Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Firestone Easy Jack

type: session IPA
origin: Paso Robles, CA
price: $11/6-pack
ABV: 4.5%
NSP: 8.7
website

See that bottled on date?  Yup -- supes fresh Firestone Easy Jack, their sessionable IPA, picked up direct from the brewery on my way down to SLO.

It would be too easy just to write "this is just a toned down version of Union Jack", but that would also be completely accurate.  The main differences are, expectedly, the full 3% less ABV and the less-robust malt base.  But I also think the hops they use are different -- the aromas are subtly different.  This is goddamn good and, as of May 2015, it was on BA's Top 10* worldwide.  But fuck those BA neckbeerders, make up your own mind.

I could be totally wrong about the differences in hop varietals, but one thing is clear: like UJ, I can drink a whole damn bunch of this stuff.  It's still got a solid level of hoppiness over a nice mild, light bodied base.  And they've managed to pull this off without being overly bitter, and no off flavors.   So if you want to get marginally buzzed on IPA, or just want a beer with lunch, hit this up now.

Pro tip: A growler of anything at the brewery costs more than its equivalent six pack of cans or bottles.  And for those who are detail oriented:
(6 x 12 oz = 72 oz)  >  (1 x 64 oz = 64 oz)
Can you see where I'm going with this??  Here's a hint: http://www.nonsnobbeer.com/p/non-snob-points-nsp.html

* Tonight is, coincidentally, David Letterman's very last show, and very last Top Ten list, ever.  Single tear...

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Telegraph Reserve Wheat (batch 136)

type: sour wheat ale
origin: Santa Barbara, CA
price: $14/750ml
ABV: 5%
NSP: [to low to print -- click here to reveal!!!] Actually it's 2.7
website

It took me a while to appreciate how good Telegraph Brewing Co. is, but the turning point was when we actually visited the place on a road trip.  Reserve Wheat was on the menu that day, and instantly shifted my perception of TBC.

This was the first time I've seen it around, at a local market in San Mateo, and, as the bottle says, it's only available in "extremely limited quantities."  So... fuck it, take my $14 in exchange for a deliciously tart, citrusy wheat ale.  Similar to a Berliner weisse, I suppose, but with a bit more complexity.  And  since the tartness rushes the door at the finish, rather than being an asshole during the entire goddamn show, it comes with a pleasant level of crushability.

Subtle flavors balanced by the acidity is key here, and it works quite well.  So suck it up and shell out for a stupidly-low NSP beer once in a while -- sometimes it's worth it.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Flying Dog Bloodline

type: citrus IPA
origin: Fredrick, MD
price: $14/6-pack
ABV: 7%
NSP: 10.7
website

It seems that with the sudden influx of the unbelievably tasty Grapefruit Sculpin we can now clearly identify the hot thing to do with IPA: blast it with citrus.  So I'm diving back into my BD series with a new offering -- a Blood Orange IPA.

There's an interesting dilemma with citrus beers: Do you juice all the fruit in house, or do you use extract?  As far as I can tell this involves actual citrus product (Grapefruit Sculpin does not) like I expect Orange Wheat does.  I don't really care which it is but I do know that using actual fruit sounds like a lot of damn work to me, especially if this is in the regular rotation.

On to the beer... Gorgeous color and pleasant hoppy/orange aromas. Fairly deep malt base with robust hopping.  The blood orange cuts right through that though.  It's pleasant, and potent.  Croosh.

I generally find that FD doesn't mess around.  If they release something, it's for damn good reason. But while this certainly doesn't let me down -- it's a fantastic beer -- G-Sculp is definitely the better bet if you have a one-to-one choice.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Anchor Brotherhood Steam

type: dry hopped steam
origin: San Francisco, CA
price: $8/6-pack
ABV: 5.6%
NSP: 16.6
websites:
  Anchor
  ChrisRobinsonBrotherhood

I've said it in the past, but I'm a sucker for great aesthetics on the outside.  It's always a let down when the beer on the inside sucks, but this has the classic Steam flavors from Anchor's cools-ship method -- malty, slightly tang, slightly metallic.  And, with the addition of some fine dry hopping and a superb NSP, this slips quietly into the realm of fully fantastic.

I haven't listened to CRB, but I'm pretty stoked on this description, from Anchor's website:
In the spirit of [the ESB] tradition, we like to think of Brotherhood Steam Beer as an Extra Special Lager (ESL), aka “The Gig Beer” – an easy drinking brew from the first set to encore. In December we announced the limited release of Brotherhood Steam Beer in six-pack cans with artwork by San Francisco-based artist Alan Forbes.
Alan Forbes' work should not go unnoticed.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Green Flash Symposium IPA (Hop Odyssey series)

type: IPA
origin: San Diego, CA
price: $7/22oz
ABV: 7%
NSP: 6.5
website

Green Flash's Hop Odyssey has produced a number of outstanding beers, including 30th Street Pale Ale (I friggin' love that beer).  The trump card with this IPA is that five different hops were used.

Unfortunately the amalgamation of these ends up tasting a bit too much like the Stone IPA to be very unique.  That might be because their flavors are new to me, but I'm guessing at some point there's not much to be gained by adding different hops (like when you mix paints together and it ends up a baby-pooh brown because Bob Ross lied to you).

My experience with symposiums has generally been that I start out excited and end up bored by the end.  It's not quite the same drastic change with this beer, but I'm definitely not interested in buying this off the shelves again.  But there's no reason I wouldn't order it at a bar, since the beer is technically very well crafted.  In the face of myriad California IPAs, it's a tough sell.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Sudwerk Cascaderade

type: IPL
origin: Davis, CA
price: $7/22oz
ABV: 6.6%
NSP: 6.1
website

IPL is easily in my top ten favorite beer styles of all-time, so it's fun to watch a burgeoning style develop.  Hell, even Jim Koch, famous hater of IPAs, tried to get in on the action.

Although there's a long list of hops on the bottle, this seems to have only a one-note character to it.  But it does have mildly sweet -- not too dry -- base and I get a touch of vanilla at the finish which sounds odd, but is pleasant.

This is 'pretty good', I'd say, but hardly a heavyweight champion.  It should be purchased again though, since I'm guessing it tastes ridiculous in its fresh state; but Fathom is still better, and still cheaper.  +1 for a sweet name though.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Grassroots Brewing Arctic Saison (Batch 2)

type: saison/farmhouse ale
origin: Anchorage, AK
price: $12/750
ABV: 6.0%
NSP: 3.3
website

If you want a little backstory as to why I try and buy anything from Hill Farmsteadthis post eloquates precisely why.

And I'm so glad I purchased this.

Sure, it appears thin and watered down, but it's absolutely packed with flavor.  There's a tart yet barely funky aspect from the brett and a nice level of acidity, and the oak conditioning lends a nice rustic, woody aspect...  whoa whoa whoa, I'm getting a little too esoteric here... sorry I can't help it ... and a really unique herbal finish. Sorry, I'm a little over-stimulated.

Basically, this is one hell of a beer that should be appreciated by those who can get it.  And I am throughly stoked to be heading out to Vermont in June with Brats -- we're surely detouring up to b.f.e. Vermont to sample some fine rural ales.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Alaskan Icy Bay IPA

Type: IPA
Origin: Juneau, Alaska
ABV: 6.2%
Website

Alaskan is one of those breweries that is large but consistently puts out good products that can appeal to both the masses as well as the beer enthusiast. This one is a new IPA that they came up with in the past few months. I generally like my IPAs very hop forward and aggressive with lots of pine and citrus. This one, is not like that, although it is a well balanced IPA. The malts are light and the hopping is in check, but there is nothing revolutionary about it. I would view this as a gateway west-coast IPA and you would wax nostalgic about it as you move onto bigger and better things.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Alaskan Double Black IPA

Type: black double IPA
Origin: Juneau, Alaska
ABV: 8.5%
Website

This is definitely a style gaining traction, and probably didn't exist much at all 5 years ago. Stone's Sublimely Self-Righteous was the first to gain widespread attention. At first, was not a huge fan of the style, but have grown much more fond of it after sampling Reuben's Black Imperial IPA (sorry, haven't reviewed it), who are able to meld a dark coffee roast seamlessly with a citrus hop bomb in an absolutely delightful manner. This one is not as forward thinking as Reuben's take, but it is a damn fine beer in its own right. The thing that strikes me most here is the smoothness and simplicity of this beer. The malts are quite chocolately and definitely give a lactic mouthfeel as a milk stout would. The roast is light and in check and the hops are peeking through just enough to remind you this is an IPA. There is only a faint citrus quality to the hops, which if they were able to up it just a bit, this beer would drink like a chocolate covered orange. I still like Reuben's take a bit more, but would drink this all day if offered.  

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Propolis Prunus

Type: belgian strong dark ale
Origin: Port Townsend, Washington
Price: $12.99 per 750 mL
ABV: 7.5%
NSP: 4.3
Website

Propolis has quite a cult following in Washington but is largely unknown outside the area. Their beers are not brewed fairly often and bottle counts are not high, so its a surprise they aren't more sought after. This one definitely caught my eye: a belgian dark strong ale aged on cherries with herbs. That description would lend one to think of an herbal Russian River Supplication, and it isn't too far off from that. The smell is a combo of a nice dark belgian strong ale and a kriek. A little rosemary comes through, but cherries dominate. The taste is dry, herbal, floral and clean. More rosemary, maybe some fresh mint. Not as sour as the smell, but definitely a little bit of tart cherry on there, and definitely not as sour as Supplication. I definitely get a bit of spicy heat on the finish that lingers a bit in a good way. I think the herbal aspect is the perfect counterbalance to the wild sour funky part of this beer that just makes it perfectly crushable.