Thursday, July 28, 2011

Hitachino Nest: White Owl

type: witbier
origin: Hong Kong, China
price: $4.75/12oz at dbar (Princeton, NJ)
abv: 5%

This was the second Hitachino I've tried, and while they do a decent witbier, there wasn't anything super remarkable about it. Don't get me wrong: it was nice and refreshing, it had some wit, it had some bier, but it didn't really stand out much from any witbier I've had before. Actually, it was a little short on the wit. The spice is one of my favorite parts of a witbier but I could hardly tell there was anything in this one.

I could have stretched my $4.75 much farther (especially at dbar) if I had gone with an unremarkable macrobrew. China has this reputation of making a whole lot of something good on the cheap, so why is this one of the more expensive beers in the bar? For the price: BAH.

At least the bar was hip. UCSD could learn a lot about what a campus pub should be like from these Princeton people.

Williams Bros: Kelpie seaweed ale

type: ale
origin: Scotland
price: $4.79/500ml at Joe Canal's (Princeton, NJ)
abv: 4.4%

Somehow I thought the idea of a seaweed ale would quench my nostalgia for the Pacific in the blinding heat last week. That is not exactly what happened but I can't say I was disappointed anyway.

Apparently they mash actual kelp into this beer during the brew, which sounds like it could be either a good or bad thing, but the reality is that the seaweed flavor isn't too forward. I was sort of expecting a blast of sea breeze, salt crusted eyebrows, babes in bikinis, sunshine, the sound of crashing waves, and the feeling of cool sea water on my toes when I popped this bottle but that is not how they roll in Scotland. When I woke up from that wet dream and realized I was in New Jersey with pretty much none of the above, it dawned on me that the brewers and I had a different vision.

This brew is essentially a light bodied porter, maybe with some vague hints of brininess and seaweed if I really try to taste it. Altogether not too bad of a brew, but do not be deceived: there is no sea party in this bottle!

The next afternoon when I got home from work I realized I had left a bit in the bottom of the bottle sitting on the table, which I poured into a frosty mug fresh from my freezer. This time around there was a bit more chewing on seaweed flavor, so either it started growing something during the heat of the day, or this beer just needs to breathe for a bit to let the ocean out. Still, I definitely preferred the prior night's pour.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Stone/Baird/Ishii collaboration: Japanese Green Tea IPA

type: IPA
origin: San Diego, CA
price: $3/12oz at Stone Filling Station (South Park)
abv: 9.2%

My, oh my. This is proof to me that Stone is really taking their collaboration beer making seriously. I've had none I've disliked, and this is absolutely no exception. I love this, if only because it's exceptionally deep and malty, but also very well hopped - so at 9.2% you're just cruising through this bastard on your way to Bad Decision-ville. Part the nice flavor balance comes from the subtle, yet recognizable green-tea flavors. It's pure art that flavors so gentle (like the hand that Chris keeps in his Vaseline-filled glove) can come right past flavors so strong. Well done.

When you hold up the glass you notice something very striking: floaties everywhere. Fear not! These are just particles of hop's aforementioned pussy little brother - the green tea leaf. The strange thing is they're in suspended animation, so at first it looks like carbonation. A little off-putting, but who gives a shit if it tastes this good.

This is win all around with the price, flavor, and alcohol. To top it, part of the proceeds go to disaster relief efforts, so go buy this. Lots of it.

Floaties eveywhere:

Monday, July 25, 2011

Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar

type: Brown Ale
origin: Newport, Oregon
price: $5.99/22oz

Not bad, in fact pretty good for a brown. It's definitely not something I crave and not too exciting. I mean this brown is better then New Castle, but falls short of Moose Drool (my favorite brown). I think there is more head on the bottle then in the beer, geezuz look at that dome. I would have to say I enjoyed this beer, but really nothing special. Maybe make it an imperial brown and I will be a little more excited, aka more alcohol content then the 6.3% of the hazelnut. You can really taste the hazelnut as with most nut browns, even after, several minutes after, but the initial taste runs a little flat. I won't be buying this again, but if you are unlike me and love browns I would give it a shot. Also Rogue call this beer a nectar, again Rogue you are losing points as I am trying so hard to love you.

Rogue Dad's Little Helper Black IPA

type: Black IPA
origin: Newport, Oregon
price: $6.99/22oz

I originally came to like Black IPAs a little before they got popular. I was at ballast point and my friend Larry would mix the Black Marlin Porter with Big Eye and it tasted great. Granted now the brewing process is different for black IPAs and not always a mix of 2 great beers, but even so a fantastic mix. I mean just look at the head in this beer, you can definitely see a mix of the IPA hops with a semi stout chocolate foam. I would say out of all the beers that I have tried from Rogue this is one of my favorites. This beer is unique, flavorful, has a great initial flavor and a nice smooth dark finish. I am still up in the air about Rogue, but this beer is great.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Highland Gaelic Ale

Type: American Amber Ale
Origin: Asheville, NC
Price: $3.69/22 oz
ABV: 5.8%

3rd & final beer of the NC trip. Well, 3rd reviewed beer. I had waaaay more than three beers on the trip. Anyway, yeah, that's a plastic cup on top of an ironing board. That's what happens when you drink in a hotel room before a wedding.

This is the first (and, I suppose, only) truly local beer I had on my trip to NC. And I think the folks at Highland are on to something here. A big thump of malt in both the nose and the flavor, with all the richness of a good scotch ale. And a light flash of hoppiness to cut through the malt. Sort of like a pile of pulled pork with a splash of vinegary BBQ sauce on it (this is North Carolina, after all...though to be accurate, Asheville's in western NC, so the sauce should be thicker and sweeter than the thinner vinegar-heavy eastern NC variety...shit, I'm getting off track, and hungry).

Anyway, back to the beer. It's good. Very good. I'd be very interested to see what'd happen if they started with the Gaelic's grain bill as a foundation, and then doubled or tripled the hop load and kicked up the ABV. I have a feeling they could have a pretty thunderous IPA (IAA, maybe?) on their hands.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Uinta Tilted Smile Imperial Pilsner

Type: imperial pilsner
Origin: Salt Lake City, Utah
Price: $8.99 per 750 mL
ABV: 9%

This is the first beer I have had from the state of Utah, and I didn't really realize it until I started doing the review. I originally picked this up because it was an imperial pilsner, which just seems diabolical. This is part of Uinta's Crooked Line, which I can surmise is just their small batch line of specialty beers. There are a few in the line that are bourbon barrel aged, but thankfully not this one (it would completely destroy the simple flavors). This is a pretty magnificent beer. It is hard to imagine it is 9%. It is a bit sweet, but nothing completely out of the ordinary for a pilsner. The sweetness is probably more due to the ABV than anything else. This is not the best pilsner I've had, although I have never had any over 6%, so this should be viewed in a completely different light. Unfortunately, there really isn't much competition in this category, so the Tilted Smile is still "the best" imperial pilsner I've ever had.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hermitage Single Hop: Citra

type: IPA
origin: San Jose, CA
price: $4.99/22oz
abv: 7%

I've been thinking about the idea of a series of single hop-varietal beers for a while now. I finally get a chance to test out my theory that this will be excellent insight into individual hop characteristics.

The Citra hop: let's talk aroma. Apparently Sierra Nevada has been instrumental in developing and maintaining this strain and I agree with their description: fruity. I shant mention those extra special esters everyone has been raving about, but I will say that one whiff of this beer and you feel like you're sitting on a beach in Jamaica, boyeee. Unfortunately, after a full 22, I'm not sure this alone can defeat the mighty maltiness of a full bodied 7% ale.

Overall, a decent start to the beerxperiment, and I'm looking forward to the rest. So keep it tuned to WNSB on your FM dial for the rest of the set. Until then, this is FATD signing off...

Note: When working in the garage, always drink a beer. Circular saw usage encouraged.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Terrapin Hopsecutioner IPA

Type: IPA
Origin: Athens, GA
Price: $4/16 oz pint
ABV: 7.2%

Second beer of the NC trip. Look at the picture. Looks like a watered-down DIet Coke, right? Or carbonated iced tea? Unfortunately, that's more or less what's going on here. It actually smells a bit like Diet Coke too (sweet with a vaguely chemically aspect), and it tastes a bit like carbonated iced tea. If they made a beer-flavored soft drink, this is probably what it would taste like. I probably should've just had some sweet tea instead. After the fact I had a hard time convincing myself that something didn't go wrong with the keg or the pour, or maybe our waitress played a trick on me. If this is what the product is actually supposed to be like, then maybe they should go back to the ol' drawing board. I'll go for innocent until proven guilty, though, and try this again the next time I'm down that way. It can't really be this bad, can it?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Bayhawk Chocolate Porter

Type: porter
Origin: Irvine, California
Price: $3.29 per 22 oz

I just got back from a week in Iceland, which was great and all, but the beer kinda sucked. Iceland has some strange temperance laws which strongly discourage making stronger beers, which I think makes the breweries just give up. I have been putting off this beer for quite some time, and after a week in Iceland, this beer looked incredibly desirable in my fridge just because it isn't a crappy light pilsner. I am hoping that my beer bias of the past week does not skew this review. That being said, this is a rather enjoyable porter. It is smooth and luxurious with nice middle-to-bold flavors. As one would guess, there is a nice chocolate flavor on this, and I would almost put the chocolate flavor closer to the chocolate milk end of the spectrum. There is a wee bit of bitterness, which I feel gives this a light coffee flavor, but the chocolate still dominates. This is truly just a nice balanced beer that shouldn't offend anyone.

FYI, according to Beer Advocate, there should be a strong whale cum component (if anyone knows the reference and can present me the video gets a free beer) to this beer, but I am just not getting it

Friday, July 8, 2011

Bell's Oberon Ale

Type: Wheat Ale
Origin: Kalamazoo, MI
Price: $4/16 oz pint
ABV: 5.8%

Went on a long weekend trip to beautiful North Carolina over the weekend, and was able to sample a handful of beers that aren't available on our side of the country.

I had this first beer of the trip at a little gem of a beer-and-sammich joint called the Crescent Moon Cafe in Hickory, NC. I immediately honed in on it out of their 27 taps, since I was aware of Bell's reputation and in the mood for a nice wheat beer
because it was a ball-melting 97 degrees out with about 268% humidity- par for the course for NC in July. The color was immediately inviting, a typical-for-wheat slightly hazy yellow. Not much head (the picture is inaccurate, I'd already taken the first couple of sips down), and a surprisingly muted nose (the usual wheatiness, plus very light citrus and apricot) for which I had to bury my nose in the glass to get a full sense, though that may have had more to do with the pint glass than the beer itself. Nice lightly sweet flavor with a delicate, almost pilsnerish (i.e. slightly skunky) bitterness. The citrus and apricot wake up a bit over time, and when you put all of these things together, you have a refreshing and drinkable brew, but one that could use a bit more body in both the nose and the flavor to make it a real standout. Given Oberon's drinkability, I could've easily sat there and had 2 or 8 more of these, but we had to git on down the road.

I have to add an extra note about Bell's here- I was able to have their Two-Hearted IPA while in NC, but I was at a wedding and couldn't take the time to give it a proper review. But all told, it was delicious, probably in the top 3 of the year. Bell's' reputation has them up there with Stone, DFH, Russian River, and the other craft beer heavyweights, so someone should start sending their shit to San Diego STAT. I don't use alliteration unless I'm really fucking serious.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

MateVeza Black Lager

type: organic black lager (with Yerba Mate)
origin: Ukiah, CA
price: $4/22oz
abv: 5.2%
caffeine: 110mg (a few cups of coffee)

I like this. You can tell the caffeine is there, but it hides nicely next to the dark roasted malts. It's actually pretty good, and a damn fine deal given you're drinking beer and coffee at the same time, and you only forked out $4. Surprisingly it reminds me of a light bodied Barney Flats.

Brent says he likes to work with one beer in him ("it makes you unafraid to make mistakes" hahaha) but I think this would be better. Combine drinking coffee and a Bohemia into one step and brother, you got a stew goin'.

Looks like we're getting July 4 off to a good start.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

2011 San Diego International Beer Festival

This is easily the best beer festival in San Diego all year. Essentially you pay a modest fee to drink continuously for up to four hours. Last year even Joose showed up, so you know it's classy too. This year we went to the Saturday eve session, and it was just as we expected.

There were some things that caught me off guard though, such as Stone's contribution: IPA. Way to compete guys. There were quite a few empty stations (ran out of beer?), and pretty much every station was staffed by some random dipshit.

For example (at Alpine):
me: "It's good to see you guys out here."
him: "Yeah, we just ran out of Nelson."
me: "Ah damn. Say, how often do you bottle Exponential Hoppiness?"
him: pause. blank stare. pause.
me: ?
him: "uh... I don't work for them."
to myself: "well fuck my face."
The more I think about that, the more it bothers me: Why wouldn't you represent your brewery? So what if the place is packed with d-bags just trying to get shit-canned? There's still gonna be at least 25% who do give a shit. I don't know what to think, but it's a little disappointing. At least I noticed the Iron Fist family was representin', and I'm proud of that as a lover of local craft.

On to the good surprises. Finally got a chance to try some New Zealand beverages (Epic, Kaimai,...), some from Beer Here (Denmark), and Dieu Di Ciel (Montreal) - there are so many more I can't remember. My personal standouts: Samichlaus Helles and Gouden Carolus Cuvee. Holy fuck those are ass kicking awesome.