I try to actively keep my finger on the pulse of new breweries that are worthy of your attention and not just repetitive hype reinforcement of one off Cantillions or whatever St Louis juice is making the rounds. Imagine my surprise when I got messages about a lager powerhouse in…Virginia.
I usually engage my core and put on my blast suit when I see a VA hurt locker arrive. To see Vibrissa carve out a name with cans of pilsner, festbier and hefeweizen felt like a betrayal to the commonwealth. No fruit puree, cereal, or IP theft in sight.
This is Front Royal laundered in a new location, but unless you’re some hardcore Winchester, Culpeper, Fairfax cartographer, its just Virginia.
There is this civil engineering concept of “third places” spots in a city that aren’t home or work that you can exist. We are losing them rapidly as home congeals into work and every third space is now a place you pay to inhabit. Vibrissa feels like a genuine third space. The taplist is riddled with ESBs, low abv porters and baby IPAs: you can just exist.
This helles is as third place as it gets. I crushed several of these while last place in Overwatch 2 and it softened the experience. Eurostyle hopping without the stupid vegetal IPL reaching that many breweries strive for, jasmine not juniper. The soft accomplishment of lowering your screen time with actual living.
Park Pass feels out of doors in that you aren’t supposed to focus on it. If a foley artist draws attention, they are bad at their job. This makes the snap of a neck sound as crisp as an Anjou pear, with the light water cracker and bibb lettuce swallow, melty and riparian. It is less bready than some heftier hellies, and glides on cucumber handroll heelies. It won’t fill you up but it is something you order to pad out the experience.
The clean swallow gives you a space to collect yourself, the alcohol doesn’t create the experience, it is an a frame structuring it. This is a can that you give a friend and they don’t say a single word about, and sometimes that is the most effective beer of all.
Vibrissa offers that rare slice of Virginia beer that we can just silently enjoy without being compelled to scrutinize “oh what now?”
Michigan has many hidden gems, cherry varietals, juggalo deviants, a weird upper peninsula that’s basically shasta canada that even Wisconsin won’t claim. Lots to love in that old mitten.
@waxwingsbrewing have been causing a buzz with their strong ales and this foray into double barrel stouts feels like the recent change in dunkin points: everyone about to be mad for some reason. They are just tryna do something nice.
It has a sky high untappd score and exists as this inconspicuous counterpoint to the ultra hype stouts in the resale game. The body is managed beautifully and provides a Stavey heat in your clavicle. It warms like flourless lava cake and she’s impressed by Bucca du Beppo. The crackle goes this boulevardier route hipsters love and rye has a pop of spice and resin knife hits.
It seems irresponsible but courteous. The beverage equivalent of shaking out a comforter to find underwear for someone you just met. The depth never gets too sweet but maintains poise. If you’ve ever met someone who nonironically says “ITS GIVING-“ and then lists a series of horribly watered down DSM terms, this is the opposite of that. It’s warm and enjoyable and never starts a sentence with “NOT ME-“
The issue is that people who care will be mad you have this, and people who don’t will overlook it. Reconciling the fervid locals and the hype battermouths is a tough road to hoe. Just enjoy this in silence. They will see you drunk from such great Heights.￼
Is there a way to smash elegancy into simplicity? The new Mazda MX5 is amazing but ask any one of your friends and they would just shrug like it wasn’t worth even contemplating. The humble helles, the bright cousin to the popular pils. Always the lagersmaid, never cutting that bottom fermented cake. Hill Farmstead found a way to make a soft spoken liquid feel assertive.
Autumna has a problem at the outset: the experience is context specific. It is almost never allowed offsite so it remains an amuse bouche for those who make it to the verdant fields. You can predict what happens next. The growlers are 1pp and Munichbeasts resell growlers of helles for over $100. What even
Please ice your tailbone after you no doubt just fell out of your chair. I offered up a Side Project Tete de Cuvee and a guy asked me to add, for this helles. The inherent issue becomes: how can Autumna ever live up to the dilemma that flippers have created? What helles can ever live up to triple digit prices?
The simple answer is, it cant. The complex answer is, it doesn’t matter. It can’t live up to the resale figure because the crisp, deceivingly full bodied challah character can be found for $7 in Andechs. That similarly-hopped creamy mouthfeel you might be able to approximate with Weihenstephaner. It wont be quite the same. The Louisiana Fried Chicken biscuit, touch of perle bergamot. You can grab a weathered 500ml German offering with the white ring on the neck of the recycled bottle, but it wont be oak cask conditioned. Paulaner wont hug you like high crumb sourdough with light minerality. It wont have this bizarre sense of place that terrible editorial writers constantly leverage.
It’s a strange situation where now HF exists as its own competitor. Years ago I would be step mash sabre rattling about how Augustiner can be had for less but, now we have Suarez and Fox Farm and Goldfinger and Bierstadt and pFriem really undermining the idea of perpetual European supremacy. Just enjoy it.
Comparison ultimately can be the thief of joy. Sometimes we have to look beyond secondary and focus on what is in the glass, at a certain point, people are just gonna argue about Chris pratt doing Mario’s voice
I know what you are thinking, “wow old DDB so hard up for appliances he’s out here peddling tangential electronics reviews. You hate to see it.”
That is not what this is. Yes the fridge is a collab with Stone and branded with gargoyle, and trust me, we will get to that. This is first and foremost a BEER FRIDGE.
I have very specific and intense beer needs and I wanted to put this device through the paces to see if this has what it takes or if this is some janky glorified dorm icebox.
First things first, let’s articulate this outright: this is just a baller albeit huge minifridge. It has Stone gargoyles on it but doesn’t like audibly yell “YOURE NOT WORTHY” or have a speaker that says “NOW YOU ARE SUED” or any Sapporo logos on the bottom. It is a fridge ok.
It is a bad ass minifridge that has several cool features if you are maladjusted like me and need even more space for beer to be cold at all times, and other niche needs.
WHAT IS IT?
This is the NewAir x Stone Brewing Beer Froster SBF125AB00.
Let’s get this housekeeping done, you can check it out here:
If you buy the fridge and use the code DONTDRINKBEER you get 10% which is a COMPELLING DEAL.
Enough schilling RuinationBoxes let’s see if this is worth your hard earned Cam Girls credits.
First thing I find hilarious is in the press materials it specifically notes that this will “FROST ALES LAGERS IPAS AND MORE” like imagine if they just listed every beer style that it will indeed frost. Pages and pages like “Yes, dortmunders too, Eisbocks? You got it. Pumpkin Porters? NO. IT WILL NOT.”
The first thing you will notice is this thing is huge. It says it holds 125 cans but that is like to the brim of trash macro (aka an amazing evening) or several cases of cage and corked green glass bottles (impress your Tinder/Grindr dates.)
The ad copy specifically notes the beer door gives you a “frost-free view into your collection of Arrogant Bastard ale.” I mean this earnestly: no one has a collection of Arrogant Bastard. If you walked into someone’s house and saw like a curated vertical of bombers of AB, you’re about to end up on a Netflix true crime documentary.
The door is bad ass though. It is heated so it doesn’t get fogged up or ever introduce moisture so your labels on your American wild ales stay pristine so you can prove the provenance of your Bullfrog Grrzzzz. Wet fridges are poverty tier and this is Stone IRS level.
When I opened this my wife said “that has to go in the basement.” Admittedly, the Stone wrapped graphics are the worst part of this fridge UNLESS you absolutely love Stone in which case that will be the best thing ever. It has a campy overtness to it like maximalist GenZ fashion that weirdly almost becomes rad again for how over the top it is. Give it a few years for early 20s kids to drink Levitation ale ironically.
Thankfully, the fridge itself is dope enough that the fridge is easily redeemed.
This had me laughing at the idea of pressing a button and like some FROST BREWED marketing from the 90’s an icy party would break out. Then I tried it and it legitimately goes off. I used a thermostim to check the temp and I took at 75 degree 750ml glass bottle from 75 degrees to 54 degrees in 60 minutes. The can dropped even more.
You press party mode and it holds it at 24 degrees for an hour instantly making a beer ready to drink. This sounds inconsequential but I legitimately use this a lot now. No more bottles blowing up in the freezer because you forgot about them. This used to happen to me nonstop and cause domestic strife. Not with party mode.
If you are unlike me and have friends, you can just hold it at 24 degrees for 6 hours assuming people will be constantly using it. This is awesome for Malt Couture because we are always grabbing stuff over periods of time and tossing things in. This sounds like im exaggerating but it alone makes the fridge worth your attention.
It is extremely helpful if you also have a beer podcast and/or friends.
THIS IS BIG AND HEAVY AS HELL
If you have been looking at wine fridges, the heft and compressor on this nukes those. It weighs 91 lbs and has a ton of customizable interior space. I constantly want to try different bottles and styles so I wont ever just have like 125 cans in there. It feels solid, the door slams hard with heft and a tight seal. The entire thing feels competently made.
At this price, yeah it better be. It hasn’t pounded my power bill a ton either.
I used to think when I was a kid that my friend who had a “drink fridge” in the garage was like end game opulence. This is basically that without the dumb freezer part you will never use.
This is an over the top, ridiculously branded, luxury beer fridge made specifically for beer that works extremely well. My friends roast me nonstop and even they begrudgingly noted that it was rad. Obviously you’re like “this is clearly paid content, why should I listen to this bullshit.” I totally understand that sentiment, but the fridge is legitimately nice and worthy of your consideration, even at this ultra luxury price point.
Could you go get some Dahmer-tier sad break room fridge on craigslist? Absolutely. This is absolutely a luxury splurge and a tall ask given the price, but it is extremely useful and bad ass.
So drop a G and start icing down that Arrogant Bastard collection that you absolutely own.
We shell see if I get a Cease and Desist for using the word “Stone” in this review.
It’s conflicting when good people release a completely shitty bourbon. The dichotomy is present in the aesthetics of the bourbon itself. There’s a gorgeous etched bottle, hefty espresso tamp cap, and then extremely thin, pale straw “I have a drug test coming up” piss hue looking like a malnourished Basil Hayden.
But it’s made by a cool staff.
The eye rolling begins with a heft spoonful of CIRCUMSTANCES: this is made at the original Old Taylor Distillery. Legend has it that this tater holy land still has wreaths and myrrh laid in front of the warehouse by flipper missionaries. Then on the day of release, the distillery let those corn chuds come in and buy 12 per person. Over 1000 people showed up and they dropped it to 1-2pp. It was gone instantly and this not good $55 bottle suddenly finds itself in the $200 secondary realm.
If you’ve ever gone mountain biking and fly down the trail above your ability level, things go sideways quickly.
The nose is cradle robbing to the point where the 4 year feels closer to a 2 year Willett. It has that sickly sweet Frosted Flakes white lightning with soft pithy apple and a kind of foil bag stale Corn Pops thing happening.
The palate is where things get more phoned in than Spirit Halloween memes. If this were meat it would be chicken tartare. It’s not ready yet, put it back, the kernels aren’t even popped. There’s iodine and Martinellis, lemon sharpie, melon and nautical hull solvent. It finishes with Haribo peach ring and turpentine. It burns like hazmat despite being 98 proof. Yes she is single, extremely hot, and wildly unbalanced so you will end up paying for it one way or another, as is tradition.
Castle and Key shined as a contract distillery where you could lovingly admire the dust on the Pinhook bottles and go about your day. The grounds are great, the people are nice but drinking this is the bourbon equivalent of transferring gasoline with your mouth using a garden hose. I do respect that they didn’t just sell MGP to stay afloat. Master distiller Marianne Eaves is a complete bad ass.
In the end though, I’m not trying to drink marmalade and carpenter’s epoxy.
Carton Brewing sent me one of the best beers this year, and one of the most horrible beers of 2022. In the same box. Let’s talk about them both.
XI is a masterclass in fig jam, port, massaging sweetness and coupling it with a fantastic sherry dryness, and leaving a swallow that is concise with notes of almond and Ferrero Rocher. At first glance I looked at the “brown sugar rum barrel” and it gave me pause. I thought this was going to be some wacky melanoidin extravagance. Perhaps that alone would have been Sugar Babies forward, but the wheatwine provides structure in lightening things. It’s like when William H. Macy shows up and you know things are gonna be ok.
It feels lighter than 12% due to the body, but also the depth of the cognac gives big Fox Farm Copestone energy despite not having the port. You can drill this entire bottle and still show up to couples counseling and work on communication. Everyone wins.
That being said.
Southside is a lemon pledge trainwreck. Me and Augie Carton often don’t see eye to eye on wacky flavor profiles. The NJ locals love “Regular Coffee” and I thought an imperial cream ale didn’t need granulated coffeemate dumped in it. Agree to disagree.
When I opened Southside I had no idea that a metastasizing meyer lemon tumor was pulsing inside undiagnosed. I tried it and had to text Augie, why, in the times of Murphy’s Floor wax and grapefruit Air Wick, were there only one set of foot prints on the mint beach. It was then that Augie carried me.
Look at this on paper: gin barrel, lemon zest, mint and juniper. Seems fun right? Some whimsical PNW type of riff you would see from Upright. Oh no. This is pure zested nocturnal emissions from lemon penitentiary. It goes ammonia rag, hanging car tree air freshener, chewed FIVE gum, and this meringue meets Aquadent closer that ensures no one is open mouth kissing. Imagine a lemon tart meets Underberg burp.
How can one brewery make these two wildly divergent beers? Sheer ambition. That is why I respect Carton, they do what they want and even if I don’t get it, their fanbase will. Also please support them, dunking on a NJ brewery with this draconic legislation is the last thing anyone needs.
This beer is an absolute nightmare. I know it’s hardly fair to open up some teenage geriatric juice, but good god. “What beer from 2009 is even holding up?” Probably Gratitude, a billion lambics, and not this.
New Hampshire beer has changed a lot in the past 13 years and this beer is old enough to have pubes. I suspect this tiny offering wasn’t great when it came out, but it has evolved in the Bane pit into some hateful back breaking liquid. I was molded by it.
It pours out with carb, which may even be a dangerous sign. Lacto laying a dead bird at your doorstep letting you know it’s been busy in here. The waft at first is somewhere between Jack Links beef jerky and the LAPD Morgue. It’s offensive a pervasive way, like Anthony Jeselnick punchlines without the dryness.
The meaty elements give this platform for boullion cubes and warm turtle tank. Upon taking a sip my mandible bouncer immediately fills up the salivary glands. It is the same energy when a Starbucks employee sees that one unhoused patron they are very well acquainted with. It has no business here in my mouth. Constant chaos preparing for ejection.
I swallow and there’s a little smack of gardettos rye chips, hamster cage, and wet garage boxes. My throat kegels like a tower defense game. DOTA except it’s vomiting. This White Birch is unwelcome. It exists outside of God’s grace and consequently beyond Her mercy.
Going in for a second sip feels like coach putting you back in knowing you just tore your palate ACL. The second run highlights this dusty couch cookie crumbs that interplays with that Cesars wet dog food on the nose. Like a Neil Breen film, the layers of shittiness compound. This isn’t funny though.
It’s important to drink beers this bad. Like your asshole rich friend who points at some old object in his sumptuous home and says “THIS. This is what keeps me humble.” And then brags in a slightly different way. It makes you appreciate literally every other beer that isn’t this.
Some ghosts are best left in the past. Maybe I could work on myself instead of dunking on some obscure NH brewery who never intended this beer to be enjoyed a lifetime after release.
I sometimes feel like I cover Colorado beers too much on DDB so I will stfu unless there’s something compelling I need to discuss. Iced. Reduced. Roysenberry. Wild Ale. This needs to be addressed.
No one is drinking the modern American sours and thinking “this simply doesn’t have enough fruit.” Amalgam took an already jammy beer, added 350 lbs of boysenberries, pressed it again with a wine press, then freeze distilled that, and bottled the concentrate.
I thought this was mead or a liqueur when I saw it. It looks like a god damn ice wine. It pours out intensely syrupy and I got instant blueberry IHOP PTSD vibes. Wafflerotic syruphyxiation.
The most bizarre thing about this OEC/Ale Apothecary level apeshit beer is that at its core: it remains a wild ale. It’s got intense boysenberry and the “tiny room service preserve jars” energy. What you don’t expect is that lactic, acidic pop on the backend. You’re indulging on some fruit tart and catch sour purple skittle shrapnel.
I can’t say if this needs to exist but I am glad it does. This is genre bending at its finest. It pushes wild ales to a frozen refinement. Elsa all magenta-mouthed, fuchsia ice crystals vomited in the bushes. The degassed profile makes it just feel more refined and silky and gives that pop rocks crackle to the end an extra punch.
This wont replace your Super Smash Bros main. You aren’t gonna stumble into Denver seeking flat iced wild ales. It feels more like a Boyfriend Loophole where something irresponsible and dangerous is being conveyed upon you, and you are tucking this negligent fruit into your waistband and sharing it with your significant other. Neither of you know what is happening.
GenZ loves hypermaximalism in their clothes, insufferable prints and fake vintage mock ups, a tannic blast to Harijuku style. The sad workwear Millennials who like to play industrial dress up don’t get it. Moschino vs Carhartt. This berry pendulum swings. It smooshes the two, someone who works for a fun company but has a shitty role in it. Accounts receivable at Brazzers.
Second City Meadery made cherry mead and aged it in a VSOJ barrel. I will give you one guess whether this busted my pit wide open.
Zoot Suit Riots notwithstanding, a barrel isn’t everything. Even making a cherry mead takes a gentle touch. The most hack thing you always hear from the anti-combs is “tastes like cough syrup.” Sometimes, they aren’t wrong. Viscosity and weird sweetness go hand in hand with medicinal profiles, like protein powder and “Birthday Cake.”
After I saw that SCM won a bunch of awards at the Mazer cup, I figured why not, dip my tip in the hive. The strange thing about SCM is their tendency to default to softer execution so, yes there is a ton of cherry in this, but it isn’t pure Sucrets. It’s more like a Cherry 7up Cyser. The barrel provides structure but at a third use, that’s getting pretty run through and the bee goop is filling in them staves.
You get the rainier cherry type of flesh with a pop of acidity, medium bodied sheeting. It will still draw the Robitussin complaints from baby palates. That’s fine. There’s grown adults who wear Gallery Dept and act like it looks good.
Some things are the same whereever you go. Like if she wears scrubs, Birkenstock Boston Mules and drives a Nissan Altima: that’s about to be your most toxic relationship ever. Similarly this is a fancy cherry mead. It’s not the best example simply because cherry can provide a one dimensional panache but its about as good as you can execute what is now a candy staple in our tastezones. Red 5 is a feeling. It’s sleepover juice. Soccer practice swallows. Prolonged cherry exposure feels primal like using a foam roller on your T bands.
Lots of DDB readers doing rollouts. The real star here is control. Dudes with a Sig Sauer sticker on their Tundras cannot wait for you to ask them about it. This beer has a deep back story but it is ultimately simple and primal and enjoyable, without background checks. It’s for your Aunt or your little Cousin who looks like a rehab patient in foam runners.
Everyone is here to get popped and SCM will oblige.
Halfway Crooks are on a short list of absolute god tier lager producers and they are flooding the streets of the South with attenuated oyster crackers. What happens when a stickier palm is required?
I love seeing breweries play against type. Like Robin Williams in One Hour Photo, there’s something chilling seeing characters occupy a different space. Halfway Crooks are not stoutlords, they spend their days avoiding residual sugars, but when their daughter if abducted they get pulled back into a life that they tried to leave behind FOR ONE LAST MISSION.
It feels strange. You see dudes wearing Soccer jerseys and Adidas sambas doing this Blokecore cosplay and you know that’s not them. It is not what they want for themselves deep down. HCB almost seem to be doing this in a performative way.
I can see their forehead veins bulging at being required to kick that ABV up, to produce a viscous body. It’s like when the engineers at Dodge get the memo telling them that their new electric Hellcat has to make totally unnecessary loud revving noises for guys with VA loans. There’s no reason for this. It is pure vanity. It is unbridled power in the form of barrel aged negligence.
The body has residual sheeting and contradicts all the accomplishments they made with pilsners. This was built to stand bourbon confinement. The carb is minimal and provides enough to support the lofty ambitions for the glucophiles. It is perfunctory correct and hits all the right notes but it doesn’t feel like its heart is in it. If Kuhnhenn made a helles you’d be like, come on, we know what you really want to be doing.
The raw talent carries this through but it is lacking a degree of excess and messiness required for flabby stouts of the modern era. The cask profile is fantastic and leverages graham cracker, shortbread, and See’s scotch kisses. Something about the intent feels misaligned. When you see someone still wearing Carhartt double knee pants and dunks you want to grip their shoulders lovingly and tell them “this isn’t you.”
It’s good because they are good. Deep down, the heart wants what it wants, kellerbier and open mouth kisses listening to Toni Braxton.