Beer Review: Mango Magnifico [Founders Brewing Company]

Mango Magnifico

Mango Magnifico
Brewery: Founders Brewing Company (Grand Rapids, Michigan)
Style: Fruit Ale
ABV: 10.0%

I would like to think I have tried most of what the beer world has to offer, but every now and then I find something new that catches my eye. Last night, I discovered the latest entry in Founders’s Backstage Series, something so off-the-wall that I had to pick up a 22 oz. bomber.

This bizarre beer, Mango Magnifico, is a “mango ale brewed with a hint of habanero.” Although I’m usually not a fan of fruit beers, that combination sounded too intriguing to pass up. The Founders label and 10% ABV were just the icing on the cake.

Unfortunately, this is one brew that might have been better off staying on the drawing board.

When poured into a glass, Mango Magnifico has very little head but has a nice, clear look to it. The smell brings out a bit of the mango sweetness, and the fruitiness is right at the forefront during tasting. However, this is quickly eviscerated by the spiciness of the Michigan-grown habaneros. The “hint” of habanero, as described by the label, is actually quite overwhelming. The heat from the pepper lingers afterward, delivering a very strong aftertaste. Fans of spicy beer may appreciate this, but I was hoping for more flavor rather than just a strong burn.

Mango Magnifico has a suggested retail price of $12.99, but my local shop is selling it at $14.99. Bombers are being distributed through many different states, so it may be available in your area. This could very well be the first Founders beer I didn’t love — Dirty Bastard is still my go-to scotch ale, for example — so this was a bit of a disappointing purchase for me. Still, it might be worth a shot if you have an affinity for spice.

6/10

 
* Also, it should be noted that my beer-snob girlfriend (as she likes to be dubbed) LOVED this. She’s shocked that I didn’t give it a glowing review.

Movie Review: 30 Minutes or Less [2011]

30 Minutes or Less [2011]

30 Minutes or Less [2011]
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Genre: Action/Adventure/Comedy
Language: English
Country: USA

Everything about 30 Minutes or Less is just twisted. How much you enjoy the film rests largely on your morals.

The movie is based on a bizarre and horrifying true story about a pizza delivery man who was allegedly forced to rob a bank by a couple of thugs who strapped a bomb on him. In reality, the pizza guy died after the bomb detonated while he was surrounded by police. His death makes this disturbing story a tragic one, and it blows my mind how someone decided to turn this into a dark comedy.

That’s where 30 Minutes or Less comes in. The movie isn’t entirely accurate in regards to the real-life event, but it is strikingly similar.

Jesse Eisenberg, fresh off his stirring lead performance in The Social Network, amusingly takes on the role of Nick, the pizza delivery driver. Nick is a 20-something with seemingly no direction in life. He pisses off his best (and only?) friend, Chet (Aziz Ansari), after telling him that he slept with his twin sister. Things aren’t going well for him already, before the kidnapping even begins.

30 Minutes or Less [2011]

On the other side of the spectrum are Dwayne (Danny McBride) and Travis (Nick Swardson), a couple of redneck thugs who clean Dwayne’s father’s pool for $10/hr. One day Dwayne gets the idea to hire a hitman to kill his father, thereby granting him his inheritance. The problem is that the hitman costs $100,000, and the duo have nowhere near this much cash. This is where they come up with the fucked up idea to kidnap a complete stranger (in this case, a pizza delivery guy) and force him to rob a bank by strapping a bomb to his chest.

After Nick is held hostage, armed with the bomb and told of the plan, he turns to Chet to help him with this insane dilemma. Chet agrees to look past their differences in order to help his friend in need, and the movie quickly becomes a buddy action-comedy.

At a brisk 83 minutes, 30 Minutes or Less is a wild ride. The action is brash and in-your-face, and the comedy is dark and oftentimes hilarious. Eisenberg and Ansari are a surprisingly great duo, as they feed off each other nicely, with Ansari in particular delivering some great zingers. McBride and Swardson also play a formidable tandem, with the former channeling his inner-Kenny Powers to full effect. Michael Pena also has a surprisingly great role as the hitman, often stealing the scenes he is in.

30 Minutes or Less [2011]

I was initially intrigued by this movie partly because of its location. 30 Minutes or Less was filmed in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which is my old stomping grounds. I actually used to be a pizza delivery driver a little north of there, too, so I totally understand the feeling of dealing with shit customers (advice: don’t order delivery if you can’t afford a tip!). It was pretty cool to see the area again, even if the movie didn’t paint the city in the friendliest light. For that, check out the YouTube-famous Grand Rapids Lip Dub.

The bottom line here is this: if the idea of a real life tragedy being turned into a comedy upsets you, then obviously this movie isn’t for you. I found the movie to be a blast (no pun intended, I swear), even though I felt it started to fall apart near the end. Funny, profane and ridiculously fast-paced, 30 Minutes or Less is a joy ride well worth seeing.

7.5/10

Beer Review: The Magician [Short’s Brewing Company]

The Magician [Short's Brewing Company]

The Magician
Brewery: Short’s Brewing Company (Bellaire, Michigan)
Style: Irish Red Ale
ABV: 6.0%

Last weekend I went to a craft beer festival in Western Michigan. The event was a rousing success (900+ people showed up) and I had a great time. The usual suspects were there — Bell’s, Founders and New Holland, to name a few — but I opted to go for smaller names that I can’t easily find in Chicago. Short’s Brewing Company, located way up north in Bellaire, Michigan, stood out to me. I knew them from their collaborations with local favorite Half Acre, and those releases were always a lot of fun (and always Ween inspired).

I tried a couple of their beers at the festival, both of which I enjoyed, and decided to bring some back with me. At a surprisingly great craft beer store in Ludington, I picked up a six pack of a brew not found at the event — The Magician.

The bottle labels this as a Dark Red London Style Ale with the caption “The eloquent, swift and skillful master who makes things happen.” When poured into a glass, the beer is a reddish brown color, and its aroma, while tame, brings hints of caramel and toffee. These traits remain present while tasting, though nothing in particular stands out. There is a slight amount of bitterness afterward.

The Magician goes down smooth and is easily drinkable, but I can’t help but feel that it’s missing a certain something. While the flavors bounce around, it doesn’t really have anything that rises above the rest. Still a quality beer, no doubt, but it could use a little boost.

7/10

Beer Review: Centennial IPA [Founders Brewing Company]

Centennial IPA [Founders Brewing Company]

Centennial IPA
Brewery: Founders Brewing Company (Grand Rapids, Michigan)
Style: American IPA
ABV: 7.2%

As a lifelong citizen of the Midwest (so far), I am a very big fan of the craft beer scene here. When I lived in Michigan, I had two “go-to” breweries: Bell’s and Founders. The latter, Founders, is located right in the middle of my old stomping grounds, Grand Rapids. Their Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale is one of my all-time favorite beers, and pretty much anything they release is of high quality. Tonight I opted for their Centennial IPA, which I am giving a fresh take on thanks to my new-found love of IPAs.

The first thing I noticed about this beer was its 7.2% ABV label on the bottle. This added kick is quite noticeable upon the initial tasting. In contrast to many American IPAs, Centennial is more complex. My first two tastings were surprisingly underwhelming — something was different about this, but I couldn’t place my finger on it. On the third taste, everything clicked. The citrus notes came rushing through, with grapefruit leading the charge. The floral hops made an appearance and lingered on the tongue. There was slight bitterness, but it was kept to a minimum.

I’m not sure what put me off of the initial tasting, but this beer certainly got better over time. While the hops are always present, it seems that the malt prevents them from exploding the way one might expect. Still, this is an eminently drinkable beer, a nice smooth offering that packs a little extra punch. This is a strong effort from Founders, and a great summer beer.

8/10

Beer Review: Oberon Ale [Bell’s Brewery]

Oberon Ale [Bell's Brewery]

Oberon Ale
Brewery: Bell’s Brewery [Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA]
Style: American Pale Wheat Ale
ABV: 8.5%

Back in my college heyday, I would drink anything and everything. I was young and wanted to experience it all, for better or for worse. Since I was also majorly broke for those four years, I drank a lot of shit beer. Busch Light, Milwaukees Best, PBR, Miller High Life, Coors Light. If it was cheap, it was usually in our apartment. Every once in a while my roommate and I would pick up something different, usually a less popular — but still cheap — six pack. There was one beer in particular that I fell in love with back then that helped launch my interest into craft brews, and eventually led me to vow to never drink shit beer again. That beer was Oberon, and for that very reason I will always hold a soft spot in my heart for this summer brew.

When I lived in Michigan, the annual release of Oberon meant that spring was finally here and that summer was just around the bend. Oberon was always a safe bet for everyone at the time; beer connoisseurs and non-drinkers alike could usually agree on Oberon when common ground was needed. This isn’t much of a surprise because this is easily one of Bell’s most accessible brews.

As an American wheat ale, Oberon is both light and refreshing. It is perfect for hot summer days, especially when you are trapped inside a non-air conditioned apartment in 97 degree weather. Ahem. Upon revisiting this beer, I noticed milder citrus notes this time, not quite as prominent as I remembered. Orange is most noticeable, although it is still fairly subtle. There are also hints of spicy hops that give this more character. This is an incredibly smooth beer, and it packs a decent amount of punch with its somewhat surprising 5.8% ABV.

Oberon will always remain a sentimental favorite of mine, but I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed it again this summer. This is easily one of my favorite summer beers, and I will have to keep some close at hand for future Midwestern heatwaves.

10/10

Beer Review: Golden Cap Saison Ale [New Holland Brewing Company]

Golden Cap Saison Ale [New Holland Brewing Company]

Golden Cap
Brewery: New Holland Brewing Company (Holland, Michigan)
Style: Saison / Farmhouse Ale
ABV: 6.25%

Being a former Michigan native, I am very familiar with many of the breweries in the Lower Peninsula. New Holland Brewery, located just outside of Grand Rapids in Holland, is one such locale that I have greatly enjoyed over the years. Yet I didn’t notice until tonight that they had a saison ale available in six pack form. Golden Cap, as it is appropriately titled, is a solid summertime beer that represents another good brew from New Holland.

Golden Cap has a light, hazy color to it and this appearance does a good job of concealing its surprisingly potent 6.25% ABV. The beer is a bit sweeter than most saisons that I have tasted, which can be either a plus or a minus depending on your tastes. The first thing I noticed was a strong presence of peppercorn, even moreso than the Goose Island Pepe Nero I tried recently. The peppercorn dances around on the tongue while hints of citrus sneak in at the same time. This is definitely a saison, but with its own unique twist.

Golden Cap is an easily drinkable beer, although I am slightly offput by its sweetness. I wouldn’t say it is one of the best saisons I have ever had, but it is definitely a good brew, especially for the summer. Another quality effort from the guys at New Holland.

7/10

Beer Review: Oarsman Ale [Bell’s Brewery]

Bell's Oarsman Ale

Oarsman Ale
Brewery: Bell’s (Kalamazoo, Michigan)
Style: American Pale Wheat Ale
ABV: 4.0%

Bell’s has been one of my favorite breweries for a while now, and I have fond memories of them for helping to introduce me to the wonderful world of craft beer. Because of this, I did not hesitate to pick up a six pack of Oarsman Ale, a beer I have never seen before. I wish I had taken a look at the label before doing so, however, because I was not aware that this is a sour ale. I am not opposed to sour brews, but they are not something I typically seek out.

The Oarsman Ale is labeled as “Bouyant, tart and refreshing from using traditional sour mash methods.” Tart is definitely an apt description, as there are hints of lemon that hang around on the tongue after tasting. The aforementioned sourness is present but thankfully not too overwhelming. This is a light wheat beer with little body, and unfortunately it lacks the punch that could take it to the next level.

It almost seems that the Oarsman Ale is stuck in limbo between being an American pale wheat ale and a full-on Belgian sour, and this really holds it back overall. As a self-proclaimed “session beer”, this is a decent offering, but it is not something I will pursue again in the future.

6/10