Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Beer Ramblings

I probably could have diced this post into several tweets, but I figured I'd combine my recent beer thinking into one blog entry.  I'm looking forward to today's release of Green Flash Brewing's Road Warrior Imperial Rye IPA.  I have not anticipated a beer release so much since... well, since Stone Brewing released its Stone Saison over two whole weeks ago.  I know the beer world doesn't need another big IPA (see below), but the thought of an anti-session, summer IPA appeals to me.  Throw in some rye and it sounds all the better.

Have I missed something with Alpine Brew Co's Nelson IPA?  From the frantic tone of my twitter feed, filled with urgent tweets on Nelson sightings, I'm starting to think Nelson is the new Pliny the Younger.  Alpine's beers' availability has always been sporadic, but I didn't realize Nelson had become a rarity.  Has it been gone that long?  Dang it, I need to go find some Nelson.

I recently had a couple of big, soupy double IPAs.  Green Flash's Palate Wrecker drinks as its name suggests.  Oceanside Ale Work's Dude Double IPA is an aggressive hop bludegon, too.  (OK, I'll admit I bought Dude, in part, because I thought its bottle label was cool.)  I found both beers formless, once I got past their massive bitterness.  If you crave a big hoppy beer, either Palate Wrecker or Dude is the beer for you.

If you bought Stone's Stochasticity Project Grapefruit Slam IPA and still have it in your fridge, drink it NOW.  Its hop profile is fading fast, and the one I had late last week already tasted old.  Grapefruit Slam, in its short prime, was an overly bitter IPA where the grapefruit shined with brilliance in the finish.  I'd have liked more balance in this beer, but because I love grapefruit juice, I enjoyed this beer and am not complaining.  

Finally, how come no one told me about ChuckAlek?

Monday, April 28, 2014

West Coaster's "Behind the Brew" - Sculpin

I discovered West Coaster's "Behind the Brew" videos last week through an Alpine Beer Co. email, and embedded the video showing the making of Nelson IPA.  Here is a second West Coaster video detailing the creation of Ballast Point's Sculpin IPA:

With the Nelson video I could not get the entire video to embed in the frame Blogger gives me, so here is the direct You Tube link:  http://youtu.be/I_11Yn7V9UM

Green Flash Black IPA

I gave a backhanded put down to black IPAs a few posts ago, essentially writing that most are boring beers.  While black IPAs are not exciting, they are usually approachable beers.  Paradoxically, the deep roasted malts serve as a strong counter weight to the hops, which should result in a balanced beer.

Green Flash's Black IPA, part of Green Flash's Hop Odyssey series of IPAs, is a solid beer, smooth and drinkable.  Smooth is not a typical IPA adjective - whether a regular IPA or a black IPA - but Green Flash's Black IPA with its pronounced, dark roast is liquid velvet.  It goes well by itself or with food, and weighing in at a respectable 7.2% abv it's a beer you can have guilt-free on a weeknight (at least I did).  Green Flash's Black IPA is not a "wow" beer, and it does not set any kind of new beer standard.   It does taste good, which is the most important attribute for a beer.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Boo Koo IPA

I have liked the beers I've tried from Vista's Mother Earth Brew Company, including Pin Up pale ale, Kismet IPA, and the Hop Digity and Primordial double IPAs.  I was happy when I saw Mother Earth's latest bottled IPA, Boo Koo, on shelves.

I've had several Boo Koos, trying to get its measure and have decided it is not my favorite Mother Earth beer.  It poured a cloudy, golden, straw yellow, and the light color topped by a big white foam made for a pretty beer.  Boo Koo's pine flavor jumped on the palate, produced from the beer's exclusive use of Mosaic hops.  If only the beer's brilliant, initial taste had held its ground.  A sweetness and an earthiness overcame the pine, which, in turn, were superseded by a mineral-influenced finish.   Boo Koo's lack of a strong malt component lead to an overly bitter beer.  The beer posed a conundrum, I kept taking smaller and smaller tastes to capture Boo Koo's initial pine, only to have it quickly morph into mineral flavors.   

Maybe it was Boo Koo's wheat component that confused me, and possibly brought out the mineral taste in the finish.  ( I'm not a fan of wheat-based IPAs, and don't know how much wheat Mother Earth used in Boo Koo.)  I've had several Boo Koos and will probably have more, so I clearly liked the beer at a base level.  The initial pine blast alone will bring me back.  If this beer was made by nearly any other brewer I'd probably give a better review, but my high opinion of Mother Earth left me expecting more.  

Monday, April 21, 2014

Alpine Email - Restaurant Expansion?

I just received one of Alpine Beer Company's periodic emails.  Alpine has the opportunity to lease a bigger space for its pub and is gauging interest.  Here is the full text of the email (I embedded the video):

Alpine Beer is at It Again

New info has come my way and it seems appropriate to share some of it with you. So……… here goes.

We have an opportunity to lease the old “Bread Basket” restaurant. We are considering it and need to determine interest. The situation created by too many people wanting to enjoy our tiny pub has turned many people off. If we get a bigger place, room for groups, outside seating and dining, would you visit us enough to help pay the rent? Let me know, if enough interest is out there we’ll surely move on the location.

A really cool documentary on “Behind the Brew” produced by The West Coaster has been made. “The Making of Nelson” has been produced and can be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fPaRrTn7yE  Gotta love this stuff. 

On Thursday, April 24th, Green Flash Brewing Company will be hosting a “Meet the Brewer” featuring Patrick McIlhenney, owner of Alpine Beer Company. There will be a special tapping of the awesome beer made for little ol’ Alpine, “Nelson.” The tasting room at the Green Flash opens at 3 PM and I’ll be there shaking babies and kissing mommies until 6 PM. Come out and see just how close their version is to what you remember of our version. I love it and think its spot on, really.

 I didn't even know about these West Coaster videos. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Stone Saison - Instant Classic

Stone Brewing's new Stone Saison is an instant classic.  This dry, zesty beer is brewed with herbs from Stone Farms. You can smell the yeast and floral herbs as soon as the bottle's cap is popped.  The aromatic beer is nearly as good to smell as it is to drink.  The saison poured a bright orange with a fast disappearing white foam.  Upon tasting the beer I immediately picked up the Belgian yeast, lemony citrus, fresh herbs -  and a faint sweetness.  The hop bittering arrives late to round out the taste, but it serves only as a complement to the other ingredients not a major player.  You are not buying this Stone beer for its hops.  The feature that stands out on the finish is Stone Saison's peppery dryness.  The dryness is present throughout but sharpens its acuity on the finish, and the finish lasts a long time (I was still enjoying this beer a couple of hours after my glass was empty).

Stone Saison is refreshing due to its citrus and strong carbonation.  It is full bodied even though its abv is only 6%.  A big factor as to why this beer is so good is that despite the herbs it never becomes vegetal.  It's amazing how much flavor, complexity and approachability Stone coaxed out of this beer. Stone Saison is available in six-packs and on draft, and it's one of those beers that I want to make sure I always have stocked in the beer fridge.

Stone Saison, with all its herbs reminded me of a softer Saison du BUFF, a Stone collaboration beer, which was intensely herbed.  I am not sure whether Stone Saison is a new seasonal or a year-round beer, but use of fresh herbs makes me think it's a seasonal.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Kingside IPA

I bet you've never heard of Kingside IPA.  I sure hadn't when tried it in New York this winter.  It was one of the house beers at the Kingside Restaurant, which is attached to the swank new Viceroy Hotel.  The beer was brewed at the Captain Lawrence Brewery, but is not Captain Lawrence's IPA (I know this, in part, because I had a Captain Lawrence IPA the night before and immediately knew the two beers were different, and also, more prosaically, I was told it was different when I asked if the two beers were the same).  Apparently, Kingside IPA is brewed by a Kingside employee at the Captain Lawrence facility.  Whatever.  Let's get to the beer because I'm writing about it because it's worth trying if you're in Midtown Manhattan with a wad of cash.

The Kingside IPA was refreshingly piney and bitter.  The hops also provided an ephemeral floral taste and a solid earthiness.  It was maltier than a typical West Coast IPA, which gave Kingside IPA heft and played well with the multiple flavors bursting from the hops.  It was complex, and most drinkable, with the pine finish lasting long after the beer was gone.  I liked it more than the solid, restrained Captain Lawrence IPA.

Kingside IPA, I was told, is only available at the Kingside Restaurant on West 57th Street.   If you are in Manhattan, Kingside IPA is a beer worth seeking out.  It's too bad it's served in a crap, less-than-a-pint, foo-foo glass, and that the nearly $10 price might drive you to Teetotalville.  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Old, But Relevant News

I have saved this Voice of San Diego opinion piece by Modern Times Beer founder and CEO Jacob McKean for nearly two months, but it's still worth a read.   McKean countered a previous Voice of San Diego article on the impact of a craft beer study on whether San Diego is experiencing a craft beer bubble.  If you haven't already, I'll let you read the articles and decide whether San Diego is in the midst of a beer bubble.  The debate is not why I saved the story.

The reason I kept this article is the following quotes from McKean:
So what is the real foundation of San Diego’s beer industry? Talent. What makes us successful is quality beer. And quality breeds quality by attracting like-minded brewers and putting competitive pressure on low-quality beer. Good brewers want to open breweries in San Diego because other good brewers are already here; it’s why I opened my business here.
Craft beer is every bit as complex and significant an industry as defense, or tourism, or biotech or green tech. It is a key piece of San Diego’s economic and cultural future, and it is growing rapidly.
Bubbles  - whether housing, tulips or craft beer - are hard to predict in the present.  Only in retrospect can you accurately call a bubble.  I've stated before that people are always going to want to drink good beer, and whether there are five brewers or over eighty in San Diego County, money will flow to those brewers making beer that tastes good (and those making marginal beer will struggle).  Like McKean says, good brewers want to come to San Diego, and craft beer is now an important, if not vital, industry to San Diego.  This is good news for beer drinkers.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Ruhstaller Addendum

In the last post I described how I found Ruhstaller's 1881 Sacramento Red Ale pleasing, yet benign.  (What's a Sacramento Red Ale anyway?)  The same can't be said about Ruhstaller's black IPA, CAPT California Blk IPA.  Black IPAs are a tricky style to get excited about.  Once you get passed the debate over whether the beer should be called "black IPA" or "Cascadian dark ale," there is usually not much to say about the underlying beer.  Most of the black IPAs I have had have been good, but not great, or even memorable.  They are beers whose deep roasted malts dominate any hop flavor distinction other than bitterness.   I like black IPAs, it's just hard for me to pick one out as being that much better or worse (or distinctive) than any other.  Ruthstaller's CAPT California Blk IPA was different.  Yes, it was heavily roasted and malt forward, with a generic hop bitterness like other black IPAs, but there was something else.  I'm not sure whether it was spices or herbs that added character.   I'm leaning towards sage, but whatever the herb, it made CAPT interesting, something I'd expect from a beer in a bottle wearing a black sweater.

Too Hip For Me

Ruhstaller 1881 Sacramento Red Ale is a beer in a bottle that looks too hip for me.  The bottle is fitted with its own beatnik turtle neck sweater, and enough farm-to-bottle proclamations on the label - including "farm to bottle"  - to border hipster parody.  Looks are deceiving.  This beer may scream bearded, skinny jean, flannel wearing hipster on the outside, but inside it's all straight-laced, clean shaven, three-piece suit. 

1881 Sacramento Red Ale is a mild red ale with pronounced malt profile.  Its hop bitterness was surprisingly muted, given the label's boast that the hops are from a single farm, Kuchinski Hop Ranch.  The Sacramento Red Ale was more reminiscent of an English brown ale than a California red ale.  It had a thin consistency (abv was only 5.6%), and the malt roast gave 1881 a smoked flavor and a mineral aftertaste, just like a good English brown ale.  Even its opaque color was more mahogany than ruby.  1881 is ultimately smooth and drinkable, a pleasant, conservative beer despite its bottle's aspirations.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Stone's Burning Rosids

I bought Stone Brewing's Matt's Burning Rosids Imperial Cherrywood - Smoked Saison when it was first released knowing nothing about it for a couple of reasons: first, because the beer was an incredible tribute to Stone employee Matt Courtright who died in a tragic work-related accident last summer; and second, Stone was going to use sale proceeds for Matt's charity.  I was so caught up in the beer's backstory that I didn't read the label  - or even the beer's full name - until after I paid for it.   After the purchase I looked at the label and immediately rethought my impulsive, blind donation.

I don't like the words "saison" and "imperial" in the same sentence, let alone on the same label.  Throw in the words "smoked," "cherrywood," and "10.5% abv" and my skepticism grows exponentially.  Charity or not, the thought of a high alcohol, smoked saison seemed retch worthy.  My concerns were overblown, Stone's tribute to its employee was a drinkable, complex, multi-layered beer.  (Really, what was I worrying about, was Stone actually going to release a yak-beer as a tribute to an employee?)

Burning Rosids was a sweet saison.  It had a strong, pleasing smokey finish, with a touch of funk.  For me, the combination of the gentle smoke and sweet, floral cherrywood worked, producing an elegant complex beer.  Forget about any hop presence; hops weren't needed and not missed.  Burning Rosids was more nuanced than most beers labeled imperial, and its subtle, tangy sourness seemed to unite all the flavors.

I've had two Burning Rosids, one on its initial release, and the second about six weeks later.  I found the alcohol discrete in the first bottle, and distractingly prominent in the second.   I guess the heat in the second bottle was not unexpected in a 10.5% abv beer, but I preferred the smaller alcohol profile.  I found Burning Rosids improved when I drank it with food.

I have written before that saison is the most constraint free style of beer.  This fits Burning Rosids, because while I enjoyed this beer I never would have guessed it a saison.  Buy this beer for its sad origin and charity, enjoy it for its sweet, funky complexity. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Almost Got Me

I was plotting my day to try and buy this new Stone beer - a hoppy, helium-infused cream ale - for about five minutes, until I realized today is April Fool's Day! 

From a Stone email (I couldn't figure out how to get the picture of the beer can):
Stone Stochasticity Project Cr(He)am Ale with Helium
We know you expect new Stone beers to be innovative, unique, and aggressively flavorful, but this one is going to blow your mind. Our latest brewing experiment goes where no beer has gone before. Adding nitrogen widgets to cans of beer for smooth carbonation and a silky mouthfeel is nothing new, but who's added helium? Nobody, that's who–until now. And with this foray into heretofore unimagined beer territory, it seemed only fitting that Stone Stochasticity Project Cr(He)am Ale should be the first Stone brew to greet the world in a gorgeous 16-oz can. We decided it's time that our fans were able to enjoy our beers in the packable, extra-protective containers that cans provide.
The newest addition to the Stone Stochasticity Project lineup not only flouts style boundaries by generously dry-hopping what began as a traditional, mild cream ale, but gets an added burst of carbonation from a helium widget in the can. The result is an ultra-smooth mouthfeel and a mild tingle in the finish. And starting today, you can find this stunning new beer at a bottle shop or pub near you. Check out the video on the official Stone Stochasticity Project Cr(He)am Ale page to found out what inspired this unprecedented brew. If you're skeptical, heed what our Brewmaster, Mitch Steele, had to say: "It's tasty! And it's very strange–in a good way."
This is an awesome prank.  The recommended pairing of fried mozzarella sticks and aged twinkies clinched the joke.