Saturday, December 29, 2012

Cambridge Brewing Company - The Great Pumpkin Ale

I know, I know. It's kind of weird to do a pumpkin beer post when it's after Christmas. I debated not doing a post on this beer at all, but this one was just too good to pass up.

I'm a big fan of pumpkin beers. However, the more I try, the more I feel like every brewery is just trying to make the same beer. Some of them, like Southern Tier, do it incredibly well. Some, like Coors, do not. But, with very few exceptions, it's seemed like nearly every brewery was throwing nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon and pumpkin into a brew kettle, jacking up the alcohol, and selling it as pumpkin beer. But as I recently discovered, all pumpkin ales don't have to taste the same. Just look at Cambridge Brewing Company's The Great Pumpkin.

The Great Pumpkin pours a hazy orange-ish brown color with a thin off-white head. The smell is like opening a spice cabinet, full of heavy cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. Some clove was in there as well. A bit of cooked pumpkin lingered in the background. I had heard great things about this beer, but after smelling it, I wasn't confident it was going to be much better than the rest of the pumpkin beers I've tried. Then I tried a sip of it.

The beer opens with a tingling of baking spice and a touch of pumpkin flesh. Then it progresses into some flavors I've never experienced in a pumpkin beer before: fresh grassy hops and a bunch of pale malt. The intensity of the hops was something I'm more used to in a pilsner, not a fall beer. A light mouthfeel helped the hops and pumpkin flavors to work together incredibly well, resulting in a beer that feels like the child of a pumpkin beer and a blonde ale. At a mere 4.4%, this beer is a baby in the pumpkin beer category, but it is one tasty, tasty baby. I can't say I liked this more than Pumking, but this was a really great beer and a fresh new take on the style.  A huge thanks to my sister, Melina, for picking this up for me in Boston!

Final Grade: A

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 44

Note: This is probably the last post I will get in this year. Thank you all for your support. It's been a great year for this blog and I and I can't wait to see what beers come across our path in 2013. Have a happy and safe holiday and look for a "Best of 2012" post coming very soon. Cheers!


Friday, December 21, 2012

The Lost Abbey - Judgment Day (Mayan Apocalypse)

So....everyone make it through Armageddon ok? As I'm sure all of you are aware of, today is the day that the world was supposed to end, according to the Mayans. While I wasn't loading up with cases of water and other disaster supplies yesterday, I was sitting down to enjoy what could very well have been my last beer (had the Mayans been right). I felt it was only fitting to commemorate the occasion with Lost Abbey's new Mayan Apocalypse version of their Belgian-style quadrupel, Judgment Day. To make this beer more "Mayan," Lost Abbey decided to brew this version with cinnamon, dried chiles and tamarind.

Mayan Apocalypse pours a deep brown color that's almost black in the glass. A one finger tan head tops the beer and leaves tracks of lace down the glass. The smell is pretty awesome, with big notes of Mexican chocolate, powdery serrano chiles and cinnamon. Hints of caramel, plum and fig were also in there.

The taste opens with a pretty aggressive (albeit one-noted) hit of malt. Slowly, the malt recedes, leaving behind some faint dark fruit, burnt raisin, cinnamon bread and some earthy Belgian yeast. The finish brings a touch of dryness with a creeping chili presence. I couldn't really pick out the tamarind, but if it is in there, it's hiding in the hint of sweetness on the finish. Overall, this was a really solid beer. I'm not a huge fan of the standard version of Judgment Day, but this blows that one out of the water. A very successful experiment by Lost Abbey.  

Nice touch, Lost Abbey.

Final Grade: A-

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 45

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Boulevard Brewing Co. - Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale

Saisons and I have a kind of strange relationship. The first one I ever had, Saison Dupont, had me head over heels for the style. I bought just about all of the saisons I came across for a while after that only to find that most of them weren't that good. It's not that every one of them was gross, but none of them came close to Saison Dupont. American breweries in particular seemed to have a really difficult time with the style. Every one I tried felt really one-dimensional and lacked the funk and complexity of the Dupont. So I kind of wrote American breweries off as far as the style was concerned. Then, a few weeks ago, I happened upon a beer from Kansas City's Boulevard Brewing Company. Boulevard just recently started distributing beers this way and I had heard really good things about them. Their best known beer is a saison called Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale, so I decided to give that a try first.

Tank 7 pours a slightly hazy glowing golden color with an absolute monster of a cream colored head. Kind of like the Saison Dupont, the head swelled up in the glass on the pour and took forever to recede. The smell was a bit faint, but really struck a good note with me. I caught earthy, peppery, floral and citrusy notes all at once. The blend was incredibly complex without feeling heavy. Some faint candied mango, orange peel, barnyard funk and white pepper lurked in the background. This was already the best American saison I'd come across, and I hadn't even taken a sip yet.

A light and peppery hop bite hits first with some smooth bready malt carrying it through. This is followed by grapefruit zest, a touch of grass, some chalky yeast and a smooth finish with notes of lemon zest and pepper. I was really impressed by this beer and it left me with a lot of hope for American saisons. I don't know if this one can match Saison Dupont, but it's a really fantastic beer.

Final Grade: A

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 45

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Traquair House Brewery Lld - Traquair House Ale

Traquiar House Ale is one of those beers that I had seen on the shelves for a long time, but had never tried. I'd heard great things about it, wasn't particularly turned off by the label, and picked it up and looked it over multiple times, but it always ended up back on the shelf. Maybe it was because something "more exciting" always caught my eye, or maybe it was because I'm not the hugest fan of Scotch Ales, but I was always a little hesitant to get this beer. Then my friend, Brian, brought a bottle of it to my house during a tasting we had for my birthday.

It's worth noting that this beer is brewed in Scotland. In a really, really old house. Dating back to 1107, the Traquair House was originally a hunting lodge for royalty, and has seen it's fair share of history through the years. It also holds the designation being the of oldest inhabited house in all of Scotland. A brewery that brewed beer for the workers of the house was in place in the 18th century, but went out of production until the 1960s, when the 20th Laird of Traquair opened what is today the Traquiar House Brewery. Today, the brewery still uses traditional methods and water that comes from a spring on the estate. Traquair House Ale is their flagship beer.

Traquair House Ale pours a ruddy brown color that almost looks more like pond scum on the pour than beer. However, once the beer settles in the glass, it becomes a much more attractive deep mahogany color with a thin light brown head. The smell is unquestionably the best part of this beer, and is full of a rich and complex dark fruit aroma. I picked up great notes of fig jam, toffee, black raisins, fruitcake, golden raisin and a faint aroma of butterscotch.

The taste opens on a dense dark fruit note with just a touch of booze. Toasted oak, a faint peatiness, raisin and burnt brown sugar emerge soon after. The finish leaves just a touch of warmness and a touch of oak. Like I said, this isn't my favorite style, but this beer absolutely kills it. Alongside Dieu du Ciel's Equinoxe du Printemps, this is one of the best scotch ales I've ever had and one I'd definitely like to revisit in the future.

Final Grade: A-

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 46

Friday, December 7, 2012

Pelican Pub and Brewery - Mother of All Storms

I used to not be a fan of barleywines. So much so, in fact, that for a while I considered them my least favorite style (not counting Pizza Beer). But I realized that there were just too many barleywines out there to discount the entire style. And so, gradually, I began to give more of them a try and I started to appreciate them a bit more. I didn't think they were good, but the style was becoming tolerable to me. Then I tried Firestone's Abacus (now called Sucaba) and my mind was absolutely blown. Not only had I found a drinkable barleywine, I had fallen in love. I looked for more and more barelywines to try and found one lurking pretty high in the ranks of the Top 100 that I decided I had to have. But the brewery that made it was a smaller brewery in Oregon called Pelican Pub and Brewery and the beer wasn't really being distributed at all. This kind of problem seems to happen to me a lot.

Fast forward a few months to the end of last year when my friend, Beau, moved to Portland. We talked about getting a trade together and I mentioned that a beer called Mother of All Storms was going to be released in November and I had heard great things about it. Great friend that he is, he managed to go to the brewery on the day of release and score me a bottle. While he was at the brewery, he tried a few different years of Mother of All Storms and while he confirmed that the beer was as amazing as I had heard, he recommended I cellar it for a bit, because the beer seemed way better with a little age under it. So with a ton of hesitance, I set the bottle aside and tried to forget that I had it. Since it's now been over a year, I finally decided that some friends and I would open it alongside a bunch of other barleywines I've been saving for a giant barleywine tasting in a few weeks. But a part of me always wondered what this beer would taste like fresh.

A few days ago, I got an email from a guy at a local bottleshop. The email read "Pelican Pub and Brewery Mother of All Storms- Arrived." I stared at my phone in disbelief for a while, reading and rereading the words. There was no way. As soon as I got out of work, I hurried over there and, sure enough, found a 2012 bottle of Mother of All Storms. My prayers had been answered. At number 49 on the Top 100 List, here's Mother of All Storms.

Mother of All Storms pours a deep reddish brown color with a thin sand colored head. The beer just looks thick in the glass, almost like a dark colored bourbon. The smell opens with a rich aroma of bourbon that's strong without being overpowering. Behind the bourbon, I was able to pick out lots of toffee, raisin, brown sugar, toasted coconut, oak and some dark fruit. This beer is bourbon barrel-aged, so I was a little worried that the bourbon smell might be a little too strong right out of the gate, but it seemed just right.

The taste opens with some burnt raisin skins and a good dose of bourbon. Soon after comes rich notes of vanilla, toffee, butterscotch and toasted oak. The beer leaves a dry and warming sensation after every sip. At 13.5%, this is a huge beer, but it's not harsh at all, even this fresh. I don't know if I liked this better than Abacus, but it's very close and that's saying a lot. I can't wait to try this beer with some age on it as part of the barleywine tasting and I will report back as soon as that happens.

Final Grade: A

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 46

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Brasserie Cantillon - Lou Pepe-Kriek

This past weekend, my girlfriend and I attended something I'd been wanting to go to for a few years now: Zwanze Day. This day marks the release of a limited beer from Cantillon called Zwanze. The beer is almost always a draft-only release and only a handful of kegs are sent out to the world. This year, a total of 35 bars worldwide (and 16 bars in the United States) received kegs of Zwanse, all of which were to be tapped on December 1st.  Zwanze Day doesn't happen on the same day every year, but when it does, you can be sure that the gathering of beer geeks will be epic.

Luckily for me, one of the 16 kegs of Zwanze was sent to Toronados right here in San Diego. What I was even more excited about was that Cantillon also sent a keg of their famed Lou Pepe-Kriek. I've been wanting to try this beer for as long as I've been chasing the Top 100 Beers, and this was finally my chance. After struggling through the massive crowd at Toronados, I was finally able to get my hands on a glass. At number 59 on the Top 100 List, here's Lou Pepe-Kriek.

                                                           (The crowd at Zwanze Day)

Lou Pepe-Kriek pours a hazy raspberry color with a thin pink head. In the glass, the haze is so thick that the beer almost looks like raspberry puree. The aroma is full of a rich, tart cherry smell. It didn't knock my socks off as much as Rose de Gambrinus did, but it was still amazing, nonetheless. Notes of vanilla, oak and ripe strawberry were evident as well.

The taste opens with a huge wave of unripe cherries and a tart lactic smack in the mouth. The oak from the barrels was definitely present, as was a note of unripe raspberry and lemon peel. A champagne-like effervescence kept the mouthfeel light and refreshing and left me wanting more and more with every sip. This was just an awesome beer and I'm really glad I got to try it.

Final Grade: A

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 45

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Odell Brewing Company - Myrcenary Double IPA

Looking around the country, there are a few states that really stand out as far as their impact in the craft beer world. I'm a bit biased, but I think California has to be at the top of the list. However, there are a few other states that can't be looked at as being far behind. One of those states has to be Colorado, which is home to some of the best breweries in the country. Unfortunately, while some great Colorado breweries are distributed here (New Belgium, Avery and Great Divide come to mind), many are not. One of these is a brewery called Odell, which I've been wanting to try for a while now. A few months ago, I was buying some Founders Breakfast Stout from an online store when I noticed that they also carried a few beers from Odell. Cha ching! I decided on a double IPA I'd heard a lot about, Myrcenary.

Myrcenary pours a slightly hazy and glowing golden color with a one finger cream colored head. The beer just looked sticky and left thick gobs of lace down the glass. The smell is full of big, sticky citrus hops. Heavy notes of grapefruit, orange, mango and honey are also present. This isn't the biggest Double IPA around, but it smells like a beast. I love it.

The taste opens with a rich and sweet caramel and honey malt flavor held back by a load of sticky citrus hops. Honey and melon make an appearance in the middle before a finish of thick hop resin. Clocking in at near 10% ABV, this is a pretty big beer, but it manages to hide it pretty well. The mouthfeel is slick and a little oily without ever becoming syrupy. This really makes me wish Odell distributed out here. I'm going to have to get some more of their offerings pretty soon.

Final Grade: A-

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 43

Monday, November 19, 2012

Brasserie Cantillon - Cantillon Lou Pepe (Framboise)

More often than not, when it comes to getting to try a Cantillon, you need a little luck on your side.The two times I've been lucky enough to try their beers, I just happened to walk into a bottleshop on the day a case came in. Your other options would be either finding it on draft (but finding Cantillon on draft usually entails dropping a significant amount of cash to attend a sour event) or finding a bottle at a bar, which I had yet to do until recently.

Which brings us to this past Tuesday. I was at a bar in Kearny Mesa with a coworker when I happened to notice a case with a Cantillon logo that was sitting on the bar. When I asked the bartender if they were selling any of the bottles, she told me that the bottles were being saved for an event, but she thought there might be a bottle of Cantillon in the fridge. She went to check and, sure enough, emerged with a bottle of Cantillon's 2008 Lou Pepe Framboise, a beer that I'd heard amazing things about but had never even laid eyes on before then. After about two seconds of debating if we should get it or not, we decided to go for it.

Lou Pepe Framboise pours a dense pink color that borders on ruby. A beastly pale pink head wells up in the glass on the pour and takes a while to go down, leaving thick streams of lace down the glass. The raspberries used in the beer are evident the second you smell it. Rich, sweet and jammy, the aroma is absolutely incredible. There's a bit of a tartness present as well that reminded me more of cranberries. As the beer warmed a bit, a dry hay-like funk emerged along with some barrel notes that smelled like cedar. I really wanted to stay and smell this beer for hours.

The taste isn't as sweet as the smell suggests, and opens with a nice tart snap of unripe raspberry skins and cranberries. A lemon tartness with some cherry skins follows with a finish of some faint oak and more unripe raspberries. There's a fantastic dryness to this beer that fills your mouth with every sip without becoming overly sour. It seems like every time I get to try a Cantillon, I leave more and more impressed. This is another fantastic one and I hope to see a lot more of it in the future.

Final Grade: A

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 43

Friday, November 9, 2012

Brouwerij De Molen - Hemel & Aarde

If I had to consider myself a nationality besides American, I would go with Dutch. My paternal grandparents were both born in Holland and emigrated to the states after World War II. It's to them and to Holland that I can attribute my last name, my height, my love for strong cheeses like Gouda (which is actually pronounced "How-duh") and, most likely, my love of beer. In fact, the Dutch have a long history with brewing that has produced some amazing beer, hardly any of which comes in the green bottle that Dutch beer has become so famous for. Damn you, Heineken! Which brings me to my current predicament: Somehow, I have been writing this blog for over two years and have yet to review a Dutch beer. What is wrong with me???

Yesterday was International Stout Day, so I took the opportunity to open a bottle from a Dutch brewery called De Molen. They're located in the town of Bodegraven, which sits about equal distance from Amsterdam and Rotterdam. I've heard some fantastic things about De Molen, but it was only recently that I started seeing their beers around. Hemel & Aarde ("Heaven & Earth" in Dutch) is a 10% Russian Imperial Stout that features an ingredient I had never seen before: peated malt. As it turns out, the process of peating malt involves smoking peat moss and letting the smoke envelop the malt while it is still in the kiln. I'm not the biggest fan of smoked beers, and peated malt is described as being stronger in flavor than Rauch malt (the malt used in German smoke beers). So let's see how this one turns out.

Hemel & Aarde pours a dense black color with an absolutely enormous head that refuses to dissipate. Even after a slow pour, the head welled up, thick and khaki colored, and would not go down. It took about 15 minutes before it even thought about going down. The upside to dealing with this problem was that the head released a huge aroma full of peated malt. I found big notes of burnt bacon grease, cigar ash, espresso and campfire as well. Normally, this isn't the kind of profile I'd be a fan of, but something about all these flavors together really intrigued me.

When the head finally decided to go down, I took a few small sips, expecting a blast of peat and smoke. But as it turns out, these flavors aren't really what this beer is about. Instead of overwhelming anything in its way, as it did in the smell, the peated malt took a backseat to a heavy roasted and charred malt flavor. It had a definite smokiness to it, but the smoke was far from overwhelming. There wasn't a lot of sweetness to be found in the flavor, but I picked out a trace of fudge peeping from behind a wall of dark chocolate covered almonds and burnt coffee grounds. The finish brings the flavor back to the charred/smoky flavor that really is the star of the show in this beer. As I said, normally smoke in beer isn't really my thing, but this one nailed it.

As far as stouts go, this is one of the harshest and hardest to like for beginning stout-drinkers that I've found. It's big, mean and smoky. If you're just starting to explore the world of stouts, look elsewhere for now. But if you've really embraced the world of stouts, remember this one. It's definitely different, definitely good, and definitely Dutch.

Final Grade: B+

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 43

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Evil Twin Brewing - Imperial Biscotti Break

Since it's Halloween, I felt it would be appropriate to talk about about something a little different- phantom breweries. I don't think I've talked about phantom breweries on here before, so here's the rundown. Basically, a phantom brewery is run by a brewer who doesn't own an actual brewery. Instead, they contact breweries that have extra brewing space, and brew their recipes at those breweries. To me, the most famous phantom brewery (or at least the one I see around the most) is Mikkeller, run by Danish brewer Mikkel Borg Bjergsø. What I didn't realize is that Bjergsø has a brother, Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, who runs his own phantom brewery, Evil Twin. I had noticed some of Evil Twin's beers on shelves for a while, but I didn't really think much of them until I noticed that one of their beers, Imperial Biscotti Break, had quietly snuck into the Top 100. This beer is a double stout that was brewed at a brewery in South Carolina using coffee beans from Charleston Coffee Roasters. At #66- Imperial Biscotti Break.

Imperial Biscotti Break pours a viscous black color the consistency of motor oil. A dark brown head starts off small, and then gradually grows as bubbles of carbonation slowly reach the surface, almost like they're crawling through molasses. The smell started faint, getting stronger as the beer warmed. I picked up some heavy roasted malt, chocolate covered raisin, sugar cookie, espresso, molasses, and straight dark chocolate. There was something in the smell that hinted at a bourbon character as well.

The taste opens with a huge mix of roasted malt and molasses with a sticky coffee hard candy undertone. The middle featured flavors of chocolate cake, chocolate covered black cherry and vanilla. The finish brings new flavors of mocha and milk chocolate. The mouthfeel is big, chewy and mouth coating, with just a hint of warmness to it. This is dessert beer at its finest and one of the best stouts I've had.

Final Grade: A

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 42

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Southern Tier Brewing Company - Pumking

There's a lot of debate over who makes the best pumpkin beer. But for whatever reason, the general consensus seems to be that the East Coast makes the best pumpkin beers out there. Three breweries in particular seem to come up a lot when it comes to the top pumpkin beer: Cambridge, Dogfish Head and Southern Tier. Overall, the one that seems to have the most praise is a beer from Southern Tier called Pumking. Reviews of it can be a bit polarizing, varying between "It's way too sweet" and "It tastes exactly like a pumpkin pie," but the general consensus seems to be that it's the best (or at least one of the best) pumpkin beers made today. Of course (repeat after me) Southern Tier doesn't distribute to California. Luckily, I was able to track down a liquor store that was able to order the beer directly from the brewery. After years of trying to track this down, I give you Southern Tier's Pumking.

Pumking pours a slightly hazy burnt orange (dare I say, pumpkin?) color that seems to glow in the glass. A solid one finger bone white head caps the brew. The smell is absolutely out of this world. Enormous aromas of pumpkin pie are immediately evident along with notes of pumpkin, baked brown sugar, molasses, cinnamon, allspice, buttery pie crust, baked yam and toasted marshmallow. This beer is worth it for the smell alone. Wowzers!

Even though the smell was awesome, if this beer tasted the way it smelled, it would probably be a challenge to finish a bomber of it. Luckily, the taste is toned down a bit without losing the best elements of the smell. The taste opens with some cinnamon and a touch of pumpkin flesh, then moves to a big hit of nutmeg. The finish brings notes of toasted malt, more pumpkin and vanilla. Overall, this beer is absolutely fantastic. I can see how some people could be overwhelmed by the sweetness, but I happen to love sweet things and think that Pumking is the best pumpkin beer I've ever had. If Southern Tier distributed to San Diego, I would undoubtedly have a large supply of this in my fridge. If you're lucky enough to be in an area where Southern Tier distributes, you have to give this a try. What a beer!

Final Grade: A

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 40

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Founders Brewing Company - Founders Breakfast Stout

For as long as I've been into craft beer, I've been trying to get my hands on Founders Breakfast Stout. It's a double chocolate coffee oatmeal stout (seriously, what doesn't sound good about that?) that has been getting amazing reviews for a long time now. I knew I had to try this beer, but the issue was how I was going to go about that. I tried the trade route, getting as far as having a trade in place for one before things fell through. Discouraged, I tried the online route, but all the shops I looked at never seemed to have any Breakfast Stout in stock. Recently, I was finally able to find a shop from Minnesota that had it in stock. So after a long, long wait, here's #26 on the Top 100- Founders Breakfast Stout.

Founders Breakfast Stout pours a motor oil black color with a near identical consistency. Despite a pretty vigorous pour, the beer yielded only a tiny light brown head before it quickly settled down into the black. I tried this beer pretty much straight out of the fridge, and was really surprised by the lack of coffee in the smell. In fact, the smell was downright weak. But then, I gave it about 20 minutes to warm up and it made a huge difference. All of a sudden, huge notes of dark roasted coffee, burnt wood, black licorice, and some faint cooked oat aromas came flying out of the glass. This was more like it! The coffee smell is probably only matched by another beer from Founders, Kentucky Breakfast Stout.

The taste opens with a nice and velvety smoothness with some soft notes of roasted malt and oats. Then the beer sucker punches you with a huge hit of rich dark roasted coffee, burnt coffee grounds, unsweetened baking chocolate and a touch of cola nut. The finish leaves a lingering acrid coffee and roasted malt bitterness that's pretty intense and pretty incredible. My one knock on this beer is that it feels a bit thin, but the oats do their best to keep the feel from getting way too thin. Overall, this is a pretty incredible beer, and one that's even better once it warms up. There have been rumors that Founders may start distributing to San Diego in the near future. I can only hope those rumors are true, because I would love to be able to drink this stuff on a regular basis.

Final Grade: A

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 40

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Boston Beer Company - Verloren

Say what you want about Sam Adams, but they try a lot of cool styles. When I was in Boston earlier this year, I got to try Sam Adams' 26.2, a gose style beer brewed specially for the Boston Marathon. While this beer was exclusive to Boston, it must have elicited a pretty positive response because they recently brewed another gose, Verloren, which did get national distribution. Never heard of a gose? Neither had I until about a year ago. Basically, a gose is a light unfiltered wheat beer, with a lot of similarities to a wit beer. The major difference is that the gose style uses salt in the brewing process, giving a very different quality to the brew. I've tried a few goses now and am slowly falling in love with the style. Let's see how this one turned out.

Verloren pours a hazy copper color with a thin but insanely creamy tan head that lasts forever. The smell was largely wet hay and coriander with some noticeable orange rind in the background. I also got some faint wheat smells and a touch of salt. I'm far from being a gose expert, but this one smelled pretty on the mark.

The taste is largely grainy and toasty with a good amount of coriander and a touch of some indistinct spices. Biscuity malt undertones carried the flavor until they subsided in a thick and bready finish. To me, even at 6%, this beer felt way too heavy. A gose is supposed to be light, crisp and drinkable, but this one just didn't have it. A bit of a chewy mouthfeel caused the lighter flavors (and any hint of salt) to get completely washed out. What was left behind wasn't bad, but it was a shadow of what a good gose can be.

Final Grade: C

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 39

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Uinta Brewing Company - Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin Ale

Well, we've reached the month of October and you know what that means...pumpkin beers! Last year, I tried nearly all of the pumpkin beer that I could get my hands on, but there were a few I left behind. One that I really regretted not trying when the season was over was a beer from Uinta called Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin Ale. This beer is part of Uinta's Crooked Line series of beers and is a beefed up pumpkin ale (clocking in at a whopping 10.31%) that has been aged in oak barrels for 6 months. I was pretty curious how the oak barrel treatment would work with a pumpkin ale, so I grabbed this one as soon as I saw it this year.

Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin Ale pours a dark mahogany color with some ruby tinges. A strong pour yielded a thin, cream colored head that left some subtle spots of lace down the glass. The smell was definitely full of pumpkin, but it had a rich sweetness to it, almost like the pumpkin had been soaked in molasses. Under all of the sweet pumpkin smells, I found some brown sugar, yams, nutmeg and a hint of oak chips. All in all, a pretty intriguing smell.

The taste opened on a pretty substantial oaky note with some pumpkin flavor mixed in. I wouldn't call the oak flavor completely overwhelming, but it didn't really allow the pumpkin flavors the freedom to wander over the palate. There were also some hints of cinnamon and baking spices thrown in with a touch of caramel malt. The mouthfeel was smooth without being syrupy and the high alcohol was concealed pretty well. Overall, this is a nice fall beer, but I definitely left wishing there was a bit more pumpkin flavor to it.

Final Grade: B+

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 40

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Cascade Brewing - Sang Noir

It's been a while since I ticked another Top 100 Beer off the list, so I figured it was time to delve into the cellar and pull one out. The beer I chose is a beer that I picked up a few months ago- Sang Noir.

If you live outside of Oregon, you probably have never heard of Cascade Brewing, yet alone tried any of their beers. That said, among sour beer fans, Cascade beers are some of the most coveted in the country. I'm a huge fan of sour beers, but coming across any of Cascade's beers proved pretty difficult for me for a while. Finally, I got an email from Bottlecraft saying that they had just received a shipment of Cascade. I hurried down the next day and was lucky enough to scoop up a bottle of the highly coveted Sang Noir.

To say the brewing process of Sang Noir is extensive is a bit of an understatement. Simply throwing a beer in bourbon barrels and then bottling it isn't enough for them. Sang Noir, for example, is "a blend of red and double red beers that were aged in bourbon and Pinot Noir barrels for 12- 24 months then blended with barrel aged Bing and Sour Pie cherries." Off the top of my head, I can't think of any other brewery that throws their beer through a process like that. Let's review this puppy. At number 69 on the Top 100 List: Sang Noir.

Sang Noir pours a deep chestnut color with some ruby tinges when held to light. The head, a dense and foamy mass of khaki colored bubbles, forms quickly and takes a while to settle, leaving thick streaks of lacing down the glass. The smell was absolutely amazing. A touch of bourbon upfront quickly gave way to huge aromas of ripe red cherries, caramel and vanilla. Some pinot noir barrel was apparent in the background. I could have spent hours just smelling this beer, but it smelled way too good to not taste right away.

The taste opens with a nice lactic sourness, full of sour cherries, cherry skin and pit and vanilla. A touch of bourbon came through in the middle before a long and ever changing finish. On the finish, I picked up pinot noir barrel, red delicious apple and some nice tannins. I'm not sure what to compare this beer to, but it's awesome. The closest beer out there that I've tried might be Supplication, but this just may be better. This is a first class sour and one of the better beers I've ever tried.

Final Grade: A+

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 40

Friday, September 28, 2012

Anchorage Brewing Company - Bitter Monk

When most people think of Alaskan beer, they think of the beers from Juneau's Alaskan Brewing Company. While there's nothing wrong with Alaskan, I would argue that there are much better beers being made right now about 800 miles away in Anchorage. It's there that you'll find Midnight Sun and Anchorage Brewing Company. The latter is the spawn of one of Midnight Sun's former brewmasters, Gabe Fletcher. Anchorage Brewing Company may be young, but in their short existence, they've churned out some absolutely incredible beer. I was able to find their Double IPA, Bitter Monk on a recent trip to Bottlecraft.

Just like all of their other beers, Bitter Monk is barrel aged with Brettanomyces. The process to make this beer is pretty extensive. First, the beer is fermented with a Belgian yeast strain, then fermented again in French Chardonnay barrels and then fermented again in the bottle. During the aging process, it's dry hopped with my favorite hop variety, Citra. I've never really had an oak aged IPA that I liked, to the point that I've made a point not to buy them, but because of my positive experience with Anchorage in the past, I decided to give this one a try anyways.

Bitter Monk pours a hazy apricot color with a huge and fluffy white head. The color of this beer was absolutely awesome and the head left loads of lacing down the glass. I picked up a huge citrus hop aroma as soon as I poured this one, with notes of vanilla, lemon and grapefruit as I leaned in closer for a smell. Deeper down, I picked up some Nilla Wafer, just a touch of Brett and a bit of oak.

I'm a huge fan of Citra hops, so I was pretty happy that the first thing I picked up when I took my first sip of this was a huge blast of Citra-y goodness. Along with the Citra were big notes of mango, white grape and pink grapefruit. The middle sweetened up with some honey and caramel malt before a finish of peppery and earthy hops. The finish brought just a bit of oak and a bit of Chardonnay-like dryness. Off the top of my head, it's hard to come up with a beer with a more complex taste than this one has.

You can really taste everything that went into this beer and, despite everything fighting for attention in here, it all works really, really well. The aspect of this I was most worried about was the oak, as most of the oak aged IPAs I've had were completely dominated by the oak. This one used the oak brilliantly. It was an afterthought in the taste without being completely forgotten. Another fantastic beer from Anchorage. I'm very excited for whatever they come up with next.

Final Grade: A

Top 100 Beers Tasted:

Monday, September 24, 2012

Browar Staropolski - Zorg

In life, you run into warning signs everyday. You go to pet a friendly looking cat and they rear back and hiss at you? Warning sign! You're about to eat a bowl of cereal when you notice the milk looks chunkier than normal? Warning sign! You're thinking about dating a girl when she mentions that her name is Lindsay Lohan? Warning sign! So what do warning signs have to do with beer? I'm going to let a recent experience I had at a liquor store answer that question.

A few weeks ago, I stopped by a local liquor store to see what new beers they had in stock. Right away, a huge plastic bottle with a flip top cap near the beer shelves caught my eye. At first I thought it was some kind of drink mix, but as I got closer, I made out the word "Lager" on the bottle. I picked it up and gave it a look over. The name on the plastic label said "Zorg," which immediately made me think of Buzz Lightyear's nemesis from "Toy Story." (Author's note: I now realize the name was "Zurg" and not "Zorg." My bad. Sorry, Buzz.) I turned the bottle around and noticed that the beer was Polish and clocked in at a whopping 8%. I know 8% may not seem crazy high, but it is when you consider that there are 51 ounces of 8% lager in a Zorg bottle. At the $3.99 the liquor store was charging, that works out to less than $0.08 per ounce! To give you some idea how cheap that is, Ballast Point's Sculpin runs around $0.36 per ounce and Westvleteren 12 ran me about $3.33 per ounce. I don't know what possessed me, but I had to have this beer.

Alright, let's run this one back. How many warning signs did I miss here?

1: Plastic bottle, flip top cap- This is almost worth double points. A plastic bottle alone should tell you "stay away." Try to class that up with a flip top cap, and you've basically created the mullet of beer bottles. Warning sign!

2: You mistake the bottle for something other than beer- If you think a bottle of lambic is a wine bottle, that's definitely acceptable. If you think a bottle of lager is a drink mix? Warning sign.

3. You find yourself saying "No way can it be that cheap!"- It is that cheap and it's for a reason. Back away slowly. This beer in particular was imported from Poland but was somehow cheaper than water. Warning sign!

4. The beer comes in a 51 oz. bottle- Ummmm, I really don't think I need to say anything more about this one. Warning sign!

Alright, I think that's enough. Needless to say, I got what I deserved on this one. Let's move on to the beer itself.

Zorg pours a milky brownish green color with all the visible carbonation of tap water. When swirled around a bit, there was a lot of visible muck circling the glass. It looked like a stool sample from the Creature from the Black Lagoon. This was going to be bad. Epically bad.

I wish there was a way I could accurately put how bad this concoction smelled into words. The truth is that no words can do Zorg justice, but I'll try my best. This beer smells sweet. Like sickeningly sweet. I picked up an awful mix of honey soaked in stagnant water and a heavy note of malt syrup. Behind all of that sweetness, I picked up some artificial hazelnut and rotten apple flavors. I literally cringed every time I got near this beer to take a sip. Not that I lasted too many sips.

The taste opens with a crippling wave of sweet flavors that are almost mouth-numbing. Massive blows of malt syrup, fermented honey, watered down barley and something I can only describe as honey-soaked sewage beat your palate into submission with every sip. I tried this beer with a few friends and no one could put down more than a few sips of the Zorg. Eventually, we bypassed the traditional sink drainpour and sent the remaining Zorg down the toilet where it belonged. I really, really wish I had heeded the warning signs on this one. There's a new king in Worst Beer Ever Land. All hail the Zorg.

Final Grade: F

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 39

Friday, September 21, 2012

Yuengling Brewery - Yuengling Traditional Lager

Pop Quiz time! What is America's oldest brewery? If you live on the East Coast, you probably already know the answer-Yuengling Brewery. Founded by David Yuengling in 1829 in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, Yuengling Brewery has been an East Coast favorite for a long, long time. The fact that they've survived as long as they have is a testament to their innovation as they were able to survive Prohibition by producing "near beer" and even opened a dairy farm to help stay afloat. Since Prohibition, Yuengling has maintained a steadily growing loyal following and has been expanding production to meet the high demand for their beer. Despite the growth in production, Yuengling remains a strictly East Coast beer.

When my girlfriend and I went to Boston and New York this spring, I had a short list of beers I absolutely had to try. Yuengling was one of the beers on the list, and the one that I knew I'd be able to find the easiest. I figured I'd be able to get one at the airport bar as soon as we landed and check one beer off the list right away. Only the airport bar didn't serve Yuengling, and neither did any other bar we visited in Boston. We hit New York a few days later and I was sure I'd find it there, only to be let down again as none of the bars we hit in New York were serving Yuengling either. What the hell was going on??? I returned from the trip pleased with all the beers I had tried, but a little bummed that I still hadn't gotten that elusive Yuengling. My discouragement reached epic proportions a week later when my girlfriend, on a trip to Washington D.C., texted me a picture of the Yuengling she was enjoying at a restaurant. She had beaten me to it! Damn! My hope to ever try a Yuengling was fading until one day at work, when my friend Dan told me that he was going to be getting some from the East Coast and he'd bring me a bottle.

Yuengling Traditional Lager pours a clear amber color with a 1/2 finger cream colored head. Most lagers out there don't have fantastic retention, but this one seemed to hold pretty well. The smell was a mix of faint grassy hops, lemon, lime, a hint of green apple, some bready malt and just a touch of skunk. Definitely not bad.

The taste opened with a mix of mild grassy and citrus hops with slight touch of skunk. The finish brought some smooth bready malt notes with a touch of sweetness. The taste is nothing mindblowing, but it's noticeably better than most of the other lagers on the market. The mouthfeel was very crisp, making this beer incredibly drinkable. I can definitely see putting quite a few of these down on a hot day. I'm really glad to have finally gotten the chance to try this one. A huge thanks to Dan.

Final Grade: B

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 39

Friday, September 14, 2012

New Belgium Brewing - Lips of Faith-Peach Porch Lounger

New Belgium has been doing the Lips of Faith series for a few years now and some pretty amazing beers have come out of it. La Folie and Le Terroir are two of the best sours I've ever had and a few of the other beers in the series (especially Fresh Hop India Pale Ale) knocked it out of the park. There have, however, also been some misses along the way. Tart Lychee was a bit of a letdown as were Super Cru and Clutch. So it's always hard to tell if the next Lips of Faith is going to be amazing or a bit of a letdown. But the ideas New Belgium comes up with for the Lips of Faith beers are so original that I always have a hard time passing them up. The newest Lips of Faith beer, Peach Porch Lounger, just hit stores recently, so I decided to give it a shot.

Peach Porch Lounger is a collaboration with musician G.Love that features a pretty interesting list of ingredients. Listed as a saison, this beer features peach juice, molasses, hominy grits, lemon peel and Brettanomyces. Not a bad lineup at all. Now let's see how it works.

Peach Porch Lounger pours a glowing orange color with a one-finger foamy white head. The head showed pretty nice retention and left patchy rings of lace down the glass. I'm a pretty big fan of everything peach, so I really dug the smell, which was mostly an intriguing blend of earthy Belgian yeast and peach puree. I also picked up some faint traces of vanilla bean, lemon peel and banana bread. I really couldn't wait to try this beer.

...and then came the letdown. Expecting loads of ripe peach flavor, I was instead met with dense waves of Belgian yeast and an off putting metallic flavor. Clove, lemon seed and peach pit make a bit of an appearance towards the end, but they're held down by a mouthfeel better suited to a barleywine. The truth is, this just seems like too big of a beer for the ingredients. A peach saison sounds delicious, but when the alcohol is bumped up to ungodly heights (9.4% for a saison???) it creates a strange franken-brew that's borderline undrinkable. It's a shame, but I will have to file this one in the "miss" box. I'm still looking forward to the next Lips of Faith beer, though.

Final Grade: C-

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 39

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Brasseri Dieu Du Ciel - Aphrodite

Recently, I realized that my trips to bottleshops were taking way too long. What should have been a quick 10-15 minute perusal of a shop's offerings nearly always turned into a 30 minute+ studying of every label (often checking the scores of multiple beers on on my phone as well). So to limit my time, I came up with a classification system for breweries.

Category 1: Breweries That Can't Miss- These select few breweries are breweries that I've yet to be disappointed by. I'm a fan of 99% of the offerings I've tried. If I see a new beer in the shop from one of these breweries, chances are I'm walking out the door with that bottle. This category would include breweries like Deschutes, Alpine, Alesmith and of course Cantillon.

Category 2: Breweries That Can Miss, But Usually Don't- If I don't see a new Category 1 beer on the shelves, I'm looking for something from this group of breweries. They consistently put out decent beers, make a few outstanding ones, and put out the occasional stinker. For me, this category would include Ballast Point, Bear Republic, Stone (especially their collaborations) and Sierra Nevada.

Category 3: Breweries That Usually Miss, But Occasionally Hit The Mark- In general, I'm avoiding beer from these breweries. I've tried a few of their beers and wasn't really a fan. However, they have surprised me with at least one "Wow" beer in the past, so I'm at least checking out the label if I see a new beer from them. This category would include Firestone Walker (their barrel aged beers are fantastic, but their year round beers just aren't my thing), Rogue, Mikkeller and BrewDog.

Category 4: Breweries That Are Never Close- Staying away. Staying far, far away. Breweries include Budweiser, Miller, Coors and Pizza Beer Company.

Category 5: New To Me- These are breweries I've never seen before. To me, these beers are always worth a look and often worth a try.

It's not easy to consistently put out amazing beer, so there are very few breweries that I would consider Category 1 breweries. One brewery that, for me at least, is a no-doubter is Dieu Du Ciel.

As I've mentioned in my previous Dieu Du Ciel posts, this Quebec-based brewery puts out some amazing beers, but they are not always easy to find. I've been on a mission to try every beer that they distribute this way for a while now and there was one beer that always seemed to elude me: Aphrodite (AKA: Aphrodisiaque). Péché Mortel may be the beer that Dieu Du Ciel is best known for, but Aphrodite never seems to be far behind in the conversation. It's a stout brewed with cocoa and vanilla beans, and one that I absolutely had to try. After striking out at multiple places that carry Dieu Du Ciel's other offerings, I finally found a bottle at Bottlecraft. The hunt was over!

Aphrodite pours a thick looking black color with a thin brown head that disappears relatively quickly. For a beer that's only 6.5% ABV, I was really surprised by how dense it looked. The smell was pure dessert, with huge notes of vanilla and milk chocolate. Some subtle hints of roasted malt and anise lurked in the background.

After the massive amounts of sweetness in the smell, I was pretty surprised by all of the darker flavors in here. The first thing I picked up was a lot of roasted malt intertwined with notes of vanilla, the roast clearing having the upper hand. Later, I picked up chocolate, but it's a much darker chocolate than the smell would suggest. The finish brought some notes of charred wood and even a touch of rye. The mouthfeel was noticeably lighter than a beer like Péché Mortel, but I really didn't feel like that hurt this beer at all. Aphrodite has more than enough flavor to make up for a lighter mouthfeel. A very interesting brew and, again, another fantastic Dieu Du Ciel beer. For me, they are definitely worthy of Category 1 status.

Final Grade: A-

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 39

Monday, September 10, 2012

Hess Brewing Company - Torulus (Blended)

Never heard of Hess Brewing Company? Don't worry, you're not alone- you probably just don't live in San Diego. Opened 2 years ago in a space smaller than many one bedroom apartments, Hess Brewing Company is San Diego's first nano-brewery. To give you an idea of how small Hess is, think about this: Ballast Point (one of the largest breweries in San Diego, but still a microbrewery) just added two 200 barrel tanks to their production facility (each barrel is just over 30 gallons). Hess makes all of their beer on a 1.6 barrel system.

Here's something else you should know about Hess: Their beer is really, really good. From the robust Brunus Induresco (a porter that they "dry-bean" with whole coffee beans, creating the most coffee flavor I think I've ever tasted in a beer), to Amplus Acerba (a "San Diego Pale Ale" that is an absolute toad at over 11% ABV while remaining drinkable) to Venator (their fantastic new Imperial Red Ale), Hess' lineup is one of the best in San Diego. While all of the beers I just mentioned are really, really tasty, my favorite has to be Ex Umbris, a Rye Imperial Stout that's sex in a glass (or growler). It's that good. Recently Hess decided to give Ex Umbris the bourbon barrel treatment. After the aging was done, they blended a portion of the contents to make 600 bottles of Torulus (Blended). The rest of the beer was left to age a bit longer and was turned into 48 bottles of Torulus (Straight). I was able to nab a bottle of each and just tried the blended version.

Similar to Ex Umbris, Torulus is intimidating just to look at. It pours an oily black color with a thin, foamy tan head that barely conceals the beast beneath. The aroma is full of roasted malt with a lot of dark chocolate and molasses. I've smelled toasted coconut in a lot of the barrel aged beers I've tried recently and this beer was no different, hiding just a touch of coconut and bourbon behind all the roasted malt.

After tons of roast and bitterness in the smell, the last thing I expected was sweetness in the flavor, but the first thing I tasted was milk chocolate. However, order was soon restored as huge waves of roasted malt, rye, powdery dark chocolate and char came marching across the palate, annihilating any sweetness. The bourbon is noticeably restrained, but adds a nice dimension on the finish. This may not be as bourbon-y as some might be used to, but this beer has tremendous depth without resorting to using the bourbon to supply all of the flavor.

As far as trying this beer, your chances probably aren't good. But all is not lost. As far as I know, this release was a success so I can only imagine that they will be barrel aging Ex Umbris again soon. Hess is also planning on moving into a new facility in North Park in the very near future and they've purchased a canning line- hopefully a sign that they're going to start producing more beer in the very near future.  So if you still haven't heard of Hess, fear not. You will soon.

Final Grade: A

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 39

Thursday, September 6, 2012

High Water Brewing - Campfire Stout

I tend to go into bottleshops a lot. I don't always come away with something fantastic, but there's always that chance that the day you go in will be the day that they get something amazing in. However, a lot of times, that amazing beer you're hoping for isn't there. So what then? I always find myself asking the same question: "Well, what else haven't I tried?"

A few weeks ago, I was perusing the shelves of Texas Wine and Spirits in Carlsbad after striking out on finding anything mindboggling when I noticed a brewery that I had passed over probably a hundred times- High Water. Maybe their sort of ho-hum labels have been scaring me off, or maybe it's their use of unappealing names ("Pom Cherry Bomb" sounds more like a Mike's Hard Lemonade flavor than a good beer), but I've been passing over High Water's beers for quite a while. Maybe it was finally time to try one. I grabbed a bottle called Campfire Stout, which I figured would be some kind of smoked stout, and read the label. I wasn't particularly intrigued until I read: "Notes of chocolate and graham cracker topped with a hint of marshmallow will leave you wanting s'more." It took a minute for me to process what I had just read. S'mores? Beer? Together? Hell yes! How had I gone so long without this beer in my life?

Campfire Stout pours a slightly thin looking black color with about a half-finger of khaki colored head. The smell was absolutely amazing. Campfire Stout completely nails the s'mores smell with tons of dark chocolate and graham cracker upfront with some nice, subtle hints of marshmallow and milk chocolate lingering in the background.

The taste opens with some light roasted malt flavor followed by dark chocolate and some vanilla. The finish brings some notes of graham cracker, char and marshmallow. The mouthfeel is noticeably thin and I feel like it hurts this beer a bit. If this was bumped up to maybe 10% instead of the 7.3% it currently sits at, the thicker mouthfeel would probably bring out a bit more sweetness. Overall though, I think I have to call this beer a success. I was a little skeptical that this idea could be pulled off, but High Water has done a pretty nice job with this. If you're looking for something on the original side, this is definitely worth a look.

Final Grade: B

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 39

Monday, August 27, 2012

Stone Brewing Company - Stone 16th Anniversary IPA

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to make it to Stone's Anniversary Party this year. Due to prior commitments, I had to forgo the festivities, which bummed me out because the 15th Anniversary Celebration was a really good time. However, missing the party didn't stop me from trying Stone's newest anniversary beer. For this round, Stone decided to brew a double IPA with the addition of rye malt, Calypso and Amarillo hops and lemon verbena. If "lemon verbena" and "Stone" sound familiar together, it's because Stone also used lemon verbena in a collaboration brew with The Bruery and Elysian that was released late last year. That wasn't an IPA though, so I was a little curious how lemon verbena would work in an IPA.

Stone 16th Anniversary IPA pours a dark, amber color. It was definitely a lot darker than I'm used to in an IPA. A huge foamy tan head formed immediately and eventually settles to a nice half-finger cap. The smell was a pretty interesting blend of ingredients. I picked up a good amount of citrus hops and tropical fruit notes along with a fragrant blast of lemon hand soap. Some green hop oils lingered in the background.

The taste opens with a lot of citrus hop oils mixed with orange zest. Some lemon and woody notes peek out for a bit before a slightly bitter finish with some toasty malt. The higher alcohol definitely shows as the mouthfeel is a bit oily, not really letting the lemon or rye out very much. In my opinion, this would be a lot more interesting if it was kicked down to a single IPA at about 6-7% ABV instead of the 10% it currently stands at. The ingredients have potential, but don't really seem to be able to get past the high ABV. This is an interesting new take on the style and very worth trying, but has absolutely nothing on Stone's 15th Anniversary.

Final Grade: B-

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 39

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Alpine Beer Company - Toronado 25th Anniversary Ale

I'll be completely honest- this post was not supposed to be about Alpine and New Belgium's new collaboration: Super IPA. But sometimes, things come along that are just too important to wait. In this case, it's the arrival of what very well may be the best IPA I've ever had.

Alpine Beer Company is far from being new to brewing good IPAs. With beers like Nelson, Bad Boy and Pure Hoppiness, Alpine's resume is as good (if not better) as anyone in the industry. Never afraid to expand their IPA resume, Alpine brewed yet another IPA to celebrate Toronados' (the one in San Francisco) 25th anniversary. They brewed this beer as a double version of one of their most popular IPAs- Nelson. Double Nelson??? Yes, please! Luckily for me, the San Diego Toronados was able to get a keg of it and I tried it yesterday.

Toronado 25th Anniversary Ale pours a glowing apricot color with a thin tan head. The smell was absolutely incredible. A huge, fragrant mix of mango, grapefruit, marijuana, mint and hop resin practically billowed from the glass. I don't know if I've ever come across a beer that smelled this fantastic.

I didn't think it could be done, but somehow Alpine got this beer to taste as good as it smells. It's an absolute atomic bomb of citrus hops that somehow retains enough of a malt backbone to keep it in check. Hints of tropical fruit, rye and resin pop out all over the place in this one, giving it incredible depth. For a long time, I didn't think anything out there could unseat the Plinys atop the IPA throne, but this absolutely blows them out of the water. It's not even close. This beer likely won't be around for long, so do not pass it up if you're lucky enough to find it. It easily may be the best beer you've ever had. Bravo, Alpine!

Final Grade: A+

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 39

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Brouwerij Drie Fonteinen - Oude Kriek

Alright, I think it's time we got back to some good beer. Enough with Anheuser Busch's strange, fruit beer-like abominations. Let's take a moment to check out a beer from a place where the best fruit beer in the world comes from- Belgium. If you ask a group of beer geeks which brewery makes the best fruit beers, it's likely that they won't be able to agree on an answer. However, it's also likely that you'll hear the breweries Cantillon and Drie Fonteinen come up a lot in the conversation. The brewers at Cantillon and Drie Fonteinen are remarkably good at lambics, geuzes, and fruit beers and when their beers do end up on shelves around here, they tend to go very quickly. Luckily, there have been a good number of Drie Fonteinen beers hitting shelves in San Diego recently and I was able to pick up a beer I've been wanting to try for a while- Oude Kriek.

Oude Kriek is a fruit lambic brewed with cherries. According to, the brewers allow whole cherries to ripen in young lambic for between 6 and 8 months. Then the beer is left to spontaneously ferment for another 4 months before it is ready to drink. Drie Fonteinen makes another version of Oude Kriek that only uses a type of cherry called Schaerbeekse, which is wild growing in Belgium and widely regarded as the perfect cherry to use in lambics. That bottle tends to be a bit more expensive, so I'm waiting for a special occasion to open that one up.

Oude Kriek pours a deep ruby color that really reminded me of pinot noir. The head was pretty much nonexistent, but that didn't really bother me because I couldn't get over how beautiful the color of this beer was. The smell is a rich blend of sour cherries and oak, with some sweet raspberry jam notes emerging as the beer warms. I definitely got a bit of a vinous character as well.

The taste opens with a nice snap of sour cherries and lactic tartness. A touch of unripe raspberry makes an appearance in the middle before a rich, jammy sweetness takes over. The finish dries out a bit and leaves hints of lemon and some tannins. If you're looking for a great fruit beer (or for a beer that will convert your wine-loving friends from the dark side), you really need look no further than Oude Kriek. I'm really looking forward to trying more from Drie Fonteinen soon.

Final Grade: A

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 38