Bell Time Beer – A Round Table of Drunks III – Part 2

Staff Craft Beer Picks

Eric – Des Moines IA

Brewery/Beer: Toppling GoliathpseudoSue

Location: Decorah, IA

Style: American Pale Ale

ABV: 5.8%   IBU: 50

Description: Like the skeleton of a T. rex, pseudoSue is rare around these parts, but when discovered, is a revelation. I’d heard tell of this aromatic, delicate-at-first-powerful-as-you-go pale ale. I was lucky enough to try it for the first time on tap with a bangers-and-mash meal at an Irish pub. I almost fell off my stool with pleasure for this single-hop phenom. The fact that cans are 16 ounces makes home-drinking all the better. Get the hell out of the way, Wife’s Mich Ultra in the Fridge: pseudoSue is eating your lunch for dinner.

Brewery/Beer: Confluence BrewingDes Moines IPA

Location: Des Moines, IA

Style: IPA

ABV: 6.9%   IBU: 75

Description: This beer has a permanent home on my Top 5 until it’s no longer in production, and even then, it will call to me from the heavens. For a beer creeping up the IBU charts, it’s so easy to drink. Which is probably dangerous at 6.9%. Three of them and you should really Uber home and pick up your car the next day. My favorite thing about this IPA is its balance, found in few other places outside Lagunitas. Some anti-IPAers might not help themselves, but it’s very, very hard to turn your nose up at this beer. One negative: It’s only on tap or in growlers. One positive: It’s named after the Greatest City in the World. Welcome home.

Brewery/Beer: Lagunitas Brewing CompanyIPA

Location: Petaluma, CA

Style: IPA

ABV: 6.2%   IBU: 51.5

Description: What in the hell is the matter with you? Of course Lagunitas IPA is one of the top beers. There’s very little I can say about it that hasn’t been said, so let me just add: Once my wife discovered Lagunitas IPA, she gave all of her Mich Ultra to a bum.

Brewery/Beer: Exile BrewingZoo Brew IPA

Location: Des Moines, IA

Style: IPA

ABV: 5.8%   IBU: N/A

Description: I realize I’m showing my hometown brews a lot of love. I also see that I’ve giving a lot of real estate to IPAs, so let me say this: Yes, Zoo Brew IPA (the name is a nod to a drinking event at our local Blank Park Zoo) is my favorite beer at Exile Brewing, but they also released a beer of biblical proportions called Jesus on a Forklift. It was a small batch, it was 13%, it was dark and heavy, and it was unveiled at the brewery by a man dressed as Jesus who drove it in on a forklift. It’s a sippin’ beer for this IPA fan, but it’s also drop-to-your-knees-and-pray-for-more amazing.

Brewery/Beer: Surly Brewing Co. – Todd the Axe Man

Location: Brooklyn Center, MN

Style: American IPA

ABV: 7.2%   IBU: N/A

Description: Surly continues to be more widely distributed throughout the Midwest, but the only way I’m able to try this guy is in the mix-and-match section at my local grocery store. That’s OK – at 7.2% in a tall can, one at a time is a treat. This is one of those IPAs you crack open and say, “Wow, this immediately smells good.” It’s hoppy, yes, and it packs a punch. More like a lead from Eddie Van Halen. I’m sure some Nordic death-metal fan will read that and think I sound like an idiot. I’m sure we can solve things over a Todd the Axe Man.

Jeremy – Charlotte NC

Brewery/Beer: Legion BrewingJuicy Jay

Location: Charlotte, NC

Style: East Coast IPA

ABV: 6.3%   IBU: 68

Description: This was the first brew I had tried from Legion and it was quite the introduction. Juicy Jay is a smooth, light and tasty IPA. It has a mix of juice in the brew and it helps smooth out that IPA finish. Despite y tastes for IPs changing later in the year Juicy Jay definitely hit the right spots and is my go to brew on location and whenever I see it out and about.

Brewery/Beer: BrainDead BrewingDry Hopped Wheat

Location: Dallas, TX

Style: American Pale Wheat Ale

ABV: 4.8%   IBU: 50

Description: We ran across this delicious wheat ale while visiting Dallas for WrestleMania 32. This was actually a suggestion of our bartender as it was fresh from the tanks. It was cloudy and a little thick for a wheat ale but that flavor hits all the right spots in your mouth. I must admit that I had quite a few of these and have zero regrets.

Brewery/Beer: Bombshell Beer CompanyHead Over Hops IPA

Location: Holly Springs, NC

Style: American IPA

ABV: 6.9%   IBU: 78

Description: I had never heard of Bombshell before we one of our usual joints, Craft. Our server Melanie knows my tastes and insisted I try this one and she nailed it. This is the first of two back to basic IPAs on my list. This is a no-frills brew that had a slight kick at the end as an IPA should but not bitter. It was lighter I body but the aroma lifted it a step above a few other IPAs I had this year. If you get a chance this is a must try.

Brewery/Beer: Nantahala Brewing CompanyAppalachian Trail Extra Pale Ale

Location: Bryson City, NC

Style: American Pale Ale

ABV: 6%   IBU: 35

Description: This was my first time trying this particular brewery and I wasn’t disappointed. Being fully in to basic IPAs at this point it was refreshing stumbling across this American pale Ale. This brew drank more like an IPA than a Pale Ale, which made it memorable. Yeah they are similar but it had a bitterness on the finish where a pale ale usually doesn’t. Of course this isn’t a criticism as I thought the bitterness made the beer more enjoyable.

Brewery/Beer: Triple C Brewing CO. – New England IPA

Location: Charlotte, NC

Style: American IPA

ABV: 5.36%   IBU: 32

Description: This is my beer of the year so of course I placed it last on the list. Everything about this brew is fantastic. What made it stand out was the fact it is a basic, no frills, good old fashioned IPA. No juice, yes a contradiction in this list, no fruit, no sweeteners just plain old hops and water. It has a slightly cloudy body and that bitter taste at the finish. This is everything an IPA used to be and what they should all be.

  • All pictures for Eric & Jeremy sourced from the brewer’s website, or

Kevin – Columbus OH

Since I have a separate column for local beers and for travel beers (coming later), this list ends up being closer to my favorite five beers that don’t fit neatly into those categories.

Brewery/BeerStone Brewing CompanyXocoveza (2016)

Location: Escondido CA

Style: Imperial Milk Stout

ABV: 8.1% ABV   IBU: 50

Description: I gave this beer a chance because A) Stone Brewing is great and B) I was told that Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream had a hand in the creation of this beer. Jeni’s make some extremely tasty ice so I was hoping for a great beer. The Stone & Jeni’s combination didn’t disappoint. The spices (cinnamon, cocoa and coffee) come through in just the right dose. It helps that the roasted malts stand up to spices of that kind. The milk portion helps to sweeten up this spicy, dark malty concoction. Now that I’ve had the beer version, I need to go have the ice cream version.

Brewery/Beer5 Rabbit Cerveceria5 Lizard Latin Style Witbier

Location: Chicago IL

Style: Witbier

ABV: 4.3% ABV   IBU: 20

Description: I had this beer at the beginning of the year at the annual Columbus Winter Beer Festival. It’s a beer that has almost as many tricks up it’s sleeve as Xocoveza. They bust out coriander and lime peel along with passion fruit that is mixed into a traditional Belgian witbier. The fruit and peel give it a nice tropical twist that goes well with the Belgian yeast flavor. It’s an extremely refreshing beer that would make for an excellent session beer.

Brewery/BeerWarped Wing Brewing Co. – Abominator – Aged 7 Months in Willett Rye Whiskey Barrels

Location: Dayton OH

Style: Doppelbock

ABV: 12.0% ABV   IBU: N/A

Description: I had this beer in preparation before heading to Bockfest in Cincinnati for my 40th birthday party. A couple of important point that should be noted is that this beer is a lager which means it ferments at a lower temperature for a longer time period than an ale. The other important note is that this beer was aged in rye Whiskey barrels and not the more popular corn Bourbon barrels. I am not the biggest fan of Rye Whiskey so it came as a surprise to me that I liked this beer so much. A reason it wasn’t surprising is that Doppelbocks are chalk full of flavor so more flavor will likely be tamped down. The whiskey barrel did give the beer a nice edge that isn’t found normally.

Brewery/BeerSouthern Tier Brewing Co. – Creme Brulee

Location: Lakewood NY

Style: Imperial Milk Stout

ABV: 10.0% ABV   IBU: 55

Description: I hadn’t noticed that I had two Imperial Milk Stouts on the list until I started to write this specific review. It is pretty amazing how much different the same beer can be in the taste depart. This beer only has one spice, vanilla, and brown sugar to replicate the tastes of the dessert it is named after. And this beer tastes surprisingly like the dessert, which I happen to love. You don’t get the crunchiness of the burnt sugar on top but it’s for the best in a beer.

Brewery/BeerRogue Ales7 Hop IPA

Location: Ashland OR

Style: IPA

ABV: 7.77% ABV   IBU: 76

Description: Ken & I reviewed this beer on OHPA 77 so I don’t need to go too in depth with this last beer. This beer is in a four beer series of 4 Hop, 6 Hop, & Hop and 8 Hop IPAs. I haven’t tried any of the other series beers but considering that it’s Rogue Ales, I’d wager a guess that they’re good too. Can they be better than this gem? I doubt it as this is a great mix of hops that I don’t have much experience in drinking. That is likely because they grow most of their own hops.

  • All pictures taken by Kevin DiFrango
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