Friday, March 29, 2013

YET ANOTHER IMPERIAL RED TO TELL YOU ABOUT

They're just falling off the shelves and into my waiting hands, these imperial reds. I can't drink them fast enough. They're the Double IPA of 2007; the Imperial Stout of 2008; the Belgian IPA of 2010 and the Sour Ale of 2012. Hot hot hot, and there are a ton of great ones out there, obviously (or as my pal La Lengua would say, "OBVS"). Latest in a great and growing line is BLACK DIAMOND BREWING's "FRACAS RED". I had it last night, and I'd like to have it again tonight and Saturday night as well. I'm pretty sure you'd like it, too. Here's why.

"FRACAS RED" has all the classic signs of the hopped-up red ale. It coats the tongue with malts, and stuffs a hoppy backbite right up at the roof of your mouth afterward. You didn't even feel it coming – but there it is, lingering long and large. It's 8% alcohol, yet smooth and easy. I honestly was fully and completely sober and straight 60 minutes after I finished it. If you're lucky enough to get a gulp of this ale with a bit of foam in it, you'll think you died and went to imperial red heaven. Get going with it immediately after the pour, and you'll see what I mean. Best beer from this Walnut Creek, CA outfit by a country mile. 8.5/10.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

G'KNIGHT, GORDON!

Remember a beer called "GORDON" from OSKAR BLUES? Imperial red ale, came in a can? Well, it hath been reborn as "G'KNIGHT" for reasons I'm not entirely clear on. "G'KNIGHT" is also an imperial red ale, and it comes in a can as well – a tall boy, no less. Being a lover of the imperial red ale and all that it stands for, I snapped one up without a thought, and drank it the very first night it was in my possession. Now it's my favorite Oskar Blues beer ever, and I'm even rating it higher than "Gordon", even though it might even be the same beer. I'd like to tell you why.

It is, quite simply, an awesome 8.7% ABV imperial red. Like a beautiful, fresh, West Coast IPA that's been loaded up with malty caramel. It pours a lusty orange/red color, and is clean with just the right amount of juicy, oily bitterness. Bready, and carbonated just right. You know why it's a hair better than "Gordon"? Because there's more of it in yr can. 8.5/10.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

DOCK STREET BREWING "ABT 8"

When someone is kind enough to go out of their way and send you a rare beer from their home state, it feels sorta wrong to then get on your blog and start flogging that beer mercilessly. So I'll be kind on this DOCK STREET BREWING "ABT 8", which really doesn't deserve a vicious flogging anyway. It was great of Mark from the Kaedrin Beer Blog to send me this as part of the most awesome batch of east coast beers he flung my way a couple months ago. (Among that batch was the Clown Shoes/Three Heads Brewing "Third Party Candidate", which was otherworldly).

This one had some serious promise: A dubbel! (We love dubbels). #112 of #180! (That's rare!). Mark digs it! (He don't lie). Yet I found it to be both over-boozy and over-grainy, and that's just not a combo that sits all that well with me when I'm drinkin' and note takin'. I can taste caramel and dark fruits – like I'm supposed to – and a little toffee, but then there's that big wheaty mouthful of grain and a hot booziness that's not all that pleasant. I have another one by Dock Street that I'm psyched to try soon, but I'm afraid this one just didn't pass our rigorous and exceptionally thorough judging criteria. 5.5/10.

Friday, March 22, 2013

PRAIRIE ARTISAN ALES & THE ULTIMATE YEAST BOMB

PRAIRIE ARTISAN ALES out of Tulsa, Oklahoma are doing everything right. They've got two brothers running the show who look exactly like you'd expect stereotypical heads-down craft brewers to look - the beards and everything. Their bottles have wonderful labels that beg you to pull them from the shelves. Their ratings are super-high on the beer boards. They've got a deal with Shelton Brothers to "export" the beers out of Tulsa and onto the shelves of places where I shop, for instance. Which is important, and good for their overall business health, I reckon.

I bought a bottle of "PRAIRIE ALE" because I loved the label art, and because "Belgian saison" are two words that just sing to me. It poured a hazy yellow and knocked me halfway to Daly City with its intensely rich fruit and yeast smell. Lemon, grapefruit and grain combine for a slightly "wetter" saison that is typical - and one that tastes outta this world. Yet check this out - I poured the second half of the bottle into the glass, and it was like a totally different beer. Something like a pound of yeast came out, and was like nothing I'd ever seen - and I've been drinkin' this type of beer for many a year. I mean, it wasn't hazy or cloudy, it was the sort of clouds that proceed that monsoon of the century, the kind that floods Sri Lanka. 

I drank it anyway, but I knocked my rating down just 'cause that was so weird, and it really made for two different beers. Beware bottle conditioning - you might get something a little left of center. Don't want that to "cloud" that fact that "Prairie Ale" was a terrific beer, and has me ready to jump on anything else I see from these Tulsa roughnecks in an Oklahoma City minute. 8.5/10.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

SIERRA NEVADA'S "OVILA QUAD"

How have you folks been liking the "OVILA" series of faux abbey beers from SIERRA NEVADA so far? Me, I haven't found much to complain about. Haven't really had the complete set yet, but that "Dubbel" was pretty good, don't ya think? (I had it another time after the review I linked to, and liked it better). I certainly dig that they're now being sold in 12-ounce bottles and 4-packs.....in fact, that seems to be a very welcome trend in packaging that's likely a response to the rise of the beer-centric "single-bottle" store. There are so many of us artisanal beer dorks out there tasting a new beer every other night that there's a demand for single servings of high-alcohol beer in bottles, rather than always making them in jumbo 22-ounce servings that you need a friend over to drink with. (Of course, you can always drink those by yourself too.....).

I had a draft glass of the new "OVILA QUAD" during SF Beer Week last month, and it was so goddamn great I thought it might've been a fluke. So I bought one. It's no fluke! It's a fantastic quadrupel ale. Rich and redolent of plums, light grain and caramel, it totally holds its own with any Belgian equivalent. It's got a wonderful sweetness and a very rich body, almost like a port wine. So great. Really happy to see the continued innovation coming out of Chico the past several years. They could've hung up the spikes years ago & coasted on the pale ale revenues, and they did exactly the opposite. 9.5/10.

Monday, March 4, 2013

ALMANAC'S WILD ALE MULLIGAN

I'm in sort of a weird position vis-a-vis ALMAMAC BEER CO. I sincerely, totally and wholly believe they're one of the best brewers on the planet right now, and I've said so repeatedly on the blog. They've essentially carved out their own various niches as "the foodie's beer"; "the beer that restaurants serve to complement food"; "the slow food brewer" and "that awesome gypsy brewer whose beers are miles better than those of the brewers on whose equipment they brew". When they were a mere twinkle in the eyes of their co-founders, I became pals with Damian Fagan, one of those founders. He's a great fella who basically lives down the street from me.

So what happens when, after a winning streak of like 5-6 beers that I've raved about on the blog, I taste an Almanac Beer that doesn't quite do it for me? Do I ignore it and hope I like it better next time? Or, do I take the issue head-on, review the goddamn beer, and hope Damian and I don't get into a fistfight next time we see each other? I'm going to have to take my chances with the latter option, because, as a teller of truths and a documenter of virtually every interesting beer I taste, there was no WAY I was going to throw down a bottle of their "FARMER'S RESERVE #1" and not tell you about it.

Wait a minute, I know you're thinking – didn't you just rave about this beer a few weeks ago, that time you went to "Sour Sunday"? Why yes – yes I did. That was served on draft, and what I had a few days ago was in a bottle. It's marketed and certainly brewed as a "wild ale" - and man, is it ever. Like an unbroken mare on the Wyoming prairie, this thing is tough to tame. It's very grape-heavy, quite acidic and tastes of honey and funk. The oakiness is strong, and so is the white wine. It all comes together hot and aggressive. You can tell some really good things are happening in here, but it's intense and not quite the smooth sipper that last week's Sante Adairius Chardonnay Blonde is/was. So what happened here? I dunno. Maybe it needs to "lay down" for a while. But then why was that draft version such a mind-melter? Dude, I'm speechless – and crap, here comes Damian, and he says we gots business….6/10.