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! 

 

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! 

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! 

Heavy Seas Loose Cannon IPA

 

It’s the time of year where I start hitting up the lighter colored brews. IPAs, pilsners, lagers, ales, things like that. So yup, today it’s another all-American IPA from the east coast!

Heavy Seas is based out of Baltimore and is another one of those breweries I’ve been really looking forward to trying. Back in November, when while visiting our daughter’s Godparents in Virginia, another craft beer fan pointed out Loose Cannon in the cooler and said “That’s the one you have got to try, if you’re an IPA fan.”

So, I filed it away, not even thinking about the blog at that time and figured I’d get it before long. But when I came home, it was nowhere to be found. None of the local liquor stores had it, so I figured I’d pick some up, next visit to Virginia. And then last week, Frank surprised me when he pointed it out on the shelf.

SOLD!

And man…I have to say, it was worth the wait.

What they say: “Burnished gold with a rich citrus hop aroma, it is wonderfully drinkable with a big hop flavor. We’ve knicknamed it Hop3 (hop cubed) ale to reflect the enormous amount of hops in this beer: over 3 pounds per barrel! It is hopped 3 ways: in the kettle, in the hop back, and dry hopped. Pairs well with strong cheeses and steak. 2nd Place CAMRA award winner at the 2010 Great British Beer Festival”

What I say:
Get. This. Beer.

Now.

I think I just found my new favorite American IPA.

First of all, I love the packaging. It catches your eye without being too flashy. Smart use of color and fun graphics, to boot.

Pours a nice amber color with dark orange lowlights under a nice, light colored head that fades fast, but never goes away completely. Leaves really nice lacing on the glass.

It has a nice, citrus aroma over a light pine. You catch the hops, but the scent is not at all bitter, like I’ve come to expect from an IPA.

The taste…oh the taste. It is incredibly smooth for such a hopped up ale. Very well balanced with the fruitiness and hoppiness and it drinks very nicely. There is very little carbonation, and it feels great as it crosses the tongue. The only minor drawback might be the hop coating it leaves behind. If  you intend to drink something different after one of these, you will definitely need to cleanse the palate, first.

Most of the India Pale Ales I’ve tried (and many that I love!), have a bit of a dry finish. But not this one – it’s almost creamy in nature. It comes in at 7.25%, but you may not want to drink more than a couple. The sweetness might start to get to you. But for one or two, it’s just awesome.

After having Loose Cannon, I am very much looking forward to trying other beers from Heavy Seas.

I’m going to give this one at 8 out of 10. Like I said, this is easily my new favorite IPA. It was worth the wait, but man…I wish I hadn’t waited so long!

Goose Island IPA

I’ve been waiting and waiting to try a Goose Island offering. I’ve heard good things here and there, but never got a strong endorsement from anyone.

Until now, that is.

Frank, my craft beer guru, thought this IPA might be right up my alley. He’s really starting to get a handle on my beer preferences and also understands the purpose of this blog, so when he has a suggestion, I listen.

And as usual, I’m glad I did.

Here’s what the fine folks in Chicago have to say about their IPA: “Our India Pale Ale recalls a time when ales shipped from England to India were highly hopped to preserve their distinct taste during the long journey. The result is a hop lover’s dream with a fruity aroma, set off by a dry malt middle, and long hop finish.”

Sadly, I noticed their suggested drinkware on the label AFTER I poured. They recommend a Tulip glass – I prefer my IPA out of a more typical type of glass.  I will admit though, when I poured a second one into a tulip glass, the head held up better and the beer seemed to be a little smoother. From now on, when I see drinkware suggested by a brewer, I’ll heed their advice.

On to the review!

First things first, I LOVE the packaging from Goose Island. My kid does, too. Whenever I pull out a bottle she says “Daddy is having an Aflac beer!” Cracks me up every time. The green, black and white color combo works very well, too. Compliments the beer itself very nicely.

Goose Island IPA  pours a nice bourbon color with a thick, creamy head that never goes completely away and leaves some very nice lacing on the glass as it goes down.

The aroma is strong – a good blend of floral and citrus that matches the taste perfectly. The taste is a little to the strong side up front, but balances out quickly with a mild malt flavor, chased by a strong hop finish. Unfortunately, there is a strong citrus flavor that rides on top of both, which doesn’t seem to let the flavor fully develop on the tongue. It’s a shame, because there are hints of greatness to this one, but the overpowering citrus keeps it from getting there. Still, not a terrible IPA.

To me, this is another good one for a hot day. The hotter, the better. When it’s hot out, I don’t think I’ll mind the citrus nearly as much. And at 5.9%, on a hot day, the average beer drinker can handle a few (no drinking and driving though – behave!).

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed this beer, just not as much as some others I’ve had in the world of India Pale Ales. And certainly not anything that would dissuade me from trying other Goose Island offerings.

I’ll give Goose Island IPA a 4.5 out of 10. Drinkable, even enjoyable, especially if you prefer that citrus flavor! And under $10 for the six pack, which I think is sensible for the average craft beer.

I also might go hunting this one on tap – I suspect the citrus would not be quite as strong a presence as it is in a bottle!

Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA


Oooooh…Dogfish Head!

The things I missed out on, by giving beer up for so long…I mean, what beer drinker takes this long to get to 60 Minute IPA?

Maybe I haven’t mentioned it, but I gave up beer for a very long time. A decade, actually. I just couldn’t find a beer I liked. Well – that’s not true. I’ve always loved Shiner Bock, but until recently, I couldn’t get it here in NJ. So…no beer. For 10 years. I missed the initial surge of craft beer in this area, but that might not be a bad thing. Because now there are so many great beers for me to try!

What they say: “60 Minute IPA is continuously hopped — more than 60 hop additions over a 60-minute boil. (Getting a vibe of where the name came from?)

60 Minute is brewed with a slew of great Northwest hops. A powerful but balanced East Coast IPA with a lot of citrusy hop character, it’s the session beer for hardcore enthusiasts!”

My take on it: Pours nicely with a thick head over an orange, almost brown body. Leaves a pleasing amount of lacing on the glass! Very hoppy smell – very forward. It’s strong, but not unpleasant. To someone that isn’t used to a hoppy beer though, it could be a turn off. Definite hits from citrus and florals.

When it first hits your tongue, it’s almost sweet. It matches the smell nicely. It has a nice, clean taste to it and while it is hoppy, it’s well balanced and a very pleasant beer to drink. It also has just the right amount of carbonation, which gives it a nice feel while you’re drinking it. It’s easy to drink more than one, too, since it comes in at 6% on the nose.

Easier to find than 120 Minute IPA and less expensive than 90 Minute IPA, at $9.99, 60 Minute IPA is a good, every day IPA. I actually had to buy a second 6-pack, because I originally planned to review it last week. But I had trouble keeping a bottle – it seemed to go well with everything I ate!

Most people reading this have probably had 60 Minute IPA before. But if you haven’t, go grab a 6-pack and enjoy. It’ll be a nice introduction for you to a great East Coast brewery!

I’m giving this one a 7.5 out of 10 – and I could see it hitting 8 in the warmer months!

Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA

What they say (Bear Republic Brewery, 21+ please):
“This hoppy American IPA is a full bodied beer brewed American pale and crystalmalts, and heavily hopped with Chinook, Cascade, Columbus and Centennial.
There’s a trophy in every glass.”

My take on it:
I’m not going to lie.

I bought Racer 5 because of the graphics.

What can I say? I love me some Speed Racer and the artwork gives an obvious nod. So, I tried it.  

On average, I’m getting about a 1-finger head that’s short-lived over a clear, orange body and leaves a surprising amount of lace behind.

Racer 5 has a strong aroma – very citrusy and even a hint of pine. I was skeptical right away because to me, that’s not really a pleasant mix. The taste wasn’t all I was hoping for either. Maybe my expectations were too high, but this was pretty plain, as far as IPAs go. No surprises in the taste department. Bold with a citrus start, but then it quickly goes to the bitter side, which is the result of a pine taste that seems to linger. Guess that makes sense, considering the aroma! For someone that is a fan of a good IPA, this beer is might be right up their alley. For me, not so much.  It never settled in, and I prefer a balanced brew. Despite all that, Racer 5 still goes down easy at 7% with good amount of carbonation.  I can’t drink it alone though – I have to have it with a meal to offset the taste. It’s telling that I’ve had the 6-pack for 10 days or so and there are still two bottles in the fridge as of this writing.

The price is right – $9.99 for the six. And it isn’t so bad that I won’t try other Bear Republic beers, but Racer 5 won’t be back in my fridge anytime soon. 

I guess my trophy is in the packaging, not in the glass.

In the end, I’ll give this one a 5 out of 10.

Southern Tier 2XIPA


What they say (Southern Tier Brewery, 21+ please):
“Not quite an imperial, but certainly not a standard India pale ale. Our double IPA is a hop lovers dream. Citrusy and clean with an incredible finish.”

My take on it:
I’m starting to notice how much I love a hoppy brew. This Double IPA didn’t let me down.

 I’ve gotten used to my craft beers being a little hazy, so I was somewhat surprised to find this one was very clear, with a nice, golden color. I’m getting a good, consistent two-finger head. Nice scent, too. Not overpowering, not too flowery, but not too tart, either. Kind of homey, if that makes sense. The other thing I noticed was the lace. There was a significant amount on the glass when I was done.

Seriously…I don’t expect any of that, when I’m drinking a beer I can see through.

I also didn’t expect to feel a slight buzz after drinking one. Not like the buzz you get after a few cocktails, but just something pulling at the edge of your thoughts, letting you know you’ve had an alcoholic beverage. I was caught completely off guard by that, so I checked the label, only to discover it weighs in at 8.2.  As smooth as 2XIPA is, that could be dangerous!

The label boasts “4 types of hops & 3 types of malts.” This creates a really good balance. It’s to the hoppy side, but isn’t that what you expect from a double IPA that tells you it has four kinds of hops?  You can’t miss the citrus flavor, either. It starts out with a slight bitterness, that gives way to a spicy, malty, almost caramel taste. Again, this all surprised me after the pour. These are not characteristics I normally associate with a beer that I can see through!

All in all, I enjoyed 2XIPA quite a bit. Enough so that I see myself exploring  other brews from Southern Tier.

I’m trying to keep the brews under $10 for a sixer. I’ll go above that from time to time, but that’s the target range of this blog. After all, I’m just an average guy, writing a blog for beer drinkers like me. 2XIPA was at the top end, with a price tag of $9.99.  I’ve got no complaints though. It’s a happy 10-spot!

In the end, I’m going to  give this one a 7.75 out of 10 with high expectations for the rest of the Southern Tier lineup!