Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Telegraph Brewery

418 N Salsipuedes St, Santa Barbara, CA 93103
(805) 963-5018

We were driving back from a trip to the bay area recently, and realized our timing was going to put us in LA around 5.  WTF were we thinking??  Then I realized we were within striking distance of two reputable craft breweries on the central coast: Figueroa Mtn. (review coming), and Telegraph.  So, in an instance we transformed a shitty crawl across shitty LA freeway space into a late-night breeze...

Chris has already voiced a strong positive opinion about Telegraph's sour beers (e.g., Gypsy Ale) but I hadn't really tried their beers, admittedly, so my expectations were understandably low (nobody really talks about Telegraph beers either).

The entrance.  I know, astonishing right??
The inside feels like a trendy surfer-artist loft.  That is to say it was welcoming, relaxed, had cool photos of ocean junk on the walls, and good music played in the background (I remember RJD2 coming on at one point).  On tap... ten beers including one sour (lucky me).

Ten beers on tap... nice.
The first flight we had:
Oak-barrel stave sampling tray

  1. Reserve Wheat -- Berliner-weisse (sour wheat) -- 4.5%
  2. Los Padres -- saison -- 7.2%
  3. Prime Meridian -- specialty IPA -- 7.1%
  4. 1927 -- extra pale ale with oranges -- 4.9%
  5. Obscura Project #5 -- ale infused with Earl Grey tea (yes, really) -- 5.8%
Standouts for me were 1--4, and they were so good I broke my own rule and tried the remaining five beers on the board.  These were all completely unique and delicious.  Earl Grey tea is an interesting additive to beer, but in no way did I want a full pint.

The second flight, by way of a kick-ass first one twisting my arm:

Damn you, peer pressure!

  1. California Ale -- Belgian pale -- 6.2%
  2. Cipher Key -- rye session pale ale -- 4.5%
  3. White Ale -- Belgian wit -- 4.5%
  4. Ravena Stout -- oatmeal stout -- 6.2%
  5. Abbey Ale -- Belgian trappist -- 7.1%
This flight was not as impressive, but still very good.  Standouts for me were 1 and 2 -- just absolutely delicious and refreshing.  I think they played it too safe with the White and Abbey.

I came to Telegraph with low expectations, and left with a deep respect for them.  They have an incredible brewing range and everything tastes, well, really good.  There are no rough edges, so to speak.  I can imagine these guys like great food too, because the beer styles just scream for finding interesting food pairings.

So cheers to impulsive brewery stops, and bypassing LA traffic with great beer.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Gilgamesh VADER

type: CDA
origin: Salem, OR
price: ?
ABV: 6.5
NSP: ?

I love black, sludgy coffee, and this makes me feel right at home.  This gives off a real wallop of roasted barley, accented with coffee I assume was roasted to within an inch of its usable state.  All of these features makes this definitely on the 'dark side', so I'd say the title befits the product.

But this is so much more complex than expected, even though the label kicks ass.  Even though the coffee/grain action basically scrapes your tongue with a rusty steel brush, the flavors are very nicely balanced by just a touch of sweetness, and a decent level of hoppiness.  I can't, unfortunately, claim this upends HoD as my favorite CDA from the PNW, but this is none-the-less very good (NTLVG -- I needed just one more acronym).

This is brewed in Salem, Oregon, which was as dead as dead could be the last time I was there (many years ago); hopefully Gilgamesh, a new brewery pumping out great stuff, will change up the pace a bit.  Thanks again to Surly-Chris for another fine reconnaissance brew.

Another great PNW-CDA?  Ludicrous speed drinking... GO!!!!!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Dogfish Head Piercing Pils

type: pilsner
origin: Milton, DE
price: $2.75/12oz
ABV: 6%
NSP: 7.8

As I've come to expect from Dogfish, this is very tasty and just 'off centered' enough to be memorable.  Even though this beer in particular is not terribly complex, it does have a set of subtle, delicate flavors from the "pear juice" and "pear tea" that exist nicely with the mellow pilsner base.  I have no idea what pear tea is (nor do I care), but I do know I like pear juice, so win I guess.  This has a surprisingly high NSP, so I would say go for it.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Samuel Adams Cold Snap

type: Belgian-style white ale
origin: Boston, MA
price: $14/12-pack
ABV: 5.3%
NSP: 16.1

Sam Adams and I are at reasonable understanding; rarely do they brew something I will rave to people about, but equally rare is a terrible beer by them.  Their consistent both in quality, and in value.

Cold Snap is their seasonal Belgian white ale, brewed to signify the return of spring.  It's pretty much been spring all year in San Diego, so I don't quite give a shit, but I can imagine the relief in store for those affected by the Polar Vortex Weather-shitstorm 2014.

I say this beer hits the spot reasonably well, especially given the NSP (better than Chainbreaker).  It's light bodied, with a decent balance between additives (orange peel, plum, hibiscus, coriander) and the malted wheat base.  I even taste a slight bit of vanilla, which is oddly pleasant. The aromas are pretty underwhelming, though, and I could use a bit more carb, but it'll do in a pinch obviously.

While taking a bit of time off to finish writing my thesis, I became somewhat uneasy that most beer nerds are shifting towards drinking massive, hoard-able and cellar-able ales exclusively.  Such a trend creates and obvious snobbery vacuum where beers like this offer absolutely nothing to the evacuee.  This is neither a massive beer, nor a cellar beer, but it certainly has a lot of flavor and complexity for the money.  Fuck no, it's not even close to tasting like Allagash White, but the typical Allagash NSP is about as low as Dubya's grades in school -- consistently next to dogshit.

So to conclude, my friends, Cold Snap rubs the lotion on its skin.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Alaskan Hopothermia

Type: double IPA
Origin: Juneau, Alaska
Price: $10.50 per 4 pack
ABV: 8.5%
NSP: 11.5

The first time I saw this beer was at the Great Alaska Beer and Barleywine Festival in January. Lots of great beers there, but this was best in show for me. Part of it may have been due to me having a weird stomach bug at the time, but it was really the only thing I wanted more of at the time (this includes a liberal pour of Anchorage - A Deal with the Devil which I basically poured out after a thorough shonking effort). I believe that the festival was the debut for this beer, so I would assume this bottle is from the first batch, so a few months old. The reason I feel this is a few months old is that this has definitely faded a little bit from the first time I had it, but it is still super hop-forward and better than most DIPAs. And the NSP is just about right. So go drink it now.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Lavery Rum Barrel Imperial French Ale

Type: barrel aged ale/saison
Origin: Erie, PA
Price: ?
ABV: 12.5%
NSP: ?

I acquired this in a trade a few days ago and my trade partner was a huge fan of this. You can check out his video review here. I had never heard of Lavery Brewing, so I was definitely intrigued to try them out. There is also a bourbon and tequila barrel aged version of this beer, as well as the original un-barrel aged version.

My first impression is everyone needs to try this. It is one of the most interesting beers I have had in quite some time and even if french ales/rum is not your thing, you should still try this. The smell on this is dominated by sweet coconut and pineapple and reminds me of a pina colada. The taste is smooth, and switches over to more of a mai tai in flavor. Don't let my comparisons to tropical drinks scare you away; first and foremost, this is a french imperial saison and has all those flavors lingering on. The pineapple and coconut are simply the second layer on a pretty phenomenal base beer. Definitely one of those beers I wish I had more of.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Three Floyds Zombie Dust

Type: pale ale (should be IPA)
Origin: Munster, Indiana
Price: ?
ABV: 6.4%

I just received this in a care package from my dad and brother. It has quite the reputation, and many people consider this one of the best pale ale/IPAs around. I've had the honor of having Dreadnaught, Arctic Panzer Wolf, and Alpha King, which were all excellent, so my expectations were quite high for this. Long story short: this meets all expectations and then some. Just smelling the bottle cap I knew I was in business, with some nice dank citrusy hops soaked in there deep. The flavors are out of this world; pretty much every quality you want out of a hop are existent in this beer. And to boot, this is super light, not overpowering and should be sessionable. The only other beer at this level is Alpine's Duet, and this may be slightly better. Seriously, if you are a brewer making an IPA, you should strive to make something at least half as good as this.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Bruery Sour in the Rye

Type: rye wild ale/barrel aged
Origin: Placentia, California
Price: $22 per 750 mL
ABV: 7.6%
NSP: 2.6

Ah The Bruery. We have a love/hate relationship with them. On the one hand, they make delicious beers; on the other, they are fuckall expensive. Look at the NSP in all its glory. And they lowered the ABV on the 2014 edition to probably make the average ABV of their offerings more reasonable with their 19% chocolate sweet nothings. FML

My first impression of this beer is: pretty good. It is, no doubt, a really well crafted wild ale. The smell is quite tart to the point where you may regret the decision to purchase said beer. I think it is dominated by dried apricots and peaches, with quite a bit of sour funk. Lots of people comment that is it barnyardy, however, I think it is the opposite and quite a clean sour, more in the sour patch kids or sweet tarts direction. The taste is definitely mellower than the smell, but is still quite a tart bomb. It reminds me of Cascade's Apricot only more subdued, possibly due to the rye addition. There is also a lot of green apple popping through (which can be good or bad - I vote good). I do however feel that the qualities of this beer do not make up for the NSP shortcomings. Its hard to offer a suggestion of another beer to replace this since the Cascade Apricot is the same price and most sours in this category are expensive.  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Hess Ficus (Fig Saison)

type: dark saison
origin: San Diego, CA
price: $20/64oz
ABV: 6.1%
NSP: 5.8

Let me tell you something: I love living around the corner from a truly artisan beer monger.  (Mike) Hess brewery has it's moments of glory, and moments of "black, send it back".  In fine Hess tradition the name of the beer gives absolutely no indication what it might be.  And what the hell is a dark saison?  I (still) cannot answer that, but Ficus is probably one.  It's 'earthy', but doesn't taste like dirt and is easy drinking.  It's spicy, but well balanced.  Shit, I still dunno... it's a dark saison I guess.

What this mostly reminds me of is a black IPA with some major yeast-borne spiciness, and a bit of figiness rather than the deep hoppy bitterness you'd expect from a CDA.  No... 'figiness' is not a word... but if you eat figs you know what da fig I'm talking about.  It's delicious, different, complex, and interesting.  So... a win.  But the NSP is a little too low for most growler fills, even though it really is quite delicious.  I'd say mostly you'll want to hit up the North Park tasting room and give this a try -- they have Bananagrams, which I'll beat you at AD, son!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Ballast Point Homework Series Batch 2

Type: belgian style DIPA
Origin: San Diego, California
Price: $8.49 per 22 oz
ABV: 10%
NSP: 7.65

Andy tossed this bad boy into a care package for me about a week ago and I have been salivating waiting to try it. We get a decent number of Ballast offerings in Seattle, but definitely none of the special releases. Hell, I barely saw them when I lived in San Diego. Most of all, I am excited to see an absolutely massive west coast IPA done with belgian yeast. These belgo-hybrids have become some of my favorite offerings, and for the most part I stuck to Stone Cali-Belgique and Ommegang BPA. It is also with good timing since I just reviewed a barrel aged belgo DIPA a few weeks ago in Fort George's North the Seventh.

One word describes this beer: massive. After I popped the cap and was playing with my camera settings I could smell this thing across the room before I poured it. Just a heavenly mix of banana and cloves mixing with some super dank hop aromas. After tasting, it is everything I imagined, just a hearty mix of Cali-Belgique and Sculpin with a few extra points of ABV (most likely from candy sugar according to the website). This also drinks super easy even though its at 133 OBUs and 10%; the belgian yeast mellows out these characteristics and allows you to enjoy the great citrus hops mixed with the fruity belgian aspects. If this was on tap, I would drink it AD.