Nimble Giant is a once-a-year seasonal from Hershey, Pennsylvania’s Troegs, and it presents itself as decidedly gigantic from the start. Nimble? That’s perhaps up to the consumer. This is a double IPA crafted with Mosaic, Azacca, and Simcoe hops, brash and punchy from the start with a surfeit of fruit — grapefruit, orange, and some lemon — atop a dense, sometimes syrupy core. Floral notes emerge with some time in glass, the finish ending squarely on a properly hoppy, piney, resinous note. While Nimble Giant is huge, it is indeed fairly nimble, letting its fruity notes do the heavy lifting as it fades out. A lovely, chewy DIPA. 9% abv.
A / $13 per four-pack of 16 oz cans / troegs.com
A trio of fall releases from Deschutes, starting now!
Deschutes Brewery Hopzeit Autumn IPA – Deschutes’ newest seasonal is fit for fall, an IPA inspired by German Märzenbier, made with loads of German hops instead of the usual fare found in American IPAs. Results are appropriately Teutonic. Rich and malty, with overtones of coffee and cocoa, it starts off slightly sweet before the hops kick in. Though well short of overpowering, the beer drinks with plenty of bitterness but also showcases notes of cherry fruit and some baking spice, particularly on the back end. Seems perfectly autumnal, indeed. 7% abv. B+
Deschutes Brewery Hop Trip Pale Ale (2016) – Notably maltier this usual, this year’s Hop Trip has a surprising caramel character that tempers the bitterness in this otherwise racy, pine-heavy pale ale. Some lemon peel notes and some gingerbread spice add a touch of intrigue to a beer that otherwise comes across as a bit British (and quite unusual) in style this year. 6.1% abv. B+
Deschutes Brewery Chasin’ Freshies (2016) – Chasin’ Freshies features a different hop strain each year. This year, this annual release includes Centennial hops, a classic option (the strain dates back to 1974) that gives the beer an iconic profile. Big pine needles and tarry resin give this a huge bitter profile, but a touch of maple syrup adds a hint of malty sweetness. Some hints of tropical fruit and biscuity cereal round out the brew. 7.4% abv. A-
Deschutes Brewery Sagefight Imperial IPA – This special edition sees a bunch of hops finding companions in the form of added sage and juniper berries. It’s not quite a fight, but it does make for a somewhat strange combination, surprisingly coming across as slightly sweet, with the finish showcasing more herbal elements. The finish is only lightly scented with sage; otherwise the combination becomes heavily earthy on the back end. I’d try it again. 8% abv. B+
each $8 per six-pack / deschutesbrewery.com
Virtue Cider’s Lapinette is a “Norman-style cidre brut fermented with French yeast and patiently aged for months in French oak.”
This Michigan-born cider is lightly sparkling but bone dry, which can be a bit surprising and even challenging at first but which eventually wins you over. On the tongue it offers an earthiness at first, mushroomy and yeasty, before stronger apple notes eventually emerge. It’s cut with balsamic notes, particularly on the high-test finish, which mercifully offers some acidity to cut that extremely dry character early on.
B / $10 (765ml) / virtuecider.com
Two new alco-pops (that is, alco-soda-pops) from the Wild company, which produces Wild Ginger and Wild Root. Let’s explore.
Wild Sit Russ Alcoholic Citrus Soda – Sit Russ (bad name or the worst name?) An alcoholic version of Sprite, though the color is closer to Mountain Dew. The flavor of this one is surprisingly clean, without much of that weird malt beverage overtone so common in these types of drinks. Instead, it offers a fairly clear lemon-lime character (heavier on the lime) but quite sweet through and through. Carbonation is decidedly minimal; it could definitely benefit from more, and would help to mask a slightly vegetal finish. But on the whole, the simplicity of this concoction is its strength, and it makes for one of the better installments in this series. 4.5% abv. B+
Wild Docta’ Original Rock & Rye Soda – Rock and Rye? Let’s make it clear: This is a Dr. Pepper clone, right down to the maroon shading on the can. Tastes like it too, particularly on the nose, which nails the raisiny-pruny character of Dr. Pepper, pelting it with just the right amount of vanilla. As the palate evolves, however, it loses steam, fading back into simpler notes of molasses with the characteristic plum/prune more as an afterthought. Fair enough to enjoy, though! 5% abv. B
each $9 per six-pack of cans / wgbrewing.com
Belgium’s Brouwerij Anders says the quest for the perfect Belgian IPA is over, and here it is: Thorberg Five Hop, which take Golding, Mosaic, Equinox, Willamette, and Citra hops and brews them up with Belgian techniques.
The results are impressive, offering aromatic layers of citrusy and lightly piney hops that meld beautifully with the heavier, relatively malt-laden body. Notes of applesauce and brown butter mingle with a hint of roasted vegetable character on the palate, offering a quick break from the bitterness of the hops. The hops however make a return appearance on the finish, which is mouth-filling and rounded, refreshing and clean but not nearly as palate-cleansing (or enamel-stripping) as a typical west coast style IPA. All in all, a nice treat as well as a break from the norm.
A- / $4.50 (11.2 oz bottle) / thorbergbeer.com
Who is Riegele? Riegele is a 630 year old, family owned Bavarian brewery located in Augsburg, Germany which won the 2016 German Craft Beer of the Year, 2015 German Craft Brewery of the Year, World Beer Cup, and many other awards. Now imported into the U.S., Riegele is probably best known for collaborating with Sierra Nevada on its Oktoberfest release last year.
The brews below are all imports direct from Bavaria. Thoughts follow. Prices are all estimates.
Commerzienrat Riegele Privat – A biscuity, malty Dortmunder style beer, Privat drinks clean and refreshing, a stellar example of bready German lager at its best. There’s just a hint of tropical fruit here to lift up the malt, a brisk, moderate body, and a simple finish that keeps the focus squarely on the grain. Lightly creamy at times but otherwise uncomplicated. 5.2% abv. B+ / $2 (11.2 oz)
Riegele Speziator Doppelbock Hell – This Helles Bock offers a super-fruity attack that reminds one of caramel apples and syrupy, liquid malt extract. Long and sweet on the finish, it adds in notes of honey and more of that overripe fruit character. Seems innocuous, not at all like it’s… 8.5% abv. B- / $7 (50cl)
Riegele’s Augustus Weizendoppelbock – A heavy-duty doppelbock, this is my least favorite of the bunch. All the elements of the Hell are plumped up here, along with an extremely malty backbone that ventures into notes of toasted bread and wet twine. The lack of any discernible bitterness gives this both a heaviness and long-simmering, overblown sweetness that keeps this from finding true balance. 8% abv. C+ / $5 (50cl)
Virginia’s Devils Backbone is back with two new beers, a session IPA and a seasonal pumpkin brew. Let’s dig in.
Devils Backbone Bravo Four Point Session IPA – Expectations are always low when session beers are involved, but Bravo Four Point manages to avoid hitting even those tempered hopes and dreams. This IPA starts with a restrained, moderately hoppy nose, then segues into a body that follows suit. Bitter enough at the start, the flavors are lackluster, featuring mainly muddy earth, funky pine, and some resin. Nothing undrinkable here, but it lacks inspiration. 4.4% abv. C+ / $10 per six pack of 12 oz cans
Devils Backbone Pumpkin Hunter – Our first pumpkin beer of the season, this one an amber ale brewed with pumpkin and spices. It’s restrained and very lightly sweet, with notes of pie crust, cinnamon, and gingerbread. Suitably malty but appropriately festive, it’s one of the better pumpkin beers I’ve encountered… pretty much ever. 5.1% abv. B+ / $11 per six pack of 12 oz bottles
about $17 per 12-pack / dbbrewingcompany.com