Golden Nugget IPA

Image courtesy of France 44 Liquors, Inc.

Hazy and dark yellow/light orange in color, Golden Nugget IPA from Toppling Goliath, Deborah, IA, is a fragrant and tasty addition to the ever-expanding and probably overpopulated roster of American made IPAs.  This is one of the good ones.  Once the sticky head evens out into a persistent 1/8″ thick splotchy film you can get a good does of the bouquet, which is super malty with some grassy notes, and no alcohol whiffs despite being 6.8% ABV.  This firm-bodied, substantial IPA is assertive but not overbearing.  Malty for sure, but the happiness quickly eclipses any sweetness with pine essence and dryness.  Kind of like a 105 degree day at the base of Devil’s Tower, but refreshing.  The mildly bitter finish is a long-lasting souvenir of a trip down IPA lane.  Not as memorable as Pseudo Sue, as far as Toppling Goliath beers are concerned, but worth a try for the IPA lover.

90/100 IPA


Night Time

night timeWell, when you start with an uninspired name for your beer and a super ugly label, you set the bar kind of low.  Fortunately Lagunitas has a good track record as far as the actual beer goes, but I like to start a journey on a high note.  The giant, lacey head that Night Time sports is long-lasting and frothy, so things are looking up.  The bouquet is definitely hop-forward with both piney and floral notes.  The rich malt makes its presence known by fortifying Night Time with a full, smooth body and roasty demeanor.  There’s a bit of a twang to it in the finish (fortified with Cascades hops and 7.9% ABV) and a hint of toffee or butterscotch in the exhale.  A good way to end the journey.  Night Time is a good American Black Ale.

85/100 black ale

Pliny the Elder

Pliny the Elder courtesy of Paul and Vicki Green.

Pliny the Elder courtesy of Paul and Vicki Green.

When the only complaints you have about a beer are that it’s difficult to find and the label is impossible to save you just might have a pretty special beer.  The hype about Pliny the Elder amongst beer afficianados had me skeptical until I had the chance to try it for myself.  Yeah, it’s good.  First, if you are not a fan of IPAs, you wont appreciate Pliny the Elder and its nuance-infused taste profile.  Second, it’s a joy to behold when served in an appropriate vessel (see photo).  I told you so.

Pliny the Elder, by Russian River Brewing Company, Santa Rosa, CA, is medium gold with a luxuriant and long-lasting head and enough carbonation to delight the eye.  Upon the initial pour you’ll get a mild dose of piney hops, followed by some floral notes and a deep-seated malt sweetness.  This is not a hop bomb like some IPAs (Pliny is in fact a Double IPA), but the hops are indeed assertive.  There is no oily, resiny quality in Pliny, which can overwhelm the taste buds when drinking some IPAs and Double IPAs.  The lightness of body really works well, being an appropriate vehicle for promoting the grapefruit rind/piney/floral textures that begin to come out as the beer warms.  Yes, it continues to get better from start to finish.  The dry and bitter finish tends to last a while, but the crystal malt (I’m guessing) adds a sweetness in the exhale that balances everything pretty well.

This beer is fresh, and you can tell.  The label announces the benefits of drinking Pliny young and implores the drinker not to cellar it.  In fact, my Pliny was a mere 2 weeks old when I consumed it, having been bottled on 10/28/14 (bottling date is on the label), and the fresh, crisp nature of Pliny were apparent.  Pliny the Elder is refreshing, and the lower the level in your glass, the more you want to refill, but you probably can’t, because it’s so dang rare.

If Pliny the Elder was a girl, I’d write a song about it.  It’s that hot.

96/100 DIPA


Lagunitas Sucks

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

No, seriously, that’s what it’s called.  Lagunitas Sucks (Brown Sugga Substitute Ale), from Lagunitas Brewing Company, Petaluma, CA.  7.85% ABV, 63.21 IBUs.  Lagunitas Sucks is light amber with a slight haze, plentiful carbonation and a generous white head to be proud of.  The piney hops aromatics greet the nose with a touch of grapefruit zest.  Sucks has a smooth mouthfeel, sweet with a drying sensation at the end that is part hops, part alcohol, and there’s even a bit more pine in the exhale to bring your experience full-circle.  Not overly complex, which is nice, but interesting and tasty enough to warrant another visit!

88/100 American Strong Ale

Brickstone APA

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Brickstone APA (Brickstone Brewery, Bourbonnais, IL) is a surprise.  A very pleasant surprise.  I’d heard rumblings of a good brewery far south of Chicago, but didn’t realize what a player they actually are until my cousin brought a bottle of Brickstone APA over.  He said it was his favorite beer, and I can see why.  This 6.25% ABV American Pale Ale won gold at the 2012 GABF and bronze at the 2012 WBC in the APA category.  It pours a dirty medium gold, a bit cloudy, sporting a good beige head.  Head retention and lacing is commendable.  Breathe in the bouquet and you are treated to a floral, piney hop sensation that ends with a ful sweetness.  Brickstone APA is dryish, with a nice alcohol tang and a finish that features a rich malty sweetness.  Spend some time considering the bitterness that remains.  I think you’ll agree with the experts, and this humble hobbyist, that Brickstone APA is a winner!

91/100 APA

Centennial IPA

Image courtesy of Founder’s Brewing Company

Centennial IPA (Founder’s Brewing Company, Grand Rapids, MI) is one of those beers you read about that you just have to try.  I read about it in All About Beer magazine and the review was too tempting to ignore.  I was not disappointed.  Centennial IPA‘s honey gold and hazy appearance is immediately appealing, and the way it shows off  it huge, fluffy, lacey, white head dares you not to get a beer mustache.  Lots of fine suspended particulate matter slowly drifts by, powered by a light carbonation.  It’s also generously dry-hopped for your pleasure.  Centennial IPA has a citrusy, piney hop bouquet and a firm malt foundation.  The bouquet is great, full and pleasantly fragrant.  You can feel the thick sweetness on the tongue before actually tasting it, but hoppy bitterness quickly overtakes that sensation, and then the hops give way to more sweetness.  A dry finish and lingering bitterness wraps up the experience.  Centennial IPA is a complex, flavorful and well-crafted brew.  More evidence that Founder’s is one of the best brewers in one of the best brewing states in the nation.

90/100 IPA

Ranger India Pale Ale

Image courtesy of New Belgium Brewing

You may notice a theme here lately.  IPAs.  My favorite style.  The hoppier the better.  Ranger India Pale Ale from New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins, CO is the next in the series of IPAs in my beer fridge.  Simcoe (for aroma and bittering), Cascade (for that citrus/grapefruit essence) and Chinook (spicy, piney notes) hops are used in this medium gold, crystal clear and lightly carbonated IPA.  The bouquet off the head of Ranger India Pale Ale is just a bit skunky, maybe earthy is a better adjective, but it is mainly piney with some toast or biscuit, and a touch of metal guitar string.  I know, it doesn’t sound appetizing, but it works.  The head is generous, white and very lacey.  More hoppy goodness greets the tongue, and the sparkly, lively nature reveals the carbonation.  Some malt helps balance the hops on the back end, but the dry finish reminds you that Ranger India Pale Ale is about the hops.

85/100 American IPA