GSN Review: Kona Brewing Gold Cliff IPA

We are finally into warmer weather here at the GSN headquarters, and what better way to celebrate than with a beer that reminds you of tropical paradises, gorgeous sunsets, and sandy beaches. Kona Brewing Company has decided to generously let us sample their most recent addition to their line of Hawaii inspired beers, the Gold Cliff IPA. As the beer pours you get a very strong aroma of heavy hop followed by a bit of malty sweetness, finished with a blast of pineapple. It has a nice rich color to it, and a medium body. The flavor itself would be fairly standard fare were it not for the pineapple. The hops are fairly dank, but not overpowering as there is a definite balance of caramel malt to keep the hops from being too intense. The pineapple is clearly what makes this beer worth trying. The citra and mosaic hops give it a slightly fruity character which is only enhanced by the juiciness of the pineapple. That isn’t to say this is a fruit beer by any means. The bitterness is the most forward aspect, and the pineapple simply gives it a pleasant finish that leaves your taste buds wanting more. This beer may be a bit strong for the hot summertime quaff at an ABV of 7.2%, but it would be easy to see how this might be welcome on a hot beach as you sit/sip in the shade. While our minds weren’t blown by the flavor, we here at GSN enjoyed it thoroughly. Kona takes a classic American IPA style and gives a unique twist leaving you with thoughts of warm beaches and the summer ahead.

Review by Kieran Jerome Matthew

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GSN Review: Rogue Brewing Kulture Clash

It’s a good sign that this bottle has a smiling sloth. While I’m not a sloth, this beer definitely makes the imbiber spread a grin. Rogue is known by many beer enthusiasts as a company that puts out interesting brews time and time again, and this beer is no exception. There is certainly no shortage of imperial versions of ales, but the imperial blonde is something rarely seen compared to the imperial IPA or stout. This is unfortunate since Rogue does such a good job with it. The color is a nice warm gold, and although the beer isn’t very carbonated, the flavor is not lost. This is due in part to the unique addition of kombucha tea, courtesy of Townshend’s Brew Dr. Kombucha. The kombucha element is a surprising one as kombucha can be quite the acquired taste. Pairing it with the flavorful blonde ale seems like the right choice. The kombucha gives the ale a pleasant slight fruity aroma reminiscent of mango and citrus which carries full well into the flavor of the beer itself. The closest thing one could compare it to is a funky fruit beer, as the tea infusion brings a new level of flavor, and the fermentation of the kombucha adds a slight acidity. The imperial nature of the beer gives it an ABV of 6.9% which isn’t massive, but when you are drinking a bomber this can pack a bit of a punch. However, the ABV shouldn’t matter as this is a beer that would do well to be shared by friends. We here at GSN found ourselves almost universally enjoying the flavor, and although it isn’t as carbonated as one might expect, it left us all smiling like a happy sloth.

Review by Kieran Jerome Matthew

GSN Review: 1571 Fahrenheit Beer Caramelizer

Life is full of mysteries. One example of this is “What do you buy the beer geek who has everything?”. This particular question can be answered with the “Beer Caramelizer” by 1571F. Although this item clearly falls into the gimmicky territory of strange stocking stuffers and gag gifts, it does offer something unique. It can actually change the taste of your brew without a condensed liquid or flavor packet. The beer caramelizer itself is a sturdy two piece steel rod set that screws into a highly polished wooden handle. The heavy weight behind it is rather nice and you feel like you are holding something of a decent quality. Now the premise behind this fancy metal stick is you place it in a fireplace, campfire, or the like and heat the rod. With this now red-hot poker you can dip it into a beer of any style for a few seconds, and the intense heat will instantly caramelize the sugars leaving you with a unique tasting beer.

We here at GSN tried this with three different beers. A lager, a stout, and an ipa. For the most part the same thing can be said of all three. Each beer became smoother, and definitely had a slight sweetness added to it. However, the beers grew warm and somewhat flat after the procedure. This worked alright with the stout, but for a lager or an ipa, it didn’t seem to improve an already fine beer. It’s definitely interesting to try this new flavor and mouthfeel, but in general terms, it doesn’t do any favors to the brew.

Lastly, while this is indeed a unique product, there are a few things that should be made clearer on the packaging. Obviously, the nature of mixing red-hot steel bars, campfires, and alcohol is perhaps not the safest activity. This coupled with using the heated steel in a beer glass could potentially cause breakage. Cold glass and hot metal do not mix well. Here at GSN we used a ceramic beer stein to test this, and didn’t feel like risking any other glassware. This is clearly a gimmick, and while it’s fun to try once, it seems a little odd, dangerous, and best left for the beer geek, who has everything else.

GSN Rating: C

Review by Kieran Jerome Matthew

For more information go to: The 1571f

 

GSN Presents: The 2017 Advent Gift Guide – Day 5

Nothing beats a cold pint at the end of a long day.  So, for Day 5 of the GSN Advent Gift Guide, we suggest the latest in beer-centric technology, the uPint.

Nobody likes warm beer or a broken glass. This double-wall, vacuum-insulated, stainless-steel pint keeps beverages nice and cold to the last drop, bringing off-premise pours to perfection. Inspired by the uKeg, it has the same sleek appearance and was made for beer on the go. An integrated lid with a wide-mouth opening allows for easy sipping, and durable steel adds to portability.

It’s been called “the holy grail of pints” by Coalition Brewing. While you can put beer in any insulated glass to keep it cold, the uPint was crafted for beer and comes in three different finishes to satisfy aesthetic senses.

GSN has a review of the uKeg here, which is the perfect pairing for the uPint. Why not pick up both this holiday season for the beer lover in your family?

For more information, click here.

 

GSN Review: uKeg Pressurized Growler by Growler Werks

We here at GSN love micro-brewed beer. So much so that we have a dozen glass growlers on hand for staff to use when visiting a local brewery.  However, these have the usual drawbacks:

1) If you accidentally drop it, chances are that is the end of the growler and the beer inside.

2) Every time you open it to pour a pint, the carbonation escapes and usually the last few glasses are nearly flat.

3) Plus, it’s always a bit difficult to pour from a heavy jug into a glass.

With that in mind, GrowlerWerks made it their mission to create a growler that overcomes all of these drawbacks. After a hugely succesful Kickstarter campaign, they now offer the uKeg in several styles: It’s easy to set up and begin use in less than a minute with an automatic regulator cap that holds CO2 inside, instead of externally; variable levels of carbonation from zero (off) up to 15 psi; and a dispensing tap so beer can be easily served without removing the cap. It also has a liquid sight glass, an ergonomic handle, and it’s easy to clean. Plus, it is easily the most attractive growler in existence.

We put the uKeg through its paces ver the last few weeks. First, we took it to Red Hawk Brewing located in Central New York to have it filled with some of their amazing Belgian style ale.  We ended up choosing the Maple Abbey which as the name indicates is made using local maple syrup. As we entered the brewpub, we were greeted by a lot of amazed glances at our growler by the clientele sampling beer flights.  The owner remarked that she had a few customers that regularly brought in uKegs. A good sign.

The beer was luscious and kept at cellar temperature for well over a week with no loss of flavor or carbonation.  It did its job well, with the minor issue that the safety lock on the tap handle got stuck a few times. A quick glance at the manual which came with the uKeg solved this issue immediately. We simply ran the apparatus under a stream of ht water for a few seconds and it cleared up instantly.

Our next test was to see how it worked keeping a classic punch recipe fresh.  The office decided that a growler of Chatham Artillery Punch would be just the thing for the beginning of the holiday season. We scaled the recipe down to fill the uKeg (the original recipe makes about 150 ounces), and set the pressure to 8 psi.  The punch came out of the uKeg in a perfect stream and into our ice filled tumblers. This made for an easy and fun way to get a glass of punch without the huge punchbowl, ladle and possible spillage.  Plus the whole design of the growler is so steampunk, that it felt very much like stepping back into time.

The last test was to force carbonate some homebrewed basil mead created by staff writer Kieran Jerome Matthew. Mead in general not carbonated, but we wanted to see if we could get something like sparkling wine. We filled the uKeg, turned the pressure all the way up to 15 psi, and let it sit in our office refrigerator for three days, gently rolling the growler back and forth once a day.  By day three, we poured ourselves some very fine sparkling mead.  Another win.

In the end, the uKeg far exceeded our expectations and met all of our challenges easily.  This is a killer growler and one that will last a lifetime.

GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Growlerwerks

What’s Brewing: Goodwood Brewing Hemp Gose & Sprucetip IPA

Many craft beer enthusiasts I have spoken with seem to be on one side of the fence or the other in regarding craft beer; to experiment, or to enhance and define a style. There seems to be a large following for both. Should beer stick to its roots (grain, hop or otherwise), or should it be the pioneering beverage, constantly setting out and exploring the vast unknown in the universe of flavor? Most craft beer dominating the market today seems to blend both ideas. Enter Goodwood Brewing Co. of Louisville, KY. This brewery takes classic styles, defines them, and adds enough experimentation to set them apart from the competition. They were kind enough to send GSN two brews for our staff to review, so without further ado, here are our thoughts.

Hemp Gose

The gose style of beer originated in Goslar Germany, and is a salty, refreshing sour ale that has been around since the 16th century. With the additions of salt, and usually coriander, this brew did not comply with the Reinheitsgebot, but being a regionally unique beer, it was allowed exemption from the strict purity law.

The first look at this gose as you pour it gives you a lovely hazy goldenrod color with little to no head or lacing. The aroma is very mild with a hint of the tartness that will follow in flavor. The first sips will give someone who is unaccustomed to sours a pause as there is a lemon-like tartness which is tempered by the salt additions. Like most sours, this is meant to be consumed in sips, but the light body and balanced flavors can certainly allow for a quaff or two. The lemon sour is interesting to note in what helps define a classic gose. It’s not a generic sourness, or a vinegar quality, it certainly stands out as the yellow face of the summertime citrus. It’s almost like drinking a pleasant lemonade balanced with a small addition of salt instead of sugar. Not at all a sweet beer, it’s easy to take your time with this drink as the sourness makes it feel like you are drinking more than you are. With the lower end ABV of 5.12%, you can certainly make a summertime day go sip by sip without calling it quits early. The gose is fantastically balanced with not too much salt or tartness. Plenty of goses on the market seem to have trouble making this unique style work with the balance required for a great beer, but Goodwood sets a bar for what a classic gose should resemble. It’s well carbonated, balanced, just the right amount of tart, and absolutely refreshing. What sets this gose apart from all others is the fact that it is “aged on hemp”. Hemp as a general rule adds a certain nutty character to a brew and works well with IPAs and brown ales. Unfortunately, although this flavor could work wonders with a gose, the flavor here is extremely muted, almost imperceptible. There is a very slight herbal quality which can be attributed to hemp rather than hop however. There is a very slight hint of nuttiness in the aroma, but not enough to notice unless you are looking for it. All in all this represents what a classic gose should be, and would be a great introduction to the style for anyone looking to step back a few hundred years in Germany.

GSN Rating: 4/5 (Balanced, tart, refreshing, not enough hemp)

Spruce Tip IPA

Immediately as you pour this hazy light brown/straw-colored ale you can smell the incredible aroma emanating from your glass. It’s a strong hoppy bouquet that has an obvious undertone of the spruce tips it is aged on. As you pour the beer it has a moderate head with mild lacing. As you first taste the beer, the flavor is fairly intense as the malt backing is light enough to let the bitter nuances of the hops and spruce do their own thing. As one of the GSN staff said “you don’t feel like you’re drinking a meal here.” It has a light to medium body that works well for what this beer is trying to do. It has a sharp, hoppy bitterness that is enhanced greatly with the spruce which leads to a dry finish. Anyone who likes their beers bitter should absolutely give this one a go. It’s dry, herbal, and is reminiscent of a gin and tonic and what the quinine adds to the cocktail. The mouthfeel is relatively thick and creamy and easily coats your palate with the strong and subtle flavors at play. It’s certainly piney, but not as dank as some other brews. This can be summed up as a strong and sharp brew that contrasts greatly with the other readily available IPAs. As we approach hot and lazy days the 5.5% abv makes for a fairly sessionable brew that carries the flavor of a strong Double IPA, but not the weight or booziness that can be commonly found in your typical DIPA. It’s incredibly like a heavily hopped pale ale that carries itself well.

GSN Rating 4.5.5 (Dry, very bitter, excellent aroma, spruce tips work wonders)

Review by Kieran Jerome Matthew

GSN Review: Rogue Honey Kölsch & Marionberry Braggot

Now that craft beer has had time to mature on the beverage market, it’s high time we talked about the brews and the bees. Honey in beer has been around for thousands of years, and while it may not dominate the top list of ingredients anymore, you can’t argue with the results. Honey works well in many beer styles including IPAs, Porters, Belgian Ales, and more for the simple reason that it can add many diversifying characteristics. Much like the hop, honey can have a massive range of flavor components depending on what flowers are used, climate, and much more. The way it is used in the brewing process can also yield extremely distinctive results. This isn’t to say all beers with honey are worth trying. Many beers that use honey on the current market tend to overdo it, and ultimately diminish the other flavor components that are meant to work with the honey. There are of course notable exceptions to any list, and today I am reviewing two of those exceptions, courtesy of Rogue Ales.

Honey Kölsch
I was impressed foremost by the light honey aroma that many honey beers either fall short of or obliterate your nostrils with. Drinking this beer, you are greeted with light honey and a fresh hop bouquet. This is followed by a perfectly carbonated light refreshing ale with a mild honey flavor that doesn’t dissipate until long after you’ve had a sip. This beer is well filtered and had a clear lovely golden color. There is little to no head or lacing, and that’s just fine for a refreshing springtime ale. The hops are fairly mild and although this isn’t a sweet beer, it balances the hops, malt, and Rogue honey excellently. The malt in particular works well as it has a bready quality, but doesn’t add any sort of tangible richness that would make this a heavier beer. The lasting impressions are ultimately well bodied, fresh taste, crisp (but not dry), and a careful amount of honey to balance and not overpower the muted hop flavor. The fairly moderate ABV of 5% helps to keep this sessionable as well. If rogue keeps this up, there will be a happy home for bees and beer drinkers alike.
GSN rating: 4.25/5 (Light, refreshing, very well-balanced.)

Marionberry Braggot
Before trying this beer, I can’t recall ever having a beer brewed with this cultivar of the blackberry plant. The Marionberry, or Marion Blackberry, is a blackberry breed stemming from the Olallie and Chehalem blackberries. This berry originated in Marion, Oregon and as a result many east coast drinkers may not be familiar with this berry. As you pour the beer, you are greeted by a creamy thick head and a strong aroma of the berry. The beer itself is extremely dark and virtually opaque and only with a strong light shining through it can you see the rich deep red color that is present. The first sip is a little intense as the high ABV (11.42%) gives it a strong boozy flavor that captures the attention of your taste buds. After the booziness relaxes a little, the somewhat tart berry flavor presents itself. The flavor of the berry is nice and matches what one would expect from smelling the aroma. The tartness is gently replaced with the honey as you reflect on the flavor. The honey itself isn’t overpowering, but instead adds a complimentary balance to the intensity of the previous flavors. The lasting flavor is one of a dry tannic nature, and while it isn’t bad by any means, it doesn’t quite seem to work with the flow of the honey and berry. I’m not sure if the dry tannic flavor was meant to mitigate the sweetness of the honey, but as the beer itself is rich and not cloying, it doesn’t seem to work. It’s definitely rich however, and for anyone who wants to dry something unique and a bit heavier without going to a stout or porter, this is one worth tasting.  There is a lot going on and the flavors are consistent as you continue to imbibe. The hops aren’t highly noticeable, but if you search hard enough, you can taste them working subtly in the background of the brew, holding it together somewhat. While this isn’t a stellar beer, knowing the ingredients were all produced by Rogue Ales themselves gives this beverage some well deserved credit. The brewers, farmers, and bees worked hard to produce this interesting beer, and it certainly stands out amongst the other honey beers and braggots.
GSN RATING: 3.75/5 (Boozy, tannic, and a tart berry flavor tempered by honey.)

Review by Kieran Jerome Matthew for Good Spirits News