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The best beers we tasted this week

DRAFT’s editors taste dozens of beers each week. These were our five favorites.
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Finback Plumb & Proper, Coronado North Island IPA, Schlafly Thank You Ale, Fieldwork King Citra, Fort George Matryoshka

Plumb & Proper
Finback Brewery

Finback continues to impress. A wild ale aged in red wine barrels with Brett and plums, Plumb & Proper has a smooth but bright aroma melding black cherry cola, underripe pineapple and white chocolate lattes. The note that makes it outstanding, however, appears only in the flavor: smoke. It attaches to the plums, giving the fruit an oak-smoked character that sets it apart from additional flavors of grape jelly, green apple, tart cherry and blackened toast. A swallow draws forth sweet red wine to carry into a finish perfectly balanced between fruit and soot. Carbonation is energetic but the acidity is subdued; dry, ashy (but not bitter) toast lingers long after the sip. A sour for the cigar-smoking red wine lover.

King Citra
Fieldwork Brewing Co.

There’s a good reason we said you need to keep your eyes on Fieldwork in our latest issue: These guys can brew. King Citra is an 8.7% imperial IPA, and it’s aptly named as the popular hop variety sprinkles lime zest, bright grapefruit juice and just a bit of dried onion all over the aroma, while sweet melon waits below. The flavor is all the best parts of citrus: the brightness of lemon peel, the funk of lime, the twang of grapefruit, the sugar of tangerine. Grass accents the mix pre-swallow, but underripe pineapple sweetens the whole affair after, with another flash of fresh-grated zest as the silky-soft brew goes down. Melted orange creamsicles emerge at the exhale, making King Citra only slightly less dessertlike than Coconut Milk, Fieldwork’s double Citra IPA with lactose and toasted coconut.

Schlafly Thank You
The Saint Louis Brewery

This beer is quite the mystery. Despite a couple hours of online digging and several queries to the people who made it, we don’t know much about this lovely bottle other than what the label tells us: It was brewed in celebration of The Saint Louis Brewery’s 25th anniversary, packaged in 1991 bottles to honor the year it was founded, and sent as a thank-you to friends of Schlafly for their support. All of which means you, dear reader, may never get to try this one, and that’s a shame. We had a blast trying to figure out just what we were drinking (we eventually landed on spiced winter warmer) and pulling apart the tight blend of clove, cinnamon, allspice, leather, spruce, and cedar sawdust swirling on our tongues. Each swallow brought forward the flavor of bread crust and mulled cider spiced with orange peel and baked cinnamon-dusted apples; it was like spice cake in a glass.

North Island IPA
Coronado Brewing Co.

It’s generally believed that the still-somehow-controversial “New England IPA” is an extremely fragile style of beer. The fresh, intense hop character that makes these ales so sought after is also their major drawback: They have extremely short shelf-lives. It’s why most of them are sold in limited quantities directly by the breweries that make them. So props to Coronado—not only did the brewers nail the style’s look (mango purée topped with sugar chiffon), nose (clementine orange pulp and lemon peel, plus moldy peach, dew-laden grass and a bit of dry cracked wheat and hay atop a soft, sweet pastry dough base) and flavor (tangerine peel and pulp shifting into mown grass and muddled mango, with a hint of high alcohols and grassy bitterness); they had the cajones to package a giant batch of North Island and send it out into distribution. But will it last on the shelf? This bottle was filled on January 4 and tasted great, but who knows how quickly the flavor will drop off. Better drink ’em all now just to be safe.

Matryoshka
Fort George Brewing Co.

As DRAFT editor Kate Bernot noted in this recent piece, Astoria, Oregon’s Fort George Brewery recently got itself a mobile bottling line in order to churn out once-a-month special releases in 500ml bottle. Matryoshka, a Four Roses bourbon-aged imperial stout, is the first beer to come off the new line, and if the beer’s name and label remind you of Russian nesting dolls, they’re meant to. Fort George will be releasing several smaller “layers” of Matryoshka in the coming months. The next layer, made with cocoa nibs, is set to drop in February. If the base beer is any indication, it will be tasty. Matryoshka’s nose is classic bourbon beer: chocolate syrup, dry toast crumbles, honey graham crackers, sugary toffee, toasted coconut, marshmallow—even a hint of smoky steak char. Red apple skin mingles above the oaky fray. The flavor’s tangy, its front mostly oak and sweet whiskey, with some chocolate liqueur and coconut shavings mixed in. The finish, however, is thick with sticky sugar, molasses and prune innards. Melted marshmallow and luxardo cherries arrive at the finish; soft cocoa and dry burnt toast slowly fade out post-swallow. We wish it was a little more full-bodied and allowed a little more of the bases stout to peek through, but the whiskey character is very, very good. We found it most enjoyable when sipped and swallowed quickly, which probably isn’t advisable for a 12% ABV beer, but there it is.

 

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

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