Saturday, December 28, 2013

Behind The Tap's Top 10 Beers of 2013

Remember (if you don't already) to follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Hello readers!

As we come to the close of another year, we figured we'd compile a list of our selections for best beers we've had this year. It's been a roller coaster, but we think we've narrowed it down.


Nathan's Selections:
(in no particular order)

Flying Monkeys Smashbomb Atomic IPA
We recently discovered this, but it's left a lasting impact on my tastebuds. I cannot wait to have more of this sliding down my throat.

Three Floyds Arctic Panzer Wolf
The tropical fruit and citrus of the hops have made this linger in my mind, I cannot wait to find another release of this (why is it Three Floyds brews are hard to find in Ohio?!).


Knee Deep Simtra
We had this back in January. Damn, has it really almost been a year? This left such a lasting impact that I've been CONSTANTLY searching for this. Knee Deep is really hard to find, and hopefully when they expand their capacity, we'll obtain more Simtra.

Founders Harvest
We're actually enjoying the last of our stash of this while compiling this list. Clearly I'm a hop head. Okay, fine, I have a problem with loving hops....


Flying Dog Gonzo...but you wouldn't think I'd forget one of my Doggies from the list did you? Gonzo, the Imperial Porter named for the man, the myth, the legend; Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. There's a reason this beer has been a perpetual favorite of mine since roughly 2008 (when I literally stumbled upon it).

With my favorite 5 of the year being chosen, I turn it over to my partner-in-zymurgy.


Jennie's Selections:
(in no particular order)

Knee Deep McCarthy's BaneThis is the beer that changed red ales for me. The artwork, the hoppiness, the name, the amazing balance to this beer made me want more of it, particularly weekly while watching "The Americans" on TV when it returns in February. Make it happen, please. Someone. Anyone.

Bell's The Oracle
This became my new Hopslam, particularly since Hopslam was, well, less hoppy this year. Ha. I'm wearing my Hopslam shirt right now. Can't wait til January (when Hopslam will be released), but The Oracle quickly wormed it's way into my heart and wiggled into an overlapping spot of favorite beer ever.

Stone/Two Brothers/Aleman Dayman IPA
This was the perfect combination of two of my favorite beverages, coffee and beer. We had both been intrigued when this became available, because Nathan has been wanting to make a coffee IPA for a couple of years. I just hope that, when we do, it's at least half as good as this. It's an interesting combination, but in this brew, it worked oh-so-well.

St Bernardus Abt 12One of my goals for 2013 was to expand my horizons on the Belgian front. We've sampled several, and this was my favorite (Orval and Trappistes Rochefort 10 deserve honorable mentions, as well). It's such a complex beer, wonderfully nuanced and with such wonderful flavors, my stomach starts growling as soon as I contemplate cheese pairings (Havarti might be a fantastic start, as would be a great Parmiggiano-Reggiano, but those are both for actual sampling and not just what I am plotting).

Thirsty Dog Citra DogMy love of hops is well-documented. This particular beer stood out to me because it's relatively local, it's a fantastic showcase of my favorite hop strain, and it's fantastically crafted. This should be on constant rotation in our refrigerator.

Honorable Mention
We have both loved Stone's Enjoy By series that it certainly deserves honorable mention. Each time it's released in Ohio, we procure a bottle (we stopped reviewing it each time because the recipe doesn't change). It's solidly fantastic, a great showcase beer from a fantastic brewer.
With that, we hope you are enjoying your end of 2013. Personally, I can't wait for this year to be over and to usher in 2014 with a bang (and several craft beers, of course).

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Bloody Mary recipe

 Remember to follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Jennie's bloody marys are known around our group, in fact, it's one of the reasons I fell for her -Nathan-

We've decided to share this with all as a Holiday gift for our readers.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 ounces bacon or pepper vodka
3 ounces tomato juice
1 tsp horseradish
Couple dashes Worcestershire sauce
Celery salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Garlic powder
Onion powder
Old Bay or similar seafood seasoning blend
Couple dashes hot sauce of your choice

Directions:
Blend all ingredients in a Boston shaker and shake
until combined. Garnish with a dill pickle spear and a
piece of bacon cooked until crisp.

Now, that is the traditional version.  If you'd like to swap out the vodka for beer, by all means do so.

To all of you readers, cheers and Happy Holidays.

-Jennie and Nathan-

Monday, December 16, 2013

Ithaca Beer Co. The Creeker

Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter. We're also on Instagram at @BehindTheTap and we're individually on Untappd.

I'm still in a state of sheer bliss following the holy-crapballs-why-is-it-gone Flying Monkey's Smashbomb Atomic IPA. How in the world do you follow up that? With another IPA, of course. In fact, it's a Double IPA from Ithaca, the makers of the super yummy Flower Power. Sure, it's bitterly cold outside and an IPA seems a little out of season. Eh, we're a little rogue like that. We like our hop bombs year round.

So that I might get to bed at a decent hour and still be a productive mommy tomorrow, let's get on with this. It pours a hazy, pale orange-yellow color, almost the color of a blond maple wood, with a diminutive white head that has dissipated since we poured it. This clocks in at 9% ABV, so this is not unexpected. The aroma is fantastic: a burst of pine needles, orange, grapefruit, and a bit of tangerine with some faint alcohol esters sneaking in to singe the nose. The flavor is just as intriguing and wonderful as the aroma. The tangerine hits the taste buds first, then fades into pine resin, grapefruit, and the alcohol sting floats in and out, as do notes of caramel sweetness. It finishes rather dry. At times, there's almost a soapy note to it, but I think that's just the alcohol peeking through the complex flavors of this. It's really good. It's not as floral as Flower Power, but it's equally fantastic and, in my opinion, more complex. Each sip is just enough different from the last to keep you intrigued.

This is available as part of Ithaca's IPA mixed pack, although it seems that it can also be found on tap. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for this on draft.

I'm pretty well stupefied into a state of sheer hop bliss right now, so I'll turn this over to my hop-lover-in-kind, and let him praise Hopsus once or thrice.

5/5 caps -- I really love tangerine

-Jennie

Ah, Ithaca, your Flower Power has brought me joyous moments of IPA-fueled drunken karaoke. Now I get to try it's bigger brother, The Creeker. Thank you for that.

We purchased this at Wine & Brew Emporium off the recommendation of the owner (who is also a hop head). He has yet to steer us wrong, especially with the Flying Monkeys. To be honest, I'm still in a state of bliss from the Flying Monkeys.

The aroma on this is Pine, Citrus and almost, well, pineapple and something dank. A little boozy in the nose, which doesn't shock me with the 9% ABV. The appearance is already described by my beautiful Hop-Loving-Partner (HLP). Onto the taste, which saddens me that I have to rid myself of the still resonating stickiness of the Flying Monkeys (even after a Burger Classic). And those sad feeling are gone, now replaced with a new happiness. Wow, hop bomb as well. Well, there's tangerine, grapefruit, pine and a hints of boozy notes. This has a medium mouthfeel as it goes from the lips to the throat, followed by a heavy hop resin left on the mouth and tongue, making you smack your lips and pry your tongue off the roof of your mouth in sheer bliss (unless you don't care for hops, then it's in sheer terror).

This... This beer. This and the Flying Monkeys in one night. This is one of those nights where you happen to look up to the sky, a choir of angelic beings singing in perfect 5-part harmony draw your attention to the black clouds that are opening, revealing a giant, beam of the purest light you've ever seen. An outline of a figure appears on the other side of this beam of light. This figure has no hate in it's heart. It's accepting of all. You realize that the glorious Hopsus has blessed you with a state of bliss and ecstasy. The resiny feel in your mouth makes it so you're unable to even thank him, but he knows. Oh yes, Hopsus is omnipresent and is aware of your thankfulness. Hopsus be praised!

5/5 caps

-Nathan-

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Flying Monkeys Smashbomb Atomic IPA





Remember to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Now, normally when there is a "Flying" in the brewery name, it's a Flying Dog selection. This internal mind struggle makes me feel like I'm cheating on my favorite brewery with a different flying mammal, but I have to remember that Flying Monkey is Canadian, so it's a different beast to begin with. Anyways, we were excited to see this at Wine & Brew Emporium. Why? Well, first the label is pretty rocking, kind of a throw back to vintage movies, and second, this is a craft beer from Canada. I had to let that sink in for a minute. I'm not familiar with many Canadian brews here (Labatt's and Molson are about the only ones that pop out in my mind).

I can't really find out much about their history online aside from the owner went to Mississippi, realized good beer vs bad beer, and started home brewing. You'll have that with any brewer at some point. So with that being said, I delve into this, eyes and nose first.

This pours an crystal clear amber color with a small amount of white head that sticks around. The aroma on this Citra heavy, 70 IBU, 6.0% ABV brew is amazing. A nice caramel sweetness lends itself to citrus, pine, and tropical fruit notes given off by the hops. The flavor on this is something else. It seems heavier than only 70 IBUs. This is a blast from the first sip all the way through aftertaste, going through the different flavors of a heavily hopped beer. There's a nice citrus peel bite at first, notes of tropical fruit and pine throughout. The malt flavor isn't as present in the flavor as it is the aroma, a little on the front end, but fading quickly to the power of the all mighty HOP. This is a Hop Lovers Beer! HOPSUS BE PRAISED! This has a slightly watery mouthfeel, smooth drinking with perfect amount of carbonation. That super heavy resiny feel it leaves all over the mouth after a sip makes me want to go out and buy more.

I'm intrigued to try more of their selections (as we just recently were able to obtain them in Ohio). Welcome to Ohio, and welcome to my fridge. I think Flying Dog won't mind if I drink you....

5/5 caps

-Nathan-

Oh my. So, between the above and now, I had the opportunity to question Nathan how this stacks up to our two other favorite citra-centric beers, Flying Dog's Single Hop Imperial IPA and Three Floyds Zombie Dust. He was silent on the first, and said that despite the thinner body than Zombie Dust, this had a better flavor profile. I didn't think that was possible. Let's find out.

The appearance is exactly as my partner-in-beer (beertner?) described. This has had some time to warm, as He-With-Boyparts wrote his portion and I continued on my piece of art for Peanut. I am picking up notes of caramel, citrus, pine, and -- squee! -- lychee. I can wait no longer; waiting to drink this is becoming like water torture. I think I just startled him with my exclamation of bliss. It starts out very piney for me, then it's like you just bit into a big, fat lychee. There are notes of orange, mango, and pine, and yes, some caramel, but I'm not quite sure in what order. I'm in such a state of ecstasy, I don't know if I can stop drinking it long enough to write about it. It is a little thinner body, but I have absolutely no problem with that. I think the body complements the beer quite nicely. Sometimes, a little lighter-bodied beer is what I prefer in an IPA. They don't always have to be meals-in-a-glass, especially not if the flavor is so well done. And trust me, this is.

This is a fantastic showcase for my favorite hop strain. It's a wonderful beer, and like Nathan, I welcome it to our fridge, Ohio, and most importantly, my palate.

5/5 caps

-Jennie

Baltika #9

Ahhhh, Baltika, the stuff of terrible memories when I lived in St. Petersburg, home to Baltika Brewery. I was handed one of these at some party I attended, and I nearly choked. Then again, the brewery was relatively new (apparently a mere 3 years old when I lived there), and has since branched out quite a bit since that time. My palate was also relatively unrefined, having been an college student and accustomed to cheap American piss-water during those early days, before the craft beer scene started taking off in the US (although, unsurprisingly, I did have quite the palate for vodka then... hmmmm... let it be noted that Russian Stoli is better than it is here. It was present at every family function, all parties, and the occasional family dinner).

This particular brew is #9 in the Baltika brews, an extra lager, weighing in at a hefty 8% ABV. It's one of a dozen or so brews made by Baltika, which was bought in 2008 by Carlsberg. 

Yes, St. Petersburg, founded in 1703 by Peter the Great. A truly beautiful and remarkable city, it's also quite large and often considered the gateway to western Europe. At the same time, it's uniquely Russian. The people are wonderful, the architecture is awe-inspiring, and the history of the city is both tragic and triumphant. And yes, the Hermitage is at least as amazing as you think it might be. There are so many landmarks and so much to do there, I know my four months/one semester were much too short. I still want to move back there, even though my Russian has mostly rusted away from lack of use.

Anyway, while I delve into a leisurely trip down memory lane, I looked over and saw my beer sitting there, warming up, the head fading away. Let's delve back into memory, for comparison: what I remember is a darker beer, about the color of a brown ale, that tasted as if you had licked the concrete walls of your neighborhood sauna after a 300-pound sixty-year-old vodka addict had just sweat out the remains of the prior night. With his six best friends. It was a rather unpleasant experience. Let's hope this is much improved.

What keeps pulling me back to present is the golden straw color of this (trust me, that's a good sign), with a fluffy white head that is quickly dissipating into a thin layer of thick foam. The aroma is strongly malt-forward bready notes (man, now I'm craving some Russian black bread), with a lightly floral and almost metallic note to the nose. It might be the water from the Neva, I'm guessing, as it smells almost like river water. Taking a sip, I'm pleasantly surprised, this is not the beer I had in Russia. Whew!!!!! Once the relief fades, I take another sip to diagram the flavors and notes within it. I am picking up a lot of cereal and bread notes at the front, which fade into the faint floral that was in the nose and then gives over to an earthy note. It's a solid lager. It's strong, but you don't really notice any alcohol bite in the beer. It feels very soft and round up front, almost like a wheat beer. I'm very glad the metallic note doesn't come through in the flavor. That might be because we purchased this in can form.

This is way better than I remember. Then again, looking at the various beers the brewery offers, I'm pretty sure I had the Original. I have no idea where the brewery is located in St. Petersburg, but I wouldn't mind collaborating with them on a brew. I also wouldn't mind taking a six-pack or so of this to a reunion of friends from Russia who live in the Columbus. It's a solid lager, and I'm thoroughly relieved that it's nothing of what my memory stored. It makes me yearn for the Rodina, the Motherland. It also may become my drink of choice when "The Americans" returns to FX in February, which seems like eons from now, on what has become known as Commie Pinko Wednesday, in a lovely tribute to the Cold War.

4/5 caps

-Jennie

Damn babe... Hell of a description. How does one follow anything up with that except now my beer has warmed up some, so let's see if there are different notes in the flavor and aroma. Bready, earthy, floral and faint citrus take over the nose, this smells damn good for a lager. The flavor on this is light but mostly the same notes that were picked up in the nose. There is an astringent feel and slight medicinal flavor in the backend of this that I can't quite place. It might be because this has warmed, as it's coming our more and more with each sip.

Not a bad beer, one of the better lagers I've had.

3.9/5 caps (just because of the astringent back end)

-Nathan-

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Gasthaus & Gosebrauerei Bayerischer Leipziger Gose


Remember to follow us on Facebook and Twitter

This might possibly be the longest name for a beer that's we've reviewed. 4.6% German Gose style. If you missed the little history lesson we gave in the Magic Hat Saint Saltan, Gose originated in an area of Germany where it obtained part of the flavor from the naturally salty waters of the river, and was brewed with no less than 50% of the grain bill (grains being used in the brew process) being malted wheat. Being a German beer though, I'm surprised this does not follow the Purity Laws of 1516 (aka Reinheitsgebot), which says that beer is to be brewed ONLY with water, hops, and barley. The label on this states that it is brewed with coriander and salt.

This pours a hazy straw color with a decent amount of white head that dissipated quickly. The aroma on this is faint with some malty sweetness, citrus and some earthiness. This is very interesting for the flavor. There is a lot happening here, though all faint. There is a wit characteristic to it, with the wheat and coriander that takes premise (for those who are unaware of the style, think Blue Moon, but a metric shit ton better). Then there are some almost lemon like sour tones that meld perfectly and some light salt pops in from time to time. This drinks smooth with a slight stickiness on the tongue, but a refreshing finish. This makes me miss the warmer days of summer time, as this would be a perfect porch sipping beer on a warm Summer night. Sigh, but unfortunately, we're nearing the actual season of Winter (and have already had more snow than we did last Autumn and Winter combined), so these are just hopes and dreams for next Summer.

I don't know what it is about this beer, but I'm feeling relaxed and refreshed after drinking this. Huh, some sort of magic elixir apparently.

4.4/5 caps

-Nathan-

This is the perfect antithesis to tonight, when we had some snow and wintry mix crap fall from the sky today. It's the kind of day that makes me long for the beers of summer: the IPAs, goses, and kolsches.

My portion has had some time to warm while I've been working a piece of art and Nathan wrote his portion. Hey, it's the giving season, and I just had the most killer idea for a piece for Peanut. Let's just hope I can get it done in 8 days, as it's one of my larger undertakings. But, lest you tell Peanut the secret, I shall give away no more.

As my partner-in-beer mentioned, this beer does not follow the Reinheitsgebot, which is, indeed, somewhat surprising. But did you know that Germans have recently appealed to the United Nations to seek "world status" for the Reinheitsgebot, granting it similar status to the Spanish Flamenco dance and an oil wrestling festival from Turkey? Well, now you do. There's your beer-geek history fact du jour

This is a beautiful translucent pale straw color, and the lightest layer of head remains atop my glass. The aroma is straw, grass, some light lemony citrus from the hops, just a tinge of earthiness, and, even fainter, the coriander. Taking a sip, it's almost like lemonade that has been lightly salted. Taking a deeper taste, I pick up lemon fading into lemongrass fading into grass, then a hit of salt, and then lemon and coriander toward the back end of the taste. Long after you've swallowed, more salt comes out to dry out the finish. The coriander is so beautifully faint. I find it rather interesting to observe the notes from the wheat: it really just softens everything, and makes it eminently drinkable.

I'm sorry, I can find no comparison at all to Blue Moon, other than they both contain wheat and coriander. That is where the comparison must end. If you like Blue Moon, I'm reasonably certain you would like this. If you appreciate this, though, I don't think you would really like Blue Moon. It's not really a wit, despite it containing both wheat and coriander. I also must agree with Nathan that my state of mind is quite at ease after drinking much of this. I want to be sitting at the edge of the sea -- OK, any sea -- sipping on this.

4.3/5 caps

-Jennie

Boulevard Brewing Company Amber Ale

Be sure to follow us on facebook and twitter.

Well, we have reached a somewhat sad moment: this is the last beer from our Peoria trip. It's taken us almost 6 months to go through all the the beer we purchased that we can't get in Ohio. Ironically, two breweries we brought back because we couldn't get them here will soon be debuting in Ohio: New Belgium on Monday, and Deschutes in February. With Duvel purchasing Boulevard, we may also see this one here in Ohio soon. I'd be perfectly fine with that.

Of course, the up side of this is that I'll allow Nathan to purchase craft beer here again soon (never fear, dear reader, we have been buying some here and there, but we're down to fewer than twelve).

This is a lovely -- wait for it! -- deep amber color with a moderate off-white head that dissipates quickly. There is some chill haze to this. The aroma is very malty, with soft orange citrus notes and caramel and maybe just a hint of grass coming through. Taking a sip, this is really mild, with the malts taking center stage. There's not a flavor that really predominates, just the same notes that were in the aroma. And yet it's not watery, it's well-balanced. It's a rather mild amber, and it kind of reminds me of Fat Tire. I think what stands out to me the most is the mouthfeel: it's a very soft, round beer, with the initial texture of silk that fades into a slight bitterness at the end from the German noble hops.

It's a good, solid amber from an exceptional brewery. It's not my favorite beer from them, but I think this would be an excellent gateway beer for people who are new to the craft scene.

4/5 caps

-Jennie

With heavy hearts, we pour the last of our out of state, unobtainable brews (for this year). We look back on the the other (currently) unobtainable brews- the Pegasus IPA, Black Butte, Bridgeport IPA, Ranger, Buffalo Sweat and Bully! Porter really stick out in my mind. Wrapping up a year of beer reviews, look for a faux-award ceremony for the best brews we had this year, and maybe an off-kilter award. But all that will come later. Now is when we look at the terrible task at hand, having to review beer. This is the part of reviewing beer that I dislike.... BWHAHAHAHAHA almost got through that with a straight face.

This is an amber, so it's a shock of shocks that this pours an amber color with a decent off white head that doesn't stick around. Mine has had time, as my partner, The Brew Baroness, did her portion of the review. In the nose, I'm getting nice mild maltiness, sweetness, and some citrus and floral notes from the hops. This smells interesting. The flavor of this is nice. It's like a great herbal tea. Initially, there is subtle caramel, with some citrus and earthiness from the hops lending to a perfect balance. I'm enjoying this. This a nice mellow brew that drinks smoothly and a slightly sweet finish. Perfect for those who enjoy ambers or those just getting into the scene.

I hope Boulevard distributes here in the very near future, as they are a solid brewery who perpetually has great brews.

Cheers!

4.2/5 caps

-Nathan-

Monday, December 9, 2013

Clown Shoes Chocolate Sombrero

 Reminder to follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Monday night, and baby, it's cold outside. Perfect night for a lovely stout that is new-ish to Ohio. Clown Shoes is out of Massachusetts, and we were lucky enough to pick some up before we could get it here. Then, one day this fall, they decided to open distribution to Ohio. We wholeheartedly approve of this decision, and this is our first in-state purchase from them.

Back in the early spring, we actually had a date night and went out to the movies (shocking, I know. It just doesn't happen as much as it should). Our favorite movie theater has an excellent selection of craft beers, and I tried a New Holland brew that blew me away. Called Ocho Mole, it was a Mexican-spiced stout. I have similar expectations to that for this brew.

This pours a deep brown-black with some pillowy khaki head. Taking a whiff, I pick up notes of toasted malts, chocolate, vanilla beans, a hint of ancho chili, and maybe come cinnamon. Taking a drink, it's a very interesting brew. The roasted malts hit first along with a lot of chocolate, then vanilla and cinnamon kick in, and at the very back note of the palate, there's just the teensiest hint of the ancho chili. I love ancho chilies (they're merely smoked poblanos), so this is a welcome note to the flavor profile. They're a milder pepper, so this is not one that's going to burn going down. It's pretty thin in body, and that is my biggest complaint about this beer. But it clocks in a 9% ABV, so my toes are finally starting to thaw out. There really isn't a boozy quality to this beer for being such a high-ABV beast, but I like that.

It's a pretty solid brew, and one I wouldn't mind having again. I'm looking forward to trying some of their IPAs.

4.1/5 caps

-Jennie

The movie theater she's referring to is Studio 35 (on Indianola just North of Weber Road), if you haven't been there, go. We went with some friends to watch The Evil Dead on opening weekend. Awesome movie, amazing beer selections. As those memories start to fade away with the passing days and the increasing alcohol consumption, we find ourselves at this current moment, sitting in front of a computer, pint glass in hand, and a beer review to do. Damn that was a long sentence.

While Jennie took lead on this, I cleaned up the kitchen, giving this a chance to warm up. This poured a dark, typical stout color with a very fluffy tan head, which after 20 minutes or so is still about a half-finger. Toasted malts, chocolate and vanilla taunt my olfactory senses when I raise this to my nose. Some hints of toffee, smokiness and caramel, but mostly the prior 3 mentioned. It seems interesting enough from the aroma, let's delve into the taste. Roasted malts assault the taste buds initially, with hints of chocolate and vanilla. The smokiness isn't noticed, but there's some warm chili pepper qualities to the back end, not enough to be spicy (as Jennie mentioned they're smoked poblano), but enough to give it notice. As I just was drinking a Burger Classic, I can compare the body to about that. It's deceptively thin on this beer. I figured a 9% ABV stout would be a rich, thick body (ala Stone Espresso), but apparently this is a Decepticon. The thinner body makes it very drinkable, and this higher alcohol content makes it so you just start to drift off in your own world, researching different things that you've written over the past year, trying to figure out what spurred better creativity then than what you've been feeling as of late. Then you realize you're rambling to people who probably haven't made it this far, so you continue to type and see if anyone really reads this. But the lack of feedback received makes you wonder if this is all in vain, which is why you should follow us on Facebook and Twitter. And then you start to realize this stream-of-conscious writing delves way too far into your own personal psyche at times to where inner demons have come out in previous posts that you realize you probably shouldn't send a link to, making the reader search through your 200-some-odd posts in order to find it if they're truly interested in reading. Then you realize you're rambling.

4/5 caps

-Nathan-



Friday, December 6, 2013

Sierra Nevada Narwhal





Despite the almost lawsuit last year between Narwhal Brewery and Sierra Nevada, we decided to try this. A quick rundown of the lawsuit, Narwhal Brewery opened in 2011, filing in NY as an LLC. Sierra Nevada created Narwhal stout in 2012 and filed a federal trademark. They sat down, couldn't come to a resolution, and Narwhal Brewery decided to change their name instead of bankrupting themselves trying to take on the 2nd largest craft brewery in the nation.

This beer has received many great reviews online, so we decided to give it a shot. This pours a dark, deep black color with a small mount of tan head that dissipates quickly. The aroma is coffee, chocolate, roasted malt, some caramel and a backside of boozy notes, which is a little expected for a 10.2% Russian Imperial Stout. And as my little terrorist cat chews on Jennie's hair, I delve into the taste. Huh. This is complex. There is a rush of toasted malt and almost whiskey at first, which gives way to a unsweetened chocolate, then some more toasted notes, caramel and faint hops on the back end with coffee sporadically popping in to join the party. This drinks a little heavy, definitely a sipping beer.This finishes dry with almost a light hop resiny mouthfeel to it.

As I'm selective on the stouts and RISs, it's good. It's real good. I think we accidentally cloned this without realizing it with our stout, The Count.

4.6/5 caps

-Nathan-

There are two notable differences between our Count Chocula Stout and this: The Count is a milk stout instead of a Russian Imperial, and it contained marshmallow root.

And yes, we know we should be drinking this out of a snifter. I almost went for them until I realized how full our dishwasher is, and that we're reviewing more than this one beer. Just be glad I'm not drinking my portion straight from the bottle. It's Friday; I'm allowed to have a lazy moment.

Nathan described the appearance and aroma perfectly. Side note, his little terrorist cat has been extra matricidal today and was trying to convince Peanut that I'm the meanest mom in the world (because every time I got in the fridge I wouldn't give her ham or turkey or both). Even Peanut wasn't convinced. This is a good thing (although I'm going to show him the certificate, stating that "I hereby promise to be the meanest mom in the world," I signed at the hospital some day).

Let's see how this tastes. I just took a sip and uttered blissfully, "Oh my gods." It's good. It's really good. I pick up more chocolate and yes, some boozy notes early, which fade into silky chocolate, and then a note of spiced rum -- probably notes from the boozy and vanilla -- pops into my mouth. Huh. And Nathan doesn't like this better? There's also coffee and roasted, toasty notes floating in and around. I don't really pick up the lingering hops in it, other than the dryness of the finish and maybe a bit lingering on the tongue after you've swallowed. I have to agree with my partner-in-beer, whereas this is a sipping beer (and my sips have been really heavy. Oops. It's going to be one of those 0-60 nights). I find it velvety smooth, like you're drinking silk, if you could do that (and I don't mean the soy milk).

I find this fantastic. I'm rather particular on my stouts, but I rather enjoy the RIS style, and this is an excellent example of it. It's smoother than a baby's bottom, and I kinda want some more. Ah, but more we have... just of a different variety and brewery. Hehehe.

4.9/5 caps

-Jennie

Green Flash Green Bullet

Remember to follow us on Facebook and on Twitter

Ah, Green Flash. I was iffy about them at first, to be honest. My first beer from them (Bob's Bar) wasn't that impressive. It could have been the hop varieties or it could have been an off batch. Regardless, they've proven themselves to me since with Lynchpin (collaboration with Founders) and Palate Wrecker. We, on this (pending) Snow Apocalypse decide to bite the bullet. The Green Bullet. A 10.1% ABV, over 100 IBU beast of brew. Who doesn't want to feel feelings? This guy!

This pours a nice honey color with small amount of white head, this is rather clear with a decent amount of carbonation (judging from appearance). The aroma is very herbal, almost like a nice tea, and earthy, with hints of caramel and a scent I can't place- a perfect pine/unknown fruit. I've been eyeballing this since I got home, oh yes, it's time. The taste. An intense blast of deep earthy hops obliterate your taste buds upon the first sip. At times there are hints of lighter caramel flavors, but only occasionally peaking through the sheer intensity of the earthy tones. The finish is surprisingly dry for a huge IBU, ABVed IPA. Not as much resin feeling as I'd expect from this.

As I'm starting to fade off while listening to Richard Pryor, I think I should pass this over to my partner-in-beers.

3.8/5 caps (only as I'm not a huge fan of the earthy varieties of hops as much as the pine and citrus flavors of other varieties)

-Nathan-

Hmmm. A triple IPA with Pulp Fiction playing in the background. Great flick, and I hope for a great beer. The only other triple IPA I think I've had is Founders Devil Dancer, so this should be an interesting comparison. You know how we love our DIPAs and hops, so I have high hopes for this. It's also made with New Zealand hops, which we're still familiarizing ourselves with the distinct flavors.

Zed just happens to be dead (again? still?) as I take a whiff. It's a lovely medium orange color -- yes, think clover honey with the faintest amount of white head still remaining atop this high-ABV beast. Oooh, I love the aroma: strong lychee masks some dank, almost mildewy notes and some caramel sweetness. OK, to be honest, the more I stick my nose in it, the more it smells like a basement gymnasium, like the girls' gym at my high school. The initial aroma was much more appealing. Taking a sip, I pick up orange and mango and generic citrus, some earthy, some lychee, and fortunately, the initial sip wasn't as disappointing as the subsequent sniffs. The next sip brings up a little more dank note, but not as offensive as a 150-year-old gym (I went to the oldest high school west of the Alleghenies, and the girls' gym was the original one). Underneath the confusion that is lingering on my tongue is a grassy note that is not offensive, but there's an almost metallic taste on the very back end of this that I do not find appealing. It's not a bad beer... it's just, meh. There's some sticky sweetness that lingers on the lips, and it's appropriately carbonated. It's gotten really high reviews on ratebeer, but I'm just not that impressed with it. I prefer Palate Wrecker, myself.

Go buy some. Make your own decision. I'm too confused by everything happening on my palate.

3.75/5 caps

-Jennie


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Dark Horse 4 Elf Winter Warmer

 Remember to follow us on Facebook and on twitter @BehindTheTap

Happy Repeal Day!!! We've been Prohibition-free for 80 years today. We're happy to raise a pint to that fact today. Also, we're under a winter storm warning and expecting a metric fuckton of snow, which is much better than being disappointed once again by a man telling me that [    ] is six inches. We'll probably get two inches and they'll claim it was six, just to disappoint women everywhere in order to maintain their secret. So, clearly we're drinking tonight, and what better way to celebrate being snowed in than with a winter warmer?

This is one we have yet to have (I don't remember it being available in Columbus last year, but that could just be my faulty memory). By now, you should know how much we (I) love Dark Horse. I went to college 10 miles from Marshall, Michigan, and have a couple of fond memories of the town. It also helps that they put out great beer. So let's get to it.

This pours a deep, opaque brown with a smallish khaki head that doesn't linger long, probably because of the 8.75% ABV. The aroma is pretty exciting, with a lot of roasted malt notes and some cinnamon, nutmeg, and a healthy smattering of clove. You can smell a bit of booziness in the aroma. Taking a sip, the first thing I note is how dry it is. It starts out mild, goes into a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg (but nothing overpowering), and then the finish is like a punch of cloves in the face. I am not a huge fan of cloves (unless they're in small amounts and blended with other spices like cinnamon and nutmeg), so I wish they would have used either less or substituted it with, say, ginger. Ginger and I have a long and storied love affair. The mouthfeel is exceptionally creamy and almost fluffy. A faint stickiness lingers on the lips and tongue after the sip is gone.

I wish I liked cloves better. It's not a bad beer, at all, but I prefer winter warmers with less clove (or none). Nathan loves clove, so I'll bet he'll really enjoy it.

3.9/5 caps

-Jennie

As we hunker down for Snowpocalypse 2013 (remember those hyped up hurricane force winds earlier this year where it knocked over one lawn chair in rural Ohio?), we stock up on Burger Classic and start chilling down our remaining brews we have yet to review. My goal is to get through all the ones we currently have before purchasing more. So far, that game plan hasn't worked out, oops. Woo! Beer!

So this company, Dark Horse, puts out fantastic brews. I have yet to have a sub-par brew from them. I've been waiting to try this since I first saw it. This pours a deep dark brown with, as Jennie said, a light khaki head. This has had time to warm up while I showered and Jennie took lead on this review. The aroma is very clove heavy. After the clove blast, there is cinnamon, nutmeg, gingerbread, and very faint (after heavy sniffing) vanilla. There are some other hints, almost brown sugar and caramel aromas. This smells amazing. If it was off the aroma, I'd give it a 5, but, sadly, I have to drink beer like it's my job. I hope to make it my job someday.

So, the flavor on this. Interesting. Nice smooth, velvety liquid filling your mouth. The nutmeg and clove really come out in the flavor at first, but not overwhelming. After the initial flavor of the two spices; vanilla, caramel and brown sugar make a faint appearance. There's a nice dry finish of fresh vanilla bean toward the back. I really don't catch as much clove as Jennie did, but then again, this has had time to warm up.

Not bad at all, but I still prefer Flying Dog's K-9 (warning, it was our second review, so we were still working out format).

So to a little over a year of reviews and on the 80th anniversary of the End of Prohibition, Cheers.

4/5 caps

-Nathan-

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Homestead Brewing Co. Claim Jumper IPA

Don't forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (@behindthetap). 

On our trip back from Belgium, we're stopping a whole lot closer to home. This is brewed in Heath, Ohio, a mere 30-ish minutes from downtown Columbus. This is the first Homestead beer we've reviewed, and we're excited to try it. They brew lower-ABV beers, so that you can enjoy a few without ending up underneath the table. This is one of their higher-ABV beers at 5.8%.

Ahhh, homesteading. Jennie has grand designs of a brewstead, where instead of (or even better, in addition to) homesteading, we grow the ingredients to use in our own beers and have a pleasant native yeast strain that won't make me hurl as soon as I ingest it. It's a bit of a pipe dream, but yes, that's what I'd love to do. As long as we're on pipe dreams, it's also going to be on an acre of land with a beautiful Victorian home that we rehab ourselves in the middle of, say, Victorian Village or even Old Towne East. Hence why it's a pipe dream. Now, why I referred to myself in the third person, I'm still bemused. We'll chalk that one up to the 10% St Bernardus.

This pours a beautiful, clear golden orange color with a very small off-white head that continues to grace the edges of the beer. The aroma on this is quite lovely: just the perfect amount of pine, citrus -- notably grapefruit, freshly mowed grass, and some caramel undertones that really intrigue me. Taking a sip, my inner hophead smiles with satisfaction. You get all the flavors that are in the aroma, but they're even stronger here, and they're complemented by some beautiful tastes toward the end of pineapple and mango. There's also a vague earthy note that appears seemingly out of nowhere toward the end. Damn, this is good. It's decently carbonated, it's not overly bitter, but there's definitely a bitter finish to this, even though the bitterness is not overpowering. Does that make sense? I certainly hope so.

I look forward to trying more of Homestead's beers. This is simply great, and I'm rather proud it's made and available locally. Of the one beer review I could find of this, the person enjoyed this as much as I am (or at least nearly), and this was his preferred brew from Homestead. I can definitely see why. Hey there, Heath, how YOU doin'???

4.6/5 caps

-Jennie

Well, since my partner-in-Zymurgy decided to spoil our future plans, I guess I have no other choice than to review this beer, go to bed, and wake up ridiculously earlier to work followed by work.... ugh...

 This has had time to warm up a little, while she-who-lost-Rock,Paper,Scissors took lead on this. The color is a nice golden color with hints of orange, there's not any residual head at this point, just more of a distant vision. The aroma is, in the words of our friend, Big Mike, "Fuck Yeah!" Nice grapefruit, pine, citrus and hints of tropical fruits take hold with some biscuit and caramel tones playing second fiddle. This is an aroma (being a hop head) that I really enjoy. The taste on this.... Huh... the grapefruit and citrus are faint, then there is a nice mellow maltiness with biscuit and faint caramel coming up toward the middle. Pine takes over in the backend, blending with the tropical fruits. There's a nice lighter resiny feel left over. Not the typical hop bomb, rip out your enamel that I enjoy, but hoppy enough to satisfy my hunger for the humulus lupulus. Smooth drinking with decent carbonation. Definitely need to try more of their brews (especially as they are so close). and Jennie, stop hitting on the town of Heath.

4.6/5 caps

-Nathan-

Monday, November 25, 2013

St. Bernardus Abt 12





Before we begin, make sure you follow us on Twitter (@behindthetap) and on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/BehindTheTap)



Ah, the spoils of winning "Rock, Paper, Scissors" is reviewing this beer first. This beer has long intrigued me, as it's the closest thing to Westvleteren XII that is readily available and doesn't cost an arm and a leg. Delving into the history of this, from 1946-1992, Westy contracted out to St. Bernardus. When the contract ended, St. Bernardus continued brewing a similar style, which is this selection.

So, with the Ambulance LTD cued up, my trusty Flying Dog pint glass half filled with this, and the cats playing rough, it's the perfect ambiance for reviewing this. This pours a dark copper color that's rather cloudy, and looking hard enough, I see sediment floating around. The head on this was a decent amount of a cream color, which faded within 4 minutes to almost a distant memory of Holidays long passed. The aroma on this is dark fruit mostly. Cherry, fig, hints of raisin and toffee pound your olfactory senses into a submissive bliss, with apricot coming through from time to time to remind you that there is a task at hand, and this task is reviewing beer.

The.... holy shit.... I was going to describe the flavor, but it's amazing and has a lot going on... The flavor is interesting. There's a great honey flavor up front with the fruit and toffee you got in the nose. At times there is some spice and some breadiness about it, which is covered over by the honey-like flavor making a resurgence toward the backend. This drinks smooth, heavier carbonation than what it looks, nice light bubbles to add to the experience of this. It finishes dry. Kind of rich at times, but not sickening sort of rich. Definitely a sipping brew. The 10% ABV is not noticed in the flavor or mouthfeel at all, probably one of the smoothest 10% brews that's blessed my mouth.

5/5 caps

-Nathan-

While Nathan cued up the Ambulance, I'm cuing up some Bob Marley, Jamaica being my literal happy place and, with it snowing (heavily) here, I need to be transported to someplace warm and idyllic. And while I may have let Nathan win at "Rock Paper Scissors," I also gave him his very first cootie shot earlier tonight. He. Had. Cooties!!!!!!! What is this world coming to?!?!?!! As for me, I've been immunized since, oh, about first or second grade. The man has been immunized against pertussis and other scary illnesses that we thought had disappeared 100 years ago, but not from cooties. Oh, the humanity. At least I took care of that. The world is once again safe.

When Westie became available in the US last year, it was going for a ridiculous price. Like $80 for a bomber. Or however it's packaged. Um, maybe when we Make It and aren't quite living the craft beer lifestyle on a Burger Classic budget (seriously, can you go wrong with $11-a-case budget beer?), we'll be able to procure some. Until then, I'm fine with a clone. So, let's get to it.

The appearance is just as Nathan described, with a thin layer of head remaining atop mine. Taking a sniff, I pick up some bread or, more accurately, biscuit and a whole lot of dark fruit with some underpinnings of toffee. Cherries and figs and plums are definitely present, and fortunately (for me, at least), I'm not picking up a lot of apricot or raisins, not being a huge fan of either. I do find a hint of alcohol aromas in the nose. When I finally delved into a sip, the word that came to mind was "velvety". This is smoother than a baby's butt. Let me see if I can walk you through this... it's brown sugar up front, fading into a bit of booziness, then the fruits come in to play and float on your palate, the same fruits that appeared in the aroma. There's the biscuit in the back, and the note of brown sugar and maybe some honey just kind of play underneath the entire sip. This is quite damn tasty. Nathan has described it well.

Now, this is a Belgian I can get behind. This is fantastic. It's not Belgian-y. It's Trappist-y. I like Trappist-y (as opposed to travesties). This is delicious. I want to drink more, and yet my portion is almost gone. I should be kind and give the remainder of mine to Dad, as Nathan did. Dad seemed to really enjoy it. Or should I just say, "Fuck it, it's Monday... Mineday"? Not that it was an especially bad Monday... sigh. Decisions, decisions. OK, given that two separate friends of mine lost their fathers yesterday, I'll be extra-nice to mine. He's a pretty rocking awesome dad anyway. OK, one more sip, and then I'll let Dad have the last of it.

P.S. Dad tapped out and passed on finishing my portion. Score. 

5/5 caps

-Jennie


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Boulevard Boss Tom Golden Bock

Boulevard... Oh Boulevard, is there anything you can't do? Seriously in love with this company, despite the fact we can't obtain them in Ohio. We still have some Illinois trip beers to review, and in showing love to Illinois (with all the shit they've been through the past couple days with the tornadoes), we review this with sunken hearts. We wish the best for everyone in the path of the terrible chaos that happened, and wish that those who lost their livelihood can have a speedy and full recoup.

With our deep heartfelt message out there, I continue on to this beer. We went out to Pekin, Illinois, this past summer and loaded up on beer (mixed 12 of Boulevard and countless mixed 6 packs) of brews we can't obtain here in Ohio. Since that trip, Clown Shoes is distributed and both Deschutes and New Belgium will have distribution here soon. I feel like we were a driving force on getting these breweries to come to Ohio (not really, I know it's a capacity thing with the sheer copious amounts of beer that Ohio consumes). With that being said, I hope Boulevard, with their new ownership of Duvel, decides to distribute here soon.

This pours golden, as would be expected with a name like 'golden bock'. There is a decent amount of stark white, fluffy head when first poured, but dissipates quickly. The aroma on this is slightly malty with some herb, spice and floral aroma from hops. Very interesting smelling. The flavor on this very light. Light maltiness, biscuit and faint hints of caramel, with faint hops giving flavors of what you picked up in the aroma. Crisp, clean and smooth drinking. Refreshing mouthfeel with nothing much of stickiness. One of the best lagers I've had (Three Floyd's Jynx Proof being the only one that comes to mind that tops it). I honestly think this would makes for a perfect porch drinking beer (side by side with any session IPA or the Stiegl Radler), but, alas, we're entering the cold weather in Ohio which makes people stay inside. So instead, if I run across this before warmer weather, I guess I'll have to stay in my flannel pajamas, sitting on the couch with the heater on, drinking this. I might take a day off work just to do that soon.

4.5/5 caps

-Nathan-

Ugh, I'm still mega-distraught over the phone lines being down to Washington, Illinois, and not being able to make sure my old neighbors are OK. Old neighbors. That's such an insufficient description of what these women mean to me. They were my mothers-of-the-bride in my wedding (as my own mother had passed not quite two years prior). They were there when I came in after getting home from high school to find my beloved dog dead while my parents were still at work. They were who I talked to more than people my own age about teenage girl problems. They were there, for over twenty years, on a daily basis. I am rather distraught over the distance between us now, and knowing that they moved to Washington a few years ago and with the tragedy going on in that area, it's not helping a damned thing. I am fairly confident that they are safe and unharmed, but it would feel so much better to hear their wonderful voices, or to find their names on the Red Cross registry. All I can do, at this point, is to wrap my arms around them metaphorically.

Even though you are not beer fans, Barb and Joyce, this review is for you. Here's to hoping telephone service is restored soon and I can hear your beautiful voices and make sure you are OK and your home is unharmed.

With that said, I'm going to try to brush off the tears and not let them interfere with my senses of taste and smell. This beer, again from Kansas City, Missouri, pours a beautiful, crystal-clear golden color with the faintest ring of white head remaining. The aroma of this is wonderful, malty, and complex. Some faint grass or straw hints and perhaps some pleasant earthiness peek through the nose. Taking a sip, I get the golden part of Golden Bock. It tastes, well, golden. There's the grassy/straw notes that meld into bread and toast notes, fading into cereal and drying out quickly to a pleasant freshly-mowed grass finish.  A very easy-drinking beer, this is. Porch-sipper? Indeed. It feels very soft and round in the mouth.

It's definitely worthy of bringing a truckload of sand in a couple of fake palm trees to recreate summer on a cold February day, when you're sick of seeing White Death and longing for the aquamarine waters and white sands and steel drum sounds of the Caribbean.

4.3/5

-Jennie

P.S. During this review, I spoke with Joyce. Both she and Barb and safe and sound, snug as bugs in a rug and completely unharmed by the devastation that is wreaking its havoc on my hometown and surrounding areas. Even their home is without so much as a loose shingle, despite living a half-mile from the epic destruction. Thank goodness for the little things, right?! Now, to restore normalcy to the rest of the area. Washington Strong.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Lager Head's High Five IPA

Confession: I've imposed a ban on buying any more beer-for-reviews until we drink up some of what we have on hand. We have almost a case of individual craft beers in our room and we acknowledge our slacker ways of late. Yep, I'm a bitch like that. You may now pity Nathan.

We also love to combine making art and writing reviews/blogs. As I have a deadline for a piece later this week that I'm drastically behind on, beer reviews are a perfect accompaniment for this lovely Monday evening. Hence, we bring you Lager Heads Brewery's High Five IPA. Lager Heads is based out of Medina, OH, and we were stationed next to them during the Microbrew Craft Beer Festival at the North Market back in September. Nathan actually poured some for them to give their brewery rep a brief break. We had this then, and I can't wait to try it again.

It pours a deep amber color, darker than most IPAs. It also poured with a really big, fluffy head that is a rather pale ecru. It's a 7.5% ABV, 100 IBU beast. As it warms a bit, the pine in the nose is really coming through. It's pine and citrus atop a strong caramel base. The flavor is quite tasty and mirrors the aroma. It starts off piney, fades to the caramel notes from the malts, and then as you swallow your mouthful, it dries out a lot and pine comes back to blast you in the face. Or, to be more true to the beer, the pine comes back to high-five your tongue. There is also a lovely underpinning of lychee that comes out as it warms. It's well carbonated and a little sticky feeling.

I had some misgivings of the quality of an IPA that a brewery with the name "Lager" in it could produce. All misgivings are erroneous, and this is a rather solid, pretty impressive IPA. I want to find more from Lager Heads. I want to travel to Medina to visit the brewery. I want to give each of the brewers high fives and keep drinking this tasty quaff.

4.6/5 caps

-Jennie

At the Microbrew Fest, we were assisting Angelo from Barley's (see our reviews on the Infinity Grand Cru and Hoptoberfest). Next to us, a rep from Heidelberg Distributing was at post for Lagerheads, apparently, we just missed the brewmaster. I started shooting the breeze with him (and for the life of me, I can't remember his name), decided, as an avid hop head, to get a sample of the High Five IPA. 100 IBUs, I couldn't resist. I needed this beer in my olfactory senses and in my mouth. It was good, it was really good. I filled in for the guy while he went on a bathroom break and decided to have fun with people (as that's what I do). There was a bearded man who came up and said 'Hey man, can I get a high five?', my instant reply was to raise my hand up and say 'Alright man!..... oh, you wanted the beer.' He got a kick out of that. Enough with memories, onto this hop beast.

I was ecstatic when Jennie brought this home. I had no idea that this was a bottled selection. This poured a rather dark copper color, almost like a 1980's penny that's been well circulated. Darker than what I normally think of when I think IPA. There was big, fluffy pale-caramel colored head that dissipated quickly. The aroma on this is fantastic. Big piney aroma with some citrus sneaking in with some light tropical fruit and unidentifiable sweetness (toffee? caramel? I'm not sure as the hop aroma is dominating). Onto the taste. The taste is similar to the aroma. Pine and citrus flavors blast you up front followed by caramel. Following the slight sweetness, you're reminded again why this is 100 IBUs as the hops sneak back into the forefront with citrus and pine, taking turns assaulting your tastebuds with flavor and resiny stickiness. This drinks smooth, but has a dry, resiny finish to it. This is damn good. It makes me wish we had more than just this sampling. My only quarrel with this (and this is just my personal opinion, as always, go out, try this and form your own) is the malty sweetness in the middle is too much for my personal palate.

4.7/5 caps

-Nathan-

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Stiegl Radler

Stiegl Radler. A combo of beer and fruit soda, so roughly what we in Ohio would call Shandy. Sounds good to me, especially with it being grapefruit. I have a strong liking of grapefruit (if you notice, a lot of my favorite hop varieties and IPAs have grapefruit notes to them), which I think somewhere might stem from my weird obsession with Hunter S Thompson. But no, I liked grapefruit before I discovered the wonderful, twisted world of HST. Huh, I guess I'll never know, onto the review.

This is a light beer, probably the lightest I've ever had at a whopping 2.5% ABV. This is probably more of a summer beer (instead of middle of November), but today made it up to 67 degrees, and pending the storms, should be perfect drinking weather for this. The pour on this is a pale hazy yellow, almost like homemade lemonade. The aroma on this is Grapefruit, with a capital G as it overtakes the olfactory glands and sends me in a harmonious state of mind. The taste on this is fucking fantastic. It's like drinking grapefruit juice that some sorry bastard decided to blast with some club soda. The grapefruit flavor is very heavy up front and fades about 5 seconds later to a light watery flavor. This is very light bodied, smooth drinking, light, tingly carbonation to make this a good porch sipping beer.

I cannot wait until there is a porch to drink this on. This is really good, despite being so light.

(Side note: Phil, Jennie's dad, had a 3rd of this 16.9 oz can with us. He drank it with a look of shock and said "It's REALLY good!")

4.9/5 caps

-Nathan-

Ah, the much-ballyhooed Radler. Made a bit of a noise here in Ohio when it hit shelves in mid-to-late-summer. It's a German beer and beer style, somewhat scoffed by the serious afficionados, but nevertheless, intriguing to us American neophytes and hopheads alike.

As Nathan said, it pours a hazy pale yellow, almost like a weisse beer or unfiltered lemonade. There is predominant grapefruit and other citrus notes in the nose, and it distinctly reminds me of a shandy. Oh my gods it's good. This is lawnmower beer at its best. It tastes exactly like what it is: a lighter-flavored beer blended with grapefruit soda. This is what I wish our grapefruit hefewiezen tasted like. Don't get me wrong; that was a good, refreshing beer, but this is infinitely better. There is hardly any alcohol taste to this; it's more a fantastic grapefruit soda.

I don't really have more to add here, except that it's time to batten down the hatches and start on dinner for the family, Jennie Marzetti. I'm grateful that this is such a light beer, as following the Bully Porter and this, I don't need to invoke any more anger out of my kitchen gods.

4.75/5 caps

-Jennie

Boulvard Brewing's Bully! Porter

I am on such an emotional roller coaster at the moment. Please don't be fooled by the picture we just uploaded for Boulevard's birthday... I wiped away the tears less than a minute before the picture was taken. It's Boulevard Brewing's 24th birthday, so happy birthday to a long-standing favorite of ours!!! That's a great accomplishment to ride the craft beer revolution since 1989. On the sad note, we're hoping that our friends and family in Washington and Pekin and East Peoria, Illinois, are all safe, as they were hit quite hard by a very destructive tornado today. I am a hot mess of tears if I look at photo and video coverage of the destruction.

So, to get my mind off the sadness in my hometown, let's get to one of my favorite Boulevard beers, their Bully! Porter. This pours a lovely deep brown-black, opaque to the eye, with a fluffy khaki-colored head. The nose on this is just beautiful, with roasted malt, coffee, chocolate, and hints of dark fruit floating across my olfactory nerve. Nothing overpowering, it's a light aroma with this. Taking a sip, I'm falling back in love with this beer (unfortunately, it's not one we can get in Ohio, so this is one I tend to miss when I don't have it). Boulevard, based in Kansas City, was recently purchased by Duvel in Belgium, so we're hoping for wider distribution (since we can get Duvel in Ohio) and that they don't change the great recipes. Anyway, let's get to my favorite part of this: drinking the damn beer already! This has such a beautiful flavor. It's light, with the dark fruits really coming through at the beginning of the sip, melding beautifully with the coffee and roasted barley notes, then fading into a semisweet chocolate finish which dries out perfectly in my tongue. It's very light without being watery. It feels rather light in the mouth and is well-carbonated.

This is a perfect example of a great porter. It's not overly heavy, not going to kill your palate, but has such gorgeous light roasted notes that it's a great autumn beer. This is one I would consider pairing with a chocolate dessert, poached pears, or a bonfire. Just not a tornado. I'm going to light a candle for quick recovery and few casualties in my hometown.

4.6/5 caps

-Jennie

We figured we'd do this review to show the people of Illinois our love and support (as we purchased this in Pekin, Illinois). We wish the best to everyone who has been through this terrible, unpredictable chaos.

With the heartfelt message out there now, I now get to distract focus onto one of my biggest passions in this world,  BEER. This poured a gorgeous dark brown, almost black, actually, think cola color, with a nice fluffy khaki head that dissipated quickly. This has had time to warm up, as my Partner-in-Zymurgy completed her portion of this. The nose on this is dark fruit, roasted notes and coffee. The dark fruit is more prevalent now than it was at first pour. The initial sip is divine. If Hopsus had  malty offspring, this beer would be the praise of him/her.  Offspring of Hopsus Be Praised? The flavor is like the nose, only the dark fruits have backed away from taking lead chair on this. The roasted malts and coffee tones really come through with hints of the dark fruits giving a nice smooth balanced flavor with some tones of chocolate rounding out the backend. Nice smooth dry finish and lighter/medium mouthfeel really makes this a good anytime brew, not just Autumn. I could see myself drinking this in the middle of Summer.

I think I just reconfirmed everything Jennie said. Happy birthday to Boulevard, and please continue the amazing beers (and if all possible, bring distribution to Ohio?).

4.6/5 caps

-Nathan-

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Big Muddy Brewing Vanilla Stout



We tend to bounce back and forth between things, much like the thoughts in my head. We just reviewed a recently picked up Bell's Cherry Stout, and now we flip our mindsets, and palates to something we picked up from our Illinois trip. There are still samplings remaining from this trip, but we figured we'd do this one on the tail end of International Stout Day (which technically is done with EST, but is still going on in other time zones).

This didn't have much of a 'pzzt' when I popped the cap off, but still poured with a small amount of head. This is a dark espresso color with a small amount of beige head. This 6.0% ABV stout is unobtainable in Ohio (where we're based), so I hope this smuggling across state lines is worth it.

The aroma on this is sweet, some caramel, boozy and roasted malt notes, but mostly sweet, like candy. The first, pioneer-esque sip of this is interesting. It's like a boozy cream soda. The vanilla is very heavy, overpowering. There are faint hints of coffee and chocolate that get lost in this whirlwind of vanilla. This would be good for making a beer float, but as for a sipping stout, too much of one flavor overpowering the rest. This has potential to be a good stout, if they take out some of the vanilla. This drinks rather light, slightly watery mouthfeel with a slight sweet stickiness toward the back end that doesn't linger, unlike the vanilla flavor.

If you really like vanilla, and I mean REALLY like vanilla to where you have a vanilla bean tattooed on your arm and you call your kids "Vanilla" and "Bean", this is right up your alley. For me, this is a little too overwhelming. I almost feel like doing a 'black and tan' with a cherry lambic to see if it's more palatable, but then I realize I don't have any cherry lambic.

3.6/5 caps

-Nathan-

I'm not quite sure what it is about vanilla and stouts that go together so well, but I do tend to enjoy them. Then again, I do enjoy a nice high-quality vanilla, though I don't care at all for fake vanilla. This is purportedly made with Madagascar vanilla beans, so my hopes are high.

This is a little lighter in color than I was expecting. It's more the color of, say, Dr. Pepper, than the usual black-as-night stouts to which we're accustomed. The nose on this is interesting and holds promise: roasted barley and booze really come through, along with some hints of coffee and yes, some vanilla. Taking a sip, it's pretty one-dimensional. The flavor is basically an underpinning of roasted malt and vanilla. Lots and lots of vanilla. At least it's good vanilla, but this isn't quite as good as I'd hoped. I had hoped for a more solid stout base than this offers. This is not quite coffee, not quite chocolate, not quite anything but roasted malt. It's very nondescript.  It's very, well, vanilla. Bland. Almost, but not quite, boring. It leaves a sticky sweet feeling on the tongue, and goes down kind of like an alcoholic vanilla Coke. This is a milk stout, and some of that lactose sweetness and velvety mouthfeel come through.

I think this may be a case of a strong flavor to cover a not-so-stellar beer. I'm sad to say that. I'd love to see them maybe clone Left Hand's Milk Stout and punch up some vanilla and then produce that. Huh. We have some vanilla beans left over from our amazing homebrewed Count Chocula Stout... that just gave me a big idea.

3.9/5 caps

-Jennie

Friday, November 8, 2013

Bell's Cherry Stout


Ah, it's a Friday night, it's a beer holiday (International Stout Day), and there are a ton of craft beer events going on in town tonight (Barley's 21st birthday party with a tapping of their amazing Christmas Ale; stout party at The Actual Brewing Company). And what are we doing, you ask? Are we attending one of the many events? No, we're sitting at home in our pajamas, commencing art projects soon and reviewing beer. At least we're celebrating Stout Day with some, well, stouts.

First up is Bell's Cherry Stout. I first had this back in 2011, and I fell in love with it. By now, you should be accustomed to me professing my undying love for Bell's and their amazing beers. Oracle and Hopslam, how you doin'? I've also come to enjoy their stouts. A lot. And this is one of my personal favorites.

It pours a deep, dark, mysterious just-shy-of black, murky as the Scioto River. There is a small caramel-colored head. The aroma is making my mouth water. It's coffee and chocolate and a faint hint of cherry. Let's take a sip of this inviting brew. It tastes much like it smells, with chocolate notes and a hint of coffee and perhaps vanilla and then there's the teasing embrace of the cherries and cherry juice, not overwhelming, but just kind of draping themselves across your taste buds. The cherries are tart, not sweet, and float in and out of the sip. The stout itself shines quite nicely and isn't overwhelmed by the fruit addition. If you're not a fruit beer kind of person, don't let this scare you off. The finish on this is pretty dry and tart, and yet juicy at the same time.

For the record, today is the second beer holiday of the week. All Stouts Day was Sunday, and while I had great plans to celebrate that, we get the chance to make up for it tonight. We should have technically drank this particular beer Sunday, as All Stouts Day is a Bell's-specific event. Oh well, there's always next year. Instead we were bottling our winter warmer and drinking a sour red from The Actual Brewing Company with great company that evening.

4.5/5 caps

-Jennie

What a way to kick off my birthday weekend. I begin with good beer, followed by good beer, followed by brew day, followed by birthday. So, let's delve into this stout on this International Stout Day.

The bottle has a rustic looking label of a cheery tree with giant cherries, giving the mind set that this is heavy on the cherry flavor. This pours like your typical stout, straight black, dark roast coffee that's opaque with a slight toffee colored head that doesn't stick around, unlike an upstairs neighbor's on-again-off-again boyfriend who decides to blast shitty music at all times when he's over. The walls are thin in this shit hole apartment, as thin as the head is, after my partner-in-crime has done her review. The aroma is interesting. Coffee, toffee, caramel, and chocolate tones dominate with faint aromas of cherries popping through toward the back. The taste on this is something else. It's unique. There is some slight tart cherry flavor upfront that slowly builds before climaxing on the back end with the sensation of biting into a fresh, homemade cherry pie. While this is happening, the coffee tone slips in toward the front, trying to take center stage before giving up and taking a bow. Once the coffee taps out, a nice mellow chocolate flavor comes in to meld perfectly with the cherry flavor that is starting to take the reins of this.

This has a medium mouthfeel, but smooth drinking. The finish is dry and slightly tart, yet refreshing. No hints of alcohol in this (7.0% ABV), just smooth sailing. Not quite as good as Expedition (review coming soon, hopefully).

4.5 caps

-Nathan-


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Three Floyds Alpha King

Ah, we revisit Three Floyds, once again, with their Alpha King pale ale. This is a 6.66% ABV (perfect for the weirdos who think Halloween is some sort of 'devil's day'), 68 IBU brew, made with Centennial, Cascade, and Warrior hops. I'm fine with this. We've been sitting on these last couple bottles in order to do a review, and, again, life gets in the way.

Apparently, there is going to be a release of this tomorrow at our local awesome beer store (Wine & Brew Emporium), so there's no time like the present to drink, nay, enjoy this round of their last release. One thing that kills me is how fast Three Floyds FLIES off shelves in Ohio. I was discussing this with Jennie on the way home from work today, and I'm not sure if it's a marketing ploy on their end or capacity. For those who are unaware of Ohio's beer habits, we consume A LOT of craft beer. With that being said, we also have a flood of it from larger breweries who distribute here (you can find year round releases of Bell's, Flying Dog, Founders, and other breweries in your everyday grocery store). So, my questions were, is it Three Floyds chooses to release their brews at certain times here to make it a rarer release, guaranteeing the sales (as people do like rarer things), or is it just capacity on their end? Hopefully, we'll be able to interview their people soon and figure out answers. Until then, we enjoy this fine selection.

The label was a pain to photograph, as it's metallic. That being said, the pour on this is a dark amber color with light amount of white lacing. The aroma on this is earthy, piney and a tinge of spice with hints of lighter malts. Interesting, as I'm still reeling from the aroma of Founders Harvest. This could be interesting, see if my palate is as wrecked as Lyndsay Lohan, or if it has a glimmer of hope, unlike Lyndsay Lohan.

The first sip of this brings a nice herbal tea sort of flavor. There are some citrus tones blending with herbal tones, almost lemon tones peek through at times. Some caramel tones try and sneak in but instead of trying to take center stage, they add the perfect addition to this concoction. The malts and hops hang out like you do with your high school friends. Sure, there are the loud ones who try and be the center of attention for a minute, but then they mellow out and everyone is just chill.  The mouthfeel on this is slightly sticky after a quick refreshing rush. I can feel the hop oils all over my mouth from these last 2 brews, trying to pucker, but realizing that this sheer bliss for me.... I could float away into a land of paradise right now.

4.8/5 caps

-Nathan-

So, as we chill on this Halloween Eve, known as Devil's Night in Detroit (and why it's limited to there, I have no idea -- but if you're unsure as to the validity of this, revisit The Crow series of movies), we are sitting, relatively unharmed, watching a whole lot of the Halloween movie franchise in Columbus and hanging out with the neighbors. At least there's good beer, right (although our neighbors rule)?

This beauty from Three Floyds arrived in our fridge awhile ago, but as Nathan has reminded us, life got in the way of beer reviews. I'm also quite unsure whether it's clever marketing on behalf of Three Floyds or just the crazy craft beer lovers in Ohio, but whatever the answer, our friends in the Indiana suburbs of Chicago have nailed it. They consistently produce phenomenal beer on a semi-available basis. I'm not even kidding, if you see a Three Floyds announcement from your favorite beer store or bar, be sure to head there that day to ensure the possibility of purchasing -- and certainly enjoying -- some.

This is their American pale ale. It's also due for re-release um, well, today, as of now. Ahem, happy Halloween!!! It's a fantastic brew, as we've enjoyed it before, yet we saved a couple from the sixer to review with you. Nathan described the appearance quite well. Since it has warmed a bit, I find the nose to be a soft combination of pine, citrus, perhaps some lychee, and a lovely bready base. The flavor is a lot of lychee (yessssss!!!!), mango, pine, and hints of grapefruit atop a beautiful base of solid toffee and caramel notes. There is really nothing overwhelming with this beer, it's beautifully rounded and extraordinarily balanced. It's pretty much the perfect example of what a great American pale ale should be. It's even well-rounded on the tongue: it's a little sweet, not too sticky, and just soft, if that makes sense.

This is one of three Three Floyds beers making their way to central Ohio tomorrow. Make sure you pick up some and let us know what you think of it.

4.9/5 caps

-Jennie

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Founders Harvest

Ah, it's one of my favorite times of year... it's Halloween Eve (my favorite holiday), and it's harvest ale season. Harvest ales are traditionally wet-hopped, which means that the beer was brewed within a few days of the hops being harvested. In case you have forgotten the distinction between fresh-hopped and wet-hopped beers, we delved into them awhile back. Harvest ales may or may not be technically IPA's, but the freshness of the hops during the brew process is critical and delightful in the end product.

This poured a golden straw color with a moderate white head. The aroma on this makes me want to swim in it: there are notes of pine, grapefruit, and just a hint of caramel. Taking a sip, it's sheer bliss. It starts off just as it smells, with pine and citrus being prevalent, floating atop a heavenly caramel bliss. There is also a fair amount of mango and possibly pineapple in the mix. This is an amazingly clean-drinking beer. It's, well, blissful. This is the point where Nathan is going to praise Hopsus. Consider yourselves warned. It's a little sticky sweet in the mouth, but it's by no means cloying.

Founders has knocked another one out of the park. This is a fantastic brew, and I'm so glad we could get one this year. We thoroughly enjoyed it last year, and this year is no different.

5/5 caps

-Jennie

All Hallows' Eve Eve, nice weather outside (especially considering we had a huge cold snap last week that plummeted down below freezing), who could ask for anything better than an awesome beer to go along with this?  This sure beats the sweetness of American Adjunct Lagers, and I haven't tasted this yet. I smelled the bottle as soon as Jen-tender pried the cap off, sweet Hopsus... If it were legal, I would marry the aroma.

This pours a nice light straw color, almost like a session IPA with small amount of white head. It makes me flash back to the appearance of the great lawnmower IPAs we've enjoyed (Easy IPA and All Day IPA to name a couple). The aroma of this 70 IBU, 7.6% ABV beauty is simply another way to pay homage to the glorious Hopsus. Hopsus be praised! Grapefruit, orange, tropical fruits and hints of toffee and caramel grab hold of your nostrils, trying to shove their way in more. After removing this from under my nose, I fight the urge to go back to the smell. This might take over an hour just to do battled with the aroma to see who wins. Spoiler alert, I'm pretty sure I will. The way I've described this is a sheer understatement of the sheer awesomeness of this. No, I must continue, okay, one more smell of this before I get to the taste. Fuck! If someone could make a candle or incense that smells like this, I would be a regular customer of yours.

Okay, now finally..... damn it... one more smell.... Okay, now, onto the taste. This is smooth drinking, rather lighter bodied with some faint stickiness, not what I'd expect from this. I expected a little heavier bite, but in no way am I complaining. The smell is deceptive of the mouthfeel. The flavors I'm picking up are grapefruit and tropical fruits. There's some slight citrus zest pungency toward the backend with faint bitterness, but nothing overwhelming in the least bit. This would be great to introduce non-Hop Heads into the world of Hopsus. There are at times, as this warms up some more where floral notes pop up. There's some oiliness to the mouthfeel, assuming from the copious amount of hops used in this, but surprisingly not a lot of bitterness, yes I reiterated something I said earlier, but, to be fair, there are some characteristics that are coming out more now that it's warming up to room temp. This does not drink like a 7.6% beer, it's much easier, like, well, Easy IPA (see previous link).

Hopsus be with you.

5/5 caps

-Nathan-

Monday, October 28, 2013

Flying Dog The Fear





The bottle states in the text:
"Why is there only one time of year – as goblins, ghouls, and ghosts frolic on front lawns – when we embrace THE FEAR? At all other times, THE FEAR dominates us, controls us, and prevents us from greatness. What is there to THE FEAR? Disagreement? Criticism? Humiliation? Whatever THE FEAR is that consumes you, embrace it, along with this Imperial Pumpkin Ale. Only then will the true artist in you rise up."

The Fear... Not my first encounter with this, both fear, the feeling, and this lovely 9% ABV Imperial Pumpkin Ale. As the bottle says, do not let fear dominate you, you must rise above this temporarily paralyzing feeling and be a better person. Well, maybe not a better person, but enough to remove yourself from the overwhelming feeling. And how does one do this? Well, I personally hold everything in and put on a bold facade until I can get home and drink away all the worries and sorrows. Some sorrows take longer to wash away, such as the loss of a musical icon. So, tonight, I dedicate this review in memory of Lou Reed, who passed away Sunday Oct 27th, 2013. I will note before I begin reviewing this, that the music blasting my ear holes right is Lou Reed solo and Velvet Underground (at loud volumes through ear buds, as to not disturb my partner from watching W. Kamau Bell).

This pours a dark brown color with hints of amber/ruby. Dark, like the lyrics pounding in my ears right now. Opaque with a small amount of off-white, almost khaki colored head that dissipates quickly. The aroma on this is... Fuck... Simply amazing. There are the following; nutmeg, cinnamon, dark fruit, almost a bourbon barrel smell, and some sort of earthy tone to it. None of them in a struggle to overwhelm the others, just perfectly balanced to mount an assault on your olfactory senses. Finally, to the tasting. It's been over a year since this last embraced my lips, all the while, the mind constantly reminding me of the sweet bliss that was brought with this. Sheer desire building over a year of lusting over this seasonal brew, to where a near orgasmic state of mind takes control as the pint glass touches my lips in a sweet embrace, like seeing a long lost love for the first time after a tragedy happened to where you weren't sure if you'd ever get that loving feeling again.

The flavor is dark, rich malts, with almost bitter coffee flavors on the front, followed by a nice subtle attack from the spices. After the cinnamon and nutmeg tag team your taste buds, some ginger comes into the party and dances around like it owns the place. There are hints of a sweeter vegetation from time to time that pop up while the ginger is settling down. There are some wooden tones to it toward the back to give it a nice balanced finish. The big, bold and creamy mouthfeel helps make this the perfect beer for Autumn. Nice dry finish to round this out with a beautiful lacing on the glass.

Side note- Music listened to while typing this:
"Ocean" off Loaded by Velvet Underground
"The Kids" off Berlin by Lou Reed
"The Bed" off Berlin
"Perfect Day" off Transformer (as the pint is raised to my lips)
 "I'll Be Your Mirror" off Velvet Underground and Nico

4.8/5 caps

-Nathan-

I will most certainly not be listening to any Lou Reed tonight while typing this. Don't get me wrong; I respect his contributions to the musical world. I wouldn't call myself a fan, however, and I realize that I'm among the few who isn't deeply saddened at his passing. Not that I need to justify my opinion, but all I will reference is Lulu, the dreadful, unlistenable album that he made with Metallica.

It's seriously unlistenable. Lars once called "...And Justice For All" unlistenable (he has since recanted that statement). And then you collaborated with Lou Reed. In what universe did that seem like a good choice?!?!?!

Nathan has described the beer well. It's a ruby or garnet color, with some khaki-colored head that is still sticking around, despite the 45 minutes of lag time and the 9% ABV. It smells like a damn good pumpkin pie: cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin, stone fruit. Let's see how it pairs with a Snickers. No, I totally didn't hit the Halloween candy 3 days early. Yes, I totally did and used a Snickers as a palate cleanser. Besides, we won't have too many kids coming to our door. The flavor of this is quite good... and I can't add any damn thing to what Nathan said, other than I do pick up on some pumpkin actually in the beer. I consider this a good thing, since it's a pumpkin beer.

While the flavor profile suggests that this would be perfect in a pumpkin pie bomb, the 9% ABV decrees otherwise. A pumpkin pie bomb is a shot of whipped cream vodka in a pumpkin beer, then you chug the entire thing. It's a very tasty beverage, but I wouldn't go with an Imperial Pumpkin Ale for that choice.... respect your liver and keep it to regular pumpkin ales that are more session-able. Trust me, I'm a professional.

4.8/5 caps

-Jennie