Tasting Notes: Dark Swan from Lagunitas Brewing Company

LagunitasDarkSwanPour_edited_editedFor this installment of Tasting Notes, we enjoy an enchanted moment with the ever-elusive Dark Swan Sour Ale from Lagunitas Brewing Company (Petaluma, California).

Developed to be Lagunitas’ take on the beer-wine hybrid, Dark Swan is a “uniquely deep and rich purple [hued]” American Sour Ale that has been “dry-hopped with some experimental Pekko hops from the Yakima Valley, then fermented with . . . house yeast on some of Sonoma County’s-own Petite Syrah grape juice from . . . Adobe Road Winery.” Swooping in at 7.9% ABV and 25 IBUs, Dark Swan promises to be “smooth, slightly sour, and superbly strange.”

Dark Swan officially released in mid-February, but there is still a good amount of it hanging around out there on shelves and taps.  You can look for this Limited Release offering to be available in 6-packs of 12 oz. bottles and on draft at select craft beer-focused establishments located in Alabama, Florida, California, Illinois and throughout the rest of Lagunitas Brewing Company’s distribution area.

Now that we are all a bit more familiar with Dark Swan’s background information, it appears that it is finally time to crack open a bottle and plunge into some Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Dark Swan Sour Ale (2019) from Lagunitas Brewing Company

Appearance:  A somewhat vigorous pour produces a beer that is a beautiful deep purple in color and wearing nearly two fingers of rose-pink foam.  When held to direct light, red tones push through and blend with the purple to create a color that is similar to pure cranberry juice.  Although dark in color, it still reveals an incredible degree of clarity and a mellow amount of carbonation activity.  Head retention is decent, reducing slowly to a lasting, chunky ring that leaves spotty lacing on the glass at times.

Aroma:  A clean grape presence opens the aromatics with both sweet, fresh grape juice and a complex dark red wine/Shiraz-like character.  The complexity builds as the hops shuffle in to add floral notes, a pop of black currant, and a tinge of spicy herb.  Underneath all of this lies a faint sweetness similar to a hard fruit candy (think grape Jolly Rancher).

Taste:  The vinous qualities lead here as well, playfully weaving in notes of Concord grape juice, lightly tannic red wine, and just straight fresh dark-skinned grapes.  The hops add supporting notes of black currant, assorted berries, a twist of citrus, and soft floral tones.  The profile closes with a gentle dose of sour funk and nondescript malt sweetness.

Mouthfeel:  On the lighter side of medium in body with a medium carbonation, Dark Swan is wonderfully crisp and easy-drinking.  On the palate, it playfully bounces between sour, fruity and sweet. The 7.9% ABV is completely hidden, allowing this beer to drink much lighter than it is.  Aftertaste is all red wine and berries.

Final Thoughts: Dark Swan is a whimsical take on the beer/wine hybrid that somehow boasts both the approachability of the grape juice box and the complexity of a fine red wine.  The hops seem to be dialed back a bit for a Lagunitas offering, sacrificing in-your-face dankness for just the right amount of complementary fruity and floral notes.  This approach allows the grape/wine character to shine, but the beer is still able to assert itself as . . . you know . . . a beer by casually reminding you of the hop qualities and malt sweetness that would clearly be out of place in a wine.  This results in a ridiculously refreshing beer that basically drinks like a slightly less carbonated wine spritzer.  Overall, Dark Swan is wildly unique, a little weird, and extraordinarily tasty.  If you are at all a fan of red wines (or pilfering juice boxes from the children’s stash), be sure to grab some of this year’s batch of Dark Swan before it disappears from shelves.  Prost!


Tasting Notes: Outta Line IPA from Rogue Ales

RogueOuttaLinePourx600For this installment of Tasting Notes, we continue to steer our recent IPA-fueled adventure westward as we get into a pour of Outta Line IPA from Rogue Ales (Newport, Oregon).

Brewed to be a celebration of “those who have the courage to do their own thing”, Outta Line is a West Coast-style India Pale Ale “that opens with tangerine and mango, balanced by malt sweetness and a crisp hop bite.” Clocking in at 6.9% ABV and 66 IBUs, Outta Line is a perfect go-to beer “for those who live outside the lines.”

Outta Line IPA is available now in 6-packs of 12 oz. bottles, 6-packs of 12 oz. cans and on draft.  You can expect to find this new Year-Round offering at craft beer-friendly retailers, bars and restaurants located in Alabama, Florida, Oregon and throughout the rest of Rogue’s nationwide distribution area.

Ok . . . now that we are all caught up on this brew’s background info, what do say we get a little Outta Line in some Tasting Notes?

Tasting Notes for Outta Line IPA from Rogue Ales

Appearance: Outta Line is a deep, honey-like orange in color with bright yellow hues bursting at its sides and capped with two fingers of slightly off-white foam.  When held to direct light, the orange hues brighten and the yellows radiate with vibrancy.  The beer is pristine in clarity and displays a steady carbonation presence streaming within.  Head retention is decent, falling to a fine ring that scatters foamy patterns of sticky lace across the glass throughout the experience.

Aroma: Coy at the start, the hop presence builds slowly with notes of mango, orange, peach, blueberry and grapefruit. The hops gain confidence and open further to reveal a soft pine note, a firm floral character, and a super enticing presence of spicy dankness.  The malts hang back here, lurking in the background with notes of caramel and lightly toasted grain. The aromatics close with a gentle waft of alcohol. Nicely reserved but filled with complexity.

Taste: Tangerine peel gets the flavor profile off to a tangy, hoppy citrus start.  The fruitiness then blooms to offer tropical notes of mango, pineapple and grapefruit.  The hop presence then shifts as resinous pine and straight dank herb settle in to create that classic, in-your-face West Coast-style goodness.  The malts sneak in near the end to lend a touch of balance with some lightly sweet, crackery and earthy (wet grain) tones.

Mouthfeel: On the heavier side of medium in body with a medium carbonation level, this IPA has a soft, silken texture but still dries out nicely.  It leans to the hoppy/bitter side, but that is kept in check with a stealthy and balancing malt presence.  Only really present in the aroma at times, the ABV is well tempered and gives off very little heat.  Pine resin and citrus zest are left behind in the aftertaste.

Final Thoughts:  Outta Line is a solid nod back to the good ol’ days when West Coast IPAs ruled the craft beer scene, but it is one that is still willing to adopt an aspect or two of the IPA trends of today.  Sure . . . it has a good deal of that resiny, ultra-dank hop bite, but the hops’ juicy characteristics get equal billing, the IBUs feel as though they have been dialed down a bit, and the bitterness does not come close to approaching anything that hit during the IBU wars of yore.  Is that a bad thing? No. This West Coast IPA avoids shock value and palate wrecking so that it can embrace supreme drinkability while still holding on to a satisfying amount of hop flavor, aroma and bitterness.  It aims to reach daily drinker/go-to status, and it hits that mark squarely.  Be sure to grab a sixer of Outta Line IPA the next time you find yourself roaming the beer aisle in search of something new and incredibly easy-drinking.  Prost!


Tasting Notes: Tangerine Deuce Coupe DIPA from Garage Brewing Co.

GarageDeucePourX500For this installment of Tasting Notes, we cruise over the midweek hump with a little assistance from Tangerine Deuce Coupe DIPA from Garage Brewing Co. (Temecula, California).

Built to be the perfect vehicle to carry Garage Brewing Co. into 2019, Deuce Coupe is a Limited Release series of West Coast-style Double India Pale Ales that boast a “citrusy note of grapefruit” sourced from a hop bill comprised of Chinook, Simcoe and Amarillo hops.  The Tangerine Deuce Coupe variant revs up the base beer with a “tangy note of tangerine” while Grapefruit Deuce Coupe adds depth to its already established grapefruit character.  All three versions of Deuce Coupe come in at 8.9% ABV and 100 IBUs.

Deuce Coupe DIPA, Grapefruit Deuce Coupe and Tangerine Deuce Coupe are all out now and plan to hang around for a bit.  You can expect to find these Limited Release brews available in 22 oz. bottles and on draft at select craft beer-friendly establishments located within Garage Brewing Co.’s distribution footprint in Southern California and Las Vegas, Nevada.  **Pro-tip: Tangerine Deuce Coupe is this week’s (February 13 – 17, 2019) Growler Fill Special in Garage Brewing Co.’s Tap Room**

Now that we are done with the background information on the Deuce Coupe DIPA series, it is finally time to choose one for the full Tasting Notes treatment.  Since everyone here is a sucker for just about anything tangerine, it was a pretty easy decision to go with the Tangerine Deuce Coupe . . . so, let’s pop the top and take this thing out for a test drive!

Tasting Notes for Tangerine Deuce Coupe Double IPA from Garage Brewing Co.

Appearance:  This Double IPA is an intensely vivid, sunburst orange in color and is capped with almost two fingers of super fluffy, white foam.  When held to direct light, bright yellows push through at the sides while that deep orange holds firm at the center.  Although the beer does have a tinge of cloudiness/haze, it is mostly clear and presents an exuberant display of carbonation bubbles.  Head retention is quite good, slowly falling to a lasting 1/4 finger that leaves massive chunks of lace behind on the glass.

Aroma:  A subtle earthy and piney hop presence is the first note to step forward, but it eventually turns things over to the wonderfully pronounced citrus qualities – sweet orange juice mostly – of those Amarillo hops.  This sets the stage beautifully for the tangerine to assert itself with a wonderful juiciness that is supported by a bright burst of zest.  It seriously smells like a crate of freshly picked tangerines.

Taste:  Bitter grapefruit intertwines with some pine resiny goodness to wake up the taste buds with a jolt.  The citrusy hops open further to welcome in orange tones and eventually an incredibly clean tangerine presence.  We are talking fresh tangerine juice that is both sweet and zippy along with a bracing bite from the peel and zest.  A gently sweet pale malt character works its way in at the finish to leave behind a note of candied tangerine peel.

Mouthfeel:  Medium bodied with a peppy carbonation level, this Double IPA is wildly refreshing and drinks much lighter than one might expect.  It definitely leans to the bitter side (it is 100 IBUs after all), but the malts are dialed in perfectly to keep things from getting out of hand.  ABV is nicely muted for 8.9% and does not bring much heat at all.  Aftertaste is all pine and tangerine peel.

Final Thoughts: Just as billed, this variant absolutely takes the Deuce Coupe DIPA base to all new, tangerine-filled heights (yes, we actually drank all three . . . you know . . . for research). As the regular Deuce Coupe DIPA and Grapefruit Deuce Coupe both focus on their hops’ ample grapefruit notes, Tangerine Deuce Coupe shifts gears, turns the wheel and takes the experience in a whole new direction.

The tangerine character – in both aroma and flavor – is beautifully clean (there is absolutely no trace of artificiality to be found) and complements the hop bill perfectly by pulling the Amarillo hops forward to shine while the Simcoe and Chinook hops dutifully support with complex notes that are earthy, piney and citrusy (grapefruit). This is really interesting because Tangerine Deuce Coupe completely flips the script when it comes to how the hop bill performs in it (Amarillo dominant) rather than in the other two variants (Simcoe and Chinook dominant).

All three variants are damn good, legit West Coast Double IPAs and work nicely as a group, but Tangerine Deuce Coupe is basically just that close buddy that always seems to set off to do his/her own thing.  For us, it just pulls away from the pack by being a simply gorgeous, incredibly refreshing, and ridiculously easy-drinking Double IPA.  If you get the chance, check out all three Deuce Coupe DIPA variants so that you can pick a fave of your own.  Prost!



Tasting Notes: Truck Chaser – Creamsicle DIPA from Wild Leap Brew Co.

WildLeapTCPourFor this edition of Tasting Notes, we treat ourselves to a little end of the week indulgence by getting into a pour of Truck Chaser – Creamsicle Double IPA from Wild Leap Brew Co. (LaGrange, Georgia).

Introduced back in mid-January, Wild Leap Brew Co.’s Truck Chaser Series – a tongue-in-cheek homage to all those craft beer fanatics that tirelessly pound the streets in search of the most elusive brews out there – is a new, Limited Release lineup of playful takes on the Double India Pale Ale style.  Truck Chaser – Creamsicle, the inaugural release in the series, is “brewed with a flavor combination of ripe orange, vanilla bean and milk sugar.” Somehow both decadent and refreshing, Truck Chaser – Creamsicle (8.1% ABV) will have you thinking you are enjoying “a creamsicle straight from the ice cream truck.”

Truck Chaser – Creamsicle is out now with plans to hang around as long as supplies last.  You can expect to find this Limited Release available in 4-packs of 12 oz. cans and on draft at select craft beer-focused establishments located in and around the Atlanta, LaGrange, Newnan, Peachtree City, Columbus, Athens, Gainesville and Augusta areas of Georgia.

Alright . . . now that we have properly covered the particulars behind Truck Chaser – Creamsicle, let’s crack open a can and relive some ice-cream-truck-fueled memories over some Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Truck Chaser – Creamsicle Double IPA from Wild Leap Brew Co.

Appearance: A vigorous pour produces a beer that is somewhat murky, dark orange in color and topped with a faint, fizzy half finger of white foam.  When held to direct light, the orange brightens a touch but does not really gain any vibrancy.  The beer is cloudy and opaque, but sporadic pops of carbonation can still be observed pushing their way through at times.  Head retention is nearly nonexistent as the foam completely disappears almost as soon as the pour settles.

Aroma:  The aromatics begin with a bright, green/fresh hoppy presence that is both citrusy and earthy.  A distinct presence of orange zest and juice then quickly moves in to act the perfect bridge between the hops and a soft vanilla tone that turns up at the very end of the profile.

Taste:  Mirroring the nose, the flavor opens with a pronounced hop presence featuring a sharp citrus note and bitter bite.  A wonderfully juicy orange quality settles in, bringing with it fresh notes of peel, zest, juice and citrus oils.  Vanilla and sweet cream then saturate the finish, locking in just enough cutting sweetness to create that distinct creamsicle experience.

Mouthfeel:  This DIPA is medium to full bodied with a softer carbonation level, creating a nice and creamy texture. Across the palate, this beer moves easily between hop-sourced bitterness and fruity sweetness to find a lovely balance that never tips too far in either direction.  The 8.1% ABV is well hidden, but it does sneak in a gentle warmth that builds in the chest.  Citrus hop notes are left to linger in the aftertaste.

Final Thoughts:  All in all, we were happily surprised to find that Truck Chaser – Creamsicle Double IPA lands in a nice place somewhere between a real deal, hop-laden Double IPA experience and the tamer/more accessible world of the Milkshake IPA.  The hops in this beer do take the lead and have quite a bit of presence, making it so you really need to hold some love for their delightful bite to enjoy this one.  With that said, it still follows through with more than enough juicy sweetness, vanilla creaminess, and luscious texture to nail the creamsicle notes and properly represent the Milkshake IPA style.  Basically, it translates as if you are chasing sips of Double IPA with a couple bites of creamsicle . . . and who could be mad at that?  Be sure to check out Truck Chaser – Creamsicle before its limited run comes to an end.  Prost!

Tasting Notes: Willettized Coffee Stout (2018) from Lagunitas Brewing Company

lagunitaswillettizedpourFor this installment of Tasting Notes, we do our best to ward off the cold with the soothing warmth found within a bottle of Willettized Coffee Stout from Lagunitas Brewing Company (Petaluma, California).

Released back in December as the perfect partner for “fireside-swigging and sweater-sipping”, Willettized Coffee Stout is a “big and burly stout” brewed with coffee beans from Metropolis Coffee Company and then aged for “up to 24 months” in Rye Whiskey casks sourced from Willett Distillery.  100% barrel aged and blended, Willettized (12% ABV) is a “chocolatey, coffee-y, smoky, oak-y, rye-y beast” that is “meant to be shared and/or aged . . . or not . . . whatever.”

A limited amount of Willettized Coffee Stout was released at the tail end of 2018, but there is a chance that a few bottles could still be hanging around out there.  Look for this OneHitter Release to (possibly) be available in 22 oz. bottles and on draft at select craft beer-focused establishments located in Alabama, Florida, California, Illinois, Washington and throughout the rest of Lagunitas Brewing Company’s nationwide distribution territory.

Now that we are all a bit more familiar with this beer’s background information, what do you say we cozy up to a bottle and get into these Tasting Notes?

Tasting Notes for Willettized Coffee Stout from Lagunitas Brewing Company

Appearance:  A gentle pour produces a glossy black Imperial Stout topped with two fingers of foamy, brown sugar-colored head.  When held to direct light, the black color softens a bit at the edges to expose some brown, cola-like tones.  The beer is completely opaque, hiding any visual hint at its carbonation level.  Retention is good, gracefully falling to a tightly packed cap that coats the glass with creamy sheets of lace throughout the experience.

Aroma:  Whiskey greets the nose with gentle, alluring notes of booze, vanilla, earthy/spicy rye, and oak.  Rich dark chocolate and a dollop of caramel then work their way in to round off the alcohol with a soothing sweetness.  Dark roast coffee then turns up to offer a final layer of complexity with light notes of roast, smoke and bittersweet chocolate – accentuating both the whiskey and chocolate notes that preceded it.  Everything here is wonderfully straightforward and beautifully on point.

Taste:  Dark chocolate and dark roast coffee take the lead here by laying a rich foundation that is bitter and sweet, earthy and decadent.  The coffee gently opens further, coaxing out the rye whiskey’s notes of vanilla, oak, rye spice, molasses, and caramel.  A bit of coconut and a toasted bready/crackery quality (almost graham cracker-like) seemingly come out of nowhere only to be quickly enveloped by a faint waft of smoke and tobacco in the finish.

Mouthfeel:  Full-bodied with a soft carbonation level, this Imperial Stout is velvety and viscous in texture.  On the palate, it is beautifully balanced as any sweetness is kept in check thanks to the bitterness of the coffee and earthiness sourced from the rye whiskey barrel.  The ABV does bring some heat, but it is pretty tame for 12%.  The aftertaste is just lingering, warm notes of rye whiskey and coffee.

Final Thoughts: Living up to all expectations set by its name, Willettized Coffee Stout is simply an incredibly well-composed Imperial Stout brewed with damn good coffee and clearly aged in high-quality whiskey barrels.  The rye whiskey notes are extraordinarily clean, well-represented, and effortlessly drive the entire experience.  With that said, the base Imperial Stout – with its pronounced aromas and flavors of coffee and chocolate – maintains a fantastic depth of character and refuses to get lost in all that barrel character.  Each note is interlocking and depends on the others to come together to create a top tier barrel-aged stout experience.  Seriously, if you are at all a fan of those old school, annually released barrel-aged beers that have served as a rite of passage for so many of us over the years (think KBS and Bourbon County Brand Stout), Willettized Coffee Stout is a must try.  It just does not get much better than this.  Prost!


Tasting Notes: Mangrove Double IPA from 7venth Sun Brewery

7venthmangrovepour_editedFor our first installment of Tasting Notes in 2019, we are recognizing the 7venth Anniversary of 7venth Sun Brewery (Dunedin & Tampa, Florida) in our own little way by taking a look at one of their long-standing Core offerings, Mangrove Double IPA.

Crafted to be nothing more than a massive, old school, in-your-face representation of the style, Mangrove is a Double India Pale Ale loaded with Amarillo, Simcoe and Columbus hops.  Palate bruising in nature, Mangrove weighs in at a crushing 10% ABV.

Mangrove is typically available Year-Round on draft at both 7venth Sun locations and occasionally available in 4-packs of 12 oz. cans.

With that sparse amount of background information now out of the way, I do believe it is finally time to test the waters and explore this Mangrove with some Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Mangrove Double IPA from 7venth Sun Brewery

Appearance: This Double IPA is a bright burnt orange to amber in color and is wearing right at a finger of frothy, pure white foam.  When held to direct light, vibrancy grows to produce more sunburst orange tones surrounding a darker amber core.  The beer is more dark and blurry than hazy, but light is still allowed to easily pass through to offer a semblance of clarity.  Retention is fair, but the remaining chunky ring puts in some nice work as it notches the glass after each sip.

Aroma:  The hops have certainly come to play as this thing opens with a punchy burst of citrus (grapefruit, orange and lemon mostly), pine, light spice, and a whisper of earthiness.  Pale malts and a touch of clean grain are present, but they translate as less sweet and more supportive of that hop-sourced spice and earthiness.

Taste:  Not much unlike the nose, the flavor is beautifully hop-driven with fruity notes of sweet orange, a bright bracing bite of grapefruit, freshly zested lemons, and just a sliver of pineapple.  Pine then surfaces to add some attention-seeking resiny goodness, but it is nicely tempered by a caramel malt presence that gently and oh so carefully embraces the profile to smooth everything right out.

Mouthfeel:  Medium in body with a medium carbonation level, this brew is rich with hop oils that pleasantly saturate and coat the palate.  Although it is nice and sticky, it still has the ability to – in due time – dry out nicely.  The malts might bring some sweetness near the finish, but this beer is not at all shy about the fact that it leans heavily toward the bitter/hoppy side.  Without even a hint of heat or burn, the 10% ABV is incredibly well-hidden and deceiving.  The aftertaste is a good mix of citrus and resinous pine.

Final Thoughts: Without a doubt, the greatest thing about Mangrove Double IPA is that it is always there – at either 7venth Sun location – to remind the grizzled old hopheads like myself of why we fell in love with hops long before hype blurred the lines with New England/Hazy/Juicy/Milkshake/etc. IPAs.  With a statement like that, I realize that I should probably ask that you please excuse my “get off my lawn” moment. You see, I honestly do believe those shiny new IPA thingies have a place in the craft beer community.  Hell, I have enjoyed more than my share, but I also quite often find myself missing bitterness in my IPAs/DIPAs . . . and that is when I turn to a beer like Mangrove.

This DIPA explores all aspects of the hops utilized in its recipe by showcasing their juicy qualities (not to mention piney, floral, earthy and spicy notes as well) alongside that intensely exhilarating hoppy bite.  With that said, expert craftsmanship keeps things from getting out of hand by finding a sweet – but not too sweet – spot of contrasting maltiness. Not just present to supply body, these malts also impart flavor and balance so that the finished beer will remain dynamic but still easy-drinking. Perfection is damn near a requirement to pull off a beer like Mangrove, and that is why it demands your respect and still carries a torch for those hoppy beers of old.  Steadfast in its mission, Mangrove Double IPA is patiently waiting for you.  Be sure to check it out if you get the chance.  Prost!


Tasting Notes – Spirits Edition: Rocky Mountain Peppermint Schnapps from Lee Spirits Co.

LeeSpiritsRMPSbottleFor this special Christmas Eve edition of Tasting Notes, we fully immerse ourselves in the spirit and flavors of the holiday season by spending some time with the newly released Rocky Mountain Peppermint Schnapps from Lee Spirits Company (Colorado Springs, Colorado).

Proudly introduced earlier this month as one of the only craft Peppermint Schnapps manufactured in the United States, Rocky Mountain Peppermint Schnapps is a premium quality Peppermint Schnapps “made from all-natural peppermint, purified Rocky Mountain water and all-natural premium cane sugar.” Clocking in at 90 PROOF/45% ABV, Rocky Mountain Peppermint Schnapps “is designed to drink ‘neat’ or accompany a wealth of mixed drinks such as enhancing the delicious Alexander or adding peppermint schnapps to hot chocolate.”

750ml bottles of Rocky Mountain Peppermint Schnapps are available now in Colorado and will see expanded distribution in 2019.  You can find this new offering at fine liquor retailers and bars located throughout the state of Colorado.

With all that background information now out of the way, what do you say we raise a neat pour of Rocky Mountain Peppermint Schnapps to the holidays and get into these Tasting Notes?

Tasting Notes for Rocky Mountain Peppermint Schnapps from Lee Spirits Company

Appearance: Rocky Mountain Peppermint Schnapps is packaged in a tall and slender clear bottle that is wearing a parchment-like label that depicts the offering’s name cut out of a bed of peppermint leaves.  This tastefully stylized design is blocked out and centered above a tiny Colorado state flag and a proud proclamation of “Handmade with Rocky Mountain Water.” When poured neat into a tasting glass, the spirit is mostly clear but does have a tinge of a translucent cloudiness to it.  When swirled, the liquid seems to carve a high arcing line into the glass and drops some of the slowest moving legs we have ever seen in a spirit.

Aroma:  Just as one would expect, these Schnapps are filled with peppermint, but it is an incredibly clean and natural presence. There is not a hint of artificiality or extract. This deeply herbal waft is then tempered a bit with a delicate layer of pure sugar and a gentle jolt of alcohol residing in the background. As a whole, these aromatics easily conjure up comforting and cheery memories of the holidays.

Taste:  Peppermint of course dominates here as well with a bright, refreshing burst of that minty coolness.  This is countered slightly as cane sugar works its way in to lay down some sweetness alongside those herbal tones.  These elements combine to create an experience that is strikingly similar to that of a classic candy cane.  Clean alcohol is present in the finish, but it does not even attempt to overwhelm the peppermint.

Mouthfeel: A touch on the syrupy side, these Peppermint Schnapps completely coat the tongue and palate before slowly evaporating away into nothing.  Although it does lean a bit to the sweet side, the herbal character of the peppermint does a good job of lifting away some of that sweetness in effort to keep things from getting cloying.  That 45% ABV/90 PROOF brings a bit of booziness, but it is tame and takes the form of a comforting warmth in your belly.  Notes of your favorite peppermint candy are left to linger behind in the aftertaste.

Final Thoughts:  All in all, Lee Spirits Company made Rocky Mountain Peppermint Schnapps exactly what it should be: a clean, cool and fresh peppermint spirit.  The peppermint character is wonderfully natural and pronounced but cut with just the right amount of sugar to keep things from coming across medicinal.  With that said, the peppermint maintains enough of its integrity to keep the sweetness from becoming cloying.  The ratio is spot on, basically making Rocky Mountain Peppermint Schnapps liquid peppermint candy but without any hint of artificial character.

Rocky Mountain Peppermint Schnapps can easily be enjoyed neat (we were delighted to sip on it for over an hour while working on these notes), but you can get into some real fun with this spirit by experimenting with it in cocktails.  Peppermint can work wonders in a variety of cocktails all year long, but the desire for that flavor does become more prevalent during the winter and especially during the holidays.  With that in mind, we decided to combine Rocky Mountain Peppermint Schnapps with eggnog, another quintessential flavor of the holidays, to create a festive and fun Candy Cane Nog (pictured above):

Candy Cane Nog

  • 6 oz. to 8 oz. Eggnog
  • 3/4 oz. Rocky Mountain Peppermint Schnapps 
  • Whipped Cream 
  • Candy Cane Stick

Add Eggnog and Rocky Mountain Peppermint Schnapps to shaker tin filled with ice and shake.  Strain into a glass coffee mug. Top with whipped cream and garnish with a candy cane stick.  You can also dust the whipped cream with cinnamon, nutmeg, cocoa powder (our choice) or red & green sprinkles for added garnish.  

The Candy Cane Nog shows just how versatile peppermint is as an ingredient as the Rocky Mountain Peppermint Schnapps brightens and lifts the heavy creaminess of the eggnog while embracing and accentuating the nog’s spices.  This combination beautifully balances the two featured ingredients and elevates these established festive flavors to another level.

If you are not a fan of eggnog, you can always use Rocky Mountain Peppermint Schnapps to make an Adult Hot Cocoa or incorporate it into the recipes for cocktails such as the Peppermint Patty or Peppermint White Russian.

No matter how you chose to enjoy Rocky Mountain Peppermint Schnapps, one thing is for sure: you are certainly never going to be disappointed whenever this spirit graces your glass.  Be sure to treat yourself to a bottle if the opportunity arises . . . but, above all, make sure you have a safe and happy holidays.  Prost!

Tasting Notes: Nebraska Hoppy Saison from Earth Eagle Brewings

EarthEagleNebraskaPour_editedFor this installment of Tasting Notes, we reminisce on a recent vacation by getting into a can of Nebraska Hoppy Saison from Earth Eagle Brewings (Portsmouth, New Hampshire).

Proudly wearing a name inspired by an iconic Bruce Springsteen album and “the state of many farmhouses”, Nebraska is a Saison that has been “lusciously hopped” with Motueka and Mosaic hops.  Coming in at an easy-drinking 6.2% ABV, Nebraska was brewed by Earth Eagle to give “all those other farmhousey brews a run for their money!”

Nebraska is occasionally available in Earth Eagle’s taproom on draft and in 4-packs of 16 oz. cans.

Now that we have properly gone over the brewery’s brief description of this beer, let’s experience Nebraska by way of New Hampshire with some Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Nebraska Hoppy Saison from Earth Eagle Brewings

Appearance: A gentle pour produces a Saison that is a deep yellow-orange in color and capped with just over two fingers of rocky, winter white foam.  When held to direct light, the yellows burst with radiance while a rich orange tone holds its ground at the core of the glass.  The beer is slightly cloudy but is still able to display a steady carbonation presence working about within.  A picture-perfect representation of the style’s unmistakable level of head retention, the foam barely falls at all and absolutely coats the glass with chunky streaks of lace.

Aroma:  The Saison yeast strikes first with beautiful notes of pepper, clove and subtle mustiness.  The featured hops lend delicate notes of grapefruit, lemon zest, mango and stone fruit.  Bready malts eventually surface with a touch of sweetness, but they are no match for that gorgeous yeast character.

Taste: The bready malts set the stage here before those trademark Saison notes steal the show with peppery spice, a nice earthiness and grassiness, subtle clove, and musty tones that mimic wet hay and an attic during a humid summer.  The hops have a bit more power here and brighten the profile with tones of grapefruit and tropical fruits, but notes of mango and stone fruit (mostly unripe peach and dried apricot) actually lend some support to that musty yeast quality as well.  A gentle floral tone rounds everything off and closes out the profile.

Mouthfeel: Medium in body with a medium carbonation level, this beer casually slips across the palate and finishes nice and dry.  The hops outwork the malts a bit, but they avoid taking the spotlight from the all-important Saison yeast character.  At 6.4% ABV, this beer does bring a light building heat in the throat, but it is not at all out of hand. The aftertaste leaves behind just a grace of yeast esters that easily entices the drinker to take another sip.

Final Thoughts: After landing in Manchester, New Hampshire and starting our vacation by road-tripping to Portland, Maine, we asked every brewer, bartender and server that we ran across along the way the same question: “What is the one brewery around here that we have to check out?”  The first answer out of everyone’s mouth was Earth Eagle Brewings.

That level of endorsement says a lot, but a beer like Nebraska says even more about Earth Eagle and quickly validates those ardent recommendations.  We say that because this is a wonderfully executed, classic take on the Saison style, and that is no small feat.  Yes, we are aware that Nebraska is listed as a not-so-traditional “Hoppy Saison”, but those carefully selected Motueka and Mosaic hops were deployed to balance and actually accentuate the elegant and dynamic nature of the chosen strain of Saison yeast.  The hops add some charm, but they know their place and never overwhelm. It is incredibly apparent that the brewers at Earth Eagle set out to make Nebraska shine bright as a real Saison capable of capturing the attention and imagination of European brewers dedicated to this style, and they clearly pulled it off in our estimation.

All in all, we can confirm that Nebraska is a truly special beer and Earth Eagle Brewings is a truly special brewery.  Be sure to check them out if you ever find yourself anywhere within driving distance of Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  Seriously.  Do it.  Prost!

Tasting Notes: Counter Currant from Rogue Ales

RogueCounterCurrantPour_editedTasting Notes is back to close out yet another week and this time around we are focusing our attention on Counter Currant from Rogue Ales (Newport, Oregon).

Born out of inspiration sourced from the black currants grown at Rogue FarmsCounter Currant is a “ground to glass” Fruit Beer that features “rich flavors of black currant and a dry, tart finish.” Light in body and a “deep purple in color”, Counter Currant (6.4% ABV) is an eye-catching, “food-friendly” brew that will be at home on just about any table during the holiday season.

Counter Currant launched earlier this month and will be available through February 2019.  You can expect to find this Seasonal Release available in 4-packs of 16 oz. cans and on draft at select craft beer establishments located in Alabama, Florida, Oregon and throughout the rest of Rogue’s nationwide distribution area.

Now that we are all a bit more familiar with this beer’s background, let’s dive into these Tasting Notes and see where the Counter Currant takes us!

Tasting Notes for Counter Currant from Rogue Ales

Appearance:  A gentle pour produces a beer that is an incredibly rich purple in color and wearing over two fingers of dense, dark pink foam that rises well above the brim of the glass.  When held to direct light, garnet tones push through to add a pop of vibrancy.  The beer is far too dark to provide any visual indication of the carbonation level.  Head retention is fantastic, falling ever so slowly to a creamy 1/4 finger top cap that leaves some seriously chunky lace patterns on the glass after each sip.

Aroma:  The first thing to hit the nose is an aroma that is strikingly similar to straight up cranberry juice.  This opens further to offer a bright note of black currant and a slightly sweeter presence of blackberry and blueberry.  An earthy and slightly spicy hop character comes in near the end of the profile to attempt some balance, but this beer is all about a sublime level of fruitiness here.

Taste:  Black currant is quick to grab the palate with a sharp level of tartness and a slightly tannic presence.  This sharpness is rapidly tempered with a rush of sweetness that takes the form of blackberry jam and cranberry cocktail.  Earthy hops mingle with those tannic notes to offer equal parts balance and support.  A bit of biscuity malt slides in near the finish but is quickly lost in all this tart and tangy fruitiness.

Mouthfeel:  On the lighter side of medium in body with a middling carbonation level, Counter Currant has a nice weight to it and a silken texture on the palate.  The beer’s tart, tangy and sweet notes all work together to find a sense of balance and achieve a pretty dry finish.  The ABV is nicely masked by the tartness and does not feel anywhere near 6.4%.  The aftertaste is all berry goodness.

Final Thoughts: After finishing off this glass, one thing has become quite clear: Counter Currant pulls zero punches and does all that it can to let every characteristic of the black currant shine.  This beer is considerably tart/sour – almost aggressively – and it does not appear that Rogue wanted to avoid that for the sake of accessibility.  Instead, they put themselves out there, focused on the main ingredient, and just allowed those black currants to do their thing.  This was a risk for Rogue and we could not be happier that they took it.  It shows that a brewery of their size is still willing to take a chance by embracing an assertive ingredient/flavor profile to produce a beautiful and memorable beer.  We may have already used this word in the description above, but “sublime” is truly the best way to describe Counter Currant.  Be sure to give it a shot before its Seasonal run comes to an end in February.  Prost!


Tasting Notes: Sparkling Swan Ale from Lagunitas Brewing Company

LagunitasSparklingPourFor this installment of Tasting Notes, we settle in for Thanksgiving by raising a glass of Sparkling Swan Ale from Lagunitas Brewing Company (Petaluma, California).

Introduced earlier this month as the little sister to Lagunitas’ infrequently released Dark Swan Sour Ale, Sparkling Swan is a highly-carbonated beer-wine hybrid “brewed with red wine grapes” that offers a “super bubbly” champagne-like experience, “but with a gentle kiss of hops and a light malt backbone like a beer.”  Coming in at an easy-drinking 6.5% ABV and 28 IBUs, the purple-hued Sparkling Swan is “perfect for any celebration” headed your way this holiday season.

Sparkling Swan is available now and will be hanging around through February 2019.  You can expect to find this Limited Release available in 12-packs of 12 oz. bottles at select craft beer retailers located in Alabama, Florida, California, Illinois, Washington and throughout the rest of Lagunitas Brewing Company’s distribution area.

Now that we are all caught up on the technical data, let’s get into these Tasting Notes so that we can experience the true majesty of a Sparkling Swan!

Tasting Notes for Sparkling Swan Ale from Lagunitas Brewing Company

Appearance: A cautious pour produces a beer that is a shimmering purple in color (similar to that of grape juice) and wearing over two fingers of pink to soft purple hued foam.  When held to direct light, the purple tones intensify and take on a ruby red radiance. Despite its dark appearance, the beer is clear and pulses with a highly active carbonation presence.  The brightly colored head quickly collapses down to a thin ring that occasionally notches the glass with a wisp of lace.

Aroma:  First Impression – Sparkling Swan basically smells like someone filled this glass halfway with a fine Cabernet Sauvignon and then topped it off with some Welch’s . . . and that’s pretty friggin’ awesome.  Red wine grapes and concord grape juice combine to produce a sweet, fruity character that offers added notes of raspberry, cherry and plum. Light, floral and fruity, the hops surface near the end of the profile in an attempt to balance that sweet fruitiness and also act as a pleasant fragrance that rounds off any trace of lactobacillus.

Taste: Very similar to the nose, the flavor profile opens with grape notes that range for red wine complexity to the incredibly approachable and sweet presence of concord grape juice.  The fruitiness open further to present distinct tones of tart cherry and black currant. The beer is nice and tart, but it has a very clean lactobacillus tartness that is completely devoid of funk or added earthiness.  Crackery malt and a touch of floral hops finally turn up near the finish to temper that sour/tart character a bit.

Mouthfeel:  Light side of medium in body with a bright carbonation, this beer is super easy-drinking and has a refreshing effervescence to it.  The tart and sweet characteristics do a good job balancing themselves out and result in a pretty dry experience overall.  The ABV is well hidden but does supply a slight warmth in the throat.  Concord grape juice and floral hops linger a bit in the aftertaste.

Final Thoughts:  In a nutshell, Sparkling Swan Ale is red wine and champagne sophistication meets childhood memories of grape juice boxes.  It has a certain level of complexity while still remaining playful, familiar and approachable.

Full of personality, this beer makes the following claims as to why it is a solid choice for holiday gatherings:

  • Beautiful to look at, it has that wow factor that will definitely grab the attention of everyone in the room.
  • Hand it off to either the wine faithful or the traditional beer lovers at the table and it will most assuredly get a fair share of perplexed but intrigued “That’s a beer?” inquiries.
  • As far as the meal goes, it has the tartness to work alongside any plate that has cranberry sauce on it, the effervescence necessary to cut through fatty meats and rich gravy, and has the staying power to hang out for a cheese course or any desserts that are chocolate or fruit-focused.

That is certainly one hell of a case, but the best attribute of this beer just might be that it does not have to be limited to special occasions and holiday feasts.  Full of daily drinker potential, Sparkling Swan is just a fun, easy-drinking and tasty brew that is absolutely worthy of your attention at any point or time this holiday season.  Be sure to check out this Limited Release while you can.  Prost!