22oz brown bomber purchased from BevMo in Sunnyvale, CA.
Pours a glossy black-brown colour, with a firm, persistent head of pale brown, that settles into a bubbly ring. Carbonation is fine, and the body looks fine but thick. Looks good.
Nose is quite similar to the regular Campfire Stout, with perhaps a slightly stronger lean on the roast from the coffee. But otherwise, there's definitely a lot of chewy sweetness, and a smouldering smoke character. As it warms, the coffee definitely comes out, giving a fresh grounds note mixed with characters of split grass and caraway. Nice.
The taste is okay. It has a really rather strong coffee character here that provides a robust bitterness, which defeats some of the delicate balance. You can still sense the sweetness in the body (although it's more of a feel than a flavour), but the smoke character mingles with the dark bitterness to come across slightly ashy. Finish has a suggestion of sweetness underneath the coffee—perhaps it's that slight marshmallow note.
Overall, it's certainly a decent beer. But it's a beer which genuinely feels like it deconstructs the purpose of its progenitor. The coffee isn't actually a good match here, and it has a tendency to railroad the other characters.
79 / 100
22oz brown bomber purchased from BevMo in Sunnyvale, CA.
Pours a pleasant, bourbon-y amber colour, quite light in the body, but with fine, languid carbonation nonetheless. Head is a fine film of beige, coupled with some broader scum of larger bubbles. Lace forms in fine, long streaks. Looks decent.
Nose is great, and absolutely delivers on what it says on the label. Sweet, toffee tones, but coupled with an unmistakeable toasted pecan character, which is both earthy and sweet. There are faint, pleasant spice notes as well that work really well—just enough to adjust it to exactly the aroma you'd expect from a nicely warmed slice of pie. Execution is on point.
Taste is pretty similar, actually. And the decision to up this to almost 10% alcohol is vindicated at this point. Because here it has the body, weight and sweetness to carry the pecan pie character, and the extra hint of booziness is easily attributable to the bourbon. It makes it feel luxurious and rich, and allows the flavours to work their way slowly across the palate. Feel is also good. It's slick and rich, but has a bit from the booze that stops it from feeling cloying.
I mean, I know it's kind of a stupid beer. But if you're going to have a beer styling itself as a Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie Beer, this is absolutely the beer you want. You cannot at all fault this for failing to deliver on what it promises. And honestly, I'm not opposed to it as a concept either. I'm a fan.
74 / 100
22oz brown bomber purchased from Jane's Beer Store in Mountain View, CA, where the guy called this his "Pliny-killer". Brought back to Sydney where I shared it with Sam.
Lovely clear but deep golden colour with a very fine head that leaves some messy lace. Body is fine, but thick, holding a lot of static carbonation. Really, it looks very good for the style.
Nose is also pretty nice, but perhaps lacking the brightness and intensity of the best examples. There is a really nice rounded orange citrus note that works with the light malt sweetness. Some vague toffee characters help structure it, giving the hop notes a bit more basis.
Taste is very decent, with some nice balance to it. There's a solid toffee-sugar focused basis through the centre of the palate, but lifted by a nice citric hop character that gives it freshness. It does stay pretty flat, without a huge amount of complexity, but that's nice in a way: it has a dichotomous quality to it, with the malt and the hops each very individual, but each contributing to the beer as a whole.
Feel is nice. Very fine and sleek.
Overall, is this a Pliny-killer? Not by a long shot. And that comes from someone who doesn't consider Pliny one of the better American IPAs out there. This is indeed a very solid addition to the IPA oeuvre, but it really doesn't expand or redefine the style.
83 / 100
A S'more stout? Sure, sign me up for that. This was a bomber purchased from K & L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA.
Pours a slightly brown-tinged black, with a filmy, but relatively fine head of beige, what dissipates to a ring, and only leaves patches of lace. Body is solid, and forms some tight, fine carbonation. Looks good enough.
The nose, however, is where this starts to get interesting. Huge, sweet biffo in the aroma, giving melted chocolate and puffy vanilla marshmallow characters, above, yep, a sweet, biscuity base of malt and gooeyness. It's like a digestive biscuit dunked in a chocolate fondue. Extremely sweet, but absolutely delivering on its promise. Amazing stuff.
Taste, ooh, is also extremely goodâand to be honest, better than I was expecting. While I thought the promise of the sweetness would not really be delivered (and it's not), there is a genuine commitment to the S'mores theme here, with more biscuity characters coming through, mingled with a genuine crispy smokiness. On the back palate, we get a long, drawn out milk chocolate character, which again doesn't really contain the sweetness of real chocolate, but absolutely nails its essence. Feel is a little light, and I'd even forgive a little booze if this wanted to be heavier overall, but it's solid as it is.
Really, really interesting stuffâextremely well executed, even if the concept of a campfire-roasted sandwich of chocolate and marshmallow is not your thing. I believe I'll have to keep my eye on High Water in the future.
Purchased from Whole Foods in Los Altos, CA.
Pours a very clear, but slightly murky amber golden colour, laced with a dusty brown hue. Head is filmy and frothy, but settles down to large bubbles pretty quickly. Decent lacing. Body is right on what you want for around this ABV. Looks pretty good.
Nose is green and sharp, with big, leafy hop characters coming through on top of a rubbed citrus and spicy resin aroma. It's almost too vegetativeâthere's pine and cedar, clipped grass and eucalyptus in there, and the mellower, fresher, fruitier citrus characters get lost. All power to them, though.
Taste is in the same vein, with a powerful, biting resiny hop character coating the centre of the palate and refusing to let go of its mighty grip. By the time it eventually dissipates, there's nothing left on the palate, leaving a dry and rather jarring experience on the finish. Malt on the front cushions the hops slightly, still perhaps not giving the level required, but pushing the biting hop character to a more citrus sherbet character.
A pretty exhausting beer to drink, truth be told. The hops are big, and not necessarily all that well balancedâfurthermore, it's one type of persistent, goading, sharp bitter hop character, which makes it harder to understand, or appreciate.
It's a pretty respectable IPA, especially if you like huge doses of bittering hops, but by the end, I was wondering when I'd choose to drink it again.