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Bee My Baby

Beer Review: Track 7 Bee Line Blonde Ale

track 7 bee line blonde draft

 

We live in an era where breweries are only as good as their India Pale Ales (IPAs) and Imperial Stouts.  It’s hard not to get caught up in the craze surrounding these two styles.  I, too, feel like I have to force myself to try beers in varying styles, making deals with myself like, “You can have an IPA after you have a beer of a different style.”  The funny thing is that even though it feels like a chore just to order a non-IPA, I usually drink it with no major issues.  Recently, I got my hands on Track 7’s Bee Line Blonde Ale and I didn’t just think it was a fine beer, but an excellent beer.

There were no surprises in the appearance as it could have been mistaken for honey in the glass.  Seeing a golden beer with a pillowy white head is always a welcomed sight. The head dissipated rather quickly, but left rings of lacing down the glass.  For a blonde ale brewed with honey, it’s appearance was spot on.  5/5

On the nose it is very reminiscent of some classic German pilsners and some adjunct lagers.  You get a head of grain and wheat, but then on the back end you notice some sweet honey that rounds the profile out.  4/5

As expected, this is definitely a thinner beer, but it doesn’t diminish the beer at all.  The honey definitely gives the body a little weight, but it was still light and crisp with decent carbonation making it seem spritzy at times, dancing around the mouth.  This made me think of bees buzzing around!  Maybe I wouldn’t have thought that way if the beer were named something else, but it definitely impacted my perception.  4/5

The honey is definitely more noticeable on the palate than the nose, which I’ve found to be the case with many beers brewed with honey.  There is a subtle hop bite on the back end — very reminiscent of German pilsners — that contrasts the sweet honey in the best way possible.  There is a grainy aspect to the taste as well and reminds me of some adjunct lagers, but thankfully the honey and hop bill combat it and leave you with a lighter low ABV beer with plenty of flavor and character.  4.25/5

track 7 bee line blonde ale

Honestly, this is my favorite blond ale to date.  There is a depth to this Sacramento brewed beer that is often missing in the style.  It’s the perfect summer beer as it is light and refreshing, while delivering loads of flavor.  It won’t wear you down and sit heavy on you like some other varieties do.  Overall, I’d have to give this beer a final ranking of 4.33/5.  Highly recommended.

track 7 bee line cans

I’m glad I got to drink a beer out of my wheelhouse, because this beer makes me want to explore the options outside of stouts and IPAs that rule the beer world and see what else more seemingly simple types can offer.  If you are able to pick this beer up, I would.  This is certainly a beer that people in the craft game can appreciate, but it could also be an excellent gateway beer for your macro-drinking friends.  If they can’t appreciate it, who cares?  That just leaves more good beer for you.

Ryan Moyer

ABV: 5.25%; IBUs: 31; Original Gravity: 1.050; Hops: Fuggle, Magnum, Tettnang

Ryan Moyer is a graduate of Indiana University.

 

 

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West Coast Showdown (Beer Review)

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Do you remember when India Pale Ales (IPAs) weren’t confused for juice?   Do you remember when they actually had at least an ounce of bitterness?   What about when they were not all hazy and distorted as to be confused with dirty dishwasher. Do you remember those days?   Well, as much as I enjoy a fruity New England haze bomb of an IPA every now and then, it’s nice to be reminded of the classic American IPA.   I was recently fortunate enough to try both Go West! IPA and Liberty Ale from Anchor Brewing out of San Francisco.   This took me down memory lane to what IPAs tasted like when I first got into the world of craft beer years ago.   So with two IPAs from Anchor at hand, I decided to do a beer battle and see which brew came out on top.

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We’ve all heard the cliche “never judge a book by its cover,” but in beer it is an acceptable category to judge.   Go West! poured a clear golden hue with respectable off-white head.   In contrast, Liberty was a bit darker, but only slightly.   Liberty poured somewhere between a deep gold and very light amber, but was still clear.   As with Go West!, Liberty also had a nice off-white, pillow-y head.   So far, the edge goes to Go West! with a score of 4/5 while Liberty receives a 3.5/5.

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As far as aroma is concerned, I was more impressed by Go West! due to its more complex character.   Go West! was dry hopped with 4 hops: Citra, Equinox, Caypso, and Eureka!   I am a sucker for Eureka!, with its huge herbaceous character, also imparting subtle notes of mint and tropical fruits.   Liberty, however, is a single hop beer brewed exclusively with Cascade hops, which are an excellent tool for bittering and can add some citrus and floral notes.   In the aroma category, again, I give the edge to Go West! with 4.25/5 while Liberty again takes a 3.5/5.

Even with distinct hop profiles, both screamed West Coast IPA to me.   Go West! had a citrus profile and packed a punch loaded with pine, resin, and herbal goodness.   Liberty was much more straightforward.   Liberty had that classic grapefruit rind character, was dank, and was nice and bitter.   Both had the classic 2-row pale malt to add a little sweetness and a little balance to these bitter brews.   Although I enjoyed it, I felt like Go West! didn’t live up to its nose and so it receives a 3.5/5, whereas I felt Liberty gave everything it promised and thus earns a 3.75/5.

As far as body/mouthfeel goes, it’s a wash for me.   It’s not the most important category for me so I don’t have much to say other than both had fair carbonation and were medium light.   I’d put both at a 3.5/5.

Although Go West! started to dominate the early categories, this edition of Battle Beers went right down to the wire with Go West! barely overcoming Liberty with a ranking of 3.63 compared to 3.56.

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Overall, it was a nice change of pace to try some classic West Coast IPAs oozing with hops, resin, and bitterness while the rest of the world is obsessing over and adding to the New England juice bomb trend.   Although Anchor Brewing out of San Francisco may not have any highly sought after whales, they are a brewery dedicated to history and tradition, which is evident in both Go West! IPA and Liberty Ale.   Cheers!

Ryan Moyer

Ryan Moyer is a graduate of Indiana University.

Go West! contains 6.7% alcohol by volume (ABV).   Liberty Ale is 5.9% ABV.

 

 

 

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Beer Review: Gordon Biersch Blonde Bock

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Gordon Biersch Blonde Bock

Before I begin sprouting my opinion, I find it necessary to mention that I am very uncultured in the world of bocks; I’ve only had two. The first bock I had was from Shiner. Shiner Bock was one of the first beers I enjoyed drinking, but as I sample it now I do not care for it. The other bock I had was from a brewery I cannot recall, though I do remember not being a fan of it. So I will note that I was a bit apprehensive about trying Gordon Biersch’s Blonde Bock, but I’m always up for experiencing new brews.

The appearance of this beer was quite standard. Most bocks are generally darker in color, but this one was definitely golden blonde in hue. It poured a 1-finger white head that dissipated within a couple of minutes and left next to no lacing on the glass. Again, it was average looking. It just did not seem to have anything going for it. It sits even on the scale at a 2.5/5.

The nose on this beer was incredibly malty right out of the bottle. I popped the cap and my nose was hit with a fresh bready/biscuit aroma. I was also getting small hints of fruit, maybe pears? It was very faint, but was a nice touch. There was almost no hop presence at all on the nose. While the aroma wasn’t a complete knockout, it wasn’t displeasing by any means; just very underwhelming which gives it a 2.75/5.

As with the nose, the taste was definitely bready, which was exemplified as the beer warmed. There wasn’t much of a hop profile to this brew. It was hard to pick out exactly what flavors the hops were trying to produce or enhance. I know bocks are more malt-driven, but you really got only a taste of hops at the back end. I found that my choice to snack on pretzels while drinking this was an excellent decision as the saltiness of the pretzels balanced the sweetness of the malts and provided a nice sweet taste. The taste was fine, but not extraordinary. I’d give it a 3.25/5.

Generally when drinking beers the mouthfeel has a tendency to change throughout the tasting. Blonde Bock, however, maintained a refreshing and crisp feel the entire session. It was so crisp, in fact, that it felt almost brittle. I don’t know if a liquid can be described as brittle, but that was the first word that came to mind when drinking this bock. It does not coat your mouth or throat; it just passes right through and does not sit in a heavy fashion. For me, this was enjoyable. I usually like my beers to feel somewhat thicker, but for its taste I think the feel matched it quite well, earning it a 3.75/5.

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Overall, this was by no means a bad beer, but I probably would not go out of my way to seek it out and would likely pass it by if other options were available. I’m glad to have tried an interesting bock variation, but it was simply not my cup of tea. No doubt this is a fine representation of the style, but it does not fall within my wheelhouse. Gordon Biersch Blonde Bock is alright, but not great. Final score: 3.1/5.

Ryan Moyer

Ryan is a graduate of Indiana University.

Note: Gordon Biersch Blonde Bock has an alcohol by volume (ABV) content of 7%. Gordon Biersch began its brewing activities in Palo Alto, California. The Gordon Biersch brewery and bottling plant is located in San Jose. Gordon Biersch is now headquartered in Broomfield, Colorado.

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Beer Review: Omission India Pale Ale (IPA)

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Generally, a taboo topic in the craft beer world is this notion of gluten-free beer. I mean, how could a beer brewed with barley and wheat substitutes honestly compete with counterparts using the real things?

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Well, Omission Beer doesn’t sacrifice their ingredients while crafting their beers. Omission is a brewery priding itself on creating beers with “traditional ingredients that everyone of legal drinking age can enjoy.” Recently I had the pleasure of trying Omission Beer’s IPA. I was told upfront that it was a gluten-free beer, and never having had one before I didn’t know what to expect.

Omission IPA crop

I poured this beer into a pint glass and was very pleased with what I saw. The IPA poured a deep golden color with a beautiful hazy-white, two finger-head with lacing to spare down the inside of the glass. Maybe I’m being picky, but my only complaint with the appearance is that I find a more copper color more appealing than gold. [Picky! Ed.] IPA receives a 4.75/5 on looks alone.

The nose on Omission’s IPA was wonderful, to say the least. IPA fills your nose with notes of fresh citrus and crisp pines; obviously influenced by its Pacific Northwest roots. This is just everything you could ask for – an IPA on the nose. The only thing lacking, for my preference, is a more juicy presence. Even though there is a pleasant citrus quality to the aroma, it does lack that juiciness I am fond of, and because of that its aroma gets a 4.25/5.

The lack of presence this beer brought to the mouth is what really hurts it. It is so thin that the moment you take a sip it is gone. Nothing lingers or coats the roof of your mouth like you’d expect and sometimes want from an IPA. I don’t know if this is the result of it being a gluten-free beer, but it just lacks some presence. I would have loved to get a longer taste out of this one, but it abandons the palate pretty fast. It’s not like this IPA delivers an unpleasant mouthfeel; rather, it does not give any mouth feel leading to its very neutral grade of 2.5/5.

The final piece of the puzzle is the beer’s taste. Omission IPA tastes exactly how it smells: fresh, bright, piney, and citrusy. But, just like the mouthfeel, that great taste dissipates immediately. Again, this does not mean that it is unpleasant, I just would have liked more out of it! Regardless of its short-lived life, it was very tasty and I believe it earns a respectable 4/5.

I didn’t quite know what to expect out of my first gluten-free beer. I’ve usually heard mostly negative reviews, so I was shocked and pleasantly surprised by how great this beer is. The only downfall to this beer is that it dies out pretty fast, but that is easily forgiven by its classic Pacific Northwest IPA taste. With a crisp pine and robust citrus nose and taste, IPA from Omission Beer easily receives a 3.88/5!

Well recommended.

Ryan Moyer

Ryan Moyer is a graduate of Indiana University, who works and pays taxes.

Omission IPA is brewed by Widmer Brothers Brewing Company and contains 6.7% alcohol by volume. Widmer Brothers is based in Portland, Oregon.

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Beer Review: Red Trolley Ale

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I recently had the pleasure of tasting Karl Strauss Brewing Company’s highly acclaimed Red Trolley Ale. This Irish Red boasts gold medals from the 2010 and 2013 Great American Beer Festival as well as the 2010 and 2012 World Beer Cup, and 14 medals from various other beer festivals and competitions. The brew’s website claims Red Trolley Ale is a “medium-bodied beer with heavyweight malts” and their description does not mislead.

This beer poured a beautiful deep copper/toffee color with a barely present tan head. The head barely lasted a minute as it dissipated into nothing. There was also an absence of lacing. Maybe I gave it a subpar pour, but I doubt that was the case. The color was very pleasing, but the lack of a head and lacing severely reduces its appearance rating down to a 2.5/5.

When smelling Red Trolley Ale, you get nothing but malts on the nose. It doesn’t boast an overpowering aroma, yet there is an obvious caramel backbone with hints of toffee. It’s pretty simple on the nose, but that does not diminish the quality. It’s smell is a solid 3.5/5.

As promised, this beer definitely prides itself on the “heavyweight malts.” It is much more complex on the palate than the nose, however. Red Trolley is predominantly caramel and toffee flavored beer, though there seem to be no bittering hops, but that’s to be expected for the style. Instead, there is a hint of some dark fruits on the back end and after taste, perhaps a bit of San Diego influence into the Irish Red style. As the beer warms you really begin to appreciate the density and the complexity of the play between the subtle fruit notes against the strong malt base. There also seemed to be some hidden spice characteristics that began to remind me of Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Christmas Ale. This brew definitely takes the palate for a ride – 4.5/5.

The mouth feel was no surprise for an Irish Red. There was low to moderate carbonation and the beer coats the back of the mouth and the throat in a velvet blanket upon first sip. It was a little much for me, but not terrible and definitely on point for the style, so I’m giving its mouth feel a 4/5.

Red Trolley

Throughout my tasting I was pleasantly surprised. I’m usually not a fan of malt driven beers and I’m not entirely familiar with Irish Reds, but compared to the ones I’ve had, this is definitely near – it not at – the top of my list. The only thing that really hurts the beer is its appearance, which – though aesthetically pleasing, isn’t entirely important in the tasting. In my opinion, this malt driven brew with its hidden spices and subtle dark fruits would make an excellent winter warmer; great for a snowy evening next to the fire.

Though the Irish Red isn’t my go to style, I highly appreciate this beer and understand the respect it has garnered in the brewing community. When averaging out the numbers, this beer comes out to a very respectable 3.63/5.

Well recommended.

Ryan Moyer

Ryan Moyer is a graduate of Indiana University. Red Trolley Ale is brewed and bottled in San Diego, California; thus making it an imported beer for most of the country.

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Monkey Knife Fight

Beer Review: Rubicon Monkey Knife Fight Pale Ale

Monkey Knife Fight

A couple of weeks ago I received a 22-ounce bomber of Monkey Knife Fight Pale Ale. Monkey Knife Fight is an American Pale Ale coming in at 5.4% Alcohol By Volume (ABV). Rubicon Brewing Company calls it a “quintessential session beer” despite it’s >5% ABV (I’m not complaining) and an “example of the Modern American Pale Ale.” They say it is brewed with 2 Row light crystal malts, Mt. Hood hops for balance, and then dry hopped with Cascade hops, which is common in West Coast pale ales to give it a dry, crisp, floral taste.

I poured this into my favorite snifter and was blown away by its appearance. Monkey Knife Fight poured a beautiful copper in hue with a thick, creamy white one-and-one-half finger head. This beer was very hazy and I noticed plenty of yeast left in the bottom of my glass. I adored the retention of the thick head and lacing throughout my entire tasting. This is, without a doubt, one of the best looking beers I’ve had the pleasure of tasting and earns a 4.5/5 in its appearance rating.

The aroma on this brew was very fresh, yet subdued and citrusy in the initial nose, but turns more floral the further into the beer you get, courtesy of the dry-hopped Cascade hops. Though it was a pleasant scent, I was not blown away by it and would have liked the initial nose to carry throughout more of the tasting. Monkey Knife Fight gets a 3.5/5 for its aroma.

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My first sip was a bit confusing. I tasted some sweet biscuit or bready malts and it was nothing like the nose led me to expect. The hops hit you up front, but the malts sooth you on the back end. Overall, Monkey Knife Fight had a very balanced malt/hop profile as neither take a real commanding role in the flavor, which was strange based on my understanding that West Coast pale ales are generally much more hop dominant, oozing with citrus and floral notes. I’m all for refusing to be confined to arbitrary boundaries and categories, but it just wasn’t what I was expecting. Like the aroma, it was pleasant, but I wasn’t blown away, so Monkey Knife Fight receives a 3.5/5 for its taste as well.

Monkey Knife Fight felt crisp and exceptionally carbonated for the first few sips, but eventually started coating my mouth. A little further in, the coating grew stickier and thicker, before thinning out. And then towards the end I noticed that it was getting stickier and thicker than before. I’m usually not for beers coating my mouth, but the fluctuating waves from full and sticky to dry and crisp was a neat experience. In the mouthfeel department, Monkey Knife Fight gets a 3.5/5.

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Overall, I was torn in many directions during my tasting of this beer. Since Rubicon Brewing Company is from Sacramento, I expected a much hoppier, citrusy, piney, floral taste, but was given bready malts. With a name like Monkey Knife Fight, I was expecting absolute chaos on my palate, but that was not the case. Instead, this was a very mellow, easy drinking, sessionable brew, like Rubicon advertises! Maybe the inspiration for the name was drawn from the play between hops up front countered by the malts on the back end. Regardless of what I was expecting from the name, Monkey Knife Fight, as Rubicon claims, truly is a “quintessential session beer” and earns a 3.75/5 for its overall rating. I look forward to trying more brews from Rubicon Brewing Company!

Ryan Moyer

Ryan Moyer is a graduate of Indiana University. If you’re interested in more of Ryan’s beer musings, check out his and his friend’s craft beer exclusive Instagram account @maltedhopballs .

Note: Rubicon Monkey Knife Fight Pale Ale is now available in a six-pack of 12-ounce bottles in the greater Sacramento area.

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Man on the Moon

Beer Review: Moon Man No Coast Pale Ale from New Glarus Brewing

Moon Man

While I was spending my summer in Bloomington, Indiana, a good friend of mine, Eric, visited for the Fourth of July weekend. He and I are what some may call beer snobs. We prefer the term beer geeks, however, because at the end of the day, we really don’t care what people are drinking so long as they are enjoying what they’re drinking. We both wish we could expose others to craft beers, help guide them through what they’re tasting, and see their reaction to major hop bombs or big roasty stouts. But that’s not what some people are into. Again, what separates us from the snobs out there is that we really don’t care what people are drinking so long as they are enjoying themselves.

Eric was visiting from Gurnee, Illinois, located near the border of Illinois and Wisconsin. He knows how much I enjoy New Glarus beer, and seeing as it has very limited distribution, he picked up some six packs and headed down. When he arrived, he showed me his mini haul; a six pack of Spotted Cow, a New Glarus classic, and a mixed six pack consisting of Moon Man and a few others.

Being an American Pale Ale (APA) lover, the first beer I wanted to try was Moon Man, and I was not disappointed in the least bit.

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The appearance of this beer threw me off. It poured rich gold in color, which is a little light in color for the style and there wasn’t much head and the little there was dissipated rather quickly. What saved its appearance rating was the great lacing it left in the glass. Although it may not look exactly like what I think an APA should look like, its appearance is the least important quality of the beer. I rate its appearance as a 3.75/5.

As far as aroma is concerned, this one packs a very fruitful, floral aroma. Some citrus notes – grapefruit, I believe. Very bold. Not very piney, which is a characteristic common in APAs, but I was completely OK with that. This beer gets a 4.5/5 for its fresh floral and citrus aroma.

Regarding taste, balance is the name of the game with this brew. It has a very sweet malt profile that contradicts the hops. It’s definitely not the hoppiest pale ale out there by any stretch of the imagination. You get the sweetness up front that is finished off with an acute burst of hops on the way down. Not too sweet, not too bitter – BALANCED. This one easily earns a 4.5/5 for taste.

When drinking, this is a very smooth beer. It leaves a hint of dryness on the back half, but overall it’s very crisp and nicely carbonated. For the mouth feel I’d say it deserves a 4.25/5.

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Overall: I was incredibly surprised by this brew. Moon Man is fully unassuming and a phenomenal representation of the style. APAs are my favorite, and this one is at the top of my list. Moon Man has a nice malty presence that works well with the hops providing perhaps one of the most balanced beers I’ve ever had. This is a great beer and one that I feel may be under-appreciated due to its limited distribution. If I lived in Wisconsin, I’d be drinking this every day. As an overall grade, I rate this beer a 4.5/5.

Update: Although I had this beer a couple of months ago, I went recently to Wisconsin and stocked up on it. It’s a beer I will buy whenever I can get my hands on it, and I highly recommend that you do the same. Although it may not be a total hop bomb, it’s a cool, relaxed beer that plays to the characteristics of its style. I am very grateful that Eric shared this beer with me, and I hope my recommendation will influence anyone reading this to give it a try.

Eric and I are in the process of creating a blog dedicated to our love of craft beer and we have an Instagram exclusively for our journey through the world of craft beer. If you want to check us out, you can find us on Instagram @maltedhopballs.

Ryan Moyer

Ryan is a graduate of the University of Indiana.

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