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Belt’s Beer Garden: Monster Brews

Stony Creek Crankenstein #002 & Epic RiNo Juicy Pale

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Today I have a few monster brews for you. Let’s start with a up and coming Connecticut brewery - Stony Creek.

Stony Creek is located in Branford, Connecticut, a coastal town about 10 miles east of New Haven. The brewery likes to combine West Coast and East Coast styles to create hybrid beers that have the best qualities from each coast. Currently they are available in seven states, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

On my trip I discovered a beer called Crankenstein, which is a mash up of West Coast IPAs and New England IPAs with each variant having a different hop profile.

I found version #002, which is made with Enigma and Galaxy hops. A four-pack of 16-ounce cans costs roughly $14, which is a tad higher, but each can packs a very solid 7.2% ABV and 60 IBU.

The second edition of Crankenstein poured a super bright orange color with surprisingly little head. No more than a thin layer, half a finger high, of perfectly white bubbles ever appeared and very quickly faded away into a razor thin accumulation around the edge of the glass.

There was a nice balanced aroma emitted from the glass. It was subtle tropical fruits with a unique hoppy spice that was calmed by a smooth, sweet malt flavor with notes of caramel and bready malt.

My first sip began with a flash of light carbonation that quickly fizzled out, much like the head had done when I poured the beer.

From there, the hops started to pop. Tropical fruits – such as mango, pineapple, melon, and passionfruit – lead the way but were not alone. Hints of apricot, orange, and lemon rind followed close behind, creating a medley of fruits dancing across my taste buds.

Midway through, a burst of somewhat dank floral hops overtook the tropical fruit and, with help from the bready malt, created a soft and balanced flavor before everything began to settle down and fade away.

As everything starts to disappear, the beer ends somewhat cleanly. There is no real aftertaste left behind but there is a resinous, sticky dryness that sits heavy on my tongue and had me reaching for water after a few consecutive sips.

Crankenstein starts off like a normal IPA but, as the sip progresses, the mouthfeel becomes thicker and heavier as everything moves forward.

The whole idea behind Crankenstein is trying to create a hybrid West Coast and NE IPA…sewing the styles together like Frankenstein…and I think they really nailed the combination. You get that West Coast dryness and tropical flavors while the New England aspect creates that smooth/creamy mouthfeel with little bitterness and some softer fruit flavors.

All in all, it was an easy to drink brew with lots of flavors swirling about. My only drawbacks to the beer were how heavy it sits and the dryness that’s left lingering well after the sip has disappeared. But I look forward to finding more editions from the Crankenstein series.

Up next, from the other side of the country, Epic and their newer pale ale.

Epic Brewing started in Salt Lake City, Utah back in 2008 and were so popular that, just five years later, they expanded and opened a second brewery in Denver, Colorado. Today you can find them all across the country, mostly West of the Mississippi River, but here is a handy map of all the states you can find them.

Today I have one of their newer year-round beers – RiNo Juicy Pale Ale – a New England-style pale ale made with Centennial and Mosaic hops and should not be confused with their original RiNo pale ale from their Classic Series.

The beer gets its name from the location of their Denver brewery, which is located in the River North (RiNo) district. A six-pack of cans is just $9.99 with each can containing a 5.8% ABV.

This pale ale poured a bright orange, slightly copper color with just about a finger of eggshell white head topping it off. The bubbles fizzled away quickly, leaving little more than a dusting across the top with in a minute.

I can see why they call RiNo a juice pale ale. There was a huge tropical aroma flowing from the glass. Bold notes of mango, pineapple, and other citrus fruits lead the way but there’s more than just fruit coming from the beer. Softer floral notes and hints of bready/sweet malt balance it all out but, for the most part, this sure does smell like fruit punch with a spell of hoppy bitterness.

There was some moderate carbonation up front that gave a nip at my tongue before the flavors punched through. And, holy cow, did they follow the aroma.

Mango, pineapple, and cantaloupe raced out of the gate and coated my taste buds with a semi-sticky resin. As the tropical fruits slowly began to fade, I was hit with more citrusy goodness as, midway through, a zesty orange and lemon flavor seemed to emerge and flood across my tongue.

As all those fruit flavors continued, a dryness started to creep in…and it was unrelenting. Before the tropical notes had even disappeared, my mouth was coated in an orangey resin and completely dried out.

The good news is that the dryness doesn’t appear on every sip. Some swigs end much cleaner; with the juicy orange slowly fading out.

Overall, RiNo was a very tasty, super easy to drink beer. And, other than the incredible dryness, RiNo ended cleanly – no lingering aftertaste or bitterness – just have a glass of water nearby for those certain sips so you can clear out that sticky, parched feeling.