The Hedonist Jive has been indulgent when it comes to all manner of fine ales this past month, and yet we’ve had a hard time keeping you up to date with many of the elixirs we’ve been chasing and nabbing. “Our bad”. There was that SIERRA NEVADA “Fritz & Ken’s Stout” that was so god-bless-America amazing that we had to interrupt all the other things we wanted to post about to give due kudos to, but in between that and today and in the weeks before all that, well, other beers have been tried and rated. Let’s meet them all, shall we?
STONE BREWING “LEVITATION ALE” – I can’t believe it, but I’d never had this 4.4% alcohol marvel before. I loved it. It is a superlative red ale. Malty and delicious, absolutely perfect for a night when you’re settling in and know you’re going to need more than one beer. It’s just one of those ubiquitous yet under-the-radar STONE beers (like their basic IPA) that blow nearly everyone else away. The perfect “session” beer. 9/10.
THE VERY GOOD
WACHUSETT LARRY – My pal Aaron Goldfarb from the Vice Blog – whose very funny book “How To Fail” is about to hit the shelves in a few weeks – not only gave this a superlative review on his blog, he personally bought me this bottle in Massachusetts and hand-delivered it to me last time I was in New York. This was made by WACHUSETT BREWERY in “Mass” for Boston’s PUBLICK HOUSE, whom longtime readers may recall we raved about here one drunken night. This is a “sipper” of an IPA, pouring a copper color and bursting out with a fruit-packed citrus taste, leavened with some fresh, piney hops. Strong aftertaste – the kind you like. Really, really enjoyable. 8/10.
FLYING DOG BREWING “RAGING BITCH” – This appeared at my local Whole Foods for about 5 minutes, so given the reviews I’d read I went for it with gusto. A very yummy Belgian-style IPA. Hoppy, citrusy and super yeasty. That’s about all the review I can give – they only come in 12-ounce bottles (sad face emoticon). I’d buy this again for sure. 7.5/10.
TELEGRAPH BREWING “WHITE ALE” – I was totally floored by this beer when I had it fresh in the Santa Barbara-based brewery in 2008, but had yet to buy one of their elaborate corked bottles and try it that way. It may not be a world-changer but it’s damn good. A tangy, chamomile-like witbier, one that’s exceptionally carbonated and bottle conditioned. Enormous head. Fruity, zesty and definitely tart. I continue to be a huge fan of this Central California Coast brewer. 7.5/10.
MIDNIGHT SUN “SOCKEYE RED IPA” – These Alaskans all of a sudden have their beer available in Northern California, and most of their stuff is really good. This is a malty, lightly-hopped red IPA. Light and fruity with some caramel and a good bite on the finish. A big step beyond solid. 7.5/10.
HOLLISTER BREWING “ALTERED STATE” – I was in the Santa Barbara area this past weekend for my Aunt’s memorial service, and used the occasion to stop in at this much-loved Goleta, CA brewery. They are located a mere mile from the University where I spent four years of my life from 1985 to 1989, and what a revelation they would have been had they been around back then (I do remember Tim Slater giving me a “Sierra Nevada Pale Ale” in 1989 while we were soaking in a pool, and it totally rocking my world). Anyway, this is a Dusseldorf-style altbier, or “sticke”. Sweet malts, chewy amber, and quite refreshing. A great first choice while I waited for my fish tacos. 7.5/10.
HOLLISTER BREWING “HIPPIE KICKER IPA” – The brewery had two IPAs on draft, and I asked the server which one was better. I was stoked he said this one, because the name alone had me ready to hand over my credit card. It’s a super-hardcore IPA, folks – whoa. Bitter and dry. Piney and sharp. Huge bite to it. You could call this a “double” or a “triple” IPA and no one would blink. It’s hard to believe how mainstream the eye-watering IPA is these days. 7.5/10.
ETNA BREWING “BLACKBERRY BLONDE” – This one’s from a tiny town from way up in rural Northern California. I bought it at a hippie market in Mt. Shasta City, CA, simply because I was on one of those obsessive beer quests for things I’d never had before that I’d never see again. And lo, it was good! A really light pale wheat ale with some sweetness from the blackberries, I’m guessing. It’s see-through and had no head. It’s made to be refreshing and to not give you too big of a buzz to interfere with your chores or what have you. Very enjoyable and recommended. 7/10.
THE MERELY DECENT
SPEAKEASY BREWING “BOURBON BARREL-AGED PAYBACK PORTER” – I’m not a big fan of this local (San Francisco) brewer and I’ve tried to give them “constructive criticism” over the years on my blogs to no avail. This one’s quite decent enough, though. I tried it before a (National League West Champion) Giants game a week ago right there at the olde ballpark, and found it to a be a thin and smoky porter, with only the faintest hint of bourbon barrel aging. If this is what their weirdo, crazy “imperial” version of Payback Porter is like, I’m glad I haven’t spent real cash money on the basic version, though this one’s definitely OK if you encounter it on tap. 6.5/10.
NINKASI BREWING “TOTAL DOMINATION IPA” – Total domination? Puh-leeze. Total begrudging acquiescence maybe. Great fruity smell, and tastes stronger than its 6.7% alcohol, but this creamy, hoppy IPA is one of those “good enough” beers that one can run into at just about any brewery. 6/10.
MT. SHASTA BREWING “MOUNTAIN HIGH IPA” – Only a few months ago this crew was still known as “WEED ALES”, as in Weed, California – home of the Hi-Lo Café and a great spot to stop in on your way to (or home from) the Pacific Northwest. The bottle cap still even had their “Drink Legal Weed” (haw haw!!) slogan on it. So now they’re MT. SHASTA BREWING. They make a sharp and piney IPA with a pleasingly deep malty backbone. A little chalky, though, and at the end of the day it doesn’t come together all that well. I could drink it again, but given the cornucopia of other India Pale Ale delights, I likely won’t. 6/10.
SCHLAFLY BREWING “RESERVE IMPERIAL STOUT 2008” – I’m contemplating this very beer as I type these reviews, and color me severely disappointed in this one. I was at the Whole Food Beer Store in New York City two months ago, and I whipped out this list I was carrying in my iPhone of beers I needed to buy. Based on some respected blogger’s musings, this was one of them – and I’m guessing $14.99 is the minimum I paid for this, But truly, this bourbon-barrel aged, sharp-ass imperial stout is no big deal. It is a 10.5%-abv monster, and in Missouri that might impress the locals, but from where I sit this thing is just missing a lot of the chocolate/caramel oomph it needs to put it over the top. If you want a lesson in how it should be done, like I said last week – take a lesson from FRITZ & KEN. 6/10.
NINKASI BREWING “BELIEVER DOUBLE RED ALE” – After the Hedonist Jive and Hedonist Beer Jive spent the better part of the last two years praising every “imperial red” ale that came across our lips, it’s actually something of a relief to find one we don’t like. I bought this in Oregon over the summer, mostly because I was so blown away by these guys’ TRICERAHOPS double IPA. This one just doesn’t have the warmth and the depth of flavor of some of the newer amped-up ambers out there, and the hops seem super muted. Not horrible, but I still choose to not believe. 5.5/10.
UNION ALES “PINEHOPPLE IPA” – After I was done tasting the aforementioned HOLLISTER BREWING beers, which were great (or shall we say, “very good”), I headed into downtown Santa Barbara to try this new brewery near the train station, one that wasn’t even in town last time we came through (and we go here over other year on vacation – when the weather is ON, this is one of G*d’s Chosen Places). Well, the brewery was total doucheville on this Saturday night at least, with the lowest-common-denominator sub-sports bar clientele imaginable. And in case you were wondering, a pineapple-infused IPA is pretty awful. Super weak, off-taste, and I couldn’t scramble out of this place fast enough. 3/10.