Don't you go thinking that just because I went dark on ya this past week that I still don't love you, OK? Actually we were at a San Francisco locals-only "family camp" in the depths of Yosemite National Park, trapped without an internet connection nor cell phone reception. Brrr. It was beastly. But wouldn't you know it, they sell good quality microbrewed craft beer even in the heart of the park, so I got to add to the burgeoning list of fine ales I was building, and that I'm about to recap for you here. It has been a big summer. Let's kick this off, shall we?
GREEN FLASH "LE FREAK" - This is by no means an unknown beer amongst the beer cognoscenti, and I'd even had it twice before, but not with the careful and considered contemplation it so richly deserved. Wow! This IPA/Belgian tripel combination could not have been more true to the imagined hybrid in my mind. A wonderful balance of bittering hops, velvet smoothness and yeasty, hoppy deliciousness. A 9.2% ABV treat that I'm now proud to call one of my favorites. 9/10.
LOST COAST "8 BALL STOUT" - Surprise! What I expected would be a rather pedestrian stout is now one of my primo meat-n-potatoes examples of the style. I had two of these in Yosemite and I wish I was quaffing another this very moment. Creamy, dry and full of roasty flavor. It's now sitting proud representing Eureka, CA's LOST COAST, whom I didn't think could make an above-average beer. But oh, they can. 8.5/10.
THE BRUERY - "RUGBROD" - Yes, a Danish-inspired rye beer from the brewery I'm calling one of America's two or three best right about now. And I can't tell ya if they knocked this one into the bleachers because it tastes for all the world like a brewer's "experiment" - an earthy, deeply rich malty rye beer in which the rye takes a decided starring role, unlike others I've had where it's more of a complement. A little wild, a little dry, and a little hard to get a good read on. 6.5/10.
SIERRA NEVADA "30TH ANNIVERSARY - CHARLIE, FRED & KEN'S BOCK" - This is one of two 30th Anniversary beers cooked up by Sierra Nevada and friends of theirs in the know from around the brewing industry - and I hear there are more coming. I have the much-loved "Fritz and Ken's" beer chilling in a fridge at home, but got to try this on draft at San Francisco's Pi Bar the other evening. It pours a stock-still (high ABV alert!) and very carbonated brown/orange, and brings a nice malty backbone with the hint of distant spice. really great flavors of burnt malt and a little bit of caramel. Definitely off the beaten path and worth tracking down. 8/10.
ODONATA SAISON - This hit Bay Area stores last month with a ton of internet hype (get down to the store nooooow!!! Before it sells ooooout!!!!!), and I was ready for action because my I've-never-met-him-but-he's-my-brother pal Rick Sellers from Pacific Brew News is one of the founders of Sacramento's Odonata Beer Co. I rushed out to buy one, and imbibed it that very night. The pundits on Beer Advocate already have it coronated with an A+; I'm thinking this very good, sharper- and spicier-than-normal wheat-based saison instead clocks in around a healthy 7/10.
TROUBADOUR BLONDE ALE - I've written on my former beer blog about my propensity to play "Belgain roulette", but after some big swings and misses of late I'm thinking of calling the jig up. This mediocre blonde ale might have been the kicker. Strong, sharp, very fruity and mildly bitter, but just missing a lot of sass and panache (whatever that is). For an intense Belgian ale, this tasted rather poorly constructed. I hurried through it just to complete the thing & say that I had. No thanks. 5.5/10.
OSKAR BLUES "TENFIDY IMPERIAL STOUT" - I'd read that this was the second coming but really, it's just another in a long line of really good, really big Russian-style stouts. This one just happens to come in a can. Smooth and creamy, deep chocolate roasts and even a hint of coffee. Wow, just like all the other really good imperial stouts out there. Spoiled, we are absolutely spoiled for choice. Next! 7/10.
GIRARDIN GUEUZE 1882 - My first gueuze! Like I promised I'd have! Aaron at The Vice Blog told me this was the one I needed to start with, and that fella, he don't lie. Sour citrus lemon yeast gives way to a saliva-thickening deep chewy mouthfeel the likes of which was akin to bein' born all over again. Excellent beer and really not the eye-watering challenge I was expecting. 8/10.
MAMMOTH BREWING "IPA 395" - I keep a "beers to try" list in my iPhone (doesn't everyone?) and this one was on it thanks to a forgotten someone's great review, so when I spied it at the Yosemite Curry Village General Store, I pounced like a hungry bear swiping for salmon in a frosty mountain stream. That night, while groaning through the "children's talent show" back at the family camp, I enjoyed this Double IPA and used it to ease the pain. It was a frothy ale that has the unique taste of juniper that seemed to work quite well in these woods. Very herbal and very malty, and really not the hoppy tongue-singeing beast I'm used to when someone slaps a "double" on their IPA. 7/10. (PS - the companion Tuolumne Meadows IPA from these guys was not half bad either - lightly hopped and refreshing - 6/10).
OSKAR BLUES - "OLD CHUB" - Finally, this outstanding scotch ale that I brought a 6-pack up to camp of in a cooler, ostensibly to "share" - but once I got a taste of it I hoarded 4 of them all to myself and dispatched of them with extreme prejudice down my gullet. Really delicious and a flavor-forward malt beer, full-bodied and caramel-coated like a true syrup bomb that somehow managed to find balance & near-perfect structure. I might have savaged this outfit's "Dale's Pale Ale" in the past, but all is forgiven with this one, which is a stone cold knockout. 8.5/10.