Friday, May 30, 2014

Older Beers

Over the past few weeks I had two beers that had been in my fridge for nearly a year or longer.  Mischief, a year-round Belgian-style golden ale from Orange County's iconoclastic brewery, The Bruery, was excellent as expected.  This spicy, complex beer is fantastic whether fresh or with some age on it.  It had some sediment that I've not noticed on a fresh bottle, but it was as rich and smooth as ever.  The Bruery makes some hard to drink beers; Mischief ain't one of them.

The second beer was Green Flash's Saison, and it was not what I was expecting.   I picked up two bottles of this saison last spring, having one shortly after I bought it.  I remember thinking it was thin, bland and pedestrian - clearly not a typical Green Flash aggressive style interpretation, and not a beer to rival the saisons and Belgian-style farmhouse ales being produced by North San Diego County's The Lost Abbey (and now saisons from Modern Times and Stone Brewing).  I was so underwhelmed that the second bottle sat untouched for over a year.  Ignoring this beer was a good decision.  A year on a rack at the back of my fridge allowed Green Flash's Saison to develop a depth and substance that weren't there when it was fresh.  This once boring beer had transformed with age, and was now delicious.  I've since picked up this year's Green Flash Saison and hid it in the fridge so I can enjoy it next summer.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Tasting Beer History

Two weeks ago I went to a book signing (and buying) at Stone World Bistro and Gardens at Liberty Station.   British beer historian and author Ron Pattinson was promoting his new book The Home Brewer's Guide To Vintage Beer.*  Pattinson also writes the beer blog Shut Up About Barclay Perkins.**   The book serves as an excellent reference guide and is geared towards the home brewer.  It has brewing history and plenty of beer recipes from defunct British brewers, along with a few old German beer recipes. 

Reading beer recipes is about as exciting as reading the White Pages (for those that remember phone books), but Pattinson's brewing and beer style histories are fascinating, especially when woven into the larger context of the Industrial Revolution, two World Wars and the beer-horrific Post-War years.  The book also goes into original ingredients and brewing techniques.  IPAs really were created for export to India and were aged more than six months before being shipped to India.  Pattinson pointed out to me that the 1839 Reid IPA (page 72) is an excellent traditional IPA style representation.

Before Pattinson's Liberty Station book signing, he along with Stone's Mitch Steele (and I think the guys from ChuckAlek), brewed one of Pattinson's recipes, the 1867 Barclay Perkins El, an export (to India) porter.  According to The Home Brewer's Guide, El was the "same as domestic porter, just more heavily hopped."  Export porters were no stronger than those sold in Britain, but El was unusual because it was brewed with crystal malt.  The Home Brewer's Guide lists its IBUs at 68 and its abv at a tame 5.16%.   I was told that this beer would be ready two to three weeks after brewing, which means about now according to my calendar.  I may not have an excuse to drive an hour up to Ramona, but I now have one to drive five minutes to Stone Libety Station.  I'll report back on how this historical beer tastes.

* The Home Brewer's Guide is available in Kindle format, and while I love my Kindle, I would not buy this book in any e-format.  Buy the spirial bound hardback.

** Read the blog's most recent entries for Pattinson's travelogue to San Diego brewers.  I really need an excuse to get to ChuckAlek in Ramona.   I think I was the guy mentioned on the blog that bought the book just before the end of stated finish time at the Stone Liberty Station signing.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Road Warrior

Green Flash's Road Warrior Imperial Rye IPA is a macho beer.  It's not just for men, of course, but I can't remember a beer with more swagger.  It's a high octane kick to the privates.  Road Warrior is an anti-session beer that dares you to reach for a second, and then mocks you  - "Session this, bitch!" - when you wisely decide one is plenty.

You know you're in for a wild ride before you even taste Road Warrior.  In the glass, its mahogany color is nearly as dark as a black IPA.  The beer's rye malt gives a full, heavy mouthful.  Road Warrior is a piney IPA with a long taut finish, mixed with a pleasant tinge of sweetness.  Its abv is only 9.0%, and I say "only" because it drinks bigger than 9.0%.  It had a pervasive heat throughout each drink.   Together, the rye, multiple hops (Mosaic, Columbus and Amarillo), booze, and sweetness give Road Warrior a bombastic, spicy character. 

I liked Road Warrior, because most importantly, it tasted good.  It is not your typical double IPA - it is as complex as it is aggressive.  Road Warrior is a beer that caused me to raise an eyebrow, a beer someone who has tried many IPAs and double IPAs can appreciate. 

Road Warrior is a sipper, not a pounder; a beer you mustn't underestimate.  This morning as I walked by the empty bottle of Road Warrior sitting and waiting for its trip to the recycle bin it defiantly gave me the finger.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Here is a good article from NPR's The Salt, a blog I don't look at often enough.  It's on what's considered a craft brewer, how the definition is getting wider, and what it means to beer drinkers.  As craft beer continues to grow, big brewers are trying to gain a piece of the market.  Part of their strategy was to get the Brewers Association to expand its ingredient requirement to include beers made with rice and corn malt.  As blasphemous as this sounds - and it is blasphemous - it's not going to fool too many people.  The people that drink Blue Moon and Shock Top are going to continue to order these beers, and the beer geeks of the world are not going rush to order adjunct-filled beers next time their at the pub just because the Brewers Association expanded its ingredient list.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

My Conundrum

I've had more than a few Mother Earth Hop Diggity Double IPAs, and I've tried without success to slide it into one of my IPA style boxes.  No matter how times I try Hop Diggity, it refuses to cooperate.  It's clearly not a piney IPA, nor an earthy IPA, nor a citrusy IPA -  my three definitive IPA flavor characteristics.  So other than confused, where does that leave me trying to describe this beer?  Because I have to describe Hop Diggity's flavor, I'd say it's more floral than anything else, but it's hard for me to call a beer with such strong bitterness "floral" with any authority.

To go with its floral hops and bitterness Hop Diggity is sweet, which arises from its strong dose of malts.  The big malt presence, in addition to providing a full mouth and balance, gives the beer its deep orange color.  At just over 8% abv, Hop Diggity is more along the lines of lower alcohol double IPAs like Stone Ruination or Pliney the Elder, where you can appreciate various flavors other than just the extreme hopping of higher abv double IPAs.  I've given up trying to classify Hop Diggity and have moved on to where I can just drink it and appreciate it for being what it is - a delicious double IPA.