Every month, we're tasting a huge amount of beer, whiskey and other beverages. In some cases, we're taste-testing the industry's best new products, and in others, we're coming across hidden gems in the wild. Our favorites from the last four weeks are gathered here, in the best things we drank this month.
Wild Air Starless Waters
One of Central New Jersey’s up-and-coming breweries, Last Wave, recently purchased Asbury Park’s Dark City Brewing Co. and is utilizing it as a brewery to experiment more with styles and wild fermentation that they don’t often do in their Point Pleasant Beach mainstay where hazies and kettle sours tend to be their bread and butter. Don’t be fooled, though — just because their hazies and kettle sours are good does not mean Last Wave can’t brew other styles. Case in point, this delectable 4.5-percent ABV French Saison. It’s a bit snappy/peppery, has some great head retention and provides a perfect amount of spice — all elements that, in my mind, make for an ideal Saison. — Ryan Brower, Senior Commerce Editor
Los Magos Sotol WhistlePig Edition
Ever tried sotol? I hadn’t either, until just the other day. A cousin of tequila and mezcal, sotol is a spirit made exclusively within the Chihuahua Desert of Mexico that relies heavily on its surroundings, or “terroir,” for its flavor. On first sniff, you get an earthy, floral scent that also translates to the taste. Los Magos is trying to spread the gospel of sotol, linking up with Vermont whiskey brand WhistlePig to develop a sotol aged for 12 months in WhistlePig rye barrels. The result is an earthy liquor with an ever-so-slight sweet spice from the rye barrels. This is a different flavor than you’ve ever tried, and that’s a good thing. — Will Porter, Associate Editor
GT's Classic Kombucha Chardonnay
I’m putting the call out to all the kombucha-obsessed, mocktail-loving folks out there looking for a new beverage: Just buy this. (Hello? Hello? Just me in here? Oh well — more for me, I guess.) If you do appreciate a bubbly, probiotic bevvie to sip on that tastes like your favorite chardonnay, only ‘buch-ified, then GT’s has you covered. I bought this on a whim one night and was pleasantly surprised at the delightful taste, aroma and bubbly sensation it delivered. It’s not too sweet, not too dry, and small enough that you won’t get sick of it by the end of the bottle. In fact … it may leave you wanting more.
P.S. If you are completely abstaining from alcohol, be aware this does have a 0.5% ABV and you need to be 21 to buy it. — Hayley Helms, Associate Editor
10 Barrel Brewing tinyHAUS Marionberry Cheesecake Sour
I recently made a trip to Bend, Oregon with an old buddy, and while we were there more for the epically cascading slopes of Mt. Bachelor than anything else, we of course had to check out the aprés scene. And holy crap does that town punch above its weight when it comes to breweries. From Immersion to Crux to granddaddy Deschutes, Bend probably produces more excellent craft suds per capita than just about anywhere outside of Belgium. One spot that sticks with me is 10 Barrel. The brewery’s OG (west) location not only serves up a killer Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sando and wide-ranging flights but also offerings from tinyHAUS, basically an in-house development lab that creates experimental beer only available at the two Bend brewpubs.
That’s a helluva prelude for this surprising shoutout to Marionberry Cheesecake Sour. I don’t love sours, I think cheesecake is fiiine and I don’t even really know what a marionberry is. But wow, this 6.1-percent ABV beer tastes just like it sounds, in a good way. Smooth, not too sweet (or sour), a bit fruity, a bit … cakey ... and generally thirst-quenchingly delicious. It’s a good thing the can is 16 ounces, because like a slice of cheesecake itself, one pint is plenty rich enough to top off your evening. — Steve Mazzucchi, Senior Editor
Nowadays Low Dose
While I'm not new to the cannabis spirits game, I was surprised by this one for its sweet-yet-smooth flavor that lends itself well to blending with a lot of different mixers, especially things like lightly-flavored sparkling waters (which are obviously all the rage right now). Or you can drink it straight, on the rocks and even as a shot, and it is just as delicious. In a standard 1.5-ounce pour of this booze-free cannabis spirit, you'll get 6mg of THC — the perfect amount for a mellow, calming high — and none of the downsides one might associate with alcohol, like headaches and hangovers. Of course, if you want a bigger kick, just add more of this spirit. But if that seems like too much THC already, Nowadays also makes a Micro Dose version with just 2mg per shot. — Sean Tirman, Commerce Writer
Big Island Coffee Roasters Dark + Deep Collection
I've had Kona and Hawaiian coffee before, or at least I thought I had, but whatever it was I'd picked up from the grocery store should not be classified anywhere near these magic beans from Big Island Coffee Roasters. I received the brand's Dark + Deep Collection, which consists of a trio of dark roasts from three different growing regions in Hawaii: Ka'u, Maui and the famed Kona. Like all of the brand's beans, these are roasted to order, so the freshness is pretty unbeatable (though they did have a long journey before reaching me in Connecticut). All roasts were fantastic, but the "Kona Moon" was my favorite, if only slightly. Each tasted like the richest, most robust cup of coffee imaginable, without a single sour, bitter or acidic note to be found. I prepared them in a Chemex, and they were by far the best cups of coffee I've ever made myself — if not the best coffee I've ever had, period. The only downside is they're radically expensive. The Deep + Dark Collection consists of three 4-oz bags — so 12oz of coffee, which is the standard size for most single bags you'll find at the grocery store — and is priced at $50. That's too expensive to be drinking every morning, for me at least, but for a special-occasion coffee, this stuff can't be beat. — Johnny Brayson, Associate Editor
Deschutes Symphonic Chronic
Another month, another boozy IPA in a 19.2-ounce stovepipe. This one comes from Deschutes and is in line with the trend of boozy, overhauled West Coast IPAs being placed in the strict stovepipe format. Maybe that’s breweries testing these out and not having to invest a ton into lots of different packaging formats, or maybe that’s because the West Coast IPA is in fact not dead and has gotten reinvigorated by the learnings from the hazy New England-style IPA. Whatever the case, at 9 percent ABV and leaning on some of the most classic hops (Citra, Chinook, Mosaic, Simcoe and more), this limited Deschutes offering hit the spot for a nice one-beer spring evening. — Ryan Brower, Senior Commerce Editor