Monthly Archives: April 2015

Who Knows What Evil (Twin) Lurks in the Hearts of Men?


T++rst-000709Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, Danish, special ed teacher, male model, gypsy brewer . . . now established in Brooklyn. Evil Twin Brewing was founded in 2010. I almost wrote “Evil Twin Brewery” but there is no such thing, he brews at 10 different breweries in 6 countries. All the ones reviewed here were brewed in Connecticut or South Carolina. He’s extremely prolific, and the press kit notes “Launched more than 40 different beers in 2012.” So everything is in limited supply and everything sells out. Before he became a brewer, he

started the famous beer store ‘Ølbutikken’ in Copenhagen 2005. Was voted ‘Best in the world’ by RateBeer in 2007.

Sounds like my kind of place, but I’m glad he switched his focus from selling to brewing.

His brother Mikkeller started brewing even earlier, but unfortunately the brothers had a falling out, leading to Jeppe striking out for the New World and landing in Brooklyn. One could hope that in time they will forgive each other . . . leading to an awesome collaboration beer.

MissionGose_labelMission Gose

I expected it to be too sour for me, and it is. The style is not to my taste. The color is pale straw with haze that’s apparent even in a small sample. The eucalyptus comes into play, starting with the aroma. Then there’s a citrus quality up front, maybe like biting into a lime. So it’s quite interesting–it *is* Evil Twin, after all–and I think those who appreciate the Berliner Weiss and other sour styles will like this. 4% ABV and low bitterness. Brewed at Westbrook Brewing in South Carolina

EvilTwin KabosuFemme Fatale Kabosu

A Brett IPA, it arrives with a cat pee nose over light stone fruit and bread malt. In the glass it is cloudy light amber like pear nectar. There’s a ragged off white head dissipating to thin foam over 2 or 3 minutes. Brett gives a mild sour bitter-flavor and then a strong hit of earthy/bitter orange hops. Then there is more stone fruit, the kabosu is an unusual note, then leads into a mildly sour finish. Quite refreshing and even better with food. 6.0 % ABV, brewed at Westbrook.

SoftDK_labelSoft DK

An Imperial Stout, very dark brown with a tan head lacing the glass. Sweet roasty caramel nose over bready malt. Coffee and roasty caramel flavor coating palate Lingering caramel finish. They describe it better than I possibly could:

This stout looks like soft dookie and some will say it smells and tastes like it too. If you like a thick, creamy and utterly vanillalicious stout you’ll like this one. If you don’t, get yourself something else instead.

Apparently the beer passed through a couple of different names, including Soft Dookie, and faced a legal challenge about the name in at least one state. Thus the name has shifted to the relatively innocuous Soft DK. Comes in at 10.4% ABV, brewed at Two Roads Brewing in Connecticut.

MolotovCocktail_labelMolotov Cocktail

I have to apologize that after the gose I truly couldn’t appreciate this. It came in as cloyingly sweet, and I think that’s partly or largely due to following the intense sourness. I went looking for this to be able to give a more complete review . . . and I couldn’t find it except on draft at Growler & Gill, but the supply was limited so no growlers available. So I looked at a beer finder online, identified a couple of sources, and drove 40 minutes to find . . . they didn’t have it either. But what they *did* have was . . .

MolotovCocktailSingleSimcoeMolotov Cocktail Single Simcoe Hop Edition

Pours gold with about a one-minute off-white head. Peaches in the nose arrive with spicy hops and underlying bread malt. Then comes rich stone fruit and caramel malt flavor, and maybe crystal malt unless sugar was added. The sweetness is balanced, barely, by the hops, but never crosses over into cloying. Slight alcohol is perceptible, but not heat, and it definitely doesn’t feel as strong as it is. Medium to full body with slight syrupy quality and slight effervescence. On the finish, sweetness gives way to fruit gives way to hop bitterness, but at the end sweetness and bitterness sway back and forth. I almost feel like I’m licking sugar off my lips. Working on the glass, it stays richly flavorful with sustained balance of hops and sweetness. 13% ABV Brewed at Two Roads in CT.

Having been thwarted in reviewing the “basic” Molotov Cocktail, as if anything from Evil Twin is “basic,” I picked up a couple of more varieties to try.

EvilTwin Low LifeLow Life

A pilsner that pours clear pale gold like Czech pale lager. Foamy white head lacing the glass. Mild effervescence. The head dissipates in a couple of minutes. Clean crisp cracker nose with a little yeast and faint fruity esters. Hoppy flavor then full bodied malt with touch of toast and then caramel. This is hoppier than classic pilsners, but subtle, with mild spice and maybe a noble hop misled by the Evil Twin. 5.5% ABV, brewed at Two Roads.

T++rst-001069Hipster Ale

Hazy golden amber in the glass with a generous ragged off white head, long lasting. Subtle nose of crackery malt with a tiny hint of spicy hops. Medium body lightly foamy and staying subtle, almost like you took a crackery pilsner and turned it two notches toward pale ale. Soft piney hop finish. 5.5% ABV, Brewed at Two Roads.

Images courtesy of Evil Twin Brewing

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From Paso Robles, with a Quick Nod to Maryland

Firestone Walker Brewing Company

Pale 31

A pale ale which pours (surprise!) pale gold with little head, bread malt nose and mild but distinctive citrus hops laced with floral aromas. The flavor leads with those citrus hops but continues with a good malt backbone, with the malt easing its way over the hops in the end. Its mildly bitter finish simply emphasizes the aroma and flavor hops. 4.9% ABV, 38 IBU

fire_Pivo PilsPivo Hoppy Pils

Pours like a classic Pilsner, clear straw with a foamy white head of long duration. The nose gives slightly tart fruity esters and a hint of yeast and bready malt. I would almost think this was a hefeweizen of uncharacteristic clarity. The European hops are subtle and earthy, and take things up a notch from the classic. The flavor dispels that weisse illusion, coming in as dry pilsner with a slightly metallic bitterness, a hoppy pilsner indeed. Out on the finish there’s a surprising note of brown sugar balancing the hops. Nice beer! Raise a glass or a stein! 5.3% ABV, 40 IBU

fire__EasyJack_labelEasy Jack

This session IPA is new to me, and it’s pleasant to make the acquaintance. Crystal clear gold, with nice effervescence supporting a persistent foamy white head. Strong aroma hops emerge, rich in grapefruit and melon, my introduction to Hallertau Melon hops but also with Bavarian, American, and New Zealand hops. The flavor delivers crackery malt and a medium body, with slightly more bitterness on the finish. The continuing effervescence definitely emphasizes the aroma hops. Very sessionable. 4.5% ABV, 45-50 IBU

fire__UJglassUnion Jack

This is a classic, hefty California IPA, almost canonical for the style. It pours light amber with easily an inch of foamy white head. The nose gives great citrusy aroma hops with a lot of bread dough maltiness. The flavor brings in piney hops and crisp orange with a hint of plum. The finish is dry and restrained with moderate resin and bitterness. 7.5% ABV, 70 IBU

fire__2014DJ_22oz_bottleDouble Jack

Take Union Jack and (ahem) jack it up. It’s amber in the glass with a brief white head but laces the glass The aroma gives medium-strength piney citrusy hops. You know you’re in for a hop treat. The full-bodied malt is in balance with hefty hops with light fruit and herbal touches coming in. Moderate bitterness in flavor and finish reflects great balance, considering that the presenter said that this is 100 IBU. Non hop lovers liked this in sequence when tasted in this sequence, working up from Easy to Union to Double Jack. Brown sugar flavor mellows the hops. 9.5% ABV

fire__WookeyJackWookey Jack

This is a black rye IPA. Since that isn’t an official style, the brewers have lots of freedom. Complex hops, resiny, herbal and citrusy, ride on rye bread malt. Roasty coffee comes in, and the bitterness is more like coffee than hops. There is slight caramel in the flavor, mellowing into a toffee with a faint hint of dried fruit. The lovely hop finish lingers a long time. 8.3% ABV, 80 IBU

There’s a serious hop afterglow from four straight IPAs! Of the last 3, my favorite is whichever I’m drinking at the moment, but if I wanted to drink a bunch of them, the Easy Jack would be the way to go.

A real treat followed!

fire__HydraFirestone Walker / Flying Dog Hydra Cuvée

Brewed in collaboration with Maryland’s Flying Dog. This is a very complex brew, hitting me with barleywine richness. The presenter described it as a blend of four beers, and let me quote from the Firestone Walker website:

Hydra Cuveé is a blend of four different beers—two barrel-aged beers, a robust imperial porter and a black rye IPA. In keeping with Greek mythology, the Hydra represents three distinct parts—the Lion, the Bear (both from Firestone Walker’s insignia) and the Flying Dog.

One barrel-aged beer was selected by a brewer from each brewery, the porter was brewed for the occasion (and inspired by Gonzo, from Flying Dog), and the Black Rye IPA is none other than Wookey Jack. Pours dark reddish brown. The nose surges in with rum, molasses, vanilla, and oak, which leads to a flavor of stone fruit, dark malts, and a huge deep Cinnabon sort of malt. The hops are quite restrained, then the finish goes on forever. This was created specifically for the SAVOR festival in Washington DC, so sadly we’re unlikely to get any more! 10% ABV, 46 IBU

Double Jack image courtesy of Firestone Walker
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Three-Eyed Raven

From Ommegang and HBO comes the fifth beer in the Game of Thrones series: Three-Eyed Raven, a Dark Saison. This invents a style, so it can’t be judged along those lines. For those who follow the series, perhaps it needs no introduction, but from the Ommegang website:

From the darkness I watch you. All of you, all of your lives, with a thousand eyes, and one.

As a beer, this pours opaque black with a ragged tan head. It gives a nose of bread-malty caramel with a spiced fruit character. Slightly foamy on the palette, it is initially crisp then malty then spicy then fruity, ending with a touch of roasty and smoky. All of this is subtle, and on balance this is a gentle, quaffable beer. I had expected much greater intensity, but probably I shouldn’t expect that of a saison. So here we have a subtle roasty saison at the opposite end of the spectrum from a sour saison. It’s easy to drink and would surprise those who think that a dark beer has to be heavy or coffee-bitter.

If you’re in the mood for a subtle brew, this is very good. I was expecting something more, or at least something else. On balance I would say that this is a good beer, but not a special beer. For me, this comes in behind Fire & Blood and Valar Morghulis, and slightly ahead of Take the Black Stout. (I never tasted Iron Throne.)

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Salute Captain Lawrence

Captain Lawrence Brewing

It’s not every brewery that is named for a street, but this name comes from Captain Lawrence Drive, and Owner/Brewer Scott Vaccaro’s journey went from South Salem to UC Davis and back, by way of Sierra Nevada. The tasting room is open, noisy, and friendly with a mix of high-top bar tables, picnic tables, and folks standing around barrels to sip or quaff. On Good Friday, only pizza was available, but how many places have a pizza with Brussel Sprouts? Not for me, but very creative. I was here on a Friday, but tours are available on Saturday and Sunday.

Palette ShifterThis isn’t a full review because it’s based on 3 or 4 ounce tastes, rather than full portions.

We led off with Helles Hot, a simple, crisp, refreshing pale lager. A nice blend of malts leads the way. One could have quite a few of these as a session. This would be very good with simple fare, light cheese up to bratwurst. 4.5% ABV

Liquid Gold is a fine entry point for those who like Belgian ales. This is a nice golden ale with spice and orange over clean malt, with a hint of herbs that must come from the hops, but the hops remain in the background. Deceptive 6.5 % ABV.

Spring Buzz is another very clean lager in the Kolsch style, hints of honey, totally restrained hops and clear malt. I must say that Captain Lawrence does the clean German styles just as well as they do the hop-forward or hop-hammer stlyes. 6.5% ABV, even more deceptive than the Liquid Gold.

Effortless Session IPA is just that, emphasizing moderate citrusy hops over light malt. One could drink quite a few of these as a very satisfactory session. The aroma is really nice, moderate citrus, then more grapefruit comes in on the flavor. Mosaic and Palisade hops, and at this stage of my development I’m not sure which is which. 4.5% ABV

Captain’s Kolsch is another clean and crisp lager with little hop bitterness over a touch of fruit and solid bready malt. That malt persists from nose to finish, and maybe a touch more hops than the Spring Buzz. Here we have a flagship brew, very reliable. 5% ABV

Hop Commander IPA emphasizes dry hopping for extra aroma, and it really pays off with citrus, leading right into a grapefruit note on the palette. The bitterness is very restrained, almost restrained enough for those who don’t like hops (which usually means they don’t like the bitterness.) 6.5% ABV

Unfiltered Seeking Alpha with Cascade Hops and Pineapple. This was a cask ale, room temperature and thus deliberately flat. It was cloudy and looked like apricot nectar, and perhaps because of that appearance it seemed to have a nectar quality though it was not, in fact, sweet and nectary. Still, the consistency was creamy and mouth filling. Here’s a triple IPA where the hops end up quite restrained. This was the most interesting brew of a very interesting set. I guess this one is experimental and does not yet have its own name.

Palate Shifter IPA pours pale gold with a foamy 1/4″ head. Nose of medium cat-pee hops leaning to the herbal over bready malt, growing quickly as the beer warms from refrigerator temperature. Fills the mouth with malt-ball malt and bread, moderate herbal hop flavor. The finish is more malt than hop, lingering for a couple of minutes. The glass is heavily laced as the level goes down. This is a transitional hop between the entry drug and hophead levels. I had this one in the tasting room and then again when I got home. 9% ABV

Smoke Up Smoked Porter, pours very dark, basically black, with a very light smoky nose. There’s no bacon on the nose, but I can sense it on the palette, and it fills the mouth with roasty malt. This would be a good pairing with hearty food. 6.5% ABV

Seeking Alpha labelSeeking Alpha Triple IPA I had the cask unfiltered pineapple version at the brewery, and the bottled version at home. Pours light amber with twice the head of the Palate Shifter and sustained by the swift-rising bubbles. The nose has a piney, barnyard layer of hops over light malt. Effervescent, palatte-coating dry molasses, if such a thing can exist. The flavor is not heavily hopped, mostly a light but solid maltiness. The restrained bitterness lingers through a long finish. This 11% ABV is truly deceptive and could knock you on your ass if you’re not aware. Generally, all of Captain Lawrence is deceptive in terms of alcohol content, with a smoothness that masks the alcohol content. This is perfect for a relatively short session!

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