It’s still rainy and cold in Cleveland. Fact: It’s almost always rainy and cold in Cleveland, but to my advantage, this keeps my mail beer chill. Precious pieces of cargo are quietly delivered to my porch on occasion where they sit for (typically) hours before I stumble over them, looking for pizza or Netflix. I like to imagine the process of extracting these beers from these boxes as a modern archaeology, harvesting an objet d’art from its soggy, cardboard sarcophagus. Upon removal, these postal beers are nearly the perfect temperature to drink, and it takes a special sort of will power to run inside first and take a bad iPhone photo for this column. Occasionally, I succumb to stoop drinking, and I feel no shame.
With spring in the air, I decided to dedicate this chapter of cool loot to my love of getting both free and cold beer in soggy mail boxes. Yet, it should be noted, we are not a beer review site, but we do drink beer, so we’re always quite tickled when craft businesses send us some of their awesome products for us to squeeze. In this reoccurring column, I will highlight those generous businesses, focusing on the innovative packaging techniques and cool products. I’d like to thank these breweries for their magnanimity. Here goes…
Wookies and weed make the best packages (note to other breweries)
I’m not embarrassed to say that SweetWater Brewing Co. truly gives me heart farts. Not many breweries in the United States are equally adorable and depraved. Georgia’s biggest (and I’ll say it) best craft brewery continues to blur the lines between national brewing innovator and weed smoking party-thrower.
Recently, SweetWater sent me a heady package with its newest Dank Tank brand called Wookie Down. The Dank Tank series is the brewery’s brand of sinister laboratory experiments — i.e. rare release beers that showcase the creativity of SweetWater’s brewers. And while you’re probably thinking Star Wars Wookie, I’m pretty sure Wookie Down refers to a specific (splif’rific?) marijuana strain.
The tall boy can is also a teaser for the upcoming 420 Fest (April 21-23), which has an amazing lineup that includes one of my all-time favorite bands — the weirdos of Ween. CBB might have a few folks attending said show; I’ll keep you updated. Wookie Down is an imperial red ale and arrived on shelves the week of March 20. It’s available in 4-packs of 16-ounce cans and on draft. At 7.6 percent ABV, this red ale is imbued with a mellow dark chocolate taste with a bit of citrus from the nose, finishing with a bitterness that quickly vanishes. I had a solid smoke and crushed both of these brewskis while blasting some classic tuneage from Dean and Gene Ween.
I woke up on the couch frightened and alone, but this is not unusual.
21st Amendment goes all Blood Orange IPA
I love having the word “blood” titled in the beverage I’m drinking — Bloody Marys, Blood Clots, Blood Brains, just plain blood — so I was immediately intrigued when 21st Amendment Brewery’s newest year-round release showed up on my door – Blood Orange Brew Free! Building off the brewery’s original West coast IPA, Brew Free! Or Die, this Blood Orange bastard captures everything that’s wonderful about its origins (malt structure, balanced bitterness and 2 pounds per barrel of dry hops with Citra, Mosaic and Chinook) with the addition of an orange citrus flavor that comes for real blood orange puree. To the press release!
“We had resisted coming out with another fruit beer for a while now, but the fact is, we helped pioneer this style when we first started brewing Hell or High Watermelon Wheat almost 17 years ago at our San Francisco brewpub, and we do it really well,” said Nico Freccia, 21A co-founder. “We ultimately decided to have a little fun with our flagship IPA because we knew we could do it right.”
Blood Orange Brew Free! made its nationwide debut this past March. Coming in at 7 percent ABV, Blood Orange Brew Free! Will be in six packs and draft and available in all 21A distribution markets, including Calif, Ore., Wash., Ark., Idaho, Minn., Ohio, Mass., N.Y., Ill., N.J., Nev., Del, Md., Fla., Vt., R.I., Pa., N.H., Maine, Va., Ga., S.C., N.C. and Washington, D.C. And unlike the brewery’s popular Hell or High Watermelon Wheat, this beer will be available year-round.
Schlafly’s going coconuts for creme ale
I could probably live the castaway life. Dreamy beaches, uninterrupted solitude, lots of coconuts to eat, a volleyball as a best friend. That’s probably all I need (and maybe Wi-Fi). These were some of the fancies filling my head while sipping on Schlafly Beer’s Coconut Crème Ale. Coming out on April 10, Schlafly Beer’s coconut-fused ale is a limited special release beer. It’s actually the brewery’s second limited edition release which also includes the blonde, dessert-focused beer called the Double Bean Blonde, which tastes like a piña colada in a glass (also perfect for island adventures). From the nice folks at Jasper Paul PR & Marketing:
Coconut Crème Ale is an American-style wheat ale with 5.5 percent ABV and 17 IBUs. As a continued part of Schlafly’s philosophy to use real ingredients over extracts, they brew with real coconut and pineapple purées and then age the beer on lightly toasted coconut flakes. It’s a dessert beer that’s sweet, smooth and malty. Look for some funny video with Ambassador Brewer Stephen Hale on Facebook introducing the beer.
Chilling with some Third Street tall boys
In Central Minnesota, near St. Cloud, you can tour Third Street Brewhouse and sample what Paste Magazine deemed the best Oktoberfest beer this side of Germany; it’s a session Marzen that’s perfect for prolonged revelry, with rich malty flavor and 4.6 percent ABV. But it being April, with cloudbusters showering my homestead, I instead found two of Third Street’s tasty year-around brands packaged neatly on my portico — Hop Lift IPA and Lost Trout Brown Ale — both in 16-ounce, tall boy cans.
I immediately went “Stone Cold” Steve Austin on the IPA, which is brewed with 600 pounds of hops in every tank. Hop Lift is a bold, dry-hopped brew bursting with citrus and passion fruit notes. It’s 6.2 ABV gels nearly perfectly with its 60 IBUs. Lost Trout Brown Ale is its sweet “counterparty;” its malts include Pale, Caramunich, and Barley, and it’s hopped with Goldings and Tettnanger. I love the website descriptor:
Lost trout. It’s a real problem in these parts. Legend has it this species flowed aplenty out back in the brewery creek, while others say the trout left town years ago. Where have all the trout gone? Maybe to those fancy creeks in the city, maybe to the local fish fry, or maybe — just maybe — they’re living a life of crime on the streets. The legend of abundant trout in the creek seems a bit fishy, but know what isn’t? Lost Trout Brown Ale. Truthfully delicious.
Redd’s Apple Ale because … why not?
I recently refused free beer from Devil’s Backbone Brewing Co. Why? Read here. Yet I accepted some free fruit beer from Redd’s Apple Ale, which is owned by MillerCoors. Why? Because I’m complicated! And a hypocrite! And I’m not afraid to admit either. So, Redd and friends sent me a set of brands — two year-round flavor additions and one “Limited Pick” beer. Drum roll (maybe imagine lots of apples falling):
- Redd’s Blueberry Ale boasts a delicately balanced apple and blueberry aroma, while offering a taste that delights with ripe blueberry tones and a satisfying apple finish. Redd’s Blueberry Ale will be available starting in February.
- Redd’s Raspberry Ale delivers juicy raspberry notes with hints of apple, providing the perfect balance of floral sweetness with Redd’s crisp apple finish. Redd’s Raspberry Ale is a brand new flavor that will be available in March.
- The 2017 “Limited Pick” special releases will feature two new, exciting beers to be released over the course of the year. First up is Redd’s Peach Ale, a beer that leads with ripe peach notes balanced with Redd’s gratifying apple taste. Stay tuned for more information on the “Limited Pick” series second flavor.
To the press release!
“There are two things we know our beer drinkers love: trying new things and flavor variety. This is why we’re excited to bring different ingredients together and turn them into new refreshing beers,” said Lisa Rudman, Redd’s Family of Brands marketing manager. “We always strive to deliver the best quality beer and this year is no different for Redd’s Apple Ale, as the 2017 product line-up is filled with new flavors and surprises.”
All new flavors will be available nationwide at most grocery and convenience stores in 6-pack 12-ounce bottles, 16-ounce cans and in said Variety Pack.