Thursday, October 30, 2008


I had a quick buzz-in, buzz-out trip to New York City a couple of weeks ago and needed some dinner, and perhaps some quality beer to go with that dinner. Lacking much imagination, I decided that my co-worker and I needed to pay another visit to CAFÉ D’ALSACE at 88th and 2nd, which you may recall HBJ visited back in 2006. This place bills itself as a first-class gastropub, complete with its own “beer sommelier” on hand to guide you through the many bottled Belgian, German and US craft microbrews on hand. We discovered HACKER-PSCHORR DUNKEL WEISS there two years ago in the midst of a fantastic meal. This time the weather outside was so warm we got to sit at an outdoor table, with fire trucks screaming by and all manner of New York denizens strolling past. Perfect beer weather, and given that the work stuff wasn’t until late in the morning the next day, Café D’Alsace was a tempting place to throw down a few high-alc European beers, if you know what I’m sayin’.

First, I have to rave about the food at CAFÉ D’ALSACE. The chef is a total superstar. I had a French lentil soup, followed by a fish that was out of this world, followed by cheesecake. One of those bust-the-expense-account meals, where you just keep ordering and ordering, even through it has passed your “allowable spending threshold” & now is your responsibility to pay for. Who cares?? If you’re not in a beer-drinking mood, they’ve got a rich wine and cocktail selection – but honestly, when are YOU not in a beer-drinking mood? The “beer sommelier” was nowhere to be found, just like last time, and I have to think that maybe this is a bit of marketing gimmick – though I did not personally ask for this person to visit the table. He (or she) and I might have bored my companion to death with all of our beer talk, and besides, I felt like rolling the proverbial dice.

I started out with a French farmhouse ale called ST. SYLVESTRE GAVROCHE, a red ale in the bier de garde style. It was a shot in the dark, and this time it missed the mark by a wide margin. It tasted to me like a tart red lager, with a predominant taste of cherries and some caramel & general toastiness. The other taste I got out of it was aspirin – and I hate the taste of aspirin in my beer, don’t you? Not a boring ale by any means, but not a good one. For my first French beer ever, I’m pretty sure, it was kind of a bummer in the Indian summer. We gave it a 4.5/10.

You get off to a bad start like that one, you need to recover in a hurry, and that’s when I ordered up all-time favorite beer, TRAPPISTES ROCHEFORT 8, followed very quickly by a TRAPPISTES ROCHEFORT 6. The latter was so fantastic that I’ve resolved to re-rate it to a 10/10 from its previous perch at 9/10, and which brings it up the Hedonist Beer Jive charts into our Top 20. I absolutely love the Rochefort beers; I think they are without a doubt the finest of the true-blue trappist beermakers. Sitting out there in the balmy New York night, eating the food of the godz, and drinking the beer of the godz, shuckin’ and jivin’ and gossiping about people from work, it was hard to call it quits, but we did. I am glad this place has stayed in business for close to three years now, and highly recommend it if you should find yourself in Manhattan, as many folks so often do.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


It ain’t all Lost Abbey and Russian River and off-the-charts-amazing Belgian beers here at Hedonist Beer Jive, you know. Like you, we have to slog through a few hog troughs to get our hands on the elixirs we love. Because the beers we drink are self-selected, of course, and generally are purchased with HBJ’s own money, the quality level of what gets ingested is generally pretty high. That’s why most reviews I write are 7/10 or above; the new stuff I’m trying usually is being tried because someone told me about it, I read about it somewhere, or what have you. Yet believe it or not, there are still a few mediocre or barely-average beers that cross my lips. Here are a few of them, recently tried:

WITKAP-PATER SINGEL – See this one around all the time – it’s one of those Belgian beers with excellent distribution in the United States, and I grabbed it out of curiosity more than anything else. Didn’t really like it much. It is a very fizzy, almost champagne-like effervescent drink, with intense white grape flavors and too much bubbly on the tongue. Perfumed and fruity and just a little bit annoying. 5/10.

SUDWERK LAGER – Had this on tap at Delfina Restaurant in San Francisco. It’s a pale, basic, yellow lager, supposedly in the Munich Helles style. It’s really just not my thing – crisp and golden and good for washing food down, but seriously uninteresting and not something I want again. 5.5/10.

SAM ADAMS CHERRY WHEAT – Consumed at JFK Airport in NY, NY during a flight delay. A little astringent, with a hardcore cherry taste – even an over-the-top cherry smell. It’s a filtered wheat beer, I believe, and way too carbonated. Too much of a strange bite – not good for washing food down. I didn’t hate it, but regretted ordering it just the same. 5/10.

MAD RIVER STEELHEAD EXTRA PALE ALE – Consumed at “Kitty’s” in Emeryville, CA. Very pale yellow, dry while still being drinkable, but they weren’t kidding when they said “extra pale”. A little zesty with some sediment, believe it or not. Nothing earth-shattering by any means. I like this brewery’s barleywine, but this not so much. 5.5/10.

Monday, October 27, 2008


This whole trend of elite brewers making single batches for specific bars seemed to start about a year ago when MONK’S CAFÉ in Philadelphia teamed up with Browerij Van Steenberge from Belgium to make MONK’S CAFÉ FLEMISH SOUR ALE. That seemed to be quickly followed by a couple of beers brewed from San Francisco’s TORONADO, and I’m pretty sure there’s another example or two that passed me by. Thanks to our Seattle beer connection, this BROUWER’S IMAGINATION 2008 did not escape my grasp. BROUWER’S is a Seattle beer institution that I still have not been to. When I lived there in the late 90s it was all about HALE’S & PIKE BREWING, the HILLTOP ALE HOUSE and of course LINDA’S TAVERN. That’s where I spent my quality time, but ten years on I’m pretty sure I’d change my game plan if I lived there now.

Anyway, BROUWER’S IMAGINATION 2008 is a saison brewed especially for the bar by – wait for it – wait for it – are you sitting down? – PORT BREWING company from down San Diego way, aka the maestros behind several knockout beers as well as the LOST ABBEY sub-brand. Oh my heavens yes. What do you think HBJ thought about this one? Hey, you’re right. This 6.25% ABV “farmhouse saison” may have a ton of brettanomyces bacteria action going down, but I’ll be honest with ya, it’s not all that funky. It is, however, fantastic. I actually thought this pale yellow ale might have been a witbier, albeit a flavorful banyard witbier. My notes say “Sour lemon meets musty tangerine meets older grapes”. Very floral, and very dry, and very very good. Of course it is. It is available on tap in Seattle, at Brouwer’s of course, and in limited-edition corked bottles, from a northwest beer trader should you choose to befriend one. 8.5/10.

Friday, October 24, 2008


If you’ve ever spent any quality time in what’s known around my parts (San Francisco) as “the South Bay”, you’ll know – or at least be told – that it’s a total craft beer backwater. This is the area with San Jose as its southernmost point, up the peninsula to about Palo Alto. Also known in popular parlance as Silicon Valley. It also happens to be where I grew up. It also happens to be where I found myself this past Tuesday night with the much-celebrated “Peet” from Ontario, a guy we talked about here and here, and whom we can now reveal as “Pete”, given that he was not bearing any illegally smuggled wares from the wilds of deepest Canada.

So Pete and I decided, since we were sequestered in the South Bay at a conference, to take our post-event partying to a place I’d heard some good things about, FAULTLINE BREWING in Sunnyvale. I know there’s a BJ’S around there somewhere – and I know they make good beer – but I didn’t want to subject him to the marginal TIED HOUSE, and besides, I needed some new material for this here blog. We arrived to find your basic high-ceilinged, large-vats, planks-n-beams type of brewpub, patented around 1995 or so and pretty much the template for every big suburban microbrewery ever since. Not like I’m complaining. I walk into a place like this and it’s like I’m in my own living room, kicking off my slippers and waiting for the wife to bring me my pipe. We decided not to dip into any fried calamari or spicy wings – or whatever it was they were cooking up – and sat on the patio outside on a nice balmy Sunnyvale night. Attention quickly turned to beer, as it so often does, and we jointly resolved to try every beer in the joint, all ten of ‘em. The only way that could be done without going the drunken way of the post-work Japanese businessman was to each order the sampler platter, with 2-3oz. mini-glasses of each beer, and sip them gingerly.

FAULTLINE does a good job of brewing a lot of different styles, many in the fairly low-alcohol realm. They don’t seem to be doing any Belgian styles nor Imperial anything. Nope, we made our way light-to-dark through a lineup that started with a surprisingly crisp and biting PILSNER, up through a decent KOLSCH and on to a HEFEWEIZEN. There’s a BEST BITTER, a CASK-CONDITIONED ALE (very good – it’s the same PALE ALE we tried, but uncarbonated), an OKTOBERFEST, a DUNKEL WEIZEN etc etc. Several of the lighter beers had similar tastes; light hopping, medium body, yet a little more oomph than I’d expected. That PILSNER was one example; I also like the BEST BITTER quite a bit, a great creamy caramel taste with some great bittering hop action. My favorites – and I think Pete kinda agreed, more or less – were the last two we tried: the nitrogen-dispensed STOUT and the INDIA PALE ALE, or “IPA” as it is sometimes known. Both were excellent; the IPA is definitely in the English style, and it was sort of the oddball of the evening; a dose of hops and citrus tang after a load of smooth, not-too-threatening ales and lagers. I’d like to see what a pint of that tastes like going down. Perhaps one day I shall.

Long and short of it is that FAULTLINE’s a cool place. I’d come back here again, and I’d probably go straight for a pint – no, make that an “imperial pint” – of the STOUT, followed by the IPA. I’d maybe even get a French-fried onion and a big-ass quesadilla to go with it. No ratings on the beers on an individual basis, but let’s go with a 7/10 for the whole shebang.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Oh man, I'm actually writing about a beer called "LES DEUX BRASSEURS". I must be in my friggin' forties. This marvelous concoction comes to us from the brewing masterminds at DE PROEF BREWING in Belgium (the geniuses behind the incredible KERSTMUSTKE and ZOETZUUR FLEMISH ALE we've raved about recently) and ALLAGASH from Portland, Maine - generally considered one of the US's most forward-thinking brewers (we at HBJ are still thinking about it). Well these folks got together, spilled a few hops and a little wort together, and wow, it's an outstanding new Belgian-style ale. I totally loved it. They warned me at THE TRAPPIST: "LES DEUX BRASSEURS is a sour beer". I said, bring it the f*** on.

You know what? Not all that sour, really. I even found it a little sweet at first, but was won over by the absolute smoothness of the mouthfeel, and how even when those "musky" flavors rose to the surface and settled on the back of my tongue, it was like pure liquid gold, something that despite the sourness still felt worthy of big swallows. It is a golden orange, quite hazy, and the predominant taste is of pears. It's really something quite unique, and though I'm too impatient to properly age my beers, I bet (here comes the beer douche) "it might benefit from a little laying down". Excellent, excellent beer from these brewing studs. 9/10.

Monday, October 20, 2008


No doubt as you do, I carry around a supremely dorked-out list of the beers I need to try in the “notes” section of my cell phone; things people recommend, things I read about on blogs, in magazine, you know. I reckon everybody probably does this, don’t you think? High on the list of the must-try beers of late has been Belgium’s GOUDEN CAROLUS D'OR GRAND CRU OF THE EMPEROR, a Belgium strong dark ale from a exceptionally popular brewer, BROWERIJ HET ANKER. This particular formulation of theirs has shown up on tap at Oakland, CA’s THE TRAPPIST, and therefore showed up in my glass moments after I arrived there the other night. GRAND CRU OF THE EMPEROR is an 11% barrel-aged bomb that (thankfully) doesn’t taste particularly flamethrowing, as long as you take your time. It is a sweet but not cloying dark ale, with sugars rising to the palate pretty quickly along with the taste of dates and maybe even dark berries. I found it dosed just right when it came to the hops, and the beer it reminded me most of was probably the most recent of my high-alcohol, barrel-aged conquests, DOGFISH HEAD’s RAISON D’XTRA. I reckon that probably says more for Dogfish Head than it does this olde-world Belgian brewer, who’s been doing this sorta thing since god was a boy. I drank it nice and slow in the small-ish glass they gave me (of course at The Trappist you always get the perfect stemware for the type of beer you order), and after it was done I pronounced it an outstanding ale, just as they all said it would be. 8.5/10.

Friday, October 17, 2008


Kansas City, or to be more specific, Overland Park, Kansas, is a regular stop on my business-travel itinerary, along with Atlanta. I’m getting to be pretty familiar with the beer offerings here, having discovered the wide range of BOULEVARD BREWING beers, from the pedestrian to the obscure, as well as side trips to McCOY’S PUBLIC HOUSE and a variety of beer-vending markets like Lukas Liquors and even the venerable Whole Foods. I just made another one-night stop in KC just last week, and took it upon myself to expand my horizons and check out the 75TH STREET BREWERY, located just on the Missouri side of the Missouri/Kansas border in Kansas City proper. Had read some good things on Beer Advocate’s “Beerfly” section – an absolutely indispensable resource for the thirsty beer traveler – and made the place my personal grail for Thursday, October 9th.

I heard from a local that “Stateline Road”, which one must cross in order to travel from Overland Park to Kansas City (and to this brewery) and which straddles the two states, often gets only one side plowed during severe winter snowstorms – the more rich Kansas side, if you can believe it. The Missouri side apparently just doesn’t have the funds and the equipment to do the plowin’. How about that. Anyhoo, I found the 75TH STREET BREWERY to be a pretty nice, clean, “family brewpub” type of place. Bring the kids, bring the dog, bring the frathouse, bring ‘em all. I settled into the Dodgers/Phillies game and ordered up a seasonal, the PUMPKIN WHEAT. This is an exceptionally dry and very pale wheat beer, pouring a cloudy unfiltered yellow, with light spicing and the faint taste of pumpkin. There’s a little bit of tartness as well, along with clove and lemon tastes. Dry, dry, dry – and very easy to drink. Not at all a sweet pumpkin beer, and to that end, I really liked it. Nice one, 75th Street! 7/10!

Next up was another seasonal, just because. The OATMEAL STOUT was even better. Super silky and creamy, I mean SILKY. Coffee beans, heavy malts, some bittering agents of unknown origin….I had to slow down my intake to really enjoy this one. Very roasty as you’d expect, and not a heavy beer at all. They know what they’re doing with this one. 7.5/10. I guess I regret not going any deeper into the lineup, but then there are those drinking and driving laws. P’shaw! I think this place might merit another trip next time. Anyone know if Kansas City’s got a better brewpub or beer place than this one?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I recall that when I took the time to write about some of the beer magazines I was perusing a couple of years ago, I had little to say in any direction positive/negative about ALL ABOUT BEER, the longest-running and most venerable of the monthly publications currently extant. I do remember laughing at a vicious comment a reader left comparing the magazine to “Cat Fancy”, which summed up a prevailing sentiment that the magazine was perhaps too whitebread and rah-rah and stale to the point of being boring, opinions that I was certainly sympathetic to. With new entrants like BEER ADVOCATE and, to a lesser extent, DRAFT championing craft beer in a far more exciting manner, focusing on the new heroes, styles & extreme beer ethos revolutionizing the American beer palatte, All About Beer was looking like it was about to go the way of the dodo. Then came a pretty stunning visual facelift of the magazine itself, along with some revitalized content this past year. Where does the thing stand now? As a subscriber, I’ve got my opinions, and I shall share them presently.

I’d say they are about halfway there. On the plus side, ALL ABOUT BEER looks much better, having moved a circa 1980s design forward by about 15 years to roughly the early days of the Internet. Their typography and layout looks about 1996 to me, and hey, I guess that’s readable and appealing enough. They don’t quite match the “beer porn” photos that DRAFT does such an amazing job at, or the cool font and illustrations (let alone the content) of BEER ADVOCATE, but beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, as you’ve no doubt heard. Content can be solid – except when it’s not. Let’s take the most recent issue from September 2008. There are two very well-researched first-person articles about craft beer in Australia and New Zealand, both good takes on how those countries are following the lead of American brewers to bring ales of all types to lands generally considered to be brewing backwaters. I learned something, let’s say. All About Beer also does these style tastings that have great descriptions of the styles themselves, and what to expect upon tasting them, and this month they focus on all manner of Belgian styles. An article on “wild ales” was also quite good and informative, despite the lack of photographs. I’ll keep subscribing thanks to articles like these, which are generally well written by folks who’ve tasted a few beers in their time.

Let’s talk about the downside. Is there anything less relevant to my life, your life, and the lives of good-beer drinkers than the acquisition of Anheuiser Busch by InBev? No? Then why does AAB spend an entire editorial trying to analyze it? Who the f*** cares? Readers of the mag don’t drink that swill, and I don’t understand why any bloggers write about this either. Completely and totally uninteresting. I still can’t stand how this magazine can’t seem to say a single truly negative thing about the beers they review and feels the need to be so magnanimous all the time; for example, they always let two esteemed panelists review a set of 4 beers each, and I swear every one reads exactly the same. The beer is always good or great, it would always pair well with chicken/fish/tacos/whatever, and is always broken down to its sub-tastes. Snore. Just once I’d like to see someone call a beer he/she was sent “a pile of puke” or something to that effect, just to prove these beers don’t arrive with $50 bills taped to each bottle. Finally, and this is probably intentional, but the demographic doing the writing and being written to strikes me as a bit, um, long in the tooth. Not saying I’m not there myself as a fortysomething, but if someone is thinking about creating a new beer magazine targeted at the 44-65 age bracket, please don’t bother. It’s already here, and it is called ALL ABOUT BEER. And am I the only one who can’t even get through a single paragraph of Fred Eckhardt’s? Bless him, I love the idea of an old guy drinking great beer into his 90s and serving as a rallying point for old guys worldwide, but – um- about that writing? What, exactly, are these articles about, and why does drool form on my shirt as I try to read them? Right, because I fell asleep. You get it.

So I guess it’s fair to say that this magazine is improving, and is still worth of subscription. I’d just like to see it come off a little less like the Methodist church newsletter, and more reflective of the modern, dynamic, exciting craft beer industry it covers.

Monday, October 13, 2008


You’d think with all the LOST ABBEY hullabaloo and logrolling on this site that I was a paid representative of the brewery, or at least receiving bottles of free beer in the mail. As my teenage sister used to say, “As if! You so wish”. That same sister is the one that bought and shipped this 22-oz. bottle of SERPENTS STOUT to me, another in a seemingly unending line of LOST ABBEY masterpieces brewed out of their San Marcos, CA headquarters. She will be rewarded someday in the great beyond for her goodness. SERPENTS STOUT is a massive 10.5% alcohol imperial stout, except like any Lost Abbey beer, it’s not quite that simple. Unlike, say, OLD RASPUTIN, it’s not simply an inky-black, coffee/chocolate alcohol bomb. It’s very much in the Belgian style, and so even in the depths of this cola-colored beer you find whiffs and tastes of fruits, honest-to-gosh fruits, like plums & figs & dates & such. At least that’s what was going on for me. Incredible head retention, very foamy for something like 4-5 minutes. Yeasty, chocolaty, and yes, a little boozy, but if you split it with another beer dork you’ll be able to keep your head about ya. Of course, it’s fantastic, the kind of beer where one gulp in and everyone’s going, “Oh. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. That’s really good”. That’s all you ever really want in an $11.99 bottle of beer, am I right? 9/10.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


I’ve only had one other beer from BROWERIJ DE DOLLE our of Esen, Belgium before – it was the OERBIER that I absolutely fell on the floor over. The good news is I see their beers at just about every specialty beer retailer I walk into, and I figured it was time to give another one from the lineup a try. The brewery has been pumping these out since 1835, so there’s a lot of history inside each of these little bottles. The one I grabbed is called DE DOLLE DULLE TEVE, and it’s a 10% ABV tripel, a style in every right-thinking Belgian brewer’s lineup. DULLE TEVE is very, very yeasty, heavy with tastes of grapefruit and white grape. It carries a little bit of the spice I associate with tripels, that mouth-puckering, back-of-the-throat scratchiness that either makes or breaks these things. Smells fantastic, but tastes a little acidic. I did not reach the ephiphany I did with the OERBIER, I’m disappointed to say, but the kids seems to love this one. We give it a 6.5/10.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


I feel like HBJ kinda raked ELYSIAN BREWING over the coals when we tried a couple of their beers a few weeks ago; our taste buds were not in the least excited by their mediocre tripel and their flat-out bad pumpkin ale. One worth giving a go, if only for old-times’ sake, is this LOSER PALE ALE, bottled in tribute to Sub Pop Records and their 20th anniversary this summer. I figured this was an exceptionally-limited thing, and it may well be, but I know this beer has shown up on tap in several places, so at least a few barrels of it were pumped out for consumption. Me and Sub Pop go back a long way – I was a charter member of their “singles club”, and got the first NIRVANA single in the mail when I was 20 years old, which I sold a few years later for $75 during the height of Nirvanamania, only to find it going for $600-$700 a few years later after Cobain killed himself (!!).

Presently, the LOSER PALE ALE tastes very simple and pure. It’s got fairly strong carbonation and a medium body, with light grapefruit taste and the unmistaken whiff of light hopping as well. Dark copper/red, a little more intense-looking than most pale ales – but looks can be deceptive, am I right? This is your basic pale ale, dime a dozen etc etc. I liked it, but not enough to stagedive and get in fights for. 6/10.

Monday, October 06, 2008


I don’t know about you, but I went through a pretty serious bored-with-IPAs period recently. Every new IPA or double-IPA I’d try pretty much tasted like the one before it, with subtle variations in hoppiness, pine vs. citrus character, and alcohol content. I didn’t even really think about it, but all of a sudden I realized that I hadn’t had a new one in like four months. And that’s not like me. So in my beer cellar I pull out this IRON HORSE BEER SHOPPE ANNIVERSARY ALE. It’s an Imperial IPA from an Ellensburg, WA brewer. Hey, I wonder if the Screaming Trees fellas every drink this one. It’s not part of the brewery’s regular lineup – in fact, there’s no record of it on their web site. If you take a look at the pictures on their site, though, this looks like the sort of place you’d LOVE to have a few pints in – dark, rustic and totally inviting. I’ll make a note of it next time I’m in Ellensburg for business.

Anyway, these guys make one whopper of a double IPA. They’ve brought the big-hopped, aggressive & large IPA back into my good graces with one fell swoop. This pours a dark orange/brown, and naturally upon first gulp you’re met with a fantastic dose of hops. The balance on this thing is just outstanding. It tastes “imperial” and yes, quite bitter, but it also is exceptionally floral and fruity and somewhat like a little orange zest was grinded into the mix. Wonderful, even at a big ten percent alcohol. This is as good as any IPA I’ve had anywhere, anytime. Anyone who tells you this style is “past it”, tell ‘em to hoof it on up to Ellensburg and get to a bottle shop stocking them some IRON HORSE. 9.5/10!

Thursday, October 02, 2008


Can’t say that I’m all that excited about the HE’BREW (SCHMALTZ BREWING) beers I’ve had the past couple years. There are a few good ones, but I get the sense that they’re aiming a bit downmarket toward becoming a “macro micro” on the order of a Sierra Nevada and such. That’s certainly not true of all their beers, granted, but I think a better strategy would be to make a killer, low-ABV amber or pale ale or IPA, and then let the wisdom of the beer dork crowd filter downward to the “early majority” – as we say in the marketing world. But what do I know. I just think this MESSIAH BOLD I had the other day is below average, and I’m gonna tell you why. This brown ale has a strange, bitter chalky aftertaste that one doesn’t really expect from an easy-sippin’ brown beer. I think I sort of got used to it as the beer, uh, “warmed” – but I ask: why should I have to?? It’s a very full-bodied, malty beer, perhaps leavened by a generous dose of hops, but in something of an off-putting manner. Not great, not boring, just nothing to speak of. So we shan’t speak of it again. 5/10.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


I’ve given variations of this same pitch before, but the sell basically comes down to this: when we in Northern California brag about our local brewers, we typically talk about the biggies – RUSSIAN RIVER, MOYLAN’S, BEAR REPUBLIC, etc. We don’t often go to the mat for LAGUNITAS BREWING, in spite of the overwhelming evidence that they might just be one of the very best beermakers going. I say this as one who has mocked and belittled their flagship LAGUNITAS IPA on many occasions, but outside of that very mediocre IPA, I can’t find a whole lotta fault. In my travels across the USofA I’ve encountered beer bars shouting to the rafters on their beer menus, “We just got Lagunitas beers on tap!!!” or “We’re having a beer dinner with Lagunitas beers!!! Don’t miss this!!!!!”. The rest of the country is excited, that’s for sure.

Here are a couple I’ve tried the past three weeks that, yet again, knocked my friggin’ socks off. Take number one was a new SAISON they’re trying out on tap handles around where I live. This is not the “Sonoma Farmhouse Saison-Style Ale” that they’ve been flogging for a while, and that I still (regretfully) haven’t tried. This might be the same thing as the “Saison – Aged In Pinot Noir Barrels” that I read about on Beer Advocate just now. Whatever it is, it’s damn good. It’s an excellent Belgian-style blonde ale, with an amazing earthy taste, some peppery tartness while being incredibly drinkable. I tip-tapped “Lagunitas exceeds expectations again” into my phone notepad while I was drinking it. No respect, I tell ya. 8/10.

The other one is something I called, uh “Boont Amber on ‘roids” in a previous review of a bottled version of LAGUNITAS IMPERIAL RED. Well, the other day, I had a cask version of this seasonal, souped-up amber beer, and wow, was it good. It’s quite hoppy with a great dose of malts, and an overall “fizzy” taste that’s unusual for something cask-conditioned. Really juicy and flavorful. It was the hit of the Toronado Bar the night I drank it there. “A cask ale that transcends the cask”. Hey, put it in the marketing materials! 8.5/10 again for this one!