New England and Some Beers

We went to visit a dear friend in New Hampshire for New Years. I definitely had some serious beers while there, because I have long been spoiled by southern California weather, and if I hadn’t resorted to beer jackets, I would have been like,

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We arrived early evening on December 31, and headed over to the Thirsty Moose Taphouse in Portsmouth. They had a gigantic beer list, so things were off to a good start. I opened with the Dogfish Head 61, after being warned that “IPA’s are not the same here.” I have always loved Dogfish Head beers though, so this was an easy decision. The beer was smooth, a little sweet, and hoppy, but not arrogantly so (even though I do love a good arrogant-tasting West Coast IPA). There was a smell of maple, which became more apparent when the beer got warmer. This beer did not disappoint.

Next was an IPA by Smuttynose (Portsmouth, New Hampshire). It tasted more like pale ale, with typical IPA coloring. It had some citrus and tart tones, and was notably un-floral. It’s on the mild side for me, being used to West Coast IPA’s. It smells pinier/bushier than it tastes. Though my review for this IPA is somewhat lukewarm, Smuttynose does make a bunch of other really good beers.

Beer number three was the Green Flash Soul Style IPA, because I had two New England beers in a row and wanted to switch it up. Plus, I hadn’t yet tasted this particular gem from Green Flash. This was hoppy and typical of Green Flash, with a floral and fresh feel. It had a thick head for an IPA, and almost had a buttery scent. Smooth and lovely.

After beer number 3, I lost interest in taking notes, and after beer 4, I took a shot of whiskey.

I thought I’d taken pictures of all these lovely beers, but I guess not. I may have been distracted by the crazy bitch that came to our table trying to hit on me and steel beers from our table that night. New Years Eve is the best because of good times with friends… and watching the crazies in all their glory.

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.

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.

 

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.

Deschutes Inversion IPA

Deschutes, located in Bend, Oregon, is one of my favorite breweries. They have a variety of great beers, and a number of delicious IPAs, but one I particularly enjoy is the Inversion IPA. This beer is properly bitter, floral, hoppy, and satisfying. Its color can hardly be described as pale, as it’s almost an amber color, but you can’t hold that against it. If drinking during the day, be sure to listen to Sprawl II and Samba de Bencao while imbibing. If drinking at night, Voodoo Child and Stylo.

This is the kind of beer that makes you happy as you drink it. Happier when you drink another. Unfortunately, it makes you a little less happy when you wake up the next morning after having 6 or so.

Another great Deschutes beer is Mirror Pond Pale Ale. Pale ales usually bore me, but this one is notable. It’s citrusy, floral, easy, smooth, and is perfect for hanging out in the backyard in summertime. Its flavors are distinct and confident, but not as arrogant as an IPA. In comparison, some of the hoppier, heavier IPAs can get to be a bit much on a hotter summer day, as they turn warm quickly and take on a dull, syrupy texture.

Hillcrest Brewing

Haven’t been in these parts of town in a while, but stopped by here for a drink recently. “Just the Hop” IPA was enjoyable, though probably not as hoppy as I would prefer. It was a reasonable IPA, but it did not blow me away. I didn’t try the “Banana Hammock,” Scotch Ale, but the opinion on that was that although it was expected to taste strong at 9%, the taste of the alcohol was a little too prominent.

If you’re feeling adventurous, take some time and try their other sexy delights –  “Crotch Rocket,” “Hop Sucker,” and “Perle Necklace.” Service was very friendly here, and they have some outdoor patio seating, perfect in sunny weather.

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Giving Due Credit to Stone

As if Stone needs my support! It doesn’t, but I’m posting this because Stone is such a longstanding pro, that I take it for granted at times. I’m always on the hunt for new IPAs, new beers, and new tastes, and I forget I can never go wrong with a good solid Stone IPA. Sometimes I go months without touching any kind of Stone, until I realize I haven’t been all that satisfied, and I remember that Stone IPA’s fresh, consistent taste is always a relief after a long day at work. Or after any type of day involving any work. Or any day period – as pictured above, it is quite pleasurable sipped out of its own logo glass, with a canyon view, on a Sunday afternoon. A big plus is that you can get cases of the IPA or regular pale ale at Costco around here for $28, which is a steal.

I’ll resort to the pale ale when they don’t have any other types of Stone on tap, but as far as the easier Stone beers go, Levitation (an amber) is one of my faves, though I typically am not the biggest fan of ambers. And then, of course, there’s the Arrogant Bastard. Arrogant Bastard is an American strong ale that is as awesome as it sounds. It is an amazing, punch-you-in-the-face kind of beer. Beer Advocate considers it outstanding.

It surely is outstanding, and it isn’t cheap either. There used to be a local dive around these parts that served $7 pitchers of any beer until 10:00 p.m. everyday, including Arrogant Bastard (for reals!). At $7 a pitcher, it literally was cheaper than the grocery store. You better believe we abused that deal on many an occasion (boy those were always fun nights). And you won’t be surprised to hear that they no longer offer that deal, which was pretty much a tragedy for me. But it’s OK; I took advantage of it for a good year or so. Even though I can’t get cheap ass Arrogant Bastard, I still have this shirt –

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Woah, get your mind out of the gutter! The shirt’s referring to beer… aged in oaked barrels. Duh.

Mother Earth, Julian Casablancas

I have always liked The Strokes. But Julian Casablanca’s solo album, Phrazes for the Young changed the experience of listening to The Strokes a bit for me. Casablancas is versatile, and his style seems to vary wildly, from folksy to poppy to electronic, but underlying all of his songs is a very distinct nostalgia. After Phrazes for the Young, Casablanca’s innate nostalgia seems to be constantly trying to claw itself out through some of those Strokes songs, barely able to make it to the surface for air every now and then. Like unfinished business.

This is relevant to beer, I promise. I was at Mother Earth last night for a networking thing, and couldn’t make up my mind about what I wanted to drink, because this –

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They have a pretty good selection of solid beers, so I got a flight. Their flights are no joke, by the way – six 6-ounce tasters.

And now, I’m going to attempt to pair beers with music.

When at Mother Earth, I always like to start with the Cali Creamin’, a vanilla cream ale that sounds boring, but has surprising strength and taste at 5.2%. Its smooth, nutty, richness pairs well with Old Hollywood, glamorous, black and white, zoning out most of the night, where we end up imitating all the ones that we once were hating, men as clumsy violent fools, women a delicate pool of flowers and cobras.

Once you’ve warmed up, you can try a little Kismet IPA. It’s got the expected hoppiness of an IPA, which is a must. It has an abv of 7.2%, and is not quite as a deep and thick as some really stellar IPAs like West Coast or Sculpin, but has a sadder, darker edge compared to Mother Earth’s Boo Koo Mosaic IPA. This goes nicely with Tourist:

Feel like a tourist out in the country
Once this whole world was all countryside
Feel like a tourist in the big city
Soon I will simply evaporate

And when you’re done being a little edgy, it’s time to head over to Ludlow Street:

Everything seems to go wrong when I start drinking,
Everything seemed to go my way last night.
Everything seems so wrong to me this morning,
I know things’ll be brighter later tonight.

Have that one with Mother Earth’s Sin Tax imperial peanut butter stout. For a stout, it’s surprisingly light. You might love that, or you might resent it, but either way, it’s smooth, light, yet no joke with an abv of 8.1%. It has a generous spirit, and you can contemplate a raging night life, fading history, and the invasion of yuppies while you drink it.

I don’t have a Mother Earth beer to pair with the 4 Chords of the Apocalypse, but I love it; it’s beautiful.