Tag Archives: PEARL RIVER NY

GENTLE GIANT BREWING CO.

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PEARL RIVER, NEW YORK

‘More than just craft,” Pearl River’s GENTLE GIANT BREWING also serves some of the best barbecue in the tri-state area. Open during late 2018, this rustic apoxy-floored Main Street warehouse joint retains an unfinished café-style appeal that’s dankly inviting.

The perfect blue collar spot for stylishly conservative brews and delicious homemade countrified BBQ meats, its offhand dinosaur-themed atmosphere will please families as well as Pearl River’s insatiable local drinking community.

Several community tables sidle the kitchen-bound, eight-stooled serving station where one big projection TV, several strewn liquor bottles, a blackboard food menu and simple food counter exist.

A few brew tanks take up the left-windowed red wall staging area and a back-walled corrugated aluminum draught board delivers satisfyingly standard suds. An eleven year homebrewer, Nick Carnicelli, took over brewing operations ’round May ’19.

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On this cool May ’19 evening, my wife and I grab some barbecued smoked chicken wings and bacon-smoked Mac ‘n Cheese to go alongside six homemade brews.

Sour lemon-limed pungency seeped into the delicate mango-passionfruit tropicalia of dry Berliner Weiss, Juice By Dr. Alan Grant, leaving a cheese-clothed sweaty musk upon the lactic acidulated malts.

On the other side of the spectrum, Creamsicle-like blonde ale, Chocolate Orange, let creamy vanilla sugaring gain sweet orange peel tanginess as well as bitter orange rind zesting (sometimes recalling citric-tart St. Joseph’s aspirin).

Red, orange and yellow fruit spicing dotted caramelized barley malts for peaty moderation, Irish Dark Red Ale, an off-dry easygoer.

Black grape-embittered wood tones gained a mild hop char to infiltrate the caramel-burnt black malting of Rex Rocket Double IPA, a fine Cascadian dark ale.

Caramelized dark chocolate malts countered dry anise spicing of dark-roasted Imperial Porter, T Porterdactyl, leaving teensy coffee, espresso and cappuccino undertones.

Dry cocoa-powdered black malts and coffee-stained dark chocolate roast amplified Fossil Fuel Stout, gaining creamy brown-sugared molasses sweetness to tweak the bitter mocha finish.

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ABOMINABLE SNOWFEST 2019 @ DEFIANT

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PEARL RIVER, NEW YORK

Defiant Brewing’s 5th annual Abominable Snowfest was another smashing wintertime hit as curious local minions and professional beer geeks once more collided on a cold January afternoon to plow some of the finest regional draughts. As usual, the amiable hour-and-a-half VIP pregame featured many fantastic one-off ‘big beers’ (most of which I sampled and described below) while the entire 5-hour gathering also benefited from good BBQ, fine pub fare, great live music, an elastic female contortionist and a ceiling-raising stilted lady.

Proving again that there are an ever-increasing amount of local breweries within a 35 mile radius, the Snowfest brought aboard a few more recently opened businesses. Naptime, Big Alice, Fifth Hammer, Long Lot and Gentle Giant were represented alongside another dozen or more regional establishments.

Getting there at a quarter to twelve, the line has already started. I meet veteran 381 Main promoter, John Fladung, then receive my complementary Defiant Abominable Snowbeer, an easygoing Belgian-styled golden ale aperitif with spritzy lemon zesting picking up orange-candied tartness and mild white-peppered honey spicing over dry pale malts.

Keeping it light, pale and sessionable, musky honeyed grains and lemon-rotted Noble hops casually consumed off-dry German-styled(?) moderation, Big Alice NYC Pils, respectable blue collar Brooklyn fodder.

Carefree dry-bodied moderation, Barrier Extra Krona IPA (a collaboration with NYC nano  Brewski), let tart guava and passionfruit adjuncts gain lemony grapefruit-orange tanginess alongside botanical grape tannins and pale malt spicing, gaining light musky hop astringency by the finish.

Rye-caramelized pale ale, Fifth Hammer Autumn Rye, did a fine job as a moderate-bodied early afternoon eye-opener, leaving wispy floral-spiced sweetness and earthen hop foliage upon pumpernickel rye breading.

Glistening lemon-peeled grapefruit, orange and tangerine spicing embraced approachable Millhouse Led Ashtray IPA, which stayed mild via oats-neutralized pale malting.

Light lactic-soured milk sugaring and subtle vanilla creaming grazed brisk mango-pineapple-papaya tropicalia and candied citrus spicing for commendable Millhouse Cashazacca India Pale Ale 

Durable Peekskill Pantry Beer, a briskly clean coffee IPA, linked dark-roast Ethiopian coffee to black chocolate malting without totally compromising its contrasted citric-spiced pale malting.

Brewed with Graft apple cider, fine saison hybrid, Newburgh Farm Boss, mingled Spanish cedar, elderflower and coriander subsidies with herbal lemon tea reminders, relegating its sweetly soured cider finish.

Bitter dark cocoa, burnt coffee and sour dried fruiting aligned with bitter nuttiness for Broken Bow Nick’s Hazelnut Praline Porter, leaving sweet hazelnut and praline adjuncts to get pushed aside.

Velvety spirits-aged, Pine Island Bourbon Barrel Porter, let sweet bourbon vanilla alacrity drape cocoa-sugared brown chocolate malts and wispy spiced rum licks.

A few rangy rye-influenced Imperial Stouts from Brooklyn’s KCBC caught my attention next. Firstly, medium-roast iced coffee tenacity scored for KCBC Ryders of the Black Rainbow Imperial Coffee Stout, leaving nutty brown chocolate malting upon sweet rye breading.

Then, KCBC’s rye-barreled Demons On The Dancefloor, a smooth 11% potion loading bittersweet cocoa nibs onto dry rye, bourbon and burgundy elegance, proved to be an ultra-relaxing solution.

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Defiant started really packing up by 1:30 as I got my hands on a few more craft suds while diggin’ the BBQ.

Dark chocolate-caked cold brew coffee consumed Big Alice Date Night Bro Stout, a bitterer-than-sweet full body with nut-charred dark roast hop abundance.

Creamy black chocolate syruping coated hop-charred vanilla bean bittering for Pine Island Oatmeal Creme Stout, but its up-front ‘heaviosity’ soon retreated atop the oats-sugared malt base.

Lactic liquid cocoa (cholaca) escorted black chocolate, vanilla bean and coffee bean bittering thru sweet cardamom spicing and brief cayenne peppering for briskly clean milk stout, Naptime Fika, a bustling mocha-spiced Swedish dark ale.

Silken mocha-enriched stout, Captain Lawrence Double Pull, guided coffee-roasted black chocolate bittering towards espresso-milked nuttiness above lightly charred oats.

Conditioned on chocolate-coconut- vanilla, heavenly Imperial Milk Porter, Brix City Coconut Crème Choco-Lit Pastry Party, let fudged brownie, chocolate mousse, malted milk and coconut cream pie illusions rise to the confectionary mocha-candied surface.

“Udderly sweet” Finback Coquito Milk Stout brought richly lactic brown chocolate malting to cinnamon-spiced coconut toasting, sweet vanilla creaming and wintry nutmeg snog in fabulous dessert-like fashion.

Even more profound, superb Rushing Duck Dirty Chai Ded Moroz Imperial Stout, a kaleidoscopic variant on its mocha-enriched dried fruited original version, adds chai-spiced black peppering to medium-roast coffee, dark chocolate, anise herbage and cinnamon-spiced Graham Cracker sugaring.

Before heading out, I went sour for a nifty change-up. Winterized by tart plum and cranberry adjuncts, mildly acidic sour ale, Rushing Duck Don’t Stoke The Bear, gained a harmonious lemon-limed green grape pucker.

Prost!

-John Fortunato

ABOMINABLE SNOWFEST 2016 @ DEFIANT

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PEARL RIVER, NEW YORK

A fantastic time was had by all at 2016′s Abominable Snowfest in Pearl River’s upbeat decade-old mainstay Defiant Brewing during a 5-hour Saturday session punctuating the wintry January weather. One of the finest  parties thrown thus far this year, this friendly boho celebration, now in its third year, featured approximately 60 beers from 20-plus local New York and Jersey breweries, Upbeat Vintage’s rustic cutlery, Caked Up’s cupcakes and cookies, two live rock bands, bagels, cheeses, barbecued meats, ciders and souvenir glassware.

Getting to Snowfest at a quarter to twelve, I got to spend some time with proprietary Defiant brewmesiter, Neill Acer, and Ale Street News publisher, Tony Forder.

Acer and I recalled the rough old days back  in the early ’90s when the Seibel Institute grad headed now-defunct Suffern mecca, Mountain Valley Brewpub, one of the first successful gastropubs in the entire Rockland-Bergen area.  At Defiant, Acer continues to expertly “challenge the conventions of mass-produced beers” while adding a terrific smokehouse menu to the growing biz. With roughly 400 new breweries opening across the United States in 2015, the craft beer movement has gone beyond trendy jet-setters to au courant deities. Unlike the ’90s, modern craft breweries are now experiencing profoundly widescale success.

“Those were the dark days in America,” Acer remembers. “Germany carried the torch for beer quality for the entire world along with England and Belgium. Maybe when they drop the Iron Curtain in North Korea there’s gonna be more fantastic beer. But we don’t know. Now, Germans are making American-styled beers (like India Pale Ales). That would’ve seemed unimaginable. It’s coming full circle.”

It is an exciting transition being in the craft beer industry during the last decade. And it has allowed the ever-popular Defiant Brewing to tear down a left side wall to increase their boundaries by 5,000(?) square feet. Reclaimed lumber fills one side of the expansion’s wall while a large stage area and small back lounge provide patrons with further room to stretch out. The large brew tanks still stand tall inside the original space, where the elongated wood-topped bar serves dozens of imbibing denizens.

As for the 300-minute Snowfest, a few hundred brewhounds and beer geeks ceremoniously merged upon Pearl River’s crown jewel for a few one-off ‘big beers,’ several fine flagship offerings and other stylishly stimulating elixirs.

Along with Gun Hill Brewing’s Chris Sheehan (Chelsea/ JJ Bitting/ Port 44 icon), Acer’s Defiant collaborated on fantastical hybrid, Cask-aged Rye IPA (with Belgian candy on Summit hops), a soft-toned gem bringing dehusked carafa malting, caraway-seeded Jewish rye breading and black chocolate-y cocoa beaning to tangy grapefruit-orange-pineapple juicing.

Nearby Blauvelt brewery, Andean (four miles from Defiant), delighted early goers with three tenacious Kuka-branded tonics. First up, Cocoa Ono London Porter came on like a German Black Forest cake, bringing dark chocolate-spiced cocoa nibs to the fore atop bittersweet black cherry and sharp hop-roasted grains.

Next, cohesively complex Kuka Habanero-infused Devil’s Treat, a heated version of the magnificent Imperial Milk Stout, draped maca-rooted cocoa nibs with cinnamon-sticked cayenne peppering and tangy bruised red cherry sweetness, finishing strong with its lightly lingered yellow-curried habanero burn searing the overriding mocha richness.

A few days later at Ambulance Brew House, a cask conditioned offshoot of Devil’s Treat proved to be just as multi-dimensional, letting its dark cocoa richness pick up maple syruping to sweeten milk coffee creaminess, brown chocolate-y vanilla sugaring, cinnamon-sticked cayenne peppering and black cherry tartness.

After consuming some smoked cheeses and barbecue chicken, it was time to dig in deep with a string of one-off aged ales and well-balanced hybridized derivations.

Blustery winter-seasoned black saison, Newburgh Spruce Mousse, found perfectly infectious groove as persuasive spruce-needled cocoa nibs lexicon enriches mint chocolate sweetener and fondued black grape, yellow grapefruit and pineapple undertones gather just below.

Another fine rye-spirited strong ale, Broken Bow Barleywine aged in Rye Whiskey barrels, spread peated whiskey graining across oaken black cherry, tannic red grape and dried fig as well as light bourbon-port warmth, picking up brown chocolate nuances and a hint of ginger for a majestic 14% ABV soothe.

Dangerously light and well-balanced, Captain Lawrence Bourbon Barreled Frost Monster hid its sinister 11% ABV, stout-defined chocolate-cocoa propensity and caramelized toffee sweetness beneath vinous sour ale-aspired green grape tannins and desiccated fig snips.

Bringing the heat, Captain Lawrence Jersey Devil , a smoked wheat IPA, brought fatali chili peppering (from Garden State’s Old Hook Farms) to lemony Equinox-hopped citric fruiting in a resolute manner.

A few eccentric breakfast-related derivations from Keegan Ales’ offbeat Cereal Series caught my attention next. There was ever-popular Keegan Mother’s Milk dry-hopped with Cocoa Puffs, a creamy milk stout working black chocolate into brown-sugared oatmeal and roasted hops. Meanwhile, Keegan Bine Climber IPA dry-hopped with Trix cereal brought lemony grapefruit and orange sugaring to dried oats, spelt and rye breading for a frooty morning wake-up call.

“We just did a blast from the past (in Ale Street News),” Forder quips. “There was a ’92 Michael Jackson interview. He said it would be quite possible every single town would have two micros and three brewpubs. But nobody saw it coming. Beer lovers waited a long time for this to occur. And all the breweries represented here are less than 88 miles away.”

Beer Index lists several more enjoyable Abominable beers from Gun Hill, Keegan, Kelso, Kuka, LIC Beer Project, Newburgh, Peekskill, and 902. At future date, I will try Barrier, Brix City, Bronx, Finback, North River, Plan Bee, Sloop and Yonkers ‘fest’ offerings.

John Fortunato

DEFIANT BREWING

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PEARL RIVER, NEW YORK

Twenty miles North of Manhattan in a historic industrial warehouse across railroad station lies Pearl River sanctuary, DEFIANT BREWING. Brewer Neill Acer (formerly of defunct Ramapo Valley Brewery and West End Brewery) serves beers straight from large brew tanks behind right side bar.

During November ’06 visit, initially tried mellow Stephano’s Stout, a light-bodied changeup placing raw chocolate-cocoa sedation atop dried raisin-fig-date serenity and sedate hop-roasted cereal-oats. Next up, dewy amber-hazed English pale ale, Little Thumper, caressed satiny yellow-fruited subtlety with raw-honeyed mineral-grained herbal hops, cannabis-like grassy twig earthiness, and vegetal wildflower-barnyard-horsehide dryness.

Best bet: dazzling Christmas Ale, a slow sipping barleywine-like winter celebrator bringing anise abundance to chewy chocolate-molasses creaminess, seasonal nutmeg-allspice tingle, raspberry puree linger, raisin-grape upsurge, and coarse walnut-hazelnut respite seeping through rum-brandy warmth.

December ’07 stopover, brought mildly piney citric-embittered herbal-tinged straw-hay-horsehide-dried Farmhouse Ale and twiggy soft-watered dry-hopped cocoa-powdered walnut-pecan-fig-savored Nut Brown Ale. 2007’s Christmas Ale bettered previous version as up-front burgundy-bourbon theme overlaid funky dried fruiting, candied red apple-grape souring, and bruised cherry-banana tartness. Also tried metallic brimstone-wafted pink-headed magenta-bodied Raspberry Wheat, a Belgian yeast-styled peculiarity with sour-candied oaken cherry tartness, sparkling champagne flow, and unripe peach-raspberry tease.

March ’08, tried brown chocolate-fronted dry-hopped wood-charred coffee-quipped maple-sapped walnut-fig-rye-backed Porter and smooth coffee-milked espresso-surged chocolate-malted hop-roasted nut-singed Dry Irish Stout. Sun-dried fig-soured grape-parched oaken-cherry hop-sharp cider-like Abbey Single stayed clandestinely alcoholic.

Two months hence, during May ’08 stop-by, tried robust Defiant Stout Of War, a lactic dry-bodied bitter merging hop-charred coffee ground souring with powdered cocoa-chocolate malts, hickory-smoked peat-whiskey, plus tertiary bruised cherry, raisin, fig, and anise illusions. Upon visit, bought growler of Defiant Golden Nugget, a lemony grapefruit-centered, woody hop-embittered, wheat-husked, barnyard-wafted medium body.

During one-hour August ’09 afternoon visit, quaffed mildly creamy cereal-grained spice-hopped moderate body, Defiant Muddy Creek Lager, with its bittersweet red-orange-fruited simmer, tobacco leaf twinge, and biscuit-y spine. Afterwards, enjoyed Da Oaty Oatmeal Stout, a creamy dark chocolate-y medium body placing coffee bean bittering atop anise-smitten Belgian candi-sugar sweetness and maple-sapped fig-soured vegetal-tinged oats char.

Late September ’09, my wife and I hung out with Acer and Jeff (the bartender) while quaffing moderate-bodied Baron Von Weizen. Its seltzer-like peppery-hopped orange-tangerine tang and ethereal lemon-dropped banana-clove imprint rose above soft white-breaded wheat spine.

Celebrated Octoberfest ’09 with two uniquely different autumnal seasonals. Mild medium-bodied Headless Horseman Pumpkin Ale anchored creamy caramel-malted cocoa subtlety and teasing vegetal whim to opulent cinnamon-spiced pumpkin pie theme. Fruit-spiced grassy-hopped Oktoberfest retained champagne-like fizz, mild orange-tangerine tartness, spare red apple souring, and lime-y brimstone chalking to biscuit-y wheat spine.

On tap, May 2010, Defiant Maibock countered honeycombed orange-bruised apple-pied frontage, creamy Scotch malt sugaring, and biscuit-y bottom with mild grassy-hopped lemony grapefruit bitterness, slightly astringent alcohol burn, and cooked veggie nuance.

My longtime friend, Dennis Flubacher, bought four growlers for our consumption, June 2010. We quaffed these brews at our domiciles while watching Yankees games. Creamy caramel malts and tangy apple-apricot-nectarine sweetness linger above piney-hopped juniper-embittered alcohol astringency of Defiant Medusa IPA. Bittersweet cherry-pureed prune-dried black chocolate creaminess offsets hop-charred cocoa-dusted dark coffee roast and dewy peat backdrop consuming soft-watered Defiant Chocolate Porter.

Lighter in texture and hue than brewers’ less pungent same-styled Muddy Creek Lager, grassy-hopped grapefruit-yellowed lemon rind-embittered Defiant Prohibition Lager guarded earthen mineral-grained corn-dried vegetal musk with herbal Cilantro-sage dusting. Sturdy American Pale Ale placed IPA-like piney orange-peeled grapefruit rind bittering over earthen oats-roasted maize-dried graining in medium-bodied template.

Tried spice-hopped mineral-grained clean-watered San Francisco Lager, with its vegetal fungi earthiness and back-throated orange-peeled grapefruit bittering, July ’10. A week later, buttery Chardonnay-like citric-lacquered white-peppered crystal-malted Defiant Summer Ale brought floral-wafted rosemary-herbed lavender-accented coriander-clove-spicing to lemony orange fruiting.

To celebrate the dawn of October, ’10, Flubacher and I split a growler of thoroughly enjoyable Defiant Headless Horseman Pumpkin Ale. Though most of its flavor sits at the backend, rich pumpkin pie spicing receives resounding apple-spiced cinnamon-maple sugaring and tingly cardamom-nutmeg-allspice seasoning usurped by even better fig-sugared date-candied black cherry plentitude.

On January 2011 stopover with wife, tried bottled version of effervescently creamy Belgian Spring Ale, a peppery dry-hopped orange-spiced strong ale with champagne-fizzed gin-soaked alcohol whir pleating sugary grapefruit, orange marmalade, and cherry illusions over funky barnyard parch.

As nightfall came, had fine chocolate dessert treat, Long Shadow Stout, a well-rounded medium-to-full body with black chocolate-roasted hop-charred coffee bean incentive, ashen charcoal bittering, walnut sharpness, and teasing anise quip contrasting vanilla-hazelnut sweetness to black cherry recess.

On a sunny September ’11 afternoon, I sampled smoked gouda, asiago, and aged cheddar alongside Defiant’s homemade Original Beef Jerky while quaffing one of the best seasonal pumpkin beers marketed. Headless Horseman #3 Pumpkin Ale brought lively pumpkin-pecan pie theme to soft fuggle-hopped fizz, allowing dazzling gingerbread, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice vigor to burst forth.

During three hour stopover, February 2012, I interviewed Acer and tried two more contrasting Defiant brews. Firstly, 750-mm bottle of Resolution #4 Belgian Strong Ale brought vinous white wine yeast to heavily carbolic mix of sparkling champagne, hard cider, citric musk and buttery Chardonnay illusions.

After cleansing the palate, Defiant Chocolate Stout proved to be a rich mocha-bound full body with a prominent coffee roast entry getting dark chocolate milking over soft watering. Tar-like anise bittering thickened its rugged toasted oats spine.

At Andy’s Corner Bar in Bogota, New Jersey, March 2012, tried cask version of Defiant Milk Stout, a soft-toned spin-off pleating chalky cocoa-dried chocolate malting with mild coffee ground bittering.

At Twisted Elm in Elmwood Park, March 2012, got to throw back a pint of smooth Defiant O’Defiant Stout, an extremely mellow dry-bodied dark ale with mild dark chocolate creaming, soy-milked nuttiness and watery black coffee sedation.

Enjoyed updated version of Defiant Raspberry Wheat at Andy’s Corner Bar, August, 12. Its persistent raspberry tartness gained tenacity from plasticine-clayed wheat sugaring, syrupy woodruff and floral chrysanthemum.

At Garfield’s Three Wise Monks, April ’13, quaffed Defiant Highland Stout, a robust full body with peat-smoked rolled oats combating dark-roasted chocolate roasting and stove-burnt coffee bittering.

One month hence at Andy’s Corner Bar, quaffed sessionable summertime ale, Defiant Orange Creamsickle, which perfectly re-created the vanilla-sweet ice cream its dessert-like namesake invokes, layering luxurious cream soda sugaring with orange soda spritz and pasty orange-flavored baby aspirin niche.

Pre-Thanksgiving ’14 at Blue Ribbon Tavern, got pint of Defiant Dunkelweizen, a dryer-than-expected medium-bodied dark wheat bringing dewy peat moss to prune-soured green raisin, purple grape, burgundy and port notes as well as nutty nuances (and coarsened hop bittering).

By now, the majority of my Defiant beer entries are in separate Beer Index. Nevertheless, during February’16 at Pearl River’s Ambulance, quaffed soft-tongued one-off Defiant Old Fashioned Weapons Grade Double IPA (with cherries, orange peel and bitters) on cask. Its silken IPA citric fruiting picked up wispy orange-peeled cherry tartness to contrast blatant astringent ‘bitters.’

BEGINNING THE NEW YEAR WITH DEFIANT

After the Cubs finally won a World Series and a non-politician finally got elected prez in ’16, it felt good to start the new year back at local watering hole, Defiant Brewing. As I walked in at 4 PM on a slow Wednesday in January (’17), I was in for a pleasant surprise as veteran brewer Chris Sheehan (formerly of Chelsea Brewing, JJ Bitting and Gun Hill) had joined the fold and concocted some more enjoyable suds under the Defiant banner.

As I settle in at the back bar with Chris serving, there are five appealing ales I’d not yet tried. Each had its own original take on a specific style, whether it was cask conditioning a coconut-peppered IPA or cold lagering a German-styled Kellerbier or adding Equinox hops to the barleywine I began the afternoon imbibing.

Closer to a lighter fruit-spiced wheat wine despite its hefty 10.3% ABV, Magnus Pango Barleywine brought fig-dried orange peel tartness and orange vanilla sweetness to mildly bitter hops above subtle crystal-pale malting.

Sweet ‘n sour orange compote and lemony dried fig tartness engaged Marzen-like Trotziges Kellerfest, a pilsner malted moderation with mild brown tea licks.

Next, lively Equinox You Out Double IPA allowed tangy orange-peeled yellow grapefruit briskness and bittersweet lemon zest to ride above juniper-bitten Equinox hops, groaty oats and black tea resin.

Unique cask-conditioned Miss Mosh Habanero Coconut IPA let subtle habanero peppering positively affect cotton-candied coconut toasting over the astringently dry-hopped base of Defiant’s Medusa IPA.

Before heading out, silken grained dark ale, Cream Of Oat Stout, placed black chocolate and dark cocoa malts above dry oats-charred leathering. Its smooth milky creaminess lined the chalky Baker’s chocolate finish.

Caught up with brewmeister Neill Acer during May ’18 sojourn. Got to enjoy French oak-barreled Magnus Pango Barleywine, a candi-sugared, bourbon-sweetened delight showcasing piquant bruised orange tang and ancillary cherry-mango-grapefruit conflux as well as tannic grape esters.

Also, finally tried elusive dark-roasted full body, Solarvore Stout, where bittersweet cocoa-powdered black chocolate malting catapulted Blackstrap molasses-sapped cookie dough, star anise and espresso illusions above its sedate maple oats base.   

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