Monday, September 26, 2011

Alpine Brewing Company - Hoppy Birthday

I'm lucky enough to live in a place where beer from Alpine Brewing Company is pretty easy to find. That said, a few of their offerings that don't make it to bottles have been eluding me for a while. I finally got to check a big one off the list last weekend when I found their highly touted pale ale, Hoppy Birthday on tap at Toronados. Sitting at #35 on the Top 100 List, Hoppy Birthday is the highest rated of the 5 beers (5!) that Alpine makes that are currently in the Top 100.

Hoppy Birthday pours a clear golden color with a thin, foamy cream colored head. The smell is absolutely incredible. Huge citrus hop aromas waft from the glass along with big smells of candied grapefruit, mango and honey. I've had a lot of pale ales before, but nothing that smelled anywhere near as good as this one did.

The taste was a brilliant blend of citrus and pine hops and caramel malts. The taste began with mango and some big citrus hops, then moved towards more of a pine hop flavor. Some caramel malts evened out the flavor before a nice dash of hop resin on the finish. This was an amazing pale ale and I'm seriously hoping that the rumors that Alpine may bottle this one are true.

Final Grade: A

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 33

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Bruery Provisions

If you're not familiar with The Bruery by now, you should be. They make some of the best and most interesting beers in all of California and are never afraid to try some really different recipes. Most of the beers made by The Bruery are traditional Belgian-style beers with a twist, such as their Trade Winds Triple- A traditional Belgian-style Tripel that uses rice and Thai basil. I've been wanting to make a trip up to The Bruery for a while now and I finally got to go with some friends this past weekend.

The tasting room for The Bruery is unique in that it isn't actually located at the brewery itself, but at a building that The Bruery uses as its bottleshop- The Bruery Provisions. Along with bottles from The Bruery, Provisions has an extensive collection of hard to find beers from other breweries on sale. Lineups of beers from The Bruery and from other breweries around the world are offered at reasonable prices (most lineups of five beers go for around $5) and go great with the meat and cheese plates that are also offered. I went with The Bruery Special Flight of beers along with the Picante Meat Plate (best choice ever). Here are the beers I got to try.


714 is a Belgian Pale Ale that is draft only. It poured a pale golden color with a thin head and notes of Belgian yeast, bready malts, a slight bit of earth and some leather.

Taste-wise, this one was a bit dull with the majority of the flavor consisting of some faint earthy hops and a bit of lemon zest. It wasn't a terrible beer, but it was probably my least favorite of the day.

Final Grade: B-

Run B.M.C.

Without a doubt, this was the best name of the day. In case you're not familiar, "B.M.C." refers to the beer behemoths of Budweiser, Miller and Coors. Craft breweries and craft beer lovers hate these companies and often lump them together as "BMC."

The beer itself is an intensely hopped pilsner that poured a pale gold color with a 1/2 finger cream colored head. For me, the smell was a bit off what a pilsner typically smells like. I picked up corn tortilla, lemon, lime, malt, guava and a slight soapy smell.

While the taste was infinitely better than anything made by "BMC," it failed to impress me. There was a heavy grain flavor alongside some earthy hops, white pepper and a dash of funk. I probably wouldn't go out of my way to look for this one.

Final Grade: B

Saison Rue

Saison Rue is part of the yearly lineup that The Bruery bottles and distributes pretty widely. I had never tried it, so I decided to give it a shot. The color was a dark gold and the beer smelled of rye, some faint earth, caramel and a touch of oak.

I've had some great saisons before and, unfortunately, this can't touch any of them. I didn't get much from the flavor to let me know I was drinking a saison or any type of farmhouse ale. Instead, I got a lot of grain, a slight bit of funk, belgian yeast, earthy hops and some rye. I definitely prefer their Saison de Lente over this one.

Final Grade: B

Autumn Maple

Of all the beers on tap at Provisions, I was probably the most excited to try this one. Autumn Maple is The Bruery's take on the traditional pumpkin beers that lots of breweries put out in the fall. The Bruery decided to go a slightly different direction and use a crapload of yams, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, vanilla, molasses and Belgian yeast. How could this not be good?

Autumn Maple poured a glowing amber color with a thin soapy head. I got smells of candied yams, pumpkin pie, cinnamon, nutmeg and orange peel. The yams weren't as intense as I was hoping for, but this beer definitely smelled like fall.

The taste starts with some notes of brown sugar and sweet potato followed by some freshly baked cinnamon bread. A slight hint of hops and Belgian yeast finished the taste off. I wanted the smell and the flavor to be a little more intense, but this was definitely one of the better beers we sampled.

Final Grade: B+


"Run B.M.C." is a tough name to top, but Snicklefritz has to come close. According to, "snicklefritz" can either refer to a low-potency strain of pot or a word that the Pennsylvania Dutch use to describe a kid who talks too much. I'm not sure The Bruery was going for either of those, but doesn't "snicklefritz" seem like the perfect replacement for a swear word? For example: "Dude, I just got back from vacation and my cat took a snicklefritz in my shower while I was gone!" Anyway, on to the beer itself.

Snicklefritz is categorized as a Belgian Strong Pale Ale and pours a deep golden color with a thin tan head. The smell is sweet and heavy and reminded me of Werthers Original butterscotch candies. The butterscotch smell was really intense, but there were also some faint notes of Belgian yeast and wet hay.

The taste was a little more diverse than I was expecting after smelling this one. I got notes of caramel malt, muted peppery hops, lots of butterscotch, freshly baked bread and a hint of oak on the finish. As intense as the butterscotch flavor was, it kind of worked for this beer.

Final Grade: B+


I went to The Bruery hoping to try their 3rd anniversary beer, Cuir. When we got there, they told us that they had tapped out of Cuir, but had replaced it with a new raspberry sour beer- BeRazzled. At first I was a little disappointed, but then I tried the beer.

BeRazzled pours a beautiful light ruby color with a thin pink head. The smell instantly took me back to my experience with Cantillon's Rosé de Gambrinus. Huge, perfume-like aromas of raspberries and cranberries wafted out of the glass. It didn't have that awesome funk that Rosé de Gambrinus has, but this was still incredible.

The taste didn't disappoint at all with huge flavors of fresh raspberries, cranberries and red currants with a slight kiss of brett. The light mouthfeel and prickly carbonation worked perfectly with the flavors. This was a beer that I could drink all day. I seriously hope they have plans to make more of this. Behind Rosé de Gambrinus, the was the best raspberry beer I've ever had.

Final Grade: A

Overall, it was a successful trip up to The Bruery and I really hope to make it up there again in the near future. It's located very close to Angel Stadium, so if you have plans to go watch the Angels try to chase down a playoff spot, I highly recommend heading to The Bruery Provisions first.

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 32

Monday, September 12, 2011

Russian River Brewing Company - Rejection

In case you're not familiar with Russian River Brewing Company, they like to make really good beers with names that end in "tion." A few in the "tion" series are sours (Supplication, Temptation, etc.), but a few are not. I happened to be in Pizza Port with my girlfriend yesterday when I noticed a "tion" beer on their lineup that I had yet to try: Rejection. Rejection is classified as a Belgian Dark Ale and I heard a rumor that it was brewed for Valentine's Day. Nice.

Rejection poured a much darker color than I expected: a dark brown color similar to dark maple syrup. The nose surprised me as well, with some big roasted malt and coffee aromas, floral hops and some faint Belgian yeast with a touch of dark fruit.

The taste started with some floral hops alongside some day-old roasted coffee flavor. Some roasted malt, dark chocolate and anise followed, but the finish was a bit weak. Overall, this may have been my least favorite of the "tion" beers I've tried (in Rejection's defense, the other "tion" beers are a tough act to follow). Because this beer is classified as a Belgian Dark Ale, I expected something, well, Belgian in the taste. A bit of Belgian yeast could have added another dimension to the flavor. As it was, it wasn't a bad beer, but it left me a little disappointed.

Final Grade: B-

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 32

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Brasserie Dieu du Ciel - Péché Mortel (Imperial Stout Au Cafe)

It's pretty tough to find beers from Montreal's Dieu du Ciel Brewery here in San Diego. Every once in a while, one of their beers would pop up, but it wasn't the one I was really looking for. Their imperial stout brewed with coffee has been hovering around the middle of the Top 100 List for a while now and is currently sitting at #50. I'm a big fan of beers brewed with coffee, so I really wanted to try this one. Finally, I found a bottle on the shelves of Texas Liquor.

Péché Mortel pours a black and oily color with a thin but creamy tan head. The aroma has a huge roasted element with big notes of both roasted malt and dark roasted coffee. The smell of the coffee was really intense. With the exception of Founder's Kentucky Breakfast Stout, this is the most coffee I've ever smelled in a beer. Underneath the coffee and roasted malt were some notes of wet earth and espresso.

The taste was big and roasty with a ton of dark roasted coffee and dark chocolate. For me, the dark roasted coffee was a bit too much because it brought so much acidity with it. It's a great stout, but something tells me it would be much better if I let one mellow for a year or two.

Final Grade: A-

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 31