Side Project Brewing
There’s a reason #bonersforcory is a hashtag that exists: Side Project co-owner and head brewer Cory King makes priapism-inducing sour ales. Smooth, aged two years in French oak foeders before it spends additional time on Missouri nectarines, is one of his best. An intense aroma—detectable from several feet away—is like a pile of peach slices splashed with white vinegar, but give it a swirl and the oak emerges: vanilla, almond, lemon custard. The depth of the wood is what really makes this beer incredible, but the fruit flavors also brighten it up nicely and combine to give the impression of velvety peaches and cream. But dear god, is the brew ever sour. At the swallow, lovely nectarine, eggy custard and just a hint of haylike funk shift into extreme lemon-juice acidity. It gives you heartburn and is worth every flare-up.
XIX Anniversary Ale
Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
Each year, Firestone invites California winemakers—who have some experience in blending—to help create a special cuvee celebrating the brewery’s birth. The final blend is always a little different; 19’s composed of 33 percent Parabola (Firestone’s bourbon-aged imperial stout), 33 percent Stickee Monkee (a bourbon-aged Belgian quad), 17 percent Bravo (an imperial brown ale aged in bourbon and brandy barrels), and 17 percent Velvet Merkin (a bourbon-aged oatmeal stout). It premiered in November 2015, and nine months later exhibits well-knit flavors of sweet coconut, cherry, fig and maple. Deeper gulps draw out notes of red wine, whiskey and sherry, while edges of toffee, tobacco and a hint of espresso keep things from getting too saccharine. Allow the beer to warm up and it becomes even more complex, with plum and amaretto appearing before the swallow lifts up vanilla, cotton candy and butterscotch rounded off by bitter dark chocolate and espresso. Even nine months in, the fruit flavors are still bright and the sugars bold; this could age another year or two and keep improving.
If you’ve never had the pleasure of tasting Utopias, the 28% ABV, massively complex quasi-liqueur released irregularly by Boston Beer Co. under its Sam Adams brand, this mead from New Hampshire is the next best thing. That’s because it’s actually fermented and aged for five years in the same port, bourbon, cognac, sherry and rum casks in which Utopias slumbers. The integration is seamless: honey threads through the barrels, drawing notes of toasted oak, coconut, dates, maple syrup and cognac to augment its soft, rounded sweetness. The mead’s alcohol level isn’t nearly as high as in Utopias—it only 18%—but it’s nigh undetectable.
pFriem Family Brewers
Sometimes you just need a break from the pulpy juice bombs and tropical umbrella drinks many IPAs have morphed into. Earthy-herbal hops, pepper rind and dried bread crusts characterize this Portland-made IPA’s classic nose, while the flavor has a tangy blood orange quality accented by onion root and brioche; a flash of OJ fades to a perfectly even finish. There aren’t any bells and whistles here; it’s just a really good IPA.
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
This new “session sour” from Dogfish is actually a cuvee of three different beers: a gose made with pungent black limes (those are limes that have been dried, usually in the sun), a Berliner weisse brewed with lime juice and zest, and a regular old Kölsch. The combination results in an aroma that balances lime zest with ocean spray, soft wheat and a dash of sulfur. Dried floral notes—lavender, rose petals—appear initially on the tongue but soon segue into pithy lime, and cinnamon-like spice rises at the finish (this is the black lime) alongside clean parsely notes. Unlike in the aforementioned Smooth, the tartness here is mild and manageable, working in tandem with a really pleasant salt character, almost like you get the minerality of the sodium chloride without its saline bite.