Brews To Choose: Volume I

A Random Comparison Of Beers From Around The Country

As a new Effypop feature, in addition to our weekly articles, we thought it would be fun, as well as tasty, to throw our two cents into the craft beer opinion ring. Since we get the opportunity to sample so many outstanding craft beers, we thought it would be a good idea to turn it into, hopefully, some useful information and share our thoughts with you. Our inaugural set of brews includes breweries from Michigan, Wisconsin, California and North Carolina.


Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale 

The Facts:

dark horse


The Skinny:

       According to Dark Horse, Reserve Special Black Ale is their oldest in the brew lineup. How they have this brew written up on their website is almost identical to the notes I wrote down during the tasting before I read what they had. Special Black Ale does have a very “thick” presence in a glass and is dark as night. This beer does explode on the taste buds like an M-80 full of flavor.

The chocolate malts are sure to be the first thing to grab your attention.  The flavor isn’t all about the malts, as it stands out as remarkably balanced throughout. It didn’t quite have the bitterness of a black IPA, and definitely more to the porter side of flavor, but the hint of hops was all one needs to finish this outstanding beer.


Bell’s Porter 

The Facts:

Bell's Porter

  • Brewed By: Bell’s Brewery Kalamazoo, Michigan
  • Style: Brown Porter
  • Availability: Year Round
  • Distribution: Bells Brewery Distribution Map
  • ABV: 5.6%
  • IBU: 55


The Skinny:

First of all, let me say that I have sampled many of Bell’s brews, and by all accounts they are a top-notch craft brewery. That being said, I would have to say I found this to be one of their more underwhelming offerings. That’s not to say it is not a very good brew, but by Bells standards, it seems to fall a bit short in my opinion.

Perhaps it was the “brown porter” label that went unnoticed until afterward, but this brew was oddly crisp in mouthfeel for a porter. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but not something I expect from a porter. The flavors that Bell’s uses and normally blow me out of the water seemed absent as well and strangely indistinguishable. This is by no means a bad beer, but struck me as very average and didn’t do much to excite me. Still, even an average Bell’s is A LOT better than most.


Over The Edge American IPA

The Facts:


  • Brewed By: Unknown Brewing Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Style: American-Style IPA
  • Availability: Year Round
  • Distribution: North Carolina, South Carolina
  • ABV: 6.9%
  • IBU: 65


The Skinny:

As the logo for Over The Edge states “If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.” A small brewery in Charlotte that has a lot of big flavor, I quickly became a fan. With its blood orange color and white head, this should definitely be on your radar for IPAs to try.

I have to say this brew came as a little bit of a surprise. Most of the blood orange IPAs I have tried are more on the citrusy side of the hop scale, but this one was dominated by more floral and piney hops. If you are a fan of either the 2015 version of Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp or their Hop Hunter, this brew will surely make your favorites list.


Nectar India Pale Ale

The Facts: 


  • Brewed By: Humboldt Brewing Company Humboldt County, California
  • Style: American-Style IPA
  • Availability: Year Round
  • ABV: 6.7%
  • IBU: 60


The Skinny: 

With the explosion of breweries on the East Coast and across the country, never count the West Coast out of the brewing picture. Nectar India Pale Ale was for the most part on the opposite end of the spectrum from Unknown Brewing’s Over The Edge American IPA. A solid beer, but this is no surprise coming out of that region.

It didn’t quite possess the “wow” factor of Over The Edge but is a well-brewed beer nonetheless. This brew has a significantly lighter and more crisp feel to it, perfect for a trip to the beach. It had great hop flavors to it though they were much more mild. Overall this brew is worth giving a shot.


Fixed Gear Amber Lager 

The Facts: 



The Skinny: 

Being Chinook and Cascade hop-heavy this brew left me feeling it was more bark than bite for the build-up. It was almost as if some of the flavors involved got lost in overdoing it and came out indistinguishable.

One can sense some general feel for the citrus flavor of the hops but in large part, I didn’t find anything in it that really stood out as distinct. A decent beer, but it didn’t really do much to make it stand out and make itself memorable as one I would try again. It for the most part, lumps itself in with middle-of-the-pack craft brews.


And The Winner Is…

     While all five of these brews were distinct and had their own merits, there were a couple that really stood out as truly memorable. Dark Horse Reserve Special Dark Ale is one of those beers. If you come across this brew in your neck of the woods, I strongly suggest picking up a six pack. Although it might be a bit harder to find in some areas, Unknown Brewing’s Over The Edge was also a stand-out. If you live or travel to the South Eastern part of the country, keep an eye out for this one, you won’t be disappointed.






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