80 / 100
500ml brown bottle purchased from Santa Clara Liquors in Santa Clara, CA. 2018 vintage, tried alongside the Vanilla version with Sam.
Pours a slick black-brown, glossy but quite light-bodied. Clarity is good in the corners with a slight reddish hue to it. Fine carbonation feeding a firm ring of pale cocoa-coloured head. Looks decent.
Nose is interesting. There's a Grand Marnier-esque Curacao orange note to it, but it's blended into a complex web of things. There's a strong nutty character that comes through, quite different from the vanilla version. It gives characters of blanched almond and pistachio, along with the base notes of vanilla and bourbon. It's very good.
Taste is less complex, and the orange lifts it in a way that seems to take it far away from the richness of the base. That being said, there's not a lot of actual orange flavour to it. It's lightened by the presence of the aromatics, but it's much less based around the dark notes of bourbon, oak and dark malt. Feel is also lighter, certainly less slick and full-bodied than either the original or the vanilla version.
It's a nice beer though. In fact there's a strong argument to be made that the orange lifts its drinkability. Again, it's a bold move to try to change the Bourbon County Stout base beer, and both of the versions I've had today haven't matched the original.
86 / 100
500ml brown bottle purchased from Santa Clara Liquors in Santa Clara, CA. This is the 2018 vintage. Shared with Sam to wet the head of baby #2.
Pours a deep, slick black-brown—oily and slippery more than rich and thick. It still seems quite liquid, even though it has a sheen to the body. Head is initially thick, and deep brown, but it collapses into a fine beige ring. Very slight lacing in tiny spots. Looks good.
Nose is rich and supple, just like the original, with a big coconut chocolate note, and buckets of boozy vanilla. Unfortunately, I find that the vanilla element gives it a stronger boozy note (or maybe it's the slight extra kick of booze), which feels slightly resinous and tending towards a solvent character. It's generally still good, but the vanilla is a negative character over the base beer as far as I'm concerned.
The taste is better. Here, there's a full, rich complexity to the back palate which hooks into the extra booze and makes it sing. There's elements of berry, soaked dried fruit, brandy, vanilla and high cacao chocolate. Front palate is soft and sweet, suggesting the complexity without running the full gamut. Feel is sharp, and tingly with a warm booze.
Overall, it's an interesting expression of a very, very fine beer. I do think that trying to improve on BCS is trying to improve on perfect. This changes it, but moves it away from that platonic ideal for me.
330ml can purchased from Waihi Beach Liquor Centre in Waihi Beach, New Zealand.
Pours a cola-black colour, with a coarse-bubbled head across the top that leaves a fine ring, but minimal lacing. Body is quite light, although it has a pleasant sheen to it. Carbonation is minimal. It looks okay, but not amazing.
Nose is very pleasant. A full, toasty richness that does bank itself on the ability of dark grain to stand on its own. But there's a sweetness that lends a slight aromatic chocolate character to the mix.
Palate is similar, but it's overall a little thinner and lighter than I was expecting. Still, there's a good toasted malt structure in the front, which doesn't shy away from being properly dark. But at only 5%, it necessarily drops away a bit on the back, probably improving the drinkability a bit, and certainly making it more sessionable. But still—I'd prefer a bit more punch.
Yeah, it's okay in the end. It's not a big standout, but it's a solid beer that sits well enough in a lineup of beers in general. Good as part of a mixed six—I don']t think it holds up that well on its own terms.
94 / 100
(Best of the Best)
Corked, but not-caged brew bottle purchased from City Beer Store in San Francisco. Cracked open to celebrate my son's 4th birthday.
Pours a beautiful burnished coppery golden colour, with a firm rim of off-white that persists around the edge. Lots of very fine carbonation which stays slow in a fairly syrupy body. Looks very good. 4.25
Beautiful nose, with a strong kerosene note of riesling, and deep, rich soaked fruit characters. Big deep oak notes and darker notes of toasted brown bread and currants. It's amazingly complex, and very, very good.
Lovely complex tartness on the palate. Beautiful combination of tart dried apricot, aged riesling and a peppery dryness on the back. Long, slightly medicinal finish, again it's edges of the kerosene riesling character. Very vinous and chewy. It's quite incredible.
Lovely tart bite in the feel, with a very fine soft carbonation.
This is a genuinely superb beer. The complexity is so good, and the aged white wine characters is beautiful. It's one of those beers that reminds you all of the brilliance of aged sour beers.
79 / 100
750ml dark green bottle purchased as part of the Wildflower Collective 2020. This is an expression of their Nothing Fancy collaboration with Jester King, macerated on white peaches first used for the St Henry 2020.
Pours a hazed golden colour, with a suggestion of peachy pink at the edges, and a slightly foamy white head that settles out to nothing quickly. Carbontion is noticeable early, but settles out to make it look quite still. Body has a nice gloss to it, and the colour, is genuinely quite nice. Looks good.
Nose has a light, dry character which definitely reminds me more of Jester King than Wildflower. It's leavened by pleasant, slightly earthy peachskin characters, which give suggestions of crushed nettles and a mildly sweet marjoram. Very pleasant.
Taste is really quite compact, and very dry, definitely riding the vinous quality of Jester King more than the broad, yeasty flavour you get from Wildflower. The back deftly slides into subdued peach characters, still dry and tart, rather than the full fruit you might get from the first exposure to the fruit. But it's a lovely addition, and the dryness of the fruit beautifully complements the ferment character.
Feel is slightly undercarbonated, and it may get more lively with age. I suspect though that it will get more integrated in flavour, and less lively on the palate.
Very drinkable, and very nicely integrated in flavour. The subtle peach note is a beautiful addition, and melds with the characters of the beer in a way that's very different to if the peach were the main event. I think it's very cleverly done.
49 / 100
Pint can purchased from Jane's Beer Store in Mountain View, CA, about a month ago, but I didn't realise the can was almost 3 months old when it was on the shelf—a problem I often find with that store.
Looks the part when poured though, a very hazed, almost opaque juicy peach colour, with a foamy, ultimately quite loose head of white that settles out to a ring. Body has weight behind it. And carbonation is very fine.
Nose is not great—yes, this is an old can of NEIPA. It has that harsh, reedy, pellety hop fragrance that smells like an unwashed fermenter that you've forgotten about for a couple of weeks. Were it fresh, I could imagine it having more of the volatiles to help elevate it, but as it is, it's harsh.
Taste is also not great—it really, really speaks to the fact that NEIPAs, however good they are fresh, do not have longevity to them at all. Actually, there's something a little better about this, because if has a smooth mouthfeel and still maintains some of the fruity flavours you might have had if it were fresh. But the back peters out into a kind of wimpy sweetness, and there's nothing backing it up to give some kind of structure to it. Disappointing.
Overall—yeah, this is way too old, and yet it's like 3 months old and it annoys me that a beer this young just completely dies after a while. Even with a more traditional American IPA the bitterness would provide some balance, but when you're basing the entire beer on volatile hop compounds, it's going to die quickly. The lesson is—pretty much don't ever buy a NEIPA, unless it's weeks if not days from its packaging date.
58 / 100
375ml green bottle purchased for me by Sam for Xmas, I believe from Slowbeer. This is the new entry in the Wayward Discovery Series, and is a barrel aged Brett saison.
Pours a pleasant pale yellow-straw colour, with a light haze to it. Head is coarse-bubbled, and forms a loose ring after an initial attack. Lacing is pretty good, forming in long-fingered coral-like streaks. Body is light. Looks decent.
Nose is quite pleasant, with a firm chardonnay oak kind of rounded sweetness—it gives vanilla and coconut and a sort of unctuous quality to the nose. There's not quite enough brightness and acid to cut through it, for my liking, meaning it feels a little flabby. But the vinous notes that are there are quite nice. The Brett may not have had enough time in the bottles to yet really develop much funk.
Taste is definitely quite flabby. There's a lot of roundness and sweetness from the barrels, combined with a rough, bready yeast note on the back. It makes it feel quite heavy, where I expect they're really looking for bright, sharp, but balanced with some oak. It's a little better once I adjust to it, with a mild, light chardonnay acid coming through. It needs more though, and as it slides into the finish, it persistently feels very sweet and unbalanced.
This may just be too young. There are things which could happen to this in the bottle over time which would help a lot. It needs more acid for sure—that's clearly what they're going for, with the flavour profile of the oak and the Brett conditioning. But right now, it's out of balance. I note the green bottle with a knowing nod as well—a little bit of skunkiness could actually drive this nicely along its path as well. Right now, none of this has manifested though.
60 / 100
330ml squat brown bottle retrieved from the back of my beer cupboard, and probably unconscionably old. Best Before date (it has one!) is actually November 2019, so it's actually not as far out of date as I thought it might be. Anyway, here goes.
Pours with a huge frothy head, after some delicate adjustment, it settles down to a crackly, rolling cap that persists mostly as clumps of sticky lace. Body is light, very pale straw gold and surprisingly hazy. Carbonation looks quite fine given the exuberance of the head. Overall, it looks pretty good, and pretty alive for its age.
Nose is a bit muted, but it's surprisingly clear and crisp even so—there's a greenness to it which gives it the suggestion of hop brightness, even when I must dmit the hops are probably long gone. Under this is a very light, mild grain character, which actually comes across as more in the way of freshness again—again, it's surprisinlgy crisp for its age.
Taste is a bit lighter, and a bit sweeter, which is a shame. It could use more of that crispness here on the palate, where the back is a bit too much like non-alcoholic beer, with a cereal grain flatness. Otherwise, it's fairly clean through the middle, with suggestions of husk and hay.
Feel is light, and fuzzily carbonated. Seems pretty good to me.
Overall, I'd love to try this fresh again, because this is actually remarkably good for something as old as this bottle is. I can imagine it being quite excellent when it's young.
330ml brown bottle, rescued from the depths of my beer cupboard, I'm not at all sure where I got this one from—possibly from Sam as a birthday or Xmas gift. Inoculated with Brett, so I figure it's going to be interesting even (especially?) if it's very old.
Pours a bright, vibrant orange colour, with a very light haze to it, and a coarse-bubbled cap of off-white that sticks to the edge of the glass, but doesn't actually leave much lacing. Carbonation is a little overboard—it runs very swiftly through the body of the beer.
Nose is pleasant, and the Brett definitely gives a mild, sweet organic note to it. I get some clipped grass and turned earth, with sweet notes of coconut and a hint of rosewater. It's interesting, and nicely done.
Taste is lighter, which is maybe to be expected. It has a crisp, overly fizzy body to it, and almost no residual sweetness, aside from the phantom sweetness you get from the aromatics of the nose. There's a hint of something spicy like dried fruit soaked in brandy in the finish, but again it's very light.
I think this suffers from being so light in alcohol. It makes it feel thin and fizzy once the Brett has really taken hold, and the dryness to it doesn't allow some of the more delicate flavours to expose themselves.
69 / 100
330ml can purchased from Slowbeer by my brother, given to me for Xmas 2019.
Pours a very hazy but bright mango yellow-orange colour, with a fine rim of persistent white bubbles forming the head. Some minor streaks of lace, but otherwise it sits in the glass looking like juice. Minimal carbonation. Looks like it has more weight than you expect for 3.2%, but there may just be loads of juice left post-ferment.
Nose is almost purely guava juice. That's certainly pretty sweet, happy and enjoyable, but it's also lacking subtlety and complexity. No, maybe there's a bit of passionfruit as well, giving almost a dank post ferment aroma to it.
Taste makes me like it a bit more, because it's lighter and spritzier than just drinking pure tropical juice. As a result, although the aromatics are still there from the nose, it feels more like beer and less like carbonated fruit juice. Clean back palate leans into a note of soda and very faint light malt. In the end it feels like beer, but it's a close thing.
Overall, yeah, honestly, it's a drinkable brew, and if it's cheap I would well love to drink this at, say, the cricket, when anything over 3.5% is banned. But I suspect that the amount of juice and other adjuncts the add to this makes this quite expensive. Given I didn't pay for this myself, I'm very happy to drink it. (Turns out, it's $5 a can, which is perfectly reasonable—maybe I will keep this in mind going forward)
73 / 100
22oz brown bomber purchased from BevMo in Sunnyvale, CA.
Pours a rather loose, bilgey brown colour, with minimal head that only really sticks around as a collection of bubbles around the edge. No lacing. Minimal carbonation. The colour is fairly weak and looks a little bit like diet Coke. Underwhelming, to be honest.
Nose is very pleasant, with a strong toasted peanut character, mingling with notes of milk chocolate and lifted aromatics of cinnamon and pepper. It's quite sweet as well, suggesting more richness and volume than the body looks like. That could just be setting it up for a fall on the palate though.
Taste is actually pretty good though. It maintains a toasted peanut character throughout, and while the body is a bit thinner than I expected, it's lifted strongly by those aromatic spices in the back. Cinnamon is the most prominent this time, although with a mild hop character, it almost gives notes of carob and bouillon. Finish is light, but again, there's a dance of spicy notes that keep it lively.
Overall, I do end up enjoying this, but I'll admit it started in an inauspicious place. I think if it were one to two points higher in alcohol, and had the body to match, it would probably smooth over the rough edges, and assuming a concomitant increase in spice, it would be fuller richer and more exciting.
77 / 100
330ml brown bottle purchased by my Dad at the brewery or nearby. Given to me for Xmas.
Pours a pleasant clear, bright golden colour, with excellent clarity. Head is a foamy ring that nonetheless forms excellent swooping streaks of lace. Body is light, especially for the purported 8.5% ABV, but holds a fine bead of carbonation. Looks very good.
Nose is genuinely very pleasant. It leans on the sharp vibrant hops of the oldskool West Coast IPA, giving bright, pungent notes of pine and citrus, leaning towards mandarin and grapeskin. Underneath is a mild cereal or lucerne note, but in an odd way this enhances the slightly organic quality of the hops. It's nice.
Taste is also pretty solid. It has a clean, vibrant hoppiness that stays bright throughout the palate, before depositing a very pleasant restrained bitterness on the back to clean it up. Again, citrus is noticeable on the front, but it has an almost icy, menthol character the enlivens and lightens the palate. When you think about it, you feel the weight of the 8.5% ABV, but it's really well hidden.
Overall, this is a really nicely put together beer—really, honestly well brewed, and beautifully balanced. It's also so pleasing to see a bright, fruity beer in the oldschool style of IPA—it doesn't shy away from bitterness, it sees vibrant clarity as a positive thing, and it balances sweetness with hop fragrance. This is too rare.
73 / 100
Squat 330ml bottle purchased from Slowbeer for me by Sam for Xmas. This is a coffee barleywine, apparently.
Pours a lovely russet red colour, with a minimal cap of off-white foam that sits as a fuzzy ring. No lacing. Carbonation is glorious though, swirling in huge waves and flurries as the glass is tilted, before slowly rising into the head. Body has some heft to it, that's for sure. Looks good.
Nose leans strongly on the coffee. It has brusque sharp tones that leave a coffee oiliness like you sometimes get in a coffee IPA—the beans actually add a lot of fruit to the mix. When this is combined with a firm, boozy malt character, it's actually rather lovely.
The taste is also pretty good, but it feels like a bit of a disappointment after the promise of the nose. Here, the whole palate is a little flat, from about midway onwards, meaning that the other flavour complexities are left to peter out. It starts strongly though, with more coffee aromatics, and a soft amalgam of molasses and port. Finish gives a suggestion of oxidation: it's lighter, with just an edge of the metallic to it.
Feel is again, a little too light on the back, but it's mostly soft, and matches the palate well.
Overall, a very drinkable beer, with a good deal of interest from the coffee. In some ways, the way the coffee is used is clever—it's mostly for aroma purposes, and it doesn't overwhelm where it really could have. So there's a lot going for it in that way.
330ml can purchased for me by Sam for Xmas.
Pours a nicely orange golden colour, with a moderate amount of hazing. Head is a fine sheen of filmy white that leaves complex lace. Carbonation is fine, and the body looks like it's got enough weight to support it. Looks very suitable.
Nose is reasonably good, but not as potent as the best examples of the style. There's a fairly strong fruit component—almost like an amalgam of mango and berries, but there's also a brusque earthy hop presence as well—as though the oils are not the only thing working here.
Taste is a bit more staid. It has a softness to the body, and a roundness that would help accentuate the fruitiness if there were more there in general. But it has a bitterness towards the back that almost feels brusque and metallic. Weight is quite light though. You don't feel at all like this is 7% ABV.
All up, it's honestly a very drinkable beer—what it lacks is interest and complexity. But it's reasonably well made—it just needs more.
330ml bottle, I've no idea where this came from, but I found it in my beer cupboard. It could be quite old. This is a Rye IPA, specifically.
Pours a pleasant red-tinged amber colour, with a very frothy but persistent head of off-white. Lots of sudsy lace forming in thick clumps. Lightish body, with lots of swirling carbonation. Looks decent enough.
Nose does suggest age—it has the mildly metallic aroma of oxidised hops, but weirdly this works with a sharper, more shadowy grain character from the rye. There are notes of wet paper and formic acid, but a suggestion of full-bodied malt underneath to support it. In some ways, it now comes across more like a roggenbier, without the yeast characters.
Flavour is weakened a fair bit by its age. I suspect it's lots a lot of the hop character which would balance it, and moreover, that oxidation character has really flattened and bruised the malt. It does indeed taste rather metallic, with copper and aluminum foil noticeable, plus a kind of flat character on the back like chewing cornflour. Feel is also now overcarbonated, making the beer feel bloating and fizzy.
Overall, this is probably on me for putting a rye IPA towards the back of my beer cupboard. But to some extent, it shows the advantages of adding something extra to your IPAs. This could have been worthless had it been entirely based around its hops, but the added rye and malt complexity in general gives it some sense of longevity.
Pint can purchased from Santa Clara Liquors in Santa Clara, CA. This is a milk stout with cacao nibs added.
Pours a firm deep cola brown, with a slightly coarse-bubbled head of beige foam that leaves excellent lace. Body is a tad lighter than the 8.5% ABV suggests, and the carbonation is also swift. It does look light compared to what I was expecting.
Nose is relatively pleasant, if not overly complex. There's a firm structure of malt to it, giving toasted grains, mellowed by a mild cocoa choc sweetness. There are some undertones of vanilla and lactose, and mild aromatics that suggest carob and kola nut.
Taste is decent enough. There's a firm semi-savoury dark malt presence throughout, which walks the line between goopy chocolate and overcooked toast. But it's very light in weight. There's minimal residual sugar, meaning the beer feels thin, and also meaning that the beer loses the ability to express deeper complexities if they're there.
Overall, it's fine. It's the kind of beer I'd be happy to sink a pint of at the pub while I've got other things to distract me. But it does suffer a bit when you're giving it your whole attention and waiting for to impart some deep secrets.
Pint can purchased from Jane's Beer Store in Mountain View, CA. Canning date of October, so about 2 months old.
Pours a hazed yellow-golden colour, with a frothy white cap that leaves nice sheeting lace. Body is fine, but light, very suitable for this kind of beer. Very fine carbonation to it. Looks good.
Nose is also pretty good, but already starting to show a bit of age at 2 months. It has bright hop characters that have become muted and more herbal and earthy, and a sweetness which seems to have morphed into a slight aroma of coconut. It's a bit flat all up, but I imagine at weeks rather than months old it's a lot better.
Taste is also reasonably good. Again, there's definitely coconut flavours here, providing a sweet earthy base for the beer. Fortunately, as well, there's a good deal of bitterness, which crisps up the back palate, leaving it sharp and bright. It's one of the advantages the more oldskool IPAs have—two months on, a NEIPA with zero bitterness would definitely be tasting off. This is still holding its own.
Feel is very pleasant. It's light but smooth, and prickly with fine carbonation at the end, which matches well with the bitterness.
Overall, I'm pretty happy with this, especially given it's got a little bit of age on it for an IPA. It's still quite drinkable and quite enjoyable. Not a stellar beer by any means, but pretty good nonetheless.
59 / 100
330ml brown bottle purchased from the brewery by my Dad, and given to me as a gift.
Pours a surprisingly lightweight, and light coloured cola brown hue, with a coarse, frothy head of off-white that nonetheless settles out to a firm and persistent cap. Minimal lacing, although is sticks to the glass in spots. Carbonation is weak in a very thin-looking body.
Nose is relatively pleasant. There are nice notes of mild caramel, extra milky milk chocolate, and carob with a slightly brighter tone of smouldering wood. It's not a strong aroma, and there's nothing particularly complex about it, but it's pleasant.
The same can be said of the palate, which is somewhat thwarted by a very frothy, over-zealous carbonation in the feel. But aside from that it has a pleasant semi-savoury toasted grain character, which meshes well with aromatic carob and cocoa powder notes. But it is very light, and the frothiness in the feel makes it lighter still, meaning that even if there were more complexity to be had, it would be lost.
Overall, it's fine. It's the kind of beer you find on a tasting paddle at a nondescript brewery and go: oh yeah, bung that one on for me, why not. This isn't the best example, but it's not the worst example either. It's a serviceable porter that sits relatively well in the style.
76 / 100
330ml can purchased from Slowbeer. This is a Sour Cherry, Cola and Lemon sour, with lactose.
Pours a rhubarb-coloured hazed golden, with more weight in the body than you expect. Carbonation, in particular, is powery, and released in swirling spirals when the glass is tilted. Head maintains a lightweight ring of pure white. Looks surprisingly enticing.
Nose does provide the characters promised. It's heavy on the lemon, but perhaps the overall acidity accounts for that. Otherwise, there are definite characters of cola, almost a cinnamon spice overtone, and notes of wintergreen, American cherry and green tobacco leaf. It's honestly very interesting.
Taste is lighter, but it's still got a complexity to make it work. There are characters of lemon curd and acidic cola early, mixed with a spicy slickness like if you could liquefy cinnamon and allspice. Finish again has the lactic bit of curd, with a zesty bite that manages to drag it up from the milky depths it wants to plumb.
Feel is surprisingly slick. It has a very pleasant depth, despite the lightness and brightness of the beer overall.
Overall, I'm honestly really happy with this. There's a complexity to it that's hard to get in a beer of this ABV, and I really like that they've taken it in this direction. It's aromatic and fragrant, but also weirdly smooth and interesting to drink. Good stuff.
330ml bottle purchased from the brewery by my Dad.
Pours a very slightly hazed pale golen colour, with a little weak ring of white forming the head. Body is very light, although it has a bit more oiliness than others of its ilk. Carbonation is coarse and swift.
Nose is very mediocre. It has an oily, unctuous wheat note, which gives a kind of sourness, without the weizen yeast notes to back it up. Instead, it goes more towards the body you expect from a saison—again, without the yeast notes to back it up. Minimal influence from the hops, which leaves it in this limbo state between sweet malt and mild acid.
Taste is a bit better, because it's brighter and lighter. Here, for some reason, there's actually some weizen yeast notes of banana and pastry, but why they don't appear on the nose is beyond me. These lend some breadth to the beer, which then takes it in a different direction, going crisper and cleaner—it helps the drinkability, and to some extent the beer overall, while not adding much in the way of complexity.
Finish has a slight popcorn overtone, which isn't amazing, but actually weirdly punctuates the beer quite nicely. Feel is clean and light.
Overall, in the end, it's actually a fairly drinkable brew. It's not an amazing brew, but in some ways, its weaknesses make up for its... other weaknesses.