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.


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