For this month’s Imbibing Scribe, I’ve decided to start a new occasional series entitled, “Hunter Wilde’s Flights of Fancy” in which I, based on my own personal beer-tasting whims, select five beers based around a theme, drink them as a flight with my tasting partner - a.k.a., my wife - and report my findings back to you. This flight’s theme: Thanksgiving.
My selections for this theme were based, not on a food paring with turkey or stuffing, but on matching the Thanksgiving vibe. To me, that’s late fall, cooler weather, rich flavors, spices, and bread. With this in mind, I went to my local spot and bought the following:
1. Heavy Seas Riptide White IPA (described as having heavy citrus and coriander)
2. Anderson Valley Winter Solstice
3. Oskar Blues Death by Coconut
4. He’Brew Death of a Contract Brewer Shmaltz Black IPA
5. Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stout
I was really quite excited about all five of these. I’d had the Anderson Valley years ago and remember enjoying it. I generally like Heavy Seas’ stuff, #3 & 4 sounded really interesting, and I always love a good Imperial. So, we got our ten best taster cups, divided them up evenly, and got to tasting.
1. Riptide: This beer was a bit disappointing, if only because it seemed so tame. The description on the website talks about “hop cannons” and huge quantities of citrus and spice, but it wasn’t there in any discernible way. It seemed to have the right intentions, but it pulled its punches and wound up fair to middling.
2. Winter Solstice: Mostly harmless.
At this point, we were getting concerned. I'd plunked down a decent chunk of change on these beers, and we were 0 for 2. But now it was time to turn towards the dark side.
3. Death by Coconut: Oskar Blues makes a large handful of truly phenomenal beer. In cans. Cause they’re hippies. But, they also make some run of the mill stuff. This one is a limited release they describe as, “Intense fresh cacao flavors swirl with popping coconut aromas, all supported by a semi-sweet porter made from loads of dark chocolate and extra dark caramel malt.” That sounds all well and good, but we’d been burned twice already. The verdict? This thing delivers. I’d had Kona’s Toasted Coconut Lager, so I was expecting something along those lines. But this was so much more than that. The porter that forms the base is rich, malty, and delicious. And then there really is an intense level of coconut. It works so well, one wonders why no one has done it before. And the fact that it’s a limited release makes me madder than a conservative uncle at the feast! When next I see this, I will by a pallet full.
4. Shmaltz: This one had a tough act to follow, but it picked up in the move to darker, smokier flavors quite nicely. It has hops, for sure. You can taste them. But the rich, smokey flavors from the malt balance it so beautifully, that any bitterness gets swallowed up in the haze of bready goodness. Plus, it has a great name.
5. Yeti: There’s not much you can say about a beer that is a really well-made, straight-forward example of a style, except, perhaps, to just say that it’s delicious. And the Yeti is certainly that. It’s also pretty big, so enjoy in the comforts of your own home. Perhaps, after your party guests have left. You’ll be glad you did.
So, we went 3 for 5 in our inaugural Flight of Fancy. Much like Thanksgiving, we had to let go of the early fall fare and turn towards the coming of the winter beers. I, for one, am always happy that winter is coming. Enjoy your turkey, and drink up!