Review: Storm King Stout, Victory Brewing

Storm King Stout
Victory Brewing Co. — Downington, PA

  • Style:  Imperial Stout
  • Bitterness:  Not provided
  • ABV: 9.1%
  • Malts:  Imported 2 row
  • Hops:  American whole flowers
  • Sampled: 12 oz. bottle

Description:  "With a huge, Pacific Northwest hop aroma & character upfront, Storm King subsides into massive, roast malt complexity. Rich and substantial, it will warm your heart." — Storm King Brewing Co.

Random thoughts:   The label has "best enjoyed by" date of November 8, 2015.  This is one of five Imperial Stouts I'm profiling

The tasting:   Near black in color.  Dark tan head that dissipated very slowly leaving no lacing on the glass. Aroma of alcohol, coffee, dark chocolate, and roasted malts. I didn't detect the hops amongst the other strong aromas.  Flavor of coffee, roasted malts, alcohol, and an earthy hop bitterness.  Medium bodied, with enough carbonation to provide an effervescent mouth feel.   It finished with roasted malts and a strong earthy hop bitterness.  Alcohol was noticeably high in aroma and flavor and it impacted Storm King's drinkability. 

Rating:  3 star.  Good.  I would drink this if someone gave it to me.   As a 9.1% ABV beer, you might expect the taste of alcohol to be noticeable.  It certainly was in Storm King.  In some of the other Imperial Stouts I tasted, the alcohol was remarkably well hidden.  I wasn't crazy about the strong hop flavor. I guess I just prefer Imperial Stouts that are less hoppy. I think this would taste amazing after a year or two of cellaring as I expect the alcohol and hop flavors would both mellow.      

Have you tried Storm King or any other Victory brews?

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Review: Spring Reign, Ninkasi Brewing

Spring Reign
Ninkasi Brewing Co. — Eugene, Oregon

  • Style:  Pale Ale
  • Bitterness:  38 IBU
  • ABV: 6.0%
  • Starting Gravity:  1052
  • Malts:  Not available
  • Hops:  Not available 
  • Sampled: 12 oz. bottle

Description:  "Spring forward with this refreshing seasonal ale. Notes of toasted malt up front, with a bright and crisp Northwest hop finish, it’s a session beer that everyone can enjoy!"  — Ninkasi Brewing Co.

Random thoughts:   As you might have figured out, Spring Reign is Ninkasi's spring seasonal.  This is the first time Ninkasi is distributing its beer in 12 oz. bottles.  I just saw six-packs of this and Total Domination IPA for the first time at my grocery store today.  I'm thrilled to see this new bottle size from Ninkasi!  I don't often buy 22 oz. bombers because I usually drink just one beer a day. 

The tasting:   Deep golden color with a white head that dissipated slowly leaving lacing on the glass.  Aroma of toasted and biscuit-like malts with some faint floral hops.  Flavor very similar to aroma, but I didn't detect the hops at the beginning of the taste.  It's light to medium bodied and has a a crisp effervescent mouth feel.  It tastes and drinks like a pilsner lager.  It finishes dry with an earthy hop bitterness.  Overall, Spring Reign is more malty than hoppy.

Rating:  3 star.  Good.  I would drink this again if someone gave it to me.  Ninkasi is known for hoppy beers, and it's nice to see a more malt forward brew as their spring seasonal.  Spring Reign is actually their least bitter beer (as measured by IBUs).  As I already mentioned, I'm really glad to see their new 12 oz. six packs and I look forward to tasting more of Ninkasi's beer throughout the year.

Have you tried Spring Reign or any other Ninkasi beers?

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Review: Levitation Ale, Stone Brewing Co.

Stone Levitation Ale
Stone Brewing Co. — Escondido, California

  • Style:  Amber Ale
  • Bitterness:  45 IBU
  • ABV: 4.4%
  • Malts:  Not provided
  • Hops:  Columbus, Simcoe, Crystal, and Amarillo
  • Sampled: 12 oz. bottle

Description:  "It's been said that 'Gravity Sucks.'  Simple enough. Well, we at Stone have identified gravitational forces in the beer world. And we have come to the conclusion that they, well, see above. So we avoid these less-than-desirable gravitational forces. We avoid dumbed-down flavor profiles and the vigorous pursuit of the lowest common denominator. We avoid big dollar marketing mentalities. We avoid additives, cheap adjuncts, stabilizers and chemical preservatives. So in the defiance of gravity we bring you Stone Levitation Ale. This deep amber ale has rich malt flavors, a big hoppy character, citrus overtones (courtesy of the hops and our special brewers yeast) and modest alcohol."
 — Stone Brewing Co.

The tasting:   Deep reddish gold / garnet in color. It's clear and has a white head that dissipated slowly leaving lacing on the glass.  It looks stunning (OK, I just happen to love this color)!  Aroma of grapefruit hops and caramel malt.  Flavor similar to aroma.  While it leans toward the hoppy side, it has a nice caramel backbone.  It's light bodied, has a smooth mouth feel, and is very drinkable.  For a 4.4% ABV brew, the aptly named Levitation packs in a lot of flavor and makes for a very sessionable beer. 

Rating:  4 star.  Really Good!  I want this again!   I thought Stone only made heavy, big ABV beers.  I was mistaken.  Levitation will be high on my go-to list on days when I want a lower ABV beer with a lot of flavor.

Have you tried Levitation or any other Stone beers?

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Trader Joe's $7.99 Unibroue Sampler Pack!!

Trader Joe's is one of my wife's favorite stores.  Last Saturday night, we packed up the kids and went to TJ's to pick up a few items.   Very glamorous, I know...

The funny thing is, I suggested this trip.  My ulterior motive was to check out their beer selection.  While not huge, they have good deals and some unusual offerings, which include private label beers (some rumored to be made by a GREAT craft brewer).

Anyway, I was rewarded for my curiousity.  Trader Joe's is selling a 4 bottle taster pack of Unibroue beers. Unibroue is from Chambly, Quebec (Canada) and they make Trappist Monk inspired brews.  I have not tasted their beers, but they are rated highly by Beer Advocate.

I'm a value conscious beer shopper.  Unibroue beer typically sells for $8.50+ for a 750ml bottle, which equates to a $24.13 six pack!   A little too rich for my blood.  Trader Joe's sale gives you four 12 oz. Unibroue beers for $7.99, which equates to an $11.95 six pack!   50% off sounds good to me.  Here's what's included:

  • Maudite, Strong Amber-Red Ale, 8.0% ABV
  • Trois Pistoles, Abbey Style Dark Strong Ale, 9.0% ABV
  • La Fin Du Monde, Triple-style Golden Ale, 9.0% ABV
  • Don de Dieu, Triple Wheat Ale, 9.0% ABV

I picked up a pack and look forward to tasting these.  If you want to buy this sampler pack, don't wait too long.  I expect supplies are limited.  If you end up buying this on my recommendation, please let me know what you think!

For more on six-pack equivalent (SPE) pricing, please check out  It's Pub Night's online calculator.

Full Disclosure:  While this is a shameless plug for Trader Joe's and Unibroue, I receive absolutely no free beer or compensation for this post.  This is simply a great deal that I wanted to share with my readers.  Enjoy! 

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Typical Unibroue 750ml prices at Fred Meyer

Review: Smoke Lager, TAPS Brewery

Smoke Lager
TAPS Brewery — Istanbul, Turkey

  • Style:  Lager, Rauchbier
  • Bitterness:  Medium
  • ABV: 4.5%
  • Malts:  Smoked malts
  • Hops:  Hallertauer, Perle
  • Sampled: 12 oz. bottle

Description:  "Light amber in color, this beer has a unique blend of hop flavor with medium full body and exhibits smoke taste reflective from the use of specialty beechwood smoked malt." — TAPs Brewery

Random thoughts:   This is my first review of an import. I received Smoke Lager as part of my Beer of the Month Club gift subscription. TAPs opened as Turkey's first brewpub in 2002.  They make over twenty full-time and seasonal beers. This is a German-style rauchbier (which means "smoke beer").   

The tasting:  Golden straw in color (hazy) with a white head that dissipated slowly.  Aroma of wet smoky firewood (think campfire doused in water), and light bready malt. Flavor is very smoky and woody—maybe oak?  Light bodied with a crisp mouth feel.  It finishes with smoky malt, but doesn't leave a burnt or bitter aftertaste.  I have to admit, the smoky flavor made the first few sips challenging.  But towards the middle of the drink, it started to grow on me.      

I usually don't pair beer with food, but since we're doing the smoked thing here, I think this would pair beautifully with smoked salmon.  Add goat cheese and a crostini, and voila!  Barbecue or other smoked meats would be great, as well.

Rating:  3 star.  Good.  I would drink this if someone gave it to me.  I read about rauchbiers a few months ago, and was excited to see it included as part of my Beer of the Month Club shipment.  I haven't found this style in my local bottle shops and am glad I had the chance to sample this unique style.

Have you tried TAPs Smoke Lager or any other rauchbiers?

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Review: The Hairy Eyeball, Lagunitas Brewing

The Hairy Eyeball
Lagunitas Brewing Co. — Petaluma, CA

  • Style:  Strong Ale
  • Bitterness:  Not provided
  • ABV: 8.7%
  • Malts:   Several types of Crystal
  • Hops:  Not provided
  • Sampled: 12 oz. bottle

Description:  "Our New Year's release for the seasoned beer folks … Big, brown warmer with several types of crystal malt. No actual eyeballs can actually be found in the beer." — Lagunitas Brewing Co.

Random thoughts:   Someone named this beer The Hairy Eyeball.  So I bought it.  This is part of my series on Late Winter Seasonals.

The tasting:  Deep reddish-orange (garnet) in color with an off white head that dissipated slowly. The bubbles in the foam were noticeably smaller than what I usually observe in most beers.  It looks amazing!   Aroma is not very strong, but I noticed a bit of plum-like fruit, raisin, and alcohol.  Flavor of sweet caramelized malt, molasses, and alcohol.  This is a malty brew!  I didn't notice the hops in aroma or flavor.  Medium bodied with light carbonation.  It finishes with sweet malt and alcohol.   Alcohol is noticeable at every stage of the taste and it's not very drinkable. 

Rating:  2 star.  Drinkable, but not sure I want to.  Overall, I found the flavors to be one dimensional.  The heavy body and strong alcohol combined to create something that reminded me of a cough syrup.  Although I'm not crazy about The Hairy Eyeball, I do give Lagunitas an "A" for effort.  I really appreciate it when brewers try something different—and this fits the bill.  I look forward to tasting more of their beers.

Have you tried The Hairy Eyeball or any other Lagunitas beers?

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