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
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

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*)

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
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

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

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)


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
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

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)


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

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

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 

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

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
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%
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.