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1st Beer Review: Bilbo Baggins

When it was first brought up that I start this beer blog/article series, a few things came to mind:

  1. I can’t write. Not that I CAN’T, but English and creative writing were my worst classes in school. (And not just in high school either, in college I literally avoided as many humanities courses as possible and every paper I wrote was based on science filled with numbers and equations. The Krebs cycle still brings up some mini nightmares after a botched biochem exam.)

  2. Will people reading this get my dry sarcasm or hilarious puns? Because many people who I talk to in person don’t, so how am I supposed to express myself properly in writing?

  3. Finally, when writing about beer every week, and of course doing the “research” to back it up, how does one not seem like an alcoholic?

Then I realized something. I don’t care. I’m here because trying new beers, meeting new people, and going to new places is a hobby of mine. Hopefully there are people out there that appreciate all the hard work I’ve done- all the beer I’ve drank and miles I drove to make this hobby more and more exciting.

Now, lets get down to business. Beer.

I wanted to start this blog with a beer that brings back one of my first Madison beer memories. I grew up in Michigan (don’t worry I’m not a Wolverine or a Spartan… or unfortunately for you, a Badger) so I’m familiar with good beer. Bells and Founders were of course staples, along with Jolly Pumpkin, which is my favorite Michigan brewery but that is a whole different story. I moved to Madison about 5 years ago for a new job fresh out of grad school. I knew Wisconsin was a great beer scene and I had had some of the bigger Wisconsin stuff before- Lakefront, New Glarus, even Ale Asylum. But when I first got here, I wanted to go to some of the smaller breweries that I couldn’t find in stores. This led me to One Barrel Brewing Company. More specifically, my quest led me to Falcor (a barrel aged blackberry sour) and Bilbo Baggins (a black IPA). The very first growler I purchased in Madison, WI was in fact, Bilbo Baggins. The problem with, or should I say exciting aspect, of OBBC is that their taps are always changing due to the small batches they brew. So I would bring friends in from out of town, or my parents when they came to visit, or just other people I knew liked beer and what would happen? NO BILBO BAGGINS. You have got to be kidding me. Not that they don’t have other great beers and it’s not like this is my favorite beer of all time either (it’s not even close to my favorite in Madison), but it is a solid drinkable beer that can span across many different palates. That and it would just fit the story I had been telling all these people if they did indeed have it on tap that day. I even brought a growler of it back to Michigan a couple Christmas’s ago for a friend’s present.

Things are different now in 2016. We have ‘people’ like Donald Trump running for president, RG3 is on the Browns, I even met someone who didn’t know who Falcor was. Things are getting real. But good news for 2016, OBBC now bottles! You can find a few of their beers in almost every grocery and liquor store. When I heard they were going to start bottling I knew in my heart, just KNEW, that Bilbo Baggins had to be one of them. And then it wasn’t. They had this “new” black IPA called Banjo Cat instead. Banjo Cat?!?! I’ve never heard of such a thing! And I hate cats. Then it took me a whole 5 seconds to realize Banjo Cat IS Bilbo Baggins (a name change was apparently made to avoid any issues with ‘the man’, can’t blame you there). They even have a small “BB” symbol on the banjo to represent. Whew.

FINALLY, we’ve reached the review…


Style: Black IPA

ABV: 6.2

IBU: 69

Let me start the review by saying that I’m usually not a dark beer drinker. Unless they bring something interesting to the table, they are usually a little too malty, creamy, and heavy for me. Maybe that’s why I like Banjo Cat, it hits all the right notes but doesn’t over exaggerate any of them either. That’s why you have to try everything at least once, because something might surprise you. Banjo Cat may be super dark in color, but to me is actually very light to drink. Definitely not heavier than any other IPA that is 6.2%. It has a sweet malt note and it is slightly bitter. This is an IPA at heart, so some bitterness and a good hop base is expected. But I don’t think the hop is overpowering either, Banjo Cat is pretty smooth from start to finish. There is also something a little fruity, a citrus note, right at the beginning of your sip before it turns to bitter on the back of the tongue. Like I said before, I wouldn’t say this is the best beer out of OBBC, but it is a solid black IPA which can be hard to find these days. So many other IPAs focus on pouring as many hops as they possibly can into the beer. Where I think OBBC has found a nice smooth balance between malts and hops that can appeal to the masses.

Rating: 3.5 Hobbits

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