Thursday, December 31, 2009


Considering they're my favorite brewer in my hometown of San Francisco, I've done just an awful job of staying current with the beers of 21ST AMENDMENT. Since they opened well over a decade ago, all sorts of new non-TORONADO beer options have sprung to the fore in town & nearby, and so when someone wants to go grab beers these days, 21A tends to be the afterthought to The Trappist, La Trappe, the Monk's Kettle and so on. When HBJ started out (four years ago!) we worked almost across the street from the place, and thus filed frequent dispatches from the bar. Now we're over in the east bay during the 9-5, and I miss the easy access to 21A's many excellent beers of all stripes and colors, particular the many experimental Belgians they unleash during the winter months.

All that's a long way of saying I was stoked to buy a can of their brand new MONK'S BLOOD offering the other day. It's great to see a complex Belgian-style ale in a can, and it's even better when it's really good. MONK'S BLOOD is dark and malty, with an undercurrent of sweetness the dominates the brew. I taste molasses and something that tastes like bourbon, or some spirit of unknown origin. Why there it is on the spec sheet - "aged on oak". You don't get that in yr beer can every day, now do ya. It's a medium-bodied beer with almost no head retention (that's dork-talk for "no foam"), and I'd put it close to the dubbel and/or abbey ale categories if I have to pick. 7/10 - and oh yeah, happy new year folks. We'll see you with bells on in 2010.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


DESCHUTES BREWING unleashed a deluxe imperial stout called THE ABYSS upon the world at the tail end of 2007, yet in such insanely limited bottled quantities that I didn't even hear of it. Last year's THE ABYSS got out there in just about the right amount to both start a cult of believers (myself included) and to ensure it was limited enough to help generate a little supply-and-demand hype action. While the beer obviously speaks for itself (we rated last year's a 10/10), the marketing worked as well. This year, late 2009, DESCHUTES has let a lot more ABYSS unto the world than ever before. There are tons of bottles at my local BevMo, Whole Foods and at speciality retailers, all around a $11.99 price point, which is more than worth it in my book.

THE ABYSS 2009 version is called ABYSS 2009 RESERVE. As you might expect if you had last year's, it's amazing, and deserving of all the kudos raining down upon it. It's a rich, creamy stout - extremely roasted and intense. It has a deep coffee flavor that you can even taste in the foam, but unlike last year, I don't really taste chocolate. And I was looking for it. It's got some real burnt, "bitter" qualities, but it's all good. I've kinda got a crush on it, and I'm terrified if I don't buy some more bottles they'll stop making it. So I'm off to BevMo this weekend. Need anything? 2009 version = 9/10.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Somehow it happened that I'm drinking saisons this winter. Must be the fallout from the Pacific Coast Holiday Beer blow-out, which was all dark, rich Christmasy things. Or maybe it just happens to be what was hanging around the garage this week. In any event, I was excited to give this one a try - it's a new beer called JACK D'OR, (subtitled a "Saison Americain") from a new Boston-based brewery called PRETTY THINGS BEER & ALE PROJECT. Aaron G over at the Vice Blog picked this up for me and handed it under the table at our blow-out meet-up at Rattle-N-Hum in New York a few weeks ago. Thanks, esse.

PRETTY THINGS say "we don't brew styles per se. Instead, we re-imagine everything and leave the style numbers in books on the shelves where they belong.". They're not kidding. JACK D'OR is like a cross between a lager, a saison and an IPA. It is spicy, true - and I like that. Really strong, malty, spicy mouthfeel, and even some of the citrus characteristics of the IPA - along with the glassy, off-putting taste of a lager. And would you believe the massive, misshapen head of foam on this thing? Like nothing I've ever seen before. Fresh, full-bodied and ultimately moderately satisfying. I'll see what I can do to try the rest of their lineup in the near future. 6.5/10.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


I’m a huge fan of the BRASSERIE DUPONT beers, just about all of them being subtle shades of the saison, You know – FORET, SAISON DUPONT, AVRIL, etc. Never had one I didn’t like, and well, now it’s Christmastime, and it’s time to uncork their biggest beer yet, the holiday-only AVEC LES BONS VOEUX. It’s available at Whole Foods, BevMo, and the usual places. I actually brought it to a holiday party on Saturday night, then greedily stood around shifting from foot to foot, waiting for the host to open it so I could pour myself a giant glass.

It’s a really stunning-looking beer – a cloudy, hazy, goldenrod color, like a beer-filled crystal ball. I’m not sure I’ve had a more “bready” beer in my life. Very yeasty and malty, with a slight kick of alcohol that only seems to make itself known in the aftertaste. Would you believe it’s 9.5% ABV? That’s a record for these guys. Fruity and a little pungent, in the best possible sense of the word. Vaguely sour, but more fruity and bready that anything else. Just as good as I’d heard, and even better than that big, world-class saison we reviewed yesterday. 8/10.

Monday, December 21, 2009


When Kansas City’s BOULEVARD BREWING first came out with their limited edition “Smokestack Series” in 2008, there was a lot of deserved hullabaloo about the whole thing. These bottles had beautiful labels & were big and bountiful – but far more important, the beers themselves were fantastic. Nothing so amazingly off the charts that entirely new brewing paradigms were created, but still – this brewer does a great job with just about everything they touch, even their more pedestrian stuff, so it’d make sense that when they allow themselves to go off the rails a little, it’s gonna get interesting.

Last year they added a new jumbo beer to the stable, and I’d been waiting to get back to KC to hunt one down. As luck would have it, I was sent there for work last month, and came back with a big 22-oz. bottle of BOULEVARD SAISON-BRETT. It’s about as collector-fetish as a beer can come without putting it in a sealed box & making you line up in the morning to buy it with the great unwashed. It’s individually numbered, just like all those old 45s I used to buy. I got #4497 out of a total run of 13,400. SAISON-BRETT is a “wild saison”, made with ample amounts of uncaged yeasts. Picture if you will a very sweet farmhouse ale with a big thin head, dosed with a huge amount of tart, grapefruit-like taste from the various bacteria floating around. You’re thinking that won’t drink easy? OK, now picture it drinking really easy. Yessss…..this one’s surprising you, because YOU thought it was going to be a little more wild than it is, but it’s just a little funky, that’s all. It compares very favorably to RUSSIAN RIVER TEMPTATION, and that’s saying something. There are at most 13,399 of these left in the world (likely far less), so you might wanna get going. 7.5/10.

Friday, December 18, 2009


I’ve made it to the annual PACIFIC COAST BREWING “Tasting of Holiday Beers” for three of the last four years now; it’s beginning to become a regular part of the beergenda every winter. And despite the fact that during the 24 hours following this event last Saturday I’d made up my mind to never drink alcohol again – I think you probably know why – I’ll likely be there next year as well. Check this report for my 2008 briefing, and this one for my 2006 dispatch.

This time the lineup of beers was as stellar as it always is, but I knew it might be a tough road to hoe when they announced that of the 15 beers being served (and these were decent pours, roughly 5-6 ounces each), only two were below 9% ABV (and those were both above 6%). They keep the beers they’ll be serving as a secret every year, so you show up, take your assigned seat and then greedily look at your “score sheet” in front of you to see what you’ll be gobbling over the next four hours. I had two high hopes: that I’d get a chance to drink the SIERRA NEVADA/DOGFISH HEAD collaboration LIFE & LIMB again, and that SHMALTZ BREWING would be rolling out their 13% ABV, 13th-anniversary monster JEWBELATION this time. Guess what. Ka-ching. I got ‘em both, and then some.

So this score sheet they gave us, it’s got its own scoring system on a 30-point scale that’s very different than the Hedonist Beer Jive 10-point scale. They actually care about “appearance prior to taste” and assign 3 of the 30 points on that alone – HBJ could give a rat’s ass. We like a good-lookin’ beer, sure, but when you see something scored high on this blog, it has nothing to do with looks, just those elusive “inner qualities” (promise!). There are a few other qualitative quibbles as well, but you know, that’s what makes the beer dork world so goddamn interesting, doesn’t it? I recalibrated my score to my own rankings, and proceeded to rank the many beers thusly:

1. SIERRA NEVADA/DOGFISH HEAD Life & Limb (an absolute masterpiece)
2. DESCHUTES – Black Butte XXI (big surprise here. I had not heard many superlatives thrown at this beer, but man, I absolutely loved it. A deep, rich porter with amazing coffee & roasted malt taste).
3. FIRESTONE WALKER – Double Jack (A crazy high-ABV double IPA that’s a must-try. Anyone know if this is in bottles yet?)
4. ST. BERNARDUS – Christmas Ale (this was last year’s winner for me, and it’s fantastic this year as well)
5. ST. FEUILLIEN – Cuvee De Noel
6. DRAKE’S – Jolly Roger (Delicious – you can see it pictured at the top of the post)
7. SHMALTZ – He'brew Jewbelation 13 (truth be told, this was at the end of the afternoon and I was blurring a bit. My score may be a bit informed – negatively or positively - by the fact that my tongue was already lacerated with 13 intense beers by that point)
8. STONE BREWING – 13th Anniversary Imperial Double Red (good beer – I liked it much better on draft than from the bottle)
9. ANCHOR BREWING – “Our Special Ale” aka Anchor Christmas
10. SIERRA NEVADA – Celebration 2009
(had another one of these yesterday and it’s fantastic, like it is every year, so pay no attention to its relative standing among these heavyweights on a drunken day)
11. LAGUNITAS – Brown Shugga
12. NORTH COAST – Old Stock 2007
(maybe not aging as well as before – we loved it last year for sure)
13. PORT BREWING – Santa’s Little Helper Imperial Stout
14. RUSSIAN RIVER – Consecration (Yeah, I know. This was the first time I’d ever had it, and the first beer we’d had all day, so my palate was clear. Not all that impressed, to be honest, especially compared to Temptation – maybe I need to buy a $25 bottle of it and give it another go. It’s pictured here, in case you want to get a visual contact high)
15. PACIFIC COAST BREWING – Holiday Ale (blah)

The best part was the fact that only three of these beers was a repeat from last year’s tasting. The worst part was my intense desire to drink them all, coupled with my intense desire to avoid drunkenness, which, at my advanced age, doesn’t fit me as well as it used to. In fact, I’d been riding a two-year winning streak with no hangovers that was broken by this event, which was all the more remarkable when considering that I stopped imbibing at 4pm. I cursed the light, I swore myself to a life of teetotaling, I prepared a blog post called “HBJ To Beer Events: We Quit” – and then 3 days later, I broke out a 22-oz. bottle of BOULEVARD SAISON-BRETT and enjoyed it at home. More on that next week. See you again at the PCB Fest in 2010.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


BROOKLYN BREWING has this BLACK CHOCOLATE STOUT that complements their mind-blowing BLACK OPS stout very well. It’s like a little brother beer, if said little brother was an over 10% alcohol, easy-sippin’ stout that tasted like it was about half that. In fact I had to check multiple sources to corroborate that high-ABV – looks like unless everyone’s lying, that’s what it is. Wow. I enjoyed a big glass of this in New York two weeks ago as I cavorted with the coat-n-tie crowd at THE GINGER MAN – Wall Street was obviously hanging out in midtown on this night.

BLACK CHOCOLATE STOUT pours with a lovely puffy head of foam, and predictably, has a predominant aroma of chocolate. It’s a medium-bodied ale with a slightly “nutty” taste, like you might find in an English brown ale. The taste is quite bittersweet – as opposed to sweet. That chocolate gets even more pronounced as it warms, and as I said, it goes down really easily for a scary-high-ABV Russian Imperial Stout. I want another one, right about now. 7.5/10.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


While in New York a couple of weeks ago I had about 20 minutes to kill while visiting some friends in Brooklyn – and as luck would have it I was a mere four blocks from the famed SPUYTEN DUYVIL bar in Williamsburg, a place HBJ visited last year and wrote about here. I knew where it was, and I knew their reputation as being a bit on the know-it-all, brusque & dismissive side. Not a-holes like the douchy tattooed warriors at THE TORONADO, but the sort that throw off a we-know-best attitude when it comes to beer, and who let it show as often as possible. So I guess it was no surprise when I ordered the highly-touted NECTAR ALES “BLACK XANTUS” from the hirsute fella behind the bar and got some immediate ‘tude. I pronounced it “Black ZAN-TUHSS”. He gave me a quizzical, jeez-I-never-heard-of-it look, and told me that nope, they didn’t serve a beer called that here. I’m serious. I pointed at the tap handle to help sharpen his thinking a bit, and he gave me a big, “Ohhhh, ohhhh, you mean Black Zan-TOOS”. Zantoos. Not Zantuhss. WTF.

Here’s a terrible picture of the beer in question. It goes for double figures in bottles out in San Francisco, and I’m sure everywhere else - $16.99 is a typical price. It’s made by FIRESTONE WALKER, under their confusing NECTAR ALES brand – the same folks who make that hemp beer that I actually like. It’s a super-dark, very strong black ale. BLACK XANTUS is a succulent Russian Imperial stout, with light carbonation. The dominant flavors are vanilla and bourbon – whoa, lots of bourbon. Truly, it’s almost cocktail-like, and it lacks a lot of the richness and “meaty” quality I like in beers of this ilk. I’d call it a true beer lover’s beer, but as a beer lover I found it just a tiny disappointing. In conversation with others, reactions are all over the map – some think it’s the second coming, others think it’s a whole lot of nothing. Me, I call it a 7/10.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Going to New York City for work in the olden days – i.e. my many, many trips there 2004-2006 – always meant good meals & excellent streetwalking/impulse buying, but rarely did it mean good beer. Sure, I went out for drinks with co-workers from time to time, but going to New York now means going to a city utterly transformed when it comes to your & my favorite adult beverage. This place is just loaded with amazing bars, and incredible restaurants with incredible beer selections. I was introduced to a site called BEER MENUS that the New Yorkers all seem to use to find their way around town, drink-wise, and – well – just look at it. There’s no shortage of wild Belgians, high-ABV one-offs and fresh local pints to consume across at least two of the five boroughs (I'll try Staten Island and the Bronx next time).

I decided to set my first-night-in-town sights on RATTLE N HUM in midtown Manhattan, and booked my hotel room accordingly. (“Why are you staying all the way at Park & 39th, Jay?”. “Hmm, no real reason, that’s just what came up as being in our travel policy when I tried to book a room”.). I was wary of this place initially, when I saw their name – yeah, named after the U2 album. Ouch. Yet I walked by there right when they opened last year, took a gander inside, and decided that it would be a fine place to drink some of the strangest & most unique east coast beers – what a tap list! So I shot an email to Aaron from THE VICE BLOG, whom we’ve never actually met but whom you may remember from the interview we did with him here, and he informed me that only an hour before my email another similar email had some in from The Captain, as in THE CAPTAIN’S CHAIR beer blog. He was coming to town as well, same night, and they’d already planned to meet here. Beer dork city all the way. So we made the plan, rendezvoused at Rattle & Hum at the anointed hour, and threw down a few big ones.

This was definitely a night where socializing, not note-taking, was the primary objective. So my descriptions & accounts of the beers I consumed are taken from memory & the “scrawled” digital notes I pecked into my phone. That said, I’ve rarely had a night where my shot-in-the-dark picks were more spot-on. 4 beers, 4 big winners, none of which I’ve ever had before, and only two of which were recommended to me. The others I was just wingin’ it. Here goes:

KUHNHENN “PLAY IN THE HAY” – I don’t think it’s possible to get the real story on this beer online – we had trouble even getting it at the bar itself. This weird-ass Michigan brewer, who apparently were a hardware store at one point who changed to craft brewing when Home Depot moved across the street, have a number of fruit beers, several of the cherry persuasion like this one. When Aaron G had this one a week ago, they called it HAIRY CHERRY; now it’s apparently PLAY IN THE HAY. Whatever, it’s not a lambic, as is claimed on Beer Advocate. It’s a low-ABV fruit beer that’s out of this world. Sweet, smooth and not tart in the least – just a beautiful fruit ale, with sediment at the end just to remind you that this ain’t no fruit juice. 8/10.

ALLAGASH ODYSSEY – This is the first Allagash Brewing that’s absolutely knocked my friggin’ socks off. I’m pretty sure this dark photo to your right is a picture I took of it. It’s a 10% Belgian strong dark ale; I remember thinking it tasted incredibly smooth and like something you’d have out of a snifter – oaked and mysterious and so good. Conversation and yuks kept me from doing anything but going wow-wow-wow under my breath and typing a 8.5/10 into my phone.

LONG TRAIL BREWMASTER SERIES DOUBLE IPA – Expecting a simple hoppy beer, I got this delicious double IPA with balance to die for. Never had anything from these guys before but you can bet I’ll be going back to the well next time I’m in Vermont – or here. 7.5/10.

CAPTAIN LAWRENCE FRESH CHESTER PALE ALE – I wanted to take it down a notch, have something really easy to send me back to the hotel, but with Captain Lawrence Brewing, nothing’s quite what you think it’s gonna be, and it’s usually 10 times better than anything else. This is a terrific pale ale, really creamy and piney and quite hoppier than expected. Really tasty and totally recommended. 8/10.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


There’s one or two every year. Holiday beers that exist simply to round out the portfolio of a mediocre or less-than-heralded brewer, to maybe grab some shelf space they might not otherwise get. I guess my feeling is if you’re going to make a “winter warmer”, please make it a good one. Do something that makes it special, befitting what is supposed to be a special time of year. Don’t make something as boring and bland as BRIDGEPORT BREWING’s “EBENEZER”.

This Christmas ale is spiced like a 5-year-old was let into the vats and started mixing in nutmeg and hops with play-doh, flour & Burt's Bees rash cream. A real wheaty and grainy taste results, and the body of this beer is so thin it – it – why it oughta be arrested for anorexia is what I’m sayin’! Couldn't even finish it. Definitely a must to avoid this holiday season. 3/10.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

TOP 40 IN FILM, 2000-2009

Seldom do we use this platform for anything but our own joie de vivre over beer, but there have been exceptions. There were the baseball picks for ’09 this past April. How’d that Boston over St. Louis World Series pick work out for us? Hey, at least they both made the playoffs. My top films of the last ten years? Well, there’s no argument there – probably not even from you once you see my picks. Yeah yeah, I got the idea from Aaron over at The Vice Blog – he did his own Top 25 last week, and challenged me, you and others to do the same. Me, I’m a listmaker – love ‘em. I went as far as 40 great films and stopped there, because after about 40 things ran a little more thin. And of course I’d have put this list on my film blog, but I don’t have one anymore.

Overall verdict? Great, great decade for film. Arguably the third best ever, after the 1970s and the 1960s, in that order. Many of the films listed here are commonly recognized as masterpieces, but I encourage you if you see something on here you’ve never heard of (my bets are on “Nobody Knows”, a sparse Japanese film about children abandoned in their apartment by their wayward mother, and “Reprise”, an excellent Danish film about what happens to two young writers & best friends when one drifts into mental illness), give it a try on Netflix or however you consume the films of the past.

Here are 40 excellent reasons why this decade was a fantastic one for film, ranked in order of how much I enjoyed them:

1. MEMENTO (2000) – I’ve seen it a half-dozen times, and it blows me away each time as much as it did the first time in 2000. Saw it two successive weeks in the theater, and spent an hour-plus each time afterward arguing it through and piecing it together with friends. Amazingly inventive, reverse-narrative thriller that’s one of my favorite films of any era. #1 with a big fat bullet for these past ten years.

2. UNITED 93 (2006) – I shed real tears after this one, probably because I’ve never seen such a hyper-real film that wasn’t a documentary. I was more caught up in and emotionally devastated by it than I was 9/11 itself. The story of United Airlines flight 93, told just as it happened in near-real time on September 11th, 2001, and starring some of the same air traffic control personnel who actually lived through the horror of that plane’s fate on the real day itself.

3. CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS (2003) – A harrowing documentary that plays like a whodunit, all within the confines of a single messed-up Long Island family in the 1970s. Duly recognized by many as one of the great documentaries of all time and a standard-bearer for what the form is capable of.

4. THERE WILL BE BLOOD (2008) – This was an instant film classic the moment it came out, an epic sweep of one man’s greed, ego and lust for redemption in oil-crazy California a century ago. Daniel Day-Lewis puts on the performance of his lifetime, which is saying something, but the script & the direction were just as much the stars of this newly-minted landmark.

5. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (2008) – Only a hair’s breath behind “There Will Be Blood” in my book; I, like most others, saw both films within mere weeks of each other in 2008. That’s when I decided that the 2000s were a decade nearly as special as any other, cinema-wise. This film was terrifying for two entire hours, with foreboding & fear punctuating every slow scene, with every moment about ready to erupt. Javier Bardem is one of the all-time evil bad guys, and this is the best film the Coens have ever made as far as I’m concerned.

6. ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (2004) – I remember walking out of the film and telling my wife that we’d just seen a masterpiece. A film with Jim Carrey (!), no less. This was all about Michael Gondry’s direction and his & Charlie Kaufman’s masterful script. A couple undergo a procedure to erase each other from their respective memories when their relationship goes bad, yet in their loss find ways to connect again. Totally original and a blast to watch unfold on screen.

7. THE DEATH OF MR. LAZARESCU (2005) – Romanian film got a lot of very deserved attention this past decade, primarily thanks to this sad, strange film & only afterward to those that followed. The camera essentially follows a dying man through the morass of Romanian healthcare and personal indifference on one single night, as his lonely and (on the surface) meaningless life flickers out. Never seen anything quite like it. Not a feel-good film by any means, but one I can’t recommend highly enough.

8. MY SUMMER OF LOVE (2004) – This British film seems to have been passed over by a lot of folks, but it was one of the best films I saw in 2004. Two teenage girls spend a summer together in the Yorkshire countryside, and the film “charts the emotional and physical hothouse effects that bloom one summer” between them. Just when you think you’ve figured out where it’s all headed, it heads in a very unexpected direction, and turns into some devastating mind games, the kind that are all the more painful when you’re young & infatuated. Ingmar Bergman would have been very proud.

9. BORAT – CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN (2006) – A trailblazing comedy that took the mockumentary/documentary form to new highs and lows. These are some of the best pranks (and the best editing) of all time, and I’d watch this film anytime, anywhere.

10. DOGVILLE (2003) – I almost wouldn’t go see this when I learned it was filmed completely on one stage, with a “set” like you’d see in a theater play (nonexistent doors that people “knock” on, etc.). But it was Lars Von Trier, and I totally dig (dug?) Lars – outside of “Breaking The Waves”, this is his best. It’s a three-hour transformation of Nicole Kidman from “poor girl on the run from the mob” to vengeful murderess, in a film that explores goodness and good intentions in that bizarre, off-kilter way that Von Trier has made his signature, and which is nearly impossible to describe.

The next 30, all of which are must-sees:

26. WALL-E
27. 21 GRAMS

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


Nothing burnishes a brewer’s reputation more quickly these days than the introduction of a limited-edition, one-time-only series of 22-ounce bottles. It’s all the rage. It’s rescuing the stale reputations of brewers from WIDMER to RED HOOK to SAMUEL ADAMS/BOSTON BEER. Luckily, TERRAPIN BREWING from Athens, Georgia needed no such rescuing. Their core series of beers, anchored by the RYE PALE ALE, were excellent already, and their “Side Project” series is only additive to their fairly exalted standing among beer dorks at large. I tried the 90 SHELLING SCOTCH ALE earlier in the year and loved it; now it’s time to tackle MAGGIE’S FARMHOUSE ALE, a 22-oz. saison that’s got “limited edition” stamped all over the bottle.

In truth, I was a little bummed I’d picked this up in Atlanta after seeing this review afterward from the always-reliable DRUNKEN POLACK. He don’t lie. Except for this time. TERRAPIN MAGGIE’S FARMHOUSE ALE is a fantastic saison, quite a far sight sweeter than your average farmhouse brew and bursting with fruit and butterscotch flavors. It’s not a sticky beer, but a smooth, tangy beer with a nice bit of zest to it. They say they even threw some oats into the mix, and the general graininess of this leads me to believe ‘em. Again, the real surprise here is how sweet & smooth the beer is, and yet still so saison-like. It’s a really delicious beer, and worth a pick-up since you’ll never see it again if you don’t grab it now. 8/10.

Monday, December 07, 2009


Golden. Sour. Strong. Different. These are words one might use to describe ITHACA BRUTE, another one of those 100-best-beers on the Beer Advocate list that Hedonist Beer Jive got a chance to try recently. ITHACA BREWING, as I've come to find out, have a whole corral full of big beers in big bottles with big price tags; I saw a bunch of them on my trip to New York last week, and pulling five of them off the shelves would be roughly the financial equivalent of buying the Top 75 games in iTunes for your iPhone. Except you'd get to consume those for a couple years.

In any event, I knew I couldn't finish this enormo bottle on my own, but d*** it, I came pretty close. ITHACA BRUTE, a golden sour ale brewed with three different champagne yeasts, is a very effervescent and bubbling sort of beer, one with a decided banyard funk to it. That would be those "brettanomyces" we've heard so much about. It's a really dry and tart beer, not althogether unenjoyable, but one that I felt I had to work at a little. There are sour ales that just roll off the tongue and lead to instant conversion for the uninitiated; I can't say this would be one of them - Top 100 slot or no. 6.5/10.

Friday, December 04, 2009


I'm really getting a lot of these Beer Advocate Top 100 beers tackled these days. In fact, Wednesday's post, today's post, and then next Monday's post collectively review 3/100s of the list. I just ran the numbers and my personal count on the Top 100 comes to.....well....a somewhat meek 39, at least compared to a lot of all y'all. I'll hit forty-one when I drink two beers currently sitting in my quote-unquote cellar, so let's call it 41. You know what? I'll take the Hedonist Beer Jive 75 any day over this glorified barrel-aged ultra-imperial stout list. Then again, of course I would.

Yet it was this list, and perhaps several reviews by folks who contribute to it, that got me to throw down $8.99 for a 12-oz. bottle of PANNEPOT OLD FISHERMAN'S ALE from DE STRUISE, currently clocking in at #56 on the big board. I want to thank you people, because this 2007 version is instantly one of my favorite beers I've ever had - yeah, better even than fifty-sixth. What a homewrecker this quadrupel ale is. 10% alcohol, and you don't know it nor care. Huge, foamy head of vanilla candy smell that never totally went away, even when I was nearing the end. Sweet, sure, but in a this-is-a-beer-of-the-godz sort of way, not like a dessert. Imagine a combination of dates (the overriding taste here), molasses and vanilla, all brewed up with a batch of eastern spices that play their role and stay well hidden before revealing themselves in the aftertaste. Incredible stuff. Unfiltered, bottle conditioned and with a medium body. I've only had one lone DE STRUISE beer before (and I didn't like it!), so shut my mouth, but wow o wow - this one's a 10/10.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


When I started this blog in early 2006, let me tell you what the hot beers were at the time - what I remember beer dorks were spouting off about the most at the one time I was truly engaged in active listening with them. Dogfish Head -anything. They were the top dawg at the time, maybe still are in many respects. Russian River stuff - though nobody outside of the San Francisco Bay Area could find it with any regularity back then. Avery Brewing's "The Reverend". Alesmith "Speedway Stout" was big. This strange little chain brewery down in San Diego called Pizza Port. And of course, anything STONE related, especially Arrogant Bastard and their RUSSIAN IMPERIAL STOUT.

The first time I drank it - the STONE RUSSIAN IMPERIAL STOUT I mean, - in September 2006, it was rated as the #3 best beer in the world by the collective wisdom of Beer Advocate readers. Today it's still at #22 on the charts. I figured after three years it was time to try it again. I bought a 12-ounce bottle of the Spring 2008 version, and let it be said that it was good. This beer is a chocolately, roasted and very, very still ale - surprisingly thin-bodied, and not that luscious, velvety pillowtop-in-my-mouth I was sorta hoping for. Not even toasty-tasting, nor harsh. Nope, either I've progressed or this beer's mellowed or something, but it was pretty easy-drinkin' as these things go. You wouldn't frighten the womenfolk nor the children with this one. It's no twenty-second greatest beer on the entire planet, but it's a very strong 7.5/10 in my book.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


I've enjoyed most of the ales I've tried from New Hampshire's SMUTTYNOSE BREWING, some incredibly so - but it wasn't until The Vice Blog's knock-down, drag-out review of multiple Smuttynose Ales that I decided I needed to get on the stick & try a bunch more. As luck would have it, I was in Atlanta a couple weeks ago, and one door down from my favorite non-bottling brewery 5 SEASONS, is a beer store called Hop City. We've told you about them before; I'm just sayin'. They've got the SMUTTYNOSE stuff. I took some home in the suitcase, wrapping everything tightly with socks, running clothes and well-worn jeans. Wanna come over to my place and party with me?

SMUTTYNOSE HANAMI ALE is a spring seasonal, and the big reveal here is that it's made with "copious" amounts of cherry juice - natural cherry juice, not some powder from a bag. It's a little rattling, to be fair. It tastes like - you're not gonna believe this - beer crossed with cherry juice. Hoppy, sure, with a nice medium body and a real "crispness" to it that I enjoyed. It's grainy, and pretty easy to get through. I gues I'd call it a little one-dimensional, but that's just me. I'm glad I tried it. If you want to as well, consider the HBJ score of 6.5/10 and proceed as you see fit.