Tasting Notes – The Classics: Brown Shugga’ from Lagunitas Brewing Company

LagunitasBrownShuggaPourFor this week’s installment of Tasting Notes, we kick it old school with a classic by getting into a hearty pour of Brown Shugga’ from Lagunitas Brewing Company (Petaluma, California).

First created back in 1997, Brown Shugga’ is a Barleywine-style Ale that actually came into existence when the brewers at Lagunitas botched a batch of Olde GnarlyWine Ale and attempted to save it by adding “loads of brown sugar.” Although this quick fix made it so they were able to reach the same original gravity of GnarlyWine, they discovered that they ended up with something completely different in terms of flavor and aroma.  What they did get was the “dangerously slammable”, mighty tasty Brown Shugga’ (10% ABV) that has been a hit with the brewery’s fans ever since.

The 2018 batch of Brown Shugga’ is out now and will be available through December.  You can expect to find this Limited Release brew available in 6-packs of 12 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 nationwide distribution area.

Now that we have covered Brown Shugga’s history and release details, let’s crack open a few bottles and get all sweet on these Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Brown Shugga’ from Lagunitas Brewing Company

Appearance:  Brown Shugga’ pours up a deep, red-hued copper in color while wearing over two fingers of rocky, tan-tinged foam.  When held to direct light, the copper softens a bit as dark amber tones push their way through.  The beer is pristine in clarity and displays an extremely exuberant carbonation presence.  Head retention is good, eventually falling to just under a finger of pillowy foam that leaves behind some serious sheets of lace on the glass.  Absolutely stunning to look at.

Aroma: Surprisingly, the first thing to hit the nose is a substantial waft of orange zest and pine from the hops.  Caramel, toasted grain and toffee then work their way in and are followed by a smooth note of molasses.  Sugary booze meets a refined, balancing hoppiness? We’ll have a sip of that fo sho.

Taste: The beer sneaks onto the palate with an unassuming biscuity malt presence that steadily builds to sweeter notes of caramel, toffee, brown sugar and molasses.  Lightly floral and citrus hop notes link up beautifully with the caramel and toffee to strike a nice level of balance.  Resiny pine notes turn up late to close out the flavor profile with even more hoppy goodness.

Mouthfeel:  Medium to full-bodied with a medium carbonation, Brown Shugga’ is nice and creamy on the palate, exceptionally smooth, and incredibly easy-drinking.  After a playful bout of push and pull, the sugary sweet notes and the citrusy/piney hops amicably decide to sprawl out together in a relaxed state of balance (not at all cloying, but not overly bitter either). Despite being slightly pronounced in the nose, the 10% ABV is pretty tame overall.  The aftertaste is all caramel and pine.

Final Thoughts:  Now that our glasses are all empty and discussions have been had, the best way we can describe Brown Shugga’ is that it comes across as an American-style Barleywine that strives for balance while maintaining enough of a hoppy bite to keep it from being allowed in the arena of the English Barleywine.  What do we mean by that? Well, it is an experience that features enough sweetness to live up to its name while that big American hop presence dials in the right amount of bitterness to find an inexplicable, almost miraculous level of balance.

Just like in the beer’s origin story where the brewers at Lagunitas ended up with something completely different than they expected, the same could happen to anyone who orders a pour of Brown Shugga’ . . . but in the best possible way.  The name creates certain sugar-filled expectations. The enthusiastic hops then turn up to offer a bit of a surprise.  The initial shock wears off as it all then comes together to form a uniquely balanced beer that is ridiculously drinkable for its size.  That uniqueness leaves a lasting impression from sip to sip, glass to glass, and year to year.  It always keeps you coming back for more, and that is why it is a classic.  Get you some Brown Shugga’ while you can.  Prost!




Tasting Notes: Dragon’s Milk Reserve – Banana Coconut from New Holland Brewing Company

DragonsMilkBananaPourFor this edition of Tasting Notes, we close out the week by sampling a new spin on an old classic: Dragon’s Milk Reserve – Banana Coconut from New Holland Brewing Company (Grand Rapids, Michigan).

Earlier this month, New Holland Brewing Company unveiled a refreshed look for its fan-favorite Dragon’s Milk Bourbon Barrel-Aged Stout As one might expect, this re-brand also applies to the brewery’s Dragon’s Milk Reserve Series, a Limited Release line of Dragon’s Milk variants that feature complementary ingredients to “showcase the dimension of Dragon’s Milk“.  Surfacing as the first Reserve offering to wear the new look, Dragon’s Milk Reserve – Banana Coconut (11% ABV) takes the “traditional roasted, malty and smooth characteristics of Dragon’s Milk” and infuses it with “hints of real banana, plantain and coconut.”

Dragon’s Milk Reserve – Banana Coconut debuted in mid-September and will be available as long as supplies last.  You can expect to find this Limited Release available in 4-packs of 12 oz. bottles and on draft at select craft beer-focused establishments located within New Holland’s distribution footprint.

With all that background information now out of the way, what you say we take this new Dragon’s Milk snifter out for a test drive and get into some Tasting Notes?

Tasting Notes for Dragon’s Milk Reserve – Banana Coconut from New Holland Brewing Company

Appearance:   A gentle pour fills the glass with a deep, glossy black Imperial Stout wearing two fingers of creamy, brown sugar-colored foam that easily extends well above the brim.  When held to direct light, the darkness holds and the beer remains completely opaque.  The head shows decent retention, falling slowly down to a frothy half finger that lasts throughout the experience.  Each jostle of the glass traces a gorgeous line of lace, but the beer’s slick nature causes most of the foam to slide back down to reunite with the top cap.

Aroma:  The aromatics open with a big surge of banana in various forms: fresh banana, sweetened dried banana, banana ice cream, and banana candies (think Runts).  The character of the original Dragon’s Milk then rises to unleash notes bourbon, vanilla, and roasted grain.  The coconut is light, but it does lend a slight tropical note that pulls the banana to forefront once more.  This beer is incredibly banana-heavy in the aroma department and we ain’t mad at that.

Taste:  Banana takes the lead here as well by laying down sweet notes of fresh banana, banana candies, and earthy plantain.  The coconut is more confident as a flavor as it surfaces with the barrel character of the base beer.  Vanilla, bourbon, toasted coconut, and a gentle nuttiness collide with that substantial banana presence to create what can only be described as a boozy banana cream pie-like quality.  Just as you think this stout is getting too sweet, the heavily roasted grains finally slip through with notes of dark chocolate and dark roast coffee to offer just the right amount of balancing bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Teetering a bit toward the medium side of full-bodied with a medium carbonation level, this big ol’ Imperial Stout drinks much lighter than one might expect from an 11% ABV brew.  It is mostly sweet on the palate, but it does not get anywhere near Pastry Stout levels of cloying.  This thing actually still has a bit of balance.  The previously mentioned ABV does creep up on you, settling into the throat with a gentle warmth.  The aftertaste is all banana and vanilla.

Final Thoughts: Full disclosure – Most of the participants on this tasting panel are longtime fans of the classic Dragon’s Milk.  Since that beer has been around for over 20 years and was one of the first easily obtainable Bourbon Barrel-aged Stouts on the market, it served as an introduction to barrel-aged beers for many of us.

That level of nostalgia had us going into this tasting of Dragon’s Milk Reserve – Banana Coconut thinking there is no way that it could be better than the original . . . but then we were reminded of the fact that the beers of the Dragon’s Milk Reserve Series are not meant to “improve” upon the original.  They are here to make you think about Dragon’s Milk in new and inventive ways, and Dragon’s Milk Reserve – Banana Coconut does just that by taking the Dragon’s Milk experience into the realm of dessert beers.  The sweetness of the banana and coconut tames the roasted and boozy character of the original, and then beautifully melds with those notes to create a sinfully decadent treat.  Every aspect of Dragon’s Milk Reserve – Banana Coconut – from the familiar notes of the base beer to the newly added banana and coconut – effortlessly finds a meaningful place and leaves you craving more the second your glass goes dry.

Sure, it is not better than the original Dragon’s Milk, but nothing is going to be.  That’s why it has been around for two decades and is still going strong.  Even with that being the case, it still does not take away from the fact that Dragon’s Milk Reserve – Banana Coconut is a damn tasty Imperial Stout that left each and every one of us thoroughly impressed. Dragon’s Milk Reserve – Banana Coconut proudly stands on its own while still respecting the beer that made its creation possible, and that’s always going to earn high marks from us.  Be sure to check out Dragon’s Milk Reserve – Banana Coconut before its limited-time run comes to an end.  Prost!

Tasting Notes: Mise En Rose – Table Beer from Brew Gentlemen

BGMiseEnRosePour_editedAnother workweek has come to an end and we are here to close the thing out by taking down some Tasting Notes on Mise En Rose – Table Beer from Brew Gentlemen (Braddock, Pennsylvania).

Mise En Rose, a term meaning “‘setting the rose’ – the stage of the barrel-making process where the barrel first begins to take shape”, is Brew Gentlemen’s Limited Release collection of modern-American Farmhouse Ales that focuses “on mixed culture fermentation, extended aging in oak, and careful blending.”

Mise En Rose – Table Beer is the brewery’s take on the Belgian Tafelbier, a low-alcohol Farmhouse Ale that is traditionally served with meals.  This offering is a “delicate” Saison that has “aged for several months in oak foeders with [Brew Gentleman’s] house culture, then naturally conditioned in the bottle.”

Table Beer is a recurring release that “serves more or less as the flagship beer of the [Mise En Rose Collection].” Brew Gentlemen aims to keep this offering “permanently available” and there were quite a few 750ml bottles of Table Beer in stock when we visited the brewery in late August.

Now that we have properly gone over the necessary background information, it appears that it is finally time to gather round the table and get into these Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Mise En Rose – Table Beer from Brew Gentlemen 

Appearance: Table Beer pours a golden yellow in color and is capped with a finger of brilliant white foam.  When held to direct light, that brilliance dims to a softer, paler hue of yellow.  Although slightly cloudy, the beer remains mostly clear and displays steady streams of carbonation bubbles drifting skyward to feed the head.  Head retention is decent, but it eventually reduces down to a lasting, chunky ring that leaves occasional spots of lace behind on the glass.

Aroma: Equal parts farmhouse funk and citrus tartness open the aromatics with a gorgeous introduction that is both dominant and mesmerizing.  Pear and lemon come through to offer a grace of fruity character while the hops support with some grassy, floral and earthy (think light pepper and damp wood) notes.  Crackery grains and toasted oak hold it all together from underneath.

Taste: A bright, lemony tartness eagerly rushes the palate, but it quickly relinquishes its hold so that a gentle presence of farmhouse funk can settle in.  Notes of pear, lemon zest and white grapes then combine with a gentle oak character to create a distinct white wine/champagne-like quality.  In the background, additional grassy and earthy notes covertly meet with a soothing grain presence to close out the flavor profile.

Mouthfeel:  Light in body with a medium to high carbonation level, this Farmhouse Ale offers an experience that is crisp and refreshing.  The beer finds a nice balance between its tart acidity, fruity sweetness and earthy funk.  The 4.8% ABV is incredibly faint, further adding to the beer’s overall easy-drinking nature.  The aftertaste is a soft, lingering presence of oak and funk.

Final Thoughts: On the surface, Mise En Rose – Table Beer is exactly what it should be and true to style. It is a beer that deserves a place at the table for any meal that is being served for any occasion (ranging from a typical Wednesday night to an elaborate celebratory event). Planning to enjoy a frittata and a side of fresh fruit at brunch? What about a multi-course dinner built around a heavy pork dish? You can rest assured that Brew Gentlemen’s Table Beer will comfortably hold its own in those and a myriad of other pairing situations.

With that said, this beer is far more than what many may expect from an offering that humbly wears Table Beer” as its name.  It is an incredibly nuanced Farmhouse Ale that is wonderfully complex, exquisitely balanced, and somehow still wildly approachable.  It is a fine example of the level of craftsmanship that brewers in the Pittsburgh area and all over the U.S. are capable of, and it is proof that mind-blowing beauty can be found in simplicity and tradition.  Mise En Rose – Table Beer is damn near perfect and easily one of the best beers we have had this year. You absolutely need to check this beer out if you get the chance. Prost!

Tasting Notes: Lord Grey from Three Taverns Craft Brewery

LordGreyPourFor this installment of Tasting Notes, we kick off the week by inviting Lord Grey from Three Taverns Craft Brewery (Decatur, Georgia) to join us for a spot of tea-infused beer.

Released back in February as a new Seasonal addition to Three Taverns’ Sour Asylum Series, Lord Grey was actually conceptualized with the help of folks at The Porter Beer Bar who “suggested the addition of tea leaves in a sour beer.” That idea stuck with the brewers at Three Taverns and they eventually developed a recipe for a “refreshingly balanced 5% sour ale with Earl Grey tea.” All those who sit down with a pour of Lord Grey will be treated to a “crisp and mildly tart” experience where “herbal flavors abound up front with a subtle bergamot orange in the background.”

If you would like to track this offering down, Lord Grey is currently listed on the draft menu at The Parlour at Three Taverns Craft Brewery.  You can also find this Seasonal brew available in 6-packs of 12 oz. cans and on draft at select craft beer establishments located in Georgia.

Now that the formalities are out of the way, it does appear that it is time for tea and Tasting Notes.  Let’s get to it!

Tasting Notes for Lord Grey from Three Taverns Craft Brewery

Appearance:  Lord Grey presents itself as a pale yellow-colored brew that has a slightly darker, apricot-like hue resting near its core.  When held to direct light, the overall color softens to the palest of yellows that has the look of lemon juice at it edges.  The beer has a good amount of cloudiness to it, but a vibrant carbonation level can still be seen bouncing about within.  The pour produced half a finger of wispy, white foam, but it dissipates immediately and leaves no trace of lace.

Aroma:  The aromatics softly open with the floral and citrusy notes of bergamot held against a strong backbone of black tea.  The lacto-fermentation then works its way in to round things out with a note that is similar to lightly-sweetened lemonade.  This aroma may be straight-forward, but its pronounced yet comforting nature easily lures you in for a sip.

Taste:  Delicate and reserved, the flavor profile opens with a dead-on Earl Grey tea character that is laced with a touch of herbaceousness and soothingly floral lavender.  The bergamot has presence, adding a good amount of orange zest and floral tones to the black tea.  This transitions nicely into the lemony qualities of the base Sour Ale to create a combination that comes across as the most pleasant and refined Arnold Palmer – the delightful union of iced tea and lemonade – that you have ever had.

Mouthfeel:  Light in body with a medium carbonation level, Lord Grey dries out nicely and is crisply refreshing.  It is lightly tart on the palate, but only enough to read as a burst of citrusy brightness.  The ABV is reserved for the most part, but it does supply a gentle warmth in the throat as the experience goes on.  The aftertaste is just a bit of that previously mentioned Arnold Palmer-like quality.

Final Thoughts:  Just as one might hope from a tea-themed beer, everything about Lord Grey has a certain level of grace to it.  Despite having flavor and aromatic notes that run the risk of becoming overwhelming on their own, each aspect of this beer – whether it be the black tea, bergamot, lavender or the Sour Ale used as the base – finds its place and joins all the other notes to create an approachable unified whole.  Sure, it is sophisticated and elegant, but it still has that Arnold Palmer-ish familiarity that nearly everyone can relate to.  This results in a cold tea experience that still somehow retains the pleasant and inviting comfortable warmth you get from a cup of Earl Grey.  Lord Grey is afternoon tea meets after-work beer, and that combo gets a big ol’ thumbs up from us.  Prost!


Tasting Notes: Cherry Limeade! from Cherry Street Brewing

CherryLimeade2Tasting Notes plays the nostalgia card this week as we get into a few cans of Cherry Limeade! Berliner Weisse from Cherry Street Brewing (Cumming, Georgia).

Canned earlier this summer to serve as a Limited Release offering, Cherry Limeade! Berliner Weisse is Cherry Street Brewing’s take on “a classic German style with a Sonic twist: cherries and limes are added to the tart brew, which is cherry-red in color and very refreshing.” Coming in at a low 4% ABV, Cherry Limeade! has all the thirst-quenching abilities needed to tackle a hot and humid summer in the South.

The latest limited-run of Cherry Limeade! has sadly come to an end, but it is possible that a couple 4-packs of 16 oz. cans could still be tucked away on the shelves of a few select craft beer-friendly retailers in the Atlanta area.  Possible . . . but unlikely.  If you missed out on Cherry Limeade! this time around, odds are that you will just have to wait for the next time Cherry Street Brewing decides to release another batch.

Alrighty . . . now that we’ve covered the necessary background information, let’s crack open these cans and get into some Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Cherry Limeade! Berliner Weisse from Cherry Street Brewing

Appearance: This brew pours a deep cherry, Kool-Aid-like red in color that has just a tinge of amber at the edges.  The beer is clear – thanks to a careful pour that left any sediment behind in the can – and displays a moderate but steady carbonation presence.  A half finger of loose and airy pink-hued foam built off the pour, but it disappeared just as quickly as it materialized. Of course, this means that there is no lacing to report.

Aroma: In a concentrated effort to live up to its name, the aroma is dominated by notes of candied cherry and bright lime.  The Berliner’s Lacto qualities support with added citrus while the malts offer some solid wheat character and a really unexpected but intriguing layer of brown sugar.

Taste: Cherry is quick to engage the palate, deploying itself in several, very different forms: fresh tart cherries, sweeter pie cherries, and candied cherry gummies.  The Key lime character then steps up at just the right time to cut those sweeter cherry notes and bring that lovely Berliner tartness forward.  Although it is muted, the wheat supplies just enough grain presence to round and smooth out the flavor profile.

Mouthfeel: Light in body with a medium to high carbonation level, Cherry Limeade! has a crisp feel that is strikingly similar to . . . you guessed it . . . a cherry limeade. It does have a slightly sharp level of tartness, but a rush of fruity, candied sweetness does come through to balance the beer out enough to keep the experience approachable and refreshing.  As expected, the 4% ABV is nowhere to be found.  The beer cleans up nice and quick, but a touch of candied cherry is left to linger at times in the aftertaste.

Final Thoughts: As we alluded to in the opening paragraph, Cherry Limeade! Berliner Weisse is quite literally nostalgia in a glass.  Each sip of this soda fountain-like limeade experience has the power to transport you back to those hot summer nights that convinced you and your high school buddies to head over to the local hamburger drive-in for a refreshing beverage. This beer’s spot-on representation of cherry and lime in both flavor and aroma is more than enough to bring back those memories, but its impressive mouthfeel is what ultimately sells the experience to the drinker.  It truly mimics the satisfying nature of a cherry limeade by being bright, sweet, tart, crushable and – most importantly – ridiculously refreshing.

A lot is going to be asked of a beer that dares to wear the name “Cherry Limeade!“, but this one certainly checks all the boxes necessary to live up to its name.  Be sure to put Cherry Limeade! on your list of must-try beers and check it out when you get the chance.  Prost!

Tasting Notes: Passion Grass from Lagunitas Brewing Company

LagunitasPassGrassPourFor this installment of Tasting Notes, we neglect some much needed yard work to instead focus our attention on Passion Grass, the new collaboration brew from Lagunitas Brewing Company (Petaluma, California) and Short’s Brewing Company (Bellaire, Michigan).

Released back at the start of August as a Joint Session brew that Lagunitas Brewing Company developed with their friends at Short’s Brewing Company, Passion Grass is a “smooth and slammable” West-by-Midwest Ale “with some passion fruit added for that pleasant summery tropical-ness, rounded off with a special zing of lemongrass.” Clocking in at an easy-drinking 4.6% ABV and 54 IBUs, Passion Grass is “best imbibed with your ‘buds … it’s good to have friends.”

Passion Grass is out now and available for a limited time in 6-packs of 12 oz. bottles and on draft.  You can expect to find this “HIIIIGHLY limited brew” at select craft beer-focused establishments located in Alabama, Florida, California, Illinois, Washington and throughout the rest of Lagunitas Brewing Company’s distribution area.

Now that we know who did what and why, let’s pop these bottles, hit the lounge chairs and watch the grass continue to grow while we get into these Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Passion Grass from Lagunitas Brewing Company & Short’s Brewing Company

Appearance: Passion Grass pours a pale yellow in color and builds right at a finger of fluffy white foam.  When held to direct light, the color remains pale but does take on a more lemony yellow hue.  The beer has a nice clarity that displays an ample carbonation presence streaming up to feed the top cap.  Head retention is pretty fantastic, but it does eventually tighten up and condense down to a lasting, creamy half finger that casts a wide web of lace across the glass.

Aroma: Passion fruit is all over this aroma, bringing a big tropical presence that works beautifully with the juicier hop notes of citrus, pineapple and papaya.  The lemongrass then surfaces to create a tea-like character when combined with the more earthy/herbal/piney hop qualities.  Wonderfully complex here but in a way that is still incredibly inviting and alluring.

Taste: Not much unlike the nose, the flavor profile kicks off with a big, juicy burst of passion fruit and orange (both juice and zest).  A bevy of tropical hop notes then turn up in the form of guava, pineapple, papaya and grapefruit.  Pine, lemongrass and a slight herbal character combine with a coy malt presence to close out the profile by quietly tempering and taming all of that pronounced juicy sweetness.

Mouthfeel: Skirting on the lighter side of medium in body with a bright carbonation level, this beer is super refreshing and dries out lightning-quick.  Despite the fact that the malts do get a bit lost in the mix, the beer still finds a nice balance between its bitter, lightly tart, and fruity/sweet qualities.  At a wonderfully low 4.6%, the ABV’s only role here is to keep its head down and do whatever it can to ensure that the drinker enjoys a refreshing, easy-drinking experience.  Aftertaste is minimal, but pleasant notes of passion fruit and citrus do linger at times.

Final Thoughts: To put it simply, Passion Grass is a supremely easy-drinking beer that is everything you could possibly want in a summer-themed release.  Big tropical fruit notes supply a quenching and satisfying sweetness while the lemongrass and hops support with both complementary and contrasting notes that run the spectrum from added fruitiness to balancing earthiness and herbaceousness. Throw in that low ABV and this all results in a dynamic yet approachable experience completely focused on refreshment.  If you are in search of the perfect brew to enjoy at the beach, on the boat or after a hike, you really need to give the compact flavor bomb that is Passion Grass a shot.  Just make sure you snag a sixer before this beer’s limited-time run comes to an end.  Prost!

Tasting Notes: À Tout le Monde Belgian Style Saison from Unibroue

UnibroueMegadethPourFor this installment of Tasting Notes, we somehow get the opportunity to combine our love for thrash metal and Saisons thanks to the Megadeth-inspired À Tout le Monde Belgian Style Saison Ale from Unibroue (Chambly, Québec).

Named after the fourth track on Megadeth’s 1994 Youthanasia albumÀ Tout le Monde – translating from French to mean “To All the World” or “To Everyone” – was first released in 2016 as a symbol of friendship between Unibroue Brewmaster Jerry Vietz and Dave Mustaine, lead vocalist and founder of the iconic Thrash Metal band Megadeth.  Legends of their respective professions, these two men put their collective creativity to work and brewed a Belgian-style Golden Saison that was dry-hopped to produce hoppy, spicy notes. The finished beer weighs in at an easy drinking 4.5% ABV to provide fans with “a clean, fresh taste and a crisp dry finish inviting you to take another sip.”

À Tout le Monde is available year-round in 12 oz. bottles, 750ml bottles and on draft.  You can find this Classic offering at craft beer-friendly retailers, bars and restaurants located in Alabama, Florida and throughout the rest of Unibroue’s distribution area in the U.S. and Canada.

Alright, kiddos, “fasten up your head belts” because it is time to crack open this bottle, see how loud this stereo can get, and find out if it is possible to headbang our way through these Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for À Tout le Monde Belgian Style Saison Ale from Unibroue

Appearance:  This Saison presents itself as a lemony yellow in color that has some deeper gold tones residing at its center.  When held to direct light, the color intensifies and brightens to become more of a sunshiny yellow. The beer has a touch of cloudiness to it, but tight streams of carbonation can still be observed as they steadily course throughout.  A well-mannered pour produced over two fingers of fluffy, bright white foam that confidently built well over the brim of the glass.  Head retention is good, but the top cap eventually falls to a lasting half finger that drops gobs of lace down on the glass after each sip.

Aroma:  Bright hops spring out of the glass with citrus notes of orange peel, lemon and grapefruit along with just a grace of tropical pineapple.  The yeast quickly takes over with a good mix of earthiness and spice.  The malts quietly support everything from underneath and close out the aromatics with a soft layer of breadiness.

Taste:  Saison yeast takes lead here by throwing down a complex spice character that holds notes of green peppercorn, floral and citrusy coriander, and lemongrass.  This transitions into a gentle earthiness and grassiness that act as the perfect introduction to a hop presence that is rockin’ notes of orange zest, sweet grapefruit and a nondescript tropical fruitiness.  The flavor profile closes with a well-rounded, gently sweet biscuity malt tone that fades softly into the finish.

Mouthfeel:  Medium in body with a milder than expected carbonation level, this Saison has a light, airy texture and casually dries out to offer an incredibly easy drinking experience.  This thing runs the bases on the palate, allowing you to enjoy sweet, bitter and spice sensations.  The 4.5% ABV is ridiculously and awesomely low, further adding to this beer’s quenching ability and refreshment level. Aftertaste is minimal, but there are touches of spicy yeast notes left behind at times.

Final Thoughts:  Everything about À Tout le Monde is beautifully composed and on point.  It is dry-hopped just enough to keep the attention of the hop-obsessed American drinker, but the yeast character still remains big enough to satisfy those who claim allegiance to the Saison/Farmhouse Ale. The flavors and aromatics are just as pronounced as those you would find in a much bigger example of the style, but that low ABV elevates this Saison to an otherworldly, easy drinking height that firmly secures this beer’s status as a daily drinker.  To put it simply, À Tout le Monde just rocks . . . and it needs to find its way into your fridge if it has not already.  Prost!

Tasting Notes: Marionberry Sour from Rogue Ales

RogueMSpourFor this edition of Tasting Notes, our week takes a delightfully sour turn as we get into a pour of Marionberry Sour from Rogue Ales (Newport, Oregon).

Originally introduced back in July with the intent of being “the most Oregon of all Rogue Farms beers”, Marionberry Sour is a “vibrant violet-hued” American Sour Ale made with Rogue Farms-grown prickless marionberries – “a bigger, juicier and more flavorful variety of blackberry . . . originally developed by Oregon State University researchers in 1956.” Marionberry Sour (6.5% ABV) was specifically brewed “to highlight the tart side of the Marionberry while ensuring a pleasant balance through the fruit’s natural sweetness.”

Marionberry Sour is out now and will be available through October 2018.  You can find this Seasonal brew in 6-packs of 12 oz. bottles and on draft at craft beer establishments located in Alabama, Florida, Oregon and throughout the rest of Rogue’s nationwide distribution area.

Now that the introductions are out of the way, it seems this is the appropriate time to pucker up and lean in for some Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Marionberry Sour from Rogue Ales

Appearance: A gentle pour fills the glass with a rose-kissed, cranberry-colored brew that is capped with over a finger of loose, pink-tinged foam.  When held to direct light, the beer glows brilliantly as its pink, purple and red tones all gain an intense vibrancy.  Despite having a slight cloudiness to it, a serious amount of tiny carbonation bubbles can be seen surging throughout.  The head dissipates quickly to a creamy ring that does what it can to leave a few spots of lace behind on the glass.

Aroma: Lush berry goodness abounds as massive notes of blackberry and raspberry billow from the glass.  A touch of dark fruit and sweet grape sneak in to add a bit more depth and complexity to the fruity character.  The profile closes with sweet grains that are quickly overcome by an earthy, musty and slightly funky presence.

Taste:  As one would expect, marionberry is the star here as it quickly grabs hold of the taste buds with tart notes of fresh blackberry and raspberry.  That said, there is also a mixed berry jam note that offers some balancing sweetness to the beer’s more tart and acetic qualities.  Bready, slightly sweet grain further reinforces that balance, creating a note that is similar to toast and jam.  The flavors close out with a soft touch of musty grape and earthy funk.

Mouthfeel:  Medium bodied with a medium carbonation, Marionberry Sour actually has a bit more weight than most sours out there these days.  Both tart and sweet on the palate, this thing is nicely balanced and dries out beautifully.  The 6.5% ABV is nowhere to be found.  Aftertaste is all berry.

Final Thoughts: There is no denying that this offering is an absolutely gorgeous representation of the marionberry, but the truly impressive thing about Marionberry Sour is its overall balance.  Sure, it leads with a sharp, attention-grabbing level of tartness, but that is quickly tempered with the perfect amount of sweetness from the grains and the marionberry’s more jam-like side. The experience is not jaw-clenching sour or overly sweet. It is a balancing act that is teetering confidently somewhere in the middle, resulting in an impossibly dry, incredibly refreshing, and supremely easy-drinking Sour Ale.  Around here, those marks earn this summer beer some space in the beer fridge.  Be sure to check out Marionberry Sour before its Seasonal run comes to an end in October.  Prost!



Tasting Notes: Totalitarian Imperial Russian Stout from Stone Brewing

StoneTIRSPourFor this installment of Tasting Notes, we lay down our hammers and deal the workweek a final, crushing blow with the help of a tall, imposing pour of Stone Totalitarian Imperial Russian Stout from Stone Brewing (Escondido, California).

Released back in March as the successor to the fan-favorite Stone Imperial Russian Stout that was developed in 2000 and discontinued in 2016, Stone Totalitarian Imperial Russian Stout arrived with an upgraded recipe boasting “the careful addition of Belma hops and flaked oats.”  Although the beer retains the original recipe’s old-world nature by pouring “jet-black with a fluffy chocolate head and [tasting] of deeply dark fruit flavors with rich chocolate and coffee overtones”, the added flaked oats enhance the beer’s “long-lasting smooth and silky finish” while the new-world Belma hops “[intensify] its berry flavors and aroma while subtly introducing a juicy melon undertone.”  In an impressive show of force, Stone Totalitarian Imperial Russian Stout flexes its power with a 10.6% ABV and 65 IBUs.

Stone Totalitarian Imperial Russian Stout is nearing the end of its run as a Special Release offering, but it can still be found in 6-packs of 12 oz. bottles, 22 oz. bottles and on draft at many craft beer-friendly establishments located in Alabama, Florida, California, Virginia and throughout the rest of Stone Brewing’s nationwide distribution area.

Now that we are all a bit more familiar with Stone Totalitarian Imperial Russian Stout’s heritage and updated tweaks, let’s get into these Tasting Notes and see how it all translates!

Tasting Notes for Stone Totalitarian Imperial Russian Stout from Stone Brewing

Appearance: Totalitarian presents itself as an inky, glossy black brew capped with nearly two fingers of super creamy, dark mocha-colored foam.  Even when held to the brightest of light sources, the darkness holds and this Imperial Stout remains completely opaque.  Head retention is solid, but the top cap does slowly slip down to a chunky ring that leaves sweeping lines of lace across the glass.

Aroma: This party is all about those roasted malts as it jumps off with a strong presence of dark chocolate, smoke and char, and espresso roasted coffee.  These heavier notes are broken up a bit with tones of anise, dark fruit and rich toffee, but the roast is undeniably the center of attention here . . . and that’s pretty alright if you ask us.

Taste:  Deeply roasted malts lead here as well, saturating the palate with incredibly satisfying notes of bittersweet dark chocolate and intensely roasted coffee beans.  That roasty, slightly bitter malt character is quickly balanced by tones of dark fruit, booze-soaked berries (strawberry, black currant and raspberry), toffee, rich molasses, subtle melon, earthy leather, and burnt sugar.  A touch of creamy vanilla creeps in just as the flavor profile closes with a graham cracker and sweet bready character.

Mouthfeel:  Full-bodied with a softer carbonation level, this beer is creamy, smooth and velvety on the palate and lingers a bit to give the flavors a chance to fully develop. To keep things from getting cloying, the malt presence and those sneaky hops work together to find a nice balance between this stout’s roasty bite and sweeter qualities.  The 10.6% ABV provides a slow building heat in the throat and belly, but it is far more reserved than expected.  The aftertaste leaves behind just a touch of smoke, toffee and chocolate.

Final Thoughts:  Stone Totalitarian Imperial Russian Stout may be an updated take on the OG Stone Imperial Russian Stout, but it still holds true to what big, beautiful Imperial Stouts were before the rise of the overly-sweet, adjunct-filled Pastry Stouts that are now the norm.  The goal that was achieved here was to coax as much aroma, flavor and complexity possible from just hops, malt and yeast while still maintaining some semblance of balance.  It is all about straight-forward craftsmanship, and it is absolutely gorgeous for being so.

Now this may leave some questioning why would the decision makers at Stone Brewing retire the original Stone Imperial Russian Stout if they were not going to make any drastic changes?  Well . . .we can only answer that question with another: Why not?  It was a completely different world when the recipe for Stone Imperial Russian Stout was developed in 2000. That beer was already considered a viscous monster to those dabbling in craft beer at that time, and the idea of adding oats for more body would have been considered insane. Now, that’s what people want.  On top of that, you have to consider that Belma hops were not even released until 2012. So, who’s to say those hops would not have made it into the original if they had been available?  If trends were different and other ingredients were in the brewery almost two decades ago, there is a good chance that the original could have looked a lot like the Stone Totalitarian Imperial Russian Stout that is in front of us right now.

With that said, that is a lot of what-ifs.  What we do know is that Stone Totalitarian Imperial Russian Stout is all about showing respect for the past while still keeping an eye on the present.  It is a needed throwback offering that gives veteran craft beer drinkers a chance to reminisce on the days when the Russian Imperial Stout style was at its height of popularity . . . but, at the same time, it gives newer craft beer enthusiasts a chance to have a more educational, streamlined experience with the style while still possessing the body, feel and hop flavors that are more customary today.  Stone Totalitarian Imperial Russian Stout wears two hats and it looks damn good in both.  Be sure to check this one out before it begins to disappear from shelves and taps.  Prost!


Tasting Notes – Spirits Edition: Forbidden Fruit from Lee Spirits Company

The Tantalus cocktail featuring Forbidden Fruit Liqueur from Lee Spirits Company. Photo Credit- Guillermo Woolfolk/Mashing In

For this special installment of Tasting Notes, we take advantage of the exciting opportunity to sample and work with Forbidden Fruit, a nearly forgotten liqueur that has been recently resurrected by Lee Spirits Company (Colorado Springs, Colorado).

First created in the late 1800s, Forbidden Fruit, a citrus-based liqueur, at one time grew to such popularity that it was frequently mentioned as an ingredient in The Savoy Cocktail Book and The Café Royal Cocktail Book – two highly-respected tomes from the 1930’s that now chronicle the history of classic cocktails. Never heard of it? Well, the reason for that stems from the moment it was “acquired from the original producers by the Jacquin Company.”  This move set the stage for Forbidden Fruit to oddly meet its demise in 1970’s when the Jacquin Company decided to “[repurpose] the bottle design for their new Chambord Raspberry Liqueur.” Production of Forbidden Fruit completely ceased, leaving “classic cocktail enthusiasts . . . no choice but to try to substitute Forbidden Fruit with another ingredient or to recreate it themselves” . . . until Lee Spirits Company showed up.

Staying true to their “mission to authentically recreate classic cocktail ingredients”, the folks at Lee Spirits “scoured auction houses, purchased unopened bottles of original Forbidden Fruit Liqueur“, and reverse engineered Forbidden Fruit’s flavor and experience “as accurately as absolutely possible.”  After building a recipe containing “white grapefruit, honey, and a blend of spices”, Lee Spirits Company can now confidently declare that “it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference” between their version and the original in a side-by-side comparison. Due to Lee Spirits Company’s dedication and commitment to the revival of this historic liqueur, a wealth of classic cocktails can now resurface, and Forbidden Fruit can once again inspire new creations developed at bars around the country.

Forbidden Fruit is available now in 750ml bottles and can be found at fine retailers located in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

Now that the storied history of Forbidden Fruit has been covered, let’s get into these Tasting Notes so that we can finally experience what we have been missing for all these years.

Tasting Notes for Forbidden Fruit from Lee Spirits Company

Appearance: Forbidden Fruit is packaged in a tall, slender bottle that is adorned with a white label bearing a clean, mostly black and gray design that gets a just a pop of color from the illustrated grapefruit and spices.  The liqueur is extremely pale yellow in color and slightly cloudy, making its presentation somewhat reminiscent of freshly squeezed lemon juice.  When jostled, the liquid coats every part of the glass it encounters with an oil slick that impressively draws some lengthy and long-lasting legs.

Aroma: Citrus forward, the aromatics lead with a grapefruit character spiked with bit of sweet orange juice.  A lovely honey presence then builds and carries with it earthy and floral cardamom notes.  Coriander closes the profile with a complex, citrus quality that brings the grapefruit back up front.

Taste: The spices strike first here with floral cardamom, citrusy coriander and just a touch of cinnamon.  The citrus and honey then surface simultaneously to supply notes of candied grapefruit and orange.  Underneath it all, there is a soft undertone of creamy vanilla that further tempers the grapefruit with another layer of sweetness.

Mouthfeel:  Slightly syrupy and sticky in texture, Forbidden Fruit coats the palate with a healthy helping of sweetness.  That said, there is a touch of citrus-sourced bitterness that adds some dimension to the liqueur’s sweet character.  All those fermentable sugars produce an 32% ABV that offers some building – but not overwhelming – heat in the throat.  Honey and vanilla linger in the aftertaste.

Final Thoughts: On description alone, we were expecting Forbidden Fruit to be more of a bittering liqueur . . . but our ignorant expectation for something one dimensional was way off.  Instead, we were met with a dynamically complex spirit that is citrusy and floral, sweet and gently bitter, earthy and spicy.  Above all, it is just ridiculously unique.

Obviously, Forbidden Fruit is not necessarily meant to be a stand-alone spirit consumed neat like we did for the Tasting Notes above.  Its place is in a delicious cocktail, so we decided to continue our tasting journey by shaking up a Tantalus, a classic cocktail that also vanished when Forbidden Fruit met its fate in the 70’s.


  • 3/4 oz. Brandy or Gin (we went with Lee Spirits Dry Gin)
  • 3/4 oz. Forbidden Fruit
  • 3/4 oz. Lemon Juice
  • 1/4 oz. Honey

Add all ingredients to a shaker tin filled with ice and shake. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with a lemon twist.

The recipe makes it so the herbs in the Dry Gin and the spices in the Forbidden Fruit are smoothed out and dialed back. This leaves incredibly bright citrus notes (tart lemon & grapefruit) and a floral honey presence with the opportunity to shine.  Any sweetness from the honey and Forbidden Fruit is balanced beautifully by the lemon juice and gin, resulting in an incredibly refreshing cocktail that drinks dry and disappears about as quickly as it is poured.

After experiencing just how delicious Forbidden Fruit and the Tantalus cocktail are, it is difficult to understand why this liqueur so easily faded away into obscurity.  With the bright but balanced flavors in Forbidden Fruit having the amazing ability to complement and enhance so many different kinds of spirits and mixers, its decades-long absence just does not make any sense.

The time is now and long overdue for Forbidden Fruit.  Whether you own a bar that specializes or dabbles in the cocktails of yore or are just a home bartender that enjoys wowing guests with classic-style cocktails, you need to have some Forbidden Fruit on hand.  Not only will this help you step up your cocktail game, but you will also play a pivotal role in assisting Forbidden Fruit reclaim its significant place in cocktail culture.  Prost!