Monday, December 30, 2013

Schneider Weisse Mein Nelson Sauvin (2011)

type: wheat bock
origin: Kelheim, Germany
price: $15/750ml (in 2011)
ABV: 7.3%
NSP: 3.7

My cellar has taken quite a beating over these holidays, and this was one of only a few bottles of non-stout beer that faired quite well over its resting period.  I was originally hesitated to stow this away, but even the bottle reassured me it would last.  So here we are, two years later...

This is a rather subtle, yet fully complex, wheat beer that is nicely refreshing.  Some fruit and spice notes from the yeast, and a nice mild body from the wheat.  There was a tinge of sourness that may have developed over time, but I can't be sure.  Somewhat surprisingly, given the name, hops are really not at the fore of this, but I'm OK with that.

I think it's worth cellaring this, but probably no longer than about a year or so.  At that NSP I'd like to try it fresh, and in Germany.  Actually, it appears that Kelheim is only about 100km from Plzen... hmmmm, trip anyone?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Iron Fist Uprising (redux)

type: Belgian Tripel IPA
origin: San Diego, CA
price: $10/750ml
ABV: 12%
NSP: 9

Chris already gave us his take on this, but after drinking the latest crop of Uprising, I'm wondering if the recipe has changed.

Firstly, just compare the colors and note how Chris originally thought it resembled a quad.  I don't get the same impression and the beer clearly has a nice golden/light-amber appearance.

Secondly, I don't think it's overly boozy.  It does pack quite an ABV wallop, but I find it to be nicely tempered by the classic Belgian style flavors and, yada yada yada, I'm drunk.  POW.  It goes down a little too smoothly, actually.

The aromas are not hop-forward, so the fact that it's somewhat bitter and reminiscent of an IPA is a surprise, initially.  Although this is a fantastic beer, it could be absolutely world class if they dry hopped it a la Pale 31 (or some equivalent wonderfulness): I want a hop-forward aroma!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Ballast Point Piper Down

type: Scottish-style ale
origin: San Diego, CA
price: $5/22oz
ABV: 5.8%
NSP: 7.5

Make no mistake, this is a complex, flavorful ale which has remnants of an American strong ale (without the strong) and an almost quad-like tinge.  Lots of squaw bread and raisin, tempered with a nice stable level of brown-sugar and maltiness.  This is not insanely hoppy like it's older brother, Tongue Buckler, but just bitter enough to keep your senses tuned to the beer's inherent complexity.

As a professional crappy-beer brewer, this is indeed not crappy and quite interesting; but, what seems more interesting is the process of making it.  The bottle reads (in little detail) that this goes through a three hour boil, which seems like a pretty long boil-time by most brewing standards.  Oddly, though, the ABV doesn't indicate that the long boil time produced some sugary reduction that you could pour over pancakes (nor does the appearance).

I would say definitely pick this up and see what you think, although I can't immediately think of a good time to drink the style.  Oh... wait... while eating barbecue.  Or, haggis?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Green Flash Grand Cru (2010)

type: Belgian dark strong ale
origin: San Diego, CA
price: $7.50/22 (in 2010)
ABV: 9.1%
NSP: 7.7

Pulled this baby out of the cellar over the Thanksgiving holiday, about three years since purchasing it.  The yeast had definitely been active because this thing made a sharp hiss and snap when I opened it; I guess that means it was well-sealed too.  Nice.  I should've bought a recent bottle of GF's Grand Cru to compare with, but this still has impressive, complex flavors that are mostly dominated by a charred oak-barrel aspect.  Was that intentional?   I can't be sure, but it was definitely at the fore, and perhaps a bit too strong.  It reminded me somewhat of the flavors you find in a good añejo; fortunately, it wasn't from a tequila man blowing a whistle.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Saint Archer IPA

type: IPA
origin: San Diego, CA
price: $3.99/22oz
ABV: 6.8%
NSP: 11.1

Great, another SD brewery that I have to try and figure out...  but this is a great beer to start with, and an incredible value.  There's nothing shocking about this, but it surely has deep hop character YOLO'n all over a relatively easy drinking, clean, and delicious ale; all that means it'll leave quite an impression on you, as it did for me.  In fact, it reminds me of Blind Pig, and that's a huge compliment given how good BP actually is (even though I apparently dislike it when tasting it blind).  There's no need to say much else, but to summarize: delicious IPA at a great value.  No brainer right here.

From now on I'll be adding a new feature to my reviews here: if the beer is enjoyable and has a reasonably high NSP (like St. Archer's IPA), you'll see this:

But if it has an excessively low NSP or tastes like dogballs, then you'll see a picture with the hand turned upside down.  This way you'll instantly know whether it rubs the lotion on its skin, or it gets the hose. Cheers!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Alesmith Decadence (2013)

type: doppelbock lager
origin: San Diego, CA
price: $13.50/750ml
ABV: 10.0%
NSP: 5.6

Last year Alesmith's Decadence was a ridiculous quad.  I enjoyed the squid outta that beer, but it left me worried how they would top it for this year.  A doppelbock lager??  Chris and I were incredulous: it wasn't even an ale!

We were dead wrong.  It's hard to say whether this "tops" the 2012 batch, but this is surely a fine member of the Decadence clan.  The last great doppelbock I had before this was Mammoth's Hair of the Bear, and this is definitely a step up.  It's remarkably smooth for how boozy it is, and you get to fully embrace the bready/raisin-ish flavors from the grain.  Those flavors dominate your senses from aroma, all the way through the finish, and even though it's impressively smooth, it's also hefty enough that it can pair very nicely with holiday meals.

I really need to start buying more of this each year, and add the remaining bottles to the cellar... and I suggest you do the same.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

BD in a Flying Dog: Woody Creek

type: Belgian-style white ale
origin: Frederick, MD
price: $11/6-pack
ABV: 4.8%
NSP: 9.3

Annnd we're back... with another installment of the Flying Dog Ballz Deep series:  I'm happy to say this lives up to my inflated expectations of FD.

It seems to me this sits somewhere in between Avery's White Rascal (we haven't reviewed it, but definitely check out the comments on Chris' Avery post), and Deschutes' Chainbreaker, but with a more subtle set of flavors (not any less complex though).  Wildeman was a resounding success, and with this beer I'm now a firm believer that the FD brewers know exactly how Belgian yeast and additives should be used to create classic spicy-orange-peel flavors.  This is more or less a really easy drinking light-wheat ale with wonderful Belgian-like flavors and and an appropriate level of hops.  It reminds me somewhat of Hoegaarden, which I'd slug back any day.  Another notch in the belt for FD, I suppose.

I think that's Steadman's representation of the Coachella main stage.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Knee Deep Midnight Hoppyness

type: imperial black, rye, IPA (an IBRIPA??)
origin: Lincoln, CA
price: $8.35/22oz
ABV: 9.5%
NSP: 7.4

The funny thing about this review is that, in retrospect, I had no idea what type of beer this was when I bought it.  I thought it was some variant on their 'hoppy-as-fuck' IPA schtick, so when I poured it I was legitimately shocked (cuss words were exclaimed).  And so here we are: the first official "imperial black rye IPA" I've ever had, and it's rather delicious.

My standard for Black IPA (or "Cascadia Dark Ale", if you please) has always been Hop in the Dark or Sublimely Self-Righteous.  The flavors are very similar, but of those only SSR comes close to this in the ABV range (8.7%, although that's also brutally imperial).  The head is nice, and aligned with my expectations for the style: somewhere between tan and brown, like a nice espresso crema.  Oddly, given Knee Deep's hop-utation, there aren't really any aromas coming from that lovely head, which forced a double take from me.  Fortunately, though, the lack of solid aromas is essentially negligible because the beer itself is incredibly tasty, deceptively hoppy, and very smooth and easy to drink.  It finishes a bit light which is a little unexpected, but I'm thoroughly enjoying this.

With Batch 138 I was becoming worried that KD was a one-trick pony (i.e., the schtick I mentioned earlier), but this says otherwise.  I'm impressed because not many breweries even attempt the single black IPA (let alone an imperial!), yet this is exceptional.  So I cheers a bravo to KD: you folks are a pony with more than one trick.  Let's just hope you decide to brew this again.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Bells Expedition Stout

type: Russian imperial stout
origin: Comstock, MI
price: $3/12oz
ABV: 10.5%
NSP: 12.4

This damn bottle has been staring at me in the face since Brats and I returned from North Carolina in May.  The batch I'm drinking was bottled in October of 2012 (it's now November of 2013) and I am absolutely impressed.  As with any IRS as absolutely massive as this, it's hard to look past the 'elephant in the room', which happens to also be stepping fully on your brain: the alcohol.  It's boozy, and so are the aromas wafting up, which can be off-putting.  But, jf you push through and give that elephant a peanut it will ease off, revealing wondrous flavors like rich molasses and deep dark chocolate malts.  The key to this beer is that it still reminds me of beer.  That claim may sound strange, but just give Bourbon County a try, for example, and you'll understand my meaning immediately.

This is very highly rated by the trolls, and I don't disagree.  But this is a dessert beer, to be sure, and I'm a dessert fiend.  I can see how probably only a small fraction of beer drinkers will appreciate this: it's the kind of beer that needs a significant amount of time to chill out.  The kind you forget about in your cellar (even if that means it's sitting in the back of your closet), and it ends up surprising the hell out of you years later.

In retrospect, I would've happily paid nearly double what I did, so I suggest you try and find this when it becomes available (and buy two, so you can do some vertical tasting!).  I would also like to reproduce some prose from Bells' website, because I think it does this beer justice:
One of the earliest examples of the Russian Imperial Stout in the United States, Expedition Stout offers immensely complex flavors crafted specifically with vintage aging in mind, as its profile will continue to mature and develop over the years. A huge malt body is matched to a heady blend of chocolate, dark fruits, and other aromas. Intensely bitter in its early months, the flavors will slowly meld and grow in depth as the beer ages. Shelf Life: Unlimited | Dates Available: Winter | Available Packages: Bottle and draft
This, my friends, is why drinking craft beer gives me a warm, tingly feeling inside.  Or it's the 10.5%.  Either way, I'm cool.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Firestone Union Jack

type: IPA
origin: Paso Robles, CA
price: $12/6-pack
ABV: 7.5%
NSP: 13.3

I get a warm feeling every time I see this in the store.  Perhaps it's the bright red colors on the label, beckoning you to be fearful of what's inside like a Coral snake; more likely, though, those warm feelings inside stem from consuming copious amounts of an incredibly well-crafted IPA.  It's double dry-hopped (properly) and sits at a hefty 7.5%, which means it'll hit you right in the feel-goods.  Every time.

Did you even look at the website bro?  If not, take a look at all the damn awards this beer has.  More importantly, this is produced in great volumes (you can find it damn near everywhere), and the NSPs are always very high: I have a hard time buying any other IPA when this is on the shelf.

Even under intense competition this beer did very well in our epic Cali IPA tournament.  It's not the most complex IPA you'll find, but it's damn near the top among others from California.  And it's always on tap at Shakespeare's, served in proper British pints nonetheless.  Cheers mate!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Deschutes The Abyss Release and Vertical Profile 2009-2013

The wife and I skipped work and headed down to Portland to do some tax free shopping and get our hands on an entire case of The Abyss. We got to the Portland brew pub about 40 minutes early and there were already about 10 people in line for the 11 am opening. Upon opening, we were greeted with free tasters of the 2013 Abyss and we were in heaven. Twelve bottles and $204 later, we were seated at a table with our newly purchased love-child. They had a special menu for the day that was heavily influenced by the Abyss. I got a Kobe burger with Abyss sauteed onions and some other Abyssy thing. I could eat that fucking burger everyday for every meal for the rest of my life. I also decided to do the 6-taster vertical profile, which consisted of the 2009-2013 editions and the 2013 edition on nitro. We also got a full goblet of nitro 2013. The taster was $24, but the tasters were full 4 oz pours of all the editions and included a Abyss chocolate truffle (which was fantastic). The goblet of nitro was a reasonable $7. Also, no tax on that. Gotta love living in Washington with no income tax and being able to shop in Oregon with no sales tax. We also picked up something completely obscene at Williams-Sonoma, but I would rather not share that with you (hey, we didn't have a wedding registry, so I guess that counts for something).

Looking like a doofus, but I have a case and you don't

Anyways, onto the vertical profile. I thought this would be a hard task since they were all exceptional, but was surprisingly easy using Chris' greater than/less than approach. It was too hard to pick out minute details when drinking them all next to each other, but the major qualities of the aging popped out nicely. So without further ado, from best to worst: 2010, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2011. The nitro 2013 was between the 2009 and 2012. Heres my notes:

2009: Everything has mellowed, similar to 2010, but lighter
2010: Perfect combo of bourbon/coffee, stronger on the bourbon
2011: The inflection point between coffee dominated and bourbon dominated
2012: More coffee than others
2013: Needs some time. Not as strong on coffee as 2012, but rough around the edges still
2013 Nitro: Everything is better on nitro

So thats all. Come visit me in November 2014 and lets do it again.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Rogue Morimoto Soba Ale (revisited, three years later)

type: pale ale
origin: Newport, OR
price: $7/22
ABV: 4.8%
NSP: 4.5

It's been almost three years (!) since I first formed an opinion of this beer.  The price has ticked up substantially, unfortunately; but, I'm just glad to be seeing this again because my opinion remains unchanged.

This is, simply, a fantastic beer that I wish was served at sushi restaurants.  The soba adds, I think, a welcomed complexity to an otherwise basic beer formula that's already requires a delicate touch to get right (a basic, non-hoppy pale ale).  Morimoto and Rogue have accomplished something great with this beer, which makes me OK with the whole "Free Range Coastal Water" thing.  Yeah, seriously, wtf?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Ironfire Synner

type: pale ale
origin: Temecula, CA
price: $5.40/22oz at Bottlecraft
ABV: 5%
NSP: 6.0

Ironfire is a brewery that needs a bit more maturing, it seems.  They are able to produce shockingly good beers (e.g., Nuhell), but in this case I'm not terribly impressed, and even somewhat disappointed.

The base of beer has a lot of potential, but the most disappointing aspect is the aroma.  Unfortunately, it's not 'correct', meaning there is an inescapable off-putting character to it that obliterates the pleasure of beer consumption.  I don't think this is the "fruitiness" they claim it should have; rather, I think it's a defect, which may also explain the excessive carbonation.  Of course, all this could be from some shelf-life effect, or poor handling by Bottlecraft (I'd be surprised if it was the latter because then it usually just tastes stale and papery); and so, for those reasons, I remain open to trying this again.

But, in the end, it just seems like this is a beer that's trying to hard to be something it's not.  Surely that sounds vague and rarefied, but we're all about being enigmatic around here... and using big words.  Anyway, there are much better hoppy pale ales around that are easier to find, and have better NSP (Pale 31XPDoggie Style, Mirror Pond(s), Sierra Nevada, ...).

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Odell Myrcenary

type: double IPA
origin: Fort Collins, CO
price: ?
ABV: 9.3%
NSP: ?

The American DIPA field is wide, and deep, which means impressive beers of the style can be (1) very hard to find, and (2) very impressive.  This happens to have both traits: we hardly get anything from Odell in San Diego, and it is fantastic.  Flavors created by the hops, and yeast, combine to give subtle--yet complementary--fruitiness, and an incredible set of aromas with a nice medium body.  And you can hardly tell it's a whopping 9.3%, which makes this all that much better.  This would be a definite contender in the next installment of the DIPA blind tasting.

In case it was not, let me make my opinion a little more clear...  If this beer is not in your list of 'Top 10 DIPAs' of all time, go ahead and beat yourself over the head with a large mallet, Babyfart McGeezaks.  Or, more succinctly: Wow, just... wow.

Thank you, Odell.  Thank you.  And thanks again to you too, Panda Pat.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Maui Sobrehumano Palena'ole

The can was a wee-bit small next to my glass,
so I had to prop it up with an apple, obviously.
type: red ale brewed with fruit
origin: Maui, HI
price: ?
ABV: 6%
NSP: ?

If there's one thing that Maui B.C. is proficient at, it's brewing beer with real fruit additives.  They manage to find the correct balance of additives (the pineapple in Mana, for example), so that it lends a nice hand to an already quality beer (I fully converted after CoCoNut PorTer) rather than dominate the flavors..

This is no exception.  It was apparently brewed with passion fruit and cherries, a combination which is exceptionally tasty.  The aromas are strong and appetizing, and while it tastes a bit sweet, it's tempered with a nice acidity and cherry essence.  I found it to be delicious after eating dinner, although I would be happier if the carbonation persisted longer.

This was a collaboration with Jolly Pumpkin, out of Michigan (who provided the cherries), and I'd be surprised if you see it again.  But hey, if you do, snatch that shit up: your better half with thank you.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Nøgne Ø #500: Imperial IPA

type: imperial IPA
origin: Grimstad, Norway
price: $9/0.5l at Maria's Packaged Goods
ABV: 10%
NSP: 5.6

Once again Nøgne Ø has created an exceptional beer, and the Norske semi-torque continues.  This time it's a complex, rich imperial IPA.  Their combination of barley, wheat, rye, and oats has created a beer with an absolutely massive malt body approaching a barleywine in character: molasses, caramel, apricot, and wheat bread flavors swirling around running train on your senses.  Unfortunately the aromas are not really what I expect, or hope for, in an IIPA of this magnitude, but this is Nøgne-mutha-fuggin-Ø and they can do whatever the hell they want.

It's a bit on the 'sure-as-fuck-isnt-dry' side, so it can drag a bit; but, I still think it's fantastic.  And, I'm sure this is much more enjoyable when fresh (the Nelson hop characteristics are probably brighter), but I'll take what I can get.  (Thanks, Luis Alberto Diaz Chavez de Michuacan, for recommending a quality haunt on the southside.)  It reminds me quite a bit of Old Tempest, but hoppier (bittering mostly) a tough to finish, although I can imagine it developing (even greater) complexity with time.

If you can find this in a bottleshop, I highly recommend you try it; but, I wouldn't order it at Toro, for example, because it'll knock you--and your tastebuds--straight on your ass.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Evil twin: bikini beer

type:IPA Lite
price:$3.50/12oz at Trappist, Oakland, CA

First post in a long time for a new favorite beer (in it's class). Never before have I had a truly hoppy 2.8% abv beer. This is the bud light of IPA. You could drink it all day and never get wasted. The nose has maybe some citra and the hop profile is definitely IPA, but the body is super lite beer style.

The story on the can is also entertaining:
Named after an atom bomb test grounds, designed by a French car engineer - the bikini was to many a disturbing and degrading creation but fortunately for others a symbol of emancipation. This attractively light-bodied, seductively well balanced and very drinkable Bikini Beer is anything but a sissy beer.

Some might argue about the sissyness of such a small beer, but regardless this is definitely the hoppiest of the lite beers I've ever had. And how can you say no to a bikini anyway?

St. Florian's IPA

type: IPA
origin: Windsor, CA
price: ~$7/22
ABV: 7.3%
NSP: 6.8

The beer: very good.  It's an English style IPA that's been somewhat Californicated.  It's a big, delicious burst of caramel malts, a heavy dose of booze, and substantial bitterness, which goes down quite easily.  I think the only thing that could be improved upon is the aroma: it's somewhere between lacking and nonexistent.  Give it a hefty wallop of dry hopping and take it to 11.

The brewery: It's new, and it's small.  There's no tasting room (yet), and they apparently only brew this and a California Common.  I appreciate the idea of starting with a small lineup, where each is delicious, and well crafted.  I don't care if you can make fifty different beers, I only care that you can make high quality beers; if that means you only make two, then so be it!

Legend has it that the Patron St. Florian used the water saved for the next day's brew to "extinguish a catastrophic fire", and is now the protector of firefighters everywhere.  Let us hope St Florian continues to protect this brewery, because they've got some real talent.  I'm looking forward to seeing them grow.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Brendan's SIP: Port Townsend Hop Diggidy IPA

Type: IPA
Origin: Port Townsend, Washington
Price: $4.19 per 22 oz
ABV: 5.9%
NSP: 9.2

Port Townsend is another Puget Sound city that I am including in this Seattle IPA plow since I am desperate to add more go-to beers into my repertoire. I picked this one up more as an impulse due to the price and the absurd punnery of 'thar she brews' written on the bottom. As I sit here writing this review, I am more and more confused with why they wrote that on the bottle and what a random hippy lady wearing a crown of hops has to do with the name 'Hop Diggidy'. Fuck it, this is America, so I approve.

As an IPA goes, there is just a little something missing. It has a decent malt/hop ratio (a bit on the malty side, but not absurd), but doesn't include any overpowering citrus or floral hop flavors. It is also quite light, understandable given the 5.9%. As a session beer, this might do, but for a complex interesting beer, look elsewhere.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Brendan's SIP: Big Al Big Hoppa IPA

Type: IPA
Origin: Seattle, WA
Price: $4.99 per 22 oz
ABV: 7.3%
NSP: 9.5

Another pick up on the Seattle IPA plow, another slight disappointment. Contains five types of hops, although this seems like some destructive interference, with just too much malt character blasting through with some brown ale notes popping through. On the plus side, the NSP is pretty good and it doesnt taste like water. Nothing else to say, just move along.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Third Street Aleworks Bombay Rouge

type: red IPA
origin: Santa Rosa, CA
price: $7/22oz at the Petaluma Market
ABV: 7.6%
NSP: 7.1

I have to start with an apology to Santa Rosa's Third Street Aleworks (TSA): guys, I'm sorry I doubted you.  Why?  I was a little hesitant to buy this, if only because of where it's from: why would you ever open a brewery around the corner from Russian River? I naively thought.  But TSA has been around since 1995, so clearly something is working.  And this beer is fantastic!  We've finally found a contender for best in class for red IPAs, alongside Hop Head Red.

It looks like TSA has excellent Irish stout brewing capabilities, but I'd be surprised if this wasn't a top contender for the style in any competition.  The beer leans a bit towards an American strong ale (think Stone's Arrogant Bastard, but a little less arrogant) which is totally OK with me.  It's quite delicious with a nice caramel+cherry type thing going on, but with a big hop punch; it's definitely "A BIG RED 4 HOPHEADS", as the bottle puts it.

I can see this hitting the spot with a nice plate of spicy barbecue, but either way I'll have to do an update of the Sonoma County Trilogy.  Well done, sirs!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Oakshire Watershed IPA

Type: IPA
Origin: Eugene, Oregon
Price: Was in variety 6-pack for $8.99
ABV: 6.7%

The past two weeks at Chucks85th I have decided to toss in a mystery 6-pack just for funzies. The first week there were 4 beers I already had and 2 new ones (one a cider which I let the wifey have, the other this monstrosity). This week its 5 new ones and a  Ballast Calico Amber. I decided to pop this one first because I haven't even heard of the brewery, most likely due to their completely boring can design. It seriously looks like a Miller High Life and is slightly reminiscent of the new Pelican's jerseys. I actually took a picture of the 'interesting' side; the other side is white lettering on light gold. Chris reviewed this about a year and a half ago and noted a spoiled flavor, which I get none. Probably due to the can.

Fortunately for me, Oakshire decided to spend all of their time on the beer because this is damn refreshing. The nose on this is beautiful: a mix of pine and grapefruit, completely overpowering, but in a good way. The taste is a bit more subdued. The pine and grapefruit are there, but it seems rather light and thin. This is not the greatest IPA, but it definitely fills a hole in the sessionable IPA category (even given the 6.7%). Thank you mystery six pack, for if it was not for you, I still wouldn't know this brewery exists.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Brooklyn Dry Irish Stout

type: Irish stout
origin: Brooklyn, NY
price: ~$1.50/12oz at Binny's in Chiwalkie Town
ABV: 4.7%
NSP: 11.1

We don't get much from Brooklyn Brewery around these parts.  Given that their brewmaster, Garrett Oliver, wrote the most awesome book about beer I've ever seen (The Oxford Companion), I usually try and pick up their beers if I find them.

So their Dry Irish Stout made it back with me from Chicago.  It's dry... and an Irish stout!  A shocker, I know, but it shouldn't be because the style is not supposed to be hefty, like an imperial stout for example; it's meant to be sessionable.  And, yes, this could definitely be sessionable because while it has strong notes of roasted malt/dark chocolate and coffee accents, it also has very low body and is quite dry.  It's well crafted and nothing is wrong with it; but, it doesn't offer anything you can't find in a bottle of Guinness.  I would definitely drink this on nitro, although that's even harder to imagine finding around here.

Monday, October 28, 2013

John Henry West Indies Pale Ale

Type: pale ale
Origin: Cold Spring, Minnesota
Price:$7.99 per 750 mL
ABV: 9.4%
NSP: 8.8

I should start a new beer series called 'beers forgotten'. This has been in the back of my fridge since March. If you remember I reviewed another John Henry beer, the Colonial Cream and Brown Ale, which was quite tasty for its non-descriptness. The difference in this one is the aging with Dark Rum oak spirals and a bit more ABV. I'm actually surprised they call this a pale ale at this ABV level since its at least 2% greater than expected.

My first impression is this has a lot of cola qualities; the color and the initial flavor remind me of Coca Cola. That flavor is not long lived, and settles down into an incredibly mellow beer. The rum is evident, but more in the direction of Rum and Coke. It also has a really light mouthfeel. Other than that, there really isn't much going on. Nothing about it reminds me of a pale ale and there is really no hop quality to speak of. It doesn't remind me of any other beer I have had, so I guess the uniqueness and price alone should convince you to try this.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Brendan's SIP: Old Schoolhouse Imperial IPA

Type: Imperial IPA
Origin: Winthrop, WA
Price: $7.99 per 22 oz
ABV: 9%
NSP: 7.3

I reviewed this beer back in March when I was interviewing for my current job, but just haven't gotten around to adding the picture (you would be surprised how many drafts we have). Also, I am including this in the Seattle IPA plow even though Winthrop is not really in the Seattle metro area (its out in the mountains).  I picked this up at the Metropolitan Market in Queen Anne, which had quite a good beer selection. This one I picked up because it got 95 points on RateBeer and I was really in the mood for a strong IPA (this was right after the interview, which was 10 hours of meetings). And let me just start by saying I am not disappointed in this purchase. The nose on this is actually quite subtle, and you don't get the hop-bliteration you would with some of the bigger names in DIPAs, but it is still pleasant. And there are most definitely no defects noticeable. The color is actually quite magnificent (which might be from the glass at my hotel...btw, Maxwell Hotel is much recommended). Onto the taste: more of the subtlety as with the nose with a bit of bitter bite on the finish. It is quite strange in this regard because the hops are not blatant and citrusy, but then it isn't overtly malty as one would expect in some of the unbalanced DIPAs. It is quite light, remarkable given its 9%, and I think thats really where this shines. Its not the best, but definitely enjoyable and fully shonkable.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Modern Times Blazing World

type: hoppy amber ale
origin: San Diego, CA
price: $10/4-pack 16oz
ABV: 6.8%
NSP: 12.9

Modern Times hasn't been around for too long, but they're certainly off to an impressive start.  They've just begun releasing their products in cans (a perfect 16oz size) and their tasting room is poised to be a great place to drink at.  

You may have noticed the general lack of respect for amber ale around these parts, but that's only because none of them taste this delicious.  It toes the line closer to a red IPA, but it is most definitely not one, even with the ABV, IBU, and wonderfully hoppy aromas to back it up.  The base has plenty of flavor and complexity,  the body is absolutely perfect, and it's a bit on the dry side; this means that once you're through with a can you think, "well shit, how about another?!"  And my jeebus is it pretty to look at: A rich amber with a nice cream/tan colored head.  This is dangerous stuff right here, so try not to finish the whole 4-pack before dinner.  It's safe to say this is easily my favorite hoppy amber ale.

I like the idea of useful information on the can, and these guys apparently do too.  After seeing Dave Chappelle recently, I would like to say that while I agree that this is 'the stickiest of the icky', please do not shout it out during his standup: he hates that, and so did I.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Brendan's SIP: Skagit River Sculler's IPA

Type: IPA
Origin: Mount Vernon, Washington
Price: $4.99 per 22 oz
ABV: 7.2%
NSP: 9.38

Well, this is definitely a step down in the Seattle IPA Plow. Even though Mount Vernon is halfway between Seattle and Canada, I will still count this as Seattle since it is still near Puget Sound. While this isn't a terrible beer, it definitely misses the mark in the IPA category. This reminds me more of an ESB, and on the website they do say this is "A dry and roasty version of this old London style.". The hops are mainly bittering varietals, with most of the aroma being overwhelmed by some toffee malts. The taste definitely lights up the sides of the tongue, so you definitely can tell there is quite a bit of bitterness. Overall, I would pass on this one.

Also, the picture of the place on their website looks like some sort of poorly lit biker den. Reminded me of The Town Pump out in Westmoreland, California (which is either good or bad depending on your mood).

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Hess Claritas

type: kolsch
origin: San Diego, CA
price: $5.50/64oz (seriously)
ABV: 5.25%
NSP: 18.1

It's interesting to me that this is the first review of a beer made by (Mike) Hess Brewing.  They've been around for a number of years now, but only recently expanded their operation to a moderate sized brewery (from a nano-sized operation).

Their expansion is accompanied by one of the more impressive marketing/branding campaigns in the San Diego beer scene.  Everything at Hess is immaculate: from the new brewery, to the pouring room, to the t-shirts, to the stainless growlers, to the beer designs, to the consistency of the naming system, to... well, you get the idea.  And yet, most people have never had Hess' beer.  That appears to be changing with the uptick in production volume.

I mentioned the naming system; but, now that their beers are more frequently on tap around SD, that naming system is a shot in their foot.  What the hell did I just drink? Ex Humbris Solanas Veritas, or something?? Everytime, dammit.

Claritas is at the top of their pour list, and for good reason: it's fantastic.  I'm impressed mostly because most breweries make a kolsch-style ale, rather than an actual kolsch.  But this is a kolsch, and a fine one at that.  It has a bit more body and depth than a pilsner, for example, but is just as refreshing, and retains that crisp bite that you'd expect from either style.  And it finishes cleanly too, so high marks all around.

I have to note the NSP here.  While it does reflect the generally low pricing that you'll find with all of their beers (at least at the North Park facility), it may have been a mistake.  I asked the lady about the fill prices for this beer and their Vienna cream ale, and was shocked that the VCA was $18.50 versus $5.50.  Huh??  I think she was talking about the coffee+nitro version of the VCA--which I also had, and which was unbelievably good--but whatever.

And so, in conclusion, hell yeah I'll take a $5.50 growler of delicious beer made just around the block!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Duck-Rabbit Rabid Duck

Type: Russian Imperial Stout
Origin: Farmville, North Carolina
Price: ?
ABV: 10%

I picked this one up back in May when Randy and I hit up a conference in Raleigh. I don't remember the price, but somewhere around $2 at the Tasty Beverage Company. Upon checking out their website, they make no mention of this beer, and only say they have 4 beers. Definitely in need of an upgrade. Anyways, onto the beer.

I figured I would age this beer a good 4 months or so since most Russian Imperial Stouts tend to be a bit rough around the edges and need a little time to mellow down. I don't know how much older it is since no one notched the date strip on the label. Nonetheless, this one is still quite fresh and packs quite a whollop. Every characteristic of a RIS is there: coffee, chocolate and a hell of a lot of booze. The roast is a bit more in the Starbucks end, slightly burnt and quite bitter. The best beers in this category seem to be able to hide the booze so that you just take in the pure opulent flavors, and this one is quite obviously not in that category. Still tasty, just not world class.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Ska Ten Pin Porter!

type: porter
origin: Durango, CO
price: ~$1.50 at a bottleshop in Raleigh, NC
ABV: 5.5%
NSP: 13.0

This is a pretty damn tasty porter, I must admit.  It has those clean, roasted malt flavors that you expect, but it's also fairly light bodied, meaning it's not oppressive (as I usually expect).  There's also some serious bitterness and a nice level of acidity I rather enjoy... I think.  Or, it's a little too carby; but, it does get a bit smoother as it warms.

As you've realized I'm being very indecisive right now because I don't want to accept that I enjoyed a basic porter.  Dammit!  Whatever.  I like it.  It's tasty, has a kickass label, and is one of Ska's better offerings.  Regardless, I still don't understand the appeal of porters aside from food pairings.  Imperial porters can be unbelievably good--although I can't see how that matters here.  Whatever.  Long live indecisiveness!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Odell St. Lupulin

type: extra pale ale
origin: Fort Collins, CO
price: ?
ABV: 6.5%
NSP: ?

This is another offering from the Panda Pat Series*.  Let's cut to the punchline: it's fantastic.  This is an amazing beer that strikes a fine balance between flavor and drinkability (No bullshit.).  The hop aromas are incredible, and are clearly from an excellent dry-hopping schedule, and the bitterness is just right.  The rest of the beer is simply top-notch for an extra or American pale ale, and has appropriately high alcohol levels with medium to light body.  Om nom nom nom.

Unfortunately this is only a seasonal offering, so there's no chance it will usurp Pale 31 as my favorite APA, but it's really, really close.  But I'm sure it makes sense when Colorado gets flippin-ass cold: ain't nobody got time for that!

And here's this, because it's amazing:

* Panda Pat is my brother, Pat.  He lives in... wait for it... Boulder, Colorado, and he drinks copious beer (I hear he was scolded recently at the Boulder Beer Co.).

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Green Flash Saison Diego

type: farmhouse ale
origin: San Diego, CA
price: $4.50/22oz at Costco
ABV: 4.2%
NSP: 6.1

OK... I'll admit it... we've been sufficiently neglectful of Green Flash.  Sometimes I feel bad about that because they make really good beer, and I wouldn't want to see them fade away from view.  No, not everything is gold, but mostly it is (for example, I use HHR as a gold standard for red IPA), and I want to make a concerted effort to give them due credit on this site.

With Saison Diego the first thing you notice is the wonderful aromas that waft from the glass; this tells you a lot about the beer, quickly, and puts you in the mood to polish off a full 22.  The taste is pretty wonderful too: classic Belgian yeast flavors complement the orange zest and ginger it was apparently brewed with.  It's rather light bodied, and pretty light on the alcohol as you can see, but it's still very flavorful.  I would probably amp the booze up to maybe 5.5% or 6.5%, and maybe give it a bit more body, but otherwise this a fine adult beverage.  In other cities it'll perhaps be a less appropriate choice, given the seasons, but San Diego doesn't really have seasons, so whatever.  Welcome to Saison Diego; beer runs the seasons in this town.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

101 North Heroine

type: IPA
origin: Petaluma, CA
price: $7/22oz
ABV: 7.2%
NSP: 6.7

On my last trip to the P-town I stopped in the Petaluma Market (highly recommended, and also the source of the umlaut disaster) where I noticed a spate of new offerings from a city dominated by one of the largest and most delicious craft breweries in the country (Lagunitas).   Sonoma County might seem like a tough place to fire up a new brewery (especially with heavyweights like Russian River not far away), but this is where, as I've seen it put, "country meets city"--you can see a deer on your way to a hot rod show.  So, I'm betting there's a lot of pride in locally produced goods, meaning a new craft brewery making good beer can probably do quite well.

So enter 101 North Brewing Co.  I know exactly jackshit about them, and have never seen them around (again, like the umlaut disaster).  The bottle is pretty cool though: it makes me think of basically any comic book movie, but mainly Ghostbusters II and Vigo the Carpathian (the best part of the movie, though, is Janosz).

The beer is good, but not mind blowing. The base is more akin to a red ale, and it's decently hoppy; but, something about it is just not quite right.  Something's missing and I'm not qualified to say what.  The nose is a bit too boozy, maybe.  Or the hopping is too simple.  I could use another opinion here, guys!

On a positive note, I can definitely taste the potential in both the beer and the brewery  And that's a good thing because competition is always important in the beer world.  So, 101, keep on keepin' on and I'll keep trying your stuff.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Three Floyds Alpha King

type: American pale ale
origin: Munster, IN
price: $12/6-pack (in Chicago)
ABV: 6.66%
NSP: 11.8

Three Floyds has quite the reputation around these parts.  They clearly know how to make extremely good IPA, and people are willing to climb over their own mother for their IRS, Dark Lord.

Alpha King is their flagship ale, and I managed to find it basically everywhere in Chicago during my recent visit.  (And that's pretty awesome, especially after the Wild Onion disaster.)  It's a "pale ale" that's essentially better than most breweries' IPA-without a doubt.  It's got classic citrusy hop flavors and moderately high bitterness that's anchored by a fairly deep malt backbone.  So, it's simultaneously complex-but-not-overwhelming, delicious, and refreshing.  Pale 31 is still my favorite hoppy APA, but this is one mighty fine beer full of complex flavors and beery goodness.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Knee Deep Batch 138

type: IPA
origin: Lincoln, CA
price: $7/22oz
ABV: 7.5%
NSP: 7.0

Firstly, I have to reprint the description of this from the website:
Knee Deep’s Batch 138 India Pale Ale is brewed with three types of C hops and Simcoe, which gives this West Coast IPA an aroma that resembles a cat that has peed in a pine tree.  Batch 138 finishes dry and crisp and is sure to leave you in hop euphoria.
Looks like somebody's Cheezin' over there at Knee Deep because this is like the King's Daughter's Rawkin' Awesome Tats... if the tats were hops.  It's one of those west coast style IPAs that you know they used an unbelievable amount of hops in because the aromas scream Hoptologist, or even Pure Hoppiness, and the sips follow through with deep hop flavor and bitterness.  Then there's a sweetness from the malt that comes through just enough to say hello, followed by a return of that mouth-puckering bitterness.  Make no mistake: this beer is all about the hops.  Given KD's propensity for Major Hoppage (see what I did there?), this falls right in line with their reputation.  I'll go ahead and highly recommend this to anyone who's obsessed with ultra-hoppy west coast IPA, but if you're looking for complexity you may want to search around in the archives a bit.

Monday, September 30, 2013

HUB IPX Single Hop Centennial

Type: IPA
Origin: Portland, Oregon
Price: $5.59 per 22 oz
ABV: 6.0%
NSP: 6.98

Upon moving to the Pacific Northwest, I have been seeing HUB beer everywhere. I was a bit reluctant to try them due to being a fully organic brewery, which sounds like a good thing, but most of the organic brews have tasted off. HUB is definitely the exception to the rule, and I have yet to have a beer from them that wasn't enjoyable.

Single hop beers I have had quite a few, but I haven't made a diligent effort to note differences between the different varietals. This one has a very powerful grapefruit citrus nose that is an absolute delight. The taste: more grapefruit, with a bit of coriander coming through. It is a mighty fine IPA, and a definite must try. Everything is balanced right, and I will definitely need to try out the other varieties HUB puts out.

P.S. Here is a website that describes all the hop differences in a nice little chart. The description for Centennial is exactly the character of this beer.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Base Camp In-Tents IPL

Type: India pale lager
Origin: Portland, Oregon
Price: $5.59 per 22 oz
ABV: 6.8%
NSP: 7.90

Normally, bottle technology is reserved for the likes of Coors, so it should not surprise you that another mountain themed brewery came up with this truly brilliant bottle. They even reserve an entire panel to why this metal bottle is better than glass. All I know is the can gives me a hankering to watch Cliffhanger. I have a feeling these guys are the brewmasters.

Anyways, its what is in the bottle that matters. The IPL category is coming more and more prevalent in recent years, but I still don't have much of a baseline. I keep thinking this is an Imperial Pilsner while I'm drinking it because that really is the closest category I have experience with. It is definitely lighter than an Imperial Pilsner, but it has a similar sweetness to it. It was aged in fresh oak barrels, which I think adds a bit to the sweetness without making it overly boozy (as would be with a boubon barrel). The hops (and I guess the oak) add some earthy citrus and pine to the mix. It is both challenging and easy at the same time; challenging with regards to properly describing it but most definitely smooth and easy to drink.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Rogue Voodoo Doughnut

Type: flavored ale
Origin: Newport, Oregon
Price: $13.59 per 750 mL
ABV: 5.3%
NSP: 2.92

The Mrs. wanted me to buy this because she loves strange beers with unique flavor additives. After trying to argue her down due to me hearing this wasn't very good and the ridiculously low NSP, I finally relented. I must admit, I was quite curious since Voodoo Doughnuts is the shit (the maple bacon bar is the greatest goddamned morning food item in existence).

On the pour, looks like a cross between a brown ale and porter. The smell is dominated by the Peanut Butter part of the ale, with a wee bit of banana popping through. The taste is dominated by the Chocolate third, so much so I feel the base on this is their Chocolate Stout. A bit of mellowness is afforded to it by the other 2 players, which is totally not expected. This is actually much more enjoyable than expected, but the price is way to high for this low of ABV and this generic of a beer. The $6-8 range is more appropriate for this, especially from a rather large craft brewery that can start to play with economies of scale.  I guess the price of pink paint is too damn high.

Also, what in the fuck is 'free range coastal water'? Coastal water is seawater, and free range means it is allowed to go anywhere (watersheds work by going from high to low hydraulic head, most definitely not 'free' range). So we are dealing with seawater that doesn't follow physics. That's worth the extra 8 bucks.

at least its not Mrs. Pacman yeast...

Monday, September 23, 2013

Brendan's SIP: Airways Sky Hag IPA

Type: IPA
Origin: Kent, Washington
Price: $5.99 per 22 oz
ABV: 7.8%
NSP: 8.46

Just south of the Seatac airport in Kent lies the Airways Brewing Company, which I had not heard of until moving here. Even though they are nearby, you don't see much of their beer around town except for this one (which how could you forget a face like that). At first you think its a gimmick and this must be bad, but the more you ponder it and taste it, you realize what a brilliant idea it is. Airways made it look like a gimmick so those in the know can have all they want. Also, she looks like a bitter old hag, which does explain the hop character (well, minus the old part, but old people's houses generally smell a bit piney). You have to love the website description too: "She hates you and her job. But, she gets to go to Paris twice a month. This beer’s as bitter as she is. An abundance of Northwest “C” Hops give this beer its bite.". Completely non-pretentious = my type of brewery.

I will just cut to the chase: this is the best IPA have had in this city, and might even rival Boneyard's RPM for best in the NW. Seriously. This would also sell well in San Diego, and dare I say it, rivals Alpine's Duet. Duet has a bit more complexity on the hops whereas this is mostly piney with a bit of citrus. Still, I'm pretty damn pleased I found this and will tide me over between Alpine and Boneyard runs. I'm already planning a trip down to see them.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Left Hand 400 Pound Monkey

Type: english style IPA
Origin: Longmont, CO
Price: ?
ABV: 6.8%
NSP: ?

I got this in a mystery 6-pack at Chuck's for $9 about a week ago and I actually have never seen this one before. First of all, while the artwork is interesting, I would expect to see a completely obese monkey on the label. All I see is a slightly larger monkey than his compatriots. -1. Secondly, english style IPAs generally kinda suck. This one is no exception. The website exclaims: "Why does the world need another IPA? Because this one ain't like them others." No, this is exactly like the others. It honestly tastes like a slightly malty pilsner, and not a good pilsner. It even reeks of third-world pilsners (which is a fine smell if you're from the third world, but not Colorado). Seriously left hand, stick to milk stout because this is awful.

P.S. I noticed Chris had a taster of this in his visit to Left Hand and noticed a grassiness to it. Maybe my bottle is a bit old, but I sense no such quality. He didn't explicitly say this was good, he just said 'clean', so I will just assume he means this sucks. I guess it is a little clean, but so is bleach and you don't see me sipping on clorox.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Thomas Creek Up The Creek

Type: "extreme" IPA
Origin: Greenville, SC
Price: ?
ABV: 12.5%
NSP: ?

The Mrs. got me this on a recent trip to the east coast staying in Asheville. I think she bought it due to the high ABV and the regional uniqueness. And its also an "extreme IPA", whatever that may mean.

First impression, this pours dark. Darker than any IPA should be without a color moniker in front of it. And no, extreme is not a color. It pours with almost no head and a burst or caramel aromas waft out and punch you in the face. The taste is actually quite bourboney. The hops are there (the website claims 143 IBUs), but there is so much malt character that it does not seem so extreme. This actually reminds me most of Stone's Double Bastard, although maybe slightly more balanced. The IPA name on this I think is a bit deceiving since its so far beyond an IPA at this point that it really falls into the American Strong Ale category. Still, it is actually pretty easy drinking.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sierra Nevada Flipside

type: India style red ale
origin: Chico, CA
price: $13/12 pack
ABV: 6.2%
NSP: 21.4

If there's any brewery that epitomizes value it has to be Sierra Nevada.  Never do you feel disappointed, and the price is almost always as competitive as the macrobrews.

This is a seasonal offering.  It's got a nose full of brown sugar and fruit; there's a slight imprint from the hops, but not much to speak of.  It's apparently hopped with Sitra, Simcoe, and Centennial, which translates to a good level of collective spiciness, earthiness, and fruitiness; but, there's a bit too much residual 'dank' to be really outstanding.  And, honestly, it's not hoppy enough.

Hop Head Red is still king of this castle, but this is certainly good enough.  I'd say this is right down the middle in terms of enjoyment, and at the top in terms of value.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Odell Double Pilsner

type: imperial pilsner
origin: Fort Collins, CO
price: ?
ABV: 8.1%
NSP: ?

Shonkmeister's 15-minutes of fame on this site came when he scoffed at the idea that anything by Magic Hat could be good.  He was especially vehement about their imperial pilsner, Over the Pils, which was the impetus for the original scoffnicity (or whatever real word I mean) and fuel for some raging ale-boner he had.  Anyway, here's why I mentioned all that:  OtP is good.  It's balanced, not too alcoholic for it's body and flavor, and generally doesn't make your body wretch to one side after the first sip.  I can't say the same for Odell's version, though.  In fact, it's essentially the Bizarro version of OtP--ass backwards.  To summarize it, I'd say it tastes a step above Mickey's malt liquor, and smells like you're going to have a real bad morning.

I'm not above drinking this because, well, it's beer.  There are also those that rave about this, and you'll find them on BA (of course); but, even if you think it's that good, I'd be shocked if the NSP came anywhere near Mickeys.  Unfortunately, I don't have a price for this, so I must recommend passing.... out... on the sidewalk.... after a spirited game of Edward Fortyhands.... with Mickey's.  And for the record, I'm not above Mickey's either.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Left Hand Polestar Pilsner

type: pilsner
origin: Longmont, CO
price: ?
ABV: 5.5%
NSP: ?

After the bout with Odell, I pretty much figured Left Hand was going to be outgunned--like pitting Marcelino's bird against Little Jerry Seinfeld.  But this is pretty damn delicious, and refreshing, to be sure.  The flavors are very clean and very simple.  It's obviously very light bodied, and the color is next to water, but also somewhat dry and nicely boozy (but not over the top).  There's very little aroma to speak of, but I wouldn't necessarily expect there to be, and it's not affecting the taste.  In fact, it's helping me smell the delicious food the neighbors are cooking up, which speaks to the food pairing potential of beer (suck it, wine).  My only issue might be the faint aftertaste that hangs around like a homeless women in Brad's living room, but overall I'd say this is a very tasty brew worth your hard earned dollars.