Spring Break!

My regular readers will be able to tell you the reason why I feel the need to put a teacher grade on everything I review: I’m a teacher.  As a teacher, I reap the many benefits a student also benefits from.  I get a Christmas break, spring break, and summer break as well.  Thankfully we have finally reached spring break.  I’m sure a lot of you think of spring break as a bunch of college students who head south of the border for drugs, sex, and rock and roll.  As a teacher for the past seven years, I can honestly say  I have never been anywhere tropical for the break.  I have gone to New Orleans twice for the occasion; however, both times we stayed with friends and enjoyed being shown the lay of the land by friends skipping work.  Well this year is going to be a little bit different.  This is the first year I’m heading to a tropical location to really soak in the rays on a real spring break.  That’s right, this year I’m heading to Jamaica for spring break.  I have been to the Caribbean twice in my lifetime.  I enjoyed my honeymoon in St. Lucia and a later vacation in Costa Rica.  Time to visit another Caribbean location!

I haven’t missed a post one weekday yet in 2012, and for that, I’m also taking a little one week vacation from here as well.  I don’t know if they will have internet access there, and I’m sure everyone is dying to know what I think of Red Stripe.  I’ll have an update on the trip when I get back after Easter.  Thanks for making March my highest viewed month yet.  See you in a little over a week!

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Sixpoint Brewing Co – Resin

Have you ever had beer from a company that you really wanted to like but for some reason didn’t?  I have previously had this relationship with Sixpoint Brewing Co.  A couple of months ago I went to the local store to do my weekly tasting.  The weekly tasting tends to go one of two ways.  They either figure out how to put it together on their own using the exciting beers they have gotten into the store that week, or they have a rep in the store and feature one brewery.  I have managed to find my way to a few of the ones done by the reps, and I was definitely really interested in seeing what Sixpoint had to offer.  The can tells me they have been around since 2004; however, it only became available around here last year.  Therefore, my beer store had a rep in as fast as possible.  Doing the tasting, I was unhappy with what I was getting.  I really really wanted to like Sixpoint, but I wasn’t impressed.  So, I’ve kind of written them off since then.  I’ve wanted to go back and try a whole can, but I always find myself buying something else.  Then, not to long ago, they released their imperial IPA.  As a real sucker for IPAs, I had to give them another shot.  Thankfully my beer store split up the pack so I could just buy one can, but I may have to head back for more after this tasting.

Sixpoint has a somewhat familiar and yet still different story to a lot of other breweries out there.  They started their brewery back in 2004, but like a lot of companies, they need to grow before they could expand.  So, they weren’t really distributing their stuff very far at the beginning.  They weren’t even doing anything past putting their beer in kegs and sending it out to local bars.  This of course frustrated a lot of locals who had to get their growlers filled at local bars to enjoy their creation at home.  Thankfully, this past year they started canning and distributing their brew further than their local Brooklyn NY neighborhood.

Like I said earlier, I was pretty much attracted to this one for the imperial IPA aspect.  It says it has 103 IBUs with 9.1% ABV.  This was only helping to make the beer sound even more interesting to me.  Finally, looking at the back of the can, their message had me sold.  It reads, “Whatever flames upon the night mans own resinous heart has fed. Resin is the sticky quintessence of hops that quells the encroaching malt sweetness”.  Maybe it sounds a little to poetic to be on the back of a beer can, but I personally think it gives me a great idea of the flavor profile they were attempting to achieve.  I was excited to get my first whole can of Sixpoint open and in a glass!

This one pours out a nice reddish-orange auburn color.  I’ve come to really like seeing this darker tinting for IPAs.  It typically signals a beer that is a little more developed, tangy, and less piney.  There is a moderate white fluffy head that develops on top of the beer, and you get a ton of really long lasting lacing that sticks to the sides of the glass.  Swirling the glass leaves the sticky residue and lacing on the side of the glass for nearly the rest of the tasting.  There is a lot of haziness in the glass that keeps me from really getting a feel for the carbonation, but you can see some of it react to the agitation of a little swirl.

The first smell to come off the beer is big tangy orangey citrus scent.  I really like the fact that the tang is present on the nose here.   The hops definitely come through on the nose as well.  The hops have a separate piney and floral aroma.  I typically get a lot of the  tang and hops together when it comes to an imperial IPA.  The beer gives off a really herbal and earth aroma, and you get some overall rich maltiness as well.

I immediately get a big flavor of both strong hops and malts here.  The beer starts with some really big bold sweet malty flavors.  The malt flavors are followed with a lot of citrus and orange flavoring.  The citrus flavors are a really interesting transition point from the malts to the big hit of hops.  The hops come in really big and piney.  They begin to move from piney and floral to tangy as they sit on your palate.  That tangy hop flavor is one that I’m hoping to really duplicate in my own homebrew next.  The finish here is filled with lingering hop tang and citrusy grapefruit.

This beer has a really nice blend of carbonation and syrup.  The carbonation starts out the tasting while the syrupy nature kicks in at the same time as the tangy flavor of the hops.  I think the tang and the syrup really work to compliment each other.  The flavors all work really well together; however, I do find the lingering hops on the aftertaste off putting after a period of time.  I do still really like the hops overall.

This is the first full can I’ve ever had from Sixpoint Brewing Co, and I’m really happy with it.  They pack a lot of flavor, besides hops, into the little energy drink looking can.  This convinces me that I need to give some of their other brews another chance.  I may have jumped to conclusions based off a quick little tasting.  If you haven’t noticed these cans in your area, you should definitely check your local store and see if they sell them there.   They make a really good imperial IPA for sure!

Teacher Grade: B+

The Shins – Port of Morrow

I have two different CD’s I’ve been listening to a ton over the past week or so.  In an effort not to look too much like I drink all the time, I wanted to get one music review in this week.  So I rolled the mental dice and decided I would go with The Shins.  Are you actually interested in what the other album is?  Well it is Bruce Springsteen’s new one.  I love that one too, but I had to pick one and The Shins won.  I’m downloading about 4 new albums as we speak, so there is a chance I’ll have another new one ready to go soon, but I still might have to do Bruce.  I’m originally from NJ, and I love the Boss!

Recently I feel like I keep talking about bands that I’ve found somewhere in the middle of their career.  The Shins is a totally different story.  I have been listening to them for a while, and I have definitely been missing them these past few years.  They released albums in 2001, 2003, and 2007, but it has been five years since we have heard anything else from them.  While I’m not sure what the entire band has been doing during that time, I know James Mercer (lead singer) has been keeping himself busy with some other projects. Since The Shins haven’t been around for a few years, you may not quite remember them.  I suppose that is depending on your age; however, Mercer is also known as the front man for the two man band Broken Bells.  Mercer’s equally successful side project is slightly more electronic based, and it is done with the widely known Danger Mouse.  You know the guy from Gnarls Barkley.  Broken Bells managed to release one full-length and one EP over the five years The Shins were on hiatus.

The Shins have been a band since 1996; however, the band that you’re hearing on this new album might as well be a new band with Mercer as the lead singer.  Since the last record, they have replaced basically every single other member in the band.  These new musicians have a lot of different musical backgrounds they come from.  Their new female member, Jessica Dobson, is a former solo artist, while two of the other members come from the bands Modest Mouse and Crystal Skulls.  Of course the band still has a lot of similar sounds to earlier Shins material.  They have the same lead singer, which I think can carry a band who has gone through so many different line-up changes, especially with the iconic sound of Mercer’s voice.  Maybe The Shins purists will be mad about all of the changes, but I was happy to get a hold of this album for some listening.

Going back and listening to the older Shins’ albums helps to show that Mercer’s voice is perhaps the most important component of the band.  There are plenty of bands that are reliant on the sound they achieve with their lead singer.  If they came back as the same band, but the voice sounds different, people talk about how their older stuff was better.  People connect with the tones and inflection of a great voice, and Mercer has that great voice.  It is somewhat iconic.  When you heard him sing on Broken Bells, you knew you were still listening to the lead singer of The Shins.  Thankfully, despite the rest of the band changing around, Mercer’s voice hasn’t.  He can accomplish such depth and variety with his voice as well.  His voice works with poppy songs like “Simple Song”, slower reflective songs like “It’s only Life”, and slightly more ambient songs like the title song “Port of Morrow”.

I love the recording of this album.  It sounds incredibly crisp and clear, which really helps to bring out the full scope of all that is being done musically on this record.  I tend to listen more to a record that has a lot of variety to it.  These slower records that tend to have a similar sound throughout the entire album tend to leave me wanting something else halfway through.  This album isn’t that way at all.  “The Rifle’s Spiral” is a really good poppy opening track for the album.  There is a consistent bass and guitar line to drive the central song along, while the drums provide a lot of the pop, and the keyboard gives the song a complex full sound.  They can really slow it down later on in the album with a song like “Fall of 82”.  The opener has a ton of different things going on, while this track later on is much more stripped down.  It fills out in the chorus for a slightly Chicago feel to it.  Mercer’s vocals still help to drive it along while the music complements it great.

There are a few really stripped down songs on the album as well.  “40 Mark Strasse” slows things way down to just an acoustic guitar, drums, and occasional ambient keyboard fill.  Once again they manage to fill it back out during the chorus, but the slower tempo really allows you to focus even more on the melodic pop abilities of Mercer’s voice.  “September” starts with just Mercer and an acoustic guitar.  Once again, I think these slower songs really manage to have you focus on the vocals more than the music.  You almost miss all the ambient guitar and keyboard material that enters in later in the song.  The only song I’m not a very big fan of is the title song “Port of Morrow”.  It closes out the album and is the closest thing to the Broken Bells material Mercer has been working on for the past couple years.  I like how clear and clean the entire album is, and I feel like this song may be slightly overproduced.  There is a lot of electronics and effects on the vocals.  I would have preferred one that is slightly more Shins and slightly less Broken Bells.

I picked up this album already a fan of This Shins, so I don’t know if this is an entirely unbiased review.  I would think after 5 years of waiting for this album to come out, this album could also have been a huge disappointment.  They went through line-up changes, and they could have tried to adopt more of the styles that are becoming popular now a days.  Thankfully the Shins stuck to what they do well, and I am really happy they did that.  If you’re already a fan of The Shins you’ll be really happy; however, if you haven’t tried them out yet, you’re really missing out.  I may have the first entry for top ten albums of 2012!

Teacher Grade: A

Epic Brewing Co – Elder Brett

When I was coming out of Stout month, I tried to buy up a bunch of different types of beers I had never had before that weren’t stouts.  While I wanted to see stout month through to completion, I was really tired of drinking things that were really heavy and dark.  I wanted things that were light and slightly easier to drink.  Conveniently, at the same time I was going through these feelings, I started to see a bunch of different lighter specialty beers showing up.  I had to phone in two of them at my local beer store to make sure they didn’t run out of them.  This is a fairly typical practice for me, but I had recently only been doing it with things aged in barrels or called stouts.  So this was a little bit different.

This is the third beer out of Epic I’ve review in the past year of reviewing.  Let’s not forget this is being considered anniversary week.  Anyway, I have had two really good experiences out of Epic thus far.  Epic is a little bit of a scary brewery to me.  They do so many different styles of beer, I really fear I would find too many beers that would ruin the good beers I’ve had out of them already. I really liked the collaboration they did with DC Brau; however, I thought it was slightly lacking on the actual pumpkin taste.  Big Bad Baptist was a really good imperial stout they came out with that I was more than happy I found when I did.  Even though I had never heard of Elder Brett, I was really excited to see if it was good.

This is actually another collaboration brew form Epic brewery.  You can barely tell from the bottle, but it is in collaboration with Crooked Stave Brewing out of Colorado.  I’m not going to pretend to know anything about Crooked Stave, but I knew the name Brett had to come from somewhere.  The Brett term come from a term known as Brettanomyces.  This term actually refers to the form of yeast that is used in the brewing.  It is essentially a wild form of yeast.  Interestingly, my research says that it is used in most brewing that is considered off types of brewing.  Thus it tends to end up in a lot of sour beers.  This, however, is not always true.  I wouldn’t consider this Epic libation sour at all.  It also states that it is sometimes used in Belgian beers; therefore, I’m not certain if I have had it before; however, I was excited to give it a try for sure.

I’ve told everyone how scared I am when a beer pours out a really pale yellow color, and this one scared me for that very reason.  It isn’t that I’ve never liked a beer that poured that color, but I immediately have my doubts when I see a pale hue like this.  I definitely let my opinions sway my emotions with beer in some aspects.  There is a very light white fluffy head that develops on top of the beer as well.  Some really slight carbonation is visible in the glass, and it is really clear in the clarity category as well.  There is also some light lacing and sticky residue that builds on the glass as well.

The smell that comes out the most on the nose is the strong slightly spicy yeast scent.  It isn’t quite as spicy as I’m really used to in Belgian beers, but you can get that slightly clove spice coming out on the nose.  There seems to be a lot of citrus and banana in here as well.  I’m always really torn with banana flavors in beer.  I hate bananas in general, so I’m really not a big fan of the flavor in anything.  If a brewer uses it right, I can get behind it despite my personal tastes.  Thus, I was a little worried to pull this scent out of here.  I get a lot of herbal and floral scents in here as well.

This beer has a lot of light maltiness at the start of the flavors.  It’s handled with a really light hand.  Personally I would have enjoyed a bit of a darker malt here.  There are a lot of herbal and floral notes that aren’t really related to hops in any way following the light malts.  I’m not certain I’ve ever had a beer that was so herbal before.  It’s like they used rosemary and thyme in here.  The yeast follows and adds some nice depth to the beer; however, this really isn’t my favorite yeast ever.  I like a little more spice in my yeast.  The yeast is followed by big banana and citrus.  The banana is far too overpowering for me.  Unfortunately the herbs and floral notes come back for a kind of lackluster ending.

This beer is really highly carbonated at the start of the tasting, and the yeast keeps the crispness of the mouthfeel up.  There is some slight syrup on the end of the beer, but it really doesn’t do enough to make the beer better for me.  The aftertaste has far too much banana and herbs for my taste.

I was really looking forward to getting this beer open.  I have enjoyed everything else I’ve had out of Epic, so I had really high hopes for it.  Unfortunately it just didn’t meet those expectations.  I have a feeling this may not be the type of beer for me.  It says that it is a saison, which I’m fine with, but I’m not a big fan of the yeast, banana, or herbal flavors.  I would be interested in seeing if I can find a beer that uses Brett in a different way.  Maybe I just haven’t had this yeast in the right type of beer yet.  I would probably recommend staying away from this release from Epic and checking out a few of their other brews because they definitely make some really good other beers.

Teacher Grade: D

Year One

Sometime one year ago this week I started this little blog.  It’s been a really interesting year for sure.  I have never gone about starting something from nothing and attempting to get other people interested in it.  As some of you know, I always post my newest blog postings on my Facebook account, so I really appreciate those of you who diligently click on my blogs.  Somehow I think I’ve actually developed a faithful group of readers.  So this posting is to give you a little run down of the high and low points from this past year, and I hope to outline some of what I want to accomplish in the next year.  Things have been great over the past year, but I hope to only continue growing this little blog into something to be even more proud of.

Up first, the highlights from a pretty good year.  I am consistently attempting to find or think of ways to up my readership.  Therefore, part of being a good blogger is to consistently look at everything as an idea for writing a post.  The very first time I was able to put this into action was at the DC Brau release of their Corruption Ale at Lil Miss Whiskeys.  While there, I found myself in a conversation with Jeff, one of the head brewers at DC Brau.  Although a little nervous of looking dorky, I asked him if I could send him a few interview questions to place up on my blog.  Although it took an entire summer for him to get back to me, I finally received my interview where he actually threw me a bone.  He used my blog to release the information that they were working on two collaboration brews with other breweries.  I quickly got the interview up, and it quickly took off as well.  My blog was reposted on DCBeer.com, Beernews.org, and even a section of the online version of the Washington Post.  It quickly became one of the most viewed posts on my blog, and I really got a feeling for this blogs potential to be successful as well.

A few other posts really helped out this blog as well.  My post for Dragon’s Milk was picked up by New Holland Brewing Co, and they reposted it on their Facebook and Twitter.  It still holds the record for the highest amount of views of all time, and it also has my number one day at 162 views.  Some blogs haven’t really had that big one day push, but they have managed to garner quite a few views over the lifetime.  It’s no secret that I blog more about beer than I do music, but I try and make this blog about both subjects.  Two blogs that weren’t necessarily big the first day I posted them, but have really grown over time are my reviews of The Civil Wars and Gotye.  Gotye was only posted back in February, but it has managed to bring in 135 views over the very short time on my blog.  It actually has managed to be viewed by at least someone every single day in March.  The Civil Wars post was posted back in April; however, it has had over 150 people read it over that period of time.  Some days I really don’t have a review ready, so I get a different type of topic ready to go.  Slim Pickens holds the record on the site for the most comments, 21, out of any post this year.  It just helped to show me that I don’t need to always review.  Sometimes a good idea is all it takes.

There have been a few low points on this blog as well.  I was fairly new at blogging when I hit the summer months last year.  For some reason, I misplaced my love for the written word during those

We look sad because you didn't read

months, and I posted very few things during those three months.  I did manage to get out a little review of my beer tour around Italy, which has been a fairly popular post, but those months really did very little for the growth of this blog.  It is definitely my goal to not allow that to happen again this year.  A few other low points have been some of the unpopular posts I did this past year.  Like I said earlier, I seem to be a slightly better beer reviewer than music reviewer, and it definitely has shown with some of the popularity of the posts on this blog.   My review of Plants and Animals only has 7 views at this point, Slow Club only has 6 since December, and The Dodos only has 10 since last May.  I like to review music that I enjoy, but it would appear it pays off more to review music that is on the cusp of becoming really popular.  Finding more bands like Gotye and The Civil Wars to review could be more lucrative for views than going with what I enjoy at that moment.

Overall this year has been a great year for me to learn about my joy for writing.  I have slowly upped the readership for this site over the past few months.  December I managed to have 690 views, January I reached 844, and I have been over 1,000 the past two months in a row.  As long as I have over 50 views this week total I’ll reach a new high this month too.  I currently have 24 readers subscribed to my site as well, which helps me believe that someone is at least reading everything I do.  Hopefully this next year only sees an even greater increase in interest and readership.  I’d like to interview a few more brewers, I’d like to start seeing a little beer trading going on, and I would really love to see a brewery send me something specifically for reviewing.  Free stuff is always great, but it would just help my confidence as a reviewer of libations as well.

So to all of you who read my blog already, I thank you and I hope you continue to read for years to come.  Maybe someday I won’t feel the need to post this on Facebook every single day, but for now, I hope you don’t mind me spamming your wall every single day.  If you didn’t read, I would have quit this long ago!

Firestone Walker Brewing Co – Fifteenth Anniversary Ale

This week is pretty much the one year anniversary of this blog.  I’m not really sure of the exact date I put this entire thing together, but I know I made it and waited a couple of days before I actually got a post together to put up.  So a few of the posts this week will be somewhat celebratory for the whole one year anniversary.  I started thinking about what beer I wanted to enjoy for the anniversary a couple of months ago.  Everything I had was pretty standard.  I had a few bottles that were nice, but I really didn’t think any of them were all that special.  Then I got a call from my beer store that this beer had come in.  They have changed their policy since then, but I had put my name down on a list to reserve a bottle of this Firestone Walker brew and then completely forgotten about it.  So it was a pretty expensive trip to the store that week.  Ultimately, I knew I had found the beer I would be reviewing for the one year anniversary.

As I’ve said before on here, aging beer in barrels is all the rage right now.  It seems like everyone has to throw some release of theirs into a barrel and age it.  Firestone took this concept in a little bit of a different direction with this bottle.  This beer has some fabulously extravagant packaging, and it comes with a sheet (back and front) of information on the beer.  This beer doesn’t just take one type of brew, it is a blend of 197 oak barrels and 8 different beers.  That’s right, this one bottle actually contains 8 different styles of beer all aged in some form of oak barrel.  Here is the list of all the beers involved in here.

HelldoardoBlonde Barley wine aged in bourbon and brandy barrels, Sticky MonkeyEnglish Barley wine aged in bourbon and brandy barrels, Bravo Imperial Brown Ale aged in bourbon and brandy barrels, Double Double Barrel AleDouble Strength English Pale Ale aged in 100% in retired Firestone Union barrels, Good FootAmerican Barley wine – aged in bourbon barrels, Velvet MerkinTraditional oatmeal stout – aged in bourbon barrels, ParabolaRussian Imperial Oatmeal Stout aged in bourbon barrels, Double JackDouble India Pale Ale 100% Fresh-n-Hoppy 100% Stainless Steel.

I know that’s a lot of different styles all contained in one bottle.  I’ve never really had a beer that is a blend of a bunch of different styles; however, I have had wine that uses this concept.  Ultimately I was really excited to get this one out of a fridge and into a glass.  Thankfully my good friend John was up for enjoying this bottle with me as well.  So we cracked this one open Friday!

This one poured out a rich black color.  It didn’t really have the oil consistency, but it was somewhat more like a charcoal black.  It actually did let some light in here and there.  There was a light brownish head that developed on top of the beer and quickly disappeared.  There was basically no lacing at all on this beer, and it really had no sticky lacing developing on the sides of the glass either.  While the beer did allow some light in, it was too dark to really get a feel for the clarity of it, and you definitely couldn’t see any carbonation at all.  Even agitating the liquid revealed very little activity from the carbonation.

There is a whole lot of activity going on in the nose of this one.  I suppose it really isn’t all that surprising.  They combine so many different beers into one, and you age each one for extended time in some form of barrel, you definitely aren’t going to have faint smells.  The biggest aroma you immediately get is the ample bourbon booze scent.  It is almost to the point where it burns your nose like a typical glass of hard liquor.  With the alcohol comes an expected overall sweetness that accompanies it.  The sweetness is really interesting.  It has a burnt sugary quality to it. Some of the lesser smells are the roasted coffee notes.  You also get a lot of earthy woody tones to this one as well.  The raisin scents are really ample here as well.  Overall you get a lot of big malts and no hops.

The taste, much like the smell, is dominated by an ample amount of the bourbon booze flavor.  It is so big it has that alcohol burn to it.  This is one of those complex beers that has different flavors at different temperatures.  When I poured the beer cold I experienced some flavors, and I found others coming through as I allowed the beer to warm up a little bit.  The sheet this one came with states that you need to let it warm up to 55F to fully enjoy the pleasing and complex aromas.  While cold I managed to pull out some sweet dark chocolate qualities; however these seemed to blend in a little more as you allow it to warm.  There are a lot of rich malts in here.  Following some of those malts and chocolate flavors you get some really big raisin qualities.  The raisin has a lot of sweetness surrounding it, and it really leads you in well to the big bourbon burn that come in towards the back half of the flavors.  The bourbon gives way to a really sweet vanilla flavor on the finish.  The vanilla is almost like the prize for having made it through the alcohol burn.  There is a lot of lingering booze on the ending with a little hint of anise as well.

The mouth on this one is a lot of thickness overall.  It really isn’t a light beer by any stretch of the imagination.  There is a little bit of light carbonation to help break up the syrup, but as you let it warm, the beer loses a lot of that carbonation.  I’m fine with the thickness of this beer.  You really don’t pick this beer up thinking it’s going to be light and easy drinking.  Overall it is an amazingly rich and creamy concoction.

This is a beer for people who love beer.  You don’t pick this beer up if you want something to pound and get you drunk.  It might get you drunk, but it is because it’s a really heavy beer.  Thankfully I didn’t do too bad with this one.  I really don’t know if you’re going to be able to find this beer anywhere anymore, but if you do you’ll be rewarding yourself big time.  You’ll have to shell out a couple extra bucks, but trust me, you’ll really appreciate this complex brew!

Teacher Grade: A+

Stone Brewing Co – More Brown than Black IPA

It’s actually been a little while since I’ve done a review of something coming out of Stone.  I’m fairly certain they may be the brewery I have reviewed most on this blog over the past year.  The most recent one I reviewed from them was actually a beer they did on their own: Vertical Epic.  However, I have also done a few reviews of beers that are collaborations: Cherry Chocolate Stout & Green Tea IPA.  I actually realized as I took this beer out of my fridge that I still have another collaboration from them that I have yet to review.  Perhaps that will find its way up here sometime soon.  I’ve said it before, Stone has to be one of the most active brewers out there.  They don’t just brew their normal line-up.  They brew special edition stuff, and they do a lot of collaborations as well.  I personally love to see brewers do collaborations, so I of course jumped at the opportunity to get this one.

Stone produced this particular brew with two other breweries I’m not really all that familiar with.  According to the side of this bottle, Ninkasi Brewing Co approached Stone about producing a collaboration brew.  I have had one other brew from Ninkasi; it was another collaboration they did with 21st Amendment called Allies Win the War.  If you haven’t tasted that one, you are definitely missing out.  Ninkasi is a good looking craft brewery out of Oregon.  Since my brother lives in Oregon right now, I have a feeling I’ll be asking him to bring me something from them on his next visit.  The bottle also tells me this bottle was brewed to support the area surrounding The Alchemist Brewing Co.  While this beer is helping Vermont out with the devastation they  experienced from the hurricane, The Alchemist also managed to get a hand in this collaboration as well.

Brown IPA technically isn’t a style of beer.  IPAs and Black IPAs are really big popular styles of beers; however, I have never heard of an IPA that is more brown than black, so I was excited to check this one out.  Black IPAs are quickly becoming one of my favorite styles of beer.  I love hops and deep rich coffee flavors, so I definitely can’t help but love Black IPAs.  I was very interested in seeing how a Brown IPA played off the qualities of the black version.

This beer pours out a very rich brown color.  I’m actually wondering how they went about brewing this beer.  Did they intend to make a black IPA but it turned out brown?  It’s a really dark brown so perhaps.  There seems to be a little slight red or orange tinge of color in it as well.   There is plenty of white fluffy head that develops on top of the beer.  It has some really nice light lacing and a lot of ample sticky residue as well.  You can see some very light carbonation in the glass, but it is definitely too dark to see any of the clarity in the glass.

The piney floral hops dominate the majority of the nose.  I think this is my favorite smell in beer.  I love chocolate and coffee and everything else that comes with dark beer too, but I really love to pull out those hops.  It has a really earthy feel to it as well.  The ample grapefruit and citrus notes are there; although, I think they hide a little bit behind the hops.  Interestingly, you really don’t pull out any of the malty sweetness you typically get with darker beers.  I’ve had black IPAs where you can smell the sweet coffee scents some, and others where you can’t.  It would appear this one lets all the hops do the work.

The hops kick the tasting off right at the start.  They aren’t really strong and overpowering immediately, instead they kick things off rather light and citrusy.  The second stage of hops comes in strong with some ample floral and pine notes.  These are far more bitter than the hop flavoring that started the taste.  The beer’s hops go slightly tangy right before some light coffee and roasted notes come in.  These sweeter roasted flavors are really light and toned down in comparison to the last Stone black IPA I had.  I can see how the brown aspect makes this a little different than if it had been a black IPA.  The beer finishes with a little sweet malty ending and a little light piney hops.

I like the overall composition of the mouthfeel.  The hops are ample at the start, and I really like the nice tang that comes in right before the beer goes to a roasted malty finish.  There is a lot of ample carbonation here, and it doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of syrup anywhere in the beer.  As with darker IPAs, I like how the beer manages to marry the sweetness and hoppiness in the ending.

I don’t know if I’ve ever had a beer from Stone I just didn’t like.  They produce top quality beverages, and they are always trying new things.  This is a great example of how collaborations can help to create something great, and introduce you to breweries you’ve never been able to try before.  I’m hopeful I’ll be able to find a few things from these other two brewers in the future. But for now, if you can find a bottle of this anywhere, I would recommend buying it!

Teacher Grade: A