Beer Review : Atlas Brew Works Ponzi IPA

New-to-me DC-based Atlas Brew Works is, I can tell, a brewery that I will be going back to for more interesting pints. I like to drink local when I can and, while it’s not a guarantee of quality (everything in life is a mixed bag), keeping in a small geographical area can get you to try things you might have otherwise overlooked.

I pulled up a stool at Beers and Cheers Too in Gaithersburg and stared down their sizable beer list. Ponzi was described as being “criminally hoppy” which is sort of my equivalent of “you had me at ‘hello.'” I ordered up a pint and settled in.

I could smell this beer when the waitress set it down on the bar about a foot away from me – big biscuit and wheat smells wafted over to me along with some herbal hops. This IPA pours a rich straw gold color that’s fairly clear in a frosty pint glass. There’s a nice, fluffy, slow-to-fall white head made up of a fine matrix of bubbles. A close-up sniff gives me more citrus notes to go along with the initial hop-forward smell.

The taste is a big, west coast punch of flavor. The male (Munich) is light, yet flavorful and the hops cover a wide range of tastes from bright green on through dank. The finish is dry, yet very balanced. And there’s a sweetness here that reminds me of milk stouts and that made me wonder if there was any lactose added to this brew. The description that Atlas gives doesn’t mention it specifically, but there’s something going on with the malts here that is a little bit brown sugary.

There’s a whole garden full of hop varietals in here: Cascade, Chinook, Centential, Mandarina, and Ahtamun. Just bring the whole crew, why don’t you?

The nose on this beer promised big flavor and the taste delivered. I thoroughly enjoyed this and would definitely order it again. Five delicious mugs out of five.

Beer Review: Founders All Day IPA

To acquire this beer, I took a walk to my corner store during which I got street harassed and followed in my own neighborhood and then was rained on in a sudden sundering of the sky by a thunderstorm. Honestly, this beer better be really good after all of that. Let’s find out!

This 4.7% ABV IPA (a little beyond a session, I would say). It’s a beautiful color like a rich, amber honey gold. There’s a handsome, fluffy, active head that hangs around for about a minute. It leaves a smear of foam and some pretty sticky lacing behind. It’s almost malty-sweet smelling to me, which I’m surprised by. There should be a lot of forest resin going on in this beer. I’m expecting a decent punch of flavor punch based on the nose of this beer.

The taste up front is a little bit dry, but it absolutely does deliver on those resinous hop flavors that the smell promised me. There is definitely a sweet note to it from the malts that I was smelling before. There’s a lot going on in this beer and I’m really enjoying the layers of flavor. It’s both sweet and dry, and very slightly bitter. I’d say it’s very well-balanced overall.

This beer has a fairly light body with some moderate combination. It’s extremely easy to drink and very refreshing. I give it five mugs, even in spite of the bitterness.

Beer Review: Stone Brewing Jindia Double IPA

When I pulled up a stool at Beers and Cheers Too in Gaithersburg, I heard one of my bar neighbors talking smack about a peppery, spicy beer. That had my name written all over it, so I asked which beer that one was and ordered a pint blindly. Sometimes we just have to trust in fate pointing us to the right brew.

Stone Brewing’s Jindia Double IPA pours a very handsome, rich golden-amber hue. There’s about a finger of cream-colored head on it with some staying power in those little bubbles. It smells almost wine-like to me, which may have something to do with the 8.7% ABV on this beer. There are also notes of bread, ginger (but not too aggressive – no burning nostrils here), light citrus, and a dash of herbaceous juniper.

At first taste, it’s peppery up front, but in a nice, warm sort of way – which is where the ginger comes in, a close second in this marching order of flavors. It moves through a slightly sweet citrus phase before finishing dry, but in a pleasant way. It’s full of many layers of great tastes that go well together in my mind. It gets a little dryer as it warms up and is maybe on the cusp of being too dry, but honestly it is overall really delightful. The mouthfeel is good, pleasantly light, and the carbonation seems balanced for the flavor profile.

There’s a wonderful, refreshing mix of botanicals in this brew. I’m usually on the fence about juniper in anything – I’m just as likely to like it as have my stomach turned by it. It’s always a fun surprise. I’m not sure I would have ordered this if I’d known it would have juniper in it. All the same, I’m glad that I did. This was a juniper beer that went over well for me.

This was a risk that paid off well for me. I would most definitely order this beer again, as long as I had the time to slowly enjoy a DIPA. 8.7% packs a wallop. Five out of five mugs from me.

Beer Review: Drink Your Breakfast

Brunch and booze go well together. They’re an established power couple. Most folks think of the popular mimosa or bellini, perhaps an Irish coffee, or the classic Bloody Mary. But there’s more than just champagne and liquor to be had at these meals. Consider these four beers to enjoy before noon.

Founders Breakfast Stout

Brewed with oats, coffee, and bitter chocolate, this robust beer experience is intensely flavored. It is perhaps one of my all-time favorite beers and would go great with sweet or savory foods.

Sixpoint C.R.E.A.M.

Beer and coffee go great together, especially with this cold brew concoction from Sixpoint Brewery. Smooth and creamy, it offers a nice buzz (from both parties) any time of the day.

Michelada (“Red Beer”)

This is more of a beer cocktail than a straight beer, but it’s a great one that I only tried in Portland for the first time about a year and a half ago. Start with a salt/spice-rimmed pint glass, pour in a Mexican beer, and add a splash of Bloody Mary mix. How’s that for hair of the dog?

Dogfish Head Beer for Breakfast

Combining coffee, maple syrup, beer, and… scrapple(!), this unusual blend of A.M. flavors is sure to start the day off right. Scrapple, for those not in the know, is a sort of mushy blend of pork scraps, spices, and fillers. It’s an odd duck, but it’s one that I grew up eating, so this Delaware-area local has won me over with its weird food charm.

Beer Review: Evolution Craft Brewing Roasty Oats

Hello again, Beers and Cheers! I don’t come in often enough to be considered a regular, but I definitely wander in every other week or so. Their taps rotate frequently, so I only see the occasional repeat on two back-to-back visits. Someday, I swear I’ll eat something there so I can review how their food stands up to their beer selection. I’m very much a “come for the growler fill, stay for a pint” kind of gal.

With a name like Roasty Oats, I had some pretty specific expectations for this beer from Evolution Craft Brewing. It pours so dark that it’s practically black with maybe one finger of short-lived tan head. This leaves a little bit of creamy lacing behind, but this slides down the glass fairly quickly; it’s not very clingy. It smells appropriately roasty with some notes of coffee in there as well. Unlike some porters or browns, there’s no hint of sweetness from the smell itself.

The taste is all roasted grain up front (good, that makes this an aptly-named beer) with the darkness of coffee and cocoa behind it. There’s maybe a tiny hint of sweetness on the rich, mapley side of things, but it’s mellow. I would definitely not call this a sweet beer by any stretch, but it’s not completely on the dry/bitter end of roasty, toasty stouts, either. It doesn’t suffer from the metallic taste that some stouts and porters seem to end up with. There’s a decent mouthfeel on this and, while it’s perhaps on the thin side, it’s not at all watery. I love my dark beers with a little bit of body to them and this one is generally fine.

Absolutely a well-balanced beer in my eyes. Five mugs out of five and I’d love to order another one of these in the future.

Beer Review: Manor Hill Experimental IPA

I love growlers. Don’t get me wrong there. But the first pour from one is always a challenge for me. I’ve got sad noodle arms and have a hard time hoisting a growler and pouring with one hand, so I use two to make sure I’m not going to drop the thing on the floor. Unfortunately, this means that I can’t tilt the glass at a 45 degree angle like I normally would and this definitely impacts the pour that I get out of growlers for the first one to two glasses.

All the same, I get the things filled now and again and then fight with them to get a good beer out of them. This time, I went to Gilly’s in Rockville, MD and got my growler filled with Manor Hill Experimental IPA.  This is a beer that I wish I knew more about (I even have in my notes, “research hops”), but there is really no concrete information about it out there. I don’t even know what hops they used. My impression is that this is a rotating series and that different hops will be used in different batches. Basically, I have no way of knowing exactly what I was drinking.

This is a somewhat hazy pour with a rich golden color and a very fluffy head (no doubt from my ham-fisted growler pour). The head loiters for a few minutes, but then sinks slowly, leaving some decent diamonds of lacing behind. It smells hoppy in a green way with notes of pine resin. It’s fresh and bright, but there aren’t any fruity smells.

The first sip is full of flavor. it’s lightly grainy and bright with refreshing, almost herbacious hops. It’s piney, but never dank. This is a great beer for warm months because it’s both flavorful and light at the same time. Hoppy, but not overwhelming at any point. There’s no dry finish to be found in this beer, so I definitely love that.

I give it five out of five because I would absolutely drink this again… but I can’t be sure that I’d ever have the same beer twice. It’s a conundrum, but I’m willing to take a risk, I think.

Review: Southern Tier Porter

Sometimes, it’s nice to appreciate the simpler things in life. I’ll take a meyer lemon gose or a cardamom IPA or an espresso stout any day of the week and love that variety. But today, it’s back to basics: a simple, standard porter from Southern Tier. I love a good porter and was a loyal drinker of the style for many years. I’ve lately turned away from it and sought IPAs and more exotic beers – but today, I’ll return to my roots and put my fate in the hands of Southern Tier, a brewery that I’ve generally liked in the past.

Again, this is what I get for experimenting with different tea towels as backgrounds.

Poured from a bottle into a pint glass, this is a beautiful, rich, dark brown with a slightly auburn tinge to it. No light seems to pass through it. It has just the tiniest head of a lovely cream color – a puff that dissipates very quickly. There’s a small trace of an island of foam left behind, but it’s not much. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by some recent stouts and porters on nitro.

It smells roasty, like dark bread , dark chocolate, coffee, brown sugar, and raisin. It’s only 5.5% ABV, but it smells boozy to me. Maybe it’s that brown sugar and raisin smell that’s often associated with higher ABV dark beers and brandywines.

Honestly, the taste is really lacking the punch that the nose suggested there would be. It over-promises and vastly under-delivers. It’s a little watery and thin, as porters sometimes are (and which I do not care for). It’s not at all full-bodied in either flavor or in mouthfeel. It tastes the most like that raisiny booziness that I got off of the nose. There is some flavor from the dark, roasted malts, but it’s also distressingly thin. The carbonation is relatively low. And there’s something sticky about the texture.

It’s a fine enough beer, it’s very much signature of the style in many ways, but maybe it’s not the style for me any longer. I think I’d pass up this particular porter in the future. Three out of five mugs for me.

Review: Oliver Brewing Co Balls to the Wall APA

I love beer and I love food. I’m a simple creature, really. I also love cooking and few things go better with food prep than a cold beer. In this case, I had plenty of time for beer as I was braising a small pork shoulder with some apple cider vinegar. This would eventually become some beautiful pulled pork with a spicy-sweet bbq sauce.

The Oliver Brewing Co website promises “a gratifying hop punch” with this beer, so I had some expectations in place before I even tasted it. No one likes to be disappointed, so don’t get me all worked up for nothing, please, beer.

Balls to the Wall fills my glass with a rich golden color that’s slightly hazy in appearance. There’s a fluffy, energetic white head that falls away fast, leaving behind a few spots of lacing. It smells very hoppy (as promised!) in the family of something very piney and green. It doesn’t smell dank at all, but very bright and fresh, perhaps like mowed grass (which I sort of hate because it sets off my allergies, but in theory it smells really nice).

Seriously, I can’t with this green towel. I thought it was a good idea, but I was sorely mistaken.

The first taste is a hop wallop to be sure. It’s not a palate wrecker, though. It’s still very refreshing on the whole. And – good in my book – it’s not too terribly dry on the finish, so that’s a thumbs up from me. It’s honestly kind of like licking a pine tree… if it weren’t for the sap and bark and other gross stuff, I guess. Imagine with me, here.

I really enjoyed this and found it flavorful and fairly well balanced. Five out of five mugs, I’d definitely seek this out in the future.

Review: Green Flash Tangerine Soul Style IPA

I have an odd combination of a serious sweet tooth, but also a lot of self-control in my weight-loss mission. So, while I might not eat sweets very often, I absolutely love  them. A favorite since childhood are those gummy orange slices with coarse sugar on them. You know them. I know you do.

Right? Those. Keep them in mind when I talk about this beer because, well, they’re relevant.

Green Flash Tangerine Soul Style IPA is described on the bottle as an “India Pale Ale with tangerine” that is “zesty and bright.” That’s a promise that I can get behind – it was a hot day and I was in a mood for something light and refreshing, but full of flavor.

I have some regrets about this green towel backdrop – I’m not sure I’d use it again.

It pours a really attractive orangey-marigold color with a little trace of whitish head, but that fades pretty quickly. There is some decent, fairly sticky lacing from this beer. Made with a blend of Citra and Cascade hops, this should be incredibly tropical and juicy. Oddly, it smells wheaty and not very citrusy at all. I’ll admit that I’m confused. I expected a wallop of orange – and I get some – but I mostly get biscuit malt up front. Not a very hoppy smell at all.

The taste, however, is lots of heavy tangerine up front with some hoppiness on the tongue. The finish is very sweet with a mellow, orangey flavor like canned mandarin slices or fruit salad in light syrup. It’s good good balance overall, but a slightly dry finish. It’s not unpalatable, but definitely notable. The biggest downside to me in this beer is that aftertaste of dryness. Otherwise, it’s incredibly fruit and refreshing.

So, those gummy slices? I’d say this beer matches them for orange-flavored intensity (though it isn’t nearly as sweet). I give it four out of five mugs and would likely buy it again.

Beer 201: Mosaic Hops

Meet the fruity hop varietal that opened exciting new doors for brewers worldwide. By all accounts, Mosaic hops are the baby of the family – they’ve only been around for about four years now. Not so different from what farmers have been doing since farming existed, this hops was cross-bred and selected for the properties that growers were most interested in: in this case, berry flavors, mango, and floral notes.

Bred by the same company that is responsible for Simcoe and Citra hops, Lagunitas and other small craft brewers were early adopters of this big-bodied varietal. A popular example of a Mosaic-forward beer is Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA. It’s becoming popular for single-hopped IPAs and session beers. – and we’re definitely in a single-hopped beer boom right now.

In order to have a successfully executed single-hop, the hops need to be dynamic and distinct – no middle of the road wallflower hops here. Mosaic’s flavor profile is juicy and fruity without being sweet, pleasantly resinous, and it also features a balanced bitterness for a crisp, dry finish.

I”m excited to try more beers that prominently feature Mosaic. The ones on my wishlist include: