Half Acre / Struise / Pipeworks Small Animal Big Machine | Half Acre Beer Company

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Half Acre / Struise / Pipeworks Small Animal Big MachineHalf Acre / Struise / Pipeworks Small Animal Big Machine

Brewed by:
Half Acre Beer Company
Illinois, United States

Style: Fruit / Vegetable Beer

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 9.00%

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes / Commercial Description:
This beer was brewed in collaboration with De Struise & Pipeworks. Belgian yeast set the scene for a traditional sour mash and loads of currants & cherries.

Added by emerge077 on 06-08-2011

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

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Ratings: 96 |  Reviews: 52
Photo of FosterJM
3.85/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

631st Review on BA
Bottle to small snifter

Thanks to Teamizm for this one.

App- A light reddish/brown with a nice one finger head that dissapates quickly and leaves just a touch of cling in the glass.

Smell- When you stick your nose in this beer your likely to smell medicine. Some people like that some people don't. This was more of a grape/cherry robitusin smell for me.

Taste- Much better on the tastes than on the nose with a cherry note taking over and the beer smoothing out to where you get a balanced fruit/malt/ and small hop note. This was def. fruit forward but still tasty.

Mouth- Medium bodied and almost a high carb but retaining a medium like note to it.

Drink- I was anxious to try this one and had my doubts, but it was quite tasty and flavorful. I will say its not for everyone and it needs to be probably drinken slowly to allow more flavors to develop.

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Photo of Kayn169
2.95/5  rDev -17.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

22 oz bomber poured into a tulip

A- Pours a burnt reddish brown. A 2 finger head head that pours not quite tan, but more than off white

S- Smells sweet with some cherries, possibly a touch of cocoa

T- The cherries in the nose are there, but not as pronounce as I thought they would be. I taste more of the currents than anything. Also a good amount of brownsugar sweetness, almost no tartness, and a very light spice hidden amonst the other flavors.

M- medium bodied, with a sticky linger.

O- I was honestly a little disappointed with this beer. When I read the description, about using sour mash, and calling it a red Belgian, it made me very interested. The sticky mouthfeel, lack of noticable sourness, and indicisiveness in style lead to the score. It was like a cross between a Belgian quad, a sweet amber, and just a touch of a Flanders red. It is worth trying, but I wont be seeking it out again.

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Photo of msubulldog25
3.91/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A 22 oz. bottle (courtesy of mrkanable ~ thanks, Matt), poured to a slender nonic-ish glass, aptly enough from the recent Portland Fruit Beer Festival (SABM having been brewed with currants and cherries).

A ridiculous label: Half Acre produces both the lovely (Daisy Cutter) and the absurd (Big Hugs), but this one may be my new favorite. A tricycle-riding three-headed bird, flapping its wings to manipulate a much larger skeletal bird, clad in cogs and propellers? Brilliant, I think...

Of further note, this was brewed in collaboration with local Pipeworks Brewing and Belgian superstar-brewery De Struisse...

A: First, the bottle arrived via trade with perhaps 3 oz. leaked out (liquid inside down to the flair of the neck) due to an indeterminable capping issue, so I had some concerns about holding any longer than necessary. A hearty 'pfft' on uncapping indicated there was nothing to worry about. Pour is very dark, brown that ably matches the color of the bottle glass; at its core there's a ruby glow, with plenty of fast-moving carbonation. Flocculent, sandy-tinted foam crests above 2-fingers before a gentle reduction to a razor thin cap, ringed in holding cream. Slim rings of sea foam lace.

S: A mild 'dessert' aroma of chocolates and over-ripened fruits, then a peculiar/familiar spicy yeast that is hard to describe, but oh-so recognizable in De Struisse-made ales. Neither 'sweet' nor 'tart', falls somewhere in between with moments of cardamom and candy, others of tart cherry mash.

T: Tart cherries and a metallic twang with some balsamic tendencies; it's not pucker-inducing, but does twist and confound the tongue for a while. Lemon-lime moments give way to vinous grape-ness and oaky/woody undercurrents.

M: Carbonation = big/busy. No surprise here.

O: Tasty and rather rich/complex, though maybe not the mind-blower I'd expected. But so what? A tasty and sipable beer (8.5% remember?) overall, with some sly fruit additions that compliment nicely. Too bad I felt so inclined to open this right away as I'd have liked to have tasted its development... then again, another bottle is just an 'ISO:' away...

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Photo of Vdubb86
3.7/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Served in a tulip glass

Thanks to TMoney2591 for sharing this colabeeration

This beer pours a dark reddish-brown color decent off-white foam. The distinct smell of sour cherries on the nose are really to be expected when dealing with a Struise yeast. The first taste is really tart to me. For something so young to be as tart as it is, it's rather surprising I must say. For me the fruits involved and the tartness level don't really mesh all that well. It turns out after side by side comparison that it's just like Enigma...which I wasn't extremely fond of either. Overall this is an interesting hodge-podge of fruit and beer. It's drinkable, but overall it's not amazing and it's very forgettable.

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Photo of Jwale73
3.22/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Thanks to jedwards for sharing this. Pours a murky mahogany with a thin, cream-colored skim. Nose expresses grape, bubblegum, yeast and a sour mash quality. Taste is tart, grapey and vinegary. Cherries come out as the brew warms, but the overall taste reminds me of cough medicine. Tough to get a read on other aspects of the mouthfeel due to the extremely gassy carbonation levels. There's also a slight acidity. This was a tough brew to drink even split amongst six. This collaboration was definitely not a winner in my book.

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Photo of Florida9
3.97/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Mahogany color. A very reddish brown. Forms a thinnish dark tan head. Surprisingly clear.

S: Fruity aroma of cherries, currants, raspberries, and a sweet summer fruits.

T: More cherries. Reminiscent of NG's Beligian red without the candy sweetness. Sweet currants and a faint chocolate flavor on the finish. This beer is neither overly sweet nor tart (nor dry for that matter). It has a light sweetness complemented by tart cherries and a light maltiness. Finish is quick.

M: Medium in body with good carbonation.

O: A good beer. Sweet, but not too sweet with a flavorful fruitiness. Tasted this with BA hannydawg, whom noted a resemblance to NG's Enigma so we popped a bottle and did a side by side. I would say the two, while not identical, have a an amazing similarity. Never-the-less, I seemed to give this beer a bit more credit than most of the people in my tasting group and I did find it enjoyable.

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Photo of Vonerichs
3.83/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

The color is a lighter shade of burgandy with an off white agressive head.

The smell is good, but not very pronounced. There's a yeasty phenolic smell that develops into sweet and tart cherries.

The cherries highlight this beer, but don't dominate it. It's slightly tart, but gets pulled back the other way with a brown sugary sweetness. Overall, I like all the individual aspects of this one, but together they are a little odd.

I would have liked if this beer was a little more thin and prickly. It is medium bodied, but it seems to emphasize the sweet and not the tart.

I liked this beer and it was an interesting collaboration. I'd definitely have it again if it were available, but I know it won't be.

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Photo of TMoney2591
3.23/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Served in a Lancaster shaker pint glass.

Not sure how to even approach this one, so just jumping in. It pours a mostly clear amber-garnet (heavy on the latter) topped by a finger of lightly dirty tan foam. The nose comprises maple syrup, light black grapes, light red apple, toffee, light cocoa, and light lacto. The taste holds notes of brown sugar, black cherry, raspberry, cocoa, and tart red grapes. Unfortunately, none of these flavors, nor the combination, really pops: they just kinda meld into one another. The body is a straight medium, with a very light moderate carbonation and a kinda sticky finish. Overall, not too bad a beer, but one that just seems meek. No other word really works here. (For the sake of comparison, the closest I can come by is Enigma from New Glarus. Take that and water it down a bit, and you'll have something akin to SABM.)

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Photo of jrallen34
2.59/5  rDev -27.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Thanks to Chris for this growler... pours a dark cola, decent head... aroma is terrible its all currants, pepper and generic chemical caramel... the taste isn’t as strong as the nose or it wouldn’t be drinkable, some cherries show, but the finish is terrible... tough to drink

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Photo of MasterSki
3.16/5  rDev -11.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3


Thanks to Chris (spycow) and Alison for picking this up while I was out of town. Served in a Russian River tulip.

A - A late-rising tan foam settles to a thin ring, with some hazy swathes and minimal lacework. Transparent dark orange-red-brown body.

S - Red licorice, cherries, spicy phenolic yeast, some fruity spirit alcohol character (brandy? grappa?). Alcohol presences grows as it warms up, along with the sour mash characteristics.

T - Taste is actually a bit understated. The sour mash contributes a malt character that is similar to the one I tasted in Sour Plead the 5th. Doughy malts, some buttery toffee, and light tart cherries. Finish is tart currants, but somewhat unexpected and not totally integrated all that well. Alcohol is less present than the aroma.

M - Pleasant carbonation tingle, smooth pleasant texture, medium body, and a little bit of alcohol warmth in the finish. Some gritty tannic character from the fruit.

D - I really wanted to like this beer. I think all the different collaborators are great people, and all of them have made some great beers too. Unfortunately I thought this was a boozy, jumbled mess. Seemed higher in alcohol than the listed 8.5%, which is unexpected considering most of Urbain's beers have masterfully hidden alcohol. It's certain complex and unique, but in this case too many cooks may have spoiled the broth. Perhaps it is better in the bottles. I struggled through my one glass, and had no interested in refilling it.

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Photo of AgentZero
2.83/5  rDev -20.5%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Thanks to Chris aka spycow for sharing this with Alex and I at our BRUINS WIN! (and I don't care) get together.

A - Pours a brownish red color that ambers a little on the edges. Not much head on it and no stick on the sides.

S - Couldn't put my finger on it at first, but MasterSki is right, this smells like strawberry twizzlers. I'm not a big fan of twizzlers, particularly in my beer. Smells a bit harsh, with some cocoa and cherries and other weird fruit odors.

T - You can taste the currants, I think, it's some odd fruit. It's actually quite boozy, tastes like a hard mixed drink and has a spirit-alcohol taste. Some harsh phenolic yeast and a really bad finish. As it warmed up, it smelled worse, and started to taste a little better with the cocoa coming out, but the finish still killed it. Only reason I gave it a 3 instead of a 2 was that it's quite complex, although not real good.

M - Mouthfeel is actually fine, smooth, syrupy, somewhat active carbonation.

O - This beer is exceptionally hard to get down. I had one small glass and was done. I am horribly disappointed, and really had high hopes for this beer. It seems it's getting the Hellshire treatment from locals, or my tastebuds are just different from most other peoples'.

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Photo of Wadsey
2.58/5  rDev -27.5%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Small Animal Big Machine

Served in New Belgium tulip

A: Pours clear brown with amber highlights. Too dark to determine effervescence. Head and lacing is below average. 

S: Out of the fridge, main notes are dark fruits and vanilla. As the beer approaches room temperate, dark cherries become evident. There is another fruity quality, too, and I assume it is currants. Cocoa powder makes a surprise appearance.  Nothing  sour in nose. 

T: Okay, a little tartness joins above characteristics, but it is very, very mellow, earning a generous 2 on 10-point scale, with 10 as ass-puckeringly sour. The mild sourness is an issue because Struise himself called Small Animal Big Machine a red sour ale. The mild sourness functions to offset sweetness, of which there is a generous portion. Once again, the closer the beer comes to room temperature the more cherries and cocoa powder show up. 

M: Medium body and carbonation. A little heavy. Hints at syrupy, but never quite gets there. 

O: I'm giving Small Animal Big Machine the benefit of the doubt and rating it as a fruit beer. It certainly fits that better than a sour style.  In fact, it reminds me quite a bit of Bell's Cherry Stout, a comparison that will scare off some folks. 

Did they rush these bottles out the door? Or should it have been barrel-aged?  Whatever it is, Small Animals Big Machine doesn't come together for me and suffers from slightly below-average drinkability. 

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Photo of emerge077
4.18/5  rDev +17.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Served cool at 50º, it makes a huge difference.

Color looks to be a very dark rusty brown, nearly black, but when held to the light it glows a perfect crimson. Initial fingers width of light tan foam that recedes to a skim after a few minutes. The surface of the foam has a fine, creamy texture.

Belgian yeast aroma, reminiscent of a dark trappist with banana, clove, and brown sugar.

Low level natural cherry tartness, well integrated, fruit dominates with some earthy yeast and light toasty malt behind it. Something vaguely roasty or possibly woody in the middle. Low level phenolic spice, clove and cherry are melded well together, leaving a residual dry peppery spice. Full bodied, supple feel, with a tasty dark cherry flavor that thankfully isn't sweet.
I enjoyed it more and more as it came up to room temperature.

SABM is a unique hybrid style, drawing inspiration from Belgian ales like Kasteel Rouge and Cuvée Van De Keizer.
Cheers to Half Acre, Pipeworks, and De Struise on the successful collaboration.

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Photo of claaark13
3.97/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Shout out to Kayn169 on this one (growler). Edits have been made after a bottle serving.

A - I'm convinced that this category can be bogus. However, this beer poured fantastically from the growler. From a couple feet away, it appeared black. Upon closer review, the true colors of deep reddish brown came out. There was a thick, creamy head of about 1/2" that lowered to 1/4". Fantastic retention.

S - Although the smell was good, it was difficult to get. A little faint. Once I took a couple whiffs and then sipped and smelled again, the aroma got more prominent. It was good towards the end, but not very potent up front.

T - I got flavors similar to the beginning of an imperial brown or quad upfront. I think the slight sweetness made me think of the imperial brown, but overall I'd say quad. Cherries then began to smash the flavor. I had a tough time deciding what I thought about the fore-flavors because the cherries came on quickly. Red wine came to mind in the finish. Through the fist few sips, I was able to find the tartness of the cherries. However, it was not sour. I was finding more of the subtle tartness of a natural cherry than anything. As I drank, I began to appreciate that the cherries and natural tartness were there but not overpowering. Its a lot like if you were to take a drink of Rochefort, replace the bread flavor with cherries, and then ride the cherries out to the end. Although good, its lacking some complexity for the first few sips. So, so smooth though.

M - Good substance here. Moderate thickness with a creamy head. It was thick enough to make me happy and thin enough to make it drinkable. Great balance between the two for the "style".

O - Expectations aside, I was happy with the beer. I'd drink it regularly. Although the mellow cherry tartness is nice, I would enjoy something a little more sour here.

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Photo of laikom
4.13/5  rDev +16%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A – Poured a deep reddish brown with beautiful ruby glow. 1 inch head with minimal lacing which quickly fades.

S – Heavy malts and subtle cherry

T – A virtual rainbow of flavors. It started off malty, transitioned nicely to some subtly bitter hops. The hops were quickly overpowered by the tartness of the cherries and surprisingly a good flavor of the currants (I thought the cherries would stand out the most). The tartness was well balanced by the malts. I found the tartness to be well balanced with malty smoothness, not sweetness necessarily. I was led to believe this was going to be a sour beer, which is the only reason I did not rate it higher. I think it was (for some unknown reason) rushed and could have stood to age much longer with some extra bugs to sour up a bit.

M – Medium bodied, with decent carbonation.

O - Overall, very well balanced. A complex deep and flavorful brew, but refreshing enough to down a growler with another friend in one night and wonder if there’s more! I’ve always been a fan of Half Acre, and though it’s a collaboration this favorite Half Acre beer to date.

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Photo of vespahulb
4.65/5  rDev +30.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured a shiny, yet hazy ruddy-brown into a Belgian tulip glass. After reading other reviews, I was careful to serve this one at a nice cellar temperature of around 55 degrees.

Upon first whiff, I get a huge hit of light brown sugar, candy-sweet malts, fresh-cut cherry wood, fresh currant, Belgian yeastys and a final kick of spicy licorice. Damn. This smells so complex and gorgeous.

On the front of the palette, you get that initial sour, bitter and tannnic cherry flavor. Following that, fresh bready malts, sweet brown sugar and wood. As the beer warms up, it gets more intense, really gushing with dark berry flavors and sweet malts. However, the beer is nowhere near dessert-style sweet. As well, the blend of sour is impeccable, really showcasing the sour flavor, but ultimately balancing the heavy malts with a blast of acidity.

To see that it had just 8.5% blew my mind. I was expecting a much higher ABV. I mean, I could drink this all night...and now I see I can! Has all the characteristics of my favorite fruit beers (New Glarus Cherry, Three Philosophers), yet it was distinct and original. This is a tremendous offering from Half Acre/Pipeworks/DeStruise! Unlike anything Half Acre has done, a great introduction for Pipeworks and just another accolade for DeStruise. Well done, guys! It's just a shame that this is a one-time deal, cause I'd be thrilled to drink this every day. This beer made me feel fat and giggly.

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Photo of thetomG
3.83/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Good looking beer - reddish-brown/amber color with a layer of tan foamy head.

Aroma is tart cherries, raisin, vanilla, and some roasted malts.

Flavor follows the aroma pretty closely, but with the cherries becoming much more prominent. While not overtly sour, there is a nice tartness to the finish. The relatively high ABV is amazingly well hidden - you'd never guess this was 8.5%

Mouthfeel is excellent - somehow seems nice & smooth but also very pleasantly carbonated and lively. This is once of my favorite aspects of the beer.

Nice, interesting collaboration here - definitely worth checking out. Recommended

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Photo of kawilliams81
3.85/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served in a 16 oz snifter.

A- dark amber, almost brown, not a lot of lacing or foam.

S- roasted malts, oak, tart cherries

T- roasted malts and tart cherries hit you at first. The funk of the cherries come out with a slight bitterness a the finish.

M- medium bodied, fairly smooth and has semi-dry finish.

O- not sure what I expected, but thought the tart/sourness would be more prevalent. Liked this beer but could use some tweaking if they ever try this again.

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Photo of wschmit
4.42/5  rDev +24.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bomber into a perfect pint. Released today.

A: A fairly aggressive pour yielded just under an inch of barely tan head that blows itself out loudly and quickly, settling into a creamy ring. It tops a deep amber body with some haze and a fair amount of carbonation up through it.

S: A mild, malty nose, with prominent but not dominant cherry notes. It smells alarmingly like a Flemish red or bruin, despite not really being one. Tart, but balanced.

T: Delightful. A full, melanoidin malt body backs up the mild, dark stone fruit notes. The currant comes through more in the taste, for me, as a grape note towards the end. Some subdued sourness pervades the whole thing. The slightly musty yeast plays a nice supporting role as well. I was expecting something overly sweet and fruity, but this is subtly crafted and very thoughtful.

M: Nice and mouth-coating, with appropriate carbonation--very fine and not too much, so as to let the complexity overwhelm your tongue. If anything, it's a bit alcoholic and hot.

O: Drinking really nicely as is. I wonder how it will age, honestly, given the use of sour mashing vs. lacto/pedio fermentation. If I had to describe this beer, I'd call it a less candy-like version of Wisconsin Belgian Red from New Glarus--less red, less saccharine, and more beer-like and malty. The currants lend yet another dimension to that. Really well executed. I hope HA or Pipeworks manages to get this out again.

Update: Cracked a bottle on 6.11.13: Dried out a bit. Bottle cap popped on opening, be warned if you still have any sitting around--gusher. Billowing brown head, fizzled out, leaving a murkey, crimson-tinged brown body. Taste is mildly fruity, with some astringent bits, I'm guessing from old contact with fruit skins/seeds. The deStruise yeast comes out in fine Belgian style in the end, not unlike a Pannepot Grand Reserva I recently had. This aged pretty nicely, happy to still have one in hand.

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Photo of GbVDave
4.52/5  rDev +27%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 22oz bomber into two St. Bernardus goblets. Thanks to HeatherAnn for the assist!

A: Pours a hazy, dirty red color with about 1/2 a finger of khaki colored foam on top. Head quickly melts down to a thin and bubbly collar that leaves small specks of lace behind. Some visible streams of carbonation.

S: Rich aromas of black cherry, vanilla, sweet currants, caramel, milk chocolate, pepper, and spices. Everything becomes more pronounced as it approaches room temperature.

T: Same as above. Temperature is the key with this one. The warmer it gets, the better it tastes. By the end of the glass, the cherry flavors were just incredible.

M: So rich and velvety. Sweetness is kept in check by a slightly peppery dryness. Finishes with just a hint of tartness. Masterful.

O: Wow. This was just killer. Thanks for brewing this, guys!

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Photo of curtiswvu
4.66/5  rDev +30.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Wonderful beer from Half Acre and new ground from them, sampled on draft (in line) and later in the bottle once I got home from the release:

A: darker than expected, a nice cherry mahogany color. Beautiful white head. Perfect form.

S: Grapes, wine, Carmel and malt, suprising!

T: it own category. A very malty carmel beer but it tastes like it was aged in wine barrels with a Belgian yeast.

M: thick and bubbly all in balance. Bigger than
I expected no magic hat bs here!

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Half Acre / Struise / Pipeworks Small Animal Big Machine from Half Acre Beer Company
3.56 out of 5 based on 96 ratings.
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