Friday, April 25, 2008

AleSmith IPA

The Beer: AleSmith IPA
The Brewery: AleSmith Brewing Company of San Diego , California
The Style: IPA
ABV: 7.25%
Brewer's Description: AleSmith IPA used to be known as "Irie Pirate Ale." However, some nasty patent attorneys think the name is too similar to another brand, so we had to "cease and desist." It's a darn shame, but it beats an obnoxious legal battle, in both expenses and Excedrin. Don't worry though, we won't change the beer (which is a MUCH better IPA than that "other" brand). It was conceived as an American-style IPA to satisfy the yearnings of the most die-hard hopheads. Its high alcohol content may catch you unawares if you're not careful, but it's hard to resist once you've tasted it. Appearance: Deep golden to light amber color, and a nice beige head, with good retention when properly served. Flavor: Starts off with strong citrusy, resiny flavors, balanced by a nice malty sweetness, then fades to a dry finish with a lingering hoppiness and a faint hint of plums and black cherries. Aroma: Strong piney-citrusy character, with vanilla in the background. Mouthfeel (body/texture): Smooth, medium-bodied. Feels warm in the mouth from the alcohol.
Color: Poured into Urthel stemmed glass (away from my glassware at home, it was only $3 at Whole Foods). Dark peach in color, bright but with some very faint cloudiness. Head is thin and white but lingers. Steady stream of fine, effervescent bubbles float to the surface.
Aroma: Zesty aroma of orange, grapefruit, and lemon peels with some ambiguous fruits and flowery notes in the background.
Taste/mouthfeel: starts out with some mild caramel sweetness abruptly followed by citrus oil bitterness and some resiny pine notes. The high hop bitterness puckers the sides of the mouth and lingers on the roof.
Finish: long, bitter, lingering finish. You'll be remembering this beauty for hours.
Notes: Purchased at Whole Foods in Los Angeles. One of the first beers I reviewed on PremiumBitter was this brewery's barley wine. I was blown away by the beer, it's one of my favorite barley wines and AleSmith is quickly becoming one of my favorite breweries. A very, very solid IPA. Possibly one of the best.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Port Brewing Wipeout IPA

The Beer: Wipeout IPA
The Brewery: Port Brewing Company of San Marcos, California
The Style: IPA
ABV: 7.00%
Brewer's Description: With 78 IBUs. Our version of a West Coast IPA- brewed in the San Diego style. This massively hoppy beer gets its flavor and attitude from no less than five hop varieties including Amarillo, Centennial, Cascade, Simcoe and Summit.
Color: Poured into sub-par hotel whisky-ish glass. Hazy burnt orange with minimal head.
Aroma: grapefruit peel, some mild "catty" notes, mango
Taste/mouthfeel: consistently bitter from start to finish. Medium carbonation. Lingering finish. Bitter, not incredibly complex.
Finish: resiny drying finish that lingers causing you continually tongue your mouth.
Notes: The "catty" (think litter box, cat urine) notes in this one completely turned me off. I think this has something to do with the simcoe hop used in this IPA. It has been known to give off these flavors/aromas in some people. I was a bit underwhelmed by this beer, although it was still an above-average IPA.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Russian River Damnation

Minutes later an Oklahoma wind blew over the beer, shattering the glass to joke

The Beer: Damnation
The Brewery: Russian River Brewing Company of Santa Rosa, CA
The Style: Belgian Golden Strong Ale
ABV: 7.75%
Brewer's Description: In the great beer producing country of Belgium, some brewers have made it a tradition to give their beers an unusual name. Sometimes the name is curious, now and then it is diabolical and other times it is just plain silly. Damnation is our brewmaster's interpretation of a Belgian style Strong Golden Ale. It has extraordinary aromas of banana and pear with mouth filling flavors of sweet malt and earthy hops. The lingering finish is dry and slightly bitter but very, very smooth.
Color: Poured into pilsner glass (I did not have any Belgian glassware available at the time). Bright, gold, with excessive amounts of wonderful sediment and a large clinging, fluffy, white head.
Aroma: ethanol, touch of cardamom, sweet pilsner malt
Taste/mouthfeel: Flavors of muscat grapes, ethanol, ginger, peppery spiciness with herbal European-style hops in the finish. Dry medium mouthfeel, medium-to-high carbonation.
Finish: dry and crakery, finish is clean with no lingering bitterness.
Notes: Purchased at liquor store in Los Angeles. This brewery is located in the midst of wine country and brews some amazing ales. While this brew is not particularly to my liking stylistically, it's still a fine Belgian golden strong ale. Very reminiscent of iconic Duvel, but with significantly more hop bitterness in the finish.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Labotomy Bock

Better lighting next time, I promise

I have been/will be living in California for the next couple of weeks. I'm taking this opportunity to sample the local and exciting West-coast beers the region has to offer. I've been very busy, but here's a quick hit in the meantime. Expect more in the coming days and weeks:

The Beer: Lobotomy Bock
The Brewery: Indian Wells Brewing of Inyokern , California
The Style: Doppelbock
ABV: 10.8% (!)
Brewer's Description: This smooth rich dark southern German dobblebock is an Indian Wells Brewing Co. favorite. This 10.8% beer is powerful, but VERY easy to drink! This beer is not for the timid. A few of them and you’ll feel like you’ve had a frontal lobotomy the next day. Consume with caution!
Color: Poured into pathetic hotel room glass. Coffee bean brown with clear rootbeer high-lights, extremely small head.
Aroma: faint clean aroma.
Taste/mouthfeel: slightly sweet with mild nutty and lightly toasted notes, surprisingly thin body with medium-high carbonation. Disturbingly quaffable, per the brewer's description.
Finish: slight cracker/saltine toasted finish with hints of cocoa nibs.
Notes: Purchased at Whole Foods in Los Angeles. The label resembles Terrence and Phillip from "Southpark" and it was only $7 a six-pack, how could this humble beer geek refuse? It's amazing that this beer is so incredibly strong and tastes so incredibly light. This lager is no more challenging to drink than say, Shiner Bock, but it packs over TWICE the alcoholic content. This brew is very enjoyable, if not incredibly complex. Perhaps similar to the stereotype associated with residents of LA?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

It's all about the Bock

Label from a doppelbock beer I brew (soon so can you!)

Springtime is Bock…

In a big way.

I have a special nook in my heart for bock beer. The first “dark” beer I started regularly drinking was AmberBock. While the Michelob/A-B product wasn’t really a true bock-style beer (it’s more appropriately termed “dark American lager”, ShinerBock and ZeigenBock also fall into this category) it piqued my interest in bocks.

I would later try a true German doppelbock called “Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock” at a small Aussie-style pub in Gainesville, FL called “Stubbie’s”. This was one of the first “good” beers I could appreciate. It was malty, smooth, and a bit sweet. When I first became intrigued by craft and import beer I could never stomach hoppy beers. Naturally, the malty-sweet bocks were some of my favorites back then.

I was recently asked to write a piece for a fantastic beer magazine out of Portland, OR called “Beer Northwest”. Being a quarterly magazine, I felt it was important I write about bock beer and its ties to the spring season. In this issue I speak to the history and defining characteristics of bock beer, pitch some homebrewing advice, and offer a recipe from my personal collection for a doppelbock I call “Liberator”. What follows is an excerpt from the mag:

A Brief History of Bock Beer
The name “Bock” derives from a mispronunciation of the German city of Einbeck, where bock beer was first brewed. A less common explanation, but amusing nonetheless, states that bocks earned their name because drinking the strong beers feels like getting kicked by a goat! Coincidentally, “Bock” is German for billy goat and many modern-day bocks have labels adorned with goats.

The bocks of Einbeck were quite different from what we now term “bock”. Einbeck bocks were lighter and hoppier than modern bocks. They also contained 1 part wheat for every two parts barley. The beers of Einbeck were coveted throughout Germany and Munich was no different. Much of the beer consumed in 17th century Munich was imported from Einbeck, locally brewed beer was frowned upon. Munich brewers began attempting to replicate the bock beers of Einbeck using local ingredients. After repeated adjustments and tweaking (darker malts and lower levels of hop bitterness were better suited to Munich’s hard water) a darker, maltier beer was born. These brews are the bock beers we know today.

Ever wondered about:
  • the bock-monk connection?
  • lagers vs ales? Are all bocks lagers?
  • what the different styles of bock beer?
  • the secret behind the “-ator” naming convention behind doppelbocks?

Learn more in the Spring issue of Beer NW magazine! Issues can be found in watering holes and brewpubs through the Pacific NW region, they are also available for purchase at the magazine's website.