Bell Time Beer Review – The Best of Cbus Craft Beer 2017

Sparring Rounds – Round 7 is on the right. Picture by Kevin DiFrangoi/Stunt Granny LLC

The Columbus Ale Trail has expanded to 37 stops. I have been to most of them in the past calendar year but a few will be omissions on this list. I cut things down to a top ten last year with twelve runners up. I will stick to the top ten but the contenders list may expand due to the number of breweries. There is a lot of great beer in this town. Reminder, I pick beers from November to November meaning, December 2017 will be on my 2018 list. Partially to try and resist recency bias. Mostly though because it takes me about a month to put this list together.

Runners Up (By Brewery) –

BrewDog – Cocoa Psycho, Dead Pony Club Pale Ale, Punk IPA, Hazy Jane New England Style IPA

Combustion Brewing – Combustion IPA

Elevator Brewing – Trinity White

Four String Brewing – Rectifier Double IPA and Mango DIPA with Blueberries & Szechuan Peppercorns

Homestead Brewing –  The Yard and Drie

Ill Mannered Brewing – Hopracha and Bringer of Joy

Kindred Beer – Lip Service

Land-Grant Brewing – Captain Jean-Luc Pecan and Bourbon Barrel Caber

Lineage Brewing – Vanilla Vilkati

North High Brewing – Walleye Grapefruit IPA

Pigskin Brewing – Hatch Chili Brown Ale

Platform Beer Co – The Project – El Dorado

Restoration Brew Worx – Simple

Rockmill Brewery – Tripel and Cask Aged Tripel

Seventh Son Brewing – Gleen and Oubliette 2016

Sideswipe Brewing – Hop Tat

Smokehouse Brewing – Mohbee New England Style IPA

Staas Brewing – Mango-A-Go-Go

Wolf’s Ridge Brewing – Imperial Orange, Double Dry Hopped Snow Cone, Terra du Sauvage Gold with Hibiscus & Ginger, Tripel Whiskey,

Zaftig Brewing – Hazy Miss Daisy

Left Out –

Grove City Brewing, Loose Rail Brewing and Three Tigers Brewing. I will also mention that I have not been to Endeavor Brewing under the new name. They were changing over the product when I stopped in to get a final Zauber Brewing stamp since I had been an early fan of Geoff Towne’s brewing. They brought back the brew master that Geoff had hired and let go so the change over had some old recipes. I did try one of the new recipes and it was just okay.

Top Ten

10. Ill Mannered Brewing Co. Fat Bottomed Girl – 9.4% ABV & 38 IBU

Ill Mannered Brewing Fat Bottomed Girl. Kevin DiFrango/Stunt Granny LLC.

I do love a good Belgian Dark Strong Ale so this beer is filling that  slot on the top ten list. It was slightly sweet from the malt, just enough spices so as not to be overwhelming and nice subtle hop notes. The Belgian yeast makes it’s presence know in a more subtle way too. That happens for me in the darker Belgian beers as opposed to something like a Blonde or a Wit. I tried this one the first time I visited the brewery so they got me hooked early.

9. Hoof Hearted BrewingKonkey Dong8.0% ABV & 70 IBU

Hoof Hearted Brewing Konkey Dong. Kevin DiFrango/Stunt Granny LLC

It’s amusing that in the not too distant past, you can read my reviews about not being able to a handle Imperial IPAs. Now they’re a regular part of my drinking experience. Maybe people have de-funked their Imperials for my liking. Perhaps my taste buds have adjusted to find the beauty in these hoppy beverages. It’s probably a mix of both. This one to me still had plenty of funk but it’s a kind that I have started to enjoy. This beer starts a string of Imperial IPAs on this list.

8. Actual Brewing Co. Thermal Conductor – 8.1% ABV & 47 IBU

Actual Brewing Thermal Conductor. Kevin DiFrango/Stunt Granny LLC.

This Imperial IPA continues my affair with the style. The Thermal part definitely helped this one stand out. It was spicy but just by the right amount which could be too hot for some. The low IBU is not a common site so that helped to set it apart too. The hops were prominent, but it definitely didn’t have the “funk” I associate with this style.

7. Homestead Beer Co. 3MCs – 9.5% ABV & NA IBU

It was a tough choice to make the cut for which Homestead beer I liked the best. Drie, a Triple IPA, was a consideration for this spot but this Imperial IPA edged it out. I talked about the mix of what has happened to allow me to like this style and to be this one is the mix of both. It has some funk too it, but it isn’t overwhelming. It still have clear hops layers to it also. I think the later sometimes covers the former to make it worse for my palate. This beer was the best of the Imperial IPA variety and hence it’s spot on the list.

6. Land-Grant Brewing Co.Folie de Mars7.7% ABV & 21 IBU

This Biere de Garde breaks the streak of Imperial IPAs. It’s also a style that I have been good with drinking for a while now unlike that style. It has that lightness that comes with spring beers. It is more of a red malt base than most of them which have a yellow malt base. That style of malt brings more sweetness to the table for me. The hops are more subtle as can be expected in this style of beer but helps to take the edge off of the sweetness.

5. Four String Brewing Co.Bourbon Barrel Ghost Ship Vortex8.8% ABV & 30 IBU

Four String Bourbon Barrel Ghost Ship Vortex. Kevin DiFrango/Stunt Granny LLC.

One variation of this beer topped my list last year. This one was almost as good which is why this tasty Baltic Porter is making a re-appearance but not in the top spot. I like it aged in Bourbon barrels because it matches so well with the darker beers and the Bourbon isn’t hitting you over the head. As already stated, it doesn’t pair quite as well to me as raspberry and vanilla but it’s close. When this beer is on tap, be sure to grab some no matter the variation except for the maple syrup one because it is entirely too sweet.

4. Seventh Son Brewing Co.Oubliette w/ Cacao Nibs & Vanilla12% ABV & NA IBU

Flight of Oubliette from Seventh Son. Kevin DiFrango/Stunt Granny LLC.

This beer was consumed during Columbus Beer Week and within a flight of Oubliette. It included the 2014 version, 2015 version, Bourbon barrel 2015 version , 2016 version and this one. The last two on this list were the best in my opinion with this one nudging out the newest one. One could argue if the beer stands alone that it’s the better one. This one was so chocolate-y though that I couldn’t resist putting it on my list. I’m sure the cacoa nibs helped amp up the natural chocolate flavor of this fine beverage. The vanilla really pops with that much chocolate in the party. What a great balance of flavoring to go with an already great beer.

3. BrewDogElvis Juice6.5% ABV & 40 IBU

BrewDog Elvis Juice – Kevin DiFrango/Stunt Granny LLC

I went to the Great American Beer Festival in Denver this year. This beer ended up winning the Bronze medal for American style fruit beers. It also happens to be considered an IPA. I also did not try this one prior to the Festival. As luck would have it, a restaurant in town had it on tap the weekend after the Festival so it was an easy order. I’m glad that I did and see why it won a Bronze medal. The fruit in question for this beer is grapefruit. There’s plenty of that in the beverage and echoed by the hops used (Amarillo, Citra, Magnum, Mosaic and Simcoe) since they all have a citrus or fruit edge to them. The fruit isn’t sweet which helps to keep the IBU down. They use extra pale malt which helps the fruit and hops come to the front. The Cara malt gives the beer a nice light red hue too. Whether you consider it a fruit beer or an IPA, this one is delicious.

2. Staas Brewing Co.Oak Aged Quad10.0% ABV & NA IBU

My expression after forgetting my Cbus Ale Trail book on my trip to Staas Brewing. Glad I went any way. Oaked Bourbon Quad.

If you’re in Columbus and want a true classic style beer, there are only two places to look, Rockmill or Staas. They both happen to specialize in Belgian beers but the difference lies in Rockmill’s farmhouse style which is slightly different. That’s also why their beers on my list were a Tripel or in this case a Quadrupel. I’ve had their standard Quad and it’s fantastic. Aging it in Oak gives it an extra added depth. I’m not sure how many beers would go well with Oak but this style of beer is really suited for it. I really wish I got up to their brewery more. They do excellent work here.

1. Sideswipe Brewing Co.Sparring Rounds – Round 79.5% ABV & NA IBU

My love affair with the Imperial IPA hits it’s zenith picking this fine beverage as my favorite for the past 12 months. This beer is one of the reasons I was not surprised when more prominent beer bloggers Rick Armon and Pat’s Pints called Sideswipe one of the breweries that deserves more attention in Columbus/Central Ohio. After looking through my archives, I’ve done a poor job of mentioning how good they are too. Their location isn’t the best, but it has expanded which helps a lot. Their beer should get you there though. I liked them right off the bat because of their Elegant Hoodlum Smoked Stout. This is how they explain their Sparring Round Series

Each round is a new beer in a changing series that gives our brewer a creative outlet for new and interesting recipes.

Sparring Rounds – Round 7 is on the right. Picture by Kevin DiFrangoi/Stunt Granny LLC

So this was the seventh version of this particular Double IPA. I didn’t try any of the other versions which is a shame. This one had everything you could want from this style of beer. There was some Imperial IPA funk, a slightly bitter front end and a back end loaded with citrus flavor which gets my attention. That combination put it at the top of my list for this year. I can’t wait for another year of beer from a great bunch of brewers. – Kevin DiFrango

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