Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Loose Cannon from Heavy Seas

If Heavy Seas’ Loose Cannon is an average craft beer (and, truly, it is slightly above) than the Golden Age of Beer has arrived.

Loose Cannon from Heavy Seas
7.25 % ABV

While nothing here is particularly exceptional, this beer adequately meets most expectations of the American India Pale Ale style.

A relative lack of bitterness is a singular disappointment.  With the self-assumed nickname of “Hop3” (“Hop-Cubed,” as in the three times Loose Cannon receives hops during the brewing process), there comes the expectation of a big bitter bite.  Unfortunately, it was found to be mostly missing.

This likely accounts for the surprising score of only 45 bitterness units for a beer genuinely “triple-hopped.”

For the purposes of this review, Loose Cannon was delivered from the cask.  In color, it was more brown than a grapefruit but its flavor profile reflected characteristics of said fruit.

Accompanying the grapefruit trait was more than a note of pineapple.  Loose Cannon was much more tropical than piney.  A bit more floral than earthy.

An interesting, and mostly desirable malt-like aftertaste lingered upon follow-through.  

Loose Cannon’s aroma was not overwhelming but shared many of the same aspects as the flavor profile and served well to prepare the taster for the drink to follow.

If one were to request a “good IPA” at the local pub, the barkeep would not be wrong to deliver Loose Cannon.  

While not especially remarkable, Heavy Seas’ Loose Cannon is certainly a 3 star (of 5) beer.  TheCraftBeerGuru.com recommends it.  It may especially work well as an IPA to introduce the inexperienced craft beer drinker to the style.  


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

For Whom The Belg Tolls, The Fort Collins Brewery

For Whom the Belg Tolls...


No. For Whom the Belg Tolls!


No!! For Whom the Belg Tolls; the recently released Belgian Extra Special Bitter (ESB) from The Fort Collins Brewery (5.6% ABV, 34 IBUs). 

Image courtesy MSBeer.com

Such a title, remindful of the artists named above, quickly brings to thought strong passions - the power of prose, the violence of heavy metal rock music.  

So, it's unfortunate how utterly listless one finds a beer sharing such a similar, stimulating moniker. 

The Fort Collins Brewery fails to mention For Whom the Belg Tolls on its website, but another site describe it as a "Belgian session beer."  Indeed, it is sessionable. To a fault.  It achieves such easy drinkability at the immense sacrifice of body and character. 

The Fort Collins Brewery is a growing beer-producer and has been in the game since 2003.  While capable of producing quality beer (their 1900, an amber lager, is at least decent), they severely miss the mark with For Whom the Belg Tolls. 

The beer was served to this reviewer from draft to a tulip.  It produced a persistent head, approximately an inch in thickness.  That head, snow white, was more cream than foam, and left behind pleasing layered tracing along the inner glass.

Beautiful, no doubt. 

The tint was amber and surprisingly dark.  On the strength of the aesthetically appealing white top especially, For Whom the Belg Toll’s overall appearance was striking.

Appearance, though, was about all that impressed from this beer.

The drinker’s nose was met with hardly any aroma of note.  Which suited this beer appropriately as nothing that followed was any more remarkable.  

So far as the scent goes, more was extracted from a remaining hint of glass cleanser than from the beer itself.  Seriously, that tepid. 

Upon reaching the mouth, For Whom the Belg Tolls continued to disappoint  Immediately noticeable was the startling absence of any expected spicy yeast bite. Sadly, this seemed a “Belgian” in name only.

Meagerly fighting through the mostly watery flavor profile was a gentle malt backbone that was accented (barely) by a touch of lime (mostly upon the front of the palate), and some equally subtle orange peel (which peaked at the middle).

The mouthfeel did have some very mild stickiness.  And, while the flavor was not nearly as lackluster as the scent, it was only marginally better.   Far too light.

In retrospect, the highlight of For Whom the Belg Tolls was its appearance.  

It missed the worst with its aroma (of which it nearly completely lacked).  In the middle of the good/bad spectrum was the content of the beer's flavor, which also left very much to be desired.

This is a beer that TheCraftBeerGuru.com can not recommend. 1 star (out of a possible 5).

Pass on this one.  If set on drinking a Fort Collins production, opt for the 1900.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Rustico, Alexandria, VA

From the same maestro that capably tunes the beer collection at TheCraftBeerGuru favorite, Churchkey, is another hit among enthusiasts, Rustico in Alexandria, Virginia. 

Greg Engert (PDF link) is the beer director at both Rustico and Churchkey.  Relative to nearly all other bars, especially those within the D.C. Metro area, Rustico is outstanding.  Unfortunately, it falls just ever so slightly short of attaining the rarefied air upon which Churchkey’s status exists.

Rustico achieves success with its deluxe beer selection...

...and enticing Happy Hour specials.  

Direct your attention to the bottom line of chalk text.

It fails (and only relative to Churchkey, mind you) in ambiance and knowledge of staff.  

Conveniently located not further than a mile from the Braddock Road station on D.C’s Metro Blue/Yellow Lines, Rustico may be reached by a short walk.  The jaunt entails skirting a bit of neighborhood that appears rough, but is likely more bark than bite; and, in either case, mostly avoidable.  One major highway must be navigated, but is made easily passable by a smartly placed crosswalk.  

Thankfully Rustico’s interior is more inviting than its somewhat frightful all-brick façade.

Modern, open décor, decidedly industrial, marks the interior.  While Churchkey’s dungeon-like dark shadows evoke thoughts of a speakeasy, Rustico is bright and inviting.  Walls are southwestern American with a rough, rocky appearance.  Frankly, a bit rustic as the name rightly suggests.  Ceilings are high, and the bar area seems fresh with large open spaces.  A small patio area beckons patrons to enjoy the spring weather.

Much of the beer menu is shared with Churchkey.  A very good thing.  Beverages are served in glassware and at temperatures best suited to each.  Prices are reasonable, and made better by a satisfying Happy Hour special: $2.00 off drafts, and $3.50 craft beer in cans, nightly, from 4-7:00 p.m.  Patrons may choose from full pours or 4 oz. tastings.  Two of TheCraftBeerGuru’s most preferred offerings were available on draft: Great Divide’s Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti, and On The Wings of Armageddon from D.C. Brau.

So velvety smooth.  The Yeti reveals itself.

During Happy Hour, food choices are limited to a restricted menu.  “Snacks” as Rustico refers to them.  Two deep-fried deviled eggs, though, were a solid choice.  Their subtle crunch provided a needed and savory, warm time-out during a dedicated beer session.  

A worthy "snack," indeed.

So, in which ways is Churchkey superior to Rustico?  Mostly in beer-knowledge, both that of the staff and the patrons.  Churchkey is like water in a craft beer desert, drawing the District’s advocates to congregate, imbibe, and converse intellectually about beer culture.  Rustico is more of a “spot.”  It is too much a product of its suburban location.  While the service was friendly, at times the barkeep seemed a bit unfamiliar with the product available.  A sin likely not tolerated at Churchkey.  

Moreover, the crowd here was of a different sort than that expected of Churchkey; more "hip", than hip to beer culture.  While Churchkey warmly embraces its uniqueness, something about Rustico is all too familiar.   It suffers slightly from a cliche character remindful of a chain eatery.  

Rustico’s minute flaws are only apparent to the most snobbish of beer fans.  Because of its pedigree, judgment of Rustico is measured in degrees of excellence.  Minor missteps delineate levels of greatness.  While Churchkey succeeds throughout, Rustico has instances (though, few) of shortcoming.  

It lacks the spirit of the craftbeer community that so passionately drives the essence at Churchkey.  

Yet, it's definitely worth another visit.  Upon the first, Rustico receives 3.5 (of 5) stars from TheCraftBeerGuru.com and a certain recommendation.  Take advantage of the Happy Hour and tell them TheCraftBeerGuru sent you.  And, if your travels take you into the heart of the city, be sure to visit Churchkey as well.