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Carolina American Style IPA

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This claims to be "first in flavor." It is a bold claim. I have had many different beers in my time, and many of them were really flavorful and good. So, maybe they were only comparing themselves to other brewers in the Chapel Hill area. Maybe they were comparing themselves to every maker of food or drink ever. There's no way to really know.

The gold-amber beer was pretty reluctant to reveal any kind of head, but we got there in the end. The head that we get as a result is still pretty thin, but it's a nice kind of dusty off-white with patches of big bubbles surrounded by a sea of small ones. The aroma is as reluctant to come out as the head was, but it's light citrus with a doughy bread malt.

First sip is stronger than the smell, but it's still not overpowering in the least. It's a laid-back kind of all-day IPA, if I were to name it. The malt is heavy on the back-end, and the citrus is in the front, but it's not all up in my face. The bitterness isn&…

Ommegang "Mother of Dragons" Smoked Porter & Kriek Ale

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As I write this review, I am waiting for the final season of Game of Thrones to start. As such, I figured I would grab this bottle off of the shelf where it has sat, unopened, for a little while now. Why has it sat after I very much enjoyed Ommegang's other beers? Because this is a blend of a porter and a kriek, and I fear that this will be sour.

The beer is quite dark, but it's not black. It's a very dark red, and it is skirting the edges of being opaque; even in the center of the beer, light can still eek through. The tan head is voluminous at first and has big, fluffy bubbles that are downright playful. Later, as the head boils away, only tiny little bubbles float in uneven circles around the top of the beverage. The aroma is a little bit cherry soda and a little bit moody, earthy smoke.

First sip is tart as all-get-out and bending to sour. Now I remember why I had this on my shelf for so long without trying it; kriek = sour = not good for me. I mean, this might be good…

Blackberry Farm Fenceline Belgian-Style Ale

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Depending on who you believe, this is a Belgian ale, a saison, or possibly a farmhouse ale. Here's the thing: they're all the same kind of beer. Did I just blow your mind? Why the hell do they call the same kind of beer three different things? My guess (and I have a rule against doing much homework for this site) is that the Illuminati use the various names to send signals to each other.

The beer is a predictable clear gold with many delightful points of nucleation leading to the nice, pillowy head that is a bit cattywumpus, but it's got personality and girth in the right spots. The aroma is wheat, yeast, melon, and possibly more yeast. It's a Belgian yeast, so it's quite pungent and has a lot of character.

First sip is very nice. It's daunting, but that is to be expected from this kind of beer. Raisins are meeting the yeast and grains to form a strangely creamy middle, but the character is definitely in-your-face and makes no effort to apologize for it.

Tip-in…

Mantra Omination Black Saison

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This is an odd entry. This was packed with the white stout from Mantra, and I didn't like it very much. This is the balance (see, Mantra has a whole life balance, yoga thing going on) of a black version of a beer that isn't normally black against the white version of a beer that IS usually black. See what they did there? Well, I hope they did this one better than the last.

The beer is black, just like it says on the label. The patchy head has some decent staying power, and it brings an ominous presence to the beer like the blinky lights on Darth Vader's chest. The aroma is spices and flowers with carbonation spritzing its way through my nose. This bodes well.

First sip is almost like a barley wine with the heavy, heavy malt, light spices, gentle flowers, and those grains weaving themselves through everything. It's complex and dry, and it fills the mouth and soul with a little bit of fire - warming from the inside like a much calmer version of a liquor like moonshine, a…

Mantra Illumination White Stout

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I've had two white stouts before. The first one I was not a huge fan of, as they put coffee flavor in it without me looking. The second one made me wish ill upon a Fat Orange Cat. So, not a great record. Will Mantra, a brewery that I have a particular fondness for, be able to turn the tide? Let's all hope.

It's still odd to look at a stout that isn't some shade of black. I know it's just a thing I have to get over, but I can't help but think that this might be a better beer if it was the right color. As it is, the color is particularly coppery with almost no head. I tried to get as much head as I could coax out, and the pittance that you see in this picture is the best I could to. The aroma is an interesting sweet caramel and apple pie malt that has been resting in a whiskey barrel.

First sip is unlike most stouts. It isn't like the Evil Czech white stout, so there's no coffee lurking in there trying to attack me. Yes, I taste a bit of coffee, but that …

Stone Sanctimonious IPA

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Ah, Stone. These guys have been on the short list of reliable brewers for a while now. Aside from a time that they tried to combine their efforts with other breweries, they have managed to stay on my good side. This is fortunate for them, as these tend to be very expensive beers, as beers go.

Pale gold and clear are not the two things I associate with an IPA these days, but that might be my choices having an influence on my expectations. After all, not every beer is going to be like what Bearded Iris brings with the juice-like orangeness. The head on this is also not what I expect (or want) from an IPA; it's hard to bring out and becomes little more than a mote of dust across the top. The aroma is pretty darn good, though, with citrus and tropical fruit meat on top of a very weak bread malt.

First sip is a little weaker in taste than I anticipated, but that's only at first. it's like biting a really hot pepper where you don't really have it hit you right at the beginni…

New Heights Damguday IV IPA

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Two other Damguday beers have gone bast my lips. The V was fantastic, but the VI was a little lackluster. I'm thinking that the world works in mysterious ways, and if I go in reverse order these beers might get increasingly better as I go back in time like Marty McFly.

I normally start with the color, but the aroma of this beer is quite pronounced - to the point that I can smell it from several feet away after a couple of minutes. This is not to say that the smell is bad; quite the contrary. The aroma of sweet malt mixes with citrus goodness to make a doughy bowl of enticement. The color is a very hazy medium gold with a very thin head with no penchant for lacing, but the aroma makes up for a lot.

First sip is simple, crisp, smooth, and it has a slight bitterness on the tail end that ties off the sip nicely. If I were to sip this beer all night, I would imagine that I'd be happy, but we all know I don't roll like that. It's time for a swig.

Tip-in is floury dough malt …