Friday, September 27, 2013

The Bruery - Melange No.3

In case you didn't know this already, I'm a pretty big fan of The Bruery. This year has been my first year as a Reserve Society member (which gives you access to awesome limited beers and events) and I'm pretty sure that I'm going to stay one for as long as the Reserve Society exists. Every beer they release sounds better than the last, and the beers they've hinted at being in the lineup next year sound amazeballs (rum barrel-aged Black Tuesday, anyone?). Anyways, while savoring yet another fantastic new beer in The Bruery's lineup a few weeks ago, it dawned on me that I hadn't reviewed some of The Bruery's classics. Melange No. 3 would be one of the first to fall into that category.

Melange No. 3 has been part of The Bruery's lineup for a few years now and is undoubtedly (to me, at least) one of the better beers they make. It's also unique in that it's a blend of three of The Bruery's other beers (White Oak Sap, their Anniversary beer (this year, it was Bois), and the infamous Black Tuesday). Because of the beastly ABVs of its three components (led by Black Tuesday's 18% ABV), it should come as no surprise that this is a big boy. A 15.5% big boy. So let's put on our big boy pants and check this one out. At #66- Melange No. 3.

Melange No. 3 pours a deep cola color, similar to The Bruery's anniversary beers. Because of the high ABV, I was pleasantly surprised to see a fairly large tan head form off the pour. It didn't last long, however, as after a minute, nearly all of it had been sucked back into the viscous liquid. The aroma is deep and sweet, with toffee, vanilla, bourbon, caramel, a hint of coconut and some toasted brown sugar.

The taste opens sweet, similar to the smell, with a big dollop of molasses, burnt caramel and milk chocolate covered raisin. There's some dark fruit in there as well, with black cherries being the first thing that came to mind. The middle shows some chocolate and sweet bourbon before diving into a finish of toasted oak and brown sugar. There's a hint of warmness on the swallow and the mouthfeel is a touch thick, but other than that, the massive amount of alcohol in here is very well concealed. I'm going to have to get a lot more of this. Melange No. 3 is an absolute keeper.

Top 250 Beers Tasted: 126

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Smuttynose Brewing Company - Smuttynose Rhye IPA

I was trying to choose which beer in my fridge to drink last night when something hit me. And no, it wasn't an apple to the head which would make me choose a Redd's Apple Ale. It was the realization that as little as a year ago, most of the bottles in my fridge wouldn't have been there because they weren't being sold in San Diego yet. From Portland's Gigantic to Denver's Crooked Stave to Oklahom's Prairie, we've gotten a lot fantastic new breweries on the shelves in San Diego in a very short period of time. I ended up choosing a beer from yet another new brewery new to the shelves out here (and one I've been wanting here for a long time)- Smuttynose.

Smuttynose Rhye IPA is described by the brewery as being a variation of their Finestkind IPA that uses a healthy dose of rye malt and a bigger dose of dry hopping. Off the pour, the beer shows a beautiful clear amber color with brilliant gold highlights. A one finger cream colored head leaves a curtain of lace against the glass after each sip. I wasn't blown away by the smell, but it held intriguing notes of tropical and citrusy hops along with a nice and spicy rye note. I also picked up some mango, grapefruit and caramel.

The taste opens with a hint of pine, but it's held down by a thick blanket of caramel and toffee malt flavors. The rye shows up near the middle along with some malt breadiness before a finish of peppery cracked rye and light pine resin. This beer didn't knock my socks off, but it's a really tasty rye IPA. It's awesome to see Smuttynose on the shelves here and I can only hope that we'll see a lot more of their beer very soon.

Final Grade: A-

Top 250 Beers Tasted: 127

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Almanac Beer Company - Fresh Hop IPA-Cascade

If you're a fan of all things hoppy, we're getting into what's sure to be a pretty exciting time of the year for you- hop harvest time! Because of the fresh hops pouring into breweries around the country, expect to see a lot of wet hopped beers hitting bottleshops and tap lines near you in the very near future (if you haven't noticed them already). One of the first wet hopped beers I noticed this year was Almanac's new single-hopped Fresh Hop IPA-Cascade.

Single hop beers are a great way to get acquainted with everything that one hop variety has to offer and there's no better time to experiment with single hops than when they are at their freshest. Even if you haven't heard of Cascade hops, you've probably tried them. They're one of the most popular varieties out there and can be found in beers like Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale and Anchor's Old Foghorn Barleywine . Let's see how this hop stands on its own.

Fresh Hop IPA-Cascade pours a clear amber color with a one finger bone-white head that leaves some nice tracks of lace down the glass. The smell is undoubtedly hops, with an earthy and leafy hop presence coming to mind right away. Some orange rind, light pine, oak and caramel malt are in there as well.

Cascade hops aren't known for being intensely bitter, so this doesn't taste like a lot of the palate pummeling IPAs that we've become so used to here on the West Coast. Instead, there's a spicy, earthy hop note that meanders over the palate, bringing some pine and slightly bready malt with it. The finish brings some light grapefruit, mint and a nice hop spiciness. Again, if you're in the mood for an IPA that's going to make your tongue cry for mercy, this isn't going to be your cup of tea. But if you're looking to learn more about hops and hop varietals, you'll probably enjoy this one a lot. I sure did.

Final Grade: A-

Top 250 Beers Tasted: 129

Thursday, September 12, 2013

B. Nektar Meadery - Necromangocon

I know what you're probably thinking...

"Hey, jackhole, I come to this blog to check out sweet new beers, not some weird mead. What, you think you can just review whatever the hell you want? Why don't you just start reviewing the last quinoa salad or better than usual bowel movements you had while we're going off on tangents? How about staying in your lane, dude?"

...or something along those lines. But here's the thing: Making mead isn't all that different from making beer. And more and more bottleshops are starting to carry mead. So let's just check out this mead business and if it sucks, I'll never review another mead again. Deal? Deal.

Before we get too far into this, let's learn a little bit about what mead is. Mead is made using honey. A lot of it. From what I've found online, if you want to make a good mead, you're going to need at least 3 pounds of honey for every gallon of water used. That's a crap load of honey. After you've mixed the honey and water together, you add yeast and let it ferment, taking readings throughout the fermentation process to make sure the yeast is working properly. After fermentation is finished, the mead is aged and then bottled. And that's about it.

The mead I'm going to be reviewing is from a meadery in Michigan called B. Nektar Meadery. Their meads just hit shelves in Southern California recently and they have some tasty looking offerings. I decided to go with one called Necromangocon- a mead brewed with mango and black pepper.

Necromangocon pours a very pale, almost champagne-like, yellow color. Even after a pretty vigorous pour, the mead yielded no head, whatsoever. I have next to no experience with meads, so I had no idea what this puppy was going to smell like. As you would expect, there was a good amount of fermented honey in the smell, but with it came a ton of floral notes. It reminded me a lot of St. Germain liqueur. Very interesting.

The taste opened up sweet, but it wasn't the blast of pure honey sweetness that I expected. Instead, I got a touch of honey mixed with a hint of mango and some pear, white grape juice and a Moscato-like wine note on the finish. There was just a trace of heat left on the tip of my tongue on the finish, which I can only assume was the black pepper in this beer. The mouthfeel was slick and a touch oily without ever getting too sticky and sweet. I'm not gonna lie- I kind of enjoyed this. But don't worry, beer fans, this blog isn't about to become "Walker's Top Meads." Back to beer!

Final Grade: B+

Top 250 Beers Tasted: 131

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Seizoen Bretta - Logsdon Farmhouse Ales

It's been a while since I reviewed a saison, so let's jump back into it with a doozy. Logsdon Farmhouse Ales was started by David Logsdon, who is perhaps better known as the former head brewer at Full Sail. They may be fairly new to the scene, but Logsdon Farmhouse Ales has garnished a ton of praise already, including winning a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival last year for one of their saisons, Seizoen Bretta. I had heard nothing but good things about this beer, so I decided it was time to track one down. At #243, Seizoen Bretta.

Seizoen Bretta and I didn't get off to the best start. As soon as the cap was opened just a crack, the beer started gushing out. Luckily I was able to save most of this one, which is good because it happens to be fantastic. Once it was in my glass, the beer shows a heavily hazed burnt apricot color with a huge foamy white head. The smell was a heavenly mix of musty brett, floral hops and bright tropical fruit notes. I got some lemon pepper, tangerine rind, banana, peach pie filling and honey. As far as saisons go, I'm not sure I've found one whose smell can top this one.

The beer opens on a light floral note, then moves to flavors of peach, apricot and some doughy malt. The brett shows up near the finish and dries out the flavors significantly, bringing with it some white grape and lemon. I've had saisons this high in alcohol before (Seizoen Bretta checks in at 8%) and had thought they were way too heavy, but this one works the ABV perfectly. The mouthfeel is light and balances the flavors to perfection. I was really blown away by this beer. If you're a fan of saisons, get on this. For me, it may be the best one I've ever had.

Final Grade: A+

Top 250 Beers Tasted: 128

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project - St. Bretta (Summer)

Crooked Stave is a brewery from Denver that has been generating a ton of buzz in their short existence. However, this buzz, coupled with the fact that they aren't what I would consider to be a "large" brewery, led me to believe that I had a better chance of having a worse summer than Amanda Bynes than finding Crooked Stave beers anywhere near the shelves in San Diego. Luckily, I was wrong. A local bottleshop sent out a just arrived tweet a few weeks ago and when I clicked on the link, I was shocked to see three Crooked Stave beers. Cha ching! Let's see what all the hype is about, starting with their summer Witbier brewed with blood oranges- St. Bretta.

St. Bretta pours an incredibly hazed golden color with a half finger of off white head. If I hadn't known this beer was brewed with brett from the name, the appearance would have given it away. As would the smell- an incredible blend of citrus rind and brett. Tangerine and blood orange battle for supremacy with some lemon rind, barnyard funk, salt, oak and hay. I've never had a wit smell anything close to this before, but I like it. I like it a lot.

The taste opens with a big hit of brett, with bready malt and citrus lingering behind. Blood orange, underripe green grape and bread crust all make an appearance in here as well. The finish brings a lingering oak note along with a nice bretty funk. If you like brett and all that it can bring to a beer, I have a feeling you are going to want to try this beer. It's a completely new take on the Witbier style and I love it. I'm so glad Crooked Stave showed up here and I can't wait to (hopefully) see them on the shelves here on a regular basis.

Final Grade: A

Top 250 Beers Tasted: 129

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Avery Brewing Company - Uncle Jacob's Stout

I don't know that any brewery out there (even Brewdog) makes more high alcohol beers than Avery does. They've been in the game for a while and their lineup of high alcohol beers is impressive: Rumpkin, Mephistopheles, The Beast, etc. All of these beers are not only over 15% ABV, but they're also very highly rated on beeradvocate. One of the newer editions to their lineup of high ABV beers is their Uncle Jacob's Stout, which they brewed for the first time last year.

Uncle Jacob's Stout is a 17+% ABV monster that is named after the brewers "6th Great Grand Uncle," who apparently was the first person to put the "bourbon" label on his whiskey. To commemorate his feat, they've created this beer, which I passed up on last year (for some unknown reason) only to watch it rocket up the Top 250 List as soon as I couldn't find it anymore. Go me! Not this year. At #177, Uncle Jacob's Stout.

Uncle Jacob's Stout pours a motor oil-thick black color with a thin tan head that stuck around for a while. I would expect any trace of a head to get sucked right back into a monster this dense, but this one was surprisingly resilient. The smell of the beer is big, deep, dark and inviting. Warm notes of barrel and bourbon and immediately present along with some wet wood, toffee, toasted oak, molasses and just a hint of booze. It's been a while since I tried Goose Island's Bourbon County Stout, but (from what I remember of it) this beer may rival its smell.

The taste opens with a rich note of molasses and milk chocolate soaked raisins. Caramel, tons of fig, burnt marshmallow, burnt caramel and toasted coconut follow.  The finish brings the barrel with some notes of charred wood, bourbon and just a slight kick of heat. For a beer this big, it's ludicrously smooth drinkable. The mouthfeel is slick and a bit heavy, but the dryness from the bourbon really keeps things from dropping off into a sweet and syrupy mess. In a lot of barrel aged beers, the bourbon is kind of an afterthought, but this one really makes it a key component. This is a fantastic beer and one of the best barrel aged beers I've come across. Get it. Love it.

Final Grade: A+

Top 250 Beers Tasted: 129