Sunday, December 2, 2018

Top 10 Best Beers of 2018

Probably the last "Top 10 Beers of the Year" list I'll ever make since I retired from beer reviewing this year. Standard rules apply: only beers which I reviewed for the first time this year were eligible for this list. Re-reviews don't count (which is kind of a shame because I re-discovered a lot of fantastic brews in 2018). 

Click on the link to see the in-depth text and/or video review of each beer.

The first (and only) true pure, unblended lambic I’ve ever had. This bottle cost me about $100 to have it shipped from Belgian.

Going by BJCP specs, it’s a perfect example of the 23D Lambic style. Literally. I gave it a perfect 50 out of 50 grade. That being said, it was more interesting than it was amazing. I liked all the other beers on this list better, but it was definitely one of the most interesting beers I’ve ever had.

Another Belgian sour. I never really appreciated the Old World traditional sours until I started doing the BJCP-style reviews. And I had had regular Rodenbach before and liked it, but the Grand Cru is called that for a reason.

A great example of the Flanders Red style. Good beer to give your wine loving friends. You should be able to get this at any decent bottle shop.

This beer has been around for a long time. I think they started bottling it about 10 years ago but I just never got around to it until 2018. Brewed with grape must, honey, and a bunch of spices, It was a perfect entry for my BJCP reviews for the 36C Experimental Beer style. The recipe supposedly dates back several thousand years, but obviously they took some creative liberties to make it.

I always considered this beer to be in the league of Dark Lord or even Founders CBS in that it was an absolute must have imperial stout. I remember hearing about this beer in my early days of beer reviewing and trying to trade for it, but it was just too rare and too expensive. For some reason, Surly actually distributes to Florida now and they sent bottles of the 2018 batch here, so I bought two of them.

ANOTHER beer that’s been around for a long time, but I just never got to try it until now. That an Old Ale would appear on my Best Of list really shows you how I’ve progressed as a real beer aficionado and connoisseur.

I’m not as big of an IPA fan as I used to be. I don’t really seek out hops the way I used to. A lot of IPAs are starting to taste the same to me these days, so it takes a lot for an IP to impress me and this one did.

I reviewed quite a few Founders beers this year, but even though I had multiple barrel-aged brews I liked this one the best. It’s surprising that a brown ale would make my top 10 list. But then again, this is a coffee-infused brown ale and a really strong one at that.

I’ve never been a fan of Weyerbacher. Most of the stuff they make is on par with Saranac or Magic Hat. But this beer really blew my mind. It’s a Belgian Quad base with cherries added; they age it in oak barrels so it picks up Brett. It truly is a wild specialty brew.

This beer reminds me of how the Southern Tier Blackwater series beers blew my mind when I first had them. I wasn’t expecting this beer to be nearly this good, which makes it all the more impressive and memorable. I picked this for the review for 29B Fruit and Spice Beer and it definitely exemplified the guidelines well because it’s a perfect marriage of oatmeal stout, raspberry and coffee. You wouldn’t think those flavors would work but they do really well.

1. Samuel Adams Utopias (2013 vintage)

I guess it was easy to see this coming. It was the last beer I ever reviewed after all and it’s a special, highly-revered beer for a reason. It’s also really rare and expensive, but I was able to get my body for a steal on ebay.

I did have a version of this beer back in 2013 at the brewery on the Beer Bloggers Conference, which was a lot of fun. But I didn’t give it a formal review at the time, so it’s still within my rules of being a first-time review.

This beer really is an amazing brewing feat and it even kind of blurs the line between beer and spirit, but there’s no distillation happening so in my mind it’s a beer. It’s hard to peg it to a style, though.

Honorable mentions:

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Samuel Adams Utopias (2013 vintage)

Fill date: 2013

Judged to 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines for: 34C Experimental Beer; 33B Specialty Wood-Aged Beer; 31B Alternative Sugar Beer

AROMA: Huge maple syrup presence with other sweet confectionery notes of caramel and toffee. Fairly strong fruity presence of raisin, red apple, and fig. Alcohol is somewhat fusel, but in no way distracting or abrasive. No distinct individual malt or hops (none needed). No oxidation. 11/12

APPEARANCE: Light brown/deep murky amber hue (17-22 SRM). Body is rather cloudy due to age. No foam (none needed due to lack of carbonation). Alcohol legs clearly visible.

FLAVOR: Sweet and complex palette with many flavors happening simultaneously. Maple syrup seems to be most dominate flavor along with other confectionery notes of caramel, toffee and treacle. Vaguely similar to a British Barleywine. Though the massive malt base is present, it is not bready. Barrel character imparts some vanilla and woody flavors as well. Bitterness is quite low, but not non-existent. Alcohol provides much of the balance in the form of a light spiced rum-like sensation. Aftertaste is briefly sugary, though the alcohol dries it out quickly. 19/20

MOUTHFEEL: Full-bodied with a smooth, sticky texture. Non-carbonated, but it does not feel flat or undeveloped. At 28% ABV, the alcohol is strong in all forms. Slight burning of the sinuses upon the initial swig, but is smooth thereafter. Remarkably drinkable (dangerously so) for such a beastly brew.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Not only is it an amazing, impressive brewing accomplishment, the beer itself is actually delicious and fun to drink. Every craft beer enthusiast should try a sample of this at least once. 10/10


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Dogfish Head Wood-Aged Bitches Brew

Fill date: 5/24/18

Judged to 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines for: 33A Wood-Aged Beer (base style: 20C Imperial Stout)

AROMA: Fairly sweet fruity/malty presence with notes of dark fruits, sour grape, and noticeable honey presence. Extremely subtle woody/vanilla character. No distinct hops (none needed). No alcohol presence. 9/12

APPEARANCE: Opaque black hue (44+ SRM). Large brown froth retains and laces well. 3/3

FLAVOR: On the sweeter side for an imperial stout, due mostly to the distinct honey presence. Plenty of dark fruit from the dark malt, though nothing coffee or roasty-tasting. Faint tartness. Light confectionery notes of chocolate. Little noticeable wood character other than a slight vanilla taste. Enough bitterness for balance, but no hop flavor. Mild alcohol presence works with the natural flavors of the brew well. 14/20

MOUTHFEEL: Medium-full body; moderate carbonation. Texture is smooth and creamy. High drinkability considering strong 9% ABV potency. Slight honey aftertaste. 4/5

OVERALL IMPRESSION: A creative and tasty imperial stout, but doesn't exactly deliver as a wood-aged brew. Fun and easy to drink, though. 8/10


NOTE: See my 2011 review of the original Bitches Brew here:

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Oskar Blues Bourbon Barrel-Aged Ten Fidy

Fill date: 11/2/17

Judged to 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines for: 33B Specialty Wood-Aged Beer (base style: 20C Imperial Stout)

AROMA: Huge dark malt presence comes through as sweet dark fruit with a note of sour grape and black licorice. Chocolate-like character, but dark (i.e. baker's chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate). Bourbon barrel imparts noticeable wood and vanilla character, though it is more subtle than most brews of the style. Noticeable alcohol presence enhances everything else. 10/12

APPEARANCE: Opaque inky black (44+ SRM). Large dark brown frothy foam retains and laces well. 3/3

FLAVOR: Robust imperial stout to say the least. Massive amount of dark malt with a hefty dark chocolate taste throughout the first half. Also contains strong presence of dark fruits and black licorice. Hops may have faded a bit after a year in the can, though bitterness is still strong enough to provide balance in the form of slightly piney/resiny flavor and dank bitterness. Bourbon barrel is somewhat subtle with a lovely vanilla and woody note on the finish. The alcohol is difficult to ignore, though it is not distracting or bombastic. Seems to add a slight spicy character. Aftertaste is akin to chocolate syrup and rum. No oxidation character after a year of aging. 17/20

MOUTHFEEL: Full bodied to be sure. Carbonation is about moderate and helps create for a luscious, smooth, creamy texture. Nice drinkability for a hefty 12.9% ABV brew, though the alcohol presence is impossible to ignore (it's never distracting). 5/5

OVERALL IMPRESSION: A Hall Of Fame imperial stout made all the more interesting thanks to the bourbon barrel aging. 10/10


NOTE: See my 2012 review of the original Ten Fidy here:

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Southern Tier Cold Press Coffee Pumking

Fill date: 8/23/18

Judged to 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines for: 30B Autumn Seasonal Beer

AROMA: Fairly strong authentic pumpkin pie presence (puree, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.). Coffee is also quite prominent, maybe even a bit more than the pumpkin. Cold brew coffee is sweet with no implication of bitterness or roastiness. Nothing in the way of distinctive/individual malts or hops, but base brew is solid. Minor alcohol presence with a touch of vanilla. Clean fermentation. 10/12

APPEARANCE: Deep amber/pale orange hue (7-9 SRM). Slightly cloudy body. Moderate off-white foam mostly evaporates and leaves no lacing. 3/3

FLAVOR: Pumpkin pie flavor is the dominate taste throughout this palette. Character is completely authentic with distinct notes of puree, spices and a graham cracker-like crust. Coffee is more of a background flavor than nose implies. It is evident at both the beginning and the end with a lightly sweet/debittered iced coffee flavor (with just a touch of cream and sugar). Nothing acidic or roasty. Interesting bonus flavor to a delectable pumpkin brew recipe. Aftertaste is of cinnamon and pie crust. Faint alcohol presence seems to add a touch of vanilla and enhance the sweet flavors of the brew. 16/20

MOUTHFEEL: Medium body; moderate carbonation. Smooth, though it seems just a tad thinner than it should be. Highly drinkable at 8.6% ABV. A liquid dessert. 4/5

OVERALL IMPRESSION: An interesting variation on a classic pumpkin beer. I'd prefer even more coffee presence, but it works well as is. 9/10


Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Prairie Birthday Bomb

Fill date: 5/16/18

Judged to 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines for: 30A Spice, Herb or Vegetable Beer (base style: 20C Imperial Stout)

AROMA: Moderate presence of coffee and chocolate with a natural fruity character from the dark malts and possibly yeast esters. No pepper presence. Noticeable alcohol presence works with the additives. No distinct malt character; some piney/resiny hops. Clean fermentation. 9/12

APPEARANCE: Opaque black (44+ SRM). Small brown foam quickly dissipates and leaves no lacing. Seems to be well filtered. 2/3

FLAVOR: Coffee flavor and dry bitterness at the beginning followed by sweet, candy-like chocolate/vanilla flavors. Chile peppers impart a gentle warmth in the throat as it finishes, though the alcohol has something to do with this as well. Malt base is slightly fruity, though lacking any rich bready character as well as overt roasty notes. Bitterness is rather low, but enough for balance. A fine S/H/V on top of a fine imperial stout base, but nothing more. 13/20

MOUTHFEEL: Medium body; moderately-low carbonation. Smooth, but feels thin and under-carbonated. Plenty of warmth between the peppers and the 13% ABV, though it feels like a lighter brew. 3/5

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Palette is not quite as complex and robust as one would expect considering the potency and recipe. A fine brew, just not an excellent one. 6/10


Sunday, September 30, 2018

Bumpy Road Brewery's homebrew clone of Dogfish Head Punkin Ale

Fill date: 9/26/18

Judged to 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines for: 30B Autumn Seasonal Beer

AROMA: Strong pumpkin pie spice aroma. Cinnamon and nutmeg seem to be the most prominent. Also has presence of brown sugar and vanilla. Faint presence of toasted malt, but otherwise malt is nondescript. No discernible hops (none needed). Clean fermentation. 10/12

APPEARANCE: Beautiful magenta/mahogany hue (17-22 SRM). Clear body. Large off-white foam retains and laces well. 3/3

FLAVOR: Moderately-strong pumpkin pie taste throughout. Spicy cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice at the beginning with pumpkin puree flavor through the middle and into the finish. Some spicy hop flavor and moderate bitterness at the backend. Faint alcohol presence, but it is not distracting. Clean fermentation. Attenuation seems complete. 17/20

MOUTHFEEL: Medium body; moderately-low carbonation. Mouthfeel seems a little thin, though texture is very smooth. Drinks like something lighter than 7% ABV, though the alcohol does impart very gentle warmth. 3/5

OVERALL IMPRESSION: May not be an exact clone of the real thing, but works very well as a pumpkin homebrew. A little more body and carbonation would improve it greatly. 9/10


1063 og. 1010 fg
Abv 7%
Ibu 28
SRM 10-11
Mash 155f 45 min
Pale malt 2-row 81.6%
Special roast 6.1%
Crystal 60L 4.1%
2 cans Libby pumpkin puree sprinkled with cinnamon and baked at 350f 45min
60 min boil
1 lb light brown sugar 8.2% 60min
1 oz Hallertauer Mittlefrueh 2.6% 60min
1 oz Cascade 7.7% 20min
.5 oz Hallertauer Mittlefrueh 10min
1 tsp Cinnamon 1 tsp Nutmeg 1 tsp Allspice 5min
Ferment 70f 2weeks wyeast 1056 American ale

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Sierra Nevada Tropical Torpedo IPA

Fill date: 6/18/18

Judged to 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines for: 21A American IPA

AROMA: Fairly strong tropical fruit aroma, especially of pineapple (likely due to the Mosaic hops). Assorted other fruits, along with noticeable pink grapefruit and orange. Fruity character is akin to the pith rather than any kind of juicy note. Base malt is standard pale in nature with just the faintest implication of sweetness. Clean fermentation. 10/12

APPEARANCE: Deep amber to pale orange hue (7-9 SRM). Slightly hazy body. Large eggshell froth retains and laces extremely well. 3/3

FLAVOR: Delivers as marketed with a tropical fruit palette with discernible pineapple and grapefruit flavors immediately. All flavors are moderate to moderately-strong; akin to fruit pith with a slight dry character rather than anything sweet and juicy. Bitterness is evident immediately with a gentle hop bite at the apex and lingering dry bitterness in the aftertaste with a slight resin taste and danker bitterness. Malt base is clean and pale with just a hint of honey-like character and sweetness. Otherwise, attenuation seems to be rather high. Alcohol exists as a background note only. 17/20

MOUTHFEEL: More than medium body with less than medium carbonation. Smooth texture and somewhat refreshing while in the mouth. Feels a tad lighter than 6.7% ABV, though still easily drinkable in a 16oz can. 4/5

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Another IPA that exemplifies the guidelines well. Not quite as novel as others, but still a satisfying choice. 9/10


Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Warsteiner Premium Dunkel (2018 re-review to BJCP specs)

Best before date: 1/22/19

Judged to 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines for: 8A Munich Dunkel

AROMA: Moderate browned malt with slight sweetness. Noticeable bread crust, with slight chocolate as well. Some skunky presence likely due to light color of bottle. No distinctive hops. Clean lager fermentation. 9/12

APPEARANCE: Clear brown hue (27-34 SRM). Large white froth retains and laces well. 3/3

FLAVOR: Fairly strong brown malt base. Bready with slight coffee through the middle and milk chocolate on the finish and into the aftertaste. Moderately-low bitterness from the roasted malt along with subtle spicy hop flavor and gentle dry bitterness. Lightstrike is not perceptible in the taste. Clean lager fermentation. 17/20

MOUTHFEEL: Medium body; moderate carbonation. Smooth and quaffable with lightly dry aftertaste. Plenty of palette for 4.8% ABV. Can work as a dessert brew. 5/5

OVERALL IMPRESSION: An underrated example of an underrated style. Delectable and smooth. Everyone should try this. 9/10


NOTE: See my 2011 original review here:

Monday, September 24, 2018

Framboise Boon

Fill date: 2016

Judged to 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines for: 23F Fruit Lambic

AROMA: Moderately strong authentic raspberry presence. Jam-like, but without added sugar or overt sweetness. Natural terroir character is present with slight earthy/woody/countryside notes. Subtle tart/sour implication. No hops (none needed). 10/12

APPEARANCE: Beautiful magenta hue (17-22 SRM). Slightly hazy body. Large pinkish foam at first, mostly dissipates. 3/3

FLAVOR: Palette is nearly opposite of the nose as it is the natural Brett/terroir taste which dominates the palette with the raspberry being much more subtle. Light sourness immediately followed by raspberry jam-like flavor (sans sugar). Strong Brett sensation of tartness, some lactic acidity, and earthy/countryside flavors. Finishes tart and dry with just a faint raspberry note. The fruit and microbiota complement each other well, though the fruit flavor is quite diminished after only two years. 14/20

MOUTHFEEL: Medium-light body; high carbonation. Refreshing and dry with a tartness in the aftertaste. Drinks and feels much lighter than 5% ABV, though. Overall drinkability is high. 4/5

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Lovely authentic lambic base with classic terroir character. Just a little disappointed the raspberry faded so much already. 8/10


Sunday, September 23, 2018

Cigar City Oktoberfest

Fill date: 7/24/18

Judged to 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines for: 6A Märzen

AROMA: Moderate Continental malt with classic Maillard character of slightly toasted bread and crusts. Faint herbal hops. Clean lager fermentation. 10/12

APPEARANCE: Beautiful copper hue (13-17 SRM) with clear body. Large off-white foam retains and laces well. 3/3

FLAVOR: Bready malt base with implied sweetness, though not rich per se. Attenuation seems to be rather high. Maillard reactions impart a bread crust character. Bitterness is moderate with a light spicy/herbal taste towards the finish. Aftertaste is lightly bitter for a moment, but malts re-emerge for slight sweetness. Clean lager fermentation. 16/20

MOUTHFEEL: Medium body; moderate carbonation. Smooth and comfortable mouthfeel; somewhat refreshing. Tempting to session even at 5.8% ABV. Drinkability is no challenge. 5/5

OVERALL IMPRESSION: One of the few major American offerings that's truly to-spec for the style. Plus it's a fun beer to drink. 9/10


Saturday, September 22, 2018

Sixpoint Barrel Aged Righteous Ale

Fill date: 3/7/18

Judged to 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines for: 32B Specialty Wood-Aged Beer

AROMA: Strong barrel character with authentic wood, almond and vanilla characteristics. Rye malt is quite prominent and slightly bready, though not rich per se. Alcohol is clean and slightly spicy which complements the base brew very well. Difficult to discern hops (which is ok for the style). 10/12

APPEARANCE: Mahogany/brownish hue (22-27 SRM). Body is cloudy, but no sediment. Large, beige froth retains and laces well. 3/3

FLAVOR: Interesting and delectable mix of sweet vanilla contrasted by spicy rye and alcohol. Barrel creates for a hefty wood and vanilla taste, but is never cloying. Slight nutty character. Rye malt is bready in nature, though attenuation seems to be high so as not to be a cloying mess. Bitterness is firm, though hop flavor is subtle. Rye and alcohol create for a spicy sensation to balance the sweetness. Both linger in the aftertaste, but are subtle. 17/20

MOUTHFEEL: Medium-full body; moderate carbonation. Texture is soft, smooth and comfortable. The alcohol is surprisingly calm at 10.5% ABV with a gentle warmth. Extremely drinkable for such a potent brew. 5/5

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Not only is it tasty and fun to drink, it's impressive in that it's not just another imperial stout. Creativity goes a long way. 10/10


NOTE: See my 2012 review of regular Sixpoint Righteous Ale with Mrs. Real Ale Guide here:

Friday, September 21, 2018

St. Bernardus Tripel (2018 re-review to BJCP specs)

Best before date: 9/16/19

Judged to 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines for: 26C Belgian Tripel

AROMA: Strong yeast-driven aromatics of banana esters and clove/peppercorn phenols. Significant orangepeel citrusy presence along with a lightly sweet honey or even butterscotch note. Alcohol is present, albeit clean and a tad spicy to complement the yeast character. Pale malt and wheat bass is evident, but not exactly bready (which is fine). 11/12

APPEARANCE: Honey amber hue (4-7 SRM). Mostly clear body. Large white soapy foam with alcohol legs and lace. 3/3

FLAVOR: For what may be a fairly old bottle, the palette is remarkably robust and complex. Delicious mix of yeast, alcohol and malt character with a continuous spicy, peppercorn-like taste and bitterness throughout. Somewhat perfumey as well. Yeast esters create for an authentic fruity taste of banana, green pear and perhaps some apple. Phenols and alcohol account for clove flavor and a general spicy/dry finish. Malt and yeast provide a lightly bready backbone, though attenuation is very high so as not to be rich or sweet. Faint oxidation, but it works with the nature character of the palette. 18/20

MOUTHFEEL: Medium body; champagne-like effervescence. Though bubbly, it is smooth and rather easy to drink. Strong to be sure at 8% ABV, but not hot nor obtuse. A 750ml bottle is an ideal serving size. 5/5

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Absolutely a World Class Belgian Tripel in all aspects. This was so close to being a perfect bottle. 10/10


NOTE: See my 2010 original review here:

To Øl Santastique!

Best before date: 8/31/18

Judged to 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines for: 30C Winter Seasonal Beer

AROMA: Authentic citrus aroma of lemon and lime peels as well as citrusy hops. Some spiciness from clove and cardamom and subtle yeast esters and phenols. A light bready/wheat malt base. Subtle oxidation. 10/12

APPEARANCE: Deep amber/light orange hue (5-7 SRM). Hazy body. Large white soapy suds dissipate quickly and completely. 2/3

FLAVOR: Spicy throughout with a consistent bitterness to boot. Citrus pith flavors are evident immediately along with grassy hops. Yeast phenols combine with the cardamom, coriander and unmalted rye to impart a lovely spicy sensation that complements the citrus flavors surprisingly well. A bit of a banana note in the aftertaste, though it is mostly dry and slightly spicy. Malt and wheat base akin to that of a Belgian White - just faint breadiness. Oxidation is noticeable only with extreme scrutiny, though it actually works with the flavors of the brew. 16/20

MOUTHFEEL: Medium-light body; moderately-light carbonation. Smooth and somewhat refreshing; though can may have lost a bit of effervescence over time. Highly drinkable at 5.5% ABV and in a 500ml can. 3/5

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Impressive brewing feat combining classic Belgian base brew with additional spices and American hops. Was probably amazing when fresh. 8/10


Thursday, September 20, 2018

Mikkeller A Red & White Christmas

Best before date: 9/5/18

Judged to 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines for: 30C Winter Seasonal Beer

AROMA: Fairly strong sweet orangepeel which suggest perfume and cleanliness. Also noticeable coriander spice and plenty of yeast esters and phenols. Base malt is a bit bready, but difficult to distinguish from the fruity/spicy aromatics. No discernible hops (none needed). Alcohol is noticeable, but clean and not distracting. Faint oxidation. 9/12

APPEARANCE: Burnt umber/light brown color (17-22 SRM). Body is murky and cloudy (would be clear when fresh). Large, eggshell froth retains and laces very well. 2/3

FLAVOR: Spices and bitterness immediately with noticeable coriander and citrusy hop flavors. Quickly followed by a somewhat bready caramel malt base which is lightly sweet. Sweet orangepeel emerges at the apex and lingers into the finish along with a clean, firm alcohol presence. Mild honey/lemon oxidation character is noticeable as background note, but is not off-putting. Aftertaste is a bit dry from alcohol, hops and spices but not astringent. 16/20

MOUTHFEEL: Medium-full/full-bodied with high carbonation. Texture is soft and smooth and mouthfeel is literally comfortable. At 8% ABV there is a gentle alcohol presence, but clean. 5/5

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Essentially a cross between a strong American amber and a witbier. This does work well as a Christmas brew. Was probably World Class when fresh. 41/50


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Trappistes Rochefort 8 (2018 re-review to BJCP specs)

Best by date: 19/7/2022

Judged to 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines for: 26D Belgian Dark Strong Ale

AROMA: Fairly strong fruity character with notes of figs, dates, raisins and other dark dried fruit. Also a noticeable phenolic character of clove and peppercorn and slightly medicinal. Alcohol is prominent, but clean. Little in the way of bready malt or specialty character. No hops (none needed). 10/12

APPEARANCE: Deep burgundy to brown proper (27-34 SRM). Large, tan, soapy suds when poured, though head evaporates quickly and completely. Body is cloudy. 2/3

FLAVOR: Complex, robust palette with many flavor combinations. Paradoxically fruity with a sweet confectionery taste, yet with a firm drying sensation from the alcohol and phenols. Flavor combinations are contrasting, but interesting. Briefly sweet on the back end, but the dry/spicy hop flavor works in conjunction with the alcohol for balance and a drying sensation on the finish. Bottle may have been poorly handled as there is a noticeable off-taste, though it is subtle and tolerable. 16/20

MOUTHFEEL: Medium body; high carbonation. Texture is smooth with a fairly gentle warmth from the 9.3% ABV. Drinkability is no challenge. 4/5

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Definitely one of the most revered examples of the style, though not quite as good as the Rochefort 10. Could almost pass as a dubbel. 8/10


NOTE: See my 2012 original review here:

Monday, September 17, 2018

Samuel Adams Coffee Pale Ale

Best before date: 2/2019

Judged to 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines for: 30A Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Beer (base style 18B American Pale Ale)

AROMA: Coffee is prominent with cold-brewed/iced character. Seems to have cocoa powder or some kind of sugary sweetness. Faint citrusy hops. Moderately low pale malt base. Clean fermentation. 8/12

APPEARANCE: For a pale ale, the color is quite dark with a burnt umber to light brown (9-17 SRM). Cloudy body. Small tan foam mostly dissipates. 2/3

FLAVOR: Akin to iced coffee throughout as the coffee flavor dominates the palette. There is a slight cream-and-sugar character from the sweetness. Moderately-low citrusy hops are present in the background, though the coffee seems to account for most of the bitterness. Malt base is rather simple; mostly pale malt character with a faint toasted note. Coffee and hops linger briefly, but aftertaste is otherwise clean. 13/20

MOUTHFEEL: Medium body; moderate carbonation. Smooth, but crisp. Not refreshing, but highly quaffable. Seems efficient for 5.5% ABV. 3/5

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Has the coffee taste down pat, but isn't much of a pale ale at the core. Still, it's tasty and fun to drink. 6/10


Sunday, September 16, 2018

Sierra Nevada/Weihenstephaner Oktoberfest

Fill date: 7/31/18

Judged to 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines for: 6A Märzen

AROMA: Moderate continental malt base with a noticeable bread crust character due to Maillard reactions, but not sweet per se (seems well attenuated). Low spicy/herbal hop presence. Clean lager fermentation. No alcohol presence. 9/12

APPEARANCE: Clear copper hue (9-13 SRM). Large white suds mostly dissipates. 3/3

FLAVOR: Malt-driven palette to be sure, with classic Maillard products of bread and bread crusts, only slightly toasty. Attenuation seems to be high as overall sweetness is rather low, aside from the beginning. Hops are a bit high for the style with spicy/earthy flavors and just a touch of citrus. Clean and complete lager fermentation with slightly malty aftertaste, but otherwise dry. 15/20

MOUTHFEEL: Medium-light body; moderately-low carbonation. Seems a tad thin and tepid for the style. Smooth and quaffable, it is remarkably easy-drinking for a 6% ABV brew. 3/5

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Mostly to-spec for the style with a few American liberties taken. Easy to drink, but far from amazing. 7/10


Saturday, September 15, 2018

Evil Twin Even More Jesus

Fill date: Batch #009

Judged to 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines for: 20C Imperial Stout

AROMA: Massive sweetness with distinct confectionery notes of caramelized sugar, toffee, brown sugar and black licorice. Slight fruity component, but nothing specific. Clearly an intense dark malt base; though surprisingly not all that roasty or burnt. Hops are rather subtle with earthy/floral notes. Alcohol is even more subtle. 10/12

APPEARANCE: Oil-like black body (44+ SRM). Very large, dark brown foam retains and laces well. 3/3

FLAVOR: Tastes sweeter than the nose would indicate. Intense confectionery flavors of brown sugar, toffee, black licorice and a slight crème brûlée note. There is a fruity character as well which emerges on the finish with a red cherry taste. Hops are a bit stronger on the palette with enough of a dry bitterness to offer balance to the malty sweetness. Little in the way of hop flavor other than a slight earthy/floral feature. Alcohol is a noticeable component of the palette and seems to work in tandem with with the hops to dry out the sweetness from the malt. Aftertaste is malty sweet with some alcohol warmth lingering as well. 17/20

MOUTHFEEL: Full body; moderately-low carbonation. Texture is smooth, soft and comfortable. At 12% ABV, the alcohol is impossible to miss, though the heat is a gentle warmth. Drinkability is fantastic considering how potent the brew is. 5/5

OVERALL IMPRESSION: So close to being an All Star imperial stout, just lacking a bit of hops. Otherwise, it's on-point in all aspects as far as taste, complexity and drinkability. 9/10


Thursday, September 13, 2018

Southern Tier Samoa This

Fill date: 3/19/18

Judged to 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines for: 30A Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Beer (base style: 20C Imperial Stout)

AROMA: Fairly strong coconut presence with nearly equally strong caramel syrup and a subtle salt presence. Sweet milk chocolate and shortbread. Malts and hops are obscured by the additives, but because this is marketed as a novelty brew that's acceptable. Definitely smells like the cookie it is emulating. No alcohol presence. Clean fermentation. 10/12

APPEARANCE: Straight black body (44+ SRM). Small, dark tan soapy suds evaporate quickly and leaves a little lacing. 3/3

FLAVOR: Cookie-like taste as advertised, though also quite boozy. Chocolate syrup and alcohol are prominent immediately. Coconut is noticeable at first, but recedes quickly; it emerges again in the aftertaste. Caramel, salt, and shortbread flavors all make up the backend. Despite the dessert nature of the brew, it is actually not all that sweet. The alcohol is rather high and dries out the palette with a lingering cough syrup aftertaste.  Slight fruity flavors from the dark malt, but nothing roasty. Bitterness is rather low with no distinct hop flavor (none needed). 14/20

MOUTHFEEL: Medium body; moderately-low carbonation. Smooth, slightly sticky. Alcohol is a bit obtuse at 10% ABV and is quite warm and drying. Despite this, overall drinkability is not challenging. 3/5

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Is the tasty liquid cookie it claims to be, though it is rather gimmicky. Much more boozy than it needs to be and lacks a solid imperial stout base. 6/10