Friday, June 20, 2014

Can It

Here is an article from NPR's The Salt on the trend of craft brewers to can their beer.  I expect to see more canned beer in the future and suspect most brewers will have both cans and bottles.  One thing I didn't know was that cans now have a polymer coating to reduce the metal taste you used to get when drinking beer from a can. 

I like caned craft beer, especially sixteen ounce "Tall Boys."  The big cans - not the beer - remind me of my younger days.  My buddies and I would down two sixteen ounce cans of Coors Light apiece between the house we rented and the entrance to Jack Murphy / Qualcomm stadium, where we would then buy tickets to bleacher seats to watch the Padres.  I was too cheap and poor to pay stadium prices for beer and the pre-game thirty-two ounce pound was plenty.  But now that memory brings to mind Tony Gwynn and that makes me sad.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Super Seizoen Bretta

Brevity is best for the sublime Seizoen Bretta from Logsdon Farmhouse Ales.  No review can capture the magnificence of this saison brewed with brettanomyces yeast.*  You must experience it firsthand.  The saison poured an opaque orange.  It was desert dry, fruity, with a bit of booze.  The brett yeast brings in spice and a touch of wild funk.  Seizoen Bretta gets better as it warms and its flavors expand.  Brilliant.  It is my frontrunner for 2014's beer of the year. 

* Beers brewed with brettanomyces yeast are not for everyone.  Brett makes beers dry and complex, and it imparts a distinct funkiness to the taste that can turn off those not expecting it.  Unlike hops, brett yeast is not an acquired taste, you either like it immediately or hate it.

(I wasn't able to get a picture of my Seizoen Bretta so I borrowed this label picture from Logsdon's website.)

Ramblin' Rye

Ramblin' Rye is a collaboration beer between AleSmith Brewing Co. and Tampa's Cigar City Brewing.    Ramblin' Rye is a brown ale, but the bottle's back label goes into more detail calling the beer a "malty Roggenbeir."  Roggenbier.  That's a new one for me.  

According to a description from the German Beer Institute, a roggenbier is a medieval ale brewed with barley, wheat and rye malts.  The resulting beer is more robust and complex than your typical brown ale.  You will not confuse a roggenbier with a mild English brown ale.

Rambling Rye is big, roasted and poured dark brown.  It had a thin, cappuccino-colored foam that didn't stick around long and ran counter to the meaty beer underneath.  You immediately taste the rye. It always brings heft and spice to a beer, and Ramblin' Rye was no exception.  I also picked up chocolate and tobacco, in particular the tobacco wrapper of a fine, unlit cigar.  I'm not sure whether this was subliminal or coincidence since one of the brewers is called Cigar City.

Ultimately, I liked and enjoyed this 8% abv beer.   It's not a beer I'd reach to every day, but it was well crafted and interesting.  I'm glad, too, it was not a traditional brown ale that the brewers juiced up, but a complete different style of brown ale. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Hat Tip To The Haberdasher

I've wondered before about how much of a beer you need to taste to take its full measure.   I've had good, bad and mediocre tasters and half pints that I've not documented here on the blog.  Judging beers just on a taster is a tricky affair.  A positive initial impression can provide a false front for a beer that fades or fatigues you over a full pint or bottle - which is certainly true for many big, one dimensional double IPAs and beers like The Bruery's Five Gold Rings, a Belgian golden ale with pineapple from a few Holidays ago.  Sometimes a negative initial taste can mask a gem - like this Fantome  - where stopping short would have prevented me from drinking a great beer.

I've had a taster and a full glass - on two separate occasions - of Societe Brewing's Haberdasher English IPA at Societe's tasting room.  I liked the initial taste two weeks ago and went back this past weekend for a full glass.  I need a caveat here, both trips to Societe were for growler fills of beer that weren't Haberdasher.  I have had enough Haberdadher to know it's a worthy beer.  It has the earthy, mineral taste of a fine English ale, a flavor I'm really starting to appreciate.  It is a dark IPA - at least compared to other Societe IPAs - due to its healthy dose of malt, and is probably Societe's maltiest IPA.  The full-bodied Haberdasher is only 5.2% abv (no way I'm calling it a session IPA) and drinks nearly as big as its popular IPA cousins Pupil and Apprentice, and bigger, in my opinion, than Dandy.  I'm not sure how regular Societe is going to brew this IPA, but I want more of it.

Descriptions Gone Wild

I just read the following description for a fine wine:
"Graphite, violets and pencil shavings linger on the close."
This blog has noted some over-the-top beer writing before, but the above is nonsense and part of a longer review of a $50 bottle of wine.  I can't imagine writing a similar sentence:  "I was impressed with the saison's initial complementary, yet nuanced, tastes of chome and hydrangea, which segued into Crayola crayon box, which lingered through the finish."  I'd be laughed off my own blog.

A literal read of the review shows how ridiculous it is.  What does graphite taste like?  All I can think of is a graphite golf club, but who has ever tasted a golf club on purpose?  And violet, what does violet taste like?  Purple? But what does purple taste like?  I've no clue.  I know what pencil shavings smell like, but their taste? Does the wine taste like pencil shavings smell?  I'm not dropping fifty bucks for anything that tastes like pencil shavings smell.

I know it's hard to think of new and unique ways to describe how similar beers and wines taste, but making up flavors turns a review irrelevant, and in the case above into a parody of bad food writing. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

What The ...?

Just saw a USA Today article on rye beers.  It described Green Flash's Road Warrior:
Green Flash Road Warrior (12 oz. and 22 oz. bottles and draft, For a bit more bitterness and a bit more booze, try this seasonal Imperial IPA from San Diego's Green Flash Brewing Co.
Road Warrior pours like a reddish ale with an upfront piney aroma. Delicate and clean, the ale drinks like a beer much below its 9% ABV.
Green Flash created the beer as a tribute to its road-tested sales team, and as an alternative to summer's lawnmower beers — as with the Grainstorm, rye adds to the refreshment factor.
This is not the Road Warrior I tried.  My Road Warrior was the opposite of "clean and delicate," and drank way above 9% abv.  At least we agreed on its piney aspect.  But another reviewer (Brandon Hernandez) was struck by Road Warrior's "grapefruit, mango and passion fruit," but he appreciated Road Warrior's huge profile.   I'll stick by my review, but the differing beer perceptions are interesting.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Older Beers

Over the past few weeks I had two beers that had been in my fridge for nearly a year or longer.  Mischief, a year-round Belgian-style golden ale from Orange County's iconoclastic brewery, The Bruery, was excellent as expected.  This spicy, complex beer is fantastic whether fresh or with some age on it.  It had some sediment that I've not noticed on a fresh bottle, but it was as rich and smooth as ever.  The Bruery makes some hard to drink beers; Mischief ain't one of them.

The second beer was Green Flash's Saison, and it was not what I was expecting.   I picked up two bottles of this saison last spring, having one shortly after I bought it.  I remember thinking it was thin, bland and pedestrian - clearly not a typical Green Flash aggressive style interpretation, and not a beer to rival the saisons and Belgian-style farmhouse ales being produced by North San Diego County's The Lost Abbey (and now saisons from Modern Times and Stone Brewing).  I was so underwhelmed that the second bottle sat untouched for over a year.  Ignoring this beer was a good decision.  A year on a rack at the back of my fridge allowed Green Flash's Saison to develop a depth and substance that weren't there when it was fresh.  This once boring beer had transformed with age, and was now delicious.  I've since picked up this year's Green Flash Saison and hid it in the fridge so I can enjoy it next summer.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Tasting Beer History

Two weeks ago I went to a book signing (and buying) at Stone World Bistro and Gardens at Liberty Station.   British beer historian and author Ron Pattinson was promoting his new book The Home Brewer's Guide To Vintage Beer.*  Pattinson also writes the beer blog Shut Up About Barclay Perkins.**   The book serves as an excellent reference guide and is geared towards the home brewer.  It has brewing history and plenty of beer recipes from defunct British brewers, along with a few old German beer recipes. 

Reading beer recipes is about as exciting as reading the White Pages (for those that remember phone books), but Pattinson's brewing and beer style histories are fascinating, especially when woven into the larger context of the Industrial Revolution, two World Wars and the beer-horrific Post-War years.  The book also goes into original ingredients and brewing techniques.  IPAs really were created for export to India and were aged more than six months before being shipped to India.  Pattinson pointed out to me that the 1839 Reid IPA (page 72) is an excellent traditional IPA style representation.

Before Pattinson's Liberty Station book signing, he along with Stone's Mitch Steele (and I think the guys from ChuckAlek), brewed one of Pattinson's recipes, the 1867 Barclay Perkins El, an export (to India) porter.  According to The Home Brewer's Guide, El was the "same as domestic porter, just more heavily hopped."  Export porters were no stronger than those sold in Britain, but El was unusual because it was brewed with crystal malt.  The Home Brewer's Guide lists its IBUs at 68 and its abv at a tame 5.16%.   I was told that this beer would be ready two to three weeks after brewing, which means about now according to my calendar.  I may not have an excuse to drive an hour up to Ramona, but I now have one to drive five minutes to Stone Libety Station.  I'll report back on how this historical beer tastes.

* The Home Brewer's Guide is available in Kindle format, and while I love my Kindle, I would not buy this book in any e-format.  Buy the spirial bound hardback.

** Read the blog's most recent entries for Pattinson's travelogue to San Diego brewers.  I really need an excuse to get to ChuckAlek in Ramona.   I think I was the guy mentioned on the blog that bought the book just before the end of stated finish time at the Stone Liberty Station signing.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Road Warrior

Green Flash's Road Warrior Imperial Rye IPA is a macho beer.  It's not just for men, of course, but I can't remember a beer with more swagger.  It's a high octane kick to the privates.  Road Warrior is an anti-session beer that dares you to reach for a second, and then mocks you  - "Session this, bitch!" - when you wisely decide one is plenty.

You know you're in for a wild ride before you even taste Road Warrior.  In the glass, its mahogany color is nearly as dark as a black IPA.  The beer's rye malt gives a full, heavy mouthful.  Road Warrior is a piney IPA with a long taut finish, mixed with a pleasant tinge of sweetness.  Its abv is only 9.0%, and I say "only" because it drinks bigger than 9.0%.  It had a pervasive heat throughout each drink.   Together, the rye, multiple hops (Mosaic, Columbus and Amarillo), booze, and sweetness give Road Warrior a bombastic, spicy character. 

I liked Road Warrior, because most importantly, it tasted good.  It is not your typical double IPA - it is as complex as it is aggressive.  Road Warrior is a beer that caused me to raise an eyebrow, a beer someone who has tried many IPAs and double IPAs can appreciate. 

Road Warrior is a sipper, not a pounder; a beer you mustn't underestimate.  This morning as I walked by the empty bottle of Road Warrior sitting and waiting for its trip to the recycle bin it defiantly gave me the finger.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Here is a good article from NPR's The Salt, a blog I don't look at often enough.  It's on what's considered a craft brewer, how the definition is getting wider, and what it means to beer drinkers.  As craft beer continues to grow, big brewers are trying to gain a piece of the market.  Part of their strategy was to get the Brewers Association to expand its ingredient requirement to include beers made with rice and corn malt.  As blasphemous as this sounds - and it is blasphemous - it's not going to fool too many people.  The people that drink Blue Moon and Shock Top are going to continue to order these beers, and the beer geeks of the world are not going rush to order adjunct-filled beers next time their at the pub just because the Brewers Association expanded its ingredient list.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

My Conundrum

I've had more than a few Mother Earth Hop Diggity Double IPAs, and I've tried without success to slide it into one of my IPA style boxes.  No matter how times I try Hop Diggity, it refuses to cooperate.  It's clearly not a piney IPA, nor an earthy IPA, nor a citrusy IPA -  my three definitive IPA flavor characteristics.  So other than confused, where does that leave me trying to describe this beer?  Because I have to describe Hop Diggity's flavor, I'd say it's more floral than anything else, but it's hard for me to call a beer with such strong bitterness "floral" with any authority.

To go with its floral hops and bitterness Hop Diggity is sweet, which arises from its strong dose of malts.  The big malt presence, in addition to providing a full mouth and balance, gives the beer its deep orange color.  At just over 8% abv, Hop Diggity is more along the lines of lower alcohol double IPAs like Stone Ruination or Pliney the Elder, where you can appreciate various flavors other than just the extreme hopping of higher abv double IPAs.  I've given up trying to classify Hop Diggity and have moved on to where I can just drink it and appreciate it for being what it is - a delicious double IPA.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Beer Ramblings

I probably could have diced this post into several tweets, but I figured I'd combine my recent beer thinking into one blog entry.  I'm looking forward to today's release of Green Flash Brewing's Road Warrior Imperial Rye IPA.  I have not anticipated a beer release so much since... well, since Stone Brewing released its Stone Saison over two whole weeks ago.  I know the beer world doesn't need another big IPA (see below), but the thought of an anti-session, summer IPA appeals to me.  Throw in some rye and it sounds all the better.

Have I missed something with Alpine Brew Co's Nelson IPA?  From the frantic tone of my twitter feed, filled with urgent tweets on Nelson sightings, I'm starting to think Nelson is the new Pliny the Younger.  Alpine's beers' availability has always been sporadic, but I didn't realize Nelson had become a rarity.  Has it been gone that long?  Dang it, I need to go find some Nelson.

I recently had a couple of big, soupy double IPAs.  Green Flash's Palate Wrecker drinks as its name suggests.  Oceanside Ale Work's Dude Double IPA is an aggressive hop bludegon, too.  (OK, I'll admit I bought Dude, in part, because I thought its bottle label was cool.)  I found both beers formless, once I got past their massive bitterness.  If you crave a big hoppy beer, either Palate Wrecker or Dude is the beer for you.

If you bought Stone's Stochasticity Project Grapefruit Slam IPA and still have it in your fridge, drink it NOW.  Its hop profile is fading fast, and the one I had late last week already tasted old.  Grapefruit Slam, in its short prime, was an overly bitter IPA where the grapefruit shined with brilliance in the finish.  I'd have liked more balance in this beer, but because I love grapefruit juice, I enjoyed this beer and am not complaining.  

Finally, how come no one told me about ChuckAlek?