Tuesday, May 14, 2013
I bought Rumple Drumkin for two reasons. The first was, obviously, the name. It's an awesome name and it can be very hard for me to say no to a beer with an awesome name unless I know from hordes of reviews that it's terrible. The second reason is that Rumple Drumkin is a rum barrel aged-pumpkin beer- a take on pumpkin beers that Avery absolutely nailed with their Rumpkin. I was hoping for something similar in Rumple Drumkin. Unfortunately, things went very wrong.
Rumple Drumkin pours a murky brownish-red color with a one finger tan head. I thought it looked pretty solid at first, but then I noticed something floating in the glass. When I held the beer to the light and looked closer, I almost wanted to drainpour it on sight. The beer had a flurry of huge, lime green chunks in it. My guess is that I was looking at a ton of hop leaf residue, but this stuff looked gack-green. I usually don't mark beers down solely on looks because I've been fooled before by a gross-looking beer. But this was over the top. Take a look at this!
There are some things in life I'll just never forget. My first kiss. My first home run. My college graduation. And, unfortunately, the time I bought a pumpkin beer because I thought it had a cool name and it ended up tasting like an aspirin pill that had been Fun-Dipped in a three weeks over-ripe litter box. The beer is incredibly bitter, with a chalky, yeast meets pet dander flavor that I could still taste in the back of my throat days later. If there was pumpkin in there at some point in time, the only remnants I could find were a gross, rotten vegetable flavor that I hope to never taste again. This beer is the stuff of nightmares. Other reviews I read were more positive and a lot of people reported flavors that you would expect to find in a pumpkin beer. So it is possible that I got a bottle that had been horribly compromised at some point. That said, I don't think I'd ever be able to try this one again. It was truly one of the worst beer related experiences I've ever had.
Final Grade: F
Top 250 Beers Tasted: 117
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Today is a very special day for me, because it marks a first for this blog and for me. This will be the first beer that I have reviewed that was also brewed by me. That's right, after years of talking about brewing, dreaming about brewing, and wondering why the hell I wasn't brewing already, the time finally came to brew my first beer. It just didn't seem right to be a beer reviewer and rake other people's beers over the coals on occasion if I couldn't make a decent one myself.
For my first beer, I decided to go with something as simple and seemingly impossible to screw up as I could find. I settled on a mild pale ale which I renamed the Tilda Swinton (the most pale thing I could think of. If you didn't laugh there, you're not alone. I'll try harder on the name next time). Tilda Swinton was made using Caramel and Pale malt, and hopped with Columbus and Cascade hops. By the way, after getting a whiff of the Columbus hop pellets, I decided I may just have a new favorite hop variety. I let the beer ferment for two weeks, then bottled it and left if for an additional three weeks in the bottle to condition. It's finally done and ready to be thrown into the fire. If homebrewing taught me anything, it's that there is a lot more to brewing than you would think. My appreciation for every brewery out there has skyrocketed. At number 127,657,899 on the Top Beers of the World list, here's Tilda Swinton.
Tilda Swinton pours a slightly hazy caramel color with a thin but foamy off-white head. When we were bottling this, I was a little worried because it was looking pretty darn chunky when we were transferring it to the bottling bucket. Luckily, it cleared up in the bottles and there's only a touch of haze. The smell is light, with some pale malt, some grassy hops, a touch of mango and grapefruit and some light breadiness. Fortunately, there's nothing too offensive going on in the smell. Infection was definitely my biggest fear going into this process, but it appears that Tilda has come out infection free. That sounds weird...let's move on.
The taste opens with a light hop bite, though it's really more of a suggestion than a bite. The hops kind of glide over your tongue, leaving a grassy sourness as they pass, rather than crushing your palate into the dust. A touch of caramel creeps in before a finish that brings a touch of chalky yeast and aspirin-like hop resin. The mouthfeel is a just a touch thicker than water, and this bottle was a touch under-carbonated, though I've had a few that were much better. The finish is a bit more on the bitter side than I'd like, but overall I'm still pretty happy with this one. I've had a few bottles so far and I haven't gotten sick, died or gone impotent so I'm calling this a success. There are some pretty obvious flaws that I'll have to watch out for on my next few batches, but it feels pretty great having one under the belt. And there's really nothing like kicking back with a brew that you made yourself.
Top 250 Beers Tasted: 119
Grade: No grade on this, but I will give homebrewing in general an A+. A huge thanks to my friends Ryan, Renee and Brian for letting me brew this in their house and for all the help they gave me. They all get an A+, too.
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
This past weekend, I ventured into the heart of the country, to a little place called Omaha, Nebraska. I know what you're thinking- "But wait a minute...the Little League World Series isn't for another few months and the Justin Beiber concert in Omaha isn't until July 7th! What could you possibly be going to Omaha for?" Fair questions indeed, my friends. As it turns out, I was actually there to watch two of my best friends in San Diego get married. While I didn't know what to expect going in, we ended up having a great time in Omaha and I even got to check a beer I've been wanting to try off my list - Odell IPA.
After trying to find this beers in a few bars downtown, we finally stumbled into a place called Old Chicago. After perusing their extensive (at least by Omaha standards) bottle list for a few seconds, my eyes locked on the prize. I had heard nothing but good things about the Odell IPA, so it was finally time to find out what the fuss was about. At #176, here's Odell IPA.
Odell IPA pours a clear golden color with a really nice one finger eggshell-colored head. The head persisted throughout the life of the beer and left beautiful lacing down the glass. The aroma wasn't huge, but I got some light piney hops, grapefruit, and a good touch of citrus. Unfortunately, whatever towels were used to clean the glasses must have been used to wipe down new tires earlier that day, because I kept getting a strange burnt rubber smell out of the glass. And it definitely wasn't the beer. Bummer.
The taste is loaded with a rich, piney hop flavor. The malts come in around the middle and balance the hops really well with a flavor that's full of both bread and caramel. There's a really great balance throughout this beer between bitter and sweet and neither the hops nor the malt ever really gain the upper hand. The finish brought a bit of pine resin, but it wasn't really allowed to take over, either. This beer is an exercise in balance. A big cheers to my friends, Kyle and Lyndsay Dudley. I can't think of a better beer to toast you two with than this one.
Final Grade: A
Top 250 Beers Tasted: 117
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
So what is the new number one beer in the world? It's a Double IPA from Vermont called Heady Topper. Ever since it was canned in 2011, this beer has been rocketing up beeradvocate's Top 100 (now 250) list until it claimed (and ran off with) the #1 spot last year.
I've been trying to get my hands on this beer for a while. I even enlisted the help of my sister, who lives in nearby Boston. But for all our efforts, this beer has proved very, very elusive. The brewers of this beer, a brewery called The Alchemist, are completely devoted to making this one beer, but they don't make so much of it that it escapes the state of Vermont on a regular basis. If you want Heady Topper, you pretty much have to go to Vermont or make friends with someone there. Luckily, I didn't have to do either.
I've been going to a store in Santee called Beverages 4 Less for a few years now. The owner, Freddy, always manages to surprise me with the beers he brings into the store. He may not be the most popular guy on beeradvocate, but Freddie has been nothing but friendly to me since the minute I stepped into his store, so I keep going back. If it wasn't for him, I would never have gotten to try a lot of amazing beers that don't usually come near the state of California, including Heady Topper. A few weeks back, I got an email from him saying that he had gotten Heady Topper in. I thought it had to be a misprint, but when I went in a few days later, he showed me an empty can and told me it had sold out almost immediately. "Don't worry," he said, "I'll make sure you get to try it. I'm getting more in a few weeks." Fast forward to Monday when, after getting off work, I checked my email and saw he had just gotten more. After an Andretti-like performance down the 52, I ran into Beverages 4 Less to see a smiling Freddie and my first full can of Heady Topper. At last! At #1- Heady Topper.
The Alchemist puts labels all over this can telling you to drink Heady out of the can. But I had to see what this puppy looked like, so I took a few glorious sips from the can and then poured it into what I felt was the appropriate glassware. After a few ounces had left the can, I could see why The Alchemist would want you to leave it in there. This may be a fantastic beer, but it's no looker. Heady Topper pours an insanely cloudy dark golden color with a thin off-white head. The dark gold turns a foreboding brown near the edges of the glass. The coloring and murkiness are probably better suited for an unfiltered wheat beer, but I had been warned about this beer's appearance beforehand, so I soldiered on and gave the beer a smell. Holy...Balls! Mango, papaya, citrus and pine explode from the glass (and the can) and mingle together so perfectly, you'll swear your nose just climaxed. Mint, grapefruit and some biscuity malt are in there as well and it...is...glorious.
The taste, somehow, is even better. Right away, your tongue is walloped with a big dose of pine and citrus. Those start to fade to a bit of a bready malt taste, but just before that can take over, another wave of hops hit. This time, the hops show more of a piney, grapefruit pith note before falling into a fantastic resinous finish that is intensely hoppy without being that bitter. The word that hit me over the head again and again as I was drinking this beer was "balance." It's perfect. You just can't make a beer that is more balanced and layered than this. It's got so many elements that it hits you with and yet they're all so wonderfully restrained. It's not the hoppiest, boldest, or booziest Double IPA I've ever had, but it is definitely the best. If you ever find yourself in Vermont, make a point to seek out this beer. Then you, too, can see how far cans have really come.
Final Grade: A+
Top 250 Beers Tasted: 116
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
A few weeks ago, my girlfriend got a text from one of her best friends, Eileen. Eileen is an awesome person who now lives in Pittsburgh and knows how much I love beer. She was in Cleveland for a day, happened to be at the Great Lakes brewery, and was wondering if there was anything I wanted her to pick up for me. My girlfriend asked me and while I figured there was no way, I had to try anyway:
"Ask her if she can get Barrel-Aged Blackout Stout."
Through my years on beeradvocate.com, I've learned that if a beer is on the list of top beers AND it's barrel aged, the chances of you getting it if you don't live nearby are pretty much zero. Most breweries don't like to devote a lot of brewery space to barrel aging their beers, so the batches that do get barrel aged are small. Small batches + good review scores = rarity. Rarity = I'm usually S.O.L. So the next day, when I asked my girlfriend how the hunt for the beer went, I pretty much already knew the answer I was gonna get. Here's what happened instead:
Me: So did Eileen end up finding that beer?
Her: Oh yeah, she did. She said she'd mail it in a few days.
Me: That's ok. I don't know why I asked anyways. It's a super rare beer and....WHAAAAAAAAT??????????
A few days later, a package came in the mail. At #89- Barrel-Aged Blackout Stout.
Barrel-Aged Blackout Stout pours black with a thin light brown head. The head didn't wow size-wise, but it still left tons of soapy lace down the glass with each sip. The first smell of the beer brought a huge wave of bourbon-y goodness. I know next to nothing about bourbon, but I'm pretty sure whatever barrels they used for this beer used to hold some good stuff. This bourbon in particular smelled amazing. Brownie batter, toffee, caramel, vanilla and some faint tobacco came forth the more I smelled and the more I let this open up.
The flavor opens on a huge roasted note, full of dark chocolate and some astringent black coffee. The darker, roasted flavors throughout this beer are absolutely beastly, but I really liked them. The bourbon shows up on the finish, bringing with it just a touch of heat and dryness along with some notes of anise and peat. It feels like there are sweeter flavors in here trying to get through, but the big, dark flavors in here have a reverse naked chokehold on them and aren't about to let go. It definitely makes me wonder what a little age would do to this one, and I would love to find out someday. As is, it's an exceptional stout if you like things on the blackest end of the taste spectrum. Luckily, I really do. A huge thanks to Eileen for this beer. It's now officially checked off the "No way that's happening" list.
Final Grade: A
Top 250 Beers Tasted: 116
Friday, April 5, 2013
Tai Kao is a new beer (beer cocktail?) from the Bruery that attempts to meld two very different drinks- beer and Thai iced tea. To make it look and taste like a real Thai iced tea, the uncarbonated, 8% base beer is poured over coconut milk and then ice cubes are added. I wasn't sure if I wanted to try this one before I got to The Bruery's tasting room this weekend, but when I saw how crazy it looked, I had to do it.
Tai Kao pours a thick, impermeable carrot juice-color with a rich light orange head. The head may not have been big in size, but it was dense as hell and it left thick lace spackled down the sides of the glass like drywall. The smell was musty and earthy with a big smack of sweetness from the coconut milk. I also picked up some hay, shaved carrots and a faint jasmine rice aroma. Interesting...
The taste starts in a sweet, very Thai iced tea-tasting direction. Condensed milk and black tea mixed with sugar cubes definitely comes on strong at first. But just when you start to wonder what happened to the beer in your Thai iced tea beer, a strong fermented wheat bread flavor shows up and pulls the sweetness back like crazy. There's a bit of an off-tasting farmhouse funk flavor in there as well before the return of the sweeter flavors, highlighted by some creamy coconut milk. What really caught me off guard came after the finish, when I noticed that the beer had left my mouth as dry as a bone. What a strange beer!
Everything about this beer both confused and amazed me. It's been almost a week since I tried it and I'm still trying to decide whether I liked it or not. For that reason (and because I feel strange reviewing what's really more of a beer cocktail), I'm not going to be giving this beer a grade. However, I will say that if your travels take you near The Bruery in the near future, it's worth popping in to try this one. Tai Kao really is one of a kind. For better or worse.
Top 250 Beers Tasted: 116
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Dayman IPA pours a dark burnt orange color with a creamy, one-finger tan head. I was pretty skeptical going into this one, but the smell gave me some hope. It brought an intriguing blend of intense citrusy hops and dark roasted coffee. While I would never have thought these things would go together, it just seemed to work. I caught some chocolate, tangerine rind and grapefruit in the smell as well. Interesting...
The first flavor that hits your palate is a blast of dark roasted coffee. But soon after comes a big hit of smooth citrus flavor. While I've never experienced coffee and citrus together in a beer before, something about the two elements just worked together. There was an insane blend of chocolate covered oranges, hazelnut, coffee and piney hops throughout the flavor. And it worked! The finish was silky smooth with a lingering coffee bitterness. I have no idea how they did it, but Stone pulled this off. What a great beer to lead off 2013. I can't wait to see what they're going to do this year.
Final Grade: A
Top 250 Beers Tasted: 115