Tonight’s beer choice – Bell’s Batch 9000 on tap at the Papago Brewing Company, presented by Larry Bell himself. This was a pretty decent beer – it had the distinct flavor of raspberries, burnt jam, and wood varnish. The pour was a very deep and rosy blood red, with a small head and a crispness that was difficult to define. This was actually a very beautiful beer, and my crappy blurrycam certainly did not do it justice! The taste was predominately raspberries, alcohol, and a large amount of malt; it was a sweeter version of the Expedition Stout, its older cousin in the Bell family of beers. I could not tell if this was a strong ale, a barleywine, or a lambic. The nose on it is very diverse – I got more raspberries, burnt jam, cherries, and wood varnish. It was very nicely (lightly) carbonated, and had an enjoyable texture for my palate. I went through this very quickly, despite the strong alcohol content.
Tonight’s Thirsty Thursday brings a relatively light beer – the Oberon, a light wheat ale from Bell’s Brewery.
Cracked open, the first whiff hints at malt, oranges, and other citrusy goodness. The Oberon flies out of the bottle as a highly viscous and very pale yellow ale with a giant foamy head that would make dish soap jealous. A typical ale, the nose is mostly barley with a slight hint of sugary sweetness. The taste is enjoyable and slightly fruity, but the flavor is light and comes up very short of impressive, though it’s certainly drinkable. The real magic happens in the texture, and that is directly related to the amount of yeast crammed into the Oberon – the bottom of the bottle was coated with a good quarter inch of it, and you could see tiny little morsels of it suspended in a solution of yeasty goodness, neither moving, rising, nor sinking. The high amount of yeast in the bottle made for a very thin and highly carbonated beer – the fizzy feeling one gets from drinking cheap champagne made the Oberon very enjoyable for what it is. The yeast content was a very nice touch and for that alone, it is worth checking out.
Overall, the Oberon is not spectacular, but the high amount of yeast was a pleasant surprise to find in a type of beer that I don’t normally drink. If it wasn’t for the yeast, this would be any other beer I was happy to try something new by sticking with the Oberon, but I would pass it up for more familiar beers if I was shopping on a budget. I found several 120z bottles of the Oberon at Papago Brewery for $1.50, and I’ve seen it sold in six-packs in the Valley for about $7.
It’s going to be very difficult to follow up last night’s beer, so instead, I’ll continue with the review that I interrupted before embarking on that particular Expedition – tonight, I bring the Dogfish Head Aprihop to the table. There’s a soft spot in my heart for Dogfish Head, and there really isn’t one that I don’t like (well, maybe one…). Will this one meet or exceed my expectations? Let’s find out!
The first whiff of this beer is different, but nothing spectacular. Dogfish Head certainly doesn’t leave much to the imagination with the title – you smell apricots and you smell hops, but not much else. It looks like a darker IPA, but thicker, oranger, murkier, and keeps an actual head on it. For a beer with “hop” in the name, I expect hops and a lot of them – this beer is particularly mediocre in that regard, especially for DFH. The taste, unsurprisingly, is primarily fermented apricots, but it also combines the alcoholic taste of cooking sherry with the delightfully medicinal taste of Flintstones chewable vitamin pellets, a flavor which I can confidently say is unique to the Aprihop. The main nose is more apricot than hops, though it’s tough to knock them for telling you exactly what to expect! Aprihop has a silky smooth texture reminiscent of canned peaches – it’s smooth, viscous, refreshing, and pleasantly chewy.
Aprihop is a fun beer, and is yet another fine product worthy of the Dogfish Head moniker, although it’s certainly not their best. With its many descriptive nouns and adjectives, the Aprihop is a great beer to pre-party with. It’s not strong, it’s very easy to enjoy, and it will certainly relax you before before you move on to beer pong and kegstands. I would definitely prefer a hop aroma to the apricots, but I’ll take what I can get – you can’t win them all! Great job, Dogfish Head, and keep up the great work! I had to go out of my way to find this one – I picked this one up at the Bottle Barn in Santa Rosa, CA during my last beer run, and they had crates of it for about $7 a 6-pack.
Update: Dogfish Head contacted me about this review and informed me that the bottle I reviewed was very likely skunked – DFH only releases the Aprihop once per year, usually in March. Since I purchased this bottle before their usual release date, I probably got a bottle of the 2009 batch. I recently picked up a 4-pack of the recent batch, and it has definitely redeemed itself. My review is pretty spot on – the beer is hoppy and candy-like, with peach and apricot flavors. It is very fruity, and most assuredly does not taste like vitamins! I’ve also seen this one everywhere, and it’s readily available at most liquor stores.
I’ve had a lot of beer in my life. I’ve traveled to four countries, thirty-three US states, and countless cities, and I appear to have found one of the finest beers I’ve ever tasted in my own backyard, Phoenix. Bell’s Brewery hails from Kalamazoo, Michigan, but one of Phoenix’s legendary local breweries, Papago Brewery (recently ranked 13th best beer bar in the world by RateBeer), had several of their beers chilling in their fridge waiting for a new owner. After marveling in the wonder that was HopSlam, Beersurfing was curious about their other beers and Papago certainly delivered.
On the recommendation of a couple of friends from Michigan, we picked out a bottle of Expedition Stout. It turned out to be a fantastic choice. The Expedition Stout’s nose initially hits you with intonations of beef stock and summer sausage and absolutely no indication that it’s even a beer. I poured half a glass for my roommate, noting that it poured pitch black with the consistency of ink, with a very thick and creamy looking head. This beer only got better as I evaluated its finer points – as noted above, the beer imparts aromas of sausage and beef, along with subtler hints of celery and even some soy sauce. Its flavor profile is exceedingly complex, so complex that you’ll never quite identify every member of the party that just arrived on your taste buds – cloves, concentrated beer malt, and even salt dominate the taste along with a plethora of others. You don’t even notice the 10.5% of alcohol that is there – it’s masked that well. The Expedition Stout is buttery smooth, barely bubbly, and exceptionally sippable even for a stout. You definitely don’t want to drink this in gulps – the Expedition Stout wants and deserves to be sipped, and you’ll enjoy every last savory morsel of it. I made sure to suck the bottle dry!
The Expedition Stout is among the finest stouts in the world and is rated exceptionally high on most websites, including Beer Advocate and Rate Beer. The crème de la crème of beefy beers, the Expedition Stout is sophisticated, overwhelmingly complex, and just plain incredible. I’m simply at a loss of words to describe it any better, and like most of Bell’s beers, it’s not terribly uncommon the closer you get to Michigan. For such an outstanding beer, the price point was very reasonable – while I can’t speak for the rest of the world, Phoenicians can find the Expedition Stout for about $3 for a 12oz bottle at Papago Brewery in Scottsdale. Thanks to Sarah and Andrew for the tip!
Tonight’s Thirsty Thursday featured beer is The Hairy Eyeball from Lagunitas Brewery in Petaluma, California. Despite the curiously creative name, it isn’t bad! If eyeballs taste like this, eyeballs are tasty. My first impressions: it’s a lager, similar to Dogfish Head’s Pangaea, with a nose of moist bread and dry timber. In the glass, it looks like liquid cherrywood with a brown but brilliant ruby-like finish. \The Hairy Eyeball has an intense and spicy flavor profile and is really all over the board – my tongue got hints of grape juice, licorice, Robotussin, and Buckley’s cough syrup with slight chocolate overtones. Despite having 56 IBU’s, there’s practically zero hoppiness in this beer. I would call this a turnoff, but I’ve spent the last month drinking single, double, and triple IPA’s so I’ll let it slide! The Eyeball tickles your nose but it’s hardly pungent – in addition to the smells above, you’ll catch aromas of anise, licorice, and hot metal.
The Hairy Eyeball is stale and prickly in your mouth, and pretty difficult to swallow, yet leaves you feeling pleasantly numb on that sweet road to inebriation. Overall, this was a decent beer – while it is a flavorful lager, it was way too bitter and not in a good way. It tasted too much like medicine for me to drink it all the time, but some days, I’m just in one of those moods. My roommate had a more favorable view of it, and wished I could get more; unfortunately, I had to travel to Petalumas for this beer and purchase it directly from the brewery. It’s pretty reasonable at the brewery – they were selling 12oz bottles of any given beer for $3 a piece at the bar.
This morning, I woke up bright and early to make my way over to Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa, California. I was expecting a fairly small crowd, but as soon as I got there I was quite surprised! I got in before the crowd got too crazy, but later in the day the line for the brewery was out the door about about half a mile long. Glad I got my growlers when I did!
While picking up the growlers, I treated myself to a couple pours of Russian River’s best known beers, Pliny the Elder and his nephew, the Younger. Younger pours out a brilliant yet clear yellow-orange, and has no apparent head until you swirl it around a little bit. Where the beer starts to get interesting is the smell – by itself, PTY offers the smell of citrus and pine needles. However, when you serve it in an enclosed space with hundreds of people drinking the same thing, your nostrils will be overwhelmed by the hoppy goodness. Indeed, before I was able to pick up my growlers and my glasses, people all around me were drinking their Pliny – it was unadulterated torture! The taste was also impressive, with an intense flavor profile consisting of extremely bitter hops and pine. One the flavor finishes destroying your taste buds, I found my mouth was left with a stickiness that made me feel like I just drank a pint of pine sap. The Younger is thick, yet smooth, and was very easy to swallow. Overall, this one was definitely worth the 800 mile trip – this is an excellent reason to be in Santa Rosa in early February.
Next up was the Elder. Pliny the Elder appeared to be the “original” version of Pliny the Elder, as the two beers share a similar flavor but there are many obvious differences. First one was the color – as noted in the picture above, the Elder pours out bright yellow and is very cloudy. It has a head that seriously never disappears – it was there for the 45 minutes or so that the beer was in the glass, and coated the entirety of the glass by the time I finished the beer! The aroma this beer gives off is similar, though less intense, than the Younger; it seems to use some different hops. Indeed, the Elder gives off odors of malt liquor, citrus rinds, sugarcane, and freshly picked hops. The flavor profile was… different, but I won’t call it better than the Younger. While this one was also very hoppy, it was incredibly malty, very sweet, and almost had a solvent taste to it. The texture was foamy yet thin, and numbs your tongue very well as you swallow it. Overall, this beer was also excellent, though it has one big advantage over the Younger – it’s bottled and sold in local grocery stores, and I definitely picked up a couple of bottles to take to my friends!
While both of these beers were excellent, the camaraderie of the crowd of fellow craft beer drinkers who knew exactly what they were drinking really made these beers fantastic. Thanks, Russian River, for creating such an awesome pair of beers for Hopheads – your produce alone was worth the trip
What the hell? There’s a brewpub named Squatter’s in Terminal C of the Utah airport! Since when did Utah become so awesome? Will definitely have to pick up some beer (and some bottles) on my way back home from San Francisco.
In light of my upcoming epic beer run, I was surprised that I had not yet reviewed one of the tastiest beers that has ever been in my mouth. A few weeks ago, fellow “Twitter”-er Hoptopia pointed me in the direction of Bell’s Hopslam, a famously hopped and very popular IPA from Bell’s Brewery in Michigan.
I was so blown away by this beer I can barely describe it. I always take an immediate whiff of a bottle as soon as I pop the top, and my first impression of Hopslam was “wow, this is incredible”. The aroma will literally slam your nose with fresh hops, ripe fruit, and freshly cut grass, and it has the unmistakable amber appearance of tree sap. The flavor profile of this beer is full-bodied and complete, although it seems more hoppy and the botanical taste much more evident. It’s marketed as being brewed with honey – while that may contribute to the texture, it barely affects the taste as far as I can tell – there’s so much else here overwhelming your taste buds that you won’t even notice that it’s missing. The 10% alcohol content is masked very well by the flavor, and you won’t realize why you’re feeling groovy until you get to the bottom of the bottle. The texture of this beer when hits your mouth can best be compared to maple syrup. It’s thick but still watery, has zero head, is somewhat sticky when you swallow it, and leaves your mouth feeling papery when all is said and done. I found it to be very similar to Dogfish Head’s 120 Minute IPA that I reviewed a few months ago, with quite a few major differences – it’s less intense, drinkable on a daily basis, a third of the price, and far more available. For example, if you can find a bottle of DFH120, look around for Hopslam – I found several cases of it nearby. It also contained everything that I loved about Stone’s Ruination – the grapefruit, assorted citrus, and wonderful hoppy goodness – without all the temperamental crap one has to go through with Ruination to really enjoy it and avoid the extreme bitterness.
Overall, this IPA is beyond excellent and is definitely one of the best beers that I have reviewed to date. If you spot a bottle, or even a case, of this beer at your local store, stock up with as many as you can because it’s well worth whatever you pay for it – it apparently ages very well under the right conditions. I found Hopslam at my local Total Wine for about $3 a bottle, and it was available in 6-packs or by the caseload. On that note it’s time for bed – I’m starting my weekend early and flying to San Francisco in the morning to start my 800-mile beer run. First on the list (straight from the plane, actually) is 21st Amendment, which was one of the original inspirations for Beersurfing. There’s a pint of Hop Crisis waiting there with my name on it, and I don’t want to keep a good beer waiting!
Pliny the Younger is being released at Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa, California on 2/5/2010 at 11AM. Santa Rosa is 800 miles from me. PTY is BeerAdvocate’s second highest rated beer on the planet (and I just can’t swing a weekend trip to Belgium for the first), so this can mean only one thing – road trip!
After some quick planning, I found one awesome beersurfer willing to come along for the ride, but at the last minute I ended up finding a cheapish ticket out of Phoenix that was less than the cost of renting a car and fueling for a 1600 mile round trip. The plan is to fly out of Phoenix on Thursday morning, land in San Francisco in the afternoon and hang out with my amazing friends in the Bay, crash on someone’s couch, then drive up to Santa Rosa to get my day-drink on in Santa Rosa.
I will, of course, be visiting as many tasty breweries in the San Francisco area as possible. Know of a place I need to check out? Leave a comment below, or send an email to elliot at beersurfing dot com with details!
It’s been a while since I’ve updated this. Don’t think that I haven’t been drinking beer though – in true Thirsty Thursday style, I’ve decided to dump the gigantic backlog of tasting notes I’ve collected on to the Internet for your pleasure. It’s been quite a tasty decade so far – I’ve done a little bit of traveling, and I don’t think I’ve had the same beer more than once. Now that’s beersurfing!
In keeping with what Beersurfing originally set out to do, I bring you a story that’s a bit dated but really just overdue. I recently found myself going home for the holidays – stuck for three days in the tiny city of Yuma, Arizona. Yuma is a nice place to relax and do a whole lot of nothing, but unfortunately for my taste buds, there are very few places to find any quirky beer. While I did bring some tasty research subjects with me, I managed to find a oasis of beer-flavored goodness in a town that’s flooded with macrobrews. If you find yourself stuck in Yuma for a night and are thirsty for some quirky brews, Burgers and Beer is the place for you! There’s enough of a selection here to tickle any beer connoisseur, and it’s great place to watch any game – there are TV’s at all of the tables and plenty of room to sit, plus you can feed anybody that doesn’t like beer margaritas for $3 a piece.
Accompanying me in my beer drinking adventures were my father and my sister, the latter of which stuck with a margarita and the former looking forward to the darkest beers he could scrape out of a glass; both were eager to watch Beersurfing happen. I started my evening with a San Miguel, a pale ale infamous to any member of the armed forces that has ever been stationed in the Phillipines. My father cringed when he heard the words “San Miguel” come out of my mouth, and spent the next few minutes enlightening me of a phenomena known as the San Miguel Squirts. Just use your imagination. I got straight to work and poured myself a glass of what appeared to be urine mixed with pale ale, closing my eyes while I tasted what had to be antiseptic, bare metal, and stale blood. It was thin, almost watery, and while did not impress me overall it was about what I expected. I definitely wouldn’t go out of my way to the Phillipines for this beer, though it did wonders to wash the taste of the Natural Light out of my mouth. The San Miguel was a pretty weak ale at 5% ABV, and cost $4 for a 12 ounce bottle.
Next for me was the Ommegang Three Philosophers, a brewer which I had seen some chatter about on Twitter but was otherwise unfamiliar with. This wintery lager was blood red and frothy in the glass – it presented a very strange odor that was nearly impossible to pinpoint, although it smelled faintly of cloves and other spices. It has a very odd medicinal taste and numbs the tongue much like Samuel Adam’s Old Fezziwig and other winter lagers. It is very thick and foamy in your mouth, and the taste is overpowering if savored too slowly – I actually found it very difficult to drink an entire bottle of this. Overall, I was less than impressed with the 3P – at $10 for a 12 ounce bottle, it failed to completely dazzle me like many other beers at that price point could. The Three Philosophers is a pretty potent beer, and you won’t miss the alcohol by the time you reach the bottom of the bottle.
Dad’s evening went a little better than mine – he started out with a Saint Pauli Girl Special Dark and finished up with a Samuel Smith‘s Imperial Stout. A dark lager hailing from Germany, the Special Dark has a mahogany appearance and reeks of burnt cabbage. In Dad’s opinion, it was not dark enough – it was extra sugary, and way too sweet for the sort of beverage billing itself as a “special” dark beer. It was not thick, and really watery, neither of which Dad was expecting. Overall, he hated this drink, calling it a “woman’s dark beer” and vowing to never drink it again. Ouch! The next one fared better – as his first ever oatmeal stout, Dad was immediately elated to see the Samuel Smith Imperial Stout ooze into his glass pitch black. The smell, while very generic, was accompanied with a taste that reminded him of Guiness, burnt licorice, and “old times”. As a stout, it was exceptionally thick, creamy, and packed with flavor, all of which Dad loved about this beer. He would definitely drink it again and looks forward to checking out other oatmeal stouts. The stout was the clear winner for the evening. Samuel Smith has a fairly eclectic range of beers, and I look forward to trying more of them in the future.
We also had a third beer that evening, but since it was so delightful that my notes were a bit incoherent, I’ll save it for another evening. And such was the Beersurfing Christmas – short, tasty, and to the point. I hope everyone enjoyed any time off they received, and are having an exceptional new decade so far. Cheers!