Thursday, April 24, 2014

Figueroa Mountain Brewery

45 Industrial Way
Buellton, CA 93427
 (805) 694-2252

I'll let you in on a little secret about our anti-traffic stop at Telegraph:  the idea originated before then, at Figueroa Mtn.  People may know Buellton as the split pea soup capital of California (talk about a feather in your cap, huh?), but did you know a reputable brewery splits their own peas, so to speak?

Men at work.
They've managed to make the inside of a commercial building feel warm and inviting.  Lots of wood, and signs of a deep localism run throughout.

The FMB Mug Club!
Maybe it's the wall of mugs.  Or maybe because everyone in there was wearing some combination of FMB hat/shirt/hoodie.  I don't know, but it feels like a great place for an after-work meet up.

IPA flight
There was an ungodly number of beers on tap, which is impressive in it's own right, and only a few of them are ones you'll find in the stores.  We decided to focus on their IPAs.  In the photo, from right to left:

  1. Hurricane Deck (double IPA) -- 8% --  a classic west coast double.  a bit heavy on the malt side
  2. Hoppy Poppy (IPA) -- 6.5% -- read Brendan's review
  3. Lizard's Mouth (an imperial IPA) -- 9.2% -- pretty good, very imperial, very resiny
  4. Seafoam (a Belgian IPA) -- 6.8% -- OK, but nowhere near as mind blowing as BP Homework Series #2 (although maybe those are not comparable)
I can't say FMB makes my favorite beers around, and there weren't any that stopped me in my track, but I can say this is a fun place to drink.  There are so many options, you could get a Russian River style flight in scope -- unfortunately that's where the comparisons to RR stop.  I highly recommend making a stop here, even if the motivation is purely for beer's sake.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Almanac Golden Gate Gose

type: sour wheat
origin: San Jose, CA
price: $8.50/22oz
ABV: 5%
NSP: 3.8

The brewers of Almanac are experts at souring beers, and making beers with painfully low NSP.  What this beer demonstrates is that they also know how to sour in moderation, and keep that NSP nice and low.

What makes a gose different from, say, a Berliner-weisse?  Salt.  A gose is, simply, a goddamn-salty, slightly sour wheat ale.  I'm sorry if that description sounds unappetizing, but that's where brewers' moderation becomes important:  none of those traits (salty, sour, or wheat) should be used in excess, assuming you don't want "ale" which tastes like bile.

GGG, I'd argue, lives in the moderation sweet-spot:  there's a fine level of tartness layered over a very light-bodied wheat backbone -- not too much, but just a touch.  Aromas are pleasantly citrusy, and fruity, which is very appetizing.  And, yes, G^3 is salty.

Almanac is known for sourcing local ingredients because, as their packaging usually reminds us, "beer is agriculture".  Here they've used sea salt derived from San Francisco bay waters.  Hmmm... I'm not so sure what I think about that.  Is the bay clean?  Not really.  And it's not getting much better.  (Check out this report from page 25 on.)  But, whatever, I ain't scurred of no damn Methyl-mercury, or Selenium.

I can see how most drinkers will simply not like this.  There are too many 'strange' components in a widely under-brewed and under-drunk style.  But Golden Gate Gose is absolutely killing it; even though I wish it was a lot cheaper, and in 12oz bottles, I'll still grab this any time.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Wien's Millennium Falconer's IPL

type: IPL
origin: Temecula, CA
price: $5.45/22oz
ABV: 5.5%
NSP: 6.5

This beer marks two interesting trends, as far as I see them: (1) we now have more (great) IPL entering the market (it's still far from saturated), and (2) another IPL from Temecula (currently half of the production-scale IPLs I know of are from there).

The Millenium Falconer (how cute, another Star Wars pun) begins with an almost overwhelming hop bitterness, but finishes with nice fruity hop notes which set's it apart from Nuhell and Fathom.  There's only a faint hop aroma, but it's just enough to tease.  It's got a great color, with a nice fluffy head layered over a mild lager base.

Overall I find this to be a well-crafted brew.  It pleases the tastebuds, and is fun to drink; but, the low ABV means it can't quite compete with the Fathom gold standard.  With a little time Wien's may be able to reduce production costs, and if so I hope to see a better NSP.

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.