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Thirsty Thursday: Bolero Snort Brewery’s Kowabunga

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Photo By Ed Miller

Welcome to Thirsty Thursday, a weekly column where we pick a beer from our fridge and review it, because in a world where two new breweries launch every single week, sometimes we need some help sifting through all of the hops.

Quarantine Day No. 7: The once stocked refrigerator is now getting a little low on beer.  I have walked to the bottle shop down the street once to replenish but I worry it will soon be completely closed.  While I made sure to grab at least one beer from a handful of my favorite breweries, I picked up one 16-ounce can of something I’ve never tried, from a brewery I’ve only ever tried once, or maybe twice.  That beer producer is Bolero Snort Brewery and the beer is Kowabunga.

These are bizarre times.  It’s important to support local breweries if you have the ability and we certainly encourage you to do so. Go pick up takeout, go to your bottle shop and purchase something – they’re struggling too right now.  We cannot emphasize this message enough: if you like your local beer, support it or it might not last.

Bolero Snort is somewhat local to me, just under a two hour drive north.  Founded back in 2013 in northern New Jersey by Bob Olson, Jr., Bolero Snort originally began as a nomadic brewery, contracted at various host breweries throughout three different states.  But as it continues to evolve – now with its own 30-barrel production facility – the focus still remains the same and that’s to create their own bold, hand-crafted spin on both traditional and emerging styles of beer.  Following the model of limited run beers, like much of the current landscape, Bolero Snort has a slew of different beers in its repertoire and, don’t worry, they’re currently set up for delivery.

One of those beers is Kowabunga, a fun take on the classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles catchphrase.  It’s a 4.5 percent dry-hopped German kölsch brewed with Montueka, Wakatu, and Lemondrop hops.  This particular 16-ounce pounder can must’ve been sitting in the fridge for a handful of months, or more, because it was brewed quite a while back, as evident by the date on the bottom, so the flavor could be slightly compromised – but, hey, desperate times call for desperate measures.  No beer gets left behind, especially one that sucked me in with a dose of nostalgia.

The label art features Bolero Snort’s logo boldly up front, with a bull wearing 3-D glasses riding a surfboard.  While I’m not sure who does their artwork, it’s a very specific look, so when you pick up one of their cans you almost always know it’s them.  There’s not a ton of information listed on the label, however, other than the hops and the alcohol percentage. I always like a little more detail into what I’m about to drink but at least it’s clear just what hops were used.

When I cracked this beer open, I knew I was in for a kölsch I had never really experienced – and boy was I right.  This is one funky, hard to categorize beer, simply because of the hop abundance. And I mean that in the best way possible.  I started out by taking a healthy snort – yes, that pun was intended – of the beer inside the can before I poured it. What I got was a typical malt flavor from this specific style, elevated with a lemony-citrus aroma brought about by the hops.  Not too potent but it certainly sounded the alarm that this beer is hop-heavy. When I went to pour it, Kowabunga had traditionally more head than most other kölschs, pouring a slightly hazy straw color with a nicely carbonated yellowish head that dissipated quickly. It really looked a little like some NEIPAs.

When it came to the taste, Kowabunga was expectedly light-bodied and abundantly crisp.  Like really crisp. The perfect crispness for a kölsch, that leads you to finish it in almost record speed.  I noted a significant lemony flavor that blended with a grassy flavor and a substantial bitterness – basically, it starts out a little more bready and finishes more on the bitter side.  But I got a slight tartness in there that didn’t really vibe well with the overall flavor. But still, it’s delicious and, I felt like, just a little more bulked up version of this traditional German beer, thanks to the dry-hopping.

I’m not sure what the price of this can was but I believe it hovered right around the $5 range, which is fairly typical of a less trendy, not ridiculously complex, beer such as this one.  When I went over to BeerAdvocate, I found that the site itself gave Kowabunga a 84 rating, while it had an average grade of 3.81, which is based off of 17 ratings. I think, as per typical, that rating is almost spot on as I give this beer a 7.8 out of 10. 

It’s incredibly drinkable, incredibly crisp and I like that there’s a little more of a hop-based flavor as opposed to the maltiness that typically represents a kölsch. The smell and the look was there but I just can’t help but remember that tartness. Having said that, I’d definitely pick this one up again, especially on a warm day. Once things in the world calm down, I’ll have to grab another Bolero Snort effort, one a little more geared to my love of the DIPA.

Stay tuned for next week, because I might just try something from your favorite brewery.