Sunday, June 29, 2014

Newcastle Bombshell Beer Review

Heading into the week of July 4, I’ve got a few beers on deck to try – Abita Seersucker, Flying Fish Exit 4, The one that’s been waiting the longest is Newcastle Bombshell, another in the seasonal releases from the folks best known for their Brown Ale. Bombshell is only scheduled to be available until the end of July, so here we go.

Bombshell is a blonde ale with a retro pin-up girl on the label and a relatively-low alcohol content (4.4%) – both positioning it for summer drinking. It’s pale yellow in the pint glass with a bit of skunky funk (brown bottle, so it’s not UV damage) and cereal malt.

On first sip, it’s got a bit of sharpness and yeast, almost like a sourdough bread. Carbonation is low, so it’s easy drinking. Nothing really lingers on the tongue, so it finishes clean and that next sip comes faster than a heavier, winter beer.

Bombshell is a brew you could spring on folks who drink nothing Bud Light and say they want to branch out, but never do. Fun, but when it disappears from shelves in August for the next seasonal (warewolf, maybe?),  you’ll be OK waiting until April 2015 for its return.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

JJ Grey's Nare Sugar Brown Ale Beer Review

This is musician JJ Grey ...

… and this is his beer, Nare Sugar Brown Ale.

Born in Jacksonville, Grey has teamed up with Rock Brothers Brewing (a Tampa company that pairs musicians with custom brews) and Cigar City Brewing (the Tampa brewery contracted to make the stuff). The novelty for people who don’t know Grey’s music is that Nare Sugar Brown Ale is made without added sugar. That caught my eye because brown ales are generally too syrupy for my taste.

This is literally heady stuff, foam spilling out of the unagitated can when I opened it.  Once the inches of foamy head from the emergency pour died down, the aroma is very malty and roasted. There’s just a little bit of light getting through, like a deep cola.

For no added sugar, it’s still plenty sweet. The coffee and roasty char flavors are there too, but seem lighter and brighter than a lot of brown ales. I think part of that lightness is the bitter hops cutting through the sweet and cocoa. I get vanilla and a mild mineral note at the finish.

Still too sweet for me, but drinkable. Five percent of net proceeds are donated to the Snook Foundation for the Preservation of Florida Fisheries – a gamefishing non-profit.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Rogue Beard Beer Review

See that smiling guy in the photo up there? He’s Rogue Ale’s Brewmaster John Maier and the yeast in this beer was originally found living in his beard. Yeah, that's pretty damn gross, but all yeast is damn gross if you really think about it – eating sugar and peeing out alcohol. Then again, where would modern civilization be without yeast? Probably without a headache Sunday morning.

John’s been brewing beer since 1978 and hasn’t shaved once in that time. That means John and beard have been around 36 years of yeast. Maybe a little something literally rubbed off. Stop wincing! I’m the one who’s got to drink this thing.

Beard Beer pours just a little cloudy, a dim yellow-orange. The aroma is a little boozy with the banana whiff of a hefeweizen. You can tell it’s a wild yeast because it’s throwing off all kinds of flavors you don’t expect in a commercial beer – pepper, canned peaches, a tongue-coating bit of tart, and a yeasty funk. Overall, it’s really not unpleasant – more malt and yeast than hops and no lasting aftertaste.

I’ve tried Beard Beer. Kinda liked it. Now, I don’t have to do it again … for a while, at least.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Homefront India Pale Ale Beer Review

Homefront IPA is flavored with hops, orange peel, and baseball bats. Yep, genuine, maple Louisville Sluggers. I’d always thought bats were ash, but according to, maple “makes it a powerful bat less prone to flaking and one, many players say, that improves their performance.”

Homefront IPA is produced for Memorial Day release by unrelated brewers around the county, banding together with all proceeds donated to local chapters of Operation Homefront – a nonprofit that assists soldiers, vets, and their families with food and financial assistance , auto and home repair, vision care, moving, and more. My beer came from Tampa’s Cigar City Brewing.

But how’s the beer?  Really, really nice. On the pint-glass pour, it’s bronze with a tight, white head and an orange, hoppy (of course) aroma that edges into cloves. On first sip, the hops hit right away, expanded on by the orange peel, but there’s also a fullness of flavor that has to be the wood.

It’s definitely a maple essence, but subtler than syrup or maple candy – more like a mellowing of the hops’ harsh edges. That malty biscuit flavor is there too, but I really like what the bats add. The orange peel starts coming through even more as the beer warms a few degrees. Alcohol content is 6.2%, a little higher than your average lager, but Homefront IPA hides the heat.

This is the first novelty ingredient I’ve seen in a while that really works – really makes the beer better instead of just unique. It’s not cheap. My six-pack of cans was $10.99 - but it’s brewed locally (wherever you find it), tastes good, and actually helps some folks a little. That’s not a bad was to end a Sunday.