Sunday, December 30, 2007

Another Saturday in San Diego

My friend Steve and I got down into SD around noon on Saturday and decided to have lunch and a beer at O'Brien's Pub. This was actually the first time I've been there and let's just say I wish this was my neighborhood pub. It's a tiny little place (though lots of outside seating) with a fairly small but amazing selection. Although here were things like Stone 9th Anniversary, Pizza Port Seaside Stout, and Russian River Pliny the Elder, the minute I saw Alpine Pure Hoppiness I ordered a pint almost without hesitation. Having had Exponential Hoppiness before I kinda knew what to expect, but I was hoping for a little less actually than Exponential which is a very thick, syrupy, albeit tasty double IPA. Pure Hoppiness has a wonderful clean and fresh hoppiness to it consisting of lots of citrus. Being a double IPA at 8% ABV, it still has more of a beefed up body so the malt overshadows a lot of the bitterness found in normal IPA's. However, it's not too syrupy, and goes down really well for a double IPA, a style I have been kinda getting tired with.

After a beer and some food at O'Brien's we headed back up to San Marcos to stop in and have a drink at Port Brewing / Lost Abbey. I had a High Tide IPA that was packed with flavor. The hoppiness you get out of this one is more along the floral, herbal type, and there is a very strong bitterness to it. Maybe the most exciting news of the day is that Lost Abbey Red Poppy Ale, a delicious (dare I say as good if not better than New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red) sour cherry beer, is set to be released soon. I thought I heard "February 19th", but maybe it was January 19th since that would make more sense being a Saturday and all. Of course my memory could have just completely recalled it wrong and neither of those dates is right (that tends to happen to me when I'm drinking beer) but the main point is it will come soon. I can't wait. [EDIT: Will be released January 19th per Beer Sage]

After a pint at Port we headed up to Stone to see what was on tap. The list was good, like always, but not a whole lot excited me. One beer that did excite me was Alpine Captain Stout a standard American style stout. Captain Stout is a sweeter stout packed with coffee and chocolate but enough roasted malt bitterness to keep it stout-like. Just another nice beer day in SD.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Jolly Pumpkin La Roja

The Lost Abbey may have had a beer called Funky Barrel, but the brewery Jolly Pumpkin out of Dexter, MI might be the one brewery that continuously brings the funk. This is only the second offering I've tried from them (the first being their Winter seasonal) but from what I've gathered I don't think they make a non-funky beer. Jolly Pumpkin states that their production uses open fermentation and oak aging, which I'm guessing applies to all their beers.

La Roja is constructed under the style of Flanders Red Ale and the aroma immediately makes me think I'm in for a Supplication-like mouth quenching experience. That's a little misleading though because the taste is only mildly sour. There are a lot of other woody caramel and fruity flavors that take some of the focus away from the tartness. The high carbonation gives it a very fizzy mouthfeel. A good choice for any sour beer lover.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Sam Adams Old Fezziwig

Given that I don't often drink Sam Adams, I really am excited to have this Winter Classics pack, especially after trying the excellent Holiday Porter yesterday. Today I went with the Old Fezziwig Ale which has recently stirred up a little debate on BeerAdvocate over whether this year's version is as good as it's been in the past. Old Fezzy, as they call it, is a malty and spicy beer, brewed with cinnamon, ginger, and orange (peel?), with an ABV of 5.9%.

It poured darker than I expected, though clear at the edges. The smell was largely made up of toasty malt. Given that they say they used a lot of "specialty malt," I'm guessing they used a lot of Munich and/or Victory malt. I also thought I noticed a hint of cinnamon in the aroma, even before I noticed on the label what the beer was brewed with. The taste has that heavily toasty character to it with a certain subtle spiciness that I could not discern by flavor. The spiciness was not too bad because it didn't overwhelm, instead it was only barely noticeable in the background. I thought towards the end I could still pick up on a little cinnamon in the taste, but that might have been more in my head. This, along with the Holiday Porter, is one of the better seasonal beers I've come across this holiday season. Kudos to Sam Adams so far, we'll see how they do with the Cream Stout and the Cranberry Lambic (<<--- not expecting a whole lot). Old Fezzy gets a 4.05 from me, or a B+ on BeerAdvocate.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Sam Adams Holiday Porter

I was given the Sam Adams holiday gift 12-pack that contains 6 beers; Boston Lager, Winter Lager, Old Fezziwig, Cream Stout and Holiday Porter. The holiday porter sounded good tonight so that's what I went with. I was figuring that they used spices to put the "Holiday" in this porter, but I could tell I was wrong after my first sip. The aroma was pretty sweet, mainly chocolate and small amount of roasted malt which were both found in the taste as well. The chocolate was pretty strong and was accompanied by a lot of caramel goodness, with the tiny bit of roasty character doing its thing away from center stage. Overall it's just a really sweet porter, maybe a little thinner than you would expect but if I could get this by itself I would be drinking it right along side Black Butte Porter all the time. I rated it a 4.3, or what would now be an A- on BA.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas in Belgium Gift Pack + Review

Though I made a request that nobody buy me beer for Christmas (gift certificates, glassware, and everything else was fine), my sister still felt like purchasing me this Christmas in Belgium Gift Pack, distributed by the Shelton Brothers. I'm actually glad she did cause they look interesting.

The pack contains 5 beers. Two of them are Belgian Dark Ales (Winterkoninkske and Kerstmutske Christmas Nightcap) while the other three are more of the pale ale variety (Pere Noel, Zinnebir Xmas, Serafijn Christmas Angel).

After getting home from a bunch of family stuff last night I decided to jump right into the first one. I did a bit of research via BeerAdvocate on all of these because I'd never heard of any of them before. Kerstmutske Christmas Nightcap is a 7.4% ABV Belgian Strong Dark Ale. It is brewed by Dany De Smet and his wife who name their brewery "Slaapmutske," which is a term used to describe the last beer had before going to sleep. Dany was formerly brewmaster at Brewery Huyghe (Delirium line of beers). Nightcap pours a deep purplish-brown with an off-white, yellow-tinged head. The aroma contains grapes, sugary candy, and some earthiness from the Belgian yeast. The taste of most Belgain Dark ales is hard for me to pick apart because the malts or more subtle than darker American ales that use a bunch of roasted, chocolate, and black patent malts whose flavors are very easy to pick out. Usually in Belgian dark ales I get a sweet fruit taste, alcohol, and earthiness. That's what I got here, sans the alcohol. The mouthfeel seemed just a tad too light for the beer, but that's only a small gripe. I was very pleased with this beer, an easy drinking dark Belgian that indeed works well as a nightcap.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Night of Beers

The lineup:
1. Alesmith IPA
2. Lost Abbey Judgment Day
3. Alesmith Horny Devil
4. Lost Abbey Cuvee de Tomme
5. Alesmith Speedway Stout
6. Three Floyds DarkLord (2007)

The Best: The undisputed winner here was Lost Abbey's Cuvee de Tomme. A wonderful blend of oak bourbon barrels and sour cherries, with a hint of sour brett in the background. In the smell comes some bourbon and sour cherries with a tiny amount of vanilla present. The taste gives you a lot more oak, and the bourbon overrides most of the sour brett until the very end of the sip. The carbonation was very low but it didn't detract much... in fact, although it probably could have used a touch more carbonation, too much would have been a bad thing.

The Worst: Three Floyds Dark Lord was the unanimous loser in this lineup. Not one person in the room cared for this beer. The smell carried some chocolate along with a sour type of malty smell, maybe like soy, I dunno. The taste had some bittersweet chocolate, slight coffee in the aftertaste and a real roasted malt tanginess. Tangy. That is actually the best word I could use to describe the beer. I don't even know how the majority of people like this beer. I will never seek it out again. I'm pissed I gave up a Russian River Toronado 20th for it. Live and learn I guess.

Honorable Mention to: Alesmith Horny Devil. This beer pours a rich clear golden color, smells a bit of Belgian yeast mustiness along with a big fruity sweetness. The taste is really great, all of that said above in the smell and then add in the 11% alcohol and you have a very interesting Belgian Pale Ale.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

God Bless Ruination 12 oz. Bottles

The perfect accompany for any lunch. And if my math is correct, buying a 6 pack is way more worth it than buying the same amount in 22 oz bottles.

Price of Ruination 6-pack in So. Cal = $11.99
Oz's in a 6 pack = 72

Price of Ruination 22oz bottle = $4.49
3 Ruination bottles = 66 oz's and $13.47

So you buy a Ruination 6 pack and not only do you get more beer than buying a few bombers, but you get it at less of a price. Add to that the convenience of a 12 oz serving and we got liquid gold! I'm glad Stone decided to sell these in 6 packs in addition to the bombers.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Couple of Winter Ales

I've had some bad luck with the winter beers this year. The first one to kick it off was Deschutes Jubelale which was a huge letdown from last year. Then the season was redeemed by Jolly Pumpkin's Noel de Calabaza. Oh yeah, Sierra Nevada Celebration is a great beer every year, but we already knew that.

But now I've been cold with the last 3 tries. It started the other night when I went for a couple pints at Lucky Baldwin's. They had just finished their Christmas beer festival but they still had some on tap, so I ordered an Anchor Christmas Ale hoping it'd be much better than the 2006 vintage I had last year. Well it wasn't. Most people flip out over this beer, but I just can't grasp it. It's got a huge spicy thing going on, maybe it was cloves, but there was more to it, a much more herbal thing. I just didn't like the taste, plain and simple.

The next attempt was when I ordered Gordon Biersch's Winter Bock while at a work party. This actually wasn't horrible, it just wasn't something very satisfying. It's supposedly a dopplebock, of which I've only maybe 3 different ones in my life, but it wasn't anything like those others, and it surely wasn't any better in its own way. This beer was a big malt soup with a pretty potent alcohol presence thrown in. That's all I can really remember. Still had a good time at Gordon Biersch though!

Finally I had a bottle of Alaskan Winter Ale last night. Another one who wasn't bad by any means, just a little different and not my exact idea of a winter ale. It had a medium malt body but the main attraction was the spruce tip spicing. Let me say that was very interesting! I don't exactly know if/when I've ever had spruce before but it gave the beer a berry taste... like blueberries maybe, but not overpowering. Anyway, I was able to drink that beer pretty easily but I wouldn't have more just because that flavor started to become a bit old by the end.

Well I gotta say I love trying new beers, and I know I'll never like every beer, but this winter I've been disappointed with my selection. Last year I had pretty good luck with Deschutes Jubelale and Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome Ale. To me, those two brews epitomized "winter ale."

Deschutes Hop Trip

Most people are pulling an imperial stout or winter warmer out of their fridge the week before Christmas, but I felt like something a little lighter this afternoon while watching some bowl games. I didn't think I was going to be able to find this around me easily but I happened to be down in Costa Mesa a few days ago and was able to get a bottle of Deschutes Hop Trip. The only other fresh hop beer I've had was Sierra Nevada Harvest Ale which is in my opinion the best beer they make.

Hop Trip poured my favorite color for a pale ale- a burnt orange-red. Pretty weak head, even though I tried my best get a good one on it. The smell was pretty subtle, I guess I'm getting way too used to aggressive IPA's. However there was a lot of citrusy hop apparent in the aroma, along with biscuity malt. The taste started out with some pine but was mainly citrus, and juicy. I would go as far to describe this as Alpha King Jr. Definitely nowhere near the hoppiness or bitterness of Alpha King, but with the same juicy flavor- only toned down quite a bit. This was a pretty easy drinking pale ale, reminding me how it's nice to take a break from any of the copious amounts of big aggressive beers taking over right now. 4.4 on BA from me.

And just for verification, poured sister a taster of it and her reply was "ohhhh, that's goooood.. smoooooooth"

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Russian River IPA

Went to Hollingshead's Deli to have lunch and see what they had on tap. A pretty good selection today, the ones I remember being Sierra Nevada Celebration, Alaskan Winter Ale, Avery The Kaiser, Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout, Victory HopDevil, and Russian River IPA.

I went with the Russian River IPA (pictured right), a great and steady choice of an IPA. Resiny citrus hop oils and a fair bitterness cross the tongue. I usually don't drink beer all that fast, but I was able to get what looked like a 20 oz pour down pretty fast, at 11am no less, giving credit to this beer's incredible "drinkability."

Hollingshead's Firestone delivery guy had also just dropped off their allotment of Firestone 11 so we were able to buy 1 bottle each. A pretty expensive beer at $16.95 for 22 oz's, but it's not the most expensive bottled beer I've paid for per ounce. That designation might have to go to Lost Abbey's Cuvee de Tomme which was $15 for about 12.7 ounces.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Stoudt's Fat Dog Imperial Oatmeal Stout

This Summer I came across a few products from Stoudts, a brewery in Adamstown, Pennsylvania, and thought it was a bit strange they were even offering something as interesting as an imperial oatmeal stout all the way out here on the west coast. The Stoudts Fat Dog Imperial Oatmeal Stout is 9% ABV, with an IBU of 55, and brewed with 3 different hops- Warrior, Kent Golding, and Willamette.

It poured the beautiful shiny black color as you can see from the picture. The smell was pretty aromatic, with sweet dark roasted malts. Though I can't really say I've ever been able to pinpoint an "oat" smell from an oatmeal stout, I thought I picked up what could have been a sweet sort of oatmeal smell. The taste isn't as highly roasty as the aroma. There is actually much more of a chocolate taste to it, which really kicks in mainly after the sip. The deep chocolate is followed by cocoa powder and then a little bit of alcohol. There was suppose to have been a pretty generous hopping to it, but this bottle was probably old enough that they faded into the recesses of the dark thick malt. Pretty easy drinking for a big stout, especially if you have a sweet tooth.

Beer - The Magazine... Yeah Another One...

Lately I've been reading DRAFT Magazine but was given this new magazine simply titled Beer. The cover sure doesn't turn you off, that's for sure. So I started reading and it was pretty apparent from the outset- this magazine has a schizophrenic frat boy vibe. 85% of the time they focus on what most of us craft beer enthusiasts would call the dreaded macros. Yep, on the first real page we have blurbs about Miller Chill, Michelob fruit-infused beers, and Bud Chelada. Later on there is a feature on the Pilsner style. Heineken and Labatt Blue make appearances there. And then the main feature is "Great American Beer Shootout: Blue Collar Beer" featuring Miller Genuine Draft, Olympia, Hamm's, Schlitz, Old Milwaukee, Miller High Life, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Coors, and Budweiser (the winner).

In addition there are articles addressing the lemon in the hefe debate, storing beer away from light and heat, 7 ways to open a beer bottle (oh boy!), and strategies for getting free beer at bars. Lets not forget the 7 pages dedicated to Beer Pong and what toilet paper is the best.

However there is that 15% that makes you think the magazine does know a good bit about its craft beer. The short review section in the back features Firestone Double Barrel, Sierra Nevada Porter, Deschutes Black Butte and Mirror Pond, Stone Pale Ale and Ruination, and Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA and Road Dog Scottish Ale. There is a nice article on the types of beer glassware and an introduction to homebrewing.

This magazine wasn't for me, and chances are the same for anyone who actually reads this blog, but I could understand the demographic they would be targeting.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A New Low - North Coast Old Rasputin

This Russian Imperial Stout from North Coast has been sitting in my fridge for a few months and I've been anxious to try it, given the fact that when I first got into beer and started exploring stouts this was the beer many told me was a benchmark of the style. I've found this not to be the case for my own tastes.

It started off pretty good initially. The appearance, a dark brown to black with a good looking fluffy head was what I expected, nothing wrong there. The smell was a pretty mellow acidic roasted malt aroma, nothing too wrong there. The taste even started out pretty good too. I detected a great amount of roastiness with a bitter chocolate and mild alcohol finish. As it stood this beer wasn't all that bad (not great either). On about the 8th sip or so everything went crazy. The taste became astringent and alcohol-y. I gave it a few minutes to try and recalibrate my senses and on the next sip I got the same thing. It was making me nauseous. I had to dump more than half the beer down the drain. If you had asked me before I uncapped this sucker, that would have been the last thing I would have ever thought I'd have to do. As it stands right now, it's tied with St. Pauli Girl as my lowest ranked beer.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Firestone 11 Is Coming

When is it coming? Nobody really knows for sure but it should hit a very selected amount of central and southern California stores by the end of this week or early next week (when it gets to northern California I have no idea). As you can see, this super premium beer goes for a price of $16.99 for a 22 oz. bottle. If the 11th turns out to be as good as the 10th, that price will be a steal knowing that bottles of the 10th were selling for $100 and up after the word had gotten out how good it was. I've seen one person mention that a certain BevMo is not even planning on putting their stock out on the floor, but will be available to people who inquire about it. That has to be unprecedented for BevMo. You can bet there will be more than a handful of people stocking up with all they can find in hopes of making huge profits on ebay, which has recently become a controversial topic on both BeerAdvocate and I side on that of the beer lovers who are more than a bit annoyed that people are buying up beers that are truly enjoyed by us enthusiasts and using them only to make a profit off of much wealthier individuals who have hundreds of dollars to throw around at single beers. But I digress. Apparently there were only 500 cases total of the 11 produced, so if you want some you better not wait.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Session #10 - 'Tis the Season for Noel De Calabaza

It's about as Winter as it's gonna get here in a mostly rainy Southern California right now. The temp this evening is 51 with an expected low of a frigid 45 degrees. I've seen some talk about a newcomer to the area for the last couple weeks and had been really excited to grab a bottle and give it a try. You have to look pretty carefully out here to find a beer store that carries any Jolly Pumpkin brews, so I was excited to see the first ever at my local Beverages & More. That would be the Jolly Pumpkin Noel De Calabaza, an oak aged "Belgian dark ale." This should be a fun tasting, as I sit down for a glass of this 9% Winter seasonal, moderately medicated due to a recent cold virus I've attracted. I'd normally wait until my upper respiratory passages cleared up, but forget that, I've been wanting to try this for two weeks now, and it ain't gonna be Winter forever.

This is probably not the type of beer you think of as a Winter seasonal. As we know, there are a huge amount of malty, maybe spiced, high alcohol beers that are made specific for the Winter, but how many sour beers do you see released? Kinda cool I say. The initial whiff I get is of some subdued funk and the Belgian yeast earthiness with a tart fruit (cherries to my f'd up nose) body. Initially it starts out with a really funky taste which rushes over the tongue really fast and leaves a tart and then dry bitterness in the throat. A lot of the earthiness leaves as you keep drinking and it becomes more of a fruity tart sort of beer, though it never loses that wild yeast character. Very nice beer, regardless of the temperature outside or the season.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

New Glarus Raspberry Tart

I was saving the New Glarus Raspberry Tart for a special occasion, and the anticipation was becoming too much, considering how much I loved the cherry flavored Belgian Red this same brewery makes. No better night to crack one open than after USC beats ucla.

Just as with the Belgian Red, I really don't have much of a description for this one. The name pretty much tells it all. It's fully flavored with raspberries, and it is very tart. You know how your mouth starts watering when you smell something sour? That's what happens with this. It's pretty acidic, so I couldn't drink it all night (even with it only being 4% ABV). The mouthfeel is really spritzy, almost tastes like a champagne cooler or something. A couple small (like 4 oz) glasses is enough for me. If you love raspberries you may want to do whatever you can to get this beer ASAP.