What really seems to have got people talking about the Sly Fox Helles is its pull-off top, removing the whole top surface, presumably to create a better experience for those who opt to drink straight from the container. I couldn't help but do a bit of sensory testing and took a couple of swigs before I'd poured it all out. While the aroma definitely does manage to get through, the sensation is still an unpleasant one: cold metal and the rough edge of the can lip which itself is awkwardly sunk below the rim. Awkward and uncomfortable. Stick with glasses, kids.
The beer itself is a beautiful clear gold so they must be expecting at least some people to look at it. It's a little hoppier than your typical Bavarian helles, though the hops are definitely of the right genre: mown grass and fresh leafy spinach dominate. The texture is appropriately soft and there's a nice smooth breadiness from the lager malt. Not full marks for accuracy for me, but it's still very tasty.
Pikeland Pils is the same strength: 4.9% ABV, and pretty much the same colour too, though throwing a little bit of a haze. The aroma is fruitier: tart berries and possibly a touch of sherbet. On the first sip the near absence of fizz surprised me, and the flavour beneath is very interesting too: waxy and sharp with a palate-coating resin. Bitter enough to be stimulating and refreshing without becoming harsh. Simple, tasty and I'm rather surprised I like it.
Moving to the warm fermented styles we start with Royal Weisse. It takes a bit of swirling to get the lees out of the can and the end result is an orange glassful with a head which subsides quickly. They've made good use of the weissbier yeast with lots of sumptuous banana esters and some other higher-alcohol by-products: diesel and sulphur. There's a proper wheaty dry grain layer under what the yeast is doing and overall it's a fairly accurate, if workmanlike, recreation of the style.
So let's see how Sly Fox do with styles from closer to home. Phoenix is the pale ale, hefty enough at 5.1% ABV. Light on aroma but I get some bitter jaffa if I get my beak right down into it. There's a lovely buzz from the hops here, an uncompromising metallic clang softened by some cedar spicing and grapefruit spritz. Some higher floral notes and a brown sugar sweetness add some tickle to the slap. It's a beer I could settle into, there's plenty here to keep me entertained, but I have an IPA to finish on.
113 is dense and dark: orange amber and an off-white head. Again they've spared the aroma hops in favour of big bitterness. It reminds me a lot of the lagers: that waxy green acidic quality which shouldn't really be surprising since they wear their use of German hops with pride on the label, the only 7% ABV American IPA that I know of to do that. There's some pleasant toffee but no real US-style fruity high notes, just bitterness all the way. With all due respect to the old world credentials I can't say I'm a fan of this hybrid. What works at 5.1% ABV doesn't necessarily fly at 7%.
A bit of of a mixed bag here, but still it's great to see more American beer arriving in these lightweight, durable, stackable, quick-chilling, easy-open, lightproof containers.
Westmalle Dubbel - *Origin: Belgium | Date: 2008 | ABV: 7% | On The Beer Nut: October 2007* It's a longtime favourite today. Westmalle Dubbel goes back to the very beginnings...
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