Category Archives: Beer

Clown Shoes’ Crunkle Sam Barleywine

crunkleSam

Though it can sometimes feel that IPAs are the hottest commodity in the craft beer world these days, it’s important to show just as much love to the rest of the brew spectrum as well. WIth that in mind, today’s review is quite the distance from an IPA. It’s Clown Shoes’ Crunkle Sam Barleywine, an 11% monster of malty bliss and tongue numbing strength. I’ve been a fan of barleywines since I first experienced their potent fury, enraptured by just how much massive flavor could be contained within one flimsy, glass bottle. Crunkle Sam is no exception. It may not be the absolute strongest barleywine out there, but don’t let it hear you say that.

crunkleSam

The experience begins with a potent aroma of rich bread malts, bringing a slight roasted quality that adds a bit of toast to the mix. Even in the aroma, there’s a hint of an alcohol tang that sticks to the inside of your nostrils. Following the bread, dark fruits galore arrive in force, consisting of raisins, plums, a few figs, and even a cherry or two. Curiously, at the sides lie faint vapors of citrus, mainly grapefruit and orange zest. It’s not the same style of citrus you’d find in an IPA. Instead, it’s just flavor, with no pithy bitterness. As this brew is basically a massive malt cannon, sweet notes of brown sugar and caramel show up with a passion, not inundating the nose with sugary notes, but instead glazing the bread to create that traditional “ultra-malt” profile. Near the end of each breath, a faint dusting of cinnamon coincides with a low rumble of Grape Nuts as the aroma resets. Complex and rich are definitely two fitting adjectives here, my friends. This wonderful bouquet rises up out of a rich, dark brown brew, complete with a light khaki head.

On the tongue, the alcohol arrives from the first drop, kicking your tongue with a righteous tang that sends it tingling immediately. Rich malts follow, mainly hearty bread and a touch of Grape Nuts, mingling within the alcohol sea. Again, brown sugar and caramel flow in from the sides, somewhat subdued compared to the aroma, but still discernible amongst the bread notes. There’s actually quite a bit of hoppage within this brew, which is evident from notes of fresh pine and citrus that chill out beneath the malts. This creates a buried, citrusy sweetness that arises every now and then, but the hops’ largest contribution is a noticeable bitterness at the back of the tongue, lasting through the malt wash and staying from start to finish. Notes of over-ripe apples arrive next, bringing and earthy fruit quality that mingles with the caramel notes to near perfection (aww yeah, caramel apples). Near the end, the hops also donate a bit of peppery spiciness, bumping up the alcohol burn a bit. To some, this can be off-putting, especially as it’s a sign of young age (the alcohol edge mellows with time. For me, I happen to enjoy the bracing strength and burn, so it doesn’t bother me. The flavors end with more dark fruits (raisins, but there’s a cherry vibe every now and then), before everything more or less fades from the tongue, presumably from the unmasked alcohol quality. It’s harsh, in the most delicious way.

Crunkle Sam is an awesome example of a barleywine. Huge malts, mild fruits, pleasing sweetness, and a numbing tongue when finished. Again, this bottle may be a bit young due to just how sharp the alcohol edge was, but I’m not complaining. Drinking a barleywine should, in my opinion, be an experience that you need to prepare for. One shouldn’t simply grab a bottle and enjoy. Respect the brilliance and new-age alchemy that is a barleywine, and it will most certainly respect you. If you pick this up be sure to snag two bottles minimum – one to enjoy as is (if you’d like) and one to age (if you have the proper aging settings). That way, you’ll be able to see the difference between a fresh and aged brew. If you only have the one bottle, it’s all good. You’ll still experience the massive flavor that Crunkle Sam has to offer. Enjoy it, for sure.

Crunkle Sam will be best enjoyed as slow as possible, preferably over an evening where you can just chill and relax. Let it work its calming magic as you sink into a world of liquid, bready potency. I wouldn’t advise drinking with any food – the flavors of the beer are already complex and shouldn’t be muddied or altered with anything from the outside. Clown Shoes’ Crunkle Sam earns 9 Beards out of 10. Pick up a bottle to experience the  massive flavor for yourself.

Grading:

Taste: 9/10
Price: 8/10
Looks: 10/10
Drinkability: 9/10
Lasting Strength: 9/10
Overall: 9/10 A-

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Oskar Blues’ Deviant Dale’s IPA

Deviant Dales

Over my relatively young craft beer lifetime, I’ve honed my tastes quite a bit from the beginning. The first craft beer I ever tried was a massive Imperial IPA, and I absolutely hated it. I thought it taste like gasoline and nightmares. Of course, now I’m ashamed of the brew newb that I was, but I can definitely appreciate that massive distance that I’ve crossed to be where I’m at now – a hophead to the core. Well, really a crafthead, but hops are most definitely my jam right now. During this personal odyssey of brewdom, I’ve come to know who the major players in craft beer are. Not simply the most popular or those with the greatest reach, but those who consistently make class-leading quality beers. Oskar Blues is one of those breweries. Not only do they make one of my favorite brews , but their Dale’s Pale ale is a wonderful elixir that showcases the majesty of pale malt and “strong-handed hoppiness” together in a zen-like oneness. In other words, it’s damn tasty. Today’s brew is Deviant Dale’s, the older brother of Dale’s Pale Ale, and categorized as a “standard” IPA. I focus on the word “standard” because it’s as potent as some imperial IPAs, and packs so large a hop punch within each can, you’ll swear someone just slapped you in the face (with a hand of deliciousness). Just what makes Deviant Dale’s so damn nice? Come along and let us find out.

Deviant Dales

Upon pouring this from its Tallboy can, huge notes of freshly cut pine tree and juicy carrot-like vegetation fills the air around you. Orange and lemon zest follow immediately after, inundating your nose with a multi-layered onslaught of hop. A mellow vibe of peaches arrives next, adding a touch of sweetness before mildly toasty cracker malts take their position beneath the hops, creating a wonderful base. A touch of caramel sweetness rises up to mingle with the hops, bringing out a once-underlying resin quality that arrives with its own hints of hop-cone sweetness. A final dash of burnt brown sugar ensures that you, the soon-to-be drinker, understands not only the balance fo this brew, but just how much of both hops and malts went into each can (hint: a shit ton). It pours a burnt gold with a fluffy white crown situated prominently upon its head.

The first taste arrives upon a chariot made of hop cones and dark magic. Mildly sweet hop resin creates a flavor akin to a hop candy, with notes of pine flowing in from the sides. A strong base of cracker malts creates the same malt presence as was in the aroma. It’s quite a unique experience. The amount of hops in this brew often led me to thinking it was a double, but then the malt punch would find its way to my tongue and remind me that it was indeed a highly balanced standard IPA, just supercharged with some kind of delicious demonic power. As the drink continues, caramel and brown sugar sweetness mingle with the initial resin qualities, bringing out the true flavor of the Columbus hop. I happen to love when the actual flavor of the hop shows up in my beer, not simply a flavor of tropical fruits or pine. It’s a magical thing. On the tongue, it flows crisp and bubbly, atop a bitter rumble that doesn’t overpower, but only because there is so strong a malt presence. The end of each taste showcases orange zest and peaches, adding another hop layer and catapulting the complexity through the roof. The constantly shifting and rolling strength of flavors will ensure no two tastes are ever the same (save for the underlying pure hop flavor. I just can’t get enough of that). It truly is a devious beer.

Deviant Dale’s is as close to an Imperial as a standard IPA can come. Featuring hugely potent hoppage, it would be were it not for the equally massive malt characteristics. The end result is a brew of colossal flavor, wonderful balance, and air-guitar-solo inducing potency. Let’s face it, an IPA at 8% is a wonderful thing, not because one can will leave you feeling all kinds of loose, but because Oskar Blues somehow managed to fit so much into one little can. If that’s not high-five worthy, I don’t know what is. At times, the strength of each flavor can become a bit overpowering, washing away other flavors without a care. But these are relatively rare, allowing the rest of the drink to be near epic.

There’s no best situation to enjoy this beer. Just about any time and place will be perfect. By yourself, with friends, watching a movie, eating a pizza, or standing out on your porch, tending to your grill. If you love IPAs, the smell of hops in the morning (which of course smells like…victory) or simply a delightfully awesome beer, you won’t go wrong with this one. Deviant Dale’s IPA earns a potent 9.2 Beards out of 10 for an A.

Grading:

Taste: 9/10
Price: 8.5/10
Looks: 10/10
Drinkability: 9/10
Lasting Strength: 9.5/10
Overall: 9.2/10 A

Dark Horse Crooked Tree IPA

 

crookedTree

Starting with this beer review, I’ll be including The Daily Beard Beer Wheel – a nifty little chart for everyone who prefers a more visual beer-summarizing experience. Just click the picture and it’ll bring up the full chart. Of course, you should still definitely read the review, but maybe you just need that basic info, and don’t have time to read. I don’t know, you live your own life. Onto the review!

crookedTree

Lately, I’ve been all over IPAs. I know it’s been a while since my last review, but the easiest way to sum up what I’ve been drinking is: hops. And I’ve come across a number of wonderful brews that showcase the hop to near perfection. One of these is Dark Horse’s Crooked Tree IPA, a lovely brew of hoptitude that I just can’t wait to share with you all. It’s also the younger brother (or perhaps, smaller older brother) of Double Crooked Tree, a massive 12% ABV imperial IPA that’s ranked near the top of Doubles. Needless to say, Dark Horse knows how to make beer, so even if you don’t live in Michigan, do whatever you can to find a Dark Horse brew. That being said, it’s time to get to the task at hand – the liquid wonderment that is Crooked Tree.

Starting things off, an aroma of pine and citrus erupts against your nose, bringing out notes of grapefruit peel and orange zest from the get-go. A damp freshness (like just-sliced vegetables) rides alongside the citrus, adding a hint of florality as well as a pleasing juiciness that fills the nose. At the back of each breath, light caramel and cracker malts create a balancing base that is definitely present, but subdued enough to ensure the hops stay center stage. As a whole, the bouquet is quite crisp and wonderfully fresh, bringing out the brightness of the hops that blooms and eventually fills the entire room. Visually, this brew is chestnut-brown with a creamy off-white head.

On the tongue, pine and resin arrive immediately, flooding over the tongue like wave of hop cones. Bread crust and mildly toasty cracker malts arrive just after the pine, settling in beneath and supporting just as they did in the aroma. Again, the malts are noticeable, but their mild sweetness and heartiness only brightens the hop qualities. Along the sides of the mouth, moderate grapefruit peel bitterness arises, remaining constant for the entirety of the drink. Hints of orange zest and peaches compliment the citrus bitterness, adding a tropical sweetness that couples nicely with the malts. It begins rather creamy, rolling down the tongue with an initial stickiness before growing crisp at the end, fading from the tongue rather quickly. It’s a bit astringent, leaving the mouth feeling a little dry (this is aided by the crispness that arises at the end of each drink. It also makes you want to take another drink, which is always good). After each taste, toast and bitter citrus manage to cling to the tongue for a while, just long enough to keep the essence of flavor until the next taste.

For a standard IPA, Crooked Tree brings the thunder, flooding your mouth with a hoppy deluge that leaves you with a smile. A hop-leaning balance between the citrusy pine and toasty malts creates a back and forth experience that allows layer after layer of flavor to flow across your tongue. At 6.5%, you’ll be able to enjoy an extra bottle or two without knocking yourself out. Even if it were stronger, its bright and fresh aroma wouldn’t leave you much choice – it’s a difficult beer to put down. At times, the malts stuck out a bit too far, but even that wasn’t a bad thing. It simply distracted me (ever so slightly) from the overall IPA vibe I was enjoying. But, if every distraction in life was as nice as the malt flavors, the world would be a better place.

Crooked Tree is a perfect brew to enjoy over the course of a lazy afternoon and/or evening. Try it with spicy food if you happen to love spice, or some citrus-glazed chicken if you want to bring out the citrus in both the dish and the drink. It’s also perfect for Summer, showcasing the brightness of the season with an added oomph that’s always nice.If you’re looking for a perfect example of the IPA style, Dark Horse’s Crooked Tree is definitely a top contender, earning 9 Beards out of 10

Grading:

Taste: 9/10
Price: 8.5/10
Looks: 9/10
Drinkability: 9.5/10
Lasting Strength: 9/10
Overall: 9/10 A-

Founder’s Dirty Bastard Scotch Style Ale

dirtybastard

To call your beer a dirty bastard, one must have the utmost confidence that it will, in truth, not be a dirty bastard, but instead a bottle of liquid hell yeah. Founder’s Dirty Basted is indeed a bottle of hell yeah, with a dash of fist pump, and a heaping scoop of kick ass, all wrapped up in plaid – it’s a Scotch Style Ale after all. But, alas, I’m getting ahead of my self – I need to share with you all just what makes Dirty Bastard such a deliciously dirty bastard. So don your kilts and get your drinking faces ready, it’s beer time.

Dirty Bastard’s aroma begins the split second you pry the cap from the bottle. Huge notes of boozy malts rise from the pour like the inebriated ghost of William Wallace. Placing your face in the path of this oncoming cloud reveals a sweetness consisting of raisins and slightly burnt caramel. Beneath, hints of smoky peat arrive at the outskirts of each breath, alongside teasing vapors of whiskey barrel – oak, vanilla, and a touch of char. As the bouquet continues, the sweetness continues to grow, helped along by a continuing dark fruit vibe of raisins and currants, as well as earthier sweet tones such as the caramel, brown sugar, and toasted toffee. As the breath comes to a close, hints of almonds and cherries rest on the final aromatic breeze before sinking back into the massive malten cloud. Visually, it pours a beautiful ruby-brown beneath a thick, khaki head that takes its time in fading.

On the palate, this brew defines the term “wee-heavy”. Beginning thick and silky smooth, a tide of boozy malts will be the first to wash over your tongue, inundating your mouth with richness galore. As in the aroma, raisins, currants, and caramel sweetness arrives next, followed by brown sugar and toffee. This brew is continuous countering of rich and savory bass with sweet and syrupy treble. The malts continuously grow, becoming smoked and roasty near the cheeks while the notes of aged oak swirl towards the back, complete with char and vanilla as an entourage. And then, like a Scotsman lifting his kilt in front of you, the beer surprises you with a sudden bloom of bitterness. This bitterness arrives via bittering hops that contribute little flavor, as well as the same smoke and char, now devoid of any sugars. It’s a wonderful turn that keeps your tongue on its toes and your mouth in a state of bliss. Couple that with the warm and alcoholic buzz that almost audibly hums with each drink, and you’ve got a big, boozy bastard of a brew.

Founder’s Dirty Bastard is not for the faint of heart. Though it stands at only 8.5% ABV, one should not tread lightly in the face of such a brew. It’s strength does not shy away, and its power will greet your tongue with a headbutt and a punch to the stomach as soon as you begin drinking. Having said that, its massive flavor will ensure you don’t care how your tongue is treated. Huge malt savoriness, syrupy sweetness and a back-end of bittering strength culminates in layers of tasty complexity. Price is no concern here – if you see it, buy it. Just be sure to prepare yourself for barely contained power.

There’s really no bad time for drinking this beer. With meat, with bread, in the afternoon, relaxing in the evening. You could even drink it for breakfast. Go ahead, you’re an adult. You know what, do exactly that. Make a massive stack of pancakes, three pounds of bacon, six eggs, and a mug of Founder’s Dirty Bastard. While you’re passed out with a food coma, at least you’ll be content with the knowledge that your beer of choice earned an A from the Daily Beard. Play us off, Bagpipe Cat!

Grading:

Taste: 10/10

Price: 8/10

Looks: 10/10

Drinkability: 9.5/10

Lasting Strength: 10/10

Overall: 9.5/10 A

New Holland’s Night Tripper

tripper

Potency has always been a key word here at The Daily Beard. Strength of flavor, depth of emotion, and of course the alcohol kick are always welcome in the world of craft brew, and continuing on with that love of all things ‘oomph’ is New Holland’s Night Tripper – a massive 11% Imperial stout of pure darkness. I can only guess why the jester on the front of the bottle looks so strung out and surprised, but I assume it has something to do with the potency of the bottle that he happens to be sitting on (if you were made from liquid Russia, you’d look a little wide-eyed as well).But, where there are ocular-frantic jesters, there is tasty beer (probably), so we’ve little time to spare for guesses and wonderments. To beer and glory!

Starting things out is a colossal bouquet of roasted malts and bittersweet dark chocolate. Actually, the chocolate is much more sweet than bitter, pushing sticky notes of milk chocolate to the top of the aroma cloud. If sweet stouts aren’t your thing, fear not – a roasty base lies just below the chocolatey goodness, chilling out with a layer of earthy darkness that calls upon a sprinkling of herbal oomph to ensure the bouquet remains on the dark side. Additionally, faint whisps of smoke drift by every now and then, coupling with the chocolate to both enhance the sweetness, and to anchor everything firmly within Stoutland. There’s a great back and forth process that occurs within this aroma – the heavy notes (roasted malts, smoke and bitter chocolate) focus the sweet (creamy milk chocolate and a touch of molasses), while the same sweet notes team up with the darker tones to sink back into the depths and pump up the midnight richness. Complex? You better believe it! On top of all that, there’s a faint yet noticeable trace of alcohol that reaches in from the sides on every other breath – just another indication of the beer’s strength. It pours a thick, pitch black beneath a creamy tan head of perfect stout fluffiness.

If you thought the beer was intense just from the aroma description, the taste will blow you away. Chocolate shows up huge from the get-go, arriving first as a potent base of bitter dark chocolate, just before a layer of sweet milk chocolate tempers the bitter strength and adds its own tasty, syrupy flavors. Despite this, the sweet notes don’t run away and steal the show. Instead, they just swirl around, thinking about chocolate stuff, being awesome, and adding a tasty chocolate milk vibe. While the chocolate is making friends with your tongue, a powerful tide of roasted malts sweeps in and settles at the base, taking its place as the stoutish foundation while contributing flavorful hints of flakey oatmeal and charred malts. Be sure to let the beer warm up a bit to really notice the oats – it’s worth it. following this, an onslaught of darkness arrives, bringing notes of licorice, molasses and toffee all at once. These three flavors create a rich, toasty vibe carried upon wings of earthy, herbal sweetness. The toffee char hooks up with the roasted malts, while the licorice and molasses team up with the chocolate gang to enhance the darkened sweetness that sits at the front of the tongue. As the taste continues, boozy streaks of alcohol swirl across the taste buds, bringing a tingle to the mouth but refraining from unleashing a devastating assault of tongue destruction. In other words, even with the noticeable alcohol potency, it remains silky smooth from start to finish, like a liquid storm cloud. As the beer draws to a close, hints of smoke and coffee seep in and settle on top, finishing with a potent roastiness that sweeps into a smokey chocolate sheen at the back of the tongue.

Drinking this beer is a massive experience. There are about 83,000 layers of flavor – ranging from milk chocolate to smoky malts, and everything in between. Throughout each mouthful, flavors swirl and mingle with one another, creating ever-changing complexity. It’s like a beer square dance! Smoke joins up with chocolate to hone the sweetness before the darker chocolate tones drift over to the malts and cast a tasty stoutish shadow over your tongue. It’s downright delicious. Before you drink this, chill it for about half an hour – just enough to subdue the flavors a bit. Then, take your time and enjoy slowly, letting it warm as you drink. You’ll be sure to witness the growth of flavors as the chill fades, as well as an increase of all-around potency. Its price is on par with other Imperial stouts, but with the amount of flavors within this beer, each bottle feels like you’re drinking for two.

I recommend New Holland’s Night Tripper over a chilly evening, settled in your favorite chair, reading a book and relaxing after the day. Let the complexity soothe your mind as the warming strength chases away the Winter chills. Layers upon layers of huge flavor earns this beer a delicious A, and my whole-hearted recommendation for imbibement.

Grading:

Taste: 9.5/10

Looks: 10/10

Price: 8.5/10

Drinkability: 10/10

Lasting Strength: 9.5/10

Overall: 9.5/10 A

Six Point Hi-Res

hires

IPAs abound as of late here at the Daily Beard, drawing on the bright strength of the wonderful little brew flowers to fight the soul-devouring Winter woes. Thankfully, these IPAs have not only been powerful, they’ve been tasty as well, and flavor is paramount when it comes to beer. But, close behind flavor is something less tangible – the brew-vibe that radiates from each crafty concoction. There needs to be a bit of zest, a touch of moxy to transform a tasty beer into a damn tasty beer. Six Point’s Hi-Res is such an example. A boosted version of its Resin IPA, Hi-Res is an 11% ABV, 111 IBU monster full of flavor, panache, gumption, spirit, and tongue-kicking strength (as well as any other old-timey term you’d like to throw in there). So strap yourselves in, fasten your drinking helmets, and keep your arms and legs inside this brew train while it’s in motion. It’s beer time!

The aroma begins with a slap to the face from a hand of massive pine and tropical fruit bitterness. Passion fruit, mango, and grapefruit clings to the nose, contributing fresh bitterness interspersed with moments of sweet fruitiness. Crisp pine adds a cutting edge of hops, while hints of ultra mellow caramel malts chill out in the background of each breath. The savory strength of the malts are quickly lost amongst the bitter tides, especially as deeper breaths bring about hints of juniper and ever-richer pine – similar to diving head first into a gin-soaked pine tree. These blooms of mega-hop arrive fast and disappear just as quickly, keeping you and your nostrils on your toes. At the end of each breath, citrus peel and fresh vegetation arrive and linger beneath the nose for an extra moment or two before fading rapidly. Visually, it pours a thick, golden peach – forming a thin and fizzing head of white fluff.

On the tongue, layers and layers of flavor cascade across your palate. Beginning with a pine tree kick, thick and slightly syrupy waves of juniper and tropical fruit fill the mouth. The fruits are fresh and prickly, pushing mildly sweet juices of mango, passion fruit, grapefruit, and oranges across your taste buds before bringing down a hammer of pure bitterness. An edge of alcohol rides shotgun with the initial bittersweet surge, leaving your mouth ‘atingle and glowing with refreshing heat. Following the bitterness, cracker malts arrive to soothe your tongue, allowing sweet and savory caramel-coated bread crust to mingle with the other flavors – subduing the bitter hints but also ensuring each flavor sticks to every corner of the mouth. These moments of malt mellowness occur with each drink, bridging the gaps between the hop-bomb bitterness. As the flavors begin to diminish, the multiple layers collapse in on themselves and form a gleaming diamond of lasting cracker and orange zest. Despite the thick feel on the tongue, it drinks with a crispness that ensures each drink is a bright and shining affair.

Six point’s Hi-Res is nothing less than a syrupy pine tree crammed into a can. Massive pine and juniper notes inhabit the aroma and flavor, while prickly tropical waves crash over the tongue with sweet and bitter citrus peel zest. Notes of green vegetation provide a freshness that seems to make the bitterness even more potent. Mingling amongst the multitude of flavor layers are sweet and savory blooms of caramel and cracker malts, struggling for and achieving recognition in the middle of torrential hops. At 111 IBU and 11% ABV, this is a can of liquid napalm that somehow manages to remain immensely flavorful and controlled, albeit with a lovely hop bite. It’s a bit pricey, but its taste more than makes up for it.

This beer would be best enjoyed over a slow late Winter or early Spring evening. It’s full of powerful heat and bitterness to keep the chills at bay, but the sweet malts and fruits ensure a lovely sipping drink as the ice thaws. Be sure to look for Hi-Res, lest it hunt you down and show you why it earns an A.

Grading:

Taste: 9.5/10

Looks: 10/10

Price: 8/10

Drinkability: 9/10

Lasting Strength: 10/10

Overall: 9.3/10 A

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

That’s right – that day has come where drunken shenanigans are just as frowned upon, but more people do them anyway (all in good spirit, of course). My beer of choice for today is a local brew, so head on over here and read my review of Buckeye Lake’s Irish Red Ale. If you happen to live in Central Ohio, that’s great – you can pick up a bottle. If not, I could say come on out to Columbus and sample all of our tasty local brew. Or I could just wish everyone a safe and happy St. Patrick’s Day! Cheers!

B. Nektar’s Evil Genius IPA-Style Mead

evil

Hello my friends, and welcome back to the Daily Beard. I’ve got a left-field offering for you tonight, though it could be potentially well-suited for these pre-Spring warm temperatures. It’s B. Nektar’s Evil Genius IPA-Style Mead. Yep, you read that correctly; IPA-style mead. How is it going to taste? Your guess is as good as mine, but if it’s as tasty as their other concoctions have been, I’m leaving myself open to a tongue-pleasing experience. Oh, also, the guy on the label looks a bit like the love child of Rick Moranis and Christopher Lloyd, so if nothing else it has that going on for it. Mead!

The aroma begins as a potently sweet bloom of pine and honey, followed by a kick of bittersweet peach and apple. There’s a bit of a champagne vibe swirling amongst the bouquet – a dryness that carries hints of bright fruit. Floral hints creep in from the sides, adding a touch of hop spice that slip beneath the surface of syrupy sweetness. After the initial breath, notes of orange peel mingle with vaporous pine to add a stronger IPA oomph that mingles with the honey-soaked fruits of the mead. This blending only intensifies as time goes by, as grapefruit and mangoes strap themselves into a car made of pine needles and crash headlong into a wall of apples and honey, culminating in a bittersweet blend of earth, herbs, fruits, and pine. Denying expectation, it smells quite wonderful – dry and fruity with a potent hop kick. Visually it pours a clear, pale gold – with ever-rising bubbles that fade before head formation.

The flavors are quite similar to the aroma. Smooth and thick on the tongue, notes of grapefruit, honey, apples and pine arrive together. The back of the tongue bitterness of an IPA is easily distinguishable, but the usual dryness of an IPA is replaced with a syurpy sweetness that sticks to the inside of the mouth. The fruits team up with the hoppy bitterness to create a sweet yet potent tang at the corners of the cheeks. Peppery hop spicing swirls between the layers of flavor, piggy-backing with notes of ginger to add a biting heat. After the beginning strength, the flavors fade quickly – leaving behind a faint aftertaste of sweet and bitter hop florality.

When I first picked up this bottle of strange brew, I had no idea what to expect. I wanted it to be delicious, but I assumed it would end up a gimmicky abomination, born from a laboratory accident of monumental proportions. I was wrong. This drink was far from horrible. Gimmicky, yes – but tasty in a candied hop flower kind of way. The constant mingling of style-specific strengths (grapefruit and pine to apples and honey) created a little mead engine that could, with the sweet bitterness working its magic until you find yourself nodding at the crazy dude on the label and admitting that sometimes abominations can be tasty. Neither the IPA or the mead seems to take total control of the situation – both have their shining moments, but more often than not, they work together rather than stealing the show. I know not everyone will be a fan, and the already steep price of mead may make even the most adventurous hesitate to buy, but if you feel like a pleasant surprise, go ahead and give it a shot.

I recommend drinking this in the spring and summer months. The sweet yet hoppy profile seems to lend itself to warmer, refreshment-demanding months. It’d go great with your annual pork and chicken cook-off, or any occasion to fire up the grill. Take a leap of faith and give B. Nektar’s Evil Genius IPA Style Mead a try. It earns a solid B in my books, but it could be your new favorite drink.

Grading:

Taste: 8.5/10

Looks: 8/10

Price: 7/10

Drinkability: 9.5/10

Lasting Strength: 8.5/10

Overall: 8.3/10 B

Deschutes Hop Henge Experimental IPA

henge

It’s reclamation time here at the Daily Beard! Just what is being reclaimed? Beer reviews, of course, snatched out of the vile clutches of those Twin Evils – Time and Schedule: specifically, my lack of either. But, such trying times are now behind The Beard, and the future is bright with tasty beer, video game happy funtime reviews, and pages upon pages of writing. In fact, what better way to celebrate than with beer? Today, it’s Deschutes Hop Henge IPA, a big bottle of mountain-born tastiness, achieved without such theatrics as “cold-brewing” or a silver CGI train. Let’s get to it, shall we?

Starting out with a slow, lazy pour, the aroma rises up as hazy clouds of musky pine, grapefruit peel, and tropical fruits. The bitter notes are bolstered by the tropical vibe and the pine funk, not quite as deeply potent as an imperial IPA, but still enormous and rich. Subsequent breaths reveal damp hints of fresh, green vegetation and biting juniper, adding another dose of oomph to the pine zest. At the back of each breath, hints of floral hop spices settle over the established juiciness, drawing out some moments of citrus and ending with a whispy vapor of orange peel. Visually, it pours a rich mixture of gold and bright orange, all beneath a fluffy white crown of foam.

With the overt punch of hoppy freshness showcased in the aroma, I figured the flavors would be more of the same. And, in a way, it was more of the same indeed. But, in place of a total hop dictatorship, a faction of malty freedom fighters found some footing and set up a stronghold over the tongue. Beginning smooth and creamy, the flavors arrived as Optimus Pine on a stroll through your mouth. The initial taste was a burst of juicy bitterness – bristling with bitter pine and tropical fruit. However, the biting strength subdued fairly quickly, darkening into an earthy, herbal heaviness. The fruits took on a hint of musky sweetness as well, as if a shadow had descended over the brew (a delicious shadow). Supporting this new darkness are mellow hints of cracker malts, buried beneath the various hop veins but managing to push a touch of savory richness onto the tongue. Notes of caramel add a breath of sweetness that mingles with the citrus and tropical juices, but these sweet tones are faint and fade rapidly. The malty tide has a few moments of strength, but a sudden surge of juniper and citrus peel scatters the richness and brings the biting snap of hop back to the tongue, aided by a mild heat of alcohol that rears its head now and then. Because of its creamy mouthfeel, the flavors linger on the tongue for a while, finally fading as mellowing flavors of pine, citrus, and cracker malts.

Deschutes Hop Henge Experimental IPA is a big brew full of swirling complexity and shifting flavor. Hops are king here – specifically big pine and tropical fruits – but a savory surge of cracker malt rises up from the sea of hops and provides layers of heavy flavors that mingle with the bitterness. A mild edge of alcohol resides under the surface of each drink – standing tall every now and then to show its 9.5% ABV, but otherwise remaining well masked beneath the hops. At only $6 to $7 for a 22oz bottle, this beer is definitely worth it, priced some $3 cheaper than similar hop-potent brews (not that you shouldn’t drink those as well). Do yourself a favor and stock up.

The potent brightness of this beer would be well suited to the coming Spring thaw, enjoyed on an evening when you might open the windows for the first time of the year. But, should Winter continue to loom, its rich strength will be sure to keep the chill away while Mother Nature rears her icy head. Truly, you couldn’t go wrong with this beer, which is why it earns an A of delicious proportions.

Grading:

Taste: 9.5/10

Looks: 9/10

Price: 9/10

Drinkability: 9.5/10

Lasting Strength: 9.5/10

Overall: 9.3/10 A

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-