Friday, May 30, 2008

Another Yummy Brown Ale

I'm on this semi-amazing brown ale hot streak (never really liked or bothered with them before). First came Dogfish Head's Indian Brown. Then the Mammoth Double Nut Brown, Smuttynose Old Brown Dog, Brooklyn Brown Ale, TAPS Fish House Brown Ale and Magnolia Southern Pecan. Yesterday was Bear Republic's Pete Brown's Tribute Ale. I've never seen it on tap although I do remember seeing it sometime recently in bottles somewhere. Maybe this shows up in places frequently in Northern California, closer to Bear Republic, I don't know. I couldn't really find much info on Pete Brown, other than he was apparently a part of Bear Republic and that he passed away in 2002 (link). This brown ale tribute to him pours a cola brown with a light tan fluffy head that took forever to die down. Chocolate is abound in this brown ale. Although listed as 7% ABV on Hollingshead's Deli's tap handle sticker, Bear Republic lists it as 6.3%. It goes down really smooth. Lively enough not to be dull, but not overcarbonated or abrasive in any way. I finished this beer really fast and would have had another if I didn't have to drive back home 30 miles. Still loving those brown ales and giving this a 4.35/5.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Seven Grand, Los Angeles

Craft beer has slowly enhanced my sense of taste to where I now enjoy tasting beverages of all kinds. This includes something I hated the minute I had my first sample a handful of years ago- Bourbon. It wasn't until I had a Bourbon Sour (Maker's Mark) at the Seven Grand a few months ago that I realized I might like this stuff.

The Seven Grand is Southern California's only whiskey bar. Well, I don't know that for sure but it's a pretty good bet. And if it isn't the only whiskey bar I would bet my life it is by far and away the best. Maybe one of the best in the country. It's located on 7th and Grand in downtown LA just around the corner from the Library Bar (good place for beer). The bartenders know their stuff, and then some. They don't make a whiskey sour by using sour mix and a shot of whiskey. Nope, it's lemon juice, sugar, and egg whites shaken vigorously, and then topped off with a few dashes of bitters. Their Old Fashioned is bursting with bourbon, orange, and spice perfection.

So last night I met a friend there to have an Old Fashioned after work. While making my way through the drink the bartenders alerted us to a Buffalo Trace bourbon tasting that was about to start down the hall in one of their pool rooms. We went in and the rep was about to put on a DVD detailing the history of Buffalo Trace and their brands of bourbon and whiskey. As the tasting started they poured 4 brands distilled by Buffalo Trace:

  • Buffalo Trace, Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  • Sazerac Rye, 6-year-old, Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey
  • Blanton's Single Barrel, Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  • Eagle Rare Single Barrel, 10-year-old, Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Tasting them side by side I was able to tell there were differences, though not so much pick out tiny flavors like citrus, spice, dried peaches, raisins and honey as the tasting notes of these describe. The only things I could really pick out are caramel, burn, and Rye. Yeah, that Sazerac Rye was my favorite. The first sip I took reminded me of rye bread, I loved it. The other ones all had their bourbon character, the Blanton's Single Barrel having a big maple syrup smell and also had a lot of oakiness.

On another note, during the tasting we had met a sales rep for Martin Miller's London Dry Gin. She guided us through a small tasting at the bar afterwards, comparing Martin Miller's to the well-known Bombay Sapphire. Let's just say if I ever decide to become a big gin person, I won't be ordering Bombay Sapphire.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

There's A New Bruery In Town

Orange County is in for a major change. There's a great new brewery (Bruery) in town. Yeah there's TAPS Fish House up the road in Brea which makes some excellent beers, but they don't bottle anything. Here comes a start-up brewery just south of Fullerton called The Bruery that is making some amazing beers. Amazing and different. Today was their (secret) grand opening party. Here's what they were serving up:

  • Orchard White - A year round Witbier made with the traditional ingredients plus lavender.
  • Black Orchard - A black Witbier with Chamomile added.
  • Saison Rue - A farmhouse ale made with malted rye.
  • Trade Winds Tripel - A Belgian-style Tripel with Thai Basil added and beefed up with rice instead of Belgian candi sugar.
  • Bourbon Barrel Aged Batch No. 1 Levud's - A Belgian-style Golden Strong Ale (a version of their normal Batch No. 1 Levud's) that is aged in Bourbon barrels.
  • Humulus Bruin - A second runnings from their Imperial Stout, with a distinctive hoppiness to it.
When we arrived to the party we were given a beautiful tulip glass with "The Bruery" logo etched on and a list of what beers were on tap for the day with their descriptions. Having already had the Orchard White in a bottle last night we started off with the Saison Rue. From what I remember it had that farmhouse character to it and was a pleasure to drink. I have a bottle of it here at home so I can't wait to sit down with a larger glass.

The next beer we went to was the Trade Winds Tripel. This beer had some of the earthiness you get in the classic examples such as St. Bernardus or Westmalle Tripel, but it was really tilted more towards the fruit side. Light, fruity, and slightly earthy... and damn tasty. The tripel was my favorite beer of the day, and that is saying something amongst the quality beers there.

The next beer up was the Barrel Aged Batch No. 1 Levud's. The regular Batch No. 1 was not on tap, but it is a Belgian-style Golden Strong Ale, 11% ABV. This bourbon barrel aged version was 12% ABV. The aroma was undoubtedly oak and bourbon. I loved it. My friend not so much. However, we both agreed that the taste was very good. Lots of bourbon character in it, some heat, yet still had quite a fruity, sugary aspect to it. Another huge winner of the day. I was disappointed that the non-barrel aged version wasn't being poured today, but it was in stacks of bottles (a little over 2,000 total, each hand signed and numbered by the brewer) and was said to probably be ready in a month or so.

The next beer was the Humulus Bruin. Aside from the second part of that name which I don't like to say or write, this beer was very interesting. Humulus is a second runnings of an imperial stout. It has a bunch of hops added to it (Summit and Sterling) as well as dry hopped. The aroma was bigtime hops. It had a real dirty, musty, grassy, dry hopped sorta smell to it. The taste was really toasty, and had that hop spiciness to it.

After all the bigger beers I decided to go back and try the Black Orchard, even though I have a bottle of it here at home. Now that is a tasty (black) Witbier. I don't remember too well how the blackness of it played a factor in the taste but I do remember it being very light, juicy and refreshing. I didn't have Orchard White while I was there because I've had it before and wanted to allow myself more consumption of the other beers, but it is also a nice tasting wit.

I'm almost in awe that a place making this good of beer has started up so close to home. For a small secret grand opening party they really did a great job with all the food (the real pretzels, waffles, and cheese plates were amazing). The bar they constructed is made out of pieces of barrels and really unique/cool. They are definitely doing things the right way down there. I became an instant fan and believe there will be great things in the future for The Bruery.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Opposite Ends of the Fruit Spectrum

Ever seen that movie Monster Squad? About 20 or so years ago I remember watching this, but not too much else about it. Well my friend's sister just bought it today so that was cause for a minor celebration. My friend also had an Alpine Chez Monieux (pronounced Shame-On-You), a Kriek, sitting around at home and decided this would be a good time to try it out. This 750mL bottle runs about $28 at Alpine so we were hoping for the best. It didn't let us down either. The aroma has plenty of tartness, with a big sour cherry presence to go with it. There's also a lot of cherry sweetness coming through as well. The taste is similar. Moderately sour, cherries present all the time. We really liked this beer. It is overall somewhat straight forward with basically just the sour aspect plus cherry. Not too terribly complicated I guess you could say, but pretty tasty. 4.35/5

The beer I brought over I thought we be a great nightcap. This was a beer I've been wanting to try for a few years but only finally got around to trading for it recently. That beer is Kuhnhenn Raspberry Eisbock. Sad to say but this was the worst beer I've ever had and a total drain pour. Also sad that it wasn't infected or anything, the flavors were just really weird. Kuhnhenn describes it as a combination of chocolate, caramel and raspberry. I could maybe see this in the aroma. Although the raspberry isn't huge it's there- barely. There's also this dark caramel sorta thing going on as well but overall it makes the aroma really really weird. As for the taste, just horrible. I can't really even describe it but the raspberry component barely comes out like one would expect (I thought it would be showcasing the raspberry at least as much as New Glarus' Raspberry Tart). Anyway, after a handful of sips this thing made it's way down into the plumbing. Regardless of all the great reviews for this beer on BA- I would NOT recommend it and it's currently my lowest rated beer. 1.8/5

If you're wondering if our senses were a bit off here, be assured they were not. We gave the dog a sample of each. He would have lapped up the entire glass of Chez Monieux if he could have. On the other hand, he seemed more than annoyed when presented with a sample of the Raspberry Eisbock.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Alpine Is My New Champion of IPA's

It's a very close race between Alpine and Russian River as to who makes the best IPA's. Russian River IPA vs. Alpine O'Brien's IPA- advantage O'Brien's. Russian River Blind Pig vs. Alpine Duet- advantage Blind Pig. Russian River Pliny the Elder vs. Alpine Pure Hoppiness- advantage Pure Hoppiness. (and as long as we're comparing, how bout triple IPA's, RR Pliny the Younger vs. Alpine Exponential Hoppiness- advantage Pliny the Younger). It's almost a dead heat here but the main point is it's a shame only a small amount of people can get Alpine's beers. They are one of the premiere breweries in the country.

Alpine O'Brien's IPA

Alpine Duet IPA

Alpine Pure Hoppiness

I think we would have made it through all the growlers tonight but we got sidetracked and....

...started taking shots of Goldschlager... (yep Mom joined in for this activity)

...Appleton Estate 12 year on the rocks... (along with Woodford Old Fashioneds)

...and Capri Suns.

Well, it still leaves some Ruination and Port 2nd Anniv. to get to next weekend. Nothing bad about that. A good night overall. And now we're gonna take a nice soak in the spa and sip on some Maui CoCoNut Porter.

Sunday Summer Kickoff

On Tap (from the growler)
Alpine O'Brien's IPA
Alpine Duet IPA
Alpine Pure Hoppiness
Stone Ruination IPA
Port Brewing 2nd Anniversary Double IPA

Bottle List

Three Floyds Gumballhead
Three Floyds Alpha King
Bell's Hopslam
Deschutes Black Butte Porter
Maui CoCoNut Porter
Samuel Smith's Taddy Porter
Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout
Rogue Shakespeare Stout
Young's Double Chocolate Stout

The projected high here today is 98°F. Along with some roast beef french dip sandwiches, these beers should help quench some of the heat.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Couple Saisons On A Warm So. Cal Night

The temp has shot up quite a bit here in the last few days, reaching the high 90's in the last 2 days. That's expected for July/August, not so much May. But no worries, I had a few saisons in the fridge to quench some post-dinner thirst. I've been waiting entirely too long to get to either of them and after seeing USC beat Oregon State for the 2nd straight day and a couple Woodford Old Fashioneds, tonight was as good of choice as any. The first one up was Lost Abbey Carnevale a recent special release from the brewery that does pretty much nothing wrong. This beer smelled funky on the nose. Really sweaty and musty. The taste was completely subdued compared to that though. Very light, smooth (they use oats apparently), a bit earthy, a tiny fruity, and finishes somewhat dry. This was an absolute pleasure to drink, split 3 ways, everyone loved it. I now wish I had picked up more than 1 bottle. As far as my BA rating goes- 4.8/5

Next up was a bottle of Saison Dupont that's been hiding in my fridge for way too long. Pours a very chill hazed golden, but as it warms to close to room temp it clears up nicely. The head is massive and rocky. The taste has a bit more zing to it. It's still earthy like you would think a saison would be but then it's got this bite to it at the end. That softens up a bit as it warms, along with the chill haze that recedes. The smell is similar with a bit of banana to it if you search. This beer is pretty tasty as well, though I really like the softness and drinkability of the Carnevale more. Still, Saison Dupont isn't something I would shy away from in the future, and sure am looking forward to getting another one that is as fresh as possible. This one gets a 4.05/5

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Quick San Diego Beer Run

It was my day off today and I talked my Dad into taking a little trip with my friend and I down into San Diego. We got down to Stone around 11am and grabbed some lunch. Since many people are intrigued by the food at Stone I will let you know I had the duck tacos (pictured below) which I always enjoy, my Dad had the spicy tuna hand rolls which he liked, and my friend had the Buffalo burger which is always a great treat. As for beer, it is "San Diego Storm" at Stone this for American Craft Beer Week and I started it off with a Ballast Point Brother Levonian Saison, a real light saison and 6% ABV. It was fantastic. Really light and drinkable with a mild earthiness to it to keep it interesting. A great way to start the morning. My friend Timmins went with Pizza Port Carlsbad Black Lie, a black IPA that he generally enjoyed. My dad put me in charge of ordering his so I got him a Coronado Lincoln Lager. After we finished ours we got a second round, myself going with a Green Flash Hop Head Red which simulated the smell of fresh hop pellets better than anything I've ever had. Timmins went with the Ballast Point Even Keel, a 4.6% pale ale. This was described to us as being a pale ale that slants itself more towards the bitter end. I think he liked it. I finished off with a growler fill of Ruination.

Also, for anyone wondering, the Stone gardens are looking flat out amazing right now (more than normal). The greenery has really filled out nicely, the trees grown a bit, and the bushes gotten bushier. It really looks great.

After Stone we kept heading south down to Alpine so I could fill my growlers. I got 1 each of Duet IPA, O'Brien's IPA, and Pure Hoppiness. I haven't had the O'Brien's IPA yet but have heard of it and am really excited to try this. I probably would have gotten 2 of each but Alpine didn't have any more glass until tomorrow, unfortunately. Timmins bought a bottle of Alpine Chez Monieux, a special Kriek they recently made. After our fills we headed up the street to the Liars Club and ordered a quick round of New Belgium La Folie- another beer I've been wanting to try for the longest time. La Folie was an excellent sour Flanders Red and we finished them somewhat fast and headed home.

It was a nice and quick trip but the climax should come when we open up those growlers on Sunday afternoon.

Monday, May 12, 2008

My Favorite Beer Ever, Revisited

So last August when my buddy and I were visiting Russian River for the first time I experienced a beer that I kept going back to more often than the others as we visited that week (we stayed about 3 days and would go for lunch for a few beers, then go to the hotel for a quick restorative nap, then go back to the pub at night for more beers). The beer was Russian River Sanctification. It was the first beer that I thought was a perfect 5 (BeerAdvocate-wise). I bought 2 bottles to take home and have been waiting for my 3rd and toughest year of pharmacy school to end before celebrating with it. Tonight was that night.

I wasn't actually sure I wanted to open one tonight as I had already had a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale for dinner at a Mexican restaurant, and then a Kuhnhenn IPA, Dark Horse Crooked Tree IPA (both of which I pretty much tossed as they were not good at all), and then a Port Brewing 2nd Anniversary IPA (which was a little better). So at this point I needed to bring something out that was sure to not disappoint. And it didn't. Still deserves a straight 5 in my book.
This was the latest batch, 003, if anyone is wondering. I wish they brewed this more often because I'd probably buy a few cases of it.

Small Sunday Afternoon Tasting

We sampled a few beers while we watched the Laker's get it handed to them by the Jazz. #1 was Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan. This was a pretty good beer who's taste didn't have so much pecan as it did toasted malt, but did have an unmistakable pecan pie filling smell. #2 was Three Floyds Alpha King. Good as usual but new to a couple people who thought it was really good as well. #3 was my last bottle of Troegs Nugget Nectar, which was described by one as tasting like "pure hop extract with water added." I don't know about that but after 4 months in the bottle it is still holding up really nicely. #4 was Brooklyn Local 1, an interesting blend of Belgian yeast and German malts and hops. I thought it was good but my taste buds were off from eating this.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Three Floyds Gumballhead - Summer of Beer's Poster Child

I have had Three Floyds Gumballhead, a pale wheat ale, on my radar for quite some time but only now did I get around to obtaining some. It's one of those beers you hear about first when starting to explore the craft brews from around the country. Gumballhead's fame comes from it's relatively liberal hopping for a wheat beer and scores a 4.23/5 overall score on BeerAdvocate. Please take note of that score because a 4.23 for a wheat beer of any kind on BeerAdvocate means it must be an amazing beer. It's 0.03 away from being ranked in the top 100 beers (aka the top 100 Russian Imperial Stouts) on the site. Amazing. I feel fortunate that I found somebody who could get a 6 pack straight from the brewery to send me, thus increasing the chances of maximum freshness (I won't get up on that soapbox just yet).

So hoping that it lives up to the hype I popped the cap on a beautiful, 71 degree, minimally smoggy afternoon in Southern California. In the glass it looks pretty tame, in fact stereotypes might take over for a few seconds and you could possibly think there's no way this thing is going to be that tasty. Wrong. The aroma on this beer gets you off to a running start. HOPS. Melon, citrus, maybe a touch of pine or some sort of greenery are all you get. It's got something about it that lets you know it's still young out of the tanks- just the way I like it. The taste isn't too discernible from a standard pale ale. Again, the hops define this beer. Juicy, citrusy, and not much of a bittering punch to it allowing it to finish really clean. I really like this beer and can't think of any other that would be finer for sipping on a Summer afternoon.

Red Stripe

I hadn't planned on have a Red Strip Jamaican Lager any time soon until I saw Zane Lamprey of Three Sheets throwing them back while eating jerk chicken during his Jamaica episode. They looked so good I had to have one, to drink straight from the bottle of course. This 24 oz. bottle was provided to me by a couple friends who knew I had been wanting to try it (I kept trying to order it at a bar we frequent but they have been out). So during a little finals study session (where actually no studying was accomplished) I was able to throw this one back. I didn't think I would be able to finish it at first but soon enough half the bottle was gone. Then the whole bottle. It went down faster than I would have thought. As to the taste.... Eh. It was alright, a pretty sweet tasting malt and not much hops. The carbonation in these light lagers always kills me, and drinking it straight from the bottle doesn't help in that regard. However I did enjoy the experience, at least now I can say I did it. I do believe it contributed to the massive gastrointestinal disturbances I had the following morning, or maybe it was the pizza, chili, brownies, Chik-fil-a nuggets, and bourbon I was having at the same time...

Stone Serving San Diego

As you can see from the banner image that was borrowed from Stone's Website, this whole week they will be filling up all their taps with local products from San Diego. Featuring breweries like Alpine, Green Flash, Pizza Port, Lost Abbey, etc, there's sure to be one of the best tap lineups you'll ever find. This in honor of American Craft Beer week, which runs through the same dates.

I will be dragging my Dad down there on Thursday (along with a few other places in San Diego) so I will report the happenings later in the week.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Summer of Beer About To Start, Again

Tomorrow (Friday) marks the last written test I will have to take this year, granted I still have a little practical-style exam on Monday which I'm not too worried about. I've already got a lot of stuff planned for Summer. First and foremost was a little trip today to a liquor store down the street to pick up some Woodford Reserve for Old Fashioneds this Saturday when we have a get-together for Mother's Day. I wasn't expecting much else, but I decided to just browse through the beer isles which I don't normally expect to find anything out of the ordinary in. Just as I was about to walk away I was stunned to catch a glimpse of some tiny 375mL Belgian style corked bottles. Tempation! I couldn't believe there were over 10 sitting on the shelves, for $9.99 no less. I had purchased some off the Russian River website a couple months ago (about $15 a bottle), but I couldn't pass up a deal like this so I picked up a few more.

The name of the game this Summer is HOPS. I've had my fair share of IPA's and other hop bombs but it hasn't been till recently that I've just wanted to assault my palate with as many hops as possible. Thus the basis for some of the things I have planned...

Once I'm completely done next week I have a San Diego + Alpine trip already planned for Thursday the 15th so I can load up on growlers for a little party we're having Sunday the 18th. If all goes well I'll be able to get a few growlers of Alpine Pure Hoppiness (+ Duet IPA, or anything else hoppy Alpine has for fills). A stop to Liars Club in Alpine will be included as well as most likely O'Brien's as I start heading back. A couple more growler fills at Stone (IPA and Ruination) should suffice. I already have a growler of Port Brewing 2nd Anniversary Double IPA I'm saving for later.

Being that I am only working Monday-Wednesday this Summer it's going to leave plenty of time to get some things in. A Santa Rosa trip is tentatively being scheduled for June 11th-15th. It'll be mostly for visiting Russian River but I'm planning stops at the Toronado in SF, as well as visits to Bear Republic and maybe another place or two.

This is all beside the fact that I already have way too much beer in my fridges. But now that I won't have to come home from a full day of school and study till I go to sleep, I'll finally have some time to invite a couple friends over and sample a few beers during the night. It should definitely be a fun first couple weeks of Summer when we get around to some of the things I've crammed into my beer fridges to be on deck...

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Digging Dogfish Head

I've started to slowly get through more and more of Dogfish Head's lineup, and am enjoying their beers quite a bit. The 60 and 90 Minute IPA were the firsts, about a year ago, and recently it's been Chateau Jiahu, Indian Brown, Raison D'etre, Festina Peche, and finally Burton Baton. Burton is simply an oak aged imperial IPA, though they note on the bottle that's a blend of old and young batches. My bottle was pretty fresh- only a couple months old. It's a 10%, thick, chewy beer. The smell has a floral hoppiness and even more of a candy-like sweetness and tropical fruit. The taste is a struggle between sweet fruit, thick malt, and resiny hops, but it doesn't come across as a hop-bomb or anything. I get some sort of woody aftertaste, or maybe that's a figment of my imagination. The bitterness is super low. Might as well call this a barleywine if you ask me. I liked it enough, but would probably be one of those beers I wouldn't reach for if I had other choices. 3.85 / 5

In my fridge and on deck are their 120 Minute IPA and Palo Santo Marron.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Quick Port Brewing 2nd Anniversary Party Recap

The 2nd anniversary was much more crowded than the 1st anniversary party and what stood out to most was how well they managed the extremely larger crowd. We arrived about 5 minutes before doors opened and the line was long. They had a separate station set up to go check in if you were buying any of their special releases (Cuvee de Tomme, Inferno, or the 2nd Anniversary Double IPA). After we got done with that we stood in line and eventually made it in to an already packed bar. A nice change this year was that each person got a pint glass on admission and they filled those for tasters, instead of little plastic cups last year. It didn't take long to get beer since those filling samples behind the bar were working like crazy. All of us went for the 2nd Anniversary Double IPA first (it was on tap and cask) and that was just a refreshing knock upside the head with hops. I loved it. The next round some of us got a pour of Cuvee de Tomme (it took 3 tickets instead of 1) which turned out to be as amazing as the last batch. My buddy Rene who was experiencing Port for the first time loved it, as did everyone else.

They had an all-you-can-eat Mexican food bar and I think we ate about 10 pounds of food apiece. Samples of Amazing Grace, Moonlit Session, Serpents Stout, more 2nd Anniversary Double IPA, more Cuvee de Tomme, and Wipeout IPA followed. We could have spent all day there but really had to leave after a few hours.

The winner of the day for me, other than the obvious choice of Cuvee de Tomme, was the 2nd Anniversary double IPA. It was so good I got a growler of it to go in addition to all the bottles I had purchased. Just an amazing party, like last year, and props to the folks at Port Brewing and The Lost Abbey for putting on such a great event and running it so smoothly.

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Session 15 - How It All Started

When I was a little kid my Dad use to give me the occasional sip of his Bud, Miller's, or Coors Light. Often I would sneak 2 or 3 sips. Something about that flavor of "beer"- so revolting, so interesting, so grown-up. I never turned down a sip or two (not that I got them more than a few times a year). I guess you could say then that I've always been a fan of beer. However, when I got to high school I was never interested in beer, mostly too consumed with athletics to care or even think about alcohol. In college I flipped the switch in my brain that acknowledges beer as a nice drink to pound and get "F'd up." It did it's job on more than 1 occasion, though spending mornings in the dorm bathroom emptying my gastric contents of Coors Light wasn't all that fun. I didn't really drink much beer after that until I was about 22 and figured out having some brewskies (MGD basically) at USC football tailgates was a nice way to pass the time.

It's those same USC tailgates that catalyzed my good beer conversion. At that time not only was I attending small tailgates that were sponsored by Sam Adams, but my sister and I had recently met a fellow USC fan who has since become a great friend, and finally fellow beer blogger. It was after about a year of drinking with Brian during football games that we came to realize we really liked beer. I remember it like it was yesterday (I guess it was only about 4 years ago). Buzzed under the influence of a red party cup of Sam Adam's Light we mentioned to each other how amazing we thought the beer was. Soon after that we agreed we really liked beer in general (for me that just meant Corona, Heinekin, Guinness, and BMC, and the Sam Adams Light, as I'm pretty sure those were the only beers I had tried). And soon after that we agreed we should do our best to try as many beers as possible (I personally had no idea what that even meant at the time). In that short conversation we had agreed upon this quest. If memory serves correct we cheered to that and went about our normal tailgate business (and I do remember USC beating Notre Dame that game in 41-10).

So that was the Fall of '04. I was 23. I was finishing up my last quarter of undergrad work and decided to get to the beers. I actually have a wordpad file still saved on my computer of the rudimentary notes I took of some of those first beers I tried. It makes me laugh but at the same time reminds me of those great times of getting into the craft beer world and not knowing what to expect. Here are a few...

1. Chasing Tail Golden Ale- great all around. Not too heavy, not overwhelming taste but strong. 4/5
2. Belhaven Scottish Ale- Dark Amber, strong, not good with spicy tacos. 3.5/5
3. Anchor Steam- Amber (maybe towards the dark side), pretty light, but semi-strong taste. 4.5/5
4. Newcastle- Very Dark but not too filling. Not a huge flavor, very smooth, pretty good. 4.5/5
5. BayHawk Beach Blonde 4/5
6. Hollywood Blonde 3.5/5
7. Wittekerke White- lemony 3/5
8. Spaten Premium Lager- seems overall similiar to miller light but more flavorful, smoother. On second taste, doesn't have as much flavor as I thought. Good light lager though. 4/5
9. Firestone Lager- Light, but more of a hop flavor than miller light but not too strong 3.5/5
11. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale- Just a tad lighter than Amber. Very strong Hop flavor that lasts a while after the sip. But also pretty smooth, easy to drink- 4.5/5
My friend Brian lived a couple hours away down in San Diego at the time so we didn't get a chance to try too many new brews together, but have since shared many a fine Ruination even though he has moved to the East Coast. I sometimes miss the adventure that was discovering the beer world when I didn't really know anything. At that time it was ALL about the beer quest. I still enjoy the adventure, but for different reasons now. Good friends, good conversations, good times.

Check out the host of this month's session, Boak and Bailey's UK Beer Blog, for the entire rundown of all this Friday's entries.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Another Winner From Brooklyn

A couple days ago Brooklyn's Brown Ale was a nice treat, even for being past its "best by" date. The Brooklyn East India Pale Ale I had was still within its recommended freshness interval. East India is a marriage of English (Kent Golding and Northdown) and American hops (Amarillo, Centennial), with English pale malt, weighing in at 6.8% alcohol. It pours a crystal clear rich gold with the slightest orange tint. Beautiful. The smell makes me think this is going to be an English IPA all the way through (not so excited). It's mostly earthy and sweet when I first smell it. After a bit more searching it becomes a little citrusy too. The taste really displays its hops from both sides of the pond. The English hops give it an earthy, spicy flavor while the American hops lend a citrusy, juicy finish to it. It really is a nicely done IPA with moderate bitterness. After having a couple of Brooklyn's regular offerings I'm really looking forward to crack open the Brooklyn Local 1's I have been holding onto. 4.35/5