Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Deschutes Chasin' Freshies

Type: "fresh hop" IPA
Origin: Bend, OR
Price: $6.59 22 oz
ABV: 7.4%
NSP: 7.3

Fresh hop beers seem to be the new craze. They have been brewed in the past, but now it seems many a respectable company offer up their own rendition, with Deschutes alone serving up two offerings (see Hop Trip).

The original motivation behind this style of beer is hard to understand. The only reason I can conjure up is "cuz it sounds rad, BRO". Fresh hops aren't typically used in beer for good reason: they are not nearly as potent as their properly dried brethren. Nor are they as complex in character. But the end result is that you really do pick up a "freshness". It makes me think of green. Why? How the fuck should I know? It just does. And it seems to work. So why the hell not. Even though it's blasphemous to the beer gods to waste hops (you need WAY more fresh hops to get the same bittering power as dry hops, ounce for ounce).

Chasin' Freshies is a tasty beer. Brewed entirely with fresh Cascade hops, you expect it to have qualities of Sierra's flagship, and yet it doesn't. For whatever reason, it makes me think of Ommegang BPA, sans the Belgian qualities (an awful comparison, but they really do have a similar quality in the way you "feel" the bitterness). The lack of a strong citrus component is just more evidence that fresh hops lack the umph, but this beer works. It also happens to be the most pale IPA I have ever seen. It looks like a typical non-American lager (think Spaten, or Heineken, NOT Coors Light), which is confusing as shit.

Although I did enjoy this beer, in the end I still prefer the flavors that come with dry Cascade hops. They are much more interesting. Nonetheless, as a seasonal offering, think of this beer as a celebration of the hop harvesting season.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Lagunitas DayTime 'Fractional' IPA

Type: Session IPA
Origin: Petaluma, CA
Price: $1.79
ABV: 4.65%
NSP: 9.22

I dig how Lagunitas goes about its business.  We've covered them decently well here (click on the Lagunitas label at the bottom), and in my recollection it's one of the only breweries that has 100% positive reviews- and from four different reviewers, no less.  This one, just to let you know in advance, keeps the record unblemished.

I'm not sure why Lagunitas decided to call this a fractional IPA instead of a session IPA like everyone else, but nobody's ever accused these guys of walking the beaten path.  At the same time, it sort of makes sense when you smell it- it smells like part of an IPA. I'd say it's roughly 17/31 of an IPA.  It's got a similar caramel scent the one I loved so much in the Sucks, but scaled way down so it's just a light accent.  It's outweighed by a hefty wallop of hop citrus, plus a really appealing apricot aroma.

You can tell by the smell that this is going to be fighting somewhere around the bantamweight class, and the flavor confirms it.  I'd actually say the body's comparable to a pilsner, as is the somewhat elevated carb level- the latter's the only thing preventing this from being the most chuggable hoppy beer I've ever encountered.  There's virtually no weight from the malt, and just the lightest hint of malt flavor.  As intended, nearly all the flavor's from the hops- but those are surprisingly light as well, adding a nice citrusy tang and minimal bitterness.  If the smell is 17/31 of an IPA, the flavor's more like 12 or 13/31.

Everything about this is light, light, light- which is why they advertise it as a beer to drink when you've got stuff to do later.  Really, it's not going to do anything different from a glass of lemonade at lunch (unless you're in the light flyweight class yourself).  But even though it's light, it still tastes like a well-crafted beer, particularly in the complexity the hops bring even though they're scaled down.  Yet another good seasonal offering from Lagunitas.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Breckenridge Oatmeal Stout

Type: Oatmeal Stout
Origin: Denver, CO
Price: $1.25/12 oz
ABV: 4.9%
NSP: 13.92

I was looking for an Odell sampler pack at the liquor store while I was in Colorado (apparently I didn't feel like GABF gave me enough beer for the weekend), but they didn't have one, so I went with Breck instead.  I've always thought Breck was pretty reliable.  Their vanilla porter's pretty tasty, so I was hoping their stout would be as well.

It's good and stout-looking.  Smells pretty straightforward too, nicely roasty and a bit sweet (the latter likely resulting from the oatmeal).  Not a whole lot more than that, it's not exactly the most complex nose I've ever encountered.

The flavor's...interesting.  The roastiness is there (of course, if it's not, it means you're not drinking a stout), and a bit of smoky bitterness.  But it doesn't feel like the bitterness is from hops- since there's a bit of smoke in there, it actually kind of tastes like the grain got burned a little bit.  And the sweetness that I expected to find from the oatmeal is surprisingly (and a bit disappointingly) absent.  It ends up tasting a bit dirty.

Sorry, Breck.  Don't think I like this one.  Of course, my own preferences put it at a bit of a disadvantage in the first place.  But I still feel like it's a bit off.  And since they nailed the vanilla porter so well, this one's even more of a letdown.  Oh well.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Three Floyds Arctic Panzer Wolf

Type: Double IPA
Origin: Munster, Indiana
Price: $11.99 per 22 oz
ABV: 9.5%
NSP: 5.15

As you will notice, this beer has the same exact specs as the Dreadnaught (except this is 100 IBUs versus 99 for the Dreadnaught).  And given this fact, these beers are completely different.  The color on this thing looks like a hefeweisen, and it is rather cloudy.  The Dreadnaught was towards this end of the color spectrum, but was much clearer.  The nose is amazing and reminds me of the first time I had Hoptologist; it is very floral, piney and citrusy.  The taste is pure west coast style DIPA, that is to say, less focus on the malts, more on the hop flavors and aromas.  This beer scored slightly lower on BA than Dreadnaught (a paltry 93 instead of 99), and I can see why.  This beer is just a little harsh, a little rough around the edges, a little wild. I guess that's why they call this the Arctic Panzer Wolf and gave the bottle the greatest graphics since the promised America website.  In Chicago, this is probably one of the best west coast style DIPAs widely available in stores, but there are many others I would drink over this if given the opportunity.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Three Floyds Dreadnaught

Type: Double IPA
Origin: Munster, Indiana
Price: $11.99 per 22 oz
ABV: 9.5%
NSP: 5.15

I just got back from Chicago and I asked my pops to take me to Binny's to pick up some provisions for the guys.  I got two of these, two Arctic Panzer Wolves (DIPA), and a four pack of some Founder's Breakfast Stout.  It was a pricey trip, but well worth it.  In the next week or so, we will probably do a group tasting of this, Arctic Panzer Wolf, and maybe some other DIPA lying around in Andy's or Chris' stashes.

This is the first beer I've had from Three Floyds, and let me tell you, I am blown away.  This might be the first time I completely agree with Beer Advocate.  This is 9.5%, but just flows like water.  Its apparently 99 IBUs, but everything is so balanced that you can't even tell (I've been borderline offended and appalled at some beers under 50 IBUs that were quite hoppy) .  The malts are perfect, the nose is floral enough that you don't get overpowered, and the body is "to die for".  This is much better than Pliny the Elder (never had the Younger), better than Hoptologist, possibly better than Heady Topper.  The only downside is the price, but even that shouldn't deter you.  I am quite pissed off I didn't buy the 20 they had at Binny's. Oh well, next time. 

P.S. This brewery has the best bottle caps I have known to exist.  They will look quite nice in my bottle cap table that I will build when I finish a few hundred more brews and need a hobby to neglect my future children. 

Alpine Ichabod

Origin: Alpine, CA
Type: Pumpkin Ale
Price: ??
ABV: 6+%
NSP: good

In case you aren't aware of this, Alpine is my favorite so'cal brewery, and 2nd overall behind Russian River only because the latter has the better brewpub/brewery experience of the two. I can never get over how incredibly hoppy and pungent Duet is, or how damn delicious and crisp Nelson is. And to top it all off, I was lucky enough to consume 4 servings of what is still BY FAR my favorite sour of all time, Chez Monmee. I still have wet dreams on occasion about that damn fine beer, I only wish I can find more of it. So when Stegs 'The Saurus' Rex came over the other night with an offering I'd never heard of before, well, I was pretty f'ing excited to get a taste. So after we took down a growler of Duet with ease and praised the beer gods for its existence, I popped open this seasonal Fall offering.

Ichabod is the lead character of the legendary "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow". For a pumpkin brew, this beer is also quite legendary. Immediately you get a pleasant and distinct whiff of nutmeg while pouring. It is strong, it is fresh, and it is most definitely appetizing. The beer is also much darker than I expected, and very dry on the palate to boot. Alpine has once again mastered a perfect combination: aromas reminiscent of the Fall/Winter season (nutmeg & cinnamon) and a porter-like backbone that holds it all together, with a dry finish that is crisp and refreshing. This is by far the only Fall themed pumpkin style beer I could see myself drinking in large quantities.

In (R)Andy's own words, Thank you, Alpine. Thank you.
Sambo Approved.

Monday, October 22, 2012

New Belgian Somersault

type: summer ale
origin: Fort Collins, CO
price: $1.50/12oz
ABV: 5.2%
NSP: 12.3

Who loves going to the Tour de Fat?  Everyone.  Who loves drinking New Belgium beers? ... Bueller? BUELLER??

In my eyes New Belgium still needs to prove why I should ever buy their beer.  The Lips of Faith series (e.g. Super Cru, La Terroir) is a push in the right direction, but then they go and brew something like Somersault, or Ranger, or Belgo, or **shudder** Fat Tire.

NB beers aren't necessarily bad, excluding Fat Tire, but I just find them boring and stale on the palate.  Allow me to share a recent interview I did on this beer:
Me: We'd like to welcome, again, the friendly Mayor of Beer-Banality, Mr. New Belgium!  Hello, Mr Belgium.  I see you've brought us a "summer ale".  Can you describe it a bit?
Mayor: OK, sure.  Well, it looks absolutely delicious, but is about as light bodied as a Coors light, and tastes a bit like lemon!
Me: Oh... I see.  Well, is it interesting to drink?
Mayor: Nope!  That's why we love it.  In fine New Belgium tradition, we've crafted an ale that is easy to forget, and hard to convince yourself to buy again.  Did I mention we're wind-powered??
I guess if you want to bore the shit out of yourself during the summer, then drink up.  Otherwise, maybe just go with your New Belgium instinct on this one.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Knee Deep Immigration Red

Type: Irish red ale
Origin: Lincoln, California
Price: $5.99 per 22 oz
ABV: 6%
NSP: 6.5

I must admit, I accidentally bought this one because I was thinking about Knee Deep's Ryedentity Crisis, and somehow thought this was it.  Red ales are a strange category, and I would love to meet someone who thinks they are the best style of beer.  This one is, however, not like any red I've had.  Ok, the characteristics are similar to most reds: medium ABV, medium maltiness, not too filling, generally nondescript.  The thing that sets this apart is that this lends really close to the porter end of the spectrum while still maintaining the lightness of a straight ale.  In fact, I seriously thought I was drinking Knee Deep's Tanilla Porter.  I even get a little bit of vanilla coming through that is a real delight.  While I will probably not buy this again since there are many styles I would rather have instead of red ales, I wouldn't be opposed to drinking this again.  If you are one of the ubiquitous red ale lovers, definitely give this a shot.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

2012 Great American Beer Festival: Chris' Running Diary

The main reason I'm back in the Super Power Rectangle of Colorado: the Great American Beer Festival.  In case you're somehow not aware of this event- think of nearly 600 breweries giving out more or less bottomless samples within a single colossal convention hall.  A ticket gets you a cup and the ability to wander around and put away as much incredible (and some not-so-incredible) beer as you can manage, one ounce at a time, for four and a half hours.  Though I'm a Colorado native, this was somehow my first time attending the GABF.  I don't know what the hell I was waiting for.  I decided to take a page out of Bill Simmons' playbook and keep a running diary.

5:33 PM: Arrival at the Denver Convention Center.  Fucking Denver cabs making us three minutes late (we were trying to get here by 5:00, much less 5:30).  The line is ridiculous.  And no beer while you're waiting?  What kind of show are they running?

5:35 PM: They asked us to make the line wider.  That can't be a good sign for how long the line is.

5:39 PM: This is the widest line in which I've ever had the privilege to stand.

5:41 PM: I just spent 8 minutes talking about the line.  Most boring intro to a blog post ever?  It's in the running.

In line, followed by Creepy Samer.
5:45 PM: We've discussed the plan of attack at length.  The main idea is to haul ass in there, and then Samer will pull his junk out.  People will scream and flee (or laugh hysterically, or look for a magnifying glass), leaving the brewery tables deserted.  We all drink a lot, Samer gets sent to Gitmo, America wins.

5:48 PM: Almost there.

5:49 PM: We've reconsidered the plan.  We're going to spend the entire next 4 hours at the Coors table.

5:50 PM: Seriously, fuck Coors.

5:51 PM: Look out, big lady on a Segway who has apparently been appointed Minister of Queue Protocol.  If my ID isn't in my hand when I get to the door, I'll be dragged behind a dumpster and beaten with reeds.

5:53 PM: I wasn't planning on circumnavigating anything today, but we've just done so with the Denver Convention Center.

5:57 PM: The MQP on the Segway's back and she's actually pretty scary.  She somehow makes a Segway look intimidating.

5:58 PM: There are hops all over the ground for some reason.  Samer thinks this is some sort of offense against the brewing gods.

6:00 PM: And we're in.

View from the entrance.
6:02 PM: Holy shit.

6:03 PM: No time for dallying.  First brewery, because it was right near the entrance: COOP Ale Works (Oklahoma City, OK) DNR Belgian Strong Ale (10% ABV, starting off light obviously).  Not half bad, not great.  Kind of a lackluster start.

The first beer.  I don't think Dylbot's impressed.
6:05 PM: Kuhnhenn Brewing Company (Warren, MI) Double Rice IPA (DRIPA for short, 9.5% ABV).  If we wanted a spectacular start, we should've come here first.  This beer is incredible.  Incredibly light body, full of delicious citrusy hop flavor, barely any bitterness.  Alpine-quality, and I don't say that lightly.
*As it turns out, this beer won a 2012 WBC Gold Medal in the American-Style IPA category.  Well-deserved.  In retrospect, using rice as the grain base for an IPA, particularly a west coast-style IPA, makes a lot of sense- it brings a bunch of fermentable sugar but hardly any body- so you can make a super light IPA that can really focus on the hop flavors.

6:09 PM: Bell's Brewery (Kalamazoo, MI) Two Hearted Ale (7.0% ABV).  One I've been looking for for quite some time due to its reputation.  It's really easy drinkin' and delicious.  A bit heavier body than I typically want in an IPA, but that's just personal preference.  Oh, and hey Bell's- next time, please bring some Hopslam.

6:11 PM: Central Waters Brewing Company (Amherst, WI) Brewhouse Coffee Stout (8.2% ABV).  Really excellent, tastes like straight espresso made slightly Irish.  Pretty much exactly what I'd want were I after a coffee stout.

6:15 PM: New Glarus Brewing Company (New Glarus, WI) Enigma Sour Brown Ale (ABV unknown).  First sour of the night.  Tastes like it's spice-mulled.  Good palate cleanser.

6:17 PM: Nebraska Brewing Company (Papillion, NE) Melange a Trois Belgian-Style Blonde Ale (10.0% ABV).  Pretty brett-heavy, and served a bit too warm, so it's slightly overpowering.  Could probably use some cellaring to smooth out the rough edges.

6:19 PM: Mustang Brewing Company (Oklahoma City, OK) Brandy's Imperial Sundae Imperial Porter (9.1% ABV). Pretty much the most delicious vanilla ice cream-flavored porter I've ever had. Would love to drink this for dessert all winter.

6:21 PM: Whoo, that's a fast start.  Gotta remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint.

6:25 PM: Troegs Brewing Company (Hershey, PA) Perpetual IPA (7.5% ABV).  God bless non-west-coasters making west coast-style IPAs.  Quite good.  Just a touch too bitter to be really top-notch though.

The Mid-Atlantic section of the hall.
6:31 PM: Wind River Brewing Company (Pinedale, WY) Wyoming Pale Ale (7.2% ABV).  Very nicely hopped & flavorful.  Just a bit heavy-bodied.  Unrelatedly, there was a lady with a baby next to me in line.  Is it weird to take a baby to a rowdy beer festival?  I thought it was a bit weird.

6:36 PM: Three Floyds Brewing Company (Munster, IN).  One hour in, and they're already out of Zombie Dust, Arctic Panzer Wolf, and Dreadnaught.  Really?  The Munster Fest Oktoberfest (6.0% ABV) is OK, I guess, but fuck you all the same.

6:41 PM: Pisgah Brewing Company (Black Mountain, NC) Wet Hop Rye (no website, ABV unknown).  Oddest one yet.  Smells like tomato paste.  Tastes like honey.  Not great.

6:45 PM: Mother Earth Brewing Company (Kinston, NC) Sisters of the Moon IPA (6.9% ABV).  This is an IPA?  Don't get much hop smell at all. The flavor's just straight bitter, not much else.

6:52 PM: Terrapin Beer Company (Athens, GA) Hopsecutioner IPA (7.3% ABV).  Decided to give this another shot after the failure at Glidewell's in Blowing Rock, NC.  It's still not very good. Too bitter (minimal hop flavor) and too heavy.

7:01 PM: Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project (Denver, CO) Persica Sour Peach (no website, 7.5% ABV).  Absolutely amazing.  And I don't like sours.  But, as Andy would say, ball rockin'.  Only brett beer I've had that's on the same level as the Logsdon Seizoen Bretta (*which, as it turns out, won a GABF Gold Medal in the American-Style Brett Ale category).

The line at Crooked Stave.  Definitely worth the wait.
7:07 PM: Another trip through the Crooked Stave line for more Persica.  Plus Brett Indigo (no website, ABV unknown), a wild ale made with blueberries.  Not as good as Persica, but still pretty excellent.

7:12 PM: Starting to feel ever-so-slightly drunkish.

7:15 PM: Renegade Brewing Company (Denver, CO) Elevation Triple IPA (11.2% ABV).  And the dude 'accidentally' gave me a 2 oz pour.  OK then.  Smells sweet, the hops are pretty understated for a triple IPA.  But it's actually not half bad.  Still pretty sweet, but the hops are just strong enough to keep up.  Most IPAs of this magnitude are disastrous, but this one wasn't.

7:21 PM: Squatters (Salt Lake City, UT) IPA (6.0% ABV).  Too sweet and not enough hops.  Kind of a letdown after Hop Rising.
*The Squatters website says this is an English-style IPA.  No wonder I didn't like it.

7:30 PM: Walked right by the Heavy Seas Beer (from Clipper City Brewing Company, Baltimore, MD) tent four times without even seeing it.  The casked hand-pulled Loose Cannon IPA (reviewed by Alex a while back, 7.25% ABV normally, not sure about the cask version) was nice and smooth, well-balanced, a really good selection for a cask approach.

7:39 PM: Brooklyn Brewery (Brooklyn, NY) Black Ops (no website, 10.7% ABV), a bourbon-barreled imperial stout poured by the man himself, Garrett Oliver (editor-in-chief of the Oxford Companion to Beer and Brooklyn brewmaster).  Woo doggy.  I'm not a big bourbon-barreled guy, but this is really good, and nice and strong.

7:43 PM: Stuck around for another Brooklyn, Local 1 Belgian Strong Pale Ale/Tripel (9.0% ABV).  Pretty bretty, pretty good.

7:47 PM: Since the Pro-Am Booth was right next to Brooklyn, we stopped by for a couple. First was WEEEEEEEEE Heavy (ABV unknown, I don't know if that's the correct number of E's), a peated scotch ale collaboration between homebrewer Wayne Nichols and Laughing Dog Brewing Company (Ponderay, ID).  Weird.  Smells like trash.  No lie, actual garbage.  But it tastes like a scotch ale with peat.  Ah, the peat.  Second was Ken Schmidt and Stone Brewing Company's (San Marcos, CA) Imperial Oatmeal Stout with Mint Chocolate (9.6% ABV, Iron Fist participated too, but wasn't given credit at the Pro-Am Booth for some reason).  Not half bad, but the mint gives it an alcohol-like sharpness (like someone dropped some Everclear in there) that's a bit offputting.

8:05 PM: Jester King Craft Brewery (Austin, TX) Das Uberkind! Vieille Saison (6.5% ABV, no website, but I presume that it's a special version of Das Wunderkind! Sour Saison).  Pretty brett-forward.  Not bad, but a bit watery, which makes the brett a bit strong for the body.

8:10 PM: Should we visit Stone like the other 300 people waiting in line?  Nah, I'll just go to the liquor store down the street from my house where they have everything Stone's offering.  AHAAAHAHAHAHAHA.

8:10 PM: Even though the Stone line's long, it's got nothing on Russian River.  Longest line in the whole place.  As it should be.

8:11 PM: But we're too impatient to wait in such a long line, so instead, let's go to Bear Republic Brewing Company (Healdsburg, CA), where they've just cracked a keg of Tartare Berliner-style Weisse (4.0% ABV).  Perfect palate cleanser halfway through- like a nice shot of lemon juice.  Samer had roughly 20 tastes in ~8 minutes, after which he had so much acid in his stomach he spent the rest of the night shuffling around like an indigent and looking like he was about to projectile vomit.

8:14 PM: One more from Bear Republic, Black Racer Black IPA (7.8% ABV).  Pretty good, but I'm wondering why I decided to go for darker stuff at this point in the evening (*this wondering didn't stay with me for very long, as you'll see).

8:25 PM: Been in line at Avery Brewing Company (Boulder, CO) for a while, and it's barely moving.  Stupid people trying to have a conversation with the brewers when there's a big line.  Just get your ass out of the way so I can get more beer.  Overheard in line: "Hey, Ninja! Fuck you!"  Alrighty then.

8:29 PM: Finally, beer.  Avery's Lilikoi Kepolo (no website, 5.6% ABV), a Belgian Pale Ale with passion fruit.  Sounds a bit weird, right?  It's delicious.  Super light and refreshing, with a great passion fruit tanginess.  I'd session the shit out of this if I could get my hands on more.

8:32 PM: Alpine Beer Company (Alpine, CA).  Wandered over here because I was curious what kind of line they had.  There wasn't one.  So I became the line, and I followed myself in line repeatedly.  Duet IPA, Bad Boy Double IPA, Firings Quad (7.0%, 9.0%, 11.0% ABV, respectively).  The guy manning the station seemed happy to keep pouring for me, so I kept drinking.  Because, when in doubt, free Bad Boy.  On one hand, I was happy I didn't have to wait.  But on the other, for fuck's sake, why are there not more people experiencing Alpine while they can?

8:45 PM: Oskar Blues?  Nah.  Shit's too heavy.  But the can-necklace-cupholder thing is clever.  Talk about a hands-free device.  Kind of handy when you're drunkenly trying to take notes.

The running diary, with a little help from Oskar Blues' cupholder.  Go Buffs.
8:48 PM: The Samer train has derailed.  

Sambo's struggling, but fighting the good fight.
8:50 PM: Smuttynose Brewing Company (Portsmouth, NH) Baltic Porter (9.24% ABV).  Apparently lagered, which I found interesting.  Actually reminds me of an American strong ale (more fruity than roasty).  Pretty good.

8:53 PM: This place is a complete shitshow at this point.  There's a lot of dry humping going on.

8:54 PM: People are getting haircuts at a Wahl station.  What the hell?  "I'm shitfaced, time for an uptown fade!"

8:56 PM: Founders Brewing Company (Grand Rapids, MI) Kentucky Breakfast Stout (11.2% ABV).  Gotta say, I'm surprised that a) they brought this, and b) they have any left.  Damn, is it good.  Smells like coffee, bourbon, caramel, deliciousness.  Even at this point it's noticeably a step above most of the other beers I've had, and is easily the top dark beer so far.  I probably should've stuck around to drink my fill, as they didn't have a line either.

9:02 PM: Fuck I feel fat.

9:05 PM: Shock Top is hosting karaoke.  The participants are a bunch of folks who will never be able to run for president due to the existence of highly incriminating photographs.  Some dude just tried to hit the high notes in "Billie Jean" and it caused an earthquake in Guatemala.

9:07 PM: And Oskar Blues is hosting a "Silent Disco", which is a dance floor where all of the participants are wearing headphones so only they can hear the music.  Dave Chappelle would have a field day with all of the terrible white-dude dancing.

20 seconds of sideways Silent Disco, followed by 7 seconds of Dylbot forgetting he was recording.  I really hope this guy was trying to be ironic, because if not, there are no words.  Although he did manage to get a girl to dance with him.

9:09 PM: Whenever someone drops their taster cup, he or she is immediately jeered by anyone and everyone in the vicinity.  It's been happening all night, it's pretty entertaining, and at this point, it's starting to get kind of nasty.  Some girl dropped her cup, and a random dude yelled "AWWWWWWWWW! You're mother's a whore!"

9:12 PM: Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery (San Francisco, CA) Proving Ground IPA (no website, 7.2% ABV).  Heavy bitterness.  Heavy all around.  A bit behind the eight ball at this point, but still, if it was good, I would've noticed.

9:14 PM: Maui Brewing Company (Lahaina, HI) Sobrehumano Palena 'Ole (6.0% ABV), a red ale collaboration with Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales (Dexter, MI), brewed with passion fruit and cherries.  Tastes a bit muddled and the fruit character seems a bit delicate, which isn't exactly working for my palate since it's somewhere in Grand Junction.

9:15 PM: My main thought right now- can I go until closing (10:00 PM) without breaking the seal?  Wait, don't think about it.  Don't think about it.

9:16 PM: Shit, I'm thinking about it.

9:18 PM: The cropdusting in here is BRUTAL.  Anyone whose significant other enjoys Belgian beer and/or IPA knows what I'm talking about.  But multiply that by a convention center full of bloated idiots who have been overindulging not only on beer but also pretzels, pizza, and turkey legs?  Yikes.  It's like a Soldier Field tailgate, but enclosed.

9:19 PM: Odell Brewing Company (Fort Collins, CO) IPA (7.0% ABV). This one won a 2012 WBC silver medal in the American-Style strong pale ale category, and I have to admit, I was skeptical.  But it was really excellent.  Kind of wondering why the hell I haven't had more of it.  I've said this before, but if you're in Fort Collins and looking for beer, stroll right past New Belgium and go to Odell.

9:27 PM: In line at Cigar City Brewing Company (Tampa, FL).  Quite the reputation, as illustrated by the fact that they've maintained a pretty long line all night- and it's the same length with 30 minutes remaining as it was when we came in.

9:32 PM: Finally, some Jai Alai IPA (7.5% ABV).  Pretty light nose.  Body's light too, and it tastes nicely grassy.  Four hours in and still noticeably good?  Pretty impressive.

9:36 PM: Guh.  More cropdusting.  They're going to have to call in the CDC Hazmat specialists to hose this place down.

9:37 PM: Fuck it, back to Kuhnhenn.  DRIPA is still incredible, and Samer and I are the only ones here.  So more DRIPA.

9:42 PM: A random (and highly boozed-up, as in eyes-barely-open-boozed-up) lady at Lakefront (next door to Kuhnhenn) backs into me, turns around, and says, laughing, "Aww, get out of my way!  You don't even, you don't even, you don't even..." and then exits stage right without another word.

9:43 PM: More DRIPA.  The end of the evening, just hanging out and drinking with the nice folks from Kuhnhenn, who may or may not have been sampling their own wares for a couple of hours.  One of those cool interactions I'd never have had without coming here.  Really solid people.  When's the next time I'll be in Warren, MI?  Don't know.  May have to make a special trip.

9:52 PM: Lights up.  The ol' "We don't care where you go but you can't stay here."

This picture isn't blurry.  It's what things actually looked like at the end of the night.
10:01 PM: I made it.  The seal is finally broken.  Best piss ever?  It's in the running.

In summary: ~35 beers tasted (many more tasters consumed)...which is 1.3% of the total number offered (2700).  Even though I barely scratched the surface, I tried to pay attention to what people were offering, and I feel like I got a good feel for the direction of the craft brewing industry.  Lots of IPA, sours, and imperials, and a lot of liquor and wine barrelling.  Big, challenging, palate-blasting beers, and nobody's shying away from boosting the ABV.  It seems the days of craft breweries focusing on lighter fare like blonde and brown ales are rapidly being left behind.

For me, best in show (in no particular order, and I'm pretty sure Sambo would agree with the first two...I'm not including Alpine because we already spend a lot of time raving about them around here):
Kuhnhenn DRIPA (obviously)
Crooked Stave Persica
Founders KBS

Honorable mention:
Avery Lilikoi Kepolo
Mustang Brandy's Imperial Sundae
Brooklyn Black Ops
Central Waters Brewhouse Coffee Stout

Worst in show:
Three Floyds (next time, bring enough beer, folks)
Me, for not having come to the GABF before.  Shame on me.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Russian River [...] Great Beer [...] Great Wine

type: session ale, farmhouse-ish blonde?
origin: Santa Rosa, CA
price: $4.29/.5l
ABV: 4.75%
NSP: 5.5

Not a title as it is more of a sentence: "It takes a lot of great beer to make great wine."

This beer, from our beloved Russian River, is an homage to the wine-grape harvest and those doing the harvesting - those would rather drink a beer than red wine after a day in the hot sun.  Yeah, no shit!  The thought of hot wine in the daytime makes me think of the dinner (starting at 0:28) from Nothing But Trouble (pure comedic brilliance).

Besides the motivation, this beer succeeds as a crisp and easy on the palate farmhouse-ish ale.  It's not an outstanding beer per say, but it would be hard to pick out a true masterpiece within this style.  The flavors are a bit citrusy but also earthy and light, which makes for some easy swillin'.

I would drink the shit out of this if it weren't so costly.  The price should really be around 2 or 3 per half-Maß.  Oh well, it's not like you can get this anywhere besides Sonoma county (I assume) so I'll just treat it like any other RR beer.  Plus, I don't technically deserve to drink this, given that I care very little about wine and have never picked a grape off a vine in my life.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Left Hand Wake Up Dead Imperial Stout

Type: Imperial Stout
Origin: Longmont, CO
Price: $5.99/22oz
ABV: 10.2%
NSP: 11.07


I've been looking for a change of pace in my beer drinking, after a year or so of IPA after Belgian after IPA after Belgian.  I'd been thinking of digging into some stouts and porters, but it hasn't really been cool enough in San Diego for those styles to sound appealing.  But I'm back in Colorado for some beer-soaked shenanigans (more on that to come).  It's getting chilly around here, so stouts and porters it is.  I picked this one up because a) I've always liked Left Hand to begin with (as I said in the Boulder County Trilogy), and b) Left Hand has kept their beers at approachable prices instead of exploiting the ever-growing demand for craft beer for their own financial benefit.  $5.99 for a 22 of 10.2% beer is something I can get on board with.

Looks like stout, so that's a good start.  The smell is quite surprising.  There's the usual stout characteristics- roasty malt with coffee and chocolate.  But there's also a lot of dark fruitiness and licorice to it, enough that it kind of made me think of an American strong ale with a few drops of Chambord in it.  It smells syrupy, as far as syrupy can be a smell.

Yeah, it's syrupy.  Probably can't help but be with so much booze.  But the flavors are robust enough that you don't taste the alcohol right off the bat (it gains strength as it warms, as with any high-ABVer) even while the mouthfeel lets you know it's there.  The fruitiness and licorice aren't nearly as strong in the flavor, so the strong ale+Chambord thing doesn't really hold up.  It's actually a pretty straightforward stout, well made, nicely balanced flavor-wise, and easy to drink- so it keeps right in line with the usual Left Hand qualities. But it'll also warm you up at 10.2% ABV.  Perfect for a chilly winter night.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Russian River Perdition

type: wild-yeast ale, or "Biere de Sonoma"
origin: Santa Rosa, CA
price: $3.75/.5l at RR
ABV: 6.1%
NSP: 8.1

I recently had a chance to get up to Santa Rosa for a quick trip to Russian River.  It's safe to assume that visiting here means you're going to have some delicious brew, but I wasn't prepared for this.  Not a chance.

Perdition is Russian River's wild-yeast ale from Sonoma county, and it blew my freakin' socks off.  This beer is a work of modern art: rough around the edges but captivating and forward.  Le biere en garde is a canon-shot across your palate - a challenge to your beer-drinking sensibilities, if you will.  It's hard to describe, but it's like that moment you realize people aren't perfect, but can often have profoundly redeeming qualities.  That's this beer.  Ridiculous, I tells yah.

But I don't think they should bottle this. Ever, ever, ever.  For Jebus' sake just let this stand as a true testament to the finest of Sonoma county brewers, and let it be available only at the brewery.

Drinking beers like this that make trying failed, shitty homebrew and the for-sale crap in the stores all worth it.  It makes you realize why (a) Russian River is the best brewery in the state (and perhaps country), and (b) why you should be visiting any local breweries doing similar things.  Because the point is to experience local delicacies, if they exist!

OK, maybe I'm using a bit much of the ole hyperbole, but at least take this message home: Jebus this is good. Really really good.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Redhook Long Hammer IPA

type: IPA
origin: Seattle, WA
price: $1.99 (!) at BevMo
ABV: 6.2%
NSP: 20.2

Redhook's origins were small -- an earnest Seattle microbrewery -- but now they're huge, and balls deep in the Craft Brewers Brew Alliance (think Widmer, Magic Hat, etc.).  The primary owners are Anheuser-Busch InBev, which means their production can never outpace their distribution.

Because this brewery has evolved into a high volume, reasonably high quality brewer (along the lines of, say, Boston Brewing), and has an unsurpassed distribution network, meaning can now find this in nearly every store, straddled by Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Sam Adams Boston Lager.  All three are sufficiently distinct, and flavorful, that you shouldn't be disappointed if that's your only selection. (Although I might be more inclined to roll with Sierra first.)

As an IPA this is as basic as they come.  It's adequately hopped,  but a little too malty to be really good.  Nothing interesting going on.  Easy drinking though, and I can't complain at two flippin' dollars!

EDIT, October 10, 2012:  Did you note the strikethrough?  Well, a PR person for Redhook contacted us (politely) asking the following records be set straight: "Craft Brewers Alliance" is now named "Craft Brew Alliance", and they are not affiliated with Magic Hat. The Alliance consists of Redhook, Widmer Brothers, Kona Brewing, and Omission.  WHEW!  Glad we cleared all that up.

Green Flash Hop Head Red

type: red IPA
origin: San Diego, CA
price: $7.50/4-pack/12oz
ABV: 7.0%
NSP: 13.3

I don't have a clue what a "red IPA" is, but what I assume it to be -- given Green Flash's hoputation -- is a deep red ale (think full body and heavy bitterness) taken to a new level with a fucktuple of hops, including a dry hop for aromas.

Aaaaand I was right.

There's a big hop blast (heavy on the bitter of course) mixed with a deep caramel/brown-sugar finish, and some classic aromas which, when taken collectively, will knock the dust off that palate, to be sure.

It's safe to say this is my favorite beer from San Diego's Green Flash.  I've enjoyed watching them evolve and try new styles (e.g. Rayon Vert), but this is spot on in the Hell Yeah! department.  It's unique, well done, delicious, and strong: the makings of a great beer.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Lost Abbey Carnevale

Type: Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Origin: San Marcos, CA
Price: Don't recall
ABV: 6.5%
NSP: ?

A few months ago, I went through a little brett saison phase, inspired by the delicious Logsdon Seizoen Bretta.  I had this one at Ritual back then based upon reader Jeff's suggestion, and I wasn't all that impressed with it- not because I thought it was poorly crafted or anything, but because Logsdon set the scale so high that it couldn't help but be a letdown.  As it turned out, however, that disappointment wasn't unique- the Logsdon was the only one of the type I found during that period that I actually enjoyed, and the rest (particularly Brett Dream, to which I won't stop linking until something surpasses it in shittiness) just didn't do it for me.  So I gave up on brett saisons for a while.  But I bought this when it was released (it's a Lent beer, so five or six months ago) and it's been taking up space in the fridge ever since.  I've had it long enough that I've completely forgotten what I paid for it.  I'm hoping the 'cellaring' will have taken some of the rough edges off the brett.

It looks like beer, so that's good.  The website says that it has the color of a 'proper Mimosa'...really?  That's what you decided to compare it to?  It looks like straightforward beer.  The nose is, as expected, quite yeasty, but I'd say it's split pretty evenly between brett and regular Belgian funk.  But the yeast is not so powerful that it obscures the typical saison pepper and citrus, which are present in abundance.  So the smell is a good start.

Two pats on the back for this one- first to Lost Abbey for their skill, and second to myself for having the patience/cowardice to wait this one out for a few months.  Because this is now the second brett saison that I've liked.  The time spent in the bottle definitely smoothed the brett out- it's miles better than when I had it at Ritual right after Lost Abbey released it.  The brett's now a nice accent flavor rather than the somewhat overwhelming feature it was when I had it at Ritual.  So it ends up tasting like a complex (more than usual) saison rather than a saisony brettfest- and the saison base they created would be delicious on its own.  The body's nice and light too, so all in all, it's a tasty and refreshing warm Sunday afternoon beer.  Definitely recommended.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

White Birch Wild Ale

Type: Wild Ale
Origin: Hooksett, NH
Price: ?
ABV: 9.5%
NSP: ?

Alex brought this one out from the east coast, so we decided to do a collaborative review.  Alex is far more of a sour kind of fellow (beer-wise, not personality-wise) than I am- I don't tend to like sours at all, and this is my first sour review- so we're bringing two levels of expertise to the review.

The color is downright weird.  The closest thing I can think of is when you've got the spins, and you hurl a few times and think you feel better.  But then, just when you're about to fall asleep, you feel one more lap around the porcelain coming on.  But when you get there and start praying, all you manage is some bile and shame.  And that's what this looks like.  A late-stage vomit mixed with toilet water.

Alex: The color reminds me of the hopped up lemonade we made, but maybe a bit milkier or siltier.

Smell-wise, I'd describe it as spoiled grapefruit juice. The grapefruit is promising, the spoiled is not.  There's a bit of woodsy smell in there too, and some lemony citrus in addition to the grapefruit.  The initial shot of the flavor is promising too- plenty of citrus, and not a lot of over-the-top sourness.  But the finish is pretty rough.  There's a strong, weird toasted marshmallow/rotten walnut finish, and it's not good.  It fades a bit as you make your way through the glass, but it never turns into anything pleasurable.  It's pretty nasty, and it's certainly not going to make me hurry and enjoy sours.

Alex: I couldn't really position the after flavor beyond 'toasted' but Chris nailed it with rotten walnut. The toast pretty much kills it, sort of like: I threw up in my mouth and am now tasting half digested mouth remnants. This beats the Pamola XPA by a solid margin just on body, but losing the toasted brett fest would have put it even better off.  Compared to the Night Falls, this is garbage.  The more you drink it, the more it tastes like throw-up-in-your-mouth.

So, to sum up: yuck.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Knee Deep Citra Extra Pale Ale

type: single hop pale ale
origin: Lincoln, CA
price: $7/22oz
ABV: 7%
NSP: 6.5

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I love the idea of single hop beers.  So here's Knee Deep's attempt at an "extra pale ale".  OK, maybe it looks pale, but this is no pale ale.  This beer is what most breweries call an I - P - A.  Heard of that before?  Seems to me our much lauded Knee Deep has a serious hop-identity crisis.  This tastes strikingly bitter for 45 IBU (consider Big Eye is nearly 80 IBU), and clearly there's a deep malt backbone (it's 7 damn percent), but the bitterness is precisely why this succeeds.

I noted in the Hermitage Citra post that this hop-varietal is great for aromatics; unfortunately, this beer is sorely lacking in that department.  But I also noted that Hermitage's usage of the hop was unable to keep the maltiness in check.  This beer, however, does that brilliantly.  I taste a bit of smokiness too.  Interesting.

I think this is a fantastic beer that's inappropriately named.  Fortunately the label is miles ahead of the Hoptologist, and screams "HOPPY REFRESHMENT HERE!", so I'll just stash this away in the category of great IPAs, and keep on truckin'.

And finally: Thank the great beer lord this didn't taste like Pamola XPA.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Avec Les Bons Voeux de la Brasserie Dupont

Type: Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Origin: Tourpes, Belgium
Price: $11.99/750 mL
ABV: 9.5%
NSP: 5.94 (unscaled)

Damn life, getting in the way of my beer reviewing.  Thought I'd celebrate my return (even though it hasn't really been that long) with a bottle that'd been hanging out in my fridge for a while.  I was at Bine and Vine a while back, browsing their nice collection of Belgians, and the mustard-yellow label jumped out at me.  And of course, it never hurts to have something from Dupont in the fridge.  The name means, as the website says, "With the Best Wishes of the Brasserie Dupont."  I kind of wish they'd made a typo and printed "Brassiere Dupont", but that's mainly because I'm juvenile.  Anyway, apparently this is a New Year's bottling- so the bottle's been cellared a bit.

The bottle gave me a nice champagne-y cough when I opened it, with that always inviting wisp of vapor that often accompanies it.  Of course, it also meant that no matter how gently I poured it, the head was going to explode.  Which I was not pleased about, because it was going to force me to wait a bit to drink it, and I haven't had a leisurely beer in a while so I wasn't patient.  The smell coming out of the glass is pretty incredible, everything good about a saison- pepper and lemon, with a nice honey sweetness and Belgian funk.  

The flavor is also everything you could want in a saison.  The lemony citrus, a bit of spice, and nice funky Belgian yeast flavors.  There's also a fair bit of pilsner-like skunky bitterness, more than I was expecting.  And lurking behind it all is a pretty feisty booze punch- which is not necessarily surprising, given that the body of a saison's not really stout enough to completely conceal 9.5%.  

In short, this is really damn good.  It doesn't try to fuck around with the typical saison flavors, and it nails all of the hallmarks right on the head.  The only thing that drags this down a bit (and I mean, a very little bit) is that the alcohol's a bit strong.  Normally I wouldn't bitch about that (this being an NSP-centric blog and all) but saison flavors are a bit delicate, and the actual flavor of the alcohol kind of combats everything else.  But that's on the nitpicky end of the criticism scale.  So the lesson is, as always- if you're in a saison mood, and you don't know what to get, go for something from Dupont.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Deschutes Hop in the Dark (again)

type: black IPA or "Cascadia dark ale"
origin: Bend, OR
price: $6/22oz
ABV: 6.5%
NSP: 7.0

I've already praised this beer, but I'm writing this again to remind people what a black IPA should taste like.  Not a porter, not an IPA.  Somewhere right in the middle.  Rich, full bodied, but easy on the palate, hoppy, and wonderfully smooth.

Although I can be persuaded otherwise, I still think this is, hands down, the best black IPA around, and dare I say Deschutes' finest offering besides the Abyss.

So, again, if you want to introduce yourself to the black IPA style, start here and don't look back.  But I hear from the grapevine that Wookey Jack is mighty fine, so I guess I'll just have to test that on my upcoming trip to Firestone Walker.