Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Comes in a corked 22-ounce bottle. It looks and tastes like a rich Belgian-styled amber beer. Highly carbonated, and with a spicy bite in the aftertaste. A very hoppy, almost fizzy taste. LECTIO DIVINA is the case study for a beer that changes character as it warms; it started tasting a lot like a caramel candy apple as the fridge cold wore off, albeit one with a little bit of that farmhouse funk going on. No doubt this is a highly “authentic” Belgian beer – and did I mention it was made in Florida? I’m not quite willing to say I saw the four horsemen ride as I was drinking it, but I’d tag it with a respectable 7/10 for sure.
Monday, June 29, 2009
So what of the NELSON SAUVIN hop? You heard of it? Me neither. I understand it’s from New Zealand, and it rarely if ever turns up in our beers over here in ‘Merica. It imparts a very dry, very bitter quality, not exactly a winning rush out of the gates if you know what I mean. Beer itself is thin, but pours with a massive, fluffed-out head of foam. So at least it’s fresh, right? There’s a lot of spicy tang in this one, and it’s got elements of lemon and grapefruit as well. Something about that dry body really keeps this from being a knockout for me, but NELSON SAUVIN SINGLE HOP is certainly a good beer. Some folks who know a thing or two about beer say MIKKELLER’s got a Warrior Hop IPA that’s out of this world. That one’s next on the beergenda. 6/10.
Friday, June 26, 2009
ODIN’S TIPPLE is made with a single strain of wild yeast, so it also has a bit of that bacterial feel to it, though frankly I didn’t know that when I was drinking it – it just came across as somewhat bitter. I kept thinking two things when I was drinking it: one, that it was a lush and very high-quality “collector’s choice” sort of beer; and two, why the hell am I drinking an imperial Russian stout in late June? I’m going to go on a reds & IPAs & tripels bender for a while now – keep checking this space. Meanwhile, HAANDBRYGGERIET deliver an impressive 7.5/10 with this one.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
So I’m the guy straddling the middle, one who obsessively writes 4-6 times per week about how much he loves beer (and constantly seeks out the newest & latest), while typically shunning most big beer events like SF Beer Week, festivals, beer dinners etc – as well as private tastings, beer blogger meet-ups, beer social networks, “The Session”, and so on. It’s not that I don’t love going to those things nor interacting with a larger community – I absolutely do. I’d also welcome opportunities to have HBJ read by more than 85 people every day (which is still about 10x what I expected when I started this), and to learn from some of the folks who know a fantastic amount more than I do about beer. I’m just stubbornly on my own clock, and extremely resistant to taking this thing any further than the minor hobby that it is.
Hopefully you’ve noted in this blog that we don’t take ourselves particularly seriously, nor do we waste any opportunity to mock the “sport” of beer obsession, despite how ridiculously often we engage in it. At times on this blog I feel like I’ve kinda slighted those who are even more deeply invested, which is why it was a little jarring to all of a sudden be in a room the other night with a gaggle of professional beer writers, high-profile bloggers, and wicked-sharp homebrewers, drinking a batch of east coast ales “flown in” for the occasion.
See, Brian Yaeger, a good American & San Franciscan who also is an accomplished beer author, freelancer & blogger, invited me over to partake in Bryan Kolesar’s beer collection. Don’t you love how this works? Mr. Kolesar is the man behind THE BREW LOUNGE, a fine Philadelphia-based blog that’s done much to school me on east coast beers I’ll never drink. He’d just flown in from Philly (and boy were his arms tired, nyuk nyuk), and he brought a cornucopia of 750-ml. delights in a box. He was in a sharing mood, which we naturally applaud, and thus the invite that was extended to me & several far greater luminaries.
First, a huge thanks to both Brians/Bryans for the hospitality, as well as to Kimberly the cheesesteak commissar, who cooked & prepared the ritual pre-beer intake meal. Outstanding stuff. You can see here a picture of all the happy grinnin’ beer dorks after all bottles were drained; from L-R, myself; Chris Cohen, Steve, Jay Brooks, Brian Yaeger, Bryan Kolesar, and Damian. But who cares about those knuckleheads. Here’s what we drank – good notetaking be damned:
STONE 13th ANNIVERSARY ALE – Not even released yet – that’s how connected this crew was. An imperial red ale that I didn’t really cotton to that much – but “probably need to try again”. You know how that goes.
VICTORY BALTIC THUNDER – They call it a Baltic porter, but that generated much debate among the gathered cognoscenti. Pretty good stuff.
WEYERBACHER UNFILTERED DOUBLE SIMCOE – A delicious double IPA. I thought I’d had this before until Mr. Kolesar pointed out the “unfiltered” tag on the bottle. Schooled again!
DAMIAN’S BELGIAN STRONG DARK ALE (homebrew) – Outstanding, exceptionally drinkable homebrew. Second best beer of the night.
SLY FOX SAISON VOS – Wow. An almost-perfect saison, one of the best I’ve ever had. The Hedonist Beer Jive SF beer dorktacular beer of the night.
STOUDTS HEIFER-IN-WHEAT – An authentic German hefeweizen that was more bitter & complex than I’m used to. Very good.
SLY FOX BLACK RASPBERRY RESERVE – A limited-edition bomber of a Belgian-style fruit beer, also excellent. I need to get more involved with Sly Fox beers, it’s clear.
Jeez, was that really it? That’s what my BlackBerry notepad notes say, but I felt like another three or four were being passed around the room. I tried to be a “good listener” as names of brewers I’ll never meet were tossed around like they were family, and as folks shared all manner of beeriana & tales from the trenches. Fellow travelers - this time not on a message board nor a comments section, but in the honest-to-god flesh. I felt like maybe this sort of intense beer worship kinda hit a nerve, a pleasure center in the medial temporal lobe, and I might have to get off my friggin’ high horse and engage in it again sometime. Thanks again to the Brians/Bryans.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
With my trusted beer-drinking enthusiast EW by my side – she was drinking Deschutes beers in
REAL ALE DEVIL’S BACKBONE – A “dangerously drinkable” tripel from this Blanco, TX brewer whom we’d previously come to love for their pale ales. This yellow/reddish-colored ale is thin-bodied yet packed with taste – floral, assertive hops and light, yeast-laden spicing. They mistakenly told me at the bar that this was a quadrupel and I believed them, even after drinking it. A great unsung brewer, at least outside of
ST. ARNOLD ELISSA IPA (CASK) – I think after this beer I’m going to make it official: I don’t like drinking American IPAs on cask. Maybe they can get away with this malarkey over yonder, where the sun don’t shine & they talk funny, but something about removing the carbonation just makes this style fall totally flat for me. A tingling, understated, citrus-forward IPA – from what I can tell – definitely not a “hop monster”. Still, putting it on cask leeches out about 50% of the assumed pleasure for me. Even HOPSICKLE was mediocre on cask. It may not be
Not to go “off topic” too much, but man, when I was a youngster I was weirdly fascinated with the JFK assassination, and I read multiple books & articles about it even before I was ten years old. Finally getting to the site last week was a stone trip for me. Everything was way “smaller” than I imagined – the 7-floor building Oswald shot from, the grassy knoll (which is a gently sloping “ridge”, I guess), and the expressway that the motorcade was on. There are X’s on the street matter-of-factly marking the 2 places where bullets hit Kennedy. I bought a conspiracy-theory magazine from some kook out front, who pointed out for us the exact spot in the nearby fence where “the other gunman” was shooting from. Good times in Big D all around.
Monday, June 22, 2009
LE MERLE is one that’s been on my I-should-probably-try-this list, and the other night at City Beer Store, I did just that. LE MERLE is a smooth, golden, out-of-this-world Belgian saison. The yeasts are everywhere in this one – very active, tingling, and alive on the tongue. It smells of tropical fruit and citrus, and definitely has a strong hop profile. It’s really got some great zing to it, but the operative word is “smooooooth”. This was fresh on tap, but I’m going to buy a bottle of this shortly and see if it holds up. North Coast beers are a bargain at appx. $6.99 per bomber – for a top-quality Belgian-style ale like this one, you’d better buy two of ‘em. 8.5/10.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Flash forward to Tuesday night of this week. I’m in Dallas (Irving, actually) at some ridiculous suburban “party” restaurant called the Cool River Café, which despite the general yahoo vibe had/has a pretty decent selection of beers on tap. I saddled up to the bar and had them pull me a pint of SHINER BOCK, and, uh…..hunh. That’s a pretty ordinary beer. Granted, in the sixteen-year “interregnum” between 1993 and 2009, there’s been a couple of craft beer revolutions, and exotic beers of all stripes have found their way to my tongue. Back when I barely knew an ESB from an IPA, this was some pretty great beer. Now it’s a thin, malty, amber-brown grainy lager, with few discernable tastes outside of those faint malts and grains. I can see it still as a terrific “beat the heat” sort of beer, and believe you me, if it’s between this and the macros I’m going for a Shiner Bock all the way. But thrown up against all the highfalutin beers we’re normally ingesting over here at the HBJ? I don’t think so. 5/10.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
GOOSE ISLAND are already studs in our book, just based on the MATILDA and the 312 URBAN WHEAT we’ve enjoyed from them previously. When in Chicago, it’s Goose Island for us. Well, that and THREE FLOYDS, and all the other ones that are good from thataway. BOURBON COUNTY STOUT was super high on the hypometer, however, and I just had to check it out. First off – yeah, it’s good. I popped the cap, poured it, and whammo – just the best whiff of vanilla I’ve had since the Woolworth’s counter after the sock hop. The beer is completely jet black, with zero head rentention. Very still…..a little creepy…….like it’s challenging you. Wow, that’s a sweet beer. Jesus, that’s almost too sweet. I’m getting a little smoke in the aftertaste, but contrary to what I’m read & been told, this isn’t “more bourbon than beer” – alas, it’s “more candy than beer”. Don’t get me wrong – I like candy – and this is the good stuff. Caramel, vanilla, and 13% alcohol by volume. Whew. Currently the 40th ranked beer in the entire world on Beer Advocate. I liked it just fine, and may have another one day, but if I’m going to go for some big-ass whomper of a stout, I’m pulling for THE ABYSS or SERPENT’S STOUT instead. 7/10.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Now I’m not much of an afternoon beer-drinker, and to be honest I’m often embarrassed to step into any sort of bar before 5pm. Yet this was a legitimate (really!) case of needing time to kill before my flight. In the olden days I’d have searched for record stores – now it’s breweries, much to my own chagrin & gentle self-mocking. I kept my cool and ordered two lone half-pints, just enough to get the picture of this place as far as I’m concerned. 5 SEASONS BREWING is a large, open-spaced brewpub in a very suburban-like mall structure – very cool inside, excellent for hiding from the intense sun. Giant vats await you both inside and outside the place. Clientele-wise, it was pretty sparse inside, but then again, it was 2:30 in the afternoon.
Here’s what I tried:
5 SEASONS HOPGASM IPA – Hmm, yes. A very hopped double IPA here, a little more grainy and piney than most. Exceptionally fresh-tasting, just the way we like it. Also a little “damp”, meaning it’s not one of those dry IPAs that puckers the mouth and has you drinking water as a chaser. Not too biting, but definitely not for the novice, nor the whining IPA-waffler. 7/10.
5 SEASONS BOURBON-BARREL AGED RASPBERRY TRUFFALE – How could I pass up the token “brewer’s experiment” ale on tap? This one has a poofy, fluffy pillowy head. So cute. See it? It’s pictured here – apologies for the lame camera phone image. Strong raspberry notes, and yep, quite chocolaty as well. Really smooth, total velvet mouthfeel. Well done! Some bitterness on the back of my throat. Wow, this is a total winner. Sandy Springsians, get yourself down here before this one evaporates in the Southern heat. 8/10.
Hedonist Beer Jive verdict: 5 SEASONS is a high cut above most local brewpubs, particularly chains. No doubt we’ll be coming back here in the near future.
Friday, June 12, 2009
Here’s how it works: every 23rd bottling run of DAMNATION, one of RUSSIAN RIVER BREWING’s finest ales and certainly the flagship for their Belgian-style line, the brewery ages the batch on oak chips. This gives this tripel-style pale ale a much more complex body and a variety of different flavors, It also ramped up the alcohol content another 3%, from 7.75% to 10.75%. They’ve done this twice now – what I’m reviewing for you today is actually the 46th bottling of DAMNATION, or the second time they’ve unveiled a batch of this stuff. Hedonist Beer Jive did not try it last year, the first time this experiment was attempted.
DAMNATION, BATCH 23 pours of lush, cloudy orange color. It presents a very dense citrus taste, with definite oak in the aftertaste and almost a whiskey-like burn. Not a scorch – just a pleasant little scalding, you know what I mean? Yeah, it’s a strong 10.75% ABV, and it definitely tastes it. The carbonation is more full and rich than I’d expected. I also get a delicious peppery, yeast taste. It’s not altogether unlike the pleasures offered up by DAMNATION – just “bigger”. Totally worth the effort to track one down, and a damn good evening was spent enjoying this one to its fullest. 8.5/10.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Cedar Cream Ale is an easy drinking, amber coloured ale. Brewed in the North-American style of cream ales, its sweet subtle nose is derived from the addition of cedar chips during fermentation and ageing. Pairs well with BBQ dishes such as steak and hamburgers.
How about that. I think it was perhaps a little less “easy” than they do, but it was solid enough. Peet thought I was gonna hate this one, but I’m going with 6/10.
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
GREAT DIVIDE SAISON has that beautiful pillowtop, fluffed-out head of foam. We could have just stopped right there, but there was the matter of drinking it. It’s a cloudy yellow (of course). A little biting – tastes a little stronger and more hoppy than most saisons I’ve had. In fact, the Brick Store Pub has it listed on their menu as a “Belgian IPA”, despite the word “saison” in the name of the beer. Could this secretly be Great Divide’s answer to the popular Belgian IPAs LA CHOUFFE and URTHEL HOP-IT? It’s really not as “earthy” the way your typical saison is, with that musty olde world farmhouse feelin’. I think there’s a little bait and switch going on here. Enough said – I thought it was very drinkable and quite good, and I give it a 7/10.
Monday, June 08, 2009
I was lucky enough to make another visit to the amazing BRICK STORE PUB, easily one of the finest beer bars in the land. See that picture below this text? That’s the beer case I was looking at all during my meal and my drinks, upstairs in their “Belgian room”. It was stocked with dozens upon dozens of rare, local, imported and aged beers of all stripes. Yet I wanted to go local and get what was fresh & on tap, so I asked for TERRAPIN 90 SHELLING scotch ale. It poured a very dark, but barely translucent reddish-brown. Gorgeous. I was hit with intense maltyness, reminiscent of bread and very light spices. It actually had a mildly hoppy bitterness as well, which took the normal sweetness of this style of beer down a notch. I totally loved it. I saw it in bottles the next day, but it’s part of a limited series from Terrapin, and won’t be around much longer. I’m gonna have to find a reason to go to Atlanta again soon and bring back a suitcase full. 8.5/10.
Friday, June 05, 2009
There were free hot dogs & burgers, potato salad, and juice drinks for the kids. As we toured the exhibits for the umpteeth time over the past 24 months, but this time without chattering Germans or Kansans blocking our access to the good stuff (tongue in cheek, people – tongue in cheek), I saw a few happy dads walking around with cups of beer. And this beer was not yellow. Nay, this was dark-bodied, hazy beer – the kind I might be interested in. “Pray tell good sir, but where did you find that glass of ale you’re imbibing?”. Once properly directed, I ripped my kid from whatever it was he was stimulating his cortex with & dragged him by one arm to the beer table. There I found two fellows pouring free beers from MOYLAN’S BREWING, the medium-sized Novato, CA brewer whom we’ve lionized on this site previously, and who make the outstanding “triple” IPA HOPSICKLE that’s one of our favorite beers of all time.
These gentlemen were not pouring HOPSICKLE this time, and that’s probably OK, since I would have asked only for that. I got to try two from the lineup that I’d never enjoyed before, and likely would not have bought a bottle of in the next 12-24 months in any case. Both were high-quality and good – one very much so. From the top:
MOYLAN’S DANNY'S IRISH-STYLE RED – Led me in from the get-go with a very sweet aroma of honey, which was also reflected in the taste. The malts were actually quite light, not deep & murky the way a lot of craft brewers’ red/amber ales are (and which I happen to like, most of the time). Medium carbonation. I found it to be a very drinkable red ale, and proceeded thusly to quaff it with extreme prejudice. 6.5/10.
MOYLAN’S CELTS GOLDEN ALE – Surprise, surprise! I expected this to taste like a boring “blonde” ale – no way. It’s a musky, rich & thick golden ale, surprisingly close to a Belgian tripel in all aspects save for the spiciness. Really tangy, and a little bit of that olde-world earthiness as well. Really good beer, and one I’ll be buying in a 22oz.-bottle in the near future to see if the magic can be recaptured. 8/10.
These were small cups, mind you, not giant pints – and yet who knows what it was that made dad break down and buy a toy in the gift store at the end of the night.
Thursday, June 04, 2009
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
I enjoyed a fresh bottle of WITKAP-PATER SINGEL at Aziza Restaurant in San Francisco somewhat recently, and I kicked myself under the table for letting this one pass me by all these years. This hazy, amber/orange ale is highly carbonated, with the lively carbonation allowing a lot of fruit flavor - lemon, apricot - to dance around the mouth (as it were). It finished pretty crisp and dry. It's a really classic Belgian taste, and one that's enough on the lighter end of the spectrum that you can probably polish off a couple-three bottles and still go do your laundry or what have you. Kudos to Browerij Slaghmuylder (top browerij name in Belgium right now) for keeping this one well-distributed. 7.5/10.
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
OH, BROTHER! is quite a bit far from perfect, I’m afraid. While there is some fruitiness in both the aroma and the mouthfeel, the carbonation is too dense & strong, and man, the spicing just makes this almost eye-watering to get through. I had to pour it out - it was just no fun at all. It’s a total bastard, homebrew version of the Belgian tripel, and if it was from my neighbor I might forgive it and say, “hey, keep trying”. From the otherwise stellar TWO BROTHERS BREWING, I advise, “lose this one from your lineup” and keep doing what you do so well – which is not this. Ouch. 3/10.
Monday, June 01, 2009
Recently I got my hands on a bottle of NOGNE Ø BROWN ALE – yeah I know, probably not the place to start to get some real proverbial bang outta your buck, but it’s what was on offer and I jumped for it. NOGNE Ø BROWN ALE is a quality brown ale through and through. It’s got a much stronger hop presence than your traditional British pub warmer, but otherwise a lot of the same characteristics that make this such a favorite style of pint-pullers worldwide. It’s got a really nice satin texture to it, and some good smooth balance. Sure, it could have been made by just about anyone with some mad skillz, so here’s what I’d have to say: if you’re toolin’ for a brown ale, and that’s what you’ve got to have, then save a few shekels and go with AVERY ELLIE’S BROWN ALE. If an exotic label and the thought of a few more hops justifies you spending a few more dollars on a bottle of brown ale, then NOGNE Ø BROWN ALE totally works. We’re calling it a 7/10 over here.