Friday, June 29, 2012

Stone Brewing Co. - Ruination Tenth Anniversary IPA

When I was first getting into craft beer a few years ago, my friend, Kenny, introduced me to Ruination IPA. I had tried a very small number of IPAs (and no Double IPAs) before Ruination and had convinced myself that I would never like the style because it was "too bitter." Somehow, Kenny talked me into trying Ruination anyways, and I'm very glad he did. I absolutely loved Ruination and it became a total gateway beer for me. I haven't been able to get enough hops since then.

As it turns out, Ruination turned 10 years old this month. In a way, beer lovers owe a lot to this beer as it was one of the first Double IPAs to be bottled and sold commercially. To mark the anniversary, Stone decided to brew a special batch of Ruination, doubling the hop load and bumping the ABV up from 7.7% to 10.8%. This sounded way too intriguing to pass up, so I got a bottle and tried it last week.

Ruination Tenth Anniversary pours a clear, deep golden color with a fluffy one finger tan head. The appearance coming out of the bottle was a bit syrupy, so I could already tell that this was going to be a big beer. If the appearance didn't give that away, the smell definitely did. As soon as I started pouring the beer, I could smell waves and waves of pine and grapefruit hop aromas. Tons of sticky hop resin was evident as well.

As expected, the taste is big. Really big. I got tons of aggressive piney hop notes with a good amount of grapefruit pith and loads of resin. There's a touch of mango and pineapple on the periphery of this one, but the star of the show here is definitely the hops. The finish brings a touch of bready malt, followed by a ton of (you guessed it) hop resin. The mouthfeel is noticeably heavier than the standard version, but this beer actually hides the high alcohol really well. If you're not a big fan of hops, stay far away from this one. But if you love hops as much as I do, I think you'll find that this is a pretty fantastic beer and a fitting tribute to one of Stone's finest beer.

Final Grade: A

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 38

Monday, June 25, 2012

Chili Beer Co. - Original C Cave Creek Chili Beer

As you well know if you've read this blog before, I'm a big fan of and their Top 100 List. To date, I've tried 38 of the Top 100 and I've obtained a few more that I should be tasting in the very near future. In addition to BeerAdvocate's Top 100 Beers List, they have a number of other lists, including Top 100 Beers of Fame (beers with over 1,000 reviews on the site), Top 100 New Beers (beers that have only been on the site for less than 6 months), and the ever popular Bottom of the List. The 100 "Bottom of the List" beers are the beers with the worst average reviews on the site. In case you're wondering, Corona Light is the worst reviewed beer on with an average rating of 1.83 out of 5. While I kind of want to tackle the 100 "Bottom of the List" beers, I really don't think my body can take that much malt liquor, so I'm going to stay away and only go for the ones that are consistently mentioned in the "Worst Beers You've Ever Had" forums. One that seems to always come up is Chili Beer Company's Original C Cave Creek Chili Beer.

According to the brewery's website (which, coincidentally, happens to be one of the worst websites I've ever seen. Click here if you dare), Crazy Ed Chilleen starting brewing beer in 1989 in Cave Creek, Arizona. One of Crazy Ed's pet peeves was when people asked for lime in their beer, so anytime this would happen, he would drop a serrano pepper in instead. When, again according to the website, about 2 out of 10 people liked the beer with a chili in it (doesn't seem like a great success rate to me, but whatever), Crazy Ed decided to start bottling it and a monster was born. Apparently, the original brewery shut down so Cave Creek Chili Beer is now made in Tecate. Today, you can find this beer in a variety of places including Total Wine in Redondo Beach, which is where I was able to find a bottle. Because of this puppy's reputation, it spent about 6 months lurking in the back of the fridge while I drank beers that I didn't think had a chance of killing me. Finally, I decided to give it a try.

Original C Cave Creek Chili Beer pours a clear and golden (read: piss) color with a thin off-white head that disappears about as soon as the beer is poured. The smell has a lot of pepper, breadiness and boiled corn. If you were to soak a jalapeno corn cake in water for about a week, I would guess the smell would be pretty similar to Crazy Ed's concoction.

It's interesting that this beer is now made in Tecate because it tastes an awful lot like a beer that shares names with that location, but with a kick. The taste opens very watery with a lot of boiled corn and grain flavor. About midway through the taste, the pepper hits and the heat becomes the only thing you can taste. And the heat you're going to find in Cave Creek Chili Beer isn't the flavorful, complex heat that often complements the other flavors in beers that use chili well. This heat is a dry, abrasive heat that kind of made me feel like I had heartburn in my mouth. Not the greatest experience.

So now the real question remains: Is this the worst beer out there? This is, undoubtedly, one gross experiment that needs to be put out to pasture. But worst beer ever status? Not a chance.  Wild Blue, the title is yours for another day.

Final Grade: D-

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 38

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Deschutes Brewery/Hair of the Dog Brewing Company - Conflux No. 1 (Collage)

Last year, two of my favorite breweries, Deschutes and Hair of the Dog, announced that they were planning a collaboration. While I was pants-crappingly happy when news of the collaboration broke, I have to admit I was a little taken back when they announced what their collaboration beer would be. Rather than getting together and brewing a new beer, Deschutes and Hair of the Dog chose to do a sort of "best of" beer, blending 4 of their beers (2 from each brewery) together and then running the result through an extensive barrel aging program. This idea was definitely original, but the beers being used just didn't seem to make sense together. Those beers are:

1. Hair of the Dog's Adam: A beast of an Old Ale, weighing in at 10%. When I tasted it, I picked up notes of raisins, spices, wood and tobacco.

2. Hair of the Dog's Fred: A big Golden Ale from Hair of the dog, also clocking in at 10%. When I had it, I tasted honey, apricot jam, candied orange and some hop resin.

3. Deschutes' The Dissident: One of Deschutes' highest rated beers (as well as one of the hardest to find), The Dissident is a sour brown ale that is released once every two years. I have a bottle that I'm holding onto and planning on opening in the near future. Other tasters have noted brett, anise, cherries, lemon, vanilla and wood.

4. Deschutes' The Stoic: Another member of Deschutes' Reserve Series, The Stoic was released for the first time last year to rather mixed results. It's a Belgian Style Quadrupel brewed with pomegranates and partially aged in wine and whiskey barrels. I'll be tasting this at a later date as well. Other tasters picked up notes of cherry, banana, clove, pomegranate and wine barrel.

After blending these beers (I don't think they released what the actual percentage of each beer used was, though it would be interesting to find out), the result was aged in rye whiskey, cognac, sherry, pinot noir, bourbon, new American oak and new Oregon oak barrels. You know, standard stuff.

Alright, so just to recap, this beer is a Old/Golden/Sour Brown/Quad aged in every barrel known to man. And this is going to If anyone else was brewing this, I would have stayed far, far away, but with Deschutes and Hair of the Dog behind the wheel, I had faith that this wouldn't be gross. There was really only one way to find out though, so I picked a bottle up at Bottlecraft and gave it a try.

Collage pours a deep chestnut color with some ruby highlights. A thin creamy head coats the beer and leaves sudsy patches on the top. The smell, not surprisingly, has a ton going on. I picked up a ton of dark fruit and whiskey upfront with notes of pomegranate, fig, raisin, apricot brandy, cabernet, bourbon, a good amount of wood and some faint traces of chocolate. Yowza! I don't think I've smelled anything as complex as this in a while.

The taste surprised me with a good amount of tartness throughout, I'm guessing due to The Dissident. I got a huge amount of dark fruit flavors in here as well as some syrupy pomegranate flavors, pinot noir, raisin, a cranberry-like tartness near the finish and some charred wood. As far as picking out the individual beers, I'd say The Dissident and The Stoic were the most evident with Adam definitely making an appearance in there somewhere. Fred is definitely the most tame beer of the bunch and I think it got overwhelmed by the bigger beers in here.

So does this Old/Golden/Sour Brown/Quad beer work? I'd have to say it did. I don't know how, but somehow this crazy concoction was super complex and pretty tasty. It was far from being my favorite beer from either of these breweries, but it was an interesting experiment, nonetheless.

Final Grade: B+

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 38

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Anchor Brewing Company - Anchor Old Foghorn

I used to really not have a thing for barleywines. As in they were, hands down, my least favorite beer style out there (not including pizza beer). If I saw a barleywine on a beer menu, I would skip right over it and order something else. Then I tried Firestone Walker's Abacus (now called Sucaba) and it blew my mind. Since then, I've been giving barleywines another chance and, for the most part, I've found that they're not nearly as awful as I thought. A few days ago, I tried Anchor's Old Foghorn, which, according to their website, was the first modern American barleywine when it hit the market in 1975.

Old Foghorn pours a beautiful burnt orange and ruby color with a 1/2 finger tan head. The head wasn't huge, but the retention was fantastic and the head stuck around for the entire beer. The smell was full of notes of dark fruit and earthy malt. I also picked up some hints of Grape Nuts, raisin, caramel and toffee with a touch of booze lurking in the background.

Dark fruits make up the majority of the flavor with raisin and fig leading the way. Behind the dark fruits were notes of brown sugar, bready malt, honey, chocolate and just a hint of booze. The mouthfeel of the beer was medium, but it had an almost sticky feel to it that really coated the mouth. As a result, even though this isn't one of the bigger barleywines out there (it weighs in at "only" 8.2%), it's definitely a sipper. Overall, I was really impressed by this beer and it's one of the more approachable barleywines I've come across. If this is a style you're looking to get into, I would highly recommend starting with this one.

Final Grade: A-

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 38

Friday, June 15, 2012

Brasserie Cantillon - Classic Gueuze

I don't know that there's a brewery out with quite the reputations that Cantillon has. If you're thing is big stouts or double IPAs, you're looking in the wrong place. Cantillon makes lambics, and maybe the best lambics in the world at that. There's only one problem with Cantillon's beers- They're nearly impossible to find. I've only seen Cantillon beers on two occasions. The last time was about a month ago, when I was able to pick up a bottle of their Classic Gueuze from Texas Liquor. I was waiting for the right occasion to try it and the end of finals (plus the start of the US Open) seemed to be as good a time as any.

Cantillon Classic Gueuze pours a beautiful clear apple juice color with a one finger white head. I noticed a lot of bubbles of carbonation rising from the glass, almost like a sparkling wine. The smell has a ton of that cheesy, barnyard funk that gueuzes tend to have, but this one seems a touch more restrained. Along with the funk, I got a lot of lemon and wood with some faint notes of pear and green apple.

The taste opens with a bit punch of sourness that has an edge of funk to it. That sourness is soon met by some lemon, a faint touch of spice, sour plum and a bit of green apple. The funk carries through the taste and lingers on your tongue forever. The carbonation is tingly and light and works fantastically with the sourness. I really, really love this beer. Now I just have to figure out how to get some more. If you can find anything from Cantillon, I highly recommend getting it. Just be sure to let me know where it is!

Final Grade: A+

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 38

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Rogue Ales - Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale

If you're familiar with the city of Portland, you probably know about their infamous Voodoo Doughnut shop. If you haven't heard of them, I highly recommend checking out their menu here. Voodoo Doughnut has some crazy, crazy doughnuts, but the one that really put them on the map was their Bacon Maple Bar - a glazed maple bar with strips of bacon on the top. I was lucky enough to try one on my last trip to Portland and I can attest to it's tastiness.

Late last year, Rogue announced that they were using Voodoo Doughnut as an inspiration for their newest creation: Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale. At first, I was really excited. Then the news hit that it was being brewed for distribution in Portland only and that there was a 1 case minimum if you wanted to buy it. My friend, Beau, and I briefly debated whether it was worth it to split a case and ultimately decided it was too much money to spend on a beer that we didn't really know much about. What if it was terrible? So I reluctantly passed on what I thought was my one chance to try Bacon Maple Ale and waited for the initial reviews to trickle in. Soon, the reviews began to show up and the news wasn't good. The consensus seemed to be that the beer was a failed experiment. After Beau moved to Portland, he was able to find a bottle and his take, too, was that it was an awful, awful beer. Now I kind of wanted to try it even more, if for no other reason than to see how bad it could be. Eventually, bottles began to trickle into bottleshops down here (and they were easy to spot too. Look at that thing!) Finally, I gave in and brought one home.

Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale pours a clear copper color with a thin, sand-colored head. I really expected this beer to be darker for some reason, but it looked harmless enough so I brought it to my nose and took a sniff. Yikes. The first thing I smelled was syrup soaked pancakes. But not just any syrup soaked pancakes: This smelled exactly like IHOP pancakes (think dense, stomach sticking, camping pancakes) soaked in Log Cabin syrup. This wasn't the smell of high quality maple syrup, but the artificially sweetened stuff that I used to drink like water as a kid whenever my mom would let me near it. Behind the pancake smell were heavy notes of molasses, smoked wood and burnt bacon fat.

After smelling this, I wasn't exactly in a rush to see what it tasted like. Eventually, I went for it and it was (not surprisingly) gross. The pancake flavor hits first, but instead of the maple syrup soaked pancakes I got in the smell, this was more like pancakes soaked in alcohol. Big waves of charred malt follow along with some liquid smoke and maybe just a touch of glazed doughnut sweetness. The finish brings a lot more smoke and leaves a bit of a peaty dryness on the tongue. The mouthfeel felt way light for all the heavy flavors this beer presents and made this thing an absolute beast to finish. I think that the flavors in this beer are far more suited to a stout or porter than whatever the base beer in this is. Overall, this (somehow) isn't the worst beer I've had, but it's very, very far up there. Avoid. Avoid. Avoid.

Final Grade: D-

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 38

Friday, June 1, 2012

Brouwerij Bockor N.V. - Cuvee Des Jacobins Rouge

If you've never tried a Flanders Red before, it's really a style you should try. Because it's a style that takes so long to make, it's not one that a lot of brewers are willing to try. Many breweries simply don't have the brewing capacity to let one beer sit in their tanks for over a year's time. But in Belgium, the country where the style originated, there are a few breweries who have been crafting insanely good Flanders Reds for years. Rodenbach is probably the most famous of the Flanders Reds coming out of Belgium today and is a really great representation of the style. But I think I've found another that you should get familiar with if you're a fan of the style.

Cuvee de Jacobins Rouge was first recommended to me by my friend, Kenny, who has been brewing his own Flanders Red for over a year now. While his own beer has been going, he's been trying a lot of other versions and even using the yeast from some of the better ones he's come across in his own brew. So when he told me that Cuvee de Jacobins Rouge was one of the better ones he had tried, I went looking for it right away.

Cuvee de Jacobins Rouge pours a deep reddish amber color with a thin light brown head. The smell was huge and absolutely incredible. I picked up a ton of dark cherries along with notes of raspberry, red currant, vanilla, oak and some Nilla wafer. As the beer warmed, I started to pick up more of the wood from the barrels it was aged in.

The taste is very similar to the smell and that's a very, very good thing. It opens with a big punch in the mouth of sourness with a lactic twang. Sour cherries upfront meet notes of currants and lemon with some notes of vanilla coming in on the finish. The carbonation is light and prickly and really enhances all of the flavors in the beer. If you're a fan of Flanders Reds, sours or just good beer in general, this is a beer you need to try.

Final Grade: A

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 39