Wednesday, September 26, 2007


I’ll hand it to San Leandro, CA’s DRAKE’S BREWING – they don’t stand in one place for very long. Every quarter bold, experimental new beers from them start hitting the pubs & bars (and sometimes shelves) of the San Francisco Bay Area, and at the very least, they’re always interesting. Last quarter they came out with the single hoppiest beer I’ve ever tasted, HOP SALAD (and it was great); last year there was another hardcore amped-up IPA out there called the DENOGGINIZER that was excellent as well. Other Drake’s products have been middling at best: the HEFEWEIZEN, the BLONDE ALE, and the JOLLY ROGER. We’re trying ‘em all, because that’s what we do here.

You wouldn’t even know about DRAKE’S and the envelopes they are pushing if not for beer blogs and the occasional review that makes it to Beer Advocate. They have a website that, far from touting all these crrrrrazy creations, has not been updated since April 2004, which is totally mystifying to me. In this day & age, particularly in the experimental craft brew niche they’re playing in, the web is the main lever dorks like me pull to find out about new beer, with word of mouth, blind sampling, beer festivals and beer magazines probably being the others. Let me therefore tell you about two they’ve come up with in later 2007, a big 42 months since their last site update. I tried them both on tap at Barclay’s in Oakland, CA last week. First up was #1500 IMPERIAL PALE ALE. I believe it’s the first time I’ve heard the term “Imperial” applied to a pale ale, which many folks would therefore turn around & call an IPA or a double IPA. Let’s call it a souped-up, hoppy pale ale, shall we? I took some notes: “Strong. Bitter. Like an IPA. A little off”. (that’s what it says). I recall that it didn’t have the citrus/floral taste of a typical west coast IPA, but it certainly had the hops, and it just didn’t have that certain I-don’t-know-what that I was looking for – but it was still pretty good. 6.5/10.

Next was this quarter’s DENOGGINIZER or HOP SALAD – another xtreme IPA from Darke’s. This formulation is called RODGER’S LAST STAND, and Barclay’s would only serve it in half pints, such were its high-alcohol dangers and seductive charms. Barclay’s called it a Triple IPA. Well. My friend Chris called it right off the bat and said, “this is kinda like a port wine”, and I agree. It had some real wine-like characteristics, unlike its other IPA cousins. Much more thin-bodied than a typical beer, very still and clear and almost totally lacking carbonation. I wrote “hoppy but ephemeral”, and I guess what I meant when I wrote that (though you never can tell), is that it may have been totally agro with the hops, but they didn’t linger on the aftertaste the way that Hop Salad did. I think I sort of liked it, but again, not like those others. 6.5/10.

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