Episode 13: A little of the old “ultra-sweetness”.

Sucking on the teat of the dark beer mistress.  Believe it or not there are more stouts out there than Guinness.  Stouts of all kinds.  Stouts, coffee stouts, oatmeal stouts, imperial stouts, barrel aged stouts (aged in liquor barrels before bottling), imperial coffee barrel aged galacto stouts, oyster stouts (yes, brewed with actual oysters), etc.  And if you want to make the argument that a stout is really just a “stout” porter and that porters and stouts are essentially the same style of beer…well, you get the point.  This one happens to be a milk stout which is a stout typically brewed with more lactose sugars in order to give the beer a more mild, sweeter, and creamier profile.

 

I’m slowly realizing that not all beers benefit with age.  Typically the high octane brews do well with age.  Beers that are “bottle conditioned” (yeast and sugar is added to the bottle so that the beer continues to change and mature over the years) do well with age.  Those beers that don’t fit into those categories won’t do much with a years time, and this beer is about a year old.

Three Floyds Moloko Milk Stout

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The aroma is that of robust roasty malts, oats, and sweetness.  Perhaps a years time didn’t harm this one at all.  The beer is creamy in the mouth with malt sweetness and an abbreviated finish.  Very short and clean.  The residual flavors in the mouth come back after everything is done with more sweetness and coffee and cocoa.  This beer has a bit more to it than a standard milk stout.  The first punch is that of a nicely robust stout but then it calms down and has that very short finish almost like a dry stout.  This beer had a lot more to offer than I would have suspected.  A good one from a brewery that is pretty well regarded (though they don’t distribute to CA).

They don’t show the ABV percentage on the bottle, but I’m guessing it’s between 5-6%.  No matter, for a Friday night it’s got me feeling like lounging in some psychedelic milk bar, pouring myself some milk off the statuesque breast of a mannequin, and hanging out with friends at my side, waiting for a little of the ultra-violence.

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Episode 12: Quit yer bitchin’.

The seasons are in an uneasy power-grab.  Well, in a SoCal way.  Here we are straddling summer and autumn and we don’t really know what season we are in at any one time.  Last week it was nice, crisp, cool and the first signs of the coming holiday season.  Next week?  Supposed to be in the high 80′s, guaranteed to have my back drenched in sweat by the time I park the car at home after the hellish commute from work.  It’s with that confluence in mind that I crack open a bottle of Dogfish Head’s Bitches Brew (or maybe it just happened to work out that way).  

 

The short lived TV show, Brewmasters, on Discovery Channel, followed the wacky and oh-so off the wall Dogfish Head brewery in Delaware.  One of the first episodes detailed the brewing process of this beer.  It’s a beer brewed to commemorate the life and artistry of Miles Davis, and the album of the same name which blended different genres of music from a legend more known for smooth and quintessential jazz.  As such, the beer is a blend of an imperial stout and a honey beer with gesho root (whatever the heck that is).

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The beer pours a pitch black with an effervescent head that quickly dissipates, as if you dropped alka seltzer into Yoohoo.  The aroma and flavor of the beer is definitely that of imperial stout, with it’s roasted malts and nuances of coffee and dark cocoa.  But there’s a lightness about the beer I can only assume is coming from the honey beer component.  Where the gesho root fits into this I have no fucking clue as I don’t even know what gesho root is and why it would be brewed into a beer.  Where other imperial stouts typically overwhelm you with chewy, thick, creamy viscosity as if you were sipping beer in pudding form, this beer is not quite as hefty.  While it’s good, it also seems to lack some depth.  My favorite imperial stouts offer more complexity or at least do what they do in perfect fashion as to not let you wish for more.  This beer is not quite at that level.

After having tasted a previous bottle and being very interested in it, I bought this bottle almost a year ago to the day.  Even though DFH is not one of my favorite breweries, I was expecting a little more from this beer.  Not bad, by any means, but not a bottle I would reach for again.

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Episode 11: Surprise beer. The greatest gift of all.

It came to me like a vision of beauty. Its curves and charm overwhelmed my senses and woke me from the darkened gaze that had infected my optics and the world then stood in vibrantly lush green fields of joy. Surprise beer is some of the best in the world. There I was, completing tasks, executing daily errands when I reached into my backpack for an item and out came a bottle of beer that I didn’t even know was there. It’s as if the stars had finally aligned and bestowed upon me a glimmer of hope, a slight but brilliantly shining light that maybe, just maybe, all was right in the world at this exact moment in time, be it only for a split second. The universe was in balance, souls were in harmony, and I was coming up a bottle of beer.

I don’t know how it got there. That may not be true, actually. If I had to guess, I would say, flying three sheets to the wind, I grabbed it from the refrigerator at my buddy’s pad with the intention of saving it for later and perhaps writing one of these entries on it. Kind of a jerk move, to be honest. But that’s just a best guess from a mind that seems to be fuzzy from that night. So I choose to believe it was placed there by an angel. You have no proof to the contrary.

SN Hoptimum

This beer is a supremely hopped imperial India pale ale by Sierra Nevada called Hoptimum. So it says on the label. The color is bronze and the head of the beer is medium in density with a white color. The aroma, while nice, also has an unusual twang to it, perhaps from spending a handful of days in my backpack. The flavor is definitely hop forward with a sturdy malt backbone to drive the undercurrent. Sipping the beer I’m reminded of one of my favorites of the style, and a beer that I think does this whole shebang a tad better than Hoptimum is Sucks from Lagunitas. Sucks, which I can’t seem to get enough of, seems to have a more floral and tropical hop profile, while Hoptimum has a more resiny and “base” hop profile. Still, Hoptimum is a nice and flavorful beer and would do justice to many a hop-head.

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Episode 10: The great pumpkin

While seasons change and crisp winds give way to baking heat, my heart always belongs to the fall and winter here in SoCal. Perhaps I would enjoy spring more (which I do love) if I weren’t acutely aware that summer wasn’t just around the corner. It’s the same reasoning why I don’t seem to enjoy Sundays as much as one should.

Another downside, to me personally, is that the summer months of the craft beer world tend to be dominated by summer seasonal offerings from each brewery. Usually lighter, brighter, and fruitier beers that, while good in their own rights, aren’t really my style. It makes me long for the fall and winter seasonals which more often than not will catch my interest. One of the first styles that hits the market shelves and serves as a signal of the coming fall season is the pumpkin beer.

Pumpkin isn’t for everyone, but it is for me that’s for sure. I love pumpkin. Pumpkin everything. Pumpkin pie, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin bread, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin soup, pumpkin beer, and just plain old pumpkin roasted in the oven. If you can dig into a pumpkin pie at any time of the year and you like yourself some beer, try some out next time you see some (which might not be until September).

There is something to note about pumpkin flavored things and that is it’s usually not about the pumpkin itself. More often than not what you’ll be tasting are the spices usually associated with pumpkin pie. Cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg will be the predominant spices. That’s why if you don’t really care for pumpkin pie (and you can go to hell, in my opinion), you probably won’t be likely to try out other pumpkin flavored things, like pumpkin beer.

Kern River Brewery is one of my favorite breweries. They are a small outfit located in the Sequoia mountains of Kern County, off Lake Isabella. Small as they may be, they make some truly excellent and top notch brews. I’ve heard rumors that they are expanding but as of right now their distribution is spotty. It used to be that finding some of their beers here in L.A. wasn’t that big a deal, but now if I see anything of theirs on the shelf it’s a cold day in hell.

KRBC Pumpkin Ale (2)

The beer pours a clear and vibrant gold color with medium creamy white head and nice mild aroma of tangy pumpkin spices. I’ve had this beer before and what impresses me each time is the balance of spices in a beer that is still quite crisp and refreshing and not overly heavy and dark. A lot of the lesser versions of pumpkin beers tend to over-do the pumpkin pie spices and what you get is a swift fist of nutmeg and cloves to your mush. Not the case with this beer as the spices are balanced enough to keep you reaching for more without pulling the ejector seat and pouring it out.

The body of the beer is a tad bit more substantial than your average light lager, so it gives you a slight bit of creaminess and lets you know this isn’t for shotgunning. Perhaps a perfect beer for that time of the year when you’re putting away the board shorts in favor of flannels. This beer is one of the better versions I’ve tasted and that’s no surprise to me considering it’s coming from Kern River Brewing Co.

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Episode 9: Chinese ass juice

Last Saturday night was filled with ton of booze. It started at dinner with Sapporos and some sake to go along with a sushi dinner. Along came another type of Japanese beer. Well off to a respectable start the boozing continued later with friends. Glasses of red wine were poured and all was good. Then some vengeful a-hole decided to break out a bottle of Jim Beam. I am not a bourbon man. And neither is the host, really, who more or less started pouring out shots simply to get rid of the stuff. He, of ill repute, used my birthday as a sham of a reason to rid himself of the foul liquor as he poured me shot after shot, and I, not wanting to be a disruptive guest, quaffed them down.

Thankfully cooler heads prevailed and we walked across the street for more beers. Little did I know what was to come upon our return.

I assume it’s Chinese whiskey. I don’t really know because I can’t read Chinese. The bottle is clear, as is the liquor, but the label is blood red. There is a good story about how my friends came into possession of the bottle which I won’t get into, but suffice it to say shots of it were being taken just to experience how truly awful it was. If despair had a flavor, this would be it. Somewhere between black licorice and garbage dumpster run-off. It’s mind blowing how anybody could take enjoyment from it. Nobody we know enjoys it, and many have been coerced into taking shots. The best reviews it has received has been a scant few who have taken shots of it and not immediately gagged, and even those people were looked upon with great suspicion.

Upon returning to my friend’s chambers he doled out two shots in a most sadistic manner. The two shots were meant for myself and a friend. I, in my grand wisdom and compromised faculties, stepped up and not only slugged down my shot, but when my friend refused his, I slugged his down as well. The move was meant as a jocular boasting, a besting of manhood at the hands of my liver.

But the true fool was me. The true wickedness and insidious evil of the Chinese ass juice is that its flavor will penetrate your palette like no other. Like the spray of a skunk, it will stick with you until rapture. We know this. It is one of the great reasons why it is forced upon unsuspecting drinkers. Just when you think the torture is done…oh no. Wait until you taste it with every burp for the next 24 hours and each burp will remind you of what the fetid rotting corpse of a mule tastes like. All hours of Sunday was spent with the noxious fumes from my stomach lurching back up into my mouth and into my nostrils.

They may make excellent orange chicken, but I have a hard time trusting the Chinese.

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Episode 8: Embracing the inner Deutsch-bag.

Apologies for not drinking an Irish beer but a hockey buddy of mine requested a write up about a hefeweizen beer. Unfortunately I don’t have one in the cellar but I have something very close.

Believe it or not, great German beer is not hard to find here in the U.S. Shelves of it can be found at your local big box wine and liquor retailers (Bevmo, Total Wine, etc.) and you may even find a decent selection at your local supermarket. Aside from pale ales, hefeweizens seem to be one of the easiest styles for craft brew beginners to get into. I suppose that in contrast to the typical Buds and Coors, these beers offer some very tasty flavors without roundhouse kicking you in the mush with hops or dragging you into the muck with motor oil maltiness.

So why German beer? Well, if you like wheat beers, you owe it to yourself to explore some German beers being that they pretty much make the best beers of that style in the world. Beer brewing goes back centuries in Germany, and perhaps the oldest brewery in the world, Weihenstephaner (according to my fellow beer bud, Billy, is pronounced vine-sh-teh-fahn) claims to date back to 1040. I’m willing to bet that’s a lot older than Coors. Zee Germans also wrote one of, if not the oldest food laws in the world, the Reinheitsgebot in 1516 which mandated that beer can only be produced from water, malted barley, and hops (yeast hadn’t been discovered yet).

What do the Germans excel at? Wheat beers (hefeweizens) and bocks. Pilseners too, although that’s more of a German/Czech collabo-thing. They make the archetypes for those styles. If you enjoy Shock Top or Blue Moon (which is actually a Belgian style wheat beer, and a mediocre one at that) you owe it to your taste buds to try a true German hefeweizen.

Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier Dunkel

This beer is a dunkel hefeweizen. When you read “dunkel”, think dark, because that’s basically what this is. This is a dark version of the normally lighter colored hefeweizen. Imagine hefeweizen’s seedy brother that dabbled in black tar heroin and started huffing krylon. The color is more caramel than the usual gold color of a regular hefeweizen with a haziness from the wheat and yeast. The head is thick and creamy and the aroma is pungent with wheat and yeast character. Lots of people equate the aroma to bananas. I usually get the very pungent yeast, wheat, cloves and coriander. The flavor and smell of the beer is very close to a Belgian style pale ale and to be honest I probably wouldn’t be able to guess which is which in a blind taste test.
While a typical hefeweizen will bowl you over with the cloves and spiciness, this particular beer contrasts that with just a bit more maltiness. What you get is a nice spicy character, a mild tartness with a very slight malt that holds that wheat and yeast back a bit. This beer isn’t as bright and vibrant as a non-Dunkel version is and that suits me fine as I can only have so much wheat beer before I get sick of it.

Go out and try some good German beers. Don’t just assume that the mass produced Americanized versions *cough cough Shock Top cough* are as good as it gets. Trust me, there’s way better out there. All you need to do is look a little. Try some brews from: Augustiner, Aventinus, Ayinger, Erdinger, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbrau, Paulaner, Spaten, Wiehenstephaner amongst others.

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Episode 7: Merry Christmas, dammit!

I love the holiday season. I’m an acute lover of fall, winter, Thanksgiving, and all things Christmas. If nature could skip the scorched Earth policy of summer and head straight to October right after May, I’d be the happiest fucker in all the lands. I have a small section of Christmas music in my mp3 library and have been known to run “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” through my headphones in the middle of July. In fact, I have it playing right now. Not that anyone needed confirmation, but that’s how you know I’m one truly messed up individual.

This episode’s beer comes to us from Anchor Brewing up in San Francisco, a brewery that dates back to 1896, believe it or not, and is one of, if not the oldest “craft” breweries in the states well before the modern craft brewing industry was thought of. Really, the current wave of independent breweries is nothing new and is really just a resurgence of “what was”. It’s really been a recent phenomenon (I’m guessing somewheres around the 60′s-70′s) that beer in America became dominated by huge conglomerate breweries that churned out the pale, neutered, unoffensive, and diet-ized beer that the vast majority of Americans know today. What the huge breweries brought was enough money to open their own breweries around the U.S., guaranteeing every shelf across America could be stocked with their product. That concept of national distribution wasn’t practical for the existing breweries of the time, which operated in a more regional area. At any rate, I’m no historian, so don’t take my words as fact. This is what I’ve gleaned over the years.

Anchor Merry Christmas Ale '12

Each year Anchor brews their Christmas Ale and each year the recipe varies to a degree. Still, the beer is a unique one and it has a certain spice characteristic that I’ve still not been able to place. I want to say the beer has a certain peppermint oil flavor but I’m still not sure what it is. Whatever it is, it gives the beer a very enjoyably peculiar aroma and flavor that goes well with the medium roasted maltiness. Truth be told, I remember this beer being a bit more robust in years past and this year’s batch seems a tad bit toned down. It’s always been a pretty smooth and creamy beer and that has not changed. If you’re in the mood to try something a bit off the beaten path, you might still be able to find this one around. It’s usually sold in six packs and you might even find magnum bottles of it at your local bottle shops.

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