Tasting Notes: Chocolate Peanut Butter Milk Stout from Garage Brewing Co.

GarageChocPBpourx600For this installment of Tasting Notes, we set out to prove that summer is as much a stout season as any other by cracking open a couple bombers of Chocolate Peanut Butter Milk Stout from Garage Brewing Co. (Temecula, California).

Developed to give beer lovers an indulgent treat in Stout form, Chocolate Peanut Butter Milk Stout is a “scrumptious” Milk/Sweet Stout that “touts rich, bold peanut butter aromas and a silky chocolate mouthfeel.”  Weighing in at a sip-worthy 7.1% ABV, Chocolate Peanut Butter Milk Stout is sure to “remind you of classic peanut butter cups – without the melty mess.”

“Peanut butter beers are popular, and we’ve been researching the right combination that people will fall in love with,” Guy Bartmess, brew master at Garage Brewing Co said. “I think chocolate definitely did the trick.”

Chocolate Peanut Butter Milk Stout officially released at the start of June 2019 and will continue to be available for a limited time.  You can expect to find this Specialty Seasonal Release available in 6-packs of 12 oz. cans, 22 oz. bottles and on draft at select craft beer-focused establishments located within Garage Brewing Co.’s distribution footprint in Southern California and Las Vegas, Nevada.

Now that we have properly gone over the background information for this beer, that can only mean one thing . . . it’s peanut butter time!  Let’s get into these Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Chocolate Peanut Butter Milk Stout from Garage Brewing Co.

Appearance: A somewhat excited pour – this is chocolate and peanut butter we are talking about, after all – produced a Stout that is solid, glossy black in color and capped with a good two fingers of fluffy, light brown sugar-colored foam.  When held to direct light, the deep black color holds and only allows the smallest sliver of dark brown to cut through near the top of the pour.  Head retention is decent, falling rapidly to a chunky ring that leaves an occasional dollop of lace behind on the glass.

Aroma:  Chocolate dominates the nose with a decadent presence of sweet milk chocolate and intense cocoa.  A nice, subtle layer of cream from the lactose then surfaces to remind you that all of this dessert-like goodness has been built upon the base of a gorgeous Milk Stout.  The peanut character closes out the profile with notes of boiled peanut, roasted peanuts and freshly ground peanut butter.

Taste:  When compared to the aroma, things flip around a bit here as the flavor opens with a solid peanut presence filled with unsalted roasted peanuts and real peanut butter (think slightly less sweet than most name brands).  Chocolate tones of indulgent milk chocolate and rich dark chocolate then slip across the palate, wrapping around the peanut notes to create that nostalgic peanut butter cup flavor we are all after.  A creamy, vanilla-like lactose note closes the experience out alongside roasty, coffee-like tones supplied by the dark malts to make it seem as though you are chasing a bite of peanut butter cup with a sip of sweetened espresso.

Mouthfeel: Falling somewhere between medium and full-bodied with a medium carbonation level, this Milk Stout is velvety in texture and glides easily across the palate.  Although it obviously leans to the sweeter side, this Chocolate Peanut Butter Milk Stout avoids being cloying by having its more traditional Milk Stout characteristics of roasty dark malts and black coffee notes cut the overall sweetness a bit.  The 7.1% ABV is wonderfully hidden and only offers a slight tinge of heat in the throat at times.  The aftertaste is comprised of just a grace of roasted peanuts and malts.

Final Thoughts:  Full Disclosure – the first thing to note here is that Chocolate Peanut Butter Milk Stout is not an overly sweet Pastry Stout that can only be handled 4 oz. at a time.  No, this beer is not at all shy about being an incredibly solid Milk Stout that favors balance over cloying sweetness.  With that said, the base is more than happy to embrace its chocolate and peanut butter additions to satisfy any and all peanut butter cup cravings you had going into the experience.  It is truly the best of both worlds as it supplies those dessert-like flavors and aromas while still remaining highly drinkable.  Could it be possible that Garage Brewing Co. was able to create a summer-appropriate Chocolate Peanut Butter Milk Stout?  We think they did just that.  Be sure to check this one out before its Seasonal run comes to an end.  Prost!



Tasting Notes: Phase Change from Lagunitas Brewing Company

LagunitasPhaseChangePourx600For this installment of Tasting Notes, we recognize the seasonal shift from spring to summer by getting into a few pours of Phase Change, a “seasonally unexpected” Wet-Hopped Juicy Ale, from Lagunitas Brewing Company (Petaluma, California).

Engineered to serve as the “next chapter in [Lagunitas Brewing Company’s] quest to brew wet-hop beers out of wet-hop season”, Phase Change is an unfiltered Wet Hop Pale Ale “packed full of lupulin-drenched Simcoe, Citra & Mosaic hops.” Coming in at 7.4% ABV and 60 IBUs, Phase Change is “a juicy game changer” bursting with “seasonally unexpected wet-hop flavor.”

The time-bending wet-hop goodness found within Phase Change is made possible thanks to Lagunitas’ “new ‘hops liquification’ process that lets [the brewery] preserve and store . . . wet hops (generally only usable just after harvest), and brew a wet-hop beer a full 6 months later.”

Phase Change released back in May and is scheduled to hang around for another week or so.  You can expect to find this Limited Release offering available in 6-packs of 12 oz. bottles and on draft at select beer-focused establishments located in Alabama, Florida, California, Illinois, Washington and throughout the rest of Lagunitas’ distribution area.

Now that we are all up-to-date on how this “seasonally unexpected” wet-hopped beer has come to be, let’s pop the top on a bottle and fully experience a Phase Change with some Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Phase Change from Lagunitas Brewing Company

Appearance:  Phase Change fills the glass with a hazy, light orange to golden yellow liquid that is topped with almost a finger of tight, bright white foam.  When held to direct light, the golden yellow tones gain vibrancy and dominate the appearance.  Although this Pale Ale does have some haze to it, you can still distinguish a steady carbonation presence meandering about within.  Head retention is good, falling somewhat quickly to a paper thin but complete top cap of creamy foam that absolutely saturates the glass with heavy sheets of lace after each pull.

Aroma:  As soon as the cap is removed from the bottle, the nose is greeted by that indescribably comforting grassy note of wet hops.  This beautifully clean and welcoming note then opens the door for fruity tropical notes of tangerine, mango, orange peel and grapefruit.  A touch of pine surfaces near the end of the experience to coax that grassy wet hop character forward once again, harmoniously bringing everything full circle.

Taste:  Living up to its “juicy” descriptor, this beer’s fruitier side hits the palate first with citrusy notes of sweet orange, tangerine and grapefruit that blend perfectly with tropical tones of mango, guava and pineapple.  A substantial pine presence then surprisingly turns up to break up the juice fest a bit and remind everyone of the West Coast flair that Lagunitas is known for.  Slightly bready malts sneak in to provide some balance before giving way completely to allow that exquisite grassy wet hop note to dominate the finish.

Mouthfeel:  Medium in body with a medium carbonation, Phase Change comes across incredibly light, refreshing and easy drinking.  Despite leaving a subtle presence of bitterness in the finish, this beer is a fantastic balance of bitterness, juicy hoppiness and malt sweetness.  It is downright shocking that this Pale Ale is 7.4% ABV because it shows no hint of heat and drinks far lighter than that ABV would lead you to believe. The aftertaste leaves behind a touch of mango and a whole lot of fresh cut grass.

Final Thoughts: Whenever I run across the words “wet-hopped” on a beer label or tap list, I immediately expect and yearn for this incredibly fresh and green grassy note – in both flavor and aroma – that is almost impossible to fully describe but also equally impossible to miss when done right.  Although created completely out of wet hop season, Phase Change somehow meets and exceeds that expectation.  Even for a wet hop beer, the aromatics are truly off the charts and intoxicating and that delightful grassy note carries throughout the entire experience.

Beyond that, it is clear that Lagunitas had some fun with this one as it slipped some sharply bitter, pine resiny, West Coast-style goodness into its Juicy Pale Ale take on the wet hop beer. This quirky approach results in a recklessly elegant composition that just works.  Incredibly satisfying and wildly refreshing, Phase Change really is a perfect beer option to help hopheads transition from spring to summer.  Be sure to check this one out before its limited run comes to an end.  Prost!

Tasting Notes – Spirits Edition: Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin

jaisalmerMojitoX1000For this edition of Tasting Notes, we stay in the realm of spirits but take a turn toward the exotic with a look at Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin from Radico Khaitan (Rampur, India).

Named after the “historic city of Jaisalmer (pronounced “jess-all-mur), the ‘Golden City’, located in the Northwest of India in the state of Rajasthan”, Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin is a triple-distilled, small batch spirit that is hand-crafted in “a traditional copper pot still” by Master Distiller Anup Barik at Radico Khaitan – formerly known as Rampur Distillery, one of India’s oldest distilleries. With its development based in “the ancient Indian knowledge of herbs”, Jaisalmer is made from a recipe that sources seven of its eleven botanicals from India: Coriander and Vetiver from Jaisalmer itself; Sweet Orange Peel from Central India; Cubeb Berries and Lemongrass from Southern India; Darjeeling Green Tea from Eastern India; and Lemon Peel from Western India.  Rounded off with Angelica Root, Licorice, Caraway Seeds and Juniper Berries, Jaisalmer India Craft Gin (43% ABV/86 proof) is a complex offering that retains “the classic gin flavor using juniper berries whilst adding a refreshing twist with Indian botanicals.”

750ml bottles of Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin are available in the U.S. now for the suggested retail price of $50 each.  This small batch craft spirit can be found at select liquor retailers located throughout the country or you can purchase it online at The Whisky Exchange.

Now that we have properly gone over the story behind Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin, let’s get into this bottle, pour up a few tasting glasses and even mix up a summer-appropriate cocktail for some Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin from Radico Khaitan

Appearance: Presented in an eye-catching, frosted black bottle with gold and bright blue accents, Jaisalmer is pristine in clarity and shows no sign of even the slightest tint or hue of color.  When swirled in the glass, the gin holds the sides for a moment before dropping in a quick-moving cascade of thin legs. There is not much to report in this arena (it is a clear spirit after all), but all is as it should be.

Aroma: The aromatics open with that classic gin presence of piney juniper and citrusy coriander.  Fresh lemon, lime and orange peel follow the coriander’s lead to establish a strong citrus presence that is both sweet and tart.  The profile closes softly with gentle earthy and grassy notes accompanied by a light pepper quality from the vetiver.

Taste: The citrusy notes take point here with pronounced notes of lemon zest/peel, lime juice, candied orange peel and sweet orange juice.  Tones of lemongrass, ginger and mint then surface to complement and further enhance the gin’s citrus character.  The more traditional notes of pine and juniper finally push forward just as the experience closes with a floral/earthy/medicinal character provided by the green tea leaves, Angelica root and licorice.

Mouthfeel: Lightly slick on the palate, Jaisalmer hits with a bright flourish and then dries out almost immediately.  Although it is mostly fruity and sweet on the palate, the overall experience finds a nice balance thanks to its piney, earthy and medicinal notes.  The 43% ABV provided only the faintest hint of heat, leaving this spirit incredibly smooth.  The finish leaves behind notes of sweet citrus, lemongrass and green tea.

Final Thoughts:  Every aspect of Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin is beautifully nuanced and – in a word – lovely.  We were simply amazed at how each of the eleven featured botanicals were able to make a direct impact on the experience but still find their place in a tight formation so that they can all work together as one seamless whole.  The citrus-forward character of Jaisalmer will make believers out of those who claim they “just are not a gin person” while its exotic ingredients and deep complexity will entice the most avid of gin drinkers.

Although thoroughly impressed by Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin on its own, we were immediately convinced that it would be a brilliant gin for mixed drinks before we even broke out a cocktail shaker.  Since the heat is already getting absolutely out of control here in Tampa, we put Jaisalmer to the cocktail test by mixing up some refreshing Maharaja Mojitos (pictured above on the right; recipe provided by Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin):

The Maharaja Mojito 

  • 50ml Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin
  • 20ml Organic Agave Syrup
  • 15ml Lime Juice
  • 6 Mint Leaves
  • 50ml Bitter Lemon
  • Ice

Fill your glass of choice with ice and pour Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin. Clap the mint leaves and add to the glass. Add fresh lime juice, bitter lemon and agave syrup. Stir gently. Garnish with a sprig of mint and enjoy!

Where traditional rum-based mojitos tend to focus on a quenching sweetness accompanied by a fresh breeze of mint, the Maharaja Mojito shifts things a bit as the Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin really accentuates the drink’s lime character while its botanicals lift the mint to all new heights of refreshment.  With that said, mojito traditionalists do not need to fret because the added agave syrup still gives you that satisfying sweetness.  It is an incredibly composed cocktail that will have you coming back for refill after refill.

Whether on its own, served simply as an after-work drink with a splash of tonic and an orange slice or enjoyed poolside in an elaborate cocktail, Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin proves that it is a damn near perfect spirit.  It has approachability . . . It has complexity . . . It has versatility . . . and it has a place in your liquor cabinet at home and on the shelf at your favorite cocktail bar.  Seriously, do not sleep on this one.  Prost!

Tasting Notes – Spirits Edition: Speyburn 10 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky

SpeyburnPour2For this special Spirits Edition of Tasting Notes, we settle into a rainy Tuesday afternoon with a proper dram of Speyburn 10 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky from Speyburn Distillery (Rothes, Scotland).

Speyburn 10 Year Old is a Single Malt Scotch Whisky made with the “crystal-clear water of the Granty Burn . . ., an integral ingredient used to produce the bold, bright, distinctive single malt whiskies of Speyburn.”  This “soft spirit” is then “matured in a combination of American oak, ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks” until it “marries with the gentle oak influence to create a balanced and approachable dram with hints of toffee, butterscotch and a long, sweet finish.”  Weighing in at 80 proof/40% ABV, Speyburn 10 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky is a standard that “exhibits the distillery character and house style of Speyburn.”

Speyburn 10 Year Old is available in 750ml bottles and in the Speyburn 10 Year Old Source Water Gift Pack – includes a 750ml bottle of Speyburn 10 Year Old and a 100ml bottle of Uisge Source Water – Speyside for the SRP of $30.  You can find both of these packaging options at fine liquor retailers located throughout the United States.

Now that we are all caught up on this whisky’s background information, we are actually going to crack open one of those Speyburn 10 Year Old Source Water Gift Packs to not only record some Tasting Notes on Speyburn 10 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky but to also experience how the Uisge Source Water interacts with the whisky.  This is exactly the kind of thing that rainy days are for, so let’s get to it!

Tasting Notes for Speyburn 10 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky from Speyburn Distillery

Appearance: This whiskey pours a beautifully clear, light honey brown in color.  When held to direct light, the yellows radiate softly and shift the appearance to more of a pale gold to straw yellow.  When swirled in the glass, the slick liquid coats the glass with a parabolic arc that eventually releases super-slow moving, teardrop-like legs that crawl back down into the pour.

Aroma: The aromatics introduce themselves with a bright burst of citrus (orange and lemon) and a gentle floral character.  The grains add a cereal sweetness that opens further to offer notes of honey, vanilla and caramel.  To close out the profile, a very subtle waft of smoke surfaces to balance out the sweetness a bit. | With the Uisge Source-Speyside Water Added: The vanilla-laced oak notes bloom a bit more with the added water, but the overall sweetness is tempered.  The only other noticeable change is that the added water actually brings more attention to the spirit’s booziness. Nothing unpleasant, just a surprising twist.

Taste: Just like the nose, the fruits take the lead with citrusy tones that are joined by nuanced notes of sweet apple, raisin, and a touch of red plum.  This fruit sweetness and a light floral breeze act as a sublime lead-in for the cereal grains and barrel character. We are talking about some seriously satisfying notes of caramel, rich vanilla, toffee and honey.  The smoke is light, but it envelopes all of that sweetness – especially the pronounced oaky vanilla note – to offer a hint of toasted marshmallow in the finish. | With the Uisge Source-Speyside Water Added: The water really coaxes out those caramel tones here and the lemony note is also more defined.  The finish morphs a bit as white pepper and anise bloom within the smoke to add an extra layer of complexity.

Mouthfeel:  Slick in texture, this whiskey coats the palate but dries out quickly enough to avoid being syrupy or cloying.  Although it is mostly sweet, the smoky, citrusy and floral notes contrast and balance well.  At 40% ABV/80 proof, it is wonderfully smooth and only supplies the smallest of slow burns in the chest.  Aftertaste is all vanilla, oak and smoke. | With the Uisge Source-Speyside Water Added: The added water dries out the sweetness even more, thins the body, and soothes the slight burn from the ABV.

Final Thoughts:  There are two common misconceptions when it comes to Scotch whisky:

  1. The only good Scotch is an expensive Scotch
  2. You must have a trained palate to appreciate Scotch

From top to bottom, Speyburn 10 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky proves that those are indeed misconceptions.  It has a great deal of the complexity you will find in pricier Scotch whiskies, but it retains approachability by offering notes that casual American whiskey drinkers are familiar with.  Combine that with the fact that this Single Malt falls within a $20 to $30 price point, and you have an affordable option that can act as daily-drinker for seasoned whisky drinkers and/or a gateway for those interested in learning more about Scotch whisky.

As far as the Speyburn 10 Year Old Source Water Gift Pack goes, it proved to be an incredibly fun experiment.  Although everyone here did enjoy the undiluted pours a bit more, we did appreciate how the Uisge Source Water brought out and/or enhanced certain aspects of the whisky and had a great time having it as a part of the experience.  There is no denying that this 100ml bottle of water is a fantastic conversation piece that will easily convince any whisky-lovin’ guest to sit down and enjoy a dram or two of Speyburn 10 Year Old with you.  Since it only comes in at a few bucks more than the standard bottle of Speyburn 10 Year Old, we suggest you pick up the gift pack if you happen to be faced with the option.

All in all, this was one hell of a good experience that has left us all fans of Speyburn 10 Year Old. Whether you are looking for a gateway offering that can ease you – both in flavor and in cost – into the world of Scotch or are just looking for a solid whisky to keep in your liquor cabinet, Speyburn 10 Year Old should definitely be on your radar.  Prost!

Tasting Notes – The Classics: Hefe-Weizen from Paulaner Brauerei

PaulanerHefePourX600For this special edition of Tasting Notes, we crack open a few pints of OG haze and get reacquainted with the highly respected classic that is Hefe-Weizen from Paulaner Brauerei (Munich, Germany).

Regarded as “the #1 wheat beer in Germany and one of the world’s favorites”, Paulaner Hefe-Weizen is a traditional, unfiltered Hefeweizen-style Wheat Beer that is “naturally cloudy and silky gold under a really strong head of foam.”  Proudly boasting a “perfectly balanced mix of aromas and refreshing taste”, this offering’s sensory profile features a “hint of banana aroma” and “[traces] of mango and pineapple” on the palate.  Coming in at just 5.5% ABV, Hefe-Weizen is a truly “superb biergarten or outdoor drinking bier.”

Paulaner Hefe-Weizen is available Year-Round in 4-packs of 16.9 oz. cans (newly released), 6-packs of 12 oz. bottles, 500ml bottles and on draft.  You can expect to find this iconic brew at fine beer establishments located in Alabama, Florida and throughout the rest of Paulaner’s distribution network in the U.S.

Alrighty . . . now that we have those particulars out of the way, let’s put these new pint cans to good use and get into some Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Hefe-Weizen from Paulaner Brauerei

Appearance: The most careful of pours produced a stunning Hefeweizen that is a sunburst orange in color and capped with over three fingers of creamy, bright white foam.  When held to direct light, the beer has a solid dark orange core that radiates outward to the edges of the glass with brighter orange tones and a spectrum of yellows. The beer has that quintessential Hefeweizen cloudiness, but a slow and steady carbonation presence can still be seen swirling about in the haze.  Head retention is spot on for the style, falling ever so slowly to a lasting half finger that coats the glass with super creamy lace after each pull.

Aroma: The yeast is all over the aromatics, offering pronounced notes of banana and clove.  A bit of Noble hop spice and a touch of citrus surfaces alongside a clean, bready wheat presence, but . . . seriously . . . this profile is all about that Hefeweizen yeast.  Absolutely heavenly.

Taste: Lemon, orange and just a grace of tropical pineapple open the flavor profile in conjunction with a pure, clean note of toasted wheat.  Spicy and earthy Noble hop notes then carry the beer’s fruitiness into a dynamic yeast character filled with notes of banana, clove and bubblegum. The flavors are elegant in their complexity, but remain incredibly approachable.

Mouthfeel: Medium in body with a mid to high carbonation level, this Hefeweizen is wonderfully soft and easy-drinking.  Although it is lightly sweet on the palate, the beer still finds balance and dries out nicely.  The 5.5% ABV is completely hidden, further enhancing the beer’s overall drinkability.  The aftertaste is all bubblegum and banana.

Final Thoughts: Are you curious how Paulaner Hefe-Weizen has become the “#1 wheat beer in Germany” (a.k.a. THE country that most of us immediately associate with beer)? Just take one sip and you will have all the answers you need.  Across the board, from appearance to aroma to taste to mouthfeel, there is no denying that this beer is everything a Hefeweizen should be. Whether you are just a casual beer drinker who is interested in traditional beer styles or a top tier enthusiast studying for your BJCP or Cicerone certification, Paulaner Hefe-Weizen is absolutely a beer that you will need to cross to paths with once you get to the realm of Hefeweizen.

Beyond just being one of the legit standards for the style, it also does not hurt that a tall pour of Paulaner Hefe-Weizen just so happens to be a perfect answer for a hot day.  Do yourself a favor, grab yourself some Paulaner Hefe-Weizen this summer, and fall in love with the Hefeweizen style all over again.  Prost!




Tasting Notes: Secret Agenda from Lagunitas Brewing Company & Moonlight Brewing

LagunitasSecretAgendaPourX600For this installment of Tasting Notes, we covertly slip into the weekend with a little help from Secret Agenda from Lagunitas Brewing Company (Petaluma, California) and Moonlight Brewing (Santa Rosa, California).

Carefully crafted in Joint Session by the folks at Lagunitas and Moonlight to satisfy “the unique thirsts of Springtime”, Secret Agenda is a Pale Bock Beer that brings “each [brewery’s] time-tested secrets to the table.” Weighing in at 7.1% ABV and 46 IBUs, Secret Agenda comes together to offer its drinker “something neither [brewery] could do alone.”

Secret Agenda officially released back in late March, but a good amount of this Limited Release can still be found floating around at some of your favorite beer retailers and bars.  You can expect to find this One Hitter available in 6-packs of 12 oz. bottles and on draft at select craft beer-friendly establishments located in Alabama, Florida, California, Illinois, Washington and throughout the rest of Lagunitas Brewing Company’s distribution network.

With that unclassified background information now out of the way, it is finally time to dig deep and get to the bottom of Lagunitas and Moonlight Brewing’s Secret Agenda with some Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Secret Agenda from Lagunitas Brewing Company & Moonlight Brewing

Appearance:  A careful pour produces a Bock that is a deep gold in color and capped with over two fingers of ridiculously creamy foam.  When held to direct light, the golden hue brightens a smidge as it takes on a bit of a lemony yellow hue.  The beer is perfectly clear and displays a swirling mass of tiny carbonation bubbles.  Head retention is absolutely fantastic, slowly falling to a lasting 1/4 finger of rocky foam that leaves sprawling patterns of lace behind on the glass.  This is easily the most gorgeous bottled lager we have encountered this year.

Aroma:  Lightly sweet bready malts greet the nose and are supported by the lightest amount of caramel and nuttiness.  The hops then take over with a dynamic presence that is spicy, herbal and floral.  The hop aromatics bloom further to offer notes of citrus, unripened strawberries, and tropical fruit.

Taste:  An herbal tea-like quality (distinct notes of mint and lemon balm) opens the flavor profile alongside a bit of peppery spice and rose water.  The herbal tones then back off a bit to allow the hops’ fruitier qualities to come through with soft notes of grapefruit, papaya and peach. All of this hop complexity rests upon a solid foundation of malt that is bready, biscuity and kissed with just a touch of caramel.

Mouthfeel:  On the lighter side of medium in body with a medium carbonation level, this Bock is slightly creamy on the palate and incredibly clean on the finish.  The balance is impeccable, but it does teeter a bit to the hoppy side at times (this is a Lagunitas influenced beer after all).  It drinks much lighter than 7.1% ABV, but it does offer a bit of warmth in the throat near the end of the experience.  Aftertaste is a lovely lingering flourish of floral and herbal hop notes.

Final Thoughts: Built with springtime drinking in mind, Secret Agenda hits that mark squarely by achieving maximum drinkability thanks to its phenomenal level of balance. It is malty, but not at all overly sweet.  It is hoppy, but the bitterness is intentionally dialed way down.  It is beautifully complex but somehow still an all-around easy-drinker.  If that were not enough, this beer’s herbal and floral qualities seem to mimic the changing of the seasons and capture the resplendent rebirth of spring.  Secret Agenda can only be described as an experience that actually tells a story.  It is literally a taste of spring, and you need to check it out while you still have the chance.  Make it happen.  Prost!

Tasting Notes – Cider Edition: Pineapple Rosé from Portland Cider Company

PortlandPineappleRosePourX600For this special edition of Tasting Notes, we ride a refreshing, tropical wave into the weekend thanks to a few cans of Pineapple Rosé from Portland Cider Company (Clackamas, Oregon).

Crafted to give cider fans the opportunity to “rosé all day” this summer, Pineapple Rosé is a Hard Cider “bursting with fresh juicy pineapples” and rocking “a pretty in pink hue from a splash of Northwest-grown blueberries.” This refreshing combo produces a “fruity, tropical cider [that comes] in at 5.2% ABV and, much like the rosé wine it’s modeled after, is versatile with a variety of foods.”

Pineapple Rosé is available now and scheduled to hang around through August 2019.  You can expect to find this new Seasonal offering available in 6-packs of 12 oz. cans, 19.2 oz cans, and on draft at cider-friendly establishments located within Portland Cider Company’s distribution footprint in Oregon and Washington.

Now that we are all a bit more familiar with this cider’s background information, let’s crack open a can or two, raise a glass to the weekend and get into these Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Pineapple Rosé from Portland Cider Company

Appearance: Pineapple Rosé pours a peach-hued, light pink in color and is capped with a 1/4 finger of quickly dissolving fizzy bubbles.  When held to direct light, the peach color deepens and gains vibrancy, creating a natural sepia tone.  The cider is absolutely pristine in clarity and displays a highly energetic carbonation presence coursing within.

Aroma:  The top-billed pineapple opens the aromatic profile with a gentle breeze of tropical fruitiness.  The apples then settle in to support with a clean, semi-sweet cider character.  The profile closes with a musty, vinous note – which has to be the added blueberries – that does a fantastic job of selling the Rosé wine-like experience beyond just a pink appearance.

Taste:  The apples really assert themselves at the jump, setting a solid and balanced cider base.  The pineapple is subtle, rising out of the apple’s sweetness to add a bit of a tropical tanginess and sweetness.  This tropical quality is furthered by a welcomed grace of banana esters from the yeast.  The blueberries are quite muted here, but they do add just a touch of balancing tartness at the finish.

Mouthfeel:  On the lighter side of medium in body with a spritzy carbonation level, this cider comes across as super light and easy-drinking.  On the palate, its lightly sweet, tangy and tart character finds an elegant balance, allowing it to finish nice and dry.  At just 5.2%, the ABV is well hidden and does not surface at all in the profile.  Fittingly, the aftertaste is all apple and pineapple.

Final Thoughts:  Beautifully composed, Pineapple Rosé is one of the few mock Rosé offerings that we have encountered that actually lives up to its inspiration.  Sure, just like the wine, it has a soft pink color and is incredibly approachable, easy-drinking and refreshing.  It then goes a step further by playing with the wine’s sweet and dry characteristics and even somehow mimics vinous notes in the aroma to create a complete package that is ridiculously fresh and natural.  The overall experience basically reads as though you are chasing a bite of an apple slice soaked in pineapple juice with a sip of a drier Rosé to lift and cut that sweetness. It is just gorgeous.

All in all, Pineapple Rosé is a stellar summertime sipper that will fit in perfectly at the brunch table or at the poolside.  If you happen to run across it this summer, be sure to check out this tasty Seasonal cider while you have the chance.  Prost!


Tasting Notes: Roxanne Raspberry American Sour from Starr Hill Brewery

StarrHillRoxannePour2x600For this edition of Tasting Notes, we close out the week with a berry burst supplied by Roxanne Raspberry American Sour from Starr Hill Brewery (Charlottesville, Virginia).

Available now as one of four current releases in Starr Hill’s newly-established Sour Series “inspired by the sweet songs that celebrate women with attitude”, Roxanne is “an extremely low-hopped, kettle-soured Wheat Ale” that has been dosed with “sweet and tart” red raspberry purée.  Not afraid to have the “carbonation turned up”, Roxanne (4.7% ABV) is here to treat its drinker to an “effervescent and refreshing” Sour Ale experience.

Roxanne is available now for a limited time in 6-packs of 12 oz. bottles, in the Say It Ain’t Sour Variety 12-pack of 12 oz. bottles, and on draft.  You can expect to find this Limited Release offering at select craft beer-focused establishments located in Alabama, Virginia and throughout the rest of Starr Hill’s distribution footprint in the Southeast.

Alrighty . . . now that all the particulars are out of the way, what do you say we turn off that red light, keep things casual, and get to know Roxanne over some Tasting Notes?

Tasting Notes for Roxanne American Sour from Starr Hill Brewery

Appearance:  Roxanne pours a pink-tinged, light orange in color and is capped with just under a finger of tight white foam.  When held to direct light, the vibrant pink tones shine bright as a softer orange tone holds fast at the core of the pour.  The beer is slightly cloudy, but a spritzy carbonation presence can still be seen streaming within.  Head retention is good, falling slowly to a thin ring of creamy foam that draws wide lines of lace after each pull.

Aroma:  Raspberries are all over the nose, supplying notes of fresh fruit straight for the carton and rich raspberry preserves from the jar.  Through all this fruitiness billowing from the glass, a sturdy presence of wheat and lactobacillus establishes itself and asserts that there is a solid Berliner-like base holding everything together.  The aromatics are simple, but they are just as billed.

Taste:  Raspberry takes point here as well, dishing out a jammy presence that is just as sweet as it is tart.  Fresh raspberries and a twist of lemon add to the beer’s tart side while a subtle undercurrent of melon and strawberry tinker with the sweetness levels.  The wheat base lingers in the background with some bready sweetness as the lacto is dialed in to maintain just the right amount of tartness to follow through the finish.

Mouthfeel:  Light in body with a bright carbonation, this Sour Ale is ridiculously light, refreshing and easy-drinking.  Although it does lean a bit toward the tart/sour side, the fruity sweet notes balance nicely and raise the beer’s already high level of drinkability.  The ABV is low at 4.7% and it reads as such by being completely devoid of booze/heat.  The aftertaste is all jammy raspberry goodness.

Final Thoughts:  Roxanne is an incredibly tasty, “take me as I am” kind of brew that offers all the raspberry and sour goodness it promises with little to no frill.  Sure, its tartness is dialed down a bit by the sweet side of the berries and malts, but that is just balance at work and it only adds to this beer’s crushable nature.  With its high level of drinkability and its fresh flavors and aromatics, there is no denying that this is a beer built for summer drinking.  If you are looking to fill your fridge or cooler with a stellar refresher capable of tackling the warm weather ahead, you really should consider picking up a sixer or two of Roxanne American Sour during your next beer run.  Prost!

Tasting Notes – Kombucha Edition: Ginger & Oak from Flying Embers

FlyingEmbersGOpourX600For this installment of Tasting Notes, we jump-start our workweek with a probiotic boost thanks to a few pours of Ginger & Oak Organic Hard Kombucha from Flying Embers (Ojai, California).

One of three Core offerings from Flying Embers, Ginger & Oak is an Organic Hard Kombucha fermented with “black tea, . . . kombucha culture with live probiotics” and “a unique botanical adaptogenic base of roots including ginger, turmeric, ashwagandha, and astragalus.”  This refreshing brew is “USDA-certified organic, gluten-free, vegan and has zero grams of sugar at a sessionable 4.5% abv.”

Ginger & Oak is available Year-Round in 16 oz. cans and 22 oz. bottles.  You can expect to find Ginger & Oak – along with Lemon Orchard and Ancient Berry – at kombucha-friendly retailers located within Flying Embers‘ distribution footprint in Southern California, “the San Francisco Bay Area, Oregon and Washington; southwestern states Arizona and Texas; and . . . the east coast via New York, Philadelphia and [the] New England area.”

Now that we are all a bit more familiar with this offering’s background information, let’s crack open a few cans and get into our first “Kombucha Edition” of Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Ginger & Oak from Flying Embers

Appearance:  Fresh off the pour, Ginger & Oak presents itself as a hazy lemonade-like yellow in color and is capped with loose bubbles that almost instantly dissipate (similar to that of a soda).  When held to direct light, the color intensifies to become more of a sunshiny yellow.  This kombucha is quite cloudy, but a peppy carbonation presence can still be seen streaming within.

Aroma:  Quick to grab your attention, the aromatics open with a pronounced herbal tea character that offers notes of bitterness, maltiness and smoke.  Ginger swiftly rushes in to brighten things with its zesty, spicy and citrus-like qualities. The added turmeric further reinforces the ginger and its citrus notes by adding a touch of orange.  The profile is rounded off with an incredibly pleasant woody earthiness.

Taste:  That herbal tea quality immediately asserts itself here as well by opening the experience with a punchy bitter note (we assume this is the ashwagandha making itself known).  That powerful note is rapidly tempered as the black tea base imparts soothing tones of caramel, leather and honey. Smoke and earth surface just before a bright burst of ginger and citrus (lemon and orange) takes over to close things out.

Mouthfeel:  On the lighter side of medium in body with a lively carbonation, this kombucha is light and easy-drinking.  Moving easily through the tart, herbal and sweet portions of the palate, it eventually finds a nice balance and finishes dry enough to keep you craving another sip.  Coming in at a low 4.5% ABV, there is no sign of heat or booziness. The aftertaste is all ginger and lemon-laced herbal tea.

Final Thoughts: If you do not drink kombucha very often, you might be taken aback a bit by the first sip of Ginger & Oak.  By the second sip, your mind and taste buds adjust, allowing everything to come together as the herbaceous, earthy and bitter notes are balanced by the black tea base and the ginger and citrus tones take things to the next level with a zesty brightness.  This makes for an incredibly enjoyable and invigorating experience that firmly engages your senses and seemingly wakes up your brain.  It is a unique but familiar experience that just leaves you feeling good and satisfied . . . and that is a winning result if you ask us.  If you are looking to mix up your libation lineup with something new/different or are already a big fan of kombucha, be sure to check out Ginger & Oak and other offerings from Flying Embers whenever you happen upon them.  Prost!


Tasting Notes – Spirits Edition: Eight & Sand Blended Bourbon from MGP Ingredients

Eight&SandPourFor this special Spirits Edition of Tasting Notes, we turn the midweek corner with a little help from Eight & Sand Blended Bourbon Whiskey from MGP Ingredients (Atchison, Kansas).

Inspired by the amazing history of the American railroad, Eight & Sand’s name “refers to the eighth (and fastest) notch on a locomotive’s throttle and the sand used on the wheels to prevent slipping. To wish a train crew an ‘Eight & Sand’ is akin to ‘smooth sailing’.”

When it comes to the liquid itself, Eight & Sand is a “blend of bourbon and whiskies married together to create a smooth and satisfying experience in every sip.” Bourbon fans can expect this offering’s “nose and palate [to deliver] spicy rye and cinnamon notes, followed by a touch of caramel at the caboose.” Eight & Sand clocks in at 44% ABV/88 PROOF and contains “no additives or colors – just the good stuff.”

Eight & Sand Blended Bourbon Whiskey is on shelves now with availability in 750ml bottles (competitively priced at $29.99 each).  You can expect to find this new offering at fine liquor retailers located in Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana, Missouri, Nebraska, Texas and Wisconsin.

Now that we have properly covered the inspiration and details behind Eight & Sand, let’s pour a couple fingers and get into some Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Eight & Sand Blended Bourbon Whiskey from MGP Ingredients 

Appearance: Eight & Sand pours a yellow-tinged amber in color that is not too light, not too dark.  When held to direct light, the yellow tones gain vibrancy at the edges while the deeper amber color holds at the core.  The whiskey is crystal clear, no signs of cloud or haze.  A swirl of the glass leaves long, syrupy legs that slowly work their way back down into the liquid.

Aroma: A solid cinnamon presence greets the nose, but it is quickly tempered by a waft of earthy leather and spicy rye.  A tropical character then surfaces, adding tones of coconut, berries and exotic citrus.  The profile closes with a soothing combination of toasted oak, vanilla and caramel.

Taste:  Spice, rye and a sprinkle of cinnamon are the first notes to hit the palate.  The tropical fruit character that really asserted itself in the nose is far more reserved here, but a bit of berry and coconut does turn up at times.  Earthiness replaces that fruitiness nicely with notes of tobacco and leather.  Vanilla, caramel and soft oaky tones round everything out with a comforting sweetness.

Mouthfeel/Finish:  Light and little airy on the palate, this blended bourbon is clean, goes down easily and is considerably smooth (not at all harsh or overly aggressive).  The 44% ABV/88 PROOF does bring some warmth to the throat and chest, but it is more than reasonable for a bourbon.  The finish is a gentle blend of cinnamon, vanilla and tobacco.

Final Thoughts:  All in all, Eight & Sand is an incredibly intriguing offering (especially when you consider the super reasonable $30 price tag).  The aroma is absolutely mesmerizing, the flavors are more than solid enough to break the stigma that the blended bourbon category tends to carry, and the whiskey ultimately lives up to its name by being smooth and easy-drinking.  Beyond that, it has the ability to stand on its own (neat or on the rocks) or in an Old Fashioned or any other bourbon-based cocktail that could benefit from a punch of fruitiness.

Final tally: it is enjoyable, unique, versatile and comes at a price that will not break the bank.  Sounds like all of that amounts to a win.  Be sure to check out Eight & Sand the next time you hit the bottle shop in search of something new.  Prost!