Friday, September 28, 2007
What’s got me all worked up? TELEGRAPH BREWING’s GOLDEN WHEAT ALE, that’s what. The best – certainly the most interesting – wheat beer I’ve had all year. A lightly tart, very cloudy/unfiltered wheat ale, one that certainly ups the lemon zest and clove-like tastes to take this into the realm of the greats. It is moderately bready, but the overwhelming mouthfeel is this total “zing” – fresh, alive and robust, like a fizzing tart dissolving on your tongue. Haven’t heard of Telegraph Brewing? Well, join the soon-to-be dwindling club. They are a small brewer in Santa Barbara, one that’s not even been live for two years yet. They’re only open for a few hours on a couple of days, and the only way you’re going to find their wares is to travel down there (consult this list for a good rundown of who sells it and who is serving it). Those two 22-oz. bottles I went out of my way to find in Santa Barbara last month were among the best investments I’ve made since those 20,000 shares of Berkshire Hathaway stock. And now they’re gone. And now I must have more. Telegraph Brewing’s GOLDEN WHEAT ALE – 8.5/10!
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
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.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Some things to improve on: frequency of updates; I just checked BEERNUTZ on September 24th, and their “Events” section lists stuff coming up on September 8th. That’s the death knell of any wireless application that requires the user to proactively come back on their own initiative – the content had better be fresh or forget about it. Hey guys, you want to syndicate Hedonist Beer Jive, I’m all for it. Also, “weird beer news” is about as lame as it gets. For some reason “beer” = “funny” for so many writers out there, so you get a disproportionate amount of blog postings about some European who took a bath in beer, a beer some knucklehead made for dogs, etc. We don’t need it in our lives, and we most certainly don’t need it on the friggin’ phone. I think a buck ninety-nine for BEERNUTZ is a fine deal for Sprint customers, and with a little more in the way of updates, it’ll be a mighty fine time waster for me in the months to come.
Monday, September 24, 2007
Friday, September 21, 2007
Anyway, I’m new at my current job, and my two very cool female Kansas City co-travelers & I negotiated the aforementioned minefield by having a simple after-work drink last week in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Overland Park, Kansas. One, who actually is a local in those parts, picked a watering hole called PJ McGillicuddy’s or something like that, and not wanting to show my beer-dork cards too early, I happily went along. 10 beers later, I…..no, not really. I was able to scare up a beer I’d never had from BOULEVARD BREWING, who are the undisputed heavyweights of the Kansas City brewing scene. Their beer is everywhere, kinda like Anchor Stream is everywhere in San Francisco. My pick was their PALE ALE, and it was a very malty, refreshing after-work beverage. This beer is what “pale ale” used to be in the 1990s – a fairly undistinguished, lighter, and far-less-hopped beer than the hoppy, intense pale ales you especially get on the West Coast. Pale Ales to me used to be “starter ales”, now they are right up there with IPAs and Belgian-Style ales as part of the main show. This one was good: 6.5/10.
So there I was at 6:30pm with a night in the Kansas City area all to myself. Co-workers had to go back to their hotels & homes to “work” or something. I decided, “what the hell, let’s go see the last-place KANSAS CITY ROYALS in their own yard!”, and drove out to the ballpark. There, awaiting my arrival, were two more examples of BOULEVARD BREWING’s prowess. First up was their UNFILTERED WHEAT. I had this beer with a spicy ballpark chicken sandwich, and unfortunately, like the food, it too was a bit on the spicy, won’t-go-down-easy side. I found this beer had a real aggro bite, and yeah, it was a totally unfiltered, cloudy whirlwind of wheat, but I didn’t find it to be all that refreshing or conducive to the occasion. I’m going with 5.5/10, and maybe next time I’ll try it in different environs. Good thing the night was saved by the outstanding BOULEVARD LUNAR ALE. Yeah-hup for this one!! Loved it. A reddish-brown ale, really almost like an “Imperial Amber” to my taste, one that reminded me of a more bitter BOONT AMBER (though it’s only 13 IBUs). Beer Advocate calls it an “American Dark Wheat Ale”, and readers have it rated down at the low end of the spectrum. Say what? In any event, this was an aggressive, malt-forward, delicious amber ale, and I looked for it in vain the next day to take home with me. If you’re in the “Show-Me” state anytime soon, ask ‘em to show you some of this. 8.5/10.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
After asking for a table for one, I was seated next to a table – I kid you not – packed with six burly, beefy, corn-fed Midwestern cops in full uniform, right out of central casting. No one else was seated in my section – just me & the cops. Would you fault me for therefore ordering the lowest-ABV beer on the menu before getting my bearings? Good thing I did, as McCOY’S THOMPSON’S DRY STOUT was a really refreshing, smoky-tasting stout that I found to be quite a bit above my expectations. A little thin, perhaps, but this was counterbalanced with some delicious roasted malts that, like I said, has a crisp “smoked” taste that worked well. Good on ya, McCOY’S! 7/10.
So those cops didn’t skedaddle anywhere, but they also weren’t actively checking my alcohol intake either, and were busy talkin’ about the Monday Night Football game then being projected on the big screens. Knowing that I’d get totally lost on my way to Overland Park, Kansas (my ultimate destination), I kept my tastings to a mere 10-oz. glass, and proceeded to order the NEWCOMB’S IPA. I declare with not a small amount of perverse pride that this is quite simply the single worst IPA I’ve ever tasted, and a beer that now sets a record for lowest-rated beer in the history of Hedonist Beer Jive. The “pride” I felt was probably more akin to relief, as it proved to me that not every beer I drink falls into the milquetoast “good to great” 6-to-9 range, and that there are still poorly-executed craft beers out there. They’re not all great – how about that? My taste buds still work! NEWCOMB’S IPA was bitter beyond belief, with no balance whatsoever. Like a stuffed mouthful of dry, hurtful hops, worse than any homebrew I’ve had. Ever. 2.5/10, and I couldn’t finish it. Should have had a “RED LIGHT RASBERRY” instead – seriously.
So as long as you stay away from that thing, McCOY’S is pretty all right. Service could have been better, but they were playing parts of “Exile On Main Street” while I dined on a very satisfying turkey burger & fries. A little THOMPSON’S DRY STOUT to go with that & you’re all set. When in Kansas City and totally, hopelessly lost, look ‘em up!
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Monday, September 17, 2007
This beer not only has really a noticeable taste of orange, it pours a completely opaque & stunning orange color as well. It does not, to my taste, have that bitter, peppery flavoring/mouthfeel that many witbiers do, in fact it’s quite a bit lighter and more “fluffy” in that sense. I don’t remember there being much of a head on it, and it’s not very yeast-heavy to the tongue. It’s not a strain to drink it fairly quickly, in other words, but hanging back and really enjoying it is definitely the recommended way to go, as it’s well-constructed like few beers are, and definitely a big cut above the norm. Loved it. Again, 8.5/10, and available in big bottles at your local specialty beermeister.
Friday, September 14, 2007
Perhaps you’ve heard the tale of how AVERY BREWING of Colorado and RUSSIAN RIVER BREWING of California both made a beer called SALVATION, and in mock indignation decided to “collaborate” rather than “litigate” this budding controversy, thereby producing an excellent beer called COLLABORATION, NOT LITIGATION. It’s essentially a mash-up of the two SALVATIONS, and not only is it excellent, it’s still available & I believe even being made again this year. Then I get the good word just a few weeks ago that AVERY have secured distribution of their outstanding beers in Northern California, and lo & behold, brewmaster and owner Adam Avery shows up on the west coast two weeks ago for a series of events designed to promote the arrival of his beers in these parts. Cue the sound of rabid beer dorks quickly yanking money from their wallets.
One such event appealed to this particular beer dork, and that was a beer dinner hosted by “THE BEER CHEF”, pitting the beers of AVERY vs. their old doppelganger RUSSIAN RIVER BREWING in a knock-down, drag-out drink off. If you’re thinking, “only two of the US’s finest brewers!”, that’s exactly what I was thinking too when I ponied up the (cough) $85 admission fee. I’ll get a few things out of the way first: the food was very good, the joie de vivre and camaraderie shared by RR’s Vinnie Cilurzio and Avery’s Adam Avery was fun (I think these fellas might have been nipping each others’ beers when backs were turned, and as such pretty much spent the second half of the dinner constantly “on mic”, roasting each other, the beer chef and the world at large), and for eighty-five large, the amount of top-quality beer served was staggering and more than generous. This wasn’t ordinary beer, as both breweries tend toward high-ABV monsters, often soured or aged or generally tweaked-with to produce some true marvels. Many have been discussed in this forum before, so lemme tell you what we had:
RUSSIAN RIVER BLIND PIG IPA
RUSSIAN RIVER SALVATION
RUSSIAN RIVER DAMNATION, BATCH 23
RUSSIAN RIVER TORONADO ANNIVERSARY ALE
COLLABORATION, NOT LITIGATION
The first two IPAs were served to all comers before dinner even began, and it was “Drink as much as you like”, and in all the excitement that’s (alas) just what I did. The big a-ha moment out of that was just how much I loved the RUSSIAN RIVER BLIND PIG IPA. What a wonderful beverage. It was my second time having it, and I really dug it last time, but it was so citrusy & well-balanced & out-and-out delicious I had to get a second pint of it, and proclaimed it a 9.5/10 to the entire room whilst standing on a chair with a lampshade on & my pants unbuttoned. Whoops. AVERY IPA was a good solid IPA, but on this round it was “the Santa Rosa kid” taking the lion’s share of the IPA points.
After that it all gets a little less clear. I do know that I enjoyed everything, and I mean everything. One beer in particular really made the grade, and that was AVERY’S 2007 anniversary ale, FOURTEEN. Lots of oohing and ahhing around the table as that one was being consumed, and thankfully I had secured a bomber of this earlier in the week and have it waiting for me at home one of these days. Another surprise was just how drinkable & delicious the “ultra-aged” and oaked DAMNATION, BATCH 23 from Russian River was. The word on the street was that it was really, really oaked-tasting, and that doesn’t usually square with me. Thankfully this one did, and again, the bottles are out there and I got lucky enough to grab one, so after I, uh, “age” this one for a bit I’ll drink it with a critical tongue, and tell you about it if you’d like.
A friend tells me that he knew my night was over when I noisily demanded to be passed the water pitcher from the rest of the table and got nowhere, and then just closed my eyes in frustration for a ‘lil catnap. The next day was a little ragged, and as someone who basically never has hangovers & curses himself for weeks when he does – well, let’s just say that I’d firmly decided to end the beer geekdom, this blog, and all drinking whatsoever for about 24 hours after this event. But "that’s what you get when you play with the big kids". I’ll know better next time. In the meantime, if you’re lucky enough to procure the beers of either of these heavyweights in your area, by all means make a point of doing so, and pay special attention to that AVERY FOURTEEN while it’s around. That’s it – I’m going back to my ice water pitcher now.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Monday, September 10, 2007
Friday, September 07, 2007
First up was RUSSIAN RIVER BREWING’s entrant, LITTLE WHITE LIE, enjoyed on tap at Lanesplitter Pizza in Berkeley, CA. Now what’s interesting about this tasting was that, 1 year after my first encounter with the beer, my enthusiasm for this one dipped a full two points, from the 9/10 we bestowed upon it last time to the 7/10 I’m going with now. Who can say why. I’ll say that this is a witbier with a little bit of the funk about it; i.e. compared to most examples of the form, this one’s more of a sipper than a gulper. Totally opaque, very yeasty tasting, and with heartier, almost dough-like mouthfeel. I didn’t have the over-the-top rapturous experience with it I had last time, and yet it was quite delicious nonetheless. My take-away is that the witbier formula was deliberately tampered with here to make something slightly strange & unique. “What a surprise” from our friends at Russian River.
Later that evening, back in the safety of the home, I gave myself up to BLANCHE DE CHAMBLY, a product of the UNIBROUE corporation. This lovely beer was blessed with a truly eye-watering orange/lemon smell, and was just as cloudy and unfiltered-tasting as the Little White Lie. Again, quite yeasty, with a lot of thickness as well. Truth be told, the carbonation produced numerous gaseous escapes from my throat. Good thing that family was away for the evening. It’s not a Bondsian knock out of the park, but I gave it a 7.5/10, about what I’d expect from UNIBROUE, unlike the last one I had from them. Advantage UNIBROUE by a nose.
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
2. ANDERSON VALLEY – Boont Amber (American Amber/Red Ale)
3. BRASSERIE DE ROCHEFORT – Trappistes Rochefort 8 (Belgian Strong Dark Ale)
4. THREE FLOYDS - Alpha King (American Pale Ale)
5. AVERY BREWING – The Reverend (Quadrupel)
6. MOONLIGHT – Reality Czeck (Czech Pilsner)
7. STONE BREWING – IPA (IPA)
8. MOONLIGHT – 2006 Toast Malt Liquor (American Amber/Red Lager)
9. HACKER-PSCHORR – Dunkel Weiss (Dunkel Weizen)
10. LOST ABBEY - Devotion Ale (Belgian-Style Blonde)
11. RUSSIAN RIVER – Damnation (Belgian-Style Strong Golden Ale)
13. DARK HORSE - Tres Blueberry Stout (American Stout)
15. MOYLAN’S – IPA (IPA)
16. LANGUNITAS – Freak Out! (IPA)
17. RUSSIAN RIVER – Rejection (Belgian Black Ale)
18. FIRESTONE WALKER – 10 (Barleywine)
19. DRAKE’S – Denogginizer (Double IPA)
20. DESCHUTES – 2006 Jubel Ale (Winter Warmer)
21. LOST ABBEY – Avant Garde (Biere De Garde)
22. NORTH COAST – Old Stock 2004 (Old Ale)
23. PORT BREWING – Hop Suey (Double IPA)
24. RUSSIAN RIVER - O.V.L. Stout (American Stout)
25. FIRESTONE WALKER - Pale Ale (American Pale Ale)