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: Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Across the World Dry Hopped Berliner Weisse

Somehow, I had never heard of the Beer Camp project from Sierra Nevada. Maybe I’ve been living under a rock. If that’s the case, I still need beer for my dark, dank rock-home. Enter Gilly’s on a fateful afternoon when I went in for a pint and some bottles and stumbled into the Beer Camp Across the World promotion/tap takeover. I was given a little paper passport and told that if I drank seven of the BCAW beers, I’d get a prize (it was a Nalgene-like water bottle plus some stickers and sunglasses, I think). Even seven half-pints is a lot of beer and anyway I had a BBQ to hit later that day, so I couldn’t loiter all day and drink a bunch of beers.

I first tasted the the ginger lager and the Thai-style iced tea and they were both amazing. It was genuinely hard to choose. Then my next door neighbor recommended the Dry Hopped Berliner Weisse, which I had overlooked, so I gave it a try.

It’s a cloudy straw color with a slight foamy head. There’s a touch of lacing, but nothing very strong there. There isn’t much of a nose. Maybe there’s a hint of lemon peel or something else citrusy and similar. It smells sour. Can something even smell sour? I vote yes.

Its taste is not overwhelmingly sour, but it is absolutely packed with flavor. It’s zingy and gently wheaty up front, which makes sense because they use their in-house kellerbier/Hefeweizen yeast. The dry hopping definitely comes through on the back end of the taste with a nice, resinous green hint. It really rounds the beer out. It’s not just sour; it has layers. There’s no dry finish to be had, this is a very clean beer.

Would I buy this again? Over and over. I actually did buy the sampler case for BCAW this year and then brought it to a party and drank the whole thing with friends. So, sadly, no more BCAW beer reviews. You’ll have to forgive me. Five out of five mugs!

Review: Maine Beer Company A Tiny Beautiful Something

Gilly’s always smells like bacon and is full of good beer. Of course it gives me a lot of warm, fuzzy feelings. Some of that is nostalgia-based, as I spent many happy afternoons there a few years ago when I lived in the neighborhood. But is memory really all that reliable? How much can we trust our senses when viewing something through the lens of nostalgia?

I initially had this beer in 2015 and loved it – thank goodness for Untappd! Maine Beer Company’s A Tiny Beautiful Something set me down a path of pale ales that I might have otherwise ignored. I can’t point to one beer for sure, but this was definitely part of the crack team that got me to where I am today. It features El Dorado hops, which are a pretty young varietal, and which were fairly new to the scene in 2015, when I first learned about this beer.

It pours a rich gold, maybe slightly hazy. There’s one finger of white head, which shrinks away very slowly. It smells like a green garden with floral and piney hops. There are also scents of orange peel and something slightly earthy.

The taste is light and bright. It’s a little malt sweet, but it leans more toward caramel and orange than it does rich, brown sugar. I get some faintly peppery hints as it warms up. There are melon or berry notes that linger and, while there’s a slightly bitter note on the back end, it’s a very clean finish. It’s as good as I remember. Maybe we can trust in nostalgia after all. Five out of five.

Review: Manor Hill Sixfold

I recently started a new job and am trying to figure out where to go for beer after work and between 5 and my occasional evening appointments. Generally, I’m happy to buy beer to drink and review at home, but here is a small chunk of time to kill, so what better way to handle that than with a craft beer? Enter my old reliable, Gilly’s. It’s about halfway between work and my appointment, so it’s a fine place to camp out for a while.

This week, they had a selection from Manor Hill that I hadn’t tried before: Sixfold Imperial IPA. Coming in at 8.8%, this is no lightweight session beer!  Sixfold might be seasonal or a small run, but I feel like I’ve seen it listed on beer menus in the past. It was apparently originally brewed under the name of Hidden Hopyard: Volume 6 and strongly features Eureka and Equinox hops, which I don’t really know well. Manor Hill brews out of Ellicott City, MD, which is very close to me. Clearly, I’ll need to visit them sometime soon.

This came out a really lovely, rich amber-gold color with no head. There’s a little wisp of foam on the surface of the beer, but no lacing left behind as we go on. There’s not a strong nose to this beer at all; it’s perhaps gently green and floral if anything at all. I get some faint bread scents and maybe a hint of pine.

With the first sip, it’s clear that this Imperial IPA is jam-packed with flavor. Citrus and hops and resin and honey and freshly-baked baguette. Wow! It’s not dry in spite of being a decent 70 IBUs. It’s maybe even just a hint sweet and it’s fruity without being too refreshing. I know, that sounds weird. But it’s a good thing in this case. It’s not a super-bright, citrusy beer, but it’s spring-like and really delightful.

I’m absolutely going to keep an eye out for this one in the future! I’d have it again any day of the week. Five out of five delicious mugs!

Review: Captain Lawrence Barrel Select Green

Can I just say: the soundtrack at Gilly’s is always so, so good (even on the days where one of the bartenders gets a wild hair and plays nothing but Phish – this is rare, but it does happen – be warned). There’s always lots of classic rock or indie playing. This day, the siren sounds of David Bowie’s Moonage Daydream were a treat for my ears. I love that song and it even inspired a short story of mine (heyyyyy anybody want to buy a 6,000 word time travel/Weird West tale?). Anyway.

The Captain Lawrence Brewing Company brings us the Barrel Select – Green, a sour ale with a nice flavor to it. This beer is a blend of several brews, which are being aged in Italian oak barrels, some for up to three years. It sports a low IBU (bitterness rating) of 15 and a moderate ABV (alcoholic percentage) of 6.5%. The taste, however, isn’t quite what I had expected.

I had this in a 10oz tulip glass at Gilly’s (I love those 10oz pours so that I can try even more beers!). It’s an faintly orange  golden color that is very appealing. It is slightly hazy in appearance, but I can’t be confirm on the brewery’s website if this beer is filtered or not; other reviews talk about its haziness as well, so this is a feature, not a bug. It has a very small, whitish head with a few streaks of lacing to be seen. There’s not much nose to it. This isn’t necessarily an indicator of flavor, but I do tend to like sours/wild ales that also have a sour smell to them. This does not have that, though it smells faintly of green apple to me.

Upon tasting, there is no sour punch. I was bracing for one, but this didn’t deliver – not much of a surprise considering the lack of a strong smell. It is, however, gently bright and fruity. It’s crisp. It feels more like a dry cider than a beer to me. The carbonation is pretty high on this one. It’s refreshing.

This could be a very enjoyable beer for someone intimidated by too much sourness in a beer. It might go over well with dry cider drinkers. It’s very drinkable and wonderful for warm weather. Three out of five glasses, mostly because I was looking for a greater saturation of flavor in this one.

Review: Diamondback Wack

Another Gilly’s review (you think they’d be a sponsor of mine by now or something) – and a quick one at that. Diamondback Brewing Company is Baltimore based and has been brewing since 2013. They’re based out of a handsome brick building in the Locust Point area of the city, just off of I-95. And yet I haven’t visited them so far. We’ll have to change that.

Their standard brewing lineup favors IPAs and pale ales, but they definitely went outside of their comfort zone with Wack. This is a weird one: a black gose (which I will admit that I had never heard of before). A black gose’s signature color is dark and this comes from the malts used to brew it. In the case of Diamondback Wack, these are Midnight Wheat and Dark Chocolate Malts. The hops used are Ella (which I’m not really familiar with), and the yeasts are a house yeast for Diamonbdack as well as additional lactic acid.

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I had a 10oz pour this particular Monday. It was a deep, dark brown color with a hint of ruby hue to it. There’s not-quite-a-finger of tan head, which vanishes quickly.  I didn’t get much of a nose off of this, probably because it was very cold. There might be a slightly zingy and sour smell and – I know that this sounds odd – I could swear that it smells slightly salted.

It’s malty for a few moments up front, roasty but not sweet at all. There’s a great deal of complexity in this beer. Diamondback’s website says it’s brewed with coriander, which is part of the nutty, layered flavors. It’s very sour. It has a nice pucker punch to it. The salty finish is also pleasantly strong, which is a great taste for a gose – very signature of this beer style. Even when I lick my lips after, they’re still sour and salty tasting. This is a style of beer that I love and this was a really good example of what I think it can be should be.

Review: Otter Creek Couch Surfer

Back at Gilly’s again. Like you do.

Otter Creek, based out of Vermont, is a very environmentally-conscious brewery that puts out a solid lineup. They describe Couch Surfer as a “laid-back oatmeal stout,” which I’ll go along with. I was lucky enough to have this as a nitro draft. I opted for a 10oz glass, which Gilly’s generally offers as an alternative to a full pint.

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It’s a beautiful pour. Deep, rich chocolate black-brown with a rich tan head. Nitro is a magical thing for this oatmeal stout. There’s coffee, chocolate, and grain aromas, maybe with a hint of burnt sugar (probably from the dark roasted malts).

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It has a good mouthfeel – not watery like a lot of stouts can be. Partly the nitro, I’m sure, but this beer felt very velvety and luxurious. The first taste is very mildly coffee, more lactose-sweet than anything else – but not cloyingly sweet at any point. This beer isn’t terribly complex, but it’s also not metallic or acidic at all. Very well-rounded.

Review: Jailbreak Ryemin’ and Stealin’

What can I say? I’m a sucker for rye. I like me some rye beers and some rye whiskey (especially in a well-balanced Manhattan). There’s a spiciness that the grain adds to the beverages it goes into. It adds a kind of depth that is very appealing to my palate!

I didn’t use to like lighter beers. They scared me. I’d had an aggresively hoppy IPA early in my beer-drinking days, and it put me off them for years. Eventually, I got bold and decided to work them into my beer rotation – but I wasn’t ready to go all in yet. So I started with black IPAs and rye beers and IPAs. I couldn’t tell you what my first one was, but I know that I liked it and that it lured me back over and away from my safe zone of porters and stouts.

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This was another pint at my beloved Gilly’s. This beer pours a handsome ruby brown with a small, off-white head that quickly vanishes, but does leave a little lacing behind. Perhaps because it was poured pretty cold, I couldn’t really get any nose off of this beer. I was also chatting with a friend over drinks, so I didn’t spend too long huffing my beer like a total weirdo. This time.

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The taste of Jailbreak Ryemin’ and Stealin’ is all resin and pine and caramel malt up front. There’s that pleasant rye and spice flavor that lingers and warms the tongue. It has a slightly dry finish, but is relatively clean; it doesn’t linger overmuch. There is definitely some dry pine on the back end.

As far as rye beers go, I feel like this one is pretty balanced with a sweet enough malt backbone to hold up to the rye and pine flavors that it brings to the table.

 

 

Review: Duclaw Gingerbread Euforia

Another pint (okay, 10oz pour, technically) at my old watering hole, Gilly’s! I sometimes have appointments in the area of it and a good friend works nearby – when I’m in Rockville and she can get away for a long lunch, we meet for a beer and a chat. This was one such day and, I’ll admit, these are some of my favorite afternoons when I can make them happen.

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My friend is all about the IPAs, but I opted for something a little different. This beer was a golden-hued, rich brown with honey undertones. No real head on this pour, but there was a hint of lacing.

It had a good bit of dessert-like sweetness to it with some spices mixed in. I get cinnamon and ginger from it. It smells like baking cookies at Christmas time. There’s big  gingerbread flavor here! There’s a slightly bitter aftertaste, though, which is throwing me off. Maybe it’s the beer or maybe it’s some lines that need cleaning – but I know Gilly’s to be really diligent about keeping their system clean, so I suspect it’s the beer. Not sure I’d buy it again.

Review: Gilly’s Craft Beer & Fine Wine

Disclaimer: Gilly’s used to be My Bar. Capital M, capital B. Mine. I lived about a 10 minute walk from it and went there way more than is probably healthy, both to drink and to write (while drinking). I don’t live there any longer, but I still always stop by for a pint when I’m in the area. So I’m probably biased toward the place, but it had several years to really win my affection.

They’re both a bottle shop and a beer and wine bar with 19 rotating taps. Additionally, they sell genuinely delicious sandwiches and cheese plates if you feel like snacking (although the sandwiches here are for more than a mere snack – they’re significant). The staff is always knowledgeable about their beers, and even just beer in general, and always give out plenty of sample tastes upon request.

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Last year, they joined up with Untappd and became a verified venue and now use a large screen TV and Untappd software to keep a live list of their beer menu. Gone are the days of printed menus and sharpie lines through the kegs that had kicked! If you check in at Gilly’s using Untappd, your user name and icon appear on the screen as well – a sort of digital territory marking for beer nerds, I guess.

I started with a spiced beer, Oliver’s Intrigue in Tangiers. I asked a little about it and learned that this brew was a collaboration between Oliver Brewing Company and Charm City Meadworks, both Baltimore local businesses. This beer is “brewed with orange blossom honey and gently spiced with nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander and star anise.”

It pours a nice ruby brown color with a little off-white head that falls quickly and leaves lacing behind in its wake. I noticed very little nose, perhaps because the pour was so cold. Maybe I get a hint of a citrus smell, but I didn’t notice any spices on the nose.

The first taste is a brown ale with a slight peppercorn hint at the back of the throat. It’s lightly sweet, but not too malty. I’d say that there’s a slight tartness to it. I don’t find it at all dry or bitter and there’s a sort of heat to it that feels alcoholic. The drier finish becomes more apparent as this beer warms. It’s light and crisp with low carbonation. Easy to drink, but not as remarkable or distinct as other spiced beers I’ve tried.

I also splurged on a 10oz pour of a $16 sour beer from Belgium. The Brouwerji Alvinne Cuvee Freddy was a treat. It pours a beautiful, dark brown, ruddy color, quite opaque. No head at all on this pour. It has a really sour and funky smell to it and the taste is an amazing puckery sour! Honestly, it’s one of the best sours I may have every had – and for that price, it better be!

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Photo by @stunim of Instagram