Brew Review: Maine Beer Company Zoe Amber Ale
I found this bottle of Maine Beer Company’s Zoe Amber Ale at D’vines in Columbia Heights and hemmed-and-hawed over buying it, which was asinine because when in doubt, buy the damn beer. The description on the bottle, “Our Happy, Hoppy, Amber,” is intriguing because “hoppy” and “amber” don’t normally go together (well, aside from the ol’ Nugget Nectar).
The story on the backside explains that beer is named after Zoe, someone’s daughter who smiled at the Whale Museum, and is supposed to put that same smile on the drinkers face. My guess is that Zoe’s smile didn’t involve semi-glazed over eyes or wasn’t caused by a surprise hops ambush, but anyways, this brewery donates 1% of Zoe sales to Adapt-A-Whale program. For X, this gives him one more reason to drink — “SAVE THE WHALES!”
Pour: Dark deep amber that looks brown. The head is white-creamish and lasts a while. After about five minutes and three drinks, it’s still about 5mm high. Additionally, there is lacing on the glass for a good while.
Aroma: Hops! They were correct — at least on the nose (so far) — that this is a hoppy amber. The aroma does have a little surprise sweetness at the end.
Taste: Awesome! The taste starts off small, simple, and just a little less sweetness than most ambers, but then you turn the corner and BOOM! the hops kick in. My taste buds have been roped-a-doped by this beer, but that won’t stop me from having some more. Thankfully, this beer comes in 16.9 oz bottles, so there’s MOAR to drink.
Body: Medium body, but as with any hoppy beer, it feels larger once the hops kick into the flavor.
All in all, it’s a great take on the amber style. Sessionable? Not for me since the hops seem a bit out of place and strong; that said, it is more sessionable than Nugget Nectar, and I highly recommend anyone that likes hops or trying new styles to give this a whirl.
Brew Review: Fish Tale Organic Amber Ale
Back in April, Squirrel took a trip to Portland to visit a friend and came back with several gifts for me, including Fish Brewing Co.’s Fish Tale USDA Certified Organic Amber Ale (Thanks!). I do love ambers (the reason she grabbed it) and am excited to try it.
Pour: The beer has a super-cloudy copper color with a small, off-white head. Maybe the cloudiness is intended to prove that you are drinking a beer made with “Water, Organic Barley, and Hops.” In addition to using, evidently, in0rganic hops, it seems weird that water isn’t organic… Anyways, I don’t give a rat’s ass so long as it’s good.
Aroma: Getting some organic sweetness on the nose from the barley, not much in the way of hops. It’s clear who the star of the show is going to be.
Taste: It’s not as sweet as it smelled and is quite pleasant but isn’t anything to
blog write home about. After the initial sweetness, the beer gives a hint of bitterness from the hops.
Body: Very thin and barely carbonated.
Overall: It’s a good beer, and I could have several if I were inclined to do so. I am glad to have tried it and thankful to have been given the opportunity.
2012: The Year of 366 Beers — 20 June Edition
This past weekend, Squirrel and I went on a beer tour organized by North Bay Brewery Tours. Of course, it involved a social coupon (when you drink as much beer as I do, every little bit helps) that made it two for one, and it was worth every penny. The tour guides know their stuff and will make sure that you get to try a lot of local beers that you can’t find out here. Plus, you’re essentially on a beer bus with a lot of people who like beer. Really hard to go wrong with that in any situation.
The tour started off at Lagunitas before moving onto HopMonk Tavern (brewpub), a homebrew store, and Third Street Aleworks (brewpub in Santa Rosa). Consequently, this update is going to be California heavy, and most of the beers can’t be found here, but perhaps it’ll give you some insight into beers to look for if you’re ever in the Bay Area.
Widmer Bros Dark Saison (found at Wagner’s; reviewed here)
Auburn Alehouse Gold Digger IPA
Port Brewing Hot Rocks Lager
Magnolia Proving Ground IPA
Lagunitas Censored Rich Copper Ale (aka The Kronic)
Lagunitas Lucky 13.alt
Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale
HopMonk Tavern Dunkelweizen
HopMonk Tavern Tavern Ale
Third Street Aleworks Hedrick & Hagen
Third Street Aleworks Puddle Jumper
Third Street Aleworks Armstrong
Southern Pacific Amber Ale
Southern Pacific Helles Lager
Caldera Brewing IPA
Those weren’t all the beers that I had, just the ones that count towards my 366. Lagunitas’ tasting included their Czech Pilsner, IPA, and Pale Ale, and HopMonk served us Russian River’s Pliny the Elder and Moonlight’s Death and Taxes. If you do go to SF anytime before I finally finish a SF bar guide, try to hit up Southern Pacific’s brewpub in the Mission; they brew some pretty great beers and carry some of the other awesome West Coast brews.
Brew Review: Widmer Brothers Dark Saison
I have had a couple of Widmer Brothers beers since moving back to States in 2009, and, to be honest, the jury is still out for me. I’ve had a couple that I find delicious (usually the styles that are not cheap to make but easy to get right like barrel aged stouts) and a few (say, the lemongrass that was unique but not my mug of beer) that finished with the same “only a little bit more to go, just gut it out” facial expression as I have during that last mile of run. Consequently, I have decided to try and stick to their darker style beers for the time being.
Now, I picked up the Widmer Brothers Dark Saison as one of the 24 that I grabbed in the olio (means “mixture” and is a word that gets as much use in crosswords as a Miller Lite tap in a college bar) made possible by a Groupon. Let’s see how it shook out:
Pour: Came out a rich brown color with traces of red. The little white head disappeared in about 10 seconds, and it had loads of carbonation at beginning but then nothing aside from very small bubbles coming up through the middle of the glass..
Aroma: It came off a little sweet with hints of dark fruit (like prunes), but there was a little spice towards the end of a deep inhale, too.
Taste: The Dark Saison was sweet for an instant at the beginning but finished with a mild tartness. The sweetness reminded me of banana chips.
Body: The beer has a nice thin body that has a surprising bit of carbonation, which I wouldn’t expect based on not seeing more bubbles in the beer, but maybe it’s quantity and not quality — lots of wee little bubbles.
In the end, Meh. I’ve had better saisons.
2012: The Year of 366 New Beers — 9 June 2012 Update
Going into Savor Week, I had hoped to really blow the lid off this whole 366 beers. Unfortunately, I was a bit tied up with various activities, and then I realized that Savor only poured 2 oz samples (probably a good idea with three and half hours of drinking…)
Anyways, I didn’t let the 2 oz thing from keeping me going for seconds on some of the beers I can’t find here (for instance, Cigar City, and I’m pretty sure I did it with Summit’s IPA, too but can’t remember). Additionally, I did manage to meet up J Street’s other bloggers at District of Pi for the Schlafly take-over, which was fantastic! You really can’t beat a Bourbon Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout.
This week’s star beer would be Cigar City Tocobaga (so damn good), but (1) it didn’t even make it on the list since I only managed to get one sample, and (2) the star beer should be something you can get easily here. As a result, I would recommend picking up a bottle of Boulevard’s Double-Wide IPA. Despite the hop-bomb smell, I found the taste to be extremely well balanced. Welcome to DC, Boulevard!!!
6/2/2012 5 Rabbit Cerveceria 5Vulture
6/3/2012 DC Brau Ground Wolf Session IPA
6/6/2012 Schlafly Pi Common
6/6/2012 Schlafly Dry-Hopped American Pale Ale (APA)
6/6/2012 Schlafly Maibock
6/6/2012 Schlafly Bourbon Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout
6/7/2012 Heavy Seas Sea Nymph
6/7/2012 Sam Adams Grumpy Monk
6/7/2012 Boulevard Double-Wide IPA
6/7/2012 Ommegang Art of Darkness
6/8/2012 Boulevard Rye on Rye
6/8/2012 Revival Double Black IPA
6/8/2012 Cigar City Kalevipoeg
6/8/2012 Maui/Jolly Pumpkin Sobrehumano Palena ‘ole
This next week has me heading out to the West Coast where Squirrel and I are visiting the Lagunitas’ and Bear Republic breweries. Going to be a good weekend!
2012: The Year of 366 New Beers — 1 June 2012 Update
Some of our readers might remember that at the beginning of the year, Tonzi talked me into trying 365 (then Leap Day happened) 366 new brews this year. I’ve been doing pretty well (a full month ahead of schedule) but thought that as I try new beers, some of y’all may be interested in knowing where I found them. Consequently, I’m going to try to update our readers on Friday/Saturday with my weekly beers. Why Friday/Saturday? Well, those are the days that most people drink, and I get most of my new beers on Thursday. That said, if I do find some awesome stash of new beers, I’ll do my best to get those up the day after. Just trying to do my best to help y’all find new beers to try.
On to this past week, 25 May – 2 June 2012
5/25/2012 Independence Pale Ale — Austin, TX
5/25/2012 Real Ale Full Moon Pale Rye Ale — Austin, TX
5/25/2012 Real Ale Devil’s Backbone — Austin, TX
5/26/2012 “(512)” IPA — Austin, TX
5/26/2012 Thirsty Planet Thirsty Goat Amber — Austin, TX
5/26/2012 Thirsty Planet Buckethead IPA — Austin, TX
5/26/2012 Live Oak Liberation Ale — Austin, TX
5/27/2012 Spotzel Shiner Blonde Light — Guadalupe River, TX
5/30/2012 Redhook Pilsner — Bought at Wagner’s on Wisconsin, Washington, DC
5/31/2012 Aying Franz Ayinger Celebrator — RFD, Washington, DC
5/31/2012 Firestone Walker Robust Porter — RFD, Washington, DC
6/1/2012 Long Trail Long Trail Ale — Justin’s Cafe, Washington, DC
6/2/2012 Half Acre Cipher — Santa Tonzi’s Care Package, Washington, DC
6/2/2012 Boston Beer Infinium — Pzyocha’s beer fridge, Washington, DC
6/2/2012 Half Acre Double Daisy Cutter — Santa Tonzi’s Care Package, Washington, DC
So, yea, I spent some time last weekend in Austin, and the beers reflect that; however, there are some good ones that were found here in DC. I would recommend trying to find the Firestone Walker Robust Porter.
This next week should provide a nice boost to my numbers with all the Savor events, in particular, the Schlafly take-over at District of Pi, Sierra Nevada at Churchkey, or the Savor Our Suds at Scion. We’ll just have to see how it turns out. Hopefully my liver survives.
3XB: Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest Fresh Hop Ale
I picked up this beer sometime last year on a trip with Squirrel to D’vines on 14th and Irving NW. The Northern Hemisphere came highly recommended when I tried it and didn’t let me down, so picking up it’s little brother was an easy decision. The beer is an American-style IPA from the west coast brewery (re: I’m expecting hops), Sierra Nevada (re: I’m expecting more hops). On top of all that, Sierra Nevada flies three types of hops from New Zealand that are used to fresh-hop the beer (re: This could easily be a hop-bomb).
Sadly, this big bottle made it’s way to the back of my fridge until a couple of weeks ago. Letting a fresh-hopped beer go that long without drinking was bush league but does allow for an unique tasting of this beer. Let’s get this show on the road!
Pour: The beer comes out a cloudy/creamy amber brown color. Head starts off strong and slowly goes down. You can see the bubbles rise through the cloudy and continue to do so, at least, for as long it took me to down this brew.
Aroma: The scent is actually not as biting/pine-y/grassy/citrus-y as I expected; instead, it has a bit of sweetness from the malt, which helps to mute the fresh hop smell (bit of grassy) that is evident.
Taste: It’s mellow at the beginning then goes into a nice little bit of bitter and ends mellow again. Aging may have mellowed it out a bit but can’t really say for sure since I haven’t had it fresh. You can taste the bitter fresh hops in the middle that were in the aroma. It’s almost like having a mild pine-cone in your mouth.
Body: This beer comes with a full body that seems to fill your mouth. It doesn’t finish clean but with such a balanced/mild last taste, that’s perfectly fine.
Overall, I look forward to trying this one again when it’s re-released, which should be soon, and recommend that you do the same. Now, I need to look in my fridge and make sure there aren’t any other ‘aging aka forgotten’ beers in the back.
Brew Review: Mendocino Brewing Co. Eye of the Hawk (American Strong Ale)
I have this issue with driving somewhere in Virginia where no matter what, I get lost the first time I go there. Typically, this only leads to cursing in the car and apologizing when I show up 15 minutes late. Honestly, it’s never gone well for me until a couple of weeks ago when I came finally came across Total Wine while trying to find a bowling alley (stupid google maps). Since moving to the area, I had heard all about this magical store out in Virginia but never really found the time to go out there, so once I saw it, I had to go. When I turned the corner to start walking up the beer aisle, I knew that getting lost this time was divine intervention. They had all sorts of great stuff, but this beer, Mendocino Brewing Co.’s Eye of the Hawk, stood out since I had just had it on tap near their Ukiah brewery. I thought it was pretty good then but was unable to do notes on the fly, so thanks to Total Wine for making this review happen.
Color/Pour: The beer pours very easily and with very little head or carbonation. It comes out a milky red/brown color that reminds me of store-bought ice tea in jugs.
Aroma: The beer has a heavy fruity sweetness. The smell is a lot like the one you get from a dried bag of banana chips. Thus, I’m starting to think I might have been wrong about this beer when I got it in CA…
Taste: …until now. The beer does not really have the sweetness or taste that I would associate with the aroma. Yes, it tastes a sweet on the back-end, but the front-end has an incredibly balanced flavor given the aroma. Nothing really sticks out — not malty sweet or hoppy bitter. Very well done.
Body: The texture of the beer reminds me of a slightly diluted barley wine. It’s heavy and seems to try to coat your mouth but doesn’t succeed. It clears with just a little reminder of the dried banana on the first inhale after drinking.
All in all, I think this is a solid American Strong Ale and recommend keeping an eye out for it. I’m not a massive fan of barley wines, and this beer seems to be toeing the line right below that style, and I like it.
Brew Review: Kona Koko Brown
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.
Big Bottle Breakdown: Epic/DC Brau Fermentation Without Representation
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
Brew Review: Russian River Damnation Batch 23
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.”
Brew Review: Shiner Holiday Cheer
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.
Brew Review: Three Floyds Jinx Proof Lager
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!!!
New Year’s Resolution/Challenge: 366 Days = 366 New Beers
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
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
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.
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…
Brew Review: Shiner Oktoberfest
I’m back, b*tches! Many, many things have happened since our little pause in posting, including the start of football, most of summer and just about all of Autumn – hell, even Thanksgiving has almost passed, and OccupyEverything; however, something’s never change such as the fact our economy is yet again on the verge of collapse thanks to the refusal of Elephants and Donkeys to compromise…
Thankfully, it appears that J Street writers have awaken from a beer-induced slumber/haze and are back to bloggin. Frankly, it’s been entirely too freakin’ long since I posted anything here; I almost forgot what we were doing and how we reviewed beer, but Pyzocha reminded me that I had this left over. So apologies for the delay (so much so that while it was available in the District, it’s not anymore), but here is my review of… Shiner Oktoberfest (seems fitting and a nice way to ease back into the show…)
The beer pours a nice bubbly off white head with orange/brown/bronze color and lots of visible bubbles. It doesn’t seem anything special, but sometimes that’s ok or preferred to something smelling awful…
The beer gives off a nice smell of mild malt sweetness, which makes me think of a sweet lager/pilsner.
As for the taste, it’s about what I’d expect – nothing special, although there is a slight sweetness as it is swallowed with hints of Shiner Bock.
The beer has a medium to light body with good carbonation but not quite that clean of a clearance.
On the grand scheme of things, this is not a terrible Shiner Seasonal/non-Bock beer (re: Shiner Summer). In fact, it’s pretty drinkable and seems to go with the season. That said, there are better Autumn/Oktoberfest beers around, but this one is definitely one of the more sessionable ones, so I wouldn’t put ‘meh’ and will go with ‘Good.’
— Shintern1909 (back in the saddle!)
Brew Review: Anderson Valley Imperial IPA
Anderson Valley makes some delicious beers; however, I’m not a huge fan of their IPA, so you should know that as you read this post. Of course, you might ask why would I check out their Imperial IPA, but that’s just ridiculous — I love drinking beer and have rarely found a beer that I won’t try at least once.
While Squirrel and I found this big bottle out in California (Cork ‘n Bottle in Fremont has a badass selection that’s better than BevMo AND they’re expanding), I did see it in four pack form yesterday at Whole Foods on P St, so I haven’t broken my promise to focus more on DC beers. Based on the words on the bottle, Anderson Valley first made the Imperial IPA to celebrate their 20th year brewing and warns that they use a lot of malt to balance out the 20 separate additions of hops. For me, this is great news as I find their regular IPA to be too far on the hops side — yea, I like hops, but similar to when I eat spicy food, I don’t want to only taste the spice.
On the Eyes: It pours a nice red/amber color with a white head that thins out but still remains on the outer circle.
On the nose: The smell is pretty faint and comes off sweet.
On the lips: Oh, it tastes soooo good. It’s a well-made, interesting beer. The beer starts off with a good piney hops taste that immediately gives way to some delicious malty sweetness. I love beers that pull off this kind of balance — it’s like getting two beers in one! Even better, when you take a breath, you get the flavors again.
On the tongue? cheek? throat? gut?: It’s pretty middle of the road in terms of body; that said, it does give your throat a good coating — the reason you get the flavors when you breath.
In the end, I recommend splitting a four pack with a buddy or trying to find it in single bottles. DRINK IT and let us know what you think…
Brew Review: Yellowtail Pale Ale
Yet another beer from the West Coast (sorry, this one was in the works before I said more DC beer reviews on the way). This one, Squirrel brought for me on her first trip to D.C. after going by Whole Foods and asking them what were the best beers they had that I would not be able to find in D.C. That employee definitely knows their stuff because this beer is amazing.
The Ballast Point brewery is located down in San Diego and raked in a number of awards including “Small Brewery Champion” and three gold medals at the 2010 World Beer Cup. While the Yellowtail Pale Ale wasn’t one of the gold medal winners, it definitely represents the brewery well.
The beer poured a goldish orange with normal carbonation and a small cream head. As I drank it, the beer left lace down the side. The beer smells on the citrus side but is nowhere near over-powering — in fact, I may have inadvertently snorted a little bit of it. Purely accident, okay? BACK OFF! I don’t have a beer problem…
The Pale tasted awesome, simply awesome. There was a time in my life when this beer might have been wasted on me, but now I can appreciate a brilliant, well-balanced brew that leads of with a nice bit of fruitiness/sweetness and ends with a slight touch of bitter hops.
Taste: Good, solid Pale taste. Good citrus and bitterness with a dry finish. It’s not overly hoppy and mellows out as you drink.
Body: good carbonation that emphasizes the hoppy bite when it is first poured. The really nice thing about this beer is that it has the lighter body associated with Pale Ales, which makes it seem perfect for summer drinking sessions.
5% San Diego
Brew Review: Shintern Eats Crow: DC Brau Public Ale Edition
Alright, I’m willing to say it: DC Brau Public Ale, in its current form, is a solid beer. After trying it a couple of times over the first few weeks it existed, I was thoroughly convinced that the bitterness of the hops was overpowering for a pale ale.
Thankfully, I heard they had tweaked the recipe to reduce the hoppy bitterness, and this last Friday, I had a canned Public Ale at Justin’s Cafe., and it was solid. It is now well balanced and easily could be a sessionable beer.
I won’t take back my previous criticism because I see this new Public Ale as a separate beer, but I will say that if you haven’t tried DC Brau Public Ale, you really, really need to — you won’t be disappointed.
Drink It. It is not life-changing but it is a fantastic addition to DC’s beer scene. Now, we just need to get them to distribute it at the area’s sports venues…
Brew Review: New Belgium Mighty Arrow Pale Ale
It is becoming a somewhat common theme for me to either review Texas beers or ones that I find on my travels. This one, I found out at a great wine, liquor, and beer store called BevMo. Last time I was in California, Squirrel took me to this place, and I have to admit that I felt like a kid in a candy store. Seriously, this place is like an adult Toys R Us and reminded me of Specs in Texas, only with beer that I hadn’t seen back at home. If you have a chance to make it to one of these stores, do it.
Anyways, back to the beer. The New Belgium Mighty Arrow is a pale ale and was named Kim’s (co-founder) dog. It is made with Cascade, Amarillo and Golding Hops. I have recently been on a pale ale kick because I really enjoy the little bit of sweetness that comes with the crispness.
Must say it does look pretty good off the pour – a gold color with just a hint of orange and obvious carbonation. It has more bubbles than most beers but not as much as the heavily carbonated brews. The head comes in as nice white/cream but a bit closer to the white side and about 2 cm thick and has lasting power. I haven’t taken a sip out of the beer yet and the head is still like the beer was just poured.
With a whiff, I get a little bit of the sweetness that I expect from a pale ale and the hint of citrus that reminds me that the beer should finish crisp.
The taste is not as sweet as I had expected, but that is not a bad thing at all. The balance of this beer is pretty fantastic. The beer is has a bready, malty finish which is thicker and sweeter than I expected. Those final tastes also help to emphasize the overall body of the beer — a full body with a creamy feel.
It’s a good tasting beer; not my favorite pale ale or one that I will go out of my way to get, but it is a different beer to try when available.
P.S. Unless I hear a lot of requests otherwise, I will try to get back to area brews next week. It doesn’t really help DC beer drinkers to hear about beers they can’t get.
Adventures in Beer Drinking: Anchor Steam Brewery
Earlier this month, I ventured out again to the West to visit Squirrel, who surprised me with an Anchor Brewery tour. Even though the free tours happen twice each weekday, they often have to book several months in advance — during these summer months, they’re taking reservations for six months down the road. Thankfully, Squirrel has some amazing connections throughout San Francisco, including a friend of a friend who managed to get us and two of her friends on a tour.
As with most brewery tours, our guide led our group through the brewery explaining the processes and machines they use, but what made Anchor Brewery really different was the amount of history and random trivia thrown out at you. For instance…
Monday Morning Hangover: The Hangover Strikes Back
I’m sure that I wasn’t the only one that spent a good portion of a weekend morning suffering from a Savor-induced hangover. But while I sometimes wake up hungover and wonder if the night was worth the cost, I had no doubt yesterday that Savor, with its vast array of beers, well-paired food and amazing group of fellow beer-lovers, was completely worth the hangover.
Now, I’ll just have to deal with the withdrawal that comes from having so many good beers from breweries not available in the DC region. While my hangover drawer was able to help me deal with the hangover from Savor weeknight events, I do not know if there is a cure for the overall withdrawal of those events. Hopefully, more and more breweries will at least see how amiable DC beer drinkers are to ‘tap take-overs’ and special events such as limited tastings and ‘meet the brewer’. Better yet, I hope the brewers, who are not yet in the DC market, left here with the thought of “we have to get our beer to DC.”
Much thanks goes out to JBass who reconnoitered the event on Friday night and gave the rest of us a head’s up about some of the beers that would run-out quickly, such as the delicious Odell Woodcut No 5, the sour Avery Dihos Dactylion, and either of Cigar City’s brews. Out of the beers that I clearly remember, the Odell Woodcut No 5 was my favorite; although, I do give props to Cigar City’s ability to give the Humidor IPA its cigar flavored aftertaste and to make the Oatmeal Raisin Cookie taste exactly like one.
Few will be shocked that outside of the actual beer tasting, my biggest surprise came from finding Texas’s St Arnolds Brewery at the event. When the first Savor brewery list was released, I searched it to see if a Texas brewery made it but came up empty. A buddy of mine from Texas said the same thing. It was a pleasant surprise. While I forced the Fancy Lawnmower — a brew I have previously reviewed and think is a great summer beer — on some of my friends, it was easy to tell that, after having the Woodcut No 5, they were not head-over-heels in love with it. They did claim it would be a great BBQ beer though.
What were y’alls’ favorite beers or surprises (aside from the killer hangover the next day)?
Monday Morning Hangover: Redneck Tip on Fighting Mosquitoes
It’s the return of the Monday Morning Hangover and this edition’s beer related trick/tip is just in time for BBQ season.
While growing up in rural Texas, I often had somewhat random pieces of wisdom imparted on me. Some of it good; some of it bad, but today, I’m going to share with you one of the tricks that I was taught in my younger years but couldn’t really test until I was in college.
See, as a child, I spent most of my Fall weekends doing the stereotypical Texas activities. On Friday night, I’d go to watch my hometown’s high school football team lose yet again and then head out to the local hunting camp for the weekend. Needless to say, you meet a lot of down-to-earth, friendly people. Not only will they give you suggestions on where to find deer, help you to field-dress and process it, and get up early to ensure you go out with a good hearty breakfast, they also share little tid-bits of vital information, one of which was a way to be less attractive to mosquitoes. Now, I can’t remember who told me this trick, but it has been tested a la Mythbusters style and proven to at least be a bit true:
Drinking Busch Light keeps mosquitoes away. Don’t ask me why this is true (best guess, the beer is so awful that mosquitos don’t even want to have it second-hand), but empirical evidence did validate it. On a camping trip during college, I decided to test this idea. While everyone else was drinking Bud Light/Coors Light/Miller Lite, I reached for my tall boys of Busch Light. The next day, I did have a few mosquito bites but no where near the number of my fellow campers. Since then, I’ve always grabbed at least a sixer of Busch Light when heading out into the woods.
Anyone out there hear about this trick?