Friday, July 4, 2014

THANKS FOR READING - WE'RE DEAD

Sure, this is the third time I've "retired" this blog, but I'm pretty sure this time's the final time. The craft beer revolution is over; we won. There's no need for underground "samizdat" any longer. I can go to a place like Estonia - as I did two weeks ago - and find amazing, locally-made, flavor-packed craft beers stacked next to aisles of Belgians. I can go to any town in the USA and buy a Westmalle Tripel or a Trappist Rochefort 8 or some locally-made double IPA. What use is my voice, the voice of a mere insect, in the cacophonous explosion of great beer?

Thanks for reading the past several years - it's been a blast. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

LOGSDON FARMHOUSE ALES' "FAR WEST VLAMING"

Hey folks, sorry it's been sporadic here on the blog. I have this idea that we'll be chatting in this forum every couple of days, and then life gets ahold of me and well, you know how it works. Beer bloggin' takes a backseat. That said, I thought it crucial to inform you about this Flanders red ale that I had way, way back like in March or something. It's from some brewing heroes of ours whom we've raved about before – the Oregon brewer LOGSDON FARMHOUSE ALES. Anything unique and Belgiany from these folks is probably going to rule. I saw "FAR WEST VLAMING" in a store once and once only, and I pounced.

"Far West Vlaming" is an oak-aged tart red ale, one that's actually blended with a younger version of the ale after the other half's been barrel-aged. It's only 6.5% alcohol, so unless you drink the whole enormo bottle like I did it won't get in the way of operating heavy machinery. It's a cloudy, yeasty brownish-orange colored ale, not "red" per se. It's definitely tart, but in a most refreshing manner. I taste apricot, leather and wheat. Leather and wheat! It's a great tongue coater, a very good tart red, and that oak barrel doesn't come through too strong, just the way I like it. 7.5/10.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

CHIMAY MAKES A "GOLD", AND IT'S JUST ALRIGHT

I had this faint inkling that CHIMAY had expanded their lineup by 25% with the introduction of a fourth beer to compliment les bleu, blanc et rouge, but I'd sorta forgotten about it. I'm currently residing in Oslo, Norway, and the first time I saw it was last night, when I lined up at the country-sanctioned liquor store Vinmonopolet to buy some treats for the weekend. Here in Norway you can buy beer over 4.5% ABV only at these stores - and get this, the new "CHIMAY GOLD" is a whopping 4.8%. As a lover of Chimay Blue, and an enthusiast of the other two, I thought a Friday night spent in the company of their new one might be OK. Let's find out.

I suppose you'd call this one a Belgian golden ale - or likely more accurate, given its hoppiness, a Belgian pale ale. It's totally innocuous. It's a bready ale with some herbal bitterness, and a light yellow/straw color. It's just as light in flavor, to be honest. You can imagine the Monks churning this one out for themselves to quaff at dinner, and that's probably where it sits best. I drank mine as a "stand-alone" treat, and it wasn't noteworthy enough to stand as such, though completely without fault as a basic, I'm-not-really-paying-attention beer.. Maybe just a Monk thing, and I wouldn't understand. 6/10.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

THE GREAT SOUR BEER EPIPHANY OF 2014

When I resurrected Beer Samizdat from the ranks of the dead blogs several months ago, I published a list of "New Ground Rules" for beer drinking that included "admit when you're been beaten". I highlighted the fact that while I've had sour ales that blew me away and that are among the most enjoyable beers I've ever had, by and large that's not the case. I've come to the conclusion that barrel-aged, wild-fermented, pucker-up beers are usually not worth the money for this careful beer raconteur. Much as I love many beers by Almanac Beer Co., for instance, their move to sour, barrel-aged ales leaves me perplexed as to whether I should buy 'em all. There's a 2 in 3 chance I just won't like it that much. Not for me. The Great Sour Beer Epiphany of 2014. The truth hurts.

Same for CROOKED STAVE beers - I couldn't handle them - and (gasp) same for CANTILLON. Dissing Cantillon on a beer blog is like spitting on the American flag in 1950s Missouri. It's just not done. So let it be said I'm not dissing Cantillon - I'm providing a fig leaf of cover for those of us who've said enough's enough, and that we're only going to spend our shekels on the beers that truly move us to the next astral plane - not on the ones that the proverbial beer cognoscenti says we should. For me, that'll likely be on Belgian abbey styles, highly-hopped IPAs and imperial reds, saisons, Flanders reds, and the odd imperial stout. Likely other experimental styles as taste, weather and money allows.

After drinking this Cantillon "Rose de Gambrinus", it's clear that this exactly the sort of beer I have in my mind when I'm tallying up the reward-to-expense ratio. Clearly, clearly not worth it. It's a blended lambic with a huge raspberry infusion. Sticky, chewy mouthfeel and sour as hell. It's soapy and tasted "aged", with some harshness and truly not a lot of pleasure. Straight up - it's not my thing, and I love weirdo, experimental and old-world beers. Just not this barrel/sour/wild varietal. So sue me! 5.5/10.

Friday, May 9, 2014

SANTA CLARA VALLEY BREWING's "NEW ALMADEN RED"

Oh what, an imperial red being reviewed on Beer Samizdat? Quell surprise! Yeah, I'm nothing if not predictable - and when I saw Ramblings of a Beer Runner giving effusive praise to this one, I had to leap into action and procure one at once. There's already been some love for SANTA CLARA VALLEY BREWING on this site - for the "Electric Tower IPA" that they kicked off the brewery with - and my hope was that this imperial red could stand up proud next to that one. Did it? Oh, it did.

"New Almaden Red" is actually brown (in color), and believe it or not, you can smell the booze right from the opening of the bottle. This is one of those "chewy" imperial reds where malts rule the day - not one of those hoppy reds like, say, Green Flash's "Hop Head Red". No, this is a real tongue-coater, with malty malty malts and a little bit of alcohol sweetness. Did I mention it's fantastic, and even a step better than that IPA? I didn't? Yes I did. 8/10.

Monday, May 5, 2014

EVERYONE WANTS TO COLLABORATE WITH SCANDINAVIA NOW

Well, just in time for me to move to Norway for the summer - next week! - it looks like the master brewers of Denmark, Sweden and Norway are finding all sorts of reasons to make beer with their crafty brothers across the pond. Scandinavia has a first-rate beer culture that's both been validated by its own citizens and by lovers of great beer the world over. I'll bet it feels good to be a resident of Oslo, or Stockholm, or Copenhagen right now. I know it's certainly great to visit these places and drink their local beer, cities that are now spoiled for choice as any great beer city should be.

Latest evidence for a new era is this collaboration beer I picked up in Oslo in March that matches Norway's Ægir Bryggeri with Kansas City, Missouri's kingpins Boulevard Brewing. I dig the name they came up with: Ævenue. A collaboration saison. Not bad, hunh? Well, let it be said that they did the saison family a nice turn this one, as the beer's pretty goshdarned excellent. It's what you might call "fruit-forward", with a distinct taste of white grapes and other things from the wine family. There's funk in there, but it's really distant. The body is light and the beer refreshes. They take the yeastiness down a big notch in favor of the sweet, yet there's nothing cloying nor annoying about it in the least. Now the big question - can this be found in the United States of America? If not, you're gonna have to get on a steamship to the North to drink it, amigo. 8/10.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

THE BRUERY/BOTTLE LOGIC's "TUMESCENCE"

Now I could make any number of phallic jokes vis-a-vis the name of this beer, but I'll refrain. It's all about the beer, folks. I stand erect as a 100% class act here at the 'Samizdat. I found this beer at Bottlecraft in San Diego a few weeks ago and trunked it home with me. It's a big 'un, as The Bruery's always are, so I shared it with a pal on a night that called for an experimental saison. Seems that our sometimes-heroes The Bruery are collaborating here with some friends of theirs from just around the way (Anaheim), a new brewer called Bottle Logic Brewing who have a beautiful website. That's mighty neighborly of them. Now what about this goddamn beer, right?

Well hello. "TUMESCENCE" is a massive apricot bomb! Yes, mango and raspberries too, but the overwhelming (and exceptionally pleasing) taste is of apricot, and I'd call this a fruit beer that happens to fall somewhat into the saison family. But not exactly. It's cloudy and tre yeasty, with a tart backbite and an overall "tropical" taste that's like something you'd kill to drink on a patio in Maui. I was quite impressed, as was my guest. Not sure how well-distributed these are, but don't listen to the Gloomy Gus-es over on Beer Advocate - this one's at least a stone-cold 7.5/10.

Friday, April 18, 2014

EUROPEAN BEER SCENE REPORT, Q1 2014

Somehow I managed to fly to and from the continent of Europe three times during the first three months of 2014. I have this work gig, you see, in which I'm working for a Norwegian company, who therefore conduct a great deal of their business in Oslo, Norway - and who also attend and hold trade show events in cool places like London and Barcelona. Not coincidentally at all, these are the three European cities in which I was fortunate enough to find myself during "Q1" of this year. I've already posted some stuff about drinking in Barcelona here, here and here; in Oslo here and here; and - well - one of my two stays in London was marred by sickness (and therefore no beer spelunking) and the other shall be discussed presently. I fact, I brought Beer Samizdat back from its watery grave because I friggin' love beer travel and beer exploration so much, and want to document and share the love to any thirty people who might listen and/or read. Looks like you're one of 'em!

So this post is for everything I didn't already capture in the posts linked above. There was one night I don't even get to below, in the reviews, and that was a night at one of London's BREWDOG pubs. You guys know BrewDog, right? Tactical Nuclear Penguin and all that? They're a big deal across the pond. Their beer is imported from the UK into most of the rest of the continent, and it's so prevalent in Oslo that it's on draft at restaurants and in bottles all over the place. So they've now got this series of bars all over England and Scotland. I went on a work-related excursion to the one in London's Shepherd's Bush neighborhood, and enjoyed several quite enjoyable ales from the BrewDog lineup. They've got a ton of them. Wasn't taking any notes, but aside from the "dog's bollocks" dinner they served at this pub - every choice was some tepid variation on American greasy-spoon garbage, and my "hot dog" was totally gross - I had myself a right royal knackering, with good company and good beer.

Here are some other beers that they serve on the continent of Europe. They're listed in the order in which I drank them during my visits.

BEAVERTOWN - "8-Ball": An excellent rye IPA from a UK brewer, which I just happened to enjoy on draft at La Cerveteca in Barcelona, Spain. Great big foam and really fresh taste; super flavorful and rye rye rye all the way. I almost didn't order this IPA because it was English, and, to put forth a huge over-generalization, their IPAs often don't quite cut it either due to hop varietals used, timidity or general anachronistic hewing to stylistic guidelines. But this one was so good it might as well have been American! (OMG LOL). 8/10.

ESPIGA - "Bruna": They may not dig this Spanish amber ale all that much over on RateBeer, but I did. Very simple lightly-hopped amber/pale ale. Crisp and nutty, with tingling hops on the roof of the mouth, with very little malt and probably even less alcohol. Really straightforward. It was the only beer I had in Barcelona at a quiet beer bar called Cerveseria La Resistancia, but it was good enough to call a 7.5/10.

BIRRIFICIO TOCCALMATTO - "Tabula Rasa: This is an Italian saison that I enjoyed at the wonderful beer bar Biercab in Barcelona. Classic, clean saison with light funk and lots of fruit, and one I'd keep an eye out for in the US as long as they're not charging $25 for it, the way some Italian imports are. 7.5/10.

MASIA AGULLONS - "Edgard": Way back in the days of my old Hedonist Beer Jive blog, I wrote about Catalonian brewer Masia Agullons (also known as Ales Agullons) and their "Runa Ale" and "Pura Pale". I believe they've become a bit of a craft beer powerhouse in Southern Spain since then. It's probably on the back of beers like "Edgard", a beautiful orange/yellow hazy pale ale that's hoppy and clean, and nearly as good as that Runa Ale I was going off about four years ago. 8/10.

MAGIC ROCK BREWING - "Mild": Well, it's going to hard to say much about this one, except for the fact that I had it at London's The Craft Beer Co.; the one in Islington, which is an incredible bar that I've now been to twice, and can't recommend highly enough. This "Mild", which I can find no reference to on the internet, is a mere 2.6% alcohol. My notes say that it was "good enough", which may indeed be good enough for a beer this pusillanimous. 7/10

SIREN CRAFT BREW / EVIL TWIN - "The Flying Dutchman": One thing we do know about the UK's Siren Craft Brew - they sure do know how to collaborate. This is also the first beer pictured near the start of this post. It's a 5.7% abv, very solid hoppy, piney pale ale, in keeping with their outstanding collaborative IPA. 7.5/10.

DARK STAR/SALTAIRE - "Bock": And here's a collaboration between two UK breweries on a sweet bock, which was served to me on cask. Obviously, no carbonation. Really sweet, tasting of raisins and that bread with swirls. I'll be honest, I got tired of drinking it about midway through, which is never a good sign, though I wasn't disappointed or anything. Just jet-lagged and thoroughly done with drinking. 6/10.

On to Norway!

AMUNDSEN - "Julie": I drank this as my one and only beer at a boisterous and crazy Oslo beer bar called Crowbar, which I'd been to once before and which I've now decided I don't really need to set foot in again. You want to see where beer dorks go in Oslo to loudly party and get sloshed, this is your place. Fortysomethings like myself shall choose other options. Anyway, this is a soapy "India saison" from a local Oslo brewer whom I'd never had anything from before - I don't think - and it was a nice hoppy treat and a 6% abv face-warmer to send me off gently into that good night. 7/10.

HAANDBRYGGERIET - "Tindved": A Belgian-style fruit beer from one of our very favorite brewers on the planet. It's vaguely sour and lemony, a cloudy blonde smooth sipper that was quite good, and yet not quite up to Haandbryggeriet's exceptionally high standards. 7/10.

AEGIR - "IPA": Crazy. The only beer I had on these trips that I didn't like at all, and it's the highest-rated beer on RateBeer of everything here. This Norwegian IPA had super-low carbonation and virtually no character at all. Smooth, but totally lacking flavor or bite. As mediocre as they come; like something you'd expect from Sam Adams or Shock Top. 5/10.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

GO WEST COAST OR GO HOME - MOTHER EARTH's "PRIMORDIAL"

There were only two breweries that my pal The Beer Rover was truly emphatic about when I said I wanted to drink some San Diego brewers I hadn't ingested before (he worships at the hoppy feet of Alpine - we all do - and amazingly, they're actually starting to distribute in NoCal...!!). One was SOCIETE BREWING, whom we wrote about here. The other was MOTHER EARTH BREW CO. out of Vista, CA - not to be confused with Mother Earth Brewing from North Carolina. I did myself a solid - keep reading - and bought not one but two of their IPAs at the Whole Foods in La Jolla, which has a massive and hardcore-local beer selection the equal or better of some beer-only stores. I was so hopped up about the transaction that I immediately took one back to my in-laws' place and started drinkin'. That beer, my friends, was Mother Earth's "PRIMORDIAL".

What a classic, juicy, orange west coast imperial IPA. Outstanding stuff. Lovely fresh citrus hops, strong on the uptake and going down, and very foamy with a big 'ol head. I didn't want it to stop, so I slowly sipped it through a DVD showing of "American Hustle". To me, this is the sort of imperial/double IPA I'd expect from a top-tier brewer in San Diego, and it's exactly what I got. Definitely pining for these guys to break out of SoCal like their forebears at Alpine have and get some of this product up north. 9/10.

Monday, April 14, 2014

LARVIK IPA CAN'T GET IT DONE

My recent travels in Norway had me in the Vinmonopolet store looking to bring bottles of sweet Norwegian draft beer nectar to take home in my suitcase (that's the government-sanctioned beer store, for those of you unaccustomed to beer runs in Oslo). Now, I'm not quite an expert on all aspects of Norwegian beer just yet, but I'm hoping to become one when me and the family live in Oslo this summer for 3 months. Until then, I'm flyin' blind in the Vinmonopolet, and buying things like LARVIK IPA and ending up disappointed.

Hey, I'm sure they're great folks over there at LARVIK MIKROBRYGGERI, and a shot in the dark w/ their IPA was either going to work, or it wasn't. It didn't. It's a bitter and weirdly-hopped IPA, with hops totally out of balance with the malts. It's a bold 7.3% ABV, but I truly think it's too medicine-laced for my refined palate. That's all well and good when I'm "tussin' up", but not in my beer. Looks nice – a deep rich orange with clouds puffing up from the bottom – but it's not in any way a beer I'd recommend nor try again. Looks like mosts folks on RateBeer agree with me on this one. 5/10.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

LET'S TAKE A LOOK AT SOCIETE BREWING

If you listen to Nat the Beer Rover - and I do, because he's a longtime San Diego craft beer authority and the author of an excellent blog whom we once interviewed here - then you probably already know about SOCIETE BREWING. Hunting down and drinking their beers, which have been praised extensively on The Beer Rover, was priority #1 for me when the wife and I recently visited San Diego for a little time away. Nat told me they're not bottling anything just yet, but he did steer us to The Public House in La Jolla, CA, which just happened to have two of their beers on draft. Given that this was San Diego, the weather was, of course, perfect, and The Public House has a patio from which to enjoy such perfection - as well as a draft list that's utterly jaw-dropping. I did not stray and I did not tarry from my mission: Drink Societe. Here's what I tried:

SOCIETE BREWING - "The Madam": A sweet and hoppy Belgian pale ale, which you can see pictured here moments before it touched my throat. It has a bit of the yeastiness that marks a beer as, say, "Belgian" vs., say, "American", and it went down dry and perhaps more hopped-up than I was expecting. Given my outsized expectations for these guys, I suppose it's a mild disappointment that this didn't have me foaming at the mouth, but it really went down well with my salad n' frites. 7.5/10.

SOCIETE BREWING - "The Pugilist": Would you have been disappointed if the only other beer on the menu from a highly-anticipated brewer happened to be an Irish dry stout? OK, so then I'm not alone here. As it was, it was a simple, very drinkable stout, nice and smooth with a bit of roasted bite to it. But, at the end of the day, it was a simple Irish dry stout more suitable for Chargers Sundays at the sports bar than as a rare tonic for an ultra-selective beer aesthete/dork such as myself. 7/10.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

THE DANK CHRONICLES: MODERN TIMES' "BLAZING WORLD"

Was I the only one who got sorta confused when MODERN TIMES BEER cans started popping up on shelves and in beer blogs? I thought it was a Trader Joe's house brand, but then, I don't know what I'm talking about. Theirs happens to be called SIMPLER TIMES. Let's leave aside whether or not "simpler" is even a word, and return to the matter at hand: Modern Times Beer, from San Diego. Me and the missus were in San Diego last week for a short, child-free vacation, and I acted upon an astounding set of beer recommendations from Nat the Beer Rover and visited the Bottlecraft store in San Diego's "Little Italy" to buy some suitcase-stuffers. MODERN TIMES' "Blazing World" amber ale just happened to be one of those. Truth be told, the fella behind the counter told me I had to buy it, and so I did.

"Hoppy dank amber", it says on the can. The can! They say it's "sticky" - and it is. It's 85 IBU, in fact, so you'd expect it to be pretty goddamn hoppy - and it is. In fact, it tastes like a basic, well-designed piney IPA to this would-be pundit, and not like an amber, a red ale, an imperial red - none of those. It doesn't have caramel sweetness and instead is more of a pine bomb, without being overwhelming. I liked it, and I liked its "dankness", whatever that is. You know it when you drink it, right? 7.5/10.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

I'M NOTICING A TREND WITH THESE CALICRAFT BEERS

How many well-above-average scores does a brewer need at Beer Samizdat to be posted in our "Oppression-Fighting Brewers" hall of fame? Let's say three, because after creating 3 fantastic beers that I've truly been delighted by, I think CALICRAFT BREWING CO. earned a place on the big board (and are there now, if you scroll down to your right). First there was "Oaktown Brown", and it was very good. Then there was "Buzzerkley", and lo, it was very, very good. And then there was an IPA called "The City", and I'd have to say that it's the daddy of them all - a real tribute to the art of crafting an IPA, a style that leaves some room for improvisation but is also often buried under mountains of the hoppy bitterness that we all revere so much. Not this one.

"THE CITY" has nine, count 'em nine, varieties of hops, along with blackberry root and orange peel. Can you believe they pulled it off, and balanced this thing out amazingly so it's more defined by its creamy malts and not its biting hops? What a well-constructed IPA. I know that Calicraft have their star pointed toward being a brewer served in fine restaurants, and on account of this exceptionally crafted ale and others, they'll get no argument from these quarters. 8.5/10.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

PINE STREET's "BLACK BAY MILK STOUT"

PINE STREET BREWERY, as I understand them, are not a brand-new San Francisco brewer, but rather a long-time nanobrewer (if 4-6 years is a long time in yr book) who've only recently gone "pro". I feel like I've encountered their "Atom Splitter" pale ale one night a bar somewhere where I wasn't taking notes. I reckoned I'd support the locals and give them a considered and careful try - this time with my digital notepad handy. Lucky for me I found a can of their "Black Bay Milk Stout" in one of my local markets and had a few extra shekels in my pocket.

Milk stouts are sorta happening right now, wouldn't you say? This one's a full-bodied, fairly typical roasty stout, but like a good milk stout should, it's also imbued with the alchemy of creaminess, which makes it that much more delightful on the tongue. Funny that they call it "dry" on their website. It's got your cocoa and your chocolate and your comfortable 5% ABV and everything you'd expect in the stout bill of sale. I didn't find it fusty nor objectionable in the least, and I'd say these nano-cum-microbrewers deserve some of your attention forthwith. 7/10.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

THE MYSTERY SAISON THAT CHANGED MY LIFE

Well, "changed my life" might be a little much, but I recently had a mysterious, unnamed saison/farmhouse ale that's among the finest examples of said style I've ever had. It's so mysterious, in fact, that it's actually called "Saison Farmhouse Ale". Talk about obfuscation! There I was, thirsty and alone at HÅNDVERKERSTUENE in Oslo two weeks ago - in fact it was the very night I posted this and said "I'm going to go there again tonight" - and I spied "Saison Farmhouse Ale" on their menu. Thinking that was about as obscure as I could go, I asked the waitress who made it. She didn't know. She said she'd come back and tell me. She came back. She'd forgotten to ask. Didn't she understand that I had a review to write?? I got impatient and started drinking. I snapped a photo. That photo is the one you see here.

Meanwhile, I'm practically experiencing the rapture at my table. What a fresh, spicy and delicious saison! Just enough bite to totally keep you on your toes, but aromatic, perfectly carbonated and as fresh and clean as they come. Absolute genius in a glass. A saison I'd buy six ways from Sunday, and then six more times on top of that. Eventually she came back and said the magic word: LINDHEIM. Lindheim, of Gvarv, Norway makes it. "They're a new brewer", said she, in near-perfect English. I looked 'em up. They're called LINDHEIM ØLKOMPANI, which means "beer company". They appear to be pretty new. Well, let me just state for the record that I may have had a mere single glass of it, but their "Saison Farmhouse Ale" is a beer to beat the goddamn band. I hope you try it many times in your life. I shall be hunting it zealously from this point forward. 10/10.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

NØGNE Ø & HOLGATE BRIDGE THE WORLD

Listen, long as we're on the topic of these red ales, as we so often are, let's talk about this one that I picked up on my trip to Barcelona and brought home w/ me, 'cause I'd never seen it stateside. It's called "Half The World Away", and it represents an effort by the folks at Norway's NØGNE Ø and their pals at HOLGATE BREWHOUSE in Australia to make some imperial red ale magic together. We're a sucker for collaborations and get a tear in our proverbial eye every time the heavyweights of brewing decide to break liquid bread together and make something cool for people like you and me. Let's see if they pulled it off.

Well, I can say with some certainty that it's probably not worth going to Spain & back for, but "Half The World Away" is a solid imperial red that is decidedly intense and strong. Not in the pants-on-fire hoppiness sense that you might expect; no, this is a true malt bomb, with a deep, rich, lifetime-lingering malt taste that I'm still enjoying in my mouth now - and I drank this last Sunday night. It's got a hint of smokiness too, and while I was pretty sure I didn't quite dig it off the bat, I "warmed" to it eventually and assigned it an "atta boy" 7/10.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

RITUAL BREWING's "EXTRA RED ALE"

Way out in the California desert, nearly down about San Bernardino way, is a town called Redlands. I don't know a whole lot about it, except for a free-spirited punk rock/hippie girl named Xenaisha back in college who was from out there. She had pink hair and played saxophone in a wacko band called Cactopus. Now I know two things about Redlands. There's also a brewer there called RITUAL BREWING who make a hell of a malty red ale. I pulled it off of a shelf despite never having heard of it, and I'm a better man for it. Let's see what we've got here.

Maybe you remember what a gem Anderson Valley's Boont Amber was back in its day. It was amazing. Malty, crisp, fresh, packed with flavor and probably the best daily go-to beer around in the 1990s. This helped me remember how good that beer used to be. Thick body, smooth as silk, and absolutely bursting with malt. All caramel and sweetness, balanced with a strong backbone and malt construction, and only 6.5% ABV to boot. An "amber" that's neither hoppy nor "imperial" and is as good as any imperial red on the planet. 9/10.

Friday, March 21, 2014

HAANDBRYGGERIET PÅ HÅNDVERKERSTUENE

One thing you're going to be reading about on this blog a bunch in 2014 is Norwegian beer. That's because of the fact that I work for a Norwegian company, who've asked me to travel there six times per year; and moreover, because me and the family will be moving to Oslo for three months, May-August 2014. We're fairly "psyched beyond belief" about it, as you might imagine, and I'm of course exceptionally pleased that I'll be going to a place in which I can drink ("drikke") some exceptionally fine beer ("øl"). In fact, I'm in Oslo this very moment. I thought I might share a little bit about my favorite brewer and favorite place to drink my øl here in Oslo. 

So if you've read either of my two beer blogs before, or even if you know anything about craft beer from Norway, you know about HAANDBRYGGERIET. After NOGNE Ø, they're probably the best-known Norwegian brewer whose wares are exported into the US. I interviewed their head brewer Jens Maudal here last year. Anyway, I'm a big fan, as I am of a beer-centric restaurant in Central Oslo called HÅNDVERKERSTUENE. I wrote about that place last year as well. I'm going to go there again tonight.

So this past Wednesday evening I thought it best to pair my two faves with a big pipin'-hot bowl of fisk suppe (fish soup). No surprise, the Haandbryggeriet beers were flat-out stunning, especially in a dark-wood atmosphere with amazing service and an obvious reverence for beer. One Haandbryggeriet I'd never had before, the other (surprise) impressed me much more on draft, half an hour from the source, then it did from a bottle in America. Here's what I enjoyed:

HAANDBRYGGERIET: "HAANDBAKK": I was initially a bit reluctant to start the minor festivities with a sour, but wow, "Haandbakk" is an absolutely lovely dark sour ale. It tastes of sour fruit, like apricots or plums. That's it pictured over there. It's faintly sweet - like a minor kiss of it just to edge out some of the larger pucker. I'm gonna buy a bottle of it back in the States. 9/10.

HAANDBRYGGERIET: "HESJEØL": These guys are just amazing beer alchemists. They're turned an "English farmhouse ale" into a sweet, "fresh hop" masterpiece that's nearly better than everything I've had this year. I liked it before, but this is a different story. It has a big head of foam and a ridiculous amount of lacing, and tastes to me more like a fruity saison than anything else. Totally, totally stellar. 9.5/10.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

STRAND BREWING's "24TH STREET PALE ALE"

Shame on me - I thought this thing was named after San Francisco's 24th Street in Noe Valley/The Mission, mere minutes from my house, and bought it under that assumption - local nanobrewer I'd never heard of, returning some love to the community. Nah, STRAND BREWING is from Torrance, out by the Los Angeles airport. They must have a 24th Street out there or somethin'. Well, I like me a good pale ale and supporting a tiny brewer I've never heard of. What if this one were solid gold???

"24th Street Pale Ale" is a darker pale - which is to say not pale at all, more orange/brown. It's unfiltered, and is quite grainy with a not-small heaping of roof-tingling hops. Very floral is its smell and taste, if you know what I mean. Yeah, I was a believer in these Torrance studs from the first sip - this is a really solidly-constructed bitter treat that I'd recommend to any true lover of the grain and the hop. 8/10.

Friday, March 14, 2014

OMNIPOLLO's "FATAMORGANA" - THE IPA AS MEAL

Imagine an Imperial India Pale Ale could successfully satisfy all of your hunger cravings while simultaneously providing you with a full meal's worth of nutrition, much the way these meal-replacement bars supposedly do. Now I'm not saying that OMNIPOLLO's big, meaty imperial IPA "FATAMORGANA" is gonna fill your belly in quite such a manner, but I don't think I've ever had a hoppy ale that felt so bold, chewy, and stomach-bursting as this one.

Last year I practically wet myself with joy after trying this Swedish gypsy brewer's "LEON", a Belgian pale ale, and then slagged them mercilessly for not meeting the same high standards with their "AGAMEMNON" imperial stout. Our new imperial IPA in question splits the difference, and clocks in with a super cloudy, heavily yeast-laden pour. The beer's a little creamy, a little buttery, and that's where the sense of digestive tract overload kicks in. The IPA as meal. It's a cool wrinkle on the hoppy, high-ABV imperial/double IPA, moving it toward something a little bit off of the pine vs. citrus continuum. I dig that. I just had to go for a massive run the next day to try and counteract the four pounds this thing added to my waistline. 7.5/10.

Monday, March 10, 2014

MEET NAPARBIER, YOUR NEW FAVORITE SPANISH BREWER

Last time I was in Spain in 2010, it was a bit of a surprise to find even a tiny handful of small, artisanal beermakers like MASIA AGULLONS making robust, fresh ales influenced by Belgian, US and UK styles. I was pretty psyched to see that even in a hot-weather, Southern European clime like Spain's that craft beer was becoming a big(ger) deal. You all probably know that Italy, too, is undergoing a major craft beer headrush, as my post here from 2011 only slightly illustrates. So now that I've gone back to Barcelona, Spain just a couple of weeks ago, the improvement in craft beer availability and its penetration into the broader drinking culture is exponential. It is no longer a tough slog to try and find an excellent glass of beer in Southern Europe. We at Beer Samizdat believe this is a very good thing, for Spaniards and travelers alike.

The beer new Spanish brewer we discovered this time was Pamplona's NAPARBIER. Pamplona's where they do the running of the bulls, and though I've never had any interest in that, if by chance I got to swing by their brewery and taste all their many amazing-looking creations in one fell swoop, I think I might even be up for doing the bull thing afterwards. Naparbier are already doing collaborations with Evil Twin and Haandbryggeriet, so my guess is that it's me that's late to the Naparbier party, and that you and other beer experts may already be very familiar with them.

I drank three of their beers whilst in Barcelona. In all fairness, I found one of them to be not particularly good, but the other two were exceptional. No accounting for taste, right? First off, there's this "AVANT GARDE 2013 BELGIAN ALE DUBBEL" you see pictured here. Wow. It had been a long time since I'd had a dubbel, and this helped me to remember why I love them so much when they're done right. Sweet prune and raisin malts bring just tons of flavor. It had a thinner body, no head to speak of, and a 8.4% alcohol content that I only felt after drinking it, not on the tongue during. Incredible stuff, and the essence of "great beer travel". It really put me in a hell of a good mood. 8.5/10.

Then there was this "UNDEAD" imperial IPA that I had at Biercab. I didn't really take notes of it, because I was too busy chewing the fat with some pals, but I know I stopped and did a double take a few times at how amazingly delicious it was. It was nearly in a league with that Siren/Cigar City/Grassroots double IPA I told you about last week. It's apparently in bottles, so my mistake in not grabbing one to stuff into my suitcase. If you go to Spain anytime soon, would you please pick one up for me? Thanks! 9/10.

Finally, there was the bottle of the ZZ Top-themed "ZZ+" that I'd just as soon forget. Maybe I wasn't in the mood for a highly carbonated amber ale that was bitter and hoppy in all the wrong ways. Or maybe I got a bad bottle, because this was so out of line with their other magnificent creations. A friend had this on draft at Biercab the night after I had my bottle, and he pronounced it "very good". So who's to say, right? In any case, these Napabier folks definitely have my attention, and I'm hoping they start importing their wares into the US of A so we all can drink more of them. As it was, I was able to smuggle this thing into the country - report forthcoming.

Friday, March 7, 2014

HEADLANDS BREWING - OFF TO A ROARING START

It's probably not even worth mentioning how many breweries and craft beer bars are opening in my San Francisco Bay Area any more, because it's happening in your town too. A lot. A lot of them are opening. My best bar-hopping days have passed, so I've given up hope of trying all of them before some of 'em inevitably knuckle under and go out of business. That's why I'm always excited when a new brewer commits to bottling or canning their wares early in their lifetime, because I have to go grocery shopping, and when I'm feeling uppity and shopping for staples at Whole Foods, that often means a trip to their mega-beer aisle. That's where I discovered HEADLANDS BREWING.

Now I told you a little about this beer in my "comeback" post, but let's just say it bears repeating: "HILL 88" is a wonderful double IPA, and you'd do well to trade me something rare and wild for it. (Or track it down yourself). They come in cans of four, and while I haven't had the other Headlands beers yet, I've got a mind to head over to Whole Foods right now and grab them. Patrick Horn is one of the folks behind this, and he helped put together Pacific Brewing Laboratories. It seems like just yesterday that that nanobrewer were the newest kids on the proverbial beer corner. They're ancient old figurative farts by this point - albeit without Patrick Horn in tow, either.

Anyway, "HILL 88" is a beautiful malty, big-tasting Double IPA without too much bite. That malt backbone is "stable", as they say, and brings forth much pleasure in the form of caramel, honey and very bitter hops. Yes, it's super hoppy, which lends this thing a gargantuan ultra-aromatic fresh smell. Sound good? Oh yass. 9.5/10.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

TWO TRIPS TO LA CERVATECA - BARCELONA

When I got word that I was going to "have" to be in Barcelona, Spain for a week of work last week, I figured there'd be some tapas and hard work involved, but that I'd also have to find some time to sneak over to LA CERVETECA, the city's longtime premier beer bar, if only for a few minutes. Turns out I had not one bite of tapas whilst there, and hey, the work really wasn't too bad - but yeah, of course I made it to Cerveteca - I had to! I spent portions of 4 of my 5 nights there last time I was in Barcelona in 2010; this time, with an explosion of new craft beer options in the city having taken place the past four years, I "only" made it there twice, and instead spent two other evenings at different establishments.

LA CERVETECA is both a store and a bar, with about 8 taps that rotate in both Spanish craft ales, Belgians, and the odd weirdo UK or US beer. It's located in the Barri Gothic, or gothic quarter, which means that it's pretty much smack in the middle of the coolest and most interesting part of Barcelona. Tourists like me probably go there, but I'd assume it's mostly beer tourists, and every time I've gone there it's seemed like it was only boisterous groups of Spanish regulars, couples and groups of friends that were there. Fantastic vibe, and incredible bottled beer selection, if somewhat "small" by modern American beer emporium standards. Here are a few photos I snapped there.
Some cool-looking Spanish beer that I didn't have room in my suitcase for.


Yep, they had this one too.

Beers from Italy's LOVERBEER, with phenomenal labels.

This is a glass of LA PIRATA's "Suria", an American-style pale ale from a Spanish brewer. Tons of hops, much closer to a pine-drenched IPA. I give it a 7/10.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

AN IMPERIAL IPA THAT SET MY HAIR ON FIRE

I just got back from a week spent on a beercation work trip in Barcelona, Spain. As is so often the case with these work excursions, I'll spend a good portion of my free time swilling the local beer, and hunting mightily for new craft beer spots at which to ply my rough trade. Last time I came out to Barcelona, I spent a few nights at La Cerveteca, and wrote up my "homage to Catalonia" here. This time I not only hit up Cerveteca (twice) but ventured out into the city's dark night to try two other craft beer hotspots as well. We'll talk about those in upcoming posts, but in the meantime, can I tell you about the best beer I've had in 2014 so far? It's a mind-melter.


"NEITHER" is an imperial IPA that's a full-on collaboration between Florida's CIGAR CITY, Vermont's GRASSROOTS BREWING and the heretofore-unknown-by-me SIREN CRAFT BREW. It's so goddamn amazing that the sun shines down upon it even when it's 9 at night, as you can see in this light-streaked photo of the second glass I had of it at Barcelona's BIERCAB. I even came back the next night with a friend in tow, just so we could have more of this beer - and it was gone. A kicked keg!

"Neither" is a totally perfect marriage of citrus and hops. The beer is light in body and in color, but has a flavor of honey and grapefruit that collides in ways one just doesn't often get anymore in IPAs, imperial or no. Most of 'em are so samey that when one comes along like this and knocks your block off, it's worth shouting from the rafters. ¡Viva la Revolución¡Viva Neither! 

Oh, and if you believe this photo here that I swiped off of RateBeer, the thing exists in bottles as well. Anyone know how I can score one?? 10/10!

Monday, March 3, 2014

OFF-COLOR BREWING's HONEY-DIPPED "SCURRY"

Took a chance on this one due to the novelty of the style and the artistic merit of the label - wouldn't you? It's from what I believe is a fairly new Chicago-based brewer called OFF-COLOR BREWING, who've gotten their stuff distributed as far west as my city. They're focused on "avant-garde brewing", and that's something I can get behind, being a pioneer on the leading vanguard of all trends and styles as I am. The beer's called "SCURRY", and it's a dark honey ale brewed with oats. Oats! Let's check it out.

The first thing you notice is that it's exactly what it purports to be, dark yet sweet with honey, a taste that permeates the entire brew. It's grainy with a bit of mineral taste, and a lot of carbonation. The oats are there, but they're far off in the distance, crying out in pain for better placement, which might have balanced this beer out a bit more. As it was, the mineral taste was a jarring clash with the honey, and though quite drinkable, the net effect was something that I'd probably not make an effort to drink again. 6/10.

Friday, February 28, 2014

PUCKER UP AND BLEED: ALMANAC's "VALLEY OF THE HEART'S DELIGHT"

Remember when those nutballs at Almanac Beer Co. were just getting started, and the deal was they were going to put out one 22-ounce "seasonal" beer every, uh, season? Then massive beer dork success ensued, and a couple years later we find ourselves with more Almanac beer than we can drink over here at my house. The operative style for these guys nowadays appears to be sours - fruited, barrel-aged sours. I came clean a couple of posts ago about just how often I'm willing to drink those - i.e. far less frequently than other styles - so I wanted to make sure that of all their new sours, I next tried the one that folks seemed to like the best.

Read a review or two of the new "VALLEY OF THE HEART'S DELIGHT" that fingered it as the new one to beat. It was bottled in February 2013, but just unveiled to the people this month. Whew, it is indeed a sour, tart ale redolent with apricot and cherry, and then aged in wine barrels for extra intensity. It pours a beautiful yeasty and cloudy orange/yellow and has a massive smell. It's bready and super tart, and no doubt it's something that needs to be taken slow. There's something in here called loquats, but I forget what those are. The beer reminds me of those Crooked Stave sours of late; truly exceptional in terms of quality and craft, yet for the real sour sophisticates only. This has to be something you really, really dig, because it's not for dilettantes like me who lack the vocabulary and tastebuds to really give it its due. I'll go with 6.5/10 with the full understanding that the score's all about me - results may differ for you.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A HAPPY NIGHT SPENT WITH PRAIRIE ALES

We here in San Francisco recently went through the crucible known as "San Francisco Beer Week", which just gets bigger and more overwhelming every year. I've gone from being an active participant in multiple events to being a mere "dabbler", showing up to a couple of lower-key events if and when the spirit moves me. This year it really only moved me to one event: PRAIRIE ALES tap takeover!! Yes, Oklahoma's majestic Prairie Ales trucked out all sorts of rare and wild saisons, brett bombs and other experiments to the Mikkeller Bar in SF, with head brewer Chase Healeywhom you may recall we interviewed here – making the trip along with his many glorious creations. I think Chase and his team have vaulted themselves to be one of the Top 5 brewers on god's green earth this past year, and I wanted to take a "deeper look" into his weirder and less available creations.

Perhaps one of the benefits of so many Beer Week events going on at the same time is that the burgeoning beer-swiling Bay Area populace is sufficiently diffused enough to make "Tier 2" events like this one less crowded. Thank god, because my drinking pal & I nailed a table right away and got down to business – food and Prairie Ales on the same ticket. So if you're wondering what Prairie brought, let me just say they brought a lot. Anything you've seen in a bottle – from Prairie Ale to 'Merica to Bomb to Standard – was on draft tonight, as were a number of other draft-only creations – which is where I tried to spend my time.

Prairie tend to focus hard on earthy, flavor-packed saisons as their main recipe, and create variations of those in different forms. Of course, Healey and the crew don't stop there. I tried three beers I'd never had before: ELIZABETH, SPECTRUM and POTLATCH. Of the three, "Elizabeth" is the only one I took good notes on, though I scored 'em all. I started with "Elizabeth", and she was my fave. It's a farmhouse ale that's "aged on apricots" and allowed to sour a bit, so it has a rustic, super-Belgian quality to it while being easy-drinking and complex simultaneously. You know great art when you taste it, and this was very nearly a masterpiece: 8.5/10. The others, well, I got to talking a bunch and only recalled that "Spectrum" was a saison nearly as good as Elizabeth (8/10) and that "Potlatch" was a slight step down from those heights but still a righteous brew of unknown style origin (7/10).

Had a chance to go up and banter w/ Healey but respectfully declined. I hate that sort of brewer brown-nosing, to be honest. Very happy to drink his beers, however, now and forevermore.

Monday, February 24, 2014

SOME NEW GROUND RULES FOR BEER DRINKING, 2014

So as previously noted, I quit the beer racket in September 2013 with a heavy heart and a little bit of frustration at both myself and the state of craft beer, only to return this last week slightly wiser, and with renewed vigor and focus. In all candor, I have a somewhat loaded (no pun intended) relationship with beer and alcohol, not because of any inherent drinking problems per se – but because I struggle with my complete aversion to alcoholics, drunks and personal excess and yet I am nonetheless saddled with a total, undying love for the taste of great beer. How to marry the two? Perhaps there's a need for new ground rules for Beer Samizdat in 2014. Namely,

Beer Festivals Are Out

For me they are, anyway. I have now effectively passed the point where it's fun or in any way desirable to get even slightly drunk; even the mildest of hangovers feels like an absurd waste of time, energy and brain cells. So when a fun-sounding beer fest with a $40 fee of entry and 40 of my favorite brewers rears its head – and these things happen every month in the greater San Francisco Bay Area – I have to meter out an internal cost/benefit ratio; namely, if I'm only going to try 6 or 7 small glasses of beer, in order to stay more or less sober(-ish), and those 6 or 7 mini-glasses are costing me about $6 each – is it worth it? It certainly was back when I was trying 13 of 'em, but in a world in which hangovers negate virtually all pleasure gained from the previous day's drinking, it is not. I truly would rather be doing something more productive with my time, like reading, parenting, running, whatever. Certainly this is a consequence of getting older. At 46 years of age, I have reached inner peace that I don't want to/need  to be raging with the young'uns just to say I tried every weirdo barrel-aged one-off that happened to be pouring at the fest. I'll have a nice pint or two at the hipster-doofus beer bar instead, and call it a happy day.

It's Totally OK Not To Try Everything

This new rule hurts a little bit, I'll admit. There was a time – the early 2000s, perhaps – when I thought that with enough diligence I could try and master every one of the world's great beers. At the time, the production volume was nowhere near what it was today, so with a little bit of beer travel, some intrepid retail and some carefully-selected Belgian and German imports, I could (and did) actually feel like I could converse intelligently about most beers, because I'd tried most of the good ones at least once. (My intense business travel schedule certainly helped in this regard). This sort of confidence has been blown apart by the incredible volume of great beer being produced every day, in every corner of the country and all over the world. I read an issue of Draft or Beer Advocate now, and I weep a little on the inside for all the beers discussed therein that I shall never have, much as I'd like to. The only way to move forward it to make peace with it, and realize that even an off-the-charts alcoholic beer dork can't keep up with the greater world of craft beer in 2014. So why try? On that note…

It's Also OK To Drink The Same Beer Multiple Times

Even if my volume of intake is less than yours (if indeed it is), I think that the past few months have helped me to shift my thinking a bit in terms of novelty. It's not really all that special, is it? I mean, I've been frustrated so many time before in choosing some witbier or imperial stout off of a tap list or a shelf, just because I've never had it before – when some of my favorite beers in the world are sitting right next to it on the same list or shelf. "Why the hell didn't I just get the 'La Fin Du Monde' this time??", I say. Sure, that means less beer reviews on this blog and less novelty in my life in general, but hey, this blog didn't even exist a little over a week ago. It'll become what I make of it – and trust me, I'm not going to fall back to old favorites every time. I still enjoy creating new favorites as well.

Admit When You've Been Beaten

I say this in stylistic terms, in the sense that there are beer styles that truly hold little appeal to me by and large, and yet I have kept ordering these beers in hopes of a breakthrough, or because I feel some sort of inner obligation to the beer community writ large. To start with, most sours. I recently bought the entire bottled lineup from Crooked Stave, and sure, they were fine enough, but did I truly love the act of drinking them? Not really, no. They felt like a beer dork rite of passage, something I had to put on my beer resume and get out of the way. (I have many similar sour examples of late, so this is not to pick on Crooked Stave, who are obviously quite good at what they do). Black IPAs have always bugged me. Most of them are gross. Don't even get me started on "sour stouts". Many expensive barrel-aged, high-ABV beers are not worth the paper used to print their labels. So why bother? I'm ready to accept that there might have to be some holes in my beer C.V. from this point forward – but I can also promise ya you'll be seeing a lot of love for my true favorites: Dubbels, tripels, Flanders Reds, IPAs, imperial reds, saisons and abbey-style ales. Maybe even a hefe or three. And the odd imperial, barrel-aged, 14% stout.

Hopefully this wasn't just a navel-gazing confessional, and is something that you too can - and will! - apply to your beer–drinking life. Go forth and proper, my children.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

ALESMITH'S "MY BLOODY VALENTINE" - 4 LOVERS ONLY

I made the full-on cheeseball move this past Valentine's Day and actually drank a "holiday-themed" beer on the day itself. That week – last week – I stumbled upon ALESMITH's "My Bloody Valentine" ale at a local beer monger, and once I'd made the connection that this was, in fact, an imperial red ale (sort of), I dove in. Imperial reds, as readers who may have stuck w/ the Samizdat thing long may know, are my very favorite underdog beer style on the planet. Now Alesmith has never really blown me away in the same manner they seem to do with so many other folks; I mean, when I was starting out jabbering about beer, they were among the most hyped brewers on earth. Not sure where they stand in most folks' pantheon. I know that this particular beer hasn't altered their place in mine.

"My Bloody Valentine" is said to be an evolution of their "Evil Dead Red" ale, which I imbibed during my time off these past 5 months and therefore never reviewed. It pours a deep and lustrous red, which they call mahogany. I guess so. I found it to be a creamy, relatively hoppy red ale, but much more tuned to caramel malt frequencies than those of the lupulin, and even then, it didn't really have the bready, sweet intensity of the best reds. What it was was solid, all across the board. The gimmicky "6.66% ABV" is indeed a gimmick, but it also made for an easy-drinking 22-ounce beer than I barely "felt" once quaffed. Which is good, because it was Valentine's Day, and wives don't particularly dig it when you fall asleep at 9pm after a big beer, do they? 7.5/10.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

THIRD STREET ALE WORKS - ALWAYS A BRIDESMAID

You gotta extend a little empathy THIRD STREET ALE WORKS' way, though I suspect they don't want nor need it. Here they are, making all this killer "microbrew" since 1995 in downtown Santa Rosa, California, yet under the formidable shadow of the world-beating Russian River Brewing, who just happen to be down the street and around the corner. Not merely one beer drinker has told me tales of having been forced to leave Russian River in frustration due to lines, excessive crowds and whatnot, and having to suffer the indignity of the "consolation prize" of shuffling over to Third Street Ale Works just in order to have a beer. Rough life, this. 

I know there are also many who rightly ignore geography, hype and assumed terroir, and instead focus on what's going down their gullet and whether it's any good or not. On that count, I've found Third Street to be a mighty solid brewer indeed over the years, and me, I don't care what their hossana'ed neighbor's doing (I too have had to leave the latter in crowd-damaged frustration). Take this CALICO CAT CHOCOLATE VANILLA PORTER of theirs. I had it the other night at San Francisco's The Ave. Bar, and I nursed it but good. It's made with "nibs" from SF chocolatier Tcho, and with vanilla beans flown all the way over here from Madagascar. 

I was supremely digging its smooth coffee/choco taste and even its mildly chalky aftertaste. It was impressively true to form, a porter with loads of roastiness but all velvet and almost nothing harsh aside from a slight "bite" that came at the end. It has much of the character of something "imperial", but only weighed in at 5.5% alcohol. That's a bridesmaid I'd be happy to sneak away with. 7.5/10.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

THE BEER SAMIZDAT 100, 2006-2013

I kept a tally of my favorite beers for quite some time on the two beer blogs I've helmed to date - Hedonist Beer Jive and this one. I started rank-ordering the best ones back in 2006, and kept updating the list every six months or so, just to get my own story and shopping list straight. "The Hedonist Jive 75", "The Beer Samizdat 100", that sort of thing. Always hoped that my lists would cause lots of grumbling and consternation in the blogosphere, but it really never happened. 

So many of these beers are dead to me now. They'll never be found nor consumed again. Others were imbibed by a man much younger than my present self; sometimes by a man who was more mildly inebriated than today's older, wiser man. Would today's man appreciate them with the same level of enthusiasm as yesterday's? It is hard to tell, my friends, very hard to tell. So with this list published on this blog back in April 2013, I hereby retire "The Beer Samizdat 100" and declare that we shall start anew! Every beer, consumed from this point forward, shall merit consideration on a new list, one that begins in 2014.

It will be interesting (to me) to see how it shakes out. In the meantime, if you want to take a gander at the 100 best beers of 2006-2013, here you go:

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

67. RUSSIAN RIVER – Blind Pig (IPA)
68. SMUTTYNOSE - 
Gravitation (Quadrupel)
69. 5 SEASONS BREWING – 
Venus (Witbier)
70. THREE FLOYDS - Alpha King (American Pale Ale) 
71. UNIBROUE – Maudite (Belgian Strong Dark Ale)
72. DE PROEF – 
Zoetzuur Flemish Ale (Flanders Red Ale)
73. SOUTHERN TIER - Heavy Weizen (Imperial Hefeweizen)
74. ST. BERNARDUS - 
Prior 8 (Dubbel)
75. TELEGRAPH BREWING – 
California Ale (Saison)76. BROOKLYN BREWING – Local 1(Belgian-Style Golden Ale)
77. BROWERIJ DE DOLLE – 
Oerbier (Belgian Strong Dark Ale)
78. BRASSERIE DUPONT - 
Saison Dupont (Saison)
79. BRASSERIE DE ROCHEFORT – 
Trappistes Rochefort 10 (Quadrupel)
80. RUSSIAN RIVER – Damnation, Batch 23 (Belgian-Style Golden Ale)
81. FIFTY FIFTY - Eclipse (Aged in 20-Year Elijah Craig Bourbon Barrels) (Imperial Stout) 
82. GREEN FLASH – Summer Saison (Saison)
83. MIKKELLER – Barrel-Aged Chipotle Porter (Porter)
84. PRETTY THINGS BEER & ALE PROJECT – 
Field Mouse’s Farewell (Saison)
85. THE BRUERY – 
Loakal Red (Imperial Red Ale)
86. RUSSIAN RIVER – Redemption (Belgian-Style Pale Ale)
87. HANDBRYGGERIET – Norwegian Wood (Smoked/Spiced Ale)
88. SOUTHERN TIER - 
Hoppe (Double IPA)
89. LAGUNITAS – 
Imperial Red (American Strong Ale)
90. 5 SEASONS BREWING - Dark White (Dark Witbier)
91. SPEAKEASY BREWING - Betrayal (Imperial Red) 

92. THE BRUERY - Orchard White (Witbier)
93. BIRRIFICIO LE BALADIN - 
Nora (Herbed/Spiced beer)
94. ST. BERNARDUS – ABT 12 (Quadrupel)
95. SURLY BREWING – Abrasive Ale
 (Double IPA)
96. TWO BROTHERS BREWING - 
Hop Juice (Double IPA) 
97. RUSSIAN RIVER –Temptation (American Wild Ale)
98. GOLDEN ROAD - Hefeweizen (Hefeweizen)
99. DE PROEF – 
Witte Noir (Imperial Amber Wheat)
100. GREEN FLASH – Hop Head Red (Imperial Red Ale)