Westbrook Brewing Co. IPA

Aside from being a fan of IPAs, I also fancy the occasional Sour. Westbrook makes one of the best Goses I’ve ever tasted. When I saw their IPA on the shelf, I was giddy with excitement. Priced at $12.99 a six pack, I grabbed one off the shelf and brought it home to meet the family.

I was honestly taken back by this beer. It was dated 3/5/18, so it was really fresh. The Westbrook IPA pours a golden haze with a nice white head. There are hits of citrus and hops, but an equal representation of malt. It definitely didn’t seem like a beer with “massive hop flavor” like the description written on the can.

This isn’t a terrible beer. The flavors in this beer are easy to identify and simple. The citrus and pine that the hops bring, along with more malt then you would typically taste in today’s IPAs. I think the reason I was so taken back by this beer, is because it is so incredibly ordinary. I was not expecting it at all. Their Gose is so bold, and so “in your face,” that I was expecting more from this IPA.

This is going to be a 6 pack I finish, but not one that I will ever buy again. If it were 10 years ago, this beer would rank high on the list for me, but in today’s over-saturated market of great beer, this one is lost.

3/5

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Stone: “Limited” Inevitable Adventure Double IPA

I’ve been waiting for a good excuse to buy this.  I was able to find this in single bottles, as I was fairly certain I wouldn’t want a 6 pack of this.  Don’t get me wrong.  Stone used to be my favorite brewery.  For a long time they made some of the best beers around.  The problem I have with them, is that they over-saturate the market 50 variations of the same beer.  I’ve never seen a brewery make so many IPA’s with different titles. Yeah I know….they are all different.  I get it.  But after you try 10 of them, it gets REALLY difficult to the tell the difference.

With all that being said, aside from the “Enjoy By” series, I probably haven’t tried any other Stone beverage in over a year.  Even that has lost it’s luster.  Again, don’t get me wrong.  The “Enjoy By” releases are great.  If I lived in an area that didn’t have incredible beers, canned/bottled a week ago, I would be all over these.  Buffalo, NY has become a beer city, with incredible local beers canned/bottled fresh.  We also are getting more and more beers distributed here.  Basically, we are spoiled.

I saw a Facebook ad for this release, and although I laughed at the prospect of yet another IPA, I figured I would try it.  This is brewed with Loral and Rudi hops.  With an abv of 8.9%, this beer goes down easy.  With a nice balance of caramel malt, grapefruit citrus, and pine, this beer this beer is a solid release.  It’s not amazing, but as my stepfather would say after sipping an average beer: “There’s nothing wrong with that.”

If you are in a market that doesn’t get much in terms of craft beer, this is a great find.  Here in Buffalo, it’s worth trying as a single bottle, but I wouldn’t buy a whole six pack.

3.5/5

 

Sierra Nevada Estate Organic Homegrown IPA

There is a lot about this beer that can get you excited when you see this on the counter at the beer store.  Whether it’s the wax coating that covers the beer cap, the classic looking artistic label, or the simple fact that it’s Sierra Nevada, this truly is an eye-catching bottle of beer.

When I was in the beer store holding and debating if I should try this reasonably priced special bottle, the guy stocking the shelf walked by me and said, “Earthy.”

The one thing I hate in the world of beer, is the choice by some breweries to not put dates on their products.  For IPA’s, it is essential.  This bottle did not have a date on it, and against my better judgment I made the purchase.  The man in the store said that he typically gets the beers in a week or so after they are released, and that he just got them in.  Never trust the beer guy.

If my research is correct, this thing came out in late October 2017.  Generously, this beer was probably almost 4 months old.  With that being said, for a 4 month old IPA, this wasn’t terrible.  There was still a mild aroma of hops when the beer was first cracked open.  The wax seal does make a mess when you try uncovering the cap to open it.

I suppose “earthy” was a good way to describe the flavor.  This IPA was more malty then what I would prefer, although it is possible that the newer “juicy” IPA’s are just desensitizing people from appreciating a more classic style IPA.  I have to put that into perspective sometimes.

Overall, this beer tasted more like a really good home-brewed IPA, which isn’t a terrible thing, in fact I think that might be what they were shooting for with this. When this comes out next year, I’d say it’s worth a shot if you can get it close to when it was bottled.

Always check your dates! 3/5

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Graft Cider: Where Secrets Lie

While I fully intend to review a wide variety of ciders, the fact that 50% of my current submissions have focused on Graft Cider undermines those intentions a bit. I’ve only recently become acquainted with Graft, but their wide variety of unusual offerings has piqued my curiosity and I find myself searching for their ciders whenever I’m out shopping. So when I recently stumbled upon “Where Secrets Lie” at my local co-op, I was really excited.

Not only does Graft feature unusual flavors, they focus just as much creativity on their labels as they do on the production of their cider. The “Where Secrets Lie” label presents what appears to be the same characters from their “Endless Fields” label, a rural 19th century couple engaged in what at first glance seems to be a romantic boat ride. But a closer look reveals a disturbing scene in the depths of the water beneath them, where a skeleton and a sunken boat lie submerged for all eternity.

 

The playfully dark scene depicted on the can contrasts nicely with the light and fruity nature of the cider. This is a wild yeast fermented beverage, which imparts to it a very dry, traditional farmhouse cider quality. When I poured it, I was instantly struck by its maroon color, which matches the label almost perfectly. It’s fairly effervescent and the bitterness of the cider can almost be smelled as well as tasted. Although its ingredients include “hibiscus, rose petals, lavendar [sic], (and) pink sea salt,” I had trouble discerning them. I think they mostly serve to contribute to the maroon color of this cider and provide only a very slight floral overtone. The somewhat heavy bitterness and moderate sourness mask whatever other more subtle flavors might be present here. There’s also a lingering aftertaste that’s mildly cloying and unpleasant, similar to the aftereffects of a dose of grape Robitussin. At 6.9% abv, this cider is moderately potent.

I wanted to enjoy “Where Secrets Lie”, but it’s inspired and promising ingredients ended up failing to impress. Although this may not have been my best experience with Graft Cider, I’ll definitely be checking out their many other products. I appreciate a company that’s bold enough to take risks in the name of creativity even if it may end up being at the expense of sales.

2.25/5

Buffalo Whiskey Fest

Last weekend was the very first Buffalo Whiskey Fest, an event that sold out super quick.  I had never been to a whiskey tasting event before, so it was a pretty cool experience, with the obvious annoyances one would expect.  The event packed in around 1300 people into the Hotel Lafayette, a gorgeous rehabbed classic hotel in downtown Buffalo, NY.

The event was about $35.00 plus taxes and fees, and I would say definitely worth it.  Each ticket got you unlimited tastings, a free whiskey glass, one free Manhattan, and one Old Fashioned.  I really had no idea what to expect because you could essentially go to this thing and get completely inebriated.

I found the real challenge to be trying to get as many samples in as possible, while trying to gauge where your sobriety is.  I would taste and spit the samples that weren’t any good, but after 10 or so, you start to feel it quick.

The first sample I had was the single barrel 4 Roses, which was a bad move because it was so outstanding, that nothing could touch it in terms of quality and flavor all night.  It was incredibly smooth, no burn, and you could really identify the flavors in it.  It was an impressive whiskey for sure.

One observation I gathered from this event was that there is an explosion of distilleries in the area.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s extremely cool, however you could see that many of these places seem to be rushing out their product.  In the end you have a bunch of whiskey that burns and is more like moonshine.

The Yamazaki 12 year was probably the second most impressive.  It was my first taste of Japanese Whiskey.  This seemed to be universally praised by festival goers throughout the afternoon.

I would give the third best to the Russell’s 10 Year.  This was the last one I sampled so my taste buds were shot, but it seemed to go down nice and had some great flavors.

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With this many people crammed into this space, it became obvious quickly when the majority of people started losing their peripheral vision.  Going from table to table involved bouncing off of multiple glassy-eyed people.

Overall, The Buffalo Whiskey Fest appeared to be a huge success.  I’m not sure I would go to it again, but I see the appeal.  It was pretty cool being able to go in and sample all those distilleries as it will make my next trip to the liquor store more productive.

Cheers!

Woodcock Brothers Brewing Company: India Pale Ale

I remember going on a wine tour years ago and ending up passing through Wilson, NY.  At the time I had never had any Woodcock beers, and I also hadn’t heard anyone really talk about them.   Well, the brewery was fantastic, and the beer was surprisingly delicious!  I’m not using “surprisingly” in an insulting way (I probably could phrase that better), I just hadn’t heard anyone mention their beers before.  I still don’t really.  With that all being said, Woodcock Brothers beer is very underrated.

This India Pale Ale is refreshing.  At a 6.5%, it is extremely balanced, allowing me to sip it casually while fighting with my family members about politics.  My biggest problem with this beer is that they don’t date the cans.  You can’t put “drink fresh” on a can with no date.  How am I supposed to know?  I gave it a shot as it was on the shelf with some other delicious options, all dated fresh.

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When I say this beer is extremely balanced, I mean that in a good and a bad way.  The good is that there isn’t anything wrong with this.  It has an acceptable amount of hops, citrus, and malt.  When the can is first opened, you get just enough of that fresh smell that you want in an IPA.  And then you taste it…

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If this beer were a little cheaper, I’d say it would be a great beer for outdoors on a summer day.  If this beer were cheaper, I’d say this would be a great beer to mow the lawn with.  The problem is that it comes in a 4 pack of 16oz cans, priced as if it’s something special.  That is where it falls short.

Overall, this India Pale Ale can’t hang with the other 4 pack IPA’s on the shelf right now.  In a market that is currently flooded with choices, this would not be one I would make again.  3/5.

**This review in no way reflects my experience at the brewery itself.  My experience there was fantastic and the beers on tap were fresh and delicious.  Definitely check it out if you are ever weirdly in Wilson, NY.**

BlackBird Ciderworks: Dry-Organic

Having lived my entire life around the city of Buffalo, NY, I can attest that it has received more than its fair share of disparagement over the years. It’s long been the home of perennially uncompetitive sports teams, wildly mismanaged city government, highly segregated populations, failing school systems, and most notably, the chicken wing and beef on weck “sandwich”. But in recent years, Buffalo has shed it’s former identity as a failed city and has seen a renaissance, becoming the vibrant, architecturally interesting, quickly growing city that it was over a century ago. As a result, many new businesses have sprouted up, including a shockingly high number of craft breweries. While mostly producing a wide variety of beers, several cideries have popped up amongst their malty cousins. While located a bit outside of the city, BlackBird Ciderworks is one of these companies and I’m delighted to say that the wide variety of ciders they produce are invariably well crafted and creative.

BlackBird’s “Dry-Organic” cider is aptly named as it is just about as dry as a cider can get. The first and most notable taste is the distinct bitterness of the cider. But that bitterness quickly levels out and leaves a pleasant, fruity aftertaste. According to the can, this flavor is a hint of pear, though I’d be lying if I said I could distinguish this from the mild sweetness of the organic apples. This is a still, full-bodied cider with a relatively high ABV of 6.7%, though it is so smooth that the higher alcohol content is easily unnoticed. If a cider can be classified as distinguished, this would hit that mark. I plan to wallow in the pretentiousness this cider affords, lounging by a fire while listening to the dulcet tones of a classic Lester Young album. Outstanding.

4.75/5