Sunday, August 26, 2012

How to Pour a Draft Beer Tokyo Style

During my after hours adventures in Tokyo we met up with some friends of a co-worker who showed me how to pour draft beer Tokyo style. One of them owns a great little American style comfort food restaurant, Cravings. If you're visiting Tokyo and have the urge to have some familiar breakfast fare for a change. I recommend this spot.

This little tap gadget takes a page from the Toyota Production System playbook and applies a new control to the typical tap handle to attempt to "mistakeproof" creating the perfect head. Unfortunately for me it's not quite "mistakeproof" enough. It has two modes. One mode to pour perfectly carbonated beer. Then the second mode engages when you push the handle away and it creates a perfect fine foam to top off the beer with the perfect creamy head. Check out the video to see "how not to do it."

Stepping up to the tap

Tune in Tokyo! Traquair Jacobite Ale

I'm in Tokyo for work this week. Near the Meguro train station is this lovely underground beer bar, Meguro Republic. They have an envious selection of US, German, Belgian, and British beers. I picked out the Traquair Jacobite from the UK. This is a 250 year old recipie for a dark spiced strong ale.

As it pours It has a hazy brown hue and thin white head. The nose is rasin and malt with some cinnamon and spices almost like a holiday ale.

There is almost no hops to speak of in the nose or flavor. The main flavors are sweet raisin with a strong malt backbone. Like boston brown bread. There is a bit of alcohol to balance but it comes in on the sweet side. It's not cloying or oversweet. The spices help to balance it out and keep drinkable so you can enjoy the entire glass.

Pros: Good hearty alternative to an IPA that has an interesting and enjoyable flavor profile.

Cons: It's on the sweet side and will turn off the hop heads out there.

Verdict: A good hearty beer when you're ready to switch it up from the hop set.

3.5 out of 5 on the Mark-o-meter

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Ballast Point Sculpin IPA Review - For Adult Palates

Swing and a miss!  I tried Ballast Point Sculpin in San Diego, the first day of my last trip there.  This sports bar near the airport, O'Brien's, had it and also had amazing pea soup.  But I was on a mission to have impossible amounts of Pliny the Elder on that trip, and I merely sampled the Sculpin while they were pouring my Pliny.  I found it to be striking but unmemorable.  Fast forward to 2012 when a buddy of mine brought me some Sculpins and Pliny the Elders.  This time the Plinys were the afterthoughts.  My heart was set on some Sculpin.  Perhaps it was Sculpin's insanely high Beer Advocate score, a 98, that sent me on a mission to find it.  Whatever the case, I had been asking more than a few friends to ship some of that San Diego IPA goodness my way.  My turn to try it was today.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Stone Brewing Enjoy By 9/21/12 IPA - And Where To Find It

Wow.  Many of you know that I love Stone IPA and it's one of my favorite beers.  I love Stone in general and several beers in their lineup are among my favorites.  They've got hops; and they know how to use them.  All allusions to bad 80's songs aside, I was excited to try Stone's latest hop offering, an IPA with a due date. They brewed the Enjoy By 9/21/12 IPA with the idea in mind that you must - it's not optional - drink it by such date to fully appreciate its effects.  Fortunately, Maria's Packaged Goods - an incredible beer spot and a must-visit if you love great beer bars - surprisingly had this one on tap tonight.  I presumed I would never get it on tap given its limited release.  Maria's beers are nothing short of fresh - the Zombie Dust was amazingly fresh tonight.  So, I knew that the beer that arrived to me as seen above would at least have freshness going for it.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Lagunitas Brewing A Little Sumpin' Wild Ale Review

Every kid in the 70's and 80's loved Superfriends.  First off, the intro music is totally bad ass.   You also had to love how everyone on the team brought their own special talents into the mix.  The Trinity brought their respective games - Superman brought his ability to do, well, just about everything; Batman brought his unmatched guile, and Wonder Woman brought whatever the hell she does, but does well.  Depending on what iteration of the Justice League you watched, you might see some niche skills from players like Aquaman.  Everyone contributed in a way that others could not.

What if I made a Super Tap of the world's best beers, featuring the best beer in each category.  You'd see a lot of different brewers' tap handles.  Victory would have a handle for some type of German beer, perhaps one of their fine pilsners.  Founders would certainly get lines for their dark beers.  Three Floyds, of course, would undoubtedly have taps for Dark Lord (imagine Dark Lord on tap at a neighborhood pub) and some of their other awesomeness.  Stone IPA would represent as the gold standard for American IPA's.  Then there's Lagunitas.  Laggie does many things well, but their true superpower is in making the best limited-release hoppy beers out there. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Firestone Walker Pale 31 Ale

"This beer sucks."  That's something you won't hear anyone in his right mind saying about Firestone Walker's Pale 31 ale, a beer that's described as a classic California pale ale named in honor of America's 31st state.  I don't know about the classic status; I've had better CA. pale ales, namely Coronado's which blew me away.  Pale 31 is fairly ordinary with a bit of elegance around the edges.  Its look and smell are pretty expected, slightly pale yellow with a huge white head, and the smell of citrus, sugar, and bread.   It's got a momentary hop bite that gently eases off the palate, providing a lingering foundation for the sweet, slightly bready malts. Champagne-like carbonation makes it seem perhaps a bit more classy than a pale ale aught to be.  Maybe that's what informed their serving it to me in a wide tulip.  But nothing really stands out about this beer; and maybe that's the point.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Firestone Walker Wookey Jack Review

If you want to know what the weather's going to be, look west.  Do the same when you want a great IPA. That maxim includes black IPAs.  Firestone Walker Wookey Jack is the acclaimed brewer's foray into the black IPA world, a world that's become quite a crowded place.  One of my first black IPA's was Grand Teton's amazing Trout Hop.  Stone's Sublimely Self-Righteous set the standard for the genre and is my favorite.  Then came along Uinta's Dubhe, a very good entry.  So, given my growing affection for all things Firestone Walker, an affection driven by my crush on Double Jack, when I read reviews comparing their Wookey Jack favorably to Sublimely, I had to try it.  After months of checking online to see if it had finally arrived in Chicago, the day of reckoning came on Sunday when Northdown Cafe - who else? - became first in Chicago to tap it.  I understand that they tapped it at Whole Foods in Schaumburg earlier this past weekend, but I had no need to pay two tolls and go to IKEA so that journey was out. 

Once I confirmed Northdown had indeed tapped it, I strolled down there, each step with increasing anticipation.  I hoped the beer would live up to the lofty expectations.  Usually when I'm this hyped about a beer it disappoints.  It arrived to me in a miniature pint that they dub as an old man glass, and it certainly looked appealing enough.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Oskar Blues Brewing GUBNA Imperial IPA Review

I'm not sure whether it's an acronym or not but the name of this beer appears to be GUBNA, not the mostly lower-cased spelling, "Gubna".  A web search couldn't confirm this and neither did a brief tour of their website.  Anyway, I'm in a hurry with no more time for research, so just hope your bartender understands phonetics and your order of this should arrive at your hand without incident.  As for the beer, I credit Josh for supplying a can of this at a recent backyard barbecue.  It's from a Colorado brewer that has dived head first into the ever-crowded Chicago beer market's maw.  Oskar Blues is most noted for being the first craft brewer to can their beers.  Cans are understood to be better beer preservers than even the darkest bottles.  It would figure that this beer's aluminum casing would be ideal; after all, it's an IPA which, by genre, is robust-but-fragile, with aging as its kryptonite.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Dryhop Brewing American Biere de Garde Review

Prepare to be dominated.  They're not officially off the ground yet but I can already tell you that Dryhop Brewery is going to star in Chicago.  Regardless of genre, you can spot new stars as easily as you can spot a shiny new Mercedes among a roster of used compact cars.  Maybe it's a new employee that just seems to "get it" right away, and quickly has co-workers seeking his advice.  Perhaps it's a baseball player like the Angels' Mike Trout who splashes on the scene out of nowhere as an instant MVP candidate.  Remember how meteoric was Nirvana's rise if you're old enough to recall?  You knew from the first episode that Entourage was going to be around for a while.

The same goes for Dryhop.  From my very first sip of their Wheat IPA a few months back, how those spicy and biting hops perfectly blended with that buoyant wheat flavor, I knew these guys were serious players.  So I was excited to try their Biere de Garde.

Atlas Brewing Company Review

Kudos!  Those go out to my pal who recommended that we go to Atlas Brewing Company and review their beers, that pal being none other than Dr. Kenneth Noisewater.  If you don't get that reference, look around on the web or perhaps Netflix and you'll come into light.  You can find the good doctor's review here.  It's hilarious as is his usual work.  As for Atlas, they're a new brewer on Lincoln Ave. here that is making their way the only way they know how.  And that's just a little bit more than the law will allow.  Well, no, they're not the Dukes and as far as I know, perfectly legal.  But they are a new dot in the constellation of brewers popping up all over Chi-town, including Hamburger Mary's of Andersonville which just hired a buddy of mine.  Go, B!  Anyway, let's get to the review.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Victory Brewing Golden Monkey Review

Not too long ago, friends of mine went ape over this beer and overindulged themselves.  It all started at the Old Town Pour House when my buddy's girlfriend learned that I was into beer.  She had ordered something before I arrived and asked me to identify it. The only hint I received was that the beer was from Pennsylvania.  One smell was all it took to immediately guess that it was none other than Victory's Golden Monkey.  She was so impressed that she went on to drink three more of them that day and then encouraged my friends to order it.  Yet to that point I had never tried one, and even on that day of people reveling in it I stayed away from its 9% trappings. I finally did my own research on it the other day.

Firestone Walker Double DBA - Review

Firestone Walker is one of those rare brewers that pretty much can't miss on a brew, and they score another solid addition to their deep lineup with the Double DBA.  It's the oak barrel-aged version of their silky, caramel malt-forward DBA with a far broader array of engaging flavors.  The nose is an intriguing welcome, offering sweet caramel and this odd, possibly sour cherry or berry aroma, but it doesn't come remotely close to telling on this beer's fascinating profile.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

New Glarus Brewing Imperial Weizen - Dan Carey's Creation

Mark sent me home with a New Glarus Imperial Weizen. It's a specialty summer beer where they let their Brewer, Dan Carey, lock himself in the brewery and go to town without adult supervision.  Mark reviewed this a year ago (to the day). You can find his review here. The Results of mine, after the break...