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ABV: 5.6%

>by Willard Brooks

Late beer writer Michael Jackson said “porter casts a long shadow.” Clearly this refers as much to the dark color from roasted malts as to the long history this beer has in the British Isles. Beginning roughly 300 years ago, this beer style is said to have derived it’s name from the carriers (ie porters) of meat, fish and vegetables who preferred this beer. Bell’s Porter, from the Mid-West USA is a fine example of this style. It pours a thin tan head that dissipates rather soon after being poured. This is a classic porter. Medium to full mouthfeel with distinct flavors of chocolate and cold brewed coffee and bitterness from roast and relatively low in carbonation—very subtle hop character with little aroma but with a distinct lingering bitterness. If you are a fan of Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald you will enjoy this beer. Pair with Friday fish fry with fries and cole slaw. Available year round. Excellent beer—get it now or wait for St Patrick’s Day. More information is available at


ABV: 4.5%

>by Paul Marko

The call for more sessionable beers has been heard! When one of the largest, and respected American craft brewers uses it’s 19th anniversary to release a lower alcohol IPA in honor of their special occasion, it seems the tipping point has finally been reached. Breweries often use anniversaries to release big, barrel aged beers—high in alcohol—but Victory has declared “it’s our party and we can brew what we want to.” Victory (Downington, PA) arguable brews three of the best American beers in their respective styles (Prima Pils, Helios Saison and DirtWolf Double IPA) so expectations were high for this release, and 19 doesn’t disappoint. From its fresh aroma of citrus and pine, through its malt balanced and dry finish, this IPA accomplishes what a solid “session” beer should—big flavor while holding the ABV at 4.5% or under. 19 was a great choice for all-game SuperBowl Sunday drinking and it paired wonderfully with nachos and a spicy bowl of veggie chili. For those not familiar with the term, session drinking is chiefly a British concept that refers to drinking several beers during a “session” without becoming too intoxicated. It has been championed here in the states by beer (and whiskey) writer Lew Bryson, and now has its own category at the Great American Beer Festival. Other session IPAs to seek out and “crush” are Stone “GoTo IPA,” Founders “All Day IPA” and the newly released “Pinner” from Oscar Blues.



ABV: 9.6%

>by Chris Groves, Certified Cicerone®

The year was 2002, I had just turned 21 and I had my eye on Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine. That first experience with Barleywine was profound, to say the least. I had never tasted anything like it. To me it was the equivalent of boozy, bitter maple syrup; a sentiment I obviously still do not hold. If this is what beer COULD taste like, then anything was possible. A fresh Bigfoot is reminiscent of a big Double IPA bursting with resinous fresh hop aroma and bitterness followed by a juicy, chewy, caramel malt body. Poured into a footed goblet, the 2015 version of Bigfoot is just as big, bright and bold as I remember, nevermind that boozy syrup nonsense. Since Bigfoot is readily available in early winter and relatively inexpensive for what you get...I suggest picking up an extra 4-pack to cellar. Doing a year over year taste comparison of Bigfoot (aka a “Vertical”) reveals many interesting things about the life of hops and malt in beer and how that beer can mellow and change when stored properly. Oxidation, often seen as an off flavor in many beer styles, can sometimes be a welcome addition to an aged version of a barleywine; exibiting notes of sherry-like sweetness and other complexities. Drinking Bigfoot without food is not recommended due to its extreme drinkability...don’t let that afternoon slip away without some sharp cheddar or a spicy chicken mole over enchiladas. Yum!

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