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.
A few weeks ago, I celebrated a birthday – don’t worry, you didn’t have to get me anything. And because it was my birthday, one of my fellow wannabe beer nerd friends got me a four-pack of mixed stuff that he’s been enjoying recently, knowing I would probably be reviewing one or two of them. One of those cans came from a hyper-local brewery I’ve been wanting to try, a brewery that more often than not combines complex beer with pop culture-centric names. This week’s effort is no different, so let’s get right into it – it’s Second Sin Brewing Company’s Forest Clouds.
Originally founded as Gluttony Brewing Company back in 2011 by Mike Beresky, Phil Harris, and Jake Howell, who have known each other since middle school football, the idea was born after brewing just 10 batches of beer. After a name change due to trademark challenges, the trio settled on a Bristol, Pennsylvania location a few years later, taking over a spot another brewery had grown out of at about the same time. From there, a lot of work went into crafting beer inspired from classic brewing centers around Europe, along with a willingness to experiment with American trends.
Second Sin brews on a limited rotating schedule, offering up new efforts almost weekly. The beers have featured some good references too, like It’s Clobbering Time, a Fantastic Four-inspired fruited sour ale, Look To The Cookie, a Seinfeld-inspired black and white cookie imperial stout and The Perfect Cast, a Goofy Movie-inspired double DDH New England IPA. Forest Clouds also gains inspiration from pop culture, but from a band rather than a film.
The first attempt for a West Coast IPA for Second Sin, Forest Clouds is a double dry-hopped hazy take on the style, with what the brewery claims is a big hop flavor and aroma, with enough bitterness and dryness at the end thanks to Nelson Sauvin, Citra and Centennial hops. The 7.7 percent ABV effort is the brewery’s first Metal Monday release and a tribute to Windhand, a doom metal band from Virginia, which has a song titled Forest Clouds from its 2015 album Grief’s Infernal Flower. I actually did not know Windhand but as someone who dabbles in metal and more progressive rock, I figured I’d give the band some play on Spotify, especially while sipping on Forest Clouds.
But before I cracked it open, I had to inspect the label. With an eye-catching black, white and purple theme, the beer’s two-word title was split up on each side of the can and in the middle was a snowy scene from a mountain, littered with trees and birds flying, looking similar to the album’s art. It explains that the beer was named after one of the brewers’ favorite songs, because “sometimes a riff is so good that you just want to hear it repeated for nine minutes straight and sometimes a beer is so good you just want to crush one after another.” It explains the hops used, offers up Second Sin’s social media handle but doesn’t give the alcohol volume. Love the label but I do not like that – it’s something so simple that people just love to know.
I elected to christen my brand new IPA pint glass but as with almost all DDH West Coast efforts, my nose got first dibs on Forest Clouds before it even made it out of the can. What I noted was mostly a solid tropical presence from the hops, especially pineapple and citrus, with just a smidge of pine. It was not quite as potent as I expected it to be, so I had to work a little bit to really grasp the full aroma of this beer. As for the pour, I really liked it. Forest Clouds comes out a cloudy straw color, with a hefty off-white head that dissipated quicker than I had hoped. But even still, it definitely proved that it’s worthy of love from both your Instagram and Untappd accounts.
Considering it was Second Sin’s first foray into this specific beer style, I’m legitimately impressed because the result is an effort that clearly shows off their ability to brew next-level beer. When I sipped it, I got the citrus notes on the front-end and it quickly made way to a blend of a healthy punch of both bitterness and dryness on the back-end. It offered a medium mouthfeel and the carbonation was solid, nothing to truly write home about, since the lacing kind of fizzled out as I reached the bottom of the glass. Specifically, the dryness was exactly what I wanted from a West Coast IPA and it finished clean and left me wishing I had more than one can! That’s far and away my favorite part of Forest Cloud – I really dug the overall flavor profile.
And because of that blend of bitterness and dryness, this beer has a strong drinkability quality to it, as I’d have no problems kicking back a few. Though I will say, I’d be more likely to down a bunch of these on a warm but cool summer night than during colder months. It’s a beer that just begs, like most of its contemporaries, to be consumed in large quantities in warmer weather. There’s a couple of little issues I had with this beer but it made me want more from Second Sin.
When I went on to BeerAdvocate to look for Forest Cloud’s rating, there was nothing. No sign of the brewery at all, it was a ghost. It’s the first time in two years I couldn’t find anything there. As for my score, I would give this one an 8.2 out of 10. Throw that ABV on the label and give it a smidge more for my nose to get excited about and this one would get another half point. Otherwise, it’s crisp, dry and refreshing, offering the kind of flavor you’d want and an execution you’d expect from one of those more highly-touted breweries you have to drive a while to visit.
Stay tuned next week, because I might try something from your favorite brewery.