ABV 5.0-5.9

Southern Tier Eurotrash Pilz

Southern Tier Eurotrash PilzBeer No. 63 – Southern Tier Eurotrash Pilz

Got a sixer on a friend’s recommendation, and I couldn’t be more conflicted. Everyone other one has been highly drinkable or borderline poor. The diehards will say you can’t get a good pils here, that the only place it’s good enough and fresh enough is Eastern Europe. I won’t concede that they’re right, even if this is a pint in their favor.

STYLE: Czech Pilsner

ABV: 5.2%

LOOK: Clear gold, easily one of the most transparent beverages I’ve ever seen. I wasn’t able to generate a head, but it was interesting to see bubbles cling to the outside rather than rush up the middle, tornado style.

NOSE: Pizza dough, buttered corn stalks, unpopped popcorn.

MOUTH: Daring to be unimaginative. Canned vegetables, mostly corn water, which speaks more to the lack of freshness than the taste. I feel like I just drank a single blade of grass. It’s difficult to drink slowly, so thin and light. The style, I know. But there has to be more to do it for me. A little white pepper on the finish helps.

Beeradvocate Rating: 79

ratebeer Rating: 48

Hayward Abbey Rating: 77

Weyerbacher Last Chance IPA

Weyerbacher Last Chance IPABeer No. 62 – Weyerbacher Last Chance IPA

STYLE: American IPA

ABV: 5.9%

LOOK: Sudsy copper and gelatinous. Not more than a bubble or two of carbonation and no head to speak of.

NOSE: An English IPA vibe. Much less American than expected. Some floral, piney hops are there, mostly overshadowed by leather and pavement if that makes sense.

MOUTH: Harsh. Astringent. And a too-long finish for what it is. Pulling myself together – petals, soap bar, one-way road, grapefruit rind.

Beeradvocate Rating: 80

ratebeer Rating: 78

Hayward Abbey Rating: 76

Rhinelander Boatswain Chocolate Stout

Rhinelander Boatswain Chocolate StoutBeer No. 60 – Rhinelander Boatswain Chocolate Stout

Always suspicious of BWBs. No, not BBWs, even if there is reason to be. BWBs – “brewed with” beers. The fruity, barely beer category is littered with these obvious offerings. And somewhere lurking behind there always seems to be some brew conglomerate doing it and doing it poorly. I’ve never heard of Rhinelander (or Minhas or whatever it used to be and can’t be bothered to explain on its website) but my local Trader Joe’s is full of em. But this isn’t so obvious, or poorly done.

STYLE: American Stout

ABV: 5.4%

LOOK: We’re not breaking any ground here. Dark but not oily with a brown-butter head.

NOSE: That delicate balance of sweet and bitter and tang. Chocolate cake, vanilla, subtle orange, medium roast coffee.

MOUTH: If it’s possible, almost too easy drinking. I want and indeed need a little bitter bite, preferably at the middle of the end. Just-warm coffee, wisp of smoke, chocolate. Not a game-changer, just solid. 

Beeradvocate Rating: 76

ratebeer Rating: 58

Hayward Abbey Rating: 82

Smuttynose Winter Ale

Beer No. 53 – Smuttynose Winter Ale

The big boys want to lump – at the bottom mind you – this brew with the Abbey Dubbels. I’m going to make my own call here. It’s a seasonal brew with the marketing to match. Plus the spice bite, delicate sweetness, and semi-robust ABV just aren’t there.

STYLE: Winter Warmer

ABV: 5.8%

LOOK: The body really isn’t there either. A rich, oaky brown carries the load. Soft head, softer lacing and retention.

NOSE: Whoppers, raisins, cherries.

MOUTH: Fizz deep in the back of my throat – that’s my first impression. Not the staid malt, not the toffee dash. Odd because I remember liking it more on Xmas Eve and even thinking it better than what it replaced, my local Xmas Ale, Christkindl. Jammy toast and small purple fruits let you know what could be. But overall a little too balanced for this style.

Beeradvocate Rating: 84

ratebeer Rating: 81

Hayward Abbey Rating: 77

Monk’s Cafe Flemish Sour Ale

Beer No. 48 – Monk’s Cafe Flemish Sour Ale

More than any other for me, there’s variety in this style. Superlative to good to average to what the fuck, to be more specific. This one, I wanted to like it more.

STYLE: Flanders Oud Bruin

ABV: 5.5%

LOOK: Dark wood, brown, and syrupy. But that’s a standstill take. On closer inspection with a whirl or two around a Belgian tulip it’s plainly lighter, unsticky.

NOSE: Burnt leather, stale coffee, flat soda. Residual cherry and malt vinegar.

MOUTH: Rather soft, mild tartness. The biggest problem I have is reconciling the message (Flemish Sour Ale) with the result (a slightly sweeter, moderately more acidic Killian’s Irish Red). Cherry skins and cola cake, yes – a wee bit. But it’s a struggle to pull more. For a so-called sour, the finish is ridiculously clean, palate cleansing.

Beeradvocate Rating: 86

ratebeer Rating: 92

Hayward Abbey Rating: 77

AleSmith X

Beer No. 46 – AleSmith X

Is it fair to discount any review of this beer that says it “marks the spot” without any irony or self-awareness? I think so. But let’s do talk about the packaging. Bold, largely utilitarian, but not without a sense of style or dimension. I’m not asking for a facsimile of the beer, but there it is.

STYLE: American Pale Ale

ABV: 5%

LOOK: Pours a golden carrot with a head that’s billowy at first but soon settles to a creamy half-finger. Wee bubbles march purposefully from the bottom to the top, never breaking rank, never slowing, never speeding.

NOSE: Hoppy and lemony, almost IPA. Garden fruits and vegetables, mostly sweet corn husks and strawberries.

MOUTH: Bonfire of riches. Cucumber, celery root, pine, IPA citrus. The real draw is the soft butter and hardworking oils. The butter soothes while the oil coats the mouth, literally sticking around for the next pull, and maybe calling for it. The balance and finish remind me of Victory Hop Wallop, a DIPA for DIPA drinkers. To my surprise, AleSmith has packaged that profile in this typically lighter style.

Beeradvocate Rating: 89

ratebeer Rating: 97

Hayward Abbey Rating: 93

Rogue Mocha Porter

Beer No. 43 – Rogue Mocha Porter

I don’t want to let it goad me, but I did just eat a Drumstick, courtesy of the eight pack picked up by my full-term and still-glowing wife this weekend. It shouldn’t affect this review, but, you know, there it is.

I’ve been telling a few confidants about this blog, which inevitably leads them to ask what my favorite beer is. Tough question, and I tend to answer more broadly, in styles – Belgians, DIPAs, Imperial Stouts. This decent brew, while none of the above, once again proves that there are qualities – and balance – in a softer, often-overlooked category.

STYLE: American Porter

ABV: 5.3%

LOOK: It takes a minute or so for the two-finger head to settle down. Dotted carbonation buttresses a puffy topper where the bubbles pop slowly, methodically. The color, purpley black.

NOSE: Hershey Bars, caramel, cream cheese, and red berries. Sweet smoke, seductive.

MOUTH: Iced coffee, mineral water, grill plates, garden dirt. All of which I mean in the best possible way. The lightly bitter wee bite is a nice counterpoint to the smokey sweet aroma. Balance is the key, with hops you can actually taste. An unusual but welcome addition to Porterland.

Beeradvocate Rating: 87

ratebeer Rating: 96

Hayward Abbey Rating: 88