Saturday, September 29, 2007

Catching Up With Oktoberfest

I've been getting really busy lately with having to study so much, and unfortunately that won't let up until December 13th, but I've found a few moments here and there to enjoy some beer. I've been on quite an Oktoberfest kick, after having that informal tasting with a few friends last week. What I've noticed as I've had a couple more bottles of each is that Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest is the shit. Spaten is also very good too, but I feel like it's just slightly better from the tap than it is in those green bottles.

Last night I was able to get out to BJ's in Rancho Cucamonga, hoping they would have both of their seasonals on tap- an Oktoberfest and Pumpkin Ale. Well they had one of them so I ordered up the Oktoberfest. The appearance was beautiful, a perfect clear burnt orange color. This one was high on the toasted malt, but also had quite a bit of caramel type sweetness (though I've been schooled before that this isn't caramelized sugars in oktoberfests, it's actually sweetness from the melanoidins- like I can tell the difference). Anyway, it was pretty good. They poured it way too cold, so it gives you a nasty carbonated burn if you don't let it warm up.

I know Craftsman Oktoberfest is making it's way around Southern California right now. I'm sure Father's Office and Lucky Baldwin's have it on tap and I would definitely recommend looking for this one because it is tasty.

I also recently bought the Avery The Kaiser Imperial Oktoberfest which I will have soon, as well as a complimentary bottle of Allagash Tripel which was thrown my way by the coolest beer store owner ever. Fall is great isn't it? That is all for now.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Few Goodies From Overseas

No it's not the Westvleteren 12 or other hard to find beers from Europe. It's three hard to find beers from... Hawaii! As a month and a half early birthday present my longtime friend and beer pal Steve got me a 6-pack sampler from Maui Brewing Company (along with a bunch of other Hawaiian treats). How he found a store in Hawaii that would ship it to him I don't know, and right now don't care. I guess he bought a 6-pack of the Maui Coconut Porter for himself (which we both had at Stone's 11th anniversary and loved), and after having a couple this week didn't want to withhold these goodies from me for another 6 weeks. I'm not complaining. The sampler pack comes with the much recently talked about Coconut Porter, as well as their Big Swell IPA and Bikini Blonde Lager. They also come in cans (I'm starting to dig this good beer in cans thing). Can't wait to crack these open soon.

Oktoberfest Saturday

Got bored this morning so I decided to invite a couple friends over for the afternoon NFL game (Redskins/Giants... yawn) and an Oktoberfest tasting. The Oktoberfest beers I picked up were

1) Spaten Oktoberfest
2) Ayinger Oktoberfest
3) Paulaner Oktoberfest
4) Weihenstephaner Festbier
5) Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfst
6) Samuel Adams Octoberfest

In the past I have only had 3 of the listed beers (Spaten, Sam Adams, Paulaner). This season I have only had the Spaten (very good) and Karl Strauss (forgettable), both on tap. I'm curious to see how these match up against each other in a side by side tasting.

UPDATE: So we just finished a couple hours of good Oktoberfest drinking. I took a few shots of the beers though its very hard to describe each individual one, let alone the very subtle places they differ.

The Ayinger Oktober Fest-Marzen was one of our favorites. It had a real sweet smell to it that I couldn't exactly describe. It was much more sugary malty-sweet in the aroma than the others. This started out fairly light in taste, lots of biscuity type "light" flavor but I think it was too cold. As it warmed up a lot of sweetness of the malt came out.

Paulaner Oktoberfest Marzen was a much more toasty type Oktoberfest. The malt had a little bit of a bite to it. From this bottle I sensed a little off flavor (maybe mishandling?), but a lot of the sweeter malt still came out a bit along with that toastiness.

Hacker-Pschorr's Oktoberfest was a very tasty one. This seemed to be more of a combination of the previous two. A little bit of sugary sweet taste along with some toasted malt. It went together pretty well and was nice to drink.

I liked Samuel Adams Octoberfest a lot last year and liked it again even more this year. It has much more of an "edge" to the flavor. The malt seems to give it more bitterness than the others but there's also some sweetness there of course, which is what I expect in all oktoberfests. There is also more of a hop presence in this, albeit still very light, compared to the others. It just seems like they pack more flavor into this than others.

I didn't like the Spaten Oktoberfest last year in the bottle, at least compared to Sam Adams, but the ones I've had on tap so far this fall were very good. This bottle was also quite good. Probably one of the smoothest mouthfeels of all them, with a nice subtle taste that doesn't overdo it. It's very easy to drink, and has enough flavor to keep you happy. This was much less carbonated than the Paulaner, another reason I thought it was better.

The Weihenstephaner Festbier throws you off a little bit with the color, but then again maybe (probly?) they aren't aiming to make a strict oktoberfest/marzen style beer. This was very good, a lot lighter in the malt characteristic but it has a certain sweetness to it that is very good. It does have just a hint of what I would call a "light lager" feel to it, but it has so much more.

A bunch of really good beers overall. Although I didn't like the Paulaner from this bottle as much, the very first one I had out of a bottle a couple years ago was fantastic, and the time I had it on tap last year was probably my favorite oktoberfest of that season. It's really for me to describe the flavors in the oktoberfests, even after reading what I should be tasting from the BJCP guidelines. However, my favorite of the day would have to be a tie between Spaten and Sam Adams.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Quick Review: Dale's Pale Ale

Dale's Pale Ale comes from a brewery named Oskar Blues in Lyons, CO. Most beer enthusiasts know about this beer, being that it comes in a can (and there's not too many that do at this time). The beer pours a bit of chill hazed (I had this pretty cold) nice amber color, which clears up quite a bit as it warms. The head was nice and frothy, leaving great lacing. The smell had a nice caramel malt sweetness but of course an even better hoppiness, mostly in the citrus variety. The taste was tilted toward the bitter side with a strong citrus hop kick. A nice malt body was back there as well. This pale ale is very generously hopped, and is a pretty easy drinking beer because it's so tasty. The carbonation can seem a bit harsh, but then again I might have just had it a little too cold. If I could get this in stores I would buy it all the time.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Stone 11th Anniversary Ale

A black IPA, double IPA, imperial IPA.... whatever you want to call it. At 8.7% ABV, and with the amount of pine trees they cut down to use for artificial flavoring in this, I would say that probably qualifies it as a double IPA. Kidding aside, I thankfully had one cooled down in the fridge when my sister asked me Saturday afternoon what beer we would be drinking for her regular pre-USC game toast with our friend in Florida. I asked her if a black double IPA sounded good to her and the "ooooooooo" that followed indicated that was the right selection.

She tossed back her half a mugs worth in about 10 minutes but I consumed my glass (shown left) over 45 minutes, since it was poured at fridge temp. The first thing you notice is the blackness of it. Unlike a lot of porters, you don't see though it at the edges, and you don't see through it when held up to light. The head looks nice originally, a bit creamy, but dwindles pretty fast. The initial smell I get from is as it is very cold is a massive resiny pine aroma. The taste is again, lots of pine, leaving some of that resiny type bitterness in the aftermath, though I also detected just a bit of subtle sweetness as well. As it warms up you are able to notice more malt in the background, but I only slightly pick up any roasted malt character. To me, the hops just dominate so much it's hard to get past it. It is definitely opposite of the normal syrupy sweet double IPA's that dominate the market. The mouthfeel is probably one of the beer's better qualities. A really nice fine tuned and slick mouthfeel without it being too heavy- about medium bodied and fine carbonation.

This wasn't my favorite beer but it certainly wasn't bad. I had fun with the glass I drank but I wouldn't seek it out again, except that I bought a few bottles and am actually interested to see how this ages within the next year. I gave it a 3.9 on BA which is where I tend to rate good beers that don't wow me.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Stone's 11th Anniversary Recap

My buddy Steve and I traveled down the 15 fwy on our way to Port Brewing for a little food & beverages before the Stone 11th anniversary, but it wasn't easy. What is normally a 1 hr 15 minute drive took us a little over 2 hours thanks to an entire closure of the freeway in Lake Elsinore. After an adventurous and frustrating detour around that town, we finally got back on track and made it to Port by noon. It looked as though most of the breakfast goers had packed up and left, leaving a couple handfuls of people there. We started off with some Amazing Grace and Sharkbite Red, before getting nachos and breakfast burritos. It was then that I was ordering up a Wipeout IPA when Sage questioned the sanity of that order in the midst of a Hop 15 cask. I'm glad that was questioned because I had forgotten they were going to have the Hop 15 there on cask, which was of course unfiltered, a bit cloudy, a little warmer, and just a great easy drinking strong beer all together. I preferred it to the bottled version of Hop 15. After that I noticed people had been ordering up a beer called "Signature" which I inquired about, and was told that it was the beer Tomme came up with when he was on his Belgium trip with other brewers (Vinnie Cilurzo, Sam Caligone, and Adam Avery?). This was a blonde, for lack of a better description, beer made with the addition of Brettanomyces. I really enjoyed this beer (pictured right). No surprise that it had a sourish quality to it just like one of my favorite beers of all time, Russian River Sanctification. However, it wasn't as puckering, and the sourness faded so that the end of the sip had what I think was more of an earthy feel to it. I'm sure my taste buds had been blasted enough by the Hop 15, so any sort of hoppiness coming from the Signature Ale was undetected. That was finished up along with small glasses of Hopout- a blend of Hop 15 and Wipeout IPA made by Beer Molly, which I only mention because it turns out to be a really good beer. You get all of the great pungent hops of the Hop 15 combined with the bitterness of the Wipeout- that makes for a good combination.

We left and arrived at Stone at 2:45 just in time for the start of the 2nd session. The first booth we managed to hit was SKA Brewing from Durango, CO, where we tried their double IPA- I believe it was called Decadent Imperial IPA (pictured left). It was quite good. The next stop along the way was a quick one at the Pizza Port booth where I got an El Camino IPA. We then headed over to the booth with the longest line. No not a Stone booth, not even Russian River (though their line was pretty long as people really wanted some of the Blind Pig IPA and Pliny the Elder). The booth was Maui Brewing Company, with the main attraction being their Coconut Porter. That turned out to be well worth the 5 minute wait, as it was a very flavorful porter. Next, realizing that those couple hours at Port were starting to take their toll on our sobriety, we headed over to the Stone booth to try the 11th Anniversary Ale so we could actually remember it (pictured right). That might have been the last taster that I actually remember anything about. It was a roasty, bitter, hoppy black strong ale or IPA (not sure what they are calling it). The next beers were Ommegang Hennepin, Tijuana Brewing Dark Lager (quite good!), and San Diego Brewing Blueberry Wheat (very good, but at this point way too buzzed to enjoy). So I ended up only using 7 of my 10 tasters, but believe me, it was way more beer than I needed in a day. Lesson learned for next time, but it was fun none the less.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Will have a writeup tomorrow of the full day of beer fun. Traffic down to SD + good drinking at Port Brewing + Stone Anniv. It ended 3 hours ago and I'm still buzzed. I'm gonna have a great sleep tonight. See y'all tomorrow. I should have a bunch of pictures up too.

For a teaser, sipping on some cask Hop 15

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Stone 11th Anniversary Party

This Saturday is the big day and I am still wavering on whether to buy a ticket. I waited way too long to figure out if I would need to study all Saturday or not and now session 2 is sold out. I may get session 1 tickets but I still have nobody to go with- none of my friends are available and my usual designated driver (my sister) already made plans. The only problem is who knows when a Stone anniversary party will fall on such a convenient day for me (this is a USC football bye week, usually there is a game on the same day and I can't miss USC football). Who knows, I may get a ticket at the last minute tomorrow and just drive down myself for a couple hours.

UPDATE: Ok, so a buddy and I got tickets to the 2nd session and we will be hitting up The Lost Abbey for a few hours of fun and drinking before hand, and then moving onto Stone around 2:45pm. This will be my first Stone Anniversary so I'm excited.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

What Brewery Has the Best Bottle Art?

It's hard to single only a handful of breweries out for their bottle art but I'm going to try to list my top 3 favorites. Is it really important? YES! Whether we want to admit it or not, artwork is a big factor for many people's purchasing decisions. I'm sure all of us have bought beer based solely on the art before. These three breweries have great artwork for a large majority of their beers, not just one or two great labels.

Jolly Pumpkin, Dexter, Michigan
I know probably as little about art as its possible to know, but I can tell you that I really like Jolly Pumpkins awkward art. Whatever you call it, it kind of reminds me of Van Gogh. Lots of weird, vibrant colors going on here and lots of interesting shapes. Take a look at their website, they have 11 different beers listed and the labels for each one. I love them all. I haven't even had a Jolly Pumpkin beer before but I think I'll go out tomorrow morning and pick one up just in appreciation of the interesting art.

Deschutes Brewery, Bend, Oregon
Deschutes was my first favorite brewery. That might have had a lot to do with how cool their bottle art is, but I tend to find most of their beers really tasty as well. Pretty much every label they have has something to do with the Oregon outdoors. Mountains, streams, trees and lakes are what they tend to focus on. They also release Jubelale, which comes out each winter and has new artwork every year from a new artist.

Port Brewing/Lost Abbey, San Marcos, CA
Probably no surprise, these guys can't do anything wrong. They could come slinging paint from suspended wires 10 feet in the air ala Maude in The Big Lebowski and it would still look great. Simple, peaceful drawings is how I would describe these (well, probably not the Judgment Day or 10 Commandments artwork... but for the most part...)

So these are my top 3 right now. Anyone care to argue or maybe throw one out there I missed or that you think is just flat out better? I'd be really interested to hear and see.