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trying this blog thing again

i’ve owned this vanity URL for over a decade and never did anything with it, so here i am, doing something with it. i’m just getting started but so far it’s a blog where i’m writing mostly about my ongoing brain surgery recovery/health updates as well as my post-surgery/pandemic obsession of non-alcoholic beer. i hope to write about more. i guess we’ll see.

please use the category links if you only want to read a particular topic.

athletic – rainbow wall IPA

in general, i don’t enjoy rainbow capitalism during pride month. because usually it’s a straight up marketing technique with no give-back to the LGBTQI+ community by so many companies and corporations. it’s just a way for them to cash in on looking woke/PC without actually being accountable to that community.

but i’m happy to give props to initiatives that DO give back in a significant way and to support companies that show year round what their values are. athletic brewing is definitely a company that lives its progressive values and so here we are with their latest limited edition batch of NA beer called rainbow wall, with an appropriately and pleasingly rainbow-colored graphic for the can for pride month. the name and the image come from a particularly challenging climb in the red rock canyon national conservation area outside of las vegas, nevada. it was brewed in collaboration with LGBTQI+ pro climber alex johnson and 100% – yes you read that right – of the profits from the sale of this beer will go to athlete ally, a national non-profit whose mission is “to end the rampant homophobia and transphobia in sports and to activate the athletic community to exercise their leadership to champion LGBTQI+ equality.”

this was enough to make me order a 6-pack in my monthly subscription box, even though it’s an IPA. (i know you are tired of me saying i don’t typically like IPAs but just in case there are new folks reading… i never liked leaded IPAs but am finding i can tolerate some NA IPAs depending on how they are brewed and with which hops.) it’s a blood orange IPA, and i’ve enjoyed quite a few blood orange beers in my life, so i took the chance.

it pours a beautiful orange hue that is slightly hazy with a decent head. it has a clean hoppy aroma and a very bold citrus flavor that combines the blood orange with something more tart, perhaps the lemon peel that is referenced in the ingredients list. but it’s very crisp while also being very smooth thanks to that organic vienna malt, and though it has a bit of a bite, the bitterness doesn’t linger, which i like. goes down easy and clocks in at only 70 calories and 16 carbs. i surprised myself that i like this so much!

i’m late in reviewing this as it took longer than expected to receive my shipment and then a few days to get it chilled and have time to write about it because i’m dog sitting and my work schedule has been very hectic. sadly, when i went to order some more of it, it was already sold out. (if i’d have realized it was sold out i would have not bothered to write about it. sorry if i got your hopes up!)

i love that athletic is creative and does a lot of small batch/limited release beers, but i hate when i find ones i really love and they are gone too soon. i’m feeling that way about the peanut butter porter i recently reviewed (i have 2 left in the fridge) and trailblazer, the women’s history month hoppy lager that i’m now out of. oh well, i guess that’s how it goes with most breweries, and how they keep you coming back for the next one. i just wish it was easier and faster to get my hands on them.

speaking of which, i will quickly mention that athletic updated their store finder map on their site and it now shows, in addition to total wine (which i had to tell them to add!), that you can find some athletic brews at cochon restaurant and bywater american bistro. hopefully more venues will start carrying their beers but i guess two restaurants are better than none!

athletic – nature nut peanut butter porter

i’m realizing i never did post my thoughts about this beer. i’m on my second six pack of it and frankly my opinion keeps changing. sometimes i think it’s just OK and not very exciting; one time i even poured half of one out; but most times i feel like it’s the best dark NA i’ve had yet. i can’t decide. (the one i’m drinking right now as i write this review i’m enjoying a great deal.)

i’ve had mixed results with my pours; most of the time there’s not much head at all (none in this picture), but i don’t know if that’s the beer or my glassware. (apparently some detergents leave a residue that kills the head. but other beers i pour at home seem to have a head and i hand wash all my glassware exactly the same way, so i’m not sure what’s going on.) it pours a dark brown almost black. pretty decent mouthfeel with good tight carbonation but i wish it was a little creamier. it’s a little thin.

the nuttiness is there in both aroma and taste – that peanut flour definitely does the job. it’s got a nice level of sweetness to it – not too much but just enough. (i tried it with some vanilla ice cream the other night and i highly recommend it!) there’s a nice roastiness going on, and some subtle chocolate notes too, due to cocoa nibs. you can taste the vanilla too. there’s a lot going on in this brew.

sadly, it is no longer for sale on the site, as it was a limited release. but maybe they will bring it back at some point. i love that it raised funds for the two for the trails initiative to help maintain and rehabilitate trails, walking paths, and green spaces, and that it was a joint project with justin’s nut butters. (each six pack you ordered came with some squeeze packs of justin’s almond and peanut butter! but no, there was no nut butter in the actual beer.)

I would probably buy more if it was available, as i’m finding it much harder to be satisfied with any of the NA darks on the market that i’ve tried.

quick thank you!

hey i don’t know who keeps using my 10% off code from NA Brews (MARGARET893) but thank you! the kickback to me is tiny on each order (5%), but hey, it adds up! there have been three orders so far which together have amounted to almost enough to cover the cost of one six pack of NA beer! given how much i spend on NA beer, i’ll take it!!

i’m a little behind on reviews but i’ll get some new posts up this week. happy memorial day relaxing everyone!

settling in with my NA beer choices

i haven’t much felt like sampling new beers lately. i still have a few from that last delivery from NAbrews that i haven’t gotten to (the raspberry limbo from mikkeller and brew dog’s wake up call), but most of the time when i open the fridge to grab a beer, i find myself just wanting the ones i already know i love. so after about six months of intense NA beer sampling my rotation has come down to this short list at the moment, in no particular order:

i do really enjoy dark beers but so far i have to admit to not really being satisfied with many of the NA options i’ve tried. many of them are ok, not awful, but i don’t find myself craving them in the same way that i do the lighter and brighter beers. i think they just don’t hit the same “i’m drinking a beer” feeling that the lighter NA brews do – many of them just make me feel like i’m drinking a sweet malty chocolate soda. maybe there’s a dark NA out there for me yet but for now, especially since it is summer, i’m happy with the lighter options i’ve got. and at least athletic’s upside dawn, ceria’s grainwave, and wellbeing’s amber can be bought locally at total wine so i don’t have to wait a week to have it shipped if i run out.

(i did join the athletic subscription club and have received a few monthly shipments but am re-evaluating that since i mostly want upside dawn and it’s cheaper locally. but since i can pause my membership, i will do that for a little while until i see if it’s worth it to get the cerveza or other limited run beers occasionally.)

there are still many brews i haven’t sampled yet that i’m interested in trying but i’m not going out of my way to find them now and i’m definitely not paying crazy money to get them delivered anymore, including:

if any of these should find their way to me or for some reason go on some kinda great sale i can’t refuse, then maybe. but until then i will be happy keeping my faves stocked at home and might even try an alcoholic beer sometime soon to see how it makes me feel. i don’t envision ever keeping real beer in my fridge anymore but would like to feel like i can have one or two occasionally out with friends. though honestly, if athletic or one of my other NA faves was available at bars or restaurants locally, i probably wouldn’t ever drink alcoholic beer again.

all this being said, i should mention that i did sample the heineken 0.0 last week. i figured since it was likely to be one of the only options on bar/restaurant menus locally, i should know what it tastes like and if it could work for me in a pinch. but sadly, it was awful and i could only drink a few mouthfuls before pouring it out. the first whiff took me back to my childhood, to smelling my dad’s and uncle’s cans of some kinda shit beer i can’t remember. it was slightly sweet and malty but just really unappealing to me, in the same way that penn’s best was. i never liked regular heineken so this isn’t surprising to me but i do like to try to keep an open mind about the macros. but so far i haven’t found one i can make due with. i guess i’m just a craft beer snob at heart.

bravus – amber

it has taken me a long time to figure out how i feel about bravus‘ NA beers. at first, i really liked the oatmeal stout, the very first time i tried it. then i had some really off ones, returned them, received a sampler pack from them them to help make up for it, and realized there’s just a lot of inconsistency with bravus’ beers. (the replacement oatmeal stouts were fine, i liked the peanut butter stouts they sent, but did not enjoy the blonde at all. i have since then bought a case of oatmeal stout and peanut butter stout and after a few that again tasted weird to me, haven’t touched the rest of them and am now not sure i will.)

all of this backstory brings me to a recent total wine excursion when i bought this single of their amber – one of the only flavors of their beer i hadn’t yet tried and one i’d heard a lot of positive reviews about. so i just cracked it open, feeling a jonesing for an amber-like beer.

it certainly is the right color. didn’t have much of a head or aroma – a little caramel, a little malty, but once again that weird sorta sweet smell all of their beers have. i crossed my fingers and took a sip. it does indeed have that same sweet kinda flavor all their beers do too. great mouthfeel and the rest of the flavor is pretty good (caramel, nutty, malty) but i just can’t get past that weird taste. it’s not necessarily bad but it’s just not what i want. and it leaves an aftertaste that’s akin to an artificial sweetener, not what i want lingering in my mouth after a beer.

it’s a pity because without that weird sweet flavor, it would be really great. i am just still so perplexed about what it is. some in the facebook groups say it’s diacetyl; some think it’s a proprietary yeast strain or malt producing this taste. i don’t know what it is but i think i’ve now decided i won’t be buying anymore of their beer because i am clearly sensitive to it. (it apparently does not bother some people. some don’t notice it at all.)

i think this is one of those things that everyone will have to figure out for themselves. give a few of their beers a try – maybe they will work for you. maybe you will be one of the people who don’t notice this weird taste that a lot of us do.

(and if anyone wants a six pack or two of their oatmeal stout or peanut butter stout, just holler.)

athletic – run wild IPA

i know, i know – what am i doing drinking an IPA? well, i have heard from a few different folks that run wild isn’t all that IPA-like, more like a pale ale. and since i’ve been finding that i don’t mind some hops in my NA beers, i thought i’d give it a go. i was at total wine the other day and since they had it in the singles rack, i thought, why not? it’s good to know in case at some point more of athletic’s beers become available locally in bars, in case they have it and not one of the ones i like more. it’s good to know your options.

so what’s the verdict? perfectly drinkable. a little hoppy but not overly so, with a nice malty backbone. kinda reminded me of the big drop pine trail ale and a bit like partake’s pale ale, though with much more body. (this one has 70 calories vs. partake’s 10.) athletic refers to it as a session IPA with a blend of five northwestern hops. it pours a nice golden orange, good head, good medium body but still pretty light. not so bitter i couldn’t enjoy it and went down smooth. felt frankly refreshing with my veggie stir fry lunch.

i don’t really have a lot to say about it but i drank the whole thing and enjoyed it. i wouldn’t keep that stocked in my fridge but i liked it more than i thought i would! thumbs up!

paulaner – weizen-radler NA

i saw this a few weeks ago at dorignac’s and almost bought some, but was waiting to read some reviews first. i don’t usually go for the commercial import NAs but something about a lemony radler type brew sounded appealing, especially as we head into summer. in the following weeks i started seeing reviews online from folks saying it’s a little sweet but they really liked it. so i decided to give it a shot.

i went out to total wine yesterday after work to just check in and see if they had anything new. they had this paulaner NA and i was delighted to find they had wellbeing’s victory wheat in stock – something i hadn’t seen there at all since i started this journey back in the fall. (it had been on my list i’d given their beer buyer.) so i grabbed a 4 pack of the victory wheat and a few singles of things i’ve just never tried. (athletic’s run wild and bravus’ amber, reviews forthcoming.) i wanted to only buy a single of the paulaner radler but they didn’t have any up in the singles rack. i tried finding the guy who is usually working that area, but he was on lunch break. i took the six pack with me to check out to ask if i could just buy the single and sadly the kid working the checkout didn’t know how to price it if it wasn’t already in the singles rack and in their computer as a single. he tried calling someone but no one seemed to know how to do it. (this happened to me last time i was there too with a different beer – they have more NA beers for sale than they have slots on the singles rack to feature them.) so i just got frustrated and said what the hell, i’ll just buy the six pack. i just wanted to get out of there and go home.

well that was a mistake. i just tried one that had been chilling since yesterday. it’s not that i don’t like how it tastes – it is very sweet and a little lemony and overall tastes good. but it tastes like it has high frustose corn syrup in it. it has that really syrupy sweet taste that sodas have, which i used to be totally addicted to a few decades ago but went cold turkey and stopped drinking entirely in 2001. i found myself drinking the damn stuff like it was water. i drank about 2/3rds of it before i realized what was happening and poured the rest out.

it does not taste anything like beer or even really a regular radler/shandy. (paulaner does make an alcoholic version of this exact brew, though i’ve never had it.) it tasted like a sugary sweet soda with a little bit of a fruity lemon flavor. examining the bottle, i see that they say it is a “malt beverage with natural flavors.” “natural flavors” is never something you want to read on an ingredient list cuz it can mean anything, and usually means something not good for you.

so yeah. if you drink sodas and don’t have a problem with those kinds of sweeteners, then you’ll probably love this. i’m just really sensitive and can feel my glucose flipping out already from what i consumed. not sure what i’ll do with the rest of this six pack. (if you are reading this and want it, lemme know.)

guess i’ve learned my lesson – have more patience and make them sell you the single, even if it’s a pain in the ass.

big drop – galactic extra dark (milk stout)

this has been billed as the holy grail of dark NA beers, the most stout-like, by a lot of folks. so of course i had to try it.

big drop is a UK brewery that recently opened a brewery in chicago. so far the american HQ only offers this stout, their pine trail ale which i previously reviewed, and the most recently added paradiso IPA.

i had high hopes for this stout but my first impression is that it is lacking. not sure if i got a bad can or if this is how it always is, but there’s a weird metallic kinda taste to it that i just can’t get past.

the aroma is rather faint, a bit roasty, a little chocolatey. poured a very dark almost black with a small head that disappeared immediately. it is smooth but the carbonation is minimal, almost non-existent. i wouldn’t really say it’s “creamy” which is sad for something called a milk chocolate stout. and the flavor is kinda subtle, again roasty, almost burnt, nutty-chocolatey.

as i drink through the glass, i am getting used to the metallic taste and don’t notice it as much. it has kind of a dry finish and is almost light in a guinness kinda way, for a dark/stout. i like it more as i drink more of it. the chocolate comes out more too, the more you drink.

this brew does have lactose in it, in case that’s a concern. ingredients are listed as: water, lactose (milk), barley, malt, oats, rye, hops, yeast, cacao nibs, and the hops used is bramling cross. 99 calories and 21g of carbs. not bad for a stout. 36 IBU though honestly i don’t taste that. (i think the lactose balances out the bitterness.)

i dunno. i think the jury is still out. i like it ok, but not sure i like it as much as i thought i would or as much as everyone else seems to like it. don’t know that i need to keep it on hand but wouldn’t be sad to see it on a menu at a restaurant or on a bar beer list. i’m just a tad disappointed it didn’t knock me over. maybe i need to give it another go another time.

mikkeller – drink’in the sun

i’ve wanted to try this one for a long time as it gets consistently good reviews from folks who like wheat beers, so thanks NAbrews for offering singles so i could check it out.

mikkeller was founded in cophenhagen and now has breweries and brewpubs in multiple locations around the world. in 2016 they opened a brewery in san diego, and they’ve since also opened a spot in new york city. they make several different NA beers – i got this one and the raspberry limbo series which i think is like a sour/gose style but i’ll let you know when i get to it. today felt like more of an “american style wheat ale” kind of day.

it pours a nice light golden yellow with a small fluffy head that dissipated quickly outside on the back porch. (it’s really humid today, maybe that affects it?) nice compact carbonation though.

my nose is pretty stuffed up (thanks allergies) so can’t really say much about the aroma except that it’s a little funkier smelling than most NA wheats i’ve had, and i don’t smell much in the way of hops. though most wheat beers aren’t very hoppy so i guess that tracks for the style. i’m just not getting much aroma at all. maybe a little citrus. a little bready.

the taste is pretty unique. it’s got a slightly sweet malty background that most of the other NA wheats i’ve tried don’t have, with a little funky bitterness on the backend as it goes down. it has almost a sort of wortiness but not really; and it’s not off-putting. (mikkeller developed their own yeast named “mikkellensis” in order to make their NA beers, one that basically does not produce alcohol in the fermentation process and is responsible for their signature flavor not attributed to hops or malts.) mouthfeel is pretty great, a little light but creamy smooth. definitely feels like a beer in my mouth.

i like it but i think honestly i’d have to drink a few more to know if it’s the kind of beer i’d want to have on hand all the time. i do think it’s interesting and if it was offered at a bar or restaurant i’d be inclined to order it. seems like it would pair well with food. it’s a little more mellow than some of the brighter citrusy wheats that i’ve had (like rightside), but i think mikkeller did a good job naming this one cuz i could see it being a great lazy summer beer.

apparently over the years different varieties of this beer have been brewed, with different low ABVs. the current incarnation says .3% – more specific than most NA beers in the US which usually just generically say “less than .5%.”

i also love the can artwork and the overall branding of their beer. here’s a great article about their art director, philly-based designer keith shore. the 80s retro color palette and goofy illustration on drink’in the sun would make me pick it up off a shelf even if i didn’t know anything about it. a lot of their other beers have similarly great artwork.

i look forward to trying more of their beers and i will definitely need to have a few more of this one.

brew dog – faux fox sharp raspberry

i have not historically been a super huge fan of sours or goses but in the spirit of trying to widen my palate and be adventurous, i’ve been trying a few here and there and actually liking some of them. i’d never had anything from the british-born brewery-of-the-people brew dog before, and usually you can tell from drinking one NA flavor from a brewery if it’s worth trying their other flavors – you can get a general sense of style. i’d seen a few good reviews of this one so i thought i’d give it a try. i figured, i like raspberries.

brew dog, while born in britain, is now an international beer conglomerate with breweries in both england and the US, with plans to expand in other countries. in addition, they have 29 brewdog bars serving their beers in the UK and 17 more around the world, with their flagship US outpost in columbus, ohio called the doghouse – a craft brewery/hotel combo complete with a craft beer museum. they have crowdfunded all of their capital so far, are planning an IPO soon, and they claim the entire company is carbon negative. so they seem pretty interesting on paper. i had high hopes.

well sadly, i’m disappointed. as you can see by the head on this, it’s pretty carbonated, with big fat bubbles and lots of them. it feels much more like a soda in your mouth than a beer. this to me tastes more like a beer-flavored seltzer. and while that is a thing now and lots of folks like that concept, it’s not what i was expecting and not what i personally enjoy.

it’s tart for sure – they weren’t kidding about it being a sharp raspberry. but it’s so thin and bubbly i can’t even really enjoy it. it’s got 29 calories and 4g of carbs, putting it in the “diet beer” category with brands like grüvi, partake and surreal. if you are a fan of bubbly waters and fruity sodas, you might like this. but i don’t. as pretty as it is in the glass – and it smells pretty great too – i’m not even gonna finish this one. sorry brew dog.

i have one of their coffee beers in the fridge from my recent sample order, so i guess i will give them another try another day. but this one is definitely not for me. maybe their leaded beers are better?