Beer Review: Madtree Sprye & Lift

Just over a year ago MadTree flew out of the gates with cans of PsycHOPathy, Gnarly Brown, and Happy Amber all over the greater Cincinnati area. If you haven’t been following your local beer blogs or been into a better beer store lately then you may have missed that Madtree launched 2 new cans last week! No small feat for a brewery barely over a year old.

Sprye is the first of their seasonal releases and will only be around till May. Sprye is a rye pale ale which means it’s like most other pale ales you’re familiar with but has rye malt in place of some of the other standard malts. Rye is a specialty malt that adds a spicy zest to the beers.

Light and hoppy, at 5%, Sprye is a sessionable pale ale, that will put a spring in your step. Earthy and spicy notes evoke scents of spring, while the hops.

MadTree Sprye
ABV: 5%
IBU: 40
Malts: Rye, Flaked Barley, Munich 10L, Melanoidin
Hops: Centennial, Chinook, Simcoe

Started with a dose of fluffy white head that hung around a while before skimming down. Golden nectar colored with awesome clarity and plenty of free-flowing bubbles of carbonation keeping the head around,

Smells like spring. Fresh citrusy hops, some resin, and a touch of spice from that rye malt.

Taste is light as the spring breeze I’m waiting for after winter thaws. That rye spice comes back from the aroma and leads the way down your throat. It’s the most notable flavor but not overpowering. Some of those hops come back mostly in a resiny way. All capped off with a light touch of malt flavors.

Very light body that packs a super crisp zing on your tongue.

Not really the beer for a 30 degree day in February that’ll see snow fall before the sun rises but it’s already available from Convington to Dayton and will likely remain that way till the tulips bloom. If you’ve read the blog before you know I’m not the biggest fan of rye, however, if you are you should try this. Despite my general dislike of rye Sprye handles it well with a light touch that leaves me wanting this again once the temperature tops fifty.


If you haven’t been down to MadTree’s tap room lately, which you should frequent often, then you may have never heard of Lift. However, you may have heard of Kölsch, which was also briefly known as Timber, which is now known as Lift. MadTree knew they couldn’t go the standard route with a light American lager so instead they went a slightly odder style. Lift is a Kölsch style ale that is extremely light but still features hops, just not nearly as much as most hop-forward beers like we’re used to. Unlike Sprye Lift is being added to the lineup year round and will kick ass on a hot summer day in July or August that will leave us missing the polar vortex… well, maybe not “missing.”

Whether taking a break from a hard day of work or just a huge day of hops, this crisp, refreshing beer with a hint of orange will lift your spirits without lowering your expectations for what a craft beer should be.

MadTree Lift

ABV: 4.7%
IBU: 11
Malts: 2-row, Red Wheat, Vienna, Flaked Barley
Hops: Pacifica

Frothy white head that hangs around for the long haul topping off a liquid that is 2 shades darker than the butter yellow of the can artwork above.

Very light smell with a hint of light citrus zest and orange peel.

The flavor is very light as well with more citrus action and some wheat mixed in.

Body is easily the high spot on this beer. The wheat gives it an awesome creamy mouth feel that remains super light on the tongue. The lightness of the body is met with a crisp tingle of carbonation on the tongue.

I’m no Kolsch expert but this is similar to the others I’ve had and seems to be a good example of the style. This is a very light beer which is great in some ways and not in others. Despite my fondest wishes I can’t drink Galaxy High and Axis Mundi all day (not that I haven’t… I just shouldn’t). Days like that are when Lift will come in as a nice break from the high ABV, IBU, hopped beers. Like the Sprye it’ll be much more enjoyable when it’s warmer out but it’s still good now.

A Tale of Two Ciders

Hard ciders have been growing in popularity along with craft beer during this recent boom, though at a much smaller percentage. Years ago your selection was limited to old English brands then Woodchuck came on the scene and started to dominate. Now there are a plethora of companies making cider and 2 “local” ones that I’ll be trying tonight. My wife has been a cider lover for a long time now and I’ve been meaning to steal one of hers to review and that day has finally come.

The main difference between beer and cider is the source of the alcohol. Beer uses the sugar from malted barley while hard ciders rely on the sugar in apple juice. Don’t think this means hard ciders are light, or low alcohol, in fact the Oliver Original cider I’ll be trying tonight is 8%!

I have come to believe that there is a general perception that hard ciders are for women or something like that. Please note, I am not saying this is my perception nor am I trying to start any kind of sexist war, just stating something I’ve observed. Honestly, I think it’s nonsense and according to some facts from Angry Orchard it is equally consumed by men and women. Anything can be for anyone it’s just all about what their personal preference is. My hope is that this post will bring info about hard cider to our readers and encourage them to give it a go. That said, on to the reviews!

Brewery: Oliver Winery
Beer Cider: Beanblossom Hard Cider Original
Style: Cider
ABV: 8%
Calories: ~250

Fantastically clear and very pale yellow/gold color that honestly looks a lot like Bud Light. No head what so ever, though I’m not super sure if cider’s should have a head on them. It does look a lot like apple juice though.

Very fruity aroma with lots of sugary action and a noticeable amount of alcohol.

Pleasantly sweet taste that screams apple. I was concerned that this was going to be sickening sweet, like Georgia sweet tea, but am glad to find that’s not the case though It is certainly sweeter than most beers.

Very light body with an extremely crisp and refreshing mouth feel. This is probably my favorite part of this drink.

I digg this and can see myself drinking more of them after mowing the lawn on hot summer days, a spot usually reserved for a Rivertown Helles. Though the 8% this thing packs could make for an interesting afternoon, I’m about half way through and definitely feeling it.A few words on packaging before moving on to Angry Orchard. This is a very interesting can, bottle, canottle, cabottle? bottan? It’s a tall aluminum can, I dig the convergence of cans and bottles in this format and would like to see some beers packaged this way as well.

Brewery: Angry Orchard (Boston Beer Company)
Cider: Crisp Apple
Style: Cider
ABV: 5%
Calories: 280

Much richer golden yellow hue then the Oliver had. Also packs noticeably more “head” then Oliver did, it’s not really a normal head as much as just a ring of bubbles around the top rim.

Very strong apple smell with loads of sweet apples, but not much else.

Overly sweet apple flavor that is over done in my opinion. Like the aroma there is nothing else happening here except for the apples.

Nicely crisp, smooth, and light body feel.

Between these two the Oliver is the clear winner in my opinion. It’s got a much better overall experience and more alcohol, on the upside for this beer is that it’s cheaper, session-worthy, and massively available wherever any beer is sold.

I mentioned earlier how both of these ciders were “local”. I’m using “local” because Bloomington, Indiana isn’t in the greater Cincinnati area but is only 2 1/2 hours off. Angry Orchard claims to be from Cincinnati, Ohio. This threw me for a great loop when my wife first spotted it in Asheville, North Carolina of all places. I knew that no place making cider in Cincinnati could have popped up completely under my nose without me knowing at all. After doing a little digging online I quickly discovered that Angry Orchard is a Sam Adam’s product. So yes, it is “local” as it is brewed at Sam Adam’s facility in Over-The-Rhine.

Beer Review: Sam Adam’s Summer Ale

Attention all brewers please take note: April is not summer, it is spring. March (when I first spotted this beer as well as Bell’s Oberon) is also not summer, May is kinda summer, June is officially summer. Summer ales belong in summer… However it was over 70 degrees yesterday, and I spent all day doing yard work followed by beer & grilling out… So it’s close enough to summer.

There was a time a few years back when Sam Adam’s Summer Ale was pretty much the only beer I’d drink whenever it was available. I enjoyed a few craft beers but had no “true” idea of what was out there. Like I said that was  a few years back, last year I only had one of these and it was at a bar where the other options were less than “optimal”.

The following is the Sam Adam’s blurb about this brew:

Samuel Adams® Summer Ale is an American wheat ale. This summer seasonal uses malted wheat, lemon zest and Grains of Paradise, a rare pepper from Africa first used as a brewing spice in the 13th century, to create a crisp taste, spicy flavor and medium body. The ale fermentation imparts a background tropical fruit note reminiscent of mangos and peaches. All of these flavors come together to create a thirst quenching, clean finishing beer perfect for those warm summer days.

To me that sounds like a bunch of PR hype. “Grains of Paradise” and “a rare pepper from Africa” seriously??

Brewery: Sam Adams
Beer: Summer Ale
Style: Wheat Ale
ABV: 5.3%
Calories: ~160

A very attractive wheat beer with a nice cloudy orange/yellow color and pure white head.

Smells of lemon and a bit of grass… really not the most appetizing aroma.

Decent, though very light, flavor of mostly lemon mixed with the sweet wheat and some orange-citrus hops. Nothing to get excited about but also nothing to complain about. And there is an intangible taste that just “feels” like “summer”… though this may be part of my memory of this beer more than anything else.

Very light bodied mouth feel with plenty of carbonation.

As I said initially before I truly knew of the world of craft beer I loved this beer and it was “summer” to me. Now I know a good deal better, that doesn’t make it a bad beer it just puts this into perspective a bit. I still enjoy this in warm weather but there are superior summer wheat beers out there like Bell’s Oberon. Though I have come to prefer a nice sessionable IPA or a high quality Helles lager (by Rivertown) over one of these wheat beers… But that’s just me.

Beer Review: Sierra Nevada Stout vs. Narwhal Imperial Stout

Getting back on track with The Winter of my dark-content I built my own 6-pack of stouts & porters at Belmont Party Supply in Dayton. I had Left Hand’s Nitro Milk Stout last night and the mouth feel was insanely awesome, but otherwise not to amazing. It left me a little disappointed with stouts in general. Tonight however that all changes as I compare Sierra Nevada’s Stout to their Narwhal Imperial Stout.

Continue reading “Beer Review: Sierra Nevada Stout vs. Narwhal Imperial Stout”

Beer Review: 2 very different stouts

Brewery: Samuel Smith’s
Beer: Oatmeal Stout
Style: Oatmeal Stout
Alcohol by volume: 5%

Gave it a pour straight down the middle and was rewarded with a completely opaque fully black beer. Due to the more aggressive pour I got a LOT of head, had to wait for it to settle before I could pour the whole bottle.

Very sweet chocolaty malty aroma with no hop presence at all. I also pick up some oatmeal aroma, or at least an aroma that reminds me of breakfast.

Super chocolate flavor with some grainy oat action as well. Slight bitterness from the hops but this is an extremely malty beer. Good flavor but not amazing.

The body and mouth feel is where this beer shines the brightest. Soooooo smooth and creamy it reminds me of drinking chocolate milk.

Overall I’m not impressed and this doesn’t live up to the hype I’ve heard about it, like the 99 rating on ratebeer.com. I got this at the Village Wine Cellar over in  Lebanon but you should be able to come across this beer just about anywhere better beer is sold.

Brewery: Oskar Blues
Beer: TenFidy
Style: Imperial Stout
Alcohol by volume: 10.5%

Very different pour from before. The color is blacker than I could’ve imagined and there was only the faintest layer of dark tan head before fading away.

Strong aroma of malt and grain with plenty of alcohol standing out.

Taste is similar to the smell, lots of alcohol though. That combines with malt bitterness to dominate the flavor.

My taste buds may have been skewed slightly by the Oatmeal Stout but I’m not super impressed by this beer either. Sure it’s a great beer and I digg how strong it is but I don’t feel like there is too much more there than that and malts. Sticking with G’Knight as my favorite Oskar Blues brew.

Beer Review: Mt. Carmel Blonde & Nut Brown Ales

Tonight I’m knocking back the last two styles contained in Mt. Carmel’s Porch Pack. Last week I had the India Pale Ale and Amber Ale to start off my review of the Porch pack. So far I’ve been impressed at how spot on to style Mt. Carmel is but not amazed or wowed in anyway. The IPA & Amber were both good beers, lets see if the Blonde & Nut Brown follow suit.

Continue reading “Beer Review: Mt. Carmel Blonde & Nut Brown Ales”

Beer Review: Rivertown Hop Bomber

After drinking stouts all week it’s nice to get back to more familiar territory. I’ve had Rivertown’s Hop Bomber on numerous occasions but have never given it a review on this site or an overwhelming amount of thought. It’s been easy to drink this without too much thought because it’s a good session beer. It’s not too outstanding in anyway but not to mild to be noticeable disappointing. While I do take issue with the name I do love this beer. Time to get drinking!

Continue reading “Beer Review: Rivertown Hop Bomber”