Thursday, November 27, 2008

New Yorker Beer Article

Here is an article in last week's New Yorker magazine on craft beer. I am not done reading it yet, but it is a good article on the craft beer movement. The author, Burkhard Bilger, obviously knows beer. I think this is a must read for anyone interested in craft beer.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Stone Holiday Collaboration

I had a Stone / Jolly Pumpkin / Nogne-O collaboration beer tonight. It was in a 12 oz bottle. It poured a clear, deep copper with tan foam that quickly disappeared. It was lighter than a porter, but most certainly a dark beer. It was a wonderful holiday beer. It was brewed with sage, and its taste was prominent. Stone's website (linked above) says it also was brewed with Juniper Berries and chestnuts. It had other spices, too, and was surprisingly sweet. The finish was all Stone, a sharp hop bitterness that cut through the initial sweetness. The beer had a 9% alcohol that I could not taste, which could be scary if you had a few of these.

I have not had other beers by Jolly Pumpkin or Nogne-O, but based on this sample, I would suspect the beers are pretty good. This beer is clearly a Holiday beer, with its heavy spice. It is also a drinkable beer. I had it with dinner - lasagna - and drank over half of it without much thought before telling myself to stop and savor. Look for this beer - sold in 12oz bottles not bombers - while you can.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Bruery Special

Just saw this on The Bruery's website. It is offering Trade Winds Tripel and Imperial Orchard White for just $5 a bottle this weekend. That is an incredible deal on Trade Winds, about half off the regular retail price. I have not tried the Imperial Orchard White but imagine it is excellent. If anyone is near Placentia Friday or Saturday afternoon, it would be worth stopping to pick up a few of these beers.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Bruery's Trade Winds Tripel

I had The Bruery's Trade Winds Tripel last Friday evening. Mike, the "Beer Guy" at The Olive Tree Market, had reserved this beer for me. I had tried it before and knew it tasted excellent, but I wanted to try it again to attempt to detect is many ingredients, including rice and basil. The beer poured a soft orange with huge, white foam that was slow to dissipate. It took several minutes to fill my chalice due to the beer's carbonation.

This is a delicious, complex, yet drinkable beer. It's clearly a Belgian-style due to its yeast, which is a detectable in the flavor. I'll admit that I could not taste the basil or the rice, although I am not sure the rice was supposed to be tasted. It was a spicy beer that when combined with the high level of carbonation produced a beer that needed to be sipped. I caught a whiff of banana, but did not taste it in the beer. The beer had strong yeast, spice and carbonation.

Trade Winds is The Bruery's summer seasonal, although its rich flavor can enhance a meal or evening in any season. I have not seen it in my usual beer haunts for the past several weeks so I am guessing the this year's stock has been sold out. After finishing Trade Winds it had me thinking of summer and the next release.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Stone Brewing

Stone is re-releasing its Sawyer's Triple. Here is the touching story of Sawyer's genesis. I think I am going to go to make the trek to Stone on Saturday. It's obviously for a good cause and Sawyer's Triple is only being sold at the brewery.

Another reason to visit Stone this weekend is possibly getting another Stone collaboration beer. I read about this last night on the Summer of Beer blog. This is Stone's second collaboration beer and this time is being brewed with Jolly Pumpkin Brewing Company and Norwegian craft brewer Nonge-O. This beer is a special Christmas beer. Here is a post from Summer of Beer on the collaboration:
I've never had a Nonge-O beer, so I don't know exactly what angle they'll put on the beer, but you can guess it's gonna be hops from Stone and funk from Jolly Pumpkin. The beer will also supposedly feature Southern California white sage, juniper berries, chestnuts, and caraway seed per
This beer sounds interesting, a traditional winter beer with a decidedly Stone twist. The addition of sage and juniper reminds me of Anchor's Christmas Ale. If the collaboration is not available Saturday, I will search for it in early December.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Beer I Want

I want to try The Bruery's Humulus Gold. It is a Belgian Strong Golden Ale, like The Lost Abbey's Inferno and Stone's Vertical Epic 08.08.08. The Summer of Beer blog has a mention of it in a longer post. I checked The Bruery's website and it does not yet have any information. I hope that Humulus Gold will be bottled. The Bruery is crafting great beers. Its Trade Winds Tripel is one of my favorite beers so far this year. (Its fall specialty beer, Autumn Maple, did not appeal to me, and I did not get a bottle, but the reviews have been strong). I have come to enjoy Belgian Strong Golden Ales, and one brewed by The Bruery will surely be a treat.

Update: I just saw and update on The Bruery's website about Humulus Gold. The way it reads, it sounds like Humulus Gold is only going to be available on draft:
Humulus Gold, the "cousin" of Humulus Bruin, is a very hoppy Belgian-style Strong Golden Ale, will be released the last week of October. Very few kegs will be released, so get some while you can!
I hope I am reading this wrong and there will be some Humulus Gold in bottles. The Bruery is also crafting a Christmas beer, Partridge in a Pear Tree, a Strong Dark Belgian Ale. I love Christmas.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Linkery

I finally went to The Linkery last night. It is located in the North Park area of San Diego. North Park is an old neighborhood, located northeast of downtown that declined throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s and is now in the midst of gentrification. The 30th Street corridor through North Park is a hot spot, not only for great beer, but also other restaurants and coffee shops. The San Diego location of San Francisco's famed Toronado is a few blocks north of The Linkery, as is Ritual Tavern and Caffe Calabria, an excellent coffee roaster.

If I could create a restaurant it would be like The Linkery. It focuses on farm fresh food and sustainable farming. It has a restrained menu that is dependent upon what is available from farms and other sources of fresh food. The menu is constantly changing and is not constrained by a formulaic approach. It has a thoughtful, eclectic wine list with a number of wines available by the glass, and few, if any, wines from large wineries. The beer list is excellent and diverse, like the wine list. There are no macro beers on tap, unless you include Negra Modelo. It has about six beers on tap (I will describe below what I tasted). Listing what was on tap last night would be pointless because the beers change frequently. One of the taps was a cask beer. (Our waiter recommended a beer that had been on the list the previous day but was no longer on the list, which showed the speed of the rotation not the waiter's lack of knowledge.) It has an extensive list of bottled beers, organized by specialty beers, local crafts, other crafts, German and Belgian beers and a few other categories, including mead (yes mead!). This list, too, is fluid as it already had The Lost Abbey's The Gift of the Magi and Stone's Double Bastard, two recent winter releases.

We had and appetizer of grilled green beans. These were excellent, possibly the best green beans I've ever had. We also ordered the cheese plate. This included three small slices of three types of cheeses and some fruit. One cheese was an English cheese with mustard, one was a hard French cheese and I don't remember the last (goat cheese?), but it was good. For food we had a fish dish, swordfish, that was good, not great, and the meatloaf, which was outstanding. I never had meatloaf like this when I was growing up. It was moist on the inside and crisp on the outside, and served on a warm bed whipped carrots and potatoes.

Since The Linkery makes its own sausages (hence the name Linkery), we ordered two sausages. One was the pork Cincinnati sausage, and the second was a Tandoori Chicken sausage. These were outstanding. I could have eaten these all by themselves.

Now to the beer. I did not order a bottled beer and stuck to the beers on draft. The drafts are offered in either 5 oz, 10 oz or 15 oz glasses. My first beer, shown in the picture, was a 5 oz glass of Edgar's Ale from Pasadena's Craftsman Brewing. Edgar's Ale was listed as a Strong Old Ale and it was served in a wine glass. (BeerAdvocate lists a barrel aged Edgar as an Imperial Stout.) It was nearly black and had large foam that was slow to dissipate. I have posted before that I am not a fan of Craftsman, but Edgar was very good. It was rich and roasty, and its alcohol presence was subdued. I could have had a larger glass and enjoyed this beer.

The second beer, had with dinner, was a 15 oz fresh-hopped beer from Full Sail Brewing. The beer was called Lupilun. The beer was a northwest IPA, with a citrus taste. I thought it was a little too bitter at the finish for a fresh-hopped IPA. But it was a good beer. The final beer (shared) was a 5 oz Green Flash Summer Saison. I only had a small taste, so I can't fully comment, but my initial impression was it was solid and tasted like a traditional saision. It was a pretty beer, with not much foam and a cloudy, straw yellow color.

My overall impression for The Linkery was excellent. It had wonderful food, excellent beer and wine, great decor and is in a vibrant neighborhood. The focus is on the quality of the dining experience and it shows. The one large drawback is the price. This restaurant is expensive. It is on par, in my opinion with the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, but is more expensive. For example, the cheese plate, with three small slices of cheese and some fruit to match was $12.50. Another similar restaurant - focus on food and dining experience - is The 3rd Corner, in Ocean Beach, but it is cheaper, and it emphasizes wine not beer. Its cheese plate, for $10, gives five pieces of cheese, each larger than The Linkery's. To The Linkery's defense, its menu is constantly changing and The 3rd Corner's is static.

The beer and wine were expensive, too. The bottled beer was almost prohibitive for certain releases, which was one reason I stuck to the draft beer. A typical 12 oz bottle was, generally, around $5, and bombers, generally, were $10 and up. The draft beer was $3.50 for a 5 oz glass and the 15 oz glasses were over $5 and a few were over $7. The wine, too, was pricey and the pours were modest.

I understand that it must cost The Linkery considerable sums to focus on fine, fresh food and prepare a fluid menu to match the available food. It is just too expensive to visit frequently. The entrees are not that expensive - $15 to $20 - but the extras are what got to me. The cheese plate noted above and two side links were $11. It should be noted that you can eat cheaper than I did, but I wanted the full dining experience. I would classify it as an "event" restaurant, one you'd visit one or two times a year on special occasions. It is not a weekly or monthly restaurant, unfortunately. The Linkery was packed last night, so I guess it has a steady flow of "event" customers.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Ten Commandments

Here is a longer post on The Lost Abbey's The Ten Commandments. As noted previously, I drank the 750ml bottle over approximately four hours on Halloween. I don't think I even dipped into any candy after pouring this beer. It is listed as a Strong Belgian Dark Ale, and The Lost Abbey's website says it's a stronger version of its Lost and Found Abbey Ale, which is a wonderful beer.

A week on and I still have vivid memories of The Ten Commandments. It poured dark with little foam, and it quickly dissipated. It is a dark beer, almost black. It had a distinctive smell, not unlike cough medicine. It took a couple of sips before my taste buds adjusted to the complexity of the beer.

The taste was not of cough medicine. It had a rich, raisin flavor. There were other flavors, too, but I could not discern them, other than to say they were spices. Raisin, to me was the dominant flavor. It had a sweetness, but a restrained sweetness, not overly sweet. As it warmed up over the four hours it became more approachable. I was sad when it was done and wanted more.

I picked this bottle up at the brewery as part of my Patron Saints membership. The guy working at The Lost Abbey, whose name I did not catch, said this beer is great with Thanksgiving. I don't doubt him, and plan on cracking a bottle with Thanksgiving dinner.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Final Patron Saint Shipment

I just got an email announcing the final 2008 shipment for The Lost Abbey's Patron Saint beer club. The final shipment will combine two shipments and are The Gift of the Magi (December release) and a special Devotion (October release). The Gift of the Magi is the reason I joined the Patron Saints last year. This beer used to be nearly impossible to find, but my local market, The Olive Tree Marketplace, now receives all The Lost Abbey Special releases and has already received this year's The Gift of the Magi. I have never tried Magi and am looking forward to a long night of slow sipping

The Devotion is a Special Edition for Patron Saints and is "spiked with Brett." Here is information on Brett from Russian River Brewing's website:

Brettanomyces (also known as Brett) is feared by most brewers and winemakers alike. In fact, there are some local winemakers who will not set foot in our brewpub in Downtown Santa Rosa due to our use of Brettanomyces. Brettanomyces is actually yeast, it ferments and acts the same as every other "conventional" yeast, it just has the propensity to continue fermenting through almost any type of sugar, including those natural sugars found in the wood in an oak barrel. Brett is very invasive and if not handled properly can become out of control in a winery or brewery, but, if used properly with care, it can add rich aromas and flavors of earthiness, leather, smoke, barnyard, & our favorite descriptor-wet dog in a phone booth.

This sounds interesting. I am not 100% sure, but I think the Brett ads a level of sourness to the flavor. I am allowed to buy two extra bottles of the Special Edition Devotion, and I think I will. Devotion is one of my favorite The Lost Abbey offerings and a Devotion with a sour twist will be a treat.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Union Jack Update

The six-pack of Union Jack is bad. I had another tonight and it had old-IPA taste. I did not pour it down the drain like the other night, but it sure was not enjoyable. I guessing this beer was brewed in the Spring.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

An Inferno Election

I used election night as an excuse to have a mid-week Belgian strong golden ale. And also to refresh my memory of one of my favorite beers of 2008. I had dinner and watched the election results with The Lost Abbey's Inferno Ale. This is a great beer and when I had it last spring, it made me an instant fan of the Belgian strong golden ale style. It is a crisp beer with a cloudy, pale color, not unlike a pale ale. It had a modest foam and a smooth refreshing taste that belies the 8.5% alcohol. I now remember why Inferno is on my short list for favorite beer of the year.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Treat & Trick

On Halloween I had The Lost Abbey's Ten Commandments. I will have another post on this with pictures, but this was a massive, delicious, approachable beer. I drank it over nearly four hours, and it got better as the evening progressed.

Also on Halloween I picked up a six-pack of Firestone's Union Jack, but I did not get to really drink one until last night. I loved this beer last spring. The beer I had last night tasted old. The freshness was gone and it had old-IPA flavor. Old-IPA is a hard flavor to describe, but I know it when I taste it. Last spring it was one of my favorite beers of the year, last night it was a drain pour. I will post whether the remaining beers from the six-pack of the same "old-IPA" affliction.