Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tony P's and Oskar Blues Beer Dinner

For the past few months, Tony P's has been hosting a beer pairing dinner once a month.  Last week, I had the opportunity to join them for their Oskar Blues night.  In full disclosure as a blogger, I was invited and paid for to attend, but I think my observations are still pretty impartial.  Here's a little recap.
I wasn't too familiar with Tony P's.  In my mind, I pictured it more as a Gator dominated sports bar than a beer bar.  However, I was quite surprised when I arrived here to find out that they have 40 beers on draft and 60 to 70 different choices of bottled beers. Of those 40, 30 are resident and 10 are rotating.  Obviously, with their beautiful brand new LED flat screens they're catering more to the interested beer and sports fan then uber craft beer nerds.  But that being said, I was able to find several beers on their menu that I hadn't tried, which is saying something indeed.

The first pairing was Dale's Pale Ale with a chicken cordon blue calzone.  Dale's is a pretty good and standard pale ale.  I find it's body to be slightly metallic and thin, but it's got a very nice hop finish and a very even malt front end.  Here's Kat and Naheed cheers-ing with a Dale's.
... And MJ cheers-ing to camera with a Dale's
The calzone came stuffed with chicken and spinach with an alfredo sauce poured over the top of the whole thing.  The pairing was really quite enjoyable; the carbonation and light body of the beer cut nicely through the heavy alfredo sauce.

Next up was the Gordon, which is a blend between an Imperial Red and a Double IPA.  I've never really heard of anyone doing this before and I'm not really even sure what it means.  I'm not sure why that hybrid isn't just... an Imperial Red? At least that's what I imagined the flavors would be.  But I think the key point here is that it's a blend, not a hybrid, so I'm imagining they mixed the two beers post brew, rather than during the boil.

This was served with a Spicy Mac-N-Cheese, which has chorizo and roasted pasilla peppers.  This was probably my favorite pairing of the night.  
While the Gordon was good on first taste, it wasn't blowing my socks off.  I tasted raisins with a touch of caramel and I thought it actually tasted a lot closer to the Old Chub with a little hop finish at the end.  It did have a good body though.  However, the spiciness of the chorizo complemented the beer perfectly.  It made the hop finish really pop.  The Gordon has just enough body to stand up to the much bigger hop rush that's brought out from the spice.  This was really nice!Course number three started with the Gubna Double IPA.  Gubna is a great double.  What's most impressive is they created the beer using only Summit hops.  Summit is high alpha stuff and leaves a wondeful piney, citrusy aroma with a great bright hop finish.  Brewed with Dark Munich grains, it still maintains its balance and light color for a double.  
This was served with a smoked pork mole, which was quite good, and very spicy. Unfortunately, the two didn't work as well together as I would have hoped.  While spices are usually good with hoppy beers, the mole was so heavy that it killed a lot of the beautiful Summit flavor in the beer.  Otherwise though this was pretty enjoyable.

Next up was the Old Chub, their Scotch Ale.  Tony (of Tony P's), proclaimed this beer as his favorite, and he may be on to something.  I've been seeing Old Chub popping up more and more and I think this beer may be a big winner in the end for Oskar Blues.  It's currently rated as the top Scotch Ale on Beer Advocate and it has the potential to gain a lot of popularity due to its appeal to both novice and experienced Scotch Ale drinkers.  For those who aren't familiar with Scotch Ales, they undergo long boiling periods in order to caramelize the wort.  This creates a fairly potent and sweet with a full mouth of roasted grains in a full-bodied mix.
Unfortunately, due to these characteristics, it's a hard beer to pair with.  In this case, it was paired with a Catfish Po Boy, with collared greens and ham hock on the side.  I'm not really a big catfish fan, nor did I have much room left in my stomach after 3 prior courses, so I didn't have too much of this one.  My impression on the pairing though was that it wasn't bad, but the dish and the beer didn't do too much for each other.
For dessert we had Ten Fidy, their Imperial Stout with a Chocolate Brownie tart and vanilla ice cream.  Ten Fidy was fantastic as always, but it simply couldn't hold up to the level of sweetness in the tart.  Still, I enjoyed eating and drinking both.  
Here's MJ drinking his Ten Fidy, acting like he's too cool for school... actually he is, I've seen his high school book reports.
I have to hand it to Tony, he gave us pretty sizable portions of beer and food all night; this wasn't a little tasting session.  Afterwards, I spoke with him and he's really trying to get people to drink better beer.  He's got an amazing setting to do it in with a secluded dining room and sports bar in the same building, he's on his way to getting people to drink better beer.

Tony P's will continue to hold beer pairing dinners once a month.  Next month he's doing a special Irish themed meal with several beers from the UK.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Port Brewing Midnight Sessions

In case you haven't read my blog before, or in a while, let me just say: I love Port Brewing.  I love the names, the beer, the attitude, and I love that they started with a pizza and beer place.  In honor of opening this Midnight Sessions, which has been sitting in my fridge for quite a while, I've ordered a pizza from Dagwoods to go with; half Woody's, half Greek, should be delicious. 
For those that may not have read my posts about Black Lagers before, here's a little review.  The Black Lager is basicaly an American take on the German "Schwarzbier."  Schwarzbier sounds like something they might have drank in Spaceballs and while I won't rule that out, Shwarzbier literally just means "black beer."  It's a fairly simple description for what actually is a fairly complex lager.  A good Schwarzbier is going to be a dark brown, bordering on black, yet should still have a very light body; being a lager helps with that.  The goal is to drive out all the fruit flavors and have nothing other than roasted malt flavor and a bit of hops. 

The aromas have a distinct roasted malt flavor.  It's a deep smell with hints of salty sea air and a dry body.  The head lacks a tremendous amount of retention, but it's a good amount for the pour.  The color is extremely dark, bordering on black.  It's only when you hold it to the light that you can catch the subtle amber and brown tones.  The first part of your sip is a load of carbonation with a distinct taste of bitters.  As it opens up it becomes a concentrated blend of roasted grains and coffee, but is supported the whole way by that thin undercurrent of bitterness.  Oh hell yes, the pizza is here, looks amazing.  Here you go, you get to share the experience a bit. 

So back to the beer.  Hints of chocolate in the grains, a beautiful mix with the coffee, but a totally different experience than a coffee stout because of the light body.  As it finishes, the coffee and hops take over leaving a lovely rich bitterness on your tongue.  My only complaint on this beer is that its mouthfeel is so carbonated that it borders on soda like quality.  But otherwise it's a solid black lager.  The coffee addition is brilliant and mixes perfectly with the choice of hops and roasted grains.  Nicely done Port!

Midnight Sessions: ****1/2

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Founder's Breakfast Stout

While this is a breakfast stout, I'm not having it for breakfast.  In fact I'm having it after a long day at work and a dinner long since digested.  This is the irony of coffee Stouts.  While their coffee flavors would suggest a morning beverage, the rich chocolate malts also make for wonderful after dinner drinks.  I've heard about Founders quite a bit in reading magazines and through the "hop-vine," however, I hadn't found them in many places in Southern California.  I was able to pick up this bottle on ebay for a hefty price though.  You'll notice these pictures were taken at the new place.

This pitch black beverage has zero head and looks completely opaque, although when held to the light you can detect the slightest hint of ruby brown.  Aromas are of rich chocolate, strong coffee, and hearty alcohol.  The flavor is simply put, a mouthful of coffee.  They've enriched this beer with both Kona and Sumatra coffees, which is really coffee heaven if you're someone who likes coffee.  The effort they went to for these beans certainly pays off, as the flavor is distinct, rich and bitter.  I've had quite a few Coffee Stouts, but this has got to be by far the strongest coffee flavor I've had in any of them; perhaps almost too a fault.  While the flavor and tone of the coffee is delicious, it's hard for the chocolate and oat flake flavors to distinguish themselves.  Towards the end of the sip, the coffee begins to thin out and leave a slight metallic sort of ringing on the palate. 

As I have a few more sips, I'm able to pull out some of the chocolate and flavors of roasted grain and jut the slightest hint of oats, but it's serious work to distinguish them from the coffee.  Now I love coffee, so you won't have many complaints from me about this.  However, part of what I like about this breed of beer is it's ability to mix coffee in with the other flavors.  So while the taste distibution is somewhat limited, it's hardly a fault I can hold against it.

Breakfast Stout: ****

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Santa Cruz Aleworks, California IPA

Wow, there's a surprise for you.  This beer poured almost all foam, much to my disappointment, as you can see in these photos.

Sort of ridiculous, I don't know whether I accidentally hit the bottle on it's way out or if it was just bottled under extreme pressure.  Took about five minutes to get this to calm down.

The aroma is surprisingly far more floral more reminiscent of Belgian styles than the piney hops I was expecting.  There's a little bit of fruit in there, but far more orange pulp than lemon or grapefruit rind since I'm getting sweet aromas.  The color is an orange bordering on golden, but it is a little cloudy which gives it a deeper hue.

The flavors in this beer are a little disappointing.  Maybe I was expecting an American IPA based on the bottle description, but this is clearly a Belgian IPA by the use of grain, yeast, and hops.  Flavors are very sweet up front with loads of carbonation.  This really gets too sweet for me and I'm reminded of a carbonated fruit juice.  Otherwise there isn't much at all up front, what few flavors there are feel muffled, or perhaps drowned, in an excess of water.  The taste does an about face towards the middle of the sip moving rather abruptly for the hop finish; too soon I'd say, as the fruity front end really dissipates into a highly watery mixture that doesn't do a good enough job of bolstering up the hops.  The hop finish is strong, but very lopsided since it feels like a thin layer of industrial styled bitterness offering very little in accompanying flavors.

Ultimately, this is far more of a Belgian IPA than an American one, and almost borders on a Saison.  But even after reclassification it doesn't do much for me since the malts don't impress any paticular urgency in their identity.  Somewhat surprising that a Santa Cruz beermaker would choose to go in this direction; with a name like California IPA, I'd expect American IPA flavors. Apologies to the makers, but I just didn't like this one.

California IPA: *1/2