(512) Brewing Company, Live Oak Brewing Company and St. Arnold Brewing Company

October 22, 2010

I met GEB the other night at the Ginger Man in Plano for a few beers, some idle chit chat, and some darts.  No pictures* in this post because I left my camera at home.  GEB knows I am a beer dork, having seen this blog, but I decided to play it somewhat cool and not take photos of every damn beer I drank, hold the glass up to the light to gauge the color, and stick my schnozz deep into the pint to catch the aroma, all the while scribbling notes.  We will have to see whether that was the smart play.

I had never had any beers from Austin’s (512) Brewing Company, so I was pumped to see a couple of their brews on the menu.  I tried their IPA first, and it was quite nice, not too assertively hopped, but with enough flowery hops and sweet malts to make this a balanced and easy drinking beer, with enough orange peel and grapefruit in the aftertaste to make it interesting.  This is one I could drink all night long, 7.5/10.

The (512) Pecan Porter was a nice enough porter, with plenty of coffee in the nose and on the tongue, nice creamy mouthfeel, and a touch of smokiness, but I could not find any pecan flavor in it at all.  It was good, just not what I had expected, 6/10.

I had never even heard of Live Oak Brewing Company, another Austin based brewery, so I jumped on their Liberation IPA.  It was sort of mellow on the bitterness, and had some nice toffee undertones, with a sticky mouthfeel.  Another one that I could knock back all night, 7.5/10.

I also tried the cask conditioned Saint Arnold‘s Weedwhacker, their version of a Kolsch style beer, but fermented with hefeweizen yeast.  It poured a hazy yellowish orange, with some mild spiciness and banana flavors.  It was light and refreshing, and yes, I know it is the end of October, but Texas is still damn hot, so light and refreshing is ok.  The Weedwhacker is a good one, 7.5/10.

*Did I say “no pictures”?  No pictures of beer, but here is a photo of a spider I took recently.  Texas is the home of some funky big-ass spiders.  This creature, tentatively identified as a Banana Spider, was the size of my hand.

Here is a photo of the coolest car I have seen since I don’t know when:

Want to see his gear shift? Of course you do:

Yep, that is a Bud Light Tap Handle.  While I do not approve of the owner’s choice in beers, I do appreciate his mindset.


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 »


Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest

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.


Butternuts Brewing Snapperhead IPA

May 4, 2010

In my quest to make amends for my internet idiocy concerning canned beer, I am seeking out any and all craft beer in cans out there.  The Butternut Snapperhead IPA came highly recommended by someone with serious beer bona fides but I found it disappointing.

The beer pours a pale orange with a slight head that hangs around to the bottom of the glass.  The aroma has some citrus to it, but it also has a soapy smell to it, and it is just off.  Not as off as the taste, which is more sweet than bitter, and the bitterness is astringent and off-putting.  I may have picked up a six from a bad batch, but I am not going back to this beer to find out, and I certainly cannot recommend that anyone else give it a try either, 4.0/10, and the Snapperhead IPA is being bumped up a half point because I like the packaging.


Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye and Racer 5 India Pale Ale

April 30, 2010

California’s Bear Republic Brewing has pretty good distribution in North Jersey, so it is easy to find and sample their beers.  In fact, their distribution is so widespread, and Bear Republic beers are so easy to find, that I was positive I had reviewed one of their beers on Tilting Suds already, but I either cannot find the review, or beer has finally addled my mind to the point where I am recalling phantom reviews.

The Racer 5 India Pale Ale is a typical West Coast IPA, plenty of hops balanced nicely by the malts.  The initial aroma is some grapefruit and pine from the hops and some bread from the malts, with the hops taking over in the taste.  The 7.0% ABV is not noticeable at all.  This is a very good IPA, 7.5/10.

The Hop Rod Rye is a different creature altogether.  Brewed with rye malts, this beer pours a clear mahogany with a slight head which is retained to the bottom of the glass.  The rye malts bring an earthy spiciness to the nose and the tongue, and the piney hops explode out of the glass.  The rye malts and the hoppy bitterness try to outdo each other, almost like they are dueling to the death, and there is a mild brown sugar flavor that ties all of these flavors together.  The 8.0% ABV is buried underneath all of these competing flavors, and is only noticeable when the glass is considerably warmed.  The Hop Rod Rye is outstanding, 8.5/10.

As Bear Republic’s beers are so widely available, I have a tendency to skip them when I am making my selection in favor of beers that are obscure and/or beers with limited releases.  That is a big mistake on my part, as Bear Republic is doing God’s work when it comes to brewing.


Left Hand Warrior IPA

April 29, 2010

The picture is probably not clear enough to see this, but the label reads “Brewed Only Once A Year With Colorado Fresh Hops.”  Limited brewing schedule? Check! Unique hops profile? Check! Less than six bucks for the bomber bottle? Check!  There was no way I was going to pass over this one.  Put a cork on this bottle and one of those wire thingamajigs to keep it in place, and I would have bought out the store’s supply.

And it is a good thing I did not skip this one.  The Left Hand Brewing Warrior IPA is excellent.  It poured amber and clear.  The caramel malts are prominent in the nose and the taste, and the piney and orange zest hops are somewhat muted for an IPA, but this comes together nicely, and the hops amp up on the aftertaste.  The Warrior IPA has a creamy mouth feel to it.  I am going to grab  another bottle of this for the weekend, and if you see any, I suggest you do the same, 7.5/10.


More Beer in Cans

April 28, 2010

After my recent dipshittery concerning canned beer, I have made an effort to seek out other examples of craft beer in cans as a sort of penance.*  I have picked up a few over the past couple of weeks, and give them the once over here.

The Phoenix Pale Ale from Pennsylvania’s Sly Fox was a tasty concoction.  The toffee malts are balanced by the mild hops, with the hops a bit stronger on the tongue than in the aroma.  This poured a beautiful clear amber, with a frothy but quickly dissipating head.  There is no ‘WOW’ factor with this beer, but it is smooth and flavorful, and at 5.1% ABV, you can knock back a few.  It has earned a spot at the back of the rotation, 6.5/10.

SF Beer, JC Backdrop

San Francisco’s 21st Amendment Brewing Company is not well known on the East Coast, but that should change soon as I am seeing their beers pop up in stores here more frequently.  The Brew Free or Die IPA is smooth and mild, not too hoppy for a West Coast IPA, and the smoothness masks the 7.0% ABV.  The hoppiness has a fruity aftertaste.  Again, there is no ‘WOW’ factor with this beer, but it is another good one, 6.5/10.

Sweet Jeebus, this one knocked me on my ass.  This was my last beer of the recent session with Mr. JK, and knocking back a beer with an 8.7% ABV when you are already pickled is not a smart idea.  Drinking this was like getting cold cocked by Mike Tyson in his prime.  I had another one for review purposes a few days later, and can report that the Oskar Gordon Ale is a fine beer.  Hoppy and malty at the same time, the aroma and the taste are resinous, with a chewy mouth feel.  You cannot drink many of these in a sitting, but the ones you do drink are enjoyable, 7.5/10.

*-Bless me, Father, for I have sinned

What are your sins, my son?

-I made a misleading statement on the internet about canned beer

Say three Our Fathers, three Hail Marys, and drink three canned beers


Elysian Brewing’s Avatar Jasmine IPA & Loser Pale Ale

April 28, 2010

Washington’s Elysian Brewing Company’s beers have started to pop up with increasing frequency here in North Jersey, and I can’t complain about that.  The beers I have had have been uniformly good.

The Avatar Jasmine IPA is brewed with dried jasmine flowers added to the boil.  Having had some flowery beers recently, I cannot claim to have picked up any jasmine in the aroma or the flavor, but it did not matter with this excellent IPA.  The hops are herbal and grassy, and there is a touch of lemon on the tongue.  The malts are a subdued caramel, and complement the hops perfectly.  At 6.3% ABV, this is a smooth drinking IPA.  I am giving it a 7.5/10.

The Elysian Loser Pale Ale is another winner.  Brewed as a tribute to Seattle’s Sub Pop Records*, this pale ale poured a burnt orange with some nice lacing running up the glass.  The hops had notes of pineapple and herbs, but were mild and muted and went nicely with the creamy maltiness.  This was a smooth drinking pale ale, perfect for the cool spring evening that I knocked it back on, 7/10.

*Hag was a huge Sub Pop fan back in late eighties, especially their ‘Dope and Fucking Guns in the Streets‘ series, but then again who wasn’t?


A Tale of Two India Pale Ales

April 22, 2010

Whenever I am in a bar or a store with a good selection and I am dithering over what to drink, I usually end up getting an IPA.  India Pale Ales generally have the right combination of flavors to please your taste buds and are usually low in enough in ABV that you can have a few and slake your thirst.  IPAs have become the standard bearers for most American craft brewers, and with good reason.  They are usually drinkable enough for the casual beer drinker to enjoy, yet still interesting enough for the beer dork to sniff, swirl and text their impressions to other beer dorks.

There are several elements I associate with IPAs.  First, IPAs are more aggressively hopped than other beers that do not have ‘imperial’ in their name.  Second, the malt profile is elevated a bit due to the aggressive hopping.  Third, there is usually some wood, generally oak, in the aroma and the flavor. Fourth, IPAs tend to be among the more affordable offerings for any given brewer.  My guess is that IPA sales are the bread and butter business of most craft brewers and those sales finance the more exotic offerings that many craft brewers produce.

The Fire Island Red Wagon IPA is a decent example of an IPA.  It poured a dark amber, with a nice head.  The hops were earthy and fruity, but not as bitter as I normally like my IPAs.  There was nothing outstanding or particularly memorable about this beer, yet I can easily see myself polishing off a six pack over the course of an evening.  That is one of the wonders of IPAs.  Even if they are not great examples of the genre, you can still pound them back.  The Red Wagon IPA gets a 6/10.

I have extolled the virtues of Dogfish Head before, and I am going to do so again right now.  The 60 Minute IPA is pale amber and slightly cloudy with some grassy hops aroma immediately apparent, and some light citrus notes on the back end. The light caramel malts bring some sweetness to the bitterness of the hops.  This is an excellent beer, as enjoyable as they come, 8/10.  My only complaint is that at nearly twelve bucks a six pack, this is pricey for an IPA, especially when you get other IPAs which are almost as good for well under ten dollars.


Beers from Minnesota

April 20, 2010

Genius is a word that gets thrown around too often these days.  ‘Genius’ should be reserved for people like Norman Einstein. However, someone occasionally comes up with an idea that is so startlingly brilliant that attention must be paid.  To be clear, I am not saying that the Vice Blogger ** is a genius, but he did come up with a genius idea.  He took the standard NCAA Pool that everyone has in their office, and made it about beer.  Instead of the usual ten buck entry fee, he set up a pool where you promised to send the winner a couple of bottles of locally brewed beer.  So simple, yet so brilliant.

Just before the Sweet Sixteen, I managed to forge an alliance (just like a contestant on Survivor***) with the eventual winner, so I am getting a partial share of the winnings, despite finishing fourth overall in the pool.  I just might be a genius.  I am at least an idiot savant.

I initially had a grand plan to collect all of the beers from my winnings and then invite some friends over for a tasting party, but that plan bit the dust when the first box of beer arrived.  I did not want to wait to try these beers.  Also, I am greedy, and I really do not like my friends enough to share my beer with them.

The first batch of beers to show up on my stoop in Jersey City came from a Vice Blog reader in Minnesota.  Looking at the list of States in my categories sidebar, I do not see Minnesota listed, so I have certainly not reviewed any beers from Minnesota.  I have never been to Minnesota, and to the best of my knowledge I have never come across any beers from Minnesota in my travels.  As far as I can tell, my only connections to Minnesota are 1) my brother-in-law is a Minnesota native and 2) my over the top fascination with the music of Bob Dylan, Hibbing, Minnesota’s most famous son.****  When I opened the box, and saw the two bottles and two cans, I did a little dance around the kitchen because these were all virgin pours for me.

Showing a remarkable amount of self control and discipline, both highly unusual for me, I split the tasting over two nights.  The first beer of the first night was the Lift Bridge Cross Cut Pale Ale.  This poured copper and crystal clear, and the first thing I picked up on in the aroma and the taste was some unusual citric bitterness.  Turning the bottle on its side, there was a little blurb saying that the beer is brewed with grapefruit peel, which seemed to me to add a different bitterness from what you usually get from hops, but which nicely complemented the hoppiness and the mild maltiness.  At 5.5% ABV, you can knock back a few of these at a sitting. This is a tasty and balanced pale ale, and if it was available in Northern New Jersey, it would be in the regular rotation. 7.5/10.

The next bottle to be popped was Mantorville Brewing’s Stage Coach Smoked Porter.  Nice opaque pour with almost no head.  There was a subtle smokiness to this porter, with a touch of mocha.  As the beer warmed, I picked up an espresso aftertaste.  I would love to try this beer while eating some barbecued brisket.  The smokiness of the beer and the smokiness of the brisket would go together nicely, and I am always looking for a reason to drink beer and eat brisket.  This was a great beer. 8.5/10.

The second night was devoted to the two cans of Surly Brewing Company’s beer that I received.  I have already made an ass of myself when it comes to canned beer, so I will not use this space to recount the benefits of canned beer, nor will I claim to have noticed any metallic taste in these beers. I will say that Surly brewing has a sterling reputation, word of which has even reached the Swamps of Jersey, and I was anticipating great things from these beers.

The Surly Furious did not let me down.  Holy shit, this is a good one!  As soon as I finished the pour, I was hit with a bouquet of piney and herbal hops.  The hops tasted resinous at first, before exploding in fruity goodness.  This beer had a liquid velvet mouth feel, almost creamy, and the hoppiness was nicely balanced by toffee tasting malts. I did not pick up any oak, which is the norm for an IPA, but it was not missed.  At only 6.2% ABV, you can knock back a few of these, and if I had any more, I would have done so.  This is one hell of an IPA, 9/10.

The Back of the Furious can

After the glory of the Surly Furious, I thought there was no way that the Surly Bender  was going to match it, and it did not, but it was still one hell of a beer.  Described as an oatmeal brown ale,  this had a nutty flavor, with some coffee and chocolate in the background.  It had a mild hoppy bitterness to it, with an orange peel taste. At only 5.1% ABV, this was a very smooth drinking beer.  I am not a fan of brown ales in general, but this was easily the most interesting brown ale I have gulped down.  I am giving it a 7.5/10.

Back of the Bender can. Those are my sausage size fingers

** If you do not read the Vice Blog, you should go check it out.  Aaron has good taste in beer, and he is funny as hell.  More often than not his reviews are stories of his tomcatting around NYC, with the beer a secondary consideration.

***I have never seen a single episode of Survivor.  I am basing that comment on what I have been told by fans of the show.

****I go through phases with Dylan.  Sometimes I listen to the good songs from the bad albums he made in the 80s.  Sometimes I go with the acoustic early albums, other times I immerse myself in the complete Basement Tapes.  The holy trinity of Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde get heavy play on my Ipod.  Right now, I have been listening to Good As I Been To You and World Gone Wrong, the two albums of folk song covers he did in the early 1990s, and a bootleg recording of a 1966 show from Sydney, Australia.  Anyone who knows me, or who has spent more than an hour with me, knows I can mount a defense of Self-Portrait to a certain extent, and I can and will defend Saved as a brilliant album, so discount my ravings as that of a devoted Dylan-ophile, but if you are looking for some bootlegs, I can probably hook you up.


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