Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Random Beer Notes

I had a Stone Ruination IPA the other night. This is a great beer and in my opinion it is under rated. It should get more props when discussions turn to the best double IPAs. It is more drinkable than most DIPAs, has an excellent hop flavor, but is properly balanced. Many DIPAs are specialty releases so I tend try these rather than reach for Ruination. This is usually a mistake. I prefer Ruination to Stone IPA, and its my favorite of Stone's regular release.

The Lost Abbey's Avant Garde is a wonderful beer. I had not had this beer in a while and somehow forgot how good it is. I'll have to have this more often.

I had Shasta Brewing Company's Shastafarian Porter the other night. It had a sweet, rich roasted flavor. It paired well with some Chicken Piccata. This is an excellent beer on a cool Fall evening. I am not a porter expert, but I think Shastafarian would compare well against other porters.

Went to Corvette Diner, a San Diego institution, for dinner tonight. I had its Corvette Pale Ale that I was told was brewed by Coronado Brewing, but I don't think the waitress really knew. It was good, so I know it was not brewed by Karl Strauss.

It is getting time for the Winter / Holiday releases. I have already blogged on Sierra Nevada's Celebration, but over the next few weeks most of the winter beers should be available.

Thinking about the best beers I have had this year for year-end posts........

Monday, October 27, 2008

Witch's Wit

One of the myths of craft beer is that they are too extreme for drinkers used to only macro beers and white zin. I don't like this myth. It is perpetuated, in large part, by the macro drinkers themselves who are lazy or unadventurous. They assume they won't like any craft beer. If your first craft beer is a hop-bomb double IPA, of course your view and your taste buds will be tainted. But there are subtle and tasty ways for the macro drinker to enter the world of craft beer. The Belgian Wit style is one. It is low in hops and alcohol, but high in taste and drinkability. A good example is The Lost Abbey's Witch's Wit.

This beer was smooth and approachable. Craft beer lovers will appreciate its construction and balance. Non-craft beer drinkers, I think, will be surprised at its mellow flavor. It is rich but not overpowering and the macro drinker will ask for a refill. I'd like to think it will also cause the macro drinker to search out other wits next time they visit a restaurant or bar rather than defaulting to the macro stand-bys. I'd recommend a good wit over a Fat Tire or Sam Adams, which to me are already dumbed-down to a marco level.

Witch's Wit is a summer beer and The Lost Abbey does not brew it year-round. I found it in mid-October. Search it out and enjoy it.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Beer Tasting Last Week - More Beers from Oregon

Last week we tried two more beers from my friend's September trip to Oregon. Both were from Rouge's Eugene operation, Eugene City Brewery. The first was 100 Meter Ale a rich, Double Red IPA. I am not sure I have ever head a double red IPA before, unless AleSmith's Holiday Yulesmith can be considered one. Anyhow this beer was good. It is hard for me to describe Rouge beers. All are unique, but have a similar strain running through them. I am not sure whether it is the hops, malt, water or yeast, but all have a mature, seriousness to them. Their taste is complex, with what I can only describe as an ever present tautness. As can be seen in the picture, the beer poured with little foam, had a rich, brown / amber color and was opaque.

The second beer, after a dinner out, was the Triple Jump Pale Ale. This is an American-style Pale Ale. It was not as drinkable as the 100 Meter Ale, but good nonetheless. It had a big flavor for a Pale Ale - no Sierra Nevada Pale Ale here. I read some reviews on BeerAdvocate for 100 Meter and Triple Jump and I think the tautness I described above is a pine resin flavor. Many of the reviewers detect pine in these two beers and this is probably what I was tasting. This beer, while classified as a Pale Ale, borders on the IPA style. This is because of its depth and complexity. But it is not a hop bomb West Coast-style IPA, nor is it a Northwest citrus IPA. It does not fit in a box, which is typical of the Rouge beers I have tried.

Both 100 Meters and and Triple Jump Pale Ale score high on BeerAdvocate, B+ and A-, respectively. It is hard to disagree with these scores, although I would have the grades flipped. My friend was talking to people at Rouge and was told that while Eugene City Brewery is affiliated with Rouge the brewers at Eugene City Brewery are allowed wide latitude for experimentation and beer creation. This is good for them and is reflected in their beers.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Lost My MOJO

My cable network, Cox, dropped the MOJO network today. I read about this on BeerAdvocate last night, but did not think it was scheduled until November 1. Three Sheets was my favorite MOJO show. Its host, Zane Lampley, goes around the world enjoying local drinking customs. I especially like the episodes in Ireland and Belgium that focus on beer. I need to get the series DVD. Apparently there is a fourth season that I hope will be picked up by another cable channel. In the meantime, I can still watch Three Sheets on (thanks BeerAdvocate).

GABF California Winners

Here is a list of California's winning beers from the Great American Beer Festival. The link is to Summer of Beer blog, which I find an enjoyable beer blog. Congratulations to Alesmith that I think was named Small Brewer of the Year. Pizza Port / Lost Abbey pulled a Michael Phelps and took home eight medals. I see that Firestone's Union Jack won the gold in the IPA category and Russian River's Blind Pig took a silver. It is hard to argue with those results.

Elk Grove Brewing Company won two medals - who knew! (The Beer Rover grew up in Elk Grove, but moved away before the brewery opened.) I'm surprised Stone or Ballast Point did not win any medals.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

San Diego Brewing Company

I visited San Diego Brewing Company twice this week - kind of a freak of beer nature. I had some good beers - duh! I had Alpine's Pure Hoppiness, it was stunning, along with a Stone Triple. I was told this was a Stone Triple IPA. This made me take notice. I know Stone is brewing a lot of new beers, but I had not heard it had brewed a triple IPA. It had not. The beer was clearly a Belgian tripel. (Oh, the semantics of it all.) Anyway, it was good. I'd like to try it again when its not sandwiched between two IPAs.

On my second visit I had Alpine's Duet on cask. It was the first time I had tried Duet, Alpine's IPA. It was good, but Pure Hoppiness is amazing. Finally, I had a Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale. This is one of my favorite holiday beers and seeing it on SDBC's beer list I had to try it to usher in the Holiday Beer Drinking Season. I cannot eat at SDBC anymore. I had a massive migrane after eating there (and no, it was not the beer).

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Port's High Tide Fresh Hop IPA

Port Brewing's High Tide Fresh Hop IPA hit shelves late last week. This beer is a seasonal release and is in high demand. I picked up two bombers last Friday and had a bottle on Friday and Saturday nights. It's a pretty good beer. I found it hoppy, but not a traditional West Coast hop bomb. It had a strong citrus flavor, with a noticeable lemon presence. The citrus taste made the beer more a Northwestern-style IPA than a San Diego-style IPA, which is a good thing. The beer had a rich, orange color, not much of a head and poured cloudy.

It had an interesting flavor characteristic that I find hard to explain. In addition to the citrus flavor, as I worked the way down the glass I got a taste that I can only describe as muggy. It reminded me of a humid, East Coast summer evening. A strange association, but I cannot think of a better description. The muggy flavor, obviously, came from the fresh hops. I want to get another one of these beers before they are all sold out.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Pour 24

Pour 24, what a snore... I was in Las Vegas today for a conference. On my way to the airport, I stopped by Pour 24, located in the New York, New York casino. I had heard it's the only craft beer bar on the Vegas Strip. This is probably true. It is an open, small, uninviting rectangle bar overlooking part of the casino, not far from the main entrance. According to its name, it has twenty-four craft beers on tap. It has Stone - Arrogant Bastard and Ruination - several Alaskan, Firestones, New Belgians, and Rouges on tap along with some other craft brewers. I thought the list was somewhat basic, nothing really interesting or hard to obtain. For a bar that bills itself as a celebration of America's best craft beers, the selection was disappointing. I tried a Rouge Brutal Bitter. It, like all the other beers I saw, was poured in weird, small, half champagne flute-half pilsner glass. I'm not sure I'd go back to this bar. I think the Hofbrauhaus (warning: ommpah music) would be a lot more fun.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Impromptu Beerapolooza

Last week my buddy brought over a cache of beers. It is pretty sorry that I am only getting around to posting now - but the crashing financial world has taken most my time. The beer tasting was a needed break from the financial news. He had just spent a week in Oregon and brought some good beer and good swag. The beers I did not try that night were Deschutes Twilight Ale and Shasta Brewing's Shastafarian Porter. These are in my fridge for future consumption. I did not take notes during the tasting but the following are my general impressions of the beer we tried.

First up was Standing Stone Double IPA from Ashland Oregon's Standing Stone Brewing. The beer was from a growler. Here is a picture of the growler and the two pints it filled. Note that the growler was a smaller than a standard growler. The beer was an excellent Northwest-style double IPA. It was nicely balanced with strong hops and corresponding malt backbone. I thought its color was darker than the standard Double IPA but it did not relate to a heavier taste. The picture does not show it as dark as I remember. I'd like more of this beer.

The second beer was Rogue's Imperial Red Ale. Whoa! Notice its bottle - it looks like an early 20th Century tank, and the beer has the complexity of a tank - and this is a compliment. It is a serious beer and a natural progression after the double IPA. It is rich, has lots of alcohol and is a sipping beer. It is heavy in flavor and having it by itself would have done it more justice. I would recommend enjoying this beer on a cold evening and savoring it throughout the night. It is a rewarding beer and not one to be rushed.

Next we tried Coronado's Red Devil double red ale. It was, by definition, the same style as Rogue's Imperial Red Ale, but a much different beer. After the Rogue, it was much lighter and more approachable despite its dark color. It was a good beer, but no match for the Rogue in terms of depth and construction.

Finally, we got to The Bruery's Trade Winds Tripel. I have had this beer in my fridge for several weeks and I am a little disappointed that I brought it out so late in the tasting, because after the previous three beers we could not appreciate its excellence. I had tasted it once before and knew it was good. It's unique in that it is brewed with rice and basil, but I was not able to taste either, which was OK. This beer is The Bruery's summer release and I have a line on another bottle that I will try to enjoy by itself. The Belgian style was refreshing after three strong ales, and its quality showed through. This beer has serious carbonation and head retention.

This beer tasting was a needed break from the dismal market, although this week's market performance was scarier and more troubling than last weeks. I liked the double IPA and the Rogue was an excellent beer. After this week's market performance, I think I need another tasting this weekend. This market calls for Lost Abbey's Judgement Day, a 10.50% quadrupel...