Cycle vs. Against the Grain, A Horizontal Tale of Two Setties

Stout releases are replete with completionist obsessors and the natural embrace of this behavior manifests itself in horizontals.  We have much to thank 50/50 Brewing for this now pandemic embrace of “Stout Sets.”  What was previously derided as a marketing mechanism at best, and consumer manipulation at worst, is now de riguer.  People want stouts, they want treatments and they will suffer mistreatments to get stouts. Like the waxing and waning of the moon, FULL SETs remain the resounding call of the khaki-teethed retinue.

Cycle has proven themselves capable in the deviant realm, but what about those purveyors of punny-labels entrenched in a Sub-Mason Dixon geography: Against the Grain Brewing?  We shall address each in turn in today’s review: Weekday Set vs. Bo and Luke Deviant showdown.


If I am not hearing granite comments, then it means that the grout experts are queueing up to appraise my tilework.  Let’s keep this thin and sweet, not unlike- ahfuckit.

Monday: Maple Bourbon BA Coffee Cinnamon. At a certain point these stout releases feel like confectioner/breakfast madlibs.  Just pull 4 of them out a ten gallon hat, who gives a shit.  I had high hopes for this and the exceedingly thin body coupled with a cinnamon blast of Big Red goodness tapered that arousal faster than a Glenn Close sex scene. The maple is about as viscous as you would expect from humid Floridian conifers. Coffee rounds out the cast with a performance of mild acidity that sends your deltoids skyward with indifference.


Tuesday. Garbage stout, no adjuncts, psh why am I even bothering. PSYCHE. This might be my favorite of the entire set and this beer slays.  Like a Baby DBR, this shows that you don’t need four tire burnouts and nipple clamps to push up the engagement.  I know I am in the minority on this one, and it feels one note after the ANTEAD review where I wouldn’t stomp pressing my face into the freshly shampooed hair of that base beer.  This beer is absolutely stellar and leads with tootsie roll, roast, and a depth that goes outside the pale of cascading Torani syrup pumps.  It is such sweet irony that the tobacco and pumpernickel has more depth than the addition of outside ingredients.  A composition fallacy derailed, in a bottle.  Seek this one out, if you care about your capacity for nice things at all.


Wednesday, Cinnamon BA Hazelnut Bourbon_randomize$ingredient.DLL

If you know about the infamous Nooner8 and the resultant Hazelnut, then your expectations were justifiably higher than some Samus Aran highjump boots.  Oddly, this seems to align with Monday in an offputtingly thin, “imperial porter” sort of execution.  I am the last one to advocate more residual sugars and heft in stouts.  The issue is when you book five adjuncts to play an open mic and give them all 3 minute slots, you barely even settle in with Hazelnut before some hack Bourbon from Van Nuys is doing airline bits. Give them some room for expression, for Cycle’s sake.  The end result is something that is unquestionably good, but pangs of Coffeemate meets Nutella smegma.


If your traps aren’t sore from the innumerable shrugs and head rolls, prepare yourself for maple bourbon Rare Dos. Again, this is a solid solid beer, and from any other brewery, it would be knocking in more stout RBIs than Hack Wilson. The problem is, I know what Cycle is capable of and I know when they seem to be holding back.  Tuesday is clear evidence of that pure barrel shoryuken to the chest, this is like a weak Liu Kang mapleball just to keep you at bay.  The sweetness balances nicely with the dialed in Rare Dos body, but you lose the beer, and not yourself, in the moment.  Drink a couple of these on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship and dream of Vermont while you are high as balls on generic prescription drugs.

Friday: (Stranahan?) with vanilla and cocoa nibs.  This beer, was shockingly awesome.  It was never too sweet but the oily character of the vanilla surpassed the previously ho-hum Nooner9.  That waffle cone dovetails awesomely with the cocoa nibs and gives this sort of Whoppers spooning with Snickers that ensures there is left nothing to be desired.  You can finish an entire bottle and the high temps add a touch of spiciness from the oak.  It’s odd that the two bottles with least fanfare, that look the most lackluster on paper, absolutely slayed.

The stout game don’t make no damn sense.  Speaking of making no sense, allow me to introduce you to a Faustian nightmare of dizzying depths:


Each one of these craven harbingers of depravity is more debased than the last.  This is Shinra, outsourcing demonic tests that Umbrella Corp. refused to administer. The additions to Bo and Luke sound like something I would do in a janky attention seeking vedeo, except they outdid old DDB and did them for real.  The balls were pressed nowhere but directly upon the wall for this release. Let’s get right to it:


Bo and Luke, sassafradish. Radish. Are you composting me up the community garden plot with this one?  This had a wince-inducing type of licorice, melted good and plenty, but mixed with a vegetal minerality of potting soil.  It’s like if you poured yourself a Dr. Pepper, and then extinguished a Parliament Menthol in it.  This has to be an experiment in IRL trolling consumers.  Woof.


Oh christ. This one is the absolute worst and intentionally hits those Chilean coal mine depths of sadness that Dark Lord variants accidentally stumble into. FENUGREEK, CUMIN AND BLACK PEPPER.  Have you ever been drinking Parabola and thought, “ah shit I wish someone would toss a Sonic Chili Dog up in here” well divinity upon high, your mustard prayers have been answered.  Processed meat water, spice, Olive Garden entree sadness coupled with this lingering steamed water that goes under catering trays.  A masterpiece in macabre malevolence, but at least the smoke isn’t distracting.


Elderflower and Lavender.  Nothing else, just Bath and Body works meets Glade plug ins while confused Nana gives you a deep open mouthed kiss.  Her flower broach is rubbing your collarbone raw.  Take a smoked stout and run it through fresh laundry on the line, that classic Downey dryer sheet film undulates along your gumline.  If you have ever tasted women’s deodorant, that chalky floral regret, coupled with this sense of profound shame that comes with armpit tonguing: it’s that but with a black and mild clenched in your teeth. Brick and Mortar pornography stores are redolent of glass cleaner and industrial grade floral disinfectant, this captures both in that Yankee Candle decadence.

PEPPER: Ancho, Pasilla, Mulato blend.  I didn’t even take a photo of this one because, if we are being honest: it was pretty tasty.  The heat from the chili folds like mitochondrial inner membranes with the smoky complexity and it screams Austin bbq.  It has dry sweetness, with roast and capsaicin qualities that, despite appearing horrible, was better than most Barrio stouts, toe to tip.  This is the one true redeemer, but I absolutely recommend you try to land the other ones because, they are a Fear Factor horizontal in themselves.  Invite Joe Rogan over, have your ex film the whole thing.  Stupider things have happened in the beer world.



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