Blonde Ales

[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. 

2xSmash – I’ve never been one interested in following much a unified strategy when I sit down to enjoy multiple different styles of beer in a sitting. So naturally the first out of the pack is the single malt, single hop Double IPA. Pouring deep gold with a fingers worth of head and settling beautifully in the glass. Lots of malt and grapefruit on the nose which transitions nicely into the beer’s actual flavor profile. The initial smack of grapefruit smooths out over the palate finishing with a mostly pleasant malty backbone. A very balanced first impression of the pack that–for my taste–allows the malt to take over more than I generally look for. Rating: B

German Pils – Anyone who visits regularly (which lets be honest, is wishful thinking) may have noticed a bit of a drought on the page in recent months. The reasons have been two-fold. One is more of a focus on personal life (which includes work and my beautiful 18-month old daughter). The second is a bit of fatigue–both in other commitments with my movie opinions and with my tastes in craft beer. Over that time I’ve rekindled a love of the delights within light lagers. ST’s German Pils is a delightful take on the style that pours transparently golden with a soapy head. Visually the carbonations bubbles satisfyingly slide up the glass giving it a refreshing appearance. Light aramatics include noble hops and biscuity malts. The flavor profile is more hop forward than your traditional German Pilsner, but remains crisp, crackers and crushable–reminiscent of another American take on the style, Pivo, from Firestone Walker. Rating: B+

Citra Hopped Live – Fresh ST Live was a euphoric experience way back when I first had it. It became harder and harder to locate bottles within anything resembling why would be considered fresh whenever I was looking to buy some. Much to my delight I came across this pack with their updated recipe and well within the fresh threshhold. More of the same in its appearance. Golden beer with a soapy head and crisp citrusy nose–pineapple coming through predominantly. Much of the same on taste. Light mouthfeel, pineapple and crisp citrus finish. Refreshing, but maybe not quite as memorable as it once was even with the addition of one of my favorite hops. Rating: B (Sorry guys/gals. Must have forgot to get a pic of this one–I’ll update if I find it)

Tangier – I finished off a six pack of this well over a year ago and remember being uninspired by the overall drinking experience–again, not quite as fresh as I would have liked. Opening this I wasn’t expecting a lot having already had some preconceptions. However, fresh it has much of the same running theme of the pack overall–crushable. This is a relatively straightforward IPA with lots of sweet orange aromatics and present with the flavor profile. Finishes slightly bitter with some rind notes on the back end. Rating: B

Nu Skool IPA – To round out the pack it seemed right to finish it off with one of their newest offerings. This beer has strikingly similar appearance to the rest and the aromatics as well as the flavor profile comes together like aF rankenstein monster of all the other beers combined. A grapefruit citrus cocktail with a hint of crackery malt to carry it through, but with a stereotypical bitterness that lingers. An interesting take on their style of IPA that’ll certainly have its place poolside, but nothing that’ll blow your socks off and is a statement point for what you’re in for with all the beers in the pack. Rating: B

Overall – All rock solid beers, but it’s gettin’ hot around here so gimme more of that pilsner!

There ya go. Some hot takes on the five tasty beers in Southern Tier’s Overpacked mixed 15 pack. What say your beer drinkers? Have you had a chance to try all these? If so why are your favorites? Lemme know!

[Beer Review] Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ale by New Belgium Brewing Company

For me, gimmick beers tend to end in failure. It’s up in the air what truly constitutes a gimmick beer, but three specifically come to mind that fit the bill. Pizza Beer Company’s Mama Mia Pizza Beer. It’s the only beer the company makes and it’s got a clear hook. It also tastes like pizza sauce. If that’s your thing, good on ya, but if I’m tasting pizza sauce I want it on my pizza and not in my beer glass. Second is, New Belgium’s previous Ben & Jerry’s collaboration, the Salted Caramel Brownie Ale. Salted caramel just isn’t something I think is possible to capture in a beer and it essentially was your run-of-the-mill brown ale. Not undrinkable, but essentially just a marketing ploy. The third is Rogue’s line of awful Voodoo Doughnut creations (except the Maple Bacon, I think I remember not spitting that one out).

Naturally, seeing them dip back into the well wasn’t something I was excited about, but I’m a fair guy with an open mind- most of the time. Plus, a golden brown ale aside from making me role my eyes at the obvious oxymoron, seemed unique enough to give it a shot. Low and behold, I cracked a bottle open, poured and in my glass I have New Belgium’s Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ale. As promised it pours a very rich golden color with a slight soapy head. As it settles in the glass of you didn’t know any better it takes on the appearance of apple cider.  (more…)

[Beer Review] Vanilla Bean Blonde by Infusion Brewing Company

I love vanilla. Call me crazy, but a nice bowl of vanilla ice cream puts me in my happy place. Maybe that’s why Infusion’s logo for their extremely popular local offering sits so well with me. I also don’t generally review draft beer, simply because I feel like a tool sitting around typing notes into my phone in the middle of a bar and holding a glass up to examine light and what not. So now that Infusion has decided to roll out their taproom staple to bottles I’m finally ready to sit down and ramble about it.

When Infusion first opened I took to social media to let all my friends and family know how much I loved it. As time has gone by that glowing recommendation had turned to nothing more than a displeased grunt. A few less than satisfactory trips and interactions with folks behind the bar soured me to the beer, regardless of the quality the beer may have had. So over time my indulgence of their beer resorted to other local bars or beerfests, but I often defaulted to the Vanilla Bean Blonde- cause like I said, vanilla is my weakness. (more…)

Beer Review: Mother Earth Brewing Cali Creamin’

calicreamin_motherearthbrewingOver the last few years of drinking craft beer there’s one thing that I find myself constantly coming back to. Something that I find myself craving in some of my favorite beers- vanilla. I tried to fight it for a long time, in fear that it painted me as liking sissy beer or showing favoritism toward beer aimed more for the female audience. The time has come for me to steer into the skid and own up to it- I love vanilla in my beer.

The problem with my fascination with vanilla in beer, is that even with all the beers out there that use it, it’s often hard to pick out- at least to the extent that I enjoy it. Tallgrass’ Vanilla Bean Buffalo Sweat, while delicious, often doesn’t have the distinct vanilla flavor that I’ve found I really crave- in fact many don’t. Locally, Infusion Brewing Company brews their Vanilla Bean Blonde that I will ALWAYS order if I see it on a menu. So when I received Mother Earth’s Cali Creamin’ my expectations were high. (more…)

Beer Review: Stone Stochasticity Project Master of Disguise

masterofdisguise_stonestochasicityLots of respect and love go out to all the breweries out there taking chances and experimenting with flavors in their beer. In the wake of the much talked about and dissected Budweiser Super Bowl XLIX ad I can honestly say their condemnation of craft breweries landed with a resounding thud. I can’t say a Pumpkin Peach Ale sounds all that great to me, but I would still prefer it (even if it sucked) over any Bud product on the shelf. That and other reasons is what prompted me to return back to a beer that I tried and had some less than flattering things to say about, but admired for its craft and spirit of experimentation.

I tried Stone’s Master of Disguise a while back and kind of wrote it off as a beer I wouldn’t really be interested in writing a review for. Lucky for me (maybe) I bought more than one bottle and the recent controversy gave me new interest in examining it a little closer- or just write about this time. Technically, this beer falls under the Stochasticity Project banner, which in my estimation is just Stone’s label in which they can get a little crazy with styles and flavors put in to those styles. No disrespect to Stone, as I believe they make some pretty great beers and I do love my IPAs, but so far I have yet to really “enjoy” a beer released through the Stochasticity label. (more…)

TGoF’s Year in Beer – 2014

IMG_5433Well, another stellar year of beer drinking is in the books. Four beer fests, several trades and a number of new breweries entering the market it’s entirely safe to say that I had my fill. So, with another 365 days in the rear view- well 325 if you include the 40 days of lent where I took a beer sabbatical- I thought it was time to reminisce on my highlights this year.

I won’t get into too much detail except to list of my favorite beers I was able to try for the first time this year. Maybe even highlight a local brewery to watch out for that opened in 2014. Either way, if you see something below you haven’t tried, it’s safe to say I’d recommend you finding a way to get it in your hands in the near future. Cheers to an equally fulfilling 2015! (more…)

Beer Review: New Glarus Brewing Spotted Cow

newglarus_spottedcowAfter years of beer drinking with waves of empty beer bottles and cans in my rear view mirror it seemed like it was about time to finally get around to talking about some beers I’ve had multiple times, but never actually reviewed. Nine times out of ten the reviews I post are from notes that I’ve made from either the first time trying the beer or the second or third time from a six (or four) pack. This time around, I decided it was time to give a little love to a beer I tried when I first started drinking craft beer and had knowledge of the brewery or its elite status in the craft beer industry. I’m talking about Spotted Cow from the renowned New Glarus Brewing Company.

I had Spotted Cow more than just the once, but I often feel ashamed that the first time I ever had a bottle I didn’t really know what I was holding in my hand. Granted, nowadays New Glarus is praised for their always stellar fruit sours, but Spotted Cow is the beer that started it all and is one of Wisconsin’s best selling craft beers. With a Wisconsin shaped distribution footprint their beer is highly coveted by beer traders and travelers alike. Spotted Cow was my first ever exposure to the brewery and one that I could easily turn often in the dog days of summer here in the Midwest. (more…)

Beer Review: Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Collaboration 12 Pack (Part 2)

I won’t spend a lot of time hyping up this post. Most likely if you’ve been to my blog before you’ve probably already read my part 1 review of this collaboration 12 pack and just want to see how it all wraps up in the end. And if you haven’t been to the blog before then I’d simply suggest heading over to the part 1 post anyway as I’ve listed reviewed the beers in the order I drank them- not that you need the background information in order to understand these reviews. Either way, here are six more reviews of beers contained within Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp Collaboration 12 Pack!

beercamp_electricrayElectric Ray (India Pale Lager)
Collaboration Brewery: Ballast Point Brewing Company
Review: If it looks like an IPA, taste like an IPA it must be an IPA right? Apparently not if you’re Electric Ray, which according to the packaging is an IPL (India Pale Lager). I know right, potato patado- it’s hoppy and it’s amber/gold in color, it’s pretty much an IPA. Very thin head on the pour and smells a bit like old hops. Taste is quite bitter on the front end which screams IPA, but then the malt and smooth lager characteristics kick in on the back end. Easily one of the hoppiest offerings in the box which was quite welcome from some of the other ho hum offerings I started off with. And given how low my expectations were as I dug into the final six beers in the pack this was a much needed boost for me.   (more…)

Beer Review: Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Collaboration 12 Pack Review (Part 1)

beercamp_sierranevadaI like Sierra Nevada- but I do not get particularly excited about their beers. Given that they are pretty readily available throughout most of the United States their beers are not spectacularly hard to track down. That has never stopped me from enjoying their Pale Ale and Ruthless Rye IPA on a semi-regular basis. Sierra Nevada no doubt makes good beer- I’ve yet to be blown away by anything, but they make damn good beer. The last time I got excited about something Sierra Nevada put out was a 12 pack of four different IPAs they had worked on- the pack left a lot to be desired. Again, none of the beers were “bad,” but they were plain and uninspired- except for the Snow Wit, I did not care for that one much at all.

By now though I’m sure everyone familiar with craft beer has heard of their latest mixed 12 pack which has been making the rounds both as a packaged product and as a touring festival. The Sierra Nevada Beer Camp of 2014 this time has taken 12 different breweries to collaborate on 12 different beers- each brewery contributing a style and working with the folks at Sierra Nevada to create the mixed pack. These have been making the rounds long enough that I’m sure there’s been plenty of time for people to dig into the beers so that’s what I’m gonna talk about now- six at a time. (more…)

TGoF’s 2014 Beer Outlook

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In terms of beer, 2013 was a HELL of a year for me. I got the chance to try a ridiculous amount of new beers, which compared to a lot of more hardcore beer nerds out there is probably barely a drop in the bucket. So looking forward to what’s in store for the new year I wanted to touch on some new breweries that have come to my attention and other beers I’m looking forward to trying to track down this year.

Before that though I want to take a moment to highlight some of my favorite beers I was able to try for the first time in 2013 and hopefully won’t be the last I see of them. (more…)