Friday, May 22, 2009

Pike Brewing Co: Naughty Nellie Golden Artisan Ale

Sometimes a stroll down memory lane can be by accident. As I was roaming down the aisles of a local liquor store over the weekend I ran into a display of 220z bottles of Pike Brewing Company beer. I was surprised to see bombers from this brewery staring me in the face in the Golden State. I use to drink Pike brew back when I lived in the Seattle area, and even then it was difficult to find in bottles. Mostly I would stumble into a pint or two at a local restaurant close to Pike's Place Market. Excitedly, I snatched up a couple bottles.

I started with Naughty Nellie's Golden Artisan ale. This is an american style golden ale which at times is dubbed an american style blonde ale. Whatever you want to call it, this beer is tasty. Pike is able to make a great session beer that is easy drinking but full of flavor. Not very bitter the malts comes through very nicely. The beer has a very light malt flavor which exhibits a touch of a honey taste. The soft malt flavor works so well it made me question for a second my satisfaction from caramel, dark, and roasted malt flavors. Overall the malted barley creates a smooth taste when slugged down. A slight grapefruit citrus aftertaste along with a grassy hop flavor round out a full sip. There's great balance all around a makes for a easy to drink ale.

While I never visited Pike Brewing Co in my six years in Washington, I'm glad the brewery found me again in California. I forgot how much I enjoy their beers. Cheers.

Santa Cruz Ale Works: Hefeweizen

It's a little depressing that 801ontap has yet to post on a true hefeweizen. Sure we've reviewed a number of pale wheats, a ton of witbiers, and a few hefeweizen hybrids. But there's nothing like a quality original hef. The problem is it's mighty difficult to find a great hefeweizen.

A great hef has a nice wheat flavor, complimented by unfiltered yeast particles, a hint of banana or apple, and a crisp aftertaste. Many American breweries have attempted the difficult task of recreating this traditional German style beer. Even as a young brewery, Santa Cruz Ale Works has tried to brew this difficult beer. To their credit, their hef has great head retention and a touch yeast and wheat flavors. However, the body is very watery and has that unrefined homebrew feeling on the tongue. There is a slight lemon tang but otherwise is pretty limited in the flavor. Overall not bad, but despite this typed review; nothing to write to Germany about.

Rather than quenching my thirst, drinking this ale makes me yearn for a true German hefeweizen. However that won't stop me from trying every American version I can find in hopes of finding a quality substitute. Wish me luck. Cheers.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ballast Point: Black Marlin Porter

Let me get right to the point: this is a smooth porter. Everything about this beer is silky. Black Marlin Porter comes in 22oz bottles at select liquor stores and when poured fills out with a solid black hue but with little to no head. With 6 oz to spare I tried to stir up some bubbles with an aggressive pour but coaxed very few.

The taste is subdued for a porter exhibiting little hop bite, greatly reduced smokey flavors, and only a touch of the coffee sensation. The aftertaste exhibits most of the coffee bean tastes and I was only able to really draw out the cafe flavors with that obnoxious mouth smacking breathing after a sip. As the beer warms, more hop resin flavors emerge but nothing crazy.

That all being said I really did enjoy this beer. As a personal preference I prefer other ales to porters (you've probably noticed from my prior posts). I find at times that roasted malts in porters can be too smokey and drown out hop and malted barley flavors. That is just not the case with Ballast Point's porter. I found it pretty easy to suck down a bomber of this brew and there was just enough hop resins to remind me of my other favorite west coast style beers. If you are into a smooth porter I'd recommend that you 'get to the point' and grab the black marlin. Cheers.

Rogue: American Amber Ale

Earlier today, I was pondering Budweiser's effort to muscle into the craft-brew market with their American Ale. Mattie has discussed some of this already in his earlier post, but it is an interesting move because it shows that Budweiser thinks that craft-brews have moved past a cult phenomenon and are now worth mainstream money. But it is also interesting that Budweiser's foray into the craft-brew market was with an amber ale. I would have thought that the American-style pale ale (a-la-Sierra Nevada) or amber lager (think Sam Adams) would have caught a wider audience. Clearly the brains at Bud are betting that the amber ale is poised to make a much bigger splash.

So before Bud's American ale gets too big, it's worth noting that their name is a direct rip-off of a much longer-running brew: Rogue's own American Amber Ale. But whereas Bud loaded up on sweetish malts and cascade hops, Rogue's original is a little more subtle. The malts are there, but they are a little more scaled back--a hint of coffee or maybe toasted bitterness offsets the sweetness. The hop bitterness is much stronger than you see in a lot of other ambers, and it's much more earthy than you get in beers like Fat Tire or Bud's American Ale. The beer is medium-bodied and persists with a slightly bitter-earthy aftertaste, but it's nothing unpleasant.

I was a little disappointed in this one only because I generally expect to get some pretty complex flavors from Rogue. Instead, they've stuck to the basics and produced a simple, but very well-balanced ale. It's probably best described as a hophead's alternative to some of the sweeter ambers on the market--bringing in all the roasty malt flavors you expect from an amber but still indulging in a generous amount of hoppiness. All-in-all, a very good beer, if not a great one.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Kona Brewing Co: Longboard Island Lager

It's hot right now. Yes I live in California. Yes it's mid-May. No kidding, right? I promise not to start every post this summer with "it's hot out". But for now, I'm not quite use to the heat. While I was lounging poolside today, I wanted some cold beers to cool me down. Considering I am on a substantial break from my work at the moment I picked up a ton of beers from the store to join me in the shallow end. Going with the classic 'cool me down', I first reached for an island style lager. Cliche? Yes. But tasty and refreshing, also yes and yes.

Kona's craftbrews are inspired by the island lifestyle and are made to enjoy on the beach and by the water. And I see why. This is a nicely malted lager with a clean crisp lemon flavored hop bite. It's quite refreshing, and if kept cold, a nice way to compliment a sunny day. As the brew warms even more lemon flavors emerge. So much so, I began to wonder if anyone slipped a piece of fruit in my brew. I was surprised that strong flavors emerged because it a pretty thin lager that goes down easy. While not ideal for a winter night or an air conditioned apartment it's perfect for the outdoors. This beer is also a nice upgrade from a American style macro lager and not too expensive even though it's being imported from Hawaii. So while you can't go wrong bringing cold beer to a pool party, this summer feel free to dive into a sixer of Longboard lager for a cool treat . Cheers.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Dogfish Head: 120 Minute IPA

Your typical run of the mill lager is 5% alcohol-by-volume. Grab yourself an ale, and 5.5-6% is the usual. Move on up the ladder to Belgian dubbels, Strong Ales (e.g. Arrogant Bastard), and malt liqour, where 7-8% is more typical. Then you get to your imperials: Double IPAs, Russian stouts, and Belgian trippels and quads, which weigh in around 10 or 11%. And that's pretty much as alcoholic as beer gets.

Which is why--despite the $12 for a 12 oz bottle--I could not possibly pass up Dogfish Head's 120 Minute IPA, weighing in at an ostentateous, unbelievable, and thoroughly unncessary 21% ABV.

How do you get so much alcohol in a beer? You develop a special strain of extra-resilient yeast and feed it generous quantities of sugar. As a result, the 120 Minute is sweet--really sweet. Despite all the hops they throw at it, this beer is not really all that bitter. It's sugary and carmelly and finishes with a little bit of orange zest of all things. All the hops really manage to do is take the edge of the sweetness, which is crucial because otherwise it would probably have a pretty gross aftertaste. It's also a little bit syrupy. You can taste the alcohol, but it's nowhere near as bad as I expected. Considering the fact that this beer has more alcohol than certain hard liquors, that's pretty remarkable.

I guess I have to give Dogfish credit for boldly going where no beer has gone before. But having been there once, I doubt I'll be back. 120 Minute is an impressive specimen of alcoholic engineering, but taste-wise it just doesn't offer much. It's kind of absurd that one of these little bottles has almost as much alcohol as a pitcher of Coors Light, but--all things considered--I'll take the pitcher.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Southampton Publick House: Double White Ale

I had this beer a few days ago when the weather was still nice, and I've been meaning to get a post up. Despite its name, Southampton is not just a brew pub--they're a full scale craft brewery shipping beers all around the Mid-Atlantic region. The idea of a double white ale particularly intrigued me. Wits are generally so mild; I didn't really have any clue what a double would taste like.

The answer is oranges. As my friend remarked after taking a sip, it's as if instead of putting a slice of orange on the rim a la Blue Moon, they just squeezed an entire orange directly into the glass. So be ready for a very sweet, very citric beer. Fortunately, the sweetness is tempered by a hefty dose of coriander and some cloves. Having doubled up on the fruit and the spices, an increased ABV would be only too appropriate, though at 7% it's not going to knock you on your ass. Despite all this, the beer is pretty light bodied, and as a result it manages to pull off a crisp finish.

It's a unique offering, to be sure. I couldn't really make up my mind how much I liked it, nor could I figure out what the appropriate occaision is for this brew. Is it a best suited for the heat of summer or a cool spring day? Would it go well with a meal or is it more of an after-dinner beer? Will girls like the increased sweetness or be put off by the bolder flavors?

Unfortunately, I'm in the midst of finals and don't have the time to ponder the subtleties of beer. Somebody else give it a try and report back.