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Beer of the Week: Lagunitas Sucks Brown Shugga Substitute Ale

Beer of the Week - Lagunitas Sucks Brown Shugga Substitute

A great companion during March Madness

This beer originates from a popular brew usually available from Lagunitas called Brown Shugga. Brown Shugga itself was actually a happy mistake – it started as a failed attempt to brew a batch of beer that Lagunitas then attempted to save by adding large amounts of brown sugar. Low and behold it became a case of serendipity indeed!

There is a sad part to this story, however. Due to limited brewery resources and an unfinished brewery upgrade, Lagunitas was unable to brew their normal batch of Brown Shugga in 2011 for their 2012 release, which wasn’t news that settled well. To take responsibility for their actions, they took the self-depreciating approach by releasing “Lagunitas Sucks Brown Shugga Substitute Ale” in the hopes of receiving forgiveness from the public. Regular Brown Shugga has a more involved brewing process while the “substitute” brews more like their regular beers, which is what allowed them to come up with the alternate.

I’ve personally not been able to try the original Brown Shugga, so I’m hoping Lagunitas will get back to their normal rhythm allowing me to sample the “non-substitute” version in the future. I personally found the Brown Shugga Substitute Ale that hit the shelves to be a fine alternate for the taste buds in the meantime!

Tasty Mug Review

Beer of the Week - Lagunitas Sucks Brown Shugga Substitute

A regular shot for the purists out there

Appearance: Pours a clear, medium orange/amber with a nice head and lots of  lacing.
Smell: First thought here is that it smells awesome! Hoppy, sweet and citrusy.
Taste: Very complex yet balanced taste that is full of flavor. Sweet, sharp and citrus upfront with some bitter following after. It finishes warm and fruity (like tropical fruits) and the flavor lingers on the tongue.
Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied with the perfect amount of carbonation.
Overall:
A super tasty beer that I would definitely indulge in again. It’s very well-rounded and drinkable. Lagunitas generally produces quality brews so no surprise here!

Tasty Mug Rating: 4.63 / 5

Additional Information

Style: American Double/Imperial IPA
ABV: 7.85%
IBUs: 63
Original Gravity: 1.085
Malts:
Not listed
Hops: Not listed
Availability: Limited Release (released late Dec 2012/early Jan 2013) for this Winter release
Food Pairings: Cheese (peppery; Monterey/Pepper Jack, sharp; Blue, Cheddar, pungent; Gorgonzola); Grilled meat, barbeque, salmon
Glassware: Snifter, Tulip, Oversized Wine Glass
Aging: Can be cellared for long periods, under the proper conditions

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Beer of the Week: Founders Curmudgeon

Beer of the Week - Founders CurmudgeonAn “oldie but goodie,” this week’s guest is one of my favorite brews, Founders Curmudgeon. Curmudgeon is an old ale brewed with molasses and aged in oak. It packs a punch at 9.8% ABV, but is so well balanced it’s easily drinkable, and potentially dangerous. I know I could personally down more than one in a sitting – but that’s the good kind of dangerous, right?? Only available in March and April, you better pick yours up before the getting’s gone!

Tasty Mug Review

Appearance: Pours a clear, deep amber with a nice, frothy finger head. A small amount retains to the edges of the glass along with lacing.
Smell: Sweet, toffee, caramel or butterscotch with some subtle oakiness and can definitely pick up on the molasses.
Taste: Dark fruits, caramel, butterscotch or toffee, with very subtle oak notes. Definitely a warm, boozy sensation that emerges after a few sips. As the beer warms up the malts supersede the sweet notes.
Mouthfeel: Really creamy and smooth, but with a nice, medium body that’s not too syrupy in consistency, which to me makes it very drinkable. Lots of carbonation on the tongue upfront that very quickly smooths out.
Overall:
This is overall an excellent, well-rounded beer. While it has a boozy kick, it would be a good beer for someone to try that wants to step up their beer game and round out their palette. It’s not overly malty, overly sweet, or overly boozy … it lives in that happy place between all three worlds.

Tasty Mug Rating: 4.5 / 5

Additional Information

Style: Old Ale
ABV: 9.8%
IBUs: 50
Original Gravity: Not listed
Malts:
Unknown
Hops: Unknown
Availability: March – April
Food Pairings: Cheese (buttery; Brie, Gouda, Havarti, Swiss)
Glassware: Pint glass, snifter, oversized wine glass
Aging: Not recommended

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Beer of the Week: Samuel Adams Utopias (10th Anniversary – 2012)

Beer of the Week - Samuel Adams Utopias - BottleThis week’s featured beer is a true specialty – the 10th Anniversary Samuel Adams Utopias, released in 2012. For the beer experts out there, you’ll know right away why I label this a “specialty.” I had the good fortune to try it thanks to local beer friend that was generous enough to share a sample from his bottle. I’m not sure how I would have come to acquire my own bottle (nor pay for it), so I’m grateful I was able to try it; Utopias definitely stands alone in a separate category. Coming in at 29% ABV and without perceptible carbonation, Utopias almost resembles a cordial more than it resembles a beer, and is best served at room temperature.

History and Process
Utopias was first released by Samuel Adams in 2002. A new batch has been released every year since, but each brew is unique from previous years, and it is also released in limited quantities due to the aging involved. Only fifty-four barrels were bottled (15,000 bottles) for this particular batch, and the decanter is specially designed to honor the beer’s complex history and aging (plus it just looks cool).

Beer of the Week - Samuel Adams Utopias - Pour10th Anniversary Utopias includes some of the Sam Adams original Triple Bock that has been aging nearly 20 years. This batch has also been aged in bourbon casks from Buffalo Trace Distillery (to enhance the vanilla and maple notes), and spent time in several finishing casks, including Tawny Port casks, Vintage Ruby Port casks from Portugal, and Rum barrels from Nicaragua. The specific hops, malts and yeasts used are noted in “additional information” below.

Tasty Mug Review

Appearance: Pours a deep amber red/ruby color with no head of any kind. Appears to be clear, but it’s dark in color so it’s difficult to see through.
Smell: Dark fruits. Rich, sweet, more like liquor than beer.
Taste: Follows the nose; sweet, dark fruits such as fig or raisin, slight maple syrup, vanilla, oak. The strength of the alcohol definitely comes across in this one.
Mouthfeel: Smooth, syrupy; flavors stay on the tongue, coating it.
Overall: I can safely say I’ve never had “beer” like this before. It definitely comes across more like a cordial than beer, and drinking it would follow suit. It’s meant to be enjoyed at room temperature and in small, savory sips. This batch has very complex flavors. I’ve read that oxidation is part of the appeal of this beer; in other words you open the bottle, screw the cap back on when done and leave it be (like most liquors). Since I can’t personally speak to how this may taste a year from now, I would risk a guess that it will be as equally tasty as it is from a recently opened bottle. If given the chance to try it (or any of the previous batches) you’ll definitely want to add it to your “tried beers” list.

Tasty Mug Rating: 4.63

Additional Information

Style: American Strong Ale
ABV: 29%
IBUs: 25
Original Gravity: Unknown
Malts:
Samuel Adams two-row pale malt blend, Caramel 60, Munich
Hops: Hallertau Mittelfruh, Spalt Spalter, Tettnang Tettnager
Additional Ingredients: Two proprietary Samuel Adams yeasts (one is a champagne yeast strain); Maple syrup
Availability: Limited
Food Pairings: Cheese (nutty; Asiago, Colby, Parmesan)  or cheesecake
Glassware: Pint Glass (or Becker, Nonic, Tumbler), Snifter, Mug
Aging: Can be cellared for long periods, under the proper conditions

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Beer of the Week: Trappist Westvleteren 12 (XII)

Westvleteren 12 (XII)

Westvleteren 12 (XII)

After sampling this week’s featured beer last night, I’m still reeling from beer afterglow this morning. Upon first sip, I can immediately taste why Westvleteren XII is often regarded as the best beer in the world. Brewed since 1838 at the abbey of Saint Sixtus in Belgium, it has never been available for sale in the United States. Running about $85 for a six-pack, it was well worth the price. You’ll be hard pressed to find it now, as this was a one-time-only retail release – most of the 150 stores nationwide that were selected to sell it ran out within minutes. All I can say is I’m extremely grateful for a good beer friend that was able to acquire some and share it with me.

Just for the record, “Trappist” can only be applied to beer brewed by Trappist monks in their monastery. Among all Belgian beers only six are allowed to use the name of Trappist – Achel, Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle and Westvleteren.

Tasty Mug ReviewWestvleteren 12 (XII) in a glass

Appearance: Pours hazy, barely opaque chestnut color. Minimal head in this particular pour but was sharing with a friend. It has very fine bubbles that retain around the edges of the glass.
Smell: Just the right hint of sweet with dark fruits, raisins, plums, maybe some cherry, caramel and subtle malts.
Taste: At first sip it is clear why this was a highly renowned beer. It is complex, but perfectly balanced with just the right combination of sweet flavors that taste of dark fruits like fig or plums. There is caramel, brown sugar and a very subtle hint of spiciness at the end. There’s a pleasant warmth from the alcohol as it’s consumed.
Mouthfeel: Moderate in body, very smooth and creamy on the palate, the oxidation sits on the tongue. The fine bubbles round out the mouth feel with perfectly balanced carbonation.
Overall: Most anyone should be able to taste why this is one of the top beers in the world. It is complex yet perfectly balanced, has excellent flavor, and overall is one of the best beers I’ve ever tried. The drinkability is off the charts and I really wish I could say I had more than just the one bottle that I tried. I think it’s absolutely worth every penny and if I ever make it over to Belgium I’ll be making my way over to the Abbey of Saint Sixtus.

Tasty Mug Rating: 5 / 5

Additional Information

Style: Quadrupel (Quad)
ABV: 10.2%
IBUs: Unknown
Original Gravity: Unknown
Malts:
Unknown
Hops: Unknown
Availability: Year-round but only available by reservation at the Abbey in Belgium (except for the one-time-only release in the U.S.)
Food Pairings: Buttery cheeses such as Brie, Gouda, Havarti, or sharp such as Blue and Cheddar; beef, smoked meats
Glassware: Snifter, Tulip, Goblet (or Chalice)
Aging: Can be cellared for long periods, under the proper conditions

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Beer of the Week: Magic Hat Pistil

Beer of the Week - Magic Hat PistilSpring is just around the corner, so to celebrate, this week’s featured beer is Magic Hat’s Pistil, a rather “grassy,” backyard-flavored sort of brew. Available in the spring and listed as a good summer beer, it would likely be a nice complement to a warm, sunny day spent lazing around outdoors.

Pistil is brewed with dandelion leaves, pale and acidulated malts, flaked oats, and Apollo and Northern brewer hops, which result in a beer with slightly sour acidity and smooth malt body. I can get a sense of all of this while drinking the beer. There are definitely some lingering vegetable undertones to it after you swallow. I’m not a big vegetable fan so my initial impression was “I’m not so sure…”  but the drinkability grows after the first few sips, then I found the consistency and smoothness of the beer made me want to keep drinking.

This beer also gets points for having interesting artwork on the label (which is what initially caught my eye when looking for new beers to purchase).

Tasty Mug Review

Appearance: Pours a golden color with a one finger head that lingers. Lacing and lots of bubbles coming up from the bottom of the glass.
Smell: Sweet, grassy smell. Almost like the aroma of a mild summer day.
Taste: Tastes grassy, grainy, but has a slight sour taste to it. There’s a mild vegetable aftertaste. A unique flavor overall.
Mouthfeel: Actually pretty medium-bodied which surprised me. It finishes very smooth.
Overall:
On first try I wasn’t sure I would like this beer, but after a couple more sips it grew on me and I found myself wanting to finish the beer. I think it’s the hint of the grassy/vegetable flavor that threw me off, with that little bit of additional sour taste, but it would probably be a really nice beer to enjoy with friends on the patio on a nice day.

Tasty Mug Rating: 3.01 / 5

Additional Information

Style: Herbed/Spiced Beer / Spring Ale
ABV: 4.5%
IBUs: 20
Original Gravity: 11° Plato
Malts:
2-row Pale, Acidulated, Flaked Oats
Hops: Apollo and Northern Brewer; Dry Hopped – Northern Brewer, Cascade
Special Ingredients: Dandelion leaves, flaked oats, California Ale yeast
Availability: January – March
Food Pairings: Not listed
Glassware: Pint glass or mug
Aging: Not recommended

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Beer of the Week: Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale

Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale

Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale

This week’s featured beer is Old Brown Dog Ale, an American Brown Ale from Smuttynose Brewing Company. Old Brown Dog is the second beer that was brewed after the Smuttynose Brewery opened, and if you feel inspired while drinking this beer, feel free to take a photo of your own pooch (brown or not) and send it to Smuttynose to be posted in their Old Brown Dog Pinups section.

Tasty Mug Review

Appearance: Pours a clear, deep amber with a decent head that dissipates fairly quickly. Lots of bubbles from the bottom of the beer. No lacing.
Smell: Roasted, malty, with a bit of hop.
Taste: Really nice flavor, sweet, nutty, maybe a tad metallic, toasted/malty and some caramel, light to mild hop.
Mouthfeel: Light bodied and pretty carbonated; there’s a bit of a bite from the carbonation.
Overall:
This is a nicely balanced beer, really drinkable with a nice flavor. I could definitely drink more than one. The only con for me was it was slightly more carbonated than I generally prefer in a beer, but that certainly wouldn’t stop me from having another!

Tasty Mug Rating: 3.45 / 5

Additional Information

Style: American Brown Ale
ABV: 6.70%
IBUs: 18
Original Gravity: 15° Plato
Malts:
North American 2-Row, Munich 10L, C-120, Chocolate
Hops: Bittering: Cascade and Galena; Flowering: Willamette
Availability: Year-round
Food Pairings: Grilled meats, sausage, rib, steak
Glassware: Pint glass or mug
Calories: Not listed
Aging: Unknown

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Beer of the Week: Thirsty Dog Citra Dog (Cask)

Thirsty Dog Citra Dog at AleFestThis week’s featured brew is Citra Dog IPA from Thirsty Dog Brewing Company. I happened upon this beer at Columbus AleFest this past weekend, tapped from a cask, and I’m pretty sure it was a rare find; I’m hard-pressed to find much additional information about this brew. The flavor and hops in this particular batch were nicely balanced and I’m definitely glad I was able to give it a try!

Tasty Mug Review

Appearance: Pours a pale amber with a white head.
Smell: Hoppy, sweet like citrus, and maybe grassy or like hay
Taste: Interesting taste with a strong hop presence and sweet as well.
Mouthfeel: Medium body and really very smooth.
Overall: I had this beer from cask at AleFest Columbus. Compared this to two other cask ales at the festival and this stomped the other two out of the competition. The flavor and hop presence were complementary and found this overall very drinkable. I’m going chance to say that I may have enjoyed this beer more due to this particular batch being cask-conditioned, I really think that added an extra element to the overall taste and mouthfeel.

Tasty Mug Rating: 3.85 / 5

Additional Information

Style: American IPA
ABV: 7.70%
IBUs: Unknown
Original Gravity: Unknown
Malts:
Not listed
Hops: Not listed
Availability: Limited (brewed once)
Food Pairings: Not listed
Glassware: Pint glass or mug
Aging: Unknown

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Beer of the Week: Tröegs Mad Elf

Tröegs Mad Elf Ale

Tröegs Mad Elf Ale

This week’s beer is Mad Elf Ale, which hails from Tröegs Brewing Company. Tröegs was established in 1997 by Chris and John Trogner and is currently located in Hershey, PA. The story of how the brothers reached the decision to open a brewery, and how they got to that point is rather interesting – you can read the whole history on the Tröegs About Us page on the brewery’s website.

Tasty Mug Review

Appearance: This beer pours a beautiful ruby red color (a clear, red amber) with a half finger head, about half of which retains while drinking.
Smell: Primary aroma is cherries, sweet, fruity.
Taste: Very sweet, yeasty, definitely tastes like cherries, which is kind of funky (but a good funky), syrupy, chocolate, and there’s also a bit of spice that hits the tongue.
Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, syrupy consistency, carbonated but smooths out at the end.
Overall:
This is a complex beer but I think it could be a little more balanced for more drinkability. However, considering the alcohol content in this brew, it surprisingly doesn’t override the taste. It’s an interesting beer, but probably not for everyone. I personally find it a nice switch from the more traditional, spicy winter warmers or Christmas ales.

Tasty Mug Rating: 3.39 / 5

Additional Information

Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale
ABV: 11%
IBUs: 15
Original Gravity: Unknown
Malts:
Pilsner, Munich, Chocolate
Hops: Saaz, Hallertau
Yeast: Spicy Belgian
Special Ingredients: Pennsylvania honey, sweet and sour cherries
Availability: Seasonal (October – December)
Food Pairings: Barbecue, grilled meat (beef), cheese (sharp such as Blue or Cheddar or pungent such as Gorgonzola)
Glassware: Chalice or Tulip
Calories: Not listed
Aging: Can be cellared for long periods under the proper conditions

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Beer of the Week: Rince Cochon

Beer of the Week - Rince Cochon

Rince Cochon

This week’s featured beer is Rince Cochon, brewed by Brouwerij Roman N.V. in Belgium. There has been some discrepancy as to if this is the correct brewery, but I’m going with what’s on the back of the bottle!

“Rince Cochon” translates to “Rinsed Pig” (an interesting name for a beer!). Rince Cochon is fermented in the bottle and is unpasteurized and unfiltered.

When I ordered it at a restaurant, I was greeted with a corked 750ml bottle which popped just like a champagne bottle. And on top of that, who wouldn’t like any beer with a drinking pig on the label!

Tasty Mug Review

Beer of the Week - Rince Cochon - Bottle LabelAppearance: Pours a clear, golden color with a big head.
Smell: Malty, sweet and wheaty.
Taste: Definitely tastes like a Belgian Blonde Ale and has caramel notes to it as well as light spices and sugar. Light and bready.
Mouthfeel: Very smooth and creamy with balanced carbonation; crisp; medium-bodied.
Overall: I found this to be a very nice Belgian Ale. I don’t always like beers that fall under the Blonde category but this was very agreeable and easy to sip. It would be a nice compliment when paired with the right meal.

Tasty Mug Rating: 3.2 / 5

Additional Information

Style: Belgian Blonde Ale
ABV: 8.50%
IBUs: Unknown
Original Gravity: Unknown
Malts:
Not listed
Hops: Not listed
Availability: Year-round
Food Pairings: Poultry, fish
Glassware: Snifter, Tulip
Calories: Not listed
Aging: Unknown

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Beer of the Week: Ommegang Seduction (Limited Edition)

Beer of the Week - Ommegang Seduction

Ommegang’s Seduction

The featured Beer of the Week is Ommegang’s Seduction, a Belgian Dark Ale that comes in at 6.8% ABV. I tried this beer on draft during happy hour at Liberty Tavern, which is worth a visit if you find yourself in the Powell, Ohio area. This is a beer that’s definitely good for a cold winter day while sitting inside a local tavern!

Ommegang mentions that it is brewed with six dark malts, and that it also has chocolate and cherries – both of which can definitely be picked up in the aroma and taste. Seduction is a limited brew so try it out while supplies last!

Tasty Mug Review

Appearance: Pours a dark brown/black with a nice head that disappears quickly but has some retention.
Smell: Sweet with a hint of fruit like cherry, and chocolate.
Taste: Tart, which would be expected with the cherry, definitely has some chocolate taste as well, light roasty and malty flavor.
Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, crisp and smooth. Very easy to drink with a nice finish.
Overall: This is a well-balanced beer, and I found it very enjoyable and flavorful to drink. I’d definitely drink it again.

Tasty Mug Rating: 3.61 / 5

Additional Information

Style: Belgian Dark Ale
ABV: 6.80%
IBUs: Unknown
Original Gravity: Unknown
Malts:
Not listed
Hops: Not listed
Availability: Limited production
Food Pairings: Cheese
Glassware: Snifter, Tulip
Calories: Not listed
Aging: Unknown