Meantime Brewing Company: London Porter

I have seen the London Porter from Meantime at places like Bevmo and Whole Foods for quite some time now. However, I normally am not inclined to buy something that I have never heard of in 750 ml bottles. Fortunately, on my recent trip to the Beverage Warehouse in Marina Del Rey, CA, I found 11.2 oz bottles of the London Porter (The size likely has something to do with the fact that Meantime is in London, England). One immediately was placed in my basket.

The London Porter is a deep brown with a slight lean towards maroon. On the nose, it is almost as if this is not a malty beer. The aroma is mellow and light, only a slight amount of caramel malt notes are noticeable. DO NOT LET THAT FOOL YOU.

The subtlety of the London Porter's aroma is simply a disguise for a robust, full-flavored, complex porter. As soon as the beer touches the tongue, one's mouth goes wild, trying to decode the cryptic array of specialty grains that comprise this porter. According to Meantime, there are at least seven different varieties of grains that go in to the London Porter (I am not sure what "at least means" here, I would hope that they know exactly how many types go in the brew, but are choosing not to disclose this information).

The array of malts gives a multitude of sensations in the mouth. One notices the dryness of the beer along with a hint of smoke flavor at first. This leads me to believe that one of the seven is a smoked malt. However, this is quickly consumed by the fullness of the beer. By "full" here, I mean oatmeal stout full. It is big and rich (this is not intended to be a reference to the country music stars, however, I do like some of their songs). This subsides and one is left with a lingering smokiness on the tongue that is quite pleasing, even for a lover of hops like myself. To get the full effect of the London Porter, allow it to warm a bit, say to about 50°F. I would try it though first right out of the refrigerator so that you have something to compare with.

The bottom line: A surprisingly delicious porter from a country that is not well represented in the microbrewery scene.

Flying Dog Brewery: Gonzo Imperial Porter

I have known about Flying Dog for quite some time now, but never had the chance to try their Imperial Porter: Gonzo. I have heard a lot about the beer, some folks even claiming it to be the best imperial porter on the market. After finding the beer this weekend, let's see if the rave about the Gonzo Imperial Porter holds.

The beer is dark, 100% opaque, as you may expect. It pours fluidly giving me the impression that this beer will not feel heavy. I think that this is a good sign for an imperial porter. I always feel that an imperial porter or imperial stout should pour "thinner" than the porter or stout versions. The head is thick and brown/tan in hue, a fantastic contrast to the deep, rich color of the beer.

The aroma of the Gonzo is reminiscent of a blend of a fine IPA and a rich porter. The overwhelming amount of dry-hopping (according the the folks at Flying Dog, it is dry-hopped with a "shit load of Cascade hops") provides a full floral scent that is slightly weakened by the abundance of chocolate and black malt. With that, the flavor directly follows. At first, the Gonzo appears malty on the tongue, slightly sweet in a way. Quickly the hops overpower the malt. The combination of Warrior, Northern Brewer, and Cascade hops battle to dominate the malty characteristics. I am pretty sure it is the Warrior hop that prevails and gives that stick-to-the-roof-of-the-mouth feel. I love it. The Gonzo is very well balanced and not too high on the alcohol scale, especially for an imperial porter, coming in at 7.8%. The IBUs however, are more in-line with a IIPA (85).

The Gonzo is part of the Canis Major series from Flying Dog. The other beers in the series include Horn Dog Barley Wine (in the fridge so check back soon for a review), Double Dog Double Pale Ale, and Kerberos Triple. I am currently looking for the latter two in local beer outlets. Also, I am hoping to get my hands on the seasonal releases from Flying Dog in the near future. I really like this brewery.

I also like the artwork on the bottles. All of the artwork is created by Ralph Steadman, who started with Flying Dog in 1995.

The bottom line: I don't normally drink Imperial Porters, but the Gonzo is at least the best that I have ever tasted.

Mad River Brewing Co.: Jamaica Brand Red Ale

I have seen the Jamaica Brand Red Ale at Bevmo in the past but though that the name seemed kind of odd . . . so I never bought it. I saw it again at the Beverage Warehouse in Los Angeles for sale as a single bottle. After thinking about it for a short while, I decided to just buy it and give it a shot . . .

I will have to add this to my short list ASAP. I cannot believe that I have been passing this up for almost two years now. Why?

Well, first, the color is anything but red. Alright, its close to red, but nothing like any red I have seen in a long while. It looks more like a mahogany-stained dinner table than a red ale. Its dark and opaque with a rich head. The aroma reminds me of some of the finer IPAs on the market . . . the hops provide an array of floral notes that are nicely balanced by the rich malt scent. The taste of the Jamaica Brand Red Ale is crisp and clean. It starts off with a bite on the tongue followed by the mellowness of the caramel malt while finishing with a lingering tingle in your mouth. It is not the kind of lingering that makes you feel as if someone just gorilla-glued hops to the roof of your mouth. It is far more subtle than that . . . enjoyable in fact.

According to Mad River, the Jamaica Brand Red Ale has 42 IBUs and 6.7% ABV. Personally, I think this is within the range of very drinkable beers, not too hoppy, yet not bland and just the right amount of alcohol so that you can enjoy more than one in an evening.

The bottom line: Darn, Bevmo is closed already . . . I will have to wait until tomorrow to stock up on the Jamaica Brand Red Ale

Lucky Baldwins' Belgian Beer Festival Menu

Below is the beer list from Day 6 of the Belgian Beer Festival at Lucky Baldwins' in Pasadena, CA. Note that the beers on the list change quite frequently, especially on the weekend when they are busier! Also, I have neglected beers that are not part of the beer fest, i.e., Boddingtons, etc.) and the numbers correspond to the list below only and are NOT the numbers used for ordering!

  1. La Rulles Triple - 8.4%
  2. Kwak - 8%
  3. Gouden Carolus Hopsinjoor - 9%
  4. St. Feuillien Easter Beer - 7.5%
  5. St. Feuillien La Blanch - 5.5%
  6. Piraat - 10.5%
  7. Delirium Tremens - 9%
  8. Witkap Pater - 6%
  9. Blanche de Bruxelles - 4.5%
  10. Scaldis - 12%
  11. Saison Dupont - 6.5%
  12. Moinette Blonde - 8.5%
  13. Chimay Triple - 8%
  14. St. Bernardus ABT 12 - 10%
  15. St. Feuillien Triple - 8.5%
  16. Tripel Karmeliet 0 8.4%
  17. Dupont Avril - 3.5%
  18. Moinette Brune - 8.5%
  19. Witkap Pater Dubble - 7%
  20. Witkap Triple - 7.5%
  21. Biere de Miele - 8%
  22. Maredsous 10
  23. Gouden Carolus Ambrio - 8%
  24. Affligem Noel - 9%
  25. Leffe Brown - 6.5%
  26. Affligem Blond - 7%
  27. Hoegaarden - 4.9%
  28. Grottenbier - 6.5%
  29. St. Louis Gueuze Fond Traditional
  30. Petrus Oud Bruin - 5.5%
  31. De Koninck Winter - 6.5%
  32. Gulden Draak - 10.5%
  33. Koningshoeven Wit - 5.5%
  34. Boon Mariage Parfait (Hand Pump) - 8.6%
  35. Ename Tripel - 8.5%
  36. Maredsous 8
  37. Monks Flemish Sour Red - 5.5%
  38. La Divine - 9.5%
  39. Klokke Roeland - 11%
  40. Urthel Hop-It - 9.5%
  41. Koningshoeven Quad - 10%
  42. Brigand - 9%

Lucky Baldwins' Belgian Beer Festival Part II - Day 5


After taking days 2-4 off from the festival, I made a visit to Luckys last night (Wednesday) for a few beers. For the most part the list was the same as what I recall from the first night of the festival with a few minor changes. I made two selections from the list, two beers that I knew nothing about and never heard of:

1) Klokke Roelland - I would call this a Belgian Amber if I had to categorize it. It is brewed at Van Steenberge and is one of many offerings that the brewery has. The Klokke Roelland has a deep, dark, and rich hue . . . a sugary aroma fills the glass. Its not a very complex beer but it is bursting with flavor; the malt nicely balances the bite on the tongue that comes from the yeast used in the brewing process. i would definitely have another (especially given it is 11.5%!)

2) La Divine - Although the server classified La Divine as a Triple, I think it is fits more into the double category. It is brewed by Les Brasseurs de Gayant. The aroma is that of your standard citrus fruits with a dash of melon while being balanced by a wide array of spice tones. The color of the La Divine is typical for that of a Belgian Double . . . straw-like. On the tongue, it is smooth and full of fruity notes with a hint earthy flavors on the back-end. It is very drinkable and made a nice compliment to the malty Klokke Roelland that I started the night out with. The La Divine is a bit lower on the alcohol scale (~8.5%) but that is expected for a double. Again, I would definitely have another . . . after I try all the other beers on the list!

I will be heading to Luckys again this evening. So, check back tomorrow for some more updates from the festival (and hopefully a posting of the full menu!!).

Lucky Baldwins' Belgian Beer Festival Part II

It is that time of year when beer drinkers from all over the Southland venture to that tiny watering hole in Pasadena (and now in Sierra Madre as well) called Lucky Baldwins for the finest in Belgian Beers (for the second time this year). This time around is sure not to disappoint. In fact, the folks at Lucky's have extended the second part two two full weeks . . . well 16 days in total (from August 15th to August 30th)! And, don't forget to bring your glass from the previous festivals in order to take advantage of the steep discounts! For example, the average Belgian goes for $8-$9, as is expected for beers of this caliber. But, if you bring that glass with you, you only pay $6 (or $4 for a taster, but who would do that?).

Don't have a glass? Buy one! It pays for itself in two drinks . . . the glass is $10 this year.

So what should you expect? Well, I cannot speak for every night since the beers get rotated out quite frequently given the volume of beer that they sell. But, I can give the following notes based on my visit last Saturday:

1: St. Louis Gueuze - Went with this to start off mostly because I have never seen a gueuze on tap. It is a fantastic beer, but for those of you familiar with gueuzes know that it is more of an acquired taste. And this is true for the St. Louis as well. It is very tart, almost like sour lollipop, yet malty enough to mellow the beer out. Its color is straw-like. If you are new to gueuzes, I think this is a good starting place, especially for only $6.

2: Urthel Hop-it - I have to admit that I have had this beer many times in the past. But, I was in the mood for hops and, well, Belgian beers are just not know for their hop characteristics, except for the Hop-it. Its a bizarre beer if you will in that its aroma is almost that of dial soap at times (you know, the stuff you wash your dishes with), but the taste is very fruity in nature and the color is rich if not leaning toward the red side. If you want hops at a Belgian beer festival, this may be the way to go.

3: St Feuillien Saison - Having never seen St Feuillien's Saison before, I had to give it a try. Lets face it, Dupont's Saison and Ommegang's Hennepin (also a saison) are two of the tastiest beers. The St Feuillien Saison did not let me down. I highly recommend it. In fact, as I was leaving the pub a friend of mine showed up. I forgot to give him my recommendations and so I made sure to send him a text saying "#5" . . . since the St Feuillien Saison was the fifth beer on the list of more than 50. It is complex in nature due to the spices used in the brewing process. These additions also give the beer the aroma of a kitchen full of orange and spice. Wow. I wish I could find this beer in bottles as I would definitely be willing to purchase multiple bottles. It was that good. The maltiness is just enough to mellow out the spices such that you don't get the feeling you are dry-huffing a jar off coriander or something along those lines. It is simply a fantastic beer.

So, hopefully you will make the time to head out to Pasadena (if you are in the area) for the Belgian Beer Festival Part II at Lucky Baldwins before it ends on August 3oth. But, if not, stay tuned for more beer updates from the world of Belgian beers.

Stone Brewing Co.: 13th Anniversary Ale


I finally got around to opening my bottle of Stone's 13th Anniversary Ale this past weekend. First, it is not what I was expecting at all. Second, it was far more than I ever imagined.

Why was it not what I was expecting? Well, I imagined stone coming out with a special IIPA for the anniversary ale. The first 'I' was correct in that the beer is an imperial, however, the second through fourth letters were wrong. In fact the 13th Anniversary Ale is a Double Red, or as I would prefer to call it, an Imperial Red. What a surprise. Never would I have expected this from Stone.

Why what is far more than I ever imagined? Let us start with the poor. The 13th Anniversary is a deep rich mahogany color with a thick head that came be compared to some of the best IIPAs on the market. Wow! And, it is filled with your typical IIPA notes, like citrus and flowers while still maintaining a malty richness.

According to stone, Chinook hops were used for bittering and then this bad boy was dry-hopped with a 50/50 blend of Simcoe and Centennial hops. Well, this explains the fullness of the aroma. To top that off, the folks at Stone dry-hopped the 13th Anniversary AGAIN before bottling. Brilliant, I tell you, pure brilliance. This is why Stone made it to its 13th Anniversary, and will be around for many more years to come. It is going out on a limb like this that makes a beer sensational.

Oh, and the taste. The 13th Anniversary is not for pansies, that is for sure. It is for a true beer connoisseurs to enjoy. The average beer drinker likely will not be able to appreciate the pure complexity of this beer. It is one of the most well balanced ales that I have every seen, rich yet bitter. But, the bitterness is not overdone and in fact just perfect for a red ale of this caliber. The 13th Anniversary is the kind of beer that you enjoy with friends (drinking the full 22 ounces alone might not be the best idea since it comes in at 9.5%) on a weekend afternoon (or after a tough day at work) over a nice conversation. This is not the beer to drink quickly. In fact, that slower the better . . . that way you can enjoy the complexity to its fullest as well as experience the beer in its entirety as it slowly warms. The maltiness prevails with time as you may expect.

The bottom line: The 13th Anniversary is a step in the right direction for Stone!

BridgePort Brewing Co.: India Pale Ale

I came upon this fine IPA this evening while restocking my beer supply at my local Bevmo. I had never heard of the brewery, but when I saw it was from Portland, Oregon, I figured it could not be bad. So I picked up a 6-pack and immediately threw one in the fridge when I got home.

Bridgeport is Oregon's oldest craft brewery and after tasting their IPA, I can see why they have made it so long.

The nose is full of citrus and floral notes, just as would be expected for an IPA, but is very well balanced. It is reminiscent of a spring day walking through a garden with flowers abloom. The pour is perfect, just the right carbonation. The taste complex, due in part to the blend of five varieties of hops used in the brewing process. However, it is well balanced such that the hops are not over-powering making the BridgePort IPA a beer capable of being consumed by even the non-hopheads. Due to the fermentation process, the beer is similar to champagne in that it is full of effervescence. This nice addition provides a nice tingle on the tongue.

The Bridgeport IPA comes in with 50 IBUs, putting it right in the middle of the range for a standard IPA. But, on the other hand, the alcohol content is 5.5%, which is a bit low for an IPA. But that is alright, given the magnificent taste of this well prepared, bottle conditioned IPA. With all of that said, I would rank this IPA somewhere below the 60 Minute IPA but far above the standards like Sierra Nevada . . . more on the lines of Flying Dog's IPA or Russian River's Blind Pig. I am glad that I have 5 more to enjoy.

The bottom line: It is not a 60 Minute, but it sure comes close.

Return to Civilization

The lack of posts in the recent weeks was a direct result of my summer vacation. Since I was unable to bring a computer on my trip (not much one can do with a computer in the wilderness of Colorado and nor was I about to carry any more weight on my back), I was unable to make any posts. But, have no fear, I tried numerous beers from 5 different brewpubs in Durango, Dillon, and Frisco, Colorado and will be making posts in the coming days with all the details.

Stay tuned . . .

North Coast Brewing Co.: Old Plowshare

The Old Plowshare is an organic stout brewed by the folks at North Coast Brewing Co. in Fort Bragg, California. It is one of two organic beers produced at their facility (the other being the Cru D'Or, an organic Belgian style ale). I picked this one up on a short trip to Sin City back in March and finally had the privilege to enjoy it last night. Why did it take so long? Well, as you are likely already aware, hops are my thing . . . the Old Plowshare is far from the hoppy IPAs and IIPAs. But, that does not mean that we don't have a fantastic beer on our hands here.

The Old Plowshare is a Celtic-style stout. Immediately upon pouring, one notices the rich color that arises from the intensely roasted malts. These malts also provide the beer with a fantastic aroma . . . one comprised of soft nutty notes and overall roasted malt. The color is intense and that is only complimented by the intense aroma.

The taste buds get what they are after with this stout (made solely from water, organic malt, hops, and yeast), that being a smooth, yet rich, malty stout. It is delightful. Interestingly enough, the Old Plowshare has only 27 IBUs, which is somewhat low in my opinion for a stout (for example, Guinness is more on the order of 35-40 IBUs). Don't let that fool you though because by having slightly less hops than the typical stout, you get a more full-bodied experience from the malts.

I chose to drink this one at about 40°F . . . I am willing to be that if you let it warm up a bit, the malty flavors will protrude even more. I will give this a try when I pick another one up (since it seems to be wildly available now, at least in California). Overall though, its a great beer to enjoy on a summer day, with your feet kicked up, and a book open in your lap.

The bottom line: The Old Plowshare is the new black.

Lagunitas Brewing Company: A Little Sumpin' Sumpin' Ale

The much awaited release of Lagunitas' seasonal "A Little Sumpin' Sumpin' Ale" has finally arrived. And, after a few weeks six-packs have finally arrived at my local beer outlet (i.e., BevMo in Pasadena, CA).

Let me begin with a disclaimer of sorts. The beer is good, maybe even better than good. But my expectations were beyond that, especially given that the brew comes to us from the fine folks at Lagunitas . . .

The pour reveals a clean, pale colored ale with next to no head whatsoever. In fact after drinking about half the glass, what little head there was at the start was all but gone and my glass resembled a child's glass of apple juice and not my adult beverage of choice. On the nose, you get what you expect . . . fruits and flowers, although I might go one step further as to narrow the "fruits" to that of "tropical fruits" alone; it is very nice.

The taste is crisp and clean (as one might expect given the translucency of the beer and lack of particulates suspended in the brew. The 64.20 IBUs pack quite a punch and add to that tropical fruit and floral aroma that I discussed above. Unfortunately, I could not lay my finger on one or two specific hop varieties. The punch is not like some other brews that I have reviewed and that I am sure you are familiar with. It is not a long drawn out battle of hops in your mouth (Hop Wallop) or a delayed battle followed by WWH (The World War of Hops, Big Daddy IPA), rather it is more like that knockout blow; it is brief but deadly. Alright, it is not going to kill you, but it is pungent and brief. For that, it is different . . . and I like diversity amongst my IPAs.

As I eluded to above, A Little Sumpin' Sumpin' Ale seems to be missing a little sumpin': Carbonation! Since it appears as if this beer is not bottle conditioned, I doubt the carbonation problem could be solved by allowing the beer to sit for a few days/weeks. However, I will update the review if I notice any significant change in the near future.

The bottom line: An IPA of not-epic proportions . . . yet still an IPA of diverse qualities, a fantastic treat for a summer-time evening on the porch with the kids.

For a second opinion, check out the following:

Beer Rant

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Dogfish Head Beers in California

If you are reading this, you are probably already well aware that Dogfish Head is again distributing in southern California. However, the selection thus far is limited in quantity and geographic location. From personal experience, the latter can easily be resolved by simply requesting the beers at your local beer store. They would be foolish to not do everything in their power to get the Dogfish Head beers in their store if people are requesting them on a regular basis. I strongly believe this is how we finally got the beers distributed to the Pasadena, CA, area after almost a year of being solely distributed in a 10-15 mile radius of the distributor.

Being a transplant from the east coast, I grew up on Dogfish Head (well, I mean, it was my beer of choice in college . . . a case of 60 Minute was almost always on my shopping list). And, having been to Delaware countless times, I had the opportunity to taste the beers long before they made it on the truck and were shipped across the country. I also know that there are far more beers brewed than that which is currently available in SoCal. Currently, depending upon the season, the following ales are available in southern California:
  • Palo Santo Marron
  • Aprihop
  • 60 Minute IPA
  • 90 Minute IPA
  • Punkin Ale
  • Midas Touch
  • Chicory Stout
  • Festina Peach
although I have only seen the Palo Santo Marron, 60 and 90 Minutes, and Midas Touch in the stores. However, there are 21 year-round/seasonal brews . . . i.e., only 38% of the Dogfish Head delights are currently available in the Los Angeles area (or 19% if you only consider those that I have actually found). This is not a lot . . . and frankly quite saddening given the beers that should be on the list, e.g., 120 Minute IPA, Immort Ale, World Wide Stout, etc.

Have no fear though . . . there are two ways around this dilemma. The first being that you can easily purchase most of these brews online (Shoppers Vineyard, Sam's Wines and Spirits, etc.). The alternative is to wait. Yes, that is right, just be patient. According to a gentleman who's name will not be disclosed (however, I can tell you that he is an employee at the brewery in Delaware), within a year or so (by the end of 2010 . . . since some beers are only released at certain times of the year, it will take a little longer for them to all get to California), ALL 21 beers will be distributed in southern California!

So, if we all are patient, before too long we will have a wide selection of what are arguable the best, most well-crafted beers in the country (well, at least on the east coast). But, in the meantime, it might be worth having a six-pack or so shipped to your front door (if you live in a state that allows such activities, i.e., not Pennsylvania). Or, if you know someone in a state that sells the remaining 13 ales . . . you could always ask them to buy some for you and have them ship the beers to you.

And now, we just countdown until the day that 120 Minute IPA arrives . . .

IPA Fest at Lucky Baldwins: Day 1

As promised, I made a trip to Lucky's last night for the first day of the IPA fest. And, as expected, the folks at Lucky Baldwins brought in a vast list of IPAs and IIPAs . . . I imagine that there will be more on the way as the week goes on too.

First though, the bad news . . . no Pliny the Younger :-(.

Next, the good news . . .

Beer 1: Port Brewing Company's 3rd anniversary

Definitely not filtered, with a great golden color. Floral aroma. The taste is quite surprising . . . not as hoppy as I was expecting, far more malt though. However, it is fantastic and very drinkable!

Beer 2: Victory's ______ IPA

The blank is because for the life of me I cannot remember the name (and no, it was not Hop Wallop or Hop Devil, although they both were on tap last night as well!). This was your your standard IPA, not too hoppy, but still full of flavor. I sensed something a bit peculiar though in that the beer had a hint of sourness to it, but very slightly. And interesting touch to a superb IPA

Beer 3: Speakeasy's Big Daddy IPA

Although actually an IPA, this one is on the list as a IIPA for good reason. The Big Daddy is something special, something remarkable, something extraordinary. Its appearance is like no other IPA that I have ever seen . . . very translucent, straw like. The aroma: floral as expected. The taste: out of this world. Initially you wonder, "am I drinking an IPA or water?", but after about a second or so, the hops kick in . . . its like the Amarillo hops are fighting the warrior hops in your mouth, like a world war of hops in your mouth!! And, this lingers . . . . . for a while, making this beer a good one to sip! This beer really is a special delight. Thank you Speakeasy.

Well, that is all for now, I plan on making many more trips to the pub before the festival is over (especially since the IPAs are only $3 and the IIPAs are $4 . . . can't beat that). Keep checking back for more updates!! And lastly . . . they have Maharaja on draft . . . it is #2 on the list :-).

The bottom line: Stop reading my blog and go to Luckys!

IPA Fest at Lucky Baldwins

That is right. While everyone else seems to be blogging about the new Bing search engine from Microsoft or about his/her opinions on Sonia Sottomayor, I have my heart set on the upcoming IPA Fest at Lucky Baldwins in Pasadena (13 June to 21 June). For those of you in Southern California, this is one of the best opportunities to taste some of the worlds best IPAs, even if the majority come from California. Lucky's has many festivals throughout the year, but there are really only two that I look forward to: The Belgian Beer Fest (you have to, its over 2 weeks long . . .) and the IPA Fest.

Why is the IPA Fest so special? There are very few bars that have more than 60 taps so as it is. And then, when you take 50 of them and pour only IPAs from them, now that is something special. That is something to mark on your calendar weeks, if not months, in advance. You might be thinking, so what, I have tried so many IPAs already I doubt that Luckys will have many that I have not tried?

Well, you should be ashamed of yourself for even thinking this. I go to all of the festivals at Lucky's and each time there are beers that either I am yet to try or, better yet, did not even know existed previously. Without a doubt, this will be the case again this time around. And, so what if you have already had Avery's Maharaja . . . its well worth trying it again (and its cheaper at the festival that anywhere else!). And, I am willing to be that the folks at Lucky's have been sitting on a keg of Pliny the Younger from Russian River . . . what more could you ask for in a festival!?

Anyhow, I plan to be trying many new beers starting this coming Saturday and then providing a detailed list with reviews for each and everyone shortly after each visit to the festival. And, if its like the last Belgian Beer Festival (I went 17 times in 16 days . . . and there were some days that I did not get to go!), there will be plenty to write about over the coming days!!!

Mammoth Brewing Company: IPA 395

Named after the major highway running north-south in the eastern realms of California, this Double IPA is a fantastic treat, especially after a long day skiing or snowboarding on the slopes of Mammoth Mountain.

Mammoth Brewing Company is a rather small brewery located in Mammoth Lakes, California at about 8,000 feet above sea level. Coming in at 8% alcohol this beer is a little low on the alcohol scale for IIPAs, but don't let that bother you, it is a fantastic beer.

The IPA 395 could probably be distinguished quite easily amongst other IIPAs for the fact that the nose is about as floral as it gets. This is due to the abundance of local wild hops used in the brewing process as well as the addition of two peculiar ingredients: desert sage and mountain juniper. As a result the taste is like no other IPA or IIPA: A bit hoppy, earthy in nature, and full bodied. I must say, it was a bold move on the brewers' parts by adding such ingredients to a IIPA, but, what a beer they concocted.

The only downside to the IPA 395 is that out side of Mammoth Lakes and the immediate US 395 corridor, it is next to impossible to find. So, if you do not live within 50 miles of Mammoth Lakes I think it is time you plan a skiing trip with the wife or husband of yours . . . . this way you get the best of both worlds: a few days on the slopes and a few evenings in the brewpub. Who could ask for more!?

The bottom line: Sage and juniper make this IIPA one-of-a-kind!

Moylan's Brewery: Cask Conditioned Double Kilt Lifter

Before you run out to your local beer joint to look for this beer, STOP! Moylan's does not bottle it; I had the privilege to try it when I visited the brewery and restaurant in Novato, California. If you live (or will be staying) anywhere within an hour's drive of Novato in the near future, it is in your best interests to take a trip to the brewery and give this bad boy a try! Why you may ask? Here goes . . .

If you are familiar with Moylan's already, you will know that they brew a fantastic scotch style ale called the Kilt Lifter. It is a fine beer itself. Now, make this a double scotch style ale (i.e., increase the malt and hops and therefore the alcohol content). Then, take the 1000th batch made and age it for more than 6 months in bourbon barrels made of apple wood. That is right . . . apple wood brandy barrels. Condition the beer for a cask and what you got is a delightful beer who's actual name escapes me now.

What does this all mean then . . .

The alcohol content is increased from 8% to 11% from the regular Kilt Lifter to this beast. The aroma is like nothing you will find in any other beer . . . clearly there is a hint (and a big one at that) of apples and brandy on the nose. A slight floral aroma can be detected but the alcohol scent somewhat overwhelms that. Right out of the cask, it is the alcohol that one tastes for the most part. Which, for most people is not a good thing. However, I let the beer warm up a bit. As it warmed the burning sensation of the high alcohol content ceased and what I was left with was an apple flavored BIG beer. The brandy barrels almost give the beer a woody character and the apple flavors are both sweet and crisp. This beer is surely a sipping beer . . . in fact I believe it took me the good part of 90 minutes to finish my glass. The reason for this is that the beer is incredibly complex and heavy. Chugging it would be a waste of hops and malt. The intense malt flavors are matched quite elegantly with the bittering hops.

The bottom line: Get to Novato, California immediately to try a one of a kind scotch ale!

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery Inc.: Immort Ale

After a short hiatus in posts, I am hoping to catch up with the recent beers that I have had the privilege to enjoy. The first being the Immort Ale from Dogfish Head (not currently being distributed in my area, but I was fortunate enough to find it on a trip to Charlotte, NC).

The first thing I noticed is that this beer has little head after the pour . . . I was hoping for a bit more, but you got what you have and move on. The aromas from this beer are comparable in complexity to a fine wine. However, unlike a fine wine, the fruit tones are not accentuated in the Immort Ale, but instead the nose is toasty, filled with notes of caramel, vanilla, and maybe even a tad of oak and smoke.

Turns out that the smoke comes from the peat-smoked barley, something that you likely wont find in more than a small handful of other beers. It is no wonder that this craft beer is a limited release every year. I feel lucky to have got my hands on one! In addition to the smoked barley, Dogfish Head adds in maple syrup, vanilla and organic juniper berries. The vanilla and maple syrup come through nicely at low temperatures. Out of the fridge the Immort Ale is crisp and clean, great for a mild summer day, even if it is on the dark side and a bit high in alcohol (11% alcohol by volume). The smoked-barley malt overpowers the hops; the Immort has 50 IBUs, which is about that (maybe a little high) for your standard IPA. But, the overwhelming amount of quality malts limits the hops effectiveness in this beer. Normally, I would through a fit over this, but, not this time. The smooth character of this beer and its delightful sweetness is second to none (and no this is not because I am in love with anything that Dogfish Head makes). As the Immort Ale warms, the smokey tones become ever more profound, simply adding to the complexity of the beer.

The bottom line: Its Dogfish Head . . . do you even have to ask!?

Eel River Brewing Company: Organic Acai Berry Wheat

Lets face it . . . i am not one for fruity beers. But, I am a huge fan of acai berries . . . its too bad they don't care acai berry juice at Trader Joes anymore. When I saw it at a Whole Foods I had to buy it and drink it immediately.

Eel River states that the beer is a blend of acai (pronounced like 'ah-sigh-ee') and four other organic berries. It is a light beer . . . very light in color, but packed with flavor. The aroma is exactly what you would expect out of a fruit beer . . . fruity, smells like a basket of ripe berries! I think it is key that this beer is a wheat-style, anything else and it would have killed the magnificent fruit tones that the acai berries provide. And, the alcohol content is low (4%), making it a rather drinkable beer nonetheless. In terms of fruit beers, I would but this one near that top!! It is fantastic. Not too sweet, not too tart, not too dry . . .just right. It has the right balance of wheat malt, little hops, and acai berries to provide a splendid flavor.

And, this guy is organic. Still not convinced to try it? Well, acai berries are loaded with antioxidants. Yeah, that is right, antioxidants in a beer . . . next time the doctor tells you that you need to be more concerned about antioxidants, you can tell him, "but doctor, I don't need anything but Eel River's Acai Berry Wheat!". I am sure that would go over well.

In any regard, this is probably not a beer that will win the hearts of all the hop heads in the world. But, for those with a slight sensitive side, this might be worth purchasing (and drinking, obviously). It will likely surprise you, given its wonderful balance and aroma, especially if you are not a fan of fruit beers like myself.

The bottom line: Antioxidants are good for you, Acai berries are packed with antioxidants, Acai berries are in Eel River's new Organic Acai Berry Wheat, therefore the Organic Acai Berry Wheat is good for you!

Port Brewing Company: Hot Rocks Lager

Listen up ladies and gentlemen . . . the Hot Rocks Lager is so new, its not even listed on the company's website yet.

Turns out that this beer was produced in collaboration with the folks at Bend Brewing Co. And, more importantly, this is not your standard lager . . . no-sirree-bob. Before reading the description on the bottle, one notices something odd about this guy, its color. I grew up just south of Pottstown, PA, the home of Yuengling Lager. When I began pouring the Hot Rocks Lager, I expected a similar color, maybe a little darker . . . but, much to my surprise the beer is very much opaque, a rich mahogany color. Very different for a lager if you ask me.

Then comes the aroma . . . malt, malt, malt, malt . . . malt, and more malt. I am guessing the hops were kept to a minimum with this guy (after tasting it, I am guessing less than 15 IBUs, 20 max!). The nose is almost caramel-like, very delightful, and smokey (more on this later). The initial taste however caught me by surprise . . . smokey, like a piece of smoked Pennsylvania Dutch sausage. And, as the beer warms the smokey malt flavors come through more and more . . . delicious!

Now comes the interesting part . . . apparently the sole purpose of this collaboration was to "rock it old school", i.e, brew the beer like yesteryear, in a style known as "stein beer" in Germany. The brewing method involves heating rocks in a fire until the begin to glow, like lava flowing from a volcano (hence the name Hot Rocks). Then, the rocks are removed from the fire and pitched into the wort, creating a nice boil, smoke, and steam (hence the smokey taste I do believe). What a way to brew a beer! I will definitely, have to pick up a few more of these guys to save for a fun get-together with friends . . . boy, will they be shocked!

The bottom line: Not your typical American lager, hot rocks make Hot Rocks Lager and fantastic beer!

Alaskan Brewing Co.: IPA

Alaskan's IPA is nothing special . . . it is no where near on the same level as the IPAs produced by Dogfish Head, Stone, Speakeasy, etc. But, it is not bad . . . I have had far worse.

At first glance, one notices its crystal clear appearance. It is very translucent, sort of halfway between the 60 minute and your standard American light dirty water. The aroma is fresh, gives you the sense that you are walking through an orange, lemon, and lime orchard, a definite positive for this beer. Clearly this IPA has been dry-hopped.

Weighing in at 55 IBUs one may expect a little bit of a punch to the mouth upon tasting. However, I do not get that. In fact, the pure crispness of the beer comes through far better than the hops that one comes to expect from IPAs. The benefit to this is that it is a very drinkable beer for just about everybody (except maybe someone who usually drinks something like PBR). I am willing to bet that some crystal malt and maybe even a bit of roasted barley was added to this guy giving it a slightly toasted flavor. This sets the Alaskan IPA apart from many other IPAs. With that said though, I think a few more hops (i.e., warrior or admiral) would make this a killer beer, especially for the end of long autumn work day. As it stands now, its a good beer for a summer picnic . . .

The bottom line: An average IPA, great for any summer occasion.

Green Flash Brewing Co.: Hop Head Red Ale

I picked-up a six-pack of the Hop Head Red Ale on my beer mission that resulted in the purchase of Mephistopheles' Stout. My expectations were this: 1) Hops, and lots of them, 2) A typical red ale (with more hops that usual), and 3) Hops, and lots of them.

Turns out that the Hop Head Red Ale should more accurately be called the Hop Fingernail Ale. Note the TWO changes that I made.
  1. This is not a beer for hop heads. It comes in at 45 IBUs, which is on the low scale for IPAs, but given the beer's name, I was expecting more, i.e., 60-70.
  2. I am not sure where the "Red" comes into play here . . . in all honesty, it is no more red than any of the IPAs that I have tasted. They pose the question on the bottle: "Is this Red IPA"? My response is no . . . I would be willing to go with IPA, but not red!
The one nice thing about the Hop Head Red Ale is the strong aroma produced by dry-hopping Amarillo hops . . . a very nice touch. In all honesty, if it wasn't for this added flare, I would probably not drink the rest of the six-pack. With that said, the dry-hopping does overwhelm the caramel malt used in the brew. For me, this is a good thing . . . however, if hops are not your thing, then maybe you would have voted for not dry-hopping the beer if employed by Green Flash.

If you live in Southern California, you are in luck . . . Green Flash opens its doors every Friday and Saturday for beer drinkers of all types to come taste all of their ales. It is well worth the trip given that the standard 4 ounce sample costs you only 50 cents.

And, one more thing of note about Green Flash . . . what is a Green Flash anyway? The short answer is that it is the flash of light observed just after sunset or just before sunrise, normally over a large body of water (like the ocean!), caused by the refraction and extinction of light in the atmosphere. For more information click here.

The bottom line: Its not red, its not really for a "Hop Head", but it does taste good at the end of a long day in the office.

Avery Brewing: Mephistopheles' Stout

Mephistopheles' Stout is the last installment in Avery's The Demons of Ale series. That is too bad, because after drinking this fine stout, I am interested to see what more they could do to make a more fantastic beer!

If one were to concoct this magical blend of malt, hops, yeast, sugar, and water with just ingredients lieing around the house, here is what you would need:

1 Blender (you need to mix the ingredients somehow)
1 Bar of Dark Chocolate
1/4 Cup of Ground Espresso Beans
Licorice (and not the fake red crap made by Twizzler)
1 Small Bunch of Merlot Grapes (for an added touch)

Now, just press blend, and viola! Okay, I would not recommend drinking that mixture, but, the nose of Mephistopheles' Stout is comprised of all these ingredients. If there wasn't so much alcohol in this bad boy (~16% alcohol by volume), you may spend more time just sniffing than drinking. This is a sipping beer after all and its complexity elegantly evolves as you plow through it.

I started this guy off at about 40°F (not recommended) . . . if I were to drink it again, I'd try to pour it at about 52°F to 56°F as that is about the temperature of the beer when the malt really comes through. Also, at such a low temperature, the feeling in the throat was a bit unpleasant, sort of like taking shots of rum. However, as the beer warmed, it became something that words can not describe (but I will make every attempt to do so!). First, are the hops . . . coming in at 107 IBUs, this stout is loaded with those green friends of ours. Two variates are used: Magnum and Styrian Goldings. The immense amount of malt in this beer does kill some of the bitterness that you might expect from a beer that has 107 IBUs. So, don't go pick up Mephistopheles' Stout expecting the bitterness of your standard IIPA . . . not going to happen. The Magnum hops (13-15% alpha acid) provides the bulk of the bittering and the, much lower acidic Styrian Goldings give the beer is delicate aroma.

This beer is complex, on par with some of the world's finest wines in complexity. The two notes that were most clear to me were the black malt and roasted barley. The combination of these two ingredients not only gives the Mephistopheles' Stout is charcoal black color, but also its sophisticated taste. I don't want to say that it tastes burnt, because it doesn't, but it approaches that taste . . . its like standing on the edge of a high dive looking down at a pool with no water in it . . . I, personally love this flavor in a beer, especially when drinking a high quality stout. Avery notes on the bottle that they use some added sugar (turbinado sugar) . . . makes you think when you pour this beer that you are about to indulge in something sweet, like eating half-gallons of ice cream late at night. But, taste buds do not lie . . . sweet is probably the last word I would use in describing this beast (and lets face it, when you are a beer with 16% alcohol, you are a beast). Don't get me wrong, there is a slight sweetness to the Mephistopheles' Stout, but nowhere even remotely close (like "really sweet" is the moon and the Mephistopheles' Stout is the Earth) to what you might expect.

The bottom line: Tons of dark malt + tons of hops + some special yeast + water + sugar = tons of alcohol + tons of beer goodness!

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery Inc.: 60 Minute IPA


The continuously hopped IPA is like no other IPA on the market. I mean that. It's an IPA, but, the mere fact that the hops are continuously added over a period of 60 minutes adds a complexity to the beer that you just cannot find from other breweries (you can find it though from the other Dogfish Head ales!).

The 60 minute comes in at 60 IBUs (how ironic . . .) and 6% ABV placing it right in the midst of other IPAs. For such a hoppy beer, you may expect a stronger aroma, but I am guessing that they do not dry hop this bad buy anywhere near as much as the 90 or 120 minute IPAs. The taste though is sensational, loaded with citrus notes from the abundance of Warrior and Amarillo hops (there is another hop variety in this guy but Dogfish Head will not disclose what it is!).

Although the 60 minute is full of hops, it remains a very drinkable beer . . . story time:

"It was senior year at Penn State. I picked up a case of the 60 minute before heading to the game for some tailgating fun. To make a long story short, this beer is so drinkable that I managed to drink more than my fair share and was passed out before the start of the game, i.e., before noon."

I do not recommend drinking that much of the 60 minute, but a few would definitely suffice!

Lastly, Dogfish Head is again distributing coast to coast so you should not have to go far to find this high quality craft ale. To find the nearest bar or beer store to your home click here.

Bottom line: If hops are not your thing, then this ale will be a sting. If hops are your love, then this beer will fit you like a glove!

Victory Brewing: Hop Wallop

I have had this beer many times now and was delighted to see it in a While Foods here in Southern California a few weeks back. Without a doubt (if you exclude Dogfish Head's 120 Minute IPA), this is the hoppiest ale on the market. There are only two ways to get a hoppier beer . . . 1) Drink a 120 Minute IPA or 2) Brew one yourself. Although, with the amount of hops squeezed into the Hop Wallop, I would imagine that saturation of the alpha and beta acids is essentially attained, hence creating your own hop juice might be a daunting task. Nevertheless, it may be worth a try.

Imagine sitting in a field in the beginning of May . . . you know, right about that time when the wild flowers are in full bloom (depending on which part of the country you are from May may not be the best month, but I hope you get the picture). Now, take that invigorating essence from the air and imagine it has been sealed within a 12 ounce beer bottle. That's exactly what it is like when you pour Hop Wallop into your favorite goblet or chalice. I honestly don't know what it better, the nose or the taste . . .

This is the kind of beer though that you sip, slowly, over the course of an hour or so. I would recommend trying this first if you have never tried Hop Wallop (or any other super-hoppy beer for that matter):
  1. Stick one in the fridge for a few hours to cool down to about 40°F.
  2. Drink the beer slowly, i.e., 1 ounce every 5 minutes (do the math . . . this will take an hour) taking note of how the beer develops with temperature.
Chances are you will find that the beer gets better with time . . . and will likely peak in flavor somewhere in the middle of the hour. Try and take note of this and estimate the temperature, chances are its between 50°F and 55°F. If you are fortunate enough to have a wine cellar (one of those small wine coolers will do the trick if you are not a millionaire), stick the remaining 5 bottles in there. Now, you will have a Hop Wallop ready to go at the optimal temperature every day!

With regard to the hops, Victory does not disclose the exact nature of them, but I would be willing to speculate that an abundance of Warrior and/or Admiral hops were used. They also give no more information with respect tot he malts other than they are German.

The bottom line: If you want to pucker a bit and love those hops, pick up a 6-pack of Hop Wallop today!

Anderson Valley Brewing: Hop Ottin' IPA

Hop lovers, your dreams have come true!

The folks at Anderson Valley sure do know how to brew fantastic beers, and this no exception. The nose is full of floral notes making this a great beer for a spring day on the porch. The abundance of fine carmel malts give this IPA a brilliant golden brown color that is sure to please the eye. Like the Boont Amber Ale this beer is crisp and clean. However, hops, hops, and more hops prevail in this beer. Yet, it is not too bitter so that even those fair-weather IPA drinkers out there will enjoy this liquid hop-juice. At first, one might not even think this is an IPA given the initial rich malt overtones . . . but quickly, the malt succumbs to the hops.

What is more to like about this beer, well, this brewery, is that they are 100% solar powered. A few years ago the folks at Anderson Valley decided to broaden the focus of their brewery to not only emphasize high quality beers, but also to demonstrate how important it is to put the environment in the forefront by installing solar panels on the roof of the brewery. And, we are reminded of this every time we pot the cap on one of there beers since the cap says it all . . . solar powered brewery. I believe that this is not only a fantastic investment for Anderson Valley but also a stepping stone toward creating additional solar powered breweries across the country. Some other breweries have in fact begun following suit, however using different means to generate energy, like the wind! We can only hope that this trend continues and eventually works its way up to the big boys in the business.

The bottom line: Hop Ottin' bites like an angry rattlesnake looking for a fight

Anderson Valley Brewing: Boont Amber Ale

A sweet aroma fills the glass. A smidgen of hopa and a mouthful of malt pleases the taste buds. This amber ale, coming in at 5.8% abv is very nice . . . and after a few sips I can see why the bottle says "Consistently judged one of the World's Finest Breweries". This ale alone stands out as one of the best ambers on the market, comparing very well to the well known favorite, Fat Tire from New Belgium.

Its color is a rich copper tone and the taste is very clean. It boads will with spicy dishes, e.g. Mexican and Thai fare, just to name a few. And, as the bottle also says, "its good drinkin'" . . . I do confirm this. In fact, I like to keep a 6-pack on hand since it is a very drinkable beer, especially for those out there that are not hopheads.

The bottom line: Malty goodness, bursting with flavors, this beer is sure to please just about everybody.

Russian River Brewing: Blind Pig

Last evening I had the honor to try Blind Pig from Russian River Brewing. For those of you familiar with Russian River, you will already know that they make 3 IPA-style beers, ranging from the standard IPA (Blind Pig) to an IIPA (Pliny the Elder) and then finally to what some may call a "triple" IPA (Pliny the Younger); the later being released seasonally.

Blind Pig is a glorious beer . . . hops galore. The alcohol content is just right for an IPA at 6.1%, so if you love hops, but want to have more than a beer or two, this ought to be perfect. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that amarillo is the predominant hop used. If you are looking for a more balanced beer, this may not be for you since the hops are quite powerful in this liquid delight. The nose is quite floral, but dont let that deceive you . . . its not a beer for your old man that drinks Coors Light.

The bottom line: Like hops? Want more than one beer? This is the beer for you!

The World of Beer

With so many new beers being released these days, it is hard to stay on top of them all. Here, you can find reviews of some of the newest releases before you buy them. Have you seen a new release in your local beer-mart and are not sure if its worth the $10 to give it a try? Look here for a thorough review of the beer!