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Showing posts from March, 2016

The Hunger Games - Mockingjay (Part 2) (2015)

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Okay, last time. Honestly, I liked this series a lot more than the other YA franchises like Twilight, Divergent, and The Maze Runner, but it's definitely time for it to go away. And, like the others, the third act is separated into two parts for no good reason. As a result, the third part (which is offered in two different movies) tends to be drawn out and has a LOT of quiet moments with no one talking or really doing anything. This one even had a Hobbit-style series of false endings and epilogues.

We join our hero, Jennifer Lawrence, as she once again is the emotional leader of the rebellion, and the rebellion is pretty much winning against the oppressive overlord Donald Sutherland and his really powerful and well-equipped army. How are they winning? No idea. Fact is, there is no way the economics of this world could possibly support one army, let alone two. Somehow, the District 13 that has had NO interaction with the rest of the world managed to build rockets, missiles, hovercr…

Room (2015)

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The idea behind this movie is that a child has been raised entirely inside a single room. To him, everything outside the room is imaginary, and everything inside the room is real - that's how his mother has managed to keep him from asking about the outside world or wanting to venture out into it (which is impossible).

The movie is partially about the kid and partially about his mother. The aspect of the boy reflects the plasticity of children and their ability to be content with what they have. Stuck in a room the size of a storage shed for the entirety of his five years of life, the kid manages to find things to do, things to play with, and generally be contented.

The mother is a different story. She was a young adult when first introduced to the room, and she is not nearly as easy to please. Likewise, she will have a harder time coping with the outside world when re-introduced to it. Everyone she knows (except family) will likely have moved on and all but forgotten her. She has…

Mantra Battleground Farmhouse Ale

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I've had some good experience with Farmhouse ales. On the whole, they tend to be a lot like red ales or all-day IPAs in that they tend to be a lot lighter to the palate and are intended to be swigged on a warm summer's day when the puppies are playing in the yard and the chores are all either done or can wait. So, I must like the idea of a farmhouse ale, too.

A proper beer color of golden yellow has an inviting white head that descends into a very thin veil across the top only a single bubble high but almost completely covering the beer. The aroma is strong with this one. It is grain-heavy with wheat and lemon in the foreground with noticeable yeast backing things up. I was loading the six pack into the fridge when catastrophe struck - I dropped a bottle. Now my garage smells of farmhouse ale, and I think we need to market this air freshener.

First sip is more bold than the smell would lead me to believe. The yeast is heavy, and it has been cooked to make the taste of wheat bi…

The Hateful Eight (2015)

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It's a shame that Quentin Tarantino has made other movies. If it weren't for Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, and Django Unchained, this could have been a break-out movie that launched the career of a struggling or new director. Instead, this is just going to get lumped in with the cannon of a director who broke out with a signature style that others have tried to emulate, but most have failed.

I think it's clear that I really liked this movie. It comes with the telltale Tarantino indulgences like long, boring camera shots to establish some scenes, excessively bloody deaths, a heap of expositions, named chapter separators on screen, and out of sequence scenes. The voiceover in the middle of the movie was particularly annoying and incongruous, but all of these issues can be forgiven of a supremely talented director.

When you have as much pull at Quentin has in Hollywood, you get a budget. Now, this movie primarily takes place entirely inside a single room cabin in t…

J.K.'s Scrumpy Hard Cider Farmhouse Organic

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This is not my first hard cider. I didn't really understand the niche that these occupied when I first started, but I like to think that I've gotten a bit of experience with these, and I understand what to expect going in. This one goes out of it's way to say it's organic, and I flashed back to my high school science class where it was explained that "organic" just means anything that is carbon based. So, I guess this is technically food (I know that the term has been repurposed to mean something else, but I never really understood why).

The beverage is a surprisingly cloudy gold. No cider I've had so far has reminded me more of the unfiltered deliciousness of Simply Apple apple juice based entirely on looks, but this doesn't just look - it has a smell, and that smell also reminds me of the very same Simply Apple juice. This is certainly not unusual in my experience, and you can really only judge these based on taste.

First sip is very sweet - like a …

Fat Bottom KnockOut IPA

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I searched for a while to find a good Nashville beer. Eventually, I got past the crappier local breweries and found some really good ones. This is a new one for me, so I figured I would take it for a spin. I want to encourage small brewers who have a knack for a particular style, and I understand that IPAs are the easiest to make.

The copper-colored beer has a nice, white head that leaves very little lacing, but it leaves a soft, fluffy pillow that is about a quarter inch floating on top. It's a pretty good presentation for a beer in general, and I am partial to IPAs, so I really like the look of this. The aroma is citrus, pine, and even some grain. It's fairly light, but there may be good things underneath.

First sip is sweeter than I expected. It's also not particularly... flavorful. In fact, I might say it's downright watery. Either way, it certainly doesn't have the kick of bitterness or the dynamic flavor of hops that I would expect from a proper IPA. It's…

Criminal Activities (2015)

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If you've ever seen the well-acted, well scripted movie Suicide Kings, that movie had its flaws that needed to be addressed, but it was a decent movie on the whole. The idea behind that movie was that a group of guys found themselves in the situation where they needed to do something that they had no experience with - kidnapping a mobster, tying him to a chair, and then the drama unfolds between a group of guys with internal struggles.

Well, you now have the plot for this movie. Instead of Christopher Walken as the mobster, though, you have John Travolta with a distressing hair line. It would be unfair to John to compare him to Christopher Walken, as the two roles reflect differing attitudes. After all, Christopher is an older statesman (even in 1997) and John is just about the right age for a guy who has risen to power and is enjoying the bubble. John doesn't overact in this role as he has done in the past, but whoever decided the bird-hair was a good idea needs to stop worki…

Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel

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I am drawn to these little bottles with extra glass to make them heavy because my experience thus far with them has been from good to sensational. This particular brewer is unknown to me, but I've been running into a lot of that lately, so I'm definitely not holding that against them. Instead, I look forward to the magic that they might have in store.

It's an excessively cloudy yellow - the color of sun bleached straw. It has a very white head that is thick and leaves a gleaming webwork of lacing on the sides of the glass as it descends into an imperfect half inch of piled bubbles floating casually on the top of the liquid. The aroma is bright and is filled with grains, yeast, and oranges.

First sip is grassy and has yeast complimenting it well. The bitterness from the hops can be felt more than tasted, and the hops themselves can't really be tasted much, either. I expected more from the hops, but a sip just ins't the right way to drink this kind of beer. Maybe a f…

Buffalo Sweat Bourbon Barrel Aged Oatmeal Stout

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Buffalo Sweat sauntered into my life with their very good oatmeal stout only to do themselves one better by adding vanilla to it. Adding the anomaly of an aging container that used to contain some kind of heavy alcoholic beverage like rum or whiskey is not usually something I look forward to. Still, these people have done their homework and seem to be just perfecting a style of oatmeal stout, so let's give them a try...

Another so-brown-it's-black beer to try out. There is pretty much no head straight from the can; there are bubbles that manage to make their way to the top of the beer in order to burst as soon as they get there. I will concede to a few bubbles managing to survive and stick to the sides of the glass, but that's about it. The aroma is coffee, smoke, chocolate, vanilla, and I imagine bourbon, but I'm not really smelling that. Maybe (likely) I will taste it.

First sip is, as its sister beers, quite nice. It's smoke, chocolate, a hint of coffee, and def…

Black Mass (2015)

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I will admit to pretty much knowing nothing about Whitey Bulger before watching this movie. Turns out, he's a gangster, and this is consequently a gangster movie. The big difference from other movies appears to be that he wasn't Italian – and that's not entirely clear from the beginning of the movie. Instead, there several negative references toward Italians, and I eventually had to figure it out in context.

Johnny Depp plays the aforementioned Whitey Bulger. His appearance in this movie is somewhat disconcerting. I'm not entirely sure how they did the effect with his head to make it look like he was balding, and I suspect they just went ahead and plucked some of his hair to do it, but it was effective. Not effective was the decision to have him where blue contact lenses to change his eye color. Every time they had a shot of his eyes, I found the artificiality of color incredibly distracting. Nevertheless, Johnny Depp always does a good job with the roles that he take…

Orval Trappist Ale

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My love affair with Trappist ales is well documented. Chimay produces some fantastic beers and some stellar beers. St. Feuillien beers were also really, really good. So, I am taking a chance on something that looks like it is trying to surf on their coattails. I could be wrong. This is legitimately from Belgium, so it has the bonafides already in order. I hope it has the flavor to back it up.

The color is an opaque orange-tinted brown. It is capped with a steadfast and fullsome head that did not spill out of the bottle as soon as it was opened, but it amassed immediately as it was poured. The picture on this page was the result of much careful pouring and several rounds of settling time. Eventually, the head settles to a gentle pillow across the top with a splotchy webwork across the sides of the glass for some really artistic lacing. The aroma is sweet - with raisins and a breeze of grains with a seltzer pop that tingles at the nose.

First sip is not nearly as intimidating as I expec…

Rogue 6 Hop IPA

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Rogue is started off in my early blog with a fairly middle-of-the-road Laughing Skull, then I had the very good Dead Guy Ale, and then they knocked it out of the park with their Double Chocolate Stout. This one supposedly has 6 different hops, it has a six on the label, that six on the label is made up of six hops, and it's 6.66% ABV. This is a bit too cutesy, but, the beer can still be good (although I wonder if they compromised by lowering the alcohol to get the 6.66%).

The extremely cloudy beer is the color of wet straw. The fairly minimal head dissipates to a thin veneer with a requisite ring around the glass. The aroma is floral and citrus hops with... I swear it smells like cookies. It could just be sweet malt with bready malt mixing in a cookie-like fashion, but that's what I smell.

First sip is pretty simple for having so many hops and so much effort go into it. It is light and airy with citrus and a definite hit of bitter hops, but it doesn't dominate the taste. I…

Against the Grain 35K Stout

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The can is adorned with a picture that was seemingly drawn by the 7-year-old child of one of the brewery owners. That kid also needs some professional help. Well, inside the can is a milk stout, and I have become a big fan of this style. While Left Hand is the one that comes to mind, others have also been very good, and that means that this one from a brewer I've never heard of might also be great.

The beer is a very dark, yellowish brown. There is little head to speak of, but they are tiny little nitrogen bubbles that eventually just ring the top of the beverage. The smell is an inviting mix of smoke, oatmeal, and sweet cream and right in the forefront is chocolate. I really want to suck this back and then possibly grab another.

First sip is a chocolate malt with coffee and sweet cream. It's a delightful mix, and it has a weight to it that is not enough in a sip, but I could see sipping this on a cold winter's night. I, however, prefer to imbibe my beverages in a more dram…

Terrapin "The Walking Dead" Blood Orange IPA

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Terrapin has had a slow positive progression (much like my blog itself) in my reviews, and this one is a TV tie-in. While I was understandably skeptical of this kind of thing before, the many times I've tried beers that had names associated with TV shows or even rock bands have shown that these can really turn out well.

To its credit, it is a reddish-orange, but it does seem to have some brown thrown in (I won't penalize them for it). The head is just about perfect. It's sticky and leaves loads of lacing on the sides as it recedes, and it leaves a good 1/8th inch of foam resting on top. The aroma is citrus hops mixed with some pine and a chunk of fresh bread. It really makes the mouth water (if you like hops).

A sip brings a more brutal beer than I expected. It has a fierce bite of bitterness that is not particularly well sorted by the malt. The malt is there, it just doesn't seem to be doing anything to mitigate the bitterness from those citrus hops. The pine is just …

Left Hand Fade To Black Ale - Volume 1: Foreign Extra Stout

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When I bought this, I thought it was a stout, as I am most familiar with Left Hand's Milk and Nitro Milk stouts. Then, I looked at the label as I was pouring it, and I saw that it was labeled as an ale, so I thought this might be one of those rare and interesting black ales. Then I noticed the smell was nothing like one of those black ales, so I looked harder at the label and found that this said "Volume 1 Foreign Extra Stout." At the very least, this label has confused the hell out of me, but the beer is the important thing.

The color is a deep ruby brown to the point of blackness. I should probably have a category of beer on this site that is just for the ones that are pitch black like this to the point that I have to search the edges where the light can struggle through to give it a color. The light tan head dissipates very quickly. A simple ring of bubbles tops the beer. The aroma is very smokey and malty with oatmeal and maybe a hint of vanilla. 
First sip is chocol…

Smith & Forge Hard Cider

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I'm not going to go nuts on ciders again. I did enough of these for a stretch there, and it gave me an appreciation for the type of beverage. This one is marketed to men. I'm only guessing that based on the labeling, but it definitely looks like they are trying to make it a manly alternative to beer, and it has an average beer's ABV - 6%. Let's see how they did with the taste.

The beverage is a deeper gold than most of these ciders, and it's really clear with virtually no carbonation. It's pretty unremarkable looking, and the aroma is pretty much what sets it apart - it's very strong with apple wine. It is a heavy smell, like a liquor. There may be a hint of oak in there, too.

First sip is sweet and not very apple. The scent of apple wine is more like it - it's more wine than cider, as far as I can tell. It's a very sweet wine, and it's not based on grapes in any way, but it is a lot deeper than a cider. It's got the oak and some kind of mos…

Blue Point Toasted Lager

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A properly toasted malt may result in a splendid beverage that delights in all manner of ways. The trick is to toast it properly, mix it well, and have all of the necessary complimentary ingredients. Of course, that's also what is necessary for any good beer, so this one isn't really sitting on its own plinth in the middle of the jungle, is it?

I'm genuinely surprised how amber this beer is. It's almost as red as a Killians or the like, and it's just as clear. It's got a nice white head on it, but the head isn't sticky at all (like most lagers) so, there isn't any lacing, but it leaves about an 1/8th inch of suds on the top. For presentation, then, this beer is doing well. The aroma is predictably malty, but I don't actually smell the toasted nature of the malt at all. There's an earthy smell, with maybe a bit of grass with a touch of citrus.

First sip is very smooth. Sometimes with lagers you get a disquieting, overly malty taste that takes you…

Crimson Peak (2015)

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This movie is written, produced, and directed by the same guy, and that doesn't normally bode well for the movie quality. However, this guy is Guillermo del Toro, so he's got a bit of talent and a LOT of sway in Hollywood to do the projects that he wants to do. After the first (and only, so far) Pacific Rim, he's probably wallowing in cash and indulging himself with whatever art pieces he really feels like doing at any point.

This is a horror movie, and he is not a horror movie virgin. So, I expected this to be pretty good, and I may have raised my expectations too high. What I didn't know was how much talent he was getting for this movie, though. It stars Mia Wasikowska as the main character, and she's pretty damn good in whatever she does. Just thinking about the great job she did in Tracks makes me want to go back and watch that movie again.

Tom Hiddleston and Charlie Hunnam are locked in a battle for Mia's affections, so she has options. Tom pretty much pla…

Fantastic Four (2015)

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Yet again, the Internet was wrong. The Internet was just full of people saying how terrible this movie was and that the producers defiled the very essence of the Fantastic Four in so many ways, but especially by casting Michael B. Jordan as the Human Torch/Johnny Storm. Well, the Internet was just plain wrong. This movie wasn't terrible, this movie was super terrible, and Jordan was fine.

Let's start with Miles Teller as Mr. fantastic. I'm not sure why they decided they needed to make this a young adult movie, but they decided they were going to make the Fantastic Four really, really young. Okay, bad direction to go in, but where do we go from here? Well, let's just start off by grabbing somebody who has already been in young adult movies – I know! Let's just grab someone from the Divergent series! And so it was written, and so it was done. Miles is at best a bland actor, and this character was written just as blandly.

On we move to Michael B Jordan, the man who ha…

Mr. Holmes (2015)

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For my money, Ian McKellen is one of the best actors on the planet. In this movie, he plays himself in three different timelines - one is during the last case he had before he retired, one is the "current" time when he is a man struggling with an aging memory and a body that is fighting against him, and the other is just a few months earlier when he visited Japan for a potential cure for his creeping dementia. Needless to say, he plays all of them spectacularly well.

His housekeeper here at his retirement estate along the coast of Ireland is played by Laura Linney. Now, I don't particularly like the way Laura acts in most movies. She pretty much plays the disapproving motherly figure in everything she's in, and it's pretty annoying. In this movie, that's exactly what is asked of her, and it is written totally to her strengths. So, points for casting.

Milo Parker is Laura's inquisitive son who kind of idolizes Sherlock and wants to help him with his regula…

Henry's Hard Soda - Hard Orange

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I've had four hard root beers so far, and I saw this soda and thought... why not? So, I picked up a six pack, and I figured I'd give it a go. After all, this seems like a burgeoning industry, if they can get their stuff together. What I've found so far is that the best of the bunch is pretty good, but that's about as good as they get. Someone needs to be able to break out and solve this problem.

The beverage smells like orange drink with carbonation - which is (I guess) basically what they're looking for. The orangeness is very deep. I'm looking at it on my table right now, and it almost looks unreal with that color. I think it is entirely possible that the orangeness isn't quite as daunting while it's still in the bottle.

First sip is orangey. It's definitely not soda, though. It has a very heavy, sweet and syrupy liquor taste to it. It definitely feels more like a thin schnapps more than anything. I can't say that sipping is the best way to dr…

Little Harpeth Chicken Scratch American Pilsner

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This is another one of those pre-prohibition style beers. It's in the vein of the German pilsner's, but the call this one an American pilsner. Since it's brewed right here in Nashville, I want to go ahead and say that that's close enough to American. This is the first beer by Little Harpeth Brewing that I've had the opportunity to try, and I hope it follows in the footsteps of the good local breweries - not necessarily the popular ones.

Golden, and proud of it, this beer has a stark white head and is just this side of hazy. The aroma is significant and features greens, flowers, citrus, and I think I can even smell some hops in there. It's a pretty beer, and it's one I could see on an advertisement for something where they needed a prop that looked exactly like beer needs to look. This is that kind of beer.

First sip is very crisp. It's sweeter than I expected, and I guess that's all coming from the malt. The citrus and the flowers are definitely sta…

Abita Wrought Iron IPA

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Abita is a brewer that has a very strong following here locally, and I don't really understand it. I've had two of their beers, and they were good, but were they great? No. Enough to have a following? Well, Budweiser has a following, and that is... for another kind of drinker. I suppose if I was a hipster, I might understand why Abita is so revered. For now, I'm at a loss, but this beer may change that. 
With sediment positively swirling about the amber-ish beer with the sticky, white head, I go in to take a sniff. It's light and citrusy with a floral background and it seems like a bright beer - very much a departure from the hard and unmoving name and label of the beer. I wonder if they haven't missed their mark on the marketing of this. 
First sip is more floral than I had expected. With an IPA, you have to go hop-hard, but the art comes from picking the right combination to produce the most palatable taste. These guys have decided that "iron" reminds …

Howl (2015)

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An hour and a half of my life gone, just like that. I suppose I should've known better whenever I realized that this was a British horror movie, but I was again relying on IMDB aggregate scores of at least better than 5.0, and I'm starting to rethink that idea. So, I wound up with a bunch of people trapped in a train with some big bad outside that I think only the people who were in the movie didn't know what was supposed to be a werewolf. I don't know if I was supposed to know or not, but you call the movie Howl, and I'm just gonna know.

I think I've commented before that I'm starting to fear the possibility that I just can't get scared at the scary movie anymore. The problem has to be with me, doesn't it? Yes, I like the dark and foreboding, primal fear from The Babadook, but that's not really the same thing that this kind of movie is going for, is it? I mean, this is a creature movie - where is that movie really wasn't. Maybe it's jus…

Southern Prohibition Brewing Barley Legal Barleywine

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SPB has produced some of the best beers I've had. I would venture to put them in the same league as Lagunitas when it comes to be consistently good. Every brewer will have an outlier that proves they are human, but both of these breweries demonstrate that you can produce consistently good beer if you have the talent and put your mind to it.

The opaque brown beer has a slight orange tint to it and virtually no head. The bubbles scattered around the top are like dust in the wind with a firm enough grip to form the ring that is held against the sides of the glass with no effort. The aroma is dark fruit and malt. They call this barelywine because it is about the closest that beer gets to wine, and this aroma puts me in the mind of a wine; it has a wine's sweetness and daunting boldness. With an 8.4% ABV, it's not as potent as your average wine, but I certainly don't judge a beer based on that.

First sip is actually pretty nice. It has a bit of a kind of bitter, musty back …

St. Feuillien Triple

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Third and last in this series of beers, and I expect this to be the best of the bunch, as I have a particular fondness for triples. The fact is, the other two have been very good, so this might be just about the best thing ever, if I don't raise my expectations too high. Maybe these guys make another beer that I can sample after this one, but I'll settle for these three for now.

The dusty, light amber beer was the first of the bunch that did not have carbonation simply gush from the top of the bottle. At the same time, the beer has the best head of the bunch; I had to be careful not to let it get too thick as I poured. The aroma is pine, grapefruit, a hint of pineapple, and grains. It actually is pretty heavy on the grains to the point that I might be convinced that this is a hefeweizen.

First sip dispels any possibility that this is a wheat beer. It's got some heavy yeast and spices that mix with the citrus flavors very nicely. I get a sense that the beer is going to bite…

St. Feuillien Blonde/Blond

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The last St. Feuillien review I did, I mentioned that I bought three bottles, and they reminded me of Chimay in their packaging. This is their blonde, however, and Chimay doesn't even make a blonde. So, I guess it's time for them to sink or swim on their own, especially since I had a fewgood blondes lately. But I look forward to finding out just how good they can make a beer.

There is a surprising amount of dark and grainy sediment in this glass. Well, it's surprising that it's so dark. I expected sediment as, like it's sister, this beer simply overflowed with a cascade of never-ending bubbles as soon as I cracked it. So, another bottle-conditioned beer, and that's fine by me. The color is a cloudy yellow-tangerine. The aroma is grassy with a very citrus overtone of lemons and oranges. I'm looking forward to the taste.

First sip is very crisp and clear. It doesn't mess about with dark fruits or anything - instead, it's very drinkable with no percept…

St. Feuillien Brune/Bruin

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The bottle itself is very heavy. I don't know if it's just extra thick or what, but this bottle is not normal. I got three beers from this brewer (who I never heard of before) and they are colored and sized the same way that the Chimay beers are. Are they just trying to introduce confusion to the market? Are they trying to ride someone's coattails? Let's find out.

The beer is a very dark red-hued brown and the bottle simply overflowed with foam as soon as I cracked it (so, nicely bottle conditioned as the monks do so well). During the pour, I expected one hell of a head, but it's pretty much the perfect size, so again, bravo. The aroma is boozy. It's got a distinct liquor smell with cherry, caramel, and grains punctuating that this is a beer, but this is a beer that produces some alcohol and enjoys it.

First sip is very rich. I thought it might be too much and would result in an overwhelming aftertaste and that solid hit of raisins and dates that often smacks y…