286. Lawson’s Finest Liquids Double Sunshine IPA

Lawson's Finest Double Sunshine
This beer has become nearly impossible to find since my original review. I happened to be in Vermont recently the day that it was released and had to stand in line in the morning to get a ticket then come back hours later to actually get the bottle of beer. When I first bought this beer I came home with 10 bottles from a 2 day trip to Vermont now you lucky to get one. If you can find it this is one of the standards against which all other double IPAs should be judged.
Nearing the end of the beer I brought back from Vermont but still a few nice beers from Lawson’s and at least one more growler kicking around. I was fortunate to find 10 bottles of this one while in Vermont many of which were shared with fellow beer drinkers in Maine but I did save a couple for myself.
This was one of the beers on my short list to find in Vermont and I now see why. It is a double IPA (my favorite style) and one of the most refined beers I have had. Unlike the beers from The Alchemist and Hill Farmstead this one is clear with a nice white head. Tons of aroma with plenty of citrus fruits. Taste has lots of hops up front with a solid malt finish to balance things out. Very smooth and easy to drink even at 8% ABV.  So glad I was able to find plenty of this beer to bring home with me.
Pros: Aroma, balanced taste,
Cons: Hard to find
Alcohol Content:
 8.0% ABV
Calories: ???
IBU (Bitterness): ??
Rating: ★★★★
Brewers Website: Lawson’s Finest Liquids
Brewers Description:  Double Sunshine IPA – This American Double India Pale Ale is packed with juicy tropical fruit flavors and bright herbal aromas, thanks to the abundance of US-grown hops.

285. Hill Farmstead Double Citra

This is the only beer I have had from Hill Farmstead’s single hop series. In this series they bitter, flavor and dry hop the beer with a single type of hop. It would be very interesting to taste the entire series to see how the hop varieties change the aroma and flavor of the beer. The series includes both single and double IPAs.

This is a double IPA which again is my favorite style of beer and the citra hops give it tons of citrus aromas. Taste has a bit of sweet malts in the beginning that quickly give way to loads of citrus and grapefruit or pineapple flavors. Taste is crisp and clean, very easy to drink for a double IPA and very enjoyable. You truly cannot go wrong with Hill Farmstead beer.
Pros: Everything
Alcohol Content: 8.0% ABV
Calories: ???
IBU (Bitterness): ??
Rating: ★★★★
Brewers Website: Hill Farmstead
Brewers Description: An American Imperial Pale Ale bittered, flavored, and dry hopped exclusively with Citra hops from the American Pacific Northwest. 8% abv.

284. Vermont Pub & Brewery Grand Slam Baseball Beer

Another growler that I brought back from Vermont. I tried lots of different beers at Vermont Pub & Brewery but never made it to their pale ale so decided to leave with a growler.

I may have waited a bit too long before opening and drinking this growler as the beer seemed a little flat. The label states it is best to drink within 30 days which I certainly did but the beer still had very little carbonation and almost no head. Aromas are very subtle but has some solid malt character, minimal hop aroma. Taste follows the nose with a fair amount of malts and a slight hop bite. Overall this is a fairly simple beer but it is drinkable and worth trying if you find yourself in Burlington.
Pros: Drinkable
Cons: Simple
Alcohol Content: ??% ABV
Calories: ???
IBU (Bitterness): ??
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Brewers Website: Vermont Pub & Brewery
Brewers Description: A light-bodied American pale ale dry-hopped with Fuggles hops. This was the brainchild of Greg Noonan. He had said, privately, that he felt that he had nailed the style for what he had planned and hoped for. As a side note, the inspiration for the name of this beer came from an 8 year old girl named Jenny, about 25 years ago! The name stuck and style stuck. Go figure. Enjoy this light, summer ale while watching your favorite team play!

283. Hill Farmstead Society and Solitude #4

Another superb beer from Hill Farmstead. Everything about the beer from this brewery is as close to perfect as I have found. Every beer is different but still has the huge aroma, beautiful color, unfiltered look and amazing taste.
This is a double IPA which happens to be my favorite style of beer and as you can see has a bright orange color, thick white head and just looks amazing in the stem glass that I purchased from the brewery. Lots of citrus and tropical fruits in the aroma and a bit of pine. Flavor follows with loads of hops and a hint of  sweetness. This beer has an excellent feel to it and is very drinkable for an 8% ABV double IPA. Only one more bottle of Hill Farmstead left but I am planning another trip to Vermont in a couple of months. Will be stocking up again and looking forward to anything new from Hill in the coming months.
Pros: Everything
Alcohol Content: 8.0% ABV
Calories: ???
IBU (Bitterness): ??
Rating: ★★★★
Brewers Website: Hill Farmstead
Brewers Description: Our experimental Double IPA experience continues. Hybrid Imperial IPA… Think Double Citra Meets Double Galaxy.

282. Zero Gravity Ale Communication

This is an interesting beer from Zero Gravity which is part of the American Flatbread family in Burlington, VT. On my recent trip to Vermont we had lunch at American Flatbread, had several of the beers that were available and ultimately left with a growler of their Ale Communication double IPA.

This is a big beer even though the ABV is only 7.3%. Pours a deep orange with a thick off white head. Aroma of pine resin and a bit of sweet malt. Unlike many other big IPAs there is almost no citrus or tropical fruit smell coming from this one. Taste is quite complex and follows the nose with lots of pine resin hops and a nice kick of sweet malts. This one finished somewhere between a double IPA and a barley wine as the hop presence is almost lost in the power of this beer. I was surprised as the ABV is lower than many other hoppy double IPAs but the taste is much more complex. A very good beer from Zero Gravity.
Pros: Complex flavor
Alcohol Content: 7.3% ABV
Calories: ???
IBU (Bitterness): Lots
Rating: ★★★☆
Brewers Website: Zero Gravity
Brewers Description: None


281. Hill Farmstead What is Enlightenment?

Another pale ale from Hill Farmstead and this one is special as it was brewed for their second anniversary and uses a different mix of hops than Edward. The beer is lighter in color than the others from Hill but has the same cloudy appearance and white head. Aroma had tons of citrus and tropical fruits, very enticing and certainly draws you into the beer. The taste has more citrus and lemon notes than Edward and is excellent with a hoppy finish that makes you want more.

I really cannot say enough good things about Hill Farmstead’s beers. They are everything I like in a beer; fresh, unfiltered with plenty of hops but not palate wrecking. Have a couple more bottles in the fridge and will get to them very soon.
Pros: Everything
Alcohol Content: 5.4% ABV
Calories: ???
IBU (Bitterness): ??
Rating: ★★★★
Brewers Website: Hill Farmstead
Brewers Description: American Pale Ale brewed in honor of our Second Anniversary. Simcoe and Amarillo hops.

280. Stillwater / Mikkeller Two Gypsies Our Side

Somehow in the middle of all this Vermont beer I ended up sharing this bottle with my brother in law. The story behing this one is interesting (see brewer’s description below). Both Brian from Stillwater and Mikkel from Mikkeller are gypsy brewers. They do not have a brewery of their own and produce beer by visiting other breweries and doing collaborations. An interesting concept and it makes for some fun beers.

This one is a saison with a great cloudy orange color with a thick white head that left a 2 inch cap on the beer the entire time I was drinking it. Aroma is of spice and grass kind of a Belgian smell. Taste has a distinct yeast flavor to start with some hops in the middle but nothing that stands out and finishes a bit funky. This one seemed to improve as it warmed slightly so if you happen to pick up a bottle of this and don’t like it right out of the fridge give it a few minutes and come back to it, you might be surprised.
Pros: Appearance, head
Alcohol Content: 7.5% ABV
Calories: ???
IBU (Bitterness): ??
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Brewers Website: Stillwater Ales
Brewers Description: Mikkel and Brian are two of the world’s most unconventional brewers. By designing beers at various breweries around the globe, they have found the freedom to experiment and innovate, resulting in unique beers that often blur the lines of definition. After having met at a festival in Bodegraven, NL the two realized that their first creations both were called Stateside. It was then an obvious decision to make the two recipes into a new product, packed full of piney, resinous hops, and backed by the esters of a farmhouse yeast strain.

279. Woodstock Inn Brewery Loon Golden Ale

Anyone that has been following my blog for a while knows that I love growlers. When we went to Vermont (see details of trip here) we visited 6 different breweries / brew pubs in 3 days and I had the opportunity to pickup 4 growlers plus the many 750 ml bottles from Hill Farmstead. This one is from Woodstock Inn Brewery in Woodstock NH which was out last stop on our way home.

Color is pretty typical of a blonde ale, maybe a bit darker but it is filtered and crystal clear. In fact some of the writing on the other side of the glass is visible. This is a blonde ale so I was not expecting much in the way of aroma or flavor and I was right. Maybe I have just been drinking too many big IPAs and I have ruined my palate. Nice beer for a hot afternoon as it is light, refreshing and easy to drink.
Pros: Easy drinking
Cons: Simple
Alcohol Content: 4.75% ABV
Calories: ???
IBU (Bitterness): 30
Rating: ★★☆☆
Brewers Website: Woodstock Inn Brewery
Brewers Description: Light golden in color. Dry and crisp with a semi assertive, Fuggles hop bitterness. Hops are prominent but not overwhelming. Overall, a well balanced representation of the golden ale style. O.G.1.050

278. Hill Farmstead Harlan

You might start to see a pattern over the next few weeks with lots of beer from Vermont. After my 3 day trip last week I have tons of Vermont beer to drink and review. Will most likely start with the Hill Farmstead 750 ml bottles. I am sure the bottles would keep just fine but why chance it as they make some of the very best beer available.

This is Harlan which is Hill’s IPA or as they describe it a more aggressive version of Edward. Edward is certainly the best pale ale I have reviewed so it is no surprise that I enjoyed this one just as much. Color is similar a very nice unfiltered orange with solid white head. This beer leaves amazing lacing on the glass too.

Aroma is very pleasant – strong but not overwhelming with lots of fresh hop and tropical and grapefruits. The best way to describe the taste on this one is fresh. All types of hop flavor here with some pine, tropical, grapefruit and citrus. Just enough of a malt character to balance it out but the beer still finishes with a slight bitterness. Overall another excellent beer from Hill Farmstead.
Pros: Not over the top like many of today’s IPAs, very drinkable
Alcohol Content: 6% ABV
Calories: ???
IBU (Bitterness): ??
Rating: ★★★★
Brewers Website: Hill Farmstead
Brewers Description: Harlan is Edward’s slightly more aggressive alter-ego. Dry Hopped exclusively with Columbus hops.

Vermont Beercation 7/4/2012

Last week I headed to Vermont for a 3-day trip with my wife, her sister and her husband. I spent a couple of days looking at reviews of places to visit and getting input from my Twitter and FB followers on places not to miss. After spending 3 days visiting 6 breweries and eating tons of great food I have to say the trip was as good as I have had.

We left Maine shortly after noon on July 4th and hit a micro burst just west of St Johnsbury. This was some of the worst weather I have ever driven in with huge amounts of rain, street flooding and multiple trees down. We had to detour several times and ended up many miles north before finally making our way back through Stowe to Waterbury. See photos and notes about the storm here.

After making it to Waterbury we were ready for supper and stopped at The Reservoir for dinner and drinks. At this point I had been driving for 4+ hours and needed a beer. Fortunately they had a great tap list as well as some great burgers. I had a Hill Farmstead Edward, then an Abner and ended with a Celia Saison from The Alchemist.

My brother in law opted for a sampler including; Lawson’s Knockout Blonde, Fiddlehead IPA, Harpoon Ginger Wheat and Hill Farmstead’s Abner. I tried each of these in addition to my 3 beers and enjoyed them all. I have reviewed Edward previously and will be reviewing Lawson’s Knockout Blonde in the near future. The others will have to wait for a future trip to Vermont as I did not take good pics or notes while drinking them. I can say the Celia Saison was different than anything I have had before. It is a Gluten free beer which may appeal to some people but for me the taste was a little too funky. The food was amazing with great chicken wings, sweet potato fries and burgers. After this stop we made our way to our hotel in Burlington for the night. It was a long drive and we needed our rest for the next three days.

On Thursday our first stop was The Beverage Warehouse in Winooski, VT just north or Burlington. They had a huge selection of beer, wine, glassware and pretty much anything else you would need. We ended up with 3 cases of Heady Topper, bottles from Dogfish Head, Founders (Double Trouble) and much more that we cannot get in Maine as well as some Lawson’s Finest Liquids glasses. They did not have a limit on the amount of Heady Topper which was great as I needed to bring home a bunch for my Maine beer drinking friends. After this we made our way back to Burlington and spent some time on Church Street for some shopping. This is a great little marketplace that has something for everyone. We came back to Church Street on Friday and I will post some info on the restaurant we went to shortly.

For lunch we made our way to American Flatbread which is within walking distance of Church Street and they have their own brewery. The food there was amazing with my wife and her sister getting a very nice salad and then splitting a couple of pizzas. The small pizza was enough for two people to share even though the waitstaff encouraged us to get a large. We also had several beers from their tap list and since they serve halfs we were able to enjoy a bunch of different styles without drinking too much at lunch. We also ended up taking home a growler from Zero Gravity (their in house brewery) which I will review soon. (Read more after the break)

After American Flatbread we did a little more shopping before heading to Magic Hat for a tour, tasting and the experience of visiting “The Artifactory”. The brewery had a great setup with a nice retail/tasting area however it was a little too touristy for me. I prefer the small breweries where you actually get to go out on the brewery floor and see the process. Magic Hat has a video for the history of the company (lame) and a loft that you can look down on brewery floor but you get no where near the actual process. Tastings were nice and I got to try a Honey Wheat IPA which is only available at the brewery. Not terribly impressed with this beer so don’t feel like you are missing something by not trying it. Also tried their Imperial Pilsner which was not too exciting. Of course I do not like pilsners so that should not be a surprise.

If you like brewery tours I have to say that Allagash in Portland probably has the best tour of all the breweries I have visited.

Unfortunately we missed Switchback Brewery as they close at 5:00 but that evening we went to Vermont Pub & Brewery for dinner. After a short wait we were seated outside on a beautiful evening and enjoyed some great food. I had the pulled pork sandwich, wife had a steak sandwich and we also got sweet potato fries and wings. You might start to see a pattern regarding the fries and wings by the end of this post. The beer was good but not excellent and again they had samples, halfs and full pints available so we sampled many beers. A few that stood out are the Green Tea Beer and Forbidden Fruit. Both were excellent and different than most other beers out there. I like it when brewers test the limits of beer and both of these certainly do.

Overall this was a great place for dinner and drinks and if you find yourself in Burlington you should definitely go there for lunch or dinner.

On Friday we started the day by visiting the Warren Store in Warren, VT in search of Lawson’s Double Sunshine. They had 2 bottles left so I bought both as well as a couple of bottles of Knockout Blonde, reviews on each coming soon. We also had lunch there which was great, homemade bread and top quality turkey. The store is certainly out of the way but worth a visit. They also have lots of clothing which is very expensive but great quality.

After the Warren Store we headed back to Waterbury with the intention of taking a tour at Ben & Jerry’s. We arrived at a very busy Ben & Jerry’s facility with more people than any of us could stand. Also the tours that were supposed to start every 30 minutes were not going to start for 45 minutes. We quickly left Ben & Jerry’s and headed just down the road to The Alchemist Brewery. The retail store was small but offered samples, t-shirts, stickers and glassware. There really was not a tour but you can enter a small viewing area near the fermentation tanks to look around. Not a lot going on the day we were there other than some bubbles in buckets from happy yeast. Unlike Ben & Jerry’s the brewery was almost empty which was a nice change after the mob scene down the road.

At this point it was Friday afternoon and our short vacation was more than half over.

We needed a place for supper so I polled my FB and Twitter friends and received many suggestions. We opted to head back to Church Street and see what we could find. Ended up at Sweetwaters which was excellent. Enjoyed a Switchback Ale and a Mountain Ale by Shed Brewing. Both were excellent and went well the wings, sandwiches and sweet potato fries. More great food and beer. After supper the wives went off to do some shopping and my brother in law and I headed back to American Flatbread for another beer. Tried their London Calling which is a very low ABV session beer. The place was packed and we never actually made it to the bar or table before finishing our beer, meeting up with our wives and heading home for the night.

Saturday morning we went to the Burlington Farmer’s Market which was excellent. Lots of vendors with fresh fruit and produce and several places selling wine and spirits. We found lots of stuff to buy and then headed out to Montpelier to visit the Hunger Mountain Co-op in search of more Lawson’s Double Sunshine. We arrived shortly before lunch and found a great selection of beer including all the Double Sunshine we could buy as there was a 2 bottle per person limit. We also ended up buying lunch and a few other things from the co-op. This is a great place and I wish there was something similar in my area. At this point the car was overloaded with luggage, purchases and lots and lots of beer but we headed north to Hill Farmstead.

This was a bit of a drive but so worth it. The brewery is about 3 miles down a dirt road in the middle of no where Vermont. However since I live in the middle of no where Maine we found it quite easily. The brewery was quite busy with cars from New York, Mass, Maine and other states. They had a small tasting area setup outside – any of the beers on tap – tasting for $1 and 2 of them you could buy a cup for $5. I went right into the brewery as I knew I was buying a bit of everything. Line was about 4 deep when we entered and remained at least that busy the entire time we were there. I ended up with 8 – 750 ml bottles and 3 stem glasses. Shaun (owner/brewer) and another employee were filling bottles as fast as the taps would allow. Everyone agreed that Hill Farmstead was the best beer of the trip and the total haul was 12 – 750 ml and a 2 liter growler.

You would think at this point we would be done as this was brewery #5 in 3 days and huge amounts of beer purchased and consumed but I had a gift card from Woodstock Inn & Brewery in Woodstock NH so off we went for one last stop. Again we ordered pub appetizers; wings, nachos, onion rings and some stuffed mushroom thing. We also had a sampler of beer and some pints but after our stop at Hill Farmstead the beer here seemed a bit of a let down. After our time at the bar we purchased a couple of growlers of beer, bombers of their 4000’er IPA and a couple of growlers of root beer for the kids. This was a neat little addition that I had never seen before and something fun to bring home for the kids we left behind with grandma.

That was our final stop of our beercation and we headed back to Maine via the scenic Kancamagus Highway. The car was so loaded down at this point the hills were rather difficult to climb. Total beer haul for the trip;

  • The Alchemist – Heady Topper – 72 (3 cases) / 16 oz cans
  • Hill Farmstead – Various – 12 / 750 ml bottles & 1 / 2 liter growler
  • Lawson’s Finest – 10 bottles of Double Sunshine & 2 bottles of Knockout Blonde
  • Magic Hat – 2 growlers
  • Zero Gravity – 2 growlers
  • Vermont Pub & Brewery – 2 growlers
  • Woodstock Inn & Brewery – 2 growlers and 2 bombers (plus 2 growlers of root beer)
  • Founders – 2 / 4 packs of Double Trouble
  • 5 other bombers and about a few 12 oz bottles

This was an amazing 3-day voyage hitting 6 breweries/brew pubs as well as a few restaurants with amazing tap lists. We had some great food and spent lots of quality time with my wife. Will certainly be heading to Vermont again soon. If you are planning a trip to Vermont you may be able to find a few places we did not hit in our three days but if you follow our path you will not be disappointed.