For this week’s “It’s Just a Beer,” I’m going to be breaking format a little bit because it’s my birthday week and I’ll do as I please. Instead of offering up a vertical of a certain variety of beer, I’m going to be serving up a batch of brews I picked out for me to help me celebrate me! These are the types of beers I tend to naturally gravitate to and choose to drink on a regular basis because they, like me, are awesome.
Common Sense Ale
The first of a trio of New York brews I treated myself to for my birthday, I first had this beer during a tasting at my local beer store and was impressed but never got around to picking up a four pack until now.
Cream ales tend to be something a lot of macrobrews tend to gravitate to for reasons I can only assume are due to its simple recipe that lends to something other than “lite beer” being printed on their labels. When a micro gets a hold of one, however, it’s cool to see what they can do with it.
In the case of Common Sense, Upstate decided to make a darker take on a cream ale, using some more heavily roasted malts and by giving it a little hop punch. What comes on as a nice, velvety cream ale is gradually broken up by the dry hop punch at the end. It’s a tasty, easy drinking beer that could go well at any backyard BBQ throughout the summer. I wish it came in 6- or 12-packs because picking up more than four pints at a time would be killer.
Unfortunately, it comes from a small brewery located in Upstate New York so I can’t imagine the beer is very widely distributed but if you’re on a beer trail or just visiting the area, be sure to swing by Elmira, New York and pick up some. I’m hoping a trip to the taproom is something I can pull off this summer!
Embrr Rye Porter
This beer was a gift to me from my fiance for my birthday. Part of a create your own six at my favorite craft beer store. I was attracted to this beer immediately because I’ve only ever had rye whiskey or IPAs that have been brewed with rye so seeing it in a porter peaked my interest. To boot, this interesting bit of beery goodness also comes from my fair home state via Ithaca Beer Company.
Unsurprisingly, this beer brings to the table many of the same characteristics found in rye bread. This dark, low-carbonation porter has a noticeable burnt earthy tone right out of the bottle, followed, surprisingly, by a whiff of alcohol, something I don’t normally see from beers with this low of an ABV. It pours a very dark brown but produces a very thin off-white head that does not lace.
Taste wise, the beer brings the same bitter malty character it’s sandwich bread counterpart offers. Despite this grainy bite, the beer remains smooth and easy to drink. I don’t think I would bring a sixer of this a party but I would keep a few in the fridge for sure.
Beyond the rye bite, there is a very well executed porter. It’s roasty and somewhat sweet with a faint smokiness that compliments the rye and other burnt malts.
Much like the name suggests, this is 100% a huddle-up-by-the-fire-and-sip type of beer.
Boris The Spider
The final New York brew for me is this little guy out of Long Island. Being a huge Russian Imperial Stout fan, I was pretty excited since I had seen this on Untappd a couple of times but hadn’t gotten the chance to pick one up until now but oh, boy was it worth the wait.
Now before we get too far along, let me clear up what a RIS is in terms not laid out in the link above. When you sit down to drink an RIS, know this style of beer was created to woo the Russian aristocracy in the 1800s. That’s one bad group of dudes to try and impress so the beer that came about to try and impress these guys is something completely different than anything else on the market These beers are trademarked by a high alcohol content, super intense, burnt malts and sharp bitter notes of coffee. These are not for the faint of heart. Go into this knowing your about to get tongue punched by the beverage equivalent of a 19th century Russian czar.
Moving forward! This is by far the best example of the style I have ever had. It pours blacker than the ace of spades and forms a dense dark brown head. You are immediately hit with a strong coffee and burnt sugar scent laced with alcohol. On first sip, the thick, thick brew actually comes on creamy and sweet but just for a moment before it comes at you with a wallop of coffee, chocolate and burn malts and sugars. You will notice a bitterness to the brew but as in a black cup of coffee, not a regularly hopped beer. On the back end, you get another glimpse of the sweet, smoothness offered upfront before it finishes with a dry coffee and alcohol burn.
To some, that probably sounds terrible but to true stout lovers, it’s a waltz through a jet black park.
I had this with a plate of super sweet and spicy chicken drumsticks so the two balanced each other out well.
Cold Brew IPA
This was my big birthday gift to me and it was birthday money well spent! I first saw an ad for this brew when I was zooming around the Rogue website doing some research on the nuts and bolts of the Hazelnut Brown Nectar for my post about Brown Ales. I was excited about it then so when I saw it in the walk-in at my local beer store, I had to get it.
Before I opened the bottle, I had in mind something more akin to a black IPA then the American IPA this brew is billed as. After the pour, I was thinking this was going to be more like a weird hybrid porter of sorts and then after I tried it, I was left confused. What is this beer!?
On the nose, this beer exudes sweet dark coffee laced with light herbal and citrus notes generated by the hopes. On the tongue, however, the beer is sweet for a split second before shattering you with a blast of robust roasted coffee that is then joined by the bite and pop of the hops. However, unlike an IPA which tends to finish with a dry herbal note, this beer has the coffee finish off the mouthful but just enough to balance the hop punch. It is very different. Very strange. And very tasty!
I credit this weird behavior to the fact that the beer is not brewed with coffee grounds or beans or whatever, rather, it’s blended with Stumptown Cole Brew Coffee so instead of the two components having the time and chemistry to fuse together at a molecular level, the two instead sort of married and became one on a much different scale. It would explain how the two tend to lapse over each other as you drink it.
I can’t see myself kicking back two or three bombers of the stuff but if it was on draft at a pub I was eating at or if I brought it to have after dinner, that’s where it would be best served. It’s just such a complex flavor that I can foresee the taste buds getting tired of the obstacle course that is this beer. It’s one of the cooler beers I’ve had before so if you happen to come across it, pick it up!
I hope you all have enjoyed this week’s review because I know I did. Next week we’ll be returning to the regularly scheduled programming by taking a look at one of my favorite summer selections: pale ales. And remember, if you see something that looks tasty that’s not yellow, fizzy and sold 30 at a time, pick it up. It’s just a beer.