Stouts

[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

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[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: Bourbon Barrel Vanilla Bean Buffalo Sweat w/Cinnamon by Tallgrass Brewing Company

 

tgof_bavbbs_tallgrassIt’s was not that long ago on this very site that I was articulating my criticisms of Tallgrass’ Bourbon Barrel Buffalo Sweat. Those criticisms gave life to serious concerns to the quality of upcoming Tallgrass beers in the newly minted Explorer Series. While I’m hoping to make some time to review Big Ricc, their Russian Imperial Stout with coffee and chocolate, I’m happy to say that those concerns- for the time being- been alleviated by the Bourbon Barrel Vanilla Bean Buffalo Sweat. Henceforward to be referred to as BAVBBS, cause why not?

For as long as I can remember as a beer drinker I’ve heard people refer to inky black beers as being perfect for breakfast. Basically any beer that even a fleeting coffee note to the flavor. I don’t know that I’ve ever actually had any beer that met that criteria that I could legitimately see myself drinking for or during breakfast. Today I can confidently say that is no longer the case. BAVBBS, for this beer lover, perfectly mimics the breakfast classic of french toast with cup of coffee. (more…)

Beer Review: Xocoveza by Stone Brewing Company

tgof_stone_xocovezaNote: This review got lost in the backlogs so pay no attention to the fact that it’s now February and the picture features a Christmas tree…thanks!

There is one thing I will say for Stone Brewing Company–they are consistent. Are they consistent in releasing beers, consistent in delivering good beer, or consistent in delivering disappointing beers? If you said any of those three then you fell for the trap–none of those are what I’m referring to. Stone consistently releases beers that are–at the very least–interesting. That doesn’t always equal success, but I am a sucker for interesting beers good or bad.

People fawned over the bomber/draft release of their spiced holiday stout, Xocoveza, last year and the times they have not changed with the most recent release. Not just interesting in name, the beer boasts that it is brewed with cocoa, coffee, vanilla, and peppers. In my head as I read the ingredients I’m thinking yes, yes, yes….uhhh that’s unfortunate. Over the years if there’s on ingredient in a beer that generally leads to disappointment, it’s peppers. Still, I’ve had my fair share of pepper beers that integrate them well enough and as luck would have it Xocoveza is one of them.  (more…)

Beer Review: Tallgrass Brewing Company Bourbon Barrel Buffalo Sweat

bbabuffalosweat_tgofThere isn’t a brewery out there that isn’t don’t some take on a barrel-aged stout, and doing it with varying levels of success on top of that. Goose Island is responsible for the country’s most popular varieties of barrel-aged stouts with their Bourbon County line, but many breweries are doing their best to make their mark. One of my favorite smaller midwestern breweries entering that market (with a canned release no less) is Tallgrass Brewing Company.

Now, their non barrel-aged Oatmeal Cream Stout, Buffalo Sweat, is a tasty treat in and of itself- right along with the winter vanilla bean varient (which will also be seeing a barrel-aged release later this year, with cinnamon). The knocks I have with that beer are slight, but include a very slight lack of dominant chocolate and roast in the flavors and a bit of a watery mouthfeel. If barrel-aging does anything, it helps to make those exact descriptors pop with the added ABV bump- or so you would think.  (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: Tallgrass Brewing Company Vanilla Bean Buffalo Sweat

IMG_5198For the last few years Tallgrass has been, in my opinion, the one constant brewery easily accessible to this beer drinker do deliver always solid beers. To be more specific they deliver some of the only beers easily accessible in my locale that I happily buy every time I go to the store for some booze. There 8-Bit Pale Ale is one of my favorite pales that’s not brewed locally but is always on the shelf. They may not be flashy, but man can they brew some damn fine beer. Additionally, the last few years one of my go to seasonals is their Vanilla Bean Buffalo Sweat. I love it so much that I hate it’s only a seasonal release.

Vanilla Bean Buffalo sweat cures my winter woes every single year. The beer pours a thin dark brown with some highlights and a decent amount of light tan head. Once settled in the glass though the beer looks like oil- admittedly thin looking oil, but oil nonetheless. There is a very slight roast note on the initial aroma, which gets slightly deeper with a longer inhale. The aroma hints at a creamy sweetness from the vanilla beans giving the beer a frappuccino-like smell.

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Beer Review: Stone Brewing Coffee Milk Stout

stone_coffeemilkstoutWhen I think of Stone Brewing Company I think of hops. Big bold hoppy beers with little to no regard for your palate as it washes through one’s mouth. Even Stone’s Go To IPA is a monster when it comes to the amount of hop flavor it packs into that particular session IPA. Of the many I’ve tried I’ve found that to be one of the least sessionable beers that carry the label of being sessionable- though I do enjoy it quite a bit. Stone’s Russian Imperial Stout also has a hell of a hop bite at the moment that it is first released- I’ve had a bottle recently where the hop bitterness dropped off considerably since release.

Based on Stone’s catalog of beers I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when cracking open their newest seasonal release, the Coffee Milk Stout. I will say what I settled on in terms of expectations- bold bitter coffee but with a smooth finish and a creamy mouthfeel. Two out of three of those descriptors are mostly right on the money while the other is way way off the mark. As one might expect Stone’s Coffee Milk Stout pours pitch black and settles with about two fingers of nice tan head. There is a bit of highlights around the edge of the glass when tilted, giving it the perception of being thinner than one might expect from a stone beer.

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Beer Review: Belching Beaver Peanut Butter Milk Stout

belchingbeaver_pbmilkstoutWith a name like Belching Beaver it better be good right? I feel like, well, I know there’s a growing number of breweries with names that catch people’s attention based solely on the fact that it’s kind of bizarre. We’re talking names like Horny Goat, Donkey Punch, Dogfish Head, Ass Kisser etc., and a funny name doesn’t necessarily mean you make good beer. I’m a long way from making an educated guess, but my first beer from Belching Beaver suggests to me that they have a pretty good idea of what they are doing.

Stouts were a tough a style for me to get into and even still I have very specific tastes with what I look for in my favorites. I’m still not quite up to speed with barrel-aged stouts and at this point I generally drift towards milk/sweet stouts. Combine that with the fact that I have a thing for flavors that don’t necessarily belong in beer or sound just weird enough to work then this is right up my ally. It’s the main reason I sought out a bottle of Belching Beaver’s Peanut Butter Milk Stout- certainly not because it’s cleverly named.

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