Have East Coast Hazemakers Changed Direction?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by Dansac, Feb 19, 2021.

  1. Dansac

    Dansac Initiate (139) Dec 6, 2014 California
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    Don't want to be a hater, but I somewhat recently had very confusing experiences with some of the most respected haze-makers from the East Coast: Other Half, Equilibrium, Aslin, Grimm...

    I remember having Other Half years ago and being utterly blown away by it, even comparing it to Monkish and other local breweries making good haze here in CA. The closest the West Coast could get to OH was Alvarado Street in its oil-driven, dank profile, and they are still killing it consistently. I recently had about ten of OHs beers, and they were all very, very disappointing, but above all they were unrecognizable from the stuff I had years ago.

    To be clear, I had: Small Citra Everything, True Green, Small IAECED in Space, Dream in Green, Ain't Nothing Nice, and 1000 Pounder, and four more growlers filled by HPB.

    These were all a lot sweeter, and had none of that dank, oily brightness I recall. Anything I've had from ASB, Green Cheek, or Monkish lately nukes these out of the water, as well as Cellarmaker and SARA IPAs. They were also fresh.

    Similar results with Aslin and Equilibrium. Very sweet, not nearly as bright or aromatic. Grimm fared slightly better. I haven't had Tree House or Trillium, so I couldn't say what they are up to.

    So my question is: what is going on? Did I just get unlucky or have these guys just fallen to chasing the market tendency towards tropical sweetness and low bitterness vs dankness and greenness?
     
  2. bret27

    bret27 Poo-Bah (1,785) Mar 10, 2009 California
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    I agree, and from the limited discussions I’ve had with others they agree. Too sweet!
    IMO Fresh Treehouse is fairly sweet or perfectly balanced. Trillium is very similar to Monkish. Hop burn present. Not sweet.
     
  3. papposilenus

    papposilenus Poo-Bah (1,680) Jun 21, 2014 New Hampshire
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    Since last summer I've been noticing that Other Half has been uneven. Many labels have been disappointing, others have continued to be excellent. Ditto Equilibrium but, since they're in distro up here now, I chalked that up to no longer tasting 'rare' (because I'm shallow like that). IME, Tree House IPA's continue to be consistently better-than-excellent.
     
  4. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (2,690) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
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    I’m far from an expert, but leaning to low on the bitter a bit sweeter is kind of a thing. I don’t care for them or the ones highly astringent that burns the back of my throat, they smell great but hard to drink. Imo these beers remind me of Session ipas, severely lacking in balance. Give me a fresh Pliny or Heady any day. I’ll add I liked Very Green more than the others I’ve had, but in general TreeHouse makes great beers, Trillium is hit or miss on the astringent stuff.
     
  5. Dansac

    Dansac Initiate (139) Dec 6, 2014 California
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    I am all about aromatics with IPAs, first and foremost. And there are two ways to get crazy aromatics with haze: one is to make a hop smoothie like Monkish, Fieldwork, or Green Cheek (or apparently Trillium) while keeping a relatively lean malt base to let the hops shine, which leads to very green, bright beers, if abrasive, hot, resiny, or even chalky often (HPB...). The other is to work with biotransformation of hop oils that creates that dank profile characteristic of ASB and which I used to get in Other Half.

    And then there's HF which does everything to perfection... rustic, balanced, green without being abrasive, dank without being catty, sweet but never too sweet.

    But the hyper-sweet, rotten pineapple juicy IPA thing is part of the overall trend to turn beer into dessert, which I hate: smoothie sours, pastry stouts, and milkshake IPAs or juicy/fruit juice IPAs. It seems like the trend in the haze industry, and I find it really sad and vulgar.
     
    #5 Dansac, Feb 19, 2021
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2021
  6. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (3,006) Mar 12, 2009 New York
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    I'm going to suggest they sell well as the obvious reason breweries put them out. Not trying to be flippant, but sometimes the obvious needs to be said.

    It seems the trend has gotten even more towards sweet and thick while I have been away from the "action". I am also going to suggest that every craft beer trend that has had its day has gone on to be replaced or supplemented by a trend(s) quite different. I see it as a split between the people who want things to stay the same and the people who want things to constantly change. One side values traditional and sticking to known quantities, the other side the opposite. Together they meet in the middle in hopes of craft breweries making enough profit to stay in business.

    I bet in 12 years there will be popular styles of the day that are almost unknown now. For those who think this is ridiculous I have this to say- Gose, Fruited Sours, Berliner Weisse, Wild Ale were barely available or completely unavailable to most of us 12 years ago. I also think folks will have tired of hop milkshakes types of beer.
     
  7. cid71

    cid71 Initiate (113) Mar 2, 2009 New Jersey
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    Tastes and trends change. I'm just as guilty. I went east coast to west coast to hazy.....now I love black lagers wth is that? And its not like I never had a black lager before. I had sam adams version a decade ago and liked it. But now it just scratching an itch I have. . I'm sure I'll move on from there and be all about something else in time. If it's hard seltzer I just ask that someone put me down
     
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  8. Kraz

    Kraz Disciple (310) Feb 12, 2018 Indiana
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    I feel the same way as you. I think what is happening is the original dank, the oily haze was their first evolution in the IPA game, now what we are seeing is a trend towards lactose cloying sweetness, because it sells, so this is the next perceived step for them.

    I think they're fully capable of getting back to where they were, but, it's harder to make a balanced beer than it is to make fruit salad, and fruit salad sells, baby.

    On a related note, EQ just started distribution in my area and I've been let down by every single one. They're all a jumbled mess. The body is there and they hid the ABV but nothing had legs or depth. I've tried at least 6 different labels of theirs. We have random small Indiana breweries that put out more complex, fun IPAs/Pales
     
  9. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (2,690) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
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    I really don’t like lactose in my beers, I can live without wheat as well, leave out the oak flakes too. Did I miss anything? I’m not anti NEIPA, but the ones I really really like are pretty rare, mostly they’re ok, some are terrible. I keep trying them because when you find a great beer you found a great beer, and you only find it by trying new beers.
     
  10. Sheppard

    Sheppard Meyvn (1,422) Mar 16, 2013 Virginia
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    I'm not sure what the real answer is. Many of the breweries you've mentioned have had momentum where whatever they brew sells. Do they need to invest in QC or beer consistency at all if that's the case? Many of these breweries are selling the majority of their beer on site.

    There's definitely an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality. I stopped buying Trillium due to their drop in quality and inconsistency when I lived in MA and have done the same here in VA with Aslin. I think that it's difficult to scale up with this style but I also think that these breweries are brewing so many different beers (even if they're all IPAs), less attention and care is being given to each brand.
     
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  11. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,881) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
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    Could you please provide more details here? What specific changes have you noticed or is it simply that each new batch tastes different from the previous batch?

    In the OP there is mention of "oil-driven, dank profile" as a description of 'old school' hazy beers. I personally can not relate to those words. I have been drinking the Juicy/Hazy beers of Tired Hands beers since they opened and the stereotypical flavors of their Juicy/Hazy IPAs have been more along the lines of citrus/tropical fruits but some of their brands (e.g., Pineal) would have a hint of something else (pine in this case) in addition to the citrus/tropical fruit flavors. In other words it has been my personal journey as regards Hazy IPAs that "dank" was not typical of their flavor profile; I do not personally see a flavor 'evolution' here.

    I should point out that I have never had a beer from Other Half. I have had a gazillion beers from Tired Hand and also beers from Tree House, Trillium, Bissell Brothers,...

    Cheers!
     
  12. Sheppard

    Sheppard Meyvn (1,422) Mar 16, 2013 Virginia
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    I don't smoke so I don't think I can speak to the "oil driven, dank profile." I started going to Trillium very early on, like before they started bottling early. I would say their beers in the come up were characterized by intense hop character but with a certain degree of refinement (i.e. no hop burn). The distinct character of individual hops were prominently featured in their beers particularly in the Street and Fort Point series, since those had one hop featured in the dry hop. If you side by sided different Streets or Fort Point, you could distinctly decipher which was which. At the time, I would have pointed to Trillium as a brewery that was one of the best at featuring certain hops.

    Would I characterize those beers as oil driven? Yes, I think so. The first beer I had that I felt was crossing this line was Headroom which was super oily and milky in its original iteration. I wonder how much the popularity of that beer damaged the psyche of what their beer should be.

    Trillium had a noted fermentation profile change that a lot of people attribute to the decline. There are other factors like an ever revolving door of head brewers or some bad crops of galaxy that may have affected beers that feature that hop (Galaxy FPPA, Congress St, etc) that you could point to. I don't know the cause of the decline, but I get a lot more hop burn now on the rare occasion I revisit their beers. I don't get that distinct hop feature.

    I should note that I don't go to Trill when I'm back in the area and probably won't when I move back to the area (save for if I'm meeting friends and I'm not the one picking the venue). They charge a premium for their product and for what I was getting it wasn't worth continuing to patronize their breweries when there are other breweries putting out a more consistent product. Sure, there might be lightning in a bottle (or can) once in a while, but there are far too many misses to make it a regular part of my home selection.

    Thanks for always asking questions @JackHorzempa.
     
  13. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (2,690) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
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    Nice review. I too remember liking Trillium much better many years ago as well. When I see one of their beers I’m thinking astringent first and it’s gonna burn my throat, and some do some don’t. I opt towards Alchemist and Lawson’s products.
     
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  14. mmmbeerNY

    mmmbeerNY Devotee (447) Mar 5, 2014 New York

    It could be that part of the problem is some breweries do not have flagship beers, instead they are constantly changing and chasing the next taste. So certainly could have moved to sweeter tastes

    Personally I like some consistently. There is already enough variety in styles without breweries making new ipa beers each month
     
  15. Sheppard

    Sheppard Meyvn (1,422) Mar 16, 2013 Virginia
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    When I'm in Mass, I can get Sip of Sunshine at a local retailer fairly easily. Kind of no reason to go out of my way to grab Trillium.
    This is only observational, but I think this is absolutely the case. I don't hear complaints about, for example, Triple Crossing who produce a few select and dialed in IPAs. The number of new IPAs Hill Farmstead is banging out is few and far between. They kill their current portfolio. Bissell is always brewing Substance and that's almost always consistent. That new new is good for FOMO, but dialing in is good for quality and consistency, again observationally.
     
  16. eagles22

    eagles22 Disciple (399) Sep 7, 2008 Pennsylvania
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    I have been seeing equilibrium adding marshmallow to some of their DIPAs which I'm not a fan of at all. I usually pass on their beers because they are 30.00 for a 4pack and as for other half I was not impressed with them but I did really enjoy the double Simcoe forever that was awesome. But there other beers lean toward the sweeter side like strata+mosaic.
     
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  17. Dansac

    Dansac Initiate (139) Dec 6, 2014 California
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    Actually, if guys like HF, Alchemist, and Maine were the first 'NE IPA' guys, then at first they were quite different. HF is green and bright, quite rustic. Alchemist (Heady) is much maltier, sweeter and bitter. Not really like anything people call hazies today.

    Then the modern big players came: OH, Tree House, Trillium, Tired Hands, The Veil, Monkish...

    Other Half had that dank profile that I just found unique. Hop Showers remains one of the best IPAs I've ever had.

    I think Tired Hands are probably the major offenders that started the milkshake/oat/lactose trend that now is spreading like wildfire. And now it seems like most are following suit. There were even rumors of them using flour to 'haze up' their beer. Also, triple IPAs are just silly.
     
  18. Dansac

    Dansac Initiate (139) Dec 6, 2014 California
    Trader

    This is very true. I also think part of the problem is that breweries are following the model of putting out three beers per week, with millions of variations. Monkish, ASB, OH, Fieldwork, Cellarmaker, all put out so many releases it's impossible to keep up. And when consistency is not there, it's a lottery gamble.

    At least ASB and Monkish are quite consistent.
     
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  19. Dansac

    Dansac Initiate (139) Dec 6, 2014 California
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    To clarify, when I speak of oil-driven I am not making the widespread diesel analogy: I am referring to the extraction of hop oils through fermentation, which leads a unique aromatic profile. ASB frequently speaks about how their yeast strains help the biotransformation of hop oils. I do not know the chemistry behind it, but there's a unique profile to those beers that I just don't get from others. Same with old OH. I never had Trillium, so I couldn't say. These are not milky however, at least not in he hypersmoothie style that is the jam these days.

    Monkish represents the other end of the bright haze, which I think is about jamming the beer with as much hops as humanly possible. This results in a lot of intense aromatics, but also resiny hop burn, and even chalkiness as I mentioned (Highland Park is guilty of this consistently). Green Cheek, when they get them right, do this style very well.
     
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  20. Dansac

    Dansac Initiate (139) Dec 6, 2014 California
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    Oh, and Equilibrium was confusingly bad. I would not buy them again, for no money. I prefer Madewest hazy for 9.99.

    Actually, I prefer fresh Madewest to basically all the OHs I had. Which is crazy. Madewest is just a very competent shelf hazy, for 9.99 a tall-can four pack.
     
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  21. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (2,690) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
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    I would never consider HF, Alchemist, Lawson’s, MBC NEIPAs. They were around well before this OJ bomb craze.
     
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  22. Sheppard

    Sheppard Meyvn (1,422) Mar 16, 2013 Virginia
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    I wish I had the pictures but it was definitely not milkie in the smoothie was. It was milky in the there were so many high alpha acid hops used in this way. It was very lupulin laden. I really need to read Scott Janish's book.
     
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  23. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (2,690) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
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    I’d like a 15 day old MBC Dinner right about now, or a Pliny like I had last week. That was so damn good it can’t be understated, should be more like this and not the OJ bombs.
     
  24. stairway2heavn

    stairway2heavn Initiate (100) Aug 17, 2017 New Jersey

    Other Half is definitely trying for minimally bitter and upped the sweetness in the lay year or so. Also, the formerly rare melon profile now is in a very high percentage of their beers. Their core beers, hop showers, All Citra, and space diamonds, tend to be closer to the original recipes as far as I can accurately remember, but even so they aren't quite the same. They are sweeter than they were (but less sweet than the million one offs).
     
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  25. Apathetiq

    Apathetiq Aspirant (252) Sep 10, 2012 Massachusetts
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    Thank you for pointing out the melon note! Almost every single OH beer I've had recently suffered from dominant melon qualities. Curiously, another NY darling, EQ has the same thing, but a little dirtier, like pumpkin.

    I would consider these flavors akin to the Trillium "peanut shell" thing, a definite shift in the goals of the beers (through fermentation, mash, or whatever, a choice was made). IMHO to increase the perception of weight, and make bittering (especially in the citrus pithy family) feel out of place in accordance with nebulous feedback that bitter is bad.
     
  26. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (2,690) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
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    Hmmm. I’m not sure it’s the lack of bitter that drives NEIPA sales, I think it’s the love of the sweet fruit and how great they smell, plus a robust mouthfeel that’s soft. Just my opinion.
     
  27. jakecattleco

    jakecattleco Poo-Bah (2,472) Sep 3, 2008 California
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    Really, ASB? They've had their own string of beers/recipes that came off sweeter than previous batches. I can't speak to Monkish, but I personally took a break from ASB after the last batch of Nelson Baby! Maybe it's because I'm personally more sensitive to sweetness, but you can't speak absolutely that they've been devoid of their own QC/consistency issues. YMMV
     
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  28. pinyin

    pinyin Disciple (357) Sep 19, 2013 New York

    EQ uses cheaper thinner aluminum cans, and their hopping process to me at least gives their ales a very distinct orange julius taste. I've gotten this beautiful aroma and flavor in nearly every IPA of theirs that I've bought from the actual brewery.

    I have also bought their beers (refrigerated at the store and in cold coolers in my car) from a bottle shop about 40 miles south in NJ, and the hop character had faded slightly. I'll chalk it up to distributor and retailer mishandling. Something about their hopping technique. Their hoppy beers fade hard and fast when they change temperature for too long.

    When you order from them for brewery only pick up, they make you agree to the terms of keeping the beer in refrigeration up until the point of consumption. You can't check out (pay) until you agree with this. Even printing on the sides of the cans, it states "Drink cold, store cold, trade cold, ship cold".

    To me they produce the best hoppy beers in the region (yes better than OH, Grimm, Finback) but only when bought fresh from the actual brewery and kept chilled until ready to drink.
     
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  29. DrStiffington

    DrStiffington Meyvn (1,137) Oct 27, 2010 New Jersey

    Equilibrium is both overrated and overpriced, imo. In NJ I can get better IPAs for nearly half the price per four pack.
     
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  30. bubseymour

    bubseymour Poo-Bah (3,173) Oct 30, 2010 Maryland
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    I think for the Brewers the OP mentioned it is probably a combo of scaled up production and expanded distribution causing the inconsistency and apparent declines. For what it’s worth I visited OH in DC about a month or so ago and tried about 4 different beers and all were excellent IMO. The Aslin classics like Double Orange Starfish still taste spectacular but their new releases are hit or miss. In the past there were never any misses.
     
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  31. Dansac

    Dansac Initiate (139) Dec 6, 2014 California
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    Their doubles have gone sweeter but they still preserve the intense hop oil aromatics. The latest batch of Nelson Baby was actually their best since the OG, quite green and drier. Are you sure you're not thinking of the previous one?

    I think ASB killed it throughout 2020.
     
  32. Dansac

    Dansac Initiate (139) Dec 6, 2014 California
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    The ones I've had had a lot of orange quality, of the sort I associate with Amarillo hops, but they were way, way too sweet.
     
  33. jakecattleco

    jakecattleco Poo-Bah (2,472) Sep 3, 2008 California
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    Batch I referenced was mid-2020, not sure if there was one after that. Went back to the 2020 ASB thread, plenty of other folks commenting about the increase in perceived sweetness. I'll agree its definitely more pronounced on the Doubles. Everybody's palates are unique, I just think some folks would disagree about ASB consistency.

    I found similar impact on my enjoyment of Trillium beers when they tweaked their fermentation profile. I don't enjoy them as much now, sweeter than I'd prefer.
     
    #33 jakecattleco, Feb 21, 2021
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2021
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  34. bret27

    bret27 Poo-Bah (1,785) Mar 10, 2009 California
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    I meant to buy CNJ 2017 edition and bring that info to this discussion. However when I checked my bag at home they gave me the regular Alvarado CNJ by mistake.
    Sorry, nothing to add. Was looking forward to seeing what 2017 Alvarado would be like.
     
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  35. tinoynk

    tinoynk Initiate (101) Sep 25, 2010 New York
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    I don't deny that EQ can still produce great stuff, but District 96 is like 30 minutes away and to me has been consistently excellent to a degree other places in the area haven't been. But they also have a much lower output, and though scarcity=quality bias can be a thing, I can also understand how scaling up and needing to shift production to being 100% cans might be a curveball for operations big enough to have been sending out large amounts of kegs pre-Covid.
     
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  36. pinyin

    pinyin Disciple (357) Sep 19, 2013 New York

    i've been to D96 a few times and I enjoyed everything I've bought from them. their hoppy beers reminded me a lot of Other Half. similar yeast profile and after taste. i still think EQ is the best in the region in terms of hoppy ales closely followed by Finback and OH. conversely, haze cans that I've tried from Icarus in NJ also had this very similar mineralization and hop character to D96 and OH.
     
  37. rolltide8425

    rolltide8425 Meyvn (1,286) Feb 18, 2011 Pennsylvania
    Trader

    I have to agree with everyone about Trillium. I was very excited when they began shipping to PA as I hadn't had any of their offerings in some time. Got them and was disappointed with almost all the IPAs I got. Vanilla PM Dawn was excellent though. Not a fan of this trend towards sweeter, let's shove lactose in everything beers. I've found myself trending back towards lagers, particularly classic German styles, lately because of this.
     
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  38. joerooster2

    joerooster2 Initiate (14) Aug 18, 2020 District of Columbia

    Aslin is likely a QC issue (you were unlucky), they seem to have tried to grow too fast for their own good. They've always had QC issues even when they made good beer (lots of sediment and hop burn in early batches) so scaling up probably wasn't something they should have done so aggressively. They also had some turnover with their brewers and even one of the owners left (essentially the head brewer), can't imagine this didn't have some impact on the quality of their beers.

    They have almost 40 packaged beers available at the brewery, tells me sales aren't too good, especially when they distribute to every grocery chain in the area, distribute out of state and sell online. They also started venturing into seltzers, wine and ciders although I haven't seen or heard much about the wine or cider stuff in a while. They opened a 2nd tap room recently as well. All these things likely pull resources and time away from the brewing side of things.
     
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  39. TheIncredibleHoke

    TheIncredibleHoke Initiate (18) Nov 11, 2020 New York

    I’ve always considered Other Half my local since they started and I have always been a huge fan. But after being burned with sweet, cloying, thick brown pours for about 40-50% of my OH purchases this year, I’ve stopped buying their beer.

    The few Equilibrium beers I’ve been able to purchase were also just so cloying and overwhelmingly sweet, that I steer clear of them as well.

    My OH experience has pushed me straight into the arms of Threes for most of my local purchases.

    This could really be a big factor. OH has no flagships and very little consistency other than consistently releasing new labels to grab your attention.
     
  40. JayORear

    JayORear Meyvn (1,264) Feb 22, 2012 Pennsylvania
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    If you're talking about Nelson Baby! here, the November batch was phenomenal. I was in Sacramento when it came out, and I bought four 4-packs. Amazing beer.

    EDIT: I actually thought it came close in many ways to OG Alpine Nelson.
     
    #40 JayORear, Feb 24, 2021
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2021
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