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hop_or_die3Great Divide Brewing Company out of Denver, CO is undeniably one of the most well-known craft breweries in their state. That is saying a lot considering there are approximately 90 craft breweries operating in all of Colorado today. Along with their Oak-Aged Yeti Imperial Stout, the Hercules Double IPA is perhaps one of their better selections. In 2006, it was even named one the world’s 50 best beers in the yearly International Beer Challenge.

great_divide_old1Imperial (or Double) IPAs are notorious for their heightened amount of hops. There are typically so many hops in these types of beers that you immediately get the pungent grapefruit peel and pine characteristics they produce. Along with these intense aromas and flavors, however, comes a heavy amount of bitterness. Many fans of the Imperial IPAs, though, will tell you this is their primary attraction to the beer in the first place.

Great Divide’s Hercules Imperial IPA is a great representative of the Double/Imperial IPA. Its nose is packed with fragrant hops that exhibit such aromas as fresh grapefruit, caramelized orange peel, summer peach, and fresh pine. There are also some other pleasant floral components underneath that find their way into the mix. It pours a stunning heavy caramel orange color and is brilliantly clear for an IPA.hercules_ipa2

A healthy two-finger frothy head appears with a subtle rocky top that stays for just a short while, and the head is an off-white yellowish color. This one tastes just as you would hope, with tons of bold flavor and the immediate punch of fresh hops. It is then followed by a nice mouthful of foamy head and a creaminess that carries the flavors nicely. The only thing missing here is a nice bit of brightness to make it feel fresher. Obviously there is bitterness here, but one that is quite enjoyable. It contains a nice creaminess that so many of the superior IPAs have and it sticks to the mouth nicely. This is good, because it should probably take you a while to drink this one.

Hercules was known for his strength – and at 9.1% ABV, there is definitely some strength behind this beer. If you are in to the more potent IPAs, the Hercules IPA will be a great addition to your fridge. In addition to doing a stellar job of balancing strength, bitterness, and smoothness, it is also much easier to find than beers like the Hopslam, Pliny the Elder, and some of the other rarer beers (depending on where you live I suppose). I have definitely been drinking a lot of these lately and will always see it as a good “go-to” beer.

Similar Beers: Avery Maharaja; Bells Hopslam; Pliny the Elder; Dogfish Head 60-Minute

ABV: 9.1% Overall Score: 94/100

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Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast

Along with Norwegian brewery, Nøgne Ø, Mikkeller has always been one of those beer brands that stand out in liquor stores simply because of their packaging. Their labels are minimally designed and their beer names are often witty. Case in point is their Beer Geek Breakfast stout. It is an oatmeal stout that has been brewed with a touch of gourmet coffee beans. Their website states, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, many say, and if you are a beer geek there is no better way to start the day than with a powerful, complex morning stout.”

The color on the Beer Geek Breakfast is exactly what you’d expect for a stout – black. As you pour the beer (even softly), you still get about two or three solid fingers of warm light brown head. The head retention is quite nice for this stout, but when it does dwindle away a short brisk swirl of the glass will bring it back for the next sip. beer_geek_label2

A definite stout smell hits you right away, but as you go deeper into the glass you really begin to notice the intense aroma of (duh!) coffee beans. There is just all kinds of it going on in this glass. As you go back for another smell, you get a nice subtle touch of molasses and a faint smell of roasted almonds. There is not a whole lot of chocolate in this one, which is just fine seeing as how chocolate is not typically something that reminds people of breakfast.mikkeller_logo

As the nose strongly suggests, this is really full of coffee flavors that immediately hit the tongue. Once down, it leaves behind the slightest bit of tartness; you know the kind you get from a fresh brewed espresso? Additionally, you don’t really taste the 7.5% ABV due to the immense flavor coming at you. The viscosity in the mouth is moderate.

Beer Geek Breakfast is without a doubt the most appropriate name for this beer. If you are any sort of a stout and/or strong coffee lover, you will not be let down by this beer by Mikkeller. For as much intensity as it brings, it does a really nice job of moving down your throat. You’ll really want some waffles (with syrup), bacon, and sausage to help wash this beer down.

Similar Beers: Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout; Bell’s Kalamazoo Stout; Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout

ABV: 7.5% Overall Score: 96/100

Bell’s Hopslam Imperial IPA

Hopslam is a seasonal Imperial IPA from Bell’s Brewery. As the name would suggest, this is an extremely hoppy beer packed full of greatness. It is quickly becoming a favorite on many peoples’ lists and has certainly found its way on to mine. Recently, five of us passed this lovely beer around and each person gave an expressive “WOW!” upon smelling it. I can’t remember the last time I saw so many smiling faces and adoration for one beer.bells_beers

Hopslam is released once a year in January and is typically gone by the end of the month. It is freakishly fragrant. Lots of pineapple, grapefruit, and pine hit you in the face before you can even fully get your nose into the glass. For me, I get a TON of pineapple from the glass — Pineapple Express baby! The beer pours a warm sunshine orange and contains very minimal cloudiness. With a solid two-finger head and some impressive lacing, Hopslam’s aroma shoots right out of the glass upon each swirling.

bells_hopslam_logo1In terms of flavor, it tastes just like it smells — heavenly! Considering its name and the bottle’s label (a man is seen being crushed by a hop flower), it is surprisingly smoother on the palate than you might think. This is in no way to insinuate a lack of flavor, either. In fact, this has more flavor than just about any other beer I’ve had. It stood up to some pretty hefty nachos, so I imagine it will stand up to just about anything.

Overall impression is that my mouth is enormously happy every time I take a sip of this amazing IPA. I can assure you that Hopslam lives up to all the hype it’s receiving, and I don’t think it’d be too hard to say this is definitely my new favorite beer. The only drawback I can think of is its limited release, so get it fast and share it with a friend. Hell, share it with a stranger and you are sure to make a new friend.

Similar Beers: Avery Maharaja; Dogfish Head 90 Minute; Great Divide Hercules; Pliny the Elder; Three Floyds Dreadnaught

ABV: 10% Overall Score: 98/100