Wednesday, May 31, 2006


I've been dabbling in Belgian beers for a few short months looking for one that’ll knock the socks off my ass, if you know what I mean. One of the varieties I’ve been reading about is from one of the world’s famous authentic brewing monestaries, Brasserie de Rochefort (Abbaye de Notre-Dame de Saint-Rémy). (That’s easy for you to say). It has beckoned from the shelves for some time, this lovely TRAPPISTES ROCHFORT 8, and so I gave it a try on Memorial Day in honor of all the brave men who perished on Belgian soil in the two WW’s so that I could remain free. Thanks, fellas. This incredible beer instantly became the standard-bearing knockout Belgian beer for me, the one that everyone else’ll have to beat to win my ultimate love & affection. At $4.99 per, it’s not exactly a brewski I’ll be pounding with my buds during the ballgame, but it’s so delicious & smooth I’d reach for it every time if it was sitting in the cooler. Maybe this is what Belgians pack into the Coleman for backyard BBQs and trips to the beach – hey, Belgian college kids are beer-bongin’ this stuff in the dorms for all I know. In the US of A it’s a pricey import and it’s worth every nickel.

ROCHEFORT 8 – not to be confused with Rochefort 6 and Rochefort 10 – is a strong dark ale that packs a hearty 9.2% of alcohol into its formulation. It looks like a beautiful light amber/chocolate syrup, and it poured with a head at least two inches tall in a small glass. It has a medium carbonation and just a pleasing way of not overwhelming yer mouth, but is packed with all sorts of delicious flavors that a more imaginative person could probably describer very well. Here, go visit these guys – they’ll tell you what it tastes like. I was so blown away by this beer that I’m giving it the bullseye – that’s right, the 10/10, the full magoo! I wonder what the “10” tastes like – I saw that in the store and it was > 11% ABV. In any case, that’s the first 10 we’ve awarded here at Hedonist Beer Jive (though Black Butte Porter and Boont Amber already made that cut years ago), and if you have a speciality beer store carrying these, I implore you to give this one a try.

Friday, May 26, 2006


So I was in Maui for a week recently, and took a wife-less, kid-less drive out to the mini-mall in Kahului to find what looked to be a giant liquor store calling from the road when we passed it on the way in from the airport. Turned out it was a giant liquor store, a fine one, stocked with all sorts of high-end craft beer from around the globe. We’ll talk later in this forum about some of the Hawaiian varieties I was able to sample on this sojourn, but my “spend” at said store was on a 4-pack (a 4-pack!) of NORTH COAST BREWING’s “Pranqster Belgian-Style Golden Ale”. The place we were staying had one of those midget-sized (I mean little people-sized) fridges so I reckoned a sixer might not fit in there, plus I’d had pretty good luck with North Coast in the past, having visited the brewery in Fort Bragg, CA around the turn of the last century. Pranqster did not let me down in the least. It was smooth as silk, with a total citrus mouthfeel punch that was about perfect for the climate. Golden/orange color with a large foamy head. Carbonation was almost non-existent, and I found four different settings in which to drink this – on a deck, with lunch, before sleep, and with Thai Food. It was solid gold every time. After three I came up with my rating of 7.5/10, which is pretty healthy. As someone fairly new to the Belgian style(s), I’d have to say this is about as easy an introduction as possible & might be a good way to nudge oneself into the form.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


I regret taking three whole weeks to give the 411 on the 2006 BOONVILLE BEER FESTIVAL, a rapturous event that has got to rank as holy & as blessed for the beer snob as sex with the 14 virgins does for the insane suicide bomber. It will likely be the peak of my beer-drinking year, unless I can create & then erase new memories at another such event before the year is out. The festival took place on Saturday, May 6th at the Mendocino County fairgrounds in the absurdly tiny town of Boonville, California. Please note the picture above, taken with my telephone the dark, head-pounding morning after the fest. Now imagine this entrance with about 2,000-3,000 shorts-wearin', hat-sportin', mini beer-glass hoistin' beer dawgs ready to party & shout "woooooooo" every time someone dropped their glass (thus eliminating them from further beer drinking -- the rules are the rules!), and you'll get a general sense of the afternoon. My people! Actually my stereotype only fits a good half of the crowd -- I know based on blubbering 4pm-ish (three hours in!) conversations I had with several attendees that a good chunk of the festival patrons are players in the West Coast "beer scene", or consider themselves so -- brewers themselves, brewery employees, beer writers, beer aficianados and hopheads of all stripes.

This afternoon, which had the taps open for all-you-can-drink from 1-4:30pm, and which featured some musical accompaniment by the ROLLING BOIL BLUES BAND and a couple others of their dreadful ilk, was truly a place to put one's critical beer rating skills to the test. I took in 16 mini-glasses before time ran out - punctuated by some gristle-laden $10 "tri tip" (ouch!) and maybe one glass of water. That's roughly, I don't know -- 5 pints? So nothing too extreme, and I therefore kept my cool with the ladies if you know what I'm saying. Anyway, I just had to bring a notepad to write down what I was consuming, as I have a responsibility to you, my 20 average daily readers.....and you know how chicks gravitate to a guy with a notepad, a guy earnestly debating whether the last glass was a 7.5 or an 8 with pen in hand. In reviewing my notes later, I found that there was a distinct upward trend in the rankings, meaning that the early tastes were around the 6-9 range, whereas the later tastes all seemed to score above 8. It is very possible that alcohol interfered with this process. I have therefore eliminated my scores from the listing of beer that was consumed this day, and instead will simply enumerate the fine offerings available on tap this afternoon (among at least 6-7 dozen others I could have tried had there been more goddamn time!!):

-- NEW BELGIUM BREWING – something “LEAF” that I didn't write down correctly -- it was a Peach Lambic (!)
-- one that I missed noting & that was down my esophagus before I had a chance to “think” about it

Of these many outstanding beers, there was one clear winner and one clear l-o-s-e-r. MOYLAN'S Hopsicle, a Triple IPA (!!!) was just out of this world -- many thanks to Sven for tracking me down in the crowd with the frothing exhortation you must try this beer. I have never had a Triple IPA before (I've only heard of Dogfish Head's), but this was just amazing - like a million bubbling hops attacking the taste buds in unison with this intense, fruitful flavor. Like nothing I've ever downed before. Wow. The loser was from Sacramento's RUBICON BREWING. Their IPA was what we on the beer festival circuit like to call a "pour out" - so bad that the opportunity cost of continuing to drink it straight-up outweighed the innate, inborn hardwiring that told me to finish it; and it wasn't just me, future Hedonist Beer Jive correspondent CM dumped his on the lawn too - so there. In between were all these other fine elixers, until they blew the whistle at 4:30pm and we ran screaming from whatever boogie-blues band was murdering Rolling Stones songs from the stage.

O, there are many tales of post-festival hijinks, shennanigans, camaraderie, and adventures in extreme camping I could tell, my friends, but let's stick to the beer. We sauntered down Boonville's main drag - the highway - to the Anderson Valley Brewing Company to purchase some of their wares, which were thusly nursed throughout the evening. These I believe I was lucid enough to rate, though I'll refrain from commentary:


To your left you'll observe aforementioned Hedonist Beer Jive future correspondent CM with his middle finger extended in revolutionary protest to the corporatization of the Anderson Valley organization. What you can't see in the picture are the gleaming new tanks and shiny metal beer-creating equipment in evidence at the brewery, which now resembles nothing so much as a St. Helena winery. Me, as long as the beer excels -- as it most certainly does -- I'll still be a believer (I feel the same way about Sam Adams, for what it's worth). So if anything, the 2006 Boonville Beer Fest gave me just "that much more" impetus to boldly seek out the wares of some of the participants, as if I or anyone else in attendance needed much prodding. Having been to other beer gatherings, this one continues to be the one with not only the best vibe but the no-doubt finest selection of California/Oregon/Washington microbrews - you're nobody if you're not showcasing here. Vague promises were made to make this a yearly pilgrimage, so please check this spot next May & see if those promises in the dark held.

Monday, May 08, 2006


The MOYLAN’S crew of Novato, California continues to impress with yet another terrific beer, this one an enthusiastic 7.5 on the 10 scale. Their “Moylander” Double IPA is served up tall n’ proud in a 22-oz. bottle, and at only $3.99 per, man what a steal. It pours reddish-orange/amber, and is bursting with this real oily hop taste that might not be up the level of their incredible single IPA – which is flat-out amazing and which we reviewed right here – but which is still really intense and delicious nonetheless. If a beer can be said to be “floral” (and I know it’s said all the time), this one’s a strong candidate. Double IPAs are not for the meek, but I reckon you could sneak this into a picnic where girls are present and not ruin the party, you know what I mean? It’s just tame enough for universal applause. Are Moylan’s a candidate for Top 10 US brewers going right now? Based on the evidence, I think they’re a shoo-in. I’ve had their IPA, their Irish Red Ale and now this one – and still have never even hit their brewery that lies less than an hour north of my home. Anyone have a pick for what Moylan’s whopper to try next?

Friday, May 05, 2006


This lil’ pepperpot of a bottle was calling to me from the shelves of Whole Foods in San Francisco, a store that has somehow become a beer mecca and then some. What a selection! This beer from BROUWERIJ VAN STEENBURGE N.V. in Belgium is the first example of a “Tripel” I’ve ever had, and based on the evidence, I sure hope there are many, many better Tripels waiting down the great beer highway for me to try. This was an almost sickly-sweet malty drink, full of flavors that just didn’t do a whole lot to excite & which just lingered on the tongue in a nearly foul way. My glass – a true Belgian beer glass, purchased that very day! – had a bunch of ungodly sediment at the bottom which made me pour the beer out with 3-4 swigs left to go. Never a good sign, and after being totally underwhelmed with the flavor, seeing that just made me knock off a point for style alone. 3/10 – Try to avoid this one and have a friggin’ Moosehead instead.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Since I started paying attention to the beers not regularly available on my local shelves, which is to say right around the time I got inspired enough to start this here "beer blog", there have been 3 non-nearby breweries that appear to get the lion's share of attention from true beer lovers nationwide. There's DOGFISH HEAD in Delaware (I'm dying to try this beer); AVERY BREWING in Colorado, and STONE BREWING down near San Diego. I found this "9th Anniversary Ale" from Stone Brewing a few weeks ago, and I pounced. It is truly a specialty, one-time-only selection from them, and if this is any indication of how great the rest of their beers are, well, let's load the luggage in the car and bomb on down to Escondido! As I poured it for a friend & I, I could not believe the massive foam head that grew as I poured - and stayed for almost the entire glass. I understand that that's a sign of a good beer, no? I guess that Beer Advocate classifies it as an "American Strong Ale", but with its golden/amber color and really biting hop taste, I'd almost call it a wheat IPA, if such a thing exists. What do I know, hunh? It really impressed me, this creamy, exceptionally drinkable and intensely flavorful 22-oz. beer. It made me regret pouring so much of it for my friend rather than for myself. I mean, there were year-old Newcastles in the fridge, he woulda loved those, right? 9/10, baby!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


I lived in Seattle for two years, 1997-99, and up there I discovered three brewers that I patronized almost exclusively: DESCHUTES from Bend, Oregon, who thank god have terrific distribution in Northern California now that I live there again; ALASKAN; and the ROGUE BREWING CO. of Newport, Oregon. My wife and I became addicted to Rogue's Brown Ale and tried out their offerings with obsessive regularity, and upon our drive back to San Francisco, we made sure to take the Oregon Coast route so we could hit up the brewpub itself in Newport (a dumpy little fishing town, honestly, at least with the 2 hours' worth of experience I have with it). Once we came back I think we had a couple of mediocre Rogues like their flagship "Dead Guy Ale", and all of a sudden Rogue took a distinct backburner to other drink selections for a few years. The brewery appears to be the picture of health, though, as they've opened up satellite brewpubs in Washington and now this one in San Francisco. I find it hard to believe that it's actually been here calling for me since September 2003, and my sojourn there a couple weeks ago was my first visit.

So there were something like 20 different Rogue beers both on tap and available for "take-away" in large bottles. I was pretty friggin' excited if you know what I mean, but having tackled 4 big pints the night before, I kept my cool and kept it to two nervously-chosen beers. Very hard to choose, in fact, so I went with two I've never seen nor heard of. The hands-down winner, and the best beer I've had in weeks, man, is ROGUE IMPERIAL STOUT. Here's what the Rogue flacks have to say about it:

"Deserving the title "Emperor of Ales" (unlike the bourgeois "King of Beers"), Imperial is the strongest and fullest of all stouts. Imperials originally were brewed with large quantities of hops and a high alcohol content to withstand long, unrefrigerated journeys. Rogue Imperial Stout, considered the high end of stouts, is made of 2-row Great Western Harrington & Klages, Hugh Baird XLT-80, Black, Munich and Chocolate Malts; Willamette, Cascade and Chinook hops; rolled oats; and two secret ingredients. Unfiltered and unfined, Imperial Stout is best when aged for one year. Imperial Stout is available in a new 750-ml ceramic swing-top bottle (replacing the much older 7-ounce and more recent 12-ounce XS-line packaging) and on draft."

They only served it in a little half-pint glass, which I'm learning is the custom when something has as much alcohol as this one -- 11%! It was absolutely divine, a candy-tongued slurpee of beer, as thick as a chocolate swamp & about as fun to drink as that might be. Loved it. A whopping 9/10, and I'm getting some more of this as soon as I can find some. I might bump that rating up a digit with a little more practice drinking it. I then decided, after something so bold, that I'd go with something a little girlier and "refreshing". See, I don't have any insecurities with my manliness, so that's why I ordered ROGUE HONEY ORANGE WHEAT next. I probably should have stayed with the "gonzo", because while this was high-quality, it was also pretty straightforward flavored wheat beer. I guess this is actually made at Rogue's Eugene City, OR brewery, which made it more "rare" I suppose (I've never seen any of the Eugene City Brewery bottled beers in stores, just at this public house), but stone me if I can't remember a single thing about this beer, just that I called it a 6/10 after drinking it. Not bad, Rogue! I'll try the other 18 next time!

Monday, May 01, 2006


Not sure why this semi-legendary Belgian Ale & its makers can't get it together and spell "double" correctly, but maybe they're just trying to be cool or something? Weird. It's high time I stepped away from the West Coast USA beers I tend to favor (for obvious reasons) and into the somewhat intimidating world of classic Belgians. I asked the fella at the Plumpjack beer/wine emporium in San Francisco to help me out on this one, and he told me that the "dubbels" were the dark ones and the "trippels" (there they go again!) were the lighter ones. Well pour me a dubbel, then, I said, and he sent me home with this one and a few others. I even busted out the correct glassware instead of my usual pint glass, and savored this one almost like a dessert during a ballgame. WESTMALLE TRAPPIST DUBBEL came on very thick, not a stout-like thick, but full of really contrary flavors like zingy fruits, roast chococate and caramel, I believe. While the aftertaste dissapated quickly, it was incredibly rich in both smell and taste. It poured a dark burgundy/amber, sort of like the label on the bottle of it to your left. And that looks beautiful in a glass, and it smelled as good as it looked. I checked to see if beer critic Michael Jackson had it in his 500 Best Beers book, and sure enough, there it was. I haven't even rated 500 different beers yet, but if I had to rate this one I'd give it a very respectable 7.5/10.