Monday, January 27, 2014

2013 Best Beers Pt. 2

Last month I listed 10 of the best beers I had in 2013. This month I continue to do the same. To put into perspective just how special these selections are, by my count I had 244 different beers over the course of 12 months. Some were beers I had already tried in previous years and thus ineligible for this list, but the vast majority were beers I tried for the first time. I think that number just goes to show how great and grand the craft beer world is expanding.

Here are the 2nd batch of beers I deemed noteworthy last year. Being chronologically listed, this group starts about mid-way though the year just after 4th of July.

Beachwood Brewing & BBQ - Melrose
I had had this beer early in 2012 from a growler before Beachwood started brewing their beers, so I felt it worthy to include on this list since it now sees semi-regular distribution in southern California. In my opinion, it's one of the best IPAs in the country. Better than Pliny. Better than Heady. Better even than my first beer on this list, Zombie Dust. On that note...pretty much every IPA that Beachwood makes is in the top tier of IPAs. They need to bottle more beers!

Tap It Brewing - IPA
This is another upper echelon IPA that few people know about. It won the coveted IPA category at 2012's GABF and has since been bottled and distributed to southern California. For some reason, I can only ever find it at my local Whole Foods. I'm not complaining though, as I pick up a 6 pack anytime it's in stock and enjoy drinking and sharing this lesser known gem.

Hardywood Brewing - Gingerbread Stout (2012)
Well, I'll just say it --- this was probably my #1 favorite beer of 2013. I didn't drink it until late August, so this 2012 vintage had about a year's age on it (the 2013 was released in October), but that time spent aging must have been the perfect length. This 9.2% spiced-stout was exactly what it's namesake says - a gingerbread cookie in a stout. Flavors of cinnamon, graham cracker, and slight bits of ginger made drinking this beer like having a desert in a glass. Yet despite it's rich characteristics, it was not at all cloying or overtly sweet. It was a perfect balance of decadent and refreshing. I have since managed to get my hands on another 2012 version as well as a 2013 & a bourbon barrel-aged one as well.

Alpine Brewing - Bad Boy
I was lucky to get myself a taste (and growler) of this limited, coveted, respected double IPA from this limited, coveted, respected brewery. While down in San Diego with friends, we made a detour to the out-of-the-way Alpine Brewing to sample what we had heard were some of the best IPAs in the country. Our journey did not disappoint. Along with Duet, Nelson, and Pure Hoppiness, we were treated to a plethora of outstanding IPAs. But if there was only one that I could take with me...then it was Bad Boy, a bi-annual double IPA release that goes fast once its brewed. Thankfully, we were able to get a taste at their brewpub and a couple growlers to take with us. I only wish this place were easier to get to, because I'd go there all the time for whatever they have on tap.

Societe Brewing - The Pupil
This is the only beer on the list that is brewery-only. I had it when a bunch of friends headed to San Diego for a bachelor party weekend. It was one of the many, MANY beers we tried over the course of 4 days, and it stood out as an exceptional IPA. Having visited the brewery with a group of a dozen guys, there were several growlers filled with The Pupil that we took back to our vacation house with us. If there's any indication of how well received this beer was...not a single growler made it through the next day.

Firestone Walker - Velvet Merkin
If Gingerbread Stout was my #1 beer of 2013, then Velvet Merkin was barely behind it. This was Firestone Walker's newest Reserve Series release and it was a complete home run. I briefly wrote about it in October and it's impact on me has only grown. After having just one, I immediately sought out as many as I could find to share and save alike.

Firestone Walker - XVI Anniversary Ale (2012)
I suppose it shouldn't be a surprise that I loved this beer. Velvet Merkin was a major component of this annual blended beer from Firestone Walker. Traditionally, I drink these anniversary beers on the following year's Thanksgiving holiday. I feel like with so much blending and barrels being put into these beers, allowing them to sit for a year helps in allowing the beer to have a more cohesive taste as a whole. I was pleasantly surprised that XVI Anniversary Ale was the best iteration I've had yet from this series.

Beer Engineers - Leadbelly Peanut Butter Porter
This is a beer that I had heard about several years ago. It wasn't until recently however that I found someone with access to it to send me some. And I am so glad that I did. Despite being 12.5% abv, I felt as though I could have drank the entire 4 pack in one sitting. The peanut butter flavor was present in both aroma and taste. There was a richness to it that you'd expect from a beer based on an ingredient like peanut butter. Yet, it never felt too sticky or sweet. Instead, it had a saltiness to it that combined with the malt base to really make it feel like drinking a peanut-butter cup dessert. Since having this beer, my new goal has been to track down and try every other peanut butter based beer that I can find.

Nantahala Brewing - Noon Day
Just as winter was coming and IPAs were fading, I was sent this lower abv (6%) beer from North Carolina. I was completely taken by surprise at the crisp and fresh flavor that Noon Day presented. The hops gave out a perfect grapefruit-like taste and the malt balanced a nice sweetness to the piney resin aftertaste. I hadn't expected to like this beer mainly because I knew nothing about it. Now, it one that's on my radar anytime I head back east.

Westbrook Brewing - Mexican Cake
The last great beer of 2013 was one that had a lot of hype behind it in the beer world. Mexican Cake has been heavily sought out the past year or so since it's initial release mainly due to it being an imperial stout brewed with vanilla, cacao nibs, cinnamon, and a generous helping of Habanero peppers. While I am a fan of the first three ingredients, I am not a fan of chilies in beers. However, the manner in which Westbrook brewed this beer created an incredible taste that only brought forth the Habaneros in the aftertaste in the back of my mouth and throat. There was little to no heat associated with it and instead only spiciness in the traditional "spiced" sense. Although I'm still not a pepper-beer fan, I am a Mexican Cake fan and working on obtaining more of this beer soon.

So there you have it. 20 beers for 2013. Almost a month into 2014 and I already have a list of a dozen new beers that I've tried and noted. While none particularly stand out just yet, only time will tell I suppose.

Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 Best Beers Pt. 1

It has been far too long since I've written about beer. Part of it has to do with being bored with saying the same things about beers --- Some are good, some are bad. Some are heavy, some are light. Blah blah blah blaaaahhhh. But part of it also has to do with the fact that I'm drinking so much different beer that I can't keep up with what is unique and was is bland.

So I decided to take a different approach to this post and do what I do best --- make a list. Here you'll find (in no particular order...actually that's a lie, it'll be chronological order) the best "unique" beers I drank in 2013. By "unique" I mean beers that were new to me. So while there are great beers out there like Firestone Walker Parabola and Ballast Point Victory at Sea, those are beers I've had prior to 2013 and therefore ineligible for this list. Conversely, all of the beers I'm listing below will be ineligible for next year's list as well (unless there is a significant change to the taste and recipe of said beer).

So without further ado, here are Rob's Best Beers of 2013!

Three Floyds Brewing - Zombie Dust
Not much has to be said about ZD. It's a highly regarded IPA that doesn't come to California. But I got hold of a bottle and from the instant I opened it (before it even was poured into a glass), I was in love. The aroma alone permeated from the bottle and had me salivating. It's now one of those beers I permanently want.

Central Waters Brewing - Bourbon Barrel Barleywine (2012)
Here is a beer that nailed the bourbon aspect. Everything from aroma to taste to aftertaste meshed perfectly with this heavy (11.2% abv) brew to create the perfect sipping beer after a long rainy day. Having a year old version I think helped mellow out the alcohol bite and bring forth the bourbon characteristics (vanilla, toffee, wood). I have a 2013 in my fridge now that I'll be drinking soon.

Almanac Brewing - Barrel Noir
Similar to Central Waters BBBW, here was a beer that did a great job of balancing the barrel-aged aspect with a traditional stout. That's likely because the blend of styles (traditional stout & Belgian dark ale) worked well in keep this 10% abv beer surprisingly light.

Founders Brewing - Curmudgeon's Better Half (2012)
As I previously wrote in this post, I thought this beer was incredible. It's a shame that I only had the one bottle because it's something I'd like to try again despite it being a couple years old at this point.

Ballast Point Brewing - Even Keel
Not all of my favorite beers were double digit abv behemoths. This lil guy clocked in at only 3.5%, but man oh man did it pack a hop punch. Somehow, the guys at Ballast Point made was tastes like an IPA (or at the very least a dry hopped pale ale) and brought the alcohol down to something that you can drink all day long. I had this on draft in their homebrew mart and wish to god that it came in 12-pack cans for some good summertime drinking.

The Bruery - Imperial Loakal Red
Another beer I previously wrote about, this one stood out to me because The Bruery isn't know for making hop-forward beers. Yet, this impreial red ale had all the characteristics of a huge hop-bomb (aroma, taste, tongue-tingling after effects), while still maintaining a strong malty backbone. They really should re-release this one.

The Bruery - White Chocolate (2012)
From the same entry as Loakal Red, I was astonished with how great this beer smelled. And the taste was even better than the smell...which is saying a lot. It's important to note however that this was the 2012 blend. The 2013 (released later in the year) was horribly funky and off-tasting. So much so that The Bruery issued refunds and pulled it from it's shelves. I really hope they get this one right in 2014. I miss it dearly.

Ballast Point Brewing - Homework Series Batch 1
Much like Loakal Red, here was a literal attempt at making a hoppy red ale. What was equally as impressive as the beer was Ballast Point's choice to put the recipe for the beer on the back of the bottle. Having started as a homebrew supply store, they went back to their roots and created the Homework Series - a line of small-batch beers distributed locally and encouraging the drinker to replicate the beer on their own. Clever, tasty, and informative!

Goose Island Beer Co - Bourbon County Brand Stout (2012)
On a completely random day in early summer I found myself with a day off. I also happened to notice one of my favorite bars tapping this well-known, but hard to come by, imperial barrel-aged stout. With one half-pour (all the bar was offering), I immediately understood the hype behind it. The chocolate notes were only outdone by the bourbon booze. This beer had a kick, but not a burning one that you might associate with a 15% abv beer. Instead, it was smooth sipping and the desire for more. Thankfully, the 2013 vintage saw bottle release here in Los Angeles and I quickly snatched up some.

Revolution Brewing - Very Mad Cow
Earlier in the year, I had a bottle of Mad Cow. It was a good, somewhat forgettable milk stout. Nearly 8 months later, I had Very Mad Cow. It was great, and entirely unforgettable. The difference in aging their milk stout on Woodford Reserve barrels for 7 months created a whole new, layered beer. At 9.5% abv, it's not the strongest beer on this list. But it's one of the tastiest. The bourbon is perfectly blended into the milk creating an almost vanilla/chocolate milkshake concoction. This is another beer that I deeply wish I had more of.

There are the first 10 beers for 2013 that stood out to me. I have 10 more ready to go for the next post. Before that though...I need a beer.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Sunday Night TV Beers

This past month, two of my favorite series ended. Breaking Bad & Dexter. While one went out on top and left me wanting more, the other fizzled to a piss poor ending that only reminded me that I probably should have given up on the show years ago. Through it all though, I'd open a special beer each week once the sun set on Sunday Fundays and these two dramas eased me into the maddening work weeks ahead.

BrewDog Abstrakt 12
While Dexter started its final season a few weeks before Walter White did, I opened up this gem from Scotland that I had hiding in the back of my fridge for a while. Classified as a Black IPA, allowing this one to sit for a while essentially transformed it into a Belgian dark ale or stout. There were no hop flavors left but rather lots and lots of fruit. The barrel aging in Scotch whiskey definitely came though as well and kind of left a cloyingly sweet & alcoholic taste to the entire thing. All in all, a decent brew but nothing I'd go crazy to find another bottle of. Kind of like Dexter itself...ok on the first watch, don't need to do it again.

Pipeworks Blood of the Unicorn
When it finally came time to change my priorities from Showtime to AMC, I looked for a beer that was unique within my favorite style - Imperial Red Ales. Pipeworks Brewing always seems to make solid beers, and their naming and labeling of bottles is among the best in the country. So, naturally, I was excited to try something so epic as to be called Blood of the Unicorn. While its probably more along the lines of an American strong ale, the deep amber color and thick tan head could be considered an imperial red. And, really...who knows what color unicorn blood really is? It's one of those mysteries that we'll never solve...just like the mystery of what exactly Walter White's contribution to Grey Matter really was.

Firestone Walker Velvet Merkin
When it came time to say goodbye to Dexter, I was extremely conflicted. On the one hand, this is a show that brought me many enjoyable hours of entertainment. On the other hand, it ceased doing that a long time ago. But, like any good friend, I stuck by it through thick & thin. And for it's finale, I went with a new barrel-aged beer that I've been dying to try. Velvet Merkin is, quite possibly, one of the best stouts I've had. Its thick, creamy, flavorful and easy to drink. At 8.5% abv, its also in my sweet spot for perfect alcoholic beverage. While it may not have the complexity that Firestones other barrel-aged stout (Parabola) has, the simplicity and drinkabilty make it equally as satisfying, if not more so. What wasn't satisfying, however, was the ending to Dexter...which I now consider to be the single worst ending to any show ever. That includes Lost, The Sopranos, and even Dinosaurs (seriously...go look it up. Shit is fucked up!).

New Holland Dragon's Milk
One week after witnessing the worst of TV while drinking the best of beer, it shouldn't be any surprise that fate decided to pull the ol' switcheroo on me and deliver the best of TV and the worst of beer. But that isn't really fair to either of my favorite pastimes, both the finale of Breaking Bad and Dragon's Milk were perfectly mediocre. Neither grabbed my attention or caused a reaction in me either way. The final episode of Walter White's meth building opus felt off and disconnected from the previous 60+ hours of perfection. Similarly, Dragon's Milk (considered an imperial stout) tasted like an average beer aged to high hell on oak, whisky, and bourbon barrels. There wasn't complexity in the taste however, just an overabundance of wood. This particular bottle had been aging for about a year in my fridge, which could have increased those flavors and masked any of the malt and hops that were intended to be present. I'll have to go back again and try it fresh, just as I plan on going back and starting Breaking Bad all over again, this time with my wife to give me a fresh take on it.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

July Drinks

A whole month has gone by without a post. I must be slackin' in my old age!!! A combination of work, money, and life has somewhat distracted me from focusing on the important things in life. Namely --- beer! So, in an effort to catch everyone up on my past month I'm doing a series of shotgun reviews for the notable drinks I had in the past 30 days.

Prairie Artisan Ales - Prairie Hop
July 4th
Having had to work during the day on the 4th of July, I didn't really plan on any intense drinking activities. Instead, on my way home, I stopped at the local bottle shop and looked for something "summer-y". What I found was a hoppy saison from an up and coming brewery in the heart of America --- Oklahoma. What else says America like a twist on a European style brewed in the heartland from a brewery that sports a name like Prairie Ales! This was a great choice and one that I can't wait to have again.

AleSmith Brewing - Barrel-Aged Kopi Lowak Speedway Stout
July 6th
Two days after celebrating America, I chose to break out a rare treat to celebrate two men punching each other in the face. For a big UFC fight, I cracked open my last bottle of the super-special release from AleSmith. Coffee, chocolate, vanilla, & bourbon all rolled into one massive stout. While I really enjoyed the first glass, the second one was too much for me. I should have shared this. Especially because this single bottle (albeit, 12% abv), completely fucked me up the following day. But who am I to learn a lesson; I'm picking up more special Speedway Stout variants from AleSmith next month!

Central Waters Brewing - Peruvian Morning Imperial Stout
July 19th
Well, if one coffee stout isn't enough for the sweltering July evenings, then two must certainly be the sweet spot! Much like the Kopi Speedway, this beer was a barrel-aged coffee stout. However, Peruvian Morning was much more subdued in all its flavors. While it didn't burst with any one particular taste, it held up very solidly as a coffee stout. It was a little hot from the alcohol despite only being 8% abv. I certainly enjoyed it and have another one I'm holding onto. But it's hard for me to say if this was better than the Speedway offering or not. It didn't however, give me a deathly hangover like the Kopi.

Adnams - Innovation
July 20th
With so many heavy dark beers occupying my drinking time, I figured I needed something light. So I dug into the fridge and pulled out the oddball brew that a friend brought back from his trip to England. This was Adnams' first attempt to brew an American styled IPA. wasn't half bad. It certainly lacked the more citrus and pine flavors & aromas that west coast IPAs are known for. It also was a super hop-bomb on the tongue. But it was crisp, bitter, and refreshing. There was no overt sweetness from a heavy malt base that I would have expected from the Brits. And it was respectably potent for a British beer at 6.7% abv.

Oskar Blues - G'Knight & Deviant Dales
July 26th & 27th
My last drinks of the month were ol' staples. I've even reviewed one of them before (when it went by another name). My only criteria for selecting these two beers was that, while shopping, I wanted something in a can. And Oskar Blue's offers these two beers in true pint, 16 oz sizes. While G'Knight is branded as an imperial red ale and Deviant Dales as an imperial IPA, the two beers are really quite similar. They both offer similar alcoholic content (8.7% and 8.0% respectively). They are both aggressively hopped, and they both are remarkably good! Although I didn't do a side-by-side comparison of the two, the biggest takeaway that I came away with was that G'Knight was surprisingly more aromatic than Deviant Dales. It also was a slightly more bitter and crisp. This surprised me as I expected the opposite to be the case. Either way, I was very much pleased and satisfied with my final choices of the month. So much so, that I plan on making either or both regular staples in my fridge.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Live-Blogging: Avery Twenty

Once again I am trying a new style of posting. Instead of a simple beer or brewery review where I try to cover all the staples that I've come to known for (the beer, the buzz, & the hangover), this month I'm writing as I drink. And I'm drinking Avery Brewing Company's anniversary beer, Twenty.

I had no clue what I was going to drink for this month's blog. But I knew that I wanted it to be an IPA. While in the beer store yesterday, my beer guy suggested Twenty. It's a double IPA that he told me was the original recipe for one of Avery's other well known DIPAs, The Maharajah. Who knew they even changed the recipe for that! Also, who knew that auto-correct would have Maharajah in its dictionary.
Whatever recipe Avery is using for Twenty, its a winner. Immediately upon opening the bottle the smell of hops filled the air. Pine and citrus and even a hint of weed. Avery takes their hops seriously. According to their website they used Amarillo, Bravo, Simcoe, and Cascade hops. Which probably explains the more pine bite to each sip as opposed to citrus. Although they blend well, the taste is sharp. And to a non-IPA fan, this would probably end up becoming a drain pour. But for someone such as myself, someone seeking out an IPA for IPA-sake, Twenty is good drinks!

There is also an element of heat to this beer. At 9.7% abv and being bottled just last month, it's safe to say that this beer is taking full potential of it's alcohol. Only 30 minutes and half of the bottle into drinking it (and writing this), I can feel the faint haze sitting in. In what I consider the "sweet spot" of drinking, its that buzz that reminds you why beer is fun. It tastes great and it makes you happy!
With about 3/4ths of the bottle finished, one thing that occured to me about this beer and it's taste, is that the bite from the hop is so intense that it leaves a slight stinging sensation on my tongue. I've had this same feeling with other IPAs and its always a welcome addition to the overall tasting experience. Beers like Lagunitas Hop Stoopid and Knee Deep's Citra are two that I can remember having similar effects. This "tongue-tingling" by no means means that this is the hoppiest or tastiest beer IPA I've come across. Just last night, I had the last Palate Wrecker from Green Flash for the season and even being several months old, that beer just oozes hop-intensity. I also had a fresh Pliny the Elder before that and it reminded me that that one really is one of the best IPAs available.

Bonus round! naturally, after feeling great from a 9.7% double IPA, I wanna keep the party going. But I don't want to overdo it. Nor do I want to open another IPA which will inevitably be compared to Twenty. Instead I went to the other side of the spectrum and pulled out a barrel-aged stout. And digging through my cellar, I pulled out a nice 12oz, bourbon barrel aged winner from Cincinnati, Listermann Brewing Cincinnatus Stout.
Considerably different from an IPA, this barrel-aged stout is pretty good. It's thick, sweet and has hints of vanilla coffee and oak. And ther eis the slightest hint of alcohol. I know some people refer to thick stouts as being "chewy", which I never get. It's a drink, it's liquid, how can you chew it? Even milkshakes aren't chewed...ever. That's just weird.

Cincinnatus was a great choice for a bonus beer. It's pretty easy to drink and is actually slightly less alcoholic than Twenty. At only (pfft, only) 9.5% abv, I don't feel like I'll regret this one in the morning. Choosing to blog about it WHILE I drink it though...that's another story...

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Bruery Preservation Society

In yet another attempt at diversifying this website, I am dedicating this entry to the first quarterly shipment of beers in The Bruery's latest membership club - The Preservation Society. Unlike their other membership levels, The Reserve Society and The Hoarders Society, this one does not let members choose additional bottles or special releases as part of their dues, but rather opts for 4 shipments of 3 beers throughout the year. You can cancel your membership at any quarter and/or opt to upgrade at the end of the year when there is open registration for the next level up, The Reserve Society.
So before I get to talking about these 3 beers, it should be known that I am not really the biggest of Bruery fans. I appreciate their brewing philosophy and approach. I especially like that they've brought craft beer to a higher level in the outer Los Angeles area. But, I've never quite been won over by their overall beers to tip over into the "fanboy" zone that so many beer enthusiasts seem to be. That said, I was both excited for and pleased with Imperial Loakal Red. I'm a huge amber/red beer guy. I like the balance of hops and malts best within this brewing style. The fact that The Bruery was including a particularly hoppy beer in this first quarter shipment was both a surprise and a pleasure. This baby tasted like sweet citrus, bitter toffee, and floral pine! With an abv kicked up to 12%, it also packed a punch. An awesome, oaky, vanilla, and hoppy punch...but a punch nonetheless. The fact that this one is now available in limited quantities on their website for additional purchase is an excellent thing...I've ordered several already.
Of the three beers included in this shipment, White Chocolate is probably the most infamous of the lot. It's also easily the most sought after and a good selling point for the Preservation Society memberships. As far as I'm concerned, this beer sits up there with the other decadent beers that The Bruery offers like Black Tuesday, Grey Monday, Chocolate Rain, and Melange 3. While maybe not quite as prestigious as those beers, it's in the same range of abv and notoriety. Being billed as a "summer" barley-wine, the appearance is certainly light and fluffy. But the additions of vanilla beans and cacao nibs give this beer an insane flavor profile. It. Is. White. Chocolate. The aroma, the taste, the texture. It's a spot on representation of what the beer claims to be. I opened this one on my wedding anniversary and shared it with a few close friends who were over. To explain how great I thought this beer was...I immediately regretted pouring out too much for everyone else and wish I had had more for myself.
The last of the first quarter Bruery brews was the sour of the group. I'm not a sour fan. I'm open to trying them and I dig the occasional wild or farmhouse ale. But when it comes to straight up sours, they just don't jive with me. It could be my weakness for overly acidic foods and drinks. It could be my sordid past with Sour Patch Kids. Or it could just be that I don't quite have the refined palate that I think I do. But whatever it is, despite the fact that Sans Pagaie is one of the higher rated kriek beers you can find, I couldn't finish the bottle. In fact, it made me feel like shit. And at only 6% abv, it wasn't an alcohol thing. It was an acid reflux thing. And it sucked. Hard! Thankfully a friend came over later in the day who loves the puckering stuff and gladly finished what I couldn't.
So simply put, is the cost of a quarterly payment worth it for the quality of beers The Bruery includes in this package. My answer so far is yes. Two out of three killer beers and one that just isn't my thing easily justify the price point for some finely crafted brews that I couldn't easily get otherwise. Will every quarter be as good as this? Probably not. But I'd guess that most will come close and a few will probably even surpass it. If nothing else, they've got me hooked for the next shipment.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...