Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA

Stone Brewing's ephemeral Tenth Anniversary double IPA has always been the gold standard for Stone Brewing's anniversary beers, the beer against which all other anniversary beers were measured.   It was an extreme beer, the uber-West Coast IPA.  There are probably message boards still discussing this beer and whether bottles of it are drinkable (they're not).  Stone's Escondidian Imperial Black IPA has eclipsed the Tenth Anniversary as the best anniversary beer Stone Brewing has created.

First, a note on the Escondidian name.  Escondidian is a play on Cascadian, a term started by Northwestern bloggers in an attempt to rename Black IPAs "Cascadian Dark Ales," and hijack the style and claim a bogus regional beer A.O.C., taking unwarranted credit for the Northwest.  (Examples of this inane, one-sided folly are here and here.)  Stone's Escondidian resoundingly reclaims Black IPAs for brewers and beer drinkers everywhere. 

Escondidian is a thick beer that poured black, smooth and slow.  The foam was dense and dark and rose from the black beer like some kind of unleashed cappuccino mousse, despite the deliberate pour. 

When I first tasted Escondidian I thought it a cross between a big porter and an IPA.  The two dominate tastes are the deep, roasted malts and sharp hops.  The forward hop bitterness quickly dispelled the porter angle.  I really picked up the New Zealand Sauvin hops, which appeared in the middle of the taste.  If you've had Alpine's Nelson IPA, you will recognize this distinct hop immediately.  The roasted malts imparted a sweet, dark chocolate flavor, and battled the hop bitterness to a draw throughout the middle and far into the beer's finish.   There is an overall sweetness in this beer that complements the hops. The chocolatey sweetness is necessary, and never becomes a distraction or filmy.  There are big flavors competing for your attention in this beer, but they are brought together in a wonderful balance.

This is a big beer, weighing in at 10.8% abv, but the alcohol is in the background and is not intrusive or dominant.  The scary part about this beer is that it's delicious and the alcohol doesn't serve as a drinking governor.   I enjoyed one bottle over the better part of an hour and only when I was done and my brain was half-addled did I realize the strength of Escondidian.   Usually, when I finish a beer as muscular as Escondidian, I am through for the evening, but when the bottle was drained I wanted more.  I'm glad I was at home and not at a pub.

Stone Brewing has reached a new high with its magnificent Escondidian. It has created not only a fantastic beer, but maybe the most drinkable "extreme" beer I have ever tasted.  Escondidian is a lofty benchmark for subsequent Stone anniversary ales.  In the future, when people discuss Stone's anniversary ales, they will speak in reverent tones of the Escondidian, while the 10th Anniversary Ale will fade into a pleasant memory.  Stone may not have invented the Black IPA, but it's now the style's standard bearer, not only with Escondidian, but with Sublimely Self Righteous, too.  Stone has not only ended the debate over the fatuously named Cascadian Dark Ale, it has crushed it in medieval fashion (don't mess with the gargoyles).   Cascadian Dark Ale is dead - long live Black IPA.

(I lifted the picture from Stone Brewing's website because the picture I took with my iPhone didn't do Escondidian justice.)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Stock Up on Duet and Prepare for a Karl Strauss Quad

Here is some information on a couple of emails I received over the past two days from Alpine Brewing and Karl Strauss.  Alpine is releasing its barrel-aged imperial porter, Token, on Friday, September 2, restrictions apply.  Alpine also served notice that the current batch of Duet will be released in a few weeks, and it will be the last for some time, possibly until the end of the year, as Alpine has ran out of this year's Simcoe hops.  Stock up and hoard accordingly.

Karl Strauss is brewing a quadrupel, Two Tortugas, for the second installment in its play on the Twelve Days of Christmas, (not to be confused with The Bruery's same-themed annual Holiday release), in mid-November, 2011.  Karl Strauss is also releasing its Big Barrel Double IPA on September 1.

Tasting Room Tips

I've been trying to catch up on work, which is why the posts have been light.  I have several posts in process, including a review of Stone's 15th Anniversary beer and praise for Manzanita Brewing's tasting room and staff.  Here is a link to Brandon Hernandez's guide to local craft beer tasting rooms and some commonsense courtesies.  I love the new word "herbaceousness."  The post provides a good list of local beer tasting rooms, but Stone's two locations (Escondido and South Park) and Alpine Brewing were not on the list.  Most tasting room hours vary, so it's best to verify open times before visiting.  I have made this mistake more than once, arriving at closed brewery only having to turn around and leave with empty growler in tow.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Beer Samizdat - The Return of a Beer Blogger

I recommend a new "old" beer blog, Beer Samizdat, for your beer reading enjoyment   It is the latest beer blog from Jay H., the former author of Hedonist Beer Jive and current writer of Hedonist Jive.  I began reading Hedonist Beer Jive at least five years ago, and thought it was not only one of the best beer blogs around, it was also some of best writing on beer, in any format, period.   I'd include Aaron Goldfarb's Vice Blog and The Beer Nut from Ireland in this category, too.  You can keep the Beaumonts, Hieronymus, and Brysons, give my Jay, Aaron and the Beer Nut.  Not only are they good, honest and entertaining writers, they are beholden to no one but their readers, and the beer.

Jay has a Manifesto for Beer Samizdat where he not only explains the Samizdat name, but proclaims his blog's purpose.  Point six in his Manifesto struck me in particular:
6.  I will not make up smells nor flavors in the course of reviewing a beer. If you ever see me pretending that a beer smells or tastes of “freshly-baked sourdough banana/walnut bread”, or spouting any lie equally appalling, you have permission to stop reading the blog at once.
I don't always agree with Jay's reviews (he's not a fan of Pliny the Elder, considered heresy in Beer Geekdom), although I agree far more often than not.   I am looking forward to Jay updating his top 75 beers, so I can see what beers I should be trying.  I also recommend reading Jay's Hedonist Jive blog where he discusses music, books, film among various topics.  He has an opinion, so be prepared, but he encourages respectful debate.  As the craft beer world expands from a small circle of beer geeks to mainstream acceptance, it will need chroniclers like Beer Samizdat, and hopefully this blog, pointing out the ridiculous and keeping it in line. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My Jack D'Or Fumble

I had my first Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project beer, Jack D'Or, near the end of a lazy Fourth of July.  I took electronic notes detailing my impressions about the beer's fine qualities.  A few days later when I went back to write the review I realized that I typed over my original notes, and could not figure out how to retrieve them.  I tried to rewrite them from memory, but it's just not the same.  I did not want buy and another Jack D'Or and try to recreate my impressions, because I've come to believe that "atmosphere" plays a significant role in beer appreciation.   I'll get to enjoy another Jack D'Or after I post this truncated review.

So, a month on here are my general impressions on this beer.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it's the front-runner for my "beer of the year."  Pretty Things calls Jack D'Or a "Saison Americain."  I'll be honest, I don't know or really care what is meant by "Americain."  Maybe it means that Jack D'Or is hoppier than a typical saison.  This is true, it is hoppy saison, which is my favorite type of saison.  Jack D'Or earns is saision credibility with a strong dose of yeasty spiciness.  The hops and yeast played well together in this beer.  It has a complexity that does not diminish its drinkability.   Jack D'Or made a strong first impression, and has me wanting another, along with more beers from Pretty Things. 

Stone Sign At Liberty Station

I was at Liberty Station over the weekend and took this picture that announces the new Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens:   

I like message from Stone Brewing at the bottom of the sign:
When this sign is gone, that means the restaurant is OPEN.
There will likely be NO sign for the restaurant once it is open
It looks like the target opening is Late Spring 2012.   I'll try and take periodic pictures to update progress and see whether a Late Spring 2012 opening is realistic.