Home Beer Tasting

We did a home beer tasting the other day, which was super fun. Most beers weren’t new, but it’s still fun to do comparisons even if you’ve had the beer  before. Notably disappointing was the Duvel triple hop. We saw it at BevMo and were excited to try it since we love Duvel, but the triple hop was fairly unremarkable. Other featured beers included Deschutes’ Mirror Pond, Obsidian Stout, and Inversion IPA; Stone’s pale ale, milk stout, Ruination, and IPA; North Coast’s Old Rasputin; Maredsous; New Belgium’s trippel; Lagunitas’s Censored Rich Copper Ale and IPA; Leffe Brune; Port Brewing’s Ponto SIPA and Swami’s IPA; Magic Hat #9 (pale ale); Mississippi Mud; Sierra Nevada’s Five Hop IPA, among others.

We took detailed notes about scents, flavors, and textures, which predictably degenerated into gibberish as the drinking progressed.

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This was the end result:

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This is always a good time, and we threw in a couple of sodas because so my nephew could participate in the tasting (result: I don’t like Hansen’s raspberry soda as much as I thought I did – it’s got a sort of chemically taste, Ramune (marble soda) is as awesome as ever, and sugar free shit unsurprisingly sucks).

Pro-tip I learned from my friends: Get a mystery box from BevMo if you want to try your luck. Apparently BevMo packages “mystery boxes” of random mismatched beers and will sell a case for $18 or so. They guarantee there are no more than 5-6 Coors/Buds in there (gross).

Pro-tip #2: Uber comes in handy even when you’re tasting at home. Have mom drop dad off for fun times and send him home in an Uber. He will be impressed by the technology and convenience.

Beers in Chicago

I was in Chicago for work, but had a little time to explore. Chicago is an awesome city, but this post is dedicated to drinks.

Although I continue to believe San Diego makes the best IPA’s, Revolution Brewing‘s IPA was not bad. It’s entirely a thing of preference, but I like west coast IPA’s – super hoppy and aggressive. IPA’s hailing from other parts of the United States tend to be a bit less pungent.

On Saturday night, we bought a 6 pack of pick-your-owns at the closest grocery store (pictured above and below). I tried to get non-California beers, but caved on the Stone Pataskala Red IPA because I had never seen it or heard of it before, so it counts as something new. Whenever encountering a pitiable hotel room that features no fridge space, or no fridge at all, the sink and a trip to the ice machine is all it takes:

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Ironically, I made 3 laborious trips to the ice maker per my usual routine in hotel rooms because so many of them don’t have refrigerators these days… then looked down under a shelf and discovered there was a completely empty mini-fridge in the room.

Later on in the night, we went to an awesome pizza and cocktails place called Pi Gallery. The pizza there was absolutely amazing. To my husband’s initial disappointment, we were in Chicago, and this was not deep dish, but this was actually to my great delight, because I really think thin crust is the best. This kind of statement likely is akin to blasphemy/sacrilege in Chicago, but I’ve left the area now so they can’t get to me. We ordered the veggie pizza which had a balsamic sauce. We both really liked it and I’ll say that it was one of the best pizzas I ever had.

My first beer was Archer Avenue Pale Ale by Blue Nose Brewery. This was a lovely and flavorful pale ale. This beer is so new (and/or obscure) that it only has one review on Beer Advocate, and does not yet have a score.  This does not surprise me, because the owner of this awesome joint introduced himself, and we learned that he is really into music and the arts, so it would make sense that he would have good beers on tap “before they are cool.” The next beer I had was an amber ale that tasted slightly floral, slightly hoppy, and reminded me of candy. We tasted a couple of other beers, did some shots of Jameson with the owner, chatted with him about music, and this was a really great night.

Pi Gallery seems like it may have only recently opened, as it only as 21 Yelp reviews, but I thought it was a gem of a find. It doesn’t have a flashy entrance, and is located upstairs, so you sort feel like you’re walking into a mystery. If you’re in the area I highly recommend this joint.

Other notable beers while on this brief weekend sojourn included the Matilda (Belgian strong pale ale by Goose Island) and The Poet (stout by New Holland).

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Some Beers In The Bay Area

We were up in northern California for a wedding recently. The wedding itself was in a sleepy and quaint Mill Valley, but we ended up spending some time in San Francisco as well as Walnut Creek, since we were there for a long weekend.

I’d like to say we came upon Resolute, a wine bar, after walking by its highly compelling sign (“HAPPY HOUR EVERY DAMN DAY!” pictured above), but the truth is we found it on Yelp. I believe this place is fairly new, as I had been in the neighborhood for work just a couple of months prior, and had not noticed it. We came by for happy hour. I had the “Hella Lite” pale ale, which was as juicy and citrusy as its description promised it to be. It was hoppy despite the fact it was “hella lite.” This would have been a great summer beer. Too bad the weather was already starting to cool down. The low ABV of 3.8% was probably also appropriate considering all the wedding festivity drinking from the night before. The rye saison by Henhouse Brewing wasn’t bad either. After that, we shared a glass of tempranillo, which was also lovely. Also had a cheese plate (manchego) to go with it all. Very nice.

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While up in the area, we also popped by to visit some dear friends, who had just returned from their honeymoon in Belgrade, London, and the Amalfi Coast (so jealous – if I ever make it back to Italy, it’s the Amalfi Coast for sure). We hit up a sort of Indian fusion joint called Kanishka’s Neo-Indian Gastropub in Walnut Creek. I can be slightly wary of fusion places, but when I looked up “beer” this is one of the first places that came up, and the thought of Indian food and beer was simply too enthralling to pass up.

This place did not disappoint. Lots of lovely beers of all types on tap. Good Belgians, good IPA’s, not much more a girl can ask for. The lamb sliders were probably more akin to wraps, but it doesn’t matter; they were heavenly. The tikka masala fries were also to die for and paired so nicely with IPA’s. All I want for Christmas is for someone to replicate this place and drop it off in San Diego.

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Barrel Republic Beer By The Ounce

My friend told me about this place a while back, but I just now got to check it out. This place has like 40 beers on tap and charges by ounce. You show your credit card and ID when you get in, they give you a bracelet with a sensor in it, and you scan the bracelet before every pour. They have a wide variety of glasses available for different types and quantities of beer.

They have a wide selection, including Belgians, IPAs, pale ales, lagers, you name it. There’s something for everyone; I suppose that’s the point. You can pour as little or as much as you want, so if you don’t like it, you can quickly move on. The catch is that it’s not a great deal. Most of the beers on tap end up being $7-$8 a pint which is what fancier joints charge for beers.

They even have a few wines. Although, there was some Adam Corolla-promoted wine called “Mangria” and I’d pretty much rather die than drink anything recommended by Adam fucking Corolla. Oh, I get it – MANgria.  YOU ARE SO FUCKING WITTY ADAM COROLLA. No thanks.

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After trying a whole host of delicious beers, none of the names of which I can recall currently, I ran into Thing 1 while waiting for the Coaster. Not sure where Thing 2 was. Speaking of the Coaster, it sucks now because they have banned alcohol. Because freedom and shit. ‘Murrica.

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Night Time and Red Seal

Another good beer I’ve had the pleasure of drinking recently is the Night Time by Lagunitas. It is an American Black Ale and is smoky, deep, bitter, and rich. It has a little bit of a spicy bite. I had it recently, but it would be a wonderful holiday beer with the warm spices. It’s a little reminiscent of chocolate and coffee, and is nutty. It’s 7.9% ABV, and 74 IBU’s. The beer cutely warns the drinker to “fear the dark” (pictured above).

On Saturday, I met a friend in San Clemente. The weather was amazing (I guess not surprising for SoCal this time of year). We had a beer at the Fisherman’s Restaurant and Bar outside on the balcony, overlooking the ocean. I had a Red Seal Pale Ale by North Coast Brewing. It’s on the hoppy and flavorful side for a pale ale, and the color is sort of an amber. It starts to taste a bit sweeter and nuttier as it gets warner. It is 5.4% ABV and 42 IBU’s. Overall, nice beer (see below).

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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.

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.

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.

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.