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Magic Hat-Blind Faith IPA

Type: Bottle

6.2% ABV

60 IBU


Magic Hat makes a series of IPAs and Pale-ales, many of which are quite good.  Sadly, Blind Faith isn’t one of them.  The brew pours a hazy dark copper.  It has a decent malt base.   On tasting, there are immediate notes of stone fruit and creamy fat, but even those feel thin, and any detectable hops are lightly laced into the end.  When the hops finally come on, they evoke a hint of citrus bitterness, but don’t feel specific. Each sip I had tasted different than the one before.  The aromas don’t particularly evoke an IPA, and it certainly doesn’t taste like one.  The hops don’t feel nearly powerful enough.  For example, I think #9 has more hops than this, and that’s a slightly pale ale.  Blind Faith tastes more like a malty pale ale, than a proper British IPA.  I was very disappointed with this beer.  In the past, Magic Hat has fostered a balance of hops and malts, creating some really interesting and unique brews.  Blind Faith just doesn’t add up. The beer provides  a deep syrupy malt, with a hint of hops, and very little to get excited about.  For 10-12 dollars a six pack, it’s a pretty good deal, but the beer is lacking, so ‘ll give it a B for price.

In Conclusion: A decent beer, but not a very good IPA.  I wouldn’t recommend this unless you’re devoted to Magic Hat.

Food Pairing: Roasted garlic, mushrooms, and potatoes.  Slow-roasted meats.

You sit back in the darkness, nursing your beer, breathing in that ineffable aroma of the old-time saloon: dark wood, spilled beer, good cigars, and ancient whiskey – the sacred incense of the drinking man

-Bruce Aidells

Ommegang-Abbey Ale

Type: Bottle

8.5% ABV

25 IBU


Ommegang does a great job of duplicating Belgian recipes for an American audience, and their Dubbel does not disappoint.  Abbey was Ommegang’s first beer, and I can’t think of a better way to start off a Belgian style brewery.  After 15 years on the market, Abbey Ale is still one of the standards for American Belgians and an original take on Trappist Dubbels, without ever straying too far from tradition.  The brew pours a cloudy dark amber (almost caramel), but has a small head for such a distinct Dubbel.  When the bubbles and yeast hit your tongue, the aromas are rich and complex, complimented by the creamy yeasts.  The roasted malts dominate the initial flavoring with a hint of  dark candied sugar.  As the beer swooshes around the palate, the sugars expand, providing notes of prune, peach, orange, raisin,  and anise.  You can taste the beauty and fullness of the belgian yeasts, and yet the whole experience still feels light and refreshing.  The beer actually finishes quite dry, making it very drinkable.  There’s still not quite enough yeast for me, possibly because I’m so into classic Belgian Dubbels.  Also, I would have preferred the ending to be  a little less dry.  Many people will give this beer a solid A, or even an A+.  However, despite it’s incredible flavor profile, I still feel like something’s missing (probably the yeast).  A Belgian Dubbel should feel fuller, and not so syrupy.  This beer, at times, tastes more like a dark Tripel.  I also feel like this would have been better in the 750ml bottle.  The 12oz just doesn’t give it enough room.  But, at 10-12 dollars a four pack (or 7 for a 750 ml), there aren’t any Belgians that can compete.  Therefore, Abbey Ale definitely deserves an A+ for price.

In Conclusion: A great take on a traditional Dubbel, and a perfect beer for Belgian lovers on a budget.  This is an awesome brew to introduce anyone to the Trappist style.  However, the beer can be a bit too sweet out of the 12 oz bottle.

Food Pairing: Large italian dishes, and any meats cooked with a lot of spice and flavor.  Abbey Ale can also be used as a marinade for mushrooms, onions, or chicken (much like a Cabernet).

All right, brain, I don’t like you and you don’t like me – so let’s just do this and I’ll get back to killing you with beer.”

-Homer Simpson

Weyerbacher-Blithering Idiot Barley-Wine Style Ale

Type: Bottle

11.1% ABV

35 IBU


One of the best Barley-Wines in America, Blithering Idiot showcases the two things which Weyerbacher does best: high alcohol content and smooth drinkability.  Idiot pours a dark brownish red and the head is fluffy, but thin.  As it hits the glass, the brew exposes the scents of plums, figs, and honey.  If you’ve never had a Barley-wine (or Barley-Wine Style Ale), the first sip can be shocking.  It’s got a big kick of alcohol, which thankfully emerges from a smooth creamy sweetness.  Slight citrus hops sustain throughout, as the beer manages to balance the alcohol of the dark fruits with full bodied notes of coffee, caramel, walnuts, and molasses.  You can definitely taste the influence of sweeter Barley-wines, but Weyerbacher has found a way of grounding this ale in a dense bouquet.  Blithering Idiot is a solidly priced Barley-Wine, at around 12 dollars a four pack.  I’d give that an A-.  There are comparable Barley-Wines on the market, but Blithering Idiot is definitely one of the stand outs  due to its mosaic of dark undertones. My only complaint is that, if it’s not aged long enough, the alcohol can overwhelm the subtle intricacies. For a first time Barley-Wine drinker, this might be a big step.  However, for those who fiend for the sweet warmth that comes from a night of sipping yeast by a fire, look no farther than this strong, hearty, excellent American ale.

In Conclusion: Blithering Idiot is very drinkable for a beer which harkens back to the flavors of an English Barley-Wine, and it’s great for aging.   The longer you age it, the more vibrant the notes of the hops, fruits, and nuts will become (Weyerbacher says the best by date is 5 years after bottling, so they aren’t goofing around).

Food Pairing: Roasted meats, bacon, and bleu cheese.  Anything you would pair with figs, dates, and raisins, you can pair with this.

“Quaintest thoughts, queerest fancies come to life and fade away. What care I how time advances; I am drinking ale today.”

-Edgar Allen Poe


Type: Bottle

7.7% ABV

25 IBU


Probably Ommegang’s most  accessible beer, Hennepin remains the strongest and freshest American Saison I’ve had to date.  The brew, named for Father Hennepin who informed Europeans of the beauty of Niagara Falls, mimics the monstrous and crisp sound of Niagara’s cascading beauty. Hennepin pours a beautiful golden yellow with a white foamy head.  The light aromas of sweet pear and honey bubble off the glass.  When it hits the tongue, the beer tastes sharp and full, with an earthy yeasty body, and notes of coriander, lemon, and spice.   It cleans the palet and infuses the senses with a fruity, doughy, and herbal vigor.  Hennepin is very drinkable, even with its deep complexity and spicy accents.  It’s an excellent beer which has helped Ommegang continue the astounding success of their Belgian-style Brewery in Cooperstown.  At ten to twelve dollars a four pack (eight dollars for a 750 ml long neck bottle), I’d also give Hennepin an A for price.  You won’t find many cheaper Saisons, and none of them are as good as this one (even the Belgians).  If you’ve never had an Ommegang, this is a great way to start a relationship with one of America’s best craft breweries.

In Conclusion: Perhaps the greatest American Saison, a fresh, earthy addition to any meal, and one of Ommegang’s best brews.  This is a wonderful beer for late evenings in the summer and early fall, with good friends and light conversation.

Food Pairing: Spicy asian dishes, especially those with seafood and ginger.

“Not all chemicals are bad. Without chemicals such as hydrogen and oxygen, for example, there would be no way to make water, a vital ingredient in beer.”

-Dave Barry

Shawneecraft-Bourbon Entire Porter

Type: Draft

Place: The Mint in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

6.5& ABV

30 IBU


Shawneecraft’s porter proves to be an extremely smooth and clean porter for a good price. The draft pours a beautiful cloudy dark brown (almost opaque), with a small head. It smells of roasted malt, coffee, and smoked wood.  On tasting, the malt is really light for a porter of this strength, and there’s wonderful touches of bourbon.  Inside the bourbon are notes of smoked oak and a hint of coffee.    However, my main complaint about this porter, is that all of these tastes fade too quickly.  The lack of lasting aromas makes this beer very drinkable, but also lowers the strength and complexity of the brew.  For price, it’s even with other porters of it’s caliber, so I’d give it a B.

In Conclusion:  A great porter, but lacks the lasting complexity of the best.  However, this is a fantastic beer for bourbon drinkers (like me), who also enjoys porters and stouts.

Food Pairing: Rich and creamy foods. Duck, or roast pork, and sweet cheeses.

On an additional note, the Mint in Bethlehem, PA is a great place to go for dinner or drinks.  They have a huge selection of craft beer (draft and bottled) and also offer inspired gastropub dishes at good prices. I thoroughly recommend stopping by if you’re in the area, and if you see Chef Mimmo, talk to him about the food and beer.  He’s very friendly and knows as much as anybody about food/beer pairings.

“The roots and herbes beaten and put into new ale or beer and daily drunk, cleareth, strengtheneth and quickeneth the sight of the eyes.”

-Nicholas Culpeper

Dogfish Head-120 minute IPA

Type: Bottle

15-21% ABV

120 IBU


This is the greatest IPA that is readily available on the US market.  It’s rare and a bit overpriced, but the complex hops and effervescent aromas are unrivaled.  120 minute pours golden orange, with a medium head.  On first taste, it’s sweet like a barley wine, but sharper and tangy.  It doesn’t taste that alcoholic, despite it’s extremely high ABV, which is unusual.  If you’ve had Dogfish’s Fort or World Wide Stout, you’ll know what I mean.  The only sense of how strong this brew is comes from the warmth inside, like the best whiskeys.  The striking hops, which taste of grapefruit and pine trees, mixed with the sweetness of the brew, create a unique IPA experience without overpowering the senses.   If you’ve had 90 minute, you’ve got to at least try this.  There is absolutely nothing like it.  The quality of this beer is so amazing that Dogfish Head  threw out a batch in 2011.  As they said at the time “each and every batch of beer we brew at Dogfish Head goes through over 40 Quality Control check points and while this batch passed many of these check points we decided with the results of the final sensory panel, days before packaging, that we dont feel this batch of 120 Minute IPA is up to par.”  Remember (“because remembering is so much more a psychotic activity than forgetting”*), this beer is very alcoholic (more so than wines), despite how mild it tastes.  Sip, don’t swallow.  And you may want to share this with a friend, as finishing a glass by yourself can confuse the senses.   Despite how good this beer is, at ten dollars a bottle, I have to give it is a B+ for price.  I’m not sure any beer is worth a dollar an ounce, no matter how good.  That being said, I buy a bottle of 120 minute whenever I can.  If you’re interested in IPAs and you see 120 minute, you should buy it quickly. Some places sell out in less than half an hour, and this is a fantastic beer for aging.In fact, buy a few bottles (if they let you).  Place one in the fridge for drinking, and save the others in a pantry or cellar.  It’ll be worth it, trust me.

In Conclusion:  The best IPA in America, but also only for those who can handle the high alcoholic content.  Great for IPA and Whiskey fans, and also those who enjoy citrus hops.  Wonderful, but a little too expensive.  Save for special events.

Food Pairing: The best Charcuterie and/or Tapas you can find.

“I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer.”

-Homer Simpson

*Quote by Speed Levitch, Waking Life

River Horse-Tripel Horse

Type: Bottle

10% ABV

30 IBU


As a traditional Belgian Tripel, Tripel horse is about average for the field. It pours golden brown, with a full head.  On first taste, the beer is sweet and alcoholic.  There are notes of butterscotch, caramel, and almond.  As the aromas linger, there’s also a hint of orange and banana. There are even some slight herbs, but the sugary thick alcohol of the sweet yeasts dominates the palate.  In fact, the beer is a little too alcoholic without providing the complex base of a true Tripel.  However, for twelve or fourteen dollars a six pack, it’s a really good buy for a strong Belgian ale.  As a result, it earns an A for price.  In fact, I buy this beer a lot for small get togethers.  If you’re interested in the Tripel style, you can easily find more definitive brews in presentation and originality.  However, for casual drinking, you probably won’t find a better deal.

In Conclusion:  There are better Tripels out there, but River Horse’s Tripel Horse is a lot cheaper than most of those.

Food Pairing: Spicy and creamy pork or poulty dishes, Greek food, and pungent cheese like Limburger or Taleggio.

“Milk is for babies.  When you grow up you have to drink beer.”

-Arnold Schwarzenegger