Tuesday, February 02, 2010


I made my way back into the physical confines of the 21ST AMENDMENT PUB & BREWERY in San Francisco the other evening for a couple of fresh ales. A lot has gone down since I swung by here before a Giants game last year. 21A’s got three kinds of canned beer in supermarkets and liquor stores across the land now – Hell or High Watermelon Wheat (one of their lesser beers); Brew Free or Die IPA (another lesser beer); and the outstanding MONK’S BLOOD, which we wrote about here. They’ve also been cooking up a batch of Belgian-style ales for their annual “strong beer month”, which goes down every February and which I missed by a couple of days. My rule of thumb with this brewer is that when you go “off menu” – i.e. to their specialty or seasonal beers and more dorkified creations – that’s where the real treasure lives.

I tried to do just that the other night during a wide-ranging discussion with a compatriot about school choice, free will and the Berkeley Unified School District’s organic gardening program. This line of conversation called for the strongest beers on the menu, so I grabbed a HOLIDAY SPICED ALE to get things going. Way back in 2006 this Christmas beer really blew me away, but the 2009 version is leaving something on the table before it hits the glass. Really spicy – they’ve not lost a beat there – but a little thin and just slightly “off”, as we like to say when things aren’t quite coming together the way we like them. A lot of winter beers seem to lack for imagination so these guys get points for trying to go way big with theirs. Let’s call it a 6/10.

Then there was this Belgian-style golden ale called GOLDEN DOOM. Good name, and really good beer. It’s pictured here. It’s a thick, orange-colored sweet ale, with just a TON of yeast collecting in the back of the throat. Yow. I think they may have thrown in a little butterscotch to keep the pundits guessing. A well-done take on an underappreciated (by me) style. 7.5/10. Onward to “strong beer month”!

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