Grand Teton Brewing: Bitch Creek ESB (Extra Special Brown)

From the Brewery: IMG_4291 IMG_4292
“At Grand Teton Brewing, we are very fortunate to live in one of the greatest places on earth. The beauty, wildlife, mountains, clear water and endless activities found right here in our backyard make for an outdoor playground paradise.

One of these local landmarks is Bitch Creek. Similar to the water used in our brewing process, Bitch Creek is spring fed and flows out of the west side of the Grand Tetons. It’s a popular playground for kayakers and fishermen alike. Bitch Creek ESB is named for this local landmark. Since 2004, it’s become one of the most award-winning beers in the industry having claimed 15 gold medals at national events.

Bitch Creek perfectly balances big malt sweetness and robust hop flavor for a full bodied, satisfying mahogany ale. Like the stream for which it is named, our Bitch Creek ESB is full of character… not for the timid.” 6% ABV English Brown Ale

The Pour: 

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into my Oregon City Brewing can glass. Bitch Creek ESB pours a deep reddish-brown, with a huge brown foamy head. The label lists it as bottle conditioned, and it seems the bottling yeast/fermentables ratio may be a bit off due to the intense head and vigorous visible carbonation. The head leaves good lacing on the glass throughout.

The Nose:

The aromas are straightforward and simplistic; dark fruit esters upfront combined with slightly sweet caramel malts. It’s quite possible I’ve got an old bottle (which unfortunately happened quite a lot on my recent trip through the Northwest), as the only hop character that comes through is a bit of stale lemon hops, possibly slightly oxidized centennial hops?

The Mouth: 

Medium-thin bodied, with a mouthfeel that is more harsh than I expect from the style. The harshness comes from the over carbonation that is initially noticed during the pour. It is definitely distracting, but not a beer deal-breaker. The flavors which appear are tame, the dark fruit and caramel malt from the nose, a touch of nuttiness and roasted malt, and finishes with a metallic/mineral character.

Final Thoughts:

This is yet another random bottle I picked up on a recent beer-cation, and this one is definitely on the lower end of the spectrum of those I’ve tasted thus far. Its over carbonation creates a harsh, spastic mouthfeel that doesn’t match an English Ale style. This, mixed with the simplistic flavor character, creates an unfortunately forgettable beer. 5/10

Grand Teton Brewing – Victor, Idaho

Posted in Beer Reviews, Dark/Brown Ales | 1 Comment

Left Hand: Milk Stout Nitro

From the Brewery: IMG_4289

Taking America Back. Dark & delicious, America’s great milk stout will change your perception about what a stout can be. Pouring hard out of the bottle, Milk Stout Nitro cascades beautifully, building a tight, thick head like hard whipped cream. The aroma is of brown sugar and vanilla cream, with hints of roasted coffee. The pillowy head coats your upper lip and its creaminess entices your palate. Initial roasty, mocha flavors rise up, with slight hop & roast bitterness in the finish. The rest is pure bliss of milk chocolate fullness.” 6% ABV Sweet Stout

The Pour: IMG_4290

Poured hard, per bottle instruction, from a 12 oz bottle into my Libbey stout glass. The nitrogen cascade effect is beautiful as always, but seems to settle much faster than widget-nitrogen cans such as Guinness or Murphy’s. A dense, creamy beige head forms perfectly, and retains very well throughout. The body is exactly as you’d expect for a stout, jet black with no light coming through.

The Nose:

Darkly roasted malts and toasted grain notes come first, followed by dark chocolate, espresso, and a hint of smoke. A tiny bit of lactose twang is also detectable.

The Mouth:

Medium-bodied with a nice chewy texture, Milk Stout Nitro is incredibly smooth going down. There little in the way of hop bitterness – just a smooth, mildly roasted sweet mouthfeel. The flavors are delicately balanced between the darkly roasted malts, dark chocolate, espresso, and lactose sweetness.

Final Thoughts:

I had been waiting to try this beer for quite some time, and was fortunate enough to pick up a six-pack of it on a recent trip to the Pacific Northwest (Beer Junction in West Seattle is fucking amazing). Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro is a very good sweet/cream stout that drinks incredibly easy. The flavors are perfect for the creamy mouthfeel, and this would definitely be my standby/everyday type stout if I could get it locally. Though the flavors are more subtle than robust, they are certainly sophisticated and worth a go for any stout fan. 8.5/10

Left Hand Brewing – Longmont, Colorado

Posted in Beer Reviews, Stouts/Porters | 1 Comment

Evil Twin: Yang

From the Brewery: IMG_4285 IMG_4284

“This is one half of a Black and Tan drink. Not just any Black and Tan but the one where a toasted smug and hoppy fella get together and make a sublime beer balance. Mix the Yang & Yin together (or enjoy this flippant good Imperial IPA solo).” 10% ABV Imperial IPA

The Pour:

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a Spiegelau IPA glass. It is a murky orange color, with the most amount of sediment I’ve ever seen in a bottle of beer. Tons of hop or yeast particulate is bandied about by the ample visible carbonation. A large, fluffy off-white head hangs around.

The Nose:

Yang has a sweet, slightly scorched caramel malt base aroma. The hops come through as tropical fruit, orange, and a hint of dank/pine resin. The bottle about 6 months old, so the hop aroma has obviously faded. I think a super fresh bottle would be less balanced (in a good way) and more hop-forward.

The Mouth:

The body is very dry and drinkable, very thin in the mouthfeel. The IBU bitterness is assertive, but not out of whack for a 10% DIPA, and overall it is quite drinkable. The alcohol is noticeable, but light. The malt and hop profile match the aromas; thick caramel malts, tropical fruit and pine hops.

Final Thoughts:

Evil Twin Yang is big, malty, easy drinking DIPA. It’s malt profile is very similar to Union Jack, but with a much thinner/drier body. The heavy caramel aroma is a little against my preference for a big IPA. Again, the hops are not as prevalent as they would be in a fresh bottle, but they were present enough to keep it balanced. The copious sediment being swirled around by the carbonation looks downright ugly, but it didn’t seem to create any off flavors/aromas. 7/10

Yin & Yang Black and Tan: IMG_4288

Oh, I get it now. These beers really need to be blended together. That’s much better, with a solid mix of flavors that pop much more than when had individually. By themselves, they are so-so. Together, they are quite good. Yin & Yang Blend: 8/10

Posted in Beer Reviews, IPA, Stouts/Porters | 1 Comment

Evil Twin: Yin

From the Brewery: IMG_4286 IMG_4287

“This is one half of a Black and Tan drink. Not just any Black and Tan but the one where a toasted smug and hoppy fella get together to make a sublime beer balance. Mix the Yin & Yang together (or enjoy this profoundly evil Imperial Stout solo).” 10% ABV Imperial Stout

The Pour:

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a stemmed teardrop glass. It pours with a viscosity not unlike heavy crude, with a very thin dark brown head that dissipates quickly. The body is jet black.

The Nose:

I really expect a huge, chocolaty, malty aroma based off of the pour, and unfortunately Yin doesn’t particularly deliver. Faint chocolate notes, both milk and dark, are the main aromas. Underneath that lightly smoked malts mix with some alcohol presence. All are very light for such a big beer.

The Mouth:

The mouthfeel is thin for a 10% imperial stout, and well balanced in the sense that neither malt sweetness nor hop bitterness stand out. The flavors match the aromas pretty dead on, faint milk/dark chocolate notes are the most prevalent. Some smokey, toasted grain flavors give way to alcohol notes, which are a bit stronger than in the aroma. That being said, the alcohol heat is certainly not off-putting, and overall it doesn’t drink like a 10% beer.

Final Thoughts:

The flavors and aroma of Evil Twin Yin didn’t live up to the thick, glugging pour that set an expectation of a rich, malty, warming Imperial Stout. I was really expecting more from this beer, and it was somewhat disappointingly tame. There was nothing bad or distracting in this beer, but as the description lists, it really seems like half a beer. 6.5/10

Yin & Yang Black and Tan: IMG_4288

Oh, I get it now. These beers really need to be blending together. That’s much better, with a solid mix of flavors that pop much more than when had individually. By themselves, they are so-so. Together, they are quite good. Yin & Yang Blend: 8/10

Posted in Beer Reviews, IPA, Stouts/Porters | 1 Comment

Time To Get Back On It!

Hey Everybody!

It’s been over a year since I’ve posted, and it’s time to get back to work. I’m going to tweak the layout of the page a bit, and start including a variety on new content. I plan on chronicling my homebrewing, reviews of homebrew equipment (I’ve got some pretty nifty gadgets in the last year or so),  cooking recipes we make at home that have craft beer as an ingredient, and of course plenty of beer reviews, both commercial and homebrew! If there is anything else you’d like to see included beer related, let me know in the comments and I’ll see what I can do.

A big thank you to all of my followers, and I hope you enjoy the fresh content (finally) about to come!


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Taking a Break

Hey faithful followers!

I’ve been slowing down quite a bit in the beer review game, as you may have noticed. I’ve lost some of the enthusiasm that I started out with (in regards to actually reviewing beer). Don’t get me wrong, I still absolutely love craft beer, and won’t stop tasting and trying new things. I just am currently feeling burned out with the tedium of dissecting every beer I drink. I’ve found myself hoarding beer just to review, and then putting off drinking them because I didn’t feel like taking notes and typing them up. I review beer for the enjoyment of it, and to help out a few friends and WordPress followers who regularly read. I’m sure I’ll get back into writing occasional reviews, or maybe just writing about really great/terrible beers now and again, but for now a hiatus is due. Please add me on Untappd, follow me on Twitter, or like Toby’s Beer Reviews on Facebook, as you’ll find content coming much more frequently via those channels.


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

21st Amendment: Bitter American

From the Brewery: IMG_3263

“If you’d been rocketed into space against your will, you might be a little bitter too. Bitter American is our long-overdue tribute to unsung, unwitting heroes everywhere. This American session ale packs a lot of hop and malt flavor into a refreshingly lower-alcohol brew, making it the perfect beer to have on hand when you have a little history to make.

Bitter American is available year-round, in six pack cans and on draft. This extra pale session ale has lower alcohol but all the flavor and hop aroma you expect from a much bigger beer. Give one, or three, a try.” 4.4% ABV American Pale Ale

Purchased from BevMo in Clovis, California.

The Pour: IMG_3264

Poured from a 12 oz can into my Libbey “Craft Beer” glass. The beer is a little hazy, honey-golden in color. An ample off-white head is poured, partly buy a super-aggressive pour to fill the 20 oz glass. Good lacing is left on the glass, and light carbonation is visible.

The Nose: IMG_3265

A blend of hop aromas are the upfront scents; tropical fruit citrus, floral notes, and a bit of grass are all present. Some light caramel sweetness from the malt base is also given.

The Mouth: IMG_3266

Bitter American is medium-thin bodied, with moderate carbonation and medium-light bitterness. The flavors are basically an exact carry over from the nose, maybe a little more floral hop-forward in the taste. It certainly drinks like a session pale ale, offering a crisp and dry finish, with just light lingering hop flavor and bitterness.

Final Thoughts: IMG_3267

Bitter American offers a pretty decent amount of flavor for being a 4.4% ABV pale ale. Having been around for a while, it seems like a forerunner to the current wave of sessionable hop-forward ales. It is very drinkable, and is everything it claims to be. It’s not an amazing beer, but it’s pretty solid. 7.5/10

21st Amendment Brewery – San Francisco, California

Posted in Beer Reviews, Light/Pale Ales | 1 Comment

Ballast Point: Big Eye India Pale Ale

From the Brewery: IMG_3247

The beer that helped put San Diego IPA’s on the map.
Our Big Eye IPA is a big hoppy brew, thanks to the abundance of American Columbus and Centennial varieties we use to flavor and dry hop. While the English originally added extra hops to preserve their beers for sea travel, we do it for the love of all that bold, intense flavor that makes India Pale Ale one of our favorite styles.” 7.0% ABV American IPA

Purchased from BevMo in Clovis, California.

The Pour: IMG_3248

Poured from a 22 oz bomber into my Spiegelau IPA glass. The body is moderately hazy (as expected for an ample dry-hopped IPA), coppery-orange in color. A large, fluffy off-white head is poured, which leaves good lacing and has solid retention. Plenty of carbonation is visible climbing up the glass.

The Nose: IMG_3249

Big grapefruit citrus hops dominate the aromas. Similar tropical fruits and a bit of piney resin hop character are also present, as well as some sweetness from the base malt. My bottle is just a few weeks old, and the huge dry hop aromas are mouthwatering.

The Mouth: IMG_3250

Big Eye is medium-bodied with a moderately light/soft mouthfeel, finishing with decent carbonation harshness and a good bit of tongue-biting bitterness. The flavors abound in the big grapefruit hops from the nose, but the malt base becomes a bit more pronounced as the beer warms. It finishes a bit dry, with a touch a caramel malt being introduced in the aftertaste of lingering hop flavor and bitterness.

Final Thoughts: IMG_3251

Coming in just as described, this is the epitome of a West Coast/San Diego IPA. Great aromas and great flavors blend together beautifully. It is one of the best “regular” (ie-not imperial/double) IPA’s I’ve had to date. I’m very happy I picked up a bottle. 9/10!

Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits – San Diego, California

Posted in Beer Reviews, IPA | 1 Comment

Firestone Walker: Easy Jack

From the Brewery: IMG_3241

“Brewmaster Matt Brynildson went to the mountain and returned with a vision for a different kind of Session IPA, one that would be brewed and dry hopped with a globetrotting selection of new hop varieties from Europe, New Zealand and North America. He foresaw a beer that would deliver massive hop aromas, a signature malt balance and an empty glass before you knew what hit you. And so the newest member of our Jack IPA family was born.” 4.5% ABV American IPA

Purchased from BevMo in Clovis, California.

The Pour: IMG_3242

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a Spiegelau IPA glass. The body is light yellow-golden with a touch of an orange hue, showing light haziness. The foamy head is almost pure white, which has decent retention and leaves good lacing. Ample carbonation can be seen in the glass.

The Nose: IMG_3243

It definitely smells like a Firestone Walker IPA, amply dry-hopped to give off grapefruit, tangerine, lemon, and even some pomegranate aromas. English pale malts come through at the back end of the hop forward profile.

The Mouth: IMG_3244

Easy Jack is thin bodied, as expected for a beer of only 4.5% ABV, and is softer in the mouth than the big hop aromas would suggest. The carbonation is moderate, and the hop bitterness is subdued. There isn’t a whole lot of flavor initially in the mouth; most of the flavor comes through in the aftertaste. The aftertaste offers some grapefruit and lemony zest, with a touch of the sweet base malts. It finishes a little wet/watery, so it doesn’t standout as being particularly refreshing.

Final Thoughts: IMG_3245

Firestone Walker offers a solid entry into the session IPA craze going on this Spring/Summer with Easy Jack, but given a choice I would go for a regular Union Jack probably every time. But with nearly all of the other big West Coast craft breweries making session IPA’s, Firestone Walker couldn’t be left behind. Maybe a few more IBU’s or a little more carbonation would make this one seem a little more palate cleansing and refreshing, which would bump it up to Union Jack levels for me. Perhaps I just don’t particularly get the point of a toned-down IPA. Whatever the case may be, it’s a good-not-great beer worth trying. 7.5/10

Firestone Walker Brewery – Paso Robles, California

Posted in Beer Reviews, IPA | 1 Comment

Kona: Fire Rock Pale Ale

From the Brewery: IMG_3236

“Fire Rock Pale Ale is crisp, refreshing “Hawaiian-style” pale ale. Its signature copper color results from the unique blend of specialty roasted malts. The pronounced citrus-floral hop aroma comes from the liberal amount of hops added to each brew.” 6.0% ABV American Pale Ale

Purchased from Das Bierhaus in Fresno, California.

The Pour: IMG_3238

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a shaker pint glass. The body has a slightly hazy appearance, which is amber in color. An off-white two finger head is poured, which retains well and leaves solid lacing. Light carbonation is visible.

The Nose: IMG_3237

Though not quite the strength of a typical West Coast IPA, the hops are on the forefront of the aromas. Grapefruit citrus, and to a lesser extent floral hop character, mix with a bit of sweet base malt. I also smell some faint dark roasted and caramel malt qualities, as well as light honey.

The Mouth: IMG_3239

Fire Rock is medium-bodied, offering a relatively soft mouthfeel with just faint carbonation effervescence and mild hop bitterness. The flavor is more malt-forward than the aroma, and is mild overall. Modest, sweet, bready/grainy malts are present, and the citrus hops from the aroma are faint. It finishes with a touch of said citrus, adding to a lightly lingering biscuity malt aftertaste.

Final Thoughts: IMG_3240

Fire Rock is an easy beer to drink, offering a decent nose and soft mouthfeel. Though too big at 6% ABV to really be considered sessionable, it has similar traits to some of the new session IPA’s that have popped up lately. It has a good balance between the malts and the hops, though neither are particularly noteworthy. 7/10.

Kona Brewing Co. – Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

Posted in Beer Reviews, Light/Pale Ales | 3 Comments