Ska Brewing Co.

November 10, 2010

I was a huge Specials fan when I was a kid.  Still am in fact, and I still love all of those old Two Tone Bands so when I came across Ska Brewing Co.’s beers, with their obvious homage to the iconography of the record label, I had to give them a try.  It was the marketing that made me pull their beer off the shelf the first time, and while it worked with me, how many middle aged beer dorks are there who are also music geeks specializing in British Post-Punk Music of the Thatcher Years? In any event, while it was the packaging that first caught my eye, it is the quality of their brew that keeps me going back to them.

The Modus Hoperandi (Great name!) is a hop bomb extraordinaire with massive amounts of piney hops in the nose and the taste, a rich amber color with a white head, 6.8% ABV and a thick chewy mouthfeel to boot.  I love this beer, 8.5/10.

The Decadent Imperial IPA is a boozier version of the Modus Hoperandi with some spice and sweetness added to it.  I noticed the 10.0 % ABV immediately upon opening the bottle.  The alcohol is that strong on this one, but it is tempered by the flowery hops, both of which carry over to the flavor.  I liked it, but not as much as the Modus Hoperandi, 7/10


Saint Arnold Divine Reserve No. 10

November 6, 2010

Each year, Houston’s outstanding brewery, the venerable Saint Arnold, produces a special limited edition beer called the Divine Reserve. The beer is a different brew every year, a barleywine this year, and I have been told that it sells out quickly.  The release date this year was November 2.  I have discovered a few good beer emporiums in the area, and I thought that as long as I got to at least one of them by the end of the 2nd, I would be able to snag myself at least a six pack.  No problem, right?

Problem.

I hit my favorite local beer emporium, and the Chinaman tells me that he closed his waiting list in September.  Fuck.  I go to my next favorite place, and they tell me that their three cases were gone by noon.  Double Fuck.

I hit supermarkets, convenience stores, gas stations.  Saint Arnold? Divine what? Beer?  Sounds sorta blasphemous to me, Sonny, and where yall from with that funny way of talking you got? Triple Fuck.

As I am swinging home, I pass the brand new Whole Foods that opened the day before.  I figure if I can’t get myself some Divine Reserve, I can at least get some goat cheese, olives and ciabatta and maybe some red wine to knock back as I watch the election returns, and as I am gathering my provisions, I stumble into their beer section.  Saint Arnold IPA? Check. Saint Arnold Brown? Check.  Saint Arnold Amber? Check. Saint Arnold Christmas Ale? Check. Saint Arnold Divine Reserve?  Nope. Quadruple Fuck.

As I am leaving the beer aisle, an older woman asks me if I have found everything I am looking for, because if I have not, her son, who is standing right over there, is the beer manager for this Whole Foods, and he can help me find it.

<play it cool, Mr. Tilting Suds, play it cool>

Her son comes over and says hello, and we chat a bit.  I tell Mom that while I am a man of limited means, I will do everything in my power to make her son the superstar of this store.  We all laugh at my charming witticism, and we talk about the fire at Rahr Brewing and how Austin’s Real Ale Brewing Company makes some excellent beers and you know, Shiner has some surprisingly good beers. I am doing a song and dance routine, showing the depth and breadth of my knowledge, such as it is, all the while buttering up Mom with the old Tilting Suds charm, and those of you who know me, know how effective that charm offensive can be.

“So,” I ask, “do you have any Divine Reserve?”

“No, I don’t.” Quintuple Fuck.

“Ah, too bad,” says I.

“But I am getting a case in tonight, come back tomorrow, I’ll set aside a six for you.”

I swear on the souls of my ancestors that I did not do my Victory Jig until I was out in the parking lot.

This is heavy on the booze.*  It is listed at just under 12% ABV, but my guess is that it is quite a bit higher considering the way my tongue was numb on my first sip.  It has some nice cherry and dried fruit flavors, some nutty hoppiness along with some caramel, smoke and spice, but the alcohol is dominant, especially as it warms a bit.  This is a good beer now, 7/10, but it is a bit too ‘hot,’ and if it ages a bit and mellows, it will probably be a great beer.  I have five bottles left.  One is earmarked for a beer blogging novelist in NYC, and my plan is to cellar the other four and come back to them in a year.

Ah, who the hell am I kidding? Six months at best.

I am so full of shit, it will all be gone by Thanksgiving.

*GEB sent me text the other night asking if the Divine Reserve was stronger than a regular beer because she had three of them and was “drunkity drunk drunk drunk.”


Alternate Spellings of Names

October 18, 2010

Do you know what really chaps my ass?  Alternate spellings of first names.  Using my first name as an example, Shaun, Shawn, and, God help us, Chone, are unacceptable spellings of Sean.  If it is good enough for Sean Connery, it is good enough for everyone.

This alternate spelling of Jennifer is the Queen of Alternate Spellings. What. The. Fuck.  I am not sure what is more offensive:  The way she spells her name, that she lists her profession as Child Caretaker/Magician’s Assistant, or that she lists her greatest accomplishment as, and I quote, “Being able to enrich the lives of others through dance has been my greatest aspiration.”  The sad thing is that she is good looking enough that guys have been telling her that it is cool that she spells her name that way in a desperate attempt to get in her pants.

On to beer: Oskar Blues Old Chub is a scotch ale with a malty caramel body and a smoky aftertaste.  It pours a deep mahogany with a cafe au lait colored head, a rich velvety mouthfeel, and a touch of coffee and chocolate in the aroma.  I am generally not a fan of scotch ales, not hoppy enough for me, but this is a good one.  Another winner from Oskar Blues, 7/10.


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.


Beer in the Sun’s Anvil

September 24, 2010

I have been in Texas for a few weeks now, and the one thing I cannot adjust to is the heat.   T.E. Lawrence and his band of Merry Arab Pranksters may have crossed the Sun’s Anvil to attack Aqaba by land, but the Mexicans who work construction here in the summer think A’Lawrence and those Arabs are a bunch of candy asses for hiding from the sun during the day.  It is the end of September, shortly after 10 a.m., and it is over 90 degrees, and no one here thinks that is odd.  It is just the way it is. Read the rest of this entry »


Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest

July 19, 2010

Another winner from the good folks at Sierra Nevada.  Using hops from New Zealand, the Southern Hemisphere Harvest is a big citrus and pine hop bomb, more of a sipping IPA rather than a chugging beer.  To be honest, the flavor is so intense that finishing the bottle by myself was not quite challenging, but not exactly easy either.  The fluffy two fingered head stuck around to the bottom of the glass, and the creamy mouthfeel and bubbly carbonation helped bring out the malty aftertaste.  It only clocks in at 6.7 % ABV.  Given the intense flavors, that ABV might have been higher.  I am giving this an 8/10.


Flying Fish Exit 6 Wallonian Rye

July 10, 2010

I cracked open the Exit 6 Wallonian Rye Belgian Style Ale (named after the first Dutch* settlers in New Jersey), and it is another winner from New Jersey’s very own Flying Fish, and another in their Exit Series honoring the Golden Roadway of the East, The New Jersey Turnpike.  Using locally grown rye in the malts, the ale is hopped with East Kent Goldings, Slovenian Goldings and Japanese Sorachi Ace Hops.  The rye is prominent on your first sip, and the citrusy hops kick in subtly in the aftertaste.  This was the first beer I split with JPE and the V-Man last night (more reviews to come) and it started the night off in a grand fashion, 8/10. If Flying Fish keeps this up, they will soon be on the list of premier American craft brewers, if they are not already there.

*Go Netherlands!


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