Russian River Pliny the Elder Double IPA

This is one of the most iconic beers in the American craft brew scene.  We owe many thanks to Tiff and Kiel for making this one possible!  It is arguably the best American double IPA in production right now, so without further adieu, here we go.

Madison’s Review

I will start by saying that this beer does not ship to Oklahoma. Sadly, it is only distributed to west coast states, Colorado, and some Pennsylvania markets. Stuart and I were lucky enough to try this beer for the first time when we were in Seattle last winter for a conference. Our friend, Taylor, told us about the hype surrounding this beer and convinced us to split a cab with him to go to a bar 20 minutes away that had it in stock (it sells out quickly). We agreed to go and the rest is history.

Taylor and Stuart enjoying their first Pliny.

Thanks to some friends with connections, we were able to have a bottle shipped to Norman to enjoy this evening.

It is the best IPA I’ve ever tasted. It’s quite  hoppy (the citrus kind too – my favorite!) but finishes cleaner and crisper than any other IPA I’ve had. Refreshing. Delicious. Perfection.

Madison’s Grade: A+

Stuart’s Review

The bottle date on this guy was 8-18-11, so it was nice and fresh.

Appearance – Light orange with about a finger of head that dissipates relatively quickly to a thin ring around the glass. Little lacing is left.

Smell – Pine, grapefruit, and mango hit the nose instantly. Then more citrus and a bit of toasted malt.

Taste – Big hop bitterness up front with flavors of pine and citrus, notably grapefruit. Bitterness bridges the gap between these fruitier flavors and a toasty malt backbone. The finish contains a touch of aspirin-like chalkiness and more bitterness that lingers well after the last sip.

Mouthfeel – Lots of sticky, resinous hop oil is present in this medium-bodied IIPA. The finish is effervescent and very dry.

Overall – This is a wonderful IIPA by RR that definitely lives up to the hype in my opinion. This is the third time I have had the pleasure of tasting it, and it has never disappointed. The particular hop flavors that come forward are superbly balanced by great malt character.

Stuart’s grade:  A +

Beer Advocate grade:  A+


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New Belgium La Folie Flanders Red Ale

 

 

 

 

Stuart’s review (Madison doesn’t like sours, so she made me drink the whole thing):

Appearance – Deep red-brown with two fingers of tan head (after a hard pour) that doesn’t last long. No lacing is left in the glass.

Smell – Wild, barnyard and aged cheese aromas hit right away followed by sour cherries. There is also a nice malt character present.

Taste – Acidic up front with vinegar notes. This transitions to a tart cherry flavor that is very nicely balanced by the roasty malt that lingers in the background. The finish is tart and puckering.

Mouthfeel – Thin- to medium-bodied with lots of carbonation. The finish is extremely dry and leaves the tongue tingling from the acidity.

Overall – This is just a really nice, funky beer from NB. The flavor profile is interesting, with the malt playing a great role. This is a very drinkable beer, as the alcohol is barely noticed.

Grade:  B+

Beer Advocate grade:  A-

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Southern Tier Creme Brulee Imperial Milk Stout

Madison’s Review

Let me start by saying that I’m a sucker for anything with cows on it. That being said, this beer was an obvious purchase for us. We found it back in the promised land (Kansas City) when we were home a few weekends ago. Southern Tier is yet another great brewery that doesn’t distribute to Oklahoma. While in the checkout line we struck up a conversation with the cashier about the beer. He said that it was “too sweet for him” and that memory had been stuck in my mind ever since. After drinking (and loving) mostly IPAs lately, I knew a “sweet” beer might taste unappealing to me.

To prepare myself for the potentially overly sweet taste, I spent a least 20 seconds just smelling the beer. It smelled like a combination of chocolate and coffee flavors with a touch of sweet milk. This worried me and started to confirm what the cashier had told me. Once I tasted it, however, it actually wasn’t that sweet. Don’t get me wrong – it is somewhat sweet, but it was drinkable for me. It’s a really well-rounded imperial stout and it definitely tastes like what it is advertised to be: “a stout brewed with vanilla beans”.

I’m definitely glad I tried it, but it’s not something I would want to buy again. Try it if you get the chance, but don’t buy multiple bottles unless you have a sweet tooth.

Madison’s Grade: B

Stuart’s Review

Appearance – Jet black with a very short tan head that disappears quickly. Remnants of whispy tan bubbles hang around and little lacing is left.

Smell – This is definitely a first for me. Rum soaked dark fruit up front which is immediately overwhelmed with butterscotch, burnt caramel, and toffee (a touch too sweet). Roasted coffee and some booziness takes a backseat to all of this.

Taste – Immediate sweet burnt caramel and vanilla along with some alcohol warmth. This transitions to dark fruits and then roasted coffee and sweet chocolate in a lingering finish.

Mouthfeel – Nicely carbonated with a full mouthfeel. This is a very thick, creamy imperial stout.

Overall – I have to say I was a bit concerned when I smelled this one that it would be cloyingly sweet and full of artificial flavors. I was pleasantly surprised by how balanced the flavor profile is, with all of the flavors complimenting one another very well. It’s amazing how much it tastes like creme brulee in stout form.

Stuart’s Grade: B+


Beer Advocate Grade: B+

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Dogfish Head Squall Imperial IPA

The next 4 beers only I (Stuart) made notes for, so only my review is posted.  Madison tried them also, but we were lazy and didn’t put the reviews up in time for her to write hers.

 

This is pretty much a version of Dogfish Head’s 90 min IPA that is bottle conditioned and follows a different dry-hop schedule (I think).

Appearance – Unfiltered deep orange with about a finger of head that dissipates to a thin layer of white bubbles. Little lacing is left behind.

Smell – Intense burnt caramel malt with earthy and citrus hops.

Taste – Sweet malt and leather at the beginning with some citrus hop bitterness toward the end. It finishes with a hint of black pepper and a light alcohol burn.

Mouthfeel – Light to medium body with quite a bit of carbonation. Almost a bit much.

Overall – This is a pretty good beer from DFH. It could be a bit more hop forward (I know it’s bottle conditioned, but it is dry hopped with several varieties, after all). Carbonation could also be a bit toned down and chewiness toned up, as it drinks more like a barleywine. I know there are similarities between the styles, but I just expect a different feel from a DIPA, even if it is bottle conditioned.

Grade:  B

Beer Advocate grade:  A-

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Southern Tier Unearthly Imperial IPA

Maybe I was missing something, but I was not at all impressed by this one.  All I’m saying is, don’t achieve “imperial” status with an IPA by adding tons of malt.

 

 

 

 

 

Appearance – Deep orange with almost no head. What little there is disappears instantly and leaves behind no lacing.

Smell – Malt-forward. Caramel malt and that’s mostly it. Some searching yields some tropical fruit hop presence but not much. Where’s the hop-forward nose on this imperial IPA?

Taste – Same as the smell. Mostly malt from the beginning with some fruitiness from the hops. Hardly any bitterness is present. This beer doesn’t taste bad, but I expect an imperial IPA to be a heck of a lot more bitter and hop-dominant.

Mouthfeel – Medium-bodied with moderate carbonation and a slight alcohol tinge in the finish. A little too much sweetness from the malt.

Overall – This is not a bad-tasting beer, but it is a poor representation of an imperial IPA IMO. The bitterness is very subtle for the style, and the hops are in way too good of balance with the malt. I don’t drink an imperial IPA for perfect balance between malt and hops, I drink it for a pronounced hop character.

Grade:  C-

Beer Advocate grade:  A-

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Boulevard Saison-Brett

 

Appearance – Pours a light straw color with 3 – 4 inches of billowy white head. About a finger of this survives and leaves tons of sticky lacing.

Smell – Strong, wild barnyard aromas arise from the get go which give way to lemons, spicy fruit, and tart apples.

Taste – Tart apples hit the palate up front along with zesty lemons. This moves to coriander and finishes with black pepper and a touch of sourness.

Mouthfeel – Medium-bodied with tons of carbonation. The finish has a nice boozy warmth.

Overall – This is a very nice summer beer from Boulevard. It drinks like a saison but has a very nice tart tinge from the brett that compliments the style well. This is a great beer to try if you are interested in getting into sours.

Grade:  A-

Beer Advocate grade:  A

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Avery Maharaja Imperial IPA

 

Appearance – Deep orange color with about a finger of white head. Light lacing is left behind.

Smell – Nice caramel malt aroma that transitions to citrus and tropical fruit hop bitterness. Some floral and soapy scents come in as well.

Taste – Juicy citrusy and tropical fruits hit hard up front followed by prominent caramel malt sweetness. It finishes with more bitterness and a bit of an alcohol burn.

Mouthfeel – Medium-bodied with ample carbonation. Not quite as chewy and resinous as I prefer from an imperial IPA.

Overall – This is a pretty darn good IPA, but as weird as it sounds I would like to see more bitter hop prominence (it is claimed to be 102 IBU, after all). The unbalance between hop and malt is what makes imperial IPA’s so great, and this one is almost a bit cloyingly sweet in the malt department which tends to dominate the flavor profile. It lacks that bready backbone that complements many imperial IPA’s so well.

Grade:  B+

Beer Advocate grade:  A-

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