Wednesday, November 29, 2006 

AleSmith YuleSmith

AleSmith makes 2 delicious versions of this beer every year. The obvious, Winter edition (bottle colors being red and green) and the "Christmas in July" Summer edition (pictured to the left). Both are extremely delicious and very limited. So pick up as many as you can if you are lucky enough to cross paths.

Winter Edition 2006
92 / 100

AleSmith has been strong in it's stance that this beer is an Imperial Red. This version seems to be most along that terminology, but far less than the Winter 05 version, which in some ways was much like this year's Evil Dead Red.

It pours a burnt red color with a consistent head that retains with slight lacing. It packs the hop punch - pine scent mostly. The taste is more complex than just the hops - there's a nice caramel maltiness. It has a medium to full body with plenty of warming and a slightly bitter finish. The alcohol was definitely apparent but it was still easy making it through the bottle.

I've found that despite the high hop profile these age pretty well in the short term. I wouldn't push it beyond 15 months, as by then the hops have lost their bite. A year old one though is brilliant.

Summer Edition 2006
90 / 100

This one is described by AleSmith as a Double IPA. It's everything a DIPA offering in Southern California should be: a full flavored with lots and lots of hops. Immediately after opening the bottle, the wonderful aroma (think hops with a wee bit a of pepper) lets you know you're in for something special. The pine and citrus notes of the hops are relatively well balanced with the sweet malt. But generally, if you're drinking a DIPA, you're not looking for a lot of balance - you're looking for a lot of hops. And that's what you get. Refeshingly crisp too.

A textbook example of a Double IPA. Drink this one as fresh as you can.

Monday, November 27, 2006 

Green Flash West Coast I.P.A.

87 / 100
"This West Coast IPA..." is how the label reads. Exactly.
This is absolutely a West Coast IPA. It's loaded with big hops - lots of citrus, lots of pine. It pours an amber color with a frothy cappucino head. Some sediment lurks toward the bottom of the glass. It's aroma is very grapefruit. The bitter tastes hits first but rounds out with the slight sweetness in the malt character.
Very drinkable and quite delicious.

Thursday, November 16, 2006 

Pilsner Urquell

75 / 100

Pilsen, Czech Republic is the birthplace of the pilsener. The world's first pilsner and one of Europe's most exported lagers, Pilsner Urquell is still made there today.

Very few drinking establishments in Los Angeles have decent beer. So often I end up having to grab something that, in other circumstances would not be my first choice. Such is the case with Pilsner Urquell.

A proper fresh serving of Pilsner Urquell in a pilsener glass at an above-freezing temperature is great. Fine beer. That's another thing that's rare in LA. Generally you're served it in a pint glass (if you're lucky not frosted) or with no glass at all - straight from the bottle. Czech Pilseners are not the most durable beers and that with the fact that if drinking from the bottle - the green bottles are poorly designed for proper shelf life.

The one I happened to be having was not terribly fresh but it wasn't terribly old either. I was at the Hambuger Hamlet on Hollywood Blvd, in the thick of the Hollywood bullshit. They served it in a goblet, for whatever dumb reason. It was too cold. I tried to enjoy the beer for what it was. It did that quite well.

It's a remarkably refreshing beer - light, crisp and quenching. The Saaz hops are omnipresent providing most of the flavor. The finish is clean and slight bit sweet. This is a great gateway lager to try to get those so used to the American macros to see that beer can have flavor and not be intimidating.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006 

Thanksgiving and Beer

This Turkey Day, why not pair your bird with your beer? The Pilgrims would approve. The Boston Globe gives you some insight.


AleSmith Evil Dead Red

79 / 100

Ambers / reds are definitely not my favorite style of beer. That said, this is the way I like them - full with lots of hops.

I've only had this once before, about this time of year at the same place I had this one - Father's Office in Santa Monica. This time it reminded me a bit of last winter's Yulesmith, just tone-downed considerably.

The color was a deep dark ruby with a billowing head, lacing throughout. Cotton candy and roasted malts with a piney hops afterkick dominate the aroma. The flavor takes the best of a traditional American amber - the sweet maltiness and an IPA - the booming hops.

I liked this quite a bit. When I finished it I was ready to move on, there were plenty of other tasty beers awaiting.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006 

Harpoon Winter Warmer

72 / 100

My experience will likely differ with most with this beer. I haven't had this in many years, living away from Boston now for over 5 years. I think that this particular one may, in fact, be that old - if not older. This was buried deep in my father's 2nd refrigerator in Massachusetts. Recently back visiting and with space in my car for the cross country drive, coupled with the fact that my father was not going to drink this ever - I brought it with me.

A few months have past. Of course, being in Los Angeles in the late summer, a winter warmer is never going to be your first choice. So I let this cool out with some other older winter offerings until I was ready. I suppose yesterday I was ready – I busted that bad boy open.

I poured it into a pint glass. Tons upon tons of sediment everywhere. No big deal that would simmer down within a few minutes. When it did it was a murky, ice tea looking beverage. The aroma was pretty intense, nothing subtle about it: pumpkin pie, cinnamon and nutmeg. The first thing I noticed when I tasted it was that the body was a lot thinner than I expected, especially since recently having Anchor’s Our Special Ale (a much better winter beer, imo). The spice flavors were there but not a lot more. As I drank more, I started warming up to it a bit more. Malt and nut flavors came out as the temperature of the beer increased.

I would have liked to have a fresh Winter Warmer to compare this to, but that wasn’t going to happen. I’m sure that one will taste quite different

Monday, November 13, 2006 

Stella Artois

71 / 100

Unfortunately this is the first beer that most Americans associate with Belgium. For shame. That said, it's not terrible. If you live in Los Angeles, like I do, it's often the best option places will have. So with these caveats, I end up drinking a bit more of it than I would truly want.

It is very light in color: golden straw with a good deal of carbonation. It's very light in basically all areas: aroma, taste, body and appearance. I guess that's why Americans like it so. With the American macros, this stands a level above, as it does have some flavor qualities. Its aroma is grainy with a slight sweetness. Much true too for the taste. The water taste is particularly Belgian, but that's about it. It's drinkable, but nothing I would crave.

Friday, November 10, 2006 

Hair of the Dog Blue Dot Imperial IPA

77 / 100

Hair of the Dog, of Portland, Oregon, makes some interesting beers. I've found I either love or hate their offerings. And their latest the Blue Dot falls into that category as well.

To be straight - I neither love nor hate Blue Dot. There are some aspects about it that I think are great and others get me scratching my head. Like all of the HOTD beers I've previously had, it's loaded with sediment. This makes the beer extremely cloudy. In this case, I was shocked out how light the beer was. This almost looked like a Belgian Pale Ale. The head was out of control, as if I shook it. The aroma was dead giveaway that it wasn't. It's a lemony hop scent, with the slightest bit of stale bread in it.

At this point, I was ready to not like this beer at all but then it goes and surprises me. The taste is actually quite good. It tastes a lot like other DIPAs. It's bitter and bold and quite interesting. the malts were quite pronounced and there was little to no citrus tones in the flavor. It finishes nicely with a round sweetness that brings it all together. Intersting stuff.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006 

Trappist Keeper

Rochefort 10

92 / 100

If you like big, delicious beers painstakingly concocted by papal Belgians - you need not look any further than to the fine Abbaye de Notre-Dame de Saint-Rémy. Trappist monks have been creating fine beers there for the last 80 years.

The 10, their biggest and best beer is a remarkable quadrupel. It pours a dark cola color with a thick, picky finger head. The heads laces all over the glass. The aroma is sweet: plum and brown sugar. A nice crisp yeast scent balances the sweetness. The flavor is extremely complex. Initially the sweetness hits, similar to the nose. It continues with the slightest sour notes - green apple and dark cherry. Just a tiny bit of bitterness finishes. There's a lot going on here and it all comes together wonderfully. Incredibly delicious, the 11.3% ABV is hardly noticeable. I enjoyed this as an after dinner beer but it certainly would do well with many cuisine options.

Friday, November 03, 2006 

Dogfish Head: The IPAs

Dogfish Head of Milton, Delaware, has become one of the most popular names in brewing amongst the craft drinking populace. Known for their "Extreme Brewing" the brewery often seems like a satire, that is until you try their beer. Yes, they make their own malt liquor and founder, Sam Calagione has his own hiphop outfit called the Pain Relievaz (his moniker is Funkmaster IBU). On the other side, Dogfish knows looks to history making beer-like beverages that go back thousands of years (their Chateau Jiahu is their version of an ancient Chinese elixir). Through all of this, what Dogfish Head is probably known best for is it's delicious India Pale Ales. And sadly, none of these are available in California.

60 Minute IPA

85 / 100

This is the Dogfish Head flagship beer and a delicious one at that. It's has a biscuit-like hop character that separates it from the monsters made on the West Coast. This is distinctly East Coast and one of the best examples of it. The hops are mellowed out by a nutty backbone, but they are definitely present and quite sweet. Smooth tasting and quite drinkable.

90 Minute IPA

90 / 100

One of the first Double IPAs, I've ever had, it stills seems to be the dictionary definition of what one is. There are better, there's tons worse - but this since this was my starting point and characterizes the style well - I often use this for the jump off. The hops in this are huge. West Coast huge. The flavor, though, is less pine and citrus than those out here. It far more raisin and candied fruit. I like this more than the 60 because I like the bigness and how well it's balanced.

120 Minute IPA

83 /100

On the other side of things the 120 smashes the balance. The 60 comes in a 6 pack, the 90 in a 4 pack, this comes solo - all for about the same price. This beer polarizes the beer faithful: some think it went too far, others love it. I enjoyed it quite a bit. It's an experiment - I've heard it described as a "pixie stick hop bomb" - but I think it does what it does well. It's a thick, viscous syrup - think afterdinner drink (and at roughly 20% ABV, it's proofed like one). The aroma is afterdinner drinkish too - sweet almost plum brandy. It's sweet, it's hops-in-your-face, it's overboard - all that it's supposed to be, but also quite tasty. The version I had was from 2004, so the hops have likely mellowed out a bit. I'd love to try it fresh.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006 

It's a Celebration, Bitches!

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale 2006

90 / 100

Sure, Halloween just ended yesterday. Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, one of the most eagerly waited annual beers, was in stores last week. And no surprise here, it's delicious.

It pours an orange-copper with a slight head. Robust hops - pine and floral are balanced by a roasted malt aroma. There's a slight sweetnesss - caramel / cinnamon. The taste has citrus (lemon / orange) notes, but mostly - it's very balanced. Perhaps, because it was only bottled quite recently - it tastes extremely fresh. This is what fall tastes like. It's very crisp, thorough palate coverage, with bitter finish.

Easy drinking, time to stock up. Last year's got better with over the past year. I have a feeling this one is best right now. Drink up.