After drinking some lousy beers, I needed to freshen my palate and drink something good, something that set the shite and onions beers in stark relief, something that made me sit up and say “this is why you love beer.” I hit the bullseye with the West Coast India Pale Ale by Green Flash Brewing Co. This pours a deep rich amber with a nice two finger head that is retained to the bottom of the glass. The first thing I noticed in the aroma was the hops, with lots of pine, grapefruit and just a touch of the sticky-icky, with some sweetness from the malts as well. The taste closely tracks the aroma, with a dry and bitter finish. There is a touch of malt sweetness, but this is a hop bomb, as are most west coast IPAs, and the 7.3 % ABV is not even noticeable through all of the hoppy bitterness. My only complaint about this beer is that the texture is a bit thin, but that is a very minor complaint, 7.5/10.
Beating the heat in Texas is a fool’s errand. It simply cannot be done. It is like trying to stop Michael Jordan in his prime. That is just not going to happen. But as the sportscasters used to say, “you cannot stop Michael Jordan, you can only hope to contain him” and that is the approach I take to summer in Texas.
I concede that I am going to be hot and miserable. There is no way around it, but I am not going to let the summer defeat me. I am going to ride my bike whenever I can, I am just going to be sure to stay well hydrated. I recognize that my car is going to be pizza oven hot when I get into it, I just park in the shade whenever possible and use the window screen religiously. I understand that every pool I jump into is going to feel like plunging into a bowl of warm spit, instead of the cold, bracing, damn near heart attack inducing sensation I am used to after growing up in the northeast. And I know that the heavy IPAs I usually prefer are going to go down like sludge, so I resign myself to drinking lighter bodied beers during the dog days of summer.
Although I resign myself to drinking lighter beers in the summer, Saint Arnold’s Homefront IPA* is a damn fine india pale ale for the Texas heat due to it’s light body. The aroma is sweet oranges and flowery hops. The taste has the floral hops right up front, with some orange marmalade bittersweetness in the background. The Homefront IPA clocks in at 6.5 % ABV, which is so well hidden that I would have guessed it would have been around 5%. This is another fine addition to Saint Arnold’s lineup of beers, 8/10.
*Saint Arnold brewed this in honor of Memorial Day, and Saint Arnold is donating the profits to Operation Homefront, and organization providing emergency financial and other assistance to the families of American service members and wounded warriors.
It is remarkable the extent to which craft beers have become mainstreamed. Even just a few years ago, I would have looked at a barrel aged beer as akin to Sasquatch or the Loch Ness Monster: I had heard of them, and would have been open to their actual existence, but I would have demanded strict proof before being convinced. Now, they are so normal, that if a bar does not have at least one barrel aged beer on the menu, I scoff at their puny selection, and when my brother in law showed me this bottle, I shrugged and said “looks good, let’s give it a try”.
I should not be so blasé about these beers. The Great Divide Eighteenth Anniversary Oak Aged Double India Pale Ale might be a mouthful to say, but it also has a mouthful of flavor. Lots of caramel malts, with woody vanilla flavors from the oak, and tons of floral and orange peel hops, all of which are needed to stand up to the 10% ABV. This is a remarkably smooth beer considering how much is going on the flavor profile. It is a sipping beer, and a fine one at that, 7.5/10.
When I was a kid growing up in New Jersey, Brooklyn was always a Borough Too Far. My dad worked in Manhattan (he even had an office in the Empire State Building for a few years) so I went to the ‘City’ (as we called it) every so often, and when I got older, it was always Manhattan I went to for record buying or weed scoring expeditions. Bronx is the home of the Yankees and Queens is the home of the Mets, and as my grandfather was a big baseball fan, he’d take me to those boroughs to see games. Even lowly Staten Island got a visit now and then via a trip on the Staten Island Ferry (Still the best tourist bargain in America. How can you beat a free boat ride through New York Harbor?). But Brooklyn was the one borough I never really visited. There were no baseball teams, the Dodgers having left for Los Angeles long before I was born. My dad did not work there. The Ferry did not go there. And while I am sure I could have scored some sweet records and good weed in Brooklyn, I had to pass through Manhattan to get there, where I could score the same, so why bother?
Consequently, I never got to know Brooklyn well, and even in recent years, when Brooklyn became the epicenter of hipster culture, making the formerly decrepit neighborhoods of the borough must visit places if you wanted to see certain bands, I tried to limit my time there. I found it too easy to end up in the wrong neighborhood, and just never felt as comfortable there as I did in Manhattan. I tried to remedy that by taking a few bike tours around Brooklyn with the Vinman, but we got hopelessly lost each time, which confirmed my impulse to avoid the borough.
I may avoid going to Brooklyn, but I don’t avoid the beers from Brooklyn Brewery. (Holy Cow, that transition was smoooooooooooooth!) Brooklyn Brewing is one of the more consistent brewers out there, always turning out quality beers. The East India Pale Ale is no exception to that rule. Sweet maltiness is offset by a mild and pleasant bitterness and a crisp, clean and dry finish. This is not a hop bomb IPA, but is a well rounded, refreshing, and easy drinking beer, 7/10.
I do not have any Christmas Party nightmare stories. I never got drunk and made a pass at the boss’ daughter. I never tried to grope the secretary. Never dropped my drawers to photocopy my naked ass. There are no pictures of me with a lampshade on my head nor dancing shirtless in a fountain in sub-zero temperatures. I have never stumbled home and passed out beneath the Christmas tree.
While I have never wrecked the halls, that did not stop me from enjoying the heck out of Full Sail’s Wreck The Halls Christmas Ale.* Generously hopped with Centennial Hops, giving it a nice citrus bitterness, this beer has a nice caramel malt richness for balance. It has none of the spices traditionally associated with Christmas beers, and I am ok with that. Think of it as a rich, malty, India Pale Ale, and you will be close to the mark. It is only 6.5 % ABV, so feel free to knock back a few of these as you trim the tree, 7/10.
Earlier Post: The First Day of Christmas
*Holy Cow! That transition was AWESOME! Seriously, read that again: While I have never wrecked the halls, that did not stop me from enjoying the heck out of Full Sail’s Wreck The Halls Christmas Ale.* Do you see what I did there? Do you!?!? I crack myself up sometimes.
After burying Cigar City for their Cedar Aged Jai ALai India Pale Ale, I come to praise them for their Jai Alai India Pale Ale aged on White Oak. This beer is fantastic. It pours a nice cloudy orange, with some vanilla, mild hops and oak in the aroma, all balanced by some malty sweetness in the taste. This is not a ‘hop bomb’ IPA. The hops are too subtle for that, but for all of their subtlety, they are quite complex, with some pineapple, mango and even coconut notes. The mouthfeel is initially quite creamy but finishes on the dry side, similar to a saison. This tasty and interesting IPA restores my faith not only in Cigar City, but in all of humanity. As lousy as the Cedar Aged Jai Alai was, and it was damn lousy, the White Oak Aged Jai Alai is damn fine, 8/10.
The Review I’d Write If I Really Loved This Beer: Florida’s Cigar City is at the top of their game here. They have taken their already excellent Jai Alai IPA and have added a dimension of flavor by aging it in cedar barrels as opposed to the traditional oak barrels. The cedar aging adds an earthiness to this beer that amplifies and accentuates the subtle hop and malt notes. Outstanding beer, fifteen out of a possible ten points!
The Review I’d Write If I Really Hated This Beer: Ugh! Shit! What the fuck is that taste? Cedar? CEDAR!?!? Who the hell puts CEDAR in beer? Jesus Christ, cedar is good for lining humidors and gerbil cages, and this tastes like cedar infused gerbil piss! What? I have to give this gerbil piss a score? Are negative numbers possible? Why the hell not? Who makes the fucking rules around here? Fine, zero out of ten, and that is generous. Now get this shit out of here!
My Actual Review: I certainly did not love this beer, and while I did not hate it as much as Review #2, my actual review is closer to the ‘Hate’ review than the ‘Love’ review. The cedar aging, which at first seems like an interesting twist for an IPA, starts to taste weird by the fourth or fifth sip, and by the time you reach the bottom of the bottle it is overwhelming and unpleasant. This is probably one to share with friends, as it might be better in small doses. There are hints of a good beer here, with some nice hops aroma, a velvety head, and a nice mouth feel, but the cedar just kills it. Cigar City makes some very fine beers, but this is not one of them, 3/10.