Friday, December 30, 2011

Hakim Stout and Pilsner


Type: Stout and pilsner
Origin: Harar, Ethiopia
Price: $3 per 12 oz bottles at Harar Ethiopian in San Diego
Website
NSP: 6.8 for stout, 5 for pilsner

The lady and I decided to just randomly drive down El Cajon Boulevard and stop at whatever restaurant looked interesting. There are two Ethiopian places on ECB within a few blocks, but this is the first one we saw, so we stopped in. Walking in this place is like walking into someones living room. The chairs are real dining room table chairs and the kitchen is a few feet away. When I saw the menu, I had to have the ubiquitously titled "Ethiopian beer and Ethiopian stout". No name, no problem. The lady brings these two beers out to us, and I get really excited. Not only have I never had this, I have never seen this sold anywhere in the US. I am pretty sure someones relative just packed like 100 of these in their checked bags flying back from Ethiopia. Given these facts, these two beers were probably some of the freshest beers I have had in awhile. I didn't take any notes on them, but they are worth a try. These really remind me of going to Czech bars and having the option of the dark and light beer. Both are well done and enjoyable. Also, the food deal was really good here. I think like $17 for 2 people for a little of almost everything on the menu. Considering I have no damn clue what most of it is, this is the best option for me.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Nøgne Ø Dobbel IPA


Origin: Norway
Type: Double IPA
Price: $9.29 500mL
8% ABV
NSP: 6.5
website

Apparently this world famous Norwegian brewery has a boner for Japs (as do I!). Not only did they brew this collaboration beer with none other than once San Diego local Toshi Ishii (Stone brewer now with YoHo Brewing of Japan), but they also make sake. Who'da thought the Japs and Norse would ever be buddy buddy?

I thoroughly enjoyed this bad boy, especially with rack of lamb and filet mignon pairings. It's much darker than your typical strong IPA, and that comes through in the malt character of the beer. It's also 100 IBU, but I didn't find the bitterness overpowering. For instance, I think Ballast Sculpin is much more bitter at just 70 IBU. This is purely because it's much sweeter than the Sculpin and other similar west coast IPA's. Yet it's still a dry beer overall. There were two flaws though: slightly overcarbonated (bottle was a burster) and lack of finish. The overcarbonation doesn't ruin the beer. What does disappoint though is the lack of finish. For such a strong brew with so much hoppy goodness, I was surprised when the flavor just disappeared after ingesting. I wonder if it has to do with the carbonation problem?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Russian River Blind Pig

type: IPA
origin: Santa Rosa, CA
price: $5/.5 l
abv: 6.1%
NSP: 6.1 (12.2 scaled*)
website

This ranks with me as one of the best straight-up IPAs around, right up there with Big Eye**.  It won't wake you go blind like Pliny will, and it seems like you could drink these indefinitely during a session.  There's no need for a detailed review when something is so enjoyable as this.  During the tasting I kept saying "Ahh, fuck me that's good" because it's so crisp, bold, floral and perfectly balanced.  Oh, and fuck all else is how it makes you feel inside.

The side of the label has a nice description of the name.  It's in reference to prohibition jargon: blind=unlabeled, and pig=mason jar.  So RR's version of a "blind pig" is a truly masterful IPA.  I just wish I'd poured it in a mason jar beforehand!

And I especially like how 10% of the label is dedicated to informing dolts that this should never be aged; in fact, the fresher the better.  Of course nobody has tried every beer, but doesn't it seem obvious that RR produces the best beers in America?

* Note I never scale the NSP, but with this one I had to.  NOM NOM NOM.

** The first proposal of a proto-NSP rating system.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Lightning Sauerstrom Ale


Type: berliner weisse
Origin: Poway, California
Price: $4.50 per 22 oz
Website
NSP: 6.5

Everytime I have a Lightning beer, I am reminded how much better they are at making wheat beers than anyone else in America. This one is definitely no exception, although it is probably only their third best wheat beer. The Sauerstrom is done in the Berliner Weisse style, a light summer beer. The base on this is exactly like other Berliner Weisses I have had, coming from the pilsner malts, but then there is an added element not present among others, a strong sour element (making this a perfectly named beer). It is as if a gueze was mixed with light german wheat beer. Truly a fantastic combination, and the only downside is the low ABV of 4.5%.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Dogfish Head Midas Touch

type: ale
origin: Milton, DE
price: $5/12oz (a guess)
abv: 9%
NSP: 6.4
website

True to the Dogfish Head mission statement, this is certainly unique.  Simply put, it tastes like a Michelob mixed with a nice white wine.  So, I definitely taste the "Muscat grapes", but I'm not sure where the saffron comes into play, but I assume the effect would be noticeable without it.  The flavors are crisp and straightforward, and surprisingly you can hardly tell it's sitting high at 9%.  That's still quite impressive to me.  Also, I'm tasting those cola-like flavors (e.g. Old Tempest).  Is that the yeast's influence (good), or oxidation (bad)?  Either way, I'm a pretty big fan of this brew.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Speakeasy Big Daddy

type: IPA
origin: San Francisco, CA
price: $5/22oz
abv: 6.5%
NSP: 8.5
website

I think by this point, after the White Lightning and Double Daddy, my judgement was a tad bit askew.  Here's what I wrote:
Asparagus.  Too Cute the show about puppies?!?!  Not bad finish - a plus - but flavors of asparagus.  Kill it. Weird.
So, what have we learned here children?  Let's just forget this "review" ever happened, and enjoy an oil painting of our old friend Bono:


BTW, here's the reference to Too Cute.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Full Sail Wreck the Halls


Type: Bastard Child
Origin: Portland, OR
Price: $4.49/22 oz
ABV: 6.5%
NSP: 9.41 (unscaled)

website

Second beer of the 2011 Portland Thanksgiving BeerPlow. This one is a winter seasonal from Full Sail, a combo of winter warmer and IPA. It's pretty malty on the nose, but the malt body is a touch thin on the flavor. There's a fair amount of citrus from the dry hopping. This is actually a bit like a malty east coast IPA (e.g. DFH-style), and all told, it's not bad at all. But I kind of feel like they're trying to pull a fast one here- i.e. they're pouring equal amounts of their IPA and Wassail in one batch, dry hopping it a bit, and marketing it as a special release. I could do most of that myself after a quick trip over to Trader Joe's. That bothers me for some reason. I mean, you've got the guys at Bridgeport doing their very best to honor their craft with the Hop Harvest, but then here's a beer that seems like a bit of a shortcut. I don't know, I could be wrong about the process for Wreck the Halls, but if I'm not, I'd hope for more.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cable Car IPA


Type: IPA
Origin: Rochester, New York
Price: I think $11.99 for variety 10 pack, but it was awhile ago
Website
ABV: 6.3%
NSP: 18.6

This is batch number 00073 of the Cable Car Small Batch IPA. I bought this in a variety pack a month ago at BevMo! to try and obtain a bunch of smaller, harder to find beers. I drank about 4 of the beers without reviewing them since I have either a) already had them or b) they sucked. I put this one to the side since it had a classy label and I thought it was from San Francisco, so you can see my disappointment when I find out it is from Rochester. (I am pretty certain the cable car on the bottle is a drawing of a San Fran cable car). My disappointment in geography aside, this is not a bad IPA. Given the fact that this is supposedly batch number 73, I assume they haven't made much beer and are fairly new (unless each batch is like a million gallons). This is definitely an east coast IPA, replacing some of the hops with an earthy maltiness. It tastes a little watery, but in all reality, that has more to do with living in San Diego (I was having a talk with Andy yesterday about how I thought Sculpin tastes like water now). I have another Cable Car in the fridge and I am actually looking forward to it.

Speakeasy Double Daddy

type: imperial IPA
origin: San Francisco, CA
price: $6/22oz
abv: 9.5%
NSP: 10.3
website

Speakeasy and me, continued...

Here's my written review, verbatim:
It's hard god-damn work making something look this pretty. Actually the obviou opposite in this case.  Obviously IIPAs are difficult to pull off - too much malt/alcohol/sweet, even after mega-hoppage.  Pass.
So although my opinion wasn't very high, the NSP is, so give it a shot and see if you agree.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bridgeport Hop Harvest Ale 2011


Type: Imperial IPA
Origin: Portland, OR
Price: $6.49/22 oz
ABV: 6.56%
NSP: 6.57 (unscaled)

website

Spent a week up in Portland and plowed my way through a number of the local beers, so here's the first of my 2011 Portland Thanksgiving BeerPlow series. I focused mainly on IPAs (with a couple of exceptions), since a) doing so allows for comparison to the predominant San Diego style, and b) that's what I felt like drinking at the time. Expectations ran high, since most of the hops used on the west coast are grown in Portland's backyard. And, from what I can tell, the Bridgeport Hop Harvest is an homage to the local hop growers.

The bottle says "from field to brew in one hour." Remember the process for the Port High TIde? These guys pretty much shit all over that. They get a phone call from the farm telling them the hops are ready, they drive out there, they pick up the hops, they go back to the brewery, they toss 'em in. Maximum hop freshness: achievement unlocked. The freshness shows right up front, with a boatload of florality (floralness? I like florality more) and citrus. The flavor's nice and intense in terms of hoppiness, with a bunch of orange and a really interesting squash/pumpkin/sweet potato thing going on. It's delicate and very clean, with a similarly clean finish. A Green Flash-style pinebomb this is not. When I initially saw the ABV, I scoffed a bit (an IIPA at 6.56%?), but in this case more booze would probably just mask all of the standout features of this beer.

All in all, a good start, Portland.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Speakeasy White Lightning

type: wheat ale
origin: San Francisco, CA
price: $10/6-pack 12oz
abv: 5.2%
NSP: 11.1
website

Brats and I were in SF a few months ago, getting shitty the night before our ladies ran the Nike Women's marathon (we weren't running it, unlike those douche-bags that end up "winning" the race).  Our hotel was in SOMA, just east of Market, which isn't necessarily the best area (just try and walk down 6th st.).  Yet still, we were able to get good beer (this still amazes me).  And after fighting off a few crackheads who demanded, literally, ten cents from us, we got back and hit-up the Speakeasies we'd just purchased.  Seriously, what the fuck are you gonna do with ten cents?

First off, their wheat ale.  What a deal, and pretty damn good too!  It tastes really light-bodied, but with strong spice flavors, and that classic wheat-beer acidity.  Simple and delicious, as they should be.  This is a very good beer, and easy to pug while watching Puppies vs Babies.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Flying Dog Double Dog

type: double pale ale
origin: Frederick, MD
price: $10/ 4-pack 12oz
abv: 11.5
NSP: 16.3

This gave me a major walloping, and was partly responsible for the Lion fiasco.   This is seriously a meaty, full-bodied bastard, but also delicious and nicely hopped.  It's the kind of beer that while you're drinking it, you know you're in for some trouble later.  And true to the name, it's actually reminiscent of a pale ale!  Well done Flying Dog.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Green Flash Double Stout

type: stout
origin: San Diego, Ca
price: $9/4-pack 12oz
abv: 8.8%
NSP: 10.0
website

Green Flash is a relatively under-reviewed brewery on our part, but shit's about to change.  I appreciate their beer, because they make no unfounded claims (e.g. if it's hoppy, it's fucking hoppy).   Their double stout is no different.  "Big, bold, and complex" reads the label.  True, true, and true.  The roasted barley is on full display, and yet you get through the whole bottle without a blink, and it's 8.8%.  Normally drinking a craft brewery stout is a whole ordeal (see the Stone IRS debacle), but this feels almost like what I'll term a session stout.  And to top it, their bottles are flippin' rad.  I'm so glad this was one of the stops on the NSB 1st Anniversary.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sonoma Trilogy #3: Russian River

Last stop in the 2011 TrilogyRussian River, in Santa Rosa (north county).  Save the best for last? Yep.

725 4th Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95404



Matt loved it here, but I'll take it a step further.  Maybe it's the wall covered in World Beer Cup medals, or the pleasant, non-pretentious atmosphere, but I'll claim that this is the best brewpub I've ever been too.  Not only do they have the most amazing sampler ever (two ounces of every beer they're serving at the moment, at ~$1 per sample, with nothing off limits), but they pour everything in big glasses, including sours.  It makes me never want to step foot in Stone's tasting room (in South Park) ever again.  Seriously, seriously, seriously, Stone can go play Ping Pong in Ding Dang with their stupid-ass tasting rules (because we're so cool, we only let you taste one above 8%, and we're going to act like retarded beer snob children the whole time).  Did I mention I was serious?

My love child, the RR sampler.
There's no possibly way to do the RR sampler justice, other than saying it's truly impressive.  I also agree with Matt about the stout, but I assume the way it tastes is likely the way they wanted it to taste: like the best Guinness you've ever had (far from an imperial stout).  The IPA suite is fantastic, and I'm actually starting to enjoy sours because of them.  At the end of the sampler I ordered a Consecration (14oz for $6, are you kidding me!?) to develop my palate for sours further.  Brettanomyces fo' life!!


But it didn't take long to realize this is not a place to pick up women.  Just look at the distribution of men posted up at the bar:


Notice any females?  Not to detract from craft beer, but why is it such a male dominated field?  Maybe beer is the answer to world peace.  Have you ever seen a brawl in a beer bar?

If this brewery has no plans to expand, as their website claims, I hope they stick to it.  Their biggest asset to me is their true micro-brewery status, because it's shocking how many great beers they produce in such an apparently small space.  I will say though, that expansion might be a much needed boost to the Santa Rosa economy.

And with that, we completed the Sonoma Trilogy.  I really hope to get up to Bear Republic one of these days, because it certainly deserved a spot in the lineup.  Maybe next year...

The aftermath.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Sonoma Trilogy #2: Lagunitas

Stop two in the Trilogy, Lagunitas, in Petaluma (mid county).

1280 North McDowell Blvd 
Petaluma, CA 94954 
707.769.4495

I've been here before, and loved it just as much the second time around.  This time I was actually most impressed by how much they're expanding.  I wouldn't be surprised if now they're as big as Stone in terms of production.

The outdoor drinking patio reveals a few things: (1) outdoor beer drinking rules, (2) propane heaters are more important than tables, especially if you have women in your group; and (3) Petaluma desperately needs a shitty club for early twenty-something rabblers to patron.  Like last time there was a big birthday party, and every time a loud "Woooo!!!! Owwwww!!!!!" would go off, the entire crowd of older-than-twenty-something rabblers would turn towards them; you could almost feel we were all ready to shout, in unison, "Shut the fuck up, we're trying to drink beer here!!!!".

The beer is why we're here anyway, so I made sure to try all new brews.  I didn't take any notes, really, so I'll just recall my thoughts (assume they're accurate).

The lineup.
My lineup.
Wet Hop Pale: Pretty wonderful pale ale, just hoppy enough for good balance.
Fusion 7: Don't remember at all.
Censored: Copper Ale.  Not bad, but not mind blowing.
Dog Town Pale: Again, vague memory; although, I think this was my beer of choice post-flight.

I was bummed they were out of the Sonoma Farmhouse and the Wet Hop IPA, but this is still a highly recommended visit for anyone, so get'r done.  And after a bit of sleep, it was time to head the the last stop: Russian River...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sonoma Trilogy #1: Marin Brewing Company

North of San Francisco, there aren't too many breweries, but nearly all of them are my absolute favorites.  Here is the first stop out of three, over the course of 24 hours, the Sonoma Trilogy 2011.  I present the Marin Brewing Co, in Larkspur (Southern Sonoma County).

1809 Larkspur Landing Circle
Larkspur, CA 94939
415.461.4677



Walking in you're greeted immediately by the brewing equipment (always appreciated), and the bar was welcoming, with plenty of chachki bullshit everywhere.

What stuck out first?  The overly excited bartender.  Probably 90% of her customers didn't share her enthusiasm about beer, but she did recommend Triple Rock* in Berkeley, and kept mentioning her boyfriend works at an upscale bottle shop in the city.  Cool story bro.   But on to the beer...  There was a small tap list, and I only had a few of them:



First off:  IPA on cask, tapped earlier that day.  Meh.  Actually, just boring.  If you're going to cask an IPA, it better be bitter and alcoholic as shit to start, so you can mellow that out.  This was neither, and really just tasted like mildly flavored water.  I didn't even care about finishing it. (That's really saying a lot, especially since I'll go to great lengths just to kill a warm Bud Heavy.)

Second beer:  Half Nelson.  The same bartender nearly shit a brick when I asked if the name was because of the hop used (Nelson).  Turns out it was, which led to a five minute rave about Alpine.  OK, now we're getting somewhere... This was a really delicious blonde ale (think Renegade Blonde) that was obviously dry hopped to fuckdom, making for a delightful session beer.  I could easily drink six pints of this.

And that was it for me, since we needed to get to the next stop in the Trilogy: Lagunitas.  In retrospect, I can see how this brewery fits a niche in the immediate area: there are plenty of tech companies in the area, and employee get-togethers here are probably more fun than T.G.I.McScratchies, especially in a region known solely for it's wine.

* Brats, Chris, Sambo, this place sounds like it deserves a trip over AGU time.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Friday, December 2, 2011

Lucky Buddah Lager


Type: lager
Origin: Australia
Price: $1.99 per 12 oz
Website
NSP: 8.56

I only bought this so I could have a buddah shaped flower pot. Its pretty badass. The beer I thought would taste like biker ass, but its actually a pretty decent lager. It is surprisingly fresh, especially considering this has been in my fridge for over 2 months. The color is really light, but the flavors are fairly bold for a beer this light. This reminds me of a blended scotch (not the flavors, but the idea of a nice averaged over flavor).

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Altenmunster Winterbier Doppelbock


Type: doppelbock
Origin: Kempten, Germany
Price: $16.99 per 64 ounces (the bottle says 0.52 gallon, which for US gallons converts to 66.56 ounces. The BevMo! website says this is 64 ounces)
ABV: 7.5%
Website
NSP (Scaled, Unscaled): 12.1, 8.7

This was probably the largest impulse buy I've ever made. This was by the cash register at BevMo!, and I saw how awesome the bottle was, recognized it's refilling ability as a growler, and just threw it in the basket. The breweries in San Diego will normally charge you at least $6 for a growler, so I view this beer as costing just over $11. The beer itself fits great into a rainy fall night. Its sweet and rich, but what else do you expect from a doppelbock. They are known as diet busters for a reason. You can smell the alcohol on this, but not taste it since it gets overpowered by the sweetness. The most distinct flavor on this is a slight earthy hoppiness. Its not the most interesting beer, its not the best, and I probably wont buy much more of this (unless on tap in Germany), but it does have a sweet ass bottle.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Belhaven Twisted Thistle IPA


Type: IPA
Origin: East Lothian, Scotland
Price: $3.29 per 0.5 L
ABV: 6.1 %
Website
NSP: 9.3 unscaled, 3.7 scaled

Man this bastard is skunked. I popped it open, poured a glass, walked to the living room to change the channel, and a big waft of skunk ass overwhelmed me from 15 feet away. This is definitely not my fault since I only bought this 5 days ago and did not store it in a greenhouse. The taste on this is also quite horrendous. This is the first beer I have had today, so I should be able to handle anything. You know that feeling at the bar when you're 8 or 9 deep and someone buys a pitcher of Bud Light and you instantly get cotton mouthed and can hardly squeeze down another drop. Yup, thats Belhaven Twisted Thistle for you. Calling this an IPA is also such a travesty. This has about as much hops as a Czech Pilsner, and this beer really reminds me more of a third world pilsner than an IPA. The scaled NSP on this definitely took a hit.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Marin Hoppy Holidaze


Type: christmas pale ale?
Origin: Larkspur, California
Price: $3.59 per 22 oz
Website
NSP: 12.67

I have taken a little time off from reviews, but I promise, I have a bunch in the queue. Since its that time of year, I figured I should hit up some holiday brews (even though its not my favorite thing). This beer seemed like a good compromise since it claims to have hops in it, which is much more than other shitty winter ales. There are quite a few unique flavors in this that just slap you upside the face. A non-experienced drinker could pick most of them out. On the nose and first flavors, there is a strong chardonnay characteristic coming through. This may be due to the superposition of nutmeg, cinnamon, orange peel and vanilla extract. Those individual flavors are definitely there (with nutmeg probably being the strongest). I can tell there are hops due to the dryness in the back of my mouth, but there are almost no distinct hop "flavors". Its definitely better than most winter ales I've had, and also has a freshness that is usually not evident in this category (which is probably where the hops come in). If you want a slightly different winter ale with high NSP, definitely check this out.

Monday, November 28, 2011

21st Amendment Brew Free! Or Die

type: IPA
origin: San Francisco, CA (can says MN, but that's one of their distributors)
price: $7/12oz on Virgin Air
abv: 7.0%
NSP: 3.6 (6.2 at non-airline price)
website

First airline review, bitches!

So Virgin is officially awesome, and 21st is brilliant for canning and pushing their beer into other markets.  I watched television, and drank delicious IPA on my way up to the P-town over Thanksgiving, thanks to them.

This beer has a great color, tastes light to medium bodied, and nicely bittered and hoppy.  It's not really very aromatic, but maybe that was because the airplane air purification system sucks harder than the Bill O'Reilly Christmas special on Fox. We'll do it live!!!  Added bonus, the can design is awesome.  Well done, now I'm off to Lagunitas...

NOTE: Virgin charges $25 per bag, but here's the trick: Check it in at the terminal, after they ask for volunteers (free of charge).  Booyah, Merica!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

LIghtning Old Tempest

type: strong ale
origin: San Diego, CA
price: $7.99/22oz
abv: 9.0%
NSP: 7.3
website

I don't really know how to classify this, but it reminds me of a strong ale mixed with a dash of Coca Cola - what you wish barleywine would taste like.  That description may not sound appealing, but this really tastes wonderful.  The complex flavors perfectly complement the heaviness and sweetness; it's a big bastard at 9%, and a perfect beer for a hazy day.  I'm definitely cellaring this one.

Lightning rocks balls, but I'm still confused why they're in the backseat of the SD beer car?

I'll be back after Thanksgiving break, fresh full of drunkard stories from the land of Luma.  Until then, drink up.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron

type: brown ale
origin: Milton, DE
price: $4.50/12oz
abv: 12%
NSP: 9.5
website

I think the wood aging had one purpose here: take an undrinkable 12% brown ale and make it drinkable.   The genius behind Dogfish is they find the most obscure shit to include in the brew process.  Here, it's the 10,000 gallon barrels constructed from Paraguayan Palo Santo wood -- sure sounds off-centered to me.

But I don't much like this, and I think it's giving me a headache. Really there's just too much alcohol and the lack of carbonation makes you feel like your drinking sugary booze water (think flat keg beer two weeks after that college party, except expensive).  OK, it's not really like that, and granted there are "caramel and vanilla" flavors going on, but it ain't enough, son. The NSP is high though, so if you enjoy wood aged stuff, give it a shot.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Allagash Black


type: Belgian Style Stout
origin: Portland, Maine, USA
price: $12/750 ml
abv: 9.4%
NSP: 5.1 (10 according to me)
website

Geezuz christ I love Allagash. Their beers are so fucking good yet I hardly drink em, because I am not swimming in money (standard Allagash around $15 for 22). Shit though, this beer is worth every penny. This beer is brewed with roasted and chocolate malt and dark carmelized candy sugar (yum). I've had this beer a few years back and I kept an extra and aged it in my ghetto beer cellar so this gem was even better the second go around. I like the mix of a stout with a belgian - the chocolate coffee taste from the stout and the smooth fruity hints of a belgian. True that the combo doesn't always work, but it's all about a perfect balance, which this beer has. I really enjoyed this beer and praise Allagash for this. Allagash has lots of amazing beers and if you want to check em out without the huge price tag there are some beer bars that serve them, my last luck was Downtown Johnny Browns had 5 on tap for the Hamiltons tavern padre game. Needless to say that was a shit show.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bruery | Elysian | Stone - La Citrueille Celeste de Citracado

type: seasonal ale
origin: Orange County, Seattle, San Diego
price: $3/12oz
abv: 5%
NSP: 5.9
website

Yet another collaboration beer from Stone, with The Bruery, and Elysian (who?).   "The celestial pumpkin of Citracado" is the translation.  Cool name, and +1 for the self-reference (since the Stone brewery is off Citracado Pkwy.) making it seem like a mystical place filled with elves and beer fairies magically creating delicious beer.

But this is a delicious beer.  Citrusy, spicy, and earthy flavors dominate - definitely ones you'd expect from a good "pumpkin" ale, but done in a way that's not annoying or kitschy.  The bitterness is spot on, which is probably the reason it's not over-the-top.

The ingredients used were pumpkin, yam, toasted fenugreek, lemon verbena, and birch bark.  Or, in lay-person terms: yum, yum, "what the fuck is fenugreek", "what the fuck is verberna", "uh, ok".  Now at this point I expect Sambo to comment something like "oh yeah I used to cook with fenugreek all the time - it's used in a lot of Arab dishes" followed by "it really highlights the lemon verbena phenol esters.".  I'm sure it does, but GTFO.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Red Horse

type: lager (malt liquor)
origin: Manila, Philippines
price: $7.99/6-pack
abv: 8%
NSP: 21.3
website (I have no clue what's going on here)

Ridiculously high NSP, and surprisingly not too bad.  Obviously this isn't cellar worthy stuff, and of course the BA and RB snobs love rating this "D+", but fuck them.  To me this is easy drinking, but I wouldn't recommend more than, say, 6; otherwise, you risk a very bad hangover.  Regardless, I'll claim this is the deal of the year (And no, Matt, bargain-bin beer doesn't count.).  Good bottle design too, so this is NonSnob highly approved.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Mikkeller East Kent Golding

type: single hop IPA
origin: Lochristi-Hijfte, Belgium
price: $5.99/11.2oz
abv: 6.9%
NSP: 3.8
website

Of course I have great respect for great beers.  But even more so, I've developed a love for ones crafted using only one type of hop.  It seems to me quite an impressive feat to retain complex flavors without using a complex array of ingredients.

This beer happens to be with the East Kent Golding hop (from Europe, traditionally used in English beers).  It's superb, and reminds me of drinking a nice heavy ale mixed with some apple cider.  The bitterness is almost perfect, but I think if could be a bit more aromatic - that would take this to 11.

Yes I wish this was a few dollars cheaper, and for that reason I probably won't be buying again, but I still think this would've scored high at the blind IPA tasting, right alongside it's brother Green Gold.

And heres another thought: how great is it that a top-notch Belgian brewery has been making "American style" IPAs?  That sure does make me proud to be and American, cuz at least I know I'm free.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Deschutes Green Lakes Organic Ale

type: amber ale
origin: Bend, OR
price: $2/12oz (estimated)
abv: 5.2
NSP: 9.3
website

I somewhat screwed the pooch on this review.  The "best by" date was almost three months ago, so I really should've done this  the day after Sambo went to some distributor tasting event, at which he got shitfaced and stole a bunch of booze (including this).  They also demonstrated how best to maximize profit by beer value and placement; hence, it was a bullshit ball gargling type event and I'm proud of our young Middle East Correspondent.

I digress.

This is delicious and extremely refreshing (think non-shitty Kokanee, but in ale form).  It starts off a bit too malty but that disappears into crisp, slightly bitter refreshment; it's even well hopped so the aromas are inviting, but the IBU is not too wild.  I can see getting home from a long bike ride and downing at least three of these - probably more like six.

While I acknowledge the level of pooch-screwage I've created, I plan to pick this up next time I'm at the store and confirm that it probably tastes much better very, very fresh.  And no, I don't really give a shit about it being "organic," unless your entire brew lineup is.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Lagunitas Bavarian Styled Doppel Weizen

type: strong wheat beer
origin: Petaluma, CA
price: $4.99/22oz
abv: 9.0%
NSP: 11.7

This one's a sneaky bugger. Crisp, spicy flavors combine with that classic wheat-beer acidic wonderfulness forming an extremely drinkable, delicious beverage - beer that is. The "Bavarian Styled" monicker is in reference to the yeast strain they received from Bavaria; but, rather than take it at face value they pulled an American Eater and overfed it so they could reach 9%. So, when you finish it you're well satisfied, but then you realize it's nine-f'ing-percent and now you've got to drive across town. Uh oh.

As the NSP already suggests, this is a good value, but since it's so delicious it comes very highly recommended. I might argue it's more enjoyable than Thunderweizen. I'm really looking forward to visiting my brother in Petaluma in a month...

One more thing... I'm really sorry for the shit-ass pictures, but I lost my already-shitty camera in SF the other weekend, and now I've been relegated to using the webcam on my laptop. As any melodramatic person would write, FML.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

New Belgium Belgo IPA

Type: Belgium Style IPA
Origin: Fort Collins, CO
Price: $.80 12oz 8% ABV
NSP (unscaled,scaled): 35.5, 21.3

So I have been MIA and sticking to the greatest hits beers, but I was at Vons and they had these in the cheapO rack and I figured .80 cents at 8 percent, now thats a good NSP deal. 35.5 boo ya, beat that bitches.

The beer itself was okay, I mean New Belguim pretty much sucks, but this is better then the flat ranger and very easy to drink at 8 %. If you find it for eighty cents like I did it's a steal at regular price maybe not.

No pint picture because well I am lazy. The beer has a great flower smell and a nice rich off white head, but it just not exciting to me, not bad, but I am just not a New Belgium fan, especially with so many more amazing breweries in Colorado that green mushroom them.

New Belgium Super Cru


Type: Saison
Origin: Fort Collins, CO
Price: $13.99 22oz
10% ABV
NSP (unscaled,scaled): 4.6, 7.4
website

It's Halloween, and I decide to look ridiculous while drinking a ridiculously expensive beer. I mean why the fuck not? I'm an Arab dressed as an Arab drinking expensive as shit beer wearing expensive as shit sunglasses with a pillowcase for a fucking head garb. It makes perfect sense, considering I deal in oil and gold while the rest of those schmucks die fighting for their "freedom" and then elect Muslim governments into power. I can't believe I'm related to those fucking idiots.

On to the beer. It's tasty. It has asian pear juice added and you definitely get apple/pear flavors adding to an already fruity saison. I liked it, I liked it a lot, but for God's sake, its so fucking expensive. I won't buy again, but hey, it was fun, and I'm a ballin' Arab who is in insane amounts of debt. I'm not giving any more details, stop being cheap fucks and go out and splurge every once in a while. And stop voting for politicians who make decisions based on religious principles you fucking dipshits.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Harpoon Single Hop ESB (100 Barrel Series)

type: English-style ESB
origin: Boston, MA & Windsor, VT (Huh?)
price: $5.75/22oz at Spec's
abv: 5.8%
NSP: 6.6

This is ridiculously good, and now I'm bummed the only place I've seen it is in fucking Houston, Texas. Fruity sweet aromatics, followed by a perfect level of bitterness. If the Delta hop is the reason for this delicious concoction, I'm placing it up there with Amarillo in terms of single-hop beers. I'm looking forward to finding some more releases by Harpoon (this was barrel 31), but I think I'll have to talk to Sid at BDBS to do that.

A few things to note here:
  1. That's my "Tail Chasin' Champ" hunter's hat in the background.
  2. It may be hard to see, but the brewer's signature toward the bottom of the label appears to be by a 6 year-old learning how to write.
  3. This is tasting really good right now as I watch "Michael Winslow Live" (thanks Netflix). Yeah, that Michael Winslow.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hangar 24 Columbus IPA


Type: IPA
Origin: Redlands, CA
Price: $5.49/22 oz
ABV: 7.0%
NSP: 8.29
website


Pulled this out of the fridge while watching Denver get a collective raging Tebowner against the Dolphins. It's from our buddy Brent's neck of the woods, so, you know, good for him.

Everything about this beer is nice and clean (other than the fact that it's from the Inland Empire, which is generally covered in filthy LA smog)- it's a good example of a crisp San Diego-style IPA. The nose has the piny, herbal character you'd expect. The flavor doesn't have the same intensity as the nose, and while some may find that a source of disappointment, it also lends itself to a very clean finish, which to me is the standout feature of this beer. All in all, this is a good IPA, lots of good flavor, nothing objectionable. I'm not sure the single hop thing really affects anything one way of the other. I'd slot it into the category of a good bar beer- very drinkable, but not necessarily something you feel like you need to really concentrate on to fully enjoy. The only problem is, for a similar profile (i.e. ABV and IBU), Racer 5 and Big Eye are cheaper (~$4), and as the blind IPA tasting demonstrated, tough to beat. That immediately puts this beer behind the 8 ball. But there's definitely potential here, so I'll keep my eye on Hangar 24 in the future.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cold Spring Honey Almond Weiss


Type: wheat beer
Origin: Cold Spring, Minnesota
Price: $3.29 per 32 oz can
Website
NSP (unscaled): 12.93!
NSP (scaled): 15.5

I reviewed another Cold Spring beer awhile back, and I decided to get the other two at Whole Foods tonight. How can I pass on the BFC (big-fucking-can). This beer is really fantastic, and while a little weak and watered down, may be one of my favorite wheat beers this year. It has a slight opaqueness, but just clear enough that you wont get the yeast farts (I'm looking at you Thunderweizen). The almond flavor is faint, but I think it cuts the sweetness from the honey and adds just a little bitterness and dryness. There is a small amount of citrus in the background coming from the wheat, but it is so well balanced with the other flavors that you don't notice it. Most beer snobs would probably never pick up this beer because of the 32 oz can (except the ironic hipster types), but I'm completely fine with that since it leaves more for me.

I reviewed this beer about two weeks ago and has been sitting in the queue. Since we just came up with NSP, I decided to add it. This has a very high unscaled NSP, and I think that alone should keep it in your fridge. It might be higher (I estimated ABV at 4.5% since I couldn't find it anywhere). BTW, 32 oz is 946 mL, and this only cost $3.29.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Lost Abbey Lost & Found


Type: ale
Origin: San Marcos, California
Price: $8.99 per 750 mL
Website
NSP (unscaled): 6.67
NSP (scaled): 9.3

My experience with The Lost Abbey as of late has been quite hit and miss. I decided to give this a try since it seemed festive (brewed with raisins), was a belgian style, and was reasonably priced. The flavors on this are very well balanced. I think this starts out with a base of Belgian Dubbel, then is augmented with a decent bouquet of hops. The malts are fairly strong, which is why I compare it to a Dubbel (also the color), but they are not overpowering. I am not a huge fan of overpowering malts, but this just tastes clean. A lot of other beers high in malts (brown ales) have a dirty flavor like you are chewing on the socks of a junior high heavyweight wrestler. The raisins (and banana according to BevMo!) seem like an afterthought. A slight banana bread smell comes through, but nothing really on the taste. Some slight sweet raisin notes come through on the finish.

Some other notes: This beer tastes amazing watching Workaholics, but mediocre watching Grey's Anatomy. The joys of equal opportunity television watching. Seriously if you aren't watching Workaholics, get on it. This would also be good sitting on some Belgian town square just watching the day flow away.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dogfish Head Hellhound On My Ale


Type: Imperial IPA
Origin: Milton, DE
Price: $12.99/750 mL
ABV: 10.0%
NSP: 5.77
website

I was sitting around a couple of weekends ago watching the Buffs get obliterated by Washington, and I thought, well, if they're getting obliterated, I might as well too. So I busted out this SOB, which had been sitting in my fridge waiting just for such a day.

DFH made this beer to commemorate the 100th birthday of delta blues kingpin Robert Johnson (if you don't know who he is, shame on you). Everything about this beer involves 100 (I won't run through all of it, just check out the website)- except the price, which is unfortunate because it drops the NSP rating. DFH has done a nice job honoring Mr. Johnson- it makes you feel like you sold your soul to the devil, but instead of becoming a legendary bluesman, you just get drunk.

DFH brewed this beer with dried lemon (which also ties into the Robert Johnson theme, again check the website), and it comes through on the nose. As with all DFH IPAs, there's a big malt backbone with an interesting wood note...it smells of rich mahogany. The lemon's a bit hard to pick out in the flavor, but I'll chalk that up to my own palate, which tends to have trouble with citrus unless it's really strong (like the Port High Tide). The lemon does come out on the finish and adds a nice little accent. The alcohol is well masked other than a little tinge on the finish. While 10% ABV and 100 IBUs might be a bit of overload in isolation, in this case they sort of fight to a stalemate and end up in a decent balance. All in all, this is a really rich beer, kind of like what I envisioned when I talked about hopping the shit out of a scotch ale. Your turn next, Sambo.

P.S. Why doesn't anyone have a cool nickname like Blind Lemon anymore? Nowadays it's all stupid hyphenated crap like A-Rod and J-Lo and Toadfucker-Andy. Pick it up, folks.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ginga Kogen Star Bottle


Type: Hefeweizen
Origin: Japan
Price: 300 Yen
5% ABV
website

I had this delicious beer right after the Coedo. This baby can only be purchased in Japan, which is sad, cuz it's delish. It possesses light hints of Belgian wit, with plenty of flavor and good amount of carbonation. It's probably the Japanese version of Franziskaner, not as perfect, but damn well close enough.

Which makes me wonder if sometime during World War II, when both the Japs and Germs thought they could fuck everybody with their "superiority", if the Germs of Franz were like: "Vatt? You dont make any HefeVeizen?? Vell look hea you short Jap fucks, this is part of our Franz secret recipe!" And that little secret tidbit lives on in this Ginga Kogen beer. At least they do something right.

Andy "Randy" has reviewed their Silver Bottle.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Coedo Ruri


Type: Lager
Origin: Japan
Price: 300 Yen
5% ABV
website

I had this in Japan while we were at a rad restaurant where you cook your own Japanese style "pizza" known as okonomiyaki aka. It's a very solid lager. Clean flavors, crisp, with a nice maltiness, minimal skunkiness, and just the right amount of bitterness. Dry in the usual Jap fashion. I recommend it, but I bet its NSP rating won't go over well.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Deschutes Fresh Hop Mirror Pond


Type: Pale Ale
Origin: Bend, OR
Price: $5.99/22 oz
ABV: 5.0%
NSP: 5.43
website

As Andy says, pale ale is the ultimate calibration beer, and Deschutes does one that typifies the style. Medium in everything- color, malt, body, mouthfeel, hoppiness- and in no way is medium equivalent to mediocre. Everything's in balance.

On sight, this is pretty much indistinguishable from the regular Mirror Pond. The nose has a delicate but very distinct hop character. The flavor has the same features- all of the same qualities of the usual Mirror Pond, with a bit more of the citrus and grassiness of the hops coming through. What they've done here is deepen the hop character of the usual Mirror Pond without knocking anything out of balance. It's almost like the fresh hops allowed the brewers to slightly adjust the focus knob and sharpen up the hop influence. This may demonstrate perhaps the greatest benefit of the fresh hop approach- you can help the hops step forward without increasing the bitterness and disturbing anything that makes a beer great in the first place.

I really hope these guys do a fresh hop version of The Abyss, it could be the ultimate beer flavor overload.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Great Divide 17th Anniv. Wood Aged Double IPA

type: double IPA
origin: Denver, CO
price: $9/22oz
abv: 10.0%

Whew! For a while now I've been prejuducial towards wood aged beers (to be precise, 'barrel aged'). But Great Divide has their shit together and knows how to condition a very strong ale. Still, I would argue that this style is actually the toughest to make taste really good, even for Divide.

The beer starts off as you would expect a 10% IIPA to taste - too malty-sweet and alcoholic - but then it finishes gently and beautifully, perfectly bitter. My one wish would be that the finishing flavors were maintained through the entire taste, but that's wishful thinking. Our buddy Banger summarized that feeling in an email to me today, part of which read:
[...] There is this thing called deadlines, and another thing called contractors, and getting them to fit is like trying to pick up a competitive gymnast in a lupus support group. Sure, it could happen, if you are willing to score a sommersault a 10.
I'll just leave it at that.

But, let's get "serious" again. Besides Breck, I think Great Divide is my favorite Colorado brewery; come to think of it, they've been brewing beer for quite a long time (since 1994 if I do my math correctly!) and it really shows.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Alcohol per Dollar Value Calculator

So, instead of working, I decided to make an application for the user to calculate the value of your drinking experience, something Andy and I have talked about for awhile. Its pretty simple. Just enter in your values, and you will get out the alcohol (in mL or ounces if you enter it that way) for every dollar. Normally you will get around 10 mL/$ (I just tested Popov vodka, and its a respectable 77, nbd). So enjoy and post your results in the comments. Maybe in version 2 I will weight the results based on whether the beer sucked, was average, or rocked your balls off.

Common Volume Conversions (for the non-metric users):

12 oz = 355 mL
16 oz = 473 mL
22 oz = 650 mL
Wine Bottle (or belgian bottle) = 750 mL

UPDATE 10/27/2011: Use the Non-Snob Points (NSP) section at the top. I redid everything in javascript (which is harder to embed in posts, but works great in pages).

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Stone Belgo Anise Imperial Russian Stout

type: imperial Russian stout
origin: San Diego, CA
price: $5.59/22oz
abv: 10.5%
website

I know I've been a little lax on the posts, but life and schedules are complicated, so eat me.

Annnnnd, here's where I get off the train. Stone's regular IRS was borderline too much for me, but this is the final straw. @Col mentioned having a similar experience (on the IRS post), but what he didn't mention was the distinct flavor and odor of beef jerky. That's right, this beer seriously smells and tastes like cheap beef jerky**, and at 10.5% you feel somewhat noxious drinking the entire bottle. For a brewery whose CEO is a Belgian Knight, they might rethink including intriguing names such as "Belgo Anise" if the flavor is borderline disgusting. Thumbs down, waay down.

** A note to George McFly: think of how a Sausage King smoked sausage jerky would taste in liquid form.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Victory V-12


Type: Belgian-style Quadrupel
Origin: Downington, PA
Price: $8.79/25.4 oz
ABV: 12.0%
website

The second beer of the Great 2011 Power Outage. As you might tell by that ABV figure, it accelerated things a bit. Hence the Scrabble-provided photo caption.

The color of the beer is an inviting deep amber/red. The first things that hit you when you bring the glass to your nose are alcohol, raisin, plum, and alcohol. After I drank about 10 oz of this, I actually wrote in my tasting notes, 'Welp, I'm drunk now'. This has a nice dark fruit thing going on, as it should given the style, but holy shit the alcohol. Remember Bald Bull's Bull Charge? This is sort of like that, but when I tried to punch him in the stomach I missed. But thankfully, the fruitiness (Don Flamenco?) and raisiny quality remains, so at least the alcohol is decently counterbalanced. So, in summary, alcohol-soaked raisins.

I will give Victory credit for something here. There are a lot of Belgians out there that hide their alcohol so well that they end up destroying your soul even as you're savoring every drop of them (Horny Devil, anyone?). This is not one of those beers- and it's a good thing. It's quite savorable indeed, but at 12%, this beer warns you every sip of the way that you may be getting in over your head. It's not going to sneak up behind you and shiv you in the kidneys. It's going to walk up and hit you in the face with a bag full of nickels. So kudos for being sporting, Victory.