Cuvee De 75
Listermann Brewing Co. / Warped Wing Brewing Co.
The brewers at Listermann are straight-up booze ninjas. Quite often we’ll be happily sipping one of their beers thinking its ABV is mostly harmless, only to realize once the bottle’s empty that it’s actually well into the double-digits and, whoops, looks like we’re taking an Uber home. So it is with this collaboration with Dayton, Ohio’s Warped Wing: The 11.2% alcohol content feels and tastes more like 7%. But perhaps that smoothness is to be expected of a beer composed of 48.5 percent Triple Digit Bourbon Barrel-Aged Chickow!, 48.5 percent Warped Wing Bourbon Barrel-Aged Pirogue black tripel and 3 percent Warped Wing Bourbon Barrel-Aged Abominator doppelbock; Chickow!, an imperial brown ale, is already a sneaky-strong beer, and the dark fruit flavors of the doppelbock and dark tripel only dull the edges of the charred malt and soften the finish further. The marriage of the three beers also leads to beauty in the aroma, with notes of chocolate-covered raisin, boysenberry and plum cavorting with toffee and fresh coconut shavings. The backdrop is tangy and well-aged, like dark rum and fruit leather. On the palate, a huge coconut character and a burst of woody highland Scotch segues quickly into tangy prune, toffee and toasted hazelnut. Graham cracker crumbles and caramel sauce linger after the swallow, along with a subtle woody smokiness. Plus, this bottle is the first we’ve seen in the wild featuring the Brewers Association’s new “Certified Independent” seal on its label.
War Horse Brewing Co.
BARIS (it stands for Big Ass Russian Imperial Stout) is about as thick and filling as bourbon-aged stouts get. Aged in barrels for a year and released for War Horse’s first anniversary, the beer slathers maple syrup and peanut butter atop cinnamon raisin bread, then chases it all with rich hot cocoa with melted marshmallows. These flavors would seem sweet, but torched malts provide much-needed bitterness at the finish that brings each sip to a balanced close and makes the 14% ABV—which should hit like a claymore—surprisingly mild. The beer’s chewy enough that we think it could stand some time in the cellar, but definitely drink it now if you’re only able to find one bottle.
SPON – Blueberry & Pitaya
Jester King Brewery
True Belgian lambic is a special thing, crafted in Belgium’s Senne River Valley through centuries-old techniques and fermented with microorganisms found nowhere else in the world. It’s no wonder, then, that Belgian lambic brewers have fought over the years to protect these traditions, or that American brewers have been so reticent to call the beers they make using similar practices “lambic.” Jester King, especially, has gone out of its way to avoid using the word in its labeling, choosing instead to group its beers 100% spontaneously fermented with wild, indigenous yeast under the SPON moniker. But c’mon, guys—this is a lambic. Aside from the uncommon fruit additions (pitaya, aka dragonfruit, and Texas-grown blueberries), the beer tastes as complex as any Belgian-brewed wild ale, with flavors of blueberry jam, pink dragonfruit pulp, black currant and plums hitting hard at the swallow. The acidity—bracing but manageable—slowly fades after the dry finish, with hints of raisin, parsley, sawdust and cranberry lingering on the tongue.
Double Frumunda Fruit
Claim 52 Brewing
Full disclosure: The beer pictured above is NOT Claim 52’s Double Frumunda Fruit; it’s Fluffy, the Eugene, Oregon-based brewery’s flagship hazy IPA (which is also quite tasty). The Frumunda Fruit was sent to us in a crowler, which we rapidly emptied and, in a bout of flavor-induced delirium, threw into a trash can before we could take a photo. Our bad. An imperial version of an IPA called Frumunda Fruit hopped to the bejeezus with Galaxy, Double Fromunda emits a sweet, fruity aroma absolutely dripping with mango, tangerine, cantaloupe and watermelon bubblegum. Sips add mown grass, orange pulp, wheat thins and glazed Krispy Kremes to the fruit bowl, though individual flavors are tougher to suss out; it’s as though everything was mashed together by an overeager kid with a mixing bowl. One note that’s clear: tangy tangerine peel, which shifts smoothly to pithy bitterness—just enough for balance—before a cream puff finish.
Perennial Artisan Ales
As a well-known Owen likes to say: Wow. Perennial’s table-strength (4.7% ABV) saison is a sprightly, sessionable stunner. Hopped in the kettle and fermenter with Mosaic and bottle-conditioned with Brettanomyces Claussenii—which tends to produce less of the classic “barnyard” character most drinkers associate with Brett and more pineapple, cherry and leather—the beer’s aroma melds lemon verbena, meringue, white pepper, funky white grapes, wet hay and just a hint of vinyl. Sips reveal pear, pineapple and pepper up front; grassy hops and blueberry skins arrive at the swallow and linger long after the beer’s gone. The hopping is nice—not overly done, just kind of there—and with lively carbonation sweeping the palate clean at the bone-dry finish, we could drink gallons of this stuff. Good thing it comes in such big bottles.