February 22, 2012
Have you all heard about this Jeremy Lin? Asian guy, plays hoops, went to Harvard, bounced around a few NBA teams, and finally got a chance to play with the Knicks, where he absolutely explodes and becomes the biggest basketball story of the year, if not the biggest sports story overall. It as if the guy came from nowhere, and is now just short of being a legend. Put it this way: Spike Lee has taken to wearing a Jeremy Lin jersey at Knicks’ games, but not a Knicks’ jersey. Spike is wearing a Harvard jersey.
LINSANITY!* has nothing to do with this excellent beer from Sierra Nevada. There is no Asian-Harvard-NYC connection that I can see. It is not as if this being an outstanding beer is a “Who expected this?!?!” story like the LINSANITY! legend. We are talking about Sierra Nevada, after all. It would be a big story if this beer was lousy. Sierra Nevada making a great beer falls in the Dog Bites Man category. Nothing to see here, just move along.
However, beer is far too important to just move along without taking a look at we have in front of us. The Ruthless Rye IPA is a fruity IPA, with the rye giving it a bready maltiness. This tastes like biting into a sandwich made from an unpeeled orange, fresh and juicy, with some bitterness from the peel, some sweetness from the juice, and the rye bread giving it a touch of peppery spiciness. That sandwich sounds nasty, but this beer is outstanding, 9/10.
*All references to Jeremy Lin and LINSANITY! constitute shameless google search whoring on my part. I am just trying to drive up traffic to the blog. While I am at it: “Jeremy Lin Porn SEX Asian boobies ” That is probably worth a hundred hits a day.
UPDATE: It is disturbing how many people have found this post by googling “Jeremy Lin Porn”.
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:
1. Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale
2. Deschuttes Black Butte XXIII
3. Super Des Fagnes Brune
4. Dogfish Head Burton Baton
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
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
December 24, 2011
For the Eleventh Day of Christmas, I cracked open a bottle of Stone Brewing’s 11.11.11 Vertical Epic.* This ale is brewed with Belgian Yeast, which gives it a funky aroma and some banana flavors. Cinnamon and New Mexico Green Chilies were added to the boil, with the heat from the cinnamon noticeable on the front end, and the mildest heat from chiles in the aftertaste. The cinnamon and the chilies complement each other, and neither overpowers this beer, as is often the case with chili pepper or cinnamon infused beers. There are plenty of hops here as well, adding layers of flavor. This is another wonderful beer from Stone, 8/10.
*Do you see what I did there? Eleventh Day of Christmas paired with 11.11.11? I am on a roll!
December 21, 2011
I am a huge fan of Sierra Nevada. Their beers are consistently good to great, with one notable exception, giving them a Hall of Fame batting average. The Celebration Ale is one of their better beers. There is nothing especially Christmassy about this beer as there are no spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or cardamon; it is not particularly heavy; nor is the 6.5 % ABV is all that high. In fact, the only signifiers that this is a Christmas beer is the end of the year release date, and the poinsettias, pine trees and snowbound cabin on the label. I am not complaining as this malty and hoppy IPA is one of my favorite harbingers of the Holiday Season, along with Advent Calendars, the Alastair Sim version of A Christmas Carol, and Christmas cookies, loads and loads of Christmas cookies. My only gripe with this beer is the limited availability as I would drink this all year long. It is that good, 8.5/10.
The First Day of Christmas
The Second Day of Christmas
December 19, 2011
I have never had a brown ale that I loved. I have never had a brown ale that I hated. Brown ales are the mediocre middle children of the craft beer world. Damn near every brewer makes one, and whenever I have one, I am always slightly disappointed. Not because whatever brown ale I am drinking is bad, but because I could have had something better.
Winterbraun by Lost Coast Brewing is a chocolatey smooth brown ale, with some notes of coffee and dark fruit. It pours a rich, velvety blackish brown with ruby highlights, and a cappuccino colored head. It has a nutty aftertaste and and there is the mildest of nutmeg flavors here. Do I love this brown ale? No I do not, but I do like it more than most brown ales, and would gladly drink this again, 7/10.
The First Day of Christmas
The Second Day of Christmas
November 22, 2011
Collaborations between brewers are a hot trend in the craft beer world. The idea is that two or more brewers get together and whip up a (usually limited edition) brew, with each brewer bringing their unique talents to the mix, and beer dorks across the world start the rare beer scramble, trying to get a bottle or two by purchase, trade, or piracy. I have had some wonderful beer collaborations, although the majority, while usually quite good, tend to be somewhat disappointing. I just expect fireworks when great brewers get together, but I guess not all collaborations can be as super-fantastically awesome as this collaboration:
Read the rest of this entry »
December 24, 2010
The First Beer of Christmas: Full Sail Wassail, Hood River, Oregon – I had this on tap at the Ginger Man. Dark velvety brown with ruby highlights and a fluffy white head. This was mildly sweet, with a caramel taste and some dried fruit and spiciness as well. Very good, 7/10.
The Second Beer of Christmas: Anchor 2010 Christmas Ale – The Grand Daddy of American Christmas Ales, with an ever evolving recipe. I had this on tap at the Ginger Man, and this year’s version has a spicy ginger aftertaste, which I liked, but everyone else who tried it with me hated. Not as good as years past, but still a fine Christmas Beer, 7/10. Read the rest of this entry »
December 15, 2010
The folks from Chico have long been among my favorite brewers, and two recent releases have done nothing to cool my ardor for them. The Estate Homegrown Ale is made entirely from ingredients grown by the brewery, and it is a fresh tasting, subtly hoppy ale. It poured a hazy orange with a creamy white head, nice lacing up the side of the glass and frisky carbonation. The hops were fruity and sharp, and the malts were fruity as well, with some plum and citrus. I wanted to grab some more of this, but by the time I got back to my local beer emporium, it was all gone. I am glad I grabbed a bottle when I did, 8.5/10.
I was a big fan of the Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale, so I had high hopes for the Northern Hemisphere edition. Although not quite as good, the Northern Hemisphere Harvest Wet Hop Ale was still a fine drink, with some piney and resinous hops, balanced by some bready and sweet malts. It had a mild apple cider aftertaste that was very nice. I did not love it, but I did like it, 7/10.
October 27, 2010
This is a dry, crisp ale that is hopped up enough to be classified as an IPA, but is easy drinking enough to be a pale ale. The hops are not all that bitter, more mango sweet than anything, and at slightly less than 6% ABV, you can have a couple of these at a sitting. The Humming Ale tasted remarkably bright and fresh and vegetal, with plenty of flavor. It tastes like a summer beer brewed for the autumn. Unfortunately, it also appears to have been a limited release. A few days after trying this, I went back to my local beer emporium to grab some more, and it was entirely sold out, and the diminutive Chinaman who runs the shop told me “No More! No More!” If you find some, grab it, because it is a good one, 8/10.
Check out this interview with Fritz Maytag, the founder of Anchor Brewing, and the grandfather of the American Craft Beer Movement.
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.