Tasting Notes: Super Cluster from Lagunitas Brewing Company

LagunitasSuperClusterPourFor this edition of Tasting Notes, we start the week with a Citra-saturated siesta made possible by a pour of Super Cluster from Lagunitas Brewing Company (Petaluma, California).

Described as a “galactic blast from the glass”, Super Cluster is an “out-of-this-world” Pale Ale brewed with “2-Row Malted Barley, a helluva lotta hops – Citra, Citra, Citra, and some more Citra, . . . and . . . dry-hopped . . . with 100% Citra.” Clocking in at 8% ABV and 60 IBUs, Super Cluster promises to be a “Citra supernova in the sky, jettisoning lupulin lusciousness through the cosmos and across the universe of your palate.”

Super Cluster is out now and will be available through September.  You can expect to find this Limited Release available in 12-packs of 12 oz. bottles and on draft at select beer-focused 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 gone over the necessary background information, let’s bear witness to the Super Cluster by giving it the Tasting Notes treatment!

Tasting Notes for Super Cluster from Lagunitas Brewing Company

Appearance:  Super Cluster presents itself as an orange-tinted, deep golden colored brew that has right at a finger of luscious, bright white foam sitting on top.  Held to direct light, the color holds while taking on a bit of a glow.  The beer is pristine in clarity and displays a highly active carbonation level coursing within.  Retention is good, but the lacing has a tough time taking hold due to how slick the beer is on the glass.

Aroma:  Sticky, tropical hop goodness just billows from the glass as big waves of grapefruit collide with passionfruit and musky lychee.  Lemon and lime add some brightness to the hops while a bit of mango imparts a rounding touch of sweetness that helps point out the modest malt presence.  The profile closes with a dank hop character that is both resiny and floral.

Taste:  As expected, this beauty is all Citra hops . . . but they kind of creep up on you by opening oh-so softly with sweet tones of melon, lychee and mango.  That reserved introduction proves to be short-lived as sharp notes of grapefruit zest, pith and juice lash out and grab hold of the taste buds.  The citrus presence builds from there with a twist of lime and what can only be described as the sensation of chewing on the peel of a clementine.  To properly put the Lagunitas stamp on the experience, it closes with a super green, uber dank hop quality.

Mouthfeel:  Medium in body with a medium carbonation level, Super Cluster is sticky on the palate, allowing its drinker to fully experience those Citra hop oils.  Mostly bitter with a finessed touch of sweetness for balance, this beer actually dries out pretty quickly – semi-dry overall – and entices you to take sip after sip.  That 8% ABV is stealthy, but a building warmth in the throat eventually forces you to throttle down from gulp to sip mode.  The aftertaste is all grapefruit.

Final Thoughts:  You want Citra hops in all their tropical, citrusy glory? Well, that is exactly what Super Cluster delivers.  If you could not already recognize the presence of Citra hops in other beers, spend a little time with this offering and you definitely will moving forward because it is so Citra-centric that it will ingrain that hop profile into your sensory memory.  Despite coming across as hoppy AF, this monster somehow steers clear of becoming overwhelming or a chore to drink.  Super Cluster remains incredibly enjoyable and easy-drinking . . . so much so there is no wondering why Lagunitas only packaged this Limited Release in 12-packs.   It is truly one of the most proper Citra fixes you can get right now, and those 12 bottles will be gone in no time.  If you have a love for hops, you need this beer in your fridge.  Go get you some. Prost!



Tasting Notes: Stargazer White from Highland Brewing

HighlandStargazerPour_editedFor this installment of Tasting Notes, Tuesday has arrived and brought with it the inspiration – or excuse – to daydream while day-drinking a pour of Stargazer White from Highland Brewing (Asheville, North Carolina).

Named after the Stargazer Lily that blooms in mid-to-late summer, Highland Stargazer is a fresh take on the Witbier style that employs the use of grapefruit peel, candied ginger, and coriander in its recipe. The stylistic tweaks continue from there as Highland’s brewers reinforce the “spicy character of the Belgian ale yeast” with added spice notes from Saphir hops and locally sourced rye malt. Clocking in at a sessionable 4.8% ABV, the summer-appropriate Highland Stargazer is here to supply craft beer fans with “a bright and balanced white ale in a stellar can.”

Stargazer White is available now in 6-packs of 12 oz. cans and on draft.  You can expect to find this Seasonal offering at craft beer establishments located in Alabama, Florida, North Carolina and throughout the rest of Highland Brewing’s distribution footprint.

Now that we are all a little more familiar with this new Seasonal, let’s crack open these cans and get lost in fanciful thought with some Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Stargazer White from Highland Brewing

Appearance: A careful pour produces a soft-yellow-colored brew that is capped with right at a finger of wispy, airy white foam.  When held to direct light, the yellow gains some vibrancy and intensity.  The beer is slightly cloudy but remains clear enough to display the exuberant carbonation presence streaming throughout.  Head retention is decent but falls quicker than expected to a thin cap that still retains the ability to leave wide streaks of lace behind on the glass whenever it is jostled.

Aroma:  The aromatics kickoff with a pronounced and distinct ginger presence that eventually settles down enough to allow earthy and spicy hop tones to come forward.  Citrusy coriander then builds from this and brings with it gentle notes of grapefruit and lemongrass.

Taste: The grains surprising get top billing here, starting things off with slightly sweet wheat and spicy rye.  The malts act as a solid foundation to carry the brighter, more assertive ginger and grapefruit notes that follow closely behind.  The hops then gently work their way in, offering complementary earthy, floral and spicy notes.  The experience closes beautifully with just a bit of bubble gum and musky coriander.

Mouthfeel:  Light side of medium in body with an effervescent carbonation level, Stargazer is all about being easy-drinking and refreshing.  The beer is wonderfully balanced across the board as the spices, hops and grains all know that this experience requires focus and teamwork.  The 4.8% ABV is not at all noticeable, upping the refreshment level even further.  Aftertaste is minimal, leaving just a slight trace of ginger behind.

Final Thoughts:  Just as the brewery hoped, Highland Stargazer comes together to be an updated, slightly exotic take on the Belgian Wit/White style.  The ginger adds a fun new dimension to the flavor and aromatics but does so without taking anything away from the style’s trademark wheat and coriander notes.  The addition of grapefruit peel rather than orange is also a nice touch that adds just a grace of balancing bitterness that the style often begs for.  There is not one ingredient added to this beer that ever considers getting aggressive, and that is no small feat when you are working with ingredients such as ginger, coriander and grapefruit peel.  Everything just knows its role, works for the greater good, and results in an ultra-refreshing brew that is absolutely perfect for summer sipping.  Speaking of sipping . . . we are going to get back to that and encourage you to pick up a sixer of Highland Stargazer so that you can do the same.  Prost!


Tasting Notes: Painted Cave Guava IPA from Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co.

aviary-image-1530218470339For this edition of Tasting Notes, we close out the week seeking refuge from the summer heat in a Painted Cave Guava India Pale Ale from Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. (Buellton, California).

Created to honor “the beautiful painted caves hidden throughout the west”, Painted Cave is a Seasonal India Pale Ale brewed with Citra, El Dorado, and Simcoe hops to “impart a tropical fruit profile with bright citrus and pine notes.”  Pink guava purée is then introduced to add a juicy level of complexity and balance.  Weighing in at 7.25% ABV and 55 IBUs, Painted Cave comes together to offer an alluring display of flavors and aromatics.

Painted Cave Guava India Pale Ale is available now for a limited time in 6-packs of 12 oz. bottles and on draft.  You can expect to find this Seasonal Rotation offering at select craft beer establishments located throughout Figueroa Mountain’s distribution footprint in California and Arizona.

Alright.  It’s hot.  We are thirsty.  It’s time for some Tasting Notes.  Let’s get it!

Tasting Notes for Painted Cave Guava India Pale Ale from Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co.

Appearance:  Painted Cave is an orange-laced, deep golden in color and is capped with just over a finger of creamy white foam.  When held to direct light, the orange hues filter out to leave a strikingly vibrant gold to shine on its own.  Rocking the softest haze possible, this beer is mostly clear and displays a super energetic carbonation presence darting about within.  Retention is good, but the head ultimately reduces to a thin, but complete cap that drops down some sizable spots of lace after each pull.

Aroma:  The guava absolutely billows from the glass, setting the tone with a pleasantly musty, tropical character.  The tropical trend continues from there with notes of papaya, passion fruit, pineapple, mango and melon.  A bright grapefruit tone and a touch of earthiness then surface to close out the profile.  This thing is all guava and hops on the nose, and we are not mad at that.

Taste:  Citra hops waste no time to assert themselves in the flavor department and kick things off with big bursts of grapefruit and passion fruit.  This transitions easily to the guava’s tropical sweetness that brings along added juicy hop notes of pineapple, melon and mango.  A touch of grassiness and pine works its way in at times, but is easily tamed and subdued by the more pronounced tropical tones.  Pale malts turn up near the end of the experience, adding a nondescript sweetness that calls the guava out for an encore in the finish.

Mouthfeel:  Medium bodied with a peppy carbonation level, Painted Cave offers a slightly slick, oily feel that cleans up and dries out quite quickly.  Balanced beautifully, this beer works the palate with a nearly equal amount of bitter and sweet.  That 7.25% ABV does turn up with a bit of warmth in the throat as the pour warms, but the beer’s juicy qualities tamp that down and keep the experience easy-drinking and refreshing.  The aftertaste is a soft, lingering presence of guava and passion fruit.

Final Thoughts:  Skillfully crafted, absolutely every aspect of Painted Cave has been dialed in to complement and/or accentuate another.  The guava coaxes out the tropical characteristics of the hops, the hops reinforce the mustiness of the guava while also adding a dynamic contrast of earthiness/pine, and the pale malts balance out all those hops and further encourage the guava to shine.  It seems as though everything just instinctively knows its place, and it all comes together to become a ridiculously easy-drinking and juicy IPA that still retains its West Coast roots.  Simply put, Painted Cave is an embodiment of summer that all hopheads should cross paths with at some point. Make it happen.  Prost!


Tasting Notes: A Little Sumpin’ Extra Ale from Lagunitas Brewing Company

lagunitasLSXtraPour2For this installment of Tasting Notes, we push through the mid-week slump with a little inspiration from A Little Sumpin’ Extra Ale from Lagunitas Brewing Company (Petaluma, California).

Stepping in to fill the big sister role for Lagunitas’ Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ AleA Little Sumpin’ Extra is a “Double-ish White IPA” sporting a grain bill comprised of “50% malted barley and 50% wheatly-esque-ish-ness.” Although it may be a bit lighter in color than lil’ sis, the “bigger, badder, and bolder” A Little Sumpin’ Extra Ale (8.7% ABV) proves to be “huge in flavor and satisfaction” while rockin’ a uniquely “curious malt complexity.”

A Little Sumpin’ Extra is nearing the end of its Limited Release run, but you can still find it available in 22 oz. bottles and on draft at select beer-friendly establishments located in Alabama, Florida, California, Illinois, Washington and throughout the rest of Lagunitas Brewing Company’s expansive distribution area.

That should just about cover the necessary background data, so let’s do what we all came here to do and get into these Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for A Little Sumpin’ Extra Ale from Lagunitas Brewing Company

Appearance:  A Little Sumpin’ Extra presents itself as a light gold in color and is adorned with over two fingers of frothy white foam.  When held to direct light, the color softens and settles in as more of a light to straw yellow tone. Pristine in clarity (impressively so considering the wheat bill), the beer shows off a plentiful carbonation presence.  Head retention is bordering on incredible as the foam barely falls at all and coats the glass with an all-encompassing sheet of lace.

Aroma:  Citrus driven hops blast the nose with notes of tangerine, grapefruit and orange zest.  Floral tones then develop and bring with them just a touch of pine.  A soft wheat presence and a bit of honey-like sweetness rests underneath to support and showcase those hop notes.

Taste:  The flavors nearly mirror the nose as citrus fruits move in first with a dynamic orange character that is less sweet and more reminiscent of Cara Cara and Seville varieties.  Floral and grassy notes work their way in and interlace with the breadiness of the sweet wheat and pale malts that are mostly here to supply an exquisite, supporting balance.  Occasionally, you can pick up on notes of banana, pineapple and honey.   It all closes out with a memorable punch of bitter grapefruit meat and zest.

Mouthfeel:  Full bodied with a bright carbonation, this beer has a hefty, viscous weight that somehow remains easy-drinking and gulp-worthy.  Although this Double IPA does have a good amount of hop bite, the level of balance here is damn near perfect.  The bitterness is on point, the sweetness is satisfying without being cloying, and it all just dries out beautifully.  The ABV comes across as pretty tame for 8.7%.  Aftertaste is just a little grapefruit drizzled with honey.

Final Thoughts:  Beyond being ridiculously delicious, A Little Sumpin’ Extra is an incredibly unique offering and it all starts with the mouthfeel.  You may not expect a real-deal full-bodied experience to function well in Double White IPA that still holds a good amount of bitterness, but it works.  It does so because the hops have just enough sharpness to give you that lupulin fix, that 50/50 mix of barley and wheat malts slips through the sensory experience with a stealthy, sweetening balance, and everything dries out before you even realize what hit you. Despite being released every once in a while since 2009, this beer still feels new, playful, and just completely and utterly different from anything else out there on beer shelves and taps.  To us, that is an indication of something truly special, and we will certainly take a pour of A Little Sumpin’ Extra anytime we have the opportunity.  Be sure to check it out while you still have the chance.  Prost!

Tasting Notes: Stone White Ghost Berliner Weisse from Stone Brewing

aviary-image-1529447742379For this edition of Tasting Notes, we get all literal by enjoying a close look at a true Berliner Weisse actually from Berlin: Stone White Ghost Berliner Weisse from Stone Brewing (Escondido, California / Berlin, Germany).

Already established in Europe as a Core/Year-Round offering from Stone Brewing – BerlinStone White Ghost (or White Geist) is an authentic take on the Berliner Weisse-style that “gains its orthodox lightly sour and acidic character from a specially selected historic Lactobacillus strain sourced from Berlin’s cultures.”  Well . . . mostly authentic because you know Stone Brewing had to put its own twist on the style by raising the ABV just a skosh to 4.7%. Rounded off with newer German hop varieties (Calista and Hüll Melon), Stone White Ghost Berliner Weisse’s “aroma leads with lemon, peach and melon and the unexpectedly bold and pleasantly refreshing tart flavor punches above its ABV weight.”

To give their American fans a taste of what the brewery is doing in Berlin, Stone Brewing has decided to import Stone White Ghost Berliner Weisse for a limited time.  Stone White Ghost is already available throughout California and a “broad national launch” is expected to follow in the fall of 2018.  Once fully launched, you can expect to find this Limited Release offering available in 6-packs of 0.33cl cans and on draft at select craft beer establishments located in Alabama, Florida, California, Virginia, and throughout the rest of Stone Brewing’s nationwide distribution footprint.

Now that we know where it has come from and how we can get it, let’s get into these Tasting Notes to see how scary good this White Ghost is!

Tasting Notes for Stone White Ghost Berliner Weisse from Stone Brewing

Appearance:  Stone White Ghost materializes in the glass as a slightly cloudy, pale golden brew.  When held to direct light, the gold color softens, and the liquid takes on more of a lemony yellow appearance.  Although cloudy, it is by no means opaque and a gentle carbonation presence can be seen within.  The pour built just over a finger of airy, wispy white foam.  Retention is decent for the style, but the head eventually falls to a thin ring that does its best to leave sporadic spots of lace behind on the glass.

Aroma: A distinct note of straight lemon juice absolutely billows from the glass as the beer is being poured.  Clean wheat then moves in to support and mellow the citrus a bit, allowing notes of peach, apricot, melon and tart berries a chance to develop as well.  That lemon quality ultimately returns to close things out with a just a touch of grassiness in the background.

Taste:  Just as it should be, the flavor is nearly all tart, lemony goodness.  Sure, the wheat is there to add a bit of balance and the hops have a chance to offer a grace of apricot and melon, but this is pretty much just a sour, Lactobacillus-driven experience dominated by those lemon notes.  And it is gorgeous.

Mouthfeel:  On the light side of medium in body with a slightly fizzy carbonation presence, White Ghost carries a nice weight while still remaining superbly refreshing and easy-drinking.  This brew works the palate with its tart and acidic qualities, but it cleans up quick enough to keep things pleasant and crushable.  Although the ABV is slightly elevated for the style at 4.7%, it does not really show.  Aftertaste is all lemon.

Final Thoughts:  Given that this Limited Release is meant to give American beer drinkers a glimpse at what Stone is brewing over in Berlin, they really could not have picked a more perfect beer to do that job.  Stone White Ghost reads purely as a clean and true Berliner Weisse.  Other than raising the ABV a touch and introducing some new hop varietals, Stone Brewing left this beer alone for the most part and just allowed it to be what it is: a tart and refreshing brew that is perfect for any occasion.

With that said, if you are looking for the fruit and adjunct-laden take on the Berliner that is so common in the U.S. right now, Stone White Ghost is not that.  It should not be, and the reason why is simple.  Think about it, Stone Brewing is making a Berliner Weisse . . . in Berlin.  They needed to produce a traditional take on the style – with just a touch of Stone Brewing flair – to be taken seriously in that region.  They did just that with this stellar Berliner Weisse, and we are now left itching to try anything and everything we can get our hands on from Stone Brewing – Berlin.  Prost!


Tasting Notes – Spirits Edition: Full Volume from Highland Park Distillery

HP_17_Full_Volume_700ml_bottle_carton_PNG-768x864For this special mid-week installment of Tasting Notes, we take a moment to indulge ourselves with an afternoon dram of FULL VOLUME from Highland Park Distillery (Kirkwall, Scotland).

Just as a musician works with his/her “amps and equalizers [to maintain] critical balance at high volume by fine-tuning musical frequencies”, Highland Park’s Master Whisky Maker, Gordon Motion, uses his skills to ensure “that every individual wave of flavor finds its perfect place in the beautifully harmonized final spirit.”  FULL VOLUME illustrates this point by striking a balance between two styles: Bourbon and Scotch Whisky.  Originally distilled in 1999, FULL VOLUME is a Single Malt Scotch Whisky that has been matured in “100% ex-bourbon casks rather than Highland Park’s traditional sherry-seasoned ones.”  This lengthy rest ultimately produced a 47.2% ABV Whisky that offers harmonized “flavors of creamy vanilla and sweet citrus fruits from the bourbon casks, balanced by Highland Park’s characteristic aromatic smokiness.”

FULL VOLUME is available now in specially-packaged 750ml bottles for the suggested retail price of $100.  You can expect to find this Limited Release Whisky on shelves at select specialist retailers located throughout the U.S.

Now that we are all a bit more familiar with the inspiration behind FULL VOLUME, it appears it is finally time to find a good chair, grab a glass and crank it to eleven with some Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for FULL VOLUME from Highland Park Distillery

Appearance:  Poured neat from a tasting vial, FULL VOLUME presents itself as a brilliantly clear whisky that is light straw yellow in color.  When held to direct light, the color holds for the most part but a touch of vibrant gold builds at its center.  The whisky is slick on the glass, coating the sides with a wide tract of slow-falling legs that eventually meet to create a complete oil slick that never loses its hold of the glass.

Aroma:  The nose begins with rich and inviting tones of vanilla and coconut.  That sweetness is then brightened up with notes of lemon and orange zest.  Tropical fruits bloom from the citrus to add notes of mango and papaya.  The expected presence of peat finally surfaces to close out the profile with some light smoke that works alongside just a touch of toffee.

Taste:  The grains and peat smoke quickly grab your attention here, but immediately mellow out to reveal citrus tones that come across as carefully grilled lemon and orange.  Sweeter, candied lemon tones then force through and bring with them juicy exotic fruits such as mango, pineapple and papaya.  Vanilla smooths it all out, creating a combined quality that mimics a lemon ice box pie that has just a bit of cinnamon in the crust.  The experience finishes with a pleasant combination of coconut and banana.

Mouthfeel:  Smooth and slightly creamy on the palate, FULL VOLUME has a beautifully long finish that allows you to fully savor notes of coconut and smoke.  That 47.2% ABV is nothing to scoff at, but it is incredibly well behaved and allows each sip to be effortless and thoroughly enjoyable. Not at all harsh or aggressive.

Final Thoughts:  If you are a bourbon drinker that has been looking for a way into the Scotch Whisky game, FULL VOLUME just might be your gateway.  Although distinct and attention-getting, the peat and smoke in this offering are far more reserved than you will find in most Scotch Whiskies.  The bourbon casks supply approachability with those familiar, gorgeous notes of vanilla and coconut, and the overall fruitiness – both the citrus and tropical fruits – of this expression keeps things light, bright and dynamic.  Just like the music that inspired it, this unique spirit comes across as a smooth, free-flowing thought piece as it evokes memory while stimulating contemplation and imagination. All in all, FULL VOLUME is bourbon reminiscent while still retaining its character and heritage as a Scotch Whisky, and that makes for one hell of a memorable sip. Be sure to check it out the next time you are on the hunt for something special to add to the home bar.  Prost!

Image Credit: Mashing In/Guillermo Woolfolk. The other two images displayed above are the property of Highland Park Distillery.



Tasting Notes: Blue BBLS (2018) from Bruery Terreux

BlueBBBLSWith another long and heavy week nearing its end, Tasting Notes has us shutting down the office early with small pours of one big ol’ beer: Blue BBLs (2018) from Bruery Terreux (Orange County, California).

Officially released back in January as a Society offering from Bruery Terreux, Blue BBLs (2018) – the “BBLs” is a notation for “barrel,” a unit of measurement equal to 31 gallons – is “a special blend of . . . bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout with . . . bourbon barrel-aged sour stout, plus an addition of juicy blueberries.”  This careful blend offers a complex experience that has “the acidity from the sour stout seamlessly [balancing] the sweet malt character of the imperial stout, and the tannins from the berries [amplifying] the fruity character.”  Blue BBLs (2018) weighs in at a massive 16.5% ABV.

Alrighty . . . that should adequately cover everyone’s need for background info, so let’s not waste any more time and get to scribblin’ down these Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Blue BBLS (2018) from Bruery Terreux 

Appearance: Blue BBLS pours a cola-like dark brown to black in color and builds just under half a finger of slightly purple tinted, tan-colored foam.  The beer is completely opaque, but a healthy amount of the tiniest of bubbles can be seen breaking the surface of the pour.  The head dissipates nearly immediately, leaving behind just a brushstroke of airy foam to linger in the center of the glass.  There is no lacing to report.

Aroma: Lovely oak greets the nose first with a pronounced woody character that offers a touch of vanilla as well. The blueberries take over from there with a fruity burst that is both tart and sweet.  Roasted grains, a bit of coffee, and a splash of bourbon sneaks in at the end of the profile to smooth it all out.

Taste:  The flavor profile begins with an interesting mix of blueberries that are both sweet and tart and a complementary presence that reads as a vinous, red wine-like note.  The bourbon barrel then makes itself known by offering tones of vanilla, charred wood, brown sugar and booze.  The blueberries and barrel then collide to produce complex notes of leather and tobacco.  The Imperial Stout character is the last to step forward and rounds off any rough edges with a nice level of roast, dark chocolate and toffee.

Mouthfeel:  On the lighter side of full-bodied with a moderate carbonation, this stout comes across as slick and a little thin (in a good way).  Although the beer works the palate heavily with tart, sour and sweet flavors, it dries out beautifully like a fine red wine.  As expected, the 16.5% ABV brings some heat that starts in the throat and carries down into the belly.  Aftertaste is all booze-soaked blueberries.

Final Thoughts: Blue BBLS is a gorgeously composed Sour Stout and the source of its beauty is found in its layers.  The aromas and flavors both hold three distinct layers: a Sour Ale heavily laced with blueberries, bourbon barrel character, and straight up Imperial Stout.  Sure, those tannic blueberry and red wine qualities are assertive and the first thing to grab your attention, but everything ultimately settles down and smooths out as the layers of Stout and Bourbon establish themselves.  Each layer works so well on its own only because they all work so well together.  This harmonious level of balance (found in the blend, flavors, aromas, etc.) acts as the keystone that locks the entire experience together.  All in all, Blue BBLs is a dynamic and delicately complex offering that truly must be experienced to be fully understood.  If you ever cross paths with this beer out in the wild, do whatever it takes to ensure that you walk away with a pour.  You certainly will not regret it.  Prost!


Tasting Notes: Braupakt from Weihenstephan & Sierra Nevada

braupaktpourThis installment of Tasting Notes has us closing out the week with an in-depth look at Braupakt, the highly-anticipated collaboration beer from Bavarian State Brewery Weihenstephan (Freising, Germany) and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. (Chico, California).

When Weihenstephan – the World’s Oldest Brewery – and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. – one of America’s pioneering craft brewers – come together to work on a collaboration project, it kind of goes without saying that the beer community is going to take notice.  The resulting beer that everyone is talking about is Braupakt (literally translates to mean “Brewery Pact” but is also a play on “America’s ‘bro pact’ vernacular for fraternal allegiances”), a Hefeweizen that introduces a style that is rich in German tradition – Weihenstephan’s area of expertise – to a carefully selected hop bill comprised of juicy American hops – Sierra Nevada’s playground –  that can both complement and accentuate the style’s classic flavors and aromatics.  When all is said and done, Braupakt promises to be a unique take on a classic style that will effortlessly reinforce both breweries’ reputations for “establishing brewing standards for their respective styles and . . . renowned . . . contributions to contemporary brewing techniques.”

Braupakt is currently available in the US and will hang around as long as supplies last.  You can expect to find this Limited Edition beer available in 6-packs of 11.2 oz. bottles (suggested retail price of $10.99) at fine beer establishments located in Alabama, Florida, California, North Carolina and throughout the rest of Weihenstephan’s nationwide distribution network.

Now that we are all up to speed on the particulars behind Braupakt, let’s break out the Weizen glasses and get into some Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Braupakt from Bavarian State Brewery Weihenstephan & Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Appearance: Braupakt presents itself as a burnt orange in color that holds a darker amber tone at the core of the glass’s bulb.  When held to direct light, that amber core holds as vibrant orange and bright gold hues burst outward from the center.  The beer is appropriately cloudy for the style, but you can still see a dutiful carbonation presence rising up to feed the 3+ fingers of cream-colored head sitting above.  Head retention is extraordinary, gradually falling to a lasting, rocky finger that effortlessly coats the glass with gobs of lace throughout the experience.

Aroma:  The hops turn up first with a nice grapefruit presence that takes on notes of ripe to over ripe peach and melon.  Clove then works its way through and brings with it banana and bubblegum notes to establish a very pronounced Hefeweizen character. The aromatics close out with just a bit of honey-laced wheat and caramel.

Taste:  Although similar to the aroma, this beer’s flavors mix it up a bit by leading with those beautiful, trademark Hefeweizen notes of banana, bubblegum and clove.  The hops work their way out of the clove and fully engulf the palate with tones of peach, melon, apricot, lemon zest and grapefruit.  A touch of pine and black pepper slips in just before the beer finishes with some gently sweet notes of wheat and caramel.

Mouthfeel: Medium in body with a medium to medium-high carbonation level, this beer has a beautifully creamy texture that allows you to fully explore every aspect of each sip.  The hops supply a bit more bite than you would normally expect from a Hefeweizen, but they are held in check and gorgeously balanced by the sweeter banana notes from the yeast and caramel from the malts.  The ABV is tame at 6%, but it does allow for a touch of warmth in the throat.  The aftertaste is a welcomed, lingering presence of clove and peach.

Final Thoughts:  Braupakt delivers exactly what you hope would come from a brew day led by the master brewers at Weihenstephan and Sierra Nevada.  They wrapped that legendary Hefeweizen base around some juicy American hops to offer just the right amount of invigorating brightness (citrus fruit and pine) while a stone fruit character (peach and apricot) actually accentuates and highlights the style’s more expected clove, banana and bubblegum tones. It is the best of both worlds meeting on middle ground.  Its Hefeweizen character is absolutely stunning and is not at all bullied by those American hops . . . but those juicy hops still find their moments to shine brilliantly through those Hefeweizen notes and elevate the overall experience.  These brewers were clearly looking for a sweet spot between the two, and they certainly found it in this artful composition.  Braupakt is not your everyday collaboration project and it certainly should not be missed.  Be sure to check it out before this Limited Release runs its course and disappears for good.  Prost!

Tasting Notes: Born Again Yesterday Unfiltered Ale from Lagunitas Brewing Company

LagunitasBAYpourx1000For this edition of Tasting Notes, the wacky alchemists at Lagunitas Brewing Company (Petaluma, California) magically transport us back to wet hop season with a pour of their Born Again Yesterday Unfiltered Ale.

Wet hop season typically starts in late August and lasts for about a month or so each year. During this time, many brewers usually take this opportunity to make a special beer with fresh hops that are picked and in the brew kettle within a 24-hour window.  They get one shot at this a year and then – because hops are easily susceptible to mold and spoilage – the rest of the harvest is quickly dried for year-round use. Even though the folks that process hops are masters of this delicate craft, many brewers are left feeling that “something is always lost in translation.”

Very fond of that je ne sais quoi that wet hops possess, the brewers at Lagunitas decided that they were going to find a way to take the wet hop experience year-round.  To do this, they took the book that taught them everything that they already knew about hops, threw it out the window, and went all trial and error to devise a new process for hop preservation.  After “5 or 6” botched attempts, they finally discovered “a relatively simple process” that just forced them to “[think] about hops and freshness in new ways.” Now armed with this proprietary, “homegrown process of time dilation for the delicate hop cone that the flower doesn’t even perceive”, Lagunitas can now offer Born Again Yesterday Unfiltered Ale (7% ABV) as a true wet hop experience six months removed from harvest season.

Born Again Yesterday Unfiltered Ale is available now for a limited time in 6-packs of 12 oz. bottles and on draft.  You can expect to find this Limited Release at select craft beer establishments located in Alabama, Florida, California, Illinois and throughout the rest of Lagunitas Brewing Company’s vast distribution area.

Alright . . . now that we are all caught up on that lengthy backstory, let’s get into these Tasting Notes to see exactly what a preserved wet hop beer can offer to a self-proclaimed hophead.

Tasting Notes for Born Again Yesterday Unfiltered Ale from Lagunitas Brewing Company

Appearance: Born Again Yesterday pours up as a deep golden colored brew that is wearing a perfect finger of pure white foam. When exposed to direct light, the color shifts a bit to take on some vibrant orange tones.  The beer has a light haze/cloudiness to it, but an abundant carbonation presence can still be seen kicking around a serious amount of floaties suspended in the liquid.  Head retention is good, falling oh so slowly to a lasting and incredibly creamy top cap that leaves wide sheets of lace behind after each sip.

Aroma: Big on the citrus, the aromatics lead with pronounced notes of sweet orange and mandarin.  Lime and grapefruit zest then move in to brighten the lightly sweet malts running parallel. The profile closes beautifully with that signature earthy grassiness that is so often found in wet hop beers. These aromas may seem simple, but they are enormous.

Taste:  Citrus leads here as well, but this time around it serves as more of a role player.  Orange, lemon, lime and grapefruit offer a bright initial pop before the hops take a dynamic turn toward more earthy and grassy qualities.  The profile then takes on a lightly herbaceous and piney quality that eventually fades out to leave behind a finish filled with clean, non-obtrusive malt character.

Mouthfeel: Medium in body with a medium carbonation level, this beer has a good weight to it and fully coats the palate with each sip.  The hops do bring some bite, but the balance is dialed in so that the bitterness is not all-consuming. Despite its palate engulfing nature, the beer still finds a way to dry out quickly and clean up nicely. The 7% ABV is well-behaved, but it does draw some attention to itself as the beer warms.  The aftertaste is all clean malt with a dash of grapefruit zest.

Final Thoughts: Whatever the process is that Lagunitas devised to preserve wet hops, it works.  When I approach wet hop beers, I tend to look for two things:

  1. Big ol’ gains in the department of hop aroma
  2. A very distinguishable grassy and “green” flavor

Born Again Yesterday Unfiltered Ale easily checks both those boxes, and then goes on to turn it up a notch by having a bigger hop flavor than most wet hop beers.  Just as you would expect from a hop-forward beer from Lagunitas, the citrus hop notes are absolutely massive and work beautifully with that wet hop grassy character to supply the drinker with a memorable and dank Pale Ale.  Wet hops at the end of spring? Yeah, you best believe that they live on in Born Again Yesterday Unfiltered Ale.  If you are a lover of hops, be sure to get your hands on this tasty beverage before its Limited Release runs its course.  Prost!

Tasting Notes: Gose from Reuben’s Brews

ReubensGosePourThis week’s Tasting Notes finds us fighting off Tampa’s ridiculously sudden spike in humidity with the outside help of some Gose from Reuben’s Brews (Seattle, Washington).

Offered as an incredibly popular Year-Round from this family-run brewery that was named Mid-Sized Brewery of the Year at the 2015 Washington Beer Awards, Gose (pronounced “GOES-UH”) is Reuben’s Brews’ take on a style of German Sour Ale that nearly went extinct before it experienced a recent revival in the U.S.  Staying true to tradition, this Gose is brewed simply with “Lactobacillus, salt and coriander to make a refreshingly crisp brew with lemon notes and a vibrant salinity.” This classic approach to the style has paid off greatly for Reuben’s Brews as Gose has earned the brewery a Silver Medal at the 2015 World Beer Championships, a Gold Medal at the Best of Craft Beer Awards, and two Gold Medals at the Great American Beer Festival (2015 & 2016).  Reuben’s Brews Gose is available in 4-packs of 12 oz. cans and on draft at craft beer establishments located in Washington and throughout the rest of the brewery’s distribution footprint in the Pacific Northwest region.

Now that all the pertinent details are out of the way, let’s jump into these Tasting Notes and get our first sip of this highly-decorated brew!

Tastings Notes for Gose from Reuben’s Brews

Appearance: Gose presents itself as a pale straw-colored brew that is wearing just under two fingers of airy white foam.  Held to direct light, the color holds for the most part but does gain a touch of a lemony yellow tone.  The beer is crystal clear and displays an incredibly active carbonation presence dashing throughout.  The head falters rather quickly, leaving very little foam or lace behind.

Aroma: The aromatics begin with that unmistakable Lactobacillus character that quickly takes shape as a bright lemon note.  Coriander reinforces that citrus quality and offers some floral tones as well.  A gorgeous note of citrus zest (lemon and orange) establishes itself just before the profile closes with a clean wave of salt water.

Taste: This beer quickly grabs the attention of your tastebuds with a bright and lightly tart lemon-lime presence upfront.  Surprisingly, the grains then move in with a gentle bready note that works nicely with the dominating citrus.  Coriander supplies some earthiness and a floral character that blends with the other flavors to offer an almost vinous/white wine-like note at times. As the finish closes in, all of these flavors are ultimately overtaken by just the perfect amount of salinity.

Mouthfeel:  Light in body with a prickly carbonation level, this beer is crisp and refreshing.  Lightly tart and noticeably salty on the palate, it dries out nicely and easily coaxes you to take another sip.  Coming in at 4.3%, the ABV is not at all noticeable.  The aftertaste is just a touch of limeade.

Final Thoughts:  Elegant in its simplicity, Reuben’s Brews Gose is proof that traditional takes on styles – when done correctly – can be just as flavorful and mind-blowing as those limited release, adjunct-laden, hybrid-style ales that always seem to get the beer trading community all in a tizzy.  As soon as you take a sip of this Gose, you are reminded of why beer is so amazing.  It is nothing but simple, basic ingredients coming together to work in harmony and provide sip after perfect sip.  The flavors and aromas are big and attention grabbing, but not overly aggressive or obtrusive. It is simply a Gose as it should be and that is the source of its awe-inspiring beauty.

The most remarkable aspect of this beer is that the folks at Reuben’s Brews did not shy away from the salt – the ingredient that so many breweries skimp on when tackling this style – at all in their Gose.  This example shows you that a proper level of salinity is integral to the style because it does so much to draw attention to the beer’s tart citrus qualities and boost its overall quenching ability.  With this attribute dialed in to the degree that it is, Reuben’s Brews Gose is well on its way to becoming an American-made standard for the style.

Honestly, it is no wonder why this beer has earned such prestigious awards over the years because absolutely everything about it is just so precisely on point.  We may only be five months in, but we can easily declare that this beer will make our Top 10 of 2018.  Yeah, it is that damn good and it certainly deserves any and all praise that it receives.  If you have the ability, do yourself a favor and get yourself some Reuben’s Brews Gose as soon as you can.  It will undoubtedly come in handy this summer.  Prost!