Review: New Belgium Voodoo Ranger Juicy Mandarina IPA and French Oak Saison

It’s a duo of new beers from New Belgium, both appearing in oversized 22 oz. bottles. Let’s dig in!

New Belgium Voodoo Ranger Juicy Mandarina IPA – A new entry into the Voodoo Ranger series from New Belgium, this beer isn’t dosed with mandarin oranges but rather features bitterness courtesy of German Mandarina Bavaria and Australian Galaxy hops. The Mandarina does work to give a slight citrus edge to the beer, as well as notes of lime zest — plus, oddly, a bit of dark chocolate character that comes along later in the game. Otherwise, the bracing bitterness gives this a classic IPA structure — though it drinks at a comparably low 6.5% abv. B+ / $7 per 22 oz bottle

New Belgium French Oak Saison – A lightly sour barrel-aged farmhouse ale, this brew packs lots of cherry flavor, a smattering of citrus, and some vanilla before the sourness kicks in with more gusto. Lightly woody on the finish, the beer is chewy and mouth-filling, with sour cherry lingering for the long haul — but going out crisp and clean, more so than expected. A bit one-note for a sour, but otherwise it’s a nice archetype of the style. 7.5% abv. B+ / $14 per 22 oz bottle

Review: Unibroue Ephemere Sureau

Canada’s Unibroue has a long-running series of beers called Ephemere, all wheat ales fermented with fruit added. The latest (#8) in the series is Sureau, which is made with elderberry and elderflowers.

The nose is fragrant and fruity — with blueberry notes and indistinct florals. On the palate, the beer is surprisingly dry — far from the sugary fruit bomb you might be expecting — with virtually no bitterness to speak of (it’s got just 6 IBUs). The elderflower is easily evident but doesn’t overwhelm the malt at the core of the beer, instead imbuing it with a bit of life in the form of some tartness, slightly citrus, slightly tropical, and a bit earthy at times, particularly on the finish.

Don’t like fruit-flavored beers? Never mind all that — give Sureau a try.

5.5% abv.

B+ / $5 per bottle /

Review: The Beers of MadTree Brewing Company

MadTree Brewing Company opened in Cincinnati, Ohio in 2013 and has seen rapid growth ever since. They recently expanded their operation and partnered with Cavalier Distributing to bring their beers to the rest of Ohio as well as Kentucky. With their beers set to reach a broader audience and a promising track record, it was time for a review of their core line of beers.

MadTree Lift Kölsch – Lift is a pleasant surprise. Despite having the lowest alcohol of MadTree’s year-round offerings, it is real beer with real beer flavor. It is light and refreshing, presenting the welcoming smells of wheat and lemon. The palate shows the cereal flavor of toasted malt along with a gentle hop crispness at the end. Perfect for a hot summer day. 4.7% abv. B

MadTree Psychopathy India Pale Ale – The can describes this beer well, noting its “floral, grassy, and citrus hop flavors.” The citrus comes forward more on the nose and the floral and grassy notes come to the fore in the palate. There are lots of different IPAs on the market these days, and MadTree has created one that stakes a claim and does not try to please everyone. It is surprisingly and pleasantly bitter considering that it clocks in at only 60 IBU. 6.9% abv. A-

MadTree Happy Amber Ale – Happy Amber was the first beer MadTree brewed, and it is a very enjoyable amber ale, showing a nice malt presence along with 30 IBU, which is high for the style. The result is a well-balanced beer that exhibits bready notes and caramel in both the nose and the taste. It finishes with a bitter, hoppy crispness I really enjoyed. I rather wish the beer was a bit more assertive in its use of malt and hops, but if it was, I might not look forward to a second can so soon after I finished the first. A dangerously drinkable amber. 6.0% abv. B+

MadTree PSA Pale Ale – PSA (Proper Session Ale) has a lot of character for a session beer. The nose presents orange and notes of pineapple. The flavors are a mix of pine and citrus coupled with a crisp, hoppy bitterness. The carbonation, as is common with session beers, is a bit high. This is a fine session beer, and one that deserves serious attention, particularly from IPA fans who steer clear of overwhelming DIPAs. 4.5% abv. B+

MadTree Sol Drifter Blonde Ale – Sol Drifter is a summer-season session beer brewed with strawberries. The nose is light and presents strawberry as well as slight notes of malt. The same subdued notes of strawberry and malt appear again in the palate, along with a little lemon, and the beer finishes quickly and cleanly. This is a refreshing beer, but not really an exciting one. 4.3% abv. B-

Review: Stone Enjoy By 07.04.17 Unfiltered IPA

You’ve got precious few days to source and enjoy this latest release in Stone’s “Enjoy By” series — this beer being an unfiltered double IPA that appears to have just about the same makeup as the last Unfiltered IPA release from Christmas 2016. That means you’re in for a ton of tropical fruit, peaches, and and molasses notes, followed by a significant bitterness. As with the 12.25.16 release, there’s less blatant hoppiness than you’d expect, which lets the finish linger with sweeter fruit, not tannic, piney notes. With all that said, I like it a bit less than the prior release (or at least, that’s how I feel today).

This is also the first time an Enjoy By beer has been released in cans, though you can still get it in oversize 22 oz. bottles, too.

9.4% abv.

A- / $8 per 22 oz. bottle /

Review: Weihenstephaner Kristallweizenbock

The Bavarian State Brewery Weihenstephan has revived an old beer brand from the 1950s as a one-time release. This Kristallweizenbock (aka Kristall Weizenbock) is now hitting the market in limited fashion.

Johannes Weiss, Weihenstephan’s Sales Manager Export, discovered the label digging through the brewery’s nearly one thousand-year-old archives. “I thought, as a brewery world-acclaimed for wheat beer specialties, brewing one wheat beer style that is hardly available is something very special.” When Weiss discovered the 1950’s Kristallweizenbock label, it sparked an idea. “I suggested using hops with ‘crystal’ names,” said Weiss, “smaragd (emerald) and opal. [These hops] add fruity flavors to the beer and complement the name.” From there, Brewmaster Tobias Zollo continued to develop Weiss’ idea, building out the malt bill and other flavor profiles. Kristallweizenbock differs from Weihenstephan’s traditional weizenbock, Vitus, as it is filtered and has a stronger focus on hops, without being too “hoppy.”

It’s a mission fairly well accomplished. While heavily malty — and quite sweet, particularly as it warms up — the hops do give the beer a bit more nuance, tempering the higher alcohol and malt with notes of apricot jam, applesauce, and some bitter roots. Carrot notes, maybe? Fans of German style brews will find more to like here than, say, your typical IPA fanatic, but as it stands it’s approachable from just about every angle.

7.5% abv.

B / $11 per six-pack /

Review: Stone/Maine DaySlayer India Pale Lager

This Stone collaboration with Maine Beer Company, based in Freeport, is an India Pale Lager — a hybrid brew that takes the form of a heavily malted beer that’s loaded with tons of hops. The India Pale side of the equation definitely rules the roost here, the hops giving it an almost crushing bitterness — to which the malt really can’t hold a candle.

The bummer is that rather than piney and/or citrus-forward, DaySlayer’s hops are tough and overbearing, building a generalized pungency that isn’t nearly as refreshing as the devil skull on the label might have you believe. The sweet malt gets lost in this mix, too, and when the finish comes it’s a bit muddy. Drinkable in the way that many ultra-bitter brews are, but muddy.

7.5% abv.

B / $8 per 22 oz bottle /

Review: Bear Republic Fastback Racer Double IPA

Bear Republic’s Fastback Racer (nee Fastback Racer X3) is a monumental beer — the brewery describes it thusly: “Massive hop additions of Citra and Ekuanot are revved to the limit on a chassis of Rye, Munich, and light caramel malts.” Revved to the limit is about right. The beer comes across as almost syrupy in composition, dosed with notes of coffee grounds, dates, figs, and molasses. The bitterness on the back end is just as monstrous, a foil to the sweet-and-savory combo that comes up front. Almost too much to manage, and a beer that pushes back heavily on the very definition of IPA.

10.4% abv.

B /  $14 per six pack /