Stone Stochasticity Project “Your Father Smelt of Elderberries”

stone_elderberries_bottleBrewer: Stone Brewing, Escondido, CA
Style: Elderberry Ale
ABV: 10.3%
IBUs: Unlisted

Description: This beer is part of Stone’s Stochasticity series, a limited-release series that celebrates “exotic notions, ingredients and ideas”. Named in honor of the classic line from Monty Python’s and the Holy Grail, this beer is brewed in the medieval English-style, using 2-Row Pale, Mild Ale, and Amber malts, as well as peated and flaked oats. It is then bittered using English, Golding and Target hops, and then fortified with elderberries.

Tasting Notes: This was definitely an interesting concept, and one which I fell for like a total sucker! And the experimentation was certainly there in spades! Basically, you have the elements of a barley wine, some whiskey-like flavor, and an ancient ale all mixed into one. While it’s not exactly for the faint of heart (some serious alcoholic punch here!) it does get top points for being interesting and inspired!

Appearance: Reddish/brown, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong malt, cassis, blackberries, alcohol, peat, smoke
Taste: Coarse malt, alcohol, peat moss, notes of cassis and blackberries 
Aftertaste: Lingering coarse malt, alcoholic bite, peat and fruit flavor
Overall: 8.5/10

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Spencer Trappist Ale

spencer_trappistBrewer: Spencer Trappist Ales/St. Joseph Abbey, Spencer, MA
Style: Trappist Ale
ABV: 6.5%
IBUs: Unlisted (mild)

Description: This brew is the Abbey’s only brew, and is made in the Trappist fashion using a proprietary blend of 2 row and 6 row malted barley, and some caramel Munich specialty malt from Wisconsin for color. It is then bittered using a combination of Willamette, Nugget, and other hops from Washington state’s Yakima Valley. It is then unpasteurized and unfiltered with active yeast still in the bottle.

Tasting Notes: This brew was a fortunate find. It definitely has the character of a Trappist ale, possessing that same oaky, yeasty flavor that I have come to associate with beers like Orval and Chimay. But it is also delightfully subtle and lightly colored, and comes with notes of fruit – the foremost being cherry and apricot – that you don’t usually get from a Belgian Trappist. I will be definitely be seeking more in the future.

Appearance: Golden orange, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt base, floral hop bouquet, traces of citrus and orchard fruit
Taste: Smooth malt, hints of oak, mild traces of cherry, apricot, yeast
Aftertaste: Lingering malt flavor, oak, yeasty aftertaste, quite clean
Overall: 9.5/10

New Belgium 2015 La Folie Sour Brown Ale

La_Folie2015Brewer: New Belgium Brewing, Fort Collins, CO
Style: Oud Bruine
ABV: 7%
IBUs: 18

Description: This is New Belgium’s 2015 vintage of their La Folie series of sours. Much like last year’s, this beer is brewed in venerated Oud Bruine style of Belgian sours, combining Pale, Munich Carpils, C-80, Chocolate malts are combined with Nugget hops. It is then fermented using wild brettanomyces strains and then barrel aged in oak barrels for up to 3 years.

Tasting Notes: This year’s offering was much as I remember, tart and sour as all get-out! And much like a good sour brown, it possessed all the usual oaky, fruity, and yeast notes, bringing to mind flavors of sour cherry, plum skin, and red wine tannins.

Appearance: Dark brown, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Mild malts, lactic acid, yeast, green apple, oak, red wine
Taste: Smooth malt, burst of tartness, plum skin, sour cherry, green apple, tannins, oak
Aftertaste: Lingering tartness, yeast and oaky notes
Overall: 8/10

Big Sky Brewing Biere De Noel Holiday Extra Strong Ale

Bigsky_beiredenoelBrewer: Big Sky Brewing, Missoula, Montana
Style: Extra Strong Dark Ale
ABV: 10.1%
IBUs: 35

Description: This seasonal Belgian-style dark ale is part of the brewery’s Specialty Beer series, and as the name would suggest, is available during the winter season. Plenty of dark roasted malts, Belgian-yeast, and bottle-conditioning combine to an extra strong ale for the holidays.

Tasting Notes: Another great installment from the Advent Beer Calendar. This Christmas ale had all the right characteristics – the strong malt base and mineral tang of a good bock, the strong notes of sugar and dark fruits of a barleywine, and the alcoholic warmth of a good winter warmer.

Appearance: Deep ruby/amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, brown sugar, molasses, dark fruits, minerals
Taste: Strong malt, mineral tang, raisins, dates, brown sugar, mild Noble hops, alcohol
Aftertaste: Lingering malt sweetness, alcoholic warmth, mineral tang
Overall: 9.2/10

Peak Organic Hop Blanc

peak_hopblancBrewer: Peak Organic Brewing, Portland, ME
Style: White IPA
ABV: 6.4%
IBUs: Unspecified

Description:  Fresh from Portland Maine comes this White IPA, part of Peak Organic’s regular lineup. It is brewed using local wheat and Belgian yeast, and then bittered using a combination of West Coast Centennial, Simcoe and Citra hops.

Tasting Notes: Yet another sampling from the Advent Beer Calendar, this White IPA was a fitting example of this resurgent style of beer. Wheat malt and Belgian yeast provide a smooth, refreshing base, with is then accompanied by notes of citrus and tropical fruit that pair nicely with the yeast’s spicy finish.

Appearance: Deep gold, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Wheat malt, yeast, coriander, orange, spice
Taste: Smooth malt, mild tang, yeast, orange zest and fruit, spicy finish
Aftertaste: Lingering orange zest, yeast bitterness
Overall: 8.5/10

 

Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA

sierranevada_ipaBrewer: Sierra Nevada Brewing, Mills River, NC
Style: India Pale Ale
ABV: 7.2%
IBUs: 65

Description: This classic American-style IPA is part of the brewery’s year-round lineup, and was the first of their beers to feature the “Hop Torpedo” – a special dry-hopping device that controls how the level of hops infused into the brew. It is fashioned using Two-row Pale and Caramel malts, bittered with Magnum, Crystal and Citra hops.

Tasting Notes: Oftentimes, I get comments about my Best Of lists, usually by someone who is surprised their favorite beer didn’t make the cut. Alas, one commenter did make me realize that this is one beer that, though I have tried, I have never reviewed. And while it won’t be making my Best Of list just yet, it is certainly a good and faithful example of a solid IPA. Rich and slightly sweet malts compliment a hop profile that is powerful and varied, combining both dry-hops and finishing hops to give it a grassy, citrusy, and mildly tropical flavors – in short, all that North American hops are known for. A noble creation and one that makes me want to explore Sierra Nevada’s wares again. Thanks for the recommendation Brandon Kump!

Appearance: Deep amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong malt, big hop nose, grassy, citrusy, tropical fruit
Taste: Rich malt, syrupy sweetness, bitter and dry hop finish, grass, citrus rind, herbs
Aftertaste: Lingering hop bitterness, citrus rind and dry herbal hops
Overall: 8.5/10

Red Hook Audible Ale

redhook_audibleBrewer: Red Hook Brewery, Woodinville, WA
Style: Pale Ale
ABV: 4.7%
IBUs: 22

Description: The latest addition to the brewery’s regular lineup, the Audible Ale is the result of a collaboration with sportscaster Dan Patrick to create the ultimate sports-friendly craft beer. Combining a lighter alcohol content with a mild hopping, this pale ale is brewed with drinkability in mind.

Tasting Notes: This beer was a bit on the light side for my taste, but given the focus on drinkability, this was not surprising. While the hop flavor is a bit subdued, it does have a pleasant malt character that is in keeping with a good session ale. It also finishes clean and is quite refreshing. This is the third and final beer from the Red Hook sample pack, and it was an all-around good drinking experience!

Appearance: Light orange, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Good malt, dry, mild floral and citrus hops, minerals
Taste: Smooth malt, slightly crisp, light, dry hops, hint of grass, minerals
Aftertaste: Lingering mild malt flavor, mineral tang, clean finish
Overall: 7.8/10