York: Crisp, light, clean beers is the focus on this batch! I’ve assembled a mix of beers that are all brews that I go for on hot (that’s a relative thing to say in San Francisco, I know) days when the refreshing quality of a beer is especially appreciable. I was able to get my hands on some Cellarmaker, which is a brewery both the guys have requested more from, and have also included two hoppy brews from HenHouse, a big up-and-comer in the San Francisco area. A bright sour, a tropical blonde, and a pilsner collab from two of my favorite breweries round out this lineup of thirst quenchers!
Shane: This is an exciting batch of beers, featuring a few breweries whose beers I have never sampled before. I’m particularly excited for another crack at Cellarmaker, given that the first beer I tried from them wasn’t quite up my alley. I’ve been dying to try their Dobis and Double Dobis IPAs, so the fact that York was able to get his hands on some of the former is hugely exciting. Add in another beer from Alvarado Street Brewing and one from Local, and this batch has my mouth watering already. I’m also excited to taste Sunbather, as York has yet to send us a single sour from the West Coast that was anything less than delicious.
Pete: Here we get a little light variety from California. Usually these batches are just a slew of double IPA’s from the first area of the country to put their stamp on the style. I like that we finally get a pilsner in here and a sour is never something to turn your nose up at. I spy a bunch of pale ales too which is great for me because I will take a nice pale ale over a bunch of IPAs any day. I like sessioning beers and a good hoppy pale ale is the best session for me. You get all the hops while still enjoying a beer that doesn’t knock you on your ass. I am especially excited to try Cellarmaker and their Dobis. They are probably the most popular cool kid brewery that I have heard of and their Dobis is their take on Citra so I expect it is good. I am calling this a York summer pack because these are perfect beers to wrap up summer with. Cheers!
York's Thoughts: This is a whole lotta flavor in something called a Pale Ale! Stoked! is their rotating brew that uses different hops for different batches. I both love and hate that model to be honest--it creates some difficulty trying to keep up with the brewery, but it also allows us to learn about the hops and pick out how hops can alter each portion of the beer. I had tried a few of the more experimental type hop iterations of this beer but when I saw the Mosaic one, I knew it was time to get some out to Shane & Pete. It’s also reportedly the first time they have repeated a hop in this series since it’s been the fan favorite to-date. I’d venture that if tasted blind, most would describe this as an IPA sitting right about 7% ABV. It’s got tons and tons of flavor in the body coming from what must be a pretty hefty hopping, and, just guessing here, a fairly complex malt profile. I say that because the color doesn’t seem to match the smell and neither of those match the finish. A complex malt bill would allow for multiple experiences like that, and regardless of whether thats actually whats going on here, it’s delicious. Reminds me a bit of Captain’s Daughter from Grey Sail, but stands out a little more because of the bursting freshness and more pronounced hop profile.
Pete's Thoughts: I don’t think there is a beer name that better reflects my feeling about hoppy beers than this. I actually did not know that this was a Mosaic only beer until I went to check it in to untappd. You crack this beer and you immediately smell it. That is the most reliable indicator of a good time for me. I have tried to go by look, and description. Thing is, if a hoppy beer is old, you can’t tell based on the look and you can’t trust bars to rotate stuff enough. I have been burned many a time ordering a pint of something I was shocked that a bar still had on. And then I realized it had to be old because the season for the beer had passed. So aroma, especially from the can when you open it, cannot be faked. This beer is a straight hop bomb. All fruity mosaic dank passion fruit deliciousness. It pours that nice orange hazy visual that everyone loves and the taste is spot on to showcase the range of this hop. Fruity, then citrus, then some slight herbal dank flavor and just more fruit character. No bitterness, just all the positive characters of the hop. I also love that it is a pale ale because this would be a great session beer for me. That is usually what I want in a beer. Yes, high test is fine, but what do you really want? You want a beer you can sit and have a couple of without having it knock you around. This beer is my dream beer.
Shane's Thoughts: There are a few things I know I can count on. Death and taxes, sure. Tom Brady being devastatingly handsome, of course. The sun will come up, and the sun will go down. But the number one thing I know for sure in this world is that Pete will lose his mind over a Mosaic-heavy beer. And make no mistake, Stoked is about as Mosaic-centric as it gets. From beginning to end, this is a beer with a single profile. Plenty of fruit character, a little bit of dankness, and some of that almost oniony flavor that Mosaic tends to impart. It’s an easy drinker that finishes exactly the way it starts, although I wish it had a slightly crisper finish. While I like Mosaic hops, I don’t find that they sit particularly well on the tongue once you’ve finished drinking, so I don’t love the amount of stick on this particular beer. Still, that’s a small criticism, and what we’re left with her is a very successful single-hop beer highlighting one of the biggest crowd-pleaser hops in the world right now.
Pete: A ridiculously hoppy Mosaic pale ale is basically my favorite beer. 10/10
Shane: Pete, your Mosaic bias is showing. This is a really tasty beer, though. 8/10
York: Excellent go-to hoppy beer. A lower ABV than you’d guess means you can have even more of it! 7/10
York's Thoughts: Well, I can’t say I really understand the relationship between this beer and the frozen envelope story but I suppose now I have another beer I like and a piece of bar trivia as a bonus. As you probably noticed with the Stoked beer from HenHouse, these guys love mixing it up with hops. Idaho 7 is a varietal that I find in a ton of West Coast danky IPAs, but Ahntanum…never heard of it, can’t really figure out how to say it, and have a hard enough time just spelling it out. Anyway, turns out Ahntanum hops pack a huge flavor punch that’s much more on the fleshy fruit side than it’s Idaho 7 counterpart. It pours a hazy orange and has a gloriously hoppy nose on it. I get some peachy and mango flavor spikes from the body and then everything rounds out with a bit of the West Coast dank. Extremely curious to see what the guys think of this one since it’s tough to bucket it in with any specific IPA style.
Shane's Thoughts: Before I even took a sip of this beer, I jotted down “pours an absolutely gorgeous, rich orange color.” Little did I know that it would actually get BETTER from there. This beer tastes like a single-IPA version of Maine Beer Company’s Dinner. If that sounds like high praise, it absolutely is. This beer is well-rounded in exactly the way I love. Bold mango flavor explodes on the front of the tongue, with lighter, more mellow notes of melon to temper it on the way down. The back end of the beer has a surprisingly robust malt backbone, but it never feels like it’s going to take over the flavor. Instead, it serves as a fantastic prop for the tropical flavors that permeate the beer, giving it a wonderfully full, drinkable body. It’s an incredibly delicious, incredibly successful beer. Oh, and while we’re talking about incredibly successful things, let’s talk about how the NBA successfully rigged the 1985 draft lottery. When I saw the name, I hoped against hope that it was a reference to those dirty cheaters at the NBA handing Patrick Ewing to the Knicks. HenHouse knows their beer, and they also know their (totally true as far as I’m concerned) conspiracy theories.
Pete's Thoughts: Wow, so HenHouse means hops. Message received. This beer is another where you crack the can and boom hops are in your nose even if you are sitting across the room. It pours a deep orange almost gold color and it nice. There are familiar notes of dry pineapple and peach with some notes that I can’t really place. I don’t have enough experience with Idaho 7 and Ahntanum hops to be able to pick them out effectively. There is a fruitiness on the back end that I think could either be the malt or some character from the hops that I can’t yet pick up because I am not familiar enough. Either way, this is a really big hoppy beer that delivers tons of flavor and will definitely numb your tongue (in a good way).
Shane: I don’t give out many 10s, but I’m struggling to find a single fault with this beer. I’d drink it again and again. 10/10
Pete: This is just hops on hops, which appears to be the motto of this brewery. Great beer. 8/10
York: One of my favorites from HenHouse so far. Really unique style and super easy to drink. 9/10
York's Thoughts: Summer is sorta cold and annoying in San Francisco but Local Brewing is determined to will the warm weather in with a huge lineup of bright beers. I sent a few from Local in the last batch that were a bit more true to know styles. This one blows all preconceived notions out of the water (I’ll admit, I don’t really get excited about anything labeled a “blonde ale”) and packs HUGE fruit flavors into an amazingly crisp brew. I associate blonde ales with being more similar to a witbier than a pale ale but this one has almost none of the stickiness I expected it to come with and drinks ridiculously smooth. If that wasn’t already good enough, add a hop profile that gives off pineapple and mango AND THEN add passionfruit and guava and you’ve got yourself a go-to summer brew!
Pete's Thoughts: Blondes are fun when they have a little twist on them. There are a group of styles that we tend to see where there isn’t much you can do to step out of the box because the style is regimented and the brewer has to hit certain notes to meet the style. This style is usually pretty basic, refreshing, and slightly fruity from the yeast but it isn’t a style that has been memorable. But in America, we don’t play by traditional styles so the general solution is make it an IPA! And that can be very good but it can also be a little expected because we Americans love shoving hops in everything. The problem comes when the attempt to make an IPA falls a little short and as a consumer you just wish the brewer would have picked a lane and stuck with the blonde or just made an IPA instead. This take is interesting because they clearly shoved a bunch of tropical fruits in to enhance the beer and made it a refreshing fruit beer. The fruit is very apparent and the hop character balances the tart crispness out very well. I would absolutely love this beer on a beach because it’s light and really flavorful. The beer gets lost in this a little bit because of all the fruit and hop character. So on the back end you don’t really taste anything, and the blonde ale gets lost in all the other flavors. That’s my only knock on this because overall this is the best blonde I have ever had.
Shane's Thoughts: This was the final beer I tasted from this batch and it might be the most fascinating. This is a beer that straddles a lot of different styles, and I honestly don’t think I’d have called it a “blonde ale” if I had this during a blind taste test. There’s a little bit of light tartness on the nose, which was both unexpected and incredibly welcome. It also has a little bit of that farmhouse funk to it, and while I don’t tend to be a huge fan of farmhouse ales, it actually works really well here as a foundational complement to the tartness. The name is perfect--the hop profile on this beer is incredibly tropical, and drinking it makes me feel like I should be sitting on a beach somewhere. I’ll say that although this is the first “blonde ale” that we’ve reviewed, we did discuss Liquid Riot’s Ka$h Money blonde IPA a while back, and that was a beer that we universally loved. Maybe it’s time we started giving a little more respect to blondes.
Pete: Amazing blonde, perfect beach and summer beer. 8/10
Shane: Straddles styles, playing with a lot of different flavor elements. Really enjoyable. 8/10
York: Love the creativity here and am pleasantly shocked and how smooth a drink this is. 8/10
York's Thoughts: Cellarmaker is a top tier IPA machine in SF. They also however are extremely hard to get in cans & bottles. I gave the guys a Nelson hop based IPA way back in our third exchange which they both weren’t huge fans of (see overuse of the word “dank”). This one is a Citra single hop with even less bitterness and still sits in that crushable 5-6% range. Cellarmaker does a lot of really impressive big scary double IPAs but their Pale Ales stick out as my preference from them. Really well balanced with an intentionally non-complex flavor profile that makes them really easy to down. Citra is a hop we’ve all talked about quite a bit but it rarely gets a solo gig. That provides a really neat citrusy beer that sits among all it’s dank, piney brothers at Cellarmaker.
Pete's Thoughts: So I have been jonesing for some Cellarmaker ever since I heard that Brian was moving to San Francisco. They are one of those places, to me, that you always hear about how awesome they but can never try their stuff because it is too popular. Sometimes exclusivity raises the profile for some of these breweries so it is always good to pierce the veil and see what is really going on. This is a slam dunk beer for me. Hazy fruit pineapple bomb. They got that exactly right by putting a bunch of pineapples on the outside of the can. Just a bright pineapple flavor and aroma with some nice dryness but not too dry to warp your tastebuds. Just a solid balanced fruit forward pale ale that I could drink all day. This is the problem, once you try something exclusive, and you like it….you just want more.
Shane's Thoughts: Hazy. Juicy. Fruity. An East Coast IPA from a West Coast hop shop. Dobis pours a hazy orange-yellow color that perfectly characterizes the fruit that dominates its flavor profile: pineapple. This is a pineapple bomb. Pineapple on the head. Pineapple on the body. Pineapple on the finish. And I love it. It’s a consistent beer that doesn’t try to tangle with too many flavors, too many different hops, too many ingredients. It’s single-hopped with Citra, and you know what? I respect that simplicity. It’s straightforward. If this was a double IPA, I’d probably say that I want a little more going on, I want some different flavors on the finish, I want something to mix it up. But for a 5.7% beer that you’re probably looking to crush several of at a time, I’m all aboard the pineapple express. I think they nailed exactly what they were going for.
Pete: Pineapple juice pale ale that fits the bill for my type of pale ale. 9/10
Shane: It’s a little bit one-note, but when that note is pineapple and the beer is crushable, I have no problem with that at all. 8/10
York: Pale Ales are quickly becoming my go-to style and this one is a good representative why. 8/10
York's Thoughts: Similar to the Stoked! from HenHouse, this is a single hop series that the brewers change up with each batch, and similar to the Dobis, it’s a Citra single-hop. Kind of fun to ride this ride huh? Angel City was the first LA brewery I visited after moving to CA and let me take a moment to just put a teaser out about how amazing their space is. A gigantic loft in the arts district (kind of looks like an old clothing manufacturer maybe?) is full of multi-level, indoor-outdoor, game riddled, eclectic areas that you can tuck yourself into for whatever experience you want. I’m yet to do my all-LA batch but to make sure we don’t forget about how good a beer town that is, I’m passing along the Sunbather cans. Really approachable summer sour that showcases the concept that sours don’t have to be wildly complex and come with 5 adjuncts in the name. This one has both enough tart to please sour seekers and enough of a beery taste and hop profile to satisfy the everyday craft beer fan. LA gets a lot hotter than SF so the concept of summer beers is even more real. This one is on my hot weather list for sure.
Shane's Thoughts: I’ll set aside my personal biases here--or at least acknowledge them: when it comes to sours, my preference lies with tart sours. I like a Warhead-level of pucker in my sours. But I also acknowledge that there are many different styles of sour beer, and many of them can be just as successful (and delicious) without turning your taste buds inside-out. This is one such beer. When I took my first sip, my initial impression was that it was going to be a little wheaty for me. When I took my second sip, I wondered how I could ever have thought that. The wheat flavor dissipates pretty quickly on the tongue, replaced instead by a lingering tropical citrus tang. The aftertaste here is really, really nice, and although the beer isn’t as tart as I usually prefer, it leaves exactly the sort of pleasant tingle on the tongue that I expect from an even more amped-up sour. That’s incredibly impressive to me. Citra was a great choice here, as the straightforward citrus character it embodies works incredibly well with sours. I had high hopes for this beer, and it lived up to them.
Pete's Thoughts: This beer was really really light coming out of the can so I was automatically prepared for either a super sour beer or a super light with nothing. This has a nice funky Brett nose to it. I didn’t get much hops but that doesn’t necessarily determine how this beer will turn out. Flavor is just on point. Citra really does well in sour beers because it just works with the yeast to bring out that sourness of citrus peel out of the hop. It is a symbiotic relationship that just makes the beer taste better. This is light and refreshing with a punch to the mouth of grapefruit peel and juice. Really simple when you first taste it but complex when you consider all the work that went into getting you there. Really enjoy that the dry hopped sour is a thing now.
Shane: This was the first beer I tried, and it’ll be tough to top. 9/10
Pete: Great summer sour that is perfect for the beach. 8/10
York: Sometimes a simple approach ensures an objectively good result. 7/10
York's Thoughts: I shocked the whole group (self included) by sending the first cider we reviewed, and this is a similar level or surprise with the first pilsner. I have drank with the creed of “pilsner is pilsner” for almost my entire beer-drinking life, but this one is a true exception. First off, Alvarado Street, as mentioned in the last batch, has exploded onto the West Coast scene with objectively terrific beer. Creature Comforts is a brewery I got to try a few beers from during a DC beer week event and were one of the major standouts. When I saw this collab, it was a no brainer, even though the style wasn’t what I was hoping for. Back to the beer - if more pilsners were like this, it might just be my favorite style. I expected the standard “meh” reaction but am happy to say that this is one of my favorites that I have sent in a while. Gloriously crisp and bright with juuuuust enough of a hop profile to satiate the craft beer fan. The house yeast is clearly at play here and seems to give the beer an almost lime-like flavor. Add that to a hop profile much sexier than most pilsners and you’ve got a tasty brew.
Shane's Thoughts: This is the first pilsner we’ve reviewed, and part of the reason for that is...well, I don’t think any of us can claim to be huge fans of the style. Don’t get me wrong--pilsners absolutely have their place. They’re easy to drink, they’re satisfying, and you can usually drink a boatload of them, which makes them perfect for grabbing a few of while you watch a football game. It just tends to be hard to differentiate one pilsner from another. At least, that’s what I thought. Continental Drift challenges a few of those assumptions. I was shocked to discover almost no discernible aroma when I poured this beer--unusual for a pilsner, which usually features that sharp, barley-heavy smell from the moment you crack the can. Drinking it was just as intriguing. This isn’t a beer with a ton of body. It goes down incredibly smooth--almost like flavored water. I know that sounds like an insult, but it really isn’t: rather than that standard pilsner flavor, you get a nice hint of citrus on the back end from the Mosaic, and that flavor is allowed to shine through. With a pilsner, I don’t need to be smacked in the face with flavor the way I do with an IPA. With a pilsner, you can be a little more subtle. This is definitely one of the more unique beers I’ve tasted, and I kind of wish I had a second one to follow it up with.
Pete's Thoughts: This is a fun beer for our first pilsner. It’s got that malty pilsner note that I always expect from a beer like this. Classic pilsner body, white fluffy head, crisp gold color. But then you get this subtle note of fruit on the nose and you sip it and the beer tastes crisp and clean. But there is an underlying hop presence that is almost juicy (as we call it). It has that slight note of mosaic berries and stone fruit while still maintaining that crisp pilsner dry character. I think this is a beautiful beer that really seems to just sub out the classic hops for the new ones without making an IPA. This would be a great beer to have a session of because the flavor does not overwhelm your palate. You keep tasting the flavors and searching for what you remember from these hops up until the last drop is gone.
Shane: Really struggling with how to rate this. Definitely one of the most interesting pilsners I’ve ever had. 8/10
Pete: Really fun interpretation that didn’t try to be an IPA. 8/10
York: Game changer in the Pilsner style for me. Absolutely loved it. 9/10
Best of the Bunch
Shane: I’m writing this before I even finish tasting the beers: the answer is Frozen Envelope. Just the perfect combination of flavor, richness, and drinkability. I could drink a thousand of these, you guys.
Pete: Stoked on Mosaic. Because I am. I wish I could always have a beer that complex and complete at my disposal.
York: Continental Drift. As the shock continues to build, not only our first Pilsner, but now cracking the BoB. Continental Drift may just be the easiest, most pleasant beer to drink that any of us have included to date.
Drink With Us
Three friends. Three corners of the country. One passion for beer.
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