Archive for the category “Beer Review”

Tweak – Avery Brewing Company

tweak17.89% ABV
Purchased at Curtis Park Market ($12.99/12 oz. bottle) and poured into mini goblet glasses.

This “stout with coffee added aged in bourbon barrels” pours a desolate black with a tight, brown sugar-colored head.  Tweak blasts out an intensely sweet nose of chocolate syrup and black coffee, with alcohol singe and barrel wood bringing up the rear (it’s very similar to the Black Tuesday we reviewed earlier this month).  The first sip is not as sweet as expected, but it packs a mighty punch – dark chocolate, coffee grounds, sawdust, vanilla, and whiskey-soaked wood chips crowd the palate, leaving an almost chile-like burn on the tongue. It’s a beer that goes directly to your dome, almost too strong for its own good, but also too big and bold and challenging to dismiss or ignore.

  4 Toasts

tweak

   4 Toasts

 

Black Metal 2013 – Jester King Brewing

blkmtl_bttl9.3% ABV, 1.085 OG, 1.015 FG, 44 IBUs
Purchased at Final Gravity ($11.99/25.4 oz. bottle) and poured into goblet glasses.

This imperial stout brewed with farmhouse yeast from Austin-based Jester King has been aging in our “cellar” for nearly two years, and it pours a licorice black with a marshmallow-y, toasted brown head. Rich coffee and chocolate aromas welcome you on the nose, along with wood, licorice, and a citrus smell that eventually comes to dominate; the overall effect is similar to chocolate-covered oranges. That orange-y bitterness is also present on the first swallow, as are bitter chocolate and kindling, with those richer chocolate and coffee flavors barely peeking out from the background.  After aging, Black Metal is still a big, dark boozer with a light body and some intriguing bitterness, but it’s also one-note, and it was a lot better fresh.

   3 Toasts

 

blackmetal

   3.5 Toasts

 

2013 Black Tuesday – The Bruery

black-tuesday-beer

18.9% ABV
Purchased through The Bruery online shop and poured into mini tasting glasses.

This already legendary bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout from Orange County-based The Bruery pours a midnight black with a vaporous, light brown head.  It smacks you with hard alcohol aromas upon the first crack of the bottle, but chocolate, coffee and wet wood notes emerge when you dial in further.  An eye popper upon first swallow, with the flavors working on two different levels – throat-clearing booziness on one end of the palette, spectacularly strong and nuanced chocolate and coffee on the other.  Black Tuesday is a masterful slow-sipper, and not as grossly sweet as some of The Bruery’s other big-ass brews.  The beer works wonders if you take your time with it, growing a little more peppery on the aftertaste, and with vanilla bean and wood growing stronger the longer it warms.

   4.5 Toasts

BlackTuesday

   4.5 Toasts

 

Coffee Brown – Saint Archer

starcher_coffee_bttl6% ABV
Purchased at Taylor’s Market ($4.99/22 oz. bottle) and poured into pint glasses.

Brewed by San Diego upstarts Saint Archer, Coffee Brown pours a black coffee color with a mid-sized, sawdust-colored head.  The nose is more sweet than roasty, not unlike coffee candy, with aromas of coffee, amaretto, milk chocolate and toffee.  Coffee Brown gets sweet on the first swallow as well, with a flavor that feels a little too artificial, and although it finishes with a nice coffee and cream richness, the aftertaste is a little thick and syrupy.  There is some nuttiness from the brown ale base, but I would have preferred more bitterness, and a coffee flavor that was slightly more authentic.  We have really enjoyed some of the hoppier offerings from Saint Archer, but this one just misses.

   2.5 Toasts

StArcher_Brown

 

   3 Toasts

 

Vintage 2014 – Grand Teton Brewing Company

grandteton_bttl8.5% ABV
Purchased through the Rare Beer Club and poured into tulip glasses.

This “rum barrel aged Belgian-style ale with spices” began as a blend of two Grand Teton beers – the Bitch Creek XX Double ESB and the 2014 Coming Home quad.  The resulting blend pours a rusty, date brown with a minimal off-white head, and offers a most unusual nose, an allspice and clove spice bomb set amidst classic Belgian aromas of dark fruits and toffee.  Vintage 2014 is extremely tasty and distinct on the first swallow – a fascinating mix of holiday spices, toffee deserts, and Trappist yeast.  There are strong spices, but they remain in perfect balance, and serve as complements to the overarching flavor of toffee apples and rum-soaked fruitcake, with orange peel especially lingering on the palette.  It is similar to a hot toddy served cold, and the beer is smooth and drinkable in addition to its novel complexity.

toasts-4   4 Toasts

GrandTeton

toasts-4   4 Toasts

 

Top 10 Beers of 2014

Top10-2014

Another year in the books, and plenty more beer in our bellies.  We have had another wonderful year of beer adventures, starting in January with The Art of Beer event at McClellan, and continuing with San Francisco and Sacramento Beer Weeks, our trip to Portland, the Sierra Nevada Beer Camp, and our many daytrips and weekend voyages to San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Mill Valley, Albany, Walnut Creek, Chico, Rocklin, Folsom, Davis, and various other points across Northern California.

More great beer is being brewed, poured, and sold in our neck of the woods than ever before, so we have had the opportunity to try a lot of amazing brews in 2014.  The following is a list of the ten best beers that we tried for the first time in 2014, with an addendum list of 10 more sublime first-timers.  To be fair, we have omitted some “world famous” heavy hitters, such as Marshall Zukov’s Imperial Stout from Cigar City, Hill Farmstead’s Arthur, Cherry Adam From the Wood by Hair of the Dog, and Dogfish Head’s 18% ABV Worldwide Stout.  We also excluded any excellent beers that only one of us tried (e.g., Triple Voodoo King Leopold w/ coffee, and Drake’s Jolly Rodger 2014), since we are trying to build a His & Hers consensus list.

Finally, in order to spread the love around a little, we elected to only allow one beer per brewery.  That posed an immense problem with San Francisco-based Cellarmaker Brewing, since they have quickly become our favorite NorCal brewery, and we have collectively sampled and loved over two dozen of their beers this year (only the coconut-heavy ABV monster Blammo! was divisive – She adored it, He found it sickly-sweet).  If we are being 100% honest, we would have no issue filling this top 10 + 10 with 20 off-the-charts brilliant Cellarmaker beers.  We could have gone with the smoked coffee porter Imperial Coffee and Cigarettes, the chewy oatmeal stout Walker, SoMa Ranger, the tart saison Beertender’s Breakfast, and then fill most of the rest of the list with their amazing hop experiments, such as Mo’ Nelson, No Nelson Left Behind, Highway to the Danker Zone, Dank Williams, Tiny Dankster, Spear or Culture, and Christopher Riwakan.  Therefore, we have decided to name Cellarmaker our MVP Brewery of the Year – just go to Cellarmaker, find a seat, sample every beer on tap, and enjoy your new life.

MVP Brewery of the Year

With Cellarmaker excluded from “competition,” here were the best beers that we both tried for the first time this year (in alphabetical order, w/ brewer in parentheses): 

The Ten Best

  1. Arctic Soiree (Grassroots Brewing)
  2. Black Belle Imperial Stout (Blackstone Brewing Company)
  3. The Conversion (Logsdon Farmhouse Ales)
  4. Egregious (The Rare Barrel)
  5. El Guapo (Flat Tail Brewing)
  6. Narwhal Bourbon Barrel-Aged (Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.)
  7. Pater (Cascade Brewingalthough at least a half dozen more of the beers we tried at their PDX brewery could have made this list)
  8. Pinchy Jeek (Anderson Valley Brewing Company)
  9. Syndicate #2 (Speakeasy Ales & Lagers)
  10. Valley of the Hearts Delight (Almanac Beer Company)

Ten More Sublime First-Timers

  1. Agave Maria (The Lost Abbey)
  2. Agrestic (Firestone Walker Brewing Company)
  3. Christmas Bomb (Prairie Artisan Ales)
  4. Extremely Angry Beast (Clown Shoes Beer)
  5. Four Play (Upright Brewing Company)
  6. Lucybelle (Sante Adairius Rustic Ales)
  7. Matt’s Burning Rosids (Stone Brewing Company)
  8. Rue d’Floyd (The Bruery with 3 Floyds Brewing Co.)
  9. Saison (Woodfour Brewing Company)
  10. Trader Session IPA (Uinta Brewing Co.)

Hoppy Thanksgiving

HoppyThanksgiving

Pinchy Jeek – Anderson Valley Brewing Company

PinchyJeek_22oz8.5% ABV
Purchased at Taylor’s Market ($10.99/22 oz. bottle) and poured into tulip glasses.

Pinchy Jeek is “brewed with pumpkin and spices and aged in Wild Turkey bourbon barrels” by Anderson Valley, and it pours a black-and-tan color with a mid-sized, beach sand hand.  The nose is sweet, transfixing, mysterious, and autumnal, a candied and complex aroma that boasts pumpkin pie spice, toffee, vanilla, and a hint of whiskey barrel.  Spices hit the palette first, a warming glow of nutmeg, cinnamon and pumpkin, with the Wild Turkey kick and Tootsie Roll sweetness riding in on the second wave of flavor.  It’s a fascinating and rewarding brew, maple sweets and savory spices in perfect harmony, and an essential beer for the fall.

toasts-4.5   4.5 Toasts

 

PinchyJeek

toasts-4.5   4.5 Toasts

 

Sourtooth Tiger – The Rare Barrel

sourtooth_bttl5.2% ABV
Purchased at The Rare Barrel and poured into tulip glasses.

This “golden sour beer aged in oak barrels with ginger” pours a pineapple-juice gold with a bright white head, and it boasts a lovely nose of candied ginger, alongside touches of grapefruit and oak.  The first swallow is extremely ginger-heavy, and while that may not be to everyone’s taste, the flavor is strangely unoppressive and the beer finishes clean.  A grapefruit- and lemon-heavy citrus pulp flavor puckers the tongue on the finish, and the beer remains delicious and even throughout, with an overall taste similar to sucking on a lemon drop and a ginger hard candy at the same time.  It should be noted that although the portions were poured evenly, the beer in Darcey’s glass, in addition to being darker, murkier, and less carbonated, was more citrus-forward and less ginger-y than my pour.

toasts-3.5   3.5 Toasts

 

RareBarrel

toasts-4   4 Toasts

 

Dark Pumpkin Sour – Almanac Brewing Company

almanac_drkpumpkin_bttl

7% ABV
Purchased at Pangaea Bottle Shoppe and poured into mini tasting glasses.

This dark pumpkin beer was aged in pinot noir wine barrels, and it pours a Dr. Pepper dark brown with a tight, soda fizz head.  It has that unmistakable “Almanac sour smell” of sour candy, citrus, wood, and wine, causing my mouth to instinctively pucker, although there is a little extra roastiness on this particular brew.  The fall/pumpkin aspect breaks through on the first swallow, lending an unusual depth of flavor to the beer, with wine tannins, candied pumpkins, and autumn spices coming to the fore.  The taste of red wine settles on to the palette far more impressively than any pumpkin or spice flavors, making this a suitable substitute for red wine with your turkey dinner or fall dessert.

toasts-4   4 Toasts

Almanac_DarkPumpkin

 

toasts-4   4 Toasts

 

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