Shane: Every year, Pete, York, and I reunite in Ocean City with a handful of friends, and every year we bring a bunch of beers along with us to sample together. I was pretty happy with last year’s batch of beers, but, I have to say, I think I outdid myself this year. A pair of Tree House beers, including one from the one-off Curiosity series, a staple from Austin Street Brewery that Pete has been begging me to get ahold of, a pair of sours, Great Rhythm’s first-ever double IPA release, and another double IPA clocking in at an astounding 12% alcohol. If that doesn’t sound like a tasty lineup of beers, I don’t know what does.
York: Lots to live up to after a strong showing at last year’s beach trip for Shane! I see he’s brought along a competitor to last year’s Seed from Bissell Brothers and another set of Tree House brews. Obviously excited for those, but my true interest lies in the Double Squeeze from Great Rhythm. I’ve been really high on everything I’ve had from them and am looking forward to their continued dominance. Plus, who can say no to checking out a 12% IPA that claims to be hoppy and fresh!?
Shane’s Thoughts: Double Squeeze is the very first double IPA release from Great Rhythm Brewing Company, and given how much both Pete and York loved the standard version of Squeeze, it was a no-brainer for me to go grab some to share. Double Squeeze is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It’s like Squeeze, but...more. Same full, round, orange/tangerine flavor, without much sharpness and a fairly crisp finish, but amped up just the littlest bit. It doesn’t taste like an 8% beer to me--or at least it didn’t at first. I wish I had been able to get this beer into Pete and York’s hands a little earlier, because, while I’m not usually too concerned about drop-off, this is a beer that was definitely better fresh. Don’t misunderstand me--this is still a really delicious beer. But after two weeks, the alcohol flavor definitely started to seep into the beer a little bit, making the back end taste a little bit boozier than it did on day one. I’m not complaining--sometimes it’s nice to know exactly what you’re drinking. But I think the beer better embodies what Great Rhythm was going for when it’s consumed fresh, and the added booziness throws off the balance just the tiniest bit.
York’s Thoughts: A few months back, Shane sent us Squeeze, the single IPA iteration of this brew, and I absolutely loved everything about it. To say I was excited to get my hands on the double would be an understatement. When we did the original and I gave it a 10/10 mark, the guys both put it a little more middle of the road. I think, in an unforeseen twist, that we may all switch the other way. I found the double to be a little on the harsh side with a bit of bite cutting through what is otherwise a really smooth profile. I don’t hate that in a beer, but at 8 percent, I’d like it to be a little less prevalent. This may also be a product of loving the original so much, but I feel like the balance in Squeeze was dead on and this one loses some of that cohesiveness. I now see that this sounds like a negative write up and it’s truly not - I really enjoyed this beer and Great Rhythm continues to hold a top spot for NE brews to me.
York: Real tasty and certainly fits the mold for big flavor DIPAs out of the area. The higher alcohol contents competes a bit with the body flavor but all in all a great brew. 8/10
Shane: Hi-Fi remains my favorite Great Rhythm beer, but this is a real easy-drinking DIPA. 8/10
Shane's Thoughts: As always, I have to start with the disclaimer that kettle sours have never really been my thing. They aren’t as tart as regular sours, and they usually don’t seem to have as much going on. Couple that with the fact that I had heard a few people say to be wary of this beer due to some unexpected, well, "sediment" in the bottom of the cans, and I was a little bit nervous. It turns out I had no reason to be. This beer is surprisingly tasty! Fruity, but not tart. Full-bodied, but not too heavy. The guava, strawberry, and grapefruit all come through really nicely. Overall I’m not sure there’s anything about this beer that makes me sit up and say "wow," but I’m also not sure that’s always necessary. It’s a well-executed kettle sour with IPA elements that drinks well and tastes great. I think that’s enough.
York's Thoughts: I’m not sure I agree with Shane’s kettle sour disclaimer on quite that broad of a level, but he’s right in that there does seem to be something about beers that breweries feel the need to identify specifically as kettle sours that turns us both off. To me, it’s a soft sweetness that's almost on the buttery side of the spectrum similar to a Chardonnay or other juicey wine. That makes for a sticky element that lingers with you a bit much for my liking. When I read the adjunct list on this sour, I was pretty pumped thinking it was pretty unique to include all three types of fruit profiles with fleshy, berry, and citrus. Turns out that it seems to be more of a good on paper than good on usage combo. The guava and strawberry definitely compete with each other and the bitterness from the grapefruit further competes with the souring. A really confused brew that I think tried a little too hard.
York: Love the plan here but it resulted in a really overcomplicated beer that missed the mark for me. 6/10
Shane: I actually wound up liking this more than I expected. 8/10
Shane's Thoughts: During our last tasting, I mentioned that, while Bale and Sheen are both solid representations of what Deciduous can do, I was a little disappointed that they hadn’t chosen to include a weiss in their first canning run. As far as I’m concerned, weisses are what Deciduous does head and shoulders above anyone else in the area--and raspberry weisses in particular. So when the brewery decided to can a raspberry/blackberry weiss just in time for our annual trip to Ocean City, I couldn’t have been happier. Flash is amazing. It’s everything I want from a weiss. It has the perfect amount of tartness, adding an amazing pucker right from the jump. The addition of blackberry is welcome here as well, as the slightly fleshy, slightly less tart flavor profile of that particular fruit adds a softer backdrop to Flash and prevents it from becoming too one-note.
York's Thoughts: Flash was a great follow up to the Sheen Gose that Shane included in the most recent batch, and it is now abundantly clear that Deciduous has some serious sour power. These soured berry beers seem to be a pretty common product on the New England scene and this is one of the better ones. I like sours of the adjuncted-weisse style to be especially sour since they’re typically pretty light and often come with a really sweet element as well. This one is just a little bit thin, but has perfect execution of that combo with a clear and present pucker factor that marries extremely well with the sweetness coming off the berries. Really enjoyable and a perfect end of summer brew.
York: Great balance, love the pucker factor. 8/10
Shane: Deciduous does great things with raspberry. 9/10
Shane’s Thoughts: During last year’s trip to Ocean City, I brought a few cans of Alter Ego with me. So this year, I figured what better to top it with the Alter Ego’s imperial cousin? Doppelganger is my favorite beer that Tree House brews. Yeah, sure, Tree House devotees will wax poetic about Very Hazy, Juice Machine, King Julius, and a bunch of other amazing beers. And those are great--all three cans of them you can get maybe once a year if you’re lucky. But Doppelganger has entered the regular rotation of Tree House beers, and I couldn’t be happier. It’s fruity, it’s juicy, and it has a little bit of dankness to temper it. There’s a little bit of tropical flavor, a little bit of grapefruit flavor, and little bit of peach flavor...there’s just an absolutely TON going on in this beer, and at 8.2% it is dangerously drinkable. It drinks heavy, but at that ABV I don’t mind it. It adds a little extra heft to Alter Ego’s already successful formula, and if I want a pounder, Alter Ego is what I’ll reach for. But if I want a juicy and flavorful sipper to sit back and savor, give me Doppelganger every time.
York’s Thoughts: This is one of the most objectively good beers I’ve had in awhile. It’s not even exactly what I want in a Double IPA, but damn is it good on every level. Anyone who claims to like the hoppy end of the craft beer spectrum will be high on this beer, I have no doubt. Layers on layers of flavor here with a hop profile predominantly leaning towards the tropical/fleshy fruit attributes that are enhanced really well by whatever yeast strain they used here. The 8.2 ABV is perfect here, giving a little density without bringing in too much of an alcohol bite. Well balanced between just about every element, this is a tough beer to find fault with.
York: Alter Ego was a 9/10 in my book and this certainly earns that last notch. 10/10
Shane: Doppelganger is my favorite Tree House beer. Possibly my favorite beer, period. 10/10
Shane’s Thoughts: The beers in the Curiosity series are some of Tree House’s most sought-after. The Curiosity series is an ongoing line of experimental beers, giving the brewers at Tree House the opportunity to try new things. They tend to be IPAs or double IPAs, and they also tend to be delicious. This particular beer is the 39th beer in the series (hence the name), and it hits a lot of really nice notes. The aroma is amazing (one friend who tasted it remarked that it “might be the best-smelling beer I’ve ever had”), and the body itself hits you right in the face with that juicyfruit/citrus flavor. Although this beer is hazy enough to blot out the sun, it actually drinks surprisingly light, and the finish is crisp and clean with notes of hay. There’s a lot going on with Curiosity Thirty Nine, and I felt like I discovered something new with every can I opened. Citra and Simcoe always tend to be a winning combination, and in the hands of the master brewers at Tree House, they make something really special.
York’s Thoughts: I fear I’m a bit spoiled with TreeHouse already. The last couple I’ve tried (all courtesy of Shane) have included Julius, Green, Alter Ego, Doppelganger and JJJULIUSSS which are all absolutely incredible.Curiosity 39 is good. It’s not in the same league as those others, but what an unfair comparison right? First off, and I won’t harp on this beyond this sentence - this beer is quite unappealing visually to those of us who don’t fawn over burnt orange opacity that accompanies many DIPAs from this part of the country. I do get some of the flavors that TreeHouse says to expect, but my experience was definitely heavy on the pineapple side and much lighter on the citrus. That makes for an sweetness that when combined with an already fairly dense beer creates a stickiness that I just can’t get behind.
York: A touch sticky for me but absolutely love the experimental series addition to my Tree House experience. 7/10
Shane: Incredible aroma on an intensely flavorful, layered beer. 9/10
Shane’s Thoughts: Greater Good is a brewing company that specializes in imperial beers. Well, no, that’s not true. They’re a brewing company that makes EXCLUSIVELY imperial beers. Seriously, check out their website. The lowest-ABV beer you’ll find is 8% alcohol. Greater Good has made a name for themselves with a handful of delicious beers like Pulp (which clocks in at 8%), but when I saw a double IPA sitting at a borderline-unbelievable 12% alcohol, I knew I had to have it. 12% is so boozy it almost seems like a gimmick. It can’t possibly taste good...can it? I had to find out. And the truth is...it actually kind of can! Greylock tastes strong, but I’m not sure it tastes 12% strong. I’d probably have put it down at a much more reasonable 8 or 9%. And there’s actually a decent amount of flavor asserting itself past the booziness here, which is impressive on its own. I get a little of the grapefruit and orange they mention, and it’s definitely pushing through some bitter, floral notes. I’m not sure I’d ever really crave this beer on its own, but considering how strong it is and everything that Greater Good tried (and succeeded!) in accomplishing here, it’s hard not to respect the end result.
York’s Thoughts: Man, what a great beer to be part of this exchange. No lies, I almost assuredly would not pull the trigger on a four-pack of a 12 percent IPA. That area scares me a bit since I tend not to like the Triple IPA varietal and Imperial is a bit of a crapshoot too. That aside, I love seeing stuff like this anywhere I can have one on draft or snag a single can of so this was the perfect opportunity. Greylock is a BIG beer with BIG flavor that makes for a really great experience. It’s got a neat cross-coast element with the haze-producing NE yeast combined with a hop profile much more slanted towards the left coast. It’s unmistakably a high proof beer but there’s no chance I’d have guessed nearly as high as 12%. On the bitter side in a good, intentional way, and shockingly crisp for so much booze.
York: Definitely a beer I can get myself in trouble with. 8/10
Shane: This beer doesn’t taste anywhere close to 12% ABV. Really impressive. 7/10
Shane’s Thoughts: Austin Street Brewery is one of my favorite breweries in Maine. While Patina Pale is definitely their flagship beer, they’ve made a name for themselves making funky beers all across the spectrum, including a handful of saisons that even I, a notorious saison-hater, have absolutely loved. Still, like most New England breweries, pale ales and IPAs are where they make their bones, and the Patina Pale is no slouch. The beer is basically a pineapple bomb, with a fairly dry, resiny finish to complement the citrusy body. It drinks a little heavy for a 5.3% beer, which is more or less the same problem York had with Daybreak during our last tasting, so it’s hard for me to predict what York and Pete will think of this one. I love Patina Pale, and I was thrilled when Austin Street finally got themselves a canning line and I could bring a few along to share (I wound up lugging a four-pack around with me during a bachelor party when I saw that they still had cans available). If the beer was a little easier to get my hands on, it would definitely be in my regular rotation. Luckily, four-packs are slowly starting to trickle out into area bottle shops, so consider me a happy man.
York’s Thoughts: Shane hit this one on the head. It’s a pale ale that drinks a little heavy, and I just threw some shade at “pineapple”-forward beers in another writeup above, but despite both of those qualities this brew is a really enjoyable one. Drinking is always influenced by time, place, mood, etc. so maybe this just caught me at the right time, but nonetheless I dug it. The heaviness here really is only relative to the 5.3% ABV. If this were closer to 7 than 5, I’m not sure I’d have even said anything. Citrus definitely dominates and the pineapple-y profile is there, but not overwhelming, since it's a pretty even-keeled beer. Overall a great balance and a nice summer sipper.
York: Nice straightforward beer that is more of a summer sipper than a session pale. 8/10
Shane: It’s a straightforward pale ale, but it is bursting with flavor. Austin Street nails it with this one. 8/10
Best of the Bunch
York: Doppelganger is the winner for me here. Really great end of summer pack but Doppel might be one of the most objectively well crafted hop-forward beers I’ve had.
Shane: Doppelganger is one of my top 5 beers on the planet, so that’s the real answer here. But since York already chose it, I’ll take this opportunity to throw some love at Deciduous, because Flash sits right alongside their other outstanding sours like Gleam and Shine as an incredibly tart, flavorful interpretation of the style.
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