Fifth Ward Brewing DB Big Willy Style: The Big Casks Hurt

Big Willy style is all in it

Oshkosh Wisconsin is a great place to peddle beers, but a strange place to offer up double barrel 20% abv barleywines. On the one hand you have a creaky old German town covered in saw dust with degenerate undergrads throwing up Truly in the streets. One point for beer. On the other hand, what orange vest dudes are crushing fusel fireballs after a long shift? Minus one point for barleywine.

Big Willy Style is too big for me. Babe, I like the small barrels the big ones hurt. At the outset canning a 20% abv barleywine and selling it to the biggest beer consuming state in the nation is patent negligence. Like what do you think is going to happen.

The craziest part to this massive ethanol waft is the press copy boldly asserts “a nearly non-existent alcohol burn on the finish.” It’s like they already knew. You get Teddy Grahams, some currant, and sticky Riesin candy. This is all under the shadow of absolutely crushing alcohol waft. Like when she tells you “oh my dad would show up and randomly give us gifts” you know booze was an underlying factor in that Disney TV upbringing.

I’ve had plenty of Bruery beers in this realm so I braced my obliques for the impact. I was not ready for the Twix and George T Stagg rounds that would rip through my chest. It’s vaporous. You can’t smoke around your teku. The exhale feels like Rolo teamed up with Vicks vapor rub.

There’s an economic concept called the Resource Curse where third world countries are absolutely destroyed when something valuable is discovered within their borders. This firey kick to the solar plexus is dangerous for Wisconsin residents. Sure you get the blessing of barrel complexity, whoppers and layered residual drag. You also get dudes in Carhartt falling into Lake Winnebago. Power and Maltsponsibility.

I enjoyed DBBWS but the spicy prune juice is not worth the squeeze. Your night is over. Someone just drove a Pontiac Sunfire into the baby overalls factory. It’s about to be negative 25 degrees and people will be left indoors with these cans.

There’s a reason New Glarus floods the state with Spotted Cow and lagers. The cheeseheads cannot be trusted with this much canned irresponsibility.


Second City Meadery Sing is the Least Objectionable Thing You’ll Have This Holiday Season

Here’s to forgetting

At the end of every year there’s always a deluge of cardinal lists. BEST BEER. WORST BEER. “Most Pithy London Ale III Beer” “Least Acetic Flanders Red” we all know the tropes.

Meads end up catching high praise for how sticky, viscous, jammy, expressive, barrel driven, or nut laden they are. End of the year lists never focus on that classic unsung virtue: disappearance.

How fast can you simply make something disappear? This seems to be what Live Oak’s entire business model is centered around. Sing is aptly named. I can drill this pleasant, uncomplicated outing in 3 to 4 minutes.

Sometimes I cannot even finish a mead at all on my own. This isn’t me having a baby fruit snacks and Gogurt palate. If you load up honey water with cashews, concentrated fruit and vanilla beans I will get the spirit of the beverage really fast.

Song is more of a soft grenadine run through the raspberry fields. It’s weird that this is no water added because the gentle cherry 7up and herbless aperol approach makes it feel less concentrated. The ABV is full ghost mode. You just get cracked in the midsection with berry stains and you’re on the ground before you know what in the Ulmo Blossom happened.

It’s not illegal to take someone to your room to watch Vine compilations, but it will be over quickly and no one will tell that story. Sing doesn’t need attention. It’s classier than people who try to trade away puppies on Facebook Marketplace, but it’s still salt of the earth.

Ulmo Blossom honey gives a ton of melon and pineapple. Here with low acidity raspberry it works to lighten things further. In Symphony of the Night, you can get these “SECRET BOOTS” that make Alucard like a single pixel taller. It makes no sense but it’s so fulfilling. It wont make any lists, but it shows a degree of whimsical care from a design perspective.

Sing is a fun, focused, one dimensional melomel that I drilled faster than most bottles of recent memory. There needs to be an end of the year list for those silent supporters that float us from life event to situationships quietly, without judgment or contemplation


Iowa Double Header: Toppling Goliath Assassin Vanilla vs Assassin Bramble

Cozy beans

Flyover states rejoice we have an Iowa Hypejuice DOUBLE HEADER.

Right out the gates, the hoppy bombers remain so fulfilling and well done in a way that I haven’t experienced with the ubiquitous cans distributed to like 30 states now.

A decade in, the spicy Assassin has seen everything from the nightmarish Tequila version to the eternally coveted double barrel bottle that still moves for $700.00 secondary. Just this week TG announced a RYE double barrel assassin that’s sure to murder some domestic partnerships when partners are dragged to Decorah for a New Years Eve dinner.

TG creates MFT job security.

Let’s take a look at two other Assassin variants: Vanilla and Bramble. Vanilla Assassin used to be a ghostwhale with like a 15 bottle Saboe special release and was resold for $3000. Sitting at a 4.8 on Untappd, this had big beans to scrape and I am proud to say that it completely filled my wafflecone. The body shows restraint but not that Central Waters “ribcage and hipbones” execution. Never excessive, the platform provides just enough residual sugar for your SSRIs to work but not enough that you can’t have sex. That perfect depression strike zone.

You get the base beer and enough space for the kitkat/whoppers to let the wafers grind. It never becomes some oppressive Dreyers orgy. You aren’t sticky. It’s genial like when your friend asks you to blow into this tube so he can start his car. Neighborly.

The bramble is not great. It takes produce and burns out the barrel clutch just grinding through chocolate vvrrr BLUEBERRY vrrr brownie vrrr BLACKBERRY HOTEL JAM. If you like how Goose Island just destroys any cask complexity with Smuckers cunnilingus, then prep your preserves. It isn’t one dimensional but it takes Assassin and makes it worse.

The novelty is fine, you can do worse. It like moving the Elf on a Shelf when you only have partial custody, I get the spirit of it, but it just makes me kinda sad. It’s an uncomfortable merger. Uncrustables with Nutella just feel like double sugar and maybe I guess Iowans don’t want universal health care for this berry reason.

“Pass the bean but spare the bush” Decoricus, 14:31


New Image Estufa is Macro Oxidized Colorado Extravagance


“Mom can we have xyauyu?”
“We have Teo Musso at home”
I love strange breweries.

I thrive most with back of house weirdos. Front of house driven breweries with marketing teams and tiktok pods with ROI and boosted Facebook posts don’t get what I do. @nibrewing are brazen and full goblin mode. We see eye to eye. I get an email about what they are up to and it’s like “holy shit you guys are like OEC without the trust fund and dad with extensive links to B United distributing”

What even is macro oxy. That feels like when you do percs and bud light platinum at a Chainsmokers show.

Colorado weirdos are the center of so many stories. How many “we had tickets at Red Rocks” devolve into “so there I was in Arvada giving hand jobs for gas money”

I understand most barleywines don’t need the carbonated sack that Aeoleus gave to Ulysses. A crackle is fine. Barleywines that go full oxy no bubbles is next level. It’s laid so bare and naked it feels like seeing your friends in mid day sun at the beach. Even in shape people struggle. But it reveals that honesty only port and Sherry and fig and intentionality can effect.

This is a crazy beer and most won’t like it or be able to finish it. It’s so layered with grape swishers, almond Rocha, iced wine, and you know you’re in some bizarre Madeira zone when things start spiraling.

Only the most deviant will like this. Most people won’t enter this dark malty age of Kali Yuga. This is layered insanity that your relatives are justified in asking “is it even beer at that point” when you bring this fig Newton dip spit to a wake.


Burnt City Frost Dragon is a Chilly Pale Ale and That’s Fine

We have SF to blame for trying to make Brut IPA happen, as if the public couldn’t get enough of a hoppy cream ale with the body destroyed.

Now thanks to @wayfinderbeer the cold has set in on IPAs as well. This LageredPA trend is now trickling out to a Chicago. In a last air bender elemental reversal, @burntcitybeer is bending cold.

I respect cold ipa on one hand as the reaction to hazy malfeasance. Now people want things so clean and drilled down we are basically drinking IPLs to compensate.

Oh wait sorry it’s not an IPL I know that’s triggering for CIPA iceriders. It’s a novel new style that also happens to drill the body into nothingness but it’s totally not brut because no enzyme enhancing PEDs bRo.

This beer is pretty good and the best thing from the box I received. Scaled to cold ipas it’s a fine halfway house. A walk in icebox if you will. You get watery mouthfeel that can’t really sustain its WCIPA ambitions but these are for people who have missionary hop sex and use a rhizome safe word. The taste is lightly grassy, touch of arugula and clementine, all of the aspects have dynamat installed.

It’s a mellow ipa or an amped up Italian pilsner I guess and ironically the cold is not the time for this style. It’s fine, I remain skating on ice like Kristi Yamaguchi. 🧊

This Maclaren cryptobro in line at Cane’s Chicken

Atrium Brewing: Fantastic Kentucky Inconsistency

I had to grind for this view

There’s an unfair standard in the beer world where we expect every brewery do to every style well. We don’t do this at restaurants, unless you’re some Cheesecake Factor stan who demands shrimp gumbo, shepherd’s pie and a side of orange chicken in one sitting.

It’s ok to excel at a few things. Atrium brewing sent me a comprehensive lineup of their recent releases, the Italian pilsner meatball, it was fine. The tropical parfait boy? I can live without. The Oktoberfest? Sure, perfectly deece.

I love breweries that have a weird reach in their catalog that shows the humanity behind the scenes. Private Press and Floodland are effectively boring, all their offerings are so good that you almost don’t even need to hear about them.

What about when things are sexy and inconsistent? Kuhnhenn fans ears are burning right now.

Take the Atrium hazy, Never Late Than Better. I mean it literally, I don’t need the remaining cans, it isn’t that good. It is pithy, has a crackly astringent hop burn, the mouthfeel can’t sustain the massive alpha profile it sets forth and the bittering is crushing despite it leading with a big dry hop nose. I like when breweries release these. It is like reading Nabokov’s first American novel and seeing the innerworkings. The hoppy alpha acid shortcomings are worth it.

This only matters if they are awesome in some other way, otherwise it is just a mediocre brewery like 8000 other spots. Maple Bourbon Barrel Bean’s is exceptional. This is a page from the old Alesmith workbook. Tightly wound body, deep roast, exceedingly gentle maple barrel presence, robust powerful toasty coffee profile giving Lindt truffle, cocoa and barista condescension like “YES UH BARRY LYNDON IS A COMEDY UH ACTUALLY.”

That push and pull makes brewery life dynamic. One flight with nightmare juice and MDMA downstairs flooding at the same time is incredible. Atrium is lovingly all over the place as is the Kentucky way. KY has this contropposto pose where you think of bourbon and that intensity leveled over its straight leg, but Atrium has this natural twist in its torso, that boyfriend who listens to Harry Styles and knows crystal profiles.

Inconsistent range is the spice of life.


Faust Eisbock: The Raisin Collapse of my Bockhole

What a journey this lil guy went on

I get complaints that DDB is just a little mill of American exceptionALEism with no global focus. FINE. You want to go to Germany? Let’s go to FAUST, the #1 thing to do in Miltenberg.

Ah the old Eisbock, so misunderstood. Right away you see the 12% abv and they warn you of the EXTREME STRENGTH. This has been lying in wait since 2016, shipped across the world, and finally this oxidized lager can stretch its head. This brewery is over 250 years old but the German marketing rattle is similar to the American bourbon trend towards saddling some lore to an old building or edifice. However, this brewery has a storage cave dug deep into a mountain hundreds of years ago so you wont find that in an industrial park in Torrance. Wait maybe you can IDK.

With this marketing, coupled with this historical prestige, it’s like seeing someone who wears Brixton where you can’t make out if they are classy or trashy, it could go either way. This is designed for a beer drinker in that ABV obsessed phase, which usually followed the IBU phase that modern drinkers skip altogether and go straight to the binary choice of “ORANGE JUICE HAZY OR SOFT SERVE STOUT” and are instarones.

In this instance the abv works to be overbearing and unbalanced like dudes with a BMI over 30 with tactical informercial items always talking about “WHEN SHTF YOU KNOW IM READY” Who are you serving.

The abv isn’t masked terrible well and the construction paper meets figs and dates don’t scream synergy. You get a bit of astringency, a pop of liquid DME, some wafty grape fruit leather and a swallow that is like licking your fingers after going through old comic books. They should have served this at the World Cup in Qatar and really make people earn it.

At a certain point this becomes the schwarzchild radius of german beers. Germany has such a proud tradition that if you take an old heritage, and an old style, and then age it, the body will undergo irreversible raisin collapse in on itself. The final fate of malt holes.

It’s not good, but everything Andechs makes is god tier and costs like 3 euros so, maybe pick your battles ok.


Wren House Desert Kingsnake is a Pieta-stry Stout

Someone poisoned the waterhole

In my last review I got pushback where people lamented “what should these pastry stouts even finish at to please you DDB?”

A vanilla stout can either be one of three depictions of Jesus: annunciation, deposition, or pieta.

An annunciation is Gabriel announcing to the Virgin Mary. This is usually a perfunctory execution where the adjunct is there, the barrel time is limited, something great is coming but due to scaling, it just wasn’t there.

A deposition is where Jesus is being removed from the cross. This is usually excessive, effusive, hitting things too literally, overwrought expressions of Tahitian or Madagascan, barrel staves mourning.

Pieta is a pastry stout where Mary is holding Jesus’ dead body. This is the pocket you want to be at with barrel aged vanilla stouts. Grace, elegance, modernity with a splash of nostalgic high middle beer ages romanticism.

This Kingsnake goes full pieta. It’s not about the FG, it’s how you use it. This beer tastes exactly like the final bite of a Drumstick ice cream cone. It has the rich hard chocolate core wrapped in wafflecone and a slight waxiness from the residual vanilla. It is an allusion to vanilla without actually bisecting your bean.

It nods to gelato in the way a dude who knows his REI points has the impression of outdoorsiness. Bringing a brownie batter canteen would be too much. This has that fantastic capacity for remaining steadfastly roasty and a stout, the odd oiliness and chocolate rice aspect of a Crunch bar, but with the embrace of a barrel aged pieta.

At no point does Wren need to preach to you about their intent, they adorn a good stout with tasteful Rococo bean and nibs. This is how you want it to land, never feeling needless or showy, but succinct and purposeful Ben and Jerry’s.

This exceptional stout goes harder than pure carrera marble with no veins.


New Groove Meet Me at the Creek, You Wouldnt Last a Minute on the Pastry Creek

Dental insurance is basically a coupon

At this point pastry stouts are the Hallmark holiday movies of the brewing world. At best they can come off as derivative, at worst some sticky sweet overwrought treacle that you have to share with a lot of people to get any enjoyment out of.

Sometimes you get a “Holiday in Handcuffs” or something that takes the mold of predictable and takes it to the next level. New Groove took a Billy Strings song and said “ah yes this reminds me of two types of vanilla beans, CUSTOM toffee, cocoa nibs, and almonds.”

I braced myself for dental occlusions. Sometimes just a beer label can spike your A1c levels. The stout is worth the loss of some digits. And what happened then? Well, in Boiling Springs they say that DDB’s small pancreas grew three sizes that day. Somehow by multiplying enough saccharine negatives, an intense positive was derived.

The body looks excessive, but sheets akin to 500ct kit kat bar. I expected grating like when your friend brags about how many steps they did on vacation, like no shit you’re walking around a place you’ve never been of course youre going to put in 20k brownie batter steps. Instead it was this Ferrero Rocher elegance, bonkers but sustainable.

The cask is buried but provides heat and a drying structure to the adjuncts. Like your girlfriend who leaves the Brita pitcher in the fridge empty, its expected but a sweet minor disrespect. Swallow brings a touch of fusel warmth, flourless lava cake, ganache, and then miraculously: beer. At the core of this confectioner chaos, you can taste stout.

Like someone who talks excessively about credit card points, you brace your core for some grating experience. But then this stout takes care of the round of drinks and the sweetness is overriding in a pleasant way. The combination of all the additives are knit seamlessly like a warm patchwork quilt with upcycled candy store materials. Sustainable cavities for a mindful sip.

It is uplifting. New Groove needs to be the ghost of Pastry Future and go to Ebeneezer Weldwerks and show them what going down the path of sticky excess can lead to. You there what day is it? Insulin day. God bless us, every stout.


Fox Farm Welly: Can English Milds be Hype?

It’s not dgm stfu

This is what you get when you look up “taste of beer” in Microsoft Encarta. Just some old school, stodgy, cleanly executed, no frills English mild ale. Fox Farm brews the knit cardigans of the classic styles. It is comfortable, oddly regal, and has this air of informed superiority in this taciturn frame. English mild ales are the scientist in movies the government ignores until it’s too late.

It’s like pouring “Uh guys, youre gonna wanna see this” into a glass. I hope some bourbon chasing dipshit in Connecticut stumbles into a store asking for “Wellers” and they get this instead.

English session ales were crafted for a different culture than America embraces. In the days of World Cup fanfare, 2am Argentina matches, and lengthy hours of drinking, we could all stand to be less American in our drinking habits. The British are the most imperial people of them all, and here we are, enjoying a low abv pub ale, hardly imperial.

I like a beer that foresees the negligence of its drinker. This sands all the edges down and acts like that person that keeps your drunk friend from getting everyone thrown out of the club. Here, eat these wheat thins, drink some water, chill enjoy the multigrain crust, you good? No, skip this round, sip this scone flavored La Croix. Yes, I agree, fuck that bouncer. Your dad DOES do commercial real estate. You COULD buy this club.

The hottest girls always have weird unexplained leg bruises. This beer has that air of clunky mystery about it. The froth and sustain is vulnerable, but it lends itself to excess. It practically invites much larger swallows, crisp lightly grassy drags, Gardettos rye chip finish. The phenols are nonexistent and the esters poke their head out and throw a little wrench at you like the moles in SMB3 airship levels. Adorably dangerous.

Embrace soft small things

If beer were monkey experiments, this is the cloth mother. Put down the wire imperial stout dolls and embrace this fresh out of the dryer mild. At Thanksgiving you’ll have a lot of those emphatic deep sips dealing with relatives. With this beer, when your Airsoft cousin starts talking about how kids get litterboxes because they identify as cats, you can just crush this entire can