5 “Must Drink” Beers Volume 3

It’s that time again!

Hopefully by now everyone has had a chance to hunt down some of my previous suggestions and decide whether they enjoy them, or think I am completely full of it.

Regardless, as I sit here at the Homebrew Emporium watching the snowfall and waiting for the official kick off of Zwanze 2012, I figured it would be the perfect time to throw out my next set of suggestions, especially since I have been lucky enough to, in my opinion, enjoy a large amount of quality brews over the last month or so.

Anyways, before we begin a quick disclaimer that some of the beers I talk about in this post will without a doubt fall into the “hard to find” category.  That doesn’t mean they cannot be located, however it won’t be easy, but it will be well worth it!

Let’s get started!

Straffe Hendrik Quadrupel
Style: Belgian Strong/Quadrupel
(De Halve Maan, Bruges, Belgium 11%ABV)
Beer Advocate Rating: 89  RateBeer Rating: 98

Beautiful beer…beautiful pour

I found this wonderful strong ale on tap down at the amazing Armsby Abbey, one of my favorite places in the world, and yes…the place where I will be celebrating Zwanze Day a little later on.  Simply put, this is a beer that is meant to be enjoyed and experienced.  A “big” beer checking in at 11% this beer will warm you up and certainly make you feel good.  Like any quad or beer of this ilk that is meant to be drank slowly, this beer should be served in the proper glassware, either a tulip or goblet(chalice) and slightly below room temperature.  With the complexity that this beers’ aroma and flavor showcase it is imperative that this beer is not too cold when enjoying it.  My suggestion, if you are pouring at home, is to bring the beer up to about 55 degrees prior to serving it.  Furthermore, with such a high alcohol content and overwhelming complexity, this is a brew that will age incredibly well.  For anyone looking to compare a beer as it ages this is certainly the type of beer you could buy and cellar for a couple of years prior to drinking.

Be forewarned, even with the high ABV the alcohol presence in this beer is fairly well disguised making for easy drinking.  The beer pours a deep dark mahogany with a big frothy off-white head.  The aroma is big and complex with a fruit-forward nose of dark fruits, cherries, raisins and figs.  There is also a distinct malty and sweetness that can be picked up from the specialty grains.  The flavor is also bold and inviting, the beer which is thick, creamy and slightly chewing shares a wonderful blend of the aforementioned fruits with deep caramel notes, molasses and perhaps event a slight hint of dark chocolate.  The alcohol becomes more evident in the taste but is still minimal and fades very quickly.  The balance of this beer is uncanny.  The deep fruitiness and comforting sweetness remains noticeable but in check the entire time you drink the beer.  This self-proclaimed homebrewery in Belgium has hit a home run with this delicious and complex quad, and for anyone looking to enjoy a top shelf beer in this style I highly suggest finding a bottle or two of this.
Matt’s personal rating 4.2 out of 5


Style: Farmhouse Saison/IPA
(Enlightenment Ales, Lowell, MA  8%ABV)
Beer Advocate Rating: N/A  RateBeer Rating: N/A

Something new and exciting

So I always get a little excited when I am given the opportunity to review a beer that still is a bit of a mystery to the majority of the people immersed in the craft brew culture.  I always like to add the “ratebeer” and “beeradvocate” ratings when I review a beer, but I get a little giddy when I visit those sites and find out that the beer I am reviewing either does not yet exist on their pages, or has to few views to garner an actually rating.  The good news for the people over at Enlightenment Ales is that the mystery will be short lived.  First and foremost the beer is great, secondly for the beer drinker who searches to find new and unique beers, this is a brewery that will clearly grab their attention.  One thing that is sure to grab the attention of beer lovers far and wide, is owner Ben Howe’s trademark brewing style.  Having chosen to focus on farmhouse style beers created using a traditional champagne methodology, the beers he creates are unique, unlike just about anything else available in the States.  While the brewery’s Brut is its trademark release Illumination a saison/IPA blend is an amazing and somewhat twisted spin on two of my favorite styles of beer.

The beer pours a hazy, deep golden yellow with a brilliant white head that is long lasting and leaves a beautiful amount of web-like lacing down the sides of the entire glass.  The nose screams farmhouse saison.  Plenty of funk along with the standard hints of hay, grass, yeast and a bit of citrus fruit zest.  What makes this nose unique is the somewhat faint but noticeable hop aroma.  This is the first real moment that you know you are drinking more than a standard saison.  While I don’t know specifically what hops were used in these hybridization, they leave a pleasant pine aroma.  The flavor is where this lovechild of the saison and IPA truly comes to fruition.  The farmhouse funk is still very evident, with a strong yeasty characteristic to the mouthfeel, however the hops play a much more dominant role at this point with the foresty-pine as well as some nice resiny characteristics coming to the forefront.  As the flavor tails off the farmhouse funk once again becomes the star, finishing with a dry slightly bitter aftertaste reminding me of a blend of lemongrass and hay.

This was a wonderful beer, carbonated beautifully to style and truly allowed for both the saison and IPA characteristics to play their roles.  I am truly looking forward to trying more from Ben and Enlightenment Ales.  Ben if you should ever find yourself reading this review, I would love to come down and check out your space, and perhaps do a little writeup on your brewery.  For those who are lucky enough to find these beers already make sure to check them out, for those who cannot, be patient you will, and when you find them don’t hesitate to give them a shot!
Matt’s Personal Rating: 4 out of 5


Ten Fidy
Style: Russian Imperial Stout

(Oskar Blues Brewing  Lyons, CO 10.5%)
Beer Advocate Rating: 95  RateBeer Rating: 100

An amazing “exception”

This is the perfect beer to have on this list for two reasons.  First, unlike the rest of the beers on this list, this is a beer everyone should be able to find fairly easily.  Secondly, as much as I love stouts, the varieties such as  barrel-aged stouts, and big imperials have become a little overwhelming for me.  As I have said before, they have become a dime a dozen, and honestly most of them are just intense but not very “high quality” beers.  Ten Fidy is without a doubt the exception to the rule.  This is a complete beer, from appearance, to aroma, to taste this beer makes me think twice about how I have felt about this particular style.  Oskar Blues makes some quality beers and has become a bit of a household name.  Their Dales Pale Ale and Old Chub are both quality brews, yet Ten Fidy is in a category of its own.

The beer poured a deep dark onyx, with a giant dark tan head that was long lasting.  The beer was the definition of how a stout should look.  The aroma was big and nutty.  Sweet notes of caramel and toffee and a hidden hoppy sensation rounded out the nose and there was barely a hint of the alcohol that created this beast at 10.5%.  The flavor was rich and creamy.  A slight silky texture was also evident and the strong roasted and nutty flavors dominated the palate.  A refreshing hop crispness also became evident but it was well hidden even though the beer rocks over 90 IBU’s.  The brew was heavy and rich and certainly was a sipper, but it was balanced, bold and extremely flavorful.  More often then not these giant imperials are a bit to harsh and the alcohol bite a bit overwhelming, however this beer keeps all of these flavors well in check creating the perfect creamy and bold stout that will warm you up, and while you probably shouldn’t…leaving you wanting another one right away!
Matt’s Personal Rating 4 out of 5


Sobre Humano Palena
Style: Sour Ale
(Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, Dexter, MI 6%)
BeerAdvocate Rating: 87  RateBeer Rating: 99

Much better than the Maui release….

Let me start by saying that this beer is part of a collaboration between Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales and Maui Brewing.  While it was a collaboration the brews created and released by the two breweries were inherently different.  The Maui release was an over-carbonated, thin, slightly fruity spritzer.  On the other hand, the Jolly Pumpkin release was a brilliant sour ale, complex and biting with a nice tart flavor.

The beer poured a slightly hazy reddish-amber with a small bubbly white head.  While it wasn’t the most “beautiful” looking beer in the world, it more then made up for it with intangibles.  The aroma was slightly tart with hints of fruits.  The fruit nose suggested kiwi, mango and starfruit, almost creating a passionfruit/fruit punch aroma.  The flavor was tart and sour with just a hint of sweetness helping to balance out the flavor.  The fruit notes from the aroma were also present in the flavor and a slight floral bite was also noticeable.

This beer was a lovely combination of fruity flavors and that distinct sour flavor that I have become such a fan of.  Unlike the Maui release which was simply an over-carbonated, thin, fruity beer, Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales took a unique beer recipe, and did it justice.  While the unique fruit flavor is interesting it is truly the beers sour profile that puts it over the edge.  The more beers I try from Jolly Pumpkin, the more I have come to appreciate their unique, well thought out creations, and I am always on the lookout to try more offerings from them.
Matt’s Personal Rating 3.8 out of 5

Style: American IPA
(Hill Farmstead Brewery Greensboro Bend, VT  6.2%ABV)
BeerAdvocate Rating: 95  RateBeer Rating: 100

A hazy delicious treat…

Yes, my mother’s name is Susan, and yes, I drank this beer to complete an amazing Zwanze Day down at the Abbey, however neither of these facts are the reason this beer is on this list.  This beer is on this list because it is unbelievable.  I should preface this by saying, this brewery is world class, they do not have it in their capacity to make a poor never mind a bad beer.

This diverse, fruity and citrusy American Style IPA does everything right.  From it’s solid yet not over the top ABV, to its beautiful hazy orange pour with a large delicate bright white head, it is obvious from the initial pour that you are in for a treat.  The aroma is HUGE, and incredibly fresh.  Citrus zest, tropical fruit and a hint of grapefruit sting the nostrils.  While the aroma is pungent that freshness makes it so you can’t help but dive in for another whiff.  Citra hops are easily picked out from the bouquet, however the brewery says that citra is mixed with the delicious simcoe hop and the lesser known “riwaka”, a hop I am going to make my personal crusade to learn more about.

The flavor falls in line with the aroma, but surprisingly the citrus fruit that makes up the aroma is not overwhelming on the palate.  Instead the beer is wonderfully balanced.  A nice hop forward medium body brew, Susan showcases a long lasting and pleasant flavor.  The hop profile lasts long into the aftertaste yet the malt backbone never allows the beer to fall out of balance.  The beer has a slight lingering bitterness that plays beautifully with the citrus flavor and the moderate carbonation.  All in all this is as close to a perfect IPA that can be created.

Hill Farmstead is simply one of those breweries that you must visit if you are anywhere near Vermont.  Even if it is considerably out of the way, a visit to this small slice of paradise is completely worthwhile.  As I said before, you won’t try a single beer from them and be disappointed, however if you fancy yourself a fan of IPA’s, or your looking for that one IPA to change your mind and make you a believer, find a way to check out ole Susan!
Matt’s Personal Rating 4.6 out of 5.


So there you have it the third and latest installment of “5” beers you must drink.  You may not have tried them yet, but I feel completely confident it telling you, I told you so!!

Coming soon, a new brewing video, a list of wonderful winter warmers and a look at the world of yeast!






Categories: Beer

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