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The best beers we tasted this week

Every day, we here at DRAFT do our best to drink every beer we can get our hands on. These are the bottles and cans we cracked this week that most impressed our palates.
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Best Beers of the Week 9/2

R2 Koelschip Ale
Draai Laag Brewing Co.

Just so you don’t spend the next few sentences wondering, the brewery name’s pronounced “dry log.” It’s a Flemish phrase that translates, roughly, to “turncoat,” and is a reference to Simon Girty, a man who was either a snake who turned traitor on America during the Revolutionary War or a champion of Native Americans whose lands were being taken, depending on whom you ask. (Draai Laag also makes a Belgian strong dark ale named after Girty.) R2 was fermented using wild yeast collected in the brewery’s hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but you’d think it came straight from Belgium. The aroma it delivers is the dictionary definition of farmhouse: dried hay, reduced peach, a splash of vinegar. Rustic and sunny, these are clear aromas that seem crafted with intention, despite their spontaneous origin. Give it a sip and you’re introduced to sweet peach and custard—peaches and cream—that brightens with the tartness of an unripe pear at the swallow. Zippy carbonation fizzes on the tongue like Pop Rocks, cleaning the thoughtful flavors off the tongue before the next drink.

Careful With That Passion Fruit, Eugene
Beachwood Blendery

After more than a year of anticipation, the sour and barrel-aged arm of California’s Beachwood Brewing finally began releasing long-term bottled wild ales this summer. Careful with that Passion Fruit, Eugene (the name’s based on a Pink Floyd song that’s become a sort of running joke among cover bands) is the first entry in the blendery’s “lambic-inspired” fruited series, and it certainly doesn’t seem like Eugene listened—sweet passionfruit and sugary angel food cake can be picked up from feet away as soon as the bottle’s cork comes off. Get closer and things become more earthy and spicy, with fresh-ground ginger topping ripe, fuzzy peach and vanilla custard; a swirl brings out tart lemon and dried straw. Passionfruit rolls in and softens the acidity (pretty mild, overall) at the flavor’s finish, while the aftertaste is champagnelike, with white grape, oak and vanilla custard lingering long after the swallow. Good things come to those who wait, and all that.

20th Anniversary Citracado IPA
Stone Brewing

Stone tends to crush it with its anniversary IPAs; this one comes with the added benefit of an introduction to the smooth, caramelized character of avocado honey. In the nose, that adjunct lends molasses sweetness to Hawaiian roll-like malts and hop notes that come across like a bag of lawn clippings. Dehydrated orange peel melds with doughy, biscuity malt on the tongue before the velvety sip dries out, leaving the palate with just a touch of earthy honey and cooling mint. It’s clean, and the flavors are distinct and harmonious, and now we want some avocado honey.

Dry-Hopped Wild Ale
Upslope Brewing Co.

Judging by the number of crummy examples we’ve tasted recently, sours that incorporate hop aroma and flavor are surprisingly difficult to get right. The issue lies in hop selection—there are simply some varieties that will clash with acid, especially those that are super citrusy or pine-forward. Nelson Sauvin and Mosaic are not those varieties. Nelson, in particular, tends to mimic white wine—the “Sauvin” in its name is a reference to sauvignon blanc—and Mosaic emits everything from blueberries to tangerines to bubblegum. They’re a smart choice for this Brettanomyces- and oak-fermented wild ale, as the bubblegummy and funky wine grape notes derived from dry hopping overlap nicely with the funky blue cheese and vinaigrette character of the yeast. A touch of custard centers the compact flavor, bringing balance to the blend of strawberries, white wine and dried hay that appear at the beer’s finish.

Juiceless
Wicked Weed Brewing/Creature Comforts Brewing Co.

There a few ways to pack a beer with fruit juice flavors: You can actually add the fruit (or juice, syrup or chemical flavoring) right into the liquid, or you can utilize hops that already come equipped with tropical notes. This IPA employs the second method, though the result is less probably less “juicy” than the collaborating brewers were going for. Wet, dank cannabis leads the aroma into passionfruit and mango, with a good amount of dried bread crust malt underneath; grass and fresh green leaves flourish on the swirl alongside sweet grilled onion. On the tongue, onion juice and fresh grassy hops dominate before sliding into herbal oregano and bay leaf, with an edge of dried mango peel at the swallow. Malts are bready and unobtrusive; the swallow is super-clean and more bitter than expected. You’d never mistake this for fruit juice, but you’d also never mistake it for boring.

 

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

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