Brasserie Lefebvre’s Blanche De Bruxelles

By: Benjamin Welton

All the great detectives are drunks. No, I am not talking about real life police officials. I am here arguing that the best fictional sleuths—those men who exist only as black letters stuck inside of paper pages that are held together by glue and binding—are all wet. American icons like Philip Marlowe and The Continental Op mirror the hardcore drinking habits of their creators (Raymond Chandler for the former, Dashiell Hammett for the latter), whilst their international counterparts are as likely to ponder a case in a pub as they are in private.

During an evening out at an upscale French restaurant, I drank a beer and immediately felt like one such literary lush— Inspector Jules Maigret. With a tobacco pipe in one hand and a beer in the other, the laconic commissaire never fails to exude all things Gallic. Maigret’s creator, Georges Simenon, was Belgian, not French. A Walloon from Liège, Simenon was a morally complicated man who often found himself longing to be more like his upstanding creation. Despite their profound differences, both creator and creation shared a passion for beer, which is easy to understand given their Belgian heritage (one in actuality and the other in spirit). Brasserie Lefebvre’s Blanche De Bruxelles White Beer is emblematic of that rich heritage, and this bright, crisp beer is the perfect accompaniment to a night spent amongst the canals, whether they be in Paris or Brussels.

french beerFirst Impression: I was served the Blanche De Bruxelles White Beer from an aluminum can, which, to be frank, did not impress me. Other than that, the can’s aesthetic, which primarily revolves around the Manneken Pis or le Petit Julien, the landmark bronze fountain in Brussels which depicts a young lad urinating. The good folks at Brasserie Lefebvre make sure that you can’t mistake their Belgian White Beer for anything other than what it is—a uniquely European product.

Pour: This beer pours fast and with a bright, light body that caps off with a surprisingly strong white head. As with other wheat beers, the Blanche De Bruxelles does not contain a lot of movement once it has been successfully poured, and yet to call this beer stagnant would be a mistake. The Blanche De Bruxelles should sit in your glass with calm, reassuring reserve.

Taste: The typically Belgian tastes of coriander and orange peel are immediate, and so too is a rich and creamy aftertaste. Rather than being bitter like its Germanic counterparts from Germany or the United Kingdom, the Blanche De Bruxelles is a cloudy beer that tastes refreshing, crisp, and clean. If enjoyed in a long pokal, this beer will slide down your throat, reaching the back of your spinal column even before you are ready for your second sip. The one drawback here is that this beer doesn’t sit well if left unattended. For instance, if you are engaged in a dinner conversation, then your best bet is to drink with some giddy-up.  Also, this beer is somewhat seasonal, with its best time being late summer/early autumn.

Grade: B+

ABV: 4.5%

IBU: Unknown, but somewhere between 10 and 20

14th Star Brewing Company

By: Beer Baron PA

Sometimes life is more than the journey. Sometimes, it’s about the brewery at the end of the road. So there we were setting out from Burlington Vermont to St. Albans City which gave us 45 minutes of lush landscape patterned with farm land and those beautiful nearby green mountains. Awesome, yes, but there was still that brewery at the end of the road. No flowers were too beautiful to stop and smell. We wanted beer. So we traveled watching green license plates slide along I-89. It was almost as if everyone’s destination was 14th Star Brewing Co. Maybe that’s because we wanted to share our adventure with all the fellow drivers and passengers.

14th star brewing co

Owing to our luck, 14th was open when we got there. I say luck because as it turns out, they are open for only 3 days a week for a total of about 11 hours. Perhaps it’s a bit strange, but ask the owner Steve Gagner who will tell you they’ve reached their fourth year of sales projections in just one year. That’s substantial growth in a town of 8,000. They operate from a small space where the beer pours as fresh as water from a natural spring.

The small brewery has been open now for a little over a year. Steve Gagner runs the show and his extensive background of service in the Army is evident in his muscular bulk. In fact, much of the inspiration for the fruit of his labor is in honor and appreciation for those that serve and have served. For 14th Star, it’s simple. As Steve says, “We pledge that every day we’re in business is a day to remember, honor, and show our appreciation for [soldiers] who ask so little, yet give so much.” Even Memorial Day is more than a day to Steve; in fact, it is the essence of the brewery. For example, some of the proceeds for their hoppy ‘Valor’ ale go to supporting the ‘Purple hearts Reunited Foundation’ which is a non-profit that returns lost or stolen purple hearts to men and women who earned them, or to their families.

You can see Steve’s background strongly influence his passion for beer. Even the name 14th Star goes back to when Vermont first joined the Union. In 1791, Ethan Allen (also a beer enthusiast) made the effort to add the 14th star to the American flag. We are glad to have you on this side of the border Vermont!

14th made their debut at Vermont’s Brewers festival, July 2012. They obtained their brewing license only a month before the festival and doubted they could turn out enough beer for the event. They did.

Now 14th Star brews approximately 900 gallons of beer a month with just 3 brew tanks. See for yourself and ask for a tour. They will be more than happy to show you. Expect to taste all their beers on draft. You’ll never know what’s on tap and what sold out. It could be their hoppy nutty Valor, their citrusy 1493, their malty Harvest Brown Ale with notes of caramel, the nectar-like Honey IPA with locally sourced honey, or their Porter brewed with local maple sap donated from friends and family. It could even be their Winter Warmer or American Pale Ale. Just ask to drink good beer. You’ll be in good hands.

Two Brothers Domaine DuPage

By: Thomas Muhs

I’m hoping that this beer is special. Since this is my first featured article that I’m writing for this site, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t just choose the first beer I saw on the shelf. So I sought the recommendation of my good friend Matt at Everett’s Wine, Spirits, and Beers in South Beloit, Ill (shout out) and told him what I was hoping to accomplish.  He told me that the problem he’s found with most beer review sites is that people are always looking to find the most obscure, one-off, single batch brew they can find and then sort of humblebrag about how good it is. He said I should look for something local, easily available at least regionally, and most importantly, something that’s easy to drink for most people.  And thus my decision to buy Domaine DuPage was made. Two Brothers Brewing Company is based out of Warrenville, Illinois just west of Chicago off the I-88.  They’ve been brewing since 1997 and have 20 beers total in production which includes all the year-rounds, seasonals, and what they call their Artisan and Project Opus beers.  Domaine DuPage is one of their year-round selections and is labeled as a French Style Country Ale.

domaine_dupage_beerFirst Impression: The label seems to live up to the namesake of being called a French Style Country Ale. It uses different hues of warm colors and has a small picture of what appears to be a French Chateau in the left center part of the label. It gives off the appearance of being friendly and inviting.

Pour:  It has a color similar to what you would find with an amber ale, very bright and lively and the head is the color of pale khaki but disappears pretty quickly once it’s poured into the glass.

Taste:  You can smell the malts and the earthiness that accompanies a beer with a malt based profile.  It smells a little bit sweet with just a tinge of citrus. On first sip you can taste that little bit of citrus and also yeast.The yeast has a pretty strong presence in the overall flavor. To me it tastes like a combination of an amber ale and a summer wheat seasonal. All in all, it’s a smooth, easy-drinking beer that has a nicely balanced flavor profile to suit any occasion, whether that be with a meal or just a night in with your friends.

Grade: B

ABV: 5.9%

IBU: 24

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Little Sumpin Sumpin Ale

By: Yelena Keselman

It may be that I am still reminiscing Las Fiestas (An annual celebration of Old Spanish Days by the Santa Barbara Community, also known as central coasts biggest party of the year), but I absolutely had to have myself a Mexican food night. I embarked on my first attempt at homemade ceviche with some locally caught shrimp and scallops. I felt appropriate to pair it with one of my favorites from Lagunita’s Brewing Company. OK so this American Style Wheat isn’t exactly made in Mehico but for those of you who haven’t yet tried it, please do yourself a favor and get the Lagunita’s Little Sumpin Sumpin on your next beer run. I guarantee you will not be disappointed. Currently calling Petaluma home, Lagunita’s Brewing Company has been shelling out delicious beer in California since 1993.

little sumpin sumpin ale

First Impression:  I love the label, which emits a fun and playful nature. The pin up girl makes for an alluring accent. I am also a huge sucker for dogs, and their trademark terrier dons every bottle. The story behind the image is that it is actually inspired by “Petey” the dog from “The Little Rascals”. Classic!

Pour: This beer pours a copper penny color and instantaneously emits the strong smell of wheat. The body is light and is topped by a heavy heaping of foam with a Marshmallow consistency. The head is slow to dissolve and encompasses my mug with a sticky web like pattern.

Taste: Strong hop initially with a crisp finish. This beer tastes piney with a hint of sweet, orange flavor.  It is a versatile beer and can be a savory treat no matter what your pre-dispositions may be. It is light enough for those that like the more delicate taste yet contains an initial punch to the palate that will satisfy IPA drinkers as well. Definitely one my top ten!

Grade: A

ABV: 7.5%

IBU:64

 

Twisted Pine Brewing Company Ghost Face Killah

By: Katie Schroepfer

Some people want to eat the spiciest foods available, striving to get that feeling that their mouth is on fire with whatever delicious food they can find. Twisted Pine, a Boulder brewery, has created a beer with the world’s spiciest pepper: the ghost pepper. I sampled this beer at Denver’s Summer Brew Fest a few weeks ago, and as someone that would rather smother spicy food with sour cream or something else to make it so my mouth isn’t on fire, it was not a fun beer to have. Especially at a beer festival where I had to wait in line for the next beer…all the while wishing I had a giant bowl of ice cream to calm the fire in my mouth. Okay, I’m weak when it comes to anything spicy, and I’m sure I’ll get plenty of people telling me that I am a wuss, but it’s definitely not a beer for everybody.

ghost face killahFirst Impression: If you get a bottle of this beer, the label matches how it tastes. It kind of is like everything around you is on fire, and it’s a little scary. It’s a great way to reflect the taste of the beer though. Twisted Pine is a favorite brewery of mine, so I’m always willing to try something unique.

Pour: Since I was at a beer festival I wasn’t able to see the pour, but the beer itself has a golden hue to it, looking quite like a typical wheat beer does.

Taste: Of course after I grabbed my beer the guy next to me told me to chug it, in which I shook my head knowing that chugging a spicy beer would be a mistake. Yet I wish I did because I’m pretty sure it would have been better than sipping on it. It’s fine for a second, with a wheat taste that isn’t too powerful but then all of a sudden there is an intense spicy feeling on your tongue that goes right down your throat and into your stomach. If you need something to warm you up, drink this beer. You would think that eventually you would get used to the taste, like how you do with spicy food but the flavor lingers, and even four beers later I still couldn’t get rid of the ghost pepper beer. I can’t imagine having a pint.

Grade: C for taste… A for uniqueness and flavor.

ABV: 5%

IBU: 10

Green Flash Double Stout

By: Yelena Keselman

For me, the most unmistakably magical part of the day is dusk. A time when the world morphs into its alter ego, as the early risers wind down and the night crawlers step into their element. The warm and reliable aura of the sun starts to fade, turning the sky into a kaleidoscope of red and orange. As the day comes to a close and the sun reaches its inevitable horizon it sends one last message to the world through the form of an eerie green light. This “green flash” generally lasts no more than a few seconds but its distinct color leaves a memorable feeling of wonder for curious onlookers. I can’t think of anything better than to toast such a day’s passing with the savory satisfaction of a gourmet beer.

Green-flash_sunset

In celebration of this glorious phenomenon, Green Flash Brewing Company has been pouring exceptionally powerful ales in the San Diego Area since 2004. Their collection includes varieties such as “ The Palate Wrecker Hamilton Ale” and “ Le Freak” which is a Belgian Trippel and an American Imperial IPA mutation. Those looking for some unconventional flavor should really check them out as they have a lot of so called “ Hybrid” brews, fusing different flavors and styles. They take magnitude to a whole new level with their beers averaging around 9% ABV. For this particularly potent tasting experience I decided to go with something I wouldn’t normally choose, their Double Stout Black Ale.

Green Flash Double Stout label SFirst Impression: The label represents the bottle’s namesake, the sun hovering over a tropical beach sprawling with palm trees. A little glimpse into Southern Californian paradise, aka our backyard. There’s a custom green flash logo engraved into the bottle that adds a nice personal flare.

Pour: The beer pours thick, and black. It’s topped by a thin and condensed tan colored head. I love the lack of carbonation with stouts and although they are heavy, the reduced gas makes them easy to sample.

Taste: This beer itself is complex in taste; it lingers on the pallet long after you are through. With its bitter chocolate flavor and hint of roasted mocha, its nowhere near as sweet as i expected. It’s still questionable though whether one can really have more than one or two without feeling overwhelmed by the combination of rich flavor and high alcohol. I would describe it as a good “Bedtime Beer”, but wouldn’t incorporate it into any serous daytime commitments. Like I said I am not an avid stout drinker and I was a bit put off by the straightforward presence of alcohol in this brew. I like the generally light nature of drinking beer, so I’d rather ease into an inebriated state with something less potent. I do credit Green Flash for their ability to combine different flavors, but would probably choose another one of their ales the next time around.

 Grade: B

ABV: 8.8%

IBU: 45?

 

Iron Fist Brewing Co. Renegade Blonde Ale

By: Jillian Keller

Iron_Fist_Renegade_BlondeFirst Impression: Loading this pint bottle onto the counter at the grocery store made me feel like a harley-ridin’, fight-startin’ bad ass. This label is hard core.  Reminiscent of a war propaganda poster, the massive black and white fist sits in front of industrial buildings which appear to emit wheat through the smoke stacks.

Pour: The head was thick, aromatic, and it dissipated slowly. The color was a golden yellow, nearly orange, and was cloudy from the barley.

Taste: Light.  Anyone who traditionally sticks to pilsners, hefeweizens and other lagers would enjoy this beer.  Like a nuanced version of PBR, the Renegrade Blonde has a citrus and clove flavor that reminds you it’s an ale, however the taste is mild, wheaty, and short.  The color is deceptively dark while the taste is light and fruity. The beer is well balanced but lacks the punch that I first expected from Iron Fist Brewing Co.  I would choose this beer over other mild lagers like Rolling Rock but have had more refreshing beers in this category.  Biased towards porters and stouts, I would rank this beer low on my list of favorites. Others who appreciate lighter beers would like the balance and freshness that this ale offers. Although, their motto, “Rule your taste with an iron fist,” made me wish I had bought something bolder.

Grade: B (as in its beer, but nothing too special)

ABV: 5.2%

IBU: ?

Odell’s Celastrina

By: Katie Schroepfer

I was really excited for this beer. I’m one who likes to celebrate good causes, and when beer is involved, I want to be involved as well. Odell released a beer under their Cellar Series called Celastrina. Celastrina is a butterfly that lives along the Front Range in Colorado. It is a rare species that can be found around wild hop plants. The Celastrina Saison was created to help this rare butterfly, with one dollar of each bottle going to the Colorado Natural Heritage Program.

celastrina beer

First Impression: The bottle is fantastic. Celastrina can also be known as Hops Blue, and the bottle shows a beautiful butterfly. It comes in a bomber, as it is limited edition, and is easy to spot next to all of the other bombers in the store.

Pour: The head lasts quite awhile and is thick, providing a great aroma with it. The beer is an amber/gold color that is a bit cloudy.

Taste: The first taste that I caught was banana, which makes sense since there are banana and clove-like flavors that Odell hoped to have included. As a saison fan, this is a beer that I could drink all day long. There is also a citrus flavor in it, although it is more in the smell than the actual taste of the beer.

Grade: A

ABV: 7.5%

IBU: ?

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Shiner Family Reunion – Shiner Blonde

By: Charles Teeman

shiner blondeFirst Impression: I am a big fan of the label on the Blonde; it has the look and feel of a nice European import. On the label it states: “In Shiner you’ll find Blonde on tap at gas stations, antique stores, and of course the Spoetzel Brewery“. So much for classy European import…

Pour: The Blonde has a beautiful blonde color (surprise!) with very little head that didn’t last too long. Additionally, the Blonde had a pleasant aroma – nothing fancy, just a nice, “classic” beer smell.

Taste: The Blonde has a subtle sweetness and a crisp flavor. A gentle hoppy flavor is left at the back of the mouth. The simplicity of the Blonde is something that can be easily messed up by a brewery trying to be too cute, but Spoetzel does a fantastic job keeping the Shiner Blonde short and sweet.

With some research, I seem to have gotten “lucky”. Apparently, Spoetzel has changed the name from Shiner Blonde to Shiner Premium. I probably got the old label because it came in the family pack (or family reunion).

Like the two other Shiners that I have reviewed, the Blonde just doesn’t have the crafty feel to it. While I did enjoy the overall experience that the Blonde has to offer, it doesn’t seem to differ from many un-craft beer brews.

Grade: B-

ABV: 4.4%

IBU: 13

Shiner Family Reunion – Shiner Bock

By: Charles Teeman

shiner bockFirst Impression: How could you not notice the ram on the cap? One observation I forgot to note in my review of the Shiner Hefeweizen was the fact that the cap is a twist off. A twist off cap is a serious minus when looking at the “craftiness” of a brewery. Anyhow, the golden colored label is attractive and the ram makes another appearance.

Pour: The Bock has very little to no head at all. I really liked the medium brown color of the beer. There was little to no aroma that I could pick up (probably due to the lack of hops or additives).

Taste: Nothing really distinct here. Definitely a cool, crisp, and smooth beer, but not much else to talk about. Additionally, the low alcohol content made it feel like I was drinking Odoul’s or something.

Overall, the Shiner Bock seems like a glorified Yeungling or Newcastle. The Bock doesn’t pick up too many points in the “craftiness” category either. Oh, and someone please explain the ram thing.

Grade: C

ABV: 4.4%

IBU: 13