York: The first group of West Coast beers! When I moved to California just a few months ago, I was completely overwhelmed by the number of GOOD craft breweries at my disposal--many within walking distance! A lot of my favorites are not yet bottling/canning, but I still tried to choose beers that are not available to my DC and New England partners. California is definitely an IPA centric beer culture, so until I learn and try a bit more in that space, I decided to go for an approach that got as many different types of beer as possible resulting in choices that represent a huge spectrum of flavor. My entries this round span from San Diego to Corvallis and there isn’t a single one I wouldn’t recommend.
Shane: I was born in Virginia, grew up in New Hampshire, and went to school in DC. The furthest west I’ve ever been is Chicago. So it should probably come as no surprise that I haven’t had many beers from California. The one brewery on this list that I have had plenty of is 21st Amendment, which I’ve seen distributed as far as Maine. I've enjoyed enough of their beers that I’m really looking forward to tasting some of their small-batch, hard-to-get beers. Their Marooned on Hog Island and Golden Road’s Wolf Among Weeds are definitely the two beers I’m looking forward to most here.
Pete: I crawled out of the cesspool known as New Jersey. Because I survived my youth in that dark land, I am certain that no man made chemical can kill me. Anyhoo. I have been to California once before, and it was to go to Los Angeles. I focused all my effort into getting the famed Pliny the Elder, so I probably missed a lot of the other stuff. I was impressed at the variety of beer in the state and would like to get a large variety of anything they can offer outside of what i know in Stone and Sierra Nevada. I am most interested in the Truthful Statement because it is a beer modeled after an Old Fashioned. I like those, I like beer, how can that be bad?
York’s Thoughts: I am so confused by dark sours that I truly don't know how to endorse them. What I do know, is that this is EASILY the best one I've had. Not to mention it comes at 9% AND, if you are going to age in bourbon barrels, Woodford Reserve is a pretty solid pick in my book.
Shane’s Thoughts: This isn’t the first dark sour that I’ve had, but it’s the one that seems to do right by both components. It has the richness and rounded flavor that I would expect from a dark beer, as well as the sharp bite that you want from a sour. The problem is that I’m just not sure those two things were MEANT to go together. Maybe you have to sacrifice something from one of the other to create a truly great dark sour. I don’t really have the answer. I enjoyed drinking this beer because it was something out of the ordinary, but I wouldn’t call it great. Also, maybe I’m the only one, but I didn’t really "get" the Old Fashioned angle. I love bourbon, and Old Fashioneds in particular, but if I didn’t see those words on the label I doubt they’d have ever come to mind.
Pete’s Thoughts: I like this beer because I think a dark sour was the perfect vehicle to give a lot of the characteristics of a good Old Fashioned cocktail. The dark beer base mirrors the sugar of the drink and the wood barrel aging mirrors the bitters added to the drink. This was a very clever way to make it because most cocktail beers seem to try to be identical in appearance to the drink they are interpreting before getting the flavor profile. The cherries were great in it and there is a little citrus to go with the bourbon barrel to give all the the flavor components of the drink. I would have preferred more citrus because I really had to search for that peel character. I also always want more bourbon but I realize that would detract from some of the wood barrel character that I liked in the beer. Overall, great beer.
Shane: Good dark beer. Good sour. Just not sure those were meant to coexist. 6/10
Peter: Really mirrors a lot of the flavors of the cocktail well, but I wanted more bourbon and citrus peel. 7/10
York: Very unique and complex, not quite the pucker I hope for in a sour. 8/10
York’s Thoughts: Great representative of something out of the box from an impressive small brewery in the budding San Diego. My experience with 'cream' beers has been limited and was largely made up of beers that belong more at frat parties than do in a glass, but this one impressed me. Bonus point for awesome branding and a great can design that you can drink from.
Shane’s Thoughts: First off, I demand that every beer be served in cans like this. Sure, peeling the entire top of the can is gimmicky. But it’s also AWESOME. And surprisingly easy! I’m almost surprised it survived the trip intact. Getting to the point, given that most "cream" bears are either stouts or, well, Genesee Cream, this beer is both shockingly light and shockingly drinkable. The flavor is a little forgettable. Not much subtlety. But if it was summer, I'd drink a dozen.
Pete’s Thoughts: I might save this can just to be able to drink more out of it, it’s that awesome. It has some nice toasted malt character with some nuttiness mid palate. There is some underlying bitterness from the hops that I like. I could see having a session of this beer no matter what the weather is. It has some good body and it’s not too thin while still being refreshing.
Shane: Drinkable but straightforward. Bonus for branding and uniqueness. 7/10
Peter: Very good but there is a ceiling for these styles for me. 6/10
York: Love a drinkable beer that’s good for a staycation or a beach day. 7/10
York’s Thoughts: Excellent dark beer from an excellent brewery. They really nail it when they say salty and silky. It’s rare to find both in a good stout that comes in at a solid ABV, but this one does it. Especially fun for this exchange because of the collaboration with Hog Island Oysters, which has a restaurant walking distance from the 21st Amendment brewhouse in SF.
Shane’s Thoughts: "Oyster Stout" is a style that probably puts more than a few people off, but I’ve had oyster stouts before and loved them. 21st Amendment really knows what they’re doing. It’s dark, heavy, and (I never really understood what this meant before) chewy. At first I wasn’t sure that I could pick up on the oyster shell notes, but they are present--there is definitely a hint of brine on the back end. While that might sound unwelcome, it definitely isn’t. Marooned on Hog Island is like the beer version of salted caramel: rich and delicious with just a hint of salt.
Pete’s Thoughts: I liked this one because many oyster stouts that I have had are just smooth beers, they don’t push the roast flavors too much. This one had a good balance of chocolate, leather notes, and roastiness to complement the brininess. It maybe lost some of the character of the oyster a little but was overall a really good beer.
Shane: A rich beer with a wider range of flavors than you might expect from a stout. 7/10
Pete: Solid stout with a good balance of roasty, sweet and salty. 7/10
York: Definitely suggest with a meal or to open your bar tab. 8/10
York’s Thoughts: As a relatively new proponent of hop forward IPAs, I can attribute a large part of that transition to this beer. Amazing taste that doesn't wreck your palate for the next beer you're having. Citrusy and hoppy to a perfect combination. Great representative from LA.
Pete’s Thoughts: I really like this, it has a nice grapefruit front end and blends into a balanced bitter and dank melange on the back end. Refreshing and the alcohol is very very well hidden for 8%. The beer has a good body and is just a good representation of the west coast style.
Shane’s Thoughts: I really like the subtle grapefruit notes in this one. The hoppiness of the beer is really well complemented by what I can only call "grassy" or "earthy" notes on the back end. It’s something that I would usually expect from a wheat beer more than an IPA, but Golden Road integrates it to perfection. I came into this expecting a great beer, and I was not disappointed.
Pete: This is really nice and balanced. You can taste all the good west coast hop character. 8/10
Shane: This was my favorite of this shipment. Earthy and drinkable. 8/10
York: Huge fan, definitely an every-day IPA sort of drink. 9/10
York’s Thoughts: I don’t typically enjoy the 'wheaty' end of the spectrum. I find that they have a sort of stickiness that leaves a grass flavor stuck to your tongue. This one has shown me the light. Somehow, his beer has figured out a way to balance the wheat with some fruit forward hop flavor to design a perfect drinkable beer. May be a bit out of season for my East Coast counterparts, but a good drink.
Shane’s Thoughts: I liked this one! It’s not my favorite, which might have something to do with the fact that it is a little past its bottle-by date. Oddly, that’s not a knock to me, because I actually sort of like the rounded flavor that this one has. It doesn’t have the sharpness that a lot of wheat beers have, and I wonder if it lost some of that sharpness with age. Whatever the case, I found this one drinkable, if not remarkable.
Pete’s Thoughts: This one didn’t really do it for me. I don’t know if I was expecting more of an IPA but I didn’t get much citrus and tropical on it. I’d give this beer another chance but overall it just feels like a slightly hoppy wheat beer.
Shane: Look, it’s not amazing, but it’s drinkable. I just couldn’t tell you why. 6/10
Pete: Not a big fan but would give it another shot. 5/10.
York: Great for the beer type, just not my preference. 6/10
York's Thoughts: This brewery is impressive with the amount of flavor they punch into each beer. This one is the top of that impressive list with huge blasts of coffee and roasted notes. If you like dark beer even a little bit, this is a great one to have around. Looking forward to trying some of their next season beers and hopefully including a few more in our exchanges.
Shane's Thoughts: Stouts are hard to judge, which hurts me to say because stouts are near the top of my favorite beer styles. Black House is a good stout. The coffee taste really sticks, and it’s very aromatic. It’s rich, just the way you would want a stout to be. It just doesn’t really elevate itself. I want MORE from it. Again, I’m not sure this is a knock on this specific beer or on stouts in general, because I very much enjoyed it. But it is what it is: a slightly above average stout. And if I’m drinking a slightly above average stout, I have to admit that I’m hoping for something that packs a little more of a punch. 5.8% just ain't enough for me.
Pete's Thoughts: So my dream beer is a session stout. People talk about session ipas, session this, session that. The holy grail for me is a nice roasty stout built inside a 5% abv beer that has the weight of a bigger beer but you can drink a lot of them. This beer gives me hope that one day we will reach that pinnacle. It is roasty, coffee, has a nice smokiness and is really easy to drink. I wish it had a little more body but otherwise it is very good. Stouts are tough because really the only way to stand out is to make a bigger beer, which is why the rating may seem pedestrian.
Shane: Very solid stout, but wholly unremarkable. Giving it an extra point for a great aroma. 7/10
Pete: Good stout, not the grail but a good effort. 6/10.
York: Did not expect nearly as much flavor as delivered--exceptionally drinkable for a stout. 7/10
York’s Thoughts: I've become a HUGE fan of anything dry hopped. Yet to have a bad experience with it, so when I saw that this one was dry hopped AND saison style, it was a no brainer. This beer isn’t all that unique or exceptionally flavored, but damn is it drinkable.
Shane’s Thoughts: I’m not a huge saison drinker, but I actually found myself liking this one more and more as I continued drinking it. It’s very smooth and drinkable, with a great aroma. I wish I had more to say, but that just about sums it up. It’s a decent saison that doesn’t really elevate itself in any way.
Pete’s Thoughts: Lovely session saison. The dry hop adds melon and peach aroma and flavors that really meld well with the funky slightly citrusy earthy saison. It is slightly thinner than I would want but for under 5% ABV it makes sense.
Shane: Above average saison in my book, but not my personal preference. 6/10
Pete: Really liked the dry hop. Above average saison for the ABV. 7/10
York: Dry hopped with saison flavor is a great combo - drinks easy as anything. 8/10
Best of the Bunch
Pete’s Top Pick: Wolf Among Weeds. Can’t shake it, really good west coast IPA.
Shane’s Top Pick: Wolf Among Weeds. A good IPA with unique flavor notes. Can’t argue with that.
York’s Top Pick: Definitely the Wolf Among Weeds IPA for me out of this batch.
Drink With Us
Three friends. Three corners of the country. One passion for beer.
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