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No Corporate Beer Reviews: Full of Hell

Beer: Full of Hell
Brewery: Wake Brewing (Rock Island, IL)
Style: Pilsner – Italian
5% ABV / 0 IBU

As brewing styles go, the Italian pilsner doesn’t have the hyper-long lineage of its German and Czech pilsner counterparts. It’s really a baby compared to those Old World brewing titans, a hybrid form of the German pils that pairs older brewing techniques with an increased appetite for hops. The Italian pilsner retains the crispness and lightness (and overall drinkability) of the style, but with an added dimension of a nice amount of bitterness from the dry-hopping.

This style should be everywhere. It’s really the perfect summer beer. It stands on its own, ice cold from a can and can be paired with anything. It’s fairly low gravity, so you won’t get wasted from a pint or two. And it definitely upends expectations—you get that familiar funky-but-sweet honeysuckle type nose, plus an appealing amount of bitterness from then hops. It’s also a pretty effervescent style, so you experience the carbonation in the back of your throat and tip of your tongue while the bitterness sort of clings to your palette.

We definitely enjoyed sampling this in a taster at Decibel Magazine Metal & Beer Fest during Full of Hell’s whirlwind set. It is absolutely worthy of a full pour, so thankfully Wake dropped a bunch if tallboys in bottle shops en route to dBMBF. Have your friends in Philly score this one for you or make a pilgrimage to the Wake taproom in Illinois. This brew is beyond crushable. Like Full of Hell, the experience will be over 15 minutes before you expected and you won’t really understand what you experienced, but you’ll definitely be a little buzzed and euphoric.

For more info on Wake Brewing please head here

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No Corporate Beer Reviews: Ce N’est Pas La Fin du Monde

Beer: Ce N’est Pas La Fin du Monde
Brewery: Unibroue (Chambly, Quebec)
Style: IPA – Belgian
9.5% ABV / 50 IBU

Unibroue’s La Fin du Monde is arguably the best of the Quebec brewery’s core line-up of beers, a boozy but well-balanced Belgian tripel with bold caramel and candy sugar notes. Ce N’est Pas La Fin du Monde presents a crafty spin on a beloved brew, with some subtle enhancements that transform the Belgian tripel base into more of a West Coast style IPA. But it’s a Belgian style beer that hop-heads will enjoy drinking, and pleasurable enough to convince Belgian bar hounds to venture out a bit further from that style. There is, quite literally, something for everyone with this beer.

The hallmarks of the Belgian tripel style are present in e N’est Pas La Fin du Monde. In addition to the aforementioned caramel and candy sugar nose, there’s a nicely pungent clove flavor and a bunch of “botanical” notes. As goofy as it sounds, the Belgian brewing tradition has always been closely connected to all of the elements—the kind of thing that triggers the most powerful sense memories. So, there’s absolutely one foot in the Old World with this offering, along with a potent nod to modern sensibilities with a mix of hops favored by American brewers: Simcoe, Galaxy, Cascade and Willamette.

The result is dank, but not too dank, and bitter in an appealing way. The combination of hops adds notes of honeysuckle and tropical fruit on the nose, plus a very little bit of ripe cantaloupe. But the deal with Ce N’Est Pas La Fin du Monde is that it’s very much a Belgian tripel as you swig it, and its IPA-ness is all in its moderate head/carbonation and its slightly bitter finish. It’s a wonderful foray for Unibroue into the world of higher-gravity IPAs, and a wonderfully drinkable beer relative to its ABV and IBUs. At present writing, Ce N’est Pas La Fin du Monde is available in four-packs and 750 ml bomber bottles, but Unibroue would be wise to step up distribution and give Ce N’est Pas La Fin du Monde the spotlight, It’s a scene-stealer in its own right.

For more info on Unibroue please head here

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Dazzling Killmen – Face of Collapse

Focused Hammer
The Making of Dazzling Killmen’s Face of Collapse

As an album title, Face of Collapse proved to be eerily prophetic: Less than a year after its release, and just two weeks before the band was scheduled to embark on a Japanese tour with Zeni Geva, Dazzling Killmen broke up forever. The legacy of this trailblazing St. Louis quartet (originally a trio) lives on in a small, but concentrated body of recorded work, headlined by the band’s second and final full-length. Face of Collapse offers a bridge between hardcore and math rock, with the cinematic sweep of a Bernard Herrmann score. It is simultaneously genre-defining and genre-defying.

Of course, at its heart, Face of Collapse is all about oppositions. Bassist Darin Gray, drummer Blake Fleming and guitarist Tim Garrigan all had classical training, and met as students in the jazz program at Southern Illinois University, while guitarist/vocalist Nick Sakes was largely self-taught. Fleming and Garrigan were younger; Gray and Sakes were already veterans of the St. Louis punk scene. The band’s first album, 1992’s Dig Out the Switch, hewed closer to the angular, rhythm-driven hardcore of Black Flag and other SST acts the group admired. But Face of Collapse was very different—the addition of Garrigan, coupled with renewed focus from the rest of the group, added harmonic layers and intensity to the band’s sound.

There are no false notes on Face of Collapse; the album was painstakingly arranged by Gray and Garrigan, and rehearsed in marathon sessions to achieve mastery—then rehearsed even more. Aside from an accident on Steve Albini’s couch, every song on the recorded version of Face of Collapse was executed as the band intended. Everyone is in particularly fine form here, but the album’s unquestionable centerpiece is the 14-minute quasi-title track “In the Face of Collapse.” With its herky-jerky rhythms and weird time signatures, it’s probably the closest the band got to drawing in a jazz element, offering a nod to the violent, uncomfortable sound of the New York improv scene.

It’s worth noting that the band was the foundational brick for Rob Syers and Mark Fischer’s burgeoning Skin Graft Records, which also had its roots in St. Louis. Face of Collapse was the label’s first full-length, and has remained in print constantly, with a 2016 remaster—spearheaded by Fleming—leading to a lavish reissue with handsome packaging, extensive liner notes and a handful of bonus tracks. Dazzling Killmen’s influence is definitely discernible in later metallic hardcore touchstones like the Dillinger Escape Plan’s Calculating Infinity and Botch’s We Are the Romans, not to mention the prolific output that followed from all of the band’s members on Skin Graft and elsewhere.

Face of Collapse remains completely out of step with rock music then or now; much like the Victorian cabinet of curiosities depicted on the album cover, each of its component parts is an object of wonder.

Need more Dazzling Killmen? To read the entire seven-page story, featuring interviews with the members who performed on Face of Collapse, purchase the print issue from our store, or digitally via our app for iPhone/iPad or Android.

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No Corporate Beer Reviews: Top Tier Trifle

Beer: Top Tier Trifle
Brewery: Southern Grist Brewing Co. (Nashville, TN)
Style: Sour – Fruited
9% ABV / 0 IBU

Consider the imperial sour as the next great trend in sours, a double-strength version of a style (well, multitude of styles) already pushed to the extreme. Most sours clock in at a sessionable ABV range but aren’t really built for marathon drinking sessions. If you are only going to want to drink a single sour, why not make it as epic as possible, with bold fruit-forward flavor, some bracing sourness, and an alcoholic punch? Goses and smoothie sours can stay at 4-5% ABV, but every other sour should hit like a hammer.

Top Tier Trifle—courtesy of the best sour purveyors south of the Mason-Dixon Line (Southern Grist) and one of America’s top meaderies (Garagiste Meadery)—certainly lives up to its name. This well-considered collaboration brew features a delightful combination of boysenberries, huckleberries, and mulberries, balanced out with more mellow marshmallow and white chocolate flavors that are strongest on the nose. This sour’s sourness is lactic, not to be confused with lactose, which is also included in the mix to soften some of the sourness.

What’s unique about this one is an element of bitterness. It has an almost tannic quality, like a Shiraz. It certainly pours with a purplish red hue that evokes a bold red wine, but there’s no element of oak barrel aging or incorporation of grape that would be the obvious culprit. The more likely answer is that Top Tier Trifle gets its bitterness from local honey, with a bitterness similar to dried bee pollen or non-flavored honey meads. It takes a few minutes for this beer to open up so you can really get a sense of it, but the bitterness adds an amazing dimension to an already terrific sour.

For more info on Southern Grist Brewing Co. please head here.

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No Corporate Beer Reviews: Pink Sabbath

Beer: Pink Sabbath
Brewery: Great Notion Brewing (Portland, OR)
Style: IPA – Black/Cascadian Dark Ale
6.66% ABV / 0 IBU

This one is a three-way collaboration between Great Notion Brewing, the SteepleJack Brewing Co. and the Pink Boots Society. The latter is a non-profit organization supporting women in the brewing industry and where Pink Sabbath gets the first part of its name. The beer itself is not that colorful, or rather it’s one color only—jet black/onyx and mostly opaque. That’s the ideal of what a black IPA should look like.

Visually, there’s a bit of cognitive dissonance with Pink Sabbath. It looks very much like a traditional stout, but it’s highly carbonated. A directed pour against the side of the glass will generate the same head, with an initial ratio of equal parts beer and foam. Even as the beer settles, the head is slow to dissipate, producing a noticeable amount of lacing against the sides of the glass akin to the look of a root beer float. IPAs are more carbonated than stouts, and rye-based IPAs tend to be more highly carbonated than the rest.

Of course, the can art rules and the cause behind it is worth championing, but Pink Sabbath also rates well as an IPA. It’s toothsome and interesting to drink, with an adept balance between the malt and hops. It’s a little more malt-forward than most beers of this style, but it’s also hopped more like a West Coast IPA with a blend of Chinook, Cascade and Citra that produces an intense hop aroma that is oddly more subdued on the palette. The Number of the Beast ABV gimmick might be eye roll-inducing if it hadn’t resulted in such a kick-ass beer. Ten fucking skulls for execution.

For more info on Great Notion Brewing please head here.

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No Corporate Beer Reviews: Barrel Aged Behemoth

Beer: Barrel Aged Behemoth
Brewery: 3 Floyds Brewing (Munster, IN)
Style: Barleywine – American
13.5% ABV / 45 IBU

The coroner’s report from my own autopsy isn’t available yet, but I’m pretty sure that when they take a look at my pickled liver, all signs will point to the one bottle of 3 Floyds Barrel Aged Behemoth I knocked back on a Saturday afternoon When I say “knocked back,” of course what I really mean is sipped slowly, because adopting a marathon pace is the proper approach to any bareleywine. And this particular barleywine? I’m not even sure it’s street legal. It’s definitely strong, and not accompanied by the typical warning signs of super-hoppy beers beckoning you to slow down.

But it’s a legitimately delicious American style barleywine and a great reminder of how elite 3 Floyds can be outside of the context of its core line-up of IPAs and pale ales. Barrel Aged Behemoth is basically the Dark Lord of barleywines and a base this rich could stand up to different types of barrel aging, even if the bourbon barrel aging here tends to paint Behemoth’s vanilla and caramel notes in the best possible light. Confidential to 3 Floyds: Behemoth would be killer aged in rum barrels, too.

The mouthfeel of a beer like Barrel Aged Behemoth is great, too. Given the malt-forward nature of barleywines, the style can be—quite literally—hard to swallow for the uninitiated. Barrel Aged Behemoth has great viscosity; it’s not too think and it’s completely free from sediment. What’s left is a righteously well-balanced brew where you can experience the character of the malt and the hops and the bourbon barrel aging. Some beers are fungible when it comes to serving styles, but this one should be poured into a tumbler or a snifter in order to get the incredible peat smell on the nose and taste the spicy notes from the barrel aging. Drink, drank, drunk.

For more info on 3 Floyds, please head here.

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No Corporate Beer Review: Luchador en Fuego

Beer: Luchador en Fuego
Brewery: Clown Shoes (Boston, MA)
Style: Stout – Imperial/Double
10.5% ABV / 0 IBU

The original version of Luchador en Fuego hit the market in 2016 as an anniversary brew. Clown Shoes has had several birthdays since, and this excellent barrel-aged Mexican chocolate stout is now part of the brewery’s year-round line-up. This is a cause for celebration, as is the slimmed-down 19.2 oz can, which empties neatly into an imperial pint glass. The move away from 22 oz bomber bottles has nothing to do with bomber bottles; Clown Shoes has your interests at heart here because this one will knock you out faster than an aerial clothesline.

The spiciness of this imperial stout is definitely en fuego. There’s plenty of cinnamon—the thing that adds the “Mexican” to the chocolate, plus actual heat from ancho and chipotle peppers. Well, a little heat; both of these peppers, essential ingredients in dishes like mole, rank as pretty mild on the Scoville scale. But you definitely can feel a bit of a tingle on the tip of your tongue and the roof of your mouth, and that is part of what sets Luchador en Fuego apart as an imperial stout.

The other key differentiating factor here is straight-up aging. This stout presents a case for why all chocolate-based stouts should be aged in bourbon barrels. The caramelized sugar notes from the barrel aging process complements the vanilla undertones of Luchador en Fuego exceptionally well. Maybe that’s actually where the tongue-tingling effect of this stout comes from, as opposed to the peppers. Or perhaps it’s both. This beer somehow combines a silky-smooth mouthfeel with heat that lingers. As a stout, it’s pretty great, but as a spiced beer, it’s a signature move ending with your total submission, no kayfabe necessary.

For more info on Clown Shoes, please head here.

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No Corporate Beer Reviews: Colossal Claude

Beer: Colossal Claude
Brewery: Rogue Ales (Newport, OR)
Style: IPA – Imperial/Double
8.2% ABV / 75 IBU

When you hear the name “Rogue Ales,” you immediately think about giant bomber bottles with extreme flavors like jelly doughnut and, uh, sriracha. Rogue going rogue is what put it on the map, but two factors have helped redefine the Oregon brewery for the new decade. One is that 10-15 years later, that stuff doesn’t seem so lunatic and out-there flavor combinations have become mainstream. But Rogue has also become an advocate for balance, which you can taste in their brews and really chart in the evolution of the brewery’s core line-up.

Colossal Claude is the newest entry in Rogue’s year ’round IPA series, and part of a mini “Monsters of IPA” promotion of beers based on Pacific Northwest urban legends. Batsquatch is a wonderfully-drinkable, lazy Sunday kinda hazy IPA, while Colossal Claude is a substantially boozier non-occluded imperial IPA better suited for longer nights and hair of the dog emergencies. Colossal Claude is a bit more toothsome, and definitely more aggressively hopped, with a blend of five different varietals that lean hard into West Coast IPA territory: Citrus and pine on the streets, citrus and pine between the sheets.

This imperial IPA’s nose strays a little further from what you would expect. There’s citrus there, too, but also hints of ripe, funky cantaloupe that play well with the sweetness of the malt and the creaminess of the mouthfeel. I value that the beer holds its carbonation after being poured into a glass and has a little effervescence without being completely subsumed by it—a beer like this wouldn’t be the same flat. Or warm for that matter. That’s why the 12-oz can format works especially well for this. You can knock back one of these without getting rocked. After that, who knows when Colossal Claude might show up in your bathtub?

For more info on Rogue Ales, please head here.

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No Corporate Beer Review: Forest Bänger

Beer: Forest Bänger
Brewery: Põhjala (Tallinn, Estonia)
Style: Stout – Imperial/Double
12.5% ABV / 35 IBU

Põhjala’s Forest Series of beers is mostly retired but can still be found on shelves. When the supply of bottles runs fully dry, I sincerely hope all of the beers go back into production. The concept behind the series—mixing and matching botanicals with foraged items like birch bark and spruce tips—has produced some of the Estonian brewery’s most gonzo beers. The experience of drinking them is also delightfully immersive, with each sip triggering a sensory guessing game.

Põhjala was birthed in the ancestral home of Baltic porters and imperial stouts, so Forest Bänger is as good as any place to start exploring the brewery’s wares. As part of the Forest series, this boozy imperial stout features a couple notable foraged ingredients: Estonian juniper and smashed rowanberries, a slightly bitter berry native to northern Europe. Neither of these ingredients overwhelms what is otherwise a well-balanced stout; aside from a hint of gin on the nose, neither are really that easy to discern.

Forest Bänger is completely about the blend of malts, particularly the Birch smoked rye malt, the Cherry smoked pale malt, and Peated malt. Not only does this brew feature 11 (!) different malts, but it also has multiple types of smoked malts. What’s left is a medium-bodied stout with a really good amount of chocolate flavor (again, from the malts) but matched evenly with the smoked malts, creating a very mellow and sippable rauchbier. Skip cordials and use this as an aperitif instead, paired with simple butter cookies or something super decadent like linzer torte. Another stellar offering from a brewery that excels in the art of dark beers.

For more info on Põhjala, please head here.

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No Corporate Beer Review: Motörhead Röad Crew

Beer: Motörhead Röad Crew
Brewery: Ale Asylum (Madison, WI)
Style: Pale Ale – American
5% ABV / 0 IBU

There are two versions of Motörhead Röad Crew—this is the American “domestic” version first unveiled in 2020 to mark the 40th anniversary of Motörhead’s seminal Ace of Spades album. Both are fully sanctioned versions, with support from Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee, the surviving members of the band’s final line-up. If Lemmy were still alive, the only way he’d let any of this touch his lips would be during a global Jack Daniels shortage, but cheers to everyone here for keeping the Motörhead legacy raging on.

You should totally buy this if you are a metalhead for reasons other than the beer itself. Thanks to Brew Pipeline and the band’s merchandising arm, this beer has a distribution footprint covering all 50 states and across the world. It’s pretty much ubiquitous. The can art with the Motörhead logo will look particularly handsome on a shelf. As someone who made a special pilgrimage to visit a Motörhead themed bar in Santiago, Chile just to knock back a pint next to a fresco of Snaggletooth, I’m willing to judge that book by the cover. And it’s also worth pointing out that drinking one of these is essentially a charitable act—part of the proceeds go to Live Nation’s fund to support touring and venue crews throughout pandemic-related disruptions.

But—and this is a big BUT—you really have to like Citra hops to party down with Motörhead Röad Crew. It smells a lot like Lemon Pledge and it tastes like lemon and honeysuckle. It’s basically a beer version of chamomile tea, which is pleasant enough but probably not what you expected from a Motörhead beer. At 5% ABV, it definitely goes down the gullet easily, but the pale ale character is completely enveloped and subsumed by the aggressively citrus-y notes. At room temperature, as the Brits prefer, it’s no more appealing. To quote St. Lemmy, the chase is better than the catch.

For more info on Ale Asylum, please head here.

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