Archive for the month “February, 2012”

Sanctuary (Full Sail Brewing)

7% ABV
Purchased at Total Wine and More ($3.99/22 oz. bottle) and poured into goblet glasses.

His Notes:

Full Sail’s version of the Belgian dubbel pours a cloudy orange with a very slight off-white head and a nose of apples, candied yeast, caramel, and spices.  It presents a warm mix of toffee and dark fruits on the palette, with a surprisingly tart and smoky character to the aftertaste.  Sanctuary is less rich and bitterer than you would expect from a beer advertising itself as a dubbel, without much of the anticipated taste of candied yeast. However, the hickory-smoked malt flavor makes this beer uniquely pleasing on its own terms.

  3.5 Toasts

Her Notes:

  4 Toasts


Sacramento Beer Week: Captain Black IPA (Ruhstaller)

7.5% ABV
Purchased at Pangaea ($6.50/serving) and poured into tulip glasses.

His Notes:

This dark IPA from local start-up Ruhstaller pours an impenetrable black with ruby highlights and a lacy, sandy brown head.  The nose features fresh pine, rustic bread, and lemon zest, while the taste puts peachy fruits on the periphery of a prototypically bitter India Pale Ale.  Mellow roasted grains and mild espresso notes complete the portrait, with a thoroughly enjoyable resin bitterness lingering on the tongue throughout.  Captain Black strikes the perfect balance between the mouth-puckering intensity of an IPA and the richness and depth of a dark ale, and it is truly one of the best Black IPAs I’ve ever tasted.

  4 1/2 Toasts

Her Notes:

  4 Toasts


SF Beer Week – Freudian Slip Barleywine (Evil Twin Brewing)

10.3% AV
Purchased at The Trappist in Oakland and poured into wine glasses.

His Notes:

This “American-style” barleywine from Danish brewers Evil Twin pours muddy brown with an enormous, off-white head.  The nose has as many roasted coffee and grass notes as the expected wood, hard alcohol, and molasses aromas.  It has little of the syrupy sweetness of most American barleywines, but rather cords of wood (especially dry, smoke-able woods like hickory and apple), pepper spice, smoky peat moss, and under-roasted coffee beans. Freudian Slip is meditative, rather bizarre, and not entirely successful in its’ ambitions, but it does provide strong and earthy flavors that are unfailingly intriguing.

  4 Toasts

Her Notes:

  4 Toasts


SF Beer Week – Jack ‘n’ Jolly (Drake’s)

10% ABV
Purchased at The Page in San Francisco ($4/pint) and poured into pint glasses.

His Notes:

Jack ‘n’ Jolly is a blend of previous versions of Drake’s Jolly Rodger series aged in Jack Daniel’s bourbon barrels.  It pours redwood brown with a minimal sandy head, and offers a very inviting aroma of whiskey, wood, and tropical fruits.  The bourbon character comes through stronger with this brown/red ale than with a barrel-aged stout, with the alcohol burn softened into the coconut flavor of rum.  Once again, Drake’s has brewed a masterpiece with a long-term impression on the palette and a  mesmerizing mix of tastes – all in one swallow, it’s bitter, woody, fruity, roasted, toasted, and sweet.

  5 Toasts

Her Notes:

   5 Toasts


Whitewater IPA (Samuel Adams)

5.8% ABV
Purchased at Target ($12.99/12-pack) as part of the Samuel Adams Brewmaster Series and poured into pint glasses.

His Notes:

Whitewater IPA pours cantaloupe orange with a tight white head, and it has the pungent smell of zesty citrus and apricots.  Wildly bitter grapefruit citrus socks you on the palette, but it eventually mellows into dried apricot and lemon flavors.  It has the light and chewy quality of dehydrated fruit, but I wouldn’t exactly call it a “dry” or “crisp”.  There is intense and bitter citrus in the manner of a hop-bomb IPA, but I wouldn’t even call the flavor “hoppy”.  Curiosity is this brew’s greatest asset, yet novelty (especially the addition of apricots during the brewing process) and relative riskiness aside, Whitewater IPA isn’t a particularly tasteful or interesting beer.

  2 1/2 Toasts

Her Notes:

  2 Toasts


Imperial Red Ale (Lagunitas)

7.8% ABV, IBUs
Purchased at Curtis Park Market ($9.49/6-pack) and poured into pint glasses.

His Notes:

Imperial Red is a revival of the first beer Lagunitas ever brewed back in 1993, an interesting bit of nostalgia for the company as they prepare to dramatically expand their operations.  It pours deep amber with a large, marshmallow-y, off-white head. Pungent hops and inviting sweetness occupy the nose, along with a mix of tropical fruits, hay, and a little butterscotch.  It has a bitter and surprisingly tart sucker punch of berries, sugary malt, and fistfuls of hops on the front end, settling into some milder citrus, strawberry, and pine flavors on the retreat.  The flavors here are challenging, strong, sweet, and irreverent – all Lagunitas trademarks – but they don’t mesh particularly well, and Imperial Red lacks the nuances and qualities of their better brews.

  3 Toasts

Her Notes:

  3.5 Toasts


Midtown Monthly Beer Issue Reviews

We are very pleased and honored to be featured in the issue of Midtown Monthly that is on newstands now.  To highlight the upcoming Sacramento and San Francisco Beer Weeks, we did tasting notes for beers from four local (and local-ish) brewers – Sacramento’s Track 7 and Ruhstaller, San Leandro-based Drake’s, and the Auburn Alehouse.  One of the most exciting things about the current brewing renaissance going in the Sacramento area is seeing local beers for sale at local stores, and all of the beers we reviewed for MidMo are available at places like Taylor’s Market, the Pangaea Bottle Shoppe, the Davis Bottle Shoppe, or even Whole Foods and BevMo.  We decided not to put star ratings on our MidMo reviews in order to encourage you to get out there during Sacramento Beer Week (February 24 – March 4) and sample some new brews for yourself.  Cheers!

PU240
(Auburn Alehouse)

8% ABV, 100 IBUs
Purchased at Taylor’s Market ($6.99/22 oz. bottle) and poured into tulip glasses.

His Notes:

This Imperial India Pale Ale tips the scales at 100 International Bittering Units (IBUs), and pours a brownish orange with a slight white head.  The strong nose contains butterscotch hard candy, tangerines, tropical fruits, and wet grass.  Honeyed sweetness greets you on the palette, but it’s all a smoke screen for the powerful hop punch waiting on the back end.  PU240’s hop bitterness is rooted more in zesty citrus (especially tangerines and grapefruits) than oily pine, and it’s less assaultive than you might think.  There is little in the way of complexity or surprises here, but if the goal was to create a mouth-puckering Imperial IPA for hop-hounds, then PU240 is a definite success.

Her Notes:

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Drakonic Imperial Stout
(Drake’s Brewing)

8.75% ABV, 40 IBUs
Purchased at Taylor’s Market ($6.99/22 oz. bottle) and poured into tulip glasses.

His Notes:

San Leandro-based Drake’s brews this sublime imperial stout, which pours an impenetrable onyx with a thick, cola-style head that features dancing ruby highlights.  The nose is strong with dark chocolate, fresh coffee beans, and old oak.  Drakonic has a powerful yet never bullying taste that mixes artisan chocolate and roasted coffee beans, throws in some yeasty wood and dark berry notes, and tops it off with the warming glow of alcohol.  This masterpiece of a beer is knock-you-out strong but extremely nuanced, seemingly stimulating different taste buds with each new sip.  You can purchase Drakonic locally in 22 oz. bottles, or head to Drake’s Barrel House in San Leandro for one of their barrel-aged versions.

Her Notes:

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Daylight Amber Ale
(Track 7 Brewing)

6.25% ABV
Purchased at Track 7 Brewing ($4/16 oz. serving) and poured into pint glasses.

His Notes:

New kid in town Track 7 Brewing serves this tasty amber ale, which pours a cloudy orange with a minimal white head.  It smells of peaches, citrus, grass, pungent hops, and baked bread, and the taste is dry and honeyed, with a creeping bitterness that settles in as the golden nectar fades.  Daylight Amber has a biscuit-like crispness that’s similar to a Widmer’s Drop Top, or a less aggressively malted Fat Tire.  Malt flavor is ever-present here, but it’s not annoying, and is balanced well with mild citrus fruit notes, especially oranges and grapefruits.  Daylight Amber is drinkable and unpretentious, but the lingering hop flavor lends it a surprising complexity.

Her Notes:

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1881 (Ruhstaller)

5.6% ABV, 35 IBUs
Purchased at Taylor’s Market ($7.99/22 oz. bottle) and poured into pint glasses.

His Notes:

Former Sacramento Brewing/Odanata brewer Peter Hoey returns with Ruhstaller 1881, a “California style red ale” with several ties to Sacramento beer history.  It pours a transparent light brown much like the color of iced tea, and comes with a tight off-white head.  1881 smells of an open-air forest, all wind-swept pine and wafting orchard fruits.  A touch of rich sweetness on the front end quickly gives way to the pine needle hops and fresh lemon flavors.  This beer has the full-on hop assault and citrus notes of a west coast IPA, but it’s modified by the tangy-smoky malt and the earthiness of the barley. The mouth-coating finish is long-lasting and the aftertaste is bitterer than expected given the relatively low IBU count.

Her Notes:

Blind Spot (High Water Brewing)

8.2% ABV
Purchased at Taylor’s Market ($4.99/22 oz. bottle) and poured into mugs.

His Notes:

The very curious Blind Spot pours black with amber highlights and a fluffy tan head.  It has an abnormally heavy and earthy nose containing chicory, sassafras, and licorice root, very similar to an old-fashioned root beer.  Blind Spot’s taste follows suit – there is very little in the way of traditional malty/hoppy flavors offered, but rather more chicory and root flavors with a strong and silky menthol finish.  It’s more similar in taste, aroma, and color to a natural root beer than an American black ale, and as much as I like the bold attempt, I doubt I will ever be compelled to sample this brew again.

  2 1/2 Toasts

Her Notes:

  2 Toasts


Readers’ Reserve – Witch’s Wit (The Lost Abbey)

4.8% ABV
Purchased at Total Wine and More ($7.99/25.4 oz. bottle) and poured into tulip glasses.

His Notes:

This low-alcohol honey beer from The Lost Abbey pours a transparent pale yellow with a frothy, bright white head.  It offers a pleasantly pungent nose of citrus and honey, and there is more honey and mildly bitter citrus on the smooth and refreshing finish, with a touch of tongue-coating spices (including coriander and orange peel).  Witch’s Wit is not particularly dazzling, but it has more integrity and complexity than most beers of its’ ilk, and would be a welcome addition to any summer barbeque.  The honey adds just a dollop of sweetness to the spicy Belgian wit style, rather than a whole honeycomb’s worth.

  4.5 Toasts

Her Notes:

  4 Toasts

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