The End of Green Flash?

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The end may be near for Green Flash, should you care? The short answer to this question whether you like Green Flash’s beers or not is yes. You should care that what is happening to Green Flash could easily happen to your favorite brewery at some point in the (near?) future. The craft beer bubble is real and it is going to burst at some point, this could be the sign of things to come. There was a time when Green Flash was distributing to 50 states and expanding rapidly; buying up smaller breweries, extending their reach, building a second ambitious brewery on the east coast to further their reach. Now they have pulled out of nearly every single state they distribute to, are having to sell off assets, lost most of their investors and the bank that was their largest lender foreclosed on their loan. What I am saying is it wasn’t a lifetime ago that “West Coast IPA”, “Le Freak” and “Palate Wrecker” were considered top tier IPAs by many. “Le Freak” was the first of it’s kind, a Belgian IPA, the NEIPA of the early 2000s. Oh how things have changed.

Green Flash’s legacy of SHELF TURDS. Green Flash’s fall from grace probably started long before any of these financial woes if you ask the average craft beer drinker. When was the last time you went to your local bottle shop, checked the date of a Green Flash beer and it was even remotely drinkable (standard IPA shelf life is about 3 months). They stopped distributing to Illinois 4 months ago and I bet I could go to 10 different stores and still pick up at least 2 of their flagship beers right now. I would never do that because 1 year old West Coast IPAs are not my thing (nor should they be anyones). Unfortunately I haven’t even remotely considered buying a Green Flash beer in probably 5 years and most of the time my friends and I just try to guess how old they are. Word association game, Green Flash: Shelf Turd. If you are distributing all over the country and all of your products are just sitting on the shelves something is wrong and the financial problems are bound to follow regardless of how big you are.

Can other breweries learn from the mistakes Green Flash made? Yes, yes and yes. Green Flash REFUSED to adapt to the current craft beer climate. They seemed completely stuck in their ways of brewing the same 7-8 beers all the time, forever. Yes in 2004 “West Coast IPA” was great and probably helped a lot of people get into IPAs, in fact fresh it is probably still a solid beer. But cmon, let’s get real here. If you aren’t brewing some sort of NE style beer, having high profile can releases, using your money to invest in an extensive barrel program or brewing sours you are just living in the past. I know, that kind of sucks but it’s where we are at right now. Green Flash’s biggest move in the past few years was acquiring Alpine who just brews the exact same beers they do and just like Green Flash, people cared more about them in the early 2000s. There was a time when Alpine “Duet” was an extremely sought after beer in trades and was widely considered one of the best IPAs in the country. It is now most likely sitting on the shelves of a liquor store near you oxidizing and aged at a ripe 13 months.

What does this mean moving forward? I’m interested in what they will do. They aren’t completely bankrupt and shut down at this point. They have made the necessary steps to continue to operate. They are only distributing to 7 states now, which I assume are their largest markets and the ones closest to Cali, they sold off their unnecessary assets and seem to be hitting a reset button of some sorts. Like I said above though, they need to adapt, they need to realize that what they have been doing until is not gonna cut it. The craft beer world is changing, they need to change with it. Don’t abandon everything you’ve done and what has gotten you here but if you want to move forward get with the program! Keep the beers that matter most, “West Coast IPA”, “Le Freak” and like one other one and then start messing with some of the new stuff, get people excited to come out and get your new beers. If not I wouldn’t be surprised if they just continued to shrink and eventually just fall off completely.

-HPMSNS

Repost Instagram Accounts are Stupid

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I hate repost accounts on Instagram. They are stupid and I wanted to rant about how I hate them. They produce no original content and exist solely to repost pictures from other accounts. What an idiotic concept. Create your own content. Simply taking other peoples posts and making an archive of those posts on an instagram with a clever handle like @hotbeergirlz or @coolbeerpics is dumb. God it is so dumb. If you enjoy someones content they post follow that person, not an account that takes their content and posts it. I am sure some people love the attention of having their pictures reposted on these accounts and that is why they exist and have thousands of followers. More and more of them pop up everyday and they basically all just recycle the same content back and forth with each other. They are a plague to the craft beer community and I want them to go away.

Unpopular Opinion: KBS is Overhyped

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Overhyped, overrated, overpriced; yes you are reading that right. I am using all of those words to describe Kentucky Breakfast Stout by Founders Brewing Co. Sorry not sorry, it is true. Maybe, just maybe, at one point in a lot of peoples eyes this was the best Bourbon Barrel Aged stout in the game. It never was for me, I certainly held it in higher regard back between 2012-2014 when less breweries were doing BBA Stouts really well.

So why the article? No I am not bashing Founders, I actually really like Founders and despite writing this article there is a good chance I will buy a KBS at some point this year (I have a few in my cellar from past years). I just have had this feeling toward KBS for a few years now and have talked and ranted about it to friends of mine in the community and while some agree off the bat, some don’t and I feel like my opinion toward this beer is important and not one people always want to explore. So we are exploring it!

Overrated seems harsh. Yeah, maybe it comes off as harsh. Don’t think I am saying KBS is a bad beer, that would be harsh and also not true. KBS is a great beer, but people hold it in such high regard and hence I find overrated to be the right word. Like I mentioned above, just think of all the breweries doing great BBA Stouts. Even just regionally here in Chicago so many breweries are doing amazing things with barrel aging beers. Here are some easy quick examples of barrel aged beers I rank higher than KBS in the Chicagoland area; Pipeworks The Jones/Hyper Dog, Transient Kentuckley, Revolution Deth’s Tar, Half Acre BA Big Hugs. I could make a really long list, but that seems unnecessary and overkill. You get the point, I guarantee you can do the same for whatever region you are in. Every year KBS just becomes a little less special and less unique. So many other breweries are cracking the code and making top tier BBA Stouts. Even Founders makes a better BBA beer in my opinion and I will get to that later. What I am saying is that I do not think in the year 2018 KBS is worthy of garnering the attention it gets as one of the biggest beer releases of the year.

KBS represents a lot of what is wrong with beer releases on a national scale. Founders is the largest independent craft brewery in the US. They can’t and don’t do anything on a small scale anymore. Every year they release Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS), the beer this article is about, an imperial stout aged in Bourbon Barrels. Despite it’s name it is not just a barrel aged version of Founder’s Breakfast Stout (a beer I actually love), the base beer for KBS is allegedly similar to FBS but has differences. The release of KBS every year marks a frenzy for everyone from beer snobs to casual beer drinkers to snatch up as much as they can. Hitting multiple stores in a day to grab each stores bottle limit and hoarding as much of it as possible. That sucks. I get why people do it and I am sure I have done something similar in the past but stockpiling a beer just because you can is dumb. That seems like a topic for another article. The release of KBS is just a larger scale version of a beer release at a brewery. Some people are able to get there, stand in line and walk out with the beer they desperately want to try while others are not. If you are not able to get to your local store the day they receive KBS within hours of them receiving it you are not going to get it. Walking in to a store and finding a readily available beer that you are excited to drink is awesome and that seems to rarely be the norm these days. Beer releases are now stressful by nature.

Founders are the masters of building hype. Founders rides the KBS hype train every year and now more than ever the hype can grow and extend to people who are even just getting into craft beer or are more casual beer drinkers because of how big they are. Their marketing and advertising team kill it, they make all their beers seem like you need to get them and if you don’t you are a craft beer leper. When hype is dying for a certain brand of theirs they stash it away a while and let it build back up until people are begging for those beers to return to the lineup (Double Trouble and CBS). I mean I was on the CBS hype train for sure, I was at the brewery picking up my bottle allotment. KBS has never not been in demand, every single year that beer sells out without a doubt. Sure you can argue that it is because the beer is so good that missing it if you are a craft beer fan is the end of the world. It is more that we are all almost conditioned every year that we are doing something wrong if we consider ourselves craft beer fans/nerds and we aren’t going out and trying to get KBS. As Founders has grown they have continued to make more and more KBS and it continues to still sellout every single year. Can’t knock them for building that kind of hype and maintaining it.

Is KBS worth buying? Short answer, no not really. You are going to pay probably $20-$25/4 pack best case scenario or anywhere from $7-$10 for a single bottle. KBS is one of the most price gouged beers. Don’t overpay for it, if it is more than $25/4 pack go somewhere else, that place obviously sucks and you should not support them. If you want a great barrel aged beer from Founders buy Backwoods Bastard. That beer is ALWAYS readily available, cheaper ($15/4pack) and is far superior in my opinion. It just isn’t KBS and doesn’t have the hype behind it so people don’t line up to buy it. I am pretty sure they announced it is available year round now as well so there you go. I will say for new craft beer drinkers I think drinking KBS is an important step in the process of building your craft beer resume. You need to check the classics off your list and KBS isn’t a must have in my opinion but it is certainly an important beer in the grand scheme of craft beer history. If you want to drink KBS do it at a bottle share, they pop up pretty regularly at those or grab it on draft somewhere, it is always popping up places on draft in Chicago.

-HPMSNS

Beer Review: Bells Jupiter (The Bringer Of Jollity)

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Here is my review of another beer from the Bell’s planet series, this is one Jupiter (The Bringer of Jollity), a brown ale. I did drink and write my notes for this beer when it was fresh, I am just behind on my reviews, just wanted to make it clear I wasn’t reviewing a shelf turd. Jupiter is a big imperial brown ale which like the rest of the planet series is inspired by Gustav Holst’s orchestral suite “The Planets”. Jupiter comes in at 8% ABV.

Nose: Chocolate, malt sweetness, brown sugar, a little coffee and espresso. Primarily dominated by chocolate in the nose and you can definitely sense some heat from the alcohol in the nose.

Appearance: Very dark brown, almost black with a 1 finger head that dissipates quickly. Some lacing as you drink, nothing crazy. The labels of these beers look really nice when they are all lined up.

Taste/Mouth: Mellow brown ale flavors. Chocolate comes over from the nose, mostly milk chocolate flavors. Again some espresso and coffee notes popping up with some malt sweetness and caramel/toffee flavors in there as well. Very mild hop bitterness and really no alcohol present in the flavor of this beer surprisingly at 8%. On the back end you get some nutty and brown sugar flavors as well.

Price/Availability: Around $3 for a 12oz bottle and is a one off brew part of the planet series.

Overall: A very solid beer. Not mind blowing and certainly not a style I often seek out but usually enjoy when I drink. The best beer in the series I had up until this point for sure as the others I had were drain pours. I would drink this again if given the opportunity but would probably not seek it out.

Grade: B

Beer Review: Surly Furious IPA

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Some fresh reviews coming your way in the coming days and weeks, got a lot in my archive I am going to get typed up and posted. Here is Surly’s Furious IPA, one of the most infamous canned beers and certainly a classic IPA which is actually a hybrid of an American style IPA and an English ESB which helped build up this breweries now outstanding reputation. Furious comes in at 6.6% ABV.

Nose: Pine, earthy, some resin with a good amount of caramel coming through as well. Citrus is definitely present and showcased. Has a solid and pretty standard American IPA nose, maybe a little more malty than some.

Appearance: 1 finger head, some very amazing lacing. Deep hazy amber color, a lot darker than most IPAs, really looks more like an amber ale. Surly always has great art on their cans.

Taste/Mouth: So clean, so crisp and so damn balanced. Caramel and toffee balanced so perfectly with pine and citrus. Nice bite of bitterness and hop notes paired up perfectly with that malt presence. Definitely a beer you can put back a few of without a problem.

Price/Availability: $11 for a 4 pack of tall boys, which isn’t the best but not the worst, and available all year round. Since their expansion you can get this beer in cans or on draft very easily anywhere around Chicago.

Overall: A brewery that has a nice amount of well deserved hype and this beer in particular for a long time was the Midwestern IPA people wanted to trade for, a legendary IPA at this point in time. Definitely lives up to that hype it has built, although it does have the feel of an older IPA at this point. It is a unique and great beer and is often a go to for me on draft as the 4 pack is a bit on the pricey side.

Grade: A-

Beer Review: Founder’s Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS)

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I am very fortunate and was able to get my hands on a total of 5 KBS’s this year, one a friend saved for me at Bottle King and I was able to buy an entire 4 pack at a local liquor store. I plan on doing reviews on the KBS at various different points in the aging process (6 months, 1 year etc.) and figured I would start with a nice fresh one, bottled sometime between 2-4 weeks before consumption. This is the first time I have had KBS but obviously not my first time having a bourbon barrel aged stout. That being said I will have a totally unbiased opinion, only thing I know about this beer is that it is one of the most hyped annually releases in the US.

Appearance: KBS pours a dark, dark black as you would expect from a BBA stout or any imperial stout for that matter. Really small vanilla colored head that turned into some really nice lacing as I slowly drank this one down.

Nose: This beer had a really nice, complex smell to it that kept me constantly picking up new scents as I made my way down the glass. I got lots of chocolate and coffee/espresso both initially and throughout the beer. I was picking up some hints of tobacco, vanilla, toffee and caramel along the way as well. Deep in the nose you could also pick up some of the oak and bourbon from the barrel aging process but I would have liked to get some more of that,

Taste/Mouth: First I would like to say that the mouth was way thinner than I expected it to be, I was hoping for a super thick stout but I would guess because of all the additions of coffee/chocolate along with the aging process this one thinned out a bit. Good carbonation. Initial taste is chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate. I mean damn this thing is loaded with chocolate flavors that run the gambit anywhere from milk to dark chocolate. You also get coffee woven in with the chocolate flavors as well but not nearly as obvious as the chocolate. Some other flavors I picked up were hints of vanilla, some raisin and caramel all of which carried over from the nose. It had a nice amount of hops to help bring some more balance to the malt and sweetness of this beer. On the back end of the taste you can get a little bit of the bourbon and some heat from the 11.2% ABV but not as much as you would expect. I would have liked some more oak and bourbon in the flavor.

Availability/Price Point: This is where this beer kind of sucks. I appreciate limited edition things and hype behind stuff but this beer just promotes price gouging. It is almost impossible to get a whole 4 pack of it and most places around me in New Jersey were charging $8.50-$10.00 a 12oz bottle. That is insane. Most stores only got 1-2 cases of it as well. I have to take that into my final grade of this beer.

Overall: I love Founder’s and think they are definitely among the elite craft breweries in the US. Like I said before I also appreciate the idea of a limited production beer but the hype behind this one didn’t quite live up to what I got. This is definitely an amazing world class beer but do I think it is better than some readily available bourbon barrel aged beers? Not really. I think it is probably right there with a lot of the other great BBA Imperial Stouts I have had (most of which are far more readily available), maybe this is a little better but is it worth spending $10 a bottle on, not in my opinion. I am really glad I got to have it and I am glad I get to see how this one ages with the other four I have in my cellar but not sure I will go out of my way to get it in the future. I know this and Breakfast Stout aren’t related but I’ll take a four pack of that over one bottle of this any day, and probably pay around the same price!

Grade: B+

Beer Review: Maine Beer Co. MO

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I was having trouble deciding what beer I wanted to do as my first review on this new blog when I went to one of my favorite liquor stores in hopes they would have Maine Beer Co’s Lunch which was supposedly just distributed in my area. No Lunch, but I did find some incredibly fresh Maine Beer Co MO (bottled 3/25/14, purchased on 4/8/14). It dawned on me that this would also be a great beer to do as my first review as it was one of the beers that really got me to start drinking more craft beer.

The first time I had Maine Beer MO was at Amherst Brewing Company in Amherst, MA when I was still in college. They were a guest draft and I was very into APA’s at the time because my palate was still warming up to the hop-bombs I enjoy so much today. So MO sounded right up my alley, and it certainly was, I think I had 3 or 4 of them that night at ABC for a pregame before I went out that night. Anyway that’s my back-story for this beer and the first time I had it, I am always excited when I can find it fresh or on draft locally (or any Maine Beer Co beers).

Appearance: MO pours a beautiful copper/light amber color with a billowy head about 2 inches. I absolutely love the color of this beer, love to see my APA’s to have a nice copper color like this, got a nice haziness to it as well. Laces the glass all he way down to the end. It is a really nice beer to look at, pours great.

Nose: Maine Beer Co. are some of the best when it comes to hoppy beers so this as the majority of their beers smell incredible. Lots of citrus fruits right away; grapefruit and definitely some pineapple as well. You also get some piney and floral hops in the nose as well. Smell just makes you want to immediately get to drinking this.

Taste/Mouth: Taste is right there with the smell; citrus, tropical and floral hops but very balanced with biscuit malt and not too bitter. Very pleasant and refreshing to drink, creamy. You could definitely drink a bunch of these and not get tired of them.

Availability/Price Point: Pretty readily available on the east coast, especially Northern NJ just need to check bottle dates as sometimes they tend to sit on shelves (not sure why!). Price point isn’t great but not terrible on pretty much all Maine Beer Co beers, it’ll run you about 6-7$. Their bottles are a little over a pint so it isn’t a mindblowing deal like a bomber of Hop Stoopid for 5$ but also not horrible. It is definitely not an everyday beer but more than worth buying every so often when you can grab a fresh one!

Overall: This is an awesome beer from a really awesome brewery, easily in my top 3 for APA’s (probably right behind 3F ZD) and probably my second favorite Maine Beer Co beer (right behind Lunch). It is a real treat to occasionally see it on draft but if not I am happy with having a bottle every so often when I see a fresh one!

Grade: A