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The best beers we tasted this week

DRAFT’s editors taste dozens of beers each week. These are the four that stood above the rest.
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Tusk & Grain Brandy Barrel Aged Coffee Porter, Threes Unreliable Narrator, Short's Double Magician, Surf Scientific Series C-02

Brandy Barrel Aged Coffee Porter
Tusk & Grain

The barrel-aged arm of San Diego’s Saint Archer Brewing Co. recently released two barrel-aged coffee porters; this was the far more successful of the two thanks to the shrewd choice to combine brandy with plummy Kenyan “Karagoto” coffee, layering fruit on fruit on fruit. The oily, berrylike beans overlap seamlessly with the brandy, while notes of milky coffee creamer, graham crackers and soft vanilla give a raspberries-with-cream impression. Coffee is the perfect steady baseline throughout, allowing deep acai flavors to rise and then dovetail into dark chocolate; the finish leaves lingering marshmallow, raisin and chocolate on the tongue, with a touch of dry wood. The character of the brandy barrel was incorporated with a deft touch; it feels more like an adjunct flavor than a dominant characteristic. Smooth but not heavy, the beer’s still light as a porter should be, but jam-packed with flavor.

Unreliable Narrator
Threes Brewing Co.

Brooklyn-based Threes has a penchant for both hoppy ales and emo beer names; they come together in Unreliable Narrator, a 7.5% ABV IPA. Above the beer’s turbid goldenrod hue and big, cottony head, wonders can be found: peaches, wheatgrass, mango, vanilla, orange zest and sweet Vidalia onion work in concert, while pleasant yellow cake notes support the fruits with squishy sweetness. Things get more herbal on the tongue with oniony flavors meeting dried sage and parsley before transitioning to stone fruits and more pound cake malts toward the swallow. It takes a beat to find the bitterness, but when it arrives it does so with feathery grace. You can rely on us when we say this beer is great.

Double Magician
Short’s Brewing Co.

We know that pumpkin spice lattes are all you want to drink once the leaves start turning color, but if you really want the flavors of fall, get this beer. An imperial version of The Magician, Short’s Brewing’s “dark red London ale,” Double Magician comes correct with a nose that blends nutty, toffee- and caramel-drizzled malts with a little cherry, black molasses and toast. Crunchy bread crust leads each sip into flourishes of toffee, caramel, pecan, walnut and acorn; the swallow pulls sticky, orange-and-tree-bark hop bitterness out of the hat to balance the craisiny sugars. Push the nitro-smooth beer across your tongue and allow the dangerously well-hidden 9.8% ABV to do its work; it’s fall, y’all.

Scientific Series C-02
Surf Brewery

Remember this guy?

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He was, of course, describing some sicky gnar gnar waves, but he could well also have been talking about Ventura, California’s Surf Brewery and their excellent sour program (“They just get the best barrels ever, dude. It’s just like they pull you in, and you just get spit right out of ‘em, WHOOPAH!”). This addition to the Scientific Series is a sour blonde ale aged in French oak rosé barrels for 18 months with Brettanomyces, then dry-hopped with Nelson Sauvin just before bottling. That process results in a pungent aroma melding white grape, green apple and a touch of pleasant sulfur. Smooth, vanilla-laden oak and peach pits can be pulled out amid prominent apricot-like acidity, while the Nelson reads as white grape—the beer smells fruited, though it’s not. On the tongue, peach pits overlap earthy/fruity wine character, shifting to earthy, stemmy funk toward the back of the sip and culminating in a drying oak swallow. Each sip calls for another drop in to track the undulating flavors. We got a sneak preview of the beer; it’ll be available starting in November to get you pitted, so pitted.

 

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