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.