Monday, March 31, 2008


They sent me to Atlanta again last week. Last time I went to Atlanta for work, I did a mad scramble to figure out where I was going to drink a beer, and ended up at the Suicide Girls’ favorite sports bar, THE VORTEX. You can read about that here. This time it was a no-brainer: The Vortex again (hey, it was near my hotel). I was in the mood for UNIBROUE beers, to be honest, and was hoping they had a few. UNIBROUE is becoming something of an obsession for me – this Quebec-based brewer makes some of the most amazing Belgian-style ales in the world, and I love that I can buy them even at the corner liquor store – they’re (almost) everywhere! My favorites right now are LA FIN DU MONDE and MAUDITE, but I still haven’t worked my way through the lineup yet, so we’ll see. That’s what this visit to The Vortex was designed to do – see if other Unibroues could reach that hallowed standard (and to relax and work off my dinner with a couple o' beers).

I decided to go with Unibroue’s DON DE DIEU to get things started. This is a “triple wheat” beer, like a real souped-up Belgianized hefeweizen, and to be frank, I wasn’t that into it. Funky and tart, there was a lot of lingering bitterness on the tongue, like a lemon/honey syrup of sorts. This is a big one, too – 9% ABV, so you need to have your big boy clothes on to enjoy it. It wasn’t a bad beer, just not my thing I guess, or at least not up to this brewer’s standards. 6/10. Thankfully I pulled the trigger on their EPHEMERE next. I’d resisted this one for a while, given that it’s their “apple beer”. Well damn me and hang me, this one’s great! Light-bodied, hazy golden color, and very crisp. Tastes of, you know – APPLES. Good ones. Not a cloying taste by any means, and it does not dominate the flavor of this beer, which will now go into my Unibroue rotation. Excellent stuff. 8/10. I then headed into tornado-struck downtown Atlanta and the sanctity of my hotel, thankful that modern distribution can bring these Francophone beers to the land of Sherman, Jefferson Davis and Molly Hatchet.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


BLACK DIAMOND BREWERY in Walnut Creek, California, has been around for some time, and though I don’t make it out to “The Creek” all that often, it was nice to find something of theirs on tap the other night in Oakland. You don’t see those guys getting a lot of play around the SF Bay Area, and I remember the one time I drank heartily at their pub as being a good one. So I tried a BLACK DIAMOND HEFEWEIZEN the other night, and it was easily the best beer of four half-pints I tried in a given night – this on a night when I was sampling wares by Bear Republic, Moonlight and Green Flash, no less. How did Black Diamond beat out those heavyweights, you ask? Well, by making a simple, juicy and lush-tasting hefeweizen. This hazy, straw-colored, medium-bodied beer is a tad more tart than most American wheat beers, and it makes me think more of the (admittedly too few) real German hefeweizens I’ve had. I don’t believe Black Diamond does any bottling, so that’s going to make it hard for most of ya to try it – but if you make it out my way, remember that HBJ says 8/10 on this one.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Nothing like getting a box of beer in the mail, especially when said box has a TELEGRAPH BREWING return address. You might remember that we discovered this tiny Santa Barbara, CA’s beers on a summer trip down thataway last year, and subsequently pronounced them our “small brewer of the year”, for what that was worth. Further, we procured an interview with head brewer BRIAN THOMPSON as well, which you can read here. Brian was kind enough to drop a couple of bombers of their limited-edition WINTER ALE in the mail, and after a three-month wait, I decided to give one of them a go.

TELEGRAPH WINTER ALE is notable for its very distinct use of dark malts, cinnamon, and chocolaty overtones to create a beer that’s just as close to what you’d imagine “Mexican carameled chocolate beer” to taste like as it is to a classic winter beer. It’s deeper and darker in color than most of them, approaching the brownish blackness of a Belgian dubbel, and much of the high-ABV mouthfeel as well. While there are a number of beers that have similar tastes, none has every had this unique of a combination of flavors. Testimonial once again to the brewers at TELEGRAPH, who need to go “major league” in a big way this year, and will just as soon as more folks start tasting their wonderful beers. 7.5/10.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Have heard a lot about BEAR REPUBLIC BREWING’s RACER X over the last two years, but never have I and this beer been in the same room at the same time. It’s their turbo-charged version of RACER 5, one of America’s finest IPAs, and a beer that’s becoming very popular on taps in Northern California these days. RACER X, on the other hand, appears to be a seasonal double IPA, brewed every now & again in small batches, and only served on tap – never in bottles. There was a keg of it at Oakland’s Pacific Coast Brewing this week, and I pounced. Hmm, wow, that’s almost like a barleywine, isn’t it? A thin-bodied, ultra-hopped sweet IPA? Why not? If some marketer started calling it a Barleywine-Style IPA, or an “IPA Wine” or something, you’d probably believe it. Hell, I would too. I liked its bitterness and how smooth it was, and how at the end of the day there was no real overpowering bite. It didn’t taste much like Racer 5, outside of the liberal dose of hops. I like it. I’ll drink it again. 7/10.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Ever since GREEN FLASH started bringing their excellent beers up to Northern California, I get an email a week from someone or another telling me about another whopper they’ve tried from Green Flash. Recently I had their SAISON, and it not only knocked me flat, but it fueled my desire to try more of this under-appreciated style. Just last week I had my first GREEN FLASH WEST COAST IPA, and it’s another in a nice big winning streak for this brewery right now. Piney and strong, this is a very big, very classic IPA – you can not only taste the alcohol, you can taste everything. It’s fairly bitter, and not a gentle IPA that you’d want to introduce folks to the style with. That said, I enjoyed it quite a bit and would give it a 7.5/10 if pressed to score it.

Monday, March 10, 2008


Oh me? Oh, you know. I’ve been around. Mostly I’ve been off doing other things – like work, bein’ a dad, bein’ a husband, resuscitating my music blog – that sort of thing. I’ve also tried to maintain a slightly healthier relationship with my favorite beverage, with some limited success. I’ve been enjoying beer for its own sake, not so much for the rating I’ll bestow upon it later, or for trying something new just because it was new. I’ve returned to a few old favorites, and have actually passed up newer, untried beers in favor of them. I’ve worked at getting my still-manageable but burgeoning love handles in line, the expansion of which I attribute almost entirely to beer mania. Lastly, I’ve tried to slowly work through all the friggin’ beer I built up in my cellar/garage over the last few months without buying new beers – believe me, it’s not easy refraining.

That said, I’ve been all around this great country of ours, trying all manner of fine nectars. Why, I was just in Seattle last Monday, and it was there that I enjoyed a fresh MAUDITE on tap at the famed Edgewater Hotel. Maudite is a wonderful Belgian-style dark amber from Canada’s UNIBROUE, one of true heavyweights of fine brewing in the 21st century. God, I heart this beer. It’s even better on draft than in the bottle – what a surprise, “eh”? A complex yet smooth blend of earthy, rich spices and yeasts, like a hopped-up red ale done in the Belgian style. Love it. Not only was I in Seattle, the United States’ second-best city, but I went to Nashville for a few nights in February as well. I know! Wild! Whilst in Nashville I checked out the local beer bar, a place called FLYING SAUCER. It was a cool place, chock-full of great beers, some of ‘em from the South and a lot of ‘em from parts east – like Belgium and Germany-east. I asked the barkeep for a TERRAPIN RYE PALE ALE, and you know what this rogue did to me? He denied my request. He said “eh, Terrapin’s all right – but try our local beer, YAZOO PALE ALE instead”. Well it just so happens that I’ve already had one of those, courtesy of the Monday Night Brewery gang, but you know what? It was good. I was still bestowing ratings back then, and went with a 7.5/10. He also poured me a North Carolina brew called HIGHLAND KASHMIR IPA – didn’t cotton to that one so much, and went with 5.5/10. I don’t remember why, I just didn’t like it & wanted to go to bed. You know how it is.

Closer to home – I mean, at home, the best thing I’ve had recently was a ST. BERNARDUS TRIPEL. A fantastic tripel, maybe one of the 5-7 best I’ve ever had, and totally in keeping with the St. Bernardus tradition of quality ales. Other than those, there’s been an Anchor Steam here, a Boont Amber there, and not a whole lot else. A few crunches and a jog or two and I’ll have a ripping six-pack of abs ("again" – right!). HBJ’s still around, so don’t you go nowhere now, you here?