Alright, ALRIGHT; here’s long-time reader and Malt Fiction subscriber “Shawn’s” top 5 beers of the year. Don’t go crazy, everybody; just calm the fuck down. We all know how important this is. We’re going to get through it:
5. Hermit Thrush Brewery | Jolly Abbot (Sour Belgian Barleywine, 2015 vintage)
Sure, Bolio, pick something no one has ever heard of. You piece of shit. Oh, right, I was there when you tried that. You still suck.
4. Maine Beer Company | Lunch IPA (American IPA)
3. Hill Farmstead Brewery | Arthur (Farmhouse Ale, 2015 vintage)
SHIT SON, YOU CAN PUT THIS BEER IN YOUR TOP 5, BUT NOT “I LOVE YOU, HONEYBEAR” BY FATHER JOHN MISTY IN YOUR TOP 10 ALBUMS? FUCK YOU.
2. Bissell Brothers Brewing Co. | The Substance Ale (American IPA)
Okey dokey, Sam Blow, I’ll give you a pass on this one.
1. Brouwerij Rodenbach | Rodenbach Caractère Rouge (Flanders Red Ale)
THIS IS THE GODEL, ESCHER, BACH OF BEERS. FIGURES, BOLIO.
…fuck, where was I?
These are, uh, Shane Bowery’s favorite beers.
Shap hates music, I guess–
And he lives in Canada
You might as well call him Ted Cruz.
At least Ted Cruz probably likes “I Love You, Honeybear,” by Father John Misty.
Fuck you, Jane Blooey.
Now give me my money.
PLEASE free Shamu.
This is what I think of your top 5, Jim-
Once, after graduating from college
I went to a party thrown by a few alumni on the North side of town
Flights of stairs
Crooked and stained
I approached the surprisingly unvandalized door hanging on its hinges
The bed in the living room
For one’s viewing
Of the beer pong game currently in
I use ‘pleasure’ and ‘progress’ in quotations because we happened to be sipping, that night, on
Miller High Life,
Was an insult to both pleasure and a testament against our
Languidly, we toasted
Our lives of menial employment
*3.5 out of 10*
I got my glass Batman mug and Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: The Movie is on deck in the VCR.
Hot chocolate is on the boil.
Ah, powdered Nesquik, whey protein, and water.
Just like old times.
I got my stuffed animals surrounding me. I am all-powerful.
I am a prince amongst paupers.
I was a Space Cadet champion.
Long live Windows ’98!
Give me a coffee, mom.
I’m ready to fuck the working world.
I’m not sure what that means.
Just get me a bowl of oatmeal instead.
Swap the hot chocolate for a glass of vanilla milk
… yes, mom, in my Batman cup.
What the fuck you thinkin’
Get me a cherry tootsie pop
And a blanket.
I need a nap.
I’m not yet
*7.8 out of 10*
It was an early Thanksgiving. The weather was an unseasonably warm 49 degrees—teeming with that kind of “how are you enjoying this heat wave” bullshit that you’d elicit from a passerby when you couldn’t care less about the fucking weather.
“Oh, I know, right?” You ask, not answering the question. You smile, somewhat through your teeth, forcing your arm down at your side in a somewhat Strangelovian manner, restraining the throbbing urge to flip this guy the fuck off. Feet squirming as you plodge upon the frosty ground, teeth grinding. You ask yourself—like you do, year after year—“why the fuck do I live here? What am I doing with my life? This place is practically showing me the door. It doesn’t want me here.”
Leaning to my side, practically collapsing upon the dining room table, the second (or was it third) helping of mashed potatoes was settling upon the bottommost recesses of my stomach, hammering against my pyloric sphincter in the most Gothic manner. The fucking Fall of Rome was reenacting itself in my gut as I sat there dazed, listening to my grandmother drone on about whom else she knew who died recently.
“Her husband was a firefighter, years ago…
He lives alone now…
Losing his mind
And his brother, did you hear?”
Right, he died too.
“Who else is dead, grandma?”
Now is the winter of my uncontent.
Public radio blared through the speakers as I sped my way back home. Folksy stories about decline, quiet, quaint mediocrity and resignation in a frozen Minnesotan shithole lulled me into semi-conscious stupor.
At this point, I’m about to go straight Royal Tenenbaums on this shit and calmly fling this fucking sedan into Lake Arrowhead. Just straight up cock the wheel to the left and launch myself into oblivion.
Yeah, I know that didn’t happen in the movie.
Who’s telling the story here?
It’s called creative license.
So, anyway, after I ran all those people off the highway and caused a 54-car-pileup in middle of the main road, the whole town caught on fire and pretty much everybody died except for that one guy who people thought was crazy, holed up in a bunker, snickering to himself, eating his toenail clippings.
Yeah, it was pretty weird.
Winter is a hard season to adjust to though, aside from the mass destruction of whole villages, there’s also the snow, the cold, and the shorter days.
Needless to say, it’s fucking depressing.
That’s why I have to give credit to Jack’s Abby Brewing, who went out of their way to Kiwi Rising, a Double India Pale Lager with such a sunny disposition.
I mean think about it; Framingham must suck right now too.
Talk about escapism!
No, don’t change the subject; I’m talking about beer here
So, like it’s summer in New Zealand, right?
Pretty perfect timing, Jack’s Abby.
Did you plan that?
You think you’re sooooo fucking cool.
Seriously though, it’s sunshine in a bottle.
Except without the deadly radiation. (Ok, whatever, I’m running out of material)
So, what’s the significance of this bottle of beer? Well for one, it’s stupid hoppy.
Like four pounds of hops a barrel.
I mean this beer is being ridiculous right now.
We’re talking “four kettle hop additions, whole leaf hops in the hop back, and multiple dry hop additions.”
Like, Brazzers level.
As in, you’re gonna need a shower after this level of hop fornication.
It’s 105 IBU of cringeworthy sex.
…and we’re not just talking hops here. We’re talking kiwi hops, which just sounds dope as hell. Turns out, they taste nothing like kiwis. First, that pissed me off, Jack’s Abby. I was furious, but then I realized that I was pretty much just drinking Heady Topper lager, which I guess is ok.
The color: honey gold to sunflower, not much lacing– Very little carbonation visible—it looks like mead… but it isn’t.
…and it smells like vacation too. There are big citrus notes on the nose, along with some other tropical fruits. There’s a residual sweetness as well (because obviously you can smell sweetness—just work with me here)—like an orange marmalade. Finally, there’s some slight pine.
It made me want to parade my fat
Around the beach
Looking for a cool crowd, with which to play
…and when I scare everyone off, I’d go bungee jumping instead.
And did I dive into this beer. Again, there is citrus first on the tongue. Following are strong, biscuit and bread notes—light, crisp malts, like a nice rustic, country loaf, very dry. Pine and botanical flavors linger after swallowing. It’s slightly spicy—very similar to that of a fine gin. By that, I suppose I mean somewhat akin to juniper… and then there’s mango at the end. The feeling in the mouth is rather sticky, with a dry finish. I feel it could be slightly more effervescent, but it is certainly not a detractor.
It’s a damn fine beer.
This is a beer for those who seek to escape from the cold. It’s a beer for those who dream of golden shores, sprawling hills, and mountains that lunge towards the sky. Think of the breathtaking views from the Lord of the Rings movies. That’s this beer—splendid, somewhat sordidly beautiful. You feel guilty partaking of something like this.
*9.3 out of 10*
At this point in the afternoon
I was less
To be desired
The taproom was occupied
Shoes swarmed the linoleum as cockroaches do
But certainly busy
Everyone seems courteous
Of gratification and straight up
We put our noses upon our respective glasses (seriously, who talks like this?)
“Aromas reminiscent of green apples, sharp cheese, slight caramel, wet leaves, kohlrabi, tartness somewhere between a lemon and a lime.”
Rolling my eyes
Take a sip; upfront—lemony citrus stings upon the tip of the tongue, then comes a sour funk marrying a Danish blue cheese and Camembert or brie. It’s salty. A toasty sweetness follows. (This is probably the toasted pumpkin seeds and the pumpkin, itself—I thought to myself) “Oak-i-ness” pokes through towards the back end, and then dryness emerges. Vanilla flavors develop with tart cherries as the flavor begins to dissipate.
More like Boo Berry
Don’t die or whatever.
*9.0 out of 10*
OH MY FUCKING GOD
I’M JUST WAITING IN LINE TALKING ABOUT ALL THE BEERS I’VE DRANK
EACH ONE WAS BETTER THAN THE NEXT
EACH ONE WAS SO FUCKING MORE RARER THAN THE OTHER FUCKING ONE
EACH BEER WAS SO MUCH MORE BEER THAN PRECEDING BEER
INTRINSICALLY, BEER OF THIS CALIBER COULDN’T BE MORE BEER
OH, WHAT CENTENNIAL HOPS? CASCADE? COLUMBUS?
NO YOU FUCKING CRIMINAL
HOW CAN YOU DRINK BEER WITH YOUR COMPLETE
I KNOW ALL ABOUT BEER
NOBODY DRINKS BETTER BEER THAN ME
I’VE WAITED ALL FUCKING DAY IN THIS GODDAMNED LINE
I’VE BEEN INSTAGRAMMING THE FUCKING CLOUDS
I’M IN THE RAIN
IT’S FUCKING VERMONT
LOOK AT THE GODDAMNED MOUNTAINS
I BROUGHT A TENT
MY FIANCE LOVES BEER
MY FIANCE IS BEER
I MUST RAKE IN A FUCKING FORTUNE TO BUY ALL THE BEER I BUY
LET ME TALK TO YOU ABOUT ALL THE BEER I JUST DRANK
OH YEAH, LAST BATCH OF FOCAL BANGER WAS SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO MUCH BETTER THAN THIS PIECE A SHIT
IT DOESN’T TASTE JUST LIKE THE OTHER BATCH
BUT ITS MORE LIKE THE PREVIOUS BATCH IF IT WERE A COMPLETE REITERATION, IMITATING ITSELF, MIRRORED AND DISSECTED, A POSTULATION OF A SIMILAR SEMBLANCE, BUT TOTALLY SEPARATE
YOU KNOW WHAT I’M SAYING? IT’S KINDA THE SAME FUCKING THING BUT DEFINITELY DIFFERENT. LIKE EVERYTHING SUCKS NOW, MOSTLY BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T HAVE THE SAME BEER I HAD WHEN I HAD IT. SO I’M SORT OF BETTER THAN YOU
LIKE IT HAD A
LIKE SO CLOUDY
GOLDEN, YELLOW, ORANGE, YELLOW
FEELS GREAT BETTER THAN YOU, BETTER THAN BEER
I’M THE BEST AT DRINKING BEER
BUYING BEER IS SO FUN
I CAN WAIT IN LINE LONGER THAN YOU
I’M GONNA LVIE FORECDVRE
DFASDFADSFNASDF AWEJANEKNGKRAJNFLE;LAN F AKLAEMRKELRNA EWRNANER AEWRLKAER AWERNALERKLADSFADSMLASD’[FNASFADSFADFADSFASDFASDJNGOJ RBGARLFNORNOINKRNASDLFKJMPVNLAPFDALDSF
*10 out of 10*
You know a Michael Bay preview when you see one.
You know one, five, maybe ten seconds into a trailer. You know the low, gravelly bass tone that thunders like a gargantuan, mammoth fart through the surround sound. My mouth agape, I could taste it.
A dumbfounded Megan Fox, trying so hard to feign perspicuity, mimics my expression.
TEENAYGE MEWTINT NINJAH TURDLES
Never mind, I’m not watching a preview for a Michael Bay movie.
I’m not watching the unfolding of a major motion picture flop.
I’m not watching the crumbling of Western Civilization.
I’m not watching the cinematized bastardization of masculinity.
I’m drinking a beer
In my jean shorts.
Sigh…. Another Stone collab…
Mitch Steele is trying so hard with this one… so effortlessly.
Unapologetic IPA is a collaboration beer between Stone Brewing, Beachwood BBQ and Brewing, and Heretic Brewing, all out of California.
Unapologetic IPA is a Double IPA, coming in at 8.8% ABV, exploding with coy, light malts, and wild, schizophrenic, fancy, new, experimental hops.
Unapologetic IPA is the self-indulgent writer’s strike of 2008. It’s the Dr. Horrible of beer, it’s got the understated wit of Joss Whedon, yet the masturbatory pomp of the aforementioned king of shitty summer movies.
It’s a menacing clusterfuck of aromas and flavors.
So, this one is a bit complicated.
It’s sexy looking. I’ll give it that. It’s a bright amber color. By that, I mean it has that classic prehistoric fossilized amber quality you see bugs and crap encapsulated in. It’s every 2nd grade boy’s dream to find in the woods. It’s beautiful. It’s romantic. It’s a fucking candle on a cupcake. It has decent, yet subtle lacing. With a soapy, white head, it wraps around the glass gently. Vigorous carbonation streams towards the top of the glass.
Its aroma is misleading. It is lighter than anticipated. There’s actually some caramel upfront; then come the hops. Candied orange, nectarine, lemon, a little boozy heat come up from the glass. Yowza, good golly, is that strawberry? I think so, but I know there’s some tropical fruit on the end, boy howdy.
I take a long, hard gulp.
Again, it’s hoppy, balanced, but not as in your face as I would have anticipated. There’s a bunch of over the top, experimental hops varietals in this beer. It’s horrifically zany—like a Stephen King novel—how much these folks (Mitch Steele of Stone, Jamil Zainasheff of Heretic, and Julian Shrago of Beachwood) obsessively dedicated themselves to paltry decadence in crafting this beer.
Here’s what’s going on here with the wacko experimental hops:
• The Azacca is going crazy with some citrus
• The Belma adds some herbal notes along with the bittersweet character of Meyer lemon
• The HBC lends a little pine, but it’s very slight
• The Steiner adds some balance with some middle of the road pine and citrus character.
Back to the beer itself—
Given the simple malt bill, it lets the hops shine, despite the muddled complexity. It’s like the “cool parents” who go off to vacation in Pennsylvania for the weekend, leaving the house to their 16-old-kid, inviting him to “just have a few friends over” and saying, “just don’t rifle through the liquor cabinet in the cabinet just to the right of the fridge… no, the next right… yeah, that cabinet.”
It’s bitter, unashamed hedonism.
It’s an UNAPOLOGETIC IPA; I GET IT
To an extent, it is very sweet. I’d find it hard to drink more than one glass (but I’m desperately trying to). Tropical fruits dominate the palate—guava is heavy, but then comes citrus—particularly lemon, Meyer lemon, maybe—then mostly orange, finally comes a nectarine finish. It’s nice, but it pounds the palate. I’m probably crazy, but I also get a hint of coconut.
If I’m wrong about the taste, there is at least some coconut on the mouthfeel. It coats the mouth oily. It then tingles, and trickles down the gullet, leaving a stickiness akin to higher ABV beers.
Fuck wit it tho. It’ll pump your johnnies.
Alright, alright. It’s fine, it’s grand, it’s a good beer. It’s just got so much going on. I personally don’t mind it but in order to enjoy it, you just have to think of it as an IPA. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s a big, weird, IPA, and that’s it.
Wait, something witty to wrap this up?
Something about Firefly and Joss Whedon?
Buffy the Vampire Slayer?
I don’t fucking know.
*8.0 out of 10*