A Little Crazy, Santilli, Black Tulip 1/31/2017

Hey everyone!  I’m back again with another panel!  In my ongoing quest to sample new and interesting beers, this week I decided to throw two styles into the blind panel that I have not reviewed on my blog yet: a Belgian pale ale and a Belgian-style tripel.  Furthermore, I thought it would be fun to throw breweries into the mix who are noted for their exceptional hoppy beers.   I want to give my thanks to the Malted Barley in Providence for being the new host to these panels (our previous home was abruptly closed).  Lastly, I want to thanks Dr. Alex for stepping in at the last minute to participate on this panel when one of my participants could not make it.  Anyway, I hope you all enjoy what I have to offer!

Remember, none of the participants know what beer is being given to them (myself excluded)- this is a blind taste test, and I only inform them of what style of beer they are drinking.  Not every person on every panel is an expert at reviewing beer, and nobody’s palate is ever wrong- taste is purely subjective.

Panelist Profiles

Name: Dr. Alex Name: Colin Name: Brad
Age: 29 Age: 28 Age: 31
Occupation: Chemist Occupation: Investment Management Occupation: Realtor
Level of Beer Appreciation (1-5): 5 Level of Beer Appreciation (1-5):  4 Level of Beer Appreciation (1-5): 5
Favorite Beer/Beer Style: IPA, Pale Ale, German Lagers, Barrel Aged Stouts, Sours Favorite Beer/Beer Style: Good beer! Favorite Beer/Beer Style: Pale Ale, IPA, DIPA
Additional Qualifications/Info: BJCP Rank pending/National Judge Additional Qualifications/Info: Is half Irish (definite bump to his qualifications).  Usually not a fan of fruit beer (with some exceptions) Additional Qualifications/Info: General beer enthusiast.

Revolution Brewing Company: A Little Crazy

Beer Name: A Little Crazy

Brewery: Revolution Brewing Company

Brewery Location: Chicago, IL

Beer Style: Belgian Pale Ale

ABV: 6.7%

IBU: 35


Belgian pale ales are always interesting beers to try because one never knows how the brewer is going to balance the esters from the Belgian yeast with the hops that one might expect from a pale ale.  Stylistically speaking, a Belgian pale ale tends to be less hop focused like their American cousins, and seeks more balance between the hops, malt, and yeast flavors.  That said there’s nothing stopping a brewery from making a hop forward American style pale ale and fermenting it with Belgian yeast (that type of freedom is half the fun of craft beer).  Let’s see what we got here:

A Little Crazy poured a light golden color, with a slight haze, and thin white lacing that dissipates slowly over time.  The entire group picked up on notes of fruit on the nose, however there were a wide variety of descriptors.  Alex and I picked up on notes of orange and lemon in the aroma.  Alex, in his propensity for epic amounts of detail, went on to note hints of grape and grapefruit.  Brad detected bananas and strawberry, while Colin detected apples or pear accompanied by a hint of vanilla.

There was also a fair amount of variability in terms of the individual tasting notes.  The group noted that the beer was pretty bitter upfront with some lingering bitterness on the finish (which some could find more tolerable than others).  Alex, Colin, and I noted that the beer had a sort of spicy characteristic  (Colin was thinking something related to nutmeg, while I was thinking something more like black pepper).  Alex and I thought that there was definitely an orange-like flavor present (to me it seemed kind of like orange seltzer without the spritzy carbonation).  Brad and Colin thought that the beer had a sort of metallic aftertaste, which was a turnoff for Brad, but it did not bother Colin.

The overall opinions of this beer seemed to vary as well.  Alex and Brad both strongly disliked the beer.  Alex thought the beer was way too out of balance (too hop forward) for a Belgian pale ale (and he was not a fan of the lingering bitterness that the beer offered).  Colin enjoyed the beer and thought it would be a good “door-opener” for people who typically don’t flock to IPAs.  I agreed with Brad and Alex that the bitterness could have been dialed back, but I actually did enjoy this beer.  It was an interesting mix of American hops and Belgian yeast.

Night Shift Brewing: Santilli

Beer Name: Santilli

Brewery: Night Shift Brewing

Brewery Location: Everett, MA

Beer Style: IPA

ABV: 6%



The next beer on the docket was Night Shift’s: Santilli IPA- Bronze Medal Winner at the 2016 World Beer Cup.  Night Shift Brewery (and their beers) currently have a lot of hype behind them, so I thought it would be interesting to get my panel’s opinions without any hype swaying their tasting notes.  All of us have had Night Shift beer before (and some of us had even had this beer prior to the tasting), so this was the perfect opportunity to give a completely unbiased opinion!

Santilli poured a hazy golden color with a persistent white head.  Everybody’s notes on the aroma were both different yet similar (stay with me here).  The entire group picked up on some variation or another of fruit/citrus (individuals’ descriptors included orange, lemon, watermelon, grapefruit, and pineapple).  Alex picked up on aromatic notes of pine, Colin thought there was a definite juniper-like quality present, and Brad detected a raisin-like quality.  One area of overlap that did occur on the aroma (independently in the individual tasting notes) was that both Alex and I both picked up on a slight cheesy aroma (akin to parmesan).  This quality can present itself when a brewer has a bad or an old batch of hops that ends up being used in the beer.  This type of aroma can be more acceptable in a lambic (brewers traditionally used aged hops in that style of beer), but not in an IPA.

The group pretty much agreed that the flavor of the beer more or less matched the aromas they perceived.  The cheesy quality that I picked up in the aroma didn’t really show up in the flavor of the beer for me, but Alex still noticed it.  The beer was citrusy, piney, and grassy with a huge bitter backbone to it.  The bitterness was actually a turnoff for the entire group because it was somewhat astringent, lingering, and unpleasant.  Colin thought that the aftertaste was borderline chalky, and Brad felt that the beer was too imbalanced towards the overly-bitter side of the IPA spectrum.  Overall, nobody in the group was particularly fond of this beer, and everyone was surprised when I revealed what they were drinking.  Those who had drank this beer previously were especially shocked, and we all seemed to conclude that this was just a subpar batch of this particular beer.  But keep in mind that observations like the ones we made are why I keep the participants blind to what they are tasting in the first place.  It is possible that the reviews may have been more positive had they known what beer they were drinking from the start- simply because we are all fans of Night Shift Brewing.

New Holland: Black Tulip

Beer Name: Black Tulip

Brewery: New Holland Brewing Company

Brewery Location: Holland, MI

Beer Style: Belgian Tripel

ABV: 8.8%

IBU: 21


For the last beer on this tasting panel, I wanted to steer the group away from hops, and more towards a style that is more malt and yeast driven.  I’ll admit that I’m more partial towards Belgian-style beers, but if my memory serves me correctly, I do not think that I nor any of my panels have reviewed a Belgian-style Tripel yet.  With that in mind, I settled on New Holland’s Black Tulip.  I think it made for a good change of pace.  Check it out:

Black Tulip poured a slightly hazy light golden color with a very light white head that dissipated very quickly (presumably due to the high alcohol content).  The entire group picked up on a banana-like aroma to some degree (some more than others).  Alex also detected some heavy bubblegum-like notes, Brad detected cherries, Colin thought it smelled oaky, and I picked up on some pear-like qualities.  Furthermore, the entire group could tell that they were about to have a strong beer based on the way the alcohol stung their nostrils.

Similar to the aroma, the banana flavors were pretty apparent.  Colin said that the beer reminded him of Portuguese “S” cookies (sort of like a biscotti) with a vanilla aftertaste.  He described the beer as a sort of “banana milkshake” only much thinner.  Alex picked up on similar qualities in terms of the malt character (calling it biscuity), and later agreed with Colin’s observations on the vanilla qualities when we went back and compared notes.  To me, the beer’s malty characteristics were sort of similar to a sourdough bread flavor with elements of pear shining through as well.  Alex also picked up on the pear-like qualities as the beer warmed up.  The most surprising thing for Brad (and the rest of us, for that matter) was how subtle the alcohol was in this beer.  We all smelled the alcohol immediately from the aroma, but it was not very perceptible in the actual flavor of the beer, which made this beer dangerously smooth.  Overall, Alex thought this beer was well executed and would order several more pints.  I thought the beer was pretty solid, but was a bit two-dimensional and could have used a bit of something more to put it over the top (I couldn’t tell you what exactly).  Colin thought that the beer was solid but not his style because it was a bit too sweet and fruity for his tastes.  Brad actually liked the beer a lot, which surprised him because he throws himself heavily into the hoppy beers corner- he would order another pint.

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