Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ise Kadoya India Pale Ale

I've recently been hearing a lot about the up and coming brew culture in, of all places... Japan.  I'm sure you've all noticed the many places now carrying the incredibly popular Hitachino Nest from the Kiuchi Brewery.  Most bars have either their White Ale or Hefe, although I've read online that they make an Espresso Stout, Amber, Pale, and few others that I'd be more interested in trying.  So when I saw this Ise Kadoya selection at Beverage Warehouse, I was very interested in giving it a try.

From what I can tell, they do a number of English/American styles including a Brown, Stout, Pale, Triple Hop, Scotch, as well as an Imperial IPA.  I thought I'd start with what seemed the most basic staple of most American Breweries to see how it compares.  According to the bottle, they've been making miso and soy sauce for centuries by the "traditional methods,"and they mean for this beer to follow in that same tradition.  Only one way to find out...

Not much head on this despite my rigorous pour.  The aroma is pretty surprising! Leaning over to take a whiff of what I thought was surely citrus and pine, was actually a much sweeter, almost cider like, apple and toffee smell.  In addition, the color is much more orange than I would have expected.

Drinking this import in, I have to take a long sip to really appreciate all the flavors.  It's a very interesting creation that Ise Kadoya has shipped over.  The sugary aroma is not meant to mislead as it starts off like a big bite of an apple.  Do not fear, however, as the sweeter elements fade away they are replaced by a very deep beta acid bitter, the kind that only effects the back of your tongue and wants nothing to do with the front.  Strangely as the hops die down the beer finishes with a very malty aftertaste, which is quite surprising and distinct in flavor.  You're left with the taste of what I can only describe as maltwater, which while not unenjoyable because of the incredible clarity of the roasted barley flavors, is perhaps not the best notion to be left with when drinking an IPA.

At 7%, this beer is complex and drinkable enough to satisfy me on a hot summer evening, however, it certainly is a far cry from the IPAs I know and love.  I wonder if they wouldn't have more sucess with this beer if they called it a barleywine instead of an IPA?  The richness of the malt flavors, the sweet front end, and the dominance of the beta acid hops make it far more like a barleywine than American IPA.  As such I've given it three stars because it's an enjoyable beer, but certainly not an IPA.

India Pale Ale: ***

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rogue Dirtoir Black Lager

Ahhh, back to the old standard, my first love: Rogue.  Technically, this beer is called First Growth Dirtoir Black Lager, but I thought I'd shorten it for the sake of the post.

I've recently been seeing a number of these Black Lagers popping up by some of my favorite brewers; Avery made an incredible one as their anniversary beer called Seventeen.  The Black Lager is a distinctly American take on the German styled Schwarzbier.  Schwarzbier pronounced "shvahrts-beer," sounds more Yiddish than German... which is simply German for black beer.  It doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily heavy or light in body, although they tend to lean towards light. This makes them quite different from their porter and stout cousins. The goal is to eliminate all fruit flavors and instead produce a very mild, almost bittersweet flavor with notes of chocolate, coffee, and vanilla: taking a few steps closer to the American Stout flavor, while still maintaining the light lager body.

The Rogue Dirtoir pretty much picks up right there in my description.  A black body with sizeable tan-coffee head and excellent lacing pours into my pseudo pilsner glass.  Very little front end on this beer, but it develops into a very nice roased malt bitterness mixed with a rich dark chocolate and finishes with a well balanced and not overpowering hop bite.  Overall, very tasty, although the clarity of the lager seems to expose the bitterness in the initial malts leaving for a slightly overpowering and lasting bitterness that carries through the sip.  This bittersweet, while probably intended, pretty much takes over the palate muting the other flavors under it.  Otherwise, this is immensely drinkable beer, and the notes from the chocolate malts do not go unnoticed.  I should add that Rogue labels this beer as a GYO or, Grow Your Own.  In fact, Rogue did exactly that: from the hops to the grains, they provided everything to make this beer.  It's another interesting step towards sustainability in the beer world.
First Growth Dirtoir Black Lager: ***

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Deschutes Twilight, Summer Seasonal

It's been rather a grey summer so far this year in Southern California.  I suppose then it makes sense that on one of our few days of sun I break out this new summer seasonal called, Twilight.

I've always been a bit dubious of summer seasonals; it's a hard beer to nail down because it seems somewhat unnecessary as a style.  Indulge me for a moment.  Think of a Winter seasonal – all sorts of comforting winter flavors come to mind: vanilla, spruce tips, cinnamon, cloves, and the list goes on.  It's a fairly identifiable and an easy beer to place in the spectrum of flavor.  You could say similar things for Fall and Spring with pumpkins and rose petals respectively.  But Summer doesn't have quite the same immediate connotation of easily compatible flavors.  For me, Summer flavors are all about fresh vegetables like tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, and string beans; blistering hot days with sweet, ice-cold drinks to cool you off and luke warm nights where you can't seem to fall asleep; day trips into the mountains or beaches where you play so long by the time you get home you simply pass out from exhaustion.  That may not be everybody's idea of summer, but surely you understand how the flavors immediately brought to life are far less tangible from a beer maker's perspective.  When I think of Summer, I think of a refreshing drink that will cool me off under the hot sun.  The problem is, that's the very essence of of most lagers and lighter ales!  If you're working up a sweat, there are a multitude of kolschs, pilsners, hefeweizens, pales, IPAs,  ESBs, Doppelbocks, and other lagers, all served cold, which would be a great source of refreshment.  There isn't really a need for an addition of seemingly nonexistent flavors to better them.  You could probably make a strong argument for a flavoring of one of these styles which you then declare as a Summer Seasonal, but I think Summer Seasonals as an actual style have a lot of chips stacked against them from the get go.  But on to the beer...

It pours between golden and orange with minimal head, however, very nice lacing.  Aromas are of heavy grains, infused with a tinge of orange.  The mouthfeel is ever so slightly metallic, leaving a small bit of residue from its practically nonexistent body.  What can be noticed at all of a front end is a bitter astringency (think white part of an orange bitterness, not hop bitterness), but is like a flash in the pan of taste before it converts to a heavy dose of amarillo hops.  The hops are a nice touch and the taste evolves well, but it does leave the beer incredibly lopsided.

It's a lovely thought by Deschutes, who I've come to respect quite a bit over the past year, but as I've pointed out, a task perhaps doomed to fail from the start.  They were right to keep the alcohol content low at 5%, but with heavy aroma of grains, it doesn't feel like I'm drinking a low gravity beer and as a result the beverage is neither thirst quenching nor perceived as light, even despite it's very hollow body.  Perhaps we'll have to wait for another beer to exemplify the Summer Seasonal, and until then, I'll enjoy another IPA on the beautiful summer day.

Twilight: **1/2

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Stone 14th Anniversary Party

Two weekends ago I had the pleasure of attending Stone's 14th Anniversary Beer Festival at CSU San Marcos.  The event was really amazing: brewers from all over the world, rare and one off beers, and about 7,000 fellow beer lovers.  Megan and I were lucky enough to catch a ride with the Library Alehouse Express, a bus arranged by Library to shuttle us down and extend our day of shenanigans.

While the festival was amazing, I was a little disappointed that at $40 a ticket, food was additional once we got in.  We also got there about 45 minutes late, so for a three hour time period we had trouble getting through all 10 of our tickets.  Nonetheless, we had a ridiculous amount of great beers.  Here's the list of what we drank:

Dave: Baltic Thunder, Victory Brewing Co. (Downington, PA)
Megan: Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale, Lagunitas (Petaluma, CA)

Dave: Ken Schmidt / Maui / Stone Kona Coffee Macadamia Coconut Porter (Collaboration)
Megan: I Beat You, Mikkeler (Kobenhavn, Denmark)

This porter was sweet heaven.  So rich, so well balanced.

Dave: 16th Anniversary Wood Aged Double IPA, Great Divide Brewing Co. (Denver, CO)
Megan: BrewDog / Cambridge Brewing Co. / Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner

Dave: Nøgne Ø / Jolly Pumpkin / Stone Special Holiday Ale - Brewed at Nøgne Ø, Norway
Megan: Dry Hopped Hog Heaven Barleywine-Style Ale, Avery Brewing Co. (Boulder, CO)

An Avery volunteer poses for the Dry Hopped Hog Heaven.

I was pretty excited about try the Special Holiday Ale, I was one of the first in line when it went on tap.

Much lighter bodied than I had expected, but still really delicious.

Dave: Cho-Saiko, Pizza Port (San Diego-ish, CA )
Megan: Merlot Stout, SKA Brewing Co. (Durango, CO)

It was right around here that our effort to document our beer drinking for the day fell apart, at least pictorially.  Beer will do that.

Dave: Hand Cask Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA w/ Sovereign Hops
Megan: TEA (Traditional Experimental Ale), The Lost Abbey (San Marcos, CA)


Dave: Modus Hoperandi, SKA Brewing Co. (Durango, CO)
Megan: Stone Smoked Porter w/ Chipotle Peppers

Dave: Black Pearl, Coronado Brewing Co. (Coronado, CA)
Megan: Idiot IPA, Coronado Brewing Co. (Coronado, CA)

A fellow beer reveller offered to take our picture.

Then proceeded to spill beer on me.  He was a Lakers fan... typical.

Happy beer festival goers.

Back at the bus everyone was in good spirits.

Tom took us to a brand new gastropub called Urge.  The beer selection was incredible and pretty much everyone got one of their six burger options.  It was amazing.

We also had these fries, which I believe were covered with bacon.

Finally, we ended up at the Ballast Point Brewery for a tour.  Most of my pictures were pretty useless by this time.

That's it! An incredible beer filled day, great people and great food.  Can't wait for next year.