Friday, October 31, 2008

Easy Drinking the WA Way - Snoqualmie PGA


My buddy Shaun recently sent me a pair of beers to take away the autumn blahs: 22 oz'ers from Snoqualmie Falls Brewing Company that hails from Washington State. First up was the Perfectly Great Amber, confidently labeled "PGA Perfectly Great Amber" on the bottle. There's no shame in these folks game and they have the beer to back it up. This is a moderately intensely colored amber that poured a good, foamy head and opened up to reveal a nice earthy nose. Where the rubber meets the road, the taste, it lives up to its billing. It's very smooth, calm, and not overly-hoppy or too mild. It has a late earthy, hoppy finish that let's you know "men will drink this."


This is a beer that beer geeks who attend tastings and know strange beer facts - for example, that Lagunitas's Censored beer was originally labeled "The Chronic" - will respect; but your average Joe the Plumber, bucket of Miller Lites will revisit once he becomes aware of this tiny brewey's solid amber. Maybe Snoqualmie will get some free plumbing work to boot.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Odd Notion - Defying Classification: Magic Hat Odd Notion


Next up in from the Magic Hat family (I was passionately reminded that this is Vermont! beer, not Canadian . . . won't forget that one), was Odd Notion. This beer sort of makes me think of Elvis Costello. How do you classify him? Was he a punk rocker, as on This Year's Model? A pop craftsman as featured on My Aim Is True? A crooner destined to woo Diana Krall and forever be subjected to her laconic jazz warbling? It's a tough call but keep it in mind when considering Odd Notion.

It pours like a Stout, dark and dense. It initially drinks like a brown ale, revealing its complexity slowly. It has the biting finish of a Lager. This is all perplexing. Well, maybe it's just the alcohol. Truth is, the Hat has managed to create a stately hybrid that is great on its own but will drink well with most foods. Speaking of which, I've got leftover Argentinian steak to attend to. Where did Shaun hide the opener?

This Circus Boy Is No Freak Show


As Shaun alluded to earlier, his travels to the Windy City were fortuitous, allowing us to have a beer summit at my crib. Nothing ordinary was brought to the table, as Shaun supplied some tasty brews from Magic Hat, which proudly hails from his home state of Vermont. First up was the Hat's Circus Boy Hefeweizen. I went through a serious Hefe phase back in '01-'02 but my interest quickly faded after they all started tasting like Lemon Joy to me (not that I drink such things, but would it were . . ).
Enter Circus Boy. This beer renewed my interest in the style because it doesn't have that overwhelming sour citrus flavor that can ruin a beer experience on a hot summer day. Circus is restrained and smooth with good lager-like density. The kicker is that it has a hit of lemon on the finish, but it's not overpowering. Apparently they use lemongrass in the brewing process to cut down on the harsh citrus finish all too common to Hefes. Now I have a new summer beer to enjoy that doesn't seem better suited to cleaning my dishes. For that, a tip of the Hat.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Fat Squirrels store their nuts all winter just for us

For the June installment I was fortunate enough to be able to enjoy Mark's selection in Chicago with Mark in person. I took some vacation time and we met up to go to a mutual friend's wedding. So I was able to meet up with my best friend and perform our tasting in person.

Mark gave me two selections from New Glarus brewing company from New Glarus Wisconsin.

1) Fat Squirrel Nut Brown Ale:

There are two things that stand out about this brown ale that are different from others I've had. One is that it's actually carbonated. It's lively on the tongue and proves that brown ales don't have to be served flat. The second is the floral scent and taste to it. It has a tropical flower smell and taste to it that backs up the carmel maltiness.

This is a brown ale that your girlfriend would like yet you and your boys won't mind drinking it outside in daylight where people will see you. It's a refreshing beer so when you stroll down the patio through the sea of heffewizen's with your dark brown ale you can stand out in the crowd without needing to carry a glass of water alongside it to stem off the heat of the summer.

Pros- Unique Brown ale that is actually carbonated and refreshing.

Cons- The bartender may accidentally try to put fruit in your beer or convince you to get a heffewizen like everyone else on the patio.

Verdict- You now have two types of beer you can drink this summer!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

All Hail the Dark Lord

Okay.

I had the rare opportunity tonight to do something truly special in the world of beer. I had the opportunity to taste to 2004 Russian Imperial Stout from Munster Indiana by a small but revered brewery know as Three Floyds. Named...The Dark Lord.

The name is steeped in lore of people waiting in line for 1 bottle sold only on 1 day of the year and then sold for hundreds of dollars like a fine bottle of wine.

A beer hailed world wide as a perfect example of the word Beer. A beer that more fully embodies the type than any beer in the world...ever.

So here is my review.

This beer is a singular experience. This is not something you would want to experience on a daily basis or have with food in a casual setting. That would be a waste. This beer is the equivalent of sky diving for the first time. This is something you do for the experience. Not something that everyone gets or would agree with. Like single malt scotch or Kobe beef. Some people get it and appreciate it for the experience and history. And some people will not.

This is an amazingly complex beer. It has a sweet molasses taste that can only be taken in sips. But you want to sip this beer and savor it. You want to review it in your head a little at a time and pick out every flavor and every nuance. You have a sweetness that starts but does not dominate or end in an alcoholy abiss. This beer lingers on all the strength and does not succumb to overdoes of alcohol or contaminated yeast. This is something you sip from a brandy snifter rather than attempt to drink from the bottle or something as course as a pint glass. This beer takes you to the moment when you hit terminal velocity on your first sky dive where you start breathing again and realize that you aren't falling...but are flying.

This is a great beer.

The highs- Makes you feel superior to other earthlings who have no idea what is possible.

The Lows- Once you drink this beer you will compare all others and find them wanting

The Verdict- Don't drink this unless you are ready to accept the consequences

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Hey Mark!

I'm glad you like the Moose Drool.:) It is definitely the girl your friends like better than you. The back story on this beer is that it's the first beer I tried when I first moved to Seattle. I really wanted to try a Pacific Northwesty beer and what sounds more Northwesty than Moose Drool? Glad you like.

-Shaun

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Moose Is Loose - Moose Drool Brown Ale

This review is sponsored in part by the Big Sky Brewing Company in Missoula, Montana. Actually, it isn't. This blog has no official sponsors but I was inspired to write this post after drinking a pint of my beer of the month, Big Sky's Moose Drool Brown Ale. After finishing my tasks for the day, I got home and decided to finally pour one of the Moose Drool Browns that had been tantalizing me in the fridge for several days. I pulled out my best stolen Red Hook Brewery glass and emptied the contents of the bottle (I don't have a picture yet but may add one later if I overcome my laziness).

This is no wimpy brown ale that you might have found in some English village in the 16th century. It's very dark in color and hits you immediately with a malt-hops combination that finishes with a strong current of chocolate. It held its own with ease against some Thai noodles I got from a local takeout. It has stout-like body to it, and the feeling that I was drinking a stout was only enhanced by the chocolate finish. I could see that dude on the net reprising his song, "Chocolate Rain" after downing a few of these babies, taking another swig or two during the bridge.

Overall, this beer was very easygoing and pleasant. If it were a girl you were dating, it would inspire your friends to give you a hard time if you ever screwed up the relationship, causing her to leave you. They'd hate you for chasing away that girl that they got along with so well, the one that never complained about how much you drink or how late you stay out, and even did shots with the guys every once in a while. You took her for granted, and now you won't find a girl that *we* like better, you fool. Nice going. We're going to steal your cell phone and call every female sounding name in your contacts, identifying ourselves as your drunken, pissed off friends. That is, unless you buy us each a six of some Moose Drool Browns.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Indiana Jones and The Two Hearted Ale

The only way that Indiana Jones does *not* indulge in Bell's Two Hearted Ale is if there's a snake on the bottle.

Bell's and I go back a long way; but Two Hearted Ale is new to my world. I first tried it in April, courtesy of my neighbor, a Wisconsin denizen. He was on his way home to the North Woods for the weekend and stopped by my place to chat about our favorite topic, baseball. After a while, the topic switched to our co-favorite, beer, and I eventually revealed that I was a Bell's fan but a virgin with respect to the legendary Two Hearted Ale. Bell's is no longer available in Chicago due to maverick-hero owner Larry Bell's stand against big Illinois distributorships and the draconian laws that punish micro-brews - the only beers with any character around here.

Anyway, the next evening, I'm sitting on my couch with my girlfriend, and my neighbor knocks at the door. He had returned from Wisconsin and was bearing the most stately six of Two Hearted you will ever see. It was practically angelic. I mean thing literally glowed like a mural of our Lord and Savior in a Mexican village. The rest is history. My "studies" of the beer began soon thereafter, and now I am as fully apprised of it as my beer amigo, Shaun.

I can't argue with the description. Two Hearted is firmly grounded in hops with a huge, burly nose of flowers - the kind of dry, rugged flowers that comprise a hearty tea. It's got plenty enough personality to be indulged on its own, but makes for a great food beer to accompany robust foods, perhaps with spicy sauces. Yet, it's not over-the-top hops or hops-for-the-sake-of-causing-a-hops-shortage hoppy, either. The bold yet restrained character of the beer makes it unique and very enjoyable.

Meanwhile, the arrival of my first beers is imminent . . . . impending . . .

Friday, May 9, 2008

Mark has sent me the first two beers to try from the Great state of Chicago. (Since there's not much other reason to go to Illinois.:)

They are in my fridge patiently waiting for me to uncap an savor.

My selection for him is on its way and should reach him next week. Look for the first review this weekend.
Mark sent me two bottles from Bell's Brewery of Michigan.

1) Two Hearted Ale
I opened the bottle and poured it into my favorite pint glass. It has a nice golden brown color that is so common in premium and micro brewed beers. It was cloudier than I expected. It had a light scent. Very floral. It has a small head about 1/2 inch or so. Fine bubbles and enough to let you know it's a carbonated beverage.

The first sip was powerful! This is not a beer for the faint of heart or people that enjoy polenta and pasta with nothing on it but butter. This is a beer for adventurers who are looking for a challenge. This is what Indiana Jones drinks when he gets back from his archaeological Adventures. The malt flavors are all but lost in the intense hoppiness that defines this India Pale Ale. This is not a bitter like one gets from a cheap inferior hop. This is full floral impact. You can taste every part of the flower that gave up it's lovely taste to make this beer. They definitely put in a ton of these lovelies early in the boil because it is almost all flavor and only a hint on your nose of what awaits you.

Pros:
-Excellent Hoppiness from generous quantities of high quality hops.
-Rewards those who are willing to be adventurous and venture out from their safe suburban beer.

Cons:
-Not for the faint of heart. your girlfriend might start to question your judgment when you tell her it's good.
-If you're not ready for this it will knock you over, steal your wallet, and scare your girlfriend.

Verdict:
-Makes you feel like you're wearing a fedora , leather jacket, and bullwhip when drinking it.


2)Kalamazoo Royal Amber Ale

I have to start by saying this is a great beer. It is to balance what the Two Hearted Ale is to Hops. The barley and hops in this beer were measured with The Scales of Justice, the boil was timed with an atomic clock, and the temperature was monitored down to the 10th of a degree.

The beer is again, golden brown and cloudy much like the two head. But that is where the similarity ends. The nose has more scent from the grains and the maltiness you might smell in a brown ale. The maltiness hits your pallet first and then is ushered in by the hops gently. The two dance in your mouth like a couple of professional salsa dancers. Spinning and twirling around each other. It's not sweet but has a hit of carmel and earthiness followed by the hop taste that chases it down your throat. This beer is like your buddy that everyone loves. The guy who always has something going on and can make friends with the guy that wants to kick your ass in the bar. Unfortunately he is also the same guy that always gets the girl. He shows up with a big smile next to you and the girl you've been working on in the bar for 20 minutes and 2 minutes later she's forgotten your name and he has her number.

Pros:
-This is a great beer for anyone on any occasion

Cons:
-Everyone will love it and then forget you were the one that discovered it and say they discovered it first.

Verdict:
-Like the guy that everyone loves to hang out with but will steal your girlfriend as soon as you're not paying attention.