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

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Anheuser-Busch Inc. - Bud Light Lime-A-Rita

When I first saw a commercial for the new Bud Light Lime-A-Rita, I immediately thought two things:

1- Why is this being introduced at the end of summer? Wouldn't it have made a little more sense for this to come out right around Cinco de Mayo?

2-  Could this finally be the beer that tops Wild Blue as the worst beer I've ever tasted?

From the way the commercial looked, Lime-A-Rita definitely had a shot at Wild Blue. Frankly, the commercial scared the crap out of me. But I couldn't let something this terrible looking pass me by, so I picked up the first can I found.

Bud Light Lime-A-Rita pours a murky margarita mix color with a tiny head that fizzles out and disappears like soda. The smell is all margarita mix with lots of artificial lime, salt and even tequila thrown in. I tried for a while but couldn't pick up any hint of beer.

If you've ever had one of those Jose Cuervo pre-mixed margaritas you can buy in the grocery store, then you pretty much have no reason to try Bud Light Lime-A-Rita. They're pretty much identical. The taste is all fake lime, salt and tequila with a syrupy sweetness that wears on the palate the more you drink. If there is in fact beer anywhere in this beverage, it might be hiding in a syrupy finish that briefly shows a touch of malt before regressing to the aforementioned artificial lime flavor. If you're looking for a margarita in a can, this may be the direction you want to go. However, if you're looking for something that tastes, even remotely, like beer, look elsewhere. This wasn't worse than Wild Blue, but it's not exactly something I'll be rushing out to try again.

Final Grade: D-

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 39

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Moylan's Brewery - Hopsickle Imperial India Pale Ale

Did you know that today (August 2nd) is National IPA Day? If you didn't you still have a few more hours to celebrate. Get on it! To celebrate, I decided to try something from a brewery that I've overlooked for a long time. I'm talking about a brewery from Northern California called Moylan's and a Double IPA they make called Hopsickle. Moylan's describes this as a Triple IPA using Tomahawk, Chinook and Anthanum hops. Let's check it out!

Hopsickle pours a slightly hazy copper color with a rich tan head that shows good retention and leaves some sticky lacing down the glass. The smell is loads of hops upfront with a big caramel malt presence in the background. As the beer warms, the malt begins to take over a bit more with a bit of onion coming in.

The taste opens with some big peppery hops, followed by loads of caramel malt. The malt stays strong throughout, never allowing the hops to get too strong. On the finish, the hops are finally released and come through with a big bite of pine resin. Overall, this was a solid Double IPA and a great way to celebrate IPA day. Cheers!

Final Grade: B+

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 39