Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ballast Point Brewing Company - Tongue Monster

Every Thursday, Ballast Point releases something a little special. Some weeks, it will be the return of a popular beer to the tap lines. Other weeks, they will release a new variation of one of their standard beers. And then there are weeks where they bring out something completely different. Today was one of those Thursdays. Today Ballast Point released a completely new beer called Tongue Monster. This beer is a blend of two of Ballast's stronger and more popular beers, Sea Monster and Tongue Buckler, which has then been aged for 8 months in bourbon barrels. Ballast Point themselves admitted that they didn't know if this would be a hit or an abomination. Either way, it was a beer I wasn't going to miss. Plus, how can you go wrong with a name like "Tongue Monster"? It sounds like Godzilla's porn name. Alright, before I get too off track, let's move on to the tasting.

Tongue Monster pours a black color with some slightly reddish tinges when held to the light. It's capped by a nice one finger light brown head that lasts beautifully. The barrel aging is definitely evident in the smell, especially right after the beer is poured. Along with the bourbon, I got a little bit of soy sauce and smoke. Once the beer began to warm a bit, another side of the beer emerged and the smell changed to notes of toasted coconut, caramel and tootsie roll.

The taste is really something else. The beer starts off sweet with some coconut, caramel and dark chocolate flavors with a hint of roasted malt in the back. Then comes the Tongue Buckler and a pretty nice hit of citrus hops. The mouthfeel is nice and creamy and the bourbon is kept from being too dominant in the taste. This was definitely one of Ballast Point's stranger experiments that I've tried, but you can put this one down as a success.

Final Grade: A-

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 22

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Arcadia Brewing Company - Arcadia Imperial Stout

Things are finally starting to settle down around here after our move to Carlsbad. Time to finally get another review up. This beer was one I happened to stumble upon online while I was shopping for another beer on the Top 100 list online. While I didn't end up with the beer I was trying to buy, somehow I ended up with a beer I had never heard of- Arcadia's Imperial Stout. I wasn't too excited about this bottle until I actually received it in the mail and saw that the bottling date was back in 2007. A 4 year old Russian Imperial Stout? Yes, please!

Arcadia Imperial Stout pours a very dark brown color with an absolutely enormous mocha colored head. As soon as the beer touched the glass, it foamed up like a root beer float. The 12 oz. bottle took almost ten minutes to fully pour, which may be a record for me. The beer smelled really different for a Russian Imperial, with notes of banana bread, clove, brown sugar, chocolate and bourbon.

The smell of the beer may be on the sweet side, but the taste is the polar opposite. I got a lot of a roasted and maybe even charred malt flavor right away followed by some dark chocolate and dark roasted coffee on the finish. A slight hint of apple cider vinegar crept in somewhere in the middle of the taste and threw me off a bit. The high levels of bitterness really made me wonder how this beer must have tasted 4 years ago. Overall, it was a good beer but nowhere near some of the better Imperial Stouts out there.

Final Grade: B

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 22

Monday, June 20, 2011

Green Flash Brewing Company - Silva Stout

About a year ago, I walked into Beverages 4 Less for the first time. I talked to the store manager for a while about his selection and he ended up going into the back room and pulling out a bottle for me to try. I had never heard of the beer before, but it was from a local brewery, Green Flash, and it was called Silva Stout. I ended up taking it home, but kept putting off a tasting for one reason or another. Eventually, I lost interest in the bottle and ended up trading it to a guy in Cincinnati. After I traded it, I realized that the beer had made it into the Top 100. Oops. Still, I figured that since the beer was from San Diego, it wouldn't be hard to come across again. Months later, I still hadn't found it and began to hate my decision to trade it away. This past Saturday, my luck finally changed. I happened to be at Toronados and saw Silva Stout on their bottle list. This time, it was not escaping me.

Silva Stout pours a thick-looking black color with a one finger milk chocolate-colored head. After a few minutes, the head thinned to a light cap over the beer. Silva Stout is aged for a year in bourbon barrels and the bourbon is immediately present in the aroma. Unlike some bourbon barrel aged beers, Silva Stout has much more going on in the smell than just the bourbon. I picked up a lot of dark chocolate, raisin and coffee with some hints of leather coming out as the beer warmed.

The taste has some nice bourbon elements as well, but the bourbon is pleasantly restrained. Rich flavors of chocolate, raisin, caramel, wood and bourbon jump out right away and a pleasant warming sensation creeps in on the finish. As the beer warms, the sweeter elements really come out. This is a fantastic beer and I'm so glad that the hunt for this one is finally over.

Final Grade: A

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 21

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Alesmith Brewing Company - Alesmith Speedway Stout-Barrel Aged

Yesterday was the release of Alesmith's highly anticipated Barrel Aged version of Speedway Stout. Originally, it sounded like it would be easy enough to pick up a bottle. But as more and more people became interested, it quickly became apparent that the beer was going to be tougher to get than I had originally thought. The brewery originally said that there was going to be a 4 bottle limit per person, but a few days before the release, they bumped it down to 2 per person. After over 500 people showed up at the brewery for the release, the bottle limit became 1 per person. I was moving all day and was hoping that there would still be a few bottles left in the afternoon. Quickly, it became apparent that I had no shot at a bottle. However, the brewery had it on tap throughout the day, so I decided to drop by and hope that some was left. It was my only shot and, at #25 on the Top 100 list, I didn't want to miss this one. Fortunately for me, there was still some on tap when I got to the brewery.

Barrel Aged Speedway Stout pours a pitch black color with a slightly reddish dark brown head and good retention. The beer smelled of freshly ground coffee, raisin and dark chocolate along with a touch of bourbon. Since this beer has been aging in bourbon barrels since 2009, I expected it to smell pretty hot, but it was surprisingly restrained.

The taste certainly didn't disappoint. I picked up a lot of dark chocolate and cocoa flavor right away along with some coffee, fudge, plum and black currant. The only hint of bourbon was a slight drying on the finish and a bit of a peat taste that lingered. Overall, a fantastic beer and while I'm bummed I didn't get a bottle, I feel fortunate to have gotten to try it.

Final Grade: A

Top 100 Beers Tasted 21

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Bruery - Hottenroth Berliner Weisse

First of all, you may have noticed a lack of posts for the past few days. Sadly, this may continue for the next week or so as I'm in the middle of a move and things are going to be a mess while that takes its course. Move or not though, the beer tasting must go on and I will do my best to get a few posts up when I can. On to the next beer!

On Friday, my best friend and his girlfriend were in town, so I decided to open a bottle with them. Knowing that he's a big fan of wheat beers, I decided to go with one that just hit the shelves recently- The Bruery's Hottenroth. This beer is a Berliner Weissbier, which is a style you don't find too often in the states. I was able to try one while I was in Berlin a few years ago and was a huge fan. The style is typically light in body and has lot of tartness and sourness to it without being overly sour. In Berlin, some of these beers come in strange colors as many places like to add a flavored syrup to the beer.

Hottenroth pours an extremely pale yellowish-green color with a huge white head that balloons in the glass as soon as the beer is poured. The color of the beer reminded me a lot of the grapefruit soda that you can find at many grocery stores. Definitely a strange color for a beer. The smell is big and wheaty with just a tad of funk and some aromas of lemon and white pepper.

While the body of the beer may be light, this one doesn't lack much in the taste department. Lemon, tart green apple, vinegar and a touch of baby aspirin pop out right away with a pleasant tartness that restrains itself before getting too sour. At only 3.5%, this beer is an ideal summer beer and a great take on the Berliner Weissbier style.

Final Grade: A-

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 20

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Firestone Walker Brewing Co. - Abacus

Well, my quest to taste all of the Top 100 beers seems to be going in the opposite direction it should be. In fact, four beers have already dropped off the list since the last Top 100 I tasted. Not to worry, I have a few lined up that should get these numbers heading in the right direction. We'll start with Firestone Walker's Abacus.

Abacus is the top rated American Barleywine on and the second best barleywine overall, trailing only Pelican's Mother of All Storms. Overall, it's rated #40 on the Top 100 list, so this one shouldn't be leaving any time soon. At 13%, it's an absolute monster and not a beer to be taken lightly. It was released a few months back and I was able to get a bottle from Beverages 4 Less in Santee. Yesterday, I enlisted the help of Beau and Justin to help me try it.

Abacus pours a deep chestnut and ruby color with almost no head whatsoever. A few wisps of foam clung to the edges of the glass, but other than that there wasn't much of a head. While the appearance may have underwhelmed a bit, the smell did not. The aroma was huge, with notes of toffee, medium roasted coffee, toasted coconut, caramel, raisin, marshmallow and a bit of port wine. Wowzers!

The taste is every bit as orgasmic as the smell. Is this really a barleywine? Usually barleywines don't really do it for me, so I was shocked by how much I loved this one. The 13% is well hidden, despite a pretty thick and heavy mouthfeel. Big notes of vanilla, caramel, toffee, coconut and butterscotch jump out and coat the tongue and there's a bit of a warmness on the way down. I absolutely loved every sip of this beer. This was, without a doubt, the best barleywine I've ever had and one of the finest beers I've ever tasted. Very Top 100 worthy.

Final Grade: A+

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 20

Pizza Beer Company - Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer

Yeah, you read that right: Pizza Beer. I heard about this beer a few months back and thought it sounded pretty out there. Still, it could work, right? Pizza and beer together? I'm sure at least one college student per week tries to put these together in a blender while heavily intoxicated.

Here's how the beer's made (according to the website):

"Pizza Beer is a debris free product. The Margarita pizza is put into the mash & steeped like a tea bag. A whole wheat crust made with water, flour & yeast is topped with tomato, oregano, basil & garlic. The essence of the pizza spices is washed off with hot water and filtered into a brewpot, where it is boiled for a long, long time. During the process, we add hops & spices in a cheesecloth type bag & filter the cooled liquid into a fermentation vessel. (big glass 6 gallon water jug). After a week or two, the beer is good to go. Keg it or bottle it."

Ok, I take it back. This sounds awful.

Pizza Beer pours a slightly cloudy pale yellow color with a lot of visible carbonation and a foamy off-white head. Despite the brewery's claims that Pizza Beer is debris free, I found what looked like a piece of crust clinging to the side of my glass, streaming bubbles of carbonation. Eeeeewwww. I was a little scared to see what the beer smelled like, but I finally mustered up the courage and gave it a whiff. Such a bad idea. I picked up huge aromas Or really, what smelled like day old pizza still in the box. I tried this beer with Beau and another friend from our work, Justin, and we all agreed that this beer smells like not only pizza, but the cardboard delivery box as well. The closest thing I can describe it to is this: Imagine that you went out to get a pizza and got distracted by something on your way home, leaving the pizza in the car. The next morning, you climb into the car and meet the smells of a soggy pizza, a partially eroded cardboard box and the smell of your car's interior saturated with pizza funk. If this has ever happened to you, then you know exactly what Pizza Beer smells like.

Honestly, after smelling this beer, I didn't really want to take a sip. Our tasting had somehow devolved into an episode of Fear Factor, and we were only on the first beer of the day. Beau was about to taste it, though, and I wasn't going to let him go alone, so I closed my eyes and took a swig. It's almost painful now to remember the taste, but I'll my best try to put in words what this beer tasted like. It was like a blend of crappy beer and pizza sauce. I picked up a lot of tomato, basil and oregano upfront. A slight hint of the base beer (which I'm nearly convinced is Coors Light or a duplicate) was evident in the background with a hint of grain and yeast. Overall, I would highly, highly recommend not getting this beer. Unless, of course, it's going to be used for a prank (and it would make a fantastic prank). And no, Pizza Beer didn't quite make the Top 100 list.

Final Grade: D-

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 19

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Allagash Brewing Company - Allagash Tripel

I got a bottle of Allagash Tripel about a year ago right after I graduated from UCSD. I was tempted to drink it right away, but decided to put it away for a bit just to see how it aged. After almost a year of seeing it every few days, I could wait no longer. So I broke it out last weekend when a few friends were over to see how it was doing. A big thanks to my friend, Renee, for this bottle!

Allagash Tripel (named after the style in which it is brewed which uses three times the "normal" amount of malts) pours a beautiful hazy and dark golden color with a huge fluffy white head that takes a long time to die down. The head wasn't quite as massive or lasting as that of a beer like a saison, but it was pretty impressive. I picked up some big, spicy yeast notes in the smell along with some pale malts. There was also a bit of a latex glove-like smell that, fortunately, went away pretty quickly.

The taste was big and spicy with some big notes of clove, nutmeg and a ton of other spices. I got a bit of cinnamon in the taste as well as a nicely balanced yeast flavor. This was a fantastic beer that I'm glad I waited to drink. Now, we'll see if I can wait on some of the other beers I'm sitting on right now.

Final Grade: A

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 20

(Damn! Another off the list as Two Hearted just dropped from the ranks.)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Victory Brewing Company - Prima Pils

I hate stating the obvious, but one of the greatest things about going to Germany is having the chance to try real German beer. Not that Beck's business you see on sale at the entrance to your local grocery store. Real German beer. Here's the problem- at some point, you're going to leave and not be able to have the beer whenever you want it. Ever since my last trip to the country a few years ago, I've been dying for a good German style pilsner. I had tried a fair amount of pilsners from American breweries, but none of them seemed to come close to that clean pilsner taste that true German pilsners have. Until I met Victory's Prima Pils.

I happened upon this beer a few weeks back while I was perusing the massive beer selection at Carlsbad's Texas Wine & Spirits. Normally, I would have gone for a different style, but I had seen some good reviews for Prima Pils, so I decided to give yet another American brewed pilsner a shot before I gave up hope for good.

Prima Pils pours a clear, golden color with a thin white head and some spotty lacing down the glass. The smell of the beer gave me some hope. It had a nice grassy hop aroma along with some light citrus, pale malt and a bit of barnyard funk. Already, this was the best American pilsner I had come across. All that was left was the taste.

I took a sip and...Eureka! It's nearly dead on. There's a nice snap of grassy hops upfront followed by some slightly bready malts in the middle. The finish brings back another touch of the grassy hop taste accompanied by a bit of white pepper and some lemon. The finish is as clean as a nun's criminal record and the mouthfeel is absolutely perfect. Finally! Now, if I could just find a decent place to get some schnitzel mit pommes...

Final Grade: A

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 21