The Bruery 'Share This: Mint Chip' Imperial Stout

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The Bruery 'Share This: Mint Chip' Imperial Stout with mint and cocoa nibs. 10.5% abv. Black and dense. Finger of mocha head that dissipated quickly, falling to a sustaining collar. Moderate-poor retention, decent lace. Nose of spearmint, plum, light herbal. Aromas of red wine and allspice emerge as the temp rises to room.

First taste is bittersweet berry, raisins, fresh mint sprigs, cloves, notes of pepper, dark chocolate on the back end. Aftertaste is table wine, herbal hops underneath roasted black malt, bright bitter herb notes on the front of the tongue, spice bundle sustain, dry finish. Thin-medium body. Mouthfeel is warm, round, botanical resin, small bead bubbly.

This is an enjoyable, unique brew, one that challenges both my palate and my overall feel. The promised mint profile is up front and present, particularly strong spearmint, with a tall expression in the aroma and a rich ribbon under a roasted chocolate malt base. However, the body is surprisingly thin for an imperial stout, countered only by a warn and syrupy mouthfeel. The head retention is disappointing for this category, falling to a collar in a minute, then to flat surface in five. 

Still, the aroma shines down to the bottom of the glass. It sounds like and tastes like an experimental brew, and on some points it does succeed. Ultimately, I would only recommend this seasonal beer to those who love mint or unique, rare bottles. Lovers of more traditional imperial stouts should seek elsewhere. Mildly recommended.

From the brewery:

"Share This is a series of beers that spotlights unique ingredients and important causes. This decadent imperial stout is inspired by mint chip flavors, recreated by adding spearmint leaves and cacao nibs to a rich base featuring chocolaty notes of its own. 'Share This: Mint Chip' pairs perfectly with supporting Food Forward, who is chipping away at hunger relief across Southern California, reaching over 100,000 people a month with recovered fresh foods. For every bottle produced, we donate $1 to support Food Forward, which donates fresh produce to hunger relief agencies across Southern California."


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Toppling Goliath 'Dorothy's New World' Lager

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Toppling Goliath 'Dorothy's New World' Lager. 5.5% abv. Pale yellow in color, Hazy with plenty of sediment. Thin, white, bubbly head that dissipates quickly, right in front of your eyes. Zero head in about a minute. Poor retention, no lace.

Nose of grain, semi-sweet bread. Front taste is grain, vegetal, slight butter on the back end. Aftertaste is grassy, canned veggies. Thin body. Mouthfeel is cool, round, a little sticky on the tongue.

This is a mediocre beer, one that could perhaps serve as a "bridge beer," a beer that helps ween a Bud Light drinker into the craft beer world. It's aroma is barley, some veggie notes, slightly sweet malt, all of which are hallmarks of macro beers. The head is gone in the blink of an eye. I had to take my photos quickly as the head dropped as if it were in a contest.

If you're used to Bud Light, Coors Light, and the like, and want to explore craft beer, I suppose you could to worse than this simple lager. The brewery is proud of how "simple" it is, but one should strive to be both simple and still outstanding. If you are a seasoned craft beer enthusiast, you could enjoy this around a barbecue, maybe even marinade your beef skewers in this. Otherwise, I'd look elsewhere. Pass on this one.

From the brewery:

"Named after our father's grandmother, Dorothy's is our 'Classic Beauty." She is easy going, mild in body, and clean in taste. Each sip charms the senses with distinct flavor and refreshing simplicity. Just like Grandma Dorothy, our unfiltered flagship beer is forever dear to our hearts."
[source: can]

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Head dissipated right before my eyes.

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Head was completely gone after about a minute. Disappointing, even for a simple lager.

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Anchor Brewing Christmas Ale 2017

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Anchor Brewing Christmas Ale 2017. 6.7% abv. Dark brown in color, nearly black, dense, blocks all light. Finger of foamy beige head. Superb retention and excellent thick lace. Nose of cold black coffee, nutmeg, faint plum. Tart berry and toasted buttery nutty aromas emerge as the temp rises to room.

First taste is dark roasted malt, bittersweet dark cocoa, light woodsy hops, faint pepper on the back end, dry finish. Aftertaste is bitter fruity hops, red berry, cloves, allspice. Medium body. Mouthfeel is warm, creamy, sticky, clingy, round.

This is an excellent winter beer, another solid fall offering from Anchor. Each year, I eagerly await the arrive of certain limited holiday beers, and Anchor's annual "Our Special Ale" (aka Christmas Ale) is among the first to cross my palate. The roasty taste is surely present but subdued, balanced well with the dark fruits and bitter herbal hop profile. The myriad aroma of coffee, chocolate, and fruit is dense and dank, blended well, with no one flavor standing front and center. A superb, well-crafted brew. Grab one or two bottles while they are available. Highly recommended.

From the brewery:

"A smooth and creamy winter warmer with rich flavors of cacao, toffee and roasted nuts, and subtle hints of honey and herbal spice, this year’s brew marks the 43rd annual release of this Anchor tradition.... It is sold only from early November to mid–January. The Ale's recipe is different every year—as is the tree on the label—but the intent with which we offer it remains the same: joy and celebration of the newness of life. Since ancient times, trees have symbolized the winter solstice when the earth, with its seasons, appears born anew. With a heavily guarded, secret recipe, Christmas Ale is a highly anticipated seasonal delight, complex and full in flavor with a velvety texture and alluring, yet subtle, spiced aroma.... Our 2017 Christmas Ale has a strong malt profile that is enhanced with wintry spices. The beer pours a deep, dark, mahogany brown with a creamy, tan head. It has flavors of creamy bittersweet chocolate, coffee, roasted malts and toasted nuts, with a rich, smooth, velvety mouthfeel. The combination of malts, spices, and hops add layers of complexity to the beer and bring this year’s ale to a new level."


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Samuel Smith 'Winter Welcome' Ale 2017-2018

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Samuel Smith 'Winter Welcome' Ale 2017-2018. 6% abv. Dark honey color with a finger of foamy, ivory head. Outstanding retention and superb lace. Head gradually falls to a thick sustaining collar and scattered surface, with lacing that clings throughout without fade. Nose of caramel, bright spice, sweet bread, with notes of allspice emerging as the temp rises to room.

First taste is malt, herbal hops, treacle, white bread, floral back end. Aftertaste is slight pepper, bitter herbal hops, molasses, botanical semi-sweet finish. Medium-full body. Mouthfeel is warm, round, silky, carby.

This is an excellent winter brew, a modern classic from the old world. It's rich and malty, but balanced well with bouquets of spice and hops. The ratio of bitter to sweet is a perfect note, with the sweet malt refraining from being dominant, making way for the bitter herbal hops to poke through on the back of each sip. 

It's been four years since I last reviewed this annual beer, and it's just as expertly crafted now as it was then, and no doubt like all their beers have been crafted since 1758. One of the original winter beers, a benchmark in its category, this is a wonderful beer that I look forward to each holiday season. Highly recommended.

From the brewery:

"This seasonal beer is a limited edition brewed for the short days and long nights of winter. The full body resulting from fermentation in stone Yorkshire squares and the luxurious malt character, which will appeal to a broad range of drinkers, is balanced against whole-dried Fuggle and Golding hops with nuances and complexities that should be contemplated before an open fire."
[source: bottle]

"Throughout history, beer of somewhat higher alcohol and richness has been enjoyed for the winter holidays, when old friends get together to enjoy the season. Wassail, a festival to celebrate winter and the beer that goes with it, predates the Christian era. Winter Welcome is vintage-dated with a special label each year, and was first shipped to the US in 1990 - it was the first imported winter seasonal beer. Serve in a traditional Sam Smith tulip or nonik glass for the holidays... Honey-amber colored, creamy head of small bubbles, floral aroma and delicious caramel malt flavor with great finesse. Fine hop aroma finish and a fruity note from fermentation in open-topped stone "Yorkshire Squares."

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Founders 'Doom' Bourbon Barrel-Aged Imperial IPA

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Founders 'Doom' Bourbon Barrel-Aged Imperial IPA. 12.4% abv. Hazy honey-copper color. Two fingers of foamy white head that gradually falls to a sustaining thick surface. Outstanding retention and superb lacing. Nose of bourbon, vanilla, herbal hops, with whiskey and oak emerging as the temp rises. 

Front taste of rich malt, bourbon, sweet bread, toffee. Aftertaste is caramel, sweet fruit, tall hops, whiskey expression rises at the end. Medium body. Mouthfeel is warm-hot, boozy, astringent, carby, round.

This is an outstanding little BBA, one that delivers on the usual promises of bourbon and wood, merging well with the malty backbone of a DIPA, but also plays well with the ample hop bundle of its base IPA. The everlasting head powerfully brings the aroma forth, especially once the temp rises to room, with lacing that clings without fade. The craftsmanship is clear and forward. Wonderful brew. Highly recommended.

From the brewery:

"Doom may be impending but that doesn’t mean you have to fear it. A collision of worlds, the intense hop character of our imperial IPA mingles with the warm vanilla and oak notes imparted from time spent in our favorite bourbon barrels. Like all good things, Doom comes to those who wait."

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Evil Twin Brewing 'The Only Thing I Know is That I Know Nothing' N.E. IPA

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Evil Twin Brewing 'The Only Thing I Know is That I Know Nothing' New England IPA. 6.5% abv. 68 IBU. Pale yellow color, like egg yolk. Dense hazy. Finger of white soapy head. Moderate retention, superb lacing. Nose of light fruit pastry, juicy grapefruit, floral and citrus hops. 

Front taste is bright citrus rind, notes of pepper and cloves, wide spice expression on the back end. Spice builds as the temp rises to room. Aftertaste is abundant bitter fruity hops, grapefruit pulp, white bread. Medium body. Mouthfeel is warm, round, foamy, clingy.

This is an excellent beer, a more aggressive version of a New England IPA. It's a cloudy, pungent, bitter fruity beer that blasts you with hops and tall spice throughout. The notes of pepper, cloves, and citrus rind build as the beer warms, resulting in an almost over-the-cliff flavor profile, giving you much more of what you sampled at first sip. Aroma follows suit, growing in intensity with time.

The relatively new category of N.E. IPA is growing exponentially in popularity, and I admit that I have not had many as of this writing. I'm still developing a palate for them, as well as sours, seemingly their second-cousins. However, I'm quickly learning to love them, and this is one of the first to truly grab my attention and make me remember it. Well recommended, particularly if you love bitter hop bite in your brew.

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Ballast Point 'Mocha Marlin' Porter

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Ballast Point 'Mocha Marlin' Porter. 6% abv. 42 IBU. Black in color with two fingers of thick foamy tan head. Outstanding retention and superb lace. Nose of ground coffee, vanilla, cocoa powder, herbal notes. 

Front taste is roasted malt, bittersweet dark chocolate, black coffee, bitter dark fruit on the back end. Aftertaste is bitter cocoa, vanilla, herbal hops, black coffee underneath, dry finish. Medium-full body. Mouthfeel is thick, creamy, carby, clingy, resin.

This is an excellent chocolate porter. The chocolate tastes fresh-shaved off a high-cacao dark chocolate brick, complemented well by a strong black coffee expression. Contrary to what the label says, I would describe it as a chocolate porter with coffee rather than a coffee porter with chocolate. 

The dark cocoa flavors are dominant throughout, with the black coffee taste faintly underneath, emerging fully only in the aftertaste. A ribbon of vanilla underlines the entire beer from nose to finish, with herbal hops merging as the temperature rises. An excellent chocolate beer that is supported by coffee. I suspect the coffee bean count is not as high as most would expect, including the brewers, but it's a fine brew regardless. Well recommended.

From the brewery:

"Coffee and chocolate come together in this brew. Our Black Marlin Porter is the perfect beer for a mocha mashup. The addition of coffee and cocoa plays perfectly off the roasty, chocolaty flavors of this English porter, while a hint of vanilla smooths it all out. It’s full-bodied, but not too sweet; try it for breakfast…or dessert."

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Esteban Carreras '211' Sixty

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Esteban Carreras '211' Sixty. 6x60. Medium brown wrap. Good build with straight lines and well smoothed veins and edges. Cut and lit well. Punch cut today. Medium-easy draw pre- and post-light.  

First third tastes of bright herbal spice, white pepper, mild tobacco. Second third is raw almond, botanical, slightly bitter herbal on the exhale. Final third is walnut, cured leaf, allspice. Ash is marbled well, chunky, flaky, denoting a cut leaf fill. Ash held over an inch well. Burn was uneven at the foot, evened out in the first third, wandered slightly off-course again passing the midpoint.

This is a fine smoke, middle of the road between its brethren, the 5150 (a mild, balanced smoke that I loved) and the 187 (nearly too harsh for me). It's a mild cigar with bright spice notes, a flat white pepper expression, and nutty tones going into the second half. I smoked it at a leisurely pace and the pepper was present throughout without becoming too bitter or otherwise harsh. It was enjoyable all across while still maintaining that spice bouquet, a balance many mild spice cigars fail to achieve. Good stuff. Well recommended.

From the company:

“211. A light to medium cigar with hints of toasted almond and a touch of white pepper spice. The De Florado wrapper keeps the flavor consistent from start to finish.”

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Eel River 'Twenty' Anniversary Bourbon Barrel Aged Triple

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Eel River Brewing 'Twenty' 20th Anniversary Bourbon Barrel Aged Triple Exultation Old Ale. Vintage 2015. 11% abv. 80 IBU. Dark ruby color. Hazy. Fine sediment. Finger of foamy beige head that falls fast to a sustaining collar. Fair retention, excellent lacing. 

Nose of molasses, bourbon, vanilla, sweet bread. Front taste is molasses, bourbon, roasted oak, pungent plum. Aftertaste is bourbon, raisin, plum, black coffee, pecans. Dry finish. Full body. Mouthfeel is hot, boozy, astringent, thick, syrupy, sticky, clingy.

This is an extraordinary BBA brew, a decadent offering that demands moderate enjoyment. You don't chug this one. Rich, thick, tall, strong. Starts sweet, ends dry. Plenty of bourbon and oak as promised, bound by dark malty and fruity depths. Wonderful. This is what a BBA should be. Strongly recommended.

From the brewery:

"Our Triple Exultation Old Ale aged 6 months in single pass, white oak bourbon barrels. Rich notes of bourbon, toffee, toasted malt and ripe fruit balanced by an aroma reminiscent of vanilla, oak, molasses, and caramel."

[source: bottle]

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