Thursday, April 30, 2009


Until Tuesday night, I’d never decided to “give up” on a beer style that wasn’t working for me. No, I’m not a big pilsner drinker, but that’s only because I drank gallons upon gallons of bottom-feeding pilsners during my college years. No, I don’t know a whole lot about lambics, about guezes, about eisbocks. I’m working on those. But I do know what I don’t like: the Berliner Weisse style of beer. As you might expect, this is a German ale that grew up around the Berlin area and was apparently – and inexplicably – very popular at one time, pre-WW1, pre-Weimar, pre-Hitler. Wikipedia’s got all sorts of information about ‘em, as does this link.

I bought a TELEGRAPH BREWING RESERVE WHEAT ALE the other day and was pretty psyched to get going on it. It’s from TELEGRAPH – one of my favorite brewers on the planet. The afternoon before I’d set a date and time to drink what I thought was going to be some specially-formulated, weird-ass wheat beer, I read this post on SUMMER OF BEER, who hipped me to what it actually said on that bottle I’d procured:

This intensely sour "wild ale" recalls the earliest rustic beers crafted centuries ago before brewers had an understanding of controlled fermentation. Brewed with the addition of lemon verbena, as well as lactobacillus and brettanomyces, Telegraph Reserve Wheat is an all-together different beast from modern beer. Not for the faint of heart, this special brew is available in extremely limited quantities.

Now folks, I’m not “the faint of heart”. I’m a hearty, strapping, meat-eating American male with a love of grog, grub and wild adventures. But I can’t stand this stuff, nor the other Berliner Weisse-style beers I’ve tried before this one (another Santa Barbara-area brewer called ISLAND BREWING made one that I once savaged here). This is an ultra lemon-heavy, thin-bodied sour and very, very wild ale. You drink this when you’ve tried everything else. But does one really drink this for enjoyment? Really? I definitely love the pound-the-chest feeling that comes from throwing down a sour beer or a super-high ABV coffee imperial porter or whatever, but I can’t imagine ever buying another Berliner Weisse beer when life, such as it is, is so fleeting and filled with opportunity. If Telegraph can’t make one that gets me all excited, then I don’t know who can. Hedonist Beer Jive Rating: Totally unratable.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


If you ask most San Francisco beer hounds what the best in-city brewery is, you’re almost always going to get one of two answers: 21ST AMENDMENT or MAGNOLIA PUB & BREWERY. While I personally lean toward the former, I’ve been long overdue for a new date with the latter. (Other in-town breweries include the legendary Anchor Brewing; Speakeasy; Beach Chalet; Thirsty Bear and San Francisco Brewing Company). MAGNOLIA PUB & BREWERY is nestled right there on Haight Street & Masonic, a busy corner with tons of foot traffic from thirsty pilgrims. They’ve done well for themselves this past decade, and the solid beer lineup is a big reason for it.

The other night I got to be “interviewed” for a piece Brian Yaeger, author of “Red White and Brew: An American Beer Odyssey”, is writing in ALL ABOUT BEER, and given that MAGNOLIA’s about halfway between his abode and mine, we agreed that’d be a fine place for a discussion. As it turned out, even though I hadn’t been to Magnolia in over a year, there were only a couple of things on the menu I’d never tried. They actually had a gruit on tap, which was certainly intriguing, but in the end I went for style that would allow me ample room for pontification, rather than contemplation:

IN WITH THE NEW IPA – Good to see a new IPA from these folks, especially one this tasty. This is very smooth, “delicately”-hopped IPA, almost the inverse of the Great Lakes Burning River Pale Ale we talked about a couple of days ago (i.e. today’s pale ale is yesterday’s IPA). Magnolia decided to go all the way back to 2006 for this “throwback” IPA. Really good. 7.5/10.

PRESCRIPTION PALE ALE – This has been part of their lineup as long as I can remember, but I’m not sure I’ve ever tried it – certainly not since I started “rating” my beers, cough cough. Pretty nondescript and still. I actually thought it might have come from the cask, but there was faint carbonation there. Low hops, some juicy citrus in the aftertaste, and that’s about it. 6/10.

Never did get to that gruit or to the two porters they had on draft. Don’t worry, I’ll almost certainly be back next year. (PS - thanks to Bittermelon for the great photo).

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Last year I attended this gastronomic overdose of a food/beer fest called SLOW FOOD NATION in San Francisco; perhaps you may recall my beer report from there. It was quite a day, and everyone whom I tell about it swears they’re going to go this summer – except for the fact that the festival is transient, and is going to be relocated to IOWA this year. Ouch. My favorite beer that I tasted last year was MATILDA from Chicago’s GOOSE ISLAND BREWING. This beer gets its own full-page ads in beer magazines, so they’re really flogging it…..and last year I’d have told you “deservedly so”. Here’s what I said about the 2008 version:

Outstanding. Smooth and mildly sweet, this is a still, unclouded Belgian-style ale without all the intensity that implies. I have no idea what style category to throw it into…..a fantastic beer that is available in bottles wherever these guys distribute (unfortunately not where I live).

I bought the 2009 edition of GOOSE ISLAND MATILDA from Archer Liquors, and popped the cap a few nights ago. To be honest, I don’t like this year’s version anywhere near that epiphany-creating glass I had last year. Again, this is a still, no-head-at-all translucent Belgian ale that pours a rich reddish-orange. Smooth, with sweet malts. It features tastes of honey and banana, and is dominated by its yeast, but it really doesn’t come together in a way that makes me want to shout from the rooftops. It’s just a solid, mildly experimental, albeit unspectacular Belgian-style ale. It’s being aimed for the restaurant/foodie/connoisseur crowd, and no doubt it will do well there, but I’ll probably reach for my restaurant standbys – CHIMAY RED or LA FIN DU MONDE – before I try this one again. 6.5/10.

Monday, April 27, 2009


One of the great low points of any American city’s history was Cleveland, Ohio in the late 60s to mid 1970s. With a 31-year-old, nearly-Communist mayor (Dennis Kucinich) soon to take charge within a decade, the city’s main artery, the Cayahoga river, caught fire from all the garbage, oil & general filth floating in its waters. That Cleveland today is quite a vibrant, dynamic city speaks highly to its regenerative powers from that June 22nd, 1969 incident and from the reign of Mayor Kucinich, who drove the city into default a few years later. Rising from the ashes along with its city is GREAT LAKES BREWING, whose excellent BLACKOUT STOUT we reviewed here. I purchased a bottle of their BURNING RIVER PALE ALE through the post, and here’s what I have to say about it.

GREAT LAKES BURNING RIVER PALE ALE is a lovely orange/copper color, and has a great dose of hops both in the nose and all over the tongue. This is one of those moderne American pale ales, the ones that are assertively hopped but not intensely so, like IPAs were maybe 5 or 6 years ago. Crisp and sharp with a pretty dry finish. Malts are big and thick, but it’s that blast of hops that’s what you’re going to notice. Another fetching “pale ale” from the Midwest, a place certainly not lacking for great beer. 7.5/10.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


I think I just had the greatest saison in the world – and it wasn’t called SAISON DUPONT. No, get this, I tried SAISON RUE from Orange County, CA’s THE BRUERY the other night – and for good measure, followed it up with a bottle of Saison Dupont just to see what would happen. Would ya believe that I’m proclaiming, with trumpets and all manner of fanfare, SAISON RUE to be the greatest saison-style beer in the entire world? At least among those I’ve tasted. Wow, this beer is a musky, earthy, sweet/sour yeast bomb that has subtle surprises galore. It has a creamy, hazy, dry-tasting head of foam to get things started, and once that settles down (it takes a while), SAISON RUE also has a dry but really fruity and peppery taste. It’s not that “barnyard” thing that gets bacteria fans all excited, though that’s certainly present – this is just delicious through and through. Every sip brings another sort of subtlety out. I shared it with a pal, and he was pretty much in the same camp. We followed it with the aforementioned SAISON DUPONT, pretty much the saison gold standard, and while excellent itself, I gotta say this one was its superior.

THE BRUERY have very quickly become one of the go-to, first-class brewers in the USA. They know it, too – their beers are priced and packaged accordingly. I’m still buying for sure, as they’ve produced three winners since I started paying attention, two of which are knockouts. I’m giving this one a 9.5/10.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Regular readers know that I’ve consummated multiple beer trades with a shadowy north-of-the-border gentleman known pseudonymously by the name of “Peet”. The way it works is pretty simple – he grabs something off the shelf in Ontario, Canada, I grab something off the shelf in San Francisco, California – and we meet up at a predetermined location in the US for the handoff, usually the site of a major wireless industry gathering so as to blend in, stay cool and not blow our cover. This last exchange involved me bringing a rare TELEGRAPH BREWING beer; “Peet” responded in kind with GREAT LAKES 2008 WINTER ALE. “Great Lakes”, you’re thinking, “…aren’t they those fellas from Cleveland?”. Aha, you’re right and yet very wrong there, my friend. There are two GREAT LAKES BREWINGs. Those highly-regarded Cleveland brewers, and an equally highly-regarded Toronto brewer who’ve been around since the 1980s.

GREAT LAKES WINTER ALE is what was slipped into my satchel, and it’s what we’re here to discuss today. As “Peet” mentioned to me, I had not tasted my final beer of the 2008 winter beer tasting season, contrary to previous writings. GREAT LAKES WINTER ALE pours a deep, dark red – exceptionally beautiful in the glass. They say that we should have been expecting predominant flavors of cinnamon, orange peel and ginger, but all me & my drinking/rating sidekick could get out of it was the cinnamon. It is a liquidy, malty beer, more thin-bodied than I would like and definitely downplayed when it comes to the alcohol – a “big beer” this is not, appearances to the contrary. (Which is no problem and not a complaint by any means). Here’s the thing – while this beer smells great with a terrific fruity & spicy aroma, not enough of that actually makes it through to the back of your throat – which is where it counts, right? It’s when the men are separated from the boys. I liked Great Lakes Winter Ale just fine – it was a good complement to the dinner it was enjoyed with, and went down easy – yet I’d have liked it more if they’d packed a little more of their wintery je ne sais quoi into the taste of the beer itself. 6/10.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Yeah, I know that yesterday’s “Hedonist Beer Jive Guide to IPAs” was pretty weak. I started out with a list of the twenty best I’d ever had, and had every intention of filling in the post with a bunch of whatzit around IPAs. Different varieties, different hops, some gentle mocking of beer dorkitude, and so on. I really didn’t have enough time for a proper post – as is so often the case – so I just fired off the list and let it be. Let it be said that no beer variety can hold a candle to the India Pale Ale in most situations: hot days, lazy summer nights, raging at the beer bar w/ yr beer dork friends, etc. I may get bored with them from time to time, but when they’re on, they’re on, and now we’ve got folks from all the way across the Atlantic schooling Americans on how to put a new twist on our appropriated masterpiece.

I really like the idea behind a single-hop IPA. If I’m ever going to graduate to craft beer guru status, I’m gonna have to know my Amarillos from my Centennials from my Simcoes, and maybe these Danes at MIKKELLER can help show me the way. MIKKELLER SIMCOE SINGLE HOP IPA shows off, you got it, the Simcoe hop, a hop very prevalent in US IPAs but one that I can’t personally tell you much about. I’ve been wanting to try MIKKELLER’s beers for a great long while, but the price tag and their lack of easy availability (they do come here from Denmark, you know) have made that a bit difficult. The other night at The Church Key we ordered one of these up, though, and it was a very good call. SIMCOE SINGLE HOP is strangely super-hopped; a very different sort of IPA than any I’ve had before. Very thick mouthfeel, and wonderfully hoppy and robust. A big IPA for sure, but not off the hook alcohol-wise (7%). Spicy and piney, with some serious bitterness. Again, it’s really a new taste to me, and for that alone I highly recommend it. This isn’t some lazy west coast IPA-by-numbers, but a weirdo beer made by some crazy-ass Danish cats (and brewed at the De Proef brewery in Belgium, no less!). 8/10.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Both celebrated and sometimes derided as the craft beer obsessive’s favorite drink, the India Pale Ale, and its kissin’ cousin the Double India Pale Ale, are the be-all and end-all when it comes to unadulterated and hedonistic celebration of hops. Though these things can get a little samey-tasting if you’re going for them all the time, when you find the crème de la crème, it’s as pleasing an experience as there is in life. No, not in beer-drinking – in life.

Here are a few that we’ve tried that have taken the Hedonist Beer Jive staff to the summit of happiness and back. If you’re shopping for IPAs or Double IPAs, and need a few to bring home this week, you’d do well to pick up a small bushel-full of these. Any questions, please let me know.

1. MOYLAN’SHopsickle (Double IPA)
2. SIX POINT CRAFT ALES - Bengali Tiger (IPA)
4. CAPTAIN LAWRENCE - Captain's Reserve Imperial IPA (Double IPA)
5. BEAR REPUBLIC - Racer 5 (IPA)
7. IRON HORSEBeer Shoppe Anniversary Ale (Double IPA)
9. LAGUNITASFreak Out! (IPA)
10. DRAKE’SDenogginizer (Double IPA)
11. PORT BREWINGHop Suey (Double IPA)
12. BOULDER BEERHazed & Infused (IPA)
14. SIERRA NEVADACelebration Ale 2007 and 2008 (IPA)
15. SOUTHERN TIER - Hoppe (Double IPA)
16. TWO BROTHERS BREWING - Hop Juice (Double IPA)
18. BELL’SHopSlam (IPA)
19. DRAKE’S - Hop Salad (Double IPA)
20. LAGUNITAS - Maximus (Double IPA)

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Anyone who tells you that great label art is meaningless on a beer is full of it. I’m certain that DE DOLLE, O’DELL, LOST ABBEY and now Quebec’s DIEU DU CIEL sell at least 10% more than they otherwise would due to their fantastic label art, just as I’m certain that BOULDER BEER and GREEN FLASH sell that much less because of theirs. So here come ROSEE D’HIBISCUS, and she’s a fine-looking, if a little bewildered, girl – plump lips, waifish gaze and flowers in her hair. DIEU DU CIEL are a highly-regarded newish Canadian brewer (certainly new to me), and I’ve been reading a lot about their wares recently. I tried ROSEE D’HIBISCUS the other night, and before I go into it, lemme tell you what the brewer has to say about it:

Rosée d’Hibiscus is a soft spoken wheat beer. The rose colour comes from the hibiscus flowers added during the brewing process. The aromas and flavour of this tropical flower are very prominent in the beer, giving it a slight acidity and a very agreeable fragrance. It is the perfect thirst quencher on a hot summer day.

It is flowery for sure. My drinking partner that night said, “I’m not sure that’s even beer”. I think it is. The use of this hibiscus “adjunct” gives this highly-carbonated beer a slight sourness and the vague taste of apricots. It is thin-bodied, and a bit spicy. It may very well be a wheat beer, but if you’d asked me to throw darts at a board I’d have had a better chance of picking “wheat beer” as the quote-unquote style for this one. An experimental fruit/flower beer all the way. It’s certainly a nice scientific concoction and a credit to DIEU DU CIEL’s brewing prowess, but probably not something I’d have repeatedly. 7/10.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


(Hope you appreciate what a fantastic photographer I am)

I got this blog going a little over three years ago when I, much like most folks getting their craft beer obsession going, was heavily into IPAs. Better yet, Double IPAs – which were just then starting to hit big. One of the first of that ilk that I ever tried was from San Leandro, CA microbrewer DRAKE’S. It was called the DENOGGINIZER, easily one of the top 10 beer names of all time. I totally fell for it, and to this day I still have it listed in my top beers of all time. (And let it be said that while I’m not a raving fan of DRAKE’S beer, they do make some incredible hoppy beers, including the 2007 brain-eraser called HOP SALAD).

Last night I visited a great new San Francisco beer bar in North Beach called CHURCH KEY (highly recommended – will write more about these guys another time), and they actually have the 2009 version of DENOGGINIZER on tap. It’s been three years – let’s see how it holds up. Luscious orange color with a slight pillowy, foamy head, and oh wow this is good. Smooooooth. Not at all as hopped-out as I expected. Compared to the version I tasted three years ago, this is more juicy, subtle and less intense – but of course it could be my perceptions of IPAs that have changed. I have a much larger sample size under my belt now. Really juicy and smooth. Excellent. I’m keeping my 9/10 rating. On tap in select San Francisco Bay Area locations, though you might wanna try it at the Church Key if you’re in town.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Normally when I take my five-year-old son off on a beer-drinking excursion it’s well-planned, if somewhat subtly executed. Something along the lines of, “Hey, how would you like to take a boat trip that just happens to end up at the Marin Brewing Company, big guy?” (this really happened). But the other day, in the course of helping him to learn how to ride a bike (OK, how about a collective “awwwww”?), we somehow turned this Norman Rockwell-esque, “my young man's growin’ up” moment in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park into a chance for Dad to suck down a new high-ABV Belgian-style ale he’d never had before.

My son was just tearing through the park on his training wheels, and it dawned on me that should he continue down the literal path he was on for another 20 blocks or so, we’d end up in THE BEACH CHALET & BREWERY’s parking lot. C’mon son, you can do it….! I hadn’t been to the Beach Chalet, I’m ashamed to admit, since around 2000-2001 or maybe even the late 1990s. It is in a beautiful spot – right at the end of San Francisco and the west coast, right on the Pacific Ocean. For nearly 12 years they’ve been serving a bevy of hand-crafted ales and lagers to tourists and some locals, often adventuresome hikers, bike-riders and kite-flyers willing the brave the area’s strong winds & generally foggy weather. We happened to be there on a fantastic sunny day (this past Sunday), and both of us needed a liquid reward after traversing many miles to get there.

I tried two beers. Let me just get the bad one out of the way first – it was an English-style bitter called D.B.A., or DEE’S BITTER ALE. It was warmly served out of a cask, and tasted alternately of copper and of metalloids of unknown origin. 4/10. That said, BEACH CHALET makes a very fine Belgian-style tripel called TRIPEL THREAT. It’s pictured here. Note the complementary crayons in the background. It pours a pumpkin orange color and is exceptionally yeasty. What I like about it is it was way more hoppy than I expected, sort of like one of them newfangled Belgo-American IPA/Tripel hybrids the kids are always getting their knickers in a twist about. It tasted fresh and alive, and could be at home at a more renown brewery like STONE or LAGUNITAS with no problem at all. I’ll totally make it back here before the end of the decade to try a couple more from these guys – just not that English thing. 7/10.

Monday, April 13, 2009


Well, I did it. I drank the TRAPPIST WESTVLETEREN 12 that was so kindly provided to me for evaluation purposes. Hey, it was a Friday, and Fridays are for kickin’ the weekend into overdrive, am I right? Before I did so I took a gander around the www and found that bars in NYC were selling a 12-ounce bottle of this for $55 a pop, and they were going on eBay for about half that (which is actually quite a bit less than I expected). And don’t forget that it’s absolutely and without doubt the greatest beer in the history of the planet. So yeah, I considered myself lucky to try the most unduly hyped beer of all time. I took a few pictures – ah yes, the ceremonial “hold it up to the window” photo; the “wow, that’s got a big foamy head” photo and so on.

Dispensing with all the snark, let me state for the record that
TRAPPIST WESTVLETEREN 12 is an excellent, delicious, well-crafted quadrupel. I totally enjoyed every sip, and there’s no doubt it’s going to be making it onto the Hedonist Beer Jive 75 next time I update the thing. It’s an aromatic, very yeasty dark Belgian ale with a slight cola taste; i.e. a little thinner than I’d expected and consequently it’s actually very easy to put down. By “put down” I mean drink. Really smooth, very fruit-packed (raisins, dates) and bready. Those who care deeply about how a beer “feels” in the mouth (the cult of the mouthfeel) will be all over this one if they can ever find a bottle. I’m guessing this guy, the most recent post on Beer Advocate about this beer, is one of those fellas:

You have to be brain dead to not like this beer. It was a religious experience, it smelled like a church, tasted like heaven and had the body of the Holy Trinity.

It smelled like a church. That's a good beer, hunh? Hey, this is a beer that inspires hyperbole. Scoring it any less than a 10/10 will likely invite invective and abuse, so HBJ’s going to say this is a great goddamn beer and then call it like we see it: 9/10.

Friday, April 10, 2009


So thanks to a fine individual with an equally fine friend who just got back from a trip to Belgium, I’m now in possession of a bottle of the mythical TRAPPIST WESTVLETERN 12. The greatest beer in the history of the world, if you ask the collective brain trust of Beer Advocate readers. My wife wants to know what special occasion I’m saving it for. Hey, how about Friday night? Or Saturday evening? You think this thing should sit around waiting for me to get a raise or for the Giants to win the World Series? Come on. I’ll report back in this space early next week.

Thursday, April 09, 2009


Sometime I wish I was a heavy drinker. I suffer from a crisis of abundance, a beer-tinged version of “alfuenza”, you might say. I currently have sitting in my fridge and garage a dozen west coast beers I bought around my town; 5 incredible east coast beers + 1 special Belgian received in a trade; and now the 10 beers I ordered from ARCHER LIQUORS in the Midwest. It’s time to get to work, but knowing me, the last of these three batches will be polished off around the end of summer. O, to be an alcoholic!

Let me first talk about my ARCHER LIQUORS order. This Chicago-based mailorder outfit came highly recommended by THE DRUNKEN POLACK, and folks who read his blog know that he don’t lie. I picked out ten whoppers from the likes of DARK HORSE, THREE FLOYDS, GREAT LAKES and other heavyweights – including three from TWO BROTHERS BREWING in Warrenville, IL. I’ve enjoyed the two of their beers that I’ve had immensely, and hey, their HOP JUICE is clocking in at #73 on the Hedonist Beer Jive 75. So Archer Liquors basically did everything they said they would and then some – packed the beer well, shipped it quickly, and communicated status without fail. Their selection is fabulous, and for those of us with no access to the Midwest and east coast superstar brewers they’re carrying, their service is a proverbial godsend.

TWO BROTHERS HEAVY-HANDED IPA is what I pulled out of their box first. Only 27 beers to go after this one, provided I buy nothing else! This highly-regarded IPA is highly regarded for a reason, as I found out. It’s like a very ripe, exceptionally juicy grapefruit. Not too piney, and not too overly hopped. It’s not advertised as a “double” and it doesn’t taste like one either. It’s a 6.7% ABV beer, and it goes down easy. There’s a bit of sweetness on the tongue that you only see in a subset of the IPAs out there. Great effort, and another winner from this crew. 7.5/10.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


(Thanks to Shyzaboy for the image)

I’m feeling just as well-versed in SOUTHERN TIER BREWING products these days as any east coaster is; except I’m a west coaster who just happens to have a stellar trading partner way out east, & I’ve taken a few trips out that way of late as well. Definitely one of the top brewers in the United States right now – these Lakewood, NY honchos are getting it done on all sorts of levels. The latest example to cross my lips is “OAT”, a big, intense imperial oatmeal stout. I thought the bottle said it was clocking in at 11%, but the Beer Advocate site says 12.5% alcohol by volume. It’s going to scramble your night if you drink it in a hurry for sure.

You know that candy called Whoppers? SOUTHERN TIER OAT is the big boy’s, belly-busting version of Whoppers in a glass. Rich chocolate malts, with oat (naturally) and cocoa powder combining into a rich, satisfying brew. Mine barely had any head at all, yet the bottle mentions a “thick tan head”. You call that a head, Southern Tier? Out west we do things a little differently, partner. In any case, this thing just opened up and got better & better as it warmed, and while an exceptionally rich beer, it only had medium thickness and not that cloying, ultra-thick soup you get from some big-ABV imperial stouts. These guys are great – kudos to them once again. 8/10.

Monday, April 06, 2009


As mentioned previously in this space, there was a little work-related jaunt to Vegas last week for the HBJ staff. We tried to make the most of it by hitting up a brewer we didn’t have a whole lot of data on – SIN CITY BREWING. Tried their AMBER last year and it was fine, but honestly, expectations were way low when we stumbled into a bar/brewery no larger than an American family kitchen, right in the middle of a mall. No kidding – there in the Planet Hollywood “Miracle Mile Shops”, not too far from the Lucky Jeans shop and the Wetzel’s Pretzels is SIN CITY BREWING. Their shtick appears to be in keeping with the whole Vegas = naughty thing, with tons of pint glasses and logo wear for sale, featuring a silhouetted woman looking all sexy-like. Like I said, hopes were less than high.

Well well. Imagine my surprise when I enjoyed – nay, relished – two excellent sessionable beers there at SIN CITY. These folks make beer tailor-made for conversation and “yes ma’am may I please have another”. The next day I read a great article by Lew Bryson in ALL ABOUT BEER magazine about session beers, and I recognized that I’d just been to a place that totally gets it. Much like a great pub in the UK, SIN CITY wants you to have another one, and then another one after that, and they don’t want you soiling yourself on the way out – and hey, I didn’t expect to find a place with beer this solid in Las Vegas either. Here’s what I relished:

SIN CITY WEISS – A vaguely sour wheat/weiss ale, halfway between a Berliner Weiss and an American-style hefeweizen or wheat ale. Really drinkable – like, “wow, this is good” drinkable. Pictured here. 8/10

SIN CITY IRISH DRY STOUT – Thin body, but with an ever-present light roastyness and that delicious, creamy mouthfeel you get when someone’s put some attention into their stout. If I was truly going to “session” here, I’d have probably had at least two more of these. 7.5/10

True, drinking conditions are not optimal, and of the four beers served here, one’s a “light lager” and the other is that amber we tried last year. But I can absolutely see a situation in my future that will require another stop in this place, along with the BURGER BAR at Mandalay Bay, where you can counterbalance the “let’s drink a session ale” angel on your shoulder with something a little more devilish and headache-inducing.

Thursday, April 02, 2009


I have to admit, I sorta envy the way Aaron over at THE VICE BLOG puts together his “beer reviews”. Not only are his beer-as-an-afterthought pieces more like “columns”, columns that probably will someday be collected into a book because they’re often so friggin’ funny & well-written, but the obligatory beer review at the end of each post is invariably spot-on & helpful to non-casual beer dorks such as myself. Now when I started my various blogs I made a wager that sticking to a single topic in each was the way to go. Too many blogs careen all over the place, from uninteresting personal navel-gazing, to film, to music, to social issues, to “here’s a picture of me on a bike ride”. I swore I’d never have one of those blogs – though I actually did for a short time with my (2nd) music blog Detailed Twang. I reckoned that giving beer geeks or music dorks or politics luvvas red meat on a near-daily basis was the best way to ensure that those readers came back repeatedly to see whatever the hell it was I was spouting off about. For the most part, I think that’s a correct reckoning.

Anyway, I’m still jealous of the way Aaron gets to write about anything he wants – French fries, strange dates, St. Patrick’s Day, the counterintuitive attractiveness of women with large noses – and still have one of the more vital “beer blogs” on the planet. So I’m gonna steal some of his shtick for one post only. I was in Las Vegas this week, and there were two things coursing through my head during many occasions on the trip: One, how utterly lame Vegas is, and two, OMG you guys it’s totally baseball season, starting this Sunday!!! I never get to write about sports – but first – here’s a Las Vegas-themed list:

The Ten Lamest Things One Can Do In Las Vegas

  1. Say, at any time, “Vegas, baby, Vegas”.
  2. Imitate the sound made by the desperately poor “porn card” slappers while walking down the Strip
  3. Attend a “sexy circus” show at a hotel/casino
  4. Go out of your way to view the lion habitat at the MGM Grand
  5. Say the word “titties” out loud
  6. Take pictures of the fountain show at the Bellagio or the pirate fight at Treasure Island – or worst of all, the fake Eiffel Tower at Paris
  7. Go to the Coyote Ugly bar and hoot at the skanks
  8. Watch the fake rain show at the Miracle Mile shops in Planet Hollywood
  9. Gamble at the airport
  10. Gamble anywhere
And that’s just off the top of my head. OK, now on to baseball. The reason why I think it’s important that I share my 2009 picks with you is because – and I’m not ashamed to be immodest about this one – I’M THE GUY WHO PICKED THE TAMPA BAY RAYS TO MAKE THE PLAYOFFS LAST YEAR. Yeah that’s right, before the season started. I have an uncanny knack for evaluating the relative worth of major league baseball teams, it would seem, and just so folks know where their/your beloved MLB team will end up in October, I figured I’d share the results with you now, in April:

NL West

  1. Arizona Diamondbacks
  2. Los Angeles Dodgers
  3. San Francisco Giants
  4. Colorado Rockies
  5. San Diego Padres

NL Central

  1. St. Louis Cardinals
  2. Chicago Cubs
  3. Cincinnati Reds
  4. Milwaukee Brewers
  5. Houston Astros
  6. Pittsburgh Pirates

NL East

  1. Philadephia Phillies
  2. New York Mets (wild card)
  3. Atlanta Braves
  4. Florida Marlins
  5. Washington Nationals

AL West

  1. Los Angeles Angels
  2. Oakland A’s
  3. Seattle Mariners
  4. Texas Rangers

AL Central

  1. Minnesota Twins
  2. Cleveland Indians
  3. Detroit Tigers
  4. Kansas City Royals
  5. Chicago White Sox

AL East

  1. Boston Red Sox
  2. Tampa Bay Rays (wild card)
  3. New York Yankees
  4. Toronto Blue Jays
  5. Baltimore Orioles

NL PENNANT: St. Louis over NY Mets

AL PENNANT: Boston over Los Angeles

WORLD SERIES: Boston over St. Louis

You know, I’m seriously tempted to drop the Yankees down below Toronto, too – I think at least 10 games will separate them from Tampa Bay, and that they’ll barely be a .500 team this year. (I’ll love that, like so many others). Boston is just too loaded across the board – they’re the class of baseball. St. Louis is my Tampa Bay-like pick this year – I think they’re going to surprise a lot of people, with Pujols going bananas again and Chris Carpenter & all those young arms pitching them into the world series. I wish I could go higher with my Giants, but I’m not stupid. We’ll finish just below .500 this year – maybe 80-82 or something. I can handle that. I just wish we were better than the Dodgers again.

ANCHOR BREWING’s been making a barleywine-styled ale called OLD FOGHORN for many years now; in fact common wisdom says they were the first brewer in the US to make one, at least in this modern era. You’re not gonna believe this, but until two nights ago I’d never had one – and I’ve lived in San Francisco for twenty years, all of them over the age of 21. What gives, right? Well, outside of the PORTER and the 6-10 ANCHOR STEAMS I drink every year, I just can’t get all that excited about their stuff. I always seem to reach for something else, and after having my first OLD FOGHORN, I’ll probably keep that tradition going. This one is a really malty “strong ale” that pours a nice orange-ish brown, and has a sweet and unfortunately slightly syrupy taste to it. I know barleywine doesn’t have to be that way – just ask GREEN FLASH or any of the other heavyweights who make superlative barleywines. I’m even picking up a little cinnamon and clove, too. Don’t get me wrong – like everything Anchor brews, this was just fine, and I enjoyed drinking it. But it was consumed in godforsaken Las Vegas, and man, there’s next week’s baseball schedule to think about. 6/10.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


There’s a sinister combination of forces in play that keep me from experiencing the bounty of San Diego beer every time I’m down there – and I’m there often to visit my in-laws and my sister. Combine the lack of a car (huge), the lack of a beer-drinking wife (huge), and a schedule that is generally set by people other than myself (huge), and, well, I’m looking for beer-drinking kicks where I can find them. Earlier in the year I told you about my trip to THE TAP ROOM (man, that was a fun post to write). This time, this past weekend, I was able to coax my brother-in-law to head basically down the street from his parents’ place to THE LA JOLLA BREW HOUSE, in La Jolla, CA, naturally.

I’ve been here at least three times before, but never since the dawn of Hedonist Beer Jive, so I’ve been unable to give you my patented, unique and quirky “take” on the place. Ah, but now I can. I have heard that the LA JOLLA BREW HOUSE has somewhat recently come under new ownership, and to that end, I was very pleasantly surprised to see that not only did they have 5 or 6 house beers, but they left open about 6 taps for guest beers. Not a bad selection, either. It has been a while since I’ve seen the outstanding AVERY/RUSSIAN RIVER team-up beer COLLABORATION, NOT LITIGATION on tap, so that was a natural first one for me to reach for. As I expected here in San Diego - the nadir of culture, taste & refined comportment here on the west coast - they served this exquisite Belgian-style ale in a Bud Light pint glass. Nice! They also took about five minutes getting the thing to me, as the barkeep was apparently very confused about the dense, foamy head on this beer. I had the feeling that this beer was being outsold by “blonde ale” and “beach-style lager” by about 5,000-to-1. Anyway, it is absolutely fantastic beer no matter how it’s poured for ya, and I heartily endorse it and applaud this place for bringing it in.

Next, I moved on to a couple of house beers. Their 9.5% DOUBLE IPA was said to be made “in the San Diego style”. If that means like Stone, Port, Alesmith, Ballast Point and whatnot – well, count me in. And you know what? It was really good. Very hoppy, with a distinct tingling buzz with every gulp. A little vanilla perhaps, compared to other monsters it’s competing with, but it didn’t stop me from liking it quite a bit. And did it EVER deliver a knockout blow. Wow. Served in a pint glass as well; after I finished this one I was all ready to start shouting and slurring about politics, sports and lingering family problems. Good times! 7/10.

I followed it up with a half pint of the La Jolla Brew House’s KAHLUA STOUT. Very coffee-heavy – far more coffee than stout, actually. Easy drinking, if a little too coffee bean-roasty in the aftertaste, but a pretty dangerous 7.5% piled on after my big Belgian-style ale and my whopping double IPA. I rated this one a somewhat marginal 5.5/10, and called it a night. Good atmosphere (watched some laugh-happy folks play a Wii to a big screen, as well as caught a little NHL hockey), good beer selection and definitely the best thing going in La Jolla. I'll make it to Pizza Port, Hamilton's and The Toronado someday.