Category Archives: Brew Review


Flying Fish’s Abbey Dubbel was the final beer dissected in my surprise Christmas care package.

The best, in this case, was not saved for last.

The label on this one recommended sampling with meats, cheeses and desserts. Having nothing that fit the bill beyond some slices of Velveeta American, I tried it without food.

This Belgian-style ale promises a “complex” blend of caramel, raisin, plum and almond. Not sure how this combo plays out in food, let alone beer, but that wasn’t the problem.

Really, this stuff was just plain unremarkable.

It’s malty and, at 7.2-percent ABV, potent. But there wasn’t much to separate Abbey Dubbel from countless other “craft” beers. There’s got to be more to brewing than being simply darker and stronger than the corporate competition.



Say what you will about the brewers at Kannah Creek — but don’t ever say they go easy on the citrus.

Land’s End Amber Ale is the second beer I’ve tried from this Colorado-based company and, like Standing Wave Pale Ale, it was big on the mandarin notes. It’s also similar to Standing Wave Pale Ale in that it’s an award winner: This ale took gold in 2010’s World Beer Cup for best “German-Style Brown Ale” and silver in 2012’s Great American Beer Festival’s best “German-style Altbier” category.

According to Wikipedia, beers made in the Altbier style of fermentation were big, very big, in the German towns of Düsseldorf, Krefeld and Mönchengladbach. But you probably already knew that.

If there’s a knock on Land’s End Amber Ale, it’s that it does taste a lot like the pale ale. The guys at Kannah Creek have cornered a fairly distinctive taste for their beers, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

They have the medals to prove it.


Hopfish IPA

The Hopfish IPA was my first beer from the Flying Fish Brewing Co., based out of Somerdale, New Jersey.

This was part of the multi-brand care package from my cousins in Philadelphia. Though not my favorite of the lot, this would be a good fit for anyone who’s big on India pale ales.

The most distinctive characteristic of this stuff was the malt finish. It wasn’t sugary sweet, but there was a faintly chocolatey quality to it. And while the bottle advertised “floral and citrus hop notes,” I didn’t pick up on much of that.

To me, this was basically a middle-grade IPA. It’s neither tasteless or overwhelming. The ABV is a pretty reasonable 6.2 percent.

If you’re into hoppy — but not overly heavy — you’ll probably want to land this fish.


Standing Wave Pale Ale

My cousins in Philadelphia recently made my week and shipped a 12-pack of cold brews right to my door.

The shipment was a late, but great, Christmas gift, and a memorable one. Didn’t even know UPS delivered beer. 

Among the samples in the variety pack were two offerings from Kannah Creek, a little brewery tucked back in Grand Junction, Colorado. Turns out both of them were former winners of, as Ralphie’s old man would say, a “major award.”

Standing Wave Pale Ale took gold in the 2008 World Beer Cup gold and bronze in the 2010 Great American Beer Festival. It ran in the category of “Extra Special Bitter or Strong Bitter Beer,” which was weird to me. 

Sure, it’s hoppy, but not obnoxiously (the orange peel taste mellows that out). Plus, at 5.5 ABV, it’s not all that strong. 

And no, you won’t be making a “bitter beer face” like in the old Keystone Light commercials.

Standing Wave was one tasty brew. Now I’ve just got to find something even better for my cousins to try.



The longstanding joke is that Iron City comes straight out of Pittsburgh’s three famous rivers.

Obviously the joke goes beyond unsubstantiated and into the inaccurate. Still, the perception is that this stuff just isn’t up to snuff with the major heavy-hitter brews, both foreign and domestic. It seems to be especially offensive if you happen to be from a city such as Cleveland or Philadelphia, where you have extra incentive to trash this stuff.

Red Hot Iron doesn’t taste like Iron City beer. To many, that may sound like a compliment. But really, Red Hot Iron doesn’t taste like beer. Period.

This really is a paradoxical drink. The cinnamon flavoring is strong, but the hops and overall body are weak. You’d be stunned to learn this has a 7.2-percent ABV. 

Remember Atomic Fireballs? You know, the old spicy-sweet candy? That’s what this beer tastes like.

If that sounds good to you, then have at it, boss.



A guy at one of Somerset’s beer distributors told me it was one of the least expensive cases in the store. He said he’d turned a lot of people onto it and “everybody” seemed to like it.

By check-out I believed him on the price. By the first drink I was starting to believe him on the good reviews.

Honey Brown Lager is billed as a middle-ground beer — neither watery or hop-heavy. The lager taste is fairly rich and the honey side is minimal. I wouldn’t call it a “sweet” beer (not especially with so many cider-like beers out there these days), but there is enough of a twist to this one to set it apart from your average bargain beer.

In many cases, saving an extra buck will come at the expense of good taste. But Honey Brown is actually halfway alright.