The new-look Belt’s Beer Garden starts off with two brews that don’t taste as strong as they are. When trying these brews you’ll need to pinch yourself when you realize they both have an ABV over 7%!
Up first, a newer brew from one of Chicagoland’s oldest breweries.
Two Brothers is making its sixth appearance on BBG, which ties it for third place in the “most appearances by a brewery” category.
The brewery began back in 1996 in Warrenville, Illinois and has been popular ever since, spawning four locations in the Chicagoland area and one outside of Phoenix, Arizona. You can find their products in Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wisconsin
Today I have one of their newer releases that became available in April – Pinch of Grace. This IPA is brewed with citrus peel and vanilla in addition to their hop and malt profile. It has a solid 7% ABV and 60 IBU and is sold in 6-packs of bottles that cost $11.
Pinch of Grace poured a bright copper color with just over a finger of eggshell white head topping the brew. The frothy foam lasts a little while before slowly fizzling down to a thin line with some thick lacing that coats the glass entirely.
On the nose this brew had some sweet notes, the vanilla really shining, that mixed with the standard IPA aromas of citrus and earthy notes. The malts balanced it out nicely with some more sweetness and a light biscuity scent.
My first sip started with brief sizzle of carbonation before the beer, which has a lighter, waterier mouthfeel begins its attack on my palate.
A heavy dose of citrus flavors led the first wave of flavors, with a surprisingly tart lemon zest, grapefruit, and orange leading the way. Quickly though, the vanilla added a somewhat smoothing sweetness that calmed the sour aspect of the beer and quelled any hoppy bitterness.
The sharp citrus and calming vanilla battled for dominance the entire sip, trading places multiple times throughout each swig and throughout the bottle.
Usually the lemon would bite first, only to be overpowered by vanilla for a short while, before swelling back up and then finally fading away. But, every so often, the vanilla would hit first before fading to the citrus and then reclaim the top spot later in the sip.
Towards the backend of the beer, the hops snuck past the vanilla and allowed some bitterness with a mild orange peel taste to creep forward as the other flavors began their descent.
It then ends on the dry side, with that that citrus rind flavor lingering for a few minutes after. The dryness was amplified with each additional sip, so keeping a glass of water nearby is heavily recommended…or you’ll find yourself smacking your lips to get rid of that sticky dry feeling.
Pinch of Grace was an interesting IPA to say the least. The flavors were actually really nice, although it was much more tart than I was expecting. The vanilla really adds a nice balance and makes it super easy to drink…especially for a brew with a 7% ABV.
While it’s not outstanding, this brew is sweet, fruity, hoppy, and rather sessionable. A nice summer beer with one downfall…it ends really dry.
Next up, a beer from a brewery that started across the pond before making a big splash in the US (and the rest of the world).
Scotland might be known for Scotch but they’re sure no slouch when it comes to beer either. And BrewDog is the perfect representation of just how good their beers can be.
Opening in 2007 in the city of Fraserburgh, Scotland, BrewDog had become Scotland’s largest independent brewery and had a global distribution just one year later. Today, they have their own brewery and beer hotel in Columbus, Ohio and can be found in Illinois, Indiana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, West Virginia, and possibly more.
I have one of their Amplified Ales, Juggernaut, which is an Imperial IPA brewed on a rotating basis. You can find six-packs of these guys for $11 with each 12-ounce can having a massive 8.8% ABV.
Juggernaut poured a bright copper, almost orange color. Topping off the brew was just under two fingers of white head. The bubbles quickly dispersed and, within a minute, no more than a thin line across the top of the brew remained.
This Imperial IPA certainly smelled as if it was going to pack a punch. There was a bold hop aroma that featured grapefruit, orange, and pine. The malts added a bready scent that stayed well underneath the hops.
My first gulp began with a rush of carbonation that buzzed for a few moments, in some cases lasting longer than the beer’s flavors.
However, the taste certainly didn’t hit like I thought it would. I was expecting a hop bomb that would blow my taste buds clear off my tongue but, instead, I got a rather tasty, surprisingly easy to drink DIPA.
The hops hit with loads of citrus – grapefruit mostly but there are also notes of orange, mango, and some peach – and, yes, a bitter bite.
Juggernaut is balanced really, really well by the malts, which added some caramel sweetness and a bready undertone to the brew.
Midway through the hops add some pine and other earthy notes, which includes a grassy flavor that leaves an oily resin coating my tongue, while still showcasing the juicy citrus fruits.
As the brew begins to fade away, there is a long-lasting bitter hum that joins the resinous feeling and clings to the taste buds, bringing a grapefruit peel flavor and a dash of dryness with it.
I couldn’t believe just how easy Juggernaut was to drink. I had to check the can multiple times to make sure it was indeed an Imperial IPA. Outside of the longer bitter/dry finish, this beer drank like a lighter pale ale more so than an 8.8% DIPA.
The booze was hidden quite well and never showed up in the taste at all…however, towards the end of the can, it certainly became noticeable in other ways and gave me a solid buzz.
Good stuff here, especially if you’re looking for a tasty, high alcohol brew.