Friday, January 17, 2014

The IPA Of Wines?

I saw this article on The New York Times' website on red wines from France's Loire Valley and was intrigued by the following quote:

These wines (Loire Valley red wines) are made of the cabernet franc grape, which in contrast to the inherent charm of Burgundy’s pinot noir, seems more austere and reserved. While the pinot noir grape seduces with sweetly fruity aromas and flavors, the cabernet franc often has a distinctly herbal quality that many Americans, more accustomed to a domestic industry that largely dreads the faintest hint of “green” in its wines, interpret as underripe and forbidding.
Pascaline noted the seeming inconsistency of Americans who are crazy for the piney character of aggressively hopped microbrews like India Pale Ales but reject wines they deem herbaceous.
“I don’t understand a country that likes so much the I.P.A.’s on the one hand but doesn’t like these,” she said.

The IPA of wines?  Apparently Loire Valley reds are inexpensive so I'll have to look for one and see if it really is like an IPA. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Beer Temple Video Podcast

I don't watch or listen to many audio or video beer podcasts, but one I have been watching on a regular basis is The Beer Temple videoblog out of Chicago.  It is done by Chris Quinn, who along with his wife own a craft beer store called The Beer Temple.  Quinn is no media professional - rampant "ums" and "ahs" - and I suspect he makes up his script as he goes along.  But this is what makes his videos watchable and authentic.  He doesn't know what's underneath many of the caps he's popping and we see his real reactions.  He keeps most video lengths in the 10 to 20 minute range, which is perfect.

The current video is on Societe Brewing and we get to watch Mr. Quinn has he tries The Apprentice, The Pupil and The Butcher for the first time.  It's good to see a San Diego brewer getting praise, and I'm glad I'm not the only one that struggles with the dang flip tops on Societe's metal growlers.

Thursday, January 9, 2014


I've slogged through hard to drink beers before - Hamm's, Schlitz, Keystone and Keystone Light, certain German beers, and the worst beer ever, Mexico's Victoria - but I've always made it through the bottle(s) or glass.  Stone Brewing's Crime is one beer I could not finish*.   I opened a bottle on New Year's Eve, but Crime immediately kicked my butt and I surrendered only a third through the bottle.  I humbly bow my head to this demon beer.

Crime's base is the Arrogant Bastard derivative Lukcy Basartd, and it was aged in bourbon barrels.  Whatever.  I'll take Stone's word on this because all I tasted was peppers, scorching hot peppers.  Crime's nose was awesome, it smelled like a bowl of fresh-sliced jalapeno peppers (according to Stone the beer also includes "ultra-hot black nagas").  The aroma translated straight to the taste. 

Crime burns.  Crime hurts.  Crime abuses.  My mouth, throat, and stomach sizzled, and drinking Crime felt like eating a jalapeno-laced dish with nothing to offset the force of the chile.  Crime's heat stayed long through the finish. The first drink hurt.  I gamely tried a few more believing I'd acclimate to the intensity, but I didn't. Crime neither mellowed nor relented, and I put down my glass.

I bought Crime thinking it the lesser of Stone's Crime and Punishment duo.  I am not sure if my assumption was corrrect and am not going to try and find out.  I've had pepper beers before and I tasted their pepper spice and flavor, but none had Crime's raw pepper heat.  All were pantywaists compared to Crime.

* I want to be clear, Crime is a well-made beer.  The physical difficulty I had in drinking it is the only comparison I'm making to swill like Keystone or Victoria.) 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Beers of 2013

I did not post a review my favorite beer of 2013  - Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ale's Baudelaire Beer iO Saison - on the blog.  I'm not sure why.  I guess I wanted to write something profound.  Now as my favorite beer of 2013 I have to write my thoughts on Baudelaire Beer.

Just looking at its label alone you know there is something different about the Baudelaire Beer.  It's a portrait of a calm, wide-eyed waif with a short haircut and heart-shaped locket set against a pink background.  The picture takes on a sinister twist when you realize that the girl's hair pin is a fly the size of a sparrow, and you then start to think something strange awaits you inside the bottle.  I had the Baudelaire Beer on the Fourth of July, and it was batch 1015/1016, bottled on 02/22/2012 (abv of 6.8%).  While I did not formally review this beer I did take notes, and I wrote that the beer was "deep copper, with a pink hue.  Effervescent funk.  Light and dry.  Amazing."

The Baudelaire Beer was brewed with rose petals, rose hips and hibiscus, and I remember a faint, but persistent floral presence throughout the nose and taste.  It mixed well with the yeast, which gave the beer its gentle funk.  The Baudelaire is floral and funky, complex yet drinkable, and more wild ale than saison.  I thought this beer a masterpiece.

I missed this year's version of the Baudelaire Beer, which I saw on shelves in late summer, in part because I didn't want a sophomore jinx, because any beer had on a lazy summer holiday is going to have an advantage over most other beers.  I didn't want to buy another Baudelaire Beer and open it on some fall weekday night only find a pedestrian beer.  I'll keep my memory for now.

Other worthy beers of 2013 included - in no particular order - Mother Earth's Kismet IPA, Ballast Point's Homework Series Batch 1 ( a red ale), The Bruery's Saison Tonnellerie, Modern Times Neverwhere 100% Brett Trois IPA, and Pizza Port Ocean Beach's fresh hop Coup D'Etat and sour Mi Nachos Trois.  Finally, Stone's Enjoy By IPA, which is a hop revelation every time I have a bottle, needs a special note.  It has become one of my favorite beers.  I know it's big, bombastic, and over-the-top, but it's also delicious.  I had a couple of triple IPAs this year, but neither was close to Enjoy By in terms of taste, or hops, or construction.  Enjoy By, I believe, is the hoppiest beer I have ever tried, but it maintains enough sweet malt balance to ensure drinkability.  It's a testament to brewing excellence.

It wasn't all good in 2013, I had some crap beers, too, and unfortunately most of these were from new, local breweries.  I'm not going to call out any particular brewer - and there were several - because I tried most of the beers when picking up pizza to go, so I can't honestly say I gave the beers a fair tasting.  Plus, I know new breweries tweak recipes, so what initially stinks might change over time into something better (let's hope).  But I do know the difference between what tastes good and what is garbage, and a few were drain pours.  With the craft beer boom growing every day there is plenty of competition for tap space.  New breweries need to resist the urge to standout through strange ingredients or style bending, and must instead focus on making good, drinkable beer.  Experimentation can come later with success.  There is always room for good beers, and new brewers that put out lousy or marginal beer are going to have a hard time surviving.

(There is a difference between a beer I didn't like and a bad beer.  I wrote a negative review of the Stone Dayman Coffee IPA Collaboration early in the year.  I didn't care for this beer, but it was obviously well made, and you could easily argue that it was a good beer from that standpoint.   A well-made beer is never going to make my list of worst beers even if I didn't like it.)

The most interesting beer of the year was Ballast Point's Indra Kunindra, an explosion of coconut, cedar, cayenne pepper, and spice.   This near foamless export stout brings a different flavor with each drink.  This is not a beer you drink everyday, but worth having on occasion.  It also shows what a successful brewery can do when it wants to experiment.

Here's looking forward to a great 2014.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Beer At The San Diego Zoo

It's been maybe two years or more since I last visited the San Diego Zoo.  I went yesterday and was impressed with the availability of craft beer.  I knew the upscale restaurant Albert's served good beer, but I noticed several kiosks and small eateries around the zoo that offer craft beer, and you're even allowed to walk around the zoo with beer.  I am guessing this is relatively new, because I don't remember beer stands from my previous zoo excursions.  I saw local craft brewers Karl Strauss, Stone Brewing and Ballast Point represented (and a few non-local big boys).  It's great having hometown brewers prominently selling their beer at one of San Diego's largest tourist attractions.