Before I dive in to this 2002 first edition of Utopias, read on about the history of the beer from noted beer writer, Jay Brooks right HERE.
Reviewing a beer like this is hard. It is not a new release and more museum piece. New Utopias are not done in the same manner and barrel-aging is totally different now than in 2002. Even the naming convention was abandoned after this beer.
But, the beer was due to be opened after nearly twenty years and I need to talk about it. First off, the top is twist off and then there was a bottle cap as well. Was kinda of expecting cork but this was much easier. The first aroma was a bit on the soy sauce side which had me concerned but then wave after wave of maple started hitting the air. The kitchen smelled like a pancake breakfast.
The three main words I would use to describes Utopias is maple, sweet and viscous. At first you get a big hit of alcohol heat but that really fades as the beer warms up. I have had much more hot, cheek warming beers at lower ABV’s.
I gave samples to two other gutsy drinkers and got descriptions such as vanilla extract, molasses, syrupy and caramel.
I now want to compare a newer version to do the whole compare and contrast thing.
2021 (and 2020) has been the Year + of the Strata hop, so my choice is….
…a fancy bottle of The Frais from de Garde Brewing in Oregon.
Got to practice my cork removal skills. Pours a bright orange / yellow color. Brett wild funk is quite evident. That just opened the barn door smell. Tart punch of acidity. Fairly simple past that. Some barrel wood. There is a navel orange note underneath the barnyard that is quite pleasant.
We have reached the final fun beer from The Bruery. Still Black Tuesday a “plain” barrel-aged version of the classic. This is literally a still beer while definitely in the realm of Black Tuesday. More wine in character. A fascinating counterpart to the bourbon barrel-aged version. Wood and oak are not particularly present but the beer is still very layered. Almost to the point of soured stout. A vinous near licorice flavor profile. It is a beer that doesn’t reveal the very high alcohol content until you have been drinking a bit.
We go from passion fruit to grapes with Spritz This! from The Bruery.
This sparkling golden ale pours a dark purple with lovely mauve bubbles. You can’t see much in the way of carbonation through the dark color in the glass. Slight tartness followed by a really nice grain flavor that leads to a final touch of grape notes. I know a touch about Pinot Noir grapes but nada about Alicante so I can’t fully say if the grapes are expressing in tandem or one has the lead but it is the malt that is the lead here for me, it is the brightest flavor.
I finally snared a can from the new Anaheim brewery, Radiant Beer Co. The vinyl referencing That Track is a Groove West Coast IPA.
This IPA pours a big, bright yellow color. Snappy and effervescent on the tongue at first. Initially pine but a lighter burst of a creamy citrus jumps in to take over. Dare I say, more juicy than West Coast. Dare I say further that it strays into milkshake territory. There is a little bit of palate hop attack but it then turns soft. Not I need a bad way but there seems to me a bit of style drift from West Coast.
Try as I might, I cannot remember having a beer from the Frucht series that The Bruery has been making. Now I remedy that situation with passion fruit.
Pours into my Bruery tulip a vivid orange color. Oh boy, this is tart and the video said it had been dialed back. That aroma tells you instantly that this is German Sour territory. Oddly the passion fruit is fairly muted. The label for this sorts looks like sea creature suckers and lemons.
When you have had enough examples of a beer style, you can begin to see the hallmarks. Those attributes that the beer needs to have to be a true example of the style.
For me, a hazy IPA needs to look the part first and foremost. It needs to have that citrus juice murk. It also needs a creamy, pillowy note but with some juice and a little hop bitterness that scrapes the tongue.
Visions from Offshoot Beer Co. ticks all of my hazy boxes. The bitterness which is usually the first casualty of hazies is nice and strong due, probably to the Double Dry Hopping. There is just a touch of juice tangled up with a fluffiness. Most of all, this beer pops off. Not your usual flat and dusty IPA without zing.
This was a media sample which I usually really examine but after a few sips, I just enjoyed it.
It’s Meltdown time of year and due to obvious reasons, the trio of speciality beers from El Segundo Brewing moved to the can format, let’s dive into the capsule reviews of two of the three…
TIPA – Pours a bright vibrant yellow. This warms the cheeks real quick. Alcohol is right on the top of this TIPA but I also get cherry and grape notes filling the gaps in between. When it comes to big beers like this heaviness can wear down the drinker. Especially in a 16oz can format but the PP is still sprightly even at 11.1%.
QIPA – initial aroma and first sip is super close in profile with PP. I would say more grape notes emerge as well. Canned and drunk within 4 days. Has a good balance of boozy, hoppy and malt. Just a skosh spikier when you sip.
Back to the Alcohol Free brewed in Columbus , BrewDog AF beer reviews. Who will win the crown?
I start the second set of beers with their most widely known near beer, Nanny State. A beer initially brewed to make a point about bar regulations and drunkenness.
Now, the can does not have the style on it. Without Googling, I guessed hoppy ESB or hoppy brown. Turns out it is slotted into the pale ale category. I get much more of a hop tea flavor profile here. The hops are dialed up a bit which helps make this one taste the least thin and watery of the group so far. Dare I say it is the one that is closest to tasting like a real beer.
Similar to the Elvis AF, this has a big grapefruit aroma and that’s flavor follows through into the first sips. Crisp at first. Almost a salty tang to it as well before it fades into a wet finishing mouthfeel. Little bit of pine notes tucked into this as well. Going on the, “Does this taste like beer” spectrum, it is closer than the group one beers. And closer than Nanny State which had more of a tea note to it.
Finally we get to the lone dark beer in the portfolio. Wake Up Call, subtitled an All Day Coffee Stout. It has a really nice fresh brewed aroma and the taste is lime a subdued cold brew without the acid bite you get from that form of coffee. Still a bit thin at the back but overall could fool one into thinking it is a session coffee beer.
That just leaves the ranking:
- 6. Punk AF
- 5. Hazy AF
- 4. Nanny State
- 3. Elvis AF
- 2. Ghost Walker
- 1. Wake Up Call
Don’t fear. The AF, in this instance, means Alcohol Free. Though maybe, BrewDog means both. I received a cornucopia of AF beers and in this post will cover one half.
I start with Elvis AF and the moment that I pop the can, grapefruit aroma flies out. This is like smelling straight up grapefruit juice. I almost expect that tartness to arrive any time now. It is quite thin tasting on the back end, tempering my enthusiasm as you get a tea like tannin third act. I can tell it is low alcohol by that finish but it is bold up front which I appreciate.
Next is Hazy AF and it looks the cloudy part. It starts off in the pillowy fashion but then makes a hard turn into mostly herbal notes and that same thin finish that I had in the previous AF. Almost as if the remaining bitterness had nothing to but up against.
Last in this group is the Punk AF. This one has a mellow citrus character and so far is the one without a big flavor component to balance out the thinness and the herbal end that I find in so many Alcohol Free beers. I just don’t get a specific hop note that I wish I did.
In group 1, my clear winner is the Elvis. The next group has a coffee beer and a collaboration so we will see how the six rank then