Thursday, July 24, 2014

Founders Brewing Company - Backwoods Bastard

I'm not really what you would call the biggest Scotch Ale fan. This isn't to say the style has no redeeming qualities and that there aren't examples out there that I enjoy (Dieu du Ciel's Équinoxe Du Printemps being my favorite so far), but, for the most part at least, the style just tends to not do it for me. And looking at beeradvocate's Top 250, where Scotch Ales make up less than 1% of the list, I would say I'm not alone. Having tried 0% of the Scotch Ales on the list, I decided to give the style another shot. Next up is #158 on the list, Founders' Backwoods Bastard.

Backwoods Bastard is a Scotch Ale with the added twist of being aged in bourbon barrels- a first for me when it comes to Scotch Ales. The beer pours a muddy brown color with just a hint of red to it. A thin, sandy-colored head simmers down quickly, leaving just a thin swathe above the beer. The bourbon in here really jumps out at you the second you get close for a smell. Sweet aromas of toasted coconut, vanilla, burnt caramel, oak, brown sugar and marshmallow envelop the more familiar malty Scotch Ale smells in here.

Whereas the smell strays away from the traditional Scotch Ale elements, the taste leaves no doubt as to the style you're drinking. Tons of rich maltiness with a touch of caramel are the first things I get here. Then the bourbon starts to take over, with notes of heavy oak, mild cinnamon and charred wood. The mouthfeel is slick and a little oily, giving the sweet caramel flavors in here a bit of a buttery feel. The finish rounds things off with some brown sugar, caramel and a lingering charred oak note. This beer may not have turned me into a Scotch Ale fan, but I'll definitely be a bit more receptive to them after seeing how good this was.

Final Grade: A-

Top 250 Beers Tasted: 129

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Toppling Goliath - PseudoSue

I'll admit it- I don't know a whole lot about the state of Iowa. I know they have one of those caucus things; I know the band Slipknot is from there; I would imagine there are a lot of fans of the band Slipknot there (reason enough not to visit in my book); and I know that...well, that's about it. And I would imagine I'm not alone there. But a tiny town in Iowa with a population just a shade over 8,000 peaked the interest of a lot of people recently, when a beers from a brewery called Toppling Goliath started to march up the Top 250 List. In numbers. I finally got my first chance to try one of their offerings last week, when I was able to land a bottle of their famed Pale Ale, PseudoSue. So let's check this one out. At #18, PseudoSue.

PseudoSue pours a clear, glowing golden color with a rich and tightly carbonated one finger bone white head. The retention is pretty impressive and each sip yields a curtain of sticky lace. This beer is named after one of the largest T-Rex skeletons ever unearthed. Fittingly, the smell of this beer is monstrous. Tons and tons of tropical fruit here, led by notes of ripe mango, pineapple, jackfruit and some apricot preserves. There's just a hint of honey malt in the background and zero trace of bitterness to be found. Incredible stuff here.

Taste-wise, it does not get much better than this. A ridiculous amount of pineapple and mango absolutely assault your palate, tamed just a touch by a smooth, sweet malt blanket. Pink grapefruit flesh and just a flash of pine and resin show before a lingering and Barry White smooth finish of pine and mango. This beer uses only Citra hops (my favorite hop, conveniently) and I've never seen them showcased this well. This is by far the best Pale Ale I've ever come across and one of the best beers I've ever had the good fortune to try. Get thee to Iowa, beer lovers.

Final Grade: A+

Top 250 Beers Tasted: 128

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Klosterbrauerei Andechs - Doppelbock Dunkel

Doppelbocks aren't exactly the most glamorous style in the beer world. They're kind of like the Rob Kardashian of the beer world. Consistently overlooked, clowned on for being (or tasting, in the case of Doppelbocks) heavier than people feel like they should be... Alright, maybe that's not the best comparison. But my point is that dopplebocks are pretty underrated (probably due to the fact that pretty much all of the good ones stay in Germany and most American brewers won't touch the style). This is evidenced by the fact that as of today, there is not one in's Top 250 Beers list. There was one on the list, but by the time I was able to track it down, it had been booted. So let's review it anyways and give this style a little bit of the credit it deserves.

Andechs Doppelbock Dunkel pours a deep chestnut brown color with a thin, eggshell-colored head. Similar to a lot of doppelbocks, you get a big hit of rye bread right away when you smell this. But in this beer, there's a whole lot going on behind the rye. Caramel, toasted bread crust, light powdered cocoa, earthy malt and some dark fruit all show up. Already, I could see where the hype (by doppelbock standards) for this beer came from. Smell-wise, it's unparallelled.

The taste opens with a ton of rye bread and a rich, nutty flavor that's almost like a walnut bread. The middle shows mostly dark fruit notes, with raisin skin and banana being the biggest things that stuck out for me. Cocoa, molasses and a touch of rye bread crust round things out, coupled with just a touch of dry heat on the finish. Andechs Doppelbock Dunkel is "only" 7.1%, but it would never trick you into believing you were drinking something light. Whereas most doppelbocks blow people away with tons of rye bread notes, this beer is able to harmonize that flavor with things I've never seen before in a doppelbock. I've got a long way to go before I'm an expert in the style, but it's definitely going to be pretty hard to top this one.

Final Grade: A

Top 250 Beers Tasted: 129