Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Tale of Two Lagunitas Brews

Lagunitas is a brewery based out Petaluma California. One of the reason's why I enjoy them so much is that they make some really good beers that are extremely well priced. Many times you can get a bomber of their beers for around 4 bucks, which is pretty low compared to other similar beers. Recently my local Spec's has had two new versions of their beer. Their easy for me to pick up because worst case even if I don't like it, I haven't invested that much money in it. Over the last couple of day's I've been able to try both of these new beers.
Hop Stoopid: This is their Imperial IPA and imperial it is weighing in at 8% and 102 IBU's. It pours a bright orange with a thin white head. Hops are all over the nose here, floral and citrus. The first sip is an absolute explosion of hops dancing across the tongue. A medium body with little malt balance, but loads of citrus peel, grapefruit, hints of wild floral flavors. Its lip puckering hoppy and resinous. A great bargain DIPA. This thing saturates the tongue in hops. Its really quite a good DIPA that gets an A- from me. Lots of BA love for this one.
2009 Correction Ale: As the label says THIS IS NOT A DIPA. That doesn't mean it doesn't have hops though. It weighs in at 74.2 IBU's and 6.33 % abv. It pours a pale copper color with a good white head of foam. Hoppy bitterness on the nose a bit of citrus and an earthiness to the hops, a different nose then Hop Stoopid. The mouthfeel is a little thin on the first sip. But boy is it bitter, resinous, astringent. There is a hint of Windex in this beer. The hops are way over the top, but I don't get any of the good grapefruit or citrus peel instead I get heavy doses of astringency and that's about all. No real depth or other flavors to speak of. No malts, nothing. A bit of a disappointment this gets a C from me. Not a drain pour, but not something I'll try again. The Hop Stoopid on the other hand has now become my go to DIPA especially for the price. As for the correction ale, the folks at BA liked it more than I did.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Cisco Brewer's The Grey Lady

In the ever expanding line up of beers available to Texas comes one from a brewery that I am completely unfamiliar with. Cisco Brewery is based out of Nantucket, and is also affiliated with a distillery and winery. They've been around sine 1995 and all their beers are packaged in big 750 mL bottles. None of their beers seems to be extreme or out of this world, rather solid every day great tasting beers. This one, their Grey lady is their take on a Belgian Wit ale.
The Beer: The beer pours a pale hazy yellow with a thin bubbly white head. The nose is yeasty, tropical fruits like start fruit, pineapple and mango. Its like standing in front of the tropical fruit stand at the market and taking a big whiff. The mouth is smooth, not very effervescent, its thick and creamy instead of crisp and refreshing. Spicy, banana flavors and the tropical fruit are all there in the mouth. A good solid beer, and one that would work wonderfully with a light salad (I actually served it with a nice Salad Nicoise) or fish. This one gets a solid B- from me. Here's what the folks at BA had to say.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Victory Hop Devil

I'm a fan of Victory brewing out of Pennsylvania. I've enjoyed every offering that I've had from them. Unfortunately for me they don't have a wide selection here in the Texas, that thankfully has changed. They have sent their special release beer Wild Devil to our fine state. The base of this beer is their Hop Devil IPA, then they infect with the wild yeast Brett.
The Beer: The beer weighs in at 6.7% and pours a cloudy brown with a thick off white head. Grapefruit hoppyness hits the nose on the first whiff, then a nice wave of barnyard funk takes over, caramel, wild flowers finish it off. The mouthfeel is thick and chewy, tart, effervescent. There is a nice grapefruit-yness here but it then moves towards the funky yeasty notes of Brett. There is a musty earthyness as well. The sense of taste is creamy, grapefruity, barny, citrusy, sour, rich. But somehow this beer does a good job of pulling everything together. The hops balancing out the funk of the brett, the brett balancing out the grapefruit in the hops. A very fine beer that gets an A- from me.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Russian River Damnation

A happy Memorial Day to all the men and women who have served or are currently serving in our armed forces. Thank you.

This weekend was fight weekend for me, a chance to sit down and watch some good fights. Well what goes better with a fight then a really good beer? This one from California's Russian River Brewing was picked up during my wife's recent trip to LA. Their Damnation is a Belgian Style Golden ale (think Duvel).
The Beer: This golden ale weighs in at 7.5% and pours a bright straw yellow a ton of tiny little bubbles and capped by a humongous white head. The nose is fruity yeasty esters, earthy hops, citrus, honey and peach. The mouth is extremely effervescent, the beer dancing along the tongue. Its dry and toasty almost like a champagne in mouthfeel. Crisp. Citrus and honey, pear, yeasty, bready, a bit of an underlying sourness. Some pale malts and toastyness adds a little sweetness to the brew as well. This is an amazing beer. Its actually my first full bottle of Russian River (I've tasted their stuff at GABF in the past) and its really good. I can't wait to try some of their other's. This gets an enthusiastic A- from me. The folks at BA give it some love as well.

Friday, May 22, 2009

My Spain Trip

As most know I returned a few days ago from a very nice two week vacation to Spain. As amazing as this trip was, and the awesome sites I got to see this is not a travel blog so I won't bore anyone with minute details of my trip and all the things you should see when you go. However, I do want to mention my thoughts on the food and beer of Spain, two things very near and dear to my heart and this blog. First the beer. In short, not so good. Whether in Barcelona where Estrella Damm and Mortiz reign supreme, Vallencia and Sevilla where Cruzcampo is everywhere, or Grenada where Alahambra is supreme, its pretty much the same beer, pale lager's. While none are bad, none are that great. The best of them is probably Alahambra beer which I found to be a bit fuller bodied. The food though was amazing, and I tried as much as I could. In Barcelona I loved the tortilla (the ubiquitous Spanish dish of eggs and potatoes), and the butter sauteed little green peppers that were so tasty and a popular tapas dish. In Valencia, we had paella, where surprisingly rabbit was a big player, blood sausage (different from Barcelona where the blood sausage contained rice). Also different was the paella where there were huge white beans mixed in adding an amazing depth and almost meatiness to the rice. Also another of my favorite dishes was partridge pate with macadamia nuts.
From there we traveled to Grenada where you start to see an arabic influence in the foods. Middle easter flavors, but also a lot of offal. Two of the more interesting dishes was the Sosas which was brains fired in puff pastry (first time eater but not to bad) and tortilla Sacromonte, a tortilla made with potatoes and offal. Grenada was a great city not only for the amazing Alahambra but of what I have always considered tapas to be. Streets of bars where bars supply tapas for the first beverage you buy. This allowed you to hop from bar to bar trying a beverage (whether it be a glass of beer or wine or vermouth which was supplied from a cask). Grenada was also more beer centric then Barcelona, where you could go to bars and get some German and Belgian beers along with the basic Spanish offerings. Finally we headed to Sevilla where Seafood reigned supreme. Squid and Salted Cod being the biggest players, but shrimp and other fishes were in most dishes as well. As much as I enjoyed the seafood dishes my favorite had to be the cured Iberian Pork. The cured meat was from pigs that had fed on acorns which created an incredibly rich meat. I just mentioned a few dishes from each of the city I visited but I don't want anyone to think that's all I had or all that there is to offer, it was those things that made the biggest impression on me.
I'll close my relatively brief summary with a few quick observations. A great way to try meals at more expensive restaurant was to get their Menu del Dia or Menu of the day. It included bread, drink (water, beer, wine, or cola), 2 courses, and a desert. This was all for anywhere between 7 and 15 euro's. Not bad, although what I did find humerous was all the second courses were basically a well prepared protein with fries on the side (note: Spain is not known for its fries). One thing I always think about when traveling is how much I love experiencing each regions food and drink. Throughout my traveling around Spain I enjoyed seing the diversity of food from each region and even what the predoment drink was. It made me think do travelers to the states see and enjoy the same thing? Do they travel to the south for a taste of true soul food, or to the New England area for seafood dishes, or Kansas City and Texas for BBQ, etc?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ok, What I'd Miss?

After two weeks away (I'll write a short blog entry on Spain in the coming days) it is good to be back in Houston. Over the past 24 hours or so I've been trying to figure out what newsy items I missed out on. It seems there was some bad and some good things that occurred.
- First the bad: It seems that HB 2094 is dead. It made it further than the bill did the last time, out of committee, but due to the deep pockets of the beer distributors it has failed. Brock and Co. have sworn to try again. It will be two years so if you want to start writing your senators now and inundate them with letters it might not be a bad idea. Maybe if the folks in Austin get 2 years worth of letters maybe just maybe they'll see how much popular support there is for this bill (I know I'm naive thinking that the legislatures may actually consider the people over the deep pockets of the beer distributors, but anything is worth a try at this point).

- Ok, now with some better news. First, our two local Houston breweries had some home brewing contest. Right before I left, Southern Star Brewing had their home brew contest. The winner's recipe will be brewed as Southern Star's fall seasonal as well as entered into the GABF Pro-Am contest. The winning recipe? A Saison. SS has stated they may even try to can it. That would be awesome.
- The second bit of homebrewing news regards the 14th annual Big Brew Beer Bash, the largest single style homebrew contest in the states. Over the last few years the winning brew has been made into a Saint Arnold's Divine Reserve. Well the style this year is Strong Scotch Ale, the winner was Phillip Kaufman. His brew will be made into Divine Reserve 8 and will be released later this year.
- Lastly, while, we are talking about Saint Arnold's, they will be celebrating their 15th Anniversary this June. To celebrate they will be having a BIG party at the brewery on June 7th. See here for more details. Also Saint Arnold has posted some new pictures of their new brewery. Its coming along and the new brewhouse is in place! Can't wait for it to open.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Barley Vine Hiatus

This will be my last post for a couple of weeks as I'm off for a well needed vacation. The wife and I are headed to Spain. However before I leave I wanted to post a couple of quick notes:
- May 11th through the 17th is American Craft Beer Week. I'm sure various beer bars around town will be hosting some special events so raise a glass of craft beer that week and salute those that make it.
- Secondly the next session has been announced. The host for this month's virtual beer tasting is Brian Yaeger, author of Red, White, and Brew, the theme for this month is Think/Drink Globally. Since my blog touts good beer is local beer I didn't know what to think initially. However upon reading his idea I kinda like it. Here is his idea:
I pose everyone writes about the farthest brewery (including brewpubs) you have visited and specifically the best beer you had there. Again, not your favorite or any old brewery you've been to, but the one that is the longest haul away, be it by airplane, car, ferry, rickshaw, whatever...
Then he has a second challenge:
  • if you brought home a bottle while visiting the brewery and have it secreted away, crack it open.
  • if you don't have any left from that visit but the particular beer is available where you live (or if not your fave from said brewery, another brand from it), go get one.
  • otherwise, find a local beer of the same style and do a little compare and contrast.
Due date is June 5. It seems this month's Session coincides nicely with my trip to Spain. While known more for its wines, maybe just maybe I can find something worth writing about.

Monday, May 04, 2009

A couple of beers from LA

Last week my wife went on a very quick business trip to LA. When she came back she surprised me with 4 bombers of local California beer. She picked me up beers from The Bruery, Alesmith, Russian River, and Anderson Valley. Not to shabby. Over the course of the last few days, I've had the opportunity to open a couple of them and try them out.
Alesmith Wee Heavy: Alesmith is actually a brewery just outside of San Diego, founded in 1995. From their website it looks like they've got a lot of folks that were big time home brewers, and now they get to make beer for a living. Doesn't sound to bad (although a lot of hard work). This particular beer, their Wee Heavy is Scottish Ale that seems to have won a few awards recently. Sounds good so far, but again the question must be asked how does it taste? It weighs in at 10.0% and pours a deep rich brown almost black with streaks of red showing up against the light and capped by a thick head of taupe colored foam. The nose is of malt and raisins, charred wood, coco. The mouthfeel is thick and creamy as expected. Almost chewy. Notes of raisins and figs, chocolate. Very little carbonation it sits on the tongue. Dark Chocolate bitterness works well against the sweetness of the malt. No alcohol flavor but you do 'feel' it. My wife and I had this beer with some nice dark chocolate and it paired nicely. This beer is the opposite of a big DIPA, instead of saturating your tongue with hops its malts that penetrate to the core. Great beer that gets an A from me, with some strong support from BA.
The Bruery Orchard White: This one is a small brewery in Orange County, that specialize in bottle conditioned beer. Again founded by home brewers, this brewery is just a little over a year old, but they seem to make some pretty interesting looking beers. This one is their take on a classic Belgian Wit style, with a unique addition of Lavender. The beer weighs in at 5.7% and pours a cloudy pale straw color with at thick frothy white head. The nose is brightly floral, honey, orange, coriander and a bit of lavender, notes of cereal and grains. The mouthfeel is effervescent and bubbly, full bodied, refreshing. Notes of honey, orange, coriander, and cereal. This is a very interesting beer. The lavender is there but thankfully not overpowering, just a hint. The big taste difference here is the use of rolled oats which really adds a nice tasty cereal flavor the beer. The negative aspect of it is that its a 'heavier' beer. I like my wits, crisp, refreshing and light. While this one is incredibly tasty and somewhat refreshing from the flavors it sits a little heavy for my preference in this style. It gets a B from me. The folks at BA love it.

The Session #27 Roundup

Did anyone else miss that? Last Friday May 1st was the first Friday of May. For me that usually means its Session Day. The day beer bloggers the world over come together to taste beer with a common theme. Friday's host was the blog Beer at Joe's, the theme was Beer Cocktails. And I just forgot. The good news is that it looked like it was good time and the round up is here.