Friday, May 31, 2013

3 Sheeps Really Cool Waterslides

Type: IPA
Origin: Sheboygan, WI
Price: ?
ABV: 6.2%
NSP: ?

Sheboygan. Sheboygan. Sheboygan. Sheboygan. Sheboygan.  It's a pretty easy name to say five times really fast.  But try typing it.  Or maybe I'm just a shitty typist.  Anyway, another in the Wisconsin Beer Plow.  I have no idea what's going on with the name of this one.  Either the brewery or the beer.  But there's a sheep on a waterslide on the label, and it looks like it's been sampling some sort of mind-altering flowers or whatever the hell sheep eat.

The color's on the darker end of the IPA scale.  It smells pretty sweet with a lot of caramel, and the potency of that sweetness obscures a nice little citrusy twist- just a wisp that unfortunately fades away pretty quickly.  Mainly it just smells sweet- like actual caramel produced by just cooking up some sugar.

Thankfully it doesn't taste quite as sweet as it smells, but it's still pretty sweet.  And you can imagine that if the main flavor is sweetness at a mild 6.2%, there isn't much hop flavor to be found.  It's there, but this beer might win the award (if you want to call it an award) for the lowest bitterness level I've ever had in an IPA.  Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is considerably more hoppy than this.  The hops are so light that they, in a very strange manner, make the beer taste watery.  I'm not sure how that happens or if it makes any sense.  Or maybe I'm overthinking it- it could be that it's just watery with a light hop load.

There's just not much to this one.  It seems like they were afraid of making something overpowering, and they ended up going too far in the other direction and produced something that's pretty meek.  Doesn't seem to me that pulling your punches is a good practice in the brewing industry, but what do I know, I'm just a useless blogger.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Ironfire 51/50 IPA

type: IPA
origin: Temecula, CA
price: $5.40/22oz
ABV: 6.5%
NSP: 7.8

I first came across Ironfire's beer after a 5k in Temecula, CA.  Want to know what I hate?  Running.  Want to know what makes running palatable?  Beer afterwards.  I recall having this but not paying much attention because there was a petting zoo setup next to their display, and who doesn't love touching a pot-belly pig?   I do also remember Bratski thoroughly enjoying their stout, so maybe he'll do a review if we don't lose him to the Pacific Northwest Labyrinth. On to the beer...

Outstanding aromas!  Fruity and hoppy and wonderful.  Is this a treat?  Yeah, I'd say this is a treat.  The body is not overwhelming--perfect in fact--and it's hoppy as shit.  What else do you want in an IPA?  I taste that bit of ash you sometimes find in ultra hoppy west coast IPA, but it's not something I was dwelling on.

Overall this is simply a fine IPA in a sea of fine IPA.  It's definitely a hop bomb made for hop heads.  In fact, I'd dare say they should back the hopping off a tad bit and they'll have a Firestone Union Jack type of IPA (clean hoppy flavors with an appropriate level of malt and body).  But, for the price and value, I'll go ahead and place this ahead of Stone IPA, but behind Ballast Point Big Eye.  Well done you outlaw brewers.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Central Waters Illumination

Type: Double/Imperial IPA
Origin: Amherst, WI
Price: ?
ABV: 9.0%
NSP: ?

I know of Central Waters mainly because of their vaunted Peruvian Morning...and hey, I happen to have one of those in the queue for later on.  I checked on Google Maps, and the brewery name appears to be more or less accurate- it's pretty much right in the middle of Wisconsin, and with all the rivers and lakes around it seems hard to find anywhere in Wisconsin that isn't at least moderately close to water.  So, you know, that's cool.

Yet another red-apply IPA- what's with all of those lately?  But this one's different from the rest, because there's a hefty green hop skunk and a whole boatload of orange rind that actually manages to bring my mind towards Exponential Hoppiness.

The hops are nicely punchy, and the malt isn't too sweet (it's definitely sweet, but not overwhelmingly so), so that's a good start.  The bitterness level is spot on for this type of beer, but the hop flavors aren't all that complex.  It's a touch astringent, but that's not really unexpected given the ABV, and it's not enough to ruin anything because the hops completely bulldoze your palate anyway.

This is another beer that, in a vacuum, is pretty good.  But around these here Non-Snob parts, the DIPA scale has been torn asunder by Pure Hoppiness and Heady, which is simultaneously unfair and inevitable.  I definitely enjoyed the second one when I drank it later on, though, so, you know, that's cool too.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Fathom Bistro, Bait & Tackle

1776 Shelter Island Drive
San Diego, CA 92106
(619) 222-5835

There are so many things about San Diego that make me believe life is good.  Sitting in a bait shop on a small pier, on Shelter Island, on a lazy Sunday afternoon, drinking Ballast Point's Fathom IPL and Sculpin, is definitely one of those things.

Fathom Bistro and Bait is a relatively new kid on the block, but it's a brilliant idea: Put a grill and some taps in a cozy little bait shop on the end of a pier.  The beer menu is not balls deep, just a nice easy-to-read set of delicious beer.  Why should a beer list have to be so complex when life is meant to be simple?  And did I mention Fathom IPL?  That beer alone is enough to bring me in.  Outside people are fishing for whatever the hell kind of rockfish you get in the San Diego bay, boats drift lazily by, and you might even see a Coast Guard Cutter come into port.

I've been here only once, but I already love it.  It doesn't smell like bait, or rotting fish, or anything you could imagine.  It's just a relaxing place to take in a frosty cold one, even with a man fully dressed like a pirate checking your ID.  A word to the wise though: don't bring a huge group, and don't bring any of your douchebag friends.  It is, after all, a glorified bait shop.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Potosi Snake Hollow

Type: IPA
Price: ?
ABV: 7.0%
NSP: ?

If you couldn't tell, our Wisconsinite houseguests managed to divine that I like IPAs.  Apparently Potosi Brewing Company has been around since 1852.  So they're not really one of those Johnny-come-lately joints that are dropping into the wave of the craft brewing industry.  Judging by their website, they're reveling in their role as the crusty old man who loves telling the young'uns about the good old days.

Thankfully, the beer doesn't smell like a crusty old man.  It actually doesn't smell like much of anything.  That may partially be the glass, but not wholly.  There's a touch of sweetness, and not a whole lot of hop scent.  It's another one of those red apple-y IPAs, and they've avoided a lot of pitfalls- it's not musty, it's not dirty, and it's not overly bitter-smelling.

Even though I could easily be classified as a hop head, I appreciate the restraint they showed with this.  The malt's heavier than most of the San Diego fare, but they didn't automatically respond to escalated malt by just bullheadedly kicking up the hop load.  On the flip side, there isn't much complexity in the hop flavors (maybe a bit of orange here and there), and it's a little dirty and metallic tasting (counter to the nose).  But it's pretty drinkable, the malt's not abusive, and it finishes fairly cleanly.

So, it's pretty much a run-of-the-mill IPA- which means it's a bit lame by San Diego standards.  But it's not shitty.  I don't know that that's a compliment, but at least it's not a slight.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Ale Asylum Bedlam

Type: Belgian IPA
Origin: Madison, WI
Price: ?
ABV: 7.5%
NSP: ?

First beer of the Wisconsin Beer Plow.  And here's an oddity- as far as I can tell, there's no "brewing company" or "brewery" or even "beer" in this joint's company name.  It's just Ale Asylum.  Anyway, I don't know what the hell the beast on the label is supposed to be, but I like it.  To be perfectly honest, I'd advise against even bothering to go to the website to read the beer's description.  It's incredibly pretentious and massively overloaded with douche-ness.  Oh, I see why- it's a BA review, copied and pasted.  And it's unbearable even on the BA scale.

But the beer smells delicious.  This SOB is Citra-hopped, and that's right at the forefront- buttloads of citrus, pineapple and maybe even a bit of lime in there.  There's a potent bitterness in the smell, and with all of that citrus, it smells like rind.  And then there's a nice rich Belgianity carrying some banana along with it (and maybe some vanilla lurking in the back), with a good amount of the usual Belgian spice.

Off the bat I like this- the IPA part is pretty much on point, with the hops bringing all of the expected citrus, a nice bitterness level that won't strip the paint, and an agreeably light body that keeps it drinkable.  And initially, the yeast provides a nice counterpoint.  But on repeated visits, I'm having a bit of trouble enjoying the Belgian part as much as I do the IPA part.  And I think that's because the spices that are evident in the nose are either lacking in the flavor or hidden behind the hops.  So the yeast ends up mainly just yeast-flavored, without much enhanced complexity.  And more's the pity, because one-note Belgian yeast is a real shame.

So this isn't bad, but I feel like it's a bit of a letdown because the Belgian part fell short. I wonder how it'd compare to the Wildeman Andy reviewed a little while ago- probably not all that favorably, because it's not on Cali-Belgique's level, and it's nowhere even in the ballpark of River North's HUP or Muffin Top.  But I'll give it credit- it's easy to put down, and after two or three of them the truncated Belgianity won't really bother you anymore.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

BD in a Flying Dog: the brewery

I was on the east coast--Maryland to be specific--looking forward to a jaunt over to Flying Dog's brewery to top off my BD series.  What better than to try some specialty brews fresh from the source? I naively thought.

Well, it turns out Maryland has ass-backwards brewery/tasting/alcohol/whatever laws** that prevent people from drinking beer at a brewery.  The breweries in the area have found ways around it: brewpubs (e.g. Heavy Seas in Baltimore), or on tours.  But, it turns out the brewpubs are crowded as shit, and expensive; and there are only two tours a day booked for multiple months in advance.  What a crockpot fulla shit.

In short, no brewery trip.  Sorry, but these are the breaks.

Kurtis Blow says: Read the fine print before you travel across the country!
These laws are likely in place so that distribution monopolies control the flow of beer, and the macro-breweries can retain market share.  We have it too good in San Diego, but one day the people will rise up: Yes, we can... taste beers at a brewery.   Further, Stone Brewing Co is absolutely to be credited for creating an incredible mechanism (their own distribution network) so that smaller breweries can distribute outside these networks!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Sixpoint Resin

Type: Double/Imperial IPA
Origin: Brooklyn, NY
Price: ?
ABV: 9.1%
NSP: ?

Had this one brought to me in a fairly absurd package of beers meticulously Tetrised into two suitcases by some friends from out-of-town, along with a whole slew of Wisconsin beers that you'll be reading about over the next however-long-it-takes (Cheers, Kyle and Sarah!).  Call it a Wisconsin Beer Plow.  Why am I always the one doing Beer Plows?  Bunch of slackers around here.  And by a bunch I mean everyfuckingone but Andy.  But I digress- this one's from Brooklyn, so it's not really part of the Plow anyway.

Brilliant packaging here- even without the oversized Red Bull can, the label would standout on the shelf.  Right when you pour it you can tell it's going to be a meaty bastard, lots of color and a potent hop waft that billows out of the glass.  It's got a apple-y sweet smell that seems common to a lot of the IPAs I'm having lately, and it actually manages to Rock-'Em-Sock'-Em the 103 IBUs without getting its head popped off.  In the back, there's a touch of astringency, but that's not really unexpected given the ABV.

It the word chewy can be applied to a beverage, it'd be perfect for this beer, because it's the beer version of gnawing on a deep-fried turkey leg.  Just a powerful, thick, syrupy beer- but thankfully hop syrup, not that over-the-top sweet malt syrup common to a lot of (shitty) DIPAs.  These guys have nicely sidestepped the sweetness (despite the apple-y smell) and put together a pretty dry beer that lets the hops go on a rampage.  But unfortunately, the rampage isn't particularly complex- it's mainly just bitter.

This is an interesting beer because it seems to tread the line between West Coast and English IPAs (though Andy might say piss on that distinction)- it's malted West Coastily (nice and dry), but hopped Englishly (heavy and bitter).  Wouldn't stand much of a chance in a heavyweight DIPA blind tasting, but nonetheless worth a quaff.  Between Sixpoint and Brooklyn, there seems to be some pretty good local shit for the residents of NYC's largest borough to work on.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Foothills Hoppyum IPA

type: IPA
origin: Winston-Salem, NC
price: $4/22
ABV: 6.4%
NSP: 10.4

Brats and I were shonkin' around for a few days in North Carolina's capitol city, Raleigh, trying to find the best beers around.  We had found some hits, and very notable misses, but we still weren't sure what was the best.  I was on a reconnaissance mission one day and ended up at Tyler's Tap Room.  After a recommendation for good local IPA, I was drinking Foothills.  And we have a winner!  Their Jade and Seeing Double are thoroughly impressive IPAs, so I immediately stopped at The Bottle Shop, located next door, to see what else existed.  Johnny-the-beer-monger and I got to talking and he recommended this.  He said Foothills salvaged the recipe some ass-clowns [name redacted] who were exploiting the beer scene and a good distribution network.  Foothills, he says, "put some love back into it."  Then he claimed they were making the best beer in NC.  Sold.

This is mostly a classic IPA.  Perhaps this is what I've come to expect out west, but I see no reason to make an east/west coast distinction.  It's just fucking good, OK?  It's got big hop flavors, and a nice level of bitterness to punctuate the dry, medium-to-light body.  Excellent color, and major drinkability.  Nice.  And hell yeah it's cheap!  A win, all around.

It seems there's something good happening in the North Carolina beer scene.  Fortunately, there are at least two great bottle shops in Raleigh, with impressive selections, so get drinkin' Carolina!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Golden Road Burning Bush

type: smoked IPA
origin: Los Angeles, CA
price: $12/4-pack (16oz)
ABV: 8%
NSP: 12.6

I have to admit two things: (1) I'm a sucker for good design aesthetics, and (2) I'm totally completely down for some good canned beer.  I was lulled in by the cool packaging (see 1), and the 16oz size (see 2).  But unfortunately the taste of this is neither appealing, nor appetizing, so getting through a four pack of large cans is pretty difficult.

My trouble with this stems mostly from the style, which I'm not really sure should be made by anyone.  'Smoked' means they used malts which have been smoked (Rauch malt) in the brewing process.  That's all good, but it turns out most rauch-y beers tend to be overdone (too much Rauch in that Rauchbier, son!), and those flavors don't become more awesome in greater amounts.  So you end up feeling like you're drinking bubbly campfire water, or, worse, a beer someone put their cigarette out in.

With this beer the non-smoky component of the beer tastes a bit like homebrew--unpolished, unrefined, etc.  I'm not a fan of this, but at least there's finally some craft beer flowing out of Los Angeles county proper.  But... wait... Craftsman has a cigarette problem too, and they're also from LA. Uh, guys? What's going on?? (I can't believe how perfect that video is).

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Goose Island Bourbon County Stout (2012)

type: bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout
origin: Chicago, IL
price: ?/12oz
ABV: 15%
NSP: ?

Save this... save this for a long time.  It's not really beer so much as a nose clearing liquer that may or may not have originated from beer-making ingredients.  It's big, it's potent, and it's not easy sipping.  It pours like syrup, and definitely looks nothing like this.  Take a waft... it hits you like those fight scenes in the old Batman show.  The flavors are delicious though: bourbon, vanilla, some cereal-like flavors, and then deep dark grain at the end.  I find that combination to be mighty tasty; but, because it's such a 'young' beer, the ABV comes roaring through and weighs you down like a wet blanket.  I could barely get through a third of this.

I would say give this at least two years of downtime before you touch it; although, many more would probably be better.  By then you should be able to finish at least a half-glass of this, and it'll likely be phenomenal.