Stillwater Artisanal Fear of Ghosts Smoked Sour Farmhouse Wheat Ale

Stillwater Artisanal is a "gypsy brewer" à la Evil Twin, Mikkelar, and Pretty Things (here's a great piece by Clay Risen on gypsy brewers). Founded in Baltimore, Maryland in 2010 by former techno DJ Brian Strumke, 2015 alone saw fifty new Stillwater releases brewed across twelve countries.

Today's offering was recommended to me by the ever wonderful Lauren at my local bottle shop, Midtowne Bottle Shop. Fear of Ghosts was brewed in collaboration with Crazy Mountain Brewing Company in Denver, Colorado.

Stillwater Artisanal Fear of Ghosts Smoked Sour Farmhouse Wheat Ale, 6% alc., 22 oz. bottle

C: Bright gold with a foamy white head and decent lacing

N: Quite grassy in the mouth with sour grapefruit notes, etrog peel, and a hint of nutmeg all the while remaining deliciously yeasty

P: Very apple-y (crisp Granny Smith and tart crabapple), freshly mopped hospital floors with subtle floral notes around the edges of the palate 

F: Pleasantly astringent with hints of nutmeg and salt

In conclusion: I recommend searching out a bottle or two of this. While the smoke doesn't do too much (it manifests as the hospital floor note for me) the tart fruit and subtle floral notes really work for me. That hint of nutmeg that can be tracked from the nose to the finish also makes me happy.

Glenfarclas 105

First bottled in 1968 (what I wouldn't give to get me hands on some of that!) Glenfarclas 105 is an original NAS that is bottled at high strength and well worth your attention. While the casks used are believed to be in the 8-10 year old age range the quality of sherry casks used is unsurpassed in the industry.

Glenfarclas 105, 60% alc., $85-90

C: Copper

N: Xmas cake coming and going (raisins, dark cherries, ginger, nutmeg, and orange zest), also clean rubber notes (like the inside of a dishwashing glove) and cold buttered toast (wholewheat toast given all the malty notes)

P: Huge and explosive, the sweet sherry dominates (more rubber notes crisscross the palate), the wood dries out the palate quite nicely while the orange zest from the nose has become chocolate covered orange peels

F: Long and warming, the alcohol resonates all the way down the throat and into the chest while the bitter wood sits in harmony with the sweet sherry

In conclusion: A benchmark cask strength whisky that should feature in everyone's collection. A personal favorite of mine for almost twenty years.

Stone Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout

Stone are celebrating their 20th anniversary in 2016 by releasing an "Encore Series" of brews. Today's Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout is a rerelease of their 12th anniversary beer which was created during the hop shortage of 2008.

Founded in 1996 by Greg Koch and Steve Wagner, Stone is among the top ten largest craft brewers in the United States. With several locations in California, Stone are now embarking upon eastern expansion with a brewery in Richmond, VA and another in Berlin, Germany.

Stone Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, 9.2% alc., 22 oz. bottle

C: Black with a foamy caramel head and decent lacing

N: Dark roasted malt with dark chocolate presence and just a hint of drip coffee

P: Soft entry but bitter across the palate with dark chocolate and roasted grains, slight barnyard funk to the back of the palate

F: Lingering dark chocolate bitterness with just a hint of raisin

In conclusion: A very solid stout but I would have preferred a touch more oatmeal influence and just a touch less bitter chocolate. The Xocoveza stands head and shoulders above it.

Smartmouth Alter Ego Farmhouse Saison Ale

Established in Norfolk, VA, in 2012 by former business attorney Porter Hardy IV (great name for a brewer!), Smashmouth Brewing Company's 20 barrel brewhouse has quickly garnered a solid reputation with tasty brews and eye catching packaging.

Smartmouth Alter Ego Farmhouse Saison Ale, 6.2% alc., 12 oz. can

C: Golden with a crisp white head that quickly moves to the edges of the glass

N: Wheat forward with spice behind 

P: Crisp and refreshing with more wheat, more spice, and hints of ground pepper

F: Pleasantly drying with lingering pepper

In conclusion: Truth be told, I'd already polished off the first five cans of my six pack (not all today!) before working on this review so I knew what to expect from this darned tasty farmhouse saison ale. Living in VA and purchasing this six pack locally for $10 isn't the worst thing in the world. Looking forward to posting more Smarthmouth reviews on the site.

Evil Twin Mission Gose

Ah, what the hell, here comes another gose...

Founded in 2010 by Dane, Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, Evil Twin Brewing is what I've heard referred to as a "gypsy brewer" (and a damned good one at that!). Which is to say, Evil Twin has no bricks and mortar brewery to call home but instead brews their recipes at other facilities (currently brewing at 10 different breweries across 6 different countries). Their release schedule is prodigious and there's always something interesting coming out from the brewer. They are well worth tracking.

Gose (pronounced "goes-uh") is a thousand year old German beer style brewed using slightly salty water with a top fermentation (using Saccharomyces cerevisiae). The mash bill contains more wheat than malted barley and the brew is spiced with coriander and hops. After falling out of favor in the last hundred years the style has been resurgent since the turn of the century. You can really geek out on details about the style here.

Evil Twin Mission Gose (brewed with eucalyptus), 4.0% alc., 22 oz. bottle

C: Cloudy orange with a crisp, effervescent white head that laces the edges nicely

N: Sour and salty with coriander spice, herbal notes, and muddy citrus

P: Tart and crisp with wheat grass, a bit more coriander and just the slightest hint of ginger in the background

F: Moderate length with lingering salt and hints of chocolate coated orange peels

In conclusion: Really terrific! I previously tasted this with my good friend and business partner Joshua Hatton (aka Jewmalt) at Holy Grale in Louisville, KY (highly recommend that joint) and it was just as awesome there.