April 26, 2015

Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin IPA

Brewed By: Ballast Point Brewing Company in San Diego, California 
Purchased: 12oz bottle from a 6-pack bought at Whole Foods in Chicago, IL; 2015
Style/ABV: American IPA, 7.0%
Reported IBUs: 70

Sculpin IPA is a top-shelf IPA, but how does the Grapefruit version stack up? About Ballast Point Brewing
Like a lot of craft breweries, Ballast Point began as a home brewing outfit. Founder Jack White (not the Jack White) began home brewing, only to realize that sourcing ingredients was easier said than done. So Jack opened up Home Brew Mart, a home brew shop, in 1992. From there, Jack met Yuseff, and the two began brewing in the back of the home brew shop. In 1996 the brewery was born. Because Yuseff loves fishing, the brewery names all their beers after fish. You can read more about the brewery and its history here
The Grapefruit Sculpin takes the Sculpin IPA base, and throws grapefruit juice into the mix. Obviously. And this beer really looks the part, with a clear/transparent grapefruit-orange body, and two fingers of off-white head; this is well-carbed and has great lacing. It looks like beer, suck it caesaronis.
Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin IPA

The aroma here is dominated by the grapefruit juice, with grapefruit juice popping off the aroma and crushing the base beer. It's not a bad thing, and when the base beer does get through, you are hit with lemon/orange/pine hops, and a light malt base of light cracker and light grain. The grapefruit juice-hop combo works.

This is good...albeit sweet and juicy. The grapefruit juice is overt, and blasts away the hops in terms of balance. The hops that do come through in the taste impart lots of lemon, some grapefruit/orange, and some bitter orange rind on the back end. The super light cracker/grain malts serve the beer well, but I can't help but feel like the juice takes something away from this.

Throwing juice into your beer is, evidently, a risky move. This is nicely done for the most part, with a medium body, good palate depth, good duration, and low complexity. You don't get any alcohol...it isn't too bitter...it's actually pretty refreshing. The grapefruit juice dominates things for better or worse, because the base beer is really up...

Rating: Above-Average (3.5/5.0 Untappd)

I'll toss this a Decent Above-Average. I might go grab a 6-pack of the regular beer just to do a side-by-side comparison, but a part of me feels like the regular version is better? I don't know. This isn't bad, I just feel like adding juice to a beer is something that is going to be hit or miss, and in this case it works but it doesn't necessarily make the regular beer better. And maybe it wasn't supposed to.

Random Thought: I wish I had more time to review beer...I think I need to start doing some short format reviews.

Surly Coffee Bender

Brewed By: Surly Brewing in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota
Purchased: 16oz CAN from a 4-pack bought at Whole Foods in Chicago, IL; 2015 (canned on 02/20/15)
Style/ABV: American Brown Ale, 5.1%
Reported IBUs: 45

A coffee Brown Ale. Eh? About Surly Brewing
The Surly Brewing company is a brewery based out of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. The brewery was founded in 2005 by long time homebrewer Omar Ansari with the help of Todd Haug (Minneapolis's Rock Bottom Brewery). For more info, check out the brewery's about page.
Surly Coffee Bender
The Coffee Bender is brewed with Pale Ale, Aromatic, Medium Crystal, Dark Crystal, Oats, and Chocolate malts; and features Columbus and Willamette hops, and English Ale yeast. The beer is also cold pressed with Guatemalan coffee that is roasted locally.

This is a pretty beer, albeit deceptively darker in low light. Bright light betrays the hazy, reddish body, and a cloud of yeast and sediment can be seen mucking up the beer. The head is fluffy and Guinness-like™, and there is good lacing and retention. 

This has an amazing aroma of cold pressed coffee, stale toast that has been sitting out for a few minutes, coffee sitting in the filter, hazelnuts, and a light but crisp hop aroma. The coffee elevates what is otherwise a fairly derivative style of beer, and I am reminded of New Glarus' banging, low-ABV, coffee beer, their New Glarus Coffee Stout.

same beer, with light
Kudos to Surly for basically turning a Brown Ale into iced coffee. This is a fantastic beverage, if you want coffee not beer. That's not a sideways compliment or passive insult. This is really nice, with cold pressed coffee, coffee in the filter, light creamer, hints of toast, hints of lactose, hazelnut, and light nuttiness. This is also somehow light and refreshing, with lots of straight and light hops providing a palate cleanse. 

This is medium-bodied, but light and refreshing at the same time. The beer has great palate depth and complexity for the style...really, this owns the Brown Ale category, and the 5.1% market. This is hard to top, and I think it edges out the New Glarus Coffee Stout by just a bit. This hits the coffee/toast breakfast combo hard up front, rolls into hazelnut and lactose coffee, and then finishes with sharp coffee and hops. Pretty rad.

Rating: Divine Brew (5.0/5.0 Untappd)

I'm feeling a Strong Divine Brew on this. This is pretty much as advertised, and you will be cold pressed (get it?) to find a better coffee beer in the 5.1% range. The coffee here is also clean without any acridity or weird earthiness or fruitiness. Pretty much for sure I will buy this beer again, and you should too.

Random Thought: I like you too, and don't call me Surly. 

April 25, 2015

Stone Ruination 2.0

Brewed By: Stone Brewing Co. in Escondido, California
Purchased: 22oz bottle bought at Whole Foods in Chicago, IL; 2015 (Enjoy By 07/05/2015)
Style/ABV: American Imperial IPA, 8.5% 
Reported IBUs: 100+

Earlier this year, Stone announced that they were killing off their Ruination IPA. No one in California blinked, and Tony Magoo smoked a bowl. But Stone's Ruination is back. Version two point oh. About Stone:
Stone Brewing are one of the more prominent breweries in the American craft brewing scene. They were founded in 1996 in San Marcos, California, and moved to Escondido, California where they recently expanded their operations. Stone was founded by Steve Wagner and Greg Koch. Koch has a reputation among the craft beer community for voicing his opinion, not putting up with shit, and standing behind his beer. Also...farking woot and fizzy yellow beer is for bitches. 
The Ruination 2.0 is brewed with Centennial, Simcoe, Citra, and Azacca hops. And the rest is pretty much Stone.txt. 
Stone Ruination 2.0

This has clear golden-orange tones, with dotted carbonation and a sea foam white head that is hanging around like your loser kids and leaving webs of lacing that would impress Peter Parker and Peter North. Kudos to Stone for putting on the Enjoy By date, but I feel like this is going to a very different beer in July. I would not want to be popping this on July 5th.

Stone's Ruination/RuinTen/Enjoy By series all have a similar vibe with dank hops on top of aggressive, sugary caramel malts. The Ruination 2.0 smells like a departure with a thinner, cracker malt base, and lots of tropical fruit hops. I'm getting mango, pine, honeydew/melon, peaches, passion fruit, some resin, pine, pine sap, and some sweet hemp. The nose is fairly subdued, and leans towards the hops.

The taste matches the nose, which a nice departure from the insanely sweet hops and insanely sweet malt/caramel base that Stone was delivering in their Ruination/RuinTen/Enjoy By. This beer wears its 100+ IBUs, with an intense hop note that cuts right through the beer that is raw as hell. I don't even know what it is...I've never tasted it before in a beer. I'm guessing it is from the Azacca hop? I'm getting a ton of melon, pine, shades of peach/mango, some resin...and that sharp hop note. It's kind of earthy, and kind of pithy....if I had to reach for a description, I would compare it to tobacco, grass, lawnmower trimmings, or unsmoked weed in a bag.

This is really solid, and a welcomed departure from the sugar bombs that Stone has been cranking out for the past few years. This reminds me of Stone's IPA, which has held up well over these years. This is medium-bodied, and doesn't feel too bitter or too boozy. Palate depth is good, with long duration that cuts into nice dryness. This never gets too woodsy/woody/dry, but you definitely feel the punch of the pine and the 100+ IBUs. This is moderately complex. The thin malt profile is welcomed, with lots of melon and sweet fruit up front that gives way to bitter pine and resin and hemp, with nice drying on the back. Also, this is affordable. Nice. 

Rating: Above-Average (4.0/5.0 Untappd)

I'll toss this a Light 
Above-Average. I would buy this again, and I think Stone nailed this beer. This is a big, hoppy, hop-forward Double IPA. The malts don't get in the way of this experience, and this isn't sweet. I would pair this with strong, spicy foods. 

Random Thought: DAE DARK LORD DAY?!?! I'm so happy I will be embracing my warm bed, the forecast calls for rain and cold.