Tioga-Sequoia 'Half Dome' California Wheat with Stone Fruit

Tioga Sequoia Half Dome California Wheat 1
Tioga-Sequoia 'Half Dome' California Wheat with Stone Fruit. 4.7% abv. 17 IBU. Pale straw yellow color. Hazy. Thin white head that falls to a sustaining collar and scattered surface. Fair retention, nice lace.

Nose of berry, light honey, wildflowers, white bread. A mild spice aroma emerges as the temp rises. Front taste of sweet melon, light grapefruit, banana, faint floral hops on the back end. Aftertaste is fruit resin, treacle, candied lemon peel, white wine grapes, with a dry finish. Light body. Mouthfeel is cool, round, resiny, juicy.

This is the second version of Half Dome, and like its predecessor, it serves as a wonderful session beer, a cool, relaxing, refreshing, and easy-drinking brew. It's perfect for backyard barbecues, or as a first beer to start off a nice eventing craft vertical. Mild and light, but pungent and flavorful, it's just rich enough in body and taste to satisfy both the newcomers to beer and seasoned craft enthusiasts. A crowd pleaser.

If you have a friend who has only had big corporate factory beers, but is looking to explore the world of craft beer, this is the one you hand them as a way to ease into a world of aroma, body, and flavor, a solid "bridge" beer superior to most. Well recommended.

NOTE: This version of Half Dome is its second recipe, one that is brewed with stone fruit from the San Joaquin Valley. Check out my review of the brewery's original recipe. Cheers!

From the brewery:

"Half dome in Yosemite National Park is one of the most iconic and recognizable images in California. Like the magnificent granite dome, our half home california wheat is an original. It has evolved over the years, and finally reached its peak through a partnership with the Fresno County Farm Bureau, which provides the locally sourced stone fruit that makes half dome so unique. go on an adventure with this smooth, refreshing and juicy wheat beer, flavored from the heart of California, and take your taste buds to new heights."
[source: tiogasequoia.com]

Tioga Sequoia Half Dome California Wheat 2


Tioga Sequoia Half Dome California Wheat 3


Tioga Sequoia Half Dome California Wheat 4





Left Hand Brewing Milk Stout Nitro

Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro 1
Left Hand Brewing Milk Stout Nitro. 6% abv. 25 IBU. Pitch black with two finger of dense mocha head, like melted ice cream. Outstanding retention and superb lacing that barely moves down the glass. Nose of vanilla, black coffee, roasted malt.

Front taste is roasted malt, milk chocolate, toffee, sweet cream. Aftertaste is bittersweet dark chocolate, ground coffee, mild herbal hops in the back. Full body. Mouthfeel is cool, thick, rich, creamy, smooth.

This is an outstanding milk stout, one of the best examples I've had in years. In terms of body, taste, and overall impression, it ranks up there with the legendary Mackeson Triple XXX Stout, one of my all-time favorite beers. The nitro treatment fits this big sweet stout, its tall flavors balanced together perfectly.

I've been homebrewing for 20 years, and when I seek a good milk stout, Left Hand comes up a lot as a modern benchmark for the category. I can now see why. Strongly recommended.

From the brewery:

"Super smooth with soft roastiness and mocha flavors. Taking America Back. Dark & delicious, America’s great milk stout will change your perception about what a stout can be. Pouring hard out of the bottle [can], Milk Stout Nitro cascades beautifully, building a tight, thick head like hard whipped cream. Milk Stout Nitro is also good to go from the can with widget inside technology, or like a pro in a glass. The aroma is of brown sugar and vanilla cream, with hints of roasted coffee. The pillowy head coats your upper lip and its creaminess entices your palate. Initial roasty, mocha flavors rise up, with slight hop & roast bitterness in the finish. The rest is pure bliss of milk chocolate fullness."

[source: lefthandbrewing.com]


Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro 2


Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro 3


Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro 4





Ballast Point 'Victory at Sea' High West Barrel-Aged Imperial Porter 2017

Ballast Point Victory at Sea High West Barrel Aged Porter 1
Ballast Point 'Victory at Sea' High West Barrel-Aged Imperial Porter 2017. 12% abv. 35 IBU. Black in color, dense. Finger of foamy, mocha head. Outstanding retention and superb lacing. Even after ten minutes, there is still a thick surface. Nose of vanilla, bourbon, raisins, dark chocolate. Coffee aroma comes through as the temp changes.

Front taste is bourbon, bittersweet chocolate, walnut. Plum taste and wood expression stands tall in time. Aftertaste is ground coffee, rich chocolate, vanilla, bourbon, mild herbal hops, sweet forward with a dry finish. Medium-full body. Mouthfeel is warm-hot, boozy, thick, clingy, carby, astringent on the back end.

This is an extraordinary beer, a big BBA that is an exemplary example of its category. The flavor profile is complex, with huge swaths of chocolate, vanilla, coffee, and bourbon, supported throughout by high notes of dark fruit, oak, sweet pastry, and herbal hops. Readers of this blog know that I am a huge fan of BBA brews, and this is a solid, steadfast example of the brilliance that can come from a barrel. Strongly recommended.

From the brewery:

"Imperial porter with coffee and vanilla flavors aged in High West bourbon and rye barrels... We partnered with our friends at High West® Distillery to create a barrel-aged version of  Ballast Point Victory at Sea, our award-winning Imperial Porter with cold-steeped coffee and vanilla. From a blend of Ballast Point Victory at Sea aged in High West’s own bourbon & rye whiskey oak casks, new layers of complexity emerge with notes of soft caramel and smoky oak over a dark chocolate and roasted almond body. High West crafts delicious and distinctive whiskeys to honor the American West, making it the perfect pairing with our signature San Diego-born porter."
[source: ballastpoint.com]



Ballast Point Victory at Sea High West Barrel Aged Porter 2


Ballast Point Victory at Sea High West Barrel Aged Porter 3


Ballast Point Victory at Sea High West Barrel Aged Porter 4





Gran Habano 'Gran Reserva #5' 2010

Gran Habano Gran Reserva #5 2010 cigar 1
Gran Habano 'Gran Reserva #5' 2010. 6x50. Nice build with straight lines and smoothed veins. Cedar wrapped. V-cut was flawless. Light took a minute but wasn't a issue. Medium draw pre- and post-flame. 

First third was oak, leather, roasted leaf. Second third adds earthy, herbal notes, almond, mild ground spice, with a creamy mouthfeel. Final third is smooth herbal, soft wood, round and nutty on the exhale. Ash is mostly marbled but with some dark spots. Burn was slightly uneven through the midpoint, requiring some touch-ups.

This was an excellent cigar, a well-aged, big smoke with a myriad of bold flavors. The construction was excellent, with a perfect cut and packed fill that needed more flame but was worth the extra attention for its dense draws of flavor. The complex taste roamed continually down the stick, with nice round, mild notes supporting a big earthy leaf expression. Not a perfect cigar, but its strengths more than make up for its shortcomings. Well recommended, if you can find it.

From the company:

"Gran Reserva is back - bigger and bolder than ever. Gran Habano Gran Reserva #5 2010 continues the tradition of the well-aged Gran Habano Gran Reserva line. This version was rolled three years ago - back in 2010 - using a rich blend of vintage tobaccos aged 7 to 8 years prior. But what's most different about this installment is the strength, a full-bodied handmade with plenty of power. Additionally, some chunky big-ring size options are present and relatively affordable considering the healthy amount of costly vintage tobaccos rolled within.

To craft this blend, an 8-year-aged Nicaraguan Corojo wrapper, a 7-year-aged Nicaraguan binder, and an 8-year-aged all Nicaraguan long-filler blend are used. This combination offers a rich and hearty blend that's chock-full of spices, earth, espresso, and wood. Mellowed slightly by time, but still safely in the fuller-bodied spectrum, Gran Habano Gran Reserva #5 displays an elegant smoothness backed by ample flavor."

[source: cigarsinternational.com]


Gran Habano Gran Reserva #5 2010 cigar


Gran Habano Gran Reserva #5 2010 cigar 3


Gran Habano Gran Reserva #5 2010 cigar 4


Gran Habano Gran Reserva #5 2010 cigar 5




Lagunitas 'The Waldos' Special Ale

Lagunitas The Waldos Special Ale 1
Lagunitas Brewing 'The Waldos' Special Ale. 11.9% abv. 100+ IBU. Dark yellow color. Hazy. Finger of soapy white head. Excellent retention and lace. Nose of pine, tropical fruit, cantaloupe. 

Front taste of abundant fruity hops, light fruit candy, honeydew melon, berry pastry, sweet start with dry finish. Aftertaste of ample bitter fruity hops, pineapple, banana peel, distant cloves. Medium body. Mouthfeel is warm-hot, astringent, thick, clingy.

This is an extraordinary beer, a TIPA that delivers a truckload of hops in a fruity bitter bundle, held together with light stone fruits, melons, tall pine, and a ribbon of sweet light malt underneath it all. The abv shines throughout, yet there is a balance in the flavor profile that keeps the booze in check, grouping it well with the other tastes. Outstanding. Strongly recommended.

From the brewery:

"In 1971, the Waldos met one afternoon at 4:20 in the front courtyard of their school near the statue of Louis Pasteur. They set out in a '66 Impala armed with a "treasure map" on a journey to find a secret garden near Point Reyes. They met there at the same time every day and continued their quest. They never found the secret garden....But they keep lookin'. The dankest and hoppiest beer ever brewed at Lagunitas was made with help of the Waldos for all treasure hunters."
[source: lagunitas.com]


Lagunitas The Waldos Special Ale 2


Lagunitas The Waldos Special Ale 3


Lagunitas The Waldos Special Ale 4




Brewery Rex 'Cosmic Latte' Golden Stout

Brewery Rex Cosmic Latte Golden Stout 1
Brewery Rex 'Cosmic Latte' Golden Stout. 7.8% abv. Yellow-gold color. Slightly hazy. Thin white head, small-bead carb. Good retention, excellent lacing. Nose of stone fruit, white coffee, pale malt, bright cocoa notes. Coffee aroma steps forward as the temp rises.

Front taste is light berry, brewed coffee, bittersweet chocolate, sweet cream, vanilla, with a sweet finish. Roasted malt emerges in time. Aftertaste is milk chocolate, floral hops, ground coffee. Medium body. Mouthfeel is warm, creamy, silky, sticky, foamy.

This is a lovely, unique beer, one that challenged me to pinpoint with its myriad of flavors. The predominate taste was milk chocolate throughout, with light coffee notes underneath all across. The lead flavors, coupled with the creamy texture and lactose expression, bring to mind a gourmet milkshake made with chocolate, ground coffee, and a few red berries added to the blender. Calling it a stout feel like a reach, but it's definitely an experimental beer, one that scores points with me. A wonderful taste that was a pleasure to enjoy. Well recommended.

From the brewery:

"Our 7.8% Golden Stout is brewed with 20% lactose and three different types of flaked grain to create a silky smooth, full-mouth feel. After fermentation, we added TCHO Ecuador cocoa nibs, vanilla bean and Kenya Nyeri coffee beans from our friends at Bangarang Coffee Roasters."
[source: breweryrex.com]


Brewery Rex Cosmic Latte Golden Stout 2


Brewery Rex Cosmic Latte Golden Stout 3


Brewery Rex Cosmic Latte Golden Stout 4





Oskar Blues 'Death by Coconut' Irish Style Porter

Oskar Blues Death By Coconut Irish Porter 1
Oskar Blues 'Death by Coconut' Irish Style Porter. 6.5% abv. 25 IBU. Dense black, blocks light. Figner of foamy, mocha head. Outstanding retention and lace. Nose of sweet coconut, vanilla, milk chocolate, light herbal. 

Front taste is dark chocolate, coconut, vanilla, sweet dark malt. Aftertaste is bittersweet dark chocolate, coconut liquor, light botanical, light wood, dry finish. Medium body. Mouthfeel is warm, sticky, thick, round, slightly astringent.

This is a solid porter that definitely delivers on its promise of coconut, with chocolate underlining the coconut expression throughout. The warm mouthfeel almost turns hot as the temp rises to room, with a creamy overtone all across. This is one of those rich, flavorful "core" beers that makes for an excellent base for experimental offshoots: barrel aging, liquor additions, dark fruit flavor combos. 

I once had this beer on tap at BC's in Clovis, CA, and I recall it as richer and more intense. Curious if I had a limited edition one-off. No matter. This standard canned version is exceptional. If you love the flavor profile of Almond Joy candy bars, and you love big, rich, full-bodied beers, seek this one out. Well recommended.

From the brewery:

"Pass. Dash. Hit. Intense pure liquid cacao flavors swirl with popping coconut aromas, all supported by a semi-sweet porter made from loads of our dark chocolate and extra dark caramel malt. This limited release specialty comes around once a year to satisfy that sweet tooth, so get ’em while you can before they disappear. At 6.5% ABV and 25 IBUs, this choconut goodness will have you yellin' 'Pass. Dash. Hit.' all winter long."
[source: oskarblues.com]

Oskar Blues Death By Coconut Irish Porter 2


Oskar Blues Death By Coconut Irish Porter 3


Oskar Blues Death By Coconut Irish Porter 4







Rinkuskiai 'Before-After' Triple Bock

Rinkuskiai Before After Triple Bock 1
Rinkuskiai 'Before-After' Triple Bock. 12% abv. Deep copper color. Hazy with sediment. Thin ivory, bubbly head that falls fast to a collar, which soon disappears completely. Low retention and little lacing. Nose of sweet malt, orange peel, treacle, alcohol. Aroma remains tall, but unchanged, as temp rises.

Front taste is sweet bread, amber malt, orange zest, notes of hard fruit candy. Aftertaste is Cointreau cordial, bitter earthy hops, fruit pie, dry finish. Medium body. Mouthfeel is hot, round, slightly sticky, quite astringent all across.

Rinkuskiai has a reputation for offering off-the-wall, high gravity beers - at least in America -  and this beer is certainly no exception. This is a unique beer that is difficult to pinpoint. 

Judging it as a strong bock - double (doppelbock) or triple - it's mostly true to category. It's sweet, malty, and low carb. However, its failing is its strong astringency. What we have is a powerful beer that definitely smells and tastes like it, for better or worse. Judging it otherwise - for example, as a barleywine - it fits well in category and actually has a pleasant taste among its peers. It's malty sweet with mellow citrus tones, from beginning to end, and its strength is never in doubt.

Bottom line as always, would I drink it again? The answer is a resounding yes. In fact, the bottle I'm tasting for this review is my third time enjoying this beer. It certainly helps that the price point is low. This 16.9 oz. bottle cost me $3.99, a price that is strangely often found with quality, old world beers. I would have easily paid double the cost.

If you like sweet, malty beers with a high gravity, stop reading and run and grab a bottle right now. If you like bold, old world European brews, the kind that most American craft breweries are afraid to make, stop reading and run and grab a bottle right now. If you like bitter hoppy beers, or beers with more finesse and nuance, this is not for you. If you are automatically turned off by low-priced beers - like most folks on Beer Advocate or Rate Beer seem to be - this is not for you. Myself, I land in the first category. I like beers that taste malty sweet, almost like young wort, with the high abv as a bonus of sorts. If you're like me, you'll absolutely love it. Well recommended.

From the brewery:

"Brewery Rinkuskiai was established in the year 1991 in Birzai region known as Beer Country in Lithuania. Rinkuskiai beer quality is the result of old traditions of Beer Country, experience of the past generations, and innovations of the modern days. That makes Rinkuskiai beer one of the most exclusive in Lithuania. This beer is naturally fermented."
[source: bottle]



Rinkuskiai Before After Triple Bock 2


Rinkuskiai Before After Triple Bock 3


Rinkuskiai Before After Triple Bock 4


Rinkuskiai Before After Triple Bock 5






Sierra Nevada 'Hop Bullet' Double IPA

Sierra Nevada Hop Bullet Double IPA 1
Sierra Nevada 'Hop Bullet' Double IPA Spring Seasonal. 8% abv. 60 IBU. Pale straw color. Slightly hazy. Thin, white, bubbly head that quickly drops to a sustaining collar and scattered surface. Moderate retention, good lacing. Nose of ample herbal-floral hops, pine, bright spice. Aroma subsides significantly as the temp rises and the head recedes.

Front taste is cypress, cloves, bitter herbal hops, with a dry finish. Aftertaste is bitter herbal hop bundle, hop resin, faint flowers. Medium body. Mouthfeel is warm, round, carby, resiny.

This is a solid beer for fans of DIPAs that lean heavily toward hops over malt. The aroma is a hop head's dream, with a ton of spicy, bitter, herbal hops supported by floral tones. However, that wonderful nose falls greatly as the head dissipates, something that happens quickly with this beer. Within a few minutes, its tall, distinguishable aroma is nearly absent. Good news is that the lupulin-infused flavor profile is persistent throughout, as is the notes of pine an overall hop expression. 

This beer promises hops and it gives you hops aplenty. Just make sure you don't linger too long, as this beer is not designed for a leisurely stroll across the palate. Enjoy it within ten minutes for an optimum hop experience. Recommended.


From the brewery:

"Brewed with a double-barreled blast of Magnum hops and lupulin dust. Hops are the name of the game with a Double IPA, but we knew we had to take it one step further. With Hop Bullet, we’re using a new technique, hitting the beer with a double-barreled blast of Magnum hops and lupulin dust—pure, concentrated hop flavor—directly into the tank to emphasize the intense pine and citrus flavors of classic West Coast hops."
[source: sierranevada.com]

"Hop Bullet Double IPA features a new technique: we're hitting the beer with a double-barreled slug of Magnum hops and lupulin dust - the source of hop flavor  and aroma - right into the fermenter for a ballistic burst of aggressive hop character."
[source: bottle]


Sierra Nevada Hop Bullet Double IPA 2


Sierra Nevada Hop Bullet Double IPA 3


Sierra Nevada Hop Bullet Double IPA 4