Wednesday, April 17, 2013

April 17: Karl and the Tale of the Goose Island Matilda

Waltzing Matilda

Greetings from the Windy City, dear reader! Or at least that’s where today’s beer is from. I had the pleasure of visiting Goose Island in the “pre-Budweiser” days about six years ago, and my pleasant experience there has always left me with a fondness towards the Goose. While it’s their Honkers Ale, the 312 wheat beer and their excellent IPA that are most common, the brewery manages to make some exceptional beers that aren’t as widely distributed. Their Bourbon County Stouts are legendary amongst les beer nerds, and Pere Jacques and Pepe Nero are wonderful, complex brews. Today I’m drinking Matilda, their Belgian-style Golden Ale, and it is accompanied by the Tom Waits Anthology album. The song Tom Traubert’s Blues is written about an experience where Mr. Waits had too much to drink in a foreign country (Denmark, I believe), and wanted to take out and waltz a young woman named Matilda. Leave it to Tom to romanticize a night of being a few sheets to the wind.

As for the beer, it pours a cloudy miel/honey color, reminding me a lot of my good friend Pranqster. It is visually effervescent and the nose gives off a pleasant aroma of applesauce, oatmeal and honey with a classic Belgian yeast strain. The beer ends up being lighter on the palate than I was expecting (I think I was expecting chewy thick Pranqster), and the yeast is a very strong character in this play. The beer is slightly sour, but not too much so, rather just enough to be labeled “funky”. There is a delicious finish of cinnamon and clove that round off a good malt balance and light mouthfeel. This is the type of beer that can ride the struggle bus on the finish, becoming either too sticky or two sweet, but this hits the spot. Well done, Goose Island, and don’t let those Budweiser bullies change you.

Rating: A-

Friday, April 12, 2013

April 12: Karl and the Tale of the Bootlegger's Tropical Thunder

Keeping the Tropical Thunder from spilling was obviously the more important task at hand
Unfortunately, dear readers, the only picture that accompanies today’s “Wild Card” beer is a picture of yours truly holding it in one hand while failing miserably at big-kid Jenga with the other. That's what I get for leaving the house. These multiple failures should not taint your views on this magnificent beer, though. As someone who generally turns his nose away from hoppy beers, Tropical Thunder from Bootlegger’s is a welcome exception to the common California Pale Ale. We’ve been a fan of Bootlegger’s for quite some time, with this trip being the latest of maybe 15 or so trips to the brewery. Bootlegger’s, as the pride of Fullerton, CA, has been expanding their operations lately, including opening a brand new tasting room that is tons o’ fun. With the expansion it seems like they have stepped up their brewing prowess and are giving The Bruery a run for Orange County’s finest brew spot.

As for the beer itself, this is a phenomenal beer. Apparently it came about as an accident, but much like Silly Putty it is an accident that only will improve our lives from this point on. Enticingly aromatic with notes of pineapple, guava, and floral hops, this beer invites you in, places a lei around your neck, and then starts to luau in your mouth. Pineapple is still there, along with some citrus notes that are perfectly balanced by some light hops and a great mild malt. It’s one of those beers that you can drink quickly and continuously. If they start to bottle this beer, I’m buying stock in their company.

Monday, April 8, 2013

April 8: Karl and the Tale of the Reutberger Export Hell

Rock Me, Kloster Reutberger

We are about to say “auf wiedersehen” to our German friends, dear reader, and I’m closing out with the Reutberger Export Hell.  From my very little German I can tell that the Reutberg Abbey has been producing beers since 1677, and other than that all I see are words and fonts that look angry. I bet that they are perfectly pleasant though, as who can be mad when you are making beer? Anyway, as my ode to 80s German pop, I have dedicated this beer to the great German band Falco. Will “Der Kommissar” put this beer on lockdown? This video is a classic...

So I managed to lose my notes on this one, but I will give you a brief overview from memory. It was similar, but not as good as the Weltenberger that I had a little while back. While it lacked the stickiness of the Weltenberger (a good thing), the flavor profile is not as well balanced, and it was a little more of a straight lager or pilsner. It is crisp and light, but a little too grainy for my taste. It is definitely drinkable, yet unfortunately forgettable, but I’m sure somewhere in Germany there are laughs and good times being shared over a few liters of this guy.

Rating: C+

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

April 3: Karl and the G. Schneider & Sohn Organic Weisen Edel-Weisse

Schneider: A few of my favorite things

While this journey for me, dear readers, was meant to expand my beer palate and try new things that I have never tried before, once in a while I have to indulge myself in an old favorite. That would be the case today, as I am drinking the Schneider Edel-Weisse, and organic wheat beer from what I think may be Germany’s best brewery. It was very easy to choose which album to pair this guy with, as every time I see this beer on the shelf or on tap I start to sing its eponymous anthem from the Sound of Music. Edel-Weisse, Edel-Weisse… (I wish every morning you would greet me)

As for the beer, I’m going to keep this review short. If you like wheat beers, you should track this down. If you like beer, you should track this down. It’s a wonderfully executed wheat beer, floral and citrus notes abound in both the nose and the taste and it’s a glowing yellow-orange with a meringue-esque head. This organic beer is made with only six ingredients: water, two types of hops, two types of malt, and yeast. That’s it. It’s simple and delicious, clean and crisp, simply executed with deep flavors; perfect for a sunny day. I slightly prefer the standard white label hefe from Schneider over this one, but having to choose would be like the Von Trapps having to pick which child to leave behind to the Nazis.  You can’t do it.

Rating: A

Friday, March 29, 2013

March 29: Karl and the Tale of the Weltenburger Kloster Barock Hell

Paradise by the Dashboard Light?

The German’s are coming, dear reader! Spring is here and with that it’s time to explore some of the beers and styles created by one of the world’s leaders in beer craftsmanship. Today’s beer is a new one to my library, the Weltenburger Kloster Barock-Hell. This is a Munich Helles Lager, and these are beers that are meant to be consumed by the stein. The musical pairing today is the 7th best-selling album from the 70s, Meatloaf’s eternal Bat out of Hell. Fun fact: Did you know Jim Steinman originally wrote Bat out of Hell as a futuristic rock and roll musical based on Peter Pan? I love the Loaf and I need a beer, so I'm sure within minutes like a Barock out of Hell (get it?) this beer will be gone, gone, gone. Let's try and get a review in before that happens.

 This beer pours a golden yellow with cascading bubbles an attractive one-finger head. This is stereotypically what beer is meant to look like. German malts dominate the nose, and there is a little bit of hop and lemongrass alongside. I’m not all that familiar with the style, but I would describe this beer as a mix between a hefe and a pilsner. It is light and crisp, with some dryness and malted barley that I usually get from a pilsner, and there is some citrus and a chewiness that comes with most hefes. It is strongly carbonated and it is easily drinkable, but for me it does suffer a little bit in two areas. First is the metallic/mineral pilsner taste that I’ve just never been a fan of, and secondly the mouthfeel is a little sticky. I would say this beer is good looking and highly drinkable, but there ain’t no way I’m ever gonna love you, so don’t be sad; two out of three ain’t bad.

The backside of Bat of of Hell. The Loaf rules.
Rating: B-

Sunday, March 24, 2013

March 24: Karl and the Tale of the Avery The Reverend

Let's Stay Together?

There is an argument, dear reader, over which state produces the best assortment of craft beers. While California is clearly the Beatles of this argument, many would argue that Colorado is the Led Zeppelin. In addition to that hard to find white whale beer called Coors, Colorado boasts the 3rd largest amount of craft breweries in the US. New Belgium, Great Divide and Oskar Blues are just three of 139 and counting breweries that have shown much tasty love to your favorite bloggers, and today’s brew comes from another notable Colorado brewery. While Avery is most famous for its easy-drinking wit White Rascal or Ellie’s Brown, they also manage to produce a good stable of quality beers; from high-alcohol monsters like The Beast and Mephistopheles Stout to superb IPAs like Dugana and Maharaja, Avery represents Colorado well. Today I will be drinking their Quad, The Reverend, and this must be accompanied musically by the “The Reverend” Al Green. Will The Reverend be one of Avery’s greatest hits?

I would describe the color of this beer as cherrywood, and it has a oily, stagnant-pond-water head that produces little foam. The pond water is accompanied by a muted, fruity nose that is accompanied by some alcohol and a touch of the malt. While I could break down the flavor profile for you, I think I can sum up this beer by saying it tastes like a 100% Juicy Juice fruit punch juice box. Baby Buster would love this. There is some bitterness on the finish, but the fruitiness, the high carbonation and the lack of traditional Quadrupel body and mouthfeel mean that I Can’t Get Next to You. It’s a shame that one of my all-time favorite albums gets paired with a surprising dud from Avery.

Rating: C-

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

March 20: Karl and the Tale of the Anderson Valley Brother David's Tripel

Minstrel, now joined by beer and monks, in the Gallery

Do you like the sun, dear reader? Well, the good folks at Anderson Valley like the sun so much that they use its rays alone to power their brewery. Since 1987 Anderson Valley has been making craft beer, with their Amber and their Oatmeal Stout, amongst other beers, gaining recognition for quality. Now the brewery has expanded greatly, with a wide variety of nectars emerging from Boonville, CA, including today’s Tripel. To represent the Valley of Anderson, I chose a band whose lead singer shares the valley’s name. Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson may not have been born in the valley, but it appears by the cover for his Minstrel in the Gallery that he would be right at home amongst some suds and songs of times long since passed. Here is an accurate historical telling of the history of Jethro Tull:

Once you pop off the cap, the aroma fills the immediate area surrounding the bottle. There are fruits (predominately apples and pears), yeast and a strong boozy smell. The beer pours translucent gold that glistens when held up to the light. In fact, it looks like apple juice, and the lack of a sustainable head doesn’t do much to remove that impression. The beer is pleasant tasting, but unremarkable. Citrus, some common Belgian dark fruits and a slight amount of tart abound, but it’s not overly sweet. It is well carbonated, bordering on fizzy lifting drink, but to be honest everything is overpowered by the 10% of booziness that slaps you around. Neither the malts nor the hops balance out the sweetness and the booze, which is a shame. This beer has some good elements, but ends up just being a sub-par in the end.

Rating: C+

Friday, March 15, 2013

March 15: Karl and the Tale of the St. Bernardus Prior 8

The jig is up, the news is out, they've finally found St. B

Beware the Ides of March, dear reader! Today I am set to enjoy a brew from St. Bernardus, the group of rouge monks who, rumor has it, stole the recipes for the world’s greatest beers from the abbey that produces Westvleteren and began brewing down the road a little ways. Westvleteren is neigh impossible to get your lips on on a regular basis, but the readily available St. Bernardus usually comes through in a pinch. Their beers are moderately priced and generally very tasty. Whilst I am very familiar with their flagship “12” I don’t know if I have ever had their dubbel, the Prior 8. The number 8 and these “Renegade” monks reflect our album choice this evening: Styx’s Pieces of Eight, or one of the few albums with more Tommy Shaw rock hits than Dennis DeYoung ballads. May St. Bernardus help you overcome those long nights and impossible odds.

The beer pours a muddy brown with a solid one finger head that sticks the landing beautifully. The nose is invitingly sweet, smelling like a cherry vanilla coca-cola, with the alcohol slightly noticeable. It’s kind of like the menthol burn from a cough drop. The beer itself is incredibly complex. I could list flavors for days it seems, but the most prominent are dark fruits, bubble gum, grapes (not wine), cola, and dark breads. It is sweet, but not overly, and as it warms cloves and other spices seem to come out to balance out the sweetness . There is a ton of carbonation, and it finishes tangy, sweet and dry with no hints of the 8% alcohol. I can drink this stuff like it was a soda, which is dangerous. In fact I think this must have been the beverage that Ray Davies was talking about at the bar down in old Soho where they drank champagne that taste just like Coca-Cola. This is a great beer that you can usually get for a near-Blue Collar Man price, and while I don’t know if it is exactly the idyllic portrait of the style (Westmalle Dubbel for me), it’s like Mr. Pibb plus Red Vines: Crazy delicious!

Rating: A 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

March 10: Karl and the Tale of the Heretic Evil Twin

Whoa, here she comes...
Our journey through reds is approaching its conclusion, dear reader, and I have to admit that this has been my favorite two weeks of beer drinking for this year. I have had some exceptional beers in this style, many that I haven’t even reviewed (call Green Flash’s Hop Head Red, Port Brewing’s Shark Attack and the Bruery’s Imperial Loakal Red for a good time), and I feel like a minuteman with the amount of reds I’ve taken down. I’ve really appreciated the style and it’s been a way for me to get back into hoppy beers after being worn out by drinking too many poorly-crafted, overcompensatingly high abv/IBUs IPAs. The final beer on my review list in the Heretic Evil Twin, a 6.8% red ale from Pittsburg, California. Heretic is gaining a good reputation for a few of its brews, and while I believe I have tasted this one before at some point, I don’t remember much about it. There was only one album/one image that came to mind when thinking of Evil Twin, and that was the intense stare that graces the cover of Hall and Oates best-selling album H2O. Looks like it’s about time to have a one on one with this beer…

The beer pours dark, dark amber with a two-finger head that lessens then lingers throughout. The nose is dominated by piney and citrusy hop smells, which outperform the malty burnt sugars. The taste switches things up, with the biscuity caramel malts now the Daryl Hall of the relationship. To be honest, I feel like this may be an older bottle, and age has not been kind to this beer. It tastes slightly watery and thin, and thin and malty is not a combination I particularly enjoy. The hop flavor is slightly muted, and there is a creamy mouthfeel accompanied by some medium carbonation. The wildcard here is that there is a strong fruit presence, almost like dried strawberries or strawberry jam, and this actually balances out the malt and hop profile in an interesting manner. Despite my aversion to many aspects of this beer, I keep wanting to have another sip. I continue this back and forth throughout the glass, and I can imagine the difficulties of many a groupie in the early 80s choosing between beautiful, blonde Hall or rugged, mustaschioed Oates.  It’s a hard decision how to rate this beer, but as the glass empties I realize that while I may be sitting with you, my eyes are on the door…

Rating: C+

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

March 6: Karl and the Tale of the Ruhstaller 1881

Sunshine on my shoulders (and beer) makes me happy

1881: The year that James Garfield was both inducted and assassinated, the Savoy Theater in London opens as the first public building lit through the wonders of electricity, and, fittingly for our current theme, Clara Barton founded the Red Cross. Also established in 1881 was the Ruhstaller Brewery, who provides me with today’s red ale. Made from local hops and barely, this beer proudly represents California’s capital of Sacramento. The bottleneck is covered in burlap, and that combined with its old-timey feel have led me to pair this beer with John Denver’s Greatest Hits. Quick music fact: John Denver was one of the key artists in the 80s who spoke out against musical censorship. Speaking on behalf of the artists, John’s wholesome image helped to fight for artist’s right to produce their art as he helped convince all the ancient members of the Congress to lay off the arts. Thank God for the country boy.

For the beer, it pours a worn-out copper in appearance that glows ruby red when held up to the light. The nose does not fill up your senses like a night in the forest or the mountains in springtime, but rather smells like a barn, and not in the good way like some saisons or sours smell like a barn. This is a very simple beer palate-wise, with some pine, light caramel malt and a thin body that would make this beer easy to drink. The key word in that last sentence is “would”, as unfortunately there is a strong aftertaste here that is like a mixture of rubbing alcohol and cheap olive oil that leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth. My tongue seemed to adjust to this taste about halfway through the beer, but I think I would rather drink a beer I didn’t need to adjust to. There are plenty of delicious reds out there that require you to simply enjoy them from start to finish.

Rating: C

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

March 5: Karl and the Tale of the Grand Teton Brewing Co. In Pursuit of Hoppiness

Isn't She Lovely?

Hola, dear readers, as I am filling in for Trevor as he is finding out it is a little hard to come across a roja beer in Mexico. Today I have a brew from the potato state, Grand Teton Brewing Company's In Pursuit of Hoppiness. I do not believe I have ever had a beer from Victor, Idaho before, so you could say I’m going into this beer tasting blind, but that is not why I chose Stevie Wonder’s masterpiece “Songs in the Key of Life” to accompany my beer today. With the beer’s clever play on “happy” and “hoppy”, I went with an album full of unbridled joy; if you are not smiling or dancing around after listening to songs like “I Wish”, “Sir Duke” or Stevie’s own expression of joy at his newborn daughter “Isn’t She Lovely”, then you need to check your pulse.

The beer pours a gorgeous crystal-clear red with a solid 2+ finger khaki head. The nose is what I imagine setting foot in Grand Teton National Park would be like, with some lovely pine aromas inviting you to relax and enjoy some caramels in the woods. There is a good taste balance between the toasted caramel malt and the heavy hops (we’re looking at a whopping 100 IBUs here), and the hops are the eventual winners of the battle as pine and citrus peel take their victory lap on your tongue. Both the body and the carbonation are at medium strength, and the 8.5% ABV is mostly unnoticed as you enjoy. I am usually not a fan of these big hop-bombs, but this one is very well balanced, and isn’t nearly as resinous as most other beers I’ve had in that 100 IBU range. If you are into DIPAs or beers with a hoppier disposition, then check this one out.

Rating: B   

Friday, March 1, 2013

March 1: Karl and the Tale of the AleSmith My Bloody Valentine

AleSmith, I'm Crazy on You

Welcome to March, dear readers, and I’m two weeks behind on drinking today’s beer. I think the original, cheesy plan was to start "Red Ales" over Valentine’s week, but alas we’re here and there are no rearview mirrors on this vehicle. Actually I hope there is no vehicle, either, as I doubt this blog should be driving. Anyways, AleSmith is one of my top breweries (probably top 5), with their IPA, Speedway Stout and Nut Brown particularly scrumptulescent, and I’m happy to scarf down a rarely seen Valentine’s seasonal. To accompany, we have Heart’s classic album “Dreamboat Annie”, representing the holiday, the beer, and my fond feelings towards one of San Diego’s finest.

Would My Bloody Valentine be a Magic Man or a St. Valentine's Day Massacre?
The beer pours a crimson red, like it just escaped a gaping wound. There is a solid two-finger tan head that invites you to sniff the floral aromas backed by some toast covered in cinnamon sugar. Sweet caramel malts are the backbone to this beer, and the moderate hops give some pine and grapefruit flavors. Where most hoppy red ales seem like an IPA with food coloring, this beer tastes closer to an earthy brown with hops added and is more like a hybrid beer than most other red ales I’ve had. It’s smooth on the palate, with a moderately light mouthfeel, moderate alcohol (a devilish 6.66%) and is only mildly bitter on the aftertaste. Overall, not my favorite beer from Alesmith, but enjoyable; pick it up if you like maltier IPAs or have a particular distaste for St. Valentine.

Rating: B-

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

February 26: Troegs Perpetual IPA ends WIld Card Week with a hop punch

First post in a long time! I've been traveling from Delaware, to Orlando and Austin over the last 8 days and I'm happy to be back in New Jersey...yeah, I said it. Now that I'll be traveling only once a week for the next couple weeks, I'll try to back-date some posts and write new ones more promptly. Onward and upward. 

I'm even happier to report that I will join Trevor in the two tap home kegerator club! Hopefully it will be here next week. To celebrate this and the end of Wild Card week, tonight's beer has been stashed away for several weeks awaiting the right time. Troegs treats beer lovers well and this is no exception. 

Introducing Troegs Perpetual IPA
My Special Ladyfriend is turning my previous beer bottles, like Courage Russian Imperial Stout, into candles - cutting through them by lighting string on fire. That's my girl!
Here is what the brewery says:
"In our constant evolution as a brewery, we’ve developed an undying drive to meld the organic and the mechanical. Perpetual IPA utilizes our hopback and dry-hopping to engineer a bold Imperial Pale Ale. It features Bravo, Chinook and Mt. Hood hops in the boil, Mt. Hood and Nugget hops in the hopback, and is further dry-hopped with Citra and Cascade hops"
Starts out with a very thin but sweet malt reminiscent of honey. There is a tantalizing aroma of various tropical fruit. At 7.8%, it's an Imperial IPA but there's not trace of the moderately high alcohol and while you notice the high IBU's on the back end, it's still a smooth number. 

I'm impressed with the pervasiveness and varietals of hops during and after the boil, yet, they never really overpower the light malt. The Perpetual IPA is a refined IPA, complex but smooth and surprisingly refreshing - an attribute many Imperials throw to the wind in order to balance the high IBU's and booze. For this, A- 

Monday, February 25, 2013

January 25 Group Post: Orval Trappist is One of a Kind

Karl, Trevor and Walker toast the beginning of the week with a blue ribbon Trappist and David joins us in Utah - sans Orval - but makes up for it in antics. Probst!

All: A-

Sunday, February 24, 2013

February 24: Karl and the Tale of the Deschutes Jubelale

If you didn't come to party, don't bother knocking on Deschutes's door
Wild-Card Week is just about over, dear readers, and the good people from Deschutes would like to help us celebrate with Jubelale, their 25th anniversary brew. Deschutes rarely disappoints, and I would expect this winter warmer to continue the trend of quality beers hailing from Bend, Oregon. 25 years is quite an accomplishment, so I feel like it’s time to party like it’s 1999. It looks like the Revolution have already gathered on the label.
"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to celebrate this thing called beer"
The beer pours an opaque, dark brown color that glows red when held up to the light. It’s topped by a half-finger light tan head that lasts through the beer. I pick up brown sugar, dark malts and some slight spice on the nose, and the beer has a stout-like first impression when it hits the tongue. There are some very complex dark malts that leave a variety of subtle flavors, including tobacco, chocolate and dark fruits, and this is balanced out by some bitter yet floral hops. The intricate flavors make the beer seem spiced without being spiced. The medium-high carbonation suits the lighter body, and it finishes spicy and dry. At just under 7%, it’s weaker than most of the winter warmers I’ve had lately, but it is also the easiest to drink. I could easy go for another of this very well rounded beer right now, but it seems the party is over and we’re out of time. Pick this up if you still see it around (I believe my 12oz bottle was <$2), or wait patiently for its release next winter.

Rating: B+

Saturday, February 23, 2013

February 23: Trevor and a glorious

As an avid homebrewer, I can appreciate the fact that the creation of great beer involve many variables.  Temperature, water/grain ratios, % alpha, type of sugar, etc...  Even the best of brewers sometimes make mistakes along the way, and as we all eventually find out, it can be better to just see what happens than it is to pour out the whole batch.  Today's beer is an example of a mistake that went gloriously right, and we return to my cellar to find it.

Aventinus, hailed as the most intense and complex wheat doppelbock in the world, has been produced by Germany's G. Schneider & Sohn (easily my favorite German brewery.  They produce Schneider Weisse, my "gateway" beer) for nigh on a century.  Legend holds that at some point in the 1930's, an especially cold winter transport resulted in partial freezing of a few casks of Aventinus.  Not knowing what to , and having a deadline to meet, the intrepid distributors simply scooped out the ice, and delivered what beer remained unfrozen.  The result was a highly concentrated version of the beer, as much of the water had been removed in the form of ice.  Those lucky enough to have a taste quickly spread the word, and thus, a legend was born.

Fast forward to present-day, where the master brewer at G. Schneider & Sohn, has recreated the legendary mistake to bring us Aventinus Weizen Eisbock, weighing in at a very respectable 12%, I'm anxious to see how 4 years of aging has treated us.

Almost as good a mistake as my son.  What?!

The beer pours a deep, reddish brown, with nary a trace of head, save for a fine lacing on the surface that doesn't ever disappear.  Aromas of yeast and prunes strike first, backing off to toffee and a touch of apricot.

Intense doesn't even begin to approach what's happening with the taste.  Buckets of dark, jammy fruit flavors are pushed forward by a torrent of molasses, caramel, and bready malt.  

The mouthfeel is gorgeous, at once thick and light, with a surprising tingly sensation on the tongue that lifts the heavy body.  It's only at the very end that a bit of the alcohol warmth reminds you that this is, in fact, a 12% beer.  The finish is likewise impressive.  Sweet on the lips, without being cloying, just begging for another sip.

What a wonderful mistake this was!

Rating: A-

Friday, February 22, 2013

February 20: Karl and the Tale of the Gulden Draak 9000 Quadruple

Sweet Gulden Draak... Ba Ba Ba!

And we’re back, dear reader, for round 2 of Wild Card Week. Today I’m excited to be unleashing the Draaken, or the Gulden Draak 9000 Quadruple. If you read my bio located on this site, you will be familiar with the fact that the original Gulden Draak holds a special place in my heart as one of my gateway beers, a term used to describe those special beverages that make you see the light at the end of the Bud, Coors and Miller infested tunnel. I’ve never had the quad from these Belgians, and considering the already stated affinity for the brewers and the fact that Belgian Quads are one of my favorite styles, I’m slightly more pumped than usual to be drinking beer. In fact, my excitement leads me to choose not one, but two records to represent today’s brew: Neil Diamond "Gold" and the soundtrack to Disney’s Pete’s Dragon. Gold Dragon = Gulden Draak. Yeah, Neil!

I pour this beer into my Chimay goblet, and the four-fingered head tries to escape the glass. When the dust settles, this beer looks a musty amber-brown that, when combined with the lacing, gives off the effect that this is a brew from an older time period. It would look right at home in most of the chalices guarded by the Knights Templar. On the nose there is, in an ode to our musical representative Neil, “Cherry Cherry” along with some burnt sugar and booze. It’s not all that inviting, to be honest. The beer has flavors of dates and figs, but they are overshadowed by the heavy alcohol and carbonation. There is also a vinous quality to this beer, and it borders on being tart; not sour, but more like a glass of wine. As the beer warms, the carbonation retreats, but there is still some fire-breathing booze that is highlighted by the sherry and brandied cherries that are now present. It’s a thinner beer than I expected, and there is a honey sweetness that stays with you after the dragon has been slain. I had very high expectations for this beer, and it did not live up to them. The booziness and the lack of depth send this creature into the abyss of mediocre beers.  

Rating: C+

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

February 19th: Trevor and an old Goose

As our Wild Card week continues, I feel it's only appropriate to venture into my cellar for a unique offering.  For those of you new to beer geekdom, you may be thinking "I know wine can be cellar-ed, but beer?!"  Well, as the world (specifically the U.S.A.) begins to develop a more refined beer palate, we have found that many beers, like fine wines, can be improved with extended aging .  Today's offering is a perfect example.  

For our first trip into my cellar, we select an offering from Chicago's very own Goose Island Brewing Company.  The 2009 Pere Jacques is a Belgian Style Dubbel, and pre-dates the AB InBev purchase of Goose Island in 2011, making it a highly desirable bottle because it was brewed by Greg Hall, who stepped down as Brewmaster following the InBev purchase.

Goose Island Pere Jacques
A thing of beauty, as yet untainted by InBev...

The beer pours a dark, yet luminous burnt orange, with a fast-fading finger of head.  The nose is subdued, which is normal for an aged beer, with yeast,  fruit, and a slight funk mixing with boozy warmth.

The taste follows suit, and here the aging shines through.  While a fresh bottle of Pere Jacques is very hot, the extra years have imparted a port-like warmth that melds beautifully with caramel malt, and apricot and peach sweetness..

The mouthfeel is unique as well, with a subdued carbonation that feels like it melts away into sticky, almost marmalade sweetness, balanced beautifully by  full, biscuity malt, and just the right amount of bitterness.

If you can get your hands on one of these, I highly recommend drinking it now.

Rating: A

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Group Beer: Bell's Hopslam is a Home Run

Trevor, Karl and Walker enjoy a very limited and highly touted Bell's seasonal Imperial IPA - thanks to Trevor's generosity and the mail. At 10% and enough IBU's to match it and more, our enthusiasm for this big beer is contagious. Probst!
Trevor: A+
Karl and Walker: A

Friday, February 15, 2013

February 15: Karl and the Tale of the Epic Brewing Double Skull Doppelbock

Time to Rock and Roll All Nite
It is a brisk 80 degrees here in LA, which I think is perfectly fitting as we start off our Wild Card Week! I have a habit of hoarding beers for consumption, and our theme weeks have not been too kind to some of the odder brews that I have picked up lately, and many of these beers have gotten too comfortable sitting in my fridge or closet. Well, like the claw from Toy Story, your time has come little aliens. Today’s victim is the Epic Brewing Double Skull Doppelbock. For all the best reasons, warm air and German beer go hand-in-hand for me, so I decided to pop the cap on this fella this evening. The Double Skull is represented musically by Kiss’s Double Platinum greatest hits collection. Here is an interesting article on how Kiss used the middle of the country where other "popular" bands wouldn’t venture, cities like Epic’s home of Salt Lake Rock City, to amass fortune, fame and floozies.

Does the Double Skull pull the trigger on my Love Gun?
This doppelbock pours a dark, rich mahogany that Ron Burgundy would be proud of. There is a single finger of off-white head and an aroma of bread, toffee, and a German beer garden. There’s just something unmistakable when it comes to German malts and yeast that triggers the happy parts of my brain. Molasses, raisin, biscuit, nuts and the malt are all prevalent on the tongue, and the beer is creamy and mildly carbonated, making for easy, smooth drinking. The 9.1% ABV definitely warms as it goes down, leaving me relaxed after a long, hard day of work. It’s a good beer for an uncharacteristically warm February evening that has cooled down significantly, but nothing to write home about. I haven’t had that many doppelbocks, but it represents the style well, I think; a little sweet, lots of complex malts and dark flavors, yet thin tasting. I would give it an 80%, which just barely pushes it to a…

Rating: B-

Thursday, February 14, 2013

February 14th: Trevor and Stone's 12.12.12 a Vertical Epic

As we get rolling on our "Wild Card" weeks, I have to admit this is something I look forward to with cautious optimism.  A beer that doesn't fit into the traditional style categories runs the risk of being wildly polarizing, so I find it only fitting to start off with a beer from a brewery that causes intense feelings of love and hate among those who imbibe its offerings.  Stone.  The Escondito brewery has drawn the ire of more than one beer geek for bringing obscene ibu's into the limelight.  A good number of their brews are veritable palate wreckers, and purists argue that the more delicate aspects of beer are unable to be appreciated after their hop onslaught.  Well, the good folks at Stone don't care.  In fact, if you feel that way, they'll tell you that they didn't brew that beer for you, and you're a pansy.  They're basically the Harrison Ford of the beer world.  Same expression, no matter what....

Yes, it's Valentine's day.  No, I do not care.

Stone advertises this beer as Belgian Abbey-ish with a laundry list of spices.  Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, sweet orange peel, clove(only a little), and rose-hips   Poured into a LaTrappe goblet, the beer hold up to the claim.  Red-ish brown with a fine laced, one finger head.  The nose sends me reeling, as the aforementioned cacophony of spices punch my nostrils.  The taste is no less overwhelming, as the sweet orange and clove dominate, with the cinnamon and allspice serving to dry out any sweetness from the candi sugar.  As for the yeast, forget about it.  If it's there, it's buried under the avalanche of spice.

After this beer, I approach the remaining offerings in our "Wild Card" series with trepidation, as it was a massive disappointment.  Not one of Stone's better offerings.

Rating: D