Stone’s Enjoy By IPA (Escondido, California) is brewed not to last. Showcasing the importance of bottle dating on IPAs, Stone brew this with a shelf life of 35 days; if any is remaining on the shelf past the enjoy by date, bottle shops are instructed to send it back to the distributor. But that simply doesn’t happen, because the beer is so good and people buy it up at a fast pace to enjoy NOW.
This beer does vary slightly by batch — for instance, the 04.01.13 batch produced more head, more lacing, and had more peaches on the nose than 05.17.13. Stone use whatever hops are in season at the time of the brew, which is why I wanted to review at least two different versions of this.
But a funny thing happened when I had several bottles of 04.01.13; I let one go a couple weeks beyond the expiration date and when I sampled it, I actually thought it was better than during the “enjoy by” period! Not that I was expecting it to be horrible by any means, but I did think I would see a significant drop in hop flavor and aroma. To the contrary; what was left was a well-rounded beer that had its rough edges polished.
So, my experiment with the 05.17.13 batch was to give it a full month after the enjoy by date. Here we are, exactly one month beyond the suggested consumption period, and we’re going to give it a redux look. I have stored this beer like all IPAs that are put away (if your tastes prefer them this way) should be: refrigerated.
My initial review:
Appearance: 13 of 15 points
Aroma: 15 of 15 points
Flavor and Palate: 34 of 35 points
Drinkability/Overall Experience: 34 of 35 points
Final Score: 96 points, or classic on my rating scale.
And now, same beer, but sixty-six days old instead of twenty:
The pour delivers a small head, soapy and lasting. The beer is a nice golden color, is translucent but has a hop hazy body that is free of particles and sediment. The appearance pretty much mirrors what this beer was a month ago, with one exception: the lacing is better, leaving behind patchy spiderweb suds down my glass as I sipped.
The nose is still incredibly hoppy; the peach notes have taken a major step forward, making this quite sweeter than before. The usual suspects of tropical fruits and grass are also here — these mix nicely and sort of ground each other, and give a base layer of grapefruit and pine. Malts seem to have dialed up a notch, too, issuing up more sweetness in the form of light caramel and some grainy straw. Still really nice but definitely not as pungent as before. I can tell a hop fade has happened.
Peaches. Lots of peaches. The taste starts with a load of sweet peaches, so sweet that it’s nearly like schnapps; it’s not cloying but you aren’t expecting that much sweetness out of this beer. But that quickly fades; the grassy/tropical fruit notes take over, which bring in ample bitterness in the middle of the mouth, along with a light alcohol presence. The bitterness allows the beer to finish more traditional, with notes of grapefruit and pine, and very little to no malt backing. The bitterness ramps up after the swallow, especially when you click your tongue to the roof of your mouth. Medium-bodied, Enjoy By 05.17.13 is also medium in mouthfeel, creamy but quite drying.
Do I like this beer better with a month of age? No, I don’t — three big things have happened here. There’s been significant hop fade, as in this beer is just doesn’t have the hop ‘pop’ it once did. The sweetness is also considerably higher, and believe it or not, the bitterness on the finish is more pronounced. But while the transition from moderately sweet to heavily bitter is interesting, the complexity of the hop flavors have been lost and what’s left is somewhat one-dimensional. I’m thinking the sweet spot for Enjoy By is within 14 days of the expiration date. That being said, this beer is still mighty, but be forewarned if you are just trying it… it’s not what it once was, by design.
Appearance: 14 of 15 points
Aroma: 13 of 15 points
Flavor and Palate: 32 of 35 points
Drinkability/Overall Experience: 32 of 35 points
Stone Enjoy By 05.17.13 Imperial IPA, 91 points. Price: $7.49 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.
Brand new to the limited release section of Boulevard Brewing Company’s “Smokestack Series” is Love Child No. 3, a wild ale that is soured with the yeast cultures of Lactobaccillus and Brettanomyces, and then aged in oak bourbon barrels — portions of this beer were aged as little as sixteen months, while others spent six years maturing.
Boulevard (Kansas City, Missouri) started as a traditional Bavarian brewhouse in 1989. Their first beer, a Pale Ale, was delivered in a keg to a local restaurant by founder John McDonald. Since then, expansions have been contagious, and Boulevard now outputs 600,000 barrels of brew, much more than the 6,000 Mr. McDonald had anticipated on his original business plan.
Big on producing series of beers, not only is this in the limited release section of the Smokestack Series, it’s also the second release in the “Love Child” series — the previous release, Love Child No. 2, was just a tad bit different than this offering. Love Child No. 3 comes with a set of gauges on the back of the bottle that tell you the levels of funk, sour, and fruitiness; funk and sour are exactly even at 50%, while the fruitiness is dialed back to around 25%. The beer is corked & caged, and registers 9.5% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 13 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).
Pouring produced an average size, off-white head that was fizzy and quickly diminished. The color of the beer was orange-brown, resembling dark and muddy river water; the body was extremely cloudy, and there was a light amount of sediment floating about. Lacing didn’t exist, and when the head fizzled away, that was simply it.
The nose features a very bight acidic vinegar note, but there’s some nice complexity here; the fruitiness is indeed dialed down, just tart cherries, cranberries, and a shot of lemon. The barrel characteristics are faint but nice when combined with everything else going on — there’s a gentle note of bourbon, and as the drink warmed, vanilla and a bit of coconut came out.
On the taste, there’s a moderate to heavy sourness up front, but that quickly fades out and makes way for tart cherries, cranberries, and some funkiness. Middle of the mouth is a bit bland; the fruits never really assert themselves and the funk is kind of grassy/barnyard; the finish is the sweet spot of this beer and it only gets better as it warms. Notes of leather and oak lead to a gentle bourbon, some vanilla, and a touch of coconut. The very mild sourness left over from the initial sip plays well with the bourbon; the finish dries out the mouth. Love Child is medium-bodied, with a thin mouthfeel and no noticeable alcohol flavor.
Speaking as someone who isn’t crazy about sours (I’m just getting into the style), I thought this was a very good beer, albeit a little bland in the middle. I love how the initial sour notes give way to the barrel complexities, and this is a very easy drinker and actually refreshing despite the drying mouthfeel. I encourage you to let this warm up — you’ll be rewarded. I’d be interested to see how this ages, but not for the price tag this commands.
Boulevard Love Child No. 3 American Wild Ale, 87 points. Price: $19.99 US for one 750 ml corked & caged bottle.
Terrapin Beer Company, brewing out of Athens, Georgia, have a special series of beers they call “Side Projects.” These brews are limited release, a bit on the experimental side, and are released in bomber bottles.
Today’s beer is inspired by that series: Side Project #7, released three years ago, was the original Maggie’s Farmhouse Ale; it was a Saison brewed to 6% ABV (alcohol by volume). The popularity of that beer convinced Terrapin to brew up a new version, this one with 1,000 pounds of peaches per 100 barrels, and add it to the seasonal lineup for summertime.
Maggie’s Peach Farmhouse Ale is brewed with the aforementioned peaches, US Golding hops, 2-Row Pale, Munich, Wheat, and Acidulated malts, and comes in at 5.3% ABV. The IBUs (International Bitterness Units) are 22; despite the low alcohol content, Terrapin claims this beer will age well.
The pour produced an average size, soap sudsy head that diminished quickly. The beer was golden in color with a cloudy body; while I wouldn’t call it the most clouded beer I’ve ever seen, it was opaque. The body is clear of particles and sediment, and lacing was fair, leaving behind just a few wispy pods of suds.
The aroma is dominated by fruit cup peaches and cereal grains. There’s no frills here; that’s not exactly a bad thing — while the peaches did remind me of your standard fruit cup, they do seem really fresh and quite sweet, almost like they have sugar dosed on top. As it warms, there’s a faint grain presence, and the peaches are powerful. There are no typical Saison qualities like funk or spice to be found.
On the palate, this one starts out with some natural peaches, not quite sweet but not quite underripe, either; this quickly turns moderately sweet, taking on the fruit cup quality. The peaches mix well with an underlying cereal/wheat grain note; the finish brings on just a subtle note of Saison spice, and a hop bitterness that serves to tone down some of the sweetness in a good way. Final conclusion is a peachy bitter bite that remains sweet when you click your tongue to the roof of your mouth, but has enough complexity in the bitterness to make you want another sip.
Give peach a chance, indeed! To be completely honest, I had a couple of these before I officially reviewed it, and the more I had, the more into Maggie’s Peach Farmhouse I became. I think this is a great summer beer, and while it doesn’t really have any Saison attributes, it is a refreshing beer that has complex peach flavors that span the range from organic fruit to really sweet fruit cup, and hoppy peach bitterness.
Terrapin Maggie’s Peach Farmhouse Ale, 85 points. Price: $8.99 US for a four pack.
Central Waters brew beer in Amherst, Wisconsin. In 1996, Mike McElwain and Jerome Ebel bought an old brick building and spent two years restoring it — when it was ready for beer production, the home brewers acquired some used dairy equipment and retrofitted it into a brewery. Using their own recipes, the pair produced many different styles of beer, most notably, an award winning Barleywine (91 points).
The brewery continued to grow, even as ownership changed. In 2001, McElwain and Ebel sold the facility, and shortly after, the main brew kettle cracked beyond repair. So on its fifth anniversary, Central Waters purchased what amounted to a new brewhouse.
Today, Central Waters is owned by Paul Graham and Anello Mollica, who together have 24 years brewing experience. Another move took place in 2007, which saw Central Waters locate to Amherst.
Illumination, an Imperial IPA, resides in the Brewer’s Reserve series, a group of beers that are limited release. Brewed with Centennial, Chinook, and Simcoe hops, Illumination hits 9% ABV (alcohol by volume). Another plus: out of all the Brewer’s Reserve beers I’ve reviewed, this is the only one that carries the bottling date and the ABV. Thumbs up for that!
The pour kicked up a small, soapy head that had a lasting quality. The color was golden-amber, just a touch darker than your typical Imperial IPA, and the body was clear with no particles or sediment. Lacing was fair, producing wispy soapy suds on the upper portion of my glass.
As expected, the nose delivered heavy hops — the grapefruit here is awesome, giving you both the fruit and the rind, and mixing with sweet tropical fruits. Mango and pineapple seem to bring out the grapefruit astringency, and a touch of lemon serves to round things out. I noticed a floral note, and even some hot garlic as the beer warmed from fridge temperature to room temperature, and the malts are here, very lightly with some bready caramel. Overall, the aroma is inviting and a dream for a hop lover.
The taste issues up expert use of grapefruit, which is juicy and bitter right from the initial sip. The astringency mellows with sweet mango and a tart pineapple, and the malt backing balances out the tart tropical fruits with some bready sweetness. Illumination finishes moderately bitter, riding the grapefruit rind but the beer has a sweet side too, presenting orange peel and white sugar. There’s just a touch of garlic in there, and the bitterness dries out the palate with an almost medicinal quality. I found the beer to be medium-bodied, with a medium, foamy mouthfeel.
Central Waters deliver an extremely solid and highly drinkable IPA that I think would please even the most timid of Imperial drinker. The hop flavors strike me as delicate but forceful — there’s a solid side of sweet here, but in the end, the bitterness creeps up and makes you smile. I’d recommend this in a heartbeat.
Central Waters Illumination Imperial IPA, 91 points. Price: $3.89 US for one twelve ounce bottle.
Olde Hickory Brewery is located in Hickory, North Carolina, and was founded by Steven Lyerly and Jason Yates in 1994. They started making beer on a seven barrel system, and the small batch mindset continues to this day, with batches being 800 gallons or less at a time. In fact, Olde Hickory are so small, all of their beers have hand stamped bottling dates on the labels, including Daniel Boone, an Imperial strength Brown Ale aged in oak bourbon barrels.
Daniel Boone is a limited once per year release, and was inspired by American pioneer Daniel Boone, who placed a brown ale in discarded bourbon barrels so he could return months later to enjoy the beer. Okay, so that’s not exactly true, but the bottle says so — nevermind the “events presented here are not factual” disclaimer!
The beer comes in at 8.5% ABV (alcohol by volume). Details about the barrel aging (what type of barrels and how long the aging process is) are not available.
The head on this beer disappointed — there wasn’t any, only a few suds clinging to the edge of the glass on the beer surface. Color of the brew was brown in normal lighting, but revealed to be reddish-brown when held to light. The body appeared cloudy but featured no particles or sediment, and surprisingly, lacing was good, leaving weepy thin sheets of foam behind each sip.
The nose reveals the overall theme of this beer: simplicity. There’s tons of bourbon and all the notes normally associated with barrel aging: vanilla, mild alcohol, and some coconut. This combines with a nice milk chocolate base and equals a match made in heaven for my nose — I couldn’t keep my nostrils out of the glass. This smells great, and as it warms, the alcohol becomes more prominent and adds a dash of cinnamon. Simple but elegant.
On the palate, the first thing I noticed was the mouthfeel, which is thin for a barrel aged beer, and the barrel flavors are monstrous. Waves of bourbon clash with slick milk chocolate, opening up to some complex vanilla, burnt sugar, caramel, and cookie dough. This is a marriage made in chocolate and bourbon heaven! These basic flavors continue to the finish, which kicks up a mild alcohol heat, some nuttiness, and a sweet finish that is like caramel-chocolate-bourbon-vanilla-cinnamon delight. Let it warm and you get chocolate milkshake. Daniel Boone dried out my mouth a touch, was medium-bodied and foamed when swirled in the mouth.
Perhaps the best Brown Ale I’ve ever had, even if it is Imperial strength… the genius of this beer is how simple the flavors are, how they layer up and pair with each other, and just the high quality. It’s almost refreshing to have such a light feeling beer with these flavors — Olde Hickory impresses once again with their barrel experimentations. I’ve often regarded Foothills Brewing in Winston-Salem the best North Carolina brewery, but Olde Hickory continues to produce hit after hit after hit. To have these two in my backyard is simply a treasure!
Olde Hickory Daniel Boone Imperial Brown Ale, 95 points. Price: $6.99 US for one 22 oz. bomber bottle.