Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Get Providential While You Can

I am late on this post.  If you haven't already, get over to Trader Joe's and pick up a bottle or two of its Providential Belgian Style Golden Ale before the supply sells out.  It was brewed especially for Trader Joe's by Canada's Unibroue, which also brews Trader Joe's Vintage Ale, a dark Belgian style strong ale.

Providential is new this year, and at $5.99 for a 750 ml bottle, it's a steal.    It's a smooth, easy drinking golden ale.  It has spices and flavors of the yeast.  I opened a bottle and it was done before I knew it.  I didn't even take a picture.  I keep meaning to pick up another bottle, but I haven't yet.  Strong golden ales, like saisons, are open to wide interpretations and range from approachable to what-the-heck?.  Providential falls into the approachable category, yet it's complex enough to keep you interested.

(I linked to BeerAdvocate's description and review page above.  I apparently liked this beer more than most reviewers, which is why I don't like to read BA reviews before I drink a beer.)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Death By Hops

I read late last week in Brandon Hernandez's San Diego Reader blog that Green Flash Brewing is releasing six "hop forward" beers in 2013.  Green Flash is calling this a Hop Odyssey.  My liver's crying.  According to the blog post, the first beer is a black IPA, and is scheduled for a February release.  The following is a list, which I reformatted from the post, of the beers and their scheduled release date:

  • Imperial Red Rye IPA (8.5% ABV, 80 IBU, brewed with Columbus and Mosaic hops, and available in April) 
  • Citra Session IPA (4.5% ABV, 45 IBU, Citra, June)
  • Cedar Plank Pale Ale (6.3% ABV; 45 IBU; Cascade, El Dorado, Warrior; August)
  • Symposium IPA brewed as the commemorative beer for the 2008 Craft Brewers Conference (7% ABV; 75 IBU; Amarillo, Cascade, Centennial, Simcoe, Tomahawk; October) 
  • Double Columbus IPA (8.8% ABV, 98 IBU, Columbus, December). 
My beer drinking is way too confined to hoppy beers.  Just when I think it's time to expand my style horizon, I see a list like the one above, and think "what's the point?"  I like hoppy beers, and better just go with the bitter flow.

Friday, January 25, 2013

North County Knockout

Breweries are opening so fast in San Diego it's hard to keep their names straight, let alone their beers.  Vista's Mother Earth Brew Co. is now considered a veteran with its 2008 start date (I did not hear about it until 2010).  Its beers are still hard to find at taps around San Diego due to its small size, but it recently started bottling select styles, and a few weeks ago I picked up a bottle of its Kismet IPA.

I had had one other Mother Earth Brew, an IPA (not sure whether it was Kismet or not) at Blind Lady on Father's Day two and a half years ago.  Blind Lady was so crowded we didn't even order dinner, but I remember the spot-on good Mother Earth IPA, and I've kept my eye out for it ever since.  When I saw Kismet in the bottle I had to give it a go, whether it was the beer I'd had a few years ago nor not.

Kismet is a bold, hop forward IPA, brewed with Nelson Hops, which give it a sharp, pine resin smell that translates to an intense, piney, complex flavor.  The pungent hops are well balanced with malts, to make Kismet a smooth, drinkable beer.   The beer's ABV is 7.2%, which when combined with the aggressive hops and malt, pushes Kismet to the upper limit of the IPA style, and imparts a welcome richness.  The bottom line:  Kismet is an excellent beer.

In a town full of good IPAs, a new brewer (even if it's in its fourth year) is up against tough competition when crafting a new IPA, and for me, a bad or mediocre IPA can quickly relegate a brewer to inferior status.  If I don't care for the IPA, I won't rush to try a brewer's other styles.  Mother Earth's Kismet holds its own against the best IPAs in San Diego. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

An Epic Rebound

Eleven beers in, I am not going to going to explain the history of Stone Brewing's Vertical Epic series.  It's hard to believe it's over, as 12.12.12, the namesake and release date of the series' last beer, always seemed so far away.  Looking back, it seems that it came and went too fast.  Stone's Vertical Epic concept was brilliant, and it inspired other brewers to create annual themed releases, or special, limited one-time series.

Vertical Epic 12.12.12 is an exclamation point on the eleven-year, eleven different Belgian beer-inspired bonanza.  Stone gets back on track with the saga's final installment, after two experimental whiffs in 2010 and 2011.   VE 12.12.12 is dark, rich, complex and delicious.  Its sharp spices punctuate this chewy beer.   It has flavors of dark dried fruits on the front, and a welcome hop bitterness to balance out the long finish.  Yeast, which is a major flavor contributor to so many Belgian beers, is minor player in this beer letting fruits and spices take the lead role.  The ABV is a muscular 9.0%, but while noticeable, it's not obtrusive or distracting.

VE 12.12.12 is a remarkably easy drinking beer.  I have already had a couple (not at the same time), just because I enjoy it.  A few weeks ago, I would have said it's a perfect Holiday beer, today, it's an excellent winter Belgian ale. 

When I had my first Vertical Epic, 03.03.03, I didn't know anything about Belgian beers.  I remember liking it, thinking it one of the most unique beer's I had ever had up to that point.  But, unfortunately, I didn't have the foresight to store one away.  (Who was storing beers in early 2003?)  Thirteen months later I was wiser, and have been drinking and storing Vertical Epics ever since.  I have at least one Vertical Epic starting with 04.04.04, and yes, I even have the misguided 10.10.10 (wine wannabe?!?!) and 11.11.11 (chili).  Now it's time to make room in my closet, I just need the right venue.

I liked the Vertical Epic series, looked forward to each release, and will miss it.   I'm not sure what, if anything, Stone does for an encore, but I know I'll seek it out.

Slate's Take On Beer Auctions

Here is a good craft beer article from Slate that starts as a story on beer auctions, but goes much further.  The passage below shows the extreme, unsettling side of craft beer:
At New York’s Blind Tiger bar one late afternoon last March, a slight, unsmiling young man in a dark windbreaker ordered several pints of beer from the bar, transferred them one by one to a canteen, then slipped away. “He’s going straight home to resell that on eBay,” muttered a patron standing nearby. The perishable beer in question was brewed by Shaun Hill at Hill Farmstead brewery in Vermont, which is currently rated the sixth best brewery in the world by the users of RateBeer.
Of course, now I want to try a beer from Hill Farmstead!  If you can get past the disturbing thought of who would actually buy three pints of beer some stranger bought at a bar, the article, written by Christian DeBenedetti, morphs into some excellent fodder for beer geeks:
Most of the 100-point beers on both RateBeer and BeerAdvocate are reminiscent of the wines favored by revolutionary critic Robert Parker: intense and dark; higher in alcohol, tannins, and oak; and sometimes almost excruciatingly rich. Kirk Kelewae, service director of New York’s celebrated Eleven Madison Park, divides aged beers into two categories: barrel-aged and bottle-aged. Barrel-aged beers are matured in wooden casks, a process which imparts the flavor of the wood, adding notes ranging from vanilla to a chardonnay-like butteriness to the bracing acids of wild yeasts that flourish in wood. Most bottle-aged brews skip the oak aging, but are packaged with live yeast. “As the bottle continues to age, the yeast will go through a process called autolysis, the breakdown of yeast cells, which produces nutty and meaty flavors,” Kelewae says.