Brew Smoke Break is a blog that features brief yet detailed reviews of craft beer and cigars from the point of view of an average casual fan. Lynn Harrod reviews beers from bottle, can, and tap, visits pubs and breweries, and enjoys a fine cigar in between. Simple, quick reviews for connoisseurs out and about.
Evil Twin Brewing 'The Only Thing I Know is That I Know Nothing' New England IPA. 6.5% abv. 68 IBU. Pale yellow color, like egg yolk. Dense hazy. Finger of white soapy head. Moderate retention, superb lacing. Nose of light fruit pastry, juicy grapefruit, floral and citrus hops.
Front taste is bright citrus rind, notes of pepper and cloves, wide spice expression on the back end. Spice builds as the temp rises to room. Aftertaste is abundant bitter fruity hops, grapefruit pulp, white bread. Medium body. Mouthfeel is warm, round, foamy, clingy.
This is an excellent beer, a more aggressive version of a New England IPA. It's a cloudy, pungent, bitter fruity beer that blasts you with hops and tall spice throughout. The notes of pepper, cloves, and citrus rind build as the beer warms, resulting in an almost over-the-cliff flavor profile, giving you much more of what you sampled at first sip. Aroma follows suit, growing in intensity with time.
The relatively new category of N.E. IPA is growing exponentially in popularity, and I admit that I have not had many as of this writing. I'm still developing a palate for them, as well as sours, seemingly their second-cousins. However, I'm quickly learning to love them, and this is one of the first to truly grab my attention and make me remember it. Well recommended, particularly if you love bitter hop bite in your brew.
Evans Brewing 'ChocōLatté' Chocolate Porter. 6.8% abv. 15.5 IBU. Black in color. Finger of foamy mocha head. Good retention, good lace. Head falls gradually to a decent collar. Nose of ground coffee, dark chocolate, roasted dark malt. Aroma of espresso comes forward with the temp change.
Front taste of bittersweet cocoa, day-old black coffee, mildly tart plum. Aftertaste of distant raisin, flat dark fruit, dark grape skin, dry finish. Medium body. Mouthfeel is warm, tangy, carby.
This is a good enough porter that merely adequately delivers on its promise of coffee and chocolate. Coffee is in the nose from the start, but only calls attention after the beer warms up a bit, and even that does not come across as fresh or bright.
From the brewery:
"Chocolate explosion! The chocolate mines supply us with the necessary ingredients to make this ale. Miners use sticks of dynamite to blow chunks of chocolate into rail cars heading straight to the brewery. We mine the most chocolate and espresso flavor from select grains to produce a massive chocolate flavor that rolls over the tongue into a gentle finish with a hint of espresso. ChocōLatté aims to please those with a cocoa addiction." [source: evansbrewco.com]
Ballast Point 'Mocha Marlin' Porter. 6% abv. 42 IBU. Black in color with two fingers of thick foamy tan head. Outstanding retention and superb lace. Nose of ground coffee, vanilla, cocoa powder, herbal notes.
Front taste is roasted malt, bittersweet dark chocolate, black coffee, bitter dark fruit on the back end. Aftertaste is bitter cocoa, vanilla, herbal hops, black coffee underneath, dry finish. Medium-full body. Mouthfeel is thick, creamy, carby, clingy, resin.
This is an excellent chocolate porter. The chocolate tastes fresh-shaved off a high-cacao dark chocolate brick, complemented well by a strong black coffee expression. Contrary to what the label says, I would describe it as a chocolate porter with coffee rather than a coffee porter with chocolate.
The dark cocoa flavors are dominant throughout, with the black coffee taste faintly underneath, emerging fully only in the aftertaste. A ribbon of vanilla underlines the entire beer from nose to finish, with herbal hops merging as the temperature rises. An excellent chocolate beer that is supported by coffee. I suspect the coffee bean count is not as high as most would expect, including the brewers, but it's a fine brew regardless. Well recommended.
From the brewery:
"Coffee and chocolate come together in this brew. Our Black Marlin Porter is the perfect beer for a mocha mashup. The addition of coffee and cocoa plays perfectly off the roasty, chocolaty flavors of this English porter, while a hint of vanilla smooths it all out. It’s full-bodied, but not too sweet; try it for breakfast…or dessert." [source: ballastpoint.com]
Esteban Carreras '211' Sixty. 6x60. Medium brown wrap. Good build with straight lines and well smoothed veins and edges. Cut and lit well. Punch cut today. Medium-easy draw pre- and post-light.
First third tastes of bright herbal spice, white pepper, mild tobacco. Second third is raw almond, botanical, slightly bitter herbal on the exhale. Final third is walnut, cured leaf, allspice. Ash is marbled well, chunky, flaky, denoting a cut leaf fill. Ash held over an inch well. Burn was uneven at the foot, evened out in the first third, wandered slightly off-course again passing the midpoint.
This is a fine smoke, middle of the road between its brethren, the 5150 (a mild, balanced smoke that I loved) and the 187 (nearly too harsh for me). It's a mild cigar with bright spice notes, a flat white pepper expression, and nutty tones going into the second half. I smoked it at a leisurely pace and the pepper was present throughout without becoming too bitter or otherwise harsh. It was enjoyable all across while still maintaining that spice bouquet, a balance many mild spice cigars fail to achieve. Good stuff. Well recommended.
From the company:
“211. A light to medium cigar with hints of toasted almond and a touch of white pepper spice. The De Florado wrapper keeps the flavor consistent from start to finish.”
Eel River Brewing 'Twenty' 20th Anniversary Bourbon Barrel Aged Triple Exultation Old Ale. Vintage 2015. 11% abv. 80 IBU. Dark ruby color. Hazy. Fine sediment. Finger of foamy beige head that falls fast to a sustaining collar. Fair retention, excellent lacing.
Nose of molasses, bourbon, vanilla, sweet bread. Front taste is molasses, bourbon, roasted oak, pungent plum. Aftertaste is bourbon, raisin, plum, black coffee, pecans. Dry finish. Full body. Mouthfeel is hot, boozy, astringent, thick, syrupy, sticky, clingy.
This is an extraordinary BBA brew, a decadent offering that demands moderate enjoyment. You don't chug this one. Rich, thick, tall, strong. Starts sweet, ends dry. Plenty of bourbon and oak as promised, bound by dark malty and fruity depths. Wonderful. This is what a BBA should be. Strongly recommended.
From the brewery:
"Our Triple Exultation Old Ale aged 6 months in single pass, white oak bourbon barrels. Rich notes of bourbon, toffee, toasted malt and ripe fruit balanced by an aroma reminiscent of vanilla, oak, molasses, and caramel."
Alpine Beer Company 'Pure Hoppiness' Double IPA. 8% abv. Golden honey color, hazy, some sediment. Two fingers of foamy ivory head. Excellent retention, nice lace. Nose of pine, bright herbal hops. Front taste of light malt, bitter herbal hops, botanical, resin on the back end. Aftertaste is tall bitter herb, vegetal, citrus rind, dry finish. Medium body. Mouthfeel is somewhat thin, sticky, slightly astringent.
This is a good DIPA that should be recategorized. It's an IPA. I don't care what the malt bill is. It could be a great brew if it were balanced better. Instead, we get a bitter hoppy standard IPA.
When I have a DIPA, I look for a tall malt presence that complements an abundant hop expression. Perhaps a sweet finish. Perhaps a rich mouthfeel. Feel free to blame Pliny The Elder and Hop Stoopid for setting the bar in terms of that balance of flavor. Regardless, it's simply not here. In addition, the hop bundle is front and center, bright and forward, but not quite fresh in taste despite the dry hopping. The malt is nearly absent, evident in both its thin body and bitter-hoppy dominant taste. Citrus notes arise only in the tail of the aftertaste.
To be clear, I enjoyed this brew. However, I hesitate to recommend it, if only because it betrays its category, and because there is a sea of DIPAs that I would choose before having this again. If you love bitter hoppy brews, you will likely enjoy this beer. If you are looking for a big, bold, complex DIPA, seek elsewhere. Mildly recommended.
From the brewery:
"A West Coast Double IPA so mega-hopped it will take you to hop heaven. We’ve used hops in the boil, more hops in the giant hopback, and added to that, an incredible amount of dry-hopping for that cutting-edge 'hop bite.' Once you’ve tasted this unique beer, all others pale in comparison." [source: alpinebeerco.com]
Black Diamond 'Peak XV' Bourbon Barrel Imperial Porter. 8.5% abv. 30 IBU. Black in color with a finger of tan foamy head. Superb retention and lacing. Nose of bourbon, caramel, vanilla, plum. Toasty bread notes as the temp rises.
Front taste of bitter dark chocolate, dark fruit, red wine, toast and jam. Aftertaste is vanilla cream, dried fruit, bourbon, vanilla on the back end, slight wood expression all across. Medium body. Mouthfeel is hot, creamy, tangy, sticky, boozy.
This is an excellent BBA brew, a blend that is 25% BBA. You can tell from the overall taste that this beer is not completely from a barrel. Still, the promised bourbon taste is there, especially on the onset, while the wood flavor is faint and only detectable behind the aftertaste. Tons of dried dark fruit - almost sour fruit - tie together the notes of caramel, vanilla, and bready malt. For my taste, this is a little light in body for a BBA - even a blend - and the fruit is a touch pungent, walking close to sour territory. However, my overall impression is positive. I enjoyed this beer and would surely have another. Highly recommended.
From the brewery:
"Wherein we take our rich, luscious Peak XV Imperial Porter and set it down in Bourbon barrels for a little happy time (sometimes when you are waiting, time does not fly).. Bourbon and vanilla are a natural combo and the wood ageing smoothes the chocolate, further blending it with the malt flavors and adding wonderful depth. A true fireside winter warmer this one, we remain amazed at how great this beer is in an ice-cream/porter float."
"Subtle undertones of vanilla are brought forth using multiple sources of whole vanilla beans, followed by a stupendous nose of dark chocolate - provided by locally sourced cocoa nibs. The flavor is massive chocolate, creamy vanilla, toasty and malty. The finish is epic." [source: bottle]
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