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Belt's Beer Garden: hoppy birthday to me!

What better way to celebrate my birthday than with a few drinks!

Today is my birthday. And that means that I get to drink whatever I want and as much as I want...but I decided it's better to share. So, without further ado, here are the first two (of many) beers I will be drinking today.

To start, I bring you one of New Belgium's Lips of Faith beers.

pear ginger beer

New Belgium is one of the biggest breweries in Colorado, and the fourth largest craft brewery (and eighth largest brewery) in the country. Located mostly in Fort Collins, they have been making beers since 1991. I say mostly in Fort Collins because they will be expanding to Asheville, North Carolina shortly. They are available in 38 states plus DC, so odds are they are available by you.

One of the newest editions to New Belgium's Lips of Faith Series is this - their Pear Ginger Beer. And, unlike most of the ginger beers you buy in the stores, this one DOES contain alcohol...and quite a bit of it (7% ABV).

It pours a cloudy straw color with very little head. What foam there is disappears quickly, leaving just traces of bubbles, with a few clouds, scattered around the edges of the glass. For a pear ginger beer, I was a little surprised by the aroma. It wasn't overly pear or ginger. It almost smelled like a saison.

But for what it lacked in smell, it made up for in taste. My first taste had that spicy ginger flavor I was waiting for. There is more than just ginger and pear in this beer though. Some lemons give it a sweet, semi-tart finish with the pear flavor subtly showing itself throughout the sip.

The ginger lingers on your palate between swigs but never overpowers your taste buds like some ginger beers can. The pear and lemon cut down on the heat from the ginger nicely and smooth things out.

But there is an added bonus to this beer. According to their website, you can add other alcohols to it to create a modified Mule or Gimlet.

I love a good Moscow Mule (which is usually 1.5 ounces of vodka, 4 ounces of ginger beer, and lime juice) so for the second half of the bomber, I wanted to test this theory out as well.

Using Pear Ginger Beer as my ginger beer and Russian Standard vodka I created a new drink, which I will call a Marshall Mule.

Why a Marshall Mule? Because it left a really bad taste in my mouth, much like Marshall did to NIU fans last season (and has also done to most of the MAC fan bases throughout the years).

The ginger flavoring is too weak to counter the vodka and so it ended up tasting like just a shot of vodka with a hint of ginger at the end.

However, that will not deter from my review of the beer. The main purpose of Pear Ginger Beer is to be consumed as is, and so, my rating will only reflect the beer portion of the tasting.

That being said, New Belgium has a pretty solid beer here. I would have liked to taste more of the pear and gotten more ginger on the front end of the sip instead of just having the ginger linger at the end. But it was still a smooth, easy to drink beer that will be great for fall. The spice from the ginger will warm your insides, as will the relatively high ABV, so it'll help you survive those cold tailgates and game nights we have coming up shortly.

If you're a fan of ginger beers, check this one out. It'll set you back $8.99 for the bomber, so it's not the cheapest way to get ginger beer, but it's still a decent value. 7.5/10


My next stop is in St. Louis, as I try one of 4 Hands' pale ales.

city of dreams

There aren't many great things about St. Louis (especially as a Cubs fan). It has an arch and a Six Flags...oh, it also has a nice brewery called 4 Hands that has been around since 2011. They offer four year-round beers and a plethora of seasonal brews. Of their 20,000 square foot facility, 3,000 feet is reserved for barrel aging beers. And this summer they are releasing a sour line of beers...which I hope I can find.

City of Dreams is a cloudy, dark copper colored American pale ale and pours with just a dusting of foam topping the beer.

You can smell the piney hops right off the bat, along with some cherry, citrus, and a dash of malt lingering in the back. This beer was generously hopped with Centennial, El Dorado, and Amarillo hops, giving it that piney, yet fruity, smell.

My first taste of City of Dreams was interesting. The carbonation didn't hit at first, but waited a brief moment before bubbling on my tongue. Flavor wise, there was a biscuity flavor from the malts and some cherry and pine from the hops but there wasn't much of a hoppy bite (which the smell made me think I was going to get). The IBU isn't listed, nor could I find it online, but there really isn't any of the bitterness from the hops. I'd say it's probably in the 60s though.

After that first wave of carbonation, there really wasn't another attack like that. The malt and hops work really well together and, as I said earlier, the taste isn't as hoppy as the smell might lead to you believe. It is on the drier end of the spectrum though and leaves a sticky feeling in your mouth.

The beer leaves a nice lacing around the glass with each successful sip and hides its 6.6% ABV really well.

City of Dreams is a smooth summer APA. It might be a little heavy for those really hot days...but so far we haven't had too many of those (at least not in Chicago). It's got a nice taste and goes really well with burgers (but what doesn't). It does, however, set you back $7.99 for the 22-ounce bottle.

Overall, it is a better than average beer but nothing spectacular, which is a shame since their other summer-seasonals, Contact High and Send Help, were both really tasty and reasonably priced. This was good too, and if it were a tad cheaper, I'd probably give it an eight, but as it stands...7.5/10.