Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Anchor Brewing Co.: Porter

I hadn't really anticipated writing a beer review during the Bar Exam, but I was so excited to have finally put the six-hour, two-hundred question multistate portion of the exam behind me that I went out and bought myself a beer to have with dinner. While the bomber of Stone's Imperial Russian was tempting me, I'm not feeling that confident. So I went with a new pick from a favorite brewery: Anchor's porter.

Anchor really went big with the flavors on this one. An initial rush of sweet toasted malts gives way to a substantial dose of hops as the beer rolls over your overwhelmed tastebuds. The intial burst of sweetness has an almost fruity character to it, but the hops come in so quickly and so powerfully that you don't have much time to figure out exactly which fruit it is. The finishing flavor is a distinctive smokiness that persists along with the bold hop flavors for quite a while. For coffee-lovers like myself, the aftertaste is nothing to complain about, but those who are not quite as enamored with bitter flavors might want to stay away.

The mouthfeel tends toward the thicker side of the spectrum, which along with the bold, smoky flavors probably makes this the sort of beer that isn't really best enjoyed on a hot summer afternoon. Of course, that concern doesn't apply if you happen to be hanging out in Anchor's hometown of San Francisco, where the word "hot" is used to refer to any day that gets above 75 degrees. And even those are few and far between.

Another solid showing for a California mainstay. Hopheads and fans of darker brews should check this one out for sure.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Trader Joe's (JosephsBrau) Brewing Co.: Dunkelweizen

Trader Joe's seems to enjoy thrusting itself into just about every line of food product imagineable. Generally, this is a good thing: I have developed an affinity for many of their Trader Joe's brand name foods, especially their salsas and frozen pizzas. When it comes to beer, they are a little more hit-or-miss. They put out a spectacular limited-edition tripel this past year, but some of their general releases are rather boring. Their dunkelweizen fits this model--it's nothing to sneer at, but it's a far cry from the delicious brews that come out of the old world.

TJ's dunkelweizen is a very malty beer, principally sporting flavors of banana and cloves, though the banana flavors are not quite as bold as you'll find in some beers. These sweeter flavors are tempered by a crisp carbonated fizz and a light hoppiness, but the banana-maltiness persists from first sip long into the aftertaste. The sweetness isn't at all cloying or syrupy, but hopheads will certainly be disappointed by the limited tastebud-life of this beer's bitter side. Finally, it's worth mentioning that this beer is neither dark nor thick. It has a medium amber flavor and sports a pretty light body, making it more refreshing than your traditional Dunkels, but it also lacks the bold full-bodied flavor of your traditional German dark beers.

But, taking advantage of the virtues of a vertically integrated business, Trader Joe's manages to sell this stuff a couple bucks cheaper than your typical craft brew sixpack. Combine that with a bowl of tortilla chips and their delicious Salsa Autentica, and you've got the makings of a thoroughly enjoyable and affordable summer evening.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Lagunitas Brewing Co: a Little Sumpin' Sumpin' ale

It seems these days like people's tastes shift as often as do the winds...

If you've been reading my posts for awhile you may have guessed that I didn't create that last sentence. Laguintas Brewing Company spawned that proverb. While, I didn't write it, I generally agree with the sentiment. People's preferences these days seem to change on a whim. Beer preferences included. And I'm not immune to this global phenomem. I find myself obsessed with pale ales and then a week later won't drink anything but an amber lager.
And then shortly after, I'll drive 'cross town just to get my hands on a good American blond ale. Why? I'm not really sure. But breweries understand the concept.

Lagunitas Brewing Co, is one of the best California breweries at producing a wide variety of 'seasonal' and 'limited relase' beers. To match the tastes of the season and simply to mix up the traditional tastes they provide for the consumers, Laguintas always, and I mean always, has a seasonal beer on the shelves. On my latest beer run I noticed, "a Little Sumpin' Sumpin' ale", "Hop Stoopid", and "Undercover Investigation Shutdown ale" all in the beer aisle complimenting the traditional Laguinitas offerings. And I gotta say, I'm a fan of this trend. While it can be annoying to grow attached to a seasonal beer that is only available for 4 months outta the year, the anticipation of waiting for that brew and the ability to sample new creations far outweighs the cons.

As for "a Little Sumpin' Sumpin' ale", I picked up this brew because I had simply never tried it before. Not surprising, I enjoy sampling and reviewing new beers. I'll pretty much try any offering from Lagunitas as I love most of their beer. Sumpin' Sumpin' is a pale wheat with a ton of bite. While the wheat flavors are present, Lagunitas manages to work in incredible amounts of pine flavors and alcohol tastes. To be quite honest, it wasn't what I was expecting from this wheat based brew. Most American wheats are thin, mellow, and weak and this is anything but. On a blind taste test you could easily convince the drinker that it was a double IPA. Even with all the pine resin and booze bite there are some candied sugar flavors and a prominent wheat aroma to cut the strong kick.

While I'm not sure I agree with Lagunitas' decision to make this 7.3% ale a summer seasonal, it's a nice change of pace. And seeing how my beer tastes change frequently I might grab another sometime in future. Cheers.