Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Brewer's Art Resurrection

This popular Baltimore-area brew is finally being bottled by Brewer's Art, and my buddy Brian sent over a bottle. I've waited about a week and this might be the perfect night to try it. Anyway, you can see the pour. First of all the label is awesome. They are obviously called Brewer's ART for a reason. Their label for Ozzy, which I had a while back, was slick too.

Resurrection pours lighter than I had pictured in my mind. It's more of an orangish, looking maybe brown-orange in the glass where it is dense. They figured out how to make a long lasting head because that baby sat there for a while, which I've never seen before in any of the chalices I have at home that are shaped like my Brewer's Art one. The smell was sweet and raisiny. It tastes somewhat the same, but the sweetness is cut pretty well by a chocolate malt, lightly roasty note. There's some Belgian yeast phenols way in the back there too. Just really really good as far as taste goes. I've noticed a lot of beers that try to be sweet are way too sweet. This one is sweet enough but keeps it interesting. Top notch beer.

New Years Eve Beer Blogging

Most people go out on New Years Eve, but I never do. I just like to stay in and watch football all day. Plus, in the last 5 years we've always had a big bowl game to attend in the morning so I like to get to sleep early. Today I sat down for lunch with the early bowl games. A Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere Farmhouse Ale sounded like the perfect thing, at only 4.5% ABV. This beer has a couple really nice characteristics to it. It starts with a huge lemon tang, but finishes with a nice yeasty earthiness as in a standard saison that hasn't been put into barrel with funky microbes (like Jolly Pumpkin does).

Taking a beer break for now, looking forward to something nice and dark tonight.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Verdict Is In

Sculpin is a great beer.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Russian River Night

My friend Steve took a trip this weekend to visit his girlfriend's family in Vacaville, and that is good for me because he made the ~75 mile trip over to Santa Rosa to pick up some growlers. Today he decided to open up a Sanctification and IPA growler. I'm still sayin, I like the regular old "Russian River IPA" more than Blind Pig IPA, although Blind Pig is still a damn fine beer. He still has a couple growlers which we will take for our Rose Bowl tailgate on Thursday morning.

Sancitifcation was very strange. This has been my favorite beer since I discovered it in the summer of '07 in Santa Rosa and I had it a few times since then. This batch however, which I think is batch #3 or 4, is crazy funky. Before it was just very light and sour, and I could not really describe it any other way. No fruit, not much funk, just nice and sour. This batch though was crazy funky. The minute we poured this thing it smelled like something straight out of a barn, I guess. Very nice, still. I actually think I like it better the other way though, with less funk.

Russian River IPA is still awesome. If you think about it, it's Russian River's fourth most popular IPA. Younger, Elder and Blind Pig are all more popular than regular old "Russian River IPA." I wish breweries on the East Coast could brew something half as good as Russian River's 4th most popular IPA, so that when I'm out there some day I can enjoy a fairly good IPA. They are still ways away though.

Las Vegas Roundup

The first thing we did when we got into Vegas at around 11am was go to the Crown & Anchor pub off the strip just west of UNLV. Kevin has told me about amazing crowds here for soccer games as early as 4 in the morning but there was no soccer on while we were there. Instead we had some Cider & Blacks (pic 1) and I followed up with a Pilsner Urquell (pic 2). We hung out for a little over an hour and then headed to our next destination.

The next stop, The Freakin' Frog, was only a street or two away. We didn't initially plan on going here but it was so close so why not? They specialize in beer and whiskey apparently. I've heard about them only for their beer. They advertise having a ton of beers, but their taplist is pretty small... maybe 15-20 on tap, with only about 12 of those being craft. I hear they have a great cellar of bottles that are fairly expensive. Kevin and Xavier had a Stone 08.08.08 (pic 1) and I had a Rogue Charlie (pic 2) which was listed as an American Strong Ale. That it was. 11.5% ABV, it tasted pretty much like a barleywine. Not my favorite style but it was still good enough, I didn't have a problem finishing it. The Freakin' Frog was interesting. They have a small grill right behind the bar where they were cooking burgers. Lots of TV's on the walls for us to watch bowl games as well. It's a very big and empty feeling sorta place, and it was empty when we were in here. We had our 1 beer and left ("this place is dead anyway")

The next quick stop was at the Hofbrauhaus for some food. I've been there a handful of times now, and although I can't say it's my favorite place ever it's not bad for a nice German beer and their portions of food are huge. I ordered up their Dunkel and Xavier got a liter of the Original. I also had a big chicken sandwich and fries which probably were not a good choice when it came to our stops later in the day. Kev made the smart decision and went with a pretzel.

After Hofbrau we headed over to our hotel which was quite a ways off the strip next to our main destination (Rosemary's Restaurant). It was only about 5pm at this point and we didn't have dinner reservations until 8pm, so we headed to Big Dog Brewing Company which I was told I must go to by my friend Brian. He said they do a great job with their hops over there so I was pretty excited. As it turns out, they do a pretty good job with their hops. This place was filled with smoke (which we are not use to in So Cal) so that obviously got in the way of my senses but I was fairly pleased with their beers. My sampler included their dunkelweizen, red ale, pale ale, IPA, and DIPA. I thought all were crafted pretty well, with only minor metallic notes going on in them.

Last but not least we got to Rosemary's Restaurant. I didn't take any pictures here, though I probably could of. It's a pretty classy establishment. Definitely fine dining. I had a prix fixe meal that consisted of a panko crusted crab boulettes which I paired with an awesome glass of Orval (served in an Orval chalice), Ceasar salad, and veal tenderloin which I paired with their recommended Chimay Premiere (red). Although I sadly could not finish my veal, it was one, if not the best plate of meat I've ever had. The Ceasar on the other hand wasn't my favorite, I've had better at Delmonico and even Flemming's. The chef/owner is Kevin's friend and supplied us with some nice amuse bouche's before the meal and then with a assorted dessert plate which contained my favorite, chocolate bourbon balls. Towards the end of the meal we were so stuffed it wasn't funny.

After Rosemary's we were pretty stuffed and it had a been a long day, so we went back to the hotel. We didn't even touch the strip this trip, which I don't have a huge problem with. On the way out of town we stopped and got some pizza at Grimaldi's, which I had never heard of but was filled in real quick that they were one of the best pizza places ever created (the menu proclaims themselves as "the most award winning pizzeria in the US" and their slogan is "The pizza that made the Brooklyn Bridge famous"). Anyway, it was some pretty awesome pizza. Crust was thin as paper and nice and hard from the coal brick-oven. That was pretty much it for the trip, after that it was a painful 6 hour drive home in mostly bumper to bumper traffic.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Beer Weekend - On The Road In Vegas

Heading out to Vegas with my friend Kevin and his buddy Xavier early this Saturday morning to do some beer'ing. I've been to Vegas many times (it's only a 3 1/2 hour drive) but have never really sought out beer stuff other than the Hofbrauhaus cause my friends were never really interested in that. This time we are hitting at least 2 of Vegas' best beer destinations.

We're leaving Saturday morning and when we get there probably around noon we'll go to my friend Kevin's favorite local watering hole, which I've never been to, called the Crown & Anchor Pub. He often goes there to take in Manchester United games and drink cider and blacks. Their beer list isn't great, but there are a couple options to satisfy me I'm sure.

After that we'll head to Big Dog Brewery which my friend Brian raved about when he was there a few weeks ago. What I'm most excited about is that he gave their hoppy beers very good reviews. Hopefully they'll have their pale ale, IPA, and DIPA on tap.

The main attraction is where we are headed for dinner. Not a whole lot of people know about Rosemary's Restaurant, which constantly wins awards for their amazing food, and contains a beer list (pdf) which will make you drool (at least for a gourmet restaurant). Every item on the menu has a wine and beer pairing suggestion. Take their roasted filet of beef which they recommend to pair with Chimay Blue, or their roasted bacon & tomato crusted swordfish which they recommend pairing with Tripel Karmeliet. Kevin knows the chef there so I'm sure we'll be shown a great time.

There probably won't be enough time to squeeze in a Freakin Frog visit, so I'll save that for next time.

[EDIT: Oh yeah, Brian, I think the first thing I'll order are the Panko Crusted Crab Bouletts which they recommend to pair with Orval. mmmmmmmm] :)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Beer in the Back of My Nana's Fridge

As we got over to my Nana's on Christmas eve afternoon, I looked for a beer to go with her homemade pizza before dinner. Behind the soda was some O'Doul's. Next to the O'Doul's was one bottle of Pilsner Urquell. NICE! Though I think it was at least a year old I still poured it and enjoyed it immensely with her awesome pizza. I don't think I've ever really had a fresh Pilsner Urquell anyway, so it wasn't like a huge dropoff.

Lost Abbey Inferno

Sitting around here researching my next homebrew recipe which will be a Belgian Golden Strong Ale collaboration with my friend Brian from Baltimore, and I decided to pop the cork on a nice example of the style. The Lost Abbey Inferno is a Duvel-like beer. There is a lot of Belgian yeast influence on this beer and it leans more toward the spicy/peppery side, with only a little fruitiness. Very good, very easy to drink, even at 8.5% ABV. Lots of breweries make good examples of this style; Avery Salvation, Russian River Damnation, Brewer's Art Ozzy, Bruery Levud's, Alesmith Horny Devil and definitely Inferno are some of my favorites.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas In A Bottle

Here is my obligatory, cliché Christmas post. I don't know about all these winter warmers, spiced beers etc. I like most of them but all I know is that there is one beer that I think of when the phrase "Christmas in a bottle" is used - and that is Pliny the Elder. It pairs well with 24 hours of A Christmas Story on TBS.

I also came home to a great Christmas box on my porch which had traveled all the way from Baltimore. My friend Brian sent the newly bottled and ever-so-popular-in-the-Maryland-area Brewer's Art Resurrection, and a bottle of their finely done Belgian strong pale ale Ozzy. As much as I've seen Brian and everyone else in the Maryland area rave about Resurrection, a Belgian dubbel, I am chomping at the bit to try it.

Merry Christmas to all those who somehow find themselves coming across this blog and share their thoughts on the greatest of beverages.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cool, I Won Something

For the 2nd year in a row, A Good Beer Blog hosted their Yule Beer Blog Photo Contest, this year in conjunction with Stonch's Beer Blog. Apparently there were ~550 pictures submitted, with ~40 places for prizes. Donated prizes came from breweries, to online beer shops, to pubs and many others. I submitted a few pictures and the one pictured above ended up winning a Shipyard travel coffee mug, and Shipyard aluminum water bottle.

The picture is of Downtown Brewing's IPA in San Luis Obispo. I should have known the picture would be special, right after I took it the Angels came from behind and torched the Yankees with 8 runs in the inning to win the game. Downtown makes a fine looking IPA. It tastes great too. I got lucky with this picture, with the light shining in and making the beer glow.

They will be announcing the grand prize winners later today so go check out the remaining photos.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Growler Night Gone Wrong

I invited a couple friends over tonight to share a growler of Alpine Nelson. On Thursday I went to the brewery to fill 3 Nelson growlers and 1 Pure Hoppiness. The Pure Hoppiness was for my friend Kevin, and the 3 Nelson's were for me. So tonight I go open up a growler labeled with "Nelson" and what does it turn out to be? You guessed it, Pure Hoppiness. Now of course one of my favorite beers ever is Pure Hoppiness so it's not like I spit the beer out, but I was expecting Nelson and wanted my friends to try Nelson. This growler was also for a different friend so being that I poured 3 glasses of it right away, we had to drink it. Now I will not be able to give this Pure Hoppiness growler to my friend. The taste was obviously different, but as you can see the color is definitely different, with Pure Hoppiness on the left and Nelson on the right.

I'm pretty understanding of human error, and I really like the people down at Alpine. They've been nothing but nice the handful of times I've been able to get down there. I just hope my other 2 growlers left are still Nelson.

Sorry Kev, good thing I bought you a bottle of Pure Hoppiness too, at least.

Big Props to the PB Tap Room in Pacific Beach, CA

I have never even been to this place but here is why they get 3 thumbs up: They easily have the best online tap list I've ever seen. I give props to anyone who has an online tap list, but this gets extra props because it's so awesome:

  • List of every beer that is currently and on and what is on deck for each specific tap when first keg blows. Some online tap lists have an "on deck" section, but you don't know which one is going on next. Here you do.
  • It actually lists what fraction of every keg or cask is left. AMAZING. I haven't seen anyone pull off that feature in an online tap list.
  • It's updated every 5 minutes by Google Docs
The first two features are what make it pretty awesome. This place is a little far away from me, and I don't even usually get that close to it when I make trips to San Diego, but this might force me to stop in the next time. I've also added them in the "Online Tap List" panel on the right.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Pannepøt Old Fisherman's Ale

Here is a beer that is not a Christmas, holiday, or anything seasonal brew. But it's probably the best Christmas, holiday or seasonal type brew I've ever had. This is Pannepøt Old Fisherman's Ale. The ø indicates it is the Danish version and the not the American imported version, and according to some people they have differences.

It's classified by BeerAdvocate as a quadrupel. 10% ABV. It pours a medium bodied clear dark brown with ruby highlights. Head dies down very fast. I think that may be a function of the chalice, because I never see a head last more than a minute in a chalice like this. The smell is at first just kinda like grape candy, the same smells I was getting from the Westvleteren 8 and 12. Pannepøt, however, also contains a nice bit of chocolate/lightly roasted malt character. The interplay between those and the sugary and fruity sweetness makes this a very tasty, fairly complex brew. Oh yeah, it's brewed with spices as indicated on the label and although I can't pick out any specific ones, they seem to be there too.

If they slapped some wreaths, Christmas trees, or elves on the label this might be the best Christmas ale around. It must just settle to be the best quadrupel around. 4.75/5

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Alpine Nelson Golden Rye IPA

The morning has been pretty entertaining so far. A good game between Wake Forest and Navy, in which WF won 29-19 making me 1-0 on predictions so far. Currently, the Colorado State team I picked is down 21-20 at the half to Fresneck State. [EDIT: CSU won 40-35!!]

Even better than the games is the growler of Alpine Nelson I've been working on with my Dad. This is a beautiful beer in all aspects. I love the color, probably the lightest IPA you can find. The smell is VERY similar to Amarillo hops- grapefruity and cat pissy (you have to imagine folks)- but oh so good. 7% ABV gives the body a little more beef as well. The thing that sets this apart from a lot of other regional west coast IPAs is that it doesn't have a harsh bitter finish (which I often love). Considering Nelson was brewed with somewhere in the ballpark of 20% rye, I was hoping to pick some up, but I just don't consume enough rye to really know what it tastes like.

The Bowl Game Tally so far:
Steve 4-0
Steve's sister 1-3
Baltimore Beer Guy 3-1

Friday, December 19, 2008

Join Me For College Football Bowl Games and Beer

One of the best times of the year starts this Saturday- College Football Bowl Week. Being the avid college football fan that I am, I always pick all the bowl games (along with my sister) and watch almost all of them. Sad thing is that she usually finishes with a higher record than me, so it makes for some nice banter over the two weeks.

Because Bowl Week coincides with my winter break it's a nice opportunity to sit in front of the TV, take in some great games and have a beer or few. I invite anyone else to comment on upcoming games... who do you like? What beers are you looking forward to sitting down with while you take in the games? I'll have a post up hopefully during each bowl day to discuss the happenings.

The first four games are being played on Saturday, December 20th. My picks are highlighted in red. Times are all Pacific.

  1. EagleBanke Bowl - Washington DC - Wake Forest vs. Navy (8am)
  2. New Mexico Bowl - Albuqureque - Colorado St vs. Fresno St. (11:30pm)
  3. magicJack St. Petersburg Borwl - Memphis vs. South Florida (1:30pm)
  4. Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl - BYU vs. Arizona (5:00pm)
I probably won't be waking up early enough to catch the start of the Wake Forest/Navy game since I'll be out late with the family at the Magic Castle in Hollywood Friday Night (hopefully having a few Firestone Double Barrels which is the best thing they have on tap). The game that excites me the most, being a Pac-10 guy, is the BYU/Arizona game. I usually always root against other Pac-10 teams but I wouldn't mind seeing Arizona win this one. BYU's strength is passing the ball, and Arizona does a good job of defending the pass.

The only question is, what beers will I, and you, be enjoying while watching the games?

Thursday Was Alpine Day

Finished up my final at school around 11am and bolted straight down to Alpine. Got down there around 1:30 and was told I was only the 2nd person to come in for growlers of their "golden rye IPA" Nelson. Nelson is 7% ABV and described by Alpine...

"An outstanding hop from New Zealand, Nelson Sauvin, is generously used throughout the brewing and dry-hopping of this unique beer. European rye is added for a smooth, malty addition to flavor."
I found out about this beer on a Pacific Brew News podcast , the guys just raved about it (it's titled Younger, Nelson and a Huge Large Pils from Feb 1, 2008... check 38:37 into the show for Nelson). I had a quick taster just to make sure it was good (like there was ever any doubt) and quickly proceeded to order up 3 growler fills.

Here is where it gets good- Alpine charges UNDER $9 for a fill of Nelson. Seriously. This is a super-hoppy, limited rotating release and they charge $8.75 for a half gallon. That is almost unheard of in today's beer business. A pretty comparable beer, Ballast Point Sculpin IPA (same ABV as Nelson), was $20 just for a fill. Alpine is just amazing when it comes to pricing. Even their hop-lover's dream double IPA Pure Hoppiness is is only $9-something a growler fill. EDIT: This will soon change :-( Gotta hand it to them and their awesome crew there.

Afterwards I headed over to O'Brien's to kill a couple hours waiting for the Alpine Bad Boy which was to be on cask at 5pm. Bad Boy is a double IPA and per JRhode and his crew Alpine did a great job of drying this beer out (the way a good West Coast IPA should be), whereas in the past it's finished a little sweet. Started off with a Blind Pig during lunch but found something new- Ballast Point Sextant Oatmeal Stout. This beer was being served on nitro and it was fairly good. Had a nice mildly roasty nose to it, a mildly roasty and chocolaty taste, but I thought it really lacked in body. It was almost watery.

Finally the Bad Boy cask was tapped (picture on the left). They also put a draft version of Bad Boy on too (picture on the right). Just to compare, I now understand why I don't like hoppy cask beers. To me the flavors just become muted. I like my hoppy beers to be snappy, punch me in the mouth, but the cask just rounds (dulls) things out way too much. Bad Boy cask wasn't horrible. It did have a nice fruity hoppiness to it, lots of tropical fruit going on with it, but it was too rounded out and not sharp enough. I did get a 10oz pour of the draft version before I left and wow was that a good beer. Flavor was totally different... it wasn't citrusy, it wasn't piney, it was somewhere in the middle of that spectrum, maybe like dead leaves or something. I know that sounds weird. But it was good, and dry.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sculpin- Just Another Really Good IPA From California

I haven't had a beer since Saturday and you know I couldn't hold off that long on my bottles of Ballast Point Sculpin IPA that was just released at the brewery last Saturday. The last day of my 3rd of 6 4th year rotations was cause enough to celebrate.

This beer strikes me much different than it did when I had a pint on tap at Ballast Point a few days ago. I could not believe how similar this was to Pliny the Elder. The color is obviously much different, as Sculpin pours a clear orange. The head can be quite big, the reason mine was a fairly thin cap was because it looked like it was building up too much so I backed off a lot on my pour. It can really form a nice frothy head.

I poured some into my nonic and some into a tulip. In the tulip it smelled super citrusy, mostly orange as far as I could tell. From the pint glass I get more of a greenery and the similarity here to Pliny the Elder is striking. The taste produces much of the same result. The bitterness and the way the hop flavors flow over the tongue remind me of Pliny so much. The bitterness in this is definitely there, as it should be, but it's soft and lends a really nice bitter aftertaste. There's also some body to this thing. It's a bit oily, slick, but not syrupy (thank God), and lacks any residual sweetness of those *cough* East coast IPA's *cough*.

Ballast Point says Sculpin should be "bright with aromas of apricot, peach, mango and lemon, but I seriously get none of those and pick up orange a lot. What I do pick up from this beer is how solid it is. Very good.

This beer gets a 4.6/5 from me on the BA scale. I don't think the aroma is as great as it could be but the taste is as good as you can ask for. I still think $8 a bottle is a little much. If it were $6 a bottle I'd buy a lot more.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Alpine Bad Boy Cask

Hmmm, it looks like Alpine's Bad Boy! Double IPA (one of their Double IPA's), will be on cask at O'Brien's this Thursday, the same day I'll be down there for the Nelson release. I don't particularly like cask ale because I love hoppy beers very cold and I love the artificial carbonation. I thought the cask version of Port Brewing 2nd Anniversary DIPA was no contest for the kegged version, although I have enjoyed a cask Hop 15 pour once before. I've also read some opinions that the super-hoppy Moylan's Hopsickle loses much of its awesome hop character when drank from the cask. However, it might be interesting to try this at O'Brien's, since I doubt Alpine will be giving out tasters (if they even still had some) with as busy as they'll be filling Nelson growlers.

Anyone know what time O'Brien's usually taps their cask? Anyone think Bad Boy will lend itself nicely to the cask?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ballast Point Sculpin/SD Trip Roundup

The goal of the trip was to pick up a few bottles of Sculpin and explore 1 or 2 new beer places in San Diego. Our first stop of the day was Ballast Point to grab a pint and some bottles of Sculpin IPA. To my surprise we ran into some Summer of Beer readers JRhode and friends. That obviously made the Ballast Point trip fun being able to geek it with some other craft beer lovers. Sculpin was very good on tap, though I was told it may be slightly better out of the bottle. The first thing I noticed was how similar it seemed to what I remember of Mission IPA. A nice bitterness that doesn't come across as harsh, and a lot of citrus to it, I picked up a dominant orange zest flavor in it, like Mission IPA. I forgot to take a picture of the Sculpin but it's a really nice looking IPA. I was gonna order a 2nd pint to enjoy and take a picture of but without having eaten anything that morning and me being the driver, I decided against it. The Ballast Point location we went to was the Old Grove location and I thought the tasting room was pretty cool... small but a nice place to hang out and try some beers. Almost forgot to mention, thanks to JRhode and friends for letting me sample the bourbon barrel aged Black Marlin Porter... it seemed like it'd be a pretty solid beer in small portions.

I actually didn't realize how much flavor Sculpin had in it until I got to my next destination and favorite beer bar in San Diego, O'Brien's, and ordered a Russian River IPA (on the right). Kevin took my recommendation for a new beer and ordered a Pure Hoppiness (on the left). RR IPA is one of my all-time favorite IPA's (I think I prefer it over Blind Pig), but after having that Sculpin the RR IPA seemed very one dimensional, lacking some of its better flavors with only some fresh tasting bitterness (if that makes sense) coming through. I still enjoyed it but am thinking Sculpin might have numbed my taste buds a bit. O'Brien's had a bunch of stuff on tap that I've had before, lots of good beers, though I was really looking forward to trying something new, just not a Seasonal/Christmas beer at this point. Since I was driving though I decided to stay relatively light in ABV with my old friend Blind Pig (pictured left). We stayed at O'Brien's and watched the Real Madrid/Barcelona (or "Barthelona" according to Vick the Brick Jacobs) match and then decided to head out and get to a couple other places.

The next stop was the Toronado. We had a pint and took off. I was looking forward to having a Green Flash 30th Street Pale Ale but they were out. Instead I ordered a Telegraph Winter Ale which reminded me a lot of Moonlight's Working For Tips, a beer brewed with Redwood tips instead of hops. This beer had almost the same appearance (dark yet kinda murky clear) and absolutely no head and kind of oily looking. It looked dead in the glass but had a very interesting spicy smell. Apparently they used cinnamon, allspice, and sweet ancho chilies. It was ok, I wouldn't really seek it out again though... just not my thing. Kevin had a New Belgium 2 Below, which he thought was an interesting, fairly solid beer. I probably won't go out of my way to get to San Diego's Toronado again, it didn't seem to have much character to it. I knew it wouldn't measure up to the original Toronado in San Francisco but it did seem to lack a lot of character, though maybe it was just because it was 3pm on a cold, rainy Saturday. At some point I'll be back just to try their sausages.

Once we finished at Toronado we headed to get some more food at a place Kevin has gone many times called Santana's, a little fast food Mexican joint that I still don't really know where it's located. That was great stuff. It's hard to mess up a bean & cheese burrito but this one was really good because their tortillas were pretty good.

On the way back home we stopped in Temecula to check out a pub called Barley & Hops Olde World Family Tavern for a beer. Kevin got a Pliny the Elder, while I went with a Full Sail Lupulin Fresh Hop Pale Ale. That beer is the reason I won't be seeking out any Full Sail products in the future (not like I was ever impressed with them after trying their pale ale a while back). This beer had the same weird, metallic, weird hop type of flavor that I remember their pale ale having. Unfortunately I had to suck down 20 oz of it. I'm glad I got to stop in to check out Barley & Hops, it was a pretty cool place I'll definitely be back to, but that last beer of the day was like ordering 2 waffles and a breast at Rosco's... You don't really need that 2nd waffle, it's overkill. It seems like such a good idea at the start though that you can't resist.

If things work out right I'll be heading back down to Alpine on Thursday afternoon to grab some growlers of Nelson.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sculpin IPA Release This Saturday

It's been a while since I got excited for a release, they were just draining my funds way too much. But now comes the 3rd batch of Sculpin IPA to be released by Ballast Point. The first batch made its way to a few stores I think, but the second batch was brewery only. I missed out on both. Since I don't have a whole lot to do this Saturday I'll be down at their Old Grove brewery off the 15 and Miramar to pick up some bottles (after tasting it of course).

Word is Alpine's Nelson ("golden rye IPA") should be released for growler fills this Thursday. That is another I plan to head to fill up my growlers with.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Craft Beer and College Football - End of Regular Season Ends With A Bang

This last weekend was a big one in terms of college football. Who cares about Florida vs. Alabama or Jokelahoma vs. Mizzouri when there is a USC vs. (F)ucla game in town. Friday night the Baltimore Beer Guy Brian headed back up to my house as he did a week before from where he was staying in San Diego and we got a little beer action going. Because he had never really experienced the beer culture of the Orange or LA County areas we hit a couple spots that Friday. First we went to Hollingshead's Deli. We both started off with a half liter of Blind Pig, and he followed with another half liter of Gouden Carolus Noel. Since I was driving I limited myself to only the Blind Pig. After that we grabbed some dogs, sausages, chili and fries at Portillo's, one of his old stomping grounds in Illinois as a kid. When we got back home we headed down to a local Belgian beer bar called The Back Abbey. I went with an Ayinger Celebrator Dopplebock and then a La Chouffe IPA. I think he had a couple saisons, one of them I think was a Glazen Toren Saison.

We called it a night because we had a long day ahead. On Saturday morning we got up headed out. As we were leaving my house my VERY IMPORTANT bottle of Ruination (more on that later) dropped out of the cooler and was damaged. We NEEDED a bottle of Ruination for this game so we were going to stop at a BevMo later in the morning when they opened, but thankfully the famous Lone Hill Liquors (maybe the highest rated beer store on BeerAdvocate) right along our way was open and had a stock (albeit pretty out of date) of Ruination. After that we continued down the road and stopped at Lucky Baldwin's Delirium Cafe for an English breakfast which is right along the way of our half-hour drive over to the Rose Bowl- USC's home away from home. I passed on any food for breakfast and instead had a Stone Smoked Porter and a 7oz taster glass of Dupont Avec Les Bon Voeux. Brian had a Craftsman IPA and a taster glass of Lost Abbey Gift of the Magi. That Avec Les Bon Voeux was damn good by the way!! As we were finishing up around 9am, my sister met us at Lucky Baldwin's and we departed to the Rose Bowl.

Kickoff was slated for 1:30, and we didn't get down to the golf course where our friend Kevin was tailgating until around 10, so there wasn't a whole lot of time for tailgating. I had brought a 6-pack of Dale's Pale Ale and a Stone Ruination for toasting purposes. It is now a tradition for us to toast to a victory over ucla with Ruination... because we like to RUIN the bRUINs. Amazingly, even though the bottle I bought was already 3 months past the expiration date stamped towards the bottom of the bottle it was still damn good! That's what refrigeration does for you folks. Thank you to Lone Hill for keeping all their bottles refrigerated!

USC won the game, 28-7, making it 9 wins in the last 10 years against the Ruins, and that pretty much concluded my beer weekend.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Hop Stoopid Gets One More Chance

I've tried Lagunitas' Hop Stoopid once. I bought a bottle of it a couple months ago. It wasn't bad but it was fairly weak. It was probably a fairly old bottle. Yesterday while out at my new favorite Beverages & More in Glendora (I am never shopping at the Rancho Cucamonga location again), I asked a helpful craft beer employee if that nicely stacked section of Hop Stoopid (which I rarely see at other places) on the shelves had been sitting there for quite a while or if it was a new shipment. He said all their Lagunitas stuff had just arrived so I felt really stoked to hopefully be getting a fresh bottle of Hop Stoopid. Well, it's time to find out.

On the first whiff... woh, a lot different. This is majorly floral... perfumy. Very perfumy. The taste also has this sweet floral hoppiness to it, some sweet orange flavor, with a somewhat soft bitter finish. I can definitely tell this bottle is a lot more fresh than the first one I had, but this specific hop taste has always been my least favorite. I'm not sure what it is, or what hops it's derived from. It's real herbal/floral/syrupy, maybe vegetal. I've noticed it in a couple other beers but the ones I drink today generally do not contain any of this flavor. I remember Ballast Point's Big Eye IPA having a hoppiness that is somewhat similar, though I haven't tasted that beer lately. Unfortunately this wont be a beer I'll probably seek out again, but that's just because of my personal tastes. I know others who love it, and if you love this specific hop flavor, I would definitely recommend it because it's packed with it.

Just to not appear totally down on Lagunitas, I tried their Imperial Red a couple weeks ago and it was fantastic.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Holiday Beers - Collaborations and Celebrations

Many thanks to my buddy Brian The Baltimore Beer Guy for bringing this up from his stay in San Diego and then leaving it in my fridge for me. He tried it a few days ago and said some good things about it, and I'm all for a good winter seasonal so let's get started.

If you aren't up to date this beer was a collaboration between Stone, Nogne-O and Jolly Pumpkin. They each put in a special ingredient indigenous to their region- California White Sage from Stone, chestnuts from Jolly Pumpkin, and juniper from Nogne. Ok, so now that I told you what you already probably knew, onto the beer.

The liquid is actually a clear dark brown, but obviously in the glass it looks pretty dark and opaque. The head is creamy with pretty good retention. With as much going on in this beer I didn't expect to pick up every little thing in the smell and taste, I just can't do that. I did get a floral hoppiness, a menthol-like smell which I'm thinking is maybe the juniper, and an indiscernible sweetness from the nose. It tastes pretty good to start. In fact really good. It's roasty but sweet. It's spicy and dry finishing. The dry finish reminds me of Craftsman's Tripel White Sage. It feels like there's a real fresh hoppiness that's back in there somewhere. The body is on the heavy side of medium.

Overall it's pretty good, but the flavor weighs on me as the glass goes on. I wouldn't really want another. At least right now. All the flavors kinda wear me out. Not bad, still a good holiday ale. Mom thought her one sip was really good.

Of course, might as well also have another great seasonal while we're on the subject :-)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Mission Brewery (San Diego) Launches Their Website

I've been following this for a while now, wondering when Mission Brewing in San Diego, CA would finally get their website up and running. Looks like it's happened. Mission took home two medals in the 2007 Great American Beer Fest. One was a bronze for their IPA which I had the pleasure of trying last Summer. It was beautifully hoppy. I loved it. The other was a Gold in the Munich-Style Helles category. Their Hefeweizen is starting to pop up around San Diego quite a bit and they have an Altbier on deck at Downtown Johnny Brown's. I look forward to seeing more from this upstart brewery and hope we can maybe even get their products in the OC or LA in the near future.