Thursday, November 29, 2007

Deschutes Brewery: Hop Trip Fresh Hop Ale

Warning Warning! Beer prices on the rise!

My mother informed me that six packs might go up a dollar next year. Although this increase is not an incredibly large amount, for how much some of us consume (or use to), this rise is worth noting.

Beer drinkers in the Northwest became very upset when they heard this news. The northwest is a great beer brewing region. Washingtonians especially love their beer. (Enhanced by the fact that hard liquor is state regulated so its not available at supermarkets.) Washington writers have been intently following the agricultural updates on the upcoming shortage. My mom, a Seattle PI reader, forwarded along this article to me last month. The exerpt below, explains next year's price increase:
"Hops and malt, a form of barley essential to fermentation, are both in short supply nationwide. The shortage is caused by poor crops, high demand, the weak dollar and the increasing popularity of ethanol, which has prompted farmers to plant corn rather than hops or barley."

What does this all mean? Well don't worry, there probably won't be a shortage of beers out next year. With one exception: Harvest Ales.
If you read my Sierra Nevada Harvest Fresh Hop Ale post you may remember that a few breweries make a pale ale at harvest time with a large batch of fresh instead of dried hops. The process requires more fresh hops than would be needed if the brewers used the traditional dried formula.

So, with the possibility of no Harvest Ales on the shelf next year, (it looks like this is only a one year problem) I decided to try Deschutes Brewery: Hop Trip Fresh Hop Ale.
And I'm glad I did. It is delicious!
Although not as hoppy as their traditional pale, Mirror Pond, it has a wonderful soft mouthfeel. One of those beers that I could easily polish off a six pack and not be sick of the brew by the end. Like a trademark harvest ale, you can taste the hop resin sloshing around in the beer as opposed to a bitter kick. Sierra may have written the book on harvest ales, but Deschutes makes a damn tasty one. So, I recommend grabbing the remaining bottles of this fall brew before it's gone. Cheers

Monday, November 19, 2007

Bell's Brewery: Special Double Cream Stout

As Mattie indicated on Friday, 'tis the season for Winter special brews. With that theme in mind I am pretty stoked to share Bell's Special Double Cream Stout, though it looks from their website as though it might not be available out west. If that's true, it sucks, because I had hopes of hauling a case of them up to Tahoe for the yet-to-be-planned ski trip we'll be going on.

Bell's (formerly known as Kalamazoo) has been referred to as "America's stout specialists." This is actually the second stout of theirs I've had, the other one (Kalamazoo stout) was also quite good but I'll save it for a non-holiday post. Bells is a Michigan Brewery, and that's where they are biggest, but they show up in establishments that pride themselves on craft brews over much of the Eastern U.S.

Back to the beer at hand. The double cream is fairly thick, even for a stout--thicker even than Guinness. It's got a blend of something like 10 or 12 different malts, but like stouts generally, the malts have a very "roasty" flavor. The underlying flavors are coffee, chocolate, and that distinctive smokiness--classic stout flavors. But besides being exceptionally well balanced, the beer is marked by a subtle sweetness and a very creamy mouthfeel.

When I first tasted it I remarked to my buddy that it was the "hot chocolate of beers," but that comment needs some qualifying. It's not sweet like lambics are sweet. It's just has a much milder bite than most stouts, which combined with the undertones of chocolate and the silky smooth texture gives the impression of drinking hot chocolate.

Which brings me back to the Tahoe comment. This is precisely the sort of beer you'd reach for after getting back home to your cabin after a day on the ski-slopes and throwing a couple of logs on the fire. But for those of you who don't like the mountains, it'll probably hit the spot on any day where you'd much rather enjoy a lazy day inside than brave the winter elements. Now if I can just get BevMo to stock the stuff...

Friday, November 16, 2007

New Belgium Brewing: 2° Below Ale

Let's cut straight to the point: 2° Below is Fat Tire as a "Winter Warmer".
Most micro breweries release a seasonal Winter style Ale which keeps you warm in the winter (hence the name) by creating a beer with an increased alcohol % and adding some hearty malts to match the strong flavors of the holidays. With the holidays fast approaching 2° Below deserves a post.
2° below is technically not a classic winter warmer (its actually an ESB and it tastes like New Belgium's amber ale). I honestly wouldn't be surprised if New Belgium took their Fat Tire recipe and dry hopped it in the later stages of the brewing process to raise the alcohol % from 5.2 to 6.6. They probably don't do this but the alcohol content is the only difference between 2° Below and Fat Tire. You still get the biscuity nutty unique taste of Fat Tire with every sip of this ale. The color is an amber brown opposed to the traditional winter warmer black-brown coloring. Either way it fits the winter bill and is marketed properly. After two '2°s' you'll be sufficiently buzzing due to the higher alcohol content.

I make this post because Fat Tire is a beloved beer. If you love Fat Tire (as I do) and tend to switch to Winter Warmers in the cold months, please, please go get 2° Below. If you want, drink it in your lockdown pint glass for added nostalgia (see left). However, I also make this post because as a haus member, I know some of you have burned out from the epic first lock down. In that case, don't buy this beer. It will remind you of the glory of that night.

Now, there were still a series of CA beers that I wanted to review before switching out of this great state. But since I love Fat Tire and I want to send a warning to the haters, I had to flag this Colorado brew. Cheers (or not)

Friday, November 2, 2007

Speakeasy Ales & Lagers: Untouchable Pale Ale

I inundated myself with Speakeasy this summer.

As it was my first time living in San Francisco City proper, I tried absorbing 'The City' by going all out local all the time. As former Washingtonians, Shaan (my former roommate and drinking buddy) and I are use to sucking down Redhook, Mac & Jack's, and Pyramid at home. With a new home, we tried switching it up. We traded in the old three for a new three: Anchor, Magnolia, and Speakeasy. And it wasn't that hard as these brews were on tap at every bar in our new hood.

I felt I had to consume large amounts of Speakeasy and I even joined the Speakeasy mob.

Speakeasy is rather small so it's pretty hard to find outside of SF. So I got pretty stoked when Vacaville BevMo randomly had two 6 packs in it's back room; so I snatched it up as soon as I discovered 'em. Unfortunately it was Untouchable Pale Ale. Although not bad in any sense, I prefer White Lighting, Big Daddy, and Prohibition. But I still had to write a review to spread the word for their other fine brews. And well, I didn't have much else in the fridge. (click on the picture to see my beer deviously plotting their escape from their cold prison)

Untouchable is a very unique American Pale Ale. It's most overwhelming quality is its toasted malts. I would say most APAs go for a balance between Hops and Malts, or, if anything, favor the hops. This beers is almost all toasted malts. I say toasted because it has that distinct charred malt flavor that you hear beer snobs talk about but never actually taste. This beer has got it. It's other notable feature is quick disappearance of the head that leaves a nice lacing behind as you drink it.

So if you are in The City and in mood for a Pale Ale that doesn't follow the trend try Untouchable. But if you want their best go with White Lighting or Prohibition. Cheers.