Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Alchemist Heady Topper

type: double IPA
origin: Waterbury, VT
price: $12/4x16oz
ABV: 8%
NSP: 9.5

Oh man, I'm smitten.  This is now on my list of top three double IPAs ever, along with The Elder and The Hoptologist.

We visited The Alchemist recently and I freaked out after trying Heady (for the first time ever).  So much so that I bought a whole case of 24, just because it's so damn good and who knows when I'll get it next.  And now I realize why Alex put that horrendous picture of himself on his review: Everyone who sees it will be too creeped out to try the beer, leaving more for him!  What a dick.

This is a simple, yet perfectly crafted double IPA.  It's so wonderfully hoppy and also perfectly bitter for the amount of booze (8%).  After a full can you get that nice boozy edge where if you go further you're drunk, but if you back off you'll have a nice relaxing hour.

Pure beauty.
Alex is certainly spot on when he says the only time you get the same hop blast from a San Diego beer is from Alpine.  When this warms a bit that doesn't go away either, and then you taste a faint bit of smoke.  Chris tasted a bit of apricot too.  I also love that this tastes wonderful out of a can, and they rightfully demand that you do so.

I'm very impressed, as might be obvious.  So, Alex, in exchange for your devious photo, I offer you this:
Don Carlos and Don Double IPA.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Alchemist Brewery/Cannery

How do I stay so fit, yet drink so much beer?!?!
35 Crossroad
Waterbury, VT 05676
(802) 244-7744

Since Hurricane Irene did her damage some time back, the Alchemist has focused on making only one beer, perfectly: Heady Topper, a double IPA.

Recently I reviewed the Stone/Alchemist/Nikasai collaboration, but I had never tasted Heady and thus didn't understand the magnitude or necessity of such a philanthropic gesture.  But thank the good beer-lord this place still exists; otherwise, no Heady Topper, and no reason to be in Waterbury.

Unfortunately, the tasting room is not too impressive, especially when all you get to taste is one beer and the "self guided tour" is about as long as walking down the hall to take a piss.  But Heady is good, damn good.  So if you're in town, or on your way to ski in Stowe, you MUST stop here and buy as much as your wallet can afford.  If you don't and I find out, I'll kill you.

Heady, and her lovely fermenters.
OK, maybe not, but maybe this clown will:

Dentistry is much better with a clown, right?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Brooklyn Brewery Summer Ale

type: summer ale
origin: Brooklyn, NY
price: $7/12oz on JetBlue
ABV: 5%
NSP: 2.5 (ouch)

I was so damn proud to be the first to do an airplane beer review.  The first was 21st Amendment's Brew Free or Die, which was a nice treat.  So here I found myself travelling across the country on JetBlue (which was awesome, and no captain freaked out so life was good).

I haven't had much from Brooklyn Brewing because we simply can't buy it over here (apparently this is the first post even mentioning them on the site), which is odd given how big they as an East coast brewer -- maybe not as big as Boston Beer Co, but it seems like they are trying to get there.  The brewmaster, Garrett Oliver, even co-edited the Oxford Companion to Beer (which fucking rules).  Regardless, I'm happy to see unique beers on flights these days.  And although I would never pay this much for it in a bar, I'll definitely choose it over a MGD or Heineken at the same price.

Look how beautiful that looks.  If I was Sambo, I would say something like "it just feels like summer all over my face, and it gets better when I swallow it".  Seriously though, if I went to a backyard cookout with a tub of these, covered in that wonderful crushed ice like in most beer commercials, I would be in the mood for lawn games.  YOLO, lawn game style!  (That's for you Bradley.)

I think this is pretty good ale for the summertime.  The hops are balanced just well enough for the relatively low body so that they don't overwhelm your senses.  It certainly is a relatively simple beer in terms of flavor, but that's really the point of this style of beer, right?  You really don't want to be laboring over an ale in the hot sun; it should be goddamn thirst quenching.  But even if you don't agree, hopefully you do that it tastes better than Sam Adams Summer Urinal Cake Ale.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Magic Hat Demo

type: black IPA
origin: Burlington, VT
price: $8/6x12oz
ABV: 6%
NSP: 16.4

Part of Magic Hat's IPA on Tour series, this is their "black IPA." (Alex reviewed their seasonal IPA, Blind Faith.)  But I can't seem to identify anything IPA about this when I drink it.  To me this essentially tastes like a porter from Oregon (e.g. Black Butte).  Consequently, all you get from this brew are roasted malts and very little hop aromas (actually none that I can pick up).  If Hop in the Dark is the standard, this falls waaaaay short--like me trying to run a 100m dash again Usain Bolt, with Brats on my back, and Brats has diarrhea, and I'm slipping on his diarrhea.  Time to let this die, MH, or at least re-brand it as a ho-hum porter (with gimmicky flair all over the bottle of course!)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Magic Hat Brewery

This doesn't capture how batshit wacky the place is inside.
5 Bartlett Bay Road
South Burlington, VT 05403
(802) 658-2739

A few months back we had open house for graduate student recruiting, and I had the thorough pleasure of meeting some mouthbreathing fuckwit from Vermont.  After mentioning I would be in the region in the near future, I inquired about breweries to visit, or at least try.  (I've been to Magic Hat a while back, but this was before I really gave a shit about beer.)  Of course he scoffed, rubbed his pubic-hair looking shitty beard, and rolled his eyes at the mention of Magic Hat; I knew we were dealing with not only a mouthbreathing fuckwit, but also a beer snob.  As you might imagine, he started naming off brewery after brewery which, after visiting the area, turned out to be the equivalent of naming off Hess* to a non-Whale's Vagina-ian who really just wants to try Alesmith or Lightning.

Having been here before, I knew what to expect: Tasty brew, wacky knick-knacks, a free tour, and free tastings.  Yes please.  The beer can range from ho-hum (Demo - review coming), to odd-but-tasty (Pistil), to damn good (Humdinger imperial pilsner - review coming).  And although it was odd that I couldn't buy a few more tastings even if I wanted to, I still managed to scam a few extra (in the name of science of course!).  The tour is fun, but at one point they show a montage with pictures that looked like they were off a camera phone with a 0.1 megapixel camera--and of course it was projected onto a wall.  But overall this is a nice way to kill a few hours in South Burlington, Vermont.  So fuck that mouthbreather!  Go have fun here, and drink some good, free beer; and buy some wacky shit; and bring home a growler if you must.  But never pretend like pubic hair on your face is a beard.  Then you'll be like that asshole from Vermont.

* A note about Hess:  No offense intended.  I simply mean it's a small-as-fuck operation and only San Diegan beer drinkers would know of it, and even fewer would have tried their beers.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Stone/Bottleworks 13th Anniversary

Type: Strong Ale
Origin: Escondido, CA
Price: $6/22oz
ABV: 11.4% 
NSP: 12.35


Brendan and I cracked this this other night- I guess we were sort of on a quad/strong ale kick that night (3 Philosophers, Val Dieu, and AleSmith Grand Cru were the guests of honor) and this seemed to fit the bill.  Seattle-based beer store Bottleworks commissioned this beer from Stone to honor the 13th anniversary of their business.  As such, it is composed of 13 grains and 13 hops.  Stone had aimed at getting it up to 13% ABV, but apparently with the combo of grains used it was hard to project how much it'd ferment, so it's only 11.4%.  Buncha slack-jawed yokels up there.

When I bought this, for some reason I thought it was a porter.  I don't really know why, though, just some odd preconception based on no information whatsoever. But this is definitely not a porter- it's a big-ass strong ale, though it's got bits and pieces of other styles in there as well.  The beer is completely opaque- if you hold it up to the light, you don't see the light.  It smells like the strong ale it is, boozy and with a bunch of rich roasted malt and dark fruity sweetness.

It's kind of an orgy of beer-styles, kind of hard to pin down.  It kind of tastes like a porter up front, with coffee and dark chocolate, with a little bit of bitterness, less than I'd anticipated given that it's 80 IBU.  It's very sweet, almost like a doppelbock.  And it's rich and raisiny like a quad.  The booze is pretty strong, and don't let it warm too much- once it does, the alcohol and sweetness run roughshod over everything else and it becomes really cloying and hard to drink.

It's all over the place stylistically, which in my opinion is one of its strengths.  You never quite know know what you're going to get.  Good for Stone for pushing the envelope a little bit, because this isn't something in their usual style at all.  And at that price, you'd be stupid to pass it up.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Avery Nineteen

Type: Tripel
Origin: Boulder, CO
Price: $7.95/22oz
ABV: 8.23% 
NSP: 6.73
website (couldn't find a site specifically for Nineteen)

You may or may not have noticed, but I love Avery.  And, perhaps not coincidentally, my history with this blog is kind of tied to Avery.  One of my first interactions with the blog was when Andy and I shared a bottle of Avery Seventeen over some delicious grilled pork in tube form (RIP Sausage King).  My first official review was Collaboration Not Litigation.  And my first brewery report was at Avery's homebase.  So of course, when I see something new from Avery, I tend to jump at it.

You might recall the Non-Snob review of Avery Eighteen- it may rate with Lion Imperoal as the worst review (in terms of content, not the opinion of the beer) ever posted here.  Though at least in Lion's case, Andy had hit three or four bottles of Double Dog beforehand, so there was a reason for that shitshow.  But anyway, even though it wasn't much of a review, this makes three years running for Avery's anniversary beers.  This one is a tripel, which has become one of my favorite styles over the past couple of years.

Looks pretty standard in the glass, though the head's pretty much nonexistent, atypical for a Belgian.  The moment I poured it, I thought it smelled like a pilsner+Belgian- which of course seems like a bit of a contradiction (although there are Belgian lager yeasts floating around out there, e.g. Stella Artois).  But it smells kind of lemony, and the funk has both pilsnery and Belgiany aspects.  It also smells like there's a bit of brett in there, with a slight spoiled character.

Yeah, there's gotta be brett in here- it's the first thing I taste.  There's no official website I can find, and the bottle only mentions an "infamous Belgian yeast".  But unless my palate's gone off the deep end there's definitely some brett in there. The tripel flavors are also present, but they don't feel quite as clean as some of the other tripels I've had.  It's also a bit on the spicy side, almost like they've added a bit of saison influence.  There's decent citrus and a nice light body, and it's pretty dry; you don't notice the alcohol in the slightest.  But it's a bit heavily yeasty, and to me it upsets the balance a bit.  In in end, I don't mind this, and I don't feel like I got hosed on the price.  But it's not my favorite in the tripel category, and I probably wouldn't hurry to get it again were they to make this full-time.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Port Old Viscosity

Type: bourbon barrel aged dark strong ale
Origin: San Marcos, California
Price: $4.99 per 22 oz
ABV: 10%
NSP: 13

I have been a bit MIA here the past few months, but I promise to give you a string of reviews coming up in the next few weeks.  Our friend Robert was looking for a review of this one and unfortunately we have never reviewed it.  I must admit, I've never even tried this beer, probably because bourbon barrel aging is not exactly my favorite thing.    After drinking half a glass of this stuff, I can only refer to it as "the phantom" because I don't taste the barrel aging (this starts to come out as it warms up, but isn't oppressive) and I don't sense the 10%.  At first this reminds me of a porter, but the more I drink it, the more it starts to merge into a doppelbock.  The sweetness here is key to covering up the strength and the bourbon undertones, which I must praise them for.  There is a bit of smoke on the nose, but it is barely existent when tasting.  Even though Port is not exactly my go to San Diego brewery, I should definitely make a concerted effort to add more to my repertoire.

Update:  As I inspected the bottle more, it is only Oak Barrel aged, not bourbon barrel aged.  Probably explains why there is smokiness but no strong bourbon notes

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Odell 90 Shilling

Type: Scotch ale
Origin: Fort Collins, CO
Price: $9.49/6-pack
ABV: 5.3%
NSP: 11.91

Oops, forgot to take the picture until I'd finished 75% of it.  Oh well.  Anyway, there are those who believe that Odell is the frontrunner in the race for the best brewery in Colorado.  Now, opinions vary, including mine (I'm an Avery guy), but I'll warrant that it's a legit contender.  There's no doubt in my mind that they're the best brewery in Fort Collins.

Ah, 90 Shilling.  This one brings me back.  I recall sitting at a Red Robin back in college and having the bartender swear that his favorite drink was a shot of Rumple Minze chased with a 90 Schilling.  That might indeed be the greatest drink on Earth, but there's no way I was going to find out due to a rough confrontation with a 375 of Rumple Minze the second time I ever drank (it involved falling down on a pretty flat driveway, puking next to the dog, and sleeping on the stairs).  I didn't know shit about beer back then, what a scotch ale was, nor why I liked it.  However, I now know more about beer, and what a scotch ale is, and why I now don't really like them.  They're weakly hopped malt bombs- pretty much and English IPA with less hops.  I probably should've brought back Odell's WBC silver-medal winning IPA (generally recognized as the best IPA in Colorado) instead, but oh well.

It definitely looks as malty as a scotch ale usually is.  And it sure smells malty, with a fair amount of that whole stale malt thing that's so common to this style.  There's a little bit of hops peeking through, but not much.  It tastes pretty similar to the smell- really malty, a bit bland- but the hops are just a little bit stronger.  Yup, this is no longer something that I enjoy a whole lot.  But at least it's not sweet, so not all is lost.

It's interesting- this is and has always been Odell's flagship beer.  But at this point, it's outclassed by miles by some of their other stuff.  I'm not really a big fan of 90 Shilling anymore, and that makes me a little bit sad.  But it does bring back some good memories (other than the Rumple Minze one), and that's worth something on its own.