Saturday, October 30, 2010

Avery Brewing Salvation Ale

Type: Belgium style golden ale
Origin: Boulder, CO
Price: $6.49/ 22 oz

This is a hell of a beautiful golden ale to look at. Being that Belgium golden ales are my absolute favorite type of beer, I was stoked to sip this one down. It looks much less opaque than the Belgians I've had before, and a little lighter in color as well. This baby packs a nice whiff of fruit and flora on the nose, with only a hint of spice. It reminds me of dried apricot paste, the middle eastern kind. It also packs a flavor punch, in the mouth, right where I like it. Yet it's incredible light for being 9% ABV. Kind of like fluffy clouds after a heavy rain, not the usual dense characteristic of most beers in this category. It also has the perfect touch of hops to finish things off, just the right amount for an exceptionally well balanced beer. I will be drinking this one often, and looking forward to trying other beers from Avery as well.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Kelsey McNair/Stone/Ballast: San Diego County Session Ale

type: session IPA
origin: San Diego, CA, USA
price: $3/12 oz

session ale |āl|
a beer designed to be consumed in large quantities, in order to get one extremely intoxicated

Ok I simplified the definition for context. The great thing is I think I have finally found the beer I've always wanted to drink in large quantities - this one.

The story is McNair won Stone's recent home-brew competition, and got a chance to develop his beer with Colby Chandler (Ballast) and Mitch Steele (Stone); this is the batch they released. It's a perfect anti-snob beer: beautifully hopped, intense floral aromas and flavors, and some bitterness. Then, it finishes with "ultimate drinkability", reminding you that you are simply drinking beer, and you shouldn't do so with gold bouillon up your ass.

So I say "suck it, every macrobrew ever made", because a San Diego homebrewer has created a masterpiece that will challenge your existence. You now look about as incompetent as supporters of the tea-party look unevolved. If McNair starts his own brewery, I'm buying stock. Well done, sir.

FYI, I got this at BevMo, but I'm not sure who else might have it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Anchor Steam Liberty Ale

Type: Ale
Origin: San Francisco, California
Price: $3.50 per pint

After the Gran Cru, I needed to get the sourness out of my mouth and decided to pick one of the cheaper options on Small Bar's menu. The choice of glass was excellent, and would have been better if I got a nice frosty malt afterwards. This beer is pretty much a very subdued pale ale. It has light floral smells and a light floral taste. The aftertaste is very strong and bitter. I wrote down that this is "non-dynamic" and a "pretty average pale".

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Rodenbach Gran Cru

Type: red ale
Origin: Steenhuffel, Belgium
Price: $7 per 0.25 L

This was on tap at Small Bar, so I decided to give it a try since I needed something a little sweeter. The Gran Cru definitely brings the sweetness, but also with a strong sour/vinegary taste. The color is a nice intense reddish brown and the head is very soft and fizzy. This is incredibly similar to Duchesse, with a very powerful sour candy aspect. I definitely don't think this is worth the price in this country, but would maybe drink it again in Belgium.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Tusker Lager

Type: Lager
Origin: Nairobi, Kenya
Price: $1.99 per 12 oz

I must admit, I did not expect anything from this beer. And while this was not the best lager I've ever had, it was pretty good considering the distance traveled and the not-so-famous brewing traditions of Africa. There was a sweet/sour candy thing going on with it that reminded me of a Belgian red ale mixed with a lager. The aromas were sweet and the color was very light yellow. If I ever get stuck in Africa, I could definitely down a few dozen of these.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye

Type: rye IPA
Origin: Cloverdale, California
Price: $4.29 per 22 oz

If you have ever had the Racer 5, be warned that this is much more intense. The IBUs are sitting at 80 here, the alcohol content is 8%, and it has a very astringent quality common to rye whiskeys. Bear Republic claims that this "has a floral hop aroma and subtle caramel notes with a slightly earthy and spicy rye character." I do agree that there is a sweetness, very similar to a caramel smell, and the spiciness comes out if you sip this sideways and aerate it a bit. You will look like a jackass wine snob, but if you do it while wearing a catchy trunker hat, +1. I think that once your mouth gets used to the bitterness, you can start to pick out some blackberry flavors. This beer is not as good as the Racer 5, but it is pretty close behind, making this a pretty damn good brew.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hinano Tahiti

Type: pilsner lager
Origin: Papeete, Tahiti
Price: $2.19 per 0.5 L

The irony of foreign pilsners: great in person, skunked back home. This is definitely no exception, although the skunkiness is only present in the smell, and the taste is perfectly fine. It does however have a very strange taste. It has a sweet light bitterness almost exactly like Sweet-Tarts. If only it tasted like Spree...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mississippi Mud Black and Tan

Type: porter and pilsner
Origin: Utica, New York
Price: $3.69 per 32 oz

Sweet sassy molassy. The only thing that could get better about this beer is if it was actually made in Mississippi. I don't think I need to explicitly say how fucking awesome the bottle is, although if I get in a bar fight, I'm definitely grabbing this skull thumping bottle. The easiest way to describe this is a subdued porter with more hops, lending this brew supreme drinkability. Its surprising how many of the flavors you can pick out from each distinct beer. From the porter, you get a nice soft head, light malty smells and taste, a wee bit o nuttiness and a good dark color. From the pilsner, you get a nice sweet flavor with a nice hop balance. I am really surprised I never bought this before, especially for a liter of beer in this price point.

Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine

Type: barley wine style ale
Origin: Escondido, California
Price: $5.99 per 22 oz

This beer is a gigantic mindfuck. I probably deserved everything I got after this beer, but who could resist an 11.1% Stone beer in 22 oz form. Most barley wines have a very strong bum wine aspect to them, and this was no exception. Stone was able to put their unique touch on the barley wine by adding a nice hop balance. The smell on this was of a hoppy brown ale. Other than a nice hop flavor, there were some slight dark berry notes, most likely cherries. The 11.1% definitely added a nice burn on the way down. This is not my favorite Stone beer, but not bad for a barley wine.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Craftsman Spring Braggot

Type: Braggot
Origin: Pasadena, CA
Price: $6 pint at Small Bar

Me: "Hey Dylan, does this beer smell like anything? I can't pin it down."
Dylan Connell: "Dude, I think it smells like vomit."

Oh Dilly Dill Dillweed, how right you were. My olfactories couldn't pick it out, but with Dylan's help I couldn't get the stench of vomit out of my mind. By definition, a Braggot style beer is a mixture of spices and herbs in a blend of mead and beer. Craftsman's Braggot is a mixture of rusting iron and stale water in a blend of vomit and malts. The first 0.5 sec after sipping is manageable, since it tastes like beer. The next 4.5 sec taste like ass. And why did the bartender feel it was necessary to pour a beer with practically no head in a glass meant for a proper Belgian? I can't believe I drank the damn thing. I'm disappointed that Small Bar would even sell such an atrocity.

Alesmith Speedway Stout

Type: Imperial Stout
Origin: San Diego, CA
Price $11 for 750ml

You want smooth? Then feast your eyes on Alesmith's most potent beer, their whopping 12% ABV speedway stout. Go ahead, take a sniff. This is my new favorite Italian mocha, full of quality beans and chocolatey goodness with a head much like an espresso's. It's so goddamn rich and velvety smooth that I found it a bit too syrupy. But man if you've got a cough, then make this your new liquid lozenge solution. Initial flavors provide a wallop of coffee and sugary sweetness; it's overpowering, but in a good way. The finish is long and primarily tastes like roasted malts, much like an overcooked Snooki. I love this beer, which is why I am shocked to say it is a bit much for me. Maybe on a colder winter night I will give this another try and revel in the warmth while sitting in front of my fireplace. That's right, I have a fireplace in San Diego.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Ballast Point Sculpin

type: IPA
origin: San Diego, CA, USA
price: $8 / 22oz

This, ladies and gentleman, is how an IPA should taste. It's so delicious, balanced, and flavorful; pairing apricot and hoppy goodness perfectly. My review is simple: this is damn good stuff, and I'm glad to see it in more and more places. Now I just need to find some more of the cask-conditioned version and I'll be set. Time for a growler trip to Home Brew Mart.

Ballast Point 14th Anniversary Celebration

A cool San Diego day filled with high quality, local craft-brew? Yes, please. 14 years is not a long time to have been brewing beer, given some breweries have been around before humans gained the 46th chromosome. Even so, these guys are pro. Matt and I started with Sculpin IPA, which should be in every bar in the country, followed by habanero Sculpin (OK, an interesting variation), and then the casked Sculpin (pure heaven). What an amazing way to start off a beer tasting festival, though it does set the bar pretty high. Then we moved on to equally amazing and complex bourbon barrel aged stout (try the 09, seriously). Then we started running around like chickens with our head cut off at last call. So, basically Matt and I were in beer heaven for a measly $20.

Here's the Fathon and Sculpin cask beers:
and here's the latest in urinal technology on full display.
Overall a brilliant showing by Ballast. Well done, sirs.

Alesmith Yulesmith (summer batch)

type: Imperial double IPA
origin: San Diego, CA, USA
price: $8 / 22oz

Alesmith produces two batches of Yulesmith per year: Independence Day (hence fireworks on the bottle), and Christmas. This is the latter. A WARNING: do not pour this beer at your normal rate! As the picture shows, either I'm a complete beer-pouring idiot or head development is a big problem, almost as big as Snooki's smush-smush appetite. That is, until it hits your lips. It's perfectly hopped and you get interesting spices in the background.

This is the first bottle-conditioned ale I've been excited about and I'll definitely be on the lookout for Yulesmith #2 in the winter.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Alesmith Evil Dead Red

type: strong ale
origin: San Diego, CA, USA
price: $6/pint

I have no picture because my phone camera is wigity wack. Sorry, yo.

I managed to get to Hamilton's the night after Small Bar. Usually it's a cluster-f**k on Fri/Sat night, and it delivered as promised. But, they did have the Evil Dead Red, a draft-only brew from Alesmith advertised as a featured cask. I'm not sure how that's supposed to be better, but it tasted like perfection. A masterful red, reminiscent of a brown ale but strong, bitter, hoppy, and biting. Tits up.

Ballast Point Brother Levonian

type: Saison
origin: San Diego, CA, USA
price: $6/10 oz

I got this at Small Bar with high hopes. I'll give it due credit: I can't imagine it's easy to produce a world class saison, so I'll say this is just OK. Although I've only had a few saisons in my drinking career, I'm not confident this would even place in a contest. Ballast is rock solid, so I was surprised when I was disappointed. The flavors are not as distinct as I was expecting; it almost reminded me of an about-to-go-flat Hoegaarden with lemon. Even with their track record, and their ball-rockin tasty gin (San Diego's first craft-distillery my friends. Holla!!) I've got to tragically set this aside.

Stone Vertical Epic

Type: ale
Origin: Escondido, California,
Price: $6.99 per 22 oz

I was at Whole Foods and saw this bad boy sitting in the corner. The price pushed me away slightly at first, but once I read the bottle, I had to have it. This is ninth beer of their 11 part series of special beers released on special days. This one was released on 10-10-10, and the others were released on their respective days in previous years. What really drew me in is that this includes Muscat, Gerwurztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc grapes. Definitely something different from Stone. On the pour, this definitely reminded me of sweet white wine with a nice orangish yellow color and no head. The smell is sweet, lightly floral, and very similar to a nice belgian farmhouse ale. The floral notes come in from the chamomile they add in. The taste is pretty much a typical belgian style ale. I can't really taste any of the wine flavors other than in the astringency of the alcohol. I think the only downside of this beer is that it is 9.5% ABV, not 10%. I think this was piss poor planing on Stone's part, especially for a beer released on 10-10-10 that they knew about for 9 years.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ninkasi Brewing Company Tricerahops Double IPA

Type: Double IPA
Origin: Eugene, Oregon
Price: $4.99 per 22 oz

Hey what's your favorite dinosaur? I think I have a new answer to that question, and it is Tricerahops. Everything about this follows the textbook example of a perfect double IPA. The head is soft and inviting. The color is a wonderful fiery orange that begs to be drunk. The smell is wonderfully floral and sweet. There is an absurd bitterness all around that you expect from this category of beer. The flavors are incredibly complex that you would have to go eat a bunch of flowers at the local nursery to pick out the exact flavors. The bitterness is a numbing bitterness, but surprisingly, a nice nutty maltiness pops through once you are thoroughly numbed.

Tied House Alpine Gold

Type: blonde ale
Origin: San Jose, California
Price: $2.79 per 22 oz

Most of the Tied House beers I've had have been fairly enjoyable, but this was not one of them. It has a light golden color with no head. The smell is faintly sweet. The flavors are very similar to a subdued brown ale, with an old flavor. There is no bitterness to be had. It very much reminds me of a Newcastle, and not in a good way. I guess the only positive is the relatively low price.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Small Bar

4628 Park Blvd
San Diego, California 92116
(619) 795-7998


Ok, ok, we get it. The owners of Hamilton's, Small Bar, and Eleven understand the finer side of boozin'. Any bar that carries craft-brewery spirits (e.g. Anchor's straight rye Old Portrero, and Ballast Point's Old Grove gin and Three Sheets rum) is plugged in to the Energizer bunny of epic drinking. Small Bar's beer selection is not Hamilton's in depth, or Toronado's in focus, but it's certainly diverse. With drafts ranging from Dogfish Head 90-Minute IPA, to New Belgium Fat Tire (why?!?!), and even spontaneous-fermented brew (Craftsman Spring Braggot), the selection is fun to choose from. The atmosphere is mellow but could easily be rowdy. Andy likey. Tommy want wingy.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Reaper Deathly Pale Ale

Type: Pale ale
Origin: El Monte, CA
Price: $4.50 per 22 oz

I think this is a case when my previous notes suffice in an abridged version. It's definitely better to see my thought process:

frothy marshmallow head...too much head, brings the aromas out too early

yellowish/orange color

sweet floral aromas

overall light bitterness numbing of the mouth. The Reaper is using his reaper to give me light dental work.

Do I dare? What jackasses would write that on the bottle. Sure, I paid $4.50 for a 22 oz, so give it your best shot.

Fairly refreshing, although not as interesting as I would have expected from the name and price point

Tied House Menage a Singe Black IPA

Type: Dark IPA
Origin: San Jose, California
Price: $4.50 per 22 oz

I don't really understand the naming of this beer, but I don't think it really matters. I think they just wanted to put 3 monkeys on the bottle. And maybe they noticed that monkeys are brown and this beer is brown. Astute observation guys. Anyways, this is a very nicely balanced IPA with some dark berry notes popping out from behind the bitterness. There is quite a bit of nutty maltyness as well, almost as if this is a mix between a brown ale and an IPA. It is definitely not bad, although I wish the pricing was more in line with their other beers, in the $2-3 range.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tied House New World Wheat Beer

Type: wheat beer
Origin: San Jose, California
Price: $3.49 per 22 oz

This is a rather interesting wheat beer. Wheat beers are generally two things: wheaty and citrusy. Tied House adds in a medium bitterness level to take the bite out of the sweetness. Other than that, it is what you would expect, and at the price, thats pretty, pretty good.

P.S. Tied House brewery literally does not know how to use the word literally. They say on the bottle:

"I know, Gerald - and there are literally oceans of it. Oceans of beer my friend! It's truly a phenomenal discovery"

Red Hook Big Ballard Imperial IPA

Type: IPA
Origin: Woodinville, Washington
Price: $4.29 per 22 oz

I am quite surprised that this is the first Red Hook beer we have reviewed, and even more surprised that it is not the ESB. I think I have only had the ESB once, and I don't really remember it. The Big Ballard is definitely not to be forgotten. It has a wonderful soft orange color with a soft head. The smell is sweet and slightly woody. The taste is bitter, but also fairly sweet. The hops lend this beer a slight pine tree flavor, but nothing is overpowering like in a Stone IPA. This is probably one of the most drinkable IPA's I've had, and it earns extra credit for being 8.6%. Pow pow!

Monday, October 4, 2010


type: Kölsch (Cologne-style lager)
origin: Cologne, Germany
price: 1.60 €/0.2 l

OK, our first Kölsch served up proper. Kind of a mind-fuck given that just 12 hours ago we were pugging out of glasses five times the volume, 10 times the weight, and with about 100 times more people around. This was a brew house just steps from the Dom, which is badass; I can only imagine what kind of fucked up shit went on there 200 years ago. Anyway, the awesome thing about the way they serve it (tall, thin glasses) is the beer stays nice and cold, and you avoid any potential skunkiness. It makes reviews pretty hard, so I'll just say it tasted pretty damn good to me.


type: Kölsch (Cologne-style lager)
origin: Cologne, Germany
price: 2.20 €/0.5 l

After Oktoberfest we hit up Köln (Cologne), a nice little city near Dusseldorf, on the Rhine river. Cologne is known for their "Kölsch", which I'm pretty sure just translates to "Köln style lager"; the rub is it's traditionally served in 0.2 l lager glasses: tall and thin, so it was sweet to get a good sized bottle.

The drink is a smooth as any great lager, but unique in that the finish is a little more sharp and citrusy, and lacks the distinctive bitterness of a lager, or the sweetness of a pilsner. Given we'd just gotten in from München, we threw back quite a few of these pre-gaming at the hostel. Pretty good beer, but what the fuck do I know about German beers found only in a tiny region of the country?

Cologne musts: 2 € tequila shots on a friends bday. riding bikes everywhere. the Dom.
Cologne must-nots: ordering "bacon on toast"; this is raw bacon on a piece of soft bread. underground hip-hop past 1am; this equals shitty white rappers and a buzz kill.

Paulaner Weissbier

type: weiss (wheat)
origin: Munich, Germany
price: 4 euro/0.5 l

Mmmmmmmmm. We took a stroll in the day through Munich, walking through all the amazing markets and plazas. We landed at Seehaus, a food/beer house right on a lake. The sun was out, the air crisp, and the weisbier refreshing. Usually Americans put citrus in their wheats, but I never once saw a German do such a thing. I'll attribute that to them being superior beer makers, in many respects, and don't need any additives. Paulaner was our favorite Oktoberfest tent, and it's no surprise I enjoyed the hell out of their wheat beer. Just look at that color, and the opacity. I'm starting to understand why Germans have no concept of table water. Wassa!?!? Das es nicht ein bier!

Lagunitas Lucky 13

Type: red ale
Origin: Petaluma, California
Price: $4.49 per 22 oz

This beer definitely did me in on Saturday. It was the third beer of the day, and definitely the most potent. At 8.56% ABV, you know there is trouble ahead. And honestly, thats probably the only reason I bought this beer. That and the hot girl on the bottle. I'm a sucker for brilliant advertising. Even though I was already drunk when I had this, the flavors were so distinct that I was still able to pick them out. The easiest way to describe this is cherry cough syrup with a hearty hop balance in the background. The aromas are also dominated by the cherry cough syrup. As negative as this sounds, I actually really liked this and would definitely drink it again.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Oktoberfest 2010

J.M.F.T.C.. Is this event beer-drinkers' Mecca? Maybe, though I think more people come to Munich for Oktoberfest than to Saudia Arabia for prayer-a-thon.

Two friends and I managed to get to this year's fest, which was apparently the 200th anniversary. If you haven't been, I'll try to put things in perspective:
Imagine drinking 6 liters of beer over the course of 5 hours. Got it? Now add good friends, 15,000 strangers with the same get-shitfaced thought process, and top it off with polka music, dirndl'd women, and lederhosen'd men. In a nutshell, it's a fuck-ton of fun that runs 13 hours a day for a month. But that's only one tent, so multiply the fun by 14, add vendors and carnival rides, and you've got yourself an image of what it's like: nutzzzzz.

The brilliant part is everyone is there to enjoy themselves, and the vibe is respectful yet crazy. I didn't see a single fight the three days I was there, and the bathrooms have the old (brilliant) baseball stadium piss-troughs. Order a beer and it's at your table within a minute. Show up at 8pm, and everyone will be standing on the benches. Oktoberfest is simply a classic rabble-fest, showcasing Munich's awesome brewing power.

Us three independently ranked the following as our top beers (out of the 5 tents we went to):
  1. Paulaner
  2. Hacker-Pschorr
  3. Spaten-Franziskaner
  4. Spaten
  5. Hofbrau
Food musts: half rotisserie chicken, pretzels, and candied macadamia nuts.

Matt and I, early on. In fact, this maybe during the second liter of the first night; we probably had at least four more each.