Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Trader Joe's Vintage Ale - Review

Here's an interesting one you weren't expecting for the next review.  The hat tip goes to Shaun for recommending this interesting ale from my favorite grocer, Trader Joe's.  You read that right.  The store known for private labels and Two Buck Chuck also makes a very good private label beer.  It's said that Firestone Walker anonymously brews at least one of TJ's beers, a pale ale.  This one is openly a Unibroue brew, so one can expect this beer to carry that brewery's delicate, artisan touches.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Victory Brewing Dark Intrigue - Review

I took this apartment near Montrose Ave. in Chicago for a number of years.  The neighborhood was so bland it didn't even have a name.  Every other neighborhood in Chicago has a name - some of them, like Wrigleyville, are barely a square mile.  But they still have names.  No one could tell me what the name of this neighborhood was.  I heard everything from Ravenswood, to Uptown, to Andersonville, to Lakeview - even Graceland.  Well, I saw no Elvis sightings, but on my usual route home, walking up Greenview Ave., I always saw this guy in a basement apartment which had a window facing the sidewalk. You could easily look down into the apartment, and at night you'd see the blue light from the t.v. and a pair of men's feet propped up on a raggedy ottoman.  I never saw the guy's face; but every night I saw those same feet.  I always thought, there's one lonely guy.  You couldn't help but be a little intrigued by what this guy's life might be like.  Someday I figured I would walk by and finally see a pair of female feet next to his, cozying up together enjoying the telly.  In other words, this guy's life seemed to be a bit incomplete.  Intriguing but incomplete.  You can see where I'm going with this.  Because I also found this to be incomplete:

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Big Hurt - aptly named

I was challenged to review a cheap mass produced beer. So I was handed "The Big Hurt" in the pounder can.
Nose of corn syrup and cheap sake. Points to using corn and rice as the major fermenting solids. I imagine the name comes from how you will feel on the toilet tomorrow morning.

Sweet, watery, and hoppless. This beer has no ingredients I typically associate with beer. I pick up a slight formaldehyde taste and wooly dryness on my tongue.

This feels like its poisoning my body and rapidly sapping minutes from my life. Excuse me, I think I need to use the restroom...

Deschutes Brewery Black Butte Porter XXIII - Review

Ah, yes.  Will Farrell has some funny outtakes in Anchorman that appear in the closing credits.  In one of them, Ron Burgundy runs through a series of exclamations in his typical style where he references something that makes him appear to be smarter than he is.  "Great Zeus's beard", he exclaims.  I'll bet a dollar to a doughnut Burgundy has no clue who Zeus is, or which culture deified him.  Hell, Burgundy probably has no idea where his last beer came from.   Well, I know where my last great beer came from: Bend, Oregon, by the hand of Deschutes, their Black Butte Porter, XXIII.  It's described on the bottle as being brewed with cocoa nibs, orange, and natural flavors - whatever the hell that is - added to a 25% bourbon barrel mix.  Believe me, it made me exclaim, "Great Zeus's beard." And, "By the word of Holy Moses."

Founders Frangelic Mountain Brown

I like founders malty beers. This one is not worth your time. This reminds me of that fake hazelnut coffee creamer that you put in bad coffee to
Make it taste sweet and drinkable. If you like fake syrup coffee creamer syrup product, you'll like this. If you like beer, you won't.

Dark Horse Crooked Tree - another not Three Floyd's Beer

This is a pine forest fresh IPA. This is a little lighter bodied and a little watery. This lends a little freshness to the pine forest that gives it a more refreshing taste then you typically get from an IPA. Solid and sessionable.

Not a three Floyd's beer

And we had another Maximus. Did I mention I like this beer?

FFF Alpha Claus - the love fest continues.

Okay at this point I'm starting to get tired of complimenting Three Floyd's. You must be getting sick of it as well. But I can't turn down the opportunity to try an Alpha Claus. Their heavily hopped Christmas Porter. This has some lovely layers. Nice warm coffee and raisin in the nose. The Carmel coffee up front leads to a nice bitter pine hop profile that leads to a chocolate finish. Then you sit back and the lingering aftertaste combines all these flavors for you to enjoy and savor. Or saveur depending on how you prefer to pronounce it. Man I finished my glass 5 minutes ago and can still taste it on my tongue.

Three Floyd's Gorch Foch - Helles Lager

Now that we're into Saturday afternoon Mark set up a beer tasting with some buddies to hang and talk beer. Excellent. We've burned through a few excellent offering including Brett's Savor 2012 Sierra Nevada/Boulevard collaboration.

But on to the review. The Gorch is an excellent reminder of how good a fresh Lager can be. Clean straw color, bright white head, and a spicy bready nose. The flavor just knocks you back! It's got a spicy peppery hop start and then a biscuity fresh zing that reels in the peppery and cleans off the pallet. I am refreshed and thirsty for more. This is an amazing session beer!

Mark and Shaun Hangin in Chicago

Man whenever Mark and I get together one thing is certain: there will be mischief and there will be beer. I guess that's two things. As I'm recovering from last night looking forward to a Bloody Mary at the Twisted spoke I reflect on the hijinks from last night. We started at a well curated beer bar called Kaseys. I had a Three Floyd's Apocalypse Cow. A lactose fortified IPA. Like all FFF the hop profile was inspired and it started off with a lovely creamy sweetness to balance. By the end though, the sweetness kept growing and started to unbalance the beer. Good for a few ounces but a little much for a pint. Then we headed to the Twisted Spoke where I had an in characteristically bad service. I received a bad sputtering pour of St Ambrose Nitro Stout, it was, as expected, flavorless. I called the bartender on it and returned it, but not before she tried to convince me that nitro stouts are supposed to taste like that.

So we switched to an amazing wine and barbecue pairing for dinner at Que Syrah. Mark and I were in full swing at this point and lit up the table with our shenanigans. We charmed this lovely couple into joining us at Northdown. We stepped up and and scored an excellent FFF Arctic Panzer Wolf. I enjoyed this one emensly. So much That I need to start using Arctic Panzer in conversation more often.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Hoppin' Frog Brewery Hop Heathen - Review

Wow.  Northdown Cafe and Taproom has really scored a rare gem - again.  This time, they have put up the only Hoppin' Frog Brewery beer I've known to have been on tap in Chicago, the Hop Heathen black IPA.  It was cool to see the bar owner, Tom, himself present me with a glass of it, unsolicited.  As with all things Hoppin' Frog, it's quite unusual; the Ohio brewer does nothing conventionally.   After all, they offer an IPA-stout "black and tan" beer, itself sort of a black IPA.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Wrap up

Seattle Beerfest delivers every year but this year was sweeter thanks to the crappy June and amazing July.

Yay Summer and Yay Beer!!

#SIB Tilquin Oude Gueuze

Lovely Delicous sour. Lots of lactic and Brett but balanced. It's a pure sour in the sense that there's not wine or liquor barrel aging. Just the beer and the bacteria. Usually I think these are too much and basically horse barn swill but this is well balanced and approachable.

Go pick some up.

Further adventures at Beerfest. #SIB

I went back for another Lagunitas Maximus. It's that good.

Lompoc mystery beer. Where is the taste?

Okay mystery beers are kitschy fun and lure us with the hope of amazballs excitement. But Lompoc either didn't taste this or decided no taste is better tha. Nothing. Really there is nothing here. It looks like beer, smells slightly sweet, but tastes like...nothing.

Breaking my rules St Bernardus Abt 12

Beerfest gets to a point where there is no longer any connection between the brochure and what's actually available. When that happens all bets are off and its time to just wander. St Bernardus 12 is an excellent beer to just take with you and sip as you see what's left. It is exactly what you expect from a Belgian quad. Dark malty and spicy sweet. Great door sipping as you decide what's next.

Deschutes Hop Henge. #SIB

Side by side with laggy Maximus. The nose is wanting. Very little nose and a much more subtle flavor. Pleasing and balanced but not the full force assault I just experienced. This doesn't step up as a double IPA. I think this is more of a summer IPA then a double. Good and refreshing but not challenging. Okay but I prefer the Maximus or mad Viking DIPA.

Lagunitas Maximus #SIB

Lagunitas Maximus. Clear Carmel colored fresh IPA goodness. This is fresh pine forest in a glass. Lovely. And it just screams fresh.

Anderson Valley Sour Stout

Smells like a butcher shop and tastes like vinegar. I have no idea right now how to feel about this beer. It's something new and experimental. It's what I might have hoped for from the Mo Better Brett. This is Mo Betta.

There isn't much stout thickness but there is enough coffee in te back to pull it back from the edge.

I'm in to see more sour stouts. Nice job Anderson Valley!

Mo Betta Brett Lost Abby/New Belgium collab. Or $5 dollars worth ofDisappointment

Okay I've had the New Belgium version and now drinking the lost Abby version. And both are equally forgettable. The only indication of any Brett in this simple wit beer is a slight banana nose. Which I might just as easily chalk up to contamination. It's a expensive wit beer. Skip it.

Seattle beerfest More Mad Viking Double IPA

Time to clear the stout out of the palate. What better to clean off a strong stout than a strong Double IPA.

This is Delicous! Rich floral perfume nose. Carmel colored, amazing floral nose. Did I mention this thing smells great? This hits that great double ipa sweet spot. Nice malty backbone lights up that sweet spot on your tongue, the hops light up the bitter on your tongue. It's so lovely balanced that you could burn through a pint and not burn out your tongue.

I'm officially a Mad Viking fan.

Mad Viking Vintage Cognac IRS

Oooh yeah. Brewer out of Denmark with a cognac aged imperial stout. Inky with a Carmel and coffee nose. Butter chocolate and coffee up front. Sweet cognac burn in the back of your throat. Lights up the bitter sensors in my tongue. This is drinkable yet strong. And I am starting to feel that alcohol warmth wash over me.

Be warned. My spelling and vocabulary are swiftly heading downhill.

Fremont Kentucky Dark Star

Kentucky Bourbon oatmeal stout. Sweet nose. Carmel sweet stout. Bourbon warmth at the finish. Okay now but should age well. Very tasty and drinkable.

Seattle Beerfest live blog 1 Logsdon Saizon Brett

Lemony citrus light sour little Brett. Some nice funk and banana nose. Good citrusy summer beer.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Stone Ruination Tenth Anniversary IPA - Review

I'm headed to the birthday party of a beer-loving buddy and deciding what to bring.  I logged onto our blog here to check out today's traffic stats and I saw a funny tweet in our Twitter widget feed.  It reads: "It's that good: you can have Ruination 10 at a bar next to Jar-Jar Binks and not mind being next to Jar-Jar Binks."   I love it!  Good one, Alemonger.

Indeed, Ruination 10 is a special celebratory incarnation of Stone's much-lauded double IPA.  Here, Stone amps the hops ("five pounds of hops instead of 2.5") and juices the alcohol from 7.7% to 10.8%.  The results are devastating - devastatingly good and devastating to your palate.  Ruinous, perhaps.  This Ruination strikes a slightly softer initial blow due to the added malts, but ultimately slaughters the palate more wickedly than standard Ruination.

Live blogging at SIB on Sunday

I'm going to try some live blogging Sunday at Seattle International Beer Festival. So sign up for my RSS feed and look for the twitter updates if you're interested in a play by play of Shaun getting hammered 4oz at a time.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Boulevard Brewing Saison-Brett

One of the more talked about beers of late has been Kansas City's Boulevard Brewing's Saison-Brett, their saison farmhouse ale brewed with that dangerous wild yeast, Brettanomyces.  This potentially uncontrollable culture, Brett, as it's popularly called, actually plays a prominent role in beer and wine couture.  It has been a longstanding ingredient in various French wines and also beers such as lambics and other varieties.  For American brewers, it's the next level.  Stateside brewers have begun playing with it of late to some stunning effects.  That, of course, assumes they avoid all-out disaster.

Shaun's Picks for Seattle International Beer Fest 2012

Now that summer is officially on in Seattle we have the excellent, Seattle International Beer Festival at Seattle Center this weekend (July 6th-8th). It is always an excellent festival that has a huge variety for everyone. Here are my picks and my advice.

1)Go to get something you can't normally get in the store. Drinking Blue Moon at beerfest is a waste of a beer ticket.

2)Figure out what will be on which days. Not everything will be available each day and things run out. Check the fine print.

3)Start early. It opens at 12 and you can walk right in and hit up the tents. by 4pm there will be lines everywhere. Start early and spend more time drinking and less time standing.

My picks in alphabetical order:

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Surly Brewing Abrasive Ale - Review

Easily one of the best beers I've tried this year is Surly Abrasive Ale, their double IPA.  Yeah, I know that the fact of me writing about IPA's is about as new and surprising as Kim Kardashian getting photographed in People or Us with a new, soon-to-be-ex boyfriend.  But when you read my IPA posts, you can tell by my my impassioned writing that I love them, and they're usually what I seek out when I want a beer.  When you want an IPA, nothing else will do.  And Surly Abrasive is an IPA par excellence

Piece Brewery and Pizzeria - The Weight Pale Ale Review

Chicago's Piece Brewery and Pizzeria has long been known for three things:  good pizza, good beer, and impossible waits.  I never go there because you can't get in the door unless you want to start your pizza and beer day at 11 a.m. I think folks camp out there overnight to be first in line.  They may even sell their spots on Craigslist.  So, I rarely get to try the beers of Piece, one of Chicago's earliest and longest-running craft brewers.  Fortunately, Northdown got a rarity, a Piece keg tapped off the pizzeria's premises, as it recently offered The Weight Pale Ale on tap.   It was a must-try.

Nogne-O Imperial IPA - Batch 500 Review

Short and pithy is the new standard for these days' posts, as set by Shaun. In that vein, I'll spare verbosity in my Nogne-O Imperial IPA - Batch 500 review, a beer which I just had on tap at Northdown Cafe.  They served it in a shorty pint glass, an increasingly popular style and one I love.   It left a nice one-and-a-half finger head and had a luminous orange color.  Contained in a medium body, a bit of graininess marks the flavor, and I also detected some pine.

Top Ten Beer Destinations

Hey, beer lovers.  Yahoo! has a rundown of America's top 10 beer destinations.   They're not ranked but here is the list of hot spots for craft brewing that they think are worth your frequent flier miles.   I was a bit surprised at Portland, ME making the list.  I know that Asheville is highly rated but I have yet to try a beer from there.   Milwaukee was an odd choice. I'm not a huge fan of too many brewers from there although Sprecher is pretty solid.  Oddly, the article discusses New Glarus Brewing, which is great, but not in or near Milwaukee.  It's around 60 miles away and closer to Madison.   That's not exactly stumbling distance from your room at the Sheraton-Milwaukee Downtown.   Anyway, enjoy, and debate the list's inclusions, omissions.