Trader Joe’s 2013 Vintage Ale (Brewed by Unibroue). A 2 of 4. For the price, this is wonderful - only $5 a 750mL. Has the typical profile of a strong, dark Belgian - some toasted and burnt notes in the nose, as well as some dark candy-like sugar. Quite a bit of burnt notes here as well, as well as some spice and raisin-like taste. Finishes extremely clean. No wow, of course, but it’s very good for what it is, although the roast is a touch more burnt than it should be.

3 hours ago 3 notes

Peak Organic’s King Crimson Imperial Red Ale (Picked up at Ledger’s Liquors). A 3 of 4. A very good imperial red - lots of pine and citrus in the nose, quite bitter on the palate, and a decent bit of caramel and nutty malt notes. Drinks relatively easily although a bit boozy and bitter - it is a bit astringent. I really like imperial reds - and this is a very good one - no wow, just some nice malt notes, some nice bitterness, and quite a bit of booze.

1 day ago 3 notes

A couple of beers on tap at Pacific Coast Brewing in Oakland - on the left, Stone’s Matt’s Burning Rosids Imperial Cherry Wood Smoked Saison (a 3 of 4), and on the right, Schubros Branch Line Double IPA (a 3 of 4). Matt’s Burning Rosids is an incredibly interesting beer - some very weird notes come from the smoke and wood notes combined with the notes from the yeast. Quite a lot of fruit notes, and a bit cloying on the palate, but incredibly complex and powerful (as one would expect from Stone). The Branch Line Double IPA is a nice, well-balanced DIPA - it has a relatively powerful malt back with some good caramel notes that help balance the quite powerful bitterness here. A relatively typical tropical fruit and resin hop profile, and some nice carbonation that keeps this quite drinkable. Solid stuff.

2 days ago 1 note

5 Stones Camo Pale Stout (Thanks, Ian!). A 3 of 4. Quite weird - has the depth of a pitch black beer, yet is pale. I’ve had some pale stouts before, but this is probably the best so far - others were just a bit gimmicky. The nose is roast and nutty, as well as some other spice notes and some light chocolate notes. The finish has some heat to it - a capsaicin-like heat, which is a bit weird - I’m assuming this is just some spice from the cacao. Interesting and quite complex - happy to try a new brewery from TX, and quite happy with the results!

3 days ago 4 notes

Logsdon’s Far West Vlaming Organic Oak Aged Tart Red Ale (Picked up at Trappist Provisions). A 3 of 4. Really nice lacing and carbonation on this - incredibly small creamy bubbles. The nose is incredibly tart and some powerful oak as well, and finally some brighter tart cherry notes come in. Drinks quite acidic and tannic - not overly puckering like some sour reds, but not easy to take a big swig of. Quite complex, and the decent thickness to the body and the carbonation make this a pleasure to drink. 

4 days ago 5 notes

A trio of beers at Trappist Provisions in Oakland. On the top, Tahoe Mountain’s Recolte du Bois Apricot (a 4 of 4). Awesome subtle and tart beer - not too powerful or puckering on the palate, and some nice light citrus and melon light fruit notes throughout. Very, very easy to drink, and just the right level of complexity. On the bottom left, Faction’s Spring IPA (a 3 of 4) - a solid standard IPA - a bit lighter in the body than some, but a firm bitterness and the relatively standard citrus/pine profile. Some nice malt sweetness to balance, but not an incredibly thick body, and easy to drink. On the bottom right, Fort Point Brewing’s Villager IPA (a 3 of 4). My first from Fort Point, and this is solid - a relatively simple light malt back with quite a lot of smooth carbonation. Nice and simple on the palate, but a decent bit of bitterness and a nose on the earthy side of things. 

5 days ago 9 notes

Almanac’s Valley of the Heart’s Delight (Picked up at Berkeley Bowl). A 4 of 4. I originally tasted this at SF Beer Week Opening Gala 2014, and only gave it a 3. Given that my palate at that event had been assaulted all evening by triple IPAs and whatnot, this is far better than I remember it. Wonderfully tart, wonderfully fruity and complex - and just about perfect balance throughout. Lots of wonderful bright fruit notes on this, and just the right level of acidity. A solid sourness throughout - honestly, this might be my new favorite from Almanac.

6 days ago 8 notes

A couple of beers on tap at Zeitgeist in San Francisco. On the left, Bear Republic’s Olde Scoutter’s Barleywine (a 3 of 4), and on the right Heretic’s Bourbon Shallow Grave (a 4 of 4). Two relatively heavy-hitters on a nice sunny day on the patio. The Olde Scoutter is a clearly American interpretation of a barleywine - incredibly hoppy in the nose and body, yet a nice solid caramel sweetness in the body. Quite bitter on the finish, and decently easy to drink even at 10%+. The bourbon barrel aged Shallow Grave is great - it’s clear this spent time in a bourbon barrel right away - the nose has a ton of vanilla and other sweet bourbon and barrel notes. The barrel didn’t make the base porter lose any of its complexity - it’s incredibly deep and rich with lots of chocolate and dark fruit notes reminiscent of a complex stout. Awesome stuff.

1 week ago 6 notes

Rahr & Sons Bourbon Barrel Aged Winter Warmer (Thanks, Ian!). A 3 of 4. The nose is relatively bright for a winter warmer - some spice notes, and some sweetness. Up front, this has a ton of sweetness and vanilla and some other oak/bourbon notes. The body is quite smooth, yet weirdly thin in the finish. Quite good, and quite subtle overall, compared to a lot of winter warmers. Solid stuff.

1 week ago 8 notes

A visit to Anchor Brewing in San Francisco. An excellent tour + tasting. I’ve had nearly the full line-up before the tour, but they just seem to taste better directly from the source - incredibly fresh and lots more complexity than out of a bottle. The one out of the lineup that I hadn’t had yet was Anchor’s Saison - a new offering, and the first using a Belgian yeast strain (and any non-house strain for that matter). It’s probably a 2 of 4 in my mind - it is clear it is a belgian yeast strain, but the banana/bubblegum and other notes are quite overt in the nose and up front in the body. It’s quite drinkable, but lacks a lot of subtlety, although it’s high carbonation is nice on the palate. Not bad, but a bit weird that Anchor would roll out a whole new yeast for this - I’d expect to see it only in a Zymaster series. Given that this tour is free, it’s a must-do - although get a reservation way in advance!

1 week ago 8 notes

The Commons Brewery’s Fleur De Ferme Dark Farmhouse Ale (Picked up at Berkeley Bowl West). A 3 of 4. Very, very interesting - hibiscus, chamomile, and lavender all are in this, so there’s a ton of herbal and floral notes up front. After a bit, it because almost slightly medicinal (but in just about the best way possible). Drinks like a darker farmhouse should, otherwise - some nice nutty, roasted malt notes. This gets weirder and weirder as it warms up - almost becomes candy-like in places. Worth trying, but a bit on the weird side.

1 week ago 6 notes

Ale Syndicate’s Sunday Session on tap at The Gage in Chicago. A 2 of 4. Advertised as a hopped-up session, this is a solid session, but not much going on in the nose or the palate. Very drinkable and a solid session beer - nice mouthfeel and lacing, but there’s not much going on the body - a bit of yeasty flatness on the palate, and some very faint orange citrus hop notes.

1 week ago 9 notes

Dogfish Head’s Indian Brown Ale (Picked up at Berkeley Bowl West). A 3 of 4. A relatively classic hybrid style - a hopped-up brown ale. The nose is a mix of caramel/toffee-ish and roast notes, as well as a quite piney and earthy hop presence. The malt profile definitely wins in the nose, but it has some really nice candy-sugar complexity as well. Drinks like a brown ale without a ton of noticeable body bitterness, and middling carbonation levels. This is definitely far down towards the brown ale end of the spectrum - while hopped up, the hops play the second role here.

1 week ago 5 notes

Bell’s Hopslam on tap at Miller’s Pub in Chicago. A 4 of 4. One of the sweeter and better balanced DIPAs out there, this delivers. Smells of quite a lot of citrus, tropical fruit, and a honey-like sweetness. Quite bitter on the palate, but quickly balanced by some sweetness - it even gets a bit cloying in the finish after more than few sips as your palate gets used to the bitterness. Definitely not in the puckering DIPA style I’m used to, but a nice change of pace - although a bit too much in the sweet direction for my liking. The booze is also quite prominent here - at 10%, it stays surprisingly hidden in some sips, but it is still quite noticeable in others.

1 week ago 3 notes

Iron Fist’s Imperial Rebellion Imperial Farmhouse Ale (Picked up at Berkeley Bowl West). A 3 of 4. Quite excited that Iron Fist is distributing up here now.  I was skeptical at first of the “imperial” prefix to the farmhouse, but this deserves it. The nose is fresh and quite citrusy - the Motueka and Nelson Sauvin and added kaffir lime leaves really make this pretty powerful up front. On the palate, it is clear this uses a Belgian yeast - there is a nice peppery spice and general dryness an a little bit of funk. Decently chewy in the body, and nicely balanced between bitter, sweet, and some funky dryness. Solid stuff. 

2 weeks ago 5 notes