Even though we receive a pretty staggering amount of beer for review, I can’t help but feel a tiny bit jealous when I hear about a special, tap-only beer released somewhere far away from our editorial office here in Phoenix. It’s a reminder that although craft breweries are packaging some amazing, game-changing stuff, there are plenty of special gems that never make it outside the taproom.
But, I shouldn’t complain: Sometimes we get to sample the tap-only stuff, too.
Every so often, breweries specially bottle or can their beer for us to check out; a way of keeping us abreast to what’s happening on the small scale. It’s always something of a mystery when it comes time to sample. Sometimes a spec sheet accompanies the beer, while other times a bottle’s simply tagged with a hand-scrawled name on it. Either way, it’s always an adventure.
Peticolas Golden Opportunity, an easy-drinking Kolsch was a recent favorite I wish came by the case. Its light pear, peppery hops, fresh bread notes and 4.6% ABV are incredibly sessionable. The same can be said for Martin House River House Saison, a wonderfully fluffy farmhouse ale that came in a special can and rushed over the tongue with bready wheat, dried hay and white pepper. Both are from Texas, and both make me wish I lived a little closer.
Most of the time, though, the specially bottled (or canned) beers we get are a bit untraditional, hence the small batch release. Caldera Hibiscus Ginger Beer, with an exceptionally perfumy aroma and flavor of floral hibiscus and biting ginger, is a perfect example. BJ’s Imperial Red, a stunning sipper packed with caramel and hoppy candied orange and grapefruit, could go toe to toe with any of the packaged imperial reds out there. And Black Diamond Oaked Tripel Plum, which offers fleshy stone fruits, bready malts and hints of wood, was a delight.
Then there are the collaborations. Boston Beer recently tagged MateVeza to participate in its Brewing the American Dream program. The result was Tea Party Saison, a farmhouse ale brewed with yerba mate tea that bursts with wheaty bread, lemon, clove and a wealth of black tea notes. Delaware’s 16 Mile Brewery, on the other hand, looked to the past with its recent collaboration with England’s Copper Dragon Brewery, and released the first batch in its Heraldry Series. The beer was The Battle of Waterloo, an English strong ale packed with rich bread, sweet toffee and dark fruit.
Like I said, there are a lot of gems pouring in little corners around the country, and having the chance to sample them always makes me want to start booking flights.
What’s the best tap-only release you’ve recently sipped at your neighborhood brewery or brewpub?