Tag Archives: new brew

New Brew: Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA

2 Jul

Another IPA from Stone Brewing? Not exactly Breaking News.  Long-standing standard-bearers of the West Coast-style pale ale, the thought of another amped-up IPA as a special release doesn’t exactly get the blood flowing.  Don’t get me wrong, they’re great at what they do and their IPA and Ruination are textbook examples of their styles, but when you see a special anniversary release, you expect something a little unique.  Stone’s 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA takes a page out of the Redcoats’ playbook and puts a decidedly British spin on a Stone classic.  The results?  A supremely big, exquisitely balanced beer that celebrates with style, 14 years of boundary-pushing, palate-crushing, quintessentially American brewing.

Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA

Style: British-style Imperial/Double IPA

Vitals: 8.9% abv; Brewed with all British ingredients including white malt and Target, East Kent Goldings, and Boadicea hops; ~$6.99 at Barriques Wine and Spirits

Company line:

We went to England this past spring as self-styled “IPA Hunters” on a mission to learn more about the confusing and often contradictory history of India Pale Ale – to look for some certainty where those before us have found mostly mystery and mercantilism. While our success in this pursuit is open to debate, there can be no question that we returned home inspired by the ghosts of Burton and by the experience of poring over 150-year old brewer’s logs handwritten in (India?) ink. Stone Brewing Co., after all, traces its lineage back to the British Empire’s brewing history: we make ales, and all of our original offerings used traditional British styles as a jumping-off point. If this seems a roundabout way of letting you know that, yes, we are in fact brewing another IPA to mark our Anniversary, well, so be it.

This one however, promises to be different! From the imported white malt to the “Burtonised” water to the rare yeast strain to the most pungent hops Kent has to offer, we used all British ingredients to brew our “Emperial” IPA.* While we may have brewed Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA with our own distinctively modern, San Diego-style touch, what good is history if you can’t rewrite it to suit your tastes?

In this case, our tastes called for highly intemperate quantities of Target, East Kent Goldings, and Boadicea hops, bestowing upon this dry-bodied ale a powerfully spicy, earthy aroma. On the palate, peppery hops assert themselves early and often, with malt sweetness making a brief appearance before being beaten back by a long, complex, and decisively bitter finish. What better way to contemplate the fate of empires past, present, and future?

My take: pours a striking goldenrod in the glass under ample white foam.  Aroma is intensely herbal with notes of bitter lemon, pepper, and sweet malt.  Cracked pepper and herbal, resinous hops slam the forepalate, with lightly sweet, slightly biscuity malt carrying through to grassy, bitter citrus peel finish.  Body is light and drinkability high for the strength.

This is certainly a different take on an imperial IPA for Stone.  Torch-bearers for the Southern California School of juicy, dank, super-hopped pale ales with amped up, sticky sweet malt backbones.  While no-less Super-sized on the hops front, the Emperial retains the grassy, herbal bitterness and dry, biscuity malt profile of more traditional British IPAs and the result is intriguing.  Much like our representatives on the football pitch, Stone has managed to play the strengths of the English and American camps to a perfect draw.  Extreme-minded American palates might be yearning for more punishment, but a little bit of balance goes a long way with this commemorative brew.


New Brew: Central Waters Illumination Double IPA

30 Jun

Today’s review will also be my first featured over at one of my new homes, Madison Beer Review. Don’t worry, loyal followers (you’re out there, right?), I’ll still be posting here with the same piss and vinegar as always.

Central Waters Brewing out of Amherst, WI has made quite a name for itself over the past couple years with a series of big beers that spoke to the then-current trend in craft brewing – bourbon barrel aging (it would seem that the Belgian-stlyle pale or IPA is the next big thing).  Barrel-aged versions of their imperial stout, coffee stout, and barleywine put them on the national radar with high ratings on both beer advocate and Rate Beer (if you’re into that sort of thing).

Hoppy styles have never been a focus for Central Waters.  While I know I’m not alone in bemoaning the loss of their excellent Lac du Bay IPA (replaced with the solid Glacial Trail IPA), CW’s strong point has always been their stouts and barleywines.  Their most recent offering, Illumination Double IPA, marks their entry into the extreme hops category.  Could a brewery known for their barrel-aged takes on rich, malty styles pull off a tongue-scorching DIPA?  I was certainly willing to put my palate on the line to find out.

Central Waters Illumination Double IPA

Style: Imperial/Double IPA

Vitals: 9% abv; 108 IBUs

Company Line: “Can you say palate wrecker?  This Double IPA comes in at 108 IBUs.  As hoppy as it gets with a mouthful of citrus flavors.  Grab one today and illuminate your tastebuds.”

My take: pours a vibrant amber in the glass, producing ample sticky foam that hangs around.  Aroma bursts with pine sap, grapefruit, mango and apricot.  Palate brings clean piney hops, citrus peel, tropical fruit and bready malt.  Mouthfeel softens considerably as the beer warms and the smooth, spicy malt shines through the brash hops edge.  Some cooling alcohol in the finish, but overall, the considerable abv is well-masked.

My first sample of this beer, shared among a group of considerable beer palates two weekends ago, gave many of us an impression of cooked vegetables reminiscent of Oscar Blues’ Gubna.  While not entirely unpleasant, it wasn’t exactly desirable and distracted somewhat from the purity of the hop profile and robustness of its malt backbone.  I didn’t get any of that in tonight’s bottle, however, leading one to blame either inconsistency or wonky palates for the aforementioned vegetal character.  Based on my latest experience, Central Waters has crafted a crisp, juicy double IPA that does well to cut through the sticky June air like the lightning that has illuminated the night sky for so many recent nights.

New Brew: O’so Picnic Ants Farmhouse Ale

15 Jun

I’ve made no secret of my affinity for O’so Brewing and their willingness to experiment despite their recent entry into Wisconsin’s competitive craft beer market.  Their Jack’s Lantern (a pumpkin ale brewed with rye and smoked malt) wowed me this past fall and their silky smooth Dank (imperial red ale) wooed me this past winter.  Their summer seasonal, Picnic Ants  Farmhouse Ale, made its debut last year in bomber and draft, but I don’t think I ever had a chance to try it.  Luckily for me, they’ve chosen to release this year’s iteration in six-packs, one of which I quickly snatched up across the street at Barriques Fitchburg. I even found it on-draft at the Echo Tap of all places.  O’so is quickly becoming a ubiquitous presence in the Madison beer scene.

Belgian farmhouse ales, or saisons, are made for summertime – crisp, tangy, dry, spicy – perfect thirst-quenchers for those with a fondness for the funky.

O’so Picnic Ants Farmhouse Ale

Style: Imperial Saison/Farmhouse ale

Vitals: 7.2% abv; Styrian Goldings hops; yeast strain also used by the makers of Saison Dupont; ~$9.50/6-pack at Barriques Fitchburg

Company Line: “A deliciously fruity, spicy Belgian-style farmhouse saison.  What’s a picnic without ants!”

My take: pours a vibrant tangerine orange in the glass with a finger of creamy foam that hangs around ’til the end.  Bouquet is bright and peppered with citrus peel and spice and a faint hint of barnyard funk.  Black pepper, citrus peel, and tart, underripe fruit flood the palate, which strikes a balance between spicy and soured.  A lingering dry, slightly puckering  finish makes for a wonderfully refreshing warm-weather quaffer, despite its considerable strength.  The extremely high fermentation has led to plenty of funk and fruit and the yeast strain’s thoroughbred pedigree rounds out the drinkability quite well.  I’ll take Picnic Ants over picnic mosquitoes any day.

New Brew: Hinterland Luna Coffee Stout

10 May

A welcome trend in the past year or so has been a steady stream of new beer from the Northwoods making its way in draft and bottled form into Southern Wisconsin.  From O’so to Red Eye to Bull Falls, enterprising Up Nort’ brewers are packaging their wares for the discriminating palates of we city-folk to their South.  While Green Bay Brewing Company’s Hinterland label has been available in bottles for several years now (albeit, just their Pale Ale which was apparently contract-brewed and bottled at Gray’s in Janesville), they have recently expanded their production (and added their own bottling line) to their much-praised Luna Coffee Stout, and in a new 16 ounce form factor, no less.  The Old Fashioned here in Madison has been instrumental in getting NorWis beer in the hands of eager Madisonians.  Here’s to the continued exodus of tasty suds from our Northern bretherin.

Hinterland Luna Coffee Stout

Style: Coffee

Vitals: Very little documented.  Made with coffee from the Fox Valley/Door County’s own Luna Cafe.

Company line: “Opaque, black, coffee-like character. Very creamy, extremely clean and refreshing. -hinterlandbeer.com”

My take: Stoutly in appearance with ample  crema-toned head that fades quickly.  Smells like a cup of strong day-old coffee with a hint of vanilla and a whiff of brisk hops.  Smooth coffee rules the palate as well, contributing to the French-roasted malt and hoppy bitterness. A noticeable metallic edge detracts somewhat.  Body is on the thin side, lending drinkability.  Not nearly as bold and full as Central Waters’ Brewhouse Coffee Stout, but its smoothness and ample sessionability keep it worthy in the eyes of this coffee-drinking beer-lover/beer-drinking coffee-lover.

New(ish) Brew: O’so Dank

9 Apr

A bit late to the party with this one as it was released early this winter, but I had a bottle of it left in the beer fridge and an imperial “West Coast”-style red ale sounded just about right.  My palate more or less made the changeover from rich stouts and bockbiers to lighter and hoppier fare with the mercury hitting 82 degrees just 1 week ago.  In typical April in Wisconsin fashion, however, it snowed last night and sits a balmy 31 degrees as I type this.  Luckily, O’so Brewing’s Dank manages to meld robust malts and crisp hops much like April melds the warm optimism of brighter days to come with the cold, bitter reality of a six-month-long winter.

O’so Dank

Style: Imperial Red (West Coast-style)

Vitals: 9% abv, aged in oak

Company Line: “Anniversary offering, Imperial Red. Heavily hopped and oak aged, very balanced. – osobrewing.com”

My take: pours a deep tangerine-ruby with ample khaki suds.  Aroma hits with smooth oak, caramel and vanilla up front with hops adding but a faint whisper in the finish.  Conversely, resinous hops and alcoholic heat hit the palate first with toast and caramel malts following.  A dry toast and resin finish leaves the mouth wanting more.  The hops seemed to have calmed considerably in the 3-plus months since its debut, but the drinker is left with a smooth, sexy beer that has gained in structured balance and class what it lost in West Coast bravado.  Northern Wisconsin has a gem in O’So Brewing.  Keep your eyes out for them.

New Brew: Lagunitas Wilco Tango Foxtrot

6 Apr

A hearty helping of WTF was in order after watching a desperation half-court heave for the ages clang off the rim and having to see the hated Dukies run around in jubilent, puppy-killing glee.  I’m over it. Really.  Thankfully, Lagunitas Brewing has another novelty one-off beer that manages to sum up the general consensus of the country right now.  Wilco Tango Foxtrot, like most of Lagunitas’ offerings, is “big” in terms of alcohol (7.83%), IBUs (64.20) and number of words written in size 4 font circumscribing the label (too many).

Lagunitas Wilco Tango Foxtrot

Style: Imperial Brown Ale

Vitals: 7.83% abv; 64.20 IBUs; 1.072 OG

Company line: “A big Ol’ Imperial Brown Ale to help you with your slipperly slide on into springtime. Rich, smooth, dangerous & chocolatey. – lagunitas.com”

My take: pours a dark chestnut brown under a solid inch of creamy oatmeal-tinted head.  Nose is surprisingly subdued with straightforward notes of grapefruit hops, apricot and caramel malts.  Palate is well-balanced for a big Lagunitas beer, with citrusy hops melding with toasted caramel malts that create a light but fully round mouthfeel and dry finish.  This beer still falls squarely into the Lagunitas Comfort Zone of one-dimensional hopppy beers that rarely disappoints, but rarely wows.  Nonetheless, a solid imperial brown that, at $3.79 a bomber, is tough to complain about.

New Brew: BrewFarm Matacabras

28 Mar

The second public offering from Dave’s BrewFarm comes in the form of Matacabras, a dark Belgian-style ale named after a Spanish wind known for killing goats.  Yup.  Dave’s BrewFarm Blog explains this is the first in a series of “wind-themed” beers inspired by the BrewFarm’s towering wind turbine.  The next in the series, a gruit by the name of Harukaze (Japanese for “Spring wind”), is currently being offered at the BrewFarm Tap Room.  Let’s hope that one finds itself in a bottle sooner rather than later

Dave’s BrewFarm Matacabras

Style: “A Curious Ale”.  Ahh.  In reality, a sort of Belgian-style dark ale.

Vitals: 8.0% abv; little else to go on, really (aura of mystery and style ambiguity laid on pretty thick in most documentation)

Company line:

In Spain, MATACABRAS is “the wind that kills goats.” In Wisconsin, it’s the first in a series of wind-themed specialty beers from the BrewFarm. In our part of the Upper Midwest there’s nothing like a brisk north wind to get your attention. So when we stumbled upon the name of this wicked Spanish breeze, we decided to brew up something that would likewise stop folks in their tracks.

We brew for flavor and for the overall “beer experience,” and our results are often curious and always distinctive. This unique new ale is no exception. Like its name, it is dark, mysterious, and difficult to translate into a familiar category. The deep hue and creamy body might suggest one style, but the floral aroma and Trappist-inspired flavors say another.

It is dark, yet not heavy; complex, yet balanced; strong, yet very smooth … and unusually satisfying.

My take: pours a dark, murky mahogany in the glass with ample caramel-tinged sudsy head.  Nose is dominated by the Trappist-style yeast strain which lends plenty of banana, spice and clove.  Palate opens up with gobs of dark fig, plum and date, caramel malts, light-roasted coffee and more clove.  Somewhat cloying in a sticky lips way, but not to a deal-breaking degree.  A very strong effort in the tricky Belgian-style domain that so many American brewers enter with middling results.

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