Friday, March 16, 2012

ALLAGASH MAKES A STRONG “SAISON MIHM”

Rarely does one come across an ALLAGASH BREWING product here on the west coast that isn’t something you can’t get in bottles. I wonder if their distribution agreements just busted open. I hope so – because I’ve become a real belated fan of this Maine brewery’s concoctions, and I’d love to find some of their weirder and rarer stuff on a tap handle near me. Interestingly, their flagship Allagash White is showing up at restaurants out here now, so that’s a positive sign – but it’s the big boys like Odyssey that I want to stumble across more often.

Anyhow, here’s one called SAISON MIHM that hasn’t been bottled yet. Found it on draft at the Amsterdam Café in San Francisco. It’s what you might call a “strong saison”. Tart on the tongue, like a mixture between an aggressive pale ale and a farmhouse refresher. It’s earthy and fruity, and it turns out that it’s brewed with lemongrass as well, which may account for the deep and slightly jarring flavors (which I actually liked quite immensely). There’s also white grapes and a general tartness to go along with the medium carbonation. It gets decidedly smoother as it warms. I think you’ll like it. I gave it a 7.5/10.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

BEER MANIA PAYS OUT BIGTIME: PERENNIAL / HALF ACRE “PLAN B”

I had a morning of extreme (or, if you will, “xtreme”) beer dork mania about a month ago. My nominal hobby kicked into overdrive during a two-hour break in a café waiting for my son to finish a class, and ironically, without even a drop of alcohol being consumed, I set the wheels in motion for a boatload of beer landing at my front door. First, I begged Dave over at The Drunken Polack to do a beer trade with me. He consented. I spent some time flicking through the iPad to figure out what they drank out there in Virginia that I might want in my belly. I made a list, I checked it twice, and sent it off to Dave. An hour ago, his bountiful east coast gifts unto me arrived. Thank you, Dave.

I wasn’t even close to being done - no way. I then scoured eBay and made my first purchase of un-findable beers, getting four double IPAs like The Alchemist’s “Heady-Topper” and Surly “Abrasive Ale” for what I thought was a helluva bargain. In my closing moments – oh my god my son’s waiting for me but goddamn it I have to buy more beer – I plunked down sixty bucks over at THE WINE & CHEESE PLACE, an online seller of gastronomic delights, including craft beers from across the Midwest. Why? I was on fire, that’s why. Rare! New! Can’t find it here! Gotta drink it! More more more!!!

Normally I’d figuratively “wake up” a few hours later, find my bank account lighter and then start kicking myself for my tomfoolery. I mean, I don’t drink every day or even every other day. What do I need with all this beer, right? But man, that was a lot of fun. Going through that frenzy of acquisition hit all sorts of pleasure centers in my brain, and like I said, it was weeks before I even got a drop of it. That mania is paying off big-time, too. You’ve seen it in some of the beer reviews lately on this site. It really delivered a couple of nights ago, when I unleashed a bottle of awesome-looking beer I’d ordered with zero forethought – a total random purchase – from The Wine & Cheese Place.

It’s a collaboration beer that started with PERENNIAL ARTISAN ALES, a new brewer in St. Louis, and their pals at HALF ACRE BEER COMPANY up in Chicago. I hadn’t heard of either, but here’s how their PLAN B ale was described (and still is described) as a “Sour Mash Belgian Dark Ale with Black Currants”. Let’s take a chance on love, right? OMG U GUYS THIS BEER IS INCREDIBLE. I love paydirt moments like these. This is one of the finest beers I’ve had in a year and then some. Again, it’s called PLAN B. It’s an 8% ABV ale brewed with black currants, and yes, you can taste them in a jammy sort of way, along with plums. It’s malty, with high carbonation and medium body. Really yeasty, like a good Belgian should be.

It is just incredible flavorful and beautifully simple and complex at the same time. I daresay it ranks up there with THE BRUERY’s best beers, and we totally love those guys. An exceptionally special Belgian-style dark ale. You need to order one right about now. I'm going to make it my life's work to drink every Perennial beer I can get my hands on. 10/10.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

AN UNEXPECTEDLY MIDDLING “FLEMISH PRIMITIVE”

You know how we’re always going on and on about DE PROEF here at Beer Samizdat, right? There’s still a bit of a De Proef greenhorn (me) making all these positive claims about them, largely based on their incredible collaboration beers that are distributed in the U.S. by Shelton Brothers, along with some exceptional experiences I’ve had with some of their own. When I look at the list of beers they’ve/he’s (Dirk Naudts) created over on Beer Advocate, though, it’s obvious I’ve really only scratched the surface. I saw that list not too long ago and made a point to buy the next De Proef beer I saw from it. That beer turned out to be FLEMISH PRIMITIVE, a wild ale that comes in different bottles, and one would presume different recipes (it's true). A little research tells me that this is Flemish Primitive #3, the one they call “Surly Bird”. Let’s dig a little deeper and drink this thing, shall we?

You can probably tell from my post title that I was underwhelmed. Not that it’s any big deal that I expected this wild ale to be a funky, crimson-colored brain eraser….but a yeasty, effervescent golden ale that’s pretty middling across the board? It has a light-to-medium body, and yeah, a somewhat funky strain of yeasts that gives off a decidedly unique taste. As far as the requisite fruits in the taste, I’d go with apple and green grapes. It has elements or earthiness and I can’t say it wasn’t refreshing, but for whatever reason it tasted more like an American “microbrew” stab at Belgian greatness than Belgian greatness in & of itself. And that, my friends, was a surprise. 6.5/10.

Monday, March 12, 2012

SIERRA NEVADA “RUTHLESS RYE”

Had to beg the fella at Whole Foods to let me buy a solo bottle of this one, since I rarely if ever buy a 6-pack of anything unless I’m headed to the mountains for an old-fashioned cookout & need something to share with my bros. SIERRA NEVADA has been on such a winning streak lately that I had to try out this rye-based IPA, as I figured they’d be a better-than-even chance it would be mind-melting. I’d recently had another TORPEDO, their ultra-bitter and yet mass-produced IPA, and loudly declared it one of the world’s best to everyone standing around me. Then there was that Persimmon Farmhouse Ale I was telling you about here. Let’s see if this one can hit those exalted levels.

RUTHLESS RYE is a ruby/honey color. I can absolutely taste the rye immediately. That rye – it’s ruthless! I’ve had rye IPAs before, but even the Terrapin and Founder’s versions aren’t this strong. I like its bright citrus taste and its overall graininess – a nice mix along with the chewiness of the rye. At the end of the day, with all that going on, it’s still an IPA, and a pretty good one. I’d be lyin’ if I told you I wouldn’t be happy having another one right about now. 7/10.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

MORE FROM THE EBAY HAUL: SURLY "ABRASIVE ALE"

Folks from up in Minnesota know they've got a good thing going with SURLY BREWING, a top-drawer purveyor of excellent craft beers packed away in cans. From the word "go", SURLY had the ears and tongue of a nation, and I made it a priority to try and hunt down their beers, especially after the first one I tried, FURIOUS, nearly made me pack up my snow gear and start driving north. I've been telling you of late about this four-beer eBay IPA purchase I made against my better judgment, and this is beer #3 that I've tried (the others you can read about here and here). #4 is something called GANDHI BOT, and is a full-on mystery to me. When my tongue and insides recover from all these IPAs I've been having, I'll give that one a go and let you know how it went.

SURLY "ABRASIVE ALE" certainly telegraphs its intentions in its name. Turns out it's all sound and only a little fury - this is a beautifully-balanced, malty Double IPA. Great aroma, just a big whiff of fresh hops, and a foam head that looks good and stays there for a long time. It's a little creamy, too - and like another big favorite, Southern Tier Gemini (which the excellent Kaedrin Beer Blog just wrote up), it layers the biting hops on after the grainy, creamy malts. In a category in which the differences between beers (IPAs) are generally pretty subtle, some just stand out on taste alone, and while I like a real bitter biter, I'm most partial to a hoppy beer that goes down easy and has flavors beyond the hop. This is an excellent addition to that slice of the pie. 9/10!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

THE BEER SAMIZDAT 100

A few times a year I like to get on my high horse and update my list of the 100 finest beers known to man – and to me. Because I’ve had a few serious knockouts in the time since I last published THE BEER SAMIZDAT 100 in August 2011, I figured we were due for an update, given that you’ve probably already tried the 100 I recommend last time and need a few suggestions to broader your palate, as it were.

Some of the newer arrivals this time you may have read about on this site. There was STILLWATER’s incredible saison DEBAUCHED, which I’m still crying about since it came and went so quickly and is now lost to the sands of time. There’s ALMANAC BEER CO.’s 2012 seasonal “WINTER WIT”, which is still out there on the shelves now. There’s BOCKER BELLEGEMS BRUIN. There’s a whole bunch more. Some stuff got bumped from the list in favor of newcomers, and others moved up, down or off if I had it a second or third time since this past August. PRETTY THINGS’ “Baby Tree”, for instance, vaulted up a quartile because I’m now “calling” that one a 10/10.

Hope this is of some use to you in settling arguments with yr beer dork pals!

1. BRASSERIE DE ROCHEFORT – Trappistes Rochefort 8 (Belgian Strong Dark Ale)
2. BRASSERIE DE L'ABBAYE DES ROCS -
Triple Imperiale (Belgian Strong Dark Ale)
3. SOUTHERN TIER –
Gemini (Double IPA)
4. DESCHUTES -
The Abyss (Russian Imperial Stout)
5. THE BRUERY The Wanderer (City Beer Store Anniversary) (American Wild Ale)
6. UNIBROUE La Fin Du Monde (Belgian Strong Pale Ale)
7. BROUWERIJ WESTVLETEREN –
Trappist Westvleteren 8 (Dubbel)
8. THE BRUERY - Mischief (Belgian Strong Pale Ale)
9. BRASSERIE DE ROCHEFORT
Trappistes Rochefort 6 (Belgian Strong Dark Ale)
10. MOYLAN’S Hopsickle (Double IPA)
11. PRETTY THINGS BEER & ALE PROJECT – Baby Tree (Quadrupel)
12. BROOKLYN BREWING - Black Ops (Barrel-Aged Stout)
13. TELEGRAPH BREWING –
Gypsy Ale (American Wild Ale)
14. STILLWATER ARTISINAL ALES – Debauched (Saison)
15. BROOKLYN BREWING
Sorachi Ace (Saison)
16. LOST ABBEY Gift Of The Magi (Biere De Garde)
17. LEFT HAND BREWING Milk Stout (on nitro) (Milk Stout)
18. BROUWERIJ DE KEERSMAEKER – Mort Subite Blanche Lambic (Lambic)
19. LOST ABBEY
10 Commandments (Belgian Strong Dark Ale)
20. BROWERIJ VAN STEENBERGE –
Monk’s Café Sour Flemish Ale (Flanders Oud Bruin)
21. SIERRA NEVADA –
30th Anniversary – Fritz & Ken’s Stout (Stout)
22. LUCKY LABRADOR - Super Duper Dog (Double IPA)
23. RUSSIAN RIVER – Damnation (Belgian-Style Strong Golden Ale)
24. ST. BERNARDUS – Grotten Brown (Belgian Strong Dark Ale)
25. FIFTY FIFTY BREWING –
Red Is The New Black (Imperial Red IPA)
26. AVERY BREWING – The Reverend (Quadrupel)
27. MOONLIGHT – Reality Czeck (Czech Pilsner)
28. VICTORY BREWING – Wild Devil (Belgian IPA)
29. STONE BREWING –
IPA (IPA)
30. URTHEL –
Saisonniere (Saison)
31. HACKER-PSCHORR – Dunkel Weiss (Dunkel Weizen)
32. DE STRUISE -
Pannepot Old Fisherman's Ale (Quadrupel)
33. ALPINE BREWING -
Nelson (IPA)
34. ALMANAC BEER CO. – Winter Wit (Witbier)
35. CAPTAIN LAWRENCE - Captain's Reserve Imperial IPA (Double IPA)
36. BROOKLYN BREWING –
East India Pale Ale (IPA)
37. SURLY - Furious (Imperial Red Ale)
38. WESTMALLE -
Dubbel (Dubbel)
39. DE STRUISE/MIKKELLER – Eliott Brew (Double IPA)
40. NEBRASKA BREWING – Hop God – Reserve, Aged in French Oak Chardonnay Barrels (Belgian IPA)
41. ODELL BREWING – Saboteur – Brett Barrel Brown Ale (American Wild Ale)
42. MIKKELLER/BREWDOG - Devine Rebel (English Barleywine)
43. DOGFISH HEAD – Burton Baton (Barrel-aged IPA)
44. BROWERIJ BOCKER – Bocker Bellegems Bruin (Flanders Oud Bruin)
45. EMELISSE – Dubbel (Dubbel)
46. GOUDEN CAROLUS – Cuvee Van De Kaizer Blauw (Belgian Strong Dark Ale)
47. BROWERIJ CONTRERAS – Valheir Divers (Tripel)
48. DARK HORSE - Tres Blueberry Stout (American Stout)
49. CAPTAIN LAWRENCE -
St. Vincent's Dubbel (Dubbel)
50. THE BRUERY – Autumn Maple (Fruit Beer)
51. BROOKLYN BREWING –
Extra Brune (Flanders Oud Bruin)
52. ALLAGASH – Odyssey (Belgian Strong Dark Ale)
53. GOUDEN CAROLUS –
Ambrio (Belgian Strong Pale Ale)
54. THE BRUERY –
Saison Rue (Saison)
55. TWO BROTHERS BREWING –
The Bitter End (Pale Ale)
56. BROUWERIJ WESTVLETEREN – Trappist Westvleteren 12(Quadrupel)
57. DENNISON’S –
Weizen (Hefeweizen)
58. BELL’S – Expedition Stout (Imperial Stout)
59. THE ALCHEMIST – Header Topper (Double IPA)

60. RUSSIAN RIVER – Blind Pig (IPA)
61. SMUTTYNOSE -
Gravitation (Quadrupel)
62. 5 SEASONS BREWING –
Venus (Witbier)
63. RUSSIAN RIVER – Rejection (Belgian Black Ale)
64. THREE FLOYDS -
Alpha King (American Pale Ale)
65. UNIBROUE – Maudite (Belgian Strong Dark Ale)
66. DE PROEF –
Zoetzuur Flemish Ale (Flanders Red Ale)
67. LOST ABBEY –
Avant Garde (Biere De Garde)
68. SOUTHERN TIER -
Heavy Weizen (Imperial Hefeweizen)
69. ST. BERNARDUS -
Prior 8 (Dubbel)
70. TELEGRAPH BREWING –
California Ale (Saison)
71. RUSSIAN RIVER -
O.V.L. Stout (American Stout)
72. BROOKLYN BREWING –
Local 1 (Belgian-Style Golden Ale)
73. BROWERIJ DE DOLLE –
Oerbier (Belgian Strong Dark Ale)
74. BRASSERIE DUPONT -
Saison Dupont (Saison)
75. BRASSERIE DE ROCHEFORT –
Trappistes Rochefort 10 (Quadrupel)
76. RUSSIAN RIVER – Damnation, Batch 23 (Belgian-Style Golden Ale)
77. GREEN FLASH – Summer Saison (Saison)
78. MIKKELLER – Barrel-Aged Chipotle Porter (Porter)
79. PRETTY THINGS BEER & ALE PROJECT –
Field Mouse’s Farewell (Saison)
80. THE BRUERY –
Loakal Red (Imperial Red Ale)
81. RUSSIAN RIVER – Redemption (Belgian-Style Pale Ale)
82. HANDBRYGGERIET – Norwegian Wood (Smoked/Spiced Ale)
83. SOUTHERN TIER -
Hoppe (Double IPA)
84. LAGUNITAS –
Imperial Red (American Strong Ale)
85. 5 SEASONS BREWING - Dark White (Dark witbier)
86. TELEGRAPH BREWING –
Golden Wheat (Wheat Beer)
87. THE BRUERY -
Orchard White (Witbier)
88. BIRRIFICIO LE BALADIN -
Nora (Herbed/Spiced beer)
89. DE PROEF – Kerstmutske (Christmas Ale)
90. ST. BERNARDUS –
ABT 12 (Quadrupel)
91. SILVER CITY BREWERY –
Fat (Scotch Ale)
92. TWO BROTHERS BREWING -
Hop Juice (Double IPA)
93. BRASSERIE DUPONT –
Foret (Saison)
94. NORTH COAST –
La Merle (Saison)
95. RUSSIAN RIVER –
Damnation, Batch 23 (Belgian-Style Strong Golden Ale)
96. RUSSIAN RIVER –
Temptation (American Wild Ale)
97. LOST ABBEY -
The Angel's Share (American Strong Ale)
98. MASIA AGULLONS - Runa Ale (Brown Ale)
99. DE PROEF –
Witte Noir (Imperial Amber Wheat)
100. THE BRUERY/CIGAR CITY – Maron Acidife (Flanders Oude Bruin)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

MIKKELLER “BARREL-AGED CHIPOTLE PORTER”

It didn’t take much to get me ponying up a few sawbucks for this beer. It was brewed by the Danish wanderers at MIKKELLER on the premises of DE PROEF brewery in Belgium. De Proef, man. One of the world’s greatest brewers – the makers of ZOETZUUR FLEMISH ALE, WITTE NOIR, SIGNATURE ALE, LA GRANDE BLANCHE, MONSTRE ROUGE and so many others, either solo or in collaboration with other heavyweights. Just by brewing on their equipment, one might expect Mikkeller to have a little magic brewing pixie dust rub off and make for a fantastic ale, wouldn’t that be right? As it turns out, it’s right as rain and then some.

MIKKELLER made a smooth, creamy porter over there at De Proef, and they called it “BARREL-AGED CHIPOTLE PORTER”. It was aged in whiskey barrels, and usually that means something big and vicious, and yet BACP is clocking in only at a mere 6.6% alcohol. At first sip I was floored. This is absolutely delicious. While I can’t taste any “chipotle” or much south of the border spicing of any kind, what I am getting is a luscious, ABYSS-style dark concoction that’s drinkable and smooth let all get out. Nope, no chipotle. I kept looking for it, too. Just a fantastic porter that’ll stand against all comers and give ‘em a beatdown. 9/10.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

BELL'S FABLED "HOPSLAM"

There are a few "Double" IPAs out there that really get tongues waggin' when they make their yearly appearance in bottles. The list seems to be morphing and changing as new brewers come online - your THE ALCHEMIST and whatnot - but one perrenial is BELL'S out of Michigan and their much-loved HOPSLAM. It only comes in 12-ounce bottles, so you've really got to sit down and savor it if you want to do it justice. I tried to my best the other evening, having scored one of these in a (gasp!) eBay purchase of IPAs I can't find within 100 miles of my house.

Way back when I reviewed this beer on my Hedonist Beer Jive blog - wow, 2007! It's been five years since I had my first  and only Hopslam. I cheekily called it a "great West Coast IPA", like the homer I am. I liked it almost as much half a decade later. It's a real bitter one, and it's redolent of pine and hop juice. No surprises here. Definitely a big one, but fairly approachable nonetheless. I'd probably call it a little less sassier than the RACER X I reviewed on Friday - that's a little more biting, if you can believe it - this one I think you could probably handle a few of and so could your mom. Maybe not the gold standard, but a pretty doggone good 'un nonetheless. 7.5/10

Friday, March 2, 2012

RACER X ON ATTACK - OK

Finding this beer sitting on a shelf was a pretty nice surprise this past week. BEAR REPUBLIC BREWING have done pretty well for themselves with Racer 5, a hoppy IPA that you'd think would be too strong for most palates, as their flagship. Here in the SF Bay Area, it's on tap handles pretty much everywhere. So RACER X, which I've tasted on draft a few times and reviewed not all that favorably here, was something I always thought was going to be in that Pliny The Younger sorta category - hauled out at festivals and on special occasions to get the beer-drinking hoi polloi all excited and stuff. Nope, it's bottled now. So I bought one, and here's what I thought.

Actually what I thought about this 22-ounce bottled version isn't all that significantly different than what I thought/think about the draft version, except that I like it better this time - a lot better. First of all, this Double IPA is great. It's hoppy, it's piney, and it's got a big-deal, throat-deep aftertaste that's strong but thankfully not harsh.The body's pretty thin, and you know what, there's almost no aroma to this thing - which is surprising given the strong and delicious taste of it. The foam from the initial pour lingered a long time and it just all tasted so fresh. RACER X is not the big tongue-bruiser some of its compadres are, but I'd be hard-pressed to imagine a lot of grandmas and schoolteachers going for it. Nope, us pound-packing double IPA lovers have us yet another bottled treasure to call our own. 8/10.