Bell Time Beer Review – Craft Beer Confluence IV

Saved from and by the Brewer’s Association.

I didn’t get much help from friend of the site this year. Some of them are repeats since a lot of them live in Columbus. Luckily we got the staff plus my younger brother in four different locations in the country so the variety of beers holds up which is the main point of this yearly column. You can find good beer anywhere.

Brian – Pittsburgh PA

Location: Cincinnati, OH
Style: Double IPA
ABV: 8.5%  IBU: 98

Description: When in Cincinnati, I have always enjoyed drinking Rhinegeist. Rhinegeist has
done a fantastic job marketing their beers outside of Cincinnati and I have been able to find it at
my local distributor. Now that I can get it more frequently, I’m a happy man. Knowledge was
my go to beer for 2017. Every time I saw it at the store I wanted to pick it up. High ABV and
smooth taste that I thoroughly enjoyed! Knowledge is piney, resiny and dank with notes of
grapefruit and pineapple.

Brewery/BeerConshohocken BrewingYes, Have Some
Location: Conshocken, PA (Philadelphia, PA)
Style: Golden Ale
ABV: 5.6%  IBU: N/A

Description: Yes, Have Some is a light-bodied Blonde Ale, well balanced ale with Pilsner malts
and subtle notes of spice from hops. I’m not one for Golden Ales but this one had a little more
flavor than most. This golden ale is pale in color with some hoppy notes making it crisp and

Brewery/BeerFlying Dog BrewingChocolate Habanero Stout (Heat series)
Location: Fredrick, MD
Style: America Stout
ABV: 8.1%  IBU: 50

Description: I had to try the Flying Dog heat series beer. Typically, I am underwhelmed by the
amount of heat in these types of beer if there is any. Flying Dog, on the other hand, produced a
beer that taste like sweet chocolate with heat that lingers. The heat factor borderline on too hot
for my wimpy taste buds. I’m glad someone finally nailed the “hot” beer.

Brewery/BeerSpoonwood BrewingCold Drip City
Location: Bethel Park, PA (Pittsburgh, PA)
Style: Coffee Golden Ale
ABV: 5.8%   IBU: 24

Description: This coffee blonde ale is surprisingly light and flavorful. It pours light blonde in
color but you can definitely smell and taste the coffee. The coffee flavor is a shock to the system
considering the pale coloring of the beer. This beer was quite refreshing and smoothing

Brewery/BeerFour Strings Brewing Co.Rectifier 2X IPA
Location: Columbus, OH
Style: Imperial/ Double IPA
ABV: 8.1%   IBU: 84

Description: According to Four Strings website, their American Double IPA is made with loads
of dank, resinous American hops to create a bold mix of citrus, floral and tropical notes – an electrifying concoction for all of you hop heads. It had me going back to the cooler constantly to get another one.

Eric – Des Moines IA

Brewery/Beer: Toppling Goliath Brewing Co.King Sue

Location: Decorah, Iowa

Style: Double IPA

ABV: 8.00%     IBU: 100+

Description: Toppling Goliath’s gold standard, pseudoSue, was on my list last year. If that was the T. rex, King Sue (bear with me, I don’t think this analogy holds up) is the meteor that killed the dinosaur. (See, pseudoSue is not dead, and King Sue still has a dinosaur theme. I’m getting worse at this.) King Sue is two times everything that pseudoSue is – fragrant, hoppy, crisp, and rare. A buddy’s friend runs a grocer’s wine and spirits section, and when he snagged a few bottles, my friend opened one, and I could smell it from across the house. Since then, whenever someone texts me that they see a few bombers at the store, I run to an ATM for some fast cash and tell them I’m good for three. So worth it.

Brewery/Beer: Exile Brewing Co.Spellcheck Stout

Location: Des Moines, Iowa

Style: Coffee Stout

ABV: 8.00%     IBU: n/a

Description: I must confess: This beer is the result of three of my ad agency’s clients’ products: It took Exile and Chocolaterie Stam to concoct the Sir Moch-a-Lot beer, and then locally owned convenience chain Kum & Go added their Java Ridge coffee to the mix to create Spellcheck Stout. (Oh, and it’s brewed in whiskey barrels from Cedar Ridge, which is about 90 miles east of us.) Giggling at the spelling of the C-store name? That’s where “spellcheck” comes from. I work here every day, so I’m totally used to it. And because I work here, I got dibs on Spellcheck Stout. Good work, you three: Every flavor is distinct but fits right into the mix; nothing dominates, everything compliments. If you’re into stouts, chocolate stouts, coffee stouts, or any combination of the three, get a growler next time you’re in town. It’ll have you saying “good night” every morning.

Brewery/Beer: Lion Bridge Brewing Co. – Compensation

Location: Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Style: Dark Mild Ale

ABV: 4.5%     IBU: n/a

Description: I believe this used to be called “Workman’s Comp,” but gender neutrality and a sensitivity to people falling down on the job must have stepped in. I don’t drink as much malty beer as I used to. Compensation is my foot back in the door to that party. It’s got a sweetness to it that cuts down on the darkness (I’m not a huge dark beer fan) but that doesn’t make a guy (or gal, or injury-prone worker) recoil. People note the cocoa and caramel tones; I drank my first one way too fast, and to me, that’s a sign of quality.

Jeremy – Charlotte SC

Brewery/Beer: Sugar Creek Brewing Co. – Sugar Creek Saison

Location: Charlotte, NC

Style: Farmhouse Ale

ABV: 6.6% ABV   IBU: 25

Description: I’ve been going to Sugar Creek for three years and up until this September I had no idea they had a Saison. I have gone through a progression of beers starting with the Raspberry Ale, the White Ale, the IPA and now the Saison. What you get here is a robust smell of spices followed by a strong pallet of flavor. It drinks easy and by easy I mean real smooth and tasty. It may not be a new beer but this was definitely my favorite this year.

Brewery/Beer: The Unknown Brewing Co. – Gamble Everything IPA

Location: Charlotte, NC
Style: American Double/Imperial IPA
ABV: 7.2% ABV   IBU: 32
Description: Unknown continually releases one off beers that never come back. This one had better see a return next year. I am not usually a fan of double IPA’s as I think they have too syrupy of a mouthfeel. So I was pleasantly surprised with this release. The hazy, thick,  body may have covered up the usual consistency. This drank very very easy and at 7.2% this can cause problems when you have a 4-pck of cans sitting in front of you.
Brewery/Beer: High Branch Brewing Co. – Unstable
Location: Charlotte, NC
Style: American IPA
ABV: 7.0%   IBU: 42
Description: I stopped at High Branch before seeing NXT in Concord, NC. High Branch is a small brewery tucked in an aging warehouse across form a much bigger Brewery. You blink and you miss it and boy am I glad I knew it was there.  This was another one time release and it was delicious. This was a fullbodied hazy IPA that was not bitter in the least. If it wasn’t for NXT this may have proven to be a long night with some delicious beer.
Brewery/Beer: Lenny Boy Brewing Co. – Tropicalus White IPA
Location: Charlotte, NC
Style: American IPA
ABV: 6% ABV   IBU: 70
Description: Lenny Boy is still known more for their Kombucha than their beer and that is a shame.  They consistently produce top notch beer and wild ales and this was one of their top beers this year. This is yet another hazy beer (sense a theme?) that pours out a nice off white and provides a strong citra aroma. This ale is a ice companion to their Citraphilia, which is their flagship IPA. 
Brewery/Beer: Sweetwater Brewing Co. – Goin Coastal IPA with Pineapple
Location: Charlotte, NC
Style: American IPA
ABV: 6.1% ABV   IBU: 45
Description: I had seen this brew in plenty of groceries stores around the area but never purchased it. This is all on me as I forget that drinking local can sometimes blind you to other companies. Sweetwater has and does routinely put out quality beer. This one is no exception. It has all of the flavor profile of a Sweetwater ale but the pineapple and hint of citrus make this a  smooth drinker and a good sipper on a hot day. Oh, this one is not hazy. See, I bookend my beers like that. 

Kevin – Columbus OH

Kevin DiFrango/Stunt Granny LLC

Brewery/Beer: Dogfish HeadPennsylvania Tuxedo

Location: Milton, DE

Style: Pale Ale

ABV: 8.5%     IBU: 50

Description: This beer was talked about on Stunt Granny Audio Presents OHPA 95, as one of Ken’s favorite beers of the year. It’s on my list too. Pale ale is right up my alley from the start of drinking beer rather than my hop lovefest that my palate has evolved into. For that, see my list of Columbus beers from last week. This beer has some spruce in it to provide some bitter then they had northwest hops to give it a slight citrus tang. It’s not overwhelmingly citrusy though which is a nice change of pace. Lots of hops flavors out there and I don’t always need them to be citrus inspired.

Brewery/Beer: Fat Head’s BreweryDos Decadas

Location: North Olmstead OH

Style: India Pale Ale

ABV: 7.5%     IBU: NA

Description: This beer was made for Mad Mex, a restaurant chain. How they scored a fantastic recipe is a head scratcher since they aren’t a large chain in these parts. Maybe it is in Cleveland. I do think the surprise of the location found that helped this beer stand out more than some others. But to get to the beer itself, it’s a hoppy wonderland without the extra funk of the Imperial style. Unlike the review above though, this one was citrus heavy which matched well with the Mexican inspired food.

Kevin DiFrango/Stunt Granny LLC

Brewery/Beer: Great Lakes Brewing Co.Nosferatu

Location: Cleveland OH

Style: Imperial Red Ale

ABV: 8.0%     IBU: 70

Description: I could put this beer on my list every year. It inspired my own Imperial Red Ale that I brewed for my wedding and my friend’s wedding the following year. The maltiness that is created from grains used to make a red ale are more sweet than other types so the 70 IBU isn’t in the front of your palate as much as the back. It also just flat out doesn’t taste as hoppy which happens with any higher gravity beer. One needs more hops to bring out their flavor. This beer is a staple every year around Halloween. Great Lakes distributes much further than most “local” (Using quotations since they’re Cleveland based) so most readers should be able to find some in season.

Brewery/Beer: Bell’s BreweryHopslam Ale

Location: Comstock, MI

Style: Imperial India Pale Ale

ABV: 10.0%     IBU: 70

Description: This beer is much like the beers on my Columbus list. It may have actually been the beer that unlocked my Imperial IPA taste buds since I consumed it back on February. This beer is a little sweeter in the grain bill which curbs the edge off of the six varieties of hops but it isn’t as sweet as Nosferatu so the hops come through much more prominently. They then dry hop it with Simcoe hops to give it a fantastic fragrance when you go to drink it. You can’t ask for much more out of a beer than this one. The best news, it’s in season right now so go and find it.

Kevin DiFrango/Stunt Granny LLC

Brewery/Beer: Arrogant Brewing – Bourbon Barrel Arrogant Bastard

Location: Escondido CA

Style: Pale Ale

ABV: 8.1%     IBU: 100

Description: This company is a spin off of Stone Brewing which is headed by (former?) co-owner of Stone Greg Koch. His plan is to be a gypsy brewer and make different versions of this beer at different breweries around the country. As you can tell by the decor on my table, this beer was another one that I consumed early in the year but still remember. It’s almost in the same category as Nosferatu as one I could put on this list every year. It’s one of the reasons I started to like Stone Brewing in the first place since they used the recipe originally. There’s a great sweetness to like Nosferatu but unlike it the extra 30 IBU helps to make the hops more prominent. This beer is also aged in Bourbon barrels which gives it that extra pizzazz to really cap off a great beer.

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