Sumatra Mountain

Maker: Founders, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USAwp-1469491924785.jpg

Style: Coffee flavored Imperial Brown Ale

ABV: 9%

MSRP: $12 (4 pack)

Appearance: Light coffee brown with a big foamy head.

Nose: Roasted coffee, chocolate syrup, brown sugar.

Palate: Dark roast coffee with 3-4 packets of sugar in the raw, a little malt and bitterness, dark chocolate.

Finish: Sticky but not really sweet. Almost exactly like dark roast Sumatra but without the smoke I often get in that coffee.

Parting words: From the folks who brought the world Breakfast Stout, now we have another coffee beer. I like that it’s more than just that, though. They’re using Sumatran coffee (working my way through a bag of Sumatra Mandheling from Chazzano right now, actually) provided by Ferris & Co. roasters of Grand Rapids (details on their Sumatra are here). They also used two types of malt, Aromatic and Munich, and two types of hops, German and Perle. In sum, Founders put a lot of effort and care into this, as they do with everything.

That said, I think this beer missed the mark. There’s too much sweetness here for my taste. It comes off closer to a fudge or milkshake stout than a coffee-flavored brown ale. $12 isn’t crazy for an imperial seasonal offering but it’s too much for something I’m not particularly fond of. Sumatra Mountain is mildly recommended.

Not Your Father’s Root Beer

Maker: Small Town Brewery, Wauconda, Illinois, USA.wpid-2015-06-14-14.37.00.jpg.jpeg

Brewed in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, USA

Style: Spiced ale

ABV: 5.9%

Local retail price: $12/6 pack

Thanks to Holiday Market for this bottle (free sample from retailer).

Appearance: Dark brown with a fizzy, short lived head.

Nose: Grape bubble gum, root beer.

Palate: Root beer, aniseed, hint of sweet malt.

Finish: Heavy anise, yeast, and yes root beer.

Parting words: This bottle was dropped into my cart by Holiday Market’s wine/beer/liquor manager Brian after I introduced myself to him. As such it’s the first free beer I’ve received from a retailer after outing myself as a booze blogger. It could very well be my last.

Initialllly, NYFRB tasted just like root beer but it became unbalanced as it sat . The anise flavor became so strong that it took on a bitter quality. The sweetness is way over the top, which I probably should have expected from a product marketing itself as a boozy root beer, but malty notes pop up at unexpected moments leading to some unpleasant clashes of flavor. The fizz dies off much too quickly, too.

I set it aside for a few hours and then went back. It was back to tasting exactly like a decent root beer. I then tried it with ice and it also tasted the same. So my recommendation is to serve it well chilled.

My wife, who enjoys root beer more than I do and actual beer less than I do, tried this and liked it quite a bit, but she did notice the overly strong anise in finish. If your tastes run toward hers, you’ll probably enjoy this and you should act fast, since it’s apparently highly allocated. As for me, though, Not Your Father’s Root Beer is only mildly recommended.

Cup A Joe

Maker: Short’s, Elk Rapids, Michigan, USAwpid-2015-01-05-20.53.18.jpg.jpeg

Style: Coffee Cream Stout (made with FTO coffee from Higher Grounds roasters, Traverse City, Michigan).

ABV: 7%

Purchased for $12/6 pack

Appearance: Dark coffee with a short-lived lacy head.

Nose: Fresh ground coffee, sour yeast, cocoa.

Palate: Coffee with extra cream, and a little bit of funk.

Finish: Bitter and caffeinated like your ex but with a sweetness he or she lacks.

Parting words: This is one of my favorite styles from one of my favorite Michigan breweries, so buying it was an easy decision to make. I was not disappointed. The coffee, stout and cream elements blend together seamlessly and the result is a great after-dinner (or as-dinner) stout. Doesn’t do too bad with food either, at least with (electric) grilled pork chops. It’s pricy but worth it. Cup A Joe is recommended.

Vanilla Java Porter

Maker: Atwater, Detroit, Michigan, USAVJ Porter

Style: Porter with coffee and vanilla extracts added.

ABV: 6%

Appearance: Very dark brown, like coffee. Moderate head.

Nose: Vanilla syrup, coffee.

Palate: Medium bodied, semi-sweet and effervescent. Gas station vanilla “cappuccino”, a little bitterness and slightly sour.

Finish: Coffee and hint of fruit. Lingers for a while.

Parting words: This beer delivers on its promise. I taste vanilla, I taste coffee, I taste porter. I expected something a bit more intense than this, but I can’t complain that it tastes exactly how it is described on the label. It could have used more bitterness and a fuller mouth feel but it’s fine as a change of pace. Vanilla Java Porter doesn’t pair very well with food. It’s best as an after meal dessert pour. Vanilla Java Porter is mildly recommended.

Lagunitas Cappuchino Stout

Maker: Lagunitas, Petaluma, California, USALag Cap Stout

Style: Stout with coffee.

ABV: 9.2%

Price: $4.50/ 22 oz bottle

Appearance: Dark coffee with a big head.

Nose: A bit of malt, mocha.

On the palate: Full bodied and fizzy. Cappuchino, roasted malt, tirimisu.

Finish: Coffee ice cream, long, bitter and creamy. Leaves a bit of sticky sweetness on the lips.

Parting words: Yes, we mostly do Michigan beers around here, but without a little context my reviews wouldn’t be worth what you paid for them.

Lagunitas Cappuchino Stout is a delicious beer. It’s not complex or revolutionary but it tastes really good after a meal. It would taste even better shared with 1-2 friends. At this price, it’s hard to beat. It is recommended.

Great Lakes Christmas Ale

Maker: Great Lakes, Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Style: Spiced ale

ABV: 7.5%

Thanks to Brian & Jessica for this birthday beer!

Appearance: Coppery auburn with a nice foamy head.

Nose: Malt, baking fruitcake.

On the palate: Effervescent and spicy. More fruitcake, then malt, toffee and a hit of hops.

Finish: Surprisingly dry. Spicy, malty and lasts for a good while.

Parting words: Great Lakes Christmas Ale is much more typical of holiday brews than Bell’s. It’s sweet with some Christmas spice and a tiny bit of hoppy bitterness. It’s not complex but it is comfortable like a fuzzy Christmas sweater. It goes just as well with a hearty Christmas feast as with conspiring by the fire. Great Lakes Christmas Ale is recommended. GL Xmas

Mint Chocolate Imperial Stout

Maker: Aloha Plenty/Iron Fist/Stone, California, USAMCIS

Style: Imperial stout with cocoa and mint flavoring added.

Vintage: 2012

ABV: 9.6%

Thanks to Rhiannon for this bottle.

Appearance: Black coffee with a lacy beige head.

Nose: Dark roasted malt, dark chocolate, faint herbal note.

On the palate: Full bodied and sweet. Like a Shamrock Shake upon initial entry. Some bitterness does surface later and on subsequent sips. Very dark chocolate, Espresso with a shot of peppermint schnapps.

Finish: Long, bitter and slightly sweet. The mint is in the background but still present.

Parting words: I wasn’t so sure what this beer was going to be like, but my doubts were unfounded. It’s delicious. The cocoa dovetails with the Stout-ness perfectly even to the point where I don’t think I would notice it if I didn’t already know it was there. The mint is noticeable but subtle, especially as the beer sits in the glass. I would have preferred a little more mint, but that’s a quibble. I also don’t know if adding cocoa was really needed but it didn’t hurt.

I received this beer as a gift from my cousin, so I’m not sure how much it sold for, but I’ve been able to find it online for $3 for a 12 oz. bottle. That’s not cheap, but since this is more of a novelty than a go-to brew, I wouldn’t mind paying that for a bottle or two. Mint Chocolate Imperial Stout is recommended.