Unfortunately, we are living in unprecedented times with about one billion people around the globe staying at home due to Covid-19. However, that doesn’t mean we are going to stop doing our reviews. We here at The Sporting Brews will try to keep delivering fun beer reviews and maybe some other content to help fill the void. With that said we hope this finds you well and hopefully life will return to normal sooner rather later.
Victory Brewing Company was founded in 1996 in Downingtown, Penn. by childhood friends Bill Covaleski and Ron Barchet. They opened a larger brewery in 2014 in Parkesburg, Penn. and now serve their craft beers in over 30 states across the Union. Up for review today is Cloud Walker, a hazy juicy IPA.
Cloud Walker pours a hazy, golden yellow with a white, foamy head that stood about one finger tall at its height. The aroma of citrusy hops fills the nostrils and tantalizes the taste buds for what is about to come. There is a nice even citrus smell that doesn’t overpower but is rather welcoming. It is sweet and teases the hops.
The first taste is sweet citrus hops followed by a touch of malt on the back. It feels very light in the mouth and finishes slightly on the dry side. It is actually a very pleasant first experience. There is isn’t too much carbonation but just enough to enhance the experience. It definitely leaves you desiring another sip.
Throughout the session Cloud Walker stayed consistent. A nice, refreshing citrus hit up front, followed by a mellower malt, then a dry, hoppy-citrus finish. The head didn’t stay very long and as the beer drank the color did change to a paler yellow which was odd but didn’t affect the overall experience. The taste was always there and always the same to the very end. The hops weren’t overwhelming so if you aren’t big on hops this might be a nice IPA for you to try.
Overall, this was a good beer. The flavor profile was consistent and inviting. This could be a great session beer but at 6.8% ABV it does pack a punch but it does not have an alcohol taste which is pleasant but can be dangerous. I would definitely buy this again, especially in the summer at a ballgame or BBQ. This is worth giving a try.
Matt Brewing Company, producers of the now well known Saranac line has produced many beers over the years. Up for review today is Saranac Caramel Porter.
The beer pours a deep caramel color, as if you made caramel at home in a saucepan. Its deep and rich looking for caramel but light if you’re looking forward to a porter. There is a nice light khaki head that is produced that stood about a finger and a half tall. There is a sweet aroma emanating from the brew. It definitely has caramel notes but there is something else there, almost like a manufactured caramel note that is sweeter than the original. There is also a slight undertone of malt on the nose.
Upon first sip you realize it really follows the nose. The caramel notes shine through big time with this brew. However, it feels like the initial caramel flavor is artificial. The sweetness from it is just a little dominating. Oddly, when the malt comes in to play it tastes pretty good. The artificial notes made me want to hate this but my taste buds keep going back for more. I can’t explain it. The sweetness is almost a marshmallow kind of sweetness. It’s the finish that really makes this beer.
The mouthfeel is on the medium side but the carbonation is just right for a porter, enough for you to realize there is carbonation but not enough to distract from the beer.
Overall, I actually liked this beer. The artificial sweetness of it is easily adapted to while at the same time not quite distracting. You are going to need to like beers on the sweeter side in order to appreciate this one. Having this as a dessert beer to cap the night off is a decent idea. I don’t know if I would make this a session beer, though at 5.4% ABV you certainly could if you like sweet beers. This is a beer I would like to enjoy one at a time, maybe two at once at most. It tastes good but it has its limits. Still, I wouldn’t hesitate to order this if I saw it on a menu at a bar or restaurant.
Blue Point Brewing Company out of Long Island, NY, has emerged as one of the larger craft breweries with their award-winning brews served almost nation-wide at this point. One of their seasonal offerings is their Winter Ale.
Winter Ale pours a deep amber color, which is good because they advertise this as an amber ale. There is a nice, slightly tannish, perhaps khaki, head that rose to about two fingers at its height. The beer looks delicious. The aroma is one of caramel, hops, and a hint of chocolate. It is definitely an intriguing aroma that invites you in. There is moderate carbonation seen rising to the top to reinforce the head. This beer looks and smells great.
The first sip is pleasant and somewhat follows the nose. There is a toffee, caramel note followed by a little hops and a smooth chocolate finish if your taste buds are paying attention. It is a subtle chocolate taste. Perhaps it’s just the toffee mixing with the malts and hops but whatever it is is very pleasant. The toffee and malt notes take center stage, however, and that isn’t a bad thing.
Throughout the session the taste was consistent. Winter Ale was a little warming to the core which is kind of what you want from a winter brew that advertises that. It wasn’t overwhelming but rather nice and subtle. The taste was consistent throughout though I did notice a few sips to have more of a chocolate taste than other times. The mouthfeel is on the light side of medium with a warm, welcoming finish that is both smooth and crisp. There was a little bite at the end of the smoother finish which was a little unexpected yet welcomed.
Overall, this is a beer you can cozy up to. At 7.7% ABV this beer also has the ability to cozy up to you so caution is in play here. The taste makes it easy to drink and that can be dangerous. It is a very drinkable beer and you could make this a session beer if you are responsible. As for this being an amber ale, well it is on the heavier side of that. I would definitely order this again or pick up a six-pack if I see it. Long Island might not contribute much but it sure does make a good beer ad for that we are thankful.
Kona Brewing Company out of Hawaii has made it all over mainland USA and for good reason, they tend to brew good beers mixed with a touch of island flavor. A new limited release of theirs is the Island Colada Cream Ale which is brewed with, as you might have guessed, coconut and pineapple.
Island Colada pours a golden yellow, as if the sun exploded in your glass. It is bright, cheery, and welcomes you with a nice foamy, white head that stood almost three fingers at its height. It just looked delicious from the pour. The aroma is heavier on the coconut, as you would kind of expect since that tends to be more fragrant but the sweet notes of pineapple do poke through. If you close your eyes you can almost escape the doldrums of winter in the northeast. Almost.
The first sip offers coconut flavors forward, quickly followed by pineapple sweetness, before coconut comes back. There is a touch of malt and perhaps a touch of hops that snuck in as well with a little grassy and citrus flavor. The carbonation is on the medium side which is perfectly acceptable. The mouthfeel is on the heavier side of light or the lighter side of medium. There is a creaminess that really makes this beer pleasant given the flavors. There is a dry, hoppy finish at the end though.
Overall, Island Colada is a pretty fun beer. Getting this in winter in the northeast was a treat. I did buy a six pack and had the beer in a glass and out of the can. Pouring in the glass was a little tastier than the can but both were good. It is kind of like Hawaii in a can, pineapple, coconut, and a little grassy touch like a skirt on an island girl. I would drink this any time of the year although only a couple at a time. I don’t know if I would make this a session beer given the flavors. I’m a fan of a pina colada but I don’t think I could pound them. The same goes for this beer. Ultimately, this is a nice escape for a winter offering but I wouldn’t mind using this as a change of pace beer in the summer or having a couple at a ballgame.
O’ Fallon Brewery out of Maryland Heights, Missouri is a growing brewery that offers many different types of beers. Between their year-round brews, seasonals, and beers in between there are well over 20 beers produced. One of their three winter offerings is their Cherry Chocolate Beer, a dark wheat beer.
The beer poured with an almost cola color. There was almost no head which may or may not have been the result of the glass. The aroma is definitely one of cherry and chocolate with some undertones on malt. There was very little carbonation seen.
Upon first sip you instantly get what this beer advertises. It is cherry and chocolate with a slight alcohol note. It is very similar to those chocolates with the alcohol and cherry inside. I can’t remember their name but if you cut the alcohol flavor back a bit on the candy these would be identical in flavor. Or, like you added a touch of alcohol to a cherry Tootsie Pop. It is actually pretty good.
Throughout the session the flavor profile was consistent. Chocolate and cherry. Both flavors played well with the beer. The mouthfeel was on the medium side but not overly so. There was some carbonation that tickled the tongue but nothing too outrageous.
Overall, this beer is exactly as advertised. It is an alcoholic cherry Tootsie Pop in liquid form. If you were expecting something different then there might be no hope for you. This is a definite dessert beer as I can’t imagine having too many of these. A six pack would last a few sessions for sure. It was fun to drink though and at 5.7% ABV it won’t sneak up on you. If the name sounds tasty to you give it a try.
Flying Dog Brewery out of Frederick, Maryland has come up with a wide variety of interesting flavors. One such rotating flavor is their Cookies and Cream offering, a milk stout brewed with vanilla beans and chocolate.
The first thing you notice is the darkness of the brew as it pours. This beer is darker than coffee. The frothy, tan head rose to just under two fingers at its height. The aroma is forward with the chocolate and complimented by notes of malt. This is a very inviting beer. It looks great even if the flavor profile might seem a little odd.
The first sip teases vanilla before the chocolate dominates. It is smooth and somewhat velvety on the tongue but is a lot thinner than would be suspected given that this is a stout and the look makes it seem it will be thick like a Guinness. There is a definite sweetness to the taste as the vanilla, cream, and chocolate play with your taste buds. The beer finishes smooth and a little on the dry side, though not overly so. It is very pleasant and it has some characteristics of a milkshake.
Consistency was excellent with this beer. You never felt like chocolate dominated in one sip, then vanilla or cream in another. There were times where a malt flavor poked through but never too much as to disrupt the experience. The glass laced sexily throughout the session, letting you know exactly where you undressed the glass with each sip.
I am not one for sweet beers usually, or crazy concoctions such as this. However, I must say that overall the entire session was fun and flavorful. It is very sweet though, as you can kind of expect. It also clocks in at 8.2% ABV so this can sneak up on you if you try to make it a session beer by itself. Having one or two for dessert would certainly be tasty and fun. As would adding vanilla ice cream for an added experience. This is the kind of beer you try and if you like it you explore with it. I would love to go exploring with this Flying Dog Cookies and Cream again.
We have reviewed quite a few of Matt Brewing Company’s Saranac line here. Today, we tackle their Saranac Adirondack Lager.
The beer pours an amber gold with a moderate white head. The aroma is one of malt and hops. There isn’t much carbonation seen rising to the top and the head dissipated fairly quickly.
The first sip was a little different than the nose. There were notes of cracker, malt, and an acidic sweetness that was tough to define. Is it lemon, pineapple, or just citrusy hops? It was hard to pick out. This is listed as a German-style Pilsner but I don’t know if I feel that definition. The body is on the lighter side with slight carbonation. The finish is on the dry side with a crisp at the end that stops just short of being a bite.
As the beer drank there was absolutely no lacing of my glass. The flavor stayed somewhat consistent though there were sips that offered a slight metallic, coppery taste which wasn’t that pleasant. Thankfully, those were few and far between. There were malt notes that hinted at Pilsner but they didn’t shine through often enough leaving me wondering if this was a pilsner or a more traditional lager.
Overall, this was an all right beer. Saranac offers much more flavorful options and while this is certainly drinkable it doesn’t stand out. It does clock in at a manageable 5.5% ABV. I really expected more from this brew and am slightly disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t turn down one of these at a party but I also don’t know if I would add it to my regular lineup of brews. It’s good but it just doesn’t stand out enough to be memorable.
The Devils Backbone Brewing Company, located in Roseland, Virginia, might be owned by a large company, Anheuser-Busch InBev, but they are geared towards craft brewing. Established in 2008 by Steven Crandall, they have maintained true to developing new and interesting takes on beer. Up today is one of their winter offerings, Danzig Baltic Porter.
Danzig Baltic Porter pours a deep coffee black with a tan head that resembled toffee or caramel. The head quickly dissipated shortly after pouring. This is a dark beer, as one would expect from a porter. The aroma offers notes of malt, toasted malts, a hint of caramel and coffee. Nothing is overpowering and the aromatics are kind of subdued but when noticed are pleasant.
The first sip is heavenly. The malt is up front and is quickly followed by chocolate, coffee, and caramel. There is a tiny hint of hops on the back end. There is a comforting feeling when it hits your tongue, like you wouldn’t mind being curled up on a cold, snowy winter’s day with a few of these in front of a fireplace. The mouthfeel is on the medium side but the finish is smooth and creamy. It finishes with a little hop dryness which makes you want another sip almost immediately.
The carbonation was light, as one would expect from the way the head formed and dissipated. The taste stayed consistent for the most part. There were times where dark chocolate and caramel dominated the sip while at other times you noticed a more bitter coffee taste. It didn’t matter because every sip was inviting and full of flavor.
Overall, this was an excellent beer. If you like dark beers like porters and stouts you should enjoy this. I wish I had more than one from my sampler pack but alas another trip to the beer store will be necessary. There is a reason this won bronze at the 2018 World Beer Cup. I am a fan and will be looking out for this one. It is definitely worth a try if you enjoy porters or stouts.
Southern Tier Brewing Company has several nice year-round offerings. They also have some seasonal brews. One of their winter seasonal beers is Cherry Crush, a session sour. On the can it states that is an “ale brewed with tart cherries and milk sugar.”
Cherry Crush pours a bright copper color with a thick head that had a tinge of pink hue to it. The head rose to three fingers at its height. The aroma is very elusive. There are some notes of cherry, which isn’t a very fragrant fruit to begin with. There are some subtle cracker notes as well but they are very faint. There isn’t much on the nose at all but it does look inviting.
The first sip lets you know this is a session sour. It isn’t overly sour but it definitely has the note on the back end. The cherry gives it a touch of sweetness up front that is followed by the tart and sour notes on the backend. It is very refreshing and the sour notes at the end invite you for another sip. The mouthfeel is light and finishes dry and crisp. The carbonation is right at what you would expect but seems to be enhanced on the finish because of the drier finish.
The flavor stayed consistent throughout the session with some nice lacing on the glass that any grandmother would be proud to put on a side table.
Overall, this is a good session sour. The sour notes don’t overpower but rather tease your taste buds at the end of each sip inviting you back for one more sip. The cherry notes are even and not overpowering and don’t have an artificial taste at all which is nice. It is a little surprising this is a winter offering because it feels like a summer or early fall beer. I wouldn’t mind kicking back any time of the year with this though. It might not be something I drink a lot of at one time but here and there it is a very enjoyable brew. If you like sour this is worth a try.
When the weather starts to get cold and the holiday spirit starts to dominate you know one thing is certain. No, not a fat man in a red suit jumping down your chimney. It’s the holiday beer selections that add some spice and flavor to the season. They don’t call it the most wonderful time of the year for nothing. Harpoon Brewery has their holiday entry with their Winter Warmer, a holiday ale flavored with cinnamon and nutmeg.
The beers pours a deep copper color. It almost has the color of iced tea. There was a light tan head that rose to a little under one finger at its height. It looks fairly appetizing with very little carbonation seen through the dark color.
The aroma offers notes of cinnamon and nutmeg along with notes of malt and bread. However, the aroma was very feint.
The first sip follows the nose. There are notes of cinnamon and nutmeg with a slight bready finish before a feint cinnamon aftertaste. There are some slight bread notes that poke through as well as a sweetness that is slightly caramel in flavor. The mouthfeel is just a shade on the medium side but it finishes smooth with just the right amount of carbonation. The spices definitely dominate the flavor profile and cinnamon predominates the aftertaste.
The flavor stayed consistent throughout the session. There was very little lacing on the glass as it drank. The cinnamon and nutmeg flavor profile definitely dominated the brew so if you don’t like these flavors this might not be for you. There was also a sweet taste that reminded me of biting a peach. It was an overpowering sweet but rather subtle and blended well with the beer.
Overall, this beer is pretty good. It is kind of your typical holiday beer with its myriad of spice and flavors. It doesn’t stand out among the other holiday beers but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It was a fun beer that would be good during the holiday season and at 5.9% ABV you won’t end up being the loud, obnoxious relative at your family gatherings. This is worth the try if you like cinnamon and nutmeg.