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The best beers we tasted this week

DRAFT’s editors taste dozens of new beers each week. These were our five favorites.
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Magnolia Kalifornia Kolsch, Modern Times Centaur Gardens, Grand Teton Bourbon Double Vision, Noble Nuclear Haze, RaR Galaxy Dry-Hopped Hyde

Kalifornia Kölsch
Magnolia Brewing Co.

Twenty years after opening the doors, beloved San Francisco brewery Magnolia finally released its first canned beers in February. Kalifornia should become a fridge staple; it’s a flavorful, crisp example of the style with an impressive emphasis on the malts. To wit: Oyster crackers rule the aroma, while hints of crisp red delicious and a whiff of oregano can be picked up in the background. Sweet crackers are also the first noticeable flavor, followed by apple/pear slices lightly dusted with cracked black pepper. While the herbal bitterness is a notch above what we’re used to for the style, it’s not off-putting at all, and the dry finish that wipes away everything save the crackery malts makes this one krushable kölsch.

Centaur Gardens
Modern Times Brewing Co.

Here at DRAFT, we love oniony hops and we don’t care who knows it. Centaur Gardens is loaded with ‘em—Amarillo and Simcoe, plus fruity Citra, J17 and Mosaic—and the result is an aroma like French onion soup chased with orange juice. Caramelized onion, chopped garlic and orange pulp surge with each sip; squishy wheat combines with the allium at the swallow for a lingering quality close to a Bloomin’ Onion. It’s soft, layered, and good enough to make you cry.

Bourbon Barrel Aged Double Vision ‘15
Grand Teton Brewing

From the archives of this Idaho-based brewery comes a vintage version of its Double Vision doppelbock aged eight months in bourbon barrels. All that rest, both in the wood and in the cellar, has helped it evolve into something special. Toasted pecans, toffee, graham flour and plum harmonize in a bouquet that doesn’t fixate on either the base beer or the barrel; sips add cocoa, turbinado sugar and soft vanilla bean before a warm, mostly dry finish. Rather than distracting from the base doppelbock, bourbon-aging seems to have put the focus on it, and age has taken the edge off. We doubt that a bourbon barrel-aged doppelbock could be done much better than this.

Nuclear Haze
Noble AleWorks

This is a bold statement, but we feel pretty confident in making it: Noble is one of the top five producers of New England-style IPA in the country right now. Our obsession with their juicy hop wizardry has been percolating for months, but this Citra-, Mosaic-, Idaho 7- and Ekuanot-hopped double IPA blew it up like a 50-megaton warhead. Onions, wheat grass and tangerine burst above the murky liquid, with bits of pineapple rind, smooth peach and dried vanilla detectable amid the fallout. Sips draw out tangy citrus and pine needles; the swallow is mostly dry and grassy, with sliced wheat bread and soft onion skin hovering above the finish. Soft and juicelike, the body is so packed with hop flavor you can feel it; prickly capsaicin-style heat tingles the tongue like nuclear radiation. Each can should come with a biohazard warning and its own hazmat suit.

Galaxy Dry-Hopped Hyde
RaR Brewing

The next time you’re invited to a retelling of the strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, skip it: This 6.6% IPA narrates the story all by itself. We start with the refined, orderly aroma, pleasantly presenting rising dough, soft mango pulp, grass clippings and pineapple rind, then enhancing them with civil additions of vanilla and flaky pastries. But the flavor warps this genteel affair; sips offer grungy fistfuls of clementine orange and white onion, while a green, leafy hop note floats above. Swallows expose pineapple juice and a bit of lemon zest as well as rough, sticky bitterness that lingers long after the beer’s gone. It’s a study on the duality of man in beer form, and, to steal a quote from the novel referenced above: If this beer be Mr. Hyde, you should be Mr. Seek.

 

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

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