Monday, December 31, 2012

The Corruption by DC Brau



In D.C.'s growing craft beer scene, one brewery is emerging as its finest. 


Logo courtesy http://www.dcbrau.com/


DC Brau.  "Brau," German for "Beer." 

And, last night, I had the great pleasure of enjoying their delicious take on the northwest I.P.A. named apropos to its home, "The Corruption."  


The Corruption from the DC Brau Brewing Company
Enjoyed at Churchkey, Washington, D.C. 
6.5% ABV
80 IBUs

Very tasty indeed.  

The Corruption only suffered relative to the success achieved by other superb DC Brau beers.  For example, The Corruption, while nearly as good on basis of taste and scent alone as "On the Wings of Armageddon" (OTWOA), offered much less complexity.  

The Corruption isn't a mystery.  It's a big west coast I.P.A.  But one crafted very well. 

The Corruption poured with a gorgeous dark apricot complexion. Probably more of an autumnal brown than apricot, to be exact. 

 A thick, foamy head developed and offered remarkable resiliency.   


The lacing was bubbly, like the suds of a soapy bath. 


The aroma was bold and refreshing; full of citrus goodness.  Strong floral notes in a scent that was decidedly appealing.  I sensed so very slightly a subtle malty hint. Just hiding in wait in the background.  

As beers go, The Corruption smelled delightful. 

The flavor profile reflected traditional west coast I.P.A. characteristics with special note to a long lingering aftertaste, no doubt due to the the use of Columbus hops.  

My palate was first met with piquant grapefruit that, on the back-end, finished with some pucker-inducing tartness. 

A vast  drinking experience worthy of savoring.  The bold flavor struck quickly, and, to my satisfaction, remained long.  

The Corruption is best enjoyed in sips.  Pause between tastings.  Enjoy its duration.  This is a beautiful beer whose full, wonderful character would be lost on the hurried consumer. 

This DC Brau selection is not without carbonation, which offered spiciness throughout.  

As the body of the grapefruit departed the flavor profile, I noticed the taste of its rind. Or, perhaps more precisely, a perky lemon zest.  

Do not get me wrong.  While mostly straight-forward, The Corruption was not simple.  Adding to its mix was the taste of something slightly salty, providing intrigue to an already acceptable brew.  

But, yet, it was not nearly as unique as the OTWOA which, undoubtedly, is an exceptional brew.  

Is it fair to compare The Corruption against such fierce competition?  Well, I do so only in homage to the success achieved by its creators.  

If the OTWOA is a four star beer (and, surely, it is), The Corruption is just slightly below.  TheCraftBeerGuru.com grants 3.5 of five possible stars.  But, more importantly, an exuberant recommendation. 

Cheers!     



Thursday, December 27, 2012

Oaked Big Hoppy Monster from Terrapin


Presently on a Russian Imperial Stout kick, tonight I took a brief detour to visit a Big Hoppy Monster, this particular one "Oaked."  


The Oaked Big Hoppy Monster by Terrapin Beer Company
9.1% ABV
75 IBUs

My visit introduced me to a nice beer.  Sadly, not unique, but so far as its peers go, the Oaked Big Hoppy Monster was better than average and just below the class of the field.  

Appearance, after initially pouring, was far from spectacular.  I would discover the Oaked Big Hoppy Monster's aesthetically pleasing qualities highlighted later. 

The color was copper, and basically opaque.

A thin, mostly unimpressive head appeared, and for a moment, offered countless fun, popping bubbles.  The head faded rapidly leaving a fair amount of its trace on the glass

The Oaked Big Hoppy Monster's aroma was more than moderately pungent and presented nearly abrasive notes of pines.  I was immediately reminded of a beer I love, Furious by Surly. A heavenly scent, as I presently reflect. 

Digging in, my palate was first met with a big mandarin orange flavor.  As the experience continued, I perceived something else. Perhaps, a touch of black currant likely due to the oak barrel aging.  And, throughout, the hint of vanilla grew. To my overwhelming satisfaction.  

Extremely subtle carbonation was only felt at the end; at the very back of the mouth. 

So far as the flavor profile was concerned, the Oaked Big Hoppy Monster was most effective as a battleground.  There, in combat, my palate experienced a war between the forces of 9.1% ABV, and all the warming that it delivered, pitted against the resinous traits of the 75 IBUs.  

Sweet, enjoyable combat, indeed.  And the victor was balance, which was well achieved by the Oaked Big Hoppy Monster by pitting these two powerful, opposing forces. 

As for mouthfeel, I may only be able to provide clarity so well as dirt to water.  But, it was complex.  The flavor profile, as well as the aroma, provided the sense that the Oaked Big Hoppy Monster was to be a big, thick beer. Yet the texture seemed of an only slightly above average viscosity.  It tasted as if it would be syrupy.  Yet, its mouthfeel simply was not. 

So, I guess, chalk another victory in the category of balance for the Oaked Big Hoppy Monster. 

All aspects considered, I enjoyed most everything about the Oaked Big Hoppy Monster experience. Yet, I discovered its two best qualities to be aspects other than flavor profile.  Most impressive was the rich aroma, sure to arouse the excitement of any hops enthusiast.  

Next, was the beer's appearance, although not initially. The graceful lacing left by the remnants of the Oaked Big Hoppy Monster made it strikingly more visually appealing upon consumption.  Of course, this is the story of my life. 




So.  The Oaked Big Hoppy Monster was interesting, beautiful, aromatic, well-balanced, and, generally, enjoyable.  In short, I would definitely buy this beer again. 

However, like so many hops-bombs reviewed before it, the Oaked Big Hoppy Monster was not particularly unique. 

As far as big, bold I.P.A.s go, this was probably as good as most, but missed a mark more successfully achieved by Hop Stoopid and Ruination. 

If an enjoyable, but average, double I.P.A. scores a three, then the Oaked Hoppy Monster earns 3.5 stars (of 5) from TheCraftBeerGuru.com, and a solid recommendation. 

Cheers! 




Tuesday, December 25, 2012

State Line Liquors (Elkton, MD)



During my recent holiday travels, I was fortunate to stumble upon a retailer that may be heaven on earth for craft beer enthusiasts   

Of course, "stumble" is not totally accurate, as my journey to State Line Liquors in Elkton, Maryland was guided by fellow east coast craft beer advocates.  

Image courtesy of BeerAdvocate.com


If State Line is, in fact, heaven, the manna is delivered in the form of beer.  Of which, there, the selection is endless.  

State Line is unique not because of that selection, although vast, but, primarily, because the consumer is so freely allowed to pick and choose beers as he or she may desire.  

Secondarily, that selection is robust with hard-to-find choices. 

Other retailers dedicate a wall to creating individual six-packs.  State Line Liquors has dedicated an entire store.  

State Line is easy to locate.  At 1610 Elkton Road, it is a convenient detour from I-95.  




Upon first arrival, not much about the facility prepares the visitor for the bustling experience about to be had.  

That is, besides the parking lot.  Vast for a relatively small facility.  And, during my visit, packed. 

Flawless?  Well, the prices at State Line are no better than competitors.  Perhaps more expensive on the whole.  Joe Canal's, with several locations not distant in New Jersey offers 10% off each individual bottle when a six-pack is built.  State Line does not.  

But, the small sacrifice in expense rewards the customer at State Line Liquors with superior service.  

It may not sound appealing initially, but the environment at State Line Liquors is a bit like a circus.  Imagine the near-entirety of the mid-Atlantic region's like-minded beer folk descending on a central location.  And at this mecca of booze, an "anything goes" attitude is encouraged.  

Carts darting in and out of cramped aisles.  Boxes of random amounts of emptiness and near-emptiness tossed here and there.  Patrons deep in conversation, rich with beer knowledge, ignorant to much occurring around them.  Employees hurriedly rushing out of stock rooms, cases stacked dangerously high.  

A zoo, so to say.  But this zoo offers exhibits so very precious to craft beer admirers. 

Imagine.  Let's say that the rare west coast hops-rich brew you had your eye on is stocked by State Line, but only in closed cases.  But you desire but a single bottle.  No problem.  This is State Line Liquors.  Rip open that box, unmarry a single beer from its brethren, add it to your cart, and move on.  

Allowed.  Encouraged.  State Line has embraced the madness, and is so much better off for it. 

I would say most anything goes here.  Even standing in slack-jawed astonishment of State Line's immense selection, which more than a few of the patrons were doing.  

I exited State Line during this visit with a handful of Ballast Point's superb I.P.A., Sculpin, a bomber of Lukcy Basrtd by Stone, and a couple of Pennsylvania-brewed beers difficult to access in my hometown.  

Decent haul, but next time I intend to depart State Line able to line my "cellar" 

Visiting State Line Liquors will certainly become a tradition embedded in my future east coast travels.  It is worth it.  

This is one of those places that most craft beer advocates do not visit by mistake.  State Line's strong reputation amongst the community makes it a common destinaton, and deservedly so. 

Of five stars, TheCraftBeerGuru.com offers State Line Liquors in Elkton, MD nearly all of them: 4.5.  And the very highest of recommendation.  

Cheers!



Friday, December 21, 2012

X-1 by DuClaw



My interest is guaranteed when a local beer solicits praise from those I trust.  And I have been hearing positive chatter recently about X-1 by DuClaw, a Maryland brewery

X-1 by DuClaw Brewing Company
7.7% ABV
60 IBUs

DuClaw describes X-1 as an Imperial Chocolate Rye Porter. And with a title like that, I anticipated something complex.

But all I wanted, really, was a beverage that compared to the remarkable Wookey Jack by Firestone Walker, another exotic rye beer.

So, with genuine excitement, I embarked on the shadowy journey DuClaw had laid out for me. 

The scent was not powerful from the bottle, but developed quickly upon pouring.  The X-1's aroma was strong with malts, and would be familiar to fans of stouts.  I was reminded of buttery popcorn. 

It poured midnight black. A creamy head formed, light chocolate in hue.  Foam faded quickly though, and left no observable lacing on the glass. 



Like the aroma, much about the flavor profile of the X-1 suggested characteristics more akin to a stout than a porter.  But I guess the degree of separation between a stout and an imperial porter isn't much.

As such, the fair comparison for the X-1 is not to Wookey Jack, but to Narwhal by Sierra Nevada, or the class of the category, Founder's Breakfast Stout.  

The X-1, while tasty, does not compare favorably with the two big, bold stouts named above.  It also fails to meet the standard set by the Wookey Jack but, for my money, not much does.  

This DuClaw offering is certainly enjoyable, but it has significant flaws.  It's candy sweet.  The strong carbonation caused a certain cola-like effect in flavor and texture.  And the chocolate influence was much too significant, dominating any hint of rye.  Which, to my palate, was totally absent. 

What worked for the X-1 was its smoothness, strong carbonation not withstanding.  There was a pleasant bourbon presence that provided a velvety vehicle for the flavor's delivery.

And while overly rich in fudge, the flavor was generally pleasing.  

I found this beer to be good, but not great.  

It is almost as if DuClaw had tried to do too much with the X-1.  Had they focused on the core of the beer, DuClaw would have had itself a mean Russian Imperial Stout; which makes me desirous to try their Black Jack.  

I would drink the X-1 again.  But, not before the choices named above. 

A good beer with imperfections, but more enjoyable than not.  Maybe the quintessential three-star beer; which, out of five, is what is offered by TheCraftBeerGuru.com.  I suggest a mild recommendation.  

Cheers!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

12.12.12 Vertical Epic Ale by Stone



I figure it in bad taste to describe this beer as epic, given the brew's moniker.  

However, what is not in bad taste is Stone's Vertical Epic 12.12.12. 


12.12.12 Vertical Epic Ale by Stone Brewing Company
9.0% ABV



I had recently enjoyed Vertical Epic 9.9.9 at local favorite, Churchkey, in D.C.  I found it to be excellent and looked forward excitedly to cracking open the 2012 take on Stone's Vertical Epic series. 

When I did, I nearly instinctively (and perhaps awkwardly, now that I recall) thrust my nose to the bottle's opening, nearly jamming one into the other (allow your imagination to decide). 

The aroma was flush with powerful Belgian notes. Had I not known better, I may have expected a blonde upon pour. 

Instead, what I encountered was a dark beer; a beer that, even in appearance, promised richness.  

A thin, but frothy, and very light-brown head developed, producing an absolutely gorgeous presentation in the glass.  


Beautiful lacing remained throughout.


What I was seeing reminded me of a latte, but what I was smelling conjured thoughts of a Saison.  So, in taste, I anticipated something complex. 

Complex, indeed.  Rich, but wild.  And so well balanced.  

Let's be upfront, the 12.12.12 hardly masked its alcohol content.  It was in my face and burned throughout the experience, even continuing to warm while settling in my stomach.  

In the case of the 12.12.12, this powerful alcohol influence was truly desirable as it added vigor to the beer's wonderful and unique flavor profile.  

12.12.12 immediately reminded me of an all time favorite, Trois Pistoles by Unibroue.  As it should, given the similar styles. 

There was moderate, and perhaps a bit more, carbonation in the 12.12.12.  The carbonation was most noticeable at the top of the throat, where it lingered with some bite.  

About that complexity. This Stone is unabashedly Belgian, yet it offered significant sugary sweetness. A bit of a candy coating residue was left on the teeth.  

And, all the while, there was a strong and undeniable presence of grapefruit in the flavor profile.  

Along with tremendous cinnamon and nutmeg. 

A sweet, citrusy, sour Belgian beer that looked a lot like a latte; how's that for some complexity?  

Stone has achieved much success with its Vertical Epic series.  But, as the years have it, the 12.12.12 will be the last.  For a long while, at least. 

Which is a shame, because the 12.12.12 is another winner.  

This Stone offering is one worth sharing with your local craft beer club.  Or anywhere engaging beer discussion is desired.  The 12.12.12 is sure to provoke conversation, perhaps confusion, and maybe even polite argumentation as it is the sort that is likely either loved or hated.  

Owing, of course, to 12.12.12's intriguing complexity.   

Being that this is, indeed, a vertical, I'd be interested in cellaring and sampling again in the future.

This is not Stone's typical piney hop-bomb.  That is for sure. Nothing, in fact, is typical about this one. 

I give credit when my tastebuds are perplexed; so long as that challenge is also delicious.  

So. 4 out of a possible five stars from TheCraftBeerGuru.com for Stone's 12.12.12 version of its Vertical Epic Ale.  And a hearty recommendation.  

When you do it try it, please return.  I'd love to discover others' perspectives of this mysterious brew. 

Cheers!



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Buffalo Wild Wings (Spotsylvania, VA)



My local Buffalo Wild Wings is better than most. 


Image via epicportions.com
The proverbial local “watering hole”

At least so far as the local beer selection goes.  I’ve never actually sampled the food.

The bar manager at this location is committed to ensuring local brews remain always on tap.  Apparently, she is offered such freedom because this particular location is not “corporate.” 



This is not my choice location to imbibe.  But I appreciate this Buffalo Wild Wings’ loyalty to the local beer scene. 

Tonight, I have selected the award winning Vienna Lager from Devil’s Backbone (Lexington, VA)...




 ...and equally delicious Fred Red from a brewery here in my home town, Blue & Gray Brewing (Fredericksburg, VA). 




Other choices on tap: Legend’s Brown Ale (Richmond, VA), 8-Point (Devil’s Backbone’s IPA), the Gift by Starr Hill (Crozet, VA), and another by Starr Hill, the Love. 

These are all quality beers.  Those from Devil’s Backbone are especially noted, as the brewer has been recognized this year by the Great American Beer Fest as the Small Brewer & Beerpub of the Year. 

The Buffalo Wild Wings in my neighborhood is not a tap room.  Let’s be real.  Of the 20 taps, only the few noted would not invoke the raised nose of the craft beer enthusiast.  And, to no surprise, the beer is served much too cold.

But it is a cheap alternative.  On Mondays, they offer all local beers at half price, and on Wednesday nights, all pints (locals included) are two bucks.

And, for what is worth, the staff is friendly and attentive.   

My local Buffalo Wild Wings is one of those places I’d describe as “solid.”  Overperforms the other franchise entities in the area, but is far from boutique status. 

I’d take a beer-lover visiting Fredericksburg to the Capital Ale House, the Blue and Gray brewpub, or even the 909 Saloon.  If up for some brief travel? Then to Legend’s Brewpub in Richmond or, as my first choice, Churchkey in Washington, D.C.

All, of course, are more suited for the enthusiasts than Buffalo Wild Wings. 

But, for me?  This place serves a purpose.  And I appreciate it for that.    


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Bear Republic Racer X



As a fan of Racer 5 and (the even more magnificent) Hop Rod Rye, I was excited to sample this presently acclaimed Bear Republic production. 


"Racer X" by the Bear Republic Brewing Company
8.3% ABV
100"+" IBU


This is Racer X; a strong, thick, big-bodied, double India Pale Ale. 

And, overall, as anticipated, I liked it. Bear Republic may be one of my very most preferred breweries.  Racer X's main, and perhaps only, flaw was its relative lack of originality. 

That said, Racer X was an all-around pleasing beer, beginning with the way in which it beautifully presented upon pouring. 





Racer X was a dark orange, maybe nearly reddish-brown, but allowed light to pass through fairly clearly.  It produced a head that was not thick, but persistent   Lacing was constant, and remained present on the glass even after emptied.  

The aroma was big and bold; waxy and piney.  Racer X, in fact, may have been more powerful to the nose than it was to the palate.

The flavor profile was satisfying.  But, sadly, not terribly unique.  Not to say Racer X was not good.  It discovered great success in delivering exactly what was anticipated. 

Racer X's flavor profile may be best described by comparison. If Deviant Dale's tastes like a West Coast IPA on steroids, this tasted much the same, minus the excess testosterone.

Racer X presented a creamy but not overly sticky mouthfeel.  It offered only moderate carbonation, and the carbonation's tingle was most noticeable at the tip of the tongue initially.  That same tingle was very faintly present in the aftertaste; right at the top of the throat. 

Going back to the Deviant Dale's comparison, Racer X delivered its hoppiness with much less spiciness.  But offered a tad bit more oiliness.  

Following that comparison to its very end, I would not call Racer X a "subdued" Deviant Dale's, but a "refined" version of the same. 

This was a great beer. What can I say? Bear Republic continues to deliver. 

Based on quality alone, it was likely worth the hype I had seen.  Critics tend to really like Racer X. 

My only complaint is that it lacked uniqueness.  I've stated before:  IPAs (and Double IPAs) must provide some peculiar characteristic to really stand out from the crowd.  A crowd that offers many excellent, but similar, choices. 

And, for my money, if spending it on Bear Republic, I'd prefer the Hop Rod Rye.  

But, let's be real, I would happily pay for this, Racer 5, the Hop Rod, or even Red Rocket, which I also enjoy.  What a stellar collection of beers.  Bear Republic should be proud. 

Nothing about Racer X is particularly distinct.  But, yet, it is delicious.  It delivers.

And, so, it is offered 3.5 of a possible five stars by TheCraftBeerGuru.com, and a recommendation. 

Cheers!



 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Samuel Adams Hazel Brown



I rarely drink Samuel Adams Beers, but I am certainly glad I discovered this one. 

Samuel Adams Hazel Brown
5.2% ABV
20 IBUs


Its hiding place, far from the shopper's view, was in the very rear of my local grocer's "Craft Your Own Pack" selection of single bottles; likely the victim of a Harvest Collection Variety Pack that was mistakenly divided in to its individual contents. 

I was hopeful my digging would uncover something new.  And it did. 


As much as this is a surprise, it is likewise satisfying. 

Hazel Brown pours dark copper, more brown than a penny.  A thin, slightly dirty tan head develops and quickly disappears.  Thin, slightly sudsy, and generally appealing lacing is left along the inside the glass.

Toffee is the most dominant characteristic in both aroma and flavor as the beer settles.  However, the scent, before giving way to toffee, initially offers hints of malts and caramel.  

The flavor is first of an earthly nuttiness; almost similar to the taste of pecans, but less sweet.  Eventually, the bold toffee trait takes over.  

To say that the Hazel Brown's character is dominated by toffee may sell the balance short.  While the toffee is bold, it is never overwhelming, and surely enjoyable throughout. 

Hazel Brown's texture is buttery upfront.  Slight creaminess is constant and is accompanied by carbonation that hits in the middle of the palate.  The carbonation fades quickly, leaving a lingering malty aftertaste. 

I really, really like this beer.  Samuel Adams likely does many styles of beer better than I give the brewery credit.  Unfortunately, in its case, it is usually lost to the dilemma of so many great beers, and so little time. 

But I am happy I made time for this one.  

And I have no hesitation offering Samuel Adams Hazel Brown a rating from TheCraftBeerGuru.com of four out of five possible stars, and a strong recommendation. 

Cheers!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Dogfish Head Chicory Stout



This is a beer that requires a strong food pairing to best enjoy. 

Chicory Stout by the Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Inc. 
5.2% ABV
21 IBU

Of course, the same may be said of many beers.  

The Chicory Stout, however, was a bit much.  I discovered that I only liked it when its flavor was countered.  In my case, that balance was provided by a robustly seasoned steak.  

Dogfish Head indicates 5.2% alcohol by volume in the Chicory Stout.  The flavor profile suggested a heavier dose.  The taste of alcohol was warming (and not positively so), immediate, and lasted throughout the drink's duration. 

The Chicory Stout poured dark; opaque really.  The texture, however, was thinner than one may expect from a stout.   Not just because of its thinness, the Chicory Stout seemed more a porter or schwarzbier than a genuine stout.  

The scent initially provided hints of cola and then quickly became overwhelmed by the aroma of bourbon.  

The mouthfeel was only moderately sticky and there existed plenty of popping carbonation.  

The Chicory Stout was not a particularly aesthetically appealing beer.  It left no residue in the glass and poured almost with no head.  

And the taste also was not remarkable.  The Chicory Stout was rich in a whiskey characteristic that I did not find pleasing.  The steak thankfully cut some of this otherwise overpowering and disappointing flavor.  I'd rather it not linger. 

Dogfish Head produces delicious India Pale Ales.  Their other styles fail to achieve the same successes.  As is the case with the Chicory Stout.  The flavor profile features too aggressive a smack of bourbon.  And, worse, not much else to provide quality balance. 

It features but a single dimension.  And, unfortunately, that one is hardly enjoyable.  

Dogfish Head produces good beers.  The Chicory Stout, however, is not one of them. This beer can not be recommended.  

When selecting a Dogfish Head, stick with the 60, 90, 120-Minutes.  Because the Chicory Stout only receives 1.5 of a possible five stars. 

Cheers!