Friday, December 28, 2007
Thursday, December 27, 2007
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
Friday, December 21, 2007
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
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
Friday, December 14, 2007
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:
10: 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.
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
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
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
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
Monday, December 10, 2007
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.
Friday, December 07, 2007
AARON PORTER: Only five? That’s tough...it’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
St. Feuillien Blonde [on tap]
Stuisse Pannepot or Earthmonk
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
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
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
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.