Monday, October 11, 2010

New blogs and New Beers

This last weekend was great for me.  I had my mom in town for her first visit to Seattle and I think we did alright.  Had a trip to the Market and Pike's Brewing on Saturday and Black Raven, Bottleworks and Brouwer's on Sunday.  I was hoping to get Stone's Vertical Epic 10-10-10 at Bottleworks but they didn't have it, but a Firestone Oaktoberfest was a nice consolation.  I also have to give some good words to Black Raven and their Wet Hop Ale, go by and grab one if you dare.

On another note, I was poking around the web and found this blog by Patrick Rue of The Bruery.  It is a great resource of info for someone thinking of starting up a brewery.  We all know how successful The Bruery has become and it is great to see the ups and downs of a start up and to see how it can be done.  I posted the link to the section of the blog related to the start up, but you check out the rest if you wish.

Finally, I wanted to give some exposure to a new beer project by blogger Beer and Nosh.  He has started a project with a friend called Almanac Beer Co. and they have a new beer release coming out in a couple months.  It is a Belgian Blonde aged in barrels and fermented with a variety of berries.  It looks like a great new venture and can't wait to try it out.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

To review or not review, that is the question.

After finishing up my last post I decided to have a beer that my girlfriend bought recently.  I put it in a nice glass and was about to set up the bottle to take a pic for a beer review as I usually do, but unfortunately I tasted it and changed my mind.   This beer is from a microbrewery in the pacific northwest that is still trying to make an impact in the craft beer world.  I am a huge proponent of supporting microbrewers and with that being said I find it hard to give negative feedback on any brewery that makes craft ales.  Getting to my point, the beer was bad, not I wouldn't drink this beer if I was on stranded island bad, it was just really off in so many ways.  So here is the dilemma, should I still review the beer and give negative press (assuming more than 20 people actually give any credit to my reviews) or do I ignore this beer and just focus on supporting those beers that can actually give craft beer a good name.  I realize that last week I gave some poor reviews of Unibroue beers, but they are a larger company and I did say that poor storage of the beer thanks to Trader Joe's more than likely was the reason for it's poor taste.  Even though I am not a practicing Buddhist, I am a firm believer in karma and with the hope and dream of someday opening my own brewery, I wouldn't want some shmuck giving me a poor review.  I started this blog to educate and promote beer and brewers that not many people may have heard of. I realize that if  I did anything to negatively impact a hardworking brewer, I don't know if I could take myself or this blog seriously.  So what should I do?  What would you do?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Beer Review: Dieu De Ciel Peche Mortel

After a nice long aging I finally decided to pop open Peche Mortel by Dieu Du Ciel.  Peche Mortel is an Imperial Stout brewed with coffee and a whole lotta love.  I bought this at City Beer in SF, also know as my favorite place in the world.  I have been waiting to tap this for a awhile, but I always feel I should let huge beers like Imperial Stouts a little aging time to mellow out the flavors and after the long wait was not disappointed.

Peche Mortel come in at a staggering 9.5% abv. and yet is so well balanced with the malt and the coffee.  It pours out pitch black with a nice brown head.  Aroma is roasted malt, chocolate and of course some coffee which reminded me a nice freshly brewed pot in the morning.  Taste is malt, malt and more malt, huge coffee flavor and a great bitterness that coats the back of your tongue. There is  a subtle hint of the alcohol, but don't worry the roasted chocolate malt is there to take over.  It has is a medium body, medium carbonation and a nice mouthfeel.  Overall this a drinkable beer, but I do think one would be enough for me. I think the coffee was a bit overpowering, but if you really like big, roasty, coffee flavored beers, this is one for you.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Session #44: Frankenstein Beers

This months topic is Frankenstein beers:

Many craft brewers are like Frankenstein. They have become mad scientists obsessed with defying the laws of brewing and creating beers that transcend style guidelines. These “Frankenstein Beers” challenge the way people perceive beer. They are freaks of nature — big, bold and intense. The ingredients resemble those of a beer and the brewing process might appear to be normal, but some aspects of the entire experience are experimental, unorthodox and insane.
An altercation with these beers produces confusion in the eye of the taster … is it a beer, or a monster?

I am really excited to have this as my first Session topic.  I have always been a fan a pushing beers to the edge.  I feel that brewing is an art, and each artist has his or her own view on what a beer can be.  Now whether or not you agree as to whether Frankenstein beers are a good idea, I think the market has spoken.  Dogfish head, Brewdog, Stone Brewing and others are pushing for these extreme beers, with interesting new ingredients and brewing methods.  I guess the only question is how far can you go and where will it stop?  There is currently a war for the highest alcohol content in a beer and honestly couldn't care less.  I think it is great that new methods for brewing are being adopted and created, but I am a consumer and when will I be able to try these beers?  On the positive side I think it is great exposure for craft beer, as long as beer is being talked about in a positive way, it is a great thing for all of us. 

 On the other hand it is great to sit down and enjoy classic styles that helped me fall in love with craft beer in the first place.  I think in order to create extreme beer styles you should know how to create the original style first.  I had the pleasure of working for Peter Catizone at Faultline Brewing in Sunnyvale and learned the importance and difficulty of brewing traditional styles.  Some may actually argue that to brew a great Pilsner is harder than brewing some of the Frankenstein beers.  I may have to agree with that because it's always harder to make something stand out that is made simply.  A weird comparison would be for a chef to make an omelet, a seemingly simple task that takes a huge amount of skill and knowledge to pull of well.  

Whether or not you agree that Frankenstein beers are a good thing,  I do believe they are good for the craft beer industry in general.  I still love my classic styles, but I really do love to try new things. Aside from making great blog material, it makes for a great experience and drinking a well made beer should be an experience.  I always think that there really is no right or wrong with beer aside from supporting craft beer and rather than mega beer, but I think that goes without saying.   So if you haven't yet, go out and have a DIPA, BIPA, Barrel aged beers or a Sour beer, you may find something enjoyable and new. 

If you have had any Frankenstein beer that you want to recommend leave a comment.  I think this would be a great time to share some beer stories and maybe leave your opinion on the matter.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Beer Review: Unibroue 4 Pack

Long overdue, I guess I am making up for some lost time by doing a 4 pack review.  This 4 pack was given as a gift from a friend of mine (bought at Trader Joe's) that is from Quebec and loves Unibroue, obviously.  This pack was stuck in my fridge since moving to Seattle and over the past few weeks, I have been chipping away at it and was excited to try some beer that I have never had before. These reviews are in no particular order and having tasted them over the past couple weeks. Because of the time between tastings the reviews are a little week, but I do remember what I would drink again and what I wouldn't drink, yes there are a couple beers I wasn't too fond of. 

Chambly Noire is a Belgian Dark Ale.  Unibroue brews a version of this for Trader Joe's as a seasonal release called the Trader Joe's Vintage Ale.  I like the TJ's version much better than this one.  Knowing how TJ's keeps their beer I can only assume the off flavors I found in this beer were from poor storage, actually most the beers seemed to be "off" a little.  This beer is a flavorful beer.  Hints of molasses and some nice peppery spices.  However it just didn't excite me in any way.

Ephemere is a White Ale brewed with apple must.  The color is amazing in this beer, it had a light crisp taste with high carbonation, very cider like.  It had a good sweetness and a good apple flavor.  It was a tasty beer, but not a style that I like, I actually gave up on this beer after a few tastes and gave it to my girlfriend.  But if you like ciders or fruity white ales, this a beer for you.

Craftman is a Peat-smoked whisky malt ale.  The reason I received this 4 pack was the Raftman, my friend loves this beer and I would have to say it was a good beer, but not a great beer.  It had a great light brown/amber color.  Nice sweet malt flavor with a little apple and some spicy notes.  I didn't get much of the smoked malt, which is great because I am not a fan of smokey beers.  I have to think this beer would be better if it were stored correctly.  I would try it again from a proper beer store or taphouse.  
Blanche De Chambly is a Witbier it has a great hazy golden color.  Flavors of  yeast, bread, cloves, and a little citrus.  Nice dry mouthfeel and dry finish, this is a very drinkable beer.  One of my least sought after styles ended up being the best of the pack. 

Overall a little disappointment in the 4 pack after having tried La Fin Du Monde, Maudite, Trois Pistoles all great beers.  I am not going to give up on these beers, I believe they have great potential.  I really do enjoy Unibroue beers and will still try them as I see them. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Beer Review: Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine 2010

Every year Sierra Nevada releases Bigfoot Ale, a Barleywine that they ferment in traditional open fermenters.  Here is a link to a video showing the fermentation of Bigfoot in those open fermenters from the 2009 batch.
Like most beer drinkers in and around California, Sierra Nevada gave me a lot of my firsts.  My first brewery tour, my first beer sampler, and of course my first Barleywine.  Thinking about my initial experience with the Bigfoot, I start to shutter.  When I was young my beer experience was mostly Coors and Bud and the occasional Sierra Nevada Pale Ale if I could afford it.   The first time I drank a bottle was when my friend picked up a six pack and thought it would be fun to split, WRONG. Going from Coors to this was a really bad idea, and I never really worked to hard to relive this horrible moment. 

Well many years and many beers later I am back on the Bigfoot wagon and can happily say that now I can appreciate a Barleywine.  I have had a number of Bigfoot Ale's since my first experience and it's fun to see how much things have changed over the years.

Bigfoot pours out hazy dark amber and I don't usually notice lacing, but this this beer had quite a bit (served in my Burger King Return of the Jedi glass.)
Aroma: toffee, caramel, good hoppy nose, and a hint of alcohol.
Taste:  good malt sweetness, toffee, surprisingly a lot of fruity esters with hints of raspberry, great grassy hop bitterness that lingers on the back of your tongue and finishes a little hot.
Mouthfeel:  medium to High carbonation with a nice medium body, very drinkable considering the ABV.

Overall:  Superb beer.  I guess they have had a couple years to perfect it and it shows.  I know a lot of beer drinkers may be a little hesitant in trying a barlywine because they aren't for everyone, but Bigfoot is a great intro to this amazing style.  So I suggest you grab a six pack at BevMo and keep a couple to cellar for a couple years and see how it matures. 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Beer Review: Stone Brewing Old Guardian Barleywine


I have been a fan of Stone Brewing ever since I had Arrogant Bastard Ale about 10 years ago.  I found a bottle at the local liquor store and saw the name and had to buy it.  You kind of become a hit at the party when you walk around with a 22oz bottle that says "Arrogant Bastard" on it.  So over the years I have tried my best to try Stone beers as much as possible, but I focus on the seasonal brews more so than their regular rotation.  I find their IPA's to be a bit out of balance, a little more on the harsh resiny side, but people love it so I can be wrong.  

I was saving this beer to share with a buddy of mine that is in love with everything Stone, unfortunately for him he didn't come over before I moved to Seattle and therefore missed out on this gem.  I don't usually drink many barleywines because, they are usually palate crushers and you can usually drink only one.  Old Guardian was served in a 22oz bottle and coming in at a wopping 11% it was definitely a one and done.

Old Guardian pours out hazy golden copper.
Aroma:  hints of toffee, caramel, and of course the Stone trademark huge resiny hops that hide the acohol.
Taste:  nice sweet malt flavor, brown sugar and toffee.  Huge resiny/grassy hop bite and smooth hot finish
Mouthfeel:  medium to high carbonation, nice crisp flavor, with a medium body and a nice dry finish.
Overall:  I really enjoyed this beer, I don't know how many I could have drank, but I would definitely buy it again.  Thanks Stone for another great beer.  

For those of you that are Stone fans, coming up in about a month Stone Vertical Epic 10 release coming out on 10/10/10.  Grab one and enjoy.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Beer Review: Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary Charlie, Fred and Ken's Bock

Let me start by saying congratulations to Sierra Nevada.  When I heard about this idea I was extremely excited to try all these exciting beers.  This is my second of the series, I previously drank the Fritz and Ken's Stout, which was great.  Living in Seattle I have the privilege of shopping at one of the best Whole Foods in the world, probably an exaggeration, but it still has a great selection of Washington, Californian and Belgian brews. 

Sierra Nevada Bock pours out a hazy copper.
Aroma: nice sweet malt aroma, caramel and a little alcohol.
Taste:  fantastic balance of sweet malt, caramel, toffee flavors and alcohol.  Alcohol starts off nice, and it has a very distinct bitter finish that lingers for a few moments.  
Mouthfeel: Nice light body with medium to high carbonation,  tingles right on the tongue as soon as you take a sip, but finishes pretty dry.
Overall:   I enjoyed this beer, it is a bit more hoppy than most helles/bocks I am used to.  I assumed it would be a battle of the malt vs. the alcohol, but the hops really put a good showing.  Sierra Nevada is known for hop forward beers and overall I thought this was a successful beer.  I would definitely buy another one of these to cellar for a couple months.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Beer Review: The Bruery Hottenroth Berliner Weisse

I have to be honest I have had some mixed feelings about some of the beers from The Bruery.  The most recent beers I have had are Mischief which I enjoyed and now Hottenroth.  Hottenroth is a Berliner Weisse style, which is apparently an upcoming trend in beer styles.  As I have said many times, my girlfriend is a huge fan of sour beers, which gives me great incentive to purchase them when I can.

Hottenroth pours out hazy, light yellow straw color.
Aroma:  tart, some barn funk, and wheat
Taste:  sour upfront, citrus notes, nice wheat malt flavor
Mouthfeel:  medium carbonation, dry finish
Overall:  It's a very good beer, coming in at 3% it's super drinkable and the sourness is not overwhelming.  I would definitely grab another bottle.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Visit to Epic Ales

Not a bad weekend for Seattle beer.  Friday we headed out to Epic Ales in SoDo to taste some wild new flavors from Cody on his 1 Barrel System.  Epic Ales is a one man operation and his tasting room is open from 3:30 to 8:00 with 1$ tastings and 22oz. bottles on sale for $4.  We got there a little late and one of the three kegs was already killed but we were fortunate enough to get a our fair share of tasters. My notes are a little pitiful, we were busy talking it up with Cody, but I think I got a good idea of flavors as we were chatting.    

We started off with Lyli (no pics available).  Lyli is a wheat and green tea beer.  Nice golden color, good crisp dry mouthfeel and a very earthy finish, thanks to the tea.  Not a true wheat in any way, but a good new flavor. 

Next up was Terra-saurus.  This is a huge dark beer, Cody didn't really have a style for this one it's kind of a a porter/stout/strong hybrid brewed with Shitake mushrooms.  This is a truly tasty beer, very forward malt flavor and aroma, with a bit of earthy flavor that balances with with the roasted malt.  A truly unique beer, which I thoroughly enjoyed. 

Last taste was from his "Simple series", which is a series is beers brewed with one variety of malt and hops, hence the simple name.  The Simple Summer Ale is a saison hybrid that pours out golden,  with a nice white head.  Aroma of yeast, barn, straw with a hint of hops.  Tastes of yeast, banana and a nice hop finish.   Cody just popped one open at room temp for us to try and I really enjoyed it.  Very drinkable beer nice mouthfeel and a good dry finish. 

Overall a great experience at Epic Ales, I left with two bombers one of the Simple summer and one of the Fuj.  You can find Epic Ales at a number of good beer bars in Seattle. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Two Beers Brewing Co. Anniversary Party

I found this on the Washington Beer Blog and wanted to share it with everyone.

For Immediate Release
August 16, 2010
Two Beers Brewing Co. Celebrates One Year in SoDo
Seattle WA — Two Beers Brewing Co. is celebrating being in SoDo for a year and wants to invite anyone and everyone down for their celebration.
“It’s been quite a year for us” said Joel VandenBrink, Founder and Brewmaster of Two Beers Brewing Co. “We have made many friends along the way thus far and want to have a party to thank everyone for the continued support.”
The Party will be at the brewery, 4700 Ohio Ave S. Seattle WA 98134, from 2 p.m. until 7 p.m. on Saturday August 28th. On tap will be the only keg of Winter Hop 2009 remaining, Orange, Grapefruit, and Lemon Peeled Belgian Wit, Summer Hop, and all your other favorites from Two Beers Brewing Co. In addition, Casks will be on the bar all afternoon, a BBQ will be cooking up Spicy Sausage from Zoe’s Meats, and live music will be on the dock out front.
All our encouraged to stop by and help Two Beers Brewing Co. celebrate their first year. For more information visit
Other Useful Info: We will have two pouring stations, the one inside the tasting room with 6 taps, and another one outside on the dock with 4 taps. Special “one and offs” will be inside as will the cask.
Throughout the day all of our beers will be on tap: 20:20 Blonde, Crooked Belgian Wit, Immersion Amber, Persnickety Pale, Echo IPA, Evo. IPA, Sodo Brown, and Summer Hop.
Kids are welcome, as are dogs.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Beer Review: Sierra Nevada Tumbler Brown

I found a six pack of this at Trader Joe's in Queen Anne.  This is a seasonal brown I have never seen from Sierra Nevada.

Served in my commemorative Star Trek III glassware (yep, that's Kirk and Spock) from Taco Bell.  Tumbler pours medium brown with a light off white head. Great roasted malt nose and a hint of hops. Taste was sweet caramel, roasted malt and a nice hoppy finish.  Mouthfeel was light, with medium to high carbonation. 

Overall I liked the beer.  I wouldn't go out of my way to purchase another sixer. I would rather have the Mission St. Brown or the Tamerlane from Black Raven, but overall not too shabby.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Brouwer's Cafe Seattle

My girlfriend and I have been taking our time exploring Seattle and its beer scene.  I am admittedly a little bit behind my projected visit list so far, but the places we have gone have been great and Brouwer's Cafe is no exception.

As soon as we walked in I said "it feels like home", I only wish they had a nice comfy bed and I would never leave.  With a huge bar and a wall full of taps from Wa, Ca, and Belgium beer, it's a beer lovers dream.  We arrived 10 minutes prior to happy hour (from 3-6)  and our server was right on it and told us she would hold our orders for those 10 minutes to get the $1 off we deserve.

I started off with Fremont Brewing Universal Pale Ale, which is located right down the street from Brouwer's and I expect to take enjoy a pint at their beer garden next weekend if weather allows.  The Pale was great West coast style, nice balance of the sweet and hoppy.  I found it more balanced and drinkable than Sierra Nevada PA.  What?  Nice citrus notes and great mouthfeel, you could sit down and enjoy a few of them.   I am really looking forward to my hopeful visit next weekend.

My girlfriend got the Le Fleur Misseur, which I had a couple "tastes" of.  It's a very mild sour ale, less tart than the La Folie, I think the malt sweetness balanced out the sourness well.  Not my fave sour they make, but I think for a person starting on sours, it was a great price and a pretty tasty beer.  Check out that lacing.

Last and absolutely not least Firestone Walker Velvet Merkin Oatmeal Stout, which almost impossible to find on tap in California.  I have only tasted this beer at the tasting room in Paso Robles.  Pours out dark brown, nice malty nose, rich chocolate and licorice aroma.  This is a tasty sweet stout, roasted malt, coffee and chocolate.  Drinkability is superb, it has a great light mouthfeel, medium carbonation, another awesome beer by FW.  I am thinking about starting up a Facebook page demanding they bottle this beer, it should be on their regular list of beers, at least in 22oz. 

Not a bad afternoon for beer.  If you are around Brouwer's it is a must go to.  With 64 beers on draft, 300 bottles including RR, Lost Abbey, Dogfish and Rochfort to name a few, it's absolutely amazing.  

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Visit to Black Raven Brewing

The weather was incredible this weekend and to celebrate I went to Black Raven Brewing in Redmond.  The weather could have been horrible and I still would have gone, but any excuse to try great beer I guess.  I had visited Black Raven last year while my girlfriend was living up here and I wanted to see how they were doing.

Black Raven is located in Redmond, in an industrial area.  The tasting room is very cozy and clean and they just recently opened a beer garden in the back with grilled sausages.  We arrived around 1:00 and the place was packed.  I guess the word has got out and rightly so, the beer was great and well worth the 20 minute drive out there.

In the two years that Black Raven has been open they have really made an impact.  Already bringing home three World Beer Cup Awards,  including Gold for their Tamerlane Brown Porter, Silver for Barrel aged La Petite Mort and another Gold for Coco Jones Porter. 

I started out with the Tamerlane Brown Porter, I loved this beer the first time I tried it and enjoyed it just as much the second. 

Tamerlane is dark brown and has nice sweet malt aromas, chocolate, very reminiscent of a nut brown.  Flavor is roasted malt, chocolate, toffee, it had a great grain flavor that was clean and well balanced with the sweetness. Mouthfeel was light body, medium to high carbonation.  This is not a big porter, it is a great light hybrid, very easy to drink and super tasty. 

 Overall, I would have more than one.

Next up Trickster IPA

I am pretty sure Trickster was not on tap the first time I visited or I just passed it over, not too sure.  But they had it this time and being the hop head that I am, had to go for it.  Trickster pours out golden copper with a nice white head.  Aroma is a like sticking your head in a bag of hops, pineapple citrus.  Taste: good balance of sweet malt, hoppy pineapple, citrus, but not overwhelming.  I would have thought the 6.8% avb would have come through more, but it didn't.  Mouthfeel was light body with medium carbonation. 

Overall it is a super drinkable beer.  Well balanced and perfect for any hop head.

One thing that I am a fan of is having the malt and hops listed on the tasting menu, as Black Raven does and it allows the drinker to understand the flavors.  If you ever home brew and taste the malt prior to mashing in, it is a great way see how those flavors work together.  I also have to say it is great when a brewer doesn't mess up those flavors.  Beaux does a great job of creating clean drinkable beers that stay true to the ingredients.  Do yourself a favor, take a trip out to Black Raven and enjoy the offerings.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Beer Review: 21st Amendment Back in Black

I was wandering around the market in Seattle this weekend and stumbled upon this in Pear Deli and Shoppe.  This place was great, a huge selection of Seattle beers and a very substantial selection of California beers.  I promise to start doing Seattle beer reviews very soon, but I have never seen this and thought my Cali followers would appreciate a review on this new release from 21st Amendment.  For those of you that may not know, 21st Amendment Brewing is located in San Francisco and is a mainstay of brewing in the bay.  They have are becoming a pretty substantial brewer, so far have released four of their beers in cans.

Back in Black is an American IPA brewed with dark malts.  It comes in at 6.8% and a wopping 65 IBU's. 

It pours out dark brown/black with an off white head.
Aroma:  dark black malt, roasted malt, piney hops
Taste:  starts with black malt, roasted malt, then a nice hint of resin hops and a black malt flavor and a mouth puckering hop finish.
Mouthfeel:  medium to high carbonation. low body. finishes slightly dry.

Overall:  Yummy!  I think most of the beers I have reviewed have been good, I guess I have really great taste.  But this was a great treat.  I think the balance of the Black malt and the hops worked well together.  It is a very drinkable beer, I could definitely have more than one of these and I am little bitter I didn't buy a couple extra.  Thanks 21st Amendment for another great beer.  

Monday, August 9, 2010

Beer Review: Avery Brewing Czar Imperial Stout

While I was in Colorado I picked up a bottle of Avery Brewing's Imperial Stout at the store.  Avery has a series of Imperial's including Maharaja Imperial IPA, Kaiser Imperial Lager and of course the Czar.  If you have read my posts you should know I love my IPA's and I really do love my stout's.  As soon as you add Imperial to front of those styles, my interest is peaked and the beer is an automatic must have.

Czar pours out pitch black, with a nice off white head.
Aroma:  roasted malt, chocolate, vanilla, toffee.
Taste:  huge dark malt, molasses, and vanilla, finishes a little hot.

Mouthfeel:  medium carbonation, has good drinkablity, but is an Imperial so do yourself a favor and share a bottle.

Overall it was a great beer.  As I have posted before I love Avery.  He is doing some great things with flavors and I really look forward to getting into more of my stash.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Farewell Party at the Trappist

It has been long overdo, but my first trip to The Trappist was worth the wait.  For those of you not familiar with this place, it is a Belgian and Specialty beer bar in Oakland.  I really didn't understand the hoopla over this place when it opened, but soon after being there, my eyes were opened. 

After a few months of planning my friends and I finally found a day to visit the Trappist.  Luckily for me it was five days prior to my departure to my new place of residence, Seattle.  So to celebrate my relocation, we went and drank and we had a blast.  The Trappist started as a small bar, not much bigger than a closet.  A couple years later they have the original (front) bar, and they have the back bar now as well. Both bars have different beers on tap, but bottles are available at both.  I was informed from my friend that all beers must be refrigerated at all times to ensure freshness.  Now the question is, do they know beer?  I have to say I was blown away by the selection, things I have never seen or heard of before and they were great.  I didn't get to take any pictures, it was too much fun drinking the beer and talking to my friends.  I was surprised because I expected to be overwhelmed by Belgian beers, but was happy to see plenty of other styles that were simply amazing. 

A couple beers that stood out were the Mikkeller  Black Hole an Imperial Stout that comes in at 13.1%.  A huge beer that just hits you in all the right places, huge roasted malt, nice hop balance and the alcohol is hidden beautifully behind it all.   Staying on the dark beer tract I found an amazing beer by De Molen called Stout and Hop.  This is stout has an amazing hop aroma, much like a great IPA.  It starts out with great malt and chocolate notes and finishes with great hop bitterness.  I loved this beer, it was the best of both worlds, as a stout and IPA lover. 

What a fantastic night of great beer and great friends.  Do yourself a favor and take a trip, have a glass of some great impossible to find beers.  What an amazing place and can't wait to go back and enjoy another glass. 

As a side note, there is plenty more beer to write about for this beer blogger.  I am excited to be in Seattle, an incredible place for beer.  With plenty of breweries, bars and pubs, this place has plenty of things to cover and hopefully you will join me while I taste all that Seattle has to offer.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Colorado Beerventure Part 2

Next stop on the Beerventure...New Belgium Brewing

I heard great things about the New Belgium tasting room called the "Liquid Center" and apparently so has everyone else.    I didn't realize what a pain it would be to get onto the tour there.  The night before we tried to sign up, but it was full, actually it was full for the next 3 weeks.  So we planned to get to brewery early to get onto to the wait-list.

We got to the brewery at 10:30 AM to get put on the wait-list, then headed into town for some grub, then to Odell's for a warm up.  We went back to New Belgium about 1:00 and hung out to see if we got on the tour.  The Liquid Center is quite an experience.  Fully staffed with about 8 people, at about 1:15 this place was hopping like a full fledged bar and we were there on a Wednesday.  Upon arrival at the Liquid Center you show your ID, you get a nice sample pour and two tokens for tastings.  Along with the normal lineup of beers they had 6 Beers from the Lips of Faith series and few of which you can't get in bottles here. 

So at this point we had already tasted a dozen beers from Odell's so notes are out the window on these beers.   I started with new one from the Lips of Faith series, Hagdorn's Helles (not yet available in Ca).  Hagdorn is German style Helles and was pretty good beer, not the best from this brewery, but I haven't had a Helles for awhile it was a nice treat.  Next up I had the Lips of Faith Belgian Style Blonde (again not available in Ca yet).  This was a really tasty beer, stronger than I had expected, with nice bready yeast notes.  I finished up the tasting with the Imperial Berliner Style Weisse (not available in Ca, picture above).  I really loved this beer,  but I originally was not too sure what the style was.  This is an imperial style sour beer that pours golden and has a great sour flavor, what a great treat.

After those tastings we went on the famed tour which was lead by Brad, a former East Bay brewer for Drake's and Triple Rock.  Our tour was the first ever for Brad and he rocked it; the five tastings on the tour didn't hurt the tour either.  I won't tell you about the tour because I wouldn't want to spoil it, but there were a few highlights.  One of my favorite things was tasting 1554 directly off the bottling line.  I am huge fan of 1554, it is by far one of favorites from New Belgium and drinking it right from the line was fantastic.  The final treat were two tastings of their two new beers from the Lips of Faith; the Berliner and their new Belgo IPA, a Belgian Style IPA.  I already discussed the Berliner, like I said before I really enjoyed this beer and because my girlfriend loves sour beers I more than happily passed this to her and had a double taste of the Belgo IPA.
The Belgo IPA
pours out golden copper,
smell:  Belgian yeast, sweet malt and hops.
taste:  initial flavor or sweet malt, Belgian yeast, caramel, and finishes with a strong pine and citrus notes.
mouthfeel: medium to high carbonation, good mouthfeel
Would I drink this again?  Of course I would two of my favorite beers in one.  It is a huge beer as most Belgian IPA's are.  My favorite of this style is still Le Freak from Green Flash, but they have had time to refine that beer, so I'll give New Belgium some time to work on it.

My experience in Ft. Collins was fantastic.  New Belgium continues to press the boundaries of beer by adding another sour to their list as well as a BIPA.   The  hidden gem of this trip was Odell's, a brewery we have not had the benefit of enjoying on the west coast yet.  I am sure they will make their way out here before too long.

Next up the on itinerary was a quick trip to Denver.  I was fortunate enough to be directed to a Belgian restaurant and bar called The Cheeky Monk.  We stopped in and had some Mussels, frites and some beers.  There list of beers was quite numerous, I had Mischief from the Bruery and my girlfriend had a Saison Dupont.  I am not sure why I went with the Mischief when I could have had La Chouffe or Maredsous, but the Mischief was good and went well with the Mussels we ordered.  We ended up talking it up with the bartender and she informed me that The Cheeky Monk had just finished up brewing a beer for the restaurant at Avery Brewing in Boulder.    

Avery Brewing has been a favorite of mine for a couple years now and I was lucky enough to get a chance to taste some amazing brews. Avery is located in Boulder Colorado in an industrial complex just outside of downtown.  We arrived at Avery on Friday for a very impressive tasting of a few of their beers.  They had huge list of about fifteen beers.  4oz. tasters were $1 and pints of 8% and below were $4, 8% and above were $5.   I grabbed a pint of Hand of the Buddha, and tasters of Ballsmack Baltic Porter, Karma Belgian Pale Ale,  17th Anniversary Black Lager and Hog Heaven Barley Wine.

Hog Heaven is Tap room only beer.  It pours golden copper.  Smells like Belgian yeast and caramel malts.  Taste was something different, I am not sure what was added to the kettle, coriander, maybe kaffir lime.  It had a herbal floral quality that was new to me for a Belgian Pale.  It didn't finish particularly well for me, but the initial flavor was surprising and for that I have to say I enjoyed the uniqueness of it.    It had a good mouthfeel and medium carbonation.  It was a very drinkable beer.  I am assuming this was an attempt at a light style of Belgian Pale, maybe a Belgian Summer beer. 
Would I drink it again?  I sure would, it would pair well with some spicy Thai food for sure.

Next up was another Belgian, Karma which is available in bottles as well.  This is a traditional Belgian Ale and it really didn't surprise me.  It had good yeasty nose, tasted of sweet caramel and had a nice spicy finish.  Overall it was a good interpretation of the classic, but knowing the kinds of beers Avery can make I was actually disappointed in this beers simplicity.  I blame myself for the poor review, I guess not every beer can be "Extreme".  It was a good beer and I would drink it again, but only if they didn't have any Ballsmack which was my next tasting.

Ballsmack is a Baltic Porter and available only at the tap room.  Pours out dark black.  Smells of roasted malt and chocolate.  Tastes are sweet malt, chocolate and finishes with some strong roasted malt flavors.  Mouthfeel was nice and light for this style.  Overall this was a lighter more drinkable version of the Baltic Porters I am used to drinking, but for the Climate I think it worked out well.  I would drink this again, but do prefer my Baltic Porters to be a bit bigger.

Avery brews an anniversary beer every year for the past 7 years and this will be year 17.  So to celebrate with them I enjoyed their 17th Anniversary Black Lager.  I have had the pleasure of doing a tasting of 14 and 15 with my brother a couple years ago.  I thought 14 was the better of those two beers and luckily my brother loved the 15 so for the first time in history we didn't have to compromise on something.  The 17 pours nice dark with nice off white head and a little lacing.  Smells are roasted malt and licorice.  Taste, malt forward with licorice and caramel and a nice smooth hoppy finish.  This is a tasty brew and very drinkable.  I love a good anniversary beer, especially one that doesn't cost $18 (sorry Firestone Walker).  I would drink this again in a heartbeat.  It is good to see these Black Lagers making an impact in the beer world.  I love 1554 and Linden St. in Oakland makes a Black Common as well.  Rich, malty, dark beers don't have to be big to be good and this beer was a testament to that.

Next up was the Hog Heaven Barlywine, this beer is available in bottles.  This beer pours dark amber with little to no head.  Smells of sweet malt, pineapple and of course he 9.7% of abv comes through.  Tastes sweet malt, pine and grapefruit, nice balance of hops to balance the alcohol finish.   Overall I loved this beer, I thought all the flavors were in great balance.  The hops really mellowed the hot finish and I felt the drinkability of this beer was very good.

What a great ending to a great trip.  Not only the beer, but Colorado in general is beautiful place. 

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Colorado Beerventure Part 1

I have had the opportunity to do some beer tasting and beer sight seeing on a trip to Colorado.  My travels started in Steamboat Springs, then we went to Boulder and spent a day in Ft. Collins and some time in Denver.  Colorado definitely does not disappoint when it comes to great craft beer.  Because of the extent of this trip and the many great places we went to I am breaking this up into a two part series. 

Our first visit was Steamboat Springs, which is a resort town, know for skiing during the winter and hiking and mt. biking in the summer.  On our second night there we went to Mohagany Ridge Brewery and Grill in Steamboat.   I was with my girlfriends family and taking pictures at the dinner table would have been a bit of a scene, but I was able to get two beers with dinner.   

The first beer was their Porter.  I wasn't able to take notes, but I can remember it was really good.  Good roasted malt flavor, medium carbonation, good mouthfeel.  I would consider this to be a traditional Porter and it was very drinkable and I would definitely order another if I had a chance.

The second beer was their IPA, and I was very disappointed in this beer.  It had a weak hop aroma and the bittering hops were way to pronounced, not enough balance with the malt.  It had no hoppy finish at all, it was slight bang of hops and then the flavor was muddled.  I guess I am a little spoiled with all the great IPA's in California.  I expected a lot more out of this beer and was happy I had the chance to at least have a decent porter with dinner.

Our next stop was Ft.Collins home of New Belgium, Odell's and Ft. Collins Brewing.

Odell's was our first stop. Picture above is of the basic taster, as you can see I couldn't wait to try one.  The basic came with a Easy Street Wheat, Levity Amber, 5 Barrel Pale, 90 Schilling Amber, IPA and Cutthroat Porter.  The basic tasting was just that, basic, but not in a bad way.  All styles were created beautifully and were extremely drinkable.  I especially like the porter and the 5 barrel had a great hoppy finish which I loved.  But the star of this show was the Co-Pilot tasting.
The Co-pilot tasting (left)  is a selection of their specialty beers and I was very surprised at the flavors and styles that were in this flight.

Starting from Left to Right:

Double Pilsner, coming in at 8.1% abv this Pilsner starts out like your ordinary classic Czech Pils, then the 8.1 hits the back of your throat and you ask yourself for a second what the hell was that.  I have to admit that a Pilsner isn't that exciting of a beer, they are drinkable and tasty, but usually nothing else.  This beer is the exception, what a great surprise and what an amazing beer.

Next St.Lupulin is their summer seasonal.  Coming in at 6.5% and 46 IBU's you may think this beer may not cut it as an Extra Pale.  I was first greeted by an amazing hop aroma, thanks to the dry hop additions.  The taste was a great balance of malt sweetness and a nice hop bite with a melding of hops and alcohol finish.  This a very well balance beer and was excited to get my hop fix for the day.

The Rauchbier come up next.  Honestly not a fan of Rauchbier after my experience with the classic German style.  To me it usually tastes like smoke and I like a little more complexity to my beer.  But this was different.  A good amount of sweetness, balanced of the smokey finish.  Not a favorite of mine, but a more drinkable version of a Classic German Rauchbier.  I would recommend it to those that have never tried one.

Amber Recluse was our next tasting.  This is an Imperial Amber.  I have to admit I wasn't too fond of this beer, not sure why exactly.  I took a couple sips and passed it on to my girlfriend.  It could have been palate fatigue, but wasn't too impressed.  Aroma of sweet malts, caramel and toffee.  Tasted sweet with a hot finish.  Again, not my fave.

Next up the India Barley Wine, yep that's right.  I forgot to get the IBU's but this bad boy comes in at 9.7% ABV.  What a great Barleywine, great floral hop nose.  It starts of with a huge hop bite and balances well with the high alcohol.  Because of the hops, it didn't have a hot finish.  I am used to drinking Bigfoot from Sierra Nevada and have to say I found a new favorite in the Barleywine catagory.

Finally Saboteur.  A Brown Ale fermented with Brett and aged in American Oak Barrels.  I have some mixed emotions about this one.  I love wild ales, and being accustomed to RR beers, I have learned a lot about barrel aged wild ales.  Now with this being said, I am not sure that using American Oak on this beer was the right choice.  I say that because sour beers have a very fragile flavor and using  the barrels they used masked that tartness that makes a sour so good.  I felt like I was drinking a barrel aged stout instead of a sour.  I will say it was the last tasting of 12 and because of this I decided to buy a bottle. I will try it again in a few months after a little aging and see how a rested palate feels about this beer.

In a couple days I will follow up with Part 2 of by Colorado Beerventure, which will include New Belgium Brewing, Avery Brewing and Cheeky Monk in Denver.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Beer Review Dieu Du Ciel! Aphrodite

I had the pleasure of shopping at City Beer Store a couple months ago and was directed to a few beers by Dieu Du Ciel.  I originally passed them by, mostly because of cost, $6.99 for a 11.5oz. bottle.  Now, I am all for supporting craft beer, but to pay that much for a small beer seemed a little ridiculous to me.  Luckily for me, my girlfriend has fallen in love with craft beer, like me, and was willing to fork over the cash to try this unique brew. 

Aphrodite is a Stout brewed with cocoa and real vanilla beans and comes in at 6.5% abv.

Aphrodite pours out dark with a light brown head.
Aroma:  roasted malt and vanilla
Taste:  chocolate, caramel and a nice roasted malt and vanilla finish.
Mouthfeel:  nice medium body, with medium carbonation 

Overall:  Very drinkable beer.  Would I buy it again?  Maybe not, but I would have my girlfriend buy this again.  The vanilla and cocoa are great balance to that roasted malt flavor.  It's a super great stout and would definitely recommend this to stout lovers.  Enjoy! 

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Beer Review The Lost Abbey Avant Garde

This is the first tasting in what I hope is a long happy relationship with The Lost Abbey   Lost Abbey is the second brewery headed by Tomme Arthur who is also head of brewing operations at  Port Brewing in San Marcos.

Avant Garde is brewed in the Biere de Garde style of Northern France and fermented with a lager yeast strain which is different.  I found this bottle at BevMo on Camden Ave.  BevMo has started carrying quite a few of The Lost Abbey and Port Brewing beers.

Avant Garde pours cloudy with a golden orange color.
Aroma: yeasty, notes of pear/apple and honey.
Taste:  sweet malt, honey and pear/apple and straw.
Mouthfeel:  nice light body, medium carbonation, very drinkable

Overall:  I really enjoyed this beer.  I would buy it again is a second.  I have to make another trip over to BevMo to get the rest.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Beer Review Port Brewing Hop-15

Celebrating the 4th this weekend is great for a number of reasons, my favorite of course is enjoying great beer.  I have had the fortune of trying Hop-15 a number of times, last time was at City Beer, this time in Stockton with my girlfriends family, both times didn't disappoint. 

Hop 15 has 15 different hop varieties added to the beer every 15 minutes. It has won two silver medals at the Great American Beer Festival and received a first place award at the Bistro Double IPA beer festival. 

Hop-15 pours cloudy with amber color.  Aroma:  There is a huge hop nose, pine and grapefruit.  Taste:  Hops, Hops, and even more hops pine and grapefruit again.  The sweetness of the malt is crushed by hops and the high alcohol.  The beer finishes with an alcohol bite and the lingering hop bitterness. 

Honestly not one of the best Imperial IPA's on the block but a good one.  It doesn't have the balance of Pliney the Elder, Green Flash Imperial IPA or a new favorite of mine Mission Brewing Double IPA.  The hot finish really can be off putting and as the beer warms up the alcohol took over.

Rating:  I would drink this again, but not by myself.  This 22oz bottle comes in at 10% abv and after one of them driving is not an option.  So grab a friend, pop one open and enjoy.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Beer in Review Mission St. Brown Ale

I guess I could write about other things aside from beer reviews, but they are so fun and tasty I guess I will role with it. 

I am sure you have seen Mission St. beer at your local Trader Joe's, but you may not know what you are actually drinking.  Luckily for Trader Joe fans we are able to enjoy Mission St. beer brewed by Steinhaus Brewing Co. in Paso Robles.  Steinhaus brewing a.k.a. Firestone Walker Brewing Company has been named mid-sized brewery of the year 3 times and contracts a variety of beers for Trader Joe's; including Mission St. Pale (GABF Gold medel winner), IPA, Blonde, Hefe (also in 22oz.) , as well as Fat Weasel and Jumping Cow brands.  My friend that works at Trader Joe's told me about this 22oz bottle for $1.99 and I had to get it.
I am not a huge fan of browns only because there aren't a whole lot to choose from, aside from Newcastle and Lost Coast we don't have a huge selection to chose from in the Bay.  I have a small hatred for Newcastle because when I drank it for the first time 10-12 years ago I really didn't like it.  My tastes have changed over the years, but I still feel that Newcastle is still an extremely overrated beer.  But Mission St. Brown is different and therefore better than Newcastle (in my opinion).

Mission St. Brown is an English brown style and is classic to profile and favors.  I guess I could try and go into color and head and mouth feel, I could describe the subtle sweetness and the aroma of hops as it warmed up.  But I won't, I will tell you this is a very drinkable beer and for 2 bucks is a very reasonable beer to buy.  It's not going to blow you away with complexity or amaze you with new flavors. It costs $2 and for that, you can't go wrong. 

Rating:  Hell yeah I would drink it again.  A tasty drinkable brown is hard to come by for a reasonable price and it's brewed by Firestone Walker, nough said.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Saison Du BUFF

So for my first blog I guess I will start with a tasting.  I should preface this by saying,  I have experience drinking and brewing beer, but very little judging.  I have a simple rating system would I drink this again.

I was on vacation in Newport Beach Ca, and found this bottle at Mr. Kegs.  My eyes lit up immediately, cause I heard about this series of stone collaboration beers.  This beer is a collaboration of Stone, Dogfish and Victory brewing.  It's a Saison Style, with the addition of parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. I am not really into "spiced" beer, but I really did enjoy this one.  It was more of a hoppy saison, with spicey notes.  Very drinkable, I wish I would have grabbed a couple more it would have been great drinking during the hot day.

Overall I would drink it again.