Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Epic Brewing Co. - Big Bad Baptist

While the beer laws in Utah may suck, it would be tough to say the same for the beer coming out of the state. Or the names of some of the beer coming out of the state, for that matter. One of these beers is Epic Brewing Company's Big Bad Baptist. I'd been looking for this beer for a while and found some on a recent trip to Total Wine up in LA.

Big Bad Baptist is a stout brewed with cocoa nibs and whole coffee beans and aged in whiskey barrels. Clocking in at nearly 12%, this beer is pretty much the opposite of what I think of when I think of Utah beer. It's also the only beer from Utah that's currently in the Top 250. So let the hunt for the Top 250 begin! At #233- Big Bad Baptist.

Big Bad Baptist pours a rich black color with a dense looking and thick mocha-colored head. The aroma is full of rich dark coffee. Even after smelling this beer from a few feet away, I could tell that this was no ordinary coffee. According to beeradvocate, the beans used are Ibis Sumatra Dark Coffee beans. I can't say I've ever tasted Ibis Sumatra Dark Coffee before, but I think that's going to have to change soon. It smells amazing! Along with possibly the best coffee I've ever smelled, I picked up notes of espresso, dark chocolate covered coffee beans, some faint vanilla and some char.

Luckily for me, the coffee flavors absolutely dominate the flavor of this beer. If you're not a fan of dark coffee, this may not be the beer for you. Luckily, I like me some dark coffee. Roasted malt and dark chocolate open the flavor and are quickly overtaken by a huge wave of dark roasted coffee. The incredible coffee flavor seems to last forever before giving way to a finish with a hint of whiskey, some charred wood, and burnt coffee grounds. The mouthfeel is nice and full without being too thick and syrupy. If you're a coffee lover, this beer is an absolute must. Glad I finally got some of this one.

Final Grade: A

Top 250 Beers Tasted: 112

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Great Lakes Brewing Company - Blackout Stout

On paper, Cleveland doesn't really seem like the kind of place I'd like to settle down. I'm a huge fan of sports and Cleveland is as close to hell as you can get as a fan of any sport. The Indians haven't been relevant in years. The Browns routinely have more fans in the stadium wearing paper bags over their heads than fans in the stadium who are not wearing paper bags over their heads. And LeBron James not only left the Cavs, but departed while basically giving Cleveland the finger on national TV. Oh, and then he won a title one year later. As my favorite sports author, Bill Simmons, loves to say - God hates Cleveland.

But hold on a second. What if Cleveland fans know something we don't? Sure, losing blows, but what if you had awesome beer to drown your sorrows in after a loss? What if you had easy access to a little brewery called Great Lakes Brewing Company and a little beer they make called Blackout Stout? Let's try this puppy and find out! A huge thanks goes out to my friend, Dan, for lugging this beer back from the East Coast. Thanks, Dan!

Blackout Stout pours a slightly thin-looking dark brown color with a thin tan head. The nose is a bit faint, but I got some notes of heavily roasted malt, a touch of smoke and some dark roasted coffee. I also picked out just a touch of blackberry, which added a really nice touch to all the dark, roasty aromas.

The taste opens big and aggressive, with tons of roasted malt assaulting your palate right off the bat. The roastiness fades quickly though, allowing sweeter notes of dark and milk chocolate to peek out. A hint of chocolate cake emerges on the finish but is beaten back by bitter notes of charred wood and oily hop resin.

I still don't know if I could handle all of the losing Cleveland has to offer, but having a brewery like this in the city has to count for something. Cleveland makes one badass Russian Imperial Stout, and that has to count as a win somewhere.  So here's to you, Clevelanders(?). At least there's pretty much no chance of your breweries moving to Miami.

Final Grade: A

Top 250 Beers Tasted: 111

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What is going on?

If you've been following this blog for the last few weeks, you may have noticed that something a little strange happened recently. For a long time, the number of Top 100 Beers I'd tried was steadily climbing, reaching 44 at the end of 2012. Then, a few weeks ago, it dropped overnight to 36, which was a major bummer. But after my last review, it had rocketed up to unseen heights- 51. So I think it's about time I fill you in on what's been going on.

As you may or may not know, I've been a big fan of for a long time. It's from their site that I get the list that I've been using to track down the Top 100 Beers of the world. Over the past few months, has been undergoing some major changes. Realizing that a lot of people didn't have the time to write full reviews of beers, the site decided to add a "Had" review option, in which you could score a beer you had tried without having to actually review it. For a while, the "Had" reviews weren't being included into the overall beer scores. Then things changed and, overnight, the Top 100 List looked entirely different. It was on the review after that change that my count plummeted to 36. So far, I wasn't a huge fan of beeradvocate's site overhaul. Then they did something even crazier.

After the review I posted on Monday, I went to beeradvocate to check my progess on the Top 100 List, only to find that the list didn't exist anymore. Beeradvocate had decided to make another major overhaul. Instead of a link to the Top 100 Beers, there was a link to the Top 250 Beers. Not only that, but many of the Top 100 Beers that had been on the list were completely gone. I went looking for answers and finally found a post from one of the founders of beeradvocate. As it turns out, the minimum number of reviews a beer must have to be considered for the Top 100 (er, 250) List has been switched from 10 to 100, meaning that many of the rarer beers have dropped off entirely. Crazy sauce!

So what does this mean for this blog? Well, was as much a part of me getting into beer as anything, so I'm going to stick with them on this one. While it's going to feel strange going after 250 Beers instead of 100, the raising of the minimum reviews means that these beers should be easier to find. So while this change seems odd, it's most likely going to lead to me reviewing beers on the Top Beers List a lot more often than I'm able to now. I'll also try to re-taste some of the beers that are on this new list that I never posted reviews for in the past. So we've officially moved on into a new era with this blog. Thank you for your patience and I hope you enjoy the new additions.


Top 250 Beers Tasted: 111

Monday, January 21, 2013

Cascade Brewing - Cascade Noyaux

Finding Cascade beers in San Diego is usually about as easy as getting Lance Armstrong to tell the truth (sorry, I had to). Before I found Sang Noir down here a few months ago, I had seen Cascade bottles a total of one time. When I found Sang Noir, I bought it immediately and drank it knowing it could be the last bottle of Cascade I saw for years. Then something crazy happened: Cascade started shipping more beer down here. A few weeks ago, I walked into Texas Liquor and saw not one, not two, but four different bottles of Cascade beers on the shelf. I almost passed out at the sight. The one I was most excited about was a beer that I had never even heard about until fairly recently-Noyaux.

Similar to Sang Noir, Noyaux is one of Cacade's beers that goes through an aging system unlike any other brewery I've heard of. Cascade starts by blending Belgian blond and triple ales together and aging them in oak barrels for between 18-24 months. Then the beer is aged for an additional year on fresh raspberries and apricot noyaux (toasted meat from apricot nuts). So, in case you're doing the math, that's three years this beer spends in various barrels. Three years! Let's give this a try.

Noyaux pours a dark apricot color with a thin white head that drops pretty quickly. Oak is the first smell I picked up, along with a pleasant but not overwhelming sourness that had notes of raspberry skin, apricot skin, a bit of a lactic sourness, and some faint almond paste (which I'm assuming came from the noyaux).

The taste opens rich and fruity with a lush note of raspberry jam. As the flavor progresses, apricot flesh and tart green mango emerge, followed by a nice lactic sourness. Similar to the smell, this beer never becomes mouth-puckeringly sour. It's beyond the point of being tart, but the sourness is nicely subdued. The finish brings some unripe plum and oak notes. I wouldn't say that this beer is on the level of Sang Noir, but this is another fantastic beer from Cascade. I really enjoyed getting the chance to try this beer and I can't wait for my next Cascade encounter.

Final Grade: A

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 51
( just made yet another change to their Top 100 List, which somehow booted a ton of beers I've tasted into the Top 100. It feels kind of cheap to reach the halfway point in this way, but... we're halfway there!!!)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Ironfire Brewing Company - Synner Pale Ale

New brewery alert! Run by two former Ballast Point employees, Ironfire Brewing Company, located in nearby Temecula, is a new addition to the craft beer scene. Their beer has been showing up on draft at a few places for months now, but they only recently started bottling. I was able to find their Synner Pale Ale a few days ago and decided to try it out.

Before we go into the beer itself, let's give Ironfire a round of applause for this label. Bad. Ass. A cowboy skeleton? Gambling, smoking AND drinking? AND surrounded by loose women? Dear God, Ironfire, you've outdone yourselves. Bravo!

Synner Pale Ale pours a clean looking clear golden color with a nice one finger white head. I noticed a ton of lacing while I was drinking it and the lace leaves huge, sticky foamy patches on the glass. Very nice. As soon as I poured this beer, I got a huge whiff of citrus and piny hops. Even standing a few feet away from the glass, I could pick them up. Not exactly what I'm used to in most pale ales. When I got closer, I picked up some overripe pineapple and mango as well as caramel and a bit of biscuity malt.

The taste opens with a big hit of piny hops. A wave of bready malt follows, and while it's a bit much, it mellows the hops pretty nicely. The finish brings the bitterness back, with notes of lemon zest, grapefruit pith, aspirin and a good dash of hop resin. This is crazy hoppy for a pale ale, but I really enjoyed it. My one complaint is that it finishes a bit unbalanced and bitter, but this is a really solid start for Ironfire. I'll definitely be looking for more brews from them in the future.

Final Grade: B+

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 37

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Deschutes Brewery - The Abyss (2012)

As you may or may not already know, Deschutes' The Abyss is my favorite beer. It was the one of the first Top 100 Beers I tried, and it's somehow remained my #1 for a long time now. Unfortunately, The Abyss gets snatched up pretty quickly every year down here, so I've only been able to acquire two bottles or fewer the last few years. This year, I was able to get four bottles, so I decided to do something I'd never done before. The Abyss lists a "best by" date of a year after the bottling date, and I've always stuck to that date in the past. But I've always wondered what this beer tastes like fresh. So here goes nothing...

Fresh Abyss pours that dense, pitch black color that I've become so familiar with. A nice one finger reddish-chestnut colored head forms on the pour and eventually settles down to a thin foam ring. I'm used to more muted smells from this beer, but I pick up huge oak aromas right off the bat. Along with the oak, I got big aromas of molasses, dark chocolate covered cherries, chocolate cake, vanilla and anise.

While the mouthfeel is noticeably thinner than aged versions, this is still one tasty beer. Upfront, there are big flavors of roasted malt, charred wood, and anise. There's a quick hint of sweetness that's reminiscent of fudge, but that quickly fades into the dark of espresso, burnt coffee grounds and some oak. This beer is definitely better with age, but it's still incredible fresh. It was definitely an experience seeing how bold the flavors are in this beer without a little age to them. Glad I tried this out.

Final Grade: A+

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 37

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Hangar 24 Brewery - Barrel Roll No. 3 - Pugachev's Cobra

First of all, I need to preemptively apologize to anyone reading this blog who doesn't like stouts. I'm a really, really big stout fan and we are right in the middle of stout season. I'm going to be drinking (and writing about) a lot of stouts. So if you're not a big stout fan, I'm sorry. You're going to be getting a lot of stouts thrown your way, though. Hang in there, we'll get to a lot of other beers soon enough. But for now, let's take a look at one very, very tasty stout.

Hangar 24 (in case you're not familiar) is a fairly new craft brewery located in Redlands, California. They've been cranking out an incredible amount of beer since they opened and the variety of beer they produce is pretty amazing. They've done a few barrel-aged beers in the past and I was lucky enough to get their barrel aged stout, Pugachev's Cobra, this time around.

Pugachev's Cobra pours a dense black color with a thin mocha colored head. At nearly 16%, this is an absolute monster, and it shows when you swirl it in the glass. The viscous liquid clings to the sides of the glass like crazy. The smell shows aggressive notes of toasted oak, chocolate covered hazelnuts, rye, bourbon, powdery chocolate, some charred wood and hints of dark fruit. Oh my! This is one of the best beers I've ever smelled in my life.

The taste definitely didn't disappoint. It opens with dense notes of rich chocolate and dark fruit. Right after come notes of roasted malt, chocolate covered cherries and brownie batter. The finish brings hints of anise, bourbon and some burnt cocoa. The mouthfeel is rich and velvety, but doesn't lead you to believe that this beer is anywhere near 16%. This is a fantastic beer and the perfect way to start off this year.

Final Grade: A+

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 36

Note: I know what you're thinking: How did the number of beers tasted drop by eight overnight? Beeradvocate just changed their ratings system a bit, which dropped a bunch of the beers I've had off of the list. Bummer. That said, there are a lot of new beers on the list to try, so I definitely welcome the new challenge.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Best/Worst Beers of 2012

Welcome back! I hope all of you had a safe and happy new year. Now that we're already two days into 2013, it's time to look back with fondness (or in some cases, with not so much fondness) at the best and worst beers of 2012. It was a big year for me, as I got to finally tick of some very big wants off of my list. There were also some huge surprises in the beer world, a few of which made this list. So without further ado, here are my best and worst beers of 2012. (As I did last year, none of the Top 100 Beers are going to be included in this list. I'd rather give you some new beers to try than name beers off of a list that's easily accessible. )

Best Beers of 2012

5. Southern Tier Brewing Company - Pumking

 I was starting to think that all pumpkin beers tasted the same until Southern Tier's Pumking and I crossed paths. I had heard great things about this beer going in and it absolutely lived up to the hype. The smell alone is worth the price of admission, with massive pumpkin pie and baked yam notes practically erupting from the glass. If you love pumpkin beers, this is a must try. I'll be looking to top this one in 2013, but I'm not sure how good my chances are.

4. Maine Beer Company - Zoe

I was under the general impression that most amber ales were sort of crowd pleasing beers until I got a bottle of Maine Beer Company's Zoe during a trip to Boston earlier this year. While on paper, Zoe is a very simple beer, it's just so... freaking... good. Everything about it made me rethink what amber ales should be and it's a beer I definitely hope to cross paths with again very soon.

3. High Water Brewing - Campfire Stout

S'mores and beer? Together? Going into this year, I probably wouldn't have thought this was a great idea for a beer. However, somehow High Water Brewing made this work with their Campfire Stout. The beer smells exactly like a s'more. Chocolate? Graham Cracker? Marshmallow? They're all there. What's even better, the beer nailed the taste as well. While I still think an Imperial version of this would make me so happy I would probably explode, Campfire Stout is plenty tasty and plenty worth seeking out as is.

 2. Brasserie Cantillon - Lou Pepe (Framboise)

I stumbled upon this beer by chance at a local bar and decided I had to have it. Even though it was pricey, I'm so glad I tried it. While the Kriek Lou Pepe may get more of the glamor, I thought the Lou Pepe Framboise was a better beer. The beer smelled like rich, jammy raspberries and had a fantastic tartness throughout the taste. Even with a lot of sweet elements, the taste remained on the dry side, which I really loved. You have to be lucky to find anything from Cantillon around here and, somehow, I was able to find a good amount last year. This one was the best.

1. Anchorage Brewing Company - Bitter Monk

I don't think any brewery blew me away this year quite as much as Anchorage Brewing Company did. When I first saw that they made a Double IPA, I wasn't sure how the style could possibly work with Brettanomyces, so I stayed away. Eventually I gave in and tried a bottle of Bitter Monk and it ended up being maybe the best beer I had all year. There are so many elements at work in this beer and Anchorage has somehow pulled every single one of them off. Bitter Monk has a ton of juicy, citrusy hop flavors and then couples them with the added complexity from the Brett and the aging in Chardonnay barrels. I don't know if Anchorage has any plans to release any new beers this year, but if they do, I will be the first one in line for them.

And that wraps it up for the best beers of 2012. Now, it's time to move on to the worst beers. Last year, I struggled to come up with 5 bad beers I tried during the year. A few (Pizza Beer and anything from Kennebunkport) were easy, but I tried to only taste good beers throughout the year, so the rest of the beers on the list may have been a stretch. This year, I made sure I wasn't going to have that problem again. I actively sought out the worst beers I could find and found some pretty terrible stuff.

Worst Beers of 2012

5. Anheuser-Busch, Inc. - Bud Light Platinum

This year, Anheuser-Busch (always the innovators) introduced a new, beefier version of Bud Light- Bud Light Platinum. From the electric blue bottle to the "Bud" name on the bottle, all signs pointed towards this being a pretty crappy beer. Not surprisingly, Bud Light Platinum delivered, with every bit of the added alcohol showing up in a flavor that was a mix of Mickey's and corn flakes. If I hadn't been seeking out terrible beers, this may have been the worst out there. But I was able to do a little better.

 4. Chili Beer Co. - Original C Cave Creek Chili Beer

I spent a lot of time on "Worst Beer You've Ever Tasted" type forums this year, looking for ideas. One beer that was consistently mentioned was Chili Beer Company's Original C Cave Creek Chili Beer. While I'm glad I tried it in the name of product research, the sensation of having heartburn in my mouth while drinking this beer wasn't exactly pleasant. I'm not opposed to all chili beers, but this was an absolute abomination. If Tecate, lighter fluid, and pepper spray were to have a baby, it might taste eerily similar to Original C Cave Creek Chili Beer. Avoid at all costs (unless it's for a practical joke. Then I highly recommend this stuff). 

3. Rogue Ales - Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale

When Rogue first announced they were making this beer, I was really excited. Then I tried it and wanted to kick myself in the balls for falling for such a gimmicky beer. While the idea behind Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale isn't terrible, the end result was. The smoked and charred malt flavors completely overwhelmed everything else in the beer. I couldn't really taste any bacon or doughnut, which was a huge letdown. Rumor has it that Rogue's next collaboration is with Portland's Powell's Bookstore and is going to be brewed with pages from Moby Dick. I wish I was making this stuff up. I'm pretty much done with Rogue at this point and Bacon Maple Ale sealed that fate.

 2. Anheuser-Busch, Inc. - Wild Blue


I began this year on a mission to find a beer worse than the worst beer I had last year, Kennebunkport IPA. The first beer I tackled on this quest was Anheuser Busch's Wild Blue and it annihilated the IPA. Grape Crush-like in color, dog vomit-smelling and already-been-chewed blueberry scone-tasting, this behemoth went untouched for nearly the entire year as the worst beer I had ever tried. If you're a fan of high alcohol beers that taste like cough syrup mixed with trash, look no farther than Wild Blue. Just thinking about this beer again makes me cringe. And yet there was one beer that topped it...

1. Browar Staropolski - Zorg

I've had some truly terrible beers throughout the time I've been blogging. But nothing has ever come close to Zorg. I blew past about every warning sign possible when I bought Zorg (came in a 51oz. plastic bottle, looked kind of like something a cat threw up, etc.). I opened it with a group of friends and none of us could down more than a few sips of this stuff. The heavy mouthfeel coupled with the flavor profile that ranged from "pure malt syrup" to "honey soaked sewage" made this stuff the worst beer I've ever had. And it wasn't even close. I shudder to think that there might be a beer out there that's worse than Zorg, but I'm going to try to find one anyways. God help me.

Thanks you all for your support throughout the year. I'm looking forward to sharing tons of good (and bad) beer experiences in 2013. Cheers!