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.
New year, new round of beers. So, we found it only fitting that we share some of our thoughts on a lineup for the start of ’18. 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 13 beers for January 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.
Crystal Lake Busted Prop
CRYSTAL LAKE, IL – 5.5% ABV
It’s not often we find ourselves drinking American wheat beers these days but Busted Prop from Crystal Lake Brewing might change your mind. This one pours a hazy orange with a slightly sweet malt forward aroma. There’s just enough hop bite on the back end to make it interesting and the citrus characteristics of the hops really shine through. We can see ourselves drinking a few of these come summer. A boat beer if we’ve ever seen one.
Drake’s Dark Wing
SAN LEANDRO, CA – 7.5% ABV
Cascadian Ales (or Black IPAs) can be a bit polarizing at times. It’s often tough to balance the toasty maltiness with the dank resinous hop character. But, Dark Wing, from Oakland’s Drake’s does a decent job of it. On the nose, it reads as a big dank double IPA. It’s combination of pine needles meets herbaceous meets citrus meets roastiness is unique for the style. It finishes with a noticeable burnt toast quality, too. Intriguing, but not wow-ing.
Half Acre/Tired Hands
I’ll admit, the first can of this I tried, I wasn’t wowed. Another ‘quasi-hazy pale ale’, I thought. Well, the second pass resonated. The 50/50 split of HA’s Now & Then IPA and Tired Hands’ Death Tripper is a tasty blend.The Galaxy and Citra are joined by Simcoe and Equinox, to create a sticky, pillowy pale ale. It still leans on the side of an NEIPA’s dusty, juicy profile – but is far more inviting and reminiscent of a classic Half Acre IPA.
Hopewell Extended Family
Chicago, il – 6.2% ABV
Hopewell takes its already fantastically on-point flagship, Family Saison, and re-ferments it in oak barrels with a blend of six brettanomyces yeast strains. The result? A crisp champagne-like, funky, fruity, farmhouse ale that could make anyone in the family happy. It’s impressive how balanced, dry and oaky this is – but a ‘clean’ oakiness, if you can imagine. A beautiful beer, and FoBAB bronze winner two years in a row, to boot.
Lagunitas Imperial Stout
PETALUMA, CA – 9.9% ABV
If there was a lineup of beers created just to exemplify their respective styles, this just might fill the role for “imperial stout.” While base imperial stouts don’t see as much attention these days (rather, adjuncts rule the roost), Lagunitas’ take on the style might be a good reference point to go back to. It’s dry, chocolatey and a tinge boozey. All in all, it’s a very ‘fine’ beer. Just not terribly exciting or memorable. And our biggest qualm: too thin for our palate.
Marz Dilliner Weiss
CHICAGO, IL – 4.0% ABV
A collaboration with West Loop’s Publican Quality Meats, this punny Berliner weiss is a perfect compliment to a lunch break complete with salted meats; beer’s best attempt at impersonating a pickle. It’s tart, funky and…weird. But as weird as dill in a sour beer could be, and still be a surprisingly palatable beer. Gimmicky? Sure. But Marz gets equal points for creativity and odd factor, as it does for execution.
New Belgium La Folie Grand Reserve Geisha
Fort Collins, CO – 7.9% ABV
If we gave out packaging awards in our reviews, La Folie Grand Reserve Geisha would easily take the cake (just look at that box). The beer inside is a little more polarizing, however. Massive coffee aroma greets you right off the bat, but it’s much more subdued once sampled. The base sour brown ale still dominates despite the coffee addition, giving us the somewhat off-putting image of a plum dropped into a black coffee. A little too medicinal for our taste.
Tangerine Space Machine
Holland, MI 6.8% ABV
If Coca-Cola ever decides to turn Fanta into a beer, this is what it would look, taste, and smell like. Huge tangerine aroma hits you right off the hazy pour which follows through to the taste, followed by a significant backend sweetness. There’s an almost cream-like mouthfeel which strongly reminds us of orange creamsicles we ate as kids. An interesting take on the NEIPA style, but we’d opt for something without the added flavoring.
Ore Dock Saison D’Hiver
MARQUETTE, MI – 8.3% ABV
This beer might’ve been the biggest surprise in our lineup this month. Frankly, on face value, it was one we weren’t expecting much from. We were incorrect to assume ‘boring’, because this was a really interesting take on the saison. It poured a deep dark mahogany–almost porter-like–but smells of cloves and banana. It drinks surprisingly effervescent and light, with an estery, yeasty finish. This surprise from Northern Michigan’s Ore Dock is a reminder of not to judge a beer by it’s…cover.
Perrin Light Lager
COMSTOCK PARK, MI – 3.8% ABV
A beer that knows its place, this is a light lager for people who are looking for exactly that. You won’t find anything unexpected here, which we’re guessing is exactly what Perrin was aiming for. A straw colored pour with a moderate biscuit malt backbone and a very slight toasted note. One of the least offensive and memorable beers we’ve reviewed, though that’s just fine. A good example of an often uninspiring style.
Pilsner Urquell Pilsner Urquell
PILSEN, CR – 4.4% ABV
Pilsner Urquell. The standard. The benchmark. The world’s first true lager. It’s the perfect reminder to always head back to the classics. It’s a clean, crisp, biscuity lager with a pillowy mouthfeel. Just watching the lacing of this beer in a glass alone is worth the pour. Pilsner Urquell is the lager that reminds you of its strengths, for being such a simple beer. And having just celebrated its 175th birthday, we’re happy to go back to it.
Rogue Fresh Roast
NEWPORT, OR – 5.7% ABV
Anyone who tries this beer will tell you there’s coffee added. We certainly would have said the same. The fact that all the coffee comes from the roasted malt is remarkable. There’s an intense roasted coffee aroma that’s matched when sampled. At only 5.5%, this could do with a little extra body to really make it a treat. But in its current form, there’s a lot to like here. One for cold weather coffee break… just hold the coffee.
Piccolo Birrificio Seson
MILAN, IT – 6.0% ABV
We were really excited to crack this Italian saison, from Piccolo Birrifico. But, our excitement was tempered as soon as we opened the bottle. This had either sat on the shelf for too long, making the yeast overly active. Or, it’s just not a great beer. It foamed over for several minutes, leaving us with just enough to sample. It’s a dull grayish copper in the glass and drinks a bit metallic even. Floral, herbal and a little funky. But all around: muddled.
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.