Saturday, February 23, 2013

Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout

A beer that delivers. 

One doesn't associate Lagunitas with stouts.  Hoppy ales with pungent pines?  Sure.  But stouts? 

Cappuccino Stout by the Lagunitas Brewing Company 
9.2% ABV
29.5 IBUs

Lagunitas' Cappuccino Stout pours dark, nearly motor oil-like, but with a very slight brown tint.  

A big, thick head provides a foamy topping like dirty snow.  And sticks around. 

The head seems to initially dampen some of the aroma. Nevertheless, the scent is pleasing with toasty malts. As it opens, it provides a strong pecan oil character.

Perhaps the cappuccino moniker asserts its influence.  Waves reminiscent of a mocha latte rise from mug to nose.  Musky, but pleasant. 

Upon sipping, first: rich, rich, rich! 

The title doesn't lie, and more than a little cappuccino hint is present. The dominating trait, though, is bitter cocoa.  Like baking chocolate.  Sans the sugar. Yet, delectable.

Surprisingly, the Cappuccino Stout's big alcohol presence is successfully masked.  Perhaps, too well.  A bit more of a warming sensation would be welcomed. 

Lacing builds, but fades.

This Cappuccino Stout offers subtle carbonation. Allowing the beer to settle in the mouth showcases popping all over, but of the most mild sort.  And only a slight sugary stickiness remains upon the teeth

Despite the massive cocoa bitterness of this beer, a slight sour note lingers in the aftertaste. 

There isn't much surprising about this beer.  The bottle's label is a promise, and its contents deliver. 

This Lagunitas production provides the thickness of a stout, the bitterness of fresh coffee grounds, and the richness of a big, bold dark beer.  Perhaps some alcohol warmth is missing.  Yet, its absence makes this Cappuccino Stout remarkably smooth. 

Lagunitas' Cappuccino Stout doesn't offer the bite of Narwhal nor the alcohol warmth of Founders' Breakfast Stout.  Both may be, overall, superior to this beer.  But, marginally.   All three are undeniably satisfying. 

The Cappuccino Stout is unlike any other in the Lagunitas collection.  And so superbly crafted.  Making one hopeful for future creativity from the brewery.  

A single word best summarizes the Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout: "solid."  3 out of 5 stars.  And, speaking of solid, such is's recommendation.  Grab it, Narwhal, and the Breakfast Stout (if you can find it), and enjoy a deliciously dark evening. 



Friday, February 22, 2013

Elysian's BiFrost

A tropical winter.  A riddle? Oxymoron?  

A beer. 

BiFrost by the Elysian Brewing Company
7.6% ABV
58 IBUs

Elysian's BiFrost pours a tropical orange, though mostly opaque, with a smell to match.  Strongly citrus in scent, mostly orange, with a hint of lemon. The aroma is quite pleasing. 

Little to no head develops, although the pour was less than vigorous. 

Spotty inconsistent lacing.

BiFrost is a delicious beer suffering from an identity crisis. 

Winter beers, typically, are only common by the warming alcohol sensation they share.  While boozy, BiFrost is more bold IPA than winter beer. 

While BiFrost's alcohol is hardly disguised and indeed provides warmth, it doesn't intimidate.  Here, BiFrost works, achieving just the level of satisfaction needed to please on a chilly, gusty late afternoon. 

While complexity is admirable, BiFrost ranges into perplexity.  

In labeling, name, and warming sensation, its a winter beer.  But BiFrost's most significant aspect is a big citrus wallop that leaves one mindful of something tropical.  

Ultimately, this beer is as confusing as frost on a palm tree. the details: 

BiFrost's mouthfeel is quite chewy.  It's not thick like a stout, but a mouthful, ending with slight tingling. That's matched by the alcohol warmth that follows.  And persists as it travels down.  

Hops spice the tip of the tongue, and then it immediately becomes big, orangey, and boozy across the palate.  Orange is quickly overwhelmed by tangerine, the most significant flavor of BiFrost's profile.   The finish is surprisingly velvety, maybe even providing a very slight, chocolate hint. 

So, call this a winter beer if you'd like, so long as a bold IPA can be categorized as such.  But if this is a winter beer than why not Stone's 16th Anniversary, which BiFrost is at least somewhat similar? 

BiFrost tastes good.  And is far from the only pale-hued winter beer.  However, others, such as Celebration (Sierra Nevada) and Hibernation (Great Divide) simply provide that "something" seasonal, a uniqueness, that BiFrost lacks.  

All things considered, BiFrost is simply an average beer.  Thus, 2.5 stars (out of five). offers it a very mild recommendation based on its generally pleasing taste.  But, on a cold day, stick first to the winter beers named above, or a rich Imperial Stout. 


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Troegs Nugget Nectar

Having recently reviewed the sacrosanct Sucks by Lagunitas and Bell's Hopslam, it seems nearly blasphemous to speak of another succulent and hoppy seasonal.

But, the fact is Troeg's Nugget Nectar compares well with both.  Not favorably.  But, well

Nugget Nectar Imperial Amber from Troegs Craft Brewery
7.5% ABV
93 "ish" (per Troegs website) IBUs

Upon settling from bottle to glass, Nugget Nectar develops a frothy but not impressively large head that is relatively persistent. 

The color is copper, but more orange than a penny.  

Persistent, albeit inconsistent, lacing. 

Nugget Nectar's aroma is less pungent than I recall Sucks' being.  This scent successfully increases anticipation as something about it promises a delicious resinous quality.  To the nose, Nugget Nectar is certainly more citrusy than it is piney.  

There is, though, a hint of pine in Nugget Nectar's flavor profile, and it is most present along the roof of the mouth. Otherwise, the character here is dominated by tropical fruits. 

Nugget Nectar is hardly simple.  A real bitterness that remains on the tongue and lingers in the throat adds complexity. 

The tropical character is more watermelon than grapefruit.  Yet, adding balance, there is an appealing bread-like trait throughout.  

Perhaps Nugget Nectar pleases least with a sort of synthetic cherry bite that, unfortunately  reminds of Cherry Cola.  

To some surprise, the mouthfeel is remarkably light with mellow carbonation and only timid spice popping from the hops.  Nothing really coats the mouth, and Nugget Nectar goes down with no trouble. 

The comparison would, at first, seem unfair.  The Hopslam versus Sucks battle has become monumental.  And, for what its worth, I share the minority opinion of preferring Hopslam. 

So, Nugget Nectar seems the victim being fed to giants when stacked against the two aforementioned.  

Truth be told, the very fact that this beer is a worthy competitor speaks highly of the wonderful product developed by Troegs.  

Nugget Nectar is not better than Sucks or Hopslam.  But its as good as anything else.  It receives 3.5 stars, and a recommendation from


Friday, February 8, 2013

The Citizen from D.C. Brau

DC Brau is an excellent brewery. The Citizen, however, is not their best offering (that would be On The Wings Of Armageddon). But it is worth discussion. 

So, allow us. 

In essence, The Citizen suffers from an unfortunate dichotomy. It doesn't succeed purely as any version of traditional ale (nor does it intend to), but it also falls below the bar set by other Belgian-styled beers. 

While not striking out, The Citizen could smack a homerun if only it drove home one of its dual competing styles.  More on that later. 

The Citizen is golden, hazy and opaque.  Upon pour, it develops little to no head.  Any foam that appears instantly rushes away. 

At first, the aroma is only revealed upon vigorous shifting of the liquid. Then, it is only faint with a mild melon characteristic.  The scent builds during the drinking experience, becoming more floral in nature and, overall, quite pleasing. 

Upon initially tipping the glass, a  robust carbonation strikes the tongue, but diminishes as the liquid washes across the palate. 

While the peppery Belgian spiciness gives the impression of a thick and full brew, ultimately, the follow-through makes apparent The Citizen's relatively thin mouthfeel. 

The flavor profile is familiar and, with thought, provokes reminders of a screwdriver-- orange juice and vodka type. A taste of tropical up front and in the middle, orange and pineapple, with a dry alcohol splash on the backend. 

Once departed from the glass, the sneaky Citizen leaves little evidence of its former presence in the glass. 

The Belgian aspect provides adequate balance, represented by its black licorice trait.   

The Citizen's issue:  It seems this is DC Brau's take on a sort of traditional Belgian style beer.  Clearly, no one informed this Citizen, because it yearns be a smashing, refreshing Farmhouse brew. While it lusts to go wild, the brewers chose to restrain it in search of stylistic uniqueness.  

DC Brau's effort is admirable.  Unfortunately, The Citizen is less distinct than perhaps its producers desired it to be.

In the end, it lacks the extra spunk of Saison Dupont or even that of a similar local beer I adore, Borman's Belgian Ale from Blue and Gray

DC Brau rarely swings and misses.  The Citizen is more of ground ball for an out, then a strike. 

And while it can only be granted 2.5 of five stars, it is good reason for to recommend DC Brau's other choices, particularly The Corruption and the aforementioned (and utterly delicious) On The Wings of Armageddon. 


Saturday, February 2, 2013

2013 Hopslam Ale by Bell's

Five stars nearly achieved. 

Hopslam Ale by the Bell's Brewery
10% ABV
70 IBUs

The 2013 version of Hopslam pours bright apricot in color, and builds a thick resilient head.  The fluid is slightly transparent, presenting a distorted image of objects behind it.  The hue is reminiscent of honey, a Hopslam ingredient. 

One's nose is met with a bold and appealing coniferous aroma. A touch of baking bread is present in the scent. 

Upon tasting, massive pines are noticeable up front with a big citrus note right in the middle.  While the honey is not as extravagant here as the sugar in Brown Shugga, there's certainly evidence of it within Hopslam's flavor profile. 

Indeed, Hopslam, in its uniqueness, is most comparable to Lagunitas' Brown Shugga.  Both of which are excellent. 

The tongue's tip is met with strong spices, which produce a near burning, yet ultimately pleasant sensation. 

Let's speak of Hopslam's single flaw. A minutely undesirable aftertaste of a sort of red wine-like acidity.  The aftertaste is hardly awful, but a bit grimy.  

Back to those traits of Hopslam that appeal.  Which are most of them.  

Like Surly's Furious and Oskar Blues' Deviant Dale's, this beer challenges the drinker, but is not nearly as abrasive as either.  Hopslam is better balanced than both. Likely, due to the honey. 

Hopslam is also visually pleasing, leaving persistent lacing. 

The mouthfeel is pretty thick and marginally chewy while offering a peppery delight for the tongue. 

Carbonation is strong.  In the glass, tiny bubbles swim upward continuously until the very last drop is removed. 

Don't trace my fingerprints, bro!

Stepping away from the details, Hopslam is generally a tremendously delicious beer.  

It's remarkably easy-going for a brew containing such high alcohol content. While biting, it remains surprisingly smooth.  

Hopslam is a joy to drink.

In conclusion, I truly wish the 2013 Hopslam to be a five star beer.  But if it is, than so is Brown Shugga (I gave it four. Should have been at least 4.5).  

Can a poor aftertaste devalue an otherwise outstanding beer?  Not really.  Well, slightly.

Being extraordinarily meticulous, this single flawed characteristic removes half a star, leaving Hopslam with 4.5 (of 5).  

And's highest recommendation.