Thursday, September 27, 2012

Haand Bryggeriet Odin's Tipple

type: imperial stout
origin: Drammen, Norway
price: $10.50/.5l
ABV: 11%
NSP: 5.2

Who is Odin, and why does he have his own tipple? The father of Thor, goddammit.  You got a problem with that?  Just look at that ram's horn full of booze and tell me he's not a badass.

Let's pop the cap, shall we?  Smells pretty boozy and pours dead flat, too.  Oh shit, here we go down the Samichlaus train...

But the proof is in the flavor, and Saint Nick aint got shit on this.  It has very simple flavors: rich coffee and roasted malt, so it tows the line between russian imperial stout and imperial porter.  That's not to say the flavors present aren't absolutely intense, they're just easy to spot.  Apparently they use a wild yeast strain, which is badass, but it also lends much needed bit of uniqueness too a traditionally intense stout.

As I said before, it pours flat.  The lack of carbonation definitely detracts from it, but only because it makes you queasy at the thought of finishing the whole bottle.  I fret to think how this tasted six months back when I originally bought it -- probably too harsh -- but overall this a mighty tasty ale.  If the carbonation were sufficient, this could easily fit somewhere between Old Rasputin, Speedway, and the Abyss in the scheme of imperial stouts.  Either way, it's definitely ram's horn worthy.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Lancaster Milk Stout

Type: milk stout
Origin: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
ABV: 5.3%

         Another free one from Chris' monthly brew collection which I think punished him over the past few months.  He reviewed this 6 months ago and I think he agrees with most of what I'm saying.  I think he gave this to me because the ABV is lower than his required 9%.  I'm not one to complain.
         I must admit, this is the first milk stout I've ever had, so I don't really have a baseline for what a good milk stout (or any milk beer) should be.  I do know what good beer is, and this one is not too shabby.  There is nothing in this beer that is blatantly obvious or unique besides the nose does have quite a strong chocolate milk smell.  It is fairly bitter (in the way of a dark roast coffee) from the malts, and does have a nice milky texture that definitely leaves you satisfied (I'm still waiting for Samer to speak that line while drinking beer so we can make fun of him some more).

By the end of this brew, I am definitely digging it and wanting more, so I guess thats a good sign.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Knee Deep Imperial Tanilla

Type: imperial vanilla porter
Origin: Lincoln, California
Price: $8.19 per 22 oz
ABV: 10%
NSP: 7.9

This is a beer I had really high hopes for.  My love of the imperial vanilla porter is completely based upon Red Brick Brewing's Imperial Vanilla Gorilla, which tastes like vanilla ice cream mixed with chocolate, coffee and a high wallop of alcohol.  Knee Deep's Tanilla Porter has many of the same characteristics of the Vanilla Gorilla but with a much lower ABV.  So you can see how I would be ecstatic for the Imperial version of the Tanilla, to bring me back to that one hot day in Atlanta last September.  Unfortunately, the flavors are much more muted on this one versus the regular Tanilla.  My first sips were rather harsh, with no predominant vanilla, coffee, or chocolate coming through.  I should note, I just moved, and my new fridge is much colder than before, which strongly effected my original impression.  After drinking down a few ounces, I decided to warm it with my hands and let it sit out for awhile.  Definite improvement, but still not quite there to the Imp. Vanilla Gorilla.  There is a definite coffee bitterness popping through which I think slightly subdues the vanilla notes.  The vanilla is there, but not in the same doses as in Tanilla, probably due to the increased ABV.  There is still a harshness to it as it warms, which I think can be overcome with a bit of aging.  In fact, I have two more of these that I immediately tossed in my closet for aging, so you will get a second review in about six months.  This is still a fairly good beer, but I think there is room for improvement.  Heres my main criticisms:

1: Its a bit thin.  I want this thing to have a thick mouthfeel, reminding me of dessert.  I really don't know how you fix this, but probably leave more sugar behind.
2: Not enough vanilla.  Upping the ABV probably subdued the vanilla, so I think more is needed
3: Possibly lower the hops.  A bit too bitter for this style (48 IBUs according to the bottle).  And this is coming from someone that is infatuated with Hoptologist, one of the most underrated DIPAs in the country at its 100 IBUs

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Alpine: Exponential Hoppiness

Type: Triple IPA
Origin: Alpine, CA
Price: $free from Chris' fridge/22oz
ABV: 11.0%

Out on vacation, scrounging through Chris's fridge, and what do I dig up? That's damn straight I dug up some exponential hoppiness. (Don't tell him I drank this).

This beer is crafted with multiple hop drops, each doubled, which raised the question: is this really an exponential hoppiness? After some discussion, we decided that this is really a geometric hoppiness (r=2), not quite exponential. No need to be snobby though, as long as there's lots of hops right?

There is some variety of magic body on this beer, like it's malty but not so heavy. I can't figure out how they do it, but lots of the Alpine brews have this quality. Maybe there is a heavy hop boil which extracts some sap, or maybe the actually use pine sap? The body can't be all due to malt, do they do it with corn sugar or something? Who knows.

The hops are adequate, and the overall effect is more bitter than nose. In the end it boils down to something specifically Alpine in character, which you can taste in all of this brewery's deliverables. Yum.

Lightning: Double Strike

Type: Double IPA
Origin: San Diego, CA
Price: $8.65/22oz
ABV: 9.0% 
NSP: 6.8

Out on vacation in San Diego looking for some fine light body heavy hop awesome brew, and what do I come up with? OK, this beer is at least from San Diego, but a double isn't exactly a light body hop fest.

The darkish color already suggested a heavy body, and there wasn't much hop nose, so I knew from the beginning that there wasn't much hope for the beer I was thinking of. I was struck doubly: by the non-hop nose I was hoping for, then by the the hop body I found in the beer. Even though the nose was meh, the bitter was on, and the malt wasn't overdone. Life was good.

The scotch bonnet chilies I scored from Mr. Liss in San Clemente cut the hop bitter nicely, and the beer likewise washed down the heat from the chilies. In the end, this beer split the differences between the east and west coast styles of IPA nicely and really shows the best of both worlds.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Bruery Tradewinds

Type: Belgian Tripel
Origin: Placentia, California
Price: $9.69 per 750 mL
NSP: 6.27

Tripels are my favorite.  I think it is just quintessential awesomeness, and anytime I can pick up a new one, I always do.  My experience with The Bruery is rather limited, with such juggernauts as Rugbrod and Three French Hens, which are atypical brews lending my opinion more towards the absurd.  And let me just sum this one up quickly: it is not a great tripel.  There is a very peculiar funky flavor on this that took me quite awhile to pick out since it is something I have had before.  After pondering, I think the finish is cheap Chinese plum wine.  If you haven't had that stuff, go to your local shitty asian market and find the wine that costs like $1.50.  That stuff is absolutely oppressive, and fortunately this is still drinkable.  The good thing is the more you drink this beer, the less that flavor comes out, so you can possibly sneak this one in after a strong DIPA and not really notice anything wrong with it.  Other than the weird aftertaste, the beer isn't bad, although I am disappointed in the lower ABV for this style, but I guess I am spoiled with having had Karmeliet before.  And for the price, just buy Karmeliet.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Pennsylvania Brewing Kaiser Pils

Type: pilsner
Origin: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Price: ?
ABV: 5%

This is an enjoyable one indeed.  Chris gifted this to me from his 'Beer of the Month' club, and it has been sitting in the back of my fridge for quite some time (my guess is at least 3 months in addition to a few bocks that he can't guzzle down).  Thats added on top of Chris' probably 3 months as well of 'aging'.  So yeah, a nicely 'aged' pilsner.  Given that fact, this is actually very fresh.  There is no sign of skunkiness and nothing tastes off about this.  On my first taste, I thought it was really light (as in Coors light mixed with water light), but over time, the hops start to pull you in and add some nice body as well as leave a nice bitterness surrounding your 'moistened mouth'.  Pilsners are usually not the type to sip on and ponder the complexities, but I could see myself drinking this down slowly on a lazy afternoon.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Alesmith Nut Brown

type: brown ale
origin: San Diego, CA
price: $5?/22oz
ABV: 5%
NSP: 6.5

The bottle description is spot on: malt forward, biscuity, and earthy hops.  It's definitely brown, and the crema-like head is reminiscent of Hop in the Dark, which collectively makes this a brown, tasty ale -- a brown ale, if you will.  But I disagree about this being a "sessionable" beer, as the label states, if only because there's no effing way I'm drinking two or more brown ales in a row.

Until now I had no idea what a great brown ale should taste like (especially when Newcastle is the standard).  This is  thoroughly enjoyable, and even at the end of a 22 -- nearing room temperature -- the flavors are still complex and pleasant.

Brats and I were at Alesmith recently, and they had a bourbon barrel version of this.  I remember thinking that was maybe the best "barrel aged" version of something I've ever had, which is likely a testament to the quality of this beer.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Bear Republic Brewing Co.

Bear Republic Brewing Co.

345 Healdsburg Ave.
Healdsburg CA, 95448, USA

Having lots of time off definitely has its perks.  Mainly free time to do shit I have always wanted to do, and obviously this meant a trip to Bear Republic Brewing Co. followed by Anderson Valley Brewery (review to come).  

First off this place is a little hard to find and once I did it took another 15 minutes to get a beer, but shit we got every beer they had, so...

Before this trip I only had Bear Republic's main sellers including: Racer 5, XP Pale Ale, Hot Rod Rye, Big Bear Black Stout, and Peter Brown Tribute Ale (the left board).  We started with the light beers as I feel you should do in a tasting.  Some people may disagree with me, but they are idiots.  We started off with a terrible lemonade color beer that was likely made for people who don't like beer.  Next was El Oso, basically an upgrade from Tecate Mexican Lager.  I would much rather drink this beer then the massive amount of Tecate I drink.  The remaining beers included a pilsner, wheat, esb, ale, and Racer 5, all solid.   Lastly the double IPA Racer 15, that was just okay. 

In nonsnobs blind IPA's tasting I trashed Racer 5 and honestly after this trip I really don't feel bad about it.  Granted I do drink it and I like it's availability in San Diego, but I would gladly switch it for many other IPA's out there like Anderson Valleys IPA that I had later that day.  I know people will likely disagree, but take the two and blind taste and you will see what I mean.

Anyways, overall Bear Republic had some great beer with an option of getting every beer in a liter stein (amazing), but I really wouldn't want to spend my entire day there.  It is worth a quick stop, but is very Rock Bottomesk with mediocre food and a lack of atmosphere.  The bartender Ryan was a cool guy and the only one serving beer so he was busy to say the least.  He gave us a free, possibly leftover beer that we gladly drank and made us guess what it was.  My friend Ryan threw out about 5 guesses before even taking the time to think and I guessed right on the first guess after some thinking, was Cher Ami a Belgium.

If you make the trip up to Bear I highly recommend making a stop there then driving another hour to Anderson Valley.  It is well worth another hour.  From San Francisco Bear is about an hour and a half drive.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Brasserie Des Franches-Montagnes: La Meule

Type: Golden Ale
Origin: Brasserie Des Franches-Montagnes, Switzerland
ABV: 6%

After a basketball game in Philly, what better to do than haul out on the town and search for some fine beer? I found this beer in exactly those circumstances one night long ago. 

Good beer has been around forever. And good herbs have been around forever. So leave it to the Swiss to put two and two together and make an awesome beer with herbs.

The essential body of this beer is not too far from Duvel or other Belgian style golden ales, but to spice it up, there is also a fine measure of sage. At first thought, you'd think they might not get along so well, but golden ale and sage are a fine combo. It harkens back to the days of the gruit, but I'm pretty sure there is a good measure of hops in there as well.

Like so many things from the old world (ie 1979 Victoria's Secret catalogs)...

La Meule has all the right things in exactly the right proportions.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Brouwerij Verhaeghe: Vichtenaar

Type: Flanders Ale
Origin: Brouwerij Verhaeghe, Belgium
ABV: 5.1%

I first ran into this beer at the Ginger Man Pub in Decatur, GA. I tried googling that pub to link to it, but it either doesn't exist anymore, or the name changed or something. Anyway, the pub was low, dark, and near, and incredibly awesome.

This beer was also awesome. As one of my first sours ever, I was a bit blown away at first, but it grew on me. The photo does no justice, but the color is a nice dark red. The flavor is full, with a solid malt body backed by a sour punch with all sorts of fruity flavors. Mind you these are fruity flavors you can't put your finger on, but it should probably be fruit. Probably 'forward fruit esters'. Muahahaha.

I never saw it again until I came to the east coast, and now it pops up whenever I'm at a fine beer bar, especially one specializing in sours. +1 for the east coast. -1 due to burglers.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Alpine Duet

type: IPA
origin: Alpine, CA
price: $8/22
ABV: 7%
NSP: 5.7
website (it's interesting to hear the sound of a beer poured when you click on a weblink)

Seriously, we haven't reviewed this?  OK, well allow me to crack open a fat bottle of tasty-ass IPA.

As a brewery, Alpine is pretty damn good at crafting beer, and have enough talent to make, among other difficult styles, a high quality sour (Chez Monmee). (And even bbq!)  But what they're really, really good at is using a butt-load of hops while at the same time making sure the malt (body) is big enough, but not too heavy.

Duet is a straight-up west coast IPA that I assume is doing quite well in the Cali-IPA blind tasting tournament; we still have quite a ways to go, so stay tuned for those results.  In this beer we have Amarillo and Simcoe (the "duet"), both known for producing wonderful hop aromas and with tremendous bittering power; they slow dance their way to hop heaven.  I sometimes find this a little buttery in flavor (OH, you got diaceeeetyls! - Sambo once said to Riley), but given how well the rest of the beer is it's hard to fixate on an inconsequential negative.  It's interesting to drink this slowly, because it's hoppy all the way to room temperature, at which the bitterness comes striking forward.

At the 2012 SD International Beer Festival, I accosted a few of their brewers, and managed to drunkenly mumble my thanks for being absolute hop-masters in a town already known for incredible beers.  I'm sure they we're annoyed then, so I'll re-iterate it now:

Thank you, Alpine.  Thank you.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Maine Beer Co.: Lunch IPA

Type: IPA
Origin: Portland, ME
Price: $7.95/739mL (1pt 9fl oz) at Bert's Better Beers
ABV: 7%
NSP: 6.5

Debo and I stopped by Bert's today on our way back from White Birch (more on that later), and picked up two bottles of this. We got two instead of one because there was an enforced quota of one bottle per customer.

Apparently some dude had tried buying out the entire case of them, and the owner wanted more people to get a try. Thanks to that move, we scored two. Also, the beer advocate guys have a huge boner over this beer. So what did this correspondent think?

I must admit that in our haste over dinner, Deborah and I somehow disappeared our first bottle before I had a chance to write any notes down. Good thing we bought two bottles! My first impression was not enormous. Don't get me wrong, this beer is great but I'm not sure it really ranks among even the lower end of world class.

Read through the reviews and it's pretty clear what the east coast thinks is so awesome about this beer: it tastes like San Diego beer. Which is probably why this correspondent almost staggered over his meh when he popped the first bottle and washed his tri-tip down with it. IPA over here is all sorts of over malted, malt factory, rub me down with some more malt, malt all over your face explosion, hit me with another bushel of malt, malt me up Scotty, with a few exceptions. In shocking contrast, this beer is solidly hopped, new world style. Hop me up Scotty is a bit more like it, at least that's what she said.

The malt in this beer attributes some malty flavor and color, but primarily serves as a source of sugar for the little yeasties to make their fine product. The flavor is dominated by fine hops. So of course since the distribution is limited to the east coast in small quantities, and this is a huge departure from most other regional varieties in a fine direction, this shit is as much of a hit out here as a San Diego vacation in the middle of winter.

Ironically enough, without the huge malt body typical to our IPAs, you might want a little more than this for lunch, or maybe two with dinner.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Baxter brewing co: Pamola XPA

Type: XPA
Origin: Lewiston, ME
Price: $5/12oz
ABV: 4.9% 
NSP: -

Phone autocorrected as pamela xpa. I wish it could conjure the same images as the name Pamela


but instead this brew has vomit flavor. Bilious regurgitation, reverse peristalsis, technicolor yawn style flavor. Like the yellow, I can't barf anymore but am still wretching stuff, flavour (hat tip to Scotland for getting me that wasted once). Like the guys were drinking while brewing and when everyone else was looking the other way one guy spewed right into the kettle.

Can that shit and see if it sells? Only on amtrak.

Worst. Beer. Ever.


Apparently even the brewery thought it was so bad that they made a soap out of it. Clean your mouth out with that.

This beer is best drank while reading Shackleton's 'South' to live the depravity of the Antarctic: the kind where you throw up in your mouth because you ate too much baby seal blubber after starving for a week on the ice, but then you swallow it again anyway.

Guess if I was sadist enough to finish it? (re: the beer. the book is pretty good.)

PS. Apparently ratebeer is keeping it real on this one, but beeradvocate thinks it's 'good'.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Societe Brewery

Societe Brewing Co.
8262 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92111
(858) 459-5409

A spate of new breweries just invaded San Diego county, including Societe Brewing Co. (I think of Timaaaaay when I say their name), started by ex-Bruery and ex-Russian River employees.  Having obtained an apparently substantial investment, this place is already up and kicking; needless to say the hype factory is in full production mode.  Regardless, we were in the mood for some tasty food-truck action, and Brats Berlin was on location.  And +1 for being much closer to home than the North County beer corridor (Highway 78).

The tasting room is similar to Green Flash or Mission Brewery in the sense that you get to drink in front of beautiful stainless steel fermenters, and whiskey barrels which are presumably plugging away at some imperial stout and Belgian strong ale.  It's a pretty big space, and well planned out, so you quickly feel at home and ready for some beer drankin'.

Simple layout, lots of old-timey shit, wood, and bartenders playing quarters.
The selection is deep enough for such a new brewery: two IPAs, an imperial stout, and three Belgian ales.  First, the Belgians:

Belgian ales from L to R: The Debutante, The Harlot, The Widow.
As the color suggests, these three are each sufficiently unique to deserve a capitalized "the", and definitely represent an American take on classic Belgian styles.  Not quite trappist quality (mmm Achel), and the "lacing" in those hideous goblets is frightening, but I taste quite a bit of potential, and once they hit their stride these should be mighty fine.

The Dandy, The Apprentice, The Butcher, and a Boar+Bison brat from Brats Berlin (delicious).
The imperial stout is a classic Russian imperial stout: huge roasted malt flavors, smooth creamy head, and a potent kick at ~10%.  The IPAs are distinct, but I most-enjoyed The Dandy, probably because it was well hopped with a relatively low body, meaning I went back for three more without hesitation.  

Overall they've got a pretty good showing, and definitely a good start in such a crowded beer-market, but there's one aspect to this that's been irking me for a while.  About a month ago, the mayor of SD, Jerry Sanders, declared June 30 to be Societe Brewing Co day.  Seriously?!?  For a brewery less than a year old, beers from which you cant really find around town yet?  For as long as the City of San Diego is incorporated, that day shall be dedicated to SBC.  What a shipload of steaming shit.  How does that not appear as a money-grab/beer-gulch by a wealthy, lame-duck mayor?  Who knows really, and probably he's just trying to get free beer for life, but I'm chafed pretty raw.

I really hope there's no scumbag shit going on here, and I doubt there is, so I'll just enjoy watching this brewery evolve into a reputable beer monger.  And watching the hops grow...

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Pretty Things Fluffy White Rabbits

type: Belgian-style triple
origin: Somerville, MA
price: $10/22oz at Bine and Vine
ABV: 8.5%
NSP: 5.5

I don't know how it's possible that a brewery can be so good at making so many styles of beer.  But Pretty Things isn't just good at replicating a style, they make it how they want to make it.  Their unique spin on traditional brews has shown in each beer we've reviewed here: farmhouse ale, IPA (Alex doesn't care for tags, apparently), quad, to this: a heavily hopped triple (trippel, tripel, etc.).

I taste traditional triple flavors (yeast, and lightly sweet maltiness), which are quickly bludgeoned in the head by the increased hopping.  The result is a spicy, sour/bitterness that overlays a bit of smoke and those traditional triple-esque flavors.  It's hard to characterize, but it tastes very refreshing, is nice an light, and packs a bit of a punch.

The bit that's hard to swallow is the price -- always ~$10 for a 22 -- but if you can afford it, treat yourself to something real pretty, like this.  Who knows, maybe us beer drinkers just need to drive the demand up so they're forced to increase supply.

I found perhaps the greatest GIF of all time, and it pretty-much sums up what I think of this brewery, and America at the same time: fucking awesome.