Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hangar 24 Columbus IPA

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

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
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
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

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 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

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

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

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%

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%

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.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Himalayan Blue

Type: lager
Origin: Malli, Sikkim, India
Price: $1.99 per 650 mL

This is from the same company as the Yeti, reviewed yesterday. I assume that this is just the lighter version of the Yeti, and it definitely shows. Its not really that good. Very watered down, a little skunkiness, and some strange aftertaste. It would probably be my 6th, or maybe 7th choice, of shitty beers if it was the same price as Natty.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Yeti Lager

Type: lager
Origin: Malli, Sikkim, India
Price: $1.99 per 650 mL

I can't find a website for this one, but you probably won't visit anyways. I picked this one up because I am in a bit of a strong lager kick as of late, and this is 7% for only a few bucks. The label is pretty sweet on this and it still has the customs stickers on it. The beer itself is rather interesting. It is not skunked, which is really surprising for a lager from India. The flavor on it is a bit off. Its not sweet, but has an artificial flavoring somewhat like what you get in hard fruit candy. Actually, I think its closer to champagne. Its definitely different, and you should probably give it a try for this price.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Жигулёвское Lager Beer

Type: Lager
Origin: St. Petersburg, Russia
Price: $1.99/16.9 oz
ABV: 4.0%

This is the first beer I had during the Great 2011 Power Outage. The first beer of many, because what do you do when the power's out for 8 hours? You drink and hang out with your neighbors and drink more.

So, a bit of backstory on this beer. The Cyrillic name of this beer translates to Zhiguljovskoje (also conveniently printed on the bottle for those of us who can't understand Cyrillic without Google Translate), which was at one time apparently pretty much the only brand of beer you could get in the USSR. But the beer being reviewed here is actually made by Baltika. So I don't know if
Zhiguljovskoje became a style of beer rather than a brand, and this is just Baltika's incarnation of it, or if Baltika actually acquired the Zhiguljovskoje brand and began producing it. In the end, it doesn't really matter all that much because this isn't a fucking Soviet cultural history class.

The color of this beer was unexpected. I figured it'd look like a lot of other cheap eastern European lagers (e.g. the lower-numbered end of the Baltika line Brendan made his way through), you know, like your piss after you go for a six-mile run. But this looks a lot like a golden ale, much deeper than I would've thought. The cloudiness actually makes it look a bit like a Belgian. The nose has the typical sweet skunked character, but with a weird starchiness, almost like dried pasta or peanut shells. Probably just a bit of staleness from being a touch past the 'best before' date, so I'll give it a pass. The flavor has the same features, but the finish has an additional sourness (more like spoiled than skunked) that's a bit off-putting. But right on the front, there's a nice crisp maltiness that prevents this beer from being a total pooch-screw.

So, all in all, not terrible, but nothing I'd hurry to buy again. If the finish wasn't a bit nasty it might actually be pretty good, but it is, so it's not.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Port Brewing High Tide Fresh Hop

Type: IPA
Origin: San Marcos, CA
Price: $5.99/22 oz
ABV: 6.5%

First off, I've never been terribly impressed with Port Brewing. Not that they do anything noticeably poorly that I've had (which, admittedly, isn't all that much, so it's not exactly a fair assessment in the first place), but in a market saturated with super high-quality craft beer, if you're not outstanding, then, well, you don't stand out. But after having the High Tide, it's clear I should give them more time.

I picked this up at BDBS the other day after Sid, the guy running the joint (who is on top of his shit, by the way), gave it an exuberant endorsement. And Sid wasn't lying. This stuff is exceptional. First off, the head. Super frothy, almost like soft-peaked egg whites. It maintained at least an inch of lacing glues to the side of the glass the whole time I was drinking it. Don't think I've ever seen that before. The beer is nice and green like a good San Diego IPA should be, but it's never overwhelming like some of its brethren. And then there's just citrus everywhere, grapefruit in particular, with some nice light malt and caramel to give it some body. Ordinarily, in the spirit of the Non-Snob tradition of maxing out the ABV/$ ratio, I might be inclined to knock this down a peg. But this beer is clearly intended to show off what fresh hops can do, and a higher ABV would probably steamroll your palate before you have any chance to appreciate it. I hope the fresh hop thing catches on on a wider scale, because if this beer is any indication, it's a big step in a very worthwhile direction (I've got another example in the fridge, but more on that later).

Also, Port's got a video up on the making of this stuff. It's pretty cool that once they receive the hops from Washington, they start cranking it out nonstop...and they apparently only have a day or so of advance warning. High marks for dedication to the craft.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Dieu Du Ciel -- Corne du Diable

type: "American" IPA
origin: St. Jerome, Quebec
price: $5/12oz at BDB
abv: 6.5%

Yes, we've been somewhat lax on posting lately, so let's just get this out of the way: By no means is this worth $5 for a single bottle, and the title ("Horn of the Devil") is misleading.  Why?  It's a decent IPA and there's some fair bitterness and smoky flavors, but it's a little too sweet and lacking wonderful hop aromas to be as American as I've grown fond of.  And honestly, it's not alcoholic enough to really kick your ass like a pair of Devil-horns would if they were, say, jammed into your gut in a lake of fire.  At least I'll give it +1 for the bottle label, which shows a well-dressed Devil holding a beer.