An annual tradition at Piehole & Co! Now that Great Lakes has ramped up production of Christmas Ale, they release bottles into the wild on Halloween. I was fortunate enough to find this display on All Saints’ Day – this batch is best by January 7, 2017. The beer might be a bit more honied this year, with fewer spice notes, but that variance from year to year is part of the appeal. It’s still my favorite beer and still a wonderful winter warmer.
Hopside Down is an interesting India Pale Lager (really an American Pale Lager) that also doubles as a spring seasonal for Widmer Brothers. This was sampled in 2013, and was released as part of their Rotator IPA Series (or at least “IPA” inspired, like this one is). Weighing in at a healthy 6.7% ABV, this is definitely one of the hoppier and stronger lagers that you’ll ever find.
Crisp and refreshing, lacking the malty beefy body that you would expect from a traditional IPA. Nice peppery hoppiness makes this a superb lager that I would be happy to drink throughout the summer, especially as it has plenty of drinkability and the hoppiness & bitterness are just as strong as a traditional IPA’s. The flavor is mellower and somewhat muted. That’s a tradeoff, but in the hot sun, it’s the better end of the bargain.
Nice grapefruity/citrus flavor profile, even if it’s a bit ethereal at times. Solid beer, but nothing exceptional.
Great Lakes Brewing Co introduced Rye of the Tiger as a pub exclusive beer quite a few years ago, but only began bottling it recently. A Rye IPA is rare enough, much less a world-class one. Rye of the Tiger combines the spicy bite of the rye with the citrusy bouquet of the hops. Finishes dry with a nice bittering kick. Has a mainly grapefruit flavor and is highly drinkable despite its 7.5% ABV. Moderately carbonated and has a nice light to medium body. Definitely one of my favorite spring beers by far (it’s been released in the spring in both 2014 and 2015).
This is a review of the original Hop Head by Green Flash (2009 version). This version was 55 IBU and only 6.4% ABV (it’s currently 70 IBU and 8.1% ABV). When it was at the original version, it was a nice hoppy American Amber that showcased how Green Flash could hold off on all the hops for once. The new version is more of a Red IPA, whereas the original was teetering on the brink of being one. The hops mixed with the deep roasted malt led to a surprisingly long finish for a nice bodied ale.
Palo Santo Marron is an American Brown Ale from Dogfish Head, weighing in right at 12% ABV (which happens to also be Ohio’s maximum ABV cap). Unfiltered and aged in handmade Palo Santo wood vessels that lend a vanilla flavor to the ale itself, it’s a wonderfully complex aged ale. A backbone of caramel malt lends flavor and strength to this beer, making a wonderfully rich and layered beer. Also tastes somewhat of raisins.
Amber Ale from Dark Horse Brewing out of Michigan is an American Amber weighing in at 5.5% ABV. It’s a pretty decent beer, but doesn’t taste like a normal amber beer should. Somewhat toasted malt flavors lurk in the background, and there’s no hops to speak of. Spicy like a Witbier – definitely would classify this more as a red Wit, because we have black IPAs. Definitely touches of banana esters and isn’t carbonated very well. Overall – would drink again, but wouldn’t seek this out either.
High Country Ale is a somewhat decent American Pale Ale (APA). Weighing in at 5.4% ABV, it tastes much like an American Adjunct Lager-Ale. That being said – it’s decent, if overly heavy on the biscuity malt flavors that still manage to be corn-like and light-tasting. Mainly malt-based, with almost no hops to speak of. Easy-drinking, but almost devoid of any other flavors besides the biscuity malt that’s light on the palate.
Storm King is an American double stout that might strike some as being more of a black DIPA. Definitely a stout for the hop-heads. Made exclusively with grain – doesn’t have coffee or chocolate flavors. Heavily carbonated, bitterly hoppy, but finishes clean. Worth searching out if you’re not a fan of stouts that overly rely on coffee or chocolate notes (despite its reliance on hops here).
Sampled in 2009 – Year-round oatmeal stout brewed by New Holland (Michigan) at only 5.2% ABV. Full bodied, but not creamy. Balanced roasted malt flavors with touches of coffee, oatmeal, and chocolate. Silky smooth mouthfeel and highly drinkable. Slightly dry due to the oatmeal, but slightly bittered by the hops to remind you to slow down and enjoy this excellent stout instead of chugging it like it was water.
Sampled in 2009 – 4.3% ABV doesn’t mean tasteless. Roast malt flavors combined with Fuggle hops give this a dry mouthfeel, which is desirable for a dry Irish stout. Coffee, mocha, and peat flavors commingle to create that ‘stout’ flavour, while still managing to be full-bodied. Completely black and opaque when poured, with a espresso colored head that dissipates pretty fast. Low carbonation help prop the drinkability up, along with a slight creaminess as the beer warms. Overall – I probably prefer this to Guinness if I’m not going for a creamy beer.