Friday, November 20, 2015

Grape & Grain San Mateo

227 S San Mateo Dr, San Mateo, CA 94401
(650) 342-9463

OH SICK 8 TAPS. Call 911, there's too much beer in San Mateo! Normally this wouldn't piss me off, but I just got kicked out of the place b/c the moment my wife walked in with our 2-month-old the owner told us to leave -- this was just after I witnessed him showing off a Ferrari to some yokel.  Oh, right, she's a 'minor' ( so "sorry parents".  Go right ahead and pull your head out of your ass Mr Italian Sportscar.

The worst part is the straight up boring/annoying drinkers that show up:

Let me tell you guys what really makes my beer-boner die off: hearing tech bros talk about "integration strategies",...
Posted by Non-Snob Beer Reviews on Monday, November 9, 2015

If there's one thing going on that doesn't piss me off it's that they often have beers by Fieldwork:

Fieldwork Brewing Company has yet to disappoint, and Misfit Stream is no exception. Makes me less bummed about the brewery situation in the Bay Area.
Posted by Non-Snob Beer Reviews on Monday, November 9, 2015

In summary, I'll probably drink beer here again, since there seems to be no better option. Thanks again Bay Area Beer Vacuum!! 


Thursday, November 12, 2015

21st Amendment Toaster Pastry

type: India red ale
origin: San Leandro, CA
price: $5.60/24oz can
ABV: 7.6%
NSP: 9.5

In preparation for this review I sifted through the archives in search of comparisons. Based upon my non-snob research, here's a ranked list of hoppy red ales, with #1 being... well... number 1 in my book:

  1. Blazing World
  2. Hop Head Red
  3. 1881
  4. Legendary Red
and in reverse order ranked by my least favorite:
  1. 5 am Saint
  2. Pinstripe
and beers I haven't tried but would be interested in doing so:
What seems to be consistent across all poorly executed red ales is an under-attenuated biscuit-malt backbone and the taste of dishwater and metal followed by a bitter finish.  It seems like making it an 'India' style red ale is a fucking moot point when the shit tastes like squeezing out water from an old sponge into your mouth.

Of course I'm exaggerating. This is OK, strong, relatively good NSP, and in a sweet-ass can next to some Bud heavy tallboys.  When it warms a bit, there is some amount of fruitiness from the hops, which helps a lot to reverse the emotional damage from the sponge-chug.  

But in the end it's basically a forgettable addition to an already overcrowded beer fridge. That could change in the future, but only if they manage to scrub out that dirtiness.

The can says the name of the beer is an homage to the previous tenants of their new San Leandro facility, a Pop Tart manufacturer.  I'm somewhat confused about this, since 21st Amendment is a good brewery with sometimes world class stuff, but not in this case.  So, let's just say this is more like an homage to figuring out new equipment.  Here's to hoping 21st buys new sponges. 

[ And no, dipshit, it doesn't taste like a Pop Tart. ]


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Against the Grain - Citra Ass Down

type: double IPA
origin: Louisville, KY
price: $14/4-pack
ABV: 8.2%
NSP: 11.1

In honor of the latest Louisville basketball controversy, I think it's appropriate to review a beer from Louisville, and I'm a sucker for DIPAs in the 16oz can format.

So... Against the Grain... never heard of them, but that should no longer be a surprise given the rapid growth of breweries in the US

The amazingness of Heady sent a shock wave through the beer community that I think we're just starting to see reflections of.  This seems more-or-less like an attempt at a Heady clone, but nobody beats the Wiz!  It is damn fine though, and probably ridic fresh at the brewery.  Quite a well balanced offering that does better in the glass, IMO, even if the name has that classic dumb-hop-pun feel.  Its's a bit too sticky sweet at the end to be really amazing, but it's stiff, and hoppy.  I'm down with it FO SHO, plus it's got hella good NSP.

10/10 would crush again

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Modern Times Fruitland

type: flavored gose
origin: San Diego, CA
price: $7/22oz
ABV: 4.8%
NSP: 4.5

Having been away from San Diego for over a year now, Modern Times is one of a few rays of sunshine that reminds me how great that city is for beer.

The description: "Sour - Cherry - Gose". The color of the beer is very nearly the same as the color on the label, so before even tasting it, you're already thinking of Sour Patch kids, which floods my mouth with saliva. And it's all those things!  I'm amazed that the sour cherry addition doesn't completely overwhelm the delicacy of the gose: it seems they got the mixture correct. I find it pleasing, but perhaps a bit too acidic. I'd like it to be slightly less so I can get through the bomber without dramatically altering the ph level of my body chemistry.

Primes you for this, then tastes like this without all the sugar.

I've railed on their choice of label content before (see Oneida). I don't imagine my words made a bit of difference, but I'm pretty OK with this label. That is -- it doesn't annoy me.

Hey guys, I wanna get weird with you!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

BD in a Flying Dog: The Fear

type: imperial pumpkin ale
origin: Frederick, MD
price: $15/6-pack
ABV: 9%
NSP: 12.8

There's been a severe drought in reviews on this site.  Sorry about that.  I can only imagine it stems from existing in a beer world where things change daily; it's hard to find inspiration in a sea of session IPAs and "hot" new breweries with bottle societies.  Fuck that.  I want some good ole' steadfast Flying Dog, which only rarely disappoints.

There's only been one pumpkin-inspired beer that I can remember loving and that we reviewed: Good Gourd (also imperial). That was an incredible beer.

But this is an incredible beer too, and it comes with rad artwork, is waaay cheaper, and doesn't require getting in line with mouth-breathers or dealing with the seedy underworld that is bottle-sharing.

This is definitely made with pumpkin, and definitely imperial. It's also phenomenally balanced: throwing a few down means you're going to be saying some dumb shit to your pregnant wife on the other side of the couch (me, last night).  There's lots of peppery cola flavor that I can't get enough of in beers like this, and that BJCP thinks is a flaw -- fuck them, but thankfully it doesn't resemble pumpkin pie too strongly. That would suck. I'm trying to get drunk heeeeerrre!

Another think I really love is the contrast between the fine, light-creamy colored head, and the deep amber of the base.  I'm drawn too it, like Steadman's drawn to splattered paint:

Fear mongering has no place in the world of beer.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Modern Times Oneida

type: hoppy pale ale
origin: San Diego, CA
price: $10.50/4-pack/16oz
ABV: 5.8%
NSP: 10.4

The hot shit right now is to make a "session IPA" -- a super hoppy pale ale.  And just in time for summer Modern Times pumps out some hot shit right here.  Full on fruity and floral hoppage that makes your mouth water.  The body is as mild as mild-bodied gets, and there's a pleasant tang of acidity on the finish.  But the hoppiness is not overdone, and nicely complements the malts.  It's just a fantastic sessionable ale, or whatever you want to call it.  I'm placing this at number two in my list of favorite MT offerings, right behind Blazing World.

I'd also like to take the opportunity to comment on the can...

The description on it says the name of this beer is inspired by the Oneida Community for reasons that include "complex marriage, male continence, and mutual criticism" -- they lifted that directly from the Wikipedia page, FYI.  But what MT doesn't mention is that 1 of 10 people in the Oneida community had a bureaucratic role (can you fucking imagine that nightmare??), older women were encouraged to "mentor" younger males in the ways of sex (basically, they serially committed statutory rape), they practiced eugenics to "purify" their community, and that the commune turned its silverware business into one of the largest for-profit silverware manufacturer for over a century (Oneida Limited).

So, MT, please just stick to the cute little "danksauce whales" style of label adornment, since it doesn't require maintaining consistent views concerning complex philosophical arguments about communism and social engineering, bro.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Base Camp Northwest Fest

type: amber lager
origin: Portland, OR
price: $6/22oz
ABV: 5.6%
NSP: 6.1

Amber lagers are not really an interesting style per say, but when executed well they can be mighty refreshing.  I just imagine drinking this in the situation it was meant for: high up on a mountain, after a long day of hiking or riding.  This one in particular tastes like it has strong Bavarian influences.  There's a tinge of brown sugar and spice, like you get with a dunkel, but it's still light bodied, crisp, and bitter like an amber lager should be.

Back in August 2014, nearly all of the crew visited the brewery.  At the time it was mostly a stopping point before Cascade.  You'll have to excuse the apparent lack of respect, though, since Cascade's sours are stupid delish.  But I won't forget about this brewery next time, and at least it's not Hair of the Dog, which was unanimously declared most sucky, even after drinking all day.

So much crushability packed into an awesome aluminum can -- just wish it was a few dollars cheaper.

REI sells beer now
Posted by Non-Snob Beer Reviews on Saturday, August 16, 2014

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Firestone Easy Jack

type: session IPA
origin: Paso Robles, CA
price: $11/6-pack
ABV: 4.5%
NSP: 8.7

See that bottled on date?  Yup -- supes fresh Firestone Easy Jack, their sessionable IPA, picked up direct from the brewery on my way down to SLO.

It would be too easy just to write "this is just a toned down version of Union Jack", but that would also be completely accurate.  The main differences are, expectedly, the full 3% less ABV and the less-robust malt base.  But I also think the hops they use are different -- the aromas are subtly different.  This is goddamn good and, as of May 2015, it was on BA's Top 10* worldwide.  But fuck those BA neckbeerders, make up your own mind.

I could be totally wrong about the differences in hop varietals, but one thing is clear: like UJ, I can drink a whole damn bunch of this stuff.  It's still got a solid level of hoppiness over a nice mild, light bodied base.  And they've managed to pull this off without being overly bitter, and no off flavors.   So if you want to get marginally buzzed on IPA, or just want a beer with lunch, hit this up now.

Pro tip: A growler of anything at the brewery costs more than its equivalent six pack of cans or bottles.  And for those who are detail oriented:
(6 x 12 oz = 72 oz)  >  (1 x 64 oz = 64 oz)
Can you see where I'm going with this??  Here's a hint:

* Tonight is, coincidentally, David Letterman's very last show, and very last Top Ten list, ever.  Single tear...

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Telegraph Reserve Wheat (batch 136)

type: sour wheat ale
origin: Santa Barbara, CA
price: $14/750ml
ABV: 5%
NSP: [to low to print -- click here to reveal!!!] Actually it's 2.7

It took me a while to appreciate how good Telegraph Brewing Co. is, but the turning point was when we actually visited the place on a road trip.  Reserve Wheat was on the menu that day, and instantly shifted my perception of TBC.

This was the first time I've seen it around, at a local market in San Mateo, and, as the bottle says, it's only available in "extremely limited quantities."  So... fuck it, take my $14 in exchange for a deliciously tart, citrusy wheat ale.  Similar to a Berliner weisse, I suppose, but with a bit more complexity.  And  since the tartness rushes the door at the finish, rather than being an asshole during the entire goddamn show, it comes with a pleasant level of crushability.

Subtle flavors balanced by the acidity is key here, and it works quite well.  So suck it up and shell out for a stupidly-low NSP beer once in a while -- sometimes it's worth it.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Flying Dog Bloodline

type: citrus IPA
origin: Fredrick, MD
price: $14/6-pack
ABV: 7%
NSP: 10.7

It seems that with the sudden influx of the unbelievably tasty Grapefruit Sculpin we can now clearly identify the hot thing to do with IPA: blast it with citrus.  So I'm diving back into my BD series with a new offering -- a Blood Orange IPA.

There's an interesting dilemma with citrus beers: Do you juice all the fruit in house, or do you use extract?  As far as I can tell this involves actual citrus product (Grapefruit Sculpin does not) like I expect Orange Wheat does.  I don't really care which it is but I do know that using actual fruit sounds like a lot of damn work to me, especially if this is in the regular rotation.

On to the beer... Gorgeous color and pleasant hoppy/orange aromas. Fairly deep malt base with robust hopping.  The blood orange cuts right through that though.  It's pleasant, and potent.  Croosh.

I generally find that FD doesn't mess around.  If they release something, it's for damn good reason. But while this certainly doesn't let me down -- it's a fantastic beer -- G-Sculp is definitely the better bet if you have a one-to-one choice.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Anchor Brotherhood Steam

type: dry hopped steam
origin: San Francisco, CA
price: $8/6-pack
ABV: 5.6%
NSP: 16.6

I've said it in the past, but I'm a sucker for great aesthetics on the outside.  It's always a let down when the beer on the inside sucks, but this has the classic Steam flavors from Anchor's cools-ship method -- malty, slightly tang, slightly metallic.  And, with the addition of some fine dry hopping and a superb NSP, this slips quietly into the realm of fully fantastic.

I haven't listened to CRB, but I'm pretty stoked on this description, from Anchor's website:
In the spirit of [the ESB] tradition, we like to think of Brotherhood Steam Beer as an Extra Special Lager (ESL), aka “The Gig Beer” – an easy drinking brew from the first set to encore. In December we announced the limited release of Brotherhood Steam Beer in six-pack cans with artwork by San Francisco-based artist Alan Forbes.
Alan Forbes' work should not go unnoticed.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Green Flash Symposium IPA (Hop Odyssey series)

type: IPA
origin: San Diego, CA
price: $7/22oz
ABV: 7%
NSP: 6.5

Green Flash's Hop Odyssey has produced a number of outstanding beers, including 30th Street Pale Ale (I friggin' love that beer).  The trump card with this IPA is that five different hops were used.

Unfortunately the amalgamation of these ends up tasting a bit too much like the Stone IPA to be very unique.  That might be because their flavors are new to me, but I'm guessing at some point there's not much to be gained by adding different hops (like when you mix paints together and it ends up a baby-pooh brown because Bob Ross lied to you).

My experience with symposiums has generally been that I start out excited and end up bored by the end.  It's not quite the same drastic change with this beer, but I'm definitely not interested in buying this off the shelves again.  But there's no reason I wouldn't order it at a bar, since the beer is technically very well crafted.  In the face of myriad California IPAs, it's a tough sell.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Sudwerk Cascaderade

type: IPL
origin: Davis, CA
price: $7/22oz
ABV: 6.6%
NSP: 6.1

IPL is easily in my top ten favorite beer styles of all-time, so it's fun to watch a burgeoning style develop.  Hell, even Jim Koch, famous hater of IPAs, tried to get in on the action.

Although there's a long list of hops on the bottle, this seems to have only a one-note character to it.  But it does have mildly sweet -- not too dry -- base and I get a touch of vanilla at the finish which sounds odd, but is pleasant.

This is 'pretty good', I'd say, but hardly a heavyweight champion.  It should be purchased again though, since I'm guessing it tastes ridiculous in its fresh state; but Fathom is still better, and still cheaper.  +1 for a sweet name though.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Grassroots Brewing Arctic Saison (Batch 2)

type: saison/farmhouse ale
origin: Anchorage, AK
price: $12/750
ABV: 6.0%
NSP: 3.3

If you want a little backstory as to why I try and buy anything from Hill Farmsteadthis post eloquates precisely why.

And I'm so glad I purchased this.

Sure, it appears thin and watered down, but it's absolutely packed with flavor.  There's a tart yet barely funky aspect from the brett and a nice level of acidity, and the oak conditioning lends a nice rustic, woody aspect...  whoa whoa whoa, I'm getting a little too esoteric here... sorry I can't help it ... and a really unique herbal finish. Sorry, I'm a little over-stimulated.

Basically, this is one hell of a beer that should be appreciated by those who can get it.  And I am throughly stoked to be heading out to Vermont in June with Brats -- we're surely detouring up to b.f.e. Vermont to sample some fine rural ales.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Alaskan Icy Bay IPA

Type: IPA
Origin: Juneau, Alaska
ABV: 6.2%

Alaskan is one of those breweries that is large but consistently puts out good products that can appeal to both the masses as well as the beer enthusiast. This one is a new IPA that they came up with in the past few months. I generally like my IPAs very hop forward and aggressive with lots of pine and citrus. This one, is not like that, although it is a well balanced IPA. The malts are light and the hopping is in check, but there is nothing revolutionary about it. I would view this as a gateway west-coast IPA and you would wax nostalgic about it as you move onto bigger and better things.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Alaskan Double Black IPA

Type: black double IPA
Origin: Juneau, Alaska
ABV: 8.5%

This is definitely a style gaining traction, and probably didn't exist much at all 5 years ago. Stone's Sublimely Self-Righteous was the first to gain widespread attention. At first, was not a huge fan of the style, but have grown much more fond of it after sampling Reuben's Black Imperial IPA (sorry, haven't reviewed it), who are able to meld a dark coffee roast seamlessly with a citrus hop bomb in an absolutely delightful manner. This one is not as forward thinking as Reuben's take, but it is a damn fine beer in its own right. The thing that strikes me most here is the smoothness and simplicity of this beer. The malts are quite chocolately and definitely give a lactic mouthfeel as a milk stout would. The roast is light and in check and the hops are peeking through just enough to remind you this is an IPA. There is only a faint citrus quality to the hops, which if they were able to up it just a bit, this beer would drink like a chocolate covered orange. I still like Reuben's take a bit more, but would drink this all day if offered.  

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Propolis Prunus

Type: belgian strong dark ale
Origin: Port Townsend, Washington
Price: $12.99 per 750 mL
ABV: 7.5%
NSP: 4.3

Propolis has quite a cult following in Washington but is largely unknown outside the area. Their beers are not brewed fairly often and bottle counts are not high, so its a surprise they aren't more sought after. This one definitely caught my eye: a belgian dark strong ale aged on cherries with herbs. That description would lend one to think of an herbal Russian River Supplication, and it isn't too far off from that. The smell is a combo of a nice dark belgian strong ale and a kriek. A little rosemary comes through, but cherries dominate. The taste is dry, herbal, floral and clean. More rosemary, maybe some fresh mint. Not as sour as the smell, but definitely a little bit of tart cherry on there, and definitely not as sour as Supplication. I definitely get a bit of spicy heat on the finish that lingers a bit in a good way. I think the herbal aspect is the perfect counterbalance to the wild sour funky part of this beer that just makes it perfectly crushable.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Great Lakes Barrel-Aged Blackout Stout

Type: barrel-aged imperial stout
Origin: Cleveland, Ohio
Price: ?

I was able to get two of these in a trade awhile back, so of course, I drank one fresh and have been sitting on my second bottle. My first impression of this beer was full-on Wilford Brimley level of diabeetus. It was fine at the time, but didn't really care to write anything about it. So how does a year change this? Lets take our insulin and find out.

The pour is black. Big surprise. Some lacing, reasonable head, whatever. Looks like an imperial stout. The smell definitely has a bit of cold-brew coffee and some nice roastiness. And a bit of some cloying hersheys goodness is starting to come through. The taste, pure alcoholic chocolate milk. Not as absurdly sweet as I remember, but still would probably kill a kid in Africa. Final impression: time treated this well, but there are still much better options available. Although, what the fuck do I know, HuffPo just called Cleveland the best beer city in America (not a scientific poll).

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Original Ritterguts Gose

type: Gose
origin: Borna, Germany
price: $6.50/500ml at Haus Staudt
ABV: 4.2%
NSP: 3.2

Mild/light/easy everything is the key to a successful gose, in my experience, and this is arguably the best of the style I've ever had.  As expected, it's mildly tart with a low body wheat base that's slightly sweet and fruity, with a tempered ABV.  It almost reminds me of a tart hard cider.   Either way it's just mother flapping delicious, and excellent fodder during the exciting Deflated-ball/Domestic-violence Bowl 2015, even if the NSP is absolutely horrible.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Adelbert's The Traveler

type: Belgian IPA
origin: Austin, TX
price: $9/750ml
ABV: 7%
NSP: 5.8

Unknown corked beer has been staring at me in the face at Beltro's, so I indulged.  It's a good thing they caged the cork on this because it's ultra carbonated.  Although over-carb'd beers can be annoying, and mask interesting flavors, it's not always the brewer's fault.  In this case the excess is likely due to yeast production since the bottling date, which was almost a year ago.

I have no idea what it tasted like in February of 2014,  but it has more than held up over time, maybe even improved with such a long bottle conditioning.  Now, in February 2015, it's a wonderfully juicy and fruity IPA, with a touch of sweetness from the malt and a bit of subtle Belgian-iness lingering.  Partially because of the carbonation, this is best at a slightly cold temperature; so, let it warm up a touch out of the fridge.

This would be perfect with a nice homemade English muffin with some strawberry preserves slathered all over it.  Any beer that makes me think of eating is alright with me.  Plus, they're talking shit about the range of Belgian IPAs on the label.  Dat's dat dope game.

Batch No. 001 MUH FUKKAH!
Already talkin' shit, right out of the gate.  I approve.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Bear Republic Grand-Am

type: American pale ale (basically an IPA)
origin: Cloverdale, CA
price: $8/6-pack
ABV: 6%
NSP: 16.0

Lately I've been wondering what happened to XP, but also noticing a new(ish) beer from Bear Republic: Grand-Am.  At this point I think they just repackaged/rebranded XP, which makes me happy because I've always loved that beer.  Setting that aside, this a fantastic hoppy pale ale.  The term "American pale ale" is code speak by brewers that make excellent IPA's to indicate a mild IPA that would beat most any malt-centric IPA around.  Specifically, this is light, crisp, nicely aromatic and bitter, but not overdone, and a bit citrusy -- just a damn fine APA.  At this NSP it's hard to recommend much else from this category, and the ABV will hit you in the feels after a few.  Highly recommended folks -- rub that lotion.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Monkish Shaolin Fist

type: Belgian dubbel
origin: Torrance, Los Angeles
price: $12/750ml
ABV: 7.0%
NSP: 4.4

I was wondering what the deal with LA was: Are they in a craft beer bubble?  Well apparently not if this is any indication of the state of LA-beer affairs.

With Shaolin Fist, Monkish brewers manage to get those classic dubbel flavors to exist somewhere between subtly and actually perfect.  Peppercorns and yeast lend herbal aromas -- think licorice, anise -- that are really appetizing.  Dubbels are one of the most pleasing beer styles to me since they tow the line between monstrous, flavorful, and rich.  Allagash makes one hell of a dubbel, but so too does Monkish, apparently.  The finish is clean and attenuated, and there's even a touch of kola essence that I looooove.  Fucking nice.

Although the bottle suggests this can be cellared, I doubt it will improve much, and you'll probably just fuck it up by stashing it behind your shit-stained underwear for 6 months.  Just drink the damn bottle, OK!?

So allow me to welcome you to the 36 Chambers, Monkish! Raekwon the Chef has something to say about all this:
Wu-Tang dubbels aint nuttin to fuk wit!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Stone 18th Anniversary IPA

type: IPA
origin: San Diego, CA
price: ~ $7-8/22oz
ABV: 8.5%
NSP: 7.9

After having this I really didn't give two shits about writing a review for it.  (We'll get to why in a second.)  But, that attitude doesn't work very well for beer blogs, so what does it taste like?  Basically... a light version of Stone's Arrogant Bastard.  A big ABV romper with caramel malts running train on your tongue; lots of brown sugar swirling around, ultra bitter, and mildly aromatic.  After a few months out from the bottling date, I'm pretty much meh on this.

As with the Mendocino Anniversary Ale, I'm quite surprised Stone let a great opportunity to have a big release end up being absolutely boring.  Just straight up boring, and yet another example of BA irrelevance.

Although I can see it having a place next to a big fat plate of charred, smoked brisket, how often does that happen for most people besides Chris?  Most of you will just slug this back with a big plate of microwaved leftover brussel sprouts and frozen burritos, right?

In the end I couldn't give less of a shit whether or not people drink this.  But if you do, here's a special treat:
We're so blah blah blah and this IPA is not for the average beer drinker and blah blah blah blah fucking blah.  Thanks for yet another lesson Stone!