A Few Notable Beers over the Holidays

From the Stone Stochasticity Project – Master of Disguise. I caught sight of someone drinking it at a Christmas party and had to try some myself. This is a blond stout, and it’s the first I’d ever heard of one or tried one. It was smooth and nutty. The color was deceiving, as it was sort of a golden color, yet lacked the hoppiness or assertiveness that is typical from Stone. The name sort of speaks for itself: it tastes like a stout, but is blond in color (that’s a glass of it to the left, barely visible in the picture below). It’s a full and rich flavored beer.

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Voodoo Doughnut Pretzel, Raspberry, and Chocolate ale by Rogue is an American brown ale. My dear friend brought a bottle of this over for my birthday, and I did not drink it until about a week later (had to clear my palate from all the beers I did consume on my birthday). Beer Advocate gives this a 79, which is just “ok.” I rather liked it, though it’s a little bit on the sweet side for me. Then again, that’s to be expected from the raspberry and chocolate. I didn’t taste the pretzel at all. It’s a little bit thin, but overall, its flavors make it a nice cozy beer to share during the holiday season.

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Affligem Tripel. Nothing new about this one. I’ve had it many times, but it’d been a while. It’s a Belgia tripel with notes of orange and spices. It has a floral quality and an ABV of 9%, though the flavors hide it. It’s full-bodied, with a nutty edge.

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Lost Abbey’s Red Barn Ale. Also not new, but it was another lovely bottle brought to us (by my brother-in-law) for my birthday. This is a floral, light, Saison/Farmhouse style beer. According to the Lost Abbey website, this beer is lightly spiced with ginger, orange peels, black pepper, and grains of paradise. It’s a golden/orangish color. I tasted slight notes of apple.

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Back To The Bellows (Again)

Last time we were at The Bellows, I posted about a lovely Hangar 24 Essence IPA. We were back at Bellows again recently, and had a couple of more gems.

The first was the Avery IPA, a West Coast IPA with an abv of 7%. Avery is located in Colorado. Beer Advocate gives the Avery IPA an 87% (“very good”). It was hoppy and very floral, with a sharp bitterness. It came to our table with a big thick head.  The beer has a crisp and fresh feel overall.

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Next, we had a Serpent’s Stout, made locally by Lost Abbey (pictured above). You can’t usually go wrong with Lost Abbey; almost all of their beers are pretty amazing. At their inception, Lost Abbey tended to specialize in Belgian-style beers, though I don’t know if that’s necessarily the case any longer. I do have to say I appreciate a lot of their Belgian-style beers more. Serpent’s Stout was OK. It’s an 11% Imperial Stout. I could definitely perceive the alcohol flavor. The beer was malty, with coffee tones, thick lacing, thick head, rich texture, and a sort of metallic edge I could have done without. However, Beer Advocate considers it world class, so my opinion may be in the minority.

Idiot IPA

The first time I had this double IPA was years ago, when we were visiting the Hotel Del Coronado, and happened upon Coronado Brewing. It is a nutty and bitter IPA, with less floral and citrus tones than some of my favorite IPA’s. It doesn’t smell particularly distinct. It’s 8.5%, but one might not immediately guess it’s a double IPA. It’s rated as “very good” by Beer Advocate. My friend brought a 6-pack over and I refamiliarized myself with this nice beer. Not bad.

Pumpkin Season

Well, this post is a little late now, but I was under the impression that pumpkins were a seasonal thing, at least until Thanksgiving. However, I attempted to buy a pumpkin to make a pumpkin beer keg the day before Thanksgiving, and they were nowhere to be found – not at Albertson’s, Stater Brother’s, or Wal-Mart. I felt somewhat deceived. I honestly wasn’t aware that pumpkins could not be readily procured after Halloween.

We made some pumpkin home brew a few weeks back in anticipation for Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, at this time, I no longer recall what hops, grains, or other flavors, if any, were used (besides the pumpkin, obviously). It was probably ready to drink a over a week ago, but we have a tendency to open them up a little too soon, so we waited just a bit longer. It is pictured above (being eyed suspiciously by one of our cats).

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The pumpkin beer ended up having a smoky and smooth flavor. It was somewhat on the darker side and had a full body and a tangy finish. I could have done without the tangy finish (note for next year).

Giving Thanks To Beer, And Alcohol In General

Happy Thanksgiving. I’m thankful for a great many things, including friends, family, a good job, and good health. As this blog is largely devoted to beer, I am of course also thankful for beer and alcohol in general.

I met my husband while drinking. Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to be in a fraternity or sorority without having a penchant for alcohol, but that wasn’t us. We met on a rainy night in February that involved lots of drinks, apartment party hopping, and a friend accidentally lighting something on fire at one of those parties (because he was drunk, as we all were). Back in those days, I was a 19-year-old sorority girl with an unrefined palate. I was probably sipping on whatever sugary, crass, cocktails were passed my way. I will regret this poor taste for the rest of my life, but regardless, that night was the beginning of a series of fun moments, many involving more drinking.

In college and some of law school, I was a fan of Jack on the rocks. We went through a period (early twenties) when we really liked wine. We still like wine, but love craft beers above all. Beer can make a dull day glisten with unexpected delight, and can turn a boring meal into an interesting one. There are so many types and styles of beers that the excitement never ends.

When we got married about 8 years after dating, we made sure to have good beers at our wedding. We had a small keg of Piraat, a beautiful and deceptively powerful Belgian trippel by Van Steenberge, a 10.5% abv delight (his choice). My choice was Westcoast IPA by Greenflash (7.3%). We got a keg of Modelo just in case anyone had lighter preferences, but predictably, that keg was not as popular. At our wedding, people had great beers and great fun; some probably had a little too much fun. It was a night to remember, except for the guests that drank too much to remember.

Cheers to beers, cheers to love, and cheers to my husband.

I am very thankful for all of these on this Thanksgiving.

SAMSUNG

Stone Enjoy By 10.31.14

Went to Shane’s Pizza & Pints for dinner and some drinks. It used to be Hendo’s. Hendos’ food and drinks were alright. Their meatballs were notable. Everything else was rather standard, and not particularly cheap either. It’s certainly convenient, so I end up coming here more for that reason. Currently, they are still using Hendo’s menu, and I’m not quite sure what changes are going to be made.

It’s not surprising for Stone to have good beers. This one was decent. It was floral, hoppy, with a very bitter edge. It was a little heavier than I would have preferred, and I think the bitterness was one of the most noticeable and immediate qualities. It’s not one of my favorites though. A little too floral and too bitter.

Libertopia 2014

Libertopia was last weekend, and as usual, it was a good time. Jeffrey Tucker was Master of Ceremonies. Good times and good beers were had all weekend. There was even some home brew in the Hospitality Lounge, but it was all gone before I got to it. While I tabled and listened to speakers, I had a couple of these:

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I like stouts, but tend not to drink too many of them, as they feel a bit heavy for me. Stone’s coffee milk stout is on the lighter side, but is not watery at all, as some poorly-done stouts can be. It’s got a lovely, smooth flavor, and is only 4.5% (which was a bit surprising to me).

Also had a couple of these:

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Sierra Nevada got a bad rap in my mind, since the most common pale ale you see everywhere isn’t that great. However, they do have a couple of really decent beers, like the seasonal Celebration, and this Torpedo extra IPA. Beer Advocate considers it world-class with a rating of 93, and I tend to agree! Fresh citrus and pine flavors, and of course, bitterness. It’s on the darker side of IPA’s and is 7.2%. Some people are also really fond of the Bigfoot barleywine they make, but that’s really not my thing. A bit too heavy and powerful, even for me.

 

Hangar 24 Essence (Imperial IPA)

Went to Bellows to celebrate a friend’s recent promotion. Bellows is the whiskey/scotch-focused, classier version of Churchill’s. I like whiskey too, but I learned in my early twenties that drinking Jack on the Rocks makes the night go by way too fast. Bellows has some great food, but their beer selection pales in comparison to Churchill’s. Of course, that’s the point. Churchill’s has all the beers and greasy pub foods, Bellows has all the scotches and fancy foods you can’t pronounce. The stuff they do have is thoughtful, though.

Had a Hangar 24 Essence IPA. It’s a fairly standard IPA (and I do not mean that in a bad way at all). Beer Advocate gives it an 86 (“very good”). It does the citrus tones and hoppiness very well. I liked it enough to have two of them, and I am only now realizing was an Imperial/Double IPA. If I had known when I was drinking I might not have had two of them then gone on to drink wine. In retrospect, I should have known, since the beer came in a smaller, tulip-style glass. Then again, I’ve been to snooty foodie places with craft beers that pour regular IPA’s in 10-ounce servings too.

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A Good Weekend With Ballast Point

Ballast Point has a lot of good stuff. Of course they are not perfect. There was that one time they had a few batches of Yellow Tail pale ale that tasted like soap. At first, I assumed the bar did not properly wash the glasses and asked for a new glass. The second was the same. I assumed that particular bar just had bad dish washing practices, until I ordered a Yellow Tail at another bar the next weekend and it also tasted like soap.

But that can all be forgiven, because of Sculpin, which is one of my favorite IPA’s. Oh god, it’s so lovely. Sweet, citrusy nectar. Beer Advocate considers it world-class. I drank it while painting my nails this weekend:

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Sculpin is far from Ballast Point’s only redeeming quality, though. They have several solid beers. It’s beer week and I tried a Homework Series #3 IPA a few nights ago, which is an English style IPA. Hoppy and malty:

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Interesting that they call it “English style” IPA – didn’t the English invent IPA’s? You’d think that all IPA’s are by default “English style.” By the way, I do not have a reputation as a cannibalistic serial killer at that bar (The Regal Seagull). That’s just the way they do their tickets for food. When you order (delicious) sausages, instead of a number, you get assigned a random fictional character. 

Final note: Ballast Point also has a tasting room and home brew mart with great supplies and grains. Overall, lots of good stuff.

The Worst of Belgium

Pictured above is one of many awesome Belgian beers.

This past weekend, I went to the grocery store to pick up some veggies, and happened to walk down the beer aisle. There were several good beer deals, so I ended up with a couple of 6-packs of IPAs, as well as a pumpkin ale. However, I happened upon this offending display:

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The “best” of Belgium? Really?! True, Leffe is not bad. The first time I had it, I was at a little dive in Brussels, and it was one of the most amazing beers I’d ever had – up to that point. Even now, I like both the blond and brune versions from time to time. And to be generous, no one can deny the Hoegaarden and its lemony touch is pleasant on a hot summer day. These are not at all remotely close to being the best Belgium has to offer, but at least they are acceptable, even good beers.

Then we get to the heinous, egregious, and unforgivable inclusion of Stella. You have got to be fucking kidding me. You know they call that shit “wife-beater” in the UK, right? It’s like the Bud Light of Europe. It’s flavorless, ugly, wretched, piss. Given the choice between drinking Bud or Stella, I’d actually take the Bud – not because of the flavor, mind you. They are equally piss, except the Bud is cheaper. Let me ask you – would you rather drink cheap piss or expensive piss?

That’s what I thought. And I like how they refer to this as a “celebration of Belgian beer.” No, not so much. More like a funeral march.