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14 December 2007 @ 10:58 pm
One of my biggest pet peeves regarding beer is talking to people people who say they don't like beer because it all tastes the same.  This is such a stupid attitude, although it's pretty common I guess for Americans to embody this attitude about all sorts of things.  We only try what we know, and we only know what we see on TV.  So for your average American, if you branch out and drink a Heineken or Stella, that makes you some sort of beer lover.  Much more cultured than those MBC (Miller/Bud/Coors-the standard for crappy American macro lagers) folk.  Are you kidding me?  I've tried Stella and Heineken, and I can't taste the difference between those and any other macro.  So yes, I agree, all crappy beer tastes the same. 

Actually, since I'm in a ranty mood, I'll digress and discuss the marketing tactics of macro breweries.  Because most of them don't make any sense to me.  For instance, the "Light Beer" wars.  Coors (is it Coors?  Maybe Miller) suggests that their beer has great taste, but is less filling.  They quote ridiculous statistics like "67.53 Americans chose Coors Light over Bud Light in random taste testing".  That's like having a taste test of water from different areas.  It all tastes the same, and it all tastes like shit.  So maybe Coors is less shitty than Bud, I dunno.  And what's the fucking deal with less filling?!  It's beer!  It's supposed to be filling!  If you want something that's low in calories and flavor, water is great.  You can't get drunk of light beer anyway.  It's physiologically impossible*.  So why try?

But back to my original point.  If dare anybody to take this challenge.  Go to your local liquor store.  Go and buy 5 beers.  Buy an India Pale Ale, a Stout, a Hefeweizen, an Amber Ale and a real German Lager (like Spaten Helles or something).  These should be easy to find.  Take a taste of each and tell me they taste the same.  Now, you might tell me, hey, I don't like this.  Well that's a different story.  Some people don't like beer.  That's fine.  But don't tell me they all taste the same. 

And really, don't tell me you don't like beer if you've never anything but the MBC's or the world.  You have to buy something with some flavor to really experience beer.  Here's recommendations for five solid drinkable beers, and then 5 more daring beers.  Give one a try. 

1) Pyramid Apricot Weizen-Hefe with a nice twist, full with the smell and flavor of apricot.  Really features the apricot with a nice clean finish.  2) Rogue Dead Guy Ale-A nice dark bock, not too much hopping, basically a malty beer with sweetness and a toasty finish. 
3) Chimay Red-Chimay's flagship beer.  A typical Belgian Dubbel.  Plenty of spices and a touch of sweetness and bitterness.
4) Karl Strauss Red Trolley-Nice Amber Ale.  Very smooth, good malt/hop balance.  Very easy to drink.
5) Sam Adams Boston Lager-A little brewery that's gotten huge, but this is a good example of a real lager. 

Any of these beers tickle your fancy?  Take the next step...
1) Bridgeport IPA: Featuring lots and lots of west coast hops.  This is a bitter beer, no doubt, but in a good way.  Think grapefruit-type bitter.
2) Linedmans: Take your pick, there's peach, apple, cherry, raspberry and currant.  Fruity yes.  Beery?  No.
3) Fuller's ESB: A real British bitter.  Big sweet malt and plenty of hoppy bitterness.  A beer of balance between its two main components.
4) Ayinger Celebrator: By all accounts, the ultimate doppelbock.  Lots of estery sweetness and huge malt base.  A meal in a glass.
5) Stone Arrogant Bastard: Can you handle the Arrogance?  Big malt, big hops, big everything.  The total taste package.

And hey, if you like any of those, you might just be ready for the big time.  Try one of these if you can find them.

Happy Drinking!

*This is a blatant lie, but really, it would take a lot to actually get drunk. 

(this is where I finally review some beers, BTW). 

Russian River Damnation
Russian River is a fine brewery up in Santa Rosa, CA, right in the heart of wine making country.  Super popular with the microbrew crowd, mostly because of their Wild Ales (aged in wine barrels with non-brewers yeasts).  They make more conventional stuff too, like their two DIPA's-Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger.  Damnation is a Belgian Strong Ale.  That's sort of a generic term for Belgian ales that don't fit into the Abbey ale classes. 

A: First off, love the presentation in the 750 ml bottle with cork and cage.  The cork and bottle both make it clear that you shouldn't use a pint glass, so get your tulip or goblet ready please.  Pours a hazy orange/yellow with a big fluffy white head. 

S: Smells like a Belgian, with plenty of spices: pepper, cloves, coriander and the like.  Pears, apple and banana come out.  Minimal bitterness.

T: Wonderful fruity flavor, same as the smell and great combination with the spices.  A bit of earthy malt and some mild bitterness, but the fruit and spice is really featured.  Super dry finish that leaves you wanting more.

MF: Bubbly and biting between the spice and alcohol.  Full flavored but smooth.  I would hesistate to call it thin because that seems like a negative, but it's certainly not thick. 

D: Awesome awesome beer.  Might just be my favorite Belgian style beer to date.  Chimay Blue may be better.  But this beats the socks off Gulden Draak and some of the other BSA's I've had.

Avery Anniversary Ale-Fourteen
I do love me some anniversary ale.  This is another hybrid with characteristics of a stout, IPA, American Strong Ale and others.  Avery is a brewery in Boulder that has some really popular brews, especially their DIPA.  Would like to see more out here, but maybe next time I'm in CO I can stop by there.

A: Sout black unless you hold it to the light, then it turns out it's more of a very dark reddish-brown.  Reminds me a bit of the Stone 11th.  Big thick tan head that just doesn't go away.

S: Massive sweet aroma.  Syrupy malts and dried fruit-raisins, prunes, maybe figs.  A mild hint of bitterness.  Nice.

T: Again with the sweetness and fruit.  Just when you think it's going to be a malt bomb, in come the hops.  Sorta citrusy but it hardly cuts through.  Still, the bitterness balances the sweetness just enough.  Finishes with a roasty stout feel.

MF: More bubbly than you would think.  A huge, thick syrupy brew.  The dry hopping is actually a huge benefit for the feel.  Without it the beer may just be a bit of overkill.

D: I just love these Strong Ales.  Not quite as good as Double Bastard, more on the sweet side though.  I love what they did with the hops.  This beer seriously almost got out of control but then dry hopping came in and saved the day.  Too strong to drink all night, but good enough to drink again for sure.

Also, in my "cellar" right now I've got another Avery brew called "The Beast".  It's the strongest beer I've personally seen at almost 15%.  I'm scared of it. 
17 October 2007 @ 11:08 pm
Well, I'm not quite sure what to make of this, but it seems significant.  Like most 21 year olds, I started drinking beer because, well, it had alcohol.  And though, at 21 (and I'm not ashamed to admit this) I was all about just drinking rum and coke or rum and orange juice, sometimes beer was all that was around.  Over the years I got into more and more un-trendy beers.  I mean, pretty early on, I realized that I wasn't into Bud and those types of things.  But I still drank a lot of non craft beer-Bass, Sam Adams, Shiner Bock, Amber Bock, etc.  And then, for whatever reason, drinking that Optimator on that fateful night in May, I decided to make beer a hobby.  Now, I have lots of "hobbies", but in reality, I'm too much of a lazy ass to really pursue them to the point that I get good.  Like, I have a bass that I've never learned to play.  I keep saying I'm going to buy a bike and start riding with my sister and (future) brother-in-law.  Stuff like that.  So for me, it's pretty interesting that I've really gotten into this beer thing.  Probably it's because it only requires me to a) sit on my ass and b) drink.  But here's my epiphany.  I love getting buzzed, don't get me wrong.  But right now it's all about the flavor.  Which has, of course, put me in a dilemma, because I want to sample a new beer every day.  And the beers I've been sampling, well, they're almost all over 7%.  And drinking a bomber (aka 22oz bottle) or a 750 ml bottle of 7-12% beer is basically like drinking 3 or 4 Bud's.  And that's a lot.  So really, the alcohol has become a hindrance.  How weird is that?  Have I passed into the realms of a beer aficionado? 
Of course, hanging around on beeradvocate (from now on referred to as BA) a lot, I realize that I still know next to nothing about beer, and still have sampled a very limited number of beers.  But I crave more knowledge, I long to have space to cellar my beers, I even think I may start brewing some of my own stuff.  Not right now-maybe once I get a condo or house.  And of course, I want to try more and more different styles. 
The rest of my life is kinda blah right now, mostly because I've been sick, and working too much, and not able to go to the gym (as a result of the first two points).  But the beer part, well, that's been going good. 

You didn't think that was all, right? 

So it's story time.  I've been trying to find a bottle of Stone's 11th anniversary brew.  I went to a few stores that were convenient for me, and couldn't find any.  I found quite a few other things, as I detailed on Sunday, but not that.  So Monday, home sick from work, I decided that I could sti in my car for a while and make the trip down to West Hollywood, which has a bigger BevMo (well, bigger than the Van Nuys one) and I hoped would have it.  It was quite the experience.  The BevMo is at Santa Monica and La Brea, which is a pain in the ass to get to.  But, in my virus-induced confusion, I decided it was at Hollywood and La Brea.  Right before I started heading home, I realized my error.  So, I get to the BevMo and it's in this mall thing for which I couldn't find lot parking.  There was an open meter though, so I quickly pulled in.  And realized that I had no change but a nickel.  Which got me 4 minutes on the meter.  So, I sprint into the store (and by sprint, I mean not so much, being sick and all), run back to the beer section, and look for stone.  And there it was.  Actually, there were a bunch of bottles, and I stupidly only got one.  But the trip was a total success, and the beer awaited.  I didn't want to drink it Monday, so I saved this brew for yesterday.  And I don't want to give too much away, but lets just say this, Stone scores again.

Stone 11th Anniversary Ale 

Anniversary beers are always fun, because it gives brewers a chance to do something they ordinarily wouldn't do.  Push the envelope, if you will.  Because they're almost always one-time releases, so even if it bombs, you're not wasting that much beer, nor are you banking your whole product line on the success of one beer.  Of course, the downside is, if it's really good, it's one a one-time release, and that's sad for the customer.  The bottle, somewhat cryptically, suggests this was going to be a black IPA, which was confirmed by the good folks at BA.  What that meant, of course, was a mystery to anyone. 

A: Word.  Check out my new tulip glass.  As you can see, this is quite a dark beer.  Not quite black, if you hold it up to the light it's really just a super dark and super cloudy red-brown.  But it sure looks like a stout, complete with a nice, thick, frothy tan head.  Looks good, but not like an IPA.

S: The first whiff is totally shocking.  Very very fruit, I think maybe mango or passion fruit, but something tropical.  Quite sweet smelling, and quite un-stout like.  There's some mild bitterness as well, but from the smell, hard to tell much about the hops.  Still doesn't make me think IPA.

T: Complex.  There's a lot of things going on with this beer.  But yeah, it's an IPA.  The first taste is a huge hop blast.  Mostly citrus but some pine.  Behind this is the tropical fruit flavor from the scent, and very very suble roastyness.  The hops are the feature flavor, but the balance between bitter and sweet is really quite good. 

MF: A bit thicker than a typical IPA, so at least something is stout-like.  The bitterness lingers for quite some time.  Not much warming, and the 8.7% ABV is masked really well.  And this beer is SMOOOTH.  I mean, the flavor is great and you want it to last, but it would be really easy to just gulp this down. 

D: This beer is really really good, and I think I'm going to have to stock up on it before it disappears.  The balance is just wonderful.  For a hophead like myself, you have that element, but you also get the sweetness of something like a doppelbock or barleywine, the smoothness of a porter or stout.  The alcohol sneaks up on you, and this isn't a sessionable beer (aka, you're not going to sit down and drink 3 or 4 of these watching the game with your pals), but it's easy enough to drink.   Maybe this black IPA thing will catch on?  I sure hope so. 

I would say this is my highest rated beer to date.  This is also my 12th review (damn, I shoulda done this after 10), so here's what I've done so far, from best to worst.

1. Stone 11th Anniversary Ale
2. Stone Ruination IPA
3. Chimay Blue (Grand Reserve)
4. Spaten Optimator
5. AleSmith Old Numbskull
6. New Belgium Mothership Wit
7. He'Brew Origin Pomegranate Ale
8. Paulaner Salvator
9. Chimay White (Tripel)
10. Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout
11. New Belgium 2 Below (I should probably re-review this though, because I had a bad batch)
12. Fuller's Vintage Ale

I should also mention that the first 5 are extremely close.  #1 is tops for now, but 2-5 is probably a tie depending on my mood.  
14 October 2007 @ 08:06 pm
LA is not exactly a hotbed for beer, but it's close enough to most of the major California craft breweries that you can get a lot of good beers if you know where to look.  The valley kinda sucks for getting craft brews, but BevMo continues to impress me with their selection.  Tons of Belgian beers, and a lot of the local micro's.  I went on a beer-hunting mission tonight, looking for some Stone 11th anniversary, or at least one of their seasonals.  Let's just say, I done good.

Spent about 50 bucks on beer today, but here's what I got.

Stone Ruination IPA 6-pack-I effing love this beer, and now I have six pints of it.  Sweet.  Found at BevMo Van Nuys.
Stone Oaked Arrogant Bastard 6 pack-Been looking for this, finally found it.  I haven't had the oaked, I'm excited.  Found at Whole Foods Westwood
Stone Russian Imperial Stout 2007-This is Stone's highest rated beer on BeerAdvocate.  I have been looking for this as well.  Found at Whole Foods Westwood.
AleSmith Yulesmith Holiday Ale-This is the July release, so a Double IPA.  If you haven't heard about AleSmith, it's another brewery in San Diego, and they win tons of awards.  Enough said.  Found at Whole Foods Westwood.
AleSmith Old Numbskull-A barleywine!  I was looking for Stone Old Guardian but couldn't find any, but BevMo Van Nuys had this and I had to get it.  This will be reviewed tonight.

AleSmith Old Numbskull

I was a barleywine virign and an AleSmith virgin, until tonight.  The name barleywine is a bit of a misnomer, but it gets a point across, as well.  Barleywines are typically between 8 and 14% ABV.  This is similar in ABV to many wines, hence the name.  This is a style of ale, however, and obviously not a wine in any sense.  Old Numbskull weighs in at 11%, and it shows.  Big time.

A: A deep amber-red color.  Quite hazy, and an absolutely beautiful beer.  A big, thick two-finger tan head and tons of lacing left on the glass.  We're talking root-beer head here.  Some carbonation bubbling up from the bottom of the glass, but not too much.

S: This permeates the room when you crack the bottle.  Even with a cold I could smell this.  The first thing I noticed was some intense hoppy bitterness, followed by a fruity/malty aroma.

T: Holy sweet lord.  Super strong and super flavorful beer.  The first taste is very very sweet.  Fruity esters come through, mostly tropical, with some very mild citrus undertones.  Then you get some toasty carmel malt notes, followed by a huge blast of resiny/piny hops.  This beer challanges you because there's so many flavors to deal with.

MF: Thick, full bodied, syrupy and super warming.  The alcohol is noticable, but not overpowering.  The hoppy aftertaste really sticks in your mouth.

D: Not for the faint of heart.  This beer will destroy you.  I don't know if you could ask for more flavor, and this beer is delicious.  It would be tough to just sit down and drink a glass of this, though.  I had it with dinner which probably balanced it out a bit.  The alcohol is huge.  I basically just drank a whole bottle of wine.  But man-oh-man is this good.  I will drink this again.  But this is a beer for special occasions.  Share it with a friend or something.  If you can drink this beer every day, I salute you.  And recommend you get your liver checked out. 

God I love living in California.  I may just have to move to San Diego to be closer to Stone and AleSmith though......
06 October 2007 @ 11:30 pm
Went up to Ft. Collins to visit a good friend, and no trip to Ft. Collins is complete without a visit to the New Belgium brewery.  Everybody and their mom who lives on the west coast has had Fat Tire, which is a pretty solid amber ale, but these guys make some stuff that is excellent. 

For a place that puts out so much beer, the brewery itself isn't that big.  It's also an extremely popular place to hang out because their prices are reasonable, and they will give you free samples.  Used to be you go 6 small goblets, now it's 4.  But still, it's enough to sample their beer and get a nice buzz.  Seriously though, when I say it's popular, this is what I mean...

Finding a seat is a pain in the ass.  It's not a very big place.  But the staff are extremely friendly, which is a plus.  And the beer, well, it's pretty freaking good.

Tried out 5 brews (stole a little from my friend) which were the Abbey, Trippel, VooDoo Ale (something that will never be bottled), 2 Below, and La Folie.  Didn't review them, but here's a quick rundown.

Abbey: Very well crafted beer.  An extremely dark brown Dubbel with tons of flavor.  Cloves and banana dominate.  Excellent beer, high alocohol content as well.
Trippel: I'm not a big fan of trippels in general because I think they're not flavorful enough.  Sweet and crips but didn't really do anything for me.
VooDoo: A variation on the Trippel that was pushing the 9% range.  A lot better than the Trippel.  You could taste the alcohol which may or may not be a good thing.  Sweet but good, although not great.
2 Below: As I suspected, my previous experience with this beer was bad because the bottles I got were way too old.  Basically Fat Tire with about 100% more hops.  Nice smokey undertone with a blast of bitter.  Quite taste.
La Folie: A Flanders Red Ale, so not a lambic but similar.  Extremely sour, with a strong woodsy flavaor.  I didn't just love it, but it's something you have to experience.  It hardly tastes like a beer at all.  It has some wine-like qualities, and this is a beer to be sipped, not like you would drink a regular beer.

The remains of the VooDoo as well as La Folie

Also got to hit up Coopersmiths, a brewpub that makes some tasty beers.  Had the Punjabi Cask Ale, and Indian Pale Ale that's cask conditioned, which really makes the flavor interesting.  Very bitter as you would expect, but also a lot of sweetness, making it almost creamy.  I really liked this beer.  If you're every in Ft. Collins, you need to go here and get some beer.  It is excellent and CHEAP.

Now changing gears.  I hate to make this post really long, but I'm waaaay behind on my reviews.  I actually have three (!!) beers to review right now.  Sorry, no pictures.  Let's get started.

Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout

A: Dark brown, not quite black.  A dark tan one-finger head, thinner than I would have expercted, which slowly dissapates.  Looks smooth and drinkable.

S: A dark, rich roasted smell with some sweetness.

T: Very subtle flavor with a burnt aftertaste, although more of a burnt-all-to-hell type of flavor as opposed to roasted.  Some coffee hints and some sweetness, but overall not a very strong flavor.  I didn't let it warm up enough, though.

MF: Very light feel considering how dark it is.  Very smooth and mellow, with a bit of an unpleasant aftertaste. 

O: Not bad.  More flavor than Guiness but not as much flavor as I would like.  Then again, it IS a stout, and should have been served warmer than I served it.  Not too strong at 5%.  I give it a 3/5.

He'Brew Origin Pomegranite Ale

A: A pale amber-red color, but darker than your average pale ale.  Has a thin off-white bubbly head.  Looks inviting.

S: Very suble smell, mild and roasted but no real sweetness.

T: Quite sweet, but the hops are noticable as well.  A complex aftertaste with some roasted flavor as well as the sweetness of the pomegranite.  The pomegranite isn't overstated, but does give this beer a sweeter, more Bock-ish flavor.

MF: Very smooth with little combination.  The alcohol is quite noticable as this beer is 8%.

O: I was surprised to say this was quite good.  I don't think I would call this a fruit ale, because the pomegranite flavor was VERY mild, but it still gave it another dimension that most ales don't have.  Props to Schmaltz, though, for not trying to do too much with this beer.  Not gimmicky, just good.  Call it 4/5

Chimay Tripel (White)

A: Extremely hazy honey-colored beer.  Extremely thick head, not so much as with the Blue but very frothy. 

S: Crips clean smell of a lager with the sweetness of honey and some bitter comes out as well.

T: A bitter flavor is the first thing that I noticed.  Not nearly as much sweetness as I had expected based on the smell.  Some spice in the background but it's difficult to tell what they are.  Not as flavorful as I was hoping for.

MF: A very dry beer, bubbly but not too much.  Strong alcohol flavor.  A smooth beer but the bitterness was not pleasant to me.

O:  Ok, but doesn't live up to the expectations that Chimay has given me.  The Blue was MUCH better.  The thing that got me was this it was bitter, but nothing balanced that out, and it wasn't flavorful.  Just bitter.  Could be good, but wasn't the right beer for me.  I'll say 3.5/5 but I doubt I'd drink it again.
28 August 2007 @ 11:06 pm
Ah, the hop.  A bizarre looking little flower, and yet oh so delicious and oh so important in making beer.  Especially the class of beer we're going to talk about today.  But first, a little more detail about hops.  As I mentioned last post, hops are extremely important in flavoring beer, but really, what are they in the beer for?
1) To provide a bitter balance to the sweetness of malted barley.
2) To provide flavor, most typically citrus but hops may have the flavor of different spices, fruits or flowers.
3) They have an antimicrobial effect that favors brewers yeast and kills other nasty stuff that makes the beer go bad (this is VERY important)
There are many many varieties of hops with different flavors used in different styles of beer.
Another random and cool fact about hops is that they are in the family Cannabaceae, and thus are related to, you guessed it, marijuana.

August 28
Stone Ruination IPA

A now, for some brief beer history. 
England, 1700's: Imagine, if you will, that you are a very successful brewer, famous for your ale.  You decide that you want to send some beer to your old chum who has been sent to India.  So, you pack up some ale and send it off.  Months later you get a letter back, your friend saying the beer is sour and flat, and all in all, not quite up to par.  Well, this WAS the problem that faced British brewers in this time period.  How to export beer to places thousands of miles away without losing too much flavor.  The solution?  Since beer spoils, like most foods, due to bacterial colonization, increasing alcohol and hop content, both of which can be bactericidal, meant longer lasting beer.  And that's just what they did, thus the Indian Pale Ale (IPA) was born. 
So here you have this very bitter and very strong beer.  Upon arrival to India, it still tastes pretty good, probably having lost some of the flavor on the voyage.  But, not surprisingly, the beer became popular back in jolly old England as well, in it's full extra bitter and extra strong way.  Beer bitterness is actually rated on the International Bitter Units (IBU) scale.  Typical beers range from 10-30 IBUs, with bitters (pale ales) up in the 40-50 range.  IPA's generally reach up towards 75-80 IBUs, making these among the most bitter beers out there. 
But of course, 75 IBUs just wasn't enough for some people.  SOME people (especially west-coast microbrews) wanted more bitterness.  Thus, the double IPAs came about.  The myth goes that a brewer in San Diego accidentally added 50% too much malt to his brew, and thus corrected this by adding 100% too much hops.  This has become the standard for the DIPA, leading to a dark and extremely bitter beer.  DIPAs can be rated up to 100 IBUs, which is about as high as you can get. 
Stone, a popular brewery located in San Diego County, is known for their aggressive and flavorful beers.  Probably the best known is their Arrogant Bastard Ale, which I'm sure will be reviewed here at some point.  Thus, having a DIPA called Ruination IPA is right about what you would expect from him.  There's a little blurb on the back of the bottle that reads in part.....

      " Stone Ruination IPA.  So called because of the immediate ruinous effect on your palate.  The moment after the first swallow, all                         other food and drink items suddenly become substantially more bland than they were just seconds before.  By the time you                             develop a taste for this beer, you may find that you are permanently ruined from being able to enjoy lesser brews.  Good.  We                         freely admit to doing this.  On purpose even!..."

Well, sounds like a challenge to me.  Let's see how it rated.


Quite a bit darker than I expected out of an IPA, probably owing to the higher malt content then you would normally have in a regular IPA versus this, a DIPA.  A small filmy head which does not evaporate.  An inviting looking beer, despite the warnings on the bottle.

S: I'll be honest when I say I don't smell much of anything.  But I have almost no sense of smell, so take that for what it's worth.

T: Very bitter as you would expect.  The hops are strongly grapefruit, and yet balanced enough that the flavor is not overpowering.  A very citrusy brew.  The malt is there, and you can taste it, but the hops really dominate the flavor.

MF: Masks the alcohol content well.  A very crisp beer with a mild grapefruit aftertaste.

O: In all honesty, this is a hoppy beer, but not so much as I expected it to be.  The flavor is very nice, especially for a grapefruit lover like myself.  Very well balanced, but certainly gets the point across that it truly is a DIPA.  Weighs in at a nice 7.7% and 100+ IBU's.  By the time I finished my pint I was feeling very good indeed, but you really don't notice it.  I'm a big fan of Stone, and this is the best beer I've had from them.  I think I've found a new favorite beer, and hopefully I'll still be able to enjoy other beers.  Haven't tried yet, but we'll see...

Rating: Five out of Five.
24 August 2007 @ 09:52 pm
So here's this beer blog eh?  But one thing I've not really talked about is beer itself.  So, a little refresher course on beer, what makes one beer different than another, etc.  Here we go!

Beer, at the basest level, is merely a drink that is produced by the fermentation of some starchy material, and then not distilled after this fermentation.  For those of you who missed out on college chemistry, distillation is the process of separating chemical substances.  Stronger alcohol is distilled to remove non-alcohol portions of the liquid produced, hence the higher alcohol concentrations.  Beer, wine, and mead are not distilled, which is why their alcohol content generally maxes out at 15% or less.  Historically, the starch used for making beer is malted barley.  Beer can also be made of wheat, rice or corn, and numerous other starches.  Only barley and wheat are very common though, so we'll focus on those.  Aside from the starch source, the only other necessary ingredients are water and yeast, although almost all beers have some flavoring added.  Hops, the flower of the hop plant, are typically used for flavoring, but many beers have other spices, herbs or fruit added for flavor.   Hops themselves can have many different flavors,  including citrus and other fruits. 

There are two major types of yeast used in brewing beer.  Ale yeast or top-fermenting yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) is used in making ales.  This type of yeast is incapable of fermenting certain types of sugars, thus ales tend to be sweeter than other beers.  Lager or bottom-fermenting yeast (Saccharomyces uvarum) is used in making lagers.  Thus, there are two major types of beers, as you might expect, ales and lagers.

Ales: Ales are typically fermented at higher temperatures, around 60-75 degrees, which leads to faster fermentation.  The higher temperatures lead to the production of esters.  And if you remember anything from organic chemistry, esters are often somewhat fruity flavored.

Lagers: Lagers are more common across the world than ales.  Most American big-brand beers are lagers.  These beers are fermented at lower temperatures, and typically are fermented twice.  Esters are not produced in these beers, and they tend to have a much more crisp and clean flavor. 

A third and less common class is Lambic beer.  Lambics are produced mostly in Belgium, and use wild yeast strains instead of the typical cultivated strains.  These are very interesting beers and really differ in taste from what you might expect.

And that is pretty much all there is to it.  There are of course hundereds of different variations, mixing different strains of barley, or hops, or different spices and flavors. 

Pretty cool eh?

Allright, now getting to the good stuff.

August 24
Fuller's Vintage Ale

Fullers is a fairly old and extremely well known British brewery.  As is typical of breweries from the British Isles, it produces mostly ales or ale derived beers.  Their two most well known beers are both premium bitters, the ESB and the London Pride.  Bitters are a type of pale ale, which doesn't really describe their color, just that they use paler (less roasted) malts.  These beers also tend to have more hops as compared to say porters, stouts or milds (like Newcastle, for instance).  My god, this is confusing.  Did I mention that there are hundreds of variations of beers with very sublte differences?
Anyway, the Vintage Ale is an Old Ale, which really just means that it gets fermented longer than other ales.  This beer is bottle conditioned, meaning there is yeast in the bottle allowing for further fermentation even after the beer is put in the bottle for shipment.  Fullers says these beers can be stored for 5 years or more, and the flavor will continue to develop.  I got the 2006 Vintage, meaning the beer is nearly a year old.  So that's a little unique.  I wasn't about to let it sit for another 4 years, and figured I'd drink it now. 


A nice, deep amber, but very clear.  A nice 1-2 finger head that quickly dissipates.  One of the darker ales I've seen. 

S: A rich, strong smell, it actually permeates throughout the room.  Even I can smell it, and my sense of smell is pretty much worthless.  The malt comes out  quite strong, roasted and syrupy.

T: Wow!  This beer really has a barrage of flavors.  There's an almost wine-like quality with some sweetness and strong alcohol flavor.  The malt and hops are very well blended, and as ales go this is on the sweet side.

MF: A very dry beer, which isn't something you can often say about beer, but that goes back to it being wine-like.  The alcohol is quite heavy and there is a major warming effect.  The beer itself isn't too heavy though.  Not a bad feel.

O: The first few sips were wonderful, but after a while it was just too much.  The flavor is intense, but I think I could do with something a little more subtle.  It would be interesting to try this after letting it age even longer, but I doubt I'll ever have a chance to do that.  I don't mind a strong beer, but this one is just a little too much for being only 8.5%.  And Like i said, the flavor just wore on my...I had to force myself to finish this.  Maybe a pint is too much, but that should never be the case.  And for the price, I don't think I'll be drinking this again.

Rating: Two out of Five.
23 August 2007 @ 10:48 pm
I got two beers to review...but after drinking a Pint+6 ounces of Stone Ruination IPA (7.7%), I just don't think posting right now is my best choice.  Tomorrow I should have a few.
Also, I may have a new favorite beer.  Stay tuned.
01 August 2007 @ 01:34 pm
As I've mentioned before, in earlier times, monks were among the more prolific brewers of beer.  Among these, the Trappist monks may be the most famous brewers.  Historically (and still today), Trappist beers are produced to help financially support the monasteries in which they are brewed.  Currently, there are 7 breweries that are authorized as Trappist, mostly in Belgium.  Probably the most well known of these is the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Scourmant, located in the Belgian city of Chimay.

August 1
Chimay Grande Reserve (aka Chimay Bleue)

Chimay may also be one of the most well known and respected breweries in Belgium, and produces some very very good beer.  Currently, they make four brews, Bleue (an ale), Rouge(a dubbel), Blanche (a trippel), and Doree (a light ale), although the Doree is fairly rare and apparently the monks keep it for themselves.  The Bleue and Rouge are surely the most famous of the brews and can be found at most quality liquor stores. 
An interesting feature about Chimay beers is that they can be aged for quite a long time (5 years or more), unlike most beers which tend to lose their flavor fairly quickly. 
Anyway, I actually found this at Trader Joe's in a 750 ml bottle (not good for one person, best to share) at the rather steep price of $7.  The bottle comes complete with a cork!  Awesome.  If you've ever opened a champagne bottle, use the same precautions.  I didn't, and the cork hit the ceiling.  No beer spilled, thankfully. 

A: Look at that head!  I even poured it the right way.  Obviously the thing that catches your eye the most is the head, thick, bubbly and dark, it was at least three fingers in depth and has some staying power.  The beer itself is a dark red-almost brown.

S: May have been masked by the head, but quite a strong odor of hops, with some spices and malt in the background.

T: This beer is very well put together.  The flavors mix very well.  Obviously the hops and malt are in there, but this is a very spicy beer.  Clearly some citrus as well as something peppery.  It's not a bitter beer, but it has quite a lot of bite.  Still, not overstrong like some of the strong ales I've had. 

M: Fairly fizzy with, as I said, quite a bite to it.  It feels a lot lighter than it looks-with it's color and large head you might think it would be heavy like a Guinness. 

D: This beer packs a punch, at an almost extreme 9% (there are of course beers that come in higher than this, but they aren't usually as commercially available as Chimay).  Leaves you feeling quite warm (although it steals some of your motivation...)  Like I said, don't drink that whole 750 ml bottle by yourself.  This beer is not for the faint of heart, but it is considered by many to be one of the better beers out there, period.  I tend to agree.  This has such a smooth flavor for an ale, you don't notice at all how strong it is. 

Rating: Five out of Five
Well, the first few beers I've reviewed have been darker beers....2 bocks and an ale, so I figure it's time to add some variety here.  With that in mind, and being that it's summer, I decided to go out and get something a little lighter.  Normally I'm not a huge fan of light beers, but I do like a good hefe now and then, which is why this beer caught my eye...

July 20: New Belgium Mothership Wit

Well, first off, you just cannot beat the labels for NB beers.  Classy, but cool pictures as well.  This is one of their seasonal brews that have probably made them the most famous.  And unlike last time, this one is actually in season, one of their two main summer brews, along with Skinny Dip which is a very good light (as in low calorie) ale.  But I digress.   A witbier, or white beer, is a traditionally belgian brew typically made of wheat, although it can be made with barley as well.  It is somewhat similar to the German hefeweizen.  The main trait of wit's is that, historically, they did not contain hops, instead being flavored with gruut, a blend of plants and spices.  Nowadays, most wit's are brewed with gruut that containes some hops, as well as coriander and citrus flavors.  Like most wheat beers, they can be filtered or unfiltered, and the level of haziness will depend on how much they are filtered. 

A: First off, I apoligize for the bad picture quality.  I didn't zoom in enough of the beer, and the lighting in my apartment is crappy, at best.  But I guess it gets the point across.  This beer was somewhat cloudy, though not nearly as hazy as your typical hefe.  There was hardly any head (although the first time I had the beer, the head was quite thick, as you would see on cream soda).  The color is a straw-yellow, darker than your typical American lager, but not much darker than that.  Very bubbly in appearence.

S: The crisp smell of the wheat is very prominent, with hints of spices and citrus.

T: The flavor is quite strong with spice and citrus, with hints of lemon and orange.  Hard to say what the spices are.  Perhaps some cloves, and after smelling a bottle of coriander I had in my pantry, I could taste that a little bit too. 

M: This is quite a bubbly brew, and the flavor lingers for quite some time.  Very smooth and crisp, although may be better served on the warmer side to let the flavors develop. 

This is a very solid beer, although how it compares to more traditional wit's I can't say.  Quite a bit better than many of the American hefe's I've tried, which often end up being bland and tarry.  The base flavor is similar to that of the Bud's and Miller's of the world, but with the added flavors I mentioned, it's actually pretty good.  Not too heavy on the alcohol at 4.8%.  For sure this is something I would like to drink on a hot day.  I also think this is a beer than most people could enjoy, as it's fairly light, and the flavor isn't too overpowering. 

Rating: Three-point-five out of Five (and in fairness, I'm only knocking it because it's too light for for my tastes.  For people who like lighter beer, this one is a home run, trust me.)
10 July 2007 @ 06:28 pm
Well, the bad news is I've run out of Star Wars themed titles for my blog.  But the good news is I'm blogging.  OK, so this is a new blog, but the first two entries are old, from my  regular blog.  Since nobody I know likes beer, I'm going to start this beer blog and keep it separate.  OK.  Are you bored yet? 

The beer of the day is......

Paulaner Salvator

Pretty cool bottle eh?  OK, so since I've already sample a doppelbock, I'm not going to go through the history again.  Remember, monks, fasting, extra drunk. 

Well, a tad bit lighter than I expected.  A quite lovely translucent amber color.  Very little heat, maybe one finger, but probably not even that, and it didn't last long at all.  Somewhat cloudy, but really a nice color.

S: Not much, to be honest.  The only thing I really smelled was fruity/sweet.  No real smell of malt and no real smell of hops.  I tried to smell this beer, trust me.  I practically stuck my nose in it.  As a matter of fact, I did stick my nose in it, and got a nosefull.  I don't recommend that. 

T: The first thing I tasted was fruity.  After the initial flavor, you get the malt, rich and roasted, with a very little bit of hops, as you would expect from a bock.  What was the fruit though?  This is an extremely sweet beer.  This was a shocker to me.  The last thing I had in the glass I used was a Mai Tai.  But I'd washed the glass and let it dry, etc.  But this beer really had the taste of a Mai Tai.  So that means there was some sugar cane or molasses or something, maybe even honey.  And there was some citrus.  Maybe pineapple, though I really doubt the German's use much pineapple in their beer.  But in the end, it's the malt that really comes out.

M: This beer is almost syrupy.  Not thick per se, but it does seem to have some texture to it.  Not overly carbonated either, goes down extremely smooth.  The malt flavor hangs in your mouth for a long time. 

D: Pretty good beer.  Not as good as the Optimator, if truth be told, but it's kinda hard to compare the two, at the same time.  I can't get over the sweetness.  I've had fruit ales that aren't this sweet.  Don't get me wrong, this is no Framboise, or Bees and Berry from Thunder Canyon (which only Arizonans will understand), but it's pretty sweet.  Would I drink it again?  Why the hell not.  At 7.9% ABV, I'm not gonna turn it down.  Seriously though, good beer.

Rating: Three-point-five out of Five