Devils Backbone Brewing Co.
I’ll admit I’m something of a ginger freak (my favorite part of any sushi dish, for instance, is that little pile of pickled ginger that comes with it), so beers made with ginger get automatic bonus points. But I also have a rule for beers made with ginger: They can’t come across as ginger beer—meaning the stuff you use as a base for a Dark & Stormy. A good ginger-flavored beer exhibits the root’s bright flavor and even some of its spiciness, but is also recognizable as a beer. Ginger Brau nails this balance. In the beer’s aroma, fresh ginger skin and bright pickled ginger meld with a golden ale’s applelike fruitiness and subtle pale malt sugars; the sip shifts from super-fresh, earthy ginger root to saltine crackers and green apple skins, then back to ginger again, with just a hint of lingering spicy heat. The body’s a touch hefty, but if you’re eating this alongside bigger foods, it could be dynamite. I suggest sushi. Or just the pickled ginger.
First there was 3Beans, a 10% stout brewed with coffee and chocolate. Adding Madagascar vanilla a few years later made 4Beans. And now we have 5Beans, a combination of coffee, chocolate, vanilla and black cardamom—and, in our opinion, the best Beans yet. Each whiff of the silky-fluffy, mocha-colored head packs the nose with chocolate-covered acai berries and sticky vanilla bean innards, while coffee is the mortar between the bricks—not the first thing you notice, but there between all the other aromas. A dollop of brown sugar and graham crackers lends sweetness, while cardamom adds an almost root beerlike perfumey quality, linking to the coffee beans like anise and giving the bouquet the character of a coffee/tea combo. On the tongue, flavors ebb, flow and shift, with sweeter blueberry tones becoming dark chocolate, coffee and licorice whips. Cocoa- and pecanlike nuttiness slides into an oily espresso swallow; toast and cinnamony spice linger. The flavor of vanilla is lower than others but remains noticeable, acting as the glue that pulls everything together and rounds off the beer’s rougher edges. You can’t just sit back and drink this one; it requires attention.
Intensely Juicy Dank Beautiful (Copy & Paste)
Tired Hands Brewing Co./ Hill Farmstead Brewery
Tired Hands and Hill Farmstead collaborated on a beer, and it’s great? Unpossible! But even though this 5.8% IPA’s quality was predictable, its smooth, juicy aroma balancing stone fruit, cantaloupe and grass—it smells like a melon rolling down a verdant hill—still stunned us. (Eight pounds per barrel of Galaxy, Amarillo, Crystal and Simcoe hops will do that.) More honeydew and cantaloupe emerge on the smooth, sweet sip, with additional flavors of peach, tangerine and wheat grass emerging before a very dry finish. Peppery hop oils linger on the palate, but a texture soft and smooth as frozen yogurt softens their spice.