In my recent review of Avery Brewing Company and Russian River’s Collaboration Not Litigation ale I extolled the virtues of collaborative brews.

The folks at Brewery Ommegang have taken that notion in a different direction. They are doing collaborations with themselves. They brought the Belgian and Scottish ale styles together with Cup O Kyndness, and they do it again by putting the American Pale Ale perspective side by side with the Belgian counterpart.

This is my review of the Belgian Pale Ale

Aroma: Light orchard fruits up front, with hints of apples, pears and apricot. A crisp tart hop aroma and a peppery bready overtone follows through.

Appearance: Straw colored hazy body with a white fluffy head with medium retention.

Flavor: Fruity and sweet from the malt, with hints of orange which gives way to a crisp hop bite that combines with the classic spicy Belgian yeast that finishes quite dry.

Mouthfeel: High carbonation in this tart medium bodied ale. No alcohol burn noticeable whatsoever. Finishes with slight astringency and dry.

Overall Impressions: A Belgian ale but with some distinct American qualities, in the ingredients (Cascade hops particularly) and the methods (dry hopping).
Another enjoyable beer from Ommegang, one of my favorite breweries. I have since forgiven them for having this replace the Chocolate Indulgence in the 3 pack they release each year!

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The pacific northwest, and in particular Oregon are trailblazers on the craft beer renaissance that is currently in full flight in America. And one of the trailblazers that was a catalyst of this movement is Rogue Ales

This is a review of their John John Hazelnut Brown nectar ale, aged in Hazelnut spiced rum barrels.

Aroma: Nutty and toffee aroma with rich malts providing some sweetness. Fruits on the back end, maybe apricot. Rum not overly noticeable on the nose apart from a slight peppery hint.

Appearance: Dark orange, almost amber cloudy body. Thick large fluffy tan head that gives way to a nice lacing.

Flavor: Rum noticeable immediately upon tasting. Hazelnut also present. Rich malty flavors with some coffee notes. Mild hop bite is barely picked up. Finishes on a sweet, pleasant note.

Mouthfeel: Medium carbonation, initial head and tasting gave the impression of a thicker ale, but has quite a thin body which was a little unexpected.

Overall Impression: This is the third John John ale that Rogue has released. I’ve had the prior two offerings (the Dead Guy ale, aged in the Dead Guy Whiskey Barrels, and the Pale Ale aged in Spruced Gin Barrels), and I always look forward to the release. It is an enjoyable and unusual ale. I think the whiskey barrel is still my favorite, but these one off beers are what make craft beer so good. Different, imaginative and the variety of constant and evolving flavors means there is always something to draw in both long term craft beer lovers, and the newer converts.

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This is my second review of a Sierra Nevada beer. Everyone knows about their classic Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. The green label, with the yellow banner of the brewery on the label. A definitive American style IPA that people know.

But have I reviewed it. Of course not. That would be far too obvious. I have previously reviewed the Northern Hemisphere Harvest Ale, and today I’m reviewing the 2011 Bigfoot offering. It’s a Barleywine Style Ale.

Aroma: Vinous nose upfront with sharp hop aroma. Heavy malt body gives hints of caramel and nuts.

Appearance: Rich copper hue, no haze, brilliant clarity. Thick off white tightly formed lasting head that eventually gives way to intricate lacing down the glass.

Flavor: Full sweet malt with alcohol warming bites with the first sip. Sweetness is balanced out with a hefty hop bite, all finishing up dry, but not harsh.

Mouthfeel: Very full bodied ale with medium carbonation. A thick and creamy mouthfeel, with some alcohol burn. Finishes slightly cloying, and dry.

Overall Impression: A big hearty almost chewy Barleywine style ale. Complex and evolving if enjoyed slowly. Another great beer from the Chico crew at Sierra Nevada.

I was born and raised in Northwest Ireland. I’ve seen my fair share of tractors. New ones, old ones, big ones, little ones. None of them are as memorable as Big Red from Southern Tier

Aroma: Rich toffee, vanilla and caramel aroma with a subtle but present hop aroma

Appearance: Ruby red, clear and bright with small off white head that disappears quickly leaving a small foam ring on top.

Flavor: Roasty and sweet with a hint of figs and dark fruits. Vanilla with some nuttiness. Sweetness is balanced by the hops, and the aforementioned nuttiness carries through to a coffeelike dry finish

Mouthfeel: Thick almost viscous but creamy on the palate. Fairly low carbonation with slight warming from the alcohol and a dry finish

Overall Impression: Fantastic, warming, rich and decadent ale with a multitude of complex flavors tied together with a great balance that changes as the temperature does, making this an ideal sipper

Bump in the night is a Cascadian Dark Ale, or a Black IPA. Or, if you are the official sort, it’s an American Style India Black Ale, would that be ASIBA for short? Certainly doesn’t have the same cache as IPA.

But the good people over at Full Sail Brewing are calling it a Cascadian Dark Ale. Hey, they are from the Pacific Northwest, in the shadow of the Cascade Range. If Cascadian Dark Ale is good enough for them, then it’s good enough for me.

Now on to the review.

Aroma: Citrus up front from the hops, but a mellow malty sweetness that features an almost brown ale like hint of caramel and chocolate on the back end.

Appearance: Opaque black body, slight light tan head that drops off to a thin line around the top with minimal lacing.

Flavor: Nice citrus hop flavor. There is an undercurrent of roasty malts, but it’s not as noticeable as the appearance would suggest. This is a hoppy ale through and through, with just hints of the malt backbone.

Mouthfeel: Medium carbonation in this full bodied and creamy ale. Slight astringency on the finish. No noticeable alcohol burn.

Overall Impression: A good beer. Love the aroma and flavor of the hops. I would have liked for just a touch more malt to balance the hops, but this drinks very easily for a 6.5% abv beer.

Two straight days worth of typing would still leave me about 3 paragraphs short of getting onto a Stone label. Don’t get me me wrong, I’m not complaining, I love the beer parables, but is it odd that the one that makes the most sense to me (after drinking a couple of Stone’s libations) is the one on the back of the Lucky Basartd (my review here).

Now, to get back on track, today I’m reviewing the 2011 Old Guardian Barleywine style ale from the aforementioned Stone Brewing Company.

Aroma: Caramel and vanilla warm sweetness with some butterscotch and some floral hops on the back end

Appearance: Rich clear amber body with a small whitish head that disappears almost immediately

Flavor: Toffee and nutty at first, with some fusels from the alcohol. Hops not aggressive, but do offset the sweetness of the large grain bill. A somewhat, but not overly dry finish

Mouthfeel: Low carbonation combined with a thick, viscous body make for a chewy (in a good way) ale. Some alcohol warming as expected with a 12% beer, and a pleasant dry finish

Overall Impression: A great sipper of an ale. Heavy in the mouth but still easy drinking. Will be interesting to try this again in a year or two because it has the characteristics of an ale that drinks beautifully now, but will also age superbly

I feel bad. I really love Victory Brewing Company, or should I say, I really love the beers I’ve had from Victory. Until recently, that was the Hop Devil and the Hop Wallop ales. This had led me to think that Victory were pigeon holed as a big hoppy ale brewery. Wrong, and I apologize for that.

Recently brewery representative Joe Dole hosted a Victory themed tasting at my local beer store Ricks Wine and Gourmet here in Northern Virginia. This proved to be something of an eye opener to me, and I ended up coming away with 4 beers from Victory I previously hadn’t tried.

Today I’m going to be reviewing the V-Twelve from the above selection.

Aroma: Full complex aroma, sweetness up front with apricot, orange and pear followed by the toasty, breadiness (is that a word?) of the yeast and finishing with the spicy tart aroma of the hops

Appearance: Dark golden, almost orange hazy cloudy body with a thick, fluffy head that slowly fades to a thin foam line that finally dissipates completely

Flavor: Fruity with some alcohol warming giving off a sweet, and bitter cherrylike first sip. The sweetness is balanced out by a medium hopbite. The yeast adds a spicy overtone leading to a warm but dry finish

Mouthfeel: Medium carbonation, full bodied and warming. Dry but not harsh finish

Overall Impression: As noted above, I was familiar with some of the Victory pale ales. This however, is an instant favorite. The flavor hits the nose as soon as the cork is removed, and lasts until you are staring at an empty bottle. Personally, I would suggest enjoying this 25 oz (750 ml) beer over a couple of hours and enjoy the subtle changes in flavor as the ale comes up to temperature.