Friday, July 15, 2011
HEDONIST JIVE MID-SUMMER BEER DISPATCH
DE STRUISE/MIKKELLER - "ELLIOT BREW" - Oh my. A collaboration between two Northern European heavyweights to make an American Double IPA. in Belgium, that just happens to be tannish brown in color and that is defined far more by its strong rich malts than its hops. And it is phenomenal. They say it's 130 IBU, the semi-bogus hoppiness index that some people cling to their bosoms, and it is furthermore claimed to be the hoppiest beer ever brewed in Belgium - whatever. It has amazing balance, creaminess not normally found in IPAs, and a tasty sugar-n-spice combination to boot. 9.5/10.
WESTMALLE - "DUBBEL" - The granddaddy gold standard and still champion of the dubbels. My dubbels project hasn't been going too well - too many other beers I wanna try and a brain/liver that can only take so much - but this Trappist ale is truly in a league of its own, and I returned to it recently after not having one for years. Woody and creamy with just a little backbite. Toasty malts and a delicious, easy-to-ingest medium body. No wonder the world's been going nutso for this one for decades. 9.5/10.
THE VERY GOOD
ST. FEUILLIN/GREEN FLASH - "BIERE DE L'AMITIE" - Hope I spelled all of that foreign stuff correctly. This is a stunning spiced ale, highly carbonated and a misty, cloudy blonde in color. These are two worldwide giants of brewing teaming up to fight the good fight, and this one, which I've only had on draft and not in the bottles I'm now seeing around, is an excellent spicy, malty, crisp & peppery yeast bomb. 8.5/10.
EDDYLINE BREWERY - "CRANK YANKER IPA" - Eddyline, you ask? Only the pride and joy of Buena Vista, Colorado, a tiny river/mountain town three hours from Denver on the banks of the mighty Amicas River. Their brewery and restaurant appears to be the very center of the town's action, and would you believe me if I told you their IPA is out of this world? This is what us beer lovers live for - the chance visit to the brewpub or the ham-handed bottle selection that ends up paying dividends in spades for the 30 minutes or whatever you spend drinking a given beer. A superb orange/amber look to this one, and a smooth bitter taste that even my IPA-disdaining wife thought was incredible. 8.5/10.
NAPA SMITH - "LOST DOG" - This is the finest ale (pictured) I've yet quaffed from Napa, CA's well-distributed if middlingly-regarded Napa Smith Brewery. What a deliciously light, drinkably hoppy imperial red ale this is. Dry and yet exceptionally juicy nonetheless. A paradox, you say? You'll just have to find out yourself. 8/10.
TALLGRASS BREWING - "VELVET ROOSTER" - A fruity and quite delicious tripel from Kansas, a state not typically known for brewing upper-quartile Belgian-style ales. I need to get to know these guys better based on this evidence, though this one appears to be draft-only and isn't even mentioned on their website. 8/10.
TELEGRAPH BREWING - "OBSCURA ARBOREA" - In all my time on god's green earth, I don't believe I've poured a foamier beer than this one, nor had to wait as long to drink it. A good 20 minutes went by before I could even snap this photo and start drinking it. It's a sour Flanders oude bruin and a big beer at 9% ABV. Takes a little getting used to, but once the foam calmed and I dug in my heels, I loved it. Cherry and oak and lots and lots of souring bacteria. Definitely tastes like a barrel-aging "project beer" crafted with lots of care. We love that stuff around here. 8/10.
BRIDGEPORT BREWING - "KINGPIN" - I'm glad I take notes because I totally forgot about this one from two-plus months ago - and hey, it was really good! 12-ounce bottle of "double red ale" goodness. Serious hop burn, with thin-bodied malts that are nonetheless very pronounced. There's not the usual caramel chewiness of most red ales - this is about the hops all the way. 7.5/10.
SOCIAL KITCHEN & BREWERY - "THING DEUX BELGIAN PALE ALE" - This local San Francisco brewer have kind of cool thing going here - they made nearly identical beers, Thing One and Thing Deux, seperated only by different yeast strains - an American and a Belgian. I rolled the dice and tried the good one; my pal Uli's american-style pale ale was quite mediocre (at best). A yeasty and chewy pale ale that I'd absolutely ask for again. 7/10.
SOCIAL KITCHEN & BREWERY - "MOULIN ROUGE" - But wait - there's more. They also make a dry, biscuity and malty Flanders red ale too that I dug and rated a 7/10.
BLACK RAVEN - "TOTEM NORTHWEST PALE" - Really had been wanting to try some Black Raven beers after reading good things about them for a while, and while in Seattle recently, I got my chance. This pale ale was a nice trifecta of creamy, malty and hoppy, with the hops fairly muted but with some nice bitterness in the aftertaste. Totally solid. 7/10.
DOGFISH HEAD - "HELLHOUND ON MY ALE" - Winner of the worst pun award for 2011 beers, hands down. It may be limited, it may be one-time, but I'd only rush out for this one for novelty's sake alone. A lemon IPA! Citrus and tangy to the extreme, orange in color and maybe just a little too lemony. The 10% alcohol hides itself very well whilst drinking, but was quite clear in my noggin by the end of the 22-ounce bottle. 6.5/10.
EDDYLINE BREWERY - "PINE CREEK PORTER" - After the high of their Crank Yanker IPA (see above), it was perhaps a disappointment to encounter a mere middling porter, but this chocolately dark roasted beer held its own well enough to send me home with bells on. 6.5/10.
AUBURN ALEHOUSE - "GOLD DIGGER" - An IPA that comes off about one-half as good as their "PU20 Imperial IPA" that we reviewed here. Perhaps I'm spoiled for choice, with the proliferation of dozens of imperial IPAs that knock my friggin' socks off. This "single" IPA is bitter, piney, dry and solid across the board, but the lack of citrus juicyness and a general blandness puts it at a 6.5/10.
AMICAS BREWERY - "DOUBLE IPA" - Bought a 22-oz. bottle of this in Buena Vista, Colorado simply because I'd never heard of them/it and I like surprises. Surprise! It's a middling (double) IPA! These guys are from Salida, CO and make an eye-poppingly yellow double IPA that looks like a pilsner and yet still brings the noise with 9% ABV. Strong hops on the nose, bitter to the taste....so far so good...but a weak finish. Lacking in something. Taste, I think. 6/10.
GREAT DIVIDE - "TITAN IPA" - We were in Denver visiting family two weeks ago and I was starving for local beer. Though I was "psyched beyond belief" to find a bottle of this in a nondescript Thai restaurant, and glad to have some bittering hops and creaminess to cut the burn of my food, this IPA is simple and nondescript in a way that I just don't have a lot of patience for any longer (see above). 5.5/10.
BISON BREWING - "DUBBEL" - I know these guys have had a rough road the past few years, losing their Berkeley brewpub and having to contract-brew in other people's abodes. But that's no excuse to come to market with a thin, overly sweet dubbel that only misses our bottom quartile due to simple, let's-get-this-outta-the-way drinkability alone. 5/10.
DURANGO BREWING - "AMBER" - As boring as you'd expect. A wimpy, watery amber ale with zero character, in a small Colorado town we visited that's just bursting with brewers. Watch out fellas. About all I can say in its favor is that I finished it, and that time passed successfully while I drank it. 4.5/10.
PORT BREWING - "MONGO IPA" - It's not like I can't find this beer in my home base of California, but what a lame-o experience to have a skunked, disgusting sour IPA right out of the bottle. It's been at least three years since I've had a beer that's gone bad in the bottle. No way am I pinning this one on the good people at Port. I mean - this is supposed to be a superlative IPA - right? It's not supposed to taste this way - right?