Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Guinness Extra Stout

type: Irish stout
origin: Dublin, Ireland
price: $15/12-pack (?)
ABV: 6.0%
NSP: 17.8 (est.)

I'm really enjoying this right now, but I think I should've tasted this (a) when not already buzzed, and (b) with the Draught (the one we all get at any Irish bar) for comparison.

This is a relatively low body stout (think the opposite of an American Imperial Stout).  Even so, there's still enough complexity to be enjoyable.  The website makes some comparison to a porter, but I think they've done well to distinguish this.

And did you know Student's T-test was developed with the Guinness Brewery?  I know it's some boring, nerdy statistics; but it's cool that something scientific can come from beer, independently of our military industrial complex.  OK, now I know I'm really buzzed, and it's time to sign off.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Deschutes Black Butte XXI

Type: Imperial Porter
Origin: Bend, OR
Price: I don't know (see below)
ABV: 11.0%

I suppose I could've included this in the BeerPlow, but I didn't actually acquire it while I was in Portland. I've actually had it in the cellar for quite some time, probably upwards of eight months or more. I have no recollection of how I came to own it, hence not knowing the price and by extension the NSP. All I know is one day it was in my fridge. I'm hoping it means that there's a beer-conjuring leprechaun living in the vegetable drawer.

First off, again with the wax top, Deschutes? I'm not sure which had a more crumbly top, this one or the Stoic, but I think I have to give the edge to the Stoic. Anyway, the beer. This is a special release (their 21st birthday reserve), brewed with cocoa nibs (from the DR, apparently) and coffee (from Ethiopia), with part of it aged in bourbon barrels. Right out of the bottle, you smell all three of the components mentioned in spades- bitter dark chocolate and coffee and sweet bourbon, all combined with a bunch of dark malt. They all have a big orgy to produce a rich maple/molasses aroma. I don't notice much in terms of hops, but that's not surprising given the intensity of everything else.

Holy shitbags is this a flavor overload. It has an incredibly thick mouthfeel, almost like taking a swig of maple or chocolate syrup. The coffee and chocolate hit pretty hard up front and then transition to a decent bitterness as the hops come in. But that doesn't last very long, because finish is exceptionally sweet, almost cloying, and it runs roughshod over everything else. It's pretty difficult to tell that this is 11%, except for the buzz you feel coming on almost immediately. And despite the strength of both flavor and alcohol, at least in the beginning it's surprisingly easy to put down, which can be chalked up to a fairly light body. But as I waded my way through more of the bottle, that changed.

All of the flavors in this are complementary, but they're also pretty similar. So in the end, they all converge, and you end up with more or less just sweetness. On the finish, it actually ends up being pretty one-note. The sweetness is so strong that it actually makes it tough to keep coming back to it, not unlike a cup of coffee with too much sugar. I initially thought it needed a bigger hop kick than the current 55 IBU to provide a counterpoint, but you know, putting shitloads of hops in sweet imperial IPAs doesn't work, and this is even sweeter, so I'm not so sure.
In the end, I actually struggled to finish the bottle (don't worry, I powered through). I'm glad this made its way into my fridge just so I could try it. But I don't think I'll be in a hurry to go after future incarnations. I guess this is a first- a Deschutes beer in which I was disappointed. Oh well, can't win 'em all.

Monday, February 27, 2012

SPLURGE Review: Russian River Pliny The Younger

Type: Imperial IPA
Origin: Santa Rosa, CA
Price: $7 10oz. at Obrien's
10.5% ABV
NSP: 8.0 scaled

Word had it that Obrien's would be tapping a keg of the much sought after Pliny the Younger on a Friday at 11am. For those of you who haven't heard about this beer: It's the imperial version of RR's fucking phenomenal Pliny the Elder, probably the BEST west coast double IPA on the planet. Note that I call it a west coast beer, because that is exactly what it is; incredibly dry and incredibly hoppy and incredibly bitter, and yet somehow still incredibly palatable, not to mention absolutely delicious.

So anyone going in to try Younger must have high expectations. But there is one caveat. This beer is so highly sought after in the craft brew drinking world, and produced in such small quantities, that people literally shit themselves on the opportunity to taste it. Yes, I did use "literally shit themselves" in the last sentence, and I did mean fucking literally. It's so obnoxious it makes me wanna shit on them too. I mean, there's obviously never enough shit placed all over these fucking people, so the more the merrier in my eyes. And those who make it far enough they know they will get a taste? They fucking jizz their god damned pants. That's right, straight up splurge inside their pants while in line. I absolutely don't get it, nor will I ever. To further my point, I made a work of art for you to enjoy.

With that in mind, you may wonder: "How are you any different you fucktard?" Good question. The answer is brilliantly simple, Obrien's. This wonderful beer bar would be my go to choice, without a doubt, if it wasn't for good 'ole Regal Beagle just around the block from my abode. They sent out an email to their loyal patrons (of which I am not, unfortunately), and told people to shut the fuck up about it, come on down, and have a taste of this beer people jizz and shit themselves for. I got a tip from my great pal Riley, so we headed on down for a taste. We got there 10 minutes before 11. To our delight, there were only 20 other people around. Fan-fucking-tastic. We got a pour after a 2 minute wait in line. As the time wore on, the line grew, but it was never longer than 10 minutes in length. The best part? The median customer age was probably 40 years. Nothing prickish about it, and nothing like the horror stories I heard about the experience at Toronado's among other bars (who were also charging $8 for an 8 oz pour, dicks).

Now for the moment you've all been waiting for. The Beer. It's good. Really good. But is it worth the hype? Not for me. It's slightly maltier than the Elder, and has a less bitter finish because of it even though it has way more hops in the recipe. But it's still a hop bomb by any standards. It has a similar flavor to the Green Flash Imperial IPA: onions. That's right. Something I've noticed ever since a bartender at Regal pointed it out. These super hopped IPA's all have a slightly oniony flavor, and anybody can pick it out, it doesn't require a refined palate . Younger is also much fruitier than the elder, and makes the drinker think it sweeter as a result. It's definitely not sweeter, maybe a tad, but not much. All in all, this is one of the best imperial IPA's I can remember having, considering I rarely drink them. Yet it's not leaps and bounds better, and in the end I still prefer Pliny the Elder over it.

Take home message: If you can get it without having to fight for it or wait in an enormous line, then you should. Otherwise, let all those suckers shit and jizz themselves for it.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Diamond Bear Pale Ale

Type: Pale Ale
Origin: Little Rock, AR
Price: $9/6-pack (estimated for craft beer club)
ABV: 6.2%
NSP: 14.67 (unscaled)

Next beer from the craft beer club, from Diamond Bear in the Natural State. I went to Arkansas once when I was 11 or so, water-skiing on the lake of the Ozarks. That's completely irrelevant at this point, though. Are there a lot of breweries in Arkansas? I don't really know. Someone from Arkansas inform me, please.

The website doesn't provide an ABV, opting instead for ABW (4.96%). That's sort of a pain in the ass. I certainly didn't want to bother converting, so I just took BA's word for it. Anyway, pretty much nonexistent head on this one. It smells like, well, beer. Mostly malt, bit of hops, a bit more fruity than I would've thought. And it tastes like, again, beer. I mean that as a compliment in this case- the average pale ale, to me, should taste like beer-flavored beer (by average, I mean not a hoppy SOB like Sierra Nevada's version). It should be well-balanced and clean, and this one is both. It's pretty much a conventional pale ale. It's not challenging, but that doesn't mean it's not well-crafted. Easy drinkin', and I'm cool with that.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Deschutes Black Butte "aged"

type: porter
origin: Bend, OR
price: ~$2/12oz
ABV: 5.2%
NSP: 9.2

The Patron St. Egman chose wisely when he purchased 16 cases of Black Butte for a nerd conference two years ago; I'm glad I helped him out because I was able to drink about 5 gallons of this, and Mirror Pond.  But eventually some remained, which was apparently "best" in Oct 2010, and now I'm clearing it out of the fridge.  Whoo doggies, here we go.

So this is giving me a headache, and tastes like bitter, alcoholic water - not the delicious porter it once was. (Still with a great head though!)  Having said that, it is impressive that after so long it doesn't taste like rancid bile, and that's probably a testament to Deschutes and in no way related to my excellent beer-saving practices.

So, I don't recommend you let this, or any other non-cellarable-beer sit in your fridge for too long; you'll just be wasting hard earned beer money.  There's a reason they put a date on the friggin' bottle.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Stone Ruination IPA

Type: IPA
Origin: San Marcos, CA
Price: $6.49/22 oz
ABV: 7.7%
NSP: 7.71 (unscaled)

Another one I'm surprised hasn't been reviewed yet. Pretty much all of the other standard Stone brews have been covered, but I guess this one fell through the cracks. One entertaining thing about Ruination- this is really a double/imperial IPA, but they make no mention of that whatsoever on the bottle. So poor bastards who are expecting a 65-70 IBU IPA when they buy this (and don't notice the 100+ IBU note on the bottle) get steamrolled.

First thing- I perused about three lines of the short novel they printed on the back, and then I went:

Seriously, it's beer. No need to put some self-fellative treatise on the back of the damn bottle. Just let the beer speak for itself.

Know what? I'm surprised. I've been of the mind that malty IPAs are generally East Coast style, and the grassy pine bombs are West Coast (well,
more specifically SoCal, because all of the Pacific Northwest IPAs I had were super malty). But here's one from Stone, which many would consider San Diego's flagship craft brewery and one of the archetypes of the West Coast style, and it's pretty malty. I guess I should expect that, given that enhanced malt oomph is a regular component of DIPAs. I'm a bit thrown off by it, though, given that Stone is known as a bunch unapologetic hoptards, because I get malt and hop notes in almost equal proportion in the nose. And the flavor follows along in stride- I get malt right up front, followed by a big hop punch, and then both on the finish, though the hops definitely win out on endurance. Actually, this is really similar to the Nogne O Two Captains I did before this. Except in this case, the hops are able to overcome the malt to a fair extent, so there's some nice citrusy complexity. All told, I like it and would definitely buy it again, but there are some that outclass it.

This is definitely a beer that illustrates to me how my palate's changed. Because I actually find this pretty approachable rather than ruinous. I guess that's why the days of brown ales have gone by the wayside.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Trappist Tasting

We had a hankering during our week off to get really shitty drinking awesome beers, and comparing trappists seemed like a perfect idea. There are officially 7 trappist breweries, of which we were only able to obtain 6 (Westvleteren is very hard to find). We talked to the owner of Best Damn Beer Store and he said there was talk of a Westvleteren 4 or 6 pack plus glass possibly being sold here for around $75, but he hasn't seen anything yet. We also decided to toss in two non-trappists for comparison, Karmeliet and Affligem tripel. Here is a rundown of the prices, ABVs and NSPs:

La Trappe Quad: $12.99 per 750 mL, 10% ABV, 5.7 NSP
Achel Extra: $16.99 per 750 mL, 9.5% ABV, 4.2 NSP
Orval: $5.99 per 330 mL, 6.9% ABV, 3.8 NSP
Chimay Blue: $11.99 per 750 mL, 9% ABV, 5.6 NSP
Westmalle Dubbel: $12.99 per 750 mL, 7% ABV, 4.0 NSP
Rochefort 6: $6.29 per 330 mL, 7.5% ABV, 3.9 NSP

Tripel Karmeliet: $11.99 per 750 mL, 8.4% ABV, 5.25 NSP
Affligem Tripel: $9.29 per 750 mL, 9% ABV, 7.27 NSP

Looking at the NSP scores, only Affligem and possibly the La Trappe Quad seem like a good deal, but we get screwed over living in America not having easy access to these beers. I know I have seen the Chimay Blue for cheaper here and have found the Westmalle Tripel for 11.99, so all is not lost.

For past reference, I have reviewed both Affligems, Orval, Achel Blonde, Westmalle Tripel, Karmeliet, Rochefort 10, and Chimay Tripel.

As for tasting, lets just say this is probably not the best idea to do in succession, especially since we started light and ended strong. The tasting order was as follows:

Rochefort 6
Westmalle Dubbel
Chimay Blue
La Trappe Quad

I tallied up the points from Andy, Chris and I (I think Samer and Brent mostly agreed with these ratings), and for the trappists alone we have the following point totals (30 being perfect - somewhat relative scale)

Achel: 27.5
La Trappe Quad: 25
Chimay Blue and Westmalle Dubbel: 22.5
Rochefort 6: 18.5
Orval: 14

By the time we got to Karmeliet and Affligem, our notes deteriorated into just a few illegible words. I thought they were both better than all the trappists. For specifics, we all thought Orval was incredibly boring, just some honey flavors going on. Rochefort 6 was much more flavorful than Orval and was a little sour. For Westmalle Dubbel, we have no legible notes except that its better than the previous two. Brent claimed "dubbels are probably the worst beer to throw up". We all concur. The Chimay Blue transferred the tasting over to easy, well-balanced drinking. The Achel we all loved and I noted that it tasted like "alcohol soaked raisins". For the La Trappe Quad, I noted that it was mellower than the Achel, but I lost all ability to taste at this point. Basically the moral of the story is to do a tasting with lower ABV beers and fewer beers. These are all delicious, so just drink em up.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Straffe Hendrik Bruges Quadruple Ale

Type: belgian quadruple
Origin: Bruges, Belgium
Price: $11.99 per 750 mL
ABV: 11%
NSP: 6.9

I am really regretting not visiting this brewery when I was in Bruges. The brewery makes three beers: Brugse Zot, Straffe Hendrik Tripel and Straffe Hendrik Quad. I have had the Zot, so I just need to buy the Tripel now.

As for the quad, this must be one of the lighest quads I have ever had. The flavors have a way of just melting away into your mouth without oppressing you too much on the way. It should be noted that there is still a significant amount of body and flavor, just compared to other quads, it seems a little light (which is actually a good thing). The bottle says there is a "clean dryness" that I suppose is what I am trying to get at. There are light hints of dried fruits and a sweet maltiness. Also, as this beer warms up, it seems to get a little smoother and more drinkable. Quite a surprise.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Young's Double Chocolate Stout

type: chocolate stout
origin: Bedford, UK
price: ~$6/.5l (guess)
ABV: 5.2%
NSP: 4.3 (est.)
website (one of the more annoying "are you 21" verifications)

This damn beer has been in my fridge for well over a year now.  It's so ugly and unappealing that I just kept pushing it further and further to the back; but of course I couldn't throw it out!  In fact, the best-by date was 6 months ago (June 2011), so I won't be too critical here.

It's mediocre.  Not interesting, but not bad.  And I think it actually tastes more like a slightly acidic porter.  All that's probably my fault for not enjoying it soon, and I can see why people love this, but I wouldn't age it if I were you.  I would however, take a trip to London and try a Young's bitter out of hand-pump, in a proper pub; that sounds delicious.

More importantly though, I'm really glad this crap is out of my fridge so I can focus on more important things, like trying a two year old Black Butte.  Not looking forward to that.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Nogne O Two Captains Double IPA

Type: Double IPA
Origin: Grimstad, Norway
Price: $9.99/500 mL
ABV: 8.5%
NSP: 4.25 (unscaled)


Here I am at home with my car a couple of blocks away at the bank. Stop in to get my bank on, and bam, the damn thing won't start back up. So what does one do in such a situation? That's right, drink beer, and fix the fucking car later.

Nogne O has quite a reputation 'round these here parts. If the mouth on their bottles were smaller Andy would probably get all intercoursey with them. So when I saw this at BDBS, I immediately grabbed it so I could review it before any of the other rabble could get to it. Apparently the guy who won the 2010 Norwegian homebrew championship brewed this up at Nogne O...I sure hope they give him a chunk of the profits.

The head is, well, IPA head, pretty standard. The nose is really interesting. Most IPAs have a lot of light fruits, like citrus and green apple and such. This one's got some of that, but there's also something a little darker, like strawberry. It's light and would be hard to detect without a proper glass, but it's there, and definitely unique. The flavor's is pretty malty but dry (thank Odin it's not sweet), and the hops are nice and busty. There isn't really any complexity in the hop flavors, though, more just straight bitterness, and that's too bad. That kind of seems like a common theme with some of these malty IPAs- the weight of the malt whittles off the nuances of the hops. Or maybe they just can't get fresh enough hops up there...I'd imagine it's not ideal growing conditions in Norwaydia.
All in all, this is pretty decent. Not my favorite, but there's definitely nothing off about it, and it once again shows that Nogne O is capable of some good stuff. And that strawberry thing on the nose is noteworthy. I'd say if you like the East Coast IPA style, definitely check it out. But for me, put it next to Maharaja, Racer X, or Pliny, and it doesn't quite stack up, particularly at the price. But then again, nothing really would.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Alpine Exponential Hoppiness

Type: Triple IPA
Origin: Alpine, CA
Price: $7/.25l at Toronado
ABV: 11.25%
NSP: 4.0

It's Friday and nothing is working out for me.  Suddenly, EXPO.  Toronado posts that it's tapping a fresh batch of Alpine Exponential Hoppiness (Expo).  OK, day over at 3pm.

This is one big mother effin IPA, but it's so well done that you wouldn't be able to tell it's 11.25% had you not asked.  Despite the huge malt backbone, it's so well-hopped it's a minor detail and you get to focus on the beer.  Because, most breweries can't even do a double IPA well (e.g. Laughing Dog), it seems clear that the folks at Alpine are clearly some of the most talented brewers in San Diego county (e.g. Nelson, and this obviously).

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Foret Saison

Type: Saison/Farmhouse
Origin: Tourpes, Belgium
Price: $10.99/750 mL
ABV: 7.5%
NSP: 5.12 (unscaled)
website...? Couldn't seem to find an official site.

I was pretty surprised when I looked through the browse pull-down menus on the right side of the page and didn't find this one. I figured one of the other drunken hooligans on this blog would've gotten to it by now.

My saison experience is relatively limited, to be quite honest. I've tried a couple here and there, and reviewed the Boulevard Tank 7, and decided I needed to dig into the style a bit more (note to self- good decision). By most accounts, Foret is an archetypical example (though the bottle refers to Saison Dupont as the originator...though I wouldn't expect they'd give credit to any other brewery as such given that Foret's made at Dupont too), so it seemed a good place to start.

It's got a nice fluffy head that collapsed on the sides, leaving what looked like a marshmallow floating on top. The nose is really interesting- half wit (in yeast terms, not wheat), half pilsner- fruit and spice from the yeast, and some skunk from the hops. And the flavor pretty much follows the same beat, barley sweetness and citrus and funk. It's crisp and refreshing and really delicious.

I'd be curious to do a head-to-head with this and Saison Dupont, just to see the difference (other than $3, 1% ABV, and organicality). Brendan didn't mention any notable hop character, which Foret definitely has. But everything else sounds pretty much identical. Perhaps a saison tasting is on tap, gents/drunken hooligans?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Avery Eighteen

type: rye saison (dry hopped)
origin: Boulder, CO
price: $8 / 22oz
abv: 8.1%
NSP: 6.6

What an intriguing idea: a dry-hopped, rye saison.  I had no idea what to expect, but it sounded delicious.  I do remember enjoying this, but unfortunately I lost my tasting notes.  So to summarize: Shitty pics and shitty reviews, FO' LIFE!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sebago Slick Nick Winter Ale

Type: Strong ale
Origin: Gorham, ME
Price: Not sure, let's guess $9/6-pack
ABV: 6.2%
NSP: 14.67 (unscaled)

My parents got me a craft beer club membership for Christmas, so you're going to start seeing me reviewing a lot of beers from random breweries all over the country from now on. I don't actually know the prices on any of these, and I can't be bothered to look, so I'm going to normalize them all to a $9/sixer for NSP calculation purposes. Although I suppose none of you give half a shit about that.

The website calls this a strong ale, but it's a winter warmer (hence winter ale) through and through. It's pretty malty on the nose, though not as much as I expected given the color. There's also some nice spice notes in there as well. The flavor's also lighter in malt than I anticipated, plus a twist of hop bitterness and a bit more of that spice. If you're wondering what spice exactly...I'm not really sure, it's not clear enough to identify it, but there's something spice-ish.

This isn't what I'd call complex, but all in all it's not half bad. I'm not a huge winter warmer fan, so it's nothing I'd hurry to track down in the future, but I appreciate that they used a light enough hand with the malt to keep it refreshing and clean. And there's enough complementary flavors, even if they're simple and limited, to keep it from being one-note. It's the sort of thing you might find at a dinner party, and nobody including you will mind if you drink four or five of them. That's about as non-snobby as a craft beer gets.

Mammoth Brewing Company

94 Berner Street
Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546

Last weekend with three of my friends we headed up to mammoth and the first night I headed straight to the store to pick up some Mammoth brew. I always liked their beer, but have mostly just drank their IPAs and of those my favorite was the IPA 395. The beer has a nice hop bite with some malts and a unique flavor with sage and juniper berries that surprisingly works and fits in with the mountain vibe.

After waking up Saturday a.m. with little snow we decided to head to the Mammoth brewery to check out the rest of their beers. The place is larger than I expected with several fridges of cold beer to purchase, growlers to fill up, merch to purchase, cool solid wood bar top, and beer to drink! Once you get there they go through all of their 9 beers and discuss each one (for free I might add). I liked this format and do not know why other breweries do it like this as you go from light beers to dark (the way you should taste). Also they used laminated sheets with information on each beer just in case you forget what you are tasting. All of their beers were great. The Hefe tasted very similar to one I would get in Germany, which is a great compliment, the Pilsner was smooth and refreshing, Paranoid Pale had a nice balance of hops to malts, and the Double Nut Brown was a in your face brown porter with lots of dark chocolate and coffee.

The remaining beers included some great IPAs, a delicious take on a Barleywine and a seasonal Owens Valley Wet Harvest Lager, which I probably could drink every day. The owner and tasting room guy said this has the "drinkability" of a lager with the taste of an IPA. Kind of reminds me of Evel Keel by Ballast Point, which I love except Wet Harvest one ups it with 6.8% alcohol. Keep up the good brewing guys.

P.S. They have a root beer that is easily the best I have ever had and they sell it in growlers.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Newcastle Founder's Ale

Type: ale
Origin: Burtonwood, UK
ABV: 4.8%

I got this one in the mail Formula PR to review before its released to the US. I haven't been much of a fan of Newcastle brews in the past (I won't post the backlinks because the reviews are not flattering). In fact, I tend to think Newcastle Brown just tastes dirty, and is pretty much the only reason I hate brown ales (the non-snob crew was discussing doing a blind tasting of beer styles we hate - brown ale is first up).

Onto the Founder's Ale. You can tell that it comes from Newcastle because there is a very faint note of the brown ale in the background, although the rest of the beer is very crisp and enjoyable. It does taste a little watered down, however this I think is a positive since it mutes some of the off flavors from the brown ale background. This could almost fall into the session category because it wouldn't be hard to consume many of these (although there are other brews I would pick over it). Its definitely not a failure, and I wouldn't be disappointed if a few of these were leftover in my fridge after a party. If they upped the IBUs (sitting at 20 here), and maybe went towards a more floral hop variety, it would be incredible.

Green Flash Rayon Vert

Type: Belgian-style Pale Ale
Origin: San Diego, CA
Price: $8/4-pack/12oz
Abv: 7.0%
NSP: 12.4

My opinion of the American BPA style is based on Ommegang's BPA, which is brilliant and delicious.  But Green Flash can't just make things delicious and traditional, they've got to add a butt load of hops to everything.  In this case the affected quality is the bitterness: it's simply too bitter to overtake Ommegang in greatness.  That's not saying it's a bad beer (the aromas are wonderful), but it's just not what I'm looking for in a BPA.

Anyone know the story behind the name?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Crooked Stave Fertile Soil Golden Ale

Type: Fresh-hopped (Belgian) Golden Ale
Origin: Fort Collins/Denver, CO
Price: $8.49/750 mL
ABV: 7.0%
NSP: 6.18 (unscaled)

I hope Andy's not too bitter that all the beer I used to share with him from my recon efforts I now drink and review myself.

I was a little confused about this one. The bottle says 'Brewed and Bottled at Funkwerks, Inc. in Fort Collins, CO'. So naturally, I thought this beer was a product of Funkwerks, a new (late 2010) brewery that focuses exclusively on saison-style beer. But I went on their website and found no mention of this beer. So then I looked up Crooked Stave, and I find a website for the Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project. Crooked Stave appears to be a registered but not yet built brewery in Denver started by a guy who wrote a Master's thesis on brettanomyces, the yeast strain responsible for the sourness in sour beers. I'm not sure about the details, but from what I can tell the Crooked Stave folks have been based in Fort Collins and are on the verge of opening their facility in Denver. And this beer appears to be either a) a collaboration between Funkwerks and Crooked Stave, or b) Funkwerks allowing Crooked Stave to use their facility to make a small-batch special release before their own place has opened. That's a whole lot of BS when I was just looking for a URL to link up at the top.

But enough of that, and on to the beer. These guys are clearly very meticulous about their craft- the bottle includes the batch number (1-11/11) and the bottle number within the batch (427/838). It also recommends a temperature range for serving, 40-50 degrees F (I checked, mine was at 47). Every single ingredient is locally grown in Colorado. So how's the beer? Pretty delicious. It's highly carbonated- the bottle coughed when I opened it, and the head exploded despite my best efforts at a smooth pour. The front part of the label contains no mention of Belgian yeast, but make no mistake, this is a Belgian golden ale, not an American golden ale. The yeast is definitely the most prominent thing that jumps out in the nose, with all the banana and cloves and such that you'd expect from a Belgian ale, though they're a touch muted relative to some of the others I've had. There's also a bit of the musty dubbel-style malt in there, but very little obvious hop aroma. The flavor's very nice, refreshing and well-balanced, with a nice tinge of bitterness from the hops and the usual Belgian fruitiness. There's also a touch of sourness in there...maybe the guy brought some of his brettanomyces into the equation? In sum, I quite enjoy it, and have no problem drinking it while watching Tom Brady carve up the Broncos like a Thanksgiving turkey.

I'm intrigued enough by this beer and what info I've found on Crooked Stave to keep my eye on them in the future. For the time being, I will be perfectly content to drink Cali-Belgique or the incomparable Le Freak if I want a hoppy Belgian, but this is a pretty impressive product for a brewery that's not yet a brewery.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Bootleggers Mint Chocolate Porter

Type: porter
Origin: Fullerton, CA
Price: $5.49/22oz
ABV: 6.2%
NSP: 7.3

Sid at BDBS gave us a recommendation for this when we were last there.  I was a bit hesitant since the label looks like one of those who the hell is this type beer you might find at Pier 1, but Sid was right on the mark.

The backbone of this is a solid porter with plenty of roasted, nutty flavors going on.  But the addition of mint takes this to 11, and really accentuates those great porter flavors.  So I'm a pretty big fan of this, but given it's a seasonal I'm not sure how much longer this will be on the shelves.  Otherwise, I'm looking forward to other releases by Bootlegger's Brewery.

And a side note, is that the eagle from the Polish flag???

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Odell Mountain Standard Double Black IPA

Type: Double Black IPA
Origin: Fort Collins, CO
Price: $3.99/12 oz
ABV: 9.5%
NSP: 8.45

I've been looking for this one for a while, as I like the flavor profile of black IPAs, and I've liked Odell since I had my first 90 Shilling way back in the day. Now, I'm not sure what makes this a double black IPA...maybe it just means that it's steeper and has more moguls than a regular black IPA.

This one poured with minimal head, pretty much as you see in the photo. The nose is really interesting, with a floral punch and some deep roasty malt. There's also initially an odd (but not off-putting) soapy scented candle thing, but that fades away fairly quickly. It kind of tastes like weak coffee, but in a good way, with a bit of smoke. It has a surprisingly light body, making it very drinkable. Even though it's an IPA, the hops are just an accent, much stronger on the nose than the flavor.

This is basically a muted version of an imperial porter, kind of like a diluted Victory At Sea. It has a lot of the same flavors (though the coffee is understandably less potent), just reduced across the board, and it's also somehow refreshing (not an adjective I'd use for Victory At Sea). The alcohol is also completely concealed. So this beer ends up as kind of a pleasing puzzle- I'm not sure how they managed to make a 9.5% black IPA refreshing, but they did, and I like it.

My original notes complained about paying $3.99 for a 12-oz. But then I thought that ~$8.50 for a 750 of this would be pretty damn reasonable, particularly at 9.5%. Goes to show what good packaging can accomplish.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Pretty Things Baby Tree

Type: quadrupel
Origin: Somerville, MA
Price: $10/22oz
ABV: 9.0%
NSP: 5.9

Chris came into my office the other day around 5pm and just said "Beagle?"  So obviously we went there.  It didn't turn into a blast-a-thon though, so Brats and I ended up back at my place watching Liam Niesen fuck shit up in Taken, and decided to crack into the "to review" stash.  First up, Baby Tree...
I really enjoyed my last Pretty Things beer Jack D'or, so I was willing to shell out the $$ for this.  No, I've not yet tried The Stoic, but this is one of the best American quadrupel ale's I've ever had, and I think Brat's agreed on the deliciousness.  The flavors are clean, and crisp (more of those cola flavors I love!), the ABV is high, and the bottle design is aesthetically pleasing.   Too bad the brewery is still quite small, so we won't be seeing a drop in price anytime soon.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale

Type: Farmhouse/Saison
Origin: Kansas City, MO
Price: $4.49/750 mL
ABV: 8%
NSP: 13.36 (unscaled)

I was taken in once again by the 750, as with the previous Boulevard Double-Wide. I dig the old-timey label too, it kind of looks like something an Old West snake oil salesman would sell as a cure-all out of the back of a covered wagon. Yeah, I kind of pulled that analogy out of my ass.

The Tank 7 was super frothy, with a fizzy mouthfeel to match. It had a nice light bitterness, with a lot of peppery spice and some light citrus (it may sound like I took that right off Boulevard's website, but that's what I tasted). I drank it while munching on some sweet peppers and it was a delicious complement. It wasn't terribly challenging (but then, it's not supposed to be), just easy drinkin' and refreshing. It would serve as a nice summer beer, as intended, if it wasn't 20 degrees outside- although, if one treated this like one usually does with summer beers (i.e. like a session), one would end up quickly pie-eyed due to the well-hidden 8%.
In short, it's basically a wit, but a bit more hoppy, peppery, and alcohol-y, and a bit less fruity. All around, quite good, and one I'd revisit. Go Avs.

Knee Deep Hoptologist Double IPA

Type: Double IPA
Origin: Lincoln, California
Price: $4.50 per pint at Small Bar (San Diego)

I won't bother with the NSP's on this one since I just wanted to shoot off a quick review. Andy, Brent and I went to Small Bar last night and saw this baby on the board. I have never heard of Knee Deep Brewing before, and considering its 9% ABV and low price, figured I should give it a try. To keep it simple, this is what double IPA's should taste like. The nose on it is incredible, probably the best I have smelled anywhere. It was very floral and citrusy, and probably some other things. Just damn good is all you need to know. The flavors are not as strong as the nose, and it takes on a slightly smoother, subdued floralness. I almost don't want to put this review out because everyone is going to drink this, leaving none for me. After I bought one, the table bought like 8 of these. Gargoyle Brent approves.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Moylan's Moylander Double IPA

Type: double IPA
Origin: Novato, CA (Sonoma Co.)
Price: $4-6/22oz ??
abv: 8.5%
NSP: 9 to 14-ish

Big malt and bitterness with good flavors going on.  Excellent color and head.  Could be a bit stronger abv-wise, and then the finish wouldn't be so bitter. But if you're drinking IIPA for a nice clean finish, you're an idiot. This is good beer and the bottle is pretty amusing too: the beer has apparently won quite a few awards, which seem to have stopped in 2007.  What happened since then?  Either way, looks like we've got another candidate for a second-annual Sonoma Trilogy.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Will Ferrell rules beer commercials.

Either Old Milwaukee has got quite an ad campaign going, or parodying retro beer commercials entertains Will Ferrell in his spare time.  You decide...

On a log.

Hand fishing.

V. Very Amber!!

And the 2012 Superbowl commercial that aired only in Nebraska.

Will Ferrell, we salute you.

Bear Republic Peter Brown Tribute American Brown Ale

Type: Brown Ale
Origin: Cloverdale, California
Price: $4.99 per 22 oz
nsp 9.5

Ah bear how I want to visit you, so so bad. Next trip to SF I'm renting one of those zip cars and doing it. Even though when I get there I will likely not be drinking this beer as I will indulging in various others like Racer, XP, and some...hell I will just be honest, I will indulge in most then get one of my friends to drive me back.

So anyways, this beer for a brown was pretty solid even though the after taste was a little root beery (ligit beer review term right there). Definitely a malty brown ale with few hops, lots of molasses and brown sugar, and little to no head. I'd say get Racer 5 instead, or XP, or...hey I am just not a brown ale guy. and who's this pete guy, I couldn't find any info except he was around from 1949-2002. well RIP Pete.

Boulevard Brewing Double-Wide IPA

Type: IPA
Origin: Kansas City, MO
Price: $4.49/750 mL
ABV: 8.5%
NSP: 14.20 (unscaled)

Back to regularly-scheduled programming after the BeerPlow and the Boulder County Trilogy. I love the juxtaposition of this bottle. High-tone cork and cage and a 750-mL bottle (note to all burgeoning brewers- 750s. Bottle your shit in 750s. It immediately adds an extra level of allure). But then it's called Double-Wide (the bottle says "It's Twister Proof"), which is not a term usually associated with high living, no offense to any of you trailer trash folks.

The beer's got a nice frothy head and a beautiful reddish amber color. The nose is pretty floral to start, but that fades fast. It ends up just vaguely malty, which is kind of disappointing, given that it's an IPA. The flavor's got a heavy malt body with a sort of musty cardboardy accent, sort of like a hyper-malty dubbel but without the candy sweetness. There's a decent bitterness from the hops, but little floral/vegetal flavor. The alcohol is fairly strong on the finish, which is otherwise decently clean. I'm not really sure what to make of this. There's nothing bad or out of whack. But I think I'd refer to the flavors as more muddled than balanced. There's just nothing that's really outstanding. But in the end I also enjoyed it. I guess that's a juxtaposition in its own right.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Rock Bottom Kolsch

Type: Kölsch
Origin: La Jolla, CA (Rock Bottom)
Price: $3.50/20 oz
ABV: 5.1%
NSP: 8.1

This is absolutely delicious, refreshing, and the closest replication of what I remember from Köln.  I think the whole 20cl-glass thing in Köln is neat, but those German's have got it all wrong.  I got through two of these in the time needed for the waiter to bring another round at Früh; so there's no need for small glasses when it's as good as this.

I've never really given Rock Bottom due attention, partly because chain brewery-restaurants usually suck beer dick, but this makes me reconsider.  It seems to me the La Jolla location found themselves a pretty talented brewmaster, and I'm looking forward to seeing what else he has to offer.

And because this has made me a bit sentimental, here is Reissdorf, Paulaner, and Oktoberfest.  Ah, memories!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Boulder County Trilogy #3: Oskar Blues Brewing

On the way from Avery out to Left Hand, we cruised past the monstrous and irreverently named eyesore of Oskar Blues' main brewpub in Longmont, Home Made Liquids and Solids (coincidentally, this is also what Andy calls his bathroom). However, a ways off the beaten path, they have a second tap room, the Tasty Weasel, which was our third and final stop of the Boulder County beer tour.

1800 Pike Rd, Unit B
Longmont, Colorado 80501

303-776-1914 ext. 313

Oskar Blues is sort of the new kid on the block in the Colorado craft brew scene, and also the belle of the ball, it seems. Their beer has been pushed aggressively and received with enthusiastic acclaim since the brewery's inception. I remember wandering around the beer aisle at Liquor Mart in Boulder many years ago and having some random dude walk up to me and say "Hey, man, if you're looking for some beer, I hear this Dale's Pale Ale is awesome," only to walk by him and see that he was wearing an Oskar Blues polo shirt with his name on it. Up to this point, I hadn't spent much time with Oskar Blues' stuff, so here was a good chance to see what all the fuss is about.

The exterior of the Tasty Weasel is impressively nondescript, as the photo above shows (picture it without the Christmas decor- it looks like a boring old warehouse). When you walk in the door, it's immediately obvious that Oskar Blues is not Avery or Left Hand. The Tasty Weasel is basically the dive bar of craft beer taprooms. There's barrels of peanuts, and it's $9 for 7 4-oz pours, only two of which on this day were sub-8% ABV.

The first beer in the flight was Mama's Little Yella Pils. It was clean and easy- I basically shot it, because at this point in the tour a pilsner was essentially just a hydrating mechanism. Next was Dale's Pale Ale, their flagship brew. I thought it was a pretty standard pale- you could have one or eight, and be content either way. Things escalated with the third beer, G'Knight, their imperial red and the first 8%+ taster. I thought this was quite good, nice and floral, and malty but dry. The fourth beer was Gubna, their IIPA. This one stood out so much that I've decided to address it at the end. Fifth was Old Chub, their scotch ale. It's a malt bomb (as it should be), and in a bit of foreshadowing, it's not often that a scotch ale serves as a delicious palate cleanser. My future sister-in-law commented that it smells like Bonnie Bell Tinker Bell lip gloss, and obviously I had to take her at her word. Sixth was Ten Fidy, their Imperial stout. I'd think I'd call this the best-in-show of their regular line (with the G'Knight a close second), and the first one I'd revisit. Last in the flight was a special 50% Ten Fidy/50% Old Chub mix brewed with winter spice. It tasted a bit like they mixed the two beers with the potpourri my mom used to have all over the house during Christmas, and then dissolved a Hot Tamale in it. Not my favorite, but I could see how it would be appealing to some. To top things off, they tapped a cask-conditioned double dry-hopped G'Knight right before we were about to leave, and I couldn't resist. The cask conditioning gave it a silky smooth mouthfeel, and the double dry hopping made it like chewing on a pinecone in a very appealing way. Absolutely delicious.

OK, now back to the Gubna. I partially agree with Andy's review, but I have to go a step further. Frankly, Oskar Blues should be ashamed of this beer. Now, I'll grant that my palate wasn't exactly razor sharp at that point in the day's activities, but beer should never smell and taste like spoiled cheese, regardless of the state of one's palate. It's hard to believe that they're willing to submit this into the IPA market, and it's even more egregious that they charge what they do for it. Hell, the $1.29 for the taster was at least $1.30 too much. It's hard to comprehend that they're capable of crafting a beer as good as the casked G'Knight, but the Gubna is such a resounding clusterfuck. So, while I can appreciate what Oskar Blues brings to the Colorado and US craft brew scenes, and I definitely enjoyed visiting the Tasty Weasel and would go back in a heartbeat, until they improve (or even scrap) the Gubna, the supposed belle of the ball is a two-face.

P.S. I should note that they had Skee-Ball in the Tasty Weasel. While it would have been cooler if you could win the little tickets and trade them in for beer, it's still fun.

P.P.S. Hopefully next year a wider-ranging Colorado tour can be in the cards...Odell, Great Divide, and Breckenridge, maybe?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Boulder County Trilogy #2: Left Hand Brewing

For the second stop, we made our way out to Longmont (which we cleverly called Schlongmont when we were younger) to visit Left Hand Brewing. Left Hand is another local brewery I started in on early- I had my first Sawtooth when I was 21, give or take four or so years.

1265 Boston Avenue
Longmont, Colorado 80501

Left Hand is another place with a ski lodge feel, and like Avery is surprisingly small given the brewery's popularity with locals. Speaking of the locals, one thing I immediately noticed here was that the clientele covered a wide range of ages. The San Diego breweries, and Avery before this, are chock full of mostly younger folks. There were a bunch of older folks at Left Hand, grandparent-aged, hanging out enjoying an afternoon beer or two with friends. I'm not sure why that detail stood out to me or why I enjoyed it, but there it was.

I went to the light end of the scale at Left Hand, starting with a Polestar, their pilsner. It was pretty standard for the style (at least the American version of it), though it was a touch sweet, which gave it a cidery character. Second was their flagship Sawtooth, an ESB. I still love this beer- it kind of tastes like herbal tea, but with the herb being hops. They describe it as a great session beer, and they're right on point with that. Third was the Stranger, an American Pale Ale. It's got a bit of rye in it, which gave it a nice depth, and the hops provide a good balance. I could probably treat this as a session too. And last was their 400-Pound Monkey IPA. Super grassy, which is a nice touch, but the malt sweetness is a bit strong. The grassiness won out in the end, though, which produced a clean finish. It was inevitably going to be tough for this one after this IPAs at Avery.

If I had to sum up Left Hand succinctly, I'd call it well-crafted easy drinking.
They make delicious and approachable beers, which explains their popularity among the full cross-section of ages present in the taproom. While their stuff would probably get lost in the IPA-laden shuffle of San Diego, they've got a nice niche in Colorado and a loyal following that they've maintained for a long time.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Boulder County Trilogy #1: Avery Brewing

Before I moved out to San Diego, which styles itself as the craft beer capital of the world, I lived in Boulder, CO, which styles itself as the craft beer capital of the world. Just a month (apparently equivalent to two days in blog time) after my Thankgsiving BeerPlow in Portland, which styles itself as the craft beer capital of the world, I found myself back in my hometown, and obviously a trip to some of the local breweries was the first activity on the docket. First up: Avery Brewing in Boulder.

5763 Arapahoe Ave. Unit E
Boulder, CO 80303

I've loved Avery for quite some time, ever since I had my first Ellie's Brown Ale when I was sevente...twenty-one. Ellie's was my favorite beer for a long time. My palate has changed, and unfortunately I no longer have a strong taste for it. But thankfully, Avery has evolved too. In my opinion, it has easily surpassed New Belgium as the premiere craft brewery in Colorado. There's lots of competition for top dog, but in my opinion, nobody in the Centennial State has the craft of brewing as well honed as Avery.

For such a successful operation, the taproom is surprisingly small, tucked away behind a car wash in an industrial park in east Boulder. The ambiance is basically like a ski lodge, which is unsurprisingly a common theme in Colorado.

The tasting list includes everything that you can find in the stores, plus a few specialties scattered throughout (unfortunately, on this day, almost all of the specialties were sours, which is far from my favorite style). I started with a Freckles Saison, which is brewed with rosehips, cherries, and orange peel. I don't know what rosehips are supposed to taste like, but I assume something like roses. Anyway, the Freckles was fizzy, fruity, floral, and refreshing, a nice start to a day of beer. Second was a dry-hopped IPA. It smelled like it was dry-hopped with weed, which would have fit in Boulder perfectly. It was pretty much a SD-style IPA, lightly malted and green as hell, and dammit, it was right up there in quality. And last was the Maharaja, their massive Imperial IPA. I hated this stuff when I first had it five or so years ago. I don't know if the formula's changed, but as I said I know at least my palate's changed, and this has become one of my favorites (Matt's too, apparently). Very, very few breweries have managed to solve the supremely difficult malt-hops-alcohol three-body balance problem inherent in an IIPA, but Avery has it nailed.

I could've stayed here all day, especially since they also have top-notch food (they've also honed their french fry craft well), but the order of the day was pacing since we had two more stops to make. A Mile High Salute to you, Avery.

*P.S.: I've generally avoided Avery's Demons of Ale line because I quail at the thought of paying $8+ for a 12-oz beer. However, my brother got a sample of their 2011 Mephistopheles, and it was easily good enough to change my mind. It's 16.43% ABV (it'd almost be more apprpriate to call it 32.86 proof), but they've concealed the alcohol behind dual haymakers of roasted malt and 105+ IBU. Thunderous, well-balanced, and absolutely delicious.

Just a few seconds after we walked in, one of the warehouse guys unfortunately dumped a full forkload of White Rascal in the parking lot. I'm glad it didn't end up being a harbinger for the day.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


While doing a bit of research for an upcoming post, I realized something: I'm so tired of seeing PNTO reviews.  They go like this: The pour... The nose... The taste... Overall... (e.g. this).  And yes, they're rampant on BA, where everyone and their brother is self proclaimed cicerone.  Beer For Lunch hit it out of the park in this post, but I'm talking about the structure of a boring, snobby, formulaic, shitty review.

In the world of beer, is there anything more obnoxious than a PNTO review?  Maybe, but not right now.  Certainly I don't claim we here at the Non Snob firm write fine prose or poetry (certainly this is neither), but I like to think we've done a good job maintaining our connection with this thing called reality.  Shit happens in everyone's life, and beer is usually involved somehow.  So why must a "review" have to proclaim some sort of beer truth, like there's only one way to experience or taste a great (or even shitty!) beer.

But let's say you can evaluate all the components of a PNTO in fine detail (and yes they are important!).  Is the problem then that you're so uninspired that you can't place some context behind your review?  I hope not, because that would make BA a barren wasteland, like the sad ending in Wayne's World (nothing like the Scooby Doo or Super Mega Happy endings).

So, please, if you insist on writing a rigid, boring, uninspired PNTO review, why don't you just GIIIIT OUT.

Ska Pinstripe Red Ale

Type: red ale, ESB-style
Origin: Durango, CO
Price: $1.59/12oz
abv: 5.15
NSP: 11.5

I was a fan of Ska since Decadent, so I'm especially thankful for the recon-man (Chris) bringing me this, even after his Oregon BeerPlow and the Boulder Co. Trilogy (stay tuned).  And, if this was flowing at Shakespeare's I would immediately buy it in place of any English-style ESB or Bass* (but probably not Anvil).

But that ain't gonna happen anytime soon, so I'll be honest: this isn't great.  It's good, and bitter like the style demands, but it's also light bodied enough that I thought I smelled and tasted dishwater at the start.  Of course after a few glugs**, that shifted to "so what, it tastes good now", so that whole tasting-dishwater thing is a moot point.  Talk about a dynamic review!  So my recommendation is to give it a try, if you can find it.

*For a "beer snob" website, this review is surprisingly not snobbish.  I think they need to rebrand their site!

** In college Matt, Eric (not a contributor to this blog), and I used to make cocktails (usually vodka) to pre-game anything.  We would ask "How many glugs?" to each other because that was the sound a 1.75L bottle would make during a pour at full-tilt, and we wanted to make sure they were stiff.  Tastes varied among us, but usually the mix was too strong for anyone else, and usually resulted in a cough/choke/spit on their part.  Good times.