Monday, April 30, 2007


An obvious key benefit of being located where I am in San Francisco is being just over an hour away from one of the world’s great brewers, RUSSIAN RIVER BREWING from Santa Rosa, CA. They have an absolute feverish beer cult growing here in the Bay Area and around the country now, so when a chance arises to drink some of their more rare elixirs, it’s a good idea to jump at the chance. Last Wednesday night they came down with a bunch o’ kegs; in addition to Toronado’s regular lineup that includes their BLIND PIG IPA, PLINY THE ELDER and DAMNATION, Russian River brought down the following:

Redemption- Blonde Ale; Perdition- Biere de Sonoma; Salvation- Dark Strong Ale; Temptation- Blonde Ale Aged in Used Chardonnay Barrels for 15 Months with Brettanomyces and Micro-Organisms; Supplication- Brown Ale Aged in Used Pinot Noir Barrels for 15 Months with Sour Cherries, Brettanomyces, & Micro-Organisms; Depuration- Barrel Aged Ale with Grapes; Compunction- Barrel Aged with Plumcots; Deification- Pale Ale Finished with Brettanomyces; Sanctification- 100% Brettanomyces Fermented Ale; Erudition- 2 Year Old Saison with Brettanomyces, Vintage 2005; Beatification – Batch 002, 100% spontaneously fermented Sonamic (Sonoma + Lambic = Sonambic); Collaboration - Blend of Avery Salvation and Russian River Salvation; plus a handful of limited-edition aged bottles that I didn’t try. Man, is beer tasting starting to seem more like record collecting every day.....

Each beer was served in a 4-oz glass for $2, or a 6 ½-oz. glass for $3.50. I did the math wrong when I first fought my way to the bar, and ordered these tiny, tiny samples of ERUDITION and DEPURATION. I won’t pretend to tell you what they were like or how they “scored”, only that my few ginger sips were unique and delicious. So I got my game face on and elbowed my way back into position – I reckon that every beer geek worth his weight in IBUs was in the room for this one. This time I came back with larger glasses of both BEATIFICATION and COLLABORATION, NOT LITIGATION. Beatification was excellent – a “wild ale” that had a funky, slightly sour taste that was neither off-putting nor astringent – just smooth and rocking with flavors of lemon, vinegar and tang. In our small group, this was the hit of the night. I gave it an 8/10.

Collaboration I’ve had twice before, and the reason I went for this team-up with AVERY BREWING again was simply because I’m sure it’s going to run dry soon, and I wanted to get one last taste in before it’s gone for good. I second the 8.5/10 I gave this a few months ago – a standout beverage. Finally, I went back for another ERUDITION – why not? You, the people, need to know my score so that you might better regulate your personal beer intake. This is a 2005 Saison-style spring beer, made in the open-vat Belgian tradition, and it’s quite good – light, medium carbonation, maybe even a tiny bit tangy and sour itself (that must be the “Brettanomyces” – man, I promised myself I’d never actually type that word, out of resistance to its pomposity alone). I went with 7/10 on this one. It’s rare to find even a simply “good” beer from this brewer; they are absolutely blazing new trails in American brewing and are at the height of their game right about now. Rumor is they are expanding a bit, as well, to keep up with surging demand, but will be doing everything under their power to keep the small-batch, farmhouse nature of the brewery intact. Here’s hoping.

Friday, April 27, 2007


From a position of weakness just a couple of years ago, when there was only the longstanding ALL ABOUT BEER and one additional homebrew mag, craft beer now has two additional published print voices, both aiming for their own demographic slice of the expanding pie. There’s BEER ADVOCATE, of course, a magazine wholly catering to the self-defined “beer dork”, and one of the best modern reads about beer you’re going to find. Now there’s DRAFT MAGAZINE, which promises “Life On Tap”. I succumbed to a cheapo subscription before I’d read a single word, because that’s just how far and how deep my addiction has gone. If I had to do it over again, I shan’t have bothered.

DRAFT belongs to the un-rarified strata of journalism known as “Men’s Publishing”. Because beer is a beverage most often associated with the male gender, the publishers of this periodical believe that many male-related topics, no matter how loosely connected to beer, can fall under the heading of “life on tap”. What’s a male-related topic? How about foosball? Fishing stories – “the one that got away”! A world travel article called “Top Ten Places To Drink A Beer” – number one is Machu Picchu, baby! Unfunny 1970s comedian Leslie Neilson. “Seafood and Beer”. An article on tequila. An essay on leisure. Oh, and the occasional drift into something that might be useful, like a review of a new beer or something, or some tips on breweries to visit in San Diego, all delivered in a glossy, effusive, big-bucks, heavy-advertising manner. Now me, I’ve got no quarrel with someone trying to build a brand or make a buck. I don’t even mind them doing so on the back of one of my precious “hobbies”, as it were. But at least have the decency to build around your subject matter in an informed and interesting way, not as though you’re first grasping at straws to ape the worst tendencies of men’s magazines (minus the babes), and THEN connect it back to craft beer (!). Somehow I don’t think this scatterbrained approach is going to pan out, not with Beer Advocate and yes, All About Beer “tapping” into the craft beer audience so much better. I give the magazine less than a year in circulation, tops.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


Last week legendary rock monsters THE STOOGES played their first-ever show in San Francisco, and there was no doubt that such a festive occasion was going to need some out-of-the-ordinary beverages to get things off to a great start. Luckily my friend CS brought a six-pack of TERRAPIN RYE PALE ALE to the bar we were convening at, and politely asked the barmaiden if she might be willing to uncap the lot for us. After a little smarmy faux backtalk, she graciously agreed to do so, without even charging so much as a “corkage fee”. See, CS had brought this wonderful beer back from the east coast (or had it sent), yet it’s not even at east coast beer. TERRAPIN BREWING are based out of Athens, GA, famous for not only the Georgia Bulldogs, but a whole host of college rock bands from the first half of the 80s. This is the brewery’s pale ale, and it’s a damn good one.

I was sincerely happy that the beer had survived the journey to the west coast unscathed. Terrapin Rye Pale Ale has a real oaken, almost woodsy aroma and initial taste to it (that’d be the rye, I’m guessing), but once you get your bearings straight with this beer, it’s smooth as silk from thereon. It’s a cloudy, unfiltered pale ale, reminiscent of bread & honey in its taste, and medium carbonation. Similar to the excellent FOUNDERS RED’S RYE I had a couple weeks ago, and honestly, just as good. Unless I’m mistaken, this is quite likely the only beer I’ve ever had from the American South that wasn’t made by ABITA or BLUE MOON (which is no longer made in the south anyway). 8/10!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


This robust, citrus-packed pale ale from THREE FLOYDS BREWING in Munster, IN is quite likely the single best pale ale I’ve ever had in my storied drinking career, And that’s saying something. This is all the more remarkable after the bagging I did on their DREADNAUGHT IMPERIAL IPA a couple of weeks ago, but it’s like the two beers came from different planets. (Actually they came in the same box, shipped to me from Kevin from KevBrews). It’s been a while since I popped open a beer and reckoned it to be “unimprovable” from the first sip, but that’s what happened here. ALPHA KING PALE ALE has a wonderfully smooth mouthfeel, is quite malty, a little dry I reckon, and has just the right touch of hops – and is fragrant like you wouldn’t believe. I’m pretty sure these guys made their big-ass reputation with this one, along with their publicity stunt one-day-a-year release of their DARK LORD IMPERIAL STOUT (#2 best beer in the entire world, says the buzzing hive mind of Beer Advocate readers – I’m sure it’s true, right?). As the saying often goes with pale ales, “I could drink this all night”. Those of you who can buy Alpha King in sixers on a Friday night and enjoy it all weekend, every weekend, are the true fortunate sons of our blessed country. 10/10!

Monday, April 23, 2007


Every time I turn my head I read around some new DOGFISH HEAD offering made out of some bizarre fruit or extract or barrel-aged whatzis, and usually they sound pretty good. Well, you can’t get the Dogfish Head beers where I live, though I hear that’s going to change, as rumor has it that they are expanding their distribution to include the entire of California. For the time being, trading cross-country is one of the only ways to procure their wares, and that’s how I got this bottle of AU COURANT. Au Courant is a pretty wide-ranging beer, perhaps a little unsure of what it wants to be. It was mildly sour, potentially reflecting strains of bacteria (the good kind) introduced into the brewing process – or maybe that was just the pureed currants, which are all over this one. Candied sugar, and maybe a bit of apricot, making this almost lambic-ish. I know this uses Dogfish’s “house” Belgian ale, and that’s a pretty hoppy ale if you ask me, not really what I wanted necessarily with a beer that really tasted more like a smooth, sipping, wine-like beer. I respect it, but at the end of the day, I just wanted and expected more from this one. 6.5/10.

Friday, April 20, 2007


In the course of my latter-day beer spelunking I’ve heard mention of a certain “pizza pub” in the eastern San Francisco Bay Area that served outstanding craft beer, and nothing but. Rumor had it that said pizza pub, LANESPLITTER, even had the elusive MOONLIGHT beers on tap, and you know if that’s true then these folks certainly have got a keen eye for beer, because you don’t get that liquid gold unless you know what you’re talking about, right? I decided to find out for myself. Turns out that Lanesplitter has three locations, and word is that some are better than others. My pal Mike said the Berkeley one was where it was at, so that’s where we went.

I give Lansplitter a standing O for atmosphere, service and beer breadth for sure – this is a great place I’d be happy to call my neighborhood pub if I had the opportunity. Pizza was edible, that is all I have to say on them matter. Check out this beer selection, though, whoa! RUSSIAN RIVER Pliny The Elder on cask. Two MOONLIGHT beers. RACER 5. Some wild cards from smaller breweries like IRON SPRINGS. And the three beers I’d like to tell you about now:

DRAKE’S HOP SALAD – OK, I wrote about this crazy hop bomb a few weeks ago, and gave it an 8/10. No reason to change the scoring. This is for you extreme beer freaks, as Hop Salad is an absolute firebreather, one of the strongest Double IPAs ever witnessed. I don’t know if it will ever make it into bottles, but I have a feeling the word of mouth on this might just force their hand it bring it to the people. It’s a real special beer, one that I suspect with generate an army of supporters in the months to come. I’m drinking one whenever and wherever I get the chance, because it’s damn good.

BEAR REPUBLIC RED ROCKET ALE – Very strong, very hoppy red/amber ale from the makers (Bear Republic) of one of the greats, RACER 5 IPA. Low carbonation, a little thin in spots, and redolent of caramel perhaps – but mostly it’s bitter, bitter hops. Easily as strong as an IPA, maybe more so. I thought it was a bit much, and pined for a nice, cooling Boont Amber instead, but I’ll probably give this another go at some point. 6.5/10.

IRON SPRINGS COFFEE PORTER – Probably my first coffee-infused beer since that disastrous Red Hook/Starbucks mash-up from the mid 1990s whose name I can’t recall (whew!). This Coffee Porter was a great nitecap, and shows that this ‘lil Fairfax, CA brewery are really starting to become a player in the crowded Bay Area beer game. Thankfully they did not overdo the coffee angle, and stuck with a somewhat tart, smooth, and fairly subdued porter that really went down easy, but not so much so that you didn’t notice that someone had his gameface on when they were brewing this one, and put in some ingredients that gave this some character, unlike that KWAK we talked about yesterday. 7/10.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


A couple months ago I was just hauling random Belgians off the shelves like a man possessed, and in so doing, happened upon a beer called PAUWEL KWAK. It is, to my way of thinking, an exceptionally average beer. It is a light-colored amber, high-alcohol (8%) Belgian pale ale. I think I tasted honey, strong malts, and fairly low hops, but what I didn’t taste was character or anything that made this particularly more interesting than, say, a STELLA ARTOIS. Now obviously some folks have been getting’ their buzz on to this one since 1791, so who am I to say – but there’s a world of unexplored beer out there, my friends – no need to get your knob wet with this one. 5.5/10.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Imagine stumbling into a 7-11 at 1am on a beer run – you know the best you’re likely to do is a Sierra Nevada or a Sam Adams, but your eyes grow wide and your mouth starts a-savorin’ when you see over a hundred specialty microbrews & Belgians, all stacked in a cooler with your name on it. Well, this guy’s made your dream real. Read about it here.


So guess what? STONE BREWING have started distributing their Pale Ale in many more states and locales this Spring, including within mine in Northern California. I’d never seen the beer before. Their website actually dares to call it their “flagship brew” – ain’t they never heard of Arrogant Bastard?? – and says the beer was first brewed up in 1996. I had some on draft the other day at CITY BEER in San Francisco, and it was a good ‘un. It definitely has a bit more aggressive of a bite than your typical pale ale, which you’d totally expect from the Stone folks, but compared to some of their other offerings, this is a very back-to-basics, simple American pale ale. Not overpowered with hops, and with more of a biscuity, breadiness than I expected. Almost English, in fact, but definitely more intense than most session beers from across the Atlantic. I didn’t get up and do a victory dance or anything, but at the end of my glass I burped and pronounced it a 7/10.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


You’ll find a great many beer people spending a goodly amount of their time harping on the lack of great beers at high-end restaurants. Certainly this is not idle chatter. Who among us hasn’t sat down at a fine dining establishment to break bread & have a fantastic gastronomic experience, only to be presented with a wine list with 30-100 varieties and a beer “list” with 2 or 3? So it was the other evening at San Francisco’s DELFINA restaurant, which just might be the single best restaurant in a town well-known for ‘em. My choices were Anchor Steam, which I’ve had a few of in my day, and SUDWERK BREWING’s DUNKEL WEIZEN, which I’d never heard of. Oh, I know SUDWERK – back in the early 1990s it was one of Northern California’s (Davis) only breweries, and many a time I threatened a road trip out there only to, uh, not go. Since 1990 there has obviously been an upsurge in such places, and Sudwerk’s kinda been left in the dust as far as desirable beer locations to seek out, and honestly, I rarely hear anyone talking about their beer. (I will say I’ve always found it to be pretty solid).

Their DUNKEL WEIZEN appears to be a beer that they only enter into competitions, or sell to restaurants, and that is actually quite hard to come by. Don’t get too freaked out, my beer dork friends, there’s nothing to get particularly excited about. This one has a very nice dry, malty flavor to it at first, reminiscent of wheat as you might expect. It’s quite thin-bodied, which I didn’t particularly care for, and generally quite “light”. It did pack some serious flavor in, like I said, but after a few big gulps I was already pretty tired of it, and wishing that Delfina has somewhere else for me to go in the beer milieu. They didn’t, so I overcompensated by eating far more than I should have. That’s what it’s all about, until the bill comes, right? Let’s go with 6/10 on this one.

Monday, April 16, 2007


Notwithstanding the fact that we named our son Adam, HAIR OF THE DOG brewing in Oregon also decided to name one of their unusual, well-crafted, high-ABV beers ADAM as well. You may recall that we tried their DOGGIE CLAWS barleywine a few weeks ago and found it somewhat “wanting”; not so this time with this “old ale”, which is a re-creation of a historic beer style from Dortmund, Germany. It is an exceptionally dark and full-bodied beer, one that Hair of The Dog’s own website asks that you serve as a “dessert beer”. Now I’ll admit that it’s highly rare that I’ll quaff a single brew for dessert, and far more likely that I’ll be drinking it with dinner, or on tap at a bar. This time it was the former, and it worked for me just fine. It has a massive foam head, one that did a cartoonish spill over the side of my glass while I made cartoonish “gaaaaak” sounds. Once that calmed down a bit, I took some time to admire the deep dark reddish-brown color before diving in. ADAM is quite bitter but not annoyingly so; it smells of hops, and that’s ‘cause there are quite a few – 50 IBU’s. It doesn’t taste quite like the “leather” they promise on the bottle (thankfully), but more like muted chocolate and figs. It’s not something I’m gonna throw back all that often but I think these Hair of The Dog cats are onto something with this one. 7/10. Give it a try.

Friday, April 13, 2007


You need to find an hour in your schedule to listen to this 7-week-old podcast from CRAFT BEER RADIO, in which they interview an importer named Dan Shelton from SHELTON BROTHERS. Shelton, for all his pomposity and over-the-top, I-can’t-stop-talking rants, is my new beer world hero. Listen as he lustily debunks the Beer Advocate Top 100 beers, Belgian beer in general, extreme beer, beer aging, American craft beer, and you, me and everyone else. Not only is he right-on at least half the time, he’s a welcome antidote to much of the groupthink that seems to be creeping its way through the modern beer, uh, “underground”. The first 10-12 minutes are boring – these are the guys who generated headlines by bringing in the “Santa’s Butt” beer last year, and there’s lots of chatter about first amendment rights, yadda yadda – but then Dan really gets rolling after that. The interviewer can barely get a word in edgewise. It’s a blast, as these things go (which is to say, if you have something better to do, you might want to do that instead). If not, you can download it right here.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


I’ve got no quarrel with those of you have a different palate than I do. You folks who like alternate beers than me, you’re still OK. What I do have a beef with is the exaltation of extreme beers that taste like garbage, simply because they’re BIG and DARING and OUTRAGEOUS. This is a faux-controversy in the beer world, the whole extreme vs. non-extreme thing, but truth simply must be spoken to power. Take THREE FLOYDS’ DREADNAGHT Imperial IPA. Clocking in with a whopping 93 score on Beer Advocate, the BA cognescenti have seen fit to rate this one the 7th best beer in the entire world. Now me, I call it one of the worst craft beers I’ve ever tasted, with a disappointment factor of 93/100. It hurts, man, it hurts, because Kevin over at KevBrews, well he’s a fan of this one, as everyone else seems to be, and he lovingly packaged up this 22-oz. bomber for me in bubble wrap & such, and sent it all the way to California just so I could enjoy it at home and join the chorus of hosannas poured from every direction over this thing.

But I shan’t. DREADNAUGHT is so over-the-top with its hopping, its alcohol, and its kitchen-sink approach to flavor (More mango! More apricot! More tastes of indeterminate origin! More cowbell!) that the result is this sweet, sticky, and barely drinkable mess. I almost cried as I poured nearly half of the bomber down the drain, knowing that this could have had a nice home in the belly of a Beer Advocate who would see all the wonderful things about it that I simply can’t. And it’s not that I don’t dig weird-ass, complex, high-alcohol beers – when they’re good. FIRESTONE WALKER’s “10”, say. Moylan's HOPSICKLE. Or ARROGANT BASTARD, even. But not Dreadnaught Imperial IPA. I gave it a 3.5/10 and switched to organic nonfat milk for the rest of the night.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Or mine, actually. This is a style I haven’t had in ages, rye beer – maybe since the last REDHOOK RYE I downed years & years ago. FOUNDERS RED’S RYE is just the ticket to reacquaint you with this style, which is described thusly on Beer Advocate:

Not to be confused with a German Roggenbier, a beer that falls into this category contains a notable amount of rye grain in the grist bill. Bitterness tends to be moderate, to allow the often spicy and sour-like rye characteristics to pull through.

Perhaps it’s not simply the fact that the word “RED” is in the title of this beer, but in so many ways this one reminded me of a slightly tinkered-with amber beer, albeit one with serious hop action and some bittering, spicy rye in the mix. That said, it is exceptionally drinkable – moderately high in alcohol (6.8%), but you won’t notice that. Founders Red’s Rye is not filling nor is it heavy, but it still has a richness and heft that’s just about perfect. There’s an old, wizened man on the label, imparting the beer-drinking wisdom of the ages with his beady little laser-beam eyes. He must be Red. Hunh. I could drink this beer anytime, save for the fact that it doesn’t sell anywhere near me, and I’d have to get on a plane to the upper Midwest to grab some. Maybe one of you can bring some out to California? 8/10.

Monday, April 09, 2007


I've lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 18 years, but I'd never made the 80-minute drive north into the heart of Santa Rosa, CA for any reason whatsoever before, that is until the sweet siren song of the world-beating brewery RUSSIAN RIVER BREWING starting chirping, & I made elaborate plans to get up there and do battle with their best. Russian River have a much-deserved reputation of world renown on the beermaking front, creating beers that are so involved, complex and amazingly delicious you’d think they were made by master homebrewers or old-world monks. Their DAMNATION Belgian-style golden ale and REJECTION black beer are the ones that get me frothing, among others; different beer fiends will instead fly the flag for SALVATION or TEMPTATION.

Last Monday night me & my trusty beer snob sidekick CM got rolling right after work, and 80 minutes later, there it was, a beckoning beacon of taste and refinement right in the middle of a faux downtown mini-mall. Given that I was the designated drinker/driver, I only had three small-ish ones (alcohol content cut immensely by a massive pizza), but man, did this place live up to all the hype. Actually it's sort of jarring to have some of the world's finest, high-end, meticulously-crafted beer on tap at such a yahoo, wood-paneled, sports-n-pizza bar, but it was NCAA basketball finals night, so many of Santa Rosa's finest were there to see the big game, and rather than getting lit with MGDs and Coronas, these fine folks were sipping fine Beligan-style ales by the chalice-full, and keeping their wits about them to boot. I reckoned that I could hang out here with my beer doggie "bros" in a heartbeat for a baseball game, and perhaps someday I will. On to the beer!

RUSSIAN RIVER PERDITION – After arguing to a near-fistfight for 20 minutes about whether it made more sense to go “dark to light” or “light to dark” first, or “low-alc to high-alc” or vica versa, we agreed to throw caution to the wind & order whatever. I went with PERDITION, a Biere De Garde, which I know has been in bottles in the past but which I’ve never seen. It was delicious. Really intense banana/clove smell to it, with fairly high carbonation and a sweet but also fairly astringent taste to it at times. Not super-high on the alcohol – 6.10%. Definitely Belgian inspired, and served in the appropriate Belgian glassware. Excellent. 8/10.

RUSSIAN RIVER COMPUNCTION – The crazy thing about the Russian River brewpub is that these incredible Belgian-style beers are only $3 a glass (!!), and a full growler of these things will only set you back $17. Incredible. That said, this one was a special limited release offering, and thusly ran $6.50 for a 15-oz. glass. Who cares! Another winner. This is a sour but not sickeningly-so “wild ale”, with the dominant fruit being pluots. Do you know what a pluot is? It’s a hybrid fruit, part plum & part apricot, so it’s got quite a zing to it. This beer does as well, and I bet it was totally steeped in these things. At first I blanched from the taste, but all it took was a little courage and by glass’s end I was really impressed. Russian River are just master craftspersons & you can taste the care and discipline they put into their beer with every sip. 7.5/10.

RUSSIAN RIVER O.V.L. STOUT – The beer of the night was the most simple – a super-basic, creamy, low-alcohol stout, which these guys of course hit out of the park. There is no one – no one – who could argue with this beer. Roasted malts and perhaps that smoked/burnt barley taste as well, but essentially just a creamy, dense, near-perfect stout. Wow. 9/10.

Best beer-themed road trip I’ve taken since last year’s BOONVILLE BEER FEST – which by the way, is in just over 3 weeks if you’re counting......

Friday, April 06, 2007


Here’s a handful of mini-reviews & rating of beers that I’ve tried over the past month that haven’t made their way onto this site:

HOEGAARDEN ORIGINAL WHITE ALE – An old standard, a great Belgian witbier on taps at many, many beer establishments across the US. Have had it a dozen times but never “critically” if you know what I mean. It’s a very crisp, dry, medium-carbonation beer with lots of yeast and a little floral action (i.e. it smells good). If you’ve never had a witbier, this is a great place to start, and if you have, chances are you’ve had this one. 7/10.

LEFFE BLONDE – Another well-distributed Belgian, and my first of these in a great long while. Good light, easy-finishing, very clean beer, with hints of banana and a “bready” taste. I like it, but not if there are other quality Belgians on tap. 6.5/10.

NORTH COAST BLUE STAR GREAT AMERICAN WHEAT BEER – Never heard of it before, but had it on tap at this funky art gallery/bar in San Francisco a few weeks ago. Mistake. This “American Pale Wheat Ale” has a strange and off-putting taste, very wheat-dominant in an annoying way, and quite acidic and unpleasant at times. This beats Coors Light and Heineken, but not much else. 4.5/10.

LOST COAST DOWNTOWN BROWN – When I first got hooked on craft beer 17 years ago this was a big favorite, and I still enjoy it to this day. A simple, unadorned American brown ale in the English style, Downtown Brown is a dark and quite dry “session beer” that has caramel and toffee tastes that are muted & just enough. This one’s for drinkers, not for dorks. I’m a little of both, so I give it a 7/10.

21ST AMENDMENT ST. MARTENS ABBEY ALE – Another hearty cheer to the 21A for trying all these Belgian styles, another disappointment that it was only OK. This is a strong dark ale, but lighter in alcohol than all the ones these fellas were brewing up during “strong beer month” in February. I found it malty and sweet but jarring at times, like someone overtipped the sugar container or threw in some bad hops or both. 5.5/10.

THIRSTY BEAR FRAMBOISE – I know this is not the official title, so it’s not going to do you a lot of good, but at THIRSTY BEAR in San Francisco they have this excellent blended beer that’s have framboise lambic and half something else – I think IPA. That’s what it tasted like anyway, and it was delicious. Light, exceptionally fruity and packing a real deceptive alcohol wallop. 7.5/10.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


I totally trust the guys on the Pacific Brew News podcast, I do, just that they spent a good chunk of their most recent show effusing con mucho gusto about the new Imperial IPA from DESCHUTES called HOP HENGE – all this with the California/Nevada rep for the brewery sitting right there with them. I got the sense from that show that this was a double IPA sent directly to earth from the godz, and responded accordingly, rushing out to buy a 22-oz. bomber (at $3.99, too – good value). Now I heart Deschutes, too, always have, but HOP HENGE is kind of a bust. My first few gulps were atrocious – full of alcohol and clumps of harsh, unidentifiable flavors – and I advise any potential drinkers of said beer to wait until it warms a bit, because it does indeed improve. The fruit comes out, the warm citrus glow appears, the hops start hopping like crazy, but unfortunately it’s still too much very obvious alcohol for my taste, with not enough carbonation to carry the hops to their intended pleasurable rendezvous with my stomach. It was just off, not quite the winner I was expecting. 5.5/10 – still drinkable, but I probably wouldn’t go for it again.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


You’re going to be a hero to yourself and others if you can remember the name of this beer next time you’re at your local Belgian beer emporium, and a true bonafide stud if you pronounce it correctly. Monday night I asked the barmaiden at my local house of beer worship if she’d recommend me a fine dubbel, and this is what she came back with in some stunning Trappistes Rochfort glassware, along with a whopping $9.75 (!!) price tag. I was suitably impressed just a few tastes in with this one – a truly standout beer. The DE REGENBOOG ‘T SMISJE DUBBEL is a dark orange, exceptionally smooth dubbel, redolent of yeast and deep, rich malts. No question about the dried fruit taste, either – they’re strong and all over this one, likely apricots and raisins if I had to guess (I’m bad at this sort of thing). Not very carbonated and again, smooth in a very pleasing way. Only minus points at all were for having a flavor that dissipated in the mouth fairly quickly, with not much lingering aftertaste, but that also makes it kinda unique for its style and place of origin. I’d drink this again in a heartbeat, especially if you were paying. 8/10.

Monday, April 02, 2007


The first beer I tried from the batch I received in trade from Kevin at KEVBREWS was this magnificent hop burst of a beer from the Michigan-based BELL'S BREWERY called HOPSLAM. I reckoned I'd start out strong, because this one garners a 92 on Beer Advocate & when a beer clocks over 90 over there you know it's either going to be outstanding or it's going to be so bizarre that the pundits feel like they have to pretend it's nirvana. This HOPSLAM is the former. They call it "A biting, bitter, tongue bruiser of an ale", knowing full well that's a siren's song to many of us. Me included. I put it up there quality-wise and hoppiness-wise with two favorites of mine, the DRAKE'S HOP SALAD I just tried a couple weeks ago, and an old warhorse that just seems to get better & better, BEAR REPUBLIC's RACER 5 IPA. Hopslam was actually closer to the latter, in the sense that it doesn't really bruise the tongue with overpowering hops (Hop Salad does), and it contains much of the floral, robust citrus juicyness so typical of many west coast IPAs and Double IPAs. Another good comparison would be the excellent BALLAST POINT BIG EYE IPA (which just got terrific Northern California distribution and seems to be popping up everywhere!). Not a total firebreather, and not all that horribly bitter, but really, really good. A little more dry in the finish than I'm used to, and more interesting & complex perhaps than the Racer 5 & the Big Eye. If it seems like I'm throwing out some pretty heavy hitters in comparison to this one, that's 100% intentional! Definitely see what you can do to track some of this one down. 8/10.