Archive for the month “October, 2012”

Otto Ale – Victory Brewing Company

8.1% ABV
Purchased at Pangaea Bottle Shoppe ($10.49/25.4 oz. bottle) and poured into mason jar glasses.

This abbey dubbel/rauchbier hybrid from Pennsylvania-based Victory Brewing Company pours a date-like ruby brown with a tight, off-white head.  The strong and distinctive nose offers plenty of wood smoke and cured and dried meats, along with some coy touches of dried fruit and airy grass.  Smoke and cured meats also dominate the palette, mostly in the vein of pepperoni and salami, and the first swallow offers a nice bite if you like smoky beers.  Its abbey influences are revealed with a healthy dose of dates and juicy raisins on the aftertaste, preventing the smokiness from overwhelming the tongue.  Otto has a nice mix of sweet, smoky, and savory flavors and an unimposing mouthfeel, but adjust your ratings accordingly depending on your preference for smoked brown beers.

    4 Toasts

   3.5 Toasts

2012 Spring Biere de Mars – Almanac Beer Company

7% ABV
Purchased at BevMo on Arden Way ($14.99/22 oz. bottle) and poured into tulip glasses.

This spring seasonal from Bay Area-based Almanac Beer Co. pours a bright, caramelized orange with a tight, white head, and an inviting nose of lemon zest, caramel, garden herbs, and a moderate amount of funk.  Lemon zest, fresh garden herbs, and caramel/bready notes fulfill the promise of the nose, with the very light body offsetting the full flavors, and a nice balance between the bitter and the sweet.  The addition of fennel complements the herbal tone of the beer, giving Biere de Mars depth without pushing it too far into novelty range.  Almanac’s Biere de Mars is light and drinkable, but also compelling and unusual and full of contradictions; it’s refreshing, but also a slow sipper, and probably too strong to pair with most foods. 

    4 Toasts

   4.5 Toasts

Audition Double IPA – Sierra Nevada

8.5% ABV
Purchased at Sierra Nevada Brewery Gift Shop ($9.99/25.4 oz. bottle) and poured into tulip glasses.

Sierra Nevada’s Audition began as a one-off product of their Beer Camp program, briefly appeared on draft at their Chico taproom, and finally was bottled in limited release for sale at the brewery.  It didn’t even receive the benefit of a legitimate Sierra Nevada label, just plain text on a green background.  Audition pours a clear, bright gold with a pillow-y and persistent white head – check out the copious bubbles lazily floating to the surface while you wait for the foam to subside – and a mountain-pine nose of resinous needles and fresh fruit zest.  A brutalizing West Coast-style Double IPA, Audition delivers a mouthful of piney, palette-busting hops on the first swallow, backed up by lemon rind bitterness and a cracker/spice quality indicative of Simcoe hop use.  This beer is a real treat for hop-bomb freaks, but it’s also strangely balanced between the citrus, pine, and spice notes endemic to super IPAs.

    4.5 Toasts

  4.5 Toasts

Chocosaurus Rye – The Bruery/Bootlegger’s Brewery Collaboration

7% ABV
Purchased at The Bruery Provisions Store in Orange, CA ($10/25.4 oz. bottle) and poured into tulip glasses

This “black rye lager” marks a collaboration between Placentia-based The Bruery and Fullterton’s Bootlegger’s Brewery, and it pours a squid ink black with a rapidly evaporating sandlewood-colored head. The enticing nose contains coffee grounds, vanilla beans, hard alcohol, and some rum cake, and the first swallow follows suit with plenty of alcohol-soaked chocolate and vanilla-flavored coffee. Significant chocolate syrup notes are present on the tongue, but the mouthfeel of Chocosaurus Rye is light and crisp, and it’s actually complemented well by the sharp rye finish. Ultimately, this brew is a curious experiment in tastes and textures – offering rich, syrupy flavors offset by lager lightness and the cleansing presence of rye on the retreat – but it’s not a brew that I would ever particularly crave

    3 Toasts

   4 Toasts

Bink Tripel – Brouwerij Kerkom

9% ABV
Purchased at Pangaea ($9/10 oz. serving) and poured into tulip glasses

This tripel from Belgium-based Brouwerij Kerkom (they also brew a Bink Blond and a Bink Bruin) pours a mostly opaque hay yellow with a tight white head and a faint nose of bananas and candy. Warm, butterscotch flavors welcome you on the first swallow, with some yeasty tropical backing notes along with soft bananas.  Bink Tripel contains none of the spice notes of the Westoek XX tripel, but the prominent banana candy and yeast flavors give it a distinctly dessert-like tone, and it ends up tasting a lot like Allagash Curieux without the barrel-aging process. More and more bananas and hard alcohol enter the frame upon subsequent swallows, but Bink Tripel is also amply hopped for a nice balance.

    4 Toasts

   4.5 Toasts

Westoek XX

8% ABV
Purchased at Pangaea Bottle Shoppe ($4.99/11.2 oz. bottle) and poured into Orval glasses

This fantastic Belgian tripel from Brouwerij Deca Services (besides the lighter sister beer Westoek X, they also brew the Vleteren series) pours a murky copper with a light and marshmallow-y off-white head.  Westoek XX has an intriguing tropical nose of guava, berries, some grapes, and healthy doses of spice and funk.  There is a neat depth of fruity flavors on the first swallow, with kiwi the most prominent but strawberry and bananas also present, along with lots of chewy spice on the finish.  Upon subsequent swallows, the barnyard flavors become more and more dominant, along with warm apple and some more muted and textured tropical notes.

    4.5 Toasts

   4.5 Toasts

Top Beers of the Beer-Cation – SoCal Taster

Our number one goal on our SoCal “beer-cation” was to sample new beers, and we especially wanted to find beers from breweries that we have never tried before.  In our five days in San Diego and the LA area, we managed to check 10 new breweries off our beer list:

Alpine Beer Company

Anaheim Brewing

Avery Brewing Company

Coronado Brewing Company

Founders Brewing Co.

Hess Brewing

Manzanita Brewing

Mission Brewery

Societe Brewing Company

Strand Brewing

In the whirl of brewery tours, bar hops, and taster samples, it was easy for some new brews to get lost in the mix, but there were some definite standouts.  These are my 5 personal favorite new beers that I sampled on the SoCal trip:

1) The Bruery – Smoking Wood Bourbon Barrel-Aged (@ The Bruery Tasting Room, Placentia)

2) Stone Enjoy By 09/21/12 IPA (@Stone World Bistro and Gardens, Escondido)

3) Alpine FiringsQuad (@Blind Lady Ale House, San Diego)

4) Societe Every Man’s DIPA (@Blind Lady Ale House, San Diego)

5) Port Ocean Beach Bacon and Eggs (@ Pizza Port – Ocean Beach)

* * * * *

Here were 5 more especially good beers that we sampled along the way, in no particular order:

Founders Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale (@Toronado, San Diego)

Ballast Point Three Sheets – Rum Barrel-Aged (@Ballast Point/Home Brew Mart, San Diego)

AleSmith Speedway Stout brewed w/ Arabian Mocha Java (@ Alesmith Tasting Room, San Diego)

Left Coast/Pizza Port/Cismontaine Band Wagen Berliner Weisse (@ The Regal Beagle, San Diego)

The Lost Abbey Saison Blanc (@ The Lost Abbey Tasting Room, San Marcos)


Smoking Wood (Bourbon Barrel-Aged) – The Bruery – SoCal Taster

13% ABV
Purchased at The Bruery Tasting Room ($7/6 oz. serving) and poured into tulip glasses.

This bourbon barrel-aged version of The Bruery’s Imperial Smoked Porter pours an incomprehensible black with a quickly settling, brown sugar-colored head.  With its intoxicating nose of bourbon and slab bacon,  Smoking Wood is quite possibly the best-smelling brew I have ever sniffed.  It packs a walloping first swallow of whiskey, barrel wood, and delectable smoked and dried meats, up to and including prosciutto, salami, and pepperoni.  Smoking Wood is rich and velvety but also immensely well-structured, a beer that seems almost specifically tailored to my “ultimate beer” mantra of “full flavors in perfect balance”.  The jerky-like taste is given amazing body and complexity by the barrel-aging process – it’s zesty, rich, challenging, and inviting all at once.  I will dream about this beer for a long time.

    5 Toasts

   5 Toasts

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