Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Brew Dog 5 A.M. Saint

type: hoppy red ale
origin: Ellon, Aberdeenshire (Scotland)
price: $5/4-pack
ABV: 5%
NSP: 13.3
website

Beer from Brew Dog?  I was soured early on by a piss poor attempt at an IPA that was backed by some bullshit dick swagging (on the label).  But then I made a visit to Brew Dog in Firenze (Florence), Italy, and I decided to revisit their beers.

This is their "hoppy red ale", which is hoppy enough to make me forget about the under-attenuated malt base (it should be about 7%) and the dirty water / metallic sips and the slight funk on the tongue.  It's a good beer, to be sure, but I find myself projecting quality into the future, imagining that after just a few months of extra shelf time, this will taste like shit (once the hops have degraded in "freshness").  It may be perfect for a nice day in Scotland, though.

This is imported by Anchor, so I'm wondering if we see it more ofter in the bay area than, say, San Diego.  Maybe not, but at least it's at the local Trader Joes at a very reasonable price. So I'll buy it, but mostly because I rarely have access to Blazing World; and Hop Head Red is 8%.  And I'm not totally convinced it should be in the Lotion Club.

Finally, here's proof that I'm willing to give them another chance:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Napa Smith Crush

type: amber lager "with grapes"
origin: Napa, CA
price: $3/22oz
ABV: 6%
NSP: 13.0
website

Napa Smith was knocked out of the IPA Tournament early, and brutally.  That organic IPA of theirs was a fat pile of bullshit, and so I've come to expect very little from them.  But, for some reason this caught my eye, and I'm rather enjoying it.

On the surface it's just a boring-ass amber lager that faintly reminds me of Oktoberfest, without the blacking-out.  But it's nothing that any German brewery couldn't blow out of the water with a small bit of [insert German word for precision stoic effort].

The trick here is the "with grapes" thing.  The only thing I can figure out is they used some small amount of trash red-wine grapes from this year's harvest, if only because of the maroon label, and the tinge of red in the appearance.  The addition works though.  There's a nice acidity that masks a bit of the harshness of the lager, and an essence of grape that mixes nicely with the carbonation.  It's got a nice ABV too.  (In terms of a harvest celebrator, it's nowhere near Great Beer... Great Wine though.)

The wifey said it "tastes like water", but then added "although... I have been drinking wine, so who knows."  Way to pony up and acknowledge any potential bias, Lyn!  That makes perfect sense though: this isn't a wine-grape lager.  No, it's a lager "with grapes", strictly as advertised.  Still, I think this qualifies for the Lotion Club, and is one (small) step towards me respecting NS.  Welcome to the club, friends.


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Knee Deep Hop-De-Ranged

type: quadruple IPA, or an imperial as fuck imperial IPA
origin: Lincoln, CA
price: ~$10/22ox
ABV: 13.1%
NSP: 8.5
website

None of us have ever tried to hide the fact that we love Knee Deep.  They rank highly with us because of their excessive-hopping skills: they make the entire gambit of IPA taste about as hoppy/dank/attenuated as you've ever had, all while maintaining a good level of distribution.

And this takes the cake as their most potent offering. Just look at those stats!  FUG THIS SHIB.  But it's actually not as oppressive as I thought it would be, so in a sense it's not all that "insane" of a beer -- unless you're planning on making a night out of it.  I would recommend against that, Stretch.

There are a few things plainly obvious here: ultra high ABV layered over a not-so-dry body.  And you can be damn sure the level of hops ain't gonna disappoint.  Actually, they've achieved a wonderful balance between all of those things, so much so that I would venture this would beat Expo in a blind taste.  The hops impart a fantastic tropical flavor that makes me think I'm at the Tonga Room wailing down 15 dollar buckets of blue blackout juice.  NOICE!

Well hot diggity looks like we got ourselves a Ken Caminiti style beer-slugger.  Although, instead of calling this a IIIIPA, as the wonks would have it, let's just call it an after-a-couple-sips-I'm-drunk-PA. And I'm thinking this wont die from going too hard on speedballs.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Freigeist Ottekolong

type: kolsch
origin: Cologne, Germany
price: $6/0.5l
ABV: 4.8%
NSP: 4
website

There's an art to achieving something simple and also fantastic.  Cologne's thirst quenching drink -- the "Kolsch" as we call it -- can have both of those traits.  But it can also suck a fat one depending on the quality of the brewing operation.

This strikes a pleasing chord with me.  The malts are on full display, and yet it remains light-bodied with major croosh.  There is a bit too much residual sweetness for me, but shit it's hard to argue with a good kolsch.  No flaws as far as I can tell, and given that this has been imported, I'd be surprised if the beer at the source isn't phenomenal.

So I guess I'm pretty much in agreement with this reviewer, but the NSP is dreadful.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Epic Pumpkin Pie Gose

Type: Flavored Gose
Origin: Seattle, WA
Price: $9ish per 22 oz
ABV: 6%
Website

How could I not buy and review this beer. The description just screams disgusting since no part of pumpkin pie should be salty except for the refluxed turkey and gravy during dessert. I have only had one beer from Epic Ales before, the balsamic mushroom masterpiece, and it was definitely an interesting experience. I must also mention the artwork makes no sense. The name is very simple, 'pumpkin pie gose', but the picture depicts a slice of pie viciously clubbing his pumpkin brothers from whence he came. The slice of pie looks a little Hitlerjugend, so maybe that's what they were going trying for with this classic German style.

Anyways, is this beer as god-awful as it sounds? The smell is horrendous. It smells exactly like an over-skunked Miller High Life. The taste on the other hand is quite pleasant. A good funky sour more in line with some of the Russian River sours and just a tinge of saltiness that somewhat clears the palate. Pumpkin spices or essence are completely non-existent however. Maybe a little bit of nutmeg/cinnamon heat but none of the flavor. As a gose, this is a tremendous offering. As a pumpkin seasonal, I would move along, although no one really enjoys pumpkin beers all that much so maybe this is a good thing.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

off color brewing Scurry

type: Kottbusser (dark honey ale)
origin: Chicago, IL
price: $12/4-pack
ABV: 5.3%
NSP: 6.4
website


This is a style I've not had before--"Kottbusser"--and it reminds me of one of those true kola-root sodas, but with booze in it -- like if Michelob Ultra'd a good porter, or something like that.  It's like an Alt beer, but with excessively light body.  And the minimal carbonation is key ingredient to this: I'd wager that any higher levels of carb would mute the delicate flavors.

I ended up plowing through 3 of these bottles in 15 minutes because it was so ri-goddamn-diculously refreshing.  It was pretty warm outside and it absolutely crushed my thirst.

After tasting only two other beers make by off color, and now this, I'm completely sold on their abilities.  They seem to make unique, and well executed beers, with an impeccable taste for good design.

Overall: A very satisfying beer from an excellent brewery.  I'm planning to take down the entire four-pack on my next Caltrain ride to SF.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Evil twin: sour bikini

type: Sour pale
origin: Mount Pleasant, SC
price: $13/22oz at Ale Arsenal
ABV: 3%
NSP: : 1.5


What does a sour bikini taste like? Lightly salted. If it was ever hoppy, those flavors are long gone, except a hint of bitter. A little tangy fruit. Light and crisp, best served cold. Slightly cloudy, mild carbonation.

evil twin

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Central Waters Sixeen

Type: barrel aged imperial stout
Origin: Amherst, Wisconsin
Price: $15 per bottle ($5 ticket for bottle sale and event)
ABV: 11%
NSP: 4.77
Website

Got this from my brother and pops who went to the release on a ball-crushingly cold January in Wisconsin. And I probably would have done the same if I knew how good this was. All you really need to do is think of a slightly thinner Parabola with the only defect being a slight burn on the finish. The most dominant notes are chocolate, vanilla and the bourbon soaked oak. Think about just holding a super decadent chocolate truffle in your mouth while taking a tiny sip of bourbon. That is CW 16 in a nutshell. Not quite on par with Parabola or BCBS but pretty damn close. I could definitely drink this all day if it was ever sold again :(

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Almanac Farmers Reserve Blackberry

Type: blackberry sour
Origin: San Francisco, CA
Price: $11.59 per 375 mL
ABV: 7%
NSP: 2.26
Website

As you can tell, I'm getting more into sours. It seems to be the style becoming most en vogue these days, and I'm just jumping balls first into them. One of the more prominent sour purveyors in these parts is Almanac, and while the NSP is not roaringly high, the smaller bottle format makes them slightly more affordable in the sour game. I have had the chance to try several other offerings that I didn't review (Brandy Barrel Peche and Dogpatch Sour), and they were both superb. Not best in show, but if this were a dog show, they would be the ones running straight through the barriers to the finish line. They just want to get you to the finale without fucking around. Like, here is a sour beer and bam, fucking peaches. Fucking peaches...

So riddle me this, have I ever had a blackberry beer? No.

Am I qualified to review this? Probably not, but that never stopped me before. I know what is supposed to taste good and I know what's poisonous.

First thing I note is this has got a pinkish hue. Definitely odd, but whatever, it looks pretty. The smell has got a nice sour funk on it. A slight berry presence of indiscriminate origin (I guess blackberries, but I've never giving a good solid whiff into a bowl of blackberries). The taste is a nice dry sour, although not a huge berry punch. Its definitely not 'loads of coastal Blackberries from Swanton Berry Farm in California’s Santa Cruz Mountains' per the Almanac website, although that might be a good thing, preventing this from entering Cascade style canker sore territory. I also think the wine barrel aging may take away some of the strong berry flavors, and this kind of drinks like a carbonated chardonnay. All in all, not a bad offering, and if you like some more subtle sours, this will be up your alley.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Deschutes The Dissident (2012)

Type: Oud Bruin
Origin: Bend, Oregon
Price: $17.59 per 22 oz
ABV: 11.4%
NSP: 4.21
Website

I was able to pick up a few of these at Chucks' cellar sale a few months back, which was definitely nice since The Dissident is brewed every few years and wasn't able to grab some back in 2012 or 2010.

First impression is this is a boozed up, albeit more subdued version of Hommage from Cantillion. Yeah I know Hommage is with raspberries and cherries and who knows what else, but the defining dry formaldehyde sour notes are apparent in both (I read somewhere that's indicative of methanol, but the solution to methanol poisoning is drinking some more ethanol...you can believe me, I'm a doctor of the earth). The sour on this is really nice and not canker sore inducing. Also, this completely hides the alcohol. Its strange that I compare this to a 6% sour, but it really is similar. This may be my favorite offering from Deschutes and I will be buying up any and all stores of the 2014 when it comes out.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

New Belgium / Cigar City (Lips of Faith)

type: chili Belgian IPA
origin: Fort Collins, CO
price: $7/22oz
ABV: 8.5%
NSP: 7.9
website

I firmly believe that chili-infused beers should not be attempted by anyone except for the finest of brewers.  It's just plain frightening to think about how badly overloaded with capsaicin they can be.  Even though Cigar City is on the label, and this is a member of the Lips of Faith series, I'm still weary...

This pours, looks, and tastes like a really wonderful, well-attenuated, hoppy IPA.  To my pleasant surprise, the chili additions aren't overwhelming, and even add a nice complementary kick (as you'd hope!).  There seems to be almost a bit of cherry essence, which may be from the Spanish oak contribution.  No clue, but either way, this shit is rocking my face off because it's highly drinkable and it's strong as punk.  My only beef is that only a faint aromatic presence from the IPA is detectable.  If it were blossoming with hoppy aromas, I would be straight torqued.  I'm still very down with this.  Most everything else New Belgium offsers, however, I am not.  For example: this.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Uinta Hop Nosh

type: IPA
origin: Salt Lake City, UT
price: $10/6-pack
ABV: 7.3%
NSP: 15.5
website

Malt bomb IPA, incoming!  Sorry, but I'm just not totally feeling this.  It's good I suppose (and getting plenty of teat-suckage on BA): it's not quite flawed, per say, but it also is not rocking my balls in any manner besides the NSP.  If there were a non-snob metric for ball rocking beers, we would've figured out that malty IPA don't rock no balls.  There's a bit of peanut butter and ash on the finish, which I've tasted before in more forgettable IPA, and is undoubtedly a malt/hop combo. Maybe next time, Uinta.  Or am I totally off base here?  I feel like I'm being too harsh on it, but that's because the ethanol is going to my brain.  So I guess it aint so bad after all.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Blaugies / Hill Farmstead la Vermontoise

type: saison
origin: Dour, Belgium
price: $12/750ml
ABV: 6.0%
NSP: 3.8
website

I ran across this at Beltramos, but it was quite old at that point.  Regardless, it's an easy beer-decision to make when you see Hill Farmstead on the bottle, even if the NSP is dreadful.

The lack of freshness was definitely an issue: the excess yeast was hard at work, and produced abundant head/carbonation; and there's a faint skunkiness rushing out of the bottle. Oh well, got me some drinkin' to do.

It is indeed a farmhouse saison, apparently brewed with 'spelt', and Amarillo hops.  Aside from the age-induced problems, this gives off a rich and intense aromatic experience, that's also loaded with pepper, earthy, fruity, saison'y goodness -- yum. The body quite nice too.

Overall, I'd say this is a very clean tasting, refreshing saison, and it would probably be world class at it's peak freshness too.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Bear Republic Cafe 15 Racer

type: double IPA
origin: Cloverdale, CA
price: $8/22oz
ABV: 9.75%
NSP: 7.9
website

Does Bear Republic have a new facility in Cloverdale?  Probably not -- I've had the blinders on for a while, and didn't realize they're a lot bigger than I thought.  Whatever, this is a badass DIPA.  It's big and juicy, and loaded with fruity hop action.  But there's still a deep bitterness to it, and although the malt base is on the heavy side, it's still very pleasant and not overdone.  Not much else to say here: it's a great all-around double IPA that's very nearly in the this-is-damn-near-a-triple-IPA-if-you-ask-me classification.  And just what the hell is a cafĂ© racer?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Brew Rebellion Amber Ann

type: imperial amber/red ale
origin: Yucaipa, CA
price: $9/22oz
ABV: 10.4%
NSP: 7.5
website

I wanted to publish on my birthday as a sign of respect to BR, because this reminds me of drinking Perdition: rough around the edges, but interesting and completely delicious.  There's a tremendous amount of complexity here -- as much as a nice barleywine might impart.  Raisins, molasses, and booooooze.  This is damn near the finest of this style I've ever had, although I can't say there've been many I can compare this too (that I can remember).  And it's purty.

If I'd complain at all it would be the alcohol wafting up my nose, and there's a little too much carb for the head-retention qualities.  Although, all that carb may be what keeps the ridiculous ABV in check when you're drinking it.  And, it was full of yeast dregs just churning away at the beer, which means it was probably a lot less carb'd when I bought it, and it's probably significantly stronger now after all those yeast-dumps.

These days it's become increasingly difficult to stick out from the competition.  But it's clear that these guys have tremendous potential, and a great deal of love for the craft.  When I tried their stuff at this year's North Park Festival of Arts, I was sold.  The quality of their bottled brew was the last check for me: these guys stick out like a sore thumb (in a good way), and are a welcome breath of fresh air.  What's interesting too is that they're apparently operating out of the back of Mexican market.  Pretty ironic, huh?
When your beer looks like an ice cream cone, you've got pretty good head retention.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Mendocino 30th Anniversary Ale (Cascade single hop pale ale)

type: single-hop pale ale
origin: Ukiah, CA
price: $4/22oz
ABV: 7%
NSP: 11.4
website

What does it say about a brewery that after thirty years in the game, they decide to make a mildly boring single-hop pale ale?  Not sure, but emphasis on the boring.

Yes, the hop character is very one-note and Cascadian (Brats hates Cascade hops because their overused in the PNW).  Yes, the beer is malty, sweet, but it also tastes slightly metallic.  Good lacing, but not much aroma.  Whoop-dee-fucking-doo!

It seems the only thing that makes this reasonably unique is the ABV; but then again, Ballast makes a 7% hoppy lager in regular production that blows the goddamn lid off most hop-centric beers, including this.

I'm recommending you try this, if only because it's a great value, but I would say search for this like you would search for a shitty, faded tattoo-giving "artist." It's not that this beer is bad, but it's just not interesting, and certainly not worthy of a 30-year celebration other than perhaps after getting that old, shitty, faded tattoo lasered off your body.  No ragrets.

Still in the game after thirty years, BRO.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Deschutes Foray IPA

type: Belgian-style IPA
origin: Bend, OR
price: $5.5/22oz
ABV: 6.4%
NSP: 7.6
website

Another beer in Deschutes' Bond Street Series, which joins the likes of the brilliant and genre-defining Hop in the Dark.  So this will probably rock balls...

Annnnd, it does.  It's effervescent and refreshing.  Light bodied, and a touch too carbonated, giving it the feel of an alcoholic Calistoga.  The strongest part of this brew, for me, is what the Belgian yeast add: unique fruit notes that aren't too overpowering, and complement the citrusy hops.  And then it finishes cleanly, with a twinge of acidity and cereal grains.

This is a fine accomplishment, and I could easily throw back a sixer on a school night.  Thumbs up for awesome, and for Deschutes not going the way of Boston Beer Co (read that as Banal Beer Co.).

Monday, July 28, 2014

Breakside Passionfruit Sour Ale

Type: flavored Berliner weisse
Origin: Portland, Oregon
Price: $6.59 per 22 oz
ABV: 4.4%
NSP: 4.34
Website

I bought this one completely on a whim. I'm an adjunct sucker, and what bigger adjunct can you get besides passionfruit. I must admit, I have never eaten a passionfruit on its own, so really have no ability to pick its characteristics out of a beer. All I know is this is a damn good beer, and quite interesting to boot. The first sip is sour. Like Cascade sour. Pure brett action just ripping your gums away. This is not barrel aged, so you don't get much subduing of the flavors. The predominant fruit coming through for me is apricot. Then a huge surprise: the finish is very much straight blonde ale. The sour disappears, giving your throat much needed relief. It completely baffles me how such a strong sour character disappears on the finish, but I am not complaining. This is definitely a unique brew and I think both the inexperienced sour drinker and the fanatic will both find qualities to enjoy in this.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Fort George 3-Way IPA

Type: IPA
Origin: Astoria, Oregon
Price: $10.99 per 4/16 oz cans
ABV: 7.2%
NSP: 12.4
Fort George Website
Block 15 Website
Boneyard Website

I heard about this beer and actively sought it out. Fort George is pretty decent in their own right, but the addition of IPA heavyweights Boneyard and Block 15 made this a must drink. And lets just cut to the chase: they knew this beer would rock. I mean, why else would they put their own brewery rock band on the side of the can. This may be one of the best IPAs I have had in the PacNW and I would drink this anytime given the opportunity. That being said, I think the Boneyard-only offerings may be a bit better, but not by much (I haven't had any Block 15 stuff and only a few Fort George offerings). The nose and flavors are dominated by a massive amount of grapefruit and a wee pinch of pineapple. That being said, it surprises you by drinking incredibly dry and light; most IPAs with this massive of a grapefruit quality are well into the imperial range and are definitely very sweet. The finish is a bit harsh, not from the alcohol, but from an egregious bitterness. That is probably the only thing keeping this from best-in-show, but if you are a hophead, you won't even notice.

Fort George is not as heroin chic as Block 15
...or Boneyard

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Firestone Double Jack

type: double IPA
origin: Paso Robles, CA
price: $6/22oz
ABV: 9.5%
NSP: 10.3
website

I stand by my claim that Union Jack is one of my favorite go-to IPAs of all time, and needless to say I expect big things from Firestone's dry-hopped "double" IPA.

This is really an imperial IPA, though, folks.  It's big, dry, slightly acidic, and the hop resins coat your tongue like a dog eating peanut butter.

Like drinking hop-resin bombs on the Best Coast.


Ultra West Coasty brah, and I'm giving it major props.  They must use a metric fuckton of hops during the dry-hop stage, because this tastes super fresh.

Featured in the pic: tasty chimichurri from el Valle de Guadalupe.  Hecka tasty yo!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sierra Nevada Harvest Fresh Hop IPA (2014)

type: fresh hop IPA
origin: Chico, CA
price: $3.50/24oz
ABV: 6.7%
NSP: 13.6
website

This has a really interesting hop-flavor I'm struggling to pin down.  The base is slightly sweet with a medium body, as you can come to expect from Sierra, and it nicely complements the fresh-hop character.  The hops are at the same time spicy and citrusy, which is really interesting.  Overall this is a really smooth, pleasant beer to drink on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Now, I'm about to begin a mild rant because I just watched Stone's propaganda piece to raise money for their brewing adventures in Berlin, which makes me want to ask what made you think you could get away with a "grassroots" effort at fundraising $1M??

I went on that mini-rant because -- in contrast with Stone -- Sierra seems like a brewery producing complicated brews while also exercising some humility.  They're good at the fundamentals too.

I've never bought into the whole "you're not worthy" bullshit coming out of the gargoyle's mouth, so I'm glad Sierra stays on the mellow.  For that, you get a NSB thumbs up.  Easy choice, folks.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Evil Twin Ashtray Heart

type: smoked porter
origin: Stratford, CT (Two Roads Brewing)
price: $3.99/12oz
ABV: 8.9%
NSP: 7.9
website

Most rauchbiers are overly smokey.  And most porters taste like headache to me.  Smoked porter??  Sounds like a bad fucking idea...

In this case the beer is smokey, as expected, and I can tell it's a porter.  But it works.  Really well.

The smoke balances out the boozy porter base in a rather pleasing way.  The body is really light, and the finish is clean, too.  So this is just plain good.

I can picture myself finishing a four-pack if it weren't so goddamn expensive.  Then again... the NSP is actually pretty good.  Damn you, Evil Twin!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

off color brewing Troublesome

type: gose
origin: Chicago, IL
price: $10.99/4-pack at Beltramos
ABV: 4.3%
NSP: 5.6
website

A while back I had a serious Norske-chub.  Well, that's turned into a gose-chub.  I flipping love gose for so many reasons: it's light and refreshing, a bit more acidic than most ale (but not too sour), complex favors but not overtly complex, and it's lightly salty.  I'm a little obsessed at this point, because it occurs to me that this style is difficult to pull off.  It may not seem difficult, given the relative simplicity of the ingredients, but the trick is getting the balance and delicacy correct.

This could easily be one of the best ones I've had so far, the key being it's balance tips a little towards the coriander/floral side.  It's still salty, it's still slightly sour, and it's still completely refreshing, but this tastes a lot more sessionable than usual.

Off color brewing appears to be doing things correctly, and I'm really digging the packaging.  Their product looks very "artisan", which can be the beer-equivalent of a red herring; but inside I've found nothing but legit beer.  I'll not be second guessing ocb purchases in the future.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Lagunitas Night Time

type: black IPA
origin: Peta-fucking-luma, CA
price: $3.60/22 at Costco in Redwood City
ABV: 8.2%
NSP: 14.8
website

Lagunitas rarely misses.  Don't worry: this doesn't miss.  I just wanted to say how impressive it is that they can make style, after style, after style, after style; deliciously and with great NSPs.

I really had no idea what was inside this bottle, besides something that I should probably consume late at night.  I don't generally "fear the dark," but cracking a 22 of unknown substance sort of gives me nightmares: imagine having to finish that much BCBS.  Nope.

This pours perfectly (no surprise), and resembles more of a deep porter in color, rather than, say, any CDA out there.  But it's wonderfully hoppy, as you should expect from Lag, and has an extremely crushable body, with very little trace of blerg-inducing porter flavors (I still despise the style, obviously).

No blerg-action here: this ain't no goddamn porter.
It was the night time when I drank this, and I can't think of another beer I should've drank instead.  I think a "wild" version of this would be a near masterpiece.  Or they could back the hops off and sour it completely -- any way they choose, though, I'm sold:
Instead, this ^ is more fitting ...
and, obviously, this ^.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Calicraft The City

type: IPA
origin: San Jose, CA
price: $6.50/22oz
ABV: 6.4%
NSP: 6.4
website

I think this beer has the most obnoxious head ever, if only because it retains so well.  It took me about ten sips to get to actual beer.  But then it smells like a nice English style IPA.

The label says this was "bittered" with blackberry root, and although I can't say I understand what that means, I think I taste some faint blackberry essence, which actually complements the hop aromas nicely.  The bitterness is heavy but not puckering or overwhelming, which is a very good thing.

It's not the most amazing IPA around, and I would like to taste a bit more fruitiness from the hops, but that's just me reminiscing about old times in SD.  Overall, thumbs up.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

off color brewing Apex Predator

type: "third trophic level" farmhouse ale
origin: Chicago, IL
price: $13/4-pack 12oz
ABV: 6.5%
NSP: 7.1
website

Here's a situation where the guy with the aesthetically pleasing packaging wins:  I know next to nothing about this brewery, and yet somehow the excellent bottle design allows my brain to take the leap of faith and purchase a rather expensive pack of beer (although the NSP is decent).

But this doesn't disappoint.  The aromas are subtle, but appetizing; I get some fruity hops, some honey, and "wild" yeastie flavors.  The flavors are not terribly complex, but the beer is well executed.  The acidity is nice, and the body is suitable mild, with just a touch of hops.  Very nice.  In fact, nice enough for me to ignore the fact that apex predators are actually at the fifth trophic level -- DUH.

This would absolutely crush the doldrums from a long, hard day of manual labor.  The bad thing about being a scientist, though, is that the only manual labor I ever have to do is some typing on my super low-profile Apple keyboard -- man my fingers are tired.  Oh well, at least I can pretend I make a difference in this world.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze Golden Blend

Type: lambic
Origin: Beersel, Belgium
Price: $21.99 per 375 mL
ABV: 6%
NSP: 1.02
Website

My last trip down to San Diego, I stopped in Best Damn Beer Store and saw this turding up the shelves, so I picked up two and an Oude Kriek. The Golden Blend is a special edition that is not made anymore; it consists of 1, 2, 3, and 4 year old lambics, aged in oak and carefully blended. Artfully crafted for a spectacularly low NSP (probably a record for something with alcohol in it). This was bottled in 2011, so some of the beer inside is 7+ years old. After tasting some of 3Fs other offerings (Doejsel and Hommage), I decided I should give this mega-whale a cracking.

First impression on this: perfect. It is exactly where you want a good lambic to be. It is nice and dry and incredibly well balanced. The sour is not outrageous but definitely there to kick your nards. The flavors are delicate, but you definitely get some green apple and lemon and a faint bitterness that I can't pin down, but I think offsets some of the more sour qualities. The smells are even more delicate; you really need to snob-quaff this beast to pick out some peach. Very little sour on the smell. All in all, this is a hard beer to find a substitute at any price point, so I will give 3F a pass on the low NSP.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Alesmith Speedway Stout (bourbon barrel aged, 2014)

type: coffee imperial stout
origin: San Diego, CA
price $30/750ml
ABV: 12%
NSP: 3.0
website

El Presidente came to town for Adolph's wedding, which happened to nicely coincide with the release of this gem.  So after a long 30 hours of Tecate/tequila soaked Tijuana madness, we capped off the event (and the act of coming back across "la linea") with one hell of a beer...

Normally, Speedway is a phenomenal accomplishment of smoothness, and richness of coffee and roasted malt flavors, in a style most brewers try to make it as goddamn imperial as possible (for the sake of arrogant imperialism).   But, add some tempered barrel aging, which imparts some bourbon essence to it, and, well, you don't need me to tell you how good this is.  'Good' is a major understatement, and so is 'great'; but, 'world class' is not.

This wasn't my purchase, but it has an almost painfully low NSP.  Considering how good it is, though, everyone should try this at least once.  I would wager this is one of the finest of its breed -- I can't think of anything as good, really.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Freigeist Geisterzug

type: Gose
origin:  Cologne, Germany
price: $6/500ml
ABV: 5%
NSP: 4.2
website

The last gose I reviewed -- Golden Gate Gose -- made me a little bit obsessed with the style.  Yet I was still slightly hesitant to buy this, because I can still imagine what a 'bad' gose might taste like and I'd very much like to avoid that experience.

This is wonderful though.  The faint spruce essence nicely complements the lightly soured wheat.  It's definitely salty, but well balanced.  My mouth puckered a bit initially, but so does cramming a dozen sour gummy worms in your mouth.

In summary: very refreshing, and very crushable, brah

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Latitude 33 Camel Corps IPA

type: IPA
origin: San Diego, CA
ABV: 6.8%
price: $5.09/22oz
NSP: 8.7
website (Cool name, bro.  No, actually, there's a pretty cool story about the name.)

First impressions are important.  The first thing you notice is the over carbonation along with a mild buttery smell -- a combination which is definitely off putting.  Meh.

The flavor is somewhere in between a good english IPA, with fruity hops, and a boring East Coast malt bomb, with stale hops.  Oddly, the flavors seem to be going back and forth: at one sip I'm enjoying it, and at the next the aromas are weighing me down.  Meh.

 After a while, though, my qualms have faded into a mild case of beer apathy, which means I'd pick this up over most unknown IPAs, but probably never over an established SD IPA.  So, again, meh, which brings the grand total to three.

This has potential, but it's also flawed, and it seems to me that new SD brewers can't afford to make meh.  Let's hope they get this straightened out.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Sante Adairius Bright Sea Blonde

type: BA sour Belgian blonde
origin: Capitola, CA (near Santa Cruz)
price: $15/750ml
ABV: 6.2%
NSP: 3.1
website

At a recent visit (my first), I flipped out over Cap'n Ron, their sour imperial stout.  Ron was the reason I bought everything I could, but it turns out the quota is a single bottle, if they even have a style for sale.  But, with beer this good, I'm just happy to have had the chance.

Bright Sea is a lightly soured, barrel aged, Belgian blonde ale.  Plain and simple: it's tart, juicy, pleasantly aromatic, easy on the tongue, and gorgeous to look at.  Nay a flaw to be found either.

The key to this being so goddamn drinkable is, I think, the gentle sourness and the mild carbonation.  The combination adds some nice, light acidity, which masks any heaviness you might mind in the common unfiltered Belgian blonde.  It's just flipping fantastic.

From what I've been able to taste, I'd say that Sante is absolutely crushing their competition.  Well... except that the NSP is about as dogshit as they come (OK, well not this bad).  But I don't really care because they're like a chia pet: just water, and watch them grow!  My only issue is that I live too damn far from this magic gem of a brewery.

And the other side because these labels kick ass.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Founders Centennial IPA

type: IPA
origin: Grand Rapids, MI
price: ~$10/6-pack (est.)
ABV: 7.2%
NSP: 14.9
website

No, this is not brewed once per century.  It's brewed with Centennial hops, ya dingus!

The IPA field is tough one these days.  Everyone and their brother has the IPA to end all IPAs, right?  What I think is clear, though, is when a brewery is good at making beer across the board; Founders is definitely one of those.

Their Double Trouble is a ridiculously good DIPA, and for the money and style, this is definitely comparable in quality.  Not too bitter, and the hopping gives a very straightforward set of flavors.  Is it a single-hop beer?  I cant tell, but the nose is mildly sweet, and it's going down like water in this 90 degree heat (I'm in the shade obviously).

This one's simple: if you can find it, pug it.



But I cant, so until then I'll just give props to my East Coast hookup.  CK, thanks for another fine Northeast recon beer!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Seattle Beer Week: Cantillon and Drie Fonteinen Night

Seattle beer week is quite the event. 10 days, countless events, and absolute ridiculous tap lists all around town. Out of all the events, one stood out in particular: Cantillon and Drie Fonteinen at Urban Family Public House. UFPH is a brewery in their own right, but they also are a distributor that is one of the few to bring Cantillon over from Belgium. They basically decided to blow their entire Belgian mega-torque on one night. Look at this Insta-Whale list: From Cantillon - Iris, Fou'Foune and Mamouche; From Drie Fonteinen - Hommage and Golden Doesjel. The Cantillons were all on tap for the event, the 3Fs were bottles. All were $9 for 6 oz glasses (which when considering the retail prices of some of these, is not a terrible deal). With the wife and a buddy we met in line during the hour wait to get in, we were able to get multiples of everything we wanted and tried all 5.

So what did we think of them? The winner of the night was Mamouche. This is the most unique thing I've had in quite some time. Its a lambic made with Elder Flowers. The flowers give off an incredible dry and spicy note that is ball-tingling good. You get a little berry coming through, but its the floral notes that shine on this. Its a sour where the sour part is not the prime player, which is a nice change from fruity sours. Don't get me wrong, this is still mouth puckering sour, but those Elder flowers, hot damn.

Second for me was Fou'Foune, for the others Hommage. Fou was a really nice, well balanced apricot sour. More sour than The Bruery's SitR (and Logsdon's Peche n Brett), less than Cascade's Apricot. More balanced than all three and drier as well (everything was actually quite dry and not cloying at all). A few people in the place said it was not as fruity as the times they had it in bottles. Still, fantastic. For me, Hommage had a formaldehyde smell to it that I couldn't get over. It contains a mix of cherries and raspberries, and the flavors are quite decadent (the formaldehyde is not on the taste, just the nose). The mouthfeel reminded me kind of like a melted raspberry sorbet.

The bottom two were both new 'lambics', so they were less sour. The Golden Doesjel was much better than Iris. The difference is Iris is dry hopped whereas Doesjel is not. The Iris just tasted flat and not very sour. Kind of like a pale ale bretted up with no carb. I could go around town and probably pick up 20 sours better than it for less than $15, so kinda disappointing. The Doesjel is a perfectly crafted lambic. The only downside was it was done against Fou, Mamouche, and Hommage, and would have probably ranked higher with some type of adjunct like the others. Still, if in a bar, I would not hesitate to order it.

From left, Hommage, Iris and Fou. Got too lazy for subsequent pics.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Barrelhouse IPA

type: IPA (duh)
origin: Paso Robles, CA
price: $6.50/22oz
ABV: 7%
NSP: 7
website

Guess what?  The New Kids on the Paso Block (it's a short block) are giving their first show.  What I want to know before we start is if this beer is the Mark, or Donnie, of the Wahlbergs?  At the moment Firestone is certainly running El Paso Roble, but I'm not above changing my mind, so let's see where this takes us...

Firstly, I have to give credit to their bottle design: in a sea awash with egomaniacal, hop-stroking, self-gratification (lookin' at you, Stone), BBC* has made a classy and inviting presentation.  And, here's an interesting feature seen on their website: this is, apparently, "well made" craft beer.  So, I guess this means they wish to distinguish themselves from "poorly made" craft beer.  Funny how things have changed.  "Macro beer" used to be the dirty word.  Now, the majority of "craft beer" is, I guess.

But what about the beer?  Very nice, mild hop aromas.  Malty, but adequately balanced (and then some) by the hops.  Interestingly,  if you take big gulps the beer is nicely refreshing, and indicates the proper hop to malt ratio; if you take small sips, however, there's some ash on the finish.  Is this because of a certain hop?  Dunno, but either way I think Barrelhouse is poised to compete in a town absolutely dominated by amazing wine, and Firestone.  Welcome to the game, BBC.


* Never thought I write that acronym down in the public domain.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Evil Twin Falco

type: IPA
origin: Stratford, CT
price: $3.25/12oz
ABV: 7%
NSP: 7.6
website













First things first:

  1. How can I drink this not listening to Falco?   
  2. Is there an intended connection between the famous German pop artist and this masterful IPA from a famous Danish gypsy brewer (brewed at Two Roads in Stratford, CT.)?   
  3. Who knows, and who cares, right?
  4. I'll wait while you get the following Falco video playing...




Got it?  Good.  Some appropriate background music.

I almost screwed the pooch on this beer.  Why?  Well, when I saw this at Bottlecraft, I didn't notice the bottling date was in November of last year.  So we're looking at a nearly six month old IPA.  Normally such a blunder spells major trouble, but it looks like I dodged a bullet though because this has the most appetizing aroma of any IPA I can think of in recent history.

Alex quite enjoyed Bikini Beer, a very sessionable IPA, which is part of the reason I immediately grabbed this off the shelf.  After that wonderful aroma, I taste a citrusy and slightly smoky hop presence, layered over a spicy, rye (?) malt base.  This taste like the bastard child of Nelson and Heady Topper, just backed off a bit in body.  Hell, even the appearance is reminiscent of both of those beers.

Really tasty, friends.  I think I may be obsessed.  Evil Twin, I'm calling on you: Can we please get some fresh Falco 'round here??

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Figueroa Mountain Brewery

45 Industrial Way
Buellton, CA 93427
 (805) 694-2252

I'll let you in on a little secret about our anti-traffic stop at Telegraph:  the idea originated before then, at Figueroa Mtn.  People may know Buellton as the split pea soup capital of California (talk about a feather in your cap, huh?), but did you know a reputable brewery splits their own peas, so to speak?

Men at work.
They've managed to make the inside of a commercial building feel warm and inviting.  Lots of wood, and signs of a deep localism run throughout.

The FMB Mug Club!
Maybe it's the wall of mugs.  Or maybe because everyone in there was wearing some combination of FMB hat/shirt/hoodie.  I don't know, but it feels like a great place for an after-work meet up.

IPA flight
There was an ungodly number of beers on tap, which is impressive in it's own right, and only a few of them are ones you'll find in the stores.  We decided to focus on their IPAs.  In the photo, from right to left:

  1. Hurricane Deck (double IPA) -- 8% --  a classic west coast double.  a bit heavy on the malt side
  2. Hoppy Poppy (IPA) -- 6.5% -- read Brendan's review
  3. Lizard's Mouth (an imperial IPA) -- 9.2% -- pretty good, very imperial, very resiny
  4. Seafoam (a Belgian IPA) -- 6.8% -- OK, but nowhere near as mind blowing as BP Homework Series #2 (although maybe those are not comparable)
I can't say FMB makes my favorite beers around, and there weren't any that stopped me in my track, but I can say this is a fun place to drink.  There are so many options, you could get a Russian River style flight in scope -- unfortunately that's where the comparisons to RR stop.  I highly recommend making a stop here, even if the motivation is purely for beer's sake.