Monday, September 29, 2008

Few Words On Surly Bender

This is only the 2nd beer I've had from Surly, that small brewery in Minnesota who makes what I hear is an "ok" beer called Darkness, and uses cans for most of their beers. A little over a year ago I tried the famous Surly Furious, an IPA that was pretty good. Bender is a 5.1% ABV brown ale that adds a bit of twist with its 40+ IBU's. Those hops really do come through in the flavor. For the most part I get the chocolate and caramel malts, a hint of roasted barley, but there's definitely a lingering hop flavor and bitterness in there as well. Unlike most brown ales that might linger a little sweet, this lingers bitter (just enough, not too much). It's very drinkable... a session beer with a twist if you will. Yeah this would be a regular for me if I lived in Minnesota.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Bruery Hottenroth Berliner Weisse

It's interesting that the only two Berliner Weisse style beers I know in any of the Western states (after a bit of research) are being brewed about 30 minutes from each other. Craftsman, in Pasadena, makes one on a limited basis, and The Bruery, in Placentia, has began to produce one. The Hottenroth Berliner Weisse from The Bruery is the only one of the style I've actually had. And I've had it a handful of times now and really love it. It's roughly 3% ABV if I remember someone telling me that correctly... but that would be about average for the style. What I love about it is the light wheat taste it gives off against a very light and effervescent body. The tartness is only very mild, its not puckering like I've read certain German versions being. Either get to The Bruery during their tasting hours, or you might run into it on occasion at Beachwood BBQ.

Won Gold at the LA County Fair in the American or German Style Sour Ale.

New Craft Beer Spot In Los Angeles

I had heard via Beer Advocate that Traxx Bar in Union Station (LA's train/bus station hub) would be carrying a nice selection of craft beer, but I haven't been through there since the end of Summer. For the last few years I've been at USC all they would have there was Fat Tire and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale at most, plus a bunch of domestic and import lagers. I stopped in on Friday and what did I have to choose from? Stone Pale Ale on tap, Paulaner Hefe on tap, and bottles of Stone IPA, Victory Prima Pils and Storm King Stout, Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale, and Drake's Amber Ale were some of the ones I could see in the fridge. Traxx is a tiny bar and a lot of the people that commute through Union Station don't know it exists. There is a Traxx restaurant too, but that is located across the way and diagonal from the bar. If you're at Union Station seek out the good brew from now on!

***(you're also a 5 minute walk away from Philippe's, so have a pint and then go grab the best french dip sandwich in the world)

A New "Old Fashioned" Idea... at least to me

While I was out at the Seven Grand (one of the best whiskey bars around) Friday night I went for my usual order. "Woodford Old Fashioned please." The bartender (one I had never been served by) shot right back at me "why Woodford?" I explained that I don't know a whole lot about bourbon, and certainly haven't liked it but for maybe a year now, and Woodford is one of the handful I've tried and liked the best. He then respectfully recommended that I try a rye bourbon in the Old Fashioned instead because the spiciness of the rye and the slight increase in proof would contrast the sweetness from the sugar, orange, and bitters more than adding in just a regular bourbon (that has its own sweetness to it also). Because I will take any recommendation any of these top notch bartenders make I told him I'd go for it. Long story short, it was amazing. The rye (Sazerac Rye, Buffalo Trace Distillery) really did seem to add just a bit more bite that I really liked. So I urge to try your Old Fashioned with a rye whiskey. And if you've never had an Old Fashioned, do your best to find a place or bartender that makes a quality one, a lot of people make some junk with muddled up maraschino cherries, oranges slices, and nary a splash of bitters- yuck.

And just in case you're wondering how I think a good Old Fashioned is made, here is my recipe that I've pretty much taken from The Seven Grand by watching how they make it.

1. Peel two thin *Valencia* orange rind strips, about 3-4 inches long and 1 inch wide. Try to get only the oily orange layer and not any of the white fuzz/pulp below it. Valencia is highly preferred due to their better aromatic properties of the rind.
2. Put orange rinds in an old fashioned glass and add 1-2 teaspoons of simple syrup (1:1 sugar to water mix is ok, but 1.5:1 is preferred).
3. Add about 3-4 dashes of Angostura bitters (depending on how spicy you like it, feel free to add a couple more... I usually do).
4. Muddle the orange rinds, sugar, and bitters lightly so that the orange oils are released into solution.
5. Add about 1.5-2 oz of Bourbon (Maker's Mark at the least is preferred), and then add cubed ice (enough so that the ice is above the top of the liquid too).
6. The aroma should be an amazing blend of spices (from the bitters), orange aromatics, and bourbon. But for a little extra aromatic kick, take a very small piece of orange rind and wipe the rim of the glass all the way around so there are some orange oils left on it.

Craftsman Oktoberfest

Craftsman Oktoberfest is out once again. I had a glass at the Library Bar in downtown LA, and it will be on tap at Lucky Baldiwn's (both Pasadena and Sierra Madre) right now during their oktoberfest. It's a really nice beer. It has a bit more of a toasted sharpness to it than some others that come off with a sweeter finish.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Nice Sunday Weihenstaphaner

I'll keep pimping this beer. It deserves it.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Stopping in at The Bruery

Somehow I managed to be swinging by Placentia at 1:55 this afternoon, and luckily remembered/decided to see if The Bruery's tasting room had opened yet for the day. Thankfully they open at 2pm. I went in and saw that a "sneak preview" of a new beer called Autumn Maple was on tap. I ordered that and after taking a few sips which were dessert-like sweet asked Patrick what this beer was all about. He said it was their pumpkin style beer.... though brewed with yams, along with the traditional pumpkin ale spices.

It was really good, and "maple" was a really good description for it. Of course, it has those spices, but they don't overwhelm as much as all the other pumpkin ales on the market today, but the Belgian yeast contribution to it really added some interesting complexity with that subtle earthiness it provides. When I found out this beer was 10.5% ABV it all made sense. Definitely a great sipper for an Autumn night.

Next I ordered up their Berliner Weisse and Trade Winds Tripel (my two favorite beers amongst all the great beers they make). The Berliner Weisse is like 3% ABV or so, I drank a few pints of it at Beachwood BBQ a handful of weeks back and enjoyed every second of it. Right now it seems to be gaining a bit more tartness, whereas before it was only very mildly tart and wheaty. It's still fantastic. Trade Winds Tripel (pictured left) was my favorite beer from the minute I had it at their grand opening, and while usually tasting really sweet and fruity, today I detected what might be the Thai Basil contribution to it. Can't really explain it, except as being maybe some sort of herbal character...maybe that was it, maybe not... but it had a bit different feel to it. Luckily it's bottled, so if you live outside of So. Cal, find someone to trade for it.

Lastly, as I was about to leave, Patrick opened up a bottle of the Berliner Weisse that had been aged in a red wine barrel (thanks Patrick!). Although I don't drink wine much, it definitely had a red wine smell to it, though the taste didn't have as much. The taste was a little less tart and more rounded out, but still had plenty of wine-like notes without being overboard. Pretty interesting but I still preferred the original version... but who doesn't like brewers who experiment???

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Buckbean Black Noddy Lager

Beer in cans is a good thing. And here is another good beer from a craft brewery in a can. Buckbean Brewing Company, in Reno, NV, offers 5 reasons why cans are better:

  1. Cans protect beer quality better than bottles
  2. Cans are lighter (less fuel to ship)
  3. Cans can go anywhere- events, parks, camping, golf
  4. A case of cans uses about 70% less paper and cardboard than a case of bottles.
  5. Cans are more compact and take less room in your fridge or cooler (yes!)
Black Noddy is brewed in the "traditional Bavarian Schwarzbier style." This is a style I can only remember having a couple times- Moonlight's Death & Taxes and Lost Abbey's Moonlit Sessions. The initial aroma is, of course, roasted malts. It is balanced very nicely with lighter sweet malt, similar to a porter. The balance in the taste is very good, there isn't an overload of roastiness that can detract from the ease of drinking this tasty lager, it's balanced by a touch of sweet malt. I paired this with some leftover smoked tri-tip and it was an excellent match to wash down that smokey flavor. As I get to know this style a little better there is one thing I know for sure, this is a well crafted, tasty beer. 4.25/5

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Friday Night Beer-A-Thon With Jolly Pumpkin, Southampton, Lost Abbey, and Russian River

My beer fridge has been way too full for a long time due to the fact that I like to buy beer faster than I can drink it. So with my friend The Baltimore Beer Guy visiting from Maryland as we prepared to go to the USC/Ohio State game the next day I gave him full run on my fridge.

His first selection was a Biere de Garde from Jolly Pumpkin called Fuego del Otono, Autumn Fire. It is an ale brewed with spices and chesnuts. Sounds pretty interesting and I've been really waiting to open this for a while now. It had a real white wine-like presence in the aroma with that acidity and tartness you get from their wild fermenting processes. This beer was very light, a bit fruity, a tad funky, very mildly tart, and an all around easy sipper. It was a very nice choice to start off with late in the afternoon. Where the chesnuts show up, I don't know.

The second bere was again from Jolly Pumpkin, called Biere de Mars. This was a bit darker though still fairly light in body. It had a lot of "Rodenbach" action going for it. Pretty sour with a slight sweetness trying to peak through with it. If I hadn't seen the bottle I might have guessed this beer came out of Flanders maybe.

Next up was the Southampton Saison Deluxe. I've really been into saisons in the last few months and have really come to appreciate how great Saison Dupont is, after not being too impressed with it my first time. Southampton's saison was pretty solid, a real good beer with lots of yeast phenols giving it a pungent sweaty and earthy aroma. Nice light flavor finishing a spicy. Maybe not my choice for an every day saison due to its price, but a good to try once.

It was back to the sours for beer #4. This was Lost Abbey Isabelle Proximus. Overall it seems as sour as many of the guezes I've had from Belgium, if not more so. I don't really get as much of a wild smell to it though, even though I picked a little bit of that up when I tasted it originally at the brewery during the release a couple months ago.

Lastly, he had to finish it off with a simple choice. Russian River Blind Pig IPA. Blind Pig is always a good choice but it's so interesting how intense the hoppiness and awesome flavor is after you've just had 4 pretty non-hoppy beers. It was a good choice to finish the night off with, though didn't do me any favors in the morning when I woke up at 5:30 to get ready to head to the Coliseum.

At the game we consumed some Blind Pig and Pliny the Elder, and I had also taken a couple growlers of Ruination which turned out to be extremely flat (the beer upon pouring also looked kinda off). I had these growlers in my fridge waiting for gameday for 2 weeks so I don't see any way this could be a problem with my storage or the growler containers themselves. I've kept many growler fills (including Stone) in my fridge for 2-3, even 4 weeks and have had absolutely no problems with loss of carbonation or freshness like this, ever. I have plenty reason to believe I got two bum fills which was disappointing because we always look forward to our Ruination growlers for tailgating.

Anyway, USC beat Ohio State 35-3 and we were very happy and extermely tired from the last 24 hours of alcohol exposure.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Parallel Blog Tasting #3 - Lost Abbey Bourbon Barrel Angel's Share

Presenting the 3rd installment of the semi-regular Parallel Blog Tasting between Summer of Beer and my good buddy Brian, The Baltimore Beer Guy. Last night we knocked down the (now) world renowned Lost Abbey The Angel's Share, which has recently won Best U.S. Cask Beer at the Great British Beer Festival. This would be about my 4th time having this, so I already knew it was one of the best beers ever, but the bottle I was able to send Brian would be his first taste of the 12.5% ABV bourbon barrel aged strong ale.

BBG: safely opened

BBG: poured a little too rough, gotta wait the head out a bit

SOB: yeh they are all super carbonated

BBG: OK so this is very dark

SOB: pretty dark brown in the glass yeah

SOB: mine didn't foam over

SOB: thankfully

SOB: got a nice big head tho

On the smell...

SOB: smell is filled with chocolate and raisins

SOB: molasses i guess

SOB: i was pouring it at arms lengths and could smell it

BBG: Hard to gauge the smell for me

BBG: Raisin perhaps

BBG: sweet

BBG: very sweet

BBG: this reminds me most of that car grease, what was it called?

SOB: haha car grease? is that good or bad

BBG: I thought it was just ok, whats its name that car grease thing

BBG: old engine

BBG: something odd

On the taste...

SOB: what do you get in the flavor, each time I've had it the chocolate stands out so much for me

SOB: it's amazing how totally different the taste is than the smell

BBG: Chocolate yes

BBG: This thing is carbonated something crazy, its not affecting the mouthfeel but I can see it in the glass its acting up

BBG: Yeah definitely chocolate

BBG: I can taste the alcohol a bit

BBG: Vanilla's a good word here

BBG: I can see that

BBG: I think the oak/bourbon may have been more in the nose and the initial sip or two which was more woody

BBG: this is coming out real creamy now

BBG: Enjoyable, definitely unlike anything I usually have other than other offerings from Lost Abbey

SOB: more of that fruity raisin sorta taste coming through now

SOB: i get a lot of wood in the finish now

BBG: btw "dark caramel malt"... whatever that means

SOB: the raisin probably comes from the darker caramel malts... they start giving off raisiny flavors at that point and less of that sweet caramel

BBG: This is a beer for when you're sitting at home, I can't imagine having this at a bar

BBG: This taste just takes my mind to being there

SOB: gives you that whole warehouse and barrel feel huh

BBG: exactly

BBG: This is weird tho

BBG: because its not a style I think I'd enjoy

BBG: but its really enjoyable

After more thought...

BBG: OK this is a delicious beer, I'm very appreciative you sent me such a limited item

BBG: Looks like I'm going 4.25 on BA, the smell only got a 3.5 but everything else was high marks

SOB: nice

BBG: altho I could revise the smell, its intoxicating right now as I work my way down

BBG: the initial was boring in aroma tho

BBG: maybe that bumps to a 4, well see

BBG: this is nice

BBG: cant say thank you enough

SOB: the smell now to me is WAY less on the raisin and much more on the chocolate and wood

SOB: that's how I remember it all the other times i've had it

BBG: there is a bit more alcohol late, which hits just a slightly wrong note but some of what I'm getting now is just delicious

Final words...

BBG: fuck this beer is good

BBG: Tomme's ridiculous


SOB: 4.7/5

BBG: 4.25/5

Monday, September 8, 2008

School Is Always Getting In The Way Of Beer

Yep it's back to studying, but I'm trying my best not to let it interrupt the occasional beer during the week.

Plus, hops are naturally a mild sedative and also help in the digestion process. Hopefully Pliny comes through and puts me to sleep sooner than later.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sunday Suds - Starting It Off With An Ozzy

Here is another beer sent to my by my friend Brian in Baltimore. He raves about Brewer's Art all the time, so he sent me one of their rare bottled beers, Ozzy. It's a Belgian Strong Pale Ale (7.2% ABV), supposedly their interpretation of Duvel. It's pretty good on all fronts. It has the Belgian yeast character (earthy), it has the fruity esters and a light mouthfeel, but it's got a peppery taste to it too. The carbonation is very high so it takes a bit of work (swirling) to get it down to a manageable level. Quite good, I'll give it a 4.3/5.

After that first great beer from Brewer's Art we decided to knock down the second that was sent to me. This being Brewer's Art Le Canard. Classified as a Belgian Strong Pale Ale (8.5% ABV) by BeerAdvocate, it takes a much different approach than Ozzy. The first thing that came to my mind as I started drinking this was the similarity to Scaldis, a Belgian-made quadruple. It really supplied a lot of sweetness mixed with a generous alcohol punch, and of course a certain amount of Belgian yeast character that gave it a Belgian feel. I don't know if I just wasn't totally in the mood for this type of beer today or what, but it didn't hit the spot. Well, I didn't love it. That's not to say it was a bad beer or anything. I could possibly see myself enjoying this beer more on a cool Fall night than on a scorching Summer afternoon. I rated it a 3.55/5 and am happy to have had the chance to try it.

And lastly, one of the few North Coast beers I've ever had. This one is their Saison called Le Merle. Don't have too much to say about this one, other than it has quite the saison yeast strain phenols working for it along with a bit of lemon. Not the best saison I've ever had, but good anyway. 3.85/5

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Another Beer and College Football Day

First up today while watching the start of the Oregon State/Penn State and Notre Dame/SDSU games- a bottle of Clipper City Marzhon sent by my friend Brian, The Baltimore Beer Guy. I have really enjoyed everything from Clipper City that he's sent me so far. Lightly toasted, hint of sweetness and of cours a lager-like feel to it (I think basically just the unique Pilsner malt aroma/taste) This Oktoberfest style lager is pretty light in all facets of the style, but it's tasty and easy to drink. I enjoyed the bottle a lot.

This time Penn Oktoberfest. This one is more toasty but has some other strange flavors that are unexpected in this style. Sometimes I pick up a fruity flavor in it, other times it seems real juicy. Kinda weird but overall it's pretty good and delivers that semi-sweet toasty flavor you get in most Oktoberfests. And SDSU goes on top of ND 7-0. haha. Not sure that will hold up but so far this first half has been funny.

I had to go to a baby shower this afternoon (yes, really) where there was only Bud Light, so after opting to hydrate myself with water instead I came home and decided to try a fruit beer that had been sitting in my fridge for a while. This is a raspberry beer called Founders Rubaeus. It was a really light beer with great raspberry flavor. I really enjoyed it, though I couldn't drink it that often. They crafted it pretty well though.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Some People Would Kill Me For Calling This A Drain Pour

Marin White Knuckle DIPA. Yep, another highly ranked beer bites the dust. I do like the vast majority of highly ranked beers I try, but this one was not worthy of stomach space. It joins Three Floyds Dark Lord and Southern Tier Jah-Va as grossly overpriced drain pours. I mean, look at it... does that even looking like a Double IPA???

Monday, September 1, 2008

More Pumpkin - Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin

This was my second pumpkin ale of the day yesterday and I think I'm pumpkin'd out already. This one smells like the Brooklyn Post Road Pumpkin but has a bit sweeter taste to it and a more viscous body. That's the part they really nailed was a nice medium body, something that can support the rich spices. There is just something about these that makes me think I'm sipping on a liquefied candle. 3.7/5