Saturday, January 21, 2017

JDub's Blueberry IPA

   AROMA 6/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 6/10   PALATE 3/5   OVERALL 12/20ChadPolenz (1749) - Lakeland, Florida, USA - JAN 21, 2017

DOC: 6/15/2016

2015 BJCP Category: 21B Specialty IPA

AROMA: A brief whiff of blueberry aroma is quickly obscured by Mosaic hops and a strong honey/lemon oxidation aroma. Has a light pale malt presence implying sweetness. 7/12

APPEARANCE: Dark amber/flame orange. Fairly cloudy. Small, off-white foam retains and laces alright. 2/3

FLAVOR: Assertive dry bitterness immediately with slight pineapple/melon flavor. There is a bit of a malty syrupy sweetness present. Blueberry taste only emerges briefly at the apex and then fades quickly. Noticeable honey/lemon oxidation flavor on the finish. 12/20

MOUTHFEEL: Medium body with medium-low CO2. Feels a tad sticky on the tongue. Hops linger but are not astringent. Minor alcohol presence. 3/5

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Not bad considering the age of the can, but I don’t think blueberry and hops pair well to begin with. 6/10


Friday, January 20, 2017

Orange Blossom Toasted Coconut Porter

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 6/10   PALATE 3/5   OVERALL 12/20ChadPolenz (1748) - Lakeland, Florida, USA - JAN 20, 2017

DOC: 6/1/16

2015 BJCP Category: 30A Spice/Herb/Vegetable Beer (base style: 20A American Porter)

AROMA: Sweet brown malt aroma; very light confectionery notes. Some coconut is noticeable, but it is not front and center. No hop presence. Surprisingly not oxidized. 8/12

APPEARANCE: Brown/deep magenta hue. Partly cloudy with CO2 bubbles visible. Small tan foamy head mostly dissipates. 2/3

FLAVOR: Fairly sweet palette with brown/amber malt providing most of the flavor. Caramel and toffee flavors are noticeable. An underlying earthy bitterness imparts balance. Coconut is so subtle as to be unnoticeable (probably due to age of the can). Missing most of the characteristics of a porter; probably better considered a brown ale due to lack of deep dark malt characteristics. Coconut is a fine garnish, but entirely too light. 12/20

MOUTHFEEL: Medium-light body and carbonation. Finishes quite clean. Easy to drink. 3/5

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Though enjoyable, it doesn’t quite deliver on its marketing hyperbole. 6/10


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Announcing my 2017 BJCP project

I took the BJCP online and in-person exams last autumn. When I was preparing for them I realized there wasn't a lot of good study material for the general zymurgy questions they ask on the exam. What I want to do is create a series of video tutorials going over some of the specifics of the zymurgy topics so that future test-takers would have a good source of information for study material. This is a project I think may take me quite a few months to complete and I'm not going to launch it until everything is finished and ready to upload. I hope to have this project completed and uploaded by the summer at the latest. If this is something you'd be interested in contributing to please let me know.


"The Complete Joy of Homebrewing (4th Edition)" by Charlie Papazian:

"How to Brew" by John Palmer:

Professor Messer:

thanks and cheers!

Friday, January 13, 2017

8 Wired iStout

   AROMA 9/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 10/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 18/20ChadPolenz (1747) - Lakeland, Florida, USA - JAN 13, 2017

DOB: B397

2015 BJCP Category: 20C Imperial Stout

AROMA: Prominent sweetness with especially strong notes of caramel and chocolate. A general dark malt aroma but not particularly roasty. Black licorice is present. Fairly strong presence of citrusy/floral hops. Alcohol imparts slight whiskey note. 10/12

APPEARANCE: Opaque jet black with dark brown highlights. Large dark tan froth retains and laces well. 3/3

FLAVOR: Very sweet throughout the entire first half. Chocolate and caramel flavors are quite prominent from the malts. There is a background note of black licorice. Notable bitterness at the apex with a slight citrus taste. Roasted malt emerges on the backend with slight burnt toast and unsweetened chocolate flavor. Aftertaste is a pleasant mix of confectionery syrup flavors and coffee. Alcohol is subtle but imparts slight whiskey sweetness; no obtuse booziness or smoke. 19/20

MOUTHFEEL: Full bodied with moderate carbonation. Texture is soft and smooth; almost velvety. Alcohol is subdued and deceptive; but beer does not taste or feel syrupy. Aftertaste is bittersweet; akin to peanut brittle. 5/5

OVERALL IMPRESSION: A delicious, wonderfully drinkable World Class imperial stout. Almost perfection. 10/10


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Toppling Goliath Pseudo Sue

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 5/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 18/20ChadPolenz (1746) - Lakeland, Florida, USA - JAN 12, 2017

2015 BJCP Category: 18B: American Pale Ale

AROMA: Potent hop aromas of mostly citrus but also grass/spice rack. There is an underlying sweetness of pale malt, but nothing distinctive. 10/12

APPEARANCE: Mostly clear amber/light copper color. Large off-white froth retains and laces well. 3/3

FLAVOR: Moderately-high hop flavor right away. Taste is akin to citrus juice concentrate at first with a grassy sensation on the finish with a touch of onion or garlic powder. Mildly sweet honey malt backbone provides balance. Bitterness is quite strong; this could possibly be considered an IPA. 17/20

MOUTHFEEL: Medium body; medium-high CO2. Mouthfeel is fairly crisp and not as thick as an IPA proper. Very quaffable for 5.8% ABV (temptingly sessionable). Refreshing while in the mouth. Hops linger momentarily leaving a slightly dry/pasty sensation. 4/5

OVERALL IMPRESSION: A fantastic pale ale that tastes great and is fun to drink. Can also work as an IPA if you want it to. 9/10


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Zywiec Porter (2017 re-review)

   AROMA 10/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 9/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 19/20ChadPolenz (1745) - Lakeland, Florida, USA - JAN 7, 2017

2015 BJCP Category: 9C Baltic Porter (BBD: 11/23/2017)

AROMA: Rich malty sweetness with notes of toffee, currant, licorice and chocolate. A faint Port-like quality. No hops or overt booziness. 11/12

APPEARANCE: Seemingly black but actually deep brown with mahogany highlights. Clear. Very large dark tan persistent froth. 3/3

FLAVOR: Deep, elegant sweetness of dark malt (not roasted per se) with confectionery/dark fruit flavors but at no point cloying. Distinct flavors of toffee, black licorice, dark chocolate, and a slight cherry or black currant flavor. Fresh bottle has a medium-high hop bitterness and slight earthy/spicy flavor. 18/20

MOUTHFEEL: Full-bodied with a smooth, slightly creamy texture. CO2 is medium. Alcohol presence (taste and warmth) is remarkably restrained. 5/5

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Pretty much a perfect beer for the style. Style guidelines were almost assuredly written based on this brew. 10/10


NOTE: Read and watch my 2011 original review here:

Friday, January 6, 2017

Saugatuck Neopolitan Milk Stout

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 14/20ChadPolenz (1745) - Lakeland, Florida, USA - JAN 6, 2017

2015 BJCP Category: 30A Spice/Herb/Vegetable (base style: 16A Sweet Stout) DOB: 11/9/16

AROMA: Strawberry flavoring with lactose sugar quite noticeable. Extremely faint vanilla. No chocolate/cocoa nibs, etc. No roasted malt. 7/12

APPEARANCE: Deep brown with magenta highlights. Creamy tan froth retains and laces well. 3/3

FLAVOR: Sweet palette from beginning to end. Lactose is immediately prominent along with a general dark malt sensation but no roasted flavor nor bitterness. Chocolate/vanilla emerges strongly at the apex with a fairly rich sweetness, but these flavors diminish quickly. Strawberry is faint and exists as a subtle background note up front and re-emerges in the aftertaste. Works as a SWEET stout, but not a 16A per se. Flavorings could be a little more prominent and balanced. 14/20

MOUTHFEEL: Medium-full bodied with a soft, creamy texture. Fairly low CO2. Very comfortable mouthfeel. Lingering sweetness. No alcohol presence. 5/5

OVERALL IMPRESSION: As a novelty beer this certainly is interesting, but has a ways to go to be a truly excellent beer to either style. 7/10


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Top 10 Worst Beers of 2016

Assembling my “Best Of” list is always a challenge because I seem to try so many great beers. However, putting together a “Worst of” list is pretty easy for two reasons: 1) bad beers stand out in my mind more than good beers, and 2) I don’t drink that many bad beers anymore so the field of contenders is much smaller.

I’ve been doing beer reviews since 2008, which means I’ve reviewed pretty much every macro lager, light lager, and other generic fizzy yellow brew by now. It sucks having to make a list of bad beers made entirely of craft brands, but it has to be done.

The rules are basically the same as those for the “Best Of” list:
  • Only beers I reviewed for the first time this calendar year are eligible.
  • Re-reviews don’t count.
  • Both macro and micro brews are eligible.
  • Only one entry per brewery.
  • Only one entry per style.
  • Bottles and cans that were well past their freshness date (or seemed to be) were not eligible.
NOTE: Paragraphs in italics indicate excerpts from my original review.
  1. Sprecher Black BavarianSprecher Black Bavarian
When it was announced at the tail end of the Beer Bloggers Conference that next year’s event would be held in Milwaukee, everyone in attendance received a free bottle of Sprecher Black Bavarian. We can’t get Sprecher here in Florida and I wasn’t able to get that brewery’s beers when I lived in New York, either. I can’t say I’m missing much based on this brew.

Though fresh, this bottle seemed off to me. The aroma was musty, the taste was pretty bland, too. Only minute quantities of the usual schwarzbier character were found here. Dry, astringent aftertaste sure didn’t help. Probably considered an average to below-average example of the style and not one I’d want to try again.

  1. Brew Bus Rollin DirtyBrew Bus Rollin Dirty
I feel bad including this beer on the list since Brew Bus is a local company based in Tampa. This was also a giveaway at #BBC16, but free or not, I don’t hold my tongue when it comes to my beer reviews. And I’ll admit I’m not a fan of Irish Reds. I can only think of a few examples of the style I truly enjoyed, and this was not one of them.

Subtle caramel malt flavor and sweetness; slight red fruit flavor (cherry, plum). Mild earthy hop character, but low perceived bitterness. No roasty or chocolate flavors. Nothing off-putting but nothing to really enjoy here. This probably would be enjoyable for mainstream drinkers who want something mild and like the red color, but connoisseurs will probably be disappointed.

  1. Saltwater Locale
Saltwater LocAle
This should be an ideal Florida brew since it’s only 3.7% ABV, a blonde ale, and it comes in cans. Yet, it tastes like it was made by an amateur homebrewer. It tasted of both butter (diacetyl) and creamed corn (dimethyl sulfide); though I will say it was quite sweet. It also went flat very quickly and the head evaporated quicker than a soda. Those are all signs of a poorly-made beer.

And what’s really ironic is I bought this because I had it at the Harbinger Beer Fest and really liked it! Perhaps they released a bad batch, who knows?

  1. Weyerbacher Sunday Molé StoutWeyerbacher Sunday Mole Stout
Two brewing trends seemed to peak in 2016: citrus-infused IPAs and molé-style stouts. The quality of these offerings can be graphed as a bell curve, but in the case of Weyerbacher Sunday Molé Stout, it’s towards the bottom.

Cinnamon, chocolate and peppers create for an interesting combination of spices along with some natural fruit character from the base stout. Coffee is completely obscured by the spices (which is really odd considering how fresh this bottle is). There’s dark malt, but no roasty taste; hops are muted as well. Finishes with a solvent-like sensation. This should be a great combination of flavors, but it’s kinda gross. Even the mouthfeel is thick and tepid with a lingering spicy aftertaste. This was very disappointing.

NOTE: I’m counting this as a spice/herb/vegetable beer rather than an imperial stout.

  1. Rochester Mills Newton’s ALEchemy Double IPARochester Mills Newton's ALEchemy Double IPA 003
I had never seen or heard of Rochester Mills (a Michigan-based brewery) until I moved to Florida in 2015. I liked that all their beers are packaged in full 16oz pint cans and the prices were quite low, too. The first beer I tried was okay, but it was all downhill from there. I’m not sure how they managed to screw up a Double IPA, but they did.

Hops impart OJ concentrate flavor, especially on the finish. Palette has a strong yeasty flavor; slightly sulfury and phenolic. There’s a spicy/peppery taste that lingers (and is rather gross). Nowhere near as bitter as the style should be. Seems to be emulating the New England style, but doesn’t come close. Needs more actual bitterness and a different hop selection.

This brewery actually sassed me on Twitter, so I won’t be buying their crap anymore.

  1. Kentucky Bourbon Barrel StoutKentucky Bourbon Barrel Stout
Everybody loves beer aged in bourbon barrels, right? What if there was an entire brewery based around that concept? That’d be a winning formula if they made good beer. I’ve tried several of the Alltech Lexington Brewing And Distilling’s brews and they’ve all been disappointing at best and disgusting at worse.

Mild palette of dark malt with generic, nondescript sweetness. No distinct roasted malt flavor whatsoever. Some firm dry bitterness at the apex of the swig followed by a short coffee flavor and some alcohol warmth. No chocolate or vanilla notes. Bourbon barrel character is virtually undetectable. This fails as both a bourbon barrel brew and a coffee stout. Entirely too mild and insipid.

  1. Sun King Wee Mac Scottish-style AleSun King Wee Mac Scottish-style Ale
This was yet another beer that was given to me by a brewery at the Beer Bloggers Conference. They actually gave me a few different beers and they were all pretty lame across the board. There isn’t much to say about this one because it’s so boring. Yet for some reason I dislike it immensely.

Mild, bland palette. Malt-focused, but little distinct character. Trace confectionery notes; slightly minerally. No hop presence. Can is fairly fresh but seems old, though no signs of oxidation. Entirely too bland to enjoy. No glaring flaws, just nowhere near the style guidelines.

  1. Samuel Adams Whitewater IPASamuel Adams Whitewater IPA 001
Whenever Sam Adams makes a trendy style beer I get a little embarrassed for them because I know they’re going to turn a niche style made for discerning palates into something mild and mainstream. Whitewater IPA is supposed to be their take on the “White IPA” style (a witbier/IPA hybrid), but it completely fails.

Overall palette is similar to Blue Moon: witbier-ish but faux. Dry bitterness throughout with slight orangepeel flavor. Apricot presence is invisible. Strong black pepper sensation on finish. Seems to have a dirty taste and maybe even some unintentional sourness. Off-putting. Palette is extremely astringent with lingering unpleasant aftertaste. Not refreshing at all. Difficult to believe this is the intended taste; seems like a bad batch. Flavors do not harmonize. Can’t finish it.

  1. Orange Blossom Honey PilsnerOrange Blossom Pilsner
Here’s another local brew I feel bad for including on this list and especially this high up [or should I saw “this far down”?], but the truth needs to be told. I’ve tried a few of Orlando’s own Orange Blossom Brewing Company and I’ve yet to be able to enjoy one. Supposedly this is a pilsner with honey added as an adjunct. That’s an interesting, experimental brewing technique, but the final product is a complete mess.

Does not seem like a pilsner at all. More of an amber ale. Missing the body of a lager. Honey flavor is evident, but tastes like cough syrup. No hop character. Palette is barely tolerable. Not at all crisp as a pilsner should be. Completely tepid, slightly thick. Texture is at least smooth and finish is mostly clean. Tastes and drinks like an old can, but it’s actually quite fresh. This is nowhere close to a pilsner and completely lacking in character. Seems like a failed homebrew, not a commercial product.

NGB Gluten Free Lager 0011 NGB Gluten Free Lager

I’ve never been a big fan of sorghum-based gluten-free lagers except for Albany’s Steadfast Beer Company. They tend to be twangy, astringent, vegetal, and/or anything other than what real beer should taste like. Most are tolerable, but this was just plain awful. I can’t say I’m surprised considering it’s made by the Minhas Craft Brewery which is also responsible for all those terrible “Boatswain” brand beers sold at Trader Joe’s.

I’m just going to include my review verbatim in order to do it justice:
AROMA: Almost completely odorless. The faintest lager-like aroma. 4/12
APPEARANCE: Clear gold; highly carbonated. White head fizzles away quickly like a soda. Looks like a cider. 1/3
FLAVOR: Borderline flavor-free. Some generic lager taste, though sorghum twang/grit presence is noticeable. Some apple juice character (acetaldehyde?). Not repulsive, but extremely lacking in palette. 7/20
MOUTHFEEL: Thin, crisp, watery texture. Clean finish. 3/5
OVERALL IMPRESSION: Not as twangy as much sorghum-based brews, but it has nothing going for it at all. Bottle was 5 months old. 3/10

Top 10 Worst Beers of 2015
Top 10 Worst Beers of 2014
Top 10 Worst Beers of 2013
Top 10 Worst Beers of 2012
Top 10 Worst Beers of 2011
Top 10 Worst Beers of 2010
Top 10 Worst Beers of 2009

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Top 10 Best Beers of 2016

If you’ve been following me for a while you know I have just one rule I abide by when I assemble these lists: only beers I reviewed for the first time in the calendar year are eligible (so re-reviews are ineligible). Additionally, it doesn’t matter if the beer has been around for years or is a new product, just that I reviewed it for the first time in that calendar year. This inevitably leads to some people being shocked that I had never reviewed certain world renowned brews until recently. Hey, there are a lot of beers out there, and after doing Chad’z Beer Reviews for nine years, I still haven’t gotten to all of the most readily available stuff (world renowned or otherwise).

This year I started grading beer to BJCP style guidelines rather than to personal preference as I have in the past. However, I’m not listing the ten highest-scoring beers I reviewed regardless of style, but rather the ten I personally enjoyed and found the most memorable this year. In fact, there were plenty of eligible entries which received higher scores than some on this list, but I left them off because they weren’t as impressive. Another stipulation I adhered to this year: only one entry per style and brewery. You’ll notice that there’s only one IPA, one imperial stout, four lagers, and four non-American beers on this list! In fact, this list has the most variety of any “top ten best beers of the year” list I’ve ever assembled.

  1. Boricua Taino Light BeerBoricua Taino Light Beer 001
Well, here’s something I thought I’d never see: a light lager on a “Best Of” list. Admittedly I am playing hometown favorites here. Boricua is a new Puerto Rican-owned brand contract brewed by Florida Beer Company. I bought this thinking it was going to be a lame, bland lager but it turned out to be remarkably flavorful for a “light” beer at 4.5% ABV. It has some authentic pale/amber grain flavor. There’s a subtle spicy hop in the background with mild bitterness. The drinkability is high, too. It’s light-bodied and crisp, but not paper thin. Refreshing while in the mouth with no aftertaste.
This beer is probably brewed to a specialty lager style (e.g. Helles, Kellerbier, etc.), but since it’s marketed as a light lager I scored it to category 1A (American Light Lager) specs and it met the guidelines extremely well. The only thing that would make it better would be if it were in cans instead of bottles since it’s an ideal beach beer (especially here in Florida where it’s sold).

  1. Uinta Baba Black LagerUinta Baba Black Lager
I’m not usually a fan of black lagers (a.k.a. Schwarzbier), but this one really surprised me. Malt-forward with dark malt and some roastiness and coffee in the background. Dry bitterness at the apex with slight floral/pine hops. Sweet, but far from cloying. Not wonderfully delicious, but absolutely to-spec on all points! It also looked great, smelled great and was easy and fun to drink at only 4% ABV. What’s even more impressive is that I was drinking a fairly old bottle at the time. I’d imagine a fresh serving would be a classic example of the style.

  1. Yee Haw DunkelYee Haw Dunkel 001
I saw this bottle at the Beer Bloggers Conference and it made me chuckle. I wasn’t expecting much, but once I sat down to review it I realized it was a fantastic, to-spec Munich Dunkel (which is similar to Schwarzbier but not exactly the same). Yee Haw Dunkel is surprisingly sweet with dark toasted malt (not burnt or deeply roasted). There’s a slight nutty character in the background. Finishes with strong toffee/chocolate flavors. Mild spicy hop bitterness for balance. Delicious. I could session this all day, but since it’s 5.5% ABV (and not sold where I live), I won’t. This beer is impressive considering so few American breweries make this style. Probably the best of the style I’ve had.

  1. The Duck-Rabbit Duck-Rabbator DopplebockThe Duck-Rabbit Duck-Rabbator Dopplebock
We Americans tend to love big beer styles like Double IPA, Imperial Stout and Barleywine to name a few. One style that is overlooked and underrated is Doppelbock – a niche German lager style that’s as big and bold as the huge ales. Duck-Rabbator Dopplebock [sic] is probably one of the best American examples (if not global examples).
Huge malty sweetness (but not cloying) with delectable dark fruit flavors throughout. Some confectionery flavors of caramel and milk chocolate can be found in the background. Mild spicy hop bitterness is perceived on the finish as is alcohol. Clean lager character. Full bodied with a thick, soft texture (but never syrupy). Alcohol warmth is pleasant and gentle. Remarkably clean aftertaste is a nice bonus, too.
I’d imagine this would age well at 8.5% ABV, though a fresh vintage in the spring might be fun to try as well.

  1. Weihenstephaner VitusWeihenstephaner Vitus 003
I love wheat beers, especially authentic German hefeweizens. However, its bigger brother – the weizenbock – is often just as good, but much less popular. Weihenstephaner Vitus was just what I needed in the early Florida summer: a bready/grainy base with yeast esters that impart sweet banana and bubblegum flavors. Lemon and clove are also present in the taste and in the aroma. You’d never know it was a strong 7.7% ABV since the body is medium and it’s highly effervescent and refreshing. This beer is widely distributed and easy to find, yet it’s a sleeper. If you’ve never tried it, pick up a bottle and you’ll be glad that you did.

  1. Unibroue La TerribleUnibroue La Terrible
Naming your beer “the terrible” is, in my opinion, a terrible idea. However, if you’re familiar with the Quebec-based Unibroue brewery you know they make outstanding Belgian-style beers which are always on-point. Perhaps the name of this beer is sarcasm or reverse psychology because it should ideally be named “La Fantastique” since it’s a world class example of the Belgian Strong Dark Ale style.
Robust and complex palette. Spicy black pepper sensation up front. Rich sweet dark malt presence with bread and fruitcake flavors throughout. Dried and stone fruit flavor preside from beginning to end. Faint orangepeel in the background. The 10.5% alcohol imparts a lightly sweet vanilla-like taste. Perceived bitterness is medium-low as is hop flavor (spicy/earthy). Aftertaste is akin to Coca-Cola.
I can’t believe I waited until 2016 to finally try this.

  1. Tripel Karmeliet
Tripel Karmeliet 003
Here’s another classic Belgian brew I had somehow never gotten around to reviewing until this year. I don’t know what I was waiting for since the Belgian Tripel style is one of my personal favorites and now that I’ve had Tripel Karmeliet, I’d say it may be the second best Tripel I’ve had (right behind Unibroue’s “La Fin Du Mounde”).
The palette is a delicious combination of fruity flavor, sweetness, and spiciness from the Belgian yeast esters. Peppercorn and alcohol show up first followed by sweet blonde/pale malt. Lemonpeel, banana, melon and green pear on second half. Spicy sensation on finish. Medium/full body. Highly effervescent. Dry finish. Some alcohol warmth complements palette. Refreshing and crisp. Classic example in every facet. Delectable and enjoyable drinking experience.

  1. Petrus Aged Red
Petrus Aged RedSours seem to be all the rage these days, but I’ve honestly never been a huge fan of them because they all seem to taste the same. So for a sour to show up on this list (and at #3 at that), you know I must’ve thought it was great. Indeed, Petrus Aged Red is one of the better sours I’ve had and that includes Cantillon and Russian River. Maybe I’m a little biased for this because the Petrus reps were at the Beer Bloggers Conference and gave a thorough presentation on how their beers are made and the science that goes into finding the perfect blend of new and old beer as well as adding the right fruit for that delicious tart/sour cherry taste. I recommend picking up one of their “Sour Power” mix packs which are available at most good beer stores.

  1. Founders Harvest AleFounders Harvest Ale
C’mon, you knew there had to be an IPA on this list (I am an American beer blogger, after all). In 2016 I reviewed 47 IPAs, nearly half of which scored at least 40/50. It was difficult to decide which one specifically to include on this list. I opted for Founders Harvest Ale for a few reasons. First of all, of all the IPAs I reviewed it’s the one that immediately came to mind when I was making this list. Secondly, it’s an impressive brew because it uses wet hops and it’s mass-produced. You should be able to get this beer anywhere. I’m kind of over hyped-up IPAs that you have to wait in line for hours to buy. Why can’t an off-the-shelf IPA be just as good or better? Well, to me, this is such a beer.
Huge citrus/tropical fruits (akin to a juice concentrate). Grassy/herbal aroma is quite prominent as well. High American hop flavor and bitterness. Taste is predominately citrus/tropical along with a grassy/spicy sensation throughout the second half. Flavor is akin to juice but without the sweetness. Malt base is nondescript pale malt; very subtle toasty flavor. It’s also highly quaffable and leaves no astringent or cloying aftertaste. If I had to go get a six-pack IPA right now, I’d buy this one.

  1. Funky Buddha Last SnowFunky Buddha Last Snow
It seems like as soon as I set foot in Florida all I started hearing about was how great Funky Buddha is. I had tried a couple of their mainstays before (the IPA and hefeweizen), but I was never able to get my hands on a bomber of their more elite offerings until I moved to Orlando (and later, Lakeland) in 2016. All the local beer nerds raved specifically about Last Snow – a strong porter (6.4% ABV) brewed with coffee and coconut. I’ve had some amazing flavored imperial stouts before (i.e. the entire Southern Tier Blackwater series), so I didn’t think this beer was going to do anything new for me.
But it did.
It tastes exactly as advertised: coffee and coconut. You wouldn’t think those two flavors would match, but they do quite well. It’s even more impressive considering the coconut tastes like real, authentic coconut – it’s not oily or sunblock-like (as is often the case with other beers made with coconut). Sweet, milky/creamy flavor up front (not chocolate). Dark malt but no roast or burnt flavor. Coconut flavor emerges at the apex followed by coffee. Faint cinnamon or other spice in the aftertaste.
There’s a reason this beer sells out quickly and why bars and restaurants will hoard bottles for months and then build an event around breaking them out in the summer. Can’t wait for the 2017 edition!

Top 10 Best Beers of 2015
Top 10 Best Beers of 2014
Top 10 Best Beers of 2013
Top 10 Best Beers of 2012
Top 10 Best Beers of 2011
Top 10 Best Beers of 2010
Top 10 Best Beers of 2009

Oskar Blues Rum Barrel-Aged Death By Coconut

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 6/10   PALATE 3/5   OVERALL 12/20ChadPolenz (1744) - Lakeland, Florida, USA - DEC 30, 2016

2015 BJCP Category: 33B Specialty Wood-Aged Beer (base style: 15B Irish Stout)

AROMA: Coconut is most prominent aroma along with some woody/vanilla character. Nose is otherwise mild overall. No barrel character. 8/12

APPEARANCE: Dark brown with ruby highlights; clear. Small tan soapy head evaporates quickly and completely. 2/3

FLAVOR: A mild generic porter flavor upfront; nothing particularly "Irish" to it. A light cola flavor with some baker’s chocolate flavor in the background. Lightly sweet with some minor toffee taste on the finish. Coconut only emerges briefly on the finish. Little wood/barrel character. Alcohol seems a bit distracting and does not complement the base brew well. 12/20

MOUTHFEEL: For an 11% ABV brew, this mouthfeel is surprisingly light and under-carbonated. Body is medium-light as is CO2. Alcohol is quite prominent in the form of heat, but not entirely distracting. Seems like there should be more complexity and a stronger body for a high ABV barrel brew. 3/5

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Very little was gained from aging the base brew in rum barrels. It’s not bad; it’s just more interesting than it is good. 6/10


Friday, December 30, 2016

Oskar Blues Rum Barrel-Aged Ten Fidy

   AROMA 9/10   APPEARANCE 5/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 17/20
ChadPolenz (1743) - Lakeland, Florida, USA - DEC 30, 2016

2015 BJCP Category: 33B Specialty Wood-Aged Beer (base style: 20C Imperial Stout)

AROMA: A huge wave of sweetness hits the nose immediately. Black licorice, black malt, wood & vanilla; alcohol; hops are obscured by the massive malt and barrel character. Similar bouquet as the base brew, but improved a little. 10/12

APPEARANCE: Opaque ink black with a dark brown tan foamy head which retains and laces well. 3/3

FLAVOR: Massive sweetness throughout, but without becoming overtly cloying. Flavors of black licorice and black malt dominate along with chocolate syrup. Definitely a strong bitter presence, but no hop character per se. Rum barrel becomes apparent in the form of vanilla/wood flavor and a slight spicy taste at the finish. A bit of a peppermint flavor in the aftertaste as well. Toffee and coconut-like flavor emerges on the aftertaste. Not quite as barrel-centric as I’d prefer or hope, but better than the original beer for sure. 17/20

MOUTHFEEL: Full bodied with a viscous, chewy/sticky mouthfeel and texture. Medium to medium-low carbonation. Soft, smooth with assertive, but gentle alcohol warmth for 14% ABV. Slightly dry/spicy aftertaste. 4/5

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Works well as an imperial with some barrel character. Aging it longer might do wonders for it. Fun beer to drink, though. 9/10


Thursday, December 29, 2016

Motorworks Midnight Espresso

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 3/5   OVERALL 13/20ChadPolenz (1742) - Lakeland, Florida, USA - DEC 29, 2016

2015 BJCP Category: 30A Spice/Herb/Vegetable (base style: 20A American Porter)

AROMA: A fading coffee aroma; slightly fruity. Minor chocolate presence. Seems to be a metallic or tang scent. 8/12

APPEARANCE: Deep brown hue with light garnet edges. Small, dark tan foam never dissipates and leaves some lacing. 2/3

FLAVOR: Typical porter palette throughout. Dark malt flavor and sweetness with notes of chocolate and perhaps some dark fruit in the background. Sweet, but far from rich or cloying. Bitterness is fairly low; no distinct flavor, just a mild earthy sensation. Can is only 3.5 months old, but coffee flavor has severely diminished. Espresso emerges briefly in the aftertaste. 14/20

MOUTHFEEL: Medium-light body and carbonation (seems too light for 6.5%). Texture is soft and smooth which makes it easy to gulp down. Leaves a slightly dry/bitter aftertaste. No alcohol presence. 3/5

OVERALL IMPRESSION: This works pretty well as a porter, but comes up short as an espresso brew. Surprised coffee has faded this much this quickly. 6/10


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Founders Azacca IPA

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 15/20ChadPolenz (1741) - Lakeland, Florida, USA - DEC 27, 2016

2015 BJCP Category: 21A American IPA

AROMA: Sweet tropical fruit juice concentrate. Mango and pineapple are prominent. Some malt presence as well. No boozy character. 9/12

APPEARANCE: Rusty copper hue; very cloudy body. Large beige foam retains and laces well. 3/3

FLAVOR: Noticeably sweet from beginning to end. Confectionery-like flavors of caramel and toffee, but not rich or cloying. Bitterness is moderate up front with a dank/lightly spicy sensation. Hop taste emerges on the backend with pineapple/mango flavors. Slight lollipop flavor at the finish is mostly likely the alcohol. Flavors work well together, but palette is balanced a bit sweet for the style. 15/20

MOUTHFEEL: Medium body and CO2. Smooth texture but also noticeably crisp. Hops linger momentarily, but aftertaste is not astringent. No alcohol warmth. 4/5

OVERALL IMPRESSION: One of the sweeter IPAs I’ve had, yet it’s still to spec. An enjoyable, interesting and innovative brew. 8/10


Monday, December 26, 2016

Swamp Head Stump Knocker

   AROMA 9/10   APPEARANCE 5/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 17/20
ChadPolenz (1740) - Lakeland, Florida, USA - DEC 26, 2016

2015 BJCP Category: 18B American Pale Ale

AROMA: Strong hop aroma with citrus, green tea and grassy scents. A hint of sweetness like juice concentrate. Low clean malt presence. Clean, bright bouquet. 10/12

APPEARANCE: Hazy shade of copper/pale orange. Large off-white foam retains and laces well. 3/3

FLAVOR: Assertive bitterness up front and throughout most of the presentation. Light spice/grassy flavor on the first half with some bitter citrus pith. Somewhat dank resin character on the backend. Some juicy taste and moderate sweetness akin to O.J. or green tea. Amber malt base creates for sweetness which is mostly noticeable on the finish. Perhaps a bit too bitter for the style, but otherwise to-spec. 17/20

MOUTHFEEL: Medium body and carbonation. Crisp texture and high bitterness makes me cluck my tongue. Aftertaste is a bit astringent. Feels heavier than 5.6% ABV, but still quite quaffable. 4/5

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Could probably pass as an IPA, but still true to style for an APA. Plenty to enjoy here. 9/10


Sunday, December 25, 2016

Founders KBS (2016 vintage)

   AROMA 10/10   APPEARANCE 5/5   TASTE 10/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 20/20ChadPolenz (1739) - Lakeland, Florida, USA - DEC 25, 2016

2015 BJCP Category: 33B Specialty Wood-Aged Beer (base style: 20C Imperial Stout)

AROMA: French roast coffee; chocolate syrup; black grape; vanilla; bourbon; wood. General dark malts; no specific hop character; no hot or distracting alcohol character. 12/12

APPEARANCE: Opaque black body; dark tan head retains and laces well. 3/3

FLAVOR: Strong, but gentle wave of sweetness envelopes palate immediately. Chocolate is the most prominent flavor. At the apex there is some dry bitterness to impart a modicum of balance. Sweetness changes to vanilla, wood and bourbon. Coffee emerges as it finishes and offers additional bitterness. A slight tartness and taste of currant or black grape appears briefly in the aftertaste. Alcohol is a major component of the palette, but is smooth with a gentle warming. Overall, an amazing balance of 33B, 30A and 20C styles. 20/20

MOUTHFEEL: Full bodied; medium carbonation. Texture is soft, smooth, velvety and warm. No sticky or cloying sensation. For 12.4% ABV, this is not a gentle sipper. 5/5

OVERALL IMPRESSION: This is an amazing, delicious and commendable beer to say the least. A remarkable achievement in brewing history. Simply put: it’s a perfect beer. 10/10


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Abita Vanilla Dog

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 16/20ChadPolenz (1739) - Lakeland, Florida, USA - DEC 24, 2016

2015 BJCP Category: 30A Spice/Herb/Vegetable (base style: 19C American Brown Ale)

AROMA: Strong presence of authentic vanilla (almost cloyingly sweet). Slight hazelnut notes. Brown malt is present, but obscured by vanilla. No distinct/discernible hops. 9/12

APPEARANCE: Dark brown (seemingly black). Mahogany/ruby highlights. Clear body. Large, dark tan foam retains and laces fairly well. 3/3

FLAVOR: Moderately high malt sweetness immediately. Slight cola flavor, but also notes of hazelnut and milk chocolate. Bold vanilla taste as it finishes; sweet but not cloying. Minor earthy hop flavor, but enough bitterness to prevent palette from becoming sickly sweet. 16/20

MOUTHFEEL: Medium body and CO2. Smooth texture, but still a bit crisp. Aftertaste is slightly bitter, then sweet. No alcohol warmth. 4/5

OVERALL IMPRESSION: A liquid dessert without the decadence and obesity of an imperial. 8/10


Friday, December 23, 2016

Uinta Rise & Pine

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 5/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 3/5   OVERALL 15/20ChadPolenz (1738) - Lakeland, Florida, USA - DEC 23, 2016

2015 BJCP Category: 21B Specialty IPA: Black IPA

AROMA: Moderately strong pine aroma with slight berry character as well. Some dark malt sweetness and a hint of chocolate, but not roasty. 9/12

APPEARANCE: Black with ruby highlights. Large, dark tan, frothy head retains and laces well. 3/3

FLAVOR: Prominent bitterness right away with citrus pith flavor and dryness. A resiny pine character is present in the background throughout. Slight dark malty sweetness with minor caramel or toffee notes. Aftertaste of bitter dark chocolate. 16/20

MOUTHFEEL: Medium body and carbonation. Texture is lightly creamy, albeit a tad crisp. Finishes with a smoky flavor and slight astringency. No alcohol presence. 3/5

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Definitely to spec and delivers on its marketing description. Commendable and enjoyable. 8/10


Olde Saratoga Death Wish Nightmare IPA

   AROMA 4/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 4/10   PALATE 3/5   OVERALL 9/20ChadPolenz (1737) - Lakeland, Florida, USA - DEC 23, 2016

2015 BJCP Category: 30A Spice/Herb/Vegetable (base style: 21A American IPA)

AROMA: Strong honey/lemon sherry aroma (oxidation). Minute citrus notes. No coffee. No malts. 5/12

APPEARANCE: Copper-orange hue; fairly clear. Large eggshell froth retains and laces well. 3/3

FLAVOR: General amber/pale malt flavor and mild sweetness up front. Strong honey/lemon lollipop taste throughout. Some orange citrus flavor at the apex and minor bitterness. Coffee emerges briefly on the finish. Slight astringency on the aftertaste. Clearly an old bottle. 10/20

MOUTHFEEL: Medium-light body; moderate carbonation. Smooth texture and fairly easy drinkability overall. Leaves a dry, starchy aftertaste. No alcohol presence. 3/5

OVERALL IMPRESSION: I’ve had this fresh and it’s great. If there was a freshness date on the bottle I wouldn’t have bought it. 4/10


Thursday, December 22, 2016

Olde Saratoga Death Wish Paralysis

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 14/20ChadPolenz (1736) - Lakeland, Florida, USA - DEC 22, 2016

2015 BJCP Category: 30A Spice/Herb/Vegetable (base style: 8B Schwarzbier)

AROMA: Coffee is prominent, but not overtly strong. Smells of ground beans; nothing sweet or faux. Maillard products are noticeable with clean fermentation. Mild nose overall. 8/12

APPEARANCE: Seemingly black or brown but actually deep ruby/garnet hue. Clear. Large tan frothy foam retains and laces well. 3/3

FLAVOR: Light dark malt flavor up front; lightly sweet. Subtle notes of milk chocolate and bready malt plus Maillard products. Medium-low bitterness with slight spicy/floral hops. Coffee emerges on the finish but is mild after the first swig. Bitterness and flavor is rather restrained; no harsh astringency or burnt character. Some residual sweetness, but it fades quickly. Clean lager character. 14/20

MOUTHFEEL: Medium-light body; moderately-high carbonation. Smooth texture; highly quaffable. Aftertaste is fairly clean. 4/5

OVERALL IMPRESSION: This works as an American black lager with some coffee added. I was expecting a much more intense coffee character, though. 7/10


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Stone Enjoy By 12.25.16 Unfiltered IPA

   AROMA 10/10   APPEARANCE 5/5   TASTE 9/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 18/20ChadPolenz (1735) - Lakeland, Florida, USA - DEC 21, 2016

2015 BJCP Category: 22A Double IPA

AROMA: Intense hoppy aroma of American and New World hops. Citrus, stone fruit, and flowers are all prominent. Slight grassy spiciness as well. Clean, subtle malt presence. No overt boozy character. 11/12

APPEARANCE: Flame orange hue; fairly hazy but Co2 visible. Large bright white froth retains and laces extremely well. 3/3

FLAVOR: Lightly sweet peach or other stone fruit (no pun intended) immediately. Citrusy hops follow with a slight orange juice flavor. Strong hop bite at the apex finishes with a dank bitterness. Low-to-medium caramel flavor and sweetness throughout the palette offers balance. Alcohol creates for smooth warming sensation and accentuates the malty sweetness. 18/20

MOUTHFEEL: Medium+ body; well carbonated still rather viscous. Smooth but slightly sticky. A lingering resiny bitter aftertaste. The 9.4% ABV is subtle and not distracting. Very quaffable for such a strong brew. 4/5

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Of course Stone is going to make a World Class DIPA. This is exactly what everyone wants and expects in the style and it’s great! 10/10