Birdsong Brewing Co.
If you don’t like puns, you’re going to have a bad thyme with the next few sentences. You see, since thyme immemorial, coriander has been the spice of choice for adding zip to Belgian-style witbiers. But this wit from Charlotte, North Carolina-based Birdsong (which has been on this list before for the excellent Lazy Bird brown ale) has us thinking coriander’s stranglehold on wit is living on borrowed thyme. The aroma leads, as you might expect, with notes of pear, bubblegum, vanilla, coriander, pancake batter, but thyme grows as the beer warms, weaving limey, herbal notes among the other components. Thyme flies on the tongue as well, its character melding with tangy orange before a midpalate surge of yellow Starburst and cracked wheat. Leafy thyme breezes through again at the soft, dry swallow just before the final impression of lemon Creamsicles sprinkled with grass. Thyme’s a perfect choice for a wit, and it’s added with a deft hand here, emerging as the beer warms but never reaching levels that annoy or distract from the other additives or the base beer. However, Doin’ Thyme’s a spring seasonal available only from March until May, so get it while you can. You could say thyme…
..is of the essence.
Terrapin Beer Co.
Normally we’re against aging coffee beers for any length of time, as the flavor and aroma of coffee can be just as delicate as that of hops, dropping off dramatically within just a few weeks. But the espresso character in this imperial stout brewed with cocoa nibs, cocoa shells, coffee beans and lactose was so intense when we first tried it in November 2016 that we had to give it some time to mellow. Glad we did—while those beans are still the most prominent player in the aroma, their huge, oily character is now met with sweet cream, vanilla bean and a hint of sourdough bread. Rich dark chocolate looms underneath while hints of blackberry and hazelnut swirl at the edges. The flavor, too, seems more balanced, arriving in several stages. The first is all coffee, which means more blackberry and blueberry notes alongside the rich roasted character of the beans. Smoky dark chocolate is below, and again that sourdough toast is perceptible way in the back. The second stage materializes several beats after the swallow, when the vanilla and toasted hazelnut gloss themselves across the tongue like a knife smoothing Nutella on warm bread. Coffee combats any over-the-top sweetness; the body is surprisingly delicate; and the alcohol is pretty much absent. Mocha latte-lovers, you’ll want this.
The Brew Gentlemen get a lot of hype for their Northeast-style hoppy ales, and every bit of it is warranted. Rarely have we smelled any hoppy beer—let alone a 5.2% pale ale—with as vivid an aroma, and somehow they’ve coerced Nelson and Mosaic hops to come across not only dank and resinous, but also incredibly fruity, like a cannabis plant sprouting pineapples. Chopped white onions dance alongside; the base is like doughnuts and a wet field of grass. While not quite as prolific as the nose (what could be?), the flavor is damn fine as well: The fruits and grass blades meld again, but are this time met by the pulp and zest of tangerines and a hint of Creamsicles. Hop flavor all but vanishes at the swallow, with the focus trained on the soft pastry dough base; soft cracked wheat and a hint of vanilla linger amid mild citrus pulp bitterness. That’s a metric ton of flavor and aroma crammed inside a fairly low-ABV beer. We tip our caps to you, Gentlemen.
Wyndridge Double IPA
Wyndridge Farm Brewing
Is there anything more hip in beer right now than brewing on a farm? Shaun Hill would submit that there is not. Equally fashionable is to craft your IPAs with damn near irresponsible levels of nouveau hops. And if both these things are cool, consider Wyndridge Farm Miles Davis. The farmstead in Dallastown, Pennsylvania (about 35 miles south of Harrisburg) creates all manner of craft beverages, from beer to cider to soda, but the best of them is this seasonal imperial IPA stuffed with Mosaic, Citra, Mandarina Bavaria, Waimea and Calypso hops. Those varieties combine for a nose like grapefruits rolled across a just-mown lawn and clover honey drizzled atop plain doughnuts. Orange marmalade, tangelo zest, Wheat Thins and a hint of mango wash across the palate before a quick flash of pine needles and wheat grass at the swallow, with Honeycombs lingering through the finish. Oats and wheat give the brew a soft, silky medium-light body; bitterness and alcohol burn (though a substantial 8.3%) are both low and smooth. A damn tasty IPA, clear and direct.