Three Heads Giant Panda Dub Style IPA

Three Heads Giant Panda Dub Style IPA

Billed as a “dub style” IPA on the label, and i have no idea what that entails, but this brew is an homage to a dub/reggae band, the Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad. Thus, the gigantic panda bear on the label climbing a skyscraper, snarling at you while ready to toss a 3-Heads Brewery delivery truck at you… all while the pterodactyls circle in the sky. I don’t know, must be a ref to a jamband song.

Comes in a 25 ounce bottle, a special collectors edition one surmises, and fairly pricey at $6.50. But also notable for the stats on the label: 85 IBU’s and 8.7% alk in this, which is not even billed as a “double IPA” nor even “imperial”. It’s nothing special, just strong like bull. Or like panda, if you prefer. More usual, this is found in the 16 oz pounder can with a much more contemplative panda on the label. I can’t believe i don’t have a picture of the pounder can. I mean, i’ve been through like four cases of those, even though it’s about $75 a case.

Color is only one shade darker than pale, a rich gold and plenty cloudy so we have some weight to the glass. Smells lightly of florals and citrus-type pine. Leaves a thick insistent foam on the sides, so we know there’s body to spare here.

As for drinking this bear, it’s mighty nice. Smooth, a good carbonation which so many beers eschew nowadays, hefty beer body which doesn’t wilt under the stepping power of those wicked 85 IBU’s. And the IBU’s are all there, i can tell you. Strong fruity hops, lightly piney, and since the body is strong enough to carry them, the hops have leisure time to dabble in stone fruit flavors like apricot and plum. The aftertaste is nice, and even leaves an after-after taste, which is piney enough to be a cousin of menthol.

With some gone from my usual 20-oz glass, there’s room to jab the nose in deeper. Oddly, the citrus aromas are stronger than the citrus tastes. The beer body is meaty, wheaty, and beatyer sweetie. Goddamn, but they use some healthy barley in this one. As the glass gets lower, and this is not the 8.7% talking here, but this is a masterpiece IPA.

Three Heads’s standard IPA, “The Kind,” is pretty good. I gave it an 8.2 a couple months ago. Still have to try their double-IPA “Too Kind,” and in fact i have a bottle of that chilling in the fridge awaiting review. But now, i’m a combination of wary and eager. Too Kind might be a let-down, after the intensely pleasurable surprise of the Giant Panda.

One thing is for certain: i will have to see if i can negotiate a deal on a case of these Giant Panda 25-ouncers somewhere, before they sell out, and lay them down for special occasions. Obviously, at 8.7% two of these would knock me out for a day. But trotting one out at a gathering would be perfectly respectable.

Addendum from a later date: did not get a case of the 25-oz bottles, but this pops up in stores once or twice a year in the Pounder Panda cans, and have gotten full cases of those. For a long while, the highlight of my week was Panda Saturday. One 16-ounce dab of delight, once a week.

Now, about rating this bear. Normally, i would knock some off for wickedly high alcohol content. But this is no ordinary drunk bear. It hides the strong content skillfully with an expert malt body and hop-levels which are high but not ramapaging through the bamboo. However, at this point in the review process, i’m 23 ounces into this panda, and can definitely feel the bear in my brain. And i didn’t start on an empty stomach, so this is verified at 8.7% alk.

It’s lacking the faux cream of some finer Eastern IPA’s, but in that achievement track it’s only a half midge behind, maybe skim cream here. Highly recommended for any IPA liker, and a 9.6 rating seems in order, just tackle your panda with responsible caution.

And more addenda from later on… this is an exceptional IPA. The 9.6 rating put it into my Top Five as soon as it was reviewed, and it has stayed there. Did you know that 24 cans lasts for nearly half a year when you have one a week? I’ve been dosing on this stuff for years now, and still cherish it.

Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA

Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo Extra IPA

Full speed ahead! The name of SN’s Torpedo Extra IPA comes not from submarine warfare, though that is cool stuff, but from a contraption they invented to suck the life out of unsuspecting hop cones. Apparently it looks something like a torpedo, so there you have it.

Already legendary is their hoppy Pale Ale, a standard in the lore of craft beer from before we called it “craft” and a case can be made that SN Pale Ale and Samuel Adams Boston Lager are the twin pillars that today’s explosion of baby brewers is built upon. So they figgered out a way to make it even hoppier, and the Torpedo is the result.

Now, just imagine, if they could put the torpedo on wheels and bring it to where the hops grow? And they did imagine that, and the result is the winner of the Hoppier Than Thou Crown: SN’s Hop Hunter IPA. So this beer has some serious cousins, and a bit of pedigree to live up to.

It does the clan proud. The color is spot-on pale, the noseful is the trademark SN orange-blossom hops, and this beer is very eager. I mean it’s leaping out of the can before you get a chance to pour. Of a 12er of Torpedoes, 5 of them fizzed out the canhole and most of the others threatened to. This is fizzy stuff. I’ve had this before in the single 16-oz cans, and don’t remember them gushing like that.

The taste is just where you’d expect it to be, where i want it to be. Hoppier than the iconic Pale Ale, not as alumic as the stunning Hop Hunter, and as always there’s a very nice beer body underneath, tough enough to bear up the weight of hops, and malty enough to make this a beer worth drinking a dozen of. If you can. Dare you.

Truly, this is an outstanding beer. Hops are that normal citrus which SN has mastered, but here there’s a range of softer fruits and flowers which are not expressed in the Pale Ale and are battered into submission in the Hop Hunter. There’s almost a vanilla tone in the middle, there’s licorice minus the anise (use your imagination here), there’s skunktail and milkweed and a bitter that’s not just the zest or pulp of a lemon, but the bitter of a lemon seed, as anyone who’s been dull enough to bite one will attest.

At 7.2% alk this is not a casual hey-the-game’s-on beer but it is an exploration of the potential of hops as a spice. There is the matter of fizz, however. This bursts out of an unshaken can, and even with an unshaken belly it makes burps and even farts a-plenty. The labeling mentions that SN has a satellite facility in North Carolina, and since i’m on the Eastern portion of These United Things, i’ll assume that’s where this can was filled. I’ve had this one before in a 16-oz can and it wasn’t so uncontrollably carbonated, so i suspect that something’s off kilter at the NC plant.

To sum: the flavor and body are great but the behavior out of the Eastern Sierra Nevada brewery seems uneven. With the range of hop flavors here, the fizz is only a quibble, so we’re seeing the core recipe survive the cross-country trip intact. Bravo, that’s not always the case with expansion breweries. I’m going with a 9.3 rating here, and yes that shakes up the Top Five IPA’s. Dropped to the practice squad is Sam Adams’ 48º Latitude IPA, and now Sierra Nevada claims 2 of the Five Berths.

I think it’s time to pronounce Sierra Nevada as an IPA Dynasty. Three of their IPA’s cracked 9+ on my ratings, and there’s another one in the fridge awating my greedy gullet: a very expensive “estate IPA” which is “certified organic” whatever that means in beerworld.

Troegs Troegenator Doublebock

Troegs Troegenator Doublebock
Troegs Troegenator Doublebock

Pricey stuff, the Troeg brews are. So rarely have a chance to try them unless they go on sale, and that’s just what happened so finally got a chance to pick up a sixer of their flagship mind-melter, the Troegenator Doublebock. You know i love bock beers, and doppelbocks are simply a higher plane of bock existence. With a menacing portrait of a goatman with bushy eyebrows on the label, i just knew i would like this, once i could afford it.

Label calls the color “bronze” but i’d say it’s brown, and it’s see-through, unlike some at this end of the bock spectrum. The label is plenty helpful with everything else i want to know too: 8.2% alk; 25 IBU’s; and the hops used: Brewers, Magnum, and German Northern. There’s a blurb mentioning “caramel, chocolate and dried stone fruit.” Well, that middle attribute can be taken with a grain of something, coming as this does out of Hershey, Pennsylvania, the home of some other company you might have heard of.

The nice thing is that everything on the label is true. This does have that “chewy” character and it is a liquid meal. The one thing i want to know is this: where is the regular Troegs bock? To make doppelbock, you need to make a bunch of regular bock beer. I have not seen that on the shelf. Maybe they only sell it local in Hershey?

The smell at the glass rim is heavenly, a mix of foreboding meal grains perverted from their original nature, a sour mash of cannibal yeasts eating their own dead, and velvety charcoal. The taste is the same, no deception allowed in a doppelbock. Sweet and sour like a Chinese restaurant wishes they could replicate, this tastes like a drop of vinegar on a caramel cube wrapped in soggy pumpernickel bread. That sounds gross, but try it before you deny it.

Light carbonation and high alk, and these would be be detractions if this was not a double-bock beer because, you see, 2x bock is the pinnacle of beer flavor. The only step up from doppelbock would be beer schnapps, and that’s been tried, only to be discontinued after someone realized that nobody drinks schnapps without a fruit or menth in it. So this is flat and buzzy, but the sheer joy of concentrated beer flavor is well worth it.

I don’t know about “dried stone fruit” but there’s a wild array of other tastes in Troegenator. Walnuts, venison jerky, limed mushrooms, crushed oat chaff, a tizzy of flavor in every sip. It’s like you left Black Forest bread in a pan of water and let the fruitflies and wild airborne yeasts attack it to the point of fermenting. Disgusting, but wow what a result!

Ooof, just in joy here. My god, what a great beer. Every time i drink a stout, i wish it was a doppelbock. Even Guinness is a shadow of what beer can become once you concentrate it like this. When i am emperor, there will be no small beers, and every beer will have to go through 3 years of brewing and then re-brewing to make doppelbock. Honestly, every time i have a doppelbock, i wonder “why bother with single-run fermentations at all?”

Now, back to Earth a tiny bit. How to rate this? Obviously it’s high, high, high. Spaten’s Optimator Doppelbock is one of my highest rated beers. The Celebrator Doppelbock will come up for review here before long. How to rank the Troegenator among its peers?

Well, it doesn’t have that genuine German twang to it, that odd backthroat gotcha which is the hallmark of real German beer. But it does have some other flavors inside, which you don’t get in Europe. And like a good doppelbock, i can’t have any other beers tasted for review any longer today, because the Troegenator, like a doppelbock will, has seized my tastebuds and will not let go for several hours.

Doesn’t have the absolute sublime beauty of Optimator, but for an American 2x-bock it’s a wizard. This is a really tough call, but 9.3 seems about right. That’s a very high rating, and there’s room to move above, because Celebrator is coming soon to a tongue near me.

Troegs Troegenator Doublebock carton
Troegs Troegenator Doublebock carton

New Belgium Rampant Imperial IPA

New Belgium’s Rampant Imperial IPA

OK, had some dentistry done today, so am hitting the assortment of hi-alk beers waiting in the fridge for review. Just did the Uinta Dubhe Imerial Black IPA, which is in fact a stout with “IPA” mysteriously slapped on the label, at 9.2% alcohol. Now let’s keep the imperial theme going with this one, NB’s Imperial IPA, nicknamed the Rampant, at a feral 8.5% alk.

Label has a crown overgrown with hop vines, so someone at New Belgium doesn’t understand that word “rampant”, but hey, public schools whatever, let’s move on. Color is tawny gold, small head and no bubbles eagerly reaching for the surface. Label claims it’s good on the nose, and shucks, they’re right. This has got one of the best aromas of an IPA yet tested. Not spiky pine or punchy citrus, but those mellower fruits, plum and peach, just as the label mentions peach, and there it is. Florals too, and we know that flowers don’t grow on pine trees, even though the label mentions pine as well.

The bubbles appear where your lips meet the liquid and swirl up from there, so they’ve got the carbonation locked in tight here, and it’s light but maybe that’s what “imperial” means when talking about beer? It did make me burp, so it’s not like this is flatter than a middleschool prom. One odd thing, the smell is better than the taste here. I could sniff this pint all day long, but there are some smells inside that don’t translate to the tongue.

The taste is veritably heavenly. I liked the NB Ranger IPA, and this is indeed a little more far-ranging than that. Still have some numbness from the novocaine, so will paste a mental post-it to pick this beer up again and make a more sober review. It deserves that, judging from my initial reaction, which is luv.

Damn, that taste is good. This might be the one which knocks off Sam Adams 48º Latitude from the Top Five IPA’s, but again, that serious decision will await a more sober review with all my nerve endings firing properly. Right now, i just appreciate the 8.5% alk. The taste is worldly, there’s that citrus fruit, but not a nostril-enlarging pucker. Here, it’s more general fruitiness, and yes there is that pine, but the undercurrent is berries and spice.

Cripes, this is one fine IPA. In fact, this may be a rare opportunity. Now i need to gather a bottle each of The Five and some of this Rampant, and do some fine-tooth testing. I’m going to give this a provisional rating of 9.1 on a par with higher into the 9’s. Potentially very high… i have not enjoyed an IPA this much for quite a while, and that’s not just the drugs talking.

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.

Founders Centennial IPA

Founders Centennial IPA
Founder’s Centennial IPA

“Brewed For Us.” Well, “us” must be grapefruit lovers, because that’s exactly what this IPA smells like right out of the bottle. Dry hopped to reach 65 IBU’s and a bit towards vicious at 7.2% alk, the look of it is a lot towards amber and not so pale. Hailing from Grand Rapids in Michigan, this is a step up from the Founder’s All-Day IPA, and commensurately more expensive.

However, that extra moolah missing from your card all goes towards better beer, and this one is a good investment in personal happiness. Great balance between body and hoppy, and by now you know i love a heavier body in an IP-whatever. No disappointment here. Hops are strong, and the label doesn’t mention it, but deducing from the beer’s name, i’d guess they used the Centennial species of hops, no?

Too alky for a Summer beer, otherwise the taste is g-fruity enough for that job. Label says it’s unfiltered, which is ALWAYS a good sign in an IPA: it means they’re conscious more about the taste than the presentation. And true enough, there are tiny floaty things in there and they taste like hopticles.

I think this is an excellent beer, and the local shop has a few more varieties of Founders stuff. Liked their All-Day IPA, but it didn’t inspire me to try more of their stuff. This does. I don’t think it’s going to dislodge one of the Top Five in the Pantheon of IPA’s, but this has Top Ten written all over my tongue. An even 9.0 is awarded, and hey, i’m not one of those jackasses who levies all ratings within a point of 7 just to be nice.

Take into account that i normally deduct score for high alcohol content, except for double-IPA’s where that’s expected. So in this case, a 9.0 is a very substantial rating. Founders should be proud. You should drink this.

Wachusetts Green Monsta IPA


Wachusett's Green Monsta IPA
Wachusett’s Green Monsta IPA

Wondered about the odd pattern on the label and the odd name of this IPA, and then realized: of course! It’s made in Massachusetts and the pattern is the stitching on a baseball, so the Green Monster is the one in Fenway Park. But the Red Sox have trademarked the phrase “Green Monster” which is ridiculous, it’s like getting a patent on bread, but it means this beer has to be Monsta instead of Monster. The Red Sox even went as far as slapping Ellwood Blues when he used to say on his radio hour that his sponsor, The House Of Blues restaurant chain’s place in Boston was “right behind the Green Monster.” Now Ellwood has to say “behind Fenway Park.” Ridiculous.

In any case, now safe from being sued by a baseball club they likely adore, the Wachusett Brewery has another winner on its hands. Billed as “unfiltered” and an “American India Pale Ale”, which is… nevermind… this sippyslut is a healthy 6.1% alk with a stand-up 55 IBUs. Cloudy so it’s certainly unfiltered, but if they want to go that route, they need to talk to the Monkey Handler at CB Craftbrewers about the Makumba, which is so unfiltered as to be chewy.

This Massachewy beer is not as dirty as all that, but it does chew up and spit out most of its competition. A killa dilla of a beer, strong beer body flavor and adventurous hoppys (Amarillo, Cascade and Centennial). It all adds up to a deep one to left center and if you want to catch it, look out where you’re running. The hops are citrus of course, but the hint of sweetness brings out other tart fruits, nectarine and peach.

Have to place this one in the top five IPAs to cross this tongue, and it breaks the tie. The previous 4 toppers were Smuttynose Finestkind from Maine and Sam Adams’s 48º from Boston, and Sierra Nevada’s Hop Hunter out of Cali, then Full Sail from Oregon. With another addition to the echelon from New England, we are no longer tied… the Easterners have the edge. With the 6.1% it’s not really a hot-day beer, but the all ’round excellence of this masterpiece is an easy 9.3 rating. Ignore baseball but love this beer.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale
Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale

The label calls it a classic, and there you have it. It’s become almost pedestrian, as Sam Adams Boston Lager. SN has trotted out variations of this brew, catering to the recent hop madness of the USA, but this one is still a masterpiece of the craft beer movement. Light body, a touch darker than pale, a well-planned beer recipe executed with time-worn expertise, and they obey the Rheinheitsgebot even though they don’t have to.

Taste is medium in body, medium in alk at 5.6%, and hops well in attendance but not sphinct-puckeringly powerful. The single species of hops, Cascade, gives you fruits and the sweetness of the medium body makes those fruit notes into actual undertones. You can’t do that without knowing what the heck you’re doing, and by now SN does know. Rated at 9.0 because there are other exquisite strokes of luck from other breweries, but if my ratings were based on consistant quality barrel after barrel for 35 years, then naturally this one would be a 10.

Sierra Nevada Hop Hunter IPA

Sierra Nevada’s Hop Hunter

You see me use the phrase now and then, “hoppier than thou,” to describe the mania for IPA’s this decade, the nutty competition among craft brewers to come up with a recipe or some technique resulting in the most hop-encrusted beer in the world. Yes, this is unique to America, bless its little green heart. There are some who predict that the next dance craze will be the saison style of beer, some who think it will be the pilsener. I think those people are nuts.

There’s subtle shadings in saisons and pilseners, afficionados can tell between two of the same animal, tiny signs in the carbonation and coloration. Makes me think of a couple guys in mid-evening around a gigantic red pool table without numbers on the balls, and without pockets in the corners, when one of them sips from an oddly shaped glass and exclaims (in a British accent): “Why Master Burgage-Withers! You scoundrelous devil, you’ve used a half-dram of wheat in this pils! Oh no, you’ll not find my palate unawares on any Thursday, no Sir!”

That’s not the kind of crafty brew drinkers we have in America. No buddy, we need a blazing marker on our trail, preferably on actual fire. The whole reason hoppy beers like the IPA are the raging craze here, is that you can tell right away how heavy the hops are. I could see stouts taking off in America, because it’s easy to tell differences: “This one sits like wet cement in my guts more than that one.” But not craft pilseners, or saisons. That’s fruity lah-dee-dah stuff. In our rot-gut whiskey, we just don’t care if it’s single-rot or not.

Now back to IPA’s. There’s the sciencey thing, the IBU, Int’l Bitterness Unit, for some basic signpost, but you really don’t need to get that technical to know if your lips are twisting themselves off your face. The IPA is in your face, and you don’t need to read the friggin’ manual, and in America we don’t say friggin’. There’s one measure for IPA, the hops level and the balance with beer body. Is that two things? Are you sure? Then let me remind you of one of the cornerstones of American Wisdom: “There’s one thing Daddy likes and that’s titties and beer.” So there.

So who is hoppier than thou? This is. Sierra Nevada’s Hop Hunter IPA will twist your kisser and pucker your nips. It is the hoppiest IPA in the land, and the reason is science but we don’t need to know all that. Basic idea is this: SiNev invented a contraption, assumedly on wheels, which they roll out to the hops farm. Using steam and pressure, they rip the aromatic oils right out of the hop buds before they know what’s going on, fresh picked and suddenly shriveled by Sierra Nevada’s mobile hop-oil vampire machine.

Then they brew a regularly high-hopped IPA, add in the stolen hop oil, and this is what you get. Not only hops, but the souls of sacrificed baby hops. Wooo, that’s the right stuff. To keep all these volatile aromatic oils in solution the alk has to be high, 6.2% in this case, and it comes out the pipe at 60 IBU’s. There are higher IBU’s to be dranked, but now we know, that it’s not about the number, it’s about HOW you hop it up.

And then there’s that pesky balance, where so many brewers get it wrong. Hop Hunter has got it right. A quite pale color to this drink, but they use some very good malts which shine just below the sheen of hop oil. A tiny sweetness, just enough to make the bitter hops into exotic fruit flavors, and it’s really a surprise that they can get such a flavorful beer body into something so light in color. Extra surprise that a malt even exists, which can stand on two legs behind this wild hopslaught.

Suff to say, that the elusive balance is there, and in spades. SiNev knows what they’re doing by now, 35 years in the biz, and with a touch of technical wizardry they’ve solved the puzzle of hops. This is Hoppier Than Thou, bottled. Heck, even my burps taste like a pine branch. By now it should be obvious that this one is in my Top Five IPA’s. In fact, it’s #2 with a 9.5 rating, just behind the exquisite Finestkind by Smuttynose.

Spaten Optimator Doppelbock

Spaten’s Optimator Doppelbock

Caramel in the heaviest way, a true German beer with soul built in by law. It has that backmouth sour as it goes down like many German beers, and a squeaky feel on the tongue. Don’t know why, but many German beers remind me of shoelaces. But in a good way. Even i don’t know what that means.

Being a doppelbock (double bock), this is brewed from the leavings of other Spaten bocks, which were themselves brewed from the leavings from Spaten’s regular beers. The silt and scum from a brewing run is high in unconverted sugars, locked away in the dead bodies of little yeast bugs who gave their lives and fortunes for alcohol. Thus, a scoop of double-brewed silt has even more sugars. Enter more unwitting yeasties, and there’s a lot of sugar… they can’t help but turn it all into alcohol, making this double-bock beer a serious 7.6% alcohol.

Worlds of taste from the multifarious malts which went into the constituent beers, and they were all compliant with the strict German Beer Purity Law. German beer is what beer really is, and this third-level brewing is not cheap, but it is the pinnacle of what German brewers are allowed to do under the Rheinheitsgebot of 1516 Anno Domini.

Still mostly in effect after an even 500 years, the Rheinheitsgebot law is constantly under attack by, simply put, jackasses. Both within and outside Germany, people keep trying to claim that gluten-free beer is real beer (it is not), and self-important Euro-zone bureaucrats keep trying to chip away at Germany’s Beer Purity Law on the grounds that it’s “protectionist”. What a bunch of turds.

Five centuries of pure beer have developed German brewers into the world’s experts at making real beer, using only: water, yeast, hops and barley. Nothing else. This forces Germans to make the best of it, and they’ve done just that… they make the best. Some inside Germany want to repeal the Purity Law so they can make all sorts of abominations, like cherry flavors and adding sugars and colorings. Jackasses. All the Rheinheitsgebot says is that they can’t do that and still label it “beer (bier)”. Doesn’t prevent them from making all sorts of abominations, they just can’t call it beer. Because cherry beer isn’t real German beer, it is, in fact, an abomination.

I hereby call on American brewers to support the Rheinheitsgebot, and to abide by it voluntarily. There should be a little ‘R’ inside a square, a small and unobtrusive mark on the label, to alert knowing consumers that the beer inside is absolutely real beer. Water, barley, hops and yeast. Only those ingredients. If you do that, put the (R) mark on the label. If you can’t abide, then no problem. But if you do, then let us know. I would whole-heartedly gear my purchases towards beers that bear an (R) mark. We don’t need a law to enforce beer purity, but we sure as hell need a way to tell what’s real beer and what is carrying additives.

But off the rant for now, back to Spaten’s Optimator…

Knowing what it took to make this beer, and acknowledging the unqualified success in flavor, the rating has to be 9.7 for excellence. A great “last beer of the night” to send you off with that toasty roasty flavor lingering for a long time, and the high proof lending an extra depth to your sleep and extra oddness to your dreams. I dreamt that there was a girl who slept on her ceiling every night. She’d start out in bed but over the course of tossing and turning she ended up on the ceiling, so her folks wouldn’t let her move out on her own even though she was in her 20s, for fear a strange bedroom would end up with her falling 10 feet onto the floor in the morning.

Wow, what a weird/awesome dream. And it came after drinking real German doppel-bock. Thanks, Spaten!