Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Stone 13th Anniversary Beer

Stone's 13th Anniversary beer is hitting retailers this week. I bought a bottle this evening and the guys working at The Olive Tree Marketplace, which received its shipment this afternoon, said it was selling fast. It looks like another hit beer for Stone. I will try it and write about it in the near future. What struck me about 13th Anniversary was its $5.79 price for a 22 oz bomber. Ballast Point's Sculpin and Alesmith's Yulesmith are priced at $7.50 to $9.00 per bomber, and specialty beers from The Lost Abbey, The Bruery, Russian River and others can hit $15, $20 and even $30 a bottle. Good for Stone for keeping beer prices reasonable, especially when it could sell this beer for a much higher price.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Craft Beer Radio at SAVOR

Before I forget, here is a link to an informative and entertaining podcast via Craft Beer Radio. It is a recording of a session at last month's SAVOR conference in Washington D.C. The session's description from the CBR website:
Tomme Arthur of Lost Abbey Brewing Company and Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing Company digg deep into their cellars for beers to present at this special SAVOR tasting. Vinnie pours Beatification and Toronado 20th Anniversary Ale. Tomme completes the other side of the equation with a vintage pouring of Cable Car and Cuvee de Tomme.
I listened to the entire hour long podcast on a plane a few weeks ago and found it fascinating. Vinnie and Tomme are good story tellers, and Vinnie even makes the technical discussion of various yeast strains and their impact on a beer's flavor interesting. Listening to this podcast is well worth the time it takes to hear it all.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Russian River Damnation

I have seen Russian River's Damnation for a couple of years at my local market, but for some reason had never bothered to try it until last week. Maybe it was its Gothic label that lead me to believe that it would be a big, serious, slow sipping beer. I am not against this type of beer, but I have to be in the mood for a pay-attention beer, and I'm just not frequently in this mind frame. I prefer easy drinking, good tasting beers I can have with dinner, not beers that require an after dinner marathon just to get through a bottle.

My silly misconceptions have caused me to miss one fantastic beer. The Belgian Golden Strong Ale is one of my favorite beer styles, and Damnation is one of the best beers I have had in this style. It may be one of the best beers I've had in any style. (Even after I knew Damnation was a Golden Strong Ale, I still did not get around to trying it for nearly a year.)

Damnation poured a rich, orange color and its white foam had an amazing retention, like a layer of cotton balls. It was yeasty and spicy, all things you expect from a Belgian-style beer, but it also had a hop bitterness in the finish, just what you'd expect from Russian River with its mastery of the IPA style. The batch I had was number 47 and the alcohol was 7.75%. The alcohol became more pronounced as the beer warmed, but never became overwhelming. Damnation was remarkably balanced for all its hops, yeast and spices. This is one of the best beers I have had this year.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Sculpin and Kellerweis

I have raved and marveled over Ballast Point's Sculpin before, so I won't bore you with another laudatory post, other than to say Sculpin is excellent, and sublime on tap via a growler. I was struck by Sculpin's similarity to Alpine's Nelson IPA. I love Sculpin's Simcoe hops and am guessing they must be similar to Nelson's New Zealand Sauvin hops.

The next beer I tried last week was Sierra Nevada's Kellerweis Hefeweizen. I am not the world's most ardent hefeweizen fan, and when given the choice choose another style. I wanted to try Kellerweis because Sierra Nevada's other new year-round release, Torpedo, was so good. I was not disappointed with Kellerweis, it is outstanding, and a hefeweizen I could drink frequently. My notes say it poured cloudy with a pale color, had a good finish and was drinkable. I did not get too much banana taste, a hallmark of many hefeweizens, but not my favorite taste in a beer. I noted a tartness, zest and spice, along with good carbonation. The carbonation lead to a solid white foam with good retention. Overall, I liked Kellerweis and hope that Sierra Nevada uses its marketing prowess to edge out the ubiquitous, but lousy Widmer Hefeweizen. And please, hold the orange.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

San Diego Beer Week - Update

San Diego Beer week has changed dates to November 6th through the 15th. All beer drinking weeks should be ten days. Here is a link to the San Diego Beer week website, although it is not much more than a date saver. I have added a link to the website under Blogs & More.

Summer Yulesmith

The Alesmith Summer Yulesmith Imperial IPA is available this Thursday, June 25th. (Note that the picture in the BeerAdvocate link is of the Winter Yulesmith, as the Summer Yulesmith has a red and blue logo on the bottle). This is a true San Diego-style double IPA. It is a big, sticky, bitter sweet IPA, with plenty of hop flavor combined with a strong malt presence, and a high level of alcohol. It is not for the timid or the uninitiated IPA drinker. Look for it over the next few weeks and make sure to drink it fresh.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Final Christmas Beer

The Holiday collaboration beer with Stone, Nogne-O and Jolly Pumpkin was one of the first Christmas beers I bought last fall. I wrote about it here. I bought two, and had the first after a five hour pre-Thanksgiving car ride, and put the second in the back of the fridge. I kept waiting for the right time to open this special beer, since I drank the first without much thought after the stressful car trip. I had the second last night, and it was the last of my 2008 Christmas beers. (Only three more months until I start seeing Sierra Nevada's Celebration Ale.)

Part of the reason I drank the Holiday Collaboration was Kevin Scheitrum's article in this month's BeerAdvocate Magazine on its brewing. It was quite a task and involved multiple spices, herbs and even chestnuts. I was also making room for Stone's next collaboration beer, a black pilsner that Stone brewed with Scotland's BrewDog and Cambridge Brewing.

It's strange drinking such a spicy winter beer on the first day of summer. But this beer held up well. It had no foam, but plenty of carbonation. It was sweeter than I remember. The beer was brewed with a number of herbs and spices, but what I could taste was the sage and juniper, (or maybe the juniper and sage). I was surprised it was such a dry beer. This is a good after dinner beer, a natural with dessert. I hope this beer is made again. To me, it embodies all that is special about a Christmas beer. It is dark, interesting yet drinkable, full of spices, and it warms you up with its 9% abv.

Stone On Weeds?

No, the title of the post is not Stoned on Weed. I'm talking about the TV show Weeds that's on Showtime. Last week, I think one of the characters, Andy, was wearing the Stone T-shirt shown in the picture. I am not 100% sure and need to see the replay, but I think this was the shirt. If so, that is pretty cool for Stone, although other than the gargoyle logo, there was no mention of Stone. In fact, during the scene Andy was wearing the shirt he was drinking wine.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Quick Thought - Stone Pale Ale's Real Good

Until this week, I had not had a Stone Pale Ale in a long while, as I usually choose something less readily available. Yesterday I was at the San Diego Zoo watching the tourists more than than the animals, and had a $7 Stone Pale Ale after trekking through the zoo's new elephant exhibit. This was my second Stone Pale Ale of the week, and I was reminded both times that it is an excellent beer. It has a refreshing hop bite that is balanced with just the right amount of malt. This one drinkable, enjoyable beer.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Beer Doucheing The LA Times

The LA Times ran an article last week on a week long beer road trip up the coast of California, an adventure any beer drinker would love. I knew something was amiss when the first stop was Anacapa Brewing in Ventura. Not so much that Anacapa was a bad choice (I have not been in several years and I remember Anacapa's beers as drinkable but not outstanding) but that the writer and his companion stumbled on Anacapa by accident. Why start a week long beer trip without any apparent research? A little research would have likely put the adventurers thirty minutes north in Santa Barbara for their first stop. Hopefully, they would have started the trip on a Friday or Saturday so they could have visited Telegraph Brewing and then had their late lunch at Hollister Brewing.

The next stop was Downtown Brewing in San Luis Obispo, located at the former SLO Brewing location. Again, why go somewhere pedestrian rather than making a stop somewhere good, like Firestone Walker's Tap Room in Buellton? The next day they went to Santa Cruz. Seabright Brewing sounds like a neat place.

The travellers' biggest faux pas of the trip occurred the next day when they went to Guerneville looking for Russian River Brewing. WTF! Just because a brewery is named for the Russian River does not mean its located on the freaking Russian River! A simple check of Russian River's website would have solved this problem, letting Laurel and Hardy know Russian River Brewing is in Santa Rosa. Lack of preparation caused the numbnuts to miss one of the best breweries in the world. (They also could have hit Lagunitas, Moonlight, and Bear Republic.)

At least these guys made it to North Coast. But all the author tried was Red Seal - readily available at any Trader Joe's. Why not Pranqster, Le Merle, Old Stock, Old Rasputin, or Scrimshaw, North Coast's excellent, but harder to find beers. Oy vey!

Finally, the dynamic duo made it to San Francisco as they headed back down the coast. Thumbs up on choosing Magnolia - great beer and even better food. They also hit San Francisco Brewing Company. I have seen this small brewery many times as it's on Columbus Avenue near North Beach, but have never visited it. There are other San Francisco breweries I'd try first like 21st Amendment or the Beach Chalet (mostly for its location). There are other good beer destinations in San Francisco that are not breweries, like The Monk's Table, La Trappe or even City Beer Store. But the final gaffe of the trip was no visit to Toronado. This is one of the best beer bars in the world. No beer journey up and down the coast of California would be complete without a stop at Toronado.

This article's premise was excellent - how could a week long journey looking for places to drink beer not be a great journalistic assignment? But it sounded like too much driving and not enough beer drinking. There were multiple missed opportunities - Telegraph, Russian River and the other breweries in Wine Country. California is a great beer state, and this article, while having a few successes, did not give the state's many craft brewers enough credit or exposure.

Sculpin Release

I was at Ballast Point yesterday and was told that the latest Sculpin IPA will be released on Wednesday at both its Linda Vista and Scripps Ranch locations. Ballast Point's distributors are getting Sculpin, too, so it should be in select stores over the next week. I am guessing this batch is bigger than the last one. I wish stores would limit the sales of Sculpin to two or three bottles per purchase. I have heard stories where one person cleans out a store's entire inventory. That's bad beer karma.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Southern Tier's Unearthly Imperial IPA & More

Last night I continued my east coast exploration, mixed in with a few Northern California detours. A friend brought over several beers from different Northern California brewers for the Lakers game. The first beer we tried was Berkeley's' Bison Organic IPA. This was a solid IPA, but not too memorable. I think it may have been old. The second beer we tried was Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing's IPA. Whoa! This is one different IPA. My friend and the Beer Rovette hated it. I was not thrilled with it, but did not think it too horrible, but it did not taste like an IPA to me. I thought it had the strong smell and taste of cooked vegetables. I picked up asparagus, but we could not come to a consensus, except we all agreed it smelled and tasted of vegetables, (and maybe some pine).

After that beer, we needed a palate cleanser, and since my friend spent eight years living back east, he was eager to try the Unearthly Imperial IPA. I am thinking that it may been the 11% alcohol more than Western Pennsylvania nostalgia that sparked his enthusiasm for Unearthly. After the strange IPA from Santa Cruz Mountian Brewing, Unearthly was a welcome, almost familiar relief. This is a big beer, and like Hoppe, it reminded me of Rouge's Northwest style beer. It had a large initial hop taste, but was balanced by the malts. This beer was sweet, maybe one of the sweetest double IPAs I've had, but nicely balanced. Even though it was 11% abv, the alcohol was not dominate. Like Hoppe, this is a drinkable, big beer. It's also a little scary because it is so drinkable with such a high level of alcohol.

The final beer we tried was Lagunitas' Ruben and the Jets. My friend was told it was a dark IPA. No effing way. I got no IPA taste at all. It was all big, roasted malt and a sweetness that smacked of an imperial stout. This beer was a slow sipper, but it was rich and tasty. I checked BeerAdvocate this morning and confirmed that Ruben was an imperial stout, not a dark IPA. This beer would be better by itself where its subtleties could be appreciated, not popped after three IPAs.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Southern Tier's Hoppe Imperial Extra Pale Ale

Earlier this spring The Drunken Polack asked if I could get him a growler of Alpine's Nelson IPA when I picked up my growler of Nelson. I sent him a growler along with a bottle of The Bruery's Saison de Lente. In return I received five bottles of East Coast beers that I will try over the next few weeks. Two of the bottles were bombers form Western New York's Southern Tier Brewing Company. I have been wanting to try Southern Tier beers for a while because I have read so many positive reviews and they are not available in California.

I opened Hoppe Imperial Extra Pale Ale first. I noticed the smell first, a strong Northwest hop aroma, which surprised me. The beer poured cloudy and its color was a deep orange. It had large white foam that dissipated quickly, almost before I could even snap a decent picture. Hoppe's hop aroma matched the taste. It had a sharp bite and reminded me of beers from Rouge. The bite mellowed out into the aftertaste as the malts provided balance. The alcohol, noticeable on the initial taste, becomes muted in the finish. Hoppe did not drink like a 10% abv beer.

This beer disappeared too fast. It was one of the most drinkable "Imperial" beers I have had. I am looking forward to trying Unearthly Imperial India Pale Ale.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Ballast Point's Pescadaro Pilsner

Pilsner, the style of American macros, is not my first choice when ordering a beer. I lean toward the hoppy styles first, with most Belgian styles second. I was at the Ballast Point brewery about six weeks ago and saw the Pescadaro Pilsner on the board. I noticed it had a 6.4% abv, which is high for a pilsner, and had to get a taste. I was amazed at how good it was. I was told that it was a "mistake," and that the alcohol was about a percent higher than it should have been. Quite the serendipitous goof.

The thought of this seasonal beer has been with me since, and I went back on Friday and got a growler full of this amazing pilsner. This is a more than solid beer, perfect for a hot summer day. It has a nice bite while keeping true to the refreshing characteristics that mark a good pilsner. It had some of the slight skunky taste (sourness) that all good pilsners have. It is richer than a typical pilsner, which to me is an attribute. The higher abv gives Pescadaro Pilsner a complexity that is lacking in most pilsners. This beer is a seasonal from Ballast Point and is not bottled. It is worth searching out this offering from Ballast Point.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Another Bad Union Jack

Firestone Walker needs another distributor in San Diego for its Union Jack. Union Jack must be drank fresh and markets are getting shipments with bottles nearly four months old. I bought a bomber two nights ago at a local market that was dated early February 2009, and it was well on its way to going bad. The store is a high volume beer seller and it gets regular shipments of Firestone Walker, so there is little chance of inventory not moving. After I had the bad beer, I went back to the store the next day and checked and both the bombers and the six packs at the store to verify that both were dated early February, 2009. This is way too old for Union Jack and unacceptable for a beer this popular. I am also frustrated at myself because I made the mistake of buying the bomber without checking the date - a big mistake - especially since I had learned the perils of old Union Jack the hard way. Union Jack is too good to be sacrificed by a lazy wholesaler. (The picture is from earlier this year and is a fresh Union Jack.)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

De Proef Reinaert Flemish Wild Ale

I bought a Reinaert Flemish Wild Ale after reading Hedonist Beer Jive's glowing review. I saw it at The Olive Tree Market, and who am I to pass up a funked up beer, similar in style to a Belgian golden strong ale. The brettanomyces yeast strain is prominent, both in the smell and taste. There are other spices at work, too, which blend together well. It is a dry beer, which must be a function of the brett yeast because other brett beers I have had were also dry. The bitter finish enhances the yeast and spices to make this an excellent beer. Reinaert is a complex, yet easy to drink beer. It has a 9% abv, but you don't barely notice the alcohol. BeerAdvocate only rates this beer a B+, which I thought was low, as I would have graded it a solid A. This is the first beer I have had from the De Proefbrouwerij and I will search out more. This beer comes in big 750 ml bottles and small 11.2 ounce bottles, which is, unfortunately, the size I tried.