Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Good Night / Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale

A few friends came over for some BBQ tonight and we had some beers. I tried a new one- the Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale and it was GREAT. More on that later. The beer on the far right isn't a Westvleteren... it's actually a bottle of my homebrewed porter, which I'm going to call a Banana Chocolate Porter since the London Ale yeast I used kicked out a ton of banana-y esters.

That would be the Dogfish Head Indian Brown. I got this in a trade with a BA in Florida, but good news for us Californians- Dogfish Head is starting to distribute again in CA. Already there are bottles popping up San Diego. This is great news. Back to the beer. This brown ale gets some really good ratings and I was a little skeptical being that brown ale hasn't generally been one of my favorite styles. I didn't care that much for Sam Smith's Nut Brown Ale, the Deschutes Buzzsaw Brown was Ok but seemed to have a weird metallic thing going on, and the only one I really have liked is from this hole in the wall brewpub down the street from me that just shut down - Old Baldy Brewing Company.

Indian Brown pours a clear dark brown. The taste is rich yet refreshing, with chocolate, caramel and the nuttiness you expect from a brown ale. That's pretty much all I have to say about it. It was really good.

Time For A Trip

It's been far too long since I got out of the LA area. I think it's been about a month and a half now and I'm craving some of that fresh San Diego beer. Here's what should be in store for this coming Saturday.

  • Hitting the road ~10am heading south on the 15 freeway towards Alpine.
  • Get to Alpine Beer Company around noon and get some growlers filled... Pure Hoppiness is a must, and I'll be calling Friday before close to make sure they'll have some on Saturday.
  • Grab some lunch and beer at the new Liars' Club Alpine. I'm specifically looking for New Belgium La Folie here but from what I've seen you can't go wrong with anything on their beer menu.
  • Head over to O'Brien's Pub for a couple hours in the afternoon.
  • Stop by Stone on the way back home to get a growler fill of their 2005 Russian Imperial Stout.
That should make for a really long day, but hopefully I'll be able to relax a while with a bunch of great beer while not having to worry about school until I wake up the next morning.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Not A Wallop of Hops

I had Victory's Hop Wallop for the first time just under a year ago. It was so good I dubbed it my favorite double IPA and gave it a rating of 4.75 out of 5. Since then I've discovered a wide array of amazing hoppy beers all of which I'm sorry to say completely outshine Hop Wallop. Maybe that bottle I had last year really was that good and the bottle I drank tonight was handled poorly... I don't know. The notes I had last year were an intense aroma of piney, resiny hops along with a bubblegum-like sweetness. This year I had to search for the hops. Yeah they were there, more along the lines of earthy- like some English hops maybe, but it didn't sear my nose hairs off like last year. And no bubblegum, it was more of a pilsner-type pale malt background. Last year's taste was pretty amazing too, delivering an aggressively unbalanced (which I loved) hoppiness. Today it was more like a nice earthy hoppiness with a sweet malty counterpart. Nothing bad about the taste, just not what I loved the last time I had it. None of the 8.5% ABV really peaks through though it may contribute to the slick mouthfeel. I would give this bottle a 3.75 and pray next year's is better.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Lucky B's Belgian Fest

Rounded up a couple friends this afternoon and we headed over to Lucky Baldwin's Delirium Cafe in Sierra Madre for the two week Belgian Festival. There was a small crowd there, all occupying the outdoor seating on the beautiful day, so we went inside and sat at the bar. The list was about ~40 taps long, and out of that there were still about 10 taps being taken up of non-Belgian beer. I was not impressed with the list at all. Nevertheless we all ordered some food (they had a special Belgian food menu as well, and while one of my friends got some mussels, I stuck with a pastrami sandwhich) and I ordered a Nostradamus, which was "eh." After that I ordered a taster of Silly Saison, which again was "eh." I was really not happy with these choices and nothing else on their list looked that interesting so we decided to move a few miles down the road to the Pasadena location since they have more taps there.

We got to the Pasadena location around 3:30 and it was packed. No seating indoor or outdoors initially, but we did find a small table a few minutes after ordering our beers. There were about 20 more Belgian beers on tap here and I was able to get a couple really good ones- Rodenbach Flemish Red Ale (or Classic) (pictured left), and Rodenbach Grand Cru. I had been thirsting for some sour beers this week and both of these beers were excellent, especially the Grand Cru which was more intense than the Classic and had a nice subtle flavor of cherries to go along with the mouth watering sourness. They also had the Monk's Cafe Flemish Sour Ale which I have had before, and liked, so I had my friend Pete order that. They had a dessert on the menu that looked interesting as well- a Gueuze cheesecake. It was a white cheesecake with a raspberry sauce that was made from some Framboise (I don't think Lindeman's though). We ordered it and it was VERY good.

Overall not a bad afternoon. Thankfully the Pasadena location, one I don't go to much anymore because I like the cleanliness and service of Sierra Madre better, came through and saved the day.

Tap list at the Pasadena location

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lucky Baldwin's 9th Annual Belgian Beer Festival

It's that time again. The dates for Lucky Baldwin's 9th Annual Belgian Beer Festival are this Saturday February 16th to March 2nd, all day every day, but if you want the best stuff you better get there in the first 2 days. It will be held at both the Old Town Pasadena and Sierra Madre locations, though the Pasadena one has a handful more taps.

One Of Those Nights

I picked up a mixed sixer of some beers recently. It contained 2 Victory Hop Wallop, 1 Sierra Nevada Bigfoot 2008, 1 Anchor Old Foghorn, 1 Drake's IPA, and 1 Big Sky IPA that I felt I needed to get my hands on right away since the Beer Retard loves it and seems to be trying to drink all that is produced. So I popped the cap on the Big Sky IPA tonight and what followed was major disappointment, not necessarily in the beer, but mostly in myself. Given the fact that there is no "best before" or "bottled on" date it makes it hard to know how long this has been sitting on a shelf. With the more delicate beers like IPA's, pale ales, amber ales etc, I've been really trying to be careful about getting the freshest bottles possible. I made a bad decision here. The beer had barely a ounce left of what I could find of some sort of juicy hops, but then oxidation and diminished hop flavor took over. After about a 1/4th of the bottle I poured it. Oh well, I'll still be looking to get my hands on a fresh (refrigerated) bottle one of these day.

I didn't want to end the night on a bad note so I popped open the Drake's IPA. I was really excited about this knowing how fantastic some of Drake's beers are. Stale beer take 2. This also displayed the same worn out character that the Big Sky had. After about 1/3rd of it I just decided it wasn't worth it and dumped it too. That brought an end to the night, forcing me to study for my midterm tomorrow. I have an idea that the beer I'll be having tomorrow night will bring much better results.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Russian River Pliny The Younger

I made it to Hollingshead's Deli in Orange today to get my first taste of Pliny the Younger and I wasn't let down. Making it more interesting, I got there about 10 minutes after they stopped serving sandwiches which I was depending on for dinner, and thus had 24 oz's of this 11% hop bomb on an empty stomach... love it!

The beer pours, well as you can see to the left, a rich golden with a slight light orange tone. The smell is definitely hoppy, but not as potent as I thought it would be at first. The aroma has a little bit of earthy hops, but much more citrus hops. It's pretty tropical I guess. The taste was a lot more citrus and pine... just loads of this, and somewhat sweet though not overly malty. Since I hadn't had this before I can't comment on it's dryness compared to how it use to be, but it did finish slightly dry, though not horribly so. Younger just flows so well together, there's no astringency or harshness at all in this beer. The accolades this beer has earned among beer fanatics across the country are valid. They also had Pliny the Elder and the regular Russian River IPA on tap, so hopefully I can make it back in the next week and get a little side-by-side tasting going. As for now, Younger gets a 4.85 from me on BA, yeah that's an A+.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Pliny The Younger Watch: 2008

I'm going to try to keep a running log of the appearance and disappearance of the once-a-year triple IPA known as Pliny the Younger ("PtY"). This will focus on Southern California because it will be a lot more scarce down here and I'm using this to serve as my own quest for PtY (wait, didn't I just finish an Abyss quest just the other day?). Anyway, I rarely have any "inside" info so I'm just compiling all the facts and rumors that I find from sources around the internet etc. If you have any info drop a comment here or email me so I can add in updates. I proclaim this Pliny the Younger Central.


  • 1/28/08 - Tapped at the Russian River Brewpub (per reports on BA).
  • As good as usual (per Pacific Brew News)
  • Vinnie is trying to make this beer drier each year (per Pacific Brew News)
  • Ranked #4 in the world by, and #26 by
  • This beer is only kegged; no bottles.
  • Only 12 kegs total for Southern California (per BA)
  • Distribution through Stone starting 2/11/08 (per BA)
  • Father's Office in Santa Monica will not be getting it.
  • Hollingshead's Deli in Orange should have it sometime this week (11th-15th), or maybe the week after.
  • Hollingshead's received 5- yes FIVE! kegs.
  • 2/9/08 - On tap at Pizza Port Carlsbad
  • 2/10/08 - Pizza Port Carlsbad keg kicked. No More.
  • 2/11/08 - Hollingshead's Deli has it on right now.
  • 2/12/08- Hollingshead is going strong and the owner assures me there are more than 1 keg there, due to them being one of the first accounts Vinnie had when he was brewing in Temecula at Blind Pig Brewing.
    • (I had two 12 oz. servings and WOW, reviews to follow...)
  • 2/13/08 - On tap at O'Brien's Pub in San Diego.
  • 2/15/08 - On tap at Stone World Bistro & Gardens
  • 2/19/08 - Apparently Stone is out. Don't know if they have any more.
  • 2/19/08 - O'Brien's finished their first keg and was putting another on tap, that might be gone also.
  • 2/19/08 - Hollignshead's Deli was on their second keg as of Monday the 18th
    • This keg seemed to taste different to a few of us there. Some people thought it had more "orange" citrus character. I thought it was overall more aromatic and a bit more bitter too, but I loved it.
  • 2/21/08 - On tap at Pizza Port Solana Beach

Updates will be added as more info comes out.

Updated 2/22/08, 3:00pm

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Random Photo From This Weekend: The Nugget

Tröegs Nugget Nectar, Imperial Amber Ale

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Search For The Abyss, Starts and Ends Now

Conceding that it will not make its way into the Inland Valley, I am about to embark on a journey to the find Deschutes The Abyss. The first stop in this journey will take me to the Beverages & More in Orange (about 30 miles away), where their website says they have 25 in stock. With BevMo that's about as sure thing as the Patriots supposing to win the Super Bowl this year. The next stop will be the Whole Foods in Tustin, a few miles further, which not only apparently has "a couple" bottles left but also has it on tap at their bar. My last stop is planning to be Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa, another couple handful of miles down the road from Tustin. I know they don't have Abyss there but hopefully I can get in before they close at 8pm just to see if there's anything interesting to pick up along with a case of Olympia for my dad. It's 5:48 right now, we'll see what happens.

UPDATE: It's 9:35pm and since I posted the first part of this less than 4 hours ago we have satisfied our quest. We first made our way to Whole Foods instead and noticed they had 2 1/2 cases sitting out there in their beer isle full of amazing selections. I got the beers I needed and then found their little bar/lounge where they had St. Bernardus Abt 12, St. Bernardus Prior 8, Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter, and Deschutes The Abyss on tap. I think it goes without saying what beer I ordered. They served me and my buddy an Abyss in a large flute style glass (~10 oz.). This baby poured with a pitch black appearance though ruby at the edges, and a rough dark brown head that almost blended in with the body of the beer. If there was anything that could remind me of Older Viscosity (one of the most amazing beers I've had recently), then this was it. Right from the first whiff you could tell this was one rich beer, chocolate, roasted barley, and coffee like flavors abound. The flavor was dark chocolate soaked in bourbon, though the bourbon doesn't give off too much of its own flavor, more just like a warmth to the overall taste. There is a pretty stiff bitterness left after the swallow, but something I don't find detracts from this style of beer. The mouthfeel was perfectly slick for this type of beer. Thick but not too viscous, it was able to go down pretty easily. A very rich but easy drinking high gravity beer. I give this a 4.75 / A+ on BeerAdvocate. Needless to say, we didn't make it anywhere else tonight, nor did we need to.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Super Bowl Suds

To kick off the Super Bowl I figured why not share a beer with the sis? Figuring that since she's a NY Giants fan maybe it was time for a special beer. She had not been introduced to sour beers and she jumped at the thought when I mentioned Lost Abbey Red Poppy as she's heard me talk about it so much. We split a bottle and this was the first time I've had this beer from the bottle. I was able to pick up a little more character from it than the previous two times I've had small samples from the tap. What I didn't notice before is that along with the beer's aroma of lactic sourness there is also a real mellow funk behind there too. The taste was pretty similar to before with the overall cherry presence (though not sweet at all) mixed in and mostly overpowered by the sourness. I like this beer but I would like a touch more cherry for the price tag of $15 per 375mL, but that's just me. Cherry is what seems to be the special ingredient but I don't feel it stands out enough to make this beer as unique as I thought it should be. If it could just get up to the Cuvee de Tomme cherry level, then we're talking. Nevertheless an enjoyable sour beer.. I would die happy if I could ever make one as good as this.

At halftime I poured a Bell's Two Hearted Ale to go with my Costco pizza. This IPA has a big reputation in the Midwest and East Coast, and generally people will list it as one of their top 3 favorite IPA's. I scored a bottle last Summer and was not impressed at all. Well, after having this bottle I realize that one I had last Summer was past its prime. This bottle was fresh and what I expected a beer that people rave so much about to taste like. It reminds me a lot of the Stone IPA with a very floral and earthy hop aroma, but Two Hearted has a nice dose of citrus peeking through with that. The taste has a bit of that juicy IPA quality and I found this to be a really really good beer. I had to bump up my previous grade of 3.9 (which was probably pretty generous) to a 4.4, or BeerAdvocate grade of A.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Tonight: Lucky Baldwin's Delirium Cafe

Well I have my Virus/Fungi/Parasite Therapeutics final in about 36 hours (how fun does that sound?) but that did not stop me from enjoying a few good beers with some friends at Lucky Baldwin's Delirium Cafe in Sierra Madre- my favorite "local pub" which happens to be about 25 miles away, for my friend Pat's birthday. Had a couple new beers tonight....

  • Lagunitas (or Lost Coast?) Chocolate Porter: Somehow it never fails that I find a chocolate porter on tap at Lucky Baldwin's. I've had Lost Coast's version and now I get to try Lagunitas', and chocolate porter happens to be one of my favorite styles. This one was very good. I'd say they hit the mark pretty well as it was very chocolaty, though you could tell it was from chocolate malt and not from added chocolate during brewing like some stouts recently (Southern Tier Choklat, Rogue Chocolate Stout). Very good beer, I drank it pretty fast and enjoyed it. And actually, as I do a little search, I can't find any record of Lagunitas ever brewing a chocolate porter so I put in an email to them to see if they indeed have brewed one maybe recently for the first time. We'll see what they say. [EDIT: Lagunitas says they've never made a chocolate porter so I'm guessing this was from Lost Coast and just mislabeled on the menu.]
  • Fantôm Saison: Wow, this was the funkiest Saison I've come across. We split a bottle of this about 4 ways at our table and the description out of this was "feet".... maybe "sweaty feet"... Well I informed my fellow beer drinkers who didn't really know what a Saison was that funkiness is what they are going for in this beer and I think this might be the closest to a "horseblanket" that I've ever gotten to (even though I don't really know what horseblanket is, I can just imagine). Well, as this beer warms up it is especially good, so make sure you're not drinking it too cold. Beer Advocate's have rated it as a 4.3 / A and I think I'd have to say I like other Saisons more than that but this wasn't bad.
Tomorrow is crunch time and I need to get a lot of studying done to get ready for my final. However, I might take a 2 hour break and take a trip down to Tustin (about 40 miles away) to the Whole Foods that has Deschutes Abyss on tap and get myself a pour, as well a few bottles, because I think Deschutes has totally neglected my area (the Inland Valley, aka the 909 area code) with this beer and who knows when/if we'll get it. If you didn't know, Deschutes is one of my top 5 favorite breweries and I've never had the Abyss before, so I have to try it. It's one of the most hyped Imperial Stouts in the country and hopefully it's not as overrated as I found Three Floyds Dark Lord to be (hey that's just my taste though... I would take Stone Russian Imperial Stout over Dark lord every day of the week and twice on Sunday). We'll see what happens. I'm sad I couldn't make it down to the Lost Abbey Carnivale release tonight but hopefully I'll be able to find some of that beer around here later this month.