No Ticky, No Taco
Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. (not pictured; draft-only)
It would be easy to dismiss this saison built to mimic the flavors of a taco as silly gimmickry if it wasn’t so damn nuanced and interesting. Lemon, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, chili peppers and cilantro do their part to make the beer smell like the inside of a Chipotle, but dry-hopping with Galaxy, Citra and Mosaic layers honeydew and grass atop the Mexican food. Lime juice and salt engage the tongue initially, with notes of roasted cilantro and corn adding to the taco perception; swallows shift toward the saison as soft pear slices sweeten the swallow before saliva-inducing saltiness comes in. Peppercorns and smoky cumin float above the palate between sips. Props to the hops and yeast in this one—they both do their part to keep this seeming like, well, a beer. It’s clearly a saison, clearly a taco, and one of the most unique beers we’ve ever tried.
The Wanderer Vol. 1 Issue 2
Idle Vine Brewing Co.
We were quite impressed with the first “issue” of The Wanderer, Idle Vine’s premiere imperial black IPA, when we tasted it in March. Issue 2 gets a boost from kettle additions of sweet and bitter orange peel as well as aging with zest from sumo, cara cara and blood oranges, and it might just turn us into full-blown Idle Vine collectors. The nose is like a dark chocolate Christmas orange: huge citrus zest character intermingled with cocoa powder and a bit of toasted wheat. Notes of ginger ale and clove emerge with warmth—it’s like a chocolate mulled cider. The flavor’s more focused on charred malt, though the citrus zest does bounce around pre-swallow. Below, a silky layer of melted high-percentage cacao settles alongside anise and a prunelike tang. Swallows soften with graham flour and cocoa powder for a finish like orange soda plus dark chocolate milk. As with the original batch of Wanderer, the crushed velvet body is texturally exquisite, and the alcohol is almost nonexistent. Idle Vine knows what they’re doing when it comes to black IPAs.
Magick is Purple
Half Acre Beer Co.
Magick is Purple is the first beer to emerge from Half Acre’s Wyld Cove, the room that once housed the brewery’s canning line and was retrofitted for wild fermentation after the opening of Half Acre’s second brewing facility in 2015. It began its fermentational journey in stainless steel tanks in February 2016, then was moved into oak red wine barrels and spiked with wild critters, blended in November, transferred into bottles for final conditioning in February, and was finally released last weekend. It was worth the wait. Above the wild ale’s rusty orange hue and huge, creamy, oatmeal-colored head, aromas of oaky custard, underripe strawberries and plums swirl. We love the amount of malt here: There are notes of toast, caramel, bread crust and toffee you rarely find in beers of this style. The acidity is puckering, but not over-the-top tart—more like lemon Sour Patch Kids than actual lemon—and the swallow brings out the soft toffee, caramel and toasted biscuits of the malt. It seems to us a really good amber ale that’s become a really good sour, and it has us excited for whatever magick emerges from the Wyld Cove next.
Central State Brewing Co.
Brewery/chef collaborations are usually a blast to drink because they contain obscure ingredients and flavor combinations most brewers would never dream of. To wit: Á Point, a collaboration with Chef Neal Brown (a two-time James Beard Award nominee and the man behind Pizzology and the Libertine Liquor Bar in Indianapolis) is brewed with toasted rice, wild rice, buckwheat, Indiana sumac and grains of paradise. The aroma of the saison has all the advertised parts: Bright green pear notes accent earthy rice and the lemon/hibiscus tang that sumac delivers. A subtle hint of vanilla can be picked up while the beer’s still, though a swirl draws out pungent grains of paradise. Sips are at once spicy, lemony, bright and snappy, with a pinch of fruity acidity just before the dry, peppery finish and the toasted rice that lingers after the swallow. Its component parts are subtle enough that you might mistake them for yeast phenols if you didn’t know better, which indicates discretion with the additives. Floral, fruity and vibrant, it’s a warm spring day in a can.