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Belt’s Beer Garden: Kingly beers

Funkwerks’ Tropic King & Around the Bend’s Villainous

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This week I have a kingly saison from Colorado and an dastardly IPA from Chicago to share with you.

I’ll start out west with Funkwerks’ and their Tropic King.

Funkwerks calls Ft. Collins, Colorado home and specializes in saisons and other Belgian-style beers. And they have certainly made a name for themselves quickly! In four years (2011-2014) they won five major awards: a silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival in 2011, two gold medals and Small Brewing Company of the Year in 2012, and then a silver medal at the 2014 World Beer Cup!

So yeah, I’m expecting great things from them. And you can find them if you’re in Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Texas, Phoenix, Seattle, or Vancouver, Canada.

They offer five year round beers, all saisons or sours. While visiting my family in Phoenix I picked up their imperial saison, Tropic King.

Tropic King is made with Rakau hops (from New Zealand), a whole heap of Munich malts, and special house yeast strain. It’s available in four-packs of 330 mL (11.2 ounce) bottles that run you $10.99 as well as bombers.

It poured a murky amber color with two fingers of eggshell white head billowing up. The foam was pretty dense, typical of a saison beer, and evaporated down into a half a finger within a few moments.

On the nose this imperial farmhouse had that slightly spicy yeast aroma that they all have but with some nice additions to it. There were the tropical fruit you’d expect from the name – mango, peach, passion fruit – and, interestingly enough, a hint of bubblegum.

I was intrigued to say the least.

My first sip began with a ferocious rush of carbonation, more than I would have thought for the little amount of head that rose up to start with. At the same time the effervescence hit my palate so did a peppery yeast flavor and some hints of ginger.

Then, out of that fizzy start, the fruit emerges with mango and passion fruit leading the way and only the lightest hint of peach behind them.

Even when the sip ended I still had a buzzing on my tongue from the carbonation. There is a slight dryness that accompanied the lightly spiced ending that lingers well after the liquid is gone.

As the beer is drained from my glass, the bubbles wanted very little to do with the sides of my tulip glass; instead leaving just one or two cloud formations sporadically sliding down at any given time.

Overall, Tropic King is a pretty solid saison that packs a punch (which you won’t even notice)! The 8% ABV is hidden entirely and it drinks more like a 5% beer than one nearly double that. It’s a very tasty saison whose only faults are the huge carbonation sting throughout the sip and the dryness that stays around for awhile. If you like saisons, here’s one for you! 8/10

8 beers

Next up, from close to home, Around the Bend’s Villainous.

Around the Bend is a smaller/newer brewery that is located in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. Right now they only offer five beers – Ghost of ‘Lectricity (a hoppy kölsch-style beer), Puffing Billy (a brown ale with cacao nibs), and Silk Road (an American pale ale with galangal), Mr. Marmalade (a DIPA made with Seville Oranges), and Villainous; the latter of which I found. Currently, Around the Bend is only available Chicagoland area.

Villainous is their standard IPA and is brewed with Centennial, Mosaic, and Simcoe hops, four types of malt, and a nice mash-up of yeast strains. It comes complete with an ABV of 6.3% and 70 IBUs. A six-pack will run you the average price of $9.99.

When poured, it was a dark copper color with just under three fingers of head rising to the surface. The slightly off-white foam was quite dense and airy, lasting a long time and lacing the glass on its departure…even before I had taken a sip there were huge bubble clouds on the rim of my glass.

The aroma from Villainous was really, really inviting. It was huge sweet mango and pineapple notes with some apple, pear, and other tropical fruits lingering behind. There was some caramel malt hidden in the background as well but this was, for the most part, a very hopped up IPA with a great scent.

I was ready to dive in and, boy was I not disappointed.

My first sip ALMOST mirrored the smell almost spot on.

The beer was made using, not one, but four yeast strains (two English and two West Coast) and it showed immediately. Up front there was a yeasty spice and a big carbonation bite that fizzled on the tongue for a moment or two before the flavors became noticeable.

But once they showed themselves, they were delicious. There were loads of juicy bold tropical fruits with the mango leading the way; however, a nice surprise was the big addition of pear and some sour apple to the flavor.

The malts add a slight sweetness that cuts into the otherwise tart apple and levels out the flavors…but only for a moment.

As the different fruits begin to fade away the hops, and the 70 IBU, kick in with a lingering dry bitterness that ends it all…and made me need a sip of water – yeah, it was that dry.

Like it did up front, Villainous laced the glass beautifully on its way down. There were well-defined rings that marked each sip, as well as some larger patches that slowly slid their way down the glass...but most bubbles were clinging tight to where they were deposited.

Overall, this is a hard IPA to rate. I really enjoyed the flavors; the apple, pear, pineapple combination worked really, really well. However, the super-yeast they used and the sharp bite/dryness at the end wasn’t really my forte…it was almost like a hybrid between a farmhouse and a DIPA that resulted in a muted down version of both. 8/10

8 beers