The Eleventh Day of Christmas: Stone Vertical Epic 11.11.11

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!


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 »


Laughing Dog Dogzilla Black IPA

March 26, 2010

Laughing Dog, the finest brewery in Idaho, at least that I know of, have scored another winner with the Dogzilla Black IPA.  This poured with a nice frothy head that lasted to the bottom of the glass and probably would have lasted all night if I left the glass on the countertop.  It was as black as advertised, and had a good blast of hops bitterness, balanced by some toasted malt flavors, with a hint of mocha and raisin, but without any real malt sweetness.  This seemed to be more of a hoppy porter than a dark IPA, but I can live with their characterization.  7.5/10.


Victory Hop Devil and Victory Helios Saison

March 25, 2010

The V-Man is a serious softball player, and this past weekend he wanted to get some swings in at the batting cage.  He was meeting some of his teammates, and not having anything better to do, I joined them.  I first took some swings in the slow pitch softball cage, and while I was not smacking the ball around, I at least made contact on all ten balls.  Granted, they would have all been weak grounders to second or short, what are known as ‘Double-Play Balls’, but at least the ball was put in play.  I then took some cuts in the fast pitch softball cage.  My performance there was sad.  When I was done, the high school girls who were waiting their turn were all giggling, and I do not think it was because they thought I was cute.

After the spring training session, we retired to Just Jakes in Montclair for some beer and appetizers.  Being the beer dork in the group, I was asked for advice on ordering.  I suggested to  a guy who liked Hoegaarden that he try the Leffe Blonde. He loved it.  The rest of the group was choosing between the Victory Hop Devil or Long Trail Double Bag.  The lone female in our group (who outslugged me in the batting cage by a considerable margin) deemed the Hop Devil to be “too perfumey” for her, and opted for the Double Bag.  While I slightly disagree with her beer choice, I think “perfumey” is a good description of the Hop Devil.  It has a serious hops aroma, which you notice before you take a sip.  Hop Devil is another of my ‘go-to’ beers.  This beer is damned good and eminently drinkable.  It has enough hops ‘perfume’ to keep the beer snobs happy, and enough balance and flavor to entice the macro-beer drinkers in to giving it a try. 8/10.

The Victory Helios is a rebranding and repackaging of Victory’s Saison.  The Victory Saison was my summer beer last year.  It was a classic Belgian Farmhouse Ale, light, crisp and refreshing, with some yeasty sourness to make it an interesting brew.  It does not seem like much has changed with the Helios, other than the bottle is no longer corked (Boo!) and the price has come down considerably (Huzzah!).  It is still dry, crisp, refreshing and wonderfully complex, with notes of lemon peel and black pepper spiciness on the nose and on the tongue. 8.5/10.


Stone Levitation Ale

March 23, 2010

Normally I am a fan of Stone Brewing’s beer, and I heard good things about the Levitation Ale, but Jesus Tap Dancing Christ, this was awful.  It was astringent and bitter, not in the good way, and was just plain nasty.  It was so bad and so off the mark for Stone that I wonder if I got a bad bottle.  I finished it, because I am a cheap bastard and don’t like wasting beer, but I will not be going back anytime soon. 3/10.


Full Sail Pale Ale

March 12, 2010

About a year ago, I flew out to Portland, Oregon to visit BB.  JPE came out a few days later, and the three of us drove around Oregon, sampled beer and seafood, and generally enjoyed the unique culture of the Northwest.  Let me clarify that: BB drove JPE and me around and tried to keep his BAC below the legal limit, while we guzzled beer, gorged ourselves on whatever grub we could lay our mitts on, and generally made a nuisance of ourselves.

The Pacific Northwest (I am including Northern California) is the Bourdeaux region of American Brewing, and I would love to go back with more time and a bigger budget, and explore the region again.  Every podunk town we stopped in had at least one outstanding craft brewer.  Every dive bar we stumbled into had a tap selection that would be the envy of the Blind Tiger or d.b.a. I would describe myself in Oregon as being like a kid in a candy store if I was not trying to avoid cliches like the plague.

One morning, we made a trip out to Mount Hood, which is a must do trip for anyone who visits Portland.  The only downside was that JPE could not get service on his iPhone, and the GPS on my phone was out of service, so we got a bit lost. We eventually found our bearings and made our way to the town of Hood River, which sits on the river at the end of a mountain passage, creating a natural wind tunnel, and which makes windsurfing in Hood River like climbing Mount Everest.

As none of us had thought to bring our wetsuits, we decided to grab some beer instead.  The Full Sail Brewing Company was our first stop.  The bar had a fantastic view of the river, and the beer and food was decent as well.   As we were leaving, BB said “we need to head back to Portland now.”  JPE and I agreed, but only after stopping for a quick three at the  Double Mountain Brewery & Taproom, which was a few short blocks away.  I was not taking notes, so this is strictly on memory, but the beer there was outstanding, with the India Red Ale being a particular favorite.

I came across a six pack of the Full Sail Pale Ale when I was visiting my sister in Texas, and having fond memories of the trip, grabbed it.  It strikes the right balance between hops and malt, crisp and dry, and you could drink several of these without being overwhelmed.  I have yet to see it ’round these parts, but I’d drink it regularly if I could. 7/10.


Some More Boulevard Brewing Beers

March 10, 2010

Having already reviewed Boulevard’s Long Strange Tripel, let me review the other Boulevard Brewing beers that I have tried.

Sorry about the lousy photo

First up is the Boulevard Pale Ale.  This beer was pale copper in color with a nice thick head.  Not very aromatic, but it had a decent hops bitterness with some fruity sweetness added to the taste.  It was medium bodied and smooth.  All in all, a decent pale ale. If it was available around these parts, it would occasionally crack the starting lineup, though it will never replace the great Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.  I give it a 6/10.

The Nutcracker Ale is Boulevard’s Christmas Beer.  This poured a deep mahogany brown and had the aroma of blackstrap molasses.  It was a slightly hoppier than most Christmas beers, and had a mild Star of Anise aftertaste.  This is a full bodied beer to be sipped and savored.  It was a good but not great Christmas beer, as the flavors did not really meld together, another 6/10.

The Single Wide IPA is my favorite of the group.  It poured a pale amber, and had a fruity and flowery aroma.  The beer had a mild hops bitterness, was crisp and dry on the palate and did not have any oak flavor that I could detect.  I would probably call this a pale ale in a blind taste test, but Boulevard says it is an IPA, and I am not going to argue with them.  As an IPA, it falls short of the mark, but as a pale ale, it is a winner, 7.5/10.


Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA

March 10, 2010

As I have said before, Dogfish Head is one of my favorite brewers.  I cannot say that I  love all of their beers.  Some, like the Midas Touch, I find to be nearly undrinkable.  What I love about Dogfish Head is that when they miss, they miss because they are swinging for the fences.  I have never tried one of their beers and thought it was too bland, or just a little bit off, or not quite right.  Dogfish Head Beers are either home runs or strikeouts.   Their beers are not for the faint hearted.  At times, like with the aforementioned Midas Touch, Dogfish Head pushes the boundary of what can be called beer.  And when Dogfish beers are good, they are really good.

Case in point is the 90 Minute IPA. The 90 minutes in the moniker refers to the amount of time this beer is continuously hopped.  Dogfish Head also makes a 60 Minute IPA and a 120 Minute IPA.   There is also a 75 Minute IPA that is a blend of the 60 Minute IPA and 120 Minute IPA, and which is only available on tap. (CORRECTION: I have been advised that the 75 Minute IPA is served on cask and has some maple syrup added.)

The 90 Minute IPA is often referred to as an Imperial IPA, but it is unlike any other Imperial IPA I have come across.  It is not nearly as hoppy and is much maltier than the standard Imperial IPAs.  There was not much head on the pour, but that slight head lasted to the bottom of the glass.  The 9% ABV is very noticeable but is not harsh.  If anything, the high alcohol taste balances the maltiness nicely and helps to highlight the spiciness of the hops.  The beer is remarkably smooth with low carbonation and a velvety texture.  I enjoyed the hell out of this beer, and give it a 9/10.


Sierra Nevada is a Bad Ass Brewer

March 8, 2010

There are very few breweries that are as consistently good as Sierra Nevada.  I have had most of their beers, and the worst one was still pretty damn good.  Sierra Nevada is one of my ‘go-to’ brewers, along with Dogfish Head and Victory.

The Torpedo IPA is a recent edition to the Sierra Nevada lineup, and it is a great one.  Intensely hoppy, with powerful pine, citrus and herbal aromas, this beer is easy to drink, and easy to drink quite a few of them, which is a bit dangerous as it clocks in at 7.2% ABV.  It pours a dark copper color and keeps a nice head to the bottom of the glass.  This is a top notch beer and earns a 8.5/10.

The Sierra Nevada Porter is deep brown in color with a creamy head, but is surprisingly mild flavored.  Not much in the way of hops bitterness, it has a slight nutty caramel flavor behind the maltiness.  This is not as good as the Torpedo, but it earns a very respectable 7/10.

The Glissade Golden Bock is Sierra Nevada’s spring beer.  It poured a crystal clear pale gold with a snow white head that faded quickly.  The Golden Bock barely had any hops, and had a slightly sweet malt flavor.  It is probably my least favorite of their beers, but it was far from bad.  I give it a 5.5/10.

The final beer to be graded is the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.  Pale ales are the redheaded step children of the beer world.  Beer snobs tend to dismiss them because they lack the punch of IPAs and other ‘bigger’ beers, and macro-beer drinkers (god help them!) who try them quickly revert back to their bud swilling ways.  I fall in the beer snob category, but not when it comes to this beer.  Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale is a winner.  It is complex, fragrant, and has a helluva lot more “drinkability” than that damned Bud Light.  This one gets a 8.5/10.


Boulevard Brewing Long Strange Tripel

March 7, 2010

Kansas City’s Boulevard Brewing Company’ beers usually get great reviews, and they are not widely available in the Northeast, so when I saw some of their beers when I was visiting my sister and her family in Texas, I jumped on the opportunity to try as many as I could.  The Long Strange Tripel is part of their SmokeHouse Series of limited edition beers.  It is a dead certainty that one of the brewers is a Deadhead, and as you have probably guessed, this beer is a Belgian Tripel.  Not being well versed in Belgian beers, I do not know if it is a faithful representation of the style.  I do know that it was pale gold and cloudy, with a gorgeous foamy head that lasted to the bottom of the glass.  The beer had a sweet and fruity aroma, mostly banana and apple.  It had a pleasant malt and yeast flavor, with almost no hops bitterness.  I generally like my beers hoppy, but this was an exception to that rule.  The Long Strange Tripel grades out at a 7/10, and I have some other Boulevard beers coming up to be graded.


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