Thursday, February 29, 2024

Beer Review - Oh Baby King Cake Brown Ale

A pint of brown Oh Baby King Cake Brown Ale
A Pint of "Oh Baby King Cake Brown Ale"

I’ve been to New Orleans and I found I didn’t enjoy it. That was shocking to me. There’s so much history there, and I allowed myself to enjoy museums and national sites. But the city’s vibe wasn’t for me and I did not enjoy the food at that time.

I’ve been to Disney versions of New Orleans and loved every moment of it. Bring on the beignets my friends! Tiana, let’s get some of those tasty treats into the Magic Kingdom!

Recently I got to explore my first Universal Parks version of New Orleans with Mardi Gras. I saw there was a themed beer brewed by the local Crooked Can Brewing Company. A themed craft beer for a special event, I’m in!

"Oh Baby King Cake Brown Ale", tells you in the name that it should remind you of a Mardi Gras' king cake. So I expected sweetness and cinnamon. I’ve had several brews with cinnamon as a featured flavor, and it is generally a nice standout. But I am afraid that while the beer had a mild sweetness, cinnamon or any spice just didn’t rise to meet me. I drank this accompanied by a small king cake, my first, and could see how a king cake-themed beer could balance sweetness and cinnamon burn. But slight sweetness is all it gave me. Will I get another of this 7% ABV and 0 IBU brew? Well, there’s a decent chance as I have a refillable glass that I can use to get discounted fills in the future. And as I didn’t love this beer, I also didn’t hate it and found it to be pleasant and refreshing. 

A donut shaped Mardi Gras King Cake with green and purple sprinkles
A Mardi Gras King Cake

The beer itself is a dobblebock. A German-style that roughly translates to double bock. So double the sweet dark lager. " Oh Baby’s" nice caramel brown shade is spot on for the style. It is known for its sweetness, but not overly powerful sweetness. And I feel like "Oh Baby" is well within the flavor style. I also think the style is a good choice for a darker beer that can seem dangerous to those who don’t believe dark beer is for them, but in flavor is far from intimidating or overpowering.

Who Drinks This? If you are enjoying Mardi Gras at Universal Studios Florida Park, you are looking to find unique themed beers and snacks. You will want to check this one off your to-enjoy list! But for a cup refill, you may seek another beer. If you enjoy pilsners or lagers but are worried about darker colored liquids, give this a shot too! When an imaginary New Orleans…enjoy the brews.

Friday, February 23, 2024

Beer Review - Hawkes' Grog Ale

A Pint of Hawkes' Grog Ale

Maybe green beer should be reserved for only St. Patty’s Day!

First question, shouldn’t this brew be blue? I’m in Pandora, Avatarland! Isn’t blue really the thematic color?

Second question, shouldn't this brew scream natural flavors? I’m in Pandora, Avatarland! Isn’t the point of this place to be in harmony with imaginary nature?

Hawkes’ Grog Ale is the signature themed beer from Pandora - The World of Avatar in Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park. I bought my draft at the snack stand, Pongu Pongu. While the drink may not have been blue the advertising sign sold me the promise of fruity hops with notes of apricot and peach. That sounded themed and refreshing. But the statement on fruity hops made it clear that the hop and not an infusion was the star of the 8 hour science fiction refreshment stop. And with a 5.3% ABV and 18 IBUs, it seemed like it would be a nice but not overpowering treat.

Now, I’m not an Avatar kind of kid. I’m just a smidge too old. I’ve seen Star Wars, loved it! But Avatar just never hit for me. But, I was enjoying the land really for the first time with a family member who loves this franchise. So I felt fully in the spirit despite my lack of connection. 

I found myself completely disappointed. 

Notes of apricot and peach could mean notes subconsciously transmitted into the beer. I got no fruit at all from this green grog. I wondered if maybe my taster was malfunctioning, so I took one down and passed it around, and everyone thought the same thing, fruity? Yeah, I don’t get that at all! Now it did remind me of Coors Light, or at least what I think Coors Light is since I’ve not had one in a decade. But I think my buddy who exclusively drinks Coors Light would enjoy this beer that tastes like an okay beer from a macro brewery. I do enjoy it when hops pass off fruit to a brew, but it failed here. Maybe the keg wasn’t being kept fresh, as this just came off tasting as a macro canned beer kept at room temp at a themed snack stand on the edge of a bioluminescent forest.

The style is not a pils or lager, no matter what I say. It’s a wheat beer. Now I say this knowing that I can fully see through the green liquid, so it’s filtered and then dyed, I guess. Untapped calls the style American Pale Wheat. This could explain how it tastes nothing like a Hefeweissen. Additionally untapped calls the flavor of the style grasslike and crisp! Yes, that sounds right. There’s no banana, no clove so definitely not a Hefe. The hops didn’t give me any fruit. But crisp, that I can buy!

Do you hear that? That’s the sound of me laughing. Now let me tell you why! Hawkes’ Grog Ale is brewed by Terrapin Beer Co. of Athens Georgia. Terrapin is a subsidiary of….Molson Coors Beverage Company! So yeah, maybe there are reasons taste-wise why my brain went instantly to Coors Light when I synced with this green beer. Maybe Coors Light is driving its green, geez not blue, genetic clone?

Hawkes’ Grog Ale to me is a missed opportunity. The beer should have been blue not green, I guess Walt Disney World already has blue milk (note: they also have green milk). It should have more distinct fruit flavors, not a homage to Coors. And it should make us feel fully immersed as I drink it, for heaven’s sake I lacked so many Avatar jokes here! I never claimed to drink it through my hair, if that is hair! I just quite simply can’t and won’t recommend this specialty beer.

Who’s drinks this? Your friend who drinks exclusively big beers. They are taking it, trying to be cool, drinking their green beer in an alien land. But as soon as they leave this land, they will have a Bud Light, but they really thought they needed a beer in Pandora. For me, I find it highly doubtful I will ever have another pint of this again. Or you are a giant Avatar fan, and despite the fact you find it the wrong color you order Hawke’s Grog Ale to fully immerse yourself. But me, I will focus on Star Wars’ beers instead.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Beer Review - Dragon Scale

The goal of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort is that you are in a world of magic…so no regular, muggle-made, junk can creep into this world. Everything you see is unique to the theme and setting because you’re a Wizard (insert name here), meaning no Big Named Beers for you! Evanesco Budweiser!


A pint of Dragon Scale red ale in a plastic cup.
A Pint of Dragon Scale

Accio Dragon Scale!

Dragon Scale, a wizarding beer, can be found throughout the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Recently, I had one at The Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida. I was instantly hit with the red color, which reminded me of the red eyes of the Ukrainian Ironbelly, the largest and most ferocious of dragons. But sadly, this breed’s scales are not red but gray. The color is nice, with you being able to see through the glass to reveal your favorite witch or wizard sitting across the table. The potion, described as a red lager, in the magical plastic pint, tasted miraculously like beer.

When I say beer that tastes like beer, that’s my general description of a common lager. It is what one has come to expect from those days of mindless drinking before our alcohol intake became a cool new annoying hobby. And here, it does taste like a beer but slightly elevated. The malts to create the red color, give off some grainy flavor that is quite pleasant. But it is a lager that tastes like a solid, drinkable, crushable lager that still has enough flavor wizards who turn their noses up to beer that cannot be named are not allowed to mock you. With an ABV of 5.3%, it is also possible you might have a few. It is super approachable, as long as you like the taste of, well, beer. It has no hop bite at all. So it should be approachable for many.

All kidding aside. It is hard to make a good lager, especially for a craft brewery, which really needs to get the liquid out of tanks and into the hands of wizards. But the potion masters seem to have put it all together. A wizard brewery hidden in the muggle world named Carib Brewery USA, makes this concoction over at Cape Canaveral. Hmmm, that’s an odd name. Oh, because it’s not a small craft wizard or witch. No, Carib Brewery is a Trinidad-based brewery that used to have contracts with InBev, the makers of Budweiser. They purchased the Florida Beer Company in 2016, and it is clear they have brought the lessons of making large-scale lagers outside of the US at their production site in Florida!

Honestly, I’m not a lager-loving wizard. But drinking a Dragon Scale while sitting in a themed restaurant, and carrying your first wand at your side, Maple and Unicorn, just seems magical. Just remember to drink and apparate responsibly!

Who Drinks This? So you’ve been in Universal’s theme parks all day. You got yourself a refillable cup, congratulations on earning house cup points for showing that wisdom. You’ve been filling it with Bud Light or Coors Light of the Muggle World. Now that you’re in a magical place these brands are no longer an option! This is a beer for you! You just need to understand that the color does not mean the beer is going to be too dragony and adventurous!

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Beer Review - Bad Motivator IPA


A pint of golden Bad Motivator IPA sitins on the Oga's bar.
Bad Motivator IPA

Oga’s Cantina in Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is more than drinks. It’s an experience. The fact you’re drinking droid-free, except DJ Rex spinning some tunes, always provides a perfect refreshment break on any day in the park.

Sierra Nevada Brewing’s Bad Motivator IPA pays tribute to R5-D4, who may have joined CP30 on this adventure to save the galaxy if it wasn’t for one bad motivator. As we all know, nerd alert, provided R2-D2 the chance to take the stage and achieve galaxy hero status. The beer itself is a very traditional but crisp IPA. It has a 50 IB so that you can taste the finish of the hops, but it’s not as overwhelming as a double IPA or as juicy as a hazy IPA. Crisp and clean, with just enough flavor to not overwhelm, but maybe not enough for a big hophead. Hop Head being the Bounty Hunter that Darth Vader sent after Han Solo who was just right off-screen in The Empire Strikes Back. Seriously, a hop would be the perfect model of a plant-based Star Wars character, I mean if a prune can do it why not a hop? For me, the hop bite was gentle in this straw-colored opaque liquid. But I think for my drinking partner, who does not like IPA, it may have been too much! 

Robot DJ spins tunes for Oga's patrons.
DJ Rex Spinning Tunes for Oga's Patrons

Bad Motivator IPA is a solid drinker. It is what you expect from a traditional IPA. It’s refreshing and crisp. It does have a sneaky 8 ABV, which did sneak up on me a little later, thank goodness I had only one. It also amused me and helped me enter the fantasy of Star Wars. The glass shape shows off expertly the carbonation bubbles from the draft as they streak from the bottom to the top for nearly the entire drinking. It may make me feel like I had a space drink in this space bar.

This is also an offering from an important historical craft brewery that knows hops. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company formed in 1979, sat aside other early modern craft breweries like Anchor Brewing and New Albion Brewing to bring American drinkers styles beyond lagers and pils while showcasing hops. Their Pale Ale is a constant best-seller for decades that highlights cascade hops and brings fruity citrus flavors in a cup. New Albion closed before I could drink, and 2023 saw the end of Anchor Brewing! So like R2-D2 since his motivator was working, they are the last California droid standing! 

A half full glass of Bad Motivator IPA with foam lacing on the glass sides.
Lacing on a half full glass of Bad Motivator IPA

Who Drinks This? Your family has convinced you that you need to participate in their Star Wars experience, and they offered you the carrot that you get a beer in the middle of your day because they want to relive the classic cantina scene from Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope (it will always be Star Wars to me). You’ve dropped a little more cash than you wanted because of an extra droid your middle Jedi purchased. And now you just want something a little more predictable. Sure, it costs at least $2 more than other park beers. Yet money has proven not to be real based on the lightsaber strapped to your oldest youngling. Bad Motivator IPA is a professionally made craft beer, you know you will taste the flavor and it will meet your craft expectations. This IPA is a little bit of reality in the middle of sci-fi fantasy.


Thursday, February 1, 2024

Beer Review - Sow Select Dunkle

Central Florida gets cold, friends! It's like 39 degrees, sunny, and delightful. There’s a good chance you would get a tan if it weren’t for the puffy jackets. Seriously, if it’s under 55 degrees, throw on that sweatshirt from your favorite obscure brewery! Because you’ve only got so many days to accessorize with it.

A pint of dark Sow Select Dunkle
A Pint of Ravenous Pig's Sow Select Dunkle

It’s a chilly Florida Sunday, and I’m living large in my favorite Midwestern brewery sweatshirt! Now, a great place to people-watch and show off my entire outfit is Polite Pig in Disney Springs. I was delighted to see they had a seasonal beer in the Sow Select Dunkle that matched the sunny un-Floridian chill. I took a big sip and found myself enjoying a beer built for a winter day. It was dark from the malts, with the malt coming forward to provide some bready flavor, but not so overpowering that anyone would call it a stout, porter, or imperial. The 23 IBUs barely registered on my palate. And there was a funk that tells a beer drinker this beer has German origins. With a 4.3% ABV, I easily could have more than one or even sample other Ravenous Pig craft beers on the menu.

Dunkel is German for dark. While dark beer is scary for some, this is a style that is a flurry of flavor, not a blizzard of dark malt heaviness. If you like the big-box beer brands, Dunkels share the same tradition as the beers you generally drink. Dunkels are a German lager hiding behind some malt-inspired color and flavor. But they don’t fill you up or hit you with high alcohol levels in the same way that a big stout would. Ravenous Pig, the craft brewing sibling to the Polite Pig barbecue restaurant, executes Sow Select Dunkle right to style, and you cannot go wrong sampling it when you’re cold.

A Polite Pig Hop Select Pretzel
Polite Pig's Hop Select Pretzel

Who Drinks This: Do you enjoy a beer on the beach with a book or watching the boats go by? That beer is likely a lager. But it’s cold now, and a lager doesn’t fit the mood as you watch shoppers jump from store to store at Disney Springs. You need a flavor that takes that lager and screams winter. That’s Sow Select Dunkle! Craft beer fans, macro beer fans, anyone can appreciate this well-executed brisket accompaniment. It also helps wash down a big pretzel or award-winning BBQ as well! For me, I can drink it any month of the year, but when it’s chilly and you’re bundled up—whatever that means—it definitely can fit the mood of your vacation.

Beer Review -Gold Squardon Lager

Gold Squadron Lager I’m a Star Wars fan and a little selfish! I want a red ale with Red Five in the name. It appears based on surfing the ...