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Fruit For What Ales You 

The fruit selections for this week's ales are just what the doctor ordered.

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click to enlarge MIKE RIEDEL
  • Mike Riedel

Grid City - The Big Fruit Cake: At first swig, I thought this was a Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine. If you're not familiar with Bigfoot, it was one of the original American barleywines, full of toffee flavors and big hop bitterness. So things are already headed down the right path.

This has a really sexy burgundy color on its own. A light, off-white head dissipates quickly, but leaves a thick rim around the glass. There's a thick, viscous appearance as the beer sloshes about the glass, very opaque, with hints of tan and ruby red in the light. Dark fruit sweetness comes off immediately, followed by pine and flower petals coming through, as well as a strong malt backbone. I detect notes of cherry and tobacco and the faintest hints of chocolate from the toffee sweetness. It's nicely balanced and really intriguing, with almost no heat from the alcohol, well-hidden in the nose.

The taste is where that old-school barleywine pops in, with more character than the aroma for sure. Lots of malty, big grain flavors come forward, followed by nice toffee and nougat notes. Some dark fruits appear with fig and sappy dates. It gets a bit muddled, and the alcohol still remains hidden for the most part, but there's a nice syrupy texture, reminiscent of strong ales of old. A very smooth finish complements this well.

Overall: This is a really lovely barleywine from Grid City. The fruit adds so much complexity here, and is a nice element instead of the typical barrel-aging. The 11.3 percent ABV remains hidden until the ale gets to just below room temperature. I would love to see what a year in the can does to this.

Toasted Barrel – Tiger's Blood Snow Cone IPA: It smells like a milkshake, and it tastes like a milkshake, but this is no lactose IPA. The guys at Toasted Barrel have been working on an alternative to big, sweet lactose IPAs, and they appear to have a solution. The addition of 44 pounds of coconut gives this unique IPA its creamy feel. Strawberry and watermelon work perfectly with the hops to make this DIPA highly drinkable and enjoyable.

I poured the bottle into a large tulip, and it came out cloudy, but bright orange, and not as turbid as I expected considering not just the name itself, but also what I have seen from other milkshakes. Creamy strawberry, watermelon and vanilla comes off the nose at first, then softened, aging strawberry and pink Starburst emerge. When given a vigorous swirl, rejuvenating the carbonation, huge, explosive, vibrant, fresh and absolutely seductive strawberry powerfully perfumes the glass.

Creamy strawberry-banana flavor comes across first, followed by a tangy zip. Tangerine and watermelon come next, and then, again, when fully poured, fresh strawberries take on a life of their own. Some high-quality custard flavor sturdily runs in the background. There is a yeast tang, almost hop burn, when super fresh, but this is the price you pay to obtain these flavors and drink these IPAs as fresh as possible.

Overall: Tiger's Blood Snow Cone IPA does not have as thick a feel as its lactose cousins. I was hoping that it would retain those smoothie-like textures, but I understand you can only do so much with coconut. That said, it's a brilliant idea, one that's well-executed and may be an answer for our beer-loving friends who have been searching for a lactose-free milkshake IPA.

Considering the amount of coconut in this small-batch offering, it's hard to say when this would be made again, so I'd get your ass in gear now and head over to Toasted Barrel, toot-sweet. The 16-ounce cans of The Big Fruit Cake are part of a much larger batch, and will be available for the next week or so, only at Grid City. As always, cheers!

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