This month I was selected to be on the Vendome Wine and Spirits beer panel. The panel consists of 5 individuals; none of us represent any brewery or distributer. We sample craft beer, write reviews, and rate the beer so that customers can access our expertise when making beer selections. This is a volunteer position – my only compensation is free beer samples once every three weeks. I am hopefully helping Vendome sell high quality craft beer with my recommendation, but I get no commission or wage from them. I am doing this strictly for the love of the beer.
Our first panel tasting was on Thursday February 16, 2017. We sampled five beers from five different breweries. My reviews are posted here for your reading pleasure. If any of my reviews pique your interest, I encourage you to go to Vendome and buy the beer. When you buy the beer based upon my recommendation, you will get a 10% discount off of their already low/competitive price if you use MY discount code, VEN10C. This code is specifically related to MY reviews; each person on the panel has a different code, and will be given credit for sales of the corresponding beer. Although I will get no monetary compensation, sales related to my discount code will help keep me on the panel (if I’m not bringing any customers in to purchase the recommended beer, I will be replaced on the panel by someone else).
Each beer is assigned a numerical rating, from 0 to 5, as follows:
0 – I wouldn’t offer this beer to my worst enemy.
1 – I wouldn’t pay for this beer, but it’s alright.
2 – Tasty, but easily forgettable.
3 – I’ve had better, I’ve had worse.
4 – I can see myself buying this beer and ordering seconds.
5 – Just hook up the beer straight to my veins.
So, here’s what you have all been waiting for . . . reviews and recommendations for five beers. These ratings are solely mine – I did not consult with or collaborate with the other panel members in my ratings, so I don’t know how they rated each beer. These are MY observations and recommendations only (note: the prices listed are for 22 oz. bombers at Vendome). Please read responsibly.
We Should See Other People: Arsenal Urban Ales, Westlake, CA. 5.4% ABV.
Rating – 4 ($6.99)
This blonde ale pours a clear golden color, typical for the style, with a white head that fades fairly rapidly. The aroma is fruity sweet, with coffee and cocoa (especially coffee!).
The flavor is sweet, coffee/mocha, then fades to a sweet coffee aftertaste. There is a very slight bitterness, but no real hoppy notes. This is a very clean tasting beer with a light body and medium carbonation.
Overall, We Should See Other People is a pleasant drinking experience. It’s a well balanced beer, though not a typical blonde ale, thanks to the added cocoa and coffee. The alcohol content at 5.4% is on the high side for a blonde, but it’s not so high that one couldn’t easily drink two or three in a sitting. Arsenal Urban Ales has done a nice job with this one, and I recommend it to anyone looking for an easy drinking ale with a little extra flavor complexity.
Land of Hopportunity Blood Orange IPA: 4 Sons Brewing, Huntington Beach, CA. 6.3% ABV 62 IBU
Rating – 3 ($6.99)
This IPA is a slightly different take on 4 Sons standard IPA, Land of Hopportunity, with the addition of blood orange. It pours a clear golden-orange with a thick, light cream colored head that persists for a couple of minutes. The aroma is hoppy, tropical fruit and a little citrus.
The flavor is hoppy but not overwhelming; it’s bitter with tropical fruit notes. The bitterness level is nice, not over the top, but there’s no doubt it’s an IPA. Nuances of orange are apparent on the back end and are dominant in the aftertaste. The body is light to medium, with a medium carbonation level.
This is a nice IPA, with subdued citrus/orange flavors. It’s good and it’s refreshing, but doesn’t’ stand out from the crowded field of American style IPAs. The alcohol content is mid level for the style. I can say I would drink this again if I had a bottle in my refrigerator, but would not go out of the way to buy it.
Expatriot: Three Weavers Brewing, Inglewood, CA. 6.9% ABV.
Rating – 4 ($7.49)
Expatriot is an American style IPA from relative newcomer, Three Weavers Brewing. It pours a golden/orange color with a thin white head that rapidly fades. The aroma is malty sweet (pale malts) with some hoppy citrus.
The flavor is bittersweet, malty with tropical fruit and a hoppy chaser that fades to a citrus bitterness. The pleasant bitterness lingers forever in the aftertaste. This beer is a little more complex than the typical American style IPA – more like a Double IPA with the bittersweet malt/hops balance. The body is medium to medium-full, with medium-high carbonation, also reminiscent of a DIPA.
Expatriot is very good – well balanced, malty yet bitter and clean. The alcohol content is high for an IPA, so be careful with it. If you like big IPA’s, you should give it a try. I will definitely be on the lookout for this one in the future.
Coconut Imperial Brown Ale: Valiant Brewing, Orange CA. 8.5% ABV. 30 IBU
Rating – 5 ($7.49)
When Valiant Brewing opened a few years ago, they concentrated on Belgian style ales. They have since expanded their repertoire significantly and are doing it well! Brown ales are (in my opinion) difficult to get right, but Valiant did a great job with this one.
Coconut Imperial Brown Ale pours a clear dark brown with a light beige head that rapidly fades to thin ring around the perimeter. The aroma is sweet, coconut, with a hint of chocolate and a little alcohol.
The flavor is slightly roasty but sweet, with light cocoa, followed by a punch in the mouth with dark chocolate and coconut. Next up is pure coconut followed by a lingering semi-sweet chocolate and coconut aftertaste. Wait a minute, did I just take a bite of a Mounds candy bar? No, but that is the flavor profile here.
This beer features a very solid brown ale base, with some grainy bitterness and 30 IBU to balance the flavor, which otherwise could be too sweet. Again, even though it tastes like a candy bar, it’s not overly sweet. This is all about the coconut, and it’s well done. Some coconut beers on the market tend to have an “imitation” flavor, but this one tastes like toasted fresh coconut. Coconut Imperial Brown presents a medium body and mouthfeel, with light-medium carbonation. The alcohol content is relatively high, but is not detected in the flavor, so it would be easy to drink too much.
Based on my 3 oz. sample, I think this beer is excellent. I will definitely buy it in the future. One caveat, however: with this much flavor, a 22 oz. bomber might wear me out. I highly recommend Coconut Imperial Brown Ale to anyone who enjoys dark beers. Well done, Valiant!
Café Racer 15: Bear Republic Brewing, Cloverdale, CA. 9.75% ABV. 100+ IBU.
Rating – 5 ($8.99)
Café Racer 15 is a Double IPA from well known Bear Republic Brewing in Northern California. It pours a clear orange with a white head that fades rapidly, leaving no ring. The aroma is citrus hoppy and sweet with just a hint of tropical fruit.
The flavor is quintessential DIPA – bittersweet. It has a nice, thick malty framework, including notes of caramel, covered with pine and citrus. The overall impression is citrus, but that is mitigated by a big malty sweetness. The 100+ IBU is well balanced, so it doesn’t taste like a bitter hop bomb on the palate. The body is on the heavy side of medium with a light-medium carbonation level (this is not a dry IPA).
Café Racer 15 is an excellent DIPA. The malt and hops are nicely balanced within the style guidelines. At 9.75% ABV, the alcohol content is high. A 22 oz. bomber will get you where you want to go – especially if you consume it on an empty stomach. (but no driving afterward!). I highly recommend this beer.
Well, there you have it – my observations and recommendations for five craft beers. I hope you find this review helpful. If you feel the need to purchase any of these beers, get yourself down to Vendome Wine and Spirits and use my discount code VEN10C to save yourself a little cash (and to keep me on the panel so I can continue to bring you these enlightening reviews). Vendome is located at 3115 Yorba Linda Blvd., Fullerton. A special THANK YOU to Junior and Vikki for allowing me to review beer for your business.
There are two more beer panels scheduled for March 9, and March 30, so check back here a day or two after those dates for more ratings and recommendations.