May 17, 2015

Stillwater Artisanal Night Vision - Sensory Series 3 - Tennis

Brewed By: Stillwater Artisanal at Dog Brewing Co. in Westminster, MD  
Purchased: 750ml bottle bought at Bottles & Cans in Chicago, IL; 2015
Style/ABV: Belgian Pale Ale/American Wild Ale, 6.9%
Reported IBUs: ?

About Stillwater Artisanal Ales
Stillwater Artisanal Ales are a Gypsy Brewery based out of Baltimore, Maryland. Founded in 2009-ish, the beer is brewed by Brian Strumke. You can find more info at the brewery's blog or their website
The Tennis is part of Stillwater Artisanal's sensory series. The Stillwater Sensory Series is a collaboration between Stillwater Artisinal and singular music artists. This release is in collaboration with the artist Tennis, and is inspired by the song Night Vision. Tennis is Denver couple Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley. 
Stillwater Artisanal Night Vision - Sensory Series 3 - Tennis

This pours into a radiant orange body, kicking up white foam and carb for days. The beer is slightly hazy, and the creeping chimney of carb in the bottle is appropriate for a Brett beer. You have to admire these Stillwater projects. 

Giant peach and pineapple jump out front on the aroma, with white pepper and strawberries, white wine notes that include gooseberry and sweet melon/sweet grass/sweet lemon, and there is impressive Brett funk coming off the aroma. The Brett is earthy and sweet. This smells juicy and amazing. 

The taste doesn't quite match the aroma, and the malt body is a bit thicker than you might expect, and the Brett hasn't quite dried this out. But, there actually is a good amount of dryness here, with wonderful Brett funk, lots of peaches and pineapple, and good hop bitterness showing up to drop some orange and lemon and rind and dry things out.

This is a medium-light bodied beer, with plenty of carbonation to move things along and a nice drying Brett character to clean things up. At 6.9%, this is fairly drinkable with just mild alcohol showing up between the cracks. This is vinous and wine-like, which is a good thing. The funk levels in here are acceptable as well. Overall, a really solid if not slightly underwhelming Stillwater release. 

Rating: Above-Average (3.5/5.0 Untappd)

I'm feeling a Light Above-Average on this. Not Stillwater's best, but still a really solid beer. Having said that, if you can find a bottle, pick it up. You can't beat the price to beer ratio here. 

Random Thought: I'm so happy that Stillwater is all over Chicago.

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.