Category: beer review

Hoppin’ Frog Barrel Aged Turbo Shandy Citrus Ale

Well, life as a blogger is hard.  As I do not blog as my living, living seems to want to slow my blogging down.  However, intrepid readers, I am far from stopping my search for great beer and places to enjoy it!

After an enjoying walk around one of my local park’s lakes, here in Raleigh, I had the pleasure of swinging by, with my drinking pal Alan, Raleigh’s Hop Yard, located in the Durant area of North Raleigh.  See, here is one of my weaknesses.  Tired, hot, and definitely thirsty, I enjoyed a beer from the tap (Great Divide’s Yeti Imperial Stout) and then searched for a couple of bombers to bring home for my wife and I to enjoy.  Wow.  Today, I cracked the wine priced bottle of Hoppin’ Frog’s Barrel Aged Turbo Shandy Citrus Ale.

Hoppin Frog Turbo Shandy

A photo posted by First in Flights (@1inflights) on

Not only is the name a mouthful, but this sweet citrus ale is smooth and complex.  Minuscule bubbles bring a light effervescence with minimal head over a slightly cloudy hay colored ale.  Yes, my wife and I drank it out of wine glasses (white wine glasses, to be exact) and it was the right choice.  A lemon zest and honey nose, this smooth and velvety ale stayed nice and chilled, as we used the stemware, leaving an almost homemade lemon drop flavor across our palate.  At an ABV of 7%, it’s not too strong, nor is it too light.

What a way to help the missus unwind after our Sunday routine.


Rating 5/5

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Compass Rose Logo

Compass Rose

Here I am, waiting on a friend to join me at one of our new favorite meeting spots.

Compass Rose Logo
Alan & Chris


Compass Rose Brewery is building a decent clientele by offering beers from thier brewery as well as many guest taps. Hidden back in an industrial area off Gresham Lake Rd in Raleigh, NC, the tap room is spacious, open and inviting, with a clear view to thier brewery floor. Tables with various games scattered about invite folks to stay, socialize and let stress disappear.

Sixteen taps that the staff keep pouring are topped with custom pulls reminiscent of globes seen in old adventure films.


Flight of the Beers, CR style

Of their beers, it is obvious that some of them have been polished while others are still in development, but all pleasant to drink. Currently, they don’t bottle, but will fill your growlers right up.

The night I typed this up, I sat happily nursing a flight of six, half Compass Rose, half guest beers. The Saison was light with citrus notes and the floral nose expected of the style. I followed this up with their Sweet Stout. What a treat this was, with a chocolate mocha nose, dark chocolate taste that finishes with a hint of mocha or espresso. I finished with the Compass’ beers with the Molasses Amber. This was a smooth amber, sweet but not cloying, that had a wonderful malt forward take. This went down as easily, leaving a feeling of having almost a toffee or butterscotch after taste.

At the bar, beautiful pulls

Overall, I rate their beers a 3.5 out of 5 on average, the tap room a 4.5 out of 5.

Make the time to adventure here before exploring the world outside.

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Small Town Brewery – Not Your Father’s Root Beer

Wow, Happy Labor Day!  I’ve been trying so many beers lately, I’ve gotten behind on writing about all the one’s I’ve found.  To get back into the swing of things, we’ll talk about one that so many people have recommended to me.  Not Your Father’s Root Beer by Small Town Brewery.

Not You Father’s Root Beer

A photo posted by First in Flights (@1inflights) on

Let us start with the basic overview.  First, the body looks just like a traditional root beer, from the dark caramel color, to the bubble structure and brief head.  When the glass comes up to my face, I can smell the distinct aroma and blend of spices that most root beers share.  Up to this point, I am so excited.  I have visions of home-made Bailey’s or Kalua ice-cream for the grown-up version of a Root Beer float.  One that I’ll have to have when I am not driving so I can over-indulge.  Then I take that first sip.

Many of my friends know my habit of sharing anything I’m excited about.  Frequently past the point of good taste.  This beer is very much like my enthusiasm at times.  Quite a bit of talk, somewhat past the point of good taste.

The first sip seems to live up the hype, causing my inner child to raise his head, look to the heavens and shout out in joy.  Then the artificial flavor of added alcohol and flavors (read the label!) hits the back of my throat almost as bad as an aspartame back note of a badly sweetened diet cola.

Whether or not this impression is due to me not being a regular soda/cola drinker anymore, I’m not sure.  However, I am definitely soothing my inner child with a marathon of some sort: probably animated and from Japan, requiring a game controller, or eating up my bandwidth so I can see ALL the episodes in full 1080p.

At least I think I may be able to recover it with enough ice cream.


Rating: 2.5/5 only due to the potential for those who don’t mind cola after-tastes.

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Aviator Brewery – Wide Open Red

Next on our Aviator run, we are looking at Wide Open Red.

Aviator Brewery Wide Open Red

A photo posted by First in Flights (@1inflights) on

A dark, amber red body and tight, small bubbled head, characterizes this beer on our pour. When bringing the beer up for our first taste, we had a mild hop bitter nose, with an underlying caramel malt undertone.

The hop was noticeable, but not biting, when drinking, leaving a sweet mid-note and a clean finish.

Comments made were, “Very drinkable” and “Great go-to for a regular beer.”

Rating 3.5 / 5

Recipe ideas:  Would love to use this to make a beer bread or beer batter for fish and chips.

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Aviator Brewery – Frostnipper

It’s the time of season when Fall beers are finishing their runs and this article will start our first brewery run with Aviator Brewery.

Aviator has produced a wonderful fall beer, aptly named Frostnipper.  With an ABV of 7.2 and a grim specter on the can, you should be wary, but not afraid.

Aviator brewery Frostnipper

A photo posted by First in Flights (@1inflights) on

On first pour, you can see a nice dark brown body that, held up to the light, has a slight red tint.  The light tan head was brief, but with a tight bubble.

With a lightly sweet spiced coffee and chocolate nose, this beer was an absolute joy to drink.  Sweet and mildly spiced chocolate, this beer finishes cleanly, leaving a slight coffee or dark chocolate bitterness on the back note.  This goes down very smooth, with a creaminess that makes it very easy to drink.

Rate:  4/5

Recipe idea:  Use this in stews of beef, venison or lamb; gravies; or even in cupcake recipes.  Very delicious!

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Haw River – St. Benedict’s Breakfast Dubbel

The second beer my wife and I chose for this past week was Haw River Ales’ St. Benedict’s Breakfast Dubbel.

Haw River Ales St Benedict’s Breakfast

A photo posted by First in Flights (@1inflights) on

What can I say about this beer? That was a good question, as I was left speechless on the initial tasting, in a great way!

The body of this beer was a nice coffee color with a tiny bubbled tan head. Aromatically, there was a slight sweet fruitiness with an underlying spice, backed with a coffee note. When tasting, there was a light and sweet toffee on the front with a wonderfully smooth coffee note midway to finish. Unlike many dark beers that coat the tongue and lingers, this was velvet smooth, light and clean.

From my wife, who was a self-professed non-dark beer drinker, “Oh, wow! This is completely drinkable!”

Rating: 5 / 5 (originally 4.5/5, but as we went through the growler, it has become one of our favorite so far!)

Recipe ideas: Lava cake! Using this in a recipe that calls for Guiness will produce a lighter flavor with a bit of a spice note. I have got to find time to try this.


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Westbrook Brewing – White Thai

This past week has been quite busy, putting together a new website (still in progress at time of typing this review), dealing with four seasons of weather over a week in North Carolina and just the day-to-day living. My wife came with me this time to choose the two beers to review. First on our list was Westbrook Brewing‘s White Thai.

Sunday tasting with home made shwarma chicken and hummus. Quite delicious.

A photo posted by First in Flights (@1inflights) on

Wow.  What a beer!  On our pour, the body was a cloudy yellow with a pale head that lingers for a bit due to its Belgian Witbier roots.  The aroma as the glass came up was sweet lemon and ginger, very light but quite intriguing.  On tasting, a clean and bright citrus flavor hits your tongue, with mild herbal notes and a noticeable ginger bite on the back end.  The flavors stayed on the tongue but was not over powering with the lemongrass and ginger.  Westbrook did a wonderful job at adding an asian  twist to a belgian witbier, and it paired well with foods of similar roots.

Rate:  4.5/5

Recipe ideas:  Possibly use this as part of the base in a lemon tart or to marinate tuna, prior to covering in sesame seeds and searing.  Mmmm, seared tuna.


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Weyerbacher – Imperial Pumpkin Ale

I know, it’s a bit late in the pumpkin beer season, but it has been cold and snowing here in North Carolina. The state has shut down (to 2-8 inches of snow) and a beer that can warm you is just want is wanted, which Weyerbacher has done wonderfully.

Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale

A photo posted by First in Flights (@1inflights) on

A rich caramel color body and a brief head when poured from a bottle, this beer lives up to it’s name.  A sweet, pumpkin and spice nose lends itself to the taste of a well made pumpkin pie in a glass.  Soft and smooth across the tongue, it finishes clean and leave a warm feeling in your chest.

This is what I would imagine my grandmother’s pumpkin pie would be if it was a drink instead of, well, a pie.

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Against the Grain Brewery – Fist Full of Kroners

Such a great name for a brewery and steakhouse out of Kentucky! Against the Grain has produced a wonderful beer by the name of Fist Full of Kroners.

First Full of Kroners from Against the Grain Brewery

A photo posted by First in Flights (@1inflights) on

The color of this beer is a nice amber with a brief, pale yellow head.  I was pleasantly surprised when bringing up the glass, I got a nose full of citrus and pine that carried into the first taste.  With a slight lemon at the beginning, sweet across the middle of my tongue, this beer finished with a mild herbal hops bitterness on the back end.  Drinking this crisp brew was quite refreshing.

Rating: 3.5/5

Note: My wife wanted to add lemonade to make this a shandy.  Might be worth the try.

Recipe ideas: Drink this with a white sauce pasta or with seafood.  I may try to stew some chicken in it as well.

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Leinenkugel’s – Big Butt Doppelbock

As a drinker of craft brew, I cannot just stay within one state’s listing, no matter how prolific the craft brew industry is.  On that note, a good go-to that my friends and family pick up locally is beer from Leinenkugel, out of Wisconsin.

The most recent seasonal we’ve picked up is Big Butt Doppelbock.  Once the quotes of Sir Mixalot were over, this was a mediocre beer that was still enjoyable.


The color is a nice dark brown with a nose that is mild, but sweet.  Leaning heavy on the Bavarian-style advertised, it is malty with a sweet caramel taste, due to the five varieties of malted barley it uses in the brewing process.  It’s smooth to drink, with a soft mouthfeel and seemed to pair well with spicy food as well as beef as well as a 5.8% ABV.

Rating: 2.5/5, it’s drinkable, but not one any of my group of friends would search for specifically.

Recipe ideas:  Using this in a beef or venison stew to counter a heavy roux, this would be a good standby.

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