Mikkeller DTLA had a Sunday surprise recently. They had acquired five beers from the English brewery Cloudwater Brew Co. based in Manchester.
I ordered up the taster tray and got a seasonal pilsner, a farmouse ale and two IPA’s.
Fool For You – My first gooseberry beer if my memory serves. It has a strange slight berry/grape taste. Saison base is solid. Hazy almost rust brown color is a bit off-putting.
Spring/Summer pils with Mandarina Bavaria – By far the best of the four. This pils really nice with some orange juice notes. Quite sharp up front
NW DIPA – Not much color difference between the NW and NE. The West Coast has grassy and pine notes and a tiny bit of orange peel. Aftertaste is more bitter than the front of mouth.
NE DIPA – This IPA is a little softer but I am also getting the grassy and woodsy notes. Also a bit papery. Has that weird top of the mouth feel that I get from this sub-style.
Neither of the IPA’s really blew me away though even though I have heard wonderful things about them. I lucked out that the Pils was a mandatory inclusion of the taster tray. Otherwise I may have picked all IPA and come away with a lesser appreciation.
Thanks to Mikkeller for getting these beers to us.
I will be reviewing the the under appreciated but always solid Unibroue from Quebec.
We start with the most recent seasonal, Lune de Miel, a summer specialty release that was sent to me to review by parent company Sapporo. The beer is a Belgian-style strong amber ale brewed with local Québec honey.
This new offering was “inspired by a tradition dating back almost 4,000 years. In Ancient Babylon, the father of the bride would provide his new son-in-law with an unlimited supply of mead during the first month of marriage, a period that came to be called the “honey month”. As Babylonians were using a lunar calendar, the honey month eventually became the “honey moon”.”
After popping the foiled cap off the elegant black and gold labeled bottle a really fragrant hefe meets potpourri nose comes rushing out. Strong beer here. Honey is here in force. Belgian esters as well. Not quite clove or banana but close. This beer is prickly in a good way. Almost like an Imperial hefe. I shouldn’t be surprised. Whenever I get their Trader Joe’s branded beers, they are top notch. This will probably show up in my year-end Best of 2017. Straightforward and superb.
Our random walk through beer styles continues in the latest featured review, of Unicorn Juice, a wheat beer with passion fruit from San Clemente’s Artifex Brewing.
This was my first canned beer tasted from Artifex. This wheat ale pours a hazy light orange color. A touch of a tropical fruit nose to it. The major note is an off putting metallic one. Maybe a green unripe fruit taste? Overall, the taste is tilted to the fruit as the wheat is relegated to barely a minor role.
Not a fan of this one, maybe I don’t believe in unicorns.
Our non-themed featured reviews rolls on with a Belgian Golden Ale from Tyler King and Brian White and their new Brewery Rex.
My first ever beer from this brewery pours a pretty dark yellow with nice little bubbles rise up from the bottom of the glass. Aroma has that Belgian ester going for it with a sort of banana and toast flavor. Carbonation and hops offset it a bit. There is a strong sticky taste at the center and back. A bit harsh though with a salt-esque (savory-ish) end.
I do appreciate the little touches when I get a box from Angel City Brewery. And with the bottle of Oolong Saison, there was a little packet of Oolong tea. I don’t know if I am supposed to pair the tea with the beer but I like it.
On to the beer…
Pours a hazy orange. A more assertive near Hefeweizen yeast profile. Banana esters here. The tea shows up right at the end but could use more oomph to it. Loads of carbonation that fades to a silky finish. Dry finish and clove, I get. But not the melon or pepper that the label describes.
This is no baby tripel. 9% big ABV’s here. I am getting a lot of citrus and spice. Almost to orange pekoe tea status minus the tannin. The taste sticks to the tongue for awhile. Image wise, the beer pours a hazy orange color especially with the yeast sediment at the bottom of the bottle. Extra spice notes in a Hefeweizen sort of way are here too.
When it comes to the Thanksgiving feast this Tripel will add that orange note to the turkey and stuffing quite nicely and it also should play off the cranberry as well. Might be less effective with gravy or heavier or sweeter foods. Might be less effective with relatives who vote Trump as well.
For round one of the Fat Tire & Friends Riff Pack, I separated out the hoppy + the one and only Fat Tire from the wild and sour group (which will be post two). This will test my reviewing because is the goal for the beer to be connected by a flavor profile or color or ABV to the original? Or do I review simply based on which tastes best?
Let’s get down to it and see….
1. Original Fat Tire
I have not had this beer in a long, long time but I sorta know what to expect. There is a little alcohol on the nose followed by a touch of honey sweetness that is balanced by carbonation. The grain flavor kicks in at the tail end but there is not much else here. Plain, simple and unadorned. Super tasty on a hot day in Los Angeles.
2. Collaboration Fat Pale Ale with Rhinegeist
This is a Belgian XPA according to the label. Pours really close to the same color as the OG. It manages the feat of starting out mimicking the Fat Tire before taking that Belgian turn. Banana and clove notes are prominent. Bitter but that is the lingering and not the main focus here. Fat Tire gets Hefe’d to me.
3. Collaboration Fat Hoppy Ale with Firestone Walker
Fat Hoppy Ale is a serious departure from the amber. Starting with the medium yellow color. Then the big difference hits. This is really hop forward. Grassy and fruity and really juicy with a touch of spice too. This is a wonderful session IPA/ Pale Ale but not really redolent of Fat Tire much. A killer hop combo for sure. I am digging this one.
On the which tastes best scale, with three beers yet to taste, I have to go with the Fat Hoppy but in the category of connection to Fat Tire, the Rhinegeist is the clear winner.
This is one of the clearest and reddest beers I have seen. Ground Breaker has taken the experiment of melding Crystal hops with Rose Hips and Blackberries for this beer and it has a very potpourri aroma. The rose hips floral notes are strong (most obviously in the luminous color) but a tang from the blackberry softens that blow initially. But then Olallie has an after edge of unripened berry that I wish wasn’t there. Maybe some honey would dry it and add a sweet touch to really close this loop up. This is an almost there beer for me.
This is one of the best beers of 2016. Mark it down. (Mostly to remind me later.) Single Hop Mosaic Pale Ale from pFriem pours a yellowish orange and with the lift of the bottle cap the aroma just pours out and I begin pouring into a glass as fast as I can. It is straight up Mosaic. I get Concord grapes and fruit punch notes with a drying tug of bitterness. It is light but not bubbly. Viscous but not cloying. It is smack dab in the sweet spot. Touches of malt poke through at the end to add to the complexity. I could drink this all day long.
This was the first beer popped from from recent haul of Portland beers. Can the rest keep up?
In addition to reviewing a pair of San Diego beers that were new to me, I will also talk about two Bell’s beers. One is their 30th Anniversary, but first is the 16oz can of Best Brown Ale.
Best Brown is one of those beers that touches all the bases for the style without really exploding. It is a plain amber/brown color. It is a little thin tasting but there are multiple flavors that are encountered with each taste. There is an untoasty malt flavor that is augmented by a touch of sweetness and a little bit of peppery-ness.
Past that, is not much else. It is the type of beer that is gone before you know it and you have to reach back in the memory banks to remember what it was like.