Tasting Notes: Vlad the Imp Aler (2017) from Cascade Brewing

VladPour2For this special Halloween week edition of Tasting Notes, we sit down and get acquainted with the infamous Vlad the Imp Aler (2017) from Cascade Brewing (Portland, Oregon).

Known to be “one of the most iconic projects in Cascade’s 20-year history of brewing and blending sour beer,” Vlad the Imp Aler is “a combination of quad and blond ales aged in bourbon and wine barrels for up to two years with orange peel and coriander.”  After its lengthy slumber, Vlad the Imp Aler rises to deliver “a fresh acidity and light malt sweetness with notes of bourbon, citrus and spice.”

The 2017 vintage of Vlad the Imp Aler officially debuted back in mid-September 2019 and will hang around only as long as supplies last.  You can look for this Limited Release offering to be available in 500ml bottles and on draft at select craft beer-focused establishments located in Alabama, Florida, Oregon and throughout the rest of Cascade Brewing’s distribution network.

Alrighty . . . now that we have gone over a bit of this notorious brew’s backstory, let’s pop a bottle and see what Vlad the Imp Aler discloses to us over some Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Vlad the Imp Aler (2017) from Cascade Brewing

Appearance: Vlad presents itself as a bright caramel, amber hued brew capped with about a 1/4 finger of white, spritzy foam.  When held to direct light, the amber tones push through and the overall look transitions to more of an apricot color.  The beer is mostly clear and tiny little bubbles can be seen washing about near the top cap.  Head retention is minimal, falling almost immediately to a lasting but very thin ring that drops the occasional dollop of lace on the glass.

Aroma:  The aromatics open with that telltale note of souring bacteria alongside some wet wood.  Bourbon notes then open up with a touch of oak, vanilla and straight boozy bourbon. Vinous qualities are light but there is a bit of wine character layered within.  Citrus tones of orange and lemon lend some acidity and the profile closes with a pretty wonderful dose of funk.

Taste:  The first flavors to hit the tongue are some sweeter tones of honey, caramel, vanilla and light bourbon.  Things then shift suddenly to offer a vinous note that translates as a sweeter white wine note (think Riesling). The Quad base then supplies hints of candi sugar, candied orange peel, and dark fruit that is both sweet and tart – the tart fruit flavor works beautifully with the waves of wild funk and lactobacillus sourness.  The acidity then kicks in with a finish full of citrusy notes from the added orange and coriander.

Mouthfeel:  Heavier side of medium in body with a subtle carbonation presence, this Sour Ale is bright but still maintains a good amount of texture.  The beer balances sweet and sour beautifully while adding just the right amount of acidity.  The vinous notes try to dry things out a bit, but flavors are still allowed to linger a while.  The 11.6% ABV is actually pretty wily, only offering a bit of heat in the throat (nothing near what you expect from almost 12%).  The aftertaste is all honey and citrus.

Final Thoughts:  There is no denying that Vlad the Impaler, the legendary figure in Wallachian history and national hero of Romania, knew how to make an impression. Cascade Brewing’s Vlad the Imp Aler also has quite the personality and easily makes a lasting impression as an incredible American Sour Ale but without all the . . . you know . . . impaling.

Vlad rocks a gorgeous push and pull between sour and sweet that you don’t often find in many Sour Ales (at least not with this level of execution).  The wine and bourbon barrels work beautifully with the base beers and souring bacteria to create a harmonious level of sourness, tartness, sweetness, acidity and even a little drying quality.  Simply calling it a Sour Ale is a disservice because there is so much more going on here. It is a mind-bending experience that challenges your senses and everything you thought you knew about beer. It is unique and memorable.  It is an absolute showstopper. It is Vlad the Imp Aler and you need to get your hands on a bottle or pour while you still have a chance. Prost!


Tasting Notes: Hazy Memory IPA from Lagunitas Brewing Company

LagunitasHazyMemoryPour2For this edition of Tasting Notes, we take a break from the final, turbulent waves of the workweek so that we can lose ourselves in the idea of the approaching weekend and a Hazy Memory IPA from Lagunitas Brewing Company (Petaluma, California).

Designed to be “evocative of everything [Lagunitas has] learned in hop-forward brewing,” Hazy Memory is a Hazy India Pale Ale loaded down with “oats and smooth wheatly-esque-ish-ness” and then “packed with some of the murkiest, juiciest, turbid Loral 291, Hallertau Blanc, Galaxy, and Citra Hops.” Coming in at 8% ABV and 55 IBUs, Hazy Memory IPA is “a little boozy and a little hoppy — just like a fuzzy memory of a great night long gone.”

Hazy Memory IPA was introduced back in mid-September and is still available for a limited time.  You can expect to find this One Hitter Release available in 12 oz. cans and on draft at select craft beer-friendly establishments located in Alabama, Florida, California, Illinois, Washington and throughout the rest of Lagunitas’ distribution area.

Now that we all know a little bit of the story behind the beer, let’s crack open a can and get lost in a Hazy Memory with some Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Hazy Memory IPA from Lagunitas Brewing Company

Appearance:  A gentle, swirling pour produces a Hazy IPA that is a deep golden yellow in color with orange highlights and capped with nearly two fingers of bright white, airy foam.  When held to direct light, the orange tones pull out of the color a bit and the yellows brighten to become more of a lemon hue.  The haze is lighter than most examples of the style these days (which we are fine with), allowing lazy beads of carbonation to be seen moving about within.  Head retention is really fantastic, eventually falling to a lasting half finger that saturates the glass with sticky, arcing lace patterns.

Aroma:  Juicy fruit notes immediately burst from the glass to greet the nose with notes of orange, grapefruit, tangerine, passion fruit, peach, pineapple and melon.  As the juiciness subsides, an undercurrent of more traditional hop characteristics surface with herbal, floral and grassy tones.  The grains give off a bit of sweetness here, but this aroma is all about those hops.

Taste:  The Citra hops are quick to take control with a citrusy, hoppy bite loaded with orange, tangerine, grapefruit and lime.  The sweeter, juicier side of the hop bill then gains traction, adding notes of peach, blueberry, gooseberry, white wine grapes, apricot, pineapple, papaya, melon and passion fruit to the mix.  The real surprise here is a traditional, almost Noble-like hop presence that offers a pretty substantial amount of floral and herbal tones alongside just a grace of pine (something you would expect from a more traditional West Coast-style IPA).  The grains keep the bitterness in check with just the right amount of balancing sweetness.

Mouthfeel:  Medium in body with a medium carbonation, this beer is smooth, creamy, and takes its time on the palate.  It does lean a bit to the hoppy/bitter side (supplying a bit more bite than other Hazy IPAs out there), but the malts do a good job in keeping the bitterness from getting too aggressive.  The 8% ABV lets you know it is there with a little building warmth in the throat.  Tangerine and lime linger in the aftertaste.

Final Thoughts: In a craft beer world heavily inundated with a ridiculous number of Hazy IPAs, Lagunitas somehow finds a subtle way to stand out from the crowd with Hazy Memory IPA.  Sure, it has all those big, fruity and juicy hop notes up front, but it does not stop there.  It goes a step further by playing the greatest hits of the hop spectrum with an infusion of piney, herbal and floral characteristics as well.  It makes for a playful experience that has all the hazy, juicy qualities people are looking for in modern IPA’s while still carrying the memory of more old school IPA styles.  This makes Hazy Memory come together as something new that is still carrying a torch for the IPAs that came before it, and – as a group of IPA drinkers that often have a “get off my lawn” mentality when it comes to Hazy/Juicy IPAs – we can get behind that idea.  Be sure to check out Hazy Memory IPA before it fades from existence.  Prost!

Tasting Notes: Celeste Saison from Iron Fist Brewing Company

CelesteSaisonPour2For this installment of Tasting Notes, we bask in the splendor that is Saison Sunday by savoring a pour of Celeste Saison from Iron Fist Brewing Company (Vista, California).

Introduced back in June as the fifth release of 2019 in Iron Fist’s series of Small Batch Experiments, Celeste is a Belgian-style Saison created with the use of “traditional Belgian methods, with a touch of celestial magic and perfected for the California sunshine.” Balanced by “malty and tart notes with aromas of citrus, light clove, banana, and a hint of bubble gum,” this Saison is meant to be a “deeply refreshing” summertime brew that highlights bright notes of “lemon and white pepper.”  Coming in at just 5.0% ABV, Celeste is light in body with a “lively carbonation” and a “crisp, dry finish.”

Celeste was released in June 2019 in Iron Fist’s Vista and Barrio Logan taprooms with limited availability on draft and in a limited-edition run of 500 12 oz. cans.  This offering’s supply is no doubt dwindling, but activity on Untappd (as of 10.13.19) seems to indicate that it is still pouring on draft in Iron Fist’s taprooms.

Alright . . . now that we are all a little more familiar with Celeste, let’s fully immerse ourselves in Saison Sunday with some Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Celeste Saison from Iron Fist Brewing Company

Appearance: A careful pour into a stemless red wine glass produces a Saison that is a sunny, golden yellow in color and capped with nearly two fingers of fast-forming, bright white foam.  When held to direct light, the yellows pick up even more intensity and lighten to a lemony hue at the edges. The beer has a touch of cloudiness to it, but steady streams of carbonation can still be seen working within to feed that trademark Saison head.  Retention is quite good, falling slowly to a fluffy ring that still has the ability to notch the glass with wide lines of lace after each and every pull.

Aroma: The Saison yeast is wonderfully pronounced (even when the glass is at arm’s length), giving off notes of clove, bubble gum, banana, pear and white pepper.  The hops lend a tinge of herbaceousness that translates as wintergreen mint and chamomile. The aromatics close with softly sweet tones of clean, fresh grain.

Taste:  The Saison yeast once again captures the spotlight, dominating the flavor profile with gorgeous notes of banana, clove, bubble gum, sweet pear, floral honey, and white pepper. A touch of citrus – lemon and orange zest – brightens things a bit and draws your attention to a somewhat shy herbal hop character. All of this is carried on a backbone comprised of sweet, lightly toasted grains, wet hay, and a touch of mustiness.

Mouthfeel:  On the light side of medium in body with a medium carbonation level, this beer is soft on the palate and finishes wonderfully dry and clean.  The balance is impeccable. It not too sweet or too hoppy, and this allows the yeast to really shine.  At 5.0% ABV, it is incredibly refreshing and highly drinkable.  The aftertaste is just a lingering touch of banana and bubble gum.

Final Thoughts:  For a brewery to properly execute a true representation of the Saison, the finished beer just has to embrace every aspect and characteristic of its yeast.  The experience – and it is an experience when done right – is difficult to properly describe, but it provides a full sensory experience similar to the one you might get while sitting on the porch of country home as the breezes of a cool evening carry to you all the smells, tastes and sounds from across the fields, the barn, the dirt roads, etc.   Although there is so much there for you to take in, you are allowed the time to appreciate it at your own pace.  It is a peaceful beauty that all great Saisons possess – think Saison Dupont from Brasserie Dupont, Fantôme Saison from Brasserie Fantôme, Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale from Boulevard Brewing Co. and Allagash Saison from Allagash Brewing Company just to name a few – and Iron Fist was able to harness and capture a great deal of that beauty in Celeste.

This is not something that happens by accident, and you can tell that Iron Fist’s brewers really took their time with this one. This beer was nurtured, and that Saison yeast character was cultivated with care so that it could reach its full potential in both flavor and aroma.  It is more than obvious that everyone that had a hand in this beer wanted to absolutely nail the style and nail it they did.

Beyond their attention to the yeast, Iron Fist made another fantastic decision by having this beer come in at the lower end of the style’s ABV range (5%).  This makes Celeste an incredibly refreshing and easy drinking beer – perfect for late summer/early fall – that still possesses all the big, complex aromas and flavors you want from a Saison.

Celeste Saison is a special beer and we just cannot say enough good things about it.  We are aware that it is late in this Limited Release’s life cycle, but you need to treat yourself to this beer if the opportunity arises.  If not, just make sure that you keep Iron Fist on your radar because they are putting out some truly exceptional beers right now.  Prost!



Tasting Notes – Spirits Edition: Cucumber Lime Gin Fizz from Rogue Spirits

RogueCucumberPour2For this special edition of Tastings Notes, we get acquainted with the new line of Sparkling Craft Cocktails from Rogue Spirits (Newport, Oregon) by getting into a can of Cucumber Lime Gin Fizz.

Crafted to “embody the spirit of the DIY ethos of mixology”, Rogue’s new selection of gluten-free Sparkling Craft Cocktails are made “with award-winning Rogue Spirits and 100% natural ingredients.”  Coming in at just 7.5% ABV, each Sparkling Craft Cocktail “delivers a sophisticated, yet refreshing experience with bona fide craft cocktail credentials.”

This new line launched back in August with the following three offerings (descriptions sourced directly from Rogue’s press release):

  • Cucumber Lime Gin Fizz – Inspired by cucumbers grown on Rogue Farms, Rogue Spirits Gin forms the base of this cocktail while the cucumber and lime provide a farm-fresh citrus balance.  ABV – 7.5%
  • Cranberry Elderflower Vodka Soda – Inspired by the cranberries that grow on the Oregon coast, Rogue Spirits Bayfront Vodka forms the base of this cocktail while the cranberry, elderflower and lime add a refreshing tartness.  ABV – 7.5%
  • Ginger Lime Vodka Mule – Inspired by a favorite at the Rogue Pub in Newport, Oregon, Rogue Spirits Bayfront Vodka forms the base of this cocktail while ginger and lime provide a refreshing balance of citrus and spice.  ABV – 7.5%

All three Sparkling Craft Cocktails listed above are currently available in 4-packs of 12 oz. slim cans at select retailers located in Florida, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Michigan only.  Nationwide availability is scheduled to begin in January 2020.

With all of that background information now out of the way, what do you say we crack open a cold one . . . er, cocktail and get into these Tasting Notes?

Tasting Notes for Cucumber Lime Gin Fizz from Rogue Spirits

Appearance: Poured over ice into a highball glass, this Sparkling Craft Cocktail is a foggy, icy white in color and builds a 1/2 finger of spritzy bubbles that dissipates almost immediately.  Despite its cloudy appearance, you can still see a steady carbonation presence bubbling away within. It basically looks like a mix between a cocktail made with soda or tonic and a hard seltzer.

Aroma:  The aromatics are pretty subtle overall, but you can immediately pick up on an incredibly clean note of fresh cucumber.  Juniper and a mix of nondescript botanicals then surface to hint at the presence of gin.  The profile closes with the soft minerality of quality sparkling water.

Taste: That gin note blooms a bit more here to offer soft tones of juniper, citrus peel, coriander, and various other botanicals, This sets the stage nicely for a refreshing note that can only be described as slices of cucumber dressed with fresh squeezed lime.  Everything wraps up in the finish with a wash of sparkling water.  All of these notes may be light, but they still somehow remain distinct and absolutely present.

Mouthfeel:  Light in body with a bright carbonation presence, this Sparkling Craft Cocktail is wonderfully easy drinking.  None of the flavors are aggressive or dominating on the palate. Everything is just nice and balanced against a backdrop of very clean sparkling water.  The 7.5% ABV is nearly undetectable, further adding to this offering’s high level of refreshment and drinkability.  The aftertaste is just a soft whisper of fresh cucumber.

Final Thoughts:  Just like its appearance, the overall experience provided by Cucumber Lime Gin Fizz falls somewhere between a hand-crafted cocktail and one of those hard seltzers that are so popular right now (yes, we have dabbled in the dark art that is hard seltzer).  With that said, this Sparkling Craft Cocktail quickly sets itself apart from those often-artificial tasting hard seltzers by showcasing nothing but good ole natural ingredients.  The cucumber and lime notes combine with the gentle gin character to create a genuine cocktail experience that reads similarly to a bit of Hendrick’s Gin topped off with a heavy pour of high-end sparkling water.

All in all, Cucumber Lime Gin Fizz has quite a bit going for it:

  • It is filled with fresh and natural flavors and aromas
  • It is ridiculously easy drinking
  • It is wildly refreshing
  • AND it conveniently scratches that cocktail itch with just a pull of the tab on a can

It is a truly unique and delicious offering, and – if you are at all a fan of cucumber and/or gin – we highly recommend that you give it a try whenever Rogue Spirits’ Sparkling Craft Cocktails hit your area.  Prost!

Tasting Notes: Underground Mountain Brown from Founders Brewing Co.

FoundersUndergroundPourFor this edition of Tasting Notes, we journey deep down into the depths of a bottle of Underground Mountain Brown from Founders Brewing Co. (Grand Rapids, Michigan).

Released in mid-August as the current installment in Founders Brewing Co.’s Barrel-Aged Series, Underground Mountain (previously introduced as a taproom-exclusive by the name of Barrel-Aged Sumatra Mountain) is an Imperial Brown Ale that has been brewed with Sumatra coffee – roasted in Grand Rapids by Ferris Coffee & Nut – and then aged for a year in Bourbon barrels in the “caves below Grand Rapids.” Crafted to be a true “celebration of the barrel, the bean and everything in between,” Underground Mountain Brown finds harmony as the malts of the Brown Ale base “complement the bold Sumatra coffee perfectly, while time spent immersed in oak creates layers of depth and complexity.”

Underground Mountain Brown is available now and scheduled to stick around through November (as long as supplies last).  You can expect to find this Limited Release available in 4-packs of 12 oz. bottles, 750ml bottles and on draft at select craft beer-focused establishments located in Alabama, Florida, Michigan and throughout the rest of Founders Brewing Co.’s nationwide distribution area.

Alrighty . . . now that we have properly covered all the particulars behind this brew, let’s get to the bottom of Underground Mountain with some Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Underground Mountain Brown from Founders Brewing Co.

Appearance:  A somewhat vigorous pour produces a beer that is a heavily shadowed, dark brown in color and topped with one-and-a-half to two fingers of tan foam.  When held to direct light, cola tones easily push through at the edges while the intensely dark brown holds at the core.  Although quite dark and nearly opaque, the top portion of the pour (about a finger of area where the beer meets the head) reveals that this beer is clear and has a steady carbonation presence coursing within.  Head retention is solid, falling ever so slowly to a thick, creamy ring that drops cloud-like dollops of lace on the glass throughout the experience.

Aroma:  Deeply roasted coffee greets the nose with dark chocolate notes and a gentle dose of earthiness and nuttiness.  The barrel character then rolls in, providing notes of vanilla, oak, and straight bourbon.  Brown Ale character closes the aromatics with rich tones of caramel and molasses.

Taste:  Picking up where the aroma left off, the base beer jumps out first to offer decadent notes of caramel, brown sugar, molasses, toffee and toasted grain. This seamlessly shifts to a distinct roasted coffee presence that is beautifully earthy, nutty and chocolaty (both milk chocolate and bittersweet dark chocolate). The bourbon then builds, enrobing the entire experience in a soft layer of oak, vanilla and booze.  Everything here is incredibly smooth and cohesive.

Mouthfeel:  Medium in body with a middling carbonation level, this beer has just the right amount of weight to it to remind you that it is indeed 11.9% ABV while still maintaining a bit of that smooth, airiness you expect from a Brown Ale (this beer does not at all drink like an Imperial Stout or Barleywine and rightfully so). It is mostly sweet on the palate, but the coffee’s bitterness lends a great deal of balance and keeps things from getting cloying.  Getting back to that elevated ABV, it offers a gently building warmth in the throat and belly, but it is not at all out of hand.  The aftertaste is all toffee and bourbon.

Final Thoughts:  Elegantly composed, there is not one aggressive aspect to this beer.  It is clear that the brewing team at Founders applied all of the knowledge that they have obtained from brewing KBS year after year to Underground Mountain Brown because the coffee and bourbon barrel character are both given equal billing.

As notable as that is, probably the most impressive thing about Underground Mountain is how incredibly well it is drinking right now.  The elevated ABV is pretty tame, the barrel character is not at all aggressive, and the coffee has just the right amount of pop to it.  It is wildly smooth for a fresh barrel-aged offering, and we suggest that you do not sit on these bottles for too long (well . . . stash a couple because this beer will be an incredible pairing for those wonderfully brisk fall evenings headed our way).  It is damn near perfect at this point in time, so make sure that you drink Underground Mountain Brown now and drink it often while you have the chance.  Prost!

Tasting Notes: Night Creep Black DIPA from Iron Fist Brewing Company

NightCreepPourFor this edition of Tasting Notes, we turn ourselves over to the dark side of IPAs thanks to the influence of Night Creep DIPA from Iron Fist Brewing Company (Vista, California).

Developed to serve as a stark contrast from the three IPAs already in Iron Fist’s Core lineup as well as in the always IPA-saturated beer scene in the San Diego area, Night Creep is a “dark and different” Black Double India Pale Ale that utilizes an “unusual” yeast strain that “[brings] a distinctive flavor to a DIPA.”  To round off the recipe, the brewing team at Iron Fist used “choice kiln roasted malt [to impart] not only blackness but a mild toast undertone” while a “blend of earthy dank hops and overtones of citrus, floral and pine hops” provide balance. Night Creep comes in at a sneaky 8.5% ABV and 70 IBUs.

Night Creep was released at the start of August as the seventh offering to come out of Iron Fist’s 2019 Small Batch Experiments Series.  This Limited Release offering is available as long as supplies last in limited-edition 12 oz. cans and on draft at Iron Fist Brewing Company’s Vista and Barrio Logan taprooms.

With all that background information now out of the way, what do you say we shed a little more light on Night Creep with some Tasting Notes?

Tasting Notes for Night Creep Black DIPA from Iron Fist Brewing Company

Appearance:  Night Creep pours a near black, incredibly dark brown in color and wears just over a finger of light tan foam. When held to direct light, the cola-like brown pushes through a bit more but the darkness maintains its grip for the most part. The beer is completely opaque, providing no hint at the level of carbonation within.  Head retention is good, falling slowly to a chunky ring that is not at all shy about its ability to coat the glass with wide bands of lace.

Aroma:  The aromatics open with a tempting presence of toasted grain and high-quality dark chocolate.  The hops then cozy up to this malt presence, enveloping it with notes of resinous pine, grapefruit, tangerine, and a mix of soft floral and herbal tones.  All of this occurs without any one note overwhelming the other. There is nothing but soft, cautious harmony here and it is glorious.

Taste: An herbaceous, dank hop presence flawlessly executes a quick strike on the palate, but it is quickly tamed by toasty, roasty malt notes, a touch of bittersweet dark chocolate and a wisp of earthiness/wood.  A delicate floral quality, a pinch of grapefruit zest, and just the right amount of pine then join forces to leave memories of old-school Double IPAs behind in the finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium to full in body with a medium carbonation, this Black DIPA has plenty of weight to it but still finishes incredibly clean.  The balance here is sneaky good, allowing hop notes to shine brightly but without too much bitterness or countering sweetness.  The 8.5% ABV is a total non-factor, allowing the experience to remain smooth and easy drinking. The aftertaste is just a touch of pine and grapefruit.

Final Thoughts:  In our experience, Black IPAs tend to read a lot like hoppy Porters.  Sure, there is a hint of that here, but Night Creep finds a way to slip away and stand apart from the other beers that share this style designation.  The hop notes are beautifully pronounced and seem to sit above its toasty, dark malts . . . but then you take a moment to think about the previous sip and realize that the bitterness is not at all aggressive yet there are also not any exaggerated levels of malty sweetness.  The balance allows the beer to subtly move beyond the questioning of “is this a Double IPA or is it a Porter?” by cooling declaring “this is what a Black IPA should be.”

Beyond that, Night Creep just might be one of the cleanest beers we have ever had.  We cannot figure out if it is due to the chosen yeast, the brewery’s approach to the hop additions, the malt bill or just a combination of all three, but each note has its time to shine and then just gracefully fades from the palate in time for the next sip.  Nothing is muddled, overwhelming or confounding.  Every note is just allowed to be distinct, clear and clean.

After reviewing everything mentioned in the previous two paragraphs, we are incredibly confident in declaring that Night Creep is easily the best Black IPA/DIPA we have had, and it should be considered a benchmark beer for the style.  It is that damn good, and you need to check it out while you still have the chance.  Prost!


Tasting Notes: Coco Flamingo DIPA from Wild Leap Brew Co. & TrimTab Brewing

CocoFlamingoPourFor this installment of Tasting Notes, a few cans of Coco Flamingo Double IPA from Wild Leap Brew Co. (LaGrange, Georgia) and TrimTab Brewing (Birmingham, Alabama) provide us with a tropical escape from a Tuesday afternoon in the office.

Released at the tail end of June as Wild Leap Brew Co.’s first ever collaboration project and the first beer TrimTab Brewing has brewed in collaboration with a Georgia brewery, Coco Flamingo is a Hazy Double India Pale Ale made with “a blend of tangerine, key lime, and toasted coconut.” Tropical in nature, Coco Flamingo (8% ABV) has “a unique flavor profile” that will most assuredly “take you straight to the islands!”

Coco Flamingo was introduced during the last week of June 2019 and it is possible that a few cans or kegs could still be floating around out there.  Look for this Limited Release to possibly be available in 12 oz. cans and on draft at select craft beer-focused establishments in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.

Now that all the background data has been properly covered, let’s pour up some island vibes and get into these Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Coco Flamingo Double IPA from Wild Leap Brew Co. & TrimTab Brewing

Appearance: A steady pour from a 12 oz. can produces a Double IPA that is a deep, caramelized orange in color and capped with a perfect finger of slightly off-white foam.  When held to direct light, those caramel tones soften to create more of a dark orange-juice-like appearance.  This beer is quite hazy (bordering on murky), leaving it mostly opaque.  Head retention is decent, casually falling to a thin ring that leaves spotty lacing at times.

Aroma:  Notes of sweet tangerine, citrus oils and cedar present themselves as soon as the can is opened.  A distinct lime presence (both juice and zest) then surfaces to further establish the citrus profile while a sweet fruit punch character adds some contrast.  A grace of toasted coconut rests in the background, adding to the beer’s tropical character while providing a bit more sweetness.

Taste:  Tangerine leads the way here as well and is joined by notes of sweet orange juice, mixed berries, pineapple and lime zest.  A beautiful cedar quality then works its way in to provide a citrus-laced woody note.  A touch of vanilla (which we believe is hop sourced) swirls about with the fruitier tones, but that floral sweetness is seemingly only here to provide balance and draw a bit of attention to the toasty malt backbone.  Coconut turns up near the finish, but it translates more like an earthy, semi-sweet coconut water rather than just candied, toasted coconut.  The balance here is on point.

Mouthfeel:  On the full side of medium in body with a mild carbonation, this beer is soft and silky on the palate.  It does lean to the juicy/sweet side at times, but the hops kick in with some bright lime notes and sharp cedar tones to push things back into the area of balance. The 8% ABV is unbelievably tame, and that keeps drinkability super high.  The aftertaste reads as a sip of coconut water with a twist of tangerine.

Final Thoughts:  On paper, a “Coconut, Tangerine & Lime DIPA” sounds like it could be either one of two things:

  1. A mess
  2. A heavenly concoction that will leave us wondering why there are not more in existence

Luckily, Wild Leap and TrimTab put their heads together and came up with a way to ensure that the second option would unquestionably apply to Coco Flamingo.  It appears they pulled this off by having a deft hand with the added toasted coconut and letting the Sabro and Lotus hops provide the majority of the coconut and vanilla notes. This (along with that surprisingly clutch note of cedar) provides balance and allows the coconut notes to translate as natural (instead of artificial or sun-tan-lotion-like).  Sure, this means that the overall experience reads more as an exotic Double IPA rather than a super sweet tropical cocktail, but we all showed up here for a Double IPA anyway.  All in all, Coco Flamingo is an incredibly well-composed beer that is a beautiful pairing for any summer day.  Prost!

Tasting Notes – CBD Beverage Edition: VYBES | Blueberry Mint

VYBESPourFor this special edition of Tasting Notes, we round the edges off a rough week by winding down with a CBD beverage from VYBES (Los Angeles, California).

Newly available in the Central Florida area thanks to Sunshine State DistributingVYBES is an organic beverage made with CBD sourced from the hemp plant.  Since hemp-based CBD does not contain THC (the psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana), VYBES products are completely legal in Florida.

VYBES beverages come in five flavors: Honey Crisp Apple BasilBurning MandarinStrawberry LavenderPeach Ginger and Blueberry Mint.  Each VYBES offering contains 25mg of organic Hemp CBD and “touts the ability to help consumers’ bodies naturally achieve homeostasis by regulating anxiety, stress and sleep.”

VYBES beverages started rolling out in Central Florida – Orange, Osceola, Polk, Brevard, Lake, Seminole, Volusia and Flagler counties – in late July.  You can expect to find these CBD beverages available in 14 oz. bottles at high-end retail stores and restaurants located in Central Florida, California and throughout the rest of VYBES’ distribution footprint.

Alright . . . now that we are all a little more familiar with VYBES and CBD, let’s go ahead and crack open a bottle of Blueberry Mint and get into these Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Blueberry Mint from VYBES

Appearance: Blueberry Mint VYBES pours a red tinged, pale purple in color.  When held to direct light, the majority of the liquid softens to a peach-colored tone that surrounds a pale purple core.  It does have a bit of cloudiness to it, but it remains clear enough for you to take notice of what appears to be floaties/slight separation provided by the fresh fruit (this is an organic beverage after all).  Since this is a still beverage, the only bubbles to report are the ones that appear after the initial shake of the bottle.

Aroma:  The aromatics kick off with an earthy/herbal quality that is reminiscent of honey-laced green tea.  This is quickly overtaken by fruity notes of fresh blueberries, lemon and lime.  The profile closes with a soft breeze of sweet, cool mint.

Taste: Delicately tart blueberry notes greet the taste buds and are accompanied by a touch of grape and sweet citrus. These fruity tones are balanced perfectly by an earthy note of slightly sweet iced green tea. The mint presence is complementary, and is able to gently settle into the experience without overpowering any of the flavors that precede it.

Mouthfeel: Medium in body and still, this super easy drinking beverage has a weight that is lighter than a juice but slightly heavier than an iced tea.  Thanks to a wonderful mix of sweet, tart and earthy/herbal notes, it has a nice overall balance and finishes incredibly clean. The aftertaste is all blueberry.

Final Thoughts: I actually had my bottle of Blueberry Mint VYBES after a hellacious week and a pretty rigorous workout. Not only did I find this beverage to be incredibly tasty and refreshing, but I also finally found myself experiencing a bit of solace and peace shortly after finishing the bottle.  I was able to untie the knotted thoughts that had been lingering in my mind all day, and my joints actually felt better than they had after a workout in a long time. These effects were casual and not at all overwhelming. I just felt calm, relaxed and good, and that seems to fall in line with how many folks describe their experiences with CBD.

Beyond the pleasant effects of the CBD, the drink is just delicious.  Thanks to its beautiful mix of sweet, tart and herbal flavors and aromas, it is wonderfully balanced and easy drinking.  There are no aggressive or medicinal notes at all. It simply comes across as a fruited tea that you could easily enjoy at breakfast, lunch, dinner or anytime you find yourself in need of a refreshing beverage. So, if you have been thinking about introducing CBD into your daily routine, you seriously might want to consider VYBES as a delightfully easy option to do so.  Prost!


Tastings Notes: A Little Sumpin’ Hazy from Lagunitas Brewing Company

LagunitasLSHPour_editedFor this edition of Tasting Notes, we push through the midweek daze and craze with a little help from A Little Sumpin’ Hazy from Lagunitas Brewing Company (Petaluma, California).

Released back in July as an “au naturel” take on the “classic wheatly-esque-ish-ness . . . you know and love” from A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’A Little Sumpin’ Hazy is a “juicy” and “catty” brew that has underwent a “special dry-hopping of Cashmere, Citra & Mosaic on a bed of Centennial and Chinook.” Built upon a solid base of “shlarfy” grains, A Little Sumpin’ Hazy (7.2% ABV) is guaranteed to have an eye-catching haze that will work beautifully with your favorite Instagram filters.

A Little Sumpin’ Hazy is available now for a limited time.  You can expect to find this Limited Release available in 6-packs of 12 oz. bottles and on draft at select craft beer-friendly retailers, bars and restaurants located in Alabama, Florida, California, Illinois, Washington and throughout the rest of Lagunitas Brewing Company’s distribution area.

Now that we have properly gone over all that background info, it appears that it is finally time to get comfortable, succumb to the haze and get into these Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for A Little Sumpin’ Hazy from Lagunitas Brewing Company

Appearance: Although it is undoubtedly hazy, A Little Sumpin’ Hazy pours a more IPA-traditional light golden yellow in color rather than that orange-juice-like appearance all the cool haze kids seem to be after these days.  That haze still allows some visibility and reveals a lively carbonation presence cascading within.  A somewhat vigorous pour produced right at two fingers of creamy white foam.  Retention is solid, falling gracefully to a chunky half finger that leaves the glass coated with a broad sheet of lace when completed.

Aroma:  This thing hits hard and fast with an extremely juicy presence of sweet orange, mango, pineapple, mixed berry and melon.  A gently floral undercurrent supplies some more traditional hoppy character, but it is dialed in just right so that it only balances and supports that juiciness.  The malts are muted here and only slip in a whisper of biscuity sweetness near the end of the profile.

Taste:  Just like the nose, juiciness takes point and bombards the palate with sweet fruit notes of orange, brûléed grapefruit, melon, berries, pineapple, lemon and lime.  The grains support those juicy hop flavors with some biscuity sweetness while piney hop notes mix things up a bit by providing some balancing hop bitterness.

Mouthfeel:  Somewhere between medium and full bodied with a medium carbonation level, this beer is soft, smooth and creamy on the palate.  As expected, it leans to the sweeter/juicier side but still maintains a touch of hop bitterness.  The 7.2% ABV is quite sneaky, making this beer dangerously drinkable.  Aftertaste is orange juice with a hint of pine.

Final Thoughts:  A Little Sumpin’ Hazy might fall short for some in the haze department (to be honest, we actually appreciate that it still has a touch of clarity), but it more than makes up for that in the areas of flavor and aroma.  This beer’s overall juiciness is intense and wonderfully pronounced, giving you all that you expect from a Hazy/Juicy IPA.  With that said, it still reminds you that it is indeed a Lagunitas creation by somehow holding on to some old school IPA qualities (floral and pine notes and just straight up hop bitterness). It basically unites both schools of thought on the IPA – West Coast vs. New England/Hazy/Juicy – in a subtle but incredibly tasty way.

All in all, A Little Sumpin’ Hazy is a widely available, reasonably priced hazy brew that is built for ultimate crushability and accessibility.  What else could you possibly ask for when dealing with summer heat indexes this insane? Be sure to get you some before this brew’s Limited Release comes to an end.  Prost!


Tasting Notes: Tropic of Thunder Lager from Stone Brewing

StoneTropicPourFor this installment of Tasting Notes, we seek refuge from the unrelenting summer heat in a tall pour of Stone Tropic of Thunder Lager from Stone Brewing (Escondido, California).

Created to serve as the “perfect island companion to [Stone Brewing’s] tropically-inspired, fruit forward lineup of IPAs”, Stone Tropic of Thunder is a refreshing “Tropical Lager” that possesses “aromas of citrus, pineapple and coconut . . . followed by flavors of lime, orange and passion fruit.”  This sensory experience is framed beautifully by “a newer hop variety – Cashmere – [which] . . . imparts flavors of ripe cantaloupe that elevate the juicy qualities of this beer.”  Stone Tropic of Thunder Lager clocks in at 5.8% ABV and 58 IBUs.

Stone Tropic of Thunder Lager originally debuted in California near the end of 2018 and is now officially available across the country.  You can expect to find this new Year-Round offering available in 6-packs of 12 oz. cans, 19.2 oz. cans and on draft at craft beer-friendly establishments located in Alabama, Florida, California, Virginia and throughout the rest of Stone Brewing’s nationwide distribution territory.

Alright . . . now that we have properly covered all the information behind Stone Tropic of Thunder Lager, let’s get into these Tasting Notes and see what this Tropical Lager is all about!

Tasting Notes for Stone Tropic of Thunder Lager from Stone Brewing

Appearance: A careful pour from a 19.2 oz. can produces a lager that is straw yellow in color and topped with over two fingers of pillowy, bright white foam.  When held to direct light, the yellows grow a bit more vibrant as they take on soft golden tones.  The beer is perfectly clear and shows off the lively carbonation presence coursing within.  Head retention is good, falling slowly to a thin but complete top cap that leaves a perfect notch of lace on the glass after each sip.

Aroma:  The aromatics open with a delightful trio of tropical notes: sweet melon, pineapple and mango.  A burst of citrus – grapefruit, orange and lemon – lends support and draws even more attention to those tropical notes. The grains round everything off with a gently sweet crackery quality. Very subtle here, but still refined and quite tempting.

Taste:  To firmly assert that this is indeed a lager, the grains take point here with a clean biscuity malt presence. The malt sweetness ultimately gives way to a beautifully delicate, juicy hop character filled with notes of cantaloupe, passion fruit, tangerine, pineapple, dragon fruit, and lime zest.  The profile closes with just a hint of herb and a lingering grace of crisp white wine.

Mouthfeel:  On the light side of medium in body with a bright carbonation level, this lager is incredibly easy-drinking and finishes nice and dry.  The beer further increases its overall level of drinkability by finding a gorgeous balance between its biscuity malt sweetness and fruity hop bite.  We had a difficult time believing that this beer clocks in at 5.8% ABV because there is not even a hint of alcohol to be found. The aftertaste leaves behind a wonderful combination of white wine and passion fruit.

Final Thoughts:  Just as any good lager should be, Stone Tropic of Thunder is ridiculously drinkable and flavorful. The true beauty of this beer lies in its balance. Sure, the hops dominate the flavor and aroma, but the not at all shy malt character takes the edge off the hop bitterness and makes damn sure that its presence is known.

Above all, this beer does everything it can to emphasize that it is definitely not just another lager pretending to be an IPA. No . . . Stone Tropic of Thunder Lager is more of a nod to those classic, hop-forward European lagers that have been around forever, but this one just uses fruitier new school hops rather than Noble hops.  It is clearly a beer that has learned plenty from the past but has also picked up a few new tricks along the way.

If you have love for the lager in your heart and are on the hunt for something crispy and new, Stone Tropic of Thunder Lager absolutely deserves a place in your fridge or cooler this summer.  Be sure to keep an eye out for this one the next time you hit your favorite craft beer store or bar.  Prost!