York: We all like beer. We all drink quite a bit of it, and, above all else, we all have a tendency to try as many different types as our palates and bodies will allow. When we planned out our first Beercation in the New England area and started listing all the breweries and beers to pack into the trip, we agreed that it was ambitious to start. Then, naturally, we all decided that we wanted to add some extra regional beers to the event, since we were meeting up (and why not?). Thus, we wound up with three especially unique beers from California, two more from the DMV, and a sixth from middle America that came to us through a friend who has been keeping up with our escapades. I've already had the Swirly from King Harbor and tried the Cellarmaker Mt. Nelson on tap, but I'm really excited to see what the others think of those. Beyond that, I've been waiting patiently to try some Tired Hands, so I'm pumped that one is in our arsenal too!
Pete: I was really nervous about this round, because the last time I went to New England I carried way too many beers around with me. This wasn’t a bad thing…once I got where I needed to go. But it really made it hard to get around, so I wanted to get stuff that I knew was going to be good. Otherwise, why bring it? Our friend Dan Alt supplied us with the Brew Kettle White Rajah, which recently got some positive press as a good west coast style IPA. Then I was able to snag a really limited edition batch of Hardywood beer. And, luckily, I got to visit Tired Hands a couple days before the trip and picked up one of their strange but awesome beers. Really happy with what I brought, because I expect it all to be good beers.
Shane: I'm excited to try these beers. We went into this Beercation prepared to try an awful lot of amazing beers, but the beers we brought with us might just be the best of the bunch. I'm thrilled to have the chance to sample some Tired Hands, and the White Rajah is a beer that I never thought any of us would be able to get our hands on. The Hammerland DIPA and Mt. Nelson beers are also exciting, since they represent some small-batch west coast beers that I might never have heard of without York, let alone been able to drink. I'm hugely pumped to be able to try every beer on this list.
York's Thoughts: Outside of my normal preferences compared to most of the West Coast IPAs I’ve had thus far, but a really interesting brew. It's my first experience with something prominently hopped with Nelson Sauvin and I'm not sure that it's in my wheelhouse. That said, the fruitiness does make an appearance in this beer and the nose is that big scary hop-filled inhale that good beers start with. This brewery is just a few blocks from me in SF and has some ties to a NY brewery near where I grew up. The ultra-local always gets points in my book, and the fact that these guys bottle so rarely made this a really fun beer to have the others try.
Shane's Thoughts: A little dank for me, but a really interesting west coast beer. It’s a very hazy beer, which I’m not used to seeing outside of the east coast. I like it. The flavor of the melon comes through well, although there is some bitterness on the back end. That might just be because the bottle has a little age on it--so I’m not prepared to hold that against it. Overall it’s a trend-buster as far as west coast pales go, and it's cool to try something different.
Pete's Thoughts: Really dank for a nelson beer. It was really surprising especially because it was so light too. I was excited to try this one, while it didn’t hit a home run, I would definitely give their beers another go. Really good hop presence for a pale ale while being crisp and refreshing.
Shane: A cool departure from the west coast norm. 7/10
Pete: Just a little too dank for my taste. 6/10
York: Good local brew that I’ll hopefully see much more of in my future. 7/10
York's Thoughts: There is a distributor near me that always has really cool beer and is always ready to chat about what came in and should be tried. This brewery (and specifically this beer) came highly recommended. I don’t think there is anything wrong with this brew, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit let down. Huge hop combo that promised a big nose with berry drinking tones just didn’t come through for me. This is more of a standard now-and-then beer than the standout I hoped for, but, at 8.6 percent, definitely have to give them props for the drinkability.
Shane's Thoughts: I wanted to like this one, I really did. I was definitely excited to get my hands on it. The berry just didn’t come through as strongly as I would have liked, and it was a little more bitter than I tend to favor. It has a nice aroma to it, but I wish the rest of the beer followed through. It’s a beer that I would definitely give another chance, but I would love to see a smoother finish next time.
Pete's Thoughts: It’s got mosaic in it--I should like it! Not really my jam though, I felt it was also a little too bitter for the amount of fruit forward hops that were in it. Really crisp, with a good malt body and a punch of alcohol. I am really excited to try their Stone Cold Steve Austin beer so I will always give them another chance to impress me.
Shane: I'd ultimately drink it again, but I was disappointed. 6/10
Pete: I will try this again after the Stone Cold Beer. 6/10
York: It's good. Great standard interpretation of a DIPA, just leaves me wanting more. 6/10
York's Thoughts: This might be my favorite ‘fun’ beer these days. This is, by all definitions, a dessert beer--and I mean that in the best sort of way. This is the same conversation we had about the DuClaw beers: King Harbor went for a flavored beer and killed it. There are plenty of brewers out there that make something labeled the same way as this that tastes more like somebody melted some ice cream into a Budweiser, but these guys figured out a way to appeal to the fun, novelty side of craft beer drinkers. Well done, Kine Harbor!
Shane's Thoughts: This tastes like a soft serve twist ice cream cone. I really don’t know how else to describe it. Right down to the aroma of the beer, this is a soft serve twist ice cream cone. And as a lover of soft serve twist ice cream comes, I love this beer. Is it objectively the best beer I’ve ever had? No, of course not. But King Harbor knew exactly what they wanted to do with it and they NAILED it. That deserves credit. Like York said when he reviewed DuClaw’s For Pete’s Sake beer, a brewery deserves credit for going out on a limb and absolutely nailing it.
Pete's Thoughts: I think this beer really really did a great job finding that ice cream cone flavor, and I really felt like I was drinking a dessert. I just didn’t like it. It wasn’t for me. Maybe I would like this more if it was an imperial version, but something was just off for me. I like gimmick beers that hit their spot and don’t disappoint, but this just didn’t do it for me.
Shane: They nailed what they went for and they deserve FULL credit for it. 8/10
Pete: Not for me but worth a try for everyone else. 6/10
York: This stacks up with the For Pete’s Sake to me. While these don’t mesh with some of the other types of beer that get high ratings, I stand by the brewer that goes for it and delivers. 9/10
Pete's Thoughts: This really exemplifies the west coast style and how it is moving east. I don’t necessarily get that tropical note, but I get tons of grapefruit and tones of pine. Really refreshing, light, big flavor, dry, everything you want in a west coast beer. I can see why this has a good following. It also was a welcome departure from all of the New England style IPAs we were drinking. Thank you so much Alt for letting us review this. It was a real treat.
Shane's Thoughts: Wow. Really solid and drinkable. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this beer, since most of the beers we’ve blogged have come from either the east or west coast. The Brew Kettle definitely proves that Indiana should not be overlooked. It’s hoppy without being overly bitter, fruity without being a juice bomb, and you definitely get that little bite of alcohol that I appreciate in a beer. It’s pretty light and very drinkable, and at 6.8% you might find yourself getting a little tipsier than you expected. I hope I get a chance to drink this beer again at some point, because I enjoyed it quite a bit.
York's Thoughts: Provided by a true friend, this beer came to us as a gift, and I really knew nothing about. The middle America beer market isn’t very well repped in our normal beer sets, so an entry from Ohio is fun--especially for me, since they tout this beer as a West Coast IPA. Let me tell you, this beer was everything I was hoping it would be before I tried it. Big hoppiness up front, lots of citrusy notes in the drink, and a nice aggressive finish without being too bitey. I really appreciate beers that can be big in each stage of the drinking experience without leaving a ton of stick or overwhelming you with too much bitterness or hoppiness. This beer is perfectly balanced in and out.
York: It’s a great thing when a beer lives up to high expectations. 9/10
Shane: Really solid beer. I’m torn between an 8 and a 9, but as I write this I’m really craving another, so... 9/10
Pete: West Coast Style IPA down to a T, from Ohio. Gotta love the craft beer movement. 8/10
Pete's Thoughts: I love Tired Hands so much. Ever since I first stepped foot inside their brewpub and took that magical sip of Saisonhands…I have been hooked. This brewery makes amazing saisons, and they do it the right way. A lot of brewers will just buy a saison yeast strain from a lab that usually ends up being Saison Dupont yeast, making most saisons taste similar. Not Tired Hands. They have their own house strain that they take care of and allow to evolve to really change the flavor and become even more awesome. Their house emptiness culture is unreal and imparts so much dank fruity herbal character just from the yeast. This is a brewery that can make you love a saison if it isn’t your thing. What makes a really top notch saisons better? Dry hop the fuck out of it. This batch of Shambolic was somehow still around on the shelves during my last visit and I knew I had to bring up a bottle. This beer is so bright from the hops, while keeping some of the funk character without being gamey. This beer really is bright and fruity pineapple like the description says. Refreshing and a pleasure to drink.
York's Thoughts: Well, now every saison I ever have for the rest of my life will be compared to this one. Shambolic has single handedly SIGNIFICANTLY raised the bar for wild beers in my book. I am not normally very interested in the saison/farmhouse world so I went into this one without much excitement. I also had been looking forward to trying some Tired Hands beers and was a bit bummed that the saison was their entry for us this time. Couldn’t have done a bigger 180. This beer is top of its class and one of the best beers we had all weekend in my opinion.
Shane's Thoughts: Damn. York may have said it best above--this is EASILY the best saison I have ever had. If you asked me what my least favorite style of beer is, saison would certainly be one of the styles that come to mind. But wow. I would drink this again and again and again. It’s amazing to me that this has just two types of hops in it, because the subtlety and depth of flavor is incredible. “Bright” is definitely the right word to describe this, and the pineapple comes through in a way that induces just the slightest hint of sour pucker. I am floored by the quality of this beer, and I’m having a hard time imagining how a saison could be better.
York: NEVER did I expect a saison to be a top rated for me but this is an easy one. 10/10
Shane: Just tremendous. My favorite saison ever, easily. 9/10
Pete: It is amazing what Tired Hands can do with a saison. 8/10
Pete's Thoughts: I was gun shy about this beer, because I wanted to like it so much when I tried it last year. It was just totally unbalanced in all the wrong ways. It was all alcohol fumes, no bourbon. All bitter chocolate, no raspberry and vanilla. This year, they blew it away. All the flavors are exactly where you want them. Really nice, warm, inviting bourbon, great oak character that plays off the vanilla bean so well. You get some nice sweetness that allows the vanilla to shine and blend into the chocolate and raspberry. This beer really impressed me and had exactly the right mouthfeel to be a great dessert beer.
York's Thoughts: I think it’s time for me to move Hardywood over to that ‘never-miss’ list of mine. I had tried some of their more standard brews once in DC and don’t remember loving them, but Pete has been providing the cream of the crop lately. Everything about this beer sounds like an overly sweet dessert beer but let me go on record saying that it is excellently brewed to put forward flavors like berries, cocoa, vanilla, and lots of toasty goodness without making you even think about it being too syrupy or sweet. Add the bourbon barrel component and stack it up to 11.5 percent and you’ve got a true delicacy beer here. I don’t think this one is quite as good as the Sidamo we had in the first session, but a great beer by all means.
Shane's Thoughts: I don’t fully agree with York here, because I did find this a little sweet for my tastes. That’s really been my only complaint with Hardywood's beers, because while I like the all quite a bit, they go a little overboard with the sugar as far as my palate is concerned. This isn’t a huge complaint, because I really enjoy both this beer and the Gingerbread Stout--but it is what it is. The raspberry definitely comes through, and the vanilla asserts itself without being overwhelming. All in all a very solid beer.
York: I had this at an 8 but since I’ve only got good things to say, 9 it is! 9/10
Shane: I like it very much, but it still doesn’t touch the Bourbon Sidamo. 7/10
Pete: I really think they did a great job with this. 7/10
Best of the Bunch
York's Top Pick: I cannot convey how surprised I am that this day has come, but the saison is my top pick. Tired Hands Shambolic is now the end all be all saison in my book.
Shane's Top Pick: I have to go with the Shambolic saison. Like York, I never would have thought a saison would be my top pick, but Tired Hands knocks it out of the park with Shambolic. I also want to give a shoutout to The Brew Kettle, though, because the White Rajah was tremendous as well.
Pete's Top Pick: I am going to say White Rajah. I really liked how balanced the beer was. It hit all the spots for me and really was a welcome change-up to all the east coast beers we were going through.
Drink With Us
Three friends. Three corners of the country. One passion for beer.
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