Boulevard Brewing Company has not been one to shy away from experimenting when it comes to their Smokestack Series. Their Imperial Stout line has been an example of that- especially late in 2015/early 2016 so far. Perhaps the most divisive of their experiments has been the yearly release of their Chocolate Ale, a collaboration with chocolatier Christopher Elbow. There have been years with infected bottles and on more than one occasion even when the beer isn’t infected, the quality is often in question. A fan myself, have too felt that there is a distinct QA issue when it comes to certain batches/bottles and to how the beer tastes on draft- still, every year I have to indulge at least once in both formats.
This year, the prolific brewing company turned some heads by releasing the beer with a specific twist- the addition of raspberry. If nothing else it is a move that should boost sales for craft beer lovers looking for a decadent indulgence around the holiday of love, Valentine’s Day, as an alternate to gorging on boxes upon boxes of Russell Stovers. It certainly got me to open my wallet once again, although as of writing this I’m still on the lookout for to try the draught version. (more…)
Well, 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…)
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…)
My first official beer fest is in the books and one thing is certain- it will not be my last. I had a blast walking around and chatting with fellow beer lovers, enjoying beer with some friends, but most of all getting to try a whole bunch of new and exciting beers all in a span of a few hours. A few things kept me from getting to everything I wanted to try, the biggest being the unrelenting heat that chased me into the A/C next door to the tent area after about an hour and again another hour or so after venturing back out. I did get around to all the beers I for sure wanted to mark off my list before I put up the white flag and left the fest and I’m so glad that I did.
In my preview of the fest I expressed my excitement to try the beers that Cigar City, Firestone Walker and Stone were bringing and that excitement was certainly justified. I had earlier in the week attended a Stone Pint Night at a local craft beer bar and had a few of their beers I hadn’t had and also picked up a few at my local bottle shop knocking out most everything they were bringing except for their 2013 Russian Imperial Stout which I though was quite good and very boozy, but also not something that stood out at least for me when all was said and done. However, unrelated to the beer fest I tried for the first time Stone’s Ruination IPA both on tap and in a bottle and immediately after expressed that it would probably be in my top five of IPAs that I’ve tried. (more…)
I spend a lot of my free time stalking beer lover’s Instagram pictures, Untappd check ins and other beer blogs, but every now and again I’m still surprised by something new by just simply shopping at my local bottle shop. Granted I received a tip via email that the beer I’m talking about here had arrived in store, but my awareness to having it in hand timespan was a much shorter window than usual.
Chocolate and fruit seems to be the theme of the passed week in my beer adventures as within 6 days I’d tried both Rogue’s Voodoo Doughnut Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Ale (review forthcoming) and this posts focus, Thomas Creek Brewing Company’s Castaway Chocolate Orange IPA. This is a much different monster to Rogue’s experiment and I will admit straight off that Castaway would win if forced to pick one over the other. That’s beside the point seeing as they are two different styles of beer.
Right off the bat when pouring Castaway I was not necessarily shocked to see the dark color, but almost more disappointed that it didn’t have a clearer orange IPA color. It’s possible after all to have a chocolate beer with a clear color- I refer you back to my review of Great River’s Dirty Blonde Chocolate Ale. Color aside it still doesn’t hit stout or porter blackness and still very much sells IPA especially in the nose. The smell on the other hand didn’t do much for me at first, but the more I drank it, the more the smell started to come through to me as citrusy orange and a bit of dark bitter chocolate. The smell does indeed sell what the beer ultimately tastes like which is basically a malty and hoppy Blue Moon.
I tried Castaway poured into a glass as well as out of the bottle and there was a difference between the two. In my snifter glass the dark chocolate taste stood out way more than the citrus, though the citrus was present at the back end. When drinking right out of the bottle, I was getting a much more pronounced orange/citrus taste mixed well with the dark chocolate taste that comes from the malts. Both ways the beer had a smooth taste to being with that finished off with more of the hoppy bitterness.
If I had to suggest a way to enjoy this I would have to say the best way is straight from the bottle- the initial taste is a little more refreshing that way. I was able to get a hold of two single bottles at my bottle shop as opposed to the 4 pack something I’d personally try to seek out. If you enjoy it enough it may be worth the $10.99 price tag for the 4 pack, but for me a single bottle or two is perfectly fine for me. Overall, the Castaway Chocolate Orange IPA is unique enough to give a whirl, but beyond that I can’t say there’s anything overly exciting about it- yet I wouldn’t dare turn it down if someone offered it to me.
Great River Brewing is just a small little micro-brewery out of Davenport, Iowa original out of Iowa City that may not be a household name, but are building a decent little catalog of tasty beers. The latest that I’ve had the HOPportunity to try is their latest experiment the Dirty Blonde Chocolate Ale. Being from Iowa initially I can’t help myself but dabble into the brews of my home state.
When I think of chocolate beers I think dark syrupy brews with more of a coffee taste than chocolate. I already knew not to expect that with Great River’s Dirty Blonde because I’d scowered pictures of it on Untappd and knew it was going to be a beautiful golden color not unlike that of your typical blonde ale or traditional pilsner- but how was it going to taste?
The brew comes packaged in a six pack of 12 oz cans, different from Great River’s other offerings that come in 4 packs of 16 oz cans. The beer indeed pours a nice golden color with little to no sediment with packaging that states it is a chocolate ale brewed with chocolate syrup and cocoa nibs. The smell very much sells the bittersweet chocolate, but is definitely not uninviting when mixed with the aroma of hops that come through ever so slightly. The first sip was indeed something- a very pronounced chocolate taste that kind of took me off guard, but my first impression said I really quite liked it. As I worked my way through the six pack the chocolate became much more subtle and the traditional blonde ale characteristics shined through. The beer still has a malty characteristic to it, but it drinks like a normal blonde ale, but with more of a savory flavor profile than sweet or refreshing.
Sometimes first impressions are everything and on the first taste of Great River’s Dirty Blonde Chocolate Ale I was in the process of being swept of my feet, but the more I tasted the more I felt that we were better fit as really good friends- friends that might only see each other on special occasions to catch up. The chocolate taste in such a beautifully golden beer is definitely something I was smitten with at first, but ultimately by the time the glass was finished I was more than ready for something a little more complex and refreshing on the palette. Not a match made in heaven, but no worries we’ll keep in touch.