Beer Review Roundup: Cigar City, Bell’s, Black Abbey, and Hi-Wire

In this edition of Beer Review Roundup, I’m taking a look at beers from Cigar City, Bell’s, Black Abbey, and Hi-Wire. There’s no real theme or relationship between these beers, apart from the fact that they are all solid representations of classic styles of beer which are often overlooked by supposed “beer snobs.”

I once read an article online somewhere by a guy who called himself a “beer snob” who said he only liked IPAs. The guy went to Germany and couldn’t find any beer that he liked (seriously). I’m sorry, but if the only style of beer you like are IPAs, then you are not a beer snob, beer geek, or any kind of beer expert, you’re just a dumbass who likes IPAs. Anyhow, these four beers are not styles that are hugely in vogue in the craft beer world right now. People aren’t lining up and waiting for hours to buy a bottle or can of any of these. And thank goodness, because that means I can drink them whenever I want.


Cigar City Lager (Tampa, FL)

Lager (Tampa-style), 4.5% ABV

Clean, crisp, and refreshing. A straightforward, no-nonsense beer. As you might expect from a Florida brewery, this beer is perfect for drinking on a hot and humid summer day, whether you’re sitting by the pool, mowing the lawn, or just winding down at the end of a long day.

Grade: B+


Bell’s Lager of the Lakes (Comstock, MI)

Pilsner (Bohemian-style), 5.0% ABV

It’s tough to find a good pilsner in America. This is one of the best and rivals the best that I’ve had in Germany. Refreshing and extremely well balanced. Plenty of flavor. Eminently drinkable. This is an all-purpose beer that can be enjoyed in any situation in any season. One of the great American lagers.

Grade: A


Black Abbey Champion (Nashville, TN)

American Pale Ale, 5.3% ABV

Champion is one of my standby beers—I usually have at least a few cans of it in my house. This is in part due to the fact that I live very close to the brewery (and am a regular there), and it’s always nice to drink something made right around the corner. But I don’t drink it just due to proximity—Champion is a solid, well-made pale ale. Well-balanced and just hoppy enough to be interesting. This isn’t a beer that’s going to knock your socks off, it’s just a tasty everyday ale.

Grade: B+


Hi-Wire Gose (Asheville, NC)

Gose, 4.2% ABV

This is just about the perfect summer beer. Tart. Salty. Marine notes. Light. Refreshing. Just a wonderful Gose. For me this is a summer only beer, but in my opinion, that is true of any Gose.

It seems like a lot of American breweries prefer to add fruit of some kind to a Gose. Although this can be done well (such as with Victory Kirsch), it usually isn’t that great and can easily be terrible (see Tallgrass Key Lime Pie). My guess as to why many breweries choose to add fruit is because they are incapable of making a good Gose to begin with. In my opinion, breweries should learn how to make a basic style well before they start toying with riffs on it. But what do I know, I’m just a dumb beer geek.

Grade: A


Questions about my grading system? Refer to my Review Method & Scoring Scale page.  

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