This content was originally published by The Hop Review, a digital magazine that joined the Hop Culture family in March 2020.
This piece was written by Jack Muldowney.
We drink a lot of beer here at The Hop Review. So, we found it only fitting that we share some of our thoughts on said beer. Each month, we share a handful of beers that we think you should know a little more about, through our palate.
We tasted through the following 16 beers for December–a select few in partnership with Lakeshore Beverage–and rated them according to our very own interpretation of the BJCP scoring guidelines, on a scale of 100, listed in alphabetical order. We considered aroma, appearance, flavor, mouthfeel, overall impression and trueness to style. It’s not an exact science–we know this. We just don’t like to pass on the opportunity to drink more beer.
Alaskan Smoked Porter*
JUNEAU, AK – 6.5% ABV
You might not be aware, but Alaskan Brewing’s Smoked Porter is the most award-winning beer in the history of GABF. And, it’s credited as introducing the U.S. to German-inspired smoked beers, back in 1988. Twenty Seventeen’s version is as expected–smokey, toasty and with a heft of rich dark maltiness…even some nuttiness. As soon as you crack into this, you get hit with what can most easily be described in one way: bacony. Like a proper rauchbier, this beer is meaty.
Batch Dicksmasher in the Rye
DETROIT, MI – 12.0% ABV
Aged in fellow Corktown resident’s, Two James Spirits, rye barrels, is a super fudgey stout reminiscent of a gooey chocolate brownie. The barrel adds balancing notes of vanilla, charred oak, and a tinge of spice from the rye. There is some alcohol burn on the nose and tongue, but it adds a pleasant warming sensation going down. It could be a little bigger in body–to really give it that chewy sensation–but all around, it’s a wonderful BA stout, from Detroit’s brew darling.
KALAMAZOO, MI – 5.5% ABV
Arabicadabra is 2017’s temporary stand-in for Bell’s popular Java Stout. But fans of ‘Java’ shouldn’t concern themselves too much, as this new milk stout is a solid understudy. The Arabica presents an intense coffee aroma, and upon first sip, you’re hit with dark, dry, roasty notes. It finishes with a smooth creaminess, paired with a tinge of bitterness reminiscent of black coffee.
Blackberry Farm Buckwheat Strawberry*
Walland, TN – 6.3% ABV
The farm brewery from Tennessee seems to concoct beers that pique intrigue from the get-go. Buckwheat Strawberry carries that same ethos. This ale brings a rustic Saison-esque funk, thanks to being fermented with a wild strain of native yeast from the farm itself. Overall, it’s a delicately fruited beer–perfect for food pairing–and finishes with a slight nuttiness.
Boulevard Collaboration 7*
KANSAS CITY, MO – 6.0% ABV
This beer is a lager in name only, it seems. Boulevard’s first collaboration with two other breweries (Creature Comforts & Arizona Wilderness) is a complex recipe and approach that comes across surprisingly delicate. It’s components (Sonoran wheat, honey malt, corn grits, Riesling grape juice, peaches and lemon zest) are a lot to take in. Then, it’s lagered and aged on oak. It’s a bit confusing, but still a pleasant vanilla-peachy, yeasty drinker.
Buffalo Bill’s Alimony IPA
HAYWARD, CA – 6.8% ABV
Coming from one of the country’s oldest brewpubs–first brewed for a patron going through a divorce in 1987–Alimony is Buffalo Bill’s longest running recipe. And while we haven’t been all too impressed by their beers in the past, this third sampling is the best yet. It’s a West Coast pale ale in most of the ways you’d expect–a citrus meets piney beer–that finishes with a distinct rye spice. Still, we can’t help but think it feels a little dated, however.
Burnt City Pterodactyl Deathscream*
CHICAGO, IL – 9.0% ABV
What once was a red IPA from Burnt City has evolved into a jucier, Citra and Ekuanot backed, 9.0% bruiser. Piggybacking the ‘double dry-hopped’/DIPA/NEIPA craze, Deathscream is BC’s unique take on the trend. It’s juicy no doubt, but maltier than it’s hazy cousins–harkening back to its red ale roots. Plus, it’s worth considering that this is a solid fill-in for the other more expected winter ale styles out there. And, that can just screams for you to give it a try.
Cayman Island Brewery Rum Barrel Aged Ironshore Bock
Grand Cayman, CYM 8.9% ABV
German style lagers are not what we expected to find from a Caribbean brewery, but the rum barrel-aging on this bock does help transport you to the islands. There are tons of caramel malts that are propped up by the rum barrel. It’s smooth–and although a little sweet–has a clean finish making it easy to drink. Unfortunately there was a white grape juice character and some papery oxidation that took away from its overall enjoyability.
BEND, OR – 6.7% ABV
Deschutes’ annual ‘festive’ winter ale is back again for the Christmas season. Jubelale is less spiced and more dark fruit than your typical winter warmer. It pours a deep rich mahogany and drinks almost like an RC Cola. It’s bready, caramely, and rich with dark cherries and raisins. This isn’t a style that’s for everyone, we know, and if you were looking for more cinnamon and nutmeg in your winter ale, you may have to look elsewhere.
Evil Twin Even More Coco Jesus*
BROOKLYN, NY – 12.0% ABV
Holy coconut, Batman! This imperial stout pours a ridiculously dense motor oil black. It’s thick. But it drinks drier than you’d expect and even leaves a kick of carbonation before mellowing out in the glass. And, that coconut is there. It hits you on the nose then stays with you throughout the sip. Pair that with a dense fudgey chocolate quality and sweetness from maple syrup…close your eyes and you might think you’re drinking a brownie.
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – 11.7% ABV
The highly coveted spin on Founders’ KBS imperial stout is back in bottle for the first time in 6 years. We caught wind of its return on a trip to Founders beer caves back in April, and it immediately conjured thoughts of the sweet, sticky, syrupy wonder. Well, the hype holds up. The nearly 12% stout made with chocolate and coffee, then aged in bourbon barrels that previously held maple syrup is…chewy. The chocolate is surprisingly front and center, and the bourbon and maple rounds it all out to create a hearty dessert that is distinctly ‘Founders’. Welcome back.
Goose Island Noël*
CHICAGO, IL – 9.5% ABV
Not much unlike the aforementioned Deschutes Jubelale, Goose’s Noël is a deep reddish brown winter warmer. And at 9.5% ABV, it drinks closer to a rich port wine than a typical dark ale. It’s billed as a Belgian style ale, which might explain its figgy, plummy, burnt brown sugar characteristics – practically an Abbey ale, but even more dense. Noël is a hefty beer that fits into a very specific window for drinking–for those shorter days and darker nights of winter.
Jackie O’s Scrip
ATHENS, OH – 4.5% ABV
Similar to a saison in construction and romance, grisettes are table beers for the working class. Low in alcohol and containing malted wheat, Scrip is dry and refreshing with hints of sour dough bread, lemon and pineapple. The mix fermentation with saison yeast and brett–along with a healthy nine months in the barrel–adds complexity and depth. And a pleasant nuttiness.
Jolly Pumpkin Smashed Grabbed & Hop Dusted*
DEXTER, MI – 6.5% ABV
Jolly Pumpkin’s beers seem to be moving in an even more intriguing direction as of late. Combining their trademark farmhouse funk with more creative partnerships, they landed on ‘Smashed Grabbed’, a collab with Seattle’s Holy Mountain Brewing. It’s hazy golden with citrusy fruity esters and the perfect amount of funk. And that label artwork alone is worth your attention.
KAILUA KONA, HI – 5.3% ABV
Hawaii + coffee go hand in hand. So, it’s only fitting that the state’s largest brewing operation highlights the ingredient in its Pipeline, a just about perfectly balanced coffee porter. It’s not too dry or too roasty like some coffee beers tend to be. It’s a toffee-like, rich easy drinking ale.
Left Hand Saison au Genièvre
LONGMONT, CO – 6.8% ABV
Here is another alternative to the typical winter seasonal ale. And for that, we are appreciative. Genièvre is a welcome take on the typical saison. It’s grassy and pear-like with delicate yeasty esters, paired with a sharp piney juniper backbone that reminds you of a northwest hops + gin combo.
DECEMBER’S HOP REVIEWS
SPONSORED BY LAKESHORE BEVERAGE
The Hop Review’s monthly beer reviews are collected from beers gathered at the discretion of our team. They include beers collected from travels, local brewers, as well as shared samples. Some of December’s beers (*where noted) were provided in partnership with Lakeshore Beverage.