Great Heights Brewing Bourbon Legend is a GABF Winner Worth Seeking Out

In the wake of GABF, some people scramble to seek out the 300+ medal winning beers to check the pulse of respective styles. Often the confluence of hypewater and award winners are two separate academic tracks, resulting in two different diplomas and educational bodies. Some winners are straight up confusing. There are times when I try medal winning beers and have no idea how a relic of history made it past so many palates to take home serious hardware in light of modern advances and changing customer demands. If you remember in 2012 when TAP IT brewing won gold for IPA, you know exactly what I am talking about. The styles least subject to the weathervane of capricious flatbrimmed palates tend to shine the brightest. Barelywine and oak aged beers in general are indestructible with a lineage miles long, so when Great Heights took home bronze for bourbon legend, I wanted to dip in that caramel Houston fondue. 

The beer itself is both historically on style and adds a flourish of modern casking to make it still feel relevant and delicious. This isn’t some tired BA Bigfoot hat trick, from which the children have long since moved on. It balances the year long Woodford Reserve cask with a clean, dialed in body with moderate carb so this silky Skor bar aspect at the outset. GABF medal winners usually excel in restraint and this beer is no exception. Instead of going super casked, or relying heavily on the English malts to massage out some creme brulee shell, it provides dark fruit leather and dates. It is very good and immune to the secondary market. 
The most impressive feat is that this feels lithe and nimble despite the ABV and complexity. A can is totally fitting for taking some blackout adventures out and about to punish the town with your presence, dripping in bourbon Rolos. Houstonjuice to the fullest. It could have a longer finish, the cask could be more pronounced, it is a touch almost too attenuated, but these are minor complaints. Boohoo my Civic Type R doesn’t come with a full sized spare.
This is excellent and a testament to the nuanced ability to merge old world precision with the American modern predilection for excess. Scrape those sticky pegs, pump the brown sugar NOS fogger system, crack my barleyblock wide open, but make it a daily driver. Finish a beer with 16 platos and youll have a festival hit that no one wants to drink outside of thimble format. Make it too hoppy and dry or “thin” and you will buck the instarone crowd who are as dismissive as the line for Austin BBQ is long. 
Bourbon Legend is the beer for your coworker obsessed with talking about how many Audible books he “read” this year, classically letting you know how if he could, he would not even own a car, hubris leaking while clutching resuable bags striding into Whole Foods confectionary aisle listening to non-fiction on Airpods. A person of taste and decorum that can be offputting in the subtelest way but the alternatives are far worse.

LGVLABTOKF: Surfridge Brewing In El Segundo

Ok it’s time to play another round of Let’s Go Visit LA Breweries Today Ok, Fine (LGVLABTOKF). Today’s brewery is only ten days old so let’s put this newborn through its baby legged paces: Surfridge Brewing Company Brewing in El Segundo. Laying foundation, El Segundo has become this Shasta Manhattan Beach of sorts, expensive as hell, nestled in between the airport and the Chevron refinery. A wealthy beach community dripping in Shimano clip in pedal shoes and triple wide strollers, lacking the pure selfishness of the ultra luxury seaside hamlets that LA can provide. It is against this backdrop that this new brewery emerges.

Upon entering you are draped in several interlocking Etsy boards worth of inspiration. The black velvet text boards, wood carved HOP BAR complete with swingtop apothecary jars, innumerable tap handles carved from jade and every surface gleaming in whites or lacquered wood. It feels like the hotel lobby of some gaudy Miami SLS endeavor. The fermenters are inexplicably lined up in this arctic linen fever dream along the wall, outside of the brewing space.

The beer is fine. Really what type of morphological originality can we expect from a brewery that still has the new brewer smell? The kolsch is clean, the pale ale is their best beer and feels like a benchmarked Sierra Nevada pale, everything is as it should be. Then you see it, out of the corner of your eye, you can’t even process what tiny residence of reclaimed wood has been set before you: a child’s seaside cabin playset. This brewery not only has a full on child’s area with affirming posters like YOU ARE LOVED, but a no fooling tiny shack to play in. This is truly next level Maidisynn maneuvers.

While still reeling from the insanity of this industrial day care facility, you look at the carrera tile wall, when is it not subway tiles. When is it not ripped straight from Magnolia Journal: Hop hottles. That’s right, here for the usurious sum of two american dollars you are provided with a steeping cage, a pinch of simcoe, and careless abandon. They let you dryhop your own beer. To what end, it is hard to say. Maybe someone likes the ultra faint olfactory presence of old dry hops in their beer for what amounts to a negligible rest.

Maybe this place was designed for that crescent blade of receding hairlines and Under Armor shirts, the nostalgia of fading virility transferred into tap recitals and Dodge Hellcats and pop warner. Perhaps it isn’t even about the beer at all, the 30 empty draft lines each a dry reality untapped, beers to come, experiences that may never fill your glass. It is a place to slide slowly into comfortable track home mediocrity, Sonos speakers, various smoking and grilling components, green eggs and oiled baseball mitts tucked under mahogany Ethan Allen twin beds.

It sure isn’t about beer at this point.


Basil Hayden’s Ten Year Is the Most Underwhelming Thing I’ve Ever Put in My Body

It’s time to play another round of: Was This A Colossal Waste of Money? In the case of Basil Hayden’s 10 year, oh god yes, this money was practically lit on fire. Basil Hayden’s normal edition is already a pretty dumb purchase unless you have the toddlerest of palates. If you love the Beam Suntori catalog, for the same money you could buy knob creek or Bakers or for a little more, Booker’s.

This is for someone who is in a Brewster’s Millions situation who needs to waste money. Who really wants a watery 80 proof bourbon diluted down into suntea? Basil Hayden’s is for your coworker who reads Men’s Health magazine and enjoys Quiznos. The type of person who reads a column written 3 years too late about the types of fall bourbons they just have to try. This is the training wheels of even the most gentle bourbons like Eagle Rare 10, so much so that its is unclear whether the person who buys Basil even likes bourbon at all. The man who nods and grips a Michelob Ultra until it is half full and room temp. It’s fine we get it: you don’t enjoy drinking.

The nose is ethereal and almost nonexistent, nestea and the ghost of discarded Marlboro reds dropped into a wounded soldier. This is the high rye recipe that they use in Old Grand Dad, but it costs like three times as much. I overpaid at $75 but everyone overpays for this, really. The age statement does nothing for this beer and borderline makes it worse by way of shattered watery flowerbomb expectations.

The taste is completely watery and two oaky pumps of disappointment before it dribbles tepid and weak down your throat into leathery completion. This is your ambitious friend who drinks all their water a mile into your hike and ruins the rest of your pace with perpetual rests. If there was a lemon pledge flavored la croix well here it is. It’s so short and fleeting. BH10 is the “planed lumber” scented Yankee Candle that can barely fill the seedy basement you live in but it’s basically your own apartment because it has its own access and your nana never goes down there.

Basil Hayden’s used to be 8 years age stated and then went NAS in 2014. Now it’s supposedly 6-7 years so it amounts to papa watering down the Booker’s in your baba so the spicy spice doesn’t ruin naptime. It’s not that this is a waste compared to other bottles in its segment, it’s so god damn boring and diluted and pointless that even savage white label Jim Beam has a more compelling presence. This is the bourbon world taxing preexisting consumers to court Condé Nast neophyte palates who write about how “authentic” ethnic food is in Yelp

reviews so white that they reek of OxyClean. The ten year version amounts to a stupid bottle you buy your boss because it’s exactly how much you feel comfortable spending and the guy at BevMo makes $11.00 an hour and doesn’t drink this shit either so here you go the guy said it was good you like bourbon do you like this he said it’s rare supposed to be smooth happy holidays, do you use that frosted mug I got you last year? God damn this Basil Hayden’s ten year is trash.


Forager Brewing Kitten Treats is too vibrant when it is here, and saddening when gone.

Forager Brewing is one of those actors who takes AAA roles in Pastry feature films strictly to fuel their indie arthouse love of saisons and weird strong ales. For every Augustus Gloop craving MILLERZZZZZ, there’s a true gentlewoman of class coveting the lowkey gems. Kitten Treats is one such purring delight climbing up the scratch pole of public relevance. It is good, but not in the way you would expect. The first Kitten Treats was this weird almost Oud Bruin meets blueberry affair. The name of this beer feels like those pandering unoaked Chardonnays you see in the grocery store being marketed to stepmoms in Chrysler Pacificas, angular choppy hair feathering at the nape of their necks, each gripping a phone case that opens like a book.

The taste is anything but. Kitten Treats b2 is a return to standard form in Forager’s nonstandard way. This is a massive VSOJ meets Anabasis in execution. Instead of if you removed all the linestepping chocolate stout aspects and subbed into robust rye barrel character and vibrant red fruit. You have 24 months in FEW barrels, so ultracask and scoop your liverbox.

While technically a wheatwine, there is so much barrel character this feels almost like an overoaked/longboil barleywine. It is wildly saturated and more concentrated than ice wine. There’s none of that playful caramel, this absolutely explodes with clusterbombs of figs, prunes, dried tannins of forgotten harvests. The nose is so much Sazerac and rye spice, it feels in the 15%+ realm and you have to let this warm to 60 to really unlock the experience. Otherwise it’s like only getting the first ending in barley Symphony of the Night.  

The swallow seats even experienced drinkers in how layered and long it is. This beer has the warm comfort of holding a pet, running your fingers over the small sternum grooves, memorizing the tiny frame until it is gone and you are left with a small marble of grief rolling around in the cigarbox of your mind that sometimes clips the edges and reminds you of the compliant embrace of that small friend who is gone forever. You want

more of this, but it is too much all the same. Flambeed raisins might be something you take for granted, until the $40 bottle is gone. This will be too intense for many, but lean forward into the incredible heat, it’s worth it.  The alternative is a life of wholly mediocre experiences, being locked into a long term lease with a former lover because neither of you can afford a new security deposit


Jagermeister Arrogant Bastard is an Herbaceous Juniper 14 Maltcar Pileup

If you’ve ever rolled a Dodge Stratus into the curb reeking of Underberg on the way to your 8am sociology class, finally a beer has arrived for you. This unlikely merger of Jagerbomb preacher curl bros and grocery store Cascade hop stepdads was a long time coming. Those nascent seeds that later turn into cocktail fetishists and homebrewers are tucked into this bizarre digestif soil. No one asked for this beer but it was willed into existence. The nose is one part Jager spice: anise, orange rind, juniper and saffron. The other part is a militant overextracted all boil C hop chaperone, WARRIOR resin, wax shatter pieces and high school gym coach aspirations.

The offset.

It’s weird and not in the quirky “I matched with a life coach on Bumble, should I do it?” Way. It feels medicinal in this holistic essential oils way, residual cling like patrouli and burning sage. Ironically the prescription counter notes make this feel worse for you. The taste is like some good and plenties left rolling around the floorboards of a Pontiac Sunfire. Most p90x bros won’t know that neither Jager nor Arrogant Bastard are barrel aged, they are focusing on vascularity and whether the colts will cover the spread. You don’t need to focus on the lack of a barrel or the fact that this is a “hello fellow kids” marketing move that no one demanded but the current beer scene embraces in herbaceous novelty. It’s not good, but it’s such an insane eucalyptus meets sticky crystal hops mouth kiss from your aunt that you’re almost onboard for that offputting embrace.

This beer is made for a middle manager who clips his Nextel phone onto his woven JC Penney belt confident in his beer knowledge and Merona cargo shorts. To everyone else his eccentricity is a character trait, each wacky bottle he brings to cookouts a personality supplement. If you want juniper juice and the faded Malty underpinnings of chinook handjobs under the craft beer bleachers, the Pangs oF alpha acid past degrading the foreseeable future. You never leave this town, you marry the Cascade homecoming queen and both slide in bilateral domestic resentment and success. But you’re everyone else’s “beer friend” and you let the stretch marks show it.


Batch 66. Permanent Hangover. Westbrook/8th State/Birds Fly South/Charleston Fermentory. Nothing was the same.

I know every episode of @maltcoutureddb shatters expectations and reshapes all of craft beer from the stained glass fragments on a weekly basis. But this episode obliterates all expectations with the mendacious @permanenthangover Andy Godish! We do an ALL SOUTH CAROLINA BEER SHOOTOUT. We pit the SC king 👑 @westbrookbrewingco against @the8thstatebrewing and @bfsbeer and @chsfermentory . Only one remains. Also we play a new game of FASHION OR FERMENTATION. Andy really crushed it at that one. It’s too much to handle. I’ll be able to retire in Decorah on patreon dollars from this single episode.



William H Heavenhill b6 is wildly expensive, and outright incredible

Ok it’s time to play another round of: Was This a Colossal Waste of Money? The answer in the case of William H. Heavenhill is, Colossal yes, Waste of Money no. Let’s lay some foundation for this 16 year, 106 proof heater. First and foremost, this is a gift shop only bottle that you can buy after you go on the tour, for $250.00 retail. That last part likely made your balloon knot clench, and for understandable reasons. That’s like half a bottle of AVION in the club.

At this moment any other reviewer would immediately cop out, decry the price point and then proceed to point out that knob creek barrel proof costs a fraction as much and end the review with a pithy BUY ECBP INSTEAD. The slaps on the back would be resonant and endlessly accessible. Here’s why putting McKenna on a pedestal and being a false ally of the people doesn’t work: this is insanely good. The age statement alone is noteworthy but Diageo turns out geriatric trashwater so that cant carry the day. The secret sauce here is just how flawlessly rounded and poised this is. If you know the different between Booker’s and Booker’s 25th you know the difference some extra age and stock selection can make. This is like stock mustang vs GT500 difference in both price and quality.

The nose just separates in waves like flaky baklava serving up waves of cinnamon, apple filling and a ton of cherrywood split lumber. The taste feels so old and refined like some luxury hot tamales made by National Distillers. The swallow just vibrates with allspice and leather crashing like a zildjian cymbal. The internal mapping of the Heat travels slowly into your chest and you can almost see the inforgraph of the Vick’s vapor rub juice warming your guts in the best way.

The price is insane and you are paying a massive premium for a unicorn barrel. It is by no means a deal and I can already feel er10 dudes calling unrelatable DDB a tater shill. I get it: it’s expensive. It is also incredible and there are many far far worse bourbons selling for much more secondary. If you want to spend less go ECBP or Knob 25, no one will fault you. This however is some crazy unique cornwater worthy of at least a taste if you can smash it. Waste of money? Depends on how much Balenciaga you own. Colossal? Not by any standard.