Great Notion Brewing
The guys who make the beer at Portland’s Great Notion Brewing must be reading our diaries, because they keep producing cloudy, juicy New England-style IPAs that taste exactly how we wish them to. As did Juice Box, a previous honoree on this here weekly list, Ripe emits a powerful aroma that can be picked up from feet away: papaya skin, lemon peel, dried mango, pineapple, grass, post-rain pine. The nose shifts and morphs like a lenticular image, different at every new approach. (Mosaic, a variety of hop named for this very quality, plays a starring role in the beer, as does Citra.) Succulent mango, citrus, grass and sweet onion dance in rhythm as the milkshake-smooth brew rolls across the palate; the finish draws out notes of lavender and level-4 bitterness that’s just enough to bring balance to the whole affair.
Clear Sky Daybreak
Wolf’s Ridge Brewing
We’re seeing more and more that coffee beans don’t require a base of dark, roasted malts to really express themselves in a beer, and this cream ale from Columbus, Ohio, is proof of concept. Above the platinum-blonde, brilliantly clear liquid, creamy mocha and a soft, milky vanilla creamer note swirl; the beans—varieties that rotate seasonally and are steeped in the beer whole—emit cocoa and ripe strawberry fragrances that bridge the divide between fruity cream ale and light-roast joe. Dusty, dry espresso leads the sip before vanilla slides in quickly with cream ale sugars, leading the pleasant progression of flavors to a buttercream-mocha-frosting finish.
New Glarus Brewing Co.
Bavarian hefeweizen yeast are fussy critters. Knowing this, many brewers baby them by fermenting their hefs in large, shallow, open-top vats—the belief being that the liquid pressure squeezing the yeast in a standard conical fermentation tank inhibits their ability to radiate the intense banana and clove notes for which they’re known. Dan Carey is one such brewer, which shows in this new seasonal from Wisconsin’s beloved New Glarus Brewing Co. Opaque apricot with a pillowy, cream-colored cap, the beer smells like Germany by way of Belgium: bubblegum and banana meld with clove, crushed peppercorns and a whiff of eggy sulfur. A fluffy body caresses the tongue with sweet, gently toasted wheat, honey, concentrated banana and pear before bubblegum pops at the finish in a clean, vibrant snap.
It’s been 17 long years since we’ve seen Alex, perhaps Rodenbach’s most legendary sour ale, and it’s damn good to see him again. The brew’s deep scarlet hue and pink-tinged head hint at the addition of macerated cherries to its foeder-aged base, but the nose confirms it: sweet maraschino up top, tart montmorency below, and dry oak, pistachios and almond woven throughout the middle. On the tongue it’s bright and tart, building in acidity after the swallow but ebbing just before getting outrageous, and leaving behind dollops of apple skin, cherry must and red Jolly Ranchers. The beer’s lovely now, but we’re going to give our second bottle a year or two—or 17—in the cellar.