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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tasting Notes – CBD Beverage Edition: VYBES | Blueberry Mint

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

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

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

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

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

Tasting Notes for Blueberry Mint from VYBES

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tasting Notes: Tropic of Thunder Lager from Stone Brewing

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

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

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

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

Tasting Notes for Stone Tropic of Thunder Lager from Stone Brewing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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!