Bits & Bobs, and Black Imperial IPA

I’ve been telling you that I have lots of notes on beers I have sampled in the last year, but have not taken the time to post the reviews.  Today I start catching you all up on what’s good to drink out there.  Today it’s two beers from Reuben’s Brews in Seattle. Please read responsibly!

Bits & Bobs: Reuben’s Brews, Seattle WA.  7.0% ABV
“Bits and bobs” is a British term that means “bits and pieces”.  In this case, Reuben’s will be releasing this on a seasonal basis, but it will be different each year, based upon the bits and pieces the brewers have learned since the last release.  This is a review of the 2018 version, released in January 2018.  I drank a bomber of this in early March 2018.  Unfortunately I didn’t realize this was a one-off seasonal, so I apologize for the lengthy delay (it almostmakes this review meaningless and obsolete).  It probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway, as this is not available outside of the State of Washington.  Since you can’t get this version any longer, I guess my description is just going to have to satisfy you.

Reuben’s Brews Bits & Bobs. Forgive the wine glass – that was the only thing available at The Gosby House in Pacific Grove.

Bits & Bobs is an IPA.  It pours a crystal clear, pale, yellow color with a ½” white head of foam that fades after about a minute, to a thin covering and a ¼” ring. The aroma is citrus – orange, grapefruit and lemon.

The flavor is bitter grapefruit and lemon, but it’s not overly bitter.  Some malty sweetness makes an appearance late on the palate.  The lingering aftertaste is bitter, but not unpleasant.  It’s clean and dry, very crisp for an ale, with medium-light body and moderate carbonation.  This beer is very drinkable.

Black Imperial IPA: Reuben’s Brews, Seattle WA.  8.1% ABV.
Reuben’s calls their Black IPA a Cascadian Dark Ale (in case you’re not aware of it, Cascadian Dark Ale is another style name for Black IPA). This one pours midnight black with a 1” creamy beige head. The aroma is hoppy, with citrus and chocolate notes.

Reuben’s Brews Cascadian Dark Ale

The dark malts predominate in the flavor over the hops, but just slightly so.  It’s roasty and chocolate with slight peppery notes from the rye malt.  The hops kick in mid palate, with citrus and grapefruit bitterness.  It fades to a mellow combination of roasty and bitter, with a lingering bitterness in the aftertaste.

The body is medium, which was somewhat of a surprise given the creamy thick appearance of the head.  Carbonation level is medium.

This is an Imperial IPA with the typical bittersweet profile, except the sweetness from the malt is quite subdued.  Instead, roastiness mixes with the hoppy bitterness to create that bitter chocolate citrus flavor that is so common in these Cascadian Dark Ales.  This is one of the better ones – very good!

Mac enjoying a Reuben’s Brews Black Imperial IPA in front of the outdoor fireplace at Mac’s Brew Pub, April 27, 2018.

I can highly recommend both of these beers. Bits & Bobs is released annually in in limited quantities in January and February.  Of course it will taste different each year as the recipe is revised yearly.  Black Imperial IPA is released annually in November and December.  Black IPA’s have faded in popularity and are getting hard to find these days (e.g., Stone Sublimely Self Righteous Black IPA was discontinued a couple of years ago; see my review of SSR posted 11-26-2012).  Get this one while you still can.  It won a gold medal at the 2015 World Beer Cup.

Both of these beers (22 oz. bombers) were given to me by my uncle, Kevin McCaffrey, who lives in Seattle (thank you Kevin for your generosity).  See you on February 6, 2019 at Russian River Brewing.  We’ll have Pliny The Younger again, and raise a toast to The Younger, The Elder, and to Mac’s Brew.

Sláinte!

Mash, Bourbon Street Rye Pale Ale, and Fogcutter

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It’s been awhile since I posted a beer review, but I have been busy sampling lots of different commercial brews.  Here are my impressions on three of them.  Please read responsibly.

Mash: The Bruery, Placentia, CA12.5% ABV.
Mash is a barley wine style ale aged in bourbon barrels.  Now I like barley wines, and bourbon barrel aged beers, so this should be a “can’t miss” beer, right?  The Bruery didn’t disappoint (I have to say, they never do; although I’m not wild about Belgian style beers, their specialty, you can count on anything from The Bruery to be good, and this is just another really good beer from our friends in Placentia).

Mash pours a cloudy dark amber with a 1/4″ light cream colored head that fades to a  thin ring around the perimeter of the glass (in this case, a “Bruery” tulip glass).  The aroma is sweet, dark fruit, raisin, toffee, caramel, vanilla, coconut and bourbon (faint).

Mash has a thick, heavy body with flavors of toffee, caramel, raisin, figs, vanilla, and coconut.  It then produces a slight bitterness that fades to more coconut, vanilla, and a little bit of booze, with a tobacco like quality lingering in the aftertaste.  This beer is sweet and chewy, but not unpleasant.  The carbonation is not overwhelming, but enough to smooth out the sweetness and cleanse the palate for your next sip.

Mash is very complex.  As it warms, the alcohol becomes quite pronounced in the aroma, but the taste remains very smooth, without the booziness that is noticeable in many other high alcohol beers.  In my opinion, this is one of the best barley wines on the market.  I prefer it to Stone’s Old Guardian (which I also like) – Mash is more in the English style (it’s not a hop bomb like Old Guardian) and is similar to Firestone Walker’s Sucaba.

I sampled Mash from a 750 ml bottle given to me by my daughter, Rosie, for Father’s Day.  It’s currently available at Total Wine for $19.99.  That’s pretty expensive, but well worth it (in fact, I have another bottle in my refrigerator right now).  I HIGHLY recommend Mash!

Bourbon Street Rye Pale Ale: Abita Brewing, Abita Springs, LA.  9.5% ABV.
Bourbon Street is a Pale Ale aged in bourbon barrels.  It is very high in alcohol for a pale ale (I’m sure the bourbon barrel aging has something to do with that).  This beer is a medium to dark orange color with a creamy white 3/4″ head that remains for a couple of minutes before fading to a thin covering over the top.  The aroma is sweet, vanilla, caramel and coconut.

The flavor is sweet malt, caramel and a slight, nice vanilla sweetness.  It is not overly sweet, as the hops balance it, to keep it in the American Pale Ale category.  The balanced sweetness fades to a nice vanilla and coconut in the aftertaste, courtesy of the bourbon barrel.  The vanilla/coconut lingers for quite awhile (very pleasant).

Bourbon Street has a medium carbonation level, commensurate with the Pale Ale style, but it is higher than most bourbon barrel aged beers.  This carbonation helps to keep the sweetness under control, and gets your mouth ready for the next swallow.

I sampled this beer from a  22 oz. bomber purchased from Total Wine for $9.99.  I think this might be limited release, so I’m not sure if it’s readily available.  Overall, this is a very nice beer, and one I can recommend.  I’ve never had a bourbon barrel aged pale ale before.  This one is nicely done.  Good job, Abita!

Fogcutter Double IPA: Lost Coast Brewery, Eureka, CA.  8.7% ABV.
Fogcutter pours a murky golden yellow with a 1/2″ white head, which fades to a fairly thick ring that leaves extensive lacing.  The aroma is mild citrus and floral.  The flavor is typical DIPA – bittersweet.  The malty sweetness is balanced out by the hoppy, citrus flavor that leaves a lingering bitterness in the aftertaste.

Fogcutter is rated at 80 IBU, which is on the lower end of the Double IPA category, but I think it is more balanced than many DIPA’s.  The medium body and carbonation level help lend a balanced feel to the flavor.  The alcohol content (8.7%) is substantial, but not overwhelming and is not noticeable in the taste.  If you drink it on an empty stomach, you will definitely get the effect, but you won’t be wiped out.  Many DIPA’s tend to be out of balance (in my opinion) – too thick and sweet – but Lost Coast has this one dialed in just right!

I had never heard of Fogcutter until I received a 22 oz. bomber from Phil Colias a couple of weeks ago.  As I recall, he randomly selected this beer and had never tried it before.  Well, Phil, good choice, and thank you for the wonderful beer.  I highly recommend Fogcutter and will be buying more in the future.  It’s moderately priced at $8.99 for a 22 oz. bottle at Total Wine.

So, there you have it.  Bourbon Street and Fogcutter are moderately priced; Mash is expensive.  Each of them, however, is worth the price of admission.  I can highly recommend all three of these beers, but especially Mash.  Caveat: fizzy yellow beer drinkers and cheapskates, don’t even bother – you’re not sophisticated enough.

There’s a lot happening at Mac’s Brew Pub and I hope to have a newsletter out in the next couple of weeks.  That’s all I have time for now, but check back soon for the lowdown on Mac’s Brew, and for additional beer reviews.

Sláinte!