Heater Allen Triple Feature

Over the past five years or so, I’ve cobbled together a functional relationship with lagers… but I don’t post about them very often. It’s sometimes difficult to find an interesting angle on lagers. Still, I do find myself opting for lagers more and more often these days, so maybe I’ll just need to buckle up and plow through some more reviews.

We’ll start with a trio of beers from Heater Allen out of Oregon, a brewery that specializes in lagers (nary an IPA in sight!) I feel like craft lagers in general have turned a corner in recent years (roughly in line with my own palate (I’m a trend setter, is what I’m saying (The three people who read this blog agree. Probably.))), such that a lager-only brewery is feasible today. But these folks started their brewery in 2007, at which time lagers where not especially hot in the craft world. Good on them for surviving and perhaps even playing a part in the shift towards lagers (alright, fine, probably much more than my trend setting ways). These days, they do sport a few ales in their lineup, but they appear to focus on deeply unsexy traditional styles like Altbier or Kölsch.

Alrighty then, enough preamble, let’s get into it:

Heater Allen McMinnville Harvest Lager

Heater Allen McMinnville Harvest Lager – The chief difference between this beer and the flagship Pils (see below) is that it relies on local Willamette hops (instead of traditional Czech Saaz hops in the Pils). They don’t mention that it’s a wet hopped beer, but that’s usually what “harvest” connotes when it comes to beer. Or it could be a reference to the wine grape harvest, as the area is a big wine-producing region and as the old saying goes: “It takes a lot of great beer to make great wine.” And damn, if I worked at a winery during harvest, this would be a perfect beer to kick back with after a long day…

Pours a striking, clear, bright yellow color with a few fingers of fluffy white head that has great retention and leaves lacing as I drink. Smell is fabulous, a crackery pilsner character for sure, but then a whiff of sweet citrus hops, a hint of lemon, bright and sweet. Taste starts sweet and goes a little more earthy, herbal, grassy than the nose would have you believe. Mouthfeel is bright, crisp, light bodied, and quaffable. Overall, ayup, this is one great little pils. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a willibecher glass on 10/9/20. Canned on 09/16/20

Heater Allen Bobtoberfest

Heater Allen Bobtoberfest – Named after the owner’s late brother, Bob, this is a pretty standard Märzen style Oktoberfest beer. Pours a mostly clear, pale copper color with a solid two fingers of fluffy white head that has good retention. Smells nice, toasted, bready malt, light caramel, a hint of earthy hops. Taste has that sweet, bready malt, a hint of toast, maybe some very light toffee, some earthiness from the hops with a well balanced finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, but still crisp and refreshing, well carbonated, quaffable. Overall, it’s a great take on an Oktoberfest beer, one of the better that I’ve had this year. B+ or A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.6% (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a mug on 10/11/20. Canned on 8/11/2020.

Heater Allen Pils

Heater Allen Pils – Pours a clear, bright yellow gold color with a few fingers of fluffy white head, good retention, and lacing as I drink. Smell is very good, sweet, bready pilsner, crackers, herbal saaz hops. Taste hits the sweet cracker up front followed by an herbal kick. Mouthfeel is light bodied, crisp, and bright, quaffable for sure. Overall, I think the Harvest Lager is better, but this is still a good pils! B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5% (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a willibecher glass on 10/9/20. Canned on 09/16/2020.

I’ll try to pepper some more lagers inbetween reviews of mammoth barrel-aged stouts and teeth dissolving sours.

WeldWerks Barrel-Aged Fluffernutter

No one wants to admit that they like peanut butter beers, but brewers are out there making them all the time, so I guess some people actually do… My inner curmudgeon gets mighty suspicious about gimmicky ingredients but even that bastard can kinda see the appeal of peanut butter beer if he squints. I mean, he’s never truly loved one… but he gets why someone would drink it.

Of course, Curmit (the name for my inner curmudgeon that I just made up because typing out “inner curmudgeon” every time seems like a waste and yes, I’m aware that I just wrote the words out twice in a long paranthetical, but Curmit thought it would be a good idea and I like that guy) can be won over if you play to his biases. Like, say, aging your peanut butter beer in bourbon barrels for almost two years.

To be more specific, Weldwerks Barrel-Aged Fluffernutter starts with a big imperial stout base that is aged in freshly emptied 6-12 year-old bourbon barrels for 19-21 months, then conditioned on peanut flour, toasted marshmallows, marshmallow creme, and Vanuatu vanilla beans. Curmit might have been a little suspicious and he probably likes plain old BA Medianoche better, but he thinks that marshmallow is a better fit in beer than some sort of fruit/jelly (i.e. fluffernutter is a better idea than PB&J when it comes to beer) and we’ve already established his love of vanilla. One sip was enough to convince him this endeavor was worthwhile:

Weldwerks Barrel Aged Fluffernutter

WeldWerks Barrel-Aged Fluffernutter – Pours a deep, dark brown, almost black, with just the faintest ring of tan head around the edge of the glass that disappears quickly. Smells great, bourbon, caramel, oak, peanuts, and vanilla. Taste hits the rich caramel up front, moves quickly into that fluffernutter peanut and marshmallow, followed by boozy bourbon and oak in the finish. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, the bottle doesn’t have an ABV on it, but it’s plenty boozy with some pleasant warming alcohol character. Overall, yup, it’s spectacular and all the doodads and extra ingredients work well enough, especially as a change of pace. A

Beer Nerd Details: ? ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 10/2/20. Vintage: 2020.

This is one of those beers that would have been great to bring to a share… if we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic. I miss shares, is what I’m saying. Anywho, I’ve really enjoyed WeldWerks’ barrel aged program, so I will always seek them out. Even if they have gimmicky ingredients that don’t necessarily excite Curmit.

You know what, screw it, bonus review! One of Curmit’s favorites here, also from WeldWerks:

Weldwerks Medianoche

WeldWerks Medianoche – I didn’t take tasting notes for this, but Curmit loves this thing and there’s plenty to say about it. Legend has it that this big imperial stout was designed to stand up to extended barrel aging, and while brewing process details are often uninteresting, this one has a standout step that I think pretty much anyone can peg as extreme: After mashing in, they then put the resulting wort through an arduous 36 hour boil (for context, most beer goes through a 1 hour boil). After fermentation, the beer goes into 7-12 year bourbon barrels for 18-24 months. Don’t take my word for it, here’s an interview with the brewer:

“So, we designed the beer from the ground up, using the barrel, the spirits from the barrel and the time spent in the barrel as essential ingredients, and made adjustments to the recipe accordingly,” he explains. “After several years of tweaking and pushing the barrel character further and further, we have landed on an incredibly high-gravity stout that is 100% malt-derived. That means no extracts, syrups or other sugars. To achieve those targets, we boil each batch for over 30 hours, which is insanely inefficient and labor intensive, but it has resulted in a beer that can hold up for 18-plus months in casks and showcase all the complexities our barrels have to offer.”

The result is phenomenal. The base retains some of its roasty notes, but the typical caramel, oak, and vanilla barrel aged character is also there in full force. Totally delicious, complex, but well balanced stuff, and worth seeking out. A

Beer Nerd Details: 12.8% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 6/26/20. Bottling Date: 04/16/2020.

So there, both Weldwerks Fluffernutter and Medianoche are pretty great stuff, if you can get ahold of them.

Boon/Mikkeller Oude Geuze White Vermouth Foeders

Boon tends to get lost in the shuffle of lambic producers. Maybe it’s their relatively lackluster fruited offerings, or perhaps their distinct minerality character isn’t as exciting to folks, or it could be a cosmic roll of the dice, and Cantillon and Drie Fonteinen rolled higher (alright, Tilquin seems to have rolled well too). Maybe Frank Boon cheated the devil in a game of chance. That sort of thing. That said, I appreciate Boon’s availability, usually approachable price-point, and their variety of releases. Their geuze offerings are generally underrated and plentiful.

This particular release is the third in their series of collaborations with Mikkeller. To my mind, the best is still the first collaboration, Bone Dry, and the subsequent Boon Black Label batches (basically the same beer, but without Mikkel’s blending notions). Indeed, despite the glaring fact that the label is not actually black, Black Label is my go-to lambic and it’s a terrible shame that it doesn’t appear to be produced anymore (though hope springs eternal for a batch 5).

This beer is aged in old White Vermouth Foeders and the blend consists of mostly 2 year old lambic, with some 1 year old for bottle conditioning and just a touch of 3 year old for complexity and, I dunno, joy. Will these vermouth foeders provide a more noticeable character than the Calvados barrels from the second collaboration release? Only one way to find out:

Boon/Mikkeller Oude Geuze White Vermouth Foeders

Boon/Mikkeller Oude Geuze White Vermouth Foeders – Pours a slightly hazy yellowish gold color with a solid finger of white, fluffy head, moderate retention. Smells good, a healthy amount of earthy funk leavened by some nice vinous notes from the vermouth. Taste is sweet up front, followed by funky earth, some herbal and spice notes, that Boon minerality, and then tart fruit with a sourness emerging towards the finish. Mouthfeel is light bodied, well carbonated, and crisp, dry up front yielding a bit into the finish. Moderate acidity. Overall, it’s a nice vinous spin on your typical Boon Geuze, the Vermouth Foeder definitely provides more character than the Calvados barrels from the last release. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.6% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 9/19/20. Lot: 73321.

It does seem as if Boon’s riffing on Geuze is slowing down. There aren’t any new Vat releases. Black Label seems dormant. And while these Mikkeller jams are interesting, the pricepoint does seem higher. Oh well, I guess we’ll just have to keep drinking the regular OG or Marriage Parfait. Both are well worth your time, and there are still Black Label bottles can be scrounged off shelves. There is a fourth Boon/Mikkeller Collaboration that I’m sure will eventually make the rounds, so there is that.

Allagash Coolship Resurgam

Back in the before times, the long long ago, there were two American breweries that had made a name for themselves by specializing in Belgian style ales: Allagash and Ommegang. I thought it might be fun to catch up with both and see how they’re faring in the current beer scene. Now that we’re awash in barrel aged pastry stouts, hazy slurry IPAs, milkshakes, fruit juice beers, and other stuff that doesn’t actually taste like beer, how’s a traditional Belgian style brewery to adapt in tomorrow morrow land?

Allagash’s flagship beer is White, an excellent, flavorful Belgian Wit that’s been a popular gateway beer for all those Coors/Blue Moon drinkers out there, but doesn’t exactly get twixt the nethers of beer dorks. For those already ensconced in the warm embrace of beer nerdery and thus more fickle in their tastes, Allagash has been building an excellent sour beer program and basically become an American Lambic producer.

They’ve even installed a Coolship at their brewery. For the uninitiated, a Coolship is basically a long, shallow pan that’s used to cool the wort while also exposing it to the environment and inoculating it with wild yeast and other microflora. Only a handful of American breweries have even attempted something like this, and Allagash is definitely one of the pioneers of such projects (at least, in America).

What we have here is an American take on Gueuze, a blend of 1, 2, and 3 year old beers aged in oak. The term “Resurgam” is latin for “I shall rise again,” which has obvious Christian connotations, but it is also apparently the name of a Victorian submarine. Go figure. Now: it’s beer!

Allagash Coolship Resurgam

Allagash Coolship Resurgam – Pours a slightly hazy pale golden color with a solid finger of white fluffy head. Smells great, lots of earthy funk, a little stone fruit, lemons, and the like. Taste hits that earthy funk up front, quickly followed by fruity esters, apricots, lemon zest, finishing with a tart bite. Mouthfeel is well carbonated and crisp, light bodied, moderate to low acidity, dry finish. Overall, it’s a pretty damn spectacular beer. Something about Allagash’s sours always seem to just click with me. Also of note is that this is about 3 years old, which means that it ages pretty well too… A

Beer Nerd Details: 6.4% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/12/20. Bottled: Aug. 31, 2017.

N.B. The picture above was taken almost two years ago at a local bar, but the tasting notes were from a different bottle I drank this past September. I just thought the older picture was nicer looking than my standard setup so I used that instead. I’m pretty sure it’s the same batch of beer, so there’s that…

The Coolship program also releases several fruited variants, like Coolship Red (made with raspberries) and Coolship la Mure (made with blackberries), both excellent. There are many others that I have not had, but one of these days I’m going to try and snag a bottle of Ghoulship for the Halloween Season.

Anywho, as hinted at above, I’ve got some Ommegang beers in the pipeline too. They’ve gone in a bit of a different direction, but are still putting out some interesting beer…

Anchorage Wendigo

So what exactly is a “black barleywine”? During the arduous research phase of this post, I stumbled across these BJCP Style Guidelines for… Russian Imperial Stout (emphasis mine):

The malt aroma can be subtle to rich and barleywine-like, depending on the gravity and grain bill.

Malt backbone can be balanced and supportive to rich and barleywine-like, and may optionally show some supporting caramel, bready or toasty flavors.

Overall Impression: … Like a black barleywine with every dimension of flavor coming into play.

Ah, so basically a Black Barleywine is a Russian Imperial Stout that tastes like a barleywine but is secretly a stout but is ultimately a barleywine. I’m glad we cleared that up. Alright, I guess that’s enough of the inconclusive, pedantic semantics of style analysis, let’s get to the actual beer…

This is a black barleywine *ahem* that’s been aged 6 months in Willet Bourbon barrels and then transferred to Woodford Reserve Double Oaked barrels for an additional 7 months. A lot of barrels were harmed in the making of this beer is what I’m hearing, and that sounds mighty appealing. Plus, despite the nonexistent style wankery, they didn’t sully this with additional pastry adjuncts or off-the-wall ingredients, which is also nice.

But maybe I spoke too soon, because then there’s the packaging, which is a bottle that has a waxed cap. And they used glow in the dark wax. This will clearly make the beer taste better, though perhaps not as good as the mislabeled “Wenidgo” bottles. Something about an incompetent label printer typo that made it on some bottles, but got caught early enough that Anchorage just gave the affected bottles to their employees. But they got out in the wild or something and yadda yadda yadda, Barlywine is Life had a field-day creating Wenidgo memes.

Alright now that we’re referencing obscure memes, I think it’s time to get back to the beer itself (again). But we haven’t even gone into the obscure Pet Sematary references! I know, I’m surprised too.

Anchorage Wendigo

Anchorage Wendigo – Pours a very dark brown, almost black color with a half finger of tan head. Smells nice, lots of vanilla, some caramel, toffee, oak, and bourbon. Taste is very sweet, rich with caramel and toffee, vanilla, brown sugar, more caramel, bourbon and oak. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, boozy but not overly hot. Not exactly balanced, but this is my kinda stupid. Overall, despite the above wanking about style, it certainly reads like a barleywine. A really good one too, though hey, maybe they should just make more ADWTD. Also, I suspect this will age fabulously, if that’s your bag and you have millions of dollars to burn. A

Beer Nerd Details: 15.5% ABV bottled (375 ml waxed cap). Drank out of a snifter on 8/14/20.

It’s probably too pricey for most folks (especially at the inflated $60-$80 rates a lot of places are selling them at) and while it’s great, it’s hard to justify the purchase unless you hate money or are involved in a Brewster’s Millions-like wager. It’s great, but if you’re sensitive on price, it’s not like this is a necessity.

Suarez Family Brewery Triple Feature

Remember last week a couple weeks ago* when I said that we all know that Suarez Family Brewery is good at making saisons? Let’s put that to the test. Also, let’s drink a Blonde ale that doesn’t feature a busty blond bimbo on the label, because Suarez is classy and doesn’t need to resort to that kind of thing. Also because I was drinking it out of a growler, but still. They did release it in cans, and the label is very elegant. So there.

N.B. Now is usually the time where you can skip to the end of the boring tasting note paragraphs to see the grade, but in this case, I’ve actually written some general thoughts about each beer. This is probably something I should do more often, no? No? Fine then, be that way. But I did it this time, so enjoy:

Suarez Walk Dont Run

Walk, Don’t Run – This is billed as a hoppy New Zealand blonde ale with Nelson Sauvin and Moteuka hops. Sometimes, when a brewery puts out a blonde ale, it just feels bland and watery. Other times, especially when described as “hoppy”, it just feels like a pale ale or IPA. Here, Suarez has somehow found middle ground that does feel like it warrants the blonde style without veering too far into hoppy or malty territory. Instead, it’s just a perfectly balanced, light, but subtly flavorful session beer. Clocking in at 3.7% ABV, it’s tasty and yet, crushable. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 3.7% ABV growlered (750 ml swing-top). Drank out of a tumbler glass on 7/25/20. Drink by Jul 27 2020 (I drank it the day it was filled/picked up).

Kinda Classic – Remember when saisons weren’t sour? Like, no oak, no wild yeast strains, no bacterial beasties? I do, and they were and still are great, and this is a nice example of that sort of back-to-basics saison. It’s got a nice, expressive Belgian farmhouse yeast going for it, but it doesn’t have the intense earthiness of a Brett beer or the sourness of other varieties. I mean, we’ll get to that soon enough (see below), but I appreciate a take like this:

Suarez Kinda Classic

Pours a hazy straw yellow color with a couple of fingers of fluffy white head. Smells of musty Belgian yeast, lots of spicy phenols, coriander, clove, and the like, with some herbal hops kicking in and maybe a touch of sweet citrus. Taste features plenty of those spicy phenols from the nose, coriander and clove showing up in force, with something a little more herbal pitching in towards the finish. Mouthfeel is crisp, dry, and refreshing, light to medium bodied, well balanced. Overall, I miss a good, non-sour saison like this. Refreshing, tasty, pairs well with food. B+ or A-

Beer Nerd Details: 4.5% ABV bottled (500 ml bottles should have a nickname like “bomber” or something, shouldn’t they?) Drank out of a tumbler on 7/30/20. Blend #3, bottled 4/20.

Slow Bustle – I believe I’ve mentioned before that Daniel Suarez worked at Hill Farmstead before he opened his own brewery, and that influence clearly shows in a lot of his saisons, which bear a marked similarity. This is a good example of that sort of thing, but it manages to coax out some distinct flavors that I’ve not seen in a saison before, so good on them. Maybe it was the “generous portion of raw honey from our neighbors” that they brewed this beer with?

Suarez Slow Bustle

Pours a yellowish gold color with a solid finger of white head that lingers a bit and leaves a bit of lacing. Smells great, sweet, with tart pineapple and a hint of funk, maybe some other tropical aromas. Taste hits the funk a bit harder than the nose would imply, with a nice earthy character that eventually gives way to the sweeter, more tropical pineapple and a bit of tartness with some oak making itself known towards the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated and crisp, light acidity, low to medium bodied. Overall, a pretty great saison in the Hill Farmstead mode, but the pineapple character really distinguishes this one from its brethren (or, like, any other saison that I’ve had). A

Beer Nerd Details: 6.1% ABV bottled (750 ml now that I think of it, these don’t really have a nickname either). Drank out of a wine glass on 8/14/20. Blend #4, bottled 3/20.

So it’s been another successful Suarez Family Brewing expedition this year. For the pandemic curious, they had a very easy online-ordering and contact-less curbside pickup situation going, so if you think you’ll be heading through the Hudson Valley anytime soon, give their website a whirl and order you some saisons and pilsners. And apparently pale ales and blondes too. Really, just order whatever they’ve got. I’ve yet to discover an even remotely bad beer from them.

Suarez Family Brewery Hecto

We all know Suarez can nail those Pilsners and Saisons. I mean, weird flex (who focuses on those two styles), but it’s very true. My only experience with their hoppy wares was a few cans of Crispy Little that I accidentally froze because the meager alcohol content couldn’t stand up to the bitter cold of a rental-house’s refrigerator. However, I did manage to crack one of those cans before the fridge ate the rest, and while I enjoyed it well enough, it doesn’t quite stand apart from the neverending throngs of pale ales and IPAs out there.

Enter Suarez’s Hecto. On paper, it’s a similar beer. It’s a 4.5% ABV pale ale hopped with Citra, Mosaic, and Amarillo. And I dunno, it’s awesome. Maybe it’s just because I had been on the road for about 7 hours and I had cracked a can whilst sitting on the dock by the lake, but damn this was great. Now, I also managed to get another taste of Crispy Little this year, and while it’s very good, Hecto is just noticeably better (i.e. it’s not just the malevolent refrigerator coloring my opinion of Crispy Little). Worth trekking into the wilds of the Hudson Valley to procure!

Suarez Family Brewery Hecto

Suarez Family Brewery HectoI didn’t pour this out, so I don’t know what it looks like. Imma guess it’s pale with white head. Smells fantastic, sweet, bright citrus fruit, pineapple, a hint of dankness. Taste follows the nose, citrus, sweet pineapple, a hint of grapefruit, dank pine. Mouthfeel is light bodied, crisp, and refreshing, utterly quaffable. It doesn’t suffer from that whole “diet IPA” feeling that a lot of similar beers have. Incredibly well balanced. Overall, this is an astounding beer for a such a low ABV pale ale… A

Beer Nerd Details: 4.5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank straight from the can, like a man on 7/25/20.

I didn’t save the can and didn’t note the canning date; I know you’re crestfallen, but rest assured, it was very fresh. As usual, Suarez is just killing it. I have some more saisons from this year to cover, so stay tuned (at this rate, I’ll get to it sometime in 2022).

Gigantic Massive! Variants

I enjoy when a brewery starts playing around with using different barrel treatments on the same base beer. The differences are sometimes subtle, but they do emerge in a horizontal tasting. When Gigantic brewing started releasing variants of their most excellent Massive! barleywine, I sought out a couple to see how they’d fare.

Barrel diversity is great, but I’ve never had a beer aged in Port barrels that I loved. Now, I do enjoy a good Port wine, but something about the Port barrel-aged beers I’ve had just never worked for me. In fairness, I haven’t had some of the heavy hitters of the category. I’m looking at you, Damon. Likewise, while I enjoy Rye whiskey from time to time, I often end up feeling like a Rye barrel-aged beer is too similar to Bourbon barrels (and usually not as good).

So I’m happy to report that these variants are awesome. Maybe even better than their Bourbon barrel-aged counterpart. I don’t know what sorcery the Gigantic brewers practiced, but it worked:

Gigantic Massive! aged in Port Barrels

Gigantic Massive! Port Barrel-Aged – Pours a turbid, muddy brown color with a solid finger of off white head that doesn’t stick around very long. Smells great, the base caramelized malt character shines through, the oak makes itself known, but the port is lurking more in the background. The taste is all rich caramelized fruit, the port wine is very well integrated with the base here, caramel, toffee, fruit, a little booze. Mouthfeel is still rich and full bodied, maybe not quite as much in the way of booze, but still plenty of alcohol heat, making this a nice little sipper. Overall, this is fantastic. It is, by far, the best Port barrel aged beer I’ve ever had, and at least as good as the standard Bourbon barrel version if not better. A

Beer Nerd Details: 14% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 5/15/20. Vintage: 2019.

Gigantic Massive! aged in Rye Barrels

Gigantic Massive! Rye Barrel-Aged – This appears similar, but comports itself much more like the bourbon barrel aged version, which is about what you’d expect. I’m not having them side-by-side, so I can maybe talk myself into this having more of a spicy rye note and these variants do seem to be a bit more balanced or integrated… whatever that means… Look, this is a great beer, much like the regular Bourbon version, and I’m really enjoying it. Would highly recommend checking these variants out. It seems like they’ve done a great job with them, but this Rye variant isn’t as distinctive as the Port version, so if you have a choice, I’d go for the Port before this… This is still great, though! A-

Beer Nerd Details: 14% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 5/16/20. Vintage: 2019.

These were both phenomenal and if you see these Gigantic Massive! variants out in the wild, I would highly recommend checking them out. I’d certainly love to try some of the other variants, notably the Cognac (which I find works well with barleywine). Maybe Gigantic even managed to tame the Scotch barrels (or, more likely, they chose a non-Islay/non-peated scotch barrel). Maple barrels are nice, but do tend towards the overly sweet. The Mezcal variant is the only one that seems like a bad idea. But it gets good ratings, so what do I know? I certainly wouldn’t turn it down.

Toppling Goliath King Sue

Iowa’s Toppling Goliath built their reputation on stouts and their barrel program, with some play in hoppy realms. That’s where we’ll be traveling today, though I’d really like to take a supersonic ride on their SR-71 stoutplane sometime.

So who is the eponymous Sue of this beer’s name? How did she become a monarch? And why is there a dinosaur on the can? Well, it turns out that Sue is a reference to the famous T-Rex, itself named after its discoverer, one Sue Hendrickson. Her profession is described as “explorer”, which is probably enough to proclaim her King (as the kids say these days. I think. I’m pretty out of touch you guys.) But the King part is really just a reference to Toppling Goliath’s flagship beer, PseudoSue. That pale ale was so popular that it inspired this imperialized version, hence the royal modifier.

King Sue is a northeast style IPA brewed with Citra hops. Music to my tastebuds. When it was introduced, it became a sorta insta-whale, but hoppy walez rarely retain such status and sure enough, Toppling Goliath has been steadily increasing production to the point where fresh cans are showing up at my local grocery store (and let me tell you, they have a generally terrible selection, so this was a pleasant surprise).

It’s a pretty fantastic beer, but since the general proliferation of NEIPA around the country, you don’t really need to hunt for this sort of thing anymore. Chances are, someone in your locale is already producing something just as good that is far more accessible. On the other hand, if you’re seeing these show up on shelves and are looking for some midwest hop juice, this is a nice choice:

Toppling Goliath King Sue

Toppling Goliath King Sue – Pours a cloudy but bright, almost luminous yellow color with a solid finger of white, fluffy head. Lacing speckles the glass as I drink. Smell is of intense tropical citrus hops, lots of mango, but with that Citra floral background that complements the citrus well. Some danker pine notes show up later. Taste is sweet, juicy hops, tropical fruit, mangoes and the like. The mouthfeel is tightly carbonated, medium bodied, very easy going. Overall, yes, I think this is quite the worthy IPA, right in my sweet spot. A

Beer Nerd Details: 7.8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/10/20. Canned on 6/24/20

One of these days I’ll find a way into Toppling Goliath’s barrel aged stores. In the meantime, these hoppy bangers will have to do. I did manage to get a taste of some of their stouts at GABF last year, and they were absolutely delicious, so this is definitely a brewery to be on the lookout for…

Pelican Father of All Tsunamis

Pelican Brewing’s Father of All Tsunamis is the stout spouse of the Mother of All Storms. I’m guessing their child is the 50-year storm that Patrick Swayze rides at the end of Point Break. Alas, there does not appear to be a beer commemorating that momentous occasion (yet!)

The Father of All Tsunamis is an imperial stout aged in Rye whiskey barrels. This marks an interesting deviation from the Mother’s use of Bourbon barrels. Alas, while a very good beer, this doesn’t really enter the conversation of best barrel aged stouts. That’s more because it’s a very crowded field than anything else though, so let’s strap on our foul weather gear and drink this sucker:

Pelican Father of all Tsunamis

Pelican Father of All Tsunamis – Pours a deep black color with a solid finger of beautiful, dense brown head. Smells very nice, rich caramel, hints of roast, something I can’t quite place, maybe liquorish, plus the usual retinue of boozy oak and vanilla. Tastes of sweet, rich caramel up front, with some dank hoppiness peeking through in the middle and some of that boozy oak and vanilla leading into the finish. Mouthfeel is rich, full bodied, and chewy, well carbonated, pleasantly boozy but well balanced. Overall, this is a rock solid barrel aged stout, definitely a good example of the style, refined but restrained. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11.2% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 4/11/20. Vintage: 2020

Pelican also makes a barrel aged Wee Heavy/Scotch Ale called Captain of the Coast that I’m itching to try. Like the Father, it uses a different type of spirits barrel though (Washington Wheat Whiskey). I’m not sure what the aversion is to using the same type of barrel for different beers, but I welcome the change of pace…