Brasserie Dupont Avril

Type: Saison/Biere de Table
Origin: Tourpes, Belgium
Price: $9.49/22oz
ABV: 3.5%
NSP: 2.77

3.5%?  Shit.  These are the lengths to which I go for my BDS.  I can’t tell you how long I resisted buying this- almost $10 for a beer that’s little stronger than gas station Bud Light. This had better be packed with flavor, because that’s the only way this’ll be anything more than useless.

I figured the name was a reference to the time of year it’s brewed, but since I can’t find any website for the beer, I have to go with BA, which says it’s year round.  I’ll just assume, then, that the folks at Dupont are NFL fans, and they named this after Seattle Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril.  OK, that may be a reach.

Anyway, there aren’t many beers that you can hear quite loudly after you pour them, but that’s the case here- it’s carby as hell, enough that it sounds like it’s going to sizzle your trigeminal nerve right into insensibility.  The smell from the pour brings pilsnery funk to mind, but as it settles a bit, the wonderful Dupont yeast comes through (as it thankfully always does with Dupont), plus a bit of herbaceousness.  Overall, it smells pretty delicious.

As you’d imagine, it’s light as hell- not just comparable to gas station Bud Light in terms of price but body as well.  Of course, it tastes nothing like Bud Light, because that would be…well, tragic.  The main flavor is the yeast, but there’s just enough hop bitterness in there to clean it out fairly quickly- not quite as fast as the Cuvee Dry Hopping, but close.  There’s a bit of lemon in there, but mainly it’s just a nice, light yeast flavor.  It’s clean and dry and very highly drinkable.

Well, I’m sure as hell not buying this again.  But that’s not at all because it’s bad- it’s actually quite tasty.  However, the slightly heavier body of the regular Dupont saisons are far more appealing, and that’s before you even consider NSP.  What I will say, though, is that this is a very good vehicle for familiarizing oneself with the smell and flavor of Dupont yeast- because there’s pretty much nothing else there.  So let’s just call this what it is- a light beer made with the world’s greatest yeast.

Allagash FV13

Type: Sour/Wild Ale
Origin: Portland, ME
Price: ?
ABV: 8.9%
NSP: ?

John really went over and above sharing this one with me- it’s a super special release from Allagash, and I can’t imagine that many folks on this side of the country have been able to get their hands on it.  Wild yeast and bacteria are a huge problem in the wine industry, where sour and spoiled flavors will completely ruin the product, and once those little bastards are in the barrels they’re impossible to eradicate.  But in the beer industry, those barrels are priceless, because they allow for spontaneous fermentation and creation of all those sour/bretty flavors that are so popular.  And the barrel Allagash used for FV13 isn’t just any crappy little apple bucket- it’s a 2700-gallon behemoth.

The beer isn’t as clear as the picture shows- sorry, but I was enjoying this so much that I completely forgot to snap a photo while there was still beer in the glass.  Oh well.  If you really want to know, it looks like beer, only slightly redder . The smell is delicious, fruity and tart.  I don’t get a lot of malt, but that’s OK because it’s clearly not the focus here.  There’s a bit of cola, maybe, and a touch of fruity sweetness.  The flavor’s delightfully sour, and is a bit confusing in a really good way.  There’s enough malt to make you feel like it’s rich, but the sourness makes it seem really light.  So your brain thinks there’s two different, contradictory things going on at the same time.  It’s very clean flavor-wise, and the sweet fruitiness is just enough to keep it from going off into enamel-stripping territory.

Before I had this, I didn’t even know that Allagash had ventured into sour territory.  Their Belgians are ubiquitous out here, and for good reason- they’re outstanding (if on the pricey side).  Some of their specialty stuff has begun to show up in the past couple of years (e.g. Interlude and Fluxus), but none of their limited edition stuff.  This shows that they’re not just damn good Belgian makers- they’ve got a lot of skill in the highly-difficult sour craft as well.  Top marks.

The Duck-Rabbit Hoppy Bunny A.B.A.

type: black IPA, or Cascadia Dark Ale
origin: Farmville, NC
price: $1.50/12oz
ABV: $7.3
NSP: 17.3

After hearing Duck-Rabbit is the self-proclaimed “dark beer specialists”, I became intrigued to taste their take on a style that is, well, dark, but also rarely attempted.  And easy to screw up!  For me the gold standard is Deschutes’ Hop in the Dark (HoD), and this is a close competitor to HoD, if not an equal.  The taste on Hoppy Bunny is exceptionally smooth, which runs counter to most peoples’ expectation of what a ‘dark beer’ tastes like.  Its nicely hoppy and crafted with just enough dark stuff to be a CDA: definitely not a traditional IPA, but definitely not a porter.  It’s 7.3% and has a kickass NSP too.

If there’s anything to complain about, it might be the slightly sour/acidic finish, but it’s hard to justify such a petty criticism.  HoD is still king to me, but I’m very impressed.  So there goes another North Carolina brewery making world class beer.  Nice.

I do have to wonder if the brewery created the label after the name, or the label design steered the brewery naming process.  Depending on your perspective, the cartoon on the label can be either a duck (facing the left), or a rabbit (facing the right).  How cute.

Samuel Adams Double Agent IPL

type: india pale lager
origin: Boston, MA
price: $8.50/6-pack
ABV: 5.0%
NSP: 12.5

Who wants to drink light bodied lager with clean, crisp flavors, and is as hoppy as most IPA?  Me.  You too?  Good.  This style–the India Pale Lager–is the future of brewing.  Once beer drinkers figure out this is exactly the style they’ve been looking for it’s going to explode.  Take note, my friends.

There are only two IPLs that I’m aware of: this, and Ballast Point’s Fathom.  So, it’s rather easy to choose the best one (hint: it ain’t Sam’s version).  Sadly, this is barely comparable to Fathom, mostly because Fathom is incredible.  Had I never tried Fathom prior to this, I would remark about how I really enjoy the style.  I do.  In fact, I love this style of beer.  How does the style fair with other beer drinkers, though?  A quick look at some BA reviews makes it clear that a fair number of people are impressed by how delicious the style is.

As I alluded too above, this tastes like a relatively simple loger that’s been hopped much like a west coasty IPA.  Think Pale 31, in lager form.  It’s simple, hoppy, and cheap.  Honestly, what else do you need for most beer drinking occasions?

In summary, I would buy this again.  But, I really, really cannot wait until Ballast bottles Fathom.  Did I mention I love Fathom?  Mmmm, Fathom.  OK, no more about Fathom…

3 Sheeps Really Cool Waterslides

Type: IPA
Origin: Sheboygan, WI
Price: ?
ABV: 6.2%
NSP: ?

Sheboygan. Sheboygan. Sheboygan. Sheboygan. Sheboygan.  It’s a pretty easy name to say five times really fast.  But try typing it.  Or maybe I’m just a shitty typist.  Anyway, another in the Wisconsin Beer Plow.  I have no idea what’s going on with the name of this one.  Either the brewery or the beer.  But there’s a sheep on a waterslide on the label, and it looks like it’s been sampling some sort of mind-altering flowers or whatever the hell sheep eat.

The color’s on the darker end of the IPA scale.  It smells pretty sweet with a lot of caramel, and the potency of that sweetness obscures a nice little citrusy twist- just a wisp that unfortunately fades away pretty quickly.  Mainly it just smells sweet- like actual caramel produced by just cooking up some sugar.

Thankfully it doesn’t taste quite as sweet as it smells, but it’s still pretty sweet.  And you can imagine that if the main flavor is sweetness at a mild 6.2%, there isn’t much hop flavor to be found.  It’s there, but this beer might win the award (if you want to call it an award) for the lowest bitterness level I’ve ever had in an IPA.  Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is considerably more hoppy than this.  The hops are so light that they, in a very strange manner, make the beer taste watery.  I’m not sure how that happens or if it makes any sense.  Or maybe I’m overthinking it- it could be that it’s just watery with a light hop load.

There’s just not much to this one.  It seems like they were afraid of making something overpowering, and they ended up going too far in the other direction and produced something that’s pretty meek.  Doesn’t seem to me that pulling your punches is a good practice in the brewing industry, but what do I know, I’m just a useless blogger.

Central Waters Illumination

Type: Double/Imperial IPA
Origin: Amherst, WI
Price: ?
ABV: 9.0%
NSP: ?

I know of Central Waters mainly because of their vaunted Peruvian Morning…and hey, I happen to have one of those in the queue for later on.  I checked on Google Maps, and the brewery name appears to be more or less accurate- it’s pretty much right in the middle of Wisconsin, and with all the rivers and lakes around it seems hard to find anywhere in Wisconsin that isn’t at least moderately close to water.  So, you know, that’s cool.

Yet another red-apply IPA- what’s with all of those lately?  But this one’s different from the rest, because there’s a hefty green hop skunk and a whole boatload of orange rind that actually manages to bring my mind towards Exponential Hoppiness.

The hops are nicely punchy, and the malt isn’t too sweet (it’s definitely sweet, but not overwhelmingly so), so that’s a good start.  The bitterness level is spot on for this type of beer, but the hop flavors aren’t all that complex.  It’s a touch astringent, but that’s not really unexpected given the ABV, and it’s not enough to ruin anything because the hops completely bulldoze your palate anyway.

This is another beer that, in a vacuum, is pretty good.  But around these here Non-Snob parts, the DIPA scale has been torn asunder by Pure Hoppiness and Heady, which is simultaneously unfair and inevitable.  I definitely enjoyed the second one when I drank it later on, though, so, you know, that’s cool too.

Cigar City Marshal Zhukov’s Imperial Stout

Type: Imperial stout
Origin: Tampa, FL
ABV: 11.0%
Price: ?
NSP: ?

Know what I love about some imperial stouts?  They can be really ugly.  Dark and threatening, like an alley you don’t want to walk down at 3 AM.  And this may be the ugliest beer I’ve ever seen.  In fact, it looks like Valvoline’s entry into the beer market- straight up motor oil, syrupy as hell.  The legs on this thing are ridiculous, a swirl stays glued to the glass for longer than pretty much any beer I’ve ever had.  And it’s not the head providing the legs- it’s the actual beer.  You want to see a high-gravity beer?  Look no further.  This is above the Chandrasekhar limit.  Yeah, I just made a fucking astrophysics reference.

Smell-wise, this is more or less what I’d expect if I decided to dissolve some dark chocolate in a pot of molasses.  Rich and powerful, with boatloads of chocolate and espresso, plus some caramel- and vanilla-y sugariness.  The flavor hits all of those hallmarks as well, and it’s crafted well enough that you can pick out each individual aspect while also appreciating the weight of the sum.  Nice and chocolate/coffee bitter with a bit of sweetness.  Smoky, with a light touch of something almost peaty.  A layer of booze right on top that lets you know you’re in for some trouble.  Jebus this is good.

I’m trying to think of a stout that I’ve had that’s better than this.  I’m not coming up with one.  It’s got everything I could want in a stout.  I will provide a warning, though.  It’s kind of an obvious warning, I suppose, but as a guy who unblinkingly (and perhaps inadvisably) took down a 750 of Rye-on-Rye at a slightly higher ABV, I think it’s still worth saying for the sake of the other high-ABV-resistant beer fiends out there- do not take this on alone.  It’s too potent, too rich, too goddamn belligerent for one person to handle.  Which is a high compliment from this Non-Snobber.  Highest marks.  Dammit, Cigar City, start sending your stuff out here, will you?  

Six point: Diesel

type: Black IPAorigin: Brooklyn, New Yawk City? Git a rope.
price: $2/16oz
ABV: 6.3%
NSP: 17

There’s some shpeel about diesel and pine in the winter on the side of this can, but I’m pretty sure those aren’t supposed to be ingredients. They probably just put that on there to scare you so there’s more beer for the New Yorkers.

The foam and carbonation on this pour was fully appropriate and neither excessive or flat. If I used my imagination I could maybe trick myself into thinking there’s some pine and/or deisely smell in there, but I prefer to think of it as a solid hopping and maybe some smoked barley on the grain bill. These go down real nice and easy regardless.

A nice warmer for if you’re buried in the snow or another variety of blizzardy condition.

BD in a Flying Dog: Doggie Style Pale Ale

type: American pale ale
origin: Frederick, MD
price: $11/6-pack 12oz
ABV: 5.5
NSP: 9.8

Pale ales and I have a long history.  Since my beginnings here at the Non Snobbery, I’ve always claimed the pale ale style is an excellent glimpse into the brewery’s methodology.  Let’s face it: if you can’t make a delicious pale ale, don’t bother making a “double IPA”.  Or rather, why should I even consider your double IPA after a failed pale ale?  The ABV is low enough that if you can’t pull off a flavorful, malty ale with slight hop presence, you probably shouldn’t be in the fermented-grain procurement business.

Doggie Style summarizes how, I think, Flying Dog operates: straightforward.  No bones.  They say it’s a classic pale ale–and it is completely–but it’s so tasty I could’ve thrown back the entire 6-pack had I not been sharing.  And the “double” version of this–Double Dog–will knock you on your ass.  I don’t think Doggie Style usurps Pale 31 or XP, but it’s so perfectly done I’ll put it at spot number three on the speed dial (upsetting the recently crowned #3, Ska’s Euphoria).

To finish off, there’s an aspect of Flying Dog beers that I really love: the labels.  Each bottle is adorned with a Ralph Steadman original. (If you don’t know who that is, but you’ve read and seen anything by Hunter S. Thompson, please leave now.)  To top it the paper that makes the label is high quality, and makes it feels like the actual original drawing (it’s not, of course). So for the rest of this FD-BD series, I’ll provide a close up of what I think are fantastic hand drawn cartoons, which have been on the labels since as early as 1996.

Steadman’s rendition of ale-thirsty hound.

From the previous link, I also found this piece of badassery about Road Dog, a porter, and the first FD beer Steadman added illustration to:

Hunter wrote an essay, “Ale According to Hunter,” for Flying Dog to celebrate the launch of Road Dog:  

 Ale has long been the drink of thugs, convicts, rowdies, rakes and other depraved outlaws who thrive on the quick bursts of night-energy that ale brings. In the 17th century England gangs of ale-crazed fops would often fight to the death in all-night brawls on public greenswards, which terrified the citizenry and left many of the infamous “youngblood horseman” chopped up with grievous sword and dagger wounds… These were the Wild Boys of Olde English story and song, rich sots on horseback who amused themselves in London by riding out at night, ripped to the tits on strong ale, and “popped old ladies into empty booze-barrels and rolled them down steep, cobblestone hills with crazy screams and shouts.” If you must roll old ladies down hills and you don’t want to pay the bills, try to be nice and clean off their lice with a powerful Road Dog Ale.

And speaking of fantastic cartoon images, and being nice by cleaning off lice, I took the opportunity to listen to an old classic during the writing of this review.  Cheers, to letting the homies have some; otherwise, it wouldn’t be any fun.

Peace to the streets.

Elevation Apis IV Quadrupel

Type: Quadrupel/Belgian Strong Dark Ale
Origin: Poncha Springs, CO
Price: $10.99/750mL
ABV: 10.7%
NSP: 7.30

Found this one hiding in the back of a cooler at Liquor Mart and was immediately taken in by the a) 750mL bottle, b) hefty ABV, and c) excellent label.  All breweries should label their stuff like this- simple color scheme, classic lettering, a lot of negative space.  Good stuff.

Anyway, Elevation is a brand-spankin’ new brewery in a tiny town in south-central Colorado.  By brand-spankin’, I mean the website says the joint opened in the winter of 2012.  That’s fairly recently, if I’m reading my calendar correctly.  For those keeping records, Poncha Springs is relatively near a) Florence, home of Florence ADX, the highest security federal prison in the country, and b) Buena Vista, hometown of 2011 New England Patriots first-round draft pick/Tom Brady blind-side-protector and University of Colorado ring-of-famer Nate Solder.  I have no idea what’s in Poncha Springs itself, other than Elevation Beer Company.

The name comes from the genus of local honeybee that provided the honey used as the beer’s malt base, plus the number of people who teamed up to start the brewery.  And there’s no doubt that there’s a buttload of honey in this right up front in the nose.  There’s a very light touch of Belgian yeastiness, and some cola-type scents, and maybe even a tiny soy sauce/seaweed accent.  But otherwise, it’s all honey all the time, and the caramelization is noticeable in both the slight smokiness and, obviously, the color.

Flavorwise, it’s pretty cola-y, and I like that about it.  There’s also a bit of saltiness in there, I think, which connects to the soy sauce thing I smelled.  But it’s still predominantly honey.  It’s very minimally yeasty, which is unfortunate, because a good yeasty punch would really balance it out.  As it is, it comes off very sweet, and while the sweetness is decently complex, it’s also missing a counterpoint.  The carb is also too light, which also knocks it down a peg.  But, despite all of those missteps, the booze is very well hidden, and that’s pretty impressive because it doesn’t seem like it should be.

All in all not bad, but not great.  If you’re a quad fanatic, this one’s probably going to let you down, because the flaws are too obvious to overlook.  But in a vacuum, it’s not too objectionable.  Also, you could probably reduce this and have a nice little syrup to pour over pancakes, so bonus points for potential versatility.