Life and Limb: Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head Get Together and Brew a Fine Beer

July 3, 2012

Collaborations are all the rage in the Craft Beer World. The idea is two or more brewers get together and bring their complementary talents together to collectively brew a beer that they could not individually brew. If the collaboration works they way it is hoped, the whole will be greater than the sum of the parts.

In my experience, collaborations rarely work that well. They are almost always good beers, and some of them are quite excellent, but I almost never say, “This is a beer that could only be made by these brewers working together.” The one exception to this was Fritz & Ken’s Thirtieth Anniversary Ale, a collaboration between Sierra Nevada and Anchor Brewing, that might well be the best beer I have ever had.

Life & Limb

Life & Limb, the collaboration between Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head (two of my favorite brewers) does not reach the lofty heights of the Sierra Nevada-Anchor collaboration, but it is still pretty damn good. As you can see, it pours a deep mahogany color with some ruby highlights and a nice tan head. There are dried fruit notes in the flavor, mainly raisin and dark bitter cherries, along with chocolate, vanilla, and maple syrup flavors, with a touch of oak. There is also a mild birch beer aftertaste, which those of you from the northeast will recognise. I know that sounds like it would be too sweet, but it really was not at all. There is the warmth from the 10 % ABV and just enough bitterness from the hops to offset the sweetness. Do I think that neither Sierra Nevada nor Dogfish Head could have produced this beer on their own? I won’t go that far, but it ranks in the upper tier of collaborations, that is for certain.

I wish I had another bottle of this to hide in the back of the fridge, as I think it would age well, but I did not have the foresight to pick up more than a single bottle. I am quite happy that I grabbed this one, 8.5/10.


Best Beers of 2011

December 31, 2011

I had a good 2011 when it came to beer. I probably drank less beer by volume than any year in recent memory, but the quality of the beer I did  drink was much better than in years past. I decided this year to not drink beer just for the sake of drinking beer, but to drink only if the choices were genuinely appealing. No more knocking back a Shiner Bock just because that was the best beer available at the taqueria; I went with water (or sometimes soda) if that was the case.

Drinking only good beer meant less time spent like this

My 2011 Best Beer list is Texas-centric. There are two reasons for that: First, I live here now, and these beers are readily available to me. Second, Texas is home to some damn fine brewers, although most are relatively unknown outside the state. Texas is the best kept secret of the craft brewing world, but the better brewers are starting to get some attention elsewhere.

Here are the best beers I had in 2011:

8.5 Scores:

1. Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

2. Deschuttes Black Butte XXIII

3. Super Des Fagnes Brune

4. Dogfish Head Burton Baton

9.0 Scores:

1. Real Ale 15th Anniversary Russian Imperial Stout

2. Ithaca Excelsior Thirteen Anniversary Ale

3. Saint Arnold Divine Reserve No. 11

4. Mikeller Chipotle Porter

9.5 Scores:

1. Jester King Wytchmaker Rye IPA

2. Real Ale Barrel Aged Empire IPA

3. Real Ale Sisyphus 2009

If forced to choose one beer as the best of 2011, I’d go with Jester King’s Wytchmaker Rye IPA. That is one tasty beer. Jester King has a busy and creative 2012 planned, so much so that it would not shock me if one of their new beers knocked out the Wytchmaker to take the title in 2012. On the other hand, at the beginning of 2011, I had not even heard of Jester King, so there may be some as yet unknown brewer who will take the crown. We will have to see how 2012 plays out.

*Photo courtesy of Aaron Goldfarb, Author of How To Fail


Dogfish Head Beer Tasting (and a Killer Beer from Real Ale!)

July 3, 2011

I went to the recent Dogfish Head Night at the Ginger Man in Plano.  I love Dogfish Head, and the beer lineup for the night was interesting, most of which were first timers for me.

First up was Aprihop, a beer previously reviewed on this very site.  Let me repeat what I wrote in that review:  I wish this beer was available the entire year.  It is damn fine hoppybeer, and the apricots complement the bitterness of the hops.  This is the beer that Magic Hat #9 aspires to be, yet does not come close to being.

The next beer was Burton Baton.  This beer is a blend of English Style Old Ale and an Imperial IPA, which is then aged in oak barrels. The vanilla from the oak muted the 10% ABV burn, making this a smooth drinking beer.  This was my favorite Dogfish Head beer of the night, 8.5/10.

Chateau Jiahu is another in Dogfish Head’s Ancient Ales series. Dogfish Head’s Ancient Ales are recreations/modernizations of beers based on findings from archeological digs.  The Chateau Jiahu is based on 9,000 year old residue from pottery found in Northern China.  This was my first time tasting this beer, and probably my last.  It was sweet and fruity, with some honey and sweet oranges noticeable in the taste, and some mango and banana as well.  It was more wine than beer, and just not my cup of tea, 5/10.  I like that Dogfish Head goes to the effort of recreating and updating these beers from the ancient world, I just don’t like the brews all that much.

Next up was the Red & White.  This is what Dogfish Head does best: Take a traditional style of beer and then ignore the rules, forging something brand new.  The Red & White is a witbier, brewed with orange peel, coriander and pinot noir juice, and then aged in oak barrels.  It is light on the palate, yet still complex, and very refreshing, 8/10.

The last Dogfish Head of the night was the Palo Santo Marron.  This a high alcohol (12% ABV!) brown ale which is aged in barrels made from Paraguayan Palo Santo wood, giving the beer a unique caramel-vanilla flavor.  Roasted malts are the dominant flavor here.  The Palo Santo Marron should be sipped slowly from a snifter, preferably while dining on a thick and perfectly grilled Ribeye Steak, 8/10.

As pleased as I was with the Dogfish Head beers, the beer of the night, and a contender for beer of the year, was Real Ale’s barrel-aged Empire IPA.  Cloudy and pale orange in color, with floral and citrus hops, and some oak from the barrel aging, this beer was fantastic, 9.5/10, and  unfortunately, exceedingly rare, as it has already disappeared from bars around town.


Dogfish Head Punkin Ale

September 29, 2010

I am usually not a fan of pumpkin ales.  In my experience they tend to try to taste like pumpkin pie too much, and the nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice flavors tend to overwhelm everything else going on in the beer.  Dogfish Head avoids that trap by muting the spices (which is unusual for DFH), adding some coffee and cardamon to the flavor profile, and playing up the brown sugar flavors.  It is a bit sweet for my palate, but not cloyingly so.  This is not a beer I am going to reach for very often, but it will serve as my Halloween beer, 6/10.


A Tale of Two India Pale Ales

April 22, 2010

Whenever I am in a bar or a store with a good selection and I am dithering over what to drink, I usually end up getting an IPA.  India Pale Ales generally have the right combination of flavors to please your taste buds and are usually low in enough in ABV that you can have a few and slake your thirst.  IPAs have become the standard bearers for most American craft brewers, and with good reason.  They are usually drinkable enough for the casual beer drinker to enjoy, yet still interesting enough for the beer dork to sniff, swirl and text their impressions to other beer dorks.

There are several elements I associate with IPAs.  First, IPAs are more aggressively hopped than other beers that do not have ‘imperial’ in their name.  Second, the malt profile is elevated a bit due to the aggressive hopping.  Third, there is usually some wood, generally oak, in the aroma and the flavor. Fourth, IPAs tend to be among the more affordable offerings for any given brewer.  My guess is that IPA sales are the bread and butter business of most craft brewers and those sales finance the more exotic offerings that many craft brewers produce.

The Fire Island Red Wagon IPA is a decent example of an IPA.  It poured a dark amber, with a nice head.  The hops were earthy and fruity, but not as bitter as I normally like my IPAs.  There was nothing outstanding or particularly memorable about this beer, yet I can easily see myself polishing off a six pack over the course of an evening.  That is one of the wonders of IPAs.  Even if they are not great examples of the genre, you can still pound them back.  The Red Wagon IPA gets a 6/10.

I have extolled the virtues of Dogfish Head before, and I am going to do so again right now.  The 60 Minute IPA is pale amber and slightly cloudy with some grassy hops aroma immediately apparent, and some light citrus notes on the back end. The light caramel malts bring some sweetness to the bitterness of the hops.  This is an excellent beer, as enjoyable as they come, 8/10.  My only complaint is that at nearly twelve bucks a six pack, this is pricey for an IPA, especially when you get other IPAs which are almost as good for well under ten dollars.


Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale

April 13, 2010

We return to the Lords of Delaware, Dogfish Head, and sample their Indian Brown Ale.  This beer has some sweet caramel and brown sugar notes from the roasted malts, and bitterness and fruitiness from the hops.  It pours a dark ruby chestnut color with a medium head and very low carbonation.  It is a melange of flavors, which is a good thing, but it never really comes together the way I think it wants to.  It tries, it really does, but the Indian Brown Ale never hangs together the way it should. At 7.2% ABV, you are not going to drink many of these, and the odd flavor mix mean you probably will not want to drink to many of them.  The Indian Brown Ale was not bad at all, and I imagine if paired with a sharp cheese, it might be great, but I can only give it 6/10.


Dogfish Head Aprihop

April 5, 2010

At the request of JPE, I am going to give a quick review of the Aprihop from Dogfish Head.  As you already know, Dogfish Head is one of my favorite brewers, and they have lined up another winner with this spring seasonal offering. This is a hoppy mofo, and the hops are balanced perfectly by the addition of apricots to the wort.  If you think about the taste of apricots, with that combination of sweetness balanced by a tart bitterness, it is similar to beer, and I predict that apricots and hops will one day be a classic combination on par with stout and oysters, peanut butter and jelly, and Duke Men’s basketball and me being pissed off every spring.  All of these flavors are topped off by a 7% ABV.  I wish this one was available all year.  7/10.


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