Anchor Brews a Christmas Beer! Who Knew?

December 15, 2012

Hey! Did you guys know that Anchor brews a Christmas Beer each and every year? And that each year they tweak the recipe so that it is just a little bit different? You all knew that already?

Alright, I knew all of that too. I have sampled this beer for more than twenty years now (going back to a time when it was damn hard to find some years in some of the places in which I lived, although finding it no longer seems to be much of an issue), and other than one year when it tasted like candied yams mixed with fake pine cones, shitty tinsel and melted down plastic Santas, it is always at least a good, if not excellent, beer.

Some Christmas Traditions - gifts wrapped in red & green; colored lights; passing out drunk under the tree - should live forever

Some Christmas Traditions – gifts wrapped in red & green; colored lights; passing out drunk under the tree – should live forever

This year’s version is…truth be told, I lost my tasting notes, but I had it in a bottle and on tap and enjoyed both. I remember thinking ‘spicy’ and ‘warming’ so figure that this has some Christmas spice flavors in it, and a nice warming sensation from the alcohol. I do not recall thinking ‘fake pine cones’ nor ‘shitty tinsel’ nor ‘melted down Santas’ so figure there was nothing nasty about it. I recall thinking ‘7’ when I had the bottle and ‘8’ when I had it on tap, so let’s average that out to a 7.5/10 and call it a day. You know you are going to get some, so what are you waiting for?


Just Brutal: Jester King Gotlandsdricka

December 5, 2012

I am a Jester King fanboy, but I have my limits, and Gotlandsdricka is well beyond those.  Allegedly the beer of the Vikings, you’d have to be a Viking to enjoy this stuff. This was astringent and bitter and overly fizzy with an assortment of odd burnt wood flavors that were completely unpleasant. I choked it down, but I did not enjoy it in the least, and while I understand what Jester King is trying to do with all of these styles, this one is a huge swing and a miss, 3/10.

At least the label is cool

At least the label is cool


My Scorecard Says ‘Home Run’: Deep Ellum Double Brown Stout

November 24, 2012

Ca$h Money should be kept in your shoes, or better yet, your socks

Dallas’ Deep Ellum Brewing Co. is a relative newcomer to the craft beer scene, but they have impressed Tilting Suds in the past, and their Double Brown Stout continues that streak of good beer. Pouring a deep rich brown, this has a light and airy mouthfeel, creamy and smooth. The initial flavors and aromas are vanilla and toffee, with a nutty aftertaste, and some dried fruits as well. Stouts can be heavy and ponderous, like a Black Sabbath bass line, but not this one. It is easily drinkable, and even at 7% ABV, I could see myself having several over the course of an evening. It is the ‘lightest’ stout I have ever had, and that is meant as a compliment. According to the Deep Ellum website, they use lager yeast instead of ale yeast, so it is technically not a stout or a porter, and they classify it as a Baltic Porter on the website, as opposed to the ‘stout’ classification on the label. That is all a bit confusing, as if they are not totally sure what they have on their hands here, and frankly, I am not sure how to classify it either, except it is a home run, not a double, 8.5/10, just an excellent beer.


Black Friday Beer: Samuel Smith’s Winter Warmer

November 23, 2012

The day after Thanksgiving (AKA ‘Black Friday’) is the opening day of the Christmas Shopping season, and it is marked by midnight openings of Big Box Retail Stores, One Day ONLY! sales, people camping out days in advance to take advantage of those sales, and in particularly spectacular years, riots at stores to get at the merchandise. This year there were supposed to be various union organized protests at Walmart stores across the country, although if there were any they seemed to be largely ignored by the bargain seeking public.

For me, Black Friday has nothing to do with shopping. It is a day in which I sleep in a bit after eating too much on Thanksgiving, a day in which I sleep off yet another disappointing Cowboys’ Thanksgiving Day Loss, this year to the hated Redskins (and Good God, the idea of my favorite team facing Robert Griffin III twice a year for the next decade fills me with dread, as he is the quarterback that Michael Vick was supposed to be, except he is serious about the QB craft, actually working at it by watching film and studying and doing drills and having his receivers practice endlessly to get their timing down instead of relying solely on his physical talent as Vick did; RGIII is, if anything, a better natural athlete than Vick; and something else, something else…oh yeah, he is not a fucking dumbass like Vick was), and it is the first day on which I will drink a Christmas Beer.

American Football is Mutant Rugby played in protective pads

The initial Christmas Beer of 2012 is an old favorite, Samuel Smith’s Winter Warmer. Seeing the ever changing yet still familiar label* with the Bill Shakespeare quote is the first harbinger that my favorite time of year is coming soon. I will not drink this before Black Friday, nor will I drink any after Twelfth Night, but I am hardcore like that. Like Omar Little, I have a code.

At this stage, with the proliferation of seasonal brews, this barely qualifies as a ‘Christmas Beer’ as it is not spicy nor especially in high in alcohol nor amped up in any way, but I do not really care. It is smooth and good and only comes out at the end of the year, and that is enough for me, 7.5/10.

*The 2012 label is a bit of a letdown. Usually it depicts Dickensian or Elizabethan or Edwardian revelers in a Christmas scene. This year it depicts two rugby players in action. I suppose rugby has some winter/Christmas connotations, but damn it, I am American, and I demand that Samuel Smith confine themselves to my predisposed notions of an English Yuletide!


Terrapin Station

October 22, 2012

Grandpa Jones approves of this beer

While in Florida recently, I stumbled upon some beers from Terrapin Brewing Co. Their beers are not available in Texas, at least in my experience. That made sense to me, as I assumed the brewery was located in Maryland and I just figured they had not made it this far south and west of the Mason-Dixon line until I looked them up and discovered they are from Athens, Georgia. While their unavailability in Texas makes less sense, as Georgia is not as far from Texas as Maryland is, the the real lesson here, as always, is that I am an idiot.

Terrapin Rye Pale Ale – This pale ale is nicely balanced, with some fairly assertive floral hops and earthy and caramel malts. It has a 5.5 % ABV, so it is a nice session beer. That is the second time I have used ‘nice’ to describe this beer in as many sentences, and that is the best I can say for it. It blandly inoffensive, certainly drinkable, but nothing to get excited about. I had hoped for more flavor from the rye malts, but it was not to be. Good, but not great, 6/10.

Terrapin Easy Rider Hopped Up Session Ale  – This one is bit more interesting. It is very aggressively hopped, with lots of flowery and citrus flavors and aromas mingling together, and packs a lot of flavor for a beer with only 4.5 % ABV. It has a sticky mouth feel and a crisp and bitter finish to it. There is no real malt profile to speak of here, but I am o.k. with that, 6.5/10.

Insert Dennis HOPper joke here


Great Divide Rumble IPA

October 18, 2012

I spent a few years out in Denver in the early nineties. I learned to love mexican food, did some mountain biking, honed my appreciation of good beer, and dug through the racks of the used record stores in between going to class.* I cannot say for certain whether I had any Great Divide Beers while I was living there. I sort of recall the name from that time, but the mind plays tricks on you, and memories, especially those centered around and/or fueled by the consumption of alcohol, are unreliable.

You can’t hit what you can’t see

I have certainly had Great Divide Beers in the intervening years, and while I would not put them in the upper echelon of American brewers, they are certainly good enough to take a flyer on when I see something I have not tried before, like the Rumble India Pale Ale. Aged in oak barrels (like all IPAs should be!), and that aging shows in the subtle vanilla aroma and flavor behind the heavy dose of piney hops and caramel malts, this beer clocks in at 7.1 % ABV. Did I mention there was some sediment floating around in my beer? There was, and I love when my beer has flotsam and jetsam** in it, 7/10.

*No, I never went skiing.

**As the sediment is neither cargo dumped overboard nor wreckage from a ship, it is technically neither flotsam nor jetsam, but those terms sound better than detritus so I am going to roll with them.


Spread The Word: Other Beer Bloggers Who Are Fighting the Good Fight

October 4, 2012

Sexier than a photo of Marilyn Monroe making out with Brigitte Bardot 

Back of the Ferry: Bladdamasta and his band of bloggers weigh in from Sydney with their take on the Australian beer scene. As most of my readers are American, most of us will never try the beers they write about, short of taking a trip to Australia for a week or three of drunken wanderings, but don’t let that stop all of you from checking out the blog on a regular basis. You learn all sorts of stuff about cricket and rugby and arcane bits of Aussie culture, and the photos of the beer, usually taken from the back end of a commuter ferry with the Sydney Opera House in the background, or taken on some impossibly beautiful beach, make for the best beerporn on the internet. Lately these Australian Merry Pranksters have gained some access to some of the better American brews, and their take on our beer makes for fascinating reading.

Beer Samizdat: Speaking of Merry Pranksters, Jay in San Francisco has established a little fiefdom in a corner of the web, at various times blogging about music, books, politics, movies, sports and beer. I first encountered him on his Agony Shorthand blog, which as I recall was all music, all the time. He stopped updating that blog and has since then opened and closed blogs dealing with music, politics, books, beer, sports, etc. I think there was even a short lived movie blog in there at one point. The one topic that he regularly returns to is beer, and Beer Samizdat is his latest beercentric blog (he also currently has a general interest blog (The Hedonist Jive) and a music tumblr (Dynamite Hemorrhage)). Being in Northern California, Jay has ready access to some of the best breweries in the country, and he has also developed a nationwide trading network, which nets him tasty treats from all points on the map. He is an impeccably honest reviewer, one of the few to say that when it comes to Pliny The Elder, the emperor has no clothes. I don’t necessarily agree with that assessment, but I like that he is willing to call ’em as he sees ’em.

You Stay Hoppy Austin: More than just a blog, You Stay Hoppy Austin is one man’s attempt to be a central clearing house for all Austin beer news. Not being in Austin, I am not in a position to judge how well that goal is filled, but as a supporter of the ever growing Texas craft beer scene, it is a must read for me.

The Vice Blog: The proprietor of the Vice Blog, Aaron, is focused on writing novels, so he does not update this blog as often as he used to, but this blog is still one of the funniest reads you will find, and is well worth poking around in for a few hours. I am ever mindful of Aaron’s admonition that Most Beer Blogs Suck and do my best to keep Tilting Suds above the Mendoza Line of Beer Blog Suckitude.

It’s a Fucking Beer: Pithy reviews of beer, which get more entertaining the less he likes the beer. The blog name says it all.


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