Bobo’s Robust Porter

This is one limited release from Big Sky I wish wasn’t limited. Bobo’s is an excellent porter that gives you a touch of everything the style can offer. Black in color with a dark brown, chocolate-looking head, it has a smoothness you’d expect after looking at it.  The mouthfeel is creamy, soothing and packed full of multiple flavors that, while subtle, are still satisfying.  Throughout the sip you notice bits of caramel, coffee, chocolate and some of the patented porter smoky flavor.  Each is subtle enough to blend together wonderfully, none out-shining the others, so that the overall flavor is rather subtle itself.  Any more flavor and it would be too much for the lightness of the beer.  Instead, the subdued-yet-noticeable flavors fit right in with the refreshing mouthfeel.  To top it all off is a creamy finish that’s not as creamy as a stout and delivers one last bit of chocolate to bid farewell.  It might sound like there’s a lot going on, but there’s really not.  Bobo gives a touch of everything without giving too much, tasting very simple in the process.  If you’re looking for a dark beer with good flavor that isn’t overpowering, or a porter that gives you what porters should, Bobo fits both bills.  This is a top-notch porter and another great Big Sky creation.

Overall                 9/10
Color                    10
Thickness            5
Hops/Malt          3
ABV                       6.2%

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Summer Honey

The summer seasonal from Big Sky is a welcome change from the majority of summer ales you’ll find.  Instead of being too wheaty or fruity, or both, Summer Honey is a balanced, refreshing ale.  Many summer ales are much too wheaty and subsequently weigh you down, which is the opposite of what a summer ale should do.  If they’re too fruity, the sugar can become too much and isn’t refreshing, also the opposite of what a summer ale is meant to do.  Summer Honey, though, has many subtleties, and they work very well together.

There’s a bit of carbonation throughout each sip, starting stronger on the front end and waning toward the end.  In this case the carbonation works in the beer’s favor because there’s not too much and gives the beer a light and perky feel.  A slight sweetness from the honey hits you right away.  As the sip nears the back end, the light sweetness becomes more pronounced and even yields a fruity, berry-like flavor. The sweetness isn’t too much, though, and not every sip delivers the same amount of fruity sweetness.  It’s a nice variation and prevents you from getting bored. After a while, though, the sweetness on the back end can become a little heavy, and actually begins to fill you up.  But aside from this, the beer has a nice lightness: enough to refresh with a body that isn’t watery, yet still easy to drink. As a whole, this is a good summer beer.  All the elements work well together and produce a tasty result, but after a while I was looking to move on.  While it’s not the best summer beer I’ve had, it’s much better than most of the stuff out there, and definitely worth a try.

Overall                 7/10
Color                    4
Thickness            5
Hops/Malt          5
ABV                       4.7%

Two Big Sky Limited Releases

I must admit I feel a little bad about this post.  Both of the selections are limited releases from Big Sky, so I’m not sure how easily you’ll come across them.  One of them was the last six-pack on the shelf, and I doubt it will be restocked, and the other was on the floor in a shipping box at the end of the aisle.  Hopefully you’ll be able to find them at some time; I’m guessing each is made once a year.  These were rare finds and I had to grab them.  I was actually surprised to see them.  Usually the only Big Sky beers in Chicago are the common ones: Moose Drool, Trout Slayer and Big Sky IPA (all of which I’ll review eventually), and whatever the seasonal beer is at the time, which is only available in the Montana Mixer 12-pack sampler.  But it also gives me hope I’ll be able to find the other four limited releases they make.

Cowboy Coffee Porter

I was a little apprehensive about this one when I first bought it.  I had some coffee, mocha and caramel porters and stouts before, and I didn’t like them, but at that time I was still drinking junk in college.  I knew I would have to give them another chance, and because it was such a rare find, I had to get it when I saw it.  The result: I was shocked at how much I liked it.  I thought I would make my way through each glass, not really loving it but taking it in stride, but I loved this beer.  It’s black color might be menacing at first, but it has the thickness and consistency of a lager or pilsner.  It’s rather light and doesn’t weigh you down like I thought it might.  It is uplifting and smooth, with slight creaminess, but not too thick to overpower you.  Some beers in this vein can leave a lingering distaste after each sip, but with this there is no buildup of a syrupy, sugary, too sweet flavor that would fill your threshold before the first glass is empty.  If I had to compare it to another beer for reference, Guinness would be close.  It’s color is the same, and just like Guinness it is lighter than you expect on first glance.  It’s light in composition and creamy, but not too much, and both have a slight cocoa bouquet, but Cowboy Coffee Porter also smells like a finely brewed cup of coffee.

But after all that, it’s just really good to drink.  Because it’s not too thick it is refreshing and resembles an iced coffee.  The coffee flavor isn’t too much or overpowering, but just right.  You know you’re drinking a beer, but once the sip fully subsides, you’re left with the taste of coffee.  Because it’s not too thick or syrupy, you’re left wanting more.  As you can tell, I really like this beer.  If you’re looking for a more savory taste, you’d like this.  I’m not a big coffee drinker, but this hit the spot.  You wouldn’t want to drink five of them, but one or two might be just what you’re looking for.

Overall                 8/10                    Notable Bouquet       Coffee, chocolate
Color                    10
Thickness            5
Hops/Malt          7
ABV                       6.2%

Heavy Horse Scotch Ale                                                 

I haven’t had many Scotch ales, in fact if I had any before this one I don’t remember them, so I was a clean slate when I tried this one. And I might not be getting too many more of them because I was not a fan.

It wasn’t bad on the front end, but by the time you swallowed, it became strange.  Although it isn’t that thick, it tastes and drinks a lot thicker than it actually is and presents a very malty flavor on the front end.  It has a rich mouthfeel and leaves a bitter aftertaste.  I’ve heard that some Scotch ales can taste like Scotch liquor, and while this one didn’t offer a profound alcohol taste, it was still strong.  Sometimes it reminded me of a very rich amber ale.  This ale was a dark red, almost mahogany color, but tasted like it could’ve been darker.  In the end, I wouldn’t buy this one again and wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.  But if you like thick ales or want something that will be more filling, this is worth a try.

Overall                 4/10
Color                    8
Thickness            6
Hops/Malt          7
ABV                       6.7%

Winter in Big Sky Country

Even though it’s now spring, I had one more winter beer sitting around in my fridge, so I thought it was time to finish it off.  Plus, with warmer weather approaching, would I really want to have a winter ale?  Well, if it’s good enough, yes, but since I’m trying to stay timely, I thought it best to move on.

Powder Hound Winter Ale

This is the winter seasonal from Big Sky Brewing Co. in Missoula, Mont.  Big Sky is one of my favorite breweries.  Every beer I’ve had from them so far is excellent, and we’ll get to them all in time here.  The hardest part about this post isn’t the composition, but knowing I won’t be able to taste it again until next fall.  Powder Hound is everything a winter ale should be: thicker, filling and an ale that delivers a warming sensation.  It’s made with three different hops, but wheat breaks through the bitterness, which I think makes this beer.  The bitterness is tasty and warming, but I think there is just a touch too much of hops.  Even so, wheat shines through, though subtly.  It is savory and satisfying, and it’s cloudy appearance prepares you for the slight sweetness you expect from a wheat beer, especially one with hops.  But it’s not too sweet, which would be overpowering with it’s thick makeup; it’s just enough.

All in all, it is a good winter ale.  When you sip it, it warms you (partly due to it’s 7.2% ABV), fills you and satisfies you.  It is the perfect beer to enjoy two or three of before calling it a night.  You wouldn’t want to drink many of them, but you’re not supposed to.  It’s meant for the end of a long winter’s day.  It is to be enjoyed with a hearty dinner or by a fire after a day of skiing, snowshoeing, shoveling or strenuous travel to and from work.  And after two or three to get you cozy, it’s time for bed.

Overall                 8/10
Color                    6
Thickness            7
Hops/Malt          3
ABV                       7.2%

"Good people drink good beer." - Hunter S. Thompson