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.