New England Never Runs Dry
Shane: Honestly, I didn’t think I could top the last batch of beers I selected, but it seems like New England is just a never-ending fountain of incredible beer. I’ve been telling Pete and York that Khaos is my favorite Garrison City beer for quite some time, and it’s been frustrating for me to not be able to include it in a post yet. Finally, FINALLY I have managed to get my hands on some, and I’m very excited to see what these guys think. Also included are a couple of beers that represent something a little different: Rising Tide’s Maine Island Trail Ale is probably my favorite session IPA of all-time, Bissell Brothers’ Bucolia is a different take on a classic amber style, and Henniker’s Sour Flower is a sour that packs a punch of floral flavor. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the two beers here that I never thought I’d be able to get my hands on: Nothing Gold and JJJULIUSSS. Nothing Gold was a special release from Bissell Brothers in honor of their new brewery location, and it spawned the single longest line I’ve ever seen at a New England beer release (luckily I have learned to get there extremely early). JJJULIUSSS...well, I never thought I’d see the day JJJULIUSSS made it into cans. I’ll talk a little more about that when we get to it, but suffice it to say that York will finally get the introduction to Tree House that he deserves.
York: Lots of wishlist beers in this batch! Shane has been mercilessly talking up Khaos and JJJULIUSSS to us right from the get go. I’ve been even higher on the Garrison City beers than Shane so far, so I’ve got really high hopes for the DIPA from them. I also really enjoyed the Rising Tide beer we had a few batches ago and of course really dig the beers that our friends at Henniker make so a sour from them has me extra excited. On the opposite side of the spectrum, I’m typically less enthused with Bissell than the others (this is a VERY relative statement of course) so I’m glad to be getting access to a few more from them to really figure out what the disconnect amongst the three of us is. Talk about a powerhouse of summer beers - can’t wait to get started on these!
Pete: Shane and I play an interesting game every Friday. Every Friday we check twitter to see what Tree House is canning because if it’s good sometimes Shane will throw caution to the wind and drive down to get it. The last few weeks, they brewery has really been pushing their release time back to when Shane won’t want to drive to Tree House just to get something he’s already had. Then they drop a huge beer by releasing an amped up version of Julius, their much admired IPA. Guess Shane had to drive to Tree House that day. And I am glad he did. I also really like the collection of IPAs here. Nothing Gold is very intriguing because I have not seen a new Bissell beer in a while. And more Garrison City and a great collection of New England IPAs isn’t a bad thing.
Shane's Thoughts: Khaos has gone through a couple of iterations with Garrison City, but they’re definitely settling into something great. Probably my favorite beer that the brewery produces (although their new Daybreak IPA is a strong challenger), Khaos has been something of a white whale for me in that I’ve been desperately seeking it out and trying to get it into one of these posts for a while now. There’s a huge amount of grapefruit flavor on the back end of this beer, and it’s a gorgeous hazy orange pour. The beer itself actually mimics grapefruit as a whole, with a delicious sweetness tempered by a slight rindy bitterness. I love this beer, and I love that Garrison City has been making it a bit more available lately.
Pete's Thoughts: This beer pours a really nice burnt orange color with a rich creamy head. Very acidic citrus aroma. I love this style. The beer really does look like juice and it uses a couple hops that I haven’t had on their own. The flavor is orange, pineapple, and some subtle guava on the end. There is the perfect amount of bitterness from the Chinook to cleanse the palate and keep you looking for more. It’s nice that some of these breweries are playing with the style to keep it from being overly sweet. Really liking the consistent flow of good hoppy beer coming out of this brewery.
York's Thoughts: Winner! Big hoppy nose and a really really solid full bodied drink with a nice crisp finish on every sip. I'm not quite as familiar with these hops outside of the chinook but clearly Garrison is and has made an A+ combo here. I could sell this beer as earthy, floral, AND piney without much argument. I couldn't disagree more with the others on the haze here though. My ever persistent drawback on these otherwise dreamy Northeast IPAs is that really thick haze. The first 12 ounces of my pint were everything I could ever want in a beer...the last four did not make me feel the same. Nonetheless, I'm so impressed by the flavor and drinkability (for most of the pint) that I'm looking well past the haze that sticks at the end.
Pete: Really solid, not too sweet New England IPA. 8/10
York: This is the DIPA I've been waiting for from NH. Amazing flavor. 9/10
Shane: Khaos is just an incredibly solid double IPA. 8/10
Shane's Thoughts: One of my recent batches included Rising Tide’s Calcutta Cutter, but the Maine Island Trail Ale is easily my favorite Rising Tide beer. In fact, I like it so much that its low ABV doesn’t even particularly bother me--it just means I can drink that many more. Available from May to September, this is a summer session that goes down smoooooth. Rising Tide hasn’t really hopped on the New England haze train, and this beer is crisp, (relatively) clear, and delicious. It’s the perfect beach beer, and it’s unquestionably my favorite session IPA I’ve ever tasted. Sorry, Baby Genius. Sorry, Lil' Heaven. The Maine Island Trail Ale takes the cake.
York's Thoughts: Thank you Rising Tide. I now know what the attraction is to a session beer. In earlier reviews I've rated several session IPAs very well but always find myself confused about the low ABV. I love beer and I'd typically much rather have a nice big strong IPA than drop the ABV and lose some flavor just to be able to you can have more of them. This beer loses zero flavor but comes in at half the strength of my typical go to. The Citra and Simcoe combo has lead to some good reviews for us before and this brew is certainly in line with that. This is the ideal beer to throw a 6 pack of in the cooler and bring along wherever the summer takes you.
Pete's Thoughts: This beer really confused me at first, it poured very hazy but then it settles as a nice straw color. The aroma is very subtle, but I was a little reticent because session ales can be a little too watery sometimes. This one doesn’t have quite the body that I was expecting but it has all the flavor. Really different flavors, kiwi, cantaloupe, a little citrus, and some pineapple at the end. The flavors are bright and not muted at all. This beer is crisp and refreshing and goes down super smooth. I could sit here and crush these all day.
York: Automatic fridge staple if I had better access. Amazingly drinkable without sacrificing any flavor. 9/10
Pete: Really flavorful session IPA, really want to try more from these guys. 8/10
Shane: Easily my favorite session IPA. Full flavor, crushable body. Just delicious. 9/10
Shane's Thoughts: None of us will ever taste this beer again. I can all but guarantee that. I was excited to see that Tree House was gearing up to throw an anniversary party in June, and subsequently disappointed to realize that I couldn’t make it. Tree House’s anniversary parties are famous for having rare beer offerings, including many things that have (to the best of my knowledge) never been canned or distributed. Chief among those beers is JJJULIUSSS, a ramped-up version of Tree House’s flagship beer, Julius. Julius was the first beer that ever made me truly understand why people stand in line for this stuff, so to say I wanted to try JJJULIUSSS would be an understatement. I never thought I would have the opportunity to do so, and when Tree House announced that JJJULIUSSS was on sale at the brewery in early June, I immediately hopped in my car to make the trip. As for the beer itself...wow. There is so much flavor in here it’s crazy. Whereas classic Julius is a citrusy juice bomb, the extra hop treatments that JJJULIUSSS receives give it astonishing herbal and floral notes that really help it shine. The orange and mango are as present as always, and the flavor has an amazing roundness to it that makes every mouthful satisfying. I am blown away by this beer, and at 6.8% ABV I wish I had been able to get more than six because I could happily drink a ton of these.
York's Thoughts: Huge fruit bomb. I’ve heard absolutely nothing but praise for this beer which is a quick way to lead to an underwhelming experience. NOT HERE! I poured this beer and feared the worst--it is beyond the normal haze of the New England beers Shane has sent so far. Somehow, it drinks extremely light, has no stickiness, and doesn’t come with that slightly chewy experience that a lot of other top-level area brews do. I get almost exclusively orange from the list of descriptors that Tree House lists, but I can understand some others such as the mango after reading their description. We drink a lot of great stuff and lot that is extremely hard to find. Huge props to Tree House and to Shane for making this obtainable, what a great experience!
Pete's Thoughts: Ah Julius. My first Tree House beer, and the first really hyped IPA that I tried. Julius is a beer that absolutely deserves the hype, and a version that amps up the hops has to be good, right? Shane and I actually had a discussion about whether he was going to go to the brewery the day they released this. They didn’t make the announcement until 10 minutes after Shane said he was not going to drive to Tree House. I am glad that he went. This beer is Julius, but it also isn’t. It has a lot of the mango, peach, and citrus Julius is known for, but it also has really amped up pineapple on the back end. Julius lingers on the palate for a while, and this just keeps going. The beer has this mouthpuckering quality as though you just bit into a piece of fruit. It just has that feeling for longer, which is really awesome. I hope they keep making this.
York: Now THIS was the Tree House experience I was looking for! 10/10
Pete: Really awesome IPA, it’s like a more intense Julius. 9/10
Shane: Julius was the first beer I ever rated a 10 out of 10. This is better than Julius. 10/10
Shane's Thoughts: When Bissell Brothers announced the grand opening for their new brewery location, they also announced the upcoming release of Nothing Gold, a new double IPA that would serve as a sort of seasonal counterbalance to Swish. Since Swish is my personal favorite beer, to say I was excited would be an understatement. Nothing Gold is one of the thickest, richest beers I’ve ever had. It’s a deep, deep, muddy orange color and it’s very dense. It takes that hazy New England style and amps it up even further. I get a lot of pineapple and peach from this beer, and those are two flavors that will never elicit complaint from me. One complaint that I have repeatedly heard about this beer is that the sediment really seems to drop out, leaving the last few sips bitter and muddy. Maybe that’s why Bissell Brothers paired the release of the beer with the release of some new glassware: an 18 oz goblet. This allows you to pour the entire 16 oz beer into the glass all at once, giving you a nice, even pour and avoiding that “last few sips” problem. Overall, I’m impressed with this beer. It’s not Swish, but hey--what else is?
Pete's Thoughts: I was really hyped for this beer because Shane texted me from the line and it seemed like everyone in Maine came out for this release. The color is this rich burnt orange color but when the light hits it, it looks like light trying to penetrate the deep ocean. The light carries but doesn’t go very far to disturb rich dark orange beer. This beer is like a blended pineapple and peach. So much fruit on the nose and the palate. There is some lingering bitterness and a little orange that mingles with the flavors, but this is just a straight pineapple peach explosion. The only drawback, for me, is that I pour my Bissell beers into a 12oz glass and finish the rest. However, when I have their beers (no matter how fresh) that list swig is just all the bitterness from either the yeast or hops dropping out. Not sure, but it should not stop you from enjoying this amazing beer.
York's Thoughts: Bissell has been all over the map for me preference wise so far. I always have an above average rating and experience but never quite the allure that Pete and Shane seem to have with them. Nothing Gold is exactly in that muddled area again. This beer looks like apple cider in a glass. Completely opaque, almost past orange and into brown and drinks about as thick as it looks. The hops do come through via the fruit tones, but there is a distinct lack of bitterness here. I see the allure and definitely understand the attraction to a fruit bomb, but this is more of a smoothie and less of a beer to me. To be totally clear, the goal of this beer is completely understood and very well executed on, but well outside of my preferences.
Pete: Really solid IPA from Bissell’s new facility, keep it coming! 9/10
York: To me, this is a very niche preference that I do not share. 6/10
Shane: It’s not Swish, but it’s a delicious, hazy double that nails its spot. 8/10
Shane's Thoughts: This is the beer that I am most curious to hear from York and Pete about, because I suspect it will tell us something about each of our personal drinking preferences. When we rated Henniker’s Amber Apparition, we all noted that it was a very good beer, but that the ceiling for amber ales is low relative to other beers. I gave that beer a 7/10, figuring it was about as high as I would rate an amber. Bucolia has proven me wrong on that count, though not in the way I would have expected. If I can use an analogy, Amber Apparition is the apple juice to Bucolia’s apple cider. Amber Apparition has a crisp, clear, golden pour, while Bucolia has the muddier, unfiltered appearance of a thick, rich apple cider. I’m curious which beer York and Pete will be drawn to, because Bucolia really hits the spot in a very East Coast way for me. It’s rich and flavorful, and it reminds me of fall. It definitely drinks heavy, but I like that about it. I’ve actually found myself cruising through my stockpile of Bucolia faster than Nothing Gold. I hope I get to drink it again soon.
Pete's Thoughts: Ambers are always a style that I like but never love. This one really pushes the boundary of the style by amping up the flavor without disguising it as an IPA. It’s got a nice fruit citrus hop flavor, and it gets a little malty in the mid palate with citrus orange. It is really hoppy but not bitter. It is a very refreshing drinkable beer which stays very true to the style.
York's Thoughts: Every batch from Shane seems to have one beer that really surprises me. The Bucolia is it in this one. Yes, yes, I’m always harping on the haziness being a downside and the unfiltered chewiness being outside what I want, but it REALLY works in this brew. I think the bar is often set low for ambers because by definition, they aren’t really supposed to wow you. They’re middle of the road flavor that appeals to the masses. I am however, normally a fan of red ales that I’ve tried so far and love a good Irish Red with a meal any day. The Bucolia fits somewhere in between those styles for me. The heavy aspect that Bissell often brews with works perfectly with the darker-maltier beer and gives it a wonderful smoothness. I don’t get nearly as much hops as the others seem to, but I don’t think it’s begging for them. Perfect beer for having with dinner or a weekend breakfast!
Pete: Really solid take on the amber, fruity but not just making an IPA out of the amber. 7/10
York: Enjoyed this beer far more than expected. Really impressive take. 8/10
Shane: Sets the bar for amber ales in my mind, though I think that largely comes down to personal style preferences. 8/10
Shane's Thoughts: This is a beer that lives up to its name. Easily the most floral sour I’ve ever had, Sour Flower delivers on all of its promises. It’s not overly sour--some sours have an overwhelming pucker that makes me feel more like I’m eating a Warhead than drinking a beer--and instead sits perfectly nestled in that middle area of sourness. It also has a very unique finish. Most sours I’ve had in the past finish with an extra zing of pucker or an extra zing of citrus, but Sour Flower instead rounds itself out with a mild, dry herbalness. I like this beer quite a bit. It’s different from any sour I’ve ever had, and I really like when breweries try to do something different and nail it.
York's Thoughts: I know it’s my fault that Shane included this sour and all I can say to the others is, “You’re welcome.” Henniker already had us impressed with several beers (see our brewery post) and this one elevated their standing even more so! I love when craft breweries aren’t scared to do something as big as a Dry Hopped Sour. I’m sure it’s a gamble when production resources are limited but man am I glad they went for it. This beer is delicious in every way. The hoppy components remind you that you are most definitely drinking a solid craft beer and the sour notes are about as perfect as can be for a summer brew. Only downside is that it makes me crave grilled food as I drink it (tough order living in a city)!
Pete's Thoughts: This beer really is a sour flower. It has a nice underlying tartness with some very very floral notes on the nose and palate. I was a little confused by the description because they said that it was supposed to be very tropical but I got more straight flower flavor profile. Otherwise, it is a very clean refreshing summer beer. The tartness works perfectly in the blistering DC heat while also offering some nice complex flavors. Really good to see these guys can do a quality sour too.
York: I have high standards for sours, and this meets them for damn sure. 9/10
Pete: I was a little surprised by this but it was still very good. 7/10
Shane: A solid sour with an unusual flavor profile. Really enjoyed this one. 8/10
Best of the Bunch
Shane's Top Pick: There’s no way for me to avoid picking JJJULIUSSS here. But a lot of these beers set a very high bar. Maine Island Trail Ale might be the best session beer I’ve ever had, Bucolia might be my favorite amber, and Sour Flower is a style of sour that I’ve never before tasted.
York's Top Pick: Toughest one of these for me so far. While it’s hard to argue with the JJJULIUSSS, I think I give a slight edge to the Khaos from Garrison as my personal favorite. Garrison City just seems to hit on everything they try. Incredibly layered and complex while staying perfectly drinkable and refreshing.
Pete's Top Pick: JJJJJJJJNothing Gold for me. Really great fruit forward IPA with that classic Bissell mouthfeel. Glad they are able to start expanding their selection.
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