Three Belgian Reviews for you to try or avoid coming up after the jump Continue reading

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‘T Gaverhopke Extra

Brourweij ‘T Gaverhopke | Stasegem, Belgium | [[|]]

Creamy, tiny-bubbled lace; with a swirl, this beer shows some legs and a deep reddish hue. Suggestions of alcohol-soaked raisins, coconut, clove and wildflowers awaken the nostrils. Smooth slickness on a full body. Malty, but semidry with a tartness up front and some rum raisin flavor in the back. Fresh-toasted grain and modest hops field the rest of the palate. A very well-hidden 12 percent, with only a slight warmth. Easily a tasty brunch beer or a nightcap. Belgian fans, hunt this one down.

STYLE: Belgian Strong Dark Ale | ABV: 12.0% | AVAILABILITY: Year-round | SAMPLE SIZE: 11.2oz brown bottle

Our Score: A-

BA Overall: B+


Hof Ten Dormaal | Tildonk, Belgium | [[|]]

Heavy sea-foam head, turbid amber color. Spicy nose, a bit creamy with vague caramel or confection, lemon-ish herbal and obvious yeast flavors. Big burst of crispness from a lighter, dryer body. Bready, buttery, earthy. Dried fruit of apple, pineapple and kiwi. Yeasty with dried grain throughout; phenols are present, but are on the light side. Wet and alcoholic as the warmth creeps farther down the throat. An interesting beer to try, no doubt, but it just seems scattered and almost a chore to drink.

STYLE: Farmhouse Ale | ABV: 7.5% | AVAILABILITY: Year-round | SAMPLE SIZE: 12.7oz green bottle

Our Score: C+

BA Overall: B

Emelisse Imperial Russian Stout

Bierbrouwerij Grand-Café Emelisse | Kamperland, Netherlands | [[|]]

Pours a viscous black with a creamy, tiny-bubbled tan head on top. Big charred grain note in the nose with some chalky yeast in the back. Body is like it pours: thick. Right off the bat, there are some in-your-face chocolate and espresso flavors happening. Mild hopping is not noticed for the most part aside from a faint leafy flavor. Black currant fruitiness with a slow, back-ended warmth. Hint of charred wood. Bitter chocolate in the finish. A very good run at the style—worth seeking out.

STYLE: Imperial Stout | ABV: 11.0% | AVAILABILITY: Seasonal | SAMPLE SIZE: 10.14oz brown bottle

Our Score: B

BA Overall: B+


Fall Beer Tasting

Sept 23

Crack open some bottles of fall releases like Southern Tier Harvest and Pumking, Heavy Seas Prosit & Märzen, Cisco Pumple Drumkin and Wiehenstephan Festbier with Brewtique Beverage’s Tim Coleman. Maybe fall isn’t that short—we just really love these seasonals.

[330 Newbury St., Boston. 617.262.0363. 5pm-7pm/21+/free. [[|]]]

Amesbury Brew Fest

Sept 25

The Amesbury Sports Park hosts the 4th Annual Brew Fest. There will be beer, an OGO (Outdoor Gravity Orb), beer, summer tubing rides, beer and a mechanical bull. Here’s hoping their sample-pouring style is as liberal as their definition of "sports."

[12 South Hunt Rd., Amesbury. 978.388.5788. noon-8pm/21+/$10 for 10 3-ounce samples. [[|]]]

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Clown Shoes | Ipswich, MA | [[ |]]

Big tower of sea-foam head; cloudy yellow with a very active carbonation. Spiciness of coriander and hops with orange peel and yeast are blatantly obvious in the nose. Rolling crispness off of a fluffy medium body. All the right elements are here … orange peel and coriander with a light, bready malt flavor. Slight tartness evens the playing field, but the yeast does distract a bit more than needed with some chalkiness in the end. Coriander turns around and drops some bitterness, along with the herbal hop, for a pulling, semidry finish. A good take on the style: not overspiced, and well balanced aside from the overtone of yeast.

STYLE: Witbier | ABV: 5.9% | AVAILABILITY: Seasonal | SAMPLE SIZE: 22oz brown bottle

Our Score: B

BA Overall: A-


Magic Hat Brewing Co. | South Burlington, VT | [[ |]]

Quick to foam with a dismal lace, the dried orange peel color shows some clarity. Vague hits of caramel, smoke, spicy rye and herbal hop in the nose. Creamy medium body yields a modest smoothness. Malty, with a big flash of caramel sweetness to start. Hop bitterness and a hint of rye go for balance as a thin layer of smokiness covers the palate. Semisweet, ending with herbal hop, remnants of smoke and a touch of biscuity grain. Magic Hat is up to their old tricks by concocting this creation.

STYLE: Vienna | ABV: 5.4% | AVAILABILITY: Fall seasonal | SAMPLE SIZE: 12oz brown bottle

Our Score: B+

BA Overall: B-

Grand Cuvée Doppelbock

Les Trois Mousquetaires | Brossard, Quebec | [[ |]]

Corked, caged and au naturel. Dark and inviting for sure, but perhaps the darkest of this style we’ve come across. Hints of figs, taffy, chalky yeast, brown bread and molasses cookies in the aroma. Big malty mess slams the palate, but a good mess … some chaos can be a positive thing. Toasted and sweet, almost roasted, with undertones of coffee and cocoa. Ripe fruit and a warming alcohol are noticeable, but on the side. Modest hopping in a toasty, sweet finish. Perhaps more traditional than modern, this one is super tasty and becomes a dangerously quick sipper. Marvelous.

STYLE: Doppelbock | ABV: 9.5% | AVAILABILITY: Seasonal | SAMPLE SIZE: 750ml brown bottle

Our Score: A

BA Overall: A-


Beer Alerts!

Boston Craft Beer Tweetup

Sept 18th

The only thing better than running into fellow beer enthusiasts at a bar is running into fellow beer enthusiasts at a bar on purpose. Especially when that bar is Lord Hobo, there’s free food and all levels of beer geek-dom (and tweet geek-dom, for that matter) are welcome.

[Lord Hobo, 92 Hampshire St., Inman Sq., Cambridge. 978.807.1631. 2pm-5pm/21+/free, RSVP required. [[|]]]

Craft Brewers Alliance Beer Dinner

Sept 21st

One of West Roxbury’s juggernauts of classic American cuisine, West on Centre hosts a six-course meal paired with five classic brews from members of Craft Brewers Alliance like Goose Island, Kona Brewing Co. and Widmer Bros.

[West on Centre, 1732 Centre St., West Roxbury. 617.323.4199. 6:30pm/21+/$35 per person, $65 per couple, RSVP required. [[ |]]]

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Mama’s Little Yella Pils

Oskar Blues Brewery | Longmont, CO | [[|]]

White head crackles but the lacing stays; shiny sunspot-yellow color. From fresh-cut grass to perfume-like wildflowers to bready tones … a lively aroma. Surprisingly big crispness from a can, which accentuates the hop bitterness to produce a refreshing snap and bite. A clean, bready malt comes up on the palate, slowly forming its needed base. The stand-up malt and well-placed hop complexities make it very well balanced. A sheer delight to quaff; the earth may not shake with each sip, but it does its job, and a damn good job it does.

STYLE: Czech Pilsner | ABV: 5.3% | AVAILABILITY: Year-round | SAMPLE SIZE: 12oz can

Our Score: B

BA Overall: B

Haffenreffer Private Stock

Private Stock Brewing Co. | Latrobe, PA

Good ol’ Green Death always came across as a respected beer among its peers. Filtered clear-golden color; crackling white head only leaves a thin ring of lace. Bit of sweet-cooked corn in the somewhat clean nose—yes, even malt liquors want to be smelt up. Big smoothness with a snap of crispness. Clean and on the sweet side. Some bitterness from the hops and a kiss of alcohol help to balance. Drinkable with a clean finish; a charmer compared to the rougher of its ilk. [RIP Augie Haffenreffer, 1916-2010.—Ed.]

STYLE: Malt Liquor | ABV: 6.9% | AVAILABILITY: Year-round | SAMPLE SIZE: 24oz can

Our Score: B

BA Overall: C+

Lobster Lovers Beer

Brewery Rinkuskiai | Birzai, Lithuania | [[|]]

Brilliantly clear golden color with a creamy white head. Hints of cherry, white chocolate, rose water and alcohol in the nose … seems the alcohol wants to take over even in a subtle manner. Creamy body with a struggling crispness. Maltiness is pretty sweet with some vague fruit and buttery flavors. Warmth from the alcohol is of a clean solvent and peppery likeness. More malt sweetness in the end, though the beer does move forward; very balanced. Surprisingly good, and for its hefty strength, it does not stray too far. The name says it all … this would be good with a fresh lobster and drawn butter.

STYLE: Euro Strong Lager | ABV: 9.5% | AVAILABILITY: Year-round | SAMPLE SIZE: 16.9oz brown bottle

Our Score: B

BA Overall: C



Dogfish Fest 2010

Sept 11

The British Beer Company hosts a celebration at their Plymouth site that would top even our puritanical forefathers. This all-day, high-ABV celebration of the craft beer favorite will feature a dozen Dogfish Head beers, including a rare batch of "Bitches Brew." [British Beer Company, 6 Middle St., Plymouth. 508.747.1776. 1pm/21+/free. [[|]]]

Samuel Adams Octoberfest

Sept 10-11

Sam Adams marks the end of summer the traditional way—kicking off beer fest season with the release of their Octoberfest. This event will feature music, games and (duh) beer, with up to 15 varieties of Sam Adams on tap. Saturday attendees will also be treated to their first pint of Octoberfest free. [Park Plaza Castle, 64 Arlington St., Boston. 617.457.2281. Fri VIP session 5pm-10pm/$35, Sat noon-10pm/$15. 21+. [[|]]]

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We’re tired of the word "craft," which, literally applied, means something created with skill or someone who creates with skill. That’s it. But "craft" has replaced the beer industry’s awkward use of the term "micro"—like geeky braces worn too long—in defining small brewers. Some in the industry have redefined the word "craft" to apply to what they think small brewers are, instead of allowing brewers to stand up and define themselves.

And, like a viral high-five, more and more consumers are using the word to draw similar lines, in an attempt to separate themselves from those who drink mass-produced beers. Of course, this trend has created a window of opportunity for large brewers to create "craft"-like beers, and they are. The lines have now become blurry—no, messy.

It’s time for all of us to reclaim the root words "beer" and "brewer" versus adopting new terms that are creating a culture of snobs. It’s also time for people to understand that "craft" doesn’t necessarily mean "good," just like it doesn’t mean "quality" or "small" or "independent."

So instead of blindly supporting something because it’s been labeled "craft," how about we simply support brewers who make good beer with good intentions? And that’s "good" as defined by the consumer, not others who might have a vested interest. While doing so, maybe we can all reevaluate the following catchphrases:

"I am a craft brewer." No, you’re a brewer.

"I am a craft beer drinker." No, you’re a beer drinker.

"I drink craft beer." No, you drink beer … and hopefully, it’s good beer.




Sept 1st

Lots to like at this event. The Haven, opened in the old Zon’s location, is JP’s new, quality gastropub. Notch is the newest local beer, emphasizing "session beer" (aka low-alcohol brews). Hop Session is a 4.5 percent ABV American Amber dry hopped in the cask with Mt. Hood hops. A cask is a purely tapped, naturally carbonated brew. Order a Scotch Egg and you are good to go.

[The Haven, 2 Perkins St., Jamaica Plain. 617.524.2836. 5pm-11pm/21+/free. [[|]]]


Sept 3rd

Cape Cod Beer, Cisco Brewers, Harpoon, Opa Opa, Amherst Brewing—the list just never ends when it comes to the brewers of the Commonwealth. For their first annual celebration, the Massachusetts Brewers Guild has brought them all together under one roof. There are discounts if you buy early and even more discounts if you want to stay over in the Seaport Hotel—one swanky room for just $169. Get moving!

[World Trade Center Head House Concourse, 200 Seaport Blvd., Boston. 877.725.8849. 6pm-10pm/21+/$29 for first 500 tickets sold, $35 thereafter. [[|]]]



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High & Mighty Brewing’s Two-Headed Beast


For those of you who followed our High & Mighty Brewing Co. reviews a couple of weeks back, you might remember our mentioning that the Shelton Brothers were going to come out with a third beer under their brand. Described by Will Shelton as a "hoppy chocolate stout," Two-Headed Beast is currently making its rounds and thumping palates with more righteous fervor.

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High & Mighty Brewing’s Beer of the Gods


When describing a brewery, sometimes it’s best to allow the brewer to speak. Referring to High & Mighty’s official website: "High & Mighty brews are made with righteous conviction. We’re not just brewers — we’re beer-evangelists. We’re the Clergy of Zymurgy, the Priests of Yeasts, the Joyful Congregation of High Fermentation. We’re High & Mighty, and we’re here today to spread the good word, to talk about the Truth. And the Truth, my friends, is that the brewing world has gone to the Devil, and it’s almost too late to save it." According to them, the Devil embodies the production of "beer that’s 100% alcohol, with so many harsh hops that you’ll grow hair on your tongue, and strange ingredients that [were] never meant to be in a brew kettle."

Who’s behind all of this righteous smack talk? None other than the Shelton Brothers, a beer importer out of Belchertown who brew High & Mighty under agreement at Holyoke’s Paper City Brewery. According to Will Shelton, the H&M brewery was started "as a response to the ‘extreme’ beer movement — our effort to bring just a wee bit of sanity back into American brewing." And in the August issue of BeerAdvocate magazine, they acknowledge that the name "High & Mighty" was a fun-loving poke at forum posts made by our very own Todd Alström. Needless to say, we’re more than thrilled to inspire such a riposte.

As for Beer of the Gods, it’s described as a German Kölsch meets an Altbier, while the High & Mighty website also likens it to a German-style Farmhouse Ale. But is this righteous hybrid at 4.9 percent ABV truly a beer of the gods, or rather from the same extreme beer hell at which it spits? Let’s find out.

The Taste

It’s an unfiltered offering, hence the cloudy straw-yellow pour topped with healthy white foam. Aroma is slightly musty with notes of apple peel and sour lemon. Light-bodied and coarse on the palate, with astringent hop and grain tannin bites. Hops dominate with a sharp bitterness and a touch of hop oil and leaf. Hosts a grassy edge, apple tartness and citric acidity. The taste is aspirin-y, spicy and occasionally soapy. Very dry throughout, exaggerating the hop characters even more. Biscuity grains toward the finish. It ends bone-dry, chalky, yeasty and tannic, with lingering mineral flavors in the mouth.

Final Thoughts

It does what it says — in a move ironically extreme — with aggressive hopping and over-attenuation akin to a German IPA. Although this hybrid doesn’t technically exist as a traditional style, we love beer and people who can have fun with it. As far as judging its quality, those who like bone-dry, hopped-up beers will enjoy this (think De Ranke XX Bitter stripped of all sweetness), while others will scratch their heads and hate it. Personally, we dig it, drinking with an open mind and palate.

H&M also brews an Extra Pale Ale (XPA), with plans to release Two-Headed Beast, a joint brewing venture with Ron Jefferies of Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales. (Wonder if it’s a reference to our two heads? Yeah, we’re so flattered.)




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Wachusett IPA


Wachusett Brewing Company — one of Massachusetts’s most unsung breweries — was founded by three pals who all attended Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Ned LaFortune, Kevin Buckler and Peter Quinn eventually gave up their careers as engineers and biologists, and opened up the brewery in Westminster, MA, back in 1993. Today, they have over a dozen employees and upwards of a dozen brands, and their beer is retailed and poured at hundreds of locations throughout Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey.

In our opinion, one of their most underrated brews is their India Pale Ale (IPA). In the past, we’ve been criticized about our comments on IPAs in New England, but we still agree that the region doesn’t have enough examples of its own and that the vast majority of worthy hoppy beers available in the Boston area are domestic imports from the west. So in a market flooded with IPAs, where does Wachusett stand? Let’s find out.

The Taste

Bright golden in color with a touch of haze. Thanks to the hops, it’s crowned with a creamy foam head at least two fingers deep. Nose is soft but full of floral hop notes, fresh malt, slight herbal resins, and fruity undertones. Smooth up front and a bit coarse in the back, with a medium mouthfeel and a slightly chewy consistency. Crisp, with a smack of earthy and woody bitterness and tight carbonation. Some hop oils with touches of resin, grass, citric acid and citrus fruit pith; floral, too. A solid malty base is sweet with a hint of caramel and fruity suggestions of skin-on apples. Finish is dry with an aspirin edge.

Final Thoughts

While hardcore hopheads may deem this beer to be yet another average, ho-hum IPA, Wachusett IPA is actually a damn solid American IPA. It’s bitter and aggressive at times and full of complex flavors, but it remains balanced and interesting throughout, making it far more approachable than many of the American IPAs that seem to have Double IPA envy. Our only wish is that more Boston bars and stores would carry this IPA fresh.

Weighing in at 5.6 percent alcohol by volume, this brew can be found in 12-ounce bottles and on draft at select locations, as well as in 64-ounce growlers at the brewery. Speaking of the brewery, they do condensed tours Wednesday through Friday from noon to 5pm and full tours on Saturdays. Plan a road trip, bring some growlers home and let us know what you think.




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Great Divide Hades Ale


Though Belgian beer appears to have infiltrated the livers of consumers and inspired the minds of brewers in the US, it still has yet to peak. Every day, the unique techniques and ingredients found in Belgian ales are being explored by American brewers. Some have even put twists on Belgian styles that have given some Belgian brewers something to work toward. (We’ll probably get killed for saying that, but it’s true.)

A great example of this phenomenon is Great Divide Brewing Company of Denver, CO, who recently released their second Belgian: Hades Ale, a strong Belgian Pale Ale, brewed with a yeast strain originally obtained from Brouwerij Duvel Moortgat in Belgium. It’s a most welcome release during summer when most breweries are releasing light wheat- and spice-based quenchers. But anyone who knows Belgian ales will know how refreshing a crisp and dry Belgian ale can be — even a strong one. Anyway, enough talk.

The Taste

The white head is not shy at all as it quickly expands to the top of the glass, and the lace left over has no problem sticking around. The pale golden color shows off a bright clarity and a substantial amount of tiny bubbles racing to the top. There are borderline-pungent aromas of chalky, fruity yeast, with peppery esters and biscuity malt in the back. Certainly no lack of crispness here, as it rips through the moderate body. A tight kernel of malt vanishes quickly as the dry finish sets in with lingering yeast and bitter phenols.

Final Thoughts

Hades fares well, especially as this American brewery’s second attempt at brewing a Belgian. Its flavor profile is bursting at the seams, yet there’s a level of drinkability that stays true even for a slightly higher-than-average 7.3 percent alcohol by volume. The ale’s a bull’s-eye for Great Divide, and it’s great to see a craft brewer prevail while tackling such a temperamental style. What’s curious is the yeast strain: It’s very Trappist-like, but we’re wondering if the yeast used in Hades is of the Duvel variety, which was derived from a Scottish yeast strain. (OK, enough geekin’.) Great Divide’s founder and owner, Brian Dunn, recommends pairing Hades with steamed mussels (try using the ale in the shellfish cooking broth), crusty breads and virtually any artisan cheese. Sounds tasty. Hades is available in 22-ounce bomber and draft formats.




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Philadelphia is home to Monk’s Café, one of America’s top havens for Belgian beer lovers. The emporium is co-operated by Tom Peters and Fergus Carey, whose love for Belgian beer and food runs deep. How deep? So deep that Peters had a beer commissioned by Brouwerij Van Steenberge, the same brewery that brings us Gulden Draak and Piraat. From our understanding, Monk’s Café Flemish Sour Red Ale is actually Van Steenberge’s Bios Vlaamse Bourgogne ("Flemish Burgundy") — Tom convinced them to bottle it under a private label. Despite all of the "red" references, it’s actually an Oud Bruin, a style of ale that hails from the Flanders region of Belgium.

Oud Bruins ("Old Browns") are typically characterized by a distinct bacterial sourness and some yeast flavors resulting from the beer’s long maturation periods. There can be some fruitiness, a low hop flavor or aroma, moderate malt characters, a touch of occasional sweetness and minimal bitterness. There also tend to be oaky or woody characters caused by blending old and new batches that are aged in wooden vessels. Although this is not always the case, Monk’s Flemish Sour Red Ale is indeed such a blend. There’s a lot of debate as to how Oud Bruins differ from Flanders Red Ales; some argue they’re the same. In our opinion, the similarities tend to outweigh the differences, but we don’t have the word count to get into that discussion. Time for a beer!

The Taste

Leathery, with deep ruby hues. A creamy, beige, two-finger head that laces, retains and sticks well. Sour in the nose and quite vinous, with mildly fruity undertones of lime rinds and funky phenols. The puckering tartness — it really gets your saliva glands going — cuts through with an acidic smack that’s akin to lemon-lime juice with a salty edge. Dry, ultra-crisp and thin-bodied. A big oak note in the center amplifies the tartness and brings with it a woody edge. Suggestions of bitter cherries and raisins, even though there’s no fruit in the beer. Slightly medicinal and metallic as the beer warms. No real sweetness or maltiness to speak of — it’s all about the sour. Finish is dry and surprisingly clean.

Final Thoughts

A bit thin across the board, compared to other examples within the style. It’s not as intense and complex, which probably makes it approachable for more people. Not necessarily a bad thing, but still. We’ve also noticed changes batch to batch, so sometimes it’ll be all sour while other times it’ll be a bit sweet-and-sour. Still worth seeking out and exploring. Available from Global Beer Network in 11.2-ounce bottles and draught formats, both of which are refermented in the vessel and weigh in at 5.5 percent alcohol by volume.




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Stone 07.07.07 Vertical Epic Ale

Since 2002, Stone Brewing Company of Escondido, CA, has been brewing special bottle-conditioned beers every year (02.02.02, 03.03.03, etc.) as part of the Vertical Epic series. The idea is, you’re supposed to purchase each release, age it accordingly and consume all the beers together in a vertical tasting on December 12, 2012-provided you can wait that long.

With its composition as a Strong Belgian Ale, Stone 07.07.07 is consistent with past releases. However, this year’s variation is a Saison/Tripel hybrid brewed with four different malts and a blend of Glacier and Crystal hops. It’s then spiced with ginger, cardamom and the peels of grapefruits, lemons and oranges.

Another twist is that unlike past releases, 07.07.07 has practically zero hype around it. To our knowledge, Stone didn’t send out a press release, posted limited tasting notes and has yet to post their homebrew clone recipe. It’s a curiously quiet approach, but then again, Stone doesn’t advertise and consistently relies on viral word-of-mouth promotion of their beers. So is it worthy of any hype? Let’s find out.

The Taste
We pour the ale into a Belgian-style Cervoise glass. Deep gold in color, with rich, bright amber hues; it’s topped with a healthy, creamy, white foam that laces and sticks well. Smells like a fruit cup with a powdery, slightly metallic background, as well as a soft floral bouquet and some distinct cardamom notes. Creamy on the palate: smooth, medium-bodied, rounded. A tad lackluster, though, due to a thin carbonation edge-the mouthfeel’s a bit thicker than expected. Tastes nice up front, with the zing of ginger and smack of citrus. Kind of sweet, with some toasty, bready malt notes, a hint of caramel and a light fruity ester that sits on a base of (somewhat) tamed cardamom. Some gummy notes in the middle. Spicy, peppery alcohol gives bite and warmth. Finish is quite dry, with a bready, earthy linger.

Final Thoughts
While this is a most interesting combination of the distinctive Saison and Tripel styles, 07.07.07 is not the strongest of the Vertical Epic series. Though the cardamom was probably used gingerly (sorry, we couldn’t resist), it just doesn’t work for us-cardamom is pretty damn aggressive. A better approach would have been to remove the strong offender and allow the nuances from the Belgian yeast to shine (no need for spices most of the time). Plus, it would have given more of a stage to the ginger and Southern California’s industrious citrus. It’s also lacking the light-bodied effervescence and dryness found in both styles. That said, it’ll be interesting to see if this beer smoothes out and improves with age.

Stone 07.07.07 weighs in at 8.4 percent alcohol by volume and is available for a very limited time. Buy two-drink one and age the other.




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