Evans Brewing 'ChocōLatté' Chocolate Porter

Evans Brewing 'ChocōLatté' Chocolate Porter. 6.8% abv. 15.5 IBU. Black in color. Finger of foamy mocha head. Good retention, good lace. Head falls gradually to a decent collar. Nose of ground coffee, dark chocolate, roasted dark malt. Aroma of espresso comes forward with the temp change.

Front taste of bittersweet cocoa, day-old black coffee, mildly tart plum. Aftertaste of distant raisin, flat dark fruit, dark grape skin, dry finish. Medium body. Mouthfeel is warm, tangy, carby.

This is a good enough porter that merely adequately delivers on its promise of coffee and chocolate. Coffee is in the nose from the start, but only calls attention after the beer warms up a bit, and even that does not come across as fresh or bright. 

From the brewery:

"Chocolate explosion! The chocolate mines supply us with the necessary ingredients to make this ale. Miners use sticks of dynamite to blow chunks of chocolate into rail cars heading straight to the brewery. We mine the most chocolate and espresso flavor from select grains to produce a massive chocolate flavor that rolls over the tongue into a gentle finish with a hint of espresso. ChocōLatté aims to please those with a cocoa addiction."
[source: evansbrewco.com]


Ballast Point 'Mocha Marlin' Porter

Ballast Point Mocha Marlin Porter 1
Ballast Point 'Mocha Marlin' Porter. 6% abv. 42 IBU. Black in color with two fingers of thick foamy tan head. Outstanding retention and superb lace. Nose of ground coffee, vanilla, cocoa powder, herbal notes. 

Front taste is roasted malt, bittersweet dark chocolate, black coffee, bitter dark fruit on the back end. Aftertaste is bitter cocoa, vanilla, herbal hops, black coffee underneath, dry finish. Medium-full body. Mouthfeel is thick, creamy, carby, clingy, resin.

This is an excellent chocolate porter. The chocolate tastes fresh-shaved off a high-cacao dark chocolate brick, complemented well by a strong black coffee expression. Contrary to what the label says, I would describe it as a chocolate porter with coffee rather than a coffee porter with chocolate. 

The dark cocoa flavors are dominant throughout, with the black coffee taste faintly underneath, emerging fully only in the aftertaste. A ribbon of vanilla underlines the entire beer from nose to finish, with herbal hops merging as the temperature rises. An excellent chocolate beer that is supported by coffee. I suspect the coffee bean count is not as high as most would expect, including the brewers, but it's a fine brew regardless. Well recommended.

From the brewery:

"Coffee and chocolate come together in this brew. Our Black Marlin Porter is the perfect beer for a mocha mashup. The addition of coffee and cocoa plays perfectly off the roasty, chocolaty flavors of this English porter, while a hint of vanilla smooths it all out. It’s full-bodied, but not too sweet; try it for breakfast…or dessert."
[source: ballastpoint.com]


Ballast Point Mocha Marlin Porter 2


Ballast Point Mocha Marlin Porter 3


Ballast Point Mocha Marlin Porter 4


Ballast Point Mocha Marlin Porter 5








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Esteban Carreras '211' Sixty

Esteban Carreras 211 Sixty cigar 1
Esteban Carreras '211' Sixty. 6x60. Medium brown wrap. Good build with straight lines and well smoothed veins and edges. Cut and lit well. Punch cut today. Medium-easy draw pre- and post-light.  

First third tastes of bright herbal spice, white pepper, mild tobacco. Second third is raw almond, botanical, slightly bitter herbal on the exhale. Final third is walnut, cured leaf, allspice. Ash is marbled well, chunky, flaky, denoting a cut leaf fill. Ash held over an inch well. Burn was uneven at the foot, evened out in the first third, wandered slightly off-course again passing the midpoint.

This is a fine smoke, middle of the road between its brethren, the 5150 (a mild, balanced smoke that I loved) and the 187 (nearly too harsh for me). It's a mild cigar with bright spice notes, a flat white pepper expression, and nutty tones going into the second half. I smoked it at a leisurely pace and the pepper was present throughout without becoming too bitter or otherwise harsh. It was enjoyable all across while still maintaining that spice bouquet, a balance many mild spice cigars fail to achieve. Good stuff. Well recommended.

From the company:

“211. A light to medium cigar with hints of toasted almond and a touch of white pepper spice. The De Florado wrapper keeps the flavor consistent from start to finish.”
[source: estebancarreras.com]


Esteban Carreras 211 Sixty cigar 2


Esteban Carreras 211 Sixty cigar 3


Esteban Carreras 211 Sixty cigar 4






Eel River 'Twenty' Anniversary Bourbon Barrel Aged Triple

Eel River Twenty Anniversary Bourbon Barrel Aged Triple Ale 1
Eel River Brewing 'Twenty' 20th Anniversary Bourbon Barrel Aged Triple Exultation Old Ale. Vintage 2015. 11% abv. 80 IBU. Dark ruby color. Hazy. Fine sediment. Finger of foamy beige head that falls fast to a sustaining collar. Fair retention, excellent lacing. 

Nose of molasses, bourbon, vanilla, sweet bread. Front taste is molasses, bourbon, roasted oak, pungent plum. Aftertaste is bourbon, raisin, plum, black coffee, pecans. Dry finish. Full body. Mouthfeel is hot, boozy, astringent, thick, syrupy, sticky, clingy.

This is an extraordinary BBA brew, a decadent offering that demands moderate enjoyment. You don't chug this one. Rich, thick, tall, strong. Starts sweet, ends dry. Plenty of bourbon and oak as promised, bound by dark malty and fruity depths. Wonderful. This is what a BBA should be. Strongly recommended.

From the brewery:

"Our Triple Exultation Old Ale aged 6 months in single pass, white oak bourbon barrels. Rich notes of bourbon, toffee, toasted malt and ripe fruit balanced by an aroma reminiscent of vanilla, oak, molasses, and caramel."

[source: bottle]

Eel River Twenty Anniversary Bourbon Barrel Aged Triple Ale 2


Eel River Twenty Anniversary Bourbon Barrel Aged Triple Ale 3


Eel River Twenty Anniversary Bourbon Barrel Aged Triple Ale 4



Alpine Beer Company 'Pure Hoppiness' DIPA

Alpine Pure Hoppiness Double IPA  1
Alpine Beer Company 'Pure Hoppiness' Double IPA. 8% abv. Golden honey color, hazy, some sediment. Two fingers of foamy ivory head. Excellent retention, nice lace. Nose of pine, bright herbal hops. Front taste of light malt, bitter herbal hops, botanical, resin on the back end. Aftertaste is tall bitter herb, vegetal, citrus rind, dry finish. Medium body. Mouthfeel is somewhat thin, sticky, slightly astringent.

This is a good DIPA that should be recategorized. It's an IPA. I don't care what the malt bill is. It could be a great brew if it were balanced better. Instead, we get a bitter hoppy standard IPA. 

When I have a DIPA, I look for a tall malt presence that complements an abundant hop expression. Perhaps a sweet finish. Perhaps a rich mouthfeel. Feel free to blame Pliny The Elder and Hop Stoopid for setting the bar in terms of that balance of flavor. Regardless, it's simply not here. In addition, the hop bundle is front and center, bright and forward, but not quite fresh in taste despite the dry hopping. The malt is nearly absent, evident in both its thin body and bitter-hoppy dominant taste. Citrus notes arise only in the tail of the aftertaste.

To be clear, I enjoyed this brew. However, I hesitate to recommend it, if only because it betrays its category, and because there is a sea of DIPAs that I would choose before having this again. If you love bitter hoppy brews, you will likely enjoy this beer. If you are looking for a big, bold, complex DIPA, seek elsewhere. Mildly recommended.

From the brewery:

"A West Coast Double IPA so mega-hopped it will take you to hop heaven. We’ve used hops in the boil, more hops in the giant hopback, and added to that, an incredible amount of dry-hopping for that cutting-edge 'hop bite.' Once you’ve tasted this unique beer, all others pale in comparison."
[source: alpinebeerco.com]



Alpine Pure Hoppiness Double IPA  2


Alpine Pure Hoppiness Double IPA  3


Alpine Pure Hoppiness Double IPA  4


Alpine Pure Hoppiness Double IPA 5






Firestone Walker 'Bravo' Barrel-Aged Imperial Brown Ale

Firestone Walker Bravo Barrel Aged Imperial Brown Ale 1
Firestone Walker 'Bravo' Bourbon Barrel-Aged Imperial Brown Ale 2017 Vintage. 13.2% abv. 28 IBU. Red-brown in color with thin tan head that quickly recedes to a five-minute collar before losing nearly all carb. Moderate retention, excellent lacing. Nose of roasted malt, chocolate, bourbon, dark fruit. Intense wood notes and a tall aroma of toffee rise with the temperature.

Front taste of caramel, vanilla, bourbon, oak. Rich dark chocolate emerges as the temp approaches room. Aftertaste is boozy, warm brown sugar, strong bourbon, some bitter fruity hops on the back of the tongue, sweet finish. Full body. Mouthfeel is thick, sticky, round, astringent.

This is an extraordinary beer, a perfect example of what I look for in a BBA. Fans of brown ales may be put off by this big beer which crosses category past the point of recognition. Few will feel this is a brown ale at all. 

That being said, judging it strictly as a BBA, the promised bourbon is up front, beginning in the aroma and continuing in every sip. The wood expression is ever present once the temperature rises. The overall flavor profile includes dark chocolate, plum, vanilla, all of which mingles with the bourbon and oak in a perfect balance. 

The aroma is superb from the start, only to get better as the beer warms. I found myself smelling this beer almost as much as I was sipping it. And make no mistake, this is a sipping beer. Frat boys looking to chug-a-lug need look elsewhere. At 13.2%, this big bold brew is meant for casual enjoyment over the course of a conversation. Alas, I was alone on my patio when I popped this bottle, but I normally share such treats with others, not only to spread the wealth but to prevent myself from getting too drunk.

I first had Bravo at the Firestone Walker brewery two years ago. At the time, it was not available in bottles with no plans as such. It was brewed exclusively to be blended in their annual Anniversary Ale. Enjoying it on its own was reserved for visitors to the brewery. I remember my friends and I marveling at how  amazing it was, and how it was easily the biggest and best brown ale we'd ever had. We wished they would bottle it. Finally, our wish has been granted. Seek out this limited release beer, especially if you love browns and BBA's. Strongly recommended.

From the brewery:

"February 4, 2017 Release. We proudly present the 2017 Vintage of Bravo, our Imperial Brown Ale aged in retired American oak bourbon barrels. Although Bravo was the first strong ale brewed for our Anniversary Ale blending program over ten years ago, it has yet to see its own bottled release, until now. Balancing rich toasty and chocolate malt flavors with a gentle balance of noble hops, Bravo is brewed to showcase barrel flavors with massive bourbon barrel notes that morph as the beer warms in the glass."
[source: firestonebeer.com]

“Since founding our brewery in 1996, we have specialized in the rare art of fermenting beer in oak barrels. In the Fall of 2006, we embarked on a program to barrel age a series of vintage strong ales that would later be used as components of a blended beer. That blend would become our first Anniversary Ale, ’10’. After the release of ’10’, we released limited amounts of the components beers on draft only. Many of these beers gained a cult following that craft beer fans raved about and begged for us to put in bottle. Bravo was one of these beers.We proudly present the 2017 vintage of Bravo, our Imperial Brown Ale aged in retired American oak bourbon barrels. Although Bravo was the first strong ale brewed for our Anniversary Ale blending program over ten years ago, it has yet to see its own bottled release, until now. Balancing rich toasty and chocolate malt flavors with a gentle balance of noble hops, Bravo is brewed to showcase barrel flavors with massive bourbon barrel notes that morph as the beer warms in the glass."

[source: box]


Firestone Walker Bravo Barrel Aged Imperial Brown Ale 2


Firestone Walker Bravo Barrel Aged Imperial Brown Ale 3


Firestone Walker Bravo Barrel Aged Imperial Brown Ale 4


Firestone Walker Bravo Barrel Aged Imperial Brown Ale 5




Black Diamond 'Peak XV' Bourbon Barrel Imperial Porter

Black Diamond Peak XV Bourbon Imperial Porter 1
Black Diamond 'Peak XV' Bourbon Barrel Imperial Porter. 8.5% abv. 30 IBU. Black in color with a finger of tan foamy head. Superb retention and lacing. Nose of bourbon, caramel, vanilla, plum. Toasty bread notes as the temp rises. 

Front taste of bitter dark chocolate, dark fruit, red wine, toast and jam. Aftertaste is vanilla cream, dried fruit, bourbon, vanilla on the back end, slight wood expression all across. Medium body. Mouthfeel is hot, creamy, tangy, sticky, boozy.

This is an excellent BBA brew, a blend that is 25% BBA. You can tell from the overall taste that this beer is not completely from a barrel. Still, the promised bourbon taste is there, especially on the onset, while the wood flavor is faint and only detectable behind the aftertaste. Tons of dried dark fruit - almost sour fruit - tie together the notes of caramel, vanilla, and bready malt. For my taste, this is a little light in body for a BBA - even a blend - and the fruit is a touch pungent, walking close to sour territory. However, my overall impression is positive. I enjoyed this beer and would surely have another. Highly recommended.

From the brewery:

"Wherein we take our rich, luscious Peak XV Imperial Porter and set it down in Bourbon barrels for a little happy time (sometimes when you are waiting, time does not fly).. Bourbon and vanilla are a natural combo and the wood ageing smoothes the chocolate, further blending it with the malt flavors and adding wonderful depth. A true fireside winter warmer this one, we remain amazed at how great this beer is in an ice-cream/porter float."
[source: blackdiamondbrew.com]

"Subtle undertones of vanilla are brought forth using multiple sources of whole vanilla beans, followed by a stupendous nose of dark chocolate - provided by locally sourced cocoa nibs. The flavor is massive chocolate, creamy vanilla, toasty and malty. The finish is epic."
[source: bottle]


Black Diamond Peak XV Bourbon Imperial Porter 2


Black Diamond Peak XV Bourbon Imperial Porter 3


Black Diamond Peak XV Bourbon Imperial Porter 4


Black Diamond Peak XV Bourbon Imperial Porter 5









Robinsons Brewery 'Trooper' Premium British Ale

Robinsons Trooper Premium British Ale  1
Robinsons Brewery 'Trooper' Premium British Ale. 4.7% abv. Copper color. Excellent retention, nice lacing. Finger of tan bubbly head that gradually recedes to a thick sustaining collar. Nose of sweet malt, treacle, toffee, notes of citrus.

Front taste of toffee, herbal hops, light honey. Aftertaste is light brown sugar, light malt, candy sugar. Light-medium body. Mouthfeel is carby, tangy, light syrupy, sweet finish.

This is an excellent beer, meant for those who love sweet malty brew, not a flavor profile one would expect from the world of heavy metal. However, please take note of the rest of this review.

I hesitate to recommend it solely due to inconsistency. I've had this beer three times before the date of this review, and each time offered a different experience.

The first session proved thin, almost watery, with nary a malt presence and minimal carb. The second session provided the bulk of my above review, with rich malt, sweet toffee, a slightly fuller body, and a sustaining head. The third session had head and body, but lacked aroma or aftertaste. 

Clearly, there are issues at the brewery, but I chose to give them the benefit of the doubt and base my review on the best of the three sessions. It should be noted that the three different bottles were not from the same pack, which would denote a packaging problem. The bottles were purchased from three different shops, several months apart.

If you are a fan of rich malty beer, and you are a fan of Iron Maiden, one of the original British metal bands still rocking today, you might elect to roll the dice and grab a bottle (or several bottles, to increase your chance of success). If you are a fan of consistent quality and taste, and couldn't care less about beer endorsed by musicians, I wouldn't blame you for leaving this on the shelf. 

Ultimately, if you are like me, a fan of the band, but moreover curious and adventurous and willing to try your luck, what I can tell you is that you may discover a wonderful brew. Take all that as you will.


From the brewery:

"TROOPER takes its name from the Iron Maiden song which is inspired by the famous Charge of the Light Brigade. Being a real ale enthusiast, vocalist Bruce Dickinson has developed a beer which has true depth of character. TROOPER is a Premium British Beer inspired by Iron Maiden and handcrafted at Robinsons brewery. Malt flavours and citric notes from a unique blend of Bobec, Goldings and Cascade hops dominate this deep golden ale with a subtle hint of lemon."
[source: ironmaidenbeer.com]


Robinsons Trooper Premium British Ale 2



Robinsons Trooper Premium British Ale 3


Robinsons Trooper Premium British Ale 4






Foundation 'Charter Oak' Grande

Foundation Charter Oak Grande cigar 1
Foundation 'Charter Oak' Grande. CT Broadleaf. 6x60. Excellent construction with well subdued veins and ends. Medium-dark brown wrap with darker shades. Cut and lit well. Straight cut provided an easy draw pre- and post-flame. The wrapped foot roasted well, readying the cigar promptly. 

First third tastes of cedar, almond, faint sweet bread, earthy spice on the exhale. Second third includes fresh leaf, pepper notes, walnut, botanical herbal. Final third has more wood expression, further walnut and pepper but still balanced well. 

Mouthfeel was creamy from midway through the first third, continuing well to the band. Overall taste was mild-plus, round, balanced. Ash was clean, holding two inches with ease. Burn was mostly even, particularly in the second third, with little maintenance on my part. 

This is an excellent cigar at any price point, but stands tall within its value range. It smokes and tastes like an exclusive, expensive cigar. It’s also one of those smokes that has no “put it down” point. It never goes over the cliff with strong bitter pepper. From end to end, it’s rich, creamy, woodsy, spiced, and slightly sweet, developing a balance throughout. 

The combination of Connecticut broadleaf with Nicaraguan fill makes for a medium-to-full bodied smoke with an inviting rich taste that’s bold but not overpowering, a taste that both a long-time connoisseur and a first-timer can agree upon. A superb smoke that made for a nice lunchtime break. Highly recommended.

From the company:

"Foundation Cigar President Nick Melillo announces the completion of his newest brand, Charter Oak, set for release at the 2016 IPCPR Show in Las Vegas. Charter Oak also pays tribute to Melillo’s grandfather, who while earning a modest salary working for the Winchester Repeating Arms factory after WWII, smoked exclusively, broadleaf cigars manufactured by FD Graves on State St, while, no joke, Rick Ardito’s grandfather, a guard at Winchester, also smoked FD Graves biggest selling broadleaf, Muniemakers."
[source: foundationcigarcompany.com]


Foundation Charter Oak Grande cigar 2


Foundation Charter Oak Grande cigar 3


Foundation Charter Oak Grande cigar 4


Foundation Charter Oak Grande cigar 5


Foundation Charter Oak Grande cigar 6