Friday, December 28, 2007


The single best thing I got out of my multi-bottle order with LIQUID SOLUTIONS was this outstanding IPA from small brewer TERMINAL GRAVITY BREWING, who are based in the bustling metropolis of Enterprise, Oregon. Never heard of ‘em! Well, I hope they start getting some play in the beer press, and I promise to do my part. Their TERMINAL GRAVITY IPA is a wonderful beer. Very fresh-tasting, with a resiny, piney mouthfeel that coats the tongue and the rest of the mouth for a good twenty second after a swig. It’s an orange-colored brew, and it tingles like there’s no tomorrow, but is not at all “too much”. A very classic IPA that I’d love to make a go-to beer if it ever showed up on shelves in California. Anyone want to make that happen for me? 8.5/10.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


I reported a while back on this one, which I tried for the first time at a birthday shindig (mine), and which I was pretty damn sure was going to be one of my fave beers of all time once I tried it under slightly more, uh, “sober” circumstances. At that same birthday gathering I was presented with a CITY BEER gift certificate that I used to buy myself my own $13 (!!!) bottle of SIGNATURE ALE, which is a collaboration between Belgium’s DE PROEF BREWING (De Proefbrouwerij) and American rockstar master brewer Tomme Arthur of LOST ABBEY and PORT BREWING. One of those rare, one-time-only ales that often justify themselves if you close your eyes and pretend it’s someone else’s money, which in this case it kinda was.

SIGNATURE ALE is a strong, rich golden/orange color, and right away you’re hit with a distinct tang of apples & sour Brettanomyces flavor. It’s not a “sour ale” by any means, but it’s definitely got a wild and aged feel to it. Signature Ale is quite effervescent, actually, and has a big-ass foamy head that takes some time to calm down before you can even get to that first gulp. Really tangy, with some light spices. Somehow not the epiphany it was the first time I tried it, and hate to say it, probably not worth what you gotta pay to get a bottle. Still, I’ll give it a 7.5/10, and if you ever encounter it on tap (good luck!), go for it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


What is it about ROGUE BREWING? These guys were among the pioneers of the second wave of American craft brewing, and they are one of the breweries that helped tip me from a craft beer dabbler into a full-blown aficionado. There was a time, maybe the mid-90s, where my two favorite brewers on the planet were ANDERSON VALLEY and ROGUE. But more and more often I’m finding their 21st Century beers to be lacking, except on the few occasions where they’re not. This year, I’m afraid, they take the award for worst 2007 Christmas Beer. The 2007 SANTA’S PRIVATE RESERVE was an exceptionally strange brew that was consumed under duress last week, with the duress being caused by my almost pathological desire to finish the beer and find some joy in it. It did not work. Santa’s Private Reserve, alas, is a blend of very weak malts that produce an odd balance, not unlike something sloshed together in a tank on a long road trip, with the hope that something interesting might come out at the end of the journey. It did not. Hops are quite strong and they bite pretty hard, but they don’t satisfy. There was no winter warming going on here, just anger, frustration and bitterness. Ouch. 4/10.

Friday, December 21, 2007


After a couple of false starts, I finally strode triumphantly through the doors of Oakland, California’s new gathering place THE TRAPPIST on Wednesday night. (Click here to read our interview with Aaron Porter of The Trappist, whom we actually met in person Wednesday as well). The bar seeks to recreate the upscale bit intimate vibe of a Brussels or Antwerp or Ghent pub, and serves nothing but the finest ales from Belgium, with a few Yankee brews thrown in for balance. Having never been to Belgium, I can’t say how well they nailed it, but those in the know say this place is the real deal. They’ve got a contraption right there, built into the bar itself, that power-washes each glass before the beer is poured. Of course, the glass has already been washed in the back, but THE TRAPPIST takes an almost fetishistic approach to cleanliness, which is certainly admirable and which greater mortals than I have opined is the one of the sacred keys to a great-tasting beer. Hear hear!

There were about a dozen or so beers on tap, so I picked out four I’d never had for a “sampler”, where the drinker puts down $12 for four 5-ounce tastes. I felt that was more than fair, considering the beers available. You can gather a pretty good impression over 5 ounces – that’s at least 6 sips and 6 gulps by my count. Here’s what I tried:

KONINGSHOEVEN TRAPPIST QUADRUPEL – a big, bold 10% ABV quadrupel, which is a style we absolutely love over here, and from one of the few true Trappist monasteries to boot. You can taste that alcohol immediately, and it’s a very sweet but complex beer, with fruit tastes and lots of character. 7.5/10

LAS RULLES CUVEE MEILLEURS VOEUX XMAS – bit of a disappointment here. More dry that I had expected for a Belgian Christmas ale, without much pizzazz or flavor. Smooth, and clean-tasting, but that was about it. 6/10

ST. BERNARDUS WIT – A really understated, whiter-than-white ale from the mad faux monks of St. Bernardus. Really thin-bodied, and piled high with notes & scents of orange and lemon. Hard to argue with a witbier this classic. 7.5/10

BRASSERIE D’ACHOUFFE LA CHOUFFE – The night’s winner was this excellent Belgian strong pale ale, which was absolutely delicious. Tasting of apples and darker fruits like plums & figs, LA CHOUFFE has this awesome “pillowy” feel to it, and is a real treat than I’m going to be seeking out as much as possible. 8.5/10

After that lineup I needed something that was going to calm, not challenge, so I went for a brand new beer/brewery on the local scene, LINDEN STREET COMMON LAGER. These guys just opened up in Oakland as well, within 5 miles of The Trappist, and this is their first beer. I’m not much a lager guy, and this one, which was touted as being much like a “steam beer” or California Common, didn’t really do it for me. Clean but bitter, and mildly reminding me of cigarettes. Not “steam-like” at all, if steam-like means Anchor Steam, which it does to 99.9% of us. 5.5/10.

Trappist trivia: proprietor Chuck Stilphen, the other half of the Trappist team, used to be in 80s punk band GANG GREEN, but, alas, not on the “BOSTON NOT L.A.” material – more the skateboard ramp/Budweiser-era Gang Green. Anyhow, you gotta get yourself to this bar, it’s fantastic, and well worthy all of pre-hype that we & others threw at it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


I only had room in my suitcase for a couple of small bottles when I escaped Colorado a few weeks ago, and one of the chosen few was this 12-ounce gem from BRECKENRIDGE BREWERY from the ski town of the same name. Their CHRISTMAS ALE is as fine an elixir as you’ll fine anywhere this time of year. It has just this fantastic interaction of malts, and an exceptionally “Christmasy” taste that is coy enough to not overwhelm. It’s mild clove n’ figgy pudding spicing does a great job counteracting what tastes like a massive alcohol wallop, but is in fact a “mere” 7.4% of warming ABV. But hey, don’t believe me, believe the folks over at DRAFT MAGAZINE:

This winter, when it is chilly and you are trying to warm your spirit, make sure to get yourself a hearty and strong Christmas Ale from Breckenridge. A clear mahogany color and a frothy beige head are clear indications of the quality brew you are about to enjoy. The spiciness of the hops is apparent in the aroma and is surprisingly evident in the initial taste as well. The flavor soon mellows into a warming malty concoction with some raisin and pear sweetness. The mouthfeel remains full through the entire experience and is balanced well with the carbonation. This beer is best imbibed the year it is made to avoid any oxidation issues that may occur if more than a few months have passed.

Outstanding. Hedonist Beer Jive says 8.5/10.

Monday, December 17, 2007


For many years I’ve been a Winter Beer freak, and every year for at least a dozen years, that’s meant a trek to San Francisco’s TORONADO, which marks each of its Christmas ales with a decorative bow stuck on the board next to each holiday beer. In the early days, i.e. the mid-90s, one of the perennials that everyone always had to buy a 6-pack of & get on draught was PYRAMID BREWING’s SNOW CAP. I remember being in Seattle for grad school in 1997 and planning a trip back to SF & The Toronado via email with a friend, who kept mercilessly baiting me w/ emails, “Mmm….can’t you just taste the Snow Cap….” etc etc. (not like we couldn’t get it in Seattle, but it always tasted better “back home”). Nowadays no one seems to give PYRAMID any respect whatsoever, which seems kinda wrong to me, especially after reacquainting myself with SNOW CAP recently. Damn, this could end up being in 2007’s top five winter ales for sure – sure, it’s got a fairly thin body and a very mild head o’ foam, but with its light spicing and hearty blend of malts, this is Christmas done right. It has, despite its rich and soothing taste, what we call in the trade as “slammability”. The folks with whom I shared a six-pack weren’t beer dorks by any means, but not only were they totally raving about it, they were looking to me for cues as to whether or not that was appropriate. To me? Me? Sure, it’s great! SNOW CAP 2007 = 8/10!

Friday, December 14, 2007


I started this site waaaaay back in February 2006 with an eye toward cataloguing all my recent and ongoing beer conquests, and assigning a numerical “grade” to them, much as a pencil-necked geek does to any one of a number of his geeky obsessions. Alas, it is who I am. I have long since made my peace with it. I decided that each craft beer that I consumed could actually be scored on a 0-10 scale, and that each of these numbers could be effectively defined. I even published an initial guide to our ratings system.

As it turns out, given the high quality of most beers I enjoy (thank god), it’s incredibly rare to find a beer in the 0-4 range. I’ve probably given out a half-dozen of those, tops. Even raspberry wheat and apricot beers, when made by a craft-brewing master, typically fall into the 5-7 range. If I were grading on the curve, with only those beers I tasted falling into the overall bucket, even some critical favorites would be forced to fall onto the wrong side of “5” - but that’s not really fair. We’re comparing these beers against the mass of beer sold all over the world, most of which, as you know is crap.

For the purposes of this site, let’s define the “mean” score – i.e. 5 – as a “fair” craft beer, drinkable for the most part, but one we’re not likely to pursue again. With that, another attempt to explain the beer ratings that we provide to you, our customers:

An exceptional, world-class beer that is among the small handful of the best I've ever had. This beer has qualities the likes of which are rarely seen. Reserved only for the greats, like TRAPPISTES ROCHEFORT 8 and MOYLAN’S HOPSICKLE.

9-9.5: A knockout, stellar beer that I'd drink again anytime, anywhere. Easily among the top 5% of beers that have ever crossed my lips. Perfect representative beer: Russian River Damnation

8-8.5: Delicious, eye-opening beer of superlative quality and craft, worthy of recommendation many times over, just not as revelatory as a 9, 9.5 or a 10. Perfect representative beer: Young’s Double Chocolate Stout

7-7.5: Very good beers that I can and will recommend and drink repeatedly with pleasure, just lacking that je ne sais quoi that keeps it from the true heavyweights. Seems like most everything I drink falls into this bucket. Perfect representative beer: Anchor Steam

6-6.5: A good microbrew, usually best tasted once before moving on to something else, with the thought that maybe it might get ordered again somewhere down the road. Perfect representative beer: Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale

5-5.5: A disappointment or something just not that worthy. Drinkable, and that's about it. Perfect representative beer: Lagunitas IPA

3-4.5: Don’t like it. Doesn’t taste good. Don’t want it again. Often a craft beer that just failed, or perhaps a macro lager that’s better that all the other macro lagers, but still sucks. Perfect representative beer: Stone Double Bastard Ale

1-2.5: A crap beer that I will never drink again & will berate you repeatedly not to either. Perfect representative beer: Gale’s Christmas Ale

0-0.5: Blatz, Miller Genuine Draft, Coors Light, etc. Perfect representative beer: Corona Light

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Ever since my college pal Kirstin poured me a fluffy (and incredibly expensive) glass of DE REGENBOOG ‘T SMISJE DUBBEL last April at the Toronado, I’ve felt like this Belgian brewery was my little secret. No longer. Their beers are being heavily imported into the United States this year, and I’ve seen them pop up at multiple beer emporiums across greater California. Fantastic news, as their beers are complex, bold, flavorful concoctions just a little bit different from everyone else’s. This bottle of DE REGENBOOG GUIDO was no exception, and I’m a better man for having drunk it. GUIDO, like all bottled De Regenboog products, comes in those ‘lil 11-ounce bottles that are just so “spunky”-n-cute. It has a really cool, intense, sour tartness initially, and then like magic, the taste then transforms into a much more smooth and even honey-sweet sort of lovin’. The sourness lingers on the roof of the mouth, balanced with toffee and raisin flavors. The mild opaque brown color of the beer is deceptive, as it’s formulated in a manner that makes this quite a “chewy” beer. I think you know what I’m talking about. 7.5/10.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I wrote a thing a few months ago about trying (and disliking) a popular West Coast beer at a certain East Bay, California-area beer bar, and received a very curious email. The fella that wrote it told me that the establishment in question has a terrible reputation for not cleaning its taps, an allegation that, if true, would probably damage any standing and cred the place has with beer drinkers across the San Francisco Bay Area. He claimed that identical beers tasted on tap in two different locations frequently tasted fantastic at one bar, while woefully stale/unfresh at the alleged tap-neglecters - and that sources “in the know” knew for a fact that the dirty lines were not being cleaned. If there’s one thing I’ve been convinced of in readings over the past year, it’s that bars have an obligation to clean out their beer tap lines at least every two weeks, lest beers come out tasting foul, cloudy or flat. Any place that’s not adhering to this will almost certainly lose my business, and probably yours too.

I was inclined not to believe the hype (as Anne Frank said, “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart”), having as I did an excellent ALLAGASH WHITE at the bar in question not too long ago. Taps have to be clean to serve up a beer that great, right? Then there was my trip there last week. I tried an AVERY WHITE RASCAL, which I absolutely loved when I had it in a bottle, and……eww. Totally bland, flat & boring, with almost none of the intense witbier flavors I enjoyed just a month or two ago. Could it be true? I ordered an EJ PHAIR PALE ALE. EJ PHAIR are a Concord, CA-based brewery whose beers I’ve never explored, and I’d heard good things. The pale ale was the one they started the brewery with. How bad could it be? Well, my notes say, “thin, grassy, weak”. I scored it a 5/10, but I’m starting to wonder if that’s not entirely fair. What if each beer came served with micro-organisms, bacteria and sediment? What if…..the rumor was true?? Anybody?

UPDATE: We received this from our original correspondent. It could be a case of nitrogen – not unclean taps…..oh, and for those who’ve asked why I haven’t named the bar in question? Because they could be wholly innocent, and these strange-tasting beers could be flukes. If you really want to know, just click on the links in the post and it’s pretty easy to figure out. Anyway, here’s some postscript from our correspondent:

Just read your post from today with interest as I am the one who originally reported the tap/lines issue some months back at ______. I found out later that a good friend (same guy, one who drinks there all the time) asked them about it again and it was explained that they have to use nitrogen (more so than usual, if any other places use it at all, my understanding is that CO2 was the method) in order to get the beers to the taps because of where all the kegs are kept. I don't know exactly where they keep their kegs. I do know, however, that this would seem to make sense because it's always been this similar fizzy, lightly carbonated (and not in a good way, almost like soda) taste/sense that I always seem to notice in the guest beers there. I still drink there from time to time because it's so close to home and right by BART, live music, great patio etc, and I have never failed to notice this flavor/sense/taste. I go to Barclay's, Toronado, Lanesplitter quite often so I know how these beers are supposed to taste, something surely isn't right there. In the meantime, I've also spoken to some friends I met recently at Barclay's and they have absolutely noticed the same thing so I know I'm not alone.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


I think it was a year ago that PELICAN PUB & BREWERY took a whole boatload of honors at the Great American Beer Festival, bringing pride and honor to the small town of Pacific City, Oregon. Now I’ve actually spend some quality time in Pacific City, in 1999 I believe it was, and somehow I missed the brewery (which was open) during our trip down the west coast. We got to ROGUE in Newport City, NORTH COAST in Fort Bragg, CA and ANDERSON VALLEY in Boonville, CA, but PELICAN was not yet on our beerdar. As I understand it, though, these guys are starting to explode a bit based on their outstanding ales – and are even putting on a beer dinner next month in San Francisco on January 18th. Be that as it may, I got my first wind of ‘em just a couple of weeks ago, when I opened up a big bottle of INDIA PELICAN ALE and let it flow. Man, what an excellent IPA. Light, refreshing, and yet every bit as robust as your typical west coaster. The taste was balanced to near-perfection, with both a grassy chewiness and a citrus burst to it that was more than welcome. Consensus among the two of us who were drinking it that contra to many IPAs, this is one you could have over and over again in a big pint glass at a bar, without feeling too tongue-tied or worked over afterward. Drunk, maybe. Satisfied, for sure. Best IPA in weeks! 8.5/10!

Monday, December 10, 2007


Before the past week I’d had two very positive experiences with beer from Colorado’s BOULDER BEER – a nice MOJO IPA we had on tap in New York (7.5/10), and an incredible HAZED & INFUSED that we, uh, had on tap in New York (9/10). So I figured it made sense to grab a couple more from their lineup and see where it took us. First one I found is called COLD HOP, and they say it is a British-style ale. Now if I had this one on tap in the Mother Country, I admit I’d be a little surprised. It dances around the tongue quite a bit, and has much more of a bittering bite than your typical UK ale. The dominant taste – which to be honest wasn’t all that dominant – was grapefruit. Not particularly exciting, but decent – something that I’d probably pass on given the chance again. 5.5/10.

As you may have read, I was in Denver over the Thanksgiving break, and managed to sneak a couple of locally-brewed bottles into my luggage to be consumed at home. I got a bottle of BOULDER BEER’s NEVER SUMMER at a store called the Colorado Liquor Mart – the store even had a rep from Boulder Beer standing in the aisle, and it was she who pointed me over to said beer. Hey, she had a nice smile (or something). This holiday/Christmas ale has a medium body and fairly light spicing – what kind, you ask? Oh you know, that “holiday” spicing so popular around this time of year. Caramel malts are the backbone of the beer, and it all sorta combines in a strange, somewhat jarring way. I wouldn’t call it pleasant, nor would I call it annoying. It just is. 6/10.

I expected more from my Coloradan friends, but it may be that I debuted my relationship with them with their two best beers, and am now getting into the rest of the lineup - the “middlers”, you might say.


Here’s one take on the Top 25 Microbreweries in the country. Some definite ringers in there, though one might argue they’re somewhat out of order. Thoughts?

Friday, December 07, 2007


Tonight, Friday December 7th, is the opening night of Oakland, California-based Belgian-themed beer bar THE TRAPPIST, and the kids, as they say, are waaay psyched. You probably will be as well – get a load of this opening night beer list. THE TRAPPIST is the product of many, many months’ planning and hard labor, and obviously many years of hardcore Belgian beer enthusiasm (though a few local and US micros will be served as well). It’s in a fantastic and burgeoning part of “Old Oakland”, right by a BART (subway) station, and having driven by it before it opened, it just flat-out looks cool.

We caught up over email with one of the bar’s two proprietors, Aaron Porter, and asked him a few questions about what looks to be a new home away from home for many Bay Area beer lovers:

HEDONIST BEER JIVE: What led you to open a Belgian-themed beer bar in Oakland, particularly one as ambitious at The Trappist appears to be?

AARON PORTER: We love Oakland! Oakland seemed like the right spot...for practical reasons, but also for beer reasons...there’s a lot of people in the east bay that are fanatical about beer...there’s tons of great places to go...both here in the east bay and in SF, but Oakland is central and easily accessible...The Trappist is located near 3 major freeways, 4 blocks from BART...and close to home. We looked in SF for a space...but nothing seemed quite right...Chuck happened upon our tiny 10’-0” wide space and it just simply felt right. We like the pace of Oakland...we like the people, we like the way things work over here.

HEDONIST BEER JIVE: Have either of you run businesses before, and if so, what are you bringing from those experiences to this one?

AARON PORTER: Chuck has another business he’s been running for 10+ years...he owns and operates rehearsal spaces for bands...Oakland and in Sacramento. He has a tremendous amount of operational experience as well as tons of construction experience. I work in architecture as a self-employed freelancer w/ background in construction. Our combined experience gave us confidence to try and put The Trappist together.

HEDONIST BEER JIVE: Why do you think Oakland and the greater Bay Area will embrace The Trappist right now? Is this a time that’s particularly ripe for such a bar?

AARON PORTER: We think so...there a plenty of great bars that have wonderful beer lists...many that have great Belgian beer lists...but we wanted to create a space that we wanted to be in...a place we would want to go to...a place that reminded us of our favorite bars in Amsterdam and Belgium...both architecturally and in terms of the beer...We are doing the things we appreciate about the places we visit on our trips...these are things you don’t yet see that often here...and we’d love to see it more. We think (and hope) that people will feel the way we do about these things...people that haven’t maybe had a chance to travel the places we’ve been will hopefully get the vibe, a kind of armchair experience...those that have been to Belgium, etc...they will hopefully get transported to a degree...we’ll far Oakland likes us!

HEDONIST BEER JIVE: Some of the bottles you’ve listed on previous versions of your web site are among the most rare and hard-to-get Belgians in the US. How are you cobbling together such an incredible selection of tap and bottled beers?

AARON PORTER: It’s been a lot of work...we have to be annoying to some extent...pressure proves beneficial to a degree...but also, since we’re specializing we have people looking out for us, digging through their warehouses and garages...we have to be resourceful.

HEDONIST BEER JIVE: What’s your aim for a typical night at The Trappist? Put another way, do you have a demographic you’re shooting for, and what are you doing to reach those folks?

AARON PORTER: We think we’re going to get a very mixed crowd... it’s hard to say...but we’ll probably be getting the beer geeks, the aficionados, the beer curious, the local crowd, etc...i actually think we’ll have a very broad appeal.

HEDONIST BEER JIVE: You guys obviously know a thing or two about great beer. How did you discover the beers of Belgium, and do you each have an “epiphany moment” to share?

AARON PORTER: The Trappist came to us around November last year, I’d say...we had been talking about it casually during a trip to Belgium...and that talk got a bit more serious when we got November last year we were looking for a space. The first Belgian beer I had was a Chimay Grand Reserve (I believe the only beer they imported then), probably 15+ years ago...i had a friend that knew of a liquor store in downtown Oakland that had a small selection of specialty beer...he turned me on to the Chimay...that was the start of it for me, essentially. A couple years later, I took a trip to Belgium and visited the Abbey de Scourmont at Chimay...since then, I had always wondered why there really wasn’t a beer bar at home that was doing it the way it was done out there...Chuck and I started doing “beer trips” a few years ago...we both started wondering why there wasn’t a beer bar doing it the way it was done out there.

HEDONIST BEER JIVE: If you had to pick only five beers that you’d love to carry and personally drink in your new bar, what would they be?

AARON PORTER: Only five? That’s’ll change depending upon when asked...part of the reason we have a large bottle list is because we can’t choose....

Het Anker Cuvee Van de Keizer
Regenboog Guido
St. Feuillien Blonde [on tap]
Stuisse Pannepot or Earthmonk
Alvinne Gaspar

Again, the big opening night bash is this evening, Friday December 7th, and then the bar is open Wednesday - Thursday - Friday at 4PM, Saturday & Sunday at 2PM, and closed Monday & Tuesday. It’s located at 460 8th Street in Oakland, California. See you there.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


Careful readers may have noticed effusive praise in these quarters far too often for MOYLAN’S HOPSICKLE, one of the most mind-boggling great beers we’ve ever had, and a charter member of the HBJ 10/10 club. There are those who will tell you that the “triple IPA” Hopsickle, while great, does not hold a candle to the mere Double IPA from MOYLAN’S called the MOYLANDER, and that while the Moylander may suffer in thr PR department, it is absolutely the superior beer. I decided to put this theorem to the test the other night.

Right when this blog got going we had our first MOYLANDER and pronounced it a 7.5/10 – “not too shabby”, as they say. Could this number hold? Might it even improve? Let’s find out. The Moylander is every bit as intense as its brother the Hopsickle, and has this intense surging citrus mass of hops that could cause surprise eye-watering in the unprepared. It has a real spicy character to boot, one that calls to mind both freshness and a deliberate attempt to overwhelm the taste buds. It’s one of those “bubble” beers – one that I admire and enjoy for its craft and care, and yet one that might be little too strong to even get through an entire pint of. And I thought there was no GOOD beer that I’d say didn’t deserve an entire pint’s worth, but some of these double IPAs really deserve to be served up in 6-8 ounce glasses instead. Too much. I’m going to drop my ranking down to 7/10 this year.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


My last few posts have been about Colorado beers – I have a few more in me until I’m done. You’re saying, dude, you went all the way to Denver for Thanksgiving, surely you made a stop at the FALLING ROCK TAP HOUSE?? Ah, but that I did, my friends. I told my brother-in-law what a great experience the legendary Blake Street bar would be for us and our two rugrats (“a great place for kids”, I lied), how the food was supposed to be outstanding (“they’ve actually hired several famous soux chefs from France”, I lied), and how he’d definitely find some good light beers on tap (“they’re famous for their light beers”, I lied). You do what you need to, am I right? I’d never been before, but from most accounts it’s one of the top beer bars in the United States, and I guess I’d heartily agree now that I’ve been there. We went the day after Thanksgiving, expected a mob scene, and found that we pretty much had the place to ourselves, along with the big screen TV. I’m a sports guy, but it seems in Denver EVERYTHING is about the sports, particularly football. The Broncos are omnipresent. If I lived here I’d probably feel like I did in my jock-laden high school, which drove me to punk rock and against sports for many years. Even at FALLING ROCK, the TV was just screaming about football.

That aside, I settled in for some Colorado beers at this fine watering hole. I decided to go with two selections from GREAT DIVIDE BREWING, a brewer whose wares don’t make it my way, and who’ve earned some headlines for big, bold beers like YETI and others. I was just so goddamn excited about the selection of local beers (plus dozens from Belgium, Germany and the rest of the USA), that I started swinging wildly. GREAT DIVIDE HERCULES? A Double IPA? Gimme that one! That was a pretty good move, as it turned out. HERCULES is a big, juicy and strong IPA, with heavier malts than you typically see in west coast IPAs. With regard to its actual tastes, well if you had to choose a place on the “pine” vs. “citrus” continuum, I’d go with pine, making this closer in taste to STONE RUINATION and LAGUNITAS KILL UGLY RADIO. I liked it, and whooshed it down the pipes in a hurry 7.5/10.

Given the season, it made sense to move on to GREAT DIVIDE HIBERNATION next, which is the winter/holiday ale from these western warriors. Only problem was, it really didn’t have any hallmarks of a “winter ale’ save for its dark and rich brown/black color – though I’ll grant you there’s no defined style parameters for what we ought to be brewing during the blessed season. HIBERNATION was also very malt-forward, and carried a bit of a bite to it. I’d say that warming feeling I was getting was due to a high ABV – hmm, let’s look it up on the web – ah yes, 8.1%. THAT’S why I was tucked in at 9:30 that night, right? I would call this something like an “imperial brown ale”, with a nice hearty dose of hops. At least that’s what I was spoutin’ about at the time. 7/10.

In short, FALLING ROCK TAP HOUSE is a must for your Denver beer-drinking agenda, along with my brother-in-law’s house and the Colorado Liquor Mart.

Monday, December 03, 2007


I attended an AVERY BREWING / RUSSIAN RIVER BREWING beer dinner some months back, and one of the star attractions was a glass of AVERY FOURTEEN, the 14th anniversary beer for the brewery, and a beer that’s been described by some as a (nyuk nyuk) “dubbel IPA”. In fact the fellas on CRAFT BEER RADIO said something along the lines of, “you know how we’re always talking about how some beer hides its high alcohol content well? This one doesn’t”, and describes it as a bomb, a monster, etc etc. Not exactly what I remember, but then again, I wasn’t in much of a state to remember anything at that particular beer dinner. That same week I bought a 22-oz. bottle of AVERY FOURTEEN, and swore I’d unveil it soon. When polite company finally arrived at our house last week, unveil it I did.

Let’s just say that in a 2007 notable for how many incredible beers I’ve tasted, this one is easily one of the ten best. AVERY FOURTEEN is fantastic. Certainly not as alcohol-laden as I’d anticipated, particularly when it’s nearing the 10% marker with a whopping 9.5%. A “dubbel IPA”? Hmm – well, it’s very Belgian-like in both form and body, with a rich foamy head, very low carbonation, and a deep, long-lasting roasted taste. Hops to my tongue were moderate, and not overpowering. The whole experience was actually very smooth and easy, and I craved another one presently. That wasn’t to be and may never be, given that this is a once-ever release – and yet I know I’ve seen a bottle of this somewhere recently. Stock up, everyone! This is one of the greats! 9.5/10.