It poured a murky brownish-red, reminiscent of an old penny, and sported deep ruby red highlights in the sun. If it was murky initially, it seemed to clear as it warmed, which makes me wonder if it was a little too cold. A heavy - but fluffy - off-white/beige head built to just over a finger thick and dissipated gradually, leaving sticky spots of lace along the glass and a thin collar surrounding light patches in the middle.
The nose was a little difficult to pick up on, and as it warmed all of the complex aromas seemed to melt together, but I'm pretty happy with what I pulled out of it with the time (and amateur nose) I had. There were lots of sweetly toasted malts, some honey, a light woody oak scent, burnt caramel, and hints of vanilla as it warmed. There were very few hops that I could pick up on, though there was an odd citrus tint that didn't seem to belong with the rest of the earthy compilations. After some research, I deduced that the citrus was thanks to the Cascade hops, which are used as an aroma-type cultivar and produce obvious floral and citrus tones.
My first swig of this heavily wooded brew was pleasurably smooth, made up of a medium mouthfeel with small but adequate carbonation that created a surprising kick of spiciness that mellowed out quickly. Another reason for the spiciness was thanks to the Willamette hops, which are a triploid aroma-type cultivar that are actually Fuggle hop seedlings, and they are known for their spicy/woody characteristics. Many of the flavors that were present were very obvious thanks to the resemblance to the nose, with a sweet malt, quaint honey and vanilla flavors, and a strong wood/oak base; all I needed was to be sitting on a mossy rock in a thick forest watching little insects floating lazily through the sunbeams.
All of the different tastes were quietly and subtly wrapped in a smokey cloak as it rolled off my tongue, leaving just enough room for a mild bitterness to leak into my taste buds. The flavor was definitely a stronger version of the nose and carried lots of oak and wood notes, making it the most nature-istic brew I've tasted yet. I would love to take this with on a camping trip up in the mountains, surrounded by the tranquility of the trees and just being out in the wilderness. Being able to drink in the awe-inspiring freedom of nature while enjoying a delightfully crafted brew that pulls all of it perfectly into a liquid is a good way to cover each of the five senses. This is one for those who take time to appreciate their life and all the wonder present in the little things, even if that little thing happens to be the Grand Canyon.
My beer arrived with a nice finger-thick, khaki colored whipped cream layer of foam resting atop a clear concentrated cola brown brew with gorgeous garnet red highlights. The head didn't stick around long, though, and the little bit of retention it had quickly diminished to thin webby lacing along the glass while it was cold. As it warmed, all traces of foam vanished.
The nose was full of toasted sweet malts, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. While it was sweeter on the nose initially, it did hold quite a bit of a bittersweet note that was punctuated by hints of pine needles and a very faint bon fire off in the distance. Warming up, the spices were much more pronounced and a faint dry spicy yeast, toasted barely, and a caramelized citrus - most likely orange zest - became present. It was rather comforting to sit with this beer in the dark, warm bar with the sounds of lightly clinking glassware, garbled laughter, and that ever present hum of friendly conversation going on around me. It's a very calming experience enhanced by a nice warming beer.
the Winter Warmer, while being warming, comes across with a medium body thanks to adequate tingly carbonation even though it holds a thinner mouthfeel overall. Early on it was quickly hoppy and dry with a light piney resin, but was smoothed out nicely by lots of honey and a faint caramelized orange zest that became more prominent as it warmed. There were plenty of dark, sweet malts throughout, followed by toasted grains, nutmeg, allspice, and a hearty kick of ginger right at the end that left my mouth slightly dry and spicy. I really liked the complexity of this beer and found it difficult to pick out quite a few aromas and flavors as I came across them - which of course kept me going back for more. At one point, I even started dipping my fresh little gingersnap cookies in the beer to bring out the sweetness from under all the spice! Honestly, I should probably get a growler of the Winter Warmer so I can make my own gingersnap cookies for my family when they come visit in a month.
Old Monkeyshine pours a deep rosy chocolate, or mahogany brown with a one inch beige head. Initially, I noticed it seemed hazy, but as it warmed up it seemed to become clearer. The foam left faint islands of lace on the top of the liquid that held up until the very end and there was minimal spotty, clean lacing sticking to the glass.
The nose was rather simple and light, but enjoyable all the same. There was quite a bit of sweet roasted malts and caramel, a touch of fruit (I keep wanting to say strawberries), and some left-behind toffee. Though there wasn't much to decipher, it was very pleasing and crisp.
I would say that Old Monkeyshine has a medium-light body with light carbonation that aids the Kent Golding hops in creating a mild spiciness throughout the drink. The hops really shine more in the mouth than under the nose, but they mix really well with the strong roasted malts and caramel, neither overpowering nor lingering in the depths. The best thing about this brew is that although it holds a hefty 8.2% AVB in a 12oz bottle, the only time the alcohol is noticeable is when your head becomes airy and delicately fuzzy halfway through. There is no trace of alcohol in the aroma, and the roasted malts do a fantastic job of keeping the taste out.
I barely poured half of the 22oz bottle into my snifter before the foam had built itself up to such magnificent proportions, I didn't even want to add any more liquid for fear of the head overflowing. The thick, fluffy, easily 4 finger thick creamy head of nice, big bubbles sat upon a lovely, lightly hazy, golden-orange liquid. It stuck around until the very end with great retention and left behind thick sticky sheets of lacing - everything about this brew is just as Sonoran as the others. They are nothing if not consistent!
I love watching the head continue to build upon itself in layers, only to fall slowly back down to a thin layer just on the top of the beer. It makes the whole drinking and reviewing process that much more satisfying. Sonoran brews are probably my favorite to drink thus far, and I am really eager to try the rest of their flavors and styles. The Burning Bird carried early wafts of a bright citrus that closely resembled grapefruit, a little bit of pine, and a very light malty sweetness that hid behind a delicately bitter blanket of refreshing hops. It was so summery in smell alone, I couldn't wait to taste it and quickly dove in.
I was not disappointed. Sure enough, I was definitely given what I paid for, and much more. The beer tasted just like it smelled, only with a bit more of a kick. There was the citrusy grapefruit right at the front of my tongue, but I found that as I sipped along, the grapefruit was pushed to the back of my tongue by some very light sweet malts and accompanied by a slight bitterness, probably due to the hops. The best part about the strength of the flavors, was that although they were more robust than the scent, the whole drink itself leaned more on the mellow side with a medium to light body and a very fine carbonation.
Burning Bird starts off with a zesty beginning and smoothly melts into a dryer, bitter ending. I'm becoming a huge fan of bitter lately, which is not something I expected to happen throughout all of this tasting and writing. It is so easy to drink, I doubt I would have any problem (gracefully) sucking down two or three bottles on a hot summer evening here in Arizona.
Using my usual snifter, I poured half of the 22oz bomber into the glass and was quickly taken by the bright goldenrod color that shone like a new penny in the sunlight. The white head built to a finger thick and appeared lightly fluffy, but almost immediately fell into oblivion, leaving very minimal clean lacing that refused to stick. The visible carbonation took a little longer to wear itself out and eventually stopped altogether.
There was a strong sweet smell accompanied by honey and pale malts, though everything was overtaken by a thick, sugary wild berry/tropical fruit and pear aroma. On their own, prickly pears have a sweet cut grass scent, but accompanied by the honey in this beer, it made the overall smell very syrupy even before I put it in my mouth. The other obvious addition to the nose was the extremely noticeable ethanol/alcohol action going on. At 10«V, it certainly packed quite a punch. It wasn't entirely unpleasant, but it was overwhelming to just under the point I would have labeled it sickeningly sweet.
After the smell, I was actually kind of surprised at how the taste differed from my initial opinions. While it was still very sweet and had an odd honey-thickness in my mouth, there were also some very pale bready malts that somehow pushed their way through to my taste buds. I also found the prickly pear to be more discernible as I allowed the beer to warm. Okay fine, as I took my time trying not to get drunk off of 11oz of beer. There were no obvious hops and no bitterness whatsoever, though there was a cinnamon-like peppery bite right after I swallowed and the alcohol was raging right there next to everything I tasted. I did like that it had a rich, juicy, medium mouthfeel with low spicy carbonation, though at times, due to the lack of bubbles, it slightly resembled syrupy candy. The upside to the sweetness was that it helped to balance out the strength of the alcohol through most of the drink.
On tap, it arrived at our table glowing a clear golden-copper amber and held a finger-thick off-white head that filled what little space was available above the beer (my only complaint, really, but technically I got more beer). The head was fueled by multiple steady streams of carbonation that lasted throughout the drink and provided ample support to the amazing sheets of sticky lacing that graced the glass while I sipped on it. Awesome head retention and lacing? A great way to start a beer off, in my opinion.
I held my nose over the brew and caught huge whiffs of orange peel and grapefruit zest, pine needle hops, and some faint grassy-malt sweetness underneath. The lively bitterness almost made it seem fizzy in my nose, but it was a welcome vivacity from an IPA and was very reminiscent of summer.
Eager to bathe my taste buds in the hoppy glory that was emanating from the Hop Knot, I first had to get over how super quaffable the brew was. This is some seriously smooth beer. It flooded my mouth with just enough piney, resiny hops, orange peel and grapefruit zest without overwhelming my senses. It was freshly bitter and bright without too much bite thanks to the lightly caramel sweet malts that made a quick appearance before the grand finale. Throughout the drink, the bitterness briskly jigged with the finely-bubbled peppy carbonation, creating a lighter mouthfeel (among a medium body) and leaving my tongue feeling awake and refreshed. And despite all of the happy hops jumping around between my cheeks, the ending was nice and smooth with a clean aftertaste.
Lost Coast's Tangerine Wheat poured a clear orange-copper with a thin off-white head and minimal to no retention. Nothing impressive, but what it's lacking in appearances, it certainly makes up for in nose. This was probably one of my favorite beers to smell if only because it was pure sweet, freshly-peeled clementine and tangerines - a nicely sweetened orange citrus juice with plenty of sugar and zero bitterness; I almost want to say it reminded me of some sort of cleaning agent, minus the hospital smell. Had I not been at an event for beer tasting, there is no way I would have known this was a beer purely by smell, as the alcohol was nonexistent in the nose. Even in the taste, it was like an off-kilter orange soda. Sipping it made me think of sucking on a clementine splashed with tangerine. The mouthfeel was medium with quite light carbonation that kept it from being fizzy. It ended nice and clean and very fresh - a summery, fruity drink by all measures.
Pouring it from a 22oz bomber, it was a clear honey/goldenrod color with hazy sunny highlights. It gradually built a 2-finger thick fluffy, pearly white head that slowly, slowly (slowly) fell into a thin blanket of froth that covered the liquid throughout the drink. It left quilts of foamy lacing sticking to the glass that refused to let go and eventually dried in place. Immediately upon pouring, there was quite a bit of visible carbonation, but once the bubbles left the side of the glass, any carbonation became invisible. Quite a beautiful presentation that led the way to a great drink.
There were early wafts of something very herbal and a light cut-grass sweetness followed by a grainy, honey-malt sweetness. I wasn't really expecting anything in particular, but I found the initial sweetness very welcoming after a week's worth of IPAs and hop-filled brews. Closely tailing the malts was a faint yeasty lemon juice bitterness and some lightly spicy hops that gave the nose just enough oomph to keep it from being too clean. All together, the smell was rather simple and none of the aromas overpowered any of the others; they all complimented each other with hearty high-fives and pats on the backs - it was a nice, friendly melting pot of ingredients.
From the nose, I was eager to see how the taste compared, as I've found that usually the taste is much more robust than the smell when it comes to hops - granted, not always, so I'm not jumping to conclusions here. Taking a few sips, I found a spicy bitterness right at the front that was mellowed out by a light cut-grass sweetness that had been rolled with some grainy honey-malt notes. I was surprised by the strength of the light lemon peel and herbal hops, but pleased when they were quickly smoothed out by a final subtle caramel malt that added some body. It carried a medium mouthfeel, thanks to the malts, with a fine, airy carbonation, leaving my mouth much dryer than I would have assumed possible. It wasn't a disagreeable ending, but I was hoping that the clean aftertaste would keep my mouth watering after I swallowed. One thing I found interesting was that through the second half of the bottle, I started snacking on some white chocolate macadamia cookies and man, oh, man did they enhance the sweetness of this beer almost three-fold! I could barely taste the hops by the end and I now know that beer and cookies can accompany each other as long as there are plenty of sweet malts to go around.
I really enjoyed the SOS pilsner both for its overall drinkability and the warming sensation I started to feel after half the bottle (anything with 7% and higher ABV is perfect for getting those blood vessels closer to the surface of my skin), but I was especially happy to be able to support the Gulf restoration with this little act of drinking.
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