Thursday, July 26, 2012

Double Dead Guy vs. Double Bastard

I've had this review idea in my mind for sometime now and today it finally comes to fruition!  This is a battle of the big boys and I hope my palate is ready for it!  In this corrrnneeerrrr....

Double Dead Guy Ale
Brewer: Rogue Ales
Hometown: Newport, OR
Vintage: 2011 Release (May 2011)
Style: Strong Ale (evolved from Dead Guy Ale, a maibock)
IBU: 72
ABV: 9.0%
Plato: 19.8
SRM: 25
2010 Australian International Beer Awards - Gold
2010 World Beer Championships - Gold (Best of 2010)
2010 BrewNZ - Silver
2009 Australian International Beer Awards - Silver
2009 World Beer Championships - Gold (Best of 2009)
2008 World Beer Championships - Silver

Aaaand in the opposite corner...

Double Bastard Ale
Brewer: Stone Brewing Co.
Hometown: Escondido, CA
Vintage: 2011 Release (Oct 17, 2011)
Style: American Strong Ale (evolved from Arrogant Bastard, another ASA)
IBU: Listed as "Classified"
ABV: 10.5% ABV
Plato: N/A
SRM: N/A (but 40-42 based on observation)
For guys that are so "arrogant," I had a hard time finding many awards for this one.  Of course, the truly arrogant sense their own importance and do not rely on that bestowed by others. :)
2005 Great American Beer Festival - Silver

As much as I wanted to utilize branded glassware in this write-up, I did not have glassware of each brand that would have kept this as fair a review as possible. Thus, I'll be using the tasting glasses that I bought when out visiting Port City Brewing in Alexandria, VA. I am insanely anxious for this slugfest to begin. Let's pour! First up...

Double Dead Guy

Aroma 9/12
The beer shows promises of authenticity by beginning with notes of straw, sweet caramel, and a bit of booze.  Roasted notes evolve slowly and eventually lead to stronger versions of the previously mentioned scents.  The caramel becomes richer and brings the complementary booziness right along with it.  All the malts even let some brighter hop notes to peek out in the forms of green apples, a lesser resin, and some citrus.  There may even be a hint of spice, but it is too faint to say definitively.  This all translates into a rather bittersweet medley with an interesting fruit/citrus overtone.

Appearance 3/3
Superior size and retention in the head, which has a nice bisque color that sits handsomely on top of a beer with any number of hues.  Those that come to mind quickly are: reddish-copper, canned beets, sunset orange, and some deceptive dark purple shades.  The beer is translucent which enables both the great colors yet still lets the light in to play with them.  It even has some nice lacing!

Flavor /20
What a neat citrus splash on the tip of the tongue before the drinker was given more of the "bitter" from the "bittersweet" from the aroma!  Soon, the roast and graininess of the malts kicks in to dull the sweetness a bit, but it is quickly overruled by the lighter caramel and the strong fruity esters.  I was a bit hesitant writing "apples" in the aroma, but after tasting it I stand by that 100%.  The backbone is largely a slightly darkened caramel and the sweet fruit, but has a great boozy quality that, much like the aroma, always complements and never oversteps its bounds.  The finish is a reprisal of the grainy malt with a strengthened bitter that still manages to show off the roast and some alcohol heat.  In case that last sentence didn't give you a hint, there's a lot going on here.  The aftertaste lingers with the warming effect of alcohol, but also with the graininess from the finish. Eventually, it simply becomes bitter and urges the next mouthful.

Mouthfeel 5/5
This beer is a "double" that ups the ante on flavor, but doesn't make the beer too heavy in that endeavor.  On the contrary, this beer enjoys a moderate-full body, ample carbonation to keep things refreshing, but a silky smooth mouthfeel.  Once this beer sits in the mouth, it practically glides over your tongue.  A swish or two might yield a little foam, but for the most part you can count on this beer being both pleasantly bubbly early on, as well as very silky for the style.  A very nice contrast to have within the same bottle.

Overall Impression 9/10
I'm impressed at the various levels of complexity in this beer.  The aroma has 3 nice scents going on, the appearance features a wide range of colors, the flavor has at least 5 different components, the alcohol is used remarkably well, and even the mouthfeel changes in the course of one sip to be different things at different times.  Is it as robust as most brewers make their doubles?  Not really, but there's so much brewing prowess in this bottle it's hard to hold that against it.  In other words, with this much control exhibited over so many minute details, do you really believe that this beer isn't exactly the way that Rogue wanted it?  If they wanted it stronger, they'd have made it that way.

Total 44/50
The score seems a bit low for how much I enjoy this beer, but the lower score in the aroma seemed to hurt it the most.  Not that the aroma is bad, but it is seemingly simple compared to the complexity inherent in the rest of this brew.  I have a feeling that in the battle between this two beers, that Double Dead Guy is going to be the smaller, more agile, more technical fighter whose sheer study of the art, talent, and skill are going to make this fight go the distance.

And now...

Double Bastard

Aroma 11/12
Now THIS smells like a double!  It is so rich and dark smelling with gobs of molasses just wafting out to shake your hand with the sometimes uncomfortable assumed familiarity of a "How the hell are ya?!"  Even with that strong malt aroma, the hops are still easily detectable and only get stronger as the beer warms.  They start out clean and fresh with a light citrus, which teams up oddly well with a little booze that's present.  A moderate roast makes a cameo and then things truly begins to come together.  The bouquet as a whole is boozy, rich with a molasses that is made brighter by the citrus hops that will not be subdued.  As this was their 2011 release, I can only imagine what it would be like fresh.

Appearance 3/3
Another great looking brew!  This beer pours darker than the Double Dead Guy with shades light brown, magenta, ruby, some rather indescribable red/purple combinations.  This is very striking in color!  The head is beige, moderate in longevity, leaves little lacing, and is supplemented around the edges of the glass by tiny columns of carbonation.  The beer appears living and moving with this constant ascension.

Flavor 19/20
This is not a beer that tiptoes around with nuance and subtlety.  Immediately, your taste buds are being bludgeoned by big heavy malts!  Brown sugars abound, caramel flows freely, a suggestion of raisins & dark fruits is hard to ignore, alcohol is camouflaged yet present, and a diminished resin shows up from time to time.  There are no rising and falling flavors to detect.  This is a bull rush and you're in the way.  The finish is more of the resin, but with a fully revealed alcohol heat and a sticky feeling thanks to the sweet fruits that refuse to go away without a fight.  The aftertaste allows all the other flavors to fall away save for a medicinal bitter that lingers long after the beer has been swallowed.  This is a slap of flavors on the tongue!

Mouthfeel 4/5
In case, the last paragraph left any doubt this is a big, big beer.  The mouthfeel is full bodied and smooth even though Stone makes a feint at lightening it with a fairly aggressive carbonation.  Thankfully, that prickly carbonation dies before the halfway point in the 1 Pt. 6 oz. bottle, and we're left with a big beer that's still light on its feet.  This is just about the perfect amount of carbonation to have in a big beer.  The alcohol warmth is a tad more aggressive than I would prefer.  It's not out of line by any means, in fact big beers often carry a strong warmth with them, but that doesn't mean that the alcohol couldn't have been incorporated more into the beer instead of contributing on its own.

Overall Impression 10/10
I love it!  This is big beer and everything about it is designed as such.  The aroma is strong (albeit fairly simple), the flavor is a monster, the appearance is gorgeous, and the mouthfeel means some serious business.    If you enjoy doubles or imperials, this beer is right up your alley.  It's robust nature carries it in every category

Total 47/50
This is truly an annual release to be sought out and celebrated.  It defies most other beers on the shelf and is a really nice surprise.  Yes, even though you expect big, full flavored beers when you drink a Stone, be prepared to be surprised.  It's big, sweet, warm, and smooth, but still drinks easier than I'd expect and leaves a great lingering bitter.  This was definitely the bruiser out of the two beers evaluated.  Its fight stratagem is clearly brute strength and a relentless attack.  Thankfully, that strength is also remarkably tasty.

And the winner, by a judge's score of 44 to 47 is...

In the end the tasty flavors, complexity, and high technical brewing of Rogue's Double Dead Guy weren't enough to defeat the huge/delicious flavors and "big beer" feel of Stone's Double Bastard.  Each one definitely has their place and respective bragging rights.  Rogue's aroma was more complex, but Stone's was much richer.  Rogue's head was superior overall and laced better, but Stone's carbonation in the glass made the beer seem alive.  And these type of comparisons go on and on.  Which makes me think that the victory could go to either beer depending on how your mood strikes you.  Perhaps another day, I might've found the Double Bastard overpowering and clumsy.  Perhaps, like today, I found that the Double Dead Guy just didn't have enough "oomph" to really knock me out.  Overall, Rogue provides a sweeter, more drinkable, less boozy experience that is easier to let beginners sample because each flavor can be more easily detected.  Stone, on the other hand, provides a darker, boozier, stronger, richer, more lingering brew that might be too abrasive to those you're to proselytize into the world of craft beer.  They're both excellent beers, but like Highlanders... there can be only one.  Now if you'll excuse me, I have two bottles to finish.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Shmaltz - Reunion Ale '11

All the convincing I needed to buy this bottle was to see the the names Schmaltz & Terrapin on the label.  I had no idea that they had done a collaboration, but let's just say that the idea did not disappoint me.  Those two breweries have put out some truly tasty craft beers and collaboration between the two has lots of potential.  This beer also has the potential to be something greater than just a great collaboration.  The label indicates that this is "A beer for hope" that will help raise funds and awareness for "the Institute for Myeloma & Bone Cancer Research."  Having a sister who contracted leukemia when she was 3 years old (she's now 28 thank-you-very-much), bone cancer research is a cause near and dear to my heart (and bones).  I love seeing breweries give back to their community in such a huge way.

Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, I'll let Shmaltz tell you the story behind this beer via their label:

"Teaming up with Terrapin Beer Co. for the first time, Shmaltz Brewing joins the tribe as a production partner for the Reunion '11.  We brew Reunion each year in memory of our dear friend and partner in this venture  Virginia MacLean.  Virginia lost her battle with Multiple Myeloma in 2007.  It was her wish that we continue on behalf of The Institute for Myeloma & Bone Cancer Research ("

Aroma 10/12
The detected aromas read like a checklist off of the front of the bottle.  First comes plenty of the cocoa nibs, but they're being sweetened by a brazen vanilla scent.  The vanilla, thanks to its surroundings, comes off as being a dark vanilla and not an "ice cream" like sugary sweetness.  The roasted chiles are not far behind and their contribution is the expected heat and a more subtle roast flavor than most beers in the same genre.  I could see how the combination of sweet and spicy could lead some people to detect a cinnamon aroma in this brew, but it is only an illusion.  This is another beer that truly needs time to warm in the glass.  After only a few minutes all those separate aromas really come together in a cohesive blend that showcases the cocoa, but still features a boozy vanilla and faint smokey roast.  This gives me high hopes.

Appearance 3/3
This beer pours like a brown, but the label describes it as a "dark imperial ale."  The color would also have us believe that this is a brown (maaaybe even an imperial one), by showing a general coffee color, almost complete opacity, and dim ruby highlights when held to a light.  The head is lasting and tan and its texture quickly takes up a creamy appearance.

Flavor 17/20
Immediately, I am again given the impression of a sharp, cinnamon spiciness in this brew.  I wonder what combination of ingredients is providing that sensation (I'm guessing a combination of roasted notes from the peppers and some perky carbonation).  Any sensory experts out there care to comment?  In any case, it is quickly washed away by a smooth, dark cocoa.  Vanilla is present, but doesn't really come out until the brown malts begin to sing their tune.  The brown malts are rich, quite sweet, and seem to be paired up with a honey of sorts.  Yet another flavor not mentioned in their ingredients, but whose sweetness is undeniable.  If you let the beer sit long enough and heat from the chili begins to smolder through, but for the most part it politely waits its turn until the finish.  Speaking of the finish, it's rather subdued as a whole.  Right after swallowing it seems to only have a grainy malted note, but soon the heat trickles in until it is noticeable, but stops well short of being even a moderate heat.  The bitter of the cocoa nibs follows slowly, but is not intended to be balancing.  However, the contrast from the sweet malts is a another layer of complexity and flavor in this beer.

Mouthfeel 4/5
I'm torn when rating this mouthfeel.  Part of me thinks that an "imperial ale" needs to feel much bigger in the mouth.  Another part thinks that any beer with chiles needs to maintain some carbonation and a bit of a lighter mouthfeel to be somewhat drinkable and not a hot, syrupy mess.  This beer is far from syrupy (or a mess), but I also feel that it's far from "imperial."  The carbonation actually keeps this beer quite refreshing even far into the 22 oz bomber bottle.  Also, while the beer is far from "imperial," that may be more due to the not-insanely-intense level of flavor than it is the mouthfeel.  The mouthfeel is actually quite sturdy, thanks to the abundance of brown malts, and adequately carries all the flavors presented.

Overall Impression 8/10
This is a chile beer that actually provides some noticeable heat and thus, deflates my main complaint with chile beers in general.  It also has a nice sweetness thanks to loads of body-giving brown malts, vanilla, and cocoa nibs.  It is imperial?  No.  Is it a chile ale and NOT marketed as such?  Yes.  The carbonation amounts are fantastic and really make this beer refreshing despite the fact that it contains chiles.

Total 42/50
Overall, this is a collaboration which which I'm pleased.  It's got great flavors, even if they're not necessarily unique to this style of brew, and I enjoy the ample carbonation and body.  However, if they're going to call it imperial, then I wish those flavors were more intense and give the impression of a "big beer," but it's still an above average chile beer as it stands.  I do give them kudos for a very complex malt profile and also the aforementioned heat level.  There's a lot working for this beer and seemingly only a label classification that works against it.  I'd definitely buy it again.  It's right up there with Stone's 11.11.11, only I had never heard of this brew until I found it on a shelf.  I'm glad I did.  L'chaim!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Dogfish Head - 75 Minute IPA

Gang, I'm sorry that I've reviewed so few beers this month!  In my defense, I've been performing in a musical, obtaining a mortgage, starting a new job, house shopping, musical rehearsals, commuting 2 hours every day, and trying to occasionally sleep.  But excuses are for the weak, so I figured I'd at least try to make it up to anybody that reads by posting about something with a little more renown.  Let's crack open a Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA.

For those unacquainted, Dogfish Head 75 Min is a blend of their 60 and 90 Minute IPAs and is continually hopped for 75 minutes.  It had been released previously under the name "Johnny Cask," and involved similar label art, sans Groucho Marx glasses.  It replaces their Squall IPA, which was a bottle conditioned, naturally fermented, unfiltered IPA that was hopped for 90 minutes.  75 Minute packs a moderate punch with a 7.5% ABV and just to keep things interesting is naturally carbonated using maple syrup from the Calagione Family Farm.  It's actually the same syrup used in their Life & Limb collaboration with Sierra Nevada.  IPA + maple syrup?  Should be an interesting combination.  I mean caramel's sweetness works very well in IPAs, so maple syrup shouldn't be that great a stretch, right?  Right?  One way to find out.  Let's pour!

Oh and this is yet another bottle courtesy of my good friend Keith.  I can't say enough about the craft beer that this guy sends me.  It's nuts!


Aroma 10/12
Starting out, I was a bit concerned.  You would've been too.  The hops were very mellow and the beer was offering more of a "wheat" profile than that of an IPA.  Please, give this beer at least 5 minutes in your glass to open up.  You will not regret it.  Check into Untappd, text your mom, whatever, just let this beer open up aromatically.  It was like two different beers.  The new aroma is giant in comparison and adds a lot of complexity.  It keeps the lemony citrus (wheat-like), but adds the sour tartness of a grapefruit.  Those two aromas take center stage and allow plenty of other smaller roles to strut their stuff.  Also detectable are bits of earthy grains, a few shavings of orange rind, and a a dash or two of spice.  While my mind says something like "grains of paradise" due to the association with the citrus, my brain says it's probably an aroma from the hops instead.  I am not detecting any maple at this time and only suggestions of bitter.  Much later on in the glass I have determined that the spicier/herbal hops definitely were the culprit of the earlier detected spiciness.  They come out to play last, but they quickly become the dominant aroma.

Appearance 3/3
Forgetting that this is a bottle-conditioned brew, I gave a more aggressive pour than I should have. The resultant head was huge, with tons of tiny, tightly-packed bubbles.  This stuff stuck all over my glass and lasted long enough that I'm pretty sure it could have joined me for a feature length film.  The color is a nice bright gold that grows darker toward the top as it fades into more of a harvest gold.  This is a lighter color than I expected after hearing that the syrup was involved at such a late stage in the brewing process.

Flavor 18/20
Initial flavors are pale malts, but quickly move to pale ale by showing biscuity, crisp flavors.  A delicate citrus doesn't hurt the mix either.  Things gracefully transition into a dry, crackery citrus, though the dryness is lost a little in the silky smooth texture.  A muted pineapple is present as well and the round caramel sweetness becomes a wonderful compliment as the beer continues to warm.  Even the syrup faintly speaks up from time to time.  The finishes finally emphasizes the diminished resin flavor that has since been biding its time, and really reminds you that this is an IPA.

Mouthfeel 5/5
This beer offers a really neat duality with regards to mouthfeel.  On one side, it's bottle conditioned so there's plenty of bubbles around to refresh the mouth.  On the other, once the initial carbonation dies down the mouthfeel is ri-donk-ulously smooth.  Not "imperial stout" smooth, but quite surprising for a beer this light in color (and that didn't foreshadow this level of smoothness in the pour).  Alcohol warmth is barely detectable except in fleeting glances and the body is moderate, no matter what the silky mouthfeel tells you.

Overall Impression 8/10
I like it.  It's not mind-blowing like most DFH offerings, but 'tis still a solid IPA offering.  In fact, it's a relatively mild DFH brew, but whether or not that is a bad thing is up to the drinker.  I prefer a milder offering from time to time and 75 Min fits the bill.  A aroma that eventually opens like a fissure, a dichotomous mouthfeel, and a complex hop profile are all components that contribute to this beer's success.  I do wish the maple syrup had more of a noticeable contribution.

Total 44/50
The brewing mastery on this is truly top notch.  The mouthfeel, head size, and head retention are all indicative of some truly talented folks doing some great work.  The taste/flavor is enough to be satisfying and robust, but without overwhelming the unsuspecting drinker the way some DFH beers can.  I dig it!  It's also an IPA in a bomber that doesn't seem to relish the fact that it's an IPA.  Let me explain, the fact that this beer is a special release doesn't mean it has to be a powerhouse example of the style.  Most IPAs, let alone those that come in bombers, ensure that they are well-hopped and bitter.  This beer, while well-hopped, doesn't slam you with bitter or a lack of balance.  On the contrary, it's remarkably balanced for the style.  This beer shows that there are other characteristics to be considered when speaking of IPAs, and which of those characteristics should constitute or be inherent within those IPAs that have earned a reputation of excellence.  Is this a top IPA in the craft beer market?  No.  Does it show us all things that top IPAs can do to make themselves better?  Absolutely.  Does it example characteristics that I would like to see before heaping praise on IPAs in the future?  You betcha.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sierra Nevada - Hoptimum (2012)

I started writing this review a while ago. So far, I've had two bottles of my Sierra Nevada Hoptimum and each bottle has been completely different. They were each good in their own right; the first seemed like a resinous wallop and the second was a fruit smorgasbord. Needless to say, the hops are mellowing and their different characteristics are really coming through as of late, making this beer much more than a hop bomb. That was around 2 weeks ago, so I'm really anxious to see what condition these hops are in now. But first, I have a question... It says on the label that it is a "Whole cone Imperial IPA" and I don't know what that means. I assume, it's when they add the "whole cone" or hop blossom to the boil (or thereafter if dry hopping). However, what I don't know is if this is not standard practice already. Or is this just to differentiate between brewers that might instead use hop pellets, just the petals, or extracts? If any of your homebrewing experts wish to speak up in the comments, I'm all ears. Time to get this party started. Let's pour!

Aroma 11/12
When I first poured this beer, it was too cold and I was worried that I had waited too long to review it and that as a consequence the hops had lost the potency of their delicious fruity, nectar-saturated aromas. It began with a hint of wet hey, but rapidly showed the standard pine/grapefruit. The fruits seemed diminished and mixed with a grassy note. At this point, I was mostly getting apple and white grape-type fruits. Sweet, but not particularly strong. Then the beer began to warm and things really started going. The pine aromas took off like a shot and tried to hide an apricot scent behind them. Wait another few minutes and that apricot aroma seems to have found its own voice and morphed into a more tropical version of itself. This pine/tropical apricot (nectarine?) combination carries the majority of the aroma the rest of the way through the beer. There is a subtle spice that loiters in the background and a much less subtle alcohol burn that has been detectable the entire time. Halfway through the bottle the beer's sugary malts become less bashful and give the drinker the impression that this beer is going to be a sticky one.

Appearance 3/3
The beer produces a fairly low amount of head even after an aggressive pour.  What head does result is an attractive rusty pastel color, creamy in appearance, and light in texture.  The brew's color is any of those shades found in a cooked squash with some darker coppers and ambers thrown in for good measure.  There's some good lacing left on my glass and this pleases me because I don't remember the last time that happened in a review.  Good Karma points are also awarded for having some great bottle art.

Flavor 17/20
This beer blitzkriegs the tongue! Before you've barely had a chance to recognize the thick caramel and almost brown sugar sweetness, the beer shifts into high gear and puts a medicinal bitter on the back of your palate. Seriously. As in, "I think a tiny, vengeful gnome is gleefully dissolving an aspirin on my tongue" type of bitter. It is sharp and unrelenting. The earlier sweetness could be considered balancing if it remained in the mouth after the hops spread their tremendous, terrible wings. It does become a little easier to imagine a bit of balance toward the middle of the bottle once the bitter has lost a bit of its sting, but make no mistake about it - this beer is called Hoptimum, not Maltimum, for a reason. Wow! What a big, bitter bastard. The finish is, of course, more bitter but on quicker swallows does allow the sugary malts to timidly make direct eye contact with you from time to time. If it asks nicely. This is also where most of the warmth can be found. It's far from a burn, but it's not a secret either. The aftertaste is remarkably clean considering how potent the earlier flavors were. The only lingering flavor is that of the aspirin. I blame the gnome.

Mouthfeel 5/5
From the very first sip, this beer is thick and threatens to coat your tongue with each flavor it possesses.  The carbonation is all but absent.  However, a light swish in the mouth reveals that not only is it present, but it helps add a silky smooth texture.  A large body to match a large flavor and in a good way.  As mentioned earlier the alcohol is allowed to present itself at a few points in the brew and each time it is a compliment to the existing powerhouse on display.  This is how big beers should be made.

Overall Impression 8/10
Big body.  Big flavor.  Almost constantly changing aroma.  This beer is definitely a sipper and perhaps not one you'd want to have every day.  Hop heads will love it, balance-seekers... not so much.  If one of your friends is talking about really getting into hoppy beers, you could test their mettle with this brew.  Even experienced IBU imbibers know that this beer is not to be trifled with.

Total 44/50
With Sierra Nevada's Hoptimum, you get what you see.  A beer for Hopheads that never promises to be anything else.  I mean, literally!  Look at the label art!  I myself would normally like to see more balance in a brew, but much like Green Flash's Palate Wrecker, every once in a while you need something unapologetically bitter and strong.  This definitely fits the bill.  Because it knows what it wants to be, I can't and won't deduct points for lack of balance.  However, I have gotten two different experiences out of the three bottles that I've had.  Two were very much like the beer found in this review: big, hoppy, and bitter.  The odd bottle in the middle seemed much more content to let the thick tropical fruit smells waft forward, provide a more complex sweetness (from said fruits), and be much more of a beer than the "resinous challenge" that I labeled the first beer in my tasting notes!  I'll look forward to the last bottle, though I anticipate it will be more of the "hop bomb" experience and less of the nuanced powerhouse that I'm hoping for.  In fairness, it's probably easier for brewers to make (and mass-produce) the former instead of the latter, but the former earns total scores like this and the latter earns, or at least deserves, national acclaim.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Friar Tuck Beverage - Peoria, IL

Today I returned from a trip to Indiana. Unfortunately, I was far too far south to pay a visit to Upland Brewing Co. or 3 Floyds, so I made a consolation stop for myself in Peoria, IL. Initially, it doesn't sound like much of a consolation, but it turned out to be far better than I expected. For the longest time, people have been telling me about a beer & wine store called Friar Tuck. After finally, tracking it down and stopping by I can't believe it took me this long to pay them a visit.

Tucked into the end of strip mall that has since passed it's apex as trendy suburban construction, just off a busy intersection, is  Friar Tuck Beverage.  It doesn't look like much.  The brightly colored roof is faded, the parking lot is cracked and needs its lines repainted, and it doesn't even have a clearly marked entrance.  I missed the first turn-in.  Thankfully, looks aren't everything.

Immediately inside the front door.  Notice the humidor on the left.
It's a large, warehouse style store much like an ABC Liquor (@abcwinecountry) or a Total Wine & More (@TotalWine) and looks like a wine store should - hues of purple, clean, simple yet trendy, cases of wine everywhere - but on a grander scale.  You're greeted immediately by a glass cooler full of gourmet cheeses, which is the fourth wall for a kitchen area undoubtedly used to prepare foods for tastings or gourmet dishes to satisfy the foodie crowds.

Kitchen area.

Looking to the left upon entering.  The "Beer Wall" is the farthest.
"Follow the yellow brick road!"
After following this path I was a little taken aback by the sheer length of the beer aisle.  I haven't seen anything like it in a loooong time.  It was glorious.

In fact, since the picture makes it difficult to truly appreciate the far end, I took a video.  This is me walking, at a rather brisk pace, the entire beer wall front to back.  Check it.

Not bad, right?

The beer cooler is pretty impressive as well.

They do a lot of cool things here that craft beer geeks should love.  I present the following.

1.  They love cans.
2.  They have a comprehensive home brewing   section.

3.  A sizeable "pick six" selection

4.  Enough Mikkeller to inebriate a horse.

They even have some brands/varieties that are somewhat surprising. For example, the below pictured Ipswich is a New England favorite. I was under the impression that it was only available in that region. Looks like someone expanded their distribution!  They also have a nice humidor thrown in for those that care to enjoy a stick from time to time.  I have no pictures, but you're gonna have to trust me on this.  Not to mention the acres of wine, inclusion of products from local distilleries/wineries/breweries, gadgets for wine & beer drinkers, and an expansive liquor selection.  Wow.

If you're ever passing through Peoria, IL (I know, I know... HUGE tourist destination, right?), be sure to hit up this gem of a pop shop.  I'm about an hour away, but I'll know I'll be stopping by again for those harder to find bottles.