Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My new favorite mug

I wanted to post a thank you to my wife for putting together the coolest coffee mug for me as a Christmas present! Now I really can drink at work! >:)

If you're interested in one you can contact her at her company website and she'd be happy to sell them to you! For those times when you'd much rather have a beer but require coffee, this mug is for you. :)

Thanks again Jen! You're the greatest!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Judging a Beer by its Label

Appreciating the nectar of the gods from the outside of the bottle

Hi all! I’m Jen, Shaun’s wife (aka the beer widow). My appreciation for beer starts with the design of the label and packaging. But of course, that’s my day job too.

I attended a graphic design conference a couple of weeks ago sponsored by AIGA Seattle. One of the seminars had my name on it: “Judging a Beer by its Label.” Well, my name wasn’t on it, but I really had to go to this one.
Elmer de la Cruz and Jay Hilburn, graphic designers at Hornall Anderson Design Works in Seattle, walked us through the history of Widmer Brothers’ label and package design and gave us some tasting tips and *samples*.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Founders Porter - Dark, Rich, and Sassy (not quite sexy)

Mark sent me a great haul this time out and I'm moving through them to get them all up. Mark knows porters are my favorite style. They have a soft spot in my heart. It was the first style that really expanded my beer taste thanks to those pioneers at Anchor Brewing.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Founders Harvest Ale - Wet Hopped for Your Pleasure

This is the next beer in the latest batch from Mark. Founder's Harvest Ale. A Wet hopped Ale and one of their specials that only comes out once per year. Wet hopping is using fresh picked hops that have not been dried or ground up and formed in to plugs or pellets that you may see in your homebrew store. The hops have more moisture in them and are less bitter as their flavors have not been concentrated in the drying and processing that typically happens. They do tend to lend more terroir, to borrow a wine term.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Dark Horse Brewing Tres Blueberry Stout - Like Grandma Used to Make!

This is one of the latest Mark has sent me from one of his favorite Midwestern Breweries. Dark Horse Brewing. I still have to dig in to the two Founders beers sitting in the fridge. Fear not Mark, I can't wait to get to them. As always thanks buddy for an amazing selection of stuff we can't up here in PACNW. Specifically Mark has provided me a rare gift of Dark Horse Brewing's Tres Blueberry Stout. Sounds yummy and intriguing.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Arrowton New Zealand - Arrow Brewing

When you visit New Zealand (not if) you'll be compelled to visit Queenstown in the South Island. It is a small resort town that is Aspen Colorado for Extreme Sports. The town has bungee jumping, jet boating, and hang gliding coming out of it pores. It's a fun little town on a scenic lake with majestic mountains all around. We received a tip from our hotel front desk woman to check out a small craft brewer in the next town over Arrowtown. So being in an adventure seeking mood we couldn't resist...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hallertau Brewery and Restaurant - Auckland NZ

Our first stop in New Zealand was Auckland, their largest city. Outside of Auckland off the beaten path to the Northwest is Hallertau Brew Bar and Restaurant.  It's a beautiful place with a mix of rustic and upscale decor that make it feel fancy but cozy and comfortable at the same time. As if it's the local watering hole by day for you and your buddies to hang out. At night it transforms in to a classy restaurant with amazing food your date would be head over heels for. And they make beer!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mikkeller Czechet Pilsner

Based on the messages I've been receiving from Shaun lately, he's had a fun time in Seattle trying some barrel aged beers at a recent organized event and at an informal tasting among friends.  Meanwhile, back here in Chicago, I've been trying my share of delicious brews myself ranging across many varieties. I recently wrote about Mikkeller whose beers I've tried recently and become fond of.  They're now on my "will try anything they brew unless it's brewed with mayo" list, and I just came across the Czechet Pilsner they brew in Belgium.  I love pils as one of my most cherished styles of beer, but they can be very ordinary.  Just pick up a macrobrew.  If Mikkeller brewed the pils and it's brewed in Belgium, the possibilities are endless. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Founders Newaygo County Cherry

As you are aware, I can't say enough good things about Founders Brewing.  We get a decent amount of their product in Chicago and I sure wish we got a whole lot more.  So, when a friend tipped me off that Whole Foods' flagship Lincoln Park store - the one with 20 taps around the store and you can take your beer shopping with you - had a "brandy" barreled cherry beer from Founders, I had to make a special detour.  The Newaygo County Cherry is what they call it.  Not brandy, it's actually a bourbon barreled version of Founders' Cerise cherry beer, which is a summer release available in bottles where you can get Founders.  A web search confirms that this beer is generally understood to be bourbon barreled. 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast

I don't know much about the Danish brewer Mikkeller but their beer started arriving on Chicago shelves within the last couple of years.  And single bottles of it are really expensive.  For example, they make a pilsner that retails for nearly $7 a bottle - for a 12 oz.  I finally got to try several of their stouts at a specialty brew night at the Local Option pub in Lincoln Park.  I sampled the Beer Geek Breakfast that night but returned several days later to drink a whole one, and have since purchased a bottle of it. 

Smuttynose Brewing Big A IPA

I've written about a lot of IPA's here; I confess they remain my favorite type of beer.   I've developed beer crushes on many.  This involves trying a new IPA - new to me, that is - falling in love immediately, gushing about it in texts to friends, buying 3 sixers of it as if the government were about to ration it, and growing so sick of it that I gave most of it away to homeless guys.  I guess my point is that I have overrated a few IPAs on first blush.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

G'day from the Other land down under - Beer from New Zealand!

Jen and I recently took a trip to New Zealand for vacation and being the beer geek I am I did some research on the best places to get a beer in the country. I did a little research on what New Zealand had going on the beer front. If things went well I figured I could convince Jen to segway to a couple of special beer spots along our Journey.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Grand Teton Brewing Arrives From Idaho.

It's getting hard to keep up with the beer explosion here in Chicago. Every week it seems that a new beer bar opens up or a "new" brewery is offering their products in the area.  The latest "new" brewer of note I've come across is Grand Teton Brewing which hails from Idaho. Yes, Idaho, from the town of Victor to be exact.  I've recently tasted two of their offerings and can report that the Idaho brewing industry is well represented by the products that have emigrated here.
The Grand Teton beer that's a must-try is the Trout Hop Black IPA.  Black IPAs are hot right now with many brewers attempting them, led by Stone's Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale.  Trout Hop is similar to Sublimely and is itself a sublime beer.  It pours an oatmeal colored head and appears cola black.  It smells of pine hops and some oats.  It is creamier than Sublimely with a denser mouthfeel like a porter.  Smoke, roasted flavor, and grainy hops pave the palate.  It has a long silky finish.  This beer is highly recommended.
As I type this review, I am currently enjoying Grand Teton's Double IPA.  It has a slight grapefruit nose and pours a yellow-orange color with a substantial head and moderate lacing on the glass.  The mouthfeel is light to moderate.  It has that "watery" hop taste in which the hop flavor is thin and juicy, similar to Founders Harvest Ale and Avery "DuganA" Double IPA.  This brew is a pleasant experience but the liquor store clerk talked it up way too much.  It's a fine beer and the alcohol volume is not killer but it is just another above average double IPA of that thin, refreshing variety.  You can find many of these on the market without having to commit to a 22 oz. bottle, as is this.
Overall, I am extremely impressed with Grand Teton and would commit to drinking anything they have to offer.  My next goal is their Black Cauldron Imperial Stout.  Come on; with a name like that how can it be anything other than Grand.  Plus, it is sold in a four pack of 12 oz bottles.  Grand!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Victory Brewing St. Boisterous Hellerbock

I don't write about lagers very often. Most of them are too boring to be worthy of mention. You don't want to read about them.  They're usually either bland, at best, or at worst, taste of chemicals (hat tip to Jen, Shaun's wife on that descriptor).

Yet when Victory Brewing's St. Boisterous Hellerbock came on my radar, I jumped at it.  First, this Pennsylvania brewery is arguably the East's best brewer, along with Dogfish Head and Brooklyn, and perhaps has the most accessible lineup of great beers in the region.  Second, they do European styles quite well.  The Prima Pils, their signature beer, is a great approximation of the classic European pils style and uses actual German hops exquisitely.  Third, I was not familiar with the Hellerbock style, but I love German lagers and can't think of an American brewer I'd trust more to recreate the German style with perhaps a bit of Yankee ingenuity. Mark, meet St. Boisterous. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Dogfish Head Burton Baton Ale

Dogfish Head is known for their bold, experimental beers, barrel aging, weird barrel aging, and an off-centered (their term - see their standard 12 ounce pint glass) ingredient roster.  If they can get their hands on it and get it to impart a flavor on their beers, they'll brew with it.  Nothing they do is truly ordinary.  So, the unusual nature of their barrel-aged India Pale Ale is no surprise. Welcome to the Burton Baton Ale. To make this beer, Dogfish blends an imperial IPA with another high-gravity ale then oak barrels the mixture for a month.  

Monday, October 18, 2010

Founders Harvest Ale

I thought I would give a quick post on Founders' heavily sought after Harvest Ale. This is one of Founders' great seasonal beers, a grouping that includes the Backwoods Bastard, Breakfast Stout, and Cerise, among others.  My local liquor store only received one case of it and was limiting it to 1 bottle each for preferred customers, of which I was thankfully considered one.  I decided to launch into this one the day that I bought it.

Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA

The Firestone Walker Union Jack is the first of the three latest beers Shaun kindly sent me from Seattle.  I had tried this beer on Dark Lord Day at the guest beer tent, and found it notable enough to mention it in my account of that very pleasant day.  Tonight, I got to give it the full treatment from a bomber sized bottle.  I even poured it into the Three Floyds Alpha King British style pint glass that Shaun bought me on DLD.  So how would this Paso Robles IPA stack up?  Would it be like bringing a knife to a gun fight in the IPA world, as Shaun would put it?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Port Brewing Fresh Hop IPA

Port Brewing cranks out IPAs the way that the state of Florida churns out football players.  They have a deep roster of the hoppy beers.  I went to the brewery's original location in Solana Beach, CA, in September and tried a new DIPA that just debuted at their Ocean Beach location and is amazing.   Fortunately, quite a few of them make their way to Chicago.  I recently tried the Fresh Hop IPA in a bomber sized bottle.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Oktoberfest! -Fremont Oktoberfest

As always Mark some solid reviews! I hear Bells
is coming out with a new sour.I'll trade you
some Russian River for a couple bottles.
This post is about Seattle's own humble offering
to the great gods of September. Fremont Oktoberfest!
I have to say I was skeptical about the event as it
tends to be about quantity over quality. While I do
admit to saying once or twice "I am dumber for
having overheard your conversation" it was overall
a great experience with some excellent offerings.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Stone Brewing Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout

Is Stone capable of missing the mark on a beer? It seems as if the craft beer giant from Escondido, California can do no wrong right now.  Very few breweries can make multiple great beers.  Even fewer are capable of making great ales and stouts.  While Stone is celebrated for its hoppy ales, in particular the Ruination and Arrogant Bastard, its dark beer collection is replete with excellent beers.  Consider this lineup:  Imperial Russian Stout, Smoked Porter, Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale, and variations on these bottlings.  These are all outstanding offerings of great flavor and complexity. 

Dark Horse Crooked Tree IPA

After making a trip to the west coast this summer, it's a reminder of how hard it is to get excited about most Midwestern IPAs.  It's similar to the difference between the freshness of seafood on the coast versus land locked states.  In west coast IPA's the citrus hop nose and flavors just leap out at you, while their Midwestern cousins are far more tame and ordinary. Several Midwestern brewers take worthy stabs at it, such as Bell's formidable Two Hearted Ale and their powerhouse Hopslam, Founders Double Trouble and the Centennial, Three Floyd's brilliant Dreadnaught and the English-styled Blackheart, which is very underrated. Surly's unique Furious is a very aggressively hopped IPA from the Land O' Lakes. Perhaps the best of the bunch that I've tried so far is Dark Horse's Crooked Tree IPA. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Quick Take: Dark Horse Brewing Boffo Brown Ale

I haven't written enough about Dark Horse Brewing.  Located in Marshall, MI, this brewer is know for unusual and outstanding takes on popular American styles of beer. They don't dabble in a lot of European styles and I've never tasted a Belgian out of their shop, but, similar to their Michigan cousins, Founders Brewing, when they make a beer, I know it's going to have their signature stamp of uniqueness to it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Russian River Brewing: Pliny The Elder

It has been a long, long while since my last review, a delinquency that occurred for several reasons, but I hope to be back at my regular "post."  Let me start at the top.  Literally.  Shaun sent me a number of brews last year, several of which I have been aging for soon-to-be posted reviews.  One of these is Russian River Brewing's Pliny The Elder; he sent two bottles of this, one that I consumed last year and one this summer.  I was already well on my way with other alcohol when I drank the first one, so I did not feel as though I could give it proper justice in a review.  I felt as though I had a better cognitive understanding of it the second time around. 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Back from Vacation - Seattle Beerfest!

 Hi to our devoted reader(s). I know it's been a while since both of us have posted up anything. Mark has a legit excuse but not so much for me. I've been enjoying the summer and just haven't taken the time to post up many of my escapades. For that I truly am sorry and hope you can forgive me. To make amends I offer up my review of Seattle Beerfest 2010!

Lucky for me this isn't a secret society with a special yodel to get in.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Great Lakes Blackout Stout - How sweet it is!

Here is the last of the stout collection from Mark back in May. It's Great Lakes Brewing, Blackout Stout. This is their Imperial stout for those days when inclement events "force" you to just relax and have a beer.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Shaun's DLD experience Part 2 - Actually getting our Dark Lord

Sorry to all the interested readers out there who have been left hanging the last 20 days. I was on vacation for a while and then when I got back it was Seattle Beer Week! So I have spent too much time out and about and not enough in front of my computer. Here is the second installment from Shaun's version of Dark Lord Day or "How we finally got around to getting our Dark Lord."

Monday, May 3, 2010

DLD Aftermath: Great Divide Brewery Barrel Aged Yeti

This is the last beer of note from Dark Lord Day weekend that warrants a full post.  On the day after DLD, Shaun and I headed down to Chicago's great Twisted Spoke in search of a couple of Bloody Marys.  We found them piled high with lunchmeat in the traditional Spoke style.  But, with all of those great beers they have on tap and in bottles, there wasn't as chance in hell we were leaving without some brews. My first beer was a Founders Hand of Doom Double IPA (as described), that was crisp and hoppy with an elegant layer of malt.  

DLD Aftermath: Hair of the Dog Michael

I know I've stretched out the "Dark Lord Day Aftermath" series of posts, but there was a lot to absorb (such as my drowned liver) that weekend, and I've been ill all week.  Bear with me.  This is one of the last DLD related posts.  Anyway, Shaun and I finished the last day of his weekend in town by, of course, getting some beers!  After stopping at two of Chicago's best beer bars during the day/evening, namely, The Twisted Spoke and Hop Leaf, Shaun and I headed home.  He had a flight to Seattle the next day, back to the Great Northwest and its outstanding cadre of breweries.  Before turning in, it was a perfect time to pop open one of these fine Northwest brews that Shaun had sent me earlier, Hair of the Dog Brewery's Michael, styled as a Flanders Red Ale.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

DLD Aftermath: Dark Lord Day

Shaun has already covered some of this ground, recapping our unforgettable Dark Lord Day experience.  I guess I should give you my take so you can get a complete picture of the mayhem.  What a day.  We got a late start.  My pal Josh was a late addition to our DLD crew.  I give him credit.  He had been at a whiskey tasting the night before with a bunch of whiskey imbibers in suits getting faced.  So, naturally, at 7:30 a.m., on DLD, he was having second thoughts about driving an hour to Indiana for even more drinking and tomfoolery.  He sucked it up though after some shaming and made his way down to my place.  Meanwhile, as I blasted some of Television's Marquee Moon on the stereo, Shaun was packing pastrami sandwiches from stuff in the fridge. I had no idea until later how much these would come in handy.

DLD Aftermath: Deschutes Brewery Mirror Mirror

So, on the eve of Dark Lord Day, my pre-festival pump priming continued with some indulgence in my first Deschutes Brewery beer, the Mirror Mirror 2009 Reserve.  Deschutes is an Oregon Brewery that hails from Bend, Oregon.  This is a beer Shaun sent me back in 2009, but one I was aging it a bit, saving for a special occasion.  After all, it is housed in a bomber and is an 11% brew: it's meant for sharing, not getting buzzed beyond belief at home alone and calling your ex.  I digress. 

DLD Aftermath: Jolly Pumpkin Maracaibo Especial Brown Ale

Hey, beer fans. Sorry it has taken me so long to post regarding Dark Lord Day and all the shenanigans before and after it.  I've been ill the last few days - I hope it's not beer-related.  Shaun has done a great job at hitting the highlights and calling attention to some of the masterful brews we drank last weekend.  As he pointed out, when he and I convene, great beers are going to be drunk, and nothing goes according to plan - usually, in a good way.  One such deviation from plan was the Jolly Pumpkin Brewery's Maracaibo Especial Brown Ale.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Dark Lord Day - or "Beertopia, what heaven must be like for beer drinkers."

Hey folks. I'm sure the five of you who actually read our blog are anxious to know if we actually made it to Three Floyd's, if we got our allotment, and if we made it home alive.

Before I relay the story I have to say this: The folks at Three Floyd's and the people of Munster are the most gracious best prepared hosts I've ever met. Never have I experienced an event that was so well run, so accommodating, had so many great people everywhere just sharing their beer and having a good time. If there is such a place as Beertopia I now know what it would be like.

Now on to the story and typical hijinx involved when Mark and I get together..

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Dark Lord Day Pre Party- Or lets take it "easy" the day before

Ugh. Taking it easy when Mark and I get together is an admirable goal but one more difficult to achieve then you would think. So last night when I got in we both had every intention of just taking it easy and preparing for the big event on Saturday.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout

My apologies for the late post on this.  It's nearing Dark Lord Day and I'm just now posting about the Founders KBS, the beer I ventured to Founders for over four weeks ago, the day of its release.  In my world, Dark Lord and KBS are forever linked.  It was on Dark Lord Day 2009 that I first tried the KBS.  Thanks to these beer fanatics who had a tent and let me sample KBS (thanks also for that tent and the kick ass brats).   Once they figured out that I was insane about beer, they asked me if I had ever tried Founders.  Embarrassingly, at that point, the answer was no.  They shook their heads.  

Countdown to Dark Lord Day - I've got my Golden Tickets. Do you?

This year Mark and I are meeting up to travel to Three Floyds for their fabled Dark Lord Day. We're finally going to participate in the festivities and get our hands on that special beer the old fashioned way. By showing up!

I am traveling out to Mark's place tomorrow and I already can't wait to both see him and head down together. Let the hijinx insue!

Look out for posts and updates throughout the weekend from both of us from the pre beer tasting Friday night to the aftermath on Sunday.

Get ready Mark I'm comin to Chicago!!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Juicy: Moylan's Hopsickle Imperial IPA

I recently tried this California behemoth - 9.2% - at the Long Room.  Amazingly enough, a friend of mine who also ordered one, immediately, upon sipping it, recognized its similarity to an IPA from Marin Brewery, which, as we found out, is a brewery affiliated with Moylan's. 

Friday, April 16, 2010

I Double Dog Dare You: Flying Dog's Double Dog

My brother never drinks. I mean to say that he'll sip on Riesling or a beer at Christmas or Thanksgiving and that's about it. That's him. If that proclivity ran in the family, I wouldn't partially own this blog.  I'll leave it at that.  So, to hear him say that the Flying Dog Double Dog Double Pale Ale that I gave him to go with the pizza we picked up, from the delicious Great Lake Pizza here in Chicago, was "one of the best beers I've ever tried", gave me pause.  It's hardly a brew for everybody, and to be lauded by an occasional drinker speaks to the beer's substantial quality.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Lost Abbey - Angels Share Meets Older Viscosity?

Oh yeah. This is one of those "everyone said get it because it's great." so I've had a bottle of this in the cabinet for a year but never even tasted it. I tried this with a buddy celebrating at the best kept secret for beer in the neighborhood and they happen to have Angels Share on tap. Why, because they're the best kept secret in the neighborhood. Point being as I looked at this beer and tasted it, smelled it, and took a sip... I recognize this...but took a minute. Hmm. I've got it! This is the same beer I had here last summer! The Older Viscosity! Granted it's a great high abv sipping beer I expected a little more separation between port brewing and lost abbey on their flagship. Great beer but If you want to see my review see my review of older viscosity last year to get the story. Enjoy!
(And yes if you're following the pictures I only have one drinking shirt)

Testin the beer blog y'all

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Beerthday Tour of Pour tland #3! - The Other Side of the River: Hopworks, Roots, and Amnesia brewing

So after Jen and I got up the next morning we headed to an amazing breakfast at Mother's cafe and then hung around soaking up the 70 degree weather down by the river. We just hung out, relaxed, read the paper. We had happened upon a perfect day for my Birthday. Thanks Jen for setting that up too. :)

So now down to the business you all are interested in. The reason we spent all this time hanging out NOT drinking beer is because, well, no one was open yet. something about drinking beer with breakfast I guess. So we crossed the river with Three stops in Mind. Hopworks, Roots, and Amnesia Brewing.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Hair Of The Dog Fred From The Wood: Alive and Wicked Good

Hair of the Dog Brewery's Fred From The Wood is a terrific beer. You won't find another like it. Not at your local grocer, not at the bar down the street on 10 cent wing night, not at the liquor store with the huge neon Corona sign. Forget it. If you want Fred, you can troll the beer trading websites, or you can show up in Portland, Oregon at some wee, small hour of the morning and stand in line for its release. Fortunately, I have a great friend like Shaun who was crazy - er - passionate enough to travel to Portland, get up in time to be at the brewery at 6 a.m., purchase some of this heavenly brew, then send me a bottle for my own sampling.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout: You Complete Me

How do you define perfection? Think about your favorite album, your favorite piece of art that you've spied, or perhaps your favorite meal you've ever had at a restaurant. What do they have in common? What makes them flawless?

Perfection seems to be the achievement of a harmony in which every element needed to create something is present in a superlative way, but each one blends in with such facility that none stands out. Each element services the whole with the highest level of precision.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Stone Age In Chicago: Stone Imperial Russian Stout

This beer is listed at 10.8% alcohol. That's high. Very high. That's "grab his keys, he just drank another one" high. Leave it to Stone to craft such a monster of an alcohol container as its Imperial Russian Stout. How could they not offer something so bold, that's what they do. This is the brewery that offers beers with names such as "Ruination" and "Arrogant Bastard'. Even the "Smoked" Porter is probably a reference to getting whacked like a mobster, offed, taken out.

Beerthday Tour of Pour tland #2! - Deschutes for dinner.

Excellent story from Founders Mark! That's right up their with the great guys at Cascade. One thing I love about being a beer head is no matter where you go the great brewers are always nice welcoming people who are happy to show you their work.

Let me continue with my Beerthday Journey in Portland.

After the wife and I were done relaxing at the hotel we went out to dinner at Deschutes Brewing's brewpub in downtown Portland. They have an excellent and very polished large space. Big pane windows everywhere, tall ceilings and huge carved beams with intricate carvings of Northwestern nature scenes. Big shiny fermenters in the background.

It's a very impressive establishment.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Pearly Gates: Founders Visit

So, beer fans. It's high time that I report on my journey to one of America's greatest, Founders Brewery in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Before things nearly went awry, my plans were to attend the festivities surrounding the release of Founders legendary Kentucky Breakfast Stout, its highly sought after, scrumptious, elite bourbon barreled stout. It's the bourbon barreled version of their outstanding Breakfast Stout, brewed with strong coffees. I almost didn't make it. Due to a security alarm problem on my Volkswagen, I was stranded on the Friday night before my journey, which was supposed to begin at around 5 a.m. to ensure that I could get there in time to join the line that would surely await the brewery's opening. After all, the hype surrounding this year's KBS release was out of control. Thanks to Hertz, I got a car by 7 a.m., even though I had to take the train to Chicago Midway Airport to pick up my Hyundai.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Get Stoned, Chicago

The worst kept secret is out. Stone Brewing is going to spread their amazing wares in Chicago, the Windy City, so named by a New York penman because of the city's history of big talk. What a perfect marriage, Stone and Chicago. Stone talks pretty big about their beers, and like the venerable Windy City, they always seem to back it up. I started at the top with Stone, first trying their boldest, bad ass Ruination IPA at the Hop Leaf, right here in tough talking Chicago. Yeah, they kinda sorta of snuck that keg into the establishment, but the evidence was quickly swallowed by me and other willing patrons. A love affair was born. I've written quite a bit at this site about my Stone experiences; unfortunately, most occurred outside of Chicago.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Beerthday Tour of Portland! - Cascade brewing

Well it's been a while since I've posted up. There's been a bunch of things going on that I have to share with everyone!

In April Mark and I will be making a pilgrimage to Munster Indiana for Dark Lord Day at Three Floyds. I am looking forward to it buddy! Both of us are equipped with our golden tickets and will be figuring out exactly what the current limits of bootlegging laws allow. :)

This week my wonderful wife set up a mid-week overnight to Portland for a beer tasting tour! Isn't she just the best. :)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Founders Brewery (aka Heaven)

So, I thought I'd share with you that I finally had a chance to visit Founders Brewery in Grand Rapids Michigan. I went there on Saturday, March 13th, for the release of their legendary Kentucky Breakfast Stout. I plan on writing more on this in the coming days, including several specific beer reviews.

At this moment, I would like to thank the great folks at Founders who treated me exceptionally well during my visit. Your brew house is everything a great brewpub should be: warm and inviting, quaintly decorated, a huge chalkboard listing the latest offerings, and a friendly staff who all seemed proud of their employer's craft. The entire brewery smelled like a fresh herb garden. Above all, the beer was fantastic and was mountain snow fresh.

More to come later, but thank you Founders for the hospitality and for being so freaking awesome.

Friday, March 5, 2010

My Old Friend, Victory Prima Pils

Recall that car you had when you just started college, the one that needed repairs here and there but seemed as if it would run forever? Or, how about that flannel shirt you'd rip out of the closet or dig out of the hamper when you were in a hurry to meet the fellas for a pint. Maybe it's that buddy of yours whom you haven't talked to in forever, and after a few minutes on the phone it's as if you just hung out yesterday. Little did you know, you were actually embracing the equivalent of Victory Prima Pils.

Bell's Batch 9000 - Black Gold, Texas Tea

Well, you're probably familiar with that quote, "black gold, Texas tea", from the Beverly Hillbillies introduction. That ballad was an ode to the slick substance that made ol' Jed a millionaire and prompted his proto-reality-TV-like move to America's ritziest zip code. What does this have to do with Bell's Batch 9000? This beer is not all that different from the fossil fuel that made t.v. characters like Jed and J.R. Ewing rich. Next time your car's check oil light turns on, considering pouring in a 12 ouncer of this baby.

Only, don't do it! Batch 9000 is far too beautiful a concoction for automotive use - it should be greasing your palate, not your engine. And at 12.5%, this barleywine should be as far removed from all things related to driving as possible.

From what I gather, Batch 9000 is part of a series of releases from legendary Bell's brewer Larry Bell. Every time he hits a millennial barrel of beer, at least among the last few thousand, he makes the batch with the triple zeros in its number sequence a special release. And is Batch 9000 ever special. It's a viscous, oily beer that has hints of everything imaginable - everything dark, and sweet and/or syrupy, that is. Think of licorice, Malbec, candied blackberries, rum, chocolate coffee honeydews. Stevie Wonder could write a rambling coda to one of his awful 80's songs about this beer's flavor profile. Batch 9000 is like wine. It pours no head and sits in the glass like a pool of tar. Its ABV gives many Zins and California Cabs a run for their money.

Sipping is required. Batch is so rich and thick, you'd gag trying to gulp it down. It takes only a few sips before you get a deep, enchanting buzz. While enjoyable, you realize that two or three of these beers in rapid succession would put you in detox for a couple of days. Slug a couple of these on a Sunday night before work and you'll be searching later that week.

HOLY WATER/DRINK/POUR DOWN THE SINK: This one's holy water. Your priest might literally pass out just from sniffing it too closely. Good luck finding this limited release. It will soon be gone forever except at beer trading sites as we await Batch 10,000, a beer that will probably be illegal in 38 states and New Brunswick.

* * * * * stars (exceptional, elite).

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout-For thick necked guys named Gunter, and you.

This is the second of the thick black beers from Mark. You know the ones that "only thick necked guys named Gunter" drink. Some of you may be a little young for that one so google "becks beer commercials" on facetube, or whatever it's called.

Mark has picked out one of his favorites from one of his favorite breweries for me. Brooklyn Brewing's Black chocolate Stout. Or as I like to call it "Black Chocolate Yum." It pours a nice warm thick black with a foamy cocoa colored head. I can definitely smell the chocolate and crystal malt. It has a sweet nutty malty smell.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Bittersweet Enjoyment - Bell's Hopslam, 2009

I recently got to try a few pints of Bell's Brewery's Hopslam, the Kalamazoo, Michigan, area's double IPA. Their "standard" IPA, Two Hearted Ale, is worthy of a review, too, at some point. Chicago is close enough to Michigan and such a Bell's crazy city, that you can find the limited availability Hopslam at a few places around town. My most recent hop slam was at a local pub, The Village Tap.

The VT offered the beer in an 8 oz. pour, probably because of its limited availability and because, with its 10% average, enough is enough. That format is not uncommon for this beer, as other pubs similarly offer it. It starts with a dose of rich, but not overly bright hops, that smell more of wildflowers than citrus, like the west coast ones (not to definitively state that their hops are not Cascades). Then comes a bit of a twist. Sweet smells start to make it apparent that something different is going on and that you are not in for another bruiser of a double IPA. It pours a modest head. Initially, the taster is socked with a surprising amount of honey or apricots on the palate. This mouthfeel is more in line with a high alcohol lager or an Anchor Steam; it does not have the creaminess of some DIPA's, such as Michigan's Acadia Brewery's Hop Mouth or Russian River's Pliny the Elder.

Hopslam's finish can be alarming to non-IPA drinkers, as a copious hop blast arrives at the finish. For IPA vets, it's the moment they've been waiting for but does not arrive too late. The sweetness of this beer unites most beer drinkers on either side of the dividing line, but never predominates; this is never cloying.

Rating: **** stars. A unique and outstanding beer, grounded in enough hops to keep one entertained; but don't let the sweet flavors suck you in to a drunken stupor.

The Flavor Enhancah! - 2007 Great Lakes Blackout Stout

Last month I wrote a testimonial - er - review of Great Lakes Brewery's renowned Blackout Stout. The great Cleveland brewery informs that this beer is normally available for a few months, beginning in January. Lush, my local wine store informs that it has been delayed this year for undisclosed reasons. Ross Perot would surely attribute it to NAFTA and that giant sucking sound. That aside, I was fortunately able to get my hands on some 2007 Blackout through Lush. I was nervous because these bottles stated that their contents were "best before 8/2/07". How would this affect this most delicious brew (when fresh)?

As Tim Meadows stated to Dewey Cox in Walk Hard, it "only makes it better." The normal, rich roasted malt elements had progressed to a deeper charcoal flavor. There was a stern nuttiness, perhaps chestnut around the edges of the palate. These flavors combined for a strong, elongated finish, leaving the taster bewitched but greatly anticipating the next sip, and ruing the last. The concerns regarding freshness were clearly misguided. That this stout is a 9% concoction permits its aging for extended periods, making this a serious beer, of vintage capability.

Notably, Lush informs that Great Lakes is scrapping the "best before" dating on its future Blackout bottlings, and going with vintage dating. Thus, the capability for vertical tasting with this beer is no longer an implication, but a true formality.

RATING: * * * * 1/2 Stars. This is a complete beer that will entice even non-stout drinkers (weirdos), and is priced far below many of its rivals in the same class.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dark Horse Reserve- "I'll take it" Black bier ale

Mark sent me his latest selection of fine beers from Chi-town. He recommended I start with the Dark Horse of the bunch (pun intended). The Dark Horse Brewing Reserve, Special Black Bier Ale. Dark Horse Brewing is from the great state of Marshall Michigan. Which, for you michigan people, is below the middle of the mitten right where the main line down the middle of your palm meets the muscles from the thumb and outside of your hand.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Three Floyd's Behemonth - Light on it's feet but packs a punch

My friends had a special beer tasting event this past weekend where the guys pulled together an amazing 3 year vertical tasting of Dogfishead Red and White Barleywine. I'll get to that special event in the next posting. We also brought along a bunch of stuff to try on the undercard as well. My contribution was an '09 Three Floyd's Behemoth. You may remember I picked it up on my last trip out to visit Mark in Chicago. I have to say I was a little worried since it was fairly young and Barleywine's can be very strong without a little mellowing. I was pleasantly suprised by this one.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hair of The Dog - Michael (not that Jackson)

Wow so I've now had this beer 3 times since the dock sale in November. Once at the sale, Once at Brouwer's Big Wood festival, and Once from my own stash last weekend. I've been holding off since it seemed like it was still a little young and hot but I have to tell you last weekend it was Awesome!!

This is Allen Sprints' newest brew and is dedicated to Michael Jackson, The beer critic, not the pop star.

Lucky 13 Laggi Red - Summer time and picnics in a bottle

Alright. Since it's January and we're all in a funk from the weather I'm going to dig out a review from this past summer that I've been lax in posting up. Also I know Mark was keen to know my opinion on one of his personal favorites.

A while back Mark sent me some Lagunitas Lucky 13 Red Ale. Mark met the brewer at an event over the summer in Chicago and really hit it off with the guy and his beer.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

2 Beers Brewing - Younger Hops please...

My wife bought me a coupon for a beer tasting at 2 beers brewing. She knows me too well. :) So we went down this afternoon with a couple of friends and did a tasting of their offerings. In summary I think they had a solid offering of malty brews but their hops quality was sub par. Any hoppy tasting beer had a metallic taste with a harsh bitterness. Like they were using hop pellets rather than the easily accessible fresh hops available in this region. Based on that I think they need a little more maturing and aren't up to the local standards of say Schooner Exact or Trade Route. Who are two local breweries I would say are on similar size.

-Their 20:20 Blonde was a very nice pilsner. It's made with authentic German Malt Pils. It's fresh and has a nice effervescence. This is a nice drinking beer that would be a great summer beer or something you'd get for the girl you're trying to impress. She'd like it and it would be respectable for you to drink as well.

-Amber. This is a a bit of a caught in the middle beer. The brown ale is much stronger and the Blonde is more drinkable. Right now this beer doesn't really distinguish itself enough. This style is the defacto style that most people order at the bar. So they need to work on it a bit.

-Brown Ale. This was my favorite of the offerings. The malts were nice and strong with solid carbonation and a hop bite at the end. there was a coffee taste that was a nice addition that made this brown ale stand out from your standard brown ale. It was well balanced and showed off a good mix of skills and ingredients. The malts were strong enough to keep the inferior hops at bay.

-Echo IPA. This was a sad IPA experience. The hops were strong but in a bitter metallic way that was not pleasing or exciting. it definitely sent up a red flag for me. Skip this one.

-Jive Espresso Stout. This was a solid stout. It was not as dry as some I've had or as hot/alcoholic as an imperial can be. It was very drinkable. Given the choice I picked the brown ale as my full pint choice at the end. I look forward to seeing these guys grow and develop and hop to see them increase their hops budget in the future.

Pros: Solid quality malts, great Brown ale.

cons: Metallic rabbit pellet cheapo hops make anything hoppy taste like crap.

verdict: Stick to the darks and every once in a while tell your friend to try the IPA to see if it gets better or not.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Magic Hat Howl: Shout It Out - But Don't Drink It

I know a bartender here in town who runs a pub with a pretty decent tap. She knows I dig good beers and has tried to get some good stuff on tap for me, and often has the occasional stunner.

During a recent visit, she asked me in a flirty manner if I would try a recent addition to their winter tap, a winter beer from Magic Hat, "Howl". I'm always suspicious of seasonal beers; they usually disappoint. Maybe they underwhelm because all the brewers gravitate towards the same ideas about what a season should taste like: in most cases, summer beers are always light and wheaty; fall beers are overly malted and tepid, winter beers are heavy and bland. Who makes a "Spring" beer, anyway?

As she poured me a free, full glass and nudged it in my direction, I could see her face swelling with anticipation for my trial. "Oh, I'm going to stun him with something he's never tried before. He's gonna be surprised." She was wrong. The only surprise regarding this beer was how someone would think it was good enough to get giddy about. Howl, at best, is something you find at the back of a fridge at a party when you're already buzzed, looking to get hammered, and all the other options are Coors Light and Keystone.

It barely pours a head, much like the perennially flat looking Shiner Bock (which is a better beer). The color is dark brown, with perhaps a bit of grey, like charred wood. It has an interesting but fleeting piney flavor which is quickly overwhelmed by cheap beer watery-ness. The weak finish leaves one wanting. You wish the brewer had chosen to add more hops or more sweetness or something. They came so close to doing something that wasn't just average. Too bad. Magic's Kit Kat IPA is a pretty solid brew but they threw a pick in the red zone with this one. It goes down to defeat in the first quarter of the game.

HOLY WATER, DRINK, POUR DOWN THE SINK: After a sip or two, tip this one upside down over the drain and reach for something else. Hell, bring on the Shiner Bock.

IPA Series: Race To The Bottom (of Your Glass) - Racer 5 IPA

"Aw, hell," I exclaimed. It was the first time I'd ever dreaded finding out that one of my favorite beers was on tap. I was at the Map Room with a buddy of mine. After a bender the night before, I had decided that I wouldn't be drinking that day. Intelligently, I decided to meet a couple of friends at a bar, which certainly lent itself to remaining on the wagon. And it wasn't just any bar, but the venerable Map Room with it's chalkboard of selections and varied tap of great craft brews. Oh yes. But, I courageously fought the urge as they downed beers and BBQ - until I was on the way out. After remarking to my buddy that the only thing I craved at that point was a Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA, which wasn't listed as being on tap, my friend happened to ask if they had anything new but unlisted. The bartender informed us that they indeed had - of all things - Racer 5, but they had just gotten a fresh batch and hadn't updated the tap labels. A new bender was on.

Why am I writing about this particular IPA? Racer 5 is not *the* best IPA on the market. It represents no special brewing process, barreling, aging, or flavoring. It's got a solid pedigree - Bear Republic produces some of the most manly, steady, heady beers out there. Their Hop Rod Rye and Big Bear Stout are probably more unusual and limits-pushing than Racer 5. I just have a huge beer crush on the Racer.

Maybe it's the packaging, with that cartoonish, badly-shaped "Racer 5" that shows the brewer is not overly-serious. Compare it to Lost Abbey's heavy-handed saintly packaging. It's probably got more to do with the fact that it's such an unpretentious brew. It has a cloudy, orange-yellow color, like a hazy sun on a humid day. The citrus hop odor is strong and direct. It offers a slightly creamy texture, but has a softer bitterness that finishes with a tempered but incisive hop bite. The hop oils are highly prevalent. It nips at you the way a good whiskey does and gradually smooths things out before the next sip.

HOLY WATER, DRINK, DOWN THE SINK? Drink it, every time you want an enjoyable beer. This would be my version of Miller Lite: a beer that should always be available. Even if it's not the prettiest girl in the room it still thrills. I knocked back a few of these on Thanksgiving and started feeling pretty thankful for the good folks at Bear Republic. Thanks for improving my drinking life, even if you're ruining my liver.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Michelob Winter's Ale - Aging "On" Bourbon Barrels?

Tonight I realized we were out of beer we could "just drink" in the fridge. So I waded through the cases of beer patiently aging and waiting for that unknown future date and headed out to pick up something at the store. A new beer from...Michelob...caught my eye. Yeah you read right. I'm trying a Michelob. And writing a review!

A-B has been reshaping Michelob into their specialty brew division and working at creating more craft style small batch beers. i applaud the effort to get with the program. This is their winter offering. It's called "Winter's Bourbon Cask Ale."

It's described as "Aged on Bourbon barrels with vanilla bean." Between you and I, the apostrophe in winter's and the "aged on" bit, there seems to be a ton of corporate adverspeak going on here. Which is never a good sign. Using the power of the internet I was able to uncover that it is billed as a spiced winter ale style beer. It is aged for an undetermined length of time in their aging tanks with bourbon barrel chips in them. Similar to the process bud uses for their "beechwood" aging process. Not quite what I was hoping for. So they carved up some bourbon barrels and used them to flavor the beer. This can work if given enough time but that's not the point of barrel aging beer. Pulling flavor is only 1/2 the equation and to some brewers, only incidental.

My first advice: If you really want to appeal to the craft beer crowd say what you mean and tell us what's really going on. You'll earn yourself legitimacy points that way.

On to the beer itself. It pours a clear amber color with a fine foamy head. There is a candy sweet vanilla aroma followed by a slight hint of malt. It looks a little light for a winter but all in all dark for a macro brew. The sweet nose gives me some pause though.

Oh the vanilla! My first though upon drinking was imitation vanilla extract. It may be real but it's so syrupy sweet and overpowering that it's too much and tastes fake and forced. There is light carbonation and some maltiness mixed in but the vanilla stays so long on the back of your tongue that it really does drown out the rest.

I don't think your buddy that drinks crap beer will like the syrupy sweetness and I don't think your beer geek buddy who knows good vanilla and barrel aged beers will like it. This reminds me of J.W. Dundees Honey Brown ale back in the 90's. I don't know where they actually put the bourbon barrels or for how long, but there was no taste or feel from them at all. Maybe "on" meant physically in a container that was resting on top of the Bourbon barrels?

So who will this appeal to? College girls. I hate to stereotype but this is a sweet beer that will appeal to people who don't like beer much, are willing to try it, and generally drink fruity mixed drinks. So if you're out cruising the college bars and they have this on tap. Buy it for that 1/2 drunk college girl at the end who just forced the bar tender to pull out the blender for a pina colada. Both she and the bartender will thank you. And one of them might even give you their number. ;)

I give Michelob credit for trying this out and I encourage them to keep refining and going after the craft beer styles. They're a smart bunch with tons of money and great facilities. They'll hit the mark eventually.

Pros: Good bait when trolling for college girls. Cheers to Michelob for actually recognizing the matureing beer market and attempting a more sophisticated beer!

cons: Waste of good bourbon barrels. How many Mexican children must have died to bring enough vanilla to market to make this beer taste this sweet?

Verdict: B+ for effort but a D for taste. Unless you're going to make an ice cream float with this don't bother.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Singular: Tyranena's Dirty Old Man Porter

It's fun to be blown away by a beer. I've written about Tyranena Brewing before when I wrote a mash letter/blog post regarding their tastelessly named Hop Whore IPA, a sensational beer. Today, I come to you with another brilliant entry from perhaps the brightest brewing star in Wisconsin, although New Glarus Brewing certainly makes a run at the top.

Let me just say that Tyranena's Dirty Old Man rye porter is one of the most unique beers I've ever tried. I had it on tap. Brewed in Lake Mills, WI, as part of their "Brewers Gone Wild" series of specialty releases (which includes Hop Whore), this one grabs at your attention like a Doberman and continues gnawing with every sniff and sip. Dirty Old Man is a milky to moderate brown and pours a white foamy head. The aroma is on the sweeter malt end, but, brother, don't be fooled. It kicks in with a rich, nutty malt flavor that is steadily overtaken by sharp, grainy rye flavors. The combination of toffee-like malts and toasted rye is stunning and unprecedented. Each flavor makes you desire more of the other. This is surely a "stare at your beer" beer as you ponder how the brewer achieved this level of unique mastery of flavors. It's pretty incredible and I hope to see it again someday. You could pair this with a burger on a rye bun or English muffin, or even team it with dessert; but, why bother? A beer this good should not have its flavors compromised by food and it needs no enhancement.

HOLY WATER, DRINK OR POUR DOWN THE SINK: This is first ballot holy water, a singular drinking experience.

Diggn' on Some Punkin - Dogfish Head Punkin Ale

Dogfish Head does nothing ordinary. They make my signature beer, the 90 Minute IPA, an extremely well-balanced DIPA, and a variety of other beers, some specialties, some unusual takes on ordinary styles. It's this legacy that led me to try their pumpkin beer, the Punkin Ale. I was a bit averse at first. I'm typically not a fan of "seasonal" beers because most of the big brew shops make one, or sponsor one through a smaller label, and the flavors tend to be pretty watered down. The brewers all seem to gravitate toward the same old ideas for what the seasonals should taste like. Moreover, sweet beers are not my favored style either.

DFH's Punkin is a tasteful balance of something accessible yet inspiring. It pours an IPA-like foam head and has an orange brown color. The nose has lots of spice, especially nutmeg. The taste is nothing to get excited about but it has a mild pumpkin flavor that's its namesake, and is firmly grounded with a hop foundation. It's not overly sweet and finishes with a pesky bite. It's very pleasant to drink. It's enough to make me want one or two of these a year, but won't make me forget mom's pumpkin pie.

HOLY WATER, DRINK, OR POUR DOWN THE SINK: This is great for a pumpkin beer, but it's a pumpkin beer, a novelty, so it gets rated on the "Drink" scale. Try a slice.

Angels We Have Had On Tap - Lost Abbey's Angel's Share

A rarity, Port Brewing's Belgian wing, Lost Abbey's, most coveted beer, the Angels' Share, popped up on tap at the Long Room, a terrific beer pub near my place in Chicago. I've had it once before, but was required to order it this time since I knew I'd not see it again for the rest of the year, if ever. A.S. is a celebrated barleywine (12.5%), and is heavily allocated and I'm told generates long lines in San Diego upon its annual release.

I'm not sure I'd fuss about it as much as others, but it's an elegant beer. It's properly served in a stemmed glass or chalice, and pours no head. A.S. sits there waiting for you like a dark bog, a mysterious tar pool. It's black, maybe purple, and it's nose offers dark fruits, bourbon, and medicine. This is an extremely complex beer: every sip suggests a different flavor. Of course you get bourbon from the barreling, but you can also derive honey, blackberries, chocolate covered fruit, syrah, and even cherry from it. It all depends on the sip. Towards the end, as it warms, a more bourbon-syrupy flavor predominates.

HOLY WATER, DRINK OR POUR DOWN THE SINK: Ironically, I'd have to go with a very strong "Drink" rating. It's not my favorite style - I prefer stronger beers - but I get the fuss. A beer of this complexity is hard to achieve and will certainly excite fans of the style. The scarcity of this beer makes it a must have wherever you find it. I find it to be a great primer for a rock-ribbed IPA, a path I followed courtesy of Port's Wipe Out IPA.

Santa's Big Helper - Three Floyds Alpha Klaus

I've been trying to maintain a top 10 beer list for the last year or so to keep track of my favorites and how my tastes keep changing. Without question, Three Floyd's Brewery's Alpha King is squarely in my top 5 and cemented my strong interest in the brewery's unusual and quirky offerings. They don't know how to make anything taste ordinary, and thank FFF for that. I recently tried their Christmas "porter", the Alpha Klaus, while visiting the Map Room, one of the great beer pubs in the U.S., right here in Chicago. This one's jet black with maybe a bit of chestnut on the nose. It pours an elegant white-grey head, believe it or not, and is uber-concentrated.

My friend described it as tasting like a chocolate Alpha King. That's dead wrong. It's nutty with perhaps a hint of a coffee note with a strong hoppy, barley, grainy finish that's the signature "oh wow, that's different" moment you expect from Three Floyd's. The taster is left with something to think about at the end before diving into the next sip; and you cannot wait for the next roasted malt-turned-grainy sip.

It stands atop any Christmas offering I've had this year, towering above boring, overly-malted, flabby offerings from Goose Island, Great Lakes, and Anchor. There's a new reason to regret that "it" only comes once a year.

HOLY WATER, DRINK, OR POUR DOWN THE SINK: Overall I've had better porter styles, like the Tyranena Dirty Old Man rye porter, a mind blower. Compared with other porters, I would lean toward a very strong "Drink" rating. On the Christmas scale, however, it's solidly holy, complete with halo.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Goose Island '09 Christmas Ale

A friend introduced me to this year's Goose Island at Thanksgiving. I enjoyed it and figured it would be a beer I could review that Mark could actually purchase and drink in Chicago for a change. So here we are reviewing the Goose Island '09 Christmas Ale.

It has a slightly hazy caramel color that is darker than an Amber but lighter than a brown ale. It is listed as a holiday brown ale but it's lighter in color than your typical brown ale. The brewer recommends it be aged up to 5 years so I suspect it will darken with age.

It has a deep frothy head when you pour it with a slight off white creamy texture. The nose is light with a slight dough/yeast smell along with a light hop smell.

The flavor is not as malty as you might expect. There is a good balance of bittering hops and the carbonation hits the center of your tongue in unison with the malt and hops. It's very pleasant beer that feels comfortable. Like that return home for the holidays where you recognize all those places and faces from your childhood, before you remember why you left.

This is a good beer to settle in with and share with friends and family. It has a good balance that many can enjoy without offending your Mom or sending Grandpa on a rant about "what real beer in his day tasted like." All in all a great beer to celebrate the holiday with and if you're patient, to hold on to for next holiday.

-A nice comfortable balance of malt, hops, and effervescent flavors.

-A solid enjoyable beer but not a unique standout, Just like your coming home to your favorite pair of slippers.

-A well balanced beer to try and keep your unbalanced family in check during the holidays