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!