Friday, December 30, 2011

Visit to Russian River Brewing - The "fight or flight" Flight

Jen and I went down to visit her family in the Bay Area over the Christmas holiday and scheduled a trip to Santa Rosa to visit Russian River Brewing's brew pub. You've heard me rave about their sours and their famous IPA's that both Mark and I love. Check out what happens when you ask for a flight at their brewpub.The walkthrough after the break.






Three Floyds Broo Doo Harvest Ale Review

I love that scene in Casino in which De Niro is doing the voice over and describing his semi-partner in crime, Tommy's, rules of engagement.  Of Tommy he says something like, if you bring a knife to the fight, he brings a gun, and the fight won't be over until one of you two is dead.  I think an IPA fight between you and Three Floyds would similarly end in a fatality.  Police chalk would be on the sidewalk. Consider their one-upmanship ability with IPA's.  First they come at you with Blackheart.  Then they hit you with Arctic Panzer Wolf.  As if that's not enough, they'll cream you with Dreadnaught.  And just when you think they've exhausted their arsenal, they'll uncock the Broo Doo. These guys are truly IPA assassins.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Port Brewing Santa's Little Helper: Review

In contrast to recent write-up subjects, namely, Sierra Nevada's Celebration Ale and Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale, Port's Santa's Little Helper is much closer to what you expect out of a Christmas beer: it's dark.  It's got a modestly sized mocha colored head.  It's also rich and more malt-dominated than hops-dominated.  But it's not just a heavy malt affair dressed up in nutmeg, ginger, orange peel, pumpkin spice, and whatever Christmas baking ingredients were lying around the brewery.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Apostel Brau Pale Ale Review

Did I ever get a real treat today.  Chicago's incredible beer house, Local Option, put up an uber-rare German beer treat today, Apostel Brau's pale ale.  The brewer claims to be continuing a brewing tradition dating back to 1713.  As expected, they appear to be well versed in making traditional Bavarian styles of beer such as pilsners.  This one's a pale ale but is not really a nod to our side of the pond. They put their own unique stamp on it.

Lagunitas Sucks Being Re-Released As Leftovers

Good news, beer lovers.  The hard to obtain and quickly stocked out Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale is being re-released as Lagunitas Holiday Leftovers Ale.  Despite rumors out there that the re-release has a different aftertaste, my sources tell me that it is the same beer as before.  The new logo has a Santa cookie with several bites taken out of it as opposed to the original logo which had what looked like a plastered Santa plastered on the bottle.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Brooklyn Brewing Shackmeister Ale At New York's Shake Shack

I just returned from the beloved city of New York after visiting family for a few days of pre-Christmas merriment.  I love New York and always will for more reasons than I can discuss. Given The City's vast expanse, its replete with overlooked greatness.  If you go to New York, you'll find amazing restaurants representing every style of cuisine.  And if money's not a big issue during your stay, you'd be a fool to waste it making fast food a part of any meal. An exception to this suggested moratorium is the Shake Shack.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

One beer that I haven't talked about in enough detail in the past that made my very football oriented Christmas list of beers is Sierra's Celebration Ale.  It dares to be different. Celebration is indeed designed by Sierra to be a holiday ale; it's released every November/December.  Setting it apart from the Christmas beer masses is its profile that contrasts sharply with other holiday brews out there.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Elysian Cyclops Barleywine '03/'04 vertical


I love a good barleywine and prefer them a bit on the Hoppy side. Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws and Three Floyd's Behemoth are two of my favorites. Right now Elysian Brewing on Capitol Hill has both their '03 and '04 Cyclops barleywine on tap. You should go get some

I had an opportunity Saturday night to try them side by side. I enjoy good barleywines but sometimes they are a bit sweet for my taste. Either way I had to try what a 7 and 8 year old Brewer's reserve barleywine tastes like. It was a special treat I couldn't pass up. Check out my preference after the break.

More of my Christmas Favorites

Wow I don't know how I could have forgotten a few of these excellent Holiday Ales.

Okay this is where you look at me sideways and say, Trader Joe's private label beer? Really? Really. This private label beer is made by Unibroue out of Quebec and their Belgian style strong ales are exceptional. It has a dark ruby/brown color, a typical belgian yeast nose with carmel and dried fruit. The beer is malty with lots of dried fruit and spices. It has some nice hop pineyness that offsets the sweetness and makes for a nice balanced spiced beer. Yumm. And it's $4.99 for a 22oz!

This beer will mess you up. Like privateers that used to fly this flag it will sail up while you're not looking and unload all it's cannons on you. This is one strong drinkable Christmas beer. It's their Christmas strong ale. This is an 8% beer but it's creaminess make it very drinkable. You can find pitchers of this at some of our favorite local establishments. It is dangerous but excellent session beer for the winter months.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Shaun's Favorite Christmas Ales

It's Christmas time! And that means Christmas Ales, Holiday Ales, Winter Ales and Lagers. I've put together a list of a few of my favorites. One thing that surprises me is the relative affordability of Christmas Ales. I don't know if it's just that brewers are in the giving spirit but a few of my favorites are a relative steal!

What I like in a Christmas beer after the break

Uinta Dubhe Imperial Black IPA

Uinta marks the first and only brewery I know of from Utah and they have not exactly left me pining for more.  Get it?  Pining?   You'd get it if you had tried the Dubhe Imperial Black IPA like I did.  It's a beer with a massive amount of pine in it, as though they brewed it with pine bark along with hops and malt. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Review of Local Option Beer Event - December 15, 2011

Shout out to the folks at Local Option who really know how to put on a first class beer event.  Any great beer event starts and ends with great beers.  It is taken to another level when you have great hosts as is the case with the Local Option crew.  Hats off to them. The beers were quite outstanding.

Great Lakes Blackout Stout: the Return, the Review


Tonight, excellence returned in dark form in a short glass.  Great Lakes Blackout Stout has come upon us again after a year's hiatus allegedly so that they could reset the schedule for a fall release.  Regardless of the reasoning it was well worth the wait. It's better than ever.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Local Option Beer Event - Thursday December 15, 2011

They call it "biblical".  You decide.  Whatever your adjective, tomorrow night The Local Option in Chicago is having its final beer event of the season, "Ass Makeover", featuring an extensive beer list headed up by Surly Darkness.  

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Tim Tebow Christmas/Holiday Beers List Review

I was thinking about how to organize my list of Christmas/holiday beers to try while I was still fuming.  Last Sunday, Tim Tebow's team, the Broncos, beat my Chicago Bears in an improbable last second victory that was a painful defeat crushing the Bears' playoff hopes.  As an added indignity, it happened on my birthday.

With my mind on Tebow and how he helped ruin my birthday and darken my Christmas season with the dramatic comeback, I'm going to run through a ranking of ten of the Christmas/holiday ales I've tried this year, organized by the NFL quarterbacks they bring to mind.  This list is not necessarily representative of who I think the top ten quarterbacks are (after all, I've included Tebow), or, for that matter, the top 10 such beers.  This is more of a survey of notable beers.  And since Tebow helped inspire this list, I'm getting him on the list:

Monday, December 12, 2011

Brooklyn Brewery Black Ops

In this piece over at Chicago Foodies, I write up Brooklyn Brewery's Black Ops, an 11% bourbon barreled stout that has just seen it's annual release.  A mysterious brew, it is not ostensibly listed anywhere on Brooklyn's website.  

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Great Lakes Blackout Stout Returns


Here's the latest ales forecast: a Blackout is headed your way.   After taking a year off from being brewed, Great Lakes Blackout Stout, a beer we've written up several times, has made its return to shelves in Chicago, starting this week, as liquor stores are rolling out this year's allotment.  Cleveland's amazing Russian imperial stout makes its return in all its 9% glory.  I want to make you aware of a few points, including misconceptions regarding this year's release.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Review: Bell's Hopslam Reloaded

I was privy to a recent tapping of Bell's Brewing's legendary Hopslam, their delicious DIPA that's highly sought after and only available on shelves because of its oppressive price.  Not long ago Clark Street Ale House happened to tap some of this 10% plus brew.  I've giddily written about Hopslam in the past, and so has Shaun, and what appears to be this year's batch is consistent with prior releases.  So, I'll spare you any elaborating on it. 

Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale


Look at that logo.  There was simply no way I wasn't going to write about this beer, borne of a throughput issue.  That is, Lagunitas Brewing claims they were unable to make their notorious Brown Sugga Ale this year due to a lack of capacity, and instead sent us the Sucks Holiday Ale, splattered with a cool angry Santa logo.  Indeed the beer lives up to the logo's promise.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Boulevard Brewing Company 2011 Imperial Stout: Review

I haven't tried much lately that has blown me away or made me teary-eyed with joy.  I submit that the Boulevard Brewing 2011 Imperial Stout was quite impressive.  Clocking in at 11% ABV and housed in a stately bomber bottle containing off-the-cuff scribble that looks like the track listing on Exile on Main Street, there are plenty of non-substantive reasons for this brew's appeal. Yet the proof is always in the pudding.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Victory Brewing Dark Intrigue On Shelves Now

Be on the lookout for this one.  Victory Brewing, whom I have waxed poetically about as one of the world's great unheralded brewers, has come out with a special treat that's hitting shelves now but won't be around long.  I'm speaking of the Dark Intrigue, purporting to be a bourbon barreled version of their delectable Storm King Stout.  This concoction was once a brewery only beer that is being made available in bottles through their extensive distribution network at select liquor stores.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Beers

Greetings, folks and happy Thanksgiving!  Yes, I know it's belated, but check out this piece I wrote over at Foodies on Thanksgiving beer pairing ideas.   Thanksgiving may officially be over, but many of you will still be celebrating it in traditional style with your second families or friends this weekend.   And holiday party season has officially begun.  Enjoy and happy drinking. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

happy Thanksgiving! - My thoughts on what beer to bring

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope you have an abundance of friends, family,and good food. And a dearth of drama.

Thanksgiving is a great special occasion to break out a special beer to share with your loved ones. Here are my thoughts and recommendations.

My criteria:

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Oakshire Ill tempered Gnome - Welcome to Winter Damnit!

Well it's definitely winter time. You can tell around here because the sun goes away for 6 months. Well to celebrate the all to quick approach of winter grey and darkness Oakshire Brewing has brought us Ill Tempered Gnome. Which is how most of us start to feel as winter makes itself known. If you don't see the connection just come up to the PACNW for a winter and I think you'll know how Ill tempered a Gnome can get. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Surly Brewing's Darkness: Review

Think of something, it could be any genre, that you find to be "perfect".  Perfection demands a certain economy.  There has to be just enough of one element, not too much of another, the elements must blend together relatively harmoniously, a synergy must be created in that all the elements need to create a greater whole.  Think Kind of Blue or Coltrane's Giant Steps.  Think Goodfellas.   Think Les Miserables.  Think Catherine Zeta-Jones in Intolerable Cruelty when she wasn't actually talking.  That's the Surly Darkness experience. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

New Glarus Brewing IIPA

Certain New Glarus beers have a "thumbprint" on the bottle, which is a drawing in the shape of Wisconsin with fingerprint lines running through it.  Those beers are affectionately referred to as "Thumbprint" beers, including the Double IPA I just tried, the IIPA.  I guess the print motif is their way of saying that they're putting their mark on Badger State brewing.  That's a hard proposition to argue with as they have some impressive beers.  This is not one of them.  

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Review - Firestone Walker Brewing Parabola Imperial Stout

Over at Chicago Foodies I dissect Firestone Walker's 2011 release of Parabola, and lament over the increasing scarcity of great beers, particularly the limited release, barrel aged beers that have beer geeks crossing state lines.  I have a few more thoughts below. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Lagunitas Brewing Bavarian-Styled Doppel Weizen

Laguintas.  9% ABV.   Copious hops.  Long finish.  You'd think I was describing a new Laggie IPA but I'm actually about to speak on the new doppel weizen.  To my knowledge, this is Laggie's first foray into the world of German brewing.  Ok, so they have the excellent Pils, but there are far more barrels of  pilsner and pilsner-like substances brewed in the U.S. than in Deutschland.

Anyway, Laggie's invading Germany and based on the specs I just gave you, it's about to be D-Day for your palate.  This is because Laggie rarely does anything without an abundance of hops, and they come out swinging with this one.  Traditional German brewers will scoff at how the classical style has been inverted here.  If this is served to you in a tulip glass, it will have difficulty holding in the monstrous, gleaming white head on this.  Dandelions, grass, and some citrus dominate the nose, but there's something else in there to let you know it's not going to be a straight up DIPA besides that cloudy orange-yellow color that looks dyed.  That extra something is banana-orange and this beer is plentiful in that department.  You can smell it a bit but, brother, can you taste it.  In fact, it's downright beautifully blended with the hops for the first few sips.  The lacing on the glass is intricate and pervasive.  That's when things start to turn.

Dark Horse Brewing Coffee Dopplebock: Review


I've written in the past about the mighty Dark Horse Brewing, the brewer that owes nothing to convention, and have more to say about their Perkulator coffee dopplebock over at Chicago Foodies.  I just want to add that if you get a chance to check this unique brew out, do so.  To smell it is enough reason to pour one.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale

Some of the best beers are ones you take for granted.  With Arrogant Bastard, Stone has a beer that is perhaps overlooked by beer lovers because it's always available and extremely consistent; but it's a beer that cannot be ignored once you try it. It makes you take notice of it.  After not having a Bastard for awhile, I recently had one at The Green Lady bar near my home in Lakeview, my neighborhood.  It was a fall evening and I wanted a heartier, more robust beer, a sipper with some gusto, something not too easy drinking or too sweet.  The Bastard fit the bill, and it was just the way I wanted it, in its rugged original format, not its highly acclaimed but more polished barrel aged incarnations.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Great Divide - Fresh Hop Pale Ale

The fresh hop cruise continues. This week I picked up great divide's fresh hop pale ale. Get these little gems while they last! It's just a fun time of year to drink beer. Between Octoberfest beers, Pumpkin Beers, and Fresh/Wet hop ales we are awash in seasonal beers on limited release. Go get all that you can! This is the least local of the fresh hop beers I've drank but one of my favorites.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mark's Gift - Arcadia Ales - Cocoa Loco

Mark left me a small gift from his last visit that I've had in the fridge for a while. It's Arcadia Ale's Cocoa Loco. Don't worry this is not some malt beverage with caffeine in it that causes college kids to lose control in fits of hysteria and perform unscrupulous acts forcing towns councils to ban alcohol and dancing. This is a milk stout with Cocao nibs, chocolate, and Molasses.



Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Port Brewing High Tide Fresh Hop IPA

"Because you look so happy to have it," she said.   I was.   I had just sat down at The Bad Apple in Chicago after discovering on the invaluable beermenus.com that the Apple had Port High Tide Fresh Hop IPA on draft, a once-a-year beer I had been waiting for and Shaun just posted about today.  Great minds think alike and our thoughts have again coincided on beer.   Shaun greatly enjoyed his from the looks of it, and mine was splendid.

The woman quoted above was the Floridian bartender at the Apple who poured my first High Tide of the evening and reveled in my obvious glee.  There was no reason not to be giddy.  Port is known for their lean hoppy beers and once again show no mercy with High Tide. 

Port -High Tide Fresh Hop IPA

The Fresh Hop parade continues! This time I've picked up a bottle of Port Brewing's High Tide Fresh Hop IPA. This is one of the stronger Fresh Hop beers. Most are a bit subtler celebrating the subtle complex flavors in the hop profile. This is not one of those...



Monday, October 17, 2011

Bridgeport Brewing Hop Harvest

Hello, beer lovers.  Over at Chicago Foodies, I posted my review of Bridgeport Brewing's Hop Harvest beer.  Be sure to give it a look as I analyze another of the hop harvest ales that have been this month's major theme at our blog. Hoppy reading.   Sorry about that. 

Victory Brewing Braumeister Pils and Victory Festbier: A Hit And A Miss

With the World Series about to start, how about a few bad baseball analogies. I'm going to schedule a doubleheader of reviews here.  Allow me to step into the batter's box.  Actually, it's Victory at the plate, whose Hop Wallop I just reviewed in the context of saying that Victory (1) doesn't usually miss on a beer; and (2) always gives you a twist, something unusual.  Well, no brewer in the country bats .1000.  Victory has a hole in their lineup and it's the Festbier that should be hitting 9th - I guess since Pennsylvania's a National League state, it hits 8th, in front of the pitcher, perhaps even a greater indignity. 

What I'm trying to tell you is that Victory swung and missed majorly with the Festbier.  I'm typically anti-Oktoberfests these days, finding them flabby and watery malt affairs.  A slew of brewers think they just have to brew one, and very few of them stand out.  Sadly, the brewing community at large doesn't even seem to be trying to distinguish their Okt from the others, perhaps because of a desire to adhere to a common perception of the German brewing tradition.  But I've had really good German beers that are spicy, biscuity and more interesting than the flabby Okt's that Brooklyn, Great Lakes, et. al., churn out.  If that's truly representative of the German style, American craft brewers should leave it to the Deutscheland brau hauses and perhaps add some American flair to the Okt's, with more hops and spices.

Victory Brewing Hop Wallop Review

If you read us regularly, you are aware by now that I love Victory Brewing from Downingtown, PA, quite substantially.  I don't write about them nearly enough.   Sierra Nevada is the one I've voted as the nation's most underrated brewer, but at least their Pale Ale sells everywhere.   Victory's revenue's probably 30 percent of Sierra's and they are too often dissed or dismissed by even the devoted craft brew lovers, seemingly their core constituency.   A grocery store beer manager in my neighborhood recently told me that he won't have more than two shelf slots dedicated to Victory because he can't move the product. I don't get it.  Victory's lineup beats that of any Illinois brewer by a long shot, and they're one of the best brewers in the nation that offers most of their top quality beers in non-bomber sizes.  Thank you for that.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout: The Review

Finally.   After all the hype, the lines out the door at Founders, the phone calls, the Google searches, and the rejection, I finally got some of it.  I of course mean Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout, the legendary maple syrup bourbon barreled oatmeal stout that has just been released in bottles that you can't get.  All this hype and frenzy have been so ridiculous that it makes the Kentucky Breakfast Stout release seem like a regular Saturday delivery of Heineken keg cans.

Bottles of CBS are going for as much as $300 on the net.  Stores stocked out in 5 minutes.  One merchant told me of a fellow looking for it who had already purchased many bottles, knew that the store was not releasing its allotment until later that week, yet refused to leave the premises without being sold a bottle.  It must be nice to be sought after that much; CBS must feel like a supermodel.  If it failed to live up to the hype it would be a grave disappointment.

Three Floyds Arctic Panzer Wolf Imperial IPA

We write a lot about hops at this site because Shaun and I love them.  While that lucky dog Shaun's apparently been helping himself to the Pacific Northwest hop harvest ales like Ponce de Leon lapping up the fountain of youth, I've been stuck here in the Midwest sifting through for nuggets of hop goodness.  Three Floyds makes this job much easier.  Our latest theme has been hop harvest beers and I need to indulge in a Broo Doo in order to stay relevant here; but that hasn't shown up on tap yet.  Review forthcoming.  Meanwhile, I indulged in a hop monster that's been around for awhile that I've yet to review, Three Floyds Arctic Panzer Wolf.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Hop Harvest Continues - Sierra Nevada "Estate" Wet Hop

If most of you haven't noticed it's been a great month for beer. I've been piling through fresh hop special release after special release, Pumpkin beers are out and about everywhere, and Oktoberfest beers are all over. There are festivals going on left and right. I attended Elysian's pumpkinfest last weekend, Fremont Oktoberfest was a few weekends back. They just keep coming! The big malty beers are just around the corner but before we dive into the dark end we can embrace fall with a few more Fresh Hop and Harvest ales. Sierra Nevada has released their "Estate" Harvest Ale. A "Wet Hop" ale. Which, near as I can tell, is very much the same as Fresh Hop beer. Only thing I've noticed stylistically is "Wet Hop" beers tend to have stronger flavors than Fresh Hop. I don't know if that's just coincidental or not though. Sierra Nevada has grown all the ingredients for this beer on their premises in Chico California. I love the concept...

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Dogfish Head Strikes Again: 120 Minute IPA

After seemingly 3 weeks of receiving posts, pictures, and testimonials from friends of mine about it, I finally picked up a Dogfish Head Brewing 120 Minute IPA.  It's one of those event beers you have to post about.  The story is legendary. Dogfish Head brings in a new brewer.  He struggles to make the beer, destroying three batches due to an inability to correct flaws in the yeast.  Finally, he gets it right on try number four.  It hits the market in bombers and 12 oz. bottles, outrageously selling at $11 a bottle.  Was the buzz about this beer worth it?

Elite Porter: Smuttynose Robust Porter Review

I've discussed New Hampshire's Smuttynose Brewing briefly in the past but only recently did this beer recall one of the legendary beer conversations between Shaun and I.   Out in Seattle recently, I admitted to Shaun that I'm just not interested in drinking most brewers' main line offerings anymore.  "You're heading into dangerous territory, my friend" was Shaun's reply.  He didn't exactly explain what he meant, but probably didn't have to.  Seeking out limited or special releases means you are seeking out hard-to-find, high ABV, and, worst of all, expensive beers that will leave you broker and drunker than you started.   It's a tough spot but one in which I find myself locked in right now.

Aged 2008 Founders Breakfast Stout

Over at Chicago Foodies, I wrote up my recent experience drinking a 2008 Founders Breakfast Stout that had been aging for 3 years in the merchant's basement.   Lush Wine & Spirits here in Chicago bought a case, apparently three years ago, and let it sit for 36 months before recently selling it for $6 a bottle.

As I referenced in the post, I was mesmerized by how much better the Breakfast Stout is after living sedintarily for 3 years.  The harsher elements of the beer, namely the strong coffee and hops flavors, melt away after that much aging, leaving only hints of their existence, while the main ingredient, a heap of chocolate, oozes forth.  It's bitter chocolate that dominates this brew, like a 75% cacao bar.  Sensational.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

More On The Hop Harvest

Shaun waxed poetically about the decided advantage he has in the Pacific Northwest inasmuch as they have the freshest hops out there while the rest of us have to import them.  This pays off in wonderful ways at hop harvest time in the early fall.  I shot back with a couple of notable local fresh hop beers that extract the hop harvest goodness but failed to mention one important player:  Three Floyds.  Who else?

Their Broo Doo annual hop harvest release is now out in bomber sized bottles.  This has been a phenomenal imperial hop cornucopia in the past and I expect it to be no different this year.  I plan to get my allotment of it and get back to you with a full report soon.  Anyway, take that, Seattle (but I still love you).

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Founders Harvest Ale: The Fresh Hop Beer Parade Continues

Shaun delivered a very tantalizing post about the arrival of fresh hopped beers courtesy of the fall hop harvest.  They are hitting the market here in Chicago too.  Of course, we in the Midwest import most of our hops, particularly the potent bittering hops that are almost exclusively grown in the Pacific Northwest.  The fresh hopped beers in the Midwest are therefore a little less complex but there are still some beauties to be had:

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fresh Hop Beers - Fresh Hop Mirror Pond, Two Beers Fresh Hop, and Bridgeport Harvest Ale

The Fresh Hop beers have arrived! I've found Fresh Hop Mirror Pond, Two Beers Brewing Fresh Hop Ale, and Bridgeport Harvest Ale. These only show up for a few weeks a year and then they are gone! Go out and and get them. Here's my take on a couple great ones.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Great Lakes Nosferatu: A Red Conundrum

We've reached that time of year where the air is a bit more chilly, it rains without thunder, football is ubiquitous, and some great autumn beers begin populating taps.  Among those is Great Lakes' Nosferatu, a beer I became familiar with 3 years ago after hearing the rumors.  I have a lot of love for this beer as an idea.  The 1920's era vampire logo on the bottle is plain cool.  That it's a red ale also scores it bonus points.  That Great Lakes decided on this as their signature fall beer instead of taking the Oktoberfest path that everyone else takes is also a plus, as breweries almost reflexively churn out enough malty, forgettable Oktoberfest ales to make the entire city of Munich cry.  Kudos to Great Lakes for going in a different direction and making the bold Nosferatu their fall offering (I do note that they have started putting out an Oktoberfest beer in at least the last year or so).

But something's rotten in Cleveland.  A problem I've run into with Nosferatu in the last year is its great inconsistency.   Some kegs/bottles of it are brutally hoppy as if they somehow brewed it without any malts.  Other times it has that caramel maltiness that aptly tames the hop assault and is the reason I became a fan of this in the first place.  To my surprise, they tapped this at the Hideout Block Party last weekend and it was like drinking pine bark.  The hops were overwhelming.  Later, I tried one from the tap at Northdown Cafe, and all flavors blended harmoniously.  These kinds of variances have happened a lot with this beer for a couple of years.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Abbaye St-Remy Trappists Rochefort 10 - Quintesential Quad

A couple of weeks ago I reviewed "The Stoic" from Deschutes and concluded that, while a very good beer, it was not a Belgian Quad. So I decided to go get an authentic Belgian Quadruple brewed by real Belgian monks. Trappistes Rochefort 10 from the monks at Abbaye Notre-Dame De Saint Remy. I can see why some folks are a surprised and confused. When the term "Old Masters" is used in art it usually conjures up thoughts of DaVinci, Botticelli, and the Renaissance crew. If I apply that term to beer, it means these guys, and there 6 brethren Abbeys. They really are the masters.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout: Inagural Bottle Release

If you don't know, now you know, as Biggie Smalls would say.  Founders has decided to bottle its legendary Canadian Breakfast Stout, which will be made available to the public on October 1 at the brewery.  It will be featured on tap and approximately 1,700 bottles will be made available to the public for purchase at $18 a piece, 2-bottle limit per person.  The release party will probably remind one of the Kentucky Breakfast Stout release party Shaun and I detailed last year at this blog.

CBS is one of the best beers on the planet.  Good luck in trying to get some of it, and if you are at Founders on release day, perhaps I'll see you.  CBS goes into distribution in very limited amounts on October 3.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Collaboration #2 Deschutes/Boulevard - White IPA

Deschutes has definitely been cranking out the special releases lately and I love it! I also love collaborations between brewers. This week's is Boulevard Brewing and Deschutes collaboration. It's a great testament to the attitude of the craft beer community. It's an attitude of...well, community. They believe in supporting each other and sharing ideas rather than viscous cutthroat competition for profits. They get that one of the reasons craft beer consumption volume grew by 11% last year, while overall beer volume consumption decreased in the US, is due to the growing number of people that want variety, experimentation, and community. As the saying goes, "The craft beer industry is 99% asshole free." That 1% is reserved for those folks selling Dark Lord on eBay for $100 a bottle (You know who you are) /end rant.


Now to get off my soapbox and back to the point. This week I'm posting up my review of Collaboration #2. The Boulevard Brewing version of their White IPA collaboration with Deschutes.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Three Floyds Zombie Dust: Rise of the Great Pale Ales

Out in Seattle a few weeks ago, Shaun and I got to talking about the resurgence of the pale ale.  In the late 90's, early 00's, there were a bunch of pale ales floating around, mostly in bottles, but also on a few taps and at brewpubs. As I recall, Cincinnati, my then hometown, made a couple of decent ones at its brew pubs.  Then the IPA started making its way out of its pockets of cultivation out west and wiped pale ales off the map.  Those that were made became boring or at least seemed that way.  That has changed.

The pale ale has made a comeback with a slew of outstanding ones popping up, featuring bold fresh hops, a more interesting and fresher malt profile, and bright carbonation.  Coronado Brewing stepped up its Four Brothers Pale Ale.  Victory is winning with its Headwaters Pale Ale.  Summit's 25th Anniversary Ale is sensational.  The leader of the pack, not surprisingly, is Three Floyds with its Zombie Dust.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Excellent Article Regarding The Burgeoning Chicago Craft Beer Industry

Imbibe magazine offers this rather tasty account of the exploding beer scene in Chicago fueled by the rise of the local craft brewing industry.  One of the stars of this emergent show is Revolution Brewing in Logan Square, which boasts several outstanding mainstay beers and is rolling out an increasingly excellent roster of specialties.  The article gets it right by specifically noting Revolution's two standouts, the Anti-Hero IPA and the Eugene Porter, both excellent.  The article recounts the long history that brought Chicago to here as the city's doors gradually opened up to craft brewing, led by pioneers such as Goose Island. 

The Seattle faction of our readership may say, "what took you so long to make strides towards being us?" but here in the Windy City, this emergence has been a revelation. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Upcoming Seattle Events Sept - Oct

There are some great beer events coming up in September and October and here are my picks:

1)Elysian's Great Pumpkin Festival. Oct. 8th and 9th.
This is one of my favorite fall festivals. Last year was a bit of a mad house since it was in their small parking lot at the Capitol Hill location and they had only 6 tables to serve the hundreds of people showing up. This year it's going to be down at their new facility in Georgetown. That means much more room and hopefully, more tables with shorter lines. They really flex their networking muscles at this event. They always  get some of the best fall and pumpkin beers around including their Allagash collaboration Ghoulship. It was fermented in Allagash's coolship on Halloween 2008 and then put it in barrels. Every year they open another barrel and bring it to the festival. It's yummy!

Last year they had their mister yuck Pumpkin Sour, and a strong showing of their own concoctions topping off with a giant pumpkin filled with beer!

they have a ton of great guests like, Jolly Pumpkin, Silver City, Russian River, Black Raven, and a special Rum barrel aged Pumpkin Ale! Yumm again. Better find a designated driver! Pre-sale tickets are $20 either via Brown paper tickets or at one of their restaurants.

2)Fremont Octoberfest
Okay I know it's more of a quantity over quality fest but you can find some great gems here and there if you look carefully. And you can get your first sip of Deschutes Jubeale each year. It's October 23rd, 24th and 25th. So taste a few gems and then sit down with a half liter of your favorite! Or if it gets out of hand you can always sneak out to Fremont Brewing or Brouwers.

3)Keep an eye out for Fresh Hop beers!
It's Hop Harvest! That means the fresh hop and wet hop beers are hitting the shelves and bars about now. In the pacific NW we are fortunate to grow almost all the hops grown in the united states between Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. That means we are blessed with an abundance of fresh hopped beers. These beers take pale and India pale ales and take them to the next level. Brewers through them into the kettle whole flower without drying or processing. They lend so much more complexity and "terior" to the beer. The flavors are not as concentrated so you get earthiness and herbal notes that are usually lost in most IPAs and pale ales. These are best had on cask or naturally conditioned. The light carbonation allows more subtle flavors to come through and doesn't mask them as much. Two Beers brewing already has their fresh hop out. Keep an eye out for Deschutes Twilight and Hop Trip, Sierra Nevada's Harvest Ale, and your twitter account clear!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Chicago's Acre Restaurant Steps Up Their Beer Game

Hey, guys. Over at Chicago Foodies, I have added a post about Chicago's Acre Restaurant, a pleasant, laid back spot in Chicago's north side Andersonville neighborhood.  They have been killing it with their taps lately and are becoming a major player in the beer bar scene.  Check it out.  And if you are in Chicago, check out Acre. 

Full Sail Brewing Elevation Imperial IPA

There was so much beer awesomeness to be had in Seattle.  It seemed as if I was being offered and introduced to one incredible beer after another during my short, whirlwind stay there.  On my last full day, Shaun and I stopped in at a QFC supermarket to find some interesting bottles. I needed to find a bottle for a Chicago friend of mine and wanted to see if there was anything I'd want to take back with me, such as an incredible Pacific Northwest IPA.  I locked in when I saw the Full Sail Elevation IPA.  Having already tried their stunningly incredible Top Sail Porter, this was a no-brainer.  Other small production imperial IPA's from the region such as Deschutes Hop Henge have been nothing short of spectacular, so if a brewer on Full Sail's level was concocting this IPA - an imperial IPA, no less - I figured to be putty in their hands.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Deschutes-The Stoic Belgian Quad?

Before I get into the rest of the details of Mark's visit to Seattle I have to post up my review of this recent release from Deschutes Brewing, The Stoic. I'm pretty much in a no win situation with this somewhat controversially named "Belgian Quad" style  ale. It's been getting panned a bit by folks for its deviation from the style it claims to be and people are generally not impressed. I am the first to say I am a Deschutes fanboi and love almost everything they offer. To me they are a model of how a successful brewery should run. They have a clear product line of standard offerings that are excellent high quality beers across the board, and they release high caliber seasonal and small batch one offs on a regular basis that are exciting and keep their brewmasters engaged. So I figure I lose either way in this review. If I love it I'm just a fanboi and if a hate it I'm just another hater getting on the bandwagon. But wait I forgot! There are only about 5 people that read this so no one really cares, I guess I'll just write down what I think.



Saturday, September 3, 2011

Back From Seattle With Beer Stories: Georgetown Brewing Lucille IPA

I have returned - and recovered - from my recent sojourn in Seattle with Shaun.  As the pictures show, I had a great time partying with Shaun and his baby daughter.  Wow, is she going to be lucky or what to get a beer education from her dad - in 21 years, that is.  In the meantime, it's up to me and Shaun to write about the great beers, particularly those in the Pacific Northwest that are so uncannily awesome.  I have much to detail and review.   There was the trip to Elysian Brewing's brewpub where I had an excellent pair of IPA's and a delicious stout, along with some prize tastings.  There was a Dark Lord vertical tasting at Shaun's detailed in his recent post.  There were other outstanding IPA's, sours, and offerings from the west coast that remind me of why beers out there have such a terrific reputation.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Mark Comes to Seattle - Three Floyd's Dark Lord 3 yr Vertical

Well, I finally got Mark out to Seattle to meet my brand new baby girl. And while we he was here I just had to host a  vertical tasting of my Three Floyd's Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout that Mark has helped me collect over the last 3-4 years. One or two of you who may have read some of our posts before on our Dark Lord Day hijinks. And we shared a few of our recent favorites and discoveries while we had the chance. It was great to see you again buddy!






Sunday, August 21, 2011

Stone IPA -Shaun Revisits the Gold Standard

Stone IPA from Stone Brewing is one of Mark's favorite gold standard IPAs. It's been while since I've had one and decided to tip my hat to him and go back and review it myself. There are so many IPAs out there with various slants and varieties it's tough to sometimes wade through them all or even come back for seconds since I always want to try something new.


Friday, August 19, 2011

My newest Discovery -Oakshire Brewing

Okay so for the cognoscenti these guys have been around since 2006 but I just discovered Oakshire Brewing at Seattle International Beerfest in July and loved their "Inception" special batch sour aged in oak and spiked with bread in the barrel. A very ingenious, subtle and complex beer. These two brothers are out of Eugene Oregon and have a full line of standards, Seasonals, and put out interesting single batch brews as well.

They were a most pleasant surprise discovery for me and can't wait to find more of their beer! keep a look out for them and try them out when you get the chance!



Thursday, August 11, 2011

Port Brewing - Mongo Double IPA Shaun's take on a big beer

Mark has been on a tear lately with some excellent reviews that make my mouth water. I saw his review of Port Brewing's Mongo double IPA and decided to write a review of this big heavy handed beer. you can find this in 22oz bombers in most stores that carry Port Brewing's lineup.


Monday, August 8, 2011

North Peak Brewing Diabolical IPA . . . and The Jackalope

It's hard to walk into a bar these days and not stumble over someone's IPA.  One of the latest editions to my roster of conquered hoppy ales is out of Michigan, Traverse City's North Peak Brewing's Diabolical IPA, which manages an exacting ABV of 6.66%.  Devilish.  Overall, it's more noteworthy than noble. 

Dogfish Head Brewing Tap Takeover At Bavarian Lodge

Sporting one of metro Chicago's best reputations for beer selections, Lisle, IL's, own Bavarian Lodge is hosting a Dogfish Head Brewing tap takeover beginning at 4:00 p.m. on August 11.   Along with the legendary Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, they're also offering amazing DFH brews including the rare 120 Minute, the amazing Palo Santo Marron, the stunning Midas Touch, and some beer called Hellhound On My Ale.  I have no idea what that is but if it's Dogfish Head, it's guaranteed not to taste like anything you've had before or like turpentine. Well, if it tastes like turpentine (as if you've drunk enough paint thinner to the point of familiarity), it will be the best turpentine you've ever tasted and probably at 12%.  They are indeed a singular brewer.

Anyway, the full DFH list is here.

If you are not familiar with Bavarian Lodge, they consistently have one of the best taps in all of metro Chicago.  If you don't believe it, check this list out.  If you come out to visit Chicago from out west, this place is way out of the way but indeed worth a stop despite the limited hours of operation.  Few other spots in Chicago can rival the prowess of their beer list. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Green Flash Brewing Hop Head Red

Too much of anything is no good.  I'm torn on Green Flash.  I really want to like them. They're a San Diego brewery. They love hops.  Many of the hard core San Diego locals love them.  But, they disappoint me way too often.  The first time I tried their West Coast IPA I thought it was more herbaceous than mama's Italian seasoning.  I later developed a taste for it, a very unique beer.  Then, I fell head first in love with the Imperial IPA and raved about it.   It made me want to try the Summer Saison, which was only okay.  That brought me to the Hop Head Red.   It was an important turning point in my opinion on the brewery.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Coming Soon: Half Acre Galactic Double Daisy Cutter

Here's an interesting bit of news for you Chicago brew lovers.  Half Acre Beer Company has announced at their webpage that they are brewing a Galactic Double Daisy Cutter, which is a new version of their exceedingly floral hopped-up pale ale that's quite unusual and popular here in Chi-town. Galactic hops are said to be a brutally bitter Australian hop.

The release date is to be August 12, 2011, so get that growler ready.   It will also be available in bombers. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

New Glarus Imperial Weizen

Over at Chicago Foodies, I submitted this post about New Glarus Imperial Weizen beer from Wisconsin, a sensational hefeweizen beer.  I hope you have a chance to check it out.  This is a special beer that's not for the faint of heart, so tea toddlers, beware. 

New Glarus is an amazing brewery.  Their Spotted Cow, Fat Squirrel, and Moon Man labels only scratch the surface; they have many other limited releases that appear to rival anyone's.

4.9 of 5 stars.

Flying Dog Brewing and Local Demand

This article in the Chicago Tribune is disturbing.  The link is here but newspapers are notorious for changing their link locations, so if you are reading this a few months from now, here is the important part of the piece: 

Beer makers such as Flying Dog Brewery of Frederick say they're dropping out of distant markets to focus on selling more beer at home.The strategy reflects the growing thirst everywhere for boutique beers made by breweries that simply can't make enough to meet the demand.

Instead of shipping beer across the country, these companies are following the lead of New Glarus Brewing Co. of Wisconsin. President Deb Carey says they decided in the late 1990s to pull out of Chicago and sell beer only in their home state.  

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Stone Levitation Ale

My beer tastes have changed dramatically over the years, particularly in the last 5 years.  So when I form a strong opinion on a beer then don't try it for a while, I'm curious to revisit that beer after a year or so to see where it resides on my palate's favorability scale at the new point in time. Bell's Amber Ale, for example, was a long time favorite that got a respite for a year or so, and many IPA's later I could no longer drink it.  Three Floyds Gumballhead grew on me a lot. 

I've written much about Stone at this page and they are obviously a favorite brewery.  Their main line products are not artisanal, such as Hair of the Dog, but are marked by sturdiness, drinkability, and, especially, that patented, uncanny Stone freshness. Any beer of theirs is going to be at least okay and will make up in freshness what it lacks in flavor.  Their commitment to quality production can rescue a mediocre ale from being dreck in someone else's hands.  This is about where Levitation Ale lies.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Quenchers Chicago: IPA Festival

Quenchers Saloon in Chicago is having an IPA festival on August 3rd and 17th, 2011.  What's interesting is that each night they plan on having the IPA's face off against each other according to region.  On August 3rd, the West Coast will tangle with the Upper Midwest, and on the 17th, it's the East Coast vs. the Mountains and Plains.  Vegas has the West Coast opening at 5-2 odds as the overall favorite. 

The lineup will feature stalwarts such as Stone IPA, Port Wipeout IPA, Lagunitas IPA, and also Alpha King, Dark Horse Crooked Tree (mistakenly, I believe, listed as Double Crooked Tree), and Tyranena Bitter Woman.  The only real DIPA on the list is Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, so they're keeping the lineup on the lighter side to promote broader sampling. 

Fans of hops should get some kicks out of this. (That's me.) 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Port Brewing Older Viscosity

Anyone who regularly reads this blog (I think Google Analytics identified 5 of you in the last year: thank you) knows that I have a deep, deep, deep, deep, deep love of Port Brewing.  This San Diego brewer, which I visited last Labor Day weekend, is one of the most unabashed hoppers of beer on the planet.  They don't care.  They just hop everything.  They have four incredibly hoppy, tropical IPA's, all terrific, which are the Wipe Out, Hop-15 double, Mongo, and High Tide.  Their Shark Attack is a brutal hop affair of the red ale variety.  Even their Anniversary Ale is an uncanny hop punishment. Port's love of humulus lupulus knows no bounds.  I should also mention that I dug the folks out there, their carefree attitude, and their low key brewery and pizza saloon in Solana Beach

Yet, for all of their hop appreciation, they can show delicate touch when it comes to brewing as well (not that IPA's don't require some nuance, but hopping beers to that level can cover up for some mistakes, if any).  Of course, there's The Lost Abbey lineup of beers which are acclaimed Belgian-styled brews.  But often overlooked in favor of the Angel's Share is Port's Old Viscosity couplet, which includes Old Viscosity and it's fully bourbon brother, Older Viscosity.  Do not ignore these beers.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Finch's Beer Company Expands Their Roster

I wrote about Finch's Beer Co. here, the small Chicago brewer that recently started offering their beers in cans and on tap around town.  They started with the Golden Wing, a surprisingly hoppy blonde ale, and the Cut Throat Pale Ale, an exceedingly brutal hop affair that remains satisfying.

The good news is that they have started expanding their beer lineup, as two other Finch's brews are listed at Beermenus.com as being on tap at various Chicago public houses.  A beer called the Sapsucker, true to Finch's bird motif, and an IPA called the Seamless are offered on draft.  I believe that Sheffield's has the Sapsucker and Bangers & Lace offers the Seamless.  Given the incredible hoppiness of their blonde and pale ales, I'm exceedingly curious about what Finch's thinks an IPA should taste like.  I don't have ABV or IBU information for the beers.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Stone Imperial Russian Stout: Drink and Hold

Stone Imperial Russian Stout has been one of my favorites since I first tried it sometime in 2009.  I was amazed by it, not only on its own merits, which we'll get to in a second, but because a brewery whose passion is in heavily hopping beers should not be so well-abled at crafting such a rich, opulent stout as this.  Stone, of course, is no ordinary brewery, as they are one of the few that excels at the dark colored and light colored ends of the beermaking spectrum.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Bear Republic Brewing Article

My friend Charles Bockway at Wine Country Beer did a nice writeup on Bear Republic Brewing, a brewery located in Healdsburg, California, in the heart of Sonoma Wine Country.  I have been wine tasting in Russian River Valley, the part of Sonoma vitacultural area centered by Healdsburg, on a mission to find great Pinot Noir and Zinfandel.  At the time I was there I did not realize Bear Republic was crafting delicious beers right underneath my nose.  Thankfully, they are available here in Chicago in substantial quantities, although not as frequently as two or so years ago.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Green Flash Imperial India Pale Ale - Review

My favorite types of beers to drink right now are imperial IPA's, a style which San Diego does best.  San Diegoans are as proud of their hop-dominant beers as they are of their local brewery and perfecter of the style, Green Flash Brewing.  You have to love the fact that Green Flash makes a beer called West Coast IPA that is perhaps the most ruggedly hopped herbaceous beer on the planet.  It took me a while to work up a taste for it, and now I enjoy it when I'm in the mood for a punch-me-in-the-face hop attack.  I had heard rumors about Green Flash's imperial IPA but had never been able to try it until a month or so ago, and the other day was the first time I tried it on a clean palate.  How would it stack up?

Great Lakes Brewing Dortmunder Gold

Hello, beer fans.  Over at Chicago Foodies I did a write up of one of the most underrated beers in the U.S., Great Lakes Brewing's Dortmunder Gold lager, a brilliant lager made on the shores of Lake Erie in Cleveland, Ohio.  You can read the full post here.  Sadly, lagers are overlooked as a serious beer making style by the craft beer community, which is understandable because 90 percent of the beer made in the U.S. is of this variety and it's dreck.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Coronado Brewing and The Beauty of Growlers

A friend of mine sent me a growler from the west coast from Coronado Brewing, a superb beermaker on an island in the Pacific off of San Diego.  I wrote it up at Chicago Foodies so please check out this rather lengthy post on the beer, a delicious pale ale called Four Brothers, and the wonderful potential to be tapped, if you will, from growlers.  Happy reading.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Three Floyds Brewing Dreadnaught

One of the great benefits of living in Chicago is being close to Three Floyds Brewing, a world class brewer just across the border in Indiana.  They are most famously makers of Dark Lord, a Russian Imperial stout so deliciously complex that it invites an annual festival celebrating its release.  Dark Lord certainly makes a serious attempt at justifying its hype.  Yet the Three Floyds beer I generally crave the most is their imperial IPA, the Dreadnaught.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Deschutes Black Butte XXIII - Not just an Anniversary Ale

Each spring some of my favorite beers are bottled. Bourbon Porters. I've been looking forward to this years anniversary beer from Deschutes. Their Black Butte XXXIII. Deschutes folks have been stringing us along and teasing us with their twitter updates. It's their bourbon barrel aged Imperial Porter. This years has Spanish Seville oranges, cacao nibs and 25% bourbon barrel aged Black Butte. That sounds like a recipe for success (or a chocolate bar) to me.


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Thanksgiving In June: Elysian The Great Pumpkin

I had a couple of friends over last night and, as a treat, cracked open a beer Shaun had sent me, Seattle's Elysian Brewing's The Great Pumpkin Imperial Pumpkin Ale.  I've been stuck in IPA land lately with the weather warming up and so, so many great ones hitting the market.  This made The Great Pumpkin a nice change of pace; but this beer is hardly just a diversion, it's to be beholden unto itself. 

I was worried about hanging on to this one too long.  Fruit beers don't tend to last since their primary characteristic dies in the bottle before other elements.  Fortunately, the relatively high ABV on this, 7.7%, served as a life preserver.  TGP starts out with a faint pumpkin smell, and the body did not display impressive carbonation; only a thin layer of bubbles graced the honeyed orange colored brew.  I also smelled spices.  A mild hoppy-barley flavor grabs you initially, with a lot of malt thrown in.  Then comes the kicker.  Your mouth explodes with nutmeg and other spice as if you are eating mom's pumpkin pie.  In fact, your palate becomes rather painted with pumpkin after a while.  The mouthfeel is silky with ripply massages of carbonation.

Yum.  Charlie Brown, Linus, and Snoopy would be stalking the patch to get some of this if they were to pursue some underage (and dog) drinking.  And whether your next Halloween costume is Peanuts themed or otherwise, I encourage you to quaff on one of these delicious pumpkin beers, perhaps the finest of its kind.

PROS:  A delicious treat that puts your mind at the Thanksgiving table.

CONS:  I can't get that Peanuts theme out of my head now.

VERDICT:  Get yourself some of this, and turn up the Van Morrison on your stereo to blot out the Peanuts theme.  As for the urge to do the Snoopy dance after your first sip: just go with it.

4.2 of 5 stars. Unique. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Seattle Beer Week - Shaun's picks

Seattle Beer Week is upon us and I have been remiss in my duties to folks who, for some reason, want to know what I think. I've put together my picks and favorite events from the huge array that the great community of brewers, taphouses, and beer enthusiasts have offered us in our great city of Seattle this week. The easy answer is get out there to whatever events you can attend as all these events will be great ones! Remember it's a marathon and not a sprint so pace yourself and keep your head or you'll miss out. check out my picks after the jump...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Oh, Baby: Port Brewing Mongo India Pale Ale

It should not be a secret to anyone reading this blog (thanks, dad) that I'm a lover of IPAs and they're my favorite style of beer right now.   They changed my interest in beer and rescued me from drinking average, watery, malty, flabby ales and lagers.  They improved my palate for not only beer, but also wine, whiskey, vodka, and food in general.  I can't thank those beer loving imperialistic Brits enough for overdoing the hop profile of beers so they could have something tasty for their arrival in India. Thank you.  Okay, enough of my ode.  Let's get to the review.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

McAuslan St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout

I've been compiling a "favorite beers" list for a couple of years to help me keep track of  the brews I like and better inform my tastes.  When I try a new beer, I sometimes think of how it stacks up against my favorites and whether it will become an all-timer.  Of course, most beers aren't distinguishable.  What does a Coors or a Red Hook ESB taste like?  Good luck with that.  One standout that is quickly shooting up my list is made by this little brewery in Canada, McAuslan Brewing in Montreal, and goes by the name of St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Baird Brewing Rising Sun Pale Ale: May The Sun Rise Again

I was buying a bottle of this year's impossible-to-find Kentucky Breakfast Stout at Armanetti's Beverages and ran squarely into a store policy that required me to buy multiple bottles (based on the purchase price minimum) if I was paying with a credit card.  I decided to purchase a single bottle of Baird Brewing Rising Sun Pale Ale as a tribute to Japan's recovery effort from the recent earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster.  Baird hails from Numazu, Japan and claims to brew their beers at the "foot of Mt. Fuji."  This pale ale is quite unique.  I gave it a pour last night.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Founders Brewing Imperial Stout: Oops or New Recipe

Founders Brewing rarely misses with their beers, and they are pretty much flawless when it comes to brewing dark beers.  So, when I first tried the Imperial Stout out of a 12 oz bottle in the fall of 2009, I thought to myself that this was as sure of a thing as the sun rising in the east, Jordan dunking, or Katy Perry exposing the top 15 percent of her breasts during a nationally televised awards show.  Was I ever disappointed.  Make that bitterly disappointed, as in the Imperial Stout was rather bland, chalky, oddly bitter, and grainy.  It wasn't bad; it just did not live up to Founders' lofty expectations, especially considering their well-documented dark beer craft genius as expressed in their Porter, Kentucky Breakfast Stout, and the rare Canadian Breakfast Stout (and, as I found out recently, the Black Biscuit, a Baltic porter).  So, when I saw the Imperial Stout listed at Local Option recently, needless to say I was not apt to run behind the bar and pour one for myself.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Smuttynose: Shoals Pale Ale - not "just" a Pale Ale

The latest from Mark included a Smuttynose, Shoals Pale Ale. This is their British style pale ale. Mark has given me a couple of New England beers this time around which pulls at my heart strings. I'm originally from New England and can almost never get some of the great small brews from there (and some of the larger ones). Thanks Mark for sending me a little reminder of home.

Now on to the beer!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sierra Nevada Black Barleywine

My recent experience drinking a Sierra Nevada Black Barleywine on tap included funny banter.  The bartender poured it into an 8 or 9 ounce snifter.  He commented that a lot of beer drinkers want no part of  a brew served in such a glass:

Him:  Not a lot of drinkers want their beer in a glass like this.
Me:  I'd drink this beer in that glass. 
Him:  Right!  It's different than having a Miller Lite in this glass.
Me: I wouldn't want one of those in any glass.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Cottrell Brewing Old Yankee Ale

Maybe a great beer should be judged not by any amount of ingredients in it or the complexity of its flavors but by simply how much it makes you take notice. This is a concept I'm pondering as I explore more beers.  Meanwhile, I just enjoyed another of Shaun's Craft Beer Club brews, the Connecticut-based Cottrell Brewing Old Yankee Ale. A quick search of the web reveals that this beer was rated highly at Beer Advocate, which made me excited to try it.

Full Sail Brewing Top Sail Bourbon Barrel Aged Porter

Full Sail Brewing hails from Hood River, Oregon, and first came upon my beer radar when I was visiting Shaun in Seattle in late summer of 2007.  On my last night in town, at one of the bars we visited someone poured me some kind of beer in a Full Sail glass.  I somehow still have the glass, having really liked the name and logo.  Shaun's recent belated review of Bell's Hopslam reminded me that I'm delinquent on a review of Full Sail's Top Sail Porter, bourbon barrel aged.  Shaun tortured me last year by sending me a photo of a perfectly poured glass of this beer but made up for it by sending me a bottle last fall.  I opened it soon thereafter and took tasting notes that I need to share in a full review.  My hope was that this beer would match the hype I had worked up in my mind after the enticing photo. 

Original Craft Beer Club Beers - Cape Ann Brewing and Cottrell Brewing

As a Christmas present, Shaun was nice enough to get me - what else? - some beers!  What else does a guy want for the big holiday?  He purchased a couple of allotments from the Original Craft Beer Club.  They send you a box of 16 beers, four each of 2 different varieties from 2 different breweries in each shipment.  I received my second shipment yesterday in the midst of Chicago's Big Blizzard of 2011.  While the flakes were falling sideways outside, I figured it a perfect time to launch a couple of these beverages to see what they were bringing to the table.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Founders Dry Hopped Pale Ale

I can admit when  I'm wrong.  I first tried Founders Dry Hopped Pale Ale around a year and a half ago at the Bottom Lounge in Chicago right before a Whigs rock show.  For the first time, a Founders beer was bland to me, so I thought.  It was simply bitter without the brewer's signature flair.  Thereafter, I avoided this beer like the dude ignores the main character in A Bronx Tale whom he owes 20 bucks. If I saw Dry Hopped somewhere I ran the other way.  My running ended this past weekend.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Bell's Hop Slam -Shaun's Take

After I read Mark's review of Bell's Hop Slam it rang a bell of my own. I know my buddy is a man ahead of his time but I didn't realize that includes his beer taste. :) just kidding buddy. Last April Mark gave me my own bottle of Bell's Hop Slam. I wrote up my notes and just never got off my butt to hit the "post" button. Their Hopslam has been getting a lot of buzz on the internet so I figured I'd post up my review from back then. Thanks buddy for getting me one! You're way ahead of the curve in my book! Now on to the review...

Sprecher Brewing Black Bavarian

I don't often write about Wisconsin beers because most of the beers produced in that state that are sent to Illinois tend to be of the milder variety. This is not to say that Wisconsin makes bad beers.  Some people prefer that maltier style; it's just not where my palate has been of late.  Yet there's no question that with the state's rich brewing tradition fueled by its various European heritages, Wisconsin is capable of hitting home runs in brewing.  One of these is Sprecher Brewing's Black Bavarian lager.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Firestone Walker Double Jack

I tried a Firestone Walker Double Jack double IPA last week at the Map Room.  In one of the most famous studies in contrasts, it was said that the month of March roars in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, and nowhere is that more true than here in the Midwest.  Keeping with the analogy, when Stone Brewing arrived in Chicago, there were trumpets blaring, 20 gun salutes, and a Stone event at every bar you can think of.  Firestone Walker arrived here last week to crickets. I'm beginning to see why.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bell's Hopslam Is Back Again And Driving Mail Traffic

Bell's Hopslam has made its glorious return to Chicago.  As many of you know, this beer is Bell's limited production, highly acclaimed, complex-flavored imperial IPA.  The beauty of this beer is that it still manages to distinguish itself.  

Sunday, January 16, 2011

All Tied Up, Do the Seahawks and Bears Go to Overtime??

It's been a bitter battle with heroes and great plays on both sides of the ball. It's down to the wire now at the end of the 4th quarter and, like all great contests, is all tied up. Seattle has the ball but Chicago has stood them up at the 40 yard line and it's 4th down. How is Seattle going to overcome this?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Da Team of Beers That Crushes Shaun's Roster

My, my, are they feisty in Seattle, perhaps from too much coffee.  I guess the gauntlet has been thrown down and Seattle has rallied to even the game, in their minds.  Deschutes Brewery is indeed a fine play call by the city of the 'Hawks, with its fruity notes but sturdy hop belly that far removes it from one-and-done status, like that football first round draft pick who thinks he can rely on his 4.3 speed and Subway commericals to become a star player.  Shaun has even set us up with an audible by calling on several Deschutes IPA's to help tack on a couple of extra points.  I have not tried these IPA's but have no doubt that Seattle's proximity to hop country affords them the freshest bittering cones needed to make those babies knock your palate into the end zone.  It's halftime and Seattle pulls even.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Go Seahawks! - Or how to make Mark cry...

I figured Mark would fire the one bullet he has. You're all out now my friend. The Dark Lord may catch one in the endzone once in a great while but one beer does not win a contest.My Deschutes runningbacks roll deep and rumble all over your puny defense. My Mirror Mirror barleywine easily stands up to even the largest behemoth you put on your D. Smooth with sweet complex flavors that slide right by your backs over and over all day. Or if you prefer I can pound it down your throat with IPA after IPA from just Deschutes. Hop Henge will pound it up the middle and Hop in the Dark will be there on the outside where you least expect it. And Inversion IPA is always good for 3-5 yards and the 3rd down conversion. Seattle just racked up 2 TDs while Chicago is still trying to figure out what to do next.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Touchdown Chicago (First of Many This Week)

This isn't exactly Fort Sumter, but the first shots of this "civil" war have been fired by Shaun.  As his pathetic excuse for a football team prepares for the beatdown of the year on Lake Michigan on Sunday, at the hands of the mighty Bears, Shaun dials things up by pronouncing the greatness of the only thing his perpetually rainy city has to offer: beer.  This is a worthy attempt, I graciously concede, but one doomed for failure, as demonstrated below the jump.

Seattle v Chicago - Countdown to Division Championship

By some grace of god Seattle is still in the NFC playoffs and tee'ing off against Chicago this Sunday. So in the spirit of the playoffs I'm going to kick sand in Mark's face to the best of my ability and state that Chicago beer cannot hold a candle to Seattle beer!

We laid down the rules.
-I get to choose beers from Washington and Oregon.
-Mark gets to choose beers from Michigan, Indiana, and, Illinois.
-I'll pick the first style and beer.
-Mark makes a pathetic attempt to compare his best to mine and loses miserably. :)
-Mark then offers a new style that he has a prayer of beating me in and selects his champion.
-Repeat.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Thank You, Haymarket Brewery: Founders Tap Takeover.

I want to thank the good folks at Haymarket Pub & Brewery here in Chicago for the Founders Brewing tap takeover this past Wednesday.  They had some truly excellent offerings across 12 taps; that is, if you could fight through the huddled masses in overcoats that made the brewpub seem as if it were the Ellis Island of bars.  And did the Founders beers they offered make one want to emigrate to Grand Rapids to live off of Founders for one's remaining days?  Absolutely.   Bring us your tired, your poor, and most of all, your thirsty. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

Elysian Brewing -Revving up the Bifröst family

Every winter after the holidays we hit that dreary slump up here in Seattle. You have to lever yourself off the couch and chase every ray of sunshine to make it through to spring. About this time of year Elysian Brewing does their part to give us a reason to go out side in the pitch black that is 5:30pm. They take their Bifröst
winter ale and start going nuts with it...

I think this is how their brewers handle the dark, zero holiday months between now and spring. They dream up crazy things to do with Bifröst.

Well it's begun. They're definitely rockin' out with their umlaut out this year. This week at their Capitol Hill location they had Elk Frost on tap. I didn't get a chance to ask what was in it but it was big, boozy, and all kinds of hopped up. Schooner size only. It was a pretty strong beer for my mushroom burger so next time I think I'll move up to something more suited to stand up to the beer...like Habanero chilies.

Here's a little background from what I can remember on some of their offerings last year.

-Brett Frost - Brett Sour bi frost
-Jack Frost - Jack Daniels barrel aged
-bye-bye Frost - double winter ale super hopped!
-Oak Frost - Oak barrel aged

At their winter fest they had a bunch more that escape me right now (no surprise after a few of those). If you're not sure how you're going to make it through the Seattle grey this winter, stop by your nearest Elysian brew pub and try whatever version of Bifröst they have on tap. It will definitely be worth walking out your door into the cold, dark, and rain.


Let's drink to our sanity everyone!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Founders Tasting at Haymarket Brewing In Chicago

If you are in Chicago this Wednesday, January 5th, get ready for a serious Founders Brewing tasting event at Haymarket Brewing.  They plan on featuring several Founders staples, such as the brilliant Red's Rye and Porter, but also several rare gems, including Nemesis and Black Biscuit.  There will be a Newaygo County Cherry that has been maple barreled.  The real star of the show will be Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout, the maple barreled Breakfast Stout brewed with bourbon that I previously wrote about. 

The tasting is at the new Haymarket Brewing at Halsted and Randolph in the West Loop.  It is highly recommended if you wish to try the brews of the Midwest's best brewery.