Beer Review: Boatswain H.L.V. from Rhinelander Brewing Co.

updated May 2, 2019
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Our Good Question yesterday about favorite Trader Joe’s beers reminded me that I’ve had this bottle from TJ’s stashed away for a few weeks — it’s high time we gave it a taste! Brewed by Rhinelander Brewing Co. for Trader Joe’s, this brown ale with its promise of sweet roasted malts and moderate hop bitterness sounds like just the beer to take us into fall.

Beer Details: Boatswain H.L.V. Ale from Rhinelander Brewing Company, Monroe WI (No style is identified on the packaging, but I’d place it as an American brown ale or strong ale, 7% ABV, 80 IBU)

Appearance: Heavy dark brown ale with ruby glints against the light. It’s topped by a fluffy cap of mocha-colored foam, which leaves wispy lace along the top of the glass.

Aroma: Ripe stone fruits, especially cherry and plum, with a touch of rich chocolate. It smells lush and fruity.

Taste: Dark whole grain bread: a little wheaty, a little molasses-y, a little burnt around the edges. The fruit comes through with some dark chocolate notes. The finish goes a little sour and overly bitter for my taste. That burnt flavor that worked well with the upfront malts takes on more of a metallic charred flavor in the finish. The balance feels a bit off, though I liked the beer more as it warmed up — more soft fruit flavors start coming through and rounding out the overall sip.

I place this beer solidly in the “respectable” category. It’s a fairly basic brown ale that is easy-sippin’ with a meal, which is often what I want with a brown ale, to be honest. I have a feeling that this is a “love it or hate it” beer, and at its Trader Joe’s bargain price, it’s worth picking up a bottle to see where you fall.

Food Pairing: Mac n’ cheese!

What do you think of this beer?