5 “Must Drink” Beers Volume 2

The blog has been focusing a lot lately on brewing techniques ingredients etc, so i thought it was time for another beer review.  These are fun because while they have nothing really to do with the brewing process, it does give me an opportunity to suggest to you some beers that I think are “world-class”.

As always feel free to agree, disagree, or send me some suggestions, but above all else if you haven’t tried these beers hunt them down, give them a shot and formulate your own opinions.

As was the case with the previous 5 “must drinks”, these are in NO particular order.


Style: India Pale Ale
(Ballast Point Brewing Company San Diego, CA  7% ABV)
Beer Advocate Rating: 90  RateBeer Rating: 100

Ballast Point “Sculpin”

No surprise, another west coast IPA has made my list.  This is a fantastic, bright, hoppy IPA that hits 7% ABV but tastes and drinks like a session beer.  The beer pours a slightly hazy orange, with a big off white head that retains nicely.  Thick, tight lacing forms the entire length of the glass.  The aroma is bright and explosive featuring a strong fruity hop nose upfront.  Orange, lime and pineapple jump out at you, but some more well-rounded tropical fruits like mango also make an appearance.  As the aroma subsides a blatant hoppiness and a faint floral note appear.  The flavor is somewhat surprising.  Very light and drinkable, the fruity notes are present, but it is the bright floral hoppiness that becomes the star.  This beer is well balanced with a slight malt bite coming through at the end, leaving a sweet hoppy aftertaste with very little bitterness.  In my opinion this is the perfect, all-purpose IPA.  A big hop profile to please hopheads, but balanced and smooth to please those often hesitant about big IPA’s.  I remember the first time I had this beer was with my sister at the Dive Bar in Worcester.  I feel in love with it right away and highly recommend this beer to anyone who has not yet tried it.
Matt’s personal rating: 4.5 out of 5


Mean Old Tom
Style: American Stout
(Maine Beer Company  Portland, ME  6.5% ABV)
Beer Advocate Rating: 86  RateBeer Rating: 98

Mean Old Tom….was nice enough to let me try his beer!

So first off, I’ll admit I had to “borrow” this photo from google images.   I have my own picture but being that this is a beer from Maine, this picture seemed to do the beer justice.  Being from New England, I feel that Maine Beer Company is one of those hidden gems.  You don’t hear a lot about, they do a lot of donation work from their beer sales, and their ZOE and LUNCH are phenomenal.   That being said this was my first time hanging out with Mean Old Tom, and it was a pleasure.  This American Stout pours a deep onyx in color that shines brilliantly.  The head is a thick foamy beige that is long lasting and leaves a descent amount of lace.  This stout has a distinct vanilla character to it.  The aroma is sweet but carries a strong vanilla scent.  The beer itself is a medium to slightly light bodied, that still retains plenty of creaminess and quintessential stout characteristics.  Vanilla is still the star but deep chocolate and roasty notes become clearer with every sip that is taken.  The finish is short but incredibly smooth.

What I really like about this particular beer, is that it is “only” a stout.  I feel like there are WAAAAY to many imperial or oaked stouts out there, that while they are tasty, drinking even one feels like a challenge for Man vs. Food.  This is not an imperial, it does not have that heavy oak flavor, or any sort of alcohol burn, it is simply a lighter, creamy, tasty American Stout, and I think it is delicious.
Matt’s personal rating:  3.5 out of 5

By the way, does anyone remember the GI Joe PSA’s…..epic

Green Flash Double Stout
Style: Imperial Foreign Stout
(Green Flash Brewing  San Diego, CA 8.8% ABV)
Beer Advocate Rating:  91  RateBeer Rating:
Keeping with the apparent theme of this post, we return to San Diego, for our second stout of the blog.  I’ve mentioned Green Flash before as they have tendency to produce some exceptional beers.  Their imperial foreign stout is no exception.  Unique in flavor thanks to the use of golden naked oats this is a giant smooth creamy desert.  The easiest way to describe the mouthfeel of this beer is pure satin, silky as it goes down, it is as pleasant in mouthfeel as it is in flavor.  The beer is jet black with a huge tan head that lasts forever.  There was still head sitting at the bottom of my glass after I had sucked down the final sip.  The aroma is bold with hints of roast and chocolate.  The flavor is smooth and creamy but still sustains an interesting balance.  I had never heard of a beer using target hops in a stout before, never mind layering them, but that is what Green Flash does, and it works. 
I know I still have a lot more stouts to try, but I can safely say at this point in time this is one of, if not the best stout I have ever drank.
Matt’s personal rating 4.5 out of 5


2010 Special Reserva
Style: Flanders Oud Bruin
(Brouwerij De Dolle Brouwers  Esen, Belgium  13%  ABV)
Beer Advocate Rating: 92  RateBeer Rating: 100

Enjoying a Special Reserva down at Armsby Abbey

It appears that it will be common practice for me to include at least one sour/wild ale in each of these posts.  As I said last time, this particular style is an acquired taste, if you tried my last suggestion, Oude Tart from The Bruery, and weren’t a fan, than I can’t promise this will change your mind.  That being said, the sour notes in this particular beer are much more subtle then in the Oude Tart.

The 2010 Special Rserva, brewed in 09′ and bottled in 2010, pours a deep ruby/purple with a solid 1′ beige head that remains active throughout and shows fairly good retention.  It is a pleasant surprise to see the amount of head and the length of retention given the alcohol content of this particular beer.

The aroma is dense and complicated.  Fermented apples, sour cherries, young red wine, and vanilla are the dominant notes.  There is a slight acidic and tart complexity that is also quite apparent, yet there is a residual sweetness and funk that can also be noticed.

The flavor continues down this complex road.  Light sour and tart notes become quickly apparent, yet they mellow and quickly become an afterthought.  Heavy levels of fruit and funk hit the palate hard, followed by strong tannin notes from the wine cask aging (Bordeaux I believe) and a warming alcohol sensation.  At 13%  the alcohol notes are barely noticeable which is very surprising and a testament to the quality of this beer.  The flavor profile is long lasting and slowly subsides to a slight residual sweetness.

I probably spend more time describing the aroma and flavor of a beer likes this due to the complex ride anyone drinking it is taken on.  Similar to wine, there are tons of hidden flavors and smells in a beer like this, and it is a fun yet daunting task to try and pull out each of the different characteristics.  This is a phenomenal beer, which it better be since if you are able to find it at a bar somewhere you will be asked to spend around $25 for a glass of it.  It isn’t cheap but it is well worth the money for the experience.
Matt’s personal rating  4.7 out of 5


Day Time Fractional IPA
Style: India Pale Ale
(Lagunitas Brewing Company   Petaluma, CA  4.65% ABV)

A sessionable IPA

If you haven’t realized it yet, I am a walking advertisement for Lagunitas Brewing.  I have already focused in on Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ and their Pils, and today it is their DayTime Fractional IPA, ultimately a sessionable version of their more well-known standard IPA.  The first thing I want to say is that when drinking this beer with one of my good friends, we both looked at each other and said, “I’ve had this beer before!”  Perhaps that is what has made me partial to this particular brew, but this beer tasted almost identical to my 11:11 Brewing Rye Humor RPA.  This beer was light to medium bodied, pale in color with a nice bright white head.  The head was long lasting with plenty of lacing and both the flavor and aroma screamed citrus hops.  Now I am not positive about their hop profile, but from the flavor and aroma it certainly seemed that like my RPA a large amount of cascade and citra hops were used in composing this beer.   Regardless of the specific profile, this beer was hoppy and bright with large notes of pineapple, mango, orange and lemon.  The hop profile was the star and there was a distinct bitterness to this beer.  If you are the type of person that shy’s away from strong bitter notes in your beer, then this might not be for you, however if hops with a pleasant but forceful bitterness is right up your alley then this is a beer you have to check out.  Finally the name “fractional” relates to the fact that this particular IPA is low in ABV and very sessionable.  While the flavor and aroma is very strong, the beers potency is not, making it a the perfect full-flavored session beer.
Matt’s personal rating:  3.6 out of 5

Finally for those who have been wondering how I come up with my person ratings, here is a brief look at my scoring system.

I give every beer a 2.5 baseline, in other words considering it an average middle of the road beer.  I then have 6 categories that can either add or subtract from the total score.  Those categories are Appearance, Retention and Formation, Mouthfeel, Aftertaste, Aroma and Flavor.  Appearance and Rentention/Formation can be worth a total of .25 points each.  While the other four categories which I deem more important can be worth a total of .5 points each.   If a beer received a perfect score from me and you added up the six categories that would give you a total of 2.5 points, when added to the baseline totaling 5.   You can probably figure out the rest from there, but that is a quick breakdown of how I do my own scoring.  If you disagree with any scores please feel free to yell at me.

So there is my next list of 5 must drink beers.

This coming friday I will be hanging out with the guys and girl from the amazing band Walk of the Earth, and supplying them with some of my 11:11 Brewing Summer Vibe APA, which was named after their latest single “Summer Vibe”.  I’m sure my next post will be all about my adventures with them and filled with plenty of pictures.


Until next time…Cheers!




Categories: Beer

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