Goose Island 4 Star Pils

Goose Island’s 4 Star Pils

Not a regular customer for Goose Island, since i think it may be a zombie craft brewery, eaten and digested by one of the major commercial brewers. And not a regular pilsener drinker, they just don’t have the bite nor the heft that i look for in a pricey beer. A fun side-note: their phone number is 1800-GOOSEME. But, to round out a pick-your-six this was the best non-IPA goose left, so let’s see if it turns out to be a duck instead.

Label calls it at 5.1% alk and 44 IBU’s, but the label also says it’s a lager… they must be considering the pils malts in the naming here. Very bright and clear color, spot-on golden. Blurb says it’s got “crisp hop aroma” and “clean & refreshing finish” and the first one at least is true. The smell is good hoptown, citrus with a layer of composting straw, if you know that pungent smell you’ll know what i mean, and if you don’t you’ll think that’s nasty, but it really isn’t a bad smell.

The taste bears out the rest of the blurb, i would call this crisp on the back end, but also crisp right up front as well. In fact, the attack is crisper than the finish, which is a little more wet. No mention of which variety of hops used, but they do come from their own hop farm in Idaho, which is a ways away from the three brewing locations listed: Baldwinsville NY, Chicago IL, and Fort Collins Colorado.

Not a bad beer, i’ll rate it as if it is truly a lager, in which case it’s pretty darned hoppy, and the malt body is not as punchy as one would like in a lager. Like the hoppiness but would like more weight, this beer seems more trendy than serious. Rates a 6.7 for not sucking terribly.

Bells Oberon Ale

Bells Oberon Ale

Have seen this on the shelf many times but didn’t realize until i got it, that this is from the same folks who make the Two-Hearted Ale, the one with the fiesty fish on the label. This one has a happy sun, and not much else on the label. Just that it’s 12 ounces, 5.8% alk, and it’s a wheat ale with a “spicy hop character” and some other descriptors, but by now i’ve learned about beer label blurbs, so most of that stuff goes in one ear and right out the other. Come to think of it, the sun on the label doesn’t look all that happy, more somewhat ungruntled.

So this should be interesting. The 2-Hearted got a strong 8.7 from me, and i fancy a weissen (wheat) beer now and then, let’s see how Bells did. The color is not really, as the label says, like a sunny day. Unless you’re looking directly at the sun, and don’t do that. It’s yellow, like completely yellowish yellow, with some light bubbling and a smattering of floaty things suspended in mid-beer.

And the taste is as good as i’d imagined. Obviously, the hops are not “spicy” but i can see where someone with an overactive imagination, or someone with a communications degree from a party-school college, might come up with “spicy”. The taste is actually “yellow” to me. Cross a dandelion with a daffodil and bite that. Fruit note is more lemon than a grapefruit or stone-pit fruit, and like most wheat beers the grain is upfront in it’s own idiom, but as with all weissens, more muted than barley malts.

Not too bad, and what someone called “spicy” is just, in fact, German-ness in the taste. A real German beer would have that bitey twist of flavor in spades, here it’s half a hint. But nice to have it there at all! This is my first weissen up for review, so there are no peers to compare it to yet. Thus, must rate this as simply a beer and how much i like it. That’s 6.5 for being a little sweet which tones down the grain.

Long Trail Green Blaze IPA

Long Trail’s Green Blaze IPA

At first one eyebrow raised over the name of this IPA, oh those kids today, but then realized that “blaze” is also a word for a hiking trail marker painted on a tree, so we’re not doing the double-entendre thing here, not even a single-entendre, since there’s a silhouette of a hiker on the label and the brewery’s slogan is “Blaze A Happy Trail.” The green is referring to hops, not some other kind of green which might or might not blaze. I think.

But the bottle is full of helpful info, like the alk%, 6.5, and the IBU’s therein, 60, which is high, high, high, d0000d whoah. And it waxes poetic about a “lupulin landscape” of resin… hey waitaminnit here, i thought we were talking about hiking? Nicely, Long Trail Brewing (of Vermont) also lists the hops they stuffed in here: Chinook, Equinox, Columbus and Mosaic.

Color is nearly amber, dark-gold with that orangey core, and it’s cloudy like a Vermont dawn, with nearly no carbonation evident when looking from the outside. The nostrils flame open at a rush of hopitude, the label says “pine, resin and tropical fruit.” I don’t know why so many beers claim to be “tropical” when i have never tasted papaya or mango in any of them, i suppose it just sounds good when some copywriter is sitting around blazing. So to speak.

The fact remains, this IPA has one of the strongest hop aromas i’ve smelt, but will the taste live up? Well, yes and no. This is hoppy, like a cricket up a jackrabbit’s ass. So hoppy that there’s an element of salt in the flavor, and as an entrant in the Hoppier Than Thou race, this one is on the leaderboard. Not wearing the yellow jersey, but within striking distance. Woot, this has got a pucker in its pocket, the tropical fruit here is the lime, and the rest of the hop complex is pine, like you’ve got a notion to walk up to a marked tree on the trail and lick the blaze right off the bark.

The beer body… uh, is there one? All i can taste is not 59 but a full sixty IBU’s in here. Let me sip a few small fast ones and see if i can find it. No, i really can’t. This must be beer, but the malts have all gone to the woods. Stunning accomplishment on the hops side of the equation, really outstanding blend of the four cone types used, but the beer body is in hibernation. This is the first beer where i truly can’t pick out any of the flavors of the grains used to make it. Assume there were some, i just can’t… uhhm what was i talking about?

As said, the hopmix here is exemplary. If you’re watching that race, to Hoppier-than-thou Mountain, then this is an IPA you want to get into the hand not holding your walking stick. If you’re seeking balance at the summit, then this is not your IPA. If Long Trail Brewing could put this hop melange into a beer that has beer in it, then we’d be talking about gold medals. They should hike a couple states East to Maine and ask the Smuttynose people how to do it, or better yet, share the Green Blaze hop recipe with the Smuttys.

Fantastic hops, but the balance is obliterated. How to put a rating on that? Darn, i don’t know. One side of the equation is a 9.9, the other is a 2.1 so i have to take the easy way out and average the pair, for an even 6.0. With a more foundational beer body, this could have been a masterpiece. So let’s rate it a 6.0 but with an asterisk.

New Belgium Fat Tire

New Belgium Fat Tire
New Belgium’s Fat Tire Amber Ale

This here is the one that made New Belgium the 8th largest brewery in the USA, although they were 7th last year. The Fat Tire Amber Ale is their flagship beer, famous by now, to the point that the image of the bicycle on this label has become NB’s company logo. So i figured i’d better take the opportunity to try it off the pick-a-six rack, since New Belgium has recently invaded New York, which was once New Amsterdam, why’d they change it i can’t say, people just liked it better that waaaaaaay!

Label says it’s 5.2% alk so that’s about average for a crafty drafty. No other info about malts or hops, except to call the malts “biscuit-like” and i have no idea what that means. Although, now that i chew that over in my mind, a barley biscuit sounds like a damn good idea. As usual for a NB beer, there is an “Enjoy By” date, but it’s in a wobbly mangled font, printed so small that only the mice in your fridge will ever know.

Color is lighter than what normal people call “amber” and this is not an IPA so a nosefull out of the glass is not notable, just smells like beer, so onward to the tasting. Good solid flavor, light carbonation, i don’t taste any biscuits but on the other hand i don’t taste any sausage gravy either, so there’s that to be thankful for.

There are malts a-plenty to taste, certainly. Hops are a singular flavor note, not remarkable but then again this is normal beer, and i’ve gotten used to the hopblast of modern IPA’s, so i’m more apt to note what’s missing than what’s there in this regard. This is sweet, or maybe it’s just missing the sour, maybe i’m not qualified to taste-test an amber ale at this point?

The beer body is pretty good. There’s more than one malt, or perhaps the same malt in varying stages of roastedness all combined, there is a hint of lemony taste which does not seem to come from the hops themselves. Refreshing, low enough in alk to make it a casual friendly drinking beer, and quality taste. But can’t do that, since as noted in a previous NB review, their beers are pretty expensive.

Rating? Hmmm, a good beer but i prefer lagers for friendly drinking and there are some fine specimens of that which are lower in price. So i will likely not run up my tab for a full sixer of this, but glad to have tried it. If it were a few bux lesser then i would buy it now and then for a change-up. But it’s not cheap, so a 6.8 is about all i can raise this up to. And now i’m gonna have that Constantinople song playing in my head for hours.

Kuka IPA

Kuka IPA
Kuka’s IPA

OK, that’s an odd one. Name is Kuka IPA, the subtitle is “ale brewed with maca root.” Made by the Andean Brewing Co., in Blauvelt New York, certainly in the foothills of that part of New York bordering Peru. Right? I didn’t even know what maca root was, but the Wikipedia says it was found at “the Meseta of BomBom close to Junin Lake” in 1843. Riiiight, just outside the Bronx i’m sure. And then it says: “women had to be protected from the Inca warriors, as reportedly they became ambitiously virile from eating such quantities of maca.”

So this is America, so obviously we’ll put it into beer because, well because America. USA! USA! USA! The extra odd thing about this beer is that it’s gold-ish almost to amber, but it’s completely opaque. What it really looks like is fresh raw cider, but it smells like a very hopped IPA. So far so good, and so far, so odd.

The moment of taste: whoah, that’s really odd. There’s beer, there’s hops, but there’s something else in there, must be the maca, a bitter and leathery taste, like an old shoe that was worn while stomping radishes. The Inca thought it was a delicacy, but “studies have shown a very low acceptance of the particular maca taste in consumers when first exposed to it. Apparently, the taste is acquired,” meaning that if you already like radish shoes, then you’ll simply love maca.

Huh. More sips and my tongue’s able to separate out more of the beer and hop tastes to better isolate the maca. Slightly sweet, if you’ve ever eaten a raw plantain, then think of that. Or biting the white part of a leek. Huh, this is odd beer. Not terrible, but i think it might take a while to ‘acquire’ this taste. I can see why they tried this with an IPA, the strong hops are like an overcoat, masking the maca from indecent exposure. And trust me, they needed some whomping hops to do that.

The beer reports itself as 6.2% alk, probably a good idea in this case, not a bad thought to bump it up to 7.2% in v2.0 if that ever happens. It’s a physically thick beer, the last few drops came out of the bottle with more of a drab than a drip, and getting to the bottom of this glass it seems even thicker. Not sure if it’s my imagination, but my head is starting to feel a little funny here. It’s like i’m over-alert but it’s different than a caffeine or nicotine alertness. There’s no heart-rate bump and no fine-focused awareness like with caff or nick. It’s like a relaxed intentness, makes me feel like i want to breathe deeper and makes my feet fidgety.

OK, am going to set this review down for a quarter hour and try to figure out what exactly is going on here…

Wow, and i mean wow. Maca root is something real, unlike most goofy diet supplements. This was my first beer o’ the evening, and at 6.2% alcohol it shouldn’t have done this to me. Not exactly a 90-pound weakling here, and i have dranked beer before. I recall that the first beer in your life hits you with a hammer, but i am, let’s just say, “experienced”. I normally have a new beer for review before anything else in the day, freshly arrived at home, when my palate is clear. And 6.2% alk is not enough to make me swimmy. But this one did.

Not really drunk, but all squirelly. I feel the alk, which i shouldn’t. I feel calm but ready to go, tingly in the calves and mind rolling from thing to thing, with a strange kind of concentration but unable to groove on any one thing for long. Wonder if this is what ADHD feels like? Interferes with the ability to write, like so many words are just beyond the tip of my tongue.

Yeah, i can see what this does to me and extrapolate what “copious amounts of maca” might do to an Inca warrior. Totally can imagine running off into the jungle with a club, and if we don’t find the enemy, just might thud a few unlucky sloths on the noggin.

The aftertaste of this beer clings to the sides of the tongue, where the ‘bitter’ buds reside. The taste got better, as in less odd, as the glass emptied. But the psycho-physio effects are remarkable. Feel sped but without the nasty effects of normal upping compounds. Alas, don’t really feel “ambitiously virile” but then again i only had one bottle of this, lucky for the lady sloths.

Not sure how to rate this drink. It’s not really an IPA, just a delivery vehicle for maca. The taste is not great compared to real beer IPA’s, this might rate a 4 or 5 purely as a beer. Reading more on Wiki, maca contains “(1R,3S)-1-methyltetrahydro-carboline-3-carboxylic acid, a molecule which is reported to exert many activities on the central nervous system.” Damn slappy true there. Now i’m all cooked up so won’t bother reviewing another beer this evening, wouldn’t be able to be objective, and this should wear off by tomorrow. Hopefully.

What i can tell you is that there’s something going on inside a bottle of Kuka IPA, try it and judge for yourself. Holy crap, this beer is nutso. As a beer i’d rate it a 4.1 but as an interesting experience this gets an 8.1 so might as well split the diffy and call it at 6.1 …but don’t call that a low review, you’ll have to try this yourself.

J.W. Dundee Honey Brown Lager

J.W. Dundee Honey Brown lager
J. W. Dundee’s Honey Brown lager

Mentioned this beer in an earlier review, so thought i’d better explain, expand, and expound on it. Made by J.W. Dundee, which is a sub-nameplate of Genesee Brewing that arose in the 1990’s. Dundee came out with a few other beers, but the Honey Brown Lager was the only one which really stuck, and AFAIK the only one still regularly sold today.

Name comes from the fact that they use honey in the brew, and you actually can taste it. Not so brown a beer, more amber-ish these days, i remember it being darker in the 90’s. But it still has that same taste, a rich and warm sweet, even when served cold, and though the label calls it “extra rich” i don’t know if i’d go that far, but it is definitely “regularly rich”.

Being a lager at heart, there’s a swarthy feel to the beer in the mouth, a meal beer, not a prancing dessert beer, even if it is sweet. And that’s the real rub here: Honey Brown is good because it’s honey-sweet, unexpected in a lager and pulled off well by Gen- err, Dundee. Something about being in beer makes the honey taste like dark honey, if that’s even a thing. This honey is to real honey as brown sugar is to plain sugar.

And that rub again: great taste and a fine way to shake up your beering once in a while, but just can’t drink two of these in a row. The first sip is refreshing and surprising, the rest of the gulps are heavy with a sweetness you’re glad to have. Your first Honey Brown is always great. But try and drink another one, and it suddenly tastes… less great.

Don’t misunderstand that. If you’ve never had this beer, by all means try it. You’ll love it. There’s a reason why they still make it. But if you bring a 12-pack of it to a party, there had better be 12 people there. They will all love it. But make sure nobody has seconds. After one, they’re saying “hey that was fantastic, gimme another one!” Don’t let them do it.

A second Honey Brown in a row lets the sweetness take control and you no longer taste the lager, all you taste is the sweet. Same rule with wedding cake. After you’ve been working up a sweet-tooth at the reception with a few drinks and choice of haddock, chicken french, or spag bolo, a hunk of over-frosted cake is fantastic and gives you the energy to force Aunt Regina to do the Limbo. But your second piece will only have one bite missing, and might force the rest up backwards if Aunty Reggie forgot to wear her undies.

I found this in a 24-ounce can, and as i write, am now into the second half. Sure enough, i’m a little less eager to grab the next gulp. The first half was excellent, something new and different (haven’t had a HB in a few years). But now it’s getting more towards a cloying sweet, and it feels more like a duty than a joy to finish the last 10 ounces. It’s really an unusual beer, how the contrast between your first and your second is so glaring.

So you’ve been warned, one of these every week is just right, but more often and you won’t like it. Don’t hold that against it. I’ll rate the first Honey Brown at 6.8, just be circumspect about how often you drink it, since the rating plummets fast after one beer.

Brooklyn East IPA

Brooklyn Brewing East IPA
Brooklyn’s East IPA

Label says it “offers a bold balance, not a smack in the head.” Well, they’re assuming that i don’t want a smack in the head but… i do. Why the hell else would i drink hoppy beer? Smack me, Daddy, beat me 8 to the bar. Hop my head off, that’s what it’s there for.

Deese guys from Bruklin make some fine beer, so hopefully they didn’t really mean it. After all, this IPA is 6.9% alk, so no foolish sessionism going on here. And there’s no reason to alk it up like that if you aren’t making a pocket to smuggle hops. A fine golden color to this, not a pale ale by any means, and the nose is promisingly hoppy.

The taste… and the nod of the head. My head it still attached, so we’re not into strato-hops here, and the label was not a lie. There’s that balance they’re on about. Domestic hops and famous East Kent Golding hops, which Sam Adams also includes in their impressive hop roundup in 48º Latitude IPA.

The beer body is nice, a little light to vie for my favor, but doesn’t raise my ire. The hops are stronger than advertised, but the balance is the key, and that is in place right where it should be. This one is slightly sweet, but the hops can’t turn it into other fruit notes since they are on the low side themselves.

This is well balanced, but the volume from both speakers is low. Fairly surprised that this is 6.9% alcohol… if they’re going high there, then there’s room for bigger body and bigger hops. So this beer is not a tragedy, it is a nice taste, but for the same money other beers are going to make me their bitch. Slap me, it’s what i came here for.

Rated at 6.4 for small dreams, Brooklyn makes another IPA and i may like that one better. We’ll see.

Hamburg IPA

Hamburg IPA
Hamburg’s IPA

Holy carbonics, Batman! This one wanted out of the bottle so dearly, that it frothed and blew bubbles at me out the top as soon as i got the cap off. Swear i didn’t jostle it and uncapping was easy, not a fight. But then out of the bottle and in the glass, there’s not much head. I don’t know what’s going on with this beer from Hamburg Brewing. Very odd behavior for an IPA.

Oddness abounds. This smells hoppier than it tastes, tastes hoppier than the 55 IBU’s noted on the bottle, and there’s a tree growing in the middle of their “H”. I just don’t know what’s going on around here.

Anyway, we’re at 6.0% alk for this one made near Buffalo, and they claim 4 types of malt to make this beer, and i can tell you the taste of the beer behind the hops bears this out. An interesting mix of barleys at different stages of malthood, leaves some sweetness in the beer and an oatey finish at the end. Like a sour oat. Odd.

The hops are a quartet too: Chinook, Palisade, Ahtanum and Magnum (which is clearly compensating for something). Cloudy to the eye and they call it orange, but what it really is, is two-toned. But two-toned vertically, not horizontally like a normal liquid. Exceedingly odd. The color is certified pale along the sides of the glass, with an orangey core all the way down in the middle of the beer.

This whole beer is simply bizarre. Not troubling, just really weird. Very carbonated in the bottle and in my stomach (had me burping halfway during drinking it), but low head and no streamers of bubbly gases in the glass. Weird.

Honestly, normalcy worries me more than oddity, so don’t let my review scare you off. It’s tasty, and real-beer body which kicks the ass of all rice beers, and the bunches of hops work well here. Medium-strength and that’s nice, all together a fine beer. But nothing outstanding, despite being so weird from top to bottom. I’ll rate this at 6.6

Blue Moon White IPA

Blue Moon White IPA
Blue Moon’s White IPA

Another big-brewery beer masquerading as a craft beer, this one brewed in Golden, Colorado. So you know right away who’s behind it. Pretty nice on the nose, and the bottle claims 4 types of hops, so that’s explained. We have little floating specks in there, and it’s actually quite a pale yellow and cloudy, so the name “White” on this IPA is accurate.

The taste is not stellar but very good, as the label admits this is brewed with orange peels and coriander. Odd spices, but not a bad choice, if one had to choose spices which can be put together with 4 hops. 5.9% alk here, and a big Thank You to Blue Moon for putting nutrition info on the label. 184 calories for a bottle.

Good to know, since i just heard a piece on the news about how some craft beers have ridiculous amounts of cals and carbs. Someone’s double chocolate stout, for example, has a nutty 340 calories in a 12 oz bottle. Woof.

On the whole, i like this one. There’s an extra bitterness at the back of the mouth and the beer body is pretty darned light, but the hops are out in front and the ensemble tastes well put-together. Not likely to buy it again, personal tastes run towards a heavier body and prefer the hops to speak for themselves, instead of getting juiced up with fruit rinds and spices.

They did what they were trying to do, even with Corporate Masters overseeing the operation, making a franken-beer with IPA hops and white ale body. Interesting combo, suppose someone was bound to try it eventually, and it’s tasty. I’d rate this at 6.2

Widmer Bros Hopside Down IPL

Widmer Brothers Hopside Down IPL
Widmer Brothers Hopside Down IPL


Another hop-op-along from the haunts of Portland in Oregonia, this time it’s an IPL, which is ridiculous but everyone thinks that if you use the letters I and P then it’ll sell better. But for a reality check, there is no such thing as an “India Pale Lager”. There’s not even such a thing as an India Anything in beer, besides India Pale Ale. The whole idea is that an ale which is top-fermented can be sealed in barrels in London, and packed onto a ship bound for India. On the way the malts and water and yeast turn it into beer. And it’s hopped so strongly because it’s crappy beer, with all that sloshing around for 4 months on the ocean.

You can’t brew a lager on a sailing ship. Just want to make sure you understand clearly that no lager, not even a highly hopped “pale” lager, has anything to do with India, whatsoever. And IPA for that matter, has strong hops to mask the crappy beer, not as a culinary delight for connoisseurs. It was intended to be cheap and barely drinkable for the British occupying forces in India, and soldiers, as we all know, will drink anything not clearly labeled “Poison”.

Today, the reverse is true. People are making pale ales with actually good beer malts, and not fermenting it in dark rat-infested cargo holds where the constant pitching and rolling ruins the beer. So there’s no need for all that hoppiness today. Now, it’s just tasty.

The name of this one, “Hopside Down” is just as absurd. It’s not an IPA brewed upside down, it’s just a lager brewed like a normal lager, with the fermentation happening at the bottom of the chamber. The only difference with this lager is they jammed a bunch of hops in there. It’s a hoppy lager, that’s all it is. Nothing “India” about this at all, other than in the feeble minds of marketing idiots.

Just so you know.

Now on to the beer. As it happens, i prefer lagers and i like IPA’s because of the strong hops, so this one is right up my pants leg. The goofy popularity of IPA’s has led many micros to make hoppy lagers, and although i roll my eyes at their stupidity when they try to call one an “IPL,” the fact is that this type of beer was made for me.

Plenty of fun info on the bottom of the carton, where you can only read it AFTER you’ve bought it, heheh. There’s a nice drawing of their brewery, and they note that it’s “under the Fremont Bridge” so we can only assume that the Widmer Brothers are trolls. Hey, i don’t care if they live under a bridge and eat nanny goats. I don’t have a goat. And i don’t judge lifestyles, only beers. Could be orcs for all i care, just keep the hopped-up lagers coming!

From the carton, this’s got Pale and Caramel malts, they used Cascade and Alchemy hop varieties, and there’s a number for “apparent extract” which i have no idea about. But, what i do know about is the IBU’s which are at a healthy 65, and the alk which is at a swarthy 6.7%. And there’s another number, “Color,” which is apparently measured in something called an “SRM” whatever that is, and this beer has eight of those.

It is pale for a lager, nicely golden-yellow, has a good smell to it, and the taste is not as crisp as a real IPA, but rounder and sweeter in the mouth, almost something you can bite into, which is what i like about lagers in general. Hops are pretty nice but seem lighter than that 65 IBU rating would suggest. That’s the inherent problem with hopping a lager way up high: there’s more solid beer body which just absorbs the bitterness. With an ale, the body is so slight that the hops are swimming around on their own, unfettered and free to attack.

So it’s a tougher balance when you try to hop up a lager. These Oregonians have pulled it off nicely. Mixing in pale malts leaves some hops on the loose and yet the mass of the beer is pleasingly hearty. Like i said, this kind of frankenbeer is just right for me, and i love this example muchly. It’s nearly buttery, so velvet smooth and richly flavored. I recommend this for human consumption. In moderation, naturally, with that 6.7% alk lurking inside.

At $9 for a sixer, this is one of them crafties which is worth the premium, and have no trouble awarding it an 8.5 rating. Just wish they’d stop calling it an IPL, grow a ball and make up your own brand name for this kind of beer, wouldja? Don’t be a pantysniffer trying to coat-tail the IPA brand. Your beer is better than that. You are better than that, Widmer Brotrolls.