Flying Dog Smoked Belgian-Style Stout (Brewhouse Rarities)

For Christmas, Val got me memory foam slippers to wear in the house. These things are the most comfortable slippers that I’ve ever had. The only other slippers I can remember owning are ones that were Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer slippers (mostly used to annoy the cat) and leopard print Steve Madden slippers (which didn’t get much use because I am not into leopard print). These are just perfect and like walking on little clouds. I have no idea why this beer made me think of my slippers, so let’s get into it.


ABV: 8.5%

Style: American Stout

Trivia: According to the brewery website, “To decide on the lineup for our 2015 Brewhouse Rarities, our brewmaster Matt Brophy and his team had to narrow down 45 beer concepts to just eight. And there was just a little pressure from the rest of us. Why? Because they were all of our ideas. Each summer, our entire brewery congregates atop a historic overlook in the Catoctin Mountain Range and teams of our staff — from production to accounting to sales and marketing — pitch ideas for the next year’s Brewhouse Rarities. And once the beers are picked, each team is responsible for everything involved in that beers release, from sourcing ingredients to planning launch events outside of the brewery.”

Random: This was released right at the end of December 2015.

The beer poured with a one and a half finger tan head. It dissipated instantly and left no lacing on the glass. The body was black in color with no visible carbonation. I picked up a lot of wood smoke in the nose with coriander and a hint of clove. Yeast was there too, but the nose was all about the smoke, as I expected. The taste started with the same intense wood smoke that reminded me of mesquite wood. Dark roasted malts were next with some shaved chocolate. It had a heat to it, but I couldn’t tell if it was from the intensity of the smoke, but it manifested like a chili pepper. There wasn’t as much spice as the nose, but I did get clove. The yeast gave it a bready quality, which worked with the other flavors. It had a medium body with just enough carbonation and the alcohol provided a touch of warming at the back of the throat. It had a lot of smoke on the finish as well. This beer was interesting and I enjoyed the pairing of the Belgian spice and the smoke and the yeast. My only complaint about the beer was the smoke was just too intense at times. If you’re interested in getting this beer, it retails for $2 a single ($.17 per ounce).

Untappd Rating: 4.0/5.0

Bell’s 30th Anniversary Ale

I’ve been drinking more coffee lately. We order coffee in bulk at home and we’ve been having really solid flavors lately (Black Bottom Cup Cake is my favorite). This beer is one that really embraces the coffee notes.


ABV: 11%

Style: American Double/Imperial Stout

Trivia: According to the brewery website, “In 1985, Larry Bell set out on a quest for better beer with his 15-gallon soup pot. Thirty years later, we will release our 30th Anniversary Ale. An American Imperial Stout, Bell’s 30th Anniversary Ale is also a nod to another beer and one of the earliest examples of the style released here in the United States, Bell’s Expedition Stout. ‘This beer is a testament to three-plus decades of hard-work. It honors all that has helped us get to this point – hard work, quality and authenticity,’ said Larry Bell, Bell’s President and Founder. ‘It reminds us of where we’ve been, how we’ve grown over the years, the challenges we’ve faced and at the same time, looks forward to what comes next,’ he added. Flavors of dark chocolate and fruit meld to create a full-bodied, roasty stout. A fair amount of Polaris hops lend a brightness and a nice character that will help carry the beer in its early stages making it incredibly drinkable and interesting. Malt characteristics will continue to develop over time, so that beer drinkers who choose to cellar it can enjoy the beer for years to come.”

Random: I got an espresso maker for Christmas and still haven’t used it.

The brew poured with a one finger, light brown head that dissipated slowly. It left some lacing on the glass. The body was black with no visible carbonation due to the color. The nose was pungent with lots of roasted malts and espresso. It had dark chocolate as well. The taste was much the same as the nose, but showed incredibly balance. Espresso, roasted malts and smoke came through first. Then, dark chocolate appeared. The alcohol was very hidden, and could make this dangerous. The body was thick with light carbonation. The finish was lengthy with smoke and roasted malts. This was an outstanding beer and made for a great sipper. If you can still find it on the shelves, pick two up, one to have now and one to age. At $4.50 a bottle ($.38 per ounce), it’s a good investment.

Untappd Rating: 4.0/5.0

Almanac Hoppy Sour: Mandarina

It seems like everyone is making a beer with Mandarina Bavaria these days. It’s a flavorful hop, so I was curious to see how Almanac treated it.


ABV: 7%

Style: American Wild Ale

Trivia: According to the brewery website, “Mandarina Bavaria hops are Germany’s answer to the bold, vivacious US varieties found in West Coast-style brews. This hop is the daughter of Cascade and Hallertau, combining characteristic New World citrus flavors and aromas with the subtle spice of German noble hops. We blended our wine barrel-aged sour blonde ale with foeder-fermented brett saison to craft a complex base of stone fruit, oak, and earthy funk to compliment the tangerine and lime-like character of Mandarina. Each sip teases a new flavor, from grass to grapefruit to peaches and finishes crisp and dry.”

Random: The room we use as an office is the coldest room in the house, even in the summer. My feet are freezing.

The beer poured with a one finger, white head. It dissipated at a moderate pace, but left no lacing on the glass. A very small crown was left on top of the clear, bright orange body. I couldn’t see any carbonation. The nose started with a lot of citrus, specifically a lot of tangerines and grapefruit flesh. There was also some tartness and oak and some sweetness. The taste was amazing. It started with the same citrus. There was a lot of tangerine and Cara Cara oranges and the tartness was present, but not overwhelming. It also had a vinous quality as well and the oak went nicely with the citrus qualities. There was some bread from the yeast at the end. The body was light with some carbonation as well. The finish was lengthy with oak and tartness. This bottle was $11.99 ($.94 per ounce), which isn’t cheap, but well worth the price. This beer was just outstanding. It had so much citrus flavor and the oak gave it incredible depth. Get this.

Untappd Rating: 5.0/5.0

Triporteur From Hell

I had never heard of Triporteur until I saw one of the beers on tap at a restaurant (From Heaven). After trying that beer, I knew I wanted to try this one. It was on a shelf at Half Time and came home with me.


ABV: 6.66%

Style: Belgian Dark Ale

Trivia: According to the brewery website, “Triporteur From Hell is a dark beer brewed with hellish burned and roasted BOM malt. The beer reminds us of chocolate, caramel, recently brewed coffee and freshly baked bread. The wheat malt in the unfiltered beer can cause a slight cloudiness. The taste of Hell keeps evolving in the bottle.”

Random: I get so much use of out my Flying Dog glass, mostly because I tend to leave it upstairs.

The beer poured with a three finger, ecru colored head. It dissipated slowly and left a lot of lacing on the glass. It also left a large crown on top of the dark brown body. Because of the color, I couldn’t see much carbonation. The nose had a touch of sourness and Belgian yeast. It also had some nuttiness and light coffee. The taste also had some sourness initially, but it wasn’t bad, by any means. It also had light coffee and brown bread. The yeast was there too. Lightly toasted malts and hazelnuts were a minor flavor too. The body was pretty thick and the carbonation was aggressive. For me, it was a bit too much. The coffee lasted through the finish. This was not a cheap beer at $5.50 a single ($.46 per ounce). This beer was okay, but the carbonation was too much for my liking.

Untappd Rating: 3.5/5.0

Czechvar B: Original Lager

My parents went on a river cruise awhile back and came home saying how wonderful this beer was. They’re not into craft beer at all, but I wanted to see what all of the fuss was about.


ABV: 5%

Style: Czech Pilsener

Trivia: According to the brewery website, “Even though there is nothing that can replace the direct sensory experience, let us try to describe the flavour of Czechvar beer. The first impression you get is a pleasurable and delightfully hoppy aroma. The delicate and yet rich malt flavour causes our beer, from even the first sip, to glide smoothly down your throat – maybe even too smoothly. it leaves a fine, pleasantly bitter taste that disappears so slowly… that you are already beginning to look forward to another perfectly flavour-balanced sip.”

Random: I’ve heard that the Czech Republic is beautiful and quite affordable to visit, compared to the rest of Europe.

This beer poured with less than a half a finger of white head that dissipated instantly. It left no lacing on the glass. The body was a clear, straw yellow with a lot of carbonation visible. The nose immediately gave me a skunky note. After a few sniffs, I picked up milled grain, but the skunk was overwhelming. The taste, luckily did not have as much skunk as the nose did. It presented with grain and a honey-like sweetness to it. It also had notes of mineral water. The body was light with a lot of carbonation. It had a quick and sweet finish with grain and honey. A single of this was $1.50 ($.12 per ounce). This beer was overly-simplistic to me. There are many other examples of the style that I would grab before I went back to this one.

Untappd Rating: 3.0/5.0

Upstate Common Sense

Whenever I’m at Half Time in New York, I try to pick up some relatively local beers. This beer is one that I’ve seen there and went to pick up a few times, but never brought home. I can’t say that I’m familiar with the “Kentucky Common Ale” style, but I find it interesting that a brewery in New York is making the style.


ABV: 5.3%

Style: American Amber/Red Ale

Trivia: According to the brewery website, “This beer is a revival of a beer style that was one of the most popular beers in America prior to prohibition: Kentucky Common Ale. It has a dark color with a rich flavorful taste and a decent hint of hops (22 IBU), but it is light and easy drinking…Common Sense pairs well with BBQ.”

Random: The simplicity of the can art for this beer is really attractive to me.

This beer poured with a half a finger of white head. It dissipated instantly and left no lacing on the glass. The body was a clear mahogany with some visible carbonation. The nose had significant caramel sweetness. It also had toasted brown bread. The taste had a metallic note, which I wasn’t a huge fan of, but then the caramel and toffee sweetness came through. It was relatively sweet. There was also a maple syrup quality to it. Brown bread was in the taste as well. The body was thick with high carbonation. It had a quick finish, but unfortunately had the same metallic note that I picked up. A pounder can of this was $2.99, which came to $.19 per ounce. I had no problem drinking this beer, but the metallic flavor was off-putting.

Untappd Rating: 3.5/5.0

SingleCut Does Anybody Remember Laughter?

I’ve spent a lot of today cleaning up around the house. I had a lot of laundry to get through, so I’ve been working and washing clothes. The cats, for some odd reason, love hanging out in the laundry bag with the dirty laundry. They’ve since moved to the bed since the laundry bags are empty. Anyways, here is the beer for tonight.


ABV: 7.2%

Style: American IPA

Trivia: According to the brewery website, “This is an IPA that takes a building in a manner that our 420 fore-fathers were very used to – dank resin galore with a liberal helping of sharp citrus for good measure. If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now.”

Random: My back and neck are still bothering me. I’m hoping that with all of the heating pads I’ve been using, the pain goes away soon.

The brew poured with a thick and pillowy, two finger, pure white head. It dissipated at a moderate pace and left a lot lacing on the glass. The nose was pungent with a lot of dank pine notes and grapefruit pith. There was also white pepper, grass and tangerine. After it warmed, there was also some cilantro. The taste was incredibly hoppy with the same dank pine. Grapefruit pith was there as well, and the tangerine note I picked up in the nose was stronger in the taste. There was also a vegetal note, specifically green onions and cilantro. Lemon came through too and freshly cut grass. I couldn’t pick up much in the way of malt, which wasn’t a bad thing. The body had medium thickness with generous carbonation. The finish was sticky and long with hop bitterness and grapefruit pith. A bomber of this was $7.99, which came to $.36 per ounce. This was a selection for the hop head, and I enjoyed it, although not as much as some other SingleCut beers I’ve had.

Untappd Rating: 3.5/5.0

Clown Shoes Moses And The Misfits

Tonight’s selection is a beer from Clown Shoes that has seen some favorable reviews online. Let’s see how it was.


ABV: 9%

Style: Cream Ale

Trivia: According to the brewery website, “Something’s happening, and it involves clown shoes and beer. Clown Shoes? Very long story, but to condense it a group of us submitted the name to the Beer Advocate contest that resulted in The Wrath of Pecant. Our submission didn’t crack the top 5. This burned me up inside. While driving one day the epiphany came: I could make my own Clown Shoes beer. In no way did I expect to create a brand, figuring it would be one batch of beer for fun and then done. But folks are digging the brews and a group of us are having a great time. Clown Shoes has come to mean a lot to me on a lot of levels. Clowns are questionable but the shoes make me laugh. They remind me about humility and to find humor in life. Our mission now is to produce beer without pretension while being free and a little crazy. We hope you enjoy the beers and this site.”

Random: I finally finished “American Horror Story: Hotel” and it was amazing. I think it was just as good as the first season.

This beer poured with a two finger, white head. It dissipated at a moderate pace and left a lot of lacing on the glass. The body was a clear, dark yellow with some carbonation visible. The nose had notes of vanilla, cocoa powder and bready malt. There was a light orange note that was a bit odd. The taste had some vanilla, artificial coffee creamer and almonds. It also had a rather significant hop bite with grapefruit hops that distracted from the other flavors. The body was thick and the alcohol wasn’t noticeable, despite the high ABV. It had a long finish with cream and almonds. A bomber of this was $9, which came to $.41 per ounce. I enjoyed his beer, but it wasn’t the best beer of the style that I’ve ever had, but the price wasn’t bad. If you like cream ales, I think it’s worth a shot.

Untappd Rating: 3.5/5.0

Pipeworks Santa Vs. Unicorn

This is the first beer from Pipeworks that I’ve managed to get my hands on. Their label art is ridiculously cool. Even if I wasn’t into craft beer, I’d want to buy these bottles. Conceptually, it’s also cool…like what other brewery would name a beer after a fantasy fight between a unicorn and the mascot of Christmas. I think Santa would win.


ABV: 10%

Style: American Barleywine

Trivia: According to the brewery website, “Malts: 2-row, munich, caramel 80, special roast, rye, flaked oats, midnight wheat. Hops: columbus, galaxy, zythos, falconner’s flight, cascade. Adjuncts: dextrose”

Random: I am not a big fan of when brewery websites don’t capitalize things.

This beer poured with a half a finger of off-white head. It dissipated slowly and left some lacing on the glass. The body was a deep sienna color with no visible carbonation because of the color. The nose had some alcohol and big hop notes. Specifically, I got pine resin, grapefruit pith and pine needles. After the beer warmed a bit, there was some sweetness with caramel as well, but I was shocked at how hoppy the nose was. The taste had some hop character as well. It manifested as pine and was moderately bitter. Caramel and toffee came through too. The alcohol was hidden on the palate. It had a lighter than expected mouthfeel for the style with light carbonation. The finish was lengthy with the piney bitterness. A bomber of this was $11.99 ($.55 per ounce). This was a really nice beer and great if you enjoy hops. I would highly recommend this one if you can find it, since it’s not distributed in Jersey (I had to go to New York for this one).

Untappd Rating: 4.5/5.0

Baltika Brew Collection – Russian Imperial Stout

This beer was one that intrigued me. It’s not marketed the same way as regular Baltika selections, and after reading their press release, I can see why. This beer is specifically marketed to Americans, thus the different labeling. I’d be interested to see if any other international breweries are doing this to cash in on the craft beer craze.


ABV: 10%

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

Trivia: According to the brewery website, “A new line of unique craft beer Baltika Brew Collection brewed specifically for export to the USA appeared on shelves of American stores. The craft brewery segment in the USA has been on the rise and continues its growth approximately by 12% annually…In its strive to meet present-day requirements, Baltika introduced to the US market two unique authentic brands of Russian beer from the Baltika Brew Collection: Russian Imperial stout, the stout based on a traditional formulation of the 18th century distinguished by strength and hop bitter, and Russian Honey Brown Ale, classic ale which flavor enjoys unfolding honey notes and scents of the Russian fields. Before the end of the year, it is planned to introduce the third beer brand to the American market, Russian Lingonberry Wit, wheat unfiltered beer with berry notes of the Russian forests.”

Random: I think that whoever writes their press releases needs to do a bit of editing.

This brew poured with a half-finger of khaki-colored head. I was surprised that it dissipated so quickly and it left no lacing. A crown was left on top of the black body. Due to the color, I couldn’t see any carbonation. The nose was pungent with booze, black licorice and dark, roasted malts. There was also a lot of wood smoke. The taste had bitter, dark chocolate and cocoa powder up front. Then, I picked up a lot of anise and black licorice. At the end of the sip, the wood smoke, ash and booze came through. You could taste every bit of the 10% ABV of this beer. The flavors on the beer were really sharp and disjointed when transitioning. The body was quite viscous with little carbonation. The finish stuck around forever and had ash and black licorice. I picked this one up for $2.99 ($.20 per ounce), but I wouldn’t have this again even at half the price.

Untappd Rating: 3.0/5.0