Friday, January 29, 2010

Small Problem

I am a better beer acquirer than beer drinker.  I fall for the special release hype and then hoard the beers, in particular Stone’s Vertical Epic Series, of which I have multiple bottles of each year’s release dating back to 04.04.04.   I bought a beer refrigerator about eighteen months ago, as too many closets around the house were becoming permanent beer storage spots.  My problem is that the fridge is now filling with special releases or beers* that are too “big” to drink with a weeknight dinner.  (I don’t see the point of having a The Abyss on a Wednesday with tacos or spaghetti.)  The fridge is also loaded with water, wine, soda, and food, of all things.  (Does a beer fridge really need produce drawers?)  
The last couple of nights I went to the fridge and found nothing I was ready for or wanted to drink.   I was left to lift some of the Beer Rovette’s wheat beer.  When I am dipping into Franziskaner Hefe- Weisse I know it’s time to rethink the fridge.  Today I bought some Racer 5 and an Alpine Duet just to have some casual beer to go with dinners, and to start the process of reclaiming the beer fridge.   

 *In addition to Stone’s Vertical Epic Series, I have bottles of Stone’s 13th Anniversary Ale, several imperial stouts and high abv Belgians, along with New Holland's Dragon’s Milk and Dogfish Head’s 120 Minute IPA that weighs in at over 20% abv (both acquired via a trade with the Drunken Polack), and some nasty beers received as gifts I just haven’t dealt with.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Classic - Two Out of Four

I love this sign.  Four words, two punctuation mistakes, which are so blatant I wonder whether it is a goof.  This picture was taken outside the Ladies' Lounge at the King's Fish House restaurant in Mission Valley, San Diego.  King's has a mediocre beer list, but does offer 22 oz bombers of Ballast Point's Big Eye IPA.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Ingorance is Not Bliss

Here is an article from The Atlantic's food blog on a new beer restaurant in Washington D.C., called Birch and Barley.  I was going to title this post "Beer Douche," because the author, Ezekiel Emanuel, starts the review saying he hates beer and has not drank any since college.  After looking at his picture, which accompanies the article, I would put him at forty-five or older.  So, if he has not had beer since he was in college he missed the entire craft beer revolution of the last twenty years.  He is not a beer douche, he needs pity.  I'd hate beer too if my only reference was Hamm's or Keystone.  I remember going to keggers in college where Keystone or some other comparable cheap beer was being served, and pounding beers just to get a fast buzz so the beer's awful taste could be drowned by the alcohol. 

Mr. Emanuel should expand his thinking and try a beer - a good beer.  His article says Birch and Barley has 550 bottled beers, 50 taps and 5 casks, so I am sure he could find a beer he'd find drinkable, and possibly even like.  If he opened his mind and tried a good Belgian, I bet his sour memories of some stale Olympia beer would permanently be changed.  But with his condescending attitude, maybe it would not.

Here is another article from the Atlantic Food blog on getting good craft beer and food in Portland, Maine.  This article, unlike the article above, was written by a guy who likes beer. 

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Mellow Mischief

J. Rhode posted a comment on my previous post that he'd detected a flaw in the bottled version of Mischief, the The Bruery's new Belgian-style golden strong ale.   I drank a bottle of Mischief tonight and tried to detect the flaw.  Maybe it was a little too smooth and approachable for The Bruery's typical, aggressive interpretation on beer styles?  Maybe it did not have as distinct a Belgian yeast taste, or was not as fruity as other golden strong ales?  Or maybe it was that the alcohol was barely detectable until Mischief warmed up?  I didn't find the flaw, but if the bottled version had one, the draft version must be amazing.

Mischief poured a light orange and didn't have much foam, but had decent carbonation.  What struck me about Mischief was its restraint.  Its yeast spoke Belgium, but did not dominate the beer.  It had a slight fruity taste but it was not prominent.  The hops were there, but again blending in with other flavors and not standing out.  I think the name Mischief must come its drinkability and lack of strong alcohol presence in this sneaky-big, 8.5% abv beer.

In short, everything worked well in this beer.  It is sublime.  Is it possible to have the Beer of the Year in January?  Of course it is!  I will just keep drinking Mischief throughout the year to remind myself of its elegance.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Looking for Mischief

It has been awhile since I have been excited about a new beer.  I shake my head when I read the hyper-kinetic posts on BeerAdvocate about the latest release of certain beers, like Dark Lord, The Abyss or Black Tuesday.  The last beer I eagerly anticipated was Stone's Vertical Epic 08.08.08, a sorta Belgian Tripel / IPA.   Sure there are beers I'd like to try and I have gone out of my way plenty of times on beer runs for a particular beer, but I am not about to fly to Indiana to fight the crowds on Dark Lord Day, schlep to Orange County for Black Tuesday or even wait at one of San Diego's many breweries for a special release only available to those first in line.  My hype-to-acquisition inconvenience ratio is low.

I am looking forward to The Bruery's new year-round release Mischief.  This is a Belgian-style Golden Strong Ale, a style I enjoy.  If The Bruery does its usual style-magic, the beer should be a treat.  I am glad The Bruery is adding a Golden Strong Ale to its year-round line-up.  Some of its year-round beers just don't lend themselves to my casual drinking, but a Golden Strong Ale does (at least on weekends because its ABV is 8.5%).  My local market is supposed to get a shipment of Mischief tomorrow and I plan on stopping by to get a bottle.  This is minimal acquisition inconvenience.  Mischief has been out for several weeks, but I am going hold off reading any BeerAdvocate reviews on Mischief until I finish drinking a bottle.  I hope to post my impressions of Mischief over the weekend.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

3rd Corner Adds Taps

I like The 3rd Corner Wine Shop & Bistro in Ocean Beach.  It is a casual, but upscale bistro that also serves as an excellent wine store.  It has always had a handful of bottled beers at its bar, but none for sale in its wine shop.  Beer was clearly an afterthought.  For wine lovers, this place is great.  It has a huge selection of wine, mainly from small wine producers, priced from cheap to expensive.  Typically, you order your food, walk around and choose a bottle of wine to purchase. The wine prices are at retail, so there is no "restaurant" markup, and the corkage is only $5.  This arrangement is hard to beat, outside of eating at home.

I received an email today saying that The 3rd Corner has reconfigured its bar and is now offering draft beer.  For me, this is great news. I have been bugging the management there for years to add a few taps.  The bottled beer selection has improved in recent months, but was still not that great.  I don't have any information on the number of taps or types of beer that will be offered, so that gives me an excuse to rove on over to conduct some research.  I can see The 3rd Corner's excellent cheese platter and a pint in my near future....

Monday, January 11, 2010

Pizza Port Carlsbad's Jetty IPA

I had a meeting Friday morning in Carlsbad, which meant a mandatory growler fill after the meeting.  I walked into Pizza Port just after it had opened, glanced at the tap list, and asked the bartender about the Jetty IPA.  He said it was hoppy but not as big as Wipeout. I instinctively order a growler of Jetty.  As the bartender was filling the growler I got a case of buyer's remorse as I studied the board more closely and saw other beers that sounded more interesting.  These included  Revelations, a Belgian strong ale, Twerp, a Belgian pale ale, Trigger Hoppy, a Belgian-style IPA and, I want to say, an imperial pale ale, the name that escapes me.  But it was too late as the growler was almost full.

My buyer's remorse was short-lived.  I drank from the growler all weekend and Jetty was great.  It's was a juicy, grapefruit-flavored IPA.  It had a pure white foam, and looked like a French manicure with the snow white foam sitting on top of the golden ale.    The balance was just right.  It was a hoppy beer, but not an obtrusive level of hops, and it was offset by a sweet maltinesss.

I've had Wipeout  several times, but it has not left much of an impression on me.  I remember it as a drinkable, if not memorable, IPA.  Jetty, by contrast, is an approachable IPA with a distinct flavor profile.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Green Flash Hop Head Red

A good red ale is not an anachronism. It seemed like every microbrewery had a red ale when the initial craft beer wave started in the '80s and early '90s. As the craft beer industry evolved in the late '90s and into the '00s and brewers went bold, the red ale got lost in the shuffle. Brewers like Stone, Alesmith, and Russian River don't even offer regular red ales.

Sometimes I like to go "old school" and have a red ale, but I have found that it is hard to find a good one. Too many red ales are too malty and don't have enough hop bitterness. Some even have a strange metallic characteristic in the aftertaste. I don't think a brewery can hide its mistakes with a heavy does of hops or spices, like with other styles, when brewing a red ale. To me, a red ale is either good or bad, with little middle ground. Maybe this is why there are not too many red ales.

I like a red ale that is rich with hints of caramel sweetness, along with a good malt character balanced by a big helping of hops, and no strange aftertaste. Green Flash's Hop Head Red fits this description. Green Flash, on its website, hints that it is a red IPA, and I agree. This is an excellent red ale. It pours a deep amber with moderate foam that does stick around. It is sweet but has a large amount hop bitterness and an aftertaste that accents the roasted malts and hops. There are no weird flavors that show up to spoil the beer. This beer is my new red ale style benchmark.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

2009's Beers of the Year

I was going to write several posts on my favorite and least favorite beers of 2009, but since it's already three days into 2010 I thought it best to write one, because I am ready to look forward not backward. My favorite beers of 2009 were:

1. Alpine's Nelson. I finally got to try this beer in early 2009 and it did not disappoint. Nelson is a unique IPA experience and it's now, thankfully, available in bottles.

2. De Proef Reinaert Flemish Wild Ale. This funked up beer was bought after reading a review on the Hedonist Beer Jive. It was delicious, and a beer that sticks in your mind long after the beer has been consumed.

3. Russian River's Damnation. This was another beer purchased after reading a Hedonist Beer Jive review, although he had a special batch. This spicy Belgian Golden Ale is outstanding and it's a shame I had seen it for so long without trying it.

4. The Bruery's Saison de Lente. I loved this beer and can't wait to try this year's version. This is a bold saison, but bold in a good way. The Bruery continues to push the boundaries of styles while still making drinkable, accessible beers. It is concocting a Belgian Golden Ale for release early this year that I am expecting will be amazing.

I limited the list above to beers I had not tried before, while excluding Christmas beers. If I had not, Ballast Point's Sculpin and Brewery Dupont's Avec les Bons Voeux would have made the list. I have to give credit to Bear Republic's Racer 5. I have been drinking this beer for several years, and in 2009 I really came to appreciate how great an IPA it is. Finally, 2009 could be considered the year of Sierra Nevada. The formerly staid brewer released a slew of excellent beers including its Torpedo IPA and its Anniversary Ale.

So much for the good, on to the bad. I try to avoid bad beers, but sometimes you just get a clunker or two. My worst beers of 2009 were:

1. Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing's IPA. This beer was in a class by itself. The flavor profiles of an IPA can be argued, but cooked vegetables and asparagus should never enter the debate.

2. Elysian Brewing's Immortal IPA. I have a problem with this beer's name. If you're going to be arrogant, you better deliver. Immortal IPA is Samson without his hair or Hercules fumbling on his Labors. This beer probably would not have made the list if it had been named Northwest Milquetoast IPA. I had this beer on two occasions and it came up short on both.

3. Dogfish Dead 90 Minute IPA. I was expecting an entirely different beer than the actual 90 Minute. It was way too malty for my West Coast IPA trained palate. I need to try it again with new expectations, and I suspect my opinion would soften.

4. Aventinus Wheat Doppelbock. When I read BeerAdvocate reviewers and other beer bloggers rave about this malty barf bomb, I tell myself that my beer palate is still developing and I have a long beer education ahead of me. But then I realize that Germans are just freaking strange.

Cheers in 2010!