Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Fruit Slave - Illuminated BrewWorks

    Uggghh, you've been grocery shopping for what feels like HOURS with your mom. Sure, it was fun to see all the different food - fun for about 10 minutes. Now you're bored to death and getting cranky. Soon your mom pushes the shopping cart toward the front - a sign that your suffering is nearing its end! You somehow managed to stay cool throughout the entire trip, and didn't even entertain yourself by throwing things on the floor or by breaking anything, so your mom says that you can pick out a piece of candy at the checkout. Suddenly, this entire grueling trip has become worth it for that one delectable treat of your choosing! You look over the selection: boring chocolate bars, "old people" candy, mints that burn your mouth, suckers shaped like jewelry or baby bottles - and then you spot it. Before you, glowing with the reflected fluorescent lights of the supermarket lies a bright, multi-colored pack of gum with a cartoon zebra on it. You grab the pack and put it on the conveyor belt. Soon, outside, you break into your treasure while your mom loads up the car with groceries. You pull out a stick (it's your favorite color after all!) and shove the gum into your mouth. WOW! What an explosion of fruit flavors! You can't believe that this gum is so delicious, and that you have AN ENTIRE PACK OF IT! With the boredom of the day's previous events fading from your fruit-blasted memory, you settle in to the car's seat thinking about how well you've got it made. Suddenly, you're shaken from your reverie by the sensation that you're chewing on flavorless rubber. What!? No! How could this have happened? Looking to re-live that life-changing fruit experience you shove another piece of gum into your mouth only to find this time the fruity nirvana you thought you had discovered is just as fleeting as it was with the first piece. You shove piece after piece into your mouth - the wad of chewing gum growing larger and larger. Finally, you reach down for the next piece and find nothing. Could you have really just chewed that entire package of gum!? Maybe you dropped one on the floor? No, nothing there. Could it really be over!? Your mom opens the car door and sits down, finally having finished loading the groceries. You spend the ride home with the flavorless lump of rubber sitting in your mouth - serving as a reminder that the world you're growing up in is dark, and empty.

    Illuminated Brew Works in Chicago, Illinois calls Fruit Slave a Double Dry Hopped Double IPA. The bottle states that it is hopped with massive amounts of Mouteka, Citra, and Mandarina Bavaria hops, and the beer's haziness definitely backs up that claim! I've avoided the trend of New England IPAs for long enough, so here comes the "hazy juice".

    Fruit Slave pours a hazy, brown-orange color. The beer appears quite thick, and almost milky similarly to coconut water. An ivory froth tops the brew with decent lacing on the glass.

A "slam dunk" of fruit flavor!
    The beer's aroma is heavy on the tropical fruit. I'm talking mango, papaya, orange, and pineapple here. The brew smells relatively sweet, but in more of a juice-like way than the normal caramel or biscuit bready scents from malts. There is a slight acidic tang to the beer's smell, which is reminiscent of tropical fruit juices I drank as a younger child.

    Fruit slave is medium bodied with a medium level of carbonation. Together, the carbonation and body make the beer seem almost creamy in your mouth. It honestly feels thicker than a Double IPA would normally feel, and somewhat oily. At 7.5% ABV, Fruit Slave seems a bit weaker than I'd expect from a DIPA, but that just means that I can drink more of it!

    I'd say the beer is aptly named, as Fruit Slave provides some massive fruit flavors. Similarly to the beer's aroma, tropical fruits are at the front with mango, guava, papaya, pineapple, melon, and orange. A very, very slight pine character seems to add some prickliness to the flavor, and plays well off of the beer's acidic fruit notes. Mild, wheaty malts add a sweetness to the beer, making it take on a character that's even more juice-like.

    I had avoided NEIPA style beers for a while because, well, honestly they looked different from what I was used to and sounded sort of silly. I've had quite a few NEIPAs now, and it's been a good lesson to not "knock it before you try it". I've really grown to like the tropical juice flavors that hops impart to beer when brewed in this manner. I can't say that my life is changed and that I only want "juicy" beers from now on, but I definitely enjoy a well made NEIPA quite a bit. Fruit Slave does a great job of showcasing the fruity flavors that dry hopping can produce. You can tell that a huge amount of hops went into this brew. When I had finished my glass, there was literally a thin layer of hop-leaf debris on the bottom. Fruit Slave was definitely a fruit-explosion, but just like that gum from my childhood, the bottle runs out eventually.

Amulets and Ale Rating:


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Monday, May 21, 2018

Charlatan - Maplewood Brewery & Distillery

    Step right up folks, step right up! Here we have a magnificent potion of potency - a wonderfully divine draught - a breathtakingly benevolent brew! Guaranteed to cure such maladies as a lack of lust for life, forlorn feelings of forgotteness, and of course, being burdened by boredom! One taste of this masterful brew and you too can find the very same bacchanalian bliss that I, myself, enjoy! Yes, you may be wondering why I would share such a secret with you rather than keep it all to myself. Well, you see, I have found that true joy only remains pleasant when you share it with others! That's why today, I offer you all the chance to purchase (why, only at cost for ingredients of course!) this magnificent medicine. Be sure to buy now! I would hate to have you miss out on this beguilingly beneficial bargain! Tonight only, for tomorrow I must be on my way to share this wonder with others!

    Charlatan is an American Pale Ale brewed by Maplewood Brewery & Distillery in Chicago, Illinois. Maplewood is another brewery that is literally within walking distance from my home, but for some reason it never occurred to me to review one of their beers! One thing I find very cool about Maplewood Brewery & Distillery is that they are very transparent as to what is in their beer. Every one of their cans shows the grain and hop bill for that specific beer. It is for this reason that I can confidently say that Charlatan is brewed with a mix of barley and wheat alongside Warrior, Simcoe, Centennial, and Citra hops.

    Charlatan pours a luminous, hazy golden orange. A healthy inch or two of off-white, fluffy foam tops the beer and laces nicely the entire way down. My first thought was that this beer looks a bit like orange juice!

But he seemed so trustworthy!
    Well, it looks like juice, and it smells an awful lot like tropical fruit juice! Strong, sweet scents of mango, passionfruit, orange, and grapefruit greet your nose as you bring the glass to your mouth. There is also an earthy, grassy smell in the beer - similar to the smell of hay. The smells together give the beer a sweet, juicy, and almost floral aroma.

    Maplewood's APA is somewhere between light and medium bodied, with a medium level of carbonation. The beer's mouthfeel is slightly oily, but finishes mostly dry. And yes, as was said, this is a pretty potent potion at 6.1% ABV.

    Well, it looked similar to fruit juice, it smelled similar to fruit juice, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that it tastes a bit like fruit juice! Again, sweet flavors of tropical fruits, orange, pineapple, grapefruit, and passionfruit dominate the flavor. The grassy notes from the beer's aroma are also present in its flavor, as well as notes of subdued, resiny pine. Caramel and biscuit flavors from the malt balance the more acidic and bitter fruit flavors quite well.

    While I mentioned juice repeatedly, I should specify that Charlatan definitely still tastes like a beer. The fruity flavors remain hop-tasting, creating a very enjoyable APA. I really enjoyed these flavors but felt like it might be a little too far on the "tastes more like juice than beer" side. Nonetheless, Charlatan is very tasty, and would be quite nice on a hot day on a patio. Trust me, I tried it.

Amulets and Ale Rating:


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Saturday, May 19, 2018

Free Bird - Begyle Brewing Company

    It never fails, you're finally seeing your favorite band live for the first time. You've wanted to see them for years, but for some reason they never toured close enough for you to be able to attend. Finally, the planets aligned, and you got tickets to a show near you. The band sounds amazing, and the crowd is loving it. As one song finishes, the crowd begins cheering loudly. As the cheers fade into the general din of conversation and the band prepares their next song you hear it - some jerk in the front screaming "FREEBIRD!!!" The band takes notice and seems to say with their expressions "yeah, real funny guy, we've never heard that one before." And just like that, the band's mood turns from happy to be visiting your city to annoyed that they're playing for a group of idiots that don't appreciate their music. The band's energy changes from excitation to indignation. Your experience has been ruined by that one guy. Thanks a lot guy.

    Free Bird is an American Pale Ale brewed by Begyle Brewing Company in Chicago, Illinois. The can touts Free Bird's sessionable alcohol content, and also points out that the beer was named for the use of falconer's flight hops in it's brewing.

    Begyle's APA pours a slightly hazy, dark orange color with a finger of head made up of compact bubbles on top. The head fades a bit, but sticks around much longer than I would have expected. As the beer is enjoyed, the bubbles leave a thick, almost soapy, lacing down the glass.

"Play me!!"
    The beer's aroma includes notes of citrus fruits such as orange and lemon. Earthy smells of pine and dry grass are subtly present in the beer's aroma as well. There is a surprisingly strong scent of bready malts to the ale - making me wonder if this brew is going to be overly sweet. Only one way to find out!

    Free Bird is medium bodied with a similar level of carbonation. The body and carbonation together balance the beer's oily and slightly sticky mouthfeel with a certain crispness that keeps things refreshing rather than mouth-coating. I'm not really sure that I agree with Begyle's claim that the beer is sessionable. It's alcohol content of 5.6% ABV seems stronger than the 4% ABV or so I would expect from a session ale. While the beer definitely retains a certain crispness, I still find that it ends a bit wetter than I would want from a session ale as well.

    Free Bird tastes a more bitter than I was expecting after smelling such a strong malt presence in the beer's aroma. There are strong notes of lemon and orange in the ale's flavor, as well as a prominent grapefruit-like bitterness. Flavors of pine sap and hay round out the fruity flavors to give the beer a bit of a spicy, earthy character. While I was afraid that the beer would be too sweet, I'm actually surprised to find that the malt balances well with the beer's bitterness. I actually almost feel like the beer could use a bit more sweetness to tone down its bitterness. Even after I swallow the beer, my mouth remains tasting bitter for a while - again, not what I'd want in a session ale.

    While Free Bird being shouted at a concert might make things worse, I can safely say a Free Bird being opened would make things better. While the beer feels quite off from what I'd expect of a sessionable Pale Ale (in fact, it seems a bit more like an IPA), I'm pretty happy with it. I'd never heard of falconer's flight hops before picking up this beer, but I'm interested to see how it is used in the future. It seems like the hops provide quite a bitter kick alongside some earthy and citrus tones, so it could be interesting to mix with other hops in future brews!

Amulets and Ale Rating:


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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Wizard King - Pipeworks Brewing Company and 7venth Sun Brewery

    Legends tell of an ancient kingdom besieged by gigantic insects. These monstrosities ate the kingdom's food entire fields at a time. The bones of those peasants unlucky enough to be tending to their fields when the swarm hit would be found by others the next day. Desperate for help, the royalty of the land sent out for a hero to assist in the kingdom's plight. Many mercenaries, champions, and hunters tried their hands at defeating the swarm. Each time their well-equipped bones were found the following day - stripped bare of flesh and lying on the ground. One day, a mysterious wanderer arrived in the kingdom. The man was of smaller than average height, walked with a staff, and wore a long robe with a hood over his head. The man was clearly from a far-off land, as he spoke with a strange accent which seemed to stress the letter "s" in a way that sounded almost like a hissing sound. The stranger met with the royalty and explained that he would rid the kingdom of its flying menace, but that in return he must be made king of the land. Having seen the many previous "heroes" fall to the swarm, the royalty agreed to the man's terms - secure that this strange man who required a cane to even walk would simply become another pile of bones. The foreigner spent the entire next day waiting in a field of ripe barley. Soon enough, the horrible sound of gigantic, insect wings filled the air. Reports of what happened next are sparse and are likely unreliable as most humans in the area fled to safety and were under great duress. What has been heard, however, is that the strange man was engulfed by the swarm immediately. Some witnesses reported great gouts of fire spraying from the man's outreached hands - burning insects out of the sky. Others swear they saw what appeared to be a great tongue darting from under the man's hood, skewering insects and returning them to his waiting mouth. No matter how it happened, the man returned to the castle and left a field full of uneaten barley and torched insect corpses in his wake. The kingdom's royalty, having seen from a distance what this wizard was capable of, scrambled to ready the crown. As the symbol of kinghood was lowered toward his head, the strange man removed his hood. To the shock of all who were present, a green, scaly face with yellow eyes slowly emerged from the cloth. Before the royalty was able to stop it's descent, the crown landed on the creature's head. This wizard was no man. This wizard was a lizard, and now, he was Wizard King!

    Wizard King is a collaboration between Pipeworks Brewing Company in Chicago, Illinois and 7venth Sun Brewery in Dunedin, Florida. Wizard King is a fusion between the mosaic Pale Ale Lizard King from Pipeworks, and Electric Wizard, a strawberry citra IPA from 7venth Sun. As you might expect from it's parentage, the collaborative brew is a Double India Pale Ale which features cryo mosaic and citra hops alongside strawberries.

    Wizard King pours a slightly pinkish, hazy, golden orange color. I saw some huge bubbles on pouring which makes me worry about the beer having poor retention of carbonation. The beer sort of resembles peach soda when in the glass because of these bubbles. A foam of large bubbles makes up about a half-inch of head on the beer's surface, and what few big bubbles stick around leave some funky lacing down the inside of the glass.
A wizard lizard drinks precisely when he means to.

    The collaborative brew smells quite nice! Between the citra, mosaic, and strawberries there are tons of fruity and interesting scents in the beer's nose. I get everything from mango, lemon, grapefruit, apricot, pineapple, and obviously strawberry - to pine and some nice grassy and earthy notes. Clearly the hops are going to be the stars of the show here, though there is a slight malt sweetness in the nose.

    The DIPA has a medium body, though it feels almost full bodied. There is a slight stickiness to the beer which feels right for its fruit content. My glass started out being carbonated at around a medium level, but the gas definitely escaped this one faster than I would have expected. As the carbonation dwindled, the beer seemed to become thicker and a bit more syrupy. The Wizard King is a potent ruler with an alcohol content of 8.5% ABV.

    Flavor closely follows the scents in the brew, and I'm very glad for it! Tropical fruit flavors are probably the most prevalent of tastes in the brew. There are also the classic IPA pine and citrus notes, alongside mosaic's earthy hay or onion-like flavors as well. At first I was disappointed in the level of strawberry flavor in the ale. It seemed to me that since strawberry was called out as a main ingredient that it should be more pronounced in the beer's flavor. As I continued to drink the beer, I came to realize that the sweet and somewhat earthy flavors of the berries perfectly compliment those flavors from the mosaic and citra hops - which I really appreciate! The hoppy bitterness of an IPA is well balanced with the sweetness from the fruit and malts as it should be in a DIPA.

    I really didn't know what to think when I first opened up Wizard King. As I said, I was a concerned about the beer's carbonation level, and I do feel like I wish the bubbles had stuck around a bit longer. More carbonation might have kept the beer feeling lighter than it did toward the end of my glass. My biggest fear was that the beer would just taste like strawberry jam. Luckily, the balance between bitter and sweet ingredients is very well done - making the beer enjoyable even after it started to feel a little bit syrupy. I have had Lizard King before, and now I really want to try Electric Wizard!

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Saturday, April 7, 2018

The Last of Us - Playstation 3

    After years of humanity imagining it's own end, it has finally come. Though many expected human extinction to come in the form of bombs, climate change, or some interstellar danger - it was Mother Nature herself that began wiping humans from her earth. Perhaps she finally took her revenge for the raping and wanton destruction of her planet, or perhaps it was just a freak mutation of a plant that was otherwise harmless to humans. Either way, the end of humanity comes in the form of a tiny, microscopic, fungal spore. Who knew something so small could be so destructive? At the beginning of the end, scientists reported that the small spores, once entering a human's body, would directly attack that person's brain. At that point, a parasitic fungus would begin to grow in the cranial cavity - slowly taking over control of the human's body. Once started, the fungal growth cannot be stopped and progresses until its human host no longer behaves or even physically appears the way he or she once did. With no way to stop the transmission of the fungal infection, what few humans are left gather in military-run quarantine areas to live out what few miserable days they might have left with the rest of the world in shambles. Yet, humanity struggles to continue, even in the face of their own extinction.