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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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Wicked Weed Hop Cocoa, TRVE Cursed, Three Magnets Howards Blend, Pueblo Vida 2

Hop Cocoa
Wicked Weed Brewing

Here at the DRAFT office, we spend undue amounts of time ruminating about the topic of beer styles. The big question lately: Why do certain styles exist? Take the Black IPA—how many beer drinkers out there are actually clamoring for something with bold hop bitterness compounded by ashy torched malt? Especially when things like hoppy porters already exist and manage the hop/roast balance more skillfully than a dark-hued IPA ever could? We wondered this especially as we sipped Hop Cocoa. Close your eyes and you might think this porter brewed with Dutch cocoa powder and cocoa nibs was a pale ale: Orange peel, pine needles and burnt sugar blend up front, while the dark stuff—gentle dark chocolate and smooth nuttiness—arrives after the swallow. The body is smooth and soft as a fleece blanket (thanks, malts) and pine tar bitterness lingers between each sip (you too, hops). It’s like you’re drinking two different beers within the same sip.

Cursed
TRVE Brewing Co.

Speaking of styles that are rarely successful: hoppy sours! Quite a few nearly undrinkable entries in this category have hit our office lately, and we’ve determined where most of them go awry: acidity (most are uncomfortably tart) and hop choice (woody, piney flavors tend to become harsh when paired with acid and oak). TRVE avoids both in Cursed, the Denver-based brewery’s “mixed-culture sour pale ale.” Dry-hopping gives the brew a vibrant, verdant aroma that’s like a walk through a citrus grove—lime peel, mulched grass, oranges—while the funky hay, dried peppercorns and pineapple of the house culture emerge with a swirl of the glass. On the tongue, the unmistakable grassy-citrus blend of Falconer’s Flight hops is supported by white bread, pineapple juice and just a touch of honey; those slip into mild, pithy lime juice and white grape tartness at the swallow. Acidity cleans off the palate between sips; the finish is dry and clean. This is how you do a hoppy sour.

Howards Blend
Three Magnets Brewing Co.

If you listened when we told you to keep your eye on Olympia, Washington’s Three Magnets in March, you probably already know that the brewery released this drool-worthy bourbon-aged blend a month later and are now sitting on a stockpile of bottles. If so, you’ll be happy to know that the beer—made with a combination of an imperial oatmeal stout and a separate imperial stout aged independently in bourbon barrels for 13 months—is aging nicely. Dark chocolate syrup, nougat, dried vanilla beans, oak splinters and an enticing bit of port and smoked tobacco meld in the nose; there’s been a graceful integration of barrel and age into the stout. Whiskey leads the sip with a sugary, almost tangy kick, joining up with intense raisin and dark molasses. Graham cracker and dark chocolate syrup sprinkle and speckle the palate before a charred oak finish; smoky steak char and dusty mocha rise after the swallow. Necessary cushioning malts emerge with warmth, so let this get close to room temp (and let us know how the rest of those bottles develop, you savvy DRAFT reader, you).

2
Pueblo Vida Brewing Co.

Is this Vermont or Arizona? To celebrate its second anniversary, Tucson-based Pueblo Vida released its first-ever canned beer: a Galaxy- and Nelson-hopped double IPA as cloudy, juicy and pungent as anything we’ve tasted from the Northeast. The miasma that floats above the glowing mango-pulp liquid and large, rocky ivory cap is intense and perceptible from afar, but get close and it’s a head rush of tangerine, honeydew, grass and orange blossom honey, with a hint of smooth stone fruits and a supportive base of pastry dough. Good lord. The flavor kicks off with melon rind and wheat grass; a bit of mango washes across the palate before a dull flash of Mandarin orange at the swallow. Bold, pithy bitterness is higher than you experience in most examples of this style, but it’s not unwelcome, and the grassiness in both the flavor and the nose reminds of clear summer days and childhood soccer games. Happy anniversary, indeed.

 

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

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