from left to right:
Portage - American (Robust) Porter 6% abv
New Belgium Brewing Co. - Fort Collins, CO
Something I've noticed about New Belgium is how stylistically accurate all of their beer are, and Portage is no different. The first porter-style beer they brew for bottling and it is easily one of the best examples on the market, right up there next to Black Butte. Roasted black malt and chocolate dominate the nose with just the faintest hint of some earthy hops. Dark, dark brown in color, but when you hold it up and the let the light hit it just right, there's a nice mahogany hue just under the frothy, chocolate milk colored head. More earthy hops and black malt in the flavor, but now with a light bitterness that can only come from dark chocolate and espresso bean. Finish is relatively dry with a bit of hop bitterness, but it's mostly a roasty dryness. Moderate amount of carbonation and a medium-full body, smooth texture that coats the mouth. And because this review has been incredibly straight-forward this whole time, I'll end with this: This beer can portage my brain boat from the river of "wondering why they didn't do this earlier" to the sea of of "knew they had it in them all along" any day of the week.
Space Dust - India Pale Ale 7.2% abv
Elysian Brewing Co. - Seattle, WA
Space Dust, not actually made with anything from space (unless you want to get super scientific and/or existential about it), but it may as well be. This citrus and piney aromatic concoction is like pure star-power harnessed in a little brown bottle and, until very recently, was treated by most as such a valuable commodity because we could only get it once a year. But, as you may have noticed, it sits there on the shelf, in all its solar glory, and now you can have it WHENEVER. YOU. WANT. The hazy deep copper/amber colored beverage rests peacefully, like a distant nebula through the eye of the Hubble Space Telescope, not giving any hints to the brilliant supernova of flavor it's about to unleash. In just one sip you start with the meteoric crash of hop bitterness to the taste center of brain, which creates a shockwave of unripened tangerines and malty sweetness. It seems to take another billion years to settle down to a balanced, grapefruity, and resiny finish that lingers on the back of the tongue, creating the perfect conditions necessary to harbor life, or maybe just another sip. Either way, I want to live there. This medium-bodied IPA is a little light for the style, which is great because it makes it a kind of session IPA before session IPAs were even a thing, and you still get the high ABV. Like our own sun, this beer is a yellow dwarf in the ever-expanding universe of big IPAs, but it's still a large body of mass whose gravity will keep many of us in its orbit.
Sucaba 2015 Vintage- English Barleywine 13.3% abv
Firestone Walker Brewing Co.- Paso Robles, CA
Maybe it's just me, but whenever I see a bottle of this I always think of a succubus, a beautiful demon that seduces you and eventually drains you of any life-force you have. Funny thing is, I think this beer actually may be a succubus in liquid form. Only instead of draining you of your life-force, it just makes you want to take a nap, because it's 13% alcohol. This creature begins it persuasion with a hearty, American oak smell combined with dried fruits, bourbon, and just a touch of chocolate underneath everything. Then it stares you down with its devilish ruby-brown gaze, and surely you are no longer able to resist it's temptations. As you imbibe you will taste more of the strong oak accompanied by complex malt flavors, toasted coconut, vanilla, a little bit of dark cherry, and a hint of chocolate to carry you to a dry, bourbony finish. A full-bodied and velvet-like ale that is not for the faint of heart. With incredibly strong alcohol flavors, it would be best to let this one age for a year or more to help balance everything out.
Hennepin - Saison/Farmhouse Ale 7.7% abv
Brewery Ommegang - Cooperstown, NY
This beer is named for the French explorer Louis Hennepin, the first European to visit Niagara Falls (it says so right on the bottle), and what a perfect name it is. This saison is an exploration of not only your taste buds, but possibly even your emotions. At the forefront of this journey you are greeted with the sweet, floral, and spicy notes you might expect from most French/Belgian ales. This seemingly liquid gold topped with a light, sudsy white head then catapults you across the flavor frontier with big orange and spice notes in the front, and is then accompanied by some fruity esters that resemble dried apricot, and some not-quite-resiny, not-quite-citrusy hop flavor that dries up the back-end, giving it a pleasantly crisp finish. With the effervescent strength of a good bubbly, this courageous, but delicate farmhouse ale will carry your thirst in its sweet and creamy arms all the way to the edge before it drops in a piney, hop flavored canoe and sends you up river with a flavorful, lingering memory and keeps you in waiting for the next adventure, er, sip.