Archive for Beer Review

California: The End

Posted in Beer Review, Jake, Travel with tags on March 1, 2011 by gluttonybrewing

Friday night was rainy in Southern California, which apparently doesn’t happen too often (go figure).  After I was done at the conference I decided to check out a store I had heard a lot about before, Bevmo.  Without further ado, here are the last beers I enjoyed while in California, with some crappy pictures due to the lighting in my room:

Firestone Walker DBA

Firestone Walker was one of the breweries I really wanted to try when on the West Coast.  Their Double Barrel Ale pours a nice reddish amber color with a small bit of white head.  The smell is lightly hopped with East Kent Goldings and has a good amount of caramel malt aroma.  The taste is full of caramel malt, a touch of toffee, a slight hop character, and some toasty base malt flavor.  Like all fine English beers, there is just enough carbonation to feel it prickle on your tongue and it has a light body to round things out.  At first taste I wasn’t pleased, but as I drank more I really began to like it.  4.5/5.0Firestone Walker Union Jack

Firestone Walker Union Jack had a really great crystal clear, golden color.  The aroma was dominated by Centennial hop character with a touch of pineapple.  The flavor is also controlled by my favorite of the C-hops, with a small amount of malt character to balance.  Good body with a lower than normal carbonation which I enjoy.  This tastes a lot like a drier version of Bell’s Two Hearted, one of my favorite American IPAs.  4.5/5.0Alesmith IPA

Despite what the picture shows, this beer looks almost identical to Union Jack.  The aroma is similar as well, but with a dash of Amarillo hops added in to the mix.  The beer is lightly carbonated on the palate, with very little malt and remaining dry…not too bitter.  4.0/5.0Gordon Biersch Pilsner

I had some time to kill when I got to the airport on Saturday at 9am, and there was a bar right when I exited the security area.  Gordon Biersch is primarily a successful chain of brewpubs, similar to Iron Hill in Pennsylvania and Delaware.  This beer was described to me simply as “Pilsner” even though GB brews both German and Bohemian interpretations of the style.

The color is dark straw/light gold with a nice white cap of foam.  The aroma has a distinctively lager characteristic with a sweet, grainy Pilsner malt smell.  There might just be a hint of spicy hops in the nose as well.  From the taste I determined one thing – this is either a terrible example of a German Pils, or a decent Czech Pils.  I am inclined to go with the latter.  Rich maltiness with a light bitterness and no hop character in the taste.  Finishes clean with a good level of carbonation.  Good morning beer.  3.5/5.0

Overall, my time in California was great and I tried several awesome beers.  I’d like to go back some time and hit up a few of the breweries and brewpubs.

California: 38 Degrees and More Beer Reviews

Posted in Beer Review, Jake, Travel with tags on February 25, 2011 by gluttonybrewing

I had the afternoon off yesterday, so I took it as an opportunity to check out a bar in a neighboring town.  When I asked for bar suggestions on Beer Advocate, one that came up was 38 Degrees in Alhambra, about 5 miles south of Pasadena.  I called them prior to driving down there to find out about the parking situation and the girl who answered the phone was very friendly and helpful. Outside the bar

The place was mostly empty when I went in (it was about 3pm) so I easily got a seat at the bar.  I was greeted by the bar tender and immediately handed a beer menu.  After perusing the list I selected Big Sky Brewing’s Moose Drool American Brown Ale and ordered myself a Cobb salad for lunch.  I learned that 3-7pm was their happy hour, and non-limited micro drafts were $2 off so this would be the most reasonably priced beer I’d purchase this whole week.Big Sky Moose Drool

Big Sky is not a California Brewery, but as far as I know they aren’t available in PA.  Moose Drool is one of the top examples of American Brown Ale, so I definitely wanted to give it a shot.  The pint had a beautiful dark mahogany color with a thick off-white head.  It smelled very malty, with a definite chocolate malt presence and just a touch of hops (not enough for me to discern variety).  The flavor had a smack of hop character with a very light bitterness to keep things balanced and a rich, full malt flavor with a lot of breadiness and toastiness from Munich malt.  There were also some roasty chocolate flavors for good measure, as well.  It finished dry and made me want another sip, but with just a bit too much carbonation in my opinion.  I can see why this is considered one of the finest examples of a less hop forward version of the style.  4.5/5.0 Alesmith My Bloody Valentine

Alesmith beers sometimes find their way into PA but they are certainly not common, especially their seasonals.  I ordered a 4.5oz sampler of their My Bloody Valentine, a hoppy American red ale (which is also released for Halloween as Evil Dead Red).  This turned out to be quite a tasty beer and the bartender didn’t charge me for it, which makes it taste that much better.  Red color is pretty hard to get in to a beer, but Alesmith did a pretty good job with this one.  There is a light tan head which sits atop a nice brown and ruby body.  The aroma is predominantly of fruity Centennial hops, with a bit of peach from some Amarillo.  The malt underlying the hops is apparent…even with this much hop character, this is still going to be a malty beer.  The Amarillo is lost in the flavor with the Centennials taking center stage.  There is a caramel malt sweetness with a restrained bitterness that allows it to shine through.  4.0/5.0 Deschutes Abyss

One of the biggest West Coast breweries is Deschutes and it’s unfortunate that their beers can’t be found too far East.  I was incredibly happy to see Abyss on tap, because it was supposed to be an exceptional beer.

This beer is jet black with a thin cap of dark brown foam on top which leaves some of the best lacing I’ve ever seen.  When it was first served to me it was a bit too cold, and the smell was a bit subdued – it actually smelled a lot like Oskar Blues Ten Fidy.  Once it warmed up, however, there was an obscene amount of roast character with some oak in the background with some dark chocolate and coffee.  The flavor is a neck and neck battle between sweet and bitter.  The bitterness is both in part from hops as well as from the ridiculous amount of roasted grains and the sweetness is just from the residual sugars left from fermentation – I don’t get any caramel character.  There is an oaky astringency that plays well with the tannins from the roasted malts and the finish tastes entirely of dark cocoa powder.  A beer that is simply a tribute to the glory of dark malts…amazing.  5.0/5.0

Overall, this bar was awesome and can stand up to some of the best that I’ve been to.  The staff was really friendly, the food was good, and the beer selection top notch.  I’m glad I took the short drive to get here, because it resulted in the best venue of my trip in addition to what will probably be one of the best beers I’ve ever had.

California: First Impressions and Beer/Venue Review

Posted in Beer Review, Jake, Travel with tags on February 24, 2011 by gluttonybrewing

My flight to California was hot, but uneventful.  I was fortunate enough to arrive right at the start of rush hour, so it took me 90 minutes to go 25 miles to my motel, not as bad as I was expecting but still annoying.  Something I had to look forward to, however, was the fact that where I’m staying is only 2 blocks from one of the beer bars I wanted to check out while here – Lucky Baldwin’s Trappist Cafe.

After dinner at In-n-Out (semi-overrated), I was full and didn’t feel like going to drink beer.  I decided that I’d call them to find out what they had on tap, before committing myself to going there.  The first beer that the bartender listed was Russian River Pliny the Elder, I stopped her right there and put my shoes on. Outside Lucky Baldwin's

I walked up to Lucky Baldwins and I really liked the look of the place.  The doors were wide open to let in the cool night air (it was in the low 50’s, Californians apparently deem this cold enough to wear coats and scarves).  From what I had read online, this place didn’t have many taps so I was surprised when I saw a big line of handles when I came in. Tap Handles

There are actually two bars in Pasadena with the name Lucky Baldwin’s, however the one I visited is more focused toward Belgian beers (as witnessed by the word Trappist in the name).  I was a little disappointed to only see a few Californian beers on the lineup, most of which I can easily obtain back home.  The place had very few bar seats, which is really the only thing I can fault the place for.

One of the great things about living in Pennsylvania, one of the best beer states in the country, is that we’re a bit spoiled when it comes to the beers we can get.  I didn’t look twice at any of the Belgians on the menu, even though some of them are fairly rare in the grand scheme of things.  To add on top of that, PA is the only state on the East Coast that can get Russian River beers so I’ve had the pleasure of trying Pliny before, but never nearly as fresh as here: Pliny the Elder

The pour from the bartender was pretty shoddy, with no head as you can see by the picture.  Even without the head to bring out the aromatics of the beer, the nose had a huge punch of hop character full of apricot, pine, and grapefruit.  The flavor had all of the above in full force with almost no malt to speak of.  It finished dry with an appropriate carbonation and a slight bit of onion character from the Simcoe hops.  5.0/5.0 RR Blind Pig IPA

I then saw on the list that they had something listed as Russian River IPA.  As it turned out, much to my disappointment, it was not actually RR IPA but Blind Pig.  When fresh, I might actually like Blind Pig a bit better than Pliny, but I couldn’t say 100% as I haven’t had it in a  while.  I ordered one anyway and I was further upset to find out that it was a bit old.  I think next to Pliny, this probably gets ordered far less, and thus has a slower turnover rate.

There’s a bit of citrus and apricot in the aroma, but the hoppiness is marginal at best with a dash of malt.  The taste is mostly malt dominated with a light amount of hop flavor and bitterness.  It finishes somewhat dry, with a medium body that is probably my favorite part of the beer.  3.0/5.0Old RasputinTo finish things off I ordered an Old Rasputin from North Coast.  I’ve had it before and would not have normally ordered it, but it was being served on nitro.  I’m kind of a sucker for beers served this way, with one of my favorite beers being a nitro pumpkin ale.  The beer comes to me looking as beautiful as only a cascading nitro pour can be.  Pitch black with a light brown creamy head that is very inviting.  I have to be a little lenient on the aroma because some is lost when a beer is served via nitrogen.  All I can discern is roasted malts with a slight licorice edge.  The flavor is somewhat muted with burnt malt, chocolate, and a slight metallic flavor.  The nitrogen thins out what would normally be a substantial body.  I usually feel that what is lost in putting a beer on nitro is made up for with the creaminess that is imparted.  In the case of Old Rasputin, I really would stick to drinking it with normal CO2.  While tasty, not as good as the original.  3.5/5.0