Read our original article on Black Frog Brewing Company HERE
We came to you months ago to introduce Toledo’s newest craft brewery, Black Frog Brewery and its sole proprietor, Chris Harris. Since that article was written, things have really blossomed for Chris and Black Frog Brewery. He has begun the process of self-distributing his beer to local craft beer stores, and has enjoyed some pretty fantastic feedback from customers.
When we first sat down to chat with Chris, he graciously gave us a sample of his ‘Cream of the Frog’ Cream Ale, which we thought was pretty darn good. Chris has since added two more beers to his limited portfolio; a Pale Ale he calls ‘Amphibian (Amphibian Pale Ale)’ as well as his ‘Frogilicious’ Porter. Chris was kind enough to provide to us all three beers in 22oz bomber formats for our reviewing pleasure. We were told that we were the first to try the APA, so this, in a way, is an ultra Brew Review Crew exclusive review!
To keep the written review simple and clean, I will divide the tasting notes by each distinctive beer below.
Amphibian Pale Ale (APA) – Pale Ale
Of all of the new Black Frog brews we were to sample, I was most excited for the Pale. I have fallen back in love with the Pale Ale style and have been on a quest to try as many as my pallet can handle. APA poured a dark coppery reddish hue with a very nice fluffy white head that had good retention. As were the rest of Black Frog’s beers, the clarity was quite stunning. It is very difficult to achieve such clarity, and it was a consistent quality of all three Black Frog brews.
The aroma was quite nice as well on the APA. If you recall, all of Chris’s recipes include honey as a special ingredient. You could definitely detect it on the nose of APA. APA had a sweet, yet hoppy aroma that was warm and toasty, almost biscuity or bready. Not as hop forward as you’d possibly expect, but that is not necessarily atypical of the style. It was very malt forward on the nose.
As far as flavor goes, APA was absolutely malt forward. Both Cory and myself had a hard time detecting a noticeable hop presence in the beer, but both identified a lingering bitter on the backend of the taste. The bitter did not seem to be hop induced. Bready, biscuity flavors with a nice caramel presence. We did not really detect too much honey flavor, but the beer had an element of sweetness to it. Overall, I think we both wished there was a more obvious hop profile to the beer. We gave it a C+/B-
Cream of the Frog – Cream Ale
The first Black Frog brew we ever tried, we finally were able to return to try another Cream of the Frog Cream Ale. Chris insisted that he tweaked the recipe, so it would be a fresh, new experience for us. These tasting notes will be far more limited than the other two beers due to the fact that cream ales are not necessarily a very descriptive style of beer. Cream ales are fairly typical of smaller craft breweries due to the ease of the brewing process and the success rate of the brews. Cousins, or at least distant relatives to the American light lager style, are brewed as an ale but typically are finished with a lager yeast or lager beer mixed in. The cream ale style is fairly light and clear, made so by the addition of adjuncts like corn or rice. Black Frog’s Cream Ale was about a crystal clear as a beer can get. A truly amazing sight to behold.
The aroma on the cream ale was light, airy, slightly sweet from the honey addition, with just the absolute smallest of hop presence. No big outliers existed on the aroma, and was very pleasant.
The flavor of the cream ale was very typical of the style. Of all three, the cream ale was the most stylistically on-point. If it were entered into a contest judging cream ales, I have to imagine this would place quite high. It was a great example of the style. Light, refreshing, and easy to drink. The flavors of canned-corn (think Giant Eagle or Green Giant) were dominant (most likely from whichever adjuncts Chris employed). Cream of the Frog, as far as cream ales go, was a winner. We gave it a B+/A-
Frogilicious – Porter
I must say that I was extremely intrigued by this beer. I had previously seen a Black Frog post on Facebook showing off Frogilicious, and instantly I thought to myself ‘That looks unlike any porter I’ve ever seen’.
Typically, a porter is very dark brown, teetering on black. The porter is an old style of craft beer hailing from England, and is one of my absolute favorite styles of beer. We are encroaching on the winter season, and what is better than a lovely porter on a cold night? Nothing. I was extremely excited to try this one, despite it’s atypical color. Frogilicious, though well carbonated with a nice fluffy tan head, was unlike any porter I had come across. Sitting directly next to APA, the colors between the Pale Ale and this porter were almost identical. I’m unsure of the reasoning behind that (maybe the lack of a dark grain?), but it definitely was intriguing, to say the least.
The aroma on Frogilicious was fairly spot on to what you’d expect from a Porter. Chocolate and cocoa notes were strong upfront. Again, with the addition of honey, the aroma was infused with a honey-like sweetness. Malt forward for sure, other aromas of grainy, bread or toffee-sweetness were apparent.
The flavor of the Porter was equally as interesting. Upon the first taste I immediately nodded my head and said something to the tune of ‘well, it tastes like a porter!’ Chocolate, caramel, toffee and slightly nutty flavors were dominant in Froglicious with a slight bready or biscuity flavor on the backend. The flavor could have been a bit bolder and more attention-grabbing, but overall a nice, solid porter.
Chris Harris is experiencing first-hand the explosion of craft beer. He went from repurposing his residential garage into what may be Ohio’s smallest production brewery to self-distributing to local stores, to selling out within one week, to trying to meet the demands of craft beer bars and other local stores…ALL WITHIN A FEW MONTHS. Keep in mind – this man is a full time employee of the city! Up until now, he has been able to produce craft beer in his free time. He is experiencing the same story we hear time and time again from craft brewers; the explosive demand for product. While none of the beers we sampled were mind-blowing examples of any style, all three were very solid and drinkable beers. With more time, practice and fine-tuning, Black Frog is well on its way to producing some amazing craft beer. Overal, Cory and I gave all three brews as a set a very high C+ to low B-. We enjoyed all three, happily drank every drop, but recognize the room for fine tuning and improvement, which I am sure Chris Harris would appreciate and use as constructive feedback.
If you are ever in the Toledo area, or have an interest in trying some Black Frog, drop us a line and we will see what we can make happen for you.
Thanks again to Chris Harris of Black Frog Brewery, and we cannot wait to see how the future will unfold for him.