Review: Short’s The Wizard

Part of our Michigan Beer Week.

Yet another of the beers I bought on my recent snowboarding trip, I decided to stick with the Northern Michigan theme and picked up a Short’s beer, The Wizard. They describe it as a barley wine brewed with raisins.

Short's The Wizard

Short's The Wizard

The beer has a great barleywine color and head, though it may be just a little bit darker than most barleywines. That could be due to the adjunct being dark in color, or more malt. Either way, no complaints here.

The aroma had plenty of malt, and just barely a hint of raisins – which, to be fair, don’t exactly have a strong aroma themselves. The flavor was a nice deep maltiness, but again, I hardly even got a hint of the raisin flavor. If you’re going to make a beer somehow “special” or distinct by including an adjunct, that should be present. I’m not asking for it to be overwhelming, just existent.

Lack of raisin flavor notwithstanding, this was an all-around mediocre beer. The malt flavors were present, but not as strong as you’d expect from a barleywine. It almost tasted a bit watered down, or more like a brown ale. Adding to that, when I was drinking it, I didn’t think it tasted particularly strong, but I quickly realized that probably wasn’t the case, as I got a buzz going before I was done with it. The flavor was weaker than the actual alcohol (11.0%) and malt content, which I don’t regard as a positive asset.

Overall, I would drink this beer again, but certainly wouldn’t go out of my way to purchase it.

Guest Post: Hopcat Tasting Event

Special thanks to Geoff of The Hoover Street Rag for this guest post. Geoff took in a tasting event at Hopcat in Grand Rapids, and was kind enough to pass along notes.

Shorts Huma Lupa Licious
IPA – Pint glass.

Love the Huma. Always a favorite of mine.  And $6 for a pint plus the house burger and crack fries is a fantastic bargain.  The first taste is of crashing hops bitterness with citrus.  It mellows briefly  before a second wave hits, then the long finish.

Hopcat Kodial Killer
American Barleywine – Tulip glass

Dark, near-black appearance with an aroma of whisky and dark fruits.  Drink slowly to keep from being overwhelmed by the alcohol and pronounced fruit notes and ruining the flavor, which is refined by aging for four months in spend Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout barrels.

Shorts Bourbon Barrel Huma Lupa Licious
IPA – Globe-shaped sampler glass

I wanted to be able to directly compare the bourbon barrel version to the standard, and it’s almost unnecessary.  The whisky smell is huge off of it, obscuring the grapefruit notes of the original, and the bourbon taste is even bigger, almost obliterating the regular Huma, though it’s there underneath everything.  I’ll defer to the Hopcat description: “Think creamy vanilla-laced hop cones, soaked in bourbon.”

Shorts Bourbon Barrel Sustenance
Schwartzbier – Tulip

Oh, this is delicious.  Full of the toasty schwartzbier maltiness with the bourbon coming in around the edges.  I could drink this all night

Goose Island Bourbon County Stout
Globe-shaped sampler glass

I had the Bourbon County Stout before, in a 4-pack of 12-ounce bottles, and it was something of a disappointment.  I’d had the Founders KBS before (on tap at the brewery) and hoped that Goose Island would be able to compete with that.  What I tasted was very good, but not in the same class as the KBS.  I’m extremely happy to report that I was totally off base on that.  On tap, Bourbon County Stout is a revelation.  It’s huge, thick; viscous as motor oil and full of chocolate, bourbon, and coffee.  The clear winner on the night.  I still prefer the KBS overall (I think the flavors are a little more complex), but this is ever so close.

Dark Horse Plead the 5th
Russian Imperial Stout – Globe-shaped sampler glass

The lightest RIS I’ve ever encountered.  It pours brown and translucent with no real head by the time it was served.  A whiff of alcohol on the nose, not much more in terms of scent, it has a smooth mouthfeel with tastes of dark chocolate and a strong whisky finish.

Goose Island Imperial Brown Goose
Old Ale – Globe-shaped sampler glass

Pours dark brown with a persistent, thin off-white head.  Goose Island blended their 2004 and 2005 Christmas ales and aged them in 4-year-old Jim Beam and 12-year-old Heaven Hill bourbon barrels, and I can detect cinnamon and nutmeg among other spices alongside a mellow bourbon flavor.

Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout
Russian Imperial Stout – Globe-shaped sampler glass

It smells like a beer, but tastes STRONGLY of charcoal smoke.  Must be the oak chips it’s been aged with, giving it a burnt flavor that lingers for a long time after the vanilla flavors fade away.

Avery Samael’s Ale
English Barleywine – Globe-shaped sampler glass

It tastes sweet and light, but packs a 14.5% ABV wallop and finishes with cinnamon and nutmeg.

Founders Backwoods Bastard
We Heavy Scotch Ale – Globe-shaped sampler glass

You can taste the Dirty Bastard under it all, but to me it tastes more like Devil Dancer than anything else.  It has that same way about it where it hits like a sledgehammer and lingers.

Founders Black Biscuit
Old Ale – Tulip glass

The pour overflowed the glass on the way over and now my hands smell like beer and chocolate.  Black Biscuit has a thin but persistently full head and pours thick and black.  This is a black old ale aged in bourbon barrels, and the chocolate, bourbon, and roasted malt flavors dominate.  It’s not quite as huge or complex as a bourbon stout, but the tradeoff is that it’s more drinkable.  Definitely give this one a try if you have the chance.

Atwater Barrel Aged Cherry Stout Firkin
Stout – Globe-shaped sampler glass

Tastes like black cherries soaked in bourbon and dropped into a stout, but not overpowering the stout base.  I’m not a big fan of fruit beers, but I can see myself ordering this as a a full pour.

Beer Review: Short’s Bloody Beer

Short's Brew Bloody Beer

Short's Brew Bloody Beer

Without paying too much attention to the label, I poured Bloody Beer into my glass. “Shouldn’t it be red?” was my first thought. I knew it had tomato flavors, but that was the extent of my knowledge.

First sip: Celery. Dill Salt. Cracked Peppercorns.

Ah ha! “Bloody” is short for Bloody Mary, the breakfast of champions (where “champions” here refers to those who wake up with a hangover). With that in mind, I continued to drink on.

Tomato, celery, and salt are the three overwhelming flavors of the Bloody Beer, even moreso than any particular beer standards like hops or malt. In fact, it’s hard to taste more than the slightest hints that this is a beer at all. More than anything, it’s almost like a blonde-colored, watered-down, carbonated bloody mary than anything. It even has a little of the viscosity of tomato juice, which is a different consistency than you’d get from a beer.

As a beer, I would say it’s below average for those reasons. As a beverage, it’s certainly interesting enough to try once or twice. I split the bottle with someone, and don’t know if I could handle the flavors for an entire 12 ounces. It’s an interesting beer to mix with others, because it can add a lot of flavors that you won’t get from damn near anything you mix with it.

Short’s Brew S’more Stout

Short's S'more Stout

Short's S'more Stout

I was particularly interested in trying this beer because we’ve brewed a s’more stout of our own, though unfortunately in the days when we weren’t so diligent with the blogging. Their recipe is undoubtedly different than our own was (in no small part because it was one of our first few batches, and we didn’t quiiiite know what we were doing yet).

While Short’s used actual graham crackers and marshmallows in their brew, we went for facsimiles like biscuit malt, vanilla extract, and cinnamon. Despite the different processes, the flavor is almost a clone. Cinnamon, chocolate, vanilla, maybe a bit of honey. The body was a little lighter than I’d expect out of the style (I guess “S’more Porter” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it), but the color was damn near black.

The differences between their beer and ours come mostly in the clean finish of the professional version, in no small part because we were still working our way through the brewing process at the time we made our s’more stout. However, having a commercially-brewed version of the beer inspired us enough to make a new batch, starting from sratch with the recipe.