(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.

St. Peter’s Old Style Porter

May 13, 2010

The St. Peter’s Old Style Porter is neither big nor bold, nor does it have any unique ingredients.  It does not push the envelope of what can be considered be a porter, or beer for that matter.  It may not be any of those things, but it is good.  It has enough roasted malt and coffee aroma and flavor to be a faithful rendition of the style, and has enough extra hoppy bitterness to be just a little different and set itself apart from the pack.  The Old Style Porter pours a dark brown with some ruby highlights if held up to the light, with almost no head.  It has a slightly thin mouthfeel, which is not what I expect from porters.  While I do not think they should be as chewy as stouts, I want a little more heft to them than this one has.  The V-Man proclaimed it the best porter he had ever had.  I cannot go that far but give it a 6/10.

Victory Yakima Twilight

April 28, 2010

I am a big fan of Victory Brewing.  Their offerings are usually excellent, and the Yakima Twilight is no exception to that general rule.  It was maltier than I expected, almost chocolatey, but that is not a complaint. The malts are more prominent than the hops, but the hops are definitely present in a resinous sticky aroma and flavor.  It is a complex and interesting beer, with a touch of smokiness, and well worth a tipple.  This is described by Victory as an American Strong Ale, and at 8.7% ABV, it is certainly strong.  It reminded me of a porter, albeit a hoppy porter.  No matter how it is described, it gets an 8/10.

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.

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.

Smuttynose Baltic Porter

February 7, 2010

New Hampshire’s Smuttynose is one of my favorite breweries.  They are traditionalists.  Smuttynose does not push the envelope with their beers (unlike DogfishHead for example).  They brew traditional styles, and they do those styles very well.  Smuttynose is widely available in New Jersey, usually on the lower end of the price scale when it comes to craft beers, and the worst Smuttynose beer is pretty damn good.

Case in point is the Smuttynose Baltic Porter.  Porter is a style of beer that I have always thought of as being the kid brother to stouts, which is more a reflection of my idiocy than reality.  Porters and stouts are different styles, and I will need to explore those differences in the future.  This porter had hints of chocolate, coffee and dried fruit.  This one gets an 8/10.

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