Seth Levy

Seth Levy

Coffee + Stout + Milk = Happy

Welcome to the dark side, loyal reader! Rather than push our collective glasses up the bridge of our collective noses and mutter about ABV, IBU and SRM*, we're going to appreciate the lighter, more fun aspects of darker beers. Dark beer is a blast — and tasting styles with unusual adjuncts is a great way to make that point. This week, we're going to sample stouts that include coffee and milk flavors. We've tasted coffee beers, and we've tasted milk stouts. Now, it's time to appreciate the twisted beer geniuses that have combined these harmonious flavors into one delicious creation.

Black Hog Brewing Coffee Milk Stout

Format Sampled: 12 oz. can

ABV: 5.5%

Availability: Purchased at Maine Beer and Beverage Co.

Tasting Notes: Pours a deep garnet, with a thin head of brown foam. Aroma has unsweetened cocoa, floral notes, toasted nuts and warm coffee. The initial flavor is a dry and tangy, roasted, and bitter. The simple bitterness expands and spreads, becoming characteristic of bitter espresso. A plush, tropical character develops, joined by toffee, cocoa, and dark wood. These flavors unfold over a background of subtle, creamy sweetness. The coffee and cocoa flavors are bold, bitter and punchy, but they're nicely mellowed by that creamy sweetness. The mouthfeel is rich and substantive, and the finish is tastefully sweet. Imagine a cup of cold-brew, with a shot each of espresso and cream, and you're getting there. What a drink to wrap up a rich meal!

Narragansett Autocrat Coffee Milk Stout

FormatSampled: 16 oz. can

ABV: 5.3%

Availability: Purchased at the Craft Beer Cellar

Tasting Notes: Pours a deep, dark brown with a thick head of foam. The aroma is earthy and evocative. It smells exactly like gas station coffee! It's warm, nutty, slightly oxidized and deeply comforting. The initial flavor is sweet, laced with coffee and milk — refreshing in the way that a coffee frappe is on a hot day. My gullet is not wide enough to admit the quantity of this that I would like to consume. It's not a complicated beer. It's like a sitcom that includes the clips with the biggest laugh lines from the past several seasons — an amalgamation of the “greatest hits” of stout, coffee and cream. There's no depth, but there are plenty of alcoholic, caffeinated giggles.

Stone Brewing Coffee Milk Stout

FormatSampled: 12 oz. capped bottle

ABV: 5.0%

Availability: Purchased at the Craft Beer Cellar

Tasting Notes: Pours an effervescent brown/black with a thin, brown head. Aroma is simultaneously bright and rich, with cold coffee, dark chocolate, and cherry. The initial flavor is bright and acid — like a lightly roasted Mexican coffee. There's some floral character, fresh smoke, and a tremendous mineral structure. There is very little sweetness. The hint of dairy character is just enough to bring out the natural sweetness of the coffee and the malt. The finish is crisp and snappy, with some flowery notes accenting the bitter aftertaste of the coffee.

Beer Geek Translation: IBU stands for International Bitterness Units, ABV is Alcohol By Volume and SRM is Standard Reference Method, a measurement of malt color. Phew. Acronyms make me thirsty. Pass me a beer.

Serious Fun With Marshmallow Stout

 

Stout has a reputation as a “serious,” weighty beer. Perhaps it's the dark color and heavy body of this style that lends it such a somber reputation? I've long argued that many stouts are more lighthearted than they appear. Take Guinness, for example. It has fewer calories per pint than many lighter-colored beers, and clocks in under 4% alcohol by volume. In an effort to shatter the stereotypes of serious, dour stouts, I'm dedicating this month to sampling interestingly flavored darker beers. This week, we're going to delve into stouts with marshmallow flavors. Grab your graham crackers and chocolate, loyal readers, you're going to need them!

Basecamp Brewing Company S'More Stout

Format Sampled: 22 oz capped, aluminum bottle
ABV: 7.7%
Availability: Purchased at Old Port Spirits and Cigars

Tasting Notes: Pours black, with brownish glints and a creamy tan head. Aroma is boozy and caramelized, redolent of burnt marshmallow straight from the fire! The initial flavor is bright, smoky and vivid as a wildly flaring campfire! There are acrid, smoky grains, charred cocoa beans, complex, Belgian esters, clove, cinnamon and banana flavors. It's a fascinating combination of roasted bitterness and sweet (not sugary) flavors. With a name like “S'more,” I feel the need to emphasize the complexity and subtlety of this beer. It's the furthest thing from a gloppy syrup of marshmallow.

Off Color Brewing Dino Smores

Format Sampled: 12 oz capped  bottle
ABV: 10.5%
Availability: Purchased at Old Port Spirits and Cigars

Tasting Notes: Pours black and viscous with little head. Aroma is deeply evocative – with cocoa,  Play-Doh, and something richly plastic-like. It smells like fun, cheap, store-bought fun! The flavor is leathery and fudge-like, unctuous and decadent, with notes of port and toffee. It's like a desert wine, distilled from fudge, aged in a 70's era rumpus room filled with athletic equipment. Tasting partner Ivan compares it to a “liquefied chocolate mousse.” Sip it from a snifter and see if you can crack the mysterious puzzle that lies in the initial aroma. It's heavy, and alcoholic, but not “hot,” or boozy. It hides dangerous intensity under a comforting blanket of fudge.  

SoMe Brewing Whoopie Pie Stout

Format Sampled: 22 oz capped bottled

ABV: 6.3%
Availability: Purchased at Maine Beer and Beverage Co.

Tasting Notes: Pouts a flat black with a thin brown head. Aroma has dark fudge, instant coffee and a peculiar vinyl smell. The odd, plastic flavor pokes into the fist taste and rapidly dissipates. There's a dense, cake-like sweetness. It's almost tacky on my tongue – exactly like the tacky exterior of a whoopie pie! It's sweet, but not excessive, and it's mixed with a deep cocoa/coffee bitterness. It's not the hop bitterness I'm used to, but it does the trick to balance the sweetness quite well. The aftertaste blends sweet cake and bitter chocolate and lingers pleasantly on my tongue.

Milk Stout Does a Body Good

Think about stout, loyal reader, and the mind conjures a bitter, black draft, with roasted flavors. Now imagine adding the sweet, creamy character of milk to the roasted, bitter experience of the stout. That's the essence of a milk stout, a novel style of beer that includes lactose, a sugar derived from dairy. Lactose can't be fermented, so it doesn't get turned into alcohol. Instead, it remains in the beer, adding a sweet, rich flavor. The pairing seems incongruous at first, but it's a surprisingly natural combination.

 

Milk stouts aren't just designed to titillate the palate. In the recent past, they were suggested for nursing mothers. There's little evidence that lactose enhances milk production, and alcohol can be excreted in breast milk, so doctors no longer recommend that nursing moms slug milk stouts. However, this beer writer heartily recommends that all non-nursing beer enthusiasts try this deliciously creamy style of beer!

 

Ska Brewing Steel Toe Milk Stout
Format Sampled: 12 oz. can

ABV: 5.5%

Availability: Mostly in the Intermountain West

Tasting Notes: Pours inky black and raises a dark, glossy brown head. The aroma has fresh-ground coffee, black licorice, and charred wood. The initial flavor is dry, astringent and roasted. It opens up with notes of cocoa, and the suave, subtle, sweet flavor of light cream. The overall impression is both faintly sweet and dry. It's well balanced, almost as if they'd found a way to turn up the volume slightly on the natural sweetness of a Guinness stout. The aftertaste is complex, with cocoa nibs, more licorice, and a bracing sourness.

 

Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro

Format Sampled: 12 oz. capped bottle

ABV: 6.0%

Availability: Rosemont Market and Bakery

Tasting Notes: Pours a dark, reddish-brown with a thin tan head. Aroma is filled with roasted, parched grain, burnt toast and bitter-sweet chocolate. My tongue encounters the body before the flavor, simultaneously creamy and light, sliding around my mouth with a peculiar combination of viscosity and airiness. The initial flavor has chocolate truffle, minerals, cold coffee and chocolate milk. This stout has a tremendous flavor impact and enormous substance, without being overpowering. It's rare to find such a flavorful stout that's light enough to drink in quantity and still remain vertical. A treat!

 

Fore River Brewing John Henry Milk Stout

Format Sampled: 16.9 oz. capped bottle

ABV: 5.2%

Availability: Rosemont Market and Bakery

Tasting Notes: Pours a deep, dark brown with a thick head of off-white foam. Aroma is light and sweet, with cocoa dust, vanilla and pastry. Initial flavor is like an anvil of chocolate dropped on my tongue! There's chocolate milk-shake, sour cocoa powder and a thin, bitter, roasted flavor. It's a bold, punchy, weighty stout. I would have anticipated a less profound flavor at such a low ABV, but here it is! The aftertaste has endurance too — with chocolate/coffee flavors lingering in my mouth for ages.

Get sweet, salty and buzzed on salted caramel beers

Happy 2017, loyal readers! I've just spent a month drinking Double IPA, a challenging, high-alcohol style of beer. It's a new year, and I'm in the mood to break out of my hoppy rut. There are few factors driving my decision. First, my palate is momentarily fatigued by hops. Second, during these dark days, I crave a style of beer that I can provide simple, sweet pleasures. So, I'm dedicating January to darker beers, primarily stouts and porters. My year could use a little levity, so we'll start by sampling darker beers with unusual flavors. Even trying darker, more “serious” beers like stouts should be all about fun and exploring new flavors! This week, I'm going to sample a style I've never encountered before: salted caramel. Here's to a salty, sweet, and alcoholic first week of 2017!

 

Horny Goat Salted Caramel Brown Ale

Format Sampled: 12 oz can

ABV: 6.5%

Availability: Purchased at Old Port Spirits and Cigars

Tasting Notes: Pours a rich, clear brown with a thin tan head. Aroma is sweet, and cloyingly artificial, like liquefied butterscotch hard candies. Initial flavor kicks off with a pleasant blend of toffee, warm, rich malty sweetness, and a thick body. Shortly after, the sweet, sharp flavor of caramel candy cuts in. It's distinct, and slightly unnatural, but not as flagrantly fake as the aroma. It's fun and reminds me of munching on caramel candy at the movies. There's a slightly salty flavor mixed in, more like a savory broth than the seawater tang of a gose. The aftertaste is sticky-sweet. For drinkers with a serious sweet-tooth, this might be an excellent dessert beer.

 

Flying Dog Salted Caramel
Format Sampled: 12 oz capped bottle
ABV: 7.0%

Availability: Purchased at Old Port Spirits and Cigars

Tasting Notes: Pours a dark, reddish amber with a rapidly dissipating brown head. Aroma has echoes of sweet caramel, vanilla, and molasses. The initial flavor is like a fire in a candy factory! There's dark, burnt sugar, hot molasses, smokey caramel and chewy, toffee-like malt syrup. It's not as sweet as the Horny Goat, and the sugary flavors are so well-caramelized, they're more sophisticated. The sweetness fades rapidly and tapers down to the more restrained flavors of malt, still sweet, but featuring the moderate taste of roasted grain. There's a saucy, salty note at the end. It's sharper and more mineral than the savory salt in the Horny Goat. The salt is strong enough in the aftertaste to encourage thoughtful lip-licking, and begins to stimulate my thirst. It would make an incredible accompaniment to anything involving Dulce de Leche and would enliven vanilla ice cream.

A Grab-Bag of Oddball Double IPA

This December, I've been marinating my liver in delightfully hoppy double IPA (DIPA). I've sipped 8 DIPA's from Maine, 3 from California and 3 from Vermont. What did it leave me with? 1 hangover, 3 hoppy belches, 4 great beer articles, and a whole pile of DIPA that didn't fit into a convenient regional category. This week, I'm selecting the standouts from oddball bin in my fridge and putting my DIPA binge to rest. In 2017, I'll kick off the year by exploring an entirely new style. Have a safe, happy and beer-enlivened NYE!

 

Victory Hop Ranch Imperial India Pale Ale

Format Sampled: 12 oz capped bottle
ABV: 9.0%
Tasting Notes: Pours a sparkling gold with a thin, white head. Aroma has gentle lemon, subtle cream and a hot, alcoholic notes. The initial taste has a peculiar, though thoroughly agreeable, phenol character. It's like a whiff of the laboratory this alchemical liquid was born in. The hops leap out and grab my tongue, wrestling with it and slamming it against the proverbial mat. This isn't one of those mild, “fruit forward” DIPA's! No, this is an assertive hop bomb. The body is light and liquid, almost silky, which is a startling contrast to the aggressive hops. This is a sophisticated, delightfully contradictory tipple!

 

Two Roads Road 2 Ruin Double IPA

Format Sampled:16 oz can
ABV: 8.0%
Tasting Notes: Pours a burnished amber with a thick pillow of white foam. Aroma has orange zest, spicy cardamon and some toffee. Initial flavor is rounded and gorgeous, with no sharp edges. The hop flavors are gentle, with stewed fruit, dried herbs and muted citrus. It's all suspended in a warm, lovely malt base that's viscous, warm and chewy. This DIPA is comforting, soothing and gentle -   words I wouldn't often use to describe this beer of this style!

 

Moat Mountain Call It A Day Double IPA

Format Sampled: 16 oz can.
ABV: 8.0%
Tasting Notes: Pours a hazy copper with a huge pouf of foam. Aroma is packed with pine, grapefruit zest and a hint of asphalt. The first taste is sharp and packed with zesty citrus flavors – candied orange, lemon peel and lemon oil. There are some other fruit flavors too – some peach and raspberry. The hop flavors linger, thick and almost oily on my tongue. What endurance! I'm sitting here, typing, and rubbing my tongue on the roof of my mouth and still appreciating a developing hop flavor. Call It A Day blends the fruity character of an East Coast DIPA with the piney bitterness of a West Coast IPA. It's a winning combination!       

Tasting an epic style of beer: the Double IPA

This month, we're slugging down epic quantities of an epic style of beer: Double IPA (DIPA). This style of beer intensifies the characteristics of IPA — an already profound style of beer.

This week, we're tasting DIPAs from Vermont. Why? Well, I recently found three excellent DIPAs from that state, and many successfully argue that the “East Coast” DIPA trend started in Vermont, with the introduction of The Alchemist's “Heady Topper.” This unfiltered, highly hopped DIPA introduced many East Coast beer enthusiasts to the pleasures of vibrant hop aromas and built demand for the style. Here's to the ancestral homeland of East Coast DIPA!

 

Otter Creek / Lawson's Finest Liquids Double Dose IPA

Format Sampled: 12 oz. capped bottle
ABV: 8.5%
Tasting Notes: Pours a transparent gold with a thick pillow of off-white head. Aroma has fresh, sticky pine sap, dried citrus, and nose-hair singeing alcohol. Initial flavor is tart and fruity. There's plenty of citrus here: grapefruit, orange peel, tangerine, and lemon. There are herbal, piney flavors and a delightful bitterness flitting around the edges. The body is surprisingly thin and drinkable for all the strength. The relative lack of malt flavor lends the beer a light, lilting quality. The overall impression is light, playful and fun.

 

14th Star Brewing Co. Tribute Double IPA

Format Sampled: 16 oz. can

ABV: 8.4%

Tasting Notes: Pours a pallid gold with a thin, pure-white head. Aroma is filled with permutations of pine, juniper, sage, and a faint undertone of dried orange peel. Initial flavor is sharp-elbowed, with massive resinous pine and cedar, a refined powerful bitterness and plenty of grapefruit. There are more gentle fruit aspects too, like hints of peach juice and ripe pear. The malt under all the hoppy wonder is toasted and biscuity, and there's a pleasant musty wood character lingering there, like the book section of an antique store. The overall impression of the Tribute is like walking through a bright, green pine forest the morning after a heavy rain. Damp, fragrant, and immersive.

 

Fiddlehead Brewing Second Fiddle Double IPA

Format Sampled: 16 oz. can

ABV: 8.2%

Tasting Notes: Pours a fizzy amber with a thin, off-white head. Aroma has delicate tangerine, pine needles, and fresh-baked bread. Initial flavor sparkles with lemon, citrus zest, and marzipan. There's a delicate flavor of burnt sugar and a firm mineral flavor — almost metallic. It's like sipping fresh lemonade from a cold pewter mug. This is one of the most refreshing, easily drinkable DIPAs I've ever had, bar none. The substantial alcohol content is completely obscured by the expertly crafted balance of malt, minerals, and hops.

2016: A Year For Great Beer

It was a grand year to be a beer writer, loyal reader. My 2016 was a series of blurry, drunken reveries. Based on eyewitness accounts from trusted friends and colleagues, I am confident in saying that I'm relatively certain I had a good time. I think. This week, I'll share some of my favorite Maine beers, as well as the memories I made with each one. Here's to a happy, healthy 2017, with many more memories and great beers!

 

Winter

Banded Horn Barrel Aged Mountain Russian Imperial Stout. Cautiously sipped from a 12 oz. capped bottle.

The aroma of the Mountain is a cloud of boozy yeast, aged rum, coffee and black cherry. The flavor is a tidal wave of rum-soaked fruitcake, vanilla beans, dark caramel, toffee and burnt cream. I sipped this beer after a wonderful evening at the Maine Huts and Trails. A raucous group of friends hiked through complete darkness to a warm, well-lit hut with a blazing fire. We talked and ate well into the night. After a long drive home, I kept the buzz of the conversation and the warmth of the fire going with the Mountain!

 

Spring

Peak Organic Ginger Saison. Slurped from a 12 oz. bottle.

The aroma of this beer is peculiar, with sulfur, apple-cider vinegar and ginger. The first sip is refreshing as the aroma is funky. There's musty, herbal ginger, clove and lemon. It's deliciously close to a dry ginger-ale. I enjoyed the Ginger Saison during a multi-day bike tour from Acadia National Park to Patten. I rode with a diverse group through sun, rain and fog to raise awareness of the (then proposed) Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. The beer was a refreshing end to the second day of riding.

 

Summer

Foundation Epiphany. Gulped from a 16 oz. can.

A riot of citrus aromas escapes from the can. The tropical fruit aroma is so intense, I expect the foam to be bright orange. The flavor is juicy, so plush and herbal that I try to lick the bottom of the can. I opened this beer in a canoe, at sunset, on Moosehead Lake, on my birthday. A friend and I spent the day fishing, talking about the birth of his daughter, and marveling at the accumulation of memories over time. As the sun set, a galaxy of hop warmth rose in my soul. What a night and what a beer.

 

Fall

Sebago Bonfire Rye. Sipped from a 12 oz. can.

This beer is spicy, dry and toasty, evoking gingerbread, pumpernickel toast and campfire smoke. The body is thin, and the alcohol level moderate — an ideal combination of refreshment and substance. I enjoyed the Bonfire in front of a campfire near Bethel. I had just biked nearly 70 miles over the Grafton Notch in blazing fall colors. The air was cool, I had a full belly, and smoke from the fire mingled with the rye in the beer.

Embracing Paradox with California DIPA

Double IPAs are strange beers. They're doubled versions of IPA's, an already brash and “loud” style of beer. DIPA's contain larger quantities of alcohol, hops, and malts than “regular” IPA, and these create unique flavors that suggest different drinking strategies to fully experience.

1. Drink it fresh! The ephemeral essential oils and acids that make hops so delicious are fragile and degrade rapidly even sealed in a can in the fridge. It's not wine – drink it as soon as possible!
 
2. It's all about the cans. The two biggest enemies of hop flavors are light and oxygen. Cans are more effective in excluding both, so if you've got to choose, consider opting for a DIPA that's canned.
 
3. Don't be cultured. The aromas of fresh hops dissipate rapidly. To get the freshest and most direct hop hit, sip the DIPA right from the can! Or, if you're trying to be cultured, try a brandy-snifter, with a big bulb and a narrower nose to concentrate the fresh hop aromas.

With these tips in mind, we're going to taste some California DIPA's. Cheers!

Knee Deep Brewing Lupulin River

Format Sampled: 22 oz capped bottle

ABV: 8.0%

Tasting Notes: Pours a bright amber with a thin pure white head. Aroma has grapefruit, pine, peach and pineapple. Initial flavor is a paradoxical mix of astringent, floral coffee, tropical fruit, and grapefruit pith. There is a firm, assertive bitterness after the fruit that lingers on, teasing my tongue. There's a marvelously delicate structure of sweet malt holding up all the hoppy ornamentation. The malt is slightly toasty, with a gentle, honeyed sweetness, and flashes of brown sugar. The body is moderate and slightly syrupy.

Sierra Nevada Hoptimum

Format Sampled: 12 oz capped bottle

ABV: 10.4 %

Tasting Notes: Pours a clear amber with a bone-white head. Aroma is dank, herbal and sweet. Initial flavor is roundly sweet, with apple, pineapple, and bitter herbs. The body is viscous, sweet and makes the lovely bitter hops stick to my palate like an embracing herbal blanket. Tasting partner, Kyle, says the hop flavor "hits like a ton of bricks." It's not all bitterness though. There are notes of lemon custard, caramel apples and fruit gums. This is a forceful herbal elixir with a heavy body, massive floral bouquet, and fuming alcoholic intensity. This is a beer to sip from a snifter in front of a raging fire, contemplating deep thoughts.

Firestone Walker Double Jack

Format Sampled: 12 oz capped bottle

ABV: 9.5 %

Tasting Notes: Pours a dark gold with a thin white head. Aroma is resinous with pine, basil, citrus and honey. The first sip frankly bitter, astringent and herbal- like a hop tincture! But it quickly rounds into balance with honey, pine, and oak joining the herbal hops. The body is thick and quite smooth. The thick body, relatively dry flavor profile and abundant wood flavors recall a single malt whiskey. This is another forceful, complex, contemplative beverage!

Eastern Double IPA. Twice the Hops But Half As Bitter?

This month, we're bingeing on Double IPA, a style of beer that began as an intensified version of the brash, hoppy India Pale Ale.

Craft IPAs are often associated with the West Coast brewing scene. Western brewers' proximity to fresh fields of Cascade, Chinook and Willamette hops led them to use huge quantities of these bitter, piney flowers.

This challenging, bitter version of IPA dominated the American palate for years. Despite the "Double" in the name, most of the East Coast DIPA's aren't twice as bitter as a West Coast IPA. These East Coast DIPA's might use more hops than a Western IPA, but they add them earlier in the brewing process and pick varieties that pack a massive floral aroma, rather than a bitter punch. Confused? That's OK. Slug back a few of the East Coast DIPA's and meditate on the difference.

Sam Adams Rebel Raw Double IPA (Boston, Mass.)

Format sampled: 16-ounce can

ABV: 10%

Tasting notes: Pours a vivid, cloudy yellow with a huge head of whitish foam. Aroma is raucous with grapefruit, green apple and candied orange slices. The first sip is complex and searching — a battle between fruit, flower and grain. There's sour orange, and sweet orange blossom, all layered over a delicious burnt-sugar base. The body is thick and slightly syrupy. Tasting partner Julia isn't stoked on the can design, but I'm focused on the flavor. There is bitterness here, but it's mostly in the aftertaste. This is a festival of citrus and flowers — a lovely beer.

Moat Mountain Call It A Day Double IPA (North Conway, N.H.)

Format sampled: 16-ounce can

ABV: 8%

Tasting Notes: Pours a hazy, fuzzy amber with a thin head. Aroma is powerful and unusual — there's asphalt, pine, overheated electronics (hot Nintendo?) and mint. The first sip is packed with hop flavors. First, there's a candied citrus rind and a grassy, "green" flavor that totally overwhelms my palate. After these herbal flavors, a powerful, astringent bitterness emerges. It's sharp, forceful and enduring. The body isn't as thick as the Rebel Raw, and the flavors are more herbal than fruit-forward.

Lord Hobo Brewing Co. Consolation Prize Imperial-style DIPA (Cambridge, Mass.)

Format sampled: 16-ounce can

ABV: 9.5%

Tasting notes: Pours a cloudy yellow with no head at all. Aroma has lemon zest, taffy and resinous pine needles. Initial flavor has sour lemon, gummy candies, vanilla and pine. There's a serious bitterness hiding behind all these flavors, though, and it comes through as the fruity aromatics dissipate a bit. The body is moderate — somewhere between the Moat and the Sam Adams. For some reason, this beer is powerfully intoxicating. Several ounces is enough to render this beer writer quiet and contemplative. More like a first prize than a consolation prize, in my opinion.

Doubling Down on Double IPA

Happy November, loyal reader! This week, we're going to continue our double IPA binge.

What is a double IPA? IPA stands for "India Pale Ale," a style of ale developed as a durable export to British colonies in India. Original IPAs featured larger quantities of hops and a higher alcohol content, primarily for their preservative effects during their long journeys. Double IPAs challenge the palate by intensifying the flavor characteristics and alcoholic strength of this already punchy style. Many of these beers have alcoholic strengths greater than 8 percent, and IBUs (a measure of how bitter a beer is) of 90 or greater. These are big, bold, challenging beers that reward sipping and swirling. Their strength and brashness make them a challenge to pair with food, and the bold hop flavors aren't crowd pleasers. For idiosyncratic hop-heads like me, they are the pinnacle of brewing achievement.

Last week, we tasted three double IPAs from Maine. This week, we're going to double down and taste three more! They're from Rising Tide Brewing Co. in Portland, Banded Horn Brewing Co. in Biddeford and Hidden Cove Brewing Co. in Wells.

Rising Tide Cutter Imperial IPA

Format Sampled: 16-ounce can
ABV: 8.7%

Tasting notes: Pours a hazy yellow with a thin layer of white head. Aroma has grapefruit, caramel and pine. Initial flavor is juicy with grapefruit and fresh citrus, piquant with conifers and black pepper, and completely mouthwatering. There's a brash, brassy sensation of bitterness after the initial sip. This bitterness dries down slowly, leading into a warm, glowing malt. The body is moderate, and it's not at all sweet. This is a lovely, well-balanced DIPA — more akin to an intensified IPA, rather than a beer where each aspect of the flavor is simply doubled.

Banded Horn Daikaiju

Format Sampled: 16-ounce can
ABV: 8.7%

Tasting notes: Pours a hazy, fuzzy orange-yellow, with a thin lace of pure white head. Initial aroma is vibrant with tangerine, fresh hay and pine sap. The initial flavor is fresh with green herbs, chlorophyll, clementine, dried orange peel and juicy citrus. There's a firm bitterness underlying the herbal, citrus qualities of the hops, which branches out like lightning over my palate. The body is quite light, and the malt character is crisp and only faintly sweet. This beer is like a finely wrought tool — simple, elegant and quite forceful. The belch is filled with sweet citrus, pine and mint.

Hidden Cove Thunderclap
Format Sampled: 16-ounce can
ABV: 8.8%

Tasting notes: Pours an opaque yellow with a thin layer of white head. Aroma has lemon chiffon, pine needle and mint. Initial flavor is dry and herbal — perfumed with a sachet of rosemary, citrus peel and hop blossom. The flavors build and coalesce, with lemon, honey and clove joining the experience, along with a sharp hop bitterness. The aftertaste is slightly sweet and lemony, with slight jabs of hop bitterness to keep things interesting. Following the trend of the other Maine DIPAs, this is highly drinkable!

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