Tropical Cream Pop Tasting: September 16, 2017 Style: IPA with mango, pineapple, milk sugar and vanilla Beer #: 1,094 ABV: 6.3%
Tropical. Aaah. Makes me think of a mid-winter retreat to my favorite Caribbean destination, Grand Cayman. Pardon me while I have a sensory memory of deplaning via the rolling staircase. The hot and humid air is intensified and stirred up by the whirring jet engines. An instant lather of sweat wells up as I haul my luggage to the car rental office across the street. Last year, it was so hot, the wheels on my luggage melted (yes, really). My thickened New Jersey blood needs a week of tropical rum punch and lawnmower beer to help me acclimate.
Okay, daydream over. Let’s pour a beer. This can’s label indicates that this IPA is made with mango, pineapple, milk sugar, and vanilla. Unfortunately, I don’t get any of these flavors. Way off the mark here. Has a mild throat burn and a clunky bitterness. A bit too too much in the way of lime or citrus rind. No juiciness whatsoever. Tropical Cream pop may have a couple moments when it’s tolerable but the false palate readings don’t help. 83 points, yikes.
Grunion by Ballast Point Style: Pale Ale Beer #: 837 ABV: 5.5%
What a pleasant surprise. Grunion was entirely drinkable with bright citrus and melon notes and some really nice sweetness that brings it all together. I think that Grunion would be a good beer to share with craft beer newbies as it is smooth and doesn’t have a biting bitterness. I also think it’ll play well with the biggest craft beer snobs – I’m proof. Have to remember this one for next summer as it Grunion gets an easy 92 points.
Hop Pun by Carton Style: Pale Ale Beer #: 838 ABV:5.2%
Admittedly, I’ve popped open a few of these cans before sitting down to write this review. I should have known something was up when a friend gave me twelve cans when I asked him for four. Clunky muddled bitterness. Not a fan 84 points.
Holy Crap by Mispillion Style: Imperial Red Ale Beer #: 839 ABV:9.0%
This Delaware-based brewery is new to the Garden State and this big ABV imperial red ale was a great introduction. Has the signature caramel, toffee and dank hop flavors one would expect in a red ale. Alcohol does intrude a little bit but overall I like it – 88 points.
Junior IPA by Radiant Pig Style: Pale Ale Beer #: 840 ABV: 5.0%
Interesting beer that I got as a bonus beer in a recent trade. Not sure of the hop used but it reminds of Mosaic. Black tea, herbal, pepper, caramel with lemon undertone. As it warms it strikes me as somewhat dank and a lot of tropical complexity in the background. Junior IPA has a bit too much carbonation for my liking but is a crisp drink. Solid beer 87 points.
Overpass by Coney Island Style: IPA Beer #: 841 ABV: 6.5%
Not much to say about this IPA – muddled flavors, nothing bright, dank, crisp or distinctive. Maybe some caramel sweetness. very mundane – 84 points.
Pumpkin Down by Ballast Point Style: Pumpkin Scottish Ale Beer #: 842 ABV: 5.8%
I’m not a fan of pumpkin beer and I’m not a fan of Pumpkin Down. Typical pumpkin spices – cinnamon, glove and ginger. Was a gift so, I don’t feel bad dumping this one down the drain. 75 points.
Sweet Baby Jesus by DuClaw Style: Porter Beer #: 843 ABV: 6.5%
For obvious reasons, this beer was the buzz last Christmas with the non-beer geek community. My wife got this bottle as part of her grab bag gift. I’ve had other peanut butter beers, most notably, Belching Beaver Peanut Butter Stout – 88 Points. Terribly thin but definitely nutty. More hazelnut than peanut. Too much carbonation. Meh… 82 points.
Floridian by Funky Buddha Style: Hefeweizen Beer #: 844 ABV: 5.6%
Came as a bonus beer in a trade that centered around me receiving a Last Snow from Funky Buddha. Delivers the typical banana, clove and some lemon zest. Not much to rave about. Very ordinary to sub-par. 83 points.
Wake Up Dead Nitro by Left Hand Style: Milk Stout Beer #: 845 ABV: 10.2%
The nitro makes it smooth and creamy. They don’t use a widget in the bottle (ala Guinness nitro cans). I assume it’s infused with nitrogen as it’s being bottled. Nice roasted flavors and aroma. Compliments milk chocolate and dark chocolate with coffee undertone. Really very nice – 91 points.
Cubano-Style Espresso by Cigar City Style: Brown Ale Beer #: 846 ABV: 5.5%
Mellow coffee and chocolate in a thin body. A tad fizzy. Entirely drinkable, not entirely interesting – 86 points.
Baxter’s offerings are new to New Jersey’s shelves. This was a gift from a friend – Cheers J. Really exceeded my expectations. Nice caramel and syrupy sweetness offset by some earthy hops of pepper, black tea. I don’t get the citrus they describe but all in all, I enjoyed Stowaway – 88 points.
On Saturday, we planned to swap our Friday finds and on the way I stopped at a new brewery in Fairfield, NJ called Magnify Brewing. I think they hold some promise but considering the current state of my beer fridge, nothing in their everyday lineup was worthy of a growler or squealer fill.
I did have a sample flight of their offerings. It didn’t take long to figure out that Vine Shine, Low Visibility, Black Wheat and their Search Saison were all mediocre at best. They might cut it with the craft beer newbies but to me there are way better options on our local shelves. I’d say the Black Wheat probably topped out the group at 85 points with some nice roasted characteristics but not much depth. The Vine Shine IPA was oddly strong with yeast and not much hop, the Low Visibility was watery and nondescript. The Search Saison had some decent white wine grape flavor but here again no complexity.
Considering the state of the tri-state’s beer world – there’s no place for mediocre. Once they establish a base set of beer, let’s see where they go. I will certainly check back as it is not fair to judge after a being open for just a couple of months.
Explorable and other Bolero Snort beers are brewed about a mile from my house and I want nothing more than to love this beer. Whether it turns into a trade chip or just quality local beer – either way, I win. However, the real reason I bought Explorable was that it came as a recommendation of a friend with similar tastes. He liked it and wanted me to share my thoughts.
Unfortunately, not a winner in my book or on my palate. I use the term clunky often and if you don’t get my reference I’ll call it clunky because the taste is muddled. Usually you can attribute a bitterness to something like citrus or citrus rind. Explorable is just bitter for the sake of being bitter. Another attribute of clunky is a lack of any discernible malt backbone. Explorable has no trace of tropical fruit or caramel sweetness and it lacks any mouthfeel.
The great thing about beer is that the experience is totally subjective – the enjoyment can be swayed by your surroundings and mood. Maybe my friend had a better day than I did.
Sorry – maybe next time for local winner – 79 points.