Beer Reviews

Annihilation And It Feels So Good + Game Night, Toppling Goliath Can Designs & Omaha Film Festival Kickoff Week

What’s on tap for today?

theendless_posterThe flu is the pits. Like anyone in the history of ever has ever really needed to justify that sentence. Yes, the flu and various other illnesses/concerns kept me down and out over the last couple of weeks hindering my ability (eh, at least my desire) to be productive. This in turn has assured that I would fall behind on a couple of movie reviews which got kicked down far enough to combine a number of goings on in the world of this busy dad.

Today’s update will take us through reviews of Alex Garland’s stellar sci-fi drama Annihilation and the surprisingly hilarious thrills of Game Night. After that I’ll dabble into the ever changing landscape of Toppling Goliath Brewing Company’s canned beers–including their badass can designs–before capping the post off to express the excitement behind what will be my first appearance at an Omaha Film Festival event as the fest kicks off this week. Let’s dig in, shall we? (more…)

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[PSA] I Drank Two Hats’ Fruit Flavored Light Beers So You Don’t Have To

In big beer’s latest quest to get an upper hand on the little guys it seems they’ve further widened the gap in understanding what “flavor” in a beer even means. Ever since the snarky super bowl ads a few years back it’s been nauseatingly clear that big beer 1) doesn’t get craft beer and 2) thinks grade school name calling is how you shame us into seeing the error of our ways. Of course, there’s always the very slim chance that their latest venture, fruit flavored light lagers, is simply just a dump pass to the field’s easiest target…newly minted 21-year olds.

MillerCoors’ press release is pretty transparent about their target demo (21 to 24 years olds) and they even go so far as to pander by calling these new trainwrecks more affordable than craft beer–without explicitly using the words craft beer. At $6.99 a pop for a six pack of 16 oz tall boy cans it’s hard to argue in terms of ounces, but I for one will never choose to sacrifice a few ounces here and there for something that’s not offensive to my taste buds.

I’m jumping ahead of myself here. Having not described what exactly we’re dealing with here I’ve gone and spoiled my impressions of a lazy cash crab exploiting a 20-something’s eagerness for an inexpensive buzz. Let’s face it though, I’m not much better since I willingly made a trip to purchase these due to a disease I like to call “morbid curiosity”. Then again, as a consumer that clearly justifies each and every unflattering word that calls this post home–and MillerCoors could just as easily be using my hard earned cash to clean themselves up after their shameful bathroom deeds.

There’s no point in dragging out the explanation of either of these beers. Supposedly “brewed” by Plank Road Brewery these unholy beverages clock in at 4.2% ABV which I’ve appropriate dumped into my party cup pint glass to replicate the full macro beer experience. In all aspects relating to appearance, aroma and taste these are an unremarkable duo all the way around. One dimensional drinking experiences with nothing to offer even the least discerning beer drinkers. The flavors might change but both beers pour crystal clear and golden, which will be a welcome bit of deja vu for the Bud Light purists cracking one of these open following their latest shotgun session. Following suit with every American adjunct you’ve ever regrettably swigged at a sweaty frat house, Super Bowl party, or Applebee’s there’s very little head–and what little there is dissipates rapidly like soda bubbles.

The pineapple and lime flavors are interchangeable, but the drinking experience is the same–with the one exception that the lime is more dominant in terms of flavor. Yet, if you’ve ever had a Bud Light Lime, it’s pretty much the same beer. These are meant to be crushed and not tasted, because if you let them sit long enough the regret you’ll feel trying to finish one off is soul crushing. Essentially, when ice cold the best you get here is pineapple/lime flavored water. There’s nothing in the way of mouthfeel, lingering pleasantries, or evolving flavor profiles. Plus–and this is important–the fruit flavors here are as artificial as it gets…so there’s no admirable craft in how the guns for hire have accomplished their “flavor profiles”.

To go on much further in describing these in detail is fruitless (zing!). Ninety-six ounces of alcoholic flavored water that, with any luck, will never even accidentally find it’s way back into my home or fridge. Wishful thinking for someone who buys 40’s and massive cans of malt liquor to chug as a joke for people coming over for bottle shares.

The only takeaway you need out of this is that you absolutely should not feel compelled to buy this stuff. If you’re a newly legal beer drinker looking for guidance please hear this: you can do better, you deserve better and there are overwhelming amounts of superior choices when it comes to beer. If you find yourself shopping for beer and you say to yourself, “How bad can it really be?” put that beer down immediately. Big beer does not care about quality and they most certainly don’t care about the craft of REAL beer. Big beer is stuck in an outdated state of mind that sees $$$ when they look at their customers and rather than adapt they simply throw their money around, poisoning the perception established once respected brands in an attempt to capitalize on what they feel is a trend. I’m not one to hate, business is business, but this kind of blatant disregard to a consumer’s palate is more than enough to get this craft beer drinker’s blood to boil.

Even if you’re on the fence about drinking craft beer do not let this poor excuse for marketing trick you into thinking you’re better off strapping on training wheels and using these as a stepping stone. Grab a bag of Jolly Ranchers, a case of Bud Light and you’ve got an array of flavored beer that mimics whatever is going on here and it kills me to even put that idea out into the world.

Rating:

[Beer Review] A Triple Shot of New Treats From Zipline Brewing Company

October is in the air and while at least one of the three beers up on the docket isn’t strictly here for the bonfires and falling leaves, it is brand new to Zipline’s year round lineup. First off, we’ll dive into the crushable hoppy session IPA, Alpha Modern; move into the fall delights of the toasty Festbier and finish off with dark decadence of Zipline’s latest seasonal, Coconut Stout. 

Alpha Modern

Over the course of their existence Zipline hasn’t exactly been known for their witty Beer names or boldness in their packaged releases–sticking almost exclusively to nailing traditional recipes with on-the-nose names (IPA, Oatmeal Porter, Copper-Alt, Kölsch and so on). Nowhere on the quality scale is there a check mark for “Clever Beer Name”, so the fact that to this point Zipline’s biggest “sin” is laziness in naming beer is a testament to how well they nail the styles they do release–seeing as few of their offerings will warrant grunts of disgust. 

In steps Alpha Modern. In name alone you’d be hard pressed to pin down exactly what you’re gonna be sipping on, aside from the Alpha precursor which undoubtedly hints at the almighty hop. Alpha Modern is a Session IPA to be exact, meaning that it’s alcohol content is mild with the hopes that the hop flavor pop with each drink–the end goal being that you can crush a sixer in a single sitting and not forget your kids’ names when you pick em up from daycare. And crush it you can. 

Pouring golden yellow and settling like hazy lemonade the nose on Alpha Modern is deliciously dank. Lemon pops through the soapy head with additional notes of pineapple. The fruity hops really shine from aroma and directly into taste. Crisp mouthfeel and carbonation bite help the zesty fruity crackle on your palate. Dank hops and lemon linger with each sip, demanding you to go in for one after another until the glass is empty and the flavors still linger like a siren song prompting you to open another and start all over again. As it warms (if it lasts long enough for you to let it) its IPA characteristics amplify–allowing a greater deal of acidic pineapple flavors to dominate in tandem with the dank aspects of the hops. 

Session IPA are often criticized for muting flavors and phoning in on aroma. Alpha Modern is guilty of neither. The beer sort of teases the appearance of the New England IPA craze, but maintains the straightforward integrity of the Session IPA mission statement and will quench the thirst of many a hop head. 

Rating: A- 


Festbier

The long running tradition of Oktoberfest beers has allowed for endless interpretations of the style. Over hopped variations lend to experimenting with rye spices and various other malt combinations. True to their beginnings, Zipline enters the market with straightforward execution of an Americanized version of the seasonal favorite. 

Pours light copper/gold and settles with a thin quickly dissolving head. Lots of malt on the nose–hints of burned caramel and buttered biscuits. Aroma very much paints the picture of Fall. First impression on taste is creamy caramel followed by toasty malts and a spicy bread-like finish. Very full mouthfeel that spreads nicely over the course of each sip. The flavors are sped through the drinking experience with a very slick and smooth character with virtually no alcohol bite (6% ABV) to be perceived. 

While there’s nothing here that’s going to jump out at you here and blow your mind, it’s just another example of an endlessly drinkable beer from the good folks at Zipline Brewing Company. Sure to be a Fall staple on the shelves in Nebraska for a long time to come. 

Rating: B


Coconut Stout

I’ve got a complicated relationship with coconut. As a young lad the only time it ever came across my taste buds was through treats like Snoballs and an unfortunate bite into a Mounds bar. As a kid, I don’t think I had the ability to appreciate the nuance of coconut. Flash forward to the first time I took a sip of Death by Cocout by Oskar Blues where my brain went through a cinematic quick cut of taste buds finally connecting the dots where as an adult the nuance aligned. 

Zipline’s Coconut Stout pours dark brown settling with a black appearance but with highlights around the glass. A thin slightly off-white head dissipates quickly as I took in the aroma–dark chocolate dominates and sweet coconut note cuts through at the end along with roasted coffee. Oskar Blues’ Death by Coconut I described once as a liquid Mounds bar–Zipline’s Coconut Stout is whatever the off-brand of that would be. It hits a lot of the same notes, but does them each with slightly less pizzazz. There’s coconut, there’s chocolate and there’s a roasted malt character. What sets Zipline’s apart and weakens its overall impact is that it’s a bit aqueous. Instead of pouring thick and having the appearance of oil you can tell by its muted color scheme it’s thin and the mouthfeel suffers as a result. The coconut does struggle to shine in favor of coffee forward flavors to the extent you could argue with is more of a coffee stout than a coconut stout. Good thing as a non-coffee drinker I actually semi-appreciate it in my beer. 

Credit where credit is due Zipline has been branching out of their style comfort zone in recent years. Their seasonal line has managed to deliver competent styles that adhere to closely to expectations, but I’d be lying if I said it wouldn’t be nice to see them take a step further with measurable risk here and there with some of their smaller format packaged offerings. 

Rating: B

[Beer Review] Kros Strain’s Fairy Nectar–A Salacious Affair for Nebraska Hop Lovers

Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like we’re in a weird place as craft beer fans where IPAs are a dime a dozen. While not necessarily a bad thing, the style has taken on a life of its own and some breweries are getting a little heavy handed with their various iterations–suffice to say I’ve got a Mango S’mores IPA review in the backlog. All that being said, being a craft beer drinker in Nebraska has been increasingly more exciting over the last few years. Not only because the distribution has taken off (to the point of being overwhelming), but breweries are popping up everywhere.

One such brewery that I reviewed once not too long ago is Kros Strain Brewing Company. One of Omaha’s youngest currently operating breweries, they’ve already made quite the splash in the metro area with their three standard releases (available pretty much where you can buy beer in the area) and some experimental variations on two of their most popular beers. One of them is the Fairy Nectar IPA. Brewed with Mosaic and Citra hops (my favorites) the beer pours golden with a slight haze and settled with a thin creamy head that, thanks to the nucleated brewery glass (featuring an etched hop at the bottom) it sticks around no matter how long you leave it sitting around–which, spoiler alert, probably won’t be long. (more…)

[Beer Review] Kros Strain’s Helles Creek–Making Lagers Exciting Again 

Untappd users or various other forms of social media users have often seen friends and acquaintances indicate they are drinking a lager and post some snarky comment like “Welp, it’s a lager.” That comment is usually accompanied by or hints at a mediocre to just slightly above average ranking–the idea being that lagers have little to offer in the craft beer world in terms of flavor and nuance. Maybe you’re reading this and guilty of it yourself. Maybe you’re the person writing this and have been known for similar sentiments. Guilty. As. Charged.

It hasn’t been until the last year wherein an ongoing stint with palate fatigue or maybe just beer fatigue in general, that the subtle delights of the simple lager were starting to brighten my spirits. Along came Kros Strain Brewing Company–a brewery barely a month or two old as of writing this–that came in swinging with a trio of six packs in stores before their official grand opening and a sweet space nestled in La Vista for their taproom location. One of the three sixers was their Helles Creek an American take on the German classic lager. A love has since blossomed. (more…)

[Beer Review] Kinkaider’s Bearded Bock–A Late Summer Treat Built for Fall Bonfires

Seasonals are at the mercy of the brewer’s whim, though most follow a fairly standard formula in terms of what styles go great with certain seasons. Kinkaider hit Nebraska with their cocktail inspired Moscow Mule Ale that at the beginning of summer that nailed its target, but often came off as a ginger bomb that perhaps could have benefited from a different base beer. Nebraskans took in the summer seasonals bracing for the influx of pumpkin beers and Oktoberfests to hit late July and early August. Then came Kinkaider tapping on our shoulders with one more late summer treat–a nice malty Bock.

Certainly not your typical late summer drinker, Bearded Bock is a collaboration with Omaha contractors, Bearded Builders, that–per Kinaider’s own admission–may or may not have used actual beard in the brewing process. Regardless of the secret ingredient, Bearded Bock pours like rich melted caramel and settling in the glass with a deep reddish brown hue and an off white/tan head. The beer does not come with an overly complicated aroma, very straightforward lager characteristics with some nutty flavors coming through with a large enough inahale.  (more…)

[Beer Reviews] Southern Tier Brewing Company’s Overpacked Mixed 15 Pack

Back when I first got into craft beer and drove to an area with vastly different distribution than what I’m used to one of the first brewiest I latched on to that weren’t readily available to me was Southern Tier. Of course, my first introduction was the wildly popular Pumking, but I also really dug releases like Live, 2XIPA, and their oak aged Unearthly. To this day when I find myself face to face with some of my favorites and new releases I do not hesitate to bring some home with me. Most recently I stumbled across their “new to me” mixed 15-pack jam packed with all new beers or new recipients I hadn’t had the chance to try–with the exception of Tangier. So with all that new, how could I resist the urge to chat/write about them?

Instead of deep diving into each beer like I would normally do with a full on beer review, this will be a collection of quick observations based on my own notes as I worked my way through this pack. Before we even begin I’ll lay down an unnecessary spoiler alert that if you can get this, then get it. Each beer is well worth introducing to your taste buds regardless of the fact that they might not redefine the beer landscape.  (more…)

[Beer Review] 4 County Pale Ale by Kinkaider Brewing Company

Another April Fool’s Day and another fresh load of hoppy deliciousness from the gold folks at Kinkaider Brewing Company. Maybe you remember last year at this time they unleashed hours old bottles of their Frame the Butcher IPA throughout Nebraska–something that almost never happens in the Cornhusker state and something local politicians were recently trying to make impossible to ever happen again…but let’s not go there. This year Kinkaider chose this usually awful and obnoxious day to debut the updated recipe of their 4 County Pale Ale and have it available or in the hands of customers within hours–bottled April 1, 2017, delivered to stores April 1, 2017 in six packs of 12oz bottles and on draft.

Previously brewed exclusively with Cascade, the new recipe enlists the unique and broad qualities of Equinox, Citra, Cascade and 7C’s (which itself is a blend of Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, Cluster, Citra, Columbus and Crystal hops). The new and (SPOILER ALERT) improved version of 4 County Pale Ale pours very cloudy, settling into a reddish orange/amber color in the glass with a fingers worth of off-white head.   The beer is beautifully hazy (not turbid–like the trendy wave of New England Style hop bombs) showing distinct signs of being unfiltered and packed with glorious hop flavors.  (more…)

[Beer Review] Red Velvet by Ballast Point Brewing Company

bpredvelvet_tgofThe dessert beer is a tricky tart to perfect. Of course, opinions vary and some will swig down just about anything based on a name regardless if the beer actually delivers on the flavors it promises. The perils are real though. Dessert beers can verge on sickly sweet to flat out not being able to cash in on its promises. Ballast Point’s Red Velvet falls somewhere in the middle.

This review focuses on the release of the six pack of 12 oz nitro bottles that were recently released. As the bottle promises the beer is nitrogenated and pours light pink and cascades beautifully leaving a deep red hued beer with a creamy, slightly pink head that resembles cream cheese frosting. The aroma is lacking quite a bit with muted notes of light malts, vanilla and hints of chocolate.

It’s worth noting that this beer is an golden oatmeal stout with chocolate and natural flavors added. So, in being a “golden stout” it allows for the intense red color from the beets to come through so vividly. Before moving into the taste it’s also worth noting that I have never had a beet in my entire life. Prior to this beer I’ve only ever even had one beer that utilized beets and it was a sour…three years ago, so there’s no way to rely on my ability to recognize the actual beet characteristics of the use in this particular beer. If you’re lost, let me explain. (more…)

[Beer Review] Snow Beast Winter Ale by Kinkaider Brewing Company

snowbeast_tgofLots of beer drinkers out there have their go-to style for winter drinking, but not this guy. Winter warmers and stouts are the typical drink of choice because they have a warming effect for the consumer, while I continue reaching for the hoppy familiarity of my favorite IPAs and pale ales. That’s not to say I don’t still dip into the occasional stout and winter warmer, they just do not tend to be my standbys in the fridge. All that being said, there might be a change on the way as a new contender has emerged from the snowy oblivion of Nebraska courtesy of the good folks at Kinkaider Brewing Company in the form of their Snow Beast Winter Ale.

Pouring beautifully deep amber in appearance and settling much darker in the glass–festive red hues when held up to a light. The foam dissipated quickly, but upon finishing the pour it held a thin and soapy consistency.  My preconceptions on the aroma are quickly shattered in an instant. Instead of a malty spicy mess I’m welcomed warmly by sweet vanilla and some darker cherry-like fruit. The cinnamon does not pop out even with some deep inhales, but the beer comes across in aroma like a delicious Christmas dessert, close to that of a cordial cherry.

The first sip is a bit of a show stopper. A very unique flurry of flavors swirl around on the tongue. Drinking temperature definitely impacts certain notes that are perceivable. (more…)