Flounder Brewing – First Taste

Pint of Flounder Brewing Hill Street Honey Ale

Flounder Brewing – First Taste

A joint tasting effort with TheLadyinRedBlog
(follow this link for her take on Flounder Brewing’s Hill Street Honey Ale)

For over a year now, I’ve been very fortunate to be a kind of “behind the scenes” photographer (and avid craft beer fan) during the development of Flounder Brewing in Hillsborough, NJ. I’ve been lucky enough to get to know

Flounder Brewing - Founder

Flounder Founder, Jeremy Lees

the family behind the beer – Not just Jeremy “Flounder” Lees and his brother Dan, but I’ve also been lucky enough to meet his wife, his cousin, his father–in-law, his brother-in-law…well, you get the idea. Flounder Brewing is not about one man and his beer. It’s a family affair in the truest sense of the phrase.

I’ve seen the three tank RIMS brewing system put together, tested, taken apart, sanitized, put together and tested again. I met Al, from East Coast Yeast, who supplies that all important culture for Hill Street Honey Ale. I’ve watched the guys mop the floors, paint walls and build a cold room. I’ve seen ingredients measured out. I witnessed the first brew on the system flow from one tank to another. In other words, outside of the Flounder Family, I think I’ve probably seen more of what’s happened to get them to this point than just about anyone…and I had my camera in hand for all of it.


“It’s a one barrel brewhouse that I designed out. It is what is referred to as a RIMS system (Recirculating Infusion Mash System) which refers to the method the system uses to heat and keep the mash to temp. The system is your standard three tank system – a hot liquor tank (HLT), mash tun, and boil kettle. We use a Brewmation automated electric Brewhouse control. Each kettle has 12,000 watts of heating elements.”

Somewhere along the way, my friend Laura (of TheLadyinRedBlog) and I got to talking about writing a joint blog regarding Flounder Brewing. We thought it would be fun to combine our talents to write coinciding blogs about Hill Street Honey Ale from two different points of view. Not in the traditional sense of bloggers chipping in on one blog, but more like sibling blogs that compliment each other and approach the tasting from different backgrounds. So to find Laura’s take on Flounder Brewing, follow this link: TheLadyinRedBlog.Com

When Jeremy first described Hill Street Honey Ale to me, I was salivating. At the same time, I wondered if it could be as good as I was hoping…and expecting. So over the course of a year I would meet them at the brewery, watching, documenting the process through photography…and waiting.

And then the day came. On Friday, my Friend Laura of The Lady In Red Blog and I got to sit down with Jeremy and Dan over a pint of Hill Street Honey Ale.

It was worth the wait.

I’m picky about my beer. VERY picky. And I’ve had opportunity to taste some of the best in the world, including Westvleteren 12. And while I may not be the world’s best beer blogger, or have the finest of tastes, I have gotten to know a thing or two about beer over the past few years. Enough to make a statement along the lines of “I know good beer when I taste it.”

Hill Street Honey Ale is good beer…and depending on where your tastes run, it could be considered great. Not because it’s the greatest beer in the world, but because this could possibly be one of the best gateway craft beers out there.

You may be wondering why I say that, so here’s a quick explanation, before I get down to the beer itself:
You know the BAB (Big American Beer) drinker that comes to your house, looks at your fridge full of amazing craft beers and asks “Dude, where’s the good stuff?” Or the friend that’s not really a beer drinker but peeks in the fridge and asks “What would I like?” You know neither of these people is going to go for a hopped up IPA, or anything with a bold flavor (to clarify, I’m not saying a LACK of flavor, just nothing overpowering). So you look for something that’s good, but won’t overpower their delicate BAB-dulled senses. So you need a beer that would be good for introducing these people to the wonderful world of craft. And that beer you choose is the gateway beer.

That’s where Flounder Brewing Hill Street Honey Ale comes in. You can put this beer in the hand of someone that’s never had a really good beer before, or of the discerning craft beer drinker and both of them will love it. It’s just that kind of beer. Nothing overpowering, but no lack of flavor. A smooth and delicious marrying of pale and amber ales that people will seek out after tasting it.

This particular batch was brewed on 5/25/13 and aged until 7/5/13. Laura and I met with Jeremy on 7/26/13.

A couple of interesting notes about Flounder Brewing, Hill Street Honey Ale and where these names come from:
Jeremy earned the nickname “Flounder” during his days as a regular at the Great Notch Inn in Little Falls, NJ. Some of you will immediately associate that name with the movie “Animal House.” And yes, that is the connection. The beer itself is name for Hill Street in Morristown, where Jeremy lived during his early years of brewing.

Onto the beer!

Flounder Brewing, Hill Street Honey Ale – First Taste

Flounder Brewing - Hill Street Honey AleLet’s start with the appearance – Hill Street Honey Ale has a dark gold color in the glass. It’s hard NOT to get a nice, frothy head on this one and it leaves behind beautiful lacing. This last part surprised me so much that I asked Jeremy where it was coming from. You don’t expect that kind of lacing from beers that are so light in color. Jeremy suspects it’s because of the honey (which is harvested in South Jersey) that’s used in the process and that makes a lot of sense.

On the nose, you catch a little bit of piney hops, but mostly orange blossom and honey and a little bit of a doughy scent. It’s really a pleasing aroma that’s a good prelude to the taste.

Flounder Brewing‘s Hill Street Honey Ale is a lot of fun in that the profile changes slightly if you let it warm up a little bit. According to Jeremy, the ideal drinking temperature is in the 40º-44º range. When it’s colder, it’s smooth and the slightest bit hoppy. But when it warms up just a little, it gets even smoother and the light hop flavor quickly gives way to a very nice combination of citrus and honey. Even when you pick up the hops, there’s no bitterness – just that smooth flavor that comes with all that honey. Citrus is ever-present over the other flavors, without overpowering them. It’s a nice compliment to the slight pine of the Cascade and Willamette hops and the warmth of the honey. When you get to the bottom of the glass, it’s got a warmth to it that you would usually associate with a very boozy beer and a lot of spices, without the booziness. In this case, we are back to the honey again, almost like the honey left in the bottom of a cup of tea. Hill Street Honey Ale finishes even better than it starts…you gotta love a beer that gives you good taste all the way through the pint. Flounder Brewing Bottle

To me, one of the best things about Flounder Brewing‘s Hill Street Honey Ale is that it’s a great year-round beer. I can see myself enjoying a pint while standing at the grill in the heat of the summer, or allowing it to warm up a bit and enjoying it in mid-January.

Flounder is currently on schedule to open the tasting room and for tours this fall. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates and to find out when you’ll be able to get your hands on some for yourself!

Below is a collection of photos I’ve taken over the past several months at the brewery. Enjoy a look behind the scenes at Flounder Brewing and don’t forget to check out Laura’s companion article!

Find Flounder on the world wide interwebs:
The Flounder Brewing Home Page
Flounder Brewing on Facebook

And don’t forget to check out The Lady in Red Who Writes:

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Flounder – the Brewer

It’s not every day a craft beer fan learns that a brewery is opening in his or her neck of the woods. Well, not just neck of the woods, but only 2.5 miles away. Needless to say, when I heard about Flounder Brewing coming to Hillsborough about a year ago, I was excited. And I made it my mission to meet the brewer and get to know him. While it’s awesome to have a brewery coming to town, it’s great to see a new business of any kind opening. And it made a lot of sense for a connection to happen between Digital Artscape and Flounder Brewing. After all, I’m also a big fan of Beertography and even have a contest winning piece of beer-related photography hanging at the TapHouse Grille in Wayne, NJ. In other words, on both personal and business levels, getting to know each other almost had to happen.

Since I first connected with them, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting with the Flounder Family from time to time over the past year. I’ve also been very fortunate to photo-document much of the behind the scenes work. It’s turned into a nice working relationship with a good group of folks and like so many others, I’m really looking forward to their opening day.

Jeremy "Flounder" Lees

Jeremy “Flounder” Lees

This photo celebrates a big step forward for Flounder Brewing. It was taken on the day they began brewing their first commercial batch of Hill Street Honey Ale. Towards the end of the process, I asked Jeremy “Flounder” Lees (Yes, the namesake of Flounder Brewing and yes, named for the “Flounder” of Animal House fame) to step outside for a quick photo with his Jeep, which is nicely branded with the Flounder Brewing logo. It had been a long day for him, but he happily obliged.

I’ve learned a lot about Jeremy, Flounder Brewing, the brewing process and beer in general over the past year. It’s a family affair and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a number of the Flounder clan and even their pets. They are really a great group of hardworking people that the craft beer community is going to love. Even beyond that, I believe Flounder Brewing will find they have quite the home here in Hillsborough and they’ll be embraced by the locals. I also have no doubt that having a local brewery here will introduce people that have never walked past the Big American Beer case in the local liquor store to the world of craft beer.

So here’s to Flounder Brewing! Wishing them all the best as they take one more step toward success!

Want to know more about Flounder Brewing?
Check them out on Facebook
Visit their Homepage

Location:    Flounder Brewing, Hillsborough, NJ
Camera:       Canon EOS T4i
Lens:             Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4.5 DC IF Macro
Light:           Natural

ISO 1600; f/5.6; 1/1000 sec.; Aperture Priority mode; Evaluative Metering

Post Processing:
Processed in Photoshop CS6, converted to grayscale with select coloring added through layers.

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Lakefront IPA

This might be the first time I’ve reviewed a beer that comes out of Milwaukee. That seems strange to me, since when I think of beer, Milwaukee is one of the places that comes to my mind immediately. They have such a rich history in the realm of brewing, it’s hard to believe that nothing coming out of that city has really caught my attention.

But this week it happened, when I met a local sales rep for Lakefront Brewery at a tasting. I sampled a couple of their brews and found that Lakefront’s IPA is right up my alley. I was more than a little surprised that it took me this long for me to find it.

Here’s what the brewer has to say: “Pours a hazy orange with a rocky white head that lasts, and leaves soft lace on your glass as you sip this refreshing beer. American Cascade and Chinook hops dominate the aroma, yielding a citrusy, floral bouquet. The hops give a nice bitter bite to the flavor, but this beer is surprisingly well balanced with a full body and smooth malty flavor to back up the hops. It finishes smooth and crisp with a lingering hop flavor reminiscent of fresh ruby red grapefruit. 

Goes well with any spicy food, historically Indian food as well as Thai, Cajun, or Mexican. Try our IPA with Buffalo wings, blackened chicken or pepperoni pizza. Beef dishes or fried seafood can stand up to the hops as well.  Ideal Serving Temp: 54-56° F “

Normally, this is where I put a description of what the beer looks like. Since they did it for me, I don’t have to! The above description hit the nail right on the head (head…get it? Ha!).

The description is right on the money, too. There’s not much I can add to any of that. I will say (like I always do about the beers I seem to enjoy most), that this is a VERY well balanced and smooth IPA. I’ve enjoyed it while grilling on a hot day and then as a nice compliment to just about anything I’ve cooked. The hops are ever-present, but not at all overbearing. While they do dominate the flavor, they don’t do so in an overpowering way. The malty flavor rides the tongue along with the hops and keeps the bitterness at bay.

This is definitely one of the smoothest IPA’s I’ve had to date. Nice flavor, goes down easy and very refreshing. And it isn’t too boozy, either. It comes in at 6.9%, but drinks like something much lighter than that. It hit the mark for price, too. $9.99 for the six, worth every penny.

I’m going to give this one a 7 out of 10 and advise you to pick up a 6 pack when you see it! 


New Belgium Trippel

A slight departure from the norm today, as I took a trip to Virginia last week and found what seems to be Craft Beer Heaven at Total Wine in Sterling.

Seriously, their craft beer selection was the best I’ve ever seen. It is no exaggeration for me to state that their craft beer section is larger than some of my local liquor stores. I just wish the RateBeer.com app hadn’t chosen to crash while I was in the store. Oh well, I still got some killer brews!

So why is this a departure from the norm? Because this week I’m reviewing a beer from New Belgium Brewing that isn’t available in NJ (yet).

I’ve had Fat Tire from New Belgium and while I enjoyed it, I didn’t feel it was as good as expected. It could be because I heard so much hype, that I expected to be blown away. Since so many people rave about the brewery though, I figured I’d give the Trippel a shot, since I’m a huge fan of Belgian style ales. But seeing the statement “Brewed with Coriander” on the label had me wary. The price was excellent at $7.99 for the six pack though, so it was totally worth the risk.

As soon as I popped the top, I knew I had chosen wisely. The aroma was wonderful – very warm, a little spice, a little fruit (primarily banana)…just what I was hoping for.

New Belgium describes it: “Our Trippel Belgian Style Ale (pronounced triple) opens with a bold blast of hops that slowly gives way to the fruity esters implied by our Belgian yeast strain. In the Belgian tradition of brewing singles, doubles and triples, Trippel is the strongest with the longest fermentation. Remarkably smooth and complex, our bottle-conditioned Trippel is spiced with a trace of coriander.” 

I’ve been enjoying this beer in a tulip glass, since I don’t have a proper chalice or goblet. It pours with a nice , creamy, white, two finger head over a hazy, golden body and leaves a nice amount of lacing behind.

The taste…the taste is wonderful. I think the highlight for me lies in the carbonation. It’s there, you can see it. But the hops seem to weigh it down, so while it livens up the feel, it doesn’t interfere in the least with the taste. And don’t let the mention of the hops scare you off, either. This beer is so complex, yet so simple and nothing dominates the flavor. Truly a work of art in a bottle. There are hints of banana, hints of spice, hints of sweet breads, hints of clove…but that’s it. Just hints. They are so well blended that they seem mild, but together they create a flavor-filled ale. The coriander that had me somewhat frightened is present, but again, the brew is so well blended that it doesn’t grab you like I thought it might. You do get a good three dimensional taste on the tongue with Trippel – starts out with a mild hoppiness that quickly gives way to that sweet bread flavor and finishes out with a mild spiciness, that leaves you with a warm feeling. It really makes me think of autumn in the kitchen – pumpkin pie, great spices, a warm oven.

I look forward to more of this coming my way. I’ve already asked my buddy Ox (Of OxenTrot blog fame) to bring me a case when he comes up for a visit in a few weeks.

I’m so pleased with Trippel that I’m giving this bad boy an 8.5 out of 10. 

River Horse Special Ale

I’ve been meaning to get to a brew from River Horse for a while.  After all, not only is this a Jersey brewery, but it’s only about 20 minutes from my house. So when the opportunity came up this week, I decided to go with it.

Here’s what the folks at River Horse have to say about their Special Amber Ale: “A variety of specialty malts are the backbone of the American Amber Ale; a perfect session beer.”

A simple description for a rather simple beer. And honestly, one I can see myself using to introduce Bud fans to the world of craft beer.

 Most of the amber ales I’ve tried are very traditional. More malts than hops and fairly smooth, so there’s nothing overpowering or off-putting. As I’ve said before, it’s hard to go wrong with an amber ale.

River Horse Special Ale pours out a nice, dark orange under a frothy, off-white head about two fingers tall. It leaves behind a surprising amount of lacing, too. And due mostly to the malts, it has a nice scent, too. Hints of caramel,  sugar, but a little bit of earthiness as well.  

The flavor is your typical amber ale and is reminiscent of Big American Beers, but better. With a fairly low alcohol content (5.5%) and a nice, mellow and refreshing taste, this is one for the masses. It would be a great session beer and totally drinkable on a hot day. You’ll get some caramel flavor, some roast and no bitterness. Really, just one of those simple, smooth and enjoyable beers.

Enjoyed it enough that I’m putting a visit to the brewery on my schedule, so I can sample some more of what they offer.

If you want the overpowering flavor that a lot of craft beer drinkers are after, this probably isn’t for you. But for an easy-drinking session beer, this fits the bill nicely.

 I’ll rate it a 5.5 out of 10. A good, solid, average ale.

Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shutdown Ale

First of all, I’d like to say thanks to The Lady in Red Who Writes, who is the sponsor of the blog this week! Check out her blog – it’s the only blog I follow regularly that isn’t about photography, beer or graphic design.

Now, about the beer. When Frank told me he had a limited edition brew from Lagunitas, I had to have it. There was no waiting, no questions, just buy it. NOW.

And away I went, happily toting a 6-pack of Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shutdown Ale. I’m a Lagunitas fan, so I was really looking forward to cracking one of these open.

Here’s what the fine folks over at Lagunitas have to say about Undercover Investigation Shutdown Ale: ” Our oxymoronic ‘Imperial Mild’ – A redux to remember the ’05 St. Paddy’s Day Massacre. Defiant as to style … We Can say for sure it is unforgiven and unrepentant.”

 I’ve now seen it referred to as an American Double, Imperial IPA, Double IPA, and American Strong Ale in addition to “Imperial Mild.” I’m going to stick with Imperial Mild, since that’s what the brewer calls it.

But I think applying “Mild” to this brew is laughable, since there is nothing mild about it!

When I cracked the top, on the nose, it immediately brought 120 Minute IPA to mind. That worried me, because believe it or not, I’m not a big fan of 120 Minute  IPA. Loved 60 Minute, enjoyed 90, but 120 just isn’t my style of beer. I know, I know…but don’t be hatin’. It’s just too sweet for me.

But I digress. The aroma is fruity and sweet. Big malts, big hops – a little bit of the grassy scent you expect with the hops, but primarily the fruitiness.

Beautiful pour into a Nonic pint – off-white head about two fingers tall over a beautiful caramel-colored body. The head reduces, but never goes completely away, leaving light, spotty lacing on the glass as it goes down.

 This one is all about the flavor though. Like I said, the scent had me worried, so I was very careful and slow with that first sip. Turns out, taking my time to get there had it’s own reward. The flavor really develops as you sip it. You get an initial IPA-type taste, very hoppy and strong, but then it gives way to the fruity, sweet flavor you expect from the aroma. Then, before you know it, you’re back to a different hoppiness. The hops are there – they take the edge off that fruitiness and keep it from becoming overbearing. I wouldn’t call it tart, but there’s this almost spicy thing that develops on the back end. So you start with the hops, then get hit with the malt, then end with the hops again. That continues on throughout the glass and it makes it kind of a fun beer to drink.

It is a bit on the boozy side. You KNOW you’re drinking a strong beer. Not just strong flavor, but you can tell the alcohol content is high.  Light carbonation, big flavors – not a bad beer at the end of the day. A good night-time sipper, but also paired very well with seasoned burgers off the grill and homemade nachos grande. Take your time with it and enjoy it – it’s 9.8% and if you drink it too fast, you’ll feel every bit of that content.

Picked it up for $10.99 for the six pack and am glad I did. I’m a little sad knowing it’s a limited release though. I could see myself buying this one time and time again.

Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shutdown Ale might not be for everyone, but it hit me just right and I’m giving it an 8 out of 10!

And don’t forget to check out the Lady in Red Blog!

Founders Centennial IPA

This week, I was introduced to Founders Brewing Co. – they’ve been around for quite a while, but I haven’t had any of their brews. For the beer drinker, Centennial IPA falls into the “must try” category, as it has really set the standard in the world of American IPA’s.

From ratebeer.com: “Selected as a benchmark for the Beer Judge Certification Program used in all American based beer judgings. Centennial IPA has quickly become the IPA of choice. Pour yourself a pint of this complex flavorful ale and bask in the frothy head’s floral bouquet. Relish the immense citrus accents, achieved by the abundance of dry hopping. This ale’s sweet, malty undertones balance the hop character with a finish that never turns too bitter.”

And from the Founders Brewing folks: “Get ready to bask in the glory of the frothy head’s floral bouquet. Relish the citrus accents from the abundance of dry hopping. This one’s sweet, yet balanced. Malty undertones shake hands with the hop character for a finish that never turns too bitter.”

I’ve become a huge fan of the lighter-flavored IPA’s recently, brewed with a sweeter taste. Loose Cannon, Double Jack, along those lines. Even with Last Chance, there’s just a certain smoothness that your typical IPA doesn’t possess. And since I’d gotten away from the traditional IPA for so long, Centennial caught me a little off guard.

Right off the bat, Centennial smells like a beer. No hidden scents, no warmth. Straight up piney hops and citrus. When it hits the nose, you get a very good idea of what you’re in for. There’s no mistaking that IPA aroma!

It pours really nicely with a two finger, cream-colored head over a slightly cloudy amber body. The foam dissipates slowly, retaining about a half-finger head behind that coats the glass with a decent amount of lacing.

Centennial is great from the first sip – as long as you’re an IPA fan. If  you aren’t – just steer clear. Right off the bat, the hops are there and they override everything. While you get some hints of malts and citrus, any hint you catch, gives way to the hops again. To me, this is actually a good thing. I hate trying to figure out what I’m tasting – some beers, as good as they taste, they’re overly complicated and you can get caught up in trying to figure out what all is crossing your taste buds. With an IPA like this, the simplicity is what you find yourself enjoying. It is bitter, but not overly so. The citrus is there and I guess keeps it in check, but like I said, you only get hints of the citrus coming through, which tells me this is more balanced than the initial taste led me to believe. And at 7.2%, you’re not overwhelmed by the alcohol.

This is a winner for me. I mean, Centennial IPA IS an award winner, but for me, it was a great IPA that served as a reminder to what an IPA is supposed to be. I’ll definitely be buying it again. At $10.99 for the six pack, it’s a little pricier than my usual $9.99 limit, but in my opinion, it’s worth it!

I’m giving Centennial IPA a 7 out of 10! 

Shiner Wild Hare

I know, I know. I’m late this week. I swapped the blog to Thursday, because I had a long shoot on Wednesday and wanted to spend the rest of the holiday with my family. I snapped off the picture  for the blog, but then the day got away from me and I forgot to write it. So, here we are. Better late than never, right?

This week, I grabbed a 6-pack of Shiner’s Wilde Hare. I’ve made no secret of my love for Shiner. I was introduced to it while my parents lived in Texas and it’s lack of availability in NJ probably played a big part in why I gave up beer for such a long time. It was disappointing to know that there were good beers out there, but I couldn’t get them at home. So I was super excited when I started seeing Shiner Bock moving it’s way East, followed shortly by their other styles.

Last year, I picked up one of their “Family Packs” which is a mixed 12 pack of Shiner beers. I found that I enjoyed everything in there, so a week later, I picked up Ruby Redbird. I couldn’t stand it. For me, Ruby Redbird is by far the worst “beer” I’ve ever consumed. I couldn’t even give the stuff away. Since then, I’ve been hesitant to try anything from Shiner that I’m not already familiar with.

But when I saw Wild Hare Pale Ale on the shelf, I got curious. So I put it on the list of beers for the blog. Then, last week, I got a text from a friend of mine that’s been living in Texas for the past year telling me I have to try it and that it’s one of his current favorites. That’s all it took. Wild Hare moved to the top of the list and I grabbed the 6-pack on Tuesday.

I’m glad I did. I mean, it’s hard to screw up a Pale Ale, so I knew it wouldn’t be bad. And it has restored my faith in Shiner, too.

Here’s what the folks at the Spoetzl Brewery have to say about Wild Hare: “This classic American Pale Ale features two row barley malt with a blend of Munich and Caramel malt for rich malt flavor and golden color. High alpha Bravo and delicate US Golding hops are used in the kettle and fermenter for crisp bitterness and assertive fresh hop fruit and floral aroma. This is new territory for a Shiner Ale with more than one pound of hops per barrel, created in our most traditional cellars using legacy fermenters that have been pristinely preserved.” 

An aggressive pour into a pint glass provide about a finger and a half, light head over a crystal clear amber body. It leaves a ring at the top of the glass, but very little lacing is left behind. It has a faint, sweet aroma with hints of citrus and hops. 

The taste is typical of a pale ale. Nothing overbearing, nothing offensive, but at the same time, nothing really grabs you, either. And while that sounds less than complimentary, it’s what makes this beer so drinkable. From start to finish, Wild Hare is very smooth and easy to drink. It’s very complimentary to your basic meals, too. Sandwiches, burgers, chips, etc. And if you’re manning the grill in 90º+ weather, a refreshing beer is exactly what you want.

You’ll find hints of hops, malts and citrus that are very well blended to create a very palate-pleasing beer. And while it may not be the beer you grab out of the case when you’re looking for flavor, it is definitely a beer you’ll want to grab when you’ve got your buddies over on a hot day, or for session drinking. I paid $8.99 for the six pack, so it’s not something I would mind sharing, either! It comes in a 5.5%, making it one of the beers you can enjoy a few of, without fear. And since the taste is so crisp, you don’t get that heavy feeling that comes with stronger, more flavorful beers.

This is another beer I know will become a staple for me – and definitely a beer I will utilize when introducing friends to something different.

All in all, I definitely consider this another quality Shiner product.

This one gets a 5.5 out of 10 from me.



Yards India Pale Ale

Yards is one of those breweries that, as unfair as it is, I generally avoid. I don’t know many people that are big fans, so I’ve been skeptical. Even after reviewing their Saison (which I did enjoy), I was still hesitant to try the rest of the line.

That all changed this week when Ron Johnson, the Yards New Jersey Sales Rep, was co-hosting a craft beer tasting at my favorite place to buy the goods. They were sampling out four different brews (including Saison) that I had not tasted, but was more than willing to try. I enjoyed all four that I tried, especially “Brawler” and their India Pale Ale.

So, I grabbed a six of the IPA and brought it home with me. And I got a pretty cool pint glass to pour them into, too!

 Anyway, here’s what the fine folks over at Yards have to say about their India Pale Ale: IPAs were originally brewed to survive the epic sea voyages from England to India. Ours is no different. Hailing from a perfect marriage of sweetness and bitterness and loaded through and through with citrusy and piney hops, this beer will surely survive the journey from your fridge to your couch.”

First of all, this is a beautiful pour. Clean, clear golden color with copper lowlights. Seriously, when I think of beer, this is what I see in my mind’s eye. A typical pour yields a thick, foamy off-white head that holds up very well and leaves a nice amount of lacing behind. The aroma is light – some hops, some citrus, definitely some malts and some other fruitiness as well.

Obviously, the taste is what made me bring it home after sampling it. Not your usual IPA by any means and not really one for the hop cravers, but it is still a nice  offering. There is a strong malt presence that overrides the hops from start to finish. Of course, if you aren’t a fan of the hops, then this might be the perfect IPA for  you. And while this isn’t at all what I usually expect out of an IPA, I’ve still enjoyed every sip. You get a bit of the citrus up front along with a hint of hops, but like I  said, the malts create the most present flavor, which really smooths things out. Very little carbonation allows you to really enjoy the flavors that are present,  allowing the beer to sit on your tongue a bit longer. And since this India Pale Ale has such a nice aftertaste (similar to the first sip), that’s really not a bad thing.

 I’ve been drinking this one with some pretty strongly-flavored meals. Mexican burgers (smothered in salsa and cheddar), Apricot-glazed chicken, extra sharp  cheddar cheese on crackers (see picture), things like that. And it’s really been a good match for those types of flavors. 

 It comes in at 7%, which is not bad for a midday pint, or hanging out at the grill. You aren’t going to hurt yourself if you have a couple. The price is pretty good too, at  $8.99 for the six.

 Congratulations to the crew at Yards. They’ve won me over by going two for two (Well, really four for four, since I enjoyed everything at the tasting, too). I’m looking  forward to grabbing Brawler, too!

 I’m giving this one a 6.75 out of 10. 

Weyerbacher Last Chance IPA

If you need a reason other to buy beer other than the fact that Weyerbacher has unleashed a beast of a West Coast-style IPA, then do it for the cause!

From the Weyerbacher site: “Why “Last Chance?” The name “Last Chance” is a nod to something held very close to the hearts of many of the employees at Weyerbacher Brewing Company:  Animal Rescue.  Weyerbacher donates a portion of the proceeds from the sale of every drop of Last Chance IPA to small, regional animal rescue operations.  These shelters offer dogs, cats and other pets their last chance to find a new home.

Have a glass, make a difference!  Cheers!”

On to the review!

 First of all, I think I’ve made it very clear that I’m a big fan of West Coast IPAs. If I haven’t, allow me to do so now: I am a very big fan of West Coast IPAs.

That said, as much as I love Weyerbacher, I had my doubts that an East Coast brewery could deliver on their claim that they brewed a West Coast-style IPA. After all, East is East, West is West and the styles are VERY different. East Coast IPAs tend to be much more subdued and nowhere near as hoppy as their West Coast counterparts. Not that they’re bad, they just aren’t as strong in the flavor arena.

Until now.

I cracked open this IPA and knew just from the scent that Weyerbacher nailed this one down.

Here’s what they have to say about it: “Weyerbacher’s new Last Chance IPA is a west coast-style full-flavored hop assault delightfully lacking in balance.  We’ve added a combination of Centennial, Cascade, Simcoe and Columbus hops are used to produce pungent aromas of grapefruit, pine and citrus.  Last Chance IPA weighs-in at  5.9% ABV and 62 IBUs.”

See how they use the words “hop assault” up there? YUP. It is an absolute assault on the palate and exactly what the IPA hop fiend is seeking.

On the nose, it’s all citrus (grapefruit) and pine. Very much a hallmark of the West Coast style. My typical pour resulted in a frothy white head (2 fingers, at least) over a clear golden body and leaves behind a nice lacing.

Normally, I talk about balance here. But like the brewer says, this is wonderfully unbalanced. It’s a hop house all the way through. You’ll never get a boozy flavor out of it, thanks to that. Don’t read that as a lack of flavor though – for a beer that only comes in at 5.9%, this IPA starts and finishes strong in that department. Light carbonation makes it a very drinkable beer, too. While I was grilling, my wife commented on how quickly the first one disappeared. I didn’t even realize I’d finished it. The aftertaste follows along the initial flavor, very hoppy with a little bit of that grapefruit bite. But if you plan to drink anything different after this one, I’d advise eating about a loaf of bread before doing so.

For a single IPA (Which are enjoyable, but I prefer a Double IPA), Last Chance IPA is sure to please the hopheads. It certainly pleased this one.

Last Chance IPA is still early in the shipping stages from what I understand. As a matter of fact, it was so new to the store that when I went to purchase it, they hadn’t even entered the price in the system. Frank texted me later to let me know he owes me a dollar, because they wound up charging me the wrong price. LOL So what I thought was a $10.99 six pack is actually a $9.99 six pack. 

 Get out there and find it – if nothing else, do it for the animals!

Great work, Weyerbacher. I’m looking forward to more Last Chance and the opportunity for some of my money to go towards a great cause! I hope more brewers will follow your lead!

I’m going to put this one at a 7.5 out of 10!