Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Stepping outside of the beer “scene” again, it’s time once again for Hedonist Beer Jive’s baseball predictions. Why, what goes better with a 22-ounce bomber of Belgian strong dark ale than America’s pastime? I intend to watch many innings of my beloved San Francisco Giants in 2010 in the company of many beers to be reviewed on this site. Therefore, it’s important that you know how I’m heading into the season – my hopes, my dreams, my predictions……yeah. Last year we told you that the St. Louis Cardinals – a team no one was picking - were going to be really good; they ended up running away with their division. The year before that, we picked the Tampa Bay Rays to grab the wild card; they one-upped me, and everyone else, and went to the World Series. Then again, I picked both the New York Mets and the Arizona Diamondbacks to win their divisions last year, and both totally stunk up baseball for the whole of 2009. It led to a new rule around here: Never, Ever, Trust the Diamondbacks And Their “Young Talent”. Smoke and mirrors, man, smoke and mirrors.

Here’s the deal: I watch a ton of San Francisco Giants baseball, and I think all the good-pitch/no-hit stuff about them is overwrought and overstated. The Giants will finally win the NL West this year, on the backs of amazing pitching (breakout year for Matt Cain coming) and surprising hitting rebounds from multiple players and a rookie or two. My Giants won’t be able to hack it in the playoffs vs. the superior Braves, Phillies or Cardinals, but I’ll take a division this year and maybe a World Series in 2011. Unfortunately the New York Yankees are unstoppable, and will beat my sleeper pick the Atlanta Braves in the World Series this year. I prefer it not to be so, but at least it’s not the Dodgers, right?

MLB play starts this Sunday. Start your craft beer shopping early.

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

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

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

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

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

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

NL = Philadelphia over San Francisco
NL = Atlanta over St. Louis
NL Championship = Atlanta over Philadelphia

AL = New York over Los Angeles
AL = Boston over Minnesota
AL Championship = New York over Boston

World Series = New York over Atlanta

Monday, March 29, 2010


So my pal “Pete” comes all the way to Barcelona last month bearing a can of NEUSTADT SCOTTISH ALE, from NEUSTADT SPRINGS BREWERY in Neustadt, Ontario, Canada. We were meeting for business there, and sometimes we execute beer trades upon doing so, though I incorrectly and rudely assumed trades were off this time. This particular tall boy can flew from Canada, to Spain, to the United States, and finally flew down my throat this past weekend. Peet once brought me a can of the excellent brown ale NEUSTADT 10W30 back in 2008; I scored it a fetching 8/10 and wrote about it here. Could the magic repeat itself over three countries and two years? Could it? Let’s find out.

NEUSTADT SPRINGS BREWERY are very concentrated in their brewing. It appears they only make four beers for sale, all generally fairly low in alcohol and harkening to fairly traditional styles. No imperial Russian black IPAs for these fellas, no sir. NEUSTADT SCOTTISH ALE is a deliciously rich scotch ale, full of malty flavor and tasting of heather n’ rye. Nah, actually it just tastes like a classic clean Scotch ale. It pours quite light for the style, and is about 4.5% ABV. A little bit nutty, a little bit of sweetness, and a whole lot of malty richness. I think these guys get it. They’re a big two-fer-two for in my book. 7.5/10.

Friday, March 26, 2010


Those big bottles from THE BRUERY, the upstart, new kid pride of Orange County, keep showing up all over California, and for some reason I haven’t been paying them quite the respect that I should be. Strange, because their SAISON RUE and ORCHARD WHITE beers are among my favorites anywhere. BRUERY beers are generally not cheap, and yet why should they be? These guys are envelope-pushers, and they do Belgian-style ales like few others. I think I’m going to have to vault them into the top tier of my personal pantheon after this latest creation, though. Whoa. It’s called MISCHIEF, and it’s a “golden, hoppy Belgian ale”. Is it ever. It’s also the “beer of the year” around my house so far, 2010’s first totally perfect quaff.

Since I now drink my ales with an eye half-cocked toward its place on the scale – sure, it’s pathetic, but it’s a natural outgrowth of rating beers to begin with – I always anticipate that first big gulp. I’ve tasted enough over the years to know in that first one whether I’m going to love it or just tolerate it. There are exceptions, of course – last week’s NEW GLARUS CHERRY STOUT was a huge deviation from the rule. Yet THE BRUERY’s “MISCHIEF” was a winner from the first millisecond it hit my tongue. I adore this beer. I think I wanna marry it. Is it a Belgian IPA? Sure, whatever. It has a slight lemony tartness and a really thick mouthfeel. The hops, the yeasts, the ingredients in general just totally coat the tongue. I also got a little bit of sweet pear and that pepper/spice characteristic you see in some saisons. It hits only notes of perfection. It even looks amazing. I also just learned THE BRUERY has made it a year-round brew. Huzzah! 10/10!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


THE BEER ROVER had it, and said it was the best beer of 2009. THE VICE BLOG had it, and gave it an A+, which I believe is the highest honorific one can bestow upon a beer. It made sense that HBJ was going to have to have it soon as well, but only if someone brought me one from San Diego or I found my way down there. As it turned out, Craig & Beth from San Francisco’s CITY BEER STORE brought me one – well not me exactly, but they brought several cases of ALPINE BEER COMPANY beers to their store and then sent out the “beer alert”. I foolishly wasted 48 hours before responding to the alert, and by then, all the bottles of ALPINE EXPONENTIAL HOPPINESS were gone, and all that was left was the “mehPURE HOPPINESS that I’ve had a couple of times, and the lighter-only-in-relative-scale IPAs DUET and NELSON. Oh, and a bunch of other non-IPAs from Alpine Beer Company as well that we skipped this go-round.

The beer in question in our discussion today is ALPINE NELSON, the one that prodded the aforementioned gentlemen to bust a proverbial nut. Let it be said that this outstanding IPA busted my nut as well. This is a 7% or so ABV India Pale Ale that’s based around the Nelson Sauvin hop from New Zealand, and that also serves up some “European rye” in the mix (and which I admittedly did not pick up on whilst drinking it). NELSON is nearly opaque, thinner than most bombshell IPAs. The major fruits are all out in force on this one: oranges, tangerines and grapefruits all combine into a sweet/tart/delicious mix that adds up to a flat-out amazing taste. Bitterness is certainly there, but it’s no scorched-tongue hop beast by any means. Simply put, it’s the best beer by ALPINE BEER COMPANY I’ve had by a mile, and it’ll register in the upper half of the Hedonist Beer Jive 75 for sure once we update it. 9.5/10.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Last year I very gladly sat on the sidelines when the documentary “BEER WARS” was released in a somewhat bold one-day-only-in-theaters marketing ploy. It got the beer blogosphere, such that it is, yakkin’ and shuckin’ and jivin’ all of out proportion with the film’s actual importance because finally someone, someone was paying attention to their beloved naval-gazing hobby. I figured I already had a pretty good sense of who the “bad guys” were; in fact, I don’t think the corporations behind boring tasteless lagers are bad guys at all. I’m completely uninterested in their product, and to that end, I’m about as interested in their machinations as I am those of the Snapple Corporation or the people who make Fiji Water. Which is to say – not very.

Yet I had hours to kill on a long flight to Europe, and I wanted to load up my laptop with some documentaries. “BEER WARS” was on iTunes for a can’t-be-beat rental price of $1.99, so I figured hey, I’m “reporting this beat”, I might as well see what the hubbub was all about. And there was indeed a hubbub – I remember paragraphs of dissent being spilled from the bellies of boors, young men dismayed with filmmaker Anat Baron’s lack of focus on their craft beer heroes (what about Stone?? Where was Vinnie??!?), or on her personal involvement in managing something called “Mike’s Hard Lemonade”, which she passed off as being relevant beer industry experience. The film was nitpicked to death in blog posts that I skimmed, not altogether unfairly in some cases. While well-edited and entertaining, how you approach “BEER WARS” should probably depends less on what sort of beer you like to drink and more on how you view the parasitic relationship between big business and big government. Perhaps I’m showing my hand by the use of word “parasitic”, no?

See, Anheuser Busch, InBev, MillerCoors and the others are doing what you’d do if you had archaic laws and government toadies protecting you. They’re not evil, per se – the lack of government-ensured healthy competition is evil, and even that is overplayed as craft beer continues to make incredible inroads into the big brewers’ market share the last few years, despite obstacles. Taste, quality, freshness, and experimental ingredients are starting to win over American palates, and even the post-prohibition three-tier distribution system that Baron and others rightly decry is not keeping great beer from changing minds, one person at a time. It’s why there are winners like Sam Calagione from DOGFISH HEAD, who makes wonderful beer and is thriving because of it, and losers like the film’s other “little guy/gal” foil, Rhonda Kallman. Kallman made a caffeinated beer called MOONSHOT that no one was buying, and no matter how hard Baron tried to tug on my heartstrings for this poor ‘lil upstart businesswoman, fightin’ against the big bad corporations with her pluck and heart of gold, I wasn’t moved, and was annoyed by the film’s insistence that I should be.

Baron’s film’s flaw is that she tries to “Roger and Me” the CEOs of the big beermakers, but only in the name of telling a stupid-simple story of Big Beer Bad/Little Beer Good. No, “big beer” doesn’t have to be bad (nor "little beer" good), and the palate-changing revolution is being led from below, which is a story she only partly tells while trying to bash corporations, what with their “greed and thirst for power”. No, like Google and Apple and Southwest Airlines, they’ve got a bottom line to focus on, which means giving the people what they want or think they want. To the extent that craft brewers can re-shape that perception – and they obviously are – it’s a wonderful thing for us lovers of quality. Salvation in the form of a completely disrupted business model is coming at the big brewers directly from the people like a slow-moving sledgehammer, just as it came at the music industry, the travel industry and the newspaper industry. That’s the David vs. Goliath story that I think “BEER WARS” initially wanted to tell, but it got derailed enough on cheap sentimentality and ham-handed populism to end up being something I’d not recommend you spend the 90 required minutes watching.

Monday, March 22, 2010


Well, not “homage” exactly, but this Catalonian beer traveled with me all the way from Barcelona a few weeks ago, and I’m determined to try to find some love for it. MASIA AGULLONS floored me with a beer of theirs I had several times at LA CERVETECA in Barcelona called RUNA ALE; my pithy purple prose about it is proffered here. Based on that experience, I bought a bottle of their PURA PALE to take home with me, and on an otherwise uneventful Thursday night last week, I busted it open. PURA PALE’s a litte “raw”, just full of sediment and with a slightly skunky taste. Yet it’s not skunky like something that went bad, but rather like an off-beat take on the artisanal English pale ale.

You guys know that HEMP ALE from HUMBOLDT BREWS? I actually like that beer, even if few others do – well, this is sorta like that one in its uniqueness. Deep and rich, and colored slightly brownish-yellow, PURA PALE seems almost totally devoid of hops, and instead has substituted a weird mélange of fruit, malts and baked vegetables or something. It’s still very drinkable, but nowhere near the smokin’ greatness of RUNA ALE. Get that one if you’re heading to Catalonia anytime soon, and maybe give this one a sniff only if you see it on draft. 6/10.

Friday, March 19, 2010


Here’s a trend I’d like to applaud. Some pioneering, top-tier brewers have begun to notice that the common man has been effectively frozen out of purchasing their rarified ales due to price considerations, and they have therefore have rectified matters by introducing smaller, pint-sized versions of their large bottles at a slightly more approachable price. Ounce for ounce, it may not be as good of a deal, yet I happily bought this 375ml bottle for a mere $16.99, as opposed to the $30+ that the 750ml bottle typically goes for. Just noticed RUSSIAN RIVER’s also got a 375ml corked-n-caged version of their world-beating DAMNATION out there these days as well. Good for them both. These beers both deserve sampling by a greater subset of societies’ many stratas. I hadn’t had an ANGEL’S SHARE in several years, and I was beginning to think it was going to stay that way.

LOST ABBEY, as you may know, are among the greats. Just last month we tasted their FRAMBOISE DE AMOROSA, and it’s another one they’ve knocked out of PetCo Park. Did I suspect THE ANGEL’S SHARE 2009 was going to be amazing? Of course I did. And so it was. This bourbon-barrel aged monster has a deep, rich toffee taste that grabs your taste buds and keeps them singing. There’s no head on this one, nada. Just silent, still and intense-looking. You absolutely get alcohol in both smell and taste, another reason why I’m glad I got the small bottle of this 12% beast. Well, “monster” and “beast” – that’s just dumb hyperbole. It’s simply a wonderful big beer, with a smooth mouthfeel, and cocoa, raisins and toffee notes that are ever-present and definitive. Of course, there’s an undercurrent of woodiness/oak as well. Loved it, and again, I applaud the packaging decision made by the Lost Abbey marketing department. 9/10.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Aaron from The Captain’s Chair blog proved to be a perfect gentleman whose mama done raised him right when he sent me replacement bottles of NEW GLARUS beers that broke in transit during our recent beer trade. Not only that, he threw in a bonus beer for my troubles. Now that’s a Great American. The bonus was this NEW GLARUS “CHERRY STOUT” – part of their “Unplugged” series where the brewer just goes off the hizzle and does whatever it is he wants, ye publick be damned. I love that sort of thing, and it’s why I was pretty excited to give this one a go.

But wait. Alack! My first impressions of this were just awful. An initial assault of cherry cough drop intensity – yes, cough drop, not real cherries. It even had that medicinal numbing feeling you get what you’re sucking on a Luden’s cherry cough drop, which is the goal when you’re trying to get over a sore throat, but not when you’re tipping back a craft beer for liquid enjoyment. I couldn’t taste any roasting, nothing stout-like at all nor any evidence of the professed “oak aging”– nothing. Then something happened. Room-temperature warmth started creeping into the beer, and lo and behold, that harsh flavor settled into something that was actually enjoyable. The roast started peeking through, as did some alcohol sweetness, molasses and even some hops. The overall body of the beer is thin, but I daresay I was flat-out bummed when I drained the last sips. Seriously, this is the most abrupt mid-beer mind shift I’ve ever experienced. I went from something close to disgust into something closer to worship. Now how did they do that? Recommended if you want to take a similar ride. 7/10.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


You know how some of you drinkers are always going on about having to “clear the stash”; i.e. cleaning out your overloaded beer fridges, cabinets etc. with blowout tasting sessions? I myself have been to a couple of these stash-clearing parties, and depending on the host’s level of beer dorkitude, they can be the best ticket in town and a truly blessed event (I’m thinking of you, Brian Yaeger). Me, I’ve got a different problem. I’m still the guy who tries to drink a new-to-me beer just about every time I pick up a glass. Maybe 3 out of every 4 beers I drink is something I’ve never had before, which keeps it fun and invigorating. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a particularly heavy drinker per se, but I drink enough new ones that I don’t have enough time to review & document them all for you here in the proper manner. And not that you’d really want me to, right?

So let’s try something new to “clear the cache” of beer reviews tapped into my phone. I’ve never written haiku before, I don’t think, but seeing as I just had sushi the last two nights, I’m in a Japanese frame of mind. I really think so. Here are a few beers I’ve tried over the past month that we just haven’t gotten to reviewing here on the HBJ:

ABBAYE DES ROCS BRUNE (pictured here)

Oh, English brown ale/ Not Tripel Imperiale / Where’s the alcohol?


One superb tripel / This isn’t La Fin Du Monde? / Yankees can’t get this


On draft in Spain bar / Made in Belgium, the dude said / I didn’t like it

CASCADE BREWING “APRICOT” (pictured to your right)

Fruity and tart, no head / Tartness lingers on mouth roof / Very good, not stellar


Dark ale – but wait / Who snuck lager in my house / No taste here at all

So I can’t write a haiku to save my life, it’s obvious – but I cleared five beers outta the cache and gave you a concise consumer guide to boot. What’s not to love.

Monday, March 15, 2010


Chicago’s GOOSE ISLAND BREWING made a series of complex Belgian ales in simple packages this past year or two, and dubbed them all with fancy European names like JULIET, MATILDA, PERE JACQUES and this one we’ll be discussing today, SOFIE. This beer looks and tastes like a tripel, and bursts out of the bottle in a total explosion of foam, as you shall observe here. I got tired of waiting for it to calm down, so I snapped my picture, sat down for dinner, then came back to collect the beer five minutes later.

GOOSE ISLAND SOFIE actually isn’t a tripel, though. It’s an oak-aged saison with a lot of the characteristics of the tripel. There’s a pronounced taste of orange peel, along with lemon. SOFIE clocks in at a relatively approachable 6.5% ABV. It’s a zesty, yeasty sort of ale, with slightly more bitterness than I was counting on. Aged in oak, as I said, and that woody, earthy taste is present as well. Wow – “woody”, “earthy”, “bitter”, “zesty”, “yeasty” – I think we just blew all our Belgian adjectives on one single beer. It’s a complex craft beer for sure, but fell a little wide of the mark for me, as did PERE JACQUES and MATILDA (JULIET has yet to make herself known to me). 6/10.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


It was to be a night like any other night – or so I’d thought. Just an average Monday night out, sucking down a couple beers with a bro – or so I’d thought. Nay, I stumbled upon GRAND TETON BREWING pint night at Barclay’s in Oakland this past Monday, an unadvertised, barely-promoted event where “punters” could sample a range of GRAND TETON beers and even cart home their own souvenir pint glass. I’m serious!! So throwing caution to the wind, I cancelled everything; called my wife and told her not to expect me until daylight, called in sick for the next two days, and went to town with the help of my #1 favorite brewer from the great state of Idaho. Here’s what I tried:

Oh wait a minute – let me tell you why my plans changed and I drank only GRAND TETON beers on this epic night. Just a few weeks ago I thoughtlessly threw a 12-ounce bottle of their BLACK CAULDRON imperial stout into my cart, and then drank it a couple nights later to “get it out of the way”. I loved it – an awesome, fantastic, big bad aggressive imperial stout. So naturally, I’m curious about this brewer. OK, back to the recap. Here’s what I tried:

PURSUIT OF HOPPINESS – Of course, they lose a half point on our ratings scale for the bad pun in naming the beer. But other than that, this imperial red ale was excellent. Smooth but biting, with maltiness not being laid on too thick, and really tingling and delicious. I didn’t see if it was bottled but if it is I’m going to grab me some. 8/10.

LOST CONTINENT OAK-AGED DOUBLE IPA – An understated oak-aged IPA, at least compared with the Southern Tier Unearthly I wrote about earlier in the week. It might be a notch down from that one, but it’s still really, really good. At this point, three beers overall into my exploration of Grand Teton Brewing, I decided that these guys are major alemaking heavyweights. 7.5/10.

SHEEP EATER SCOTCH ALE – ….And this one totally confirmed it. Our waitress told us this was “weird” and that we might not like it. I told her that she was weird, and that she’d better bring me one of these scotch ales, chop friggin’ chop. This beer is decidedly not weird. It’s a dark, roasted, deep and mysterious scotch ale, close to black in color and really rich and full bodied. If I didn’t have a set of car keys in my pocket and a home with a warm bed to get to (I lied above, of course), this would have been served to me in a much bigger glass than the one you see here – and then another after that to boot. 8/10.

Friday, March 12, 2010


Not sure where things fell down on this one, but the gap between my review-stoked expectations of AVERY BREWING’s latest IPA “DuganA” and my pleasure with actually drinking it was far wider than I’d expected. Now granted, I’m not much of an AVERY MAJARAJA fan either. But just about everything else they make is stellar, and the advance word that this was a supreme IPA fit for the kings. And while I didn’t really dig it, it’s not a bad beer at all. Let’s see if we can figure this one out together.

AVERY DUGANA (I think I’ll start calling it that, Doo-GAHN-ah, just to be annoying) pours a lovely orange/copper color, just like you knew it would. It’s strong and piney like a particular strain of the IPA family should be. So you’re happy, right? Wrong. It’s not “juicy” by any means – in fact, I’d daresay it’s a DRY, almost chalky IPA. Say what? Wait a minute, it even tastes a little bit like aspirin. Yeah, aspirin – a “kiss of death” word for beer. That said, I can still see the appeal here, because it’s got some interesting balance and deep, rich IPA flavor going on. But compared to what I was hoping for? Not so much. 6/10.

Monday, March 08, 2010


This is the first bomber I opened from my recent acquisition of East Coast beers from MM, the fella that more or less turned me onto SOUTHERN TIER BREWING and their incredible line-up of intense & wonderful beers a couple years ago. Now they’re one of my top 5 favorite brewers in the world, and the creators of the finest India Pale Ale to ever pass my lips, GEMINI. Now you may know that ½ of GEMINI is made up of another outstanding Double IPA from the Southern Tier family – UNEARTHLY. We reviewed that one right here. Now there’s an OAK-AGED UNEARTHLY. You know it’s totally gonna rule. And yes, it totally does.

SOUTHERN TIER OAK-AGED UNEARTHLY is truly all about the oakiness. You smell it, you taste the wood, and it lingers on the top of your mouth for a few heartbeats past the swallow. A very crisp beer, OAK-AGED UNEARTHLY brings forward the piney hops, and layers in a sweet undercurrent and a thin-to-medium body. If the sweetness is coming from the 11% alcohol, I can’t tell, but it would stand to reason. Again, it’s more oaky than it is hoppy, and really “renders” like a finely aged beer. Didn’t think you could do it this well with an IPA. I don’t know what else to say, folks. When you’re on a winning streak this hot the way SOUTHERN TIER are, why would you even listen to a piker like myself? Another flat-out superb beer from one of our nation’s best. 9/10.

Friday, March 05, 2010


Last September I finally had my first beer from famed Dutch Trappist brewer LA TRAPPE, who market their beers in the US under the KONINGSHOEVEN brand. It was their QUADRUPEL, and you may recall that I thought it was “shockingly bad”. A huge surprise, too, because people the world over seem to love this one. It also generated some of my favorite comments on this blog, including this one from Niklas: “You've lost your damn mind, son. Recalibrate your palate and try again. Disgraceful.”. So the other night, my first night in Barcelona on my trip a couple weeks ago, I took Niklas’ advice and recalibrated my palate. Then I ordered a LA TRAPPE BLONDE, this time under the native La Trappe branding. Now granted, I had this right after a CHIMAY BLUE in a beautiful Belgian chalice, and man o man is that a great beer. I think the ubiquity of CHIMAY Red, White (“Cinq Cents”) and Blue keeps me from drinking it except when it’s the best choice on a restaurant menu, but that BLUE is something special.

Anyway, I’ve definitely got a beef with LA TRAPPE/KONINGSHOEVEN after my second sub-par beer from them. I mean, really folks – this stuff’s just weak. LA TRAPPE BLONDE is thin, bland and almost like a lager, and it has this cloying perfumed smell that also shows up in the taste. Some yeastiness is present, way way back in the distance, placed there as an afterthought. It might quench one’s thirst, yet there are a lot of ways to do that, starting with water, which is the superior drink in my book. It’s so far removed from the masterworks of the other Trappist brewers – ROCHEFORT, ORVAL, WESTMALLE, WESTVLETEREN etc. – that it’s truly in a remedial class by itself. 4.5/10.

Thursday, March 04, 2010


NAPA SMITH BREWING are upstart entrants hailing from Northern California’s wine country, a total family brewery (The Smiths!) who employ a longtime veteran named Don Barkley as their head brewmaster. They’re starting to catch on with the hoi polloi here in the Bay Area, and I remember reading a review of their BONFIRE IMPERIAL STOUT on a blog (Brewed For Thought, probably?) that made me rush out and buy one. It’s still in the fridge, awaiting the proper imperial stout star alignment. My only other experience with them was tasting their IPA on draft a few months back, and I scored that one a 7/10, which you best believe is better than yr average beer.

Draft is also how I encountered NAPA SMITH AMBER a few weeks ago as well, this time at the SF Ferry Plaza Building’s burger restaurant Taylor’s Refresher (which has its roots in the Napa Valley, and which sells this beer in their St. Helena location as well – I know ‘cause I saw it there). This is a really classic and slightly left-of-center amber ale. No, it’s not an imperial. It’s a tingling, somewhat bitter red ale, quite sweet as times and full of robust, mouth-filling malts that add a lot of character. It tasted absolutely like I want one of these to taste, “very 1990s”. Back in the 90s, the amber beer was my go-to style; I didn’t know about Belgian beer yet. Every microbrewery (that’s what we called them, kids!) has one, along with a wheat beer, a pale ale and a pilsner. This harkens back to that time, and adds that curveball hoppiness and bitterness that’s more a hallmark of the past decade. Nice. 7.5/10.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


Friend of Hedonist Beer Jive “MP” graciously donated several Canadian ales to our cause during his recent business trip to San Francisco. While we never actually met, this fine representative of his gold-medal winning hockey powerhouse of a country actually dropped off several beers at the front desk of his hotel for me; all I had to do was pick them up and then commit to drinking them. Done and done. There are little craft breweries spread across Canada; my recent visits to Toronto confirm that you can even run a world-class beer bar serving nothing but great Canadian artisanal beer. I recently completed the second part of my commitment to MP and drank the beer he so kindly provided me – here’s a report on two of them.

SCOTCH IRISH CORPORAL’S BITTER BROWN ALE – This Ontario brewer allow you to make no mistake about their heritage, and they reflect it well. This make a classic copper/brown ale (I’ll bet they love how Beer Advocate categorizes it as an “American brown ale”), very close in flavor profile to an ESB, with a light caramel taste and mild but noticeable hopping. The caramel is akin to those light tan-colored ones, not the rich and intense sugar bombs so popular with candy makers these days. This beer is bitter for sure, also a bit nutty and buttery. At 4.3% alcohol, it’s probably the easiest-drinking beer we’ve had in a long, long time. Please note that I enjoyed this in my rarely-used “Dusseldorf stein”, pictured above. It’s a high-quality beer that I’d definitely like to grab on tap at some point in life. 7/10.

GREAT LAKES DEVIL’S PALE ALE – Yeah, I was hoping this one would be devilish, too, what with the big “666” on the can, but – no. It’s a metallic English pale ale, totally thin and bland, all malts and bitterness and almost completely lacking in flavor. It pours dark, so that’s something. Sorry, MP, but I can’t condone this sort of alemaking, even if you guys are better in hockey and all that. 4/10.

More Canadian beer chicanery to come!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010


If that title’s a little off-putting, check this out and you’ll see why I had to appropriate it. So here we are. SURLY DARKNESS. The 18th finest beer in the land. You know, every time we drink one of these over-hyped beers I’m in total anticipation at the first sip. Is this going to be an OMG OMG OMG mother of all beers, a la BROOKLYN BLACK OPS or THE ABYSS? Or will it give me a much-needed chance to post a jaded, curmudgeonly review about overhyped beers, a la PLINY THE YOUNGER or DREADNAUGHT IPA? That’s just one dimension of the anticipation, my friends. Then there’s – oh yeah right – the taste & enjoyment of the beer itself. Who could forget about that part of the experience? Let’s get to it, shall we?

SURLY BREWING came to my attention thanks to their punk-rock vibe & brewers all ratted out in tattoos, along with a lot of early excitement about the beer itself. Radical. Aaron from The Captain’s Chair was kind enough to send me SURLY FURIOUS, which totally knocked me for a loop, and the big boy, SURLY DARKNESS. Darkness doesn’t pull any punches, even out of the gate, featuring a member of recently-reunited garage punk band The Mummies on the bottle itself. It pours jet black with a beautiful head of coffee foam, and smells of barely-filtered coffee, some earthiness, and alcohol. 10.3% of this is alcohol, so that adds up. Then you get into it, and like a lot of these intense imperial stouts, it’s roasted, bitter chocolate and hops all the way.

Only a few sips in and I realized that despite the ingenuity that went into this one & the large, aggressive roastiness (which I often love), its filmy texture and chalky mélange of flavors would prevent it from being one of the greats. I drank the whole thing, looking for things that I'd love, and only found things that I liked. Say you removed any limited-edition, once-a-year whatsis, and conveniently forgot that people stand in long, freezing lines to buy this beer, and instead got a nice 10-ounce pour in a fancy-pants glass? You’d say, “thanks, that was real nice, now how about a different beer – maybe a blueberry pale ale or a goddamn ice water with lemon?”. I’m totally glad I tried this, I’m a better and more complete man for it, but I can’t in all due justice go with anything greater than a 6.5/10.

Monday, March 01, 2010


You guys are probably pretty technically sophisticated, right? So I don’t need to tell you that there are other ways to get your Hedonist Beer Jive ranting-n-raving delivered to you besides clicking on a bookmarked link every day or two. Or Googling “Hedonist Beer” every time you remember that we exist, and that you haven’t come to visit in a while. Here are a few ways to “enhance” your HBJ experience:

1. Follow us on Twitter. Or more specifically, follow me. I try to post a "chirpy" (I think that’s what they’re called) every time I write something here. I’m @jayhinman.

2. Add Hedonist Beer Jive into Google Reader. Google Reader, if you don’t use it, is an amazing way to stay on top of the many stellar blogs out there. Just cut this link – http://hedonistbeerjive.blogspot.com – and paste it into the “Add a Subscription” field in Reader. Then every new post will be there for you to marvel at, aggregated with all the other stuff you’re interested in. Easier that that – click on the “Subsscribe to HBJ” link you see on the right comlumn here, and just add it that way. You can even make it a box on My Yahoo, if that’s something you use. (Me, I set up a My Yahoo page in 1997 or something, and I’m too lazy to make the switch away from it).

3. Got an iPhone? Get Byline. BYLINE simply takes your Google Reader feed and displays it beautifully on the iPhone. I think it’s the application I use more than any other in the iPhone. It’s a couple bucks, but come on – you’re worth it.

Just a few ideas, you don’t have to take ‘em or anything, but we’d like to crack 200 average daily readers in 2010 (we’re still holding strong at about 130 a day) and maybe these tech tweaks will help make it happen.


In the US, BRASSERIE DUPONT means saisons. Amazing, delicious saison-style ales from Belgium – yeasty, complex and refreshing. There’s SAISON DUPONT, DUPONT AVRIL, FORET, and several others. They’re all fantastic, seriously; to a beer, these are wonderful ales that I could drink anytime and anywhere. It took my trip to Spain a couple weeks ago to taste something of theirs that was dark and different, and when I ordered it, I didn’t even know it was a DUPONT thing. I found a big bottle of LA BIERE DE BELOEIL in the beer fridge at LA CERVATECA in Barcelona, and my pal AS and I split it with relish.

As I gingerly poked, uh, “tasting notes” into my iPhone, I saw that LA BIERE DE BELOEIL has some foreign gobbledygook on the bottle that said “Dupont a Tourpes”. You mean those Saison Dupont fellas? Well now how about that? To me, this is a classic Belgian dubbel, ripe and strong with the taste of dates and figs, with a thin body, strong aroma, and a sharp bit of zinging spiciness that’s rock solid. Over at Beer Advocate they’re calling it a “Belgian strong pale ale”. Hoooo-kay. This is a “meal” sort of beer, a big, bad complex 8.5% ABV sort of ale that will stand up to freshly-slaughtered animal of some kind. And so classically Belgian. Really top-tier stuff. Let me know if you see this one in the US after grabbing a bottle for yourself first. 8/10.