It’s been a hectic couple of weeks with a bachelor party in Los Angeles and a wedding in Denver, and both trips surely did not leave me wanting for beer (i.e. I’m taking several days to dry out before Wilco at Big Sky Brewing Co. - or at least trying to.)
Probably the best place I checked out was in Anaheim, Calif., before watching the Angels get shut out by the Diamondbacks. The brewery’s called Noble Ale Works and it’s a little hole in the wall in an industrial park less than a mile from Angel Stadium. (more…)
I don’t know if it’s like a prayer, but Russian River’s Supplication could be a religious experience
I love wild, sour ales. I can’t stress that enough. I’ve been holding onto bottle of Russian River Brewing Company’s Supplication since Christmas, waiting for the right opportunity to sip on it with a good friend. That day arrived when some dear friends stopped over on their way moving from Madison, Wisconsin, to Tacoma, Washington. After a hot afternoon of walking around Missoula, we retired to the dining room, each with a glass of Supplication to discuss work, family, the future and beer, among other topics.
Classed as an American wild ale, Supplication is a brown ale aged in French oak Pinot Noir barrels with three strains of Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, Pediococcus as well as sour cherries. Picking flavors out of this mix is almost overwhelming, but the big sour at the center of this beer is a good place to start. The nose is actually fairly light and fruity with an almost delicate effervescence. Some hints of Jolly Rancher fruit candy are evident, while a hint of something like rain forest vegetation is evident just under the pink fruitiness. It’s not quite dank like mushrooms, but it has a rain-smothered vegetation quality to it.
The taste is almost overwhelmingly sour at first, but it gives way to something bright and complex. I’d be inclined to attribute this to the Pinot Noir barrel aging, but I don’t have any way to quantify how much of that comes through.
My drinking companion commented that the beer was actually light and refreshing for a warm day. I had to agree, but part of me thinks we may have enjoyed the beer a little colder than it should’ve been served. Waiting for my beer to warm up a bit took some patience, but that was when I was able to discern the more complex elements of the beer. The wood didn’t come through as much as I would’ve thought, but some of that structure and complexity must surely come from the wood.
When warmed, the brown ale comes through more, and I have to say this is one of the more enjoyable Belgian styles that I’ve enjoyed. I’ve not always been a big fan of brown ales, Belgian or otherwise, but this seems to hold the fruit so well.
If not a prayer itself, I’ll likely practice a little supplication in hopes of finding another bottle of this soon. I purchased this one at John’s Market in Portland, Oregon.
There was a time when I could drink a specialty brew by Rogue Ales that had chunks of hop floating in it as if it were a light session beer. I would joke about taking a whiskey glass and pouring the hop chunky beer over ice cubes and sipping it like liquor. Such was my love for overly hopped beers.
Instead of reading beer labels for the ABV level, as so many do, I read labels looking for IBUs, the higher the better. Living in Oregon gave me an advantage. Every IPA was a Northwest-style IPA oozing with hop oily goodness. I wanted the hops to leave a mark on me, like when you take a sip of coffee that’s too hot and it scalds you for the rest of the day. There was no IBU too high for me.
But then along came Montana and a different style of brewing. Something this beer writer hadn’t had a lot of time for before – balanced beers. Oh, I’d had my share of Belgian beauties and German lagers, but I preferred the hop to the malt. After three years of tasting the balanced beers of Montana and only rarely delving back into the palate destroying hop lords out there, I’ve found my palate actually craves balance. A hint of malt with the tangy, citrusy notes dancing along a biscuity backbone are so satisfying in comparison to the searing mouth saw of a highly hopped beer.
All right, I’ve exposed myself, bring on the criticism.
Last night some friends and I got together for an informal tasting and sauna night in the Rattlesnake. Two of the beers we tried were from Moylan’s Pub and Brewery in Novato, California. The first, a Moylan’s Moylander Double IPA, was advertised as “fat and resiny,” and it was. You could almost feel the hop oils eating into your taste buds like acid. And even though the beer claims to be double hopped and double malt, I found almost no malt backbone at all. If there was malt in that beer, it was weak and unable to hold up the shear weight of the hops.
The second beer was a Moylan’s Hopsickle Imperial Ale, which sports a combination of the killer Tomahawk, Cascade and Centennial hops. This beer had more of a malt backbone to sustain the hops, which tempered the three-headed beast of a hop profile. I wish I would have had this one first. I felt like the first beer drilled holes in my palate, and I had almost nothing left to give this one.
I still love big, hoppy beers, don’t get me wrong. I just think my palate has adjusted to the more balanced brewing style of Montana beer makers. I’ll have to revisit the big hop monsters of the Pacific Northwest more often to keep my palate whipped into shape it seems.
Want to experiment with some big-hop beers yourself? You can find Moylan’s beers at Worden’s Market.
From BeerNews.org, comes the news of a brand new seasonal from Anchor Brewing Company. This just after the notice that the brewery’s pioneering owner Fritz Maytag is selling the brewery to a couple of investors.
The most notable thing about this beer is that it’s brewed with Nelson Sauvin hops, a currently popular variety of hops from New Zealand. It’s also brewed with a lower ABV, which could make this a very popular summer ale.
But, the real reason I wanted to bring this up is the fact that through all this, I happened upon a new-for-me beer blog and video blogger in the U.K.’s Zak Avery. He’s a beer writer and the general manager of Beer Ritz. Here’s a blog post of him reviewing Anchor’s newest beer, Humming Ale:
If pressed, I’ll usually tell people my favorite single beer that I return to time and time again is North Coast Brewing Company’s Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout.
For several years, my best friend and I would get up at 6 a.m. on Sunday mornings and prepare a huge breakfast for 60 + people. We’d peel potatoes, brew coffee, slice up breakfasts steaks or unpack bacon and sausage. Then we’d load everything up in a big trailer and head down to the Marion Street Bridge in Salem, Oregon. We’d unpack several large camp stoves and some big boilers and start making breakfast as a bunch of hungry homeless guys stood nearby and warmed there hands over frying bacon.
It started as a mere curiosity, a question really. Can you feed 60 + homeless guys every week on a portion of the tips you make serving at a bar? My best friend since childhood asked himself that question and decided to challenge himself to the task. But it was no ordinary breakfast. Just a block away from the bridge, the Union Gospel Mission feeds sober men a diet rich in sweet carbohydrates if they’ll sit and listen to a sermon first. The breakfast Jason created, “Sunday Morning Breakfast,” would feature proteins, specifically in the form of eggs, bacon, sausage, and when we could afford it, breakfast steak. And there was no sermon. As Jason put it, “food is a basic right. You can’t dangle it as a carrot for other things.” And to Jason, good food was more than a right, it was an expression of care that gave value to people that society considers trash.
Jason roped me in early, and we combined our tips to buy large, inexpensive roasts that we cut up on the slicer at the brew pub we both worked at during those years. Our main goal was to give these guys something special, something many probably hadn’t had in years. And over the course of our two-year experiment, we saw that number rise from 60 to close to 200. People would come from as far as Los Angeles and tell us they’d heard about “The Sunday Morning Breakfast.”
Our combined tips were about $60 to $70 at the time. As our needs grew, people would pitch in a new stove or a big boiler, a few bucks here and there, maybe a box of onions from their farm. In two years we never had to reach much deeper than our original $30 each. The needs were always met, and we made fast friends with a bunch of guys, including women and children, who the world would normally cast off.
It would be easy to say the reward in our labors was the smile on their faces and the huge grins when a toothless man would look longingly at a breakfast steak, and Jason’s wife, Erika, would cut it up into tiny pieces he could gnaw on. Of course those were the rewards, how could they not be?
But every Sunday, we’d drive the dirty pots and pans back to Jason’s house and spread them out on the front lawn, where we’d set up an impromptu dish washing station. And as we finished and let the big pots dry in the sun, we’d crack open a bottle of Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout and sit down with our legs in the grass and talk about what the world would be like if everyone knew how easy an economical it was to help others and give them value. It was over those big, roasted malts and that tangy, dry hopped bitterness in that huge beer that we formed some of the thoughts that would drive us both to go to college in our late 20s and early 30s to pursue degrees that we felt could help inform the world about social injustice. Jason studied art and now runs his own design studio, and I pursued journalism and communication. But our conversations over beer in a veritable outdoor kitchen drying on the lawn before us really shaped who we’d eventually become.
We both went our separate ways, he to Portland, Oregon and bigger challenges with a huge homeless population and I to Montana and a whole different notion of wealth and poverty.
Sadly, when we tried to get a few others to take over “Sunday Morning Breakfast,” we found no takers. Despite the $60-a-week cost, no one wanted to take on the vision Jason had several years before. And so we disbanded it, and the men and woman under the Marion Street Bridge are eating day-old donuts and crusty bread leftover from bakeries and listening to sermons to get a hot cup of soup on a cold afternoon again.
Occasionally Jason and I will get together and pick up a few Old Rasputins and relive the “Sunday Morning Breakfast.”
There are a few beers out there that are permanently stuck to memories for me. Old Rasputin brings back one of my favorite memories.
And today, when I saw that Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout X Anniversary Edition scored 100 on www.ratebeer.com, it brought back a flood of memories.
That means that I need to go in search of one of these anniversary beers, set up a video chat with Jason and plan the next version of “Sunday Morning Breakfast.”
As far as popular craft beer goes, Big Sky Brewing Company’s Summer Honey doesn’t just indicate a change of seasons, it actually introduces a whole way of life. My wife, for one, will be intensely happy to see this beer in growlers in our refrigerator again. Yes, spring is on the way, and this light, dry beer is a favorite of ours for its versatility with food, its structure and its easy drinking enjoyability.
For you craft beer loving men out there, don’t let the name fool you. Yes, this beer might be marketed to women, but it’s not a chick beer by any means. And by chick beer, I don’t mean to offend anyone, but lightly fruit-flavored wheats are typically not consumed by a lot of guys.
Summer Honey is lightly spiced, but not so that you taste a lot of spice. It’s vaguely Belgian in its characteristics, which allows for a lot of food interplay, but it’s a dry beer, and at 4.7 percent alcohol by volume, it’s easy to drink a couple without feeling too full.
If you wanted to compare this to a wine, a big, oaked California chardonnay comes to mind in its complexity and dryness. And when it comes to food, well, much like the wine, this beer was made for food.
I’ve had Summer Honey with robust spring salads, spicy central-Asian noodle dishes, grilled chicken and vegetables and many other dishes, and I haven’t found a bad pairing yet.
The fact that this beer is out so early this year is really nice, but it makes me wonder if we’ll be sipping our Summer Honey inside our air-conditioned homes in mid-August due to the potential for forest fires this year.
Provided we get some more snow to actually have a floating season this summer, the possibilities for river-friendly beer is overwhelming all of a sudden. Between the likes of New Belgium, Big Sky and now Anderson Valley Brewing Co., there is a sudden surge in craft brews available in cans.
I’ve already said my bit about cans being a great container for the storage, shipping and enjoyment of craft beer, but another thing to consider here is the advantage cans now give smaller craft breweries. Many larger breweries grew up with bottling systems, and switching would be cost prohibitive. This allows breweries like Montana’s Kettlehouse Brewing Co. and Big Sky Brewing Co. to create brand recognition through the rather unique marketing aspect of cans. I’m also a bit curious how this will play out in the space wars on shelves. Will craft beer in cans be sharing shelves with the bottled craft beers or with the canned mass-produced corn beers?
You know, just in case you find yourself in the San Diego area later this year.
Yes, them’s fighting words, but my Ducks lost in the Rose Bowl, and football season is officially over for me. So it’s onward and upward. And this event just looks too cool to pass up. Not that my travel budget is anywhere near able to afford this, but a craft beer lover can dream, can’t he?
My feelings for Stone Brewing Co. increased measurably over the winter break, as I was able to try many different beers from that brewery that I haven’t tried in recent memory. The Imperial Russian Stout comes to mind, as does the Double Oak Aged Bastard. Both are incredible beers worthy of the accolades, and the gargoyle.
So Stone Brewing Co. has this festival called Stone Winter Storm coming up Feb. 7-13 in Escondido. It’s billed as the most Stone beers on tap in one location ever. That’s my kind of event, even worth missing the most super bowl of them all.
Just look at this list of beers that will be available. Sure makes me aware of all the great Stone beers I’ve missed out on.
1 Stone Pale Ale -2 Stone Smoked Porter 3 Stone IPA 4 Arrogant Bastard Ale 5 Stone Ruination IPA 6 Stone Levitation Ale 7 OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale 8 Stone Cali-Belgique IPA 9 Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale 10 Stone 7th Anniversary Ale 11 Stone 8th Anniversary Ale 12 Stone 9th Anniversary Ale 13 Stone 12th Anniversary
Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout
14 Stone 13th Anniversary Ale 15 2004 Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine 16 2008 Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine
Aged in Red Wine Barrels
17 2009 Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine 18 2010 Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine 19 2006 Stone Imperial Russian Stout 20 2007 Stone Imperial Russian Stout 21 2008 Stone Imperial Russian Stout 22 2005 Double Bastard Ale 23 2006 Double Bastard Ale 24 Double Dry-Hopped 2009 Double Bastard Ale 25 Stone 06.06.06 Vertical Epic Ale 26 Stone 07.07.07 Vertical Epic Ale 27 Stone 08.08.08 Vertical Epic Ale 28 Stone 09.09.09 Vertical Epic Ale 29 Alesmith/Mikkeller/Stone
Belgian Style Triple Ale
30 Jolly Pumpkin/Nøgne-Ø/Stone
Special Holiday Ale
Part 2, brewed at Nøgne-Ø, Norway
31 BrewDog / Cambridge / Stone
Juxtaposition Black Pilsner
32 Ken Schmidt / Maui / Stone
Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter
33 Bashah 34 Stone Smoked Porter
35 Double Dry-Hopped Stone IPA 36 Sawyer’s Triple
I won’t be there this year, but I’ll be thinking about all those great Stone beers in one location and dreaming of the day when I’ll be able to attend. For those of you who happen to be lucky enough to be in Southern California in February, well, you’ve got plans.