Baron’s Best of 2015: The Final Chapter

best ofLet’s finish this drug out list off once and for all. With 2015 in the books, 2016 is starting out on a great foot as Lion Bridge’s Barrel-aged January has kicked off and the tapping of Royal Wee is a day away (Wed. 13th). Buster from Big Grove is getting released at the end of the month and Quarter Barrel has opened their doors. Lots of great things in store for Iowa in 2016.

*Big Grove Brewery Desperate Measures – this golden sour big groveale aged in Opus One wine barrels was released along the same time that Richard the Whale was for Big Grove. A well balanced sour that gives you that sour pucker but some fruit sweetness and bit of barrel that help this beer make the list. Would love this for a summer brew too!


nelson.jpeg*Alpine Nelson
– I never had the opportunity to try any Alpine beers prior to Green Flash acquiring them but I’m guessing that Nelson couldn’t have been much better than what we got in bottles…I could be wrong but I really enjoyed this beer. The Nelson Sauvin hop shines in this beer and goes perfectly with the rye malt. Lots of flavor, excellent balance, and extremely drinkable!

lag.jpeg*Lagunitas Born Yesterday – bottled and shipped the very same day? Yes, Lagunitas pulls this one off and the freshness of this beer really showed. Citrus and tropical fruits shine in this 6.5% beer and if it was readily available this would always be in my fridge. I hope Lagunitas releases this one again….so good.

*Lion Bridge Brewery Yard Sale – so happy to see this lion bridgebeer back on tap at Lion Bridge as another citra hop forward brew makes the list. I had this for the 1st time back in May and remember getting two growlers filled after my first taste. Such a great brew.

515*515 Brewing The Basil Protocol – I’m a sucker for a good farmhouse/saison which this beer is, but I admittedly am not the biggest fan of basil. I like it ok, just not a bunch, so when I tried this beer I went in thinking I wouldn’t dig it. I was totally wrong. The basil is there but it meshes so well with the cucumber and pepperiness of the saison to make a wonderfully refreshing beer. Not to mention enjoying it when it was 100 degrees outside…another perfect summertime beer!

firetrucker*Firetrucker Tropical Burn – might be one of the hottest (popular) beers made in Iowa right now and rightfully so. Huge mango and tropical fruits on the nose and on the palate. Galaxy and citra with fresh mangoes makes this a well-balanced double IPA. Very drinkable, but be aware of that 9.1% ABV.

*Big Grove 15 Minuteman – part of the “Citra Triad” release from Big big groveGrove. 15 Minuteman once again showcases the citra hop. Super smooth and refreshing, this is another beer that can get you into trouble because of it’s drinkability. Minuteman and Trident made for a fun couple trips to Big Grove over the holidays!

bells.jpeg*Bells 30th Anniversary Stout – I really loved this beer. It wasn’t barrel-aged but man, this was packed with flavor. Tons of dark chocolate, some dark fruit, and as with many stouts got better as it warmed. I wish I would have the restraint to have aged a couple but I saw them, salivated, drank them.

*Big Grove/3rd Base Que Amarillo – am I homer for Iowa big grovebeers or what? That wasn’t the intention but it’s hard not to be when so many of our local brewers are kicking out great beers and Que Amarillo is one that stood out to me. I could be wrong, but I believe this was brewed with Jim at 3rd Base Brewery…feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. A Berliner-weisse that is hopped to high hell with Amarillo hops. If you don’t like your Berliner-Weisses’ too sour, this one’s for you. Tasty and refreshing. Maybe if I ask Bill and Jim nicely they will keep brewing it?

calling.jpeg*Boulevard The Calling – Boulevard did a major overhaul of their portofolio in 2015 and some where hits and some not so much in my opinion. One beer that they did a great job on was The Calling. I admittedly am not a huge fan of their Single-Wide IPA so when I saw that they were adding a double IPA to their Smokestack 4 pack series I was excited to try it. Oranges and pineapple with a bit pine round out this heavily hopped double.

space.jpeg*Central Waters Space Ghost – an imperial stout that is brewed with ghost peppers. It sounds like a one and done beer as some of these can be overwhelming with heat, but this is beautifully balanced and gives you just enough heat but not overpowering to go along with the richness from the stout.

*Big Grove Famine – I got to pour for Big Grove at an famiineevent in Dubuque last spring. I got to pour Arms Race, IPA, Que Sera, and….FAMINE! What a treat that was. Introducing a community to this beer and to Big Grove was exciting and I would love to do it again. When people asked what it tasted like, Collin (fellow pourer) and I had to take a drink just to remind ourselves how good it was. Part of the Hopocolaypse series this past Spring. I hope to see a return this year as well!

Baron Family Beer Festival Results, Year 9: Big Grove Reigns Supreme!

photo (2).JPGYear 9 of my family’s beer festival is in the books and it was another great year of tasting some excellent brews. The cool thing about our beer festival is that there are many different palates and finding one beer that satisfies all of them can be really tough. Most of the guys prefer IPAs/Saisons/Sours and many of the ladies prefer stouts, porters, and fruit beers.

THE SCORING
Every year it’s a blind tasting. We usually try to break it up throughout the day. Along with it being blind, here’s how we score it:

Appearance /5
Aroma /5
Taste /15
Drinkability /5

So the total is out of 30 with the highest obviously being crowned the champion. Now, I’ve never won, my wife has won 3 times, my brother twice, and even my brother-in-law has a gold medal. What beer could I bring to this beer fest that everyone would enjoy? Nothing says Merry Christmas like a 12% imperial IPA, so at the very least, if I didn’t win I can drown my sorrows and get drunk. Onto the results:

chill clinton8th Place – Exile Chill Clinton Double Hemp Amber – I liked the taste of this beer, I think for most, the aroma was what got this a low score which led to people automatically not enjoying it. My brother-in-laws entry.

 

rover truck.jpeg7th Place – Toppling Goliath Rover Truck Stout – This is an ok stout. I didn’t score it terribly low but out of the two stouts we had this one was missing something. My sister-in-law’s entry.

6th Place – Peace Tree Blonde Fatale – Ipeade tree.jpeg really enjoy this beer and scored it well. I don’t think anyone really disliked it, but I don’t think anyone was in love with it either. My mom’s entry.

stone saison.jpeg5th Place – Stone Saison – a good saison, I enjoyed it, but missing a few things for a top 3 finish. My brother’s entry.

4th Place – Backpocket Wake Up Iowa Stout – a wake up iowavery good showing for Backpocket with this beer. Between the 2 stouts I thought this one had more roasty malts and good coffee flavor compared to the TG stout. My dad’s entry.

nelson3rd Place – Alpine Nelson – loved this brew! This was my 2nd place winner and it just missed out on 2nd place. Lovely addition to our ever-expanding beer options in Iowa. My wife’s entry.

2nd Place – Ballast Point Sculpin – a fresh bottle of sculpin.jpegSculpin is tough to beat and this beer was fresh! Apparently right off the truck and into our glasses and an excellent 1st showing for Ballast Point, this was my brother’s entry and he almost won, except………….THE BARON BROUGHT HIS GAME!

photo (2).JPG1st Place – Big Grove Brewery Trident XII – not only am I thrilled I actually won for once and I didn’t have to sit in the shadow of others for the 9th straight year but I won with an Iowa brewery and a place I pretty much visit every other day. Trident is on point. An excellent brew, and dangerously drinkable. My favorite moment is when tasting this, knowing it was mine, my brother looks down the table and mouths the words: “holy shit” Big Grove has won many awards since they’ve opened, but this has to be one of the better awards they’ve won 🙂 A lovely beer. I have pictures of my celebration but this is a PG site. A win for the Baron!

The wheels are already turning for next year’s beer fest. We’ve decided it will be an all Iowa brewery beer festival which will be great, so the question is, what should I bring next year?

Coming Soon: Next Boulevard Imperial X Stout, New Oskar Blues IPA, Founders, Great Divide, Alpine coming?

Quite a few tidbits on this Thursday to pass along. The next Big Grove double IPA gets released tomorrow and I’ll also be pouring some fine Big Grove brews tomorrow during ragbrai in Solon, so if you’re around stop by and say hi. Onto the news this week:

tart cherry**Boulevard Smokestack Series Imperial Stout X Cherry Tart – the next release in the series for Boulevard gets a little sour! They add tart cherries to fermentation. This brew will come in at 11% and will be available caged and corked in 750 mL bottles and be available in September.

**Oskar Blues Blue Dream IPA – the latest release from the brewery as it was oskar bluesrecently unveiled at the Brevard, NC facility. Little is known about this release right now except it will be another can offering and will check in at 6.4% abv. Stay tuned for more on this brew.

founders**Founders Spectra Trifecta – following Mosaic Promise and Black IPA comes Spectra Trifecta. A kolsch style beer, this will be coming in at 5.9% and be available in September. Here’s more from the brewery:

Brewed in the traditional kolsch style, which requires fermenting ale yeast at a colder temperature and give she beer a clean finish without fruity yeast esters. This bright, golden beer is brewed with a trifecta of natural ingredients: earthy, floral and slightly sweet chamomile; a touch of citrusy lemongrass; and a hint of spicy fresh ginger.

whitewater**Great Divide Whitewater Hoppy Wheat – the newest seasonal release which was originally a gold medal winner at GABF in 1994 is back in 6 packs of cans and bottles. It checks in at 6.1%.  Here’s more from the brewery:

WHITEWATER is an American wheat ale built for exploration. The bold hop profile adds complexity to this crisp, balanced ale, while hints of citrus, light floral notes, and a satisfying bitterness leave a perfect reminder of trails climbed and rapids subdued. Whitewater is the perfect complement to any adventure.

alpine**Alpine Brewing hitting the Iowa Market in August – the beeradvocate forum is bursting with news that Alpine Brewing, which was recently acquired by Green Flash, will start hitting the market (Des Moines specifically) in August. According to some folks from Doll Distribution it will start with kegs and then bottles will roll out in November. I hope this means the same for Eastern Iowa!

*Any news or new beers you want to talk about? Send me a line: benmed15@yahoo.com