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The best beers we tasted this week

DRAFT’s editors taste dozens of beers each week. These were our four favorites.
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Newburgh Blend #1, Wicked Weed Barrel Aged French Toast, Evil Czech Evil Czech-munk, Highland Park Griffith J. Griffith

Blend #1
Newburgh Brewing Co.

Take a strong stock ale aged two years in Spanish sherry casks, mix it with a bit of fresh golden sour ale, and you get Newburgh’s first-ever blended beer. You also get a ton of carbonation—the beer explodes in pillowy cream-colored foam the second it hits the glass. This is a boon, however, since the bubbles release fragrances of pear skin, raw sugar, shortbread, rose petals, custard and apple cider vinegar all supported by lovely oak character—this smells like it came from a very old, musty barrel covered in cobwebs. Tart cherry and sweet red grape lead each sip into pools of green apple, buttery medium-toast oak and coconut before a subtle tug of farmhouse funk at the swallow, while acidity and winelike tannins rise at the finish but remain at about the level of an underripe fruit. Qualities of both young and old beer are not only present, but enhance each other. This is the way blends should work.

Barrel Aged French Toast
Wicked Weed Brewing

When your French toast gets covered in bourbon, it should be called Kentucky Toast, no? Freedom Toast, at the very least. But while whiskey has a role in this version of Wicked Weed’s cinnamon-, vanilla- and maple syrup-flavored imperial stout, it’s not the lead. Marshmallow actually rules the aroma—though there’s none in here—with milk chocolate, Dr. Pepper, sticky vanilla bean and faint cinnamon sticks mixing below. On the tongue, maple slides into milk chocolate and hints of butterscotch. Some high bourbon notes are noticeable at first, but the swallow softens these with a soft barbecue note, smooth waffle batter and cocoa-like bitterness lingering through the finish. We’re still calling it Freedom Toast, though.

Evil Czech-Munk
Evil Czech Brewery

If the image of a battle axe-wielding chipmunk smiling with chubby, blood-speckled cheeks isn’t enough of a reason to seek out a can of this IPA from Mishawaka, Indiana-based Evil Czech, rest assured that the liquid inside is just as righteous. Dry-hopping with Centennial, Cascade and Ahtanum imparts a verdant nose that layers grass blades atop Clementine oranges and pockets of dried white onion and peach. The flavor is both compact and complex, with every note of mown grass, tangerine peel, mango, onion and cracked pepper overlapping the other. Soft bitterness leads to a balanced, clean finish, but quickly defeating the whole 16-ounce can’s no easy task; the substantial, creamy body and 7% ABV make it a slow sipper.

Griffith J. Griffith
Highland Park Brewery

What’s most impressive about Highland Park’s imperial coffee stout isn’t its nose like thin mints and graham crackers chased with espresso; it’s the subtle anise and cola flavors that speckle a base of charred toast, Italian roast and dark chocolate; or the gently sweet nutty pecan notes that materialize with each exhale; and it’s how far below its alcohol content the beer drinks. It’s 12.5% ABV but could pass for 7%; latte-like creaminess is the only reminder of its brawn.

 

Author
Zach Fowle is DRAFT's beer editor. Reach him at zach@draftmag.com.

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