohol presence is much more evident in taste than it was in smell, with a tingling burn starting on the tongue and trickling down the throat. The same raw quality of the alcohol is here once more, brought about by the potency of the alcohol burning through the masking qualities of the other flavors. Despite this power, the alcohol quality is the Bert to this beer’s Ernie. Once you make your way past the alcohol, you’ll stumble into the middle of a flavor explosions – layers of burnt sugars, toffee, and mild figs and raisins constantly swirl and mix across your tongue, dominating the mouth with a slight sweetness that feeds into the bready smoothness. Speaking of smoothness, this beer goes down like silk that’s been set ablaze. The ABV burn shows up at the back of the throat, but the flavors ensure it remains wonderfully drinkable. As the beer warms up a bit, nutty hints of almonds arrive, followed by the faintest touch of candied cherries. It creates a flavor profile that’s similar to cognac at times – not nearly as strong, but with the same predominant flavors.

Weyerbacher’s Blithering Idiot showcases the best quality of a barley wine – intensity. Huge malt flavors and alcohol potency form a stage upon which brown sugar sweetness, dark fruits and hints of nutty smoothness are layered to pure tastiness. Checking out other reviews of this beer, I discovered that my appreciation of Blithering Idiot was in the minority. I’m not sure why. Big flavors, pleasing aromas, and the feel-good quality of a barley wine were in high supply from start to finish. Will it be everyone’s favorite – no, of course not – but you should definitely give it a try before reading into it too much.

I recommend this beer over the course of an evening. Take your time and savor the growing and shifting layers of flavor, while enjoying the tingle that’ll show up as you drink. Weyerbacher’s Blithering Idiot earns a solid A-.

Grading

Taste: 9/10

Looks: 9/10

Price: 8/10

Drinkability: 9/10

Lasting Strength: 10/10

Overall: 9/10 A-

Oskar Blues Ten Fidy Imperial Stout

tenfidy

Welcome back to the Daily Beard, everyone! Posts have been light as of late but fear not, normalcy shall return. For now, I bring to you one of the tastiest beers I’ve had in a while, and I drank it from a can of all places. I know, I said that I’d only be reviewing beers that I’ve poured into glasses, but craft beer’s natural habitat is not a can. If the brewery puts their beer into a can, I’ll respect that, and drink it as such. Plus, it’s an imperial stout, and a stout in the can is a little mind boggling. Specifically, it’s Oskar Blues’ Ten Fidy Imperial Stout, so named for its 10.5% ABV. And, when the can itself is covered in gems such as “cancupiscent” (which is a play on concupiscent, which means lusty and sensuous) and “prepare 2 be hit”, I’m afraid that if I don’t drink it from the can, it’ll grow arms and try to stab me. No stabbings occurred, and now I can pass along the tasty goodness to all of you.

Things started off with a huge malty aroma of roasty brown bread. Immediately following were rich notes of coffee slathered with molasses. The molasses gave it a touch of sweetness on the nose, even before the first taste. Assisting the molasses stickiness were hints of dark fruits – minor plums, a handful of currants, and a pinch of black licorice candy – creating a rich bouquet of mingling floral sweetness and roasted darkness. The final aroma note was a bit odd – a mellow saltiness that was similar to soy sauce. This may vary from can to can, but there was a definite combination of scents that created a salty, slightly toasty aroma of Kikoman. Visually, I didn’t pour it out, but when I looked down into the can, it appeared as if I was staring into a bottomless pit of darkness.

Over on the taste side, the beer basically explodes onto your tongue. An ultra malt profile arrives with flavors of roasted grape-nuts and bread. From here, huge coffee notes arrived – bold and full bodied, but not overpowering. It’s definitely not a java stout. Molasses returns on the tongue, carried by the same dark fruits once more. It adds a touch of sweetness that works great with a slightly herbal vibe that arrives a bit later. As the drink continues, the sweetness changes from the herbs and molasses to a deep, chocolate fudge – enveloping the mouth with a massive darkness that continues to grow with each drink. The fudge slowly shifts into a dark chocolate syrup flavor, where it finally comes to a stop as pure potent stout. The 10.5% is partially masked, allowing some boozy hints of its alcohol potency to shine through here and there. This alcohol edge isn’t unpleasant and is awesomely managed within the other flavors. It allows the tastiness of the beer to stay front and center, while the alcoholic oomph keeps things ultra toasty. It’s a wonderful thing.

Oskar Blues’ Ten Fidy Imperial Stout was not only delicious, but it was a joy to drink. Despite its supreme darkness and alcohol potency, it goes down like liquid silk and makes you happy. The flavors are balanced to perfection, and seem unending as you’re drinking – showing a huge complexity that only get’s better with time. Just because it’s in a can, it’s well worth the standard craft beer price, so grab as many as you can.

I recommend Ten Fidy during a cold evening, where the furnace just doesn’t seem to be doing it for you, and you need a little something extra to stay warm. It’d also go great with dessert such as cake, cookies, or pudding. Really, it would be delicious no matter when or where you drink, so enjoy. Oskar Blues’ Ten Fidy Imperial Stout earns a massive A.

Grading

Taste: 10/10

Looks: 10/10

Price: 8/10

Drinkability: 10/10

Lasting Strength: 10/10

Overall: 9.6/10 A

B. Nektar’s Black Fang

blackfang

Happy Polar Vortex Tuesday, everyone! If you’ve managed to escape the frigid temperatures, consider yourself lucky. If not, your best option is to light a fire somewhere in your house, wrap up in something over-sized and fluffy, and pour yourself a glass of liquid warmth. To that end, you’re definitely at the right place, as The Daily Beard always keeps things toasty, craft beer style. Except, tonight’s beer isn’t actually a beer. It’s a mead from B. Nektar Meadery, known by the completely awesome name of Black Fang and sporting ingredients such as blackberries, cloves, and orange zest. Epicness is abound even before opening the bottle, as the label warns us to “keep the bottle out of sunlight, and that it will not sparkle in the sunlight.” At this point, it could taste horrid and I’d still give it a 10/10 for the Twilight jab, but I am a professional, and as such I must keep such biases out of the judging process. Thankfully, the judging process is drinking it. And so, let the drinking commence – for science!

Poured out, the aromas burst forth from a liquid of dark, inky violet. Notes of honey arrive first before immediately succumbing to a tide of spicy clove and sweet n’ tart blackberries. Despite the strength of clove on its own, within this bouquet, all of the aromas are fairly mellow. Clove definitely stands out the most, but you can definitely find notes of honey, blackberry and even some citrusy orange tossed in for good measure. Despite the vampire vibe that this mead has going for it, the aroma is drawn right out of a Christmas memory, situating it firmly within the winter months, regardless of what the pale, fanged dude on the label says. Visually, it looks like a stout ate a rainbow and only purple survived. Almost black, satiny purple pours slow and thick, with a touch of carbonation that creates a lavender ring of thin foam around the top.

On the tongue, the mellowness of the aroma disappears completely. Huge notes of clove show up first, bringing that uber spice-rack vibe from the instant the first drop hits. After the clove fades, a sweet ripple of honey arrives to wrap your tongue in a sticky-sweet hug. At the same time, tart fruit notes of blackberry and oranges provide another helping of sweetness, as well as a touch of lip-smacking sourness similar to shoving an entire handful of berries into your mouth. The orange zest teams up with the residual clove notes to create that well known mulled-spice flavor of winter. This is actually a great way to describe the overall flavor – mulled blackberry mead. Any trace of alcohol is non-existent but at 6% ABV, you’ll feel a little toastiness begin to creep across your brow near the end of your drinking.

B. Nektar’s Black Fang is just all around tasty. The big clove notes may turn some people away, but they fade fast enough to ensure that the flavor avoids becoming cloying and unpleasant. Sticky-sweet honey and tart blackberries bring additional layers of taste and complexity that build on top of the clove to create a festive, winter party atop your tongue. The flavors don’t last for too long – fading away to a faint echo of spiced, fruity sweetness after just a few moments. But, this allows you to experience the tastiness anew each time you take a drink. Because it’s a mead, it’s a bit pricey, but the great combination of flavors are well worth it to pick up a bottle or two.

I recommend this as a dessert drink. The fruits and spices would go great with just about anything you’d eat to satisfy your post-meal sweet tooth. It also be great to drink on a chilly winter night, enjoying some “you” time, or maybe some “you plus a friend” time. B. Nektar’s Black Fang earns an A straight outta’ coffin.

Grading

Taste: 10/10

Looks: 10/10

Price: 8/10

Drinkability: 10/10

Lasting Strength: 9/10

Overall: 9.4/10 A

Winter Warming Bonus: 8/10

Bell’s Winter White Ale

winter-white

Welcome back my friends! The holidays have come to an end, bringing the chaos and unpredictability of Christmas and Festivus – and any other winter holiday – to an end. And, as a new year is upon us, what better time to return to the tried and true. I am, of course, referring to beer reviews! And today’s beer is Bell’s Winter White Ale. Bell’s Brewery is one of the best craft breweries out there, so I’m excited that this beer has the honor of starting off 2014. Let’s get to it, shall we?

With the new year, these reviews will change slightly. Instead of describing the aroma and taste from the bottle, I’ll just be focusing on the poured features. My main reason behind this is simply because beer in a glass tastes better than beer from a bottle (real beer, that is). Pouring the beer releases all of those trapped aromas and flavors, allowing each brew to live up to its full potential. Having said that, the poured aromas of this beer are unique to the winter beer line-up. Bright bursts of lemon juice and apples flow over a layer of mild and slightly earthy straw to create that wit bier bouquet. Mellow bread malts support from underneath and an overall freshness descends atop the nose, slightly floral with just a hint of spice-drop spicing. The aroma ends with a gentle wave of yeasty spice that makes the mouth water. Visually, it pours a slightly cloudy gold – mildly bubbly, with a thin white head that bubbles away fairly quickly.

On the tongue, a wonderful orchestra of mellow malts, fruits and spices come together to make sweet, sweet winter music throughout the mouth. The malts and yeast show up first, slightly bready with a touch of Belgian spicing. Up next, tangy lemon juice mingles with fresh apple peels and a pinch of grass clippings to create a layer of slightly sweet tartness. This tartness flows over some straw and dried leaves, creating a feeling of seasonal warmth that anchors the beer within the winter spirit, despite its brightness. Throughout each drink, faint notes of clove, nutmeg, and cinnamon provide an ultra mellow spice quality that works wonderfully with the apple notes. This spicing is nothing like a seasonal Belgian ale, but it’s enough to provide even more complexity and flavor.

In the end, Bell’s Winter White Ale is a lovely contribution to the winter beer scene. Instead of rich and heavy malts or potent spices, it uses subtle hints of wit bier flavors to create a delicious and comfortable ale that’ll chase away all of your winter blues. Its price is on par with other seasonal craft beers, but its flavor is definitely worth picking up a case or two.

I recommend this beer from late Autumn to early spring. It’s light and mellow enough with its flavors to stay tasty and refreshing no matter the weather, while bringing enough flavorful oomph to work wonders during the cold, winter months. Bell’s Winter White Ale earns a delightful A.

Grading:

Taste: 10/10

Looks: 9/10

Price: 9/10

Drinkability: 10/10

Lasting Strength: 9/10

Overall: 9.4/10 A

Winter Warming Bonus: 7/10