Monday, June 29, 2009

Del Mar Fair International Beer Fest Recap

If you hadn't noticed, this last Saturday was was the newly named "International Beer Fest" at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. This was my first time going and I was glad I did. My friend Pat and I started out with lunch at Pizza Port in Solana Beach (about 1 mile away from the fairgrounds) and moved down to meet some friends at the fest right after. The only negative thing to happen all day was the traffic that surrounds the roads around the fair. After finally getting parked and into the fest around 2pm we located the arena where the beer fest was held. The area was plenty spacious enough for the crowd.

After getting wristbands and a taster glass we made our way through some booths. From what I can remember, in the first half hour or so I hit Sierra Nevada (because it was the first booth and I needed beer), Firestone, New Belgium, The Bruery, Jolly Pumpkin, Laguintas (Hop Stoopid was ridiculously good) and some foreign booths I can't remember. Got a nice little fix of sours in with Hottenroth Berliner Weisse, Oro de Calabaza, and La Roja. Down towards the other side of the grounds we hit all the Pizza Port booths, Ballast Point, and Airdale which seemed to be the buzz of the fest with their Dark and Stormy Imperial Stout. I was also surprised to see Haandbryggereit there, which I had read about for the first time on HBJ the other day. Friend's loved it, and called it very chocolatey. This was one of the few beers I could not make a conclusion on in my 1oz sample, and I never went back for more.

Other than Hop Stoopid, the beers I specifically remember loving were the Bruery's Berliner Weisse, which I've had many times, but this one seemed to have an extra wallop of funk to it. My friend Mario raved about the Mad River Double IPA but I never made it over to try for some reason. A new beer to me which stood out quite a bit was Pizza Port's Pier Rat Porter... a solid beer. Firestone's Pale 31 was also fresh and tasty. Firestone actually took first and second place in the pale ale category with their Pale 31 and their Nectar IPA. Lost Abbey's Ne Goein Saison was also in the top tier of the beers I sampled.

I wouldn't attend this fest alone, it's one where company may be needed to really enjoy it. But it's also not one where tasting and geeking out by evaluating beers isn't completely out of the question (though that was not my agenda for this fest). For a fest that goes 7 hours, for only $40, you can realistically drink hundreds of samples, 1 to 1.5 oz at a time. If that sounds good you may want to check this out next year.

See here for a pdf of the winners of the fest's competition

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Del mar internat'l beer fest

Tons of great beer here.... Not hard to get!!!!
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Swami's IPA at Pizza Port Solana Beach

Super fresh, resinous hops, very nice bitterness!
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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Beachwood BBQ - Brother Levonian Saison

This is last year's release from Ballast Point, not this year's from Port. Very good like I remember it, very light phenols, clean finish (weird for a saison) a bit of fruitiness.
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Beachwood BBQ and Deschutes Red Chair IPA

Very nice flavor to this! As usual for Deschutes though it has a big crystal malt backing

USA just scored!!!!!!!
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Monday, June 22, 2009

Back Abbey, Claremont, CA - Update

They finally have a functional website up. Looks very nice too.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Alesmith IPA

Never really liked this beer in the past, not bad right now
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Lucky B's IPA fest again

Firestone Union Jack... They also have a "firestone PL ipa"... Which we just realized is really a honey blonde! Oops!
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Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Ballast Point Tongue Buckler Experiment

Word was on the street was that this beer, Ballast Point's Tongue Buckler Imperial Red, came back from White Labs having tested in at over 100 IBU, something nearly impossible to actually do (theoretically it's much easier than it is physically). I'm gonna call bullshit on that, unless Chris or Mike White somehow come across this blog and verify that, but more on that later. I tried this with the good fellas at a couple months ago the day it was released and it didn't blow any of us away (at least in terms of aggressiveness). Granted, the pints of Alpine Exponential Hoppiness, Pliny the Elder and all that other good stuff that day may have thwarted our palates, thus the reason I'm giving it a second go here.

Pours a crystal clear dark red with a gorgeous, major fluffy off-white head. The smell is sweet but at the same time earthy, like dead leaves kinda? That's not necessarily a bad thing but a characteristic I've picked up in small percentage of hoppy beers. There's a minty aspect to it too. Onto the taste- the real show. Is my tongue buckled? Hardly! It's tasty. Heavily caramelled, moderately bittered with a fraction of greenery. The body is a happy medium, somewhat slick but with some prickly carbonation. It's a fine beer. 100+ IBU's? My tongue can't tell. To be honest, Sculpin IPA is more aggressive across the palate than this beer. Speaking of Sculpin, what a great beer. I just finished my 2nd and last bomber of the last batch the other day and can't say thanks enough to JTH, JRhode, and JHamel for those, what an awesome IPA that is, probably by current favorite now. This is definitely a tasty imperial red though, a style I'm really liking. I would have to give the nod to Alesmith Yulesmith (Winter imperial red version) over Tongue Buckler though. Maybe even Lagunitas' Imperial Red. That's not to say I'm not enjoying the flavor here and it's 10% ABV, but if ya hadn't told me it was 100 million IBU's, I would have never even guessed.

......... Ok so since I had written pretty much all that within the first 10 sips lemme just say I'm about 6 ounces into the beer and it's hitting me pretty hard. Not the alcohol, c'mon, my liver is a little sturdier than that, but on the tongue. Is it buckling me? Not yet, but it may be getting close. I have a good feeling here that the alcohol content is adding quite a bit to the overall perceived bitterness.

.......... My pint is dwindling down and I'm really enjoying this beer. It could be about as bitter as a Pliny, which clocks in at 90+ IBU per Russian River. I've had enough pints of Pliny to know what your tongue feels like after a pint of that, though overall it has a different taste of course. This beer may not blow your palate away in a small sample, as I first had it when I split that bottle with the BoozeReviews crew, but over the course of a full pint or so, yeah, it starts doin the job.

Monk's Cafe Flemish Sour

I think this fits into the Flander's Brown/Oud Bruin category if it had to. It's definitely very drinkable as it goes down like carbonated juice. As expected it's not very sour but it has a little tart bite to it along with a big fruitiness and overall sweetness. Personally, for regular consumption I prefer something a little more tart and dry with a lot of wood character like Lost Abby's Red Poppy, but this is still a pretty refreshing drink. I saw some poor reviews on it with people not impressed by its sourness. Hello people, not every beer is suppose to be Cantillon Geuze or Russian River Beatification.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Lucky Baldwin's IPA Fest

Russian River IPA, after the initial pour and festival glass purchase of $8, refills of regular IPAs are $3 and $4 for DIPAs
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Friday, June 12, 2009

Stone IPA at Hilton in San Bernardino

Stone IPA in the ghetto, gotta love it...
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Hangar 24 Orange Wheat

A good hefe, it smelled a lot like orange and wheat but tasted mostly like a real light hefe. A nice thirst quencher sorta beer though.
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BJ's Piranha Pale Ale

Still one of my favorite pale ales. Always so fresh and crisp with a nice hop bite.
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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

New Beer - Kern River Just Outstanding IPA

"Just Outstanding IPA" is the name given by Kern River Brewing to this particular beer. I wouldn't come close to calling it anywhere near outstanding, but apparently the name comes from a local mountain bike trail. This brew pours a little darker than I like for an IPA. I don't mind a nice orange color but when it starts getting brownish-orange I start thinking Maillard reaction melanoidins or too much crystal malt (think Marin White Knuckle DIPA).

The aroma was actually not too bad at first. But after about 5 minutes the smell turned into that smell of boiling wort right when your throwing some hops into it. I don't want a beer to smell like wort, I want it to smell like beer. The hops came off real vegetal too. The taste had a fairly harsh bitterness that limits its enjoyability, though I must add it had a juicy taste to it, so it redeems itself there. Back to those melanoidins and crystal malt- yeah there were more than I would like to have of either of them in here.

Unfortunately this beer just didn't do it for me. Not a drain pour, but not the best crafted IPA I've had. This beer averages a 4.18/5 on BeerAdvocate (18 reviews), which is excellent for an IPA, but I've had maaaaany better IPA's. Then again, White Knuckle DIPA is also rated as one of the best DIPA's on the site so........................

Beer stores that don't keep their stock fresh

I was recently at a beer store in which I saw a Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale with the best by date of September 2008 on it. It wasn't in back or hidden, it was the first one in line. I've noticed this becoming a big problem at beer stores now, especially in these economic times. You might've thought that Pliny or Blind Pig would just fly off shelves in So Cal, but I've seen multiple 5-6 month old cases sitting there with no signs of being bought anytime soon. I love these two beers but maybe they are examples of when hype doesn't make up for poor economy and increased prices of beer.

It sucks that even the best beer stores in the area don't treat their beer with as much care as a grocery store does its food. Disregarding those few beers that can tolerate a bit of age (ie Russian Imperial Stout, Belgians, etc), many of these beers will get stale or lose most of their flavor in a certain time, and these stores are keeping them on the shelves way past that time. This is the reason why I will almost never buy a pale ale or IPA-type beer anymore unless I can see a bottling date either on the case it came from or on the bottle itself. The chances are too high that you are going to a pay a pretty penny (as beer prices have skyrocketed in the last couple years) for something that's not worth drinking.

Monday, June 8, 2009

A Couple Randoms for a Sunday Night Tasting

We started off with a Hobgoblin, a beer that was given to me. I've seen it around a bunch but was never very interested in it. It's nothing to write home about. A kinda toasted/roasted flavor in a very light and prickly body. Goes down with a watery feeling.

The next beer was a Southampton Abbot 12 I traded for a while back when I acquired most of this brewery's beers. Abbot 12 was very tasty. Real sugary, caramelly, and my friend Steve said he was getting like apricots or peaches out of it. Probably my second favorite of their beers, behind their Saison. (Grand Cru and Biere de Garde didn't do much for me).

Lastly we finished off with a beer I got about 3-4 years ago for Christmas. I was afraid to every try it because I doubted I would like a 14% ABV lager. I was right. It was horrid, to me. The others seemed to like it somewhat but this thing was so firey potent and ridiculously sweet I just couldn't drink it.

That was it for a weak little Sunday night session. I'm running out of beer so I went to Hi-Times today and stocked up on a bunch of beers. New ones to me include: Alesmith Grand Cru, Alesmith Wee Heavy, Flying Dog Porter, Green Flash Double Stout and Kern River Just Outstanding IPA. In addition I picked up some favorites of mine that includes a Russian River Damnation, Green Flash Imperial IPA and Hop Head Red, and Ballast Point Tongue Buckler (giving this one a second chance to blow me away, it was just "good" when I had it before).

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Lucille's BBQ, Chino Hills, CA

Not a great taplist but there is a couple sam adams, bayhawk chocolate porter, pyramid hefe and all the other usual suspects. Got myself a Sam Adams Boston Lager.
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Friday, June 5, 2009

Dupont Avril table beer

Stone IPA, Alaskan IPA, and now the Avril... 3.5% ABV and still tasty like a nice saison
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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Brasserie Dupont Biere de Miel

It's the season for saisons and I splurged on what I hoped would be a good one a few weeks ago. You can probably find this beer at most of the better beer stores but I'd only seen it a couple times so I jumped all over that when the weather started to warm up in anticipation of summer saison drinkin'.

Dupont's Biere de Miel is part of their organic line of beer, is a formidable 8% and brewed with honey. The usual properties of the saison style are stamped all throughout this beer, but it does have its own unique sweetness that I've never encountered in other saisons. I'd say I find this mostly in the aroma, as the taste is both phenolic and appears pretty dry. I drank the whole bottle, something I rarely do for bottles of this size.

I highly recommend this beer as an interesting version of a saison with a bit more kick than the standard Saison Dupont.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Clipper City Red Sky At Night

Everything I've had from Clipper City has been solid to very good. Red Sky has nice phenolics and a beautiful color. Thank you to brian the baltimore beer guy for both this awesome beer and glass!