#14 – Ballast Point Sculpin IPA (can)

ballast-point-sculpin-ipa-can-cropBallast Point Sculpin IPA is a damn fine IPA, and is exactly what you expect from a West Coast IPA. It smells like fresh fruit, mango, peach, apricots.

It pours golden amber with a roughly inch head that fades to a collar as it warms up. The smell is absolutely amazing, everything a West Coast IPA should be. The “sting” that Ballast Point mentions definitely is there. The hops very much stick around and coat your mouth. It’s a damn smooth IPA, at 7 % ABV and 70 IBUs. It’s not super bitter, and it’s not super hot.

Now to the Ratebeer style review:

Appearance – Golden amber, light carbonation, off white head

Smell – Smells like fresh citrus fruits, with malt slowly sneaking in. Alcohol smell creeps up as it warms

Mouthfeel – Lightly carbonated, coats the mouth. It definitely sticks around.

Taste – Tastes like it smells, with herbiness as it fades out. You get some heat, with the 7 % ABV

Overall – 4/5 . A very solid IPA. I can’t compare it to bombers (but I’d love to) or draft (but I’d really love to), but it’s very good. I was happy to see it on my trip home from work, One Stop Market in Haverhill, MA has a great beer selection and I look forward to getting more from not only Ballast Point but everything else they carry.

 

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Lucky #13 – Victory Brewing Company “Storm King”

StormKing-bottleFor lucky #13, I present Victory Brewing Company’s Storm King American Imperial Stout.

This beer lives up to the name. It’s a very dark, very intense beer. Lots of flavors, lots of malt, and lots of alcohol.

It pours dark black, and a heavy pour brings a 1-1/2 inch head. The smell is lots of roasty malts, and the alcohol hits you as well.

The taste is very complex, with the malt taking over everything. Toward the end, it fades to coffee and chocolate, with the hops poking their head in. The alcohol is very much there as well.

This beer runs at 9.1% ABV, and it definitely make you aware of it. I enjoy this one quite a bit, and it definitely opens up as it warms. I’d love to cellar a bottle and try it in a year. This is a year-round beer, so you should be able to find it anywhere that sells Victory beers.

#12 – Sixpoint Brewery “Hi-Res”

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Tom’s Beer #12 is Sixpoint’s “Hi-Res”. I hope you get to pick this one up. Harkening back to Spinal Tap, this beer “goes to 11” both figuratively and literally (it’s a theme of the beer).

This is a scary beer, for a few reasons. I love it, and I’ll tell you why it’s scary in a minute. First comes some basic info.

This beer runs at 111 IBU, and the first sip really brings that out after a couple of seconds. It’s 11 SRM, so a deep amber. It also is 11.1% ABV, and that is the scary part.

When you first sip, you get the sweetness of the malt, then all of a sudden you get a hop bomb all over your tongue. This beer has a crazy amount of bittering/flavor hops, but you don’t get that in the smell almost at all. As it heads down the throat, you get a little bit of the ABV burn, but it’s hidden well. So well that you could drink this beer very rapidly, and a lot of it. The fact that this is such a smooth beer at 11.1% ABV is incredible.

I highly recommend you get this beer if you can find it, and are a hop fan. It’s a seasonal beer, so get it while you can. Overall 4.5/5.

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#11 – Smuttynose “Durty: Mud Season (2014)”

This is a fun beer to review. It was released originally as Short Batch #18, and has graduated into a spring seasonal. This is a “durty” brown ale, that’s hopped like a Double IPA. It runs at 8.4% ABV, and 97 IBU.

It pours dark reddish-brown, with a light brown head that doesn’t stick around but does lace well.

The smell is very clean, leaning much more toward hoppy than brown.

The taste is all hops, with the malt sneaking in later. According to Smutty, the hops used are “Bittering-Magnum, Flavor- Nugget, Dry Hop- CTZ and Chinook” while the malt is “North American 2-Row, Munich 10L, Chocolate, C-60, Brown Malt” with White Labs WLP-001 American Ale yeast. This is a very complex taste that you really don’t expect from a brown ale. Everything bounces around, and you get lots of flavors all over the tongue and all throughout the drinking process.

This is a beer that I feel like I really deserved today, after shoveling my driveway out. It started shipping in January (my bottle said best by 6/6/2014). Distribution is obviously limited, so pick one up while you can.

I give this one a 4/5. A very good hop-forward brown ale. The hops are very well-balanced against the malt, and the ABV is very subtle. It definitely mellows out as it warms.

#10 – Stone Brewing Company “Enjoy By 02.14.14”

The Stone Enjoy By series is one of my favorite recurring (but slightly changing) beers. This is a beer that is specifically crafted to not last. The flavors and aromas in this beer will not be nearly as good after the “Enjoy By” date, and you WILL NOT find that batch on the shelves after that date. If you’re a hophead (and in a state that the current batch of Enjoy By is distributed to), definitely pick one or more up. You’ll probably see this one near you, as this was the largest batch made, and it was released to roughly half of Stone’s markets.

You have in your hands a devastatingly fresh double IPA. While freshness is a key component of many beers – especially big, citrusy, floral IPAs – we’ve taken it further, a lot further, in this IPA. You see, we specifically brewed it NOT to last. We’ve not only gone to extensive lengths to ensure that you’re getting this beer in your hands within an extraordinarily short window, we made sure that the Enjoy By date isn’t randomly etched in tiny text somewhere on the label, to be overlooked by all but the most attentive of retailers and consumers. Instead, we’ve sent a clear message with the name of the beer itself that there is no better time than right now to enjoy this IPA

It smells like dank, wet, West Coast hops. Tropical fruit and sweetness. Definitely some of the Simcoe “cat piss/onion” smell, but not as much as previous versions.

Color is a dark golden amber, with a thick head that turns into a few millimeter ring of bubbles. Not a whole lot of bubbles in the glass. Very clear.

Simcoe really shows up in the taste, especially when you first get it in your mouth. The herby, resiny flavor sticks to your tongue. Not super bitter, but lots of flavor. The malt backbone brings out good sweetness. Can’t really taste the alcohol, despite this version running at 9.4% ABV.

Very smooth in the mouthfeel. Not too thick, but it definitely clings. As it’s not super carbonated, there’s not a super dry feeling.

Overall, this is definitely a favorite for me. It hits all the BJCP notes to a T.  This is a beer that seems to fly off shelves, if only partly because of its scarcity. This is a scary smooth, easy drinking Double/Imperial IPA. Buy this one if you can.

ME #2 – Reunion Ale ’13 – A Beer for Hope

Reunion Limited Release / 8% ABV / 22oz. Bottle

This was a collaboration beer (Smaltz and Terrapin) brewed with cocoa nibs, vanilla, cinnamon and coffee. It is an American Brown Ale brewed to raise funds and awareness for the Institute for Myeloma and Bone Cancer Institute.

Beer pours dark, but when held up to the light it has tawny/red tint that was surprising.  The carbonation was moderate and the head was off-white to brown in color, appropriate in size and hung around for a while.  Ultimately, the head ended up dwindling slowly to a set of small bumpy bubbles that rested nicely on the top of the brew leading to quality lacing as I sipped.

The beer was generally clear and free of particles. All the scents noted in its description: cocoa nibs, vanilla, cinnamon and coffee, were present. They were all there but the coffee and cinnamon stuck out for me, with the cinnamon clearly out front.

As I sipped, the flavors blended nicely and there was a taste of tobacco and leather which I found to be pleasing. The body was medium a bit slick, and slightly acidic. Although this was a fairly tasty beer to sip, it’s probably best as a limited release.

I think it would be far less appealing if it were available year round. I’m glad they release it to benefit a good cause. I know the novelty of it, and its potential evolution will keep me trying it each year.  Although this is an American Brown Ale, I think this could reach the far corner somewhere near where it could easily be confused with a porter (in my opinion).

On a Rate Beer scale: Appearance: 3/5 Aroma: 6/10 Palate: 4/5 Flavor: 6/10 Overall: 14/20

Feel free to contact us if you have a recommendation for a beer you think we should review: michael.p.earner@gmail.com or tom.williams134@gmail.com

ME #1 – Victory Brewing – Dirtwolf

DirtWolf

Available year round / 8.7 ABV / IBU (Not listed, but guessing right in the 65-75 Range) / 12 oz. Bottle

Poured easy into a 12 oz beer mug, ended up with about ¼” of white head that lasted about two minutes. The body was golden-yellow, bright, and clear. The beer looks like it has a fairly thin body, but I don’t think Victory aspired to achieve anything close to balance here…this beer is clearly about the hops. In fact, American hops crush your nose from the time you pop the crown. At first, there is some subtle underlying pine scent, but the big ones are grapefruit and citrus. Clearly, this is a moderate-heavily hopped beer, but is still less than that overwhelming dank bitterness you get in some DIPA’s. The citrus flavors help to keep this bitter beast palatable and the carbonation is medium, which compliments the medium bodied mouth feel, making this easy to drink. You are left with the pine and grapefruit after you drink, which subsides when you get the blast of citrus in your nose while moving towards your next taste.  Overall, this is an enjoyable DIPA that I would drink again. I was expecting a bit more from it based on what I have heard from others. However, that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy this brew.  It is a very, very good beer, just slightly more towards a “common” DIPA than I would have liked. On the Rate Beer scale: Appearance: 5/5 Aroma: 9/10 Palate: 4/5 Flavor: 7/10 Overall 18/20

Feel free to contact me if you have a recommendation for a beer you think we should review: michael.p.earner@gmail.com.

If you’ve had Dirtwolf, please share your thoughts in our poll.