Last February, Beersurfing travelled to the Bay Area to hunt down that fabled beer known as Pliny the Younger, rated to be the second best beer in the world by BeerAdvocate and various others. They weren’t kidding, and the younger Pliny was excellent, but I would be crazy to not tell you about the countless other fine beers I found in the surrounding Bay area. I just found all of my notes a couple of days ago, (including some jotted down on a BART train schedule), and I owe it to all of you to tell you about each and every beer sampled in this wonderland of craft beers. If you love craft beer a little too much, the Bay Area is a great place to be!
Starting off this epic adventure was the Hop Crisis from 21st Amendment. This was the very first beer I had on the trip after 8 hours of travelling by plane and 1 hour of trudging through the rain in downtown San Francisco. I wanted the strongest IPA they had on the menu and some food that went well with it, so they brought out a pint of Hop Crisis and a delightfully delicious mushroom swiss burger. A brilliant topaz color, the Hop Crisis offers a very diverse aroma – I definitely detected maple syrup, rock candy, cedar chips, sawdust, and an unbelievable amount of hops. The taste was less impressive – the taste was overpowered by the bitterness of the dry hops, and it makes no attempts mask its 10.8% alcohol content at all. It was numbing on the palette and almost papery; suffice to say, it was difficult to finish.
Overall, the Hop Crisis certainly isn’t worth flying 800 miles for, but it hit the spot after a full day of travelling and was only the first of three beers at 21A. While I’ve had far worse beers, this one was entirely too bitter for my hop-loving taste buds, and should probably be enjoyed only by the the most die-hard hop-heads. Getting past the first sip is tough, and you really need to soldier through that entire pint. A pint of Hop Crisis will set you back $6 at 21st Amendment’s downtown bar, a bargain by San Francisco standards.
Donny lured me over to his apartment yesterday to have a taste of some highly sought after and fabled beer from the Boston Brewing Company that one of his friends brought him. It wasn’t cold and ready yet, so I’ll have to leave that for another review. Rather than wait a perfectly good Beersurfing meeting, we raided the nearby T’s Liquor Store to hold us over. Low and behold, we came across a few cans of Gubna from the Oskar Blues Brewery in Colorado.
This is the first imperial IPA that I’ve ever had out of a can, and you can definitely tell its been sitting in a can. In addition to the sticky hops flavor, it has a tin and rubbing alcohol taste to it that was quite unpleasant, at least initially. When warm, you’re left with the unmistakable taste of cannabis resin – unfortunately, once I identified that taste, Donny and I were able to taste nothing else! The Gubna has typical imperial IPA coloring – it’s a golden orange and clear as water, with absolutely no head. It has several interesting aromas floating out of it – I distinctly smelled papaya and mango along with antiseptic and oxidized metal. The latter two really dulled the hoppy aroma that I love about imperial IPA’s, but you can’t win them all, I suppose. The texture is pretty typical of an imperial IPA – thick, sticky like sap, and smooth like butter. It’s very pleasant on the palette of a dedicated hophead.
This is a really great imperial IPA. It has a perfect blend of sugary tastes and hoppy aroma that each remind me of why I love imperial IPA’s. However, to really enjoy it, the Gubna needs to be colder than a witch’s tit – many of the flavors that make it enjoyable are only noticeable at cooler temperatures, and the burnt resin taste becomes much more apparent as it gets warmer. The Gubna contains 10% alcohol by volume, and was sold for about $4 a can at T’s in Tempe.
I may be a day late and a buck short, but do I have a great beer for you today! Sorry for the delay in posts – I have been driving around the Tempe/Phoenix area to find a bottle of Lost Abbey’s Angel Share that isn’t a week old, because several of you informed us that this bottle, like most brandy/beer liquors, tastes much better if you let the bottle sit for about a year. I spent my time trying to find more and came up with nothing. However, my adventures did bring me to my local Whole Foods. The masses of hippies and people who don’t shower here just weird me out, but their one saving grace that I can’t take away from them is their amazing and diverse beer selection. After having the beer-and-cheese guy scrounge around in the back to no avail, I asked him what he would recommend. He hit it out the park! For today’s review, I give you the Pauwel Kwak (or just “The Kwak”), from the Brouwerij Bosteels in Belgium..
To truly understand why this beer is so awesome, you must understand my mood – I have been drinking beers for the past two months to find one with an excellent fruity flavor, and honestly, I was drinking garbage 60% of the time. I have now found that beer. The Kwak has a slight fruity smell to it, like hops and mangos. There is some other spice that I can’t identify, but it definitely adds a nice finish to the aroma. It is a deep amber color, slightly clouded like a hefeweizen with an amazing amount of head. This beer was made for me! The Kwak has a creamy flavor – bananas with a hint of mango – also like a hef with a more flavor to it. I think the spice is coriander, or possibly cloves, but I’m fine with leaving it mysterious. This beer rocks – it has amazing depth and a great flavor palette. It definitely tastes better when it has some head on it. Bosteels recommends that this beer be poured into a specific glass before drinking. I haven’t seen anything quite like it, but call me impressed:
Any beer that requires a wooden stand to keep it sturdy is a winner in my book. Find the glass and drink the beer – it is a treat you won’t forget. The Pauwel Kwak might have just found a spot in my regular rotation of drinking, which does not happen often for a beer reviewer that prides himself on drinking new things. I have another bottle of beer from Whole Foods that has me curious, but until my next review, I’m going to continue enjoying my Saturday before I tell you about it.
So last week I tried an interesting beer, something I had never had before – Lost Abbey’s “The Angel’s Share”. Now this beer claims to be a beer inspired for sinners, so of course I just had to try it. I bought the 14 dollar bottle of alcohol and merrily walked out to my car to go home and enjoy the decadence of this beer from my wonderful couch. I do my normal Beersurfing routine where I pour myself a glass, smell it, take pictures, and thoroughly tease myself for the great moment of the first taste. By now you must be wondering why there are no pictures here and why I am not describing to you how The Angel’s Share tasted – that is because I don’t want you to drink it. Or even try it. I don’t want you to think at any point in time that this beer is worth trying – at 14 dollars a bottle I expected something fantastic, something life changing. It didn’t happen, so I urge you not to buy this ever. Ever. Ever! Save your money and buy some other coffee/fruit stout found at just about anywhere that doesn’t rape the taste and flavor for something else. My personal recommendation this week would be the Coconut Joe from Papago Brewery – it does with this tries to do and doesn’t completely fail at it.
For those of you who still want to know what the Angel’s Share tasted like, I will give you the review. When I poured it, it smelled fantastic, like fruitcake, with hints of alcohol, butter, nuts, cinnamon, and caramel. This smelled like pure bliss, so I took said beer and brought it to my lips for the first great taste…. and sadly, it tasted like cough syrup mixed with Wellshire original hard candies and just takes the worst aspects of both. It has the super sweetness of caramel with the astringent aftertaste of cough syrup. I tried to power my way through this glass on my own, and then tried to pawn it off on any person in the room willing to give it a go. After one sip, everyone who sampled it said they’d rather have Bud Light, then proved it by having one. So let my experience serve as an example to others – spend your $14 on something else.
Tonight’s beer is Hair of the Dog’s “Adam” out of Portland, Oregon. The Adam was brewed by Hair of the Dog as a tribute to a fellow brewer who evidently had a very fine nose for excellent beer. I selected this beer as the voters choice based on input collected throughout the past month – you chose it, and I’m drinking it! I actually drank this a couple of weeks ago, but in the midst of sampling a cavalcade of other craft beers from a variety of sources, I hope you aren’t terribly upset that I sat on it. Without further adieu, meet Adam!
The Adam poured out a brilliant blood red, almost sanguinated with light bubbles coursing through it, and looks exactly like someone drained a rare steak into a glass. It has a very tall head, and plenty of yeast to drive the fermentation. Some settled into the bottom of my glass, but there was a thick coating of it on the bottom of the bottle. The nose on it was typical for a beer like this, imparting a strong aroma of cherries with the pungent nip of furniture varnish and gasoline. Where this beer truly excels, however, was in the flavor profile – the flavor is intense and almost romantic, offering strong tinges of alcohol and Cuban cigars with further intimations of dark chocolate and saddle leather. It has a chewy texture to it, but it goes down smoothly with enough alcohol to warm you up on a cold night. The beer is quite sticky, with a soothing aftertaste that will leave you licking your lips for more.
Reactions to this beer around my usual tasting circle were very positive, and several people actually proclaimed “I’d put that in my mouth again!” This was an exceptionally tasty stout and very comparable to Bell’s Expedition Stout from a couple of weeks ago, but it’s going to take something truly extraordinary to beat that one! This was odd beer, but very well done – you all have excellent tastes! It is a bit pricey at $4.50 for a 12 ounce bottle, but definitely worth it if you’re looking for a truly fantastic stout.
Don’t forget to keep voting! I don’t follow any particular schedule with them – I just drink the winner whenever I feel like drinking it. Until next time, happy drinking!
It’s been a long week, and an even longer weekend. I decided to end it with Hazed and Infused, an old-school American Pale Ale from the Boulder Beer Company that first introduced me to craft beers before I created Beersurfing. This beer is incredible, and I get nostalgic every time I drink it. Since I have never properly reviewed it and I found a bottle for less than a buck at a local liquor store, I decided to give it a proper introduction to Beersurfing.
The first whiff you get of Hazed and Infused will remind you that springtime is approaching quickly, offering the zesty aroma citrus blossoms and lemonade with the not-so-subtle hint of Centennial hops. It pours as an orange, caramel-colored ale with a thin, one-fingered head that’s difficult to see through. The dominant taste is that of citrus, slightly sour, and offers the perfect combination of dry Crystal and Centennial hops sugary malts. The flavor is neither mild nor intense – it really is just right, and satisfactorily quenched my palette with its watery texture and tickling amount of carbonation.
Hazed and Infused is one of my all-time favorite beers for a variety of reasons. Not only is it incredibly tasty, it is widely available and very cheap for what it is – nearly as cheap as the various macrobrews out there. I found this bottle at T’s Liquors & Convenience in Tempe for $1.09 – cheaper than a bottle of Coke!
So here I am fellow surfers, about to embark on a great journey… one that is dearest to my heart, or in my case wallet, I am here to tell you whether or not the beer is worth the buy and if it isn’t which beer is worth the buy. But you ask why do I take on this long process of trying great beers and unknown beers to help you the reader decide which is better and save you tons of bucks? Because my mom always taught me to have an excuse for being drunk at 3 in the afternoon. Now less with babble and introductions and on to the action… so who do we have on the chopping block today.
Squatters Hop Rising.
Supposedly the best beer that Squatters offers, hailed as their flagship, nothing compares to it and after having it you will swear everything else they make is crap.
So I guess this is time for the brass tax of it all, what I thought. So I poured this baby and let me tell you it looked great, less than a fingers worth of head and as I poured I could smell something citrus coming off. When I looked at this bad boy I was impressed, a nice deep orange amber hinting at a nice body waiting inside the cup. I brought the cup up and inhaled, citrus, most definitely citrus, something floral like orange blossoms, but with hops! I am impressed my mouth is watering. Now for the first taste….. hops, citrus, something kind of nutty or toasted, and a piny finish. I am impressed as I sit here and marvel at the beer, I notice something else, I feel like my mouth is parched. So I take another drink and I am amazed at how much body this has. The depth of this beer amazes me, there are levels of hoppy goodness. Now I am not saying that this is a full bodied beer, by no means but it has something more than a medium bodied lady, a nice kick and finish. Downside, it leaves your mouth coated dried, like I want to drink water but why when there is more beer! I sit and revel in this beers hoppy goodness. Definitely lives up to the hype of being Squatters best beer. When you get the chance try this gem, but be sure to have a glass of water (sacralege) or your next beer on the table before you finish.
Help me out, Internet – I’m completely indecisive. I have 17 bottles of crafty and elusive beer in my fridge, but I don’t know which one to write about and drink for your reading pleasure. The current list is in the sidebar on the right – go vote on your favorite, and I’ll drink the winner whenever I’m good and thirsty. In the event of a tie, I reserve the right to drink more than one. Go!
Tonight’s blog entry brings you the Noble Pils from Sam Adams, the first hoppy beer from the Boston Brewing company that I’ve come across in my near-year of blogging about beer.
The first nose of this beer is minty with a slight hint of hops, and the overall aroma gets diluted once it actually makes it into your glass. It pours out as a very clear and pale yellow fluid with practically no head on it. The aroma is practically non-existent, though the barely-present hop profile is slightly sweet. It’s a flavorful beer, but certainly not what I was expecting – aside from the minty intonations, there’s not much else to it. It’s not nearly hoppy enough, and overall it is a very bland beer. I would even go so far to say that, like most of the Sam Adam’s beers, it is watered down and overall, underwhelming.
For a beer that attempts to highlight its hoppy ancestry, this isn’t even close to an IPA, and it really just tastes like the Boston Lager with some hops sprinkled in it. This hoppy brew from the behemoth of Boston was frankly underwhelming certainly did not live up to the hype. It is certainly not one of Sammy’s best. I came across a couple bottles of this at various parties, but from what I understand it is bundled as part of the 12-bottle Brewmaster’s Collection, which I found at my local grocery store for $13.