Radiant Pig Beer Company – Gangster Duck

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Coming at you all with another Red IPA.  I was recently reacquainted with the style after a long run of stouts and just couldn’t stay away from them any longer.

Beer Name: Gangster Duck

Brewery: Radiant Pig Beer Company (New York, NY)

Style: Red IPA

ABV: 6.2%

Description: On their website, the brewers mentioned borrowing from a number of styles to create this tasty red with a style all its own that is bursting with hops and smooth malts.  The beer for this review was consumed about a month after the canning date.

Appearance: Partially see through reddish amber body with a thick, foamy light tan head up top.

Smell: Sweet and malty, with a subtle layer of piney hops.

Taste: Started out with smooth malts that were soon followed by a biting grapefruit and pine bitterness.  The finish combined crackery malts and a slight yeasty taste as the beer went on.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with a moderate carbonation level.

Hype: None I guess.  All I knew about this when I bought the can was that I liked the name and style.

Overall: It was alright.  Not quite the flavor profile look for or expect in a Red IPA (I am admittedly very picky about this) so I was a bit disappointed in that regard.  Otherwise, I would say this was fine, but not something I’d pick up again.

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4 Hands Brewing Co. – Snake Oil

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Another beer that initially caught my eye on account of the can art.  Again I must ask the question, where was this when I wanted spooky Halloween beers?

Beer Name: Snake Oil

Brewery: 4 Hands Brewing Co. (St. Louis, MO)

Style: Red IPA

ABV: 6.5%

Description: Listed as a Red IPA that was brewed with a combination of American and Australian hop varieties and caramel malts.

Appearance: Partially see-through reddish/amber body underneath a fluffy, slightly off-white layer of foam.

Smell:  Sweet with sticky pine hops on the end.

Taste: Started out with a light tropical sweetness with a cracker and caramel malts backbone.  Soon after, a pine resin bitterness slowly built up on the way to the finish, where it was joined by grapefruit.

Mouthfeel: Sticky medium body with a moderate amount of carbonation.

Hype: Slightly elevated I guess since I grabbed this during the rush of Extreme Beer Fest releases.  I was even more excited when I got this home, however, and saw that it was not just an IPA, but a Red IPA.  I have a not so secret thing for these.

Overall: A very nice reminder of why I like this style so much, I enjoyed the complimentary interplay between the hoppy and malty aspects.  I think this inspired me to go seeking out more Red IPAs once I get through my current haul.

 

Founders Brewing Company – Backwoods Bastard

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This is a beer that I feel like I should have had before I drank one for review purposes.  I’ve long been intrigued by the style and the beer been available to me in the past, but for whatever reason it just never happened until now (or rather the other night by the time this post goes up).

Beer Name: Backwoods Bastard

Brewery: Founders Brewing Company (Grand Rapids, MI)

Style: Scotch Ale

ABV: 11.2%

Description: The notes on the brewery website tell potential drinkers to [e]xpect lovely, warm smells of single malt scotch, oaky bourbon barrels, smoke, sweet caramel and roasted malts, a bit of earthy spice and a scintilla of dark fruit.  Sounds good to me!

Appearance: Dark reddish-brown body with about a finger of tan bubbly foam.

Smell: Caramel sweetness coupled with hints of oak.

Taste: Sweetness upfront, mainly in the form of caramel malts and subtle brown sugar.  This started to fall off around half way through as oak barrel influences and a touch of heat came out.  It tasted strong, but not quite 11.2% strong.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied and super smooth. It had just enough carbonation to be noticeable.

Hype: Well regarded for sure, but not so much hyped anymore.  One of my local bottle shops even mentioned that while this would fly off the shelves a few years ago, it now tends to be a bit easier to come by.

Overall: Warm and relaxing, I really enjoyed the mellow oaky sweetness.  Great beer to spend an evening sipping.

Book Review: Over-the-Rhine: When Beer was King, by Michael D. Morgan

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I am stepping outside of my science fiction and fantasy worlds for a bit to read something that touches on two of my favorite real world topics – history and beer.  This book had also been on my TBR pile for quite some time so there was the added satisfaction of crossing it off that list as well.

This book offers a brief look at the storied history of a Cincinnati neighborhood called Over-the-Rhine, a once vibrant district that fell on hard times in the early 1900s and never quite recovered.  Over-the-Rhine rose to prominence in the mid-1800s after a huge influx of German immigrants forged a proud, hard-working community that played a key role in Cincinnati emerging as important trade center.  Celebrated as a little piece of Germany in America, Over-the-Rhine captivated locals and tourists alike with its Germanic charm and the locally brewed lager that flowed readily in its many beer gardens and saloons.  Unfortunately, these characteristics would ultimately serve to attract the wrong kind of attention as the rising tide of Prohibition and anti-German sentiments following the entry of the US into World War I would ultimately forever alter the characteristics of the neighborhood.

I enjoyed this book and made short work of its 170 or so pages.  It provided plenty of interesting information about brewing in the late-1800s/early-1900s and the influences it had on both the architecture and social fabric of the Over-the-Rhine community.  I also found myself fascinated by the politics of the day and how the temperance movement leveraged its unlikely alliance of divergent groups (ranging from suffragettes to klansmen) to relentlessly pressure and gerrymander local elections to achieve their goals.  The factors the author most strongly attributed to the rise of the Prohibitionist movement (religions zealotry, classism, racism, and rural resentment of the urbanization of American life) were all used at various times to target the German community in Over-the-Rhine and effectively organized it into a powerful, though occasionally controversial, voting bloc for any political candidates that valued individual liberty over temperance.

As for the present, what little survives of the old Over-the-Rhine neighborhood sounds like an absolutely fascinating bit of history, especially all the old architecture and unearthed felsen tunnels used to age beer before the rise of artificial refrigeration.  Bockfest sounds like a pretty good draw as well, though we probably won’t be taking any family trips there in the near future.  Regardless, I had a good time reading this book and certainly recommend it to anyone with an interest in either American or beer history.

Burial Beer Co. – Griddle Imperial Espresso Stout

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Looking back, this past weekend was pretty eventful in these parts between my birthday, the Superbowl, and all the work I had to do.  Last weekend also saw Boston host the annual Extreme Beer Festival downtown.  While I was not able to attend this year, I did do some birthday shopping to take advantage of the local bottle shops receiving some special distribution in honor of the event.

Beer Name: Griddle Imperial Espresso Stout

Brewery: Burial Beer Co. (Asheville, NC)

Style: Imperial Stout

ABV: 10.0%

Description: The brewers give this beer a (perhaps appropriately) dark, metallic backstory before going on the describe its blend of sweetness, charred malts, and locally sourced coffee beans.

Appearance: Black body with a bubbly off-white head that was pretty quick to fizzle away.

Smell: Slightly sweet with fresh brewed coffee lingering in the background.

Taste: Freshly roasted coffee/espresso led the way, followed by a creamy sweetness that mixed notes of toffee and chocolate.  A mildly roasty bitterness crept in on the finish and mixed with just a touch of heat as the beer sat for a few minutes.  That heat, however, gave absolutely no indication that this beer was 10%.  This was impressively smooth for a beer of its size.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with carbonation levels hovering somewhere in between low and moderate.

Hype: As alluded to in my intro, these cans sprang up with much fanfare in Boston-area shops.  Delivery announcements came out fast and furious last week, with this brewery consistently being among the highlights.

Overall: I was pretty surprised by the feel and overall mellowness of this beer, especially in comparison to many of the other higher ABV stouts I’ve been having lately.  That said, once I got past my preconceptions, I found myself really enjoying this.  A delicious mix of coffee and sweetness, it definitely delivered as advertised.  Great pickup.

Exhibit A Brewing Company – We’re Going To Need You To Come In On Saturday

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After working nearly 9 hours last Saturday, I feel justified in saying that I earned this beer.  At least I got to do it from home I guess.  Only once did I stare at my computer with that Geto Boys track in my head, though between the can art and viewing that clip I really feel the need to watch Office Space again.

Beer Name: We’re Going To Need You To Come In On Saturday

Brewery: Exhibit A Brewing Company (Framingham, MA)

Style: Scotch Ale

ABV: 8.4%

Description: A scotch ale the brewers describe as sweet and rich, with just a touch of bitterness for balance.  Appropriately enough I picked this up at my new favorite Downtown Boston spot during my lunch break.

Appearance: Dark copper colored body with a thin off-white lacing across the top.

Smell: Sweet mix of malt and dark fruit.

Taste: Sweetness abounded upfront in the form of toffee, dark fruits (plum and raisin), and brown sugar.  Some grainy malts picked up towards the middle while the finish featured an earthy bitterness and just a little bit of alcohol warmth on the very end.

Mouthfeel: Medium-plus body with a relatively light amount of carbonation.

Hype: None really, but it did have an awesome name!  I was also in no mood to be disappointed by the time I was able to get around to drinking this.

Overall: I am happy to report that I enjoyed this.  It was a nice beer to sip at while unwinding from a hectic day.  The finish was a bit different than what I typically expect from the style, but all-in-all I was quite pleased by the drinking experience.

 

The Bruery – Share This OC

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I’m just going to assume you are all aware there was a rather significant football game played yesterday.  What most people don’t know about yesterday, however, is that it also happened to be my birthday!  It happens every few years or so that the two events coincide, so I wanted to make sure I had a beer suitable for both celebrating my birthday and watching the game.  Since I was sharing the day, this seemed like an excellent choice.

Beer Name: Share This: OC

Brewery: The Bruery (Placentia, CA)

Style: Imperial Stout

ABV: 11.0%

Description: The brewery’s official description lists this as a rich Imperial Stout infused with orange-chocolate flavors.  Read more about it here.

Appearance: Thick black body with a layer of tan foam up top.

Smell: Oranges mixed with roasted malts and a little bit of heat.

Taste: Rich, creamy malts upfront mixed with notes of orange zest and bittersweet chocolate.  The orange and chocolate combined seamlessly around mid-sip where the beer also started  taking on hints of roasted coffee.  The finish was a roasty combination of the aforementioned malts, orange, and chocolate mixed with a nice bit of heat for good measure.  Very smooth and well-blended flavors throughout.

Mouthfeel: Thick and smooth with a very low-level of carbonation.

Hype: This was a (presumably pricey) gift beer from a very well-regarded brewery, so I did have high hopes for it.

Overall: I enjoyed this a lot.  The orange and chocolate really added something extra to this beer, taking what tasted like an excellent base stout to another level.  Very, very well done.

 

Night Shift Brewing Company – Hive Queen (2016)

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Purchased shortly after it was bottled back in December 2016, for one reason or another I never got around to drinking this until the other day.  

Beer Name: Hive Queen

Brewery: Night Shift Brewing Company (Everett, MA)

Style: Imperial Stout

ABV: 10.7%

Description: Bottled in December 2016, this Imperial Stout was brewed with honey to give it a bit of extra sweetness and body.  An old tweet from that time informed me that it cost $12 for the bottle.

Appearance: Black/dark cola brown body with wisps of light lacing up top.

Smell: Rich dark malt and lingering notes of honey.

Taste: Opened with rich dark malts before getting progressively more roasty.  The beer finished  with subtle honey and moderate amount of heat mixing into what had become an elevated roast coffee flavor.  Aftertaste was a boozy mix of honey, bitterness, and roasted coffee.

Mouthfeel: On the thicker side with low carbonation.

Hype: This had been released to some fanfare around a time I recall the brewery putting a number of well received stouts.  I was also happy to finally get to open this after seeing it in my fridge for so many months.

Overall: Unfortunately the wait wasn’t really worth it for me as I was not a fan.  The beer was a bit roastier than I typically prefer, though I was actually fine with that until the finish set in.  I felt like the beer unraveled at this point as the competing flavors and noticeable alcohol did not come together well.  I also found myself wishing that the honey took on more of a role throughout, though I can’t say for sure if it had originally or not.  I’ve been having some pretty mixed luck with my review beers this year, but I do expect to start turning that around real soon.

Book Review: Oathbringer, by Brandon Sanderson (Book Three of the Stormlight Archive)

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I’m reporting in this time with the latest installment of the Stormlight Archive, recently released in November 2017.  Before embarking on this 1,200 page adventure I followed the author’s advice in the preface and read a (relatively) short novella titled Edgedancer.  I do highly recommend reading that as well, though my review from here on out will focus solely on my thoughts regarding Oathbringer.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but do have to say that I found it slightly slower to get into than the others.  I think what threw me off initially was Kaladin being apart from the Bridge Four crew.  I’ve grown accustomed to their banter being a major part of the story and its absence gave the early chapters a slightly different feeling than the other books.  However, by the time Kaladin, Shallan, and Adolin arrived in Kholinar the story had quickly ramped back up.  Their subsequent journey home through Shardsmar and the Battle of Thaylen City that closed out the book were both off the charts exciting, ending this part of the story on an exhilarating high.  In the midst of all that action, there was also a pretty major revelation about the history of Roshar and the people who inhabit it.  It certainly changed the perception of some past events and I am very curious to see what additional info comes to light in the next book.

Speaking of Roshar’s inhabitants, the characters were once again strong throughout the book.  The main trio of Dalinar, Kaladin, and Shallan were as engaging as ever, though this time around the arcs of Dalinar and Shallan received the most page time.  It was really interesting to learn Dalinar’s backstory and see how he became the person we presently know him to be following the impulsive violence of his youth and its consequences.  His flashbacks served as an excellent illustration of why the other nations are so reluctant to trust his calls for an alliance.  As for Shallan, she faced some demons of her own this novel.  Determined to repress and escape her own traumas and insecurities, she spent a large part of the book using her Lightweaving skills to create new identities whenever she deemed her original self inadequate.  The progression of her transformations was really quite fascinating to watch as she teetered on the edge of losing herself.

What made this story truly epic, though, was how enjoyable the secondary characters were.  A book on this large a scale can’t get by on its main characters alone and happily this story featured so many other interesting people that I have to force myself to stick with only my absolute favorites here.  Most notable for me, was finally learning more about (and meeting!) the three Shards on Roshar; Honor, Cultivation, and Odium.  Also, much to my delight, both Lift and Wit made a number of memorable appearances and managed to steal whatever scene they were in, regardless of the situation.  Rounding out my list, I am additionally looking forward to seeing what happens regarding the strange spren bonded to Renarin and Venli as well finding out what is in store for the various members of Bridge Four; Teft, Rock, and Moash in particular.

At this point I am sad to say that my time in this universe has to be put on hold.  Looking at the author’s anticipated release schedule, book four in this series isn’t planned for release until 2020!  That in conjunction with the next Mistborn novel being slated for 2019 means I’m going to have to look for my Cosmere fix elsewhere.  I’m thinking Elantris is next.

Cigar City Brewing – Marshal Zhukov’s Imperial Stout

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The last of my vacation beers that I’ll be reviewing, this was the most notable new (to me at least) brew I picked up while away.  My sole regret regarding this beer is that I didn’t get a better picture.

Beer Name: Marshal Zhukov’s Imperial Stout

Brewery: Cigar City Brewing (Tampa, FL)

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

ABV: 11.2%

Description: Named for decorated WW2-era Soviet general Georgy Zhukov, this Russian Imperial Stout was brewery to feature espresso, chocolate, and dry English hops.  Read all about it here.  The bottle cost me around $20 if I recall correctly.

Appearance: Thick black body topped by a narrow layer of thick dark brown foam.

Smell: Richly sweet backed by a moderate amount of alcohol.

Taste: Rich dark malt and an abundance of sweetness upfront that combined brown sugar, molasses, toffee, and bittersweet chocolate.  There was a roasty, espresso finish that came with a moderate amount of heat.  Hints of dark roast coffee, sweetness, and alcohol lingered a bit at the very end.

Mouthfeel: Thick, full body that had a delightful creamy smoothness to it.  Minimal carbonation.

Hype: I’d heard plenty of great things about this beer over the years so I decided to treat myself with this bottle.

Overall: I really enjoyed this and would say that it lived up to my heightened expectations.  Excellent blend of sweetness, roast, and heat.  Highly recommended for stout enthusiasts, I feel like I got what I paid for with this one.