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Brew Review: Kona Koko Brown

Shiner Mason Jars = Great Anniversary Gifts

Kona Brewing, Aloha Series: Koko Brown, American Brown Ale w/Coconut, 5.5%. (Thanks, Squirrel for the awesome mason jars and an amazing year!)

I originally came across this beer one night at RFD. Unlike most of my trips to that Chinatown bastion of delicious beers, it wasn’t a Thursday night, and I was alone. While many people find it unusual to go out for a beer or two by yourself, I sometimes find it very appealing. You can chat more with the bartenders or not talk at all — just enjoy a couple of beers and some food and be on your way; it’s all up to you. Anyways, it was one such evening that I first came across Kona Brewing’s Koko Brown, and, man, I must say that it is one brown ale that you should try.

When I think of brown ales, I usually think about beers that are sessionable, smooth, and not too bitter or sweet — just something that’s tasty to drink, hits the spot, and right down the middle of the beer road. In other words, I really like a good brown ale but don’t expect it to have a ‘wow’ factor. The Koko Brown is something different, but then again, it should be considering that the Hawaii-based brewery decided to throw in some of their state’s main cash crop – (toasted) coconut.

Now, I have had coconut-infused beer before via Maui Brewing Company’s delicious (and canned) CoCoNut Porter, but much like when I had that beer, my first taste of the coconut brown ale left me a little miffed before I really settled in and decided that this was a good experimental beer. The more and more that I had, the more I was convinced that this beer was something everyone should at least try. For dark-er style beers, the sweetness of the coconut is a brilliant addition.

Color: The Koko Brown is, well, brown with a white/creme (more white though) colored head. The 1/4 inch of head I got from my pour didn’t really die down much over time. Again, as to be expected with a brown ale, there were not a lot of bubbles rising from the bottom of the glass.

Aroma: A touch of sweetness from the toasted coconut but nothing overly distinctive. Basically smells like beer

Taste: The beer is creme-er than the usual brown. The coconut is there but is not overly powerful, and the beer ends up being a pretty tasty brown ale, which usually have a good flavor but nothing uber-special. I really like this version.

Body: Smooth, but not as smooth as browns normally are. Perhaps that’s because I poured it cold – bbbbuuuuuuuttttttttt more likely due to coconut. As expected with a brown ale, there’s very little carbonation.

Overall, it’s good and definitely worth a taste, particularly if you can find it on draft. If you’re up for a full sixer, I’ve seen it crop up in the usual beer-centric places. I found my six-pack two weeks ago at Total Wine and believe it was available in their mix-and-match isle but don’t hold me to that.

— Shintern1909

Big Bottle Breakdown: Epic/DC Brau Fermentation Without Representation

Not a Pumpkin Pie in a Bottle.

Epic/DC Brau Fermentation Without Representation, Release #2, Imperial Pumpkin Porter, 7.9% ABV

So, this might be a bit out of season since Pumpkin flavored brews are typically released in Fall when we’re all eating pumpkin pie, but on a recent trip to Total Wine, I came across a couple of big bottles of the second release of Epic and DC Brau’s collaborative Imperial Pumpkin Porter, Fermentation Without Representation. While one of my two bottles will age for a while in my beer cupboard (perhaps as an incentive for X to do another Great Pumpkin Beerathon), I decided to crack open one and write up a long-due big bottle.

Now, I don’t particularly remember having this beer when it was released on tap, so it was likely a simple taste. I’m pretty excited to try it again in a more coherent state. I love pumpkin pie, Epic makes great beers, and imperial porters are right in my wheelhouse. The fact that DC Brau helped is putting me on edge in a similar way to those stereotypical gifts from your Aunt/Uncle — usually, you have to pretend you like it, but every-once-in-awhile, they knock it out of the park. Let’s hope for the latter.

Pour: It pours similar to what you’d expect in an imperial porter, black with a nice creme colored head. Nothing to suspect something interesting is lurking within…

Aroma: BOOM! There’s the pumpkin spice, but to be honest, it’s there but not as over-bearing as some of the more pumpkin-y porters out there. For me, this is a good thing. Other than the spice, I don’t pick up much aside from a touch of the typical-boozy smell of porters.

Taste: I think it’s pretty interesting and a good change from the normal or bourbon-barrel porters that I usually drink. The flavor range goes from boozy-porter to an interesting little bit of pumpkin and ends with a bit of a sort of gritty coffee bitterness in the throat. Now, akin to the aroma, the taste isn’t overwhelmed by pumpkin like the bigger pumpkin beers.

Body: Fermentation Without Representation still has the body of a porter; it has a medium thickness that lightly coats your mouth and throat for a few seconds but then clears out.

All in all, I think this is a decent pumpkin beer, especially if you don’t want to feel like you’re drinking pumpkin pie filling. It’s good, but I don’t think it’s the absolute best pumpkin beer out there — just a good starter beer to get yourself used to the flavoring. If you come across it, it may be worth socking one away for a year, but I can’t make promises about how it’ll be until next year.

Till then, it’s good

— Shintern1909

Brew Review: Russian River Damnation Batch 23

Russian River Damnation Batch 23, Tripel aged with Oak Chips, 11% ABV

Pardon me for throwing a rare-in-DC beer into the mix, but I feel like it’s my duty to warn you about Russian River’s Damnation Batch 23. Damnation is RR’s Belgian Strong Pale Ale and quite delicious; now, Batch 23 is Damnation turned into a Tripel with oak chips thrown into the mix. Squirrel first let me know about Batch 23 after she found it at Monk’s Kettle in SF. We both really like Damnation and were excited about trying it, but the price point was a little on the high side ($25) for a 12 oz bottle. Luckily, we found it at her local-SF Whole Foods for $9 and socked it away for a week or two. We were so, so excited for this beer, especially since I believe that oak chips/barrels always benefit a beer…

… but we were massively let down by it. Maybe we were too excited? Maybe we should have aged it longer/shorter? I don’t know, but we weren’t impressed. The funny thing was that neither she nor I said anything definitive until about 1/4 of the way down the glass. I don’t remember who said it first, but the other instantly said something along the lines of, “Oh my God, I thought I was crazy for thinking the same thing!”

Pour: It poured a gold color with a white head, which is similar to normal Damnation. This beer had a lot of carbonation, which sneaked up on me — I had poured the beer with a thin head, yet the head kept growing and growing like those fireworks called ‘Black Snakes’.

Aroma: The beer had a sweet smell to it and came off more mellow than the normal damnation. The sad news for me: I couldn’t really smell much oak. This was a bad sign to me…

Taste: For me, it tasted very, very similar to normal Damnation. It had a little buttery taste followed by some sour and, much like the smell, I didn’t get much oak in the taste.

Body: Damnation Batch 23 is very carbonated out of the bottle; however, it was pretty smooth (buttery taste related) and somewhat lighter than expected due to the high alcohol.

Overall impression: Definitely not worth $25 and might not be worth the $9 I paid for the bottle; however, I don’t want you to be scared away from trying it. I just want to caution you not to overspend because I found it to be very disappointing. (So much so that when I visited their brewpub I avoided it. In hindsight though, I feel like I have committed a cardinal beer-drinking sin — not giving a beer a second chance, especially when it is offered fresh. Now, I will rectify that and, when I do, update this with my findings.) Until then, I’ll give it a simple “Meh.”

— Shintern1909

Brew Review: Shiner Holiday Cheer

Too late now but for future reference

Shiner Holiday Cheer, Dunkelweizen, 5.4% ABV (Was on draft at RFD)

Note: It’s a Leap Day miracle!!! Multiple beer reviews! Now to convince Sir James Wilson to give me beer for tears.

My first impression of this beer was severely tainted by Pyzocha and X. I was away visiting Squirrel in SF and enjoying some very, very delicious bourbon when they informed me that Shiner was on tap at RFD.  At first, I was pissed off at missing Shiner on tap, but then they said it was Shiner Cheer, the winter draft.

My love of Shiner has basically revolved around their one, solid beer — the Bock. Every time, I find one of their new brews, it becomes my first beer at the bar. Unfortunately, Shiner has let me down. Again. That said, I know loads of people that really, really like their winter

Pour: The Cheer poured an amber color with a very thin cream-colored head. There was very little evidence of carbonation due to lack of bubbles and the low head, but that was not unexpected with a winter beer.

Aroma: Honestly, my first thought upon smelling this beer was ‘Sour Patch Kids’. I swear to God, to me, Shiner Cheer smelled exactly like a bag of Sour Patch Kids. Once that delicious candy was in my head, I couldn’t get past it and unable to report any hint of anything else. (To be fair, everyone else I had smell the beer thought the same thing.)

Taste: Put it simply, it did not taste like bhat said, it tasted like it smelled — like fruit-flavored gummy candies.

Body: The beer had nice thin body that coated the mouth. The body wasn’t bad for the beer, but it wasn’t great either.

Overall, I was disappointed by this beer. I do respect that other people enjoy this beer and invite their thoughts and notes in the comments. In the end though, I have to give it a “Meh” as the best news about Shiner Cheer is that Shiner Spring (Dortmunder) is right around the corner… along with another beer review.

— Shintern1909

Brew Review: Three Floyds Jinx Proof Lager

Tonzi Strikes!

Three Floyds Jinx Proof Lager, 5.1% ABV, Courtsey of Santa Tonzi.

Beer Review Wednesday!!! It’s a Leap Day Miracle!

As our readers know about five months ago, Tonzi moved to Chicago (check out his Chi-town tAles blog on the right hand side). Since then Pyzocha and I have kept him in supply of DC beers that he can’t find (120 minute, various Heavy Seas, some Flying Dog, etc). The nice thing about sending him brews? He fills up the box and mails some back. In the first  batch he sent my way, he included some Three Floyds Jinx Proof Lager, and here are my thoughts:

Pour: The beer has a pale orange color, no bubbles, and no head.

Aroma: There is not much aroma, just a touch of sweetness

Taste: The Jinx Proof has good taste for a lager but nothing special; a little sweet but followed by a slight tinge of hoppy-bitterness.

Body: It is a little syrup-y, but that’s just getting nit-picky.

Overall, it was good, so if you can find it during the Summer/Spring, give it a try.

 

 

 

 

Thanks again, Tonzi!!!

— Shintern1909

Brew Review: Bud Light Platinum

I haven’t written a review in a while so I figured I better start back in with a bang.  I was out with a few friends one of which was an ABInBev rep, so of course I was offered the newest and greatest beer: Bud Light Platinum.  I saw all the commercials and, I’ll be honest, I was a bit intrigued.  So I tried one.

I comes in a very blue bottle and smells like a regular old Bud Light, Miller Lite, etc.  (If you don’t know what I’m talking about you aren’t missing anything.)  The only difference I noticed so far, was that the bottle said 6% (higher ABV the Bud and less calories, I can drink and be thin!).  I was worried, a “light” beer that is relatively higher in alcohol. My brain tried to stop me, “This is going to be horrible” it said.  This wasn’t going to be stopped.

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New Year’s Resolution/Challenge: 366 Days = 366 New Beers

I only put 'New Year's Resolution' in the title, so I could use this pic.

During the first week of the new year, J Street’s founder, Tonzi, contacted some of our drinking buddies and me with a challenge: Drink a new beer for every day in the year. (Originally, it was 365 beers until Tonzi updated our tracking system to note the days in the month and realized it was a leap year…) Naturally, I was in and want to invite any of our readers to join us on our epic journey through the beer-iverse.

The rules are simple:

  1. You must not have ever had the beer before. The challenge is not to have 366 different beers in 2012 but to have 366 NEW beers in the new year. It might not be easy at times, which is why it’s a challenge.
  2. Homebrews do not count. Tonzi and I discussed this by decided against counting homebrews. To ensure the challenge’s integrity, we are using the Untappd app as a basis for deciding whether a beer counts. Last night though, I hit a snag when having a beer brewed by 901 (Cap Brewing); however, the beer was verified by a fellow challengee and allowed.
  3. Drink a beer, not taste a beer. Some beers grow on the drinking as the go-down (particularly strong ones), so anything less than 4 oz does not count. Yes, Savor, brewery samples, and beer fests/events, such as our Annual Beer Hunt, could well be the equivalent of hitting the motherlode.

Of course, these are just our general rules; you are free to tweak them or make your own. For instance, I have made a side deal with fellow J Street-er, X, that I won’t drink a Shiner Bock until my number of beers for the year matches the number of days, i.e. we are 20 days into the year, and I have had 25 new beers, so I could drink a Shiner. Thankfully, I have a couple of months to build up a headstart into the 2012 football season…

Whether you join in the challenge or not, I would highly recommend downloading the Untappd app and befriending me (Shintern1909). It’s a great way to track beers that people are drinking, know which bars those beers are currently available, and get quick beer reviews. Information available here: http://www.untappd.com

If you are up for the challenge, let us know in the comments. Depending on the amount of participation, I may discuss with Tonzi about ways to facilitate everyone’s progress through the interwebs. Right now, we’re just using the honor system and a shared Google Doc spreadsheet.

Happy (belated) New Year, and here’s to exploring!

— Shintern1909

P.S. Hopefully this will help lead to more postings on Brew Review Wednesdays, but I am not going to promise reviews of each beer…

Brew Review: Le Merle

750ml of MEH!

North Coast Le Merle, Belgian Saison, 750ml @ 7.9%.

I picked up this big bottle at Whole Foods in Clarendon ($8) because Squirrel had excitedly texted me a photo of it one night and raved about its amazing qualities.

Well, upon further review during a recent holiday, she recanted, and I confirmed. Squirrel succumbed to the equivalent of beer-googles for the tongue. It happens to all of us; it gets close to the end of the night, you order that one last beer that you’ve been wanting to try and just saw be put on tap or in the cooler, it’s the most amazing thing in the world, you tell your friends (hell, you even order it for them the next time y’all go out), and… it’s blah. To be honest, I wouldn’t have tried this, but I (1) heard some good things about it and (2) trust North Coast Brewery based on Old Rasputin, Acme, Scrimshaw, and Red Seal. The beers coming out of Fort Bragg, CA are definitely worth trying; however, Le Merle’s description had one word that made me worry about buying a big bottle of it: Saison. I’m just not a big fan of that style.

Enough rambling, on to the review:

Color: Cloudy golden yellow with a thick white head and a good amount of carbonation

Aroma: Seems to be all over the place. At the same time it smelt sweet, I would also get a little sour. In terms of fruit, I got a little citrus & apple.

Taste: From my notes, “Sour fizz. Nothing spectacular, nothing terrible but definitely not on of my preferred styles.” Sorry, I can’t be more specific, but it really seemed overly sour/tangy for a saison, and I wanted to finish it off quickly.

Body: A thick, fizzy body

Overall, it appears to be a carbonated/fizzy, not so balanced, or great, saison, and I wasn’t the only one who thought that. Squirrel took a couple of drinks before turning to me and apologizing for recommending the beer. Late night beer remorse happens, just make sure it doesn’t stop the beer adventure.

MEH!

— Shintern1909

P.S. Perhaps Squirrel was playing a joke on me like some of us did to the other writers with Shiner’s Ruby Red-craptastic summer beer…

Quick Hit: Social Coupon to Schneider’s on the Hill

I know Schneider’s isn’t best known for its beer selection (though the last couple of times I’ve been there, it has been pretty impressive for its size), but the staff there are amazing. When I was just a little Shintern living on the Hill in 2006, every other saturday morning I would walk the couple of blocks over to Schneiders, inform whichever staff member felt sorry for me what my budget was, and walk out with two amazing (cheap) bottles of whiskey (one scotch and bourbon). Since then, I’ve sworn by this place and make a trip over there anytime my liquor cabinet is getting low.

Today, I woke up to a glorious email stating that for $45 I could receive $95 at Schneiders; finally, I have a reason to try that scotch that was always just a little out of my comfort (re: budget) zone. Not only that, but I can also get a nice bottle of wine which is always handy for impressing that someone special (aka Squirrel, who, thankfully, also has a taste for Scotch).

Anyways, go here before Sunday (might be Monday, but at this point, my mind is fuzzy): http://www.kgbdeals.com/washington-dc?utm_source=wtd

In the mean time, any suggestions for things to try? Leave ’em in the comments.

Mine:
Bourbon – Black Maple Hill (~$50)
Flavored Bourbon (good starting off point for some) – Leopold Bros New York Apple Whiskey
Scotch – Laphroaig (just about anything by them but look for the quarter cask)
Vodka – Cold River Vodka (potato) or Hanger 1
Tequila, rum – not much experience with beyond college days; I’m neither classy enough for high-end stuff nor trashy enough to return to the things that gave me awful hangovers, which includes all rums.

— Shintern1909

RFD & Bell’s Beer Dinner

RFDBell's

Now that the holidays are finishing up it’s time to spend that gift money.

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