Seth Levy

Seth Levy

Back to Basics: New England Double IPA

Winter is back, readers, and this beer writer is tried of fruits, berries, and funky adjuncts. With the sun setting at 4 PM, I'm done with fluff and back to basics, which, at this point in the year are, #1. Alcohol and, #2. Hops! What better way to resume appreciation of more convention beer styles than to taste some Double IPA? This week, we'll focus on a sub-genre of Double IPA that's close to my heart: New England Double IPA. This style emphasizes the fruity, floral aromas and flavors of the hop, without the much of the corresponding bitterness. New England Double IPA's are often comparatively dry and quenching, without the syrupy, heavy body that characterizes many other examples of Double IPA. Cheers!

 

Shipyard Finder New England DIPA

Format Sampled: 16 oz can

ABV: 6.4%

Availability: Purchased at Hannaford

Tasting Notes: Pours a slightly hazy orange with a thin, white head. Aroma is filled with juicy citrus and spicy pine. Initial sip is so imbued with hop oils that it nearly slides down, leaving a rainbow slick of grapefruit, spicy orange peel, and funky herbs. After the fruit, a hint of bitterness kicks in at the back of my tongue, combined with a pleasantly astringent, woody flavor. It's a lovely balance to the initial fruit. The aftertaste is light and filled with spritz – emphasizing the sweeter aspects of the fruited character. The body, overall, is moderate. It's light enough to sip with a meal but substantial enough to satisfy alone. This is a solid, straightforward example of the style!

 

Liquid Riot All Is Illusion Double IPA

Format Sampled:16 oz can

ABV: 7.8%

Availability: Purchased at Aurora Provisions

Tasting Notes: Pours a cloudy golden with a thick pillow of white foam. Aroma is a fiesta of mint, honey, and candied orange peel - mouthwatering before my first sip. The initial flavor continues singing the same song the aroma started, harmonies of mint, herbs, and citrus mingle with a tempting prickle of bitterness. There is a mild, honeyed sweetness, perfect to augment and enhance the explosion of citrus and floral flavors. For all the sweetness, the body is surprisingly light and quenching. This delicate, floral double is gentle enough to enjoy with food and fascinating enough to drink solo. Amazing balance!

 

Mast Landing Brewing Company Jonah Double IPA

Format Sampled: 16 oz can

ABV: 8.1%

Availability: Purchased at Aurora Provisions

Tasting Notes:  Pours a rich, cloudy amber with a thin, white head. Aroma has camphor, caramel, honey, and orange. Initial flavor is presented with a brief, piercingly bitterness, which is quickly overwhelmed by a tidal wave of herbal and floral qualities. Guava, pineapple, mint, tangerine – all swirling together like a cosmic tie-die print! Underlying the botanical character, a faintly sweet malt backbone structures the entire flavor experience and is joined by a low level of bitterness. The aftertaste is rich in tropical fruit. This may be the most profoundly hoppy of the three!

 

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Take flight with galactic beers

In the western brewing tradition, beer is spiced with hops like foods are spiced with, errr, spices. Hops, the flower of the herbaceous vine Humulus lupulus, used to be responsible strictly for only the bitter, herbaceous quality of many beers. As growers developed new varieties and brewers developed new techniques, we've seen a profusion of beers that feature the more subtle, unusual flavors and aromas of the hop flower. Now, it's possible to find beers that feature soaring, “cosmic” fusions of fruit and herbs, and flavors that are frankly otherworldly. This week, we'll try a few beers whose name or composition evokes some of the more “spaced-out” flavor possibilities of the hop flower.

 

Foundation Brewing Company Cosmic Bloom
Format Sampled: 16 oz. can

ABV: 5.8%
Availability: Purchased at Rosemont Market and Bakery
Tasting Notes: Pours a hazy lemon yellow with a thin white head. Aroma mixes jasmine, asphalt, pineapple, and citrus. The initial flavor combines a firm bitterness with skunky, resinous qualities. As the flavor develops, exotic tropical flavors like pineapple, guava and coconut develop, gentle and ephemeral, drifting away through the stratosphere. All the while, that firm initial bitterness supports and grounds the fruit flavors. The body is light and quenching, with just enough gentle sweetness to reinforce the fruit and balance the bitterness. This beer is a burst of light as bright as a tropical sunset, just the thing to enjoy on a cold, drizzly night.

 

Elysian Space Dust IPA
Format Sampled: 12 oz. capped bottle

ABV: 8.2%
Availability: Purchased at Hannaford
Tasting Notes: Pours a rich gold with a sticky white head. Aroma soars with resinous pine, citrus peel, and sticky herbs. Initial flavor is bitter, with sticky coniferous character and burnt, candied citrus. The bitter herbal flavors are balanced by a complex caramel sweetness. As the sweetness fades, the bitter background rears up again — building and lingering in the back of my throat. This second wave of bitterness distracts me a bit from the increasingly sticky body, which spackles the hop character to my palate. For a beer with such airy “galactic” flavors, the hefty body of this one is firmly anchored to the earth.

 

Aeronaut Brewing Hop Hop and Away
Format Sampled: 16 oz. can

ABV: 4.6%
Availability: Purchased at Bow St. Beverage Public Market
Tasting Notes: Pours a pale, hazy yellow with a thin white head. Aroma is sharp and piney, with hints of basil, citrus, and tar. Initial flavor melds heaven and earth — soaring, sparkling citrus and tropical fruit with earthy bitumen and wet herbs. I want to embrace the cosmic bunny on the label, and cry, “Beam me up, space bunny!” The body is thin and quenching, lending this tipple a dangerous degree of chugability. The floral, bitter character proceeds through — even as warm, toasted malts move to the foreground, and finally subsides into a lightly herbal aftertaste.

 

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The Gourd Horror: Pumpkin Brews

We all have our fears. Some dread a visit to the proctologist. Some tax season. As a beer writer, I have a special horror of one terrible week that combines unique horror of all fears plus the possibility of a dreadful hangover. Yes, loyal reader, it's that time of year where brewers add bloated orange squash to perfectly good beer, douse it in laboratory-derived flavoring agents and cackle with the keening, disturbing laugh of a super-villain. You guessed it: It's pumpkin beer season. For you, I'll hold my nose and do my duty — tasting a few pumpkin beers to save your palate, your liver, and your sanity the trouble.

Two Roads Brewing Roadsmary's Baby

ABV: 6.8%

Format Sampled: 12 oz. capped bottle
Availability: Purchased at RSVP

Taste: Pours a fine, glowing amber with a thin, white head. The aroma has nutmeg, cinnamon, and toasted oats. Initial flavor blooms with warming spices, like a sachet filled with cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and cardamon. There's even a hit of gingery spice burn at the tail end to give it some authority. Thankfully, this beer is on the dry side, and the understated sweetness is clearly malt-based, rather than sugary. Actually, the malt has a nice toasted character, rounding out the flavor and making it even more “organic.” If not for the grinning gourd on the label, I might not even guess this was a pumpkin beer. It's so warming and spicy, I'd drink it to enliven a cold evening during any season.

 

New Belgium Voodoo Ranger Atomic Pumpkin

ABV: 6.4%

Format Sampled: 12 oz. capped bottle
Availability: Purchased out of state.

Taste: Pours a light copper with a fine white head. Aroma has cinnamon, cocoa, and some real roasted pumpkin flavor. The initial flavor is frighteningly close to an actual slice of pumpkin pie. There's nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger, and the grainy flavor of real pumpkin meat. As the flavor develops, the similarity to pumpkin pie recedes into the distance. A growing, glowing coal of chili heat warms my tongue and throat, carrying some secondary citrus aromatics and a powerful burn. The heat continues to build in intensity, gradually subsiding into a spicy, woody aftertaste. Perhaps this would pair with a spicy mole, but the Atomic Pumpkin is better suited to a solo sipper.

 

Kennebunkport Brewing Pumpkin Ale

ABV: 4.5%

Format Sampled: 12 oz. can
Availability: Purchased at Trader Joe's

Tasting Notes: Pours a brilliant copper with a dense white head. Aroma is cidery, with some vinegar and cinnamon character as well. Initial flavor is dilute, almost watery, with faint hints of cinnamon, clove and the thin vegetable flavor of pumpkin. The spicy flavors develop a bit but don't really define themselves beyond providing a background. The aftertaste is bland and sweet, with a lingering cinnamon flavor. Served quite cold, this would be a good choice for someone who doesn't appreciate the stronger, spicier flavors of some of the other pumpkin beers.

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Cheers to Cherries

Fall is mad this year, loyal reader. First, it's 40 degrees, then it's 70. I suppose we shouldn't complain, because it's October in Maine, but the wild gyrations in weather are driving my palate crazy. I’m not ready to begin my traditional cold weather descent into heavier, maltier beers, so we're going to continue our exploration of beers with added fruits, berries, and other interesting ingredients by tasting cherry beers. Cherries are a perfect fruit for both warm days and cool nights. The sharp, sweet character of the juice cools the palate in the heat, and the dark, exotic flavor of the fruit inflames the passions in the cold. As the weather cools down for good, we'll move on to taste some more traditional styles, but for now — cheers to cherries!

 

Brewery Ommegang Rosetta
ABV: 5.6%

Format Sampled: 11.2 oz. capped bottle
Available: Purchased at RSVP
Tasting Notes: Pours a deep umber with hints of maroon, capped with a thick, tan head. Aroma is tart and with a dense cherry scent. The initial taste has a sharp slap of sourness, followed immediately by the round, full flavor of cherry juice. The juice flavor is so sweet, so broad and concentrated, it's almost meaty. The sweetness departs in the aftertaste, which features the tannic flavor of the pit, and the deep, dark flavor of the skin, so dense I instinctively stick my tongue out to see if it's red. This beer would pair well with fruit, sharp cheeses and chocolate. What a treat!

 

North Coast Brewing Tart Cherry Berliner Weisse

ABV: 4.1%

Format Sampled: 22 oz. capped bottle
Available: Purchased at Bow St. Beverage

Tasting Notes: Pours a sexy pinkish red with a thin white head. Aroma is clean and fresh, with faintly toasted notes. First sip is remarkably fluid and slam-able. Tasting partner Meghan exclaims, “This might be the actual champagne of beers.” I agree, the first sip carries a pleasant tartness, then a hint of sour cherry flavor. That's it. No hops, no malt, just fizzy liquid with a pleasant tartness and the mild, pure flavor of sour cherries. This is an understated masterpiece that lets the ingredients speak for themselves, a remarkably rare commodity in the beer world.

 

Smuttlabs Smoked Cherry Short Weisse

ABV: 6.6%

Format Sampled: 1 pint, .9 oz capped bottle
Available: Provided by Smuttynose Brewing

Tasting Notes: Pours a deep amber with a hint of red and no head at all. Aroma has a hint of sour cherries and a wisp of sweet smoke. The initial flavor is powerfully tart — with an enduring sourness that puckers my mouth involuntarily for a moment. After the sharpness fades away, there is a deep, juicy cherry flavor, bursting with meaty fruit and woody pit. Layered nearly imperceptibly on top of the cherry, a savory cloud of smoke floats though, evoking barbecue, smoldering piles of leaves — the essence of fall itself. The aftertaste is lingering, smoky and packed with lip-smacking tartness.

 

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Liquid Gold — Lemon beers to treasure

I'm still sipping beers that use fruits, berries and other adjuncts to achieve unusual flavors. This week, we'll try a few beers that incorporate the most familiar of the citrus fruits – the lemon! Much of the characteristic flavor of the lemon is due to the citric acid it contains, giving it a sour, biting flavor. Lemons also contain a significant quantity of vitamin C, and the peels are rich in essential oils that carry the majority of the fresh aroma of the lemon. Beers that incorporate lemon flavor tend to be quenching and refreshing. Their bright acidity pairs well with seafood, chicken, or just a nice hot day. Cheers!

 

Eviltwin Brewing Old Fashioned IPA
Format Sampled: 12 oz can

ABV: 7%

Availability: Purchased at Rosemont Market and bakery

Tasting Notes: Pours a cloudy greenish yellow with a skimpy white head. Aroma is comprehensively lemony, with hints of asphalt and dank, sticky hops. The initial flavor is filled with mouth-puckering, sour lemon. The taste sets off memories of sour lemon candies, glasses of lemonade on the porch, and gummy lemon wedge candies dipped in sugar. There are hints of bitter, bracing hops under the acid/sweet fusion of the lemonade. Swirled in with simple, white-sugar burn, is a hint a darker, more complex malt sweetness. This is an artful fusion of an IPA and a lemonade. So much more than a shandy, it brings a bright lemony ray of sunshine to a cool, rainy night.

 

Great Divide Brewing Company Nadia Kali Hibiscus Saison

Format Sampled: 12 oz can

ABV: 6.3%
Availability: Purchased at RSVP

Tasting Notes: Pours a rich, reddish amber with a moderate head of tan foam. Aroma is fresh and spicy with clove, lemon peel, and caramel. The initial flavor is tart and round, with notes of mulled wine, apple cider vinegar, and sour cherries. The woody, citrus flavor of the hibiscus provides an earthy counterpoint to the initial tartness. As the flavor develops, a lemony character drifts to center stage, bracingly acidic and refreshing. The body is quite light, and the tart, herbal flavors make this a tremendously refreshing beer. It is an amazing aperitif, and the ABV is low enough to make it a fascinating beer to sip over a long evening.

 

Samuel Adams Porch Rocker

Format Sampled: 12 oz capped bottle

ABV: 4.5%
Availability: Purchased at RSVP

Tasting Notes: Pours a sparkling gold with a thin whitish head. Aroma is lemony and pleasantly resembles a furniture polish. The initial flavor is oddly sweet and lemony – taking the furniture polish theme a bit too far for my enjoyment. Under the strangely clipped lemon flavor,  a chemically potent sweetness spreads rapidly over my palate and then disappears into whatever laboratory flask it came from. Underneath, a toasted malt flavor reminds me that this is, after all, a beer and not a soda. The aftertaste lingers, with a cloying, sickly sweet flavor that sticks to my tongue like rubber cement. This is an unfortunate beer, and a better result could have been obtained by simply adding a real lemon slice to any mass-market pilsner.

 

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Passionate about Passion Fruit Beers

Passion fruit is the fruit of a flowering vine, whose reportedly comes from the religious, rather than the sexual, meaning of the word passion. Apparently, Missionaries in South America named it in reference to Christ's suffering on the cross. The indigenous meaning of the word is less symbolic "nursery for flies." The flavor of this enigmatic fruit is somewhere between these definitions, both divine and earthy, with a profound flavor that mixes acid and sweetness. This week, we'll sample several beers that incorporate passion fruit flavors.

 

Green Flash Passion Fruit Kicker

ABV: 5.5%

Format Sampled: 12 fl oz capped bottle

Available: Purchased at Bow St Beverage Public Market House

Tasting Notes: Pours a light copper with almost no head. Aroma is reminiscent of liquefied sweet tart candies – a tropical pulpy, sweetness, offset by a sharp sourness. Initial flavor is smoothly sour, with a nondescript fruity sweetness that mellows it out. The sweetness isn't characteristic of passion fruit itself- most of the unique character of the fruit is in the aroma. The tart, fruity flavor continues, evenly sour, without becoming biting or scouring. Surprisingly, there's little kick to the “kicker.” Everything about it is mellow. Not too sweet, not too tropical, not too sour. It's an all-around pleasant sipper. Tasting partner Meghan says, “it's the perfect beer for California – light, fruity and waaay mellow.”

 

Almanac Beer Co Farm To Barrel Passion Project

ABV: 6.5%

Format Sampled: 12.68 fl oz capped bottle

Available: Purchased at Bow St Beverage Public Market House

Tasting Notes: Pours a sparkling pale yellow with an unstable white head. Aroma is sour, funky and mysteriously fruity at once, like an exotic fruit salad dressed with balsamic vinegar and sprinkled with hay. The initial flavor is revelatory, the creamy, sweet flesh of the fruit bursting through a curtain of refined sourness to play upon a stage of toasted wood, rich barrel character, and horsey funk. As the funk fades, the dry, woody characters predominate, shot through with brief flashes of fruit. The finish is powerfully dry and tannic – leaving my tongue parched for another sup.

 

Passion Fruit – Peach Berliner Weisse

ABV: 4.1%

Format Sampled: 22 fl oz capped bottle

Available: Purchased at Bow St Beverage Public Market House

Tasting Notes: Pours a cloudy light amber with a durable, pure white head. The aroma reminds me of a peach iced tea – fruity with a faintly acid astringency. The initial sip blends lip-puckering sourness with the syrupy sweetness of peach pulp. It's a wild sensory ride, with my tongue yanked in different directions by the opposing flavors. The peach flavors add a punchy freshness to the flavor profile, the passion fruit lying beneath, adding an exotic floral flavor. The body is light, and the beer is filled with lifting carbonation, making the overall experience incredibly refreshing. This would be a tremendous palate cleanser between courses, and a marvelous aperitif as well.

 

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Sipping On Raspberry Sours

With the first day of fall already behind us but temperatures still in the seventies, I'm craving a return to summer. In acknowledgment of this brief spell of warm weather and the cold that's sure to come, I'm tasting some sour beers that incorporate raspberries. The sweetness of the raspberry heralds the warmest days of summer, and the tart sourness is a reminder of the six months of winter still to come. Hold one of these beers aloft in a tall, narrow glass, so the light makes them glow a deep red. Drink deep, loyal reader. There are many stronger beers to come this winter!

 

Fore River Brewing Preble Raspberry Kettle Sour

Format sampled: 16 oz. can

ABV: 4.0%

Availability: Purchased at Whole Foods

Tasting Notes: Pours a murky fuchsia with a volcanic purplish head. Aroma is filled with fresh, dew-covered raspberries. The initial flavor is both insistently sour and profoundly berry like. The acidity is clean, and augments (rather than overwhelms) the delicate berry flavor. As it diffuses around my palate, the sourness fades and is replaced by a warm, gentle malt sweetness. This beer incorporates the flavor of the raspberry so elegantly and with such fidelity to its original form, that I feel the need to pick the little seeds from between my teeth. Sip, savor and mourn summer!

 

Hidden Cove Bottino

Format sampled: 16 oz. capped and corked bottle

ABV: 6.0%

Availability: Purchased at Bow Street Beverage Public Market

Tasting Notes: Pours a rich, glowing gold with no head at all. Aroma is fresh and acidic, with a distinct vinegar tang (a raspberry vinaigrette, perhaps?) The initial flavor is round and sour. It's the broad, refined acidity of an expensive vinegar, tempered by a faintly fruity sweetness. After the fruity, acidic opening, some barrel character starts to show. There is a toasted, nutty wooden flavor, polished with a fuzzy tannin. The restraint of the fruit flavor is surprising. The overall impression is closer to a refined sour or an unblended lambic than a “fruit beer.” Tasting partner Ivan says, “It's actually dry!” The dryness makes the Bottino a great aperitif or a companion to a rich pasta dish.

 

Banded Horn's Not If We Jam It

ABV: 4.5%

Format sampled: 16 oz. can

Availability: Purchased at Bow Street Beverage Public Market

Tasting Notes: Pours a slightly cloudy amber with hints of purple. Raises an enduring, fine white head. Aroma has a tart freshness and a delicate raspberry character. Initial flavor is subtle, with a sweet berry flavor that quickly overtaken by a starchy, glutinous sweetness. A pleasant citrus acidity mingles with the starch, washing it off my palate, and leaving a pleasant tingle in its place. Everything about this beer is mild — the fruit, the sourness, the sweetness, and body. For a beer that's so gentle, it's a tremendous palate conundrum. How, specifically should I appreciate it? For the fruit? The sour tang? The unique combination of flavors? I may need to enjoy a few to answer this question. While I attend to this pressing matter, I'd urge you to buy a few cans to enjoy while the weather is still warm!

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Strawberry Beers Forever

In these waning days of summer, I'm tasting beers with added fruits, berries, and other unusual ingredients. Earlier, we tried three beers brewed with added strawberries. Two weeks ago, I reviewed a notice that two breweries I follow were releasing strawberry beers and I took it as a sign. Summer ain't over yet, and there's more strawberry to drink!

 

Hidden Cove Fragola

ABV: 6.0%

Format Sampled: 16 oz corked bottle

Availability: Purchased at Bow Street Beverage Public Market

Tasting Notes: Pours a luminous orange/amber with no head at all. Aroma has fresh acidity, tempered with a fruity balsamic character. The fragile aroma of fresh strawberry is evident as well. The first sip is pleasantly tart, with a refreshing sourness that is almost immediately overtaken by the pulpy favor of strawberry. The berry is so fresh, especially over the sour backdrop, that it's like a scoop of fresh sorbet on my tongue. The addition of strawberry in this beer is so natural that it makes me appreciate the flavor of strawberry in ways I haven't before, noticing it's inherent, decadent creaminess, and profound sweetness. The berry flavor continues throughout, both bold and delicate. The body is quite thin and fluid, setting up no boundaries to drinking this lovely beer quickly. The bracing acid character lends itself to an aperitif, or perhaps a pairing with a fruit dessert

 

Samuel Smith's Organic Strawberry Ale

ABV: 5.1%

Format Sampled: 12 oz capped bottle

Availability: Provided by Merchant du Vin.

Tasting Notes: Pours a hazy copper with a short-lived off-white head. Aroma is powerfully berry-like, sharp and almost buttery in its concentration. The initial flavor is sweet, filled with sugary strawberry, oozing with jammy intensity. The berry flavor is so potent, it's like eating a tablespoon of strawberry jelly directly from the jar. This is not a “berry flavored beer,” or a “beer inspired by berries,” this is the result of a mad brewer, drunk on organic intoxicants, brazenly squeezing a kilogram of strawberries directly into the bottle. This may be too sweet for some, but it would be an amazing accompaniment to vanilla ice-cream, fruit salad, or perhaps the base of an interesting beer cocktail or shandy.

 

Lindemans Strawberry Lambic

ABV: 4.1%

Format Sampled: 12 oz capped and corked bottle

Availability: Provided by Merchant du Vin.

Tasting Notes: Pours a hazy pinkish, with a short-lived head of tan foam. Aroma is filled with meaty, stewed berries and mulled wine, much less sweet than the Sam Smiths. The initial flavor melds the essence of strawberry with a pleasant hint of balancing acidity. The sweetness is on par with the actual experience of eating a fresh strawberry, rather than a jammy distillation of the fruit. There is a pleasant fruit-like sourness, melding with the sweetness, and creating some level of balance. This, too, might be too sweet for some, and could also serve as a winning accompaniment to a vanilla dessert.

 

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Dreaming of tangerines — Respect the fruit

In the waning weeks of summer, I'm sipping beers that include fruits, berries and other unusual adjuncts. This week, we'll explore beers with tangerine flavors. Many citrus fruits are surprisingly natural additions to beers, because they contain chemicals that echo the flavors of popular hop varieties. Tangerines are no exception to this rule. In fact, this particular variety of citrus fruit contains a unique and varied mixture of essential oils, many of which are also found in hops. In addition to many others, your average tangerine contains: alpha-pinene (piney, herbal flavors), myrcene, citronellal (lemony, citrus flavors), thymol (herbal thyme flavors), and more! Happy sipping, loyal readers!

 

Long Trail Citrus Limbo IPA

Format Sampled: 12 oz. capped bottled

ABV: 7.6%
Availability: Purchased at RSVP

Tasting Notes: Pours a rich amber with a thin, off-white head. Aroma has citrus peel, and the warm scent of fresh baked bread. The initial flavor features the deep, complex flavors of hops. They are rich, smooth and deeply herbal — not sharp, almost as if they were stewed and mellowed over time. The citrus evolves naturally from the hop flavors, a rich, spicy, honeyed, almost oily flavor. As the citrus fades, a broad foundation of bitterness is evident, playing nicely with the smooth, sweet malt backbone. The body is moderate, tending towards syrupy. In combination with the heavy flavor impact, this beer merits some respect, contemplation and consideration. Delightful!

 

New Belgium Citradelic Tangerine IPA

Format Sampled: 12 oz. capped bottle

ABV: 6.0%
Availability: Purchased at RSVP

Tasting Notes: Pours a rich gold, with a moderate off-white head. Aroma is redolent of spicy hops, and potent, oily citrus peel. The initial flavor marries the sharp astringency of a tangerine peel with the mellow, juicy sweetness of the fruit. Bitter hops, with plenty of citrus character themselves, brace the juicy flavor and give it depth and complexity. The sweet fruit flavor continues to evolve, becoming more and more mouthwatering as it develops. The aggressive carbonation keeps lifting and redistributing juicy clouds of citrus flavor around my palate. This beer balances lovely herbal, bitter complexity with a fruity sweetness that's shockingly easy to drink.

 

Stone Tangerine Express IPA

Format Sampled: 24 oz. capped bottle

ABV: 6.7%
Availability: Purchased at the Craft Beer Cellar

Tasting Notes: Pours a burnished copper with a thin white head. Aroma is pungently hoppy, with piney, herbal characters that waft feet away from the glass. The initial flavor is bracingly bitter — a full-on assault of deliciously dank hop flowers. The tannin, acid quality of the citrus joins the party, adding its own dimension of bitterness. After my tongue recovers, I perceive other aspects of the fruit that are sweeter and more subtle, but the bitter qualities dominate this potent brew. The finish is dry, with lingering notes of tangerine peel.

 

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Strawberry Sippers — Guzzling Fruit in the Waning Days of Summer

For the next few weeks, we're exploring delicious, quenching beers made with fruits, berries and more. This week, we'll be sipping a few beers brewed with strawberry. Fragaria × ananassa is technically a fruit, not a berry at all. Regardless of classification, its delicate, distinctive flavor is the essence of summer, distilled into a sweet bundle. Many brewers add strawberry to sour beers, using the sweetness to achieve a balanced flavor. When pairing these beers with food, it's the dominant sourness that dictates the pairing — not strawberry. Enjoy them alone, with fruit, with salad, or any other dish where the acid character doesn't clash. Cheers!

 

Black Hog Strawberry Gose
Format Sampled: 16 oz. can

ABV: 4.0%

Availability: Purchased at the Craft Beer Cellar

Tasting Notes: Pours a cloudy, turbid yellow with a dense, bone-white head. Aroma is clean, and sharply acidic, with hints of strawberry leaf. The initial flavor has a brief, sour slap that rapidly evolves into the ephemeral, sunny flavor of a strawberry. The strawberry is distinct, but fades away so rapidly, it nearly gives my palate whiplash. It's as if I've awoken in a room full of strawberries and sunshine, blinked, and they were gone! After the brief berry flavor, the warm, bready malt kicks into height gear, joined by a savory, salty salinity. It's salty enough to induce involuntary lip-licking, and it's a delight! I'd pair this with chips and salsa in a heartbeat!

 

Eviltwin Brewing James Beer

Format Sampled: 12 oz. can

ABV: 3.5%

Availability: Purchased at Bow Street Beverage Public Market House

Tasting Notes: Detonates an explosive foam shower immediately. What an opening! When it settles, the beer is a pale straw, with a towering head of white effervescence. Aroma is sour, berry like, and briny. The initial flavor is aggressively tart and salty, with a distinctly marine funk. It's like drinking a Berliner Weisse next to a berry patch, on a clam flat at low tide. In a good way! The palate cleansing acidity paves the way the briny, umami flavors of the olives to titillate my palate, shot through with surprising notes of berry flavor. For a beer designed to be paired with food, this is one of the most complicated, distinctive beverages I've had in months. Some drinkers may not appreciate the challenging acidity, and unexpected proteinaceous notes, but the beer geek in me can't help but appreciate the statement, and the artistry of packing so much flavor into a 3.5% beer!

 

Stowe Cider Strawberry Fields*

Format Sampled: 16 oz. can

ABV: 6.5%

Availability: Purchased at Rosemont Market and Bakery

Tasting Notes: Pours an absolutely clear pale yellow with no head. The aroma has honey, mint, and a gentle, nondescript fruitiness. The initial flavor has fresh strawberry character, not jammy, but still distinctive. Immediately after the fruit, a clean, subtle burst of mint acts as a built-in palate refresh. I can't remember the last time I've enjoyed mint flavor in a fermented beverage — but this works surprisingly well. The overall flavor profile tends toward sweet, but the body is on the thin side, and the overall drinkability is off-the-charts. Serve this with a fruit salad, and savor the last days of summer!

*I know. It's cider, not beer.

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