Thursday, August 31, 2006 

Stone 10th Anniversary India Pale Ale

91 / 100

This is a glorious beer by a glorious company. Their Ruination and IPA have long been two of my favorite hop creations. On September 9, 2006 they will be celebrating their 10th anniversary with a big bash at their Escondido brewery - information available here. The lineup of brewers reads of a who's-who in American beer. The missus and I will be in attendance!

The beer they made to commemorate this grand occasion is an enormous hop monster. The bottle is beautiful, complete with a story on the side – all painted on. It pours a ruby-orange with a frothing eggshell head. The aroma is a floral bouquet hop assault. All of the hops of the rainbow are present: from sweet to pine to everything in between. There’s a lot of fruit on the palate – some lemon, some pineapple and lots of grapefruit. All of the taste soaked in hops with a tinge of maltiness. The creamy texture smoothes out the alcohol warmth. Delicious. I’ll have to stock up on these.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006 

Bluegrass Brewing Co. American Pale Ale

85 / 100

For Christmas, last year my father signed me up for a Beer of the Month Club. It's great. I get 12 beers delivered to me every month. Two breweries are represented - 2 different styles from each, so a total of 3 of each different beer. Many come from places, I would not normally get to try - like Kentucky. This came as part of my beer of the month club, several months ago.

Pour a golden almost amber color with a decent 2 finger head. The aroma is exactly what I want in a APA: nice hop presence, some citrus and a pleasant grassiness. The hop flavors finish with a nice malt character. Very smooth, very enjoyable. At times it seems more IPA than APA. I guess that's how I like 'em.

Sadly, there were only 3 and this not available anywhere near me.

Monday, August 28, 2006 

The 45th State, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Beer

According to Utah state law: Beer and other malt beverage products that exceed 3.2% alcohol by weight or 4.0% by volume are considered "liquor", and beer with an alcohol content of 3.2% or less is defined as "beer". So, no beer that exceeds this can be made, sold or legally brought into Utah. Thankfully, when I was pulled over for speeding in Richfield, UT - the officer did not look in my car to see the roughly $400 worth of contraband that would definitely not get the Utah rubberstamp.

A little over 60% of state residents are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Wikipedia). Mormons. Boom, there's the restrictions. So you can get a can of Silver Bullet in Utah, but you cannot get the same one that get over the border Colorado. So even if you find Coors Light to be watery and unpalatable - the one in Utah is even more so.

Despite these laws there are a couple of craft brewers within the state borders. When I saw a couple local singles in the fridge of the gas station I stopped at, I figured I give them a go.

Cutthroat Pale Ale

63 / 100

This pours a yellow straw color. The aroma is part caramel, part wheatfield and slightly fruity with some citrus. Flavorwise, it has some subtle hops with some cereal oat. It is somewhat watery and not as hoppy as I would like as it sneaks right in at 4% ABV. Not to say that there cannot be a good beer made at this percentage - but this isn't it.

Wasatch Polygamy Porter

67 / 100

Obviously the first thing you notice about this is the hilarious label. No matter how bad the beer inside would be, I knew the bottle alone was worth it.

It poured with medium dark brown with a slight head. The malt character was the initial aroma followed by some chocolate and coffee. The body is thin and that's not particularly something I crave in a porter. The malt finish tries to even it out - a worthy attempt, but not terribly successful.

Friday, August 25, 2006 

Three Floyds Gumballhead

89 / 100

I've been wanting to try some Three Floyds for a long time and this was one of the most intriguing I've heard of. Thankfully, this fine summer beer was easy to find in Chicago - so I made the most of it there and even brought some home.

Gumballhead is descibed by the brewers as, "a highly dry hopped American wheat." It has an interesting color, a lot lighter than I was expecting - but more accurate to what a wheat looks like. The aroma was sweet, a bit lemony with a dose of hops. The tastes follows that but with a wheat balanced finish.

It's a very unique taste and quite delicious. The sweetness is different but very welcome. I sure wish I could get this in LA.

Thursday, August 24, 2006 

North Coast Silver Jubilee 25th Anniversary Ale

80 /100

I saw this a few months ago at Whole Foods. Not recognizing it I picked it up and checked it out. A saison from North Coast? How have I not heard of this. Oh, because it was made special for Whole Foods. Ok, I'll fucking try it.

Nice lather tops the golden color ale. The aroma is of lemons, honey and Belgian yeast. The flavor is champagne like with a subtle citrus tang and a slight hop bitter. I quite enjoy it. It seems like this would pair well with many types of food - no surprise for a Whole Foods commissioned saison.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006 

Unibroue Chambly Noire

82 / 100

Unibroue, have long been one of my favorite North American brewers. Obviously by when anyone says, "North American" - they mean "Canadian". No one would say "it's one of my favorite North American..." and mean something from the United States. And they definitely wouldn't mean Mexico. Does Mexico even consider themselves "North American"?

From Quebec (definitely in Canada), Unibroue has been making some of the most forboding and downright delicious beers since I was legal to drink. They are known almost as well for their twisted labels of man's fight against beast - most complete with the stories. Maudite and La Fin du Monde (yeah that means,"The End of the World") have long been favorites in my fridge.

Recently, I heard of their latest, but have been unable to find it in my local shops of Los Angeles. On my recent cross-country trek, I finally came upon it in Chicago. Again with the cool label (yeah you like it too), Chambly Noire was not messing around. It poured dark into my glass. It looked almost exactly like Coca-Cola, but with less carbonation. A dark ale indeed.

It had wonderful aromas of cherry, raisin and Belgian yeast strains. The flavor was strong and a bit sweet. It is a lot lighter than the color suggested but has a slight welcome alcohol warmth. The dark Belgian taste is predominant. A fine beer from fine brewers.

Friday, August 18, 2006 

Z Street Brewing Company

From what I've been able to find, Z Street Brewing Company is not what it used to be. Sadly, I don't know what it used to be. I do know that it was a wee brewery in Fitchburg, Massachusetts that was well received. Alas, in that carnation, I had not had any of their brews. Now contracted out to Mercury Brewing Co., Z Street as a self sustained brewery, is no more.

70 / 100

Z Street's IPA pours an orange-yellow with some head. A decent hop bouquet with some grapefruit flavors, that covered a light sweet malt. The flavors is a bit powered with the citrusness, that gives it a bitter bite at the finish. All and all, this is a serviceable IPA but I would not trouble to seek it out.

Mocha Java Stout

79 / 100

Yup, some more coffee and/or chocolate flavorings in a stout. It works though and I liked this one. The color is dark as night with a creamy pillow of froth at the top. It was hearty looking, thick in texture. Burnt chocolate and coffee bean dominate the nose - duh. Some bitter hop presence tries to sneak out too. Flavor wise, it does exactly what it says on the tin. The finish is a tad bitter, but in all - I enjoyed it. It's surprisingly drinkable on this warm summer night.

Thursday, August 17, 2006 

Magic Hat #9

Magic Hat #9

77 / 100

Initially, this interesting ale was distributed only in Northern Vermont. My friends in school up there would talk of it as legend. Finally, I went to Burlington, Vermont (home of Magic Hat Brewing Company) for a visit and got to try it myself. And I thought it was weird. It was hard putting a finger on this fruity apricot ale. It took a few tries, but I liked it. Within a couple years, it was distributed over much of New England, gaining a rather large following.

This is a summer beer, the light crispness and the apricot flavors seem only appropriate in the warmer months. It pours like it tastes, a light orange color - rather carbonated with the slightest head. Something you would imagine a beer version of an apricot might look like. The aroma is clearly that of the fruit with a lingering bready malt. It goes well with my being lazy on a hot summer day, kicking it out by the pond. I had another and that seemed plenty. Though still predominantly distributed in the Northeast, if you cross paths with the #9, it's an interesting beer that's worth giving some thought.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006 

Berkshire Brewing Company

Still in Massachusetts, I grab some bombers from another old familiar place - the Berkshire Brewing Company. Living in Western Masasachusetts when it opened in 1994, I remember foundly sitting on the porch with a Steel Rail Extra Pale Ale, their flagship beer. It was a crisp American summer beer I enjoyed regularly. For whatever reason the shop I was in, didn't have any. But they did have...

Lost Sailor India Pale Ale

80 / 100

I grabbed the last 22 oz. of this in the refrigerated section of Cappy's Liquors (the one in Medford). Any good Bostonian knows Cappy's. Usually it's referred to as Fuckin' Cappy's. Cappy's has the certain astringent mixed with stale beer smell you can usually only find at a frat house crime scene after they were ordered to clean things up.

This pours a hazy orange color with an everlasting head. Lemons and grapes dominant the nose. The taste has floral hops with a well balanced, almost fruity malt backbone. Albeit made in the good ole U.S. of A. this is definitely a British style IPA. This was refreshing after my usually intake of copius West Coast hop bombs. The British are more subtle than us loud asshole Americans, aren't they? "FUCKIN' CAPPY'S!!!"

Coffeehouse Porter

81 / 100

Coffee and beer, pretty much the only things I ever drink (and H2O, but obviously both have plenty in them). Together at last. Actually, there's been many combinations of stouts and porters and coffee. Some worked well, some not so much. The first I remember is the delicious Redhook Double Black Stout that advertised being made with Starbucks coffee YEARS before that name was on every street corner in the country.

Back to the point - Coffehouse Porter. It pours dark and thick. The aroma is very expresso, a hint of caramel and smokiness. Not much indicated this is a beer. The flavor delivers that nicely. A hop kick bursts through the coffee and sweetness. It rounds out the intense flavors. The creamy goodness went down extremely quick. I wish I could get more of this on my coast.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006 

Smuttynose Brewing Company - the Big Beer Series

Smuttynose makes limited edition batched every so often and bottle them in 22 oz. bombers as their Big Beer Series. A few months ago, I reviewed the Wheat Wine. On my travels I crossed paths with a couple more:


75 /100

This is their Double IPA. Apparently, the "A" stands for "Ass" making it Big Ass IPA. And that's kind of what this is. It has an murky, amber color with a slight froth that leaves a minor lacing on the glass. The aroma is citrus-y, with an agressive hop presence. There's a sugary malt taste in there but it's all but buried with tons and tons of hops. It's tasty, but falls short of the Russian River, Stone and Alesmith hop glories I've come used to. This is less balanced and the hops run rampant. The 9.2 ABV% warms the body quickly. One bomber of this is a lot.

Farmhouse Ale

82 /100

The Farmhouse Ale is Smuttynose's venture into the Belgian world of the Saison. Often I worry when sitting down with American interpretations of this style - more often then not, it just doesn't work. This one works.

It pours a unfiltered, straw yellow haze. It has an aroma of bread yeast, clove and bubble gum - sweet but subdued. It has similar flavors, very juicy but somewhat tart. It's very reminiscent of Ommegang's Hennepin. This is the finest of the Big Beers I've tasted.

Monday, August 14, 2006 

Smuttynose Brewing Company

One of the better breweries in the U.S. is Smuttynose Brewing Co. of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The website is well planned out and quite informative, including Brewer's Notes discussing the batches - beer geeks find this stuff very sexy. Their labels have always been amongst my favorites - very classy. Sadly, Smuttynose beers aren't distributed on the West Coast (very few New England beers are). Back in the Boston area visiting, I loaded up some of their fine ales.

Smuttynose IPA

89 /100

"Finest Kind" as it's formally known, has only been around for only a couple years. I love the label with the 2 fellas on the lawnchairs, enjoying some beer. The guy on the right kind of looks like Drew Carey (If you can make that out). It has a cloudy peach-orange color with a brilliant head that leaves lace rings on the pint glass as I enjoy the nectar. The aroma has a great citrus hop nose: grapefruit and lemon, yum. The taste is much of the same with a caramel malt hint that doesn't balance the bitter hop attack, but I don't think it was meant to. The creamy texture is something that I've found some of my favorite IPAs make complete. This is no exception. Probably the best IPA, I've had from New England. Delicious.

Shoal's Pale Ale

81 /100

I used to rock this stuff often in my Masshole days. Harpoon IPA was always a staple in the refrigerator due to it's easy availabilty and easy price but quite often I'd kick it to Smuttynose's Shoal's. It's weird to think that these beers were hoppy to me back then, with the West Coast hop bombs that now routinely fill my belly. Now I rarely, pick up American Pale Ales when at the shop. But for old times sake, Shoal's really did the trick.

What sets this apart from the IPA is its incredible balance. The toasted malts blend effortlessly with the cascade hops. It has bready malt that you can chew on. With the 5% ABV, it's a fine summer session ale.

Summer Weizen

76 / 100

Much like the hefeweizens that seem to be popping up everywhere, Smuttynose takes on the classic German ale with an American sensibility. The unfiltered color is a pale staw with a generous head. The scent is full or banana, clove and lots of wheat malt as does the taste. It has a nice sweet yeast kick that pleasantly rounds the taste out. This is a good summer beer. Please no lemon in mine

Thursday, August 10, 2006 

Wachusett Brewing Company

One of my favorite places to visit when I'm visiting my father in Western Massachusetts is the Wachusett Brewing Company.
Located in Westminster, Massachusetts, the brewery is sort of hidden - tucked away in an industrial complex. The three brewers / proprietors are friends from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. They used their engineering know-how to build the brewery’s operating systems in 1993. From then the brewery has grown considerably. Even in the past 2 years since I’ve visited they’ve increased their production and distribution immensely.

What I like so much about Wachusett is the way they’ve integrated themselves within the community and how they’ve been embraced this way. Now their beers are on every local tap, next to your Buds and Coors. On this visit, there were several locals in to fill up their growlers. Each was eager to talk about his favorites. I really wish there was a place like this in my Los Angeles neighborhood.

Green Monsta

71 / 100

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This is their strong ale seasonal named, of course, for the landmark left field wall on Fenway Park. There are big hops and lots of malt in this and the smell and taste are loaded with them. It is a monster. The slight problem I have is that it is slightly boring. The balancing makes it unclear which way it goes. It only knows big.

Wachusett IPA

82 / 100

This is the first of their beers that I've tried. It pours an nice, amber color with a cumulo nimbus looking froth. It has a nice hop bouquet - one that seemed intense when I lived back in Boston, but now in the land of the West Coast hop monsters seemed subtle. The finish is dry and refreshing. This is Wachusett's finest.

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Wachusett Blueberry

80 / 100

Their best selling beer, the Blueberry has a very subtle fruit flavor. Generally, I'm not too big on fruity American beers (I do like me some lambics though). There is very little sweetness in the fruit and the wheat finish ends things very crisp and smooth. It's a pleasure to drink this in the summer.

Wachusett Country Ale

76 / 100

This is there pale ale. It's like a tone downed more accessible version of their IPA. It has a nice fruity summer wheat taste that makes it easy drinking for the summer months.