Saturday, March 31, 2012

Logsdon Seizoen Bretta


Type: Saison
Origin: Hood River, OR
Price: $11/750 mL
ABV: 8.0%
NSP: 5.45 (unscaled)
website

The next beer from the folks up at Logsdon. This is the second beer I've reviewed of their three regular releases. The first one, the regular Seizoen, was pretty damn tasty, so it was easy to check out another. This one, as the name implies, was brewed with brettanomyces. It was also apparently bottle-conditioned with pear juice. Interesting.

First off, I have to once again mention what a pain in the ass the beeswax seal makes it to open this bad boy. It's also obvious that these guys like to err on the side of heavy carbonation...the Seizoen was pretty fizzy, and this bottle was a gusher. I hate wasting beer. And even with a very slow pour, the glass ended up with about three inches of meringue-like head (the picture is after I'd let it settle and topped it off). I guess the yeasties in the bottle really liked munching on that pear juice.

Wow, this stuff smells incredible. It's got all of the same features as the Seizoen (spiciness, pepperiness, and a bit of funk), but the brett and the pear juice are big right up front. The flavor...damn, this is just really delicious. The brett isn't so potent as to push this to a sour, which I generally dislike- it just adds a delicious fruity tartness, which I very much enjoy. It's got pretty standard saison body (which is to say it's light and refreshing), but there's boatloads of flavor running around in there. The carbonation once it's in the glass is still a bit elevated, for which I'm thankful because
as with the regular Seizoen it's keeping me from draining the bottle too fast. Same time, though, I'm going to be burping pear juice for the next half hour.

Well, if the Seizoen was good, this is excellent. Of all the saison's I've tried over the past several months, this one's at the top of the list. If anyone has any other brett saisons they'd like to recommend, I'm all ears. I partially look forward to trying Logsdon's Kili Wit...only partially because it's the same price as the other two, but at 5.5% ABV it kind of bottoms out the NSP scale. But it's obvious that Logsdon's got some serious skill, and that's enough for me to give it a whirl.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Casco Bay Brown Ale


Type: Brown Ale
Origin: Portland, ME
Price: $9/6-pack
ABV: 5.4%
NSP: 12.78 (unscaled)
website...nonexistent, and there's no info on the Maine Brewers' Guild site.

I've had this one from the craft beer club in my fridge for ages now. I just couldn't bring myself to drink it. I'm in the mood for brown ale even less frequently than I'm in the mood for a stout. So I'm not too excited about this.

It looks just like Coke in the glass, and it smells like a brown ale, basically like a watered-down run-of-the-mill porter- all roasty malt and basically nonexistent hop aromas. Man, I'm being all negative and I haven't even taken a sip yet. It has typical brown ale flavors, similar to what you'd expect from a porter, but there are some welcome surprises. First, while it's pretty flavor-rich, it's fairly dry so it's not overly weighty. And it's got a pleasant spiciness similar to rye beers, plus an interesting tartness, I presume from a respectable-for-a-brown-ale hop load (32 IBU). But in the end, it's still a brown ale, and it's just not what I'm after when I'm in a beery mood.

It's unfortunate that the only two beers I've been able to have from Casco Bay are of styles that I don't really like. I feel like I've given them kind of a bad rap. They may well have something interesting going on up in Maine, and I can definitely see how someone could appreciate both this and the Riptide. But I'm just not that someone.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Granite City Duke of Wellington Pale Ale


Type: Pale Ale
Origin: Monroe, WI
Price: $9/6-pack
ABV: 5.2%
NSP: 12.31 (unscaled)
website

The first craft beer club offering from the land of cheese. I'm glad they didn't just say fuck it and throw MGD in there.

The label says this is a pale ale, but all of the info I can find on it (including the official site) says it's an IPA. I can't find any good reason why they named this after Field Marshal Wellesley, but he was a complete badass, and if dropping line infantry knowledge all over Napoleon's hindparts doesn't get a beer named after you nothing will. Unfortunately, however, his presence undoubtedly means if this beer is indeed an IPA, it's an English IPA. Oh well, let's see what we've got.

I certainly can't tell that it's an IPA by the nose. It's malty as hell and there's barely any hop scent in there other than maybe a light wisp of lemon, nothing floral to speak of. The hops are definitely there when you taste it, but the malt is much more powerful. It's interesting...the hops don't seem to provide much in the way of piny flavor, just some bitterness and a kind of sour acidity. It's not citrusy acidity, though, like some of the west coast IPAs, because that usually brings some flavor along with it, like lemon or grapefruit or whatever. It's more like someone tossed a couple of drops of white vinegar in there when I wasn't looking. I'm not sure that I really like that, but at least it cuts the malt down and keeps the body from being overly heavy. The acid thing stays all the way through to the end, even after the malt and bitterness have faded.

This beer is kind of weird. The malt is definitely all English IPA. But the sourness from the hops is...just odd. It's a strange combination, and it makes it feel like the beer's having an identity crisis. I'll give it credit- it's unique in my experience. But that doesn't mean I'm going to buy it.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Knee Deep Hoptologist (Part 2: sans Brent Gargoyles)

type: double IPA
origin: Lincoln, CA
price: $8/22oz at BDBS
ABV: 9%
NSP: 7.3
website

Brats already praised this pretty highly in his Brent Gargoyle approved post.  Even though I fully agree with his assessment, I figured the beer deserved a proper picture, if only so people may understand how excellent the graphic designers at Knee Deep are.  Crazy-eyed Mad Hop-cone Scientist at work!!!!  This is simple and fantastic and, to echo Brats, what a double IPA should taste like.  It's shockingly smooth and hoppy (bitter to disguise 9% and floral for pleasant aromas).  So it should be no surprise that Brats is up for the next episode of hoarders: I NEED all these Hoptologists!!!!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Lancaster Brewing Amish Four Grain Pale Ale


Type: Pale Ale
Origin: Lancaster, PA
Price: $9/6-pack
ABV: 5.3%
NSP: 12.54 (unscaled)
website

I really need to work on my photo lighting.

Let's see how Lancaster Brewing does with the calibration beer. Apparently this one's made with barley, rye, oats, and wheat, hence Four Grain. I have no idea what makes this Amish, other than the fact that the brewery's right in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country.

I suppose the color of this is from the rye...definitely a lot darker than most pale ales I've seen. The nose is interesting, mainly because it's barely there. By far the lightest nose of any beer I've yet reviewed. It smells like beer (in case you missed it, that's a compliment from me when it comes to pale ale), just less so, if that makes sense. A little bit of malt with a slight hop twist, but it's so delicate that it's hard to discern anything beyond that. The flavor, though, changes the story a little bit. It's still very light and delicate, but it at least has a good amount of flavor. Light malt with just a touch of bitterness, in nearly perfect balance. And the finish is amazingly clean- pretty much all of the flavor is gone within 5 seconds.

This beer is actually pretty amazing. It's incredibly simple, but it's got great flavor, and the balance and finish are outstanding. You know those Michelob Ultra or whatever the fuck ads that show people going for a run and drinking beer afterwards like it's supposed to be hydrating like Gatorade? This is a beer that I could actually see being used that way, it's so refreshing and clean. If I could get this in San Diego, I'd be all over it, and then I'd session the hell out of it.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Mammoth Hair of the Bear

type: dopplebock
origin: Mammoth Lakes, CA
price: 7/22oz (??)
ABV: 9%
NSP: ~8 (guess)
website

I helped out Dr Molar with his board exam by agreeing to be a patient.  But because he pulled me away from our St. Patty's day party I forced him to watch Dante's Peak (classic @ 1:40) and drink all his beer.  Oh wait, it was the other way around.  Unfortunately, Dr Molar's idea of good beer tastes like fermenting mouthwash*, but fortunately he has friends who know better and gave him this to try...

What a fantastic dopplebock from Mammoth Brewing!  Normally this style can be oppressive because they're usually too malty and too big for their own britches, being a lager and what-not, but this is spot on.  It's dry and light-to-medium bodied with a nice grain/cereal kick at the top, which makes for a nice adult beverage; and, at 9% it makes for a romper of a beer and it'll getcha druunk.  I can see this would be a perfect cap to a day shredding slopes in blue-jeans, Texas style (or Chris style, if you will).

And finally, my congrats to Dr Molar, soon to be DDS.  Keep up the Listerine homebrewing.

* Actually that's not true, and he's a big fan of The Abyss, and becoming a mature beer drinker.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Casco Bay Riptide Red Ale


Type: Red Ale
Origin: Portland, ME
Price: $9/6-pack
ABV: 5.4%
NSP: 12.78 (unscaled)
website...couldn't find an official Casco Bay site, but the Maine Brewers' Guild site seems to have all of the pertinent info.

In all honesty, I'm probably not the best guy to review a red ale, because there's just not that much in the style to entice me. In fact, it's sort of the opposite of what I'm usually after in a beer. A lot of them resemble a weak English IPA, which is not my bag. Malt-bomb IPA, minus hop punch and alcohol? No thanks. But so far I have good reason to trust the craft beer club, so here goes.

The head on this one is interesting enough to note- it's composed of very tiny bubbles and sticks to the glass, just like a nitro stout, which is sort of odd. The nose is pretty malty and sweet, with just a touch of hoppiness. On the flavor, the hops are in the room, but stuck in the corner where they don't provide much other than decoration. It's pretty malty, and there's a little bit of the dishwater flavor Andy mentioned with Ska's Pinstripe. Don't take that to mean that I've ever actually consumed dishwater (I can't speak for Andy...I'd say it's a toss-up for him), it just makes me think of what I'd imagine dishwater tastes like. Anyway, the sweetness is decently reserved, but the the malt is strong enough to make it feel just a touch heavy-bodied, enough that I wouldn't really compared to a session (like the others did with Odell and Golden City).

It was going to be tough for me to like this one. But, even if it's sort of a back-handed compliment, I guess I don't mind drinking the Riptide as much as I mind generally drinking red ales. Whatever that means. If you like red ales, go ahead and give it a whirl.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Hangar 24 Brewery


Hangar 24
1710 Sessums Drive 
Redlands, CA 92374 
Tel: 909.389.1400


So I decided I'm never going to waste another trip to the Redlands area again.  By waste I mean not add Hangar 24 to the itinerary.  For a while now this brewery has been pumping out some fine brews  (e.g. Columbus) and I hear just recently upgraded their space (and is planning further expansion).  It's still literally across the street from some airplane hangars (the 24th one maybe?) and the scene is tranquil and serene, even with the late 90's power-jams playing.  The scenery ain't too bad neither.  After all, the San Bernadino mountains are quite spectacular, even if the same tectonic forces that created them are also the same ones that might cause a great earthquake here.

The brewery has the feeling of a young brewery that's just itching to explode.  But as I noted watching the man who rather slowly filled boxes with 12oz bottles of their Amarillo pale ale, the operation is still very craft/micro and seems to need some more space, or capacity, or whatever (although it's not nearly as bad as at Alpine in San Diego).  

The selection is fun and diverse enough, the growlers are the awesome kind (not the shitty and annoying Stone type), but my favorite aspect was the half-pint option.  OK, before you shout at me consider this: I wanted to try quite a few of their beers but couldn't get blasted, and I'm usually not content with 2oz tastings.  So I got a good sense of five beers or so, in less than three full-size pints.  Brilliant.


Now back to geology.  First, let's cut out the vagaries:  If you good-beer making folk at Hangar 24 aren't already aware, you're camping out nearly on-top of the most hazardous section of the great San Andreas fault, whose time is especially near.  You're brewing beer at approximately 3 - 5 miles from the nearest part of a fault that ruptures in a great earthquake every 250 years - and it's been nearly 300 since the last one.  This means that when the fault gives way, you're in for a very bumpy ride.  Those seismic waves will shake harder than a juicy fart out of dirty hog's ass.  So I hope you've strapped those lovely mash-tuns and fermenters down well.  Real well.

A portion of the USGS Redland 7.5' quadrange map, which I modified to show Hangar 24 in proximity to the San Andreas Fault (SAF).
Jokes aside, if you need more information about the very real possibility of a large earthquake on the San Andreas, consult SCEC's ShakeOut page.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lancaster Brewing Milk Stout


Type: Stout
Origin: Lancaster, PA
Price: $9/6-pack
ABV: 5.3%
NSP: 12.54 (unscaled)
website

Next one from the craft beer club. It's not often that I'm in the mood for a stout, which is why this one's my inaugural stout review. On this particular evening, I'm not sure that I'd say that I was in the mood for a stout, but I wasn't not in the mood for a stout, and I guess that's close enough.

First off, this the first milk stout I've ever had (the only one I've ever really been aware of is Left Hand's, but I've never tried it), and I had to make sure I knew why it differed from a regular stout. Apparently, instead of being loaded with dextrose or maltose or some other sugar brewer's yeast can take to pound town, it's got a bunch of unfermentable lactose in it (hence 'milk'), so it runs towards the sweet end. And it also means that if you're lactose intolerant, milk stouts may make you piss right out of your ass. Though if you're LI and dumb enough to drink something called milk stout, you've pretty well earned what you get.

As you can see from the picture, this is darker'n a black steer's tookus on a moonless prairie night. It smells pretty delicious, with a nice dark roastiness and coffee. It gives the impression that it's going to be pretty rich, but once you take a sip it's surprisingly light. The milk sweetness is pretty potent right up front, and is pretty tasty because it's not at all cloying. It transitions quickly to a bit of sourness...at first I thought it was kind of gross ('sour' and 'milk' combined is rarely a good thing), but it grew on me as I kept drinking it. And you know what was there at the very tail end of the finish? Walnuts. What's that all about?

This beer was in a unique position- being my first milk stout, it had the potential to push me towards trying more of them, or making me swear off of them forever. Now, I'm not going to rush out and start hoarding milk stouts, particularly as it's starting to warm up here, but damn if I didn't enjoy this one. So I guess the craft beer club comes up aces again.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Alchemist: Heady topper


Type: IPA
Origin: NH, US
ABV: 8%
Price: $5, ahem... per 22oz can.
website


I have a lot in common with this brewery: when you move to a new place, bad things happen, and good things happen. I moved a couple of blocks across town in the snow, into a place where I don't really feel at home. OK, cry me a river right? This brewery moved into a new place after getting clobbered to smithereens by hurricane irene, and now they're bigger and better than ever. Clearly I have something to learn from these guys.


For starters, they make this kickass IPA. Anyone who's followed my east coast correspondency will know that I've raised my nose and strutted away from many an east coast IPA (aka malt bomb), but this beer is something else. It has a thunderous piney hop zing which I've previously only run across in San Diego at Alpine. Also, to top it off: this shit comes in a can bitches!


That's right, when you're done drinking this fine brew, you can plunk away at the container with your sidearm to your heart's delight. But if you live in MA, you had better get friendly with your local sheriff before going to buy the plunker; there are serious gun laws here. Serious, I'm not lieing. That's OK though, drink a couple of these, and at 8% you won't be able to shoot straight anyway! Muahaha. Muahahah. Mooooahahaha.


Sometime soon I'll festoon you monkeys with more tales of the east coast breweries, shenanniganery, diplomatic visits, and more, but not now. Between trying to make flying motorcycles, trying to save the US nuclear fusion program (I will buy you a beer if you email your representatives), and moving my two crates of ass across town, I seriously should join my new neighbors down the way at the baddest ass bar in Cambridge.


Staggeringly,
soy alejandro

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA


Type: Rye IPA
Origin: Chico, CA
Price: $7.99/6-pack
ABV: 6.6
NSP: 17.62 (unscaled)
website

That's a hell of an NSP. Giddyup. Out of curiosity, what's the highest NSP (non-shitty-beer category) we've reviewed so far?

Sierra Nevada kind of gets a bum rap around here sometimes, in that it seems like their reputation outside of California far surpasses it inside California. It's up in Chico, on the outskirts of the major NorCal craft brew region, and it sort of feels like it's just that- on the outskirts. It seems like the only time anyone ever drinks SN here is at a party when somebody else bought it, or when you bought it for a party and you have some left over. But on the flip side- nobody ever complains about drinking SN (particularly Torpedo). Quite the conundrum. So it came to be that every time I'd gone to buy beer in the past couple of months, I'd seen the Ruthless Rye and thoughtlessly passed right by it. But I kept reading about how good it is, and I figured at $7.99, what the hell am I waiting for? So far I haven't had a beer brewed with rye that I didn't like, from Hop Rod to Nelson to Avery's Eighteen (which I'll review soon to try and make up for Andy's disastrous POS). And this...well, it's no slouch.

The nose lets you know right up front that there's rye in the house, because it smells like pepper. Both black and dried chile, which is kind of cool. The hops aren't nearly as potent as I would've expected, given that this is a California IPA. But the hops definitely muscle their way in when you taste it, while the rye spice hangs around all the way to the end. It finishes incredibly cleanly because the body is really light, and it ends up pretty refreshing.

I have to say that this beer made me think. Because the flavors have a lot in common with the English IPA style that I rip on so frequently (including the TBA that I just reviewed), so I had to figure out why I liked this and not those. The rye spiciness, and the fact that the rye enhances the flavor but not the body (the latter being the real key), is what sets this apart. So even though it has a fair amount of malt flavors, it's still a California IPA at heart. I'll have to do a head-to-head with Nelson, just for shits and giggles. That's a tough spot for the Ruthless, kind of a 5 vs. 12, but upsets happen.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Bootleggers Palomino

type: American pale ale
origin: Fullerton, CA
price: $4.35/22 at Bottlecraft
ABV: 5.5%
NSP: 8.2
website

To beat XP a pale ale needs to be phenomenal.  So I wanted to see how well this held up, given how much I enjoyed Bootlegger's Mint Chocolate Porter.  This is light bodied, but sufficiently flavorful.  Nice, sweet, and floral aromas are well balanced by the hopping.  Summary: crisp and refreshing.  But, versus XP there's no contest in the complexity department, although it seems to me the beer is just as refreshing.  And that's one trait any great pale ale should have.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Bear Republic/Fat Head's/Stone Collaboration: TBA Brown Ale


Type: American Brown Ale
Origin: San Diego, CA (made at Stone)
Price: $2.99/12 oz
ABV: 7.1%
NSP: 8.43 (unscaled)
website

Here comes another collaboration beer from Stone. While we frequently rip on them in this space for being snobby, I'll give them credit for putting in the effort to partner with other brewers around the country to make a bunch of good beer.

At this point, you could slap the name Bear Republic (Healdsburg, CA) on a bag of moldy ferret shit and I'd consider buying it. Stone's (San Diego) reputation is, of course, well known. I admit I don't know anything about Fat Head's (Cleveland, OH) other than the fact that they share a name with those big-ass cardboard cutout things high school kids put on their walls to show how much they love BronBron or Pujols. Too bad if you bought a Pujols one last year, now you have to get a new one.

The bottle says this is a Texas Brown Ale (hence TBA) brewed with brown sugar and molasses. I decided to look up Texas Brown Ale, to see if it was a legit style or something somebody just pulled out of their ass, and I found this (and, later on, this), which makes it sound like a bit of both. I originally called it a brown IPA, because it smells like a brown ale and an IPA did a bunch of sake bombs and went back to IPA's hotel room, and nine months later brown ale fired this little bastard out. But when I taste it, it's not really that at all...and I had forgotten that they already did a brown IPA. The brown ale flavors are there (though they're heavily dominated by pinecone IPA flavors), but there's very little of the sugary sweetness of most brown ales, just a touch on the end. And it finishes pretty cleanly, also not a feature of most brown ales.
The molasses and brown sugar are noticeable, but also sort of an afterthought, it seems, because the hops just stomp around and bellow.

I'm not sure what to make of this. I mean, there's a lot of really nice, complex flavors in it. And I also dig that they pulled a relatively obscure style out of the attic. But it also doesn't seem like much of a stretch for Stone (as opposed to La Citrueille and the Green Tea IPA), in that it doesn't seem like that much of a departure from the Bastard series. And it's a little bit too close to an English/East Coast IPA for me to start trumpeting about how good it is. But it was also gone by the time I finished writing this review, so I obviously didn't mind it too much. Whatever. Keep rolling the collabs out, Stone, and we'll keep drinking.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Knee Deep IPA

type: IPA
origin: Lincoln, CA
price: $6.99/22 at BDBS
ABV: 7.5%
NSP: 6.9
website

Brats and I charged through this directly after drinking a Hoptologist, which apparently Brats is hoarding (there are at least seven 22s in his fridge).  But it turns out even after such a massive IPA like the Hoptologist, this is still clearly a delicious IPA, but a bit of a hop bomb.  It seems like they kept the same level of hopping as used in the IIPA, but that's not to say it fails the test here.  I actually think it's fairly representative of the Socal/westcoast IPA, and a delight to drink.  Later in the evening, at Small Bar, we got to try their triple IPA, which also blew us away.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale


Type: Double IPA
Origin: Petaluma, CA
Price: $10.59/6-pack
ABV: 7.85%
NSP: 15.79 (unscaled)
website...just for Lagunitas, a specific Sucks site doesn't seem to exist.

What's the first thing you think of when you see "Holiday Ale" on a beer bottle? Winter warmer or brown ale, right? Me too. Not Lagunitas. Lagunitas usually makes Brown Shugga, an almost-barleywine strong ale, as one of their winter seasonals. But this year they were forced to skip it because a tun that was on a cargo ship on the way to their new brewhouse got shredded during a hurricane. Hence the opening of the new brewhouse was delayed, and yada yada yada, no Brown Shugga. Instead, they made this one-off mea culpa beer. And, in true West Coast style, why make a boring old winter warmer when you can make a thumper of an IPA?

When I stick my nose in the glass (and for this one, I buried it almost to the point of snorting the beer because it smells so good), I get a nice rich caramel, almost butterscotchy scent (seems to be a common thread over the past couple of weeks) combined with a good citrusy West Coast hop punch. In this case, the caramel unexpectedly prevails. But the script be flipped with the flavor- the caramel richness steps back a bit and the DIPAness comes through, though it's not Green Flash DIPAness. It's in no way palate-wrecking- it's actually really approachable.

I'm just going to say it straight out- I love this fucking beer. I don't quite know exactly why though. There's a lot of complex things going on with it. Maybe it's that they've given it this delicious caramelly richness but left most of the sugary sweetness behind, and in doing so, they've managed to not only balance the hefty hop load out really well but also keep it decently light in body. It's unique in my experience (how often is something rich but also light?), and I'm having a bit of trouble figuring it out.
This goes to show how good the folks at Lagunitas are- they can toss this together short-notice and make an IPA that's better than the stuff 95% of the other breweries in the world can manage full-time. And so, Lagunitas, I agree- you suck. But that's only if this is a true one-off and we never see it again.

As a postscript, know what I don't quite understand? The Little Sumpin' Sumpin' has 64 IBUs, and has only "a hint of citrusy bitterness" [Sambo, Non. Beer Rev., 2011]. But here's the Sucks sitting at 65 IBUs, and it's quite hoppy (though less than I would've thought for a DIPA). It's sort of the same thing as Big Eye and Sculpin- Big Eye is at 85 IBUs, Sculpin at 70, and yet somehow Sculpin seems more bitter. Whatever, I'm sure Samer will swagger in here and give a seminar on alphas and betas and having a micropenis.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Diamond Bear Paradise Porter


Type: Porter
Origin: Little Rock, AR
Price: $9/6-pack (craft beer club)
ABV: 4.99%
NSP: 11.81 (unscaled)
website

Back to Diamond Bear, home of beer-flavored beer. I'll say it right up front- I'm not a porter guy. The only one I've found that I really like is Victory At Sea, and that shit is imperial as hell and ridiculous. Somehow I doubt that this is either. But that's not necessarily a weakness, just a difference in approach- i.e. this isn't supposed to be ridiculous.

Well, it sure does look like porter. I'll give it credit without even having taken a sip yet- it smells delicious, dark malt and coffee and chocolate and such, all hallmarks of a worthwhile porter (and nothing that smells like dirty ditch water, the hallmark of a bad porter). There's also a very light hop aroma floating around, so kudos for keeping that from getting lost in the shuffle. The flavor's got quite of bit of that chocolate and coffee, with a nice rich bitterness, kind of like biting into a piece of really dark chocolate. But the body's fairly light, and in the end everything is very well-balanced.

I'll say it right up back (opposite of right up front)- I'm not a porter guy. But, shit, I'll also say that Diamond Bear's got a damn good one here. I'm never going to reach for a porter when I'm in a beer-drankin' mood. But if I was in a porter-drankin' mood, and Diamond Bear was generally available in San Diego, I'd sure as hell reach for this one. So, between this and the pale ale, Diamond Bear's got some good stuff going. Hat's off, folks.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Logsdon Seizoen


Type: Saison
Origin: Hood River, OR
Price: $11/750 mL
ABV: 7.5%
NSP: 5.11 (unscaled)
website

Lots of saisons 'round here these days. Grabbed this one at Bottlecraft last week. It's from a brand-spankin' new brewery that as of this post has just four beers available, three farmhouse-style (one of them a limited batch) and one witbier. Despite this being Non-Snob, everything about this beer screams snobby. Certified organic ingredients. Calling it a Seizoen (the Dutch form of saison). The beeswax seal, which makes the top kind of a pain in the ass to remove because the opener has trouble gripping anything. But whatever, Lightning's pretty snobby too but they make good shit so it's OK.

The Seizoen smells, well, saison-y, lemony and peppery and a little bit funky. The flavor repeats everything the nose says. It has an incredibly light body (this is definitely not Electrostatic)- I mean really light, like Budweiser light- which makes it ridiculously easy drankin'. Thankfully, the flavors (particularly the pilsnery skunk) are potent enough, and backed by a slight over-carbonation, to keep me from shotgunning $11 worth of beer in six minutes.

I wish I hadn't had about 25 different beers between this and Foret, because just like I said for Foret vs. Saison Dupont I'd like to do a head to head for comparison's sake. But even with without that, I think I'll check out Logsdon's other beers. Hell, there's only four of them, it won't take very long.

Oh, and as a postscript- this got a little rough as it warmed up (I was writing the review instead of drinking, so it sat in the glass for a bit). The skunk amplifies as it warms and becomes a bit overpowering. My fault, not the beer's. But definitely make sure this is nice and cold when you try it.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

To Øl Snowball Saison


Type: Saison
Origin: Copenhagen, Denmark (contracted to Belgium)
Price: $10.97 per 750 mL
ABV: 8%
Website
NSP: 5.47

I saw this at BevMo! and they noted that this is a new brewery from the guys from Mikkeller to do some experimental brews. Considering how delicious Mikkeller is, and the absolute boring selection of the day, this one was a no brainer to pick up.

The saison category has to be one of my favorite categories. They have a light crispness to them while also having great sweet flavors and a nice abv. This one is no different. The hops on this actually come out fairly easily, which you usually don't see much in saisons. It is superbly enjoyable, and if it was a little cheaper, would probably be in my fridge at all times. The description on their website is also fantastic, and I agree with every word of it:

"Enough heavy dark obnoxious sweet super malty x-mas and winter beers. When you eat heavy duck with fat gravy, the last thing you want is another heavy sweet malt liqour!
NO! you want something that can help you sink the dinner, ease you stommach and cleance your throat. And that is exactly what Snowball Saison will do. It is a SUPER sparkling crisp and dry Saison that has been after fermented with milk acid bacterias and dry hopped over and over to give the beer a crisp and smooth tart finish (not to mention.... there is a lot of hops of course...)
Have a nice winter!"

Side note: the perfect food pairing, pretzel m&ms.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Epic Brewing Hopulent IPA


Type: IPA
Origin: Salt Lake City, UT
Price: $5.99/22 oz
ABV: 8.7%
NSP: 9.44 (unscaled)
website

Grabbed this one while I was in Colorado a while back and decided this was the night to crack into it. It's part of Epic's Elevation Series. Each release of each of the four Elevation beers is completely unique- which is why the website provides a summary of 36 (as of today) individual Hopulent releases. That's pretty impressive attention to detail. I suppose if you were really on the ball you could have a hell of a vertical tasting on your hands.

The Hopulent in question here is part of release #24. My first impression is that I have another not-my-favorite malty IPA on my hands, but I will dutifully try not to presume too much. This one smells very caramelly, similar to the SweetWater 420, though with a lot more citrus. And the malt part of the flavor is mostly caramel as well, but the hops just stampede right over top of it. The malt leaves just enough sweetness and body to provide a counterpoint the powerful hopulence (I think I like that term, and I hope Epic doesn't take umbrage if I use it in the future), and in the end- it's pretty damn good. It's not West Coast, it's not East Coast, it sort of treads a line right down the middle (a flyover IPA?). Between this and the Squatters' Hop Rising, Utah's got some interesting IPA action happening. Whoda thunk it?

Monday, March 5, 2012

SweetWater 420 Extra Pale Ale


Type: Pale Ale
Origin: Atlanta, GA
Price: $9/6-pack (craft beer club)
ABV: 5.4%
NSP: 12.78 (unscaled)
website

Got another SweetWater from the beer club. This one clearly identifies the folks at SweetWater as stoners, because they wouldn't so proudly call it 420 otherwise. The bottle says it was conceived on 4/20, and that's great, but they don't name any of their other beers by their conception dates. Buncha hippies. The bottle also says "Drink 'Em If You Got 'Em!" Much better than the "Beer You've Been Training For" BS on the IPA bottle.

They call this a West Coast-style pale ale. I guess at first glance, the immediate comparison that would come to mind is Bear Republic's XP- more because they both claim to have something extra relative to a regular pale ale than anything else. I admit I haven't had XP yet, so I can't compare them directly. But I can't imagine that XP smells like the 420. The 420 smells exactly like Kraft caramels- you know, the ones you use to make caramel apples when you're a kid. I'm not sure whether I should be put off (because it makes it smell like something other than beer) or allured (because I absolutely love those caramels) by that.

What I can directly compare this to is Sierra Nevada's pale ale, of which I had 6 or 7 on a camping trip last weekend. If SN's is a typical West Coast pale ale, and I think most folks around here would agree that it is, then the 420 is not really a West Coast style pale ale. That's not to say that the 420 is bad, though. It's got a lot of rich flavor, including more of the caramelly sweetness, and a decent hop bitterness. But to me it's exactly the richness that prevents it from being truly West Coast- pale ales around here tend to be crisp and clean. It's sort of like the difference between a Honeycrisp and a Granny Smith.

I guess this review sort of went on digression about whether or not they falsely advertised the 420 on the bottle, which probably isn't where it should've gone because in the end it doesn't really matter all that much. More to the point- I like this beer. It definitely helps that I like caramel, and despite the richness the hops are just potent enough to prevent it from going on sweetness overload. So I'm glad I've got two more of these in the beer club box.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Sebago Frye's Leap IPA


Type: IPA
Origin: Gorham, ME
Price: $9/6-pack (beer club)
ABV: 6.2%
NSP: 14.67 (unscaled)
website

Another beer club offering from the folks at Sebago. Per the website, this one's named for a popular cliffjumping spot near the brewery. I wondered why the label showed some dude falling off a huge rock. I should've guessed by the swim trunks he's wearing that he did it intentionally.

Anyway, when I opened this I was heartened by a pretty powerful waft of hops that shoved its way out of the bottle. It's not quite as strong once it's in the glass. Actually, it's almost completely gone, replaced mostly by a musty malt smell. Uh oh, do I have another malt-bomb IPA on my hands? Indeed I do.

This actually tastes like a scaled-down version of the Lompoc C-Note IPA that ended the BeerPlow. It's really malty but very dry, again almost to the point of saltiness. The hop flavors aren't super complex, but they're not one-note bitterness either; there's a little bit of citrus flailing around in there, but the malt's too strong to let it be much more than an afterthought. I'm impressed that the hops hang around as long as they do against the malt- they actually prevail, as they should in an IPA. I don't know that I'd buy this, but at least it doesn't suck completely.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Bruery Saison de Lente

Type: Saison/Farmhouse
Origin: Placentia, California
Price: $8.95/750mL at Bottlecraft
ABV: 6.5%
NSP: 5.4
website

Does it seem odd that according to the Bruery this should be your beer of choice for a post-fast gorge?  Not that I care much about arcane religious practice, but isn't Lent about Jesus' blood and being guilt-tripped?   It seems like a mean imperial stout would be much better suited for that kind of pious shit.  OH WAIT, nobody in the secular world gives a flying crap - we only want to eat chocolate with a bunny.  But as Mrs. Veal might say,  I want to please you secularly, so here it is:

As a saison I think it's missing something.  It is light bodied, spicy and acidic, and marginally hoppy,  which are qualities that surely make for easy drinking beer; but, I can't escape the metallic bitterness taste in the background.  Those aren't quite the banger-in-the-mouth type flavors you'd normally want, so I think I'll pass next time.  Although, the thought of cellaring this (as the bottle suggests) sounds mildly intriguing.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

SweetWater IPA


Type: IPA
Origin: Atlanta, GA
Price: $9/6-pack (craft beer club)
ABV: 6.3%
NSP: 14.91 (unscaled)
website

I've heard of SweetWater on a number of occasions, but of course here in San Diego their beers aren't easy to find. Sources (i.e. Brendan) tell me that Atlanta Brewing Company is better, but I don't have any of their stuff yet, I have this one.

The bottle says 'Don't Float The Mainstream'. Why do so many craft breweries have such a big anti-establishment mentality? It's like they think Che Guevara or Lenin is working in the brewhouse. I suppose it's intended to be a counter to the everyman approach of the macrobreweries (i.e. anyone with ads voiced by Sam Elliott or featuring massive horses). So we've got rebellion, and we've got status quo- so why not apathy? I'd like to see a brewery use a slogan like 'Beer, Because Why Not?' or 'We Make Beer That We Think Is Pretty Good, And If You Don't Like It, That's Cool, You're Entitled To Your Opinion!'

Anyway, back to the task at hand. The website and bottle also claim, 'This is the beer you've been training for'. I'm, um, skeptical. It also says this beer was named 'Best IPA in the Country'- by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I love me some home cookin'. The beer looks pretty malty on sight, and it lacks the oily, sticky-looking head that I usually associate with IPA. The nose isn't really malty at all, though- it's more sweet, with a good thump of hop bitterness. It's also got a slight ammonia note that's a little odd, though that fades as it sits in the glass (thankfully, because it made me recoil a little bit initially). The flavor also has nice hop bitterness, but the malt has moved towards the sweet end, and if you've been following the drivel I've been spewing out for the past month or so, that's not really my favorite thing. However, the sweetness isn't cloying, and in the end, the hops win the war.

In the end, I don't mind this too much. I'm glad the malt plays second fiddle, and it's got a pretty hefty hop load, which shows me that SweetWater is taking hops seriously as a lead actor and not just part of the supporting cast. If I lived somewhere in the South and didn't have easy access to Racer 5 and Big Eye, I'd probably consider putting this into my beer rotation. But, alas, that's not the case, so I guess I'll have to just keep drinking those two. Life is tough.