Archive for the category “Beer Review”

Punk’in Drublic – Coronado Brewing Company

punkindrublic_bttl8% ABV
Purchased at Der Biergarten in Sacramento ($6/13 oz. serving) and poured into tulip glasses.

This “imperial pumpkin beer” and highly anticipated fall seasonal from San Diego-based Coronado Brewing Company pours a burnt orange with a slight, white sand-colored head.  True to its NOFX-inspired name, it smells of drunken pumpkins, both the flesh and the seeds, along with dark fruits and autumnal spices.  Punk’in Drublic brings robust pumpkin pie flavors to the front on the first sip, with subtle cinnamon and allspice notes that become more pronounced on subsequent swallows, but it’s still more pumpkin-y and less kitschy or sweet than most beers in this style.  It’s a real rarity – a pumpkin beer with complexity, as brown sugar and honey sweetness play off the savory spices and juicy pumpkin.

  4 Toasts


   4 Toasts


Paradox – Skully Barrel No. 26

paradox8.0% ABV
Purchased at Capitol Beer and Tap Room (16.9 oz. bottle) and poured into tulip glasses.

This “sour golden ale brewed with mango, chili, sea salt, and natural flavors and aged in oak barrels” from Colorado-based Paradox pours a dark burnt orange with a big-bubbled, hazy sliver of foam that all but disappears upon impact with the glass.  The nose offers a sour-y aroma of tart fruits, melons, Pixie Stix, and just a whiff of heat from the chili.  I got a lot more than a whiff of chili on the first swallow, although the lingering burn is balanced well by a salty finish.  More tequila-like lime and cantaloupe and green apple come through than the promised mango flavors, but it’s all nicely rounded out by mouth-coating wine tannins, with the salt continually beckoning you back for another sip.  As is the case with most “hot” beers, a little bit of Skully Barrel No. 26 goes a long way, so splitting a 16.9 oz. bottle between two people is just about perfect.

  3.5 Toasts



   4 Toasts


Lectio Divina – Saint Somewhere Brewing Company

lectio-divina-bttl10% ABV
Purchased through Rare Beer Club and poured into tulip glasses.

This “Belgian-style Amber” was brewed by Florida-based Saint Somewhere Brewing Company with their own house yeast, and open fermentation techniques were employed.  It pours an opaque chestnut brown with a cumulus cloud of a dirty blonde head.  Lecto Divina boasts a lovely nose of fruity Belgian yeast, dates, dark fruits, and tropical nuts.  Despite the quad-like color and nose, the beer is actually quite tart on the first swallow, heavy on green apples and other sour fruits.  With its peppery yeast and tongue-coating flavor, Lectio Divina is almost saison-like, and while it’s a fine beer now, Saint Somewhere expects it to mellow and ripen with age.

  4 Toasts



   4 Toasts


Bokonon – Shady Oak Barrel House


bokonon_bttl6.75% ABV
Purchased at Taylor’s Market in Sacramento ($12.49/25.4 oz. bottle) and poured into tulip glasses.

This inaugural offering from Santa Rosa-based Shady Oak Barrel House pours a gorgeous light gold with a foamy, bright white head.  Inspired by the works of Kurt Vonnegut, the brettanomyces-heavy Bokonon exudes tart and earthy farmhouse aromas – lemons, grass, barnyard funk, Belgian yeast, and minerals dominate the nose.  It’s also a little bit metallic, on the nose and on the first swallow, but it’s brimming with Belgian complexity, with mellow citrus and freshly mowed lawn holding the front line while the more tart and aggressive flavors guard the rear.  Bokonon offers a whole lot of funk and must, not all of it entirely pleasing, and yet I kept going back to discover more about this fascinating and challenging beer.

  3.5 Toasts


   4 Toasts


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


   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



   3.5 Toasts


2013 Black Tuesday – The Bruery


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


   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



   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


toasts-4   4 Toasts


Top 10 Beers of 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.)

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