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-