Friday, March 30, 2007


I opportunistically offered up my address to anyone who wanted to send me beer to review about a month ago, and while I had no takers (which is fine), Kevin over at the KEVBREWS blog proposed that we do a little beer tradin’, something I’d never embarked upon nor seriously considered. I had heard about how expensive the shipping was, but then after doing the math, it only equated to an appx $2.50 surcharge on each beer sent. That compared very favorably to the price that I’ll pay at a bar (with tip) for a pint of good ale – roughly $5. So what the hell? We decided to trade.

Kevin happens to live in Ohio, and thus has access to a number of brewers I often read about but never get to try: THREE FLOYDS, BELL’S, FOUNDERS, DOGFISH HEAD and others. Me, I live on the west coast, and we’ve got a number of brewers Kevin’s beer salivating for (BEAR REPUBLIC, LOST COAST, DESCHUTES, FIRESTONE WALKER, etc.). We compared wants, offered suggestions, went shopping, and made it happen. A few things I learned:

1. Never, never ship via the postal service. FedEx and UPS only. You’ll rot in jail for years otherwise.
2. Don’t tell them you’re shipping beer. It’s glassware. (play the eBay card).
3. Wrap extremely well – bubble wrap, soft packing materials, etc.
4. Clear the list of what you’re sending and receiving first. You don’t want to pay to receive something you can get at the Safeway down the street.

I’ve now got 7 incredible-sounding beers from the upper Midwest and east coast – well 6, because I enjoyed BELL’S HOPSLAM last night (more on that another time). I also noticed recently that Beer Advocate allow you, once logged in, to click on “Got” or “Want” for every beer on their site, and build a list of trades that way. Dorky? Of course it is. But such is the way of the beer outlaw in 2007, where interstate shipping is still highly regulated and/or impossible, and where tiny, regional beers often only get distributed at the breweries themselves or within a 20 mile radius. Now that I’ve done this once, it’s not hard to imagine future trades. That rogue, clued-in, outlaw-ish feeling actually makes it that much more interesting, much like trading punk rock 45s did for me in the 1980s.

Thursday, March 29, 2007


What is it about the “quadruple” style that’s so goddamn appealing? Is it the ridiculous alcohol level – nearly 12% in the case of URTHEL SAMARANTH? It is the sweetness combined with heavy malts that makes it work so well when done right? I can’t say that I have much experience with this style, but after trying & embracing this winner, AVERY’s THE REVEREND, and the TRAPPISTES ROCHEFORT 10, I’m going to step up my Quadrupel game in a big way. URTHEL SAMARANTH QUADRIUM is from Belgian brewers BREWERY DE LEYERTH, part of a new clan of Belgians who are experimenting with American styles & combining them with their own expertise to create exceptionally unique beers. I reviewed their HOP-IT a month or two ago right here. Anyway, this one doesn’t have a shred of Yankee in it, just a beautiful, deep golden/orange beer with an incredible deep body, one that contains layers upon layers of fruit & yeasty flavors. I tasted something along the lines of apricot; one website I saw noted marzipan & nuts. Such is the prerogative of the novice beer snob! A mark of a special beer is one that can go into double digits in alcohol (11.5%, for instance) and not make you notice or even stop to think about it, and SAMARANTH is one of those special beers. (that’s one of my huge pet peeves, that hot & flushed alcohol taste, and one reason why I’m kinda down on my local SPEAKEASY beers). I’m going with 8.5/10. Looks like URTHEL’s got five beers in total, three of which are being imported to the US, so that’s two down, one to go, and two to save for my trip to Belgium.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


A great example of the scientific experimentation in wild yeasts and bold flavors going on at RUSSIAN RIVER BREWING in Santa Rosa (where I’ll be making my first-ever pilgrimage to next week – report forthcoming), one of the American masters of craft brewing. Your enthusiasm for this beer will highly depend upon your enthusiasm for off-beat, funky flavors, and your willingness to go deep & to go extreme. Me, I’m somewhere on the fence on SUPPLICATION. This barrel-aged-for-15-months “wild ale” has “craft” written all over it, as you can just taste how much thought & care went into hand-delivering a beer that balances the untamed with the tried-&-true. It’s a total sipper, one that brings forth a massive burst of tart, sour cherries, and a whole host of strange & complex bacterias (no! the good kind!) and yeasts. My wife called it a “dessert beer” that should be served in shot glasses; I beg to differ – it holds its own in a full glass, but to even think of slamming this down would be sacrilege. It would also be exceptionally masochistic – this beer has an extremely strong taste, very yeasty, acidic and sour, and is very far from even your standard IPA or pale ale. It does not have an overwhelming alcohol taste, which is great & which allows you a chance to really absorb the crazy flavors going on in this thing. As “wild” as I’m probably making this sound, SUPPLICATION is indeed a beer lover’s beer, and is not so far off the beaten path that it’s unconquerable for others. I’m just not at all prepared to call it a masterpiece as I have so many other of Russian River’s beers. 7/10.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


I’ve always had a softer spot in my beer-drinker’s heart than most fellas for fruit- and spice-flavored beers. Hell, I remember drinking a raspberry wheat ale at some great microbrewery in Chicago in the early 1990s that totally blew me away, and from then on I decided that sweet fruits and good beer could indeed coexist, and coexist well. Well, the judges behind the BOSTON BEER/SAMUEL ADAMS corporation agree with me, as their recent “Longshot” homebrewers competition results attest. As I understand it, the Sam Adams folks held a national contest whereby American homebrewers submitted their best concoctions to a panel of judges. The winners got to not only have their beers mass-produced and packaged by Sam Adams, but they also got their pictures on the front of the bottles – with their beers inside. Very cool. Uli and Jeff, you know what you need to do next year.

The 2006 LONGSHOT SERIES, which had three winners and which was released to the public last month, is packaged is 6-packs with two 12-oz. bottles each of the winners. I was able to buy single bottles of the Dortmunder-Style Export and the BOYSENBERRY WHEAT, the latter of which I tasted a couple weeks ago. This one was actually the product of a Sam Adams employee named Ken Smith, who got his beer packaged with those of the two homebrewers (the other one is an Old Ale that I haven’t tried yet). Anyway, Ken’s brew is not too shabby, just not something I’d probably jump for again. His blind spot was in carbonating the hell out of this thing, making it a fizzy fruit bomb that overwhelms many of its best characteristics – which are there, you just have to sniff around for them. I liked how the malts blended in a manner that almost made this taste like a Belgian pale ale, and the hops for this one were noticeably absent (which is fine, all the more to get the flavor of the fruit out there). But in sum it was just OK. Still, if I could home-brew a beer even this respectable I’d be damn proud, as Mr. Ken Smith ought to be. 6/10.

Monday, March 26, 2007


I may be an outlier here in terms of my enthusiasm for this one, but this is flat-out one of the single best American “Belgian-style” beers I’ve ever had. I’ve got this pal Holly who’s been telling me about the TRIPEL DIPSEA for well over a year, well she went & ponied up and got me a couple bottles of this limited-run seasonal when it popped up, just so I could see what all the (her) fuss was about. Wow! We executed a complex fridge-to-fridge-to-fridge transaction that got the 22oz. bottles safely home to my house, whereupon I commenced with the enjoyment of one. This is really quite a beer, the best I’ve had in months. The MARIN BREWING TRIPEL DIPSEA (2007 edition- the one pictured here is the 2006) is a deep, glowing orange ale with a fantastic yeasty taste redolent of the best & sweetest Belgian ales you can imagine. Deep within the liquid contours of this one is candied orange flavor, along with a tangy malt taste and various spices that almost make this close to a holiday beer, but lighter in color and body. I kept drinking this with my critical thnking cap on & couldn’t believe how great it was – but then, these Marin cats are part of the same family as MOYLAN’S, and make some pretty impressive beers themselves, so I shouldn’t be at all surprised. Best news of all is these just hit the market, so they ought to be around for another couple months. Do it! Do it now! 9.5/10!

Friday, March 23, 2007


The new HOP SALAD Double IPA from DRAKE’S BREWING is truly a hop fiend’s dream beer (well OK, that’s probably HOPSICKLE, but this doozy is right up there). The first time I tasted it, one swallow off another man’s glass, it was like, wham – total hop overload, but with a real juicy, piney aftertaste that I loved. I resolved to get myself in deep with this one whenever I encountered it next. Luckily that was earlier this week at the Toronado in San Francisco, where they had it on tap (it’s also at Barclay’s in Oakland, CA). Unfortunately it’s not in bottles yet, but let the campaigning for that start right here. This is an almost picture-perfect Double IPA, totally intense like many in the west coast style, and something that might be off-putting for the average beer drinker. Who knows, it’s a lot more than the intense, stinging, taste bud-bristling hoppy bite – HOP SALAD also has a real aromatic smell of pine & grapefruit (REALLY strong grapefruit), and while I wouldn’t say it goes down “easy”, it’s incredibly alive and full of flavor. A great find that you ought to start petitioning for in your neighborhood. 8.5/10.


Like any true dork worth his (and it’s always his) salt, I keep a tally of the ratings I’ve applied to various beers I’ve tried, just so I can make ridiculous lists like the HEDONIST BEER JIVE 25, and also so I can remember what to recommend to others and even what to buy. Call it a quirk, call it inane, even call it sexy if you want, but that’s just me. Sometimes I even drink certain beers a second time, get a little more wise about ‘em, and then revise my rating. In the interest of keeping you informed and in staying honest, here’s a few examples of that:

MOONLIGHT REALITY CZECK – Up to 10/10 from 9.5/10. I mean, if you drink a pilsner that’s so amazing it blows away every preconceived notion you had about what the style was capable of, shouldn’t that at least merit the full monty? I think so.

DESCHUTES BLACK BUTTE PORTER – Down to 8/10 from 10/10. My memories of drinking this weekly in the 90s clouded my judgment of this still-excellent beer.

LOST ABBEY LOST AND FOUND ALE – Up to 8.5/10 from 7.5/10. See yesterday’s review.

MOONLIGHT DEATH & TAXES – Down to 8/10 from 9/10. My most recent one was great, not off-the-charts great.

NEW BELGIUM 1554 BLACK ALE – Down to 7/10 from 8.5/10. Ironically I enjoyed this in a 2006 bottle far more than I did on tap in 2007. Still good though.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


After LOST ABBEY mania descended upon San Francisco late last year (you can read a dispatch from the front here), and several bottles washed up into town during the craze, I seized the initiative and spent whatever it took to procure a few of them for myself. The first, a big bottle of AVANT GARDE that I uncorked in January, was delicious and yet still somewhat anticlimactic at the same time. No such issue with this one, the LOST AND FOUND ALE. This superb Belgian-style dubbel comes out of the gate like a brown ale, and looks the part as well. Yet once you start doing all those annoying things that ludicrous beer dorks do – you know, smelling the glass, swishing the beer inside yr mouth like a goddamn wine drinker, well – you realize that this thing goes far beyond the quote-unquote ordinary. It is ripe with the aroma of figs, dates, and other sweet brown things, but has a really, really balanced blend of malts that doesn’t bite or challenge too hard. It is extremely smooth. It also doesn’t taste like an ordinary brown ale – I followed it up with the very solid Lost Coast Downtown Brown, so it made for a nice comparison – as it has some really subtle quirks that scream “Belgian-style”. Really a fantastic beer. 8.5/10.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


When Brian Hunt of MOONLIGHT BREWING gave the thumbs-up to Portland, OR’s HAIR OF THE DOG in the interview we did with him, that was all the impetus a couple of us needed to start a deeper exploration of the beers from these mysterious Oregonians. I know their stuff has been around for a while, and where I live you can get a few bottles here & there if you look hard enough. Lately I’ve been noticing that their DOGGIE CLAWS barleywine has been winning some judgments from barleywine lovers as being one of this country’s best. Ergo, that’s the one I purchased and downed first, though I also have bottles of “Fred” and “Adam” sitting at home awaiting consumption. Have to say, I’m like that rogue sheep on the cover of the Minor Threat album on this one, totally out of step with the verdicts of my peers. I didn’t really like DOGGIE CLAWS. I found it way too sweet, and it tasted like a big sticky, candied, alcohol-loaded bomb that was going to do damage on my insides and to my liver if I drank it too fast. The feel in the mouth was one of being coated with candied, liquid fruit, low on carbonation and thus really overpowering. Maybe it would click in the proper setting – maybe by the fire with a bowl of tiramisu or something, I don’t know – but it really kinda disappointed me. I gave it a 5/10. I recommend going with MAD RIVER BREWING’s JOHN BARLEYCORN instead.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Right, that’s easy for you to say! Isn’t “grand cru” champagne talk? I just know that that designation has been popping up a number of Belgian and Belgian-style beers I’ve been encountering, and it’s mysterious and highfalutin enough to make me want to figure out what it means. Oh – and this particular example, the GRAND CRU from ABBAYE DES ROCS in Belgium, is really, really good. It broke the Hedonist Beer Jive record for largest head on a single pour – absolutely gushing, and frothing & foaming over the side of the glass. The taste is very carmel-ish and at times sweet, but certainly not sickeningly so. It’s so delicious and subtle, even, that you’ll have a hard time believing that the alcohol level is in the double digits – 10% ABV. This is so good and so full of flavor that I can just see the train wreck of a hangover that would come from a few goblets of these. I know this brewery (or brouwerij) makes a few others on the shelves in the USA, but nothing wrong in starting with this one. We give it an 8/10.

Monday, March 19, 2007


Like a lot of Northern Californians, some Berkeley friends of ours are sort of in the beer snob-lite camp; only good, well-distributed craft beers grace the shelves of their fridge: your Red Tail Ale s, your Sierra Nevadas, your Boont Ambers and whatnot. The kind you can get at Safeway. I decided to give them a present the other day when they came over to our crib & presented them with a new beer dork favorite, ALESMITH IPA. Now I actually hadn’t had this one yet, as it’s only available in Southern California, but I got lucky and a few craftily-procured bottles were stocked at my local store. I’m going to go out on a limb and say bravo, another strong product from the folks at Alesmith, one of the west coast’s top up-n-comers. Their IPA is definitely more interesting than the typical offerings on the Safeway shelves for sure – far more sour than even the normal IPA, and full of flavors both citrus-y and bitter. Really carbonated, large head, and again, pretty bold in terms of both hops and that funky-sweet taste that would take some serious getting-used-to for an unravaged palate. My pals told me they liked it, but their slow drainage of their glasses told me otherwise. What that also tells me is that this is one for the beer dorks more than it is for the hoi polloi, with a 92 score on Beer Advocate, no less. Hedonist Beer Jive takes it down a notch but still opines with enthusiasm, “great beer, let’s drink it again, 7.5/10”.

Friday, March 16, 2007


So my grandfather passed away the other day. Yeah, I know. Great long life, filled with loads of Giants baseball games, extensive world travel, not one but two great wives, and thousands upon thousands of mixed drinks. While not a beer guy, he made a rockin’ gin & tonic like no other – about 99% gin, with a “spritz” of tonic on the side of the glass. Delicious. Anyway, coming back from his memorial service the other day in Napa, CA, I came to the conclusion that not only would a beer help numb the pain, but also realized that the MOYLAN’S BREWERY, where I’d never been, was right off the road. I decided to check it out.

You may recall that I believe MOYLAN’S to be one of the US’s great brewers. Their IPA and MOYLANDER DOUBLE IPA are both fantastic, as is their holiday brew. Topping all charts is HOPSICKLE, another ultra-high-IBU India Pale Ale that some, including Moylan’s themselves, have dared to call a “Triple IPA”. I don’t care what they call it, it just might be the greatest beer in America right now, and it’s generated such a rabid following that this intense, ultra-bitter, hopped-to-the-extreme beer has pretty much become their flagship ale in just one year of existence. So here I am at their pub, and they’ve got HOPSICKLE on cask (!). I naturally ordered one up, expecting nirvana, only to find – wow. What the hell happened? The lack of carbonation seemed to suck all the life out of the beer, leaving the bitterness without any restraint to tear your mouth a new one. I actually winced as I drank it down, never a good sign. OH how I wanted to love this one. I guess it comes down to this: the beer was so painstakingly crafted to perfection, and is so “delicately” constructed (which, granted, is a strange thing to say about such a firebreather) that any tinkering with the formula is bound to result in failure. I wish it weren’t the case, but it was. 5.5/10. That said – if you ever see this on the shelf in a 22-oz. bomber, get out your wallet, and put your big boy pants on.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


A few weeks ago I picked up on the newfound trend of the microbrew wino, the gutter-bound drunk who chooses obscure and well-crafted microbrew for his nightly push to oblivion, rather than traditional favorites like Ripple, Wild Irish Rose and Thunderbird. Well, I think I’ve got incontrovertible evidence that this is a growing phenomenon. What you see here is a picture I snapped this afternoon on the mean streets of San Francisco. They’re not just going local, they’re going Belgian now! This trend is escalating and is beyond argument. I know a rising tide lifts all boats & all that, but wow, I didn’t expect it to manifest itself this way.....


CITY BEER in San Francisco is a beer store first and foremost, and would probably love to be a full-blown beer snob bar as well, but due to some archaic alcohol laws, he’s only allowed to pour beer from taps into 8-oz glasses – no pints, no chalices, etc. Sure, you can open up a 22-oz. bottle on the premises (Craig charges a ridiculously low $1 “corkage fee”) and quaff it down, but when you want to drink from his five rotating taps, you need to go small, and then go back often. This works for me, as it’s a great way to try new beers out without having to commit to a full pint. Craig also puts some crazy stuff on tap, only for a week at a time. The other day he even got Russian River’s hallowed PLINY THE YOUNGER, which I’ve never even had, and I couldn’t make it over there in time. The hoards had already descended and pounced.

Last week I sauntered in for my usual bi-weekly beer run, and met a nice fella there who actually reads this here blog. He gave me the good word on an English beer Craig had on tap called OLD SPECKLED HEN. I’ve heard of that one before, not a name you easily forget, but in 8 short ounces I was pretty knocked out by how great it was. It’s an English pale ale, from England even, bottled and canned for the US and international market by the MORLAND BREWERY in the UK. I love how smoothly it went down, and rather than that being its only discernable quality outside of the typical English beer “mm, that’s OK, isn’t it”, OLD SPECKLED HEN rocked me with some interesting front-facing hops, and a refreshing sweetness that mingled well with the bittering agents. Whoa. And then to surf on over to Beer Advocate and see it taking a moderate beating from the beeristocracy – hunh, just what was in the glass I had? Loved it, can’t wait to try it again. 9/10.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


This beer is the first I've ever received in the mail, courtesy of a great American named JS who resides in the ST. ARNOLD BREWERY hometown of Houston, Texas.Not only did this beer survive the perilous journey through the desert wilds of Western Texas, New Mexico and Arizona to get to me in Northern California, it tasted like I plucked it off the shelf from the corner store five minutes ago – fresh, clean and full of complex flavors.

A little background: ST. ARNOLD have a pretty stellar reputation right about now as Texas’ premier craft brewer; they’re the first one I’ve heard much noise about since I discovered SHINER BOCK in the early 90s. They’ve got this “Divine Reserve” series that only pops out with a new recipe about once or twice a year; they are bottled in 12-oz. bottles, quickly distributed within the Houston area, and then I guess once they’re gone, they’re gone. JS thought my palate would benefit from exposure to this year’s model, #4, a “Wee Heavy” ale made in the scotch style. Here’s what the brewery has to say about it:

“This is a Wee Heavy that one of our brewers has been working on for a couple of years and the final results are well worth the wait. The color is deep ruby on its way to black with bright clarity (especially considering it is unfiltered) and a thick, tan head. It has a nose of Irish coffee with hints of peat. The body is sweet and creamy--not thin, not heavy. Almost refreshing, if a beer this big can be described as such. Caramel malt, smoke, coffee and orange come in and out of focus several times as the beer moves across the palate, then it finishes with a light spiciness. We again used our St. Arnold yeast which added a nice layer of complexity to this already multifaceted beer....”

I whole-heartedly agree with the deceptively “refreshing” adjective, as the DIVINE RESERVE #4 went down far easier than a beer this dark, malty and fragrant should have. Not knowing much about the wee heavy style, I could have argued that it tasted more like an unfiltered Belgian-style strong dark ale, but whatever they call it, it’s really, really good. 7.5/10. Thanks for the memories, and if you live within striking distance of Houston, get on this one while you still can.

Monday, March 12, 2007


A few quick quips and beerly bon mots to start the week off right.....last Thursday I was fortunate enough to enjoy another heaping chalice full of RUSSIAN RIVER DAMNATION, a Belgian-style golden ale that is truly nectar of the gods. I’ve rated it very highly on this site before – just wanted to let you know it still totally rules in 2007 (9.5/10).....another big winner comes to us from our idols at MOONLIGHT BREWING, this one the TWIST OF FATE, which is an English Bitter & which I got to enjoy on cask at San Francisco’s Toronado bar. Twist of Fate could not be more smooth, and even with it pouring down my gullet I got to take the time to enjoy the very fresh “roasted” taste of the beer, along with the very dry feel and floral smell. The pundits say it’s very “authentic", and who am I to argue. Moonlight can apparently do no wrong (8/10).

Went to see a re-fortified ROKY ERICKSON play live a couple weeks back, and the club he played in (he was great, by the way) actually had a new one to me on tap: SAMUEL ADAMS WHITE. Limited release, they said. I’m OK with that. It was a very straightforward white (“wit”) ale, tart in the right places and smooth enough for club-drinkin’, but truly nothing special at all. 6/10......I actually ventured into the rarely-broached world of real English beers last week, twice in the same day. I’ll tell you about OLD SPECKLED HEN in another post (I totally loved it), but my foray into TETLEY’S ENGLISH ALE didn’t go as well. Talk about generic! I found it very by-the-numbers bitter and warm, a real session beer to be sure, but I’d rather do my sessioning with something that tasted far better. 5/10.....Even an American brewer (ROGUE) beat the Tetley’s out at their own game. Rogue’s YOUNGER’S SPECIAL BITTER wasn’t anything to die for, but it had a pretty solid bready/biscuity taste that I liked, maybe just a bit off-balance in a way that I didn’t. I think Rogue’s been experimenting again. 6.5/10.....I know it’s probably sacrilege for some of you, but I have to give another big yeah-hup to BLUE MOON BELGIAN WHITE, a beer that is now manufactured by the Adolph Coors corporation. I can & will drink this excellent witbier anytime, anywhere (and did twice last week) – somehow they’ve gotten the recipe down right, and I swear it tastes like something out of a Brussels cafĂ©. Not that I’ve been to Brussels. Anyone out there drink this stuff before it was a Coors product, and is there any discernable difference?

Finally, I want to give kudos to the Beer Advocate staff for their outstanding monthly magazine, which is even better than it was when I wrote this review a few weeks ago. BEER ADVOCATE #2 concentrates on “extreme” or “wild” beer, with both pros and cons on this US-centric beer movement. Unlike other beer journalistic outlets, this magazine also takes a stand on beer it reviews, and if it sucks, they’ll say so intelligently. Definitely get yourself a subscription if this beer dork world is something you aspire to, as well it should be. Until next time.....

Friday, March 09, 2007


Jeez, I think I've now had at least one beer from each of the official signed-sealed "Trappist" monastic brewers of Belgium, now that I've conquered my first bottle of ORVAL. (I guess that's not really true, since the WESTVLETEREN can't be found in the US). It had been said to me that I'd probably like Orval the least of the trappists, but I don't know - it was pretty solid & then some. As you see from this picture, it's an deep copper/orange color with a smell to match - wow, that smell is something else. Sometimes a beer this rich & complex might only taste that way, but this one smells it as well. Very "floral", very dry, and I think it's hopped a lot stronger than others from across the pond as well. I took it down a notch because there were some bittering agents in there that didn't wear well over the 20 minutes or so I was "exploring" it; in fact I went from rabid enthusiasm to general satisfaction over the course of a glass about the size of the one you see here. Believe it or not, these guys make this beer and this beer only, and have been doing so for about 80 years. Something's working well over there in Belgium. I'll give 'em a 7/10.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


We have this local pub in town called the EDINBURGH CASTLE that I've practically been going to since I was old enough to drink. It's an english/scottish pub with that whole sort of vibe, you know what I mean, and their beer selection's quite good if a little English. Sometimes they’ll throw on a few smalltime American craft beers on tap just to make it interesting; the other night I enjoyed a MOONLIGHT DEATH & TAXES, for instance, and then there was this other unknown mystery beer on the board called FAT LIP (CASK). I asked the fella behind the bar and he erroneously told me it was from some Santa Rosa brewery (Russian River…..riiiight!!) instead of what it really was – a product of the ENGLISH ALES brewery in Marina, CA, a beer officially called RAMSEY’S FAT LIP ALE. It had a decent roasted malt taste to it, and poured a very flat copper with zero head at all (that’s cool – this was the cask version). But in all, I found it a little flat and boring. It didn’t have any bite, nothing to remind me of the great English beers I’ve had in the mother country – just a very tolerable beer made slightly more interesting by the fact that it was on cask rather than “draught”. Let’s go with a 6/10, only because I love an underdog.

Monday, March 05, 2007


I guess the story goes that two of our nation's great brewers, RUSSIAN RIVER BREWING from California and AVERY BREWING from Colorado, both had a beer called SALVATION. Ah yes, we know all about Russian River's Salvation here at Hedonist Beer Jive HQ - though when I had it I wasn't too bowled over. So anyway, these fellas decided to combine forces and head off a lawsuit from one or the other - which would have been totally preposterous, and which I in no way believe was ever even a possibility, but it makes for a good story - and created COLLABORATION, NOT LITIGATION ale. This very dark Belgian-style ale is said to truly be a brewed up combination of the best of both beers, and I'm happy to report that it's flat-out fantastic. I've enjoyed it the past couple of weeks both on tap and in the 22-oz. bottle you see pictured here, and if I had one sitting in front of me right now I'd drink that too. Collaboration has got this thick, spicy, heavy-but-nimble thing going on, with a really delicious and lush "mouthfeel" (ouch, there's that word again), and all the great characteristics of a strong Belgian dubbel. I guess I was getting a little black cherry & plum taste out of it, and I'm pretty sure it's also quite full of hops. This is a really special beer, probably exceptionally limited in number, and one I strongly recommend you seek out & maybe even trade for or something if it's not available near ya. 8.5/10.

Sunday, March 04, 2007


I always hear the fellas from PACIFIC BREW NEWS podcast touting the beers they get sent to them from all over the US for review, brews they can't get in their neck of the woods (which happens also pretty much be my neck of the woods) & which they then consume on air & offer an opinion. Jealous? Hey, not me. But given that craft beer's often one of those regional items that you just can't walk out & procure, listen- if you ever want to send me something cool & unique for review on HBJ, I won't complain. I'm especially intrigued by the beers of the upper midwest & great lakes - and the Atlantic area too, why not, right? Send me an email and we can talk.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


Once I got wind that February 2007 was “strong beer month”, and reconciled that designation with the fact that its chief proponent, 21st AMENDMENT BREWING, are located about a football field’s length away from my office, I had to get in there and try as many of their six February-only offerings as possible. I did OK – a few weeks back you may recall that I reviewed their DOUBLE TRIPEL and thought it was pretty goddamn great. The subsequent two I tried the past couple of weeks – well, not so much. First up was their DOUBLE TROUBLE IMPERIAL IPA, a super-high IBU Double IPA monster that just didn’t do it for me. Harsh, the way some of the Stone Brewing beers are harsh, with just enough citrus flavor to keep it drinkable but really just a miss in terms of something I’d want to willingly try again. 5.5/10. Then right at the close of the “celebration”, I scooted in there to try the LOWER DE BOOM barleywine, and found that to also be something of a miss. They really tarted this one up with a boatload of hops as well (80 IBUs, really high for a barleywine or so I’m told), thus contributing to an astringent and just out-of-whack taste. Having had some incredible barleywines just last week, I feel reasonably confident that this one did not measure up. 5/10.

All that aside, kudos to 21st AMENDMENT for putting virtually their entire beer lineup to the side for the entire month in favor of these experimental, high-alcohol, small-batch brews. They are becoming a true leader in the San Francisco Bay Area brewing scene, even if they didn’t totally nail it with each and every beer they attempted to brew for “strong beer month”.