Tasting Notes – Spirits Edition: Remus Repeal Reserve Series III from George Remus Distilling Co.

RemusRepealFor this special Spirits Edition of Tasting Notes, we leave the anniversary of the ratification of Prohibition (January 17) behind us by raising a glass of Remus Repeal Reserve Series III from George Remus Distilling Co. of MGP Ingredients  (Lawrenceburg, Indiana).

Released each year to recognize the end of Prohibition, the Remus Repeal Reserve Series is an award-winning line of Bourbons that allows “the distillery team to experiment with a different bourbon medley each year.”  Remus Repeal Reserve Series III (50% ABV | 100 PROOF) is a Straight Bourbon Whiskey comprised of “a medley of two mash bills from 2007/2008; the complex aroma reveals maple with caramel, candied fruit, chocolate, baking spice, smoke and leather with a balanced palate of caramelized brown spice and a hint of rye on the finish.”

Remus Repeal Reserve Series III was carefully crafted with the use of the following medley:

The 2019 Remus Repeal Reserve Series Medley
12% – 2007 Bourbon (21% Rye)
78% – 2008 Bourbon (21% Rye)
10% – 2008 Bourbon (36% Rye)

Remus Repeal Reserve III officially debuted on November 13, the birthdate of George Remus, and entered full distribution on Prohibition Repeal Day, December 5.  You can find this Limited Release offering available in 750ml bottles (suggested retail price of $84.99 each) at fine liquor retailers located in Tennessee, Texas, Indiana, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Now that we all know the legacy behind the Remus Repeal Reserve Series, let’s grab a couple glass, thank our stars that Prohibition is no longer a thing, and get into these Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Remus Repeal Reserve Series III from George Remus Distilling Co.

Appearance:  Poured neat into an Old-Fashioned-style tumbler (also tested in a Glencairn Crystal Whiskey Glass), Remus Repeal Reserve Series III presents itself as an apricot-tinged, light caramel brown in color.  When held to direct light, brighter orange tones push through making the appearance a lighter but more vibrant brown in color.  The liquid is absolutely pristine in clarity. When swirled about, the liquid coats the glass well with a sticky slick that drops some incredibly slow-moving, syrupy legs.

Aroma:  Sweetness greets the nose with indulgent notes of rich caramel, brown sugar, maple syrup, cocoa, and caramelized fig.  Orange zest and candied orange then surface to add a bit of brightness and break up the sweetness a bit.  The profile rounds off with notes of oak, rye spice and leather.

Taste:  The script set by the aroma flips a bit here as spicy, peppery rye is quick to lay a foundation at the start of the sip.  The citrus note is lighter but still present, offering that candied orange quality.  This allows the experience to shift nicely to the sweeter notes of caramel, chocolate, butterscotch, toasted baking spice (nice presence of nutmeg), and brown sugar.  Oak and leather then roll in to close the experience with soft tones of vanilla, smoke, and a slight touch of earthiness.

Mouthfeel: Slick but not syrupy in texture, this Bourbon hits the taste buds with a flourish, lingers for a moment and clears out beautifully for the next sip.  It is pleasantly sweet on the palate, but in no way cloying thanks to the balancing qualities of the rye and surprising note of citrus. Although it is boozy, the 50% ABV only provides a gentle warmth in the throat and belly.  All of this comes together to create a wonderfully smooth sip that leaves notes of caramel and rye spice behind in the aftertaste.

Final Thoughts:  From the pour to the finish, everything about Remus Repeal Reserve Series III is wonderfully composed and incredibly impressive.  It is absolutely striking in appearance, the aromatics are downright heavenly, the flavor profile is indulgently sweet yet somehow balanced, and the experience as a whole is ridiculously smooth.  This makes for an elegant sipper – best served neat in our opinion – that is an absolute steal since it wears a price tag that is under the $100 mark.  If you have been looking for a reserve-level, limited-edition Bourbon to add to your home bar but prices have been scaring you away, Remus Repeal Reserve Series III is the answer you have been looking for . . . and you might as well grab a couple bottles when you pull that trigger.  Trust us.  You will be happy you did.  Prost!

Tasting Notes: KBS Espresso from Founders Brewing Co.

KBSEspressoPourFor this installment of Tasting Notes, we push through the second half of the workweek thanks to a coffee-fueled boost supplied by KBS Espresso from Founders Brewing Co. (Grand Rapids, Michigan).

Introduced in mid-November 2019 as the first-ever packaged variant of KBS (a.k.a. Kentucky Breakfast Stout), KBS Espresso (12% ABV) takes everything you love about Founders Brewing Co.’s iconic KBS – a Bourbon Barrel-aged Imperial Stout brewed with coffee and chocolate – and then ages it “on espresso beans after being removed from [Bourbon] barrels.” This added step results in “a fresh and snappy coffee twist on [a] classic barrel-aged beer.”

KBS Espresso is out now and will hang around through February 2020.  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-friendly establishments located in Alabama, Florida, Michigan and throughout the rest of Founders Brewing Co.’s nationwide distribution network.  **NOTE: KBS Espresso is not available on draft in Utah or in any format in Mississippi.**

Now that we have gotten all the background information on this exciting new variant out of the way, let’s get into these Tasting Notes and see how much coffee goodness KBS can carry!

Tasting Notes for KBS Espresso from Founders Brewing Co.

Appearance:  KBS Espresso presents itself just as you would expect any beer bearing the KBS name.  It is inky black in color and capped with a solid finger of frothy, mocha-colored foam.  When held to direct light, the blackness holds and blocks any light from penetrating.  The beer is completely opaque and gives no indication as to what the carbonation level could be.  Head retention is good, slinking down slowly to a creamy ring that notches the glass with fine arcs of lace after each pull.

Aroma:  The aroma absolutely explodes with big notes of espresso.  We are talking heavy notes of intensely roasted coffee joined by complementary notes of deeply roasted grain, dark chocolate and dark fruit.  The presence of espresso and roast is so powerful that it actually drowns out the majority of the bourbon notes, only allowing a touch of vanilla to come through.  The profile closes with a gentle waft of rich, earthy tobacco.

Taste:   The espresso is quick to consume the palate with an abundance of dark roasted coffee at the start of each sip.  Dark, bittersweet chocolate then joins the mix to create a satisfying note similar to those addictive little chocolate-covered espresso beans.  The barrel eventually works its way in to supply a soft undercurrent of vanilla and oak, but the bourbon tones are definitely here to take a back seat to the coffee notes.  The experience is rounded off with a smooth layer of dark fruit, leather and tobacco.

Mouthfeel:  Full-bodied with a moderate carbonation level, this Imperial Stout is thick and creamy on the palate.  The heavily roasted coffee and notes of dark chocolate provide a bit of bitterness, but that is quickly tamed by the vanilla tones provided by the bourbon barrels.  Shockingly, the 12% ABV provides very little booziness and offers only a touch of warmth in the throat at times. The aftertaste leaves behind a light presence of tobacco and freshly roasted coffee.

Final Thoughts: With the release of KBS Espresso, Founders Brewing Co. set out to ramp up and highlight the overall coffee character that has always been a part of the incredibly balanced KBS experience.  Mission accomplished.  The label on this variant clearly displays “ESPRESSO” in all caps, and that espresso lives up to its bold, intense reputation from start to finish in this beer. The brewing team was not at all shy about letting the espresso dominate the aromatics and flavor profile.  The roast is intense and imparts a pleasant bitterness that works beautifully with the beer’s roasted malts and chocolate notes.  The barrel character does fall off a bit (only offering a bit of oak and vanilla at times), but that is to be expected when you add a powerful ingredient like espresso to the beer after barrel-aging.  With that said, the grace of barrel that is present is more than enough because the intense coffee notes carry this beer with ease and in a wonderfully delightful way.

If you have ever wished there was more coffee in your KBS or are just curious to experience a different take on this legendary brew, you need to keep KBS Espresso in mind the next time you hit up your favorite bottle shop.  Just make sure you get your hands on some before its availability comes to an end in late February. Prost!

Tasting Notes: Crabbie’s Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer

CrabbiesPourFor this edition of Tasting Notes, we spice up the weekend by getting into some Crabbie’s Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer from Halewood International (Liverpool, United Kingdom).

The result of “pioneer John Crabbie’s search for the finest ingredients from the Far East,” Crabbie’s Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer is crafted with a “closely guarded secret recipe” that dates back to 1801.  Featuring only the finest Asian ginger and exotic spices, Crabbie’s is a “deliciously refreshing beverage . . . made with purely natural flavors – none of those artificial and hard-to-pronounce sweeteners.”  Crabbie’s Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer (4% ABV) can be easily enjoyed on its own (straight or over ice with a slice of lime), as an ingredient in cocktails such as the Moscow Mule and Dark & Stormy, or as the perfect palate cleansing pairing for fine Asian cuisine.

Crabbie’s Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer is available Year-Round, and you can expect to find it available in 4-packs of 330ml (11.2 oz) bottles at fine beverage retailers located in Alabama, Florida and throughout the rest of the U.S.

Now that we all know a little of the history behind this offering, let’s crack open a few bottles and let the spice carry us through these Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Crabbie’s Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer from Halewood International

Appearance:  A steady pour produces a brassy, light golden yellow Ginger Beer that is topped with right at a finger of fizzy, bright white foam.  When held to direct light, the darker brassy tones diminish a bit to allow the brighter golden yellows to push through.  The beer is perfectly clear, displaying a rather vibrant carbonation presence bouncing about within.  Head retention is decent, quickly falling to a frothy, lasting top cap that has some good stick to it as it sheets the glass with a solid coat of lace.

Aroma:  As expected, the ginger is quick to command all aspects of the aroma.  This is a powerful presence of freshly chopped ginger root that fills the air the moment the cap is pried from the bottle. Lemongrass and lime zest eventually join in, but the aromatic profile is pretty much dominated by the featured ingredient: ginger.

Taste:  Spicy ginger is quick to grab the palate with a pleasant, refreshing bite.  The ginger notes then pull back a bit, allowing notes of lemongrass, coriander and lime leaf and zest to surface.  All of this is balanced by a solid backbone of brown sugar and caramel-like sweetness.

Mouthfeel:  Light in body with an effervescent level of carbonation, this brew is bright, crisp and easy drinking.  Mostly spicy on the palate, it does find some level of cool balance thanks its lightly sweet malt character.  The 4% ABV is obviously light in presence and is almost completely masked by the ginger spice.  The aftertaste is a bit of caramel-kissed ginger.

Final Thoughts:  Crabbie’s Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer pulls absolutely no punches as it asserts itself with a true, potent representation of what ginger is all about.  The ginger character – in both flavor and aroma – is fresh, clean, incredibly pronounced and downright delightful.  With that said, this Ginger Beer still has depth as it allows the malts and other spices to add to and accentuate the overall experience.  This dynamic quality made quite the impression on us as we were able to thoroughly enjoy Crabbie’s straight from the bottle and also in a round of Dark & Stormy cocktails (and yes, the ginger held up beautifully against the sweet nature of the dark rum).  If you are a fan of bold flavors and ginger in particular, Crabbie’s Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer needs to be on the shopping list for your next beer run.  Prost!


Tasting Notes: Hop 99 Light IPA from Abita Brewing Company

AbitaHop99pourFor this installment of Tasting Notes, we look toward those New Year’s resolutions and cut some calories by getting into a pour of Hop 99 Light IPA from Abita Brewing Company (Abita Springs, Louisiana)

Introduced by Abita back in late September with the intent of supplying their fans with “a more sessionable beer without sacrificing the craft taste,” Hop 99 is a Light India Pale Ale jam-packed with “Mosaic and Citra hops . . . to give it a big hop flavor, while pale malts give it a light body and crisp finish.” Weighing in at just 4.2% ABV, 99 calories and 2.7 grams of carbohydrates, Hop 99 is an “ideal choice for after a run, taking a break from yard work or a long day of tailgating.”

Hop 99 is available now and you can expect to find this new Year-Round offering available in 6-packs of 12 oz. cans and on draft at craft beer-friendly establishments located in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and throughout the rest of Abita’s distribution area.

Alright . . . now that all the carbs and calories have been counted, let’s crack open a can and give Hop 99 the Tasting Notes treatment!

Tasting Notes for Hop 99 Light IPA from Abita Brewing Company

Appearance: A somewhat hasty pour produces an IPA that is a super light, straw yellow in color and capped with just over a finger of lush, bright white foam.  When held to direct light, the color lightens a touch but remains mostly unchanged.  The beer is clear and displays a steady carbonation presence gently streaming within.  Head retention is decent, collapsing down to a thin but complete, lasting top cap that leaves wisps of lace behind on the glass.

Aroma: The hops are definitely performing at full potential in the aromatics department.  There is a big, distinct presence of Mosaic and Citra hops that offers notes of mixed tropical fruit, mango, citrus, grapefruit, lime and a bit of pine. There is a subtle waft of malt sweetness present, but otherwise the aroma is keenly focused on the hops.

Taste: The flavors are light, but the hops do all that they can to supply citrusy notes of orange, grapefruit, lime (actually a fair amount of clean lime flavor), mango and mixed berries.  There is a hint of minerality present, but it is quickly tempered by the sweetness of the Pale malts.  The profile closes with soft pine notes.

Mouthfeel: Light in body with a medium carbonation, this brew is incredibly easy drinking, crisp and refreshing.  The balance here is quite nice, tipping ever so slightly to the hoppy side but without any aggressive bitterness.  As expected, the 4.2% ABV is well hidden and further raises the beer’s overall level of drinkability.  Aftertaste is minimal, but a there is just the lightest touch of grapefruit and pine left to linger.

Final Thoughts:  Like most low-calorie IPAs coming out these days, Hop 99 is light all around: light in calories and carbs, light in color, light in mouthfeel, and a little light in flavor.  That is to be expected though.  If you are sacrificing a little here and there to cut out the calories, you are going to lose a bit of the full IPA experience along the way.

With that said, Hop 99’s hop aroma is absolutely on point and those hops do all that they can to get you as much IPA flavor as possible.  Those gorgeous Mosaic and Citra hops definitely give you more flavor than any low-calorie offering coming out of the Big 3 (Bud, Miller, Coors) while still giving you all the drinkability of those easy-drinking light lagers and ales.  This makes Hop 99 an ideal brew for fit hopheads to enjoy after a workout or for the IPA-lovers out there that are looking to cut some weight in the New Year.  If calories are on your mind these days, make sure to keep an eye out for Hop 99 the next time you hit the beer aisle.  Prost!


Tasting Notes – Spirits Edition: Chairman’s Reserve Original Rum From Saint Lucia Distillers

ChairmansOriginal2_editedFor this special Spirits Edition of Tasting Notes, we settle into our Christmas break by getting into a pour of Chairman’s Reserve Original Rum from Saint Lucia Distillers (Saint Lucia, West Indies).

First blended in 1999 with the intention to “create a fine quality rum that can represent the iconic style of St. Lucian rum,” Chairman’s Reserve Original Rum “starts with selected aged rums of both Coffey column stills and copper pot stills.”  These selected rums are “aged separately by batch and type of still in ex-Bourbon barrels, then blended and rested in oak vats for an additional six months.”  Clocking in at 40% ABV/80 PROOF, the finished Chairman’s Reserve Original Rum comes together to “become the flagship St. Lucian rum known for its harmonious well-rounded finesse and style with tremendous character for cocktails and sipping experiences.”

Chairman’s Reserve Original Rum is available in 750ml bottles (suggested retail price $27.99 each) at select liquor retailers located throughout the U.S. If you would like to order a bottle directly, you can do so by visiting Spiribam’s website (click here).

Alrighty . . . now that we have covered the story behind the rum, what do you say we crack open this bottle and make merry with some Tasting Notes?

Tasting Notes for Chairman’s Reserve Original Rum from Saint Lucia Distillers

Appearance: Chairman’s Reserve Original Rum is pristine in clarity and presents itself as a caramel-tinged, dark amber in color.  When held to direct light, deep golden yellows push through as the amber tones brighten.  When swirled about, the liquid coats the glass with a wide slick that releases some long, slow-moving legs.

Aroma: The aromatics open with caramelized banana, raisins and dark fruit. A spicy, woodsy, oaken quality then develops alongside a good amount of sweet vanilla.  Notes of honey and tobacco then turn up to round out the profile.

Taste: Rich, boozy tones of caramel and molasses are the first flavors to hit the tongue.  The barrel character then takes over, producing Bourbon-like levels of vanilla, oak and coconut.  Raisin and dried apricot offer a touch of fruity sweetness before the sip closes with a complex mix of tobacco, leather, clove spice, chocolate and floral notes.

Mouthfeel:  Slick and slightly syrupy in texture, this rum coats the palate gently and pleasantly lingers before slowly evaporating into nothingness. Sweet on the palate at first, it eventually balances out nicely thanks to the earthy tobacco and floral notes.  The 40% ABV is actually pretty tame, producing a wonderfully smooth sip that offers just a touch of warmth in the belly.  The aftertaste is all vanilla and oak.

Final Thoughts:  All in all, Chairman’s Reserve Original Rum is incredibly solid and smooth for the price point.  Thanks to its big flavors and lovely aromatics, it boasts more than enough complexity – especially when you consider the Bourbon-like notes it picks up off the barrels – so that it can easily be enjoyed neat or on the rocks.  At the same time, its reasonable price tag makes it so you do not feel guilty about using this wonderfully balanced and well-rounded rum as an ingredient in your favorite rum-based cocktails/mixed drinks.  This level of versatility makes Chairman’s Reserve Original Rum a fantastic go-to option to keep on-hand in your home bar. Be sure to keep an eye out for it the next time you find yourself wandering the aisles at your favorite retailer of fine liquors.  Prost!


Tasting Notes: Alpha Abstraction – Vol. 9 from Wild Leap Brew Co.

WildLeapAADIPA9x2_editedFor this installment of Tasting Notes, we feed our need for hops by getting into a few cans of Alpha Abstraction Double IPA – Vol. 9 from Wild Leap Brew Co. (LaGrange, Georgia).

Released in mid-October to “[follow] in the juicy footsteps of its predecessors” in Wild Leap’s experimental Double IPA series, Alpha Abstraction – Vol. 9 is a Hazy Double India Pale Ale that has been double dry-hopped with Michigan Chinook hops, a Midwest varietal of the Chinook hop that is typically grown on the West Coast. These hops have a “new, distinct taste” that lends this beer “the sweetness of pineapple . . . paired with a tart grapefruit bite.” Alpha Abstraction – Vol. 9 clocks in at 8% ABV and 46 IBUs.

Like all releases in the Alpha Abstraction Series, this Limited Release offering was made available in 6-packs of 12 oz. cans and on draft at select craft beer-focused establishments located within Wild Leap’s distribution footprint in Georgia.

Alright . . . now that we have provided a brief overview of Alpha Abstraction – Vol. 9’s background info, let’s get into these Tasting Notes and see how these Michigan Chinook hops carry this brew!

Tasting Notes for Alpha Abstraction – Vol. 9 from Wild Leap Brew Co.

Appearance:  This Double IPA pours a burnished orange in color and is capped with over two fingers of creamy, bright white foam.  When held to direct light, the color holds but bright beams of yellow do push through at the edges of the glass. The beer is super hazy, but a bit of carbonation can still be seen meandering about within. Head retention is quite good, falling slowly to a lasting half finger that absolutely saturates the glass with lace.

Aroma:  Punchy levels of pine, spice and just pure dankness great the nose, providing a nostalgic sense of more old school, West Coast-style DIPAs.  Things then shift gears to the more Juicy DIPA side as sweet pineapple and citrus turn up.  Those juicy notes are further supported by a fair amount of nondescript malt sweetness that surfaces on the back end.

Taste:  Big notes of grapefruit, orange and tangerine take the lead here. These notes are not overly bitter or tart, they just supply plenty of sweet citrus flavor with an added kick of sharpness.  Pine resin enforces that sharpness a bit, but it is not at all heavy handed.  Sweet pineapple, papaya and grains then engulf the experience with a burst of lasting sweetness.

Mouthfeel:  Medium in body with a medium carbonation, this brew has a good weight to it and is nice and velvety on the palate.  The balance here is impeccable, and the overall experience dries up nicely, is ridiculously easy drinking, and is devoid of any hop burn.  The ABV reads much lighter than 8% and does not offer any heat at all.  The aftertaste is all pine and pineapple.

Final Thoughts: By focusing on Michigan Chinook hops in Alpha Abstraction – Vol. 9, Wild Leap has created another memorable Double IPA that is a good mix of new and old.  The aroma carries plenty of memories of old school hops and West Coast-style IPAs (even with the amount of sweetness present) while the flavor fully embraces the Juicy/Hazy Double IPA style by offering plenty of sweet pineapple and citrus laced with just the right amount of pine.  Factor in the beer’s high level of drinkability, and Alpha Abstraction – Vol. 9 comes together to be just about everything you could possibly want from a modern IPA/DIPA.  This beer’s availability window has all but closed, so be sure to give it a try while you still have the chance.  Prost!


Tasting Notes: Hessian Session S-IPA from Iron Fist Brewing Company

HessianSessionPourFor this edition of Tasting Notes, we close out the week by crushing a few cans of Hessian Session S-IPA from Iron Fist Brewing Company (Vista, California).

Released at the tail-end of October to pay homage to a “traditional West Coast classic,” Hessian Session is a West Coast-style Session India Pale Ale that has “a Pilsner malt and a top secret undisclosed malt [meet] Mt Hood, Citra, Amarillo, and Cascade hops.” To put a unique spin on the style, the beer was then “dry hopped with Kaffir Lime Leaf, letting the beer simply rest on the leaf to allow everything to break down and release that great, yet subtle flavor out.” Weighing in at a slightly higher ABV than most Session IPAs, this special brew has been named Hessian Session “because only heavy hitting sketchy hessians are going to pound a 5% [ABV] beer as a session.”

Hessian Session S-IPA hit Iron Fist Brewing Company’s Vista and Barrio Logan taprooms in late October 2019.  This Limited Release offering is available in limited-edition 12 oz. cans and on draft as long as supplies last. Like all Small Batch Experiments, Hessian Session S-IPA is a taproom exclusive release.

Now that we are all caught up on the process behind the beer, let’s get into these Tasting Notes and see how it turned out!

Tasting Notes for Hessian Session S-IPA from Iron Fist Brewing Company

Appearance:  A somewhat rushed pour produced a slightly orange-hued, golden yellow brew capped with nearly two fingers of airy, bright white foam.  When held to direct light, the color lightens to more of a straw yellow.  The beer is mostly clear and displays steady streams of carbonation coursing within.  Head retention is decent, falling somewhat quickly to a thin but lasting ring that coats the glass with broad sheets of wispy lace patterns.

Aroma:  The aroma is quite citrus driven, boasting notes lime juice and zest, orange and tangerine. There is a pleasant floral note that complements and carries all those citrus notes beautifully.  A muted malt sweetness lies in wait underneath all the bright aromatics provided by the hops and kaffir lime leaf.

Taste:  Just like in the nose, the flavor opens with big citrus notes dominated by pure lime character (sans any tartness) and sweet orange.  This is accompanied by a citrusy floral tone from the kaffir lime leaf, an herbal Noble-like hop presence, and just a grace of tropical fruit and melon.  The malts are reserved, only here to provide a touch of balancing sweetness.

Mouthfeel:  Light in body with a crisp carbonation level, this Session IPA is appropriately light, thirst quenching and clean.  It offers just the right amount of hop bite in the finish, but it is otherwise nicely balanced.  Although the 5% ABV is a bit elevated for the style, the alcohol content is well hidden and the beer drinks just as easily as any other Session IPA out there.  The aftertaste is just a light, lingering presence of floral and citrus notes.

Final Thoughts:  Hessian Session is a fantastic take on the Session IPA style.  It has plenty of West Coast-style hop flavor and bite – although reduced a bit for the sake of elevating its level of drinkability – tucked away into an incredibly light brew.

With that said, it sets itself apart from the field of other Session IPAs with how Iron Fist incorporated the kaffir lime leaf.  By “dry-hopping” the beer with the lime leaf, it translates as almost hop-like in character by lending pure lime flavor and aroma without any tartness or sharpness.  It accentuates and complements the hop bill, and just splendidly rounds out the entire experience.

Although the process for creating Hessian Session may have been inventive and imaginative, the beer still translates easily and simply . . . just like a Session IPA should.  Yeah, this one makes you think a bit about that kaffir lime leaf, but that moment of thought does not keep you from crushing a can in record time.  Hessian Session succeeds at everything it set out to do, and it needs to be on the radar of any hophead out in Southern California and beyond.  Prost!

Tasting Notes – The Classics: Dragon’s Milk from New Holland Brewing Company

DragonsMilkCapFor this special edition of Tasting Notes, we take a moment to revisit and appreciate a true legend in the craft beer realm, Dragon’s Milk Bourbon Barrel-aged Stout from New Holland Brewing Company (Holland, Michigan).

Introduced 18 years ago to be the modern-day equivalent of a “knight’s reward for slaying a dragon,” Dragon’s Milk is an Imperial Stout “with roasty malt character intermingled with deep vanilla tones, all dancing in an oak bath” sourced from time spent aging in Bourbon barrels. With just one sip of this “true legend,” it will become clear why New Holland always believed that Dragon’s Milk (11% ABV) would become “the finest liquid in [their] house.”

Dragon’s Milk is a Year-Round offering available in 4-packs of 12 oz. bottles and on draft.  You can expect to find this iconic brew at craft beer-focused establishments located in Alabama, Florida, Michigan and throughout the rest of New Holland’s distribution area.

Now that we are all a bit more familiar with the story behind the beer, let’s pop open a few bottles and slay a couple of dragons for the sake of these Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Dragon’s Milk Bourbon Barrel-aged Stout from New Holland Brewing Company

Appearance:  Dragon’s Milk pours an inky black in color and is capped with just over a finger of mocha colored foam.  When held to direct light, the extreme edges of the pour hint at dark brown tones but the darkness holds fast for the most part.  The beer is completely opaque, so there is really no visual indication of the carbonation level.  Head retention is good, slowly slipping down to a creamy ring at around the halfway mark of the experience. The foam attempts to leave spots of lace on the glass after each sip, but the beer coats the glass with an oily slick that forces any lace to retreat back down into the top cap.

Aroma:  The barrel character hits first with pronounced notes of bourbon-soaked grains, vanilla and wet wood/oak.  That grain character eventually emerges on the other side of the bourbon to offer tones of dark roast, toast, toffee, coffee and bittersweet chocolate. A hint of dark fruit sneaks in at times to round everything out.

Taste: High quality dark chocolate (bittersweet), sweet cocoa, deeply roasted grains, and black coffee smoothly slide across the palate at the start of the sip. This sets the stage beautifully for the bourbon barrel’s notes of vanilla, oak, char, caramelized brown sugar and a hint of coconut.  Just like in the nose, a slight presence of dark fruit, riding an extra wave of sweet vanilla, turns up to close the profile.

Mouthfeel: Leaning a touch toward the medium side of full-bodied with a medium carbonation, Dragon’s Milk has a wonderfully silky weight to it while the carbonation keeps the experience smooth by lifting and carrying away any residual sweetness.  That sweetness is further tempered by a gentle bitterness sourced from the beer’s notes of roasted grains, coffee and bittersweet chocolate. The 11% ABV is pleasantly present, supplying boozy notes and a gentle warmth that rises from the belly. Aftertaste is all bourbon soaked dark fruit and cocoa.

Final Thoughts:  There is absolutely no denying that Dragon’s Milk is a true classic in the world of craft beer.  From top to bottom, this brew is one of the lasting original examples capable of providing a template for the basic characteristics one should expect from a well-crafted and balanced Bourbon Barrel-aged Stout.  It has a solid Stout base that carries all the roasty, chocolaty goodness you could want while the Bourbon barrel is there to influence the experience – with deep notes of oak, vanilla and bourbon – in a way that complements rather than dominates. Although they both have an equal opportunity to show what they are all about, the base beer and barrel still come together to consistently provide a cohesive experience from sip to sip, pour to pour, bottle to bottle. 

This level of consistency and quality is what makes Dragon’s Milk the legend that it is. A legend that we should all experience and revisit from time to time so that we can appreciate the breweries and beers that risked everything and eventually went on to shape what we now know and love about craft beer.  It is part of American craft beer lore and should be respected as such.  Prost!


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!