Every month, a huge amount of booze moves through the Gear Patrol offices — beer, wine and a whole lot of whiskey. This month: an aperitif that reminds us of spicy margs, a Big Little Thing and more.
Everything Barrell Craft Spirits touches turns to gold. The company are the most thoughtful blenders in craft whiskey, and Stellum, a new brand under the Barrell umbrella, is further proof of that. This is a cask strength 115 proof mélange of whiskeys from Indiana, Tennessee and Kentucky, and the whiskeys used run 4 to 16 years old. Where Barrell's batches typically run from $90 to $100, Stellum is a more agreeable $55.
Because this is a blend, you can expect something a different drinking experience than a more classic small batch or single barrel release, but this particular blend is a standard setter, in that trying to pin down one dominant flavor is like trying to hold sand. There are classic bourbon notes like vanilla, oak and burnt marshmallow that crop up, and there are less common bourbon notes like berries, mint and cayenne pepper that make an appearance. The drinking experience is unique and, while the $50 to $70 range is full of exceptional whiskey, Stellum bourbon effectively hangs with the heavyweights. — Will Price, Assistant Editor
If you're looking for one beer style to branch out your hauls, it should be a Czech lager. They're wonderfully balanced beers, and Threes has just completed a trifecta of them. The latest offering is this 4.4 percent ABV Czech dark lager that drinks very much like a chocolate lager. It's got a bite to it that perfectly compliments the sweetness though. The sweetness would be a little too much on its own, but then the noble hop character really juxtaposes it. A borderline silky smooth carbonation makes this one a real treat. — Ryan Brower, Commerce Editor
With the success of Hazy Little Thing, Sierra Nevada brewed this souped-up variant that clocks in at a whopping 9 percent ABV (although it doesn't drink like a 9 percent beer). Simply put, this Imperial IPA is big and juicy. If you don't like the bitterness of Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale and want something a little more traditional IPA and less Hazy, this is an offering for you. It's tropical and summery in all the right notes. — Ryan Brower, Commerce Editor
This is not an aperitif that is out to get you. Because the jalapeño is more of a note than a kick, it makes for easy drinking on ice, in some sparkling water, or for a very straightforward Paloma. — JD DiGiovanni, Platforms Editor
[Editor's Note: Full-sized bottles of Grapefruit Jalapeño are sold out, but 200-milliliter bottles are available as part of Haus' Sampler Kit]
OK, most of these new seltzers that come out create a lot of buzz (in more ways than one — looking at you, Cacti). This can be exciting every once in a while, but I don't drink these to take me out for a whole day. In contrast, Zaddy's gin-based cocktails are a refreshing, low ABV take on the canned craze that is capturing the zeitgeist. At just 4.5% ABV, they are crisp and easy-drinking but taste one hell of a lot better than a Coors Light. Plus, the packing is super fun and, thanks to a perforated strip, can be removed from the can for easy recycling. — Will Porter, Commerce Writer
Proteau is a non-alcoholic drink maker that isn't hellbent on imitating alcohol profiles. It tastes like a nice balance of fruitiness, bitterness and an oddly satisfying touch of vinegar. Better yet, it doesn't taste like anything is missing. — Will Price, Assistant Editor
Just the second rye whiskey in Jefferson's history (the first was released over a decade ago), Rye Cognac Finish combines the spice of rye and the candied-fruitiness of coganc. I drank this on a particularly balmy March night, and felt like an older distinguished gentleman sipping whiskey by a fireplace. All I was missing were some velvet slippers, except this whiskey kept me toasty enough. — Tyler Chin, Associate Staff Writer
If I were in college and bought a $25 bottle of tequila, I would've been guaranteed a fun night and a morning hellscape. Yet this $25 bottle of tequila from the new brand Tequila Zarpado makes me wish I could replace all those crappy tequilas with this. Its inaugural release is a blanco (with plans to release añejo or reposado expressions later this year). Master Blender Dan Becherano, of Cavas de Don Max distillery, uses his family's four decades worth of history making tequila to make an exceptional spirit under the new brand. He cooks blue agave, then ferments it in steel vats before double distilling it in Alembic sills. This is one of the rare tequilas that's equally good in a margarita as it is on its own. And that $25 price tag is still a crazy deal. — Tyler Chin, Associate Staff Writer
Nothing screams tropical like guava! Oskar Blues' Guava Rodeo is a ridiculously good sour ale made with guava and tangerine. Once you taste it, you'll realize why the brewery calls it a rodeo. It's a flavor bomb of tropical fruit notes, with a Sour Patch Kid-type bite that exemplifies the candy's "sour, sweet, gone" tagline. — Tyler Chin, Associate Staff Writer
Elysian's Contact family of beers is growing, with its latest release being Full Contact, a double IPA. It has a bit of fruitiness associated with hazy IPAs, but there's also a very distinct bitterness that's reminiscent of a West Coast IPA. At an 8.8 percent ABV, Full Contact may be boozy as hell, but it doesn't feel like it going down. Whether that's good or bad is up to the morning after. — Tyler Chin, Associate Staff Writer