Friday, April 25, 2014

Fat Heads Hop Juju

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 If you'll recall the nightmare that was attempting to obtain Founders KBS, Fat Heads Hop Juju was nearly as bad. In this case, the third time was, indeed the charm. Fat Heads has something of a cult following, and it's well earned. We are in love with their Head Hunter, so we're really looking forward to this, their Imperial IPA. (Fat Heads fans should also note that their Sunshine Daydream, a session IPA, is currently available at various locations in Columbus this week.)

This poured a medium caramel color with a lovely off-white head that quickly dissipated from atop this 9% ABV, 100 IBU behemoth. The aroma on this is pure bliss and immediately sent me to my happy place. Initially a huge blast of pine, this has had a few minutes to warm and has developed notes of caramel, citrus, lychee, mango, and guava. Oops, I totally just dunked my nose into my glass. It was completely worth it. After utterances of unbridled ecstasy (including supplications to deities I don't even believe in), let me try to describe how this tastes, besides completely amazing. There are notes of caramel, citrus, papaya, and the aforementioned lychee/mango/guava that dance on the tongue. It's perfectly balanced between hop bitterness and malty sweet. It's also fairly full and round in the mouth. Fully expect Nathan to offer praise and offerings to Hopsus.

We realize that we have drastically under-reviewed Fat Heads. We hope to change that soon.

5/5 caps. It's on par with a well-cared-for Hopslam or The Oracle. And from me, that's high praise.


Well, shit. How does one follow up such praise (without the mention of my own deity of Hopsus)? The way Jennie has hyped this up, it seems like all this was worth the hunt. The hunt involved 3 stores over a week.... finally, our awesome friends at Wine & Brew Emporium had it. Another reason I love them (side note: beer store reviews upcoming soon).

This has been hyped up here in the CBus area. A brewery from Cleveland with limited distribution here (we aren't able to obtain all their selections) that won Gold at the Great American Beer Festival for the Imperial IPA portion. Highly rated on those 'other' review site (Rate Beer and Beer Advocate), yeah, we needed this in/around our mouths.

The aroma is enough to summon Hopsus. We have whole leaf hops in the freezer that I'm thinking about putting in a circle around me while reviewing this. C'mon, the bottle states:
"The magical hops cast their spell, the natives chant and the drums beat. Witchcraft? Maybe just a little. Hop JuJu is a supernatural beer with "a reckless use of hops" creating aromas and flavors  of citrus, pine and tropical fruit with a juicy resiny hop finish. "
How can I not invoke Hopsus into this?!

So, as I listen to a local musician (Scott Gorsuch, who I recently met after a gig. We chatted over IPAs. You can find his music on Youtube), I dive my nose into this. Literally... I have some head on the tip of my nose now, as I want to be one with this aroma. Jennie nailed the aroma, "notes of caramel, citrus, lychee, mango, and guava," although I'm also picking up notes of pine that are lending themselves perfectly to this concoction. My first sip is.... hang on... I need to wipe up a pile of drool. Holy Hopsus! A nice caramel backbone takes presence before the giant juicy blast of hops. Citrus and tropical fruit take the forefront, making you forget all of life's worries and woes. A nice piney note rounds out the back end, reminding you this comes from the earth, and not another spiritual realm. This is definitely a sipping beer, as the 100 IBUs makes your mouth pucker in excitement for the next sip. Don't tease your taste buds, find this when you can and enjoy it.

5/5 caps


Music Pairing: Hakuna Matata (Lion King... yup)
Cheese Pairing: Kerrygold Dublin Irish Cheddar
Food Pairing: Your favorite sushi roll, done spicy

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Sierra Nevada Harvest Single Hop IPA- Variety 291

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We now return you to your regularly schedule beer reviews. Yes, we've been bad on the reviews as of late, but life happens. Don't worry, loyal readers, we haven't given up drinking. I think I'd rather cut off both big toes than give up beer.

We ran into this at one of our favorite beer stores and became intrigued. Yakima #291 hops used. WHA?? It doesn't have a name yet? Ok, let's try it.

Sierra Nevada has a history of making good IPAs, so let's see how this rates up with them. So what little I can find about Yakima #291 is that it's the love child of 4 years of cross breeding a multitude of different varieties of the reason I wake up. So let's give it a go.

This poured a straw color with a fluffy white head that lingered. The head has dissipated as I've done the research (aka, putting links up and queued music up). The aroma on this is interesting. Faint citrus, berries, earthiness and spice. Huh. First sip is pleasant. Nice faint citrus blast with hints of blackberries fading in before giving way to a green tea-esque flavor and mouth feel. Slightly bitter at first which fades into a harmonious marriage of awesome that dances on the taste buds, bringing you closer to where you want to take your taste buds dancing. Not really what I would consider an IPA, as it's not hoppy enough, in my opinion to be classified as such. More like an awesome Pale Ale.  This drinks smooth with a nice slightly stickiness to it, from the hop oils, but not stripping the enamel off the teeth.

4.6/5 caps


Not gonna lie, I'm so intrigued by the aroma on this I'm just going to cut to the chase. While Nathan wrote his portion, I somehow still have some fluffy head sitting atop my beer glass. I suppose that's not too surprising, considering this weighs in at a moderate 6.5% ABV.

I am seeing more medium golden amber or orange than straw on this. The head is fluffy and white, and I'll give Sierra Nevada massive props for the head retention on this. I think Nathan nailed the aroma, so I'm ready to swan dive into this. I am picking up caramel and orange up front that quickly fades into a grassy note, which then dries out to a bit of spice and black peppercorn note. The berry notes are noticeable on the back end of this, mostly blueberry and yes, even some blackberry. This is good. It's not going to strip the enamels off your teeth, but it's going to cut through any random flavors remaining in your mouth.

One thing I find intriguing is that IBUs don't always indicate the bitterness of the beer; that's ideally what the definition of IBU calculations are, but when a brewer balances out the beer with sweeter malt characteristics and yet manages to stay within the style guidelines, not all IPAs are going to be enamel-stripping. Contrarily, that's also the beauty of brewing: you can also take many liberties within each style and scoff at the stuffy people who make up the guidelines.

This is the first of five beers in the Harvest series from Sierra Nevada due out this year. They are going to feature the single hop (this beer), a fresh hop, a wet hop, and a wild hop, as well. Apparently they're going to double up on one of the hop methods, because I only count four different ones... ah, I suppose we'll just have to wait and see, right? That being said, I'm very much looking forward to each of them. As a hophead and a homebrewer, I enjoy experimenting with hop methods. I've really enjoyed the single hop series we've had from various brewers (we have at least one more in our stash to review to you), as I thoroughly enjoy a solid showcase of each variety.

4.75/5 caps


Music pairing: The Twilight Singers, Blackberry Belle (yes, the entire album)
Cheese pairing: Double Gloucester
Food pairing: Homemade blueberry pie or blackberry cobbler

Monday, April 7, 2014

Founders KBS

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Here we are on National Beer Day, with over 2 cases of beer stashed to review just for you. Honestly, it's been more of a Monday today than I care to even discuss (it's amazing sometimes just how brashly ADHD and dementia can clash), so I'm in the mood for some nice, strong beer. I didn't figure we'd sit on this particular selection for too long. Last week was an epic chase for the mythical beer that is Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout. I get it... it's one of the top-rated stouts, nay beers, in the country, and we live in this strange microcosm of the craft beer world that is Columbus, which has given rise to Hopslamgate and other such nefarious and questionable business and trading practices. Last week could be summed up by being also called The Chase for KBS. It was released, 1 to 2 cases to each establishment, throughout the city, to those establishments who purchased the required minimum of their regular Breakfast Stout. Most places sold out in 20 or so minutes of their entire stash. I was #25 in line for a place that had 24 bottles to be had. They sold out before they even were supposed to begin selling it. This town is crazy for limited release craft beer, but that's an entire other blog post. Regardless, we have befriended a couple of retail establishments with honest and fair business practices, and we were handsomely rewarded.

Enough rambling. On with the beer. I have a badge on Untappd to unlock. Priorities, Jen! This pours a rich, opaque black with a finger or so of coffee-colored head. There is better head retention than I expected from an 11.2% ABV behemoth, and it is leaving a gorgeous, tight lacing on my glass (mine would be the snifter with a long stem). The aroma on this makes me wish I had saved it for next week, when Peanut is on spring break and I'll need a good, strong morning brew. It's predominantly coffee with notes of vanilla, chocolate, an almost nutty tone, and definite booze. Taking a sip, I immediately understand why there is so much hype surrounding this beer. It's smoother than a baby's backside. There is a blast of coffee and chocolate and roasted malty goodness up front, which quickly gives way to a soft vanilla note (and not that fake tastes-like-I-just-ate-a-candle vanilla). It fades to a faint bourbon note from the barrel aging (hence the Kentucky in the name), and the finish is all booze. Crap. This is fantastic. Easily one of the best stouts I've ever had. And I drank a LOT of their regular Breakfast Stout over the weekend. It's also velvet smooth from the oatmeal, and just silky fantastic in the mouth, with just enough stickiness. I never thought I'd say this, but it's worth $7 for a 12-ounce bottle.

I was just telling Nathan earlier that it was quickly turning into a whiskey kind of night. Scratch that... the KBS filled that void.

5/5 caps


In the brink of seeking out of this mythical beer, we came to the realization that we obtained 3 bottles somehow. The 3rd one is being added to the beginning of our beer cellar. Not trying to brag, more of befriend us in real life and we might share when it ages. How else does one start a beer cellar than with a hugely hyped, unobtainable brew?

But I digress as I continue on my portion of the review. Mine has had time to warm up as my Partner-In-Zymurgy took lead. She needed to zone out with good beer and good music. I, being the man I am, can show extreme patience. I mean, my 9-5 job is problem solving/baby sitting adults in a factory, so I need to show patience. And speaking of factory, I need to speed up the process on this review factory and get to the beer. Damn my wandering mind.

As I turn up the music of a local musician (Scott Gorsuch), I slouch back in the chair and admire the look of this. Jet black with a small amount of creamed coffee-colored head. The head is lingering around despite it being poured roughly an hour ago. The aroma is bourbon heavy, sweetness from the malt, and notes of vanilla and chocolate popping in to lend themselves to this dreamy concoction. Now for the part I've been longing for all day, the taste.... How do I describe this using actual words and not grunts and drooling? There's a rich chocolate taste up front with a strong kick of bourbon  following that. Shortly after, a nice vanilla bean flavor jumps in to tame out the bourbon and rides smoothly until the end. There's some sweetness to this, but not overly sweet, nor cloying. Definitely a sipping beer. This 11.2% drinks smooth with a slightly sticky, yet dry finish, like a good wine. With each sip, the flavor develops to more of a blending of flavors. The tongue is telling me to hold onto this tight, while gripping a knife in my other hand, in case of marauders trying to take on sip of this drink of kings. I haven't heard of reports of Hessian soldiers or other various bandits here as of late in the neighborhood, but I can't be off my guard for a minute. No, not on my watch.

5/5 caps


Cheese pairing: Artisinal farmer's cheese
Food pairing: Red velvet cheesecake
Music pairing:  Alice In Chains "Jar of Flies" (yes, the entire album) or support local musicians

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Knee Deep Hoptologist

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Well, this has been a less-than-stellar winter so far, with me being too sick to review much good ole craft beer. Seriously, Mother Nature, wake the fuck up. We're ten days into spring and have now just had two good days. Sigh. That's not to say that we haven't been picking up and stashing a ton for later reviews, it's just that I've been too congested to really get a feel for the nuances of many beers. That is not to say that I've merely been drinking swill; nay, we've had plenty of good stuff recently.

So, remember how much we love love love Knee Deep Brewing??? Yeah, we almost forgot, too, until their brews hit the market again recently. They recently quintupled their production capacity, so now we can get more of their yummy brews. We attended a Knee Deep tasting recently, and discovered this as well as a couple of other treasures from this wonderful brewery. We chatted with the distributing rep for awhile and we learned that somewhere, somehow, this particular brew was rated better than Pliny the Elder in a blind side-by-side taste test. Hmmmm. This certainly piqued my interest. Let's see how it stacks up to some beers we can readily get here in Ohio.

It pours a deep golden color with a fluffy, light toffee-colored head. The aroma is grapefruit, malty sweetness, oranges, with a note of orange peel toward the back. Oh, and there's a hint of booze in the aroma. Yeah. Taking a sip, my taste buds are confronted by earthy flavors up front which yield quickly to bright citrus fruit flavors, which then fade out to pine needles toward the back end. There's a blast of grapefruit toward the middle and it sticks throughout the finish. There's a hit of caramel toward the middle from the extra malts that give this the oomph to be considered a Double IPA. Candidly, I recall this being much better and hoppier at the tasting than it is now. Don't get me wrong: it's a solid, tasty, delicious brew. It's well-balanced, let's say. It's just not quite as hoppy as I remember, and being the unabashed hop lover I am, I want the hops to come through just a tinge more than they do in this. The mouthfeel on this is just solid; that it's a well-balanced beer really comes through at every sip.

4.75/5 caps

Ah, Knee Deep. Many memories have been spent with your Hop Shortage, Simtra, and McCarthy's Bane. We've missed your distribution here in Ohio, but understand your need to expand. Apparently, since our last review of them (where we had a Knee Deep drought), they expanded to 4x their size, have a tap room and plan to expand to 16 states (instead of the previous 5). Good things are worth the wait. I emailed them recently to compliment them on their selections and to find out the background of their name. I was thinking it was drawn inspiration from the Funkadelic song "(Not Just) Knee Deep". Apparently I was far off. CEO Jerry Moore replied with "The short version of the answer is that "Knee Deep" refers to the depth of the snow one night in Reno when our Brewmaster was doing an 'all night' brew session."

As Jennie mentioned, we recently went to a tasting, and that's where we first tasted this 9%, 102 IBU behemoth. Talking with the distributor, who has a few bottles of Pliny at home, I asked him his personal preference between the two. He said they're both fantastic beers, but couldn't pick one. Fair enough. As someone who has never tasted Pliny (if you would like to send us a bottle to review, contact us), I have to take the word of mouth from others on this matter. Speaking of matter, I believe I'm supposed to review this.

This is a deep golden, almost amber color with some light head still sticking around. As this has had time to warm up, I'm catching grapefruit and citrus heavy on the nose with hints of sweetness from the malts. According to Knee Deep's website, this contains Cascade, Citra, Columbus, Magnum and Hersbrucker hops. The "C" hops come out heavy in the nose at this point. The first sip of this near room temp IPA is fantastic. Sweetness blending with citrus, tropical and grapefruit notes make the front fantastic. The middle is sweeter with the malt flavors (biscuit and caramel flavors). The finish is dry with a nice pine and grapefruit flavor to it. This drinks like a good IPA should, medium mouthfeel with decent carbonation, and a nice resiny stickiness that lingers.

Oh yes, Knee Deep, welcome back to our fridge.

4.9/5 caps


Music Pairing: Funkadelic "(Not Just) Knee Deep" (I don't care about the real answer, this will always play in my head when I see your name)
Food Pairing: BBQ Pork
Cheese Pairing: Vermont Extra Sharp White Cheddar