Victory Hop Devil IPA

Victory Hop Devil IPA
Victory’s Hop Devil IPA

The devil on the label doesn’t look all that menacing, but then again this is a Pennsylvania beer and there’s no reason to go scaring the Amish neighbors needlessly. Not a very pale ale, in fact orangey and well on the way to amber. Light head, good bubblys streaming upwards, and a decent piney noseful of aroma. But the proof is in the taste, and this 6.7% alk IPA is crammed with hops and then finished with hops and let the devil take the hindmost.

No IBU number on the bottle, but wow is this little green demon hoppy. The color suggests that the beer body should be solid, but i really can’t tell much about it, under the shadow of an Erebus of Hops. A fairly strong beer, but should be refreshing enough for a weekend on the shores of a burning lake, even if that weekend lasts a thousand years.

Hats off to Victory Brewing, they’ve entered a fast horse in the Hoppier Than Thou Steeplechase. A heavy beer, which i like for the weight even though i can’t really get much of a taste of the malt side of the equation. So not a Summer drink, but at least they didn’t whimp out. If you’re going to call it Hop Devil, then you better make damned sure you get that side of the equation right.

Lacks the balance that makes my favorite IPA’s excel, but they did what the label says they tried to do. Wow, that’s some hops there, Mr. Scratch. Without that balance the rating will suffer, but if you’re a fan of that Steeplechase, then try this one out. My call is a rating of 7.3 because i like the mouthweight and i do, in fact, love all that hoppiness.

Genesee Oktoberfest

Genesee Oktoberfest
Genesee’s Oktoberfest

Genny has always done the Bock once a year, and it’s the best thing they do. Now suddenly, in 2016 they apparently decided to leverage that success with another annual varietal, an Oktoberfest beer, which started showing up in stores in late July. A festy design with a white-blue checked pattern of lozenges, with a half-gone German guy hoisting a stein over the logo.

And this beer has the G-Bock’s same subtitle: “Special Edition” at the bottom, but the similarity ends there. Color is paler than Bock but darker than the other Gennys. Does taste a little heartier than a regular Genesee, but there’s no relation here to any German beer. Instead, this is beer candy.

Silly sweet it is, nearly to the point of being sickly-sweet, which is the same reason i can’t do more than 1 in a row of Genny’s sub-branded JW Dundee Honey Brown. After one Honey Brown, you feel like you’ve just eaten a whole head-sized wad of cotton candy, and while that was enjoyable, the idea of eating a second head-sized wad of cotton candy makes you a tad queasy.

Same thing here. The sweetness might come from unfermented malts or, since this is $9 for a 12-pack, they might just have dropped some hi-fuct corn syrup and dye into a few runs of finished Genny. Who knows? Genny’s beers have always been low-information on the cans and cartons.

The point is that where a German oktoberfest brew has a bite of bitter over a slightly more sweet body than usual, this has sweet body smothering a slight more bitter than a real Genny. College girls may like this, but it’s not for me. Accordingly, the proper rating is 3.6 in my scheme.

Three Heads The Kind IPA

Three Heads The Kind IPA
Three Heads’ The Kind IPA

Bringing joy to the world one sip at a time, that’s the slogan, and the ohmm-krishna-ohmmm hippie on the label is just the guy to do it. A microbrew which only recently earned enough money to get a little more macro, Three Heads was having their beers made by CB Craftbrewers (again, again, redundant) but the 3 guys just opened up their own little shop. Cheers to them, and here’s my first taste of their efforts.

The Kind is a rampant 76 IBU’s in a 6.8% alk beer, not much more info on the label or carton. But first things first. Apparently, 3H’s new brewery employs a Titan, who seals the bottle caps with such vigor that only the gods may open them. I managed, with difficulty, and now feel like Prometheus, having stolen beer from Olympus.

You can smell and taste all Seventy Six of those International Bitterness Units, and the fermentation was thorough enough to leave no sweetness behind in the beer. What you do get is a creamy frothy feel in the mouth, no i’m not reviewing a porno here, and a healthy, very hale, back-of-mouth bitterness which really satisfies on an August day.

No idea which hop varietals they used, but it was done well. The hops are hard and heavy, but the body of the beer is solid enough to carry them. A very pale color to the pint, so they didn’t go all caramelly to bear the hops over the mountain, and like i said, there’s no sweetness to this, so the fermentation was run to the bitter end. Which, in an IPA, means the yummy end.

At 6.8% alcohol, can’t call this a Summer beer, their jilted buddies at CB still hold that title with the masterpiece Bonobo Session IPA. But this is finely brewed and massively hopped. No qualms about giving this an 8.2 rating. They also make a double IPA, called “Too Kind”, and now i’m eager to try that too. Oh, and there’s even a third one, “Tres Kind” which is a triple IPA, ooof. Stay tuned for that here someday.

Troegs Perpetual IPA

Troegs Perpetual IPA
Troegs Perpetual IPA

A happy acccident that the local grocer advertised all Ballast Point beers at $7.99 per six on the weekly flyer, but in-store they’re all priced at $13.99, which is a little different. I think that’s not simply a not-sale, but an actual anti-sale, a surcharge for this week only. So they can go screw a sculpin. But the Troegs stuff is on sale for $10 per 6, which is indeed a healthy discount.

This and the Troegs’es Double Bock “Troegenator” are the ones i’ve wanted to try, but the price always put me off. Now this is an IPA, we can tell that by the 85 IBU’s, and the 6 (count ’em) six hop varieties listed on the carton. But with a nod to linguistic sanity, they don’t call it an India Pale Ale, but an Imperial P.A. The “Perpetual” part is their continuous hopping tank which shoulders more hops in between the hops which are already there.

The taste tells it, this has got the hops like a steroidal rabbit with a fox’s nose in its ass. Wow, has this got the hops. Arby’s has the meats, and this has the hops. Me kine like, brah.

It’s pale as all get-out, the carton calls it “straw” but the normal price of Troegs beers would lead you to think “gold” in more than one way. On sale, however, this is a keystone purchase for anyone wishing to complete their hop-u-cation. Like i said, the color is pale like a princess of Winterfell, but somehow the body is solid beer. No idea how they did that. Very clear ale, continuous effervescing going on, but it’s got a hearty lip-smacking beer taste to it, underneath that full kevlar jacket of hops.

A little sweet, a little sour, a lotta bitter and very drinkable, despite the somber weight of 7.5% alcohol. The carbonation makes all the difference on the drinkability meter for this brewery product. Kicks a few different asses, but will still have to deduct some tenths from the rating, because 7.5% alk means it’s not a kickin’ back beer, it’s something where you have to keep an eye on yourself.

From the high price of Troegs beers, suspected this might be good, and that turns out true. Their 12-packs are well over the $20 range so this is not something we can afford to quaff until the end of the world, but will definitely be back to that grocer before week’s end to pick up six handheld beverage dispensers of that coveted Troegenator.

This Perpetual IPA rates a non-skeptical 8.7 and would be higher but after one of my 18-oz glassfuls, i can feel a little swimmy in the nodder, with another four beers still unopened. Yipes, pace yourself, young lad, pace it out! At this point, i might even screw a sculpin, and that’s not healthy thoughts.

Michelob Ultra

Michelob Ultra-white can
Michelob’s Ultra light beer

A light beer so expect a light taste… and a light score here. But it is one of the few light beers which is drinkable on its own, without spiking it with a few oz of black-n-tan or a stout. And “light” is almost an understatement here, the color is so pale yellow that one might check to make sure one has not already drank it once already, and eww on that.

Reminds me of a fizzy powder, which they prolly don’t even sell in the candy aisle anymore these days, i don’t go down that aisle lately. It’s got carbonation, and there’s something that tastes like beer, but it isn’t really beer. Come to mention it, looks like the once-proud brand “Michelob” is only a light beer anymore. There used to be Michelob, and even a Mich Dark which was the best domestic beer in the pre-Sam Adams days. Then again, back in those days, even Bud still used barley instead of rice.

No idea what Mich Ultra uses, but they don’t use a lot of it. Only 95 calories per beer, with a measly 2.6 grams of carbohydrates, so clearly (as clear as this beer), there’s barely any fermentation going on. Still manages to be a respectable 4.2% alk, and that is a complete mystery to me. Must be magic of some kind. Well, the industrial beverage type of magic, which is just below throwing salt over your shoulder on the magic spectrum.

Michelob Ultra - blue can
Michelob’s Ultra light beer, the other can style

So it’s not real beer, and it’s not good beer, but it does fill its purpose, and i’ll tell you why that matters. A report came out in July of 2016, a roundup of results for testing several craft beers for nutrition. And the calorie counts were startling. One result, from a crafty “double imperial chocolate stout” was a threatening 320 calories per 12-oz bottle. Oooof, a real shot to the gut.

Duh, a double stout is going to be sky high. It’s like pretending to be shocked that a choco-chip chocolate muffin with a rock sugar top drizzled by caramel sauce has as many calories as a Wendy’s triple cheeseburger. Duh, d00d. But the roundup of the rest was also enlightening. Real beer, it seems, is really heavy on the cals, in lock-step with being heavy on the yum taste.

So if you don’t want to be carrying last night’s sixpack around on top of your personal sixpack for a full week, you gotta pace your intakes. For regular drinking while vegging to the netflix, you just can’t do it imperial style. And that’s why something like Mich Ultra is useful. Personally, in a pint glass i’ll put 12 oz of this and a few oz of Yeungling Black & Tan to juice the taste.

The point is, with most light beers you HAVE to add something to make it drinkable. With this, you don’t. It’s not very good beer, but it’s not horrifying either. Rating, on its own: 2.8 but when juiced-up to make a blend which is tasty, the usefulness of Mich Ultra is far higher than a 2.8 rating would suggest.

Ballantine IPA

Ballantine IPA
Ballantine’s IPA

According to the label, the oldest IPA in America. Hmmm, if they say so, then OK. I knew it as Ballantine Ale, and suspect that when IPA’s got stupid popular, they changed the label to reflect the same ale they’ve always been making, just so people know that it’s really an IPA. Maybe. At any rate, this is my first foray into a Minnesotan IPA, from Cold Springs and honestly, if you’re in Minnesota then is there actually any other type of springs? I think they’re all cold.

At any rate, a nice amber color and good floral/snappy noseful of aroma. The darker-than-pale color bodes well for me, since i pick a hearty IPL over an IPA most days. With a sip, sure enough, this has got an excellent meaty body and the hops are pretty good too. Label says it’s got 70 IBU’s, so there’s that in the bottle, and a nearly-beware 7.2% alk, whoot.

I remember Ballantine from the 70’s and 80’s, usually seen in a quart bottle, but haven’t seen it for years. Tried it once back then, but don’t remember anything other than it was expensive, at least compared to Stroh’s and Bud. But heck, today most drinkable beers make Heineken and Corona look like cheapies, and they are! Never thought the day would come when Heinies are the bargain beer. Brave new world.

The taste here is darn good, a grain of salt because i’m pretty thirsty today and this is my first beer of the evening. Mmmm, can really taste the malts in this one, even though they’re swimming in a blasting 70 IBU pool. But it’s the deep end of a real pool, no kiddy pool here. There are finer IPA’s out there, this one has a slight gritty feel to the mouth, but still an excellent beer.

I don’t recall Ballantine being this hoppy from years back, perhaps they’ve redone the recipe to account for modern mania? As it comes out of the bottle now, have to give it an upstanding 8.4 rating. Very hopped and the heaviness that i like in a not-so pale ale. Yum.

Saranac Brewer’s Blood Imperial Amber Ale

Saranac Brewer's Blood Imperial Amber Ale
Saranac’s Brewer’s Blood Imperial Amber Ale (whew)

Here’s a neat one: an “imperial amber ale” with a hefty 90 IBU’s and a stiff 8.7% alcohol. Judging by the price and the packaging, this is the flagship of Saranac’s rebranding, but it’s made in Windsor Vermont, not in Utica, New York. Not sure which empire declares this stuff “imperial”, but it sure ain’t the Empire State.

So what we have is a great recipe that some crafty brewers came up with, and it must involve some high-end ingredients to command a luxury-good price. It certainly tastes like they used good stuff. The color is definitely amber, maybe even darker than a regular amber ale, and the smell is a fairly complex melange of hops and malts.

Nice intriguing body to this beer, and the hops are well done, though this one has a problem that you do see in high-alk brews sometimes: the taste of the alcohol itself raises it’s hand to be counted. Unfortunately, that detracts from the overall taste. Looking for a beer here, not a beer-flavored liqueur.

Malts are nice and meaty, they hopped the heck out of it, so it should be right up my alley. And it is good, but the strength is just a little shy of whiskey-face, and that’s not for me. Hate to do it, because someone poured a lot of sweat and tears into this bottle, but tallying all the pluses and minuses here leaves it with a 7.2 rating, low for a beer of this quality.

I don’t want to turn anyone off from trying this, i found it in the “pick your own six” section, where for $11 you can try 6 beers where you’d normally have to spend $70 to try ’em all. If you can find a single of this, try it. You may like it, well, in fact i’m sure you’ll like it, but try it and decide from there if it’s something you’ll spend the premium price on, for a full six or twelve.

Broccaulitater Whip

Mashed potatoes, hummph.

Blah, blah, bland, and everyone puts it on the table for the holidays, but we all know it’s just an excuse to slurp down some more gravy, because really now, one mashed tater is nearly identical to any other mashed tater. I like making a little volcano of it and filling the caldera with butter or gravy. But there’s got to be more to it, right? There’s got to be more than “special secret” additives like pepper or cream cheese or cheddar, right ?!?

Well OK, cheddar i can’t resist. But there’s got to be something fundamental about the recipe which can be altered to make a brand-new animal. Here’s where the idea for this recipe came from: tater tots. They’ve been around for 40 years, god bless the food process engineer who thought of the tater tot. I use crispy crowns, myself. They’re more like a coin shape than the regular cylinder tot, and in my opinion they get, well, crispier.

But last month i tried some of the “new wave” of tater tots, the healthy ones that are supposed to make you feel better about yourself because they’re more vegetable-ish or something. And they were fantastic. Picked ’em up because the local grocer had a half-off price-slash as a “discontinued item” but i swear i can’t remember what brand they were. If i could recall, i’d drive across town for them!

So next i tried the ones from Green Giant which are made just from cauliflower and broccoli, but i can not recommend them. Never got crisp, had a back-mouth bitterness, and no matter what sauce i dipped ’em into, they stayed bland. No sirree, the first ones i tried were brocc and cauli, but had a base of potato, and that really made the whole difference.

Got me to thinking, what with it being holiday bring-a-dish time and all, could i use what i learned from new-wave tater tots to make a new kind of mashed potato? And the answer is YES, there is a new land of mashed potatoes, just beyond the lee foothills of that gravy volcano.

A little of this, a little of that, OK now let’s get crackin’ on a Broccaulitater Whip!


a 2 gallon pot (8 liter)

a big bowl and one large bowl

a large colander

a large spoon with a hole in it, or a wire-mesh fryer scoop

a peeler tool

a semi-sharp paring knife

a handheld potato masher with the serpentine metal head

a rubber scraper

a 13×9 3-quart glass casserole dish, god bless pyrex


5 pounds yukon gold potatoes

1 large or 2 medium cauliflower heads

2 large broccoli heads

8 garlic cloves

8 ounce bar of cream cheese

4 ounces salted butter

1/2 cup heavy cream




1. remove cream, butter, and cream cheese from refrigerator for a few hours to warm up. If you’re worried about your waistline and see 8 ounces of cream cheese and 4 ounces of butter and heavy cream, then take a step back, and look at the NINE POUNDS of pure vegetables this recipe calls for. Veggies outweigh dairy 9 to 1 here.

2. peel paper off the garlic cloves, and cut the stemmy end just a bit.

3. wash and peel the potatoes. This is the heaviest “work” in the recipe, but just set your mind to it and you’ll be done in 15 minutes.

4. quarter the larger potatoes, chop smaller ones in half.

5. pare down the cauliflower leaving 1 inch stems on the florets.

6. pare down the broccoli, leaving 1/2 inch stems.


1. add garlic to a big pot of water, let the water run from the cold tap until it’s as cold as it will get, then set it on HIGH heat. Because cold water comes from outside, and hasn’t been sitting in your domicile’s lead pipes for hours.

2. bring water to a boil.

3. add potatoes, let it get it back to a boil before dropping the heat to MED-HIGH.

4. boil 15-20 minutes, stir now and then, then drop the heat to LOW.

5. remove potatoes with the slotted spoon or small strainer, put into the colander, leaving the garlic cloves in the water.

6. bring the water back to a boil at MED-HIGH.

7. dump the taters into large bowl, no need to rinse the colander yet.

8. mash the potatoes. This is much easier than it sounds, using the handheld masher will not wear your arm out, because they’re already very soft and mooshy.

9. when water boils again, add the cauliflower florets to cook for 10 minutes.

10. while the cauli cooks, add to potatoes:
– 8 oz cream cheese,
– 4 oz butter,
– 1/2 tsp pepper,
– 1/2 tsp salt

11. blend using the masher, until butter and cheese are melted throughout. Much easier, when the butter and cream cheese are already soft at room temperature.

12. put broccoli into a bowl, add 4 tbsp water, then drop the heat on the cauliflower to MEDIUM.

13. cover broccoli bowl with a plate, microwave on HIGH for 5 minutes.

14. when cauliflower is done, dump the whole pot, including the garlic cloves, into the colander to drain.

15. dump cauliflower from colander into a big bowl.

16. mash cauliflower, including garlic cloves.

17. remove broccoli from microwave (use pot holders to pick up the bowl), and drain the broccoli in the colander.

18. add broccoli to the cauliflower and mash it.

19. add 1/2 cup heavy cream, mash it all up well.

20. preheat your oven to 350º.

21. scrape the bocco-cauli bowl into the potato mixture.

22. mix it all together, and even now the handheld masher is easy to use because everything’s warm and soft and gooshy.

23. spread whole thing into a 3-quart 13×9 pyrex dish. If you’re clever with a spoon, you can make little peaks which will turn brown in the oven.

24. finish it by baking at 350º for 15 minutes. Either finish it now, or refrigerate and finish it tomorrow, but if so, let it sit out for a while to warm up before baking.

25. eat it.

Now, about that last step, #25… i had more left over which wouldn’t fit in the pyrex casserole dish. Had 1/4 of a pork loin left over from someday, diced that up, mixed it in, and microwaved it for a few minutes. Completely delicious.

This Broccaulitater Whip does not have alot of flavor on its own. Yes, it’s a step above plain mashed potatoes, but it is not meant to be a foodstuff standing alone. At Thankday i tried it in volcano form with a butter caldera. Pretty tasty. Then tried it with gravy, even better.

And i have to say, in both cases it topped regular mashed potatoes by a long mile. But you can’t just sit down and eat a plate of this recipe on its own. It’s at its best when used as a base for something else mixed in.

Plenty of leftovers, so i picked up some of those 10-ounce frozen Green Giant “sauced sides,” found on sale for a buck apiece. One was rice with carrots, peas, and mushrooms in a creamy sauce. Decent on its own, but when added to a few cups of this recipe, it was damned tasty. Then sprussel brouts in a buttery sauce mixed into a few cups of this Whip… wow that was delicious. And it was only a buck extra.

So i submit to you the Broccaulitater Whip. Not truly whipped, but even a simple masher blends it just fine. Not a “thing” to eat and savor on its own, but it makes a bunch of other things better. Have a couple cups of this left, and think i’ll mix in sauteed mushrooms and diced ham. No reason why you can’t mix in whatever you want too.

For someone with kids, chop up hot dogs and mix them into this, and the tykes will be eating their cauliflower and broccoli and beg for more. If you’re fancy, i could see this topped with marsala sauce and a duck breast medallion. You can make it a truly vegan thing by skipping the cream cheese and butter and cream, but you’d have to add some umami to compensate for losing the savour of the dairy items.

This recipe yields about 4 quarts and it responded very well to being refrigerated for a week. Didn’t seep off any liquid or turn into sludge, and it did not harden and crust and crack. As a basic foodstuff, i’m impressed by its durability. Leads me to believe that it could be frozen and thawed with no loss of texture. Maybe next time, i’ll try that.

Sierra Nevada 11.5 Plato IPA

Sierra Nevada 11.5 Plato IPA
Sierra Nevada’s 11.5º Plato IPA

Another “session” IPA and now i’m so proud of myself for knowing what that means! Now that i know it’s designed for drinking at work, i think i need a new job. On the other hand this one introduces a new and mysterious beerword term: 11.5º PLATO. They try to describe it as “how big the beer will be”, but i got 12 ounces, so i figger i’m beating 11.5 plato’s already, and i don’t even know what a plato is. Hah, so there!

No, i’m not as dumb as all that. What they call “bigness” is what i call the “body” of a beer, the sturdiness of the malted beverage indicates how much hoppiness they can cram in there before it starts to separate. Or congeal, or, whatever a beer does when it can’t hold its hops.

True to be called a Session IPA, this is spot on the nose at 4.5% alk, so SN is just squeaking by under the limbo bar here. I like cushions, so i would’ve made it 4.4%, but hey, they do what they want, they have the vats and the permits and licenses.

The color is a nice gold, dark gold, not “straw” but not into amberland. And the body does indeed bear the welts from beating some hearty malts into submission. Great solidity, you can feel it in the mouth and taste it under the hops as well. I like that they were able to do this at 4.5% alcohol and still find room for serious hoppys.

The aroma is a bit reminiscent of a wet dog who’s been rolling in something that was not purely mud, not trying to be insulting here, but it’s a tad like rodent droppings. Luckily, none of that aroma carries over into the taste. The taste is really very excellent. This one’s not going to shake up my Top Five IPA’s, but i do like it very much.

What SN was trying to do here, they pulled off in spades. It’s a low-alk IPA with great body and crafty attention to hops, somehow they knew just how much hops they could plug in here, and they did. It must be that Plato guy who told them. Taste is refreshing, yes, all those flowery words like “tropical ” they use on the label come through. This hop profile is a little less piney and more fruity, less citrusy and more plummy. Nectariney?

A great Summer beer, i’ll put this right behind the Bonobo in 2nd place for a Summer beer. Most of all, i am really impressed by what SN did here. The nose is awful, but the taste is supreme. I have to give this a 7.3 for a body that holds up but is lighter than what my belly craves, and hops that are finely done but lighter than what my tongue loves.

If you are looking for a Summer beer and can’t get the Bonobo where you live, then try for this 11.5º Plato, it should have a wider distribution than Bonobo.

Sam Adams 48º Latitude IPA

Sam Adams 48 Latitude IPA
Sam Adams’s 48º Latitude IPA

Criminy, Sam. It’s tough to stay mad at you. Don’t get giddy, i’m still pissed about that Grapefruit IPA, and your beers and ales are still on my blacklist until you publicly apologize for it. Except this one, because it’s still one of the Top Five IPA’s. The odd name comes from Sam’s theory that the world’s best hops grow at the 48º North Latitude parallel. So they went from Washington State to SE England to Bavaria, collecting cones, brought them back to Boston, and tossed them around in the test kitchen.

The result is stunning. I mean, this is pretty much the company that invented the craft beer movement, and they’re right out there as far as unselfishly supporting microbrews and folks who are resisting the pressure to sell out to a major commercial crap-beer factory. I’m looking at you, Blue Moon. So Boston Brewing knows what the heck they’re doing in making real beer, and this one is a testament to experience.

Much darker than a pale ale, so obviously the body of this beer is quite capable of floating whatever hops they throw at it, and the blend of shrubberies in this one are excellent. At 6.0% alk it’s not too scary and not too flippant, but i think i’ll go on some more about the skill that made this beer.

The choice of malts was expert, looking ahead to what they intended to do with it, which was to hop it up to the ceiling. It’s almost like the beer underneath the hops was designed explicitly for this purpose, and i’m sure it was. The hops not only go hand-in-hand with the malt, but it’s uncanny, it’s like the blueprint included a hole in the wort where a precisely carved puzzle piece of hops would exactly fit. It does.

At 9.1 my rating places this in the fifth slot of my Top Five IPA’s, it might have been higher if SA had not made that Grapefruit IPA, and it may move higher into the mid-nines if Sam does the right thing and apologizes for Grapefruit IPA. But this is still in the Top 5, although it’s a precarious place as #5 means it would be the first to fall if another stellar IPA comes to light.