Friday, January 29, 2010


And I'm a far better man for it. My first beer from Minneapolis' SURLY BREWING came to via post by "The Captain" from The Captain's Chair blog - thank you my friend - and it's even better than I'd prepared myself for. Oh, no question I was "psyched beyond belief", but this hopped-out imperial red ale from a big tall boy can is flat-out outstanding. The gang from SURLY, who are newer on the brewing scene than even this blog, are hitting it out of the park by all accounts, which is why I was so desperate to finally trade for some. I'll admit, I've taken better photos before, but I've had only a couple dozen better beers in my drinking life.

SURLY FURIOUS smells fantastic, with fresh hops and an aromatic mix of scotch-ale style malts and even pineapple in the mix. The pundits call it an IPA, and maybe they're right, but it tastes to me more like a malty Scottish ale that's been infused with a insanely liberal dose of hops, then balanced perfectly. In case you're not familiar with the concept of "International Bitterness Units", or IBU's, this has got 99 of 'em, and that's about as high as you can go - so no namby-pambys allowed here. Fluffy head, fresh taste, and just a winning combination of flavors all around. 9.5/10.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Sometimes you’ll be perusing the shelves of your local beer store, and some random brewery you’re altogether unfamiliar will all of a sudden have their entire lineup on display and for sale. Obviously someone just signed a distribution deal and is now available in your state or locale. What kills me is thinking of the breweries I wish were distributed in my state whom this new brewer’s perhaps scored a deal in place of – in Northern California, good examples of brewers we're missing include Southern Tier, Captain Lawrence, Boulevard, Smuttynose, Surly, Brooklyn, and so on. Now a few of those probably don’t have the production ability to distribute to all markets that desire their beers, and others just want to keep their stuff local for other reasons.

Then there are unheralded brewers like GRAND TETON BREWING from Victor, ID. Their beers all of a sudden showed up in all the better Bay Area beer stores late last year. Who are these guys? Why them? Who are they stealing shelf space from? Wait – what if their beers are good? I decided to buy one and find out. I’ve got this friend, Mark, and this guy just loves him an imperial stout or porter. Crank up the alcohol, make it as black and as coffee/chocolate/roasted as possible, and he’s in heaven. I was in the midst of buying him some of these beers a few weeks ago, and came upon GRAND TETON BLACK CAULDRON. Looked like a dark, evil, scary, high-ABV imperial stout. Aw hell, I reckoned, I’ll pick one up for him and for myself. “I’m darn glad I did”.

Wow! Where did this come from? BLACK CAULDRON is a smooth, medium-bodied, vanilla/cocoa stout that is actually quite approachable. Sure, it’s 8% alcohol, but it doesn’t have that harsh, deep-roasted flavor you get from a lot of these big boy beers (and yeah, I know that 8% is not quite the 10-11% a lot of these clock in at). But more than that – it’s really, really delicious. The balance is incredible, and the tastes are really rich and inviting. A bit of a surprise, and it’s a 12-ounce bottle so it’s not exactly a wreck-the-night, time-to-go-to-bed investment if you choose to drink it by yourself. I want to spread the word about this one. Will you help me? 8.5/10.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


AVERY BREWING, like a lot of yr better brewers, are pumping out an anniversary ale every year, one named according to the anniversary of incorporation - e.g. AVERY FOURTEEN, AVERY FIFTEEN, etc. It just so happens that those two aforementioned beers were absolutely fantastic, and among the finest beers in creation the years they were created. I scored them a 9.5/10 and a 9/10 respectively, the latter score being an "upgrade" from my second tasting of it on draft at the Spuyten Duyvil in NYC. So it was with great gusto and aplomb that I hunted down a bottle of AVERY SIXTEEN last month. I like how the annual anniversary ale - like STONE, like PORT - is a wholly different style than the one before it. This one's a saison. Let's check it out.

AVERY SIXTEEN was brewed once - one batch, over and done. It is a clear, ultra-light, almost see-through saison. It steps on the scales at 7.7% ABV, which is what you'd expect from AVERY - no pussyfooting allowed. It's got tastes of citrus, honey and of course a very particular Belgian strain of yeast, along with a slight "grassy" aftertaste. Soft malts, a little bit of tartness, yet everything's in balance and quite good. It's not the intense anniversary bomb they've dropped on us in the past, but I'd say it's a good 'un. 7/10.

Friday, January 22, 2010


If you’ve written about beer before on a blog, Beer Advocate, Rate Beer etc., you may have noticed that writing about the India Pale Ale can get a little samey after a while. There’s an A/B quality to this beer style – is it this, or is it this? Does it have a little of this, or a lot of this? Keeping IPA-reviewing boredom in mind, I submitted a big bottle of ALESMITH IPA, straight outta San Diego and one of the most heralded IPAs of our time, to a bruising checklist-style quiz as I ingested it. I believe you will find the answers highly illuminating. You may use this checklist for future IPA study in your own home, or when out at the bar with friends and loved ones. It is certain to take your conversation – and perhaps even your luck with the opposite sex – to the next level. Here goes – ALESMITH IPA:

1. Is this IPA hoppy, really hoppy, or ultra hoppy? Really hoppy.
2. Would you say it’s more West Coast, East Coast or English? West Coast all the way.
3. Piney, or citrus? Piney.
4. Smooth or sharp? Smooth.
5. Normal foam head, giant foam head or no foam head? Definitely a giant foam head here.
6. Light, medium or high carbonation? Highly carbonated.
7. Dissipating bitterness, or strong bitterness on the aftertaste? Very strong bitterness.
8. Any unusual fruits in the mix, or just the de rigeur grapefruit? Grapefruit only here.
9. Golden, deep golden, amber or orange? Amber.
10. Hop lover’s dream, hop lover’s wet dream, or hop lover’s orgy in heaven with 42 virgins? Hop lover’s dream.
11. Most importantly - where does it fall on the Hedonist Beer Jive ten-point scale? 7/10.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


There’s this place that opened last year & has existed under the radar in Emeryville, CA called CAFÉ BIERE that I’ve been meaning to check out. First, let’s talk about where Emeryville is. It’s basically the first town you hit as you come off the Bay Bridge from San Francisco, so on a traffic-less day (right!) you can get from the heart of SF to the heart of Emeryville, such as it is, in about 15 minutes. Emeryville, where I happen to work 5 days a week, is a tiny, formerly-industrial burg sorta nestled at three angles between Berkeley, Oakland, and the San Francisco Bay. When I was growing up it was all warehouses and driftwood; then IKEA opened in the mid-90s, and it got on urban folks’ radar. Condos were built, a big outdoor mall was built, dot-com companies moved out there, and voila. The conditions were created for a below-the-radar, out-of-the-way Belgian beer bar/restaurant called CAFÉ BIERE to open in 2009.

No one I know had ever told me about this place, but I think it came up in a Yelp or Google search I did one time and I was dumbfounded. A killer beer place just a mile or two from the office? Are you kidding me?? Before my jaunt to last night’s Golden State Warriors game in Oakland, I decided to check it out. CAFÉ BIERE is on Adeline Street at the very border with Oakland, across the street from some condos and just a couple blocks away from the PIXAR campus. It re-creates what I imagine to be the Belgian bar/restaurant feel quite well – small, cramped but not annoyingly so, and with wood-block tables for all customers (no actual bar). The beer menu is outstanding, with the not-insignificant complaint that it only slightly matched the menu they had online (so my goal of having a sober glass of DESCHUTES BLACK BUTTE XXI was dashed). Moreover, of the 12 or so draft selections, 5 of them were gone – naturally, including the really special, high-demand stuff like THE ABYSS and DRAKE’S DENOGGANIZER. I understand that taps run dry – happens to the best of ‘em – but this place needs to get its supply chain and web updating skills updated for the 21st century.

OK – so they still have a fantastic selection. Tons of Belgian and Belgian-style beer in bottles, including all the Trappist beers, the entire Unibroue lineup, even my #2 fave beer of all time, BRASSERIE DES ROCS TRIPLE IMPERIALE (to say nothing of #1, TRAPPIST ROCHEFORT 8, which is here as well). There are a number of American beers from DOGFISH HEAD, ALLAGASH and other heavyweights, and some cool locals like 21ST AMENDEMENT’s MONK’S BLOOD, which they had on tap. Service – at least for the one pint I had time to quaff – was excellent. I ordered a draft DESCHUTES HOP HENGE IPA, trying to give it another chance after savaging it in this 4/5/2007 review. Alas, my review was spot-on back then: a medicinal, over-hopped, poorly-balanced IPA that is just a little too much of a good thing. The ideas are fine, the execution is not – and when there are 200 other highly-hopped IPAs vying for a share of your wallet, this one should not get the nod. It certainly won’t for me. 5.5/10.

Great vibe, cool little space, and I definitely want to come back here and order some mussels and pomme frites. HBJ says check it out.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


You remember how we told you we were going to be trying more random Belgian beers in 2010? “Belgian roulette”, we like to call it. Well the other day I made good on that claim, and picked up a bottle of BRUNEHAUT ABBAYE VAN ST. MARTIN TRIPEL, on the indisputable & completely inarguable notion that tripels from Belgium are among the greatest pleasures to be known by man. Never heard of these fellas (BRUNEHAUT BREWERY in Brunehaut, Belgium- just outside of “Rongy”), never seen there beers before – but something about this one was fetching. Turns out that it was a good call, as Belgian roulette often is.

ST. MARTIN TRIPEL is a classic tripel-style ale, true to form in every way. Spicy, smooth, with a light sweetness and a definite citrus character. It’s a hazy, straw-colored beer, just as you’d expect, and its yeasts are aromatic and dominant; as I understand it, that’s what brings out that intense “spicy” characteristic in the best tripels. I’m not gonna say that this is ultimately world-class, but it’s really good and easily worth a grab if you get the gumption. 7.5/10.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Craft beer from Japan is a improbable reality these days, with KIUCHI BREWERY (commonly known under their brand, HITACHINO NEST, and their wacky owl mascot) leading the way, at least in terms in imports & perception in the USofA. I can’t speak for the others I’ve read about – primarily BAIRD BREWERY – mostly due to lack of availability and/or cost when I have found it. But KIUCHI/HITACHINO, I know them. Their WHITE ALE is everywhere, including a ton of Japanese restaurants I’ve been to over the past year. The other day while shopping for new ales to put into my belly, I picked up a 12-oz. bottle of their COMMEMORATIVE ALE, mostly because I thought I’d read somewhere that it was outstanding. Turned out that that was actually their CELEBRATION ALE. Ah well.

HITACHINO NEST COMMEMORATIVE ALE is a real “foamer”, as the picture you see here will attest. Don’t worry, that thing calms down after a spell. It’s actually a pretty interesting beer. Close your eyes. Picture if you will a Belgian witbier – a little spicy, with tastes of orange peel and cinnamon. Now give it the malty heft and the darker feel of a winter warmer, along with a nutmeg-like taste. I know, right? It’s got a great smell, and there’s a lot going on here. For the most part it comes together really well, and it’s adventurous without being obnoxious or too difficult for a craft beer rookie to ingest. Hedonist Beer Jive says, “Oishii desu ne!”. 7/10.

Monday, January 18, 2010


A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to try a beer from DOGFISH HEAD called RAISON D’EXTRA, a 2005 imperial & seasonal version of their year-round beer RAISON D’ETRE. It blew me away. I called it a “barrel-aged cookie beer”. I knew I got lucky to encounter it on tap in Washington DC, and yet I’d never seen its precedent beer, RAISON D’ETRE, until the other night in Las Vegas. That beer’s pretty damn good as well. It is described by the brewer as “A deep, mahogany ale brewed with beet sugar, green raisins, and Belgian-style yeast. As complex as a fine, red wine.” I would hasten to add that it is also a thin-bodied (not deep), near-opaque beer that tastes very Monk-like – smooth, mildly sweet, and rocking some serious caramel malts. It has 8% alcohol and you taste every bit of it. This is the kind of beer that has made DOGFISH HEAD’s reputation – bursting with craft and care, and “off-centered” enough to be truly unique & cool. 7.5/10.

Friday, January 15, 2010


We humans can’t help but be hornswaggled at times by the whole “price as a cue for quality” trope. If you’ve read anything about the psychology of shopping – and I actually have – you know that a desirable piece of merchandise priced higher than you might otherwise have expected gains a certain bonus cachet simply by virtue of the high price. "It’s expensive, so it must be good". How often this turns out to be untrue – and yet, how fantastic when it is true.

I’m talking of course about the $16.99 twelve-ounce bottle of MIKKELLER/BREWDOG “DEVINE REBEL” that I tried this week and was floored by. Take one outstanding itinerant Danish brewer (MIKKELLER), and pair them with an upstart Scottish brewer (BREWDOG), and put ‘em to work making an English-style barleywine. Release it in limited quantities, keep the information on the label vague, then price it high enough to make it super-desirable for beer dorks like Jay Hinman to spring for in a moment of weakness. Check, check and check. I walked out of the store feeling guilty and remorseful, consoling myself that it were bad or even mediocre, I could savage it on Hedonist Beer Jive as consolation.

DEVINE REBEL is the best beer I’ve had in 2010 (OMG!!!). It is a 12.5% bomb of a barleywine, and yet so smooth and perfect and flavorful that you might as well be drinking the proverbial liquid nirvana. Butterscotch, caramel and dried fruit mix with straight-up scotch, and the results are stu-friggin’-pendous. It’s full-bodied and just about completely uncarbonated. I’ve never had a BREWDOG beer before, so if you’ve got any recommendations for their stuff, lemme know. MIKKELLER, well so far I’ve only had their single-hop IPA series, because everything else I see of theirs is so off-the-charts expensive, but this is one time I’m glad I let the insidious marketing manipulators get to me. 9.5/10.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


In January 2009 I was presented with a cylindrical object, a “tube” you might call it, from a Canadian gentleman of my acquaintance. This fine fellow went out of his way to procure for me a bottle of ST-AMBROISE 20TH ANNIVERSARY VINTAGE ALE, 2009, a product of McAUSLAN BREWING from Quebec. I’d had their APRICOT WHEAT ALE (6.5/10) and their OATMEAL STOUT (6/10) – hmm, some very middling scores there – but this one, now this one was going to special. I was asked to “age” it, a concept very foreign to me. “Age” a beer instead of drink it right away with extreme prejudice? Por quoi? Well, I did as I was told, and tucked VINTAGE ALE 2009 into the dark recesses of my garage for a year. When the clock struck 12 and 2010 began, I brushed the dust off the never-completely-forgotten cyclinder, carefully unpacked the twelve-ounce bottle inside, and I commenced to drinking. This was going to be a very, very special evening.

…..Or was it? ST-AMBROISE 20TH ANNIVERSARY VINTAGE ALE 2009 is a reddish-brown strong ale, with somewhat-defined “notes”, you might say, of sugar, rum and dates. That said, these tastes are not defined nor bold enough to be particularly interesting. Malts rule the day here. In fact the word on the street for this one is that it’s actually an “English Barleywine”, which, given my Amero-centric barleywine biases, means that it’s probably a bit “watered down” compared to my imperial assumptions. That turns out to be the case here, though by no means is this a bad beer or even a less-than-good beer. It’s just not complex enough to be worth the grandiose packaging & the whole “aging” hoo-hah. 6.5/10.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


It’s another in a liquid parade of beer reviews here at the HBJ – thanks for keeping up. I hope we’re directing you toward your next set of drinks every week; if not, well, we’re just not doing our job. The next up is the seemingly unflashy IPA from MOYLAN’S BREWING. Now if you’ve been reading this site anytime in the past four years, you know we’ve tended to make a really big deal about HOPSICKLE, their “triple IPA”. It’s one of the all-time hopped-up greats, and currently resides at #6 on the Hedonist Beer Jive 75. These guys are also rocking a double IPA called the MOYLANDER, and then there’s the “single IPA” called – that’s right – MOYLAN’S IPA. I checked the blog archives recently and realized I’d never had it. Otherwise, we would have told you. Hence my purchase, and hence my ingestion of it Sunday evening.

This is the biggest, baddest “single IPA” I’ve had all year. MOYLAN’S IPA brings forth exceptionally strong hops, and they’re balanced in a fantastic citrus vs. pine blend. There’s a ton of sweet malts and a decidedly spicy aftertaste. It may “only” be clocking in at 6.5% alcohol, but there’s no doubt that any blind taste-tester would call this one a Double IPA for sure. It’s excellent. Now the leap from here to HOPSICKLE is a big one – Hopsickle is just insane with the hops – but not as much as you might think. They may be under the radar nationwide and even locally, but man, does MOYLAN’S make a fantastic set of IPAs. 8/10.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Every time I go to Las Vegas, which unfortunately is at least twice a year for work, I always get a hankering to visit the one and only true craft brewer I know about out there, TENAYA CREEK BREWERY. Trouble is, on an expense account it’s still difficult to justify a $30 cab fare each way “for dinner”, as this place is nowhere near The Strip (and good for them, because The Strip is maybe my least favorite place on earth). So I have to let their beer come to me. I’ve only tried one other drink from these guys before, TENAYA CREEK IMPERIAL STOUT, which I rated 7/10 two years ago. This time I was served up a glass of TENAYA CREEK 10TH ANNIVERSARY ALT; yep, the pride of Dusseldorf, transplanted to the Las Vegas Strip by a Nevada brewer. Let’s see what transpired.

10TH ANIVERSARY ALT is a clear copper altbier, very clean in its taste but still with a sharpness I didn’t recognize from my alt-drinking days in the altstadt in Dusseldorf, ahhhh, back in 2002. Some hoppiness and bittering to go with the faint caramel taste, and medium carbonation. You know what? There’s just not a lot of there there. It’s not an easy-drinker that you’d want to have a few of, nor is it “an event” the way some I’ll-only-try-it-once-in-my-life beers can be. I’m going to keep trying TENAYA CREEK beers as I come across them – just not this one. 5.5/10.

Saturday, January 09, 2010


While it’s fantastic that DOGFISH HEAD started distributing beer within California about a year ago, the lineup of ales that they allow into my state is only a subset of their overall lineup. We get the 60- and 90 Minute IPAs; the Festina Peche; the Midas Touch, Palo Santo Marron and the Aprihop, and maybe one other that I’m forgetting. No bombers, and none of the stuff I’ve been drooling about for years. So I’m in Las Vegas this week for work, and what do I see at Mandalay Bay’s excellent beer oasis BURGER BAR but a solid selection of draft & bottled DOGFISH HEAD specialties, many of which I’ve never had before? That’s what I decided to have them pull me first, starting with the INDIAN BROWN ALE. And yeah, those are my fries.

The shtick with this one – and with these guys, there’s always a shtick – is that INDIAN BROWN ALE is an IPA crossed with a traditional English brown ale. Hence the name!! And it truly does have the hoppiness of a very well-hopped IPA, no question about it. It’s a 7.2% ABV beer, and to me it tastes much like a strong ale loaded with hops a la ARROGANT BASTARD. A little jarring, actually. Medium carbonation, slight roasted flavor, and a “finish” that had me reconsidering my initial love for this one. Yeah, they had me at “hello” for sure but start losing me right before “goodbye”. Perhaps a little too bitter, but still an ale of class and distinction as you’d expect. 6.5/10.

Friday, January 08, 2010


Sure, I expected this to be a “dessert beer”, but perhaps I wasn’t prepared for the dessertiest dessert beer in dessertland. Man, SOUTHERN TIER’s “CRÈME BRULEE STOUT” is a sweet, creamy stout that tastes like a big fat cake – and OBTW (“oh by the way”), it’s really, really delicious. This was my New Year’s Eve beer, and came into my possession courtesy of Aaron over at The Vice Blog in our recent bomber-for-bomber exchange.

The first thing you’re looking for in a beer of this ilk is the whole, “well is it really gonna taste like crème brulee or just some sickeningly sweet beer”? I’m here to report that from the first fragrant whiff, which smells like vanilla and cream, you’re in for a pretty special glass or two of beer. It really invents a new category for itself: "Cake beer". It is balanced well and even feels a little liquor-like at times, but I don’t think the ABV is all that high. Wait, let’s check the internet and see. Shut my mouth – it’s 9.2%! CRÈME BRULEE STOUT pours with no head and is medium bodied, with very mild hops tingling in the distant background. Mine even had lots of sediment in it, just the way the Belgians do it. This was about perfect for kissing off the decade and I’m dang glad I drank one. I hope you get to as well. 8/10.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010


Anyone remember the late 80s hair metal documentary “The Decline of Western Civilization, Part 2: The Metal Years”? Then you probably recall a ridiculous band (among the many ridiculous bands) called ODIN, and the bubble-brained blonde who was interviewed about them (“I’d like to go into actressing”) and then led the meager crowd into a pre-show cheer of “Odin! Odin! Odin!”. Now let’s loop back to the post I’m writing for you right now about LA JOLLA BREW HOUSE’s excellent imperial red ale called…..wait for it…..ODIN.

I’ve said before, but I’ll say it again – the “imperial red” – aka a malty red/amber ale will a ridiculous load of hops – is one of my favorite styles of beer, period. I know it’s a brand-new style, but it is truly differentiable from the IPA or Double IPA by virtue of the rich, caramel maltiness that goes with the tongue-bruising hops. LA JOLLA ODIN, which I had on draft at the pub last week, is a dark reddish-brown, very carbonated ale. Yes, it is highly hopped, to the point of tingling bitterness (you know you love it). If these guys were going to start bottling their wares, this would be the one to go with, and which gives LAGUNITAS IMPERIAL RED a good run for its proverbial money. 8/10.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010


PÉCHÉ MORTEL is a well-loved coffee-infused stout from our pals at DIEU DU CIEL up Canada way, and it’s currently the #21 ranked beer in the world, according to the dorkosphere. I remember whinging about not being able to find a bottle of it a few months ago in another DIEU DE CIEL review of mine, and was reminded by a reader that it’s been available all over the US, including in my area, all along. I just saw right through it. Well, bought a bottle of it the other day to see what all the hubbub was about. Is it another imperial hype-mongerer, or is it a truly world-class beer? Let’s check.

First things first – it’s a full-on coffee beer, no doubt about it. That’s the predominant taste, so hopefully you’ve a java hound like I am. Think it was any accident that I took a picture of this beer next to our espresso machine? Well actually it was. PÉCHÉ MORTEL has a decidedly boozy smell, but I’m not really getting it in the taste – which is just the way I like it. It’s roasted, a little like burnt coffee and wood - and even a little spicy – yet it brings the alcohol and the coffee together really well. I’ll be honest, though – compared to some of the other inky-black, roasted/bitter stouts on the block these days, this one’s a bit of a trailer. I really enjoyed it, and may very well buy it again – but if I stack it against the PANNEPOT OLD FISHERMAN’S ALE I had last month, PÉCHÉ MORTEL takes a backseat. With an HBJ score of 7.5/10 though, there’s still lots to love.

Monday, January 04, 2010


It was a banner weekend on the beer front this past 4-day stretch. I purchased my first beer fridge, guaranteed to make my electrical bill go up by a good 25%, all for the lofty and very worthwhile goal of fresh, unspoiled beer. I then filled that fridge on a mother-of-all-beer-runs citywide trip to HEALTHY SPIRITS, CITY BEER and BEVMO. Finally, I ran over 20 miles in a single week (over 3 individual days, no less), thereby earning the right to continue this bad, filthy, vice-filled craft beer addiction. With that in mind, here are 7 resolutions for 2010, all formulated during the last of those three runs:

1. Let exercise beget drink, and drink beget exercise. In my world, these two passions are highly correlated. Beer is the reward for my running regimen, and running is, at times, the penance for my beer regimen. Otherwise I let my 42-year-old creaking carcass fall into a shambles & I move into the “sweatpants stage” of middle age. I’m just not ready yet.

2. Ingratiate myself more into the craft beer world without becoming a self-serving, suck-up toadie. This simply means that I’d like to be a little more social and a little less hermetic. Having met other folks over the years who enjoy this great beverage in the same manner that I do, I’ve found that some of them are actually OK, including brewers, journalists and beer shop operators. I’d like to find ways to break bread with more of them, without becoming a namedropping, star-chasing, ass-kissing cretin.

3. Try a gueze for the first time. Yes, you read that correctly. I’m well overdue to try this style of ale. By 2011, I shall have ingested one or several.

4. Conduct more interviews on Hedonist Beer Jive. Who wants to read about me and my drinking habits all the time? I’ve enjoyed the interviews I’ve posted here over the years, but in ’09 we only did one. I promise to do better this year.

5. Never, ever make beer puns like “good for what ales you”, “Hoppy Holidays”, etc. Folks, beer is not funny. You are not funny when you conduct in this type of reprehensible behavior. Let’s only reserve this type of wankery for truly hilarious blog post headlines such as “There Will Be Monk’s Blood”. Now THAT – that is funny.

6. Drink more of the obscure Belgians, at the expense of the falsely hyped American micros. I’m going to slow down my chasing of overly- and often inaccurately-hyped American beers and try and get to all those Belgian ales I’ve never had before. Seems like I’m always happier when I’ve got a bunch of complex tripels, dubbels and Abbey ales in the fridge. I plan to have more of them, from smaller breweries from the darkest wilds of Belgium, in 2010.

7. Drink beer from Surly Brewing and New Glarus Brewing. Now all I need is a Minnesota/Wisconsin-based beer trading partner. I’ve got some Anchor Steam to trade ya!

Friday, January 01, 2010


I've got a backlog of beer stories to share with you, so let's go all the way back to early December 2009. Dateline: December 2009. Location: New York City. Hedonist Beer Jive is on a business trip. We've, in the preceeding 48 hours, been to both the RATTLE-N-HUM and GINGER MAN bars in Midtown Manhattan and imbibed fantastic ales. Now we've finished all work-related activities, which concluded in Times Square around 3pm. We know that the secret H&H Bagels store is walking distance away, and needing to bring something special home to the family the next day, proceed in that direction. Having done our homework, we also know that Manhattan craft beer hotspot THE PONY BAR in only blocks away, so, with a spring in our step, start walking just a little faster.

Stepping into The Pony Bar for a celebratory post-work, post-bagel procurement beer, we find that SMUTTYNOSE WINTER ALE is on draft, along with about 29 other good-lookin' beers. But at 4.8% alcohol, this WINTER ALE seems about the ticket for an afternoon beer. After all - it ain't 5pm yet, right? What a great call this one was. This has a really intense "winter warmer" flavor, totally fresh and well carbonated. Mellow, I'd say, with the slight taste of cola. Truly like a winter dubbel if there was such a thing. Easily the best "basic" holiday ale I had this season - as opposed to the high-ABV homewreckers I'm usually throwing down. Delicious - a definite and indisputable 8/10. Oh, and I really dug this bar as well - clean, homey, and just out of the way enough I'd imagine that amateurs likely shy away. As a great man once said, "I'll be back".

The second half of this SMUTTYNOSE BREWING story isn't quite as fabulous. Flash-forward three hours. We're in Brooklyn getting dinner at an excellent, but totally empty, Italian place called PT. I order up a SMUTTYNOSE IPA - seems like all restaurants in NYC these days have good beer available with your grub. I immediately wished I'd ordered something else or refrained from beer entirely. Sharp, highly hopped, piney and just a little "off" - this is like a "microbrew" IPA from ten years ago, before the form started being perfected in this country. Honestly, I've come to expect really good things from Smuttynose, but their IPA ain't one of them. 4.5/10. More spine-tingling beer tales to come in this new year.