I’ve been tracking the progress of the government-delayed Ohio Brewery beer collaboration, and, despite finding it sold out at Heinen’s, managed to snag a 12-pack at Warehouse Beverage. Overall it held up quite well despite being released six months late.

  • Rye Kolsch (Brew Kettle and Willoughby Brewing): My favorite of the bunch. This was supposedly the beer most likely to go off because Kolsch in theory tastes best young, but that wasn’t the case. The aroma was citrusy hops with the flavor nicely balanced between floral (but not overpowering) hoppiness, sharp rye, and a subtle caramel malt evening everything out. I haven’t had a lot of low ABV rye ales, but this was the best I’ve had (less bitter and more drinkable than Acadia’s). The lightness of the beer’s body combined with the refreshing, complex flavors make for a great session beer. Too bad they’re not brewing more of these.
  • Barrel-Aged Strong Ale (“Berlot”) (Great Lakes and Cellar Rats): Decent but somewhat disappointing considering the intriguing combination of barleywine and oak merlot barrels. Sweet and boozy with almost no bitterness or oak flavors. I drank half a bottle and let it sit capped in the fridge for a couple days (the oxygen in the bottle “quick ages” the beer) and the flavor mellowed and improved somewhat. I might drink the second bottle in a few months.
  • Smoked Black Lager (Indigo Imp and Thirsty dog): This one started to grow on me after trying it a second time. The style is “Brazilian Black Lager” (think Xingu), which is an interesting attempt, and it’s quite drinkable. The only problem is that it’s a tad sweet, perhaps from some of the hops breaking down over time. It probably would have been excellent shortly after brewing.
  • Wet Hop IPA (FatHeads and Black Box): Ironically, this beer was supposed to degenerate since brewing, but it was the second best (or maybe the best) in the bunch. The hoppy floral elements were pronounced but not overpowering, and the beer was much better balanced than the other wet IPA I’ve tried (Two Brothers). I’d be happy to pick up a six pack of these if they were available.
  • Imperial American Porter (Rocky River and Hoppin’ Frog): A tasty strong porter (not sure I’d call it “Imperial” at 6.9% ABV), with a sweet, roasty front end and a uniquely hoppy aftertaste that seemed to fade more into the background as I got to the end of the bottle.
  • German-Style Ale (Altbier) (Cornerstone and Buckeye): This one seems to have gone bad (at least the two in my 12-pack). It overflowed with foam and tasted bitter in a metallic way, which is exactly what’s happened to beer I’ve brewed when some bottles went off. I could only really take a sip or two of this, which is too bad as it sounded interesting. Maybe temperatures got too hot during storage.

I was glad to see my take on these was mostly shared by Brewer’s Daughter. I was a bit sad, though, that I got three smoked lagers and only one Wet Hop IPA in the 12 pack.

The IX International beer fest is coming up in a few weeks. Despite the “international” tag, this is a lot like Brewzilla last fall. There will be plenty of local breweries, including everyone but Black Box from the above collaborations. Most exciting for me is the presence of so many good Michigan Breweries including Bell’s, North Peak (from my home town of Traverse City) and Jolly Pumpkin (who make some of the best Belgian-style ales in the world—don’t miss Oro De Calabaza).

OK, you’ve read (or skimmed) this far and probably saw the “giveaway” in the title. We have a pair of tickets for the event, worth $90 total, good for any of the three sessions (Friday, May 14th, 7-11pm or Saturday, May 14th 1-5pm or 7-11pm). Here’s what you need to do: In the spirit of the Ohio Brewers’ collaboration, reply to this post with your idea for a unique (but hopefully drinkable) beer.

For instance, inspired by Dogfish Head’s use of cedar wood in Grain to Glass, Short’s Brewing Company’s Nicie Spicie (with black pepper) and Heavy Seas Über Pils, I thought about brewing a strong bock with cedar chips and a mix of hot spices. I’ve since abandoned this idea (due to not finding cedar chips and perhaps a lack of nerve) in favor of a well-hopped smoked apricot ale, which I plan to start brewing sometime after the semester’s over (I teach English and am currently buried in grading).

You’re limited to two replies (any after that won’t count) which should be submitted by midnight on May 1st. A winner will be chosen on May 2nd using random.org. If you are so inspired that you can’t limit yourself to two ideas, just combine them in your replies (or post a third not eligible for the drawing).

  • Emily

    I’m really looking forward to summer right now, so I’m thinking a lager brewed with basil and maybe a bit of citrus (lemon?).

    Thanks for the review of the sampler– now I’m particularly looking forward to trying the Rye Kolsch!

  • http://none Jay

    Forgive me as I’m not a brewmaster, but these are the 2 crazy beers I’ve always thought would be interesting.
    1. A Porter done with concord grapes to give it a sort of red wine-ish hint.
    2. A light beer that appeared to look like a dark beer. (Not sure if “light” tends to refer to calories or color?) I get tired of all my buddies telling me that they can’t drink dark beers because they are too heavy. Sure, there are heavy dark beers but most are similar to the lager they are drinking. :^)

    Maybe someday I will take a swing at brewing my own beer.
    Thanks for the review!

  • Melinda

    I love citrus flavors in beer and would love to see something local with lemongrass as a main flavor component.

  • http://www.mile26andmore.com Heather

    I’d love to have a light (in color and calories), refreshing, summer beer that is made locally and has an almond, vanilla bean, berry flavor. Maybe there already is something like this and I just don’t know about it?

  • http://clevelandfoodandbrews.com Brad of Cleveland Food and Brews

    Loved reading your take on the collaboration 12-pack! I hope if they do it again they can manage to release it on time. I’m going to the IX event and I’ll be posting up a similar giveaway on my site this week. I just wanted to comment on your review, so please don’t enter me in your giveaway! Keep up the great work!

  • http://pursuitofyourboyfriend.com/ Mel

    Strange. We got three of the Imperial Porters and (like you) only one IPA. That doesn’t even make any sense.

  • http://www.bridgetcallahan.com Bridget

    A Watermelon hefeweizen, with a really slight mint tone.

  • http://www.bridgetcallahan.com Bridget

    And a spicy peach pale lager.

    I am hoping there is an actual difference between a pale lager and a hefeweizen though they sound like the exact same thing :) You should send me, so I can find out for sure. Also, if I win, you two have to come with me.

  • http://twitter.com/SPappadaPhD Scott Pappada

    I would recommend a dark chocolate cherry vanilla porter! Add cherries to Breckenridge’s Vanilla porter yum!

  • http://twitter.com/SPappadaPhD Scott Pappada

    Another good beer would be to merge vanilla porter and cinnamon! That would also be a good combo or add pumpkin to the combo as well! That’d probably work out nicely

  • Steve

    I have been tossing around the idea of concocting a maple bacon porter. I was inspired by the maple bacon ice cream at Lola and think it could be quite tasty if done right.

  • MattT

    A chocolate stout with a hint of orange rhine…out there but think of a chocolate orange.

  • Jason

    I would like something with Honey and Mango.

  • Tommy C

    I second Scott’s suggestion! Vanilla porters! Breckenridge Vanilla porter is good but would be awesome with cinnamon or cherries.

  • Tommy C

    Fat Head’s had a Treehugger Ale that used honey. What about using honey and ginger.

  • http://www.heightseats.com Ben

    @Bridget: 21st Amendment makes a “Hell or High Watermelon” hefeweizen which is pretty good (and a pale lager is not the same as a hefeweizen b/c a hefeweizen is a wheat ale).

    @Brad: Glad you enjoyed the review.

    @Scott: Tin Whistle actually makes a chocolate cherry porter (which I haven’t tried), but O’Fallon’s chocolate cherry beer is quite good.

    @Steve: A homebrew I made was actually described by a friend as tasting of bacon because it had maple sweetness and smoked malt. So bacon flavor (without pork) is definitely doable.

    @Tommy: Ginger is really good in beer—the first beer I ever brewed was a really simple dark gingered ale, and I may have actually used honey in a ginger beer at one point. For some reason I almost always prefer ginger in dark beers vs. light ones.

    Everyone’s beer suggestions sound really good. I look forward to reading more!

  • Ryan

    Hoppin’ Frog bottles a version of a Black and Tan, but I would love for them to take their BORIS the Crusher Oatmeal Stout and blend it with their Frog’s Hollow Double Pumpkin. Talk about a fall treat!

  • Ryan

    Short’s also does a seasonal Spruce Pilsner that is loaded with spruce flavor. However, I would like to see a brewery try to incorporate that flavor into a winter warmer. It would be interesting to enjoy around the holidays.

  • http://www.heightseats.com Ben

    And the winner is… Scott Pappada! (random.org picked number 10) Congratulations, Scott, and thanks to everyone who entered!

  • Tommy C

    Scott, I’ll take your extra tickets since you already won from brewersdaughter!

  • http://heightseats.com Ben

    @Tommy: I noticed that as well after I did the drawing. I confirmed there was no rule against winning two pairs of tickets, though. Scott just had a lucky week!