Totally by coincidence, I’m popping open another beer with hazelnut. The other day was Hazel’s Nuts – 93 points and today I am on to a another nutty variation. Remember beer number 999? It was none other than the original Marshal Zhukov – 93 points. This time the World War II general is presented with vanilla and hazelnut. Cigar City hails from Florida and availability is limited to just six states (sorry, not in NJ). But check shelves in New York and Pennsylvania. At $22 per bottle, some may still be hanging out.
Reading the label and I see there is a sentence in Russian. Of course, I’m curious and thankful for technology. According to Google Translate, the quote attributed to Georgy Zhukov goes “There is stuff in Russia that are not what they appear”. I don’t think the general said stuff but he did say “things”. Close enough.
While a lot of other stouts overpower with their adjuncts, the vanilla and hazelnut in this robust stout take very complimentary positions. A crisp roasted flavor that combines some creamy chocolate, coffee and what I’d call a hint of something vegetative – like a moss. In conclusion, I’ll put this variation one tick ahead of the original, 94 points. Okay, we’re two for two with hazelnut adjuncts. I have two more in the wings. Stay tuned.
There is an expression that goes something like this…
“In our youth, we have energy and time but no money. As an adult, we have energy and money but no time. And in our old age, we have money and time but no energy.”
I’m in phase number two of life and if I apply this adage to my passion for craft beer it makes sense. I certainly have the energy to pursue craft beer “whales” and I’ve been blessed with the ability to pay the rising price of craft beer without sacrificing the necessities of life. Time? Well, that’s my struggle. I try to squeeze in an occasional trip to a brewery for a release and I even squeeze in a few minutes to blog about my journey. When I started, I had the intent to entertain and to inform. Hopefully, you’ve learned more than “this guy drinks a lot of beer.” As I close in on beer number 900, I’m eyeing 1,000 as a possible end of my blogging journey but I have such a big cellar to work through. We’ll see – only time (or lack) of will tell.
Tampa Bay is home to Cigar City and the brewery has released many Cuban-influenced (or at least named) beer that pay tribute to the Cuban/Spanish influences of Tampa Bay in places like Ybor City. I don’t know why but thinking about this beer, I wondered if Americans can fly to Cuba through an international airport (say) in the caribbean. In true serendipitous fashion – Google provides the answer:
Typically, American travelers book flights to Cuba through an international airport. From these airports, every traveler going to Cuba is issued a tourist card for the passport. Upon arrival, Cuban customs agents remove one half of the card, and take the other half upon departure — leaving no official record of the visit in a traveler’s passport. Unless you try and bring home some cigars or some Bucanero Fuerte – 72 Points
Back to Caffe Americano. This beer has been on my radar for a little longer than a year now. A friend traveled to the brewery and had one on draft and raved about its decadence. It came to me by way of a fellow New Jersey beer trader.
A friend of mine roasts his own beans for espresso and it has this nutty and vegetative green flavor. I get the same vegetative flavor here alongside some massive fudge. Half way through the bottle I get some coconut. All in all, Caffe Americano is creamy and smooth and really nice coffee bomb 94 points.
Number 1: Lupulin River by Knee Deep Brewing. Funny, this one was one of those beers that created a lot of beer store aisle buzz and frankly, it’s lost on me. I get a strong smokey flavor (hemp) some bread-like malt. Hops are a bit disjointed. I certainly don’t get the bright tropical fruits that others describe. Bottled on July 15th – but purchased just two weeks ago. It’s been stored in my fridge but I suspect age, heat have taken its toll. I have to call them as I taste them and Lupulin River gets 83 points.
Number 2: Hop Knife by Troegs. Along with the late summer arrival of pumpkin and Oktoberfest beer comes the fresh hop harvest ales. I did miss the Hop Knife release last year so, I’m happy to have a friend give me a couple of bottles this year. Very herbal and grassy. Expected a bit more dankness and freshness but this 6.2% ABV beer comes up a bit too demure for me – especially when compared to the other beer that still occupies my beer fridge. 87 points.
Number 3:ReDANKulous by Founders There was a hysteria that used follow Founder’s Backstage series releases – not so much anymore. When I think dank – I think fresh, raw, musty, green. If I get any of these characteristics, they are hidden behind sweet and massive caramel and a fairly strong citrus hop bitterness. I’ll note that this dark reddish-brown ale checks in with a robust alcohol by volume of 9.5%. Nice but could be better 88 points.
Number 4:Cousin Steve and the Lemon Hearts by Clown Shoes I was thinking Grapefruit Sculpin and the crisp and fresh grapefruit flavor when I bought this bottle. I had hoped for some of the same crisp and fresh tartness but this one falls way short. The base IPA is clunky – some nice sweetness but the hops are bitter for the sake for bitterness. There’s no citrus to compliment the underwhelming lemon addition. 82 points. By the way, I was told this was a New Jersey exclusive and the singer on the label is the New Jersey beer rep. Very cool and I’d be happy to have my image on a label. But I’d also hope it was better beer.
Number 5:Crossing Streams IPA is an IPA brewed as a collaborative effort between Miami’s M.I.A Brewing and Tampa Bay’s Coppertail Brewing. Got this as a bonus beer in a trade that centered around Marshall Zhukov for a Hill Farmstead Arthur. Wax necked presentation – as usual, a pain in the ass to get into. Crossing Streams IPA is cloudy and very malty sweet. For a 7.4% ABV IPA Crossing Streams IPA is tad astringent and a bit fizzy on the tip of the tongue. It lacks any positive hop influence and has a weak body. Minor dankness overall a very clunky bitterness. Not worth my time 80 points.
Number 6: Cigar City Cucumber Saison Someone said that this beer tasted like pickles – hmmm. I love pickles. Before I crack it open, let me note that this was a gift from a friend that was visiting family in Tampa Bay and took a side trip to Cigar City’s brewery. I’ll say the base beer is not extraordinary but the quick wave of fresh cucumber is an interesting addition. It does wear itself out after a couple of ounces. Overall, I’ll put Cucumber Saison at 83 points.
Number 7: Deep Rooted by Kane Brewing. This brewery is A Jersey favorite. The color is an amazing rich brownish red. From that color, it looks more like an imperial red ale than American IPA. The flavor also points to imperial red as I get some caramel and some simple syrup sweetness over some herbal hops. Flavors are a bit demure for my liking and there is an astringent crispness that seems out of place. 85 points.
Number 8: Citrus by Funk Brewing This sharp looking can came as a recommendation from a beer clerk in Pennsylvania. Happy to see that they hail from Emmaus, PA (home of Shangey’s). Has grapefruit juice added. I bought because I thought of Grapefruit Sculpin. Not much of a comparison as the fruit in Grapefruit Sculpin tastes like you bit right into a grapefruit while Citrus delivers a pleasant but demure citrus flavor. Nice malt base. I’ll put Citrus at 87. Nice effort. Look forward to future offerings.
Number 9: Ripple by Kane. Going for the pot aroma and flavor and they nailed it. A really easy drinking ale. Mellow and dank with mango and tangerine. 89 points.
Number 10: Hop Drop by Newburgh Brewing: Squealer fill at Cable Beverage. Whopping 10% ABV in this imperial IPA. Big juicy hop bomb loaded with tropical fruit and syrupy sweetness. Woodsy and a bit of boozy heat. Really nice 93 points.
Tasting: June 29, 2015 Style: Brown Ale Beer # 766 ABV:5.5%
In the late 19th century and into the early 20th century, fresh beer was toted from the local pub to one’s home in a small galvanized pail with a lid. It was said that when the beer sloshed around the pail, the escaping CO2 created a rumbling or a growling sound hence the term “growler”. Today’s growlers are glass and measure sixty-four ounces. There are half size offerings called “squealers”. Pictured above is the latest in “take home” containers – the crowler (can/growler). Developed by Ball Corporation, the crowler first appeared at Oskar Blues in Colorado in early 2014. The crowler is created in a system that purges the container with CO2 so no oxygen degrades the beer. The thirty-two ounce can is then sealed.
Check out the video of this crowler of Vanilla Maduro being made:
This particular crowler was a souvenir from a friend that spent the weekend visiting family in Tampa Bay.
Vanilla Maduro is watery, somewhat sweet and full of muted flavor – vanilla, caramel, weak chocolate. I just can’t get past the wimpy flavor – 84 points. Not much of an uptick from the base Maduro (83 points).