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Up until Monday, every AoG alcohol taste test has involved some sort of horse poison. To celebrate a season with two bye weeks, we decided to change things up and give some of America's finest high-ABV craft beers a try.

That *is* local flavor. Unless you happen to live in the south. Or anywhere outside of Wisconsin.
That *is* local flavor. Unless you happen to live in the south. Or anywhere outside of Wisconsin.

Andrew VU '04: I've got to be honest: as a teen-aged girl pretending to be a bearded man in his 30s, I know a lot about craft beer.  For one, I lived next door to a home brewer for six years (he now brews professionally for St. Arnold's Brewing Company in Houston, TX).  As such, drinking weapons grade horse poison (see our previous King Can Taste Tests) was anathema to me, and I'm relatively sure one of my kidneys no longer works.  No matter - I've got another.

As VandyTigerPhD, Christian D'Andrea, Vandy Import, and Dinard'oh are all goers (nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more), I proposed a classier way to imbibe and describe high alcohol content beers.

And so the First Annual Delicious High ABV Taste Test That We Actually Want To Do And Will Probably Not Kill Us was born.  I could go looking for the best beers out there, scouring every store within driving distance, seeking out great treasures of hops and grain... but, in all honesty, I do that at least once a week already, so let's just go with what's in my fridge.  Without further ado...


The Drink: Green Flash Green Bullet Triple India Pale Ale (New Zealand Dry-Hopped)

Link: Click Here.

Your faithful reviewer: Andrew VU '04

Cost: $12.99 for a 4 pack (bottles)

ABV: 10.1%, 100+IBU

What it did to me: Made me want to quit my job, move to New Zealand, and live on a hop farm.  Simply put, this is the best IPA on the planet (or, at the very least, the best brewed in America, or the best not brewed by Mikkeller), and I want to make sweet, sweet love on a bed of Green Bullet hops.  In fact, let's turn to the right and see if the lady friend is into it and... no.  No.  She is not.  She is not into it.  At all.

Anyway... Green Flash, located in San Diego (though judging by the beer they produce, I'm not entirely certain they're not located in El Dorado), is well known for their IPAs.  Their West Coast IPA is their standard, and, while good, it's a little too grapefruit-y for me.  I'm a huge fan of their Hop Head Red and Road Warrior Rye IPA, but it's the Green Bullet Triple IPA that I seek out with religious zeal each autumn.  Brewed with Green Bullet and Pacific Gem hops imported from New Zealand, this beer is a surprisingly smooth 10+% ABV offering that you want to let linger on your tongue.  It immediately makes you feel good about your decision to open one, but doesn't implore you to crack another.  It makes you want to save them in a cool, dry place, and only open one when you're in a great mood and/or your Vanderbilt-centric sports blog Editor in Chief tells you to.  It has notes of tropical fruit (Green Flash claims it has notes of mango and pineapple, but I get a more subtle passion-fruit flavor from it) and tastes like driving an Aston Martin to a room filled with over-stuffed leather chairs which smells of fine mahogany.  You'll likely struggle to get your hands on a 4-Pack, as people like me exist, and have already bought out every bottle that the brewery ships to your region.  Get your shit together and plan for next September.

Perfect for: When there are too many mother *uckers *ucking with your shi* and you just need to relax and/or build a scale model of the Toothbrush Fence.  This is the beer that a worthwhile Jimmy Buffett would sing about if such a person existed.

Rating: 9.8 out of 10 (for precision w/r/t high gravity).  *If VandyTigerPhD doesn't lose his shit over this line, I don't know what to tell you.


The Drink: Santa Fe Brewing Co. Imperial Java Stout

Link: Click here.

Your faithful reviewer: Andrew VU '04

Cost: $10.99 for a 6 pack (cans)

ABV: 8%

What it did to me: Made me finally admit that coffee flavor can be a useful thing.  Those who know me know I hate coffee flavored things that are not coffee (and I'm relatively ambivalent to coffee).  I drink coffee with a utilitarian bent - black, and only when hung-over (for the greater good).  The taste of coffee is analogous to the taste of heroin - it's inconsequential.  Coffee-flavored ice cream is an abortion.  So is coffee-flavored beer.  Except for this one.  This one's damn near perfect.

Perfect for: When you want an Imperial Coffee Stout, but you don't want it to taste like absolute ass, like Mackeson Triple Stout, which was first given to me in college by a person I still owe a punch in the face to.

Rating: 9/10.  It might be the best of the coffee stouts, but that's a little like being the best Applebee's.

The Drink: Milwaukee Brewing Company's O-Gii

Your faithful reviewer: Christian D'Andrea

Cost: $7.99/4-pack (pints)

ABV: 9.2 %

Tastes Like: A sweet hefeweizen filtered through a couple of tea bags.

What it did to me: Brought me back to simpler times in Milwaukee. The MBC tour is a throwback. They basically give you a beer when you show up, set your drinking clock for two hours, and then nerd out on a tour that's powered by the reclaimed cooking oil from their nearby restaurant 3-5 days out of the week.

Alright, that's not so throwback-y, but the idea of a tour where friendly brewers just filling up your cup is. There's no ticket-system or four-drink maximum here. You basically just keep trying beers until you find a good one. Or, you find a good one and drink six of them while bullshitting with the owner. It's neat.

That brought me to the O-Gii, currently being sipped out of a branding-optimized MBC glass (also part of the tour). It's a tea-infused wit, so it's got a sweeter, softer taste than most other high-alcohol craft brews. The lemon-y taste of the wheat beer goes well with the subtle tea flavor, but it's not so blatant to make you forget that you're drinking a beer. My father, who once famously questioned my sexuality in front of a girl I had just started dating after I had ordered a Hoegaarden (he declared it "lemonade," which was the one memorable comment here that's fit to print), actually approves of this one.

For a gimmick-y sounding beer, it's better than it has any right to be. It pours light and crispy with a solid head, leading to the tasty picture above. The aftertaste can get a bit sour after a while but the overall taste is both unique and something you can have 2-3 pints of without getting sick of it. It's not MBC's best beer, but it's a solid diversion from an otherwise light beer-filled weekend.

Perfect for: Forgetting you have a local NBA team. Developing a winter "beer coat."

Rating: 8/10




The Drink: True Blonde Dubble (SKA Brewing, Durango, CO)

Your faithful reviewer: VandyTigerPhD

Cost: $11 (22 oz, hotel bar)

ABV: 8%

MINDLESS RAMBLINGS/VTPhD CONFESSIONS: In our weekly planning e-mails, I had "called" my favorite high-gravity beer: Arrogant Bastard Ale.  Unfortunately, I didn't have the time to do it last week, and so I'm writing this drunk in the lobby of  a Colorado Springs hotel.  I was determined, our fair readers, to deliver you hard hitting information on brews.  I decided to take the opportunity to try some Colorado local beers, as I've never been here before.  I was in luck, as the hotel bar had this treat.

Taste/What It Did to Me: While I generally dislike blondes (the beers, jackass), this brew actually satisfied.  The True Blonde Dubbel is a Belgian Style beer, and boy, does it hit that mark well.  The beer is not strong in flavor, and goes down rather weak.  The flavor is like a slightly less potent Blue Moon.  However, that is more than made up for as you continue your journey into the 22 oz bottle.  At 8%, it hits fast, but that may just be that I hadn't had anythign to eat in roughly 14 hours since I drank it.  It may also be that I was up at 4 fucking AM to catch a flight out of Philly to be stuck in a metal tube surrounded by the dregs of society.

What did this beer make me do? It made me put in an order of cheese fries and another beer, AFTER I just had a personal salami and sopressetta pizza (which was delicious)

Perfect for: Honestly, this would be a perfect summer beer.  Strong, light, and generally not there until the alcohol hits.

Rating: 4/5.  I generally prefer beers stronger in flavor, but the combination of high gravity AND basically going down like nothing can't be overlooked for you blonde fans.




The Drink: 90 Shilling Ale (Odell Brewing Co., Ft. Collins CO)

Your faithful reviewer: VandyTigerPhD

Cost: $4.50 (hotel bar)

ABV: 5.3% (so "average", but above that pisswater that is "American Style" beers)

MINDLESS RAMBLINGS/VTPhD CONFESSIONS: Having quaffed the beer I listed above in short order, I wanted a solid beer from this state I've never been to.  I asked the bartender for some suggestions, and a few tastes, I settled on this one.  Yes, it is not "high grav", but I want to balance out the previous beer with something I preferred the taste of.

Taste/What it did to me: I'm not familiar with Odell's beers, but I am now.  The 90 Schilling Ale is somehwere between the Odell's Avalanche Amber, and the Odell's Bluerose Brown.  While darker in color than a "true" amber, it has much more of an amber flavor.  It's not got that nutty taste that you'd expect out of a brown.  While the beer is not hoppy, it definitely has a strong taste to let you know it's there.  It still goes down smooth.

This beer made me question why on Earth I was sitting in a basically empty hotel bar in the middle of Colorado watching a SNF football game no one (not even me) gave a shit about.  I promptly finished the beer and went over to the "business center" to write this undecipherable nonsense you're reading now.

Perfect for: Beer Leagues.  This is the exact kind of beer me and my teammates/friends in the Huntsville Hockey League would down en masse after a game.  Of course, that not only undid all the exercise benfits of playing ice hockey for 90 mintues, but it also helped most of us *gain* weight.  Hoo-ah!

Rating: 4/5.  What it lacks in strength, it more than makes up for in flavor and body.  Definitely a beer to bring into your "casual beer" rotation.

The Drink: Lagunitas Imperial Red Ale. (Lagunitas Brewing, Petaluma, CA)

Your faithful reviewer: VandyImport

Cost: $4.99/22 oz at a drugstore near Disneyland

ABV: 7.8%

Tastes like: A solid IPA that shook hands with a whiskey barrel once. Hoppy but not ridiculously so, but given the standing of Lagunitas as the leading producer of IPA in NorCal, it's hard to quibble with the hops. The sweet and fruity just edges out the bitter.  This is supposedly the first thing Lagunitas brewed twenty years ago at the dawn of craft brewing in California, and it's back for a limited release.

What it did to me: Relaxed the hell out of me. The flavor is reminiscent of Dogfish Head's 90 minute IPA, which was going to be my review until I was overtaken by events, but unlike DFH90 I was able to take a few sips and still stand up without swaying.  I threw together some quick nachos with blue corn chips, Tillamook extra sharp cheddar, Tony Chacheres and the beer made a perfect match. I wish I'd had that recipe during my broke grad student days...and better beer than Jack Daniels Amber Lager and Red Dog.

Perfect for: a warm evening by the grill, flipping burgers and sausages and hanging out with your friends.

Rating: 4/5. I'm not an IPA guy but I would drink or serve this again as soon as spring arrives. Which here means sometime between Groundhog Day and Valentine's.

Past (malt liquor laden) Taste Tests:

Schadenfreude Fridays: The King Can Taste Test, Part I (?)

Schadenfreude Fridays: The King Can Taste Test, Watermelon Edition

Schadenfreude Wednesdays: Know Your King Cans, Part III

Schadenfreude Mondays: The King Can Taste Test, Part IV