Recently in IPA Category

Alchemist The Crusher

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I've already wonked out on the history of Alchemist, but basically they started out as an obscure brewpub that was destroyed by the dread Tropical Storm Irene. Fortunately, they had just built a production brewery and canning line, so they survived by making tons of Heady Topper and pretty much only Heady Topper for a few years. The brewpub was never reopened, but a couple years ago, they started reviving old recipes and doing limited releases. Flash forward a couple years, and they've opened a new (gorgeous) production brewery that basically doubled their capacity and allowed them to start making those other recipes on a more regular basis. The focus of the new brewery seems to be Focal Banger, their 7% IPA, but they also have some capacity dedicated to a "rotating" beer, which for now is The Crusher.

The Crusher is an odd duck, something I have a little trouble wrapping my head around. I mean, yeah, sure, it's delicious, but it occupies a weird territory somewhere in the middle of the DIPA, TIPA, and Barleywine triangle, like this diagram I spent a whole 5 minutes creating:

The DIPA TIPA Barleywine triangle

Rich, hoppy, and boozy, it's a tasty little monster. I don't think I like it any better than Focal or Heady, which oddly makes this the "worst" beer I've ever had from The Alchemist, but that's a silly way to look at it since it's still glorious. Let's look closer:

The Alchemist The Crusher

The Alchemist The Crusher - Pours a dark golden yellow color with a finger of fluffy white head, good retention, and lacing. Smells good, citrus and resinous pine hops, crystal malt, maybe some honey-like aromas, not as aromatic as Focal or Heady but still great. Taste starts off with rich, sweet crystal malt, notes of caramel and honey, with those citrus and resinous pine hops kicking in towards the middle, maybe a little booze too, finishing on a nice, bracing bitter note. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, rich, and well carbonated, finishing dryer than most TIPAs. I wouldn't call it balanced, but that feels like the point. Add some more malt here and you've got a very nice Barleywine. Overall, this is really good. Not quite the paradigm establisher that Heady or Focal represent, but a worthy entry in The Alchemist's portfolio. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a snifter on 8/12/16.

Now I really want to try more of Alchemist's back catalog. Luscious, Beelzebub, Ouroboros, Petit Mutant, the list goes on. Hopefully the "rotating" slot at the new brewery will rotate, even if The Crusher seems quite popular...

Frost Beer Works Plush

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Moar Vermont Double IPAs! VT DIPAs forever!

This one hails from Frost Beer Works, a bit southeast of Burlington. Not technically VT beer roulette since I'd actually heard of these guys before and Eric recommended I grab a bottle as it had just been released and was thus fresh. Oh, and it's apparently pretty good. It's part of Frost's "Research Series", basically their experimental arm of one-offs (or are they? This seems to have been made before, so perhaps they're still "researching" this, though from what I can see, it's clearly ready for the big time). Supposedly this is a double-dry hopped version of their standard DIPA, called Lush, though their website lists a different Research Series beer that was also that, so who knows?

The description sez it's a double dry-hopped DIPA with a soft mouthfeel and juiciness reminiscent of stuffed animals and STP. Er, what? Like, STP the motor oil? Stone Temple Pilots? Or ohhhh, 2,5-Dimethoxy-4-methylamphetamine - a psychotropic known by the street name STP (meaning Serenity, Tranquility and Peace)? Oh wait, there's more on the label: "Where ya going to tomorrow?" I see, so we're back to Stone Temple Pilots and yes, they have a song called Plush and that's a lyric, duh, I'm the worst. Let's drink this thing:

Frost Beer Works Plush

Frost Beer Works Plush - Pours a hazy dark gold color with a finger or two of fluffy white head that leaves plenty of lacing as I drink. Smells quite nice, sweet, candied citrus, mangoes. Taste also hits those sweet notes up front, lots of citrus of the mango kind, not much bitterness here but enough to feel balanced. Mouthfeel is finely carbonated, medium bodied, surprisingly quaffable for an 8% DIPA - I downed quite a bit of this without noticing how much. Overall, whoa, another VT DIPA that's really good, shocker. B+ or A-, I don't know anymore, my palate is drowning in hops. In, uh, a good way I guess.

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a charente glass on 8/12/16. Bottled: 07/28/16. Label sez: A tribute to Scott W (RIP)

Damnit, another VT brewery I need to explore more from? You know it. Alas, nothing else from this trip, so you'll have to wait for Operation Cheddar VI: Night of the Living Cheddar (tentative name). In the meantime, one more VT DIPA review on its way until things return to normal...

Burlington Beer Co. Double Feature

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I know what you're thinking: Ugh, more Vermont Double IPAs? Well, um, get used to it jerks, because we got a few more VT DIPAs in the pipeline this week. And for good reason! These VT brewers love them some hops, and when Kaedrin friend Cian McGuire heard I was passing through town, he suggested I stop in and say hello, which was a great idea. I got a small taste of Strawberry Whale Cake (a tasty little hoppy cream ale made with strawberries) and saw Cian packaging some beer, and picked up a bunch of stuff. In fact, I think the only dark beer I picked up during Operation Cheddar V was from here (a peanut butter porter called Chunky), so there is that. But first we've got to drink those hoppy beers fresh, so we've got a pair of DIPAs for your perusal.

First up is the awesomely named It's Complicated Being A Wizard, their year-round DIPA brewed with wheat and oats. Lovely artwork, and the title inspired me to break out the AD&D rulebooks. I am such a dork. It turns out, it really is complicated being a Wizard. So many spells, man. Just ask the Harrys, Potter and Dresden:

Its Complicated Being A Wizard
(Click to Embiggen)

Burlington Beer Co. It's Complicated Being A Wizard - Pours an almost clear (imagine that) golden yellow color with a finger of white head. Smell has a sweetness to it along with a decent citrus and pine hop aroma. Taste follows the nose, sweet, citrus and pine hops, hint of bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is finely carbonated, light to medium bodied, crisp and clean. Goes down faster than your typical 8% DIPA. Overall, yet another tasty VT DIPA. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/13/16. Canned: 7/20/16. Batch: OCTARINE.

Next comes Peasant King, which is a heftier DIPA bordering on TIPA territory. I'd like to make another D&D reference here, but it seems there's actually a pretty robust history of commoners becoming monarchs. Go figure.

Peasant King

Burlington Beer Co. Peasant King - Pours a slightly hazier yet brighter golden yellow color with a finger of big bubbled head. Smells sweeter, with more citrus and pine hops. Taste starts off sweet, hits those citrus and pine notes, finishes with a bigger bitter bite. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, a little boozy. Overall, this is quite good. B+ or A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/13/16. Canned: 7/27/16. Batch: HE IS HAPPIEST.

Phew, that's a lot of hoppy beer. Stay tuned, we've got two more doozies coming up this week. Then things should return to a more normal Saison and BBA stout fest.

Foam Built To Spill

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Foam Brewers opened their doors just over four months ago and you know how on-top-of-the-game we are here at Kaedrin, so I simply had to scout them out. Or, you know, I could have just stumbled upon it at the recommendation of @HopSnobbery and @LipstickNLager during my annual Operation Cheddar sorties into VT. It's a pretty standard small-brewery tasting room operation, but it's situated at a gorgeous location, right next to the Burlington waterfront (with plenty of parking too).

Started by alums of Switchback (and apparently, before that, Magic Hat), these fellas have seemingly dialed in their IPA and DIPA game already... which is really saying something for a Vermont brewery. I had a small glass of Lupi Fresh whilst there and snagged this DIPA in growler form for the haul back to PA. At this point, I'm regretting not filling up a few other growlers, because I am the worst. Built to Spill seems like a pretty straightforward Northeast DIPA named after an indie rock band (the other DIPA on tap was called Pavement, I see what they're doing there), and it's fabulous:

Foam Built To Spill

Foam Built To Spill - Pours a very hazy, very pale straw yellow color with a finger of white head. Smells very nice, sweet, juicy citrus hops, tropical fruit, pineapple, you know the deal. Taste hits a nice balance of sweetness and juicy citrus, hints of bitterness in the finish but it's definitely on the sweeter side (without being cloying, of course). Mouthfeel is medium bodied and well carbonated, nice balance of sweet and bitter. Doesn't really drink like a DIPA actually. Overall, this is one damn fine DIPA, holding its own against its VT brethren. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV from a growler (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/5/16. Growler filled: 8/4/16.

Quite a nice first impression. From what I can see, they're not quite there yet with saisons, but they're well on their way. Hopefully by the time I make my triumphant return (and I will most certainly be returning here), they'll be nailing those down too.

Other Half Double Feature

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One feature most of these newfangled Northeast IPA brewers have is that they make, like, a hojillion different varieties of IPA. To all the normals out there, this must seem baffling in the extreme. How different can all these IPAs be? Us abnormal hop-sniffing degenerates know what's up though, and these two cans of Other Half that recently found their way to Kaedrin HQ are a pretty good example of distinction.

By all appearances, they're similar DIPAs with the major difference being the hops used. One a trendy Mosaic hopped beer, the other using more traditional Segal Ranch high-oil Cascades, but they come off very different. I mean, not night-and-day, but maybe night and twilight or something. No, I don't like this metaphor anymore. It's hacky and cliched. I'm the worst. Let's just look closer:

Other Half Double Mosaic Dream

Other Half Double Mosaic Dream - First, that is one gorgeous label, eh? Pours a hazy straw yellow color with a finger of fluffy white head that leaves some lacing as I drink. Smells great, huge waft of tropical fruit, some resinous pine lurking in the background, sweet candied notes tying it together. Tastes delicious, sweet with that juicy tropical fruit up front, hints of pine in the middle, finishing with just enough bitterness to balance things out (definitely on the sweeter side of the IPA realm, but not at all cloying). Mouthfeel is medium bodied, finely carbed, and very well balanced. Overall, yeah, this is the stuff. Sometimes I feel like Mosaic is overrated, and people do tend to go a little too crazy of these hops, but beers like this show why pretty well. Best Other Half I've had yet. A

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/22/16. Canned 7/15/16. Batch: Double Downer.

Other Half Magic Green Nuggets

Other Half Magic Green Nuggets - Another nice label, though sometimes the hops on the label look like... broccoli? Anywho, pours a clearer, darker, more golden yellow color with finger of fluffy white head, similar lacing. Smells a little more subdued, sweeter but with a lesser citrus and pine quality. Taste is very sweet, but with a cleaner, more earthy, floral character in addition to the typical, old-school citrus and pine, a hint of booze in the finish. In general, a little more dank than the Mosaic, not really juicy. Mouthfeel is bigger and heavier, but still nice, well carbed, a little more out of whack and boozy, but still quite well crafted. Overall, this is decent, but it reminds me of something more older school. Victory's Ranch S (i.e. another single hopped DIPA with Segal Ranch Cascades) comes to mind, though this is just as good if not better. Indeed, this feels like there might even have been a different yeast in use (producing a cleaner, clearer beer, similar in many ways to the type of stuff Victory produces). Tasty double IPA, well worth trying, but there are easier to acquire analogs out there. B+*

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/22/16. Canned 7/15/16. Batch: Kazaam!

Many thanks to fellow BeerNerd Sheik for making the long trip to Brooklyn and waiting in line for these beauties. Other Half is clearly the real deal and if I didn't have Tired Hands in my backyard, I'd probably be seeking this sort of thing out more often. As it is, I'm still going out of my way to snag their stuff, so there is that. You will no doubt hear more about them soon.

* But you rated Victory's Ranch S an A-!? Two answers to this: 1. Grade inflation is real and b) I'm the worst. This has been established.

Softly Spoken Magic Spells

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After sleeping on these SingleCut beers for a while, I'm slowly making my way through celebrating their entire catalog, and yes, this has been a good idea. As per usual, their beers are named after some sort of rock music reference and in this case, we're talking about a line from Pink Floyd's "Breath (Reprise)" (aka the end of "Time") from The Dark Side of the Moon. It's a wonderfully evocative line, calling to mind love and loss and... hobbits. So lets get to it. I predict mystery, enchantment, and hops:

Singlecut Softly Spoken Magic Spells

SingleCut Softly Spoken Magic Spells - Pours a murky orange color with a finger of white head. Smells of tropical fruit, mangoes, pineapple, grapefruit and the like, very nice nose. Taste starts off sweet, hits that juicy citrus character pretty hard, followed by some dankness in the middle, finishing back on the tropical fruit tip with just enough bitterness to keep things interesting. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, dense, moderately carbonated, hints of pleasant booze, goes down easy. Overall, yup, it's fantastic, maybe a step above 18-watt. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.6% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a charente glass on 7/23/16. Bottled on 7/13/16. Ultra fresh buddy.

So these beers are quickly escalating to must buys, and you'll no doubt be seeing more from SingleCut in the nearish future.

SingleCut Billy 18-Watt IPA

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Man, what's going on in NYC these days? This is the third brewery we've covered in just the past few months (granted, these breweries have been around for a while and it's not like I'm discovering them or anything, but still) and they seem up to par with their brethren at Other Half and Grimm. I've been a little lazy on the uptake with these things, but I think that's come to an end.

SingleCut is a reference to a body style of guitar, and most of their beer names appear to be music references of some kind. This particular beer is named after an 18-Watt amplifier and while I'm not positive what Billy refers to, Billy Gibbons (of ZZ Top fame and bearded glory) seems to favor the 18-Watt in his setup. SingleCut makes a series of "Billy" beers though, including Half-Stack and Full-Stack (also amplifiers), so who knows? What is this, a music blog? Let's get back to the beer, which looks to be one of them newfangled Northeast IPAs, though this is the low-wattage version clocking in at 5% ABV, so you could probably take down a few of these no problem:

SingleCut Billy 18-Watt IPA

SingleCut Billy 18-Watt IPA - Pours a very cloudy straw yellow color with a finger of white head that leaves some lacing, very Northeast Milkshake IPA appearance. Smells that way too, tons of green hops, floral aromas, huge, juicy citrus, tropical fruits, mangoes and tangerines and the like, really nice. Taste follows the nose, lots of juicy citrus, some floral and herbal notes, and a nice, tight bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbed, crisp, and relatively dry, light body, quaffable stuff. Overall, yup, this is some fantastic stuff. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a charente glass on 6/24/16. Bottled: 6/10/16 (I think that's what the label sez).

Yeah, so I think we'll be seeing more from these folks in the coming months, so stay tuned.

Wicked Weed Double Feature

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One of these days, I'll have to make my way down to Asheville, North Carolina and check out their brewpub scene, but for now, I'll have to make due with muled bottles of Wicked Weed. I've had good luck with their barrel aged sours, but was really happy to get my grubby little hands on these IPAs. They have a pretty good reputation as a standard West Coast take on the style, which is a nice change of pace for those of us enmeshed in that whole Northeast Milkshake IPA thang. Let's not waste any more time babbling about this and dive in:

Wicked Weed Pernicious

Wicked Weed Pernicious IPA - This appears to be their flagship IPA, lots of hops and minimal malt influence. Pours a crystal clear golden yellow color with a few fingers of fluffy white head. Smells primarily of citrus and floral hops. I feel like I should say more, but that's pretty much what it is, and it's great. Taste has a nice light sweetness to it providing an ample platform for those citrusy, floral hops, maybe a bit of pine emerging here too, finishing with a light bitterness. Mouthfeel is light bodied, crisp, and tightly carbonated, making for a nice, quaffable glass. Overall, a rock solid IPA, maybe even above average, but this is a crowded category... B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.3% ABV bottled (11.2 ounce). Drank out of a Willibecher glass on 5/20/16. Bottled 04.21.16

Wicked Weed Freak of Nature Double IPA

Wicked Weed Freak of Nature Double IPA - They call this a "San Francisco inspired hoppy monster", but I'm not entirely sure what makes it so other than the West Coast approach. They mention adjunct additions to dry out the beer, so maybe they used Rice-A-Roni. You know, the San Francisco treat? No? Alright, that's stupid, let's just get to the beer: Pours a slightly darker, but still clear golden yellow color with a finger of white head. The smell has a sweeter note to it, but the hop profile is similar to Pernicious, lots of citrus and floral aromas, also some pine peeking in. Taste is definitely sweeter, but the hops are more prominent to match, citrus and pine with floral notes. On the other hand, the finish is less bitter. Mouthfeel is definitely a bit heavier, medium bodied, well carbonated, relatively dry. Overall, this is bigger and bolder, but still approachable and tasty. An improvement on Pernicious, but still a B+, but, like, a higher B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/20/16. Bottled 05.03.16.

Many thanks to Kaedrin friend Danur for procuring these bottles for me. Will definitely be on the lookout for more from these fellas, and if I ever make my way down to Asheville, I will most certainly be spending time at their establishments...

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