EA Sports UFC: Close but no cigar

Posted: July 8, 2014 in UFC
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EA Sports UFC has the potential to be a fantastic game. As delivered, I feel like it’s an unfinished one.

There are some massive improvements, but also some real holes that need addressing. While this is a new game for a new generation of gaming system, it will inevitably be compared to the last game. Good or bad, that’s what happens. I played the old games, all of them. So I can’t help but compare what I have now, with what I’ve been used to.

Let me start with the good

The graphics are phenomenal: The player models, whether they are actual roster UFC fighters, or fighters you’ve designed in Create a Fighter mode, the graphics are top notch.

The fighter movement (for what you can do currently, more on that later) is fantastic. The ducking, slipping, parrying and actual punches/kicks etc. are just great.

The atmosphere is perfect: If you choose to let the intros play out, you really get a feel for the event. This is true in the singular shouts of encouragement from your coaches and teammates in the TUF gym, or the roar of thousands of fans at the MGM Grand in Vegas. It’s perfect.

There are no negative stats: This is something that drove me absolutely stir crazy in prior versions of the game. They tried to modify it some in UFC Undisputed 3, but there were still actions you would take that would negatively affect your stats (ie: doing a standup session would lose you submission skills). This is a massive, huge, gigantic deal. I hope I am not understating this. This is an improvement I’ve been asking for every game and now we have it.

The stat advancement is much better than any game prior: By scoring points in your fights and more points for earlier finishes, knockouts, bonuses etc. all of which can be used to add to your fighters skill set or move catalog, it allows you to progress at a more realistic pace. In UFC Undisputed 3, you might have 20 fights under your belt, and be close to title contention, with an overall skill set of about 74. It just didn’t happen realistically. In my prior blog post about UFC Undisputed 3 (Seen HERE) I alluded to the fact that Jon Jones had 7 professional fights outside the UFC, 7 within and he was given a title shot. At that stage his skills were already remarkable. He wasn’t just your average 75 rated fighter.

In that post I also wondered why the UFC hadn’t co-branded with TUF to help accelerate the development. So I was also glad to see that done. It gives fans a more familiar feel than throwing them in at the IFL like prior games.

Submission system:I love this submission system. There is still work to do (read on) but this is a major overhaul and very well done.

The escape system from both the clinch and on the floor: I like that you can initiate disengagement with a simple click of the left thumb stick. It’s clean, simple and needed.

Create a Fighter Mode is fantastic: The level of detail you can add to your player, from body type, skin tone, facial varieties, hair and tats. Just great.

Training mode is user friendly and easy: It walks you through 18 different lessons and lets you retry as many times as you like until you’re comfortable before you move on.

And now the “needs work” stuff

 Lack of game modes:I do not play online. I don’t care for it, never have, never will. So for me, this game essentially gave me 2 modes. Play now, an immediate match, or Career mode. That’s it. That’s not enough. Again, in a game to game comparison, I’d been playing anything from 8 to 16 man tournaments, single weight (which by the way is a great way to get to know the roster. It’s how I went from casual UFC fan to buying 6-8 PPVs a year), create an event, where I could build my dream matches in multiple weights, I could run through a Pride event.

5 build a fighter saves: You give 2 game modes, and then only allow for 5 fighters save blocks. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot! It’s certainly a downgrade from the 40 I’d had to play with before.

Aging out the current roster in career mode: I didn’t drop $59.99 to fight for a title against Hector Rojas, or Henry Watkins. I want to fight the guys I know. I don’t mind sprinkling a few computer generate fighters in there, especially on the way up. But when I get to the top, I want to fight Joe Lauzon, Donald Cerrone, Ben Henderson. I don’t want to get 5-10 fights in a 40-45 fight career be fights against names I recognize, with the rest being competitive nobodies.

The physics engine: This should probably go in both the good stuff and needs work stuff sides. My biggest issue with the physics engine is that it seems impact neutral. Players seemingly take no damage from a heavy straight front kick to the face, but can get knocked out with a jab. It’s just not realistic. The other thing that it doesn’t account for is resistive force. Yes, if you kick a dangling leg hard, it will spin out the way it does in EA Sports UFC, but that’s not how it works. In real fights, the opponent is actively defending he is putting force into his defending move. It’s not just holding his arm out there to absorb a punch, or leg to absorb a kick. There is resistance. Sometimes the limb won’t move, sometimes it will. It just seems like there was so much focus on getting the mechanical physics down, that the actual human physics and reactions were overlooked.

The Transition game: Please someone tell me I’m not crazy. Can anyone find me any clip of any MMA fight in the history of MMA fights where a guy was in full guard and with one quick motion completely swept his opponent and ended up on top in full mount? Make the transitions more realistic. Transitions are incremental. Let’s keep them that way.

No fight history: This is something that should have been a no brainer. I can go in and look at stats and see what my “favorite punch/kick/submission” is, but not a list of guys I’ve fought? This is especially important given how many computer generated fighters you will see in the career mode. If I ever lose, I always like to avenge the loss, even if it means fighting down the rankings a bit. I would always choose to fight someone who beat me given the choice of two fighters. Which leads me to…

 The Fight bouts: You don’t get to choose from a couple of fights. In career mode, you are given a fight. That’s it. When you are given it, it shows the other fighters rating, but not their ranking. Not a fan. You also can’t change weight divisions. Take a look at the current UFC roster.

Vitor Belfort is allegedly next in line for a shot at the middleweight title, while he just fought Jones for the light heavyweight title.

Lyoto Machida, a former light heavyweight champion just fought for the middleweight title. The list goes on of current fighters changing weight class. Frankie Edgar, Demetrious Johnson, Chael Sonnen (before his completely voluntary retirement), Daniel Cormier etc..

The Submission System: As mentioned above in the good stuff, I really like the new system…BUT, it needs more balance. I built up my fighter to have 100 on both the ground and submissions. I bought and applied every single submission available. I was supposed to be lethal. I came up against a guy whos ground game was 88 and submission was rated a paltry 57. I could not submit him. I should have crushed him. I should have left him in a limp heap on the mat and walked away. But the system is so tilted toward the strikers, that submissions, while in a potentially fantastic just don’t provide any incentive to develop a good ground game. It’s too hard. And it’s not just because I’m playing at a higher difficulty level. I could not submit Pat Barry with FabricioWerdum. Picture that for a second. The gates should move slower for guys with lower submission ratings fighting higher rated guys. The L flick to tighten should appear longer. This is mixed martial arts, not punch and kick a guy then immediately stand up if taken down arts. There needs to be more focus on all components of the game.

The Rosters:I don’t know that this is necessarily a bad thing, rather than a confusing one. Let me preface this by saying I was born and raised in Ireland and I’m a huge Conor McGregor fan. But how is he, with 2 UFC fights to his name included in the title, while TJ Dillashaw, current UFC champion and 8 fight UFC veteran is not? No Diego Sanchez, Stipe Miocic, Matt Brown or Tyron Woodley? But there was room for former fighter Chuck Liddell? Again, I’m a huge Liddell fan but he should have been a pre-order bonus like Bruce Lee and Royce Gracie, not someone included in the regular roster at the expense of more current, notable fighters.

In Summary:

This is not a bad game. It’s actually quite fun to play. But it’s also far from complete (in my opinion). There are a couple of things that will reduce the replayability of this game. First is the lack of game modes. I used to like to set up an event with some of the main events on upcoming UFC events and play them through, just for the hell of it. Take this week for example (UFC 175), if there was an event mode, I could have had the first 2 fights on the main card, as well as the main event on Sunday’s card.

Wideman v Machida

Rousey v Davis

Edgar v Penn

That is a fun little event, and I could have rounded it out with other fun fights. But I can’t, because it’s not an option.

Second is the way you are paired with computer generated fighters in career mode takes away from the replay factor. I’ve discussed this above so I won’t rehash it.

Look, I know EA is a new developer and wanted to put its own stamp on the game. I didn’t want UFC Undisputed 4. However, that does not mean that there were not some excellent pointers to be gleaned from the original game. It’s a good start, but I feel a little short changed. Let’s hope the next iteration delivers on the potential.

I wanted this game back in February. However I would have waited another 6 months to get a more complete product

Overall Rating: 5/10

The above review is purely my opinion and should not be taken as anything other than that. And I’ll probably add more as I play more.

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There’s a new brewery in town. Brand spanking new, not even on the market new. Adroit Theory is a nano brewery based in Purcellville, Virginia. Their aim is to have beers to market in 2013. Fortunately I was lucky enough to be selected as a taste tester for their early batches.
I arrived home from work in late March to find my taster box waiting for me. It contained the beer, a couple of pretty sweet stickers, and the official taste tester envelope with details on the beer and the feedback forms and such. It looked something like this.

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And this…
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Some info about the beer itself. I received the B/A/Y/S (Black as your soul) batch 004. Here is what the guys over at Adroit Theory say about their brew.

Ghost 002 – Is a remake of Ghost 001, our first batch of B/A/Y/S. we started with a relatively straight forward stout recipe that we quickly scaled up to Imperial status. The final grain bill was 52 pounds on a 1/2 barrel system!

We also wanted to add a more pronounced hop profile than typically found in such a beer. We selected two of my favorites: Simcoe and Amarillo. While the final product did not have a pronounced citrusy hop profile, the bitterness in the flavor profile is quite nice.

To balance the richness of the brew, we added hazelnuts for a nutty character. We then added cherries to boost the residual sweet flavor. Both are subtle, but welcome additions.

Finally, to give the beer a truly unique experience, we aged the beer for 3 weeks on reclaimed chestnut staves. Chestnut is an extremely rare specie of wood, and has a pleasing aroma when cut. We thought, what better way to enhance the beer.

Ghost 003 – Is Ghost 002 aged in a bourbon barrel from Woodinville Whiskey

Ghost 004 – Is Ghost 002 aged in a rye barrel from Finger Lakes Distilling.

And now on to the beer itself.

Aroma: Big boozy bourbon nose with some follow on bitterness from the roast barley. I also picked up some coffee and a mellow, sweet chocolate hint on the back end

Appearance: Pitch black, pours thick and heavy. Carbonation is quite low, which causes just a hint of a dark tan head that dissipates quickly to leave a thin sticky line round the glass

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Flavor: Big big chocolate flavors up front, much more than the aroma would indicate. This gives way to a nice counterbalanced roasty bitterness. I hadn’t picked up on the cherries before now, but there is definitely hints of dark fruits coming through. There is a little booziness from the bourbon as you would expect, but there is little alcohol burn from this beer

Mouthfeel: Again, as with the appearance, this is a thick heavy beer. Even with a fairly low carbonation, this is has a nice creamy mouthfeel. This may sound odd, and I mean this in a good way, but there is almost a grainy chocolate feel at parts. I wonder if that could be attributed to the chestnut staves. I like it. Nice and sticky on the way down to remind you that you are drinking a 9% beer

Overall Impression: Very impressed with the initial offering from Adroit. I’d love to have one to sit in an aging cabinet for a year, or one of the other variations to do a side by side comparison. I definitely look forward to trying more from their line when available. Based on this beer I see no reason to think they won’t be around for a long time to come. I for one welcome our new Purcelville overlords!!

I certainly support local, but with beer, local or not it has to be good. And this certainly fits the bill.

Cheers (and I’ll leave you with some more details)

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Homework done…

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This post is probably going to be a bit all over the place. I had intended to do a part 2 to my UFC Undisputed 3 review. Instead I’m just going to offer some thoughts on the career mode, and where I think the next UFC game should consider improving.

Negative Stats
We read in the previews to this game that the stat deterioration would no longer be a part of the game. That is true, to an extent. If you don’t train in a certain discipline, you won’t lose stats like you did with UFC 2010.
However, as you try to build your fighter in the career mode, it becomes extremely frustrating to see you lose a couple of stat points on the striking game because you focus on takedowns or submissions in the 2 actions you get prior to a fight.
I would say to the game makers this… Do you think that Junior Dos Santos simply forgets to prepare on the ground in the course of one of his training camps? Of course not. So why should I lose ground grappling ability if I try to build some striking skills? Any decent fighter will focus on all aspects of the game, so you shouldn’t penalize the players of the game because they only get to choose 2 actions per fight. You should be able to add to stats without others losing value. Which brings me to point #2…

Ability accumulation (or lack thereof)
Realistically when playing UFC Undisputed 3 it takes a lot of fights (talking 20-25) to be able to compete with the top fighters in the division in the harder modes. This becomes particularly frustrating when every time you add to your submission game, you lose from your striking game, and vice versa. Let’s take a look at some of the current top fighters in the game

HW: Junior Dos Santos: Seven pro fights before joining the UFC, and his seventh UFC fight was a #1 contender fight. 14 fights and he was ready for the title. With UFC Undisputed, 14 fights and you are probably a 70 striker or ground fighter, about 68 overall. Not nearly contention status.

LHW: Jon Jones: Almost an identical timeline to Dos Santos. Seven fights in other organizations, 7 in the UFC and a title shot

MW: Anderson Silva: Silva was different because he was an established fighter prior to coming to the UFC, but was given a title shot after just 1 fight.

And so on and so forth. What I would suggest here would actually be a pretty cool way to co-brand UFC products. Go through the normal initial fights (three or four) in the WFA. At that stage, there should be an advanced development trigger. This could be in the form of “The Ultimate Fighter”. Now your character is on the reality show.
This doesn’t change the approach to the game, with the exception that your fights are now TUF fights. This would allow for accelerated stat accumulation, so in the next 3-4 fights as a TUF contestant, you could bring your fighter from say 62-64 right up to around 80 overall. It gets another UFC brand into the game, and allows players to develop faster, thus making the jump to the UFC more enjoyable for all.

Fight aesthetics
I’ve played the EA MMA Fight game and perhaps because I was so familiar with the Undisputed 09/10/3 control system, I didn’t enjoy it. Now that EA is making the game, I hope they have the good sense to keep the control system that fans of the franchise have spent years honing their game on. I don’t want to go back and have to re-learn a new control system. I want the next UFC game to be a continuation of the prior incarnations (something I think has been done successfully thus far)

Fighter Roster
This is more than likely a pipedream for me, but I would love roster updates from UFC Undisputed. I also play the NHL series, and they do frequent roster updates. I would love to be able to download new fighters as they come to prominence in the octagon.
I would also love the chance to have ready made downloadable events. For example, I made a custom event for UFC 146, using as many players on the roster that I could. It would be nice if there was a way to just download upcoming events to our systems (just because a lot of us gamers are that lazy)

Anyway, those are my meandering thoughts on the UFC Undisuputed franchise, particularly the career mode, and some wishlist things.

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UFC Undisputed 3 review (Part 1)

Posted: February 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

I will start this by saying that I’m not any type of technical wizard on UFC Undisputed’s prior incarnations (either 2009 or 2010), but I love the game and the sport. The beauty of this game is it gives you a much better knowledge of the overall UFC product. Before getting UFC 2009 I would have considered myself a fan, but more of a casual fan than a hardcore type. I would purchase an event if I recognized more than just the headliners in a PPV.
This game makes you much more familiar with the rosters up and down, in all divisions. So the more you play the games, the more names you start seeing pop up on upcoming cards that you recognize, the more PPV’s you invest in. So now I’m a hardcore fan. That’s what the game does.

I’m going to be doing this review in 2 parts, simply because the game only came out on Tuesday, so I haven’t had a lot of playing time as of yet. I don’t work for a gaming site or anything, I’m just an idiot fan with a blog who wants to review the game, and it would be unfair to review the career mode without giving it a fair shake of the stick, as this is where a lot of people spend most of their time in this game. So look for that upcoming in a week or two.

So, now on to the meat and potatoes of the game with what I have played thus far.

New changes and tweaks
The past 2 offerings of this game have definitely been heavily biased toward those who favor striking over the ground/grapple game. The game still has some of that bias, but it’s certainly been evened out more. Fighters who traditionally excel on the ground (think BJ Penn) are much more dangerous, in either top or bottom position, both in terms of striking/counter striking, and clinch/reversals/submissions from top or bottom position. This makes the game immediately more challenging because if you decide to build a fighter in career mode, you now have to make sure to dedicate time to submissions/takedown defense, rather than just making a hulk who punches/button mashes every fight

They have also added an extra difficulty level, from 4 to 5. This definitely adds a much needed “tweener” level. Beginner and Experienced in past versions were way too easy, and advanced/expert were too hard (at least too hard to try to learn on). This year they have Beginner, Experienced, Advanced, Expert, Ultimate. The Advanced is a good starting point for players who are familiar with the game, but are keen to add to their skill set. I never really got into the sway/step moves, but find in Advanced mode, it’s a huge plus with regard to weapons in your fight arsenal.

New submission system
I for one welcome our new submission overlords. In terms of actual in the ring gameplay, this is the most noticeable tweak. In the past (as mentioned above) those fighters who favored the submission style were facing an uphill battle. You make your submission move then twirl your R stick furiously in an attempt to get the submission to hold. It worked when the other guy was almost dead anyway, so you still needed superior striking to get into a submission that would work. Now, when you try to submit, an octagon pops up with a blue and red band representing the corner your fighter is in. If you are executing the submission you must overlap and stay over the band of your opponent. Conversely, they must try to “outrun” you. Guys with superior skills with submitting in the game will have a larger band to work with making it easier. Strikers and stand up guys have shorter bands making their submission resistance weaker. I’ve seen a few people complain about it but I absolutely love it. You still can’t pop a submission every time, but it feels much more natural with regards to the actual fighters profiles.

Roster
Seven weight divisions, 150 fighters, Pride rosters (including Royce Gracie). Not much more to be said, huge upgrade

Event Mode
Outside Career mode, this is the mode I play most with. It allows you to set up a fight card, up to 8 fights, multiple weight classes, title/non title, ppv/ultimate fight night. I will sometimes set up a fight card to mirror upcoming PPV’s, just for shits and giggles. This has stayed pretty much the same, in terms of gameplay, but the one major improvement is the ability to choose which player to control after the initial screen. I’ve sometimes mistakenly pressed go before selecting a fighter, and they didn’t have the option to choose controllers after that one screen, infuriating to say the least.
The game has some pre-loaded events of PPV’s past, but what I think would be a great idea is if they made available for download some of the upcoming events. If I could log onto the Xbox marketplace and download the fight card for UFC 144 and 145, I would do it. Just a suggestion.

Ultimate Fights Mode
Haven’t played this yet. This is very hard, and very specific so I usually get more comfortable with the game as a whole. What this mode has been excellent for in the past is rounding specific skills. For example, you will get bonus points if you submit your opponent the same way, and in the same round as the real fight went. This means you may need to practice your kimora, heel lock, whatever. Advancing here usually unlocks actual video footage, but as I said, I haven’t played it yet.

Tournament Mode
I have not played this one yet as I dove right into event, career and title modes in limited time yesterday. What I will say about this mode is it made me a much bigger fan of the UFC and cost me money. And here is why. It absolutely behooves you to set up a 16 bracket tournament, give yourself the control options for all players. You will get a feel not only for what each players strengths and weaknesses are, but you will also gain a better knowledge of the actual weight divisions and all the fighters within. I’ve purchased more PPV’s because I recognised more fighters on the card due to the tournament mode. I usually play this mode early, a full size tournament in each division to learn which players I favor using in the game itself and who is in which division. Always good for learning and perfecting moves too.

Title mode
One thing I haven’t seen mention when other review sites talk about the game overhaul is the title mode overhaul. In the past you had 12 fighters to beat to become champion. If you were defeated, you simply got a rematch and could fight as many times as you like to advance. This time you start as a ranked fighter. Choose your pro, and they will start you around 15th in the ranks. With each win you will advance through the ranks. Depending on how dominant your win in the prior bout was, you can jump up 3 or 4 places at a time. If you lose however, you can drop 6 to 8 spots in a single go. In the fight immediately after your loss, they will talk about how you need a win or your chances of ever getting a title shot are gone. If you lose a second time, then it’s game over. No restarting at the 8th fight. Back and try it again (I should say here, I got my ass handed to me twice in 3 fights, which is why I lost a title shot, both times to God damned Cain Velasquez, sorry Junior, I tried). New game, new title run. I love it, makes it much more challenging.

That’s where I am at for now. I will post a second follow up probably next week when I have had time to test the career mode fully, as well as the Tournament and Ultimate Fight modes.

What the game developers have done with this installation of the game was remove many of the little things that detracted from the last game, and improved on the strengths. There is a very significant upgrade in almost every facet of the game.

Come back next week for part 2.

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Another day, another glowing beer review from me on an Ommegang beer. Don’t shoot the messenger. Blame Ommegang, they make the beer, I just drink it.

I’m a hockey guy, as the blog title infers, but I have to imagine that if I was a craft beer and baseball fan, Cooperstown would possibly be a patch of heaven on earth. Ommegang and the Baseball hall of fame right in the same area.

Anyway, enough gushing, on to the beer itself.

This beer pours a light straw color, with a hazy body. This all sits beneath a large brilliant white fluffy head, that lasts for quite a while before finally fading to leave a nice intricate lacing down the glass.

Once poured, you get to savor an aroma that brings light orchard fruits out, pears, apples and even some apricot. There is a tart but subtle hop aroma that finishes with a nice peppery bready yeast overtone, as you would expect from a Belgian ale.

Taking the first sip I get lots of sweetness from the malts, as well as a balanced fruit taste, maybe a hint of orange. This sweetness is perfectly balanced with the crisp hop bite. Combining the hops and the spicy yeast this beer offers a great blend of sweet and bitter to leave you wanting little else.

There is a fairly high level of carbonation with the BPA, that keeps the beer light, but not light bodied. There is a medium body on this and no alcohol burn at all. The finish is dry and astringent, but in a good way.

Overall this is a Belgian ale for sure, but it does have some distinct American characteristics like the dry hopping with Cascade hops. All in all another very enjoyable beer from Ommegang. It has actually allowed me to forgive them for not including the Chocolate Indulgence in the 2010 gift pack.

You can find out more about Ommegang for yourself by visiting www.ommegang.com

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Another review of a Southern Tier beer. The Gemini Imperial Blended ale is a seasonal offering that blends two of Southern Tier’s Pale Ales, their Unearthly Imperial Pale Ale and Hoppe Imperial Extra Pale Ale.

Aroma: Heavy on the hop aroma with grapefruit and orange citrus melding well with a nice sweet underlying malt aroma.

Appearance: Golden orange body with just a slight hazing. Thick white head of tightly formed bubbles that eventually give way to a fantastic sticky lacing.

Flavor: Lots of sweet malt up front that is immediately offset by fruity, piney hop bite. The malt backbone holds up well to the hop flavors and it finishes with a resiny cloying dryness.

Mouthfeel: Substantial carbonation and a thick heavy mouthfeel. 10.5% abv but no noticeable alcohol burn. Great sticky dry finish that reminds you that this is a big Imperial IPA.

Overall Impression: I’m a big fan of both the Hoppe and the Unearthly (and the oaked unearthly). When a blend goes wrong it can highlight the flaws in both beers. But when it goes right, as is the case here, it showcases the great qualities of both. Another great beer from the guys at Southern Tier. This is a seasonal January release. Get yours before it’s all gone.

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Hofftettner Granitbock review…

Posted: April 13, 2011 in Beer, Craft Beer

I happened upon this beer at a local beer tasting I attend each week. I was intrigued by the process used for this particular beer. At the brewery they heat granite stones until they are white hot, then drop them into the wort. This caramelizes the sugars in the wort giving a stronger, sweeter caramel and toffee flavor than standard brewing methods would supply.

Aroma: Very strong malt nose. Caramel, toffee and biscuit all prevalent. Little to no hop aroma.

Appearance: Ruby red with an off white small head that disappears quickly with minimal lacing.

Flavor: Sweet malts and tart fruits up front followed by rich and malty middle that has an almost buttery popcorn flavor. Very light hops ensure sweetness follows all the way through to the end.

Mouthfeel: Low carbonation, medium mouthfeel and a sweet finish.

Overall Impression: I liked the idea of the wort caramelization so I certainly dodn’t regret picking this up. I did however find it to be a fairly run of the mill bock. Certainly enjoyable, if unspectacular

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