Every month, a huge amount of booze moves through the Gear Patrol offices — beer, wine and a whole lot of whiskey. This month: a Japanese whisky for bourbon lovers, the beers of summer we're drinking in the winter and more.
While I got a sneak peek of Hazy-O! at the end of last year, Dogfish Head released it nationwide this year. My early sentiments still ring true: this is a refreshingly new take on the New England-style IPA that has born haze bois all over the country. While I've been steering clear of most NEIPAs recently, this one was a delight yet again. The use of oat milk instead of lactose not only makes the beer vegan (make all beer vegan again), it also creates a fuller body. It doesn't hurt that the fruit flavors (thanks to impeccable hop selection) are spot on for a vibrant, frothy finish. Lastly, don't the 7.1 percent ABV scare you off — this is a beer that drinks more like a 5 percent ABV hazy that can go toe-to-toe with just about any local brewery's offerings. — Ryan Brower, commerce editor
Campari is delicious, no doubt about it. But there comes a time when you've had enough of the sickly sweet, too-bright red aperitivo. Thankfully there's Faccia Brutto now. The Brooklyn-distilled aperitivo smells and tastes real, like it's made with real citrus, herbs and other natural ingredients. I've been enjoying this as the new star of my negronis, and its Fernet Pianta is a delicious digestif that brings me out of my food comas.
Ditch the bourbon for a moment, and grab a bottle of Mars Iwai 45 (pronounced "e-y"). It's a Japanese whisky, but it sure does taste like a bourbon, which makes sense since the juice is aged in ex-bourbon barrels. Iwai 45 (45% ABV) is a slightly boozer version of the Iwai Blue Label (40% ABV), and the additional alcohol by volume gives the Iwai 45 a bit more bite, structure and flavor. It tastes of vanilla and baking spices, with either an apple or pear flavor. — Tyler Chin, associate staff writer
It's been a long, cold winter. But the newest offering from Oskar Blues has been filling me with daydreams of warm, backyard hangouts. Oskar's Lager is a bright, clean pale lager that rings in at just 4.2 percent ABV and 95 calories. It's a German-style lager that uses Pilsner malt, toasted rice and Czech Saaz hops for a crispy go-to for the warm days ahead. — Ryan Brower, commerce editor
2020 has changed how we drink (and buy) beer. We leaned on 46 experts to pass along their favorite beers of this year.
I've been drinking local since relocating from Brooklyn back to my home state of Vermont. The place is teeming with double IPAs — and you don't have to drive farther than the closest general store to get them — but the most pleasing discovery I've made is this amaro-reminiscent liqueur. It's like Campari's eccentric uncle, unconventional and a little surprising but wholly agreeable. I like to mix an ounce of it with an ounce of tequila and top it with an aforementioned IPA for a refreshing cocktail that works in any season. — Tanner Bowden, senior staff writer
I don't really drink beer that much anymore. In fact, I don't really drink that much anymore at all, but really enjoyed the citrusy and herbal vibe of this beer. — J.D. DiGiovanni, platforms editor
Makgeolli is going to be the boozy drink of 2021, and Makku is bringing the centuries-old Korean drink into the 21st century. Unlike traditional makgeolli, Makku packages its rice-based drink in single-serve cans as opposed to large bottles. An ingenious packaging detail reminds people to lightly shake the can because the drink is unfiltered, which is why makgeolli is poised to combat hazy IPA and natural wine fatigue. Makku tastes tangy and sweet, with a creamy texture. After you try the original, go for the mango-flavored Makku — it's like a drunk mango lassi. —Tyler Chin, associate staff writer
I will never not love something from Brooklyn Brewery (blame it on NYC bias), and I will never turn down a hazy IPA. The new year-round IPA is juicy, fruity and tropical, like summer came early despite the winter frost. Pulp Art is the perfect antithesis to Brooklyn Brewery's East IPA, which leans toward bitter. At an easy-to-drink 6.5% ABV, Pulp Art feels like a sessionable IPA, and I can confirm it goes down very easy. — Tyler Chin, associate staff writer
Winter is typically a time to imbibe in darker beers. And there's few beers I look forward to having again in the colder months than Sap Haus from Oxbow. Sap Haus is a marriage of two wonderful things: a smoked dark lager and Maine maple syrup. At first, this 7 percent ABV beer hits like a smoked dark lager but right as you're expecting that bite to hit the maple syrup brings a smooth, sweet finish not unlike a nutty porter. This is an incredibly well-balanced beer — Oxbow also does a barrel-aged version that steps things up a notch. — Ryan Brower, commerce editor
A mountain of booze passes through the Gear Patrol office every month. Here's the best we tried in August.