Friday, January 29, 2010

Alesmith 2008 Decadence Anniversary Ale

This is the Alesmith 2008 anniversary ale. I aged this beer starting around eight or nine months ago, however, presumably it was on the shelf for sometime before that.

This has a typical fruity and hoppy barleywine smell complimented with caramel and toffee, but it certainly isn't a potent one, I actually had to take two sniffs after being surprised by not getting much aroma after my first. Drinking this beer I feel a little conflicted because I want to like it. I've been aging it for the better part of a year and was saving it for spectacular unveiling. However, sip after sip, I'm not finding the characteristics that I'd like.

The rich berry-malty flavor that often defines a good barleywine, tastes all wrong as it goes thin and sour in the mouth; the body comes off like a sour apple cider. The hop character which emerges early, disappears entirely under the sourness of the malts.

Ultimately, the two tastes feel disconnected and you're left with the overall impression of sourness in your mouth. To be fair, I looked on beer advocate and saw that this beer was rated as an A-. It looks as though it may have had a peak age as reviews were split between those who enjoyed the beer and those had bad experiences after aging it too long. Perhaps the Decadence of 2008 had no place aging in a recession ridden 2009?

2008 Decadence Anniversary Ale: **

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Snake River Zonker Stout

"Toasted, roasted weenie," was the shout that my friends and I used to hear as we exited the campus bar. During the final two years of my college career, a middle-aged man, of undecipherable foreign ethnicity, had taken to setting up a camper outside Smoke's (full name, Smokey Joes), our often attended yet little remembered campus bar of some 60 or so years. He would take a small $29.95 charcoal barbeque and cook up packaged hot dogs, selling them to inebriated Penn students, who would gladly shell out the $2 for a slightly burned dog that would soak up the massive amounts of Miller, Budweiser, and Yuengling in their stomach and undoubtedly on their clothes. On ocassion, I was one of these customers that stumbled to the rallying cry of "Toasted, roasted weenie," or simply "toasty, roasty," as months of success allowed the man some room for trademark and branding.

I delve into memory lane, because as I try the Zonker Stout, the first words that popped into my head are, "toasted, roasted." Seven different types of malts in all: 2 Row Pale, Carastan, Caramel, Crystal, Black, Chocolate, Roasted Barley. The front end has a surprising complexity of flavor, mixing roasted barley, chocolate, molasses, brown sugar, licorice, and just a hint of coffee. While hops include Chinook, Sterling, and Hallertau, they aren't incredibly present in the bouquet except for a small trace in the finish, which doesn't really help or hurt the beer to any degree.

While the body and nose on this beer are outstanding, it's in the finish where I feel that it needs work. There's a slightly unpleasant aftertaste, not unlike the acidity of eating unsweetened chocolate. Otherwise this beer is quite good handywork.

Zonker Stout: ****

Thursday, January 21, 2010

HopWorks Organic IPA

Hopworks Urban Brewery, or HUB as they like to refer to themselves, is Portland’s first Eco-Brewpub to offer all organic beers using local ingredients. Brewmaster Christian Ettinger has spent the past year and half constructing his “dream brewpub," which, I might add, is a sustainable building.

Organics can be tricky to pick out. I'm not against the principle, but something about the process really adds a funk to the taste that isn't always in regular brews. That being said, this IPA seems to stray clear of that danger or at least buries it in powerful hops. This is Hopworks signature ale. It has some serious hop presence and back end kick probably due to the excellent selection of hops they use: Amarillo, Centennial, and Cascade. Grain bill, which is all organic, includes Canadian Pilsner, German munich, and Caramunich. A little lemon in the aroma adds to the flavor. I do wish there was balance to round out the front end, but all in all, a well crafted ale.

IPA: ****

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Nogne O India Pale Ale

Right out of the bottle this Norwegian import has the potent promise of well grown hops, carefully pruned and placed with intention. Nogne O is one of the rising superstars of the new European scene of beer, which is taking the best of American styled ales and mixing it with centuries of Euro-brewing knowledge.

This IPA has a great amount of head and well balanced body. I always notice the yeast first when I try European beers; my palate isn't discerning enough to distinguish particular yeast strains, but I always notice a crispness and clarity with these beers. Even though they've used an English ale yeast, the effect is still the same, they're doing something different over there. Here's me drinking the IPA, notice the Blazers glass, it's a very important part of drinking beer successfully.

The surprising thing about this Norwegian Frankenstein is that while it reeks of bright citrusy hops, it tastes much more like hops low with alpha acids, and that dark apple-y flavor mixes impeccably with a big malt presence for a pleasant result. The malts are strong and bold, unusual for an IPA. I wish the finish was a little smoother, but it does give an acid alpha kick that is enough to remember that you're drinking an IPA. Nogne O aspires to ordain each of their beers with a different and distinct personality. I haven't tried any of their others, so I can't say for sure whether each one is distinct, but would I be willing to introduce this IPA at a party as my friend? Absolutely.

India Pale Ale: ****

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ninkasi Oatis Oatmeal Stout

Back when I first started drinking beer, I feel like there were only a few stouts widely available. Most of the time you'd be stuck with a watery Guiness. Personally, I was privileged to have access to Shakespeare Stout, the one beer that I can credit as the catalyst for my long term love affair with beers. But of the few stouts available, Sammy Smith also had a particularly fond memory in my mind for it's quality of using oatmeal. Today, almost every brewery has their version of an oatmeal stout, and they range from excellent to atrocious. The youthful, yet eager brewery, Ninkasi, has done a very nice job with their take on it. It's a carefully calculated balance of oats, chocolate roasted malts, and bitterness, and the end result is quite enjoyable. The body is fairly light on this one, so it won't overwhelm you like it's big thick Russian Imperial cousin. 7.5% alc/vol. 45 ibus

Oatis Oatmeal Stout: ****

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Southern Oregon Brewing Porter

Not a tremendous amount to say here. Southern Oregon Brewing has made a porter that is, much like their simple aptly named beer, a porter. It's got a sweet aroma and fairly dark body for a porter. The label claims the beer to be flavored with coffee, chocolate, and smokey flavors. While the chocolate and smoke aren't all that apparent, the coffee tones are quite apparent and very appropriate; seems pretty reasonable and apropos for a beer from Ashland. However, ultimately the beer doesn't add too much depth or complexity to its body and just the slightest bit watery.

Porter: **

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Ninkasi Sleighr

This is an interesting choice for a seasonal by the folks at Ninkasi. Altbiers, similar to our brown ales, are conditioned for longer periods of time to mellow out fruity flavors and promote a smooth malty taste. The extra conditioning is probably why so few have gone this direction with their seasonals. However, Ninkasi has done a great job developing a mellow yet rich brew worthy of the season.

There's the smallest bite on the front end that opens the flood gates for sweet malts to come pouring through. It's a little challenging to describe what it is in the taste that actually makes this beer so delicious, but the darker roasts with the lighter body really makes for a wonderful wintertime seasonal. Altbiers are supposed to be well balanced and I certainly think they've achieved that. In addition, there's a mix of old world and new here as Ninkasi has taken a German style, doubled it, and made it their own through west coast style brewing. Plus the shout out in the name to 80s hair bands of old doesn't hurt either. Well done.

Sleighr: ****

Oregon Adventures

First off, I'll apologize for the hiatus in blog posts, I was out of town for the holidays. I'm about a month or two behind in posting beers that I've tried, so I'll probably be posting quite a few in the next couple days. However, if there are certain beers/topics/ideas that you're interested in, don't hesitate to email me or post about it. I also have my newest homebrew, the Shah Mat, which should be up and ready to drink in the next few weeks.

Over Thanksgiving I was up in my home state of Oregon. In addition to enjoying the cold weather and the home cooked meals, I did quite a bit of beer sampling... well, drinking; "sampling" conjures images of standing around at posh bars, while tuxedo wearing waiters with pencil mustaches pour you shot sized portions and give you a disdainful eye when you belch and ask for more. No, this was more like taking down a 22 on my own with perhaps the small indulgence by my parents, who were curious about the different types of beers I was drinking.

For those of you who haven't been fortunate enough to ever visit Oregon, the first thing about beer drinking that you have to understand is that drinking good beer up there is much more common place than it is in other states. I was once told that there are more micro(craft)breweries in Portland than in the rest of the nation combined. I don't know if that stat, is still or, was ever true, but just walking into an ordinary supermarket in the Beaver state you'll be pretty floored by the selection of beers made available to you. It's a refreshing site when you're used to seeing the same old generics at California grocers, next time I'll have to take a picture.

Most of the beers you'll find are from Pacific Northwest region. There are always a few other labels from around the country that get mixed in, but mostly it's Oregon beers. It's a subtlety that I enjoy as it feels like I'm buying local, but also obtaining access to a number of smaller, less well distributed brewers who otherwise would be impossible to try.

Highlighted on this trip was the Ninkasi Brewery out of Eugene that has been growing in leaps and bounds, both in scale and popularity. Definitely worth trying are their double and single IPAs, the Tricerahops and the Total Domination, respectively. I enjoyed both beers immensely, although I slightly preferred the Total Domination, which I found to be a little cleaner in its taste. However, I got so excited about these two that I forgot to write down tasting notes. I also tried the Believer Double Red, the Oatis Oatmeal Stout, and Sleighr, which is their seasonal. Next up are four reviews on some of the beers I took the time to write notes on.

Shipyard XXXX IPA

Part of Shipyard's Pugsley's Signature Series (I have no idea who Pugsley is...), the XXXX IPA makes no joke of intensity with bright orange X's on the front and a clearly marked 9.25% alcohol. According to the British convention, the X's connote style, not necessarily strength; a nice tidbit of historical bolstering, which I personally always enjoy with my beer.

The beer makers were kind enough to bitter it with Cascade, Warrior, Summit, and Glacier hops.

Sampling here in my brand new yard style beer glass (a gift from my brother and his girlfriend), it has the wonderful aroma of cascade dry hopping and a brilliant copper color. Unfortunately, the beautiful citrus hops that come through in aroma, doesn't tip off the palate when you first taste this beer. Reminds me of Trailers for movies that promise far more than the movie can ever deliver. The overwhelming taste is of malt, although I will give credit to Shipyard for beautifully crafting their grains, which gives the beer a smooth, sweet and rich caramel character. Do not fear, the hops return in the end, but now, mixed with the well bodied malt, does not have the promise that the aroma first offered and is not enough to satisfy my hop crazed palate.

XXXX IPA: ***1/2