Friday, July 29, 2011

Angel City Brewing - Angel City Dunkel

I'm from the Los Angeles area, so it really makes me sad to say this, but L.A. sucks for craft beer. For a while now, all of the good breweries have either been way north of L.A. or down south near San Diego. While that's fine with me because I now live in San Diego, a significant part of me wishes that L.A. would make an effort to be a part of the growing craft beer scene. Slowly (very slowly) my dreams are coming to fruition.

Over the past few years, some decent breweries have been popping up closer and closer to L.A. The first one that caught my attention was The Bruery in Placentia. Then another decent brewery came to my attention: Fullerton's Bootlegger's Brewery. While these were closer to L.A. than most craft beers, they were still part of Orange County. Not close enough. I had heard of a few small breweries popping up in the city (like Eagle Rock Brewery in Downtown) but I had yet to find a bottle of L.A. beer down in San Diego. That was, until I found Angel City's Angel City Dunkel. I had heard of the brewery, but had never seen a bottle until a few days ago. Finally, an L.A. brewery had made it to San Diego! I couldn't pass it up.

Angel City Dunkel pours a deep chestnut brown color with a light brown head that settles on the top of the beer. The brewery lables this beer a Dunkel Lager, so I wasn't really expecting a ton in the smell. Fortunately, I was wrong. I picked up some freshly baked banana bread, roasted malt, banana, brown sugar and maple syrup.

The taste is slightly malty and nutty upfront, followed by notes of banana, bready malts and some coffee on the finish. The mouthfeel was surprisingly thick and really enhanced the flavors. This was a fantastic surprise and, hopefully, a sign of things to come from the brewers up in Los Angeles.

Final Grade: A-

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 26

Note: So out of nowhere, 2 of the beers that I reviewed a while back (Blind Pig and Schneider Aventinus vaulted back into the Top 100 pushing the number of Top 100 Beers Tasted to its highest number yet: 26. Oh yeah!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Three Floyds Brewing Co. - Dreadnaught IPA

I've come to accept the sad fact that there are some beers on the Top 100 list that I'm just never going to get to try. A few of the beers on the list are so rare that the chances of them ever making it to San Diego are slim to none. However, that's not going to stop me from trying to taste all 100. Today, I took another step in my mission, trying #35 on the list, Dreadnaught IPA. Three Floyds normally doesn't distribute to California, so to find one of their beers in the state, you have to get pretty lucky. I got just that when a coworker gave me the heads-up that there were some Three Floyds beers at a local bottleshop, including Dreadnaught. When I stopped in to check it out, I was relieved to find some still there.

Dreadnaught IPA pours a hazy honey color with a huge cream colored head and lacing down the glass that is downright ridiculous. It doesn't get much better than this beer looks-wise. The smell is full of mango and peach with some big citrus hops.

I was expecting some big things out of this beer based on its ratings and the taste definitely didn't disappoint. Some huge citrus hop notes hit hard upfront with some big flavors of juicy grapefruit and grapefruit pith. The malts follow with some big caramel and mango notes and they're just big enough to balance out the large amount of hops. The finish brings a nice hit of pine hops which leave a pleasant bitterness on the tongue. I haven't had a ton of Three Floyds' beers, but if Gumballhead and this one are any indication, I sincerely hope they decide to distribute to California in the very, very near future.

Final Grade: A

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 24

Friday, July 22, 2011

Ballast Point Brewing Company - Indra Kunindra

A few weeks ago, Ballast Point announced that they had brewed a new beer. I'm always excited to try anything new that Ballast comes up with, but when I saw the ingredients in this one, I was a little thrown off. Their new beer, which they call Indra Kunindra, is a stout brewed with...madras curry, kaffir lime leaves, toasted coconut, cumin and cayenne. Curry and beer together? There's no possible way that could work. Or could it?

Indra Kunindra pours a black color with a very thin tan head. The first whiff I took of this beer almost knocked me out. It smelled like walking into an exceptionally aromatic Thai restaurant. Huge notes off yellow curry, full of coconut milk, cumin and spices erupted from the glass. Smell wise, this beer certainly nailed the curry element.

You would think (as I did) that there is no possible way that a curry beer could taste good, no matter who makes it. But Indra Kunindra does taste good. In fact, it tastes amazing. The curry hits your palette immediately. It's a smooth, rich flavor with the toasted coconut flavor coming in right after. Right around the middle of the taste, the cayenne comes in with just a touch of spiciness. On the finish, a slight taste of roasted malts and cocoa powder come in, reminding you that you are in fact drinking a stout. I don't know exactly how they did it, but Ballast Point absolutely nailed it on this one. It's probably my favorite experimental beer they've ever come up with. I'm not sure how much of this Ballast Point brewed, but I definitely hope to see it around town in the near future.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Lucky Drink Co. Pty Limited - Lucky Beer

The other day, I was perusing the selection at Texas Liquor when I saw a bottle of beer unlike any other bottle I'd seen before. It was a green bottle (red flag!) shaped like a buddha. The bottle said the beer was called "Lucky Buddha" and that it was made in China. I don't have a ton of experience with Chinese beer, and it was selling for under two dollars so I decided to give it a try. When I got home, I looked up the beer and found out that the beer is actually contract brewed in Australia for a Chinese company and goes by the name "Lucky Beer." The reviews weren't great, but it was a little too late to go back, so I opened it up.

Lucky Beer pours a clear golden color with a thin white head that disappears pretty quickly. The smell was pretty typical for an adjunct lager (a lager that uses rice and corn instead of barley in the brewing process) with notes of pale malts, some faint grassy hops and a little apple cider. I said "red flag" when I said the beer was in a green bottle because green bottles do little to protect the beer from light and this often results in the beer getting skunked. Luckily, this one didn't show any evidence of skunking.

The taste actually wasn't bad for an adjunct lager. The majority of the taste was comprised of grains and bready malts with a touch of lemon zest in the background. There was nothing that really excited me about this beer (besides the bottle) but it wasn't as bad as most beers in the style.

Final Grade: C

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 24

Monday, July 18, 2011

Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephaner - Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier

It's been a little too long since I reviewed at Top 100 beer, so let's go ahead and put an end to that now. Clocking in at #39 on the Top 100 list, Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier is, by far, the highest rated Hefeweizen on the Top 100 list. I've had a sort of strange relationship with the hefeweizen style. Not so long ago, hefs were my favorite style. Then, as I began to get more and more into beer, they began to drop in my book as more "exciting" styles gained my favor. Now I like them again and, while they're not my favorite style anymore, I'm always up for trying a new hef. The one that I really wanted to try was the Weihenstaphaner Hefeweissbier. I had been looking for this beer for a little while and finally found it at a local BevMo.

Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier pours a cloudy pale golden color with an absolute monster of a foamy white head. Eventually the head settled to a perfect 1/2 finger height. A huge clove aroma is immediately present along with some nice notes of spicy yeast and banana. I also smelled something in the background that reminded me of apple pie.

The taste is everything a hefeweizen should be and more. There's a wonderful malt flavor upfront followed by some clove and cinnamon. The finish brings some banana and baking spices along with the faintest touch of alcohol. For me, the balance is what sets this beer apart. Every flavor of this beer spends just enough time on your palette before it's replaced by the next. The mouthfeel is smooth and creamy with just the right amount of carbonation. This is definitely the best hefeweizen I've ever had and an absolute must try if you love wheat beers.

Final Grade: A

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 24

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Federal Jack's Brewpub - Kennebunkport Porter, Kennebunkport Blueberry Wheat Ale, Kennebunkport IPA

I don't know a lot about Federal Jack's brewpub. What I do know is that every once in a while, Trader Joes gets some of their beers in and I decide to try them. Recently, Trader Joes received four new Federal Jack's beers: Kennebunkport Wheat (which I recently reviewed and found to be the worst beer ever made), Kennebunkport Porter, Kennebunkport Blueberry Wheat and Kennebunkport IPA. The thought of tasting another beer from the brewery that could produce Kennebunkport Wheat gave me chills, but I decided to give the brewery another shot. First up- Kennebunkport Porter.

Kennebunkport Porter

Kennebunkport Porter pours a very dark brown color with a thin tan head. Looks-wise, this beer isn't half bad. The smell wasn't bad either, with some notes of roasted malts and coffee and a slight breadiness.

While the taste wasn't at all bad, it didn't do much for me either. There were a lot of roasted malt and coffee flavors but the flavors seemed a bit disjointed. The malts came in first and then the taste kind of just died. Then the coffee came in on the finish and the taste completely died again. This wasn't a terrible beer, but it's certainly far from being a great porter. Next up- Kennebunkport Blueberry Wheat Ale

Final Grade: C

Kennebunkport Blueberry Wheat Ale

Let me start this one off by saying that I was very skeptical going into this one. The fact that it said "Kennebunkport" and "Wheat" brought back horrible, horrible memories. Still, this one couldn't be as bad as that monstrosity, could it?

Kennebunkport Blueberry Wheat Ale pours a pale golden color with an extremely thin head that stuck around for all of 5 seconds. The beer smelled like blueberries, but in a very artificial way. Almost like what I imagine a blueberry scented air freshener would smell like. There was also a strange buttery and sugary smell that made this beer smell like a freshly buttered up blueberry muffin. If nothing else, they nailed the blueberry scent.

You would think that a beer that smelled so much like blueberries would taste like them too. Nope. This beer tastes like a buttered up roll. The butter flavor is thick and a little oaky and overwhelms anything else the brewers may have been going for. Still, while this beer was undeniably awful, it wasn't worse than the Kennebunkport Wheat. But wait...there was still one more Kennebunkport to try.

Final Grade: D

Kennebunkport IPA

I don't like to give grades lower than a "D" on here. I think that craft brewers have a hard enough time trying to compete with the big three (Budweiser, Miller and Coors), and the last thing they need is a beer blogger saying that their beer is terrible. However, on the rarest of occasions, a beer is so awful that I can't give it anything but an "F." So I apologize to Federal Jack's, but they really have to do better than this.

Kennebunkport IPA pours a clear coppery color with a cream colored head and pretty good retention. If I graded beers solely on looks, this wouldn't get a bad grade. The smell is where it starts to go wrong. When you take a whiff of Kennebunkport IPA, you smell cereal malts, boiled corn and grain. Not completely unusual smells for a beer...unless it's labeled an IPA. Usually, an IPA will assault your nose (or at least caress it) with hops. Not this one. It smells like the hops forgot to show up to this party.

I've been trying to find a way to accurately describe the way this beer tastes for a few days now. The one thing I can tell you for certain is that it tastes nothing like an IPA. Or a beer for that matter. No, whatever was in my bottle was something much more sinister. Imagine, if you will, the worst tasting lager you've ever tried (think Bud Light or Natty Light). Then add to that the taste of metal. On top of that, add the taste of licking a nail that's been sitting outside gathering rust for 5 years. Then add the taste of cat feces (or what you might imagine cat feces would taste like. Hopefully you don't actually know) and you'll be getting close to the taste of Kennebunkport IPA. It is without a doubt the worst beer I have ever tasted and it makes me feel foolish for believing that nothing could be worst than Kennebunkport Wheat. I was able to finish three sips before pouring it down the drain. Sorry, sink. I can only hope that this is the last I'll see of this brewery.

Final Grade: F

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 23

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Skagway Brewing Company

Last week, my girlfriend and I went on a cruise to Alaska. It was the first cruise for both of us and I don't think either of us knew what to expect from the cruise or from Alaska. But after a few days, I fell in love with both of them. We had some amazing times with some amazing people and I can only hope that we get to go again soon. There was even beer involved! One of our last ports was at a town called Skagway, which has a population of under 1,000 when the cruise ships aren't there. Despite their tiny population, they have a brewery located on the main street of town. We had an excursion planned for our day in Skagway, but we ended up having a little time to kill in the town, so we went and checked out the brewery. I ended up trying four of their beers: Skagway Spruce Tip Ale, Chilkoot Trail IPA, Boomtown Brown and Blue Top Porter.

Skagway Spruce Tip Ale

Spruce Tip Ale is an ale brewed with spruce tips. The beer pours a very pale golden color with a small patch of white foam. The smell was way sweeter than I expected with some notes of clover honey and wild strawberry jumping out immediately.

The taste was on the light side, but pretty tasty and refreshing. There were some light pine hops upfront followed by a lot of sweetness whose taste I can only describe as "white gummy bear." The finish brought a hint of the spruce tips and a bit of pale malt. This was probably my favorite of Skagway's beers and was definitely an original.

Final Grade: B

Chilkoot Trail IPA

Chilkoot Trail IPA pours a hazy golden color with a light tan head and good retention. Earthy and dank hops jump out right away when you smell the beer but not too much else is allowed to escape.

The taste wasn't the West Coast hop bomb that I've become used to, but it wasn't bad. It had some nice pine hop flavor upfront balanced by some caramel malts. The finish was a bit off for me with a little too much dank hop resin flavor that left an almost English IPA style bitterness on the tongue. Overall though, it wasn't bad.

Final Grade: B-

Boomtown Brown

Boomtown Brown poured a clear amber color with a light tan head. The smell was faint, but there was definitely some brown sugar in there along with a slight smokiness.

I'll admit, brown's aren't my favorite style. There are a few I like, but it's way more often that I come across a brown I don't like than one I do. Sadly, I felt this one was a tad underwhelming. The taste was pretty much all roasted malts with a touch of coffee on the finish. It wasn't a terrible take on the style, but I found myself wanting a little more from this one.

Final Grade: C

Blue Top Porter

The last beer of the day, Blue Top Porter, poured a dark brown color with some ruby highlights when held to light and a very faint light brown head. Like the Boomtown Brown, the smell was pretty faint. I didn't pick up much in the smell besides roasted malts and some molasses.

The taste was a little on the plain side and had a lot of roasted malts and a pretty heavy nutty flavor to it. Like the Boomtown Brown, it wasn't bad, but it didn't really do it for me.

Final Grade: C+

Overall, it was great to see that craft brewing is alive and well, even in Alaska. If you ever happen to be in Skagway, Alaska, I highly recommend checking out this brewery.

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 23