Gigantic is a brewery out of Portland. I wouldn't normally be able to get it here in Virginia, but for my friends at Letspour from whom I order things not otherwise obtainable here. Massive! is their really big Barleywine. It's a 12% ABV behemoth, so be prepared. Mine came in a 22 oz bomber and I'm glad I shared it. This one poured a nice ruby-ish brown with a small off white head. One thing that really stands out is that the folks at Gigantic let this one boil for 8 hours instead of the usual 60 or maybe 90 minutes. What that does is really saturate the wort with the malt of the barley. They also added a massive amount of hops to balance the maltiness of the flavor. The malt is very pronounced, but they have done a pretty good job of balancing it out. The beer has a creaminess to it and the aroma is definitely of malt and caramel. The flavor is strongly caramel, toffee and almost like an egg cream or milkshake flavor to it. Not necessarily super sweet, but in the malt. It was very smooth and easy to drink. There was a hint of booze to it, but much less than you would expect at 12% ABV. I really liked this beer. It was especially good on a snowy and cold night. I give it four out of five proper pints.
I just checked out the new Crooked Run Brewing Company in Leesburg, VA this afternoon. I read about it along with several other small breweries in an around Leesburg in a recent Washington Post article. It's very nice, yet small space. There are two long tables inside and two tables outside (with a heater). There are also about 6 or 7 bar stools at the bar. They had 4 beers on draft, though one was not yet tapped while I was there. They run a one barrel system from what I could tell, so you know the beer is fresh. Though from the looks of things this afternoon, maybe because of the Washington Post article, they may already need to expand. I tried their Logan's Song Pale Ale, Storm IPA and Summer's Night Raspberry Saison. The Pale Ale was a light copper and was mild, a slight hop nibble with a hint of smokiness. Very smooth tasting and drinkable. I would give it three out of five proper pints. The Summer's Night Saison was a dark saison with raspberry. It had a mild aroma of raspberry, but a noticeable smoky flavor that overwhelmed the raspberry. I liked this one, but wouldn't be in a rush to have it again. It was clearly well made, but just not my cup of tea. I would give it two out of five proper pints. The IPA was impressive. It didn't have a super hoppy bite to it, but it did have some. I actually tend to prefer a little less than the most extreme bitterness. It also had a slight mango and maybe pineapple flavor to it. It was very drinkable. I give this one four out of five proper pints. They have a number of intriguing beers coming soon, including a cherrywood aged Belgian tripel and a blackberry saison. I will try to make it back soon.
Let the Christmas beer season begin. I came across Santa's Private Reserve at Total Wine in McLean, VA and thought I would grab it. I haven't tried it before and I usually like Rogue, so I figured I'd give it a shot. It pours kind of reddish color with a little brown. There was a fluffy white head that dissipated quickly. The aroma was definitely piney hops. There was a of biscuit-y, earthiness and a tad of citrus in the flavor. There was a distinct hop bite to it. It is a relatively low alcohol content for a Christmas beer at 6% ABV. This reminded me of Sierra Nevada's Celebration Ale. It's not quite what I expect from a Christmas beer. It wasn't bad, but I was more in the mood for something more malt forward with some seasonal spices in it. I'm afraid I'm only going to go with two out of five proper pints on this one.
This is one of those classics I should have tried a while ago, but didn't get around to it until now. This is a very good beer in a class of beers that is hard to beat. I would not call this one my favorite of Trappist Tripels, but it is a strong contender. It pours an gold to orangey color with a thick, fluffy white head that dissipates quickly. The aroma is yeast with a little biscuit. The flavor is a little pear, a hint of orange with a good bit of the banana-like flavor of the yeast. Don't expect much of a hop bite. It's powerful at 9.5% ABV, but you would never know it. It drinks like a much lighter beer. I give it four of out five proper pints.
I grabbed this one in a hurry anticipating it would sell out quickly, but I did notice that Total Wine in McLean, VA had a pretty good stock. I typically like Southern Tier beers and I did like the Pumking. As a general rule, I really like pumpkin beer. This one is unique. I did try a pumpkin stout before when I did my breakdown of 13 Pumpkins for 2013, but this one is really unique. It pours pretty near black with a thin white head. It has a relatively light body with light carbonation. The aroma and flavor are very biscuit-y combined with cloves. There is pumpkin and allspice in the after taste, along with some vanilla and cinnamon. The allspice and cinnamon linger for a while in your mouth. I really like this beer and it is growing on me more as it warms up. I look forward to having it again. I give if four out of five proper pints.
I always like to try a new Dogfish Head beer when I see one. I picked this one up at Total Wine. I was intrigued by the theme of dedicating the beer to the Grateful Dead. I wondered what granola would taste like in a beer. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if I learned. This one poured a pretty dark gold with a thick white head. It smelled like an IPA. Nice floral and some citrus notes. There was something else I couldn't tell what it was at first, but after a while I realized it was pepper. Not sure where that came from, but maybe the granola? It did have a malty, bready flavor with a slight citrusy hop bite. However, I never really detected anything distinguishable as granola. It was a decent imperial pale ale, but it was not quite as special as I'd hoped. It does carry a 9% ABV punch. It's not overly boozy, but you can tell it is an imperial. I would give this one a three out of five proper pints.
He Said and He Said is an interesting collaboration between the pumpkin beer guru at Elysian Brewing in Seattle and 21st Amendment Brewing in San Francisco (which brought you Hell or High Watermelon). The idea is that there is one package with two beers in it brewed with pumpkin. Both beers have an ABV of 8.2%. However, one is a Belgian tripel with pumpkin, tarragon and galangal. The other is a Baltic (meaning big) porter with pumpkin, Vietnamese cinnamon and ground caraway. Both beers are a real treat. The tripel has the familiar banana and fruit flavor of a tripel. The tarragon definitely comes through as well, giving it a mellow herbal feel. I'm not sure what influence the galangal had. Nevertheless, it was quite delicious. The Baltic porter was an even more complex blend of roasty malt, coffee, chocolate, vanilla with a hint of pumpkin and cinnamon. I couldn't distinguish the ground caraway specifically, but there was a little something I couldn't quite place that smoothed and rounded out the other flavors and I think that's what the caraway did. Both of these beers was very, very good. If you have a chance to get one, get it. I give them both five out of five proper pints.