Firestone Walker Brewing Company – Helldorado

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Something about this beer really called to me when I saw it my go to bottle shop by work.  Maybe it was the style, maybe it was the nifty little box, but regardless I brought one home with me.

Beer Name: Helldorado

Brewery: Firestone Walker Brewing Company (Paso Robles, CA)

Style: Barleywine

ABV: 12.8%

Description: Briefly, this was a barrel aged blonde barleywine.  For more of the specs and story behind this you can get the details here on the brewery website.  The price of $10 for the one 12 oz bottle was right around my personal limit for the format but in line with what similar offerings go for in my area.

Appearance: It had an amber colored body through which I could just barely make out my fingers on the other side of the glass.  A thin, fizzy white head formed with the pour and dissipated very quickly thereafter.

Smell: Sweet toffee and honey, with warm oak barrel notes lurking in the back.

Taste: Sweet upfront, with notes of caramel, toffee, brown sugar, and again a bit of honey. The back-end was warm and moderately boozy.  It closed with a fading sweet heat and rising oak barrel notes.  As the beer settled in, the sweetness gradually faded in favor of the heat and barrel influence.

Mouthfeel: The body was slightly and right around medium.  Despite the bubbly head, the overall carbonation level was rather low.

Hype: I’ve come to expect some great things from these boxes Firestone offerings.  

Overall: I’m a bit torn.  On the one hand I did think was a good brew, but on the other it didn’t quite live up to my expectations.  Hard to put my finger on it exactly, but I think with perhaps a slightly thicker body and better blend of sweetness and barrel this would have rated a touch higher for me.

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Stone Brewing Company – Fruitallica

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This next brew comes courtesy of my wife.  We had a brie cheese tasting planned for the night and she wanted to get me something to compliment the meal.

Beer Name: Fruitallica

Brewery: Stone Brewing Company (Escondido, CA/Richmond, VA), Beavertown Brewery (London, UK), and Garage Project (Wellington, NZ)

Style: Double IPA

ABV: 8.0%

Description: A worldwide collaboration effort, this double IPA was brewed with kiwi, yuzu, and habanero.  You can read the full metal description on Stone’s website.

Appearance: A bright, hazy hybrid of yellow, orange, and amber topped off by a thin white head that formed with the pour.

Smell: Light fruits and some piney bitterness.

Taste: Light and fruity upfront, featuring kiwi and assorted tropicals.  Perhaps even yuzu, but I can’t honestly claim to know what that tastes like.  The back-end brought on a nicely balanced amount of heat from the habanero that rolled into a piney, resinous bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Pretty standard for the style.  Medium, slightly creamy feel with a moderate amount of carbonation.

Hype: Elevated personally, though I suppose most grizzled beer veterans don’t get overly excited about these anymore.  Stone will probably always have a special place in my heart though.

Overall: I enjoyed this, but wouldn’t quite consider something I’d drink every day.  It did, however, go quite well with the brie I so in that sense the beer delivered exactly what I wanted.  Nice blend of sweet fruit and spice without going too far into extremes.

Ipswich Brewer’s Table

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My wife and I absolutely love the fall season, so we took advantage of a beautiful weekend and took an impromptu day trip up to Ipswich, MA.  After paying a visit to Russell Orchards for some apple picking and fun on the farm, we ventured downtown for dinner and a few beverages.

Built as an addition to the Ipswich Ale Brewery in early 2016, the Ipswich Brewer’s Table offers up plenty of good food and a wide variety of the beer made right next door.  Since it was such a nice day,  we went with the outdoor seating at one of the several tables set up outside.  Being located on the edge of an industrial area, it wasn’t exactly the most scenic of spots but the street we were on did have it’s own quiet charm nestled in between the brewery complex and some residential units.  For a quick note about the food, both my wife and I loved our meals; the pulled pork sandwich in particular earning my seal of approval.  Our waitress was fantastic and very attentive and accommodating of our food allergy concerns.

Now for the beer.  Seeing how we were out to celebrate the fall weather, I started my visit off with the Fall Flight featuring four of the brewery’s seasonal offerings.  Going down the list, I started out with Chucktoberfest, a solid 6.1% marzen with the malty, slightly sweet, and bready profile I was expecting from the style.  Beer number two was the Trailblazer Pale Ale which was nice and light at 4.5% with a mix of mild lemon and citrus fruitiness and bitterness.  The third brew was another pale ale named Hop Harvest.  This one came in at 7.0% and poured a bit darker amber color than the previous.  It had a nice mix of citrus sweetness blended with grapefruit bitterness.  A sweet malt backing helped make this my favorite of the flight.  The final beer in the sampler was the Pumpkin Porter.  Super rich and smooth to drink, the taste blended roasted malts with pumpkin spices.  It wasn’t bad, but admittedly not really my thing.  Full disclosure, I do have something of a history with pumpkin beers to keep in mind and also generally prefer to wait until October before trying any out.  If you’re into pumpkin beer, check this one out though.  It was definitely better than a lot of the others I’ve tried.

The main event for me was a beer that I had read some good things about but had yet to come across; the Route 1A Double IPA.  Coming at 8.2%, it poured a nice amber color with a thin slightly off-white layer of foam up top.  Taste-wise it featured a nice sweet caramel-like malt base underneath a top layer of moderate citrus sweetness, grapefruit, and resinous pine sap bitterness.  Mouthfeel was on point for the style with a steady amount of carbonation.  I was big fan of this and will be sure to keep my eye for this in the future.  

We all had an excellent time here and I would certainly recommend this as a place to check out.  Good food, good beer, and outdoor seating.  What more could you want?

Equilibrium Brewery – Fractal Mosaic

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In the last few months or so Equilibrium has become something of a hotspot for my friends in northern New Jersey.  Luckily for me, that means I got to come home with a few cans after we met up over the long weekend.

Beer Name: Fractal Mosaic

Brewery: Equilibrium Brewery (Middletown, NY)

Style: IPA

ABV: 6.8%

Description: To summarize the website, this was the first installment in what has become a series of small batch brews created with pale malt and a single, rotating variety of hop.  As you probably guessed, the hop used for this one was Mosaic.

Appearance: Came out of the can with a bright, cloudy pale yellow body and a thin white head of foam.

Smell: Sweet and juicy upfront with hoppy resin creeping in on the back-end.

Taste: Very similar to the smell.  Light tropical fruit and berries made for a juicy sweetness upfront.  The finish was mildly dank and resinous hops, skirting a fine line between pine and earthy bitterness.  Earthy hops and berries lingered in the aftertaste, along with perhaps just a little bit of the pale malt.  The overall taste was smooth, balanced, and distinctly flavorful without leaning too heavily on either the juice or hop aspects.

Mouthfeel: Soft, fluffy roughly medium body with a slightly less than moderate level of carbonation.  Very smooth and easy drinking throughout, there was a subtle creaminess here as well.

Hype: I get the impression there is starting to be some excitement about this brewery.  Personally, I was pretty eager to try this.  My last beer from this place was absolutely fantastic and the stamp of approval my friend has given them was reason enough to be excited.

Overall: Really tasty and a very relaxing and chill drinking experience.  The beer’s somewhat mellow profile in combination with its smooth mouthfeel made this super easy to drink.  I went through my can pretty quickly and could have easily reached for another if there was one available.  Looking forward to trying out the rest of my goodies.

Idle Hands Craft Ales and Ardent Craft Ales – Commonwealth Man

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This past weekend I set out on an adventure that just so happened to take me past the Idles Hands taproom.  It also just so happened to be way too nice a day not to investigate their new outdoor patio seating.

Beer Name: Commonwealth Man

Brewery: Idle Hands Craft Ales (Malden, MA) and Ardent Craft Ales (Richmond, VA)

Style: Pilsner

ABV: 4.9%

Description: Unknown to me at the time, this pilsner was brewed in collaboration with Ardent Craft Ales.  Some more details and specs can be found here on the Idle Hands website.  A hefty Stein came at a price of $7.50.

Appearance: Clear pale/light yellow body underneath about a finger and a half of light, fluffy white foam.

Smell: Faint sweetness and light malts.

Taste: Slightly sweet upfront with a subtle citrus and tropical fruit medley.  Around mid sip a light, crackery malt base started to poke through and was joined on the finish by a mild grassy bitterness.  Very light overall and super drinkable, the opening sweetness and crisp, clean ending blended together quite nicely.

Mouthfeel: On the lighter side of medium bodied with a moderate amount of carbonation.

Hype: Not so much.  This brewery doesn’t really seem to buy into the hype machine and pilsners aren’t exactly a style people go crazy lining up for.

Overall: In all honesty, I didn’t order this brew expecting to be blown away.  I was really just looking for something low in ABV that sounded refreshing and picked this off the list.  Couldn’t have been happier that I did!  This beer impressed right from the start.  Not only did it deliver exactly what I was looking for, but it also pleasantly surprised me with the mild sweetness and bitterness.  Perhaps not your traditional pilsner (indeed they list it as American Post-Modern Pilsner), it was nonetheless an enjoyable take on the style.  Do yourself a favor a grab a pint of this while you can.

Book Review: Mistborn: Secret History, by Brandon Sanderson

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After taking a few weeks away, I am diving back into Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere.  This novella, published in January 2016 only a few days after the release of Bands of Mourning, purports to fill in some of the gaps in the Mistborn storyline, tie it into the larger universe, and give the reader some more time with a particular character they may have not gotten enough of in the original trilogy.

Before I continue on with this post I want to share a brief except from the author’s preface:

This story contains enormous spoilers for the first three Mistborn novels.  Seriously, please don’t read this unless you’ve read those books.  I’d actually prefer you wait until you’ve finished book six, The Bands of Mourning, because some of the reveals in this story will spoil that book as well.

He’s not kidding, although I don’t think this book would make much sense to someone who has not read the first trilogy anyway.  Regardless, I’m putting the rest of this post after a break so as to not inadvertently ruin things for anyone new to the series.  I won’t give away all the details, but I do have some specifics I want to discuss.  You have been warned.

Continue reading

2017 Night Shift Barrel Society Release #2: King Lear

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Jumping back into my beer reviews with the second entry in this year’s Barrel Society lineup.  While not exactly a new release at this point, I at least got around to this review in a slightly more timely manner than I did for release number one.

Beer Name: King Lear

Brewery: Night Shift Brewing Company (Everett, MA)

Style: Double IPA

ABV: 8.3%

Description: Submitted for your approval, the brewer’s notes: Pours a rich, dark orange with a bright white head; grapefruit, classic Brett funk, and oaky white wine on the nose; a cascading symphony of tropical fruits on the palate, across a background of funky stone fruit; finishes with dry, tannic notes imparted by this beer’s time in barrels.  Some additional bits of information from the label add that this double IPA was aged in Sauvignon Blanc barrels with brettanomyces.  Bottled in July 2017.

Appearance: An orange/amber body underneath a fluffy layer of off-white foam.

Smell: Sweet tropical fruit with a funky tartness lingering on the end.

Taste: Light, sweet tropical fruit upfront turned tart and funky towards the middle.  From there, the beer went on to close with a moderate hay-like funk that combined with dry white wine, oak barrel, and just a hint of grassy bitterness.  In its final settled form this drank equal parts (tart) fruity, funky, and oaky.

Mouthfeel: Fluffy, medium body with a moderate amount of steady carbonation throughout and a dry, almost wine-like finish.

Hype: Always elevated for these releases.  With only four planned for this year, they should all be amazing.

Overall: Overall a very solid brew.  Given some basic similarities, I couldn’t help but think of the wine-styled IPAs I’ve had from Trillium recently.  With that reference in mind, I do say that the front end of this beer with its juicy tropical fruit and mild bitterness held up quite well in comparison.  The Brett and barrel aging added a lot of complexity to the finish, making the brew tart and oaky in place of the typical DIPA bitterness I would otherwise expect.  By personal preference this isn’t a style I would want frequently, but I also don’t doubt that the brewers got exactly what wanted out of this.  I enjoyed my first bottle and have every intention of doing the same with the second.

Book Review: Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi

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As promised a few posts back, here we go with some more Scalzi.  Published in 2005, this is the first installment in what is currently a six book series.  A few years ago I read one of the later (stand-alone) novels and really enjoyed it; so much so that I made it a point to go back and start the series from the beginning.  It took me a little while to finally do it, but here I go!

This book is the story of a man named John Perry.  We meet him on his 75th birthday as he embarks on a journey into the unknown.  Leaving the remnants of his life on Earth behind he enlists with the Colonial Defense Force, a secretive military organization responsible for protecting humanity’s colonies on other planets.  Although not much is known about life off planet by the people living on Earth, many see the CDF as an appealing option and the means to a new life.  Enlistment starts at age 75 and new recruits are offered promises of purpose, adventure, and (most appealing of all) restored youth.  It doesn’t take long, however, for John to discover life in the CDF is nothing the relative comfort of Earth could have prepared him for.  He quickly, and rather explicitly, learns the various races of this universe exist in a state of near-constant war and that more than a few of them have acquired a taste for human flesh over the years.  As he is deployed from one battle to the next, John must trust in his new-found friends and the enhanced abilities that come with enlisting to keep himself alive in an inexplicably hostile universe.

I don’t actually have a lot to say about this book although I did find it rather entertaining. Between the free-spirited antics of old people made young again and the grim, yet often zany, spectacle of alien warfare (think Douglas Adams meets Battle Royale) there was a lot of fun to be had within these pages.  Although most chapters tended to be more episodic and focused on the battle of the moment, there was something of an overall story left unresolved at the end which, going by the title, I assume figures into the next book.  I can only imagine what kind of adventure this series goes on next so I definitely going to continue on.

Trillium Brewing Company & The Veil Brewing Company – Adult Human

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I do plan on reviewing something other than a Trillium beer sooner or later, but I only have so much time in which to “research” these reviews and honestly this is all I’ve been drinking these past few weeks.  Talk about a good problem to have.

Beer Name: Adult Human

Brewery: Trillium Brewing Company (Boston/Canton, MA) and The Veil Brewing Company (Richmond, VA)

Style: Double IPA

ABV: 8.2%

Description: Another collaboration double IPA, this one was brewed with blood oranges.  You can get the official write-up here.  Four packs were going for $20.20 though I personally took advantage of the brewery’s willingness to split them up this time around.  It’s been an expensive few weeks.

Appearance: Super cloudy, bright straw yellow body with a thin layer of yellowish/white foam that formed with the pour and quickly faded away.

Smell: Pineapple soaked in dank hop resin.

Taste: Opened with mellow tropical fruit and gradually became increasingly bitter by mid-sip whengrapefruit and orange pith began to take over.  After sitting for a minute or two, the beer took on a nice orange cream taste here as well.  The finish I found a bit raw and hot, as a combination of earthy and piney hops joined with the aforementioned grapefruit to rather assertively close out the brew.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with a moderate carbonation that left me with some happy little bubbles on the end.

Hype: On the basis of being a special release alone I’ll say high, though there had also been some speculation online about when this particular collaboration would become available.  Despite this anticipation I was able to just walk in and out at Fort Point.  Go figure.

Overall: This was good, but not quite as good as the other collaborations Trillium has put out in the past few weeks.  That’s admittedly some tough company for comparison’s sake, but it seems like a fair standard in this case.  I loved this beer until about the halfway point and then I felt the finish was just a bit too harsh for my preferences.  It’s nowhere near Never & Again levels, though perhaps in a couple of days that will tone down some.  Still a solid pickup.

 

Trillium Brewing Company & Other Half Brewing Company – Two Hundred Thousand Trillion

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I’ve been hitting up Trillium a lot lately, but still felt the need to head on out and pick up their latest special release last Friday.  Motivating factors were these two breweries previously joined forces to create one of my top three Trillium collaboration beers and that it was an absolutely beautiful day to go for a walk when this came out.

Beer Name: Two Hundred Thousand Trillion

Brewery: Trillium Brewing Company (Boston/Canton, MA) and Other Half Brewing Company (Brooklyn, NY)

Style: Double IPA

ABV: 8.0%

Description: Another collaboration between two popular East Coast breweries, this double IPA was aged on peach, apricots, and guava.  As usual, Trillium has more of the specs here on their website.

Appearance: Golden/straw yellow colored body.  Lots of cloudy haze underneath a lively white head that was very quick to fizz away.

Smell: Mild tropical fruits followed by a rush of bitter resin.

Taste: Light to moderate fruit upfront; perhaps best described as a combination of peach, apricot, mango, and pineapple.  A light, crackery malt came through about mid sip.  The finish was bitter, slightly spicy, and featured a slightly tangy reappearance of the opening fruits.

Mouthfeel: Medium, fluffy body with perhaps just a touch more carbonation than I was expecting.

Hype:  Huge!  The release was announced on Twitter about 10 before the brewery opened.  Working downtown, I arrived about 10 minutes after opening and still got stuck with a 10-15 minute wait.  By the time I got out with my cans there was a line down the block.  Honestly, if I didn’t get there when I did I would have bailed.  As usual, the brewery staff did a great job moving people along but there were also a lot of people in line loading up on everything which slowed the process down.

Overall: I like this beer a lot.  It walked an immensely satisfying line between mellow fruit and harsh bitterness and successfully offered the best of both worlds.  This was another collaboration that came out a bit different than your typical “New England (D)IPA” and I really appreciated the variety.  Trillium and Other Half seem to work very well together.