Friday, August 31, 2007


It’s been a few months since we checked in with our friends at THE LOST ABBEY, hasn’t it? Well in those few months they’ve released a slew of new beers, many of which have set the beer blogs a-buzzin’, but which I have not been able to get my hands on. Luckily, for completists’ sake, I’ve actually been able to enjoy two of them – CUVEE DE TOMME and ANGEL’S SHARE – as this old post will attest. The new one that no one’s had until fairly recently is called DEVOTION ALE, and it’s the single best beer I’ve had all summer.

DEVOTION ALE (it’s the third from the left in this photo) is a wonderful American take on the Belgian blonde ale. It’s a robust, peppery beer with very deep & chewy yeasts. I found it exceptionally smooth to drink, all the while appreciating just how complex & finely crafted it was (just like every other beer I’ve had from this upstart brewer – a spin-off brand from the outstanding PORT BREWING). The thought occurred to me that, unlike most Belgian-style beers, I could probably drink five glasses of these in a row if I was so inclined to do so. At just over 6% ABV, that might even still have ya into work the next day. As it was, I slowly polished off just over a pint on a regular weeknight, and regretted that there wasn’t more lying around the house. At $7.99 a bottle, that’s perfectly understandable, I’m sure you’ll agree. I was happy to unequivocally crown this beer with a perfect ten, instantly putting it into the Hedonist Beer Jive 25. Oh yes my friends, you heard that right – 10/10! Run, don’t walk, to your nearest retailer and demand that they order you a bottle or three.

Thursday, August 30, 2007


If it was all about the smell, then this BERT GRANT’S MANDARIN HEFEWEIZEN scores a straight-up perfect ten. Then again, I’m one of those guys that buys those globe-shaped chocolate oranges with the individual “slices” that you break off by smacking the middle. Anything with orange – I’m on it. It’s why my initial glass of BLUE MOON Belgian Wit with an orange slice on the side was not met with revulsion, as it was by so many beer dorks, but by pure glee. Yet it’s not all about the smell, is it now. This wonderfully fragrant orange wheat beer promised sheer nirvana, and as it turned out, was pretty darn good, even after the initial letdown of the beer not quite comparing with that incomparable smell. But I digress.

Now BERT GRANT’S – that’s a name from the 1990s for me. I used to buy their SCOTCH ALE when I lived in Seattle from 1997-1999, and I guess after I moved back to California, these Yakima-based microbrewing pioneers just sorta fell off the map for me. I saw this in Central California a couple weeks ago and got all excited & stuff. Beer Advocate claims the beer is “retired”. If that’s true, then I bought a 2-year-old bottle of beer from a cooler. I think what’s more likely is what I read elsewhere on the web – that this beer is contract-brewed “somewhere’ using the Bert Grant’s name. Whatever. The MANDARIN HEFEWEIZEN, after that burst of sweet-smelling oranges and flowers, reins it in a bit with a very carbonated (perhaps a little too much), cloudy, unfiltered wheat beer that at times was even a bit on the tart side. That’s OK. Tart is good. We’re starting to dig tart. I drank it much too fast, which I think means I enjoyed it. Then I realized I’ll probably never ever see it again. Then I walked over to my notepad and put down a 7/10 so I could write this review for you. See if you can find one and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


I drove over hell’s half acre looking for bottles of beer manufactured by Santa Barbara, CA’s TELEGRAPH BREWING on my visit to their hometown a couple of weeks ago. Not that they weren’t out there – I just wasn’t finding them in my sojourns. In the end, I consulted their web site and drove to a downtown liquor store on the list. Scanning their coolers, I didn’t see anything. I asked the friendly customer service professional staffed behind the counter if he carried any Telegraph Brewing products, and he raised an eyebrow and wordlessly pointed over to a lost corner of the store, where two rows of non-refrigerated bombers sat: the CALIFORNIA ALE and the GOLDEN WHEAT ALE. He then proceeded to tell me that I was the first person who’d ever asked for them by name, and the first to purchase them besides. That’s just wrong, I thought, and strode out of the building with a triumphant spring in my step. Little did I know!

Well, that CALIFORNIA ALE, which I enjoyed last week, is just flat-out excellent. Anyone within driving distance of its distribution locations really ought to pick up a bottle or three to go, or stop by the brewery itself during one of their open houses. The CALIFORNIA ALE is really one of the finest combination of sweet fruit tastes and tangy, tart, sour-ish flavors I’ve ever had. If I had to choose the default way it leans – fruit or tart – I’d go with fruit, but it ain’t an easy call. Besides that, it’s a very foamy, carbonated, deep red amber beer, one with some aromatic malts propping it all up. The recipe is one that they say harkens back to some 19th century American brewing formulations, and who are we to disagree? We weren’t around then, but if we were then we’d apparently be drinking in style, as we are now. I am a quick convert to the Telegraph Brewing cause based on the evidence presented herein – 8.5/10 for sure!

Monday, August 27, 2007


I used to get out to New Orleans on a fairly regular basis before Katrina; the convention center there was huge, and hosted dozens of trade shows every year, a small handful of which I got to go to, courtesy of my various companies' expense accounts. What a great to city to spend someone else's money in. I always had a great time in New Orleans, and I am certain to go back on my own dime at some time or another. Waiting for me there, as they always have, will be the beers of ABITA BREWING. Their TURBO DOG was totally ubiquitous down there in the early 90s, and as part of my "drink local" strategy, one I'm of course not alone in employing, I drank it on every trip. Was it "all that", as they say in that town? Well, that particular dark brown ale was certainly good enough when I had it, and now it's distributed all over the US. There must be something to it.

A couple weeks ago I washed down a cajun meal at a Santa Barbara, CA restaurant with a very satisfying bottle of ABITA AMBER, the second Abita product of my lifetime. I was impressed. This copper-colored amber was nearly perfect for the job at hand, which was to quell, in as pleasurable a manner of possible, the fires that had risen forth from gumbo and a ridiculously-spiced pasta I was enjoying . Though not a standout, it has a fine roasted malt backbone and a vaguely caramel taste. It's a solid amber that's perfect for restaurants of this ilk, maybe giving some truth to the whole beer-pairs-well-with-food thing I keep hearing about. 7/10 - can I please have another?

Friday, August 24, 2007


Every time I get to drink an on-tap beer from RUSSIAN RIVER BREWING, and better still, when I get to visit the brewery/restaurant itself, as I did last weekend, I figuratively get down & kiss the ground & give hosannas that I live where I live. The latest information I have is that as of mid-2007, only three markets receive the supreme pleasure of tasting this brewery’s wares: Northern California, San Diego and Philadelphia. That’s it. Everyone else has to travel to one of those three markets or trade for bottles. Certainly, I feel shunned in Northern California by other world-class brewers – champions like FOUNDER’S, THREE FLOYDS, DOGFISH HEAD, even ALESMITH. But I think there’s reason to believe that Russian River is America’s finest brewery, and that’s not just regional pride talkin’. I got up to Santa Rosa again last weekend. Here’s what transpired.

As I mentioned last time, there’s a sort of cognitive dissonance that comes from seeing the brewery’s clientele drinking the finest Belgian-style ales in the US like they were ice-cold cans of Coors Light. Packs of college boys, families with small children, giggling tables full of young girls, and the elderly were seen in attendance last Saturday, all gulping down glasses of SANTIFICATION and so forth. What a great sight! I decided to go for the only two on the menu that I’d never tried before:

BRAVO – One can’t even find any mention of this beer at their web site, but from what I’m able to gather, it’s an IPA made with 100% Bravo hops. Bravo is a newish hop varietal grown in Washington state; we last experienced it when we tried 21st AMENDMENT’S BRAVO VICTOR ALPHA IPA last month. Funny enough, Russian River’s was listed in with their “-Tion” Belgian beer products, and was served in some fine Belgian stemware, as opposed to a pint glass. From a taste standpoint, this totally makes sense. BRAVO is a like a “funky IPA”, almost like if you mashed up a yeast-heavy Belgian Tripel with an American IPA. For all I know, that’s what they did. I really dug it – the bready, yeasty taste was predominant, and certainly a heaping helping of hops were poured into the mix as well. Quite bitter – and therefore an excellent single-serving beer. 8/10.

AUD BLONDE – My notes say “Smooth, thin and easy”. This is a straw-colored, quite light blonde ale. Typical for a Russian River beer, it’s not entirely straightforward – there were some real spicy notes lingering in the background, and probably more hoppiness than your typical thirst-quenching blonde. Keep in mind that I was actively searching for these tastes, almost as if I’d known they’d be there, even in what would typically be a brewery’s most accessible flavor. Brew doggies and college football players ready to quaff a pitcher after practice will have no problem with this one – nor do I. 7.5/10.

PLINY THE ELDER – OK yeah, I’ve had this one before. I’d been wondering lately if I’d given the much-ballyhooed PLINY THE ELDER double IPA short shrift on the two occasions I’d had it in 2006. After another pint, I don’t believe that I am. It is a very good, exceptionally strong double IPA. It is not the messiah returned to earth. Very tangy, a bit grassy, and more juicy than most. Perhaps a little too heavily hopped. I like HOPSICKLE better, but then you already knew that, didn’t you. I’ll stick with my original 7/10.

I may have to bed down & eat nothing but crackers and white rice for the next week to calm my taste buds, as a week from today, Friday 8/31, I’ll be attending a RUSSIAN RIVER vs. AVERY BREWING showdown beer dinner that’ll probably be my undoing. You want more information? Here’s some.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


I had all these bottles of good beer sitting around a couple of months ago, some obtained via trade, some bought in a couple of frenzies of feverish craft beer mania. I had it in my head that I what I really wanted to do was conquer the beers of Canadian heavyweights UNIBROUE, if only I could clear out that teeming collection of unconsumed bottles. OK, so I finally got that chip off my shoulder – I drank them all, and then I went shoppin’! A trip to the local BevMo and to City Beer Store, and all of a sudden I’ve got half of UNIBROUE’s lineup sitting either in my fridge or my garage. First up for sampling was this beautiful-looking 22-oz. bottle of TROIS PISTOLES (just look at that label!), enjoyed (well....) just this past Tuesday evening.

What went wrong, UNIBROUE? Why, pray tell, is this not of the high caliber of your LA FIN DU MONDE and EAU BENITE products? Why? Certainly upon opening this beast I was already sold – a wonderful smell, just a wafting boatload of goodness – raisins, maple, candy, and, um, alcohol. Perhaps that combo is where things went wrong. This extremely dark ale, called a “Belgian Strong Dark Ale” by the gatekeepers at Beer Advocate, was just a bit too sweet and a bit too harsh for what you might call pleasurable drinking. Accordingly, it felt closer to a chore than it did to a delicious bottle of beer. The 9 percent alcohol was more apparent than I’d have liked, and manifested itself in a “sticky” manner – a taste that I just really do not enjoy. Raisins were predominant in the taste, yet blended with the hops and general ingredients in a somewhat strang,e harsh manner. All this despite one of the largest foamy heads I’ve ever seen. I was hoping that I’d be weeping with joy over this one the way I did when I had LA FIN DU MONDE for the first time, but not this week, I’m afraid. 5.5/10.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Is that what you say when you come across an “organic” beer on the shelves or in the bars? You might want to think about checking those assumptions after finishing off a bottle of BUTTE CREEK ORGANIC IPA, as I did last week. Alongside the very solid products of SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAIN BREWING (and several others), the BUTTE CREEK folks are making (or shall I say, have been making) a big play for the exploding organic beer market, and likely do a little better in California than they might in, say, Missouri. That said, I’m going to start looking past my underserved & unearned bias that “organic = potentially foul-tasting”; I certainly don’t believe that for fruits and vegetables; it makes even less sense for organically-produced beers.

BUTTE CREEK ORGANIC IPA can stand proudly among the west coast IPAs it is in company with. A very tangy and thick mouthfeel – one might even say “chewy” – makes this one an interesting cousin to some similar pale ales I’ve had, the names of which cannot be recalled at this point. This is an IPA that puts a lot of emphasis on its malts, which contributes in a big way to that really full, robust taste. Hops are surprisingly muted compared to some of its brethren, but oh they are most certainly still there. It’s only because our palates are now being conditioned to expect the puckering, tingling sensation of intense hoppiness that an IPA that doesn’t do this off the bat generates a quizzical look. Very good IPA, and one I’ll bet Californians in particular will be seeing a lot more of in the coming year. 7/10.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


I’ll own up that I bought this EBULUM ELDERBERRY BLACK ALE almost entirely for its mysterious and beautiful old-world label, and just for the notion of an “elderberry black ale”. Sounds righteous, hunh? Turns out there’s a history behind it as a style, as Beer Advocate’s web site makes clear:

"Introduced to Scotland by Welsh druids in the 9th Century, elderberry black ale was part of the Celtic Autumn festivals when the "elders" would make this strong ale and pass the drink round the people of the village. The recipe was taken from a 16th Century record of domestic drinking in the Scottish Highlands. Elderberries were used for many natural remedies to cure sciatica, other forms of neuralgia, influenza and rhumatism as they contain tannins and fruit oils. Ebulum is made from roasted oats, barley and wheat boiled with herbs then fermented with ripe elderberries."

The druids! Wow. So here’s your way to connect with the Welsh druids of the 800s. The company that bottles it now is called HEATHER ALES, and they’ve made themselves a fine, fine beer that was a joy to drink. It came off as very fruity at first, and I was actually wondering if it was in fact a lager, as it had that sorta taste to it. Very fizzy and tingly, and incredibly smooth and gentle. The fruit notes actually calm down as the beer warms, and it’s just a lovely ride from there. Just this past weekend I saw this very beer for sale as part of a boxed Scottish ales gift pack, and I nearly pulled the trigger again. Great beer – do what you can to secure yourself a teeming goblet of it. 8/10.

Monday, August 20, 2007


I remember the comment like it was made five minutes ago, it was so jarring and yet awakening. I had just told my pal Uli about my craft beer obsession, my new beer blog and my increasing consumption of beer as a result. "So what are you doing for exercise, then?". Asked as plain as day, as if it were a foregone conclusion that one pastime (beer drinking) must necessitate anther (exercise). Uh, exercise? You mean I can't drink more beer and keep my ultra-fit, totally ripped physique? No, that one question set me about on some pondering that I still struggle with this day. Namely - what level of fitness am I going to need to maintain to keep this passion/hobby at the level at which I desire to keep it? Or, since I've made a vow to myself to keep the flab off for as long as I possibly can, must I therefore curtail my ingestion of beer to that of a dilettante? These are the questions of the hour, folks, and they're not pretty to confront.

Now mind you, I'm not extreme on either front. I've written before about my approach to alcohol - by the standards of many, I'm something of a lightweight and a mere dabbler in beer, rather than a "pro". Fair enough, I can live with that. Regarding exercise, I'm in league with the bazillions of Americans who join gyms and then sit back as the gym finance departments laugh and count our money. I go sometimes, I even get inspired and go 3 times a week for a while, and then I'll look at my love handles and remember that I haven't been since the Clinton era. I started Hedonist Beer Jive in February 2006, and since then there's no question that my beer consumption has gone up (I do it for you, people), and with that, the love handles appear to be that much more difficult to shake. I've been blessed, I guess, with one of those I-can-eat-and-drink-like-a-glutton metabolisms for years, but with my fortieth birthday only weeks away now, I think either the beer is taking a small toll or my much-relied-upon metabolism is actually slowing. Either way, I don't like it. I made a promise to myself that I'd hold off the natural pounds and aging effects for as long as I could (naturally- no stomach-stapling or hair plugs for me!), or until I just flat-out didn't care anymore. I guess I'm vain enough to still care.

So I've taken up running. I actually enjoy it - in San Francisco much of the city is blanketed by fog at least half of the year, and this natural cooling is absolutely perfect for running in. It sorta works. I get to drink more beer, and my pants still fit. Honestly, I think the first reason is more important to me than the second. I'll up the frequency of my running if I have to; I'll do whatever it takes, to be frank. My joshing up above aside, I'll never exercise to get six-pack abs or a muscular, ripping bod - that's for obsessives of a different sort, and I'm physically and mentally incapable of making it happen (I'd look like a total dork besides, not that I don't already). I'd rather just be a moderately skinny guy with non-obvious fat pockets. We'll see what happens in my 40s. Check this space over the course of the next decade.

What about health effects of beer? There's this guy Jay Brooks over at Brookston Beer Bulletin that for some reason makes it his cross to bear to debunk and deflower anyone who dares to write about beer in anything but a 100% positive light. Unhealthy? Beer? Bah - recent studies show blah blah blah. Brooks also employs a slash-and-burn approach to those who write about craft beer for mainstream publications with anything less than letter-perfect accuracy. (This is not to bag on Jay or on his fine and exceptionally useful blog, which I have linked to since day one and check several times weekly, but his manner in this regard is akin to the paid tobacco spokesperson - except I highly doubt he's paid). In any event, color me skeptical on the health thing. I know there are elements of beer that have potential healthful effects when consumed in the proper amounts and over the proper timeframe. Fine. No one does this. I'm far more prone to believe that my love of beer is at the very best going to be a "net neutral" for me health-wise, and I'm willing to predict that it's more likely going to be on the negative side of the scale. Perhaps if I hadn't been pounding eight beers every Friday and Saturday night during college, I'd feel a little more optimistic, but I wonder if some minor damage has already been done that'll show itself in coming years. Drinking a bomber or two of Duchess De Bourgogne in my late thirties isn't reversing it, as far as I'm concerned.
So there you have it - mein kampf. I invite you to share your own personal tips n' tricks for staying fit n' trim while maintaining your duly earned status as a true craft beer warrior.

Friday, August 17, 2007


As I understand it, “no trip to California’s Central Coast can be complete without a visit to FIRESTONE WALKER BREWING”. So on my recent trip down south, I accordingly packed up the family and veered off the 101 freeway into their Buellton brewery and taproom for a nip or two. FIRESTONE WALKER is a brewery I have only minor experience with. In Central and Southern California, as I learned this past week, their beers are ubiquitous, particularly the DOUBLE BARREL ALE that I find so mediocre. It seemed to be on every tap handle I saw in the area, and it has even made its way up to Northern CA in recent months as well. Only 4 Firestone beers are bottled, with the addition of their boxed wild-ass superstar 10th anniversary beer FIRESTONE WALKER “10” that blew everyone away, myself included, last year. Those are all gone now, and did I seriously hear or read somewhere that bottles of “10” are changing hands for upwards of $100? Are you kidding me? Well, it was a pretty special beverage, one that I even got to try on cask at this year’s BOONVILLE BEER FEST. The one I really wanted to try out from these guys was their PALE ALE, which has the distinction of being crowned the United States’ finest beer by no less a beer authority than Men’s Journal magazine. I did that – and more.

The Buellton taproom is a large, cavernous restaurant with lots of staff on hand and some cool decorations, like huge boars’ heads popping out of the walls. They’ve got a vast barrel of pretzels on hand to dip your bowl into, and thusly increase your thirst for their beer products. I got to try five of their beers in one sitting – unfortunately not five pints, but enough so that I had to hire out a designated driver (my wife) for the next leg of our trip. Here’s the rundown, in the order in which I consumed them:

FIRESTONE WALKER HONEY BLONDE – A great start to the festivities. This straw-blonde refresher truly lives up to its name, with a sweet, carbonated, unfiltered taste. A quintessential summer ale, and one I hope they start bottling soon. 8.5/10.

FIRESTONE WALKER PALE ALE – Just about everything I’d heard it was. This is the absolute most juicy pale ale I’ve had since the infamous THREE FLOYDS ALPHA KING, and one that’ll be a standard-bearer in my home for years to come – that is if I can ever find a bottle of it. This pale ale was medium-bodied, floral, and just a bit hoppy. Totally in balance and delicious. 9/10.

FIRESTONE WALKER DOUBLE BARREL ALE (on cask!) – Unfortunately, the cask-conditioned version of this really didn’t add a whole lot to the mix. This is a plain American Amber, with an unusual mildly acidic bite to it that at the end of the day is completely harmless, just unusual. I didn’t taste anything different with this one, just a more “still” version of the beer that’s apparently sweeping SoCal by storm. 6/10.

FIRESTONE WALKER WALKER’S RESERVE – I remember only that this porter was fairly ordinary and moderately tasty, nothing more. Good enough, as they say. I did remember to rate it a 6.5/10.

FIRESTONE NECTAR ALES IPA - Strange story on this one, but I couldn’t quite get the straight deal from the waitress. It is brewed in Paso Robles, another Firestone Walker location, but is marketed as a HUMBOLDT ALES product as part of their “Nectar” line (along with the underrated HEMP ALE). So what’s the deal? Is this a Firestone beer or not? The good news is that it’s outstanding, a truly winning west coast IPA bursting with hops and sweetness, and loads of pine taste as well. Everything I’m looking for in an IPA, to be frank. I’m dying to have this one again – and I guess it’s regularly available in bottles so that should be fairly soon. 9/10.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


My experiment in mobile blogging, or “moblogging” as we say here in The Industry, didn’t go quite as well as I’d have liked, as the two posts directly below this one will attest. To wit, the photograph I took and the description I rendered of ISLAND BREWING’s WEISS beer. Neither worked as I’d have liked, and I’d excuse you for thinking that that was probably HBJ’s single worst post ever, because it probably was. So here’s the straight dope on ISLAND BREWING, who reside in Carpenteria, CA, home of “the world’s safest beach”. I read about them in this Los Angeles Times article a few weeks back, and made a mental note to hunt for their wares on my August trip to the Central Coast, a trip that I wrapped up just yesterday. Lo and behold, I stumbled into this incredible liquor store in San Luis Obispo called SANDY’S DELI & LIQUOR, and there it was, along with a bevy of delights from all over the world. Seriously, this store rivals any beer-centered store you care to mention, and has at least 3 dozen different Belgians and a ton of small American microbreweries represented in a multitude of clean, well-stocked coolers. I unloaded two bombers from ISLAND from the shelves, as well as a BERT GRANT’S beer that I’ll drink – and write about – another time.

So first up was the WEISS beer, the one I so incompetently bagged on earlier in the week. Unfortunately, this was a funky, strange-tasting brew – and I don’t mean funky in the deliberate way, I mean just flat-out not good. It’s a “Bavarian-style” wheat beer, or Bavarian weizen, that was exceptionally tart and lemon-infused. Almost wincingly sour, and aromatic of fermented yeasts. However, I believe it’s somewhat unfair for me to give it a low score, given that the Berliner Weissbier/Bavarian Weiss style is meant to be tart, sour and acidic. I’m totally 100% new to this style, and just because I didn’t dig it doesn’t mean you won’t love it. Call me an amateur, but right now it’s not for me. I’ll stick with 5/10 with the caveat that they might be blowing the doors off this style and I wouldn’t have a friggin’ clue.

Pale Ales I know a little bit more about, and ISLAND BREWING’s PARADISE PALE ALE was slightly more to my liking. It’s a subtle beer, one that I am pretty sure is somehow connected to the same batch that the WEISS arrived in. It had hints of that same tart, lemony flavor, matched with a big dose of hops and a effervescent, fizzy carbonation. Definitely different that other recent pale ales I’ve ingested, and I got a different read on it with every sip/gulp. I’m going with 6/10, which is solid enough I guess. It’s apparent that ISLAND BREWING aren’t messing around and are being a lot more experimental than you’d expect a totally tubular beachside brewery to be.

Monday, August 13, 2007


Since I'm embracing modern tech and writing this on my phone (don't worry yo, it's a QWERTY), I'll keep it brief. I found this one from Island Brewing of Carpenteria, CA at Sandy's Liquors in San Luis Obispo on Saturday. Total "locals only" 4 sure. 5/10.


Currently with the family on California's central coast, enjoying beer from the likes of Telegraph Brewing and Island Brewing. Oh and by the way - at this very moment I am "moblogging". Whee! I will have many dispatches for ya later in the week.

Friday, August 10, 2007


The San Francisco Chronicle had two good beer-related articles this morning in their Wine section; one on the 20th anniversary of the Toronado Bar (the place I credit more than any other in honing my beer dork instincts), and another skepticism-reducing article on organic beer. Read them here:

Big Daddy's Big Day - Toronado Turns 20

Organic Beers Make Headway


A little over a year ago the thought that I'd be able to drink a single DOGFISH HEAD beer, let alone a half-dozen different ones, was unfathomable short of a trip to the east coast or one of their other US distribution areas. Their (often self-generated) hype was so great, and their elixirs so well-reviewed, that I was ecstatic when I found some of their wares in Seattle last year. Now, thanks to a couple of outstanding Americans who've sent me their beers (and a couple East Coast trips myself last year), I've enjoyed not one but 6 different Dogfish Heads. The latest, and perhaps the best, is this seasonal BURTON BATON concoction that they're calling a Double IPA. It's a total ringer. It's sweet, almost like a Barleywine, and I'd actually put this barrel-aged beer closer to that category due to the marked reduction in hop taste compared to even a single IPA. That sweetness was undoubtedly partially due to the 10% ABV, and took on a real candied, vanilla taste that improved and deepened as the beer warmed. It also is quite spicy, with real tangy, almost holiday beer-eque notes to it. Excellent stuff. I'd buy it again if their oft-rumored Northern California distribution deal ever comes to fruition. Ladies and gentlemen, BURTON BATON = 8.5/10!

Thursday, August 09, 2007


High score on Beer Advocate notwithstanding, this PALE ALE from Pennsylvania's TROEGS BREWING fell fairly wide of the mark in my book. It was one of several east coast beers that HBJ patron and friend CS had in his cooler the other evening, and he sent me home with this one for safe keeping and eventual reviewing. So here we are. TROEGS PALE ALE pours of golden/copper and looks good. Alas, it is a fairly watery blend of bittering agents, with a grassy, sort of caramel-ish taste. I kept drinking, and the overwhelming vocabulary words that kept coming to mind were "thin" and "watery". And that's no good. I'd reckon you're better off with a run-of-the-mill SIERRA NEVADA or SAM ADAMS. 5.5/10.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


If you haven't read the MONDAY NIGHT BREWERY site, a chronicle of three gentlemen's epic quest to open their own brewery, you probably should. Those same gentlemen, having read a post of mine about a particular beer from the Southern USA, decided to send me another. A caveat was included - "this isn't the best beer from the South, it's just a beer from the South" - and more were promised in future shipments (!). Hot dog. Well fellas, thanks very much for sending me this YAZOO BREWING PALE ALE, from Nashville, TN. I found it to be a perfectly quaffable pale ale, very standard for its style, albeit a little more thin-bodied and less floral than I'd like. It was quite grainy, if you can picture that, with very little in the way of hoppiness, but in the end would make for a halfway decent quencher at the end of a hard day - which was exactly when I had one. It's funny, ever since I had that THREE FLOYDS ALPHA KING pale ale a few months ago I'm having a hard time with pale ales that followed it; nothing even comes close! I'll go with 6/10 on this one, and thanks again to MNB for the sample.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


The opening of a new brewery in town is always cause for celebration, as well as for inquisitive emails to those who beat you to the taps. This time I'm the first person I know personally to actually have made a pilgrimage to San Francisco's Inner Sunset District to check out the mere-weeks-old WUNDER BREWING, located on 9th Avenue between Irving & Judah. Firstly, WUNDER is an olde-tyme SF beer from the pre-prohibition days, and brewer "John Wonder" decided to serendipidously rename his new venture after these elder pioneers. Secondly, as I wrote erlier, this new brewery takes over the equipment and the cursed location of the former ELDOS BREWERY, a place that for whatever reason was the most under-the-radar brewery of all time, and one which usually elicited the reaction, "dude, there's a brewery in the Inner Sunset? Since when?". I sincerely wish John Wonder and the Wunder crew a much better fate, and based on my first visit, I suspect they're already earning it.

Now I'll be diplomatic & recognize that in week three it's unlikely that any brewery's going to ascend the lofty heights to the catbird seats of Bay Area brewers like Russian River, Moylan's or Lagunitas. But these guys did pretty darn alright, particularly with one beer. After my last day of work at my most recent, now rear-viewed job, I got large samples of four of the five different beers on tap, and one was so good I got a big 'ol glass of it as a follow-up. Here's the lowdown on Wunder Beer as seen that day:

WUNDER PALE ALE - An acidic but quite juicy pale ale, also very cloudy and possibly unfiltered. I thought it was OK, and likely need a bigger glass next time. 6/10.

WUNDER PORTER - Clean, crisp and very light porter, which was something of a surprise. Roasted-tasting but not especially malty - quite good. 7/10.

WUNDER BROWN - This was the winner, a delicious dark brown ale that felt more rich and interesting than the typical English-style session ale. Very malty and creamy. More of this will be consumed in 2007, mark my words. 7.5/10

WUNDER IPA - The only no-doubt-about-it bust of the afternoon - a flat, pale yellow, boring IPA that led me to "wunder" if they maybe brought this one out before it was finished baking in the back. I heart IPAs so maybe this was just an allowable first-timer boner. I'll check back and report to you on this matter soon. 4/10.

WUNDER BREWING has a great ambiance about it (more upscale than most establishments of its type) and though I didn't try any food, I'm confident that I can even haul in a cantankerous 4-year-old here with no problem, and we'll all leave with our bellies full of grog and grub. I'm coming back. In sum, a strong start to what I hope will blossom into one of the City's finest along with MAGNOLIA and 21ST AMENDMENT.

Friday, August 03, 2007


I visited the in-laws in San Diego last holiday season, and given San Diego's newfound status as beer nirvana, naturally I hustled out of the house a couple of times to find as many locals-only treats as I could. One such gem I encountered was OLD VISCOSITY from SoCal heroes PORT BREWING, aka PIZZA PORT, aka LOST ABBEY. I gave it a 7.5/10. Well my good pal CM was on a road trip himself not long ago, and stopped by Lost Abbey headquarters for a nip. They didn't have too many to-go bottles for him, but from what I hear he pretty much cleaned them out of their supply of something called OLDER VISCOSITY - yeah, older! One found its way into my hands, and just this past week into my belly. I'm here to tell you about it.

OLDER VISCOSITY is a black-as-"The Black Album" Russian Imperial Stout. How much more black could it be? "The answer is none - none more black". (Be the first to name the reference and win an HBJ t-shirt if and when we make them). Sweet, deep, and rich, and full of alcohol - a jacked-up > 12% ABV on this baby - whew. It has been aged "in the barrel", which can certainly work, but to my amateur palate is one of those brewer's marketing tricks which signifies very little. In this case it's resulted in a strange funk where notes of vanilla and toffee intermingle with that weird-ass smokey, oak chip flavor. I liked its "chewiness", I dug some of its flavors, and I found it pretty enjoyable most of the way through - and yet I'd still call this one for the extreme beer dorks, not for dainty 'lil sippers like me & you. 6/10.

Thursday, August 02, 2007


AFFLIGEM BLONDE just started showing up on restaurant taps in the San Francisco Bay Area; I'm guessing they scored a pretty good distribution deal to join the ranks of Chimay Red, Leffe Blonde and Hoegaarden as high-end, Belgian beer restaurant standards. The beverages from the AFFLIGEM folks I've tried before this were a Christmas ale from last year that I gave an 8/10 to, as well as AFFLIGEM TRIPEL that I also scored just as high. That's some fine company.

The blonde has almost no discernable aroma (I furtively sniffed at it when the other restaurant patrons had their backs turned), and is a medium-bodied, fairly smooth beer. Absolutely more going on here than your standard American blonde, and this is Belgian is every way, shape & form. Rich yeasts complement a spicy mouthfeel, and in all this is one interesting blonde beer. I'd drink it again for sure, especially on tap. 7/10. Affligem got it going on.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


I'm in no way an expert on the Scotch Ale or "wee heavy" (did someone totally make that name up?) style of alcoholic beverage, but I do know that if most of them taste anything near as good as FOUNDERS BREWING's DIRTY BASTARD ALE, then line 'em up, barkeep. Last time we checked in with the good folks from Grand Rapids, MI's FOUNDERS, we were waxing rhapsodic about their massive DEVIL DANCER triple IPA and their outstanding rye beer RED'S RYE. I think I've found one that even tops those whoppers.

DIRTY BASTARD ALE - wow. Dark, malty taste of cranberries and even a smokiness that's hidden in the finish/aftertaste. Smooth and almost creamy. The beer itself is a deep, deep reddish brown, which I expected, but the heavy tastes and complexity of this beer were a mild surprise. In short, my experiences with Scotch ale thusfar led me to believe that it was a "minor" style, one the Scots could keep, but I'm all over this stuff now. Alas, FOUNDERS don't distribute in California, so if you're out here/there, you're gonna need to bug LAGERHEADS or KEVBREWS to send you some. They just might. 8.5/10!