Friday, May 30, 2008


And I’m not kidding, the brewery in Belgium that makes this very interesting concoction is called BROUWERIJ DE MUSKETIERS. They only put forth three beers that I’m aware of, and this is one I’ve seen in better bottle shops and took a flyer on the other night at San Francisco’s CITY BEER (a great store that charges a mere $1 “corkage fee” for any beer bought and consumed in the store, and they’re overflowing with some pretty amazing beers). TROUBADOUR OBSCURA STOUT was served up in a 330ml bottle, and the label gives fair warning that it’s an 8.5% ABV big one. Is it truly a stout, though? I don’t think so – it was squarely in the Belgian dark ale camp, though quite sweet the way some English stouts can be. I recall a distinct eau de bier that smelled additionally of mocha, licorice and other sweet things. It was pretty strong & bold without that whole hardcore coat-the-tongue in alcohol thing going on. Definitely worth grabbing on a bottle run – I pecked the words “very enjoyable” into my cell phone when I rated this one a 7.5/10.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Pity the poor brown ale, always a bridesmaid among the beer cognoscenti. Back in the days before many of us discovered high-gravity imperial IPAs and the wonders from Belgium, beers like LOST COAST BREWING’s DOWNTOWN BROWN ruled the roost: simple, unadorned, clear & smooth English brown ales, making up in no-frills taste what they lacked in complexity. Today, you’ll find folks like the Beer Advocate fellas making the case for browns, pilsners, ESBs and crisp, standard-issue pale ales with the same level of excitement they give up for hop bombs and Russian Imperial stouts - but everyone knows the jig is up. That’s what you say when you’re trying to make the case for being well-rounded or a man or woman of the people (“I may listen to punk rock mostly, but I also like some of my sister’s pop records”; “New York City may be wonderful, but there’s much to be said for Tulsa” etc.). It’s easy to succumb to, and perhaps when one gets tired of discovering mind-blowing new beers every week in our age of abundance, a return to “common things” has its merits.

This brings me to the six-pack of ELLIE’S BROWN ALE I picked up the other day from brewing heavyweights AVERY BREWING out of Colorado – only one of the nation’s top 5-10 brewers on just about everybody’s watch. What to say about it? Well, it certainly is brown. It runs clear. It’s drinkable, and clean-tasting. Nothing to stand in the way of having a couple of ‘em in one sitting, as I did. If there are good brown ales and bad brown ales, then this is definitely one of the good ones. Oh – and it’s malty. There probably aren’t many hops. After two bottles, I barely had a buzz going. Oh, and one more thing: 7/10.

Monday, May 26, 2008


Way back when, the HE’BREW brand of beers were partners of sorts with ANDERSON VALLEY BREWING, and I remember enjoying those early Hebraic beers quite a bit. More recently, the SCHMALTZ BREWING COMPANY have gone their own way, and are now fairly well-regarded for their ales. A few years ago I had a couple of them and thought they were pretty tasty, though I’ve been hearing mixed reports about their recent concoctions, and somehow they all sort of passed me by. I decided to change all that by giving a try to the HE’BREW ORIGINAL POMEGRANITE ale the other day. Sort of a mixed bag on this one. It’s a very deep-looking reddish/orange brew, one that is instantly perplexing upon first sip and especially with the first gulp. ORIGIN POMEGRANITE is true to its name – hey, that funky aftertaste is pomegranate, right? Jeez, even after the US pomegranate advisory board’s ever-present marketing campaign for the fruit’s health benefits, I kinda forgot what they tasted like. This particular formulation has a strong acerbic bite that again, manifests itself mostly in the aftertaste. Beer is mostly malt-heavy and somewhat bitter. Very interesting – but strange. For “special occasions only”. 6.5/10.

Friday, May 23, 2008


It didn’t happen the first time I had DUCHESSE DE BOURGOGNE. It didn’t even happen the first time I tried the sour beer lineup from RUSSIAN RIVER. But I knew it was gonna happen – there was going to be that one sour ale that was going to knock me for a loop and make me a full-on believer in their power. That beer, my friends, is MONK’S CAFÉ FLEMISH SOUR ALE. Oh, my friends who’d had it told me what would happen. They said this was one of the best beers going, and they were right. Brewed for Philadelphia’s renown Belgian beer bar MONK’S CAFÉ by the VAN STEENBERGE BREWERY just outside of Ghent, Belgium, FLEMISH SOUR ALE just coats the tongue in puckering, mouth-pleasing smoothness. It is a dark amber beer that I’d have to say is fairly mild overall in its sourness, but it is miles away from the layman's beer. It's incredibly delicious and I felt like a full-on gourmand while ingesting it.

Here’s something I found about the beer on the internet, penned by Jason & Todd Almstrom, the fellas behind Beer and the magazine:

Philadelphia is home to Monk's Café, one of America's top havens for Belgian beer lovers. The emporium is co-operated by Tom Peters and Fergus Carey, whose love for Belgian beer and food runs deep. How deep? So deep that Peters had a beer commissioned by Brouwerij Van Steenberge, the same brewery that brings us Gulden Draak and Piraat. From our understanding, Monk's Café Flemish Sour Red Ale is actually Van Steenberge's Bios Vlaamse Bourgogne ("Flemish Burgundy") -- Tom convinced them to bottle it under a private label. Despite all of the "red" references, it's actually an Oud Bruin, a style of ale that hails from the Flanders region of Belgium…… Leathery, with deep ruby hues. A creamy, beige, two-finger head that laces, retains and sticks well. Sour in the nose and quite vinous, with mildly fruity undertones of lime rinds and funky phenols. The puckering tartness -- it really gets your saliva glands going -- cuts through with an acidic smack that's akin to lemon-lime juice with a salty edge. Dry, ultra-crisp and thin-bodied. A big oak note in the center amplifies the tartness and brings with it a woody edge. Suggestions of bitter cherries and raisins, even though there's no fruit in the beer. Slightly medicinal and metallic as the beer warms. No real sweetness or maltiness to speak of -- it's all about the sour. Finish is dry and surprisingly clean.

I’d agree with that, although I’d say it all with at least three or four times as much enthusiasm. This is one of my favorite beers right now, and folks, it’s being imported into America. It’s fantastic. 10/10.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Best brewer in the country? I don’t know, what do you think – Lost Abbey? Bell’s? Dogfish Head? Hey, how about RUSSIAN RIVER BREWING? Think they’re any good? I can’t believe what a whopping winning streak this Santa Rosa, CA brewer is on these days. Not only are they expanding production significantly, winning awards hand over fist, getting hosannas rained down upon them by everyone who’s ever had one of their ales, but they are in the vanguard – they ARE the vanguard – of offering Americans their first sour beers brewed right here in the USA. When I was offered a glass of RUSSIAN RIVER TEMPTATION the other day (now in bottles!), of course I took it. I know that anything they produce is liquid gold, and in looking over my notes the past few years, everything I’ve had gets rated a 7/10 or above, with special mention going to incredible beers like DAMNATION, BLIND PIG IPA, REJECTION and O.V.L. STOUT.

TEMPTATION falls on the “Belgian” side of their menu. Now that it’s in bottles, it’s going to pucker a lot more mouths than it has in the past, when it was only available at the brewery, via a growler, or purchased via the underground railroad. It is a sour beer. That is, a sour, wild ale with an intense yeasty mouthfeel, one in which you taste lemon, cloves, and of course hops. It is a light-colored orange, with a great funkiness that actually takes a backseat to the fruitiness. In other words, a drinkable sour ale, one that will be an excellent one to complement lingering conversation, chortles, guffaws and extended “good times”. You know what I mean? 8/10!!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


I enjoyed a pleasant evening of Belgian beer roulette at San Francisco’s Toronado Bar a couple weeks back, just doing my thing, pulling the trigger on whatever Belgian beers had the funniest or most impenetrable names. A game like this should only be played by professionals – professionals who just got their paychecks, for it is a high-stakes game played with real money. Here’s how it played out:

VON HONSEBROUCK KASTEEL DONKER BRUIN – This was a false move that nearly blew my head clean off. Also known as KASTEELBIER BRUIN, this is an 11% ABV Quadrupel that I mistook for a “Flanders Oud Bruin” (you may recall how excited we were by this style when we encountered a version made by Brooklyn Brewing a few weeks ago). I found it to be very “chewy”, and strong & bold from the get-go. No surprise. It is quite sweet, with tastes of brown sugar and slight caramel. That said, as it warmed I started getting a little annoyed by it, and by the time I was two-thirds in, I wanted to chuck it. Annoyed by a beer? Yep. Not for me. 5/10.

VAN STEENBERGE BORNEM DUBBEL – Here we go. Creamy, light, not-too-strong dubbel that tasted exceptionally fresh, with notes of toffee being most predominant. This is like mother’s milk in Belgium, I’m sure. Goes own very quickly and very smoothly, and I am guessing that it’s fairly low in alcohol. Let’s check and see: no! 8%! That’s what they say on Beer Advocate, anyway. This is our first Brouwerij Van Steenberge N.V. product, and likely not the last. 7/10.

Hey, is that it, HBJ? You call two Belgian beers a true roulette session? Ah, I can’t lie – I had some Lagunitas or Bear Republic thing after that, I can’t remember. The night’s winner: VAN STEENBERGE BORNEM DUBBEL! It’s no DE DOLLE OERBIER, but what is, right?

Monday, May 19, 2008


It was a crisp October day, I remember it ‘twas. A bottle of CAPTAIN LAWRENCE BREWING’s SAINT VINCENT’S DUBBEL blew in from the east Coast and happened to show up at my birthday get-together. It was heartily enjoyed by all comers, and many were heard to reckon that a grog this fine needed to find its way into as many hands as possible. Well, truth be told, the only way to get a bottle of CAPTAIN LAWRENCE ales in the hands of land-lubbers on the West Coast is to jet them out, so that’s what I did. Alas, my suitcase had room only for two big bottles of ale, one being the SOUTHERN TIER HEAVY WEIZEN we discussed last week, the other being a jumbo bottle of CAPTAIN LAWRENCE XTRA GOLD AMERICAN TRIPEL. Avast! An American tripel, ye say? Aye, that I do, that I do.

CAPTAIN LAWRENCE XTRA GOLD AMERICAN TRIPEL features few characteristics one might associate with Americans, I must say. Its fruit-filled smell and ester/yeast mouthfeel are straight out of Belgium 101, with a rich bready taste and a crisp “bite” that really satisfied. It may have a big more hop action going on than a typical Belgian tripel – then again that might’ve been the beer talkin’, you know what I mean? It is a light-bodied golden ale with a nice big “four finger foam” going on, and it packs a real punch without being overpowering. In short, it’s excellent, and that’s a big 2 for 2 from these guys. 8/10.

Friday, May 16, 2008


If you’ve read this site before, you know how we work, right? Try a new beer, type some notes on that new beer into a cell phone when no one (especially females) is looking, post the results with some pithy commentary and a rating on HBJ, blah blah blah. Since we took a pretty big break from posting said reviews in March & April, there were a few pours that sorta got lost in the shuffle. In case you’re wondering what beers to drink or not drink this weekend, let’s use this occasion to get caught up on a few that we haven’t talked about in this forum yet.

RED HOOK LONGHAMMER IPA – Consumed on tap at the New York Sports Grille, JFK Airport, New York. This IPA, introduced a year or two ago, and rumored to be the same old Red Hook IPA and Ballard Bitter they've been running out there for years, is dry with fairly low/medium hopping. It has some good lingering bitterness with more pine & grapefruits flavors mixed in than you might expect from Red Hook in 2008. That said, it’s kinda boring, if drinkable. 6/10.

BEAR REPUBLIC SCOTTISH HERITAGE ALE – Consumed on tap at Barclay’s, Oakland. Bear Republic have made a Scottish/Scotch ale, and it’s a good one. Caramel taste, some good hopping, but a definite tendency toward the malts. I was told that’s it’s pretty high alcohol in the 7-8% range, and I seem to remember it not tasting that way – so that’s something. Need to try this again if it ever comes around. 7/10.

AYINGER UR-WEISS – Consumed in a 500-ml. bottle at my house. This dunkel weiss (dark wheat) from heavyweight German brewers AYINGER is of course brewed according to the “Reinheitsgebot” purity laws - not that you’d notice, right? I’m surprised to say, I’m not into it at all. Yeasty, somewhat chalky tastes of banana and clove, and very thin-bodied. Entirely uninteresting, and I don’t see any reason to go for it again. 5/10.

DRAKE’S SUMMER BELGIAN BLONDE – Consumed on tap at City Beer Store, San Francisco. 6/10. I’ve pretty much decided that DRAKE’S are masters of the double IPA (HOP SALAD, DENOGGENIZER) and just decent at everything else. I wish I thought otherwise. This light Belgian-style blonde did very little for me other than make me wish I had chosen something else, something that always seems to happen when I choose a non-IPA from Drake’s. 6/10.

MOONLIGHT OLD COMBINE – Consumed on tap at Barclay’s, Oakland. This is a crazy-ass “kitchen sink” lager that tastes like somewhat a pale ale with elements of every other beer thrown in. Like all Moonlight products, it’s smooth, crisp and exceptionally drinkable. Grassy and earthy. It certainly tastes like an experimental beer, yet one that can be consumed “in quantity” as they say. 7.5/10.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


.....and it was pretty good, too. GREEN FLASH out of San Diego are on a roll these days. I’m not sure how many IPAs and how many Belgian-Style ales they’ve got in the lineup right now, but they can’t be accused of not giving the people what they want. I know they’ll got some serious street cred in places that can’t get their beer; the guy at Spuyten Duyvil Grocery in Brooklyn was practically apoplectic about how good their beers are. Me, I’m still reeling from that SAISON I had on tap a few months ago, by far the best thing of their I’ve had – and they’ve all been good-to-great. Same goes with this THIRD ANNIVERSARY BELGIAN TRIPEL. I bought this whilst visiting my sister in Santee, CA, and I actually passed up all these LOST ABBEY bombers of beers I probably could’ve put on eBay for $75/each in favor of this one. It’s actually kind of a mystery wrapped in an enigma, if you will. Is this the same beer as GREEN FLASH TRIPEL? Was this beer truly sitting on the shelves since 2006, which was the third anniversary of the brewery, and when I believe this bottle was created? Could it be that both are true? Help me out here, folks.

My take on it was that I truly enjoyed how intense the yeast-heavy spices were – that peppery, almost smoky taste you get from a good tripel was here in spades. That said, it was more smoothed-out than your typical Belgian import, and not quite as robust. A product of it being aged on a liquor store shelf, perhaps? Or is that just how this beer is? I thought it was very good, not great – went through my notes and found that I’d never had one of GREEN FLASH’s Belgian-style beers before outside of that mammoth Saison. So there you go. 7/10.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


(Note – all photos by Jen Hale, who took a ton of great ones. Check them out by clicking here)

Another epic session at the BOONVILLE BEER FESTIVAL this past Saturday, always a big event at HBJ headquarters since it’s really the only major beerfest we allow ourselves to go to each year. We can’t be trusted to keep it together any more than once an annum. 2008 in Boonville, California – an idyllic little hippie/redneck village 2.25 hours north of San Francisco – offered the usual fantastic weather, goodtime vibes, friendly smilin’ faces, incredible beer selection and even a few surprises. Without going too far deep into the personal, it was also notable for a number of firsts:

1. The first year that I traveled via limousine to the event (!) - or to any event
2. The first year I was safely tucked in back in San Francisco the night of the fest
3. The first year I didn’t say, nor do, anything particularly regrettable (I think)
4. The first year I ever broke bread with another “beer blogger” (big ups to Jessica from The Thirsty Hopster; Peter from BetterBeerBlog and the legendary Jay Brooks from Brookston Beer Bulletin)
5. The first year I was smart enough to not wait in any astronomically long food lines and instead “rolled my own”

But enough about me. Quit talking and start rocking, right? How was the beer?? Well, let me first offer some observations about the festival itself. There were some anomalies this year. Not only was it the largest crowd ever for one of these things (one semi-reputable estimate came in at 10,000 people, but that sounds bogus to me – I’m thinking more like 3,000), but, alas, the “beer dawg” quotient was at its absolute highest. You know what a beer dawg is, right? No? Let me paint a picture for you. White male, appx. 21-40, backward baseball cap, likely beer gut, some sort of sports/beer insignia on a t-shirt, if in fact a shirt is even being worn. Prone to yelling, “whooooooooo” at events like these, or perhaps “yeeeeeeeeeah!”. Enjoys throwing his meaty arms around his buddies and, if possible, around any female on two legs. Often found urinating into sinks, cardboard trash cans or on the side of fairground walls (I in fact witnessed individual beer dawgs doing all three on Saturday). One fat beer dawg actually drunkenly leapt on his beer dawg buddy’s back, fell off, and proceeded to bend my nearby pal CS’s knee into a Joe Theisman-esque position, requiring first aid & a trip to the hospital on Sunday. Boonville seemed to have drawn a lot more reserved crowd in years past – the friendly beer dorks, the business guys/gals on break from the family, the happy hippies, etc. Not to sound too elitist – apologies in advance – but the reputation of this event has obviously reached its tentacles into Raider Nation, and into the stockrooms & the loading docks of Northern California. These people – even the beer dawgs - are still my brothers and always will be, but I wish they could keep their sh*t together when gingerly sipping their pale ales.

On a related note, the 2008 Boonville Beer Festival also featured something that I’ve never witnessed before – the disappearing tap. By 4pm, at an event that went from 1-5pm, many taps were, uh, “tapped”. Many of the greats were gone early – Russian River and Moylan’s were two that had essentially closed up shop with an hour to go; their wares had simply proven to be too popular. I hope this is rectified next year, or that tickets are capped at a certain level. It wasn’t a catastrophe – it certainly helped me to check out some brewers I might not otherwise have sampled – but it was a bummer nonetheless.

The best anomaly of 2008 was the fact that the BEER itself was at an extremely high level. Unlike in prior years, I not only had not a single “pour out”, virtually everything I had was absolute first-rate solid gold. One beer in particular, PIZZA PORT’s 10th Anniversary Ale, AtTENuation, was so incredible I had it twice – forsaking my normal festival goal of “breadth” for a little more “depth” than normal. Here are the beers HBJ tried, all but one of which was excellent or at least very good:


PIZZA PORT – AtTENuation (10th Anniversary Belgian-style golden pale ale)


MOONLIGHT – Special Ale (brewed with redwood tips and no hops!)
RUSSIAN RIVER – La Fleurette
MOYLAN’S – Pomegranate Wheat


NEW BELGIUM – La Folie (finally got to try this – not half as sour as I expected, and was simply wonderful if a little odd to be chugging in the hot sun)
(my notes say “solid, smooth, delicious”)


MARIN BREWING – San Quentin Breakout Stout


PIZZA PORT – Black Lie IPA (I know! Go figure! A black IPA from these guys that just didn’t have it together)

In short, given the idiosyncrasies of the day and the high quality level of the beer, I’ll be back in ’09, just with a few more key learnings tucked into my noggin that’ll make that one go even better. Boonville’s still the best event of its kind I’ve ever been to, and I recommend it highly.

Monday, May 12, 2008


So this is what an imperial hefeweizen tastes like, hunh? Love it. I bought this at Spuyten Duyvil Grocery in Brooklyn, NY a couple of weeks ago, carted it home in my checked luggage, and opened it pretty quickly upon my return to San Francisco. I worried unnecessarily that shaking this thing up with my socks and jeans might detract from the taste somehow, and that it would spurt to the ceiling upon opening. Nope, what I got was an incredible tart, high-ABV (8 percent!) tasting wheat beer, so different from other American wheats and yet still so much at home as an easy-drinking beer. I’ll bet it is absolutely amazing on tap in Lakewood, NY, too, where SOUTHERN TIER BREWING are located.

It actually gave off more of an internal lemony flavor as it warmed, and it got even better than it did upon tapping. These guys actually recommend throwing a real live lemon in with it, which I think is fast becoming verboten with all right-thinking beer dorks – too reminiscent of Coronas and limes, or some gimmicky trick designed to ease the newbie into craft beer, I reckon. It actually seems sorta strange to me, given that HEAVY WEIZEN is just about perfect on its own; they’ve already got the flavor combination all figured out. Seriously, this is a new kind of beer – the big-ass hefeweizen. Trade for it, travel for it – do what you have to do! 9/10!

Thursday, May 08, 2008


Had a great beer the other night from the country of Belgium – perhaps you’ve heard they make some fine ales over there. There was this Belgian Christmas ales pack I treated myself to a few months ago, and one that looked particularly tantalizing was this SERAFIJN CHRISTMAS ANGEL from the ACHILLES BREWERY in Itegem, Belgium. You ever been to Itegem before? I understand they make a damn good Christmas tripel there. That’s what this was – a light-colored, spicy, very Christmas-like tripel that warmed the palate and filled the mouth with yeast and carbonation. Fruits were observed during the course of drinking this, banana perhaps, along with a more rich and dark toffee taste that really rang true on a Tuesday night. So far it’s the best thing in that Christmas pack, and here we are in May and I still have one more to go. Serafijn Christmas Angel = 8/10!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


I kinda flipped when I learned there was an entirely Boston-themed bar (that is, a bar made entirely in tribute to the city of Boston) in San Francisco, but would you believe a Northern California-themed beer bar in Brooklyn, New York? Yeah, that’s what I said too: “I hope that means loads of IPAs”. Well as it turned out PACIFIC STANDARD is even better than that. The bar is located near the Park Slope neighborhood in what I believe is called Cobble Hill, but don’t quote me on that. Let’s just call it New York City to be safe. Walk in the door, and you might as well be at “The Bear’s Lair” in Berkeley, California. There are “Go Bears!” pennants, pictures of Victorian houses in San Francisco, cable cars, and other ephemera from around Northern CA. To be fair, they don’t overplay the theme – it’s actually fairly nondescript since it’s so large, and it almost looks like they’re still sort of working on the overall décor. That said, it’s a really cool place, and on a Wednesday night at 10pm, it was pretty much ours for the taking & didn’t have that jam-packed New York feel.

One thing I really dug was that it wasn’t a California beer bar per se – sure, there were items from ANCHOR and SIERRA NEVADA on tap, and as I’ve been told, that’s actually kinda special in this neck of the woods. But they also made a wanderlust-stricken San Franciscan very happy with their assortment of TROEGS, CAPTAIN LAWRENCE and VICTORY offerings as well – things I can’t get unless someone mails them to me or I hop on a plane. So here’s what I tried:

SIXPOINT RIGHTEOUS RYE (on cask) – Made right there in Brooklyn by SIX POINT CRAFT ALES. This rye ale had a slight bite to it, and maybe even a touch of the “funk” – the good kind. Hopping was medium; that is to say it was there and it made a difference. I got the sense that perhaps this was a beer that might’ve worked better off the cask and with its “natural” carbonation. I’ve had better rye beers this year, but this wasn’t bad. 6.5/10.

TROEGS DREAMWEAVER WHEAT – Ah, yes. Spicy and very strong, this wheat was delicious. I am finding that North American brewers of all stripes are finding ways to kick the wheat beer into a new strata – tarting it up, smoothing it out, injecting extra hops, and generally experimenting. I think it’s the trend du jour of 2007-08, and I love it. Only other TROEGS beer I had (PALE ALE) I didn’t like – not the case at all here. 8/10.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


Now this was a great surprise – like the Fort Collins beer we reviewed yesterday, it was enjoyed immensely at the Homewood Suites in Overland Park, Kansas just over a month ago – I’m only now cleaning out my beer tasting notes after a few weeks of inactivity on this blog. It’s not like we stopped drinking or anything! DE DOLLE OERBIER from Esen, Belgium, just looked right sitting there on the shelf of some random liquor emporium I wandered into – I mean look at that label. It sung to me. The beer was wonderful – a strong reddish/brown ale with a huge head of foam that I really had to wait 4-5 minutes for before I could start drinking. It’s a subtle beer for sure, but if you’re paying attention – and I suggest ya do – you’ll get dates, caramel, some oaked/oakey flavors, and of course some spiciness in the Belgian style. I’m going to learn everything I need to know about Browerij De Dolle and their products posthaste – anyone have anything to share about this unit & their beers? Oh – and HBJ calls DE DOLLE OERBIER a big 9/10, and highly, highly recommends that you find a bottle yourself.

Monday, May 05, 2008


I’m reaching back into my notes for this one – it was consumed on one of my business sojourns around the USA, in late March while in Overland Park, Kansas. Who do you think I was visiting out there? That’s right, I was trying out for a slot in the Kansas City Royals’ pitching rotation. Whilst doing so, I bought a bottle of the ROCKY MOUNTAIN IPA from the FORT COLLINS BREWING company to toss back @ the hotel after my workouts. Fort Collins Brewing are the “other guys” in their town, the ones having to compete for hearts & minds with the far bigger NEW BELGIUM BREWING. I know Rick Sellers @ Pacific Brew News has had many a good thing to say about them, and one thing about Rick – he don’t lie. Anyway, this IPA was what we "in the business" call “good enough”. Simple, thin, good aftertaste, and definitely a “single IPA” as opposed to the big-ass ones we often enjoy around here. I’d say it’s a tad more piney than citrus-flavored, and if you told me the English had made it or inspired it, I’d believe you. Of course I’m probably spoiled for IPAs, and even a mediocre IPA beats most comers. Let’s go with 6/10 here.

Saturday, May 03, 2008


Just a reminder that this year’s edition of the BOONVILLE BEER FEST in Boonville, CA, is rapidly approaching. It’s Saturday, May 10th – and tickets are still available. Despite a nearly-deadly after-event campground craft beer overdose on my part last year, I’ve decided to hit the trail again for the third year in a row and go north to this epic fest. Hey, have you ever heard of Russian River Brewing? They’ll be there. Pizza Port/Lost Abbey? Check. Moonlight? Firestone Walker? See you there, fellas. This is a good time to get your game face on and read my past dispatches from the festival.

Some words of caution: 1.) You honestly don’t need to try every beer being poured, nor can you. 2.) Water is free and in abundance – get yourself some. 3.) Wear sunscreen. 4.) Don’t do like I did and consume the majority of four bombers of high-ABV beer after you’ll tried 13 glasses of beer earlier in the day. Your drive home the next morning may be a little treacherous. 5.) Shaking your rump to the Rolling Boil Blues Band is verboten. You’ll be ejected with extreme prejudice from the fairgrounds by a team of vigilantes if you’re caught.

Here are some links you may enjoy:

BOONVILLE 2006 re-cap
BOONVILLE 2007 hype
BOONVILLE 2007 re-cap

Friday, May 02, 2008


Can’t tell you much about either this style nor about SLY FOX BREWING of Pennsylvania, but at times I’ve seen folks talking up the brewery in beer newspapers & I even seem to recall a Hedonist Beer Jive reader making some ultra-positive comments about them in our comments section some time back. That must’ve helped me decide to pull the trigger on their DUNKEL LAGER at THE GATE in Brooklyn, New York last week. It was a fine choice. This lager was smooth and exceptionally dark, devoid of much to set it apart from other easy-drinking beers save for a dinstinct breadiness and certainly a more burnt or “toasted” taste than I’m used to – yet in a manner that was subtle and restrained. It went quick, I’ll tell you that. Someone’s going to have to school me some more about this style and about Sly Fox Brewing in general, but they’re off to a good start up in my head with this one. 7/10.

Thursday, May 01, 2008


I have a new Top 10 US-based beer bar for ya: THE GATE in Brooklyn, New York. THE GATE is a classic modern American beer bar – excellent and adventurous beer selection; patio positioned right at a great people-watching intersection in Park Slope; lots of wood paneling; clean; upbeat; friendly – all that. I put it on par with Chicago’s MAP ROOM and Toronto’s BEERBISTRO for favorite beer experiences of the past annum (Christ, I traveled a lot this year). I particularly enjoyed the agony of deciding which of 10-15 beers I’d never tried before to drink at The Gate; I chose two new ones and the Dogfish Head Aprihop we talked about in this forum last week.

My first choice ended up being the single best ale I enjoyed during my weeklong stay in New York City: BROOKLYN BREWING’s BREWMASTER EXTRA BRUNE. Whoa! I knew this brewery was a heavyweight because of the LOCAL 1 I got to drink last year, but this is the second Belgian-inspired ale of theirs that’s totally blown me away. Absolutely loved it. This is a darkish-colored amber that immediately hit me with this immense, floral bouquet of smell & taste from the first sip. It's in the "Flanders Oud Bruin" style according to Beer Advocate - tell me more! It is redolent of fruits of varying stripes, and even of spices of undetermined origin – just the sort of complex & intriguing sort of beer you’d expect from a Belgian or, say, a Unibroue – and I guess from Brooklyn Brewing as well. What a start to my evening – I’ll sing this one’s praises to anyone who’ll listen. 9.5/10. Big ups to Elisa & Mark for taking us to this bar to be schooled in the ways of east coast beer!