You don't think that just because Mrs. Big Dubya was pregnant I gave up drinking, do you? Bite your collective tongues. Someone has to take up the slack when one member goes down. I do it for Johnny, man! I do it for Johnny!
So, yes, I have been drinking; expanding my horizons; and developing (and treating) my palate. First up is the Saranac Imperial IPA. I've been on a hoppy kick for a while now, so when I buy some beer, there will usually be one or two IPAs or something similar in the mix. I've always liked Saranac's offerings - the Pale Ale is good as is the Adirondack Lager - so when I saw the Imperial IPA I thought it would be a nice diversion. I tried an Imperial Stout which pleasantly surprised me so the Saranac seemed a logical choice - Imperial + IPA = must be good. And you know what? It is. Saranac boasts that this beer uses 10 different hops and 10 different malts to brew this complex beer. I was not overwhelmed by the aroma of hops upon my first sip - something that surprised me given the amount of hops in this brew. It sports an IBU of 85 (up there on the bitter scale) but you wouldn't know it by the nose. It pours a nice amber color and has a nice medium mouth feel. It comes in at a healthy 8.5% ABV which doesn't make it a "pound these all night" sort of beer. It is a seasonal so unless you can find it on your retailer's shelf, you might be out of luck.
Stone Coast Knuckleball Bock. I must admit not having been a bock aficionado - it's never been one I've been drawn to or one I have sought out when I do my beer shopping. I've seen the Knuckleball a few times and decided I would give it a go. Last summer, I gave Stone Coast's 420 IPA a whirl and found it to be very tasty so I was hoping the same would be true for the Bock. After being on a hoppy kick for a while, this was quite different. The bock is a malty beer and that comes across in the first whiff. It pours a nice dark amber/brown with an off-white head. The first sip caught me a bit off guard but pleasantly so - it was malty followed by some hoppy bitterness which added a nice balance. All in all, a nice beer and at 5% ABV, not an ass-kicker so you shouldn't feel compelled to stop after 9 or 10.
One more. I love me some hefeweizen (Hefeweißbier). As far as beer goes, hefe and Guinness are the creme de la creme; tutti di tutti beer - for me anyway. But it has to be German for it to be really good. I've drunk Harpoon UFO, Widmer Bros., etc. but none of them have ever matched the goodness I found in Ulmer Munster, Gold Ochsen or many others. Hefeweizen is an unfiltered wheat beer and, in contrast to what I've been digging lately, is low on the hops - usually only about 15-20 IBUs. One of my favorites that I can get around here is Julius Echter which pours a pale gold color with a nice white head that remians throughout. I've noticed distinct clove aromas as well as a hint of banana and vanilla. It has a very high carbonation level which is a signature characteristic of the hefeweizen. If you're not afraid of unfiltered wheat beers, you should really try and find the Julius Echter. If you can't find this one, find a Tucher or Paulaner - you can't go wrong.