Thursday, March 28, 2013

Three Creeks Hodag Cascadian Dark Ale

type: Black IPA, or CDA
origin: Sisters, OR
price: $4.50/22oz
ABV: 6.4%
NSP: 9.2

First off, this is most definitely a fantastic beer.  The flavors tiptoe on the line between a black IPA and a porter.  Such a characterization may, or may not, be justified, but that's what I've come to expect with any "Black IPA".  And, if you're gonna call it an IPA it better be damn hoppy, right?

I find this to be nicely hopped, and not in an oppressive manner.  The roasted, nutty malts don't linger too long, which means you can get through the whole bottle without being reminded why you hate porters, for example.

I was curious what the "Hoodoo 75th Anniversary" bit on the label is all about.  Once I found out (it's a ski slope), I realized the necessity of this style: after a long day of skiing there's probably not much that can beat drinking an earthy, warming ale like this--especially high up in the Cascades.  "Cascadian ales for the Cascades" I'd say.  Cute.

Finally, let's consider how this shapes up within the elusive Black IPA category.  Who invented it, and who's best at making it?  The former is probably unanswerable, but Hop in the Dark (HD) is still the answer to the latter--even after Hodag.  Stone's Sublimely Self Righteous is not too far behind though.

So I think I'll just stick with HD, mostly because I think it's better, but also because its the same price and I doubt I'll ever see Hodag around the San Diego bottle shops.  But, still, cheers to Chris for another successful reconnaissance beer.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Drakes Denogginizer

type: Imperial IPA
origin: San Leandro, CA
price: $7/12oz
ABV: 9.75%
NSP: 5.9

On a trip to perhaps my favorite Cambridge alehouse to celebrate completion of certain programmatic formalities for a friend of mine, I called for one of these meaty beverages. The malt was fairly serious in here, and the hops were as well, with a solid green fragrance hovering over the glass. The head was light on the pour, in foreboding of the effect on my own head after a couple of good swallows and a long day of work with skipped lunch. 

While brewed in CA, this beer still did a good job of taking the chill off after walking in out of the snow, and it also reminded me of the sunshine and warm weather so many 1000's of miles west that evening. I'm starting to think I need a sun lamp.

PS. Chris ID'd this brewery by the origin alone. What a beererer.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Lost Abbey: Mo bretta

type: Belgian Blond?
origin: San Marcos, CA
price: $9.99/12.7oz
ABV: ?%
NSP: ?

I was expecting something at least a little sour with the Mo Betta Bretta, but this beer was not the least bit sour. Considering that the yeasts in here are supposed to be entirely acidogenic brettanomyces which produce copious amounts of acetic acid (i.e. vinegar) when consuming glucose, it's really weird that there was zero sour flavor. The Petrus Oak Aged Pale is probably the sourest beer I've ever had, and it wasn't even entirely brett, so I would guess that maybe TLA got a skunk batch of brett which was actually some other strain accidentally. Is it possible to make brett metabolize without any acetic acid, or maybe that the brewer grabbed the wrong flagon of yeasteys? 

It would be awesome if someone did some microscopy off a yeast sample from the bottom of the bottle to figure out what was actually in here, but I did not have that machinery available. Maybe that means I need to make friends with some more of the biotech type kids around here? It would be pretty cool to get a bit more technical and report real measured data on our sampled brews in addition to our anecdotal shenanigans.

Either way, I call full bullshit for false labeling, but at least it was a tasty beer.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Stone: 6 7 8 vertical

type: Vertical
origin: Stone, San Diego
price: $free/4oz
NSP: infinity

On a recent visit to Lord Hobo, Russ there was kind enough to drop off a run of these three beers after we chatted about some others on their menu for a bit. I had always thought the Stone verticals were the same beer brewed year to year, but it turns out they're a different brew every year.

The 6 was a milky yet slightly bitter stout, probably due to a solid hop bomb in the boil. The 7 tasted almost winey, with strong hops and a slight sour bend to it, and maybe even some sort of red fruit on the back (raspberries?). I wasn't super impressed by the 8, which tasted like any typical golden belgian style. Overall though, the offering was quite generous and I had a blast sampling these three.

I also heard stories of the Cantillon beers based on my fondness of sours, and the Zwanze day beer fest which Hobo apparently has participated in before. Hopefully I can catch the next one! Backed by the Yamandu Costa tunes, the cost, and the above friendly conversation, I will have to give the Stone Vertical extra points for the propensity to generate good conversation. ;-)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Caldera Hop Hash

Type: IPA
Origin: Ashland, Oregon
Price: $4.99 per 22 oz
ABV: 6.5%
NSP: 8.5

When one sees a random maharaja on a beer bottle and the comparison to hash, one would expect a super hop bomb that reeks of the sticky icky. However, this is not the case with this brew. Andy previously reviewed this and liked it, so check his review out too.  The only way to describe this is disappointing.  It is very sweet, has no aromas to speak of, and the malt quality is really nothing to call home about. There is a tinge of bitterness that reminds of an English bitter, but even this wouldn't be a good English bitter.

I must note that I'm really trying to look at it from the eyes of a non-hop head to see if there are any redeeming qualities in this beer, but unfortunately there is nothing. As you could tell from the IPA tourney, I tend to like malty IPA's more than the other guys, but this is not a good malty IPA.

Friday, March 22, 2013

De Struise Pannepot 2011

Type: Quadrupel
Origin: Vleteren, Belgium
ABV: 10.0%
Price: $6.75/11.2oz
NSP: 4.91
website (I don't know what the hell's going on with this site, so good luck with it)

I saw this at Bottlecraft and thought the name rang a bell.  The bottle says "Old Fashioned Ale" and "ale brewed with spices", which is obviously not really specific.  But I bought it anyway and later found that it's one of the most highly thought-of quads in the world, not quite on the level of Westvleteren (which is made right down the road from De Struise), St. Bernardus, or Rochefort, but not all that far behind.  Sort of at the head of the peloton, I guess.  I looked it up on BA- click here and look for Amandipius to read what's either the best tongue-in-cheek or worst irritatingly pretentious beer review in history. It has to be the former because there's no way anyone would seriously write anything like that.

It smells like a quad, but with an enhanced coffee component.  Lots of dark fruit and vanilla, some chocolate and licorice, and a pretty hefty booziness (though the last fades nicely).  Smells pretty damn delicious, and in my impression a bit more hefty than the Westy brewed nearby.

It's pretty potent in the booze factor relative to Westy, or St. Bernardus, or even Decadence.  Not really one of those delicate quads.  The coffeeness and dark fruit remain in the flavor, but with the booziness, the other details fall by the wayside.  That's unfortunate, because I feel like I can detect a good amount of interesting stuff underneath there, but I can't quite get at it.  So overall, it tastes good, but sort of one-note, and thus a bit disappointing.

Hmm.  I thought I'd like this more.  But I don't hesitate to say that I preferred Decadence.  Worth a try to enhance your quad knowledge, but as with Westy, don't let your expectations govern your opinion.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Caldera: ginger beer

type: Ginger Beer
origin: east
price: $4.35/22oz
ABV: 4%
NSP: 9.8

This is the first beer I've ever had that tasted exactly like a Jamaican style ginger beer. You know the variety that burns your nose with the intense ginger flavor, sort of like chewing on the root of a live plant? I can only speculate about how awesome this would be with some lime and carribean rum, but even on it's own I was quite happy with it.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Cigar City Cucumber Saison

Type: Saison/Farmhouse Ale (with, you guessed it, cucumber)
Origin: Tampa, FL
Price: ?
ABV: 5.0%
NSP: ?

Another Cigar City treat, provided by John & Natalie as with all of the others.  I wasn't quite sure what to expect with this beer.  Cigar City makes a whole lot of world-class shit, so that gave me hope.  But cucumber?  What the fuck?

The cucumber smacks you in the schnoz the moment you pour it.  But after a few sniffs, it's more of a pickle scent than straight cucumber, because there's some sourness/acidity along with it.  There's also some light yeastiness, funk, and spice, reminding you that it is, after all, a saison.

Even though the smell's more pickly, I'd say the flavor's more cucumbery, or at least intermediate between the two because it doesn't have the brininess you'd look for in a pickle.  It's really light, both body and flavor-wise, while the carb's on the heavy side and is thus highly burp-inducing.  The acidity remains throughout the whole thing, which helps the drinkability.

This isn't my favorite Cigar City beer (I'm waiting for something to top Good Gourd), but it's still pretty tasty.  It'd definitely be a good summer beer.  It's nothing to session, due to the likely cost, plus the carbonation, and for those of us in California, the lack of availability.  Still, it's a worthwhile experiment that's not just good as an experiment, but as a tasty beer too.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Bells Hopslam

Type: Double IPA/ Imperial IPA
Origin: Comstock, MI
Price: ?
ABV: 10%

Finally, I am back from my review hiatus (I just completed my Ph.D. and got married in the same week). I have a bunch up in the queue, so now Chris won't have to do many. I figure this is a good beer to start back up on. My pops just sent me two of these and two Goose Island Bourbon County Stouts in the mail, which was a nice little surprise for a Monday afternoon. Apparently he happened upon multiple 6 packs, bought them, and then looked it up on beer advocate to find that "it is a pretty good beer". Onto the review...

This is damn good. Really damn good. Double IPAs have become my go to beers in the last year or so. I have been lucky to have gotten my hands on Heady Topper and Dreadnaught in addition to many fine California DIPAs (Pure Hoppiness, Pliny the Elder, Hoptologist to name a few), and Hopslam definitely has a place amongst them, although doesn't reach the level of Pure, Heady or Dreadnaught in terms of pure hop pungency. This could be due to their self classification of "Ale brewed with Honey", which lends it a slightly sweeter, but still fairly light finish. This is probably the secret to upping the booze without overly malting the beer (which others probably use candy sugar to achieve the same effect). On the nose, you pick up faint pineapple notes along with other light citrus flavors, although nothing like Kern River's IPA or Exponential Hoppiness. While this is also very boozy, it hides it incredibly well. I keep having to remind myself it is 10% since it feels closer to 7%.

On an advertising note, I must commend Bell's for matching the cap to the label. It will be nice to have a cap of a dude being smothered to death by a radioactive hop cone in my future bottlecap table. If only the crazy Hoptologist dude was using his hophead to smother the other guy. Perhaps a collaboration beer between Bells and Knee Deep is in the future?

Epic: First Batch New Zealand IPA

type: IPA
origin: Auckland, NZ
price: $10.35/22oz
ABV: 4%
NSP: 6.0

The cost of this bottle almost sent me away, despite my love of fine beer and especially New Zealand hops. In the end, I'm glad I picked it up since it had all of the citrusy nose which brings me back every time. This one also had a fairly solid malt body, and wasn't too light, but the hop fragrance still punched through like it should have, even without the Nelson hops! Well done gentlemen.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Mammoth IPA 395

Type: Double IPA
Origin: Mammoth Lakes, CA
Price: $6.37/22oz
ABV: 8.0%
NSP: 8.16

I'd originally intended on including Mammoth's IPA in the tournament, but I discovered that it's pretty much nonexistent in San Diego.  However, Hi Time in Orange County (which, incidentally, may be the best whiskey purveyor in southern California in case you were wondering) had their 395 when I stopped by a while back, so I grabbed it.  I recall Matt saying it was pretty decent- or at least his favorite of the beers he had at the brewery, which I suppose doesn't necessarily mean it's actually good, when you get right down to it.

Apparently this is brewed with sage and juniper berries, though I sure as hell couldn't tell by the nose.  It's highly malty, and that's the primary thing you smell, though there is some decent hoppiness in there, and combined with the malt accents, it comes off sort of spicy.  My aunt said she picked up some ginger, which sort of made sense.  There's also a touch of mustiness, but it's nothing obtrusive. Relative to most other California IPAs, I'd say this stretches the bounds of the category...maybe it's more like an imperial amber ale?

The flavor's surprisingly bitter considering the malt body and the relatively low IBU (50).  It tastes something like bitter Coke Classic due to the malty sweetness (but not too much sweetness, hence Coke and not Pepsi).  There are lots of caramel-toffee flavors and some coffee/chocolate accents, so malt-flavor-wise it also comes off like a sort-of super light porter.  I still don't get any sage or juniper though, at least not in an obvious way.

This isn't something I'd want as an everyday beer, and I'm glad I shared it because it's on the heavy side.  But it's definitely an interesting take on an IPA, particularly because it seems to share a number of aspects with other styles.  Definitely give it a whirl next time you're hitting the slopes up Mammoth way- I could see it being ideal for après-ski (but then, what beer doesn't work for après-ski?).

Friday, March 15, 2013

Coronado/Maui Hibiscus IPA

Type: IPA (sort of)
Origin: San Diego, CA/Lahaina, HI
Price: $4.30/22oz
ABV: 4.9% (apparently it's a 
sort-of session IPA)
NSP: 7.41
website (couldn't find a beer-specific site)

Bought this more or less on a whim- it sounded weird, but it was relatively cheap, so what the hell.  I tend to absolutely despise flowery flavors in my food/drink- unless it's tea and that's the intent, and even then I'm not fully on board with it.  Rose water, for example, completely ruins anything it touches, in my opinion.  So I was expecting to hate every damn sip of this.

It's really dark.  Is hibiscus used as a dye?  It looks like cream soda, but it smells like tea.  Sounds kind of gross, but it was actually appealing, unexpectedly.

The hop bitterness is pretty light.  It tastes like tea steeped with beer instead of water.  Or beer soaked in your grandmother's potpourri.  Thankfully the flavor is light enough that it's not overpowering- because if it was, the whole bottle would have gone right into the sink drain.  There's a bit of acidity in there that lightens everything up as well, so the color ends up a bit misleading.

I guess I'm surprised because I didn't hate this.  While it feels pretty gimmicky (I'd be surprised if anyone has repeated buying it), I suppose I understand their intent of playing with new, unexpected flavors in beer.  It's definitely not my favorite, but I don't regret buying it.  So, umm...kudos, maybe?  I dunno.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Kujukuri Ocean Beer: Stout

type: Stout
origin: Japan
price: $?/12oz
ABV: ?%
NSP: :-x

I don't really have anything good to say about this one. It smelled like wet dog, but tasted sort of stouty and maybe salty. Chris thought it smelled like old sausage that's been in the freezer too long, which you would put back into the freezer and leave there for a cleaning day.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Logsdon Peche 'n Brett

Type: Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Origin: Hood River, OR
Price: $23.25/750mL
ABV: 10%
NSP: 3.23

Just as I give credit Dogfish Head for getting me into IPA, I credit Logsdon with making me appreciate brett/sour beers initially with their amazing Seizoen Bretta.  And Seizoen Bretta with peaches?  Hell yes.  Even though the price is on the edge of ridiculous.

The brett is pretty much exactly where it was with the bottle of Seizoen Bretta I reviewed- adding tartness but not a lot of funk (unlike another bottle of Bretta I had that was funky as hell).  The peaches are pretty potent up front in the nose, but seem to fade away as the beer sits in the glass...after a while, it smells like nice little sour with just a slight peach accent.

It's as delicious as I'd hoped...almost.  Nice and tart, but not to the extent of a full-blown sour.  The brett adds a bunch of nice complexity (a bit of funk, a bit of barnyardiness) without going off the deep end of spoiled.  The peaches are a delightful accent, but I wished they were a bit more potent (hence the "almost" above); maybe as it sits the peach flavor amplifies?  Who knows, it's too expensive to buy a second for cellaring.  So in the end, it's really good.  Maybe not quite worth twice the cost of Bretta, but still really good.  Now I've just got to get my hands on some Cerasus.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

White Birch: Oude timey

type: Sour brown
origin: Hooksett, NH
price: $12/22oz
ABV: 7.3%
NSP: 6.3

I hadn't ever run into a sour brown before, but I've got to say that I was pretty happy with this one. It had all the things I've come to expect of a brown: nutty and malty flavor with not much hop. It also had all the things I like it a sour: fruity profile and puckering tartness. Both were in the same bottle, so while I usually would be a bit unhappy about the cost, the combo made me feel a bit better about it. Not maybe so much that I would start drinking this one regularly, but the novelty won me over this time. And I like sours way too much.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Trappist Westvleteren XII

Type: Quadrupel
Origin: Vleteren, Belgium
ABV: 10.2%
Price: ?
NSP: ?

When a buddy calls and invites you over for a tasting of the white whale of beer, is there any other response you can make but "Hell fucking yeah!"?  I don't think so (thanks Virag!).  I'm not sure why I was lucky enough to be selected for such a tasting, but who am I to question?  Gotta bring a gift for the hosts, of course, so I grabbed bottles of Rochefort 10 and St. Bernardus Abt 12 for comparison and a guarantee that we'd be nicely quadded out by the end of the evening.

The bottle nearly exploded, nice save by John getting the neck into a glass before many dollars worth of brew hit the floor.  It produced a nice frothy head that dissipated in just a few seconds.  The nose was all pilsnery funk right up front, which definitely surprised me, backed up by a good punch of yeastiness, and then a lot of alcohol and cola-like aromas.

My glass was really carby;  St. Bernardus was as well, in a champagne-like way, but the Westy was different- it was that tongue-sizzling kind of carbonation that prevents you from tasting anything.  Fortunately, as with the head, the carb settled quite a bit as it sat in the glass.  First up was that unexpected pilsner funk, but like the carb, that dissipated quickly.  And once it did, some absolutely delicious quad flavors came creeping out.  Maple, vanilla, and cola, in particular.  The yeast wasn't super strong flavor-wise, but there was enough there to provide an accent, and a heavy yeastiness might obscure how complex the malt flavors are.  The alcohol rode shotgun through the whole thing and added a nice extra accent layer that helped keep the other flavors clean.  I added a little bit of what I'd usually consider throw from the bottle into my last ~2 oz of beer, just to try and get a bit more yeast flavor- after all, this is Westy trappist yeast we're talking about- and it added an amazing rich breadiness to the party.

I'd say that Westy and St. Bernardus Abt 12 are a pretty fair comparison, in that they seem to approach the quad style similarly, aiming for clean, subtle flavors and a relatively light, drinkable beer.  Rochefort 10 is more in your face (as it probably needs to be with a slightly higher ABV), with potent flavors and less complexity.  Where Westy stands above St. Bernardus, in my opinion, is in its dynamism.  Every sip seems to be different from the previous one as the carb settles and the flavors come out.  The beer evolves through several different stages of funk, maple/cola, and yeastiness as you make your way through the glass, and it keeps you wondering what's next.

Best beer in the world?  I dunno.  I think a lot of the hype can be chalked up to rarity.  And in my personal preference, if all other things were equal I'd probably opt for, say,  a Heady Topper.  But it's damn good, and I wouldn't hesitate to call it the top dog in the short list of quads I've had.  I'm not going to wax poetic about Westy (unlike some of the stupefyingly pretentious BA reviews...MarcWP's review makes me want to drink a bunch of Westy and then puke it up all over him so he can tell me about my "novel of creation"). It's pretty straightforward to me- if you can get your hands on it, give it a whirl because it's not often you get a shot at the white whale.  But don't injure yourself chasing it, and don't let unreasonably high expectations ruin what this beer is in truth- a delicious, clean, complex, drinkable quad that isn't really going to throttle St. Bernardus Abt 12 in straight sets.

P.S.  Turns out that we sampled bottles from two different batches, stamped 16.03.15 and 10.04.15.  We weren't aware of this when we cracked them, and we didn't note which bottle was which.  But suffice it to say that they were different- the one I had was heavily pilsner-funky, while the other one wasn't at all.  Interesting how two batches made a month apart can differ so much- but I guess that's what you get when you make small batches with traditional methods instead of churning out Budweiser.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Alesmith My Bloody Valentine

Read between the beer.
type: red ale
origin: San Diego, CA
price: $7/22oz
ABV: 6.66%
NSP: 6.2

Valentine's day is bullshit.  It's just another manufactured holiday designed to sell stupid Hallmark cards.  And, it doesn't take long for most people in a serious relationship to see that.  But we're in love with beer over here, especially ones made by San Diego's Alesmith.

This reminds me of a more robust, floral, red IPA (like if Green Flash backed off on the hops in HHR).  It's somewhere between a red IPA and an amber ale, I supposed, and it's quite remarkably balanced.  The color almost perfectly matches the colors on the bottle label, too.

Even if they did make this year-round, I'm not sure I'd buy this regularly.  Not that it's bad, it's just not a style I'd become obsessed with.  But if you are a big fan, the high level of "drinkability" means you'll finish the bottle before you can unwrap your next V-day man sheath.  And if you haven't heard, MBV have a new album out too.  Pow pow.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Harpoon Celtic Red

type: Irish-style red ale
origin: Boston, MA and Windsor, VT
price: $9/6-pack
ABV: 5.4%
NSP: 12.8

Apparently, the folks at Harpoon (in the Massachusetts division) are a bunch of Southies.  So it makes sense they would have an Irish-style ale to go with the generally rampant pro-Ireland attitude in the area, which I assume for most is just veiled white supremacy.  I wonder, though, what's the percentage of people in South Boston who can name the prime minister of Ireland?

In terms of an ale I'm somewhat impartial to this, but it's decent.  It's basic, but well crafted and nicely balanced.  The taste seems a touch towards an English special bitter (ESB), with a faint metallic flavor that's, surprisingly, enjoyable.  That's likely intentional, given the success of their 100 Barrel Series ESB.  The burps from this remind me of a Coors Original--you know, the Banquet Beer--which brings back some powerful memories from college I though I'd managed to suppress.

When I told her that Harpoon was an excellent east-coast brewery, the girl at Trader Joes was especially disappointed when she realized this was not, in fact, a beer from Ireland.  "But it looks so Irish!" she exclaimed.  "Your first clue should've been the lack of a Leprechaun or 4-leaf clover on the label." was my Jerk Store reply.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Cigar City Marshal Zhukov's Imperial Stout

Type: Imperial stout
Origin: Tampa, FL
ABV: 11.0%
Price: ?
NSP: ?

Know what I love about some imperial stouts?  They can be really ugly.  Dark and threatening, like an alley you don't want to walk down at 3 AM.  And this may be the ugliest beer I've ever seen.  In fact, it looks like Valvoline's entry into the beer market- straight up motor oil, syrupy as hell.  The legs on this thing are ridiculous, a swirl stays glued to the glass for longer than pretty much any beer I've ever had.  And it's not the head providing the legs- it's the actual beer.  You want to see a high-gravity beer?  Look no further.  This is above the Chandrasekhar limit.  Yeah, I just made a fucking astrophysics reference.

Smell-wise, this is more or less what I'd expect if I decided to dissolve some dark chocolate in a pot of molasses.  Rich and powerful, with boatloads of chocolate and espresso, plus some caramel- and vanilla-y sugariness.  The flavor hits all of those hallmarks as well, and it's crafted well enough that you can pick out each individual aspect while also appreciating the weight of the sum.  Nice and chocolate/coffee bitter with a bit of sweetness.  Smoky, with a light touch of something almost peaty.  A layer of booze right on top that lets you know you're in for some trouble.  Jebus this is good.

I'm trying to think of a stout that I've had that's better than this.  I'm not coming up with one.  It's got everything I could want in a stout.  I will provide a warning, though.  It's kind of an obvious warning, I suppose, but as a guy who unblinkingly (and perhaps inadvisably) took down a 750 of Rye-on-Rye at a slightly higher ABV, I think it's still worth saying for the sake of the other high-ABV-resistant beer fiends out there- do not take this on alone.  It's too potent, too rich, too goddamn belligerent for one person to handle.  Which is a high compliment from this Non-Snobber.  Highest marks.  Dammit, Cigar City, start sending your stuff out here, will you?  

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Kona Brewpub (Oahu)

7192 Kalaniana'ole Hwy
Honolulu, Hawaii 96825
Wow, a brew kettle!
Located on the southwest corner of Oahu is one of very few brewpub style watering holes--this one from Kona Brewing Co.  

I'll just get this out of the way: Kona makes some exceptionally boring beer.  They aren't bad beers, per say, just completely unremarkable.  So unremarkable that most of this review is essentially a pile of crap.  Good thing we don't charge for subscription, huh?

These are the kind of beers you'd say to yourself "I guess this is technically a pale ale, but I don't really give a shit if it is or isn't."   I will admit, though, I enjoyed their ESB very much, but that's really it.  I guess I should've expected it given the similar experience I had with Wailua Wheat.

Wow, a tasting flight!

The food is pretty good though, but nothing worth raving over; in fact, I'd rather have a plate lunch from one of the five hundred shrimp trucks along Kameamea highway.  But, as a spot for a pre- or post-Sandys visit (about a mile away) this hits the spot nicely.

So, go get pounded by some ultra-mahalo shorebreak after a few pints... Um, actually, I don't recommend doing that because Sandys can get pretty heavy.  I guess just stay on dry land, you drunkards.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Cascade Kriek

Type: Kriek
Origin: Portland, OR
Price: Free
ABV: 7.62%
NSP: To infinity and beyond

I guess I'm on a very brief sour kick.  Or, more accurately, Alex and Deb were on a sour kick.  And again I'm drinking his left-in-the-lurch beer.  I'm pretty sure Sambo visited Cascade recently, and I recall him thinking it was impressive, so I have high hopes for this one.  

This smells really terrific.  Not all that unlike the Hanssens lambic, sour and dark-fruity- though, as it should, the cherry really stands out, giving it a nice rich depth. It's also appealingly winy- I guess based on very few data points that wininess is a characteristic I enjoy in my sours.  There's negligible bretty funk.

Yum.  The flavor is pretty much identical to the nose- nice and tart with a whole bunch of cherry.  No brett funk whatsoever.  Extremely clean, just as the Hanssens was.

This seems to me to be a straight-forward but excellently-crafted kriek.  It's sour without being mouth-puckering, and fruity without making you feel like you're drinking maraschino juice.  I'd drink this again without a second thought.  Oh, and if there's a better aperitif beer, I haven't found it- it'll turn hungry to ravenous within about two minutes.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Hanssens Lambic Experimental Cassis

Type: Lambic
Origin: Dworp, Belgium
Price: $15.99/12.7oz
ABV: 6.0%
NSP: 1.41

And Andy thought the NSP on the Almanac Honey Saison was low.  Check out this fucker. Alex and Deb left this one in my fridge, even though it's expensive as hell.  I confirmed that I could help myself to it; don't want to be that guy, drinking another Non-Snobber's expensive brew, even if it was taking up space in my fridge.  Anyway, me and sours don't have much history.  Some might say that an inexperienced yokel such as myself has no right to drink such an exceedingly rare commodity as this.  And yeah, I poured it in my gigantic Karmeliet tulip.  If you've got a problem that, then pardon my French, but you're an asshole.

Enough being belligerent.  The Hanssens family is apparently the last remaining lambic blender in Belgium (i.e. they buy wort from brewers and blend it themselves to make their own unique beers).  I guess this Belgian art form has waned over the years.  That's sad, because there's no good reason to have anything that has to do with beer ever wane.  Well, maybe Coors.  Apparently this was a one-off blend (hence, experimental)- so I actually feel kind of bad that I'm drinking it because I'm not sure Alex will be able to get his hands on more.

When I opened the bottle, I was a bit concerned that it didn't puff even the slightest bit.  And the pour yielded no head whatsoever.  But then I remembered reading somewhere that traditional lambics are uncarbonated.  I can't seem to find any information on whether or not this was bottle-conditioned, so I'll take the lack of carbonation as intentional.  The smell coming off the glass is pretty remarkable- powerfully sour, with a whole bunch of dark fruit (that's a good thing, given that this was brewed with black currants).  It's fairly winy, which I like.  The brett funk is actually pretty mellow, kind of hanging out in the background and letting the sourness have the spotlight.

If a 6% beer can be an eye-opener, this is a prime example.  It is SOUR.  But it's also really drinkable because it's super dry.  There's a lot of the dark fruit up front, mixed with a red wine vinegar flavor that I like a lot.  After a few seconds, most of the fruit flavor vaporizes, and you're left with pretty straightforward sourness.  The funky brettness is there, but again it's playing the guy behind the guy behind the guy.  There was a very little bit of dairyish flavor in the finish when I first started drinking it (yes, Samer, I know, diacetyl blah blah whatever), but it wasn't much, it didn't upset anything, and it faded away as I kept drinking.  All in all, it's incredibly clean, with none of the spoiled/vomit/septic foot terribleness that can ruin brett beers.

I'm pleased with this one.  Probably wouldn't buy it myself, but if you want to come for a visit, buy waaaaay too much beer, and then leave it in my fridge because you're flying carry-on, I'll be happy to drink it for you.